Thursday, September 23, 2010


(Bright galaxy NGC 3810 demonstrates classical spiral structure)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite, followed by poetry after the jump.


by Natasha Trethewey

You can get there from here, though
there's no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you've never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion – dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on the mangrove swamp – buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry – tome of memory,
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph – who you were—
will be waiting when you return.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.


Sunday, September 19, 2010


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


With a new baby sleeping in Maar and Pyosz's bedroom, both Qux and Merrl suddenly began finding more reasons to join them during the night. Thleen offered to let them sleep with her every Moja, and a similar offer was extended by Yoj and Halling on Roku, which helped. Neoma was now spending every night except one weekend evening at Owl Manage. Word came from Chloddia that Lark, Adon's partner, was pregnant, and the next day Jinya announced she and Mlis were embarking on a second child.

Ngus began talking astonishingly early, her first word being "milk". She didn't babble as Merrl had, she simply produced a pertinent word at appropriate moments. Nor did she refer to her emmas as emma or aggie. Instead, she called them "Poj" and "Mar", which amused Pyosz more than Maar.

One sunny Ljeto day, Thleen offered to take Merrl and Qux with her for a long visit at Kacang, and Pyosz immediately said yes. Prl had gone to the library with Neoma, Lawa and Qala were on Teppe, and Pyosz wanted to sit in silence on the porch after hopefully nudging Maar into mopping all the floors.

Instead, Yoj said as they were putting away the breakfast dishes "I want to go to Hore."

Maar, startled, said "What -- today?"

"If that's good for you, yes. Otherwise, whenever we can fit it in" said Yoj.

Maar looked at Pyosz, who said "I've never been."

"Nobody goes there" said Yoj. "I'm starting to wonder why."

Halling, reading the paper, called out "Count me in. Even if I can't get very far from the jichang in my cart."

"It would be a lot easier without the kids" said Pyosz, bending to Ngus in her yameen on Maar's chest and saying "Just you, who never makes a fuss, right?" Ngus grinned, releasing some late teething drool.

Maar said to Halling, "As I remember, there's a passable trail all the way to the cavern there, if it hasn't washed out." Which Pyosz interpreted as yes. She began cutting bread for sandwiches while Yoj started tea for thermoses. Maar called Kacang to ask their brood to not return until further notice, and Halling collected binoculars and flashlights.

Maar took the opportunity to give them a leisurely flyover circuit of all Pya, because it always delighted Pyosz. She was especially thrilled today when Pyosz's repetition of "So blue and green" drew forth an imitatitively ecstatic "Geen!" from Ngus. Once they landed on Hore, however, they all grew somber, despite the lush central meadow visible beyond the hills and a vivid blue lake next to the abandoned ruins. Pyosz gave her finger to Ngus and Ngus gripped it tightly.

Maar walked ahead, making sure the path was suitable for Halling's cart. Yoj assumed her gakusha voice, saying "Originally there were five who lived here, before the plague killed four of them. They built this as a prefab with plastic roof and walls, it must have been very cold and damp."

Pyosz had a dozen questions but began with "There's stone walls now, what's left of them." From inside the half-wall Maar called out "But rusting metal supports as a frame." As they joined her, Yoj asked "Can you verify this stone was likely cut by laser instead of other tools?"

After an inspection, Maar said "Yes. Though not as well as I could do it." Not bragging, just a fact.

Yoj continued "Since we don't have any records beyond the initial log of the party that settled here, and those end with the arrival of the plague, all else is theory. Apparently the sole survivor constructed these walls as a more permanent shelter. She had chickens for a few years, according to one investigation of animal remains. But her body, and signs of long habitation, was in the cavern where the other four had been entombed."

"She lived with the dead?" said Pyosz in horror.

"They were separated by stone" said Yoj, which was not reassurance enough for Pyosz. Or Maar, from the look on her face.

Maar said "She had a long name, that left-behind, I remember from school."

"Y-liz-a-bath" said Yoj, saying the final dipthong in a way not quite Skenish. "And her second name was Goldfarb."

"What?" said Pyosz. Her reaction caused Ngus to crane around, trying to see her aggie's face.

"Yes, she was a sibemma to our own ancestor, Pearl. Although I don't think they ever met, I think Y-liz-a-bath left on her trip here before Pearl was born" said Yoj. "And the chances were slim that Pearl would find her alive, but she mentions it once in her journal, that the recovery of the log from Pertama put closure to her hope." Pyosz repeated the syllables of Elizabeth's name to herself, memorizing it to tell her children.

"I can't believe she lasted as long as she did all alone" said Halling fervently from the doorway. "Ten years without knowing if she'd be rescued."

"Nine" corrected Yoj. "If we go by her annual entries in the log found here, in this room. Once a year on the anniversary of landing, she'd mark it in the log and add that she was living in the cavern, come find her." Maar came to put her arm over Pyosz's shoulder, and Pyosz leaned into her. Ngus grabbed Maar's shati with her small fingers and said "Emma", prompting Maar into rills of "Yes I am your lucky emma, you brilliant baby."

Yoj looked at them and said "I wonder if Y-liz-a-bath also had blue eyes", which sent a chill through Pyosz. Halling said "Let's go to the cavern, then" and crunched her wheels backward.

The trail skirted around the lake to its north shore before heading for a long valley between the tallest hills. It was still, no breeze reaching here, with long rocky shadows. Pyosz wondered if she would have recognized the cavern entrance for what it was if Maar had not stepped through it and vanished. Yoj stopped in her tracks, blocking the rest of them, and called to Maar "Are there shu inside?"

After a minute, Maar reappeared to say "Not that I can see. There are owl pellets in one corner, I think they keep it clear." Still, Yoj moved aside and let Halling precede her. Maar handed Pyosz a flash and said "You want me to take the baby?"

"No" said Pyosz, hugging Ngus to her. She didn't turn on her flash right away because Yoj's beam was playing everywhere and Pyosz hoped to let her eyes adjust to the sudden dark. That poor woman lived here without windows for nine years she thought. There was leaf litter and other debris on the floor, and what looked like remains of ancient rotted furniture. At the back of the front room, a jagged hole in the wall led to even deeper dark.

"The burial vaults" said Maar in a near whisper, pointing to the far passage. Pyosz felt no inclination to go in that direction. Yoj said anxiously "I can definitely smell shu."

"The rock around us is probably honeycombed with their warrens" said Halling matter-of-factly. "But Maar is right, owls are keeping them at bay in here, even if there are connecting apertures." She patted Yoj's hand in a perfunctory way, then began rolling her scooter toward the back cavern.

"Why are you going in there?" demanded Pyosz.

Halling stopped to look around at her. "Because that original inhabitant of Pya died back there, and I want to understand her as best I can." Pyosz was reminded again that Halling's curiosity and hunger for knowledge ran as deep as Yoj's, though they often concentrated on different details. Halling flicked on a very bright torch and rumbled forward again. Maar glanced at Pyosz before following. Yoj stood near the front door until Halling called out "It's clear in here and you need to see this." Pyosz decided waiting by herself would be worse than braving the death room and followed close behind Yoj.

The corridor angled right before it ended at a sloping wall. Halling was at the end, studying an engraved metal plaque. Along the left-hand side were five long cavities which were a foot wider and taller than a reclining human, two above three, and under each cavity was a similar plaque. Pyosz was briefly surprised to see the tombs open, before remembering of course the skeletons had been removed. In fact, Mill and Oby were who had collected them for return to Skene and long study at the University.

Ngus made an interrogatory sound and Pyosz felt unwilling to explain what they were seeing. Yoj said "This one here on top is where she crawled in at the end to die. I simply cannot imagine..."

"I remember Mill saying her bones were all over the floor here, because shu had been at it, since she couldn't mortar herself in like the others had been" said Halling, and Pyosz shared the shudder she saw pass through Yoj. Maar was peering at the rock and said "Abba, this is what they etched directly into the rock, not the plaques we put up later. Can you read this to me?"

Yoj put on her glasses and held her flash to throw the marks into relief. "It's a name...Pamla Gark -- no, it's an S sound -- Garseya. Then two years, presumably birth and death. A place name I've never read about, followed by Yreth, and three letters which are an acronym for a phrase that means something similar to carynn bye. I recall her name, she was listed as a biologist of some sort in the roster we found on Dvareka. As was Y-liz-a-bath. Four of the five here were biologists in different areas, with one being a pilot. We think the pilot was the first to sicken and die, which is why they didn't rejoin the others. Not that it would have saved them" she added.

Ngus had succeeded in prying Pyosz's flash from her hands and was flailing it about, crowing at the light show she created, until it catapulted from her fingers. Pyosz bent to retrieve it but offered Ngus a bracelet to play with instead. Maar had moved on to study the rock lip of Elizabeth's tomb.

"I think this one is different" she said, waving Yoj over. "Those aren't letters, right?"

"Quite right" said Yoj. "This star is a symbol from one of their widespread superstitions, meaning she was a believer in whatever it was. And this -- now see, this is not shown in the photographs I've seen of this room. These three dots in a triangle is a symbol that means, loosely, 'Come help me' or 'Beware'. A sort of distress signal."

"One last cry for help?" mused Pyosz, letting Ngus drool on her hand.

"Maybe" said Yoj thoughtfully. She stood on tiptoe and shone her flash deep into the vault. "Again, the book I read stated she had lined her own vault with clay that she painted blue after it dried, but it didn't mention how cracked it had become."

"Clay does that normally over time" said Pyosz, coming to stand beside Yoj, her interest activated. The coating was uneven, made from poor clay which had been inadequately washed. Still, this woman -- her kin, apparently -- must have had some rudimentary knowledge of working slip, a connection that made her heart race. As she pushed her face into the opening, a faint odor hit her nostrils and she jerked backwards, her mind avoiding identification of the smell's origin. Halling had joined them and her cart stopped Pyosz from moving further.

"That star" said Halling, pointing, "It's the same kind as was on Bux's ring, the one she got handed down from Yerush."

"A star's a star" argued Maar, but Yoj had looked around at Pyosz and she was already slipping the ring from her finger, looking at the almost-worn-away engraving inside. Nobody knew what the words were. The star was identical, however. Pyosz handed the ring to Yoj, who tilted her nose in the air to look at the marks through the bottoms of her bifocals with the flash.

"It's composed of two triangles overlying each other" agreed Yoj. Her voice was quiet. As she handed the ring back, Ngus lunged for it and Pyosz barely kept it from her reach. "Not till you're grown" she murmured to Ngus, and Maar looked at her keenly.

Yoj continued, almost to herself. "So she was communicating something larger, perhaps of a significance we cannot now interpret. She carved this at her leisure, long before she died -- it's well-formed, the lines are deep. And after it, those three dots. Which I think cannot be a distress signal, not in this context." She sighed and said "Oh how I wish Bux were here."

"I dreamed about her last night" said Halling. Yoj stared at her to reply "So did I."

After a fraught silence, Halling said "I dreamed she put a plate of that orange cake Veida used to make for special occasions down on the table in front of me, and she said 'Now you have to share this with the children.'" She and Yoj laughed together, and Ngus grinned.

Yoj said "In my dream she was looking for something, going through all the drawers, only it was in Owl Manage where she never went, you know. Ransacking the cupboard under the stairs and making a lot of racket. I was trying to read and I thought she was deliberately being noisy so I'd get up and help her look. I felt so bothered by it when I woke up, I decided to get out of the house, and that's when I thought about coming to see Hore because it's such a mystery to me."

Pyosz slid sideways to remove herself from between Yoj and Halling, feeling suddenly uneasy. Yoj pushed her glasses back on the bridge of her nose and stretched again to shine her flash into the crypt, but now she took her time, examining every square inch methodically. Halling extended her gnarled knuckles to let Ngus tug at them. Ngus declared "'Bibi" and Halling said "Yep."

Finally Yoj said "I think I see something at the back, on the side. Almost all the way in." Her hands shook a little as she held her flash on the spot so Maar could see. "What does that look like to you?"

After a few second, Maar said "Three dots. Maybe."

Yoj asked her "Nobody's ever crawled inside this space, have they? Not since the remains were removed."

"No" said Maar with a hint of revulsion in her voice. In the silence that followed, Ngus gave a sudden squeal which made Pyosz jump and tell her "Hush a minute."

Yoj looked down at her own girth and said "I don't think I can fit." Not me, don't ask me thought Pyosz. With resignation, Maar took off her cap, but Halling said "I'll do it" as she began struggling to her feet.

"Sheng Zhang -- " said Maar.

"No, I'm not completely immobile yet, and I dreamed about Bux too" said Halling crisply. She looked into the space, leaning on the rock heavily, and said "She would have gone in head first and on her back, I'm guessing."

Pyosz handed Ngus to Yoj and helped Maar lift Halling bodily into the aperture until Halling's rump was on the level and she could inch her way forward, grunting at each effort. She had tucked her flash into her gilet, and once her otos were inside the crypt, shards of light flickered past her legs. "It is the dot symbol" they heard her muffled voice, followed by a cough.

Yoj shoved Ngus back at Pyosz and crowded her face into the opening. "Anything else?" she asked excitedly. "If it's letters or symbols, you need to memorize it so you can draw it for me, we didn't bring a camera."

When Halling didn't answer right away, Yoj shook her oto and said "What?"

Halling coughed again and said "I'm wiping around it. Yoj, there's straight lines in a square, a big square around it..."

"Like a cartouche?" asked Yoj.

"What? No, like -- there's something behind it. Like I could pry away a panel, maybe." As Maar and Pyosz met each other's wide eyes, Yoj said "She was saying 'Look here'! Halling, knock on it, see if it sounds hollow."

They heard faint raps and Halling said "Yeah. I need something to pry with, if I could just get my knife out of my pocket -- "

Maar already had hers open and leaned in the opening to say "Sheng Zhang, I'm sliding this your way, handle first."

"Got it."

"Hall, try to keep the cover plate intact" said Yoj. She was wringing her hands together. They couldn't sense any motion from Halling, however. After a prolonged pause, Halling's slow voice reached them "It occurs to me that an open space behind this rock might be full of shu."

Yoj went stiff with horror, then began trying to drag Halling out. Halling gave muffled yells, eventually kicking at Yoj recklessly to make her stop. Yoj let go, looking pleadingly at Pyosz who resisted the urge to giggle. Halling said "Maar, there's a heavy support bar on the side of my cart. Unbolt it and pass it to me; I'm going to wrap my scarf around my face."

Yot muttered to Pyosz "They'll go right for her eyes." Maar began unbolting the bar, and Yoj said into the crypt "Halling, please let Maar go in there instead of you." Maar looked at her back incredulously. Halling's voice said testily "I have touched leviathans, Yoj. I am not going to piss my knickers over shu."

Pyosz whispered to Ngus "These are your people, my darling" with humor in her voice, and Ngus bounced against her happily. Maar passed in the bar and Yoj backed away from the opening. Halling's legs turned almost sideways as she started slicing behind the cover.

Everyone breathed out when they heard her distant "Aha!" A second later she said "There's a crevice with a box in it -- here, Maar, can you reach in and grab this piece of clay?" Yoj came closer and took the artifact from Maar with an increased tremor. She pulled off her own scarf and wrapped it around the plate, then lay it in the basket on Halling's cart.

At that instant, Halling yelled "Gaahh!" and her body recoiled as much as it could. Yoj reached out hands to cover Ngus's face and Maar bent to pick up a rock. A few seconds later they heard zany laughter from inside the crypt. "Just a mummified shu that slid out the hole after I got the box" said Halling. "Here, take the box and bar, that's all there is." She continued chuckling. Maar handed a box wafting rust to Yoj before putting a shoulder under Halling's knees and letting the elder slide down her body. Ngus found the sight very entertaining.

Halling had smears of dirt on her face but she was jubilant. "Let's go outside" she said, sitting in her cart with a relieved groan. Pyosz felt almost blinded by the sunlight. Yoj made her way to a flat rock and sat without taking her eyes off the box.

"Is it locked?" asked Maar.

"No, but it appears to be rusted shut" said Yoj, rubbing at the surface to see if anything was etched into the metal. Maar opened her claspknife again and said firmly "Let me do this part." She carefully ran the blade around the lid, reminding Pyosz of how she loosened cakes from pans. She tried pushing up twice before there was motion, Maar stopped and returned the box to Yoj, wiping her knife on her kalsongers as she said "You do the honors."

Maar closed her eyes for half a minute before opening them again and opening the lid. Ngus was craned forward as eagerly as everyone else to see inside: A fold of grey papers atop a fragile-looking book, and more below that.

Yoj blew out through her lips and said "Not here. I need to be in a controlled environment, so nothing is lost." Halling looked disappointed. Yoj, however, had an expression of stunned joy. Out loud she said "Thank you, Bux." She stood slowly and carried the box with no lateral motion as they started back, Pyosz walking beside her protectively.

As they reached the lake beside the ruin, Ngus began tugging at Pyosz's shati. "She needs to nurse" said Pyosz.

"Let's sit on the grass and have our picnic" said Yoj. "We've waited 500 years, we can wait another hour." Maar got the hamper and Pyosz settled in the sun, feeling milk flow from her into Ngus. Maar fed her every other bite from their shared plate. Nobody seemed to need conversation, just grinning at each other and eating with relish. When Ngus was done, Pyosz let her crawl around and even put her small pink palms in the water at the edge of the lake with peals of delight.

Once they were back in the air, Maar radioed the Lofthall and asked Jiips if she knew where Oby was: This would have to be reported to the Ethicist right away.

"You've not heard yet? She's at Briel and Dodd's house, Qoj has gone into labor, your whole family is gathering there" replied Jiips.

"Qoj all right?"

"Far as I know" said Jiips.

"Okay, we're heading for the Koldok jichang then, instead of Saya" replied Maar. Pyosz told Ngus "Another baby cousin!"

Maar carried the box and clay plate into the Lofthall and had it locked in the safe at Yoj's urging. "What matters today is the new life. We can all ogle the box later." Pyosz marveled at her patience. She quickly called Kacang and asked for their children to stay through dinner before hurrying after Yoj and Halling to Dodd's house.

Dodd was beside herself, pale and speaking disjointedly. Frank was there as comadrona, and Briel seemed focused enough. Uli sagged against Maar when Maar hugged her and Maar said "I know, it's awful. Worse than birthing them yourself." Which made Pyosz snort.

Ngus and Chank were put down for a nap together. After an hour of slow but normal progress, the mood of the gathered family began to relax. Mill turned to Maar and asked "Did I hear right, you went to Hore today?" Maar looked questioningly at Yoj, who relented and shared their news. Prl and Neoma begged to go retrieve the box immediately, but Oby backed up Yoj's refusal, saying "I leave this to our pre-eminent Archivist of all Pya."

By dinnertime, Qoj was yelling a lot and drenched in sweat but Frank said delivery was not imminent. After a shared meal, Mill offered to fly Yoj and Halling home so Maar could stay as support for Uli. Prl stayed with Dodd, but Neoma, Qala and Lawa joined Mill's sinner. Pyosz took the ferry back with Ngus to wait on the dock for her other children to return from Kacang. Merrl greeted her accusingly: "You was gone all day!"

"Yes, and we had a major adventure" said Pyosz, refusing to say more, urging "Go ask habibi, it's her accomplishment to tell." Hot cocoa was made and they sat on the porch, darkness making Halling's bravery even more pronounced for the children, though Thleen looked at her with a slight revulsion akin to Maar's when she asked twice "You really crawled into a hole where someone had died and rotted?"

Pyosz got them all tucked in and slept for an hour before Maar woke her up, crawling in beside her. "All are fine" she reported as Pyosz sat up. "She's small but sturdy, and they named her Ulodd. They think she looks a lot like Briel and Dekkan both, though Prl said Dodd was also a small baby."

"Did emma come home, too?"

"Yes. We're of course going there tomorrow for Shmona dinner. Uli said earlier we can use her study for examining what's in the box, if Yoj agrees. Uli's worktable is clear and she keeps it spotless anyhow." But Pyosz had already gone back to sleep.

After breakfast, they joined the migration from other parts of the Pea Pods to Dodd and Briel's Manage. Qoj was sitting up beside Uli, with Ulodd between them on display. Merrl scowled and said "Too many babies!", and Pyosz laughed at the look Qux gave her. The children were shooed outside to the meadows beside Koldok for play while the rain held off, Qoj lay down again, and the rest of the family, now including Udek and Licoro, discussed the new baby and the mysterious box with equal avidity.

During the meal, Yoj and Halling told their story again, this time playing up the humor and amazement, with occasional interjections from Pyosz in a tiny voice she pretended was coming from Ngus. Everybody but Merrl laughed loudly at Ngus's observations. As they were finishing dessert, a knock came at the front door. Mruch let in two history gakushas from the Polytechnic, carrying a stack of books and asking to be part of the unveiling. Yoj welcomed them before walking with Oby to the Lofthall to bring back the box.

Because everyone wanted to see, Dodd's long table was wiped clean and covered with newspaper, while Tu directed Thleen in setting up lamps for extra light. A sheet of Uli's best map parchment was spread to hold whatever the box contained, and Yoj pulled cotton gloves onto trembling hands.

Pyosz had claimed a chair across the table from Yoj and silently willed Ngus to stay dozing on her quilt beside Chank, Vlapi, and the Heaps' newborn Tsipi. Prl, Neoma and Dodd were a trio to Yoj's right, Halling, Mill and Oby to her left, and the gakushas breathing down her neck. Pyosz smelled lemon and realized Maar was behind her, flanked by mouth-breathing Thleen.

There was a group "Aaah" as the lid came off again, as if maybe everyone had worried it was a one-time magic glimpse the day before. Yoj leaned to one side so Dekkan could photograph the contents using Qoj's superior camera. She then reached halfway to the top sheaf of papers before pausing. Pyosz knew that Yoj's tremor was worst when she was trying to use the muscles in her hand; at rest, there was no shaking at all. Now, her fingers were jerking wildly.

Yoj said "I'm afraid it will crumble on contact." She looked around the table and rested her eyes on Dodd, whom Pyosz thought likely had not slept at all. But Dodd has such sure hands. Dodd donned the second set of immaculate gloves and lightly picked up the papers, setting them on the parchment. The pages had been in a half fold for centuries and looked stiff as wood now. Dodd removed one glove and stroked the outside sheet with a forefinger as lightly as she had caressed the cheek of her first grandchild earlier.

"It's not ordinary paper, emma" she said. "It reminds me of one of those maps somebody found before we knew about Pya, remember? Like there's a coating on it."

Yoj allowed herself to touch the sheaf and nodded at Dodd. "We don't know how to make this kind of paper. But it holds up, thank the stars." Biting her lower lip, she gingerly tugged down the flap of the sheaf until she, and those close to her, could see half the page.

"It's a list or table, five different sized-columns" she reported. "With a heading..." The gakushas were already flipping through dictionaries as Yoj accessed her own memory, translating a moment later "The first word of the title means 'Inventory', I ran across it often in the Archives." Pyosz saw Prl squeeze Neoma's hand. Yoj said "That's good news. It's at least a dozen printed pages here, with some of the columns filled in by hand. But not to get ahead of ourselves -- "

One of the gakushas said "That second word of the title is 'of'." The other, who had been deep in a vocabulary text, declared "The third word means a sort of arranged or formal meeting. Perhaps what they were discovering about Pya?"

Yoj glanced at the text and said to Pyosz "They didn't assemble their sentences in the same order we do, they didn't put verbs at the end. So this word is more likely a verb instead of an object or subject." Pyosz thought Yoj was politely correcting her colleagues instead of really talking to her. Yoj said "A transitive verb like meeting -- 'introduced', that's the third word. 'Inventory Of Introduced'..."

"The fourth term I can't find in any dictionary" said one gakusha. They both looked at Yoj hopefully. Yoj's cheeks showed deep emotion in their hue. "So it's something specific, probably technical" mused Yoj. "Well, let's render it into parts. This is two consonants separated by a vowel, a syllable, look that part up."

"A whole body, aggregated matter" reported the gakusha.

"And this first part is a syllable commonly used for living things" said Yoj.

"Aggregated living things?" suggested Neoma.

"Biomass. It means biomass" decided Yoj. "The fifth word is 'on' and this last collection of letters and numbers is their designation for Skene on their maps." She grinned across at Pyosz, who repeated back "Inventory of Introduced Biomass on Skene." Breaths were exhaled around the room, and Yoj said to Halling "No wonder Bux was ransacking the place." The gakushas glanced at each other in confusion.

(Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild)