Neighbor Scientist – Chapter 2

“Through there you can see the greenhouse.” Karl told me while I followed him, still stunned by the whole ordeal with Takoyaki. “That will probably be the main place where you’ll spend your time working, so it might be a good idea for you to acquaintance yourself with it later.”

 

As he said that, I followed the motion of his hand, my gaze meeting with the metallic wall that went deep into the jungle that he called home. With a glass ceiling that stood high, from the place where I was all I could say was that it looked like the building was a lot bigger than what I initially expected.

However, even though that building was clearly gigantic, it wasn’t the place where we were going, so following the strangely rustic path of wooden planks that formed the trail through the jungle, we went even deeper.

 

A bit confused on as to how Takoyaki would take all of my bags to my room, I felt a bit uncomfortable with the lack of weight on my shoulder, as even though I was moving in to live in this island, it didn’t feel as meaningful without my bags.

 

“Erm… Sir Karl… Is it safe to live in a jungle like this?” I asked worried, seeing how even a couple of animals crossed my field of view. Not knowing what to expect from this place, I couldn’t help but become even more worried.

 

“Oh, don’t worry.” He replied while throwing away the coconut he still held in his hand. “The security system is a lot more dangerous than these little guys, so don’t worry.”

 

“Ermm… What do you mean?” I asked confused.

 

“Well, let’s just say that you should be glad you weren’t here when I accidentally bugged the system’s firmware.” As he said that, his eyes drifted towards a spot besides the walkway, and what I saw there left me pale.

 

A smoldering black crater appeared in the middle of the deep jungle. Worse yet, it wasn’t the only one. Dozens and more dozens of said craters spread through a clearly unnatural clearing in the midst of the jungle. Varying from sizes of a small ping-pong ball to two that were large enough to hide a person in, they covered an area of around thirty meters, and amidst all the destruction, some pieces and bits of metal parts and machines could be seen, with their carcasses molten or blasted right off.

 

“So yeah… The S-quadron were supposed to be taking care of that, but I guess they are occupied with their payment by now.” The man said before me with a slightly awkward tone.

 

“D-Didn’t you say that this job was safe?” I said while looking at the scenery. “That looks more like a battleground than a safe job to me!” I shouted worried.

 

“Oh, don’t worry. So long as I don’t upload a game of tower  defense instead of the usual security one, that shouldn’t happen again.” He quickly dismissed my worries as if saying it wasn’t anything too big. For a moment I felt like shouting at him, but he suddenly stopped and turned back to me as a computer pad appeared in his hand. “Oh, and I need you to stand still for a moment.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Caught by surprise by his sudden demand, I blinked while stopping in my tracks so I wouldn’t bump into him. While looking confused, I saw as he pressed a few buttons on his handheld and lifted his head back to me with a large foolish smile splattered across his face.

 

I would have asked him what he was doing, but a response came way faster than what I expected. With the corner of my eyes I caught sight of movement from behind a tree, turning to look at the source, I saw as machine held by a robotic arm appeared from behind the plant and turned my way.

 

With a long barrel that appeared from the middle of what looked like a satellite dish. Behind came what looked a large battery that shone brightly as if gathering energy. For a moment I simply stared at it while my mind linked the object with what it could possibly be. One thing did come to mind, but… It couldn’t be, right.

 

“Laser charged, fire!” Karl said loudly.

 

“SO IT WAS A LASER!” I shouted in panic before trying to dodge it, however, the machine easily followed me and shot the beam of light in my direction.

 

Did he discover who I was? Did he know I came here to spy on him? What would happen to the mission? Would General Alexander hear of my death?

 

Many things passed in my mind as I prepared to receive the weapon’s impact. However…

 

“…Huh?” I opened one of my eyes shyly while looking around. “…I’m not hurt?”

 

“Of course not!” Karl said back with indignation. “What, you really thought I would kill the person I hired just like that?”

 

“Then… What was that?” I asked confused. I’m sure I heard him saying laser and fire, so it was a laser weapon, right?

 

“That’s a modded laser weapon.” He said while staring at me as if he was looking at something amusing. “I changed a few pieces to make sure it would only destroy artificial air coloring.”

 

…What? Artificial hair coloring? Does he mean hair dye?

 

“You… Made a laser that only affects hair dye?” I asked just to be sure I didn’t hear wrong.

 

“Yup.” He replied with a wide proud smile.

 

“…Why?” I asked.

 

“Because it was dangerous having you walking around with hair dye.” He commented as if it was obvious. “That said, I didn’t expect you to be a natural red-head. I was ninety percent sure it was dyed.”

 

“I… Why… How…” I took a moment to choose my words, feeling frustrated that such absurd thing had just happened to me. “Why didn’t you just ask me then? Or rather, why I shouldn’t have my hair dyed?” I asked while feeling slightly relieved by the fact that I didn’t dye my hair for this job.

 

 

“Just a second Belladonna.” Garden interrupted my story with a heavy and tired voice.

 

“Sir?”

 

“You mean that, while our best scientists are having a hard time to make functional and useable laser weapons, the Locust have been using them to… Remove hair dye? A laser that doesn’t destroy anything but hair dye?” He asked again as if wanting to make sure of what I had just told him.

 

“No sir.” I denied immediately. “He also have been using them to vaporize the organic trash he throws around the island and, if my memory doesn’t fails me, to ignite his oven and heat the water tank.”

 

“…I…” A moment of silence before he finally continued. “How did you learn of those parts.”

 

“He gave me a handheld computer pad once he took me to my room. It explained a few things from the island.”

 

“I see… Do you think you could upload that data to our servers?” He asked with a sudden energy in his voice, but I already had thought of that.

 

“Sadly I can’t, sir.” I said with a sigh. “He uses a personally made Operational system for these pads and it doesn’t have the option to upload in the default UI, so unless one of our technicians manage to come here and hack this device on their own, there isn’t much I can do.”

 

“…Great. Just great.” He said annoyed before taking on a deep breath. “Continue your story.”

 

“Yes sir.” I said.

 

 

“Well, everyone knows that women lie about their hair, saying that it’s their natural color and whatnots. Shooting them with a laser is a lot faster.” Was his reply. “And for why… Well, there are a couple of creatures in here that seem to get high on the smell of dyed hair, and since even I can’t predict what a animal that’s high will do, I decided that this is the safest method.”

 

He explained to me while I followed him exhausted. It wasn’t even ten minutes since I first stepped on this island and I already felt completely drained of energy.

 

I still feel like I should comment on animals getting high on hair dye, though.

 

Feeling that it would be my loss if I said anything, I simply nodded weakly before sighing and deciding to give up. Yes. From now on I shall stop worrying about common sense and simply accept whatever it is that he will throw at me.

 

While making that assumption in my head, it finally came into my view the place that he called house.

 

“…It’s a resort.” I said blankly.

 

No matter how I looked at it, what was before me was a resort of sorts. Laid on the beach of a small internal lake, it was built with thick wooden logs and had a small balcony that led to the lake, giving what looked like a fairly comfy house.

 

“Exactly! What’s the best place to relax in a desert island other than a resort?” He said as if it was obvious.

 

Hadn’t I given up already?

 

The following moments were surprisingly calm and nothing too big happened. He showed me inside and gave me a brief tour of the house. According to him, his room was the one on the right side of the resort, on the bottom side, while the same room of the opposing sides was the entrance to his lab.

 

“Whatever you do, do NOT go to the lab without my permission, is that clear?” He said in a serious tone. I nodded surprised while making a mental note of trying to take a look later… “Good, it would be bad if you went in without permission, fumbled with the experiments and got either disintegrated or mutated into some kind of horrid monster.” Let’s NOT enter the lab until I’m sure it’s safe.

 

Finally, he guided me towards my room on the second floor. With a vista to the lake and a small balcony of my own, it was surprisingly comfy room, with a large LCD television, a single bed and a large wardrobe. I even had a balcony of my own, where I quickly found my belongings.

 

In there I also found a portable computer, similar to the one he used back when I first saw him, except that smaller, and around the size of a cellphone.

 

“You better keep that in hand while you are in the island. It have a built-in map and gps, internet access, some guides to the island and can also make calls. It’s one of my best creations.” He said proudly while stuffing out his chest.

 

“Oh, so it IS a cellphone.” I commented while picking it up. But did he say it was self-made, so this is quite interesting.

 

“What? No! It’s not a simple cellphone!” He suddenly shouted full of rage. “It’s much more than a cellphone! It’s… It’s… It’s… It… It requires more research and development.” He said in a low annoyed tone. After making a pensive pose for a moment, I wondered what he was doing, only for him to sigh and shake his head. “Anyway, I’m going to hole myself up in my laboratory for some time. Anyway, since it’s come to this, you might want to take a look into the place you are going to work, right?”

 

“Ah, if it’s possible… “ I said. Since I planned on staying here for long, I must at least do the assigned job correctly, right?

 

“Good. Since I thought you would only arrive next week, I kind of already did some things already, so for now, all you need to do is take care of Rex and bring Savia here.”

 

“Rex? Savia? What kind of flowers are those?” I asked confused as I couldn’t link their names to anything in specific. Wondering about that, I looked at Karl, but he was already leaving the room while holding his own computer in hand. “Chief?”

 

“Ah… Your PDA should have everything explained in there somewhere.” He told me while leaving out the room. Just as I sighed annoyed, he popped back up again. “Oh, and don’t be late for lunch, or you might leave Tako sad.”

 

“What?”

 

As I called him confused, he simply ignored me and made his way out to the first floor. Blinking in shock, I finally decided that worrying too much was bad for my health, so I quickly organized my clothes and gear in the wardrobe before finally checking on the cellphone.

 

While wondering if he had added some kind of listening device in this to keep me in check, I decided that as long as I kept quiet nothing bad should happen, I started fiddling with it while walking down the stairs and making my way towards the greenhouse, where the device told me that these Rex and Savia were.

 

Waving goodbye to tako’s tentacle, I left the house and soon found myself back into jungle of the island. Looking at the path made of wooden planks I noticed for the first time that there were a couple of wooden signs pointing towards the different locations on the island, and from the looks of it, they were fairly recent.

 

Isn’t he surprisingly mindful for someone who have all the countries of the world hunting him?

 

Wait… Suddenly noticing I had done something strange, I quickly did a double take and ran back to the house and looked towards the kitchen.

 

Behind the counter of said room, near where the cooking appliances were, I saw three long metallic tentacles that were nimbly squirming around while opening the fridge and counters, picking the ingredients and going through the whole cooking process with scary precision.

 

For a moment I simply stared confused before approaching it and look over the counter confused. Looking at the ground, I saw that there were three small ponds, two near the appliances on the wall and the middle one near the counter in the middle of the room, where the counter lay.

 

From these three ponds sprouted the three tentacles that were working on the kitchen. However, while the left and right limbs were clearly doing work, the middle one simply stayed still as if looking at the other two do their works. For a moment I also noticed that the top of the tentacle was split open as flower.

 

As if noticing my presence, it turned back to me and bent itself, revealing a camera in the middle of its split part.

 

For a moment we stared at each other, then it finally tilted to the side as if asking what I was doing.

 

“Ah… Sorry… I was just surprised.” I said while taking a step back and smiling wryly. The tentacles changed into a cheerful yellow before it turned back to watch its work.

 

I will not comment on the fact that the center tentacle was, for some reason, wearing an apron.

 

“So this is what he meant by making Tako sad…” I said as if I had a revelation before walking away from the house for good.

 

…I hoped that a robot knows how to make good tasting food.

 

Walking towards the greenhouse, I sighed while staring at the cellphone in my hand, looking for a bit more information about my job. He mentioned a bit about how to take care of the plants in the greenhouse and which ones had odd requisites due to being exotic species.

 

Deciding to skip the ones that didn’t matter much for now, I went straight to the two ones he asked me to take care of. Rex and Savia.

 

From the looks of it, Rex was a fairly unique plant as in that it require more than simple sunlight and water to live, but right on the entrance of the greenhouse I would find what I needed to deal with it. Looking at it, I saw a place for him to add an image, but it lacked a photo of the plant, probably because he hadn’t finished working on this yet.

 

The other one was Savia. Looking on the map that displayed their positions, I couldn’t help but feel that this one was quite important, seeing how it was displayed right in the middle of the room, on a pod that was exclusive to it. However, the instructions were a bit odd, it didn’t have anything unique about it, besides the fact that I had to water it, first near the roots until the ground became moist. After waiting for around a minute, then I should water it from the top.

 

After doing that, I would need to bring it into the main house.

 

I couldn’t help but feel that it was odd, seeing how usually, plants needed to be watered only near the roots, where they actually absorbed the water. But the instructions made it very clear that I would have to water it on the roots THEN on the leaves, from top to bottom. On that order.

 

Reaching the entrance of the greenhouse, I gave the map one last look before opening the door and entering.

 

I found myself on what looked like a depot of materials. Finding some gardening gear, such as aprons, leather gloves and large scissors. Since I wouldn’t need to do anything too big, I simply picked up the watering can and looked around in search for the supposed supplies for Rex.

 

“…Isn’t that meat?” I said after opening the door to an out of place fridge and find some packaged meat with the plant’s name written on the plastic.

 

This couldn’t mean that…  While thinking about what that could possibly mean, I shook my head. Such a thing was a myth, right? I mean, that’s only a joke concept, righ?

 

While trying to convince myself of that, I finally gave up thinking and picked one of the packages. With the depot itself being in an isolated room, I quickly filled the watering can and left to the main room of the greenhouse.

 

Not even I took a step outside, a loud sound echoed besides me, much alike the sound of a rope being stretched to the max. Turning to the side, I was met with a sight that wasn’t even funny.

 

A large blue flower with dangerous looking shape that rather resembled a mouth, with sharp teeth-like plants in the middle as if representing teeths. It was large enough to bite my head right off with ease, but it stopped just a few centimeters away from me.

 

This wasn’t even funny anymore.

 

While I stared blankly at the living comic representation of a carnivorous plant before me, I saw as it receded back near to its root that laid in a small garden on the side of the entrance. Then it’s mouth-like opening contorted into what looked like a confused expression.

 

Deciding to not worry too much, I briefly noticed that the place where I stood was just outside of it’s range, as it was limited by its stalk. Opening the plastic package, I simply threw the meat up towards the plant, who followed it with its head before snap-biting it and swallowing it in one gulp.

 

Staring at the scene blankly, I sighed before shaking my head. I can’t bring myself to even bother anymore.

 

However, the one moment I was giving up on logic became a brief moment of distraction, and before I knew it, a green stalk coiled around my wrist. Surprised, I let out a yelp while trying to free myself, but before I could even move, the carnivorous plant pulled me in closer.

 

I reacted quickly by taking my free hand towards the place where I kept a hidden knife just to be safe.

 

However, even though I easily managed to grab the blade, what happened afterwards left me shocked.

 

The flower rubbed itself against my cheek.

 

“…Huh?” I said surprised, and the plant separated itself from me and turned its mouth to my direction. A large childish smile appeared in its face as it gently squeezed me with a strength that rather resembled a strong hug rather than a strangling.

 

For a moment we simply stared at each other… Though I don’t  know how a plant could even see to stare at me, but I decided to not think too much. After a few seconds of that staredown, I finally sighed in defeat.

 

Rex, that’s his name, I guess, nuzzled against me a bit more while I smiled awkwardly before finally letting me go. Rather than a dangerous plant, it felt more like a chained overly-friendly dog. Leaving aside the fact that it had a completely wrong personality for a thing with its appearance, I went back to the schedule.

 

Taking my chance to take a good look on this greenhouse, I couldn’t help but feel that it was surprisingly homely. With rows of garden on each side and a main walkway that split it in half, it was blooming with different types of flowers and plants. Most of which I have no idea how they even came to be, and decided that it would be better to not try to find out about it.

 

I might act as an agent for the military and secret service, but I as a hobbyist gardener, couldn’t help but enjoy this kind of scenery.

 

Walking leisurely through the walkway while carrying the watering can, I finally reached the middle of the greenhouse, where a single plant stood in what looked like a small pedestal. It looked like a medium bush or a very small tree, with long but thin trunk that bloomed into a lushful bush of healthy green leaves. It had a strange cut where the right and left side were more voluminous, but in the middle it was a lot thinner, with the leaves only beginning a couple centimeters from where the trunk would be.

 

Near the very top of the bush, a single rose-like flower stood, that left me breathless in shock. WIth the coloration of its petals slowly changing through various hue, it was a really pretty sight that shouldn’t exist in nature.

 

Still, I couldn’t help but feel that the flower was a bit too small compared to the bush itself. The fact that it stood alone made it look even lonelier.

 

Still, after looking at the small plaque before the pedestal, I read:

 

Savia’s Nest.

 

Although confused by the choice of words, I had confirmed that this was the plant I had to water, thus I quickly followed the instructions and gently poured the water near its roots.

 

After seeing the exposed soil darken significantly, I felt that it was sufficient before backing away.

 

For a brief moment I thought I saw the plant shiver slightly, but deciding that it was just my imagination, I took the time I had to wait as a chance to look around the area.

 

Finding this place rather enjoyable and somewhat fitting for having a picnic later, I leaned against the pedestal while trying to see if I could find anything that I actually recognized in this place. Finally, my eyes landed on a field of familiar white flowers.

 

Daisies! Finally something normal and ordinary that doesn’t look outlandish! Feeling a bit cheerful, I approached the small field and crouched down to see them. They were rather simple flowers, but I couldn’t help but think that being simple was their charm.

 

But, of course, I was too hasty in my judgment.

 

Before the field laid a plaque with a name slightly different from what I remembered.

 

BERSERKER Daisy. Please remember to bring the petals with you.

 

I had so many questions I wanted to make at that moment, but unluckily, I had my answer immediately. As if reacting to my presence, the flowers twitched slightly and their petals became bright red as if they were enraged. Before I could move away, they suddenly swung in my direction, and from each one of those, a single petal came flying, aiming straight to my face.

 

Shocked by the sight, I took the hits straight on…

 

Then the petals fell to the ground while I watched the scene in confusion. The daisies once again threw their petals at me, over and over and over again with increasing fury and fire-rate.

 

But… Well… They are petals… Petals aren’t known for being very dangerous impact weapons…

 

Once they last daisy threw its last part, they all finally slumped down as if exhausted and stayed as they were.

 

I stared at them wordlessly for a moment.

 

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t sign up for this.” I muttered under my breath.

 

Let’s water that plant already and get out of here. I said feeling defeated. With a minute already having passed, I turned back to Savia and brought up the watering can. Not even trying to think about how I would bring it with me, I watered it from above, letting the water drip down from her leaves and fall down to the ground, making sure to douse it gently.

 

Then, after a few moments, it finally opened its wings.

 

 

“Agent. I’m pretty sure that plants don’t have wings.” Garden interrupted me.

 

“I know sir.” I replied.

 

“Only birds and insects have wings as far as I know, Agent.” He said, though his voice held no conviction.

 

“Actually, some other animals also have wings. Notably mammals, sir.” I replied in the same tone.

 

“That doesn’t matter. It should at least be an animal to have wings.”

 

“But it is a bird, sir.” I repeated exhausted.

 

“Wasn’t it a goddamned plant, agent?” He shouted angrily.

 

“It is.”

 

“THEN HOW CAN IT BE A BIRD?”

 

“It’s both sir. It’s a bird made of plants, sir.” Or a plant with the body of a bird. I sincerely don’t know.

 

“And next you are going to say that it uprooted itself and started flying around?”

 

“No sir. It only flew to my shoulder.”

 

Silence.

 

“Why, under the goddamned hell, would it fly to your shoulder?”

 

“To console me, sir.”

 

Once again there was silence. I took that as a sign for me to go on with my story.

 

 

As I slumped on the ground depressed, Savia, the bird landed on my shoulder, and when I wondered what it was going to do, I felt a gentle touch as it used its wings to caress my head, almost as if it was consoling me.

 

It took me a moment for me to finally recover and look up to get a good look on the bird… Plant… Flower… On Savia that patiently watched over me.

 

It had a shape fairly similar to a hawk, with long wings and a rounded, aerodynamic body. However, instead of feathers covering its body, it was covered with leaves that shone brightly under the sun. The two claws were what I had thought were trunks and on its bottom I could still see some traces of the soil where it had been buried. On its back a long tail that was made of long leaves formed in a reverse V shape. The beak was made of the same type of bark as the claws, while the eyes looked like some kind of amber jewels.

 

The flower that I had thought to be too small not looked like an accessory on its head, being on a fitting size to not look too distracting, while also not looking too small.

 

It was actually a really beautiful bird… Plant… Being, once I passed over the shock. Sighing in defeat at once again falling for this guy’s strange beings, I shook my head and raised myself.

 

“So, you are Savia?” I asked, and the bird nodded briefly. So it was intelligent too, I thought. “I’m the new gardener that Karl hired. I guess this means we are going to be acquaintances from now on.” I said, and the bird widened its eyes slightly before opening the beak and letting out a surprisingly melodious tweet.

 

With the bird on my shoulders, I looked at the time and wondered if it was already lunch time. Though I found it to be a bit early, since he didn’t give me anything to do after this, I decided that I could go back to the house for now.

 

After passing by a cheerful Rex, me and Savia left the greenhouse where she immediately took flight. Although many questions passed through my mind, I knew that I wouldn’t have any answers, so I simply followed along the path and made my way back to the house. With the bird always following me from the sky, making large circles as if to keep close to me, I quickly reached the door.

 

Seeing Savia enter through an open window, I followed her and her singing towards what looked like a dining hall, where Karl already was sitting down serving himself a plate of food from the modest, but appealing selection of robot-cooked food.

 

“It looks like everything went fine there.” He said while making a nod towards me then towards Savia who stood on top of the table.

 

“Well, besides going to the brink of insanity a couple of times… Yeah, everything’s fine.” I said exhausted.

 

“Sounds like a wonderful day!” He said cheerfully before pointing to a seat. “Come on, sit down. Lunch is better eaten when in a group.” He said, to which I complied.

 

Sitting down, I half expected for the lunch to have something odd about it, but it was surprisingly normal compared to everything else I have seen here today. For a moment I hesitated before serving myself.

 

“So… I take it that the gardening job will be there.” I said while trying to cheer myself up. “And the housekeeping job will be here?” I asked just to be sure. He swallowed a mouthful of food while nodding before speaking.

 

“Exactly. That said, I know it’s not your specialty, so all I want is to keep it roughly clean. No need to disinfect everything or anything like that.” He said, to which I nodded weakly. “Speaking of which, I kinda need you to start immediately. I have a fairly important guest coming later today, so it’s a great help you arrived when you did.”

 

“Ah… You actually mentioned it before.” I said suspicious. “Who is coming here? I mean, weren’t you in a beef with the whole world or something?” I asked confused.

 

“Oh, it’s no one you know. I’m almost sure of it.” He said awkwardly, but I couldn’t help but feel suspicious.

 

Someone I don’t know, yet is important. Since I’m supposedly a girl from the countryside, that would probably mean someone that’s on the underground, so… Some kind of drug lord or something? While starting to feel that things might get interesting, his last words gave me the final blow.

 

“It’s an elven princess and her some of her followers who come to make some trade agreements with me.”

 

The sound of my head hitting the table echoed in the room.

 

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