It’s another day and another letter in the A to Z Challenge. This time, it’s the letter H. And with this letter comes a mystery.
Seventeenth day, fourth month, first year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (4/17/01 AE)
Melody Lim knocked on the door. She held a tablet in her left hand. She waited. No answer. She knocked again.
“Doctor Said,” she said. “It’s urgent.”
“Come in,” said a voice behind the door. Melody opened the door and saw Malika Said sitting at her desk with a tablet propped up by her hand. “It better be important. I’m busy right now.”
“You’re not going to believe this,” said Melody. “Call it a hunch, but I think I solved the cloud tree problem.”
“Oh? What do you have?”
Melody handed the tablet over to Malika. “Trade winds. All I could think about were the trade winds, so I followed them to the northwest toward the equator. And there it was, the rainforest.”
“And?” Malika didn’t look up from the tablet.
“And I took samples from as many kinds of trees as I could. I got them back here and had a genetic analysis done. What I found was astonishing. A match.”
Malika looked up at Melody. “Cloud trees?” she asked.
“There is only one cloud tree. These trees were more modestly sized. You see, it turns out that the cloud tree is a male. It releases the pollen, or whatever we may call it. It’s not exactly like the pollen trees release on Earth. But it could be considered pollen.”
“You’re rambling, Doctor Lim.”
“Sorry. As I was saying, the cloud tree is the male tree. The trees in the rainforest to the northwest are the females. It seems they’re all female. I couldn’t find a single male sample in the rainforest.”
“That’s odd. What do you think it means?”
“As far as I can tell, there may have been a larger forest of these trees around the cloud tree, but some shift in climate resulted in dry conditions around the cloud tree. The male tree survived, but dominated the water supply with its massive root system. The other trees died off.”
“Then why is there only one male tree?”
“That’s what I don’t understand. We need to observe the life cycle of these trees. But that could take decades. And what this also means is that no one under any circumstances should cut down the cloud tree. It could wipe out the entire species.”
Malika nodded. “I’ll tell Paolo.”