Acrocarpous

“The fruit of the future. Was that not your promised result?”

Dr. Fildes nodded to the board. It was a long table, and there were a lot of them to be seated. Horatio thumbed through the summary report of Fildes’ team. He remembered the interns scrambling to find adjectives that made stasis sound exciting. That was the single positive to be gleaned from the last year of experiments. They hadn’t killed the plant.

Horatio let the binder close with a dispassionate thump. “May I remind you, Dr. Fildes, that you were brought onto this project as a replacement. And not our first choice. I’m sure you tried your best to replicate Dr. Ino’s techniques, but that seems to be where you failed. We wanted new ideas, not more of the same.”

Dr. Fildes nodded. “Normally I would agree with you, Mr. Marcos. But Ino was onto something. By following his lead I was hoping that we would have an acrocarpous result in a year’s time. I promised you the fruit of the future because I wanted this job. In part, perhaps to redeem him. Ino was a hero to myself and many of my team.”

Elana, the company’s vice-president, scoffed. “Didn’t Ino advocate treating the plant like a human being? We pulled him off the project when he wouldn’t stop talking to it.”

“No,” said Fildes patiently, “no, that is incorrect. He believed it should be treated like a plant. But he left notes. To the effect that there was evidence of new growth when the plant was embraced like a…like a friend.”

Horatio shrugged. “I don’t care what works so long as it gets results. And you, Dr. Fildes, like your predecessor, have failed to bring us back from the stone age. We’re terminating the project.”

A grumbling assent covered the board, the sound rolling over Fildes like a stone. He sat, flattened, and mustered his courage. “I think that is the coward’s answer,” said Fildes. “We’ve kept the plant alive this long, the very last shred of a bygone era. If we continue, until all recourse is exhausted, then we might say that we tried. But if we stop now, and let this legacy die here, we deny ourselves and the consumer the real fruit of science. It will be a triumph.”

Horatio sighed. “Doctor, it is a pretty dream. But one fruit cannot change the course of history. We will honor your past achievements and transfer you to our coffeeberry project. You may take your team with you.”

“What about the plant?” asked Fildes.

“It isn’t really much of a plant, is it? The project is terminated. If you’d like, bury it as you would a friend.”

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