24 Observing

 
A single seed drops to the rground, landing in soft soil. Beside it lies the hust of what can only be described as its mother. On Prendaria, plants give birth and animals store cholorphyll in their fur. Doctor Lydia Swanson wishes she was anywhere other than in this hide, observiing the early part of the lifecycle of the Martyr Plant.
 
But here she is, botonist and thrill-seeker, on an alien planet without sentient life, keeping as quiet as she can so as not to wake the 'baby'. The Martyr Plants were one of the first Prenarian lifeforms to be studied in any detail because they were everywhere. The sweet, green 'young' also provided an easy source of food. As they matured, however, their outer skins became impossibly tough.
 
The first time a seed was observed being 'born', the scientist who saw it passed out despite being present at the births of his own children. Indeed, the process was still fairly shocking to Lydia, who had now seen it a number of times. The mother plant tore itself open to eject the seed, writhing in what looked like agony. Even without a mouth or vocal chords, it managed to convey the impression that it was screaming. It was a sight that could not fail to affect any observer. And, of course, the mother died in the process.
 
It was found that any disturbance to the seed before it germinated, from the slightest noise to picking it up, caused a catastrophic reaction. Caustic yellow slime oozed from the shell, burning everything it touched, including the seed itself. It would then thrash about on the ground for anything up to an hour, its movements becoming weaker and weaker until, at last, it lay still. As a defence mechanims for the species it was certainly effective. No creature would go near another seed after being touched by that slime. However, the fact that the seed died in the process did seem rather drastic.
 
So now, Lydia sits in her hide, keeping as still and quiet as she can, taking careful notes and recording the exact time of each observation. There is no sign of life for the first two days, the accepted time for germination, but on the third day thin tendrils appear around the edge of the seed. They waft back and forth, even though there is no wind. She feels her stomach churn as her mind imagines they are tiny green fingers reaching out for her. Reminding herself that she is a scientist, she makes a note of the time and estimates the length of the tendrils; they are perhaps a centimetre long. At the end of the day, they are ten times longer and are resting on the ground.
 
By the morning, they have broken the surface. The seed has remained on its side, meaning that it will produce a male plant. Females turn themselves up on end and root themselves permanently to one spot. The males, however, use their tendrils to almost sim through the earth as they seek out a mature female. their bodies lying parallel to the ground.
 
There is a sharp 'crack!' from the seed and she notes that the outer shell has broken open. During the course of the day, it wiggles about on its tendrils, up and down, back and forth, forcing the initial split to widen. As the suns set, it lowers itself to the ground, hiding both tendrils and split from hungry eyes. Lydia is up early the next morning to observe the final stage. The plant forces its soft body throught the split until the shell finall drops away, revealing a wrinkled, green skin that slowly fills out like the wings of a butterfly.
 
Over the next week or so, the body of the male Martyr Plant grows until it is more than twice its origninal size. It is still green and tender, an easy meal for a scientist or any other predator. Its only form of defense now is stealth. It straightens up its tendrils and swims off in search of a place to hide.

24 Observing

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