I ended up having to hold my jacket like a ball so affini would stop staring at me like a wild animal digging through the trash at night. Stars know what the plants have to do at night, but they probably think the same thing to me. The first garden I normally take care of used to be hidden behind a warehouse alleyway, but that building was torn up and replaced with another park. The affini found the garden and just left it, even if they took out the scraps of pallets used as fencing to keep wild animals out. It’s not a bad thing that they did it, but having the guerilla taken out of guerilla gardening just makes it late night gardening.. In the Accord, you had to be careful so you didn’t get caught trespassing, but now I just have to explain to the affini that yes, I am in fact gardening at one AM.
What used to be a mound of soil with a bunch of vegetables growing in it could almost be mistaken for some rich fuck’s private garden, just missing the threat of automated security turrets threatening a death sentence for daring to be hungry enough to steal a tomato. Bright flowers waiting for the sun to come up circle around where the fence used to be, leaving a small pathway to enter.
I drop to my knees and quickly check the plants for weeds, then each of the vegetables rootings for signs of decay. Nothing quite ready to be harvested just yet, but the first one is done. Since there’s no actual danger, I could take my time but it’s hard to drop a habit after only a few months. Time for a few more.
Amaryllis never complained when I get home at three AM and wash up, she’s in bed with Enya and eagerly takes me into her vines for the night. I’ve woken up a few times in her grip while she’s cooking lunch, somehow not waking me for hours. I stopped complaining after the third time, because she’s right, waking up early sucks.
She does wake me up at around eleven to ‘make sure I eat’ before my appointment at one of the infinite affini bureaucracy offices around the city, and offers to walk Enya with me to it. It’d probably say a lot about how I need someone to watch me, so I deny, hug Amaryllis, kiss Enya and get dressed in something a little less offensive to authoritarians and make my way out the door.
One of my favorite things about the compact trashing the accord has to be public transit. Before the affini, if you didn’t have a car, you were walking. Now all I have to do is go to the nearest tram station, wait a few minutes and ask the plants to please stop petting me.
“Where are you going, little one?”
An affini asks me while the city flies past us silently. I check their face while avoiding staring into their pink metallic eyes for more than a few seconds, they don’t look like they’re trying to interrogate me.
“A bureaucracy office, I have some things to take care of.”
Not a lie, even if it omits a ton. They look down at me like I’d look at a kitten working in a convenient store and I smile back at them, just to keep them lightly condescending over me instead of any worse attention, but they still fucking pet me.
The affini somehow made an office a pleasant place to be, if you were a floret that is. Their desks are all fairly close to each other without being tight and the affini, plus a few terrans quietly chat while they work. A few of the desks have a fabric tunnel under them, about tall enough for someone my size to crawl through them, and a few really tall cat trees with one girl sprawled out on the top staring into space.
When I came here the first time, I quickly found out that most of the office doors didn’t have locks after going to the wrong one for an appointment. They just expect us to go to where we need to be, no security escorting you aside from a floret who might help lead you to your destination. I knock on the door to the lady I need to justify my life to’s office, and she calls for me to come in.
Fagaceae Quercus, Third bloom is sitting at her desk and petting her cat-modded floret, Emily on her lap. Fagaceae has mostly wooden limbs, the insides of her hands are more viney, I could probably mistake her for a tree if she wasn’t so lively. Emily had the typical blank faced joy and skin exposing dress most florets wear, with her hands and feet replaced with clumsy paws, plus a tail and kitty ears. She has to stop petting Emily because apparently she’s a bit noisy on Class A’s.
“Hello Jennifer! How are you doing today?” She asks while moving her hands around lots, eventually finding some kind of plush to occupy them, sharing it with Emily.
“I’m fine, I only woke up an hour ago.” I say while the floret bites her owner’s hand, earning her a few headpats, then lets out the most touch horny moan I’ve ever heard.
“Sorry, sorry dear. Let’s start with your week. Have things been going okay?” She asks while displaying the most self control I’ve ever seen an affini perform near a floret. There’s a vine with an ink producing thorn ready to take notes.
I sigh, “I’ve been spending most of my time with my girlfriend and her owner, gardening.” There’s a flurry of glyphs scrawled over the sheet at lightning speed.
“I see! You’re adapting, that’s good! Great, actually!” Fagaceae smiles for a little bit, then droops. “But we do have some concerns we need to go over, as you’re a registered feralist.”
She goes into a filing cabinet and takes out a few sheets, and I already can feel myself shrinking. Principal's office energy again. “This one’s probably nothing, but someone saw you walking into a J-Cafe and got concerned, but there’s no complaints from anyone working there. Mind a small explanation so I can just file this one away and put their mind at ease?”
Fucking hell, Affini are nosy. They really don’t trust me, huh? “I go there to pet some people and have coffee, I wouldn’t dream of bothering people for being stoned.”
The oak lady nods, fills in a spot on a page and stamps it. “That’s what I figured, but you know how we are about florets! You’re quite well known as a feral, so they feel that they can’t be too careful.” She looks a lot more grim as she reads off the next one, “These few are a lot more serious, they’re about you spreading feral propaganda to florets, or bothering them in general.”
Fuck. This is about Enya, isn’t it? “I have never wanted to hurt a floret, that’s entirely against my beliefs. I go out with my girlfriend sometimes, and we talk about politics. Her and another friend who’s also a floret are the only ones I talk to about that sort of thing.” I rest my head in my hands, having to explain everything I do is insufferable.
She looks a lot less worried now, that’s good at least. “Hmm. Both of your friends had the same feral ideology you have, and now they’re well behaved florets. I could see their owners being worried about what you talk about to them.”
Unbelievable, as always. “Please don’t talk down about them. They are plenty smart and aren’t just influenced by whatever they hear.”
Fagaceae almost looks like she’s backtracking, “Oh, no dear. I’m not calling your friends anything bad, but we don’t value intelligence or agency the way you do. My concern isn’t about what they’re able to sort out on their own, it’s about their owner’s feelings on the matter.”
I try to hold back my criticism, but she manages to strike that nerve with incredible precision.
“Oh, so it’s easier to control them? Because smarter people ask too many questions? It’s always what the owners want.” The tree lady looks down at me with about as much offense as one would feel against a cat hissing.
“No, none of that now. Their owners know what’s best for them, and florets give up their political rights. When you talk about things like ‘class’ and ‘monopolies on violence’ in public, especially to florets, these sorts of reports pop up.” She says while holding up six sheets of paper.
I can’t even be mad at this, if I said this sort of thing to an accord bureaucrat I’d be escorted out at best. Instead I’m just being scolded. They don’t take me seriously at all. I sigh out, and slump into my chair. “Yes, miss..” Surrender is the only option I’m given against their benevolently overwhelming might.
She quietly scribbles on the complaint documents and files them away. No locking me up as a dissident, no -
“You’ve been living with Amaryllis Nemesia for a bit over a month now, so I’ll go ahead and put you in as her ward. You’re very well behaved, but express enough concerning feralist ideology behind her back that I believe this is necessary.”
Profanities, rants, all sorts of things cross my mind as she begins filling out a small textbook worth of paperwork, but all I can even think to do is curl up and hide. This is unfair, violates my dignity, and.. Makes me feel utterly powerless. The accord was worse than the compact ever could be, but the compact forces me to roll.. Without the threat of violence. The sound of writing and paper rustling is only interrupted by Emily wordlessly begging for pets, probably too high to even pick up the tension.
“And Jennifer, have you thought more about working at or running a restaurant to replace your mutual ai-” I cut her off with a simple “No.”, her leaves wilting a little. They don’t get that it’s supposed to help people who no one else will help, but now no one needs help..
She types something on a datapad before she goes back to filling out the tome of paperwork, signing whatever rights I had away for me. “Alright. As her ward, Amaryllis will be coming to pick you up, so please stay here.”
I quietly wait for Amaryllis to arrive, staring into a cat tree cubby and resisting the urge to be difficult. The last thing I want is more trouble.
Amaryllis makes it to the office, and I graciously do not make her pull me out of the small hole. She’s holding a sleeping Enya to her chest with one arm, the other holding my hand gently. It was either that, or a leash. The ride home is quiet, and the tension feels like it’s only coming from me. Affini get to be dignified, but when I do it, it’s ‘feralism’.
When we get home, Amaryllis lifts me onto a couch and sits next to me, looking down to me with a gentle smile. “Little one, we’re going to have to have a talk.”