Kazia awakens to the sound of conversation. Through half closed and blurry eyes, she can vaguely see a… Terran, leaning against an affini. Stars. It hadn’t been a nightmare, then. The Cyllenean Dream had been lost, and she and her crewmates had been captured.
She’s sitting in some sort of soft chair, and can feel vines holding her to it. She tries to move, but barely manages to roll her head. Both of her arms are held securely, and there’s a dull throbbing in her left, where her prosthesis connects to the remainder of her arm. The affini takes notice of her movement, and steps over towards her.
“Hello, Kazia”. That voice, she recognizes that voice. Why would she recognize an affini voice? It sounds tired, exasperated, but still with a certain melody to it.
“I thought I’d never see you again, terran. After you escaped.” Escaped? Wait. is this affini — Her eyes bolt open in renewed panic, and she gasps as her vision resolves. The sheer adrenaline coursing through her veins almost enough to counteract whichever sedative she’d been given. Almost.
With a raspy voice, hoping against hope that she won’t find the answer she’s fearing, she asks, “A-Akash???” The human in the background shivers uneasily.
“I’m as surprised as you are, pet.” The last word hit her like a goliath class cruiser crashing into realspace. This was it. It’s all over. Getting rescued from a shuttle was one thing, but there’s no chance in the void of her being saved now. Not from an affini command ship. Not from the owner she’d eluded once, 3 and a half years ago.
“A-Akash…” she says, still processing the concept in her head.
Akash grins coldly down at her, sighing. “My name is Akash Nele, Third Bloom; you will know me as your owner, protector, guardian, and mistress.” What she had said felt almost rote to Kazia, empty, in a way. And wait, third bloom? Wouldn’t that mean —
The affini gestures towards the other human. She’s clinging to Akash’s side and wearing a loose dress and a perplexed expression on her face. “And this is my darling second floret, Elvira Nele. Your connivent.” Akash slides a hand down the back of Elvira’s head, and the girl wobbles in clearly evident bliss.
Shivering in terror, Kazia recoils as much as she could in her bound state. She’d watched plenty of Affini Compact propaganda broadcasts featuring their ‘florets’, of course, but seeing the actual article live and in person was another thing altogether. Bearing witness to the final result of what affini training could do — what it was going to try and do to her — was too much to handle. So much, in fact, that she could only barely manage to suppress the pang of jealousy, loss, and regret lurking beneath her fear.
Of course Akash had gotten another pet. Why on Terra would she have waited for me, after I left. She bites the inside of her mouth. More like a gentle nibble, in her current state, but still enough to dispel these unbidden thoughts.
This was absurd. She isn’t feeling jealous of some doped up pet! Her time on the Cyllenean Dream had made sure she could never, ever, let herself feel like that. It’s probably just whatever drugs Akash is pumping through her. Yeah, that sounds likely.
Elvira glances up at her owner cautiously, and upon seeing a small nod and smile, approaches the bound human. She tentatively reaches a hand out toward Kazia in halting movements. “H-hi!” she says, placing her hand on top of Kazia’s. It’s so soft. Impossibly so. It’s just there for a moment, but already Kazia dislikes this girl.
She’s clearly been entirely subverted by the plants. A sign of a weak will if there ever was one. She spits at her. Mostly just drools down her face, really. A small droplet of saliva escapes her mouth but is blocked by a vine from even getting near Elvira. Akash pulls the human up and into the safety of her embrace.
“Don’t worry, love. She’s just scared.” Akash glares down at Kazia and the bound human can’t help but tremble. “She’ll feel better once she gets her haustoric implant.”
Kazia had heard about the implant. Akash had mentioned it a few times in passing after her initial capture. And she’d read more since. Some sort of infernal planttech augment developed by the affini. Apparently for all their ‘pets’. People said that it could even control your thoughts. Make you think you wanted something that just a moment ago you were diametrically opposed to. This on top of filling you with more xenodrugs than you could even imagine.
She grit her teeth. She’s got to think of a plan! There must be something!
“Speaking of…” Akash kneels down in front of Kazia, bringing her head to only a foot or so above the girl’s. “I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that I’ve been able to schedule your implantation surgery for tomorrow. Given you’ve proven yourself a flight risk, after all.” The plant’s eyes glint with menace.
Akash continues speaking, but Kazia isn’t listening now. A day. A single starsdamn day till they cut her open and shove planttech inside her. She has to think fast. Not that thinking at all seems to be very easy, at the moment.
Her head lolls to the side as her eyes defocus. Distantly, she notices Akash has stopped monologuing, and begun softly prodding her face with a vine. She feels numbness spreading throughout her body. More from the dread that this is her life now, beyond just simple pharmaceutical effect.
As her vision blurs out into nothingness, the last thing she hears is Akash’s disinterested remark. “Hm. Perhaps that was too much sedative…”
Kazia regains awareness to the sensation of vines probing her body as a pair of shears cut off the remains of her combat suit. She groans. Through still bleary eyes she can see Akash has noticed her waking. She wishes the plant hadn’t as another wave of miserable terror washes over her.
“Back so soon, dear? You needn’t worry about your suit, you’ll soon be wearing much more comfortable clothes.” Internally, Kazia agrees that her outfit really is the least of her worries. She strains against her bonds again, but finds no purchase.
The plant’s pet, Elvira, was curled under a blanket on a couch, distantly flicking through something on a tablet. She looked content, if dazed, and a little bored.
As the shears reach her left arm, and slice off the remains of her undersuit down past the gloves, she winces. Her prosthesis had been damaged. Likely when that other affini had torn the gun from her grip. Whatever the case was, her arm stung something fierce whenever the shears slid over the connection point halfway down her upper arm.
Akash’s leaves ruffle up as she pulls the last bit of the fabric away from the human’s body. In a moment, the plant’s hands and vines are all over her robotic arm. Probing, feeling. Kazia gasps as a wave of nauseating pain overcomes her.
“Kazia, dear, what in stars happened to —” Akash cuts herself off, leaves flattening back down to neutral. “See, this is the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from ferals.” her tone had shifted considerably, far less worry and far more righteous frustration. “To think this is the best your ‘free terrans’ could accomplish. Pathetic. I’ll add a prosthetic to your medical order, alongside your implant.”
For her part, Kazia is still reeling from the agony of her arm’s malfunctioning connection. “I-it hurts…,”, she manages to gasp.
“Of course it does. The terran’s sad excuse for technology is hardly fit for replacement limbs. Hold still, I’ll alleviate that pain.” Kazia’s view snaps to her limb’s connection, only to see to her horror that numerous thin roots were already slithering their way inside. She hears a few swift clicks and snaps, and the agony falls away. And so does her arm, landing on the floor of the hab unit with a loud clunk.
She stammers “Y-you c-can’t! I need —”. A vine pushes her jaw shut abruptly.
“Oh, I very much can, dear. You belong to me, and I will not have my possessions suffer unduly.” Akash’s voice had softened as she’d finished that sentence, but only slightly.
Kazia tries to say something in response, but with her jaw still held firmly shut she does little except mumble incoherently. Some of Akash’s vines pick her now detached limb up off the floor, and examine it briefly before tossing it haphazardly into what appeared to be a waste disposal bin.
Helpless tears fill Kazia’s eyes. Akash has already taken her arm, and her mind is apparently soon next. She needs to think of some way to escape this. Stars know what this affini has in store for her next.
Three and a half years ago, when she’d first been delivered to Akash, she had been so frightened, just like this. She couldn’t stop herself from sobbing from the moment she regained consciousness on the bed in the shuttle.
Akash has been so gentle then. Releasing her bonds as soon as she’d promised to behave. Giving her some of the best food she’d ever tasted while sitting a safe distance away. And only after did she fill her lungs with some calming xenodrug.
Of course, she tells herself, that was all part of their scheme. The affini would act ‘kind’ and accommodating, up till the point you’d test their patience just a bit too much. Then they’d just inject you with so many of their damned drugs that you’d not remember your own name. Left as little more than a brainwashed puppet for them to use in propaganda.
She realizes she’s dazed off again. Silently cursing, she focuses herself back to the room again. Akash and Elvira are still there, and Akash is saying something. Something at her?
“Last chance, terran. Open your mouth now.” The affini doesn’t wait for Kazia’s response. Dozens of tiny yet impossibly strong roots worm their way into the human’s mouth, prying it open with ease. She tries to bite down and sever them, but just manages to twitch uselessly instead.
With a bright light in one vine, and another set of fine roots, Akash begins to probe Kazia’s mouth. A finger lifts up her lips, exposing her teeth to the light. “I suppose it makes sense that without affini guidance you can’t even handle your own dental hygiene.” Kazia wasn’t sure if that was a rhetorical ‘you’ or not, and was similarly unsure which was worse.
A thicker vine winds its way into the human’s mouth as she whimpers. It separates itself into progressively smaller vines, running themselves all along the inside of Kazia’s mouth. She nearly gags, but the vines are careful to avoid moving too deeply.
“I’ll add a dental checkup to your medical order too.” Akash sighs, withdrawing the vines all at once. Kazia sputters, coughing as her face burns with humiliation.
The affini taps something on her tablet, and the vines holding Kazia down withdraw in an instant. Timidly and clumsily, Kazia tries to rub her wrists, only to be confronted with the fact that she currently only has the one arm. Instead, she holds her right hand close to her now naked chest.
Akash takes hold of Kazia’s hand, pulling her up and out of the chair onto uncertain legs. Before she’s had a chance to object, a loose companion gown is draped over her. The empty left sleeve is a stark reminder of what the affini can, have, and will take from her.
“I have business to attend to. You may move about the hab unit as you wish, but behave.” Akash demands, guiding Kazia firmly onto the couch near Elvira.
She leans down to her other pet, stealing her attention away from the tablet effortlessly. The way Elvira stares so longingly, lovingly, passively, into Akash’s eyes is enough to make Kazia shiver.
Akash strokes Elvira’s hair tenderly. “Darling, I’m going to have to go for a few hours. The sedatives I’ve given Kazia should be more than sufficient to keep her behaved, but if she does act out, you know how to contact me.” The affini kisses her on the forehead, eliciting a cascade of giggles from the girl.
“Yes Mistress! I’ll miss you!!” A vine pats the girl on the head as Akash steps out of the hab unit, door sliding silently shut behind her.
Kazia knows she only has so long before her owner returns, so she gets to work. She has to find a way out. Her pride as a terran, her mind, her independence, all count on it.