Pearl’s eyes crack open, the ground feels soft. Not dissimilar to how Resin’s vines had felt to rest in the previous evening. Pausing for a second, she looks down, realizing that she’s on a bundle of vines, seated in the middle of an all too familiar barren field.
Right as she tilts her head back up, she sees Isaac standing there. Scruffy black hair burnt at the edges, a clean hole where his chest should be, and his navy regalia in tatters.
Pearl shudders, trying to force herself off of her knees. Only to be dragged back into the pulsating vines. “Isaac? Is that you?”
The figure doesn’t move an inch, the wind the only form of movement that he’s permitted. Eyes empty, looking far past Pearl and into the distance. After a moment the area around him begins to rot and wither away.
Pearl shudders, trying to force herself to look away from the sight. Instinctively clawing at the edge of her prison of vines, but each time she does, they only grab hold tighter. Pulling her deeper into the nest, and further away from Isaac.
“No… No, don't take him away from me!” Pearl kicks against the vines, gasping as they more fiercely wrap themselves around her limbs. First forcing her arms down to her sides, then tugging downward hard enough to make her think that she’d been pulled into a slingshot.
Pearl’s head is pulled into the smothering blanket of vines, through the small cracks she’s able to see rotting black brambles surrounding her on all sides. A looming threat that is always sitting just on the outside of her prison of mock comfort, reminding her the price of any attempt at resistance.
Despite this, the vines themselves are permeated with a gentle warmth, evoking something Pearl would dare compare to contentment, if not for the fact that they’re obviously affini vines.
Against her better judgment, Pearl dislodges her arm. Reaching out for one of the spikes, hoping that touching it will end her torment…
As her finger comes into contact with the bramble, a sharp pain rushes through her-
Pearl's eyes shoot open, as she flails around. Finding herself covered in vines, her finger pressed against a spike on one of Resin’s vines. A little bit of blood trickling down it. “Fuck… fuck fuck.” She pulls her arm back in, trying to see if there’s anything on that spike. Hoping that she’d not just accidentally drugged herself with more of Resin’s xenodrugs.
Of course this proves enough to upset the bundle of vines that she’d been sleeping on top of. Resin slowly rearranges itself, pulling Pearl up against it. “Oh petal what happened?” She looks down at Pearl, seeing the little bit of blood trickling down her pointer finger. “Oh dear, let’s get that cleaned up, I apologize for allowing you access to that in your sleep. I tried my best to cover them.”
Pearl winces as Resin pulls away, able to feel how genuinely dejected Resin feels about this mistake in her chest. The datapad is quickly pulled into the affini’s chest, taken far away from Pearl’s grasp. “I’m fine, it’s just a little prick.”
“Nonsense, you’re still healing.” Resin slowly gets out of bed, taking a moment to adjust its body to be more solid. “I’ll get you all cleaned up, and then right back to bed you terrans need at least 8 hours a night, and you’ve barely even gotten five.”
Pearl has to resist rolling her eyes, if Resin thinks she’s been asleep for five hours. It’s more than likely only been three, and that’s being generous. Not that she’s not used to running on only three. “Suuuuure.” She slowly scoots her way to the edge of the bed, only to be immediately pulled into Resin's vines, instead of being helped to the ground. “HEY!”
Resin shakes its head, walking towards the bathroom. “No complaining doll, you’re shaking! I know that vine didn’t have any xenodrugs on it, but you clearly were given quite the shock.” She gently runs a vine down the back of Pearl’s neck.
Pearl bites back a squeak, shuddering at the feeling of Resin’s vine digging its way under her collar. Pressing right against the spot that the cursed implant will be put in to eradicate everything that she is and has ever stood for. “I’m doing fine.”
After a moment they arrive at the sink, Resin wrapping a vine around Pearl’s wrist forcing her to point the bleeding finger in question out. Gently running it under the water for a moment, before pulling it to the side once again. Having used its free vines to reach over and grab a small flower off of the counter, gently placing it on top of the finger. Holding Pearl’s hand still to make sure that she can’t mess with it. “There we go, that should help you heal right up, don’t play with it okay?”
“I thought those flowers were for decoration not sticking in me!” Pearl’s eyes are locked on the flower that is currently affixing itself to her like a ring. Gaining a small red dot in the center as it begins to do the incredibly small amount of needed repair work.
“Deep breaths little one, this is simply a type of medical technology. I ordered them when I realized I would be getting you, mostly in case your predilection for self harm reared its head.” Resin keeps a soft tone, slowly removing its vines from Pearl’s finger as it turns around walking towards the bed once again.
Pearl nods ever so slightly, fighting against the deep urge to start screaming, and thrashing against Resin. To call it every name in the book, and not stop until she gets away, but that wouldn’t do her any good. “I guess… that makes sense, I don’t see why you couldn’t just use a bandage.”
Resin gently leans forward, placing Pearl down on the bed. “Because that wouldn’t fix the damage itself, this will make sure that your finger stays healthy and doesn’t get infected. Think of the flower like a cute ring that takes care of you, not dissimilarly to how your implant will.”
Pearl slowly twists her hand around, her eyes locked on the flower as she considers exactly what Resin just said. “Y-yeah, no big deal at all I guess.” She forces out a shaky laugh, failing to contain her abject horror about the situation in the slightest. “It’s just another step away from my humanity, nothing horrifying about THAT.”
“I apologize if you feel you’re having your humanity stripped away, but I do promise that it isn’t my goal.” Resin runs a vine along the ring as she pulls out her datapad, and starts to tap away at it. “Now do you think you can get back to sleep, or do you need me to give you something?”
“I… can get to sleep fine I guess?” Pearl scoots her way back to the middle of the bed, partially to get away from all the physical contact, and also to try and get back to a comfortable place to at least pretend to sleep.
“Alright… I need to go and grab something from a friend of mine, so I’ll wait for you to fall asleep, and then head out. I’ll be home before you wake back up I promise.” Resin doesn’t move to get closer to Pearl, simply kneeling next to the bed to speak with the woman on her level.
“Whatever, just turn something on for me to listen to.” Pearl pulls the covers around herself. Making sure to avoid using her pointer finger in the process, unwilling to test the durability of her newest forced addition.
“Right away petal.” Resin slowly goes over to the show that Pearl had been sleeping to, turning it back on and placing it next to Pearl’s head. “I’ll be right here if you need anything.”
Pearl doesn’t respond, simply forcing her eyes shut as she tries to get herself to fall back asleep again. Resin leaving the tablet behind would be impossible, even with the known arrogance of affini, they aren’t foolish. If anything the most dangerous thing she’s noticed isn’t the overwhelming force, it’s the pentiant for careful manipulation and intimidation that they are seemingly experts in.
They can present everything like blatant altruism, but that doesn’t stop the layers of them using it to get what they want. Which is appearing more and more to be just the docile pets thing, to the point that they’ve designed a tool capable of ensuring even the most wilful will be singing their praises in a matter of weeks… that or they’ll just use the O’s.
Pearl lays there, shaking and taking slow shallow breaths for nearly a half hour. Eventually managing to calm herself down enough to pretend to be sleeping, listening as Resin stands up and walks out. Closing the bedroom door behind it.
Resin Wils third bloom walks through the halls of the Equabloom, its vines wrapped tought around one another. The topic of getting Pearl to behave without more harsh treatment being required, running on loop in its head.
By the time it arrives at its friends hab unit, Resin nearly bumps into the closed door. Having become so caught in its own head that it didn’t even notice the hab not automatically opening up.
Catching itself, it knocks on the door waiting for the door to open. Something that had become of increasing rarity recently, despite its friends constant insistence that everything is fine.
After a moment the door to the hab slides open, revealing an affini a solid meter taller than Resin. Her form covered in yellow and orange flowers, her hair an imitation of a sunset on a planet that Resin had never been given the name to. “Hello Sola, did you get the messages I sent you about little Pearl?”
Sola nods slightly, her cloak of petals shifting around to vaguely imitate a terran’s shoulders but not bothering with forming the rest of the appearance. Remaining a majority mass of vines. “Yes I did, and I even grabbed the plushy that you requested.” She turns around walking back into her hab, several different exercise stations prepared.
“Thank you, I’ve been concerned about leaving her alone for too long.” Resin follows behind, looking around the incredibly sparse hab. Its eyes eventually landing on a full sized beeple plushy that has been placed on the couch, leaned up against a basket of different snacks.
“That’s entirely understandable, when I heard you were going to be the one taking her, I was more than a little worried.” Sola smiles softly, sitting down on the couch and gesturing next to herself. “But really, how are things going with her?”
Resin sits down, pulling the basket and plush into its lap. “It’s been about how you’d expect from a feral, she’s got so many lies shoved in her head, that she can’t discern truth from fiction, and she’s obviously grieving.” She wraps its vines around the plushy.
“That poor thing.” Sola frowns, looking over at the machines, tapping her vines along one another. “You know the offer still stands, I don’t need you to have her broken just to bring her here for her arm.”
“No, this is not something I’m going to make your problem Sola, that and I believe giving her access to even the basics of her new arm, could make her more of a danger to herself.” Resin pulls its tablet out, looking over Pearl’s vitals. Nodding satisfied with the fact it appears she wasn’t just pretending to be sleeping.
“Alright, I’ll just keep everything ready for whenever you feel she’s good to go.” Sola shrugs, standing up and starting to rearrange all of the stations. “I don’t think that there’s anyone else that was in need of my expertise on that ship anyway.”
“Well who knows, maybe you’ll find one in need of it, next time.” Resin flashes a small smile, standing up from the couch. “And I hope to have Pearl in a state to meet you soon, I’ll make sure that she knows the snacks are from you too.”
“Thank you, I look forward to seeing both of you together once she’s feeling up to it.” Sola turns, picking up the basket and plushy, walking Resin over to the doorway. “Don’t forget to keep her resting constantly, even if she pretends to be fine, her body is still healing from the amputation, and needs as much as you can give her.”
Resin shakes its head, taking the care package from Sola. “I’ve been doing my best, luckily she’s at least calmed down enough to not need to be on class M’s to prevent her over exerting herself. Even if she’s mostly just pretending to avoid punishment.”
“Pretending is still progress!” Sola chirps as Resin steps outside. “I hope to hear more of your Pearl sooner rather than later!” After getting one last hug Sola lets the door close between them. Leaving Resin standing alone in the hallway once again.
Pearl rolls over onto her back, eyes locked on the ceiling as her second attempt to sleep had horribly failed. Mostly due to the anxiety of Resin possibly realizing that she’d messed with its datapad while it was asleep.
It’s not like things could get much worse if it does though, maybe she’d get the monster to stop with the fake caring and kindness. Maybe it’ll just skip to the class O’s, and save her the shame of being tormented, and broken down piece by piece.
This train of thought is unceremoniously cut off by the sound of the hab doors sliding open. Light pouring in from the doorway, as Resin quietly stands there looking over Pearl. “I’m happy to see you didn’t try to get up to any trouble while I was gone, I have a small surprise for you.”
Pearl grunts, rolling over to look away from Resin. “I still don’t want any of your bribes, nothing you can do will convince me that your word can be trusted.”
Resin slowly walks up, kneeling down next to the bed. “I know you believe that right now, but you won't always feel this way, and when you don’t. You’ll understand I was doing my best for you.” It gently pulls the beeple plushy out of its chest, placing it down directly next to Pearl without forcing physical contact.
Pearl grits her teeth as the plushy is placed down in front of her, the same scent that oozes from every inch of Resin covering the bee. She ever so slightly reaches out, pulling the plushy against her chest to appease Resin, assuming that there was no situation where she’d be allowed to simply ignore the plush.
Resin smiles softly, reaching out and patting Pearl a few times. “I’m happy you like it. A friend of mine made you a bunch of treats, so we will be having a little bigger breakfast, okay?”
Pearl squeezes down just a little bit harder on the plush, choosing to ignore her warden's commentary in lue of the tiny specs of comfort that she can draw out of the plushies fluffy embrace.
“Alright, I’ll leave you alone a little longer while I cook you breakfast.” Resin keeps its hand on Pearl’s back. Giving a few gentle pets down it, before managing to pull itself away from its new floret for the time being.
Pearl nuzzles the plushy a little bit tighter, the scent of Resin on it far too strong for her comfort, but now that she’s got it with her, reluctant to abandon the small sense of comfort it provides as she keeps the beeple close.
As the minutes pass by, the slight ringing in her ears becomes all the more defining. Causing her to roll around, if only to make enough noise to cover it up instead of being simply stuck with the ringing.
Counterintuitively, she ends up wasting the time she should be planning, on trying to ignore the ever encroaching anxiety. The failed attempt at rest ends up with her face shoved into the neck of the plush, taking deep breaths as she starts feeling gradually more and more calm.
This loop is only stopped by the door to the room sliding slowly open. Resin quickly walks over, and scoops Pearl up into its vines before she can have a chance to get agitated once again. “I see someone is liking her new plush, I’m glad.”
Pearl squeaks, the sudden change only being noticed once she’s firmly held within Resin’s vines. “You said you’d wake me up, not grab me!” She squirms around, trying to get away from the embrace. Pushing the plushy down behind her as a form of wedge to minimize contact.
“Yes, but I was going to need to lift you in order to get you off the bed either way, and you looked so content with your plush. I just couldn’t dare remove it from your grasp.” Resin pats the plushy that Pearl shoved up against it. “But if you want me to put you down, I’ll put you in the tub and you can get undressed on your own.”
“Fine, fine, just let me go!” Pearl is quickly rolled around in Resin’s vines several times as it walks into the bathroom. Quickly plopping her down in the center of the bathtub. “Thank you.”
She slowly starts to peel her pajamas off, glancing up at Resin a few times. Noticing that the plushy has now entirely disappeared inside of her captors chest. “Uh…” She takes a deep breath, stopping herself from saying anything rude. “Can you please turn around, so I can take a bath without your eyes piercing through me.”
Resin hums, tilting its head to the side slightly. “Well I can, but I’m going to stay in here the entire time. To make sure you stay safe, and don’t accidentally hurt yourself.” It gently plucks the pajamas out of Pearl’s hand, placing them into a box to be cleaned.
“I guess that’s a compromise I can agree to.” Pearl leans up against the tub, watching as Resin yet again inputs a code into its datapad. Making very little progress in memorizing the movements as the water starts to rise around her. “Gives us time to ‘talk’.”
“Oh you’re interested in talking now?” Resin sits down with its back placed flat against the tub, making a show of how it's not putting any guards up against Pearl trying to attack. “I thought you didn’t wanna talk with me ever?”
“You’re the only… entity, that I can talk to, I’m simply doing what I have to, in order to make sure I don’t go insane from lack of social interaction.” Pearl grumbles at her statement, while it wasn’t entirely untrue, it most certainly wasn’t the motive behind this move, a fact that Resin seemed already far too aware of.
“Ah yes, you terrans are very social creatures I always forget.” Resin laughs lightly, shaking its head as it listens to the sounds of water splashing against Pearl’s skin. “Perhaps you’d like to be introduced to another terran soon?”
“What reason would you have to introduce me to a terran, one that’s likely a floret, don’t you still think I’m violent?” Pearl floats her way over to the collection of bath supplies, all of course in affini, leaving her to mostly deal with a guessing game unless she asks Resin.
“No, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re not violent, that one moment when we first met proved that much to me.” Resin reaches over, tapping on the side of a white container. “This one doesn’t have any xenodrugs in it.”
“Then what do you think I am?” Pearl slowly reaches out, grabbing the white container and popping it open, the scent of lavender wafting out.
“I think you plan things out, and use deception to get your way. After all, you could have attacked your commander physically to protect your friend, but you tried to use your words first and foremost. Then only attacked me out of grief and desperation, I’d put good money on if everything had worked out your way, you would have used careful wording to find your way to freedom inside the compact, and possibly would have found a way to stumble back onto a feralist ship. Which makes you in my opinion, quite a bit more dangerous than any one of you cuties who thinks physical strength is what makes them a danger.” Resin slowly dips its vines into the tub, not making any moves that would put it physically closer to Pearl.
“Ah so you believe that I’m manipulating you, and are trying to open branches to convince me that I’m going to be the happiest as your floret.” Pearl slowly pours a glob of the shampoo onto her head, before putting the bottle back and starting to rub it into her head.
“I’m absolutely positive you’re manipulating me, and I know that you know I’m manipulating you.” Resin swirls a vine in circles inside the tub. “But that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate you putting in the effort to be cordial. I mean you’ve explicitly avoided calling me a weed since you woke up after all.”
“Well as you so succinctly put it, it wouldn’t get me into any better of a position than where I started. If anything it could be seen as backsliding and cause you to use those M’s again, which would be unpleasant.” Pearl leans back, dunking her head in the water to start washing out her hair.
“See, this is what I’m referring to, even this explanation now is still part of the silly little games your brain is playing to try and work around me.” Resin flicks a vine, splashing Pearl’s cheek. “Acknowledge a few of your manipulation tactics so I focus on those and don’t notice others. It’s quite clever, and would likely work on an affini who’s not as versed in manipulation.”
“So what would you recommend I do, there’s obviously no way that you’ll ever believe that I’m telling the complete truth, so does that mean making progress in gaining your trust is impossible?” Pearl kicks off the side of the tub, floating to the opposite side from where Resin is seated.
“Not impossible, simply difficult, you’d need to find a particular fault in my personality to exploit. I have several, but I doubt you’re capable of exploiting them from your position.” Resin tilts its head ever so slightly towards Pearl. “You’re a doll trying to claw back, but as a friend of mine put it… it’s already game over for you.”
Despite being surrounded by warm water, Pearl’s blood runs cold. “Nice taunting, definitely some of the best I’ve seen since my first captain. You know what happened to him right?” She forces a shaky grin, her posture betraying the mock confidence.
“I remember that you got him ejected from the military ironically for not being abusive enough of his power.” Resin turns all the way around as the water from the tub starts to drain away. “But here’s the difference between me and him, you can’t go running to another affini to stop me, in fact I think you’d find them quite insistent that everything I’m doing is well within my rights as your owner.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Pearl keeps herself pressed up against the side of the tub, eyes lowered mostly to avoid making direct eye contact. “You’re just trying to bait me into giving up info on what I’m thinking by barbing me about a bad plan.”
Resin’s entire body starts shuddering, the affini breaking into laughter for a few seconds as their mass slides over the side of the tub to sit across from Pearl. “See, this is what I mean by those of you who weaponize terrans’ own natural instincts are always more dangerous.” She places a green towel in Pearl’s hand. “Here you go petal, unless you want me to dry you that is.”
Pearl groans, starting to rub herself down with the towel. “Thanks for the compliment I guess?” She slowly runs the towel over her body, eventually pausing as she reaches the vines attached to her shoulder. Wincing at the feeling of drying it off. “Alright I’m done, get me out of this tub.”
“I didn’t hear you say please little doll.” Resin shakes its head, taking the towel back and plucking Pearl up into its left arm. “As a consequence you will be letting me dress you instead of doing it yourself.”
Pearl bites down on her lip as she’s pulled up into Resin’s arms. Mostly to stop herself from openly yelling at herself for allowing Resin to agitate her to the point of such a simple slip up.
“I see someone is starting to catch on.” Resin’s vines press up against Pearl’s back as they walk back into the bedroom. “I apologize for seeding you on, but I did want to see some of your genuine emotions again rather than the veneer that you’d begun building up.”
Deep rage bubbles up in her chest, as she turns away from Resin. Of course, of course even doing her best to pretend to tolerate this beast wouldn’t be good enough to stop the torment. “You are impossible to please.”
“No, I’m able to be pleased, but seeing you repress yourself in order to hide yourself away from your situation doesn’t make me happy.” Resin slowly shuffles its form around, pulling the plushy out and pressing it into Pearl’s arms. “So today I saw it fit to show you how well I can read you, rather than simply saying that I’m capable of it, and trusting you believe me.”
Pearl looks at the plush, grabbing a hold of it and locking eyes with the smiling beeples face. The seemingly innocent creatures smile feeling like nothing more than thinly valid mocking now that she’s eye to eye with it. “I don’t want this anymore, take it back.”
Resin stops at the edge of the bed, placing Pearl down on it with the plush. “I don’t think I will, it was clearly comforting you earlier, and if you have that to hold when you sleep you’ll be less likely to accidentally reach places that I’ve not yet pruned.” It turns around reaching into the closet and starting to shuffle through the different outfit options.
“No, I don’t want it anymore, I won’t sleep with it, I won't use it, I don’t care you got something bad.” Pearl shoves the plush out of her arms, tossing it down to the floor of the room, as she continues to glare at it. “It’s just another of your tactics, don’t act like I can’t smell you on it.”
“I assure you the scent is simply to help you calm down, and feel more comfortable around me.” Resin plucks out a purple and black compainion dress that has a large purple flower over where someone’s heart should be. “And I think you’re just trying to spite me, by making yourself feel worse.”
Pearl looks away from the plush as Resin comes over holding the dress, and a matching set of underwear. The boiling rage in her chest turns her face red as Resin starts to instead of handing the clothes over, slip each piece on individually with mockingly slow movements.
“That tells me everything I need to know, doll.” Resin gently slips the dress on over Pearl’s shoulders. Gently patting it down to make sure it doesn’t wrinkle up, before leaning all the way down and gently lifting up the plush beeple. “Now do you want me to give this back now or later?”
“Never, burn it.” Pearl snaps out, only to have herself be pulled directly into Resin’s vines. The plush being placed directly on top of her chest.
“I’m going to take that as later, I’m sorry that everything in the tub upset you, but it was an important conversation.” Resin places a palm on top of Pearl’s arm, keeping her from thrashing too much or attempting to throw the plush again. “Why don’t we get food in you, and then once you’re fed we can either try to do something you’ll enjoy, or I can give you some M’s and we can just relax together.”
Pearl forces her head down and simply starts to scream into the head of the plush. Any and every attempt to bottle up her rage and contempt caving under the mere mention of possibly being put on those drugs as a way to ‘relax’.
Resin simply grins down, watching as Pearl had instinctively grabbed onto the plush for the sense of comfort it provides her. After all, even if its darling floret is capable of abusing terran instincts and making detailed plans, she’s just as susceptible to them as any other.
Without any fanfare, they arrive in the kitchen. Resin quickly pulling the pairs breakfasts out of the storage unit, a nutrient mix for itself, and then eggs, bacon, and pancakes for Pearl. “Alright, I’m going to be keeping you in my lap, but we can eat at your pace.” It carefully shuffles its body around, leaving Pearl sitting in its lap, with a vine wrapped around her waist, before slowly starting to pull the plushy out of Pearl’s arms.
Pearl of course responds by locking her arm down around the plush just a little harder. If only to spite Resin by making things more difficult. Only to be inevitably beaten by the strength of the affini’s vine, the plush being pulled into the seat next to them just out of her reach.
She glances over at the plush a few times, the desire to have it back because Resin is taking it away at the forefront of her mind. Forcing herself to crush that desire, to avoid the pain of its presence possibly becoming a weapon against her in the future. “Fine, please just give me a fork.”
“Alright, here you go.” Resin plucks a fork off of the counter and places it in Pearl’s hand. Having already cut everything into small enough pieces to be handled with a fork alone. “And don’t worry you’ll get your plushy back once we’re done.”
“Sure.” Pearl jabs the fork into the eggs, starting to slowly eat the meal. Taking her time with every single step if only to avoid further interference from Resin. The taste as she is starting to expect at this point, is absolutely heavenly, the perfect mixing of seasonings that she couldn’t even name if asked, mixed in to give the eggs an extra kick of flavor.
As she eats, her bites slowly become more passionate allowing her to focus on enjoying the flavors rather than obsess over what’s upsetting her.
With one last bite Pearl flicks the fork out of her hand onto the empty plate. Feeling more than a little bloated with how large the meal had been in comparison to what they’d get on board the Falling Stars. With a resounding exhale, she looks up at Resin. “Okay… what’s the ‘fun’ thing you want to do?”