Leaf the Flying to Us

Name: Andrew Burton
Email: tuglyraisin@aol.com
LJ: jarodrussell
For: Karen (odditycollector)
Requested characters used: Vril Dox II (and, I did write what he told me to!)

The arboretum was growing nicely. Flowers were in full bloom. Vines snaked across the ground, winding their way up exposed pipes and anything else their tendrils could grasp. The entire, indoor garden was full of greens, oranges, and lush purples. It was a sight to behold.

Vril Dox admired his garden with no small amount of pride. It had taken a good bit of work to get so many plants from various worlds to flourish, but even such a task was mere child's play for a twelfth level intelligence, which Vril Dox just happened to be. The ultimate solution actually came from the L.E.G.I.O.N.naire Taptree, who Dox managed to talk out of a small cutting from one of his branches.

By grafting the cutting onto one of the tree in his garden, as well as artificially splicing some of Taptree's genetic material into his other growth, Dox managed to spawn a semi-sapient garden. Such intelligence, even if it was little more than the intelligence possessed by a pet, made the plants so much more adaptable. Leaning toward light was the least that his plants could do after their gene therapy took hold.

Dox had first witnessed this when several of his plants started uprooting themselves and trading plots with other plants about the garden. Subsequent studies revealed that his plants, it turned out, were not only sapient, they were conversive. The plants had worked out, among themselves, the best way to be arranged. It went on like that for some time, the pants not only adapting themselves but the garden as a whole to something more streamlined.

It was amazing, as the plants grew and Dox studied their growth, the Taptree mutations proved that while the plants weren't aware to the point of being legally considered a sentient lifeform, they were a fully functional ecosystem unto themselves. The garden ceased to be, and in its place Dox had unknowingly created an evolving system, something close to being what most would consider a small city.

Evolving as it was, though, was terribly inefficient. While the plants could rearrange themselves, they only did so at an eighty-percent efficiency rating, compared to Dox's own models. That did not sit right, and did not last for long.

Devising a methodology for programming and conditioning the plants was a rather trivial matter; an equally low-level, though artificial, intelligence that controlled both the habitat controls for the arboretum and the robotic, pollination insectoid-drones was all that was really required. With the software running, Dox could tweak and change the arboretum's evolution with ease, from any of the consoles around the house.

In no time, the garden went from an eighty-percent efficiency rating to a one hundred ten percent rating -- subtle changes from within the plants pushed them past even Dox's projections. It dawned on Dox that as the plants evolved, so did their communication methods. It was surprising, even to him, but the garden developed a primitive information-gathering network.

Vines weren't just wrapping around pipes arbitrarily, they instinctively were reaching out and learning when water flowed through them. Haustorial roots weren't merely growing into other plants for parasitic reasons; they were increasing the bandwidth by way of landlines -- as opposed to the "wireless" pheromone communications Dox previously observed. In just a matter of months, the garden that was no longer a garden had moved beyond being an ecosystem; Dox felt safe to describe his garden as an actual organic machine.

With such an organic machine at his disposal, it really was a foregone conclusion what his next step should be: an organic computer.

That idea wasn't as far-fetched as Stealth made it out to be when Dox tried to explain it over dinner, which is why he kept mostly quiet about it otherwise. After all, had they not spent a year or more on a living starship that was powered by brains? If a starship could be built from organic components, then why not a computer.

But then, Dox began to think, if a computer could be grown from biological components -- and after a few months of work, he successfully proved that it could be done when he managed to develop a kind of feedback loop between the garden and the habitat control systems, further increasing its efficiency -- why not a starship. Early starships, while not organic in composition, were designed with organic life support systems. Food was grown on long star voyages, as opposed to crews attempting to merely carry stores. Plants were used to filter air onboard those ships, often at much higher levels of efficiency than artificial systems.

And so it went for some time.

It took time to expand the garden to the point that it could perform the level of calculations required for space flight, but the garden never under whelmed Dox. There was an entire patch of tubers that had navigational algorithms grown into the molecular structure of their starches. The vines that stretched across the garden linked those databanks with the processing systems comprised of the pollination insectoid-drones and several carnivorous plants.

It wasn't the kind of navigational computer that could be plugged into something that required agile, ever-changing jumps, like a star fighter; calculating a jump required about a week, barring any habitat malfunctions that might arise; but even as Dox finalized his garden, possible applications came to mind. An entirely biological system that could be launched through space, sent to a planet, and then infiltrate the communications network of a world via its ecosystem was the first. That idea was the first memo he sent to L.E.G.I.O.N. The next involved using a plant-based computer-ship as a possible terraforming or ecological recovery system for barren worlds. The sheer amount of potential managed to boggle even Dox's great intellect.

And that was before his system made its first faster-than-light jump.

"Ready to make history, Lyrl?" Vril asked his son.

Lyrl Dox, who had grown up along side the garden, nodded with excitement. "This is going to be so sprocking awesome," he cheered.

Vril raised an eyebrow at his son's explicative. Something he picked up from Stealth no doubt. Still, such an outburst could easily be forgiven. It was rather exciting. Years of work were about to move from the frivolous realm of theory into the most important real of application.

"Yes," Vril nodded, "sprocking awesome." He reached out and ruffled Lyrl's blond hair. "Have you figured out where we'll be jumping to yet? I hope my hints weren't too glaringly obvious."

Lyrl smiled up at his father, eyes sparkling. "Oh, they weren't glaringly obvious," Lyrl admitted with a shrug, "but I must admit they were obvious. However, few things aren't for a twelfth level intellects like us." Lyrl paused for a moment, and then added, "We're going to Cairn, aren't we?"

"Yes, we are going to Cairn," Vril answered. Lyrl would have probably guessed that was the destination for their initial flight even if he hadn't dropped any hints. After all, what better place that to show off the next generation of L.E.G.I.O.N. weaponry than its home world?

"We're going to Cairn?" a voice asked from just outside the arboretum. "I just got back from there."

"Momma!" Lyrl cried. He hopped up from the floor and streaked toward Stealth. The two collided in an embrace, Lyrl hugging her waist and Stealth hugging his neck. "Dad's going to try out his O.R.B.I.T.S.!"

"Orbits?" Stealth asked Vril. Stealth cocked her head to one side as she asked.

"Uh, yes," Vril replied. "It stands for: Organically Raised Biological Interstellar Transit System." He gestured out to the garden, his hand starting it's path with the control console resting on the floor, then moving across the arboretum, and finally ending with a finger pointing at the tuber-drives. "It's been calculating jump coordinates for Cairn over the last week."

"Is it safe?" Stealth asked.

"Of course it is!" Vril answered. Stealth raised an eyebrow, not wholly convinced. "Mostly safe anyway," he muttered.

"I helped," Lyrl added, looking up at his mother.

Stealth looked even less convinced, but before she could say as much, Vril interjected, "There, you see. This is the product of not one, but two twelfth level intellects. You couldn't ask for a safer pair to have constructed this." Vril turned back to the console. "Besides," he added, "there is only one way to know if it'll work or not."

He began typing commands into the console.

Lyrl cheered and sprinted back to his father's side. He slid to his knees the last few inches, ending up right next to the console.

Stealth sighed. She knew Vril could build a jump system in his sleep. She also knew that Lyrl wasn't the sociopathic infant she once feared. There was really nothing to be concerned about, she decided. Stealth walked closer to the pair of Doxes.

"So, how long until the jump?" she asked. While she waited for an answer -- something she knew could take a minute -- Stealth eyed a ripe, red apple that hung from one of Vril's trees. Her stomach let out a small growl as she eyed the fruit, suddenly reminding her just how long the slight from Cairn really was.

Without thinking, Stealth reached out and plucked the apple off the tree. Just as the stem of the apple snapped from the tree, she heard Vril cry out, "DON'T--"

He didn't have time to finish his warning. At that very moment, in sudden, frightened reaction to having a part of its great body harvested, the O.R.B.I.T.S. bucked. The star-drive connected to it flared, and in a panicked burst, the planetoid that was both home and vessel to the Dox family vanished from reality in a white burst.

To where, no one knew.