Januasai watched as Amee slept, her mouth open in the most adorable way. She wondered what she dreamed of. Did she dream of the sunlit lands, grass and trees? Or was her world this dark place, and she dreamed of food and new places to explore? New things to see? She caught herself thinking of ways that she could turn her hab into something that could provide Amee with enrichment and then shook herself. Amee was NOT her floret. Yet. She hadn’t filed any forms or paperwork… but who else could? Who else… No. She was here first. She had a bond with Amee. Amee trusted her. Amee WOULD be her floret, and that was the end of it. Even if she had to fill out paperwork for a year, she’d do it. She’d spend the rest of this bloom and the next taking care of Amee. Being a positive influence in her life and helping her be the best she could be, helping her heal. Caring for her and adoring her.
The Amee had no idea any of these things were taking place. Waking from a Good Sleep Time, it looked up at The Jane, having heard it move and rustle. Rolling to its feet, The Amee looked up, shaking The Treasure, and then fussed, unable to make it give wet. The Jane clicked something, The Amee looking up at the sound before it was even finished being made, and then The Jane took The Treasure. The Jane did The Thing and The Amee was able to get The Wet!! Drinking The Wet and hooting as The Amee was covered in The Wet, The Amee went to The Empty Place and made its wet, and then decided to hunt. But first it went to The Broken Pipe Place and had the wet that was there, The Jane making noise the whole time. It began to creep quietly through The Place, and soon had The Not Moving food. Sharing some with The Jane, The Amee ate and tried to get more wet. The Treasure had no more wet. Putting it down, The Amee tossed The Crunchy Stuff to the side and then got up. It wanted to see The Nice Glowey Stuff, and it went to The Interesting Place. But before it could go down to The Interesting Place, The Jane tapped it, made The Noise, and led it to The Wet Place.
Januasai carefully checked to see if the lake shore was safe, and then began to fill up Amee’s canteen while taking a nice long drink herself. ‘Maybe a second canteen’, she mused, so Amee could stop drinking from that puddle on the floor. ‘Fur plus vines, sap could keep it waterproof…but how to keep her from eating it first?’ And now she knew where the bones in the hallway had come from. Amee’s whimper made her look up, and she quickly retreated with Amee back to the tunnel as the massive predator breached the water’s surface again. It didn’t come onto the shore, but swam in a long, lazy circle before submerging again. “Here there be monsters”, she whispered. She was going to have to do something about that if they were down here too long. By her tablet’s estimation, they had been down here for a day and a half already. But time moved differently, or at least it seemed to since there was no way to determine what time it was. ‘And here I’m making plans as if we’re going to be down here for months.’ She wondered if Amee even had a way of gauging time, or if there was some arbitrary method she used. Or even understood the concept of time, which she strongly doubted. Her little sophont seemed to exist on the most feral level, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired. She tried to contact the ship, anyone on her contacts list, anyone. No such luck. She considered taking Amee back to where she entered the complex, but remembered that the keypad had been destroyed. And electrical engineering was NOT her forte.
The Amee watched as The Jane made more of the noises. The Amee had no idea what The Jane was doing, but The Jane had put more wet in The Treasure. The Jane was a good The Jane. The Amee pawed at itself, eating The Glowey Stuff that was on it as it watched. The Jane made some more noises and then began to walk towards The Interesting Place. The Amee followed then moved ahead, looking through and moving down The Bright Place when The Jane clicked. The Amee looked over to see that The Jane was moving further away, and The Amee ran after it to see where The Jane was going. The Jane stopped at The Interesting Place, and made The Thing appear. Amee rested on its haunches as it watched The Jane walk in.
The room was labeled “Hydroponics Garden A, Level 1”, and as Januasai walked in, she saw that it had been nearly operational. It was a huge room, easily twenty five meters to a side. Long tables with deep wells, spigots and tubes abounded, and there was a room in the back that had giant buckets of chemicals, their labels now faded or corroded. There were a large number of seed packets in what had once been neatly labeled cabinets that Januasai found, and she took those, secreting them into her vines. Who knows, maybe something would grow. Maybe in the dirt of that little chamber she saw. Maybe. She doubted it, but still, she hoped. She knew with certainty that the Gardeners aboard the Bairea would be able to grow them successfully, and she was curious to see what they were. What sort of plants a Terran obsessed with survival would value. Would they be nutritional, medicinal, some mixture of both, she wondered. She turned around looking for Amee, had to search, and found her crouched on top of one of the cabinets, nearly invisible in the dark. Watching her. She smiled at the little Terran. “Amee, why don’t you come down from there before you get hurt?”, she asked, wondering how Amee had gotten up there without making noise in the first place.
The Amee sat on The Tall Place, watching as The Jane looked around The Interesting Place. It didn’t understand what The Jane was looking at, but The Jane made a lot of noises. They seemed to be important noises, because The Jane made them all the time. None of which The Amee understood, but that didn’t matter. The Jane was a good The Jane. The Jane made sounds and moved, The Amee watching. When The Jane moved towards it and lifted The Rope-Things, The Amee cocked its head, not understanding.
Amee squealed and fussed when Januasai lifted her off the cabinet and put her on the ground. “Let’s explore a little more, little one”, she said in melodic tones. Amee stared at her for a second, and then another one. Januasai smiled and began pointing to the door, Amee looking at the door, at her, then back at the door. Putting a hand on her shoulder, Januasai gently steered her towards the door. A rustling behind her had Amee peering behind her and squirming to get around her. “Just wait a bit, Amee. You’ll be able to hunt later, ok?” Gently chivvying her to the door, Januasai led her across the hall. “Dry Goods Dispensary A, Level 1”, Januasai read off from the plaque on the wall. The door was partially open, which in and of itself did not bode well. “I have a suspicion, Amee, that this is also going to be full of nothing but dust and rodent leavings. BUT…we should take a look anyways, yes?”, she said.
There was no answer.
“Well, if I'm right, then this will be a good hunting ground for you and you’ll be able to have something to eat”, Januasai said as she shouldered the metal door aside with a small screech. Amee was first in the room, sneaking under her vines and running in. Januasai was happy to find that she was wrong. Rusted metal shelves had once stood in neat and orderly rows in the long room. Many had collapsed, but some were still extant. More than a few metal crates lay on the ground, and the chittering of rodents was fairly loud. Lichen hung from the walls and on the ceiling, casting their glow upon the room, and coils of what looked like plastic coated rope or wire hung on the walls. A short squeak and a crunch signaled Amees successful hunt, and Januasai smiled widely as her little sophont came back holding her meal. “Good job!!! Good girl!!!”, she exclaimed, and then took the piece that Amee handed her. While normally she wouldn’t allow sophonts to harm another living creature, this was clearly a different case. Amee had no other food source, and even with the arrival of Januasai, that situation hadn’t changed. Giving the Terran girl some careful headpats, she was pleasantly surprised when Amee allowed that.
The Jane was making sounds again. The Amee didn’t understand them, but The Jane was a good The Jane. It looked around while eating The Not Moving Food, seeing The Hurtey Thing and The Climbing Thing. It could hear The Moving Food as it ran away, and then The Jane did a Thing. It pressed on The Amee's head, softly, patting. The Amee stared at The Jane. The Amee patted The Jane back, and then considered. It patted The Jane to say that it was a good The Jane. Was The Jane trying to tell The Amee that it was a good The Amee? Another rustle in The Thing took its attention, the thought with it, and after another successful hunt, The Amee brought back The Not Moving Food for The Jane. The Amee had never seen it hunt before, and The Amee wondered how it hunted. The Amee wondered what The Jane had eaten before it was in The Place, then the thought disappeared. There was only The Place. Bad Sleep Time was the thought of anything else.
Unaware of the ruminations of her little Terran friend, Januasai ate as she looked around, and then smiled. Pulling a small cube from a shelf, she tossed it in the air, and then caught it. “Amee, here”, as she tossed the Companion Cube to the little Terran. She’d seen those games, had enjoyed the puzzle solving aspect, even if GLADOS was a snarky bitch. Amee reacted faster than she thought, a hand that had been licked clean of blood snatching the cube from the air. Now that she took a closer look, she noticed that Amee’s forearms and claws were a ruddy color, almost like they were permanently stained. "You just need a good washing with some soap." Then Januasai had to rush over and save the cube as Amee tried to eat it. “No no no, darling. It works like this”, as she bounced it on the floor. Whatever super-durable material it was made off, the cube bounced, made a sproing! noise and then continued bouncing up and down. Amee watched it bounce, body coiled like some spring ready to pounce, and then it bounced in a different direction. Amee was on it in a blink, snatching it and holding it. Januasai could see that the cube had changed, that some of the angles were different. Allowing it to change directions, giving it a new spin with each impact.
The Amee held The Treasure close, staring in wonder. It had done The Thing!! The Amee ran back and handed it to The Jane. The Jane made The Treasure do The Thing again and The Amee hooted with happy as it pounced. The Amee grabbed The Treasure, shaking it as it made noise and The Amee squealed, and gave it back to The Jane.
"Well, I think we found a new game for you, Amee", Januasai said as she bounced the Cube off the wall. Amee chased it, squealing with delight as it changed direction. As Januasai watched, she made a running grab, her hand almost a blur as she grabbed it. "Well, now we know how you can catch food", she said. Looking around the room, she started to explore a bit further. Carefully making sure that the points and edges were broken off or bent so Amee couldn't get hurt, she made her way through the cavernous room. There were signs that had been installed on the ceiling indicating the different sections, and which goods where stored there.
The Amee watched as The Jane walked further into The Interesting Place. There was The Interesting Thing to see, and it tried to climb on The Climbing Thing to see The Interesting Thing. The Jane made sounds again as The Amee climbed. It didn't see The Interesting Thing, so it climbed higher. The Jane made noises, but The Amee was focused on The Interesting Thing. Then the Climbing thing shook, and began to fall. The Amee jumped, and saw that it would land on The Hurtey Things. But it jerked to a stop as the Rope Things came and grabbed it, holding it. The Jane made more noises, holding it, The Rope Things touching it all over, and then put it down. The Amee made sure that The Treasure was with it, hooting as it found it, and then watched as The Jane turned. It blinked, and then saw The Interesting Thing.
Januasai breathed a sigh of relief. She’d been lucky that she’d heard the shelves begin to give way under Amee’s weight, turning and grabbing to where she thought Amee would be. And she’d been right, catching the little sophont. And she’d felt good, felt right in her vines as she’d held her. Well, there would be time for that later. Putting her down, Januasai had explained that she couldn’t be climbing on things without making sure that they were stable. She then turned away for a second, making sure that some of her “eyes” were still on Amee. And sure enough, a few seconds after she finished talking, Amee was running for another set of shelves. “Amee!!!”, she said loudly and watched as Amee ignored her. “Amee!!!”, she said again, and took a step. Reaching out, she caught Amee just as she began climbing, the metal already squealing in protest, and then Amee was squealing in protest, trying to claw her. “Hey, relax”, she said in a soft tone, but Amee kept fussing. “Look, cutie”, she said as she lifted Amee up. “I just didn’t want you to fall.”
And the fussing stopped.
The Amee fought as The Rope Things lifted it up, taking it from The Interesting Thing. But then it saw that The Rope Things were coming from The Jane, and the Jane was a good The Jane. The Jane lifted to see The Interesting Thing!!! It was a good The Jane, and as The Amee looked, The Jane took The Interesting Thing and handed it to it. It was The Interesting Thing and full of The Interesting Thing!! The Amee shook The Interesting Thing and hooted as it made noise, and it did it again, blinking. It was The Noise Making Thing!!!
“Well, it looks like you found a jar of screws. Five hundred three millimeter screws, if the label is correct. Good job, little one. I’m not sure how we’ll be able to use those, but I’m sure there’s a way”, she said with a smile. “Let's just leave it here, and then we can explore a bit more, ok?”, she said, taking a hold of the jar. Amee gave it up easily enough, and patted her vines. Well. THAT was easier than she thought it was going to be, and she gave Amee some pets in return. Still holding her, Januasai looked through the room. Most of the room was shambles, but there was a doorway on the left. A swipe of the plaque next to it read “Dry Goods Dispensary B, Level 1”, but the room was empty. Completely empty, except for rodent nests and glowing lichen. “Well…at least we got to explore this, right?”, she asked.
She walked from the empty room, and called Amee’s name. Amee stayed there, looking at her, not moving. “Amee, come on. Let’s see if there’s something more interesting.” Amee merely passed some gas, and stared at her, then turned, looking at some of the debris in the room. “Amee!!”, she called one more time as she clicked, patting her thigh. And by the Everbloom, the third time was the charm. The little Terran scampered over to her, looking at her. A vine carefully looped around her waist, and held her. Januasai waited, not moving, to see how Amee would react. She had no idea what would happen if she made a leash for Amee, and now was not the time to find out. But Amee seemed to have no issues with the vine holding her, patting it a few times before holding her cube up again. Januasai smiled and tossed the cube down the hallway, letting go of Amee so she could chase it.
Amee hooted as The Jane made The Interesting Thing do The Thing and make The Sound. Chasing it, it missed as it swiped once, The Interesting Thing running a different way. The Amee squealed, enjoying the new chase and it leapt onto The Interesting Thing, rolling over as it held The Interesting Thing. Giving it a little bite, it looked up as The Jane said its name, and it blinked, unsure of what The Jane wanted. The Jane held out a Rope Thing so The Amee put The Interesting Thing into The Jane’s Rope-Thing. Then The Interesting Thing jumped off The Rope-Thing, bouncing all over and The Amee pounced again, catching The Interesting Thing in one swipe.
As Amee played, Januasai found the next doorway. It was at the end of the hall, elaborately decorated, ostentatious and obviously leading somewhere important. And to make matters more interesting, there was no door handle or knob. An open stairwell to the left of where she was standing was full of rubble, packed so tightly that there was no way to empty it. Januasai wondered if that was the way that Amee had entered the bunker, and couldn’t get out since the stairwell was blocked. She looked over at the naked little sophont who was currently squatting, looking at her. Well, she wasn’t going to get an answer there. Wiping off the plaque by the door, Januasai grinned widely, making a happy sound and brightening for a moment before she darkened her glow so it wouldn’t bother Amee. “Well, cutie, hopefully this has an answer or five”, Januasai said, as they stood in front of the Administrator's office.