Sarah woke up in a worse mood than the one she had gone to sleep with. She pushed herself up and found herself alone in the bedroom. As always, there was no clock or any way to tell how long she had been unconscious. It could have been 5 minutes or 5 days and that blasted plant probably wouldn't even tell her.
She climbed off the bed and tried the door. To her surprise, it opened at her approach. She looked around the living room to find it empty as well. Her thoughts briefly flickered back to the earrings beside the bed. She stiffened but continued forward. If she had a chance to escape then there wasn’t a second to lose. She crept out, feeling like she was doing something wrong. A smile crept onto her face, the old thrill coming back to her. All of her old worries and pains were back but so were her sharp wit and instincts. She listened carefully but heard nothing. A quick look through the kitchen turned up a few cooking knives. She wrapped two of them in hand towels and tucked them in the waistband of her dress she was still wearing. Feeling she had grabbed all she could use she moved to the main entrance. It did not open for her. She tried the interface panel on the side but it was all in curvy plant glyphs. Utter nonsense and completely useless to her.
A noise came from the far side of the door. Sarah froze and then threw herself against the wall next to the door. A second later Kadena entered, already looking intently toward the bedroom. “Sarah, are you up yet~?”
Sarah stayed completely still until Kadena had passed and managed to slip out the door a split second before it closed. She was in a well-lit hallway with the far wall made entirely of a viewscreen. She assumed that was what it was because what she saw on it was impossible which meant it was not a window. She would think about it later. With a jolt, she remembered the cuffs and collar. If Kadena could track those as she did before then Sarah needed to get them off now. She pulled out a knife and quickly cut through each of the vines wrapped around her. Being hasty with the blade cost her a cut into one of her fingers and drew a small line of blood on her leg in her haste. Dropping every piece of the plant tech to the ground she stowed her knife and sprinted down the right side of the hallway.
She did not know why she chose right, it is just what she often went with when presented with a fifty-fifty situation. At the end of the hall, she found an elevator. She managed to poke the right button on the interface to get it to open.
“Hello, cutie~. What floor do you want to go to.” The voice seemed to come from the room itself like the AI in the hab.
Sarah flinched but recovered quickly enough. “Uh, first floor please.” Three walls of the elevator were also viewscreens showing a very disorienting view. She looked away, wondering what the plants' fascination with these unrealistic displays was.
“Are you sure you are alright cutie? You look a little stressed. Should I call someone to help you?”
The dumb thing seemed genuinely concerned for her. “I am taking care of it, I just need to go to the first floor to do it.”
“Ok, but please take some deep breaths and drink some water when you can.” They started moving downward.
This felt like something out of a crazy dream. Even the plant’s elevator was trying to baby her! She jumped out as soon as the doors were open. There was a sparsely occupied lounge area and a set of doors leading outside. She headed right for them and tried to slow down. She did not want to draw attention to herself now that she appeared to have a head start.
On the other side of the door, she had to stop and blink for a solid moment. The scene looked like something out of a dream. The building she had come out of was only one small part of a giant hab ring, larger than she thought possible. It was one of several that all spun in lazy circles. Stars and space peaked out from between them. The hab ring was connected by lines that resolved into some kind of magnetic train system. The tracks stretched into the distance and the cars moved fast. Few places looked good to hide in. Nowhere was there anything that looked like an escape pod or shuttle.
Sarah forced herself to start walking. She did her best to stroll along like everyone else. There was a lot of affini around. There were more colors, plant types, and variants than she knew existed. Many already had a human or some other xeno following them or being carried. All of the pets had a slightly glazed look in their eyes as Kim had. Many of the non-affini seemed to be wearing some kind of costume in addition to their colorful outfits. It often gave them the appearance of an animal or some type of plant matter growing on their body. All of them seemed infatuated with their affini. Sarah did her best to blend in.
She kept moving with no idea of where she was going. There had to be somewhere she could get to that would let her hide or escape.
A bit of movement over her shoulder caught her attention. She turned just enough to see the unmistakable form of Kadena headed right for her. Sarah sped up just enough that she was able to slip into a mag rail car and be carried away. There was one other affini in the car but they were thankfully distracted by not one but two pets on their lap. The humans were giggling and appeared to be having the time of their lives. Sarah shivered. Everything that flitted past the window seemed to be more residential buildings.
A couple of stops later she got off the tram and kept moving. She spotted a building that looked like it had access to the other parts of the ship. It was the first one that did not look to be residential or some small city-feeling building. She made for the junction building and got inside. She risked another glance over her shoulder and again spotted Kadena moving fast in her direction. The door closed and she kept trying to move fast without running. How had that plant known where she was? Had it planted a tracker on her somewhere? Was it something in the clothes?
At the far side of the huge interior of the building was another type of mag rail car. This one was designed to move between this hab ring and other sections of the ship.
Ship. How could anything be so big? It should have shattered under its own structural tension. The ambient effects from the reactor needed to power it should be enough to kill everyone on board!
She was distracted from the thought by someone tapping her on the shoulder. “Excuse me little one. Are you feeling alright?”
Sarah knew from the odd resonance of the voice that she was not going to see a human if she turned around. She tried to keep moving with a muttered, “I’m fine, leave me alone.”
She was grabbed by the shoulder and forced to stop and turn around. Some new affini was looking down at her with what she could recognize as concern, even on the alien body. “I am sorry to bother you, little one. You look quite distressed and I want to make sure nothing is wrong.”
Sarah tried to pull away but the affini stopped her with a vine that extended somewhere from its upper arm. Its eyes looked down to the knife handles at her belt and a frown spread across its vine not-face.
“Those look like something you should not have unsupervised.” It started reaching for the knives.
Sarah whipped out the bigger blade and slashed at the hand coming towards her. As the plant alien drew back she turned and managed to slice clean through the vine holding her. It offered more resistance than she would have thought but the sharpness of the blade made up for her less powerful swing. A turquoise-blue liquid splattered from the severed vine. It painted the floor and part of her dress in a jarring contrast to the dark fabric. She was free of anything holding her but now had the attention of everyone within earshot. Worse, Kadena was visible behind the affini that seemed more stunned than in pain at her having just cut one of its limbs off.
Sarah turned and ran for her life. Her legs started protesting at sudden demand. There were too many affini between her and the mag rail car so she took the only other option down a nearby hallway. She was not even a dozen paces down it before she felt a tug on her leg. It tripped her and the knife clattered from her hand. She looked back to see a vine from Kadena wrapped around her ankle as the plant monster advanced.
Sarah pulled her second knife from her belt and slashed at the vine holding her. It dodged impossibly fast, forced to retreat and releasing her in the process. She scrambled backward, fear now escalating into terror. “N-no! S-stay back! You c-can’t do this to m-me!” She brandished the knife as threateningly as she could. It felt like waving a stick at an oncoming tidal wave.
In a blurred burst of motion, Kadena was on top of her. The plant shot out several vines from her tangle to wrap around each of Sarah’s wrists and ankles. An extra pair for her knife arm. The knife was pulled from her hand. She could not tell if the expression on the affini’s twisted face was sadness or glee. “What is wrong, little one? What were you looking for all the way out here? Surely you didn’t really think you needed to try and harm me with this?”
Sarah screamed in frustration and fear. “Leave me alone! I don’t belong to anyone! I am a free terran and y-uouuuo…” She felt and now familiar prick on her arm and her little remaining strength was quickly leaving her. She fought it with all she had but the chemical sedative was too strong. She started slipping rapidly towards sleep again. “N-no,” she feebly protested once more. The last thing she saw was Kadena’s strong blue eyes rippling with a teal color that felt sad.
Kadena lifted the now limp form of her poor little Sarah into her arms. Where had she gone wrong? She knew that Sarah had last gone to sleep upset but thought that she would have had some time to think over what they had talked about. Instead, she had immediately gone and done something rash. Kadena should never have tried to sneak out on a quick errand.
At the end of the hallway, the affini that Sarah had attacked was reattaching his severed vine. He looked up with a big grin. “Really quick she is. Cut right through my favorite vine. Is she alright Kadena?”
Kadena slowed long enough to exchange a few words. “Yes Hollandfern, she is alright. She just got really scared after I pushed her a little too hard. I am sorry she got you.”
“No worries, already working good as new.” They spoke jovial, holding up the freshly mended vine with a flourish. “You just do what you need to for your cutie. Come see me when she is feeling better if you have the time.
“I will do that,” Kadena called over her shoulder and she headed back towards the mag rail. On the short ride back to the hab building she tisked over the splatters of affini blood her pet had gotten all over her new dress. She needed to come up with something fast to help her poor pet before the little cutie lost herself. The best thing she could think for now is to try another variant of xenodrug combinations. Maybe one could keep Sarah herself without feeling these terrible things. She just needed to keep her pet safe until the implant.
She mused as the lift took them up. She had wanted Sarah to be happy and have the implant as a bonus to make it even better. Maybe she needed to move up the appointment and take care of her pet on the other side of the operation. It felt so unnecessarily harsh for one in Sarah’s position.
She lay Sarah on the bed and fetched a new set of cuffs with a collar. With her pet properly wrapped in restraints and tucked in she sat down in a chair near the bed. She started flicking through Xendrug combinations that may better help her Sarah in the short term. After a quick check of the time, Kadena adjusted the injection of Xenodrugs in her pet to help her sleep soundly until morning. It might be a bit much considering how many forced naps she had been through but it was better than rushing to help her in time for dinner
Kadena centered herself and focused on her task. She was not worried, she was being challenged. A challenge was something she could work with and overcome. For her little Sarah’s sake, she would do anything.