Chapter V.

22 Apr

There was no way to avoid the ardent desire of both Vexas to visit Dendrologic Station No. Five. Gimel mentioned the invitation several times while they inspected the wares for sale in the emporium. His daughter appeared equally eager to see what might be growing there. Unable to provide any reasonable argument or mention her brother’s hateful opposition to the work done at the station, Thav was at last compelled to give in to the pressure of growing interest in making a visit there.

“Very well,” she yielded with reluctance. “There is sufficient time left us for a brief trip to the tree station.”

How angry will Mem be when he learns of this? she asked herself with sadness. It will be difficult to explain to him the reason I agreed to satisfy the curiosity of our guests from Landia.

Resh glowed with delight when he spotted the drosky entering the main gate. Rushing out of his office, he ran to greet the party of three who had arrived at the research and development center. He was surprised and excited by who they happened to be.

Out of the forest behind the small concrete building, unusually tall trees stretched into the greenish blue sky. After shaking hands with all three visitors, the chief of the station pointed toward the thick jungle forest in the background.

“Let me lead you on a short tour of some of our prize imports of trees. It will not take long at all, I promise you.”

Gimel walked along beside the tree biologist, while the two women followed immediately behind.

“Our Tochian tropical forest has consisted, up to now, primarily of cypress, cedar, greenheart, and various palms and pines. Unfortunately, demand for these timbers has plummeted throughout the entire Continent. Their prices are now the lowest they have been in centuries. The economy has suffered a terrible depression as a result of the sad situation in the market for wood. This has led to loss and failure on many plantations in this region. It is a tragic situation. Many of our planters have suffered sharp declines in their standards of life.

“So, I ask myself whether new crops of trees are possible here in Tochsylvania. That is the quest I have set before myself. I wish to make genetic adaptations in certain desirable transplants so that they will thrive under the conditions that prevail hereabouts. That is the campaign I have been engaged in. It must continue on to success and victory. I am completely dedicated to fulfilling the promise involved here.

“Can trees be taken from a different climate and environment and grown here?” inquired Gimel. “I am not sure that is biologically possible. Has that ever been done successfully anywhere on the Continent? Can trees be imported from a wholly different ecology? Will they take root and grow where they are not native to the environment? That would be a question that needs to be answered first. I myself am skeptical of the possibility of such drastic transplantation.”

Suddenly, the dendrologist stopped in his tracks, turned around, and faced him.

The two young women had to halt and listen as well.

“We shall now see certain species brought from the land of Afara. Hypostatic light treatment has been applied to change their dendrogenetic rate of growth.” Resh lowered his voice. “So far, I have increased average height up to forty and fifty percent. My goal is an eventual doubling, then a tripling of how high they grow. That is the aim of a special program that I am carrying out. My hope is that it can be fully attained.”

Gimel Vexa gazed at him in astonishment.”That is hard to believe possible. How can anything like that be done? Is our knowledge adequate for such a fantastic purpose?”

Resh’s eyes took on a radiant yellowish fire.

“A few minutes more, and all of you will see for yourself how I have transformed the Afaran giants into displaying colossal growth. It has taken me over ten years, but the results are visible and tangible. Wait till you see these gaboons, okans, ayans, and agbas. They have never reached these dimensions back in Afara. I have used optical klystrons, mounted on the top branches of the trees. They can be calibrated to produce hypostatic light that can penetrate through anything. These rays accelerate the rate of photosynthesis by reaching deeply, to the central cells, to the very genes. The results have been miraculous and incredible. Such growth is new and unique. It is something that no one else has ever achieved before anywhere.

“A special syntonizer is used to control the wavelengths of the special light that strikes any particular tree. It is measured and calibrated. Everything falls under strict, exact control. I apply a variety of different wavelengths at the very same time. These strike an individual tree simultaneously, enhancing and strengthening all aspects of the photosynthesis that is occurring.

“But my highest hopes are in the ekki trees planted here only four years ago. How fast they are growing! These promise to become the champion of the rain forest in time. They are going to set historical records in tree growth.”

“Most interesting,” muttered Gimel, starting to walk forward again.

The tour of the forest station continued, Resh pointing out the results of his research activities with hypostatized light with numerous varying wavelengths. He appeared to have thrown a spell over his transfixed visitors, all of the three.

Trees that should have topped at two hundred feet had up to fifty added feet. Their trunks were extraordinarily thick and hard. They had evolved far beyond the natural limits set in the past.

Resh pointed out his experimental giants: the manna gum, the blue gum, the stringbark, the mencaris, the yellow meranti, and the shorea tree.

As the party came back to the main office, no one said anything for a time.

At last, Gimel broke the deep silence.

“Who would have thought that anything like that could be done to trees brought from another part of the Continent?” he marveled, in awe at what he had just witnessed in the experimental forest.

The dendrologist drew a sigh. “No one can yet tell how far we can go with this program of ours. But as far as I can see, the sky is the limit, figuratively speaking.” He paused for a moment, his mind racing ahead with speed. “I have increased the amount of glucose produced through photosynthesis in these experimental trees. It is the concentrated, variegated light that increases the carbon dioxide concentration available to the bark and the leaves, which causes faster and greater production of glucose in the chloroplasts of the tree cells. The intense light stimulates growth enzymes to function at record amounts, increasing the height of the trees all the more.

“Why don’t all of you come into the office with me? I can have my secretary prepare us some iced cocoa, the drink that we Tochians call theobromine.”

“Food of the gods,” translated Lea from behind all the others with a slight laugh. She had lagged slowly in the rear for a time.

At that moment, Thav intervened. Lifting her left hand, she displayed for all to see a tiny horological ring on her fourth finger. “It is time for us to start back to the plantation,” she announced in a tone of assumed regret. “We are expected there by my brother. He will be alarmed and distressed if we are late. We must leave this place of scientific wonders at once. The tour must be postponed and set aside for another time, I’m afraid. We have spent too much time looking at these trees here.”

A chilly shadow fell over all four of the visitors as they left the forest station. The day was rapidly passing away, it was evident.

The daystar shone over the tall treetops behind the slowly moving drosky.

Green yellow light streamed over the dark, thick jungle on both sides of the narrow dirt road. Hardly a word came from any of the passengers as they moved slowly back to the latifundium. Gimel Vexa studied the trees, naming them in his mind as they were passed. He marveled at a liquidambar with star-shaped leaves. At long last, after so many years, he was seeing one for himself. A feeling of exhilaration seized strong hold of him. His dreams were coming true in front of him. He was seeing sights he never before believed that he would.

The dedicated collector spotted the multicolored leaves of a caladium. A little farther on, the smooth, shiny leaves of a climbing philodendron drew his hypnotized attention to them. Beyond that point were the undivided leaves of a soapbark tree, whose inner wood had practical application as an ancient cleaning material. He remembered its Tochian name, the quillai tree.

All of a sudden, the Varzean driver pulled back the reins he held, signaling the gelding to stop in its tracks.

The three passengers in the rear looked about to find out what the trouble might be. What was happening? Had something gone wrong?

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