Lieutenant Uri Murr knew the moment her grandmother died.
She was doing engineering when Grandma Shana cracked the daboo wood bead on her kin’s knot: a sharp, dry, quiet sound unmistakable to anyone from the Dharmendu colony. Ori could have woken up from a deep sleep.
She wraps her fingers around the bead, tracing the slit that runs through it. Her grandmother had hand-carved this bead from a branch of her kin’s tree, and Ori carried it all her life. Silent tears were running down her face as she freed him with the touch of the rope that held the beads of her other relatives, those gifted from her parents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, her best friends.
“Bit, what is reading… what’s wrong?” The chief of engineering, Commander Corey Yates, saw her tears and pressed her chair to Ori’s side. Her face changed when she saw the bead shaken in Ori’s palm. “what happened?”
The crew didn’t really understand the kinship and kinship beads – no one else had come from Darmindo – but they knew it mattered to Ori.
“my grandmother.” Ori inhaled heavily.
“Grandma Shana? Oh, Ori, I’m sorry. “
Other fellow crew members approached, touched her shoulder and murmured condolences. They had all heard Grandma Shana’s stories, drank Dabo syrup cakes, and even tapped into Grandma’s used wisdom.
“It’s no surprise. She was 132 years old, and she had been fading for a while. She had a good life. A strong tree.”
“This can be comforting, but it’s still hard.” Yates squeezed her hand. “Go and take some time for yourself. The rest of us can end here.”
Uri left, but did not go to her headquarters. Soon she went to wrap herself in the fleece blanket her grandmother had made for her long ago when she joined the science fleet. She was watching the old family’s holo clamp their dabbo mug – the first thing she carved with the help of Grandma Shana.
thus. But for now, she has a responsibility to attend.
I found Captain Ramsey in her office. At the sight of Ori’s tear-stained face, the captain sat her down and made her a cup of tea.
“My grandmother Shana’s bead is cracked. That means she is dead.” Ori held the bead: burgundy and amber flowers on light brown in the palm of her hand, its silky smoothness tinged with a coarse crack. “I want to ask: Are there any habitable planets that we can get around to? I’m supposed to plant the bead where it can grow. Preferably on Darmindo, but…”
Their ship was three years on a long distance survey mission. All their homes were too far away.
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“I will check, but I don’t think there is anything close enough. I am not an expert in the customs of the Darmindo, but… do you really want to plant it on some barely known planet, so far away?”
“It’s not perfect. At home, my family would cut down the grandmother’s spirit tree for its wood and plant all the kernels of her kin in her place. If there were new children in the community, it would become one of the new trees for them. The others wouldn’t be. for Anyone, but they will be honored and protected. This is how we keep our forests strong – all trees are family. The more love you share, the more forests you plant.”
Ori realized she was wandering, although Captain Ramsay listened with kind attention. “Anyway, if we’re out of the world, we’re supposed to find a special place to grow it. But there aren’t many options. I’d rather plant it.” somewhere than letting it fade.”
“How about the container? Until our job is done?”
Ori shook her head. “It is not supposed to be replanted. I need to give it a home.”
“Let me see what I can find.”
Hours later, Captain Ori called into the lower lounge. Wrapped in a grandmother’s blanket, I was surprised to find the entire crew waiting. Served Yeats a plate of biscuits, the rich atmosphere was filled with the characteristic sweet sourness of Dabo syrup. It was still warm.
“You… made cookies for your grandmother?”
“I borrowed the recipe. Hope you don’t mind, I used some of your drink.”
Ori couldn’t answer. Taste of the house brought tears to her eyes.
“And I think we have a solution for your bead,” said Captain Ramsey.
The crew moved in, revealing a spacious planting bowl built into the middle of the floor. Ori blinked, confused.
“Dirt from hydroponics, is enough to start that. We can move the canals underground, lower the ceiling in the level below, and add supports so that there is room for the roots to spread without breaking anything.”
“But dabu trees grow 20 meters high…”
“It’s long but it’s narrow, isn’t it?” Yeats carried a pillow: blueprints, showing holes cut through the floors above, walls and equipment turned to free up space at the top. “We will give him room to grow. As long as this ship is in service, it can grow higher off deck, and it will never have to move.”
“I don’t understand. I love you all, you are the most amazing crew, but why are you doing this? You never knew Grandma Shana.”
Yates shrugged her shoulders. “No, but we know and love you, and you have helped make you who you are. So you have helped us all in some way.” I smiled. “She made amazing cookies.”
Ori’s heart had never felt so full. I swept a hollow in the dirt, and sowed the grain of Grandma Shana’s relatives: with the soil from her ship, with water and love. Its roots will never touch its original world, but its branches will reach the stars.