It's crude, I know, but it's a first pass. I just wrote this in one shot, started about 10 minutes ago: Evie Martin finally caught a break. A delicious twenty-six-minute solo drive in the family van from the house to the softball field. In total silence. Batteries: recharge ‘em while you got ‘em. She owed Marcie big time for picking up her two girls for practice. That gave Evie a good solid hour to food shop for the week. In a crowded supermarket. On a beautiful Saturday morning. While I could have been at the field. Catching up with my friends. Drinking coffee. “Ugghhh, stop!” she said out loud. Evie caught herself doing what her husband Pete called the Debbie Downer routine. Self-flagellation, was more like it. Maybe a little guilt? Maybe. Not that she wanted to avoid her own kids, no not by any stretch. But with Pete gone for the next umpteen months doing recovery work, and the long hours she was saddled with at the lab, she was starting to fray. She saw more and more of it every morning. The house was messier. Her hair avoided staying put no matter how short she cut it. Dark pouches under the eyes. The constant yawning. The crappy eating habits. The whole nine yards. What did the Colonel call it? My bottle is filling up? The “Colonel” was David Hackworth. A decorated combat veteran and respected journalist from Earth’s 20th century, he wrote in his memoir about the process of a soldier shouldering the stress of combat, and likened it to an internal bottle filling up. The bottle gets filled the more stress you take on. Once it starts running over, your goose is cooked. Mental breakdown. Or PTSD, shell shock, call it what you want. You become ineffective. Pulled off the line or worse. Her doctoral advisor made all of his candidates read the memoir in their first year. “You’ll thank me when you have kids,” he joked. So what did that make Evie? A stressed-out single-mom/forensic lab manager, with a PhD, not enough time in the day, and a combat memoir on her book shelf, she mused. QUESTION: Did you come away with idea that she was family-oriented, stressed out, and a science/technology professional? Endearing enough to keep reading about how she's going to save a whole bunch of people?