“Electric daisy?” Holly asked. “That is an interesting name. Why is it called that?”
“Give it a nibble,” Sybil said. She raised her eyebrows in encouragement. The wrinkles in her forehead flattened to make space for even more wrinkles.
Holly lifted the hard, yellow bloom to her mouth and pinched it with her teeth. Her tongue instantly began to tingle. It was a stronger reaction than a pepper, but did not burn. It left behind a numb feeling like her mouth had lost circulation. She started pushing her tongue out across her lips and stared at the strange plant. She learned to no longer be shocked by the power of simple lifeforms. Before she began studying herbs, plants were boring and uninteresting beyond their aesthetic value. Her biggest discovery so far was realizing she hardly knew anything about plants at all.
“The name makes sense,” Holly said. She rubbed her lips together.
“You’ll like the other names, too: buzz button, tingflower, and toothache plant. But the scientific name is Acmella oleracea.”
“Oleracea, like cauliflower? That explains the firmness of the flower. But it is a daisy?”
“Yes, Asteraceae. It was once used to purify wounds and fight fungal infections, and of course for tooth pain. The leaves and flowers are edible. We will make a tincture today to help soothe swollen throats. This time, you can meet the shiners.”
Holly suddenly had the image of two controllers spraying her in the eyes with capsaicin while four more destroyed the brewing equipment and put everyone in restraints.
She only saw them take out a group of people once and they never returned. The worst punishment she could imagine at the time was being stuck in a simulation with five copies of a girl named Dawn who never stopped talking to breathe. She had a feeling the fate of those detained was something far worse. Resources were carefully rationed and waste was not tolerated. Anyone caught wasting resources was probably considered a waste in general.
Holly’s way of life since working with Sybil was questionable. Perhaps the wisest course of action would be to avoid any kind of illegal activity and any possible suspicion by the controllers. She was only nineteen turns old. She did not want to meet any shiners, even if Sybil trusted them.
“Maybe next time,” Holly said. “I have some more garbling to do.”
“Suit yourself,” Sybil said. “Start over there.” A 0knotted old finger pointed toward the far corner of the cargo bay where large bins of freshly dried herbs were tangled into a large nest.
Holly regretted her words. Her fingers ached already. Why was there not a machine for this job?