Sarah Leonia, Third Floret had always had a fascination with horror; at least she thought that was the case, it was hard to remember things even just a few months back before her domestication, but she certainly felt like she had enjoyed the genre. It had just taken on a new sort of context since she had become a Floret. A hand slipped up to the back of her neck where the little scar sat a reminder along with the steady pulse that came from the implant. That little piece of her mistress Violaceae Leonia, Sixth Bloom.
No, these days she found old terran horror games to be kinda silly, and she could play them in a detached sort of way since the jump scares and creeping dread they tried to convey couldn’t touch her when she was curled up securely in her mistress’s vines. If it started to get too deep a hold, a simple touch brushing against her skin or a soothing wave of xenodrugs from her implant was more than enough to return her to that calm state.
It hadn’t always been that way, she had once been a fiercely independent Sophont even now a century after the fall of Terra and long past the time that the Affini had wrangled up the last of the rebels there were still those that just hadn’t found their place yet. She would smile now remembering through the hazy mixture of Xenodrugs how it had all come to an end, before such thoughts were obliterated by the gentle yet incessant touch of a vine rolling down her back.
“No way, NO WAY! I can’t believe it!” The shout came from the corner of a hab unit lit by the flickering lights of a computer monitor, a hacked together thing built in part from affini plant tech and some terran tech she had fiddled together. The chair; and the person that was settled in the seat, knees pulled up to her chest and was the source of this outcry. was a mousy sort of girl, with dusty brown hair cut short about chin length and framed a round face with eyes that were almost a bit too wide and expressive. A smattering of freckles had been dusted across her nose and cheeks and currently she was sporting a wide almost manic grin and shouting into the void of her hab unit.
Sarah Thatcher couldn’t help but shout and trusted that the habs were plenty soundproof so she had little chance of actually bothering her neighbors regardless. But this! This was cause for celebration in her twenty four years of life under the compact few things got her as excited as news like this; keeping track of indie horror games from before the fall of the accord had been a bit of a nightmare for her and her friends, the Afiini were of course religious about preserving media but they often didn’t have a great track record of leaving media unaltered, or leaving unaltered media that might be upsetting to Sophonts just laying around where they could get their hands on it. So she; and other fans, often spent a fair amount of time sorting through roms to find non floretified versions and that in and of itself could present quite a challenge.
But here shared in a chat group with a few other old media enthusiasts was a holy grail, something that had been supposedly made by a small indie dev team team, before the fall but after the Affini had first made contact. So this was perhaps one of the few terran made horror games that actually depicted the plants in any sort of way and that made it special.
She grabbed her keyboard, a delightfully retro terran styled one and banged away at the keys to send a message in the group chat.
[Whiskers_Click]: This is real right? You’ve checked it?
She waited for a response, the Affini were pretty good about network security she was pretty sure she wasn’t at risk of frying her computer with a carelessly installed Rom. It wasn't like the old days she’d read about where people could just accidentally fry their computer with the wrong program. Computer viruses or something, sometimes people in the chat room talked about stuff like that but none of them had been alive back then so most of it was speculation from rumors and second hand information.
[spookums]: mm yeh I gave it a try, it's VR so make sure you get something compatible in your rig just uh.. Dunno something’s weird about this one.
[Whiskers_Click]: ya weird how?
[spookums]: I dunno it’s like… are we sure this one’s legit?
[loremaster]: pretty sure, I pulled it off a preserved terran server, the Affini just had it in storage and there’s definite evidence that it was made back before, the meta data puts it at just over a hundred years old and the code looks like terran stuff.
[spookums]: If you say so.
Sarah just shook her head, turning away from the conversation. It would likely continue but that was pretty normal when they found an old game, Spookums would dive right in and then say that it was weird or that something was wrong with the game. She thought they might just be the sort to be easily rattled, It’s not like most of these games were really all that scary with the way things are today they just don’t quite have the cultural impact that they might have had back when the Accord was the dominant terran culture. It’s hard to be afraid of a big scary monster when the biggest and scariest monsters would come by to knock on your door every few weeks just to make sure you're drinking enough water and eating properly, ahem.. Not that she was scared of the Affini aha.. That would be preposterous.
It’s just that the average plant was more than double her height! She was tiny for a terran at four foot five and the plants were big and could move fast and unwind into a monstrous mass of whipping vines and… Okay, she wasn’t scared of them, it was just natural to be wary of things that are much bigger and faster than you even if you were perfectly aware that they were way too damn competent to even accidentally hurt a terran.
She wasn’t scared of them, but even if she was it’s perfectly reasonable to be at least wary of them. Sarah nodded and sighed, shaking those thoughts from her head. It was a spiral of justification and contextualizing feeling she was totally okay with feeling because they were totally normal! Okay, while she waited for the computer to install the game she’d grab a snack and poke around about the game some more. It wasn’t a big deal that she barely went outside, she went out.. Enough that the plants hadn’t assigned her a caretaker even on a temporary basis but even she was well aware she was skirting the line and it was only her habit of meeting up with others from her chat group for lunch now and then and that she was actually eating reasonably well that she was still here.
She dropped back into her seat a few minutes later with a plate with some pizza pockets steaming gently on it in her hands. She had tried them after seeing them in some old movies and well it turns out someone had already programmed them into the compilers. She settled in taking a bite and drummed her fingers on the armrest of her chair and shifted about to lean off to the side watching the progress bar slowly fill up. Once or twice maybe she had thought about signing up for domestication but that was only like late at night as a fantasy that she’d never actually indulge in right? Everyone had thoughts like that and besides that would require talking to one of the plants and that was a daunting proposition on its own. She’d never want to have those worries and fears washed away. They were just as much part of her as, um, her love for deep fried pickles and pizza pockets? And she could drown them out with games and movies and stuff, totally fine normal thoughts just like everyone else who was independent.
She glanced over at the chat room and saw a message that made her sit up properly.
[spookums]: So I think this game is a bit too real, guys like.. I’m still shaking, are we absolutely sure it was made by terrans?
[loremaster]: Dude what else could it be? The Affini aren’t gonna go through the effort to put a plant made game in a dusty old terran server and besides its old. Looking at its meta data it was made like a hundred years ago.
[spookums]: right right but it just felt to real man, what if it’s like a secret Affini weapon they used against the accord?
[Flower_Power]: Why would they do that? It’s just a video game. What could it do?
[Queen_of_the_roost]: is Spook having another conspiracy theory day? What is it this time? The same thing as last time?
[spookums]: Listen! I’m just saying it’s totally possible for the Affini to put subliminal messaging in media that brainwashes you into wanting to be domesticated! There’s no other explanation for why I’d want to!
[Flower_Power]: hahaha, should we send a message to the center for you?
[Whiskers_Click]: Spook.. That’s ridiculous, are you sure you don’t just have something to tell us? anyway watch I’ll play it and nothing will happen!
With that she clicked away from the chat, could the affini have done something like that uhh.. Probably? But why would they? By all accounts they experienced very little in the way of actual functional resistance from the Terrans so what would be the point of brainwashing video games?
Scoffing at how silly the idea was she started up the game. There was more modern VR type stuff out there but for these old Terran games? She liked to use the proper gear, her visor was a classic or well it looked almost exactly like a classic she had seen in some old media, It was lovingly recreated with modern Affini tech and had simply been lovingly crafted to look like the classic bulky visor, that the old terrans had used. She caressed it’s casing and pulled the visor over her eyes, and found herself staring at the title screen ‘Creeping Dread’ what a campy name, yeh there’s no way that this could be anything but an old video game, no one would name a game something that corny these days. It took her a moment to flip through the settings and make sure that everything was ready and then she was starting a new game.
She blinked when everything got going, the screen flashing a few times before settling the music was low and eventually settled into a sorta low humming drone of machinery. Such a strange sound to her someone that had grown up on the whisper silent affini ships, but she’d played enough old games to get a feel for what the sound meant. Slowly her ‘vision’ faded in and she started glancing around the room she found herself in, wasn’t this a little realistic for a game this old? Glancing down she could barely tell that she was still in her hab and not in uhh… dingy Terran warship? Were they really this cramped and ugly? It was all dull metal gray and claustrophobic with exposed piping running along the ceiling. There’s no way it was this bad back then it must be exaggerated for the game right?
The game gave her some time to get her bearings and fiddle around in the cramped bunk room she was in, there was a set of bunk beds built into one wall and a pair of shelves with some random items sitting on them. She could pick up a few objects and get a feel for throwing them around in what she realized a minute later was a simulated microgravity, no seriously wasn’t this way too advanced for an indie? Maybe spook was finally on to something? A broken horse is right twice a year or something? No that sounded wrong, ugh so many idioms had gotten all twisted up over the years and the Affini’s insistence on using them anyway just perpetuated the problem.
Eventually she got bored of throwing the moveable objects around and made for the door, there was no way that Spook was right… But what if they were? Shouldn’t she absolutely take off the headset right now and stop playing? If the game could secretly brainwash you then she shouldn’t take that chance right? Or.. or was that just her being a scaredy mouse? Theres no way a stupid game could beat her that easy and even if it was real well it could get its hooks into with just one playthrough right? Nah she’d beat this game and prove to the others that it’s totally fine! Maybe a little fancier than they thought, maybe the studio hadn’t been as small as they thought.
She pushed open the door and nearly jumped out of her skin when there was a person waiting for her on the other side of it. The man was tall, she'd guess just over six feet tall and had that ‘generic white video game dude’ look and was wearing a military styled uniform. He snapped to action the moment the door had finished sliding open and barked.
“Recruit! You’re late for your shift! What do you have to say for yourself!” She squeaked out a sound and backed away from the door, hands flapping up in a pale imitation of an actual defensive action, but the game seemed to take that squeak as a reply and the man continued.
“Well since you took it upon yourself to skip today’s staff meeting and the first half of your shift, you’ve earned yourself special duty!” he was practically shouting in what was likely intended to be a display of military machismo; a lot of old Terran games had characters like that. “Get a move on, you're going down into the maintenance tunnels!”
Okay asides from being startled by a shouting man the moment the door had opened this was probably like… a tutorial or something right? Let her play around with some movable objects in here to cement the mechanic then take her to the maintenance tunnels, she’ll probably use those to sneak around the ship when the monsters.. Uhh the Affini, got here right? She nodded and snapped out an awkward and shaky.
“Y-yes sir?” But the game seemed to be ready to move along and was intent on taking her along with it, soon they were moving down the cramped hallway, past a few other doors and a view port that let her get a good look out at the stars; really well simulated, but she couldn’t stop the game carrying her along for now. The uniformed man stopped by a panel that was clearly labeled ‘maintenance’ and had a clasp that could be pulled, obviously marked and distinctive from the rest of the environment? Hello interactable objects!
Before she could dive in and start poking around the Man held out a retro styled gas mask. “You’ll need this just in case, the pipes down there sometimes vent into the tunnels and it’s your job to patch them up.” he paused for a moment gesticulating with the mask in hand. “Now, I won’t hear any complaints, this is your own fault for sleeping in!”
Aha! And here was a mechanic she’d likely have to manage through the rest of the game, Affini used gas to subdue rebels so she’d likely be wearing the mask for most of the game and there will probably be collectible filters that she’d need to manage right? Inventory management was really popular in horror games at the time this was made after all.
She took the mask, performed the required tasks to move on and moments later was crawling through the even more cramped maintenance tunnels with a multi tool and the gas mask in her possession. She had three cartridges for the mask and a little bar in her vision that told her how much charge the current cartridge had. The tunnel was only illuminated with the dim glow of yellow emergency lights, it was barely enough to tell her there was a tunnel ahead but there was a slightly brighter blue light over each of the access panels for now though when she tried to open the first one it just flashed red, locked? For now maybe the game didn’t want her to wander off the script just yet.
This first part wasn’t so bad, there was some friendly banter over the radio, a few broken pipes she had to repair and another cartridge she found hidden in the tunnel system. Just as she fixed the last one a tremor rocked the ship and the radio lit up with shouts she caught a few ‘contact!’ ‘They found us!’ ‘open fire!’ distant sounds of gunshots running through the ship and through her radio. Uhh, yeh okay this is it right? She just hoped there wouldn’t be any gore.. Sometimes the old Terran games, they could be pretty morbid, she was a tough Sophont! Absolutely tough and not at all scared! But it squicked her out!
She was interrupted from her musings by a softer voice coming through the radio, it was almost musical in quality and seemed to flow like wind rustling through the leaves of a great tree.
“Hello sweet flowers~ Please put down your weapons and surrender, it’s for your own good after all.” No, there’s no way that voice was too good. There’s absolutely no chance that some Terran video game company back before the fall had gotten an Affini voice -that- correct. It was yet another point in the ‘Spook was right’ column, but… before she got herself to wound up that same voice whispered in her head. What if it’s just a coincidence and she gave up? Well she could go back to the shat and tell them she beat it but, she’d know that she quit before she ever saw the first enemy that would be embarrassing enough and she was no coward!
She listened to the dwindling noises until there was nothing left, the tunnel had in the meantime filled up with a pinkish hazy fog that she could make trails in with her fingers. Okay she had filters, but the bar was starting to go down faster, shit time to move! She crawled along through the tunnels ignoring the calls of that scarily accurate affini voice through the radio. Where was she meant to go? How could she escape? Escape there was no escape, these were the Affini!
Just as she started to wonder what the point of this game was she got a light ding and a notification appeared in front of her face (get to the engine room [o]), right okay a video game mission objective! Just follow those, she pulled up the multi tool and flipped through till it pulled up a map of the ship showing her location with a flashing blip. The ship was conveniently labeled, nice she didn’t have far to do and the maintenance tunnel so far seemed to be decently safe. She pressed along till she reached the right opening, this was it right? She checked the map again, then once more just to be sure.
Deep breaths then she reached out and pulled the lever to open the hatch poking her head out and glancing around it looked clear. She stepped out into the open and almost immediately shied towards the walls, things had been a bit too quiet for a while now. But she was running low on her last cartridge for the mask and, Ah! There on a worktable she dashed over to scoop them up and she heard a metallic clang… something that sounded like a grate hitting the floor. Her brain blanked out before the white hot searing thought that Affini could fit in vents burned through her brain and she scrambled starting to run left then stopping and starting right. She was saved a moment later by the ding of her objective updating.
(get to the engine room [o]),
(hide behind the crates! [o]),
She grabbed onto the objective like a lifeline and dove behind some nearby crates curling up in a little ball. Shaking for a moment before her brain caught up with her and she scowled, squeezing her knees a bit tighter, what was she doing?! This was a video game! And she was not scared! Not of plants that weren't even real! But she didn’t stand up nor did she try to peek out from her hiding spot at least until she heard that voice that had been poking at her across the radio.
“Are you hiding a little mouse? Is this a game? I don’t mind playing with you for a bit, cutie~” That voice was way too close! She cracked open an eye and through a convenient crack between two crates she could see.. Them, the plant, the Affini no, no way, nope, that was scary accurate!
Shit Spook was right! This game wasn’t made by Terrans! There’s no way that some terrans could render anAffini model that realistically! The voice may be a coincidence, but this too!? The Affini was a giant, but they all where to her, with a tightly wound body of deep dark green almost blakc vines, but their body was decorated with vines that wrapped around their body like a sash and those vines glowed with a almost neon blue bioluminescence, those glowing vines where woven throughout their body creating a shifting pattern of lights that shimmers as the monster moved.
Scarry.. But hot, no no, just scarry! Maybe a little hot in that same way that other big scary monsters could be hot. Yeh! Absolutely not gonna fantasize about this particular plant later nope no way. Besides that should be safe right? It’s not like this plant was real, just a video game, a Scarily accurate video game in every way save that she was actually hiding from it. That brought her back down to the moment, if this was real there was no way she would be able to hide from the plants. She watched her breath caught frozen in her throat, as the plant made a little show and looking around the room it got tense as the plant passed by her hiding spot once or twice but soon they turned and with an exaggerated sort of sigh glided out the door. Sarah let out that breath and sunk back on her ass. Whaa, who made this game why? Its way to.. On point that plant was.. She wouldn’t have looked twice if she saw them out in the park or something and the voice.. And the graphics. She’d have to grill Lore_master about the game when she got done with it.
She slowly peeked out from the crates and scrambled out climbing to her feet. Her very helpful objective marker hadn’t updated just yet so she took a moment to look around for anything useful. Before the helpful marker dinged, giving her a job to try and power on the engines, she figured that wouldn’t work that would be dumb and when she pushed the helpfully big and red button, nothing happened. Well nothing -good- happened the button caused the engine to make a loud grinding noise as it turned over, the lights that had been off flickered on then shut off again. Altogether it made a huge racket and sent a glowing flag that screamed ‘hey I’m in the engine room!’
That panicky flutter started up again but before she could get too deep in her useless panic the marker updated this time it simply said ‘Run’.
Run, she did straight for the nice, safe, comfortably claustrophobic and secure maintenance tunnel!
She heard the door to the engine room slide open right as she clicked the hatch shut behind her she was already crawling away through the hazy tunnel when her traitorous mission objective updated ‘find an escape pod’ oh yeh no that was a good one. Better than trying to turn on the engines moments after the Affini had left the room! She had to guess where they might be and occasionally she would freeze in place holding her breath whe nsheheard the plant movin through the halls above her, calling out for her teasing he soft praise for playing the game so well…
Was that really so bad? Maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world to lose this game, if the Affini was as accurate as it looked and sounded when it caught her would it actually be a scary ending? No no no what was she thinking?! She wasn’t the sort to throw herself into the arms of a plant, they made her nervous! In a totally reasonable ‘they are way too big and intimidating’ way and not at all in a ‘gosh those plants are super pretty and aaaa’ way. She shook her head and puffed out her cheeks, stupid game stupid brain. WELL she’d just have to beat it, escape this plant turn off the game and have a long cold shower and prove that this game is just that, a normal video game!
With her resolve set she continued on her way eventually coming to another panel she could open and she pressed against it straining to listen for the plants movements or voice. She stayed there for a few minutes just listening. Silence greeted her so it must be safe right? She pushed it open and poked her head out glancing left and right before crawling out and climbing to her feet. The first thing that caught her focus was the view port that gave her a really really good view of the massive affini ship that loomed over the terran one she occupied vines having stretched down and captured the smaller vessel, it would only be a matter of time till it was drawn into the maw of the mighty ship and at that point there would be no escape.
Sarah shook her head, in the context of the game of course! She wasn’t running from the Affini in real life, she was living comfortably and relatively happily in her own hab, so why did she feel an almost painful longing looking up at that ship? And a pang at the idea that it represented a sort of.. Inevitability. She shook her head this was the same dumb thoughts from before, she was happily independent! Wasn’t she?
Her helpful.. And sometimes evil mission objective pinged again ‘get in the escape pod’ Okay, so that’s the game right? She gets in the pod and escapes and it's over, it was a little short but, overall? Not bad! Nothing strange had happened to her and there was no way she was considering domestication like Spook was. So that was that, nothing weird about the game other than its accuracy. She thumped the panel that would open the escape pod and stepped in. Looking about for a seat to strap herself into or a button to press to launch the pod.
When suddenly without warning a terrifyingly familiar glowing blue fine slipped about her waist. Ack! Wait! No No! Time out! But the game didn’t stop as her frozen form was picked up off the ground of the escape pod and she was gently turned about coming face to face with that monster, that Affini she had seen in the engine room. She could clearly make out the plant’s face, the nearly human features sculpted from vines and leaves, woven with much thinner glowing blue vines that converged in an eye-catching swirling pattern that slowly led one's gaze from soft lips up to silvery eyes. That face was framed with thick broad leaves that had an almost waxy texture to them, as the plant parted her lips to speak the only thing that Sarah could think was ‘way.. Way to realistic’.
“Well there you are, little flower~ did you have fun playing hide and seek?” The plant didn’t properly wait for an answer and a vine slipped up to the mask she was wearing. “Now you’ve had plenty of fun it’s time to rest so I’m going to take off this mask and you’ll just have to breathe deep for me okay?”
Her hands flapped about as the panic started up again, wahh how could she escape? Escape you didn’t escape from the Affini! But.. was this really so bad? What? Of course it was bad! She was about to lose the game! And worst of all some part of her wanted to! In the end she could wrangle her thoughts in line fast enough to do anything about the vine that gently pried the mask from her face; and and the wave of soft… warm floaty soft that started to flood into her body the moment she took an involuntary breath. Hhhhhhoooollllddddddd ooonnnn… Viideo.. gaem…? Her thoughts slowed down, getting stickier, something felt wrong though and she could almost articulate it for a moment but consciousness slipped from her before she could properly grasp it.
What came next was hard to follow, a series of flashes like half formed memories; an Affini ship.. A hab.. a collar, feeling good, feeling soft and happy, being bundled up in a glowing blue affini’s arms. The whole time floating in a mental haze that felt strange. What could have been hours or maybe just minutes later, the screen flashed and she saw a [Game over! Thanks for playing!] message before her brain…slowly started to wake back up.
She tore off the visor and almost chucked it across the room, her mind was racing as it slowly pulled itself free of that fog, there’s no way, a century old VR game shouldn’t be able to do anything to her like that! Shit Spook was right, Spook was right and she could feel it, as scary as it was.. And it was absolutely she felt that longing in her heart. What if that blue affini was real? Could she just not know? Absolutely not, she had to know. She sat up properly in her seat, set down her visor in its spot next to the half eaten pizza pocket now ice cold and clicked on her computer to wake up the monitor. Only to find a private message waiting for her on the messaging app.
[Neon-Glow]: Hello little flower…
The message continued but she looked away, did she really need to read it? She could put together the implications and if she read the message could she turn away if the question was asked….. Would she stop herself from asking? She already knew the answer, she was already reading it.
[Neon-Glow]: Hello little flower, it seems that you and your friends got your hands on something you shouldn’t have. But it seems you enjoyed it plenty~
yep ,that was about all she had needed to know even as she read the rest she was already penning the question to that Blue Affini, the question that would lead to her signing away her freedom, her name, all of her fears and worries and it would all.. Be worth it because she could see that face again, trace those blue lines with her gaze again.
Violaceae Leonia, Sixth Bloom, hadn’t expected to receive that particular notification on her system. It had been a century really since she’d last seen it, had it malfunctioned? Or had some Sophonts gotten their hands on that silly old game she’d made. It had been an experiment, to slip the game into Terran servers before the Affini made contact. Their species liked games like that and she had wanted to see if enough played it would that have an effect? Well the game never really became that popular and she had simply put the experiment out of her mind, at least until today, when her tablet pinged.
It was adorable, when she saw it, a group of sophonts working together to unearth ancient terran media? And through sheer luck they had stumbled upon her dusty old game. Well what was she to do but plop right down on her couch and monitor the cuties as they played it? What better way to see if it worked properly? and of course to make sure they don't hurt themselves or get to scared.
It had worked probably a little too well, but she wasn’t going to complain about the results. She swiftly typed up a message to the adorable thing that had just completed the game with a little greeting and explanation. Oh how she hoped, but she wouldn’t push, that simply wouldn't be due. When she responded she was tentative, nervous but the question was asked clear as day.
[Whiskers_Click]: Are you looking for a Floret?
And the answer to that.. Was a resounding yes~