The Termite Queen, v.1: The Speaking of the Dead

By Lorinda J. Taylor

Sci-Fi, Action & adventure

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From Chapter 2:

“So you come home tomorrow?”
“Well, actually, yesterday was my birthday … ”
“Hakhís↓~] I forgot all about it! Twenty-six, is it not? Saretigá↑~, Kaitrin!”
“Thank you! Anyway, I’m celebrating by going to Aleska for some camping before the start of term. I have a voucher for the Denaly Preserve and I’m going to join up with a tour group. I’m hoping to see a moose!”
“Ah! Interesting! But I could dissuade you from doing that, could I not?”
Exasperated, Kaitrin said, “Tió’otu, what are you trying to say? Why did your expedition come back early? You’re making a big mystery of it!”
“I apologize, Kaitrin. We came back early because we acquired a fragile specimen that needed care. I want you to see it, but it is not likely to survive more than a few days, what with bad air, incompatible nutrition, and xenotoxic microbes attacking it.”
“What sort of animal is it?”
“A termite.”
A startled Kaitrin laughed. “Termite! What am I supposed to know about termites? Have all the xenoentomologists expired? If I don’t use my voucher before the end of the year, I’ll have to forfeit it. And you want that to happen just so I can stare at an insect?”
“It – ♫♪ – is not just any insect. It is nearly a meter long and weighs thirty kilos.”
“Good grief! Is that biologically possible? But even so, I don’t see how you could expect me to contribute anything worth canceling a trek to Denaly. Even one anthropologist on a case like that seems like overkill!”
“Kaitrin, how long have we known each other?”
“Oh … eleven years … ”
“Long enough for you to trust my judgment?”
“Tió’otu, you know better than that.” She sighed. “I’m well aware that if you insist I do something, you probably have a rock-solid reason, so I’ll cancel my moose and grab a transport to Okloh tomorrow morning.”
“Splendid! I knew you would come through for me!”
“Besides, I have to confess you’ve sparked my curiosity!”
With a self-satisfied chirp, the Professor said, “I was sure I could! Now, if you will let me know the time of your arrival, I will be at Herinen to meet you.”



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