Author: Moh Afdhaal

Alam waded through the forest of chartreuse banana pepper shrubs arrayed on the red sand of Garden 778, beelining towards the lone brown offspring of a healthy-looking plant.
“Jabar, could you diagnose this one please?”

Instinctively, Alam looked up at the sky. It didn’t take long to find the speck on the towering hemispherical glass dome that encapsulated the garden.
“No scan needed, Jabar. I know what the issue is.”

Scaling the translucent photovoltaic glass with suction soles, Alam crept towards the obstruction, wary of the green carpet smothering the copper-red earth far below him. His cactus silk thobe fluttered in the toasty breeze washing over the solarium as he paused to catch his breath. Alam surveyed the desert plains of Moroq extending around him, speckled with myriad solarium domes, like wispy soap bubbles floating on a russet sea.
Jabar hovered closer as they neared the defective panel.
“What is it, Jabar?”
“Initial assessment indicates a sand hwamei, Alam.”
Flailing on the flickering glass was a dainty brown-feathered bird with distinctive white markings around its eyes.
“Scan concludes a fractured coracoid. Recommending transfer to nearest operational Amalgam Aviary in Itel. Alam, Should I schedule a delivery vessel?”
Alam considered for a moment. Isolated from the world to prevent contamination of the crop, he had served over a quarter of his forty-nine-month tenure for the Amalgam as one of two occupants of Garden 778. Other similarly isolated gardeners had the foresight to bring along pets for organic company. Alam had not considered this possibility.
Swaddling the twitchy hwamei with his palm, he stroked its nape with a soft finger. “When was the last time you saw a bird, Jabar?”
“This would be my first encounter, Alam.”
Alam smiled. “My Abba took me to see a pigeon when I was younger. The Amalgam was going to clone it, so they called for a blessing at the Albaith. I remember sitting on Abba’s shoulders just to catch a glimpse of it. I didn’t think it would take decades to see my next one.”
“I understand your wonderment, Alam. I have witnessed the majesty of pigeons in the Flighted Bird Resurrection almanacloud.”
The hwamei pecked gently at Alam’s thumb. “I wonder how she survived this long.”
“This sand hwamei is a clone, Alam. There are impressions on the clavicle indicating origin at an aviary in Ckinea.”
“That’s a great distance for her to fly. Is she being tracked?”
“No active audits, Alam. Once it is delivered to Itel they will handle the return.”
“Maybe we should take care of her for a while, no?”
Jabar didn’t answer immediately.
“Alam, the Agroforestry Commission will not look fairly upon us harbouring a potential carrier inside the Garden.”
Alam had expected the response, but still was crestfallen. “I understand,” he sighed “I hoped this could be something we didn’t include in the report.”
Jabar was silent. His programming directed strict adherence to the protection of the Garden’s integrity. Alam’s proposition was an explicit threat to it.
With a soft whir, Jabar floated closer to the hwamei cupped in Alam’s hands, facing the bird as if scanning it.
“Her company could be beneficial to the Garden, Alam.”
Alam turned to face his partner in shock, quickly replacing it with a beaming smile and thankful nodding. The two gardeners rested on the curved glass of the solarium, breathing in the warm desert air, eager to continue life in Garden 778 with its newest inhabitant.