Ornabel walked up and down the lab bench. Pots lined the stainless steel table, fresh plants, growing green and strong. Under the glow lamps their flowers were bright, cheerful notes in the otherwise tidy, bleak and almost monotone room.
Syringes lay in front of each pot, filled with the solution Ornabel and Timosh had spent weeks tweaking after their last failed trial.
“All right little plants,” Ornabel only spoke to them when Timosh wasn’t around. “Let’s see if this works.”
One syringe per plant. Ornabel carefully moved some of the soil, finding the largest root and inserting the needle.
Their first few attempts had killed the plants almost immediately, so the fact the plants were still alive as Ornabel disposed of the syringes and settled in the bean bag for their vigil was a good sign. A couple tentacles dutifully took notes as their eye observed the plants.
Timosh came in after a few hours. They discussed the notes and then he disappeared once more into his laboratory. The clinking of glass the only sign Ornabel wasn’t completely alone. The seven plants sat in their pots, soil covering their roots again.
Which was a shame since signs of the infection were already showing under the dirt. New bulbous growth on the roots broke off the thin hair like strands, limiting the amount of moisture they could absorb. The roots also started to coil closer to the stem.
Before exhaustion overtook Ornabel, they made sure the cameras were on and recording. Most nights Ornabel would be the one returning home to sleep and forget about work for a while, but on injection nights they curled up on the beanbag and slept.
Timosh woke them with the mourning song. Ornabel opened their eye to see Timosh standing at the end of the lab bench, eye hanging low over one of the drooping, rotting plants.
“How long?” Ornabel crossed the room on four tentacles, two adding to the notes on the tablet, and the other two poking and prodding at the plants.
“Thirteen hours before the first leaf crumpled.” Timosh said before returning to their song.
“I’ll take the samples for comparison before you dispose of the plants in the waste room.”
“They aren’t waste.” Timosh mumbled, one tentacle lifting up a fallen bloom. The petals all fell and the rest of it oozed off Timosh. “Each one is just another step to success.”
“Mhm.” Ornabel used a cotton ball to sop up the mushiest parts, and collected other bits to study with tweezers. Concentrating on their work they didn’t notice Timosh was looking at the door when he spoke. A disapproving eye looked in on them, and Ornabel was oblivious at the danger their study was in, but Timosh felt the pressure.
Literally, the pressure to do well or risk the study being terminated was solidifying sections of their body and Timosh moved with an awkward gait. But they would do whatever it took to succeed.
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