Saturday, May 4, 2024

Fluence: Tree of Life (Part X)

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Eight Point Seven suggested that they go ahead and try to transport the Memory Magnolia to the Garden Dimension, so they could limit the number of times that they had to shift through time and space, but Weaver didn’t think that was a good idea. The Garden was an incredibly delicate ecosystem of plants that came from alternate timelines and realities, all along the timeline. Some species were made extinct by other species, and they could both be found there, somewhere. They couldn’t be planted together, of course, and it was the Horticulturalists’ job to make sure that problems did not arise. It was not easy, and they took pride in their work. They couldn’t just introduce a completely new species of tree, especially not one with special temporal properties. It was not their right, and they could get in serious trouble for it. They had to speak with the Horticulturalists first.
Weaver shifted a temporal bubble generator into her hand, and installed it on the tree, which should prevent anyone from accessing it, and also alert her across time if someone made the attempt. Then they synchronized their minds, and made the shift to the Garden Dimension, directly in front of another group of four people. They were not surprised to see the visitors. Getting into this dimension was not as easy as driving down the highway to the local arboretum, but it was also not impossible. Most people requested an appointment, and had to go through a vetting process, because they didn’t want to entertain someone who was going to try to burn the whole place down, but they generally didn’t freak out when someone occasionally bypassed this courtesy.
A woman who looked like she was in her fifties took off her gardening gloves, and extended her hand. “Greetings, visitors. My name is Storm Avakian. This is my husband, Pinesong Shadowskin, his sister, Princess Honeypea, and our friend, Onyx Wembley.”
“Goswin Montagne, Holly ‘Weaver’ Blue, Eight Point Seven, and Briar de Vries,” Goswin returned.
“What can we help you with?” Storm asked.
“We would like to make a deposit,” Goswin answered. “It’s a special temporal object in the form of a tree. It’s very beautiful, very dangerous, very not something that I want anyone in mithgarther to have access to. It must be protected from people, and they must be protected from it.”
“It’s called the Memory Magnolia,” Briar added.
Storm perked up at this. “It’s a magnolia, you say? Magnolia seeds were stolen from us once. We never found out where they were taken.”
“Magnolia arthurii?” Eight Point Seven asked.
Storm did not look happy. “Were you involved?”
“Absolutely not,” Eight Point Seven insisted. “Its brief existence was recorded in history. Someone introduced it in the early 12th century.”
“That was the wrong timeline,” Pinesong explained. “That never should have happened. That it died out was probably a blessing.”
“It mutated,” Weaver went on to explain. “The Memory Magnolia came from a seed that we believe was altered during an accidental trip through a time cave to another planet, centuries in the future.”
“That’ll do it,” Onyx calculated.
“That tree belongs here,” Storm determined. “You were right to come to us with this issue. Unfortunately, it will take work to find a decent place for it. Your gut may tell you that something like that needs distance, but it may not survive if not accompanied by other life, for symbiotic purposes, or just because it gets lonely. Of course, our resident Bioharmony Choreographer, Princess Honeypea will need to inspect it first.”
“She’s a choreographer?” Briar asked. He was looking at Storm, but his eyes kept darting over to Honeypea. She appeared to be about his age, though the actual amount of time she had spent alive was difficult to determine. All four of them were said to be immortal.
Princess Honeypea hopped up to the space between the two quartets, and performed a short dance for them. It was whimsical, light, and emotive. Near the end, she began to speak. “At first glance, plants don’t dance, but perchance, if you pay in advance to let yourself be entranced, you’ll find that the truth supplants your stance as you watch how the way they prance is enhanced by the grace with which they do indeed dance.” At the very end, she held her arms out wide, and dipped her nose down towards the ground as one foot rose up in the air behind her. After holding the pose for a moment, she looked back up at Briar. “Just don’t forget your underpants.” She giggled.
Briar smiled. “I believe you.”
“How difficult is it for you to take us back to where the tree is now?” Pinesong asked, presumably feeling protective of his little sister.
“I need you here,” Storm said to him. “You must meditate if you are to find enough space for the magnolia.” She looked over at the crew. “He’s our Dimensional Composer. He makes sure the specimens have a place to live.”
“I’ll be fine, brother. I’ve done this before.” Honeypea reached up, and patted him on the head. “But I love that you still worry about me.”
“To answer your question,” Goswin began, “shifting back to Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida is easy, and will only take a second.”
Weaver shifted a small mirror into her hand. No, it was two mirrors, the second of which was revealed when she split them with her thumb like a deck of cards. “We can stay in contact with these, if you need peace of mind.”
Storm took one of the mirrors graciously. “Thank you. Be careful, Princess.”
Honeypea clicked her tongue, and pointed finger guns at her boss-slash-sister-in-law. “Namaste on my vibe.”
The five of them disappeared, and returned to the Memory Magnolia, but someone was already there, likely trying to figure out how to disable the temporal bubble that was blocking his access to it. “Can I help you?” Goswin asked, stepping forward as if to protect his people. Eight Point Seven rolled her eyes, and stepped up even further, since she might actually be able to protect them.
The man had turned around quickly, startled, but was relaxing now. “Yes, hello. Do you know anything about this tree?”
“What about it?” Goswin questioned. “State your business here.”
“Forgive me my poor manners.” He removed his hat, and held it in front of him. “My name is Elmo Barone, but they call me The Baron. I was hired to procure a fruit from this tree. It evidently has the power to make people young again.”
Eight Point Seven. “Elmo Barone. Private investigator from the 21st century, specializing in missing heir recovery.”
“I’ve never heard of him,” Weaver pointed out. “When did you become a time traveler?”
When?” the Baron questioned. “Is it even possible to answer that?”
“You can’t have the tree,” Goswin said dismissively. “Besides, it’s not even fruiting yet, so it won’t be of much use to you.”
Baron nodded. “My client said that they wouldn’t say no to a sample of its sap.”
“Unfortunately, the orchard is closed today,” Briar insisted. “You may return to the time you came from, or we can do it for you.”
Baron narrowed his eyes at him. “I meant no disrespect, I’m just trying to save a life. My client’s only heir is a child. If he dies too soon, the fortune will fall under control of the child’s mother, who is an awful woman. Believe me, I’ve met her. He first asked me to find his son to become the child’s legal custodian instead, but when I couldn’t, he sent me on this quest to just stave off the inevitable.”
“Why did he not know where his son was?” Goswin pressed.
“The child’s father went missing years ago. Other investigators, and the police, were equally unable to find him.”
The crew looked amongst each other.
“We can’t do it,” Eight Point Seven argued. “We’re trying to quit. That’s what we’ve all agreed to, right, to put this tree where it belongs, and then just stay out of the timeline for all of eternity? I know we’ve not been talking about it, but that’s the impression that I get from all four of us.”
“We have to help them if we can,” Briar reasoned.
“When does it end?” Eight Point Seven questioned. “How much meddling do we do before we finally reach that last one?”
“We’ve reached it,” Goswin decided. “It’s this one right here.”
“Can we agree to that?” Eight Point Seven asked. “Can we all promise?” The other three nodded, so Eight Point Seven approached Baron. “You don’t need the tree. Death is a part of life in your time. Think about the man you’re trying to find.”
“I’m thinking about him,” Baron said.
Eight Point Seven held her palm towards him. “Okay.” He disappeared, back to where he belonged, standing next to the child’s father. It would be up to the Baron to determine whether he was a better fit for legal custodian than the baby mama.
“I think I know why the tree does not bear fruit,” Honeypea said, “but I’ll need some time.” She hopped up to it, and carefully inspected the whole thing with all five senses; its bark, its branches, its leaves, and its roots. She knocked three times on the trunk. “Hello?” she asked in a sweet voice, as if waiting for someone inside to respond. She lay down on her stomach, placing her ear upon the dirt underneath the canopy. Then she shut her eyes softly, and breathed deeply. Once she stood back up, she gathered as much saliva in her mouth as she could, and spit it at the base. As she watched it be absorbed into the ground, she nodded. “Just as I suspected.” She turned around to address the group. “Water. She needs water.”
“It rains here quite frequently,” Briar explained.
“It’s not enough,” Princess Honeypea insisted. “She needs constant water. She’s a river tree.”
“Why did she grow if—I mean it—why did it grow at all if it can only survive in a river?” Weaver questioned.
She,” Honeypea reiterated, “could survive just about anywhere, but she won’t thrive unless she’s transplanted to a source of freshwater. A river would be best, due to the constant onslaught of nutrients.”
“Do you have rivers in the Garden Dimension?” Eight Point Seven asked.
“Of course we have rivers,” Honeypea replied.
“Well...” Goswin encouraged. “Which one were you thinking would be the best fit for the tree’s needs?”
Princess Honeypea smirked foxishly. “All of them.”
“What does that mean?”
Honeypea pulled out the communication mirror. “Storm, are ya there?”
“Right here, buddy,” Onyx responded instead.
“Is Arnie around?” Honeypea asked him.
“He can be.” 
“Gather the troops,” Honeypea instructed. “Our new friends here are gonna help us move our new roommate into her room.”
The crew brought all of the Horticulturalists to their location on Bida, including a previously unmet member. Arnold Daysayer was the Garden Steward. He was in charge of providing the food and water that the specimens needed on a regular basis. Of course, he didn’t just stand there with a hose, but in addition to making sure the irrigation systems held up, it was his responsibility to watch for death and damage, natural hybridization complications, and even parasites, and other diseases.
After Honeypea explained what they were going to do, they stood around the Memory Magnolia holding hands, alternating by group. They needed all nine of them to complete the circle, because the trunk was at least four meters wide at this point. This would be the most difficult shift they had ever done, maybe even more than the mountain that the other crew reportedly shifted once, since this was a delicate living organism. It was more expansive than it appeared, with roots extending far beyond the canopy of the branches and leaves above. They had to reach out to every square millimeter of the thing, and make sure that they were able to capture all of the energy that was coming off of it. Some leaves and other debris had fallen off of it recently, and they wanted those too. They felt compelled to remove every single particulate from the planet to prevent any residual temporal power from being harnessed for any reason, good or bad; accidentally, or on purpose. Finally, after they were satisfied that they would leave nothing behind, they shifted the tree and themselves to the location of Princess Honeypea’s choosing.
The force of the transplantation pushed them all to their backs, into the water now surrounding the Memory Magnolia. According to the Horticulturalists, this was the confluence of five rivers, which they specifically designed to be a symbol for the water of life that flowed throughout this entire dimension. It was located in the very center of the world, and always would be. When Pinesong needed to extend the borders, he did so relatively evenly by expanding the whole bubble at once. As they were standing up and wading in the waters, they watched as fruits began to take shape from their stems. The tree’s energy began to bounce out of the wood, and into the conflux that they were standing in. The Magnolia breathed a sigh of relief as it settled into its new home.
“I hope you’re all prepared to stay here for a long time,” Onyx began as the nine of them were coming back together. “This will need constant supervision; the kind that we can’t give it if we want to nurture the whole garden. People will be coming for it.”
The core four looked amongst each other, and agreed to this high calling, having already predicted the necessity. Just then, another group of four people started floating towards them from up one of the rivers. It was Team Matic.

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