Kitten stepped out of the shop and put her glasses on, squinting as the bright light hit her eyes. Darkening them until she could relax, she looked up as Gladialis stood next to her, typing on her tablet. She blinked and waited until Gladialis finished typing. “So…lunch?”
Gladialis nodded. “So…sushi, or pizza. Take your pick, Kitten. Sushi is fish and rice, from Japan. And you already know pizza.”
Kitten thought for a moment. “I’ve never had sushi, so..umm…can we try that?”
Gladialis grinned. “Of course we can!! The shop is actually right over there,”,,””, and she pointed. “Shall we?”, she asked, and followed Kitten to the shop. It was pretty busy, but they were able to find a table, and soon their server came over, smiling broadly at them, her movements a bit clumsy. The slight glaze to her eyes and exaggerated gestures proclaimed her floret, a stark contrast to Bjorn and his clear-headedness.
“Hi!!! How are you fine sophonts doing today?”, she asked, holding two menus in her hand.
Gladialis smiled at her. “We’re doing just fine,””, and she looked at her nametag. “Samantha,””, as she ruffled her hair with a vine. Samantha squeaked and blushed, but leaned into it, a look of bliss crossing her face. Gladialis petted her for a few more moments, and then withdrew her vine, casually slipping the menus from her hands as Samantha stood there, eyes closed for another moment. And then another moment.
Kitten blinked, and then nodded her head towards Samantha and leaned in. “Ummm, is she ok?”
Gladialis nodded, smiling. “Oh yes. She’s probably on a Class A. So her sense of touch is heightened, and she’s just enjoying the petting.”
Kitten nodded. “Yeah..I remember reading that. But for so long?”
Gladialis nodded. “Some sophonts are affected like that. It all depends on their own blend, since these things are very often made specific for each sophont. That’s all the Compact wants, is to make each and every single sophont as happy as possible, and their best self.” She passed Kitten a menu as Samantha began to blink, looking down at her hand in confusion before looking up and smiling at them as she saw the menus there.
“So…what can I getcha?”
“Well, I’ll have the infused water with miso,””, Gladialis said. “Kitten? Do you…oh. Can I help explain to you what some of these things are?”, she asked the Terran who was looking at the menu with bewildered panic in her eyes,
Kitten blushed as she looked up. “Yea…I…umm…I don’t know what most of these things are. Like, what’s nori? Or salmon? I mean, I know what a cucumber is, we grew them a couple of times at home but they never lasted long. And..umm…how am I supposed to choose if I don't know what things are? Like, what’s wasabi? Does it taste good? I can’t make the right decision if I don't know what these things are.”
Gladialis smiled and nodded. “No need to be embarrassed, nobody can know everything right away, especially if you’ve never had it. So nori is sheets of pressed and dried seaweed,””, she said, and began to explain the terms and the different things.
Kitten listened, nodding. “Well…I guess I don't want to…umm…y’know, waste food. So..umm…let’s go with simple.” She took a chance and ordered something called a california roll, a smoky alaska roll, and a spider. She knew what spiders were, and she wondered if spiders were an ingredient in sushi rolls, but was too scared to ask. Gladialis was nice and sweet like that, but what if someone else heard and laughed?
Gladialis smiled and leaned in close. “You know, Kitten, sushi is traditionally eaten cold. I think this might be the first meal where you don’t burn your tongue.”
Kitten nodded, then saw something else. “Samantha?”, she said loudly, catching her attention as she walked away, having taken their order.
“Yes, cutie?”, she said, smiling at the blushing terran. Who was beyond cute with their plushie and the capris and the look on their face. Like they didn’t want to be a bother but they were planning something. Then she leaned in as Kitten whispered something into her ear, and she nodded. “Oh, for sure I can do that, cutie!!! You just wait here!!! I’ll get it for you!!!” Impulsively she gave the terran a small hug, enjoying the feel on her skin and the hesitant but slowly more confident way that the other sophonts arms held her. Then she disengaged, her brain buzzing with happy feelings and thoughts, bouncing back to the kitchen.
Kitten smiled and thanked Samantha as she left, then giggled as Gladialis fixed her with a look. “What? I’m not…What?”, she asked, giggling and squirming as Gladialis’s look deepened. “Why are you looking at me like that?”, she said, giggling harder.
“You’re planning something. I can tell,””, Gladialis said, struggling to keep a straight face in the face of Kitten’s obvious delight. Shenanigans. Hesplex must have infected Kitten with some sort of virus that caused her to like shenanigans. That’s all it was. Tomfoolery.
“What…what do you mean?”, Kitten choked out through her giggles. Then Gladialis cocked an eyebrow at her and she began laughing even harder.
“Hmmmmmm,””, Gladialis said, lips pursed as her eyebrow arched. “I guess we’ll find out what it is that you’re….oh?”, as Samantha came back…with cups, honey, and a…and a teapot.
“Careful, cutie, it’s hot!!” Samantha warned, and then walked back to the main bar so she could get the rest of their sushi, wondering why the Terran was laughing so hard.
“You know, if you’re going to hurt yourself just to prove a point,””, Gladialis said, grinning, but slightly uncomfortable with the idea that Kitten would do that. Kitten shaking her head helped dispel some fears.
“No, I wanted something hot to begin with, but the chance to see that look on your face,””, she said, laughing. “I’ll let it cool off, I promise.” She smiled as Gladialis nodded.
Gladialis certainly had no intention of ruining the mood. But she knew that some Terrans had been domesticated for less harmful things, under the guise of ‘keeping them from harming themselves’. Not that she agreed with it, especially not when seeing how Kitten seemed to rush headlong into these new experiences, clearly not waiting. It was just who she was, it didn’t mean she was a danger to herself or anyone else. The rest of their order was brought out, and Gladialis nodded thanks to the Affini behind the counter who was using six vines to make what looked like four separate things at the same time. AND giving some pets to Samantha, who dissolved into a little puddle as they all watched, Kitten blushing. Again, Gladialis was struck with the thought that she wished she knew what Kitten was thinking. But she settled with, “Since I can assume that you’ve never used chopsticks before, I suggest you use your fingers, Kitten.” She put some soy sauce in a small bowl, and then mixed some wasabi into another bowl with soy sauce, making a slurry, before licking her vine tip clean. Kitten blushed again, her entire face red. “Kitten?? You ok?”, she said, as she pointed to each bowl and explained what they tasted like. “I’d suggest trying each, just to see what you like.”
Kitten swallowed hard, blinking. One one side was Gladialis, the other was Samantha, who was… ’No no no, not that. Stop looking at her like that, she’s your warden, she’s…she’s so nice and pure. nope. Get your mind out of the gutter. Multiplication tables….two times two is four, four times four is sixteen,’’, as she picked up a piece of the big roll. The spider one. She looked at it curiously, unrolling it to examine it. There was something green inside, soft and squishy. The flavor of that was mild, but interesting. The next was some kind of whitish and red thing. It tasted delicious. The rice was odd. Sweet but with a slightly sour undertaste. but delicious. There was some sort of vegetable cut into little stripes, crunchy and sweet. All in all, delightful as she ate them all separately. “Umm…which is the spider?”
“Spider, Kitten?”, Gladialis said, and then Samantha squealed.
“Kitten!!! Is that your name? It’s so cool!! I love it!!!”, the floret squealed and asked for a hug. Her new friend gave a nod and squeaked as Samantha gave her a big hug, enjoying the feeling again. “You give good hugs, Kitty!!!! I love your name!!!” “, she said once she could focus again. “Enjoy your food, and if you need anything, just holler.” Then she ran to get some more menus as more sophonts came into the shop.
Gladialis smiled as Kitten blushed, and she nodded. “There’s no spider inside it, Kitten. It was called that because the ingredient that you're pointing at, crab, protruded from the roll when it was initially created. It looked like the legs of a spider, so the name stuck.” She grinned. “But there’s no actual spider inside it, I promise.”
Kitten nodded, and then took the next piece. She held it in her fingertips, the texture of the rice something that felt good, and she dipped it into the dark sauce. Popping the whole thing into her mouth, she chewed, eyes wide. “Sgood!!!”, she said, smiling. The tastes just melded, the salty rich taste flooding her mouth. Pouring herself a cup of tea, she mixed in some honey, sipping it carefully. She gave her customary “ashefashefasheashefashe” as she put the cup down, then stopped and laughed as Gladialis groaned and held her head. “Fooled you!!!”, she said, and then drained the cup, enjoying the warm tea. “See? Got you!!!!!”
Gladialis stared at her, her expression sort of this exasperated disbelief tempered with laughter. “Why, you little—-Do you…””, and then she began laughing as she waved a hand up. “You win!! You win”, she said as they both laughed. Kitten smiled as she took the next piece of the sushi and dipped it into the wasabi-sauce mixture, eyes opening wide at the taste. It was spicy but floral, green in a way she couldn't describe, and possibly her new favorite thing. And watching her try new things was possibly Gladialis’s favorite thing.
The meal passed quickly, far too quickly for Gladialis’s tastes, but eventually they got up. Kitten got another forceful hug from Samantha who made her promise to come back soon, and then Samantha got some pets from Gladialis which made her squeal and stand there, blissed out for a moment or five. They left to go home, Kitten’s glasses back on, and as they walked, Kitten suggested that they take a walk through a park. There was a tall structure in it that she was curious about. Gladialis agreed, and as they got closer, Kitten looked at it curiously.
It was tall, oddly shaped, and had what looked like water pouring from the top. Not pouring….spraying, she realized. It sprayed out, and was caught in some large basin, then THAT basin had jets of water shooting out even as the basin overflowed into another basin. And then another, to end in a large pool. Florets and Affni sat on a wide ledge, talking and cuddling. More than one sophont was waving their hands in the water, laughing and splashing.
“What is that?”, Kitten asked, and Gladialis turned, smiling down at her. “That’s a fountain, little Kitten.”
“Like…like a water fountain? Seems fairly ornate to just make a fountain for sophonts to drink from,””, she answered, and blushed as Gladialis chuckled. “It’s not for drinking?”
“Well, I suppose you could drink from it if you wanted, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You don’t know whose feet have been in there. No, you’re thinking of a drinking fountain. This is far more ornamental. I mean, sophonts can play in it when it’s hot out, or they just want to. And before you ask, yes, we all vote on a poll to have hot days or not, so everyone knows when they’re coming. This is more…it’s more to just sit and appreciate the company you're with, the weather, and the sound. Can you hear it?”
Kitten closed her eyes and listened, making believe that the sounds of the other sophonts were like the beeps of the monitors. She could tune those out easily, and after a few moments, she was able to tune out everything else. And then she heard it. A burbling, splashing sound, relaxing in its simplicity. She smiled widely, and then turned.
“Yes, we can stay for as long as you’d like,””, Gladialis said with a smile, anticipating Kitten’s request. “I brought your tablet for a reason.” She walked with Kitten to a shady spot, and sat down, carefully putting the satchel with their mugs on the ground. And they sat there, Kitten reading more of her vampire story, Gladialis re-reading an old classic, The Odyssey. She’d always enjoyed that particular story, the lost Hero overcoming all the trials and tribulations set before him to make his way home to his loved ones. They read for a while before Kitten raised her head and looked around.
There was no answer, Gladials focused intently on her tablet. Kitten giggled, this seemed to be a bit of a regular occurrence.
“Gladialis….”, and when there was no answer she gave Gladialis a little poke with the edge of her tablet. There was no answer, so she gave a bigger poke and giggled harder when Gladialis yelped and jerked up. “Hi…”, she said with a giggle.
Gladialis looked at her, hand to her upper abdomen, where her core rested. “What….what happened?”, she asked, looking around, and blushed. It was clearly later than she knew, and a quick glance at her tablet told her that they’d been sitting there for a while. “Ummm…you ok, Kitten?”
Kitten nodded. “I saw that it was getting a bit late, so I wanted to ask you if you wanted to start heading back,””, she said with a smile. “But you got lost in your story, so I needed to give you a bit of a nudge.”
“Ahhh. Yeah, sorry about that. No matter how many times I read this, I still enjoy it, Kitten. Have you ever read The Odyssey? It was written by a sophont named Homer, some two and a half thousand years ago. Still enjoyable.” She watched as Kitten shook her head, and she nodded. “Well, I recommend it.” Getting up, she stretched her vines out, letting them move before she concentrated on her body and wove her vines back into their current configuration. ‘Hmmm, maybe do something with the feet?’, she wondered.
They took a different way back to the mag rail, and as they neared the entrance to the park, Kutten heard squeals and shouts of happiness. The cause was soon apparent. A rock wall had been set up and sophonts were climbing it. Safety equipment on booms had been set up, the sophonts all geared up with helmets and pads and safety lines. A slide at the far end provided a way for them to get down, and as Kitten watched a Terran reached the top, shouted in excitement, was assisted by an Affini to unclip their harness, and slid down, and then took their place on line. Kitten blinked, and a slow smile crossed her face. She stepped a bit closer, and saw that there were hand and foot holds placed, but that the right most side had almost none. Clearly, that was for expert climbers.
“Ummm, Gladialis? Can i climb?”, she asked, and handed her stuff to the Affini who was her guardian. “It’s only…thirty feet or so,””, she said, gauging the height.
“Of course you can. You just need to…hey!!! Kitten!!!!!”, Gladialis called as Kitten took off towards the wall. “Oh dirt!!!” And what made it worse? Kitten took a running leap onto the wall, ignoring the Affini standing there, and began to scramble up as if she was walking.
Kitten was loving this. She grabbed a handhold, powering herself up, the ‘shoes’ on her feet providing excellent traction. She ignored the calls of the other Affini to come down, and found the next two handholds easily, using arms and legs to move up quickly and surely.
“No no no, don’t pull her down. She won't fall, she’s been climbing like this since she was a child,””, Gladialis told the other Affini as she ran up. They all lowered their vines, one less than a foot from Kitten. They watched as she climbed, and then all the sophonts there gasped as Kitten let her feet swing free. With a loud, “WOO HOO!!!!”, Kitten swung her legs to the side, and then pulled with her hands, flying through the air…and catching a hand hold, then using the momentum to leap up and grab the next one. She watched, core in her throat, as Kitten climbed, and realized that her ward was enjoying this. REALLY enjoying this. “She used to climb taller than this as a child. With no equipment,””, she said as all the other Affini there gasped.
Kitten smiled as she hugged the rock, looking up at the next two hand holds. Anchoring her foot, she lifted and grabbed, lost in the moment, and then she was pulling herself up to the ledge. turning, she put her hands on her hips and smiled. Feeling good, like she’d recovered a bit of herself, so to speak. The Affini up top who was assisting the other sophonts looked over at her, a look of concern.
“Little one…did you REALLY just do that with no safety equipment?? That’s really quite dangerous!! I can’t imagine your guardian would allow that, petal.”
“She’s right there,””, Kitten announced, pointing at Gladialis. “And I've been climbing like this since I was five years old. It’s practically a way of life for me, especially since I grew up in a mining colony. Your equipment would make it LESS safe for me.”
“Well…this is highly irregular,””, the other Affini sputtered.
“Yeah…but that’s what makes it fun,””, Kitten winked, and then took the slide down. Raising her hands and squealing, since the wind in her hair felt good and there was almost no friction, so she built up quite a bit of speed before the slide deposited her in a pile of soft foam blocks that cushioned her. Laughing as she climbed up and out, she ran back to Gladialis, eyes alight with delight and glee. “THAT WAS AMAZING!!!!!”, she whooped. “Did you see?? I wanna do it again!!!!! It’s just like Blind Gully back home, but smaller and with more handholds!!”
Gladialis smiled at her, trying to calm the worried tension in her vines. “That was pretty impressive, Kitten. But I think that…” and Kitten was off again, running at the wall. This time in another spot, laughing as she jumped and began to climb. “You see what I was saying?”, she said to the other Affini there.
“She is adorable”, one of the other Affini there said, eyes slightly curious as they looked at Gladialis. “Is that why you’re…?”
Gladialis nodded absently, watching Kitten intently. The Terran was showing off now, dangling by one hand as she laughed, before swinging up and launching herself up, using just her arms to pull herself up from hand hold to hand hold. She blinked as Kitten reached the top, and clapped, before she turned to the other Affini who was watching her with a bemused grin. “I’m sorry, what were you saying?”
“Oh, nothing at all, friend. You have a good night,””, the other Affini said as they wandered off, gathering their floret to themselves.
Gladialis smiled as Kitten climbed one more time, feeling a bit less panic this time. Less panic, and something….was it pride? That might be it, she decided. Pride that Kitten had this skill and delighted in it. “Well done,””, she said as Kitten came running back. “You climbed really well!!!! I can see why you enjoy it,””, she said with a smile. She handed Kitten back her things, and then turned for the mag rail. “Ready?” And her smile grew as Kitten nodded and walked next to her out of the park.
A week and a half later
Gladialis got up and made sure that she had everything packed before calling for Kitten. This had been the best two weeks of any of her Blooms, she was sure of it. Kitten was bright, sweet, inquisitive, caring, but with an undercurrent of sadness that she just wanted to smooth away. Wanted to help her forget all her cares and help her be the best she could be. She had to continually remind her that she didn’t need to repay anything, that there was no fee or charge for being cared for. “One day,””, she said quietly to herself. “One day she’ll meet someone who will make her see that. One day.” Then she raised her voice. “Kitten!!!! Are you ready?? We have to go!!!”
Kitten blinked as she heard Gladialis call her. Flushing, she lowered her tablet, and the app that she’d just “accidentally” opened up. The one that Doctor Manku had sent her that showed her how she could use the Class G’s to change how she would look. And another that she’d found. A list of body mods. She wasn’t actually going to use any of them, she reasoned. But it didn't hurt to look, especially if this was the new reality that she found herself in. She looked up at the roof of her nest. “Lena, can you please tell Gladialis that I’ll be there in a minute?”
“Sure thing, cutie!!”
“Thank you so much, Lena.” She turned back to her tablet and opened the messaging app. The last week had been one of the best that she could ever remember. Gladialis was thoughtful, smart, kind, a really good cook, and she loved to teach her things about her own history that she had no idea had ever existed. She was funny in an understated way, and super supportive. She was also very respectful of her boundaries, not doing the flirting thing that so many other Affini did. Hells, that some of her Terran friends did, like Laria, or Khaya. They made her blush regularly, and even now, just thinking about it brought a tinge of pink to her cheeks.
[Lostkitten] Well, i gotta go. Apparently I have an appointment and she won’t tell me what it is. :( She likes her surprises
[Flutterbye] But that sounds so exciting!!! Maybe she is going to take you to the movies again, like she did yesterday!!!! You told us that you had a really good time
[Theseediestseed] Maybe she’s taking u 2 ask u 2 b her floret? how romantic!!!
[Trashpanda] Nah. It’s probably something fun and educational. You mentioned she likes teaching you stuff, right? Well, whatever it is, LostKitten, you have fun, and gush all about it when you get back.
[LostKitten] _nod nod nod_ I’ll see y’all later.
She closed her tablet, slipped her shoes and glasses on, and then left the room. She found Gladialis nervously pacing in the living room, and frowned at her. This wasn’t like her. “What’s got you as nervous as a miner with a faulty lamp?”
Gladialis stopped short and she turned, smiling down at Kitten. “Nothing much. Just a minor issue that will sort itself out. Shall we go?”, and she opened the door for Kitten. They walked out into the hallway and then to Eli, Kitten chirping a greeting which the AI returned.
“Hey Elie, can we..mmm…. go up to the twentieth floor, and then to the lobby?”, Kitten said and laughed as Gladialis mock-groaned and held her stomach.
“I didn’t know Affini could get nauseous but you’re gonna do it to me,””, she complained with a smile on her face and a literal twinkle in her eye. It got worse as Elie closed her doors, and she rose up, then went down, Kitten having jumped at the right time to let her feel that drop. “I can’t even with you”, Gladialis said, laughing as she left the elevator with a smiling Kitten. Who saw everyone waving and promptly blushed, squeaking.
Kitten blushed as Laria grabbed her and hugged her, and then she hugged everyone else, even Duglit who was having a “touching allowed day.” “Sorry, can’t stay long. Gladialis has..umm…she has this…I have no idea what it is, but she’s made an appointment for something.” Before she could say anything else, Gladialis came over and chivvied her along.
“I’m sorry, little ones. but we really must be going, we’ll be back soon.” NOW Kitten was looking curiously at her. But Gladialis wanted to keep it a surprise, so she merely smiled and they walked. As always, Gladialis kept other Affini from touching Kitten, seeing as how the girl blushed and still hid behind her. She wasn’t comfortable getting touches from random Affini, but she’d hugged Leiara on more than one occasion, so there was that. And she’d given her the occasional hug, but always blushed and squeaked after. Beyond adorable.
They arrived at their destination after a short mag-rail trip, Kitten taking a seat as she climbed up with ease. A stop later, and they were walking, then Kitten looked up as they were standing in front of what looked like an office. OTNA it read on the front, and she frowned, looking up at Gladialis. “OTNA? What’s this, some new restaurant? OhTnaa?”
Gladialis chuckled and held open the door, mourning what was about to happen, and yet looking forward to it so very very much. And as she walked Kitten in, she wasn’t surprised to see the two meddlers sitting in chairs, clearly waiting for them. Each was holding a cup with the others vines in it. “Well…Hesplex, as I live and breathe,””, she drawled, and the two other Affini rose up, Dawn sitting between them.
“Hesperia thought you’d be ten minutes late,””, Ilex said.
“Ilex thought you’d be thirty minutes early,””, Hesperia said, smiling and waving at the little kitten.
“”But I bet that you’d be right on time, and here you are,””, Dawn said with a smile. “Hi Kitten,””, she said, and gave Kitten a big hug. “I won the next movie at movie night. You’re totally invited, if you want to come.”
“Hi Dawn”, Kitten said. “Umm…do you know what this place is?”, she whispered. There were Affini sitting at desks, studiously writing, filing things. There were stacks of paperwork that was literally towing over the Affini.
“This is the Office of Transitional Neoxenovetrinary Archeobereaucracy”, all three Affini said. At the same time, in the same tone. A reverent tone.
“If there’s one thing that Affini love almost as much as their florets, Kitten, it’s paperwork. This is where it happens. Everything about a sophont is collected, researched for authenticity, verified, collated, and stored here. Literally, everything, from even before the Compact arrives in a system. That’s why it was so jarring when you first got here, since…””, Gladialis said, interrupted by Illex.
“Because we had no information about you, cutie.”
“Like we told you when we first met,””, Hesperia said, and then had to tend to Dawn who had drifted off again.
A clerk came out, and saw Kitten and Gladialis standing there. “Ahhh, you must be my next appointment. Come in. You three, you need to stay outside.” Gladialis smiled and gestured to the open door.
“After you, Kitten.”
Kitten didn’t budge, looking up at Gladialis. “Ummm…what…I’m nervous, Gladialis. What’s going to happen?”
Gladialis smiled gently and knelt. “A surprise. But you’re going to like it, I know that you will,””, she said, her voice strong and steady. “Trust me, little one. Have I ever steered you wrong?”
Kitten mutely shook her head, and with some trepidation walked into the office. The Affini clerk sitting there smiled at her as she entered, and waved at a terran sized chair.
“Please, little one, have a seat. Would you like a drink? A cookie? My floret made them, they’re really good. Doodersnickles, I think they’re called.” She lifted up a plate, and Kitten nodded, taking one and nibbling nervously. “There’s no reason to be nervous, dear. We just need to straighten something out, and then you can get on with what you need to do for the rest of the day.”
“Ummm…what…what’s that?”, she asked.
Gladialis cleared her throat, and nodded. “I’ve submitted my final recommendation, Kitten.”
‘Oh Goddess, that’s it, this is it,’’, she thought. She had nothing against florets, but she didn’t want to be one. Not like this. She struggled to focus on Gladialis, who was still talking.
She smiled. “And I haven’t seen any evidence of Feralist tendencies or thought. It’s my belief that Kitten should be made an Independent Sophont of the Affini Compact, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof,””, she finished. Not a quaver, not a trace of the pain she felt.
Kitten felt like she did the time she had been hit in the face by a dodgeball. Completely stupefied. “Wait..i…you’re…umm…you’re…i’m not…?”, she gaped, unable to think straight for a moment. Gladialis shook her head, and after a quick “can I touch you, Kitten?”, gently took her hands, one by one. At a touch, the cuffs fell off. She blinked as she saw her wrists without them for the first time in two weeks. She’d almost forgotten about them, except for the few times they’d beeped lately, usually when she got scared or nervous, like some strange Affini trying to pet her. Gladialis touched her ankles, taking the cuffs off, and then motioned to her neck.
“Here, I’ll take that one off,””, she said, and gently drew the cuff off. Seeing Kitten without the cuffs was a wonderful thing, but she desperately wished that she could replace her collar with something else. And she also knew that Kitten didn’t want that, and so she wasn’t going to push it. She was going to do what was best for Kitten, and that was to be Independent. Now she knew what it meant to pine for someone. She pictured her hab without Kitten in it, and mourned because it was so very, very empty. “There you go, Kitten.” No sound of her laugh, or the thump as she jumped everywhere.
Kitten rubbed her wrists, in shock. “I…umm…where…what?”, she asked, her thoughts whirling. The clerk smiled at her. “I…umm…I’m going to need a moment.”
The clerk nodded. “Take all the time you need, but our business here is complete. I believe that you have three sophonts waiting for you outside.” He watched as the little Terran got down, and walked out. The Affini she was with stood, and the clerk blinked. There was something…wrong…about her. The clerk wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it was quite disconcerting.
“Thank you for everything you do,””, Gladialis told the clerk, who entwined vines with her. Then she left. Hesplex and Dawn were congratulating Kitten on becoming an Independent. Kitten was looking a bit stunned, but she still managed to squeak and blush as Dawn hugged her. Gladialis smiled. “Kitten, I made an appointment for you to meet with a hab planner,””, but she wasn’t expecting the look of panic and fear as Kitten looked up at her.
“I…umm…my own?”, she asked. “Don’t..don’t you..umm…...”, and she gnawed on a knuckle for a moment. The thought of her own hab…her own space. A space that she didn't do anything for and didn’t deserve. A space that she could fill with whatever she wanted…a space that was only her… an empty space. Only her inside it, alone. The thought was enough to bring tears to her eyes, that and the thought that Gladialis was happy to get rid of her. “Roommates are tough, huh?”, she said, and Gladialis cooed and vines encircled her. “Is this ok?”, she was asked and Kitten nodded as Gladialis hugged her.
“I would love nothing more than if you stayed where you are, Kitten”, Gladials said honestly as she hugged her tightly. “But I want it to be your decision. I told you, all I want is for you to be happy and your best self.” She dimly heard Hesperia and Ilex cooing, with Dawn sniffling in the background. She smiled, and lifted kittens chin as the little Terran blushed. “But I'd be honored if you’d be my roommate.”
Kitten nodded, and sniffled. “Let’s go home.”