Tag Archive: Horizon

I thought at first I’d post her first view of Rakal by a young mother from Horizon, but I’ve been blogging that for Six Sentence Sunday for six months now. Instead, I picked another piece from War’s End (in the editing stage.) Mik is from Horizon, and is getting his first good look at Central, very early in spring. Kevi was the name Roi used on Horizon. I hope it’s not too long.

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World Building logo The map looked like any other satellite map, except for the light point that marked Mik’s position, and the way the map rotated in its frame as he moved and changed scale when he ran his finger up or down the side. Handy, actually, ahead was always up on the map. The scale had given him a little problem at first, until Kevi had identified a bar that grew and shrank with the map as showing the distance a horse at a traveling trot could be expected to cover in half an hour. A longer bar was an eight-hour journey, and when he zoomed out to include the whole K’Roi reservation, only that longer bar was clearly visible, and surprisingly small. Kevi hadn’t exaggerated at all on size, Mik decided.

The yellow cross the light was approaching, out behind the stables, was the symbol for a gate. “Let Timi control it going out,” Kevi had said, “and get hold of me with the com if you want to use one.” Too bad Kevi hadn’t told Timi that a little more clearly. What was it with kids that they always assumed they knew more than adults did?

“This one goes to about twenty different points around the Reserve,” Timi was saying as they approached a misty area between two trees. “You use it by visualizing where you want to go, or by thinking a code symbol, or even the name of your destination.”

“Kevi—ah, Roi—said just to follow you and let you worry about setting it,” Mik said, patting Ripple’s neck. Coin was here—Roi had teleported him back from Horizon yesterday, when he’d gone to inform the delegation that Madame Irela was missing, and he’d taken along another telepath to go on the ship that was to transport the rest of the delegation. That ship wouldn’t go missing, or if it did, Kevi would be able to contact the other telepath. If Mik turned his head, he could see his stallion investigating his paddock. But the horse didn’t look as sure-footed as usual, and Mik was inclined to trust Kevi’s advice that it would take the horse a few fivedays to get used to the stronger gravity of Central.

Timi was riding into the mist ahead of him, and Mik reined Ripple after him. “We’re going up, so your ears’ll pop,” Timi called back, and then the mist closed around them. Mik’s ears did pop as the mist briefly hid everything around them. When the mist cleared, Ripple was on a trail through open forest quite unlike anything Mik had seen around the stable. This was hill country, he saw, and he took a deep breath of the chilly air. Just as well Kevi had insisted he dress warmly.

Terry and Kevi had both said that the Horizon ecosystem was incomplete, with many species deliberately excluded. Looking around him, Mik was astounded at the diversity of plant life. More kinds of trees were visible from this one spot on the trail than he knew on all Horizon, and the lower-growing plants were equally variable. Food plants? He thought he recognized a few berry bushes as Ripple trotted by, but it was the wrong season for berries. About half of the trees had shed their leaves, and a good part of the path was sunlit. He looked up, and saw prickly objects on the branches of one otherwise bare tree. “Are those edible?” he asked Timi.

The young man reined in his horse and looked up. “I think Tod said once they were,” he replied doubtfully, “but I don’t get my food that way. There’s plenty of reliable food in the shelter cabins.”

Well, Mik already knew that Timi, though from Horizon, was town-bred. He memorized the look of the tree, noted that it grew on a sunny slope well above a creek they were descending toward, and put a couple of the spiny things from the ground under it into his saddlebags. He might not need food sources, but Tod would. He glanced back at the map, now with a little better feel for what it showed.

Kevi was positive that Tod was in the K’Roi reserve, and reasonably certain that the boy—no, young man now, Mik reminded himself—was somewhere in the foothills of the mountain range occasionally visible to Mik’s left. They had exited the gate near the northern boundary of the reserve, and Mik’s plan was to follow the trail that wound among the foothills to the southern boundary, leaving clear signs of his passage. Thinking of which ….

WoodlandMik halted Ripple and dismounted just before the creek, handing her reins to Timi as he searched out several sticks and pebbles. He arranged these to the side of the trail, well above waterline, then took a bit of bright blue ribbon from a bundle in his saddlebag and tied it to a branch over his arrangement. Timi watched in fascination. “What are you doing?” he finally asked.

“Leaving a message for Tod,” Mik replied as he swung back up onto Ripple. When the mare was shod for the trip he’d made certain her shoes were rimmed, to leave clear prints, and he was fairly sure Tod would spot those prints. At least, he would if he was anywhere near the trail, and if there was no hard rain to wash out the prints—a shaky assumption at this season, Kevi had told him. But the cloth flags, near sites where the hoof prints should be clear, would catch Tod’s eye; and the arrangement of stones and twigs carried the message that Mik wanted a meeting. If Tod remembered what Mik had tried to teach him, eight years ago, he’d understand the message.

“No telling where he is,” Mik continued, “but I suspect he’ll be keeping an eye on the main trail. He’ll check for hoof prints where the ground is most likely to hold them—near stream crossings—and that’s where I’ll leave sign. I won’t get a fast response, but by the time I reach the southern boundary he should have found at least one of my markers. Then I’ll head back north—on Coin by then, I hope—and watch for any reply. Walk them up the slope, Timi.”

“Tod always had us keep a steady trot.”

“That’s for conditioning. I want to cover the maximum ground with the minimum wear on the horse. That means walk uphill and down, move out at a lope or a working trot on level ground with good footing, and change diagonals regularly at the trot. You’ve been on the left diagonal ever since we started.”

“Now you sound like Tod,” Timi grumbled. “Is he really as good as he thinks he is?”

“He has a real gift for understanding horses, even by nomad standards,” Mik replied. That was based not only on his memories of Tod, but also on his observations yesterday of the horses and riders his nephew had trained. Kevi might be worried about the clan’s accepting Tod; Mik was not. A few of Domik’s cronies might think Tod was stealing Dom’s place, but that would be short-lived. Mik’s concern was mostly whether Tod had the judgment to make good, reasoned decisions, to stand by those decisions, and—hardest of all—to admit error if changed circumstances proved him wrong. All without losing the confidence of the clan.

Mik shook his head violently, making Ripple flick her ears back in question. He didn’t know if he could live up to that, and the best he could do with Tod would be to determine whether his nephew promised to be an adequate leader. And if Kevi was right, talk him into taking on the burden of leadership.

Eyes and map alike showed a level, gently curving stretch ahead, and Mik automatically cued Ripple into an easy lope. The mare tossed her head eagerly, bringing a burst of sound from the bells on her bridle. Mik looked from side to side as he rode, alert to the woodland around him. A patch of mixed cream and rust caught his attention, and he signaled Ripple for a halt. “What,” he demanded, “is that?”

Timi came up beside him, squinting in the direction Mik was looking. “A foojah,” he replied matter-of-factly. “They eat leaves and shoots—that long neck helps them reach way up. They’re pretty common. It’s a R’il’nian species. Not dangerous, unless you corner one. They’re prey for wolves, bears and akedas.”

“Oh,” Mik said weakly. The animals—there were three, he saw now—were about the height of a horse at the shoulder, but with longer necks. They were creamy underneath and a darker, rust color along the back, and one had a black crest of stiff hairs or feathers atop its head. Wolves, he knew, were the wild ancestors of dogs, but he could not imagine a dog threatening something that size. And the other two species Timi had mentioned …. “How big are the predators?” he asked. “Kevi showed me tri-dees, but there was nothing for scale.”

“Wolves are smaller than a foojah but a lot larger than the pocket herders, and they hunt in packs. A good-sized grizzly would outweigh a foojah. Akedas don’t weigh that much—they’re from R’il’n, too, and closer to birds than mammals—but their heads are higher than a foojah’s back. We don’t have pumas locally—the akedas take their place in the local ecology, Roi says. The warnoffs work against all of them, and there’s a gadget that works the same way that keeps them out of the settled lands and away from the cabins.”

“Warnoffs,” Mik said weakly. Kevi had explained the gadgets to him, but he hadn’t paid too much attention. Seeing the size of the animals the predators preyed on had him wanting more information. “How do they work, again?”

“They send out two messages. One is ‘I’m harmless.’ That lets you observe the animals, but it also keeps them from attacking you as a threat. The second is ‘I’m not edible and I’ll make you sick if you try to eat me.’ That keeps the predators from viewing you as prey. Course neither one is much protection if you startle an animal from too close, so we use the bridle bells to let them know we’re coming.”

Mik nodded. He’d thought of removing the bridle bells so he could hear the sounds of the forest—but not if they were a safety precaution. Timi did know some things better than he did, he reminded himself. He nudged Ripple back into a trot and looked down at the map. “That’s a shelter cabin up ahead, isn’t it?”

“Yes. We’re making good time—ought to be there in an hour. Want to stop there for lunch? They’re all pretty similar, so I can show you how they’re set up.”

He may have his height, Mik reminded himself, but he still has a lot of filling out to do—hardly surprising he thinks a lot about food. Good thing his horse is a weight carrier, though. Most of ours would be too light.

Terror Bird

This is the only public domain image I could find of a South American terror bird. The akeda would have some similarities but be much brighter in color.

Mik hadn’t quit worrying about Coralie, but the only thing he could do for her was try to find Tod and hope that Kevi could do better than he thought he could with contacting Coralie through Tod. Meanwhile, he might as well learn all that he could about Central. He kept looking from side to side as he rode, and saw two more groups of the foojahs, as well as several smaller animals Timi said were deer. It was close to an hour before he saw something even stranger, and much more frightening. “Is that an akeda?” he asked, but the really didn’t see what else it could be.

It was tall—he doubted he could see over its back if he were on the ground—with a neck that put its head above the height of a horse’s. Half or more of that head was beak, a powerful, crushing beak. Strong legs appeared to be scaly skin over bone, while the body of the creature was covered with dull gold and green feathers—at least, he thought they were feathers—with a fanlike green crest on the head.

“They get a lot brighter during mating season,” Timi said from behind him, “and the males get a sort of train of feathers. They’re really gorgeous then. Roi says they have a lot in common with the terror birds that were on Earth twenty thousand years ago. There’s the cabin.”

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Since my fiction is set on a number of planets of the Jarnian Confederation, no two quite alike, I’ll describe the most important ones for the stories I’ve published. Two others, Horizon and Rakal, will be in my upcoming trilogy, and T’Kun and Mava are in a barely-started book on the first Kharfun epidamic.


Central, the administrative capital of the Confederation, is an Earth-sized planet circling a very sun-like star. There are two major continental masses, both extending from above the Arctic circle to below the Antarctic circle. Axial tilt is about 24°. The broad climate zones are similar to Earth’s: equator wet flanked by seasonal rain belts, deserts along the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, rain shadow deserts on the lee of mountain ranges, prevailing winds easterly near the equator and westerly at higher latitudes. Mid-latitude continental climates are highly seasonal. There are no polar ice caps as neither pole is isolated from the oceanic circulation, though there is considerable permanent ice on the higher mountains.

Map of Central

Crude Lat-Long map of Central. Numbers are: 1.Lai’s home 2. Derik’s home 3. Seabid island 4. Rollover Archipelago 5. Tyndal school 6. Jelarik’s home 7. Zhaim’s home 8 Trade City

Central was originally a R’il’nian planet called Kentra. As the R’il’nai dwindled in numbers the larger continent, and then the northern part of the smaller one, were increasingly given over to humans and some R’il’noids. In theory the southern extension of the smaller continent is owned by the R’il’nai, but in fact many R’il’noids have homes there.

One thing the R’il’nai insisted on: a large fraction of each ecosystem must remain natural. Thus Central is largely a natural world, though there are very advanced cities. Most of the action in my novels takes place outside of the cities.

The flora and fauna make up a very mixed ecology. The planet was Terraformed (or rather R’il’n formed) a couple of hundred thousand years ago. Since then many species from Earth have been added, along with a large number from other planets, including Riya. The R’il’nian ability of conditional precognition has managed to keep out those species that would be disruptive. One species, the Akeda, is modeled on the terror bird that was a major predator at one time in South America. These are six foot non-flying birds which are the top predators in some areas.

I drew the rather crude map some twenty years ago.


Riya, like Central, is an Earth-like planet with Earth-like climate zones. Most of the action takes place on a subtropical volcanic hot spot island, Windhome. (Think Hawaii.) The main peculiarity of this planet is that there are no mountains of any significant height in the southern hemisphere, but there is a continental extension into the extreme north with mountains that are snow-covered year round.

The biota differs from Earth’s. The local fauna have evolved from six-limbed ancestors, with the extra pair of legs evolving into anything from wings to feeding arms. Flora often gives the appearance of branching down into the ground. However, this native flora and fauna has been blended with species imported from R’il’n. (Homecoming.)

One species imported as pets, and surviving in the wild only on isolated islands without predators, are the tinerals. They have a vague resemblance to feathered monkeys with wings. They grow throughout their lives: flying in their youth, but the wings acting only as a weather cloak as they become larger. They are singers with voices much like our musical instruments, and an instinct to harmonize.


This planet is in the very early stages of evolving land life. In contrast to most planets, where living things are either all dependent on left-handed proteins or all dependent on right-handed ones, Mirror developed two totally independent ecosystems, one right handed and one left handed. When Marna and Lai are forced to land there, they go to a great deal of trouble to avoid contaminating the planet. (Homecoming.) There are animals in the oceans, including a mass of tentacles with threefold symmetry that Marna identifies as a possible food source, but the land (or more accurately the shore) has been colonized only by algae and land corals in the spray zone.


Falaron was Terraformed as a vacation planet around 75,000 years ago, with most of the ecology transplanted from Earth in the Pleistocene. The action takes place around 45° North latitude, from coast to coast of a continent spanning several time zones. From West to East, the terrain is coastal forest, forest-clad mountains, more rugged mountains, a high plateau, more mountains with an apron down to a high scarp, plains with a climate ameliorating from rain-shadow near-desert to open woodland as the travelers move east, a fault scarp damming the river the party is following, a canyon cut by the river through the higher ground, and finally forest with open meadows to the east coast. (Tourist Trap.) Animals include mammoths, mastodon, longhorn bison, small wild horses, a miniature variety of horses in small canyons, and flat-headed peccaries, all real animals which left fossils during the Pleistocene ice ages.


Named (as Marna correctly deduced) by a publicity agent, this planet, though Earthlike in many ways, has no axial tilt and a very low-eccentricity orbit, thus no seasons. To quote from Tourist Trap:

“The planet, with its rotational axis almost perpendicular to its orbital plane, had no seasons.  The poles were bitterly cold, glaciated wastelands where the sun forever rolled around the horizon.  The equatorial belt was an unchanging steam bath, the permanent home of daily tropical thunderstorms, varied by hurricanes along its poleward borders.  The desert belts, inevitable result of the conflict between the planet’s rotation and its unequal heating by its sun, were broad and sharply defined, with no transition zones where the rains came seasonally.  The temperate zones, between desert and polar ice, were swept year round by equinoctial storms, varied only by occasional droughts.  No monsoons, no seasonal blanket of snow to protect the dormant land, no regular alternation of wet and dry seasons.”

Native animals are toxic, and Marna must determine why.


Horizon was introduced in Horse Power as a planet recently terraformed from bare rock for stock rearing, specifically for silkies. This made-up species is a blend of cattle and sheep, producing both gourmet meat and a fleece that makes a luxury cloth. They are sensitive to ultraviolet, but Horizon is a low UV planet. For the same reason it has attracted colonists with fair skin, who are also UV-sensitive. The ecology was planned for stock rearing, with no large predators (foxes are about as large as they come) and few native herbivores beyond the rabbits introduced as an emergency food source. Gravity is slightly slightly less than or Earth or Central.

I’m still working on the Horizon War trilogy, but one of the plot points is the disaster that could be created by the introduction of pumas on land and great white sharks in the oceans.


This planet will be mentioned several times in the first two books of the Horizon War trilogy, but is only visited in the third book. It is a steam-bath planet, especially near the equator where the action takes place, with jungle, part of which is prone to seasonal flooding. (Parts of the Amazon basin, but warmer.) Sample native animal? A predator the castaways call a One-arm and others call a Kraken. It has a flattened, bulbous body with a mouth and a single long tentacle with poison hairs, and attacks by attaching the body to a tree and grabbing prey with the tentacle. I’ll probably post its attack on January 10, as part of the Year of the Snake blogfest. I may also use a character’s first view of the planet as my excerpt Friday, but I’m still waffling on that.


This planet is mostly ocean, with only a small land area. Because the settlers realized early that only a limited population could be supported, production of babies was never a priority and a matrilineal culture developed with extended family structure. Recently at war with T’Kun. This planet is a home planet of a character in the Kharfun epidemic story, but all the action takes place elsewhere.


Physically, T’Kun is the opposite of Mava, with 90% land, and only a few saline lakes. It is a very harsh world, and many of the males die young. Partly as a result of this, a strongly patriarchal culture has developed with multiple wives and an idea that every woman should be nursing or pregnant — necessary to keep the population up, as most children die young. Again, only a very brief part of the action actually takes place on this world, but it is important in forming the character of one of the protagonists.

http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/nebula/pr2005012b/As I said last week, the Jarnian Confederation acts only to prevent Human-occupied planets from preying on each other or on other sentient species, or to provide emergency aid. But it needs some structure to do this. The interaction of my characters with this structure provides much of the plot of my fiction.

Originally (and still to a large extent in Homecoming and Tourist Trap) the Confederation as a whole was ruled by the R’il’nai. As their numbers dwindled, the Councils were developed to provide the remaining R’il’nai with information and a part-Human sounding board. Membership was originally determined by tests to determine the fraction of traits R’il’nian-Human hybrids showed that were clearly of R’il’nian origin. Those with over seven-eighths R’il’nian traits were considered part of the Inner Council.

The Outer Council was composed of High R’il’noids, those with more than three-fourths R’il’nian traits, and was primarily an advisory, fact-finding and enforcement body subject to the Inner Council. Those with more than half R’il’nian traits were considered R’il’noid. R’il’noids were essential to the running of the Confederation and were subject to Confederation law but not to planetary law. This was primarily because of problems that had arisen in the past because of planetary laws (such as a ban on travel at the new moon, punishable by death) which prevented R’il’noids from carrying out their professional duties. At that time virtually all adult R’il’noids had the R’il’nian empathy at least to the extent that they could be trusted not to take advantage of their immunity to planetary law.

R’il’nian-human hybrids were rare, is spite of official encouragement for R’il’nian males to father offspring from Human or R’il’noid women. Such matings were often sterile. A R’il’nian scientist, Çeren, developed an in vitro fertilization method that greatly increased the production of crossbreds, and also developed a more objective method of ranking R’il’noids by the fraction of active R’il’nian-derived genes. The unintended consequences of both these developments (which were desperately needed at the time) set up the problems in my science fiction.

By the time of Homecoming the Inner Council was actually making most of the decisions to run the Confederation, though the only surviving R’il’nian, Lai, had absolute veto power at least in theory, though he rarely if ever used it. Barring that veto power, the Inner Council was ruled by a majority vote providing at least 5/6 of the Inner Council members were present and voting. Reconsideration of a vote already taken required a 2/3 plus majority. By the time of the trilogy veto power no longer exists, and this is how the Confederation is ruled and the Horizon War was started.

This is the end of the first chapter of my current WIP (at the editing stage) Rescue Operation, continuing on from last week. It’s the first book of a trilogy, starting a couple of hundred years after the end of Tourist Trap.

He [Roi] leaned back, closing his eyes, and the pair took the hint and left. Dad, Roi thought miserably, Marna, why did you have to die and leave me with this? It’s more than I can handle. I’m doing my best, but I don’t think my best is good enough. And Zhaim’s not helping. At worst, if he’s escaped the bonds you put on him–Roi didn’t even want to think about that.

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Another snippet, continued from last week, from the end of the first chapter of Rescue Operation.

“It won’t happen again,” Roi said, “but I couldn’t do anything for Horizon.” He lifted his head, blinking wet eyes at Mark. The next time he had to reinforce Marna’s bindings, he swore to himself, he would insist that the part of the Inner Council he trusted back him up.

“Maybe,” he continued softly, as much to himself as to Mark, “I can get enough change in the situation to force reconsideration. But I don’t think I can do it by a Council vote. Meanwhile, I’ll have to do what I can with the other situations.”

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I’m skipping around a little in Rescue Operation, as doing it continuously just doesn’t give me good six-sentence fragments. This follows Roi’s explanation of the vote on slaving.

Keishala sighed as she picked up her music tablet. “Come on, Lani. If you’re going to finish that before the concert, we’d better go somewhere else. If it’s going to be politics, neither of us is going to be much help.”

“Anything I can do?” Emeraude asked.

She had seen immediately what the Inner Council had missed–how the citizens of Horizon would most likely react. Keishala and Lelani were dear to him, though right now they were best off preparing for Keishala’s next concert, but Emeraude might be a real help.

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And I know we’re not supposed to do this, but I just have to crow a bit: Tourist Trap is a finalist for the Reader Views Literary Awards!

Following on from last week, here are sentences 7-12 from the rewritten first chapter of Rescue Operation.

“Roi,” [Keishala] said, “it can’t be that bad. You’ve only been gone for a month. And Zhaim’s competent enough, even if you don’t like him.”

Emeraude, twenty years younger than Keishala, unwound her bitter-chocolate body from the exercise bars and pulled loose the scarf that had held her beige hair. “What happened?” she asked.

“Zhaim ‘solved’ the problem of Horizon’s not paying its dues by authorizing one of the big slaving companies to collect them—in people.”

I’d really appreciate comments on this.

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For quite a while I’ve been blogging Chapter 2 from a WIP, tentatively titled Rescue Operation. That Chapter is now complete. I skipped Chapter 1 on the grounds that it was an unholy mess, but I think I finally have it straightened out. So for the next few weeks I’ll be giving six sentence segments from Chapter 1, starting with the beginning of the chapter, the book, and the trilogy. Please leave comments, letting me know how this works as an initial hook.

Roi Laian jerked upright on the interface lounge. “Oh, no,” he gasped aloud. “He can’t be that stupid. The Council can’t be. Is he trying to start a revolution?”

Lelani, the oldest of his three wives, hardly lifted her wrinkled face from the wire and beads that would become a new hair ornament, but Keishala turned toward him, lowering the musical score she had been studying.

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It’s Sunday again, and I’m still posting consecutive bits from the second chapter of Rescue Operation (working title.) Tod’s the youngest of a group of teenaged “freedom fighters” who’ve been captured by slavers. To look at previous snippets, click “Six Sentence Sunday” on the Index page.

This is the end of this selection; I think for the next couple of Sundays I’ll try snippets from the newly revised first chapter of Rescue Operation. After that I’ll pull six sentences from other things — possibly from one of my published books, possibly a bit from something not published. And this has been very early (from Chapter 2) so Tod still has a large role to play.

Callan was no help, but Buck moved toward Tod, guessing what the younger boy intended.  Tammy stumbled into her captor, driving him toward Tod, and Tod managed to get his bound wrists over the man’s head, jerking back and around in an effort to choke the slaver while Tammy rolled under the cable and into the rocks and brush downhill from the road.

Run, he thought while he did his best to keep the slavers’ attention.  Then pain struck, even worse than one of his father’s beatings.

Keep fighting, keep their attention focused on him!  In the end, he passed out without even knowing whether Tammy had escaped.

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Six Sentence Sunday

It’s Sunday again, and I’m still posting consecutive bits from the second chapter of Rescue Operation (working title.) Tod’s the youngest of a group of teenaged “freedom fighters” who’ve been captured by slavers. To look at previous snippets, go to the index page (at the top) and click on “Six Sentence Sunday.” There you will find all of my SSS posts, listed by date and source.

Then [Tod] pricked up his ears as the conversation turned to getting them all into the transport.

Tod had hoped their captors would unfasten their shackles or at least release them from the cable, but it sounded like they planned to winch the whole cable into the transport.  The slavers’ concern was strictly over whether they’d all fit.  “We could take the girl in the flyer,” one of the men suggested, and Tod was instantly alert.  The best route to the flyer passed close to the cable, and yes, one of the smaller men was unfastening Tammy’s shackles from the cable and using a shoulder hold to push her along the cable toward Tod.

Tod shifted from side to side, trying to get slack in the cable.

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