The girls looked at the door, and then each other. “Um…hey Kallie?”
“Uh…what do you need?”
“When she uh…when mis…I mean Syringa said that, what do you think she meant?” Trissa gazed at her partner with wide and wild eyes, now that they had the hab to themselves.
“M-maybe it’s part of the disguise? A-anyway we didn’t put our actual names, right? So we’re fine. I think. I hope.”
“Should w-we go and find her?” Trissa stuttered.
“Um…” Kallie started. “She’s not gonna be gone long, right? Just…going to drop off those…domestication…papers.”
Trissa seemed to be deep in thought. “That Kelly girl…what was her last name?”
Kallie wracked her brain trying to recall. “Stars, I got no idea. I think her plant had the same…uhm.”
“What? Shit, I don’t remember.” Kallie shook her head. “So why is my heart racing? Wait…”
“The name we put on the papers…” Trissa’s eyes were like saucers. “Wasn’t it kinda…familiar?”
“Hey Triss…did we just…”
For a moment there was perfect silence. Only a moment. Trissa chuckled, just a bit. Her companion sighed.
Kallie and Trissa both sprung into action, the former knocking her chair over with the force of her movement.
“The suit! We gotta get in the suit!” Kallie shouted.
“I-I think it’s in the closet again!” The two barreled into Syringa’s inner sanctum, crashing into each other only once. Kallie crouched down as she was running to allow Trissa aboard, but she fell over instead.
“Okay, okay…s-slow and steady…” Trissa said, helping her comrade up. With some further storm and stress, they’d managed to pull on their leafy shroud. “Let’s go find her!”
They stumbled out the front door, which thankfully wasn’t locked, before they realized they had no idea where to go. In every direction there were similar looking habs and cute little shops, and no path was apparent. There were signs in a text they couldn’t read.
“Where…the hell…” Kallie gasped. She was starting to realize that they had never traveled the ship on their own before.
“The station? We gotta get there, right?” Trissa looked up as a tram passed overhead. “Ahhh! Follow that thing!”
“Uh…on it!” Kallie whirled about face and starting chasing after it.
“Nononono don’t run!” Triss gasped, holding on for dear life. Passersby were giving them amused glances. “Ah…natural…act natural…”
Kallie took a slower gait, taking upward glances to follow the verdant rail the tram glided along. She silently cursed herself out; she’d been suspicious of Syringa, sure, but apparently she hadn’t been suspicious enough. The dastardly plant had been planning this all along, hadn’t she? If they didn’t get to her in time, they’d be doomed to being cuddled and fed and bathed for the rest of their lives!
But not that, obviously, because that didn’t sound all that bad. There was some part of it she wasn’t considering, something that really meant they could not fail. Some horrible fate they didn’t know about yet!
But as she bumbled on ahead, painful reality was setting in. All the excess and geometry that shouldn’t make sense, species the likes of which they’d never seen, never known…
Kallie and Trissa were awfully far from home.
“Group meeting,” the girl acting as the legs grunted, before steering them off into the quietest periphery she could find.
Trissa looked down. “We don’t have time for this, Kall! She’s gonna make us pets!”
“Triss…stars, we’re out of our depth here, Triss…”
“We’re about to be if you don’t get a move on! Do you not wanna be the legs anymore, is that it?”
“No no no, Triss! Look around you! We’re shambling about on an alien spaceship! We dunno if the train we’re chasing is gonna take us to Syringa or, or, the fucking afterlife or something!” Kallie worked her hands outside of the leafy covering, and posted herself against a wall, sweating fiercely. “I wanna go h…no, I can’t even do that! Where the hell do we go, Triss? Where?”
“I-I thought you would know.”
“I don’t know a damn thing. We got in, but what the hell do we do now? Escape, but where? Terra? Plant central!”
“Kallie, sweetie, calm down…”
“I…fuck, I’m sorry. It’s getting to me, Triss. It’s…I don’t know…”
“Let’s find Syringa, and, um, question her? Yeah, we’ll…um…show her we’re not playing around anymore!”
What are we gonna do? She’s already got collars on us!”
“For the disguise, Kallie, remember the disguise! The long game! You’re…you’re not alone, remember.”
Kallie stepped away from the wall, and took a few deep breaths. She wasn’t alone.
Not alone, right. Trissa’s independence was on the line too…
Kallie rubbed her hands against each other and wiped the sweat from her brow, before Trissa grabbed at them once more. “Okay. Yeah. Stars, you’re right, I can’t, I can’t just stop…” She turned to where the crowds were once more. “We’re Dandelion motherfucking Bloom!”
“Fluff. Dandelion Fluff,” Trissa corrected.
“Whatever! We’re an affini, and we’re gonna…um…ask for directions!” With plan in mind, they marched boldly out into the open. Kallie took them to the first plant she saw, one who was willowy in a number of different ways. “Um. Triss, your line…” she whispered.
“Uh…” Trissa said through the mask. “Where’s…um. Hey, you!”
“Me?” the affini said, directing a branch-like appendage towards itself while it gazed down at its fake counterpart. “What do you need, flower?”
“Where’s Syringa?” Trissa demanded. There was a painful silence for a few moments. “Uhm…I mean…er…”
Kallie privately wondered where the nearest airlock was.
“Oh, you sweet little thing. Let’s help you find your mis…hmm. Let’s help you find her.” The willow stepped back and pulled out a tablet and looked into some sort of registry of names, or at least Trissa guessed that’s what they were. She sure as hell couldn’t read them. Eventually, the affini made some sort of affirmative motion, and stowed its tablet within its body, somewhere. “You were a good girl for waiting so patiently, petal. I’ll take you to where she is, now.”
“Ah…thanks,” Trissa managed. Kallie, as quietly as she could, heaved a sigh of relief. Crisis averted.
Fittingly enough, the willow led them in the exact opposite direction as to where they’d been walking. It took them onto the tram, where it made some innocent small talk as they traveled.
“I can’t wait to tell my floret Kayley about this…oh, you would love her! She’s just the cutest…”
“I’m s-sure she is!” Trissa said.
Eventually, they stopped in the foliage district.
“She informed me that she was here,” the plant explained. “You’re doing a very good job, flower. Would you please continue to follow me?”
“Um…okay,” Trissa affirmed. They walked the winding and verdant paths, and it was clear to Kallie that they never would have been able to find her on their own. All the twists and turns through all the strange trees; some of them had multiple trunks that straddled each side of the path before combining into a thicker whole above them, but they were far too common to use as a landmark.
But their willowy guide knew which way to go, and proceeded with deliberate slowness and care, such that Kallie hadn’t even noticed at first when it grabbed hold of one of Dandelion’s dummy vines to help lead them along.
The affini finally stopped just before a clearing, and patted the Dandelion suit on the “head”. “She is just beyond here, petals. I’ll let you reunite now. Don’t you feel better?”
“Uh…yeah,” Trissa said lamely. Kallie shuffled them into the clearing, which happened to be facing a massive viewport with the stars beyond. Trissa turned her head. “Oh, um…thanks!”
“It’s absolutely no trouble, petal.” Their guide smiled widely at them, and then waved goodbye with a branch.
Kallie took them further in on shaky legs. Syringa was a statuesque silhouette against the starry panorama, her lilac cascade shifting as she turned her head oh-so-slowly to greet them.
Even among the infinite expanse of space her stature was that of a goddess.
“We’re standing up to her, remember,” Kallie said, as she tried to fix her posture. The gleam of Syringa’s eyes as her gaze met theirs almost made her take a misstep.
“O-of course,” Trissa whispered back. Looking back up, she said, “Um…hey, Syringa.”
“What a lovely surprise it is to be greeted by Dandelion on my way home,” their affini purred. Her sculpted lip curled upwards. “Or should I say…my darling florets?”
“That’s why we’re h-here,” Trissa said. “We’re independent terrans, and we…um. We want to be treated as such!”
Syringa continued to glimmer in their general direction, two more colorful stars among a sea of them. “Is that so? But both of you picked up so quickly on being fed, bathed…you did truly seem to enjoy it.”
“It was n-nice…” Trissa conceded. “But we want to travel, we wanna be free! And find our…home.”
“Is that what you want, or what Dandelion wants?” Syringa challenged. “As far as a home, you two will always have one here.”
“Come here, my darlings. Let me tell you why I’ve never had florets in all my blooms, until now.”
“That’s not a lie?” It was Kallie who asked it, this time.
Syringa shook her head. “Not at all. You may be surprised to learn that I understand and appreciate your wanderlust. I never had florets of my own because I was an avid explorer, and I feared it would be stressful for any sophonts in my care.” Her expression became somewhat gentler. “Once we have everything taken care of involving your domestication, I’d love to discuss potential travel plans.”
“N-no shit?” Kallie gasped.
“None at all, petal, though if you'd rather settle down, I'm perfectly fine with that. There are some things to be taken care of yet, however. I’ve scheduled your implants for next week. We’re moving right along!”
“Im…plants?” Trissa said in a hush voice. Kallie stopped in her tracks, blindsided with another apparent catch.
“But of course,” Syringa said, clasping vines together. “The haustoric implant makes a floret and their caretaker that much closer; a little part of me always with you. Many sophonts do find the idea scary, at first. Would you like to talk about it?” She gestured towards an affini-sized bench that was facing the viewport.
“P-plan B, Trissa,” Kallie stuttered, backing away. “We’re finding an escape pod!” She whirled about, a bit too quickly, because her companion squealed as she started to lose her balance. Kallie herself was thrown off by the motion, and with mounting horror found herself tumbling forward.
There was a rustling, but they didn’t hear it. Trissa and Kallie never felt themselves hit the ground, however; instead they were pulled up by a viney lattice that had unspooled to catch them. Syringa pulled the Dandelion costume off, and placed Trissa on the solid earth surface beside Kallie, all while rewinding herself back into her usual humanoid shape. She summarily picked them up.
“I’ve got you, petals. I’ve got you, you’re safe now.” She carried them over to the bench she’d pointed to, unaffected by Kallie’s struggles. “You two are absolutely precious, and I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
“You want to…put weird things in us…” Kallie said. Trissa giggled, despite herself. A watchful vine prevented Kallie from elbowing her.
“They can only help you, dears. They’ll monitor your emotions, Kallie’s hormones, and in cases that I must be away, it’ll be like I’m still right there. Ah, but that reminds me!” Syringa angled the red flower among all the purple towards Kallie, who whined as she felt a needle prick. “That’s your first Class G dose, petal.”
“You just…put in me…what was it?” Kallie grunted, continuing her futile struggle. Syringa had mentioned Class Gs in the past, those were...
“You know them as feminizing hormones. Affini xenobiological studies have refined them to the point where they’ll be far more effective than what you were taking before.”
“Gee, Kallie, that doesn’t sound bad at all!” Trissa exclaimed.
“But…she didn’t even ask…”
“To wait any longer would’ve been dangerous, Kallie. You haven’t had a dose of your estrogen since you came aboard, correct? To be honest, I should’ve intervened sooner.”
Kallie chanced a look up at her captor. The gaze she returned burned patience and understanding into her very soul; the girl so desperately wanted to be angry. But it was quickly fading. She wanted so badly to just lean back and enjoy the ride…she didn’t need to bother with pesky things like decisions anymore, as soon as she gave in…
She had to get a word in edgewise before it was too late. “Why…why mislead us all this time? Why let us think…we ever had anything under control…”
“I’m afraid that was my own shortcoming, petal.” Syringa stroked her hair, and Trissa’s as well. “Your little schemes were so earnest and endearing, that I found myself getting caught up in the act. I’m sorry I upset you. Only honesty from now on."
“Do w-we still have the rest of them fooled?” Trissa asked, worry in her voice. Syringa briefly looked away.
“Does that truly matter, dear? Everyone here thinks you are very special, and Dandelion has brought us all so much joy.” Syringa tilted her head just a bit. “But I’m certain that two adorable sophonts like you would be just as enthralling as you are now.”
Kallie’s eyes widened as the fact that she and Trissa were completely exposed made itself apparent.
“Shh, petal. Do you really think anything bad will come if people see the real you? Do you really think I’d let that happen?” The lilac goddess beamed down at them, as their gazes were directed towards hers. “You two have gone through so much in life. You’ve been so brave, and so resilient. But now you don’t have to be homeless anymore. You don’t have to do any work you don’t want to. Become your best selves under my care, my florets pinnate.”
“Do I…do we…really make people happy when we’re around?” Kallie asked.
“Most definitely, little one. There’s a reason I wanted you two so much. I’ve never been happier than I have in these past few days. The very fact that you are alive right now, both of you, is a blessing to the universe, and you should never forget that.”
“So you’d, like…miss us? If we escaped?”
Syringa’s entire body shuddered. “I would miss you two terribly.”
“Hmmm…okay,” Trissa said. “I guess I can be your floret or whatever.”
“Wait, Triss…you’re just gonna be okay with it?” Kallie said in disbelief.
“I…um. I, y’know, just don’t wanna make the plant sad. That’s all.”
Syringa chuckled. “That’s not how I told you to address me, little one.”
“Oh, uh, sorry…mistress,” Trissa tried.
“The hell were we doing the past several days if you’re just gonna give in?” Kallie protested. Looking out at the stars, she couldn’t fight the creeping thought that the question wasn’t hypothetical. What were they trying to do?
“Perhaps you were finding your way home,” Syringa suggested. “Would you like to go home now?”
Kallie looked up at her. Those shimmering eyes, her thrumming rhythm, always boring holes into her mind. Trissa had given in…they were in public, uncovered! At least Syringa was warm and soft…
She turned her glance towards Trissa. In a collar and a flowery dress, just like she herself was. A vine caressed her chin, which she wriggled and moaned a tiny bit in response to. And they were going to get implants put in them. And despite everything, she was feeling herself start to drift off in Syringa’s embrace…
“F-fine,” Kallie stuttered. “I’ll go along with it.” She wanted to sound angry about it, but it was hard when the tension was rolling off of her with every word. “You…you can take us home now. M…mistress.”
“Of course, flower.”