To say that the gunport was in chaos would be an understatement. Philip was currently being dragged away to the infirmary after one of the ship’s weapons reloaders had recoiled and hit him in the ribs. Alister was trying to get the targeting system of gun nr.4 to recalibrate with little success. Natalia herself was trying to get the cooling system of gun nr.2 to work and stop the metal from being a useless red-hot fire hazard. She managed to get her hands away just in time as a pipe burst and hot steam burst out…that had been close. Natalia turned to the lieutenant who was operating the last functioning gun “I can’t get this back online!”
The lieutenant had just finished unleashing another useless salvo and gripped a communication device connected to the wall “Bridge, come in…bridge, come in!…” He threw it away “This ship is a star damned garbage can! It is falling apart without these weeds having to do anything!” While there was rage, fear was also present in his voice.
Alister stepped away from the targeting system “don’t let Luis hear you say that, or he is going to throw you out the nearest airlock…on that note, I can’t get this to work either.” The two quarter-educated engineers looked at their commanding officer in silence.
Then the lieutenant sighed “fuck…all right, Natalia you are on messenger duty, go tell our esteemed ‘captain’ that we got one gun online. And see if we can’t get any actual engineers down here to help.” Natalia did not need to be asked twice, she nodded briefly before running out and down the hallway towards the bridge.
One could hardly think of a worse-case scenario than being drafted into the cosmic navy just as said navy was getting its ass handed to it by a bunch of enslaving plant aliens. Well, that is what she had thought at first as well, but to her surprise, The Viator had not taken part in the fighting…at first. The old patrol boat with barely enough firepower to scare off a pirate corvette had mostly just patrolled accord space, far away from the rapidly approaching front.
The shouting and chaos on the ship proved that the worst-case scenario was finally upon her. With the affini conquering closer and closer to the core planets, all ships available had been called together for a few ‘valiant’ last stands. The Viator and its crew’s luck had run out, as the ship was currently embroiled in one such last stand.
She opened the door to the bridge and for a moment her eyes saw the true clusterfuck they were in. On the viewscreen, she could spot at least a dozen affini ships, some large, and some so huge that they surely defied the laws of physics. Even the largest of the Terran ships looked like flees compared to even the smallest affini vessels. Counting the number of Terran ships was impossible, not only were the lines broken and chaotic but there were so many of them, at least a hundred or more. A good deal of the ships were entwined in the massive vines coming out of the front of the affini vessels. The rest of them, like the Viator, was still shooting without causing even a scratch on the affini vessels’ hull.
Natalia tore her eyes away from the horrors of the viewscreen “sir, a report from the gunport: only gun nr.3 is still operational, we are having issues with repairing the rest. Lieutenant Duran is requesting engineers to be transferred for repairs.” It was only now that she realized that she had been speaking while looking at Luis Barcelon, the recent ex-captain of the vessel.
Alexander Victorian who was sitting in the captain’s chair did not seem to notice “Request denied, the engineers are needed at the hyperdrive.” The certainly impressive-looking man had a stern and concerned look, his eyes glued to the viewscreen “go back to the gunport and-” Suddenly one of the vines emerging from an approaching affini vessel moved like lightning towards the ship. The Viator shook as the vine wrapped around it like a massive snake.
The helmsman looked up from a beeping console “they got us! And we got a breach…” That did not sound good.
Captain Victorian stood up “They have still not boarded; we need to jump.” The command left the whole room quiet, only the screeching of the ship around them could be heard.
Luis, who until this point had stood calmly at the captain’s side managed to hide his concern only slightly “sir, with all due respect we jumped not long ago, if we do so-“
The huge man slammed his fist into the side of the railing “I did not ask for your council!” He picked up a communication device “chief engineer! Activate the jump drive immediately and get this ship out of here!” Natalia did not know a whole lot about jump drives, but Luis likely did, and seeing the man afraid for the first time was not reassuring.
There was a short silence “…sir, the jump drive still needs to cool, and we are low on exotic matter. I don’t think th-” The captain's face had turned a low shade of red.
His shout rang through the room “THAT IS A DIRECT ORDER! You will use all the exotic matter we have left and make this ship jump or I will have you executed!” No one had been particularly excited when Alexander had taken over command from Luis, the man’s short temper and threatening behavior had not improved anyone’s perception.
The communication device crackled “…understood.” The chief engineer's voice sounded flat and resigned.
The captain turned and looked at her for the first time “you! Get over there and help them bring it online.” The display a few seconds ago made the choice easy. After exchanging a concerned look with Luis. Natalia ran towards the jump drive room. While the captain was an unsympathetic brute, she could not help but agree that getting out of her was certainly preferable to being sent to xeno mines…as long as the jump drive did not kill them all that was.
Betula Pendula, first bloom, made sure that her needles were clean and ready with Class-Z. It was her first boarding mission and she had to admit her core was vibrating with worry. She was luckily not alone, two other affini were in the pod traveling through the capture vine with her. Across her was Alyssum Percu, 4th bloom, a total stranger but he radiated a calm confidence that made her core calm slightly. To her left was Ageratu Fidaul, 5th bloom, the operator of a wonderful class-J café that Betula had visited plenty over her time on the Vindex.
A voice came from her data pad <just as a reminder. Your first priority is to secure the life-support system and begin venting class-Z gas. After that, all you need to do is to secure the remaining Terrans who have not fallen asleep. Make sure to be careful around the easily scared ones, they can easily hurt themselves.> The voice was from one of the overseers in the initial domestication department. Betula was not sure if it was usual to get such a briefing or if it was done for her benefit.
Ageratu gave her a reassuring smile <don’t worry, there are less than 30 of the cuties on the ship. We will have this done and the Terrans secured before you know it.> She returned the smile, imagining petting the cute Terrans they would soon rescue drove the worry further away…maybe one of them would even like her as an owner?
Alyssum stood up, collecting his vines into a solid humanoid form <we are soon there, let’s make this quick.> The cluster of white flowers covering his body bloomed and released a bit of xenodrugs into the air.
Betula made sure to strengthen the bark on her chest and arms. if any of the Terrans had one of those nasty plasma pistols she would not need to feel its sting. The door of the pod opened and revealed the grey, metallic corridor of the Terran vessel.
Betula was the first one out, and the two others followed shortly. Before they could make their way to the life support system the bureaucrat spoke again <our sensors picked up that the cuties on the ship are starting up their jump drive. Disable that first before securing the life support system. Just in case, we are disconnecting the capture vine. If the ship does jump, secure the Terrans and send us a signal so we can pick you up. Good luck~> Usually, the Vindex's jump suppression would have stopped the terrans from even considering doing such a reckless thing. However with the terrans constantly sending reinforcements into the battle, it had to be offline to not reduce the incoming ships into thinly spliced particles
Alyssum sounded just as concerned <let us spread out and find that jump drive. Do you know how to disable one Betula?>She nodded, one had to learn a few things before being allowed to board Terran vessels.
With a vine she pointed down on corridor <I can go this way, see you two soon.> The affini split and Betula began to move down the corridor. It was not spacious, but large enough that she did not have to crouch. The realization that Terrans spent prolonged periods of time living in these sorts of vessels was frightening. The noise, the smell, the lack of space…soon they could all get better homes.
Betula reached an intersection, no signing revealed where to go…the jump drive might be down any of the three corridors, but which one? The sound of rapid steps came from the hallway right ahead. A Terran woman was running towards her position, she had not noticed her yet as her eyes were locked on the ground in front of her. Thinking quickly, Betula hid behind the corner of the intersection and prepared a few vines with class-Z before hesitating. Perhaps this girl could be more helpful awake….
The Terran rounded the intersection and saw her, stumbling back in surprise, it was already too late. Betula rushed forward and entangled the human’s limbs with her vines. She made sure to be careful, humans were very fragile.
The Terran tried to resist her grip to no effect “let me go!” Even with the fear in her voice, it was an adorable display. The girl looked up at her scared, directly into her eyes…perfect.
Betula let her eyes ripple with hypnotic light and her voice fill with the full force of her biorhythm “be calm, everything is going to be okay.” The Terran began to go limp in her grip, her resistance dying out, eyes becoming unfocused. She gently patted the girl's head “good girl, now tell me. Where is the jump drive on this ship?” It was tempting to go further but that would wait.
With a slack jaw the girl pointed a finger down one of the corridors “large door…at the end…your eyes…pretty.” What an absolutely adorable xeno! A gentle needle through the rough uniform and into the Terran’s thigh was enough to bring her into the gentle embrace of sleep.
With the cute xeno still in her arms, Betula moved towards the large open door at the end of the corridor. Terran voices could be heard coming from there “What do you mean you used everything!? Are you insane?!” The voice was clearly upset…
Another voice, full of terror responded, “I just did what he told us…fuck, the jump drive is starting but the heat regulator isn’t compensating.” Betula unfurled her form and rushed forward, quickly closing the distance.
No, no, no. The voice had become desperate “I can’t abort the procedure, close the blast doors!!” Just a bit further…Two heavily reinforced metal doors slammed into each other, sealing the door shut right in front of her face. No!
The ship rumbled, Betula closed her vines protectively around the Terran and then…
Luis had experienced a lot of jumps in his life. Having held command of the Viator for over seven years had earned him that ‘privilege’. That was how he realized almost before it started that this jump would be a catastrophe.
Both affini and Terran vessels along with the stars, distorted like sucked into a black hole in the center of the battlefield. Then the ship shot forward into that center. As the Viator jumped, microgravity stopped functioning and metal screamed in protest. Usually, a jump felt like being kicked in the chest while losing the ability to breathe. This kick felt more like someone had filled his lungs with water before ripping it out again.
In a second it was over, Luis hit the ground as microgravity returned, lungs desperately drawing for breath. His ears were ringing, and a thumping pain was spreading on his forehead. The next couple of seconds were spent just trying to breathe normally as feeling returned to his body. The feeling from his body was that lying there for the next couple of hours would be very nice, no matter how cold and hard the floor was against his face.
But as the first mate, he could not. While his left arm refused orders, his mechanical right one obeyed and shoved him onto his back. The lights had gone out, and except for the creaking of the ship, it was silent. What the hell had the captain been thinking? Jumping so soon was a death wish…somehow they had survived.
With returned strength, Luis got to his feet and looked around as blood rushed to his head. The helmsman was out cold on the floor, the consoles were off and the viewscreen displayed nothing but black. A soft wheezing sound from behind brought his attention to the captain’s chair…or rather what was lying next to the captain’s chair.
Alexander Victorian was splayed on the ground, blood trickling from his mouth. He was still breathing…if perhaps in a concerning way. Luis stumbled forward, his legs still not content with the idea of moving “Captain, are you okay?” The military officer made a soft wheezing noise in response.
While the captain’s eyes were still focused, they stared aimlessly into the ceiling “Arthur…Belisarius…I’m sorry…” Luis reached him and shook the captain’s shoulder, no reaction.
He did so again “captain! We need to get you to th-” Alexander slapped the arm away with significant force. The eyes gazed down and onto Luis, a resigned bitterness within.
His voice was barely even a whisper “I…doesn’t matter, not worth it…” Another chilling wheezing sound “…don’t trust…th..the….” There was no further wheezing sound as the captain’s eyes lost their focus. Another stream of blood trickled down his lips and then after a final gasp the man’s body went limp. A check of the pulse confirmed it….the man was dead.
Luis lifted the man to lean against the railing and closed his eyes. He might have been a stupid captain…but he had still been part of the crew. After making sure the captain could rest respectfully he rushed down to the helmsman. He was breathing normally and…yes! His pulse was good, thank the stars. There were no other signs of injury…not that Luis could blame anyone for blacking out during such a hypermetric kick.
With the chance of saving the captain's life gone and the helmsman secure, Luis’s mind returned to the situation at hand. The main reactor had to be knocked offline by the jump, he could only hope the backup would be fine or the lack of life-support would kill them faster than whatever the plants had planned for them. The manual control was behind a small panel that his mechanical arm easily tore off. The lever had not been used for years, it had almost rusted shut. Again, the strength of the synthetic arm proved sufficient, and it was turned.
A few tense moments went by and then the lights flickered back on. The panels on the bridge also lit up and began beeping, telling of the ship’s precarious situation. An initial examination proved that the jump had almost ripped the ship apart. Jump drive, main reactor, communication relay, hyperspace drones, weapon systems, the long-range sensors…hell it was hard to find something that was still working besides the lights and life support. One such system was found; the stellar cartography system still ticked along without problems. If the Chief engineer had chosen the right place they would be able to reach repairs.
……that had to be a mistake, Luis restarted the coordinate calculations and took a second look…what had they done?! The Viator had jumped into deep, desolate space. There were no planets, stations, or anything at all within several hundred light years.
Cold sweat began to form on his forehead. Without a jump drive, or a way to communicate…. If that could not be fixed in time they were as good as dead. Or worse than dead, a quick death by jump drive meltdown would be preferred to slow starvation. Star damn it! This could not be happening; he would not allow it.
Maybe the hyperdrive was only temporarily offline? Luis grabbed the communicator to the jump drive room “hello? Is anyone awake down there?....” There was no response “Come in, this is not the time to be sleeping on the job.” A deadly silence followed…
Letting the communicator hang off its post Luis ran down to the surveillance console. The ship’s internal cameras were still online…with the pointed absence of the one in the jump drive room. The recording of what had happened pre-jump was still in the computer database. The silent recording began to play.
The chief engineer and her assistant were working on the generator, then they got the orders to start the jump…and something went wrong, the distress in their movements was obvious. The chief engineer pressed one of the huge red buttons and the thick metal covering sealed around the door and the hyperdrive itself. The two engineers looked at the jump drive, their bodies completely still. Then a bright light erupted from the hyperdrive. Frame for frame, the metal protection melted, the glass on the camera went black as it melted, and the recording stopped.
Luis stepped back from the console, he had a feeling that they would not be jumping any time soon. The two engineers were dead for certain…had he not also been dead, Luis would have cursed the late captain…what a moronic decision.
Maybe the communication relay was not beyond repair, but that would require a personal inspection. The captain’s death was strange, as neither the helmsman nor himself had suffered anything beyond extreme discomfort. If that held for the others then most of the crew had to be alive. Luis straightened himself, he was captain once again and that meant the crew was his responsibility. They would get out of this alive, at least they had indeed escaped the aliens. The chance of them finding them here was null.
The sound of the door behind him opening brought some much-needed relief, someone else was getting to their feet at last. Luis turned around and found himself face to face with a 3.5-meter-tall affini. The relief turned to terror so quickly it caused substantial emotional whiplash, so instead of acting he just stared speechlessly at the creature.
Vines intertwined into a green lattice created what looked to be a standard humanoid form, fluffy blue flowers forming a spiral pattern across the mimicry of a long flowing dress. The xeno’s face was also a collection of vines, intertwining with extreme delicacy to create something quite beautiful. Its hair was long and wavy, decorated with more blue flowers and draped over its shoulder. The jump had been for nothing, they were already on board….
Luis reached for his holster but hesitated, there was no way he was taking out an affini on his own….and more horrifyingly there were probably more of them. If he indeed had possessed a moment to resist it passed during his hesitation.
The affini moved forward with stern rapid steps, vines unfurling from is forms and flying towards him at a frightening speed. The vines entwined around his arms, tying them to his body, around his legs, forcing pressure onto the back of his knees. Luis landed on his knees, entirely immobilized. The dark-blue eyebrows of the affini frowned, its ‘lips’ a straight line “what were you thinking?! How could you do something so foolish?” It loomed over him, in his current stance he did not even reach up to her knees. Even the tiny vines holding his fingers apart were strong enough that his mechanical limb could not offer a once of resistance.
There was no room for hesitation anymore, with death closing in his mouth found words once more “Foolish? Certainly, though not my decision. Now before you kill, enthrall, or whatever you have in mind for me. Maybe look at our current location and this ship’s technical situation?” Luis gestured towards the relevant consoles with his eyes.
The affini peered down at him and raised one of its frowning eyebrows. It then walked up to the consoles, the vines holding him down merely extending without losing any force. First, it made a surprised “huh….” And a moment later a decidedly more concerned “hmmm…” The alien then retrieved a shiny-looking data pad from its own body, its expression turned even more concerned.
Through force of will, he pressed the fear down and straightened his stance “let us talk, there is no need for violence.” For if there was any further violence it would be completely one-sided. The affini returned, gazing upon him with some sort of curiosity…it probably wanted him to continue.
The next words would either lead to him facing a court martial and execution, or into the clutching vines of the enemy. His father would likely have killed him for even considering it…a good indication that it was the right move “the ship took a lot of damage during the jump, if we wish to survive we can’t afford to fight each other…as the acting captain I propose a momentary ceasefire.” It was a desperate gamble…but the crew came first, and this was their only chance.
The alien stopped moving, one of its flower-tipped vines was swaying back and forth, a needle revealed within the flower. It looked around the room, at the beeping consoles, the still unconscious helmsman, and finally the corpse of the captain. The frown disappeared…it looked saddened “such a tragedy…I agree. We shall secure the wellbeing of all sophonts, make sure this vessel is safe, and then…” its eyes flashed a light green “we shall talk about how to proceed.” Stars above….the gamble had worked.
The situation was far from safe, the singular affini alone could probably…no, certainly, neutralize the entire crew. The ceasefire would have to be maintained…somehow. Well, that was a problem for his future self “good, let us make sure that my crew is healthy. I don’t know why the old captain over there died but I would hate for that to happen to others if I can avoid it.” with some apparent reluctance the vines around his body retracted, he was free.
Luis stood up and found the ship-wide communication system “hello, this is acting captain Barcelon. All crew is to report to the infirmary as soon as possible. Secure the health of any injured and bring them to the infirmary as well….” After lowering the mic, he looked up at the affini. It was standing right next to him and looked even taller than before, his legs were shaking slightly “what is your name?”
The affini smiled “my name is Ageratu Fidaul, 5th bloom, she/they.” A few needle-sharp teeth? were displayed in the smile. There was an alien beauty to the alien, with an equal alien hunger beneath.
Luis swallowed and took up the device once more “I have come to an agreement with Ageratu Fidaul, 5th bloom that we are to enter a ceasefire. I do not want any scuffles or firefights with the aliens. For now, they are our guests. New orders will be given shortly.” With a sigh he placed the device down, there was an uncomfortable high likelihood that someone on the crew would break the cease-fire, but what more could he do?
A massive hand gently tapped the top of his head twice “good boy, continue to listen to me and everything will be fine.” What the fuck?
He took a step back from the affini, there was an adoring glint in her eyes “what the hell are you saying?” Before chewing her out, he hesitated….Being adversarial would be a poor choice, but a line had to be drawn “I am still in command of this vessel and its crew. We will listen to each other for our mutual survival, but I will not take orders from you.” Ageratu looked down at him, her eyes continuing to shine in that magnificent hue of green.
There was a hint of intimidation to her posture before she shrugged her ‘shoulders’ “as long as you do nothing unacceptable, that arrangement is serviceable.” Something caught her eye and the affini moved forward, two hands gripping his head gently “you are injured…does it hurt?” Did this plant know nothing about personal space?
The grip might be gentle but there was no getting out “only a scrape, please let me go, we have work to do.” The hands griping around his face were surprisingly smooth, some blue fluffy flowers tickling his cheek.
The affini continued to inspect for a few more seconds “you seem to be right, it is nothing serious…” then she leaned down and…kissed him on the forehead? “You should feel better soon.” The rapid shift between domineering alien menace and overly doting alien menace was giving him some serious emotional vertigo.
The grip loosened and he tore away, a furious blush on his face “seriously!…can we get going?” With how precarious their situation was, how could the weed be acting like this? Unless…it was just playing along, maybe it had already communicated with its kin somehow…the first flames of suspicion began to flare but held little sway. If the aliens knew where they were, it was already over. Might as well act like that horrifying scenario was non-existent.
To her delight and surprise, the Terrans had remained calm…or at least non-hostile. For how stubbornly these xenos usually resisted capture, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for their fear to take control. Ageratu reasoned that their pack leader held a lot of trust for this scenario to be possible. After helping the Terran clean up the morbid mess, she found the two others in some sort of communal eating hall. The Terrans were running around and shouting at each other, always giving them a good berth and some suspicious glares.
Alyssum’s vines were twitching nervously “are we sure that the jump drive can’t be repaired? I would like to inspect it myself to be sure, these sophonts technical skill is unreliable.” Something was making him nervous and irritated.
Maybe he was concerned about something back on the Vindex? Either way, there were more pressing issues “Sadly, I believe the analysis is solid. The pack leader showed me a recording of the incident. Their primitive jump drive had problems with its heat expulsion and released it directly, it is fortunate that the protective sealing held and that the ship was not torn apart.” She shivered, the two Terrans who had died in the blast were nothing but irradiated dust.
She observed the Terrans while thinking, it was a saddening sight. Xenos was not supposed to be running around, fearful of their lives or responsible for…well anything more than what their owners allowed them to. The Terran in Betula’s arms was in a more fitting position, still asleep and safely nuzzled in safe, comforting vines.
Alyssum's vines furled and unfurled “what about communication, does this ship have a functioning one? Or is that destroyed as well?” His impatience was made clear by the rapid beat of his biorhythm.
Ageratu shook her head “it was offline according to the system overview, the pack leader is checking up on its condition now. Apparently, they had quite an advanced one for their technology and some messenger drones.” The impatient affini at her side straightened his vines and calmed himself.
Three Terrans that had been eying at them for some time moved towards them. The front one, while obviously nervous, held a stern front “I don’t know what you aliens consider a ceasefire, but holding hostages is not part of it.” There was a snap in his voice.
Hostages…oh “Betula, I think you should wake the Terran and put her down.” The youngbloom who had been distracted by the admittedly very cute xeno in her arms looked up with surprise and reluctance.
A vine with counteragent slipped into the Terran thigh and she soon began to wake “just five more…..” The drowsy tone shifted into a wordless silence as the girl stared up at Betula, right into her eyes. It was a beautiful expression, a change of clothes, some better hygiene, and maybe a bit of xenodrugs; and the Terran would be the perfect pet.
It was sadly ruined as the angry man stepped further forward “hey! What are you doing to her? let her go. now!” The two behind him were not as foolish or brave but stood firm.
Betula gently put the human down while maintaining eye contact “~down you go. stay safe now~” Betula gave the Terran, as was proper, a gentle head pat before the girl blushingly stumbled over to her compatriots.
The xenos began talking in shushed tones “are you okay?”, “did they do something to you?” whether they cared for their fellow person or were just afraid of what might happen to themselves was difficult to tell.
It would be best to inform them of their purpose here “she is fine, there is no way we would allow harm to come to anyone under our care. As you will learn soon enough.” If nothing else went wrong, all of these helpless xenos would be happy and safe within not too long.
Her promise seemed to anger the leader “I doubt it. The captain might have trusted you with a ceasefire, but I am keeping an eye on you. Don’t try any mind-controlling shenanigans or-“
The threat was interrupted as the pack leader walked into the room, his arms behind his back and an emotionless expression on his face “lieutenant! That will be enough, all four of you have work to do. You three,” The Terran was now wearing a brimmed hat matching the grey uniform, not only did it hide his eyes from her sight but also covered his head from…other things “come with me.” Compared to his nervous and rapid speech before, his voice was now hard and controlled.
Before there was even the chance to ask why this room, one of the few that contained tall enough ceilings, was inadequate, he had left the same door he had entered. Ageratu exchanged a frustrated look with her two fellow affini before following the Terran. He had apparently waited right outside the door and as soon as he saw them began walking ahead, his back turned.
The pack leader did not seem to be in the mood for conversation just yet…and it might be a good idea to find a place where they would not be seen by the other xenos. So instead, she took the time to inspect him more closely. The Terran was quite tall and thin in comparison to most humans…far too thin. Only his right arm looked to have much muscle mass at all, at despite the confident gait his legs were not faring much better. The uniform looked well-kept and ironed, four golden stripes on each shoulder and sleeve.
When the noise from the other Terrans had died down behind them he began to talk “you should be happy to know that there were no more casualties. The most serious injury was a concussion but other than that only a few scrapes.” That was a relief, and she would make sure that there were no further injuries.
Alyssum walked up alongside the Terran “what about communication capabilities? Are those online? Can we send a message?” The impatience was back.
The Terran showed little of the fear he had done in their encounter “I will answer that later. I have assigned you all a cabin each, be warned they are quite tiny compared to your size, but you will have to do.” They came to a familiar door and behind it was the front room with the viewscreen.
Without a word, the pack leader sat down in the large chair positioned on an elevated platform in the center of the room. Alyssum made sure the door was closed after Betula entered…it was just the four of them.
The Terran folded his hands “based on the fact that there is no affini ship outside, that you have not mind controlled us, knocked us out with gas, or generally wiped the floor with us…I would think that you have not managed to send a message to your people.” Why would they ever use Terrans to clean the ship?
Either way, his assumption was correct. The data pads had not enough range to connect with anything. There was the question of whether to tell him that…in the end, it mattered little, there was no way he would be able to cause any damage “you are right, we have not. Now, what about you, is your communication systems still broken?”
He kept a straight back, but his shoulders lowered slightly” yes. The hyperspace drones are empty of exotic matter, so they won’t be going anywhere…unless you have some way to magic up some for us that is…” Magic? She swore she had heard a Terran talk about that while being ramped up on class-J but… “I thought not. The communication relay is also busted. The internal circuitry was fried when the power overloaded, and half the outside part was ripped off when your vine grappled us. It might be fixable, but both our engineers died in from the jump drive, all we have are three ensigns that have gotten some bare-bones training. We can’t get the main generator back online either, so we won’t have enough power to send a signal even if we get the relay fixed….” That sounded like a rather grim situation…
Alyssum moved forward “Or maybe you are lying to us and have already sent a message, and now you are simply trying to buy time for them to come.” That was also a strong possibility…it took a good deal of time for the Terran to answer.
When he did his voice was markedly less solid “in five days the backup generator is going to run out of fuel, when the life-support batteries run out a few hours later all of us will die. Furthermore, I don’t believe that we can fix the relay on our own or give it the adjustments it needs to reach far enough. On top of that, there is no question that you three can overman us at any moment you choose. The simple fact is that I need your help….” He slumped into the chair and made a sweeping gesture with his arm “the question is whether you need us, or at least us not to be an obstacle. If the answer to that is no, then I wonder why you have not acted yet.” The Terran had not made eye contact even once.
She looked at the two others <if he is speaking the truth then our situation is precarious. Getting the generator online should be possible using our data pads for startup power, but the relay I am less certain about. Do any of you two have any in-depth engineering knowledge?> How had this gotten so out of vine?
Alyssum did not seem deterred <I think we should neutralize the Terrans and then fix the relay. I only have a rudimentary understanding of communication technology and working with human tech will likely slow us down, but I see no reason to keep the xenos as an unpredictable element.> That was sound reasoning, every moment the Terrans had weapons that they could hurt themselves with was one moment too much.
Betula interjected with some slight hesitation <I have yet to see any source of mineralized water on this ship, which makes sense I suppose. Won’t that reduce our xenodrug production quite substantially?> She was right…without a stable supply of class-Z, keeping the Terrans neutralized would be that much trickier.
The humans likely had some food but there was no certainty it would be enough <keeping control over 20 or more Terrans might slow us down too much, the Terrans might starve before we can get help. And while I don’t like to say it, allowing them to help with some repairs could expedite the process, it is their ship after all.> The pack leader did not move the slightest while they talked, almost like he was on a high dose of class-M.
She didn’t like it, but the Terran might have a good idea, even if it was unpleasant. Alyssum was decidedly even less enthusiastic <I say we make sure he fully cooperates first. This part of the ship is empty, a long session of hypnotics would be for the best.> Her gaze drifted over to the Terran who was still sitting entirely still.
His left hand was gripped tight around the communication device he had used earlier…what a clever little thing <he seems to be ready to alert the others…it might not be best to do so now, we can find an opportunity later.> Alyssum followed her gaze and relented.
Betula shrugged <he is cooperating for now and if we do something to him, the others might notice. Why don’t we at least try to cooperate? If it fails we still have options but waiting will preserve our resources and speed up the process.> After a brief exchange of glances and nods, Ageratu turned to the Terran.
It still pained her to allow any xeno to be in this position, the pack leader would have it so much better lounging happily in her café than in that chair full of fright. Just more of a reason to send a message as soon as possible “we have discussed and agreed that cooperation will be necessary. But we will not accept any action that risks the life or harms the wellbeing of anybody onboard, understood?” if this was to last further she would need to ask one more question “I would also like to know your name.”
The Terran stood up, his hand still clutching around the communication device “my name is Luis Barcelon, but you will refer to me as captain. If you do have any disagreement with my orders or decisions you will take it up to me in private. This is not to sate my ego, but rather to cement my authority on this ship. An authority that will be critical to maintaining order until this affair is done.” he put the device down and moved rapidly towards the door.
She stopped him by placing a vine on his shoulder “is it not customary to shake hands after one has made an agreement?” Luis shivered beneath her touch, but he turned around.
The left hand was stretched out, palm open “I can’t say it will be a pleasure, but we will get out of this.”
Ageratu took great satiation in completely enveloping the Terran’s hand in her own before giving it a light squeeze “~indeed we will. Once this is over everything will be okay~” Luis quickly retracted his hand and moved to the door. Despite the strange situation she could not help but imagine him with a collar around his neck….with any luck the image would be real soon enough.