The Study Of Trees



Scene Title The Study of Trees
Synopsis Liza hits the books, but ends up finding more than she expected.
Date February 12, 2020

Brooklyn College: Library

The Brooklyn College Library actually has a pretty impressive reference section for books involving botany, horticulture and dendrology. There’s even one student sitting in the reference section with a couple of big books open on her table, pouring over the pages as she types into a small laptop.

The old librarian whom Liza had asked directions of leads her towards the section, pointing to the shelves. She’s ancient, with wire-rimmed glasses hanging off the end of her nose to where she can see over them, beady black eyes looking out. She’s small and moves slowly, and has a very quiet voice as she states, “This is our biology section. We would prefer if you not remove any material from the building. You can use the scanners or copy machines.”

As she speaks, the young woman with dark blonde hair looks up and blinks in surprise, then offers a friendly smile before she returns to her work, flipping the page to a big picture of some kind of shrub.

“Come get me if you need any assistance,” the old woman offers, not yet leaving.

Liza offers a bright smile towards the older woman, taking a slow gaze throughout the sections of books. "Right, of course, got to keep those books in good condition. Really, who would walk out with a giant book like that?" She gestures idly at one of the large tomes.

"Anyway, do you have an idea of where I should start if I'm looking for say, the meanings that certain cultures place on different species of trees? Something along those lines?"

The Librarian makes a soft annoyed sound under her breath. “This isn’t my area of— “

She doesn’t get to finish when the young woman blonde woman sitting at the tables suddenly jumps up in excitement. “It’s my area! I can help with that.” She beams a little, even as the librarian huffs and makes a shushing sound, but that doesn’t really seem to calm the girl down as she moves closer. She does lower her voice some, though, to an acceptable level so the Librarian stops huffing at her. “I’m a Biology major, focusing on botany. I know most the books on plants, front, and back. Though the cultural stuff is a little… anthropological, I guess?” she looks thoughtful for a moment.

The older woman just nods and says, “I think this young woman can help you out on that. Let me know if you need anything else.”

After that soft huffing, one might imagine she just says that and prefers when people don’t actually ask for anything.

Liza looks between the younger woman and the older woman, then smiles at both. When the older one retreats, she smiles over at the blonde. "Well, it's good to meet you, I'm Liza…" She trails off, then avoids fully explaining her role, much less her purpose. Instead, she moves over to find herself a seat. "Anthropological? Well… I mean, I'm not totally sure what I'm looking for. Something about trees having some kind of meaning, associated with a personality or a color or something about the rest of the world. If you were to have a tree to represent a person, how would you pick it? You know, like astrology. People have star signs based on their birthdays that then somehow correspond to personality traits."

There's a long pause. "Do they have anything weird like that for trees? Like… trees for the months of the year or birthstones or…" She offers a smile as she laughs. "Sorry."

The young woman looks thoughtful for a moment, before she nods with a small skeptical look across her face, “Well, I think there’s like a Celtic tree astrology thing. And I’m sure some civilizations had tree myths.” She clicks her tongue in thought. “You might be better off going to one of the old new age bookstores for that kind of thing. We used to have some in town, but I don’t know if there are any still around now… Used to be a cool bookstore on Roosevelt that you could get your tarot read. My mom used to go there all the time.” She laughs, as if that’s a memory she hadn’t thought about in a while.

She taps her lips with a finger as she considers. “I think there’s one near the campus that’s still open. Sells candles and incents and charms and stuff. It was called something like the Modern Myth. I know someone who shops there a lot.” She looks like she’s about to crack a joke, but then stops herself. She manages to keep her voice down. “Most of what we got here is like. Actual tree facts and stuff. Like their history, uses, if they’re edible, that kind of thing.”

"Mm, I don't know that going too New Agey is necessarily the way to go, but I'll keep that in mind, maybe check that out later," Liza says, offering the young woman a small smile. For a moment, she pauses before pulling out a small notepad from her purse. She flips through the very-filled pages until she finds something.

She scans down the list. "So how about this… I've got some trees and I know they do have something in common. They're all native to this area. But I'm wondering if there's anything that's connected between them or more complicated between them. Or if there's something that maybe they have very different about each other?"

“Oh, well. There are different types of trees, like evergreen conifers and deciduous. So they could all fall into one of those categories. There’s also soil preference. If they’re all native, they would probably prefer moist, cool, acidic soil and able to tolerate some salt in the water.” The young woman looks thoughtful, tapping her lips in thought. “It could also be something as simple as hard versus softwood…” She moves over to the shelves, looking through the titles before she pulls out a thick book.

“Here, trees of New York. It should give you the expected size, growth rate, historical information— even things like how the wood has been used. You can use it to see if there are any overlaps or details that catch your eye. I’m studying to be a Horticulturist. Hoping to get an internship soon at one of the greenhouses for next year. I know most about fruit producers, but all plants are interesting.”

Then, as if she remembered something, she turned and went back to the shelves, looking for something specific. It doesn’t take her long to find it, and when she steps back to the table she puts down a thick book with a glossy cover. “This one was written by one of my professors. He’s a genius.”

The man’s picture is on the back cover.

And Liza recognizes him.

An old man, thinning hair, gaunt pallid face, piercing eyes. She recognizes him from the last years of the Company when she had been a young, bright-eyed agent. The name under the picture was different than she remembered, but she would not forget that face. He’d had a memorable face. Rossling had seemed to be friends with him. They had been talking about some project from before.


His name, 10 years ago, had been Menard. This man was published under Edwin Marten.

For a moment, Liza is too shocked to say anything. It hit a little too uncomfortably close to home. She stares at the picture for a long moment before she seems to remember that the young woman is standing there with her. She clears her throat a bit so she can find her words, tapping a finger on Edwin Martin's picture.

"You're saying he's a professor?" Easy access to college students. Fits the bill a bit. Certainly a person of interest in her eyes now. "What makes him such a genius?" She turns the book over to examine the cover of the book. "Perhaps I should pick his brain a bit. Does he perhaps have an office on campus, then?"

Suddenly, she smiles sheepishly. "Sorry. I know I'm a whole mess of questions."

“See, he has this theory about how plants and trees could fix so many things, like the pollution on Manhattan? He thinks if you found the right species it could absorb it and heal the ground and everything. He says it would be like a whole garden of Eden type thing. He’s been trying to get funding to do it, but with everything going on, he’s expecting it to be finished by the next generation.” Which might mean his students, by the way this one looks excited. Her and the others might someday carry on this research and make it a reality.

“He even said stuff about how he worked on a project just like it back in the days of like… Chernobyl. He’s so old, but still pretty cool. Came out of retirement since there was a lack of people willing to teach in the Safe Zone when the college reopened.”

It doesn’t seem like the woman finds the sheepishness odd, perhaps because she’s too excited talking about her interests. “I think the Professor has office hours today. Do you know where the Science building is? He’s on the third floor. Room 304. If not, his number is posted somewhere on the schools website.”

"Sounds like he's got a big dream." Liza seems to be speaking half to herself. "He's got to find just the right species?" It's all a bit much. The bit about the next generation carrying on his work certainly gets her. This was a big lead.

She smiles, genuinely, even if part of her can't ignore the fact that her new friend could be already mired deep in this investigation. "Office hours would be perfect. I think I remember where the science building is. 304, got it. I'll be sure to check in with him." She pauses. "I don't think I caught your name, miss…?"

“Cross pollination experiments and the like. Plants are really good at hybriding and they can take on the positive traits of both breeds. Or the negative traits, but your goal is the positive ones. Most fruit trees are hybrids, bred to produce a certain kind of fruit. Some trees already do the… rejuvenation of the soil, but you need to make them stronger and stronger. It could take many years before you manage to find the right hybrid,” the poor woman really is invested in this project, but with the way the world was lately, maybe she saw hope in the tale of trees fixing the pollution caused by humans, SLC-E or non.

After a second she realizes she never even gave her name and touches her forehead in embarrassment. “So sorry, I’m Ali. I get excited about my major.” She says it as if she can’t help it and was suddenly embarrassed. For a moment she looks as if she’s trying to remember if she got her name or not, before she continues, “Did you need any more help, …?”


"Cross pollination experiments?" Liza's eyes widen just slightly. "Oh, um," she smiles, though it's the tiniest touch uncomfortable at wherever her head's going with this. "You said he came out of retirement to teach again? When did he start back teaching, if you don't mind me asking. He does sound like he's got something very interesting going on. I'll certainly have to talk to him."

Not alone, though. That felt like a bad idea. "I'm Liza, if I didn't say earlier or if you didn't catch it. I really appreciate it, though, you're a wealth of knowledge. It's nice to see someone passionate about what they're doing and trying to improve the world with it."

To a student of horticulture, this was probably an interesting topic. Then again, most trees aren’t actually seemingly innocent young women, which makes things DIFFERENT.

“I’m horrible with names sometimes,” Ali admits sheepishly. “Everyone should just wear badges.” But that wasn’t how the world worked, so she looks as if she is trying to put the name to memory before she answers the questions. “Well I don’t know when exactly, but he was teaching here at least the last two years. But the college hasn’t even been open that long. He might have joined as soon as it did.” That was a question she would likely need to look into personally, but that’s still within the time frame of the first known tree-ings.

“I’m glad I could help some. There’s still lots of information in all these books too, but an expert could probably just answer all your questions without much need for book reading.”

"I'll certainly check in with the expert then," Liza offers, her cheerful mood returning—even if slightly more muted. "But you've helped quite a bit. If I run into anyone from Raytech in the near future, I'll let them know about a passionate young student of horticulture. Keep up the good work. You might not be the expert, but you've done quite a bit to help answer some of my questions without reading."

She pats the top of the book for a moment before she turns to go. "Oh, hey, one more thing… be careful? The world's a dangerous place lately. I know it's a whole different situation than when I was in college, but it's still tricky. Just take care of yourself." She moves towards the door, glancing down at her phone in the process.

She had calls to make if she was going to make office hours.

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