The Professor (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  Welcome once again to the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, P is for:


In a previous post, we met Milo Marrero, one of the younger colonists living on Litho.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to Milo’s dad.  Milo’s dad is a stern and imposing figure in Milo’s life, and… you know what, rather than telling you what Milo’s dad is like, how about I show you.  Who’s ready for an excerpt from The Medusa Effect, book one of the Tomorrow News Network series?

* * *

“I saw her!” Milo said.  He’d rushed to the Alpha Building, all the way up to his father’s laboratory.  “I saw Talie Tappler!”


Milo’s father–or rather “the Professor,” as everyone else knew him–had glanced up for just a moment, uttering nothing more than that single syllable: Who?  Both the Professor and his junior assistant, a young woman called Ramirez, were hunched over the worktable in the center of the room, running scans on the latest mineral samples from the Redlands.

“Dad, I’ve told you about her: Talie Tappler, that reporter from the Tomorrow News Network.  She’s here!  She’s doing a story about us!”

Ramirez snorted a laugh.  “Who’d do a story about this zero-glitz colony?”

“Zero-glitz?” the Professor grumbled beneath his thick beard.  Then the Professor said, assuming his most professorial tone: “Young lady, young man, I’ll have the both of you know this colony supplies more than half the lithium for the Outer Territories, plus a full 15% for the Empire as a whole.  I’m not surprised this… this Tappy woman would do a story about that.”

“Tappler,” Milo corrected with an exasperated sigh.

“Hmph… whoever!”

The Professor gave his assistant a curt nod, and Ramirez reached for the next sample container.  With a cold hiss, the canister opened, and Ramirez spilled its contents onto the scanner bed.  The system beeped twice, indicating it was ready, and the Professor pressed his thumb into the big green go-button.

“Dad, listen,” Milo said.  “Talie’s not some ordinary journalist.  She’s with the Tomorrow News Network.  That means she can travel through time!”

“Yes, yes.  That’s obvious,” the Professor said.

Milo gritted his teeth.  He wanted to shout, to scream at his father, the oh-so-venerable Professor; but what could Milo say?  The old man didn’t follow the news, aside from financial reports.  He’d never seen Talie in action, didn’t know the kinds of stories she covered: war and chaos, assassinations and terrorism, the rise and fall of mighty space empires!

Milo approached the worktable, leaned on the outer guardrail.  He was wearing his coveralls loose, contrary to company handbook guidelines, and the papery fabric made a crinkling sound when he moved.

The Professor glanced up.  “Well… ehmm…,” he said.  His bushy eyebrows were furrowed as though he were trying to solve a difficult puzzle.  It would take the scanner another minute or two to finish its current sequence.  “Well,” the Professor said in the meantime, “what’s this time traveler saying about us?”

And just like that, Milo felt a sudden thrill of relief, a sudden surge of hope.

“Okay,” Milo began, “so she interviewed a few people in the outdoor commons, asked questions like ‘What do you do here?’ or ‘How long have you lived here?’  That sort of stuff.  Normal stuff, right?  But then she started talking about the mining equipment and the prefab units, how everything looks so sparkly new, how we have such a promising future ahead.”

Ramirez pretended to scoff.  “How could anyone say such despicable things about us?”

Milo scowled but pressed on regardless: “She mentioned the local economy.”

“Oh?” the Professor said.

“She said we’re primed for rapid growth.”

At that, the Professor grinned.  “Well now, you don’t need to be a time traveler to figure that out.  Why, this planetoid’s mineral wealth alone could make us all rich, but then you add in the meso-lithium.  The price of mesotronic elements keeps going up.  The company’s earnings tripled last quarter, which means higher percentages for us!”

Abruptly, the scanner beeped.  Fresh data flashed across the holo-display.

“Dad, please!” Milo said, ready to present his most damning piece of evidence yet.  “Listen, she used these exact words: ‘What could such happy, prosperous colonists possibly have to fear?’”

Professor Marrero nodded as though he were listening, but his finger was tracing a string of numbers across the holographic display.  In one ear, out the other, as the ancient Earthlings used to say.  The Professor mumbled something to himself–doing rough estimates on the fly, it sounded like.  Then he reached for a datapad and started cross-referencing the new readings against a library index.

An orbital survey chart materialized above the worktable, and there, rendered in topographic contours, were the Redlands.  Or rather there was “Arfwedson Circumcurio,” as the region was officially labeled on the map, but nobody who lived on Litho ever referred to the Redlands by their official name.  An indicator flashed at the current sample’s point of origin.  Ramirez said something about the decay ratio, and the Professor agreed that the numbers looked good.  Very good.  “Primed for economic growth?  I’d say so!” the old man added with a chuckle.

* * *

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, Litho Colony really is a happy and prosperous place.  Just check out those new quad-units they’re constructing.

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