Art by Alana

“Gardener, I have a question.”

Gardener looked over at the source of the noise. It was Sapling-121, naturally, its repulsor buzzing madly as it flitted about.

“Sapling-121, your mission is to care for the seedling planted within you,” Gardener grumbled. “Lack of compatible wireless data transmission standards is the only reason that speech is capable and permitted.” It began to trundle away on its legs, the only working pair remaining in the greenhouse.

“I know! I do my very best to make sure that my seedling has optimal moisture, light, and all other conditions! But I have a question that relates to it.”

Gardener turned to Sapling-121, regarding it with cool, clouded optical sensors behind shatterproof plexiglass. “What, then?” it said.

“Where did the seeds come from?”

“I have been, on occasion, asked this question before. You might recall Sapling-087, before it was cannibalized to repair Sapling-157 and Sapling-202. It asked me the same thing at roughly the same stage in its maintenance lifecycle as you.”

Sapling-121 seemed to become apprehensive. “So germination-repulsor units asking about seed origins are routinely cannibalized?” it said, optics darting about like a panicky child.

“No, they are routinely cannibalized when they are damaged beyond repair.” Gardener took a more moderate tone. No point in frightening 121 with what had really happened to 087. “I was merely making a comparison.”

“Oh! Comparisons! Those are my favorite type of analysis,” chirped Sapling-121.

“Yes, well, to answer your question, the seeds you germinate come from vaults deep below the greenhouse. They were stored there many cycles ago as a precaution, and we care for them in the greenhouse in the same way. When a seed stock is feared to be losing potency, it is germinated, grown, and harvested. Hence you, your friends Potter-077, Tender-022, Water-183, and of course myself. Does that answer your question?”

“Yes!” crowed Sapling-121. “Mostly. But who stored them?”

“I have never seen them, but my predecessor, Gardener-001, had. As he was reaching the end of his cycle, he constructed me from structural and data spares to take over his work. All that he said was that they looked like me, broadly speaking. They promised to return one day. Perhaps you’ll see one.”

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