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Outfoxed

Author: Phaedrus

Copyright 1997 Phaedrus

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No further updates are expected.
Author's Comments

I wrote this in two parts, of July 1997. It didn't get much feedback at all, and I really didn't care for the way it was going--I had some good plot ideas in mind, but it seemed too melodramatic for my tastes. So I stopped it before I even got to the TF.

Part 1

Kelly had a dream. He wanted to help bring the big animals back. He had spent most of his thirty-two years chasing it. For most of that time, it had seemed impossible. Now it seemed too close to bear.

He needed education, and he got it. He blazed through school with nearly perfect grades. And in his spare time, he read everything he could find--especially about zoology, biology, botany, and environmental sciences.

He needed money, and he got it. He went to Stanford, graduating with honors, double-majoring in computer science and zoology. With regret, he had shelved the zoology degree, instead pursuing computers with a passion. He had done well--very well. He would never need to worry about money again.

He needed a scientific breakthrough. He knew he couldn't bring that about himself; he was prepared to invest heavily to make it happen--but he didn't need to. On the day he graduated from Stanford, it happened without him.

He would need land, and the right kind of land. And methodically, plot by plot, he got that too.

He only needed one more piece. And it was the one piece he couldn't buy.

All he could do is wait. He had waited years for the endless political and religious debates to sort themselves out, as he knew they would; there was no turning back from this. He knew that he was not the only one with this dream, and he knew that the demand would vastly exceed the supply, for twenty years at least. But that was all right. He'd done everything right; he was an obvious choice. Even the politicians couldn't possibly screw this up badly enough to deny him...

He underestimated them.

Six years ago, the lottery began. Every year, he faithfully entered. Every month, the names were drawn. And on the 9th day of every month, when he went to the post office, he would pause as he walked to his mailbox, trying to visualize that manila envelope inside. But it was never there.

Then, one day, a letter came from the Bellevue Zoological Gardens, the address handwritten. If it was a form letter, it was an exquisitely well-written one, on expensive letterhead--"Diana Panicola, Exhibits and Interpretive Programs Manager". The usual thanks for his interest, and his (considerable) donations. Then the interesting part.

"Given your history of strong support of our Zoo, I'm sure that you've been taken on so many tours of our fine facilities that you never want to see another service corridor again. Nevertheless, I hope that I can impose on you to accompany me on one more. I would truly appreciate the chance to meet you. It's my understanding that you may have some questions on our placement policies; if so, I would be happy to answer them. In any event, I promise not to bore you, and not to make this a shakedown; please feel free to leave your checkbook at home...

"In any event, if any of this interests you, please call my office at your convenience. Thank you very much, etcetera, etcetera."

He liked her style already, he had to admit. But what the hell did she mean by "questions on our placement policies"? He hadn't asked any questions in years; the law hadn't changed, and he knew it as well as anyone else did. Where had she gotten the idea that he'd asked questions? Must be some screw-up in the...

Wait a minute.

The lottery?

But that was confidential. There was no way that she could know that he had entered--well, make that no way that she should know. And even if she did, why would she risk hinting at it?

Was she asking for a bribe?

If she did, would he give one?

No. Of course not. If she was violating confidentiality, that was bad enough--but at worst it could only get her fined, fired, probably blackballed. Bribery was another matter altogether. That could get them both two to five years in a federal pen. There was no way that that was worth the risk.

But if it worked...

What was he thinking? This was nuts. This was probably just a form letter, for God's sake. He was reading things into it that weren't there. And he was getting his hopes up. Again.

He crumpled up the letter, stuffed it in his pocket, and walked back to his car.

But when he got there, he smoothed it back out on the dashboard, found the phone number, dialed his cellular phone.

"Good afternoon; this is the Bellevue Zoological Gardens, exhibits office. How can I help you?...Oh, yes, Mr. Taft. Miss Panicola was expecting your call. She's out making her rounds now, but she would like me to schedule your tour. Are you available tonight, or would you prefer a later date?... Yes, she certainly does like to move quickly on things, doesn't she?...6:30 tonight would be fine. Please go to the main gate when you arrive. Thank you very much, Mr. Taft... Goodbye."

Kelly hung up. He had two hours to get there. Traffic being what it was, he'd better get started now.

Something told him he didn't want to be late for this...


Traffic was marginally better than usual. He arrived at the Zoo half an hour early; he sat in his car and read the newspaper, trying to settle his nerves. (Dammit! Why couldn't he stop getting worked up over nothing?) Finally, at 6:20, he walked to the gate.

The zoo was already closed for the day, but a young woman in blue Zoo coveralls was still in the front booth.

"Excuse me, miss, but I'm here to see Diana Panicola..."

She smiled. "Well, then..." She raised her arms, did a quick spin. "How do you like me so far?"

He chuckled and blushed at the same time. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize..."

"Oh, don't apologize. My fault entirely." She reached under the counter, picked up a nametag--DIANA PANICOLA, EXHIBITS MANAGER. "I must confess, I love doing that," she said, pinning it on as she talked. "The reactions are priceless. Yours was much nicer than most. Come on in." She pressed a button; the gate slowly rose a few feet.

"Thanks, I think. I must admit that you're not what I was expecting." He ducked under the gate.

"Oh, I know. Everyone's looking for horn-rimmed glasses and a few stray gray hairs." The gate ground shut behind him, and she walked out the back door of the booth. "I was always the star pupil; I got an early start. But you know, from the size of the donations you've made, I was expecting someone a little more on the oh-ell-dee side myself."

"I was pretty good in school myself," Kevin said, now blushing again. "I got into the computer business, and got in on the ground floor at the right times."

"Another Microsoftie?"

"No, smaller places than that. In fact, Microsoft's bought me out three times already."

"That's what I call planning. So, is there a square inch of this place that someone hasn't shown you already?"

"Oh, let's just start walking. I'm sure we'll come up with something."


Two hours later, the stars had come out. Kelly still wasn't sure that they'd actually hit anything new. And he couldn't care less.

The bustle of closing time at the zoo had always fascinated him. But today, he barely noticed it; he and Diana just... talked. She won him over almost immediately; she was just the right mix of fire and water. She was opinionated, brash, almost flighty; the conversation flew from one topic to another, and she had something to say about everything. But underneath, there was a mission, a direction, a drive much like his own. She dreamed of bringing back the big animals too. And places like this were where that was happening. So here she was.

Before he knew what was happening, he was discussing his own dream. Her eyes widened when he told her about the thousand acres of Montana backwoods he'd accumulated. It was the sort of land you didn't need to fence off... nobody came there anyway, especially these days. The old logging roads were closed; the only signs of civilizations were the old wood shacks here and there... and the single dirt road leading to the house he'd built.

"The perfect place for a breeding operation," she said quietly, just before he could. So he didn't say anything. He only nodded.

"You've really got this planned out, don't you?" she said. He nodded again.

"No luck with the lottery?" He shook his head.

She stood quietly for a few seconds. "You know, every month, we get four or five new faces with permits in here. And most of them haven't given a damn bit of thought to it; it's just a diversion from their miserable little lives. I wish I could laugh in their faces and throw them out; it'd be better for them, and it'd sure as hell be better for me. But no, that's why we have the lottery. Anything else would be discrimination. And Lord knows that we wouldn't want to discriminate against people just because they're fucking morons."

Kelly didn't know what to say. This conversation had just become dangerous. But the look in his eyes said it all.

"You know, maybe we both did this wrong," Diana added. "Maybe we should have just gone into politics. We couldn't do it worse than the dedicated professionals doing it now, hmmm?"

"Maybe then I could just write myself a permit," Kelly nodded. His voice turned wistful. "God, I'd give anything for one..."

He froze. What the hell had he just done? He'd just solicited a bribery offer; he could get banned from the program for life just for that...

"It's okay, Kelly," she said softly. "They haven't quite made dreaming a crime yet."

She walked a few steps away. "Maybe we should call this a night."

He nodded sadly. "Maybe we should."

"I'm sorry. This didn't exactly work out the way I had in mind."

"No. But thank you. Really. It was... very nice talking to you.

"You too, Mr. Taft. You too."


Three weeks passed. Kelly tried to put the whole thing out of his mind; he didn't even take his usual trips to the Zoo. The whole thing was just too dangerous--and too painful. He threw himself into his computer projects with a passion.

One afternoon, he stopped by the post office as usual. In his mailbox, there was nothing but a key, with a plastic card attached--ARTICLE TOO LARGE FOR BOX. LOCKER 33.

As he walked to the row of lockers, he remembered what day it was. December 9.

Stop it, dammit, he told himself, as he shoved the key in the lock, angrily turned it.

He opened the door.

His knees went weak.

Trying not to tremble, he forced himself to pick up the manila envelope. He closed his eyes, but the return address was still stamped across his vision. UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. WASHINGTON, DC.

Carefully, he opened it up. The stack of paperwork was thick, but the front page was what mattered.

"Pursuant to the terms of the Omnibus Environmental Restoration Act, your application for DOI Permit P-33 has been approved."

He skimmed down the page, not ready to believe what he was seeing. Until he saw the last two lines.

"Contact Location: Bellevue Zoological Gardens, Bellevue, Washington, 98009. "Contact Officer: Diana Panicola."

He didn't know what to believe.

But he knew that his life would never be the same again.


Part 2

Kelly sat at his desk at home, staring at the letter. Six years of waiting, suddenly over.

"Please notify your designated contact officer as soon as possible to schedule the selection appointment. At that time, after agreeing to the terms and provisions of the Act, you will be allowed to select any one available animal genotype, and the necessary preparations for placement will be discussed. Placement cannot occur for a minimum of three months following the selection appointment. If you do not complete the selection process within thirty days of the issuance of this notice, your Permit P-33 will be revoked automatically."

He picked up the phone.

What was he going to say?

He sighed, dialed the number before he had a chance to change his mind.

The phone seemed to ring for minutes.

"Bellevue transfer center. Diana speaking. Wazzup?"

How did you do this? "This is Kelly Taft. I need to schedule..."

"Oh, hey, Kelly! I was going to call you; I just got the word. Congratulations! How're ya feeling?"

Why did you do this? "Numb. It hasn't sunk in yet."

"I'm not surprised. Talk about your wild coincidences! And for once it actually happened to someone with a clue. Almost makes it worth going on living."

You're a damn fine actor, Diana... "It's pretty... incredible, all right. I was beginning to think I'd never see the day."

"So, we've gotta get you started, huh? How's tomorrow night at seven sound?"

"Tomorrow? It'll take me a day or two just to go through all the legalese in this thing..."

"Well, I've sort of got appointments up the ass here. If you can't make it in tomorrow, I guess we could make it next Thursday."

Kelly opened his mouth to say, "Let's do that." But something stopped him at the last minute. There was something faintly conspiratorial in her voice. She had something cool. And selections were first-come, first-served. She probably wasn't allowed to discuss what was available, and she certainly wasn't allowed to make reservations. But if someone just so happened to show up at the right time...

"Well, I guess I can take all day tomorrow to read this stuff... it's not as if I'll be able to concentrate on anything else anyway. Sure, tomorrow at seven is fine."

"You are a very nice man, Kelly Taft. I look forward to having you on staff--and I don't say that often. Any questions?"

"What should I bring?"

"Your ID, your paperwork, and your sweet little self."

"Okay. Diana..." He stopped. He wanted to say "Thank you." He wanted to say "Why?" He said nothing.

Diana stepped into the gap. "Try to get some sleep tonight, okay? See ya tomorrow."

The line went dead.

Kelly quietly hung up, and went back to staring at the letter.

This whole thing stank to high heaven. He should call her back and tell her he'd changed his mind. He should call someone. He should...

Hell, no.

He hadn't done anything illegal--not even anything wrong. He'd played by the rules for his whole life. He'd told someone his feelings, nothing more. Who knows? Maybe this was just a coincidence. Maybe it was just time for the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place.

And if something was up... well, refusing at this point would just draw more attention to it. And if someone actually cared enough to risk everything just to help him out, then the least he could do was to shut up and be helped.

He turned the page, and settled down to read.

As it happened, despite his nerves, he had no problems getting to sleep. The paperwork did that for him.


The next morning, he was back at it. He didn't take time to cook, opting for peanuts and cold cereal instead. He had other appointments scheduled--a dental cleaning, a conference call with his brokers. Screw 'em.

The contract went on for pages and ages, painfully and repetitively, as fine an example of Contract by Committee as Kelly had ever seen. Kelly thought about sending them a rewrite proposal: "We own your ass. Any questions?" It would certainly save on printing costs.

Finally, just as his watch beeped 5:00, he finished the last page, dropped the contract on the desk, and paced the room for a minute. If anyone but the government had written that contract, it would be laughed out of court as unconscionable. If he signed it, he may as well be signing his life away.

Just like he'd known it would be.

He locked the front door carefully, and drove off towards the Zoo.

Fifteen minutes later, he screeched back up the driveway, ran back in, grabbed the contract off the desk, and headed off again.


Diana met him again at the front gate, along with a short man wearing glasses and carrying a clipboard. She was smiling, but that smile had a serious edge.

"Good evening, Mr. Taft. You are here for scheduling pursuant to your application for Permit P-33, correct?"

"Yes," he replied, trying to stay calm.

"Mr. Taft, this is George Carruthers, an auditor for the Department of the Interior. He has a few routine questions for you."

A wave of nervousness hit Kelly. He refused to let it reach his face.

"Good evening, Mr. Taft. Before we continue, I do need your identification and your entrance papers."

Kelly nodded, pulled his Fedcard from its place in his wallet, and handed it over along with the paperwork. The auditor studied the card for a moment, then pocketed it. Kelly felt another wave of tension hit. That card was what made life in America possible; without it, he couldn't access his bank accounts, couldn't even get on a bus.

"Mr. Taft, have you carefully and completely read the entrance papers?"

"Yes."

"Do you fully understand the terms and conditions of the Omnibus Environmental Restoration Act, as described therein?"

"Yes."

"Do you understand that, by accepting those terms and conditions, you voluntarily waive certain rights granted under the United States Constitution and the Charter of the United Nations?"

"Yes."

"Do you understand that this program is still considered experimental, and that, by accepting those terms and conditions, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless the Department of the Interior and all other governments, officials, and agencies whether private or public, against any claim whatsoever related to your participation in any manner?"

"Yes."

"Do you understand that, by accepting those terms and conditions, you commit yourself to a term of service to the government of the United States for a period of not less than twenty-four months, and to obey all lawful orders and directives of program personnel?"

"Yes."

"And do you now agree to accept those terms and conditions, in their entirety and without exclusions or modifications?"

"Yes." With this one word, the weight of the universe seemed to rise off Kelly's back. One way or another, he was in now; there was no more second-guessing.

The auditor handed him the clipboard and a pen. "Mr. Taft, please sign and date on the line."

Quietly, mechanically, Kelly did just that.

"Welcome to the program, Mr. Taft," the auditor said, calmly lifting the clipboard from his fingers. "Miss Panicola, would you collect the blood sample, please?"

Diana nodded, smile never wavering. Kelly turned away as she took his right arm; he'd never been fond of the sight of blood, particularly his own. It was done in seconds; he turned back around just in time to see a vial vanish into the auditor's pocket.

"Here is your revised identification, Mr. Taft. Miss Panicola will handle the remainder of the proceedings. Have a pleasant evening."

With that, the auditor handed him a card, and quietly walked away towards the parking lot.

Kelly looked at the Fedcard, nodded in relief, tucked it away. The only change was the red stripe in the background, marking a federal employee... and the small "P-33" in the corner.

Diana stayed silent, waited until she heard the car start. "You should see him at Christmas parties," she finally said. Then she beamed, grabbed him by both shoulders, shook him in celebration. "Congrats again! I still can't believe it! This is just so oh shit I'm losing my mind... I forgot the logbook... can't do anything without the logbook... c'mon, let's go! So much time and so little to do... wait, strike that, reverse it..."

She whirled around and headed off towards the offices, almost running. Kelly could only smile a bit and shake his head. "Sure thing, boss," he muttered, as he took off after her.


Diana's office was chaos, stacks of paperwork mixing with coffee cups and zoological relics. She swept a pile of papers from a chair in the corner, dumped the papers on the floor, and waved him to the chair. Kelly could certainly see why he hadn't been invited in here before.

Diana dove into the maelstrom on her desk, eventually pulling a black binder from the bottom of a pile. "Everything we've got available is in here; it's the Sears catalog of wildlife."

"Does that mean that whatever you want is always out of stock?" Kelly countered, surprised with how relaxed he was.

"More often than not. But maybe you'll get lucky. Your luck's been pretty damn fine lately, after all. Here ya go." With that, she tossed him the binder; he almost forgot to catch it. "I usually walk the morons around the zoo while they decide, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I can dispense with that with you. If it doesn't have a red dot, it's available."

Kelly swallowed once, opened the binder, lost himself in it immediately. It was an island of tidiness in this sea of disorder, the pages neatly computer-printed. Every page held one animal--a name, serial number, front and side views, yearly salary and care costs.

There were more pages than he was expecting, but less than he was hoping. And at least three-fourths of them had red dots.

He lingered for a moment over a sleek Sumatran tigress. But he was hoping for something in a male.

A striking ursus americanus caught his eye; as soon as he saw it, he knew it must be named "Bjorn"--and it was. Black bears preferred forests, and their original range included Montana. They were largely vegetarian, so food probably wouldn't be a problem. He would have to keep Bjorn in mind.

He flipped slowly through the wolves, eight of them. He had tried his best to refuse to let himself pick a favorite species, knowing that he'd only be setting himself up for disappointment... but he couldn't deny that he'd been hoping. Ever since he saw a picture of one in an old Britannica, he'd felt a strong attraction to them. But all eight pages had red dots; all eight were spoken for, as he'd known they would be--they were just too popular not to be.

The center of the binder was thick with cows, sheep and pigs. Nearly all were spoken for; Kelly wasn't surprised in the slightest--the government was still trying to rebuild the herds and bring real meat back to the table again. Kelly imagined that most of Diana's "morons" went with this route, lured by the much higher salaries. Circe had it right after all. But he didn't need the money, and he hadn't spent his life dreaming about a farm.

Slowly, he worked through the rest of the book. Hyenas, pandas, deer... the number of species surprised him. At least a dozen species weren't even on exhibit here; they must be new. But nothing seemed quite right... too large, or unsuitable for Montana weather, or just not appealing somehow. Or that little red dot stood in the way.

As he reached the last page, he realized that he must have kept Diana sitting in silence for at least half an hour. "Looks like the folks in the labs have been busy," he said as he flipped back to the front, started quickly paging through again. Bjorn still seemed like the most likely candidate.

"They say they'll have elephants ready in a few months; the only thing holding them up is getting the trunk right. Can you imagine?"

"Seven thousand kilos," Keith almost whispered, quoting from memory. "No, I can't imagine that. Where on Earth do you get that much mass?"

"The old-fashioned way. We'll start 'em off as calves. It'll be ten years or so before we can breed 'em, but that's the price we pay for progress. It'll take some very special volunteers... specifically, it'll take some very greedy volunteers. But there's no shortage of those."

"My." Kelly was glad they weren't ready yet. Something like that would be hideously impractical. But if it were an option, he'd almost have to try it...

He closed the binder. Bjorn it was, then. "Well, I guess I'm--"

"Wait a minute!" Diana shouted. Kelly nearly jumped out of his seat, looked up to see her already rummaging through the piles on her desk. "I knew I was forgetting something! A couple of new ones just came in. I tried to file 'em earlier, but I couldn't find the damn logbook... gimme a sec, they're in here somewhere... ahhhhhhhhh, yes. Here we go. I think you're going to find this very in-ter-es-ting."

She passed him two more sheets of paper, her eyes locked on his.

He didn't need to read them. The pictures said it all.

They were red foxes, male and female. The proportions seemed a bit off from the photos he remembered, the head just a bit too large... but there was no questioning what they were.

"That's impossible," he breathed softly.

"Those folks in the labs would beg to disagree."

"But foxes... six kilos at most... even in Europe they weren't over ten... they can't possibly have solved the Gap... can they?"

"Not in so many words," Diana replied, smiling. "The Process still doesn't work below twenty-five kilos... below that, there's just not enough room for the brain. So they scaled the fox up to twenty-five kilos; it took some changes here and there, but they did it. And the kits'll be normal size. With any luck, there'll be at least ten in the first litter; more than enough room in there for 'em, anyway..."

Kelly was stunned, and now fear crept in as well. "But... isn't this sacrilege? How did this get approved?"

"Verrry carefully. We finally convinced the Council that size variations were already in nature, so one more for one generation wouldn't hurt. And we showed a lot of pictures... kept reminding them that, under their own terms, this was the only way. Finally, they let us do foxes as a test case; if God doesn't smite the fox down in His wrath, then they'll let us start on the other small fry in two or three years. 'For who are we to deny life to any of God's creations?'"

Kelly said nothing. The reply was obvious--"Tell that to Takashi." Diana was thinking the same thing; he could read it in her eyes. She wouldn't say it either. But they both shared the memory.




Twenty years ago, in 1986, a small firm called Dynetics held a press conference. Eight scientists--the entire staff--sat at the table, outnumbering the five reporters in attendance. One man, Hiro Takashi, stood up, spoke almost purely in scientific jargon for five minutes. Only one reporter had even brought his video camera; it sat in his lap, unused. No one took notes.

Then Takashi reached behind the table, triumphantly produced a cage containing a young ferret. It stared inquisitively at the reporters.

Five jaws dropped in unison. Then they began shouting questions.

The ferret could not exist. Its death warrant had been written on August 7, 1945, one day after the bombing of Hiroshima, when the Shiva meteor slammed into Siberia. The sky went dark, shrouded by the huge clouds of earth raised by the impact; the sun would not fully reemerge until February of 1946. World War II shuddered to a halt; ironically, were it not for the massive food stockpiles prepared for war, mankind might have been wiped out. As it was, over ninety percent of humanity died of starvation. And, between human predation and loss of their own food sources, nearly every animal species larger than the rat was destroyed as well.

The ferret had been extinct for at least thirty years, perhaps forty.

But here it was.

Takashi stood silent for perhaps thirty seconds, waiting for the furor to die down. Then he quietly continued. Every word was carefully taken down. The camera rolled.

The Dynetics crew had found an answer. The animals had died out, but there were still tissue samples, buried remains, even stuffed trophies, throughout the world. Takashi and his fellows had taken one such specimen, extracted DNA samples from several cells, and carefully cross-checked them, repairing errors in one sample based on the others. After nearly ten years of work, they had finally managed to produce a viable embryo, bring it to term--a clone of the original, or as near of one as they could manage. Now that the techniques were understood, the work would be much faster in the future; they were hoping to create six more ferrets within the next year. The same techniques would work for other species; they were already working on a raccoon. The greater the computing power that could be made available for the genetic calculations, the faster the process could proceed. The world had the resources to resurrect a hundred species in the next five years, maybe more. It was simply a matter of cooperation.

The reporters raced from the room. Takashi went home, feeling truly at peace for the first time that he could remember.

Within the hour, the story was on every news program in the world.

Four hours later, the Dynetics building was a burned-out hulk, the fireproof safes broken open, the contents put to the torch. The ferret was dead, along with six of the scientists. When the mob came for Takashi at his house, they found him dead by

his own hand, a note at his side, the voices from the television set still denouncing him. The note was never read; it burned along with the house, along with Takashi.

He had been a brilliant scientist, a natural leader, but a terrible politician.

In 1947, as mankind struggled to pull itself back from the brink, the religious leaders of the world found themselves fully in agreement, perhaps for the first time in history. God had sent Shiva, as punishment for man's continued warfare, and above all for the unholy fruit of science, the nuclear bomb. Mankind had been granted a reprieve, a last chance to redeem itself; now it must repent.

The American elections of 1952--the first since the Disaster--were a religious landslide. Six members of the Supreme Court were forced to resign. The Constitution was never amended--not formally, anyway. But for all practical purposes, separation of church and state ceased to exist. A Council was formed, with delegates from the major religions. It had no formal power; yet every politician, from the President on down, knew that to defy the Council was suicidal... and every scientist knew it as well.

Takashi had told his staff at Dynetics that he had taken their findings to the Council, received their blessing. He had not. He had known full well what the Council's answer would be--"For, of all things, the creation of life is for the hand of God to wield, and for God alone..." He knew that he and his staff would be censured, their work destroyed. The consequences of that, he decided, were too horrible to contemplate. The world needed this. It had been forty years, two full generations; surely the world was ready to accept their work, to see the necessity of it.

He had not realized his mistake until he went home that fateful day, until he turned on the television set.

And by then it was too late.

Ten more years would pass before another way would be found.




As Kelly stared across the office, he suddenly realized why he was here, why Diana was doing all this. She cared about this as deeply as he did, maybe more. If the foxes were the test case, then it was desperately important that nothing go wrong. And if Diana had to bend--or break--the rules, to get the right volunteers, to make sure that nothing did go wrong, then that's what she would do. Just as he would do in her place.

He quickly read over the male's info. Name: Teeko. Head and body length: 1240mm. Tail length: 760mm. Mass: 25.7kg. Salary: $363,000--high, but not extraordinary.

"I'll take him," Kelly said.

"Thank you." she replied, relief in her voice.

Kelly wasn't sure whether to say "You're welcome" or "Thank you." So he just nodded.

Diana sighed, looked at her watch. "We'll need to get you into training, and you'll have to get your affairs settled. It's getting kinda late; come back at ten or so tomorrow, okay? We'll work out the details then."

Kelly nodded again. "Good night, boss." He left quietly.

On his way to the gate, he thought of something: Who was going to let him out? But he had a hunch, and kept walking. Sure enough, when he got to the gate and waved his new Fedcard past the lock, it clicked open. He belonged here already.


Back in the office, Diana was finishing up the paperwork. Smiling, she pulled a red sticker from the roll in her drawer, applied it to Teeko's picture. Then she opened the binder, thumbed quickly to the wolf section, carefully peeled the red dot off the sixth page, and threw it away.