Friday, May 29, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #14

Dr. Carson shivered, suspecting that whatever had damaged those plants was part of what brought her daughter home. Charli had said her leg wasn’t hurt -- so what had been hurt?

Turning, she surveyed the main room and her attention snagged on a battered old apple crate sitting in front of the hearth and the newly lit fire. An old quilt hung over the edge. That usually signaled something live and injured -- enough to make it docile and safe to bring indoors. A wounded animal was a strong enough reason to bring Charli home from the overnight trip she had been so eagerly looking forward to.

Smiling, she softened and shortened her steps, to creep up on the animal and not startle it. Charli had inherited her gift with wild creatures from her father. Dr. Carson could appreciate them, and marveled at how they tamed under her daughter’s hands, but she definitely didn’t have the ability to befriend wild things. Her only consolation was that Charli didn’t like creepy crawly things like snakes and lizards and bugs any better than she did. Feathers and fur were the extent of her nursing tendencies.

“Oh…” she sighed, as she got close enough to see over the edge and found the battered cub curled up, sleeping.

The fur looked wet. She wondered what it had taken Charli to convince the cub to let her wash it. Another step closer changed the angle, and she saw the white of gauze wrapped around the cub’s foreleg, and tongue depressor splints. That explained much.

“Poor little guy,” she whispered, and went down on one knee to get a closer look. Charli would have dosed the cub with their homemade herbal tonic, a combination of sedative, anti-inflammatory, pain-reliever and detoxifier all rolled together, made from entirely natural ingredients that -- so far -- had no allergic or negative side-effects. Then again, it hadn’t been tried on very many people, other than ranger and botanist friends who trusted them. The tonic would keep the cub asleep for several hours, at the very least.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #13

Dr. Carson sighed, biting back the natural response to ask why her daughter, who was a genius even if she had never been tested, couldn’t manage to feed herself. Unless whatever kept her from opening the refrigerator was what had brought her home? She did feel her spirits rising as she finished neatening up the breezeway, and turned off the rest of the equipment, and headed for the connecting doorway between breezeway and house. The chances of that plant she had sent a photo of being so unique and wonderful that Charli had to hurry home were slim. Still, if she had been injured, she would have said so. Dr. Carson suspected, though, that unless she was bleeding badly enough to need stitches, Charli still wouldn’t have come out to the greenhouse while Miller and Thomas had been there.

She had to do something about her daughter’s aversion to most strangers. Miller was a friend, after all. Just because he was the first to find Charli after she and Matt had shattered on the pavement after surprising a late-night intruder in their lab, that was no reason to avoid him. He had saved her life. He was a link to the past.

“Reason enough?” she sighed. “Lord, I know we don’t talk often enough, but… something needs to be done about Charli. She can’t go through the rest of her life living like this, getting along better with wild animals than people. She’s a brilliant botanist and theoretician, and the best lab assistant I could ever want, but You made her for so much more in life. Please… do something?”

Saturday, May 23, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #12

“Home early, aren't you?” She held her breath, anticipating… she wasn’t sure what she anticipated, but it couldn’t be good. Her daughter simply didn’t, couldn’t break plans and routines. It was part of how she coped with her bad leg and her nightmares.

“Emergency,” Charli said, her tone bright. Meaning it wasn’t anything painful or dangerous, which intrigued Dr. Carson despite the momentary irritation. More irritation at realizing that she was just as set in her ways, hating any breaks in expectations and routines, as her daughter. “Any breakthroughs while I was gone?”

“That depends on what you call a breakthrough. Although you certainly weren’t gone long enough for anything at all to happen. What kind of emergency?”

“Not my leg, so stop worrying. Come and see.”

“Let me shut everything down and I'll be right in.” She decided to be amused. Charli certainly sounded excited about something. Then again, she had the same strained, holding-back sound in her voice when something infuriated her. What could she have seen or found or done that brought her home early from her inspection trip to the growing station and the cave camp? “Hungry?”


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #11

 “This won't taste very good, but I guarantee it'll help you feel a whole lot better.” She stroked the cub’s muzzle and the hungry little creature opened its mouth, trying to suckle on her thumb again. Charli held her breath as she caught hold of the bottom of the cub’s jaw with one hand and slid the end of the eye-dropper into its mouth, trying to get it far enough in to get the liquid down its throat without making it choke or gag.

The cub convulsed, trying to shake free of the eye-dropper and let out a yip of surprise. She squeezed the bulb and watched for green liquid to come out of the cub’s mouth. It swallowed and struggled to its feet, wriggling in what she imagined was disgust, maybe nausea, but no medicine escaped. She let go of its mouth and dared to stroke down the cub’s back.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

A yelp that was definitely pain escaped and she pulled back her hand to see the cub balanced on three legs, holding the fourth up to its side at a crooked angle.

“I hope those scuzzbuckets drove off a cliff, trying to get out of here,” she growled.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #10

She stepped back from the cub, watching it. To her relief and delight, it raised its head and followed her movements. No coughing, no blood at nose or mouth or ears. Maybe there were no internal injuries. At least none that would threaten its life.

Trying to watch the cub to make sure it didn’t suddenly jump to its feet and leap off the table, Charli stumbled around the kitchen, stepping momentarily into the storage room for a sealed canister of dull green analgesic and detoxifying powder she had helped her mother develop. It had been a byproduct of their main research effort, and they had agreed to use it for a year or two before reporting on it and possibly finding someone interested in manufacturing and selling it -- and dealing with the fees and paperwork to get it analyzed and approved by the FDA.

She poured a glass of water and mixed a spoonful of the powder into it, turning the water a murky green. Another trip into the storage room yielded an eyedropper. Charli stirred the solution around until it lost some of its opacity, then sucked the eye-dropper full and stepped back over to the table.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #9

Charli glared at the intercom. Agent Miller wasn’t putting pressure on her mother again, was he? Sometimes she swore most of the unpleasantness over their government funding and her mother’s strict secrecy didn’t come from Miller’s superiors, but from Miller himself. What did he think it would profit him to get Dr. Rachel Carson to make claims and release her findings years ahead of schedule, when everything was still theory? True, they had had some successes in the last two years, but that was no reason to leap into the spotlight. Recreating medicinal plant species that had been lost in the destruction of the rainforests was a delicate process that couldn’t be forced or predicted. One time, she had caught Miller arguing with her mother, accusing her of holding back on releasing her research findings because she feared someone would attack them here, in this isolated lab, just like her husband and Charli’s father had been attacked all those years ago.

The cub whimpered. Charli turned away from the intercom so fast, she almost lost her balance. She reached for the edge of the table, grasping it to brace herself, and dragged her bad leg a few steps when it twinged. Her anger drained away as she unwrapped the cub. It looked up at her, holding still, its eyes enormous in its muddy little face.

“Hey… it’s gonna be okay. I promise.” Slowly, she offered her limply clenched fist to the cub. To her delight, it nuzzled her hand, then latched onto her thumb, sucking. Charli winced when the sharp little milk teeth dug in. “I bet you’re hungry. Are you up to eating anything solid or are you still on milk?” Grinning, she straightened up and gently tugged her hand free. “Yeah, like you understand a word I say. I’m gonna fix you up. Sorry, but medicine comes before food. You’re more likely to take the medicine if your belly isn’t full.”

Monday, May 11, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #8

“I only wanted to find a cure for the common cold,” Dr. Carson said with a shrug. She grinned when the two men laughed, and raised her cup to sip. Then she saw the yellow button light up on the intercom panel, and paused. The only person who knew there was an option to listen and not speak was Charli. What was her daughter doing home so soon?

“You've done a lot more than that, Rachel,” Miller said. “I'm no scientist, but these advances in genetic--“

“We're still in the theory stage, and very hazy theories at that. Please emphasize that when you make your report.”

“You act like nobody listens to you. Believe me, nobody wants to lose your cooperation.”

“Any more than I want to lose the financial support and protection you and your very patient superiors have given me all these years.” She caught the slight questioning glance Thomas gave first her, then Miller. Obviously, this new man wasn’t aware of the history between them. Didn’t he know they were friends from way back, when her husband was still trying to find support and funding for his research into regenerative tissue theory, and Miller was still a very junior agent, eager to prove himself?

Friday, May 8, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #7

She fashioned a sling out of her poncho, to let the cub rest against her stomach, hoping her body warmth and the rhythm of her breathing and heartbeat would soothe him. Then she pulled out her phone. No bars whatsoever.


She couldn’t use the GPS program in her phone to make sure of her position, but she knew where she was in relation to her mother’s greenhouse lab where they lived, and the nearest hiking trail and ranger stations. No matter which direction she walked, the shortest route was to go home rather than take the cub to the rangers. She might not be a licensed veterinarian, but the rangers all said they would trust her to tend a wounded animal any day. Making sure the cub was taken care of was her first priority. She set the phone to alert her when she had enough bars to call, then set up an email with the video attached. The poachers were probably long gone, but she had enough evidence to track them down and ensure they were punished.

Not enough to make up for the damage to the cub and the loss of the young buck she had watched grow up, but she told herself to be grateful for every bit of punishment that resulted. Some crimes would never be solved, some pain never paid for, but this time she could be sure of some justice.

A sob escaped her as she pulled out the old compass her father had given her, the first time they came out to this wildlife preserve when she was only five years old. She checked the direction, put away the compass and then her flashlight, and got up to start the long, cold walk home.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #6

She shuddered, and for a moment her stomach twisted with nausea as she replayed those kicks that had sent the cub flying across the clearing. Did she dare move him? What if he had broken bones, broken ribs that punctured his organs? She couldn’t leave him lying there, though. By the time she got home and brought help, predators would have found him.

“Okay, God, You got us this far. You chased those scuzzbuckets away -- that flare shouldn’t have worked at all.” Charli shuddered and glanced over her shoulder. Definitely, that flare shouldn’t have worked, and logic said those poachers would get over their fear any second now and turn around and come back, just to find out what had happened. She had to get out of here. “Keep us safe? Keep him alive until I can get help for him?”

There was more light now. She looked up and blinked in surprise at the thicker streaks of moonlight coming through clouds that shredded into mist as she watched. At least she didn’t have to worry about rain for a while. Charli pulled out her spare tee-shirt, then checked the plant samples. Her tumbling slide down the slope hadn’t damaged anything. At least, not any damage she could see by moonlight. Sighing at her definitely unclear thinking, she dug out her flashlight and put one end in her mouth, so she could shine the light down on the cub while she tried to examine him. No blood in his mouth or ears or nose, so maybe he wasn’t bleeding internally. She was afraid to press too hard, and how could she know what was broken bones and what was where it belonged under that fur? She wrapped the cub in her spare shirt, hoping the swaddling would comfort him and keep him immobile for the long walk home. It was the best she could do.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #5

The flare arched up high with a shriek like the cub’s, and for a moment vanished among the cloud cover before exploding in brilliant blue and gold.

“Rangers!” one of the poachers shouted. He dove into the back of the Jeep, over the buck’s carcass.

The others cursed and shouted and scrambled to get into the Jeep, nearly forgetting the guns and the flashlights. Charli stared, unable to believe their reaction. She leaned out further, watching them as the Jeep bounced and jolted out of the clearing. The grinding of gears nearly drowned out the thudding of her heart. She leaned out as far as she could, following the bouncing and sliding of the headlights until they vanished entirely.

Too far.

Charli let out a little shriek as she overbalanced and lost her grip and slid down the slope. She twisted, trying to miss that lump that was probably a boulder, then another, long dark shape that was definitely a tree knocked down during the winter storms and heavy ice load. She flipped over onto her side. Her good leg hit something hard and she pushed off, grunting at the impact.

Then suddenly she was down, rolling across the clearing, until she landed in a depression on her face. A wet depression. Charli lay still for a few seconds, catching her breath. A gasping chuckle escaped her. Then she struggled to her feet, pulled her backpack straight, brushed herself off and hobbled over to the cub. He whimpered when she bent down and touched the top of his head.

“It's okay,” she murmured. “Nobody's going to hurt you anymore.”