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Case of the Missing Plants
Posted on June 19th, 2021 by Rike Herschel and T'Lira

by Rike Herschel and T’Lira

Rike noticed that the Vulcan had lifted an eyebrow at something and looked up at her. Something clearly caught her interest, and she had mentioned before that her son had been amassing a collection of plants. Hmm… that would explain why some of the Draebidium froctus and Oxalis triangularis have gone missing. “Indeed you have said that….”

Perhaps it was the influence of many years spent around the more… illogical and emotional species, but T’Lira decided to carry on and see how the object of her notice would react. “I am, however, uncertain which plants have been collected. I did not have much opportunity to study botany.”

Rike turned to the Bolian ensign, who had a blank look on his face that could rival T’Lira’s, “Barrett, could you double-check the inventory for me, please? Ensign Malen noted to me recently that one of the Cypirion cactus disappeared.”

The Bolian stood from his chair, “Will do, Ma’am,” then picked up a PADD, heading towards the shelves of plants to count inventory.

Rike turned back to T’Lira and clasped her hands, “Oh, no worries. Hang around me long enough and you’ll pick up on things!” The Vulcan had yet to hear Rike talk nonstop, which is a miracle in itself. Thankfully there weren’t any Betazoids around because her mind was running at a mile a minute.

“Of that, I have little doubt,” T’Lira dipped her head ever so slightly before looking around. “Are missing specimens common? I do not recall this being an issue previously.”

“They aren’t. Buuut… we went looking for them in other labs and storage bays and couldn’t find them. Though if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, then that would explain a lot.” Rike looked towards Barrett, “Any missing inventory, ensign?”

Barrett looked towards Rike as he sent an in-progress list to her PADD, “Yes Ma’am. They all are the smaller plants that were on the lower shelves. I just sent a list of them to your PADD.”

Rike pulled out her PADD, “Thank you, Barrett! Lets see… the missing plants are all smaller specimens, as he pointed out… huh. Since when did we have Vulcan orchards?”

Barrett continued to count the shelves of plants as he responded. “We had some before you arrived on the ship, Ma’am. No idea where they went.”

Now this was getting into familiar territory. A handful of Vulcan orchards had appeared in her quarters recently. T’Lira had hoped that they were simply replicated, but it appeared that was indeed not the case.

“I may be able to assist with this matter, should you require it. It is possible I have an idea as to where the missing specimens are.”

Rike wasn’t an idiot and had been putting together the pieces in the case of the missing plants… plants showing up in T’Lira’s quarters, a son with a fondness for plants, and plants disappearing from the botany lab off the lower shelves… “Would they perhaps be in your quarters?”

T’Lira now turned her full attention to what she had noticed earlier, a very sheepish Romulan boy poking his head above a lab station nearby.

“Yes, I believe they are. And I am most certain that they will be returned shortly.”

Rike followed T’Lira’s turn and looked across to the boy. “Come on out. I won’t bite, unlike a Venus flytrap!” Typical botanist humor. She gave him a big grin to hopefully ease him; Rike wasn’t going to pretend that she has a single angry bone in her body.

To say Taril looked mildly worried was an understatement, probably, but he hadn’t meant to cause any problems. He’d put the others back; he just wanted to see them and to study them a bit, that was all. He poked his head above the lab station he’d taken refuge behind and waved ever so slightly.

“Um. Hi.”

“Hi there! Taril, right? My name’s Rike. Come on over here. I promise I’m not mad.” Though the same couldn’t be said for some of the other scientists studying the particular specimens he took. “I understand you like plants. That’s awesome, so do I!”

If he was being honest with himself, Taril never thought he’d be caught. Usually, the people in here didn’t pay too much attention to something small sneaking through, but he had grown a bit lately? Or was it because his mom had noticed? Honestly, his odds were even either way. Still, this was not how he envisioned this happening, if at all.

“Uh, yeah I do. I guess. I… I always put them back! Promise. Just… hadn’t put these back yet. That’s all.”

“You know you could just ask, right? Now I don’t know how they did it around here before I was assigned to Atlantis, but children sneaking around science labs, even this one, isn’t ideal, ok? You could potentially get hurt, and I don’t want to be responsible if something happened to you, alright?” Rike tilted her head. “If you want to study the plants, I actually have a fairly large personal collection in my quarters. Now while I wouldn’t let you take plants out of here, I’d be more than happy to let you take a look at the ones on my Wall of Plants.”

“You did not need to resort to such measures,” T’Lira noted evenly. She was uncertain as to what to do in this situation, but it would be handled. It did decidedly explain her sudden collection of plants, so that solved that particular mystery. Taril did look sheepish and T’Lira had an idea.

“Lieutenant, perhaps you or one of your officers could show Taril where each item goes? I am certain he would find the experience very rewarding, and it has a high probability of discouraging future behavior of this nature.”

Upon hearing that, Barrett looked to Taril, then T’Lira, then to Rike. With wide eyes he shook his head, not wanting to deal with the kid. Rike blinked and tilted her head at the Bolian, mouthing what? He mouthed back, not me! Rike looked at T’Lira, squinting as she tried to come up with an idea of what to do. After a few moments, she looked towards Taril, “I have an idea that is both fun and educational! Perhaps he could draw each part of the plants he took. Botanical illustrations!”

“They can be traced back to a Greek botanist named Pedanius Dioscorides. He created a book called De Materia Medica, which was to help people identify plants for medicinal purposes. The oldest surviving manuscript with botanical art is the Codex Vindebonensis from the 5th century! By the 18th century, being a botanical illustrator was actually quite a respectable occupation! The 18th century through the 19th was known as the golden age of botanical art. Most used a detailed and accurate form called the Linnaean style, which was developed by a German artist named Georg Dionysius Ehret.”

Rike took a deep breath and continued, “Ehret worked with Carl Linnaeus at the time the latter was developing his system of binomial nomenclature. Ehret moved to England in 1736 and botanists and collectors hired him to record their rare plants. Eventually, artists would travel with naturalists around the world to record plant specimens such as Sydney Parkinson who created over 900 of them. There were numerous expeditions to Latin America and Australia that resulted in a lot of works created, but most were actually never published. However, the illustrations were eventually distributed by the late 20th century. As photography became more widespread, hand-drawn illustrations became more uncommon. It’s unfortunate because they are all just so beautiful!”

Taril was clearly very engaged, which suited T’Lira just fine. Perhaps this would be a far better use of his time than petty theft. That was a conversation she would likely need to enlist aid in having. Exactly whose aid, she was uncertain, but the conversation would need to be had. As it was, this may have been one of her better ideas.

“I believe that would be a wise idea, Lieutenant. You have my gratitude.”

Somehow, Rike made it to the end of a ramble without interruption. She looked at T’Lira with an excited grin on her face, “Oh it’s no problem at all honey!” Rike turned back to Taril. “I actually have a blank notebook in my quarters that has handmade parchment! I haven’t used it yet but I’m more than happy to let you have it!”

His eyes went wide. “Real parchment? Wow. That’s so cool!”

Meanwhile, T’Lira was attempting to get the context behind… what was that? Wasn’t honey a byproduct of… humans were very strange indeed. Even after multiple decades, just as she thought she had seen them achieve the strangest things, they started using food items in conversation.

“Yes! I got it just before I left Tulgana IV about 7 years ago. The person who gave it to me had a shop next to mine and we became friends over the years. He makes all these beautiful notebooks and writing utensils. As efficient as typing stuff down on a PADD or voicing it out to the computer is, there’s nothing quite like writing it down on paper. That is why I keep a sheet in my pocket at all times for notes throughout the day.” Rike pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it, showing all the various notes on both sides of the paper with immaculate writing.

“That’s awesome!” Taril was definitely excited now, eyes wide as he looked over the notes. “I usually just make notes on like PADDs and stuff. But you can’t fold a PADD up and put it in your pocket, so it gets kinda annoying.”

“Yeah! And there’s the added benefit that writing by hand helps to improve our ability to remember things! When I was in school at your age and when I was at the Academy, I always took my notes by hand. I actually still have some binders of notes in my quarters just in case I need to reference something. It’s very useful!” Rike turned to T’Lira, “Are you alright? You’re very quiet.”

“I am perfectly well, thank you. It would appear that I have now determined a method for occupying Taril’s time, to avoid future incidents.”

The boy in question dipped his head slightly, “I’m sorry, Mom. But also, parchment is so cool! One of Aunt Elena’s books was talking about some really cool folding tricks to do with paper too!”

If it is even possible for Rike to smile more, she did. “Ooh! You mean origami. It is actually Japanese meaning to fold paper and the art of origami is as old as paper itself! It takes a bit of dexterity and patience in order to successfully make origami. There are so many techniques and even special paper specifically for origami. I’m unfortunately not that good at it, but there are a lot of instruction books on how to do it!”

“I can make a frog, sorta. It’s not really good. I keep practicing, but the replicated paper can be a bit… weird sometimes. And it’s not the right shape. I didn’t even know there was special paper!” Taril was shifting from foot to foot now, a habit that T’Lira had noticed when he got excited about something. Perhaps this would be of benefit to him in more ways than one.

“Yes, there are different paper for origami use! There’s some requirements for origami paper, like it needs to hold creases well and ideally be thinner than normal paper. There are four primary types of paper that are used and the most common is Kami. It’s usually about seven and a half by seven and a half centimeters with a color or simple pattern printed on one side. It’s usually mass-produced, like by replicator, but it works perfectly well.”

“There’s also foil-backed paper which, as the name suggests, is paper lined with foil. Then there is a paper called Washi, which is a handmade paper. However, because of the long and thick fibers, it doesn’t fold as well. Then the last is Chiyogami which has complex repetitive patterns on it. I personally think the latter is the prettiest!”

Taril was absolutely engrossed by the knowledge, his eyes wide. “I didn’t even realize there were that many types of paper just for like folding. That’s wicked. And the replicators make it… well now I have to try it!”

T’Lira got the distinct sense that her quarters were about to gain a new collection. One that would be far easier to grow than “borrowed” plants.

Rike checked the time on her PADD. “Let’s see… we get off shift in about two hours. Why don’t you meet me outside my quarters at 1615 hours? I can get you the notebook then and also replicate origami paper and an instruction manual. If you bring back the rest of the plants you have taken from the lab before the shift is over, I can also show you my personal collection of plants!”

Taril looked up at T’Lira and, after she nodded, dashed out at top speed.

“I believe that was sufficient motivation,” she said rather drily.

Ensign Barrett stands up and walks over to Rike. “Nothing else seems to be missing outside of what I already reported to you.” He tapped his PADD to send a finalized list of inventory to Rike.

“Good, good. Make sure to add the plants Taril brings back to inventory. Thank you, ensign.” Rike looked from the Bolian to T’Lira, “Anyway, what a lovely kid you’ve got there. I’m excited to get this going with him!”

“I am certain he is as well. I must admit, most officers would have been more… emotive about the missing specimens,” T’Lira tilted her head ever so slightly, a sign of curiosity.

“Ahh, well… I’ve stolen a plant or two back in the day. I can’t be too mad or that would be hypocritical of me.” Rike gave a casual hand wave. “If there’s one thing I’d rather not be, it’s a hypocrite.”

“That is understandable. As I have said, your assistance is duly noted and… appreciated.”

“Of course, of course! Oh, and thank you for helping me with the box over there.” Rike peeked around T’Lira to look at the plant shipment. “If I’m gonna meet Taril on time, I need to finish up on my stuff here now. But it was so nice to meet you both!”

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  • Kathryn Harper Kathryn Harper says:

    This was adorable! Rike’s as charming as ever and it was fun to see a Vulcan trying to make sense of her, while Taril’s just completely on board the Rikepedia train. An excellent collaborative effort from both of you, and I hope to see more!

  • Scott Ammora says:

    I love that writing for this ship isn’t all doom and gloom, or heavy in intention. This was fun, and I enjoyed it tremendously. Great work!

  • Emilaina Acacia says:

    The bit where T’Lira puzzled the meaning of “honey” was gold. This was a great log, showing off an interesting interaction between two people who might not otherwise have had much to say to each other. I look forward to poor Taril’s dressing down, lol. Nice job!

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