She found herself pacing back and forth through her apartment, waiting for her coffee to finish brewing. The machine hummed and whirred and only just started dispensing the bitter nectar she was so deeply craving. It wasn’t often she got to have these small luxuries, so she was going to savor every last drop.
It had been some time since Dorothy Miller had a proper day off from work. The warehouse she worked at was perpetually understaffed even by the threadbare standards that were held there. A normal day for her consisted of unloading boxes being delivered to the warehouse, so that they can be sent back out to go somewhere else. Most days left her drained both physically and emotionally, so she cherished what time off she managed to get.
The coffee maker soon finished with a satisfying ding, informing her that she no longer needed to wait for her hot bean water. Pouring herself a mug, she turned on her TV, only to be met with yet another news piece about protecting oneself from an attacking affini. “O-on second thought, maybe I’ll just… play some games or something.” She shut the TV off, her mind already spiraling with worries about what her future may hold.
Dorothy wasn’t typically one to keep up with current events all that well, her mental health was already bad enough as it was, but it was almost impossible to stay in the dark about the affini invasion. It had been about two years since the affini had first made contact with the Terran Accord, and ever since, the Accord was losing more and more ground. It was only a matter of time until they were on her doorstep, a fact that further contributed to her declining mental health. Dorothy wasn’t typically one to blindly trust everything she heard on the news, mostly being comprised of corporation funded propaganda, but it only made sense to her that the affini were a malevolent force, here to enslave humanity, or eat us, or steal our resources, or anything else terrible, really.
There wasn’t much that she could do, though. If the affini could so easily capture planet after planet, then all she could really do is keep herself distracted from the impending doom weighing on her, and hope to the stars above that the affini might accidentally overlook her planet, a humble agricultural world with few heavily settled areas.
Coffee in hand, and a crushing feeling of helplessness overwhelming her, Dorothy retreated to the desk where her computer resided. Pressing the power button, the monitor flickered to life, and she was soon met with the familiar desktop that almost felt more like home to her than the actual apartment she lived in. Leaning back in her old office chair, she took out her hormone meds for the day, washing it down with some coffee. “The breakfast of champions” she mumbled to herself, beginning to scroll through her games library to find a suitable distraction from the thoughts gnawing at her mind.
It was hardly a surprise to her that video games weren’t enough to calm her down, and even after a few hours she was still quite restless, unable to soothe the worries consuming her mind as it so often had before. When she was feeling like this, there was always one thing that could break her out of that cycle, but it was something she always felt bad about doing. Opening a small container sitting on her desk, she pulls out a small box cutter alongside some bandages, and, looking at her left arm, gives off a defeated sigh. In the past she would’ve put greater effort into hiding her addiction, but with her now living alone, and her work not caring as long as it doesn’t impact her performance, it was just easier to give in whenever the need struck her. Most other vices were too expensive anyway, and as long as she wasn’t going to get fired for ‘Damaging company property’, she wasn’t heavily inclined to give up any time soon.
Turning on the faucet to her bathroom sink, she made small adjustments to the water pouring out, testing it with each adjustment. More heat, not quite that much, a bit more pressure, perfect. Once find a temperature that worked for her, she moved her left arm underneath the faucet, rinsing off any blood that had yet to dry. Her attitude towards wound care was to simply get it over with, putting in the least effort required. After patting her arm dry with a paper towel, she grabbed out a couple of bandages, and covered the largest cuts on her arm, leaving the majority still exposed.
The anxious spiraling finally having come to an end, Dorothy found herself spiraling in a more literal sense as she spun her office chair absentmindedly. Certainly she was feeling at least a little better than she was before, but in quelling her anxiety no other emotions came to fill in the gap, leaving her with just a vague empty feeling instead. The time had just passed 2pm, a fact that was not lost on Dorothy, realizing that she’s lost a fair portion of her day already. Maybe a walk would be just the thing for her. Something nicer to clear her head, walks were things that mentally healthy people did after all.
Getting out of her chair, she gave herself a look over in the mirror before heading outside. An old short-sleeve work shirt and some jeans, a tried and true combination, even if not the most flattering outfit in her wardrobe. Looking over her arm once more, it would be pretty clear to anyone what happened, even with the bandages covering the worst of it up, but it was hardly a concern to her. After confirming that she otherwise looked generally clean she tied her hair in a quick ponytail and left her apartment.
Walking out of the front door of her apartment building, she was quickly bathed in the warm red light of her star’s sunset. The star, TRAPPIST-1 was a red dwarf, having far less mass and luminosity than Terra’s star, Sol, did. With this smaller size, her home world, TRAPPIST-1e, orbited the star at a very close distance, close enough that it was tidally locked with the star, with one side always facing the star. The location that Dorothy lived had a perpetual sunset, as did most of the population centers on the planet. Despite this limited useful living space, the whole planet served some purpose, the unlit side especially, with many servers and supercomputers being located there, the lower temperature helping prevent the power hungry systems from overheating.
A red sunset wasn’t the only thing she was met with, however. In the distance could be heard an echoing pop, followed by another, and then a dozen more. Gunshots, not an uncommon noise, as there always seemed to be some “Crime against capitalism” somebody was committing, and a police officer nearby to escalate the situation into violence. Regardless, it was far enough away that as long as she didn’t take her walk directly into the firing range, she was unlikely to catch a stray bullet. Taking her walk to a quieter location, she quickly realized that even given the circumstances, there wasn’t anybody else outside. That wasn’t a bad thing, she could enjoy her walk without disturbance, but it certainly was unusual.
Continuing on, she found herself more uncomfortable by the minute. The gunfire had died down, and in its place was a strange silence. Where did everyone go? It’s not like everybody just disappeared out of thin air, so was everybody hiding? If so, from what? Walking past a convenience store, she saw that metal protective shutters had been pulled down, as they often were after hours, but peering inside, the lights were still on, and seeing the store hours, it was definitely supposed to be open now. That seemed like a good enough reason for her to hurry home, her mind racing about what could be happening. Was it the affini? Were they here already? There should still be time, right? There’s hundreds of light-years of space under the control of the Terran Accord, the TRAPPIST-1 system was fairly close to the center of it too. There’s no way the affini could be this far in after only a couple yea-
Her train of thought was derailed as she ran into a bush while she wasn’t looking. Wait, a bush in the middle of the sidewalk? Pulling herself out of the mess of leaves, she realized that this bush was about 10 feet tall, the leaves were more akin to clovers or moss, rather than any traditional topiary. What was most noticeable, however, was that this “bush” was looking down at her.
The affini kneeled down to talk to her, the concern on their wooden face was plain to see. “Oh dear, are you hurt, little flower? Is everything okay?”
That answers that question.