There's this giant important botany
convention conference announced.
The whole botany department is clamoring to go, and McKay is all "Oh God, just make them leave me alone, it's barely a 'science'."
Weir reads their proposals and tries to weigh them out into some sort of order, but in the end she can't think of a reason not to just let them all go. It isn't like there's suddenly going to be a horrible life threatening plant situation, and the botanists throw awesome parties, so she feels like the expedition kind of owes them one.
(I feel the need to point out that there are loads of fics out there that include horrible life threatening plant situations. And also plenty where botany throws awesome parties. That I choose to handwave the former while accepting the latter is kind of lame, I know.
Also, I am on the edge of providing a reading list, here, but I'll refrain.)
So all eleven hitch a ride on the Daedalus. Parrish, Brown, and nine others, all of whom would have had names if I had truly written this.
They're over the moon about it, and spend the trip busily removing the Pegasus-specific details from their papers so that they can present.
Brown is way less simpering than she was in Duet, and turns out to be sort of cool and funny when she isn't baffled by marines in the bodies of hot physicists. Who knew?
(Well. She tends to be pretty cool, here and there, in the odd story. And any method of making her less simpering is okay by me.)
Anyway, they get back, but the SGC wants them to go through a thirty-hour decontamination protocol, so they get beamed into the mountain, straight into a hermetically sealed wing (underground buildings can have wings, right?), where there are six or seven SGC botanists who also got permission to go to the
convention conference, and are also freshly back from off-world.
The morning of the
convention conference they are all bright-eyed and excited (Parrish most of all; he is always bright-eyed and excited when plants are involved!) when the door seal thunk-thunk-thunk-whooshes open.
But there's nobody else in the base. It's weird.
There's plenty of crazy red powder on the floors, though.
It turns out that the comet went past the previous night. You know the drill, right? And everyone in the SGC got powdered because they had the vent fans turned up on high - 'cause, you know, they just repainted a bunch of the corridors (people were bitching that after ten years it was all looking a little dingy) and the paint fumes were giving everyone headaches.
Everyone in the world is dead.
Except the botanists!
Who are, understandably, kind of upset.
More so when it sinks in that the death toll includes worms.
- How is the soil going to get aerated now?
- Pollination is a thing of the sepia-hued past!
Oh, the humanity.
Anyway. Botanists are resilient people. They explore a bit outside and run into a couple dying zombie-things, and that's all very traumatic, but it's also all so much spilt milk.
They get over it.
They're still broken up about all the botanical biodiversity that'll be headed to the big compost pit in the sky at the end of the next growing season, though.
None of them are happy that they will see the end of fruit within their lifetimes.
(Brown is particularly fond of nectarines. Parrish loves fresh figs, but is too self-conscious to eat them in public.)
But then they realize that the answer is an aggressive program of hybridization, hand-in-hand with careful and limited genetic manipulation, to turn plants that reproduce sexually into plants that have a fallback asexual fruiting method! They self-pollinate. Self-pollination is a perfectly healthy activity, and don't let anyone tell you different. Solution = awesome!
Also, they're pretty much all vegans anyway, so as long as they can keep the plants fruiting and maintain biodiversity, they're golden.
Then they have a huge
convention conference celebration!
The next morning, hungover as hell, they sketch out plans for their new crunchy-granola non-polluting consensus-rule Marxist agrarian collective society. Everybody thinks it sounds good, because, frankly, if you're going to start up a utopian civilization, botanists are your very best bet.
They all live happily ever after.
Oh yeah. They probably could have contacted Atlantis, but they aren't sure how to work the iris, exactly, and things have turned out so well for them on Earth that they don't actually try very hard. Plus none of them want to be the guy who tells McKay the Nobel committee no longer exists.
Oh yeah also: the Daedalus did a flyby of the comet, or was analyzing the tail from orbit, or something, and don't press me on the science here, since it's "science" (you may have noticed that this story also includes "botany"), but they're all dust as well. This achieves my whole aim, really, which is to cut Atlantis off so they're on their own again. I love that.
Really the end.
Warning: "dark". Het? Pre-het?
Parrish pushes back the brim of his hat with the back of one dirt-caked hand and squints into the sun, surveying the crazy-quilt pattern of newly planted beds with satisfaction. The second growing season in exile, and they've been blessed with a higher hybridization success rate than anyone had dared hope.
Movement drawing his attention, he watches the slight figure at the end of the row rise to her feet and stretch. Katie has developed freckles with more time spent outdoors, and her laugh lines are highlighted by the fresh flush of sun across her features. Had any of them smiled so much before?
He ducks his head at her. "It's good, isn't it?"
"What?" she laughs, "the world?"
He smiles back at her, feeling exhausted and peaceful.
"Yeah. The world."
Katie looks at him for a moment, her eyes full of indulgent amusement, then nods, her eyes growing more serious.
"Yes. It's good." She looks at him for a considering moment before dusting her hands off against her coveralls and turning toward the low buildings near the distant line of trees. "Come on, let's get supper."
They pick their way between the beds, stopping now and again to marvel at the fresh green curl of a new leaf.
They pass Gunderson and Pereira delicately sprinkling red powder around the bases of some of the immature flowering plants. It's a rich source of nitrogen and phosphorus - a bounty as fertilizer - and the colony as a whole does their best to treat the powder with respect, remembering the dead of the world. This is a new age, the dawn of vegetal dominion, but the animal kingdom lives on, keeping the hydrangeas pink.
Finally leaving the narrow walkways of the cultivated fields behind, Parrish moves up to walk by Katie's side.
She tilts her head to look up at him from under her own hat brim, then pushes it off to hang against her back. "Yes?"
"Are you happy?" It comes out in a rush. And that isn't what he meant to ask. "I mean, do you miss anything, the way it was before, the old world? Are you ever sad about that?"
They walk on for almost a minute, Katie frowning at the waving grass in front of them, before she stops and looks up again.
"No. I mean yes. Of course I'm sad about some things, everyone gone, all the rabbits and giraffes and dragonflies. And, you know. My mom." She squints up at the clear blue sky, the perfect white clouds. "But no. Mostly I'm not sad. Except -"
"Well. I really - okay now, don't laugh, because I'm being honest with you. Promise?" She crooks a grubby pinkie in the space between them.
He hooks his own around it. "Promise."
"Okay." She straightens her spine, prettily resolute. "I really miss Chex Mix."
"Oh." He's stunned for a moment. Then it comes out in a rush. "I really miss electroclash."
Katie draws a quick, surprised breath. "But wasn't that mostly over?"
Parrish searches for the words that will make her understand. "I really thought there was going to be another Ping Pong Bitches EP."
Katie is looking up at him, and he can't look away. He sees the slow bloom of understanding in her eyes. She's like - she's like convallaria maialis. Like nymphæa nelumbo. Beautiful.
A smile curves her lips, and she tilts her chin down so she can look up at him again, coquettishly through her lashes. Convallaria maialis. Exactly.
"So. You know Kellum did the solar conversion on my iPod?" She tilts her head, questioning, and he nods back, mute.
"I've got the whole Ladytron back catalog. Want to go listen?"
Oh. Oh. "I think I can argue for a gleaning trip to the city." She raises an eyebrow, nonplussed. "Um, I bet we can find some for you. Chex Mix, I mean."
She grins. "And?"
"Oh - and yes. I'd like to. I'd like to very much. To listen. With you."
She turns at that, back toward the buildings. Not so much farther to go.
"Well, then." She slips her small hand, hard with callus, into his, "Parrish - maybe it's time you told me - what is your first na-"
The Daedalus, geosynchronous orbit thrown into disarray in the passage of the comet, slams into the planet, engines firing randomly, impact throwing clouds of earth into the atmosphere and creating an extinction level geological disaster.
One or two single-celled organisms survive into the long, dark ice age that follows.
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