I can barely contain my excitement. I would tell you that my blood is pumping and my heart is racing, but its not. My generators are working at their peak condition, but my mind is alit with the flame of excitement.
The weight of the backpack shifts across my shoulders. Lillina and I have made it to the park we agreed to duel in. She's been taunting me the whole way. I've giggled at every little taunt she says. "Why don't you just lay your weapons down and beg for me to treat you nicely~?" She says. I giggle like my head is floating in the perfect puffy clouds of the afternoon sky.
I set the backpack down, retrieving my blade and anchoring it to my body. Then I pop the space condensing lever into my mouth, it hitches to the magnets that reside beneath my molars.
"Last time cutie~ You sure you don't wanna be my pet?" She coos at me. I giggle again, my arms pull to my chest in happy little floaty laughs. Finally!!! Finally finally finally!!!! A real fight! One with consequences!!!!!! Yes!!!!!! IM SO EXCITED.
"Your laugh is so beautiful, Jalen. I bet it would be even prettier when I make you my eternally happy little floret~"
My shoulder jolts for a moment, losing its place in my socket before being pulled right back in by my diagnostics tools.
"Hehehehahahah!! Make me, Lily~ Make me~" I coo straight back to her before presenting two copies of the rules of engagement laid out by my Human Domestication Treaty.
"Rules of engagement! One, fighting is allowed as long as no harm comes to either participant. Two! There is a fifteen minute timer. One of us must win within that time or our session will be moved to another time slot we agree on! Three!! Affini are allowed to bring any number of tools on the list thats 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!?" I'm practically shouting with glee, all pretenses of keeping this to be something that i'm not too visibly into have all gone out the window.
I get to fight Lillina! I get to fight her! Hahahaha!!! Images of what it will look like when I win flood my head... Oh the joys! I'll never let her live it down. Then, images of my losing fill my head. Death of my rights to personhood. It may not really be my death in battle, but its close enough to excite me to my core. I'm so ready.
"Ready, future Floret~ I can't deny there's something nice about claiming my victory over you~" Lillina coos at me one final time.
I set the field projector in the middle of the grass of a small field, priming it for a fifteen second count down.
- 14. 13. 12. I've walked to my starting position. 9. 8. 7. I ignite my blade, a blood red glow frames my face. 4. 3. 2. 1.
A dull hum sounds from my field projector. The fifteen minute timer has started, opaque walls close around us in a 450x450 foot box. Ample room to fight in.
The plant bearing the name Lillina Nera, Fourth Bloom (She/Her), "eyes" me down with her tightly woven, mockery of a human, plant face before collapsing into a mess of green spaghetti, throwing just over twenty vines at me in less than a second.
Any normal sophont would be absolutely fucking destroyed without a reasonable doubt in this situation, it's a damn good thing I'm not any normal sophont. I can't possibly hide my immediate satisfaction at the feeling of the adrenaline pushing it's way through my nervous system from my half a brain to my pulsing energy heart. Fighting begins.
There is now a bullet hell of green bearing down on me with all the speed and precision of an intergalactic freight train.
I parry, deflect, and riposte maybe five vines in total, lopping them off harmlessly until they're nothing more but squirming green and red worms on the ground.
One final flick of my war trained hands lops off another final vine before I'm completely swamped. Six vines strike me at once, not slowing down for even a second. My body is thrown back with force, blasting me through the air maybe fifty feet backwards before I tumble onto the ground. Vines immediately cushion my fall and close in all around me like a hundred boa constrictors. A red sight catches my eye. A collar is being thrust my way, along with a few needle tipped flowers. I indulge for just a moment the idea of just letting her do it. Letting her take me and claim me as hers. But I only just fantasize.
My teeth clamp down forcefully onto the lever in my mouth, vibrating my atoms out of their positions and crushing me through a pinhole in space fast enough to not even derail my train of thought. I flashbang out of space about sixteen feet forward and to my left, now on the side of Lillina. I'm in a blind spot. Perfect.
What I don't see is a pretty pink flower on the side of her "body" aiming directly at me when it bursts a cloud of heavy pink gas in my face. Xenodrugs. I force my body to duck and sweep a deep swing through her side, taking off a good chuck of her knitted vines.
Then, I clamp again, sending me off in another direction entirely. I'm ten feet off the ground and eye level with lillina. There are already a few pink tinted snakes flying their way at me when I pull my knees in together to start a roll in the air. Extending my legs out again a half second later to swing like a pinwheel in the air, bicycle slicing through another great many neck-breakingly fast set of vines.
My final move. My eyes lock on the space directly above and behind lillina. She's not doing good now, only has enough vines left to keep her in a congealed mass of directional attacks.
Teeth pressing together, I'm shot out of space with a bang up and behind her. I land on the ground and twirl like a ballerina, spinning through the rest of her form like I've just stuffed spinach in a garbage disposal.
My spin ends with an accented flick of my wrist at an upward angle, severing off the top of her like a decapitation.
The parts of her that makes her voice gives me a long droning "Blehhh" sound before she admits defeat.
"Ah... You got me. Dirt, I was really looking forward to pampering you as my pet. I accept defeat." My pride boils over and fills my body with the absolute peak of ecstasy. Finally fulfilling the one thing my body was made for. To fight. A broken down, jittery mess of a robot against the insurmountable strength of an Affini. And somehow. I won.
It's a struggle to stay on my feet as I giggle and jolt my way to the field projector, shutting it down.
"Care to hmm... Put me back together?" Lillina asks. I oblige, pressing in the little button on the side of the hilt that draws the puzzle of bits and pieces of Lillina back together. It's quite the spectacle to watch to be honest.
Though it's terribly hard to focus given the fact that I just narrowly escaped the death of my personhood at the hands of my best Affini friend.
It is, genuinely, the closest I've ever come to death in my recent memory. The fact of that is still clattering around in my head. I escaped the consequences and I am free.
Lillina picks herself back up and knits together into a bipedal humanoid.
I'm laughing so hard my body is running out of oxygen reserves. I can't tell if I'm being rude, or if I am that lillina even minds. I don't think she does. I care more about my pride in combat than she ever could.
That's about the moment when I do actually run out of oxygen. My human brain shutting down for a moment while my servos lock up in order to keep me upright. Sadly I was already half way to falling over when that happened so I guess I'm on the rest of the way there now.
Happy to help vines encircle my body up in a blanket and pull me in to her. I don't resist.
Actually I feel happier with her contact more than ever, because now I know. Legally. She can't do anything to me that would break the terms in which her defeat is set. So I let her do her thing and take care of me for a minute. She'll let me down when I ask.
My higher functioning returns to me while I'm happily in a safe little pod of warm hugging.
"Is this okay?" She asks me. She doesn't normally ask me that.
"Lilly...." I sigh happily. "Please, hold me and carry me home." My smile more than shows the calm peace in my heart.
I've never felt this at peace. I did something right for myself for once. I satiated my desire for combat. And now I just want to rest.
Lillina is happy to carry me home while I drift to sleep in the safety of her arms.
Awareness filters back to me slowly. My arms are constricted. But oddly, I feel at peace. Just a little bit. I don't feel as excruciatingly good as I did yesterday, but there's a happy little simmer in my soul.
I tease the idea of just falling asleep again before I realize where I'm at. I'm covered head to toe in vines. I can tell exactly who's as well. Lillina's. Her strange rhymic pattern gently rocks against me, same as it always has.
A few nudges of my arms later, she releases me. Letting me crawl out of her netting like a newborn uh... Android, I guess.
I "blink" my "eyes" a few times before focusing on the Affini holding me.
She looks concerned. Or... Something.
"Jalen, are you okay? I was helping you get to sleep when you started thrashing around... Are... Are you safe?" She asks me. She sounds oddly human, I can't detect an ounce of demeaning tone in her simulated voice.
"I- yes. I'm okay. I just get nightmares sometimes. My logs replay events that... Wait, I've never told you. Do you know that I'm actually part mechanical?" I ask her. I'm feeling strangely small and vulnerable, but like I can trust her enough to keep talking. She can't use anything against me anyway, I did beat her.
"I know, Jalen. It's quite hard not to tell with how differently you weigh from other sophonts I've carried."
Sure okay I guess that makes sense. I thought I was keeping it as a better secret though.
"You look disappointed. Am I not supposed to know?" She asks me. She is so calm and patient. Sometimes I doubt my decision making, but the claws of battle are always going to be a part of me.
"It's well... I don't mind if it's you. But sometimes I just hope I appear more normal than I actually do. I want to be normal, but at the same time... I don't even see myself as human. There's not enough of me that is."
I tell her. I've been feeling like this for a long time. It's a disconnect in my thoughts that is always playing on my mind. I'm not human. I don't feel human, I've never felt human and it doesn't bother me. Humans are strange and fragile. I am strong and calculated. I'm designed to be this way.
"But sometimes... I just want people to look at me and see me as normal. Someone who can fit in and be okay..." If I were human, I think I would cry. The Affini are known for inspiring tears in the eyes of Terrans.
"I understand" she tells me. It feels good to hear it. "We can always take you to a vet, get you some class G's to make you appear more human. Or less human. Anything you want to help mend the rift in your mind."
I shake my head at this. Editing my body internally is far beyond my capabilities. I can make surface level changes but something like class G's are... I can't. It's forbidden from me.
"Okay. Well, if you ever change your mind. Please let me know." She pauses for a while. I can feel her rhythm. Affini have strange but calming rhythms.
"Are you sure you are okay with me taking care of you for a while today? I can always let you go. I..." She seems sad. "I understand I lost to you yesterday, and that guarantees your freedom from me."
I feel a strange tightness in my chest. Lillina has been around me for years at this point, and now, with the real guarantee that I'll never be hers, I'm not sure our friendship will ever feel the same. But I guess I am okay with that.
"Don't leave me, lillina. Your comfort is appreciated, and it's more than I've ever gotten since the moment I was labeled as an independent. Thank you. Although, yes, you did lose... I've never felt so safe in touch. I feel that the guarantee of my status makes me feel more comfortable with you."
I feel guilty and shameful at this admittance. I should've always felt safe around her. I know she can't and won't hurt me.
Lillina is lost in thought for a moment while she ponders the statement I have just made. Then she pulls me closer to her, my cheek rests on her soft chest.
"It's okay, Jalen. Although I definitely can't deny my disappointment in not being able to make such a cutie like you mine. I'll still keep you as mine in friendship, and I'm more than happy to provide that." I squeeze her as tightly as I can. Those are words I'm just so happy to hear. She understands me, and she understands how I'm feeling.
I have one last thing to say to her. My body leans back in the cradle of her vines.
"Lillina, you are my best friend. I would understand if you got a Floret. I know they require time and dedication. But... Unless you do, I would like to indulge in selfishness and ask you to... Never leave me... Please, don't leave me. You are too wonderful." The cameras in my eyes keep shuttering. My lenses go in and out of focus slowly. It's a little hard to think under the weight of calm and selfishness. I've never felt this calm in my life, my biological, technological need to fight has been satisfied. And now I feel shamefully selfish.
"I promise not to leave you, little flower. I promise." Her words melt through my wounds. She is so kind to me.
A long silence passes over us before she bundles me up and brings me before her eyes. They're pretty and pink. "Now, would you like to go to a bar or something to celebrate your first victory?"
My head shakes yes.
(End Of Page Four)