Humans could be a real struggle: they would run, fight, and hide, all to avoid being helped. Serla had just received another picture of her darling floret, fast asleep. seeing humans as the adorable florets they were supposed to be made it all worth it.
There was a sudden knock on the door, Serla put away the datapad with a bit of a sigh.
Outside the door was a red-haired and freckled human. She was dressed in what Serla identified as casual clothing. “Can I come in?” The human voice was soft and warm.
Serla had not been able to talk to any humans except for the president and some guards “Well of course, how can I help you little one?” Serla dearly hoped that this was not another message from the president, checking up the condition of Darla was important...and so was looking at the adorable pictures the pet-sitter was sending her.
The girl was friendly. “I just wanted to talk a bit. I have time off so I wanted to grab the opportunity.” Curious, could anyone just visit them like this?
She smiled at the human and let her in“That sounds lovely, just make yourself at home.” The human sat down in one of the velvet chairs.
Serla sat down on the couch opposite the chair and looked into the human’s eyes “What would you like to talk about dear?”
The woman seemed to space out a bit before she shook her head “umm...I have heard all sorts of terrifying stories about the affini. I don’t truly believe them, but perhaps you could clarify a bit?” Did the human just blush? Oh! She was simply too adorable.
Serla was a master at answering questions about affini from humans at this point “I am Serla Adri, 5th bloom, she/her. I would love to answer any question that you might have.” relieving the human of her concern was one part. At the same time, building trust with one of the humans here could give her greater insight into what was truly happening.
The conversation began to flow, at first, it was a bit stiff but as the human relaxed things became easier. Serla explained all the misconceptions that humans had developed around the affini. She learned that this girl’s name was Nora Lenthi. Nora seemed to sometimes space out, especially when looking at her. As soon as Nora noticed that Serla noticed, she would look away with a slight blush.
The fact that Nora was a seed was no question. The girl was already breathing to the tempo of her biorhythm. Nora also seemed very susceptible to the affini’s hypnotic eyes, which was a bit new to Serla. Perhaps some humans really just were made to be cute, malleable florets. Such a connection was not only super cute but would also be very helpful. She would just have to watch if she did not push too far.
“So, what do you do around here sweetie?” a harmless question, she looked into the girls’ eyes.
Nora spaced out a bit as she answered “Oh...well...I am the personal bodyguard of Henrik, that’s the president.” the girl was obviously easily lost in Serla’s eyes.
Serla recognized her now “Oh yes, you were the guard during the dinner negotiations. You must be very helpful. I am sure Henrik values your work” Nora blushed a shade redder.
So, the president had sent a spy to gain more information. Hendrik was far more dangerous than he appeared. Not to the affini of course, but still. That was at least until they could help him with all that pressure. Serla was sure that just like Nora here that Hendrik would make an excellent floret. Though that was true for most sophonts, and especially humans.
Nora sounded proud “Yeah, I am the only person he trusts! If there is something important that he can’t do himself, he sends me. I also protect him from all the enemies he constantly makes.” so they were close....This was getting more interesting at the moment.
She would dig a bit more “It seems like you do a lot for him, I hope he is nice to such a good friend.” Serla stopped herself from saying good girl despite how much it ached to do so.
Nora sounded sad quite suddenly “Many years ago, my mother died. My sister and I were alone, and she was sick with a horrible illness. To make sure we could survive and pay for the medicine that kept her alive I had to fight in the colosseums.” The girl paused a bit, Serla leant her a vine to hold.
Nora continued “Well, I have always been good at fighting. I made enough money, but it was always dangerous. One time I lost and got very injured. I didn’t have the medical credits to pay for treatment.” Serla stopped herself from swearing, human society was far too brutal for such soft sophonts.
Nora’s voice became happier “That was when he hired me as a personal bodyguard. Hendrik paid for my healthcare and even sent my sister to a top-class hospital on Terra to keep her healthy. I owe him more than my life.” Serla wanted to hug and comfort the girl but that might be pushing it too far, she would help Nora, that she was certain of.
Nora sounded sad again, Serla’s biorhythms were clearly affecting the human’s ability to suppress their emotions. Nora looked up at her “After the invasion, I have not been able to contact my sister…… Miss Adri, do you think she is safe?” Nora was close to tears, poor thing.
Serla leaned forward “I am certain of it, the affini would never let harm come to anyone. If you want, we can try to make sure that you can contact her soon.” The poor human finally broke down crying. Serla carefully started to stroke Nora's back in a relaxing manner. As the human leaned in, she used more vines and the girl leaned in even closer. She soothed the hurt Terran until Nora fell asleep.
Nora woke up with a start. She was draped in some silk covering and lying on one of the pointless couches out in the hallway. As she raised herself a small paper fell down from her. With superhuman reflexes, Nora caught the letter and read it.
Hi. I hope you are well. You fell asleep so I put you out here so you might rest for a bit. I found your company very pleasing. Please come by any time!
Your dearest Seral Adri
Yeah, that’s right, she had visited the colorful affini and then talked and then…oh stars. The affini had claimed that her sister was safe, usually, she would doubt such baseless words. This time her mind seemed to agree that the affini was speaking the truth. They had even promised that she could talk to Frederika!
Wait, this was not why she was sent. She was supposed to collect information for Hendrik, not cry and talk about her sister. No…. This was simply building trust. She had even been invited to visit any time she liked, with a few more visits she was sure to make Henrik satisfied.
Mertha looked at the president, he looked so tired. He passed over another document “this is the specification for where the medical centers should be set up. also, some information about how to uphold secrecy and the relevant population that they will have to treat.” His voice was flat and lacking any emotion.
After they had gotten the green light from the armada council she and Hendrik had begun to work on the specifics. Or to be more correct, Henrik had done all the work beforehand and she was simply relaying it to the Agraria. Sometimes she relayed information back to Hendrik from the Agraria, but she seldom had any input of her own.
Henrik reached for another document and for a second his head fell limp, then it bobbed back up “oh I’m sorry, here you go.” The human grabbed something from a drawer and soon Hendrik seemed to gain more energy.
Mertha was concerned “President, we have worked for a long time. Might it not be a good idea to rest a bit?” Hendrik waved the concern away.
He grabbed another document from the pile “that won’t be necessary, but I understand if you have places to be. I’ll have the rest of the documents transmitted to your chambers.” Mertha nodded, perhaps her being here made the human want to show how much he cared.
She walked out of the office “I’ll tell you if we have any strong concerns, the first shuttles should arrive at the rendezvous point tomorrow evening.”
The president looked a bit befuddled “that quick…wonderful. I’ll make sure that our ships are ready to transport them the rest of the way.”
When Mertha closed the door she saw the president take up another document. She just hoped he would relax a bit. This amount of work could not be good.
Mertha was escorted back to the chambers by 2 guards. As she entered the chambers she saw Serla deep in thought, Elrax was sitting in a chair a bit further away looking at a cluster of vires.
Serla noticed her “hope your meeting with the president was nice. While you were out we had a guest.” Serla began, her tone holding a hint of mischief.
A guest? “Who was it? What did they want?” Martha could feel that she was exhausted. But if she was to do her job properly, she needed to know all that she could.
Serla smiled knowingly “It was Nora, the bodyguard of the ever-scheming president. She was probably sent to gain information on us, she is the greatest example of a seed I have ever met.” Serla and Elrax chuckled for a bit.
Mertha became concerned “Are you sure that is wise, if they think we are manipulating one of them it could do a lot of harm!” she could not believe that Serla was this reckless.
Serla became a bit more serious “Martha, I am experienced. I have not manipulated her more than the natural connection of biorhythm. You are clearly exhausted and on edge, go and rest before you wilt.” Looking at both Elrax and Serla, Mertha conceded and headed for bed.
“Tell me if anything happens, ok?” She got an affirmative nod from Elrax before she untangled and collapsed on the far too small bed. She was asleep before she hit the sheets.
Hendrik stifled a yawn. The last 6 days had been long and exhausting. He had only gotten 10 hours of his usual 24 hours of sleep during this period, and it was giving him a headache.
2 days ago, the first affini had arrived on the surface, and making sure everything went perfect was vital. If he won here, he could increase his sleep quota to 5 hours a day. For now, he needed to make sure everything was in place.
Keeping the affini secret had proved an enormous task. One he could only trust himself with. Removing possible disloyal pawns and replacing them with loyal ones, creating positions, blackmailing, threatening, or bribing. All had been done to make sure that only the most secure of personnel were positioned around the affini. Units of the shadow division had been put on the task to make sure that the streets were safe and that his enemies stayed complainant.
The affini had been far more efficient than he had hoped to dream. The medical facilities that now dotted Centhia would be operational within a few days. The power generators were currently being hooked up to the energy grid. Something that had apparently been a major challenge as they produced too much energy for the grid to properly handle. The mining drones were ready to be deployed but it had taken longer than he wanted.
2 more days and everything would be ready. The short timespan was good but had forced him to move some troops faster than the ideal. Despite all the secrecy, there was still an air of tension. Perhaps in the same ways, some animals could feel an earthquake approach the citizens of the republic could feel something big was about to happen. They had no idea what that big something was, and that state of affairs had to be maintained.
Nora was on her way to pay a visit to the affini again. She had apparently managed to gain their trust, something that would be most beneficial. Even if the gambit worked out, and it had to, the negotiations with the affini would need to continue.
He was soon going to have another meeting with the lead negotiator and what he had discovered was the technological expert of the affini delegation. He felt his body begin to slow down so he injected another energizer dose.
Hendrik let out a yawn and continued his work. If even one detail was off things could go wrong. It all had to be perfect, it had to!
Nora knocked on the door. She was excited, last time she may have not gotten a lot of information, but this time would be different. She just needed to remember the questions she had prepared.
The door opened and the large beautiful affini with all the flowers looked down on her. Nora felt her cheeks begin to warm up…oh stars she was beautiful. “Do you want to come in the little one?” Serla asked in a smooth, almost ethereal voice.
Her heart skipped a beat “y..yes if it is not a bad time, that is.” Nora felt her voice quiver a bit. The affini smiled and opened the door fully so she could enter.
“Not at all dear, Martha and Elrax are talking with your president. It will just be us two of us” of course Nora knew this, but she still felt happy that Serla wanted her over.
Nora sat down in the same chair and Serla sat down in the couch just like last time “so did you have more questions for me, sweetie?” The affini sounded very compassionate.
Ah yes, the questions. Fuck, what were they again? Nora usually had an excellent memory. She would have to improvise “last time you said the affini only want to take care of us and make sure we could be our best selves, but what do you get out of it?”
Serla chuckled a bit, her flowers and vines shaking “while it is certainly nice to have such adorable florets. Seeing sophonts like yourself happy brings joy to every affini’s core. The real answer is that we want to. We don’t expect anything out of it, except to help people.” was that really the reason?
Serla smiled “You don’t look entirely convinced, did you suspect that we had some ulterior motive?” the affini’s eyes were beautiful and so easy to get lost in...wait, she had been asked a question.
Nora thought for a moment “Well, whenever Henrik does something he says he does it for some strategic gain. Whether it helps people or not is not really something he can afford to care about, even if he tries his best.” she realized the ways that Henrik and the affini acted could not be more different.
Serla tilted her head “Just like when he saved you to gain a bodyguard?” That wasn’t fair.
Nora frowned “He was different back then, he worked less, he was more relaxed he even laughed and smiled once in a while.” she smiled a bit as she remembered the boy that she had gotten to know. The boy that would rant for hours about a bureaucratic reform or the latest news from Terra.
She felt that Serla wanted her to continue “as time passed and he got more responsibility, he worked more and talked less of anything else. For each battle he wins he just becomes bolder, he has fought for power for so long…… I don’t know if he even knows how to stop.” She felt Serla’s wine stroke her chin.
She looked up at the affini, Serla’s beautiful eyes were clouded by the tears in her own. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to protect him.”
Serla’s presence was calming. “Is something about to happen?” She hadn’t said anything about that right? no, she had not.
She might trust Serla, but Henrik’s plan was top secret “I can’t talk about that” the affini seemed to understand and gently pat her head, it was very soothing.
Serla smiled again “that’s alright dear, just try to keep yourself and Henrik safe. If anything bad happens please tell me, and I will help.” Serla’s eyes almost looked like galaxies. They seemed to swirl behind the vines that made up her face. Nora gave a silent nod.
As she left, Nora thought about what she had accomplished. She still needed more information on the affini so she should visit again soon, her mission would soon be a success. Another thing was also quite clear. She could trust Serla, especially if she and Hendrik needed help.