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This is a garden on the ship that has a large display of plants from earth that they collected before leaving.  The main part of the garden is open to the public, and is located on the first and second floors just off of the prominade.  However despite the main part of the garden being available to the publics enjoyment it is connected to the vault where seeds from earth are being kept in stasis.

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Acacia sits under an apple tree, eating one of it's fruits. Her long black hair is braided and draped over her shoulder, the end resting in her lap.  Her knees stick up as high as her chin as she gazes through her knees. What she watches is anyone's guess. There were no people or machines, no insects or animals. Just the façade of nature. 

She didn't appear to make fast movements. Her eyes would dart, but everything else about her seemed to be in slow motion. When she bit into the apple, her movements were slow, calculated, measured. She looked human, but she didn't seem to act like one.

She wore a simple skinsuit with a nametag over her breast. Acacia.

 

Edited by jp500
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Along the side of the path, a faint humming could be heard, only just audible over the sound of singing birds and distant machinery. Kneeling just off the path in a beautiful outfit, one could make out a petite, androgynous frame, gently pouring water over a sapling. One could be forgiven for assuming this was a teenager just out of school, or perhaps a shorter grown woman. The labcoat was the first item that might have hinted at his true nature, the second being the long pointed ears that peered from a curtain of blonde hair. This was Doctor Leinus Hannover. No mere civilian, or even a basic officer, Doctor Hannover was a man of many titles. Chair of the Ark Botany Department, Assistant Chair of the Biology Department, Advisor to the Terraforming Division. And those were merely the titles that fit at the bottom of the name tag hanging from his labcoat.

 

The watering can pulled back, and he smiled down at his work. A garden was an odd thing for a normal person to imagine on a ship. He couldn't blame people for thinking so. With media such as Star Wars and Warhammer 40k, the understanding of most was starships were metallic and minimalist. But the Garden and the Ecologically Closed System beyond it were important in their own right. Without these, the seeds, plants and animals needed to colonize a new world would have to be held in cryostasis. And with every cryostatic system, there were many opportunities for things to go wrong. It could malfunction, freezing them by accident and causing irreparable damage. They could thaw on accident, leaving them decades away from the source of these precious materials. Sabotage could destroy their small reserve. Even cloning dead frozen material could result in mutations, with no guarantee of success. With the garden and the ECS, they had a large space for animals and plants to survive on their own, creating a self-sustaining population of needed plants and animals.

It came with many other uses as well. Oxygen, normally cycled through sterile mechanical systems, could now be generated passively, to be redistributed throughout the ship. Resulting in a healthier ship population. And of course, it made a nice place for the crew and civilians to relax when the need came.

 

Leinus smiled with satisfaction at the little sapling as he stood. The ship's population of peach trees was quite small. Finding one newly sprouted was a godsend, especially for one with such love for natural life. Later on, he would come back to offer the young tree the proper rights to insure it grew big and strong. With a smile he turned, allowing the only other person present to examine him closely. Blue-green eyes shone happily over a small but mature smile. He was dressed in a white outfit, vaguely reminiscent of the sailor suits worn by high school students in Earth's past. White crisp clothes were lined with blue and green, and a pleated skirt swayed over his leather boots. As he turned, he caught sight of Acacia, and smiling stepped towards her.

 

"Hello. Are you enjoying the gardens?"

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Acacia noticed the man in white and recognized him as the boss. Or rather, her boss' boss' boss. Or something like that. She worked part-time as a civilian botanist in the biolabs, but she knew of him from pictures. He was shorter than the holograms indicated, but also friendlier. She had expected him to be stern and serious, but his friendly smile and words belied that.

She stood to greet him. "Hello sir," she said in a soft calm voice. "Yes, I enjoy the quiet and the smells. Other places smell of machinery and recycled air, but not here." 

Is she supposed to smile? she wondered. Acacia gave Dr. Hannover a smile. She wasn't sure if it looked natural, but she decided it was the right response. Acacia stood tall at over 180 cm and her long dark hair was in a single braid reaching to her waist. She was pale skinned with sharp features, and her eyes darted around. She never seemed to look at any one place for more than a moment. Her skinsuit did little to hide her feminine body and the nametag over her breast read, Acacia, Botanist.

She still held the apple and wondered if he had approached her because of it. The strange phebe machine had told her she needed an apple but Acacia was not crew so maybe it wasn't allowed. She thought about dropping it behind her, but she didn't want to waste it. She decided to stand still and maybe he wouldn't notice that she held it in her hand.

She wondered if she was supposed to bow and decided it was an appropriate way of greeting a superior. Acacia bowed at the waist to the Doctor. She wondered if she could ask the doctor questions and decided it was not appropriate to ask a superior questions not related to work. So she stood in front of him and waited. She was good at waiting. Wait. Watch. Be Patient.

 

Edited by jp500
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The division was fairly large, all things considered. Lumping together everything from the department heads down to the gardeners, there were a couple hundred staff members they could think of. Given that, it would have been understandable if the Chairman just walked right by Acacia, or failed to place her in his mind. His face gave no indication of that however. For all Leinus Hannover's titles, but he did not show any sign of expecting anything for them. He simply smiled, as if Acacia's presence was gift enough for him.

 

"That fills me with joy, Acacia. We have been gifted a beautiful world, beautiful worlds, and one day to experience them, even so far from our homes."

 

At the bow, his expression changed from quiet joy to surprise. Reflexively, his small gloved hands rose, shaking slightly from side to side in a gesture of nervous modesty. While such gestures were not unusual among Sophan enclaves, with their societies based on merit, egalitarianism and mutual respect, Leinus was a modest boy. And after so many decades sailing in the inky blackness, he found suddenly being shown that level of respect unnerving. "Ahh, it-its okay, there's no need for bows. I'm just here to check on things on my time off."

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Acacia blushed at Leinus' words, embarrassed to have made a mistake. It was so strange living on this constructed world that she just avoided others. It was safer that way. For her and for them. She gazed at the ground and remembered the apple.

"I.. I hope it was alright," she said as she showed him the apple. "The phebe machine had told me that I needed to eat an apple," she said quickly, "and I didn't know where else to find one." She fretted silently. The little money she made at the labs allowed her to live in a sleep tube and provided her enough to purchase simple nutrient packs. The loss of her job would force her back into the hidden corridors. She didn't like it there; others were mean.

Acacia looked back up at the kind speaking man, her calm briefly shattered as she worried at her lower lip. 

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The shorter humanoid let his deep green-blue eyes fall to the apple. Then they went back to hers, a small smile on his face. His delicate gloved hands took hers, wrapping Acacia's fingers around the apple. His eyes calmly on hers.

 

"Go ahead. I'm glad someone is enjoying them honestly. Most people prefer to eat the cafeteria prepped food or nutrient packs, never realizing fruits are better for you. I am very glad to see someone taking so much interest in our work. Take as many as you would like,"

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Acacia felt the heat rise to her face as Leinus' gloved hands touched her bare hands. She could smell his skin, he was so close. Cinnamon? she asked herself. It had been a long time since anyone had touched her, or been this close to her, that she probably imagined the smell of Cinnamon. She was mostly left alone in the labs, and her self-imposed exile did little for her social life.

At his words, Acacia gripped the apple tighter and felt a bit awed by his generosity. As many as I like? It meant a lot to her. Fresh fruit was a pleasure she could rarely afford.

"Thank you sir, I... this means a lot to me." Acacia looked into the man's green-blue eyes, her own a grayish blue, and smiled at him.

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Space travel was always an ordeal. One that did not get easier with time. This was Leinus's second colonial expedition, though the first one had barely taken a couple of years. Even so, the everyday struggles of space flight felt different now. The cramped conditions, the constant struggle to keep the ECS alive, the recycled food. All that felt worth it as he gazed up into Acacia's face. He smiled, a soft little smile that warmed the heart. His long ears rose with the motion, as if to reassure her he was genuinely happy.

 

"Here, would you like to sit down and enjoy it? I was just about to offer the sapling I planted a fertility ritual to help it grow, but that can wait while we talk."

 

There were many eccentricities that came with the Sophans. Part of that may have simply been due to their old age, or their intended use as spacefarers. Among them was a deep passion and interests in ancient rituals bordering on sorcery. Prayers to Gaia, Saturn, Frigg and others were not uncommon for Sophan in his field. There was no serious intent in what some might consider worship, just a little ceremony meant to help the plants grow. More eccentric still was what the ritual was rumored to entail. Leinus was well liked and respected enough that it was a secret even in the Biology department. But the sexual undertones that crept into the conversation when talk of his rituals came into the room was hard to miss.

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"Thank you," Acacia said as she took a seat near Leinus. "But I don't want to interrupt you.."

Acacia could feel her breathing increase in tempo as his ears moved, and she consciously tried to control it. Calm, a voice in her head intoned. Old tapes, always playing in her head. She hadn't met anyone else that had lived in a lab, or had instructions always playing in the background. Acacia took a bite of the apple, enjoying the sweat tang of it's flesh, trying not to stare at his ears. She'd seen a great many strange things, but it was the little things that usually got to her. 

"Do you always do rituals for the plants?" she asked.

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Leinus paused, letting his mind wander in thought. One gloved finger rose to his lip, and his eyes gazed upward as he cast his mind back countless human decades. His ears shifting downwards slightly to reflect his pensive state. To be entirely honest, he was not sure when he started his little ritual. He knew he had read about it in an old Earth book on ancient druidic practices. But tracing it to a date in his mind was proving difficult.

"I have performed the fertility ritual for everything I have planted as far back as I recall. Even when I was in university, I would sneak into the greenhouse after hours to give them a blessing. Its not the most important part of course. Where you place a flower or sapling is the most important part. It has to be somewhere it can survive, without many predators or competing plants. Somewhere the overhead sprinklers can reach or where someone will remember to water them, and where the soil is to their liking. But I feel my ritual is important. It proves I have thought of all that, and give it a little extra natural energy to help it grow."

 

His green-blue eyes came back to the present as he turned to Acacia with a soft smile. The bench, meant to be tall enough to accommodate most of the larger humanoid races, was just slightly too large for his humanoid frame. Causing his work boots to hang a matter of centimeters above the ground. Without a care in the world, he began to idly kick at his legs. The oversized boots swaying from beneath his skirted work uniform.

"Really, the best biologists I know all have a special little ceremony or ritual they do. It doesn't need to be as grand as mine. Most are pretty small things, like stroking the leaves or singing to them before planting. Some only water them with purified water or play them music. I'm sure if you think long enough, you might think of a ritual you might do for them, even unconsciously. Its a sign of our love for life we grow with our bare hands."

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Acacia thought for a moment, but couldn't think of anything that she did. But maybe she did and didn't know it.

"I can't think of anything that I do, but I'll think about it next time I'm in the lab. I mostly work with amoebas and lichen, trying to learn new ways of cleansing and purifying water. I don't think the others in the lab think it's very exciting, but the research may help someday. Can I help with your ritual? Maybe I can learn something."

Acacia couldn't fathom all the things that she didn't know, and she didn't think dwelling on it would make much of a difference, but learning something new almost always made her life better in some small way. She wondered in what way a ritual would influence her. Curiosity blossomed within her.

Acacia took another bite of her apple.

 

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"Of course," Leinus replied. A pleasant smile on his face at the thought of sharing something so familiar to him. He certainly did not seem bashful or nervous of sharing his secretive ritual. Though, if Acacia were to look closely, she would be able to see the fabric of his skirt stirring faintly. "To be honest, you are the first I have shared it with in many years. I am very glad to share it again."

 

The young Sophan stood, and offered her his hand. A strange gesture, considering how much taller Acacia was than he. But his smile only betrayed warmth and confidence. Should she choose to take it, he would lead her across the green grass, beyond the first few rows of trees. As a rule, the first layer or two of trees surrounding a path were mainly ornamental. While important for the mission, they were seen as less valuable than the fruit and hardwood trees further back. As they walked, the path remained in sight, though one would have to peer closely inside in order to see the doctor and his underling. The young man smiled down at the newly planted and watered sapling like it were a child of his.

 

"Here we are. I rescued this poor thing from an elm that had almost swallowed it. While I have done everything I can for it, being moved is a traumatic experience for even the hardiest sapling. It needs the gift of life force to encourage it to grow to its proper size."

 

And with that cryptic final comment, Doctor Leinus Hannover began to shed his clothing. He began with his overcoat and the top beneath, leaving his smooth dull copper skin visible to the naked eye. His boots followed, as did his skirt, until at last he was left in naught but his elegant pale stockings. Leinus turned to Acacia with that same soft and friendly smile. There was no trace of shame on his face, nor indeed of any sexual desire. Just a soft acceptance of the natural world. Indeed, his manhood had already reached a half-erect state, and as his eyes rested on hers, it showed no signs of growing yet.

 

"Do not let my aesthetic choice hinder you, Acacia. I only prefer to be nude to feel the natural world around me. If you prefer to be clothed, that is no hindrance. If you are ready, I would ask you take a seat across from me, facing our little peach tree."

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Acacia nodded then began removing her clothing in silence. She'd spent much of her youth being examined by doctors and, while she was modest in general, she would reminded herself that she shouldn't let her nudity bother her.

Her boots came first which she placed side by side and aligned perfectly with each other. Next, she released the hidden seam of her skin suit that ran from her neck down the length of the garment. She pealed it away, then gently folded and placed it with her boots. She wore no undergarments - the skin suit provided the support and padding needed.

Acacia stood naked, her long black braid pulled over her shoulder so it rested across her breast. The hair was starkly contrasted with her porcelain skin. Her areola were dark on her large breasts which seemed to fit her larger frame. A dark patch of hair lay between her legs, and there was some scaring on her lower back.

Acacia sat across from Leinus, then let him know she was ready.

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