Stranded in the void

Chapter 14: Tensions at the freezing point (and AO3 announcement!!)

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

Very happy to finally be able to present another chapter!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: This story will be continued on AO3
I do hope to see you all on the other side! 
“Done!” Natalia felt an immense sense of pride as the wires she had replaced four days ago once again looked orderly and pristine. The plasma blast had done serious damage, it had taken the whole of yesterday just to get out all the damaged stuff and scavenge the weapons systems for parts before she could even begin to repair anything.
Betula, who was working on one of the other holes turned and flashed her another of the most beautiful smiles she had ever seen. “~Well done!~” The affini extended a vine to ruffle her hair “such a good girl, why don’t you take a rest while I finish here.” G-Good girl? Whashecouldnotjusohfuckstarhelp. Paralyzed for a moment another set of vines lifted her up and placed her in a bed of vines next to Betula. The vine continued to pet her as she slowly stopped squirming and could actually rest without her face feeling like a furnace. 
There was something immensely relaxing about lying in the soft, comfortable vines, listening to the calm sound of Betula tinkering. A tip of the vines was sticking out, quite close to her face. A thought appeared in her mind that quickly turned into temptation. Would Betula mind if she…? — Of course she would, stop being stupid. “Would you like to nibble on a vine little flower?” Betula asked, staring down with gleeful eyes. did she? Once more Natalia got the feeling that the affini could in fact read minds. “I…I..” What the fuck was she supposed to say? 
A vine separated from the affini’s hair and moved in front of her face “here you go, this one should be nice for some oral stimming. I would have a bit of tasty sap in it but sadly without any real nutrients I can’t produce it.” Was she serious?...she was serious…should she…it would be rude not to, right? Very carefully Natalia opened her mouth and began to nibble on the vine. The texture was smooth and gave only the right amount of resistance for chewing to be satisfying. “~There you go, aren’t you just adorable~” The vine began petting her again and Betula returned her focus to the repairs once more. 
Focusing on the vine, Natalia slowly let her gay panic die down. And only 30 minutes or so later she feels like a cognizant person again. It was a super good vine to nibble on, and apparently, it could taste sweet or something? “This might be a stupid question…but how did you affini evolve into what you are now?” She could get strong, large, and invincible….the rest made decidedly less sense from an evolutionary perspective.  
Betula answered while working, the vine continuing to pet her head in the rhythm of the words. “We affini have not been bound by evolution for hundreds of millennia, beyond our core we are modifiable to our own wants. The vine you are biting on so adorably at the moment is a ‘graft’, a genetically crafted and grown tool that is then attached to the affini in question. It can have a wide range of uses, from producing and administering the xenodrugs we use, looking pretty, or protecting from the elements and certain damage. In fact, the bark you have seen me use to travel in the vacuum of space is also a graft.” Amazing…it very much sounded like the affini could be exactly what they wanted to be and seeing how beautiful Betula was, it was easy to believe.
“Wait...but what is this one supposed to do?” The vine right outside her mouth could not possibly have any practical uses. 
“Oh, I got it for exactly the purpose you are using it for now. A class-J café…think of it like a place cute xenos go to get adopted and pampered by affini while dosed up on very pleasant xenodrugs. One of those that I often visit has plenty of cuties that like something to nibble on.” Natalia tried to suppress the feelings that arose at the description of what sounded like a hedonistic paradise. 
She nibbled a bit more on the vine, thinking about what Betula had said. It sounded so strange and in one way really creepy if it had not been for how wonderfully considerate the affini seemed to be. Part of her was still skeptical to make a judgment on a civilization spanning…a lot more space than the accord at the very least, from just 3 individuals. Was she being naïve? Played for a fool? A simple look at Betula’s face, vines slightly clinched in concentration was enough to dispel the fear. “So you don’t have any florets or?” It was meant to be a casual question, but fucking hell Natalia of course it wasn’t. Fuckfuckfuck, she couldn’t just ask that!
Betula paused for a second from her work, continuing to look down at her work “no, I don’t. Which is normal, I am still young for an affini. Many don’t get their first floret until they are three or even four blooms old.” And then her vines began working again like the question had indeed been casual. 
….Betula did not have a floret….Did that mean? Could she maybe? No, don’t be stupid. You don’t know fully what being a floret would entail and you don’t even know if she wants one. Be a bit less lesbian and wait. Take it slow, no need to ask to become her property before the one-month anniversary of knowing each other’s names. 
Pulling her mind out of the haze Natalia looked over at what Betula was working on. There on the ground were the remains of the affini’s data pad, its weird mechanical guts spilled and scavenged. No…
Betula placed one last affini competent into the hole before smiling satisfied and turning to look at her with a smile. “There we go, only one last…dear? Is there something wrong?” The smile faltered. 
“Your artwork…” it felt petty, almost insignificant to care about art when lives were on the line. But the painting Betula had made for her….
Vines curled around her, lifting her up into the affini’s embrace “I’m sorry little one…I wish there was another way.” The affini dried away some of the tears that she had failed to stop “I promise you I will make much more art of you if you so desire.” This wasn’t right…
Natalia curled up “you don’t need to do that for me, I…it’s stupid for me to get so emotional-” The eyes of her affini silenced her, drawing her in until the ragged tearful breaths became slow and calm. 
“Petal~” Natalia was sure no words had ever been uttered with more care and love. “I am asking if you would want that, not as a favor from me. I would love to make more art with you, in fact, I would love nothing more. You are more beautiful than any nebula and I can think of no better inspiration for my work. Understand?” 
She felt so wonderfully small under the gaze of those loving eyes “yes miss.” Stars she was lucky…Natalia spent several more minutes gazing up at Betula in utter adoration. Following every movement of her face, the curvature of her lips, the infinite color of her eyes. It was so easy and nice to sink into them, let them take up all her focus, and just drift happily. Tragically the happy drifting was interrupted as a hunger pang shocked through her body. Shrinking again she immediately had Betula’s attention, a sting in her left thigh washing away the pain that had slowly built up. 
Mmmmmm, that- that was nice. It made her clumsy but the class-E or whatever Betula called it was wonderfully relaxing. And based on the fact a giggle was already bubbling in her throat it was a rather high dose this time. A vine stroke along her cheek “that’s better~ such a sweet thing you are.” The words rippled through her mind without any resistance, the emotional barriers subdued and happy to accept a compliment she would often have discarded. 
Happily nuzzling into the vine Natalia let out a weak mewl, she wanted to be cute for Betula and it had the intended effect. The affini cooed wonderfully in her sing-song voice while drowning her in pets and affection. She had no intention or want to prevent the happy flood in her mind so simply reveled in it, making more cute sounds to distract Betula from her work whenever the pets decreased in intensity. 
Sometime later, Betula put her down on the ground “that is our shift done, Alyssum has asked to meet him in the mess hall. Think you can walk?” She could walk, if clumsily and slowly. Every limb seemed to take an extra second to respond to her commands, each movement feeling both too slow and too fast at the same time. Betula stayed close and the few times it seemed she was close to tripping, gently supported her with a vine. Her affini did find her clumsiness cute, cooing all the way to the mess hall, so all in all it was hard to feel anything bad about it. 
The mess hall was empty with the exception of Alyssum and two buckets of water. The white-flowered demeanor was rather serious right up until she got close, and it melted into an adoring smile “hello there little petal~” A hand landed on top of her head and began scratching “how was work?~” Natalia was pretty sure she managed to mutter something estimating ‘good’ between the whimpers and fuzzy thoughts bubbling in her head. 
The two affini began to talk to each other while drinking their water, giving her plenty of pets and affection all throughout. They were talking in affini, but she was pretty certain that she wouldn’t have cared to understand even if she could. Relaxing in Betula’s lap, being cute, and getting affection was all she needed at the moment. Was this how florets felt? Oh, she totally had to ask Betula if she could beco-
The conversation was interrupted by muttering at the door “wha….fucking xenos. Hey Duran! Come over here!” Still quite dazed Natalia looked over to the door, there at least 6 of the crew were standing, Duran in front. 
There was a wave of intense anger in his eyes “what have you done to her?” The words were no less angry, drawn over teeth so gritted they might break at any moment. 
Betula had frozen up, her vines in total lock “I…she was in a lot of pain due to a lack of medicine, so I have given her some affini painkillers. It is nothing permanent, she is just a bit dizzy.” Betula was so good at explaining that stuff. 
For some reason, Duran still seemed angry “a bit dizzy? It looks like you have halfway melted her bloody brain. If you don’t let her go right now I am going to show you fucking dizzy!” His hand reached for the hip. 
Alyssum sprung up, the air vibrating around him. Even in her state, she felt frightened, as the affini grew to touch the ceiling, vines with needles bared on the ready. “I have tolerated a lot of nonsense from you terrans, but I will not let you harm a fl-…her.” Alyssum’s vines spread out, covering her and Betula, making it almost impossible to see Duran and the others. 
She could still hear him, his voice angry almost to the point of breaking “harm a what? You damn weeds think you can do anything don’t ya? Well, let me tell you that isn’t going to fly anymore, not on my watch.” Protective vines had begun to form around her, Betula stirring into rapid motion. 
“HAVE YOU ALL GONE MAD?” The shout came from the other side of the room, where Luis leaned against the door frame. His face was both incredibly pale and flushed with exhaustion, he spat on the ground before continuing “I will not have any fighting on my ship while I still breathe! Now get your sorry asses back to your quarters this instant.” No one moved, vines and guns were still drawn. 
Luis took a step forward “I am still the captain here, and I am more than willing to let anyone who stays in this room rot in the brig until…” His mouth opened but no sound came out “un…” The last remaining color in his face drained away. The next step forward was more of a stumble to the side, his hand reached out to the wall for stability, but it was too far away. 
Less than a minute after he had entered the room Luis crumpled to the ground. “Captain!” Both Duran and Alyssum rushed towards the fallen terran, the standoff forgotten.   
The knife-sharp wind cut through the clothing covering his face, pushing him back upon the newly fallen snow. It went not directly against them, at least Luis was pretty certain of that as if it had the only direction they would be moving would be backward. Of course, trying to ascertain the direction of the wind in the midst of a blizzard is no easy feat. The privilege of vision was all but gone, the snow making it hard to view anything more than a meter away. The frost covering the rim of his goggles was the only thing he could see with any degree of clarity. Not that that would last for long either, the telltale signs of snow blindness were beginning to set in. The light from their lanterns was hazy and the world beginning to blur. 
Another push forward on the skis, his staves doing most of the pushing forward. They had been walking for hours, and every sign said it was not going to last much longer. The snow rover had met its fate when Damion managed to crash it into a large rock hiding beneath the snow, the whole thing had flipped, only luck had made it the only casualty. Another step forward made his back buckle forward, the ropes tied to the carcass they were pulling behind them cut into his shoulders for the umpteenth time. 
With the input from the rest of the world muted by the snow, all Luis could think about was how his body wanted to fall over, it had been feeling that for the last….stars knew how long. The heavy breath making the cloth in front of his mouth moist froze a second after each breath, hard as a plate. There were no more reserve rations, though his body screamed for food. Every muscle ached, strained to their absolute limit and beyond. He did not feel very cold, and that frighted him more than anything. 
Looking over to Damien he could see by the shaky arms and legs that he was not faring much better. The bitter regret of having chosen not to hunker down and dig filled his mouth along with the taste of blood. It was a stupid decision, one that was going to get them both killed. But of course, he had been arrogant enough to think they would make it, hunger fueling his impatience. The markers had been covered by snow hours ago, in all likelihood they were not even going the right way. 
As his mind was coming to these conclusions, a justification to give up, his left ski went straight through the ground. The rest of him followed, the feeling of stomach-turning weightlessness and momentum downward stopped a split second later as the rope around his waist snapped taught. Somehow Damien had the strength to pull him back up, but only barely. This was low in the valley, there was no glacier here so why…An exploratory survey with his staves made the snow fall from their icy supports. Sloping downwards was frozen moss, rock, and ice. Luis almost felt his heart stop, it was a cave!! 
Waving a confused Damien over with his staves he pointed ecstatically into the dark maw. There was no real point in talking, the wind was too loud for that, but Damien understood it, nonetheless. As they began to lower their equipment Luis realized that his chance for converting to the faith of the natives was never going to arrive. For as he delved into what could by all good accounts be called a miracle, all he could feel was that they had been saved by blind dumb luck. 
Father had always spoken of the native colonists as fools and seeing as they had decided to settle this frozen hunk of rock Luis could not entirely fault that. Yet during the brief pauses they had made the last day, Damien seemed to have gained some renewed strength from his muttering prayers, while all he found was more exhaustion among the desperate thoughts looking for a solution. Was he jealous? Hard to say but in these moments it had to be comforting to believe in some type of divine justice. 
Damien put his lantern down on the ground, inspecting the cavern “this will do.” There was a terrified urgency in his words “take of your gloves and boots.” The man ripped his own off and after seeing Luis hesitate repeated the order “take them off now! Unless you want frostbite to claim a hand or arm rather than a finger.” Oh fuck…
Pulling off the boots and socks was terribly chilling, and from the sign of it, his left hand had gotten seriously bruised when the rover tipped over. But there was no dead flesh claimed by the cold. Luis hesitated, it had been far too long since he had been able to move several fingers on his right hand. All common sense said that he needed to check, if not the rot would spread and…The glove was ripped off by Damien’s “Don’t be a wuss.” 
The hand was fine, not a single sign of the blue-black death. Luis looked up in relief “I’m all good, what about you?” He had made it, somehow he had made it through the storm. 
Damien smiled, his beard covered in ice crystals “never been better, get the transmitter up while I give us some warmth.” Right, the transmitter. It was the only other thing except for the game that they had taken from the rover. The thing had been darn heavy but without it, the cave would have been little better than a grave. Some of the handles were frozen, though with enough effort Luis got it back online. 
Luis could feel that his body needed rest, and it was done waiting for his permission. The insulation blanket was surprisingly comfortable. Damien had prepared himself for rest much the same, but kept staring toward the cave entrance “what do we do about the meat?” The carcass lay where they had left it, just inside the cave. 
Luis frowned, the call for sleep not wanting to deal with it “it's frozen like a rock, and it's not going to thaw anytime soon. So I say that when we get rescued the party will have quite the welcome surprise.” The soldier on the other side of the warming lantern still looked conflicted but kept quiet. And that quiet was all that was needed for them both to drift off to sleep. 
When he woke Damien was already awake, melting some snow for drinking water. They quickly set into a rhythm of the bare minimum. Speaking little and trying to sleep whenever the opportunity presented itself. Time moved in indeterminate intervals, sleep and awareness having no defined rhythm or sense of lasting. The constant howling of the storm outside, and the pure white above the entrance gave no clue to how long they waited. The only way Luis was certain that time was moving at all was the growing hunger. From annoying, to painful, to numb, to painful again, and on and on it went. 
At some point, Damien decided to speak. It was the closest to a sentence the two of them had come since the wait began. “We should skin and eat it.” Luis followed the gaze, right towards where the prize of their quest lay undisturbed. 
There was no use denying the temptation, nothing would have tasted better. Accepting the temptation did not however prevent the fear of consequences. “No, we are not allowed, any food scavenged or seized is property of the garrison.” 
Damien raised a bushy eyebrow “you care about that shit? We need to eat boy.” The man's eyes studied him “to be frankly honest, you are holding up way better than I thought you would. That I should be the one to suggest it is downright shameful.” There was some humor in his voice, the storm had not crushed that. 
Luis shrugged “you ran a lot when we hunted, I sat still. Only makes sense that you have less energy. Rescue should be here any moment, let’s not do anything reckless.” He would strongly have preferred if the conversation ended there, the movement of Damien’s beard proved he would not be so lucky. 
“Lad, the storm is still as fierce as ever, no one is coming any time soon. Hell, have you not even considered your da sent you here to die?” What?! 
The accusation almost got Luis to his feet, the lack of energy made it so he would have to be content with glaring “absolute nonsense, you have no idea what you are talking about.” There was no way that was true, father couldn’t shut up about him becoming the next garrison commander. There was no way he would have wanted him dead, not even after the clothing incident…
Swallowing the doubt Luis put on his best authoritative and collected demeanor “as your commanding officer I forbid you from even touching that meat with your knife. Now get some more sleep.” 
Damien huffed mockingly “superior officer? My son is only two years younger than you, and I can hardly find it in me to trust him with chopping firewood. What logic is it to have a snot like you as my superior?” Luis’s cheeks became fire red, could the bastard not understand common sense? It was like he wanted to hang. 
The accusation of nepotism was hardly new, but this was the first time someone had said it straight to his face. “Shut it and go to sleep.” The reply was not clever or witty, two things he liked to think that he usually was. Damien did shut up, but there was no doubt the conversation was far from over. The usual distraction of planning adventures in space to fall asleep failed, there were far too many other thoughts crowding his mind. 
Selma looked over at the sick bay, Ageratu was still sitting there, patiently waiting for Luis to wake up. It was partly heartwarming and partly heartbreaking to see. The blood test results in her hands were about as grim as could be expected. It was frustrating how limited her options were as advice was about all she could provide. The only blessing in this entire situation was that Alyssum could use some affini drug to put the bastard asleep, something he had been the last six hours. The second she began to approach the affini turned towards her “will they be okay?” 
Donning her usual hard but compassionate demeanor, Selma answered. “Nothing beyond a faint this time as far as I can see. I think it would be safe to wake him up now…” Ageratu merely nodded, allowing her to continue. “As for a general prognosis, I don’t believe there is any permanent damage so far but if we don’t get to that station soon….” She left the rest unsaid, the implications so clear there was no way cultural misunderstanding could take place. 
Ageratu nodded again, her focus back on Luis “it won't be long before we get you all to safety.” That implication was also far from subtle, and Selma was not quite sure how to feel about it. On one side it was probably the best chance Luis had at not living the rest of his life in a hospital bed, and they were probably going to be more benevolent than the Accord. On the other hand, being a prisoner of war just didn’t sit right with her no matter which way she sliced it. 
The affini extended a vine with a thin stinger, administering something into Luis’s left arm before taking a step back. There was a slight spike in jealousy, this affini was not even a trained practitioner and still had more tools at her disposal than she as a terran ever had. Her worry for the dumbass did overshadow the jealousy as his eyes began to flutter open “welcome to the land of the living.” Her sarcastic greeting was met by an understandable groan. “If you are wondering what happened, you fainted. That was over six hours ago, you needed to rest.” There was made a feeble attempt to sit up in the bed, one she promptly stopped with a weak push “stay down, nothing is going to get better if you faint again.” 
For once this did shut him up, and it was only after several minutes during which she did the standard medical tests that he spoke. “Is everyone alright?” Just the type of question she had been expecting. 
Such a predictable bastard “I would justifiably lose my medical license if I claimed that anyone aboard this rust bucket can be classified as ‘alright’. But no, everyone was a bit too busy thinking you had finally keeled over and died to fight.” Selma watched with some amusement as the blood pressure dropped in tandem with the sigh of relief. “Now, I think your visitor wants to talk to you.” She rolled the chair a few paces away, giving Ageratu space. 
The affini move forward, and Luis’s reaction made everything worth it. The usual proud and upright dumbass shrunk visibly before the xeno. “Oh….hi.”
Ageratu immediately descended up him with a flurry of affectionate vines “I am so glad you are okay,” Vines coalesced into a long and inescapable embrace “I was so worried about you little one.” The pure fluster and burning blush on Luis’s face was a beautiful sight. Selma was a bit disappointed the affini was not showing her strict side but…oh, never mind.
The embrace had turned truly inescapable “now, mind telling me why you went outside your office without my permission?” She was not quite sure, but she could have sworn she heard him whimper when the vines tightened. 
“I…I had to stop-“ a large vine wrapped its way around his mouth, silencing the captain without effort. 
Ageartu shook her head, flowers swaying “I see you do not understand the question for I am not interested in your explanation. If the only way you will accept my commands is with my presence then so be it, you will not leave my side.” There was something way too satisfying seeing the affini crush past any protest. 
Luis did have plenty of those though, the vine slithering away to let him speak “I…you need to repair the communication hub. Staying here just to watch me is no-“ The vine slid back into place, a frustrated groan escaping the prey. 
With a hint of deliberation in her eyes “sadly you do have a point petal,” The affini looked to her “so long as they are comfortable and made to relax, would it be a problem if I took them with me to watch over?” In all consideration the most serious threat to Luis’s health was himself, someone to watch over him permanently — something Ageratu was sure to do based on the restraints Luis was in at the moment — was probably optimal. 
“Sure, I don’t see why not. Just make sure he gets enough water.” Maybe she was being mean, but he had ignored her advice for long enough, that he suffer the consequences in the most delicious way was not her problem. 
Ageratu smiled, a few needle-sharp teeth showing “excellent, then let’s get going petal. I will help you up.” Luis did for once not protest any further and let Ageratu help him up from the bed. The humor of the situation dissipated quickly as Selma saw how truly fragile her friend had become. Accord station or Affini prisoners, whatever was going to happen better happen soon. On shaky legs and with affini support he did manage to get up and walk, giving her a frustrated yet genuine mumble of thanks before being whisked away. 
A couple of minutes after the pair had left, Selma stood by her desk trying to ignore the hunger. “Watch the doors, make sure I and Selma are left alone.” Duran said to someone outside before closing the door. His face was tense. “Hi doc, we two need to have a talk.” 
Selma was a bit over the energy level required for her to care about keeping a friendly demeanor. “Unless it is something serious I would rather do anything else.” Her sarcastic tone was rewarded with the lieutenant drawing his gun and pointing it firmly at her. Had he gone insane? “Okay, fuck, we can talk…just put that gun away before something bad happens.” 
Duran sat down and with a gesture of his gun made her do the same. “I really regret having to do it this way, but I can’t be too careful right now. Before we get down to brass tax, answer me this: Is Jovarian pox real?” Her long second of hesitation lost her the chance at a bluff, the bitter realization forming in Duran’s eyes. “You knew?”
The gun was not pointed at her any longer, but she could still feel uncomfortable sweat running down her neck. “Yes, and I trust Luis had a good reason to lie.” It still stung, why hadn’t he told her?....maybe because of exactly a scenario like this. 
“You can’t be that blind, that ain’t Luis anymore. Hell, that affini treats him like she owns him already.” The words were spoken in utter disgust “but that ain’t going to last much longer. Tomorrow morning we terrans will have control over the ship again. I’m not going to ask you to fight…” The gun was pointed towards her once more “I do need to know what side you are on.” 
Take over the ship? “I am on the side of not being a fucking idiot, what the hell are you planning to do?” 
Duran shrugged “you don’t need to know that doc, but rest assured if everything goes to plan and the plants are reasonable, no one will get hurt. So what will it be?” Several long seconds passed in utter silence. Duran was not stupid or cruel, but there was no subtlety about his desperation. A wrong lie here and yikes….Selma decided to remain silent. 
“Shame…” Duran’s shoulders lowered “I take it you will still treat any injured should that happen despite precautions.” Standing up he knocked on the door twice “I am going to have to ask you to stay here for the night, please don’t do anything stupid.” Then without anything more than a few muttered words to the two crew members that had arrived to watch over her, he left with rapid steps. 
The two watchdogs smiled apologetically, obviously uncomfortable with the entire situation. Selma watched around carefully, her heartbeat staidly raising. There had to be something she could do. 

It has been a pleasure to post here on ROM, I do very much hope that if you have enjoyed this story so far that you will continue to enjoy it over on AO3


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