Donald looked up and saw Albert on the viewing platform. Albert was fast becoming a good friend to Don and it was flattering that one of the most important humans on the habitat deferred to Don’s knowledge of honey and how to influence the taste by carefully selecting the flowers the bees had access to.
Don checked the hive in front of him. It was a particularly large colony and he had earmarked it as one for potentially providing new queens to populate the apiary on the Mars habitat. The bees would be needed to pollinate the planned fruit farms. One night, Albert had let slip the ideas he had for using Mars to grow food plants to supplement the diets in the habitats. Slightly inebriated at the time, Albert had seemed concerned that the human population were not as healthy as they should be but had not elaborated.
As well as looking after the bees, Don was also responsible for a team that oversaw all the insect populations in the various habitats. Aphids, ants and ladybirds colonies were being studied to see if there was anything beneficial in their interactions. Other insects were being studied as potential food sources to supplement the algae and fungi that currently formed the basis of all food production. Don recalled that had also been an initiative that Albert had suggested to the entomology co-op.
Don had also heard a rumour that Albert had raised a query to the Council about using the now disused embryology equipment for animal species for the Mars colony but that had been rejected. Don had only seen pictures and films of animals on old earth. The few species that had made it to the habitats were pets; cats, dogs and budgerigars. There were various wild species of birds which had been brought by the habitat designers in the early days, but no large animals.
Packing up his smoker, Don returned to the equipment shed where he removed his protective suit. His next job was in the greenhouse habitat. He needed to check the hives there and would take the opportunity to talk to Jasmine about the fruit tree project and what insects would be needed to ensure proper pollination. Jasmine had the most beautiful dark blue eyes.
At the shuttle port, Don bumped into Jess. Smiling they hugged one another and stepped back. Jess and Don were close. Their parents were good friends and so not only did they go to school together but were often left to play together whilst their parents socialised.
“Have you heard from Stuart?” She asked. Don shook his head. Don was unusual in the habitats. He had a brother. Don and Stuart were congenital twins and so did not break the one child per couple rule. The two brothers were very close growing up but whilst Don was content to take life as it came, Stuart was always looking for adventure. His many brushes with authority were mostly benign pranks but hacking the Council data core was a step to far. He had been sentenced to three years labour with the Mining Co-Op. Apparently, they needed help reprogramming the auto miners and the Council felt it would be a more practical use of Stuart’s skills.
“Not for a few weeks.” Don replied. “He’s really enjoying the challenge out there, even if he misses the comforts of home. He was talking about staying on voluntarily when his sentence ends, but I convinced him to come home first. Anyway, where have you been lately?”
Jess winked and with a smile said “Meet me at Luck’s tomorrow night and I’ll tell you all about it. Gotta get to work now so see you then?”
Don nodded at Jess’ back as she skipped away. As usual, she had assumed he would acquiesce and hadn’t waited for Don to reply.
Don ran to the boarding gate for his shuttle, taking his seat just as the shuttle’s engines fired up. Don had a fear of space and so shuttle journeys were an ordeal last for him. Gripping the arms of his seat and with his eyes firmly shut he endured the forty-five minute journey. Disembarking at the greenhouse lock, here was met by the lovely Jasmine.
“Hi”, she smiled at him. Blushing Don mumbled “hi” back, inwardly cursing hiss shyness. Taking his hand Jasmine drew him down thee corridor to her office. On her desk was a 3 dimensional hologram of. peach tree.
“Do you think Albert will like Peach tree honey?” Jasmine enquired.
“I don’t know. According to the archives, Peach trees were primarily pollinated by hand because they tended to flower early in the season before many insects were awake. I’m sure the bees will do the job since we won’t have to worry about the cold, but it will be an interesting experiment. Have you been able to get the seed to germinate?”
Jasmine nodded, grabbing his hand she drew him to the window to her seedling nursery. Pointing to a small green shoot, she turned to Don, “Isn’t it amazing?”. Don could not help but smile at the enthusiasm in her voice about the small green shoot. It would be a few years before the tree would be large enough to flower and bear fruit. By that time, it would be safely transplanted to the orchard on Mars.
“Are you busy tonight?” Jasmine asked. “We’re having a party and I would love to dance with you”.
Inwardly Don was torn. He had already promised to meet Jess and he also had to get back due to an early morning meeting. Still holding Jasmine’s hand, he shook his head sadly. “I have to get back for a meeting tomorrow but maybe next time”. He didn’t know why he had felt the need to conceal his evening plans, but he wasn’t ready to explain his complex relationship with Jess yet.
“Ok. Never mind. Let’s get back to work.” Jasmine let go of his hand and walked back to her desk.