Sarah did not recognize herself at first. She had never had anything so nice to wear. She looked good. It bothered her. Something she had wanted on and off her entire life and it was just being handed to her. It should be wonderful but was it worth the cost? Could she even change her mind if it was? Not likely. She tried to pull her scowl back on but could only manage a more confused look.
“What do you think dear? Is something missing?” Kadena ran a brush through Sarah’s hair. The straight dark brown locks, normally kept shorter, had grown past her shoulders. “I think I will leave this down for today.
“It’s ok…” Hannah said. She tried to sound upset but was worried her real thoughts would be seen in her tone. Judging by Kadena’s reaction she had noticed.
“I am glad you like it. I think you look wonderful. Now, let us get to breakfast.”
She was led out of the bedroom and into what she presumed was the living room. There was another machine like the one in the bedroom on the side of what was unmistakably a kitchen. There was a couch and a few chairs in a cozy sitting area. Several projected screens that felt like whiteboards and large documents bearing what appeared to be ship schematics here scattered around on one side of this space. It was all still decorated in greens and flowery colors to a level that should have been overwhelming but managed to feel relaxed. There was a door positioned like a main entrance to the hab unit. She immediately locked on to the small rack next to the door with several small items, including a leash, hanging from it.
Sarah shuddered, then squeaked as she was lifted from the ground and into a high chair set at an island of the kitchen. Embarrassed, she covered her mouth, hardly able to believe that she had made such a sound. Kadena rustled in a manner that gave Sarah the impression of chuckling. Sarah could not stop herself from blushing bright red.
“Should I make you something fancy or something more mild?” Kadena inquired.
“Mild Mi-... Mistress.” She replied in a flat tone that she still could not prevent from stuttering.
“Good job Sarah!” Kadena praised. I know this adjustment is hard but you are already doing so well. She turned and started preparing what looked like oatmeal. She kept getting ingredients from the machine that seemed to be able to create anything. “Please stay in your chair. I will give you the tour after we eat.”
Sarah winced at the spike of feeling she got at the affini’s praise. She had considered trying to slip away while the creature's back was turned but she was being offered food again. She had been given food any time she started to get hungry but she still felt like a prisoner. She was not looking forward to being force fed again. She lost track of these thoughts as the smell of warm spices filled the air, inciting another grumble from her stomach.
Kadena reached a vine back and placed a few crackers in front of her on the counter. “Here is a little something for you to munch on while this finishes up.
The first cracker was in her mouth before she thought about what she was doing. It tasted really good. A nice crunch with a nice bit of flavor to it without the usual drowning it in salt. She finished the others in short order which earned her another series of headpats to endure.
Soon Kadena turned around with a steaming dish of what indeed appeared to be oatmeal. There were some chopped nuts, several types of fruit, and a light drizzle of what must have been honey. “Here you go, my sweet.” As expected, Sarah was offered no silverware.
“Why are you tormenting me?” She asked, the drugs influence pushing her tone closer to confused than accusatory.
“Can you tell me in what way I am tormenting you?” Kadena asked conversationally.
“You are treating me like someone smaller. Like someone… lesser. I don’t like it.”
Kadena pulled out a spoon and stirred the oatmeal, scooping up a small bite and letting it cool a bit. “You can think about this in two ways. You can accept the fact that you are technically a lesser species, at least in the terms you are thinking. This does not mean that you are not adorable and we will do most anything to take care of you. The other way is to realize that you are not being belittled but cared for. No part of my intention is to make you feel bad. I am simply taking care of you as I see best. Your hands are still a little shaky for eating. I do not know how much you have noticed but your body is still recovering though still functional. If you stop fussing and let me take care of you then we can talk about you having some privileges.”
She stopped and made the motion of a deep breath. Did she even have lungs?
“Sorry little one, sometimes my words get away from me. My point is that you have multiple ways to think about it. Whichever you choose you will eventually will need to accept that I want to help you. I enjoy taking care of you. No one will look at you as lesser for anything I am ever going to do to you. This is the world that all humans live in now. There are some that still do not accept this but I will make sure you are always protected.” She lifted the spoon with the still warm oatmeal. “So please, little one, let me take care of you. All you have to do is say yes and I will take care of all your worries.”
Sarah needed to think more on the words but she needed food to clear her head. For now, she accepted the bite.
Another wave of flavor smothered her other thoughts. Bursts of sweet from several different fruits all covered in honey that was equally sweet in a different way. It was all balanced out with the mild but filling oats. She wanted a second bite before she finished the first. Kadena had already scooped out another bite but was holding it away to cool.
"No need to rush, little one. There will always be plenty to eat and you have no appointments to be late to."
Sarah gave her a flat look but waited to be fed the next bite. As soon as it was cool Kadena fed it to her. She thought about the plant's words. It had to be some kind of trick. Nothing could be that good for free. "I want to talk to another human." She said before the next bite.
Kadena paused before feeding another bite. "I believe we can do that today if you are not too tired. What do you want to talk to them about?"
Sarah didn't bother to swallow all of her food before talking." I want to-" she was cut off by a vine making a shushing motion against her mouth.
"Please do not talk with your mouth full, little one. It is a very unbecoming habit."
The girl scowled but did as instructed, wanting to speak before her blurry mind lost the thought. "I want to talk with them about what's going on. I need to hear it from someone who isn't a giant plant alien."
"That is… understandable. Do you want me to see if someone can visit in a few hours?"
"Fine. I-I mean y-yes Mistress." She corrected herself at a stern look from the affini. She really wanted to use harsher words but she was having trouble thinking. One of her few clear thoughts was that it just wasn't worth the trouble to upset the creature.
The rest of the meal finished in silence until broken by Kadena. “So my pet. You have been washed, dressed, and fed. What would you like to do with our day until I can arrange for someone to meet you?”
The affini had led Sarah to the couch which she had needed a vine boost to climb onto. They now sat next to each other. She shook her head in a futile attempt to clear her thoughts more. It didn’t feel bad, she just knew that her capacity for thought was more limited than it should be. “So let me make sure I have this right. You are an alien. Your kind has defeated the entire terran accord. I almost died but you brought me back. It is not kidnapping or anything else bad because I now belong to you?” She was surprised how easily the words came as long as she didn’t fuel them with anger.
“Good girl Sarah. That is all correct.” Kadena seemed genuinely pleased.
Sarah fought the spark of unwelcome warmth that came with the praise. “Stop that. I was just recapping your story. I still have no reason to believe that anything you have said is true. I am still mostly convinced that I have been kidnapped and everything else is just a trick to get inside my head. Who k-knows what else these d-drugs are doing to me.” Her words started to falter when she tried to speak them in anger.
“And you are waiting for another human to tell you that what I am saying is true.”
“Well, I am working on that. In the meantime, would you like to talk about your actions before your accident?”
Sarah shot her a glare but had no words to follow it up.
“We can come back to that as well. How about I show you how much control I have over you when I choose.”
Sarah was not able to hide her fear. “W-what’s that supposed to mean?” The drugs stopped her from panicking but the persistent worry was unpleasant enough.
“That, with the proper methods, I have a half dozen different ways to take control of you at any moment. I will not rob you of your free will as long as you are behaving. Most of these are used for the benefit and enjoyment of florets. I am happy to give you a demonstration if it will help convince you that I am not, and do not need to, control you without your knowledge. You are going to experience it sooner rather than later but it would be nice to do it when you want it. I would rather not have your first experience with it be when you are distressed. Does that make sense, little one?"
"If you can do that then why bother with what I care about?"
"Because I am not here to control you. I am here to protect and take care of you by any means necessary."
"Does it ever end? Will I be able to buy or earn my freedom at some point?"
Kadena took a simulated deep breath. "No, my floret. We will be together no matter what. I will never stop seeing to your needs." She checked something on her tablet. "You will never go hungry again. You are free of almost all risk to yourself, physically or mentally. Outside of the rules you must follow you should have much more freedom than you did before.
To Sarah, it still sounded like a trap. “Nothing can be that good. Anyone that powerful would have no use for humanity but enslavement. For you to say anything else makes me think this is all some big joke being played with my little life.
We have no use for slaves. What could we make them do except pointless labor that a drone could do much faster? To what end would this be a trick? Do you really think that we could reach such a level of society if we did such things in our free time? You being a pet that is fully aware of what is happening to them is the best way for me to take care of.
"And you keep calling me a pet but supposedly I am not considered an animal?"
"That is correct."
"So what do you get out of this?"
Kadena smiled wider than she should have been able to, the vines of her face contorting beyond what a human could have done. "I, and the other affini, get the endless pleasure of taking care of cuties like you. Some of our scientists have tried but we just can't seem to get enough of taking care of you. We enjoy giving you as much affection as you can handle."
"That's it? There has to be more. No one would do something like that for so little."
"That is it, little one. We have no want for material wealth. The things that matter most to us are those we spend time with and using our power to give everyone love and protection."
Sarah was not sure she bought that but it was getting harder and harder to find any holes in affini’s story. Apart from the absurdity of it all. “Can I ask to be alone for a bit?”
“For today you would have to be in the bedroom to be alone. There will be more options in the future. Does that work for you?”
Sarah did not like the idea of being *sent* to the bedroom any more than the idea of being *locked* in the bedroom. “Can I come out whenever I want?”
“Of course, my little one. I have to keep you inside the hab for a while but if you behave then we can quickly expand your options. For now, you may have the bedroom to yourself.”
Sarah did not like how that answer was worded but she was done talking. She slid off the couch, only stumbling a little on the soft but sturdy floor. She walked towards the bedroom door which opened at her approach. When it closed behind her she walked towards it again to make sure it would open again. It did. She climbed up to the bed and flopped down on the covers to think. Her thoughts were given more clarity by the drugs still forcibly soothing her.