Room 208

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A truly awful #yackfest fanfiction I wrote one day when I was bored. I am not responsible for death by pun. – Fiora

Illflower listened carefully, her extra-sensitive robotic ears picking up every last little bit of sound echoing through the vast jungle.

“Not a peep,” reported Illflower. “We must keep moving.” Despite her appearance, Illflower gave off a surprising aura of strength and command. With her tall, slender body and long white hair, she might look like a frail human at first glance. But that was just her aesthetic preference. With her state-of-the-art AI and miniature fusion reactor, Illflower could be a terrifying force. And when she spoke, everyone listened. Okay, so *almost* everyone.

“Still?!”, Fiora whined, futzing with her hand-held sensor. “We’ve been out here for ages. Isn’t it possible this is all a wild goose chase?”

“It technically is, isn’t it?” said Nitya, a hint of wry smile spreading across his face. “I mean, we ARE looking for a bird, a wild one at that!”

Technically, not quite the bird. The three were looking for a plant – a rather special one, the Warp Shrub. This bizarre alien shrub produced a sap containing a catalyst that was found to boost warp engine efficiency, making it incredibly valuable. Even the top chemists of the sector couldn’t find a way to replicate it, and all attempts to grow the plant in captivity failed miserably. And in this dense, endless jungle, a tiny, inconspicuous shrub was nearly impossible to find.

But Nitya had found a lead. With his custom neural network software, he correlated a vast amount of information from past expeditions, trying to find anything that might give hints to finding Warp Shrubs.

“Y-you got me there,” Fiora said, giggling at Nitya’s awful joke. “We’re looking for that bird that eats this plant, right? Or, at least, you think it does.”

“We won’t find anything if we stand here,” said Illflower. “We don’t have time for this!”

“Okayyyyyyy,” Fiora sighed, stepping forward with her monoatomic blade, ready to continue cutting through the foliage. Though she was team biologist, Fiora hardly looked like a typical adventurer, and felt far more comfortable at her computer than in the field. But even with her weak constitution and short stature, a blade was a blade. Countless plants fell to pieces as she sliced them effortlessly in two with the nanotech weapon.

Hours passed. The sun inched ever-closer to the horizon, though that was deceptive: days on this world were a lot longer than on Earth.

Suddenly, Illflower stopped. “I hear it,” she whispered.

It didn’t take the high-tech ears of an android to hear the cry that echoed through the forest.

“That’s it!” shouted Fiora. Giddy with excitement, she ran forward – but Nitya stopped her.

“Shhhhh!” said Nitya. “Even if we’ve found the bird, we still have to follow it until we find the Warp Shrub. If we let it know we’re here, we might scare it off.”

Illflower nodded, pointing in a direction a bit to her right. “This way.”

The three quietly stepped through the jungle, trying in vain to muffle every little crunch of leaves. Not far ahead, the forest floor opened into a small clearing, albeit still largely covered with canopy.

Fiora stared forward, her eyes wide in amazement. “It’s… it’s… all… Warp Shrubs…”

Her excitement was interrupted by an astoundingly loud, shrill shriek. A massive bird, with a beak a bit like a pelican’s, stomped into the clearing. Standing about 10 meters tall, it looked like it could swallow any of them in one bite. Illflower grabbed Fiora and Nitya and pulled them behind a small log.

The bird hadn’t noticed them, it seemed. But their eyes quickly went from amazement to terror as the bird jumped back and forth through the clearing, gulping up Warp Shrubs with its massive beak.

Fiora muttered, tears welling up in her eyes. “The… the stomach acid of that bird will almost instantly denature Warp Shrub sap…”. Millions of credits disappearing every second.

Suddenly, Nitya dashed forward. The moment was perfect – the bird had shown its back. “Sorry, bird… these shrubs are mine!” With a perfect sweep of his monoatomic blade, the bird fell off its severed legs, its distinctive violet blood flowing in every direction. It flapped wildly for a few seconds, then fell silent. Breathing heavily and heavy with adrenaline, Nitya looked at the remaining shrubs.

“That… that was dangerous!” said Fiora. “You should have let Illflower handle it!”

Nitya smiled, reached down, and tore a Warp Shrub from the ground and held it up proudly. “You see,” Nitya said with a grin, “a bush in the hand is worth two in the bird.”