Hendrik was pacing like a caged animal. It had been three days since the vet appointment. The last three days had been filled with sleep, good food and nothing else. He had tried to gain more information from the radio, but Alexandra had gotten the act together and now only letters were being answered. Aside from that he was stuck with nothing to do.
He felt trapped, unproductive, and irritated. He felt his legs begun to grow tired so he went into the bathroom and found the only spot in the hab where he could truly concentrate. Mertha’s insistence on meshing several different human interior designs in the same rooms had at least created this small spot of hard, cold tiles. This was his small sanctuary from the tempting traps of comfort that the rest of the hab contained.
He sat down and begun to plan. With the little information that he possessed he had to find a way out. A way to exit the hab without supervision, no he would collapse before he reached anywhere important. Tricking the affini to transport him to Centhia, perhaps but how could he do that? If he could get planetside maybe he could slip away and meet up with some loyal supporters.
From there he could orchestrate some great proclamation where he supported the affini but left them no choice but to keep him as a figurehead. He could begin to work with the people, he knew them better than the affini.
Despite the affini’s resources, age, and competence the one thing they were quite terrible at was propaganda. Propaganda was jus lies with spectacle, the affini’s tendency to always speak the truth was probably the reason their propaganda was less efficient than it should be.
A good plan but He still needed to find a way to convince the affini to let him get to Centhia. It all felt so hopeless, he couldn’t even get around by himself, how could he hope to regain his lost power?
At least he had figured out one productive thing the last days. His relationship towards Mertha and the conditioning that made him trust her was strategically speaking, beneficial. After the vet appointment he had been forced to acknowledge that his overwork and lack of sleep had been the main catalyst to his defeat. The memories of the days were only half coherent, but he needed a different strategy in the future.
That is where Mertha came in. The emotional security she could provide as well as her stopping him from hurting himself would be beneficial in the long run. At this point she was also strictly speaking required for his survival as there was no way he could make his own food and mange his health.
The fact that he trusted her based on mental conditioning was a small concession. She had never shown anything but compassion and support so from the data he possessed the likelihood of her being a threat was minimal.
The only real threat she posed was her attempt to drag him into comfort at any opportunity. Yesterday he had tried to compile a nutrient bar while she was getting groceries. Instead, the compiler had made a large bowl of caramel ice-cream that she had made sure he ate.
He felt pathetic, perhaps he had already become too soft to create the plans needed for him so win. Perhaps it was foolish to imagine that he would have a second chance at the climb for power. If he just had some work to do!
It wasn’t just the fact he needed to prove that he still was competent, the longer he waited the more the questions in the back of his mind craved answering. Serla was supposed to come later today, talking about his feeling would just give the questions more presence. Lessening his capabilities more and more.
The door to the bathroom “Dear, are you okay? You have been sitting in that coroner for quite some time”. He groaned, she could never understand.
“No, I am not okay, I have been stuck in this prison for several days. I have nothing to do, no work or projects”. Mertha walked up to him, but thankfully stopped a meter away.
She tilted her head “you know that work is bad for you. If you want we can go to the park, or perhaps we can find something to watch together. If you want there are also a plethora of games, books, music available on the data pad. Maybe you want to explore some artistic expression?”. The way she sounded off all the pointless, unproductive activities made him almost want to take her up on the offer.
He remembered when his mentor had told him over a luxurious dinner in the dining hall that he had started to write a book, Shivar had never had the chance to finish. His frustration grew into anger “no I don’t think I want to explore artistic expression, or anything else pointless for that matter. Unless you can give me something to work with you might as well leave me alone”. How could she not understand how frustrating it was to be unproductive?
Mertha walked a bit forward “I understand that you feel frustrated, if you want you can talk about why you feel this way with either me or Serla. We want to he-“.
He snapped at her “Help me, yes I know! But can’t even begin to understand. I don’t want to talk to you and definitely not Serla. just leave me alone” the venom in his words stung.
Mertha relented and pulled back, the door to the bathroom opened and she left. He was alone again, not that it made him feel better.
Nora woke and opened her eyes. She felt the warmth of Darla on her back. The floret was still holding her just as when they had fallen asleep. Nora tried to stand up from the mountain of soft pillows they were buried under, but Darla just hugged her harder. She could easily overpower the sleeping girl, but she did not want to wake her. Gently she pried Darla’s hands from her waist and sat up.
Upon being separated Darla let out a soft whimper. Nora gently pushed some of Darla’s hair away so she could give her a kiss on the forehead. She stood up and stretched, with her senses she made a sweep of the room. It looked like they had left it last night. The mountain of pillows dominated the center of the round alcove of the hab, to the left was the exit and to the right was the door to the kitchen and a corridor to the rest of the hab.
Nora heard the slight cracking of oil in a pan from the kitchen. The affini were quite good at making soundproof walls and doors but her enhancements were top of the line. She snook past Darla and into the kitchen. As she had expected, Serla was making bacon and seasoned eggs for breakfast. Nora continued to walk towards Serla without making a sound, today she would succeed.
Despite Nora having been completely silent Serla turned around with an amused twinkle in her eyes “trying to sneak up on me again? my little warrior is so brave”. Serla used one of her vines so scratch Nora on the neck as she prepared a plate of food.
Nora happily let Serla lift her into the tall chair, Serla sat down on the chair on the other side of the table. As Nora begun to eat she noticed Serla looking down at her with a grin, her heart fluttered “how is my favorite guest doing? Had a fun night?”. Nora blushed a bit, it had been a nice night. She and Darla had played some more video games and then snuggled until they fell asleep. It was becoming a routine at this point.
It was almost three weeks since the Terran rebels had tried to take over. When the affini had taken over, Hendrik had been sent to recover on the ship and Serla had followed. Because she had cooperated with the affini and deemed to be not a treat to herself or anyone else she was allowed to stay independent.
Without any job and no real connections, she had requested to be allowed to stay abord the Agraria. She had her own hab, but she did not stay there often. Despite being independent there was not much for her to do so she had spent more and more time with Serla and Darla. At this point she slept here more than in her own hab.
She had gotten quite well…acquainted with Darla, at this point they were basically girlfriends. Serla on the other hand was a different beast. Serla loved to tease her and implored her to stay longer every time Nora felt like she outstayed her welcome. There was also the endless implications and predatory grins that made her heart flutter and brain overheat, something that only encouraged more of the teasing. Just being close to Serla made her warm and stirred some feeling she had previously never felt.
After swallowing a piece of food, she answered “I’m doing quite well, great bacon!”. She looked up and once again felt lost in Serla’s eyes. Perhaps she should just ask now…how it would be to be Serla’s…..no! she couldn’t just ask Serla to become her owner. Nora looked away, she felt her cheeks burn red.
She could hear Serla’s vines curling up and moving in amusement and anticipation “is there something my little Nora would like to ask? You know you can ask me anything”. Serla’s voice was almost unbearable in its teasing and domination.
This was not the first time this had happened. The other times Nora had managed to find an excuse or find a mundane question to ask instead. Serla knew the question Nora had, and every time this situation occurred Nora had less and less willpower to resist asking. To Serla this was nothing more than a game of cat and mouse, she just had to wait for Nora to break.
Just as Nora was about to relent, finally to confess, a loud “pling!” interrupted the moment. Serla ‘s face twisted into a frown, and she took out the data pad from her chest. Serla received another “pling!” and was soon engrossed in a conversation on the pad. Nora breathed out in relief, she had retained her independence another day. It was becoming more and more tempting to give in, perhaps tomorrow?
While Serla was on the pad, Nora finished her meal. Her wages under Hendrik had allowed her to buy almost any food that she wanted. She rarely had the energy or time to make something herself, it was often pre prepped food. Having someone make her food or just make it in an instant with the compiler was far better.
Serla put down the pad, her frown had deepened. She looked at Nora “I’m sorry our little moment was interrupted. Apparently Hendrik is not feeling up for therapy. So, today I have more time for you and Darla”. Serla tried to hide her worry with a smile, but Nora could sense it.
Hendrik…..he probably he hated her, she had directly opposed his order and now all he had worked for was gone. Not only that but she had stuck him, probably breaking his right hand. The one he used to write….when she had asked Serla how he was she hadn’t gotten a clear answer, but she could guess that it was going quite poorly.
She was suddenly engulfed in vines and picked up, Serla’s face was leaned in close. Serla spoke with a commanding but caring voice “its not your responsibility. We will find a way to help him. don’t worry”. She pulled a bit away but still held Nora in her vines. She sounded a bit unsure “at the moment he is just having a bit of hard time. Not being able to work is really getting to him”. there was a pause in her words “do you have any idea on how we might cheer him up?”.
Nora thought for a bit, she had a few ideas, but she doubted Henrik would appreciate them. Then she remembered “the encoded documents!”. Serla looked at her confused, so Nora continued “do you remember when you were in his office? All the shelves stacked with paper, books, and scrolls. Looking at them always cheered him up before”. Serla looked at her for a long moment.
Then she smiled “thank you! good girl. Such a smart girl!” she underpinned her praise with scratching Nora on the point of her neck where she was most sensitive.
Serla lifted her up and carried her to the living room, in one of her vines she held a plate with food for Darla. The scratches did not relent “after Darla has eaten her food I think it would be nice to play with my two humans. I would like to use some class-A if you are ok with that”.
Nora looked into Serla’s beautiful eyes “yes, mistre-“ a vine was placed on her mouth to silence her.
Serla’s voice was dripping with satisfaction “you don’t get to call me that until you ask me the question”. Nora buried her face in the vines as she blushed.
Mertha was trying to keep calm. The advice from Nora had led her to requesting some of the papers from the presidential office, seconds later she had gotten a message from the captain asking for her to meet them. She was waiting outside his office, The secretary could feel the tension and left her alone until she entered.
The desk was even more filled with data pads than last time, the mayor distinction was a large metal briefcase on the middle of the table. the captain smiled as she entered, she did not return it.
They continued to smile but sounded cautious “I heard that you requested some of the papers from the presidential office. Are they for your ward?”
Mertha let go of her tension for a bit, if they were in the presidential office then they were probably important in some fashion. It made sense that they would want to know what she did with them. “Hendrik has been a bit down and I got a tip from his previous bodyguard that reading these documents might cheer him up”.
the captain leaned a bit forward “do you know what the documents contain?”. Were they testing her?
Well, she could make an educated guess “reforms, bureaucracy, plans.. things like that. Do you know?” it dawned on her that the question had sounded more genuine than she first interpreted.
The captain looked at her with an apologetic smile “no….not really. The things are pretty heavily encoded, the computers have not made any sense of them either. There are a far more of them than first assumed. We have found several stashed all around the planet in vaults. All the humans we have asked just said they were top secret and that only the president could read them”.
He opened the briefcase showcasing an organized stack of papers “you can have them, perhaps your ward could translate a few. With that we can probably decode the rest”. The captain quickly added “it’s of course completely up to you, you have complete control. But do tell him it would be a great help”. The captain closed it again and handed Mertha the briefcase.
Mertha was not to pleased that the captain wanted to push work on Hendrik again. At least she could control it, that put her a bit at ease. She looked down at the briefcase, she hoped Nora was right. “Thanks, Trexal, I’ll be sure to inform him but don’t expect anything” with that and a wave of her hand she made her way home.
The door to the hab opened, Henrik was not in the living room. The door to the bedroom was open, not there either. please don’t tell me he is still sitting there. She opened the door to the bathroom and true to her fears Hendrik was still sitting in the tiled corner. He looked up from the ground and stared at her with dry restless eyes. His voice was sore “what do you want?”
She showed the briefcase “you said you wanted something to work with, well here I am. Come out and we can talk”. His eyes traced the briefcase and up to her eyes, he scrambled a bit clumsily to his feet and followed her out.
Mertha did not have time to make him something from scratch, so she asked the compiler to make some onion soup. Henrik sat at the table and looked at the briefcase curiously. she placed the soup in front of him “what is in the briefcase? Is there something for me to work on?”.
She talked methodically, making sure to watch his reaction “The briefcase is full of papers that we collected from your office, quite the random selection if I understand correctly”. His eyes light up and he swallowed the spoonful of soup in his mouth.
He sounded exited “You brought me my documents….can I have them?”. She brought the briefcase closer to herself and opened it.
She took out a small stack of perhaps 9 papers “yes, on certain conditions.” Hendrik’s reaction was immediate, his eyes were scanning the documents in her vines.
He chuckled “lets negotiate then, what are your terms?”. Mertha almost begun to laugh, he acted the same way despite it being some papers and not a sector of planets.
She turned serious “first condition is that you talk to Serla tomorrow. Second is that we later today will discuss you gender identity. Third, you are not allowed to sit in that coroner”. Hendrik mulled the proposal over.
He raised his left hand with two fingers pointing up “the first two are acceptable, the third however we must negotiate further. I propose that I can sit there….let’s say 2 hours per day”. what was so special about that corner?
She answered, “two hours is far too long, I can tolerate 15 minutes”. He shot back “1 hour, you need to respect my position”. She had learned of haggling, but this was still absurd “30 minutes or nothing”. “Deal” Hendrik reached out a hand. She reached out a vine and shook it.
Oh, she almost forgot “I have also been asked to tell you that it would be a great help if you could translate some of these documents”. He looked at her bewildered before smiling with satisfaction.
There was pride in his voice “so the almighty affini can’t break a little humans’ encoding. I would say that you’ve been humbled but I doubt your species has the capability of being humble. I guess I can help.” He raised his right hand “I still can’t write so I guess we will have to figure something out”.
He reached out a hand and Mertha hesitantly gave him the small stack of papers. Hendrik looked over the first paper in the stack, then the second and third. He organized them neatly on the table and looked up at her. The look of relief and happiness was almost too much “I…um… thanks. It means a lot to me. I thought I would never see the product of my work again”.
He looked down, his smile momentarily gone “I’m sorry for how I behaved earlier”.
She took a vine and ruffled his hair “don’t worry about it, I understand that all of this is very hard for you. Next time let’s just talk about it”. He nodded and enjoyed the rest of his meal while looking expectedly at the documents.