Dr. Derek Singh is sure that one of planet Victoria’s millions of venomous insects holds the key to destroying cancerous tumors–and jumpstarting his stalled career.
Unfortunately, the traps he sets each night capture nothing but dust, and his competitive colleagues don’t share the venom they’ve collected. The clock is running down on his two-year grant and he’s making no progress.
When his young neighbor–one of the few native-born children–finds out he studies “bugs,” she is happy to bring him all the specimens he needs. Derek worries she’ll be bitten or stung, but soon discovers Mia is in danger from a far larger predator–the corporation that funds him.
The next afternoon, the front desk security guard popped onto my screen, his face bemused. “Mia Julian is here to see you.”
Ah, shit. I expected she’d hand over whatever she found when I saw her later on the balcony.
Anton glanced up. “That’s the kid that was here yesterday?”
I was surprised he remembered. “Yeah. I told her she could collect the traps I set last night,” I lied. I’d have to tell her not to come around during business hours.
I hurried to the lobby. Mia smiled broadly when she saw me. “I got a good one! A big one! You’re really gonna like it!” She held the trap out.
Thoughts of berating her for disturbing me vanished. “Jesus, Mia!” The hissing, snapping creature inside resembled a small lobster more than a scorpion and was like nothing I’d seen on the sample wall or anywhere else. “Where the f…” I stopped myself just in time. “Where did you find that?”
She grinned. “They’re all over the place. They live in between rocks. You can’t catch them with light or smells or those stupid pellets. They only eat…Pallus pilosus.” She spoke the unfamiliar words slowly and carefully.
I gaped. She wasn’t wearing glasses.
“Did I say that wrong? I didn’t know the real name until I saw one on your bug wall yesterday.”
There were over 6000 specimens on that wall. Why had that name stood out and stuck with her?
“You said it right.” I took the trap and gazed down at the angry, shiny black arthropod. A thin stream of yellow liquid trickled down from the spot where its back stinger struck the trap wall repeatedly. I was taken aback, not just by this amazing sample, but by Mia’s ability to recognize and name its favorite prey.
She looked at me expectantly. I collected myself.
“Great work Mia, thank you!”
“I need more traps. I could have brought you a whole bunch of bugs, but I didn’t want to put them all together in there.”
“That would have been messy,” I agreed.
“I can help. I want to be your assistant.”
I was about to explain why this was impossible, then reconsidered. She probably knew more about the wildlife in this area than I ever would. Nothing prevented me from hiring more staff except lack of funds and I didn’t think there was anything in the regulations about age as a requirement for employment.
“Let me think about it. I’m not sure it’s allowed, but I’ll check and let you know tonight back at the apartment, okay?”
“Okay!” She tapped the trap and the black tail swung around to strike the thin barrier again. “He hates the light. Bye Derek!”
She ran out the door, the gravity no burden at all to her young bones.
Coming Soon! Six, Book 1
No crime, no pollution, no poverty–no privacy. Life is good on newly-colonized planet Victoria–if you don’t mind 27/7 surveillance. Mia claims she doesn’t, but a lifetime of hiding a valuable talent from the cameras has condemned her to shallow relationships and dependence on recreational drugs. When she loses her high-paying job and takes a temporary position at a small security firm, evidence quickly mounts that Victoria isn’t as perfect it claims to be. And neither is she.