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An Introduction
to Orb


Paul had been tugged a few steps away when Angie, emitting a short bark, leaped clean off the boulder and bolted down to the ocean's edge where she sat facing the water and whining. I recalled that yesterday, and on more than one occasion, she exhibited similar behavior. I had not taken sufficient notice then. Now, at last, I would.

Giving Kelly a quick look that said "I don't know," I jumped off the boulder and ran to the shoreline determined to find out exactly what my clever little pooch was up to.

"This isn't the only time she's done this," I said as the others came up beside me. "The other day I had doubted myself, and maybe the other evening Thompson doubted himself, but I'm not going to doubt her. Angie is never wrong. Something is out there." I bent down and scooped her up in my arms. The five of us intently scanned the horizon.

"If we can't see anything out there," I said, "obviously she won't be able to either. She could be scenting something. More likely hearing something. Did you see her head turn slightly and her ears flicker a bit?"

"I did," Kelly confirmed. "We hear sound frequencies as high as twenty thousand hertz. Angie can hear twice that from three times farther away. But what would she be hearing?"

"Paul?" Diana inquired. "Could she be hearing a distant thunderstorm?"

"According to my instrument readings," Paul responded, "there are no storms within five hundred kilometers."

"There are many species, including canines, sensitive to earthquakes," Diana volunteered. "Only Thompson said there are no earthquakes."

"So then ... what?" I asked.

"I'll get the binoculars," Paul said, and ran off.

"Tell me one thing, Doctor Takara," Diana prodded as we waited for Paul to return. "Your specific knowledge of canine auditory acuity. You acquired this when?"

"Recently," Kelly responded. "I certainly can't replace a veterinarian, but I am the entire crew's physician."

"That's thoughtful of you," Diana said. "Don't you think that's thoughtful of Kelly, Kyle?"

"Very," I replied.

Paul, with Thompson and Melhaus in tow, returned with the binoculars.

"What's your mutt up to now?" Thompson inquired.

"Not sure yet."

Trying our best to be patient, we stood by as Paul made use of the field glasses, methodically sweeping back and forth across the ocean in front of us. On one such pass, he froze. Fumbling with and adjusting the focus he froze again, then shouted "shit!" dropping the delicate instrument onto the hard rock at his feet. It was the one and the only time I ever heard him swear.

Thompson reached for the binoculars, one lens showing a hairline crack, a fraction quicker than Paul.

"Paul?!" Diana practically pleaded. "What did you see?!"

All Paul could manage was a shrug and a shake of his head.

"Along for the Ride"

When the laughter and ensuing splash fight ended, Kelly came up behind me and draped her arms around my neck and clasped her legs around my waist. Clinging to my back, her sun-hot skin pressed tightly to mine, I carried her through the water onto shore, where I gently laid her down; and I drank in the sight of her-of her, of the sparkling water, of the sun and sky, until I felt a rush, a feeling of euphoria, pass clean through me. As I leaned over her, she stared up at me and said, "These are moments that stay with you a lifetime."

"I could stay with you a lifetime." The words, without my thinking, had come pouring out of me.

"Are you worried you said more than intended?" Kelly responded. She put a finger to my lips. "No, don't answer ... but don't be."

Paul and Diana joined us and, together with Angie, we lay side by side on a blanket- covered rock, basking in the blue-tinged light of the sun. We had precious little time before heading back.

"There is something intrusive about the summer sun," I said. "The intense brightness seeps deep into you, then draws you out into the world."

"The ever-contemplative Kyle," Diana observed.

"A clumsy way to start a conversation," I said, somewhat apologetically.

"No, I like it," Diana remarked. "Appreciably, we are drawn out. Being sixty percent water, a part of each of us is evaporating up into the sky."

I reclined and let Kelly lean back into my chest and the crook of my arm.

"Sixty percent?" I inquired. "That helps explain why I've always had an affinity for the water."

"What about the other forty percent?" Paul said distractedly. He was lying on his stomach at the edge of the slab, one arm lazily moving back and forth in the water. He appeared fascinated by the subtle colors that occasionally appeared in the swirls he produced.

"The other forty percent," I said, "is along for the ride."

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