After following Edantiras advice, taking care of her basic needs the lost Terran girl opened her text communicator to see if she had gotten anything new from Eden, to her surprise there was more than one message waiting for her.
‘That is okay little sapling, you can be whoever you want to. Is there something else you would want me to call you?
‘I am getting a little worried about you, petal. We are looking for you and it’s only a matter of time, but it is taking longer than we had hoped. Are you feeling okay? Do you have enough water and food?
‘Please show a sign of life my little sapling. We are very worried. Is there something bothering you?
She stared at the screen. Did they really care? She wanted to believe it so bad. Just a few minutes ago she did believe it too, with all her heart. But now fear had started to seep in once again. She had been burned before, hurt by those who claimed to love her. But there was no other reason she could think of for the affini to keep in contact with her. Perhaps this was all a sick joke. But if so it was all over, and nothing mattered anyway.
‘I don’t know what I want to be called, just not that. I think I am better now, being alone has given me time to think. There is food and water for a while and I have been keeping the comms on for some company, it helps.
She clicked send and sat back, finally allowing herself to relax. She was fed and had answered Eden's question. The Affini was coming for her and all she could do was put her faith in them, believing that this wasn’t some kind of sick joke at the expense of her fragile mind. For the first time since this all started she found herself drifting peacefully off to sleep, the voices from the comms fading calmly into the background, crafting soft and cuddly dreams filled with vines and flowers for the sleepy girl.
“Terra Glory Transporter 42, this is Saturn Rise. We are reading your emergency signal and moving in for extraction.” She was awoken by the low quality buzzing of a terran short range communication system. The gruff voice on the other side served as a stark contrast to the comfortable and melodic voice of the affini she had been listening to. It took her a few moments to fully register the words that had been spoken to her, and a dread of recognition hit her like a freight train. Saturn Rise, class C combat vessel in the Terran Accord galactic navy. Helmed by Captain Harry MacStruggle. Her father.
A little while ago she hadn’t been sure what to feel about getting captured by the Affini, now she knew there were way worse faiths when lost in space. Her hand found itself on her gun once again, and she remembered her fathers words. Better to put a bullet in her head than surrender to the enemy. But she quickly thought better of it, instead she reached out and held down the button for short range communication.
“This is… This is Engineer Bruce MacStruggle. Only crew aboard Terra Glory Transporter 42…” She hated this, hated saying that name she had been forced to wear for so long, hated the sound of her voice and hated stepping back into that role. But it was all she could do to keep going, to keep surviving, until the Affini could fulfill their promise to her. “Ready for extraction.” There was a break in communication for several long, agonizing seconds, like some info was being handed over. Probably her identity. Seems good old Pa was about to learn that his ‘dear beloved son’ had been found. She shuddered. “Copy that Engineer MacStruggle, proceeding to extraction.” As she could hear the ship moving into position the nameless girl turned on her text comms and posted another message to Eden.
‘I’ve been found by the ship Saturn Rise. Please, don’t stop looking for me, I don’t feel safe here, please don’t break your promise. I just want to be myself.
She hid the little machine inside of her traveling satchel, just as the mechanical arms of Saturn Rise. Grabbed hold of her ship, and pulled her in.
Boarding Saturn Rise turned out to be less of a hazzel than she had feared. There were no patting downs, nobody rifling through her belongings. Instead there were a lot of pats on the back and exclamations of relief that somebody had ‘gotten away from those damned weeds.’ She was told to go meet with her father, but was at least permitted to be shown her new quarters on her way there and drop off her bag. One change of clothes, toiletries, underwear and the text communicator. That was now her only remaining possession.
She had been looking forward to getting a little bit of gravity back, and while it was certainly better than in the transporter there was obviously something wrong with Saturn Rises artificial gravity. While an improvement from the transporter, it was much weaker than on Terra glory. It also didn’t seem entirely consistent, but the irregularities were not large enough to be sure. To her surprise the entire ship seemed kind of in rough shape. She knew Saturn Rise was old, but from how her father used to speak about it she assumed it was kept in good condition, apparently not.
She didn’t get near enough time to prepare herself before finding herself standing outside the bridge. Beyond that door she would meet her father, the man who took away her childhood and now, her captain. Could her luck get any worse?
As the door opened she saw him. He was standing facing her with that signature scowl on his face. The girl didn’t know what she had expected, relief, perhaps? A twinge of happiness that his only child had not been captured by the enemy? But no, instead he was looking at her with the same disgust she could remember from all those years ago. The only face she could remember when thinking about her father “Engineer Bruce MacStruggle. My pathetic excuse for a son. The little twerp couldn’t even make a proper last stand. He Doesn’t have the balls to stay shoulder to shoulder with his allies, his friends, his own fucking species and take some of those fucking weeds out with him.” Storming across the room, he lifted his hand, and just like she had done many times before the girl closed her eyes in preparation for the smack that sent her tumbling to the floor. She sniffed, managing to hold back the tears while her father towered above her. “A fucking failure who runs away from danger, leaving the rest of the crew to die at the hands of those monsters.” There was so much she wanted to say, She wanted to tell him that the crew were safe, that the Affini wasn’t here to kill anyone. That she just happened to be heading out for shore leave when they attacked and there was nothing she could do. But she couldn’t. He would never believe her. Like so many times before all she could do was be Bruce MacStruggle, the son who would never be good enough. “You are no better than those traitors back on Terra, who signed away our freedom to those fucking plants, and you’re lucky we need someone to work the engines, or I would throw you out the airlocks.” Captain MacStruggle turned away from her, his voice still dripping with disgust. “Get up son, and get to work. Welcome to the rebellion.”
It didn’t take her too long to get up to speed about her new situation. She had been floating in space for nearly 2 weeks, and while she was out there a lot had changed. The Terran Accord was no more, not after their conditionless surrender to the Affini Compact and the signing of the Human Domestication treaty. Having seen the force that the Affini possessed herself it was probably the most sensible move she could imagine the government making. However, her father and his crew had been far more foolish. They had refused to surrender under orders from the generals, defected to the Rebels and by her horrid luck now she was one of them too. Just before they found them she had managed to come to terms with her faith of getting captured by the Affini, a part of her even looking forward to meeting them, to learn if all those things she had seen could really be true. Instead she found herself struggling to keep the engines and jump drive of Saturn Rise operational. Apparently the former Engineer on crew had done some serious damage to it before launching off in an escape pod. An Affini sympathizer, the rest of the crew claimed.
“Hey, captain's boy, What’s the status on the drive?” Luckily the message came over the ship's intercom, so she didn’t need to hide her cringing at her new nickname. A reminder of both her least favorite things, trailed closely by her current predicament. “The machines are a mess, but I will have her ready for another jump as soon as she cools down.” There was another thing she hated, her voice. Puberty had utterly destroyed the cute, girlish voice she had in her vague memories of Mars, and she preferred to use it as little as possible. At least they were safely out of jump space once more, and while the engines were cooling down she could focus on the only thing keeping her sane. She pulled out the text comms hidden in her equipment bag and opened her conversation with Eden.
‘Are those rebels treating you well, my little hero? I can’t believe they forced you into joining them, and your own father too! Just focus on staying alive my little seed. It’s just a matter of time before one of our ships catches up to those mean mousies.
‘I’m doing okay, my dad is keeping a close eye on me to make sure I do my job, but I have some private time after each jump. I have been eating, keeping myself going.
It was honestly weird. She was a Rebel now right? Part of the resistance. Yet the only person she felt comfortable being honest with was this mysterious Eden, who she was fairly convinced was the affini Edantira who had brought her out of her self destructive spiral, and even if that was a coincidence Eden was certainly an affini. She slid the low tech tablet back under her tools and got to work keeping their jump drive together. Not many minutes later the door opens and her ‘guards’ made their presence known. Gunner Thorn and Assault Specialist Spice. Two of the stupidest men on the ship, but they were manly, and fanatically devoted to the rebellion. Just the type of role models the captain would want her to emulate. “Bro, did you hear one of our transports got captured?” The guy she had decided was Thorn for the day asked the guy who must be Spice by method of elimination. “Yeah, I’m sure they got them back on their ship, pumped full of Xenodrugs and revealing all our secrets.” Was Spice’s disgusted answer, and Thorn nodded along. “yeah, they would have been better off killing themselves, at least then they wouldn’t betray the rebellion.” The two men mostly ignored the new Engineer who was hard at work stabilizing the jump drive, allowing her time to think, and work in peace.
The further they got from the fall of Terra the more she was hearing about these Xenodrugs. In their videos the Affini had been mentioning them in passing, sometimes praising their effect as medicine and for keeping their pets happy. While from the rebels she learned of them as horrible biological weapons and truth serums. Capable of making soldiers turn on each other, reveal the rebellion's deepest secrets, or even turn a person into nothing but a mindless zombie. Out of those two explanations she was honestly prepared to believe both. With how advanced the Affini seemed in everything else she had no doubt they were millennias ahead of them medically as well. But she had a first row seat to just a smidge of the Affinis power herself and had no doubt they had the capacity to do any of those things if they wished to. Still, she didn’t fear the Affini in the way the rebels did. They were obviously horrifyingly powerful, and she was quite thoroughly convinced that this rebellion was a horrible idea. But she wasn’t buying into the rumor mill about the supposed monstrous side of Affini. Though she still had her doubts she couldn’t see those that saved her from total self destruction as monsters.
“Captains boy, what’s our status? Your Daddy wants to be ready to jump again ASAP.” The two of them had a taunting laugh and she tried her best not to let it get to her. “Not my fault this thing is busted and outdated to begin with. What’s the hurry anyway?” She bit back, unconsciously lifting her voice by just a little bit to make talking more bearable. “None of your business, twerp.” She was fairly sure that was the same guy who just spoke. “Well you can tell the captain the cooling won’t be ready for a safe jump for at least 12 hour anyway.” Her answer would just pass as professional, but only just. “Bullshit, we never needed to wait this long for jumps before. Are you trying to slow us down boy?” Yep, that was the other one, the less agro of the two. “That was when the main cooling unit wasn’t trashed. I might be able to fix it with time, but these rapid jumps are not helping.” The two meatheads grumbled at her answer, before starting to argue among themselves in hushed tones. She couldn’t pick up on most of the words, but there was something about ‘attack’ and ‘revenge’. This did not bode well.