The Palaeobotanist

We’re at the end of the week for the A to Z Challenge.  The letter P is up, and this is an entirely dialogue driven entry that is going to allow me to focus more on another story thread which has appeared.  Enjoy!

The Palaeobotanist

Ariadne

Southeast of the Cloud Tree

Seventeenth day, second month, second year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (2/17/02 AE)

John Thompson stood on a hill surrounded by a flat plain. To the northwest, he spotted the Cloud Tree, as everyone called it now. He thought it was an interesting name. It was probably the only tree in the world that had its own lenticular clouds. It was twenty kilometres away, but still stood prominently above everything on the plain. Next to him was Malika Said. He met her eyes, then looked down at the hill they were on.

“Malika, do you know what you’re standing on?” he asked.

“I’m guessing it’s more than just a hill,” she said.

“Of course. In fact, I’ve found several of these hills arranged in a roughly straight line to the southeast.” He pointed. “These hills rise from the plain about every fifteen to twenty-five kilometres. It’s kind of like a hotspot volcano. You have one big one at the leading edge, while each one trailing behind gets smaller and smaller. This is the biggest hill.”

“It has something to do with the Cloud Tree?”

“Absolutely. I did some digging here, and found the same material as the outer layer of the tree. The core of the trunk had decayed, so we know it’s soft. But look over there, to the west.”

She looked in the direction he indicated. Small rounded hills and a few longer ones. “Could those be an old Cloud Tree?”

“It’s the remains of one, yes. Somehow, it fell. There was a weakening of the base of the tree, which we are standing on right now. It appears that over time, the natural concrete weakens, and something like a strong storm could knock it down. But what I found interesting is that the ages of all of these hills are roughly every thirty thousand years.”

“So the trees live thirty thousand years, and somehow release a seed which drifts in the wind toward the northwest.”

John nodded. “It appears so. While the Cloud Trees are male, they may spontaneously change to a female at the end of their lives and send off a seed to grow another male tree.”

“Were they solitary?” asked Malika.

“Yes. Only one alive at a time. It’s imperative that we protect the tree.”

“Our opposition has lost his drive to use the wood, I’m happy to say,” she said and smiled.

2 thoughts on “The Palaeobotanist”

    1. Not sure if I’m returning to the trees in this challenge, but we’ll see. I have another thing to focus on that’s more relevant to the world.

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