Cyrus Ventra, First Bloom, had initially thought that today would be a good day. Just a few weeks before he had arrived on the Aisling Ceo, quite possibly the biggest achievement to date for a mere 320 year old bloom. The ship was mostly a home, a massive biome ship, to create a comfortable living space for those Affini and sophonts who didn’t necessarily want to settle down on a planet. It also had another, much more important mission. The ship was a massive holding center for Class-O sophonts.
Those poor darlings, not able to keep from harming themselves and others, lay sleeping in holding pods throughout the hold of the ship. Here they would live out the rest of their lives, safe and sleeping in blissful pleasure. Cyrus himself had entered his volunteer application on a whimsy, the chance to care for those cuties as they slept too enticing to pass up. Sure, many of his friends had ragged on him a little. A first bloom wanting to care for a ship full of sleeping, non thinking sophonts? It wasn’t like he was going to find a floret for himself there. He should join them on one of the capture ships, or a scout! Go out, meet a cute little feral and break them into the shape the Compact thought was best!
But, truth be told, Cyrus wasn’t looking for a floret. He liked his peace, his quiet. Sure other Affini’s florets were adorable, but he could only really deal with them for a few hours at a time. After that he had to escape, retreat to his hab unit and hide among his books, his projects. They gave him stress. Cyrus wasn’t a fan of stress.
Now he was resting in the control room of one such deck, his biorhythms humming gently in the silence of sleep. Roots draped down into a carafe of mineralized water, his favorite blend. He had a book held up in front of his eyes and was ever so slowly making his way through some confusing Terran adventure about raising the dead and facts about cows. Quaint.
Then an alarm sounded, his tablet screen lighting up with a notification. Swiping it up he stared down at the in pod view of a sophont, a female terran. Her bright golden eyes were open, staring right into the lens, then circling around the pod slowly. He sent out a message to the medical system, figuring it would be able to handle her. Then less than a moment later the alarm rang out again, much more frantic this time. Her biosigns were havoc, a sudden drop in blood pressure, sensors in the pod displaying a distressing amount of iron filled liquid pooling in the bottom. He shot up, scrambling out of the room with the tablet in hand. How had she injured herself in the pod!? There was nothing in it that could have caused her harm! Dirt, even her being lucid enough to be moving anything more than a digit would have triggered the system to pump her full of another dose of Class-O’s. Panicked he ran through the halls, row after row of pods flashing by his eyes. Finally he rounded a corner and stopped dead in his roots.
She was out. The lid of her pod was tilted open and the terran was standing up in front of another pod, making… silly faces? Wait no that wasn’t the distressing part, that would be the spreading puddle of blood trickling out of the pod, and the huge amount of it that was dripping down her legs and second pair of arms.
Terrans only had one pair. Why did she have two, and why did she have tentacles? Why did the Terran have tentacles!?!
Because she did indeed have tentacles. Two of them in fact, growing out of her back. Smooth, translucent tentacles that wiggled and wrapped around her as she squealed and giggled at her reflection. Then more blood began to spill out of her mouth, followed by the tinkling of her teeth dropping out of her gums and falling to the floor. Cyrus began to shake, watching as new teeth began to grow in their stead, a set of sharp, gleaming fangs. He fumbled with the tablet, he needed to get held down here. No one ever said Terran’s could do this! This wasn’t in the care manuals!
His vines slipped as he brought the tablet up, sending it clattering to the floor. The Terran whipped around, gold eyes centered on him like some kind of primitive predator. When had her pupils changed? Why were there two thin slits where the normal Terran pupil should be? His biorhythm was going haywire, distress and fear calling out of his core like he was a sapling lost in the desert again. Oh, Everbloom she’s opening her mouth wider.
He wanted to run, why weren’t his legs moving? One step, she froze, eyes wide. Then her hands rose with a flash, this was the end. Only, she was just covering her mouth, hiding her fearsome teeth. Her eyes had a gentle look to them now. He started to calm down. Then she starts making noises, like she, like she was trying to talk? He reached down for his tablet, eyes staying on her as she started to hum and chirp. It was kind of… cute? Oh this is that pre-death levity some of the Terrans talked about, before they fell asleep and woke up in a comfy bed.
“A-are you trying to talk, little one?” he asked quietly, trying very hard to not agitate her. Her eyes grew wide and she started nodding quickly. She starts making noises again and he starts swiping over his tablet, his vine pecking out an SOS to his co-workers. Where was the medical unit!? They should have been dispatched as soon as the alarm began. Then she spoke, her voice like a feral beast scratching at his door.
“Hhhhhaaalllo. Hallo. Hello! Hellooooooooo!” Oh stars, she was playing with her words. “Wha, whaaats that thing?”
Alarm and fear trickled through him, she was talking about his tablet. Should he tell her he was calling for help? Should he just run? No, no she was alert, awake. That shouldn’t happen on Class-O’s, she should be sluggish and definitely not talking to him right now. He measured his choices, then started talking.
“W-well petal, this is a tablet. A device used for… for communication and different things. I was just… uh.” He shivered, what if he was a hostage. Oh, oh roots and clippings she was walking towards him. Run, run idiot! But then, she just started asking more questions. Then she leaned forward, and sniffed it. “Can you eat it?”
The rolling ball of his train of thought dropped off its track. Why would she want to eat it? Yeah its plantech but that doesn’t mean it's edible. He chuckled, exhaustion and fear falling from his voice. ““Hah, n-no dear. You cannot eat these, they aren’t made for eating. I was telling my Captain that you woke up. We ah… had not expected that.” He explained, going on to assure her that his captain would be taking over soon and to not worry. He definitely wanted to worry though.
He chuckled as she said something, making light of the seriousness of the situation. Then began to look her over. She was dreadfully thin, muscle atrophy from the pod. For all their advancements and precautions it was still something that happened. He decided to make a decision, he’d take her to the control room, at least to get away from the scent of blood that permeated the hallway. “Um… how about, you follow me, and we’ll get all that blood off of you. Maybe some food too. Do you uh… you eat right?”
She paused, nodding rapidly again, “Uuhhhhuh. I eat. Can I have more of the tasty good stuff?”
“Tasty. Good stuff?”
Thats when she explained that she wanted honey, capital H honey. Class-O honey was apparently delicious. And everything he had known about his universe just shattered. He dropped his tablet again, his mind just fizzling to a stop. What was this creature, what made her so different? Then, as if to explain. She tapped him with a tentacle.
Multiple things flashed through his mind. How it felt warm, soft, velvety almost even though there wasn’t any other texture but smooth on the surface. The thought that he’d really like a hug right now. Nothing was going right today, today vacuumed, if he got that Terranism right. Then all those thoughts were dashed away, along with himself.
He blinked, he didn’t need to blink but that's what it felt like. He blinked and he wasn’t on the ship anymore. He wasn’t in any ship. He was floating in open space, floating before a massive red giant star. He marveled at it. It must have been bigger than any star he’d seen before, or maybe he was just so, so very small now. Perspective, you know? He float there for what felt like seconds and hours at the same time.
Then something began to slide over the star. Something that dwarfed the star. A tentacle, smooth, sleek, wrapping around the surface of the star and pulling it towards an incomprehensibly big mouth.
His core screamed out. He screamed out, his voice straining in nothingness as he watched a monster devour something that couldn’t be devoured in a snap that seemed to last days. Then it turned its eye to him. A huge, galaxy spanning eye. An eye that was colored lustrous gold.
He snapped back to the real and jumped, jumped as far away as he could from the Terran, wrapping his vines around light fixtures and holding himself close to the ceiling. His core fluctuated with fear, and… curiosity. Mostly fear.
“I… I’m going to stay here… okay? Until my friends come. Then we can, we can get you more honey after. Okay?” His voice shook with fear, pure unbridled fear. He needed some kind of back up here. The Terran nodded, wanting to know if she could ask a question. What was he? Didn’t she remember where she… ah, yeah, Class-O would have obliterated her memory huh?
“Well. I’m an Affini.” Tell her your name dummy, “Cyrus Ventra, First Bloom.” Good! Good conversation, now then. “What, what are you?”
She had to think about that, fidgeting a little, looking down at her body, then the floor. Finally she looked back up to him, her eyes shining a little, sad and questioning.
“What am I?”
He froze, something in him breaking as he heard her voice. She needed help, didn’t she?
He slowly lowered himself down, stepping forward hesitantly, making sure he could quickly escape if need be. Standing above her he kneeled down, reaching out and taking her hand. It was warm, soft and so very, very small. He ran one of his thumbs over her knuckles, trying not to flinch when one of her “other” hands joined it, sticky blood touching his bark.
“Well, to me you look like a Terran, kind of. But you certainly are unique.” Half of him wanted to run, but the other half, a larger half, said to stay right there. Stay there, protect the sophont in front of him no matter what. He was an Affini for roots sake. He could do this. She looked up at him with sad, weird, gold eyes. They were quite pretty once you got past how many strange things had happened to them, and what he had seen before. Briefly, he wondered what they would look like dazed and blissed, but he swatted that thought away with a vine. None of that. Not right now.
She kept staring up at him and he wondered what was going through her mind. Then he did the only thing he knew to do. The most Affini thing he could do.
Wrapping his vines around her he lifted her up, surprised at how light she was, then started walking back down the hall. Her hands gripped onto his vines and she let out a whining sound from her throat.
“Don’t worry petal. I’m just… taking you to the control room. We’ll find you something to eat, wait for the captain to come down and meet you. You’re safe. We’ll make sure no harm comes to you.” He said, his voice full of fake assurances. He really had no idea what was going to happen, but he couldn’t just sit there anymore. At his words the Terran seemed to calm, sinking into and nuzzling his vines. He felt a small jolt of happiness at this. He could do this.
He hadn’t even realized her tentacles had wrapped around his waist until they were almost there, hugging him around the middle firmly.
Huh, they gave pretty good hugs, he thought as they walked back through the quiet, sleeping halls.