Sarah came back to herself and felt… worn, like she had been trying to stay awake on stim drinks. Rolling over cost her a lot and she groaned with the effort. Then she saw what part of the problem was, there were half a dozen vines laying across her. Kadena had fallen asleep with a book next to, and on top of, her.
Ideas raced through her head. Was there something she could grab? Could she try and slip away? She started edging out from under the vines, trying to keep her gasps of exertion silent. She managed to free herself and move to the edge of the bed. She flexed her hand and looked over the side. It was a long way down and she did not trust herself to stand. She grabbed a few of the many pillows on the bed and pushed them over the side. It was enough to soften her landing as she flopped on top of the pile.
She had to crawl a bit at first but the more she moved the more her limbs obeyed. Halfway across the room she was able to shakily rise to her feet. There was no plan when she reached the door. As before it did not open. She stared at it in frustration. She needed out of this room. In the clutches of that creature or not she needed out. She hammered a fist against it in frustration.
There was rustling from the bed behind her. She turned to find Kadena waking up. The affini looked like a shapeless mass of vines but was twinning together to take on a more humanoid form again. She started when she noticed the spot on the bed next to her was empty.
Sarah tucked herself into a corner near the door. She was in plain sight but felt the need to make herself small. Maybe the plant would just leave her alone.
The affini had pulled out her tablet but noticed Sarah before she did what she had been going to do. “My little floret, what is wrong?”
Sarah just buried her face against her legs.
Kadena moved closer, sitting down close enough to reach Sarah but still leaving some space between them. “I am very sorry about last night. Most xenodrugs are safe to use and there had been no medical flags. I pushed you too hard and it caused you pain which is the last thing I want to do.” She pulled what looked like some kind of medical injector from within her vines. “I had a talk with your vet, Xocxer. He sent me a formula that should not only help you in general but also work towards preventing another problem like last night. Will you please come here?”
Sarah could not help but listen. She tried forcing herself to see the words as poison but there was nothing there but honesty. She looked up with fresh tear streaks on her face. “Why bother asking, you are just going to drug me with whatever that is anyway.”
Kadena hesitated. “Yes, I am, but I very much wish to do it without you feeling forced. I will not stop helping you with the hurt you feel but it takes so much more time and effort from both of us if you resist.”
Sarah did not respond. Her will was wavering but she was still unconvinced.
Kadena seemed to consider for a moment. “Apart from things I can not grant you, such as releasing you, what is it that you desire? Something to wear other than that medical gown? Another meal of your choice? A nice, hot bath?”
It was Sarah’s turn to consider. What did she want? Since she had woken up from the coma she had not even had a chance to think of anything but escape. She would think of escape when her mind and body felt more clear. The things Kadena had mentioned did sound really nice. Would it be another defeat to accept these things? Was it going to cost her in some way?
“What is the catch?” she asked flatly.
“Can you explain what you mean?”
Sarah started to feel some anger slip into her tone. “What is this all going to cost me? Money? Labor? Are you going to regularly drain my blood? No one would go through all this shit for free.”
Kadena hesitated again but this time it felt more like she had blinked in confusion, at least as much as one could without eyelids. “I am sorry if I did not make this clear little one. The world I, and now all terrans, live in is no longer based on money and labor. What is some material possession you have always wanted? Something you sought after in your previous life.
The answer spilled from Sarah’s mouth before she could think. “A 2532 Airazor speedbike and a Shlang interfacing auto pistol.
Kadena did the same not-blinking action again. “I will have to ask for an answer that is smaller than a vehicle and is not a weapon. I am trying to make an example but those are things I can not give you for other reasons.
Sarah thought again, not surprised at Kadena’s answer. “A pair of rainbowstone earrings. I always wanted to try some but could never afford or… get my hands on them.” She felt silly admitting it, it was such a vain answer.
“Please come out of the corner and wait a moment.” She moved away, back towards the machine she had used to make food.
Sarah realized she was acting foolish by continuing to sit in the corner. She stood and moved towards the center of the bedroom. It all made her feel so small despite the cozy atmosphere.
Kadena only needed one minute to finish what she was working on. She turned back to Sarah. “Please hold out your hands and tell me what you think of these.”
Sarah frowned but did as instructed. The affini placed two small objects in her hands. She stared down at them disbelievingly.
“It took me a moment to teach the computer what a rainbowstone was on your planet but I was able to find the information. I was even able to check which designs were popular.”
Sarah continued to stare at her palms. On each one sat a brilliant rainbowstone cut with many facets into a sphere. Each one was suspended in a silver metal square that was attached by a corner to a short chain ending in a stud. They were as beautiful as any she had seen in those display cases downtown. Too brilliant to be anything but real. She pulled her eyes away to look up at Kadena. “H-how?”
“The compiler my dear. It can make almost any material item we could need or want. Are they to your liking?”
They were. There was no question in Sarah’s mind that she liked them and wanted to put them on. Was it that easy to have whatever she wanted? She was immediately tempted to ask for a large sum of money but didn’t. Kadena has said something about no money. What would she buy with it anyway? The material thing that she had wanted for most of her life was now sitting in her hands. “Y-yes.” She turned her gaze back to Kadena again. “What do I have to do to have these?
Kadena laughed. She laughed like there was nothing but pleasant entertainment in Sarah’s question. The inhuman nature of the sound was made more apparent than when she was just talking. It was something between an echo and an extra layer of voice. It was a little unsettling but that feeling seemed to be fading. “Nothing, my sweet floret. They are yours. Wear them as much as you like but be careful not to poke yourself. You must also have them taken out when you go to bed.”
Sarah looked between Kadena and her hands several more times. “T-thank you.” The words came like she did not use them often. She moved to put one in her ear but a vine gently stopped her arm.
“Why don’t we set those aside and you can put them on right after you are clean and dressed.”
Sarah jumped and almost dropped the earring. The only reason she did not jump away was that the vine had only stopped her motion rather than grabbing her. She thought to herself that she really needed to stop getting flustered at being caught off guard. There was so much time between each question and her reaction. She lowered her arms.
Kadena went to the compiler and quickly returned with a wooden nightstand decorated with intricate patterns of vines and what looked like a small model of an affini with arms turning into branches like a tree. She placed them against the wall near the head of the bed. “You can put them on here for now. If you want more things we can make you more storage later.”
Sarah hesitated long enough to give the affini an uncertain look before crossing to the nightstand and hanging the earrings on a branch of the little model. She turned back to Kadena and saw she was holding the injector again.
“I did some research and you should not have another reaction like the one last night.” She sat down on the floor to bring her face closer to Sarah. “This injection is meant to help you relax and stop negative emotions from being such a burden. There is more we can do but this should help you feel much better until we get there. It will make you a little drowsy but you will still be able to function with less stress. Will you allow me give it to you now?”
A tempest of emotion fought within Sarah. She could not think straight. What she was being offered sounded great but the events of last night still haunted her. Kadena had said she took steps to prevent that from happening again but could she be sure. Even that brief moment had hurt so much. Could she give in to another defeat like this? “Y-you are still just going to d-do it anyway, right?” She fought to keep her voice from shaking. If the answer was yes then it didn’t matter anyway.
“I will, little one, but do not want to force it upon you. I will make sure you are taken care of. It hurts us both when you resist. Will you please hold out your arm?”
The soft question held only room for a single answer. Sarah’s will gave in and she held out her arm. Her small spiteful victory was only that she did not admit her defeat out loud.
Kadena held her arm steady and injected her right below the shoulder. An odd feeling spread through her. It was warm but there was something else to it. Bubbly was not quite right but it was the closest she could think of. It filled her entire body, helping her muscles relax without losing too much strength. She felt a fog in her mind she had not noticed clear significantly but not completely. Something was off because she felt too much like smiling and felt her balance waver as if she were tipsy. All in all it felt like most of a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. The sensation felt intoxicating even before the mildly drunken reaction. She took several deep breaths and felt herself stand up straighter, her back cracking with a wonderful sensation. She liked this. She liked it a lot more than she could admit right now. Or maybe she could share her thoughts. After all, what did she have to hide? If Kadena was scamming her somehow it might be worth it just to feel this good. “Wwhat is tthat?” she asked, a slight slur to her words.
Kadena smiled, waves of green rippling across her strong blue eyes. “It is a mix of several xenodrugs meant to help you with much of your stress. Again, things will get better from here and you may continue to have this in the meantime.”
“IIt feelz goood.” Sarah said, leaning on a vine that had reached out to steady her. She only just managed to stifle a giggle.
“I am delighted to hear that my pet.” Kadena said with a clap of her hands. “Now would you like to eat or get clean first?”
She flinched a little at the word pet but found it bothered her less than it did a few minutes ago. Whatever she had been given was stronger than it felt. She considered for a moment, less bothered by taking her time to think. She was getting hungry but something else in the drugs, Xenodrugs? had increased her awareness of her unwashed oily skin. “I wwant to washhh up.”
Kadena rose with a beaming expression on her face. “That sounds like a great idea, my good little floret. Right this way." She placed a large hand against Sarah’s back and led her through the bedroom door which finally opened.