The runes were complex and alien, nothing that could not be solved. With all the ciphers and codes she had memorized and created, learning a new language was child play. She even had a dictionary, when she knew enough words the pattern would appear…Had she really enjoyed it? no, focus.
Affini had nothing in common with any human language so there was nothing to gain by cross-refencing with that. The teaching application that came with the dictionary would not be useful, it followed practical and common sentences. More a tourist pamphlet than anything, designed for florets as well. She did not need something so trivial, she would break affini down at its most basic elements and build it up…..She had enjoyed it hadn’t she?…snap out of it!
The first and most basic part was to figure out the standard building words, once she had that she would have a good base to build up from. She began to scan through the dictionary, each relevant word and its corresponding glyphs cataloged and systemized in her mind. the language was surprisingly well standardized, no doubt the affini had thousands of dialects, this must be a simplified version. Simple…. Just relaxing and enjoying the moment, no need for plans or thoughts…
Focus on the runes! Now then, the sentence structure that was provided in the examples was quite different than what she was used to. No matter, add it to the cipher that would soon decode all the documents she could get her hands on. She continued to work, satisfaction slowly building as she made more progress. Now then for the test, if this was the sentence then the English equivalent would be…no, that was wrong….Perhaps she could ask Mertha for more class…No.
Mistakes were to be expected, she just needed more data. Had she really become this comfortable around the affini? Was that bad? Why was she so distracted?! The memory of last night would just not leave her head.
The way she looked in those pictures, not only did she look like a drugged-up flo-. Never mind that her body had already begun to change. Not much but there were signs, rounder face, a bit more fat around her hips, and perhaps most strikingly no body hair. Hendrik curiously stroked her left hand over her right arm.
She immediately regret it as the skin tingled with a delightful sensation. She stifled a soft moan into a sigh. Not only were the memories of the night before distracting her from important work, but the drug was also not out of her system yet. She should have asked Serla for more information before accepting so casually.
Mertha came out of her study “ready little one? We need to go soon if we want to make it in time”. At least that was a type of distraction. Also, Mertha had not called her kitten, ‘little one’ was a substantial improvement. Hendrik made sure to go over the information she had learned, less than she had hoped. No matter, the cipher of the language could not hide forever.
When they got out of the hab Hendrik noticed she was still a bit dizzy. Her movements were a fraction of a second slower than normal. There was also a slight buzz in her head. She decided to not mention it, every moment of showing self-reliance would take her further away from the abyss that the affini were pushing her into.
Hendrik focused on making it further than before. Part of it was her recovery and part of it was determination. If she could get to the Hospital on her own it should show that she was recovering properly.
It was no wonder the affini were treating her like a pet already. With how she had acted, with how weak and defenseless she behaved. Hendrik felt her legs begin to burn from the exhaustion, her breaths were becoming a bit shallower. If she asked Mertha for help now that would just confirm what they thought about her, a helpless ‘little kitten’. She could get to the vet by herself. Hendrik made sure to hide her exhaustion, something she had long experience of doing anyway.
Mertha sounded concerned, like always “are you okay? make sure that you are not pushing yourself.” They wanted a helpless little kitten, didn’t they? Perhaps it was more culturally significant for affini to protect weak creatures. She was not weak, she would make sure that they understood. There! The clinic, only a few more steps!
Hendrik tried to take another one and found her leg collapsing beneath her. She caught herself, she did not fall, she could still make it. She tried to breathe in……why couldn’t she breathe? The sign above the clinic looked blurry… “Hendrik? Hendrik?!” the voice was far away. What was happening? The floor was moving suspiciously fast towards her.
Vines had furled around her and had stopped the floor's accent. She tried to breathe again…she couldn’t breathe! Her mind couldn’t focus, there was movement and noises but nothing that made any sense. They were so close to the vet, she just needed to….
A door opened, there were some loud noises, voices? The vines were replaced by something smoother, she felt a small prick in her arm. Strength began to flow into her again, she could breathe! She gasped for air and the invigorating oxygen filled her lungs. She breathed in again, she tried to move but found herself held down.
The world was blurry, all her senses seemed to only work a fraction of what they should. <…you allowed her to push herself like this? have you lost all reason?!> She recognized that word from the dictionary…what did it mean? Something that referred to an individual, a pronoun, for sophonts: her! They were talking about her.
<I am sorry …………so far, she seemed………completely fine ………she collapsed>. Those words made no sense, at least she was beginning to see things a bit more clearly. She was in a laid-down chair…there were two large figures next to her…the voices came from them. Where was she?
<At least you were…..this will set her back some though…..is it that hard to just relax?> More alien words, she was…in an office…the vet's office. How did she get here? She was supposed to get her by herself…why?
The voices were clearer now <she gets agitated if she has nothing to….likes work but….do you have any advice for….> Why was she here? The question pinged around her head for a bit…She had walked there and then…It felt like dragging her mind through syrup.
The voice, it was the vet’s and Mertha was here as well, that must be the two figures. They continued to speak like she was not even there <if she gets agitated then that will be bad for her recovery. I will be honest, I have yet to have a patient be….on breaking her own body. Perhaps it's best to get her on a… class-j until….We can’t have another incident like….might be fatally injured.> Yeah, they were defiantly talking about her.
Hendrik tried to move again, but no dice. Her arms were almost too weak to obey her, not even close enough to break the constraints. She continued to breathe, she was getting stronger second by second. Mertha spoke, she was still speaking affini <that seems quite drastic….don’t have any other alternatives?> the sentence was a question, that Hendrik knew. She blinked and things again became a bit clearer.
She would soon be able to get up again, talk to them. Or at least Mertha, the vet…Vonzin could not be trusted. Vonzin answered the question <had you been anyone else I would have argued for imitate domestication….she reacted well to class-A this might be her best shot….thing needs a vacation either way.> That word…it was dangerous…Domestication! They were talking about her and….no, no!
Hendrik used all her energy to form a single word “..n…no”. the figures looked down at her, the tallest one walked to her left and out of her vision <these vitals are all messed up, but better. I’ll try to revitalize her.> There was a soft sound and then strength, actually strength, began to flow through her veins. She just needed to collect the energy to speak, expla-Pain! Searing, burning pain! in her legs, chest, and heart!
<fire! Even when under she is managing to exert herself. There, that should help for now.> The pain subsided as quickly as it had come, draining her. She closed her mouth, had she been screaming? She felt a vine dry something from her face. She didn’t understand what was happening…
There was a calming voice near, she couldn’t make it out, but it was familiar and safe. For what felt like an eternity she had no control over her body. Then slowly, step by tiny step she felt her control return. Hendrik felt better, she was afraid of the pain, but it didn’t come back.
After what felt like an eternity she began to hear voices again <..only choice, how will it work?... for how long?> She could feel her legs now, that had to be a good sign.
The nonfamiliar voice responded <only other option…pod..…up-ramping should be remarkably quick because of her receptiveness. If not for that we would have to be more drastic……worse condition than I feared. ……7 days minimum……need daily checkups..…I will begin creating the mix.> that was a number!…7…what did it mean?
There was the soft noise again…She braced for the pain, but it never came. Her head felt like it became lighter as the syrup slowly drained out. As her senses returned she saw Mertha holding her hand, she looked so sad and concerned. Hendrik looked at Mertha’s beautiful eyes for a few moments as the world came into focus.
Then the chair rotated slightly, and she was face to face with Vonzin “can you hear me? Can you feel any pain at all?” Henrik nodded and then shook her head. She was rewarded with a sigh as the huge plant went back to the device and pressed another button.
Finally, she was fully awake, the difference was night and day. like she had been stuck underwater for the last eternity. Before she could speak a vine snapped in front of her eyes “take it easy, don’t talk, and don’t move.” Hendrik wanted to say something sarcastic, she did not find the energy.
Vonzin’s words were stern “so you are finally stabilized, how are you feeling? Talk slowly.”
Hendrik did as instructed “don’t… domesticate me” her voice was pathetically weak. The two affini looked at each other.
Mertha spoke “what are you talking about?” they were trying to hide it.
She managed to push out more words, each one was a bit easier than the last “I heard you….talk about it…please…no.” The two affini looked at each other, now even more confused.
<She started to learn affini this morning, perhaps she remembered a few words> They were talking above her again.
Vonzin spoke “usually I would be impressed, but you almost died on the way to my office so I can’t say that I am. As far as we have agreed you are not being domesticated, yet. But you are walking a very thin line.” Perhaps that was true, at least the threat gave it more credibility.
The vet continued “what you did today was reckless, stupid, and could have killed you. What were you thinking?” Had she pushed herself that far?
She needed to answer “I'm..not helpless.” Vonzin turned around and made a low growling noise.
She sounded angry “of course it's some stupid human pride. I will begin preparing a class-J mix. She can’t stay lucid for long. Talk quickly to her before we have to begin ramping her up.”
Mertha leaned in so that she was right next to her “don’t worry, everything is going to be fine. We just need to make sure you can be healthy.” She was making Mertha sad again…perhaps whatever is about to happen is for the best.
She felt a pain begin to spread from her legs “I…I’m afraid…” She had no control, no power to make sure she was safe, left at the mercy of the universe again.
Mertha leaned and pressed her forehead against hers, it was warmer than she expected “soon you won’t be, just stay strong for me. I love you.” Mertha gave her a soft kiss on the forehead.
That would sound concerning, but she trusted Mertha, she smiled back at her affini. The soft sound started again “this should do it for the first dose, we will keep her here as we ramp up. you can leave in the morning. With this, she will only want sleep, cuddles, affection, and food. Make sure she gets plenty of all four.”
There was a relaxing feeling spreading from her arm. She wanted to fight it, but her body surrendered without her consent. Her muscles loosened, her jaw became slack, and then she fell asleep.
Mertha looked as Hendrik finally lost the tension in her body and fall asleep. She was probably the most incompetent affini in any galaxy. She had one job, to protect this sophont and she couldn’t even do that. Why didn’t she stop Henrik? She should have known Hendrik was pushing too far
And the reason Hendrik had done it was also because of her. She had not treated her like an equal and made her feel helpless. All the teasing from this morning weighed on her with guilt like a black hole. Should she even be taking care of Hendrik? if she made this many mistakes, perhaps Hendrik was better off with someone else.
She had to apologize to Vonzin “I'm so sorry I let this happen…I should have stopped her, made sure she was okay. I feel like such a failure….” Vonzin was quiet for a bit while she worked with the injector.
After adding another vial of xenodrugs she spoke “I hope there is room for two affini in that self-depreciation department you’re forming.” the vet's voice was dejected and concerned.
Mertha hoped she was not trying to cheer her up “what do you mean? She was recovering so well…and then I let this happen.” The vet finished on the injector and printed out a few papers from the machine.
Vonzin sat down next to her “this is my fault as well, she is far more damaged than what I have assumed. This is not the result of a few months overwork, the damage to tissue and receptors would make more sense if we talked about several years...I should have noticed that. I dismissed that conclusion because no human can survive normally for that long in those conditions.” That did not make Mertha feel better.
The vet continued “you asked me to find out why she reacted to the class-A so strongly...I think I have found the answer. The only way she has survived this way is through a great deal of chemicals to keep her system afloat. Both natural and syntenic chemicals have been so present in her bloodstream for so long that her body is probably just as efficient at processing them as it is able to process food. that is not healthy, if you were wondering”. Mertha felt her core grow numb.
Her form was not holding very well “can you fix it?...but that does still not explain why she collapsed so suddenly.”
Vonzin walked back to the injector “I can fix it. it will take a few days, at least we have that time now. I should also fix her adrenaline, in all my blooms I have never seen such spikes in production. I think I might know why she has been recovering normally for the most part until now. The class-A still in her system counteracted the adrenaline production that she normally has in such times of exertion. Not that adrenaline is good for her body, but it did keep her alive and her system working when she was in danger. Without it, her body simply started to shut down. It’s good that it happened so close to the clinic.”
Mertha didn’t entirely understand all the things Vonzin said but at least the fact that one affini in the room knew what was going on felt reassuring. She stood up “will she be fine?” the only question that truly, really mattered.
Vonzin inserted another vial of xenodrugs into the injectors. A moment later and it began to seep into Hendrik through the flower stuck in her arm. Vonzin looked at the reading for a moment “she will be fine, that I will make sure of. Before you leave today I will have her checked and scoured for every medical possibility that we have on record and those I can make up in the meantime. 7 days of not doing much of anything will also do wonders for her in plenty of ways. By the end of this, she will be in much better health.” Mertha’s core began to harmonize once more, thank the Everbloom.
It still felt like an overreach to do this to Hendrik. Mertha knew the only other option was a life support pod, but it still felt wrong. She decided that she would make sure to smother Hendrik with affection the best she could while she was on this ‘vacation’. If she did not allow Hendrik to give up, she couldn’t either. Hendrik would be fine, she would make sure of it.
Mertha waited in the office for the next couple of hours and sent Serla a message.
[RestlessAnnoyance]: Hendrik had an ancient before the vet appointment. It is quite bad. She needs to be on class-j for a week, so she won’t be lucid enough to have another session.
The response came a few minutes later.
[Comfortvoice]: I’m sorry to hear that. I can come over tomorrow evening and help out. I'll tell Nora that the meeting will have to wait until Hendrik is better. Just remember that you have been doing well so far, setbacks do not reflect on you as a person.
It was a bit funny how well Serla knew her. She was lucky to have such supporting friends, now she needed to be that for Hendrik. Not that Hendrik would be able to even doubt herself much in the coming days.
Vonzin brought her out of her thoughts “I can feel your worry from over here! I can’t work with you distracting me. Get out of here and return in a few hours. Go get her some new furniture and toys, she will have…different needs in the coming days.” With that, she was promptly shoved out of the office. Before she left she looked at Hendrik, the girl looked remarkably peaceful.
She stood outside of the clinic in a bit of a daze….she needed new furniture and toys, right. She began to move, the look of Henrik looking afraid in the back of her mind.
She awoke and let out a deep yawn. Her mind tried to kick into gear before it sputtered and failed. Weird, she felt like she would think more about what was happening, but the worry just slipped away. Wherever she was sleeping it was soft, comfortable, and warm. For now, that was all she needed. She yawned again and rolled into sleep once more.
When she opened her eyes a few hours after she observed that the room she was in was new. There were a lot of books and paintings and some cute plants. Not too far away from her, but quite far up there was a figure sitting in a chair and leaning over a large desk. She yawned again and the figure looked down at her. Should she be afraid? Maybe, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so. Perhaps that should worry her…she couldn’t bring herself to that either. As nothing interesting was going on she decided to roll around a bit until she found a new but equally comfortable position and fell asleep again.
The smell of meat woke her up, it smelled so wonderful. Her mouth began to water and she heard her stomach rumble. she decided the smell of food was more interesting than sleeping even more and tried to stand up. She managed to sit up but standing was not happening, her legs just would not move as she needed them to. She had been sleeping in a large and soft cup of plush. It was quite pink and very cute. There were several plushies and soft pillows there as well. This reminded her of something, the thought floated way before she could grasp it.
The figure was standing in the doorway, the light behind her cast a long shadow. It spoke and the voice felt familiar “Hendrik? Are you awake?” She looked around, there was no one else in the room…so the figure was speaking to her. ‘Hendrik’ the name sounded familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. She tried to speak but didn’t know what to say so she just opened her mouth and then closed it again. this was weird…she decided to lean back into the soft world around her, perhaps more sleep would be best.
The figure approached “you need to eat, can you stand?” Her stomach rumbled again, she needed food. Food required standing up, so that would be difficult….difficult, the word felt strange in her mind. Then there were two vines that lifted her up. Being torn from her bed was uncomfortable and she let out a dissatisfied noise. She was lifted up until she was face to face with the figure.
The figure was beautiful with large, mesmerizing eyes “Hendrik?” That name….still couldn’t place it. She should feel confused but that was also something she couldn’t manage to do very well. She tilted her head to the left. They stared at each other for quite some time “oh..i guess you are quite out of it then...hmm. You still need to eat.” With that, she was cradled in the beautiful figure's arms and carried towards the smell of food.
She was put down in a chair, in front of her was a large piece of meat. It looked and smelled great…what was she supposed to do now? There was something she was supposed to do to eat. Whatever it was it escaped her mind and she just stared at the waiting meal. The figure crouched down “Hend-……do you need some help?” she nodded eustatically. Help was good, that felt right.
The figure picked up the shiny metal that was next to the plate…a fork. Some food was placed on it and moved in front of her mouth “open”. The command was followed by a light tap on the side of her mouth. She did as asked and was rewarded with a delicious piece of well-seasoned meat. Another vine taped underneath her chin “chew”, she closed her mouth and began to chew. Warm delectable juices filled her mouth. After a moment a vine massaged her throat “swallow”, she did and felt the food slide down her throat.
The figure gave rubbed the top of her head with a vine “good girl” Yes, that was correct. She didn’t quite remember what was going on or why, but the words and affection felt...right. Perhaps if she did more as the figure said, she would get more affection.
When the vine tapped the side of her mouth she opened it immediately, and she was rewarded with more food. Another vine told her to chew and the last one to swallow. More head pats. The rhythm continued until she felt full, and the plate was empty. She looked up at the figure proudly “good girl?”
The figure looked at her for a moment “yes…of course you are. A very good girl!” Victory! Having proved to herself and to the figure that she was indeed a very good girl, she felt content. She wanted to sleep now unless there were more head pats to be gained. She was lifted up from the chair “you need to be washed.”
She wanted to sleep but the figure might give her more head pats if she behaved well. In the end, she concluded that head pats were limited, and sleep was not, sleep would wait. They moved into another room, it looked familiar. The figure secured her legs and waist in a harness of vines, she still had control of her arms.
The figure first had a look at her teeth, then she picked up a brush and brushed them. It tingled slightly having the vines touch her, so she leaned a bit into them.
After that, the figure removed her clothes and began to clean her with water in a large pool. She enjoyed the feeling of the vines and water on her skin, it felt wonderful…right. At one point she looked sideways and saw a reflection of the pool in a mirror. The figure towered over her, it was beautiful with such pretty flowers and vines. It was careful as it scrubbed her back and then began to groom her hair. She on the other hand looked tiny, frail, and perhaps a bit cute? Yeah, she was definitely cute, she was a good girl after all.
She noticed that the reflection had something around its neck. She touched her own and found the thing. It was mostly of metal but also soft and felt normal around her neck, a collar. She needed to think, she closed her eyes and tried to think as hard as she could manage.
She didn’t know why, but logic was important. By putting one brick of facts next to another, she could build a cute pyramid of truth. First was her bed, she did not have the word for it yet, but it said something about her. Secondly was the fact she was being fed, washed, and groomed. This was nice, another part of the pyramid. Finally, the collar, the most important piece. Something about who wore collars was important…a pet!
That made sense, she slept in a bed for a pet, was treated like a pet, and had the collar of a pet. She had to ask the figure “am I a pet?” the figure stopped the grooming of her hair.
It sounded worried “no you’re not, don’t worry.” That did not make any sense, her logic had to be right.
She needed to correct the figure “but the bed, the food, the grooming, the…collar. It says that I am a pet.” Her logic was airtight.
The figure looked into her eyes “hmmm….do you want to be?” Pet nodded enthusiastically, she was very smart!
The pyramid was not quite complete yet, one part was still missing “if I’m a pet…then that must mean I have an owner…are you my owner?” the figure shuddered and stopped grooming her again.
Its voice sounded strange, almost restrained “do you want me to be?”
Pet looked up at the figure and chirped “yes!” The pyramid was complete, the perfect truth that she had worked so hard to build was uncovered. She was a pet, and the figure was her owner. She was a very smart girl.
Owner spoke, “well then, I guess I am. Now you should get some more sleep”. Owner picked her up and like the good pet and girl she was, she leaned into it and nuzzled her owner. She was soon placed back into her bed and after a bit of wiggling found the perfect position. Pet yawned, being so smart had made her sleepy. With a few wonderful head pats from her owner, she drifted into sleep once more.