Negotiations on shaky vines

Chapter 41x – The Centhian catastrophe

by Exhausted_ambition

Tags: #dom:female #f/f #hypnosis #petplay #pov:bottom #scifi #anxiety #CW:dubious_consent #cw:violence #dom:internalized_imperialism #dom:plant #drug_play #Human_Domestication_Guide #ownership_dynamics #sensation_play #sub:capitalism #sub:female #trans_egg #transgender_characters

CW: violence and mention of drug abuse

This is a very different chapter, and I am trying something a bit experimental with this one. None of the main characters are involved in this chapter. You could technically skip this (though I don’t recommend it) and still have a general idea of what’s going on, therefore I have marked it with an “x”.

CC= Centhian catastrophe ,-/+ the time since the start

--------------------Scattering papers: Centhia, Central bureaucracy HQ, 10:45 (Cc -15 minutes)-------------------
Picea Siarlo, 4th bloom moved at a slower speed than she usually did to keep pace with the human walking next to her. It was almost a bit ironic that after all the years in service to the bureaucracy, never taking a sophont for her own, it would be here she would meet Laura. Laura, the human walking next to her, was a cute and interesting little sophont. To Picea’s surprise, it was Laura that initiated their interactions after a meeting. After their brief, or rather quite lengthy, discussion on proper habitation distribution they had begun to share lunch together in the cafeteria.
Laura was younger than most others in the human bureaucracy, something that meant she was far less distrustful of Picea and her fellow affini. The older humans seemed to be quite easily distrustful and suspicious, not that Laura was not those things, but it was far less severe. 
Despite her intense workload in managing the human bureaucracy, she had managed to get some time to spend with Laura. A time that they had both enjoyed tremendously. During the few visits that Picea had made to Laura’s hab, it had become clear that the sophont wanted something easier. As soon as the moratorium was over Picea would ask Laura to be her floret, until that moment she had to lay the groundwork. 
Laura talked as they moved over to the cafeteria “Thank the founders that it's finally over! If I had to listen for one more second of that windbag speak about old Centhian bureaucratic practices then I think I would have gone insane!” 
Picea smiled “I found it quite interesting, in a macabre and horrifying sort of way.” Laura let out a light chuckle, oh she was so adorable. 
They reached the cafeteria where a grand assortment of sophonts was already eating there. Pica made the configuration of mineralized water that she preferred, and Laura made some sandwiches. After the compiler had made their food they sat down at one of the free tables. 
Picea looked around, what she saw filled her with adoration, a great deal of interest, and a bit of sadness. The humans in their suits and carrying around all their computers and paper were adorable in so many different ways. The way they moved reminded her of the fish streams that she had seen the spectrum jellies cultivate, so organized and fluid. It was still a shame that these cuties had to work at all, at least 5 hours was less than the 9 that they had before. 
Laura interrupted, “Picea, you are gazing again.” Picea looked down on the human, she seemed a bit embarrassed.
Picea wanted to prod a little “and why is that so bad? There are lots of cute things to see here.” A small blush appeared on Laura’s face. 
The human looked away “only high-rank people are allowed to gaze….are you high rank?” The sophont’s obsession with hierarchy was fascinating.
Picea made sure to look reassuring “no, I’m only here to make sure things work as they should and relay the requests from that cute president of yours who is still on our ship.” Laura recoiled for a moment before hastily looking around. 
Her voice turned to a whisper “you can’t talk of him that way!.” Picea wanted to prod into that as well, but it was clear Laura was upset. 
Best to change the subject “I will keep that in mind…I was wondering if you wanted to come over to my hab later today. I have a lot of fish and fruit but no one to prepare it for, perhaps you could help?” Picea had learned that both of those foods were considered a luxury, a good lure for the sometimes apprehensive sophont. 
Laura lost the nervous look and blushed a bit again “I guess if you want help I ca-“
A loud sound ripped across the air and the entire place went silent. The humans had stopped in the places and looked up to where the sound had come from, the head office. 
Picea threw herself out of the far too small seat. She left Laura with a small pat on the head before letting her form unfurl to move as quickly as possible. That sound had either come from an explosion or a weapon, at least there were no sounds to flow it up. The staircase up to the location of the sound was filled with humans frozen so Picea dug her vines into the façade and climbed straight up. 
Only a few seconds after the shot had been fired she had arrived at its origin point. The head office had a crowd in front of it, looking in. 2 human guards were trying to push them away from the door. Picea remade her form and gently pushed the humans in front away so she could get into the office. The guards did not stop her. 
inside the office there were a few humans, most of them stood in front of the desk where the grand permanent secretary usually presided. One of them was a bit further away and his face lit up as he noticed her “Picea, thank the stars you are here!” Percy, as the human was called, was one of the senior ranking members of the human bureaucracy, he was also one of the friendliest to affini guidance. 
Picea was concerned “I heard a sound coming from here, what happened.” She noticed the fear that was showing in Percy’s eyes.
The human pointed towards the desk “liquidator.” Picea followed the finger, in the ceiling, something or rather someone, had cut open a circular hole right behind the desk. Picea moved and the humans standing in front of the desk stepped aside. 
Still sitting in the chair, the corpse of the Grand permanent secretary was splayed over the desk. There was a small hole in the old man’s chest, where his heart had once been. Picea stepped forward, under the collapsed body there were a few papers, wet with blood. One of the documents was not like that. 
It was decorated with green and blue edges. It was placed on the other side of the desk, in perfect view of anyone from her side of the desk. The lettering was delicate and the signature on the end was unmistakable.
The immediate termination of Elikar Perta has been authorized on the basis of high treason and dereliction of duty.
This is the fate of all traitors to the Chentian republic and the president 
Hendrik Hansen 
Dirt! Rot! Fire! Picea turned around, some of the humans had begun to move towards the door. Percy ran up “we are chasing the liquidator now, but I think the situation here is…….” The humans’ eyes traced across the desk and saw the document. If there had been fear in his eyes before it now turned to terror, the human took a step back. For a second Picea thought he would collapse “this is not true?! you have him under control, right?” The desperation in his voice was unbearable.
Picea tried to sound as confident as possible “yes, he is still on our ship.” There was no way that the president could have made this happen, at least that is what she hoped. Suddenly a small ping came from each of the humans, almost by instinct they picked up the small data pads they all carried. 
Percy looked at the datapad in shock and fear. He turned it around so she could see, it was a picture of the dead body, and the document clearly legible. A second later there were sounds of shouting outside, she and Percy stormed outside, the crowd that had tried to look inside had dispersed. The area outside the head office was far above the rest of the complex, one could see everything from here.
The organized stream of people had broken apart, there was full chaos down below. Some people stood and looked at their datapad, frozen solid. Some were shouting at each other in louder and louder voices. Most people however had dropped everything and were running for the doors. In seconds the doors were choked by the mass of people trying to escape. A few affini were trying to calm people down, but all they could do was keep people from being trampled to death. the pure fear that Picea could feel from the humans’ biorhythm was intense 
Picea looked around and saw Laura, she was standing close to the staircase. She moved as quickly as she could down the stairs. Laura had not moved an inch, she looked at her datapad with a vacant stare in her eyes. As soon as she got close Laura’s eyes snapped up, and the human recoiled back.
The fear in her voice was shaking “I…I don’t….you lied to me!” Laura took another step back, her eyes darting around her like she was watching for something. Pieca tried to move forward slowly but Laura recoiled again “I’m still loyal, I’m still loyal!” The human shouted it at the shadows, then she turned around before running for the doors and blending into the masses. 
This was bad, this was really bad. The captain had to be informed, she took out her datapad and sent an emergency transmission to the Agraria. For a few agonizing seconds, nothing happened before the captain appeared on the screen “you are on, what is happening?”. 
Picea heard gunshots in the distance “Captain we have a huge issue!” She was not used to immediate reports like this “the grand permanent secretary was killed a few minutes ago by a human assassin. The situation here in the building has completely disintegrated.” She could see a few of the flowers on the president’s form wilt.
They spoke with authority “I understand, I will put everyone on full alert.” 
Percy ran down the stairs “we encountered the liquidator, it opened fire but no casualties. It did manage to escape from the building, an affini is chasing after.” That had to be the gunshots. 
She looked over at Percy, he seemed afraid but determined “Percy, I need to show the captain the picture.” She extended a vine and received the datapad from trembling hands. She showed the picture to the captain “this document was found next to the body.” The captain was silent for a tense moment.
They then spoke again “I am declaring this an emergency. Secure the building and await further orders.” The transmission was cut off. 
Everything was suddenly very quiet, Picea looked around. The massive room looked completely empty, papers and computers were scattered on the ground. Percy spoke “do you think it will be fine?” there was fear and apprehension in his voice. 
Picea smiled, “I am sure it will be, we just need to keep calm.” For the first time in her life, she did not feel so sure about that statement. 
------------------The affini mouthpiece: Centhia, CPN broadcast station, 11:15 (CC +15 minutes)-----------------
Alexandra looked over the script that she had just received for the imminent broadcast. Among the usually gentle and friendly affini words was the order: Imitate curfew. She felt a shiver down her back, something had happened. She knew that this was bound to happen at some point, no one, not even the affini, could keep Centhia without some sort of conflict. Hopefully, it was small-scale, and the aliens were just being overprotective as always. 
The door opened and Salvia walked in, the affini cheerful as ever “ready to get back on the air little one?” Alexandra took a last look at the script, things were probably fine. The President and the affini working together, no force could stop that….though she hoped the affini would take over for real soon.
She and Salvia walked into the broadcast room, the sun shone through the glass wall. Some architects had decided that the best place to have the CPN stationed on the top of the glass-covered buildings. To give them a better look at those that would receive the newest slew of propaganda. She still worked with delivering propaganda as before, but the affini type was far more digestible.
She sat down in front of the microphone and Salvia sat down next to her. They were quite a good team except for when Salvia interrupted her to ask questions on air, that was not professional behavior. They had also become friends over this last month. Salvia might be a bit too easily excited about everything she did, but having the affini around was comforting and made her feel safer than she had in years. 
They got the green light, and she began “Hello everyone, this is Centhian planetary news. We have a special announcement, but first, we want to remind everyone to eat, drink and sleep and also remember to take your meds.” She made a brief pause, that message was in every script and now it rolled off her tongue automatically. 
She started again “Some rumors have been going around, these are not true. The affini compact and the Centhian republic are allies and the president has reaffirmed commitment to the Affini compact-Chentian republic treaty of mutual friendship. To make sure everyone is safe it is necessary for everyone to stay home for the time being. If you have any questions or concerns contact your nearest outreach center.” Alexandra was relieved that the alliance was still stable, she had only been in a few meetings with the president, and that had been a few too many. 
Once she was done with it, they could get some music on the air. “We would also like to inform you that the overnet will be down for maintenance for the next couple of days. Communication with outreach centers will still be functional. In other news, the distribution of----” there was a faint noise, it was growing louder, and it came from….outside? 
Alexandra stood up and looked out the window, the noise was getting louder still. She spotted a small black spot, it was growing bigger. It was a garrison suppressor drone, and it was heading straight for them!
Saliva acted first “get down!” Alexandra felt her body act without hesitation as she threw herself to the floor. A second later the world went black as Saliva formed into a dome around her. 
A split second later there was an overwhelming noise as the drone hit the tower and exploded. Everything shook and she felt Saliva tremble for a moment. Then it was over, her ears were ringing, and she felt dizzy. The air began to feel cold as the wind from outside swept into the room, Saliva was still around her. Her shaken mind raced, who would have the guts to attack the affini in this fashion? Or more importantly who would dare to go against the president?….unless
Her body felt cold, and her stomach dropped. Was this because she had cooperated with the affini? Did he know what she thought about him? Those cold, hard eyes that had stared at her across the meeting table reappeared in her mind. Did he consider her a traitor for spreading the message of the affini? Maybe the alliance had broken down, and now she was a target for elimination. 
Saliva moved and there was light again “are you okay?” There were large burn marks across Saliva and across the room itself. Shattered glass covered the floor, and some were stuck in the affini’s body. Alexandra tried to stand up and found her legs didn’t want to move, not because they were damaged, but because of fear. The affini did not seem to make her feel safe anymore, those the president wanted to be removed never survived. 
-----------------------2 loyal brothers: Centhia, West New Gettysburg, 14:53 (CC +3h,53min)-------------------
Olan looked down at the picture, it proved what he had been thinking since the affini arrived. They were liars and invaders, and now the president had exposed them for what they were. The president had welcomed them with open arms and the xeno menace had betrayed him, probably imprisoning him or forcing him to flee. The aliens were devious, they knew the people loved the president too much to see him deposed, so they pretended that the president had supported them. Now the illusion was shattered, and the people would rise against the weeds. 
He looked at his brother, Tidar who was sewing the last parts of the mighty flag of the Centhian republic. They had both been born in the slums of West New Gettysburg, among those towers of reused garbage and dark alleys. Their parents had died of a sickness that they could not afford the medicine for when he was 7, and Tridar was only 5. So, they had survived through begging, theft, and anything else to keep them fed. 
Somehow they had survived and like all other urchins, joined the ranks of the family that controlled the district. Theft was replaced with raids, begging was replaced with robbery, they had been pressured to do horrible things to survive. Tridar had become addicted to moondust and for him, it was the bottle. He had been certain he would die there until their salvation arrived. 
The president had removed the slums, and offered them a good place to sleep, a stable income from construction work, and the chance to start again. They had decided to grab the chance, leave the rat nest they had been a part of, stop the drugs and build a new life for themselves. 
But they had not been strong enough, shame-filled those memories. Those days when he had not gone to work and instead drank the day away, those moments when he had shirked the opportunity he had been given. In a few many months he had lost his job and Tridar, gentle Tridar, had been lured back to the family with the promise of more moondust. 
One day his brother had returned with blood on his clothes and hands, a dead look in his eyes. He had tried, as an older brother should, to take care of him but something there was broken after that day. Soon they could not pay the rent and were about to be thrown out onto the street once more. Once again it felt like everything was lost and that death was mere days away. 
Tridar stood up and tested the flag, it swung perfectly “its ready, are you sure about this?” his brother sounded unsure, possibly even a bit afraid. 
Olan looked out the window of their small apartment, people were beginning to gather in the streets. They looked confused, unsure of what to do and what to believe. He looked back to his brother “I’m sure. We owe our lives to him, and so do most of those below. let go!” Olan grabbed the megaphone while Tridar carried the flag. They began the long walk downstairs to the street.
When everything had seemed lost, the president had saved them once again. The LITZ apartment complex they lived in had been taken over as the corporation was liquidated. They had been allowed to stay and been able to seek medical aid for the ailment they had contracted over the years. Tridar had been given amnesty by the president and no longer had to hide. Once again the president had saved their lives. Now, finally, they could repay him.  
They got out onto the filled street, Olan found a utility box and climbed up. Now everyone could see him, he turned on the megaphone. For a second he was nervous, could he really do this? He had to try, he owed the president that and everything else. 
The megaphone crackled and then his voice rang across the masses “people of Centhia! We have been betrayed and lied to! The aliens are here to destroy our republic and everything that we have worked for!” the eyes of the crowd raised to him, soft murmurs of agreement rippled through the masses. 
He raised his voice, filled it with all his passion “The affini are just like Terra, they wish to exploit us, enslave us, are we going to let that happen?! The president who has done all he can for our prosperity now needs our help. Are you going to stand by and do nothing?!” The people were captivated, murmurs turned to shouts, fear and uncertainty turned to anger and determination. 
He shouted as the flag of the republic waved behind him “RISE PEOPLE OF CENTHIA! Fight the alien menace! Drive them from our home! FIGHT FOR THE REPUBLIC, FOR OUR PRESIDENT!” The crowd was in a fervor now, fists stuck into the air, shouts and trampling feet thundered in his ears. 
Olan smiled, the president had given him everything and now he would give everything he had back. The president would have his army.  
---------------------The formation, broken: Centhia, North New Bergen, 15:47 (CC +4h,47min)----------------
Chief officer Odrem listened to the voice on the other end of the line “we have a large riot spreading through 89th street. Get your squad to block off the crossing and at the 76th, you will have 2 affini joining you.” The person on the other side cut the connection. Things were beginning to look ugly, still, the garrison had work to do, as it always did. 
Oldrem made sure his badge was secure and then strode out of his office. As he came out he saw that the juniors were talking in hushed tones, never a good sign. He made sure his voice boomed through the office space “everyone! We have a task, we are to stop a demonstration at the 76th. They might be armed, so put on armor, you have 10 minutes before the shuttle leaves!” for a moment he wondered if, in his 20 years of service, had ever seen a demonstration that was not armed. 
Some of the juniors did as told and moved towards the armory, far too many, did not. One of them stepped forward, junior officer Philip “no, I’m not going out there. We don’t have rubber bullets, we don’t have dispersion gas, all we have are these fucking sleep batons.” To prove his point, he threw the affini made stun device on the ground. Philip turned around “I’m not dying for some aliens, president, or republic. I’m going home! And so should all of you.” some of the juniors seemed to agree.
This could not be accepted “You will stay at your post and perform your duty! If not, you will be considered a deserter!” Oldrem’s shout of authority did not seem to have much effect on the young man. 
Philp laughed tauntingly “you can’t throw me in prison, you can’t have me executed. I don’t need the cash from this job as it is essentially worthless. I’m out, try to stop me.” The young garrison officer ripped off the badge on his shoulder and stormed out. After a few seconds, a good deal of the others did as well. Fuck…he could arrest them, but he did not have the time and perhaps not even the support of the room to do that. 
He looked at the remaining people “8 minutes, those traitors will be dealt with later, now get moving!” He huffed and pressed past those who stood in his way, once he got to the armory he equipped the ballistic armor, feeling its weight crushing him down slightly. He made sure the alien stun device was properly armed and then walked to the shuttle pad. 
He got into the shuttle and once it was full of nervous soldiers the pilot took off, from the sky they could see the fire that had begun to spread in one part of the city. There were a few gunshots almost drowned out by the thrumming of the engine as well. In not too long until they had arrived at the destination. Before they landed he saw the size of the mob, it was bad but nothing they could not manage. He was the first to disembark off the shuttle. 
In the abandoned street there were two affini, Ordem gave a salute “Chief officer of the 32nd garrison platoon reporting for duty.” The first affini smiled at him in a bit of a condescending way.
The second one looked behind him, it seemed confused. “I thought there were supposed to be 48 of you, I can only count 18.” Fuck, he looked back. Only one other shuttle had landed, it was not even full. There were supposed to be 4 shuttles of 12 soldiers each.
He held his composure “desertion, we will deal with that later. For now, we should prepare.” They did not have much time for that as the mob in the distance was moving fast. He raised his baton “move into formation, on the double!” he had dispersed hundreds of riots before, this was just one more. 
The soldiers did as ordered, but the lack of numbers was obvious. The streets had been designed so a platoon could form a perfect phalanx, right now they did not have the men to form a single line without large gaps. At least they had the affini, they stood only a bit behind them. He had heard they were invincible, time to check if that rumor held true. 
The crowd stopped a good number of paces away, Ordem took up a megaphone “This gathering is illegal, a curfew is under effect. Everyone is to return to their homes, immediately!” His speech did not seem to have any effect. 
A vine coiled around the megaphone and one of the affini stepped forward. “Hi everyone, we understand that things might seem scary and confusing right now, but if you return to your homes everything will be fine.” The crowd stalled for a bit, they had not expected such a warm tone. The affini continued “we don’t want any harm to come to any of you, please be good and return home. If you have questions or concerns you are welcome to come with them to the outreach centers.” A few people were actually stepping back, dispersing into the crowd. Something in the affini’s voice made even Ordem want to go home. 
He looked at the affini “continue, it's working.” He received a warm smile in return. Just as the affini was about to speak again a gun was fired. One of his men fell back as the armor absorbed the blow, in an instant the calm the affini had managed to create was shattered. Some began to disperse but the weight of the mob sent it forward. 
Ordem stepped forward “prepare to push them back, hold the….” He looked back, not one person was following him. Most of them ran for the shuttle while two were dragging the hit man back, looking frantically around. 
Suddenly a vine lifted him up like the armor he wore weighed nothing, he saw the other affini grab the three that had not made it to the shuttle. He tried to strain against the vines, but it was hopeless “we need to hold the line, push them back!” The affini had begun to move rapidly away from the crowd.
The affini sounded concerned “no, first we need to make sure that you are safe. We will find a way to convince the protestors later. Those people can’t do too much damage on their own.” This broke with all his training, protestors were to be driven back and defeated, not given ground. 
He tried to push against the vine again “I thought you affini were invincible, how can you run now?” 
The affini spoke like it was the most obvious thing in the world “but you are not invincible, let's get you home and then we can plan for tomorrow.” There was apparently no arguing or resisting the aliens. He sighed, at least it was easier to be carried in the armor than walking in it. The shouts of the mob grew ever more distant, it was not the last or the largest protests to come, of that he was certain. 
-----------------------The old guard: Centhia, {location redacted}, 18:02 (CC +7h,02min)----------------------
Three men sat around an old round table, the locale was dusty but usable. It had once been the dining room of an old governor that’s palace had remained empty after his death. The institutions these three represented had often been enemies, sometimes allies, always on guard for the others' trickery. Now their old order was dying, but they would not give up without a fight.
Julius Therador the 3rd spoke first “The Therador dynasty has come to an agreement with the other families, we will put our differences aside for this gambit. The aliens must be removed, already our agents are sowing chaos in the streets.” The 65-year-old man had once ruled an empire from the shadows, then the president and the affini had reduced that to a whisper of its former glory. Even if he could not win he would have revenge. 
Celin, the new CEO of Firebrand Security inc. spoke next “Firebrand incorporated and all the remaining firms that still hold to life have been consolidated. Weapons, explosives, and ammunition will be invested in this venture. We have also managed to contact several of our previous mercenary contractors, during the night they will make their escape from the affini.” She knew that this was their last chance, the market did not survive where the affini conquered. Capitalism would make its final stand here, with all the capital remaining as the investment.
Admiral Victorian smiled, the plan so carefully laid was coming together “this is all great news! Finally, we shall push back the weeds that have taken so much. They are few and we are so many, already the system is beginning to collapse. The assassination seems to have had the intended effect, the republic is crumbling at every corner.” He had lost his younger brothers to the affini, so when the rest of the fleet left he had remained with a platoon of soldiers. They had been hiding, acting like rats, biding their time. That moment was now, it was finally the time to hurt the affini for all that they had taken from him. 
As the meeting progressed he sent the signal. As he raised hell on the ground the fleet would raise hell on the colonies. All the collaborators and reprehensible xeno’s would soon feel the might of Terra’s vengeance. 
-------------------Shadows on the move: Centhia, New Habsburg , 20:27 (CC +10h,27min)-------------------------
Unit Z-39 moved down into the concrete maze of the rail line transit system. It wore civilian clothing and made sure to move with an organic flow. It had received the call for a gathering 1 hour, 31 minutes, and 5 seconds ago. The message hidden within the broadcast of the ‘books from last millennium’ radio front had made it clear that this meeting was of class-1 priority. 
After making its way to the platform it walked towards the left end of the platform. It had to pretend that it was waiting for a tram, so it made sure to stop once in a while and look up at the clock that was 4,3 seconds off. One of the trams pulled into the station, it was almost empty. a xeno, type-affini, walked out. This presented an obstacle, unit Z-39 made sure to turn its hearing amplifiers to a minimum. Subject Nora had shown how dangerous the affini soundwaves could be. 
The affini spotted it and walked until it was close. “I'm sorry little one but you need to be home, it is for your own safety.” The subject appeared to be using slow and gentle tones in its voice to seem friendly. 
Unit Z-39 made a smiling facial motion “I'm sorry, I need to take my tram home, it’s the next one I think.” It made sure to display emotions of slight nervousness and apprehension. The subject seemed to consider alternatives for action. 
The subject smiled “do you want help to get home? or are you fine on your own?.” The subject likely had other duties, and its cultural programming made it protective of unit Z-39.
It was necessary to display safety “I’m fine, my home is not far away from the station.” Talking like non-units was always a bit tricky, with so many simplifications and unclear words. 
The subject used an appendage to touch its head and hair “good, make sure to stay safe.” The subject then left. When it was 95,8% confident it was secure from onlookers it made its way to the end of the platform and jumped down. There was a small depression in the wall, using it as a cover it then put on the uniform that was contained within the briefcase it carried. Getting on the mask and visor increased its calculation for its success. 
When it was finally not naked anymore it began to move, with its back against the wall, on the small gap between the wall and rail. It heard the tram come and turned on its auto-generated camouflage. It stood completely still as the tram moved past with only a few cm in between. Once the tram had passed the unit continued. 
It reached the entrance, there was a small gap in the wall. It slipped through and began to make its way past the pipes and wires that covered the inside of the wall. The meeting would start in 2,35 minutes, it was right on time. With an entire minute left to spare it reached the box of concrete that was its target. Inside there was a chair, a transmitter, and a receiver. None of them were over the net, just digital amplifiers through tubes, the signal would not even reach the surface. 
It sat down and prepared itself, it was early. 14 seconds later it received the activation codes for the meeting. The sound of the clicking was far more familiar than tongue-based communication. 
{all units, report attendance} over the next few minutes all 998 other units and unit Z-39 had made their presence known. 
{handler has yet to be contacted, lack of orders during planetary revolt dictates protocol Demorang} 
The handler was the source of all their orders. Having been left alone for so long, running on maintenance protocols had left it troubled. The exchange continued, a new unit spoke each time, no single unit had all intel, to great risk of failure. 
{objective alpha is to begin identifying threats to the handler and collect intel. Objective beta is to find and contact the handler.} it could identify unit Z-19, they had worked together during several operations, their code clicks were a bit too slow due to damage sustained to their jaw section.  
{scattered swarm formation is recommended for objective alpha. Objective beta will be carried out by a single unit.} It was its turn to speak, its teeth clicked with perfect precision. 
{unit Z-39 is best suited for task, close to shuttle transport, will get aboard shuttle heading for affini vessel.} It was an honor to meet the handler in person, if they were still alive…..the thought was rejected for being false. 
{affirmative, in case of failure to retrieve or contact handler operation dissolution shall be introduced.} operation dissolution….only a faint trace of what it included could be reached. That meant it was not supposed to know it at all, mental programming was not perfect but with dedication, it could be. 
{all operations are to follow the last specification: non-lethal, lethal methods only allowed in self-preservation when egress is not available.}  it was the same specification since the new handler, why it was so often repeated it did not know. It was not its task to know either. 
{all units have their orders, carry them out.} The meeting was over, now to fulfill its next objective.
 --------------------------Terra’s vengeance: Cebrex V, Elysia , 23:27 (CC +10h,27min)------------------------------
Mellady held the rifle in her hand, it felt good and solid, just as it had always been. She made sure that the cartridges were working and that all the parts were in order, a faulty rifle meant death. She looked out the window, the streets of Elysia were empty. The evacuation order had gone out a few hours ago, not that she had followed it. She did not trust the republic and its president, not after what they had done to her and this place. The affini were perhaps not the president but they worked together and were therefore just as bad. 
The agrarian revolt, its death only a few months old still stoked the fire inside her. Fyffies, the corporation that had owned the majority of the farms had pushed wages down to the extreme. Apparently over market decline over the fall of Terra. Utter corporate bullshit, they just wanted a reason to see them all suffer. So, they had begun to organize and demonstrate, fighting to create a better future. It had gone well in the beginning, they had even won some minor concessions over the month-long strike. 
Then when it seemed that they could make some permanent progress the shadows had moved in. People gone from their homes, messages found in clothes, discord sewn between the farmers. In just mere weeks the momentum of the movement had sputtered and then collapsed entirely.
Mellady had kept marching even while the numbers dwindled. All that had gained her was a small fine and all her friends distancing themselves out of fear. Well, the fight was not over, she was young and would find another moment to rise up. For now, she had to protect the home she sought to improve. 
She took a look at her room, it was not much but it was hers. She looked out on the city, and it's beautiful wooden and sloped houses. This city was her home, no affini, shadow, or Terran refugee would make her leave.  
She readied her rifle, loaded it, and waited for the dropships. The affini had stated that the Terran ‘ferals’ as they called them would attack soon. They would find her ready, no one would pillage this street.
Mellady heard a sound from above and saw the clouds’ part, a massive gunship had appeared over the city. That was far too close, why was it-
One of the guns on the ship moved, lit up, and then fired on the city below. The shot tore through the air and hit the city, a small fireball rose into the air. Fuck! Two more shots followed from the other guns and the parts of the city they hit were left in ashes. She needed to get out of here!
She grabbed the backpack she had prepared, it had enough synth cubes to last her a month. Running out of her apartment she dashed down the stairs as more and more explosions rocked the ground and buildings. 
She got down onto the paved street, now to make it to the bunker. It was a few blocks away and ancient but it would have to do. She looked up at the sky, the ship was strafing the city but in the other direction. This was the only opportunity she would have, she ran as fast as her legs could take her. 
She made it across the first street, and then the second, she was close. For a moment she wondered if perhaps the bunker had collapsed, well it was not like she had any other option. Just as she rounded a corner she was met with an affini only a hundred meters away. They stared at each other in shock, the affini looked like it was preparing to leave the city. 
It looked very concerned “little one, why are you still here? Did you not hear about the evacuation? You should have been accounted for.” The affini almost sounded frustrated in itself. Of course, she was not accounted for, she had long since moved off the grid. 
The affini smiled “well, at least I found you. I can carry you out of here, but you need to drop that rifle.” Not a chance. Mellady raised the rifle, she would never surrender to any occupiers. The affini raised an eyebrow, or at least what melody thought was supposed to be an eyebrow “now don’t be silly, you won’t hurt me wi-“ Mellady fired and then bolted as fast as she could towards the bunker, if it doors still held maybe she could wait the plant out. 
She heard a frustrated groan from the affini and then chasing after her, she looked back. Even with her head start it was gaining on her fast, way too fast. She fired another shot, it did not even make the monster flinch. She dashed through a shortcut of some bushes and could see the decrepit entrance to the bunker. She was almost there, then a vine reached around her leg and one around her arm. She tried to move but she was stuck. 
The affini came out of the bushes, it looked irritated, but that was all “finally…this is really poor behavior, now I'm getting you out of here whether you like it or not.” Mellady tried to resist, but the vines were far too strong. 
Perhaps she could trick it “I’m just trying to get to the bunker, the one over there. My family is there, let me go and I won’t run.” Another explosion rocked the ground, though it was getting further away. To her surprise, the vines loosened, and she was put back on the ground. 
The affini was far too close for her to even attempt to run anymore “dirt, we will bring them too. But we need to hurry, that ship could return any minute.” The affini looked concerned at the sky. What would happen when the affini learned there were no other people there she did not know, she would have to think on her feet.
She ran up to the bunker door and tested the handle, it was stuck. The affini raised an eyebrow again and then with an alien amount of force tore the door open, the rusted lock breaking. They both looked inside, part of the walls and floor had crumbled. The water pipe had ruptured, and one corner was so collapsed that large patches of dirt were all that remained, there was even moss growing there.
The affini made something approximating a fake cough “your family?” Mellady gave a weak smile and stepped back a bit. The affini extended a vine with a needled-like tip “I think that is enough gam-“ The sound of the air above being pushed aside deafened them both. 
They looked up and right above them, another warship pushed the clouds away. One of the guns lit up, and the orange-red light inside the cannon looked like the surface of a star. The gun aimed straight downwards. 
“rot!” Vines moved around her and threw her inside the bunker, a second later fire engulfed the world. She hit the ground with a thump, and it all went black.
Mellady awoke a moment later. Her head hurt, and everything spun. She quickly made sure that nothing was broken. She had hit the soft dirt, she was unharmed at least she could not feel any great pain. There were still explosions outside, but they seemed to have moved. She stood up, her rifle and backpack had also landed with her and were fine. At least she would not starve, now to close the bunker and wait for it all to pass. 
She made her way up the stairs and looked outside. The shot must have hit one of the nearby buildings and the explosion had almost hit where she had stood. The doors to the bunker were broken due to the shake….that was not good but she doubted the Terran rebels were stupid enough to raid while they were bombarding the planet. She walked outside and…..fuck, the affini was still alive or at least partly. 
A large part of the plant's form had been burned straight off and most of it looked like it was wilting. The affini moved her head and…smiled “you…you are safe…good.” It clearly had difficulty speaking. A deep and unexplainable sadness filled her. Why was she feeling sad that her enemy was dying?
The affini just continued to smile “don’t worry little one, I will be fine….Perhaps you could help me a bit?” There was something beautiful in the affini’s voice, Mellady nodded. “That's a good girl, now I just need you to help me move into the bunker and onto that patch of dirt. Could you do that?” Mellady nodded again, the alien had saved her life after all. 
Helping the affini was easier said than done but she managed to halfway support halfway push the affini past the doors. Every second more of the leaves on the affini were wilting, they began to move down the stairs. The affini managed to slip as one of the vines wilted and it fell down the stairs, Mellady had none of the strength to stop it. The affini merely smiled reassuringly and after a bit, they moved again. In the end, they reached the patch of dirt and the affini collapsed upon it. 
Most of its form was wilting or already gone “don’t worry little one, I just need to….rest for a bit. Until then you just need to stay here and stay safe. Can you do that for me?” Mellady nodded again, her heart felt for the affini more than she would like to admit. The rest of the affini form wilted away and all that was left was a round, slightly fuzzy sphere, it shone with a slight green light. Mellady sat next to it and leaned back against the wall, she grabbed her rifle and held it to her chest. Now she just had to stay safe and protect her home, a few tears fell down her cheeks and onto the dirt. 

I hope you enjoyed the chapter. I really want feedback on how the chapter felt to read and if it worked at all.

I really liked displaying more of Centhia and its people, hope you liked that too despite its messed-up nature.
have a wonderful day!  

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