Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

Miracle Fruit

Independent xenobotanist Mirian Zaberflopsen recently discovered sweeping health benefits of the native Corellian fruit, nostrum. Nostrums, when lightly modified, reduce the risk of heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and memory loss while improving the complexion and luster of skin, hair, fur, scales, and feathers. -HoloNews Network


Kionee Rinnh marched up the loading ramp of her freighter, the Viridian. Two hauling droids followed her, supporting large crates of produce in their shelf-like arms.

“No, the greens go in the misting compartment,” Kionee directed the confused droids, “That one's the freezer. And put the nostrums in the second cooler.” The pair of haulers deposited their cargo and scooted down the ramp for another load from the hovertruck below.

Despite the droids' incompetence, there was a smile on Kionee's face. Hardly a week before, the hitherto unknown nostrum took the galactic produce market by storm. After “Healthy Habits Weekly” released an article detailing the fruit's healing properties, suppliers and citizens clamored for it. When she landed on Corellia earlier that morning, Kionee had high hopes of getting her hands on some of the miracle fruit. Already, her first supplier had three crates of it for her. Given that Rinnh Imports had never dealt in nostrums before, Kionee was pleasantly surprised at the ready supply already available on Corellia.

Kionee finished directing the droids in packing their load of produce into the Viridian's cooling compartments. As they tottered away, Kionee approached the second cooler. She reached in and opened one of the crates of nostrums. It was filled to the brim with spiky, yellow-green fruit that vaguely resembled prishts. Since reading the “Healthy Habits” article, Kionee had been itching with curiosity about nostrums. She took one in her hand, then closed up the cooler.

Kionee sniffed it, then took a bite, wrinkling her nose at the sudden burst of sourness. Even despite the puckery flavor, Kionee finished it, then tossed the ovular pit into the ship's compost system.

Just then, MT-412, the protocol droid that acted as Kionee's co-pilot and business partner, scuffled up the loading ramp into the cargo bay.

“Excellent news, Mistress Kionee,” Emtee announced, “The Sellos just sold us two crates of nostrums along with their regular produce supply.”

“I got three from the Prongas,” Kionee replied proudly. “Let's see them.”

“They're just coming,” Emtee reassured her.

Sure enough, two more haulers rolled up behind Emtee. At his urging, one set down its crate by Kionee. She cracked open the lid to find it full of pleasantly pink, fuzzy fruit. “This can't be right,” Kionee protested, “These don't look like nostrum at all.”

“What do you mean?” Emtee asked, “Mr. Sello assured me that these were the very fruit featured in that article.”

“Then,” Kionee began, fetching one of the spiky fruit from the cooler, “What are these?”

“I'd say it looks a little bit like a prisht,” Emtee replied.

“But the Prongas said that this was that same nostrum,” Kionee pointed out.

“There must be some kind of mistake,” Emtee surmised.

“We should go back and straighten this out,” Kionee suggested.

“Not now,” Emtee reminded her, “We have five more appointments in Coronet City this afternoon with some very important clients.”

“Fine,” Kionee nodded, “But tonight, we're getting to the bottom of this. I don't want to make false claims to our clients on other worlds because of this mix-up.”


All seven of their Corellian suppliers that day enthusiastically sold them crates of nostrum at steep prices. At the end of the day, none of them sold Kionee the same fruit.

Kionee sat on the floor of the Viridian's cargo hold, chin resting in her hands. She scrutinized the seven piece of fruit lined up in front of her. Next to the spiky green fruit and the fuzzy pink one were five more fruits, all about the same size but varying wildly in shape, color, and texture.

In all of her years shipping produce for Rinnh Imports, Kionee had never encountered a quandary like this before. There was no way that these seven fruits could be strains of the same species. Clearly someone was lying to her, or her suppliers were misinformed. Either way, she didn't like it. It was bad business.

But now that she had paid thousands of credits for all the nostrum she now had on her ship, she was stuck with them.

MT-412 clanked back into the cargo hold, datapad in hand.

“Find anything?” Kionee asked.

“Mistress Kionee,” Emtee started, “I can find neither images nor physical descriptions of nostrums attached to any of the recent articles.”

“Who would write about a fantastic new discovery without telling us what it actually looked like?” Kionee demanded frustratedly.

Emtee checked the authorship of the article, “Mirian Zaberflopsen, evidently.”

“Then we need to contact her office and demand an explanation!” Kionee concluded vehemently, “Or at least a description.”


“No, I'm very sorry Miss, but Ms. Zaberflopsen is not in her office today,” the harried receptionist apologized.

“Is there another way I can get a hold of her?” Kionee pressed.

“No, she is out on a personal leave,” the receptionist replied as calmly as she could. The morning was still young and this was nowhere near the first call of this kind that she had answered today.

“When will she be back?” Kionee asked.

“Look, I don't know,” she snapped, “Mirian is at a tropical resort and will stay there as long as she likes.”

“But don't you think it's strange that she disappeared before she could give any interviews?” Kionee asked suspiciously, “Isn't it also weird that none of her articles make any attempt to describe the physical properties of nostrums?”

“Miss, I am just her admin,” she said through gritted teeth, “It isn't my job to worry about those things.”

“It's not your job to think critically?” Kionee demanded.

“Goodbye,” she said firmly and the line went dead.

“Well, that was pointless,” Kionee grumbled at the comm terminal.

“Mistress Kionee,” Emtee called, scuttling into the room with another datapad in hand, “I may have found something.”

“What?”

“This editorial in the Coronet Tribune shares some of your concerns,” Emtee summarized, “It is written by Marc Tullup, a famous research xenobotanist at the University of Corellia. He is a critic of her work and expresses skepticism about it.”

“If he's a botanist too, then maybe he could help us identify the real nostrum,” Kionee surmised.

“That is my thinking exactly,” Emtee agreed, “And I took the liberty of checking on his professorial office hours. He is free this morning.”

“When?” Kionee asked.

“Right now, in fact,” Emtee answered.

“Then let's go!” Kionee exclaimed, then hurried to the cargo hold to collect samples of each of her seven suspect fruits.


Kionee knocked at the door before her. It was plastered with news clippings about Tullup's work and related pictures of fascinating looking plants.

“Come in,” called a voice from inside.

Hesitantly, Kionee opened the door and stepped inside. A skinny man with an exquisitely trimmed mustache looked up at her from his desk. “You're not one of my students,” he observed bluntly.

“My name is Kionee Rinnh,” she started, “Representing Rinnh Imports.”

“You're a Rinnh, eh?” the professor nodded approvingly. “What can I do for you?”

“I've got a bit of a nostrum problem,” Kionee began.

“Don't we all?” he replied passionately, “Though most of them would say it's a nostrum blessing, bringing health and booming produce sales to Corellia. I want to know who all paid her to publish that article. It's not science!”

“Um,” Kionee started again, taken aback, “I've been sold seven different fruits, all claiming to be nostrums. None of the articles actually say what it looks like, so I was hoping that you could help me figure out which it actually is.”

“Let's see them,” Tullup waved at his desk.

Kionee pulled each of the seven fruits out of her bulging pockets and placed them on the desk before him.

He studied the fruits, picking up, smelling, and prodding them.

Kionee's attention wandered while he worked. A large snow globe with a golden statue of a man holding a giant pear inside of it caught her attention. It being summer in Coronet now, its presence struck her as odd. She picked it up and shook it, watching the white specks fall lazily around the golden man and his pear.

Tullup cleared his throat irritably. Blushing, Kionee quickly set it down. “That is the award I received last year for my lifetime contributions to xenobotany,” he said crisply.

“Congratulations,” Kionee mumbled, then asked, “What about the fruits?”

“It's very strange that I haven't seen any of these before,” he began, “They are all Corellian in origin?”

Kionee nodded, “That's what they said, anyway.”

“Hm,” he stroked his mustache, “I will have to perform some tests. May I keep these?”

“Of course,” Kionee replied.

“If what I suspect is true,” he continued, “I will want to hold a press conference, and I will also want you there, as a respected member of the import-export sector.”

“When?” Kionee asked, excitement growing among the butterflies in her stomach.

“If all goes well,” he replied, “tomorrow.”


Marc's call came around lunch time the next day. He quickly explained his findings and the role he wanted Kionee to play in the conference, which would be held that afternoon in one of the university's lecture halls. Until then, she was to invite all of her clients to the conference.

After contacting seven skeptical suppliers, Kionee hired a speeder to take her to the University. Already, there was a cluster of media vans near the entrance to the lecture hall. Across the square, in front of the Biology Department building, a group of elementary students picketed with colorful signs in the shape of fruit reading, 'Eat fruit every day!' and 'Fruit are healthy!' Wisps of a song they sang reached Kionee's ears, “Nostrum, the miracle fruit! The more you eat the more you...”

Shaking her head, Kionee paid the driver and stepped out. The moment she entered the lecture hall building, she was accosted by reporters, microphones thrust into her face.

“Here comes the moderator for today's discussion,” an excited reporter announced into her camera, “Kionee Rinnh, the daughter of the founder of Rinnh Imports. Miss Rinnh, do you think that Mirian Zaberflopsen is a fraud?”

“Miss Rinnh, do nostrums really exist?”

Kionee ignored them, staring straight ahead, keeping her lips sealed shut. She wasn't to say anything until the press conference officially began.

“How many claims of nostrums have you received?”

“Miss Rinnh, how did your partnership with Professor Tullup begin?”

Kionee breathed deeply, trying to calm herself as she waded through reporters. She sung quietly to herself, “I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills. I love the flowers, I love the daffodils...”

“Excuse me. What did you say? You love what?”

Finally, Kionee reached the door to the lecture hall stage and stepped inside. She was free of the reporters. She settled into her seat on the stage and waited, surveying the packed auditorium before her and swallowed hard. Now this is something I've never done before...

Finally, Marc Tullup appeared and took his seat beside her. He nodded and Kionee stood, taking up the microphone, “Thank you everyone for coming out today to discuss the identity of the nostrum. With me is Professor Marc Tullup, who has been testing samples of alleged nostrums that I collected yesterday from various suppliers.”

“Alleged! Those are the real thing!” a man in the middle of auditorium, one of her suppliers, jumped to his feet.

Kionee cleared her throat and continued, “No less than seven distinct fruits were presented to me, under the name of 'nostrum.'” Kionee removed the cloth from the table that covered the row of seven fruit with a dramatic flick of her wrist.

Cameras flashed, people gasped, and others leaped up, yelling their protest.

“As you can see,” Kionee continued over the racket, “They are all unique and unrelated. And, with the exception of this one,” she picked up the cream-colored fruit covered in sharp spikes, “they are of species never before seen in the produce market. This one is some kind of pygmy durian.”

By now, everyone was on their feet, screaming something in argument. She could hardly hear herself over the PA any more.

“However...” she started, but clearly no one was listening. Holding the spiky fruit in the air threateningly, she roared, “I have a durian and I know how to use it! Don't make me smash this open!”

Suddenly, the audience fell silent, looks of horror on their faces. The idea of that rancid fruit's odors filling the room was enough to quiet them. Stiffly, they took their seats again.

“That's better,” Kionee snapped, still holding up the fruit for effect, “As I was saying: all seven of the fruits seem to have the properties of nostrums, as claimed by Mirian Zaberflopsen. Let's all listen to Professor Tullup now, shall we?”

There were a few irritable murmurs in the audience. Kionee waved the durian suggestively.

“Thanks Kionee,” Tullup said as he stood up. He went on to explain that his genetic tests had proven that all seven of the fruits, even the pygmy durian, possessed the health benefits of nostrums, and therefore must be considered nostrums, having no other existing classification.

Kionee took the microphone as he finished, “So, in conclusion, we currently have six varieties of nostrum: pink nostrum, green spiny nostrum, bubbly nostrum, pitted nostrum, squishy nostrum, and sugar nostrum, plus the nostrumic pygmy durian.”

The audience cheered and clamored with questions. Kionee sat down again, satisfied. Now she knew what she was selling for Rinnh Imports, and that's really all she wanted.


In a press conference, Professor Marc Tullup revealed that there are at least six varieties of nostrum. He is now taking samples and testing for other potential strains of nostrums. He requests, however, that any additional nostrum petitions wait until next week, as it will take at least that long to test the samples he already has.

Davin Moran, a spokesman for Corellian Growers of Organic Fruit, or GOOF Corellia, protested the nostrum hype, saying, “It's a well-known fact that nearly all fruit provide the so-called 'miracle' health benefits of these new nostrums. And when it comes to fruit, you're better off eating organic instead of genetically-modified any day.”



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