All good things must come to an end, and eventually the feelings of relaxation in the moment, caused Nix to drift off to sleep, on the couch. Back down into the tortuous depths of her dreams, and memories.
Nix's eyes shoot open, her makeshift distress beacon still in its hiding place. Despite this fact, she couldn't help but feel like something was very wrong. The edges of her vision slightly darker, while she also hadn't received her wake up beating.
"Shit… they better not have tried anything stupid, while I was down." Nix frowns, dragging herself out of bed. Making sure her makeshift communicator is still sending the message.
To her surprise it was still ticking, relaying through the ship, and out all around them. No signs of movement, or investigation. "Welp I'll leave you here… please be fast."
Turning around and heading out of her bunk, Nix keeps a firm hand on the wall. Trying to ignore how uncomfortable it feels to walk without her cane.
The hallways are sparse as always. A few soldiers standing around during their security detail in the halls. Of course everyone knew the security wasn't against the affini, it was for the soldiers, making sure everyone knew just how easily they'd be disposed of if they ran out of their use.
And that's what Nix had just done, run out of use. If they were lucky someone would be sent on board to replace her, and she'd lose her only defense against being vented. Or worse, she'd get poached, and moved onto a bigger ship, where the beatings would continue until one jump or another finally kills her.
Nix takes a deep breath, reminding herself that it doesn't matter. Everything is out of her hands, if this works she's going to be captured by an overgrown shrub, and if it fails death was always inevitable.
One of the guards in the hall turns to look at Nix, the same one who’d knocked her over the day before. Grinning, he positions himself in the middle of the hallway. “Wow Richard, good job finally giving up that ridiculous cane. Maybe now you’ll actually be able to keep up with your duties.”
Nix grumbles, pushing herself off of the wall, to try and walk past the faceless man. “What duties, until we get supplies, even a single jump more, would rip this entire ship into pieces.” She huffs, looking at the rest of the group. “I just hope we actually made it far enough to shake the Affini vessel that had been tracking us.”
“Oh I’m not concerned, after all once we’re with the rest of the ships, we’ll rip those weeds ship to shreds.” The man laughs, reaching out to pat Nix on the shoulder. “Now why don’t you get down to the jump room, to figure out what we need to replace.”
Oh stars no, he was being nice to her, this couldn’t mean anything good. Taking a deep breath, Nix steels herself, walking past the man towards her position. Just trying to keep her nerves in check, this didn’t MEAN they knew, it could just be a new way of fucking with her. Yeah, yeah that was a lie she could hide inside easily enough.
Walking into the all too familiar jump room she saw, very much to her surprise. Several people swept the entire thing, with the ship's captain sitting in her chair, an all too familiar expression on his face, sadistic joy. “Oh you have finally decided to join us, well good news Richard! The restock is going to be including a new, actually able bodied, jump technician being transferred over here.”
Nix’s heart sinks, crashing into her stomach and causing nearly immediate panic. Whoever the new person is, after only a day would be able to trivially figure out what she’d been doing. Not like she’d bothered being careful, with how little the rest of the ship understood how to use anything in this room. “That… is wonderful Sir. I assume that you are currently doing a preliminary inspection before their arrival?”
“Indeed, you see Richard, you’ve always been… disappointing.” The man standing up, his mouth blurring into a horrifying jaggid expression. Just a little bit too long, too sharp, too big. “But that doesn’t matter anymore! Once you’ve helped the new tech adjust, you can be as useless as you want!”
Nix winces, she knows what’s coming next, and what that comment actually meant. Raising her arms to her face, she’s caught off guard by a fist slamming into her chest. Knocking her to the ground in a painful mix of crunching, and shooting pain.
“You’ll just go on a nice long walk, and we won’t be made to deal with such a pathetic!” A boot with a steel toe slams into her face. “Weak!” A stomp on her ribs, which wiggle feeling like they’re on the verge of shattering. “Cripple!” The boot comes down on her head one final time, as the entire room is filled with laughter.
Nix’s eye shoots open, her back aching slightly, as if she’d been positioned incorrectly so long that it was hard to actually move. Trying to tug her arms, she finds them locked at her sides, soft but firm vines wrapped around her entire body. “Hey! Hey Sola, wake up!” She grunts, trying to wiggle a little more, and free herself from the cradling.
Sola’s vines wiggle slightly, the affini slowly starting to rouse from her resting state. The pair, still listening to the quiet propaganda broadcasts going on in the background. “Mmm… Oh Nix, you’re awake, that’s good.” She slowly releases the vines around Nix’s limbs, repositioning them under the girl, to pick her up. “You started thrashing, and I was worried you were going to hurt yourself. So I gently held you down, are you having bad dreams?”
Nix winces, using her slightly increased maneuverability to bend, and move along with Sola’s vines. Letting herself be put in a seated position facing Sola. “More like bad memories… A lot of the time, when I sleep, I go back to my time on the ship, or a twisted version of it.” Avoiding eye contact, she crosses her arms. “Is it morning yet?”
Sola shakes her head slightly, looking over at her pad. “Well, it’s actually just about dinner time. You’re still healing, so sleeping most of the day isn’t a surprise at all, if I’m being honest. If you want, I can use some class Z’s, in order to help you get through the night, keep you safe from all of those nightmares?”
Nix shudders, biting her lip, of course this had to be the options. Drugs, or more time with her stupid brain torturing her. “No. I’ll be fine without them, can we just eat, and get to bed, my body still feels heavy, and a bit sore from sleeping on the couch.”
Sola simply stands up, keeping a vine over Nix’s chest, as she heads back into the kitchen. “Alright, then I’ll just need to have you tell me what you want for dinner, little one. I promise no matter what you want, I’ll make it work.” She gently places Nix down in her seat, before walking over to the fridge, to see what she had stored as treats.
Nix feels a pang of guilt watching Sola walk away, she could see how the plant slumped slightly, after the offer to help with the nightmares had been refused. Might as well get something she actually likes to eat. “I guess if anything, I’d like a pizza? With pepperoni.”
“Oh good, I actually still have one frozen. It will take a bit to warm up, but I promise it will be very worth it.” Sola plucks a wrapped frozen pizza out of the containment unit. Walking over to a very terran looking oven. Unwrapping it, and setting the temperature. “Now while we are waiting, do you want to talk about your dreams at least?”
“Maybe? I don’t know.” Nix loops down at the table, tapping on it anxiously. Feeling as if her caretaker's eyes were beating into the back of her head. Only barely even pretending to care about her, doing all of this out of obligation. “It’s hard to talk about what happened.”
“Well, that’s why I want you to feel safe talking about it with me, you really need to trust in us little one. We really do want nothing more than to help you, but if you refuse to allow us to, without forcing the matter, that is something that will happen.” Sola reaches a hand out, gently running it down the vine where Nix’s spine used to be.
Nix shudders, leaning forward trying to minimize contact. The intense sensitivity, and weird enjoyment of the feeling disturbing her deeply. “It’s not a problem. They are just dreams, it’s not like it actually actively hurts me.”
“It’s clearly hurting you Nix, just earlier today you begged me to help you pull back, from the memories of what happened to you. And now you’re trying to tell me that, you’re fine with going through that, every night.” Sola steps away from the oven, sitting down across from Nix, to force the girl to look at her at all.
“I was being weak asking you, I shouldn’t have.” Nix’s frown turns to a scowl. Not directed at Sola, but at herself. Mentally berating her for giving this damn shrub that single inch in her moment of weakness, and now it wants to take a mile.
“Asking for assistance is not a weakness, little flower.” Sola’s form rustles, the reddish orange flowers along her left arm being disturbed by how agitated she is becoming. “Being as you are, even if you are allowed to be released as an independent sophont. You will have to ask for help from others, to stay on medications that keep you, and your modifications, healthy and happy.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Nix kicks her leg out, gritting her teeth. Whatever Sola had done earlier clearly was not permanent, all of the intrusive thoughts, and self loathing, right back where it had started. In Nix’s mind proving just how improper that is as a solution for her, it would just be ignoring the problem by being a doped up tree hugging idiot.
Sola lets out a deep ‘breath’, wind flowing around the area, as the pair sit quietly across from one another. “Well then, do your best to get good sleep tonight, once we are done with dinner. You do need to go to be ready for your interview in the morning, I will have your collar, and cane prepared by then.”
Shit, she just had to go and piss off the plant that could snap her in two, didn’t she. Nix grits her teeth, looking up at Sola. Preparing herself to force another apology in order to appease the massive bush, which apparently actually does not only have feelings, but ones that are easily hurt. “Sorry, just.” She grips the table as she closes her eye. “Everything is different now, and I’m working on understanding this. But I am so used to people undercutting me, if I gave even the smallest inch, it would lead to me being written off as a burden. And I get it, no Floret or Sophont is a burden, but I am struggling to process that fact, after a life of harsh words, and harsher treatment.”
“It’s fine little one, truly, I was only picked to care for you because of my background with disabled florets, and a few special circumstances. I haven’t actually… ever spoken personally to a pre-domestication terran, let alone one who’d been kept on a rebel ship.” Sola can’t help but feel ashamed of this fact, yes she’d been busy with the many florets that passed through her doors. But that was no excuse for her lack of experience, and personal training, even worse, she is now failing this poor thing. Allowing her to feel as if there was any way that she would be mistreated under her care.
“Well then it looks like we’re both learning a lot, huh?” Nix forces a small grin onto her face, chuckling and to her own surprise, genuinely wanting to comfort the affini infront of her. “It’s not a bad thing to not know how to do everything, especially on your first try. Hell it took me a fuck ton of simulations, before I was able to perform my first successful jump.”
“Honestly, I expected you to be a lot worse in some ways, but also better in others.” Sola turns around, reaching out and putting the pizza in the now heated oven. “Like I expected a lot of you resisting me as a feralist, but instead you’ve been resisting me because of your own fears, especially I have noticed, of being lesser compared to even the rebels.” Once she is sure everything is as it should be, Sola turns back to face Nix. “But I can assure you that you’re stronger than any rebel I’ve ever seen. You’ve been adapting, and accepting the new way your body functions with open arms, you’ve not declared anything ridiculous about free terranisum. It’s been on the whole… pleasant, to see a ‘rebel’ so open to our way of living.”
“I mean, once you know that what you were saying wasn’t entirely a lie, it’s just the most intelligent thing.” Nix shrugs, leaning forward as far as she can manage. Trying to distract herself with her increased flexibility. “And I don’t know if that was me saying that, or all the propaganda that I slept through.” She chuckles lightly.
“Well if you want we could always watch more, and do a little question and answer. Figure out your misinterpretations, and rip them out by the roots, before they can cause us more issues.” Sola chuckles, so that’s how Nix chose to cope with the changes. It makes her happy to know, the would-be rebel could at least tell, that this life is leagues better than she’d have ever gotten with any of the old terran government.
“Sure, a nice question filled dinner, I see no way that this could go wrong.” Nix snorts, flopping her chest onto the table. Looking absentmindedly at the wall. “So why don’t we start with… Florets? I mean, given it’s not a 0% chance I am forced into becoming one, it’s best I understand what they are, and do?”
This is it, finally something that Sola had enough experience with, that she could explain to even the most rebellious of wards. “Well my dear Nix Ave, Florets are the pets of any affini. They can come from any of the many xenospecies we have domesticated, there’s as you obviously already know. Two ways to become a floret, voluntary domestication, and involuntary. I know you must be thinking to yourself ‘why would anyone want that’, but it’s far more common than you’d anticipate.”
“Actually, I can entirely understand the appeal, the promise of safety, and happiness, for the rest of your life, that is something terrans have chased as long as we’ve existed.” Nix shakes her head, knowing Sola was trying to start simple, but this was beyond even that. This was the kinda thing that just existing during the war, you would have heard of, especially once the treaty was officially signed. “But what do you actually do to florets? I’ve heard anything from slave labor, to the equivalent of a lobotomy.”
Sola frowns, the vines in her chest tightening around one another, upset at how horrendously inaccurate that description was. “Well I can assure you, it’s neither of those. When any voluntary sophont becomes a floret, they are given a nice long interview, helping us figure out their particular needs. Sometimes they are already bonded with an affini, but if not we match them with one, who will be capable of best accommodating their individual needs.”
“And sometimes they get sent to that weird cat cafe, to wait for a match?” Nix raises an eyebrow, pushing herself back into a sitting position instead of remaining flopped on the table. “And I know we’re getting to it, but do they just… drug people until they’re unable to DO anything without help?”
“On request, volunteers can be sent to the cafe to wait for adoption. As for xenodrugs, it’s different between every floret and Affini. Say a Floret likes doing things that require a high level of dexterity, like gymnastics, they would be on an entirely different regime, from one who prefers to let their owner care for them, and hold them close. It all comes down to the affini’s judgment on what their pets’ needs are.”
“I guess we can use the guy who delivered breakfast as an example? He seemed poppy, and very happy, but also wasn’t stumbling, or sluggish, like I’ve now seen on the broadcasts.” Nix puts her left arm down, sliding it down to tap where the vine meets her back. “Like how I’m definitely on a mix of xenodrugs, to prevent pain, right?”
“Exactly so, Jason does enjoy higher doses when he’s home alone with his owner. But while working, he’s on an entirely different set, all tuned exactly to his needs by the histrionic implant.” Sola reaches into her mass, pulling her tablet out, and tapping on it a few times. Leaning it down to show Nix a picture, Jason in a foren Affini’s vines, squirming and cuddling up to the best of his abilities. “I am very close friends with the owner, so if you’re good tomorrow, after we’ve finished the interview I can bring us to their cafe so you can try interacting with the rest of the ship for the first time, okay?”
Nix sighs, nodding slightly. Trying not to take too many peaks at the squirming boy, shuddering slightly at one of the several pictures Sola showed her. "You mentioned the implant? Can you give me an explanation on that, because I've been told it basically makes you a puppet. And I don't know about you, but I feel like that's not entirely true."
"Indeed, the implant process can be anywhere from a necessity in order to keep a rowdy rebel in line, or an intimate process of a floret, and owner, becoming one." Sola curls up one of her vines to appear like a small ball. "It allows the affini full control over xenodrug doces, creating them for the host. For florets, it is like always having their owner with them, always."
"So it's both insurance to make sure old rebels won't hurt anyone, and also a normal part of the domestication process, to insure that the pet is cared for? Kinda like how my spine is just part of me now?" Nix wasn't sure how to feel about what they are talking about. After all, it seems like such an easily abused system, but she also was having a hard time finding any holes in Sola’s perception of the statements. Figuring that at the very least, Sola believes everything that she’s saying, way more deeply than Nix has ever bothered believing in her life.
"It's actually incredibly similar to your spinal implant, if you do get an owner. The implant would be able to easily connect with your replacement spine." Sola smiles wide, despite how spikey it came off to Nix. The little rebel almost detected an heir of innocence to the statement, Sola seeming to be wholly unaware of the possibility that news could be upsetting.
"Oh… huh, okay then." Nix presses her lips together, her face twisting to a neutral but perplexed expression. Her fingers tapping along the sides of the table. "And what if I am not placed with an owner? Will I still be fine?"
"Absolutely, you'll just need to go to the vet, every now and again. Make sure everything is still working as intended, as a side bonus, if you are interested in body modifications, it would be incredibly easy for us to create compatible ones for you!" Sola hears the oven ding, unfurling her vine, and reaching out to grab the pizza, and leaving it for a moment to cool.
"Okay, so body mods? I'm gonna need you to unpack… well all of that? Do you mean like… an extra arm or something?" Nix snorts to herself, thinking of her walking around with four arms. Absolutely ridiculous, but she wouldn’t even lie to herself saying some other changes wouldn’t be appreciated. "Or am I missing something here?"
"Well, it all depends on what you want. I'm sure if we take our time, we could possibly replace your right eye. There's also all types of tails you could pick, of course this all would need to wait until after you're fully healed. Wouldn't wanna make healing any harder than it is, on you." Sola gently reaches out patting Nix on the head lightly.
"So I could become part animal?" Nix raises an eyebrow, trying not to think too much of the increased amount of physical contact. "Well if I could become like part lizard, that would be cool." She chuckles, well the affini were advanced but imagining that they could just modify anyone, in the way Sola described still leaped far beyond what Nix had expected.
"Well I'll keep that in mind, maybe for a treat once you've finished your physical therapy." Sola shifts her mask, winking at Nix. Using some vines coming out of her back to start cutting the pizza. "So, any other questions before we both dig in? I feel like the pizza is cool enough to be safe now."
"Hmmm, well I do have one question. It's not directly related to domestication, but it does involve me, so I'm curious." Nix exhales sharply, looking up at Sola. "Why bother with respecting me? Like we've both seen how absolutely helpless I would be, if you wanted to just drug me constantly, but ya don't. You've been treating me with more respect than I've experienced in a decade, and it's just… sobering."
Sola pauses for a moment, her expression softening while she takes two slices of pizza, and places them on a plate sliding it in front of Nix. "Petal, I have no reason not to give you a chance at respect. While you're stubborn, more so than one should be in your state. You clearly are trying to adapt to your new life, you were trapped on a farelist ship for over three years, if our records are to be believed. So if the worst of you I deal with, is trying to do things yourself. Then I consider that an absolute success, if anything it helps me know your limits."
Nix sits there, frowning as she looks down at the food. Slowly reaching out, and grabbing a slice, taking her first bite she couldn't actually focus on enjoying the meal. Damn it, this is good food, and she looks all mopey and for what? She feels bad that someone dares empathize with what she'd gone through. Or was it just because Sola was an Affini, and she still couldn't fully bring herself to trust the plant. "Thank you."
"Of course dear, if I'm being honest. I was the one who found you on that ship, and when I saw you in such critical condition, I took responsibility for your safety." Sola looks towards the living room at the different equipment. A thin layer of dust covering the majority of them.
Shit, she'd seen that mess… Nix shudders, forcing herself to continue eating the meal. Not wanting to give her brain a single moment, that it could use to try and drag her back into that particular memory.
"Petal… I know you are avoiding that, but you are going to have to tell someone." Sola's form tightens, looking almost insecure for the briefest of moments. "And I hoped that could be me… so I could help you."
Finishing off her second slice of pizza, Nix shakes her head. A vague numbness overcoming her demeanor. Trying not to just curl up on herself, on the spot. "Can I just… please have my water cup."
Sola nods, walking into the living room and picking it up. "I'm glad to see you're keeping up on your hydration." She gently places the cup next to Nix, letting the girl grab it, and start drinking hastily. "I'm sorry if I have upset you, but I really don't want you to not be ready for tomorrow."
If she just drinks loud, and long enough, she can ignore it. Nix takes gulp after gulp of water, quickly finishing the entire thing, and still trying to suck just to make noise. Anything was better than thinking about that, anything.
A vine tugs the cup out of her hands. Distracting Nix for just long enough to have Sola wrap a few vines around her waist, and tug her off of the seat, and into another waiting set of vines. Going back to holding Nix in the equivalent of a hammock. "Now petal, drinking that much all at once isn't healthy. What do you say we take another lap around the hab, a bath, and then get you tucked in, Okay?"
Nix couldn't help but pathetically reach out for the cup. Feeling as if her final lifeline to avoid the ever creeping intrusive thoughts, is being cruelly ripped away. "Nooooo… give it back!"
Sola wraps a vine around Nix's chest. Keeping her in place, but returning the cup to the girl. "Here you go darling, I'm sorry, I did not expect taking the cup to upset you." She watches as the Nix puts her mouth around the straw, and starts anxiously nibbling on it.
Nix of course is hardly paying attention, once her cup has been returned. Nipping at the rim of the straw, as tears threaten to pool in her eye. She could so easily just beg, let Sola give her another dose of stars knows what, and be blissed out. But that would also give Sola more openings, times where she could continue the clear thread of thinking Nix needs an owner.
Instead after a minute or so of taking deep breaths, and chewing on the straw. Nix tilts her head up at Sola. "Okay, I'm ready to do that now…"
Sola gives a soft reassuring smile, doing her best to hide her concern for Nix’s mental health, for the sake of keeping the girl stable enough to speak. "Alright then, just like this morning. Why don't you start kicking your legs, and I'll get the bath ready, okay little one?"
The vines shift again, putting Nix into a more actively sitting position than the cradling Sola had been doing. Allowing the girl to start kicking her legs slightly, wiggling them around sometimes to get used to more complex movements. Impressing herself by actually individually moving each of her toes around.
Watching this display, yet again Sola was forced to hold her tongue on just how precious Nix is, and how good of a job she is doing. Knowing deep down, that even the smallest complement would threaten to send the girl down into another fit.
For the rest of the evening the pair spent their time together in uncomfortable silence. Nix is always staring into the distance, caught in between her memories, and the present. While Sola dutifully supervises both the light exercise, and getting Nix cleaned up for bed. Having to snap Nix back into reality a few times, to make sure she didn't fall behind on getting clean.
After being tucked into bed, Nix forces her eyes shut. Trying to force herself to sleep, to at least be free of this constant fugue state of dissociation… but the longer she lays there, the more clear it becomes that sleep would continue to elude her. The more apparent it is that she’ll be stuck in her own head. “Hey Sola… can I have those clase Z’s.” She barely manages to force out in a whisper, only to have a gentle flower mask placed over her face. Immediately taking deep breaths, enjoying the nice floral scents, and finding her thoughts quietly drifting away allowing her to finally sleep.
Sola watches her charge fall asleep, finally relaxing for a moment once she feels Nix’s breathing getting into a nice rhythm. Pulling out her tablet, she looks over the cavalcade of messages she’d received, over just this one day of focusing on Nix. Several messages from both her friends, and their florets, both incredibly interested in Nix. Whether it be for adoption, or just friendship.