Book 5, Chapter 11 - Super Tree-Mushrooms

Laboratories and research facilities were built here before Greenland City was established as a new domain. Now Hellflower led their research and development priorities.

Cloudhawk didn’t understand a lot about science. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t pay much mind to the experiments Hellflower and her team were doing.

When he went to find her Cloudhawk found the scientist with her silver hair tied up in a ponytail. Even the unflattering lab coat couldn’t hide her curvaceous figure. Delicate fingers gently pushed the safety goggles up on her head as she looked with some surprise toward Cloudhawk. “So busy yet you find time to visit little ol’ me? You’re right on time, actually. I have something nice to show you.”

Hellflower grabbed him and pulled Cloudhawk over to a large machine.

He gave it the once over but all he saw was a complicated mess of steel and wires. He couldn’t tell what it was meant to do by its construction. The whole thing just looked like a bunch of cylinders and pipes welded together.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover now.” Hellflower folded her arms over her full bosom. “This thing will change face of Greenland City, maybe even the whole wasteland. It will have incredible implications.”

Hellflower wasn’t typically one for hyperbole. In fact she was well known for being pragmatic, especially with her inventions. Yet this ugly, swollen monstrosity somehow earned her excitement.

A couple of her assistants opened the machine. It contained a considerable amount of thick, viscous fluid.

Cloudhawk didn’t notice any particular smell. Without that harsh chemical scent he figured it was something more pure – not poisonous or dirty. It even caught the light, giving the surface a faint gleam.

The scientists poured half its contents into a metal box and sealed it shut. A lever was then pulled, followed by mechanical whirring. It rather sounded like a furnace coming alive.

A dull rumble reached his ears. Moments later, a screech like a wild animal was released from the pipes.

The strange crackling he heard was from the machine rapidly heating up. Some of the pipes were spouting fire. But that wasn’t what shocked Cloudhawk. What followed was a scene where he witnessed the ugly and cumbersome machine start to quake. It bucked and rumbled as its pistons starting to move, like within a beast desperate to break free.

Thud-thud-thud-thud!

Cloudhawk could feel the energy coming off the thing. The pistons picked up speed. If they attacked this to something – say something with wheels – it would make one hell of a vehicle, with more power than anything he’d seen before. Who knows, maybe it could be used in some flying machine or a weapon. Hellflower was right – this engine could really change the wastelands.

This wasn’t a typical internal combustion engine. Now Cloudhawk was no engineer and knew next to nothing about old tech, but a man who’d never eaten pork still knew what a pig was. He learned to drive vehicles way back in Blackflag Outpost when he ran with the Tartarus Mercenaries, so he had at least a little knowledge.

Engines weren’t all that special in the wastelands. But this… this thing was different.

It was a combustion engine, sure, but the energy it produced was a hell of lot more than normal. It wasn’t just about the quality of the fuel in it, either. The reality was it was probably a combination; whatever fuel they used was good stuff, and the construction of it took advantage of that.

“If we pushed it, it would produce several times this much output.” Hellflower couldn’t hide the pride from her expression, but it was tempered by regret. “Unfortunately we have very little dragon-iron, which is the only material that can handle such high temperatures. We only have enough for the cylinders and other crucial parts. The rest of it was made with standard metals, but that means it can’t handle the full energy load without exploding.”

“What fuel does it use? How is it so powerful?” Cloudhawk was gave the machine a sidelong glance as he thought. “Eboncrys?”

“You’re a clever boy! But that’s only half right.” Hellflower gave Cloudhawk an appreciative look. “Only the Elysians have mastered the formula for stable, useful eboncrys fuel. They use it for their airships and pylons. For us wastelanders to uncover their production secrets is a tall order.”

Her explanation only made him more curious. “Are you saying you figured it out?”

“Of course not. Why should we imitate the Elysians anyway? Even if we could figure out the fuel, we would need the technology of their pylon reactors to utilize it effectively. Those are far too difficult to counterfeit. Remember, this was all invented by a very different civilization from our own.”

She then drew herself up with pride.

“We discovered something completely new. Not only is it just as effective as an Elysian reactor, it’s actually more stable and controllable. In fact, you’ve contributed a lot in this invention.” She smirked. “I’ll bet you have no idea what I’m talking about.”

Cloudhawk replied. “Well don’t keep me in suspense, what is it?”

“The mysterious spores we found in that alien world.” Hellflower waved over her assistants, who brought the remaining fuel over for them to inspect. “This fuel is actually a mixture of silicon oil from eboncrys fruit and those mushroom spores.”

Most energy sources were inherently dangerous. Gas, crude oil, and so on… they were flammable and prone to explosive accidents. Eboncrys, on the other hand, was hard to work with but that’s what made it so stable. No flame, high temperatures or direct impact released its energy. The trick was to find an effective and efficient method of release and utilization.

Hellflower had gone through many iterations, none of them ideal. It’d cost a lot of time and resources, and ultimately had produced nothing – until they found those spores. To her surprise they were highly absorbent, pulling the energy from eboncrys fruit with very little coaxing.

It was an inspiring discovery.

In order to employ the spores’ bio-extraction properties, the first step was to isolate the spores. She kept them from germinating and instead used that latent energy to produce the fuel. Her efforts were met with great success.

“Spore fuel in itself is hardly useful. Come, you’ll see what I mean.”

Hellflower guided Cloudhawk toward a special section of the labs. They entered into an enormous space with several well-tended plots of dirt where Cloudhawk saw – much to surprise – several dozen super-massive mushrooms. Each one was thirty or forty meters tall.

“What the hell?”

It’d only been a couple weeks since their excursion to the other dimension. How had these weird mushrooms grown so large so quickly? Even if Hellflower had started right when they got to Greenland City, they would have had to grow at a rate of several meters a day.

If Autumn had been responsible for it, that would have been another thing. After all, the Shepherd God and her flute were capable of amazing things. But Hellflower didn’t have that kind of power. So how did she do it?

“Surprised? Me too. These alien fungi are very strange. They’re like some sort of mix between tree and mushroom. The internal structure is strong enough to allow them to grow so tall.”

“Of course, their most interesting feature is how they grow. They absorb external energy and convert it into bioelectricity, so long as the amount of energy they consume is sufficient, they will grow exponentially by utilizing that energy to draw every ounce of needed material from their surroundings. The process is so efficient, they can easily grow four or five meters in a day!”

“When their energy stockpiles are depleted, the mushrooms will go into stasis. This period is marked by cessation of growth and a focus on accumulating more energy for future processes. If no further energy source is present, they will maintain their current size indefinitely.”

Cloudhawk couldn’t help but marvel at the tenacity of life. No wonder the mushrooms they saw in the other dimension were so huge.

“Look at this.”

Hellflower led him further into another room. Here there were also mushrooms growing, however the plots were slightly elevated and wires protruded from the bottom. These wires crisscrossed toward something that looked like a transformer connected to a series of tubes.

Hellflower waved at her assistants. One of them pulled a lever whose result caused Cloudhawk’s eyes to go wide. All the lightbulbs increased in intensity until the formerly dim grow room was suddenly flooded with light.

“What’s this?”

Hellflower waved again and her assistant flipped the lever back. “These mushrooms act like high-capacity batteries. Not only do they absorb energetic material, but they take from anything they come into contact with; light, fire, anything. This makes sense considering the barren planet they thrive on. Growing to such heights in dead soil must take a tremendous amount of energy.”

Cloudhawk nodded. “So every mushroom is a battery. You link them together with those wired to make a battery bank.”

Hellflower nodded. “That’s right. We use eboncrys fruit as fertilizer, which enriches the soil with a huge amount of energy for the mushrooms to consume. They love it and grow very quickly. Once they’ve grown to sufficient size, we stop using fertilizer to curtail growth and turn them into natural power stations.”

Even without scientific knowledge, Cloudhawk could imagine what this would mean. They could spread these mushrooms throughout the city, use eboncrys fertilizer to help them grow, then leave them alone. They could then absorb sunlight through their caps which could be used as energy. From that point it’s just attaching wires and transformers, and you’ve got electricity.

Who wouldn’t be excited about limitless electricity? Mushroom-based eboncrys fuel was a new generation of alternative energy.

The energy could be converted for use in tools or weapons, too. A unique, pure source of energy. Where they reached a bottleneck was in machine design. Their internal combustion engines could only utilize about twenty percent of the energy in this fuel. This was somewhat sidestepped by having eboncrys’ energy first absorbed through mushrooms spores to make it more efficient.

“You have the key to unlock so many mysteries.” The way Hellflower looked at Cloudhawk made him feel like a tiny rabbit beneath the hungry gaze of a wolf. “The more you use your skills, the more amazing discoveries we can make in other dimensions, like these mushrooms. We can achieve incredible things – that’s why Wolfblade had us come with you. Together, we can change the world!”

Cloudhawk had to admit, her enthusiasm was contagious. When he first discovered his trans-dimensional powers he just thought it was a great way to run if he found himself in a tight spot. Maybe he could sniff out a fancy relic or two in the process, at most use it as a pocket warehouse for his goodies. Now, he saw that the potential went far beyond what he’d originally imagined. Each one of the shattered worlds had a legacy, and that meant potential. Riches that they could use to help their own world recover.

But Cloudhawk came upon a crucial question. If there were mushrooms in that dimension that they could use for electricity, were there mushrooms they could eat for food? With the rate at which they grew it might just solve their food crisis as well. Once that problem was solved not only would Greenland City stabilize, but they would reach out to take control of their domain much faster.

Once he had thousands of troops at the ready, his day of reckoning against Arcturus wouldn’t be too far off either.

Clouhdawk was tired of waiting! It was time for another trip.

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