Chapter 1: Freshly Conquered
“Any day now. The hammer will come down.” Were the thoughts in Mera’s head as she walked into the library she had called home and her place of employment for the past four years.
But now her life had been uprooted, and promptly placed back down where she was.
Same soil, different pot as it were.
The library was technically still there, the books, the location and all that. But they had entirely changed the building making it…bigger? No that's not right, taller. The plants made it taller to accommodate them.
She honestly was worried they’d think it was heretical to print things on paper, but they only giggled at her question.
“Hello little Mera! How are you doing today?” It was the plant who was working in the front for now, Traptrya or something, they had such peculiar names.
Mera simply looked down, gave a small wave, and mumbled something about the weather being nice.
She didn’t know how you were supposed to interact with these Affini creatures, but she didn’t want to cross one accidentally. It’s not as if she could be blamed, it’s not like they gave her a manual, but what can she expect from some alien race who conquered her planet in 24 hours…
In the backroom she was able to change out of her walking shoes. She didn’t want to think about the invasion, the transitioning of her life, any of it. She just wanted to focus on her books. Things were undeniably better, but… how could she trust that? To just be given a home and food? To be told she didn’t have to come here every day anymore? It had to be some kind of trick, lulling them until they’d pounce to do…whatever it is the plants actually do with the humans they “domesticate”.
Sure she’d seen the propaganda of the so called “florets’ enjoying their new lives in their collars and floral lace, but that had to be the drugs. The Affini bragged about how good they were at drugging for pity’s sake.There’s clinics for the dang things, the stupid…well… it’s undeniable that something that got her to stop thinking sounds nice… Not like she’d go to one of them.
As she grabbed a book cart and strolled over to the returns, she sighed at the lack of them. Four books for her day, and even that doesn’t need to be sorted with the damn bots the Affini brought. She basically had to beg to keep doing what she was doing.
Whatever it was she was doing now…
An hour later she was bored doing her shelf reading. There wasn’t even any point to her shelf reading, the damn bots had everything organized and there were hardly any patrons returning since the…well. Invasion.
She could maybe ask Traptrya if there was something she could help with but that would feel somehow…defeating.
Maybe she could find a mistake in the organization, something about Affini misunderstanding their Terran organization.
She just needed to back up to look completely at these damn tall book shelves. Maybe she should get the ladder i-
Her thoughts were interrupted by feeling herself bump into something behind her, she was certain it wasn’t the shelf with how soft it was.
Oh shoot it must be a person!
“Oh gods I’m so sorry, I should…have…been…” Her words seemed to slide right out of her mouth as she kept looking up until finally she could see the face of who she bumped into.
The smiling, flexible wooden face of an Affini with 3 eyes staring down at her.
Her heart began to race at the elegant visage before her, one of her conquerors had been in the library. And she had just bumped into her because she wasn’t paying attention, she didn’t even have the excuse of being engrossed in her work.
Her mind began to scramble and feel hot as she tried to understand what it was best for her to do in this situation as the thing kept smiling down at her, what did it want, how long had it been there? How long had she been taking to make a decision!
Mera crumbled to her knees while looking down, “I-I’m so sorry, please forgive me, I-I didn’t…I didn’t look where I was going, please don’t take me.”
She kept her eyes squeezed shut, waiting for the hammer to fall…
Mera jumped as she felt a touch at her cheek, soft yet firm enough to hold her chin up as she opened her eyes into the opaline gaze looking down at her. Then in a voice smooth as fresh honey, the thing spoke to her, “There is no need to grovel Little One, I should have announced my presence. I was caught up in watching how focused on your tasks you were.”
Gently, Mera could feel herself being lifted onto her feet by wrapping vines as the melodious voice continued to speak softly, “I was actually directed to find you by Traptrya as I had a question for you, regarding the library.”
Mera caught herself staring into the Affini’s eyes and quickly cast her gaze downwards, “R-right I uhm. I’ll help you in any way I can ma’am. The library is uh…” She glanced quickly to find the Affini woman crouching down to be at eye level with her, still smiling.
Mera blushed and her eyes glanced away again, “W-what can I help you with?”
She heard a soft giggle from the woman and turned even brighter red.
“I was actually quite interested in learning Terran history.”
This caught her by a bit of a surprise, “Y-you want to learn Terran history? Uhm.” She wanted to ask why, but her library training began to creep back in, “Well uhm. What period would you like to study ma’am?”
“All of it.”
Mera stood there for a moment, stunned at the declarative. Surely she didn’t mean ALL of Terran history, just their space fairing age? Nobody cared about ancient Terran history but her.
“Uhm. Do you mean, all of post-Terrabound history?”
The Affini woman continued to smile at her, “Nope, I wish to study you in terms of all your history Little One, I find you all quite fascinating.”
Mera blinked then turned on her heels, “R-right, well if you’ll please follow me ma’am.”
Stay calm, stay calm. Just treat her like any other patron.
As she repeated the line in her mind it became increasingly clear that she would not be able to ignore the slender yet towering feminine figure following behi-
Mera glanced behind herself to find the plant woman no longer behind her. Before the panic could set in she felt a tap on her shoulder and with a squeak she jumped as she looked beside her to find the affini woman beside her.
“Oh I’m sorry Little One, I didn’t mean to startle you, I merely thought you’d be more comfortable with me beside you rather than looming behind you.”
That was just like them, trying to feign kindness to lull them. That…smile.
One that was somehow enticing and unnerving at the same time, she…
She shook her head, “Yes ma’am, uhm if you’ll follow me this way it’s just down this aisle.
It was the same aisle she’d been down a hundred times before, but now it was so…grand.
The shelves went so much higher, there was so much natural light pouring in from the vaulted windows that had been installed.
As she stopped, Mera struggled to look up at the Affini, “This is the Aisle for Terrabound Terran history. You should be able to find everything you need here. If uhm, there’s any further questions I can answer any of them, I’ll be getting back to my work now.”
As she turned to leave she felt a small tapping on her shoulder.
“Actually miss, I needed a small bit of advisement if you’re not busy.”
Mera shivered as she slowly turned, still downcasting her eyes, “Uhm. Yes? I’d be happy to assist any way I can.”
Again the smiling jeweled face looked directly at her as she felt her face flush and her mind scramble feeling as though she were going to be snatched up in an instant.
“So, because I’m new to your history, do I simply begin at the lowest number of years?”
What an odd question, but she wanted to get away as quickly as she could to calm down, “That seems like it would be a good start I believe, the lowest number with the volumes. Thank you.”
“Oh no! Thank you so much for assisting me, Little One, I’m sure you’re needed for your tasks.”
Mera didn’t wait around for more, she knew what she’d see if she looked back at her. That same shapely form with its writhing tendrils, smiling at her with jeweled eyes.
Fruitia watched the small Terran girl stroll down the aisle of books away from her, they had such an adorable way of hurrying away when they were flustered, she couldn’t wait to understand them better.
Oh and her button up and skirt were just darling, that was a Terran who knew how to draw the eye without trying.
A few moments later she had a stack of volumes wrapped in vines along her arms and was headed for the front desk.
How quaint, in a technological age full of digitization the terran people kept the occasional repository of physically transcripted text. It was useful of course, to have a backup that couldn’t be easily corrupted but could be easily reproduced.
She then began to wonder why it was that there were so few her kind had encountered after pacifying the terrans, why was such a useful thing allowed to wither and decay until this one became the only one within feasible travel distance for one of these little ones.
Likely a result of their system they were suffering in, she’d have to ask Traptrya.
As she approached the front desk, Fruitia greeted the lounging affini behind the desk with her bright smile as she did most people of all types she came across, she was quite proud of its perceived ability to calm people, when in reality it was a wide mixture of stimuli she mixed.
“Hello Traptrya, are you working at the library as a permanent position?”
The affini behind the counter gently shook her head, “No, I’m merely here until all the automation, catologing, and organizing are done, then I’ll be onto the next construction project. Progress never ends after all.”
The two exchanged a light giggle that harmonized into a solid tune, then Traptrya continued, “Did you find the little one I mentioned? Was she able to help you?”
At this Fruitia couldn’t help but to extend herself upward with delight, “Oh yes! She was adorable, so skittish and unsure, yet entirely sure of her task. Like a little bee in a hive that one.”
Traptrya nodded her head in agreement, “Mmm. Yes, she is quite tenacious. You should have seen her when we came to renovate, she was certain we were here to destroy the building and the books. First thing in the morning, I don’t know if the poor thing had even slept, yet she was on the steps outside refusing to move out of the way until we assured her that we wouldn’t harm the books, and that she would be allowed to supervise our work all she liked. She didn’t sleep a wink that entire day, we attempted to coax her into coming to one of the constructed hab units a few blocks away, but she refused as politely as she could. I’ve been meaning to have a drone follow up on her to ensure her living accommodations are up to our standards, don’t want a cute little thing like her to get sick.”
Fruitia could feel her internal vines writhing in excitement at this description, what a fun little terran, so full of determination and drive, yet not a ferralist. How queer.
“Well I’m certain I’ll be seeing quite a bit of her as I keep returning here, especially with your moving on to other projects. Is she… the only one who works here?”
For the first time Fruitia began to notice just how silent it was in the building, not a single other person; terran, affini, or any other was in the building but them it seemed.
Traptrya took a moment before responding, “I wondered about that as well. She insisted she was the only one working and taking care of the place. And as far as I can tell from records, only she and one other terran who’s now deceased had security access to the building. I can only imagine what the poor thing had to go through to keep this place running all by her lonesome.”
As Fruitia walked down the road back towards her hab unit she began to think more on the exchange she had with the terran girl at the library. She was so silly, they hadn’t even exchanged names at the time, and yet now she was wondering if perhaps she should have been more reserved, less her cheerful self. She heard from a friend that being over optimistic can have an adverse effect on certain terrans, though she didn’t know why.
On her walk she saw many affini she was familiar with, waved to them, and exchanged pleasantries. Occasionally she’d run across one holding the hands of their cute little floret and she’d get to ask them about their day and what they were doing.The thought of the girl at the library entered her mind again, “all by her lonesome”. Was she still alone? Did she not have the joy of friendly faces everywhere she went?
Fruitia attempted to think what that must be like, but it sounded too…lonely. Too painful to endure, let alone live in.
Perhaps she could continue attempting to speak with her at the library, its not as if she were going to run out of material to read.
As she entered her hab unit she smiled to herself before noting once again that she was in fact alone. Nothing but a stillness in the air that became interrupted by her ventilation activating upon her arrival and the dark rooms beyond her entrance.
Perhaps this is how the girl feels? Coming home to an empty home without anyone to smile to?
That settled it, she’d read as much as she could tonight and talk to the terran girl tomorrow!
With any luck she’d be interested in the topic of ancient terran history as well.