Gwendolyn Robbins clutched the stack of papers, the wind tearing at
them trying to steal them from her grasp, as she walked through the Wildlife
Foundation's maze of buildings. She paused in the relative shelter of the main
administrative building and brushed her tangled black hair out of her eyes;
thankful the strong winds were keeping the flying insects away for now. Almost
two hundred years and it still hasn't returned to the brilliant blue of legend,
she thought, glancing up at the brightening amethyst sky.
When she reached her office, there were at least ten notes attached
to her door. Just what I need after sitting in the analysis center all night,
Gwendolyn shifted the stack of papers to free her right hand then
began taking the yellow slips off the door. A quick glance showed several were
from Tomas Whelan. She frowned slightly at his multiple invitations to dinner.
She had considered going out with him a couple of times before her promotion to
Director of the Genetics Department. Now, she wasn't sure she wanted to deal
with the headaches that could arise from dating one of the regional
coordinators. While she wasn't his supervisor, she was the one who made the
decisions on which projects received priority. The risk of perceived favoritism
was high. No, it's probably not worth the headache.
The other messages were regarding the status of various projects
her department was working on. One got her attention quickly; "We
Quit!" was all it said. The small bird drawn on the note showed it was
from the team working on the avian project. She knew they weren't really
quitting; this was just their way of making sure she read their report first
thing. As if I don't have enough to do this morning, she thought.
"Good morning, Gwen. Did you get my note?" a voice asked
behind her. Gwendolyn turned to see Tomas smiling at her.
"Good morning. I did. All six of them. The answer is still
no." She shook her head and fought the smile that threatened to turn into
a giggle at the crestfallen look on her friend's face.
Tomas laid a hand on his chest and took a step back. "She
mocks me. I lay my heart out for her, and the lady mocks me." He dropped
to one knee, clasped his hands together and held them up in a gesture of
supplication. "What must I do prove myself to you, my lady?"
Gwendolyn sighed softly and decided the best way to deal with
Tomas' theatrics this morning was to change the subject. "How are the
wolves working out?" she asked.
"Pretty good -- so far." The sandy haired coordinator
stood up, dusting his dark pants off. "Looks like it may be a while before
I get the proper balance of predator to prey, but I think it's a good
"Glad to hear it. It's nice to know something may be working
right for a change." Gwendolyn shifted the stack of papers again as she
reached for her door.
"Allow me." Tomas said, opening the door and giving her
"Thanks," Gwendolyn said, walking into the office and
dropping the papers on the desk.
"What's all that?" Tomas asked, gesturing at the papers.
"The animal census reports. I only have a few days before my presentation
to the Council. They're trying to shut the Foundation down. They claim we're
interfering and upsetting the Balance! Like there was a Balance for us to
upset!" Gwendolyn clenched her fists for a moment then relaxed.
"So the rumors are true," Tomas said.
"I'm afraid so," she whispered.
Tomas reached up and gently squeezed her shoulder. "Have you
considered that they may be right? We do interfere with the Balance and the
natural recovery," he said.
"The natural recovery?" Gwendolyn pulled away from the
coordinator. "We've tried that. It's really working isn't it?" She
jerked the curtains in her office open to reveal the pale purple of the morning
sky. "The damage done to the ecology of this planet in the last war is too
severe for us to just sit here and do nothing!"
"By the Balance! Do you realize what you're saying?"
"Yes, I do. Do you really know what The Balance is?
True Balance can only come when everything becomes a part of the ecology of
this planet." She crossed her arms across her chest and stared at her
friend. "The Council still clings to those draconian capitol punishment
laws for interference in the Balance, but man is a part of nature and a part of
the ecology. We should never presume to dominate this planet and its resources
the way the Ancestors did, but neither should we completely withdraw
either." She turned and walked over to the window. "That's what we're
doing, and it's destroying us. Mankind is disappearing from this planet,"
"If that's what the Balance decrees, do we have a right to
say otherwise?" Tomas asked.
"We may not be able to say otherwise, but are you willing to
just give up without at least trying?" she asked turning back to face him.
Tomas glanced up at her, and Gwendolyn was pleased to see a look
of determination in his gray-blue eyes. "No, I suppose I'm not," he
said. "If you need any help getting your presentation ready, let me
"I appreciate that." She smiled softly.
"Do yourself a favor, Gwen. Stop pushing so hard. Take some
time for yourself." He reached up and caressed her cheek, then turned to