First Monday Free Fiction: Seedlings

Seedlings by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the March 2023 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.

March marks the start of spring when gardens begin to bloom and seeds are planted, so enjoy Seedlings, a sweet science fiction story about chickens, little girls and gardening… IN SPACE! from my Shattered Empire space opera series.

So follow Holly and Ethan as they plant…


The rebel world of Pyrs spun through the black vastness of space, a cold rock orbiting a dying star.

Once, Pyrs had held deposits of rare minerals, gallium, germanium and indium, gold and platinum, even diamonds. So humans had come to the inhospitable world to harvest the precious minerals. And then, once they had taken every last grain of ore, every last raw diamond, every last nugget of gold from the ground, they went away again, leaving behind a gutted husk of a planet, crisscrossed by a warren of tunnels and mine shafts. And so Pyrs was just another dead rock hanging in space again. Until the Rebels came and made it their home.

The Rebels no more liked Pyrs than the miners had. It was simply too cold, too dark, too far from its own faltering sun, let alone the galactic core. However, the Rebels had even less choice about living on Pyrs than the miners. For if you had a death sentence on your head everywhere in the civilised galaxy, Pyrs was the only place left for you to run.

Holly di Marco, former mercenary and currently one of the two thousand five hundred and sixty Rebels on Pyrs, was currently headed for the lone bright spot on that cold, dark lump of rock. It was called the greenhouse, a dome of glass collecting the rays of Pyrs’ fading sun, bundled and amplified by a cunning arrangement of mirrors. This meant that the greenhouse was the only place on Pyrs that got a bit of daylight for six hours a day, about as much as other worlds received on a grey and cloudy day.

The miners had used the place for recreation, an oasis allowing them to soak up the meagre sunlight. The Rebels, not having the advantage of regular supply ships, had given the greenhouse over to food production. The yield wasn’t much, but anything that spiced up the monotony of all protein sludge all the time was more than welcome.

Born on a planet that was only marginally more hospitable than Pyrs, Holly did not have much use for the greenhouse. Plants, particularly in larger numbers, tended to make her nervous. That much green just wasn’t natural.

As it was, Holly had only one reason for visiting the greenhouse and that reason was Ethan Summerton. Lord Summerton, to be precise, for Ethan had inherited the title by default after the Empire had murdered his father and brothers along with the rest of his family, leaving Ethan the sole survivor of a once numerous clan.

Holly had saved his life, which meant that she was stuck with him now, by decree of Arthur Madden, leader of the Rebellion, himself. Apparently there was an old Earth saying which claimed that once you’d saved someone’s life, you were automatically responsible for that person until the end of their days. Personally, Holly thought it was all just a load of bunk, but her objections had been overruled. So for the time being, she was stuck with Ethan, Lord Summerton.

Not that she minded much. For someone who had been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, Ethan was surprisingly non-annoying. He didn’t even insist on being addressed by his title. On the contrary, he said that whenever someone called him “Lord Summerton”, he always had to turn around, expecting to find his father standing behind him. And since his late father — either heroically killed in the service of the Rebellion or cut down in the streets like the traitorous dog that he was, depending on which version you chose to believe — was something of a sore spot for Ethan, Holly refrained from doing anything that might trigger painful memories. For heaven knew, he sure had enough of those.

In spite of his high birth, Ethan had ended up in charge of the greenhouse. Though the assignment wasn’t a jab against his aristocratic background. It was simply the most suitable job for him, given the circumstances.

Ever since joining the Rebellion, Ethan had been eager for revenge and desperate for a mission, a job or just something to do. Holly certainly sympathised. Being cooped up on Pyrs was bad enough when you had a job and the prospect of getting off planet eventually. When you had nothing to do, it was infinitely worse.

However, Ethan was also badly traumatised — seeing your entire family slaughtered in front of your eyes will do that to you — and simply not ready for any kind of combat mission. Before sending him into battle, he first needed to heal.

But sitting around cooped up in his quarters and brooding wasn’t conductive to healing either, especially not since Ethan hardly ever slept and was plagued by nightmares, whenever he managed to catch some shut-eye. What he needed was something to do, a job to stop him feeling like dead weight and take his mind of his murdered family, at least for a little while.

So Arthur Madden in his infinite wisdom had finally hit upon the long neglected greenhouse and turned it over to Ethan. For prior to suddenly finding himself an outlaw and a Rebel, Ethan had devoted his life to studying farming methods and cultivating plants and had even won a prize for breeding a new type of squash, whatever that might be. Apparently, he had originally turned to agriculture as a sort of “fuck you” to his illustrious ancestors and their long lineage of warriors.

“We also have a long family history of winemaking…” Ethan had once told Holly, “…and I prefer making wine to killing people.”

Not that Ethan ever got to grow any wine in the greenhouse — nice though that might be. No, it was mostly leafy greenish things and thick brownish roots and tubers that looked as awful as they tasted. Still, Ethan never seemed more at peace than when he was puttering about in the greenhouse, so Holly approved. For Ethan found little enough peace as it was.

Though there were also times in the long dark nights on Pyrs, when Ethan confessed to her that he felt useless, felt that he should contribute more to the cause, that he should go on combat or espionage missions like the other Rebels.

“Growing vegetables…” he said bitterly, “…isn’t nearly enough, when people, good people, are fighting and dying out there.”

Whenever he had one of those moments, Holly always assured him that vegetables were very important, even vital to the Rebellion. Not because she believed it, cause she didn’t. But Ethan needed to hear it and that was enough for Holly. Because she’d really come to like him by now.


Whenever the bulkhead door to the greenhouse cycled open, the first thing that hit Holly was the air, a couple of degrees warmer and several percents more humid than the rest of the base. The smell was next, since it turned out that plants quite literally grew in human shit. No wonder Holly had always been suspicious of greenery. Finally came the sniffles, which occasionally rose to the level of a fully blown sneezing attack, for it turned out that Holly wasn’t just suspicious of plants but actively allergic to many of them. Greens — you just couldn’t trust them.


This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Seedlings. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.


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2 Responses to First Monday Free Fiction: Seedlings

  1. Lurkertype says:

    Because the Commander obviously has The Power!!!

    This is very sweet.

    Although I feel for Holly, since I too am allergic to lots of plants. Including strawberries. ?

    • Cora says:

      Glad you liked it.

      Alanna Greyskull (spelled the British way, rather than like the famous castle) clearly has the power and is a very impressive woman. She appears in person in two of the stories in the series.

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