Rage awoke to a start, jumping up and looking around frantically. "Captain I'm sorry I-!" They looked around, their eyes still just barely above being blind. Right. This again. This planet thing they found themselves on. No captain here.
The green plant matter under them shifted slightly as Rage got up to their feet. They figured scouting should be first priority. Maybe these small things wouldn't hurt them, but the bigger plants? Still dangerous. Alien. And fear was a good teacher. It kept them away from harm's path.
They began to step forward. For some reason, their eyes wouldn't get better. Maybe it was the result of the cryostasis? No one ever taught Rage how it worked. Just another issue to deal with in due course. At least they had enough eyesight to be able to see their own clothes.
Or rather, how tattered they were.
Rage wore the same usual work clothes that all the other engineers wore. It was nothing special. A dark blue jumpsuit, with several pockets, though all of them were empty now anyway. As if Rage had anything to take with them to an alien world.
Still, they kept wandering. The pod was useless. Other than being an origin point for them to go from, it had nothing else to offer in terms of shelter, they knew that much. That thing barely had space for them standing straight, and it didn't have anything form of padding to sleep on. At least the soft things on the ground seemed safe enough. Perhaps, should they be tired, they could find another patch of them and fall asleep there.
Steps could be heard silently as Rage's work boots stomped through the earth in a hushed pace.
It was then that they realized something. Or rather, they realized the lack of something. Noise. They weren't deaf, at the very least. They could hear the ambiance of the world around them. But it was so… Quiet. Different to what the ship had. The ship always had something humming. Something turning, twisting, metal grinding against metal. The Engine Bay in and of itself had so much noise that at some point, Rage grew numb for it. But now that all the constant noises disappeared, they realized how much they missed it. That rumbling purr the engines gave when they weren't busy catastrophically melting down.
Still, they picked up something else. Like… What was that? It was sound, but it was also pleasant. And they couldn't really hear it. Just at the back of their mind. Just out of reach. Maybe it was where someone else was? Maybe they could finally talk to someone! Assuming those white plants that sprouted from the ground wouldn't get to them first.
Which, speaking of, said white flowers were watching intently. Out of Rage's reach.
The Affini vanguarding this planet was more than curious. They had arrived in a blaze from the sky, and were now walking around her garden like a lost child. She put some metaphorical elbow grease into her root system. They needed food, after all. The question was, how would she get this human to eat.
Luckily for her, it didn't seem to take long. Rage was already hungry. They were malnourished even more than usual, thanks to their recent stint with avoiding meals to work. And that hunger hit again. They tried to push it back, but there was no helping it this time. Their stomach made a loud, growling noise, and they began to look for anything that they could deem safe enough to eat.
They knew they needed two things. Food, and water. Those two would usually be fulfilled by the nutripaste, but something told them they wouldn't find it here. Something else had to do.
The landscape around them shifted as they walked. More and more of those big plants surrounded them. They didn't actually move, or do anything. Just sitting there. Watching. Probably waiting for Rage to finally let their guard down so they can pounce and tear them apart.
And as such, they kept mostly to the clearings they found. Areas where the big plants wouldn't be so abundant. They had so many colors, however. Rage has never seen anything like it. Green, blue, red, yellow, violet. So many colors, their barely functioning eyes still ate it all up. It was hard to tell, but it was there.
Eventually they came across a larger section of barren land. There was something in the distance, Rage couldn't see it properly. It seemed… Shiny? Maybe it was like metal. Maybe they found a base! Someone they could talk to. They reached into it. Ran, even. Surely, this would save them.
They then fell into the deep pool of water, shimmering in the sunlight above and reflecting the world around them.
Rage panicked again. They flailed their arms, trying to fight against this foreign threat. They attempted to shout, but instead liquid poured into their mouth, and they elected to keep quiet until they were safe on the ground.
<"Oh my… You poor thing. Here, give me a second and I'll pull you out.">
That voice again. That weird whistling noise that sounded like speech but wasn't. Rage couldn't see anything now, their head being submerged. But they did feel something gently pull them out. Something was holding onto their leg, though before they could see what it was, it already slithered away, having done its task.
They coughed loudly as they felt their body dragged out of the liquid that threatened to kill them. Staring into the skies. They could see, just at the edge of their now impaired vision, how the space above them glimmered with such vibrant colors.
Still, they were utterly soaked. They didn't even know water can do that. Sure, they got a splash on their jumpsuit every now and again, but this? This was dangerous. Fear told them to stay away from it. But also… Fear told them to try again. They needed to survive. Water was required. Maybe more careful? They had to if they wanted to live. Just don't enter the death trap again. Stay out, and you'll be fine.
Rage flipped over, now laying on their stomach. They crawled, feeling the earth and small plants under them caress their skin, as they looked into the pool of water once more. It took some time for the water to calm down from all the waves Rage created, but when it did… They saw themselves again.
Immediately rage recoiled back. They didn't want to see. Too gross. They hated this face. All the hair poking out of their face. They hated it. Hated it! They needed to drink but it was too dangerous. How were they going to be able to do that when entering the water will kill them, and looking at the water only showed them themselves?
A compromise had to come forth. Rage closed their eyes. They leaned down, backing away the second they felt the edge of the water touch their lips. Then… Again. Okay. The water won't kill them if they stayed this far from it. They poked their tongue out next. Dipping it into the water just barely… Their train of thought was taken away by how fresh it tasted.
The second thing they learned about water is that when water isn't trying to kill you, it's surprisingly cool. They lapped some water, taking it in. It felt… It felt really refreshing. They never felt like this before. Slowly, but surely, Rage began to lap more and more water. They didn't know when to stop, just that the water running down their throat felt amazing. It was truly something that they would have never experienced aboard the Spirit of Vengeance. It was cold, but not too cold either. The pool of water they drank from seemingly had no limit, either, giving them as much water as they could possibly drink.
Which, as it appears, was not a lot. Soon enough they could feel their stomach bloat lightly, and Rage pulled away, realizing that they felt… Full.
No, that wasn't right. They still hungered for food. But this water… This water helped. A whole lot, actually. They took their time to get up, however. Fear… Fear has subsided a bit. They felt refreshed.
After getting up, Rage began to wander this new world more. They found water. Good. Water was scary, but also water was good to drink. They kept recalling to the stories told to them by the education programs on the ship. How humans used to eat food that wasn't just pre-compiled proteans, fats and minerals all cramped into a slurry with no flavor., and that it was much more varied than the nutripaste. All to show the soldiers the world they are fighting for, they imagined.
Hyacynthia kept watching. The little sophont almost drowned themselves in one of the lakes! She had to actually manifest another vine to pull them free. Unbelievable. Didn't these humans know how to swim? Still, she couldn't be angry, watching them sipping water like they did. She couldn't help but notice, however, how they reacted to their own reflection. She could do something about it if she knew how to approach them verbally…
Which is when her pad beeped. For the first time in eons. Someone was messaging her.
[Silverbloom]: <'Hyacynthia, it's urgent. Please respond whenever you see this.'>
She sighed. So much for a day of rest, it would seem. She manifested another vine, rolling her metaphorical eyes as she used the vine to both watch and type.
[Whiteforest]: <'Yes, Argonia? I'm rather busy, the human almost drowned and I had to pull them free. I'm currently watching them drink water.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'About that… You would not believe what we found…'>
A string of messages came shortly after. They found a ship. A rebel ship, preparing to warp dive into their main core world. They were lucky they caught it in time. If they didn't, the ship would have just disintegrated against their planetary shield and all the sophonts on it would die. Which is to say, they already had a dead sophont inside the warp drive, that alone being a ticking time bomb against the ship's already dwindeling life span. Which, speaking of…
[Silverbloom]: <'They all look… So feral, Hyacynthia. It's like they've never seen anything outside of their ship. We checked the logs, they've been cloning themselves and keeping low. It's a miracle that human of yours managed to escape…'>
[Whiteforest]: <'Oh my.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'Indeed. But it gets more peculiar. Each vat seemed to have the genetic imprint of one of the original crew members of this ship. And, well… All are accounted for. Except for one of the engineers.'>
[Whiteforest]: <'Naturally. Would you like to come pick them up? I'll admit, it's rather nice to have something living to care for that's not flora here.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'If you'd rather care for them, I can tell command they landed on your world. Although… You might want to hear some of the information about the original person who this clone came from…'>
Rage was walking again. They felt better, at least a little bit. This weird sound that they kept hearing beckoned them, and they decided to approach it. At least for now, it seemed like the best course of action. Something to put their mind towards instead of thinking about… What happened on the ship.
They pushed away the thoughts. No time to deal with them. Food was more important. They didn't notice that a few of the big brown plants with white things on top of them began to stir. Too deep in thought, they neglected to look as they bumped into one, falling down to their behind and rubbing their face. "Ow…" They finally looked up, squinting to see what they bumped into.
This one… This one was different from the others. It had these, weird round spheres growing out of it. Rage instantly jumped to their legs, getting into a rudimentary fighting stance. They were ready to run, before feeling something gently fall on top of their head. An attack!
It made them twitch in alarm, looking as hard as they were able to. It was one of those round things. It fell on their head, and plopped to the ground below, unmoving. Their breathing was hitched and erratic, attempting to calm down from this sudden attack of the planet life on their person. And, seeing little to no other option, they stabbed their finger into the round plant that fell down. If they gave a precise strike, maybe they could kill it before it could harm them.
Rage was surprised soon after. Instead of anything trying to bite their finger off, the round plant merely got penetrated, leaving their finger coated with… Some red liquid. Not a lot of it, but enough for them to see it up close. This was familiar. It was like getting your fingers covered in oil or grease when working, except this wasn't slick and rather sticky.
They brought their stained finger up close, smelling this liquid. It smelled… Good! It made them recoil slightly. This weird plant falling down from this other bigger plant was defeated so easily, and smelled really pleasant? What in the stars' name was going on? It had this scent that drew them in. They reached out… And gave their finger a lick.
And their taste buds blew up.
It was incredible! Whatever it was, this… This was flavor, right? It had to be flavor. The nutripaste was so blend in comparison. This thing, this plant's juices tasted so… They didn't even have the words to describe it. It was like, their tongue danced with joy and bliss and wanted more. Craved more.
They reached down to pick the torn plant on the ground. It smelled like the juices, except more mild. Feeling it, Rage noticed it had a soft shell of sorts. Like skin, but softer and fuzzier. The fear in their heart still pounded. This could be a trap. This could be danger.
But then they noticed another voice. Something else that has been asleep since they day they were born in that clone vat opened its eye.
It told them that maybe… Maybe this was okay. Maybe this could be trusted. It didn't attack them, right? If the plants were to attack Rage, they would've done so by now. Surely, it wouldn't hurt to try.
Rage settled this internal argument by taking a bite. And immediately taking another. And another. They devoured this plant. It tasted so good. This flavor from the juices was rampant here, filling them with sensations they never thought possible. And the textures! The skin of this plant was all fuzzy against their tongue, but the insides were all melty and delicious. Practically dissolving against their saliva and teeth and becoming mush that was rather pleasant to swallow.
Before they knew it, they finished this plant already. It was gone, sliding down their throat to their stomach. But they wanted more! Which is when Rage realized that the bigger plants had more, in fact. So much more. They reached with a shaky hand, grabbing one of the round offsprings of the plant, pulling on it. It didn't offer any resistance, and before they knew it, they began chewing into a second one. And a third. And a fourth.
About the tenth plant later, Rage finally stopped eating. They grabbed their stomach, having realized they might have eaten too much. They'll have to pace themselves from hereon, but at least they felt… Full. They never even felt this full before. Still, eating so much made them yawn. And it took a bit of searching to find another patch of green that could safely harbor them.
They laid down, curling into themselves, holding their belly still. They felt so… So sleepy. In a way that lulled them into quiet sleep. Maybe next time they'll try and eat a bit less.
All while the white flowers were humming for them to have sweet dreams.