Collaboration by Nils Durban

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SUMMARY: Entry in June flash fiction contest.

"I hope you realise how disruptive this is to my work on the Northern Continent, Professor," Dvorack muttered as he leafed through the pages that fluttered on his lap, eagerly seeking to make their escape through the open window of the lighter.

"Believe me, Professor," Lydia Moreno spoke over the engines insistent hum, "I would not have brought you down here for no good reason."

"Then why the secrecy?" He asked. He had important, possibly ground breaking, work to conclude prior to next year's uplift. What could possibly be of greater concern amongst the sparser primitive tribes down here? None of the original research had indicated anything particularly unusual.

"Not secrecy Professor," Moreno stressed, for what must have been the fourth time, "merely my whim. As I've already told you, I have the greatest respect for your work and I just wanted you to see this first hand. Please indulge me for a few moments longer, we are almost there, look." She pointed out of the craft's window, which up until now Dvorack had paid no notice of, preferring instead to concentrate upon the documents that he had insisted on bringing along, making notes here and there as he worked his way through them. So odd that he prints everything onto paper, she thought, where on earth did he keep it all?

Dvorack raised his head and for the first time looked out and down across the ocean that they had been traversing. Land was looming on the horizon and the lighter was angling towards it, bringing it visibly closer second by second. But the terrain was like none that he had ever seen. The mountains that loomed loftily amongst the clouds were magnificent, yet in no way unique, but the land that came down to the sea, over a distance of what must have been a hundred kilometres, was a different matter entirely.

The appearance was of literally a hundred rivers cutting deeply definitive paths to the ocean, leaving incredibly long straight plateaus of land pointing like fingers towards the waves. Plateaus that must have been many miles across, he surmised as the craft came in lower and closer.

Dvorack tore his gaze away from the window, to look at Moreno in what she thought was the first time that carried no air of hostility. "It's....remarkable Professor. I presume you have a thesis all worked up?"

"Yes Professor, of course."

"Look," he smiled, and for the first time, with the wind swirling his greying hair, she realised that he was not an unattractive person after all. "We are both Professors. There's an unwritten code you know. Amongst equals it's okay to drop the titles. Please, call me Mr. Dvorack."

The uncertainty was evident upon her face, causing him to laugh out loud. "I'm joking, I'm joking, it's Philip, call me Philip."

She relaxed back into her seat, shaking her head at his unexpected jocularity, "I'm Lydia."

He looked back at the approaching land masses, "So Lydia, give me your Geologist's view on those mesas. But remember, I'm a simple Xeno Culturist, so keep it basic."

"Well," Moreno began, "it's pretty hard to believe it, but these formations are little over a thousand years old, which, as you know, is like yesterday in geological terms.

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