Bob Banner sat in the corner of his cell bouncing a baseball, first on the floor, then against the walls in a repeat cycle as he struggled to come to terms with his situation?
How had it come to this?
He’d followed protocol…. he’d checked cleaned and dried all of his equipment on site yet still he’d caused one of the largest invasions by a non-native species in the history of man.
He had to get out of this cell and prove his innocence but how could he when all of his tools had been taken form him?… he checked his pockets again… nothing….nothing but a few pieces of lint, a ten pence piece and a few seeds.
He looked longingly at his water bowl in the corner of the tiny cell knowing that he must pace himself and ration his water supplies or he’d never live long enough to prove his innocence.
He felt his only hope was that his team leader Dr Ricky Coast would come to his salvation. After all it was on Dr Coast’s instruction that he’d been working in this godforsaken shit hole. Coast must have known that the invasive nature of the ‘Cloughensis’ variant would be problematic – that’s why he’d sent Banner out there in the first place – so why hadn’t he been in touch? Why hadn’t he sent a lawyer or some sort of diplomatic rescue mission to clear Banner and explain the issues weren’t a direct result of Banners work…. but were simply a natural progression of the plants rapid establishment phase.
Banner tried to cast his mind back to where it all began – a simple e-mail from Rick asking if Banner were free to visit Nepal and check on a new plant species that had been spotted by climbers on a trip to view orchids in extreme locations. Banner was a climber and also had the requisite plant experience having lead the team responsible for clearing the Orange balsam which had impacted so badly on UK rivers following the successful implementation of the Himalayan balsam rust fungus.
The orange balsam had rapidly established on the bare ground left following the successful Himalayan balsam eradication programme – being the only species able to adapt to the low micro rhizal fungal densities left after the demise of the original invasion.
Banner had quickly hit on the idea of a genetically modified insect variety impregnated with a rust type fungus – the insects were hypnotised and told to repeatedly lay an infected egg on each and every orange balsam plant that it came across.
So Banner had earned a reputation as a quick thinker able to both think outside the box yet produce results – an ideal candidate for the Nepal situation.
As these thoughts rushed through Banners head he had been thumbing the contents of his pocket. Suddenly an idea came to him. The seeds…… genetically modified Japanese Knotweed seeds given to him by Mike Clough as a joke. Mike had told him that he’d managed to create a fertile Japanese Knotweed seed capable of growing incredibly quickly and capable of pushing through any hard surface within hours of germination…
It was desperate, and it would probably never work….and worst of all, if Clough was joking then Banner would never live this down….
Banner scratched a small V like incision into the cell floor with his ten pence piece – then planted the seeds at 30cm intervals – he then took his pieces of lint covered the seeds and moistened the lint from his meagre water supply….
Laughing he sat back down.
If Mike Clough could see him now, he’d never let Banner live this down…..
He put his head back against the cold cell wall and began to fall asleep….