Brisk Fiction- The Tomatos of Truth

Ada reclined in her hanging chair and absorbed the archival footage one more time.

On the screen a smiling woman in a flowing, paisley kaftan stepped lightly around the overflowing garden. “What’s better than a home grown tomato? This one is perfect. Sun ripened on the vine.”

Ada mouthed the magic words. Organic. Heirloom. Tomatos.

The smiling woman took a bite and her eyes rolled back into her head. Juice trickled down her chin and she smiled like a bashful child. How had Ada overlooked such an enticing ingredient in the cultural archives for so long? Millennia spent underground, waiting for the radiation levels to taper. Decades wasted on ninja-surgeon simulator or knitting scarves only to recycle the atoms yet again.

A quick check of the sensor array confirmed it would only be a few more centuries until they could explore the surface, though there was nothing up there apart from cyanobacteria and tardigrades. That would be plenty of time to comb the archives for the proper method to grow her own organic heirloom tomatos.

A tickle of excitement fluttered from Ada’s bare feet, all the way to her sensibly cropped hair, as she descended into the man-cave.

“Evan? I have an idea for a fun project!”

Ada shifted from foot to foot until Evan put down his miniature train and paintbrush. He flubbed the final stroke and frowned at his efforts.

“Just put it in the matter synthesiser and start again,” suggested Ada. “Besides, I found a much more interesting project we can do together.”


A quick scan of the genome archives found a dozen strains of heirloom Lycoperiscon esculentum. Mortgage lifter. Grosse Lisse. Brandywine. Green Zebra.

“Skip resurrecting the last one,” said Ada. “I want red ones.”

“Look at the old irregular spellings. Toh-mah-to-eey-z. I found the oldest video showing how to grow them, from all the way back in 1998, can you believe? They used some pretty loopy techniques but I’m sure we could skip some of the more difficult step-“

Ada cut him off with a wave.

“No! We have to follow the video exactly, otherwise they won’t be organic heirloom tomatos.

Evan poked at his tablet. “As you wish, my love. I think the fusion cells can handle the strain, if I hold off printing miniature trains for a few centuries. Of course we could just synthesize a tomato for you to try. They might not even taste that goo-“

“No! I’m sick of synthesised food. And besides… it’ll be fun to work on something together.”


While Evan busied himself watching grainy organic gardening videos, Ada snuck upstairs to the molecular synthesizer. She closed the door quietly and searched the thousands of options. They had eaten little more than nutritionally complete sugary bacon bites for centuries. Tomato: there it was. It had to be the same thing as organic heirloom tomatos. She pressed the button and watched the glowing chamber as the atoms snapped into place. The fruit finished with a ding, big enough for a single gulp. She popped it into her mouth, salivary glands twisted with anticipation.

Upon biting down, the nasty thing burst. Acid slime jetted down her throat. She gagged at the texture: somehow powdery and rubbery at the same time. Damn synthesizer wasn’t up to the job. Real organic heirloom tomatos was a sensory delight. She had seen the kaftan woman’s reaction with her own eyes.

Ada returned to her lifepartner, as he finalised preparations. She considered confessing her mistake, but he seemed so excited with his calculations. If they did everything right, followed the ancient wisdom of the ancestors, everything would work out fine.

“Have you figured it out?” Ada tried to ignore the persistent prickling on her lips. “We have to follow the instructions exactly.”

“The techniques are pretty strange, but anything to keep you happy my love. Synthesising the resources will put a strain on the power cells, so we will have to go into stasis for a few centuries to build up energy reserves.”

“The radiation levels will be low enough by then. Add a kaftan to the production queue and meet me in bed.”


Three centuries later Ada and Evan climbed the long tunnel to the surface and stepped outside. The orangey ultraviolet light bit at their skins. Millennia of storms had worn the land down to bedrock. Only a crust of slime and lichens tickled the smooth horizon. Ada refused the radiation suit, preferring her kaftan and a session in the resurrection chamber afterwards.

“The first step is to make some newspaper.” Evan scouted around for a suitable place. “We could save a lot of time if we just made it in the synthesizer and-“

“No. I want proper newspaper made using authentic 20th century techniques.”

“That means growing resurrected pine tree embryos, building a chlorine factory and pulping plant, then a printing press.”

“Do it,” commanded Ada. “I won’t have a single step skipped. That’s the only way to be sure the final product are genuine organic heirloom tomatos.

“Fine. I’ll make the preparations and meet you in bed after you decontaminate.”

Fifty years later they re-emerged to find the bots shoving the last of the wood into the grinders. Ada resisted the urge to cover her ears against the racket, just in case an “I told you so” was in the works. The acrid waste from the bleaching plant had collected into a small lake, killing what little greenery had sprung from the rocks.

“As you wanted, my darling. A precise reproduction of The Daily Mail, circa 2013.”

Ada narrowed her eyes to read the headline. “Woman Finds Penis Shaped Strawberry in Garden?”

“We can grow some of those next if you like” replied Evan. “I’m just lucky you didn’t want to use recycled carpet – now that is a complicated process.”

“So remind me what the newspaper supposed to do, husband.”

“It suppresses the weeds.”

“Oh no! I forgot we needed dandelions and dock and running couch grass as well, to maintain the Balance of Nature.

“Don’t worry, I resurrected some weed embryos as well, plus a range of insect pests. According to the videos they are all important parts of the Web of Ecology.”

“Evan! You’re wonderful. I can’t wait until we can both bite into our organic heirloom tomatos.

Once Ada was at a safe distance, Evan fired up the mulching machine to convert the pine forest waste into compost feedstock. She put on a brave face, kaftan wrapped around her mouth to avoid the stinking exhaust, shoulder pressed to her ear to blunt the racket. It shouldn’t matter that the diesel was from the synthesizer- even Ada couldn’t wait another million years for authentic oil deposits to form.


After a brief four month nap all the inputs were ready. Together they laid the compost, then newspaper (pausing to read Bigfoot Kept Lumberjack Sex-Slave), then a layer of sweet smelling mulch aged to perfection. Evan handed the hardened embryos of the heirloom tomatos to Ada, one at a time, then the green specks of clover and nettles and nutgrass.

Every morning Ada returned, barefoot, dragging the hem of her kaftan in the mulch. She sprinkled the garden with precisely chlorinated water from a plastic hose, exactly as shown in the video. The dots of green soon erupted into a vibrant carpet. She did her best to not complain as her fingers ached from weeding. She didn’t scream when a tobacco hornworm sunk its fangs into her thumb. This was how the ancients worked their magic: it was all so authentic.

Four long months after planting, after starry yellow flowers dropped, after silver-green nubs of fruit swelled and blushed through shades of watery red, the moment had finally arrived. Every night Ada had watched the archival footage over again, studying the ecstatic woman for the briefest flicker of insincerity. It had to be true. The true taste of organic heirloom tomatos would soon prove Ada right.

“Do you think this one looks ready?” Ada asked, cupping the pendulous, crimson mass in her palm. Was the feeling rolling over in her stomach excitement or plain dread?

“Only one way to find out,” Evan replied. “You should go first. It was your idea.”

With a gentle twist the fruit came loose. The glandulous bushes hissed a warning in volatile alkaloids.

Ada sniffed the scarlet globe. The same solanaceous aroma, mellowed by a hint of decay.

She touched her lips to the rubbery epidermis. Did they prickle with expectation?

A tentative bite into the powdery flesh. The acid, slimy juice escaped out the corner of her mouth.

Evan watched, unblinking, full of hopeful intent.

Ada attempted to roll her eyes, but it turned into a grimace. The prickling spread up the back of her throat, deep into her sinuses.

“Wow!” Evan used his most supportive tone. “Save some for me.”

There was no hiding from the truth forever. Head hung, Ada handed over the remaining half.

He touched the seedy pulp with his tongue, smacked his lips delicately, furrowed his brows a moment, then promptly devoured the offering.

“This is amazing,” he said between sloppy mouth sounds. “I’ve never eaten a real living thing before. What should we grow next? Zucchini? Brussel sprouts? Radishes are ready in weeks!”

If he was putting on a brave face for Ada’s benefit she didn’t want to shatter the illusion. Suddenly the callouses on her fingers, the sunburn on her neck, the ache in her back asserted themselves.

“I’ll come pick some more for you tomorrow, my love. How about we go back inside, sit down with a big bowl of nutritionally complete sweetened bacon bites? Then you can show me how to hand paint those little plastic trees for your model train set.”

Tomato Plant and Root (Basilius Besler 1613)

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