The tram was dead at this time of night. Two souls shared the trip with me. An elderly man and a middle aged woman. They must've had interesting life stories that lead them to take this tram right now. Heading to New Paella from some corner of this agricultural world.
My sight drifted to the windows. It was almost morning when the stars were beginning to fade. Satellites up in the sky looked like fast moving stars… and fell. One, then another, and another… That's not normal.
It must be the affini. They were finally here and they would, according to the Accord, enslave, slaughter and eat us. According to the Compact they were benevolent ten foot tall shapeshifting plant entities determined to save all the little terrans from themselves. That'd be nice. The second one, not the first. At least, the first wasn't that much more depressing than just existing in this capitalist hellscape.
One of the ships was landing right over New Paella, the second largest urban center on the planet. Right where I was headed with these poor souls. I'd hope for the best, but my hope was rather spent after the last two months.
"Miss?" The elderly man asked.
"Huh?" I looked up and… he was talking to the other woman. The one he'd visually identify as a woman unlike me. My head hung low in shame. No one paid me any heed. They never did. I paradoxically stood out from most people as different, while being unnoticeable.
"What?" Her voice was terse. That sounded like a person who didn't want to talk.
The old man cleared his throat. "Are you one of Mary-Ann's kids?"
"You look so much like her, are you from-" His words were cut off.
"Stop talking to me." Her words insistent that she not be bothered further.
The woman clearly wanted to be left alone and the man seemed to want conversational partnership. I could tell he wanted to just talk because he changed subjects and pressed on. The exchange was rather sad.
I was here the whole time, known and yet no one cared. A silent observer. My grip was still tight around the handle of everything I had left. Jobs were… hard to keep sometimes. And even harder to get. Well, if I got eaten or enslaved I wouldn't have to worry about employment, or where to stay much longer. It'd almost be nicer if the affini were evil. If they were nice they'd just ignore me too and leave me homeless and jobless.
"Fuck…" The woman sounded shocked. Her voice drew my sight back up from my lap. She finally noticed the xenos and so did the man.
The affini ship was massive and shadowed the entire city. There weren't any weapons firing. No deathbeam destroying the place. So much for those generic stock photos of a desolated world. The propaganda we got here was… subpar. People still believed it, but people were dumb.
Our arrival into the city and under the affini ship was rather smooth. The doors opened and the little sound chimed on the automated rail system. "All passengers please disembark." Even after centuries the automated voices were all so dull and lifeless.
The woman scrambled out the second the doors opened, and the old man made his way off soon after. I was still mustering the resolve to get up and see how much worse my life could get at this point.
A sickeningly sweet yet entirely alien voice carried into the train car. It came from outside on the platform. "Hello little one. My name is Diosma Hirsuta, Fifth Bloom She/Her and I'm here to help." Here to help… That was a rather strange thing to hear from one's alien conqueror. If they were evil then they must be hiding it. It didn't matter, she wasn't talking to me.
I lost track of the conversation between the old man and the xeno. He was rather bothered until he found the giantess a rather adept conversational partner. I heard the sound of her escorting him away, leaving me alone.
I let out a breath I didn't know I held. The entire time that happened, I was anxious she'd notice me and peek in the tram… She hadn't. Nobody did. Something about me made everyone, even xenos apparently go: it's weird. We should avoid acknowledging it exists.
Even when I managed to reach out it was… hard. I couldn't carry a conversation, and neither could anyone talking to me. It was like I was a defective little drone. A silent broken doll… probably one of those creepy ones people hate. People definitely hated me… probably.
Well, this defective drone was hungry and needed shelter… With a grunt I stood up. Apparently this world had slightly higher gravity than the terran homeworld. That was definitely why getting up sucked, and not at all just because I was just lazy.
I strode off the train, and… had nowhere to go. No giant fae plant creature with a voice that made me want to do whatever she said was waiting for me. That wasn't for me. Other people got assistance from nice xenos. I got to be alone.
I brought up my phone… My messaging app showed people in all the servers I joined were either raving about joining the resistance or gushing about how nice the new invaders were. Also apparently flirty. The giant plant people seemed to enjoy flirting with terrans. Weird. Maybe if I had been born a normal terran they'd flirt with me too.
I went to my GPS app… and the satellites were gone… right. At least the wifi worked around here. Mhmmm. I stood on the platform unable to think of a proper course of action. I'd love to ask someone. I bet there were people on some of my servers that could help… but that'd require me bothering them, thinking up the words to bother them with… and I can't do that. If I'm interacting with people there needs to be a pre-established subject. Then if I have anything to add, I can talk. Or in this case message. Of course the subject needs to be open to input from anyone. Otherwise, I might be intruding…
Maybe I should join a voice chat. Then I could just talk to people… I joined a group call on one of the smaller servers with very nice people. They were having a discussion about… I came in halfway and had no context. "Uh h-hello?" My voice was left unheard as they continued on about something. There were four people talking which was around three too many to properly focus. Especially if I wanted to talk. I was defective, talking and listening both hogged all the processing power. If I wanted to form a sentence to talk I'd lose track of the conversation, but if I wanted to keep track of the conversation, then I couldn't think up words…
Verbal communication was awful and I left the call without anyone even noticing I existed. I could talk to someone I recently privately messaged… but they were probably dealing with a lot considering the invasion happened… like less than two hours ago. I didn't keep track of the time.
I just stood there. Unable to decide, wishing the universe would just put the knowledge into my head.
"Hello flower!" Said another strange alien voice. "Flower? Are you perhaps hard of hearing?" The affini had a rather masculine voice… I really hope he didn't flirt with me. Not that I was sure what flirting was, but if the first entity to flirt with me wouldn't even be a woman I was going to be upset. The universe probably hates lesbians or maybe just me. It'd be my luck… Then again he wasn't actually talking to me so… Bleh.
Something tapped my shoulder and I practically leapt out of my skin. A small yelp cried out as I turned to face the source of physical contact.
"Flower are you alright?" The affini's wooden face loomed over me. My heart pounded and I froze. My eyes were darting around like a panicked animal. "It's okay little one, you're safe. I'm here to help, and won't let anything bad happen to you okay?" I remained motionless. "Okay?"
I didn't know what to do or say or think. It was talking to me. Uh… words? Words failed me. Both internally and verbally. Verbally was normal, internally was not.
"Flower, are you alright? My classes on terrans didn’t cover how to assist individuals frozen in place." He had classes on helping terrans? Well jokes on him, I only looked like a terran. I was really just a vaguely person shaped broken mess.
My phone was still in hand… I moved my thumb and typed out… [hello?]
The affini was bristled in pine needles like a coat of fur over his humanoid shape. His glowing eyes noticed my phone and inspected it. "Hello to you too, little one. Are you okay?"
[Uh… no?] I mean everything was kinda going wrong for me, and it's not like I was good at lying. Lies were hard and felt bad so I didn't. Well there were some lies that were easy, like lying to an authority figure so they don't punish you. It pained me to do it but… it was better than getting in trouble. I wonder how I got that behavior…
"Well, that's okay because I'm here to help adorable little terrans like you." He eyed me.
I uh, still didn't move.
"What's the matter little one?"
I typed out. [Idk, everything?]
The xeno carefully considered me. The giant towered over me and left me feeling helpless. "That was too broad of a question for you, wasn't it?"
[yes] that was easy to answer. I didn't even have to think too hard on it. It was definitely too broad of a question. It lacked… structure. Clarity? It was hard to say.
"I'll try to keep my questions nice and narrow so you don't have to worry your little head." His hand gave me a gentle rub on my back. I-I didn't hate it or like it… but it was weird in that I didn't receive physical contact ever. "To introduce myself, I'm Abies Fir, Fourth Bloom, He/They. What's your name?"
Uh… I hadn't gotten my name changed yet, but I really didn't want to deadname myself… This was too hard. Legal name or chosen name. A nervous twitch in my other hand started.
"It's okay, pretty little flower, you don't have to answer that if it makes you feel uncomfortable." His hand was still on my back comforting me. "Let me ask a more specific question, do you know your name?" I managed to nod. "Do you have more than one?" I nodded. "Then tell me the one you prefer most."
My fingers hesitated. He wanted me to give him my chosen name. I mean, he did give me his pronouns and his vibes were friendly… [Evie Price, She/Her]
His wooden face was rather adept at expression. "That's a beautiful name, little Evie. A wonderful name for a wonderful young woman. Now, would you happen to have a residence I could escort you to?"
[no] I was homeless. Not broke, at least not yet. I tended to hoard my wealth for rainy days, and uh. The sky was clear, save for the massive alien ship, but it felt rainy financially.
"Well then, today is your lucky day my beautiful Evie. I'll make sure you have a lovely place to stay until you can get your own proper habitation unit." He-He was offering to buy me a room…
[y-you don't have to spend money on m-]
They cut me off. "Petal, you won't need money anymore. Everything you need and want will be provided by the Compact."
[do I get a job?]
A chuckling laugh rippled through the evergreen titan. "Not unless you want one. You don't have to work ever again."
My lip started quivering and my eyes were holding back tears. The more I tried not to, the more it wanted to come out. I fell to my knees sobbing. Choking sobs uttered as the soft fuzzy vines pulled me into a hug and only made me cry harder.
"Shhh, it's okay. Everything's going to be better now. We're here and you're safe now. Capitalism can't hurt you anymore." They were really unfair. How did this xeno speak so fluently? How did he know how much I fucking hated capitalism? His vines and needle fluff were stained with tears and snot.
It took entirely too long to cry it all out. Once the floodgates opened, they poured. Abies kept hugging me and patting me on the back. His reassurances a constant. I was such a weak bitch and these aliens were so very unfair. Genuine attentive kindness was a foreign alien thing and it was tearing my heart to shreds.
The hollow emotionally drained husk finally simmered down from sobbing and the bristly xeno cleaned my face off of all the messiness. He even cleaned off my glasses…
"Now, time to find this lovely young woman a place to stay." He scooped me up in his vine-y arms. I-It was strange. Weird. I-I had never been carried like this and they were so big… I didn't have the emotional capacity to sort out the weirdness. Affini must be really touchy or something.
Abies pulled up a fancy tablet and put in coordinates for something… I couldn't read any of it as it was in an alien language.
As I was carried through the streets. I heard someone yell. "Put the man down xeno scum. Fucking weed." Some person was standing there holding a fire ax staring angrily at Abies and I…
The affini looked at the individual and in a flurry of rapid movement that barely jostled me pounced the man. Abies had him wrapped up in vines with the ax removed from his hands. "Please do not misgender the lady again. Now you can peacefully return to your residence if it is safe or if you continue to struggle I'll have to subdue you."
He continued to struggle against the affini. The struggles were pointless judging by how ineffective they were. "You piece of xeno filt-" A little flower was pressed to his skin… as it pulled away I saw the needle.
Abies bundled the limp man up and carried him along. "I'll have to drop him off real quick and then I'll get you to your new home."
I typed a question into my phone. [what will happen to him?]
"To put your adorable mind at ease. A few of our specialists will determine if he can be properly reintegrated into society, if he can he'll be released back to his life, otherwise he'll be domesticated to make sure he doesn't hurt anyone else." The alien carrying me explained… I wished I had the mental clarity to process: alien carrying me.
[domesticated?] It meant like taming or something… is that a weird way of saying imprisoned or killed? I didn't receive an answer, only a smug smile.
We reached a site where a bunch of affini were hanging around a shuttle and a series of plant pods. The guy was put into one. Abies then informed them of what happened and signed… paperwork? It was all weirdly formal and bureaucratic, but unlike cold lifeless bureaucrats they were all happy and pleasant.
T-The weirdest part was that uh, some of the affini started like petting me! O-One even called me g-good girl…
The evergreen xeno chuckled a bit as my face felt warm. "Does the little Evie like being called… good girl?" My hands covered my face and I curled up into a ball. Several affini laughed or awwed at me. T-This was too much! Too many entities acknowledging my existence at once. The teasing! T-too much.
Gentle vines massaged my back as I remained curled up in the affini's arms. "I think she's getting a little overwhelmed. I promised to find her some housing so I'll be tangled up in that for a while."
"Good luck Abies!" One called out. Luck? Luck with what? Uh… oh right, finding me a place to stay.
I was gently carried away. So gently that I could barely feel the motion as we moved through the city. My embarrassment slowly faded, but I remained curled up. Movement was hard. Words were hard. Existing was hard. Bleh.
It didn't help that they never stopped with the physical contact and reassurance the whole trip. The xeno was weird and too friendly. No one would ever do all this for me. I-It didn't make sense. No one cared. Not my family, not strangers, not coworkers… Maybe the affini really were evil and just amazing at hiding it. Like they were extra cruel and did it by being nice so they could then pull the rug out from under me and make me feel worse… That didn't make sense. Why would a species of intergalactic conquerors invade just to be nice in an effort to undermine my emotional state and make me cry? Stars, I already cried and Abies was trying to help me feel better…
It was all so confusing. My mind was screaming that it was an emotional trap, but the logical bit was saying that didn't make sense because this was the most genuine kindness I've ever received. It was sooo genuine. I wasn't great at people, but I picked up on subtle trustworthy vibes really well. Every affini was bleeding trustworthy vibes… That didn't make any sense?! How could an entire species be excessively nice and trustworthy? That did not compute. They were sapient beings, that meant they had to be flawed and those flaws turned into like conflict and evil and stuff. That's what it was like with terrans. I mean, I guess not every species had to be as messed up as humanity but like, they couldn't be flawless. I just had to find the flaws.
Abies had to shift me and squeeze into a terran building. Inside, he started talking to an affini and a human about all the guests that'd be staying there… Oh stars, from the sound of it the affini really were planning to dismantle capitalism. The manager was raving about profits and the affini were not happy about him wanting to restrict things to paying customers… He started shouting and I cowered, and covered my ears.
My uh, escort covered me up and uh, they made the man stop somehow. I couldn't see it as I was still a curled up ball of Evie nestled in warm soft vines. They probably just drugged him like with the ax guy.
The affini that was already here, Fleura, decided to take over managing the hotel. "And from the logs, you can take that cutie to room… 203. Let the little one know I'll be handling the front desk if she needs anything."
"I will, thank you, but I think I'll be checking in on her frequently. Little Evie here could use more personalized care." He patted me on the head. Kjfahsdlkfjhs h-he, uh personalized care?! What did that even mean? Oh OH NO, was this a sex thing? Oh gosh. Oh stars. I-I wasn't attracted to guys, I didn't even like sex… or the idea of it. Maybe I'd like it if I tried it but definitely not with a guy, and definitely not with someone I just met! Ahhhh.
"Oh?! A few hours in and you're already picking favorites?" The other said. Wait, was this a thing? Did they come here to date us? T-That made even less sense than the whole be extra evil thing! Maybe they like took slaves?! But Abies promised I wouldn't have to work. Wait, he never answered my question about what domestication was… He's so fluent in English he couldn't have misspoken… domesticate means to tame and uh turn into cattle and pets… Oh my stars, the eating thing is real! I was being fattened up to be eaten. They came here to eat us. They wanted to destroy capitalism and eat us… that's like 50% a good thing but also 50% a terrible thing. The pods were like packaging for food!
He must have sensed me freaking out over his inevitable attempt to turn me into plant food. "Shhhh, it's okay little Evie, you're safe. I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you."
I found my phone and typed [please don't eat me].
The evergreen affini laughed and laughed. "You aren't going to get eaten little one, unless of course you're into that~" That took a moment to process.
Once I figured it out I almost shattered my phone typing so fast. [OMS nonononono I am not into vore!]
"Oh and what's vore?"
[lksbdnjgkljbfgsdadjshhdsa] Ahhhhh, no this was awful and I hated it. [stop, please]
He patted my head and I noticed I was being carried by the viney xeno through the hotel halls. "Is that a playful please stop or a serious please stop?"
"Okay little one, I won't mention it again, and I'm so very proud of you for asserting your boundaries." H-He can't just say that! Praising me for asserting boundaries?! What are these xeno's and-and-and how was I supposed to process all of this?! My internal screaming was rather intense.
I was set down right in front of the doorway to a room. A vine tapped my hand while it gently pried my fingers open before the affini slipped the suitcase of all my stuff back into my hand… I hadn't even noticed him take it!
He swiped a keycard and the door opened… Oh stars, this was a nice hotel… I was too busy being a curled up mess to notice this was like one of the nicest hotels around. A brief panic about being unable to afford a minute of time in here rose up, and was subsequently crushed under the knowledge that giant plant aliens were destroying capitalism… Wow, uh… Wow I really shouldn't be turned on by giant friendly plants dismantling the government and economic systems of terran society, but I was. Ugh… bad Evie. No being a weird pervert.
A vine on my back got me slowly walking into the large fancy hotel for like people who made around 50 times what I used to make. So not even like actual wealthy people, just like, really well off folks. Wealth was kinda relative. From my perspective, they might as well have been rich.
The bed was uh… a king sized bed, there was a massive display screen for shows, a desk for like actual business work. The bathroom was enormous… This was too much. I didn't deserve this. I-I shouldn't be here. There were probably people who actually needed a place to stay. Abies should be helping them out, not a defective thing like me. I didn't deserve his kindness. It was selfish to be here when someone else needed it more. This was excess. It was wasted on me.
The affini had followed me in by flowing through the door as a mass of fuzzy vines. His form subsequently blocked any escape from this lavish room. "I wonder what has the beautiful little Evie worried this time. I know the accommodations aren't as good as your hab unit will be, but surely it's not too bad for you."
I typed and deleted and typed again and again. [You should let someone else stay here. I can go to a less fancy hotel]
The evergreen affini had room to stretch and reform in the large room. They barely had enough room to stand up straight. Still his head bent low to read over my message. "Oh, but this one has so many rooms unfilled! There's definitely room for a wonderful woman like you here. You deserve more than this, and certainly more than a less fancy residence." H-He didn't get it!
[I don't deserve this] Typing that out made me emotional again. Those words tugged on some deep pain I buried. Opening old wounds could cause a lot of pain.
He picked me up and set me down on his lap as he seated himself on the bed. "Now petal, I don't know what convinced you that you don't deserve nice things but you do. More so, you having wonderful things won't take away from others. There is more than enough for every adorable little sophont like you. You are going to be a good Evie for me and you'll stay here until we get you a nice new habitation unit. It might take several days to a week or two, but we are going to give every little terran on this world their own affini built home. You'll have more than this tiny lackluster room. Everyone will."
They just spouted crazy stuff with such sincerity. T-The idea that those words could be true… I couldn't believe them. I spent so long wishing they could be true but it was impossible. Giving everyone a large home for free… T-That was a pipe dream people had been having for a thousand years.
But Abies told me I had to stay here. I couldn't just run off. He'd be disappointed in me… I-I-I-I-I-I didn't know what to do! The guilt of being here was causing me actual pain, but I was told to stay! For the second time that morning, I broke down crying.
"Shhh, it's okay. Everything's going to be better now. You deserve to be happy, loved, and cared for. If you can't manage those on your own I know a great many affini who would love to take care of you, myself included." He kept just saying impossible things. Outright lies. I didn't deserve any of that! The xeno said it like it was true but I knew in my heart it was a lie and it hurt. It hurt to hear him say those things when I knew they weren't true. I wished that he was right. That I could believe him, but I couldn't.
Worse, he was suggesting I be a burden on an affini. They were all so nice I couldn't do that to any of them let alone Abies. They all showed me kindness when no one else would and I didn't deserve more of it.
There wasn't an ounce of energy left in my body after that. I'd been up all night barely getting any rest after I was finally forced out of the small place I was staying in. It was the end of a long day and I just couldn't.
On the morning of the invasion, a few hours after the affini had arrived, I cried myself to sleep in the lap of an alien…