-------------------Centhia, East New Bergen, Lilly Veterinarian Clinic, 16.03.2555, 11:49--------------------------
The world slowly began to come into focus, the gentle light and white colors becoming more distinct. Her mind was still working far too slowly for her liking, it felt like she had been sleeping for an entirety while also waking from a bad nap. As her senses grew better a new set of colors came into view, green and yellow in the rough shape of a person.
There was a small sting in her left arm and the world suddenly made sense again. The affini towering over her had a gentle smile on her face “~Good morning sunshine~ Try to take it slow, you are safe and there is no rush.” The voice was so soothing and the yellow flowers blooming on its form were very beautiful….
Hold on….Where was she? Who was this? What had happened? Rosa attempted to remember the answer to any of these critical questions…but her mind was still far too disorganized and confused. Her eyes searched the room, it was mostly white and filled with a gentle light. There were a few pictures of cute animals and some large potted plants. She was lying down, in a bed, a rather large and soft one at that. None of these facts answered anything at all, except that the room and the affini were entirely unfamiliar, even if there was something about the melody in its voice….
Even if embarrassing it might be a good idea to ask, there had yet to be an unhelpful affini. Before Rosa could speak the affini stopped her “I can see you are confused, before I answer any questions you need to drink.” A glass of water was brought to her lips and with some reluctance, she drank. Something out of sight scratched her scalp in a far too pleasant way “~good girl~ Now, remember to speak slowly.” The situation was too confusing for her to be offended.
Her voice sounded far too weak “whe…where am I?” At least her throat did not feel sore from overuse, that was something good.
The affini sat down, though it was impossible to tell what “you are at the Lilly veterinarian clinic, and to be more specific, in treatment room 9-12.” The vet?....had something happened? that probably meant that the affini was a veterinarian or a doctor as it should actually be called.
With two questions down, the most important one remained “why am…I here? Did something happen?” Nothing hurt…or was that because of xenodrugs. A deep chilling fear began to rise from her spine, had something happened to her? A quick inspection through motion confirmed that her limbs were alright…unless the affini had replaced them after the incident.
The affini stood up and placed a large hand on her head, for some reason the motion actually calmed her down “don’t be afraid, you are not in any danger. You were in an…accident, but there has been no permanent damage.” No permanent damage? The hand on her head gently moved, ruffling her hair slightly “I will tell you what happened, if you agree I will administer some class-E first.” Xenodrugs?
Did the affini think her too weak take some bad news without panicking? “No thank you. I would like to hear everything….also, please remove your hand.” Even with the maximum amount of force at her disposal, her voice still sounded fragile and hardly above a whisper.
The pleasant sensation was removed along with the hand, and the vet looked slightly concerned “as you wish, but if there is a danger you might hurt yourself I will use class-E for your own protection. A few days ago, while you were holding a speech, a misguided little feral attacked you. While you sustained serious injuries, a friend of yours got you here in time.” The speech…oh…fuck.
The memories returned, first slowly and then all at once. She had been shoved down the stairs of the lecture hall and hit her head…shoved? No, she had been… Rosa lurched and after ripping away the sheet, looked down. Out of three separate spots, one on her chest and two on her waist, there were flowers blooming out of her. She had been shot! And that meant….
Please no “did anyone else get hurt?!” Fuck, fuck, fuck! How could she have let this happen?
A strong hand and a few vines pushed her gently back down into the bed “She was right you are a very compassionate little flower. Don’t worry, no one else was hurt…perhaps scared, but not hurt.” Thank the stars, no one was hurt…
With such relief, it was not hard to calm down “how hurt am I? I would like to hear all of it.”
The vet waited a few seconds, their voice hesitant “if you are sure…” Rosa nodded with a stern gaze, the affini relented “The first bullet hit your chest, shattering a rib but dealing no additional damage. The second one pierced straight through your midsection, missing any vital organs. The most serious damage came from the third that punctured one of your kidneys, it’s a good thing your cuties have two. When you arrived, the main issue was major blood loss and internal hemorrhaging. Luckily I have quite some experience pathing up cuties like yourself so all of it should heal in a short amount of time.” That sounded scary, but not too bad…
Oh, she was not finished “The hit to your head resulted in some minor trauma and concussion, though that has healed. In addition, your body was suffering from overwork and high amounts of exhaustion, nothing too serious but…” her tone become starkly more domineering “you will relax and take a vacation, or I will prescribe you a class-J regiment. I recommend the latter, but from what I have heard you are not too favorable towards xenodrugs.” Damn right, class-J? Not a chance.
Rosa lifted herself slightly upwards “No xenodrugs thank you very much. When can I leave?” Staying at the vet for any longer than necessary was not tempting. From here experience they had a tendency to be far more authoritative. Just because they were medical professionals did not give them the right to tell her whatever they wanted.
The vet shook her head dismissively “not until I am satisfied your wounds have healed, a process that will not be hastened by your impatience. Now then, you have had a visitor that has been pestering me since you arrived. Do you have the energy to see her now?” Visitor? It couldn’t be her family, they weren’t in the sector.
Who could it be? “Sure, could you adjust the bed first?” Sitting up without support had become tiering remarkably quickly. The bed was adjusted so she could lie at an angle and another glass of water was put onto the nightstand.
After checking something on her data pad the Vet looked at her sternly “I will be right outside, press the button over there if you need anything. Food will be provided shortly.” As the affini left her sight traced down to the nightstand, originally in search of the water it found something else as well.
A bouquet of flowers in a vase along with a box of chocolate, a letter was attached to the flowers “get well soon – Kevin Dulcis, first floret and Saccharu Dulcis, second bloom.” Fuck…..how had she messed things up this badly? And of course, Kevin was too kind to reject her after what had happened…Her chest felt tight, it was almost difficult to breathe.
Her attention was snapped to the door as it opened “Rosa!” it was Echina….why was she here? “Thank the Everbloom you are okay!” The relief in the affini’s voice was overpowering. Within a second she had crossed the room and before Rosa could protest coiled vines around her in a tight embrace “I was so worried…” Her chest got even tighter, this wasn’t right…
Rosa’s face was pressed against the alien’s chest and the sweet smell from the red flowers filled her senses. A familiar but at the same time alien rhythm could be heard from within the affini, it vibrated through her body in calm soothing waves. The tightness in her chest released “I’m sorry….” Her throat was choked, and she pressed closer into the affini “I’m sorry, I never wanted anyone to get hurt…I just..” The feelings that had welled up in her chest began to flow….This was so wrong, she should not be crying, not now, not here.
The vines tightened around her “there is nothing the be sorry for…none of this is your fault.” But it was, this was all her fault. It was her rhetoric, her naiveite that had caused this to happen, it was only through luck that other people had not gotten hurt…The comfort of the hug got more and more unbearable, she did not deserve it. Not after how she had treated Echina, Kevin, and all the others….
Even as the tears began to streak down her face Rosa pushed against the hug with the feeble about of strength she could muster. Echina bristled and moved backward, rejecting the affini felt wrong but it was the only right thing to do “I...I’m fine.” It did not sound very convincing. Rosa dried away the tears and cleared her throat “is everyone else fine?” The vet probably knew but Echina was sure to know.
The affini stood there for a second, almost in a daze before focusing her sight back onto her “yes. Everyone else is fine, no one else got hurt….how are you feeling?” Several words came to mind, but none of them would be right, it would only make the affini more concerned.
Rosa pressed the feelings down, straightening her voice “as I said, I am fine. What happens now? Am I to be domesticated for posing a threat to others and organizing feral activity? People, like veronica, had been domesticated for far less.
Echina’s vines moved uncomfortably “no, nothing like that. We understand you never meant for any violence to take place…and having been the target of two attacks, it is safe to assume you are not feral.” Great….Echina moved closer again but stayed at a comfortable distance “are you sure you’re fine?… It’s okay to not be fine, especially after what happened.” Why did she have to be so relentless?
The door opened, and the divine smell of ginger and garlic filled the room. The vet was holding a bowl of noodle soup in one of her vines “~sorry to interrupt but this little one needs to eat, kidneys don’t regrow on their own~” It was a welcome interruption, the bowl was placed in her lap…it was the meal she usually made for Veronica when she was down. The affini patted her on the head “I made sure to go through the archives and find something you would like based on your preferences. Do you want me to feed you?”
Rosa carefully brushed the vine on her head aside “no, I can eat on my own…if anything I would like some peace and quiet.” To avoid eye contact she took a spoon full of soup, a piece of diced meat followed along….it was very tasty, no wonder veronica liked it.
Even with her gaze downwards she could feel the concern from the two affini, Echina spoke first “I would very much like to visit again, so send me a message if you have the energy. Kevin and Saccharu would also like to visit but make sure to rest, ok?” Rosa nodded, not that she intended to put any of them through any more pain.
The vet nodded in agreement, thought she was looking at Echina “Not to worry, I will make sure she gets plenty of rest and is better in no time.” The vet’s gaze turned to her “~just place the bowl on the nightstand after you are done. You seem a tad touch starved, a far too common condition for the undomesticated, would you like a plushie or a dozen to sleep with?~” The food had to be giving her some more energy because the indignation finally returned.
The affini had been nice but it was time to set some boundaries “no, and please refrain from talking to me like that in the future…now, I would like to enjoy this meal in private.” The vet merely shrugged and together with Echina left the room.
Just before the door closed Echina turned around “see you soon.” Rosa nodded, like the liar she was, the guilt did not permit her to imagine that as a likely future.
--------------------------Centhia, North New Bergen, 31st Solum Street, 23.04.2555, 06:12--------------------------
Rosa awoke, despite having to wish to do so. A lazy hand stretched out and found the data pad, its harsh light was uncomfortable for a split second before adjusting to the dark….6:13…wonderful. She turned around in the bed, trying to find a position that her body would accept for another round of sleep. More sleep did not come, instead, she slumbered. Not the good and warm kind of slumber, one had on days where there was no work to do, even if there was indeed no work to do. Instead, it was a restless uncomfortable slumber, eyes opening and closing without any purpose.
At 8:49, hunger finally brought her out of bed, she had fallen asleep with her clothes already on so putting them on was thankfully not necessary, they did feel a bit sweaty….she could compile some clean ones later. After taking class-G, Rosa complied with what she complied every morning: a bowl of porridge with sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of butter. The hab was quiet, almost unsettlingly quiet, but it was familiar.
After eating about half of the meal Rosa threw the last part away before washing the plate and cutlery. There was no good reason for this, something made even more obvious as she decompiled the things she had just washed…but it was something to do. Speaking of things to do, she should probably clean, even the affini invasion had not removed the nuisance of dust. But it could wait, there was no rush.
Moving back to her room Rosa sat down in front of her computer. She booted up a game, stared at the menu, and closed it, strategy was not very tempting at the moment. The process was repeated half a dozen times before Rosa gave up and watched a show instead. The ancient Terran program held her attention for maybe an hour before even inaction became grating.
Rosa spun the chair around and stood up, took one step, and collapsed onto the bed. It was too warm for the blanket, so she hugged it instead while idling without purpose. The white ceiling looked remarkably uninteresting…her old apartment had always had the fun game of tracing the mold that the landlord refused to do anything about. At some point the idling become slumbering and the slumber turned to sleep.
When she woke her head felt cloudy and confused, a far too familiar experience these days. While her body rebooted she got some more complied food, threw half of it away, cleaned the plates, and decompiled it. Her now half-functioning mind searched for something to do…..video games? No….shows? Nah….studying?...why not? A slight headache was beginning to develop, probably dehydration.
Grabbing her data pad Rosa went into the overnet, first removing all the messages from the domestication center, and then entering the Education website. It took some searching, but eventually, something grabbed her attention, apparently, the affini were working or restoring Rinan culture after the damage the accord occupation had caused. Rosa did not get past the first page before the energy to keep reading dried up. A small pling alerted her to another message, it was from Kevin.
[Sweeter_than_sugar]: Hi Rosa, we are having a meeting today. Are you coming?
The message was shorter and less elaborate than usual, perhaps he was finally giving up. The slew of messages from Kevin she had not responded to had long since drowned out their previous correspondence, it would take a lot of finger swiping to find her last response. Not that it would change today, Rosa turned off the data pad and collapsed onto the bed once more. Why wouldn’t he just leave her alone? Had she not done enough?
A high-pitched pling broke the endless silence of the apartment. Speaking of people who would not leave her alone. Myrtaca was beginning to really get on her nerves, not that the other welfare officers were any better. The only real purpose they served besides causing her irritation was marking the often-confusing passage of time.
Rosa hauled her body out of bed and moved to the door, pressing the button that allowed her to communicate with the other side “go away. I have no interest in another meaningless and frustrating conversation.” Hopefully, it would not take too long to drive the pest away.
The voice that came from the other side was not Myrtaca’s “I always found our conversations to be very interesting.” Why the fuck was Echina here? “Could I come in?” Rosa hesitated for several seconds.
A suspicion had formed in her mind “are you here to do another pointless wellness check?” One would think that after the sixth one they would leave her alone.
There was a moment of tense silence before the answer came reluctantly “yes…I am worried about you…can I come in?” For fuck’s sake, she did not need to be a genius to understand the affini would not take no for an answer, and arguing about it required far more energy than she had at her disposal.
Rosa unlocked and opened the door, staring down the affini on the other side “fine, but make it quick.” It would be the same shit all over again, but why did they have to send Echina?….it made everything worse.
Echina looked normal, except for the worried expression on her face that she tried to turn into a smile “thank you.” While the affini pressed through the small door and into the apartment rosa walked over to the ‘dining’ table and sat down in the chair. The apartment's silence was broken by the constant hum coming from the affini, it had no reason to be so pleasant.
Best to get it over with “what do you want?” Her tone was perhaps not too pleasant.
Meanwhile, The affini had found what looked to be an amazingly uncomfortable position to sit in the far too small apartment “I just want to know how you are doing.” Echina’s voice was cautious, worry mixed in its melodic timbre.
Rosa looked straight at the affini, holding eye contact “I am fine.” Why could they not accept that?
Echina’s eyes changed, the metal-looking orbs taking on a deep blue color “I don’t believe that…I haven’t seen you in over a month. Please tell me what is going on so I can help, please.” Had it truly been over a month? Who cared? The fact that she got angry at such an open display of empathy was sickening…or perhaps it was pity, it was always difficult to tell the two apart when I came to the affini.
Either way, her response was the same “then let me give you a lesson in human culture. When a human says that they are ‘fine’, it does not definitely mean that they are perfectly okay. What it means, is that they don’t want your help or concern. In my case however it is both, I don’t need or want your help.” The eyes she was having trouble keeping eye contact with turned a few shades darker.
The rhythm in the room intensified as a few of the beautiful red flowers wilted “You have not come to any of the RDM meetings, you have not attended any of your therapy sessions, Myrtaca is the only person who has even seen you after you left the vet. It is clear that you are suffering…”
She allowed the indignation to strengthen her words “only I get to decide whether I am suffering, not you or anyone else. My health is good, as the blood tests I have sent to the clinic show. I am content here, I don’t need therapy.” Everything would be so much easier if they just forgot all about her. That is how the accord had worked, perhaps the only good thing it had over the compact.
The intruder did not look convinced “when was the last time you were out? Who was the last person you met that was not Myrtaca?” Rosa looked away, eye contact with the affini was too exhausting…The questions were left unanswered. Echina's voice was pained, any form of harmony was long gone “why won't you allow us to help you?” feelings that she had managed to make numb were becoming raw once again.
Rosa stood up “Because I don’t need it! I am the one who has her shit together, I am the one who helps others, tries to build a better world…if I am not that person…” Her words had once again moved come faster than her mind had accounted for “if I am not that person….I’m just a useless and arrogant failure, a burden.” It was exactly what she was…
Echina extended a few comforting vines, but they stopped halfway “you are not a failure, you are a wonderful and intelligent person…” what a bald-faced lie!
She took a step towards the affini, pointing a finger upwards at her face “Really? The person I tried to help, I failed. I alienated you and everyone else because of my own stupid pride! The movement I have built for several years, I sabotaged any chance it might have. I was only lucky that my mistakes did not get anyone hurt.” The vines recoiled and moved like an ocean in upheaval.
The affini expanded massively within the blink of an eye “you got hurt!” Rosa flinched backward, almost falling before vines grabbed her shoulders, Echina’s face was right in front of her “why do you care so little for your own wellbeing?!” Getting out of the grasp of the vines was impossible, they were solid as iron.
It was almost impossible to not look into those large, beautiful eyes “why won’t you just leave me alone? Have I not done enough to push you away? Why…why do you still care?” It made no sense, unless…..no, that couldn’t be it….but it was “You want me as your floret! Don’t you?!” The vines pulled back as scorched by fire.
The affini shrunk back, becoming smaller than usual before “what I want does not matter, but I will not allow you to suffer.” Echina did not even have the dignity to deny the accusation, or maybe it was just standard affini honesty.
The anger burned once more “you won’t allow me? To think that I was ever naïve enough to think that we could be equals. How can we be? When all that you need to own me is a piece of paper. Let me give you some advice, if someone does not want your help then that is it. Trying to help them after that will only give you exhaustion and sorrow. I do not want your or anyone else’s help, So. Leave. Me. Alone. Or are you going to domesticate me because of some mild depression?” She had gotten out of such slumps before and could do so again without burdening anyone else.
Echina had regained her composure, her voice had become unflinchingly determined “your advice might be correct for humans, but I am not a human. I want you to come with me to the domestication center so you can have a session with a xeno-psychologist. You want to stay independent, fine. But that does not give you permission to self-isolate and waste away.”….It was reasonable, so why did it feel impossible to accept?
Because she was the one who was supposed to say that. She was the one who was supposed to help, take responsibility for others, and make things better….The anger died out and Rosa slumped into the chair, looking down at the ground. Things had not been good before the invasion, but they had been simple. No one was going to help her, so she had to be the strong one and help others.
That was how it had worked….but not anymore. No one needed her anymore, the world did not need her to make it better, she only made it worse. It should be a relief to put down that charge, to be free of that responsibility, but it just felt hollow. People around her were becoming happy and for a few moments, she had fooled herself into thinking that she could be so as well…until her pride had ruined it all. To add insult to injury she was now making others’ lives worse by making them worry about her.
Rosa finally looked up and met Echina’s gaze “….I don’t deserve your help…I’m sorry.” Letting her waste away would be the best for everyone.
The affini moved forward “you never needed to deserve my help, and I will not make the mistake of leaving you alone again. Please come with me outside.” Rosa looked towards the door, it was a tempting offer.
But there was only one correct answer “I can’t.”
And one predictable response “then you leave me no choice.” A vine stung her gently in the arm, drowsiness came a second later “I promise everything will be okay.” Maybe she was right…