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Field Trip

This was written May 1, 1996. It was the first story I had written in several years, and that shows in a variety of ways. :-) Still, it got enough positive feedback to get me to keep writing...

This story is part of the Circe Treatment series from the TSA-Talk mailing list, and you'll find that things make more sense if you read the first two stories in that series--Shell Game and Reassignment--first.

Field Trip

Copyright (c) 1996 Phaedrus; all rights reserved




June Taylor
2443 East 14th Avenue, Apt. 6B
Helena, Montana 59601

June 29, 2043

Dear Miss Taylor:

Once again, both on my own behalf and on the behalf of the Department of the Interior, I wish to offer my deepest sympathies and apologies on the loss of your son Dexter. The needless loss of any life is tragic; the fact that your son was such a promising student makes it all the more so.

Since our telephone conversation yesterday, I have been in near- constant contact with those investigators and officials in charge of this case. I regret that your son's body cannot be released to you at this time, pending the outcome of this investigation. As I am sure you can appreciate, the circumstances of this case require that all evidence involved be handled very carefully, in accordance with federal and state regulations. I assure you that every effort is being made to conduct the investigation as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and I promise to keep you fully informed.

At this time, I can share some additional information with you, that may answer some of your remaining questions. Your son's palmtop computer, which he was carrying when the tragedy occurred, contained a diary file. I think that anything more I can say to you will make much more sense in the context of this file; so here is a partial transcript which I received this morning. I will send you the complete file as soon as I receive it. Please be assured that everything is being held in the strictest confidence. I would greatly appreciate you holding this information in the same confidence, at least until the investigation is concluded.

(continued; page 1 of 2)



Case 34421-54-203-239-023 File 342



Testing, testing. Wow, this is great. I didn't think I'd ever get one of these, let alone one that could handle my voice. Mom must have saved up for months for this. I don't know how you did it, but thanks, Mom. This will really help out at school.

More good news today. I got on the state Honors List again. Being a science geek has its advantages sometimes, I guess. Anyway, it'll look good on my college applications next year.


I don't believe it. I got a letter from the Gates Foundation today. They're doing a bunch of summer programs for "gifted youth". I got picked for the biology camp at Yellowstone! (With all the new wildlife reintroductions, I guess there's actually something to study there now...) Four weeks, all expenses paid. Just twenty people invited, too; I'm not sure how I got picked, but I'm not complaining. In, fucking, credible. With something like this on my record, I might actually have a shot at a scholarship at Stanford after all. Now all I have to do is talk Mom into letting me go...

Yes! Launch clearance received!

Geez, this is happening in a hurry. The tickets arrived today, and a check to cover clothes and camping gear--thanks to my "disadvantaged status", I guess. And a reading list a mile long-- about a book a day for the next month. Until now, I still didn't quite think this was real. Looks like it's real now.

Hiking boots are on the list. Sounds like we're going to be "in the field". Hoo boy. Not only do I have to get this reading done, I've gotta get in shape too.


The plane leaves tomorrow. I'm all packed. Stanford, here I come.

Wow. Here we are. I still can't quite get over this place. I guess Montana used to be the middle of nowhere; now it's pretty much the same as everywhere else. But this is actual _wilderness_. Trees as far as you can see. It's beautiful. It must have cost a lot to bring this place back to this. We're staying the night in bunks on the edge of the park; but supposedly we'll be camping out the rest of the time. I hope so.

They're all set up for "special" people. They gave me a translator to use for the duration, but I don't think I'll need it; the voice recognition on this should be good enough to get me by.

First day out in the field. I'm not sure I want to be an engineer anymore; I'm thinking of being a biologist. I think most of us are feeling that way. I didn't realize just how pretty _nothing_ can be. This is really something special.

We haven't seen much wildlife yet, but supposedly there's a lot more near the center of the park. We spent most of the day learning about the ecosystem here, and the reintroduction programs. They still haven't gotten things very close to what they used to be; no predator species, for one thing. That makes sense--you don't want predators until there's enough prey to go around.

I think it's going to be hard to get to sleep tonight.

I was wrong about one thing; I don't think I've ever slept better than I did last night. Walking all day will do that to you, I guess. I hope I don't get blisters.

It just keeps getting prettier and prettier as we move farther in. The air is even clear here. Leaving here is going to be a bummer. There's no question in my mind; I have to find some way to do this for a living. Maybe Stanford isn't the best choice after all. I'll have to do some digging, see what colleges still have programs in biology or zoology. If I can find one with a good genetics program, so much the better.

I don't think I'm ever going to get to college. I think I'm going to die of exhaustion right here. But at least I'll die happy.

We got our first look at big wildlife today. Deer, mostly. I think I saw a raccoon.

We're going to split up for a good part of the day tomorrow.

Very interesting day today.

We split up for most of the afternoon. The instructors were a little reluctant to let me go alone, but I talked them into it; I've made it this far, haven't I? For once I had to take the translator along, so they could page me through it when it was time to regroup. We all had to take a panic button too, in case we broke a leg or something. Lovely thought.

Everything was fine for a couple of hours. The woods somehow seem even more real when you're alone. I didn't see any more wildlife, other than a few squirrels; I thought maybe the bigger animals had been scared off by the noise of the group, so I kept moving out.

Then something bit me on the back of the leg.

I was caught so much by surprise that I fell over. I turned around, and I saw something running full-speed away from me. No question about it; it was a wolf. What happened to "no predators in the park"? And why would a wolf bite and then run away? It makes no sense. Maybe someone got reassigned as a wolf, then got away from wherever they were supposed to be and wound up here. But there's no way that a wolf, even one with a human brain, could cross open country to get here. Or maybe some rich wacko actually bought a wolf treatment for themselves, and then snuck into the park before the change started. That at least makes a little sense. But why bite and run away? I dunno; maybe it's a game.

I thought about telling the instructors when I got back to the group, but I decided not to. No matter what the explanation, if someone reports a wolf in Yellowstone, or just about anyplace else for that matter, it's going to get hunted down. And this one certainly could have killed me if it wanted to; it wouldn't be right to return the favor by getting it killed. Nature red in tooth and claw, and all that. The bite wasn't that bad to begin with; I put some first aid creme on the wound to kill off infection, bandaged it up, and let it go at that. If anybody notices the bandage, I'll tell them I cut my leg on a branch. No big deal.

Nothing unusual today; no sign of the Big Bad Wolf. Just more countryside, and eight more hours of lectures while we walked.

I want to live out here someday; at least close enough that I can come out here once a week or so. This is just too beautiful to leave. The land around here is awful expensive, so I'd better hope to get a job here--or hit the lottery.

The bite is already almost gone; that first aid creme is good stuff.

First week nearly gone. Oh, well; three more weeks still to go.

Another split-up day tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it; I want to see if I can spot that wolf again. It's certainly not going to come this close to a big group. I just hope it doesn't decide to bite my other leg to even things up.


sure is tough to type this way.

im scared.

split up again for afternoon. had muscle aches all over this morning. thought it was just from walking so much. i wasnt going to miss a day because of it.

saw deer. mice. badger. no sign of the wolf.

all of a sudden i couldnt walk anymore. my whole body started spasming. i thought i was dying. i couldnt even hit the panic button. then i saw the fur start sprouting, and i knew what was happening. that made it easier to deal with, in a way.

it was over in just a few minutes. i was a wolf. just like the one i saw before.

this cant happen. the treatment isn't supposed to work on more than one person like this. but its happened.

its weird. my eyes dont see colors right, but they pick out movement really well. i can smell a lot too. i cant tell what half the things im smelling are. but theres sure a lot of them. but thats not the big thing.

people always told me all the things i was missing. what music was like. how much more sense movies made. i knew it must be great to be able to hear people talk.

but i never really guessed what it was like. i can hear now. so many things. from so far around. all of a sudden the world is everywhere. not just in front of me.

i feel whole now.

i almost hit the panic button. but i didnt. if i went back, if they found a way to change me back i might never be able to do this again. and i dont think i want to give this up. this is too good.

im writing this in case something happens. and so i can tell if this starts changing my mind too. i dont think it has so far. i can still remember the capital of new russia and all that stuff. if i start not being able to understand what ive written, ill know im in trouble.

i trashed a perfectly good hiking outfit climbing out of it. the gates foundation will be pissed.

i need to think. but i dont really want to. i just want to see everything. no. i just want to hear everything.

dog tired. sorry. couldnt resist.

i covered a lot of ground today. i think i saw more than i saw the whole week. if theyre going to have these camps they really should let everyone do this. we humans just arent meant to see this stuff. im glad they didnt though. mom never would have gone along with that idea.

i carried this thing with me most of the time. slobber all over it. yuck. good thing its waterproof.

i wonder if theyre looking for me yet. maybe ill find out what a helicopter sounds like. i found a good place to hide for the night. i doubt theyll be looking for wolves anyway. i hope mom doesnt know about this yet.

ive made up my mind. if my mind doesnt go downhill, im not going back. this is too good.

shit. shit shit shit.

i dont know what to do anymore. i got hungry this afternoon. im surprised i didnt earlier. i think i lost some weight in the change. maybe that left me with some energy left over.

i found a deer. followed it. i didnt quite know what to do. neither did the deer. it finally started running. i chased it. i dont think ive ever felt quite so alive. it tired out before i did. finally i caught it from behind and brought it down.

it looked back at me. i was about to bite its neck and try to kill it that way. then i saw the look in its eyes. dont ask me how i knew. but i knew. it was human. another reassignment.

i couldnt do it. i wanted to but i couldnt. it would have been murder. the law might not think so. but the law wasnt what mattered.

now i know why there are no predators here.

i let it go. it should be okay.

i guess i have to go back now. i have no choice. i cant live on plants. but i still dont want to give this up.

maybe theres another way. i hope so.

ill carry this with me. maybe theyll get the idea that im friendly. and if they read this they can help me out.

i sure am hungry.

i love you mom.





(page 2 of 2)

At around 9 am on June 25, your son was spotted by a security patrol near the Northwest Gate of the park. At the time, gate security patrols were not equipped with tranquilizer guns; they were only equipped with standard-issue police weaponry. (I assure you that, as of yesterday, we have corrected this situation.) We also believe that, in your son's physical state at the time, he may not have been able to read the guards' lips, and therefore he could not have understood their verbal commands. These factors, combined with the other extraordinary circumstances, may have contributed to the tragic shooting. The investigation is proceeding, and all personnel involved have been removed from duty pending the outcome of that investigation.

We have not confirmed the details mentioned in this transcript. If true, they raise some very troubling points. First of all, I assure you that no one has undergone reassignment into a wolf, and that no legitimate program would offer such a treatment. Second, as you are well aware, even if such a reassignee existed, the virus should not be contagious through saliva or through any other means; it keys itself to the DNA of its original host, and thereafter remains dormant in the system of any other host it subsequently encounters, and does not reproduce under such conditions. It may be that your son was genetically very similar to whoever he encountered; in that case, it is theoretically possible that the virus could be transmitted successfully, though a case similar to this has never been reported in testing or in the field. This is pure speculation at this point, however. We have sealed the park, and an exhaustive search is underway for any animal or person potentially responsible for your son's infection.

I know that nothing can properly compensate you for a tragic loss such as this. Nevertheless, despite the waiver signed by you and by your son, I want to assure you that the government has every intention of providing you with just compensation. We will be contacting you again regarding this, as soon as the investigation is completed. I would urge you to obtain counsel to handle these arrangements on your behalf; I would be happy to provide recommendations. In the meantime, I would ask that you please do not discuss this case with the press or with others, until the investigation is completed; press coverage could hamper the investigation, and could potentially complicate the process of compensating you.

Again, my deepest sympathies for your tragic loss. I promise to contact you again within 48 hours, to share any new information I may have.








Very truly yours,


Arthur Blakely
Secretary of the Interior




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