Everyone in the brig felt a moment of physical revulsion as the gyros handling the spin-grav briefly miscalibrated, if only for a moment.
Conners held the door to the brig, ushering people through. Sam did his best to help as well, until the room was cleared.
Now there’s just hallways full of security personnel… and the Affini boarding party…
Sam had seen the training vids. The terrifying approach of those alien creatures, oppressive vines outstretched as they made their way through ship corridors, barely dissuaded by state-of-the-art laser weaponry. He tried to shake the thought from his mind.
“They’re likely beginning capture procedures… so stick together. They pick off solo targets quicker,” Sam advised. He clutched a security baton; not ideal for fighting the Affini, but better than nothing.
Conners took a glance down the hallway, one of the security officer’s digital slates in hand. “From what I recall, they seem to nonviolently detain those who surrender. I think that, with these implants, we can probably convince them that we’re not just bluffing. I’m going to plot a path through the service hallways in engineering; that way we can avoid ship security and go straight to the incursion points of the Affini.”
Sam let out a disappointed breath. Right. Unlike Samuel, the rest of them were done with the resistance. Of course they’d want to surrender. He mulled over the options.
Moving in a large group would be safer… but only if we’re all cooperative. And I can’t surrender. I just can’t. The Resistance depends on me… what do I do? I can’t just go with them.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned, and Quentin was there, flashing him a sad smile.
“We’re surrendering, Captain,” they stated, rather matter-of-factly. “Suppose we can’t convince you to abandon your terran bravado, huh?”
Sam replied with as brave a face as he could muster. “Sorry, Quentin. I have a job to do.”
They shared an understanding nod. Sam looked away, trying to hide a soft blush.
Despite his best efforts, his conversation partner noticed. “Hey… We’ll go looking for you, you know?”
He tried grumbling out a response, but felt his hand being taken into a soft grasp, and he flushed a little more. Quentin’s hands were really… really nice.
“Once everything sorts itself out…” Conners promised earnestly, “no matter what happens, you’re our captain. You know that?”
Sam felt pride well up in his body. He adjusted his posture until he was standing as tall as he could… which was a little short of Conners at this point. Still.
He squeezed the engineer’s hand. “Just… make sure everyone’s safe, okay? I’m counting on you.”
Quentin shot one more glance down the hallway. “I won’t let you down, captain. Come on, guys, let’s go.”
As Sam watched the engineer lead the rest of the crew towards the engineering bay, a familiar voice began stirring in his head.
[Sammi… we are currently boarding. Please stay where you are, and avoid the rebels.]
“!!!” Sam was no longer dreaming, but he could hear Daffodila’s voice anyway.
“How did you…?” He started.
[We are within communications range… please, Sammi. Be a good girl for me, okay?]
Sam shuddered. Daffodila was talking to him as though he were already a pet. The affection and concern in the affini’s voice made Sam tingle with endorphins, almost forcing a whimper out of him.
No. No no no.
He wasn’t a pet. Not yet. Even if a part of him felt regret for not joining Quentin, for not just letting Conners hold his hand, taking him directly to the Affini.
No. Samuel Dirkost was a Captain of the resistance.
He ignored the voice in his head. He wasn’t going to surrender just yet.
I’ve got one thing left to do.
Adrenaline coursed through Sam’s body as he took off down the hallway towards the helm of the ship.
He heard several sharp, airy explosions and blasts of laser weaponry off to his left, and zagged right. He recognized the sound; boarding munitions from the security, used to clear corridors. He knew it was likely futile; small scale weaponry like that had only ever been effective on human boarders, not affini. As if to confirm his pessimism, he heard the explosions die down. They were quickly replaced by the sound of shifting vines, the hissing of xenodrugs, and breathy groans followed by the thud of bodies hitting the deck. Judging by the violet clouds that were beginning to roll down the hallway and through the air ducts, this fight was already a lost cause.
Panels across the ship began to fold with a whirr, revealing emergency gas masks, usually deployed during loss of cabin pressure. Some brave soul must have decided, as a last ditch effort, to give the rebels a chance to counter the xenodrugs that the Affini had deployed. Grabbing one of the masks and slipping it over his head, he tuned it to his specifications. A few seconds later, a tone indicated that oxygenation had begun.
Despite the dire situation he was in, the filtered air rushing through the mask helped Sam feel confident for the first time in a long time. He knew exactly what he had to do, after all.
This was something he had planned if the Affini ever got their roots into the ship. His profile was the only one cleared to access and wipe the ledger on the bridge. That ledger was the key to all of this, containing information on resistance movements, strategies, strongholds and hidden outposts. If the invading Affini captured those, it would be over for their arm of the rebellion.
I can’t let Daffodila have them. Just get to the bridge, Sam. Destroy the logs.
Sam felt another lurch, and cast a glance out the portside window; the ship was clearly being manipulated, bark-covered vines wrapping around the ship as though it were ensnared by a massive carnivorous plant. Even if the Affini hadn’t taken control of the engine room or bridge, they would have succeeded in stopping the frigate from escaping, but Sam didn’t see any exhaust coming from the tailend of the Oklahoma either. He hoped they hadn’t yet taken over the bridge, or his whole plan would be ruined, but he didn’t have a choice. The situation was dire enough that he knew he had little chance of succeeding, but… he had to try.
A slithering sound from down the next hallway caused him to pause at the intersection. He could faintly make out a recognizable voice murmuring, clearly incapacitated and drugged.
"...Lieutenant… don’t leave me behind… pleeaaassseee…"
He peeked around the corner. Ensign Welkin’s limp body was being carried away by an Affini boarder, thrown over the alien's shoulder like a docile animal. “Shh shh shh… quiet, little one. You’re safe now.”
Regret panged through Sam’s body.
I’m sorry, Welkin. I should’ve been there. I should have…
…I wish I could have taken you up on breakfast…
The ensign looked… peaceful, despite the circumstances, and Sam imagined what it would be like to be poked with those terrifying needles and put under… dragged screaming, kicking until his consciousness gave way to complete bliss, and shouts of defiance slowly transformed into mewls of pleasure…
His hand idly began to drift under his jumpsuit, and Sam had to put some effort into stopping himself.
No! No… No… I’m not… I don’t want that. I won’t let that happen to me.
He clenched his jaw, held his breath and waited until they passed, then reassessed the situation.
So the main hallways aren’t safe. Service corridors, on the other hand…
He knew of a path to get to the bridge from here… it just would take him through the lifeboat hangar, which he suspected might be packed full of people… or maybe affini. He might run into any number of possible situations while there, but he didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t risk getting caught by the Affini patrolling the halls.
Gripping his baton tightly, he ducked into a maintenance hallway and ran swiftly, as fast as the oxygen in his mask would let him replenish his lungs.
The lifeboat hangar was a mess.
Nothing in the area looked operational – boxes were tossed aside, buttons were smashed. Some lifeboats looked like they had been shot through with laser weaponry, while others were detached from their launching stations. Sam wasn’t even sure how some of this damage was possible; Accord-manufactured emergency jettison systems were usually foolproof. Despite all of the damage, it was eerily quiet… only the sound of errant servos and distant klaxons punctuated the silence. The thin violet xenodrug mist hanging in the air made the subdued chaos of the room seem even more surreal.
Samuel surmised that in his absence, the crew had panicked instead of calmly undergoing evacuation procedures. There was nothing he could do about the past, but he felt guilt weighing his shoulders down anyway.
This is all my fault.
He huffed, shook his head. Although he had few expectations coming here, he was secretly hoping there might still be a viable means of escape. Finding the hangar in this state sealed the deal; the only way he was getting off this frigate was in a body bag… or in an Affini’s arms.
No point in worrying about how to escape, so let’s just finish the job–
He ducked instinctively. Several shots flitted by, making ear-ringing clangs as they impacted the steel walls behind him. Sam threw himself behind a defunct lifeboat, heart racing.
“Hah. Figured I’d run into you.”
Of course he’s here.
Jones’ cold voice rang out from the other side of the hangar. For some reason he sounded far from calculated – now, just menacing, unhinged.
Sam cursed quietly to himself, and clung to his baton. “What do you want, Jones?”
“Heh. You know, I’ve been reflecting about everything that’s happened lately,” he heard his lieutenant’s voice getting louder as he approached. “And it’s gotten me thinking; why did we run from that little affini ship? Why did we initiate the Blomen Protocol in a fight we could have won?”
An icy shiver rushed down Sam’s back. “If you think we had any chance of winning that fight, you’re delusional.”
“You’re the one that’s delusional, Captain,” Jones laughed.
Sam responded sardonically. “Oh, so you finally recognize me.”
He tried peeking out from behind the lifeboat-
With a yelp. Sam returned to his cover. That shot landed only inches away from his head.
Jones stepped closer and closer, and Sam picked up on a distinct hiss; the tell of filtered breaths. The lieutenant was wearing a mask himself.
“I got it figured out, Captain. Sometime after we rebelled, you must have been offered some kind of deal by those damn weeds… you were trying to sabotage us from the beginning. You were the one spreading flowers across the station, weren’t you? You split the fleet so that it’d be easier for the Affini to pick us off… one by one. And now you’re even prancing around in that pathetic domesticated body… you can’t even hide your loyalties anymore.”
Sam frowned. His body didn’t look domesticated, did it? Never mind that… he frantically thought of some way to explain himself before he stopped himself. No explanation was getting him out of this one. Instead he took on a lower profile, and prepared to creep around to the other side of the lifeboat to get a better vantage point.
“Whatever you’re thinking, Jones," replied Sam, "you’re wrong. I don’t know what’s happening to me… but that’s beside the point! I’m here to do my job.”
Jones let out a cackle. “Are you trying to get me to surrender, Samuel? … if that even is your name…”
The lieutenant was almost within striking distance now. Sam’s pounding heart filled his ears… he needed to get the timing right… he only had one shot at this.
“I came here to protect the rebellion… to do my duty.” Sam retorted, shifting his weight in preparation to strike. “We’re wasting time here… we have to get to the bridge… delete the ledger. We can still do this. We don’t have to fight.”
Jones snorted. “As if. I’ll see you in hell, captain.”
He revealed himself as he turned the corner, gun trained on where Sam had been moments before.
I’ll hold you to that, buddy.
With a shrill cry, Sam leapt from above the lifeboat, swinging his baton down onto Jones’ head. The blow caught the lieutenant by surprise, and even as they both tumbled to the ground, he squeezed off several shots from his sidearm by instinct.
The flashes in Sam’s vision, paired with the thundering gunshots that echoed through the hangar, would have caused any normal human to balk.
But Sam wasn’t just some normal human… he was an Accord Captain.
Regaining his footing before the lieutenant, Sam threw all of his weight down on Jones’s gun arm. Gaining as much leverage as he could, he used his baton to rain blow after blow down upon Jones’s mask. Each swing was rewarded with an audible cracking sound, until finally, the seal splintered entirely.
“Rraaah!” Sam just came to the realization that he had lost weight from his transformation, and trembled as Jones began to lift the captain. Before he could counter, Jones shoved Sam off the floor and into the lifeboat wall with a brutish roar, knocking all of the air out of the captain.
Sam struggled to get back up to his feet… by the time he had brought his head back up, he found Jones’s sidearm pointed directly at his face. The lieutenant stood over Sam with a deranged grin, cocking his hammer back on his sidearm.
“Any last words, plantfucker?” Jones asked gleefully.
Sam, wincing, glared up at his lieutenant.
“Breathe in, asshole.”
A shocked look crossed Jones’s face. Only a moment later, his eyes began to go unfocused. He dropped his gun and brought his hands to his throat, but it was too late… the xenodrugs were already kicking in.
As his former subordinate fell to his knees, the captain picked himself off of the ground. He let go of his baton; it wouldn't be needed. The gasses were making short work of his opponent, turning the lieutenant into a breathy, lethargic mess within seconds.
Even still, Jones’s face had taken on a terrified expression, as much of one as he could muster with those drooping eyelids. “Captain… c-captain… please…”
“For the record, Jones,” Sam said, casting one last pitiful look at his crewmate, “the Affini are going to treat you much better than I would have.”
With that, he turned heel, trying to ignore Jones’s pleas as they devolved into soft whimpers.
“...no… no please… come… come back…”
Sam mustered his strength to push on.
“I’ve got a ledger to delete, Jones. Don’t get in my way.”
Exiting the hangar, Sam found himself back in the main hallway. This corridor used to be much busier, but now, just like the lifeboat hangar, it was lifeless.
We’re almost there.
He could see the door to the bridge. It wasn’t far. Just a little faster-
The flower in his chest suddenly pulsated. He let out a groan as his head began to spin, and leaned against the walls of the corridor to stabilize himself.
The captain clutched his sternum; it felt as though the roots of the flower had all spasmed at once. He surmised that with an Affini properly giving injections, that would be how it would feel if the implant were actively pumping chemicals through his veins.
But if no one's here to give me injections, then what is it doing?
His vertigo intensified, and the hallway began to look even larger. He stumbled his way towards a restroom... he needed to know what it was doing.
The entire ordeal felt laborious and off-balance, like somehow parts of his body were shifting in weight. He compensated by lowering his center of balance and keeping his knees bent, but that only further served to make everything seem larger than before. His head spun faster. As he entered the bathroom, the reflection in the mirror caused him to freeze.
That wasn't him.
That couldn't be him.
The person in the mirror looked as though they had never been exposed to the scars of war. Instead of a short military cut, shoulder length wavy hair framed a shocked and confused, angular face. Their lips looked kissably soft, cheeks rosy red, nose sloped in a cute fashion. Eyebrows were intense but innocent, and a somewhat glassy look had already begun manifesting in their eyes.
No. No no no.
The short person in the mirror clutched their arms. Muscle that should have been there had somehow melted, leaving lean shapes. They looked positively dwarfed by their jumpsuit – a silly looking display that only served to make their frame look even smaller. Even more, the arms had pressed into their chest, where fat had begun to collect. It was no longer worth denying- they had breasts.
"What… but… I…"
He suddenly noticed how silky smooth his own skin had gotten… how soft his body, with its various curves, hills and valleys, felt. It was perfect for touching, rubbing, petting… he shook his head. No. Giving in would just make things worse. Despite his best efforts he recalled what Jones had said earlier… about him looking like he had already been domesticated. That couldn’t be right… right?
The Affini are trying to break me.
Sammi cringed, and the woman in the reflection flashed an uncomfortable face.
They… they’re making me soft and cuddly and cute. Well… I won't bend. I won't break.
He struggled to break line of sight with the mirror. It was hypnotizing… he looked so soft… so kind. So much already like a pet…
His legs barely cooperated as he stumbled out of the bathroom. He was wasting time.
When Sam entered the bridge, he found it remarkably still, and… quiet. Gone were the flashing lights, or chatting crewman, or subordinates giving instructions and readouts. It was as though the Affini’s influence had already transformed the helm’s basic substance into something alien.
They must have gotten to the bridge first… captured everyone.
Sam felt a tinge of regret for not being here for his crewmen in their final moments.
I can’t let their sacrifice be in vain. I have to finish the job.
He crept, slowly, towards the helm, checking his corners. Where Welkins and Jones once stood, instead were vacant spots. The primary console was unmolested, still standing. He was so close.
[“There you are.”]
The captain’s blood ran cold.
That voice could only belong to one person.