- No matter how many times Alita trawls through the twisted throwaways in Scrapheap, she’s always surprised by the sheer number of different things produced by the Zalemites above. There’s the mechanical goods of the far future; sleek panes of brilliant white and steel-grey:- or perhaps it’s of Zalem’s past, and only a future for the corroded dwellers here below. Clothing ranging from rendered rags to glistening jumpsuits litter the pile of lost items. And of course, the junk of Zalem’s culture flows over the top of the utility to be found in Scrapheap. Most everyone ignores the splintered crash-drives, the holo-posters for the latest performances in languages lost to those below.
- Down here, utility brings credits. Enough credits keep the decay underlying the city from touching one’s own life. The more experienced Trawlers can pull in raw material worth 10k over the course of a day. More if they know who to sell to. It’s a marvel watching them work; like ants crawling over a great heap. Not that there’s many antheaps in Iron City mind. Barely an inch of dirt to be found within the hydrowall. Free space is reclaimed faster than a floating murder bounty.
- It’s a contrast to the scurry around her as Alita takes her time picking through the heap. It’s a hobby for her; a reminder of the indomitable work of her father, and of the burning belief which Hugo held of the treasures to be found here. Her mind wanders in time with her feet; solid boots crunch on parts too small to sell as she crests a hill to keep her explorations fresh. It’s rare that she knows exactly what she’s looking for. Today is no different, though she feels the edges of a smile play across her lips as the afternoon sun warms her flawless face. The memory of Ido lecturing her on the dangers of exposure rises lazily to the surface of her mind. Of course, this came before her full diagnostics had arrived. Free from disease, from injury, and from the need for more than the very basics of human sustenance. Alita is one of the few in all of Iron City who doesn’t need to worry about the things which drive the humans and cyborgs around her. It’s the competitive edge, the desire to push her neurons- artificial and biologic- to redline which creates a meaning of her own. That, and a soft spot for the aesthetic around her.
- The afternoon musings are broken by the flash of green she spots from the corner of her eye. The consistent browns and greys of Scrapheap have become so ordinary that any other colour immediately stands out. Her beige coat sways as her pace quickens. As she draws near, the cracked lines of an old worker’s boot materialise from the trash around it. The leather is worn to the point of uselessness, and the frayed remains of laces show the inevitable scrapings of time against the once-beautiful item. But it is what the boot contains which catches Alita’s eye. She leans in close to examine the beginnings of a stalk; tiny leaves dance with the afternoon wind as she ever so gently strokes the edges of the plant. Her cybernetically enhanced fingertips pick up the unique texture of the organic material before her, and the smile returns in full force. Without a moment’s hesitation she grabs the boot, carefully shielding the sapling within from the rough edges of the city around her as she rushes home. She already knows exactly where she’ll put it: just on the edge of her window to catch the morning sunshine.
- Ido may be a cybersurgeon, but after a week of Alita’s incessant requests he digs out his old botany holo-book from the clinic’s basement storage. Though he remembers little from the course taken more than forty years ago, the determined grin on Alita’s face and the twinkle in her eye assures him that she’ll take the best care possible of her new plant. It’s a comfort that she’s found a purpose. Though his own is reflected in her, it hasn’t stopped the occasional late-night worry for him. Especially with her response to Hugo’s death. He rolls his shoulders, feeling the stiffness in them as she skips off with the data pad. Pictures of a blooming garden play at the edge of his consciousness and he returns to the work on the limb before him.
- Alita devours the textbook she’s been given. Though the youth of the plant before her makes it hard to identify, she quickly settles in to a care routine. A small amount of water when she wakes in the morning, and once before she goes to bed. Moving the boot a little as the days grow longer and the summer heat begins to wash over the city. She trains and explores and all the while the plant grows tall and strong. When the late nights of Motorball keep her from caring for the plant, she recruits Gerhardt in her place, with the provision of extremely detailed instructions. Gerhardt manages to keep her amusement at Alita’s insistence on the water required to the millilitre from spilling over in a laugh.
- Finally, after a season of growth and care Alita wakes one morning to find a brilliant blue flower has bloomed overnight. With unrestrained excitement she rushes over to feel the petals of what she can now identify as a flycatcher’s lily. The petals are silken-soft and the gentle smell washes over her in a comforting wave. She finds herself transfixed, proud of the change which she has been able to create. The textbook recommended trimming and transferral of plants just after the last growth, and Alita’s determination returns in full force. With a controlled flow of plasma from the very tip of her finger, she excises the failed stalks below the current crown, moving her way up until she gets to the flower. She pauses for a moment, then with a delicate touch cuts the flower just below the petal stem. It falls in to her waiting hand and she runs down the clinic stairs cradling the new bloom, beaming as she sees Ido preparing for the day’s work. Her momentum almost runs her in to the surprised cybersurgeon; he catches her as her words come pouring out.
- “Ido look! It bloomed!”
- Ido’s eyes widen as he takes in the flower before him. Its regular shape is breathtaking- it could easily be a perfect sketch created for one of Iron City’s print shops. Alita places the flower in his outstretched hand as she continues her stream of thoughts.
- “Here, you have it! Do we have any pots in the basement? Your book said we should move it soon.”
- Ido patiently waits for her words to finish before responding.
- “It is a lovely flower Alita, but you shouldn’t give this away.”
- He brushes her dark hair away with a steady hand and in one precise movement slides the flower behind her ear. Alita gasps as she sees her reflection in the mirrored surface of the operating screen.
- “If you made this, you should keep it.”
- Ido’s words are kind, and Alita feels the warmth rise in her chest as she suddenly grabs him in a tight hug. As always she feels him stiffen for an instant, before returning the gesture. Eventually she lets him go and she can see his smile fighting against his usually serious manner.
- “Well, let’s see if we can find something bigger than that boot.”
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