“Rise and shine, cuties! This is your wake-up call!”
“Ugh…” Kallie groaned.
“Almost makes me miss Thunder’s klaxons,” Trissa agreed.
The hab AI cheerfully repeated itself.
“We’re up, we’re up!” Kallie protested.
A button uncovered itself on the front of the matter compiler. “You can hit this button to turn off the alarm, cutie! Until then, I am programmed to keep going!”
“Motherfucker…” Kallie continued. “I’ve got it, fine…”
“You’re sacrifice is noted,” Trissa said, yawning and turning back over.
“Tch.” Kallie ceased all movement. “Y’know what, I changed my mind.” Throughout all of this, the hab continued its attempts to rouse.
“Doesn’t bother me,” Kallie lied. “I’m already used to it!” Trissa’s attempts to push her off were unsuccessful.
“Agh, fine!” Trissa rolled off the couch before shrieking when she recalled how high off the floor it was.
“Stars, are you okay?” Kallie called, peeking over the edge.
“I’m fine, I’m fine…the floor is pretty soft, too.” She clambered to her feet and practically sprinted over to the compiler, finally dismissing the annoying AI.
Kallie dropped off the couch as well, before taking stock of the room to confirm that there were no killer lilac bushes about. There weren’t. “What do we do now?”
“Well, now that we’ve seen what a buncha those things look like, “Trissa replied, “we should try to improve our own disguise, right!”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
“Nope! Time to give Dandelion Bloom a makeover!”
“Don’t you mean…”
“Dandelion Fluff, whatever! Let’s put some…er…plant stuff on the cover, first of all.”
“I’m sure it’s as simple as commanding the compiler to create your so-called ‘plant stuff’.”
“You’ll need to be a bit more specific, cutie!”
“See?” Kallie said, triumphant.
“Whatever, look. We shouldn’t take too long at this, I think we’re risking our necks the longer we stay out of costume. So, uh, hey Syringa’s house, could you make a bunch of leaves?”
“Coming right up, cutie!”
“Do dandelions even have leaves?”
The pile of synthesized plant matter that had manifested atop the compiler seemed to suggest that dandelion plants did, indeed, have leaves.
“Okay,” Kallie said, “now we’ve just gotta put them on, I guess?” She grabbed the glorified tarp and laid it out on the floor. “Uhm, computer, make some glue.”
“Coming right up, cutie!” A mason jar of colorfully labeled adhesive appeared next to the leaf pile, alongside a brush. “Enjoy your craft making, and make sure to show your owner!”
"Yeah, whatever, I’m sure we’ll do that,” Kallie said.
Trissa came back with the jar of glue. “This is gonna take awhile.”
“Maybe not,” Kallie mused. “What if we just go like we’re adding a new coat of paint to the thing, and then dump all the leaves on it?”
“Half the leaves,” Trissa corrected. “We should do the back too, right?”
“Oh, yeah, definitely. Let’s tag team it, then. Need another brush…”
“Coming right up, cutie!”
“Repeats itself, doesn’t it?” Trissa chuckled. They set about painting the fabric with the glue, while the pile of spiny dandelion leaves remained on the compiler. Eventually, each girl grabbed clumps of the stuff, and dropped them on.
“We’re gonna need some variety, I think,” Kallie observed. “Those plants also had, like, bark and stuff.”
“Oh yeah, Syringa had a bunch on her face! And then there were those freaky eyes of hers.”
“They were kinda pretty, if I’m being honest.” Why was it so easy to look into Syringa's eyes? Kallie had a terrible time with giving any human eye contact.
“Pretty weird! But we’ll probably have to give Dandelion a pair.”
Kallie chuckled. “What, a featureless mesh not doing it?”
Trissa shook her head. “Nnnno, I don’t think so.” They looked back at their now leaf covered veil. “Hey, did we just cover up the stuff we used to see out of?
“Oh dammit, I think we did.” Kallie knelt down. “Fuck, we gotta get it off!”
“I’m on it!” Trissa said, kneeling back down with her. “This glue is some strong stuff, hell…” There were still clumps of both glue and leaves once they’d gotten what they could off.
“I think we’re just gonna have to start over with those,” Kallie sighed. “Need some scissors to cut them out.”
“You got it, cutie!”
Trissa’s face lit up, despite everything, “Oooh, let’s get, like, a wooden mask for me to wear! With techy lenses that light up!
“Coming right up, cutie!”
“Sheesh, Syringa must really like being called that word,” Kallie muttered, shaking her head. She went to work with the scissors. “We’ll need something to replace the mesh I look out of, too.”
What if we got some green gloves for our hands so we could actually, like, use them?” Trissa wondered aloud, before trying on her mask. “Stars damn, I can see perfectly out of this thing!”
Kallie hazarded a look. The mask had a simple face etched in it, with the promised wide and glowing eyes. It even had two moth-like antennae poking out of the top.
“How the hell does that thing look exactly like an affini’s face,” she deadpanned. “That’s…actually impressive.”
By the time they had finished Dandelion’s makeover, they had a much different looking disguise…and a huge mess on the floor.
The new Dandelion suit was a sight to behold. A hood covered in leaves and flowers fit easily around Trissa’s mask, and since they had seen other affini put things in their bodies, they’d replaced their hvac ‘vines’ with a dummy pair that dragged along behind them, in favor of giving Kallie a pair of verdant gloves that she could stick through a flap in the cloak to pick things up with. Since affini did just seem to store stuff inside of them anyway.
Putting the remodeled costume on, they’d wanted to check themselves out in a mirror, so the hab had made a glowing green line appear on the floor, that led them to the bathroom.
“Oooh, looking good, Dandelion,” Trissa cooed as the afauxni primped and preened in the mirror, stumbling and having to grab hold of things only a couple of times.
“We…better try to get that mess cleaned up, though,” Kallie sighed. They hobbled back into the living room, again pulling the cloak off and onto the couch.
“Just put the excess material on the compiler, cutie, and I’ll take care of it for you!” the hab chirped.
A few hours later, the two were back on the couch, having found some sort of affini cooking show on the TV.
“You’re watching ‘Feasts for your Florets’, where we make all sorts of delectable goodies your cuties will go crazy for!” A leafy chef was carrying a complex looking dish, while some bee-looking thing looked onward excitedly.
“Stars, these things are so weird about their slaves,” Trissa said, still wearing her mask.
“I really don’t get it,” Kallie agreed. “Is it all to make up for their guilt over throwing most of them into the mines? I guess it must be.” She stuffed some more popcorn into her mouth. “I’ll feel so much better once we’ve escaped this dystopian nightmare.”
“I really miss my tiny and crowded apartment and my twelve hour workdays,” Trissa lamented.
“Do you really?” Kallie asked, cocking her head.
“Er…no. But at least there we were all free, y’know? We could go anywhere we could dream of. Well, I guess I couldn’t, because I’d starve without my wage, and before joining the navy I had no way of getting off the planet…but I might’ve been able to escape someday!”
“I think I get what you mean,” Kallie said. “At least when I was homeless, there were all sorts of places I could go where I was unlikely to get shot by peacekeepers.”
“Can’t believe the Terran Accord is just…gone,” Trissa said, a glum expression on her face. “I mean, humanity was doing pretty well for itself! We had, like, a whole buncha planets, we beat those funny-looking Rinans in that war, and the company I was working for would never shut up about their record profits!”
“Hey, cuties! Syringa wants you to know that she’ll be coming home soon!”
“Oh fuck!” Kallie said.
“We better get changed!” They both sprung into action, only crashing into each other once before they’d resumed their positions in the grand project that was Dandelion Fluff. “Act natural…”
Kallie groaned as she sat back on the couch, Trissa back on her shoulders. It was nice while it lasted. At least she could still stare into the cooking show host’s pretty eyes while awaiting Syringa’s return.
“I’m back!” the plant herself said, as the door opened. “I trust everything has been…oh, what’s this?”
“Um…hi?” Trissa said, as Syringa’s eyes widened at their appearance.
“Oh, now that is incredible!” the affini said, her bark face cracking into a wide smile. “Congratulations on reblooming!”
“Such a dramatic change in appearance can only mean one thing,” Syringa continued, practically singing the words. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dandelion Fluff, Second Bloom!”
“Oh…um, yeah! That’s me! Had a good meal and then I guess I…grew a bit.”
“I’d say that’s cause for celebration!” Syringa beamed, clasping some vines together and holding others out.
Kallie was vigorously shaking her head against Trissa’s thighs.
“Er…no, that’s alright!” Trissa said quickly? “I’m uh…shy.”
“Ah. Well, that is too bad, but I won’t try to make you uncomfortable, Dandelion,” Syringa said, shrugging all of said appendages. “Oh! But you will be pleased to know…”
The affini withdrew a bundle of paper from some part of herself, around her chest. “I got you the forms you need to check out a personal shuttle!”
“Oh shi….that’s really good news!” Trissa said, perking up. Kallie allowed herself a fist pump.
“While we are going to be sad to see you go, we do want to help you get what you need!” She passed the packet over, dangling it before them with an expectant look on her face.
Expecting them to take it.
Here goes nothing, Kallie thought to herself. Snaking her arm out of one of the flaps, she made it undulate in the most vine-like fashion she could manage, before quickly grabbing the papers and withdrawing her hand.
“I’m so happy for you,” Syringa said, still beaming. “You look so much healthier now that you’ve rebloomed, and your vines are so full of life! And your voice is so much prettier~”
Trissa might’ve fallen over backwards if she hadn’t been leaning against the couches’ headrest. Both girls at once realized what they’d forgotten, that the voice modulator was absent; the upper half of Dandelion must’ve discarded it when she donned the mask.
Syringa cocked her head. “Did I say something wrong? I only intended to compliment the most adorable affini I’ve ever seen.”
Hopefully she didn’t notice Kallie trying not to scream, or Trissa fighting back tears.
“Talk to me, dear,” Syringa said, bringing two vines forward to place on Dandelion’s ‘shoulders’. “What’s wrong?”
“W-what…do you see when you look at me?” Trissa managed, tension in her voice apparent.
“I see…hmmmm…a perfectly normal affini,” Syringa said. “A little on the small side, and very cute.”
“Y-you do? I’m, uh, glad. Because, well, that’s what I am! Hahah!”
“Bathroom,” Kallie quietly hissed. “Tell her we’ve gotta use the bathroom!”
“Um, we’ve gotta use the bathroom!” Trissa said. Kallie couldn’t hold back a groan. “I mean, um, I’ve gotta…use…the bathroom.”
A moment of silence.
“Stars dammit, Triss, there’s no point anymore! Just tell her,” Kallie scoffed, at an easily audible volume.
“I…had it under control…” Trissa whimpered.
“There, there,” Syringa murmured, leaning in and stroking the back of Trissa’s hood with a vine.
“Look, um, plant? You haven’t heard from me before, but…we’re not actually Dandelion Fluff,” Kallie said, voice muffled by the disguise.
“Now that is a surprise,” Syringa said levelly. “If you’re not an affini, what could you possibly be?” Her luminescent gaze was boring holes into the minds of two sophonts who had finally readied to reveal themselves. And the thrumming of the affini’s rhythm was omnipresent.
“We’re h-humans…” Trissa said, practically sobbing, now. “P-please…don’t tell anyone…we don’t wanna go to the mines…”
Syringa laughed, just a bit. “What an interesting statement. What reason would any of us have to take you to a resource gathering operation? That entire workforce is automated, and those areas are far too dangerous for cute little terrans.”
“But…don’t you do things like that to p-prisoners of war?” Trissa responded nervously. “Stars, are you just gonna eat us?“
“We’ll just have to prevent that from happening!” Kallie exclaimed, rather abruptly. “We’ve got her outnumbered, Triss, let’s make sure she can’t talk!”
“Y-you’re not gonna eat us!” Trissa shouted, before attempting to pull the cloak off. Syringa pulled it off for them; Trissa grabbed at her face as soon as she was uncovered. But before she could touch the affini, vines had both arms ensnared.
“You’re even cuter like this,” Syringa said. She lifted Trissa off of Kallie, while also immobilizing the latter with yet more vines. Both terrans were quickly held aloft by her, uselessly thrashing, Trissa crying. “I’ll admit that I was a fool for not going through the normal processes,” the violet plant woman said, heaving a breezy sigh. “I just saw what you were trying to do, and it was just the cutest thing I’d ever seen.”
As the girls struggled, the thin needles capping ambulant flowers went unnoticed as they poked them. Gradually, the thrashing died down. Syringa produced a tissue to wipe the tears from Trissa’s face.
“We weren’t gonna hurt anyone,” Kallie protested. “We just wanted a new start…”
“If I set you down, will you promise to be good?” Syringa asked.
“You won’t hurt us?” Trissa said.
Syringa met her eyes with her own. The girl couldn’t look away. “Wouldn’t dream of it, flower.”
“I’m watching you…” Kallie warned. Stars, those eyes were something else…
“I know,” Syringa said, sounding…smug? She set them down on the couch, but stayed unfurled. Enough of her vines returned to restore her facsimile of a human shape, however. “Would you like to hear our processes for treating guests from the Terrans’ cute little navy?”
“We want a ship, and we don’t want anyone else to know about this,” Kallie said, trying to look fierce in the face of an eldritch being from the stars.
“You’d like me to protect your Dandelion Fluff identity?” Syringa said, smirking.
“Y-yeah!” Trissa said. “You may have found us out, but we’ve still got the others fooled!”
“You mean Muscari?”
“I didn’t see anyone else calling us out!” Trissa had found her own means to be bold.
Syringa raised her verdant tendrils, but also drew them in. It looked something like if someone held their hands up. “I suppose there’s nothing I can do, then. You’ve got my vines tied, as it were. I won’t tell anyone else your secret. Unless you give me the go-ahead, of course.”
Kallie and Trissa both heaved signs of relief.
“So, Dandelion Fluff,” the affini offered, “would you like to fill out those forms I gave you? Since I obviously can’t stop the two of you.”
“We’re gonna do that, yeah,” Kallie.
“Y’mean we’re still gonna be able to do it, Kall?” Trissa asked, hopefully. “Don’t worry, Syringa, we’ll remember you!”
“Before you do that, however,” the planty confidante said, “it’s awfully late, is it not? You two should probably get some sleep.”
“We’ve got even less reasons to stick around now!” Kallie protested. Having someone know who they actually were made things so much riskier, even if they had managed to keep her pacified.
Syringa took the papers from her hands without too much trouble, and also picked up the Dandelion disguise. “You’ll get these back in the morning, petals,” she breezed. “For now though, you really must sleep. You can’t properly scheme if you’re not well rested, you know.” She bounded down a hallway with the confiscated articles, returning not long after.
“I…okay, that’s not a bad idea,” Trissa admitted.
“Now, there is a little problem,” Syringa also admitted. Both terrans nervously eyed each other. “I’m afraid I only have one bedroom.”
“I call the couch,” Kallie said, smug.
“There’s room for both of us, dummy!”
“I dunno, Triss, are you gonna try and push me off if I fall asleep first?”
“No one’s going to push anyone off the couch if they want to get their adorable costume back tomorrow,” Syringa said.
“Ugh, no, Kall, I’m not gonna try to push you off!”
“You two don’t want my bed? I’d happily sleep out here.” The plant woman grinned. “Or we could all share my bed, if you so desire.” Those eyes of hers narrowed in amusement at the prospect.
“That’s, uh…no, that’s fine,” Trissa said, her face reddening.
“Out here is perfect, thanks,” Kallie said quickly, with her eyes wide. “We’ll…just…go to sleep now. Everything’s perfect! You must be tired too…”
Trissa nodded vigorously, and then laid down with as much gusto.
"Very well then!” Syringa lilted. “Would you cuties like some sleep aids?”
“N-no!” Kallie and Trissa both said, at varying speeds.
“Then I’ll just get some things for you two, and then I’ll let you get your rest.” Syringa disappeared into the hallway for less than a moment before coming back with a fluffy pile of pillows and blankets in her vines. “Here you go, petals.”
“Oh, uh…thanks,” Kallie said. Trissa agreed. With that, Syringa dimmed the lights with a simple twirl of a vine, and exited with one last smile. The girls appraised their new bedding, marveling at the softness.
“I don’t miss my old cot,” Trissa admitted.