The Affini warship Baeira hung in the sky like a giant flower that some deity had decided to plant in the sky so all could delight in its beauty. Its petals open, those on the ground could see what looked like streamers of light, all streaking towards the flower. For those who were able to see a bit closer, they could see gossamer threads reaching out, connecting flower to the little points of light. The small planet below was a shining beauty, one large population center that shone brightly in the night. The rest of the world was covered in forests, fields of grain, and oceans teeming with fish.
For those in space, or with the right optics, it was a very different picture. The gossamer threads were actually vines, hundreds of them, each one twenty five to thirty feet in diameter. The points of light were actually Terran vessels, but not from the Terran Accord. They hailed from dozens of local pirate fleets. The vines that had tips harder than ferrocrete and designed to pierce armor plated hulls while preventing atmospheric blowouts were just the beginning. Each one was hollow, Affini lined up inside each one, ready to spring forth like seeds from a squeezed pod. They were primed and ready to pacify the warlike sophonts before them, to bring an end to their days of harming others. To help them become the best version of themselves they could be, regardless if they wanted it or not.
On the surface far below, Affini vessels landed gracefully, the large plant-like aliens coming out, quelling all resistance gently. And they were horrified at what they found once their objective was achieved. Pens full of other Terrans, naked and beaten, hundreds of them. Stakes and gibbets, stocks and cages, all sadly occupied. Cruel weapons and objects of torture randomly strewn around. Vines quivering in sadness and distress, they tended to the wounded as best as they could. Many bore the marks of ill use, and the Affini quickly comforted them, xenodrugs liberally applied to ease pain and distress as they were placed on medical transport ships. The most severe were slipped carefully into stasis pods to preserve their lives until they could be treated.
Teams of Affini doctors along with Terran counterparts had stood ready, but they had never expected anything like this. Hardened nurses, sadly familiar with the worst that war and humanity had to offer, stood in corners and stairwells after their shifts were over, talking with crisis counselors or crying with coworkers. Some were tightly held by their owners, xenodrugs given as they slowly calmed, painful memories mitigated by their caring and doting Affini until they could safely process the trauma. Some of those same Affini went home and hugged their florets, doting extra hard on them, or spent the night at a Class-J cafe. The caretakers had heard about what they'd found, and readily allowed them to spend the night surrounded by sleepy and loving pets. Those pets could sense that there was something troubling these Affini, and they played with them extra hard, nuzzling them and begging for tummy rubs and treats, allowing the Affini to care for them. Symbiosis at its finest, caring for and being cared for in turn.
Earlier, the battles to retake the buildings were far simpler. The nanoswarms that had been deployed before the first Affini had set vine upon the planets surface had destroyed every firearm, rendered the napalm and fuel mixtures inactive, and had even detoxified the acid sprayers. The battle was less battle, and more scores of weapon-wielding Terrans charging into the Affini forces and being subdued moments later. Darts and clouds of Class-Z gas filled the air, and some Affini merely used their potent stare to mesmerize the Terran sophonts. Then it was simply a matter of going building to building and collecting the sleeping cuties.
Some of them had realized that the pink sparkly swirly gas was not their friend, and so they'd donned gas masks, space suits, and other forms of containment accouterments. They'd hunkered down in the buildings, thinking that the smaller size of the buildings would work in their favor. And then, armed with weapons that would have appeared in some thirteenth century army, they'd attacked the Affini who'd been going building to building. But their plans had backfired, since Affini weren't stuck with rigid endoskeletons like Terrans were. Their vines had contracted, easily allowing them to walk the halls, and soon they were passing the sleeping or unconscious Terrans to other Affini outside to be processed for Domestication.
One such Affini, Januasai Etheri, Second Bloom, paused outside what looked some imposing building. Or it had in the past. It was covered in graffiti, skulls, and filth. She looked closer and saw that there were words in a decorative script on a cornerstone. "This stone was placed to commemorate the birth of Freedoms Blessing, 2425." And on top of it, in some crude paint declared that this place was now called "Slavers Cove, established 2427". "Not anymore," she swore, a flicker of light running over her vines in her agitation. Pulling out the motion tracker, she looked at it, and then nodded.
Making sure that she had a full complement of darts and gas, she stepped into the building. "This is Januasai Etheri, Second Bloom. I seem to be in some sort of…it looks like a former administrative center. I'll need transport to my location, I count at least nine sophonts that will need transport,” she said into her communicator.
“Understood, Etheri. Be careful, radio if you need backup,” the dispatcher from the Baiera said.
She nodded, and put the communicator away, and then looked up. Deciding to play it smart, she went outside and effortlessly climbed the building, her vines reaching out and securing handholds and lifting her up. In a matter of moments, she was atop the three story building, and slipping into what looked like it had been an office.
It was a disaster. Moldering papers lay everywhere, the windows having been broken some time ago, exposing the building to the elements. Mushrooms grew on the carpet, and Januasai could hear the squeaking of mice and other rodents in some of the other rooms. Taking a second to look at her tracker, she was happy to see that none of the life signs that she could see had moved. She tried to keep her steps as quiet as possible, and even managed to clear the top floor without attracting too much attention. She was helped by the yelling that was coming from the street.
But she was spotted on the second floor, cries of alarm from a Terran armed with some sort of club with jagged edges on it. She sidestepped his clumsy swing, jabbed him in the neck with a vine tipped with a stinger loaded with class Z’s. He was asleep before her fines lowered him to the ground. 8 to go. Well, no point in hiding now. “Little Terrans!!! Come out and Pllllaayyayyyy!!!!” she called out. She was rewarded as three more charged her, attempting to overwhelm her with numbers. Grinning, she lifted one with some vines, stinging him and putting him to sleep seven while a hand caught the warhammer that the large woman was wielding. Twisting it to the side, she grinned and a flower bloomed in her forearm, darted a needle into the womans bicep, six and then her other hand caught her as she buckled.
“Go..ddamn….weeeeeee,” she moaned as she went to sleep.
“Of course. Although, interestingly enough, my progenitor is technically a weed, so you’re not completely wrong,” she said politely to the third Terran who was backing away. “Now…are you going to come along nicely? Or am I going to have the fun of chasing you?” she asked with a smile. The Terran dropped their weapon and turned to run. She let them get three steps away before she hit them with a dart and watched as they sagged to the ground. Five. She grinned and began to sing as she walked, a sweet song about precious little caterpillars who would sleep and wake as beautiful butterflies.
She didn't stop singing even as another Terran jumped out of a doorway, swinging an ax at her head. She ducked, having anticipated the swing, as her arms bent backwards and grabbed the Terran. A puff of Class-Z's and he was lying there, snoring. Four. She thought, then went back and got the other sleeping Terrans, hauling them back to the last. And she found another Terran trying to wake the first, calling their name in a hushed yell. They quickly joined him in slumber. Three.
"Hmmmm…three more Terrans for me to find," she said loudly as she took all five Terrans to the ground floor. Gently laying them down, she cooed as one slept but snuggled closer to their friend. "Awwwww, maybe you'll be florets pinnate," she said, and then kept hunting. She found the third crouched in a closet, a knife taped to a stick, the door cracked open enough so he could see her. And she could see him. She smiled at him, even as a vine circled around and behind him. A puff of Class-Z's under the door presaged a thump. She opened the door and grinned. "Time to come out of the closet, dear!!" she called out, and gently lifted him up. Wincing at the smell, she put him down with the others. Two.
The other two were even easier. She turned, hearing a noise and saw them both trying to flee. Following them, she let them make it off the steps and onto the grass before she hurled two darts. The hair-fine needles were hurled with the pinpoint accuracy she’d gained over one hundred Terran years, and each was coated in the potent neurotoxin she and her progenitors produced. Designed to stop all conscious muscle activity but keep heart and lungs going, keeping prey alive so the plants could feed longer on vital fluids before digesting the rest. Walking over, she jabbed each with the antidote, and then the Class Z's. Carrying the Terrans back to the pile, she made sure they were all comfy.
Waiting for the pickup, she frowned as something alerted her, a buzzing in her vines. Fishing out the motion tracker, she looked. There was a new contact….moving fast, and straight for her.