Meaty Plants

As Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, Shama’s remit was residential, commercial and industrial building. He was not responsible for agricultural building. Bona fide farmers could build whatever they wanted to provided it served a purpose.

He did however have a watching brief. So when he wasn’t busy he would drive around, looking, to keep his new empire in check. This was his second week in the job, and he wanted to stay on top of things.

At first he thought it was a trick of the light. Bright fragments shone around the valley at dawn, illuminating bluffs and gleaming across forests. The sun was catching something large – what was it?  The source seemed to be away from the road – where was it?

More driving around indicated that it was likely the Old Percy Farm. He’d heard that the old fella had passed it on to his son, who had returned from Africa to live here. He’d also heard that the son was sci-fi author Balthazar O. Percy, one of whose books Shama had read in his teens. He recalled it being very strange, barely comprehensible stuff.

There was a gate and buzzer, newly installed. He was about to press the button when the gate opened itself. Was it an automatic gate? Then he saw the discreet camera built into the gate post. Somebody had let him in.

Shama followed the driveway, winding around a slough, and through a patch of forest. Why people built their homes so far from the road, he had no idea. What a waste of time and energy every time you went to town. Anyway, that was their choice, to hide.

A shaven-headed man stood on the road ahead of him, clapping. He increased his speed of clapping as Shama approached, and then moved and stood to the side.

Shama pulled up beside him. “Hello, I’m Shama, the new BCO. I’m familiarizing myself with the area. I hope you don’t mid me paying you a visit.”

The man was wearing grey overalls, and seemed like a prisoner or factory worker. “Not at all. Welcome to the ranch. I am the owner, Balthazar O. Percy. Would you like to look around?”

Shama spotted a vast greenhouse on the edge of a far field. At first glance he’d say the greenhouse covered an acre. It could be even more than that.

“Ah! I see the greenhouse has caught your eye. Let’s start with that. This is my personal project. I’ve wanted to do it for years. Now that Dad has passed the farm over to me, I am…”

Shama saw something moving inside. It didn’t seem like a person.

“… trying some new ideas. This valley has plenty of nutrients which could provide the ideal human diet, if only humans could absorb them. Animal production is very wasteful, they eat more then they produce. Plants are somewhat fickle, one flood or frost and they’re gone. I’m developing a new green food source, meaty plants.”

Shama could swear that one of the plants was looking at him.

“If the valley floods, they’ll swim. If it’s frosty, they’ll huddle. If there’s a fire, they’ll escape. They are independent and will ultimately create their own ecosystems. When nuclear war comes – we all know it is inevitable – they may even outlive us, and begin a new evolution stream, but right now they are fragile and need protection. That’s what the green house is for.”

Shama thought, I wonder how soon before we’ll need protection from them?

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