Every day that Rage woke up to felt better in a sense. They started to notice their body changing more and more. They didn't know what to call this new form of theirs, but whatever it was, it sure wasn't like the other humans on the ship. Their face was getting really slender and smooth, and their hair was now reaching their shoulders. Usually this is where the captain would find out and all hell would break loose. The Spirit of Vengeance had very specific rules about physical appearance. Which is to say, preventing any form of self expression using it. They were clones. They were told they were clones. And they were expected to never stray far from that, even if biologically things about them would change.
Luckily for Rage, the captain wasn't there to hinder them. So they let their hair grow, watching it turn more and more white. It was nice.
They passed by another white cleaning. Those became increasingly common the more they followed the song in the air around them. Several white plants opened up as they did.
"Hello." They simply said. They felt like they were being watched. But whatever was watching them didn't really seem like it had any ill intent towards them. So the human just… Greeted.
<"Hello, little one.">
There it was. That language that transcended all known barriers of their understanding. It seemed… Pleased this time. That was nice.
Rage sat down on the soft padding. They never realized how soft it was. How those tiny blades of greenery all came together to create such a gentle and yet vivid sensation. "I know I can't understand you but… I think you're happy, right?" They felt like something was off about their voice. But in a good way. Was it higher? "And I think… I'm happy too? I don't really know what happy is. Or at least, no one ever told me. I think I'm happy." They looked at the white growths. "Do you think I'm happy?"
They didn't get a response for a bit. Maybe whatever it was that watched over them was thinking?
<"I think you're happy, flower. Yes.">
They moved to laying on their back, staring at the skies with whatever eyesight afforded to them. It occurred to them that they might be able to tell some of the words apart now. Though as always it was hard to tell. This voice… It was as if it came at them from all directions. But where fear would've told them to hide, flee, and prepare for the worst, they felt it comforting, in a sense. Something was here. And it didn't threaten them. Or try and kill them.
They wondered for a moment where the fear went. Fear was a good emotion, no? It kept them alive. It kept them safe from the captain. And the rest of their crewmates. And yet, they couldn't help but question that. They relied on their fear for so long now. And now that there was no danger around… How could they just let go? It took them days to be able to react to the world around them without thinking it's gonna try and eat them. Some rational part of their brain told them that no, this wasn't how it should be. They had to be afraid. Fear would help them survive.
But it wasn't like they enjoyed being afraid.
Regardless, Rage pressed on. They needed water. And thankfully, they still remembered the location of the last pond they drank from. In the absence of the ship they memorized head to toe, Rage found their ability to navigate foreign land getting better and better. They got lost less and less. Or rather, they didn't feel afraid of being lost anymore.
Rage stared at their own reflection. They still didn't want to enter the water. It was scary. It could hurt them. But watching themselves was nice. It went from being able to tolerate their existence to actively enjoying it. They ran a hand through their hair. It didn't get to grow too much since the last time they checked, but they made a note to always check. Just to see. It reached the lower edge of their shoulders now.
After getting their much needed drink, they continued to walk. Past the clearing that they found, and further still. More white adorned plants guiding them on the path to… They didn't really know? "Where are you leading me?" They asked, stopping still for a moment. "I know… You're taking me somewhere. Are you taking me to… You?"
The response came with another weird noise. It sounded like a yawn.
<"Yes, flower. It's okay.">
That first word. They began to recognize it. Rage focused for a few moments, trying to vocalize it. They heard the sounds. They could replicate them.
<"Y… Y-Ye… Yes?">
There was a sudden silence that followed. As if they left this other being in shock. The tune that led them didn't stop, but they could feel a shift in it. And a surge of happiness filled their heart. They didn't really get what they just said. But they assumed it was like saying 'yes' to someone. At least, assuming this being was actually leading them to wherever it sat.
Rage found a pep in their step. Knowing that someone was leading them somewhere at least gave this journey a sense of purpose. The white plants turned from just a path to follow into a guide. At least they knew that much now. It made sense, if nothing else.
They continued their stride. Feeling more confident about this journey now more than ever.
[Whiteforest]: <'She just spoke Affini, Argnonia. I cannot believe it. This is truly joyful.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'What?! How?! When did she have the chance to learn it?!'>
[Whiteforest]: <'It wasn't too much. She asked me if I was leading her to me. I replied with 'yes' and she repeated it. It's so… Precious.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'She seems intelligent, to decipher your words in such a short time. Especially when you don't speak with a proper mouth. Which, now that I think about it… Tracks with the rest of the sophonts from her ship. While most of them had intelligence levels that were rather sub par for their species… A few didn't. Those who were given more administrative and maintenance tasks. Perhaps it was a way to control them?'>
[Whiteforest]: <'If I didn't know any better, I'd say you want my tactical analysis on this, my dear.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'I'd be lying if I said I didn't. I'll always be happy to take advice from the great Hyacynthia Whitebloom.'>
[Whiteforest]: <'Well, if I had to guess… Yes. The smarter ones would be more prone for independent thought. That leads to them being a higher risk caste of workers, even if a necessary one. Thus, I can imagine most sophonts around them were modified to have lower capacity for higher thought, but increased attachment, making them loyal to an extreme degree, and lacking the emotional intelligence to understand their less physically amplified peers. The commanders of the ship, I would presume, were the ones created with the most agency. Both to lead the herd and control them. I'll remind you that humans, from all the research I've done and saw, are herd creatures. They need a leader and one another to bond with, and as such, creating a majority of loyal vocalists would be enough to suffocate any dissenters for the most part. I can't imagine their initial idea was to attack our Core Worlds with the ship itself, that goes against even the creeds of the human Accord itself, if memory serves. Thus, it must have been a last resort, one that was initiated far before the current captain was created.'>
Hyacynthia hummed to herself in pride. She still had it.
…She promptly felt a planet sized migraine rush over her as forcing all those memories back managed to cause her consciousness to grow dim.
Rage felt something shift slightly. The plants around them closed up. And this leading tune weakened somewhat. They had to concentrate and close their eyes in order to properly spot it and follow, but it was still there. Which brought a sigh of relief out of their lips. They wouldn't know where to go without it.
Still, it seemed that at least for the time being, the almighty song had to rest. So they decided to rest as well. They felt rather tired as is, it was only natural to wake later and resume their march.
The area they found themselves in was different from the others. There were plenty more pools of water around, with barked plants gently sitting at their edges. They tasted the water. Something was different about it. It was… sour? Not but the gross sour of grease and exhaust hitting your throat. It was far gentler. Not enough to dissuade Rage from drinking their fill, and reaching out to get some food from the plants around them. They didn't mind eating this plants' bearings. They subsided on nutripaste for as long as they could remember, and this was a wonderful change of pace.
Still, they couldn't just go to sleep there. Too many watery graves just waiting to take them down below. They had to move someplace safer. But moving without the song meant potentially getting lost off the path showed to them and having no idea how to return to it. They could go back but.. They didn't want to. They had to move forward. They weren't sure why. They just did.
With that in mind, they kept walking forward. Trying to follow the still feint tune that was humming around them. It was so weak, but they could hear it. And they could follow it, to the best of their abilities. Time to rest would come when they could find someplace safe enough to do so.
The watery ponds gave way to clearings without end. It was the first time since coming to this planet that Rage has seen so much free space. And the ground was teeming with life here too. It was like the small green plants that they slept upon, except these grew much larger and taller. Maybe they could sleep here?
Rage needed to do some preparations, however. And right now it was clearing a bit of space for themselves. These plants were too tall to sleep in, and Rage could figure out what to do. They pulled out plants from their stems before, they could do the same here. It just required them to kneel, grab the big green blade from its stem, and pu-
Nope. They couldn't do it. As soon as they attempted to do so, flashes came back to their mind. The screams. They were haunting. Too much. Too soon. Their hands immediately left the plant be, shaking and shivering. Something told them it wasn't like the food they ate. At least the food was given to them, and sustained them. These plants… Had nothing to do with them. They were just, living here. And Rage was living here, too. They didn't want to hurt. Not themselves, nor others.
Which meant that finding a place to sleep wasn't going to be an option anytime soon. They could feel the path leading them go through this huge clearing. There was no going back. They had to move forward.
And so… they kept marching.
Hyacynthia groaned internally, and sighed. She blacked out. This had never happened to her before. Then again, she wasn't usually fueling the life force of an entire planet on fumes. The toll was getting to her, she could tell that much. She had to get the human to her planting spot fast, before she had to really dive in and rebloom. She wouldn't survive out there without her. Not like this. Not alone, in an unfamiliar world, where nothing usually grew food she could eat.
Something else caught her attention. The constant beeping from her old pad, with what seemed like a torrent of messages from Argonia. She picked it up, slowly.
[Silverbloom]: <'Hyacynthia?! Hyacynthia, please! Are you okay?!'>
There were loads of messages in this tone before this last one.
[Whiteforest]: <'I'm… Sorry, Argnonia. I blacked out. I fear I won't have long before I must rebloom, and it means I have to get the human here as fast as possible.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'Thank the stars above you're alive I was so worried.'>
[Whiteforest]: <'It's okay, my dear. I've been through worse. I'll guide the human here, and then go to sleep. I think I'll make my next bloom more… Mobile as well.'>
[Silverbloom]: <'I'm glad, but we have a bigger problem on our hands now.'>
The message that was sent next shook Hyacynthia to her core.
[Silverbloom]: <'One of the rescued feral humans died.'>