Stranded in the void

Chapter 13: One exhausted step in front of the other

by Exhausted_ambition

Tags: #cw:noncon #D/s #dom:female #dom:internalized_imperialism #f/f #Human_Domestication_Guide #hypnosis #sub:female #transgender_characters #cw:violence #drug_play #gender_dysphoria #gender_euphoria #hunger #paranoia #petplay #pov:bottom #psychological #scifi #trans_egg

The cold wind swept over the snowy hill, thin white waves separating from the top and spreading particles into the air. He was somewhat sheltered from the wind by the large solitary pine he was hiding under, the wind still chilled him to his bones. Suppressing the need to move, Luis kept the rifle trained and steadily pointed toward the top of the hill. His fingers had long since gone numb from the cold, but he could still move them within the gloves, so far so good. 
The small light on his receiver was gray as ever…fuck this was boring. The weather was nice, it was seldom one could see the tips of the surrounding mountains with such clarity. Massive and majestic white monstrosities stretching far into the sky. Father used to say that Terra had no mountains that could be compared to Gelida’s. And it was probably true. 
Jotuntind, the tallest of the mountains in the range was so tall that some spacefarers that he met at the bar claimed you could see it from space. And not in the regular boring terrain from space way, no. Apparently, when the clouds were thick and the other mountains were hidden by the atmosphere, Jotuntind pierced out into space, like the gray finger of a massive giant. 
One day he would get to see it for himself, maybe after this bloody famine was over? There was something incredibly tantalizing about space and father could not keep him here forever. An heir had their duties but there were always ways to shirk them. An application to the navy academy on Luna was sure to go through with a couple of bribes and there was no way father could deny him to go there. Once out of the old man’s grasp…well there was plenty more to the galaxy than studying. And everybody knew that the creme de la creme of the Navy academy was not exactly known for their diligence…or soberness. 
The hours went by as Luis planned his future, the places he could visit, and the planets he could explore. Frankly, he did not have too high requirements, just some warmer weather and supply lines that could not be cut off by one measly pirate fleet. The rationing and famine had lasted for over three weeks, the constant hunger beginning to seriously grate on his nerves. 
The sun began to dip below the mountains, for a second making shining mirrors of the icy mountain sides…it was beautiful. Taking out some dried mutton meat, Luis chomped it down while enjoying the sight. The rays of the sun were replaced by blue ghoulish light, beautiful in its own haunting way. With this type of atmosphere, he would honestly not be shocked if the massive boulders or solitary trees that dotted the landscape would rise up and start wandering around, hungering for Christian-man blood. Anything to stop the boredom and get some blood pumping in his veins was welcome at this point. 
Time dragged on, in an hour or two it would be pitch black. Where was that bastard? It would not be the first day they had been unsuccessful but counting by the clouds gathering by the mountains this was their last chance. At though the wind had listened to his muttering The receiver blinked green, fucking finally! 
Luis shuffled out of the comfortable position, adjusting the rifle, and aimed towards the hill. Despite his right hand feeling cold as ice, the trigger finger trembled with anticipation. He could hear the sounds now, one man shouting and something else coming towards him. Easy…nice and easy. 
A large, elegant creature appeared on the top of the hill, its large antlers bright against the blue world. It was beautiful, strong muscles flexing underneath the white coat of fur. The wind was blowing towards him, there was no way the animal was supposed to spot him. Nevertheless, it turned, and its large shimmering eyes met with his. Luis breathed out, vapor escaping into the air, the world was still. 
The finger pressed around the trigger as the vapor left his lungs. The loud noise from the riffle was followed by a millisecond of absolute silence before the animal sprang its hind legs to leap away. Then it recoiled as hit by lighting and collapsed, making a loud shrieking noise as it tumbled down the hill. Luis leaped forward from his hiding place, dagger drawn. With one swift motion the life of the beast was ended, the shrieking leaving with startling little noise to replace it. 
“Holly shit! You actually fucking got it!” A jubilant, crude, and out-of-breath voice thundered down from the hill. Damion, his hunting partner was shuffling down through the snow, grinning widely. “The princeling shoots and hits! And here I thought I was merely babysitting, well fucking done!” The soldier was not the most eloquent person Luis had ever had the pleasure of meeting, but the affirmations, despite their…form, were surprisingly nice to hear. Father would probably have commented he had shot too late. 
Luis smiled while cleaning the large hunting knife “thank you. You deserve credit as well, chasing the beast all the way here must have been one hell of a run. A word with my father and I can probably secure you a promotion, a well-deserved one at that.” 
Damien’s face lit up “you would do that?...” a slight frown clouded the jubilant attitude “he hasn’t been in the best mood lately…sure that’s a good idea?” ‘Bad mood’ was a hefty understatement for having three deserters and at least half a dozen thieves executed in the garrison square. 
“Once we return with this there is no way he can be mad.” Snow had begun to come with the north wind as they secured the carcass to the snow rover. “We should get going…” The wind was picking up, it was going to be a storm soon. 
“~Brood mother~” The imagined cold was replaced by something entirely warm and soft. The sweet smell that had become so familiar mixed with something else “~you should wake up now~” Forcing his reluctant eyes open, Luis found himself looking straight at an adoring Ageratu, tea in vine “~here you go, it is still warm~” A vine gently guided him up before the warm cup of tea was pressed into his hand. 
“How…” an embarrassing yawn that made Ageratu’s eyes shine interrupted “how long did I sleep?” There was a lot that needed to be done, hopefully he had not wasted too much time. The further effort to stand up was challenged and reverted by two large vines. 
The affini’s eyes glittered menacingly “not yet little one,” Huh? Why…“take your time.” After a moment of wavering resistance against the ‘suggestion’, Luis stopped making any further attempts to get up. “~good ‘captain’~” Ageratu practically purred “you have only been asleep for a couple of hours, everything is fine.” It was tempting to ask by who’s definition, but every part of the affini’s voice, the condescension towards his rank and radiating confidence answered that question for him. 
Hiding his minor and growing blush with long deliberate sips of the tea Luis was forced to wait, the affini hovering by his bedside making no effort to hide her adoration. “Co-could I get my arm?” He asked, more than a little tentatively. There was no doubt his situation was dire, on all fronts. The food was gone, the crew distrustful and the affini had discarded any pretense of their absolute control over him. He was practically bound and muzzled, good that most of what he had to endure now was sitting down and waiting. 
Not that the waiting would be easy, the hunger had grown severely more intense now that stress and other pain were not distracting from it. It was more than pain now, he was beginning to feel weak, very weak. The fact that he had missed two meals yesterday when there were still rations available was a bitter regret. Damn Verek, or whatever his name was. Another reason to survive this: to make sure the bastard was caught. 
Some vines stretched across the room and collected the arm, the signs of some rudimentary repair were visible. Before handing it to him Ageratu paused “I did the best I could with the little I had available. This prosthetic is of remarkably poor design…you don’t need to wear it if you don’t want to.” Cheap? Most certainly. But calling it poor design was…shamefully accurate. 
“Holding up this cup is about the extent of what my left arm can do…No, I need it.” It was a fitting punishment anyhow. A few vines held his tea and helped attach the arm, a surprisingly difficult process for one arm alone. Luis took a moment to test it, moving it around and testing the finger joints. It moved smoother than before, though just by testing the joints it was obvious the instrument was on its last legs. 
With the arm on it became slightly easier to sit up balanced, not that the vines slithering around him on the bed would have allowed that. Yawning again Luis scratched his chin, and stopped. Instead of the scratchy and stubble-filled surface that he could expect at the best of times, there was nothing of that kind. Soft, almost delicate skin played beneath his fingers…how? Part of his brain struggled to comprehend it, the memory of Ageratu removing the stubble failing to make the change any more coherent with a reality he had long since accepted. 
Ageratu sat down on the bed, vines beginning to wrap comfortingly around him “does it feel right?” Right? It was the perfect description of the unfamiliar feeling…right. 
And what the hell did that mean? “Maybe…so what?” The dismissive attitude was a façade and a poorly constructed one at that. Keep it together…don’t cry…don’t you dare start crying, she does not need that, she is worried enough already. Despite internal protests, tears did begin to build up. It means nothing, it never could mean anything…“could you leave me alone for a moment?” if there was nothing stopping it, at the very least he could have the dignity of not letting her see it. 
Ageratu stayed, of course she did. In fact, the vines that had wrapped around him dragged him into her waiting embrace, making sure to wrap the sheet around him in the process. “I don’t think that is a good idea.” Ageratu said, her voice strict and caring. Like a mouse stuck in the grip of a snake, he had nowhere to go, not that he had the emotional energy to do much of anything at all. “Would you like to talk about it?” 
There was some more leniency to her words, he had a choice this time. “There is nothing to talk about…so no, I would prefer not.” Going down this train of thought never lead to anything good, only frustration. Why would it not just go away? 
The hug continued “okay, then we shall deal with it later.” One of her fingers brushed aside some hair, her face forming back into an adoring smile “but I did mean what I said previously, you look absolutely adorable.” Wha- she could not just- it was- how did you even respond to something like that? Flustered shuffling was obviously not the right answer, so why was he doing exactly that? 
“Wh-what are you expecting to get out of saying stuff like that?” He said, trying to regain a smidge of composure. A hearty chuckle emitted in elegant rolling waves from the affini, a truly wonderous sound. 
<so cute!> the incoherent but beautiful affini noises were followed up by the vines tightening. “I could say that we affini do not practice the same type of transactional practices as you terrans. But…” her eyes shone like golden stars, a hungry look within “seeing you react in that adorable manner is exactly what I want ‘out of it’.” Stars! Even as he hid his face, cheeks burning bright, he could feel her looking down possessively. 
The new and alien emotions were impossible to get under control. His mind was stuck in place, confused, and utterly in shambles. There had to be some way out of this, something else than cowering in her comfortable vines. The biggest threat of all was that were it not for the fluster, he could see himself falling asleep here without even realizing it. 
Luis tried to get up and surprisingly instead of stopping him the vines lent their support. There was a brief rush of relief as he staggered out of bed, then pain and static filled everything. Any strength his legs had pretended to have gave way. The vines were there in an instant, catching and guiding him back to sit on the bed. After stars who knows how long the static and disorientation cleared, leaving only the bitter betrayal of his body behind. That and the hunger, like a corrupting rot through every thought and sensation.
“Fuck…I…” He needed to get up, there was no choice in this, yet… “can you help me?” He muttered, half in shame and half in desperation. It was beyond pathetic.
Agertu’s hesitation was beyond obvious, even the vibrations and sound she emitted had changed “There is no harm in resting a couple more hours. I can get you some water and-” Absolutely not! He was not going to lie here and wallow in his misery while duties and responsibilities went by unfulfilled. The crew needed him, now more than ever. 
Pushing through the hesitation Luis began the attempt to stand up “I need to work, you can either help me or-” The vines were there, gently helping him get to his feet, this time without incident. That was a relief, his body had not given up the fight just yet. “thank you…can I have my hat back now?” 
The affini sighed, retrieving the hat from within herself. The hollow form was a potent reminder of the threat she had offered earlier. Anything was better than that, even xeno supervision. "Betula wanted to have a word with you on the bridge. I can carry…" The withering stare was enough for her to revaluate "or I can try to make you something for support…" She finished, looking around the room. 
This was downright insulting, he felt fine! “I will not be reduced to using a cane, I am not that decrepit.”  With any luck, the situation would have resolved itself in either direction before that point. A few more days…he could do a few more days. 
Staring out of the large view screen, Betula could not help but feel some awe. The way the void stretched out in front of them, the sparkling nebula on their flank. It was beautiful in ways few things were, Natalia being one of them. The terran was currently sleeping before their next shift…It cut through her core that she had looked forward to finishing the relay today, getting her flower to comfort and safety. Instead the poor thing would have to do more work, without either food or the medicine they so dearly needed. 
It was like the universe taunted her, refusing to let her mistake be rectified in the slightest. The look on the terrans' faces when the complete lack of food was announced was core-breaking. She had never seen a xeno so full of despair, and there was nothing she could do about it other than fixing that damn relay. According to Alyssum, it was not beyond repair, only a bit more time and parts were needed. Still, her vines felt more tired than ever, her bark dry and cracked in several places. 
The self-pitying was interrupted as the door opened, Ageratu with the ‘captain’ in tow. Neither looked good, Ageratu’s flowers were faded, and her form had several loose vines hanging down limply. Luis looked far worse, the starved xeno clearly making an effort to hide the effort they put in just to walk here from their quarters. 
“Hello you two, slept well?” Her question was met with a grumpy face from the terran who took a brief look up at Ageratu before answering. 
“I have slept worse…” They collapsed down into their chair, breathing a sigh of relief. “Give me a second before we start…just need to…think.” 
While they rested Ageratu looked at them worriedly. <The brood mother is doing worse than I thought, please make sure they avoid doing anything strenuous. And that they get enough to drink…and try to keep an eye on them, they are awfully stubborn.> There was something significantly different with her voice <They want to work in their office afterward…do you think that is a good idea?> 
Betula had not spent too much time with Ageratu before the incident but the older affini had always struck her as competent, confident, and in control; everything an affini was supposed to be, and what she had failed to be on too many occasions. This was different, Ageratu’s worry was leaking through every rhythm and tone. 
<I will take care of them, don’t worry.> She said while entwining a vine around one of Ageratu’s. <There is some mineralized water saved for you, go rest and eat so you can watch over them later.> Some of the unrest in the air settled.
<Of course, you are right. Thank you, but if there is anything, anything at all, please contact me.> Giving her vine a squeeze in return, Ageratu turned to Luis. “Do not push yourself or you know what I will have to do.” The worry was replaced by a stern and confident timbre. 
Luis nodded halfheartedly in acquiescence, their hat firmly preventing eye contact once more. After one more reluctant pause, Ageratu left the room, attempting an encouraging smile before closing the door. “So what do we need to talk about? I have a lot to do so let’s make it as quick as possible.”…Stubborn indeed. 
She could do this “nothing much. Alyssum has taken stock of the damage suffered and the parts left in storage. Some can be salvaged from my datapad, but we still need more.” Lending them the data pad with the report, Betula watched as the terran’s brow furrowed deeply. 
Their voice was solemn “poor girl, there will barely be anything left of you at this rate.” They finished with a sigh, straining up in the chair. “We will need to get parts from several of the other systems, I will note it down…nobody is going to be happy about this, that I can promise.”
As they worked Betula could not help but be distracted by the view outside the viewport, her vines itched to capture it with a brush or pen. At one point her gaze lasted for so long that it was only broken when Luis cleared their throat to get her attention. “I know detailing how we are going to dismantle my home is frightfully boring, but could we please focus?”  
Suppressing some embarrassment, Betula put down the data pad. It was high time for a break  “It is not that little one, it is just that the view is so beautiful. I am sure you can understand.” The terran had spent 8 years uninterrupted in space, perhaps talking about the wonders they had seen would provide a welcome distraction.
Luis’s face held its grumpy disposition “sure, the first time you go into space is incredible. And you will always remember your first jump. But after your first year, the 6th jump, the 17th celestial body; it all becomes rather mundane.” The lack of enthusiasm was palpable in their voice. 
“I…sorry, I don’t understand. This is an exploration vessel, correct? Why would you spend so much time in space, traveling to distant places with few comforts when…you don’t care for its beauty?” How could that possibly make sense? 
“Sometimes the important part is where you’re not.” The terran almost looked a little insulted “There is plenty of beauty in the world…space just loses some of its charms once you see it for the umpteenth time.” 
A hint of curiosity sparked in her core “what do you find beautiful then? There is not a lot beyond space and metal to see here.” 
Luis opened their mouth to speak, paused, closed it, and furrowed their brow. Long seconds passed, and she could practically see the gears moving inside the little xeno’s head. Finally, with a bit of a frustrated sigh, they answered. “The Viator is a beautiful ship, if slightly besmirched at the moment. And Ageratu is undeniably pretty.” Awwwwww “See? I still have some sense of aesthetics.” 
“~So you think Ageratu is pretty?~” The ‘captian’s’ eyes lit up with surprise and realization. “I will make sure to tell her that you think so.” The almost crimson cheeks of the xeno were truly adorable to behold. 
 Another sigh “Could we please get back on track…” And so they did, until all the required parts were accounted for. Once finished with the task at vine she guided Luis back to their office. During the walk, the fragility of their constitution was impossible to miss. “Please…” they spoke with a poorly haggard breath “I am not going to fall over.” 
Despite the reassurance, the worry did not leave her vines until the terran was safely sitting in their chair. “I need to go and wake Natalia, will you be fine?”   
Luis nodded “I have survived worse than this, much worse. Go make sure Natalia is okay, it will take more than this for me to drop dead.” The wry smile indicated they had made an attempt at humor, that was a good sign, right? 
“Hmmm, okay. Ageratu will come and check up on you in a few hours, so don’t go anywhere.” With a final smile, she left the equally frustrated and flustered terran to do their work. With one terran out of her mind, it immediately jumped to the next. Natalia was bound to be distressed when she woke up, and explaining that rescue was another few days away would be difficult. 
Bracing herself outside of the adorable terran’s quarters, Betula knocked on the door. Silence…then just as she was about to knock again, a highly annoying *pling* came from the terran datapad in her chest.  
[Bjorke, Natalia, Junior Engineer, #23]: I am in the communication room, when are you coming? 
She was already awake? Ready to work?? Entirely unmedicated?! All by herself?!! Without answering or a second thought, Betula moved with haste to the communication room. Stepping over the threshold to the room, the door now reattached to its hinges she found Natalia lying on her stomach, puzzling away at some electronic components. 
She must have made a sound of some sort because Natalia looked up and smiled “there you are.” The smile was too innocent and jovial. “Ready to get to work? I think I almost have this part figured out.” The attitude was cheerful, like the first days they had worked together. Beneath the brave front, however the cracks were easy to spot. 
The terran was shaking, face slightly pale, an obvious effort needed to maintain the smile. How could she have allowed this to happen? That a xeno needed to work was terrible, that she now seemed to suppress the pain for her, an affini’s, benefit was inexcusable. “Oh sweet little flower, what are you doing here?” 
“I woke up when everyone started to run around shouting looking for Verek…I should have waited for you in my room but…” Her gaze fell back to the component on the ground “I was impatient to fix the damage. Sorry…” 
Sitting down next to her Betula placed a comforting vine on the terrans shoulder “there is nothing to be sorry for.” A few pets brought Natalia to press her head against the hand. “Stay still and I will give you a new dose of class-E.”
She pulled back “I…I don’t want it, it makes me all clumsy. If I had not had it yesterday we might have finished a-” That was enough of that, Natalia was the last person that could be blamed for the circumstances. 
Lifting the terran up in her vines, she began to gently pet her “shhhhh, none of this is your fault. It is very important to me that you are well, can I please give you some class-E to soothe the pain and discomfort?” Her vine was itching to do its work, all she needed was a yes.
The façade held firm, a momentary trembling of her lips revealed its fragility. “Maybe a bit…” A few tears had begun to build in her eyes “I still want to help.” The pleading eyes were too much and with great reluctance, she gave her only a half dose. Natalia began to breathe a little easier, some of the pain in her biorhythm ebbing away.
It was far less than she wanted, yet it was endearing to see how determined the little petal was to help. Betula kissed Natalia on the forehead, savoring how the pale cheeks turned crimson “I can’t say no to you, can I?” She tightened her vines, producing a soft squeal from her treasure. “Before we do anything else, I demand a few minutes of cuddles. Understood?” 
The blush had spread across the entire adorable face, eyes wide and so eager to stare into her own. After several stuttering attempts “yes, miss.” A very satisfying submissive squeak. So hardy, yet so utterly adorable, terrans were a true wonder. 
Duran felt his temper, the little he could muster these days, dwindle fast “what you mean we can’t eat them?” His finger pointed towards the pile of leather they had spent all morning gathering. 
Selma pinched her forehead with her fingers “They are treated with chemicals, poisonous chemicals. Try to eat a bite of that and you will die before hunger can do the trick. Just put it back wherever you found it before someone does something stupid.” The medic had treated him enough that despite the immense temptation to ignore her, he just fucking couldn’t. 
“And here I was beginning to get my hopes up. What a right bloody mess….” He had dealt with some dehydration spells back in his sailing days, short-lived and not much to write home about. This was another matter entirely. “At the very least we are all healthy, or as healthy as can be without food. Do you know how the sick below are doing?” That it would be now this lurching sickness had been released was just the luck they needed. 
She shook her head “Ageratu told me they are doing fine…beyond that, I don’t know anything more than you.” Selma was usually a very straightforward type of woman, now however there was something in her voice that made Duran unsettled. 
Before he could ask, Hariot entered the armory “Sir, could I have a word with you…” The long pause indicating that he wasn’t done with the conversation was ignored “it is important.” The urge to tell the lass to bugger off so he could find out what was unnerving Selma was reluctantly quelled. 
“Give me a minute.” Hariot lead him to the bridge, empty with the exception of a few wilted flowers, probably from the one that followed Natalia everywhere. “So, what is it?” It had better be something good.
“I noticed something when we were searching for Verek.” What? That the bastard had gutted the sensor system? “Look at the view screen sir, see anything?” 
“Very distant stars, void, a bit of nebula…Was this why you dragged me away?” This was not the time to be admiring the scenery, no matter how beautiful. 
Hariot fumbled “the Star-base, shouldn’t we see it by now? We are only a day or so away, and it is not like there is anything to hide behind out here.” A sinking feeling started in his empty stomach. She was right! Even a small star-base would be visible by now, but there was nothing there at all!
There was only one explanation, the weeds must have slowed down the ship at some point. Stars damn it! When had they?! Fuck, no use thinking about that now. “Get back to work, and don’t tell anyone about this. Ok?” Harriot met his gaze and nodded before slinking off. 
Duran cursed himself out for several long minutes as soon as she was gone. What an idiot he had been, thinking that the station would grant safe harbor and allow them to deal with the xenos. Slowing down the ship had only bought them time, which meant they were planning something. He had no idea what that was, but a preemptive strike was needed before their plot doomed them all. 
Turning on his heels Duran walked with rapid steps to the water treatment center, there he found two dutiful crew members, trying to stop a leak. “Perlan, we need to talk.” The junior lieutenant, tall and lanky dropped the wrench and came over. 
“What is it?” From the lad's relaxed demeanor one could easily assume he had lived an easy life, the thick char-healed skin on his hands proved otherwise. 
“I need to confirm something.” The drunken memory of that long, jovial night of cards was best to have clarified. “You fought in the Rinan resistance, did you not?” Perlan’s eyes went wide, quickly staring over his shoulder to make sure no one had heard. 
“Please, not so loud…how…fuck, you are not going to report me are you?” His face had become remarkably pale in a very short period of time. 
Putting an arm around the lad’s shoulder, Duran reassured him “never going to happen. There was one more thing…you told me you made bombs, is that right?” Luis had insisted they stood no chance against the weeds, but there was nothing that could survive some well-placed explosives. 
Perlan swallowed “fire and shrapnel mostly, kinetic ones when we had the materials. Why are you asking about this?” There was no shortage of fear in his voice. 
“Can’t tell you just yet, but you’ll know soon. Go to the armory during the night and gather what you need, our spare ammunition should suffice. Bring it to the quarters Ari and her squad used and get to work making explosives, fire ones if at all possible.” They were plants after all. 
“Does the captain know?” The mention of Luis brought a heavy feeling of shame to his face. The captain had saved him from the gallows and when the xeno bastards had done…whatever they had done to him, what had he done?. Stood by like a fool and let it happen, a sorry excuse for a second command was what he was. 
“No, and it will have to remain that way. Trust me, the whole crew will be standing with us.” The response was a terrified yet understanding nod. “Good, get back to work and make sure to be cautious, we only got one shot at this.” Perlan did as ordered, if with a higher pulse than when the conversation had begun. 
Duran walked out into the corridor and paused. There was a lot to do, and little time. People would have to be talked to, plans made, and dangerous elements controlled. Once they reached the station there had to be a way to revert the change that had happened to Luis, there had to be. The weeds thought they owned the ship, well. It was about to teach them how seriously they had misjudged the crew of the Viator. 

Show the comments section (1 comment)

Back to top

Register / Log In