Holding up a short black skirt in front of me, as well as some thigh socks and a nice hoodie. This... This does not seem like my normal clothes. To be fair, they are quite nice. But it would make me feel weird. Is it okay for boys to wear these? I slide over to my PC and tap in a strange request. "Feminine clothes for men'' comes up in my recently searched. The overnet says it's okay for boys to wear skirts. So I guess it's fine.... Right? Well, I guess I'll find out.
Only after finishing sliding on my last sock, and zipping up this nice black hoodie do I realize these clothes are from Aether.
That makes me feel weird. Kind of bad honestly. She got these for me yet still doesn't want to be around me... Ugh.
They're nice clothes though, and I definitely want to be wearing them. So cozy and freeing.
I wonder what she meant by these clothes. She said something about me wanting them but not knowing it? That's absurd, how can I not know I want something if I want it. I'm an android, if I need something, terminal will tell me.
Taking a quick swing by the mirror shows me as a disgusting and ho-
Wait, actually I don't look that bad. When I was around 16, father had just messed with my body's internals enough to permanently halt the production of most hormones within my body. As I've grown older, my body has matured and grown as well, but I've always kept a slightly androgynous and young look. Alas, I am an android, so it does not really matter regardless. But, these clothes look pretty decent on me.
A quick pass through my short hair with a comb, making it a little fluffy and straight, I step out of my hab unit to the Affini waiting outside.
"Awww you look adorable in that~" Lillina says the moment I step outside the door.
"I can agree, adorable little bot." Raynor says.
My core temperature skyrockets for a moment, causing me to nearly stumble over in embarrassment before Lils catches me and keeps me upright. I whine over it. "Guuuyyysssss... You're embarrassing me. It's just normal clothes!"
"Sure is, cuteness. You just don't normally wear stuff like this. And, I think it looks just so wonderful on you~" Lillina tells me, Raynor nods along happily. Gosh, they really are too nice to me.
"Might even look better off of them too..." Raynor ponders, scratching his chin. It takes me a minute to understand the implications of that statement. I nearly fall over AGAIN. Lillina has to catch me AGAIN, while I try to piece my shattered train of thought back together.
"Raynorrrrrrrr.... I'm gonna destroy you!" I say with fake confidence.
"Mmmnhh, you're so sure about that, little one?" He turns and looks at me, locking my eyes in place for a moment with his gaze. Lillina giggles and its enough to tear me away from the locking stare.
I stop for a minute and stamp my feet on the sidewalk in a bit of a childish display. Lils takes the moment to just sweep me up and pull me into a strange carry. All I can do is squeak and press my face to her tightly woven, pink vine dress while I cower in embarrassment.
"Oh, you don't like this?" Lillina asks me, playfully. I try to shake my head no. "But you don't seem to be struggling." She tells me in a firm voice. I nearly exploded.
But she's right. I'm not struggling. I kind of do like it, but I would never say that out loud. The rest of the walk to the bar is agonizingly slow, and about every five minutes, I'm passed between the two Affini's arms like a little package. It feels strangely objectifying in a way that I'm definitely not complaining about.
Once we make it to the building, they finally set me down and lead me inside. Yes! My time to get back at them!
My head tilts downward for a moment while I run a scan of the trajectory between me and one of the tall chairs at the front of the bar. It takes me 1.06 Terran seconds to calculate the perfect path. Then I'm off, tearing away from the two plants at a... Well not very fast, I don't want to overdo it. But fast enough that they don't react in time to me dashing beyond them toward the chairs.
Tucking into a roll about half a foot from the target, my feet collide with the side of the bar table and push off. Sending me backwards and up into the air. Extending down at a decelerating rate, my legs kick out and my gyroscopes kick in. I land on top of the chair in a crouch before just dropping down onto the cushion at the bottom.
Landing successful. 98.76% flawless!
Lillina is only maybe a quarter of a second behind me, rushing over to me and gasping in a few exasperated puffs. Raynor just giggles as he joins us at the table.
"Why would you do that, that was dangerous!" Lillina huffs at me. I shrug.
"No it wasn't, see? I'm fine. My trajectory paths were calculated and precise. I'm perfectly fine, I just wanted to show off." I say with a happy little smirk. She does not like that, but she backs off for a moment.
Raynor butts into the conversation. "It was admittedly very cool. Just be safe with yourself. Okay?" I nod in agreement and he pauses for a minute. "I wonder if you could still pull off tricks like that while all nice and doped up on class-A's."
I just giggle and bat my hands playfully for a minute. "Only if you can catch me!"
The Floret waiter comes by, taking our orders. Raynor cuts me off before I'm able to order and calls a round for the table.
"Something not too strong for the little one here, they have a long day ahead of them tomorrow." He tells the Floret. They bounce away happily with the order.
"Ugh! You and Lils both do that! You order for me, I can order for myself you know!" I say with a huff and a puff. He just shrugs and smirks at me.
"Not for long~" his reply comes smoothly and targeted. The BASTARD!
I just whine at him for a little while again. Pleading with my eyes for him not to make me any more embarrassed. Lillina takes the moment to ruffle my hair with a vine. She's in on it too! This is an attack on two fronts!!!!
There's a happy quietness in our conversation for a little while before the waiter comes back and serves our drinks. Thankfully, I'm allowed to order my own food, at which I just order whatever the house special is.
"You've ordered the same thing every time we've been here, haven't you? The house special? Seems like you like to give up your choices and leave it up to the waiters. Does this extend to anywhere else?" Lillina asks me, reading way too deep into my food ordering process.
"That's not why! I just like to try new things, and I always like whatever they make... So I just get that... It's for the variety!" Geez they really have me on the back foot lately. I feel like a toddler trying to justify their choices with nonsensical answers.
"I have something new you could try~" Raynor calls out to me in a sultry voice from across the table. He's pulling something, I know it.
"Fine, I'll humor you. What is it?" I ask with an eye roll.
"It's a very nice collar with your name on it. My name too actually... You should give it a try some time~"
He's really out here with the taunts today, I need to step up my game and fast if I don't want to look like a total pushover... Not that I completely hated the sound of that.
"You talk a lot Rainy, I should pull you apart and use your vines like floss~!" I taunt back, leaning back in my chair all cool like.
"Oh sweet flower, you know I wouldn't mind invading your mouth~"
AGGHHHHH he's killing me. I'm dead.
In a little outburst, I lightly knock my hands against the table, feeling myself get overly warm and embarrassed.
"Not in public you mean plant!" I whisper shout at him. He just shrugs happily.
Lillina turns to me with a curious look. "But oral health is important, little one." She says with a caring tone.
"Not that kind of oral health, lillina!" Please someone just take me away from here....
She tilts her head at me and winks. "I know, sweetness."
HOW. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH THIS.
I squirm so hard I nearly fall out of my chair. But my gyroscopes kick in and keep me from falling over completely.
The waiter comes back at the perfect time to set all of our food down. I hide my embarrassment behind stuffing my face with what seems to be these little baked meat pies. Of course, there's not any actual meat in it I think. That would be unnecessary suffering on animals, and the Affini are not about that life, so it's probably artificial. Not that I'd ever know the difference. The only things I've eaten outside of foods made by the compact were lifeless nutrient cubes made to barely sustain my biological functions before enough of me was replaced to no longer need that.
As the waiter leaves, they turn to me and say something. "Hope you enjoy your meal, miss.”
It gives me a strange feeling, but I don't have the heart to correct them, so they just wander off.
Lillina looks at me. "Were you okay with being called that?" She asks, concerned. Haha, it's not that big of a deal to get misgendered... She doesn't need to be so caring.
I just shrug "I'm an Android, it doesn't really bother me."
She just smiles and accepts it.
"And soon you'll be a pet." Raynor shoots at me with a look of subtle confidence.
"Really, you're really gonna be on me with this all night huh." Wait. I take that back, that sounds bad-
"I could be on you all night if you wanted me to be~"
"I hate you, damn plant!" I say, then I realize how horrible that sounds. "I don't mean it. I don't hate you... Sorry for saying that, I got a little overheated..."
He just smiles "Water over the Hill. I'm not bothered."
Thank the stars, I really don't want to hurt his feelings.
"Plus, you can always just get me back tomorrow. Or don't, and accept your place as my future floret~"
"Oh it's on! I'll kick your leafy butt, Raynor!" I reply with a punch in my voice. Lillina gasps next to me.
"Such language you have, maybe you do need a mouth cleaning..." Lillina comments quietly but enough that I can hear it.
"Yeah yeah yeah, you two talk a lot of big game. We'll see how this goes tomorrow!" I wave my hands around in a big gesture.
Both Affini laugh. "That we will, little one." Raynor says with a little adjustment to his glasses.
The rest of the night continues without much incident. It's a happy night full of drinking, taunting, teasing, and talks of the books I've been reading. Rainy invites me over in the morning tomorrow to stop by his library and pick up the next installment of battleship. I'm more than excited.
When the night finally wraps up and we all head off to go back to our respective homes, I almost instantly feel a sense of missing something. Geez, it's been like ten minutes and I already miss those two dorky plants. I sure hope I can keep strong with my promise to provide a good fight tomorrow. But the more I think about it, the harder it gets not to just want to lose right off the bat. Well, I'll try my best. But it won't be all that easy.
When morning comes, I throw on a similar outfit to what I had on last night, but instead of a skirt, this time I go with leggings. And I throw on a poggers graphic tee to go with, with my hoodie unzipped to show it off. Lastly, I tie my hair up into another high ponytail and put a black baseball hat on top, sticking my ponytail through the hole at the back.
Honestly, I look great, and I feel pretty awesome about it. But there's one thing I'm missing. War paint. My GPS gives me the nearest location of a makeup store and I wander in.
The floret working the front desk is more than happy to give me a basic run down of general makeup. Though about half way through, I actually remember what the hell I'm doing here and tell them that I'm actually just looking for some brush eyeliner.
They oblige, but suggest I take a few extra things with me too, just for experimenting as they said. I'm not entirely sure what I'd be experimenting with, but I don't mind the extra gifts.
Then I take my final trip over to the library. Lillina and Raynor are both waiting inside.
"Hello and welcome. Oh, hey! You came!" Raynor says with happy surprise in his voice. I notice he's reading some kind of Terran fighting styles book.
"Uh, duh. Of course I came, I fell in love with this library at first sight. I wouldn't miss hanging out here for anything." I say with a happy bounce in my step.
"Oh, and I brought something you two might like!" Exclaiming happily, I reach into my little bag and bring out the eyeliner.
"Oh honey, you know that's not war paint right?" Lils asks me. I roll my eyes again.
"Yeah, I know. But it's good enough! I want you two to paint me! Mmmmnn I don't really know how to use this stuff yet, and definitely not for the look I want to have for our duel... Can I have some help?" The moment I ask, both of them get all close to me. Ueehhh the closeness, it makes me shudder.
"Hmmm... I have an idea, but you'll have to be comfortable with me holding you for a little while." Lils tells me. I accept.
Suddenly, Raynor pulls me into his lap in a little bunch of vines, and Lillina starts to undo the cap off the makeup while I'm helplessly bound there.
Well, not completely helplessly, I could probably drum up enough force then my hydraulics to break the grip and escape. But I respectfully choose not to.
Tilting my head with a vine, and holding my shoulders with a few others, lillina starts to paint cold little lines on my face.
It tickles, I can't help but jitter around a little bit at the touch.
"Quit moving around so much, little one, or I'll have to put you on a class-m...." Lillina says, continuing to paint on me. Then she moves away for a second.
"I don't mean that, of course. Unless you asked me to." She looks in my eyes and tells me. I knew she was joking? She didn't have to specify. But alright. I shrug and she continues for a little while.
A stroke here, a push there.
All in all, it only really takes about five minutes in total.
Once lils is totally finished, she backs away for a moment and looks all over me before happily announcing "Done!"
Raylor releases me from his cuddly grasp and I hop down off of him.
"Anyone got a mirror?"
Raynor takes my hand and leads me towards the back of the library to the bathrooms. All gender neutral. Because in this world, gender doesn't mean squat!
Stepping inside one of these obscenely large bathrooms with... A shocking amount of accommodations, reveals a full length mirror on one wall from floor to ceiling. As well as a button on the side to make it turn opaque or not. That's actually the only reason I realized it was a mirror because otherwise I'd have just thought it was some strangely cloudy glass
Tapping in the button and clearing up the mirror reveals... Some girl?
No! Some Android!
Some.... Me? Oh! I'm the girl!!!! :D!!! Wait no... I'm not a girl, that's just me. Damn.
All over my face are intricate little lines and small circles. I'm done up in a way to make my synthetic skin look like it is made of more metal and bolts. It really highlights my mechanical aspect
And for some reason my eyes. Which are outlined around the edges of my eye lids into these little wings at the ends. Not what I was expecting but it looks great nonetheless. Androids can wear makeup, as long as it's battle paint. And these look great! All my little lines and joined metal come together to give me a really awesome look that goes perfectly with my black outfit!
Happy with the results, I bounce my way out of the bathroom and into the waiting arms of Raynor?!? How sudden!
He sweeps me up off the floor and holds me up at eye level. "Wow, I must say you look quite beautiful in those... War paints of yours."
I beam a great big smile at him and he turns me around in the air to face Lillina. "So, sweet pea, what do you think?" She asks me with a gentle smirk.
"I love it! I look like such a cool badass robot!" Exclaiming excitedly, wanting to pump my fists into the air but I can't because.... Vine cocoon.
Lillina giggles and pets my cheek for a minute with a small vine. I'm suddenly worried that she'll wipe the war paint off but the vine comes away clean. "Mmnnn yes, badass... That's definitely the word..."
I smile. It is!
Eventually, Raynor sets me down and hands me a book from.... Somewhere. What is this... Nemesis? Oh! It's the second book in the battleship series! "Thanks Raynor! I loved the first one, I can't wait to read this one!"
He ruffles my hair for a moment before crouching down to my level. “So.” he starts. “Ready to duel, my little fighter?”
Oh.... Dirt.... Am I?
Oh.... Dirt.... Am I?
Raynor notices my hesitance and cups my cheek again. "Remember, win or lose, nothing bad will happen. Nothing will change. Okay?"
I take a deep breath, ground myself, and nod. Let's do this.
The walk to the park is short. Well, it’s not, it was like 15 minutes, but my perception has been dilated from the nervousness.
Now, here I am, setting down the field projector with Lillina watching and Raynor standing about 30 feet away. My hands are shaking, my teeth are chattering, and my generator is threatening to overload on me just from the sheer stress.
I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothisIcan’tdothisIcan’tdothis I CAN DO THIS. My hand slaps down on the button, initiating the 15 second timer. Oh stars, what am I doing.
I take a few steps back, the countdown begins. My saber is already in place in my hand, and my warp lever is situated in my molars just as usual. I feel naked, missing something. Something to block with. But my shield is not completed yet.
I watch in slow motion as Raynor changes stance, pulling himself together tighter than I've ever seen an affini do. If it weren't apparent from his hair, eyes, and colors, I'd have mistook him for an obscenely tall human at a distance. His left foot is placed in front, while his right is behind him. He's turned slightly, his left shoulder facing me a bit more than his right. His hands raise, and his palms push out.
The timer finishes. 5 vines, large and fast, throw their way through the air like whips made of cabled steel. Half a second later, they're on me, entrapping me and nearly crushing me in place. His eyes from far away convey something to me. Submit.
I want to, but I don't. The shock flows away from me and my head clears. I need to do this. Chattering teeth make their way back together, forcing me through a pinhole just off to the left side. The moment I exit, my blade is on, a pale orange to match his flowers, slicing through the air and taking apart 4 of the 5 vines.
Raynor moves, swiftly pulling back the remaining vine, then sending it forward again. No accompaniment, just the one vine.
I swing, he pulls in a sharp direction, and I miss. Coiling it, he pulls it back and shoots it at me again. I'm barely able to parry with my blade, shaving off a small layer at the tip.
He pulls back, and sends out, over and over and over again, like fencing. I watch his stance change as he slowly circles around me while I bat away his vine in a slow waltz
Every few slashes, I slice a bit more off the vine. He just pulls it in and in until. Oh geez. We're about ten feet apart. He notices that I've noticed, and sends out 3 vines in total now. Each of them with the same level of precision and combat maneuverability as the first. In and out, slashing around me like living blades. I'm barely able to parry and riposte or slash through one of each at a time. He's clearly enjoying himself. Agh! I need to get out of this dancer head space... Dancer.... Music! Each of his moves are in a beat, a strange, one two three four movement set. Send, swing, pull, and coil. I see it, I see the musical notation in his movement. If I can just.... Fit through it... Ah!
A side step on the fourth beat, I swing beside and slash through in a circular motion, catching all four vines at once.
Raynor claps for a minute. Hey, screw you! I'm trying my best here damn.
Then he sends out 10 vines at once. Aw shit.
The beats changed, now it's 4/8 instead of 4/4. Faster, shorter, more precise. I'm dodging and weaving and ducking and rolling more than I ever have before. Vines slash above me and below me, barely scratched by my blade in each pass. I need to change this up.
Don't fit through the music, fit into it. Be the ninth beat. I can do this.
Forcing myself into play, into the musical notation, I try to fit. I try to force it, and I cant. Its impossibly precise, impossibly complex, impossibly loud. And I am but cymbals crashing in the background of his orchestra.
Taking the opportunity, I break his tempo by allowing a vine to crash into me without resistance. He sees it as an opening. So do I. My teeth clamp and suddenly I'm beneath him and spinning on 3 axis. Rotating as hard as I can against my gyroscopes, my eyes lock on to targeted weak spots in his knees.
A quick flick of my wrist, and a clamp of my teeth, I'm out from beneath his legs faster than it takes for his right knee to buckle, no longer connected to the rest of his mass. He falls down to one knee. I have an opening to strike. His head bows, I go to land the final blow and....
Suddenly he bursts, vines go everywhere, nailing themselves into the wall and splaying his mass into a hundred different straws.
Great, now he's just given me plenty of lonely targets. I scan each and every one, 876 vines, each placed randomly against either the floor or the walls for support. His heart is in full display in the center. My final target. 877 objectives. 877 beats of a drum, bursts from a trumpet, and strums on a bass guitar.
I begin. Dancing my way through the wires and vines like they're electric. This is too easy, he's not even resisting. I start to make my way towards the center mass. Something glowing and green. The moment my blade tip passes through where it was, the core pulls away, able to move anywhere within the mass at speeds and trajectories uncalculatable.
Then something else happens. Little orange flower buds lining every single vine, five or six buds to each vine. Thousands. They all open at once. And they all start spinning.
Instantly my processors are overloaded with information. Hundreds, thousands, billions, trillions of targets fill my retinas, blocking everything out in red. My head hurts and I collapse to the ground in digital pain from overload.
My shutters force themselves shut against the onslaught of visual information. Everything is clear. But everything is dark. A quarter second has passed. The core of my chest thrums out in a little pulled string, sending a signal outward and pulsing back to me for every vine hit. I can see, but not very well. Echolocation.
I'm back on my feet in a flash, my second pulse indicates that several of the vines in the walls have started to crash their way towards me like a conductor's baton.
My third pulse locates an open location, just between some vines. Focusing on there and pressing down the lever sends me directly into the small open space. Curl and extend, circular motion, whole note, full spin. I strike down many vines in this one small area, creating a safe haven to fall back on. Then I start to work around the edges. I can tell in my scans that the flowers are still open, but without their intense rotation clogging up my visual memory, I'm able to barely slip past them.
I can sense myself trying to fit back into Raynor's rhythm. Pulse, move, strike, curl, pulse, move.
I keep trying, if I can just.... Fit into it, I can do this so much easier, catch him in the beat that he's not ready for. But every time I try, harder and harder, I'm confined to the off beats, not able to fit in. He's running in 4/8, I'm running in 5/6.
This is the hardest I've ever fought. My generators are completely overloaded, sending way too much energy through my metal bones. It hurts, but only a little, I'm able to vent most of it through sheer force of mechanical movement. Duck, slash, miss, he catches me in the neck and forces me to the ground. Six or seven more vines pin me there. They haven't gotten my mouth. Retreat to the safe haven! I pulse. It's blocked. Everywhere is blocked. Oh stars.... He placed his vines in such a way that I can't fit anywhere without particle collision.
I'm so screwed.
Force wells up inside me as I feel his vines grab tighter and tighter. Something in my head, somewhere unlocks. The hydraulics in my shoulders push harder than they ever have before, straining against the steel beneath my skin. I'm just barely able to squeeze my way through, leaving a trail of cut vines in my wake.
Pushing off the ground in my low position, I force my way into the air and fall to the ground in a twirl. Rotating at hundreds of RPM. I must look like a bright orange christmas tree.
I've made progress. I'm down by half of his vines. But my energy is draining faster. I'm down to a quarter battery. If I could just fit into the music, please! Let me! Let me fit!
A space opens, it's far too easy to catch. It's a trap, but it’s my only option. Bursting out of crushed space in an opening right next to his core, a cocoon of every vine in the area pounces on me at once, completely encircling my body. I feel several jabs all around me and xenodrugs fill my veins.
Finally, Sweet release. Just.... submit to it. Fall in line with the music.
A popup enters my vision: "Foreign Tampering Substance Detected In Blood Supply. Flush Systems? Y/N"
I don't press Y. It presses itself. My body suddenly heats to hundreds of degrees, barely under the boiling point of my synthetic skin. My human blood bursts into pained heat, nearly exploding from my veins, but the xenodrugs are surely flushed from my system in evaporative heat. It’s enough to burn through the cocoon of vines around me.
I'm dropping to the ground, my mind is running in overtime. There’s a chance. I could take the heart from the beast.
I don't want to. I just want to be happy. I can't. I can feel the orchestra of music filling my body and gently asking me to just.... Submit. It's tempting, so utterly tempting. I want to try, I want to fit! Please let me-
If I could read my diagnostics, I would see that somewhere, somehow, I pushed a failsafe. The technological parts of me have taken over for just a moment. One bar passed just above the limits of... something, and my body reacted accordingly.
My blade started at one side of Raynor's core, and ended on the other side.
Just like that, I stole the heart from the beast. Parts of him start to reform around me, I can see his face beneath me. A wooden mask, full of surprise and shock. My feet touch the ground, the counter of fifteen minutes hits zero and the field projector collapses around us. Clean air rushes in.
I stare into his eyes, the weight of what I've just done crashes into me all at once. My eyes fly open, don't let this be true! Don't let this be reality!
"You beat me...." He says quietly. I don't think either of us expected this outcome. I don't think either of us wanted this.
I drop his heart and fall to my knees. Gravity is crushing me, I'm nearly out of batteries. My emotions thrash inside me. I didn't want this. Why did I do this? Please, someone help me. Just put me out of my misery. I wasn’t supposed to win this.
"RAYNOR!!! RAYNORR!!!!!!" I'm screaming at his pulled apart body, he's completely uninjured, but I can't bear the sight of his face on the ground, looking up at me with sadness and shock. I just want to rip my fucking head off.
I fumble my blade, retracting it and bashing in the golden button to close the crushed space like it'd really kill him if I didn't.
He reforms, pulling back together into the plant man he is. Sitting on the ground.
"You beat me." he repeats like it's not true. I wish it wasn't true.
My hands push their way to my eyes, I can't bear the sight.
Gravity wins, I fall backwards onto my back and shudder as my batteries reach the lowest point my functioning body can handle.
There's a pink blur looking down on me from above. Lillina. She says something, I don't hear it, but I respond anyway.
5 words. A struggle to speak.
"I can't do this anymore."
My batteries fail and I pass out.
My batteries fail and I pass out.
(End Of Page Ten)