----------------------Centhia, North New Bergen, 2nd Silverbloom Street, 07.02.2555, 10:33------------------------
The sun had just begun to stretch over the tall buildings as Rosa exited her apartment block. The outside that met her was almost as green as it was grey, the classic Centhian brutalist style slowly being overtaken by affini structures. The street was filled with people, but not choked with it, something she was very grateful for. Nothing, or at least very little, was worse than the choked crowds of a morning rush.
Not that morning rushes were a thing anymore. When people don’t need to work as much there is little reason for everyone to get out in the street from seven to eight in the morning. Not that people rushed either, most took their time to wherever they wanted to go. Rosa took a deep breath of unpolluted air and stretched, allowing the morning grogginess to slip further from her mind.
She started to walk and decided not to take the rail system. It might make her slightly late for the meeting, but it was a nice day outside. The rising sun gleamed wonderfully on the new buildings in the area and even the concrete ones looked less oppressive. Most people looked happy, free of the crushing weight that had once been ever-present.
It had been over six months since the affini had taken control and provided some much-needed stability to the planet. The accord was gone, and the one-month republic had been a short-lived affair, as the name indicated. Capitalism, class society, and the Hendrikan surveillance state, all gone and replaced with the Compact's benevolent…and indisputable rule.
Rosa spotted one of the invaders, an affini carrying a doped-up floret in their arms. It was far from the only one, the tall plant people could be seen easily due to their tall stature. Something in the blue sky caught her attention, a swarm of white affini shuttles, they looked like a school of fish swimming through water. They were probably heading for the arrival center in the middle of the city. Another group, far from the first and far, far from the last.
During the initial invasion, the affini had almost been too few to maintain control. Now there were over two billion of them on the planet. According to the news and some general speculations, there would be around three times as many within the decade. Centhia had always had a massive population, 12 billion was nothing to scoff at. Only the affini could increase that to 18 billion in the span of a few short years and still have more than enough housing, amenities, and food.
While deep in thought and admiring the trees that had been planet on both sides of the pedestrian-dominated street, she almost walked straight into an affini. The tall plant alien leaned down and smiled “~hello there cutie, would you be a dear and tell me where the nearest domestication center is?~” Rosa took a step back and looked up at the alien, having to cover her eyes because of the sun.
It also conveniently hid the fact she could not resist rolling her eyes “Continue down here, take a left at the presidential garden, and then the first street to right. You should see it after the third intersection.” A vine landed on her head and gave her a few pats.
The affini continued to talk in her melodic voice “~Thank you for being so helpful, little one. Maybe we will see each there?~” Rosa did not dignify that with a response and merely waved as she walked away. Her irritation quickly settled, but the encounter reminded her of the fact that not everything was perfect in this brave new world. That fact was also the reason she was out at the moment, someone had to make things better.
Realizing that she might be a bit later than hoped, Rosa picked up the pace, waking rapidly past the other pedestrians. The university soon came into view, it was quite a beautiful place, one of the few that had required minimal affini renovation. The posters of the red dawn movement were many and easy to spot, their presence filled her with pride. With her stereotypical rapid gay walk, she had made it only six minutes over time, or perhaps it was seven when she finally made her way into the study room they had booked.
The first thing that meet her was Kevin, he smiled and waved “I was beginning to think that you weren’t coming today.” They both chuckled at the obvious joke, Rosa peaked around her friend, it looked like the tables were almost full.
The pride blossomed further “You know I never miss a meeting. How is the attendance, good?”
Kevin nodded “I counted 45 a few minutes ago, many of them are interested in joining.” Rosa smiled, things were finally getting on track.
New members were always the highlight of her work “Is Veronica here? We need to get the member list in order soon.” A movement was not built alone, after all.
Kevin’s smile faded “no…in fact I don’t think she will be coming, at least for some time.” Rosa’s mood mellowed, Veronica must be having a harder time than she thought “I went to visit her yesterday, but she wasn’t in her apartment.” She wasn’t home? That seemed very unlike the girl she knew.
Her comrade sighed “I called the outreach center, apparently she had been taken into a temporary wardship. A committee will be evaluating…forced domestication soon.” fuck….Rosa knew Veronica had it difficult, but domestication?….
She forced a smile “I can go and visit her later. Hopefully, it can be sorted without resorting to such a drastic measure. I can take care of the paperwork, I have a lot of time on my hands regardless.” Kevin did not look as reassured as she had hoped.
There was some audible concern in his voice “are you sure? At this point, you are doing almost everything. Maybe we should have a reformative meeting, don’t want you to go the way of the president.” It was a joke, not one she appreciated all that much.
Rosa pressed the confidence in her voice “I am not governing a nation, I promise I can handle it. Also, we are seeing such a surge in activity. I don’t want to slow it down with boring member-only meetings. Once we have a solid membership base we can do some organization building. Can I trust you to handle the mobilization?”
With a resigned sigh Kevin nodded “of course, I’ll handle it.”
She moved an arm around his shoulder and dragged him along “that’s my man, now let's go start this meeting. We have a world to improve.” Even with the dent in her mood that the news of Veronica had made, Rosa was sure this was going to be a great day.
-------------------Centhia, North New Bergen, Genus University grounds , 07.02.2555, 11:46---------------------
Echina Magis, 4th bloom, strolled through the human learning center while inspecting the architecture. Unlike most of what she had seen of the humans’ construction so far, the buildings were friendly with a lot of open space between them. She appreciated this, humans had an unfortunate tendency of packing their buildings very close together. She had even seen alleyways too small for her to even pass through, certainly an issue that would soon be fixed.
Even so, Echina was glad to be working here rather than anywhere else. Humans were far from the least advanced people that the compact had domesticated, but so much of their knowledge was dangerously flawed, based on misconceptions, or just straight up wrong. And all of it was outdated in some way or another. That was why she was there, to help these adorable sophonts catch up to compact standards and who knows, perhaps she would find a floret or two.
Not that she had started on any of these projects yet, she only arrived last week. While moving, something caught her eye. It was a paper-based information sheet, glued to the wall. Big bold letters read “Come join the discussion for a better tomorrow.” And “Meetings every Tuesday and Friday, 11:00, study hall C4, open attendance.” In between the two blocks of text, there was a logo. A simplistic rendition of a sunrise, and within it an artistic depiction of a human hand formed into a raised fist. Bellow the logo in red letters “the Red Dawn Movement – a better tomorrow is possible!”
Interesting, Friday…that was today. Echina smiled, what a wonderful opportunity to scout the area while also meeting some of the local cuties. Observing their discussions would also be fruitful for devising the new curriculum she was to produce. She made her way to where the meeting was supposedly held, hopefully, it was not already over. Humans supposedly had a tendency to be easily distracted.
It took her two attempts before Echina found not only the correct building but also the correct floor and room. Why had the humans organized their structures this way? She had no idea. Maybe something else she could help them with. The sound of lively conversation in the human language along with some decorations with the same iconography as the information sheet, signaled that at last, she had found it. When she entered the room, the conversation died, and the humans looked at her. They looked nervous…oh dirt, had she scared them?
One of the humans stood up and walked confidently forward, her packmates hesitation absent “welcome, are you here to join the meeting?” What an adorable human! So friendly and nice.
Echina nodded, trying to make her voice sound as non-threatening as possible “Indeed I am, though I don’t know exactly what this meeting is about.” A smile spread on the human’s face, so precious!
The girl gestured for her to join them at one of the tables “excellent! You are the first affini to come to our meeting, I’m confident you won’t be the last. This meeting is about discussing accessibility design in infrastructure.” The excitement in the human’s voice was so self-evident, what a delight of a sophont.
The lack of any fitting chairs was easily solved by her forming her own with some vines “very interesting, I would love to hear what your organization does. Oh, but I should introduce myself. I am Echina Magis, 4th bloom, she/her.”
The pack leader nodded “right, I am Rosa Tordenberg, she/her…” the human looked to the right, waiting for the young man seated next to her to answer. The human blushed slightly and remained silent, clearly covering for her friend’s shyness, Rosa spoke “this is Kevin Tremblay, he/him.” The human to the next off Kevin introduced themselves and so it continued until the round was complete.
Rosa took the word once more “you asked what we are doing, well the red dawn movement started as an underground student organization four years ago. We had a quite radical program, sadly our protests were suppressed, and little change was actually achieved.” There was a clear sadness in the human’s tone of voice. Poor things, having to live through such an oppressive society.
Rosa smiled with renewed excitement “Now however, with the fall of the old order, we have reorganized to foster the creation of affini and human co-existence. We still want to work for a better world. For once friendly discussion and open activity is finally possible.” Echina had been slightly worried that this was a gathering place for ferals, a problem that had yet to be dealt with. At least these cuties had seen that the compact was for their own good, unlike some misguided sophonts.
She straightened herself “If there is a discussion I would be very happy to lend my expertise. Accessibility design in infrastructure, was it?” By now most of the humans in the room relaxed, on the other tables conversation had restarted.
Rosa’s eyes held a wonderful spark “yes indeed. After the shift, a great deal of new infrastructure has been built and a certain trend has become obvious. In almost all cases the new infrastructure is best suited for affini and domesticated sophonts, sometimes even to the detriment of independent humans.” The genuine concern that the girl had for something so minute was adorable.
Another of the humans spoke “The new mag-rail shuttles are far better in many ways, I won't deny that. But do the seats have to be so large? You almost can’t get up in them without a ladder. Not to speak of sitting in one while there are only affini around you….” Echina imagined for a moment the human sitting in one of the seats while surrounded by affini….The imagining could not be completed without the blush the human was displaying right at this moment.
With the bar for entry lowered, another human joined in “I was just at the food depo last day…the shelves are too tall. I had to ask four different affini if they could get stuff down for me. There has to be a better solution.” Once more the flustered irritation on display was cute beyond words.
Kevin finally took the word “eh…It…I think we should remember, that it was not like things were well designed before. Places were allowed to have too much noise, were inaccessible to people with mobility difficulties, or simply designed to be straight-up hostile in many ways. I feel like it has gotten much better in that department.” After first beginning to talk the human seemed to lose his hesitation, it seemed to quickly return once he was done.
Rosa nodded approvingly “well said, this is far from a black-white situation and I am sure the compact has not done anything maliciously. Before we discuss eventual solutions, Echina, do you have any input on what’s been said?” The way Rosa moved to include her in the conversation was tactful, she clearly had some experience with this.
Echina decided to compose her thoughts before answering. Stating that this was far from unintentional and rather a long-used method in domestication programs, would perhaps not be the smartest. Its logic was sound, softly forcing the non-affini sophonts to rely on or at the very least interact with the affini around them did wonders for integrating them into the new society. There was nothing malicious about it, dozen upon dozen millennia of experience simply proved it to be a good strategy.
Despite this, framing it in another way would be best “Firstly it’s important to remember that we affini need this infrastructure as well. This building is one of the few expeditions where I don’t have to crouch to fit. Florets need some unique infrastructure as well, that should be obvious. Secondly, the infrastructure that is accessible to affini and florets, is also usable by independent sophonts. Any difficulties, like the one at the food depo, can be easily remedied by getting an affini to help. Help they will be happy with providing.” The humans around her looked thoughtful, seeming to genuinely be considering her words.
This did not mean that there was agreement, the discussion continued for several hours. Echina had to admit that the humans brought up some genuine good points. The discussion in itself was also a delight, there was no doubt she would have to invite some friends next week. When the meeting began to break up, Rosa and Kevin clearly had some struggles moving the tables back into correct formation.
It was clear by now that the two had extra responsibility. Just as clear was the fact that Rosa’s intellectual strength was not balanced with her psychical strength “Kevin, I thought the class-G was supposed to make you stronger.”
The young trans man had no reservations about firing back “I am getting stronger, the problem is that you haven’t worked out a single day in your life. And your class-G doesn’t make you any weaker so don’t dare come with that excuse.” While amusing it would be wrong to watch them struggle any further
Echina closed the distance “This is my worko-“ and with the elegant movement from a couple of vines lifted the table and placed it in its correct position. Rosa looked up at her “thanks….could you help us with the rest?” Her core thrummed with a certain type of pride.
There was no way she could say no to such a cutie “Of course I can. In fact, let me handle it.” Echina began to effortlessly, and with some showmanship, to organize the room back into order. Menial efforts like this were not something humans were very well equipped for. One might even argue that they were best equipped for being cute and happy florets, just like every other sophont species the compact had domesticated.
Rosa was organizing a few papers into a backpack while talking to Kevin “I can take the material back to the office, I have to organize the member list anyway. You can handle the posters for next week's meeting, right?”
Kevin shrugged “they will be up before Monday. I guess I’ll see you next week.” The two humans hugged, so adorable! “Hope to see you too. Oh, and thanks for the help.” The human waved her goodbye as he left, not long after her work with the tables was done.
Rosa was precariously trying to carry a great deal of different equipment and material as she came up to her “It was very nice to hear your input, will you come next meeting?” Before that question could be answered, the unacceptable situation in front of her had to be rectified.
Only the most concentrated of self-restraint allowed her to ask first “all of that seems awfully heavy. I could carry it for you.” After a moment of hesitation, the girl nodded and her vines removed the burdens that never should have been allowed on the human’s shoulders in the first place.
They began to move “I have enjoyed myself thoroughly during your meeting, I will be certain to attend the next one.” A weekly gathering of cute sophonts, especially including the one currently in her company, and thoughtful conversations. There was little else she could ask for….except for perhaps…no, she hardly knew Rosa. It was far too early for such considerations.
Getting to know the girl would be the first step “I am intrigued. You are clearly supportive of the domestication efforts but have little hesitation to critique them. Are you not satisfied with how the compact operates?” The girl was far from a feral, that was certain. Still, Echina could not shake the feeling that the girl had more resistance to the situation than she let on.
Rosa’s voice was even and confident “I was ready to work my entire life, maybe even give my life, to stop the oppression under the Accord. I am very happy that I have not needed to do that, and I can’t complain about the class-G either. But! I am also a very greedy person, there is always room for improvement, and I don’t believe we have reached utopia quite yet.” The human shot her a wry smile.
A very interesting perspective for sure “ ’utopia’ is a very human notion, it is unlikely that one will ever be able to create a society that works perfectly for everyone, all the time. Though I will argue that compact society is close, or do you disagree?” They had walked into another building, with a slightly shorter roof than she found comforting, and made their way up a flight of stairs.
The human had a reply right away “I might disagree, but that is not the point. Even if utopia is unreachable, reaching for it will improve the lives of many. As long as there is a single problem, I would work to see it fixed…I told you I was greedy.” Echina chuckled, sparing with the human was a fine treat indeed.
Rosa opened a door to the left and walked in “just put the stuff over there, I have some paperwork but stick around if you want.” Indeed she would, after depositing the equipment in a nice orderly pile Echina formed a chair from her vines. The human had sat down on the other side of the desk and took up a data pad.
She allowed the girl a few minutes of work before speaking “What do you do when not trying to make the world a better place?”
The data pad was placed down on the table “I still study, following the curriculum of the previous courses until the new ones arrive. I used to work some dead-end job to afford tuition, but that is not required anymore so I have a good deal of free time.” There was a thirst for knowledge in this sophont, could she be more perfect?....Well, there was something.
Echina could feel there was something troubling the girl, her biorhythm was far too flat. Humans were easily startled, best to find out through some casual conversation “what about friends, family? I could tell that you and Kevin have a good dynamic.” Rosa leaned back in the chair, a thoughtful expression on her face.
“You know how it is, the queer have to stick together….my family on the other hand..” Rosa sighed “they died 2 years ago during a gang war.” The information struck her like a spout of fire, Echina felt her flowers wilt “Sadly I was in prison for unlawful organizing so I couldn’t even attend the funeral.” The words were spoken flatly, almost without any emotion at all. Frost, she could never have imagined.
The strange biorhythm now made sense. The only way Rosa could be speaking of such a tragedy in this manner was if her feelings were heavily suppressed. Echina leaned forward, her vine with class-E itched to be used “I’m so sorry…are things still difficult?” The girl looked away and nodded. The happy and energetic attitude was likely a front…this sophont needed her help “it’s going to be okay…would you like a hug?” There was no response, she kept looking away “my hab is not too far from here. If you want I can make you some food and we can talk about it, I am here for you.”
Finally, Rosa looked back, there was not a trace of tears or sadness, only a frown “You affini are so disturbingly predictable.”…..what? “I was joking, my parents and brother are very much alive.” The dryness of her voice was like sandpaper.
Echina had for the first time in her life experienced what the human called ‘having the rug pulled from under you’. An experience she found to be very unpleasant “joking? I am not sure I find it very funny.” She had read that some humans had a macabre style of humor, but this was far beyond that.
Rosa tapped the table with her fingers “joke is not the right word…It was a test, one you predictably failed.” irritation hang from every syllable. The human stared her down “You are far from the first affini I have met, you newcomers are all the same. Do you think I don’t see how you look at me? How you treat me?” Echina was genuinely taken aback “to you I am only another helpless human that you find cute. Just another sophont that can’t take care of herself, desperately in need of an affini to help her get over some horrifying trauma...and all you ask in return is snatch away my agency and freedom, so I can be my best self.” The human made a vast grasping motion with her left arm.
Echina genuinely did not know what to say, Rosa on the other hand had much more “Well, you are wasting your time. I am healthy, both mentally and physically. I have friends and a wonderful family, all still alive by the way. My transition went remarkably well, especially when you consider what other people have had to deal with. I work here, I study, I take care of myself. Hell, I am so high functioning that I didn’t even know I had autism before the mandatory psych evaluations a few months back.”
The human leaned forward “We have known each other for hardly three hours, there is no reason you should ‘be here for me’. I do not need your help unless I expressly ask for it and I do not want your pity. If you want a floret, look somewhere else.” A long uncomfortable silence followed.
This was not how she had wanted it to go at all…and despite the delivery being rather harsh, the human did have a point. Her excitement had gotten the best of her “I am sorry I made you feel that way….I take it you don’t want me to come to the next meeting?” The last thing she wanted was to intrude.
Rosa deflated and sloped back into the chair “no….I want you to come, and not only because you are the first affini to attend….You’re nice and we had a wonderful discussion…just leave the affini savior complex and cultural supremacy by the door next time, okay?” A cautious and tender smile spread on the human’s face.
Echina smiled back “that sounds like an excellent arrangement, equals?” The relief of not having totally mangled her vines was substantial.
A paper and pen were slid across the desk “if you become a member we can be far more than equals, we can be comrades.” There was a playful glint in the human’s eyes.
She hesitated for a moment “Comrade? I’m afraid I have not heard of that word before.” Going over the cultural index for Centhia once more was likely a good idea.
Rosa’s smiled wholeheartedly now “It is the word for a friend who believes in a better tomorrow.” For a moment she hesitated, but no, the human seemed completely sincere.
Echina read the entire document in a matter of seconds before signing her name. The organization certainly held a lot of potential, so the human’s friendship was not the sole reason. It had not been where her mind had originally wandered, but it was more than obvious that Rosa would remain independent. And friendship was a wonderful substitute, she handed the document back “looks like I am your first affini member, comrade.” Her use of the strange human word was met with a friendly chuckle.
Rosa took the paper and added it to a pile “excellent, I would apologize but you are far from the first friend I have recruited for the cause. Now, I need to get going, a fellow comrade has gotten into some trouble. See you on Tuesday!” Even if the girl was thoroughly out of reach, it did not make her any less adorable.