Fifteen minutes had passed since Samuel discovered the crimson flower.
He had known, factually, what it was the moment his eyes registered it. He'd seen the propaganda videos just like everyone else; those Affini-controlled networks broadcasting images of humans in lush dresses and collars. Every so often a mistress would seem to administer injections into their "pets" – Sam felt revulsion at the terminology – through such a control device.
And one of these control devices was implanted directly into his chest.
Wrestling with the panic deepening in his heart, he wracked his mind to come up with possible explanations for something like this.
Was it the beam? Did everyone get hit…? If that were true, I'm sure I would've heard the Ensign or the nurse say something.
He studied the deep crimson which had penetrated his sternum, which had never once looked dull since he had first laid eyes on it. He obsessively tracked the roots and the intimate ways by which they clutched at his major blood vessels. The parts where it made contact against his skin felt sensitive and soft, contrasting with his normally rough skin. It was also striking – an alluring display of superior Affini bioengineering.
What… no. It's not alluring. It's fucked up. I need to get it out of me. What about the medical wing…?
He immediately dismissed that idea. If any of the other rebels saw the flower in his chest, they'd shoot him on sight. He was a dead man walking if he couldn't find a way to remove it.
He clutched his chest… considered pulling it out. Using a knife. Something, anything. Reaching into his bathroom drawer, he recovered an old embellished shaving razor; ceremonial, from the Academy. It was sharp enough, it could do the trick.
Have to… cut the damn thing out… before it burrows deeper into me...
With shaky hands, he held his knife up to his chest. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves. Using the bathroom mirror as a guide, he prepared to amputate the flower from his chest.
In that moment, a brilliant explosion of color flashed through his eyes. A lurid, defiant screech of every instinct in his human body to preserve the flower sparked at once. His heart rate spiked. He yelped, closing his eyes.
When he opened them again, he realized that by flailing his arms, he had embedded his razor into the bathroom counter.
Fuck… fuck… what the fuck was that?
He panted. The flower had only been there for… for how long? The Ensign said he had been out for only a few hours. Surely it couldn't have been in there long enough to start affecting him like this. He felt helplessness well up inside of him, and tried turning it into indignation.
The next time I see an Affini… I'll… I'll…
For a moment he faltered. If they had managed to install such an elaborate piece into him without physical contact, wasn't he far outside of his depth?
Samuel shook his head. No. He was a Terran, goddammit, and a rebel to boot. Joining the resistance meant steeling his mind against the propaganda of the Affini, taking the invaders to task at every angle. This was just another test. He smirked to himself, gathering steam as he came up with a new method of confronting this adversity.
Yeah. Yeah, you filthy photosynthesizing freaks. Yeah. I'll give you all a piece of my mind!
He turned to face the mirror, throwing a proud expression on his face.
Yeah. I'll even keep this flower as a trophy. A sign of our struggle. It's a scar… one I'll wear proudly. For now, though…
An alert went off in his quarters proper. He guessed was needed at the helm. He finally got around to clothing himself, leaving the bathroom and rifling through his closet; the texture of the captain's jacket felt a little rougher than usual, the sleeves a little larger than expected, but he paid it no mind. He had always been opposed to unnecessary formalities, but for once the imposing overcoat was useful. It and the shirt was more than enough to cover the flower. It would be his little secret, one he’d explain after this war was over.
With that, he made way for the deck.
Lieutenant Jones and Ensign Welkin stood at the helm as the Captain approached. As soon as they saw him approach, they both stood up straight and saluted.
"At ease, men," Samuel Dirkost said.
He felt a scratchy feeling catch in his throat, and cleared it instinctively. He realized it was the first time he had opened his mouth to speak in some time, and the words that tumbled out almost felt… foreign. It probably was the shock from discovering the flower. He did his best to maintain his composure.
"Glad to see you're well, sir," Jones remarked with the usual air of gruffness. "We've got a bit of a situation…"
Samuel gave a curt nod. "Let's hear it. I'd like a full update if possible-”
Sam's voice broke just a little at the end of his sentence, causing him to cut himself off early. He covered it up by clearing his throat again, coughing a little – was his voice climbing in tambre? That couldn't be possible. Perhaps he just had a cold.
Lieutenant Jones, who hadn't noticed, began to elaborate. "In your absence, while I assumed control, our men discovered one of the crewmen had an Affini implant."
Sam's heart began to pound a little harder. His throat felt parched. "Is that… so?"
"Indeed. Engineer Conners. We currently have them locked in the brig. They told us that they had no memory of having interacted with the Affini. This, obviously, was a lie. It's more likely they're a spy of some kind, and I've taken the liberty to detain them indefinitely, or at least until they speak. What are your orders, Captain?"
The news provided some relief through Samuel; he hadn't known Conners terribly long. Perhaps this Affini sympathizer could have planted the flower into him while he was unconscious! Yes, that must be it. Yet… he couldn't simply reveal to the helm his dark, crimson colored, flower shaped problem. Part of him was grateful he had the simple sense of covering up his own implant.
However, as urgent as this situation had become, all Sam could think about was finding a glass of water. He swallowed repeatedly, scratched at his throat idly, trying everything subtle he could do to make it feel better. Doing his best to power through it all, he steeled himself and tried to summon his academy voice, trained in many proud years of service with the Accord.
"Thank you, Jones. Your quick judgment is what we needed right nooooww —"
Sam's voice glided upwards in a sing-song tone, without any apparent control on his part. He balked, coughing as he did. He tried to ignore the concerned look that flashed across both Welkin and Jones' faces, but all it did was make him feel more self conscious.
"Excuse me…" As he coughed, he noticed that he had to make a low growl at all times to maintain the pitch he normally spoke at. "It's not unlikely that others on the ship could also bear Affini sympathies. If disloyal members of the Resistance are found, we ought to quarantine and try to persuade them..."
He struggled to keep his voice under control, but every so often a feminine tone would force its way through. It wasn't the deep, intense kind that his drill sergeant from the Academy would use either; it sounded flowery, vulnerable, and most importantly, it felt good. It felt embarrassingly good. It was like drinking honey every time he relented for a second. It contrasted greatly with the pain he felt having to force out masculine grunts instead.
Something about this wasn't lost on his crew mates, who began exchanging glances. Sam felt his face flush red.
"I think… I might have… a little cold… apologies... this meeting is adjourned..."
The Ensign nodded helpfully. "Yeah, uh… you should get some rest, sir."
"Captain, it may be helpful for you to revisit the medical wing," the Lieutenant suggested.
"I'll be fine…" Sam insisted, his words coming out with the barest hint of a whimper. He tried ignoring it. "Jones, you're on deck for the next few hours."
"Yes... sir. Thank you sir."
He didn't have time to gauge the quizzical reactions of the crew around him. Sam absconded from the deck as soon as he had a chance.
Fleeing from the pressure of the helm, he walked quickly towards a restroom of any kind. His head pounded, his heart throbbed. As he entered the corridor, he could have sworn it felt larger; his uniform fitting less well with each step he took. He shook his head and kept moving.
Pushing open the restroom door, he felt a sense of relief when he inspected the room and found that no one was present. Using the sink, he turned the faucet and cupped his hands. Cold, sobering water splashed onto his skin, and he took large gulps. He greedily drank, hopeful that it would resolve any issues with his vocal chords.
After feeling sufficiently hydrated, Sam cleared his throat. It felt numb, sore from trying to maintain his usual tambre.
Without much else to go off, he decided to give it a test. "Aaaaaah. Aaaaaaaaaaaaa–"
Once again the unfamiliar softness forced its way into his voice, and this time, the pleasurable, erotic sensation that accompanied it shot through his entire body. A pleasing warmth spread through his blood vessels like a poison. He could almost smell thick pollen in the air. He unconsciously let out a moan, a very feminine one. He cupped his mouth, terrified, but the soft squeaking and moaning that emanated from behind his hands still brought more warmth, more pleasure. His pants began to tent, although he hardly noticed.
Sam finally had the wherewithal to bite into his tongue in a desperate bid to stop the cycle. It succeeded partially, drawing blood in the process. He let out a very feminine gasp.
The voice that came out of Sam’s mouth made him hesitate.
It sounded nothing like him.
Sam studied himself in the mirror… loose strands of hair beginning to make their way down his head. His chiseled jawline had perceptibly shifted in the last few hours, with some angles shaven off. As he reached to touch his face, his skin responded quite positively, pleasurably. It also caused a twitching discomfort in his boxers…
Sam finally realized. Color drained from his face.
No… no no no no no… fuck this fuck this… no no no no!
He slammed a fist down on the counter top, resulting in a more timid thump than one he had hoped to make. He was not being turned on by the sound of his own voice. He refused to accept it.
"It's that… that damn… fl-flower!"
He caught himself stuttering, something he thought he had trained himself out of at an early age. "No… my name is C-Captain Samuel D-dirkost…"
Saying his name and station out loud sounded ridiculous in this voice, and his face flushed again.
"No… N-no… Stop, please… st-stop… please go back, p-please go back…”
A cute, clearly non-masculine whine punctuated the end of his sentence, which got him to shut himself up again. He needed a plan. He needed a plan before things escalated out of control.
“Have to… g-get to… my room…" he stammered.
However, even as he went to turn off the faucet, he heard the bathroom doors slide open.
With all the quickness he could muster, he threw himself into a stall, locking the door and covering his mouth. The soft sensation of his skin was still pleasurable, but nothing as intense as whatever… fucked up cycle he had broken himself out of. He hastened to slow his breath so as to not give away his identity.
"Hello? I thought I heard someone in here."
He froze. Wasn't that Ensign Welkin's voice echoing into the room?
"Oh. Hey. Sorry. Didn't mean to bother you. I thought that maybe someone was hurt in here or something."
Sam considered saying something, but shook his head and kept his mouth shut. He counted his Stars that Welkin hadn’t recognized him.
Welkin continued, making her way to a stall somewhere else. "Yeah… I know. The resistance feels like it's in a rough place, doesn't it?"
The Captain did his best to not answer, but he did let his brow furrow.
So morale is low, huh?
"I know some people are saying that the Captain is giving up, but he cares, you know. He's under more stress than anyone else on the ship. He cares about the people under his command, and he wants all of us to stay independent and alive."
Sam felt some strength returning to his body. Welkin might be of low rank, but she seemed to believe in him more than anyone else in the ship, and hearing anonymous praise meant a lot to him. From deep within, a sudden need to be praised rose out from underneath.
"You r-really think so?" Sam couldn't help but blurt out, and in so doing a wave of pleasure hit him. He bit down again on his lip just to halt the steady stream of warmth coursing through him.
"Of course! He's a proud man, not one to give up mid fight. Huh. I don't know if I recognize you. Are you new to the ship?"
Sam balked again, redness filling up again across his face. "Uhm… y-yes?"
The Ensign laughed in a comforting way, and Sam felt tension release from his body.
"Hey, at ease, miss. The name's Ensign Welkin. If you need someone to chat with, you can find me in the mess hall for breakfast tomorrow."
Part of Sam cringed at the fact Welkin thought he was some new rebel girl. The other part of Sam felt eager to take Welkin up on her offer, and gladly responded.
"Of c-course! Th-thank you for… being so thoughtful…"
Almost immediately Sam regretted saying that.
Welkin responded. "Hey, it's nothing. You sounded like you needed some support so… well, yeah. What's your name?”
"Uh! Sam...mi…" he cringed as he again found himself unable to stop responding. A burning euphoria arose, pumping through his veins. It reached through to his fingertips and down to his toes. He resorted to biting down on his fingers to stop from crying out in pleasure, and barely caught Welkin’s parting words.
"...it's nice to meet you, Sammi. Well, come find me tomorrow morning. We can chat some more, maybe somewhere more savory.”
The Ensign simply chuckled a little to herself, then Sam heard her flush her toilet. Sam waited for Welkin to finish washing her hands, and then make her way out of the bathrooms. Once he was sure she was gone, he slapped himself across the face.
Snap out of it! You’re a man, not a girl. You’re a man, dammit!
The stinging left tears in his eyes, but thankfully, most of his sexual tension had dissipated. Satisfied that his inner dialogue still sounded like the old him (and not like that of a twenty year old female cadet), he finally released a slow and soft sigh of relief.
I have to go. I have to move now. Come on, Samuel. Get moving.
After a quick glance under the stall to make sure nobody else was around, he exited, barely noticing that he had left the women’s restroom.
With single-minded determination, he escaped the bathroom, and made his way towards his quarters, only making adjustments when he saw people in the hallways (who customarily saluted as he passed by). Ignoring hopefully not too many confused looks, he hurried to open his door.
When he had finally reentered his quarters and confirmed that the door had been closed shut, Samuel let a sob erupt from him. Before he knew it, he was crying in a ball on the floor, frustrations pouring out of him. He didn't even care his sobs sounded like a woman's; he couldn't take any more of this.
How am I supposed to lead my ship like this??? How am I supposed to resist? What is happening to me? I don't understand. I don't understand… I want help. I need help. Someone help me please somebody help me-
[Aww… little thing… I'm so sorry… this change must feel so sudden… so shocking.]
A soothing whale song of a voice rushed over him, and he quickly realized that he had been compromised. However, he was unable to stop a tidal wave of relaxation flow over him, deadening his emotional response. In a moment, he felt the anger, frustration, and panic dissipate. He couldn't be angry; the voice that had addressed him sounded so genuine, so sympathetic.
"Wh- what? Who's there?" He tried blinking tears out of his eyes.
[Close your eyes, dear, and I shall reveal myself to you.]
He considered his options. On the one hand, he knew that this was likely some kind of Affini trap. The flower embedded within him clearly was starting to influence his executive functions. He was sure that interacting with the Affini would only exacerbate these changes.
On the other hand, he simply could not show up to the helm in this state, with the voice of a twenty year old Terran sweetheart. He was flying blind on the things that were affecting him, and he needed intel.
Yes, he nodded. I'm just going to gather intel.
With that, he had made his decision.
"Okay. Okay, I'm… I'm c-closing my eyes…" he said out loud, although he was sure that if the Affini were truly talking to him telepathically, he wouldn't have to vocalize his thoughts.
[Good girl. Now, hold still.]
Samuel began to object to being called a girl, when in a moment, he felt his mind transported to somewhere far from the Oklahoma. Lurid glowing lights sped past him, as though flying lightyears in the span of seconds.
Oh fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
In an instant, he found himself standing before a tall, graceful, handsome Affini.
"Hello Sammi. The name is Daffodila Cyprus, Third Bloom. How are you doing this evening?"
Samuel choked out a gasp, breath hitching as he gazed onto Her irresistible form.
Somewhere in his heart, he felt something shatter.