Dialogue flash fic for Steampunk challenge
|“It’s a flower.” Kara wrinkled her nose. Bending over my workbench, she jabbed a finger at the sample.
“An orchid, actually.” I adjusted my goggles and focused the lenses in on Anguloa clowesii, a particularly fascinating orchidaceae originating in Venezuela and Peru.
“It’s flower that smells like cinnamon.” I felt her shuffle beside me.
“Please don’t touch anything. Anything else.” I took a deep breath, and tried to erase her presence from my mind. Remaining motionless whilst I finished my inspection shouldn’t be too complex. Even for Kara.
She poked me in the vertebrochodial ribs.
“Anguloa clowesii, popularly known as the tulip orchid, is a large epiphytic and deciduous member of the orchid family…..” I broke off, looking up. “Epiphytic, from the Raunkiær naming system? Pertaining to non-parasitic plant-upon-plant life?”
She stared at me as though I spoke some hitherto unknown language. I tried again: “a plant that lives on another plant - like a fern on a tree - but is not a parasite. Typically consumes H2O and nutrients from the atmosphere, precipitation or surrounding debris; not the soil.”
“Like tax evasion?” she hazarded.
“Y’know, like the plants are avoiding the soil by pilfering food from the air?” Kara gave me a bright smile, the paint on her lips matching the vibrant red of my Guarianthe aurantiaca orchid samples.
I stared back, bewildered. Undergraduates, I decided, become more baffling each year. Stooping back down to the A. clowesii, I began teasing apart the inflorescence and set to work on the individual petals.
“Why tweezers? Lasers are wa-ay better for fiddly stuff - ya don’t need to worry about shaky hands or anything.”
“No. I simply have to worry about the amplified radiation annihilating the delicate infrastructure of the sample I am attempting to analyse.”
“The what now?”
“Amplified radiation ... Kara, do you even know what the acronym L.A.S.E.R. stands for?”
“Erm.” She gave a shrug. “Not so much.”
“Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” I fought back an urge to shake her. “Exactly why have you been assigned to me, Kara?”
“Dunno.” Another careless undulation of the shoulders. “‘Snot like I’m all sciency or anything. I’m more about the … art. Poetry. Words. Shaping the material world to my literary whim. Oops, sorry.”
I glared at her and, re-adjusting my goggles, stepped out of her way.
“When you have quite finished waving your arms about like a ... a deranged myriapod.” I stopped. “You what?”
“I’m a literacy major. Can’t you tell? That’s why I said your epee-fighting flower was like tax evasion. See, I’m using an analogy to make sense of all your sciency gobbledegook.”
There was a roaring building up behind my ears. I could feel one of my headaches coming on.
“And that qualifies you to be my assisting technician, how?”
Kara flashed another smile. “Oh it doesn’t. Professor Whitworth thought it might help my word-building. Y’know, being ‘round someone who uses big words all the time. You were the very first person he suggested.”
Word count: 497