"Do I, now? I bet you just like being small." Aether teases me. I pull the best, most serious face I can possibly make.
"No comment." I use my robot voice just to hit it home. She giggles and it's beautiful. A wonderful sound sent from the stars. I couldn't ever get enough of it even if I heard it every second of every day.
"What are you all smiley for?" Aether asks me. I shrug, no point in hiding it I guess.
"I think your laugh is very beautiful, and I realized that even if I heard it on repeat forever, I don't think I'd ever get tired."
She just... Bristles up for a moment, some of her thorns poke out of her mass to say hi. It's so adorable when she's embarrassed. Noticing all the little ways she shows off her emotions without words. Inhuman, unique, different, and yet I understand each and every emotion flowing out of her.
"You're.... You're gay! Shut up. We're going soon." Aether says, flustered as hell.
This actually stumps me for a minute. Am I gay? I don't really know.... I'm an android, I haven't really taken the time to think about it. It's never been a pressing concern. I am gay... Am I? I like Aether... She's a girl. And so is Lillina... I can't deny I'm at least a little bit attracted to her.... Is that okay to think about? Even when my eyes are supposed to be for Aether...? Well, I guess it's not too big of a deal. Aether neither owns me, nor has told me she reciprocates my feelings officially.... At least not officially... And what about Raynor? He's a guy plant, mostly. And I think he's at least a little hot.... Does that make me bi? Pan? This kind of thinking is too hard for an android. I never thought I'd make it this far, let alone have crushes...
"Hey there, what are you thinking about now?" Aether puts a vine on my shoulder, effectively shattering my train of thought.
"Uh... I was thinking about your comment. Am I gay?" I guess that's not exactly a question she can answer either.
"I mean.... Are you?" She asks me again. I genuinely don't know how to answer that. I just shrug and she laughs again. I'm blessed to hear it once more.
"Well, I’m not really sure. I’ve had crushes on boys and girls before… So I don’t really know. But it doesn’t exactly matter I guess. What now?" Squirming around in my chair and looking up at her.
"I guess you can come with me, to put my uh... Sunblock on." She extends a vine down to me, but I don't grab it when I hop down. I don't need help! I'm an independent robot! (For now).
"Lead the way."
Aether has me follow her back into the darker parts of the house, switching on my ultraviolet light mode once more. I just take a second to admire all the flashes of light and dancing rays that come off of her. There's a pattern to it, a rhythm. As with everything the Affini do, there's a rhythm, and hers is the most unique and beautiful one I've ever seen. Maybe I'm just biased.
I realize that at some point I was captured up into vines and thrust into some dark room. Oh no! Aether starts talking to me and it breaks my line of thought. "Hey, you zoned out again. Do you do this often?"
"Uh... I guess? I've been doing it more and more recently, but I don't really know why. Maybe you could..." I give her my best pleading, eyelash-batting, hands-held-together look. "Check it out once I'm yours?"
"You're really on with this, aren't you?" She hands me a black bottle with a spray nozzle from... somewhere I wasn't paying attention to.
"Yes, Aether. Being alone sucks. I hate it, and I like you. So here's my solution." Turning it around in my hands, I have no idea what this is.
"Haven't you thought to consider my feelings in this? Also, that's my 'sunblock.' I can do this myself, but it seems like you want to. So just spray it around me I guess."
"Yes, I do want to do this." Circling around her, I press down the spray nozzle and a thin mist starts blasting out of it. "And... well tell me. What are you feeling?"
Circling around her, making sure I get every last spot, she responds "Well... I don't know. I'm still worried that I'll hurt you again. I like you too, more than you even know. And, because of that, it makes me scared. You're... You're sure you want to fight me?"
Once I finish, and hand the bottle back to her, she's slightly slick on the outside of her vines. I bet she sparkles! I can't wait to see this. "Yes, I'm sure. Who knows, I could even win."
"You won't, Sera. You won't..... I- Should we even do this? What if I hurt you?"
My eyes threaten to roll out of my head with the sheer level of eye roll I'm doing right now. "Really? You're so confident that you can beat me…, but you're so... Unconfident when it comes to everything else. Yes, I'm sure. Fight me you big baby." I step back and give her a flick of my wrist. "I will put up the hardest fight you've ever seen. So you better prepare to try. You're so sure you can even hurt me? Do it then."
Her eyes track their way over to me, they look strange in the ultraviolet, so I turn that off for a moment and switch back to visible light. Immediately I'm stuck in place trying to piece my consciousness back together from the all encompassing event horizon of her gaze. "You'll see, Seraphim. We're done here, let's go. You'll just piss me off if we keep up this conversation."
I'll piss her off? How un-affini of her. "Maybe I wanna do that! It will make you fight harder."
Aether locks her eyes on me again. "Shut up." Her voice is firm and forceful. I momentarily consider telling her no, but she sweeps me off my feet and pulls me into a little cavity in her chest. On my way in, I glance around the room and spot... Aether, but smaller and more fleshy standing next to... Aether but taller and more leafy. How will I ever get used to two of them when one's hard enough to deal with.
I feel her collect herself up and walk out of the hab unit. There's also a patting sound of bipedal walking next to us. Sending out an echo pulse gives me... Nothing, I'm stuck in a cocoon. Sending out an echo pulse at a longer wavelength, one that passes through my immediate surroundings, reveals that mini Aether is walking beside us. I wonder why, but I'm too cozy in here to ask.
After just a few minutes, it seems that Aether has decided to capitalize off the fact that I'm totally bound here, reaching in with a few stray vines and patting my head. She ruffles my hair around for a little while before eventually moving down to wrap around my face and cheeks. It's honestly a strange sensation, being so utterly bound up in someone while they pet you. It's nice though, and it's Aether so I guess I don't mind too much.
A stray vines explores over my lips for a moment and I instinctually bite it. I feel our momentum come to a stop for a second. I bite a little harder. I know what I'm doing now.
Silently, several vines wrap tighter around my face. I can feel the one on my mouth getting slightly slick with poisonous sap. One of the vines taps my cheek and I reluctantly let the one in my mouth go. There's a residual flavor of sweetness and... Aether, left over in my mouth.
Her voice pours into the cocoon as we start moving again. "Cut that out, it's distracting. We're not alone out here." It's quiet but important. Fine I guess... No earth shatteringly delicious sap for me, I suppose.
After a little while, I feel us stop again. Aether is speaking to someone outside. In Affini. I can't exactly understand what they're saying, but I can sort of feel the vibes I guess. I think they're talking about me... Someone's looking for me or something. Well yeah, that holds up.
Then Aether switches to a language I can fully comprehend. "Well, have a good day, and good luck. I'm a little busy here, on my way to the vet, mind if you let us through?"
Another Affini voice chimes in: "of course! Have fun with your little floret!"
What? Are they talking about me?? No, there's no way. I'm safe in here and also not a Floret. What are they talking about? I shift around in the cocoon confusedly.
After about half a minute, I hear Aether's voice quietly surround me once more. "Ugh, I hate acting like that. I have to pretend to be so normal and perfect... Anyways, there are a few people out looking for you. It doesn't sound bad, but they're just concerned for your safety after you vanished."
Well yeah, Affini are always 'concerned for safety.' This would be no different.... Ahhh geez, I really messed up though didn't I.... I'm so screwed. Aether must have noticed my worry. "Hey, Sera, it's gonna be fine. I promise. Nothing bad will happen and I'm right here to protect you if something does. You'll be fine."
Will I be? Will I be fine? I'm the equivalent of an escaped convict. I traumatized several people then just... left them there. I'm horrible and they know it, so that's why they're after me. It may be veiled under the cover of 'what's best for me' but I know what will happen. I will be deemed a danger and forcibly domesticated. There's no other-.
Suddenly I'm pulled out of my safety net and turned towards Aether's dark wooden face. "Hey. Calm down Sera. I promise you're gonna be okay. I promise. We're here by the way."
Surprisingly I didn't even notice we made it back to her workshop. Everything seems just slightly too small for the absolute tower of a plant woman she is, but that's not exactly what's pressing on my mind right now. The door closes behind us.
"That's not true, Aether! I traumatized several people, cut them up into little bits, and then tied them up and left them there! That's being a danger to others, Aether, and there's no way you can say otherwise."
She shifts around for a moment before focusing her eyes back down onto mine. "That's true. You're right. Things are a little bit scary at the moment, but think about it: No one you attacked got genuinely hurt, and you had good reason to do it as well, didn't you?"
Her grip is tight and close. Despite it all, I do feel at least a little bit safe. "Yeah... I had a good reason. I heard them talking about plans to stab a floret in the park. Some kind of terror campaign. But that's not really the biggest reason I attacked them."
She keeps staring into me, dragging out my words by their nails. I continue: "I was overflowing with... Fighting intent. I had played a game with some friends that made me get too excited. I had to take it out on someone. They just happened to be there at the time. If it wasn't them, I don't know who I would have hurt. Possibly the first person I saw...." My voice trails off for a moment. "I'm a monster."
Aether wraps herself around me just a little bit tighter before shaking me around a bit. "That's so dumb. You're dumb for thinking that. It's not your fault you have these urges. It happens. And, really? The first person you saw? I doubt you have that in you, as much as you think you do. Do you normally fantasize about hurting innocent people?" Red and brown eyes pouring into my fucking soul. I can't lie, because I feel like she can already read my mind.
"N-No. Only people who deserve it... And who says I can't? My judgment was clouded and and... I could have determined someone innocent wasn't there!" My voice is strained with emotion. I'm scared. Scared of myself.
"Could you have? Really." A few black petals above her eye rise. I can feel her slight judgment. "I've seen how your fighting spirit burned away at you for every week of every month since I released you and not once did you act out. You're too nice for that. You're stronger than your coding."
The words bounce off me like rubber. "But didn't you see?! The moment I got my first taste of real battle I loved it! I fought my own friends! Dismembered them into little pieces and gloated over their defeat. My own friends... I cut them up and I was even happy about it. I'm disgusted."
"Stop." Aether commands me. Voice firm and full of intent. My mouth stops moving. "They agreed to fight you, they read over each rule in your treaty and accepted it. It was a mutual thing, Sera. Plus, they fought back too, and I know how it feels. Don't you think I haven't been shaking in my metaphorical boots over this moment from the first second you told me to fight you? I'm scared too, Sera. I'm a fighter. I genuinely like feeling and inflicting pain onto others. If you think you're disgusting, then I am too. Beyond my fear of hurting you too much..., I've been excited to fight you too."
Her words slowly drip through me like hot coffee, burning away slowly at my fears. She's just like me, isn't she? I wonder how she stayed so strong throughout the years. Something crawls back into my mind, but my mouth doesn't respond to my commands at the moment.... Commands, right, I can get through this. Sending a quick code for mouth movement and voice modulation, a monotone voice spills out of my mouth. "I want the memories back. The ones of us."
Aether freezes again. Pushing me away from her but only just a little bit. "I don't know about that... I left you alone so many times... I... Are you sure you want those memories?"
"Yes." My drone voice tells her. "I'm sure. I want my life to have less loneliness in my memory. I want to know more."
Aether's eyes get soft for a moment and she moves over to one of the couches to set me down gently on.
"I'll think about it... It doesn't feel right giving you those memories back when they're nothing but abandonment."
"Aether, if we're going to get through this, I want to know as much about you as you know about me." My voice breaks back into my control. "We're the same. If I was in your shoes, I'm sure I would make the same choices. I know you like me and you like having me around. you wouldn't have tried so many times if you didn't. So let me see those memories. My past is so empty and lonely."
She collects herself up for a moment. "I'll think about it. If it's what you really want, I'll decide after our duel."
Reaching over to her, I wrap my arms at the base of her torso. I don't exactly make it all the way around her, but enough to squeeze her with ample grip strength.
"Aether, I have one last question."
"Your feelings are confusing to me. You're afraid to hurt me, but you're ready to fight me. You're convinced you'll be a bad owner, yet you've tried so many times. I don't really understand."
She looks at me, half smiling and half frowning. Which is strange but it makes sense on an Affini. "My feelings are confusing to me too, Sera. I want you. I want you more than anything. From the moment I laid my eyes onto you I knew that I wanted you for myself. Those greedy little eyes that soak up every bit of information around them. That fighting spirit that's so tempting to tame and control. I want to make you mine like it's my one goal in life. Being alone never bothered me. The judgment bothered me. However, when I saw you, my very first thoughts were of just how badly I wanted to fix you and make your mind bend to my will. But every time I've tried, I've failed. This last time I started to think I wouldn't ever try again. It's why I left you with the memory of me. I wanted you to hate me so you could live without me."
She finishes and it becomes my turn to speak. "But I can't, Aether. I can't live without you. Every day has been a struggle for me. Keeping myself in check is so hard while alone. Going outside makes everyone and their pet ask me if I'm okay, or why I'm spaced out. I can't exactly just look at them and say how much I want to slice someone in half. I have friends; I've made friends, but I can't stand being around them any more after I've seen how they look at me, knowing I refused their comfort. I can't be alone, Aether, and I don't want anyone else but you. You understand me; I understand you."
She just looks at me for a while before getting up and 'walking' over to the TV. ‘Walking’ meaning she stepped a grand total of one time before she was entirely across the room. "Fine. I'll have a lot of fun tempering that fire of yours." She flicks on some random channel on mute.
"Yeah yeah. And I'll have fun cutting that ego of yours down. I'm doing what I want here." I get up in a fluster and grab a cluster of her vines. I squeeze them hard, not enough to crush them, but enough to feel them squirm around in my hydraulic grasp. Red eyes look at me with temptation and desire. She likes it when I hurt her back. "No stalling. We both want this. Let's do it now."
"But- I was gonna give us some more time to think about it-" her voice is cut off into a quiet whimper when I squeeze just a little bit harder. Locating more vines, I grab them and grip both hand fulls. My palms start dripping with viscous fluid.
"Now, Aether." My voice is firm and strong like hers when she commands me.
"F-f-fucking fine! Let's do this then!" She stutters on the words, clearly worked up. Stars how good it feels to tease her. She breaks her stare, forcefully grabbing me up and dragging me into her AR room. The lever is flicked on the way in, changing the room from a biotech workstation to a flat arena.
I hear Aether huff and puff as she pulls my backpack out of a compartment in her shoulder. She lightly tosses it over to me. Happily I put everything in its right place.
"Sera. I have one last thing for you." I look up as a strange arm band looking thing lands in my hand.
It's my shield emitter. My eyes fly back up to hers with curiosity and excitement.
"Yes yes, it's exactly what you think it is. You left it here last time..., So I kinda just... Fixed it. I fixed your spatial anchoring issue. It should have no problems now."
I don't wait for her permission before slipping it onto my right arm and pressing the activation button. A shimmering light purple energy shield extends out from my gauntlet. Projected just a bit away from my arm. With an excited smile, I wiggle my arm around in the air. The shield silently moves along with me. "Aether!!!! It works! How'd you do it? I was so stumped on it! Using the ratios of force and magnetism like my field projector worked in emission but not in movement... How did you do it?" My voice is full of both curiosity and pride in Aether's accomplishments. She's an incredible inventor.
"Well that's just the thing Sera, you were using the ratios of something stationary. I tried using the ratios of something else. Your saber."
"But my saber isn't the same kind of emitter! It's like... The reverse of that!" She nods while I try to rationalize. One of the dials catches my eye, turning it, the shield gets substantially larger yet stays exactly weightless.
"That's exactly right. Here, let me show you something." A voice comes out from my side, I turn and see Aether at eye level to me. Beautiful brown hair and a simple smile. It would have startled me when she walked up if it weren't for the fact that I somehow just... Sensed her.
She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a bolt. Why the hell did she have a bolt in her pocket. "Watch this." She tells me, moving the little metal bolt over to the edge of the shield. "See if you can figure it out."
Aether pushes the bolt through one side of the projected shield, passing through one side completely, then she pulls back on it a bit. It jiggles around slightly in the air before she lets go, and when she does, it blasts off and away like a bullet across the room. I'm stunned for a moment while I try to calculate exactly what just happened.
It dawns on me the moment the bolt is thrown back across the room by a vine, landing at my feet. "Ohhhh! I was thinking you were using my saber for its projection! You were using it for its crushed space vacuum! This is a one way crushed space magnetism emitter! One way passes through while the other way pushes! Like a portal facing the wrong direction!!" My voice is happy and full of excitement. Aether takes a half step away from me before lightly jumping on the tips of her feet. "You got it! That's exactly right!!! I'm so proud of you!"
I feel love and pride flood my body from her words. She's proud of me. I make her happy. It's the best feeling in the world. Turning my glance, my eyes cross the room to see tall Aether watching me intently. Mostly motionless but with a few stray vines wiggling around happily.
My smile turns back to the Aether standing next to me. She has a knowing look on her face. "Thinking about how I look over there? Must be odd with how motionless I look, huh?" She asks me and I nod. That's exactly what I was thinking. Wow.
"Well, you see... I can remotely control my body... This one, I mean. But I can also kindly of... Put my consciousness into it as well. Right now, I'm not just controlling around a little bot, I'm actually seeing you and feeling this situation through myself. For all intents and purposes, that'' she points over to her plant self "is the me that's being remote controlled right now. I'm actually here in this body right now."
"Wow... Aether, that's incredible. This is just an ability you have?" My voice is full of burning curiosity. I need to know everything about this. I can't just not know this. I cut her off with an intrusive thought before she responds. "Can you control me like that?"
She giggles in front of me. I can't help but smile. "Somehow I knew you were gonna ask that. No, I can't. I only can with this body because of how much of myself is stored in here. But maybe one day..."
She seems to get a little flushed at the idea, turning a light shade of red before drawing her eyes away from me. "Ummm we have a fight to get to. I'm gonna stand over here so I can watch and.... Record. This is a big moment for us and I wanna keep it on video."
"Okay Aether, but I'm definitely pressing you on that topic later. I'm ready..... Wait! I'm not ready!" I dive over to my backpack and pull out one of my domestication contracts. "You need to sign this!" Remembering I have my warp lever in my mouth, I push it in and loudly appear right back in front of Aether.
"Right... I do, don't I?" I nod at her. "Take it over there." She points at herself across the room. I nod again and jump through space into a spot just in front of her.
Aether's eyes are on me, but for a moment they're a little spaced out. Then they focus again and she reaches with a vine to grab up the contract. She reads it over for a moment or two before looking at me again. "This is really your last chance. You're sure you want me to claim you?"
I nod. "I'm sure I want you to fight me. Claim me? We'll see who wins."
She just sighs happily and uses a tip from one of her roses to write a signature in black ink before handing it back to me. "Here you go.... Little one." Her last two words are full of domineering energy. It feels both exciting and strange to hear her say something so stereotypically Affini in this situation.
"Thanks Aether. Now I have to read out the rules for you." Spinning around and pushing my lever in, space spits me out like chewed food onto the other side of the room next to my backpack. I stuff the paper in there and kick the backpack away from me. Woah, I just got the strongest feeling of Deja Vu.
I move my body into a speaking stance. "Okay!" I shout. "Rules of engagement! One, fighting is allowed as long as no harm comes to either participant. Two! There is no longer a timer, we will fight until one of us loses! Three!! Affini are allowed to bring any number of tools on the list that's been agreed upon, as am I. And if participants intend to bring others, it must be agreed upon beforehand! Final rule! Play dirty! Use any tricks you want, my losing condition will be my surrender, or my forced surrender by collaring and drugging me enough to get me to! Understand!?"
"Understood!" Aether shouts back at me from across the room. I can hear the predator in her voice clawing its way out.
Just before I can speak again, a little message pops up in the corner of my eye. Then a second. One from both Lillina and Raynor. I can only read what's shown to me in a notification description. 'Hey, it's lils, you've been gone for a little while and I'm getting worried. There are some people…' it cuts off at the end. Oh… they're worried about me. Honestly I'm worried about me too, but now it's seriously not the time. This is going to be my greatest fight yet, I can feel it. I'll just let them know I'm okay after the fact.
"Start the countdown!" Normally I'd set a countdown timer on my field projector, but we're not using that today since we're in her AR room. Suddenly, the room gets a little darker, the bright lights dimming as a big red '15' appears in the center of every wall. My stance tightens. It changes to 14.
With a quick look at Aether and back — 13 — I decide my saber color. Twisting —12 — the little color dial, bright white light bathes my body. 11 — There's a quiet hum of a nearly silent explosion in slow motion as my blade —10 — warps the space around it. 9 — Aether's eyes lock onto me with violent intent, I can feel their piercing glare from here. 8, it fills me with energy. 7 — my emotions boil and squirm around inside of me. 6 — my generator kicks into high gear, flooding my body with even more electricity. 5 — something else claws at my chest. It's fear. 4 — the fear turns to anger. I'm angry at myself for rejecting everything happy my life could have been before. 3 — I'm angry at Aether for leaving me so many times instead of just ignoring my safety and claiming me right off the bat. But I know she couldn't. 2 — the rage simmers on for one last moment before becoming a wave of peace. 1. This is it. My final stand. This is where I die. Either I lose my identity in Aether, or I lose my will to live after my greatest victory. Zero. Peace and determination.
The count down disappears off the wall, plunging the room back into dim gray light. Normally, I wait for my opponent to make the first move, this time I don't. Immediately clamping down onto my lever, I charge through space like I own it, crashing out into the world just feet away from Aether, taking her by surprise. For some reason, at this distance it looks like her body is almost shimmering against the dim light. A lone vine extends to block my path. Just one, not many. Too easy.
Ducking beneath it as it flies over where my head once was, I push against my hydraulics and force against several Gs to pop back straight up the moment it passes. I'm not letting this chance get away, the pulleys in my body tighten like they've never tightened before, slamming my white blade against the darkness of her vines. Contact is made, and for one brief moment, I feel a push back. Wait, that's not supposed to happen. There's a loud cracking sound from the point of contact, before a louder pop, sending my arms backwards in a sudden push of force against my blade. Aether's vine slams against the floor with a bang. And for just a moment, silence falls over the two of us. My eyes bounce from the edge of my glowing sword to the place where I attempted to cut. Not even a scratch on it. Gingerly, it lifts itself off of the ground and presents to me again.
Ice fills my coolant tubes as sudden, visceral fear permeates my body. That's not what's supposed to happen.
A rough, deep, but distinctly feminine voice calls out to me. "Sera~" It's full of predatory intent. The dominance nearly dripping from each word. "You didn't think I wouldn't reverse engineer your sword, now did you~?" It's a taunt. One that I have absolutely zero rebuttal for. I'm. So. Utterly. Screwed.
Vines blast toward me from every direction, putting me in a vice grip of insurmountable levels of pressure. My metal bones creak against the force, my armor plating whines as it rubs against itself, and my teeth chatter against the sheer animalistic fear that crushes me just as hard as her grip. My shield is useless if my entire body is captured at once.
I'm shaking, barely fighting back against the hold I'm in. Defeat looms over me with tempting red eyes. "Given up already, little robot? Now that just won't do." I'm paralyzed in place as I watch Aether's vines suddenly start shifting and rubbing against each other in her tightly woven form. Then, a moment later, one taps my forehead. A static shock blasts through me, tensing my body and muscles as a sudden uproar of electricity bounces around within me. A strained noise escapes me while the energy settles down, filling me with vigor and strength. I guess that's where I learned the trick with the door. My energy is refilled, over the maximum, putting me into my best possible efficiency. I won't reject her gift. The fear leaves me and is replaced with deep, manic violent intent. Try two; let's do this. I slam down against the lever in my mouth and squirm through space, shot out like a cannonball on the other side of her. Then I clamp down again, eyes locked on the complete other side of the room. Dropping to the floor at least a hundred feet away. I need a plan. I'm fucked if I can't think of anything. But unluckily for Aether, I'm a bit of a predator myself.
My sensors spill over her body. It's glistening, slick with something I haven't noticed before. But right where I first tried to cut, there's a small dry patch. Understanding and reverie slaps me in the face when I realize just what she's done. Coat herself in something that protects against a slash of my blade. But it seems to only work once before explosively burning off.
My smile is potent and sadistic as the information is locked into my brain. I set a quick command to paint every location I've lovingly touched with my blade with a little red X. She's strong. I may lose this. But not without a fight.
Something pulls on the inside of my head. I.... It's like an extra sense. My attention is suddenly drawn to the floor. I see nothing, what is so pressing- Several vines burst from the ground beneath me, picking me up off the floor before slamming me back down. My body bounces as it makes contact, a flat thud against the cold floor. Then the vines wrap me up, and slam me against the floor a second time. Aether is not gentle with me, not like Lillina and Raynor were. She's here to claim me, so she's not pulling any punches. Up in the air once more, then against the floor, the wind is knocked out of me, and my generator hitches harshly. The feeling of dull pain thuds against my core again and again. And it's so. fucking. exciting. My smile returns with a force, my teeth clamp and space warps, heaving me back into reality a few inches from Aether's mass. She's stuck in the ground at the moment, vines dug into the floor. Perfect. My shoulders set, my arms wind, and I swing with as much force as I possibly can. No longer thinking of my weapon as a sword, but a baseball bat. Contact is made and the most guttural blast of force blows through me, the world momentarily brightens, hurting the lenses in my eyes as I watch Aether eject from the floor and slams
into the wall next to us.
I didn't prepare after my warp, so I just land flat on my stomach on the ground. Meekly, I rise to my feet, my blunt force weapon raised in front of my chest. Aether, now a mess of disjointed vines, collects herself up and makes eye contact with me. Her teeth are bared, glistening with some sort of liquid. She's excited.
So am I.
I can feel the mood shift in the room. Tempo, sounds, music fills my sensors. Signals, lights, information fills my mind. All thoughts of “safety” were just thrown out the window.
Warping again, I land just in reach for another attack, my windup is quick, but hers is quicker. She was ready for it, she saw me in advance. I brace against my shield, it glows a pale violet in the darkness. Black flowered waves slap forcefully against it, causing secondary shockwaves to cascade through my body, I lose my footing against the force. Vines are wrapped around me, spinning me around and bashing me into the wall. I involuntarily scream from the force of the blow but it doesn't hurt that much. My teeth clamp and I'm out of her grip, back facing the floor, face toward the ceiling. My arm swings, contacting another vine and blasting me backwards as the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. I bounce as I land, tucking backwards and landing on my feet, I charge forward, ducking low and tight. Something alerts me to movement overhead. Dodging left, several barbed vines whip past. Changing stance, I turn and see a red X. Determination fills my biomechanical bloodstream. The hardest I've ever swung, a white lamp slices through a dark vine. Severing it in half cleanly and effectively.
Ohhh the bliss... The sheer bliss washing through me. She's not invincible. I have a chance. My attention is alerted to something, a visceral slash against the strings of an electric guitar. Full distortion. My head turns, there are several vines swiping towards me with sadistic intent. I can feel it. For some reason I feel a slight sparkly feeling on my back like I had a phantom limb. But it didn't matter. Shifting my stance in a matter of moments, holding the singing weapon in front of my center, I prepare to hold against the tide. Steady. Hold. Brace, shield and club.
The darkness crashes into me, nearly knocking me off my feet entirely, but my gyroscopes hold me in place, keeping my center of gravity in balance. My grip changes into a slash, bashing against the vines in rapid succession. Thunder rolls out into the room with every strike. Explosions and roaring force.
A bass drum sounds beneath me, but I'm too late to counter it, my legs are tied and I'm suddenly pulled right in front of Aether's face. Her mouth is watering. Cute. She lunges for my neck with the eyes of someone who would not stop until my throat is ripped apart. Hot. My head tilts back just a bit as something beneath my tongue begs to be released. Then it is, a small marble shoots out from a compartment under my tongue, bouncing off my bottom row of teeth before exploding into pure, unfiltered sunlight. The brightest blast of light I've ever seen. It nearly burns me. Stunned, I find myself on the floor, Aether is reeling away, trying to keep herself steady. The opportunity is mine. The beat changes, I take command, death metal roaring out from my soul as I whip and slash through as many red Xs as I can see. There aren't many. Maybe ten in total, but I hit every mark. Each lopped vine is another wave of euphoria straight from my brain to my body. My eyes catch a glistening wreck of parts on the floor. It's the remains of my shield. In the chaos of the flash grenade, I had not even noticed it was taken from me.
I lose my concentration for a moment when something tingles, an uproar from a synth or launchpad. A signal. My head tilts to the left sharply, a thrusting vine slides its way past me, grazing my cheek with a few thorns on its way by. My hand reacts, grabbing the vine in one grip, and repeatedly bashing it with my weapon in the other. The world brightens as the first contact is made. The big red X invites my hand back, another bash, cymbals crash, and the vine is slashed. Teeth clamp, and I'm somewhere else. Safe for a moment. Focus. Keep my lines in check.
My exit point was predicted. Music and signals surge through my body. No escape. I'm pulled backwards with the force of several Gs, shot in and out of Aether like a slingshot. My shoulder crushes against the wall of the AR room, buckling and disjointing. Visceral pleasure washes through me hand in hand with mind breaking pain. I can't move my arm. Several error boxes fill my vision. My shoulder is completely dislocated.
The pain is dull, matched in each note with pleasure. One single note of ache shines brightly through the mess. I'm on my feet, launching myself into the air as writhing darkness slices away at the light beneath me. The pain, the note. It's the aching feeling my cheeks are giving me from the nonstop manic smile plastered on my face.
A random jolt of pain spits onto my shoulder. I gasp a little bit, the vines beneath me retract up into the mass that is Aether. She looks at me worried, calming down for a moment. Her teeth are still barred. Her mouth is still watering.... No, it's my mouth that's watering.
"S- Sera! I- Are you okay? Did I hurt your shoulder?" her voice calls out to me. She's forcing herself to act calm. It's not working, I can hear just how much she enjoys it.
All I can do is hopelessly laugh at her. Me? Hurt? As if. I keep my eyes locked onto hers as the chaos and dissonance of our clashing songs fills everything in the room.
My uninjured arm slowly and carefully makes its way to my dislocated shoulder. I'm laughing and laughing, occasionally I hiccup from the euphoria. There's a loud crunch as I force my shoulder back into place. Aether gasps. My arm twirls around. It hurts, but it feels so good as well. I won't let her think that I'm not strong enough for this. I slice through her music and space, forcing my way into the beat with ecstasy and violent glee. I'm beside her simulated head, her eyes track onto mine as the side of my brightly glowing bat connects to the side of her fake skull. The force of the strike alone is enough to throw her over, a mess of vines and darkness. Lighting, thunder, and discordant death metal thrashes. My leg is caught by a stray vine. The friction of her body toppling over itself in a hundred different locations is enough to build an excruciatingly pleasurable ejection of static electricity from vine to metal body.
My back twists upwards as my pulleys are forced to obey the thrashing energy. Aether's opportunity is not wasted, she wraps me up completely before I'm able to finish venting the electrical charge. Several vines invade my mouth, stopping me from exiting. Conscious thought slams back into my skull. I'm swamped, surrounded by a chorus of pleasure and pain. Rock and roll. My tongue flicks up against the vine holding it as a captive, ejecting another marble, one that doesn't leave my mouth when it explodes. The inside of my mouth erupts into burning bliss as it's charred under the direct heat of the sun. Vines around me contract under the sudden heat and blast of light, enough to reactively pull away from me. It's a chance. My mouth feels like it's full of lit magnesium as it forces itself closed, launching me some random direction to safety.
My feet hit the ground before my thoughts catch up to it, I fall to a knee. My eyes drag up to the beast in front of me, in all her beauty and glory. A god of darkness and manic happiness. Forcing my body to obey the music, I'm back on my feet. A rapid roll on a hi-hat in the ground beneath me shows tens of vines ready to launch. I feel them before they attack. Aether's signal letting me know exactly where she's going to be.
I swing the moment I feel the first vine launches from beneath the ground, batting it into lighting and eighth notes. Another, and another and another follow suit. I duck, weave, and swing at vines that were there just a moment before, hitting nothing but air.
I'm off the ground before I even think of the word 'jump' as I could just feel the music, moving along with it accordingly, a whooshing sweep of vines cut through the air beneath me. Swing, and miss. Vice versa. Twelve seconds pass, twelve measures. Neither of us has landed a single hit.
Speed increases. Two measures per second. Three. Four. My body moves at its peak capacity. Blurring motion as Aether sends enough vines into an attacking frenzy that she ends up moving most of her bio mass here. The music's volume increases. I feel it flowing out of her, but not just that, I feel it flowing out of me.
It feels so utterly pure and clean. She is the conductor and the instruments, I am the distortion drive and the amplifiers.
Speed increasing exponentially. Not even my processors can keep up with it, afterimages are left in the air. Black and white blurring together into erratic movement in every possible direction on every possible axis. My weapon catches against something mid swing, bass guitar jumps into my audio sensors, knocking me around in the air like a weightless pinball. I need to leave. Now.
Every signal and beat tells me that I need to escape, if I stay here, I die. Move. Space crushes violently around me, ejecting me like chewed gum. That's when suddenly time slows to a crawl. Red eyes are locked perfectly onto mine, right where I landed. I am helplessly slow against what I see. One single vine, speeding its way toward me like a javelin. Pointed, calculated, predicted, and perfect. It spears into my mouth at a hundred miles an hour, knocking my body backwards several feet before I'm speared against the wall. Pinned like a taxidermy butterfly.
My eyes widen, fear grips me like ice and fire as darkness envelops me. My body is forced and pushed in every place at once, crushed against Aether's predatory grasp. Flash grenades try their best to free themselves, but the hatch is closed beneath my tongue, pinned in place by so many vines. Slowly, achingly slowly, two glowing red and brown eyes appear before me. There is nothing but swirling hypnotism and the slight glint off bright white fangs.
Reactively, I scream, a shrill shriek that's quickly cut off into a whimper as teeth sink their way several inches into the space where my shoulder meets my neck. There's a blissful pinching feeling as my blood, the few parts of me sustained by red fluid, is drained away. Then there's a flowing sensation as another liquid takes its place.
My body goes limp and numb all over. Warning after warning floods my vision. It’s all useless information now. ‘Toxic and system tampering substances entering the body. Flush system?’ There is no option for yes or no, only just submission. I watch helplessly as compound after compound finds its way into my system. My body tries so hard to figure out the makeup of the many drugs currently swimming around within my barely functioning nervous system. My eyes are dazed and uncaring, bar the small smile upturning the corners of my lips. Relief.
Thoughts are nothing less than an uphill battle. Slowly, I feel Her fangs pull their way out of my flesh, leaving roaring pleasure at every slight movement. A vine gently cups my cheek, beating every possible thought into oblivion. My head is tilted, making close eye contact. I can feel my control slipping away more and more. My consciousness being forcefully broken apart into a hundred different pieces. A signal fills me to my core, every single one of my cells sings its frequency. Blooming satisfaction and submission. Against all the noise in the room, there's a quiet pitter patter of fresh blood as it drips onto the floor from Her wet fangs. Then, She speaks.
“You. Are. Mine.”
(End Of Page Fourteen)
“You. Are. Mine.”
(End Of Page Fourteen)