To Joel, someone who had been willing to try anything in order to combat many of the worldís plights, that had opened his eyes to the truly subtle and delicate nature of the world and all of its interrelated parts. Even in the post-environmentalist age, where the masses had finally accepted the notion of global warming after scientists had warned them of it for decades, most people still couldnít truly grasp the interrelatedness of the things upon the world. And while he understood many of the concepts and worked hand in hand with those who knew more about specific areas of that dynamic, he knew that he still had much to learn.

He even suspected that he could learn quite a lot from Fiera Coles and Gale Brees and their holistic approach. In fact, he knew of other scientists who espoused and theorized such concepts, but their approaches and the applications of those approaches were as varied as there were seconds in a day.

Of course, just as one politician reminded those in attendance of the past situations that arose as a consequence of the mass release of genetically altered material into the environment, another was enthralled by the prospect of being able to achieve such an important task in what appeared to be a very economically friendly manner.

He looked at Joel. "Dr. Goldstein, what say you of using biological organisms to control the generation of those target compounds? Surely, biological systems have been used to control and remediate sources of pollution to great success in the past."

"Yes, sir, they have been used successfully. However, I might point out that those systems employed organisms that were naturally occurring and not engineered for their specific task. Those organisms were selected for their role, and selectively cultured to enhance what were their pre-existing capabilities. In essence, you can think about it like a dog breeder who mates dogs to enhance specific qualities. The process is called eugenics, and is vastly different from organisms that have been engineered. So, to answer your question: yes, it is plausible and it has been effective in the past in the right application, typically for one or two specific components or classes of the components in the remediation or pollution control system."

"And you mentioned that your system could be adapted to control the collected emissions using biological systems?"

"Yes, sir. The system that we use and have used in the past utilizes organisms that were pre-existing, yet demonstrated increased capabilities to control the pollutant in question. Those organisms had been selectively enhanced to do what they did naturally, as I mentioned earlier. None of our systems have ever employed genetically altered organisms."

"On a professional level, do you object to the use of tailored organisms?"

Joel smiled. "Considering that I have vested interest in not using them, yes."

The audience laughed, knowing that he was a scientist, but had business concerns as well.

"Of course. Let me rephrase. Is their any scientific rationale for not using them."

"For these particular organisms, I truly cannot say. I do not know anything about them. I have not seen any data on them or their biological makeup or the source of the biological organism that was used to garner the selected criterion. I have never heard of those who created the organisms." He shrugged. "The only scientific rationale that I can mention is that the release of any organism into the environment, be it natural or manmade or man-altered, can have unforeseen consequences. Many biological systems not accustomed to a pest brought from a deferent region have been wiped out by something that was just as natural as they were. The same is true of using selectively enhanced organisms, to be honest."

"Thank you for your candor, Dr. Goldstein."

He looked toward the APAGE contingent and Fiera nodded. Gale was a rock.

Then, the meeting was over. Of course, there would be additional meetings and more debate. The process would take months, if not years, and there was no doubt in anyoneís mind that the City would be under the gun to meet the first landmark by the time any firm decisions had been made about how to proceed with the project.

Joel stood and collected his effects and made his way to Fiera, who was still seated and was talking to a likewise seated Gale. The politicians gravitated toward the scientists.

"Itís been a pleasure to meet you, Ms Coles and Mr. Brees. I found your concept to beóinteresting."

Fiera stood and reflexly tugged at the hem of her dress as she stood, before extending her hand toward him. "Likewise, Dr. Goldstein. It was a pleasure to finally meet you. I studied your work before coming here. Very interesting reading."

Fieraís hand was warm, almost hot. Joel almost didnít want to release it as the room was a little on the cool side and his hands tended to get icy when the temperature dropped.

"You arenít staying for lunch?"

"No, unfortunately I have other matters to attend. Perhaps if you and Mr. Brees arenít heading back to Arizona immediately, youíll both join me for dinner. Whatever you like, I am sure I can find a place that serves it."

"A rain check, Dr. Goldstein. I am sure our paths will cross again."

He smiled. "Yes, my coffee grounds said so."

She laughed. "Iím sure."

With that, Joel went on to shake hands with the council members and the Managing director and was preparing to leave when he flet a hand on his shoulder.

"Our card," said Fiera, handing him a business card.

"Ah. I had already forgotten." He reached into his pocket and took one out for her. His was the standard paper card, while theirs was a magnetic stripped card. It was modern, somewhat wasteful, considering all that a person really needed these days was a web address to be able to find out about a company.

He pocketed her card after looking at it for a second. "Iíll be in touch, without a doubt."

"I expect nothing less, Dr. Goldstein. And until then, ask yourself if you believe in signs. The most important ones are always right before your face."

Somehow, he didnít roll his eyes. "Iíll be sure to. Good day, Ms. Coles."

Joel wasnít sure how the meeting went, but he was certainly glad to be out of there.


Chapter Three: Goth Girl and Her Ever-expanding Creche

Minerva Snow didnít go to school that day. In fact, after she got off the train and left Joel Goldstein to ponder her cryptic question, she went to the other side of the platform to return home. The fact is, Minerva Snow didnít have a school to go to, because she wasnít a student in that sense of the word. She was of age to belong to a normal school, sort of, but she didnít need to learn those things that others her age needed to. What she needed to learn was everything that she saw around her, whether it be how people reacted when posed a question, or why they liked the things they liked. For instance, why did some young girls like she find it necessary to dress so unlike most other girls her age and be literal outcasts from society as a whole. Those who dressed like her, and those whose actions she imitated to learn more about them said it was just an expression of who they were.

She kind of understood the being oneís self, even if that self was outside of the mainstream of what was considered acceptable by the society as a whole. Indeed, she learned quite a bit from those girls who called themselves goth.

She thought about Joel and the way he looked at her. He did so with contempt, but he was kind enough not to allow it to become overly obvious. But she was certain that he did not approve of the way she dressed and how she looked and appeared to present herself. Still, she liked him and she knew that he would ultimately treat her fairly and give her the opportunities to become more a part of his life than even he could have thought possible.

After all, they were of the same crŤche.

She waited for the train for a few minutes in the mostly empty station. A few other people had filtered in from the weather on their way to their destinations, and they all, like Joel had, paused in their wary glances around their surroundings to focus their attention on her. She did stand out like the proverbial sore thumb, and it was always interesting to see how people reacted to her. Naturally, her goth appearance was rather mild compared to some of those with whom she had been associating of late, but it was still far enough from the norm that it drew additional stares and extended appraisal.

Finally, she decided that she would rather walk home. She had ridden the bus and the subway quite a few times, and while each ride offered her new experiences in her new surroundings, she still preferred the old tried and true method of seeing things up-close and personal. Plus, she liked the feel of the weather on her. It would be the only true way to acclimate.

She scurried up the steps, and drew the stares of quite a few people, even a goth couple who looked at her in her sprightly dash up the step and nodded their approval. When she reached the outside, the weather was growing a little more intense, and was even tinged with ice. That made her smile, because she liked ice and she liked cold. To her way of seeing and feeling and experience the world around her, there was nothing more pleasurable than the feel of ice impinging upon her face. Others around her didnít like it very much, as they sheltered their faces and covered their heads from what they found to be stinging needles.

Cars began to slip and slide on the streets as a thin crust of ice started to form on them. As a matter of fact, she almost lost her balance a few time, like when she was going down into the subway behind Joel. The thought of her losing her balance on ice was comical, considering how much she liked ice and how much it made her feel comfortable. It was simply a matter of not being used to walking upon it in her those shoes she was wearing. Their soles were completely worn out and smooth, so they had no grip at all.

A squall wrapped itself around her, churning up her clothes in its cyclonic spin, and tried to lift her off the ground as if it wanted to play, but she spun away from it and it released her and continued on its way. Normally, she would have let it toss her around a bit, and maybe even let it take her off her feet, but she was out for a walk and walk was what she intended to do.

She walked to and fro, up one block, down the next, watching as people struggled in the chilly, icy breezes that had apparently caught them off-guard. No one seemed happy that ice covered the ground, and whipped about them. Some cursed the Ďfoul weatherí and swore when they emerged from their radiant hot homes to find that their automobiles were encrusted with ice and needed to be scraped, all of which was conspiring against them to make their commute to work one hellish experience.

It was something that she didnít really understand. The people she saw seemed to like heat more than cold, when she liked cold more than heat. During those horribly hot, dry, sweltering days of summer, the people complained a lot then too, but they all agreed that it was better than winter, better than shoveling snow, better than running up a high heating bill. Of course, they ran up high energy bills to cool themselves, but that seemed to negatively impact their psyche less than the cold did. And she had never been so tired of hearing about the shore in her life, than when she came to this particular place. The shore, the shoreÖugh, how it made her eyes roll!

Unto the Living Earth © 2007 Walter R. Milton