Dena McHall was beginning to wonder if she’d chosen the right career.

It had taken a lot to force the doubt into her mind, though. All through school, math and science had always come easily to Dena. The written number and formula had been her most infallible companions through childhood. English and literature, with their exceptions to every rule and leftover words from the 1600s had never held the allure of mathematics and the cool, simple logic that was a part of it. You always knew where you stood with numbers; nothing went unexplained. One always equaled one.

At least that’s what Dena had thought when she’ gotten up that morning. Now, she wasn’t so sure.

Dena was being given a tour of the Southern Michigan University lab complex. Her professor in Beginning Physics 110, fearing that the class was going too slowly for his star pupil, arranged for a friend of his to give Dena a tour of the complex, and to show her and experiment in progress. The professor had hoped the tour would encourage Dena to excel, while whetting her appetite for knowledge.

It was having the opposite effect.

The friend, one Dr. Alan Reynolds, a jovial, balding man of about forty, was one of the nation’s foremost physicists. He’d once been quoted as saying “The only reason I’m not up at Area 51 inventing warp drive is that my wife and I like the neighborhood here.” Dena felt uncomfortable around him, like a pathetic ant in the presence of a giant.