Crimson cracks her eyes open, a little buzzing yawn escaping her lips as her vision is filled with bramble’s fluff. Having spent the past several days switching between her and Raven, having Solosia visit, and guide them through exercises, and waiting for Azalia to return from the hab renovations, that according to Ipheon whenever asked ‘just kept getting held up’. “Gmorning bramble.”
All four of her arms give the beeple little squeezes, as she pulls herself to sit up. Only then remembering that they’ve been asleep on top of Ipheon the whole time, the affini having shaped herself to give hexagonal places for bramble, and Crimson to cuddle together. “You awake down there Ipheon?”
Ipheon stretches lightly. “Of course I am awake, did you sleep well Crimson?” She reaches a branch up to lightly brush against Crim’s head, giving her a few gentle scritches.
bramble grumbled, and cuddled down into Ipheon more, pressing his head into some of her foliage in order to block out the noise with her rhythm.
Crim arches her back slightly, each of her arms stretching out and grabbing around, making sure to get through her daily stretches as quickly as she can manage. “I slept about as well as normal, sooooooooo not great, but not horrible.” She slowly starts to crawl out of the mass of vines, doing her best to be quiet enough to not disturb bramble too much. Considering that to be the greatest crime that she could commit on any given morning.
“Why don’t you relax a little more, then I can make you honey sandwiches when bramble feels like getting up.” Ipheon watches Crim closely, patting a spot by bramble on top of her. “If you still want to get up, just make yourself at home, and I’ll be out in just a few minutes.”
Crim’s eyes flick between the door, and bramble, struggling between her absolute impatience, and her desire to cuddle adorable beeple. Eventually huffing, and crawling back into Ipheon’s vines, cuddling up against bramble and closing her eyes again. Unwilling to give up on the chance to cuddle bramble even more, even though she’s not high right now.
Ipheon pets Crim a few times. “Cuddle time is really important, and I know bramble loves every single moment we get to have.” She gently shifts to make sure Crim is well cradled next to bramble. “So, the renovations that Azalia is having done will be done today, did you have a good time here?”
“Of course I did, bramble is so fluffy, and nice and cuddly.” Crimson nestles her head down into brambles fluff again, humming as she starts to pepper the beeple with little kisses. “And you’re pretty neet too I guess.” She chuckles lightly, wiggling her body around and starting to press her hands up against his sides, doing little squeezes.
“So, I’ve heard about how you want to go to a hive moon, are you sure that finding a nice owner and a beeple pinete wouldn’t get you what you want Crim?” Ipheon gently rubs down Crim’s back, giving her some nice and gentle massaging around where her wings will be.
“Hmmmmmm.” Crim blinks a few times, rolling over and pulling bramble into her lap. “Hmmmmmmm… Nah, I wont know if that’s the case until I’ve already visited one! You’re thinking more of Raven, I know it can be pretty tricky when we first wake up to tell who’s who, she’s totally the one who’d dive for the chance to have a pinnet, and never lift a leg a day in her life.” She flashes an entirely innocuous smile up at Ipheon, nestling bramble deeper into her embrace as if she’d just stated the most logical thing. “Just like bramble! I wanna be useful, and I can’t be useful as a floret.”
“Except bramble is useful, not only do I love cuddling him, but we handle our cafe together, and bramble can do anything he would like to. There is nothing saying being a floret means not being useful.” Ipheon leans closer to Crim. “Also regardless, you should make sure both of you are happy with the end result of where you end up.”
“Yeah, but it means someone else gets to decide how useful I get to be. Like those stupid affini who took our hives from us.” Crim grumbles to herself, glancing away from Ipheon and down at bramble. “And Raven has always said she’s happy to do whatever I wanna do! She says that I’m incompitant sometimes, and need someone to watch out for me, but she does that perfectly fine!”
“Well, are you sure she will be able to in the hive moon? It is quite a bit different, and it could be…overwhelming for Raven at least. And if you want to feel useful, it may be too much even for you.” Ipheon frowns lightly. “I just want you to think about things that could work out for you on the Equabloom, and if any of those would work out better.”
“Ughhhh, you sound like Azlia.” Crim’s head flops backward, starting to more openly pout about Ipheon’s behavior. Holding onto bramble even more possessively now, each of her hands finding their way into his, as every attempt to look her in the eye from Ipheon is met with a pouting glare. “Everyone started treating me differently after they met Raven, this is why I kept it secret.”
“Honestly I would treat you like this regardless, and I know you wouldn’t let yourself be domesticated without a cute beeple pinette or covenant to cuddle and help take care of, so that is part of my honeyed feelers out to you.” Ipheon smiles and pets Crim some more. “That and none of us would ever let any sophont be unhappy if we could help it.”
“You’re lucky bramble is so cute.” Crim pulls bramble up in front of her face defensively, obviously trying to hide herself from Ipheon’s attempts to call her out, and provide a distraction. Getting more than a little uncomfortable with her face being closely observed for so long. “And if you want me to be happy, can you please get me my mask or a hood or something. I don’t really… want eyes on my mess of a face right now.”
“If you insist, your face is super cute though.” Ipheon shifts around before setting Crim and bramble directly on the bed as she gets up. “Stay comfortable, I’ll be right back right after I get something cute together for you.” One small head pat later and she would leave the room.
Crim sits there silently, each of her fingers twiddling with one of brambles. Having a hard time sitting still, as thoughts of how much of an inconvenience she is start floating through her head. Whether it be to Raven by having different needs, or to the affini because she’s unable to properly understand what they want out of her other than ‘pet’.
By the time that Ipheon returns, Crim is simply quietly crying into brambles back. Running a seemingly never ending list of bee facts through her head to keep out any other intrusive thoughts, from her horrendous appearance, to her inability to connect with anything around her other than beeple or bees, the frustration mounting more and more in her chest.
Ipheon scoops Crim and bramble up, giving the pair a gentle hug, though focusing her cuddles onto Crim. “What’s wrong Crim?” She begins to use her vines to gently wipe the tears away. “I brought a mask from the compiler. It is a cute beeple one.” She slowly rocks the bee pair, slowly handing the mask to Crim.
The mask itself is fairly simple, being white with a beeples smile on the bottom half, while each of the eye holes have flowers painted around them. Vines climbing around and connecting everything, Crim swiftly puts the mask on exhaling sharply. “I just really hate my appearance, so having anyone look at me without something hiding the mess under my suits or mask is hard. Like sure I can handle you seeing my waist now, but my face, my legs, my lack of wings it all just feels so wrong.”
Ipheon rubs down Crim’s arms with a smile. “Well, your legs, wings, and face will be taken care of soon enough. You have already been doing so well, I bet that it won’t be long until you are hardly distinguishable from a beeple.”
bramble yawns, and turns in Crim’s grasp. “you are cute, and it’s only a matter of time until you can be fully bee, then we can have even more cuddly fun.”
Tears flow down Crim’s cheeks, pooling down at the bottom of the mask as she nuzzles up against bramble. Taking a deep breath, with the help of a few blinks, she manages to stop the flow before it can spill out from behind her mask. Knowing full well that continuing to cry would just worry Ipheon. “Thank you.” Her arms wiggle around Ipheon’s vines, letting herself and bramble be pulled into Ipheon’s vines given he’s now awake enough for them to start eating breakfast.
Ipheon carries the pair to the kitchen, placing them in an affini sized high chair with lots of nest like padding to keep them elevated and safe. She then brings over some waffles with honey. “Here we go, a fun treat to help elevate your mood.” As the plates are set down, she pets Crim and bramble, bramble leaning more into the pets easily.
Crim shudders under the pets, reaching out and starting to cut the meal up. Having to fiddle around with the knife for a minute to get it properly positioned with only three fingers, before continuing and starting to feed herself. Shoving each bite under her mask, she uses her upper left hand to move it in and out of position, not wanting to risk even a glimpse of her puffy red eyes being exposed. Feeling more than a little pathetic about crying over her face being visible.
“Crim, I’m sorry if any comments I have made have made you feel bad. You are such a sweet little bee, who deserves to be happy, we just don’t quite deal with the most pluribus systems too often, and that means we need to meet the emotional, and physical, needs of two or more sophonts for a singular body. I don’t want you to ever feel bad over anything, and I know Azalia also doesn’t want you to feel bad either.”
Crim slowly shoves the last few bites of waffle into her mouth, grumbling a bit to herself as she leans back to let Ipheon start to feed bramble his breakfast. “I don’t know, I just… I had a life, one that I was made for, and when you all showed up, and took it over.” She grabs a napkin dabbing her chin to discreetly wipe away the tears.
“I’d been looking for something to actually commit myself to ever since, somewhere I could feel useful again, rather than being told to just play with my bees, rather than being in charge of caring for them. I got on this ship to find out what that could be, first for the body mods, then when I heard about the hive moons I felt like for the first time in two years I had a goal. Something that I could really put myself into, and find out what I want from my life again.” As she rambles on, Crim pauses for a moment, realizing that she’d not even bothered with answering the thing her friend had apologized about, and instead had simply started externalizing her thoughts.
“Ipheon you worrying about me doesn’t upset me, it’s just that I need to feel useful, to care for something, anything. It’s what I was born to do, and even then I get treated by the one person left I’m allowed to take care of, like I’m the bigger screw up than her!” Crim’s free hand rubs up and down under her mask, coming out each time more damp than before.
“I just feel like no one, not even Raven, trusts me anymore. Like I’m just some broken thing to be patiently waited on to change her mind, and accept that she can never have her purpose back. Not a single one of you has considered the possibility of me wanting to stay on that moon. You’ve just been externalizing my own anxieties about if all of this was one big mistake, if I should have just stayed at my little pretend job, with my bees that I was barely allowed to care for, out of concerns for my health. That’s what’s wrong.”
“I understand, and I think that you will enjoy one of the renovations that Azalia is putting in. I know it will help you feel more useful.” Ipheon continues to steadily feed bramble while they talk.
“I can’t speak for your life before coming up here, or why Raven feels the way she does. I remember hearing Azalia talking about getting both of you some more therapy, and I am sure there is a lot to go through.” She reaches over and runs a hand down the back of Crim’s hair. “I have to ask, have you ever asked Raven why she feels that way?”
"We… aren't the most communicative duo, but she's made it very clear it's just because she's scared for our safety." Crim starts to mumble at this point, her voice barely escaping from behind the mask. "She's scared I'm going to get hurt, like we did when we were little, like when the affini first arrived, all over again. She can't understand it wasn't our fault."
“Well, trauma can stick very hard. Given that it seems like from my observations, you two largely don’t know what happens when the other is fronting, coming out and being hurt scared her. During previous therapy sessions, have you ever talked to them about this event?” Ipheon finishes with bramble and carefully cleans him up, before lifting the two bees into her grasp.
"Memories can be… tricky?" Crim shrugs, shaking her head. "Our memories have become more flowy? Like there are still moments of confusion, but recently we've established at least lines of communication."
She inhales sharply, tapping her fingers along her midriff. "If we’re going to talk about why Raven doesn’t trust me, we should probably talk more about it when Azalia comes over… this isn't something I wanna repeat more than once, if that's okay."
“Alright sweetie, I don’t want to push you, but I also want you to be comfortable with everything.” Ipheon walks over to her couch, sitting down and placing Crim and bramble in a blanket bundling them up. “There we go, nice and comfy.” Ipheon begins flipping through a few channels to find something to quietly have on. “Crim, would you feel better having a hive to take care of?”
“I mean, absolutely.” Crim wiggles around as she’s pulled into the blanket bundle. Sighing in relief once she manages to get her entire body aside from her head hidden away with bramble. “It’s the whole reason I respect the affini so damn much, you all get to do what I wish I could, all the time.”
“I think we can share that with Azalia when she comes to get you. As for what we do, it is something we all believe in, and we usually don’t have too many sophonts who still want to work.” Ipheon gently scratches the base of Crim’s neck, being sure not to look too directly.
“It can sometimes take time to properly adapt to some sophont’s needs, and during your body mods and physical therapy, it is probably best to focus on making sure you are fully healed. If the hive moon works out, you won’t feel the negative way you described, but if it doesn’t, I’ll personally help you find something that does.”
Crim nods slightly, feeling herself being slowly pulled down by bramble to cuddle more. “I know that, there’s a reason I’ve been avoiding doing anything that could be dangerous since I arrived, I’m on waaaay more xenodrugs now…” She blinks a few times looking up at Ipheon. “Speaking of, can you grab my inhalers, I need my morning doses.”
“Of course sweetie, give me a moment.” Ipheon leaves the pair alone while she heads to the bedroom.
bramble quietly kisses Crim’s neck. “you are very pretty, and i know you will be even prettier with your other body mods.” he sighs, and shifts around to be up against Crim’s cheek. “i don’t like seeing you cry.”
Crim starts laughing nervously to herself. “Well it’s a good thing I’ve got this then.” She reaches up, tapping the front of the mask, before sliding her hand under it, rubbing the last of her earlier tears away.
“As you’ve probably noticed, I prefer to be alone in the mornings, until I can hide my body. The dysmorphia is just too much, especially when I know someones looking at it, so here’s hoping that once my mods are finished, we won’t need to worry about that.”
“Well, I wanna be one of the first to see you when you finish the last of your mods, and I wanna cuddle you first when you finish.” bramble grins, and plants a kiss on Crim’s mask.
Ipheon snaps a couple pictures from the doorway, before walking back over, a wide grin on her face. “Here are your inhalers Crim, do you need anything else?”
“Well then, I’ll make sure you’re the first no matter what.” Crim squeezes down on bramble, crushing the bee boy in a hug. “And no thank you Ipheon, that’s all I need for now.” Reaching out, she pulls her main inhaler from the container, pushing her mask up for just a moment as she tilts her head away from bramble and Ipheon.
Crim presses down on the top, inhaling as the overwhelming taste and sensation of blue slides up into and through her head. Making her feel like her brain is surrounded by a soft cotton candy cloud. Pulling the inhaler away, she slowly exhales, the floral scent permeating the area.
With a small flick of her wrist, Crim’s mask slides back down in front of her face. Allowing her to fully relax into their shared blanket bundle, the vast majority of her anxiety feeling like it’s slowly dripping out from her ears.
Ipheon begins to slowly pet Crim while bramble cuddled into her front. A few minutes later, a ring is heard from the door, which Ipheon gets up to answer, soon returning with Azalia who quickly rushes forward to give Crim some pets and a small hug of her own.
“Crim, how are you doing? Everything alright? Fully comfortable?”
Crim tenses up as Azalia rushes in to hug her, wiggling around in the affini’s vines slightly. Enjoying the feeling of the pets, but more so just relieved to have a second affini around to moderate one another. “Uh… yeah, I mean Ipheon got me this mask, I’ve been cuddling with bramble, the only not fun thing is that I kinda promised I’d talk about why Raven doesn’t trust me when you got here.”
“I see, I’m glad you have a mask and cuddle time, but this is something I do want to hear.” Azalia settles in across from Crim right next to Ipheon before motioning. “Go ahead Crim, none of us will judge you for anything, so just talk and we will listen.”
The overwhelming sound of buzzing fills the area, the now mostly abandoned apiary only barely managing to hold itself together, due to a combination of dwindling resources, and only a single remaining apiarist wandering through each subsection of the miles of hives.
Crimson’s eyes feel like they are made of lead, dragging each limb ever forward as she walks in her beekeepers outfit. Having spent the last year trying to make sure she lost as few hives as possible, the last weeks having been the hardest of them all. With at least a solid six hives dying due to the condition everything is in.
As she finally reaches the end of the mile long and wide collection of hives, she falls to her knees. Taking deep breaths, as the comfort of the interior of her suit against the dirt is the only thing that allows her to attempt any form of rest. A few bees coming out of their hives and landing on top of her still suit due to the new lack of movement, as everything goes black.
“I’ve found one, we need a vet and nutritionist over here right away!” Crimson is gently lifted into some vines before her beekeeper suit is carefully unzipped, letting air flow better as she’s pulled against the source of a steady rhythm. “Here, I have a couple berries, I need you to eat these, and rest. Help will be here soon.” A few round berries are pressed against her lips.
Crimson’s eyes slowly crack open, only barely gazing at the massive plant. Despite the knowledge she should be horrified the invaders are here. She opens her mouth to ask who the plant is, only to have the berry slip into her mouth. Popping with a satisfying ooze of tangy juice, encouraging her to quickly chew and swallow, starting to haphazardly eat one after another until the affini is out. “Okay… uh… hello?” Her voice is incredibly horse from dehydration, each word feeling like a hike to actually say.
“Please- hood- bees.” Crimson lazily flicks her arm towards the hives that the affini is rushing past with her in their vines, hoping that the literal living plant understands that leaving her hood off, could lead to bees getting in her suit. Which is bad, because if she gets stung, the bee would die. Ignoring the sunken appearance of her entire body, and the fact it could be much worse than an inconvenience for her at this point.
“Don’t worry sweetie, we have our apiarist here, she and her beeple will handle the bees. I am taking you inside while they work.” The plant lady continues her strides back towards the front of the apiary, flipping Crimson’s hood back up to give her peace of mind, though a vine is going up to her mouth with some more berries.
Crimson starts giggling to herself, taking no end of glee in the fact that she’s going to have help taking care of her bees again, after so long without any. Between giggles, she takes bite after bite, until the treats stop for what is assumedly the final time.
As they pass into the office that gates the apiary away from the city. Crimson manages to force herself up a little bit, pointing down at a small canteen that has crude bees painted on the front, that she’d left in here, what should have been her reward for a harsh 18 hour shift. “Water.”
The plant lady shakes her head and grabs the canteen, flipping back Crim’s hood again. “This is all the water you set aside? You should have had more breaks to drink water, and lunch too.” She carefully tilts the canteen up to Crimon’s lips, careful to control her intake. “Once you finish, can you tell me who is in charge of all of this?”
Crimon’s hand as soon as the canteen is close, shoots up, grabbing the bottle as if to make sure it couldn’t be taken. Gulping down each and every drop, before reluctantly letting go of the empty container. “Fuck, I needed that.” She groans out, her voice still horribly gravily, mostly due to lack of use, and continued amounts of dehydration.
“I am, everyone else ran.” She coughs several times into her arm, using her thumb to point over at a white board, with aprox 167,000,000 live bees! Marked down on it. “My name is Crimson Sevinta, unofficial lead apiarist, I couldn’t let them die…”
The plant woman shakes her head. “And if you died, then nobody would have been here to look after them, and then they would have died too. Looking out for others is noble, but if you can’t look out for yourself too, then what will the end result be?” She extends a hand to Crimon’s. “Delphinium Irida, Second Bloom, you can call me Delfi if it is easier.”
Crim shrugs, placing her hand in Delfi's. Letting the affini shake it a few times for her. Finally deciding to get a good look at what her ‘savior’ looks like, and taking a moment to wrap her mind around why Delifi is emulating a human appearance. Two sparkling blue eyes with no eyrices, vines that dance along one another creating the silhouette of a terran woman, with blue flower petals, with black tips, for hair that rolls down over her shoulders.
"I know that, I was just… running out of supplies, this was the best amount of rationing that I could manage." Crimson looks away from Delfi, a small frown on her face. Not even bothering with moving her body, or trying to keep it tense at this point, allowing herself to slip fully into resting mode, for the first time since the announcement of the affini invasion.
“You should have come out, and gotten some food, it’s all free, and someone could have helped you bring anything back.” Delfi looks around a little bit. “This seems mostly like an office, where is your bed? I’d like to get you resting until the vet gets here to check on you.”
“What?” Crim blinks a few times, looking as close to in the affini’s eyes as she can force herself. Entirely ignoring the bedding comment, given she doesn’t have any at all.
“How long have you been here?” She starts to weakly squirm around in Delfi’s vines. Slowly propping herself up on her shoulders on top of the affini’s vines.
“I swear if you all haven’t been here for only a day or two, I’m going to be so pissed.” The tone that she takes entirely turns the affini’s control over the situation off guard, starting to act more like a disappointed parent who found out that their kid had decided to skip out on their chores for several days.
“There better be a good reason you wouldn’t consider one of the single largest bee populations on this planet as one of the prime fuckin locations to capture first, and in case you’re wondering no. It’s not because I think you need bees to live, it’s because I don’t see why you wouldn’t feel a responsibility to take care of this much life!” She shakes her head, continuing to talk over Dalfi’s attempts to get a word in.
“I mean in all the broadcasts you talk about how important sophonts are, well then this many bees should be a pretty fuckin big deal!”
“Well, your fields from the outside seemed at the very least decently taken care of, and we focused on rebuilding the basic infrastructure of Helios 201. We have been here a week ago, but when no word came from here even though everything still seemed well tended to, we came to perform a wellness check.” Delfi smiles and shakes her head.
“If you had come in and gotten checked out, we would have taken longer to get over here given you seemed to have caring for the bees under control, but it is obvious that you need some extra help.” She kneels down in front of the desk, trying to get on Crimson’s level.
“Honestly we would have been here in the first day or two, if the records had indicated that you or anyone was the only one here… Although there was no mention of a ‘Crimson’, can you name anyone else who worked here?”
“Yeah, needing some extra help is kinda an understatement, I thought I was gonna run out of supplies within the week.” Crimson crosses her arms at the comment that no one under that name worked here in the files. Thinking up the most convincing lie she can muster on such short notice, with so little energy to spare.
“And you can just count me as a good samaritan, ah guess ah ended up here when my hives got bought out, riiiight at the beginning of your little invasion. Course that meant I never got put in the systems, everyone was waaaaay too busy running for their lives from the tyrannical plant overlords.”
“Then I get stuck here with a mile’s worth of bee hives, an ever decreasing number of workers, and no more shipments of resources. After all, why bother taking care of the bees, if they aren’t going to be making you money anymore.” Crimson spits this final part out with no end of bitter rage in her voice. Before flicking back to an eerily bright smile.
“But I stayed! And I managed to keep almost 90% of the hives alive! Sure it took nearly 18 hours a day most days, but it was worth it.”
“I suppose I can accept that for now, although I suspect that there is a different story that’s the truth, that you aren’t telling me. But we can get to that later, when you are not just skin and bones.” Delfi gets up and looks around a little more, trying to find food that would be good for Crimson. “I’m going to order you some food to be delivered, what would you like to eat?”
“Have you ever heard of something called refeeding syndrome in terrans?” Crimson grumbles to herself, figuring that if she’s going to be pestered about how she’s taking care of herself. She might as well make the affini just as miserable as her. “Because I have, it’s when someone hasn’t eaten jack or shit for several weeks, and then when someone feeds them, their body can’t process the amount of food, and they die.”
“Look, I already ate the fruit you were giving me without thinking, in all likelihood, you’re pushing the amount I can reasonably process, without getting really sick right now. And that’s only because I have still been eating something this whole time.” Crimson gestures over to a chair next to the bee count. Showing a surprising level of flippant behavior around Delfi.
“So can you just sit me down there, or take me to a hospital, where an actual doctor can make sure I don’t die?”
Delfi winces lightly, before making sure Crimson is comfortably laying down. “I’m sorry, all the wellness checks I have done have mostly been easing fears about the affini. The vet will be here soon, and they will know more than I do about all of this.”
Crimson flops down into her seat, taking slow shallow breaths as she lazily turns herself from side to side. Looking around the area, and finding it comical that several of these affini are having to shove their way through her tiny office to get back at the apiary.
“Well that’s great, sooooo other than the whole I’m dying thing, is there anything else I need to know? I’ve been listening to your little broadcasts while I work a lot, so I’m pretty sure I’ve got your whole ‘deal’ figured out.” She lets out a cough of a laugh.
“No being turned into a pet got it? Ah don’t see the issue with it for others, terran’s can be pretty nasty when they wanna be, buuuuut I’m only like this because I’ve been working to save these animals. I’m sure you can empathize with that plight at least?”
“That isn’t totally a decision that I will make. Yes you were doing something noble, but at the same time you were not taking care of yourself, which is grounds for domestication. After the vet and a nutritionist get you on a recovery path, I’ll be making plenty of checks, and you will have some therapy appointments made. Afterwards we will see, but in the meantime, we are going to make sure you recover, and if you are still interested in working with bees, we will have some interested sophonts and a couple affini coming by to help. Our apiarists are very interested to learn how humans work with bees, and they are eager to share our own techniques as well.” Delfi brushes a hand over her head.
“Sorry if I can’t make more promises, I’m still fairly young, and I haven’t ever come into a situation with a sophont in your condition before. I hope my panic didn’t give you too much stress.”
"What it's giving me is mild annoyance. I wasn't consciously choosing to starve myself." Crimson shakes her head, pushing her way closer to the desk, and flopping chest first on top of it.
"As you must have noticed, this place is pretty isolated, and I didn't, I don't, have a home to return to! I've been making due while I waited for you fuckers to arrive, so maaaaybe give me a little bit of slack for doing my bees damned job!"
Delfi frowns, her body wrapping up around itself several times, as her posture becomes more defensive. Frustrated that Crimson is despite being in such a poor state, only managing to muster energy to try and chew her out. “Just because we are capable, doesn’t change that we don’t have infinite affini on every ship. Upon making contact we take stock of how well every sector of a planet is doing, and then make plans on how we approach everything. Your apiary seemed to be doing fine, and we were not getting calls for help from here, so we didn’t rush over here, electing to focus on the locations doing worse.”
“Yeesh, you don’t need to lash out due to wounded pride, I’m just explaining my situation and perspective to explain that using this situation as justification for domestication would be unfair towards me, and my bees.” Crimson coughs several times into her hand, having to take deep breaths to calm herself down from all the talking.
“And they are my bees, I know you’re going to want to help, and I can appreciate that. A lot actually, bees knows I need it, but I’m not going to accept you simply trying to ‘remove’ me from them so to say. Which is the tone you’d been taking since you arrived.”
Delfi looks at Crimson with an unamused look on her face. “This is sounding like you do not understand everything that goes into a decision for forced domestication. If a sophont proves unable to take care of themselves, then obviously they need someone to take care of them, which would be domestication. I want you to understand this, because regardless of how noble you have been with your actions, this has also shown that for as wonderful as bees are for the environment, you have shown a gross neglect for your own life.”
“Oh shove it, you’re taking my words out of context, and trying to use them against me.” Crimson grumbles, glaring up at Delfi.
“I had nowhere to go, I am homeless. I was doing as advised, and staying in a safe isolated area, to avoid rioting, I listened to every single one of your broadcasts rules, it spead up the rate I was rationing, and took fucking NOTES.” She slams her hand down on the desk, before pointing at Delfi. Her eyes starting to burn due to the fact she has no tears to cry.
“I ran out, I didn’t have a vehicle to get the several mile trip back to town done, my radio broke a month ago, so I lost access to the outside world at all. I waited for YOU. So don’t you dare try to throw this in my face.”
“There are other methods of communication, even if they are not instant.” Delfi points outside. “Any form of debris laid out in a form of word, either ‘Help’ or a popular one we have noticed is ‘SOS’. Like I said, we have to take planetary aid as a form of priority targeting. We start at the locations likely to be problems, then move out from there.” She leans forward
“Also by our records, there was nobody here. And while the bees need to be checked and kept watch over, they can safely be left alone for up to two weeks, and with how well everything looked, we made that decision.” Delfi locks her gaze onto Crimson, her posture shifting to make her larger and more looming over the girl.
“We are also investigating a missing person report, and after finding no sign of them in the city, we had to branch out. It is part of the reason I am here along with our apiarists.”
“I was scared, okay? Is that what you wanna hear, is that what will make you happy?!” Crimson shoves herself to her feet, her knees wobbling slightly from the pressure of already having worked a long day. “I woke up here, I knew my fucking job, and I worked, I survived, and I will not let you or ANYONE take that away from me!”
Just as the duo are entering their simi shouting match, an affini quite different from Delfi arrives. Her form appears to be a dull green six armed humanoid, with two sets of three scarlet eyes on each half of her face, and a tail made of tucked together vines, thorns running along the top of it, curling up behind her. Her short pixie cut of hair consisting of nearly ashen grey petals.
“Delphinium what are you doing to that poor thing?” She quickly rushes over to Crimson’s side, scooping the girl up into her arms, and starting to get a better look at the terran.
Delfi sighs before shaking her head. “Hello Vinca, thank you for getting here as fast as you could. Things were getting heated as I was questioning Crimson about why she made no efforts to make any form of contact, even with something as simple as a debris sign for our scouts. While following our advice, she has pushed herself too far, while at the same time having a name that I do not recall seeing when I was looking through the census records.” She steps back a little, watching Crimson curiously. “There are just some things that are not adding up.”
Vinca looks down at Crimson, taking in everything that Delfi is saying as she prepares a few injections. “Alright, Crimson, I’m going to give you something to help you get to the hospital. You’re not going to be able to focus very well until after we get done helping you, is there anything you can say to help Miss Delfi with her investigation?”
Crimson takes a deep breath, pulling her hood down and looking over at Delfi. “I’m fucking Crimson Seventa, and if you call me anything else, I will scream and scream, and scream, until every affini knows how much you fucked up.” Her eyes are filled with nothing but contempt as two vines slide into her suit. Injecting her with a concoction that she has no idea what it contains, sending her head flopping backwards, as even the concept of rage is replaced with a state of absolute relaxation.
Once Crimson seems distant enough for her to continue her work, Vinca grabs Dalfi with two of her extra arms, starting to drag the smaller affini alongside her back to a shuttle. “Okay, did you take in what she said there, she is Crimson Seventa. I remember seeing that last name on the workers list for the apiary when I was traveling here. There are currently two theories that I can base on that level of internal conviction, one she’s a trans woman who used this as a chance to make her past self to disappear, or two… she really doesn’t know who she was before now, meaning she could be a pluribus.”
As they load into the shuttle, she passes Crimson’s relaxed form over to Dalfi. “Meaning, the reason your conversation got so heated, is because you likely started digging into one of those two things, and it scared her.” She lets her vines relax ever so slightly. “I don’t see any other reason her last choice of words would be to yell at you about who she is.”
“I’ve heard of a pluribus, but I haven’t looked into what it means. Could you explain please?” Delfi gently pets Crimson while looking out over the multitude of bee hives that cover the property below. “It could help me narrow down some of what is going on for me.”
“A pluribus in terrans is when multiple sophonts share a single body, in some cases they are aware of one another. In others, they can be unaware of one another, if they do turn out to be as such. It would explain her fear of traveling out of the area, given from her perspective the world would have been a scary place that she’d never personally been before. Even if she does have vague memories from before her forming.” Vinca glances back a few times as they head back towards the nearest city, and its several repurposed hospitals.
“Continuing on that train of thought, what would normally be genuine questions, and concerns about her safety, to her may come off as an insult, due to her likely relative newness to the world. You got to talk to her more, does this seem like what her behavior was implying?”
“She was very defensive about almost everything. She also talked about how she did not want to be domesticated, and how by taking care of her bees, she shouldn’t need to get domesticated. I explained how she still wasn’t doing what she needed to take care of herself, which is one of the concerns that addresses a decision to forcibly domesticate an individual.” Delfi shudders, and wraps her vines protectively around Crimson.
“I got pretty flustered over how she basically starved herself with her rationing, and has been at it so long that she can only have a little bit at a time.”
“That does sound like option B is the truth then, Raven Seventa is likely her other personality, but until we meet her. Crimson Seventa is just Crimson. We will not push or prod at it, trying to force them to either admit they know each other, or realize each other exist, could be very harmful for their healing.” Vinca starts to slow down the shuttle, landing in front of the nearest hospital. Affini of all shapes and sizes rushing around the area, holding all shapes and sizes of terrans, while doing their best to give the ship space to land.
“Now while we head in, I want to play a small logic game with you, because I want you to see what, and why this situation happened, and how to handle it better next time we see something like this.” Vinca stands up, walking back over and gently running her hands over Crimson’s head.
“You’re a sophont, with what is close to amnesia, your radio informed you of rioting being likely, and dangerous. By the time you formed you’ve likely already run through the majority of your rations. With your body already too weak to travel the distance out, and back, from your safe location, alongside the fear of walking into a rioting city.”
“While you simultaneously believe the affini will eventually save you if you just stay put. Yes, you could set some kind of SOS up, and she likely should have, but what would you think a pulibus in Crimson’s headspace would logically do in this situation?”
“I would think the fear of death via starvation, and the eventual death of my charges, would guide me towards calling out for help in any way possible, if I am being honest. In this situation if I had just formed with little to no memories or supplies, death would be so much more frightening than anything else that would run through my mind.” Delfi gives a little nod as she finishes her thought, content with her answer.
Vinca frowns, shaking her head as they both have to scrunch their forms down. to fit inside the far too small for their stature hallways of the hospital. Several affini and assisting nurses rushing up to figure out what is happening to bring the duo rushing in carrying a sophont.
“Yes, but that’s what you’re assuming, you’re working off of the presupposition that Crimson is capable of fearing her own death. It’s entirely possible that to her the idea of dying is nothing more than a possibility on a checklist, not necessarily a desire to search it out, but instead a lack of…” She hums to herself as a stretcher is wheeled over, Crimson being placed down on top of it, as her keepers outfit is unzipped to reveal the deathly state of the sophont.
“Concern, it’s an issue, and something that she desperately needs to be taught, but also if she was really concerned about domestication. You just needed to inform her that nothing was happening immediately, and that over the course of her recovery she will be able to prove her competence to you.”
Vinca gently pushes Crimson’s stretcher forward, having the other affini take it and start ushering her into the hospital. Holding onto Delfi to keep her there until they finish their conversation.
“Now I’m not trying to say you’re wrong about Crimson, it’s more than possible she requires domestication, I’d say I’d give her chances of making it through a year of wellness checks are one hundred to one. It’s just that when she brought up the topic, you didn’t say something to comfort her in the moment, and deflect from said concern, likely something like simply reminding her that you’ll talk to her about it after she’s all better would have worked. Instead you allowed yourself to become argumentative, and it led to her getting agitated, just because you know you’re right, does not mean it’s the proper time to say it. A sophonts headspace, especially in that poor of condition… Well to say it’s volatile, would be the biggest understatement of my career.”
Delfi gives a quiet hum of acknowledgement before watching Crimson be wheeled away, taking time to formulate her questions better for her next time talking with Crimson.
Crim sits up on the couch, her eyes drooped down towards the ground ever so slightly, as she listens to the slow rustling of vines from both Azalia and Ipheon. Leaning over and clinging to bramble the entire time.
"So yeah, that's why Raven doesn't really… trust me alone, we spent the next year doing constant wellness checks, with an increasingly frustrated Defli. Who wanted nothing more than to see my domestication, but as you can see… that did not happen. If anything, that’s why I was so jazzed to ditch Helios for treatment, I’m at least 80% certain Delfi wouldn’t bother following me this far."
Azalia looks over at Ipheon, before looking back to Crim. “I know Delfi was the one giving you wellness checks, which means she is your caseworker. She is probably looking for you honestly, especially since you just up and disappeared with no word.”
Ipheon nods, wincing at the fact that Crim had simply disappeared, without telling anyone beforehand. “Likely she got the reports of your medical records being updated, and has either been in contact with Anemone, or is doing something to find out who you’re with.”
“Oooooh… bees oh that’s not good.” Crimson groans, nestling her head down into bramble’s fluff. “She’s gonna be soooo mad, after I got better, I of course started dragging her to work with me every day at the apiary.” She rotates her wrist a few times as she talks.
“Honestly the amount of time I spent there even after getting on a more healthy schedule, was seen as concerning enough to keep me on wellness checks. Or at least that’s the excuse that she’d always make, this of course lasted until… well about three months before now. I’d never personally met a beeple up until then, but she went out and got one to introduce me to.” She groans at the memory, flopping her head back.
“Of course all that did was give me something new to hyperfixate on, with the bodymods and everything. So of course I started looking up doctors to do the mods, but I couldn’t do it there. Delfi would be the one to take care of me while I healed, and I swear she would have smothered me to death on the spot!”
“So of course I did the only logical thing, looked up the next incoming exploratory vessel, and found the best doctor on that. Figured that it would hatch two pupas with one pod, getting me away from my ‘best friend’, and also provide me with the mods I needed to be happy.” Crim exhales sharply as she finishes her little story time.
“Of course Raven and Defli actually liked each other, and mutually teamed up on me to say we needed at least a case worker all the time. I swear that plant thought I was hers in everything other than name.”
Ipheon looks down at Crimson with a bemused expression, glancing between her and bramble several times. “Well I’ll have you know, according to our records, you basically were. She was the first affini to put in a request for you when you were added into the systems, and had the longest standing amount of experience handling you, so technically if you picked domestication without picking an owner… Well to say she’d have a strong case would be a bit of an understatement.”
“Oh that’s great then! I’ll just never submit myself, and then bam no dealing with the helicopter plant. I’ve already had Azalia put down as my new case worker, so she doesn’t even have that on me anymore! I’m freeeeeeeee.” Crimson laughs, the girl convincing herself completely of this new reality, getting into a more relaxed position to cuddle with bramble.
“And, even if by some unholy chance I get put down for forced domestication, I’m planning on putting in the stipulation that I won’t accept an affini who doesn’t have a beeple, like bramble, for me to bond with! It would be a crime for my enrichment as a pet to deprive me of one!”
bramble laughs, turning around in Crimson’s arms and starting to nuzzle her affectionately. “well then there’s no need to worry, because me and Mistress are gonna be right here if that ever happens!” he ever so slightly nuzzles up under Crim’s mask, tickling the girl's cheek with his fluff.
Azalia huffs lightly, crossing her vines with one another. “Of course, I suppose that I’ll have to keep that in mind, for the future.” Shifting into a smirk while looking over Crim and bramble. “Perhaps I will have to look into any beeple looking for an owner such as myself sometime soon.”
“Oh hell yeah, a new roomie!” Crim pumps her fist slightly, before turning, and nuzzling bramble back. Her little arms squeezing around him with all of their might. “You’re still my favorite though bramble.”
“Did you hear that Azalia? he’s her favorite.” Ipheon wiggles up next to Azalia. Bumping into her pouting friends' side. “Thank you so much for letting Crim sleep over by the way, she’s been just the most precious guest an affini could ask for.”
“Don’t act like I don’t see you two having a vine measuring contest over there.” Crim laughs to herself, slamming her head back. “Oh bees I’m so fucked once Delfi arrives, all hives are gonna break loose with those three competing. I swear I’d be so annoyed, if I didn’t find it so damn entertaining.”
bramble giggles, and nods into Crim. “Well, you are really cute, and all of them really like you. My mistress is technically the only one currently that meets your requirements so far though. so if you don’t like the hive moon, we would love to have you here.”
“If I don’t end up staying on the hive moon, I promise you’ll be the first one to get a shot at me. It would be unfair to deprive my best friend at least that opportunity.” Crim grins slightly, happy that she’s wearing her mask that is covering up the bright pink burning on her cheeks.
“But I don’t wanna show tooo much more bias than that, I’m pretty sure if I did Azalia would find a way to grow tear ducts, and cry at me… and I don’t think my poor heart could handle it.”
bramble grins before poking at Crim’s fluff. “you like Azalia, and if things somehow wind up with you ever choosing to be domesticated, we still have the ship hive, and you will always be a part of it. though above and beyond you are my best friend.” he buzzes his wings playfully, pulling Crim up a little bit before putting her down, and laying on top of her lazily. “pets please.”
"Alright, alright, you can have your pets." Crimson grins, leaning back and starting to casually pet bramble. Ignoring as Ipheon and Azalia drag one another into a conversation in affini, more than content to enjoy petting bramble and basking in the little vibrations of his wings.