She walked into the shop, the sudden chill bringing goosebumps, and she looked around excitedly. She'd never seen anything at all like this before. The counter was long, with Affini sized stools next to a few Terran sized ones. They had this red shiny covering on them that reflected the light of hanging lamps that were colored all the colors of the rainbow. The shop was cold, smelled cold, and sweet, and she excitedly ran up and jumped onto a stool. Standing on it, she found that it swiveled as she turned, and she smiled widely. Looking over the counter, she saw a Terran woman in jeans and a t-shirt standing there, a wide "shelf" letting her stand there at what was an Affini sized counter.
"Well hi there!!', she said with a laugh. "First time in an ice cream shop?" When Kitten nodded, she smiled. "Well, you picked the right place!! Welcome to the Sweet Treat!! I'm Kierstie Serona, owner and proprietor. Thirty four flavors of goodness that I change whenever I feel like it. What do you want? Flavors are listed over there behind you, dear."
Kitten turned around, reading off the eraseboard. "Very Vanilla, Choc-o-latte`, Sinfully Chocolate, Someone Make me stop putting in Chocolate”,and she turned. “Is that really a flavor?”, and then continued. “Country Roads, Strawberry fields, Florets Delight….ummm", and she turned back to Kierstie. "Ummmm..I have no idea what half of these are. Like, what does a Florets Fuzzy Perfect Peach taste like?"
"Well, that's easily fixed!! Want a tasters sampler?", Kierstie asked, waving a hand at the counter. The countertop itself was a clear material, and underneath were big tubs of ice cream, some with big scoops taken out, some with smaller scoops. Pulling out a tray that clearly had been used for this, she put small cups into the numbered holes. She opened the counter top and then looked at the Terran. If she didn't know better, they were wearing capri pants and a fitted t. But they didn’t look like…nevermind Not that it was her business, though. And these Affini could be a bit touchy about that sort of thing. So best to go by that and have done with it.
Kitten nodded and then watched as Kierstie grabbed a handful of small spoons and began to take a spoonful of each ice cream. Then she'd put it in a cup, and soon all thirty four were full. She pushed the tray to Kitten, and nodded.
"Well, let me know what you like. And for you, what do you prefer?", she asked the tall Affini who was actually wearing clothing. Another oddity, even if was only wearing a loincloth. And avidly scanning the menu.
"Thank you, dear. Can I please get the rum raisin infused icy?" Gladialis was excited, this was the first time she'd ever been here, and she was curious if it was as delicious as she hoped.
"Sure thing." She went to the side, poured a measure of fortified water into a wide "cup" that was more like a carafe, and dumped in some ice. Adding some flavorings, and a handful of finely chopped raisins, she shook it up, and poured it into a wide bowl, sliding it to the Affini. "Here you go!! Tell me if you like it." She looked over at the Terran, who was currently moaning as she licked a spoon clean. "Wow. That…umm…you really liked…", and she looked at the number. "Someone stop Me", she said nodding.
Kitten was in heaven. This tasted amazing!!! "Oh fuck me sideways and upside down", she moaned, not even noticing how a few of the Affini there turned to look at her. "Can I write that down, it was", and she opened her eyes. She saw that the closest Affini there were giving her very disapproving looks, one holding their florets ears. "What?", she asked, shrinking back as her cuffs beeped.
"Ignore them, Kitten", Gladialis said, putting her body between them and Kitten. "Nothing to see here, friends. You're just making her much more nervous." The Affini apologized, and all turned back to what they were doing, and Gladialis looked at them a moment longer, then turned to Kitten. “You ok?”, she said gently, taking a small step forward and leaning forward. Giving Kitten space, but also there and ‘present’.
“Y..yeah. Just wasn’t expecting them to all stare at me”, she said, and then shrugged. “Whatever. I…umm..it’s not, like, illegal to curse or anything. Right? I’ve heard that there were places on Terra where they…umm…censored the stuff you could say or do.”
“No, Kitten, it isn’t. But most Terrans that the Affini here interact with don’t curse much. Just not something that they’re used to. But that’s their issue, little one, not yours. You keep on being you.” She turned and took the infused water with a “thank you”, and sat down, using her body to shield Kitten a little. She sunk a vine into the water and began to drink, sighing as the flavors and the chill feeling ran through her vines, giving her core a delicious tingle that she found she quite enjoyed. Next to her, Kitten took a breath, and started trying the ice cream again. Slower, a bit quieter, a bit more subdued, which was something that Gladialis hated. She had enjoyed seeing the enthusiastic exuberance and sheer delight that was Kitten expanding her horizons. Watching Kitten experience new things was certainly becoming one of her favorite things in existence.
Kitten sat next to Gladialis, slowly eating her way through the sampler. Frowning as she got something that was tart, she shook her head and looked up. “May I have a glass of water, please?”, she asked, and took a small sip once she got it. Then finished the sampler, quietly, and then nodded. “Miss Kierstie? Can I have some more, please? Of…this one. Number 5.”
“Sure thing. Cup or a cone?”, came the laconic reply.
“Ummm…what’s the difference?”, Kitten asked, confused. Did they mean that the cup was shaped like a cone? Would it be easier to eat that way?
Kierstie looked over at the Terran, head cocked. “Hun, are you telling me you’ve never had an ice cream cone before?” When she got a headshake as her response, she blinked in amazement. “Well, we need to fix that pronto”, she said. Grabbing a large cone from a dispenser, she rolled three big scoops, tamping them down with expertise. “That’s gonna start melting pretty soon. Trick is to lick the top until it’s level with the top, and then slowly start taking little nibbles of the cone all the way around.”
Kitten took the cone in hand, and looked at it, amazed. “What's it made of?”, she asked.
“Graham cracker. Found the recipe in a digitized copy of an old cookbook, and I ran with it.” She smiled as she watched the Terran start licking at her ice cream, eyes closing with happiness. “Enjoy!” as she went to go help the next person.
Gladialis watched, her own vine slowly drinking in the cold treat, as Kitten enthusiastically licked away at her ice cream. Smearing quite a bit of it on her face and nose, Gladialis smiled as she began to crunch away at the cone. Pretty soon Kitten was done, happily smiling as she licked her fingers. “Here”, as she passed Kitten a wet napkin.
“Thanks", she said, cleaning her face. Throwing it into a waste basket, she hopped out of the chair and looked up. "So.. what now?"
"Well…we don't really have anything else planned for the day. So if you'd like, we can go to a park to relax, get to know each other. Or we could visit a museum, there's some fascinating things from other cultures to see and learn. Find some sort of arcade and play some games. Or we can just go back home, if you'd like." Gladialis shrugged. "It's all up to you."
"Ummmm…", she hummed as she thought. "Ummm…maybe a park? I need to find an old emulator, since I promised Ilex and Hesperia I'd help them."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea. The Overnet might have some resources to help you." Gladialis got up, and walked with Kitten out, and looked around. There was a sign for a park, and pointed with a vine. "Just up ahead, Kitten", Gladialis said.
The park was almost exactly like what she'd seen yesterday. Florets played or stumbled into Affini, Affini were either petting their florets or playing some other game, and the sound of happiness filled the air. Finding a spot shaded by a tree, Kitten hung back for a moment. "Ummm…Gladialis?", she said, standing in the shade. The light seemed a bit bright for some reason, and she found herself squinting. "Are you….areyousurethisisn'tanAffini?"
Gladialis smiled, and shook her head, vine 'hair' flying. All her flowers had closed in the bright light, and she relished the shade as well. "It's not one of my kin, little one."
"Oh. That's..umm…good to know." She plopped down, leaning back against the tree and then looked up and gasped. Gladialis had partially dissolved, her legs turning into a mass of vines that arched up and supported her upper half as she reclined. "Wha….your…your legs!!! What happened!!!"
"Hmm?? Oh! Kitten, Affini can shape their bodies as they wish. The more complicated, the more 'thought intensive' it is. But most of us have not been bipedal for long, many of my kin adopted these forms once we came to Terran space."
"To help make you comfortable", Gladialis said simply. "Many Terrans would be terrified if a twelve foot Myrmex arrived, saying "we come in peace." But if someone who looked slightly like you did…"
"Then we'd feel more comfortable", Kitten finished. "A bit less likely to lash out. But it didn't work, did it?"
"It did, in some ways. I don't know the actual numbers, but not even half the Terran Cosmic Navy went Feral. And many of the outer colonies joined the Compact with only a small amount of fuss." Gladialis waved a hand, and watched as Kitten looked, blinked, and then frowned.
"Sorry. It's just…umm…your..umm…the lack of legs thing. It's throwing me off."
"Sorry, Kitten. How's this?" And before Kitten could say a word, Gladialis shifted. Thicker, stronger vines held her core and upper half up while shorter vines made up 'legs'. In all, it looked like she was sitting on something. "Is that better?"
"You…umm…you didn't have to do anything just for me", Kitten said, blushing. "It…I mean, I would have adjusted."
"It's not a big deal, Kitten. And if it can make you more comfortable, then why not?", Gladialis countered, and watched Kitten struggle for words, and then shrug, deflating. She pulled out her tablet and began to type, while Gladialis did the same.
Kitten started looking on the Overnet for advice on how to make an emulation. It was surprisingly easy, the search engine almost intelligent (which it maybe was), and soon she was reading. Turns out there were some fairly intuitive programs for creating games out there, and she picked one that seemed like the best rated one. She didn't know Dawn, or what they liked, but she figured she could go with an old one. The program then informed her, after entering some information, that she'd 'need to talk to her Owner about being allowed to make this game.' She looked up in surprise. "Ummm…hey, Gl..Gladialis?"
There was no answer. Gladialis seemed intent on whatever she was reading.
"Hmm? Yes, Kitten? Sorry, I tend to get drawn into books. This is a Terran classic, a play called Julius Caesar by someone named William Shakespeare. A warrior poet, if it is believed by his surname. Interesting. I believe it was translated into Affini by a floret named Mats Syringa. But reading it in the original language is more interesting. Now…what did you need, little one?"
"I'm trying to put information about this game, and it's telling me I need my owners permission? What the hell? I don't have an owner?", she complained, waving a hand.
"Oh. Did you say you were making it for a floret? And is there violence? Because then the program makes you get your owner's permission, since many florets can be triggered by that sort of thing."
"Oh. Well….yea. Doomslayer: The HellKnight Returns might be a bit much. Ok….lets make something different." Gladialis gave a look at the title, but she nodded to herself. The game she had in mind, and began to put into the program, was a great deal simpler. As she gave the details, she remembered hours of playing this at home. Smiling, she began to give details, the AI helping fill in gaps. It was a fairly simplistic game, but she didn’t know what Dawn liked. She completely lost track of time, and when she looked up, the time on the tablet told her it was more than three hours since she started. But the game was done. Now she just needed to put it onto a cartridge, and then somehow get it Hesperia or Ilex.
She stood up and cracked her elbows with a sigh of relief. She saw some more Terrans starting a tug of war that quickly devolved into what looked like a cuddle puddle, giggles and happy moans filling the air. At least one had cat ears, and Kitten realized it was one of those body mods Gladialis had mentioned. 'Huh. She wasn't kidding. Doesn't look like a headband, with all that wiggling.' She stretched again, and then looked at Gladialis, who was in the exact same position Kitten remembered her being in. 'Does she always do this? Get lost in her books?', she wondered. Remembering how Gladialis had flailed and squealed when she'd bothered her before, she paused, and thought. Trying to figure out the best way to get the Affinis attention without giving her a heart attack. If the Affini even had hearts, which she didn't know.
There was no answer.
"Hey, Gladialis?? Wake up, Gladialis", she whispered, and then repeated it a bit louder.
Again, there was no answer.
She huffed, and took her tablet, holding it gingerly by one end. "Gladialis!!", she said, poking Gladialis in the 'knee' with the other end. Gladialis gave a small "hmm?", but didn't really look up. Kitten sighed. "GLADIALIS!!", she whisper-shouted, poking a bit harder. Gladialis squeaked and jolted up and off the ground then came back down, landing on her 'ass'. At which point Kitten started laughing, because the look on her face was hysterical.
"Dirt!! How…Kitten…", Gladialis said, looking around. "What….", and then looked down. "Oh….i'm sorry, little one. I didn't mean to ignore you."
"I know. I just did the same thing, but with a game. Don't worry about it. Ummm..question. I finished the game, but how do I get a hold of Hesperia or Ilex?"
"Oh. Just look them up on your tablet, under the Intranet Directory. Can I show you how, Kitten?"
"Ummm…sure." She handed her tablet over, and Gladialis beckoned her over. "So…you go to the message app, and then click this little tab here", she said, and a new search bar showed up. "Now, you're looking for an Affini, so click here, and type in their name." Kitten watched as Gladialis typed in Hesperias name, and then clicked on the icon next to it. A chat window opened up, and Gladialis handed it back, noticing that while Kitten stood a bit closer, she was also very careful to leave space between them.
"Thanks, Gladialis", Kitten said, and started typing after she'd retreated back to the shade. Her head was starting to hurt, and she was trying not to show that she was in pain. The shade made it a tiny bit better, which made her wonder if it was the 'sunlight'.
<Hex> Hello, LostKitten. I hope you get found soon, little cutie.
[LostKitten]: No, it's..umm…It's Kitten. You remember, from the hospital?
<Hex> Of course!! Of course I remember a cutie like you. How are you? How are you liking staying with Gladialis, little one?
[LostKitten]: She's pretty cool, I guess. Ummmm, you remember when you asked for help with old console games?
<Hex> I do, little one. It WAS only yesterday, after all.
[LostKitten] Well, I..umm…I have a game for you. For your coylet..umm.…for Dawn.
<Hex> What??!! You do?? Already?? That's fast, Kitten. I hope it wasn't too much trouble.
[LostKitten] Not at all. This was one of the simplest and most non-violent games I know. The…umm..the program I was using kept asking me for my…umm…my owners permission when I started making Doomslayer: The HellKnight Returns. So I went with something a bit simpler, but it still needs to be loaded into a cartridge.
<Hex> Thank you so much, Kitten!! Squeeze my vines, but that's impressive!! Can you send it to me?
[LostKitten] Sure thing. Umm…What’s the maximum file size I can send?
[LostKitten] That's…that's not an answer.
<Hex> Yes, it is.
Kitten frowned, but fumbled for a moment, looking around and then figured out how to send the file. A little flower folded up its petals and zoomed off the screen. Kitten assumed that meant it was sent. A return message a moment later confirmed it.
<Hex> Thank you, Kitten!! I don't think Dawn has played this one ever. And such an interesting title. The Pack-Man. I'll get it loaded onto a cartridge at once. Thank you, little one. Ilex and I appreciate it. Extra hugs when we see you next, if you let.
[LostKitten] No worries.
She sat back, blinking. The light was different now, it seemed to be coming from a different angle, behind her. And now that the light had changed, it wasn't so terribly bright, she could see a bit easier. Maybe this light was different from what she was used to? Or maybe it was just too bright? She wasn't sure, but she'd message Dr. Manku later. Sitting back down, she rested against the tree, and looked at Gladialis, who was gazing at her. "What?", she asked, curious.
"Nothing, Kitten. Ready to go back? Get an early night?", Gladialis asked. "Or would you like to stay longer?"
"Ummm…It's a bit more comfortable now, I think I'd…I'd like to stay a bit longer, if that's not a problem."
Gladialis smiled. "Of course it's not a problem!! Take as much time as you need, Kitten." She shifted, smiling at the Terran, and then extended a hand. "Do you need more water, or something to eat?"
Kitten shook her head. "No, I'm good. I'm just gonna read for a bit longer." She punctuated her statement by sitting back down and picking up her tablet. She tapped, and brought up the information on xenodrugs. Looking at the table of contents, it appeared to be all alphabetically numbered. Clicking on 'Class-A', she began to read.