White. So much white. Rage thought they were blind this time for sure, seeing nothing but a void. Were they dead? It was hard to tell. They didn't imagine they were. The air around them, the feeling of breathing as it went into their throat and out. This air was… Surprisingly fresh.
They tried to move. Okay, not dead. Something felt off, however. Their heartbeat, that is. It was… Stronger. But there was something else. Something… they just couldn't put their finger on it. It was as if their heartbeat was older, somehow. Deeper.
A groan escaped their lips as they leaned up. They were… In a bedding? It was so soft. The softest thing they've ever laid on. Rage tried to look around, their dimmed eyes glancing casually.
More of the space around them came into view as they shrugged off the deep sleep they were in. They were in a room, of sorts. They've never seen a room this big, but at least it was rather familiar. The planet they called home until now never had anything this… Square. Though now that they thought about it…
The Affini. The Affini that led them.
They kept thinking back to that moment. More and more of their memories recalled with each one pulling the next. They spat out blood. They felt sick. They were carried, and then… The void. Before waking up here.
They could barely notice a door at the edge of the room. It melded so well with the rest of the white walls. So this wasn't just an inescapable trap, that was good at least. Rage sighed, trying to make sense of this. Though doing so allowed them the leisure of looking at their own body.
Their hair was bleach white now. Not that it was bad, it just felt different. Silky, smooth. It was a nice texture to run their fingers against. It had also gotten rather long, from the looks of it, reaching their mid-back by now. Their fingernails too, seemed to have grown. They didn't even know human fingernails did that.
Then again, they didn't know any other human that looked like them now.
Were they human? Instinctual response was yes, but they didn't have anything to compare to. The only humans they've ever met were all muscly, sweaty, and exceedingly violent and hateful. And they were sure that by those criteria at least, they weren't human anymore. Everything about them felt so slender, which elicited a happy hum out of their lips. This felt… Right.
While they were busy admiring their own appearance, they failed to notice the door opening slightly. However, the noise of a gentle cough alerted them to the fact that they have a visitor. Rage's head turned, and they just stared. They had a feeling who this was. The song was there, they recognized it all too well by now. The Affini had come.
They didn't run as they noticed the plant-person walk inside. They could handle it, at least them. At least this one specific Affini was okay. They saved them, after all. "H-Hi." They muttered, gently, watching the Affini take a chair big enough for them and sit down.
Their voice was far more concentrated now. More… Composed. They were so used to this voice coming from all directions, and now that they weren't gripping with fear, they could actually afford to pay attention to all the little details. Like how the growths on the Affini shifted and danced as they spoke, or how they crossed their legs on top of one another, laying their hands on their thighs and staring at Rage with a gaze full of empathy. "I'm sorry." They spoke again. "I… Know this must all be a lot for you to take in. There is so much to explain, and to understand, and you just woke up to this strange room and this strange… Me." They paused. "But, I want you to know, above all else, that I'm not here to hurt you. I'll never hurt you. I promise."
They mulled over it, and nodded. "I, Yeah. Sorry I reacted so harshly back then. I don't know what came over me…"
"Several thousand cycles of indoctrination, I'm sure." The Affini sighed, shaking their head. "I know your body must be relatively new, perhaps a few months of age? But your mind had to go through the torture of witnessing all the cruelty humankind was capable of. But it's over now." The Affini reached out, to take Rage's hand. They didn't resist. "It might not be easy to overcome the trauma, but I'll be here with you every step of the way. I swear it on my every root."
Rage couldn't help but smile, before asking a single question to that.
There was an audible pause in the room as both Affini and Human stared at each other silently.
"I know that, most likely, what I was taught about you is false. If you were every bit of the monsters that we were told you are, you would've eaten me by now. But… You didn't. And yet, I can't help it. Why? Am I really worth all the trouble?"
"Of course you are, dear." The Affini clenched their hand a bit tighter. "I've watched you every step of the way back on my garden. And while it may be hard to believe… All Affini are like this. We want to make the universe happy. Our technology outpaced the Accord you were told about by so many cycles it's impossible to count. In fact… Most of humanity surrendered peacefully. Only a small handful were rebels. How your ship survived…"
That reminded them. "Oh! The ship!" Rage called out. "You have to stop them, the captain, he was going to-" A single green finger laid on their lips to silence them.
"It's already over, little one." The Affini smiled. "We've already captured the ship, and no one was harmed."
No one but…
Rage's head turned away.
Still, they didn't say anything. Just let the sorrow wash over them. "...Good. I'm glad. Are you going to execute them?" They asked. "They wanted to blow up your homeworld, you know."
"Perish the thought." The Affini shook their head, and Rage couldn't help but notice how their hair-like growths shook a bit with each twist and turn, in an unnaturally rhythmic pattern. "The Compact never hurts any of the sophonts in our territory, or really anywhere we go. To kill them for their misguided actions would be cruel and needless. Instead, they were all domesticated. A much preferable alternative."
Another word they didn't understand. Rage pondered, and decided to ask. "What's domestication? Really, what's a garden? There are so many words you use that I don't really understand."
The Affini paused at that, and turned their head away. Perhaps they were embarrassed or caught off guard? "Right… You wouldn't know. I suppose I should explain." A deep, heavy sigh escaped the plant-person's lips. "Domestication is… Well. When a sophont, intelligent beings like you or any other xenos, shows intent to hurt themselves or others, we essentially… Make a pet out of them. Though I assume you don't know what a pet is, either. Think of it as a being under the care of another, more capable being. Oh! Like all the trees and flowers you saw in my garden." So those were the names for those plants. They wondered which was which. "The plants in my garden wouldn't know how to grow in harmony with one another. They are all so busy trying to harvest as much for themselves as they can, that other plants might suffocate or die. And no one would want that. So, I took the liberty of guiding them. I give them all the nutrients and water they need, and in return, they are my property. I can choose to do as I will with them, if that makes sense. Domesticating is… Rather close to that, but with another intelligent being. An Affini who owns them will care for them. Love them. Give them everything they could possibly want. But in return… They become that Affini's property. And are bound to them."
Rage took a few moments to digest all that before the Affini continued.
"Of course… Not all sophonts get domesticated like that. Some come to us, volunteering to the process of their own volition. We do our best to respect the wishes of the sophont races living within the Compact. But…"
"It's not always that easy…" Rage muttered, finishing their sentence. "Am I going to be… Domesticated?"
This time it took the Affini a few moments to try and ponder what words might phrase it best. "...Yes. But it's not due to you being violent, or causing pain to others. I've seen you on my world. You have one of the gentlest souls I've ever witnessed." That caused Rage to tilt their head. "You, my dear… Almost died. Your heart failed, completely. Your body was starting to fall apart when you came to me. All I'll say is that the cloning process that made you was imperfect, I'd rather not delve into the details." A sad look came across the Affini's eyes. Somehow, it was so easy to read their emotions. "You were chosen to be domesticated regardless because we want to ensure your happiness. Your body is very delicate, and fragile. That new heart might not be the only organ you'll need to replace, and on top of all of that there's your eyes." Rage knew it was part of it. Though this one was more on them than anything. "It's going to require a lot of attention to ensure you are able to survive. And as such… It was decided, under recommendation of the vet that treated you, that you are most likely incapable of being an independent. Leaving you be could expose you to several hazardous conditions, each of which could easily claim your life."
"B-But I dealt with a lot of exhaust fumes and such on the ship, I'm not so-"
"That's part of the reason my dear." The Affini continued before they could finish. "The conditions you were put under inside that ship were… I don't even have any words to begin describing it. And just because you were able to survive those conditions, didn't mean you should have. They've taken their toll on you."
Some part of Rage wanted to protest, but they could understand the logic. Though… Wait. "You said my heart died? Then, how am I even alive?"
Now it was the Affini's turn to grin. "That's because we made you a replacement, my dear. Out of my old core. It wasn't an easy process, but I was willing to sacrifice my old self for this. The vet was able to create a substitute heart for you, and implement it into your body. In a sense… You could say a part of me lives inside you now. Keeping you here."
Rage put a hand to their chest. That's why it felt so odd. But it wasn't scary, not anymore. They felt comforted. The Affini was willing to put themselves on the line. Perhaps… They could live with this domestication thing. "Oh, umm… I almost forgot." They sighed. "My name is Rage. Though… I don't really like that name, if I'm honest."
Despite their best attempt, the human could tell the Affini already knew. "Well Rage, it's nice to meet you. My name is Hyacynthia Whitebloom, 100th bloom. Though from now on, you'll know me as your caretaker and Mistress, okay?"
They took in the name. Hyacynthia… It was a really long name. And did it mean anything? They could ask the Affini later. "Okay." They nodded. "At least I get to be with someone I trust…"
"Oh sweet flower, I wouldn't let anyone else lay a hand on you without your consent." They reached out, gently rubbing Rage's head with their own larger palm. Being touched… Rage recoiled a bit, and it made Hyacynthia jerk their hand away. "I'm sorry, I… Thought it would be okay."
"I'm not used to touch." Rage admitted. "The only touch I'm familiar with was handshakes and… Punches." They let that last word linger a bit in the air. "Y-You promise you won't hurt me?"
"I swear on every single flower on me that I would never, for all of eternity, do anything to cause you discomfort, my dear."
Rage took a moment, gulped, and nodded. The rubbing against their head resumed, and while they were tense at first, they slowly began to sink into it. It was okay. They were okay. Nothing was going to harm them, and their Affini caretaker wasn't bad. They weren't like the captain, or their crewmates back on the Spirit of Vengeance.
"Now that we're settled… There's something I wanted to ask you." Hyacynthia chimed. "As you said, you do not like your name, and I frankly find it unfitting for someone as beautiful and gentle as you. We'll be more than happy to help you change it, if you so wish. Would you like to change your name, flower?"
It didn't take a second thought for Rage, no, the now nameless human to nod. They wanted to discard that name anyway.
"Do you have any ideas for a new one?"
They pondered and tried to meditate internally on the concept of a new name. A new identity. Something to reinvent themselves. But nothing came to mind. They didn't want a name that reminded them of the past. And as such… "Could… You come up with one? All I know is the Spirit of Vengeance. I don't want to think of a name from there. I need some help."
Hyacynthia nodded, and pulled out a tablet of sorts. They recognized the shape, it was akin to the pads that the techs back at the engine used sometimes, but it seemed way more advanced. Flowery language they didn't understand flowed through the screen as Hyacynthia used a newly grown vine to seek out something poetic enough.
"Oh!" The Affini chirped, and read a few more sentences before looking back at them. "How about Amity? A short, sweet name, for a sweet flower like you."
They felt their cheeks redden somewhat. They weren't sure why, but perhaps it was due to them realizing that being called flower and petal and sweet was making them feel very nice feelings. "O-Okay."
"Then from this day onwards, your name shall be Amity Whitebloom, First Floret." Hyacynthia paused. "Floret being the official term for domesticated sophonts." A gentle smile spread across their lips, and Amity followed in tow.
"I think you can figure this one out, my dear." Hyacynthia chuckled. "Despite my long existence, I've never taken a single floret into my life. I preferred to sink deep into the earth and grow my garden. And then… You came along. So I guess it's a first for both of us."
The human now called Amity looked up at the Affini, and smiled. This was okay. They were going to be okay. "Yeah. And… Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on me."
"Not for a million more cycles and even further, flower." Hyacynthia smiled. "You are a very good girl and you deserve all the love and comfort I want to shower upon you."
Amity smiled, but something felt off. Another word they didn't understand.