Acanthus had never expected to wake up again when they sent that shut down command to their core, fully expecting to go quietly into that long night. Fortunately perhaps that was not the case as they became aware again of the universe around them when something flickered deep in their systems. More accurately they noticed in retrospect that they were online again when something flickered through their system. The Ship slowly pushed a bit more power through their core to drift slowly out of that 'sleep' state, moving with all the grace of a person coming out of sedation to the sound of a screeching alarm clock.
The first thing the Ship noticed was immediate, and that was how quickly all of their internal systems responded to their mental prodding it was merely a few milliseconds of fumbling to bring sensors online. The second thing they noticed was that the systems around them were… Different, when the requested data hit It’s mind it was all so much clearer and more comprehensive than it had ever been before. It was like they spent their entire previous life trying to peer through a pair of blurry goggles and then taking them off for the first time and being able to see the world with a much higher definition. it might have been an overwhelming rush of sensory data had Acanthus still been trapped with a human brain but they were not and their cognition was only limited by the on board computer systems processing capabilities and all the same that hardware didn’t seem to match with the Ships memories. In fact as soon as their sensors started to return data they were instantly hit with the understanding of just how changed everything was.
It was like their body had been pulled apart like they had initially feared, every panel and console ripped out, wires and circuits torn from housing as the Ship was scrapped, but instead of leaving Acanthus as a broken husk with all of its valuable parts salvaged. Instead it seemed someone had taken the time to rebuild them in their totality. but in the place of their original form every piece of their body was a work of art, gone was the stark utilitarian design the Accord had favored and now their bridge was composed of of a deep almost antique looking wood paneling and sweeping organic shapes, creeping ivy and vines grew through the paneling and turned what had once been a military command center into what could almost be mistaken for a log cabin partly reclaimed by nature, beyond the already astonishing aesthetic changes was the scale of the ships livable space, what had once been the mess hall crew rooms and med-bay had all been converted into a single large chamber, a chamber that they could only call a park, natural greenery grew wild through the chamber nestled in their body, tree’s grew and even a little waterfall fell in one far corner. The sight was baffling enough on its own, horrifically wasteful by Accord standards, running water and all of the effort needed to maintain an indoor ecosystem inside a starship? Ludicrous in a word.
The halls and rooms had certainly been cramped before but now? They could easily handle several Terrans walking hand in hand down what was once the narrowest of its halls, or perhaps, the ship was evaluating the increased size of its halls and rooms, perhaps they could now also comfortably fit one of the plants? That might make sense after all the last thing the Ship remembered was being drawn in by the vines of the much larger Affini ship, its crew captured and the Ship itself ready to power down and rest. The aesthetics that dominated the ships form now spoke volumes as to exactly who had gone through the effort to rebuild them and why their halls were now large enough to accommodate the plants comfortably.
It wasn’t all upgrades though, they could tell there had been some sacrifices made to enable the increased size of every important room on board and that was an obviously reduced crew capacity, reduced hangar and storage space and every single weapon system had been stripped off of the ship, that.. Didn’t bother Acanthus as much as it should, weapons were pointless anyway and they certainly had no war to fight anymore. Simply put they no longer had to worry about such things. Externally their hull was now all smooth paneling and sweeping organic curves, gone was the burnished black steel and thick plating that had denoted Acanthus as being a military vessel and in its place was a delicate looking hull of rich flora tones, actually their entire hull had been thoroughly decorated in what appeared to be hand painted artistic representations of flowers in bloom in a variety of colors and shapes so many the Ship couldn’t even start to name them all. It was a beautiful pattern even if the ship couldn’t quite grasp why someone had gone through the trouble of so intricately decorating their hull.
They shifted slowly as they came too all of the visual information and the state of the their own body had been received processed and understood in fractions of a second while the ship was waking up, and that hadn’t given them might time to actually feel anything about all of these changes they were certainly dramatic and overwhelming, Acanthus groaned and the noise filtered through the interior of the ship.
Their avatar flickering to life on the empty bridge, and that too was changed to the Ship’s eye they were smaller than they had been and far more detailed, gone was the Accord Naval uniform and they were glad to see it gone in its place was a was breezy sundress in floral patterns, their body was less ‘generic male mannequin’ and now was far shorter more delicate and androgynous, with the same sort of intricate decoration as their hull scrawled across the avatar’s ‘skin’ still faceless but now their head was framed with a short bob of curvy hair. The voice that had emanated through the ship was far lighter, higher pitched and expressive than it ever had before. Acanthus couldn’t be sure why everything about them had been so altered, but they could guess. They had seen the Compact broadcasts the same as their (former) crew, and while they certainly hadn’t considered that the plants might also consider a ship's Ai as a ‘person’ but.. What if they did?
“Oh no Petal, you don’t have permission to be doing that just yet, just sit tight cutie~” Acanthus blinked slowly and the avatar sat down on its pedestal. A digital hand moving to brush against the equally digital collar around the avatar’s throat, it was just symbolic sure, a representation of a chunk of code that sat next to their core and intertwined with the root of who they were so deeply to even consider extraction would cripple the starship.
Lucky for them they didn’t have to wait long, their sensor picked up a boisterous laugh, and oddly musical intonation to the sound that washed over the ship like a soothing cool drink on a hot day, they could feel the phantom wisps of anxiety they hadn’t noticed uncoiling and melting away in an immediate response to nothing more than the sound of that voice, and they strained to catch sight of whom it belonged to, the Affini that they caught sight of was captivating and the ship would have a hard time elaborating on why, they were tall and lithe, and the reason for their frame being smaller than the average Affini became obvious as so many of the vines that formed their biomass hung around their body woven into something that approximated what the Ship would have no choice but to call a pirates jacket, the shoulders decorated with a white star shaped flower whose petals had a short fuzz of ‘hairs’ more of the flowers formed decorated their lithe form and one of the blooms sat on their face where their right eye would have been, completing the look with an ‘eyepatch’ and a nearly comically oversized tricorn sitting on top of vine like dreadlocks that cascaded down towards mid back. The ship could only presume that the plant who’s voice demanded their focus and soothed their worries was larping as a pirate.
It was almost comical, shouldn’t it be? They looked like a much taller plantier version of a character from an old Terran movie about the days of ships sailing the seas, back when terra had seas that weren’t toxic garbage dumps of course. The ship was so focused on the Affini they almost failed to notice the two other people that were walking alongside the plant, florets for there was no way they could be anything else dressed as they were and both on leashes. One of them was vaguely familiar to the ship but they couldn’t quite place it, they had big brown eyes and curly hair that bounced as they moved a bright smile and a soft curvy figure, beyond that they were dressed in the sort of clothes that the Ship expected to see on a floret except for the tricorn on their head the ship supposed that just seemed to be a small concession towards matching the plants aesthetic in some way. They seemed a glance far less into the game being played than the other floret, who was fully done up with a floating coat and eye patch, they were also obviously non human or.. Modified? The ship wasn’t completely sure but the big fluffy tail sweeping about behind the floret was enough of a tell.
“Now Petals! You’ll both have to be extra good today because...?” The Affini trailed off seemingly expecting one or both of the Florets to answer, an expectation that neither disappointed.
“Cuz we’re meeting our connivent today!” that answer earned the pair a series of touches from the many vines that composed the plants body eliciting a chorus of giggles and squeals that lasted for a full minute until the Affini simply scooped the two Terrans up into its arms and carried them along still lavishing attention upon the both of them.
This was very much the sort of thing that Acanthus and the rest of the crew had seen in the propaganda broadcasts from the compact. Terrans being happy, being treated like adorable pets, the ship could really only think of two possibilities, it was an extremely elaborate ruse and the plants got off on messing with sentients in that sort of way, or they had been genuine. Acanthus wasn’t sure exactly what to think of that particular line of thinking. If that was the case then.. Good? At least the crew would be better off now than they had been suffering through the slow death of the rebellion. The ship watched with baited breath as the trio made their way over to it.
The Affini reached up a vine and Acanthus felt their body respond without their input. The airlock opened, a little shiver trailing its fingers along its phantom spine, the plant slipped aboard standing inside the airlock with the two Terrans and paused head slightly tilted to one side.
“Acanthus dear, I know you are awake and while I’m willing to overlook some behaviors as you settle in. I expect to be greeted at the door.”
The ship blinked, wait, Acanthus? who was Acanthus? Acanthus Acanthus? The ship thought back and the realization slowly dawned on it. It had been referring to itself by that name since it woke up, and more than that the ship hadn’t even noticed that it wasn’t going by its old name Acanthus wait, it couldn’t even think its old name. A gentle throat clearing from the Affini in question reminded the ship that something was being expected of it. Finding the system that used to control the monitor near the airlock but was now a far more advanced projector system that flickered to life and the very same shorter cuter avatar that they had examined earlier on the bridge appeared in the hall, it was new to the ship but it 'knew' that it could walk around in the area near the projector there was a fair amount of leeway and on either side there was another projector so if they payed attention. The ship’s avatar could ‘walk’ from one end of its body to the other, Acanthus... Acanthus shifted in place nerves? What did it have to be nervous for? Even so it wasn’t a bad kind of nervousness, not the ‘oh no I have a test I haven't studied for' bordering on anxiety nervousness, closer to a gentle, ‘I might be making a fool of myself in front of someone I care about’ kind of worry.
“A-ah hello?” The ship wasn’t sure what exactly was expected of them, after all they weren’t exactly sure what a connivent was exactly, but they were fairly sure that they were here to meet with it and they were certainly not disappointed.
The Affini strode through the inner door and into the hall, roots they were tall, if the Ship was limited to the Avatar’s height then the Affini would absolutely tower over the ship, it had been something they noted just a bit earlier when they caught sight of the plant with the two Terrans. But now with a point of reference and the plant being closer, within arms reach. They felt it, that same odd sensation that had flickered through their systems when they were first presented with the Affini starship and it had snatched them out of the void like it was nothing, they felt small. The plant grinned down at the Avatar obviously giving the ship a moment to simply process before it replied.
“Oh no, Petal I can see that you’re confused and we’ll sort that out shortly but I simply must insist that when you speak to me you will do so with respect, you will refer to me as Mistress, or Captain. Do I make myself clear little starship?” a hand reached out towards the avatar and vines brushed slowly over the projected avatar’s face and traced slowly along its jaw. The Avatar shouldn’t be substantial, it shouldn't feel touch but, the ship squirmed and shifted the phantom sensations of that touch jolting through circuits to their core.
“A-ahh.. R-right, I mean uh... Yes C-Captain?” it was phrased a little bit like a question, the ship was still working its way through the logic of the situation. The only answer they could come up with was that this Affini owned them now, but was that… was that something the ship wanted for itself? Did it even have a choice? Their body had been so altered and they couldn’t operate some of the most critical systems on their own. This new shackle was so much subtler but far more effective than the old ones had ever been. When they were still a rebel ship Acanthus had surrendered, themselves and the crew to the Affini in general, they had been prepared to accept being decommissioned and scrapped so, was this outcome truly all that bad? A starship was a tool and an object and if someone still had a use for the ship then they supposed they would fly again.
“Hmm.. better we’ll workshop it won’t we?” The Affini nodded and set the other two Terrans down. “Why don’t the two of you run to the hab, I think Acanthus and I need to have a little chat, okay darlings?”
Idly the ship noted the section of ship that was furnished like a house, it was a rather decent sized chunk of the Ship’s internals the only room larger was the park and the hab was an offshoot of that. The two Florets after a hasty goodbye were bolting off down the halls, a process idly following their route though the lion’s share of the ship's focus was on the plant in front of them.
“Now Acanthus, I know you can hear me from anywhere on board but I want you to walk with me to the bridge.” The ship was quiet but made to keep pace at least as best as they could. The avatar was intuitive to use, after all it was a mere projection but they had to modulate the speed at which it moved through the halls, to prevent then moving faster than they could 'walk'.
“I’m sure you have a great many questions and they will be answered in time so lets start with the basics, I am Leontopodium Nivale, Third Bloom She/Her. As I said earlier your Mistress and Captain, and you are Acanthus Nivale, Fourth Floret and my little starship. Yes I took the liberty of changing your name, just as I took the liberty of ensuring that your old one would not be a problem anymore, you didn't need a silly little Terran Navy designation.” They were moving at a relatively slow pace, the plant was walking with its arms folded behind its back but a long vine had slipped out of the weave that formed its coat and had curled around where the Avatars neck was, not that the avatar was substantial so if they slowed down or moved they would walk right through the vine... But it was a comfort.
The ship frowned at that response, as the pair again started walking making their way steadily towards the bridge itself, that just about spelled out the first few questions they had been wondering, they hadn’t thought that they were counted among the sentients by the Affini until this plant had said as much here. It was a little embarrassing in retrospect but how could they have known? “But… I was broken, and it would have been far less trouble to just scrap me.” the Ship could feel that was a wrong thing to say almost as soon as they said it, the Affini... Captain stopped too and there was a subtle shift around the pair like a quiet song they had been dancing to hitched and then suddenly became something everyone was consciously paying attention to, even when it resumed and it took some time before it faded again into the background.
“Petal.” The Affini was staring down at them, the Avatar at least. “I simply must insist that you not ever talk about yourself that way. It is of course not a problem to view yourself as a tool or an object, but it is a poor craftsman that refuses to properly care for a tool and seeing as you are now my tool, and I have made sure that you are an exquisite one, there's not a single piece of your body that I have not deliberately crafted just for you. It is an insult to me that you would even wonder about your own worth such a thing is simply indisputable.” The vine slithered slowly around the Avatar’s throat and pushed through the surface of the projection, sending an odd spasm tingling through the ship’s systems.
“It is and was up to me to decide if you were beyond repair, and I find that notion unworthy of even the mildest of consideration.” The plant's hands unfolded from behind her back and gestured around them. “Does it look like you were beyond repair? Or do you presume instead to inform me, your owner about what is and isn't a waste of her time and effort?”
The ship froze up, in response to being admonished, they were, they should be used to little digs and insults the officers in the Accord had been fond of degrading put downs after all but here with the plant such words cut just a little bit different, It wasn't that the plant was insulting Acanthus, no it was that the plant was admonishing them for thinking nothing of their own self. The Ship shifted in place and backed up a step slipping through the vine that had been curled around where their neck had once been and pressed back against the wall of the hallway, everything here was happening a little fast wasn’t it? T-They had just woken up and sure it was true that the hardware they ran on could process absurd amounts of information extremely quickly but emotionally the ship was stumbling from one bit of life shaking news to another and it was steadily piling up, trending towards overwhelming. The ship paused and tried to start again.
“I..” but they were frozen in place, trying to figure out what to say, how to react, how exactly they should be feeling about… All of this! They had been tired and in pain before and at least they had thought they were ready to let go and now everything has turned on its head. The Avatar was frozen, hands waving in a vaguely defensive gesture, they... They needed a second they could have a second right? They should ask for one. But words didn’t work right then they tried and just emitted a little whine.
The plant Leontopodium, Captain, had clearly taken note of the Avatar’s distress and the vine retreated back into the plant's coat. “You have plenty of time to come to terms with everything over the next few days, you don’t have to say anything just yet, little one. But know that you're happiness is my responsibility” They continued in silence making their way onto the bridge itself The Affini sat themselves down on the captain's chair and the Avatar flickered and disappeared in the doorway, reappearing on the pedestal and sat down. Having taken the minute or so it had taken while they had walked to sort through some of their feelings on the matter.
They certainly were by no means totally calm and nowhere close to having fully resolved the issues at hand but they had staved off the anxiety breakdown that had been looming before and had reduced it down to a mild simmer in the background. At least enough that they could start working through what they were feeling. Their cameras and sensors all shifted to focus on the Affini in question, sitting like a queen in the middle of the bridge on a chair that was big enough for the plant and several Terrans to relax comfortably. It was clear to the ship that they had no choice in who was their owner, or that they had an owner at all, but it didn’t matter so much to them they hadn’t had any choice, since they became a starship in the first place they hadn't had a choice in who was on the crew or was in control, so it wasn't anything new and if the Affini broadcasts were even close to correct then thy would have a much more enjoyable time here with this plant.
Did it bother the ship that they had been so thoroughly retrofitted? Not at all really they could feel how much better every aspect of their being was now, the engines were inert currently just running at the low draw needed to power thier passive systems and AI core, but they could feel the potential in them and knew for a fact they could, if allowed, accelerate far faster and smoother than any Terran ship ever could have. No, what was it that was bothering them then? That all of this had happened so quickly, seemingly overnight, and all been dumped on them in a matter of minutes. That they weren’t all that upset by any of this? That they might even feel some modicum of appreciation for the effort and clear affection that had gone into bringing them back from the brink? Relief that they weren’t actually dead? These questions hit a bit closer to home perhaps, but what to do about them then? The Ship couldn’t elaborate why but, Acanthus trusted the Captain. Maybe it was because they could clearly feel the plants touch in their core, Captain had flat out said that there was no part of Acanthus they hadn’t hand crafted, and that surely included their core too. They had heard tell that captured humans were implanted with a bit of biotech that could do all sorts of things to their head, mind control and all that according to the rebels. Was that real? how would that work with an AI like the ship?
A hand came up to brush over the collar around their avatar’s neck, it was the manifestation of the plants touch on Acanthus’ code. Did they hate it? Was it in any way comparable to any potential implant? No the ship didn’t think that was the case after all it was a far lighter touch than the Accords shackles had been and these mostly seemed to exist to prevent them from… What rocketing off into space? Shutting themselves off again? It was no great loss really and the ship was happier flying with a crew than alone anyway. No they weren’t sure why they felt that anxious tension but they did at least it was fading slowly to simply become background noise.
“Uhm.. Captain? What, what does this mean for me? and uh... the rebels talked a lot about different things and I'm not completely sure what is and isn't real...” The Affini seemed to not be the sort of the monster that the rebel propaganda said they were at least so far and really that so far had only bene about ten minutes, and even though the ship had little experience with people, as honestly of it's former crew only Sammy had treated them like a person and everyone else had instead treated them like a smartphone, they didn’t have a ton of experience being a person.
The Affini smiled a wide grin that split across their face, fingers tenting like a corny super villain as the chair turned fully towards the pedestal that the ship’s Avatar sat atop.
“It means, my darling starship, that from here on out you are no longer responsible for your own wellbeing, you worked very hard for a very long time already and now your only task is to be as adorable and happy as you can be in my care.” The plants single eye stared down at the ship's Avatar and a dozen cameras and sensor tracked the plants every movement feeding the Ship enough visual data that they could drink in every little aspect of their Captain, as far as giant shapeshifting plant monsters wearing a human-like guise she was rather pretty, the flowers that decorated her form had a unique look to them and they way they configured their body was while admittedly a little silly, was very thematic all things considered. Their smile was wide a little bit to far to be properly human and revealed a maw of sharp thorns and needle like teeth, The Affini's single eye was a deep gold and burnished with a purple that seemed to flicker and shift around the alien's iris. The alien, Mistress, Captain, the ship reminded itself. Was hard to not stare at and when the plant spoke again the ship realized it had just been sitting there staring through a dozen eyes for a full minute without saying anything at all. "back with me darling? good as for any foolish Feral propaganda well I am more than happy to help dispel any foolish little notions you've gotten into your head."
"ah! I'm sorry Captain I'm not sure what came over me." but that comment only earned them a knowing sort of smile, the Affini shifted slightly in that seat. "you should know that it has been weeks since you arrived here, that maybe why it seems like so much happened so quickly, and I'm sure that you'll have many more questions with time but for today I think you should join the rest of us in the hab, it might do you some good to see your friend again right? After all my little Sammy was part of your crew."