bookmark_borderTo Dream Teaser

To Dream is almost ready to go to the editor. Again. The damn thing just kept growing, as it always has, and it was decreed to large (at 163K+). So I had to cut it down (to 110K). Now I am going through it to make sure there are no dangling plot threads.

But this is one of my favorite scenes. Call me a tease. I’m fine with that.

“Did you break it?”

I looked up at the sound of HER voice. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything.

“She did not. She has this need to take something apart in order to understand how it functions. Fortunately, she has not felt the need to do the same to me as of yet.” Mona came into the room while Cass leaned against the door frame.

“What is it? Or was it?”

She had this southern accent, soft, not overly twangy. Her words rolled off her tongue, across the room, and into my ears where my brain savored them like a well-aged liquor.

“It is a bio-bed. Karen, are you feeling ill again?” Mona got the scanner and it was its beep that pulled me out of my cask of Cass bourbon.

“No, I’m fine. I see you finally made it.”

She laughed. If her accent were expensive bourbon, her laughter was a rich dessert, chocolate something served with coffee the color of her skin. “I swear, that’s what everyone says to me. Not ‘hello’ or ‘hey how are you’ but ‘I see you finally made it’. I ought to leave and come back just to get a proper greeting!”

I put the two bio-bed gut pieces down and jumped to my feet. I carefully stepped over the parts I had strewn over the floor and made my way to her. Taking her hand, I raised it to my lips and kissed the back of it. “Cassandra, it is good to see you again. How was your overly long journey?”

bookmark_borderSpring mornings and squirrels

A scene that came to me this morning. It is rough, there’s some grammar bits that need fixing.

Ellen is a character in Nikki’s not yet named Butch Girl book. Nikki is a character from BGCFA. Spam is her dog, a big Rottweiler.


Ellen stepped out into the chilly late-spring morning. She could see the steam from her coffee as she raised it to her lips. She leaned her hip against the porch railing and watched Mother Nature in Her natural element. She could see fog down toward the river (no, creek as Nikki keeps reminding her). Wet dew glistened off the tall wheat-like grass in the field beyond the yard’s fence. As she sipped her coffee, she watched the sun’s rays slowly crawl across the yard, causing first the yellow iris then the purple ones to bask in the spot light.

Despite the house being fairly far off the road and in a rural environment, it was quite noisy outside. Dozens of birds flitted about from feeder to feeder. It seemed to her they spent more time chasing each other off than actually eating. The birds hadn’t noticed her standing there or perhaps they didn’t care. Mourning doves and bright yellow finches fought for positions on the thistle feeders. Big blue jays and several grackles hopped around each other as they ate the cracked corn from the flat stones Nikki used for ground feeders. A red and black little bird (something towhee?) scratched at the grass where the sunflower hearts had fallen from one of the feeders. A bright red cardinal perched on another feeder where he pulled out a big sunflower and cracked it open on the edge of the tray.

Ellen heard a low growl and turned to see Spam staring out in the back yard. She followed his gaze and saw a squirrel on a branch. It seemed to be weighing its options as to which bird feeder to feast from first. Ellen grinned. “Must be new to the neighborhood”, she said to herself. The squirrel ran up the branch then came down the tree trunk. It clung to the bark, upside down, about a foot from the ground. Last minute perimeter check.

Spam waited, his big head getting lower and his rump got higher as he slowly rose to stand. Ellen was fascinated with this. She’d seen him chasing the squirrels away before but had not seen him preparing for the event.

The squirrel reached the ground and in leaps and bounds, made its way across the yard toward the closest ground feeding station. Just as it was about three feet or so away from it, Spam let out a deep “woof!”.

For a brief half second, nobody moved. Then the backyard exploded in feathers and fur as the birds and the squirrel frantically tried to disappear. The birds flew away but the squirrel didn’t seem to know where to go. It ran in a circle, still looking for the source of that bark. By then Spam had charged off the porch and was across the yard. The squirrel seemed to realize the errors of its ways and headed back where it came. Ellen laughed as it looked like a gray, blurred line straight back to the tree and back up the trunk.

Spam stopped where the squirrel had been and he sat down. His mouth opened in a wide grin. His duty for the morning was done.

bookmark_borderCurrent Project

I am working on the sequel to To Sleep which is called The Awakening. The main document is almost 44K but the second document where I tried out a plot line, is 14.5K. Doing the maths means it is about 58K, more than halfway to the goal. I like the direction the plot line is going so I’m going back over the main one to fit it in at some point.

The good news is it is going well. Very well. The even gooder news is this book will have sex scenes in it. To Sleep had none because it wasn’t needed. But this book will need it because it is part of the plot line. The book starts about two years after To Sleep ends. It will still be in first person. I considered using another person for it but I kinda got attached to Karen. She has such a sarcastic mind, it was fun to write using it.

I’ll be introducing some new characters. Some are cool, like Denise and Cass who I made main characters (MCs). Others I thought would be more MCs but I didn’t like them that much.

She leaned into me and hugged my side. “You made the right decision, you know.”

“Did I? I gave her an ultimatum, one or the other I said.”

“And she chose the path she was the most comfortable with.”

“Or less frightened by.”

“Same thing. Stop worrying about it or you’ll get an ulcer.”

No, I wouldn’t. The nanites would take care of it at my yearly checkup. “You know we advanced Denise’s genetics, right?”

“Yes, and she’s still working through her new skills.”

“You can do the same thing. We’ll be offering it to all the descendants.”

“Become one of you? With telepathy and stuff?”

I almost told her she had to, else in fifty years I would lose her to old age while I never aged a bit. But that was for later, after she made her decision. “With telepathy and stuff.”

“And orgies?”

I had to laugh. “And orgies, if that’s what you want.”


After we had put them on, I hugged her close. “This is going to feel funny. It kinda tickles sometimes.” I then pictured the beach front property in New Zealand we had bought. I pictured the little cottage and the stone patio. Then we were there.

“What the hell?” She looked around in awe. It had been fall in Pennsylvania but it was spring here. The air was a little nippy but not too bad.

“You are in New Zealand.” I held her hand and we walked toward the water.

“How did we…without a teleport pad?”

“One of my skills is teleportation.”

She briefly looked like she was going to run screaming into the morning sunrise. Then she slowly smiled. “That’s a cool skill.”

“Frankie’s a little better at it.”

“You always do that. Say that someone is better. But I know, just from listening in, that you are the best in every skill you have.”

“Not electrokinesis. Julie’s by far better than me.” We sat on a bench near the water’s edge. “And certainly not empathy.”

“And I disagree. I think you purposely don’t train or exercise or whatever you do to make a skill stronger. I think you do it on purpose so that they are stronger than you are.”

“Your skill will be lie detection.”

She laughed then stopped. “Please tell me that’s not one of them.”

bookmark_borderWriting Freely

No, not freewriting. I gave up on that for the most part. Spent more time analyzing than writing.

No, I mean writing freely, just starting with a plot thought and running with it. Like I used to. No going back over it and editing, just….moving along the conveyor belt that is the story.

To that end, I wrote over 3000 words today. Go ahead, say wow. Feel free to toss an ‘amazing’ or two.

What story did I start? Would you believe a brand spankin’ new one? Mostly. Consider it backstory for one of my SFs I got burbling on the back burner. I like it much.

The craft, as it had been for a long time as a scout Class IX Zenith, was on auto pilot. Eventually it and its tortured crew passed beyond the signal wave. It had dedicated most of its power and capabilities to various scientific studies during this time as it had been instructed to do. As power was automatically diverted back to various systems, the medical emergency protocols were engaged as the medical computer detected the intense mental and physical stress of everyone on board. Medical emergency protocols typically were engaged by a member of the crew, not by the ship itself but there were a sub-set of protocols that had been made for such an event where the entire crew were incapacitated. This sub-routine was engaged.

The First Medical Officer was located by the mobile bio-medic. A quick scan indicated the presence of physical pain and a medication was administered followed by the turning on of her internal nanites. Naddoc groaned and rolled over. The first thing she saw was the small bio-medic. It’s presence told her several things before the small robot spoke. It gave her, in a quiet, quick speech, the essentials of the crew as a whole.

“Engage Medical Emergency Protocol. Name: Chaos. Level:…” she paused and looked around. Two crewmembers near her were beginning to move but did not seem capable of much else. “Level: 8. Repeat.”

“Engage Medical Emergency Protocol. Chaos Level 8.” The bio-medic repeated back to her.

“Accepted. Begin.”

By the time she felt well enough to stand, every crewmember except her and the captain had been put into bio-tubes. The tubes would have been connected to the nearest terminals and the basic medical needs of the crew were being met. If any of them were experiencing life-threatening conditions or were beyond the capabilities of the non-medical terminals they were attached to, the pod would be taken to the infirmary and connected to terminals there. The Captain, if she had complied and followed the protocol, would be on a bio-bed in the infirmary. The pods containing the other First Officers would have been moved to the infirmary for her to check immediately, after any life threatening patients were seen to.

Naddoc slowly made her way across the room and into the hallway. Along the way, she glanced at the bio-pods and was pleased to see so many still in place. There were enough terminals in the infirmary for every crewmember if necessary but the more that were in the hallways, the less work it meant for her.

“Doc, about time you got your feathers in here.” The Captain, laying down on the bio-bed, grunted without opening her eyes.

“Speak softly, please.” Naddoc leaned against the bed and pulled the screen toward her. “Condition?”

I know, I know, VERY rough but that’s okay. I like that. I like that raw feeling of just simply writing freely. Letting the words form on the screen.

I call this story Watchers as that is what they are doing.

And I hate coming up with alien names. Because, you know, they aren’t going to be named Margaret and Liz or even Emily. And I won’t do the alien names full of apostrophes either. Like E’that or M’that. So I got Flex and Naddoc and Cam and Beft and Maht. And a lot of red lines in the document since I’ve not started a WIP specific dictionary yet.

bookmark_borderSpeaking of Tease…

Here ya go. Let me know what you think.


Several hours and most of a case of beer later, Sam had reached a conclusion. “Let’s move.”

“Move? Where?”

“I dunno. Somewhere that’s not a city. Not too hot, not too cold.”

“Juuuust right?”

“There’s nothing to keep me here. Nor you, for that matter. You’ll keep bumping into Ruth and I’ll never bump into whatshername.” Sam opened another beer bottle.

“You still hurting from her? It was a one-night stand, Sam. Get over it.”

“I don’t do one-night stands. And she said she didn’t either. Yet, well, don’t get me started. I’ve almost purged myself of her.”

“Must’ve been fantastic sex.” Ellen nudged Sam.

Sam sobered up for a moment. “The best I have ever had. But it wasn’t just the sex, although that alone was enough. It was the talking, the sharing, the laughing. You know?”

“Yeah, I know.” They were silent, each lost in their own thoughts. “So, we’re moving? Where to?”

“You got a map of the U.S. around here? A big one?”

“Nope, but we can make one.” Ellen weaved her way to her computer and opened her web browser. “Wikipedia is our friend.” Soon the printer was spitting out pages that they laid out on the floor to form the map.

“How many of these dead men are yours?” Sam pointed her unsteady hand toward the various empty bottles on the table and floor.

“Shit if I know.” Ellen giggled.

“Find the caps. We’ll toss them one by one onto the map.”

“Then we play connect the dots?”

“Nope. We see where they land and we choose where t’ move.”

“Oh! I get it now.” Ellen gathered the bottle caps within her reach while Sam did the same on her side of the floor. They began tossing them onto the map. Of course, it took a while since far too many of them missed the map altogether.

When they were done, they lay on the floor side-by-side and surveyed their choices. “I say take out all the Florida and Alabama ones. Too dang hot.” Ellen took off the Alabama ones and Sam removed Florida’s markers.

“And Washington. Nice state but I wouldn’t want to live there.”


“Isn’t that where one of those companies is? Are? Whatever?” It was Sam’s turn to have a giggle fit.

“Yep. Too hot.” Ellen flipped the cap to the side. “Louisiana?”



“Tornadoes.” At each of Sam’s responses, Ellen picked up the appropriate caps. “That leaves Virginia, North Carolina, Wyoming and both Dakotas.”

“Take off the Dakotas and Wyoming. Too cold.” Sam held out her hand for the caps.

“Two in North Carolina, and one in Virginia.”

“Then I’d say North Carolina wins.”


I’m writing again. Started working on Harri and Liz’s story, aka BG3, aka “Butch Girls and Stereotypes”. Yes, another damn romance. Here’s the beginning:

Liz Marsh refused to cry. Closing and taping shut the last box would make her cry. She could feel it. Her cheeks hurt. Her eyes burned. No words were capable of coming out of her mouth. Not happening. Unless she cried. That wasn’t happening either. She’d not cried when he’d died. She’d not cried at the funeral service or at the graveside. She’d heard whispers of how brave she was and others saying she just was a cold bitch.

She sat on the edge of the desk and picked up the picture frame closest to her. The photograph was of a small girl—herself–holding a cane fishing pole in one hand and the line with the six pound catfish in the other. She put the photo down and picked up the next one. It was of herself and an older man sitting at a table outdoors. It was at one of the church homecomings or something. Her grandfather was laughing and pointing at the pile of chicken bones next to Liz’s plate.

God how she missed him.

She clutched the photo to her chest and squeezed her eyes shut.

It’s not like he died suddenly. The cancer had been draining Tobias Marsh dry for a while, the last six months being the hardest. He had died at last, his body a ravaged husk, just two weeks ago. With him had died a huge chunk of Liz’s reason for living. She clutched the photograph in a half-hearted attempt to hold what was left of her together.

“Told you it was too soon to be dealing with this mess.” Someone spoke from the doorway.

Now she could cry.

bookmark_borderCentric Shorts, Part Seven

Part Seven – Chapter Haven’t-A-Clue – in which we get political

By morning, the scale of what had happened become known. Of the five battery arrays, three were drained beyond repair. The other two perhaps could be recharged but it would take years. Now, instead of having another two hundred years at the least, they now had less than fifty. And, the ultimate betrayal for everyone, the batteries had been sabotaged.

The President sat in her office, looking over the list of possible groups that could be responsible. “Torado Ports? You can’t be serious.”

“We are, Ms. President. We have been watching them for years now.”

“If you publish this list with that company’s name on it, you’ll cause another uproar. Don’t you watch the news?” She reached for her pen to mark the name off the list.

“That is perhaps the biggest reason. Some of us feel it is too convenient that Torado Ports just happen to have so many businesses that are off the grid.”

“It is called good business. We all knew it was a matter of time, we just didn’t think this would happen.” Her pen ran through the list, marking off many of the names. “This list may be published, with my corrections. The uncorrected list may be kept on hand for reference only. If this list, intact, reaches the press, I will know who is responsible. Now, gentlemen, if you will excuse me, I have a meeting to attend.” The President got up and left the small outer meeting room to go inside her office.

Mr. Wallan and his associates stood as she did, but waited before leaving. He was not happy at all with this outcome.


Zenith opted to walk to the lodging since the traffic was so insane. Her luggage, all but the case in her hand, would either be there waiting or would arrive later. She was wearing shoes and clothing appropriate for walking anyway so she took advantage of it.

Capitol City was the largest metropolis on the planet. Located where the First had landed, the government buildings were all built out of the material from the transport ships, making them the only metal buildings on the planet. The roads, made of other material from the ship, were glossy and the reflection tended to be more than annoying.

But Zenith wasn’t using the road, she walked along the sidewalk, taking her time and watching people go by. It was dusk by the time she arrived at the lodging, glad that the setting sun would stop the glare from the streets.

But sitting on a bench, looking very distraught, was Maratha. Zenith didn’t know what was wrong. She smiled though, as she thought up a plan. She jogged down the street to a small cafeteria she had seen.

“Greetings. I happen to have a leftover belara and hoped you could eat it for me.” She held out a cellulose bag that held a wonderfully smelling open-ended sandwich.

“Oh Zenith!” Maratha dropped all her bags and jumped up into Zenith’s arms.

“Greetings again then.” She hugged her back then joined her on the bench. “Here, I really do have a belara for you. Eat. Then you can tell me what is wrong.”

“It’s just so….”

“Eat I said.”

Later, after watching her eat then hearing the story, she patted Maratha on the hand. “Stay here, Mar, and I’ll go see what I can do.”

In the lobby she could see why Maratha had been so overwhelmed. She was overwhelmed herself! She looked around the room, trying to find just the right person to approach.

“Mr. Smych, so glad to see you. May I speak with you a moment?”

“By all means, Ms. Torado. How may I help you?”

“I have a friend, an ethologist, who is outside and is unable to come in. She has been out in the field for several years and is quite panicked about the large number of people.” Zenith grinned to herself, glad she had found the right person.

“An ethologist you say? There’s only two that was called, and only one a woman. Ms. Verdan? Oh, bless her! Now let me think.” Mr. Smych, a man who knew everyone, almost literally, tapped his chin as he thought. “I have it. I’ll be right back.” He went to the front desk and spoke with the manager, who, after just a moment of conversation, left in a hurry. “I told him that there had been no refreshment area made available for everyone and that I had heard complaints. This room will be cleared in just a few moments.” He grinned a big one, pleased with himself. “Now, I would love to meet this Ms. Verdan, if I may?”

“She is right outside. Follow me.” Zenith took him through the lobby and outside where Maratha still sat. “Mar, this is an old friend, Mr. Smych. Mr. Smych, this is Maratha Verdan, ethologist.”

“Nice to meet you young lady! Tell me, how are your Gobals?”

“They are doing fine, sir. And yes, one does get used to the smell eventually.”

“I guess you get asked that a lot. Now, what about Family Three? Last I read there seemed to be a problem with the little one.”

As the two of them chatted, Maratha’s face getting more animated as she forgot her fears and talked about her Gobals. Zenith kept an eye on the crowd inside. She saw most of them go toward the long hall, the manager waving them along. “Sir, the lobby is clearing now. Mar, we are going to take you right in, to the desk and get you checked in. Okay? Ready?”

“Oh! Yes, I suppose, um….”

“Here, take my arm, young lady, and I will escort you through. This arm, you see, isn’t real, it is a prosthetic. You can squeeze it as hard as you like and I won’t feel a thing!”


And with that, my dear invisible readers, I leave you. I’ll be home soon and I can’t wait to find out if you liked it or not. I do hope you kept in mind two simple words as you read the snips: ROUGH DRAFT.

bookmark_borderCentric Shorts, Part Six

Part Six – Chapter Whatever – Background to lead up to Black Day

When the First had arrived in the transport ships, they had set up the battery arrays in several locations. From there, developing towns and villages were built. The large data hard drives they had brought with them were also placed, with copies being made and stored. The information on them – their race’s history, how to grow corn, how to build an airsled, all of the knowledge they’d had until then – became the Cybernetic Information Library.

While the physical new civilization was taking place, so was the political. A set of laws were established based on the common laws that had been arranged prior to the transport ships leaving their home planet. Then, each new world would build their system from that base of laws. The edicts decided upon was called the Sustainability Systems Laws. Everything was to be either consumed whole or the by-product of that product had to be usable. That meant that the heat created from the warm water that soaked paper scraps had to be reused, the water had to be reused, even the unusable scraps had to be used. Nothing could be considered trash.

As a result of the laws, a political group was formed called the Geocentrics. They were known as ecologists, arcologists, and life scientists. They believed in the protection of all ecosystems, regardless of the effect on themselves.

As a result of the Cybernetic Library, another political group was formed called the Technocentrics. They were also known informationists. They believed that the information they brought with them would help the population to follow the law.

What happened over time is that the Geocentrics felt that the information in the data banks is what got their original home in such a mess to begin with. The Technocentrics believed that the information will keep them from doing it again. Both sides disagreed on what to do about the battery arrays. They had been there for over four hundred and fifty years. The arrays were designed to last for six hundred or more, perhaps even eight. One side said to let the batteries die and they could live on their own without it. The other side said that to let the batteries die would create chaos and the Laws could not be upheld.

The batteries should have lasted for the 600 years. But then Black Day happened.


“You watching the concert tonight?” Harik put on his dress robe.

“No, I’ve got work to do here. You going somewhere special to see it?”

“Yep. Going to the Double Data. It is a cool rocking place. We ought to consider getting into these cyber clubs.” He next put on his cap, the kind that adults his age looked silly in. He must have realized that and took it off.

“I don’t think so, brother. We have enough to maintain as it is. You have fun. I’ll be right here.”



Maratha sat on her stool and took notes on this new behavior she had noticed in the Gobal family she called the Basal Family. As one of the largest families, they were one of her favorite to keep track of since she had so many to watch. She still wrote her notes by hand but the paper was laid on a special cyberport that copied it and translated it into legible print. Zenith had sent it to her several months ago to try out in the field. The battery life was excellent, which is the main reason Maratha agreed to the test.

As usual, she had left her communicator at the camp although she did keep a transponder on her body at all times. That way if she were ever injured, the rescuers could find her by tracking its signal.


The concert was into its second half when the accident happened. Four of the five battery arrays stopped functioning. The fifth dropped out just a few minutes later. Without lighting, without communication, the populace panicked.

Zenith was in her office glancing through the daily reports. Her household power came from the grid but a backup generator on the roof that used a combination of wind and solar panels to keep batteries charged, kicked into action. Anyone else would not have noticed the slight flicker of the screens, but Zenith, after years of staring at them, noticed it immediately.

She went to the window and looked out onto the street. It was dark. Very dark. She could also hear shouting and screaming. She ran to the control panel and flipped off the generator, conserving the batteries. She then ran down the steps into the shop and gathered all the small flashlights she had in stock. The constables had a station just down the street. She pushed a cart full of the flashlights to the station and assisted in handing them out.

bookmark_borderCentric Shorts, Part Five

Part Five – Chapter Somethinganother – Hovercrafting

Once on the hovercraft, Maratha went to her assigned quarters: a small room not much larger than a closet. The bed was also the chair and the dresser was also the table. A tiny lavatory was under the bed. Showers were communal, with one being just for the single females.

In her room, she unpacked her things, putting her clothing in the dresser and hanging her bags above the bed. She decided to check out the craft first then she would start reading not only the manual, but other books as well.

The hovercraft was shaped like a pencil; long and tapered on one end. The entire thing hummed from the large fans below their feet. There were two cafeterias and two entertainment facilities, one with and one without cybernetic ports. There also was a swimming pool and a running track.

She checked her wrist for the fifth time to make sure the motion sickness strap was in place. She’d waived the right to the injections, wanting to experience the trip as real as she could. The strap would prevent her from becoming very ill, but she would definitely know if she got sea sick or not.

She stood at one of the rails, watching the water rush by and the birds circling the craft. She saw a uniformed personnel coming toward her. “Hello, I am Captain Botswa.” The woman, tall and muscular, was quite attractive in the crisp blue uniform.

“I am Maratha Verdan, student at the Lifeforms University.”

“Yes, I know. I received a communication from a Professor Tamud to keep an eye on you, since this was your first journey across the oceans. But I can see that his worry was unwarranted.” She nodded toward the strap on Maratha’s wrist. “If you were going to be sea sick, you would be by now, especially standing out here watching the water go by.”

“Oh. Well good then. But I’ll leave it on, just in case. I have no desire to see my stomach nor its contents.”

The Captain laughed, a good solid laugh that made the hairs on Maratha’s arms stand up. “Then by all means, wear it. My quarters and my office is up in the tower. If you need company or have a problem, just let me know.” She bowed at the waist and continued her walk of the deck.

By the time Maratha arrived at Doma, she knew how to assemble and unassemble the board and how to use it. The Captain had a battery that would fit it and she got to try it out several times a day. As soon as she and her things had gone through the biofilters, she pulled out her directions and went to the closest battery center.


Captain Botswa typed out the first message. “To Professor Tamud, id 567-A-LFU-4199. In regards to on M. Verdan, she has arrived safely. I anticipate she will be able to handle herself well while on Doma Continent.”

After pressing the send button, she waited for confirmation then began the second message. “To Zenith Torado, id 236-X-CEP-5T. Your friend arrived just fine. I was impressed with her knowledge and her abilities at conversation. She was also quite lovely to look at! How come you always seem to find the good looking ones?”

As soon as she got the confirmation, she got a response. “Feoni, I hope you kept your hands to yourself. And yes, I’ve kept mine to myself too. She’s been a bit overwhelmed here at the University so I’ve held off the obvious. So unlike me, isn’t it? Thank you for the updates.”

bookmark_borderCentric Shorts, Part Four

Part Four – Chapter Three – in which we learn a little about Maratha

The biology expertise remained mostly with the lifeforms already present when the transport ship had landed. The initial studies had listed the basics-location, appearance, approximate number, etc.-and been entered into the databases as soon as possible.

The LifeForms Biology Department had the actual hand written notes the scientists had made. They were kept in a environmentally controlled glass case lining the wall in the hall like room. Maratha liked to go by the case each day, looking down at historical articles. She liked reading the notes too, and note how some things have remained the same while others have not. Language especially had remained somewhat the same. For example, the description of a certain life form known as the Gobal Worm, named after the biologist that had first found it. The Gobal Worm looks basically like a cross between a worm and a slug. But its foremost feature, the one that belongs to it alone, is its smell.

Maratha had to choose her project. It had to be something large enough to last perhaps her entire time here or hold the potential to expand into other projects. She just could not decide and was one of only four students who had not.

“Miss Verdan, I am surprised to see you here.” Professor Tamud stood, feet apart, hands behind his back, down at the other end of the room.

“Yes sir, I come here quite often. I like seeing the reports, in their original language and format.”

“We had a staff meeting today, Miss Verdan, and your name came up. Several times actually.”

“Oh? Is that a good or a bad thing?”

“Depends really, on who is the scientist and who is the subject. I understand you have not chosen a subject for your project.”

“No, sir, I have not.” Of all her professors, Maratha was the most intimidated by Professor Tamud. But here, in this room, he did not seem as frightening as he did when standing at his lectern or walking up the aisles of desks as he lectured.

“Why not?”

“I am not sure, sir.”

“Okay, Verdan, let’s cut the crap shall we? It’s just you and me here. No one to hear us and judge you for your opinions. Now, again I ask, why not?” He now stood a mere three feet from her.

Maratha knew the reason but had never said it aloud. “I find that there are so many possibilities, sir, that I can’t narrow it down to just one.”

“Ah. Is there not one field or animal or plant or whatever that calls out to you? We all hear them, the thing we are to pursue. For example, my research usually is in the direction of the more tropical forests. I am intrigued by the variety of plants and animals that I can find in just a few square feet. I come here, quite regularly, and I go immediately to that section of the report. I read what they wrote, what they thought, and I compare it to what we know now. So tell me, Verdan, what section to you stare into the most.?”

“I’ve been a fan of reptiles for many years, since I was a child. And lately I find I am standing and reading about the Gobal Worms more often than anything else.”

“Have you ever seen one in person?”

“No, I have seen some of the vid stills and short recordings but never in person. They aren’t very popular creatures in zoos.” She smiled, knowing that the smell of just one family could overwhelm the entire place.

To her surprise, Professor Tamud laughed. “No, they aren’t in any zoo, at least not one on this continent. No one has studied them in detail, other than the initial observations. I think a few hundred years ago they tried to do a count of them but didn’t get very far. They were very low on the priority list.” He looked at her for a few seconds. “I think that if you wanted to study them, there would be little opposition and no competition. But the board would agree to it easier if you had actually met one. Go to my office and ask my secretary to help you fill out a payment request for a trip to the Doma Continent to see them in their natural habitat. I have a friend there that can help you find them.”