Snow went away, came back, went away again. Melted, Bear said. Snow was water, and it melted and went into the ground. Which meant muddy, and that was fun. Then green things appeared, growing up from the ground, and there were little bumps all over the branches of some of the trees. Squiggles remembered this vaguely from before, in the barn.
After a quick glance to make sure he knew where First Aid and Bear were – adults didn’t move around much, though he’d seen them move very fast when they wanted to – he ambled toward the line of trees on the edge of the field. Their tall, bare shapes were interesting, and had the virtue of currently being unoccupied by any of his brothers. (Unbeknownst to Squiggles, he was being closely watched. Thundercracker, being keen-opticked and quite tall, had him firmly in lock.)
The long trundle across the field was worth it, Squiggles saw immediately. The green growing things were different under the trees! Much more wide-leaf things, of several different kinds, and mushrooms, and big sticks, and fallen leaves from before the snow, and new things, held on very thin, bouncy, green sticks – or wires – a little above the leaves; clusters of pretty, blue fluttery things. Bright blue, like First Aid’s optics, sort of. Squiggles tugged at a wire-stick with a bunch of bright-pretty things on it until it broke. He held the bright-pretty things up to his optics. The blue things were a bit like cups, only inside were tiny white wire things with blobby ends, and sort of a tube at the bottom where they attached to the little green wire-sticks. Amazing! (This had been Gasket’s favorite word yesterday.) He should show First Aid and Bear!
He scampered back to First Aid, talons tightly closed to protect the bright-pretty, bounding through the grass, stumbling over a tussock of wide-leaf green stuff, barreling on again. First Aid saw him and smiled, curling a hand around him as he climbed three-limbed to First Aid’s chest.
“Here!” Squiggles chirped. “Pretty! For you!” He opened his talons where the bright-pretty was kept safe. But in his little hand was a pulpy, tattered mess, only a few wisps left of the colors that were so nice. Squiggles twibbled unhappily. What happened? He’d been so careful, carrying it so far across the field…
“Virginia bluebells! Goodness, they’re a bit early this year,” First Aid said warmly. “Thank you, Squiggles, that’s so thoughtful.”
“It smushed,” Squiggles whimpered. “I smushed it,” he realized, and began to wail.
“Oh, dearspark, I’m afraid so,” First Aid said. “Flowers are very delicate here on Earth. Hush, hush, little beep, I know you didn’t mean to! Shall I come show you how to handle them so you don’t smush them?”
“Y-yes, plheez,” Squiggles hiccoughed, cleanser fluid still leaking from the corners of his optics.
“All right,” First Aid said. “Ah! I think I see some bloodroot over here!” They wandered over to a shady bit of garden around the Retribution’s skirts, and First Aid knelt down. “See? Aren’t they neat little flowers? They only bloom for a few days so we’re lucky to see them!” Noggin and Fulcrum had joined them and listened attentively. Squiggles got down and peered at the white flowers with yellow bits in the middle, and the unfurled leaves that clasped the single wire-stick – stem, First Aid supplied – of each plant.
Reaching slowly, he placed two talons around the stem. It sliced so easily!
“Good,” First Aid said. “Hold it just like that, by the stem only, okay? See? Yes, you can touch the petals, too, very, very softly.” Noggin and Fulcrum each gave picking a single flower a try, too. There was some fumbling at the tiny stems at first, but they were all trying very hard.
“You can also look at them without picking,” First Aid said encouragingly. “The plants need their flowers in order to make more plants. Then you can send the image to someone, just like glyphs, remember?”
Fulcrum seemed to be mulling this over deeply. “So…flowers are plant-Primes?”
“Um…sort of?” First Aid said. “Sure! In a way.” He looked up at Barricade, a merry gleam in his optics.
Leave me out of that, Barricade sent via tight beam.
Squiggles’ optics grew round. “I…smushed a plant-Prime!” he whispered, and began to wail again. First Aid scooped him up and cuddled him close.
“Oh, sweetspark, more flowers will grow. And…and they’re not exactly Primes in themselves…more like the generative threads inside a Prime’s—”
“I’m out,” said Barricade, beating a hasty retreat.