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, she thought.
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
"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 start."
"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 a bow.
"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," she whispered.
"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?"