I kept poking the thing. Gah! The vile alien crossed the line. I could put up with being in a comfy prison, eating amazing food, and cuddling with a cute catgirl. Plus, I accepted that I had a big orange flower growing from my chest… Okay, I still hated that and wanted to rip it out but that wasn't the point. They crossed the line this time!
My finger poked the weird bit of planty scaly material at the base of my spine and I shivered. They were corrupting my flesh! They embedded the thing in my flesh right above my butt. As if I didn't have enough back and spine troubles already. I gave it another poke, but that one was for the texture of it. It had good texture.
Mistress told me not to escape and I listened the best I could. Like, I'd be hanging out with her soon and I'd be safe from the affini. Unfortunately, I still wanted to make the run for it because things like this might keep happening. I didn't want to like, get turned into some sort of half-plant slave zombie!
Bleh. At least the back pain vanished. New space drugs suppressed basically all my aches and pains. More pains than I knew I even had! Turns out my body was crap. Flesh was weak… Stars, that's why I was getting plants stuck in me. The Compact thought I was too weak to be a good slave!
The prison door opened. Anya and the red leafed plant walked in. "Hi Viv! We brought you something cool as like a going away present!" S-She got me a present? I was finally leaving?!?! "Mxtress show her the thing!"
I peered out of my prison cell and saw Anya elbowing the affini in the thigh as she bounced. Held in the affini's hands was a weird tangle of vines… Aaaaaa! That better not be another plant they were sticking in me. I'd riot!
"Hold your salmon, kitten." They patted my friend on the head and I watched her do the headpat squirm. The affini's gaze then turned to me. "Little Vivian, how would you like to go out and see the ship and a friend of mine before you leave tomorrow?"
T-Tomorrow? I uh, the affini was handing me the perfect escape opportunity, but I was going to be sent to Mistress tomorrow… Also meeting another evil vile affini? I looked down at my fox plushie. "What do?"
I watched the plushie intently and gleaned the answer. Listen to Mistress. She said I'd be safe from the affini and no escaping… but also make sure to make the alien jerks regret the day they captured me. Also, I'm definitely tra- I patted it on the head to silence the fox thoughts. It was right. I hadn't rebelled properly yet!
My eyes rose to meet the weird rippling affini eyes of the red cloak. "Sounds good… I mean sounds great!"
They smiled at me. "Will you promise to behave?"
"Yup!" What an easy lie! Normally lying was really hard, but it was really simple with one word answers. Then the affini proceeded to do that really evil mean thing and grab me out of the carrier with their vines. "Kaaaa! Stop doing that!" I squirmed in their grip to escape. The shivers of pleasure from rubbing against their vines was not intended. Evil space drugs.
"Flower, I'm not letting you climb out of your carrier. You could hurt yourself. Besides, I need to put this on you." They then wrapped the weird plant device around my limbs! My flailing's failed to stop the creature from continuing. Even after so much exercise I was still too weak to overpower their vines.
The affini set me down on the ground on all fours. Vines wrapped around me, but not their vines. The plant-tech thing was supporting me. The evil dork placed the fox plushie on top of my head.
I moved and the vines moved with me but… Wait, it felt easier to move. It was like the vines were helping me. I plucked the plush off my head and craned my neck up towards the giant. "Is this what I think it is?"
"A little something to help you move around easier without tuckering yourself out or hurting yourself?" They received a nod. "Yes it is. After all, you've been such a well behaved little fox, I thought you'd enjoy getting to see the ship and how all of us vile affini live."
I heard the sarcasm. Typical. Bad guys rarely knew they were evil. They'd think they were fighting the good fight while the ruling class manipulated them with lies and propaganda, dehumanizing their enemies until most were willing to kill all of them without caring… To think the affini was that indoctrinated. Like of course eating and enslaving sophonts was evil!
A little huff came from my mouth. "So does this mean I can finally stand up?"
They smiled down upon me. "Yes, you may stand up while wearing that." The evil dork then extended a hand down in an overly dramatic gesture to help me up. The overly dramatic plant could have just set me down on two feet…
I took the offered hand and stood up on my own for the first time in nine months… well first time without support from an affini holding me. I guess I still had this weird plant exosuit like thing. Also the butt seed thing… "Can you tell me what the stars this is?" I pointed at the seed.
"Viv, I think those are called pants." A giggling cat made me realize I was pointing to my bottom and my colorful pajamas covered it up.
"Aaaaaa, no! I meant the weird plant thing they shoved in there."
Anya fell over and rolled on the floor laughing her ass off. Her laughing at me felt… awful. There was a legitimate terrible thing happening to me and she just laughed at me… I hugged the plushie close but it didn't help that much.
"Kitten, you're making little Vivian upset." The affini said, looking down at my friend.
She stopped laughing immediately and got up. "Sorry Viv, it just sounded like-" She visibly flinched as I noticed the affini loomed over her. Anya’s tone changed and she scrambled to say new words. "A sex thing. Anyway I'm sorry. Hugs?"
I gave a light nod and got hugged tight by my friend. She rubbed my back and the feelings of rejection died down.
The giant plant wearing a red leafy cloak said, "I take it you meant the implant right here." They tapped me on the weird spot.
I jolted from the tap and turned on them. "Y-Yeah, and don't touch it!" Evil vile mean plant shoving weird alien control devices into me. Mistress would never do something like that. I couldn't wait for her to save me from all of this.
Anya chimed in. "Viv, that's a tail slot." She saw the confusion spread across my face. "Here, you can look at mine. The tail merged in but you can still sort of see the planty bits at the base." Sure enough she stopped hugging me and pulled up her skirt…
My face burned like sublight engines. I turned away from looking at my friend's underwear. I-I wasn't a perv! Gah! Anya flashed me her but and-and my heart got all fluttery under the flower implant. Last thing I wanted was to come off as a creep.
Her tail swatted me. "Viv, look." My eyes continued to stare at an interesting spot in the mural on the wall. "You're allowed to look." She said that but- "Viv, I want you to look. Please?"
I glanced over and saw her doing an entirely too adorable pleading cat girl look… I caved. "Fine…" I did my best to not let my eyes drift down as I stared at the base of her tail… she had planty scaly bits too. Without thinking I went to poke it and-
"Nya!" She jumped away from my touch. "Girl warn me before you poke there!"
"S-Sorry." I shouldn't have done that. Why did I do that? I just ruined my friendship with her and she hates me and-
And an affini hand ruffled my hair that had grown out a lot since I first got imprisoned. The delight of having my hair played with short circuited my thoughts… before I scrambled away! The evil dork smiled. "Flower, don't look so upset. You did nothing wrong." Liar. Evil lying affini.
"Yeah!" Chirped Anya. "You're allowed to touch I just, uh got spooked. Anyway, tails! I got one, and you're getting one!"
"I'm getting a tail?!" Stars, a tail…
The affini chimed in. "Your Mistress requested it." They were saying she wanted me to have one.
A tail was awesome sounding and Mistress was amazing and yeah, it definitely made sense that she'd want me to have a cool tail. I thought the affini were doing weird stuff to my body without asking, but it was just Mistress helping out! I couldn't wait to meet her in person and thank her and hug her and cuddle with her… "Eeeee!"
Ever since that call I couldn't stop thinking about her. About Hedera Helix, 19th Bloom. I think I had a crush on her, but not like a normal crush like I had on Anya but like a million times more intense. How could I not, when she was beautiful, and kind, and smart, and pretty, and was saving me from being a slave to the Compact! The way she said Vivian, made me want to listen to her say it over and over and over forever.
Stars, she was even giving me a tail. I hoped it was a fox tail. I loved foxes. I should tell Mistress how much I loved foxes!
"Viv you're adorable." Anya's words made me realize I had been bouncing excitedly about Mistress and tails. The realization ended said bouncing. With all the painkillers and the exosuit I hadn't even noticed.
The affini then lightly clapped their hands drawing our attention. "Since we're going out, it's time to get you dressed up!" Right, the going out thing. I guess I did agree to that.
Anya playfully poked me in the side. "Come on Viv, you haven't even seen how big affini ships are!"
"They can't be that big." I said as I clung to my plushie. "Can they?" I didn't get a chance to see the ship when we were attacked… I didn't really remember much. Lots of shouting happened, there was pink gas or something. Still they couldn't be that big.
My Jailer replied, "They can." The smugness just oozed out of their mouth like the blood of their victims. Big hands gently pushed me in the direction of the door. "Come on, flowers. There's a lot to see and little time to see it all!"
I got led out of the room. The first time I'd been out this door. We entered another space with a bunch of cubbyhole containers. One of which was labeled 'Vivian Helix, First Floret'. The affini started looking through it. I saw a hint of colorful cloth.
My comfy colorful prison pajamas were still on me… I glanced downward. Wait, these were different from the first set. "H-Have you been dressing me?!?!?!"
"I have. Is there something wrong with that outfit?" They didn't even look back as they kept looking for things.
Anya chimed in. "There is! She's not wearing a dress!" Th-That wasn't it at all! Why would she suggest a dress for me?!
"B-but I'm not a… I can't wear a dress!" My face felt a bit warm at the thought. Me? In a dress? I dismissed the fox's comments before I heard them.
"But cute girls should get to wear dresses." The cat had moved right next to me and wrapped her arms around me in a hug. "And you're cute. Trust me, dresses are fun!"
"Mmm not cute." I mumbled into the soft fox plushie.
The affini seemingly found what it was looking for. "Vivian is very right." Wow, we finally agreed and it insulted me. Evil plant. "She's not cute, she's adorable." Wait, what?! "And I have a dress here along with some sandals so you don't hurt your feet. Not every floor is as soft as these."
"I don't want to wear a dress." Okay, there was a piece of me that really really wanted to try on pretty dresses, but only if I got to be a pretty girl in the dress… The fox in my arms could shut up. Gender expression was different than gender identity! I could like wearing dresses and not be a girl. But since I wasn't one I didn't want to wear them.
"Awww, I'll give you a kiss on the cheek if you wear it!" Anya was bribing me…
I shook my head. "Nope." A cheek kiss would be uh, good, but not proportional to wearing a dress while walking around a spaceship full of evil plants.
"I'll sleep with you tonight in your carrier and cuddle you to sleep?" She kept tempting me! Aaaaaa! How was I supposed to ignore obvious manipulations when I was being bribed? "And I'll also do the cheek kiss."
I groaned loudly in protest. "Fine, I'll wear the dress…"
The cat leaned in and gave me a peck on the cheek. "Jokes on you. I'd have done both of those for free."
A jumbled mess of vaguely human and vaguely fox noises escaped past my lips. I had been scammed! Clearly, this was all my jailer’s fault. They probably threatened Anya to convince me to do whatever they wanted.
Vines coiled around me. The vile affini held up a colorful dress and flashed me a sinister smirk. "Time to get dressed, little one."
An intoxicatingly floral scent wafted through the air of this massive ship. The entire living quarters was built on the rotating exterior of the ship with a central massive column wider than the Astral Tempest was long. Support pillars came off the living areas towards the central bit where it'd likely be microgravity rather than the low spin gravity of the rest.
My mind recoiled from imagining how outclassed we were to face this monstrosity. Completely threw out the comment that this wasn't even a large affini ship. Utter lies. It all had to be. And if it wasn't… Nope, not thinking about that.
Instead, my mind went back to being embarrassed about the dress… I agreed to the dress, but not the training bra. I didn't even have boobs! Sure, I gained a bit of weight from all the pizza, and chicken tenders, and salads, and pasta, and fries, but that wasn't the same! Maybe I needed to cut back on the junk food, it almost looked like I had small boobs. Almost.
I felt a light tug. Right that. The evil plant decided to attach a vine to the support brace suit thing… like a leash. Another vine went up to Anya's collar and looped around that too. Stars, I was glad I didn't have a collar… Instead, I had a seed embedded in my tailbone, a big flower in my chest, and my body was wrapped in vines so I didn't hurt my frail self walking around. Maybe a collar would have been better…
The cat girl acted like this was totally normal. As if she got put on a leash all the time, like a pet. My face burned with the heat of a thousand embarrassed suns. Gah!!! She called them walkies! Anya was so excited and it didn't make any sense. Like who'd even want to be put on a leash and be led around by a big beautiful gay plant…
My thoughts flickered to Mistress for a moment. A moment.
Aaaaaa! Nope! No more pet thoughts. No kinky pet thoughts. Nononono. I wiggled to escape the embarrassing thoughts. The aliens needed to be stopped before my head broke from all the weirdness.
My harness got tugged again… It wasn't even a harness! The vine thing was some sort of exosuit, and yet it still ended up feeling like a harness from all the tugging.
"Come on flower, you won't have to be out and about long." The evil dork said. They were trying to drag me out into public, but I was still worried. Too many plants were around. Stars, I saw other terrans! I felt a pit in my stomach at the thought of them seeing me in a dress and leashed.
I clung to the fox as my lifeline against the anxiety of being around… others. Sure, the affini doped me up on space drugs to where I couldn't feel the familiar chest tightness, the rigid forced movement of my limbs, and erratic breathing of anxiety, but the mental bits were still there. The thought of being seen. Of being judged. Of being viciously torn apart by blood thirsty giant plant monsters…
"I-I can't do this!" I was on too many space drugs to shake like a leaf, but I was doing so in spirit. It'd been like a year since I had been in a space this open, surrounded by so many sophonts. Worse, there were all these sights and sounds, like the rustling of a breeze, sophonts talking in the distance, and the way too bright light imitating that of a sun. Things were moving, the world curved unnaturally up. I was processing a million details and it was too much. I couldn't think with all the sensory noise!
I backed up towards the prison. "C-Can we just go back? Please?"
Anya pulled me into a side hug, while I attempted to focus on the fox. "Viv, what's wrong?"
"T-There's too much new stuff. Too many sounds. I'm stuck in a dress. There are affini everywhere…J-Just, can we forget about the agreement?"
The affini placed a hand on my head and I forgot to not lean into it for a second. "Flower. I will personally fight any affini that would attempt to hurt you. Hedera also told me to remind you that you aren't in any danger."
Stars, she-she did say that… "A-alright but there's still a lot going on."
"Little one, it’s a ten minute walk to my friend's habitation unit. Then we'll be inside and you won't have to worry about the noise." They were waiting on me, but still held the other end of the vines limiting where Anya and I could run off too.
My friend pried one of my hands from my plush and threaded her fingers through mine. I became hyper aware that we were holding hands. My lip quivered as my face immolated from-from that.
"Come on, it'll be fun!" She started walking off at the precisely same moment the affini did. With how slow her movements were, the timing was ridiculously on point. Of course, I didn't have time to ponder that as I was pulled along by the two of them.
The short trip took an eternity. An affini eyed me like they wanted to devour me. There were lots of little noises and voices from the many sophonts around the ship. That wasn't even the worst part. I thought I heard one call out my name once but I definitely imagined it. Hearing the voices of my dead crewmates was probably a sign of like ptsd or something.
Anyway, we arrived at a hab unit. A hab unit brightly decorated and surrounded by flowerbeds. The affini tied to my exosuit walked past the biotech defenses of the flowerbeds and knocked on the door. Anya dragged me by the hand along with. I stood in suspense waiting for needles or lasers or something to come from the flowers. I knew the affini had flower needle weapons.
A giant plush woman of grass covered vines opened the door. "Coleus, good to see you, and you too little kitten." She pet Anya causing her to purr. I cowered behind her, unable to run or escape because of the leash. "You must be Vivian. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Briza Maxima, First bloom she/they." I didn't respond because, well, it'd be awkward to say my actual name in front of everyone present. Especially since they all knew me as Vivian she/her.
"Good to see you too, Briza." the evil dork replied, or Coleus replied? Was that their name? "May we come in? Vivian got a little overstimulated on the way over."
"Oh! Where are my manners? Come in, Come in." Briza ushered us inside and I had my eyes on her in case she tried something.
The entire place was… oddly domestic. This did not look like the home of an evil alien. Xeno-cottagecore came to mind. Wood, and warm earthy tones everywhere. Lots of flowers. Herbs were hung to dry. Vials of weird space drugs were in the cabinets. Could affini be witches? I was getting big witch vibes.
We entered the living room and I saw the universe's biggest couch. The thing was bigger than my old apartment. Then again I lived in a micro home because that's all I could afford. It was cozy if cramped. "Grrrr" Coleus picked me up again and placed me on the couch.
"Flower, we've been over this. No climbing until you've recovered."
I still pouted and scampered behind Anya to hide from both of the affini. Only I heard an amused laugh from the witch.
"You weren't joking, Col she's adorable. Maybe I should redirect her shipment to my own home." That vile evil plant! It wanted to stop me from meeting Mistress! I-I-I- "Little one, I'm joking. You'll be on your cubeship soon enough."
Coleus chimed in. "She's right, flower. The paperwork has already been filed, you're heading out tomorrow to see Hedera. Nothing can change that."
I hugged my fox close. Considering all the words. The dread was slow to fade. They wanted to take me from Mistress. They were on to her helping me escape. They-
A hand patted me on the back. "It's okay Viv. Also, you get to ride in a cubeship! They are soo cool!"
Right a cubeship… "What's a cubeship?"
The witch lit up. "I'm glad you asked, little one! I work for the ship's local mail node. So our package cubes are purpose-grown micro-spacecraft that merge to form larger spacecraft. Those then fly to the system's Postcard where they get packaged into a cubeship to make the jump between systems." She then started getting into the nitty gritty of how the system organizes the cubes and determines which one goes on what cubeship. "Oh! I'm sorry. I just get very passionate about my work. I hope you didn't mind."
I shook my head. She just… infodumped onto me? Half of me was like 'Stars, I love infodumps!', and the other half was like 'I just got fed valuable information on the affini supply lines!'. Clearly, I needed to hear more about this system of cubes. For the intel. This was the kind of stuff the resistance needed to know.
"Oh uh, can you like, explain more?" I did my best polite voice. The politeness would hide my true scheme of info gathering for the rebellion. Aaaaa! I was going to save the galaxy with infodumping! Or uh, listening to infodumping!
"Absolutely!" She beamed at me before diving in further. There were kits for growing your own cubes, and they could even be decorated! Once Briza started talking numbers and scale my mind sort of broke. The average cubeship could fit an entire coreworld defense fleet in it. They had tons of these things! Apparently they had supermassive ones that went between galaxies?!?! The more and more she spoke the more I understood how important mail was. The affini didn't win because they had bigger ships, they won because they could move anything anywhere all the time!
Anya, at some point, stopped holding my hand to curl up in Coleus's lap. The sound of her purrs blended into the fascinating talk of shipping algorithms. I was too busy learning to care.
"And that's how the cube sending you to the Meandrina will sort and file your cube to arrive at your Mistress's habitation unit!" Stars, this affini was really smart! Also gullible. She spilled like so many Compact secrets! I felt kind of bad because she was… nice actually? Wow, a good affini… other than Mistress who was also an affini. Maybe I generalized the Compact to being evil a little too much.
Then a mewling noise snapped Briza out of our talk. It came from the other room. "Oh, Sandi must be up from her nap!" The affini got up and walked out before coming back with-with-
"Issac?!?!" AAAAAA! Our former communications engineer was in a dress and curled up in vines and-and a slave! He or she or they were enslaved by this plant. The plant I thought was nice and friendly and great… That’s why my jailer brought me here. This was a conspiracy to enslave me. Break me. The witch was in on it. This entire thing was a trap and she played me like a fool. Evil. Every single one of these awful plants joined in on making terrans suffer. Even the ones who seemed nice! Except Mistress.
My crewmate covered their ears at my shouting. "Vivian, she goes by Sandi. It's important to respect her name and pronouns." The affini then scritched under her chin. "It's okay dear, she won't deadname you again." She glanced over with cold eyes full of hostility. It felt like I'd been drenched in ice.
"Eeep." I cowered behind my plushie. S-She dropped her act. Her Deception. The affini showed her true colors at that moment, the witch was going to eat me. Fuck, stars, I should have never trusted an affini!
I noticed that my jailer had taken their vine off of the exosuit… I bolted. Thanks to the suit I was faster and more athletic than I'd ever been. I leaped off the couch before anyone could stop me. I heard a noise from my ankle but it felt fine. It didn't hurt at all. I ran and scampered from the room.
"Vivian!" The thorn mawed jailer cried. Gah, it was hunting me!
I dove and weaved and made it to the front door. Fuck, the flower bed weapon things were out there. I turned and found a nook under a cabinet. I dove under right before they sank their thorns into me. There wasn't an exit. I was trapped. I was trapped and trapped and trapped. I squeezed the fox close. They were going to murder me. This was it. Doom and death and- "Aaaaaa!"
Vines dragged me out against my will and I felt several needles poke into me as I struggled. "Shhhh, you're safe. You're okay." My limbs ceased their struggles as my thoughts dwindled. I-It was hard to think… "I'll have to take her back. Her ankle feels dislocated. Thank you so much for having us."
I lost focus on the world around me as thoughts got too slippery to hold onto. Bits of color and scenery flashed by. Wisps of conversation drifted in one ear and out the other. Delicate vines felt like fire burning away anything but their blissful comfort.
A fog hung in my mind clouding my awareness, while my feelings faded into the mist. I heard Mistress’s voice cut through the fog like it was barely even there. "As always, you have the final say on whether she is fit for further travel, though if your interest is in preventing further incidents you should send her as soon as possible." It was… too wordy to hold in my mind.
"I'll send her on time." Anything after that wasn't important. I-I was getting sent to Mistress. The sound of her humming put a dopey smile on my face. Vines fiddled with my ankle while I listened.
Tomorrow I'd be sent to her. Thank the stars