Pearl isn’t sure what she’d expected as a fun thing to do aside from being dosed with those star damned xenodrugs. But being dragged into the affini’s vines, and carried towards the door to the hab was not what she’d expected.
“What are you doing?” Pearl squeaks as vines press down around her, keeping her from struggling as they pass out of the hab into the hallway. Immediately being met with an affini and a rinan floret passing by them on their morning walk.
“I’m bringing you into the ship to see your new home.” Resin pats Pearl on the head a few times, having nestled the beeple plush into its florets arm. “I figure if you see where you’ll be living you’ll start to form a connection to it. Rather than thinking I’ll imprison you in our hab, for the rest of our lives together.”
Pearl grumbles a bit, looking away from an affini who Resin walks past. Relieved to have at the very least not drawn the attention of another of these beasts. “Oh boy, I’m not being kept in a small cell, being kept in a large one. That’s such amazing news.”
“I believe you will find this home more freeing than restrictive the longer you’re here.” Resin rustles slightly as they pass out of the hallway, and into the main body of their hab ring. Right across from them sits a massive park, several groups wandering about and enjoying their days. “Now welcome to the Equabloom Pearl.”
Pearl freezes up as they pass out of the comparatively small hallway, into the absolutely gargantuan living area. Noticing that the ceiling seemingly emulats a midday sky planetside. Then there’s the shops, all for incredibly mundane things, ranging from cafe’s to arts and crafts, nothing that would make sense for a war vessel in Pearl’s mind. The single most striking example of needless opulence she’d ever seen, and she’d been exposed to a few galas run by mega corporations due to her time in the navy. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“Is what a joke?” Resin steps out into the street, starting to stroll down it at a lax pace. “This is simply a normal common area in our habitation ring.”
“This is incredibly inefficient, so much wasted space, and supplies. You can’t make me believe this level of extravagance doesn’t force suffering on someone's backs just to make it feasible.” Pearl squirms forward, the vines around her shoulders releasing just enough to let her sit up, and see the ring in all of its horrific glory. While avoiding risking her release under any circumstances. “Also you don’t need to worry about me running away right now, I know I’m out of my depth, and any affini who sees me would see the collar, and know what I am.”
“Indeed, you’re no fool, but I do so love holding you close.” Resin chuckles lightly, picking the pace of their walk up slightly. “How about I take you to a nice restaurant for lunch? And if you behave, I’ll even give you some free time once we get back to our hab.” It’s voice maintains a level of sing songy confidence as its strides increase in speed.
“Fine, that seems like a fair trade, perhaps even a chance for each of us to get on a more…” Pearl slumps her head to the side. Trying to think of a proper way to phrase her thoughts without agitating Resin. “Workable position with one another, given we’ve both established our mutual distrust, and reservations around one another.”
“Oh absolutely, I’m sure we can find agreements that you’ll be satisfied with. Even if the return of your arm remains a non-negotiable point.” Resin pauses as they arrive outside of a restaurant that has bright yellow hive patterning in the glass, with the interior being a combination of a garden, and a beeple hive in theming.
Pearl glances around the restaurant, noticing the hexagonal patterning of both the tables, and nearly everything in the restaurant. Which she would have assumed to be a decision made for form over function, but to her own surprise every table is built perfectly large enough for one person to sit at each corner without getting into another's space. A prime example of this fact being a large group of affini with florets cuddled up in their laps talking at one table near the center.
Pearl glances down at one of the terran’s on the affini’s lap. Recognizing him as another one of the prisoners who was onboard the Falling Stars. This fact causes her face to turn bright red, of course the affini couldn’t be trusted, even non-combatants onboard being dragged into this sick ‘pet’ system. “Why, is, he, there.” her words come out short and choppy, like she’s pulling back from screaming, and disturbing everyone in the area.
Resin looks down at the brown haired boy, that Pearl’s glaring at. “Well I assume he’s having a nice lunch with his owner, and is now taking a nap, would it help if you talked to his owner?”
Pearl tenses up at the thought of talking to another affini, wondering if she’d even be capable of drowning her rage long enough to avoid being punished… but then again, if she gets close to the boy’s owner. She could get an ally, and escape this place, being forced into domestication surely will have snapped him out of believing the affini to be trustworthy. “Sure… It’s always GREAT to catch up.”
As Resin takes the few final steps to stand next to the unfamiliar affini. Pearl turns her head away, mostly to hide the look of disgust on her face, better to pretend to be shy than to have an affini see her glare.
“Hello Bristle, my new floret Pearl here seemed to recognize your own.” Resin gently places a hand on top of Pearl’s head, slowly guiding her to look back at the other affini, who’s vines appear to me a more dark blue rather than the default green.
Bristle smiles softly at Pearl, reaching out and gently petting her cheek. “Well hello there Pearl, my little branch is a bit tired right now, but I remember him talking about you.” She uses one of the vines on her chest, to give the sleeping boy a few taps on the cheek. “Why don’t you both sit down, you’re clearly hungry, and I don’t wanna hold up your Mixtress getting some nice food for you, while we wait for him to wake up.”
“Oh of course thank you for the consideration!” Pearl tilts her head to the side slightly, taking her most patient smile. Weaponizing a level of fake enthusiasm that she’d captured over years of working in the cosmic navy.
After all, addressing people fondly who you want to see thrown out an airlock, with a smile, might as well have been her job description over the years.
Resin nods slightly, sitting down at the table next to Bristle. “Good girl Pearl, and here I thought you were in a bad mood today.” Exploiting the fact that Pearl wont cause a fuss due to the crowd, to start lightly scratching under its florets chin.
Pearl’s neck tenses up as Resin’s vine makes contact with her, her eyes flicking around as she tries to put together the appropriate reaction that wouldn’t end with further humiliation.
With a deep inhale that she forces to sound even slightly appreciative, Pearl flops her head down atop the vine. Forcing it to hold her up, in order to stop the petting, given Resin pulling the vine away entirely is nearly impossible.
“I am in a bad mood, but that doesn’t mean I wanna cause problems in front of others.” Pearl’s eyes remain locked on the floret, finally able to get a good enough glimpse to realize that under the black collar, he has a scar on the nape of his neck.
It’s already too late, of course, that’s what hope of an accomplice gets you in a truly hopeless situation. In all likelihood even without the implant he’d just betray her if she tried trusting him, just to get better treatment from their slavers. Stars knows that she would have in his place.
“Awww that’s so considerate of you little doll. I’m so proud of you.” Resin’s words echo just behind Pearl’s head, sending waves of embarrassment echoing through every inch of her being. “So what would you like for lunch?”
Pearl glances over the table, betting that this is just a challenge of trying to get her to say she doesn’t know, and having Resin choose for her, which would be forcing her to be actively dependent on it in public. A salad? No that wouldn’t be filling enough, the weed would insist on something more, chips and a sandwich?
Glancing more deeply at the sandwich, most of the contents are vegetables she’s never seen or tried before, too likely for her to hate it, and need to get something else which would somehow be more humiliating.
“Uhhh, a burger if they’ve got it, maybe some fries, something simple.” Pearl turns her head down towards the ground, about to start silently pouting until a server arrives. Only to be met with a beeple standing below her, only being recognized because of its striking similarities to her plushy. Its posture slightly slumped, as if it’d just woken up from a nap, yet still maintaining an air of enthusiasm in its movements.
“Hello, I’m bramble Alba first floret!” The massive bee blinks a few times, a wide smile finding its way onto his face as he walks closer to Pearl and Resin. “What’s your name?”
Pearl takes a deep breath, okay, the massive plant monsters have bee pets, it wasn’t just a toy, that’s… honestly not the most surprising revelation thinking over it for more than two seconds. If anything it makes more sense because they could have an actual use aside from entertainment. “I… uh, My name is Pearl, are you the one serving us today?”
Resin rustles slightly, its vines tightening around Pearl ever so slightly. “It’s very rude to not say your full name when meeting someone new, especially since you’ve neglected to do so for Miss Bristle.”
“Oh I’m soooo sorry, but I can’t even remember what I’m meant to say.” Pearl spits her words out, a deep sense of internal shame at the fact that those words are going to inevitably come out of her mouth in this situation. No matter who little she wants it.
“Well if that’s the issue, why didn’t you just tell me, allow me to remind you.” Resin pulls Pearl to sit up fully. Pressing Pearl’s chin up further to force her to look it directly in the eyes, attempting to draw her inwards once again. “You, are Pearl Wil’s first floret, when anyone asks who you are, this is how you will respond. Am I understood?”
As her head is forced into place, Pearl immediately has her eyes purposefully lose focus. While it would be impossible to resist the embrace of Resin’s eyes if she’d allowed herself the ability to preserve their depth, she does manage to make pulling her eyes away while they’re out of focus only barely manageable. “Yes Ma’am.”
Resin’s form rustles slightly, only barely holding back how disappointing Pearl’s behavior is from appearing visibly if only to spare the feelings of bramble, and the other florets who are present. “Thank you Pearl, we’ll talk more when we’re back at the hab.”
As Resin releases her from the grip ever so slightly, Pearl forces herself to turn back toward bramble. In order to put her order in and just get it over with. “Hey bramble, as you just heard, I am Pearl Wills first floret, can I get a cheeseburger and some fries please?”
“Absolutely!” bramble smiles up at Pearl, acting as if he isn’t even aware that Pearl is very obviously on the verge of getting in immense amounts of trouble. “It’s nice to meet you pearl!” He turns, giving a little wave and walking towards the back of the restaurant.
Once bramble is gone, Pearl lets out a little sigh of relief. Happy to at least have one less pair of eyes on her, as she instinctively leans backwards into Resin like she would a chair.
Only to shudder as her warden’s rhythm becomes even more intense due to the proximity to its core. Jerking back forward, she closes her eyes and shudders, the weird sense of comfort that had sparked up in her chest being quickly metabolized into disgust.
A few minutes of uncomfortably watching the rest of the group at the table talk to one another. Two of the unfamiliar affini’s florets cuddling up against one another and starting to make out, which would be fine enough in her books if not for the fact they were being watched intimately by their ‘owners’, the boy that Pearl was waiting on starts to slowly rouse from his slumber. Eyes cracking open ever so slightly, only to be met with Pearl sitting there frowning down at him.
“P-Pearl!? I- uh, ma’am what are you doing here?” The boy quickly recoils away from where Pearl is seated, the fact that she’s in Resin’s vines seemingly doing next to nothing for his comfort.
“I’m doing the same thing as you, being captured.” Pearl glares down at the boy, trying to pull a name to this face aside from him being one of the men that she’d met a few times in the jump room.
“Oh uh…” He glances up at Bristle, pressing up against his owner's chest, her vines wrapping around him to keep him safe and secure. “I wasn’t captured ma’am, everyone in the cells was let free into the compact… we were non-combatants after all…”
Pearl’s glare turns venomous, knowing exactly what this means, the boy had volunteered himself to the beasts. Given his even fake freedom away at the drop of a hat for the sense of false comfort.
But even worse yet, this confirms one horrible fact, if Issac had simply been kept in that room for a few more minutes. Both of them would be alive, she would have had a chance to convince the affini to let them both go, but instead she lost everything. “What… is your name, I don’t think we’ve been introduced.” Each word is deathly cold, not dripping with malice, but instead with very barely concealed anguish.
“Oh, right, sorry…” The boy tugs on his owner’s vines, glancing up at her with a pleading look. Obviously anxious about saying his new name in front of Pearl, the knowledge of how vicious she would be towards any sign of weakness playing on loop in his head. The rumors that would start at the smallest whisper, always looping back to Pearl as their origin point.
“My little branch’s name is Matthew Forsa first floret, he used to be a jump tech on your group’s little ship.” Bristle runs her hand through Matthew’s hair, pulling him as close as she can manage.
“Well Mat, it’s good to see you landed on your feet.” Pearl flashes a smile, just real enough to convince an affini who knows nothing of her, but just pointed enough to be recognized as dangerous to the boy. “As you can see, not all of us got so lucky.” She taps the spot where her arm should be.
Resin this whole time sits silently, its rhythm nearly silent as it observes Pearl. A vine remains wrapped around the girl's chest to make sure that she can’t even consider moving closer to the clearly upset boy.
“I… yeah, hey, I know you’re probably not in the mood to talk much, but I saw you leave with him… What happened to Issac?” The second the words flow out of Matthew’s mouth, he realizes his mistake in asking about his missing co-prisoner.
Pearl’s eyes immediately go wide, as tears find their way to the edges of each. Obviously doing everything in her power to stop them from spilling fourth, as her collar lets a few beeps of warning out.
For Pear the world around seems to simply fade the second the question is asked, the memory of the burning feeling in her arm, the sight of watching him collapse to the ground behind her. Everything going back to that one moment in time that could have lasted an eternity despite how short it truly was.
After possibly a single second, or several hours, Pearl feels a stinging on her thigh. The memories around her fading away, as her body turns to lead, leading her to slump back into Resin’s thick vines.
Resin runs a hand under Pearl’s eyes, drying away the tears as the class M’s begin to run their course. “I apologize, Isaac… Pearl lost her arm trying to save him, but he didn’t survive long enough to get help.” It gently reaches out, giving Mathew a few pats on the head. “I appreciate you talking to Pearl though. And I’m sorry that we’ve been keeping quiet about what happened.”
Mathew nods ever so slightly, biting his lip at the thought of Isaac’s death. Absolutely certain that even being told she tried to save him, it was Pearl’s fault, just another selfish trick from the local monster of the ship to insure her own safety over the people around her. That had failed in spectacular fashion without a doubt. “A… absolutely.”
After a moment bramble returns with Pearl’s meal, buzzing up and placing the order down in front of Resin. “Thank you little one.” Resin gives him a few light pets, before patting and sending him back towards the kitchen and his owner.
Pearl lets a little whimper out, her body barely flinching as Resin begins to puppet her around into a more intimate hold. Vines gently tracing in little circles along her thighs. “It’s okay, you’re safe. We’re just going to eat and then go home.”
Resin quickly plucks the meal off of the table, giving the rest of the group that they’d sat down with a little nod, before turning around and walking over to a more private booth.
“I’m sorry that you ended up getting triggered today petal.” Resin gently nestles the plush up against Pearl’s chest, watching as the toy vibrates ever so slightly up against its floret. Hoping that it’s providing at least some form of comfort. “But I did also see you back there with little Mathew.”
It slowly reaches out, vines dancing around Pearl’s face and mouth to properly support her, and guide her through the process of being fed. Keeping a gentle but firm enough pressure to be absolutely certain that even while on her M’s Pearl’s attention wont drift away from the moment into dissociation.
“I don’t want you bullying him just because he chose the life of a floret. If anything I hope this allows you to see that requiring a loving caretaker isn’t a personal failure, it’s an entirely acceptable way of being, that for many needy sophonts like yourself, is necessary for you to grow as our wards, and become who they are meant to.”
Pearl’s gaze drifts further downward with each of the very carefully provided bites. Shame welling up within her chest, before fading back away as soon as her thoughts start to drift. Resin’s vines always give a little tug moments before she’d be able to fully drift away into her mind, trapping her in the ever awful present.
The flavor of the meal ends up being entirely lost on her, not due to intentional repression, or desire to avoid Resin’s influence and bribes, but instead simply due to how lost she’s become in her own body. Feeling both there, and not, a paradoxical prison of her warden’s creation.
The second the meal ends, Resin’s grip loosens ever so slightly. Allowing Pearl’s limp body to flop down onto her side, rocking the sophont ever so slightly to attempt to coax her into fully relaxing, and falling asleep, without forcing it.
As she’s carried out of the restaurant, and back towards their hab unit. Pearl’s eyes start to slowly drift shut, the exhaustion of having a sudden spike of adrenaline that was quickly circumvented taking its toll, tempting her to fade down into the depths of her dreams. The vibrations of the plush on her chest assisting the process with its ever present light hum.