Yuuto looked out the window at the rolling clouds of Terra, his home. He hadn't seen them since he had left Kyoto to command the DSS Magellan over fifty years ago. A literal lifetime.
The Terran Science Directorate had called for service and Yuuto had answered. The war-ravaged cities of earth needed resources and knowledge, and the Directorate was looking for humanity's future in the stars. A quick study and a polymath, he led the Magellan's crew as it first discovered life outside the solar system, and through countless joys of discovery. He had been on the contact team when first contact had been made with Orbis Consumer Synergies, not an alien empire but a race of peaceful traders eager to do business. He had cataloged the twin pulsars of the border territories and advised engineers on how to shore up defenses which would hold against the Laachax when they would (and had) tried to conquer the Directorate. But Terra and Orbis had held fast, though by then Yuuto was chasing the past.
On the barren world of Sidyr 2, his team discovered the mysterious Grumar. A brutal race, their meticulous logs of conquest had led his team to a nearby system and the dusty ruins of Thabit 2. It was here that he first learned the word; Baol. An enigmatic race of plantoids, their tendancy to use organic technology meant little remained of their civilization which had flourished ten million years ago, while apes were first shambling across Africa. More clues pointed to another world, and Yuuto and the Magellan raced into unknown space to find the legacy of the Baol. It was at a shattered worldlet in the Trabano system that Yuuto's heart wept for the Baol. His team had restored their records and he watched holos of happy young Baol learning to tend gardens and raise pet plants under glowing sunny skies. His heart sank as he had received the reports from chemistry teams; the Grumar had rained napalm down on the Baol worlds and charred them to ash. The sediment layers from Thabit confirmed the analysis, corroborated by the Grumar's own mirthful records at the Baol's weak resistance.
But there had been hope; the Baol's records included coordinates of their homeworld and Yuuto's crew had sailed to the edge of known space to find Sabik 3. They had cheered at the sight of a lush, tropical paradise bright with plantoid creatures. But no Baol; their studies of the world found that the race had deliberately devolved their ability to communicate via subspace. The trauma of the Grumar attacks had been too much, and so a race of gentle gardeners had turned their backs on sentience to numb the pain. The whole world had wept at that story, and Yuuto had brooded in his cabin for weeks, unable to enjoy his 80th birthday in the sun on the Baol homeworld, re-christened New Eden by the settlers. It had been restlessness that took him to the xenobotany lab that night, and sheer fate that he had taken one last sample out to analyze, not knowing what he would find.
A tremor. A pulse. A twinge at the edge of sensory resolution in the sample, answering a call through subspace. Months isolating the signal over the world took them back along forgotten hyperspace corridors to the charred and bombed-out wreckage of what could only have been the Grumar homeworld. The pulse in the sample was stronger here, and the team landed in the dust of a world seven million years dead. The Grumar's brutality had brought about their ruin. Yuuto had been the first through the door when he saw it; a Baol seedling.
Conscious, alive, it was in pain beyond understanding. Yuuto's fingers had brushed the glass of the containment vessel as he watched it slowly writhe. It had felt its' entire race die and fade away, but its' captors had cruelly kept it alive. Yuuto had spoken with it, pleading with it to not give up hope. But the Baol asked to be at rest, and offered itself to be studied and for humans to learn from it.
And so it had been sent back to Terra as a treasured relic; The last Baol. A curiousity and a wonder, but nobody could have known its' power. Xenobiologists studied it as Yuuto turned his vessel once more to the unknown, the crystalline entities of the Zyraxis cluster were beautiful and terrible to behold. On Terra, however, the Baol was studied, and his secrets unlocked. The race of master gardeners had one last gift to give, and the hardy DNA within the last Baol was harnessed to its full strength.
Yuuto had been called back to Terra, for the first time in five decades of service. As the Magellan cleared the defense perimeter at Luna he had gasped, in shock. The grey, wasted lands of Terra were no more. Rejuvenated biomes spread across the face of the whole world and he took them all in as the ship came in for a landing. Tears streamed down Yuuto's face as he saw the wash of the thrusters scatter cherry blossoms across the courtyard at Kyoto. Down the ramp he staggered, not fully comprehending what he was seeing, and he looked up into the face of a multitude of humans and Baol. Not quite as they had been, but their noble features on Terran Maple.
A young Baol walked up to him and handed him a glowing golden bonsai. "Because of you," she bowed low "Our two worlds are one. My people's past is our new future."
"Because Terra remembers the Baol. The Baol will remember Terra."
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