The Giant’s Garden
The group split up, going about the various tasks Hannibal had assigned to them. It so happened that Selina and Mary had to go to the cafeteria first to do their job, so Hannibal accompanied them there to have some breakfast with Selina. Mary promptly went into the kitchen, meeting with Cynthia to discuss how the supplies were holding up.
Mary and Cynthia approached the table and sat down as Hannibal and Selina finished eating. “How’re the supplies holding out, Cynthia?” Hannibal asked.
“We have more than enough food for now,” Cynthia answered. “With what you brought, in the last shipment, we have enough here to feed everyone for two years.”
Just as she finished speaking, Dan and Jerry ran up carrying a large pack with something in it. Their faces bubbled with excitement. “It’s incredible!” Dan crowed. “Jerry and Chris found something that you must see.”
“Yes,” Jerry agreed. “We’ll never have to worry about running out of food ever again.”
“What do you mean?” Hannibal asked pointedly. “What did you find?”
Dan gently sat the pack on the table and opened it. He reached in, pulled out a tomato the size of a coconut, and gently sat it in front of Hannibal. The eyes of everyone at the table grew round as they gasped at the size of the tomato. Hannibal looked at Dan, and then the tomato. “That’s one big tomato. Get me a big knife,” Hannibal ordered. Within seconds, Mary retrieved a butcher knife and handed it to Hannibal. He held the tomato, cutting it in two, and then slicing at little piece off. Hannibal carefully smelled it and then tasted it. He chewed on it and said, “It’s a tomato all right.” He suddenly feigned as if he was choking and everyone except Selina grew concerned that it was poison. After several seconds, he laughed aloud and said, “I had you going, didn’t I?”
Cynthia scowled, slapping Hannibal on the shoulder. “That wasn’t very funny, Hannibal,” she hissed. Everyone else agreed with her.
“I’m sorry,” Hannibal apologized. “I just couldn’t help myself. Where did you find this amazing tomato? It’s the sweetest tomato I’ve ever tasted.” He proceeded to slice the giant tomato and hand the pieces of it to everyone, who carefully tasted them.
“We found them in sector 839 in a closed off chamber that we discovered a few days ago,” Dan said. “We only gained access this morning.”
“How far is it?” Hannibal asked.
“Two miles from here near the edge of the machine area to the southwest. You have to come and see,” Jerry pleaded. “It’s so amazing I can’t even begin to describe it.”
“All right…let’s go. Cynthia, Mary, Selina…would you care to accompany us being that you may end up using this new possible food source?” Hannibal asked. They agreed to come and within a half hour, they all stood in the entrance to a vast cavern almost four miles in diameter and a good two thousand feet in height. The floor consisted of a road running straight across the chamber. To either side of the road, the floor changed to the lushest, blackest, most fertile topsoil ever seen. Row upon row of giant vegetable plants and citrus trees of every sort stretched out for as far as the eye could see. The dome-shaped chamber consisted of a combination of crystal, electronium, and granite. A warm breeze blew through the chamber and clouds floated by. A simulated sun shown from the top of the dome and mirrored exactly the movements of the real sun outside the Temple. Everyone looked in utter stupefaction and wonder. Cynthia and Mary rubbed their eyes and looked again. The breeze caused the scent of flowering plants to waif by. Bees buzzed amongst the plant, busily pollinating the flowers.
“I wasn’t lying, was I?” Dan crowed as they slowly began to walk down the path, observing the plants and their fruit.
“Wonder of wonders…the Giant’s garden!” Hannibal breathed as he staggered forward in astonishment. His instincts led him off the road into the fields to the left of the road. The spongy black soil felt like a marshmallow beneath his feet. He dodged tomato plants that stood ten feet without the need of a cage and had fruit the size of coconuts hanging on them. Selina followed with everyone else. Hannibal stopped and stooped down, looking at the soft, spongy soil under his feet, scooping a handful up and closely examining it, and then dropping it. He immediately noticed weeds were nonexistent. Walking on a little farther, Hannibal stopped by what appeared to be a squash plant six feet in height and fifteen feet across with squash the size of footballs on it. Everyone gathered around as he picked a squash. He looked at it intensely and tested the rind with his thumbnail. It was smooth, soft, and tender. Pulling out a pocketknife, Hannibal cut the squash in two and looked at the inside of the squash after putting away the knife. It appeared to be just like the normal squash, only much bigger.
“This is incredible. Cynthia…this is useable, isn’t it?” Hannibal asked as he handed the pieces to Cynthia. She examined it, and then nibbled at it, finding it very flavorful.
“Yes, it is,” Cynthia chimed. “I’ve never seen squash this size before. On a normal squash plant, a squash is perfect for eating when it is six inches long or less. When they get big, they get tough and uneatable. But this is a wonder. It’s just right and exploding with flavor.”
While she was speaking, Mary had made her way around the plant and saw a giant squash hid among the leaves. “Look at this,” she called out after picking a squash the almost the size of a five gallon bucket. She struggled to heave it up so everyone could see.
Jerry rushed to assist her. “Man…that is one huge squash!” he exclaimed as everyone gathered around.
Cynthia examined the squash and said with authority, “This one is too big. Just look at the rind and how rough it is.”
Hannibal looked closely at it and unsuccessfully tried to score the overripe squash with his fingernail. “You’re right. It’s way too big,” he agreed as he began to look around at where he was. “This is unbelievable. This Giant’s garden is the perfect garden: an Eden. We’ll never have to go anywhere else for food ever again. This place has enough food to last us several lifetimes.”
“I have a question. How come all these plants are alive down here? We haven’t seen plant life anywhere else,” Mary asked.
“I suspect that the people who made this place created this place to act as some kind of super-greenhouse,” Hannibal suggested, his tone betraying his amazement. “They must have used the machinery of this place to create a biosphere, right down to creating weather to water and nourish these amazing plants. Just look at the clouds and the simulated sun. The people who did this have created the ideal conditions for these plants to survive and flourish.”
As he spoke, Selina wander off a short distance, and then returned with a strange-looking flower. “Look at this. I’ve never seen a flower like this before,” she said. “It’s absolutely beautiful.” Everyone looked at it and agreed. As they stood around, they noticed the insect activity around the flowering portion of the vegetables.
“Hey…look at this,” Dan called out as he isolated several bees pollinating the flower on a nearby tomato plant. Everyone gathered around the plant to observe the bees. The bees looked like the common honeybee except for the fact that it was the size of a large hornet and didn’t seemed to be disturbed in the least by the people who have gathered around. They busied themselves gathering the nectar out of the flowers, buzzing among the flowers as they worked.
“Holy cow!” Hannibal exclaimed. “These bees are the size of bell hornets but they look and act like honey bees. I’ve never seen honeybees this size anywhere.” The bees suddenly moved on, leaving everyone standing there in astonishment.
“This chamber is full of these bees,” Selina said. “Listen closely and you can hear them.” Everyone listened carefully in silence. At first, they only heard a breeze. Then as the breeze died down, they heard a strange droning, like the buzzing of millions of bees. It echoes throughout the chamber.
“You’re right,” Mary said. “They’re everywhere.” They began to looks around closely at everything around them and immediately saw the strange honeybees crawling and buzzing everywhere. Another thing they noticed was the bees were very docile and not aggressive in any manner.
“If we have bees, then there must be a hive somewhere. Let’s see if we can find it,” Hannibal ordered. “Spread out and don’t be aggressive toward the bees. They’re large enough to cause you some damage if they decided to attack. If anyone finds the hive, do not approach it but call for the others on your communicators.” The group split up and searched. They walked amongst every kind of vegetable and fruit plants imaginable. Cynthia encountered what appeared to be giant potato plants nearly seven feet high. Hannibal wandered into a section where enormous pepper plants of every type grew. The plants stood nearly ten feet with six-inch stalks. Dan found twenty-foot okra trees and Jerry saw pumpkin plants that were five feet high, covering acres of ground with pumpkins averaging five to six feet in diameter. Selina’s path took her into an area where all manner of herbs and spices grew in abundance. She waded through the herb field that came up to her waist. The smells were very pungent and pleasant at times. As they searched, the bees kept going about their business, not showing any aggression at all to the intruders in their domain. Hannibal and his team searched for an hour and a half. On occasion, Hannibal picked and ate some of the smaller items. He passed through great orchards of every type of citrus fruit. He picked a ripe orange from a low-lying limb that was twice the size of a grapefruit and began to eat it.
Hannibal’s communicator abruptly chimed. “Hey. I’ve found the hive,” Jerry announced. “Follow my signal to my position.”
Hannibal pulled his communicator and asked, “You found it?”
“Yes, but I seem to have gotten lost in doing it. Wherever I am, it’s near the wall,” Jerry answered.
“Don’t move; we’ll come to you,” Hannibal ordered. “And don’t go near the hive.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t. The hive is the size of a locomotive. I have no intention of going anywhere near it,” Jerry assured him. “There must be a zillion bees in it.”
“Good. I’ll be there in a minute,” Hannibal said into his communicator. “Everyone should converge on Jerry’s signal; got it?” The rest of the team responded to the call and converged on Jerry’s position in a matter of ten minutes. Hannibal reached Jerry’s position first, finding him sitting beneath a massive walnut tree in a grove of nut trees looking toward the hive seventy feet away built into the chamber wall. When Hannibal showed up, he gasped in amazement upon seeing the hive. The hive appeared artificial, being drum-shaped about forty feet high, twelve to fifteen feet across, and seven feet deep with its bottom hanging four feet off the floor. Odd-looking faucets sat spaced equally around the perimeter of the base. The bulk of the structure seemed to be covered with nest paper the bees use in their hive. Several openings big enough for a man to put his fist in were scattered across the surface of the hive where bees constantly came and went from the nest. The bees crawled and swarmed over the surface of the hive, making it a formidable fortress. “My God…that’s the largest bee nest I’ve ever seen. It’s got to be a world record,” Hannibal breathed, staring at the nest. “It seems that everything about this place is big, even the bees.” As he spoke, Selina and Dan showed up and they too gawked at the vastness of the nest.
“How many do you suppose there is?” Dan asked.
“Probably hundreds of millions of them judging from the size of the hive; however, only a small portion of them ever come out of the hive to harvest nectar,” Hannibal stated. As he spoke, one of the bees approached and hovered about six feet away in front of him. He didn’t know what to make of it. The bee then slowly approached to within two feet of him and once again hovered. Hannibal looked at the bee with growing curiosity, but remained docile.
“Hold out your hand,” Selina suggested and he did so. The bee slowly landed on the palm of his hand and sat there, cleaning its wings.
Suddenly, the bee rammed its stinger into his hand and Hannibal flinched and cried out as pain ran up his arm to his head. Selina flinched as well, feeling the sting. But Hannibal refused to destroy the bee. As the bee sat there with its stinger in his hand, Hannibal and Selina realized what was happening: the bee was trying to communicate. In an instant, they became aware of the entire colony: its structure, and purpose. The bee then pulled its stinger out and took off, flying back to the nest. Hannibal grasped his hand in pain. Blood oozed from the puncture and his hand began to swell slightly. Hannibal and Selina looked at each other, knowing what had happened.
“Why didn’t you kill it?” Dan asked as Cynthia and Mary showed up.
“There’s more to this hive than just giant bees,” Hannibal explained. “These are very special bees. They have an intelligence of a sort.”
“What do you mean ‘intelligence’?” Jerry asked as Selina cleaned the wound in Hannibal’s hand.
“These bees have been engineered to service this area specifically. They’re also its guardians. The bee that just stung me was acting as a link between my mind and the hive mind. It’s a special type of guard bee engineered to do just that in order to ascertain whether we were a threat to the hive. Apparently, the hive ascertained that we’re not a threat to them or this area, therefore we can come and go freely around the garden and gather whatever we want, including what they have gathered,” Hannibal replied, his hand throbbing from the sting.
“You mean they’re intelligent?” Dan asked.
“Yes,” Hannibal answered. “They’re very intelligent and highly protective. The only reason we weren’t killed the moment we came in here is we did nothing to disrupt the balance of things in here. Had we come in here and commenced to destroy the plant life in here, they would have fallen on us immediately to drive us away. I don’t pretend to understand how and why they’re like this. I just know that they have been engineered for this purpose. They determined just now whether we were a threat. Thank God they decided that we were friendly.”
“Now I’ve seen everything,” Jerry commented, “an intelligent bee.”
“Shall I prove it? All of you come with me,” Hannibal said pointedly as he began to walk toward the hive.
“No, I think we’ll stay here,” Dan said.
“Suit yourself,” Hannibal sighed, “But just pay attention. As long as you act benign and do nothing to upset the apple cart in here, you’ll be all right.” Selina fell in beside him as he walked toward the hive. Dan, Jerry, Cynthia, and Mary watched from a distance as they pushed right up to the hive without being harassed by the guards of the hive. The bees parted and buzzed around them a mere eighteen inches away from them, but not approaching them. Hannibal and Selina reached the hive and examined the faucets. Everyone watched in awe as Hannibal cracked open one of the faucets and a substance oozed out of it. Hannibal put his finger in the substance as it dribbled, and then cut off the valve. He smelled it, and then tasted it, announcing, “It’s honey…the purest sweetest honey I’ve ever tasted.” Selina tasted the honey as well and agreed with Hannibal’s conclusions.
“Come on over. They won’t hurt you,” Hannibal ordered and everyone slowly made their way to the hive. Their fears slowly abated as they approached the hive once they saw the bees didn’t attack. Each came to the faucet and Hannibal let them have a little taste of the honey. They all agreed it was the finest quality honey they had ever tasted. A few moments later, they were walking back through the garden heading toward the path. “Now when anyone comes in here, do not be aggressive toward the bees or toward the plant life. We’re going to have to work within their framework in order to get along in here,” Hannibal instructed.
They soon found the path and within a half hour, they were out of the chamber, heading back to the cafeteria. Another half hour later, they dropped Selina, Mary, and Cynthia at the cafeteria. Hannibal went to the nearest healing chamber to treat the bee sting before he, Dan, and Jerry found Chris in the Library working. From there, Hannibal took the trio to the main control room in the core.Once in the control room, Hannibal showed them how to use the control panel to engage the Temple’s defensive systems, how to engage the self-destruct mechanism if the unthinkable were to occur with the Temple being utterly compromised by enemy forces. He warned them explicitly not to touch or mess around with any of the core’s primary functions. They swore with an oath to do as he ordered.