I Think About Time A Lot

THOUGH YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT from what I write. I could never write a time travel story, though, because I have too hard a time with the possibility.

In order to accept time travel, one must accept one or the other possible models of time — one as a continuum — without discrete ticks of the cosmic clock. Or of time as a series of discrete, quantum events, with ticks of the cosmic clock analogous in time to a Euclidean point in space — defining a discrete and unique locus with no dimension.

If time is a continuum, you could never land anywhen for certain, because there never is a discrete quantum moment which can be defined as any when, which would require a certain conservation of events. Every branching of events — every time a particle goes one direction rather than another, a new universe is created in which that probability eventuated. Things get too messy and probabilities end up merging when they’re too close to each other, which sort of obviates the quantum nature of things.

The notion of the conservation of events is, to the best of my knowledge, original to me. It means that the probability of any given event or sequence of events is directly proportional to the number of individual beings or objects (in the case of objects, to their mass and in the case of beings to the influence they have on still other beings) affected by the event. And that, with events above a certain moment — probability weighting — the number of subsidiary events which must be altered or prevented grows ever larger, the greater the probability. In other words, it does no good to go back and kill Hitler in order to prevent the Holocaust or World War II — some other figure will rise to take his place. But you may be able to save the life of his loyal Alsatian shepherd dog from death in the bunker in April 1945, if you can find just the right combination of events to tip the odds in her favor — killing any number of historical figures won’t do it.

This combination also works “sideways,” as you may call it — for the creation and meeting of parallel worlds or universes. Of course, there are an infinite number of possible branchings for any given either-or choice, all the way from the subatomic level up to the movement of civilizations or people’s lives. But each branching of a quark’s path does not create or fail to create a whole civilization or that civilization’s end in a war. Branchings between what might be considered discrete world lines are usually caused by historic cusps — whether this king or that one is the one whose kingdom is the first to develop agriculture, animal husbandry, the domestication of cats, the brewing of beer, with all the civilizational changes that follow in train with those choices. Like that public TV series, Connections. And world lines with similar sequences of probability branchings made will tend to cluster around the moment of those probabilities, conserving events of greater moment across world lines and possibly several lines at once. So there will be several lines in which the Irish discovered America, but the Vikings were the first to plant settlers there among the Indians, while the Spanish were the first successful colonists. In others, it will be the Dutch, the Italians, the Portuguese and the English, in still others, the Chinese — coming from the West — colonize the Americas long before the Irish set out westward in their coracles. The variations among these, such as are found in alternate history fiction cause similar world branchings, but tend to cluster around key events of greater relative moment.

This is the model I use in building the world of the Baby Troll Chronicles. I would love to hear from y’all with your thoughts on the matter.

Just Want to Make Sure Y’all

KNOW THIS: I’M BLOGGING AGAIN. Well, I intend to. So, if you’ve fallen out of the habit of checking in here, because I haven’t been posting a lot for … a long time, you can fall back in.

Or add this blog’s feed to those you follow, with some assurance that there will be frequent, albeit maybe not terribly regular, content to read.

Call for Readviewers

HAD A REVIEWER RETURN The High T Shebang unread. The objection: the sex. Apparently, there are adults uninterested or even put off by graphic sex scenes in novels. Who knew? It’s a thing, I’m told. But, hey, you take something previously known only to a small-ish circle of fans and give it to a wider audience, you gotta make allowances for differing tastes. When earlier drafts and versions of the Apocrypha appeared on fan fiction Web sites, the stories were accompanied by a disclaimer — usually in a left sidebar it went something like this:

Since this is written by a fan of a TV show which bears a strong sexual subtext and is written for fans of that show — fans who are more-than-ordinarily interested in sex (and who isn’t interested in sex?*), there is a more-than-ordinary amount of sex — both maintext and subtext — even graphic and explicit sex. But never gratuitous.

Please God, never gratuitous.

(*I got my answer.)

Apparently, some people find any amount of sex gratuitous and will avoid books like the plague which have sex in them. Color me surprised. I expected to be dinged for the sex in The High T Shebang, but never to find it a total drug on sales. Well. Apparently, I was wrong. And no matter how many people find Dolly charming and her adventures (out of the bedroom) of interest, only about 100 people in the whole world found them so enough to overcome the sex.

Go figure.

So. This fall, perhaps in time for a second anniversary special edition, I will be releasing a new edition, re-written to tone down the sex. Considerably.

Enjoy.

All of the Traditions Surrounding

THE NEW YEAR IMPINGE in my mind like Scandinavian houses. A vast architectural Ikea of emotional reactions to the concept of New Year’s Day.

Done the summation of the year prior. Two words: it sucked. Next? For the year to come, what do I want? What do I intend to do to achieve what I want?

  • Finish The Origin Protocols It occurs to me this evening that my intent of wrapping TOP around The High T Shebang is singularly nebulous, the deviel being in the details. (What it is about the phoneme “iel” that signifies a spiritual being — angel or devil? Need to research that.) I may end up with merely inserting a page with the legend: “The events immediately following are narrated in the novel, The High T Shebang, by the same author and published by Dreamflower Works.” And another: “We return you now to the current narrative.” Either that, or I’ll have to split TOP into two volumes to make it volumes 1 and 3 and THTS volume 2 of a trilogy. The problem is that the three volumes would have little other than coincidence — that they take place seriatim — to tie them together.
  • Bring The High T Shebang out in a trade paperback, so that there’s another binding in addition to the eback.
  • Bring The High T Shebang out in wider markets than just Amazon worldwide. Draft 2 Digital and CreateSpace for that.
  • Mount a Book Bub promotion for both The High T Shebang and The Origin Protocols as appropriate.
  • Learn (finally) how to use Poser.
  • Work on my drawing chops. Improve the level of illustration I use on my book covers.

There should be more. I may add more.

The Concept of “Wild”

CONTENT I FIRST ENCOUNTERED on a television series called Bracken’s World (should I be surprised that a 1960s TV show that ran 1½ seasons has a Wikipedia entry which, almost tv-tropes-like, ends with a meta-reference to the series Mad Men?)… refers to content that is not synchronous to the content in the mainstream of a presentation. In radio, a wild sound track might include overheard conversation, or pre-recorded announcements. In television, wild sound is recorded asynchronously from that recorded during a camera shot. A voice-over, for example, or an off-set effect, such as a gunshot. In literature, a wild scene might be one that, while it may or may not fit in the plot structure of the larger work, does not fall in train with the scenes or chapters which might come before or after it in as-written sequence. Case in point:

Who Knows Where This Goes?

Mitchell Cary Drummond

Drummond marched out of the elevator, taking his first step while the door was still [opening withdrawing, receding sucking back in]. He threw the door of Marduk’s outer office back so it crashed against the nearest chair inside the waiting room. A frekun ang Guard trooper, stationed at a desk against the far wall, leapt to his feet. He recognized Drummond and held out a preventory hand.

“Dr. Drummond! Sir! You shouldn’t…”

Before he lost his nerve, Drummond pushed by the other man and kicked open the door to the inner office. Without pause, he fired a shot from his service pistol in the general direction of the God behind the desk and brandished the razor-edged cavalry sabre he’d snatched up along the way with a whistling flourish.

“You sonuvabitch!” he shouted at Marduk. “I’m going to make you pay for this!”

“What are you talking about? Mitchell! Put that down!”

His first shot had gone wide. There was still a wisp of smoke rising from the hole it had made in the paneling behind Marduk’s left shoulder.

“Say your prayers, motherfucker!”

From the outer office, Drummond could hear the voice of the guardsman calling for backup.

“And what, pray tell, have I done to occasion this fiery retribution?”

“You exposed Dolly to these thugs when you hired them to kidnap her off the road. Now one of them has gone all serial-killer psycho-stalker and taken her from our loft. And terrified my Brownie near to death!”

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Who indeed…?

The Mental Jumble

I DEDICATE SO MUCH of my energy to my career that I have very little “me” time to do the kinds of projects that interest me. I’ve been working on cabinetwork for my home office since 2006, now. I’ve been meaning to redo the trim around doors and windows in the bathroom for a couple of years at least. I’ve been working on the shed in the back yard for six months. I’ve been trying to improve my drawing chops since I first started to blog, all because I wanted to have a neat cartoon character design drawing of Dolly to act as the masthead figure for BabyTrollBlog (and, I guess for this blog, too.

What usually happens is that I have to moosh all my vacation days together in a little-used part of the year (the year-end holiday weeks are pretty empty) and plan (if inchoate desire to do something could be called a plan) to get all these things done in that time frame.

I usually end up with a confusion of things to do and none of them get done. Right now, for example, I’m about 20,000 words behind on the novel. To show you how badly I’m doing, as of ten minutes ago, as I write, I just got finished witwh a half-hour writing session in which I got 1,200 words on the screen. In a half-hour. That’s a wph rate of 2,400. Which means I could get 5,000 words done in a little over two hours. Easy peasey. But shit doesn’t happen. Or goes wrong (IWC, shit DOES happen, so there you are). And I get nothing done in a day. Well, I get plenty done, but it’s not the stuff I meant to do.

For example, I’m reading a pair of books I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Steal Like an Artist! and Show Your Work!, by Austin Kleon, which are about the creative process and being an artist for a living. I’m finding myself enjoying them immensely, and finding a great deal of blog fodder in them and wondering if I dwell on them too much, would it come across as obsessive and monomaniacal? But, really, I could be perfectly happy just writing little scenes from Dolly fiction, and reading books like these.

But this is altogether too much like an actual journal entry — incomplete and desultory — and not at all like a blog post, so I’m stopping here and going to bed. G’Night y’all.

Discovery, Rev 3, Ch 3, Sc 4&5

APOLOGIES TO ALL AND SUNDRY for the lacunae in posts. I have been pondering much about the story and much of it has taken shape in recent days in my mind. This is to the good. For me, this is as much a revisiting of the earlier portions of work. If you missed earlier posts and want to catch up, click on the link at right to The Origin Conjecture, where all these posts will be gathered together on one page. One of the matters I think has been pretty well settled for me is the book’s title. I think The Original Protocols is what I shall call it.

The Beginning

The Gabrielle Dolly

“So,” the dolly said with greater energy. “Your father?”

Pete sighed. “Yeah. OK. Begin at the beginning. Um… I was born in 1978, by the Christian calendar, in the Pamir mountains of eastern Tajikistan, which was then a part of the old Soviet Union.”

To the dolly, this was about as dark and mysterious as a faraway place could get. “Wow!” she said.

“I do not remember it. All of this I know from being told by my relatives.” Her voice took on a more formal tone than her everyday speech, as though she had rehearsed the story.

“My parents were members of a nomadic tribe which subsisted in the remotest parts of the Pamirs by herding goats and sheep as they had done from time immemorial. They kept to themselves and were incredibly shy of outsiders, as all of the People always have been. Their whole lives were encircled by the limits of a couple of mountains and the valleys in between and around them, little more than that. They knew there was a wider world beyond the mountains, but they cared little for it, for the most part.

“But my parents were aging, and the life was hard. I was the youngest of fifteen children born to them. My mother took sick in birthing me and, although she recovered, she was never strong after that.
They had to rely on my older brothers and sisters to care for me. And for my mother. Her care was an incredible drain on the resources of the tribe and was the cause of a great deal of resentment and friction.

“Then one day, a traveling tifel passed through the mountains–“

“A Tifel Pasu?

“No!” Pete said sharply. “Where did you hear that word?”

The dolly froze and the color drained from her cheeks.
“I… I’m sorry!” she stammered. The terror in her expression took Pete aback. A vast affection for the spirit that animated the little toy flooded her being with remorse, and slowly the Troll calmed herself.

“Forgive me, little one,” she said. “I did not mean that to… to frighten you. It just startled me to hear the word come from… you.”

“From a frell, you mean,” the dolly said bitterly.

“Um… yeah,” Pete admitted. She winced and couldn’t meet the dolly’s eyes right away. “Sorry?”

“Hey, what the fuck!” the dolly said, suddenly magnanimous, mollified by Pete’s contrition. “I suppose if my people had been treated the way yours were and are, I’d be paranoid of strangers, too. No big.”

Pete breathed a little easier after that, and in a moment, she was able to go on.

“Anyway… No. It was just an ordinary tifel… you might call her a good witch, a healer woman. Her tribe had been scoured out of the area around Communism Peak, about a hundred and fifty miles as the crow flies to the northwest of my parents’ home. Coming from that distance, she might as well have just landed from the moon, so small was my tribe’s world, so narrow their view of it. Most of her tribe had been killed, the rest scattered. For all she knew, she was the lone survivor.

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Of Matter Geopolitical

The Gabrielle Dolly

In quarters, Pete wore what the dolly took to be the Pasu mercenary version of an undress uniform. Most, if not all, of the frekun ang Guard troopers did. It consisted of a pair of soft leather leggings — buttery doeskin, you might find in the camp of American red Indians; a loose, half-sleeved sark, called a billilaal sark, and moccasins decorated with patterns of tiny shell beads.

The clothing patterns and customs arose, of course, in the Trollish sanctuaries of Central Asia, and, as such, took their cue from their neighbors. In the outfit as a whole, one could perceive echoes of the casual wear of Tibet. Except the thing was that most of their neighbors in places like the Hindu Kush and the Kunlun Shan mountains of China were so dirt poor that they couldn’t afford to have special leisure wear — mostly they were lucky to have one outfit that they wore all the time, in any weather and for any activity, including wading in muddy rice paddies during the planting season. So the Trolls, having become suddenly gold-rich in the 13th Century from selling their services as soldiers to Upothesa could afford to dress well, with special items and outfits of clothing for different weather conditions and activities.

And, when they selected those items, they naturally made their first selections from what was around them, only later seeking exotic things. The styles and fabrics were those easily obtained in the markets, bazaars, and souks of Asia, or available naturally, though the effort involved in obtaining and working — for example — chamois skin for the comfortable (and, it could be said, sensual) leggings soon became burdensome for the increasingly bourgeois Trolls.

Current terms and practices within the Guard section of Troll society had been set in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, when Hephaestus’s Olympia Company was headquartered in England, and so the terms for things were couched in the vernacular of the time. The use of the word sark for a shirt was borrowed from Scots, which was not then recognized as a separate tongue from English. That the Trolls wore such garments in billilaal — a situation roughly similar to the concept of in harem in Moslem households, albeit not entirely equivalent — was known and yet not known, as frells were not permitted to the billilaal and the secrets thereof most jealously guarded, the shirt came to be called a billilaal sark long in advance of the knowledge of it becoming currency in, as it was said then and there, Upothesa.

This time, Pete wore the sark and the leggings and a red bandana as a neckerchief and sat cross-legged on the bunk, displaying a flexibility of limb that belied her bulk.

“At that time,” she continued her narration. “The Red Army was preparing to invade Afghanistan, although the civilian population of Tajikistan didn’t know that until much later — after it was all said and done. At the time, the soldiers were searching for spies who might betray their preparations, and it was assumed that, among the Muslim tribes and villages in the region there were many potential spies, agitators, and fifth columnists.

“Of course, we Trolls never have anything to do with mannish political matters, but the Soviets didn’t know that… didn’t even know that there were non-humans living in the area. Nor would they have given credence to reports of the existence of sapient hominids in the region had they word of us. The legends of the wild men of the mountains — the Almas, they call them — were scorned by the Bolsheviks as children’s tales.

“To them, we looked just the same as the Tajiks, with the occasional throwback to Greek and even Norse invaders from centuries past. It never occurred to them to connect reports of the Almas to the madmen and social outcasts of a non-human race. All over the world, Man scientists make the same mistake. They hear tell of a Sasquatch or a Yeti and they assume that the individuals reported must represent some kind of a norm. They never think that the ones they see in that state could be homeless, miserable creatures scavenging their livings on the margins of society. They never connect the sightings with groups or individuals actually living among them.

“So they look for us in all the wrong places. For which we are eternally grateful.

“But the maps showed the part of the region where the People lived to be uninhabited, and therefore we had no business being there. The Soviets started up near Gorno-Badakhshan in the north, on the border with Kyrgyzstan, and worked their way south and east, clearing out every subsistence farmer and goat herder they found. They didn’t care where they went or how they lived once they got there, they just… wanted them gone.

“The tifel told my father that he should take his family and head south. She told him about Jirhum Ra, how in a cove in the mountains there was a city of the People, a mighty civilization, that was protected by great magics from the outside, how the People lived there in peace and plenty. He spat and said that was an old wives’ tale, told to comfort frightened children and to provide a dose of nostalgia for old men, that there was no such place as Jirhum Ra, that he would die before he would leave the land where his father and his grandfathers had lived and tended their flocks going back to the beginning of time.”

Pete sighed. “Years before, his two younger sisters had gone off in search of Jirhum Ra, never to be heard from again. I’m told it was forbidden to speak of them in his presence.” She fell silent for a long time. Then, as if she had forgotten where she was and what she was doing for a time, she shook herself and went on.

“When you study history and folk lore, you’ll come across the same story time and time again. Ordinary, innocent people trampled underfoot of a technologically superior civilization. In one way or another, the primitives always lose. They might have survived, or even thrived, if only they had the sense to get out of the way. But their pride and the righteousness of their cause makes them stubborn.

“I wasn’t even two summers old when the Red Army came and scoured our tribe out of the valley and chased us down the road to Afghanistan.

“Now, Jirhum Ra, as you may know, is in the Karakoram Range, some four hundred miles to the East and North of Kabul. So, if my parents wanted to go there from eastern Tajikistan, they should have traveled South and East, as the tifel had gone, crossing the Vakhan North-to-South at Baroghil Pass and entering Kashmir at Misgar or through the Khunjerab Pass between Sinkiang and Kashmir.

“There are settlements of the People in all the mountains thereabouts — in the Kunlun Shan between China and Tibet, the Ladakh Range and the Karakoram Range, south to the Himalayas and east to the endless and impenetrable ranges that give rise to the headwaters of all the great rivers of Asia: the Indus, the Bramaputra, the Irrawaddy, the Salween, the Chao Phrya, the Mekong, the Hong, the Si-kiang, the Yangtze…” Pete’s voice trailed off and the two of them sat for awhile in silence, thinking different thoughts. Then Pete took up her tale again.

“If they had only turned eastward at the start, they would have been fleeing into the bosom of their people. But Soviets didn’t know or care where a group of people they didn’t know or cared existed wanted to go. They drove everyone westward out of Tajikistan and into Afghanistan across the upper gorges of the Amu Darya. As a result, in the fall of 1979, my parents found themselves, along with the rest of their tribe, a part of a flood of refugees forced out of a place that had been their whole world for a thousand generations, caught up in events they never would have paid any mind, and on the roads of Tajikistan, being herded toward the border with Afghanistan.

“It should give you some notion of the evil of those people that they would use their own citizens as human shields, sending unarmed primitives ahead of an invading army, not caring for their survival, only to cause consternation to the enemy.

“Life on the road is never pleasant, but under those conditions — extreme cold, no food or water, incredible filth… the camps were hotbeds of disease… And, of course, there were predators, both the four-legged and the two-legged kind. An adult Troll doesn’t have anything to be afraid of in a confrontation with a Man, but there were children with the tribe, of course, and they were easy pickings for the scum that would try to sell them into slavery in Dushanbe or Tashkent. None of ours were taken, I’m told. Our adults kept a close watch over the little ones and brought them through. But there were many mothers among the Men in the camps wailing for their lost children, taken by the slavers… the jackals who preyed on the misfortunate ones.”

Pete sighed. “I was lucky, I suppose, to be too young to remember this more than dimly,” she said softly and was quiet for another while before she started up again.

“We crossed the Amu Darya into Badakhshan on the festival of Bulu Lao. They say it was a hard crossing, that just there, the river lies in deep gorges and there are no safe road crossings for a hundred miles or more downstream and none upstream at all until the end of the gorges where the river turns east toward its source. And, as if they were done with us once we crossed the border, the Soviets left us alone after that. We wintered in a valley near Bar Panj. It was harsh, they say, but we survived, even my mother, until the next spring. That would have been 1980. Far away to the West, the communists invaded Afghanistan that winter on the eve of the Christians’ feast for the birth of their Messiah. But it was of little account to the Pasu, who never cared for the political affairs of Men in the best of times and who were, just then, more concerned with their own survival than anything.”

“When the spring melts began, our tribe set out on the road again. Over the winter, they had held many councils and had argued themselves hoarse. They had hammered out a consensus. The tribe would trek south, then East, following the course of the Amu Darya into the Vakhan, that little arm of Afghanistan that interposes itself between Tajikistan and Kashmir and reaches out to touch China as with a fingertip. At the eastern mouth of the Baroghil Pass, they would find their way South into the Karakoram Range and, eventually, to Jirhum Ra.

“In peacetime, it might have been possible. After all, the legendary Silk Road followed a like path for four thousand years. But the communists’ invasion of Afghanistan had made all of the other governments in the region nervous. The Chinese have always been suspicious of the Russian Bear, as have the Indians. Pakistan, of course, was playing host to American CIA operatives who were fueling the mujahedin resistance movement. That narrow corridor between the Pamirs and the Karakoram Range, in the valley where the headwaters of the Amu Darya fall from the continental divide and begin their long trek to the Aral Sea, was probably the most watched region on earth that year. The armies of five nations and the spies of a dozen more were concerned with everything that went on in that valley. That summer, a family of field mice could not have traveled up the river unnoticed, let alone a tribe of thirty Troll families… Some six hundred of us all told there were.”

Pete stopped. She caught up her right knee in her hands and pulled it toward her chest, rocking back and forth on the edge of the bed, her jaw clenched tight. When she spoke again, it was with the soggy sound of tears sniffled away and an ache in the throat.

“Out of the six hundred and more of the People who entered the valley of Vakhan in April of ’80, two made it to Jirhum Ra in August that year. Two: My father. And me.” She wiped tears out of her eyes with a forefinger and looked up at the ceiling.

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Bootlegging on the Meet the Character Blog Tour

IN THE HOPE this will track back to an originator of this meme, the Meet the Character Blog Tour.

Here goes:

1.) What is the name of your character?

Gabrielle Francesca East (Dolly)

2.) Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

She’s not even real. She’s an artificial person: the melding of an anima fished out of the River of Souls by the Goddess Aphrodite and a manufactured (“autocloned”) body. The anima is that of Dolly’s ancestor and karmic predecessor, also named Gabrielle Francesca, the most successful Childe of the East in history or out of it.

3.) When and where is the story set?

The core of the story is begins in February and March of 1998 on the campus of East College of the Americas, in Central Ohio. The wider epic goes from the beginning to the end.

4.) What should we know about him/her?

Dolly is insecure, unstable, cocksure, fearless, terrified of failure, strong, brittle, highly intelligent, irreverent, inexperienced, much like a newborn, determined, unstoppable. Her principle lesson at this early stage of her life is that physical strength is less important to victory than strength of will.

5.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

She has been tumbled willy nilly into the middle of an epic conflict among the God which has been going on since the Stone Age.

6.) What is the personal goal of the character?

First, to survive, then to thrive.

7.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Dolly’s story is an epic, spanning, possibly thirty novels. (That estimate may be low.) The first novel is for sale: The High T Shebang (The Baby Troll Chronicles Book 1) The work-in-progress has a working title of Discovery, but may be called The Origin Protocol on publication. It is being snippeted on the author’s blog, The Baby Troll Chronicles.

Discovery Rev 3: Ch3, Sc 2 & 3

DAY LATE A COUPLE HUNDRED DOLLARS SHORT. Thanks to those of you who bought a copy of The High T Shebang during the Human Wave sale last weekend. Your custom is greatly appreciated. Thank you. Othewrise, shame be upon thee who did not. We experienced our favorite (so far) sharp upward spike in sales. But, then again, zero to one is a sharp upward spike, innit?

This week’s snippet is a bit confusing in that there are two discrete story elements being introduced. The convo between Dolly and Pete is the start of a longer set piece which exposits a good bit of Pete’s back story. The tale is a brief one, but affecting, so I’m told. The second bit is the wrapping up of the carried-over “previously on…” sequence that segues us from the [as yet unpublished] novel Genesis, which ended at dawn the morning on which this current novel opens. It should be clear from this that they will not remain so in the finished work, but are plopped down here in the narrative as a kind of a place-marker — several steps up from [insert name].

The Pa’a-um

The Gabrielle Dolly

“Pete,” the dolly said. “Tell me about your father.”

When Pete had been silent for a longer time than felt comfortable, the dolly’s innate courtesy overcame her insatiable curiosity and she thought to ask:

“Is it OK? Are you allowed to tell me about him?”

“Yes,” Pete said. “It’s alright. I just… I have to think how to say things I… I had put aside. When we take up the sword, you see, we leave all that behind — family, friends, the society of our people in the Pa’a-um. The Guard becomes our Pa’a-um, and we’re supposed to forget about what went before.”

“What does that mean, Pa’a-um?”

Pete blinked. “Place of the Spirit,” she said, sounding surprised that it needed to be explained. “It also means home, village, safety, — no — sanctuary.”

“Oh,” the dolly said. “I wondered. I hear it so much.”

The Troll nodded. “It is our name for the Center… where the spirit of our People resides. There is a physical place we call Pa’a-um, where the frell may never come, because that which lives there is wholly and solely of the People. But it is also a spiritual place, the Pa’a-um is the place where your Pa’a resides.”

“Home is where the heart is,” the dolly murmured.

Pete chuckled. “Yes. Cliched and vastly oversimplified, but true nonetheless.”

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A Word Ma’am?

Petra Alexandra Troll

When the dolly finally let her go — it was that kind of a hug and Pete looked into the emerald eyes for a long time during it — Pete turned to the Goddess.

“A word, Ma’am?” she asked diffidently.

Aphrodite visibly shifted her attention from… wherever it had been (Pete couldn’t have said where that was) to Pete. She lit her face up with a smile that was at once both totally focused on Pete and utterly disengaged — a sort of a royal We of smiles.

“Of course, Petra,” she said, rolling the r’s just so. Not a how may I help you? response, but more deigning to assist.

“I’ve been out of touch for the last twelve hours, getting… the other Gabrielle here and handing her off to… well, to you…” Pete waved a hand vaguely in the direction of the HQ building across the parade ground where she had put the dolly into Aphrodite’s hands barely a quarter-hour before. “How is Dr Drummond?”

Aphrodite nodded once and said, “Ah!” in a tone that implied, So that’s why you’re bothering me.

“I, too,” the Goddess said, “Have been out of touch for somewhat longer. I have however, seen that Mitchell has recovered from the blow you gave him…”

Pete winced at the memory. But he really had been asking for it.

“… and has been released from the Med Center on his own recognizance — against medical advice — and, as far as I have been able to determine, has returned home to Cincinnati to rest and recuperate.”

“Ah!” Pete replied, with a somewhat less arrogant connotation to it. “Thank you. Well, then, if that’s all…?”

Aphrodite nodded and made a wave of genial dismissal.

Pete turned and walked off toward the parked motorcycle. She didn’t exactly miss the dolly’s start toward her and manifest desire to speak with her, but felt unsure she had permission to speak with the girl, now that her part in things was done. She kept going. However, she waited a moment, sitting astride the bike, tugging at the gloves to get them all the way on, adjusting the helmet’s strap, but the girl didn’t join her, so, eventually, she started the bike up with the electric starter and drove out of the lot. She kept the engine at a low idle, waddling along part of the way balanced on the big hog between her widespread legs, threading her way through the crowd as she followed the one-way semi-circular driveway away from the mess hall and toward the BOQ. As she passed, she saw no sign of the dolly, though she looked — rather pointedly, she thought.

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