Rachel Baum was looking forward to another opportunity to get out in the forest. Her job as a biologist at UC Berkeley was the study of the effect of climate change on Redwood trees. In recent years there was a growing alarm at the rapid changes in the California climate and how it was stressing the trees. Many felt it could be reaching a tipping point with how long the trees could adapt and survive. Her work sometimes required her to climb to the top of a 300 foot tree to check instruments that monitored the weather up in the canopy.
Rachel loved the spectacular views from the canopy and listening to the wind in the leaves. She came to the grove with another biologist who remained on the ground. Josh would send up any needed supplies with a pulley. There had been reports of a storm front moving in but Rachel and Josh thought they would have enough time. As she reached the top of the tree she heard a loud rumbling and looked up to see dark clouds rolling in.
“We better make this quick, Rachel,” Josh called over the two-way radio.
“I just want to check the fog monitor and then I will head down.”
Rachel was reaching over to the monitor when she saw the little Spotted Owl on a lower branch.
She was about to catch a quick photo when she felt the hair rise on the back of her neck. The lightning hit a nearby tree sending chunks of wood exploding through the air. A large piece hit Rachel.
Rachel was traveling through a tunnel. She felt the tunnel closing in on her body, squeezing. She thought she heard a young woman cry out and then she forgot about her life on Earth as she came into a new world. The midwife smiled as she welcomed this new life. Her parents named her Alexandria.
Alexandria Mata was one of the first babies born in the Mars colony. Her parents were part of the first colonists to live on Mars. They were both botanists working on plant cultivation. Growing up Alex liked exploring the gardens and small nature areas that were part of the biosphere. Her parents often found her reading her books under one of the few trees. Alex loved stories about trees. She grew up to be a botanist like her parents and her affinity for trees continued. Many of her contemporaries considered her a bit odd for her interest in Forest Biology because, as they told her, the forests are gone on Earth and there would be no forests on Mars. There was one friend who shared her interest in trees, Jeff Kimura. His focus was paleobotany, the study of fossil plants.
Alex was working the day a small package arrived in a shipment from Earth. The contents of the box were not revealed by the label which said it had come from the University of California, Berkeley. As she opened it she found a note from a biologist. I hope you can find a home for this specimen of Sequoia Sempervirens and help this majestic spirit survive in the universe. Most of theses trees had been lost on Earth during the Great Drought of 2030-2045 when there were years of little rain with many months of wild fires. Global warming had denied the moisture giving fog to the giant trees and the drought dried out the soil and the surrounding undergrowth. The fires did the rest. Alex wanted to show the seedling to Jeff but he was at a dig site on Olympus Mons.
Olympus Mons was an old shield volcano and one of the tallest mountains in the solar system. Jeff’s team hoped that the volcano had some buried secrets in its slopes. They were looking for signs of earlier plant life on the planet. Jeff knew Alex would be very interested in what they discovered, part of a fossilized forest.
“Jeff, this is fantastic, proof of ancient forests on Mars! When will you get some specimens back here?”
“We have them here now if you want to come over to my lab.”
” Right away!”
Word spread fast among the scientists and Alex found a large group in the Botany lab. The lead paleobotanist, Dr. Albero, was speaking. ” The microscopic evaluation of the fossils suggest these trees were ancestors of Sequoia Sempervirens, or Coast Redwoods.”
“How could Mars and Earth have the same trees? “ Alex thought, incredulous.
After the announcement people broke up into smaller groups to talk about the discovery. Jeff signaled to Alex. She walked over to a corner of the room where he was standing.
“Can you believe it, Coast Redwoods on Mars?
“We found a body.”
“We found a body buried near the trees.”
“What kind of body? What did it look like?”
“Like this.” Jeff showed Alex a photo he had stored on his communicator.
“Oh my God! This proves there were humanoids here on Mars.”
“Well there was one anyway.”
“Why wasn’t the discovery of this body announced?”
“Dr. Albero wants to discuss it with some higher-ups at NASA. He thinks this discovery might cause some panic in the colony.”
The colony leaders called for a community meeting the following week. Dr. Albero was asked to speak about the discovery.
“I know there have been rumors about the other discovery made on Olympus Mons. We found the body of a humanoid buried near the petrified forest. Further testing on the remains indicates that this humanoid is genetically related to us.”
The expedition found two planets in the solar system with environments compatible to their home world. They decided to introduce some of their flora prior to colonization to see if it could survive. They planted some seedlings from one of their most revered and beloved trees.
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” – John Steinbeck
Featured Image ‘Growth, plant’ by Antranias on Pixabay.com. Image of ‘Female Spotted Owl’ by Emily Brauwer of the US National Park Service via wikimedia. Image of ‘Petrified Wood, Petrified Forest National Park, USA’ via Pixabay.com. Image of ‘Mummy’ from British Museum Collection by Klafubra on wikimedia. Image of Coast Redwoods in Redwood National Park via US National Park Service.
This post is part of the Write…Edit…Publish #WEP#ff December Challenge, The End is the Beginning hosted by Denise Covey, Yolanda Renee, Nilanjana Bose, and Olga Godim.
Word Count: 990 (excluding quote)