“Tula! Thank goodness. Give me a hand,” Triff said.
Rows of water tanks filled the hydroponics lab. A system of heated pipes fed warm water and nutrients from above, misting a veritable jungle of plants.
Crest loosened his collar, trying to acclimate to the sudden shift from the cold sterile hallway to the humid laboratory. Triff hurried toward a shallow tank, unwrapping the creature. An arm fell limply from the folds of the lab coat. Something dropped from its hand and skittered across the floor.
“I hope it isn’t too late…” Triff said. She gently placed the flower in the water, propping it up against a thick pad of water hyacinth.
Tula examined the giant flower.
“Incredible! He is by far the largest example of Passiflora Incarnata I’ve ever seen!”
“It has stamen only,” Tula said, pointing to the flower. “The root structure is unlike anything… wah?!”
“You just need to practice and level-up your skill. Then you can catch bigger fish. It was pretty neat how you made that net though.”
Nitro nodded resolutely. He was determined to do just that.
“I WILL be a Master Fisherfrog!” he declared and leapt into the ocean for more bait.
Gloria, Dexter, Penelope, and Lance perched on the limbs of a giant, twisty, driftwood log, the remains of a massive mango tree. Nitro continued fishing vigorously as they discussed which skills they would choose.
Congratulations! FISHING is now level 2!
Everyone looked up as Nitro approached with a huge froggy grin on his face and a sea urchin in his hands.
“Thank you, thank you,” Nitro said, bowing.
“Good job, Nitro!” Gloria exclaimed. “I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU! OH MY GOODNESS! IS THAT A SEA URCHIN?!”
Nitro drew back a bit. Gloria tapped on the touchscreen of her RIBBETS.
Gloria uses COOKING!
There was a static buzz as a campfire appeared on the sand followed by a metal rack and stand. Nitro leaned forward to inspect it.
There was another buzz as a heavy iron cooking pot materialized over his head. Bonk! Nitro rubbed the lump growing on the back of his head.
“Sorry, Nitro. I should’ve warned you,” Gloria apologized. “Let me have that urchin.”
Gloria dropped the urchin into the pot. Everyone watched as the pot bubbled. Suddenly, a cloud of steam puffed up around the pot. When the steam cleared, a single bowl of soup sat on the sand where the fire and pot had been.
Obtained Urchin Soup!
“Wow, it worked!” Gloria exclaimed. “I LOVE COOKING!”
Nitro bent down and picked up the bowl.
“Mmmmm! Gloria, this smells delici… Ahh, that’s hot!”
Nitro squealed and tossed the bowl into the air. Everyone watched in silence as it sailed through the sky.
A little way down the beach, a small fiddler crab looked up at the bowl as it flew towards him. He tucked his eye stalks in and pulled one large claw over his head. The bowl landed upside down with a boiling splash over the unfortunate crab. The frogs looked on in horror. Nitro finally broke the silence.
“I’d hate to be that guy. Know what I’m sayin’?”
Suddenly, the ground began to shake! The bowl exploded, and a cloud of sand was launched into the air. An ominous whooshing and battle music came from the RIBBETSs.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Dexter squeaked.
Triff and Crest slipped through a side door and hurried toward the Botanicals Wing. Triff was careful not to look directly at the surveillance cameras, catching them in her peripheral vision. Crest grabbed the back of her elbow and slowed her pace.
Hydroponics was two doors down on the left. Triff had a beehive in her stomach. It was quite illegal to bring unauthorized specimens into the facility. She struggled not to leap the remaining distance. A door swung open and shut. She stopped abruptly almost dropping her cargo.
An aging man in a white lab coat stood in the hallway staring down at a clipboard. Triff looked at him, then looked at the sign above the door across from him.
Crest urged her forward. She shuffled toward the door and turned when the scientist looked up over thick glasses and whistled.
“Now that’s really somethin’!” he said. “Where’d you get it?”
“Well… er…” Triff stammered.
“We grew it,” Crest stepped in. “New growth serum we’ve been developing. Initial results are,” he gestured to the flower, “promising!”
“I’ll say! Keep up the good work!” the scientist said, returning to his business.
Triff and Crest fell into the hydroponics lab, slamming the door behind them. Triff took a deep breath and sighed, slumping against the door. She was beginning to relax when a voice startled her.
Nitro tapped the USE button next to FISHING. There was an electric buzz in the air as a fishing rod materialized in front of him and dropped into his hands. It was tricolor yellow, orange, and red, just like Nitro’s shirt. There was a bobber painted with flames, and a plain hook hung from the end of the line. Nitro was drooling over his new rod when his expression suddenly changed.
“Hey, wait… Where’s the bait?”
“It doesn’t come with bait. You can try to find some, but I would suggest getting the GATHERING skill to make it easier. You’ll have a better knowledge of what you’re looking for. Of course, you could get the CRAFTING skill. That would teach you how to make lures. ISN’T THIS SO EXCITING!” Gloria said, with flames in her eyes.
“Hmm…” Nitro weighed the options. “I’ll just get both!”
After both tutorials played through Nitro’s mind, he looked around at his friends with a giant grin. Then he began laughing maniacally.
“Hahaha! Do not feel ashamed. It isn’t your fault that you aren’t masters like me. Keep trying, you’ll get it one day. Hahaha!” Every frog stared at him like he was insane. “Now stand back and watch the master at work!”
Nitro looked around the beach. He felt as though he had super detective powers as objects jumped out at him. He grabbed a forked stick from the sand and spun it through a spiderweb glistening in a nearby almond tree. His R.I.B.B.E.T.S. suddenly called out.
“Hahaha!” Nitro laughed again as everyone watched.
He leapt into the ocean with a splash and returned with a single tiny shrimp wiggling in the net.
Obtained Tiny Shrimp!
Nitro put the shrimp on his hook and tossed it into the ocean. Everyone watched as ten minutes went by. Nitro started to fidget uncomfortably.
“C’mon, fish. Don’t make me look dumb. Here, fishy fishy,” Nitro whispered to the ocean.
Suddenly, the bobber bounced and sank! Nitro snatched the rod back and started reeling.
“This is it! Oh, it’s a giant shark! No, a whale! Here it comes!”
With one last great pull, the fish came flying out of the water. Nitro watched in horror as a miniature sardine glided through the air in slow motion. It landed inaudibly on the sand. There was no sound except for the gently breaking waves. Then…
Obtained Miniature Sardine!
Nitro quietly flicked the fish back into the water. There was an eruption of laughter from the group.
The metal cube melted away into the earth. A few moments later, the outlines of a rectangle exactly 50 meters by 80 meters began to appear on the ground. Gradually, the ground within the rectangle sank as a mound of dirt rose nearby.
Reginole was beside himself, hopping about on one foot then the other.
“Oh, my beautiful little bots, I do love you so! What will it be, what wiiiiill…” Reginole stopped talking to himself and glanced sideways at a fat, purple cactus in the distance.
“…Er hm. This truly is my favorite part! Oh wait! No! the exploring! No… the…” He stopped again and stared at the cactus. The exo-archaeologist laughed to himself nervously.
“Just the light being distorted by heated gases rising from the ground. Nothing more, nothing more, old boy, old sport, old… scales.”
Reginole looked back at the dig site where two feet of earth had already been excavated. A panel of rusty metal had appeared, standing on end.
Two deep green eyes blinked slowly beneath the canopy of petals. They were glazed and tired. The three root tips that made up its fingers scratched at the ground and pointed toward the reflection pool.
Triff stared into the creature’s eyes.
“It needs water,” Triff said.
“How do you know?” Crest asked.
The Flowerman blinked and flexed its fingers.
“It’s telling us,” Triff said. Crest stared at her for a moment, conflicted.
“Okay… do you think it’s safe to touch him?”
Triff considered the danger for a moment, then dismissed it.
“I don’t know, but we can’t let it die. This discovery is too important.” She took off her lab coat and laid it over the creature, lifting it up without touching it. “We have to get it to Hydroponics. This water is filthy.” She sneered at the reflection pool. “And Crest… Let’s not tell anyone about this just yet.”
Crest sighed, then nodded.
“Okay, but first…” Crest wrapped the lab coat loosely around the creature until only its bloom was showing. “If anyone asks, we’ll say we’re working on a new growth serum..”
The two-foot-tall dinosaur-like creature studied the screen of a small device in his right hand as he waved it back and forth over the ground. Dark shapes panned across the screen accompanied by a multitude of readouts. Physical dimensions, material compositions, computations, and simulations poured into Reginole’s photographic memory. He didn’t need a memory bank. He was a memory bank.
Reginole stood still and waited for the device to finish compiling the data. It dinged loudly as if to say “popcorn’s ready”. He spoke out loud as he tapped in commands.
“Area: 4,000 square meters… 50 meters by 80 meters… depth: 20 meters. Add some stairs…”
Reginole reached into one of his many vest pockets, retrieved a small metallic cube and tossed it on the ground. His long whip of a tail stood out stiffly behind him as he scurried away across the sunbaked earth.
After reaching a safe distance, the lizard punched in a few final commands and tapped the side of his goggles. The round, hyper crystal lenses zoomed in on the cube.
“Execute!” Reginole shouted, stuffing the device into a vest pocket.
“I’m telling you what I saw. The thing was walking,” Crest said, “On those spindly things.” He pointed at what looked like two bundles of roots trailing from the main body. “I mean… have you ever seen anything like this?”
“Well… no,” Triff said.
The thing lay stretched out. Two more root bundles flung forward beneath what looked like a three-foot-wide wilted purple passionflower. From flower-top to root-tips, the whole thing was about two and a half feet long.
Hello Readers, Writers, Teachers, and Children! I’ve decided to create some weekly serials. Each week I will publish a snippet of a continuing story. The read will likely be 1 min or less. I will then take the accumulated episodes and compile and edit them. My goal is to have some short stories or novellas roughed out by the time the serial is complete. I’m interested in your thoughts.
Flowermen were never a populous species, though they did at one time thrive among the concealed valleys of the Magiljak Mountains. Guarded by those treacherous peaks, it was unknown that these gentle creatures existed until after The East Erscha Company had set up shop and begun blasting the whole area with industrial dust clouds.
At the time, I was employed by The East Erscha Co. in the Botanicals Research & Development Division. It was on June 3, 483 that the first Flowerman appeared, collapsing near the facility’s reflection pool.