Someone knocked on my door. Scratch that, not someone something knocked on my door. I saw the alien, the xeno, on my monitors. I knew this would happen. Ever since they came, they had been systematically going to everyone's homes. They destroyed people's homes. They turned people into mindless drones.
I panicked and barricaded the door days ago when they first arrived. Thankfully, working from home had its benefits in such an event. I had a stockpile of food I barely ate… I glanced over to the kitchenette. I should get out of my desk chair and clean that mess, but aliens just conquered my planet and species… I’ll let the mess sit for another day.
The xeno knocked again. The creature's insidious voice rang out, "Hello flower, I'm here for a wellness check-up. According to our data, you haven't been out of your home for three months and we're worried about you."
Gah, the stupid giant plant alien, was calling me a shut-in like all my coworkers did. The monster! I lived a perfectly carefree lifestyle as a system admin working remote and they just had to fucking ruin my life! All my work's servers went down. The whole corp just vanished. The weeds disconnected me from the planetary network and added me to some stupid xeno "Overnet"
The overnet was simultaneously glorious and awful. My previously pirated stuff was now freely available. Great. Awesome. I loved that, but they're missing stuff. Awful in that, all the secret remote servers I had disappeared. The aliens replaced or took down all my digital safe spaces. I couldn't even figure out their weird alien networking protocols. I'd been working on deciphering it for days. How was I supposed to hack this crap?!
Another knock came. "Flower, I am forcing my way in for your safety and well-being."
I screamed in frustration. The stupid awful evil giant plant people wouldn't leave me alone. I curled up at my desk, my six monitors casting their artificial light on me. All showing the same thing. An enormous creature of plant life at my doorstep. They came for everyone else, and now they were coming for me.
I couldn't even stop them. They took down the Cosmic Navy without even trying. The orbital defense platforms, some of which I had done system maintenance on under the military contractor I worked for, just went off line and fell from orbit burning up into nothing. What was I, some scared frail shut-in, supposed to do?
They were fucking 10-feet tall and bulletproof. I had a prop sword from my favorite game series I didn't need to buy. I just clicked that button and a hole in my admittedly well off finances appeared. Gah, it was going to break in here and I was doomed. DOOMED!
I heard the door get ripped off its hinges and started crying. This was it. It was over. I was going to get turned into another slave. Another pet for the affini.
"Oh, flower." Its evil alien voice mimicked human sympathy in some cruel, twisted manner. I had the tall back of my computer chair to the front door. I didn't see it come in, but from the shifting furniture noises I knew it did.
"To think you were trapped in this mess the whole time. I'm so sorry we didn't check on you sooner, dear." The voice was much closer now.
"Leave!" I screeched at the thing. "You ruined everything! Just. Leave." It was insidious in its feminine beauty and kindness. The alien was trying to lower my guard, lure me in with sweet promises only to "domesticate" me into a slave.
The xeno, the affini, had the audacity to grab my chair and swivel it around so I faced the monster. "Honey, I can't do that. You clearly need help. When was the last time you ate? Took your meds? You look like you've barely slept. We're worried about you. I'm worried about you."
It was here, in front of me. I cowered in my chair, my safest physical space. "L-Leave… Please. I-I don't want to be a slave." I couldn't bring myself to look up at the affini. My eyes cast downwards. I was trembling. I was helpless before it.
Her body scrunched and wove into the form of a 10-foot tall woman draped in oversized fern leaves forming a sort of dress. Stars, I hated ferns. They were ugly and all her beauty couldn't throw off how much I hated those things. Of all the plants to be saved from Terra, why did people feel the need to keep those?
"Sweet little flower, you have nothing to fear. I'm here to help you. Why don't you relax right there, and I'll get this mess straightened up and make you something to eat, okay?" Why? Why did it have to pretend to be nice? It was supposed to enslave me, or kill me, or something. They took away everything and now there was nothing left. No job to do, no network to play in, no systems to weasel my way into for fun, no cameras to spy on people out of boredom, no trove of ancient media on a forgotten server to be uncovered and preserved, no orbital space cannon I happen to have memorized the access codes to after the contract work was done.
I sat curled up in my chair as the mass of vines with fern-like leaves cleaned up years of accumulated mess in minutes. She placed the furniture back where it was supposed to be. A soft feminine hum filled the air as if the thing enjoyed cleaning up my filthy, cramped apartment. It was too capable. Disturbingly efficient in organizing my entire living space into something respectable.
The creature then went through the fridge and pantry. "Honey, it looks like you only have horribly unhealthy terran comfort foods here. Most are expired too. I'll go get you some proper food. What would you like? I hear pizza is a popular terran food."
The thing was offering to go pick me up a pizza… What even was my life at this point? I spun back around to face my screens away from the alien conqueror. My hands hovered over the keyboard as I contemplated what I wanted to do. My stomach made a noise despite me not feeling hungry. I contemplated when I last ate. Yesterday? I think I had cookies yesterday and nothing since… The alien was right. I needed to eat.
I typed roasted garlic and sausage pizza and made it big on my larger side monitor. "Of course!" The xeno sounded so enthused. "I'll be back as soon as possible, hon." A slithering of vines flowed out and placed my door back where it was supposed to be.
I-I finally got my wish. It was gone. I watched the feed as it rushed out until there weren't any camera's left I could access. The affini had been uprooting the entire city and subsequently replaced most of the terran hardware. I could access the old stuff, but it was dwindling in number. The affini were absurdly efficient city builders.
A message popped up on my screen again. The same one that had for days. Hey petal,💖 how are you feeling? I hope the wellness check I sent your way helps. I'd love to hear from you! Love, Digitalis💖💖💖🌹🌹🌹 I got mad. This had been happening since right after the invasion. This Digitalis somehow kept invading my system to pop up this gaudy message with flowers and heart emojis right in the middle of my monitor setup. I hated them. No one should be able to break into my computer like that over and over. They shouldn't be able to do it at all!
I switched over to my network observer side system and examined all the packet traffic that had gone in and out of my computer. I ran a scan for the intrusion while digging into the pop-up message. Visually similar, but wholly unique to the other messages sent. I had gotten so frustrated two days ago; I set up a script to just detect these applications and kill the process. Digitalis seemed to have picked up on the heuristic detection and evaded it. All the while bypassing the increased network security measures I put in place the last TWELVE TIMES, this jerk broke in. Multiple times a day, I was being harassed by the sinister hacker.
I swear this fucker was just toying with me. It was like a game in how they kept finding new and inventive ways to break in just to send those awful messages. I learned a lot more in the last week about network vulnerabilities than I had in the last four years just from dealing with this xeno hacker. I found the network intrusion and got lost figuring out which exploit let that happen.
I was so distracted by unraveling the puzzle Digitalis gave me; I didn't notice the evil enslaving xeno arrive with pizza. "Hon, I've got food…" I couldn't handle it right now. I was busy! I went to town on finding the hole in my security, leaving the terrifying yet also friendly plant overlord ignored.
It set a plate with three slices of really fresh pizza in front of me. A moment later, a fresh bottle of water, and she placed my meds down with it. "Now dear, you need to eat, drink, and take your meds." Stupid big fern thing. I knew I had to take my meds… I just forgot… again. I'd probably fucked up my transition with how often I slipped up. I had the meds on my desk. I set up like three notifications to remind me and I still got too sucked into things to remember.
I looked up and saw Digitalis's message taunting me. Immediately, I went back to dealing with that fucker. How dare they! I had several AIs helping me parse all the data. Not the sentient kind, just the program kind that can sort of interpret things when trained to do so. They did way better than the basic scanning programs for these sorts of things. I had my network scanner up on one screen. AI inputs on another. Like five command lines and a real-time application debugger to disassemble the code in the message. Looking through it, I spotted… Oh, that fucker. They slipped sub messages into the application code for the message box.
Vines reached down and restrained my wrists. "Hon, Aster, you need to eat and take your meds first. If you don't do it yourself, I'll do it for you." Right the evil alien… with pizza and like trying to get me to not starve or miss my meds again…
I was admittedly getting side tracked. I did need to eat and take my meds, the hormones. "O-Okay." I had food and stuff right in front of me. The xeno woman plant thing let go. Eating and taking meds, that’s basic. The pizza did look delicious, and I did need to eat…
My eyes flickered up to the screen. The AIs finished their analyses and had report files for me. The application itself was still rather simple, so I finished my job there. I just needed to take everything I found and solve the problem. My hand was on the mouse as I clicked to open the first report.
The vine grabbed me again. "Aster, focus. You can do that later. Eating is more important." On paper I knew that, but I could just do that stuff after I finished. It'd probably only be a few more minutes until I solved the network intrusion. I mean, I got better at it than the last few times, so it won’t take nearly as long… hopefully.
My eyes were still on the screen. One report was open and my eyes instantly went to it. I got caught up reading before the affini coiled vines around my limbs and turned me away. She sighed. "Little one, I didn't want to do this, but you're not giving me much of a choice." They fully restrained me in vines and I could not turn to see any of my monitors. I-I trembled. This was the part where it eats me. I didn't fall in line as a slave and now it was going to murder me.
The monster grabbed the plate and held up pizza in front of my face. "Flower, I'm not letting you go until you eat this, drink some water and take your meds." Fuck, was it going to force feed me pizza? "Open wide hun." The pizza looked good, it smelled good. I had barely eaten in days, so I was supposed to eat even if I didn't feel hungry.
I opened my mouth and took a bite of the fantastic pizza I asked for. As soon as it slid down my throat, my stomach remembered what hunger was and signaled my brain. Wow, I was fucking starving. I wolfed down the rest of the super delicious pizza. My mind then got stuck on where the fuck it came from. None of the places within delivery distance had shit this good. I knew. I basically lived off delivery food.
"What a good girl you are." The xeno said as she loosened her vines around my arms and patted me on the head. I let myself enjoy that for all of two seconds before I remembered the domestication thing. This plant was trying to make me a slave!
I swatted the head-pat vine away. "D-Don't touch me!" I looked up at her and saw the plant's face… She was really pretty and her eyes were doing this fancy color thing. I stared for a bit too long before snapping out of it. "Leave. I-I have stuff to do. You're not welcome here."
"Flower, you haven't taken your meds or had anything to drink yet. So take these like you know you're supposed to, and then we can talk more about your situation." She had in one hand my meds and the bottle of water. I took the meds like the competent, capable adult I was. "I'm very proud of you." She said with another head pat. Why did she have to sound so genuine saying that?
"C-Can I uh be free now?" I asked meekly. I knew I was at her mercy. Which wasn't as horrible as I first thought. Unfortunately, I had things to do, and an asshole hacker to thwart. It was sort of difficult to focus when my mind kept trying to drift back to Digitalis.
The affini gave me a look as she still held me in her vines. "Little one, we need to talk. I'm here to make sure you're okay, and it's very clear to me you are far from it. From our records of your computer usage along with data taken from the corporations." She ruffled her body in a way that was sort of like a shiver at that word. "We know you are severely sleep deprived based on your web activity. Looking at you, you are clearly very malnourished, you have not groomed your head vines in most likely years, and you smell as if you haven't bathed in many days."
Head vines… "Wait, do you mean my hair?" I liked my hair. I'd been growing it out for a lot of years, partly because I never left to visit a place that could cut it, and partly because I just enjoyed having obnoxiously long hair. Like do I need four and a half feet of thick black head hair? No. Am I gonna keep it? Hell yea.
"Ah, yes that's the terran word for it. You need care and as your case-worker, it's my job to determine what level of care you need. Whether that be a xenodrug regimen and regular wellness checks or domestication." Wait, she was talking about enslaving me…
"N-No, no slavery, no pet stuff. I-I won't." I struggled in her hold. She couldn’t take me. I didn't want to be some slave worker. After years of being on my own, I managed to get a cushy job that paid well and it was going to be taken from me, just like everything else.
The affini looked rather sad, pitying even, as she observed me. "Little one, domestication isn't like your terran slavery. We take in little terrans to care for them and give them everything they need to be happy and fulfilled. If you are against it, then you will need to have a xenodrug regimen to ensure you can care for yourself."
I didn't want to take drugs to be… whatever she wanted to make me. I'd forget to take them anyway… I guess I could just lie like that time my doctor tried to prescribe me those antidepressants. Yea, just lie and make the alien go away so I can be safe and alone. "Uh… sure?"
She gave me a pleasant smile. "Excellent! I'll arrange a visit from a xenoveterinarian so we can start sorting out your health issues and which meds you need. In the meantime, you need proper nutrition and grooming, which we can get started on by bathing you."
"Can't I do it later?" I said sheepishly. "I still need to finish what I was working on… and-and… Can I ask a question?" She kept pretending to be nice. She acted like she cared in a way that didn't feel like an act. The problem was if the affini were as nice as she and the propaganda claimed, why did they destroy the one thing I cared about?
She gave me a pat on the head. "Petal, you need to bathe. As for questions, I'll answer anything to the best of my ability."
"W-Why did you destroy it all? You destroyed my everything. The entire planetary network is gone, all of my servers are gone. My data gone. Everything, except the computer behind me which you all keep hacking into, is gone. Why be nice if you're just going to take it all away and destroy everything I care about?" I was choking up a little by the end. I lived on the net. My life was there and now it was gone to be replaced with some alien thing I have no control over. No access to. No knowledge of. It wasn't fair. The alien showed up trying to help me when her people just broke everything that gave me meaning.
She was clearly stricken silent. She had to know they had done this. They took my control away. The only thing I maintained control over. I needed that. The sense that I had mastery and influence and control over something that mattered. Before them, I had the power to access a majority of the devices and cameras on the planet because of shitty corp security. I worked on military crap and I knew the passwords from a project that'd have given me access to an orbital cannon. I'd never use it but I had the option. I had that power. They destroyed the cannon, the old cameras, they mostly replaced the terran tech with shiny new, impenetrable affini bullshit and it wasn't fair.
"Hon, we ensured backups of every bit of data on this planet before we even touched the ground. Your data is retrievable. As for the servers, we are replacing the communications technology of this planet to be more in line with Compact standards. We’ll restore some on the overnet as needed. Digitalis has been accessing your system to check on you. She was worried about your physical and mental health, which is why I'm here now. Your system should already have access to the overnet, so you should be able to enjoy all the little things you had before-"
I shouted over her. "I can't! You broke everything. I can't access even half the shit on this planet anymore. The overnet looks like they designed it for morons. It's all over done UI's and no meaningful data. There are no attack vectors. I can't get into anything anymore!"
She tilted her head, clearly not understanding me in the slightest. "Aster, flower, you aren’t supposed to break into those systems. The Compact designed the terran facing overnet for maximum usability, even for cute high little florets. I don't understand why that troubles you."
"I know you don't, because you’re a fucking plant! You don't get me. You don't know me. You come into my home, my safe space, and pretend to know what's best for me. You don't!" There was venom in my words. She was just another problem, like all the affini who took my world from me. My network, my home.
"Flower, you're right. I don't know you or what all of your needs are right now, but if you let me, I'd like to learn so I can provide you with everything you need to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled." It was that sincere oblivious kindness again.
"I need you gone, I need every one of you and your awful tech gone, and I need the planetary network back. I need my orbital cannon back. I need my control back."
She quirked an eyebrow. "Orbital cannon? Those are things we can't give you or do, but I'm sure that we can address your desire for control in other ways."
"It can't. Just leave. You've already ruined everything. I-I don't want you here." I kept struggling against her vines helplessly before breaking down and crying.
She pulled me into a hug and patted me on the back. "Shhh, little one. You're safe. You are cared for. We'll help you in every way that we can." She was warm like her vines, but she was an ugly fern thing. She was a symbol of everything that was wrong in my life.
"I-I hate you. I hate you all." I said between sobs.
"I know little one, but things will get better. I promise." Her words were as hollow as her understanding of me. Just one giant monster pretending to care. At least the Accord never pretended to care. They shoved their heads up their asses and let people rot or rise on pure chance. I got away with whatever I wanted under them as long as I didn't mess with anyone too powerful. I missed the shitty Accord government. It might have been awful, but I had a place in it.
She held me in a hug. I tried and failed to protest for a while. I gave up physically resisting, but just cried in the vines of an evil creature.
Eventually, I stopped crying. I just didn't have the tears left. The fern creature said. "Now, let's get you cleaned up a little and then you can get back to your computer, alright?"
I didn't answer. My eyes staring at the ground. My face frowning. Fists clenched.
She led me to the bathroom like a warden leading a prisoner and had me take a shower. I hadn't taken one in weeks and it was clear I needed one. The problem with showers was my hair took forever to dry. It was my go to excuse for why I should just put off showering. Still, the xeno wouldn't let me go back to what small chunk of my life I still had unless I did it.
The shower was mildly relaxing. It let a lot of the emotions that came out earlier to be shoved back down to hopefully never see the light of day again. I mean that's what people do, right? Try to bury everything awful and hyperfixate on the few things that bring you joy. It works… sort of.
With a successful suppression of unwanted emotions, I went back to running over all the data I could remember about how Digitalis broke into my system. Digitalis was basically the only thing that had been on my mind the last week except for the whole invasion thing. Really, cracking the code on how Digitalis could break in was a welcome distraction from the horror of aliens that turned out to not be as awful as I feared. It at least prevented me from having another 'pile all the furniture in front of the door' panic episode.
Eventually, I stepped out and began the long process of drying a rainforest of hair, only to have the affini peek in. "Hello petal, I found some scissors to trim your hair!" She held up the pair of scissors menacingly.
I hugged my soaking body pillow mass of wet hair. "N-No! No cutting." I backed away and slipped before she caught me. She also kept my towel from falling off and exposing me. That multitasking was unfair.
"Sorry for scaring you." She apologized before adding. "As for the trim, I can tell your hair means a lot to you. I just want to take off the dead and split ends you have so much of. It'll help keep the rest of it nice and healthy. Plus, if I take too much off, I promise we have the means to rapidly grow it back to how you like it."
I blinked. The super evil alien conquerors had rapid hair growth stuff… of course, they had it. Why would the species of sinister plant nannies not have magical hair growth stuff? "Really?"
She smiled warmly. "Really. Now, can I fix up your lovely hair?"
I blushed. My hair was like the central aspect of my appearance that I placed all my self-esteem into. To have that very important part of me complemented for the first time. Worse, she was super sincere too. I blurted unintelligible flustered gibberish that one could vaguely consider consent.
More of her vines reached in. The tiny doorway and small space made her unable to maintain a humanoid shape, and she was just a mass of vines and ferns. Fucking ferns. At least the ugly plants were soft. The xeno had me sit on some while she started trimming my hair.
I shivered in fear, a constant panic that she was taking too much. It was my hair. My hair. I had nightmares about it all being cut off. As if she could sense my fear, she brought it around and started doing it in front of me. She was taking nearly a foot off. More in some places.
She held up a few strands of my hair. "See dear, this one is a healthy hair. You can tell by the color and feel. This one is gray and worn down so the end is dead and you can see this bit where the new living growth is."
I saw it. My hair was a mess. I guess not doing anything with it for years sort of ruined it. She seemed so good at this and that brought up a question in my mind. "I thought you didn't like know what hair was?"
"I lapsed on the word, petal. The Compact wellness committee would not have sent me to handle a wellness check if I wasn't trained in terran care and grooming needs. It helps me assess when adorable little terrans like you are struggling to care for yourselves and in what ways." She just went right back to fixing up my now noticeably shortened but still very long hair. I just stayed silent. She was like a weird alien hairstylist.
I was beginning to think all that affini propaganda I saw online might not be as bullshit and completely fake as I first thought. It all just seemed so impossible, but if the affini were as evil as the naysayers claimed, then why was this plant woman helping me so much? Why would she take the time to make me eat, take my meds, clean up, and trim my hair while reassuring me every step of the way? This was all terribly confusing.
Afterwards, she finally let me get back to my computer and said she'd be back around dinnertime to fix my door and ensure I ate and then slept. Whatever, I couldn’t sleep, anyway. I was rarely able. Sleep was for the weak after all, though I am pretty weak. Like walking around my apartment was the limit of my athletic ability.
Enough of that. I finally read those AI reports on the cyber-attack and that led me down several other rabbit holes that may or may not have taken hours. All of it culminated in me very satisfyingly solving the puzzle and patching the vulnerability. Problem solving was so satisfying. I basked in the glow of my success.
A notification came up in one of my chats. It was weird because it was in my very uber retro IRC app. An app that had a massive drop in usership after the invasion. The weirder part was I only lurked on it. No one there knew me. No one talked to SystemLurkerQueen ever, but I had a message.
I popped into chat to look.
NetworkRoots: Hello little one! Digitalis here. Congrats on solving my latest puzzle for you! I hope you enjoyed it. Your case worker Cyathea Brownii contacted me about your wellness check-up and I hear you are having frustrations with our new communications network. I'd love to show you how it works if you'd like, but your home system lacks some of the technical capabilities of getting into the fun bits of our systems.
I blinked. I just admitted to hacking into people's shit, including government weapon systems(okay, I never actually did it, I just knew the password, which was honestly a terrible password) and this affini knew that. It was offering to show me how to do all the things I wanted to do, even though they were illegal. I guess I didn't know the Compact's laws, but I'm pretty sure it'd still be a crime to spy on people and read messages and stuff.
Also, the thing admitted it was messing with me, but wanted me to enjoy it. I mean, I guess it was fun and satisfying… The plant was literally playing with me. If Digitalis was anything like that other affini, Cyathea, then Digi was playing with me in a literal 'trying to make it fun' way rather than in a 'toying with someone to be an ass' way. I was kinda pissed I didn't realize that, and also that it sorta worked. Digitalis was the worst.
I couldn't really doubt this was Digitalis because they knew too much to be anyone else, and also they messaged me in that affini tone. Sure, someone could spoof that, but who else would know about the intrusions, the check-up, and be capable of finding my username on a long depreciated retro chat app other than my mortal enemy and rival Digitalis?
SystemLurkerQueen: I'm maybe interested in that, but are you allowed to show me that? Also stop fucking with my home system you hack.
NetworkRoots: I'll stop playing with you and your system if you really want me to petal, but I have more puzzles for you to solve and learn from. You only need to ask for them. As for whether I'm allowed, yes I may teach you about affini technology. Whether or not you use that knowledge for adorable mischief is not technically permitted, but I poured through the records and I know you never hurt anyone with your little invasions of privacy or with your access to an orbital defense platform's system.
NetworkRoots: Don't get caught and don't hurt anyone. Can I trust you with that little flower?
Fucking xeno monsters and their absurd generosity. This one wanted to teach me to hack all of their systems on a promise that I wouldn't do anything bad. I mean I wouldn't. I didn't want to hurt anyone, and as long as people didn't know what I was doing, they'd never actually get hurt by it. Well, regardless, I definitely wanted access.
SystemLurkerQueen: Won't hurt a fly, no one will know
NetworkRoots: Perfect! You are a very smart young woman after all, and I'd love to meet up in person at some point. I bet you're cuter in person.
NetworkRoots: I've attached networking guides made for sophonts who want to delve into affini technology and how it interfaces with terran systems. I also left you a little present on your closest access node so you can test what you learn.
I opened the files and… fuck, what the hell was this? Computing with plants? What the actual fuck. Like there aren't transistors or even qubits like with the massive quantum computers work had. There was a digital interface, but it was an over the top weird bio-hardware thing that was grown from and exists within living plants. Fuck, this is gonna be hard.
NetworkRoots: Let me know if you have questions flower, I'd love to answer them. Maybe over lunch?
Stupid condescending jerk plant. I could learn. I was going to show Digitalis that I could solve its stupid puzzle and then some. I was going to hack the xeno's machine and send them cutesy, condescending messages. Yea, fuck you Digitalis, let's see how you like it. I was gonna use even more heart emojis than you; you jerk.
Late that night, a vine tapped me on the shoulder and I fucking flipped out. Flailing and being caught by vines as my chair tipped over, maybe possibly happened. "Fuck, don't scare me like that!"
Stupid plant breaking into my home and forcing me to do self-care bullshit. I'd taken care of myself just fine. I had for years and years. Really, it was this whole affini invasion that ruined everything, closing all my delivery places while scaring me into not opening my door. The fear of them making it hard to remember to do my normal stuff. Plus, Digitalis and its stupid hacking distracted me. They should be ashamed of themselves.
The affini was looking down on me in both a literal and figurative sense as she set me back upright. "Petal, I knocked and called out to you several times. You were very focused on that documentation."
"Well, uh yea. I have to learn every bit of this so I can show that jerk who’s the better hacker." I said, before turning back and getting sucked into the sheer ridiculousness of biological computing. It was so far out of my wheelhouse, but I wouldn't back down. I had a sinister xeno to one up.
I got tangled in vines again and turned away from my computer. "It's dinnertime, flower. You need to eat again and then get some sleep."
"Sleep is for the weak." I retorted.
"It's very much not. Being sleep deprived makes it harder to learn, dear. If you're planning to outdo someone, you'd do it much better if you were well rested." She chided. Doubt. If sleep was so great, I'd feel rested whenever I managed to do it. I didn't. I always woke up tired.
I rolled my eyes that had very large dark noticeable bags under them, half concealed by my glasses. "Well, I can't sleep anyway. If I really need it, I'll just collapse like normal."
There aren't words to really describe just how horrified the affini looked at my assertion of normality. She basically froze in place for a moment with her face contorted into an oddly human expression. I didn't get it. Like, it's never caused problems before to just collapse in my chair or onto my keyboard. It's how I know when to sleep.
"Aster, petal, flower, no. That is not normal. That is beyond unhealthy. You're straining your body, potentially leaving yourself to fall injured. I am giving you a class-Z after dinner." She pulled out a container with chicken fingers and fries. It looked great… how the fuck did she know my food preferences? As if reading my mind, she explained. "Digitalis said that she datamined and found your strong preference for these, so I got you some. So you'll eat this, take your meds, and then you are going to get some nice restful sleep."
"Ugh, fine I'll try. Can I have my hands back? I can handle eating." Dumb plant trying to restrain me and force me to nap. I hated lying down to sleep. It just turned into an hour of being completely awake and bored before I just got up and went back to my computer. Trying to sleep was a waste of my valuable time. Plus, being awake all the time meant I was always ready for when there was an issue at work. I was on call 24/7 for like the last 4 years. Technical emergencies at 3am that were just some important guy forgetting a password happened more than you'd think. Also, there were the more serious problems but eh, I was good at my job unlike some of the excuses for IT people called coworkers.
She released my arms and got out the ketchup from my fridge with a vine. The food was great. Too good. "Where do you keep getting this stuff, and do they deliver?"
The affini gave me a big smile. "These are from one of our atomic compilers, one of which you'll have after you move into your new habitation unit." Moving? Wait no. I lived here dang it.
"But I don't want to move." Maybe I shouldn't talk while chewing food. I think that was a thing for people in public or something. Well screw manners, she keeps breaking into my home. She can deal with bad manners. Her and her dumb fern plant flesh outfit thing deserved it.
"Petal, this structure isn't up to Compact building codes. Besides, your new place will be much bigger and with every amenity the compact can provide." Building codes, really? The affini were ridiculous. They were like the mythical OSHA that was rumored to have existed centuries ago. I could imagine the affini going 'Look at the Accord, they don't have sufficient building codes, let's invade them and fix it!' The affini kept getting stranger and dorkier the more I thought about them.
Anyway, I complained, and in a way that came off more whiny than I intended. It was why I avoided voice chats and going outside. Talking sucked. "Yea, but I like my small home. If I wanted a bigger place, I could have afforded it. This one is mine."
She patted me on the head. "Then I'll let the designers know and your hab unit will comfortably resemble this home. You'll be moving in a few days, but we'll handle everything so you don't hurt yourself. Now meds and sleep."
I finished my food and took my meds. It still pissed me off that I had to move. This was my home. I shouldn't have to give it up for some big fancy advanced alien home designed to comfortably feel like this one, but with more fancier stuff. That was for others… for people. I bet people were loving having new big fancy homes like the capitalist treadmill taught them to crave.
Fuck, I forgot about money. "How are we supposed to pay for all of this? I lost my job when you made it vanish a week ago."
"Flower, money is a thing of the past. Everything the Compact provides is free. We are a post-scarcity society." She got me squinting at her. That was just like their propaganda said… Oh stars, she's serious! Oh, wow… like fuck. People have been dreaming about post-scarcity for centuries. My mind ran off in a dozen different directions, trying to piece together what a post-scarcity society would even look like.
She patted me on the head. "Now, time for bed, petal. I'll be back in the morning with breakfast, and you'll have your vet appointment, which will be a house call since it is clear you take offense to stepping outside your home."
Gah, she called me a shut in too. The bitch! Her, Digitalis, my old coworkers… There was nothing wrong with living at home and never going outside. Perfectly normal. How dare they say it like I have something wrong with me! The jerks. The stupid, mean post-scarcity aliens who wanted me to eat and sleep and stuff. I was going to hack all of their systems and put a tiny delay into everything just enough that it's barely noticeable and bothers them slowly over time. They'll never know I did it or that anything was even done. They'll just be mildly bothered for th-the rest of thei-their l-li-liv-ve-sssss.
My eyes fluttered shut as the affini, Cyathea, tucked me into bed.