What Petal had somehow managed to not realise at any point in the leadup to this date, was that Millie’s music thing was on the far side of the Old City. They were able to follow the root of the affini district about half of the way to the apparently old bar that the performance was being held at.
Heading through the root felt fairly normal, although there were definitely a lot more uncollared terrans, and not quite so many florets and affini, especially non-terran florets, who mostly seemed to stay in the affini district.
As they reached the end of the root though, there was a definite shift to the architecture. The buildings weren’t necessarily much shorter, but they did look a lot more cramped. What Petal would have expected to be only two stories in the Affini District was apparently six stories in the old city. Even with the affini being about twice as tall as a terran on average, they still had much more appreciation for space, it would seem. The roads were also much narrower, and a lot of them still seemed to be designed for ground vehicles over pedestrians, although there were a lot fewer of them on the road than Petal imagined there used to be. They probably got confiscated by the Affini for being dangerous, or something.
Petal and Millie had been drawing more and more attention, the further they got from the root, although it was perhaps more accurate to say that they were drawing different attention. In the more Affini parts of the city, they drew plenty of attention as a pair of cute florets, or at least a cute floret and her friend, but as they’d gone further into the Old City, the attention they’d been attracted had seemed a lot less positive like a bunch of terrans used to having power looking at a reminder of how much they’d lost. Millie didn’t seem to mind the attention, but Petal was definitely growing concerned. Her feet were also starting to hurt, but Millie seemed to be fine on that front, too.
Petal was supposed to be annoying Millie by being herself, maybe she should voice her concerns. How far were they even supposed to be? “Hey Millie?”
Petal takes a moment, as she often needs to after hearing Millie call her that. “Well, everybody’s looking at us, and I don’t mean in the ‘kindly affini wants to pat your head’ kind of way. And my feet are getting sore.”
“Aww, I’m sorry Petal, should we sit down for a bit, and…” Petal looks around, but doesn’t see any benches or seats on the side of the street, as you’d expect to in the more Affini parts of the city. “Well, maybe just… stop walking for a bit?”
“I… yeah, maybe. How much further is it?”
“Oh, uh… not too far. Another block or so, I think?”
Petal groans. She wasn’t even trying to annoy Millie, she’s just already getting exhausted, and she’s really not looking forward to getting back.
“Maybe Mistress could pick us up, and carry us back home when we’re done?” Curse Millie for being so perceptive. For being so helpful, in the most unhelpful ways. And also for always suggesting the things that make Petal blush. “Yeah, let’s do that!”
Petal stands, shifting her weight from foot to foot, it doesn’t exactly help much, and it’s still slowly getting worse, but it’s still better than walking. Millie is watching her adoringly.
“Maybe you should take some xenodruggies, to help with the feet being sore? If Mistress will be carrying us back, it shouldn’t be a problem if you accidentally push yourself just a little bit too far. Besides, Mistress doesn’t have anything to do tomorrow, other than spend time with me, and... if we’re lucky, you. And Mistress gives great massages.”
“I, uh… sure, why not.” Petal takes the offered inhaler, and takes in a deep breath of the xenodrug. She feels a bit better, but her feet still kinda hurt. She takes another breath from the inhaler. That’s more like it. Her feet just feel a bit tingly. Maybe just one more- hey! Millie’s taking it away from her.
“You can have some more when we get there, okay~?”
Petal grumbles. Just because Millie’s right, it doesn’t mean she has to act like an affini. Although an affini would probably just give Petal the whole thing, and start carrying her around.
Petal’s feet are feeling even tinglier by the time they arrive, almost to the point of being sore again. She doesn’t exactly want to, but she gives Millie a somewhat pleading expression. Millie pulls out the inhaler and presses it against Petal’s mouth, who eagerly breathes in the puff of whatever xenodrug Delphinium had sent Millie with.
Millie looks so pleased with herself that Petal feels like she would be furious if it wasn’t for the way that the xenodrug was just smoothing out her mind a bit. Millie dangles the inhaler in front of Petal teasingly. Petal tries to grab for it, but Millie has already put it away by the time Petal’s hand passes through the empty space where the inhaler was. Millie giggles, and Petal blushes before stepping into the bar behind Millie. It’s dark, dingy, and smells faintly of stale alcohol, cigarettes, and weed. Exactly like the kind of place her ex used to like to go. They were even dressed in the same kind of military surplus clothes that the friends she’d had through her ex back then wore.
Petal followed Millie to the bar. Millie seemed as bold as ever, but Petal was getting a bit concerned. Only a few people in the room had looked up as they’d entered, but it wasn’t long before it seemed that the two of them were the center of attention. On the bar there were some pamphlets that looked hand-printed. Petal picked a few up to take a look at them.
The truth the AFFINI don’t want you to KNOW!
Natural phenomena, or AFFINI weapon?!
No no no.
The REAL truth behind XENODRUGS!
Bio-Tech? Or Bio-TERROR!
Terran Separatists. Fuck. At best, they believed that Terrans should be given room to develop for themselves, with the least possible Affini intervention. Humanity should be given every chance to flourish for itself, so long as it wasn’t going to put others at harm. And if that were all it was, it wouldn’t be so bad.
In reality though, from what Petal had seen on the overnet, most of them were just Free Terranists who’d realised that calling themselves that put them on the fast track to domestication. Like the Affini would care whether or not they actually called themselves Free Terranists.
Petal wasn’t quite sure why the Affini let any of this happen. Maybe it was so that the Affini could find anyone who was going to try anything before they did anything dangerous. Maybe it was decided that the mass-domestication of nominally peaceful citizens would incite some kind of backlash. Although the Affini probably only cared about avoiding a backlash because it could get some terrans hurt. It’s not like there’s anything the separatists could get their hands on that could even hurt an affini.
Except a floret whose affini wasn’t around. Who had just walked right up to them, and was way too open, and trusting, and not at all prepared to deal with the kind of people who were willing to throw their friends out of airlocks, and why did it have to be terran separatists, and-
Fuck. Not here, not now. Petal fumbles with her bracelet, quickly slipping it off, and shoving it into her bag with the pamphlets.
“Millie, uh… I think we should go.”
“Aww~, but we just got here.”
Petal grabs Millie’s hand. “Millie, we need to leave.”
Petal freezes as she hears a familiar voice. “No, I really think you should stay.” Fuck. What was she doing here? She wasn’t supposed to be here. Petal wasn’t supposed to have to see her ever again, she was supposed to be gone! She was supposed to already be somebody’s pet, far away from here where she can be happy, and Petal can be happy, and they never have to see each other ever again.
“I know you never cared enough about anything to actually make anything of yourself, but still, I never figured you for a plantfucker. But I guess you aren’t just a lazy coward, you’re a traitor too.”
Petal turns around to look, and sure enough she’s there, standing between Petal and escape, holding a knife. Sabine. Petal’s ex. The one who got her into this whole mess. The one who is apparently still holding a grudge against her, despite being the one who broke things off.
“So, why don’t you tell me how a pair of plantfucker pet traitors found this place, and if you’re very lucky, nobody has to get hurt. Sound good, Jeremy?”
The one who’s suddenly holding a crude, but sharp looking knife, standing between her, and freedom. The one who’s standing between Millie and freedom.