I could have called the incident of the Ringle-Dingle-Water-Bears “Why I NEVER, EVER, While the Entire Universe Lasts, Will Never Ever Carry Live Cargo Again,” but in retrospect, even that didn't cover it all.
This incident is why I need to add, “Dormant Plants Are Still Alive, and NO, I WILL NOT SHIP THEM FOR YOU!”
It all had to do with a high-ranking marriage in a particular region of the galaxy, and people wanting to send quality wedding gifts from all corners.
I was shipping on one end of the quadrant when I got a request to carry one of those gifts from one corner of the region to another – because humans were still new to the area, it behooved us to bend over backwards to stay welcome, and that included us cargo runners staying on good terms with natives on inhabited planets roundabout.
So, we picked up 50,000 pots of grass at the next planet, and wondered what kind of gifts those dead-looking tufts would be – I suppose if someone had never been to Earth and saw our deciduous trees in winter, they would have had the same thought.
The universal translator did a good job in helping us understand the care-taking illustrations and instructions for these 50,000 pots of dead-looking grass in all but one respect. We didn't pick up that the half-degree difference between the planet's surface and the cargo hold would the difference between winter and spring to our cargo, and spring would bring about a change.
Four days into what I had planned out as a six-day journey, I passed Cargo Hold 3 and heard a sound I hadn't heard since boyhood. As a child I had loved cereals that snapped, crackled, and popped, but, as the Scripture says, when I became a man, I put away childish things. So: I knew that wasn't a bowl of cereal.
Into the hold, and those dead-looking tufts had turned a gorgeous shade of blue-green, and gracefully had filled out into a shape that looked familiar, somehow, with its slender leaves and deep purple buds rocketing up and arcing out …
And then I saw the flowers themselves – just two on the farthest from me, each the equivalent of a sparkler, snapping and crackling and popping, a little star of plasma contained by a natural force field but still very, very hot.
There were 50,000 plants, and all of them were covered with buds.
If I jettisoned the cargo, I could have started an entire system-wide incident that would have gone badly for humans in that area.
I called for my co-captain, Rufus Dixon, who came at once from engineering where he also put in master time. When he ran his cocoa-colored hand across his eyes, I knew we were in trouble.
“50,000 plants times 100 buds per plant, and every new flower raising the temperature in here – they are creating their own spring in here,” he said, “and once enough of them get going, we're going to have big problems.”
Dix and I agreed: we would change the environmental controls to bring the temperature down and slow down the blooming, and go to maximum warp – which for our little freighter on an average day was Warp 6.75. We could achieve between Warp 6.75 and Warp 7.5 for short bursts, but that was playing with fire and we already had fire on board – so, Warp 6.5 it was, all the way to the delivery point.
It was quite the experience, having your teeth chattering while on a rattling ship – it had to be that cold, and we couldn't run fine control on the temperature for just the cargo bay while expending that much energy on the warp engines.
At our destination, the people preparing for the wedding were delighted that we had arrived a day early, and it was wonderfully warm, so everybody got off the ship for a little while at the spaceport, and Co-Captain Dixon and I were invited to see what was going to be done with the cargo with which we had nearly melted our entire ship down.
They placed the pots all in a cool river that flowed by the palace, the pots submerged, the plants above water.
The universal translator in one corner of the region had given us “celebration plant.” On this end? “Firecracker grass.” That's exactly what it was, and I have to admit, by the next night, it was a glorious sight to behold, as if the whole river were a fireworks show.
It had only nearly cost us an entire freighter to provide it.
Which is why I don't ship live cargo. Between the firecracker grass and the Ringle-Dingle-Water-Bears, I had enough of that for a lifetime.
This was a happy accident in a series of art I do in the Sketchbook Community showing spring things in fractal art ... aiming between darnel grass and dandelions, but ended up HERE, and thought it was far too lovely to discard!