They felt queasy, as the walls of the ship thrummed in that never-quite-familiar way as it plummeted back into regular old spacetime. They'd forgotten how many times they'd been through this, although that probably said almost as much about their memory as it did about how often it happened.
They looked around cautiously to see if anyone was watching, and content that they were alone, they straightened out their back and stretched. Slouching wasn't exactly good for them, but taking up less space meant it didn't feel quite as wrong. It still felt wrong, of course. Everything did, even before that long night they spent staring at the ceiling, when they finally realised, finally admitted to themself that they weren't actually a man. Not that knowing it had done them much good, if anything, it just made the dysphoria worse. Not to mention that the Endless Horizons didn't exactly give them much room for deep introspection. It didn't give anybody much room for any introspection. If it did, then maybe the captain would have realised that running was going to work just about as well as fighting in the long run. Probably worse, even. At least if they fought, they'd probably get captured and sent off to be pets, or whatever the Affini Compact actually did.
The official Horizons policy was that it was better to die a Free Terran than to let the Affini do their thing, and they'd made that decision for a few of the less zealous crew. The person groaned in distress, they'd liked Sarah, and no slogans of 'better dead than pet' will change the fact that she'd been executed for having her own damned thoughts. They let out a breath they didn't even know they were holding. Fuck. They wanted this over, but not badly enough for that. Not when there was still a chance of getting out of this alive. If there was a chance of getting out of this alive.
They made their way to the ship's mess. Maybe they could try to figure out this whole gender thing over lunch, again. They couldn't help but stop as they made their way past the escape pods. Still guarded, ever since... two, three jumps ago? Maybe four? Ever since Ingrid and Astrid managed their great escape, launching themselves in off in an escape pod, just before the Horizons' drive kicked in. One of the guards shifted slightly, his hand gently resting on the grip of his pistol. The other guard was holding a rifle, his finger uncomfortable close to resting on the trigger. They quickly hurried off. Nothing like seeing a gun to remind you that everybody on your ship can, and absolutely would, kill you, if you didn't sound vitriolic enough when you complained about the 'damned weeds' or whatever. One of the guards grunted as they left, but apparently that was enough. Maybe the captain had decided to take a page out of the playbook the affini apparently used: slave labour. It would be very in keeping with the history of the Terran Accord that everybody seemed to suddenly decide had actually been a perfect system. Rebels were pretty big on martyrs, they supposed, and a whole government makes for a pretty big martyr.
They didn't stay long in the mess, just long enough to grab their food and water to take back somewhere they could be not looked at. And where they wouldn't have to be constantly reminded that literally everybody on the ship had a gun. Even they did, not that they kept it loaded. They found themself back in their quarters, and looked down at their meagre rations apathetically. They tossed them aside, and were about to try to get some rest, maybe they'd be hungry later, but... it didn't quite feel right. Something they'd overheard somebody say in the mess was bugging them... something about Affini propaganda?
"Damn weeds, pretendin' like they know what's good for us!"
It was something like that, anyway. It had always seemed like the strangest thing about Affini propaganda. How they spent so much of the time just offering the same advice that everybody needed, but nobody could make money off. Eat your food, drink your water, take your meds, and get plenty of rest. There'd even been the occasional guided meditation that had nothing to do with how hopeless the fight against the Affini was. There was plenty of that too, mostly from the pet humans they put in front of the cameras. Which was the other weird thing, the only other thing any of the humans seemed to want to talk about was how great being a pet was. It wasn't exactly countering any of the Rebels talking points. If anything it was just fuel to the fire.
Well, the Affini propaganda was right about one thing, it was important to eat, drink, take your meds, and sleep. The Horizons was perilously low on food, water, and medicines, and everyone was so overworked that nobody got anything close to enough sleep, but... some food, some water, and some sleep was better than no food, no water and no sleep, and so they dutifully ate their food and drank their water. Taking their meds was a bit of a sticking point, though. Even if the Horizons somehow got far enough away to be free from the Affini, and they did somehow manage to figure out what to actually do about their gender, or their name, or their pronouns (other than not a man, not Jeremy, and not he/him)... it's not like there was going to be the medical infrastructure they'd need wherever they ended up. Unless it was with the Affini.
And so, whatever meds they should be taking untaken, they lay down in what passed for their bed, and tried not to think about the bubbly Affini they half remembered seeing in the propaganda, telling them, and everyone else, they supposed, that they really should take their meds, and when the Affini arrived, they could have all the fanciest xenodrugs to fix all of their problems. That all the Affini wanted was for every human to be the best version of who they're supposed to be. The worst part is, they were just about ready to believe every word of it, but they couldn't do anything about it. Their fate was entirely in the hands of men too stupid to recognise that they'd lost a war that was only ever going to end one way, and if those men kept getting lucky, they were going to get everybody on the Horizons killed. It was almost enough to drive a person to taking their own way out. That's what they everybody said happened to Mike, after all.
They look towards the locked drawer where they keep the dreaded ammunition for the pistol they're forced to carry around.
No. The Affini might still-
Their thoughts are cut short by an angry blaring sound, and the captain's voice crackles over the Horizons' intercom, "All hands, we have contacts. Prepare to repel-"
All of the ship's main lights go out, leaving only the soft glow of emergency lights and a few seconds of an eerie silence as everything on the ship seems to stop, before there's a series of reverberating thuds of something hitting the ship. The Affini are here.