He was in darkness. Then for a slit second a though lit up. What was happening? Was he dead? Asleep? As more thoughts started to appear, his sense of awareness begun to grow. Almost immediately he felt pain and soreness. Well that probably meant he wasn’t dead. What had happened, why was he in this state?
A rush of memories begun to flow, first slow then like a tsunami the crushing realization begun to dawn on him. he had lost? Just as he felt like he could begin to feel his surroundings, his strength begun to fail. he tried to fight it, but he was simply too tired and collapsed back into the darkness.
He woke as the world seemed to shake. there was something painful in his side. there was a noise just beyond the edge of hearing, only as a smooth mumble. He tried to move towards it, more pain, he felt a slight sting in his neck and all his thoughts and pain disappeared. The darkness embraced him once more.
There was a sting in his arm. Then something cold begun to spread from the point. His mind begun to clear, the darkness begun to recede, there was a form in front of him. He felt something itch and move at his side. “don’t worry little one, you’re going to be okay. Just rest for me now. that's good....” the words were heard but his mind could not make sense of them. He felt another prick, this time on his leg and he closed his eyes once more.
He finally awoke, he felt warm and comfortable. Whatever he was laying on was impossibly soft, he felt like he could lie here forever. Then just as a trained animal his body convulsed. This was not how it was supposed to be. His body fought against the comfort trying to swallow him up.
Something held his hands and legs in position. He opened his eyes and immediately regretted it, the soft and natural light stung like needles into his eyes. His heart was beating like a hammer in his chest. He heard something move in a position he couldn’t see and then there was like all his energy left him. By the time his body calmed down he was asleep once more.
Hendrik opened his eyes, the roof was way further up than normal . He tried to sit up and found it to be difficult, the bed was so soft he did not get pushback from his elbows. Eventually he got up into a sitting position. This was not his bed. He sat up and looked around. His vision was still blurry, but he could see that the bed was white with large red pillows and thin but heavy red sheet.
As he tried to move his arm, he noticed it felt heavy. He looked down to his right and saw a thin metal armband around his wrist. The rest of his hand was covered in some sort of solid plant matter. He tried to move his fingers and felt nothing, he looked to his other hand and tried to clench his hand. His fingers obeyed his commands, at least that was working.
He needed to get out of the bed, only problem was that the bed was huge. His normal bed was hard, and small. Only large enough to fit his body and nothing more. This allowed him to sit and stand up in one fluid motion. In his current state getting to the end of this bed would be a herculean challenge.
First, he tried to get the sheet off, but it was surprisingly difficult with only one weak arm. As he struggled, he noticed movement in his periphery. A large figure was closing in, there was some white and yellow. Upon seeing the colors he felt a surge of anger, resentment, and something else that he could not quite place.
He blinked and his eyesight became clearer, the figure was tall, made up of vines and some light brown bark and flowers. Mertha! He felt his body recoil, grabbing for something. He almost fell back into the bed.
“Don’t worry you are safe, nothing here will harm you” her voice was filled with that damnable affini concern. At least her words made sense, if they wanted to do something they would have done it by now.
“Where am I? what is going on?” he knew already that he would not like the answers.
Mertha seemed to pause for a second “we are on board the Agraria and you are currently in bed”.
Fuck, he was aboard an affini vessel. “What is going to happen now?” he doubted he would like this answer either.
“Well, you have been sleeping for a long time so the first thing we should do is get you some food” she sounded serious.
Just as he was about to comment that he wasn’t hungry his stomach let out a large growl. “I guess that is not a bad idea. But after that you will tell me what is happening” a simple trade.
Mertha smiled “that sounds like a good deal, do you need help getting up?”. He felt like she was teasing him but right now he was in no position to argue.
He looked at the infinite length between him and the edge of the bed “I guess you could help- “. In the split of an eye several vines removed the sheet and lifted him carefully to the edge of the bed.
“Its been quite some time since you stood, would you like help standing up?” the tone of her voice did not change. Still, he was not infirm, this was too humiliating.
“I can get up just fine” he stood up and felt and his right leg buckled under the pressure, he fell forward towards the carpet. He was saved in time by two large vines, he couldn’t push them away without falling so he let them be support as he stood up.
“Are you sure you don’t need help? There is not shame in needing or asking for assistance ” her voice sounded more concerned.
He had finally managed to stand up properly and he felt some fragile strength return to his legs. He took a few carful steps, he could do this. “No, that will not be necessary” he tried to speak with as much confidence as possible, the slight shaking of his voice probably didn’t help.
“if you are sure, follow me and lets get you some food. What would you like to eat?” she sounded curios, like the choice of his meal was some interesting phenomenon.
As he followed with tentative steps, he felt more strength return “I can take a nutrient bar if you have that” the affini looked back at him a bit puzzled.
“Are those not for long term ship travels? I can have any other meal ready in a second” he groaned, that bed had been enough comfort for one day.
“a nutrient bar will suffice, the high-quality version with extra protein if at all possible” he doubted they did but at this point he would eat any type of highly processed bland tasting food stuff available.
After the struggle that was getting across bedroom floor, he had finally gotten to the open door. The room that awaited him was huge, easily 5 meters before the ceiling and a huge living area with a kitchen and dining table. All the furniture was far to large for him to use and he felt like an ant entering a giant’s territory. The large space also made him nervus, so many places to hide.
“Despite your wishes I think you body needs something sturdier that some processed nutrients. I will prepare some eggs and bacon” he was to focused on drinking in the sight of the room to pay much attention.
Out of the room there seemed to be 5 doors, the first that he had just left, one door quite close to where he was standing, a closed one at the right end of the room, one that was open with some kind of study inside and then there was the largest one that divided the kitchen, dining table and the living area. That must be the exit. For a second, he considered running, but that would not end well. He doubted he even could run and the idea of escaping an affini was out of the question. If he wanted freedom, if it was possible, he would need to gain it through words.
The furniture was in many different styles and several carpets overlapped and gave the room a quite warm look. “Food is ready, you should eat now and then I can tell you what you want to know” the affini had placed a large plate of eggs and bacon on the table.
He looked at the size of the chair she expected him to climb and raised an eyebrow. A sett of vines picked him up gently and dispensed him onto the chair before he could really react.
“Don’t touch me. At least not without asking” he added the last part, he was still very weak, and he might need the help despite how humiliating it was.
“Okay, I shall remember that for the future, now eat” she shoved the plate closer. The eggs and bacon were already cut into small pieces and there was only a fork next to the plate.
It made sense that they would not trust him with something that could be used as a weapon, though he doubted he would even be able to scratch an affini.
His lifted his right arm before he remembered its state, using his left arm he picked up some beckon and put it into his mouth. He barely managed to stifle a moan, his taste buds watered as piece of bacon touched his tongue. It was amazing, how long had it been since he tasted something other than that bland monotony.
“Are you okay, you’re not allergic, are you?” Mertha was standing up and closing in. he managed to lift a hand.
“No, no, its ok. It was just…better than I expected” she backed down and looked at him intensely as he begun to shuffle more food into his mouth.
He decided that he had deserved a small comfort and honestly, he was hungry enough that his principle could wait. As the last of the heavenly food disappeared from his plate, he looked up at the affini. She seemed to be smiling, there was still a touch of concern.
“So, you promised me answers. Am I your prisoner?” she seemed to recoil a bit, but stood firm.
“no, you are not my prisoner. You have been recovering from the ordeal down on Centhia” she stated it like it was an obvious fact.
“Can I leave?” it was a simple question, and he knew based on the frown that had developed on Mertha face that he had hit home.
She waited a bit before answering clearly choosing her words carefully “……no, you are still recovering from your injuries that were inflicted on you by both the ferals and yourself. The affini compact also has to make sure that you can take care of yourself” that sounded awfully like a prisoner to him.
He needed more information on the situation “how long have I been recovering?” hopefully it had not been more than a day or two at most.
“About 13 days” Mertha stated plainly. What? 13 days? He had been useless and asleep for 13 days!
He looked down from where the sound was coming from, had it come from him? He grasped for his throat and found his finger stopped by a large metal collar.
“its ok, everything is ok. Your safe, nothing has happened. Try to take large breathes. Yes, like that, everything is fine” the affini’s voice surprisingly helped him calm down. the last part was wrong. Nothing here was fine.
“What has happened during my recovery?” if he could think about work at least it would be easier to kept calm.
“When the Terran ferals rebelled, they fought with your forces for some time but then suddenly departed. We got you abord the Agraria and managed to stabilize you. Meanwhile the other affini from the Agraria secured the planet. The garrison and population cooperated so it did not take long for things to get under control. There are a few issues but nothing mayor, nothing you need to worry about”. As Martha spoke, he felt the abyss open under him once more.
“What will happen to me?” he needed to keep his composure. He could not break down like he had in the prison. That had only made everything worse.
“for the next two months you will be my ward, this means that I will be responsible for that you sleep enough, eat enough and generally take care of yourself both physically and mentally. When the time is up there will be an evaluation. If it is decided that you are not a danger to yourself or others and that it is safe, you will become an independent sophont in the affini compact, free to pursue whatever you heart desires”.
“And if I don’t, if you determine that I am a threat?” the only real alternative, they will never trust him. There was never any mercy for the losers.
The question hanged in the air for an uncomfortable amount of time “if that is decided then you will be domesticated and an affini will take care of you for the rest of your life. They will make sure you want for nothing at that you can be the best version of yourself as possible. You will have no political or legal rights other than what is specified in the Human domestication treaty” there it was, his future.
They would find some place to hide him, a vacation home where he could never be a treat. Even worse he would be owned by an affini.
“I guess there is no chance of me returning to Centhia and holding power, is there?” of course there wasn’t, he still needed to hear it from his warden’s own mouth.
“No, I am afraid there isn’t. it is for your own best interest” Mertha retracted a bit as she realized she had pushed to far.
“How dare you claim what is best for me. You ruined my life! Everything I have worked for! I lost! I know that, but don’t you dare claim that my ruin was a good thing” his voice was quivering, he wanted to shout but his voice was not powerful enough.
Martha’s face seemed to soften, and her eyes were filled with sadness “I’m sorry, I understand that your position was important for you. But I still don’t understand why. If you tell me why you cared so much about this, then perhaps we can find a way to replace it with something just as good and far less destructive” she sounded completely sincere and almost a bit hopeful. The question made no sense.
“What do you mean ‘why?’” how was one to answer such a ridiculous question.
“I mean, what did power gain you that you so desperately wanted? It must be something important for you to give up so much for it. It could be several things but no matter what it is you can tell me “She put a calming hand on his left hand.
He was to confused to react to the touch What? The question still made no sense.
Why had he done it? For the people? Ha! that was a lie to obvious to be uttered.
Safety? The risk he had taken proved otherwise.
wealth? No, he never allowed himself comfort, all in the name of the game.
There must be some answer.
Even a child could give a reason for their action. Why? Why? Why? Why?
There had to be a reason, why else had he worked so long, sacrificed so much, risked everything!
“Have you drugged me?!” that had to be the solution, the affini could use drugs that slowed a human’s mental faculties. That had to be it. How else could he explain he had no reason for what he done in his life.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
“No, I have not, but you need to relax. You are having a panic attack” she was standing over him trying to soothe him. He felt none of it, everything faded away. Something was wrong with his mind.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
the protections and logic he had built was being assaulted by an endless tide of questions. It was to much, he needed something anything to take away these thoughts. Why? Why? Wh-.
A sudden sting in the back of the neck, just where the collar was positioned.
Sweet relief! he felt his worries melt away like snow, the battle in his mind ceased and he felt himself go limp. As he began losing awareness, he felt himself being lifted by countless vines. He didn’t care, they could do what they want. As long as he never had to answer that question.