Doctor Xaxavex Slivway, 8th bloom had seen many things. It had seen sophonts who's entire life conditions required exquisitely specific settings, and disturbing those conditions could lead to extreme ramifications. It had seen patients with broken or lost limbs, torn internals, and many other gruesome descriptions of the suffering other sophonts could fall victim to, and yet, it had treated all of them to perfection.
This was the first time it was asked to bring a sophont back from the dead.
The human girl laying on the operation table in front of it was already mostly gone. Any other vet would sign this a lost cause, and deliver the disheartening news to their Affini. Unfortunately for the doctor, the Affini who brought them this patient was the former commander of the Core World Affini's fleet, and she did not seem like the kind of person who's bad side you want to be on.
There was a silver lining, however. Had Xaxavex and Argonia hadn't arrived when they did, it could very well have been too late. The human had maybe minutes at most, but now that she was here, the tangled Affini could hook her up to some proper life support, extending her stay at this existence long enough to get proper help.
Still, the news had to be delivered. It was not a matter of choice. It was a matter of profession. It slithered across the ground. Whatever this form Hyacynthia took, it didn't understand it. Affini had much more potential than being bipedal, but that was besides the point. The mass of vines that comprised their body continued its advance, exiting the patient's room and going to meet with his boss and her companion.
Hyacynthia, in the meantime, was pacing around in circles unending. This vessel was too small. And sure, they were on their way to the Genesis Lux. There, the doctor could use every tool at its disposal to ensure the human would live. But she was far too stressed to think about this rationally.
<"Please, Hyacynthia, try and calm down…"> She felt a vine from Argnoia rest on her shoulder. Argonia barely changed, either. She seemed to have this fascination with a sophont race they encountered when Hyacynthia was still active duty and Argonia was her second in command, some kind of tall four legged animals with six arms that existed in a very low gravity environment. She's pretty sure Argonia had at least 3 florets from that race in her hab.
That didn't stop her, however, from brushing the vine off rudely, glaring daggers into the silvered Affini. <"Don't tell me to calm down!"> She did her best not to yell basically, sitting down and covering her face with both arms as she heard the door open. <"Doctor. Please tell me there's good news…">
<"She's stable. For now."> The doctor replied. It hesitated, however. <"I've never seen this level of heart failure in human sophonts. I'm having a machine manually pump her blood since her heart gave out completely. She's going to need a transplant, and she's going to need it fast. Not to mention the fact that she had xenodrugs in her system. What were you thinking?!"> The vet chided her, and Hyacynthia could only recoil back. <"Giving her that mixture could have been fatal, you are lucky that it didn't outright kill her! I had to purge her entire system and now I need to somehow find someone willing to give her a transplant!">
<"And just where are we supposed to find a suitable replacement?!"> The white Affini called back. <"The only other non-floret humans this side of the galaxy come from the same defective cloning conditions as her! Can't you just, print one out with the Compiler?">
<"Not possible, unfortunately."> Despite the panic seen in her, it kept its cool. <"While technically yes, we could print a human heart out using an atomic compiler, it would have to be perfect. And the risk is too great that the transplant will fail and she won't make it.">
An air of dismay fell across the three Affini. One, already semi-grieving. One, helpless to see her friend in such a state. The last, trying to think of a solution to this unsolvable problem.
That is, until, Hyacynthia realized something. There was something they could use as a replacement. <"...What about an Affini core?">
That one took Xaxavex by utter surprise. <"You're not seriously suggesting that, are you? This isn't like a Haustoric Implant Hyacynthia, with all due respect, taking enough of your core for this will kill you. While true, I could take the core tissue of an Affini and use its already existing modular ability for changing shape to create something custom for her, you'd have better luck domesticating a literal sun than you would finding an Affini willing to give their life for a human like this.">
<"You misunderstand, Doctor."> She corrected him. <"You forget that until less than a cycle ago, my core was as big as this shuttle. I had to shed and peel away a ton of the overgrowth in order to rebloom into a smaller, more compact form. There's still a lot of it down there, inert. You could take it. Use it. I don't know… Something.">
This caused the doctor to think. <"Hmm… It wouldn't be your inner, explicit core. But there's a chance. It's not a big chance, but it's a chance all the same. However… Are you willing to gamble those odds? I'll remind you, we only have one shot at this, not to mention it means you'll never be able to go back to your familiar root system. You'll have to rebloom all the way back from zero. And should her body reject the replacement heart… Then it's over.">
The white clad Affini stopped for a moment. She wanted to throw some retorts, but… She knew she didn't have a choice. Was she really willing to sacrifice all the roots she laid down for a single sophont? The answer was obvious.
<"Can you please send down another shuttle to collect some of my old core's overgrowth tissue? As much as Doctor Xaxavex requires. I don't care if you take all of it.">
Argnoia paused, and solemnly nodded. <"Yes ma'am. Right away. Doctor, walk me through this…"> They gave Hyacynthia some space as they contemplated how to even go about this sort of operation.
She walked back to the sleeping human. Holding her little hand gently. "Please don't go… not yet. Just hold on a little longer…" she whispered. Her eyes glimmered dark and gloomy.
She looked out the window to see her garden world slowly shrinking. She didn't want to part with it either. So many plants there needed her to grow in peace. Perhaps, she'd be able to return when this is over. And she could let this human frolic and live in peace for all time. Never being alone. Always having someone watch over them. Keeping them safe. She liked that idea. An entire garden for them to play in. Live out the idyllic utopia that the Affini promised every sophont race they come across.
Soon enough, she saw another shuttle head down. No doubt filled with workers to harvest her old core. And while it was mere overgrowth, it was there for good reason. All her roots and branches originated in that core, and each rebloom down in the earth afforded her another layer of life above the old. Shame she never got to finish the last one, but… It will have to do.
As soon as the carrier vessel made contact with the docks of the Genesis Lux, the trio rushed the sleeping human towards the ship's medical center, and from there, the intensive care section. Xaxavex took it from there, and urged the two other Affini to leave this to the professionals, as it hurried inside to attempt and make a heart for a human out of inert Affini tissue. Surely, this would grant it respect amongst its peers if it succeeded. And while the prospect of using an Affini's core in order to restructure it for the sake of a greater cause was certainly a thing… doing so with the overgrowth tissue of a another core was practically unheard of.
Hyacynthia and Argonia, in the meantime, went to distract the now humanoid Affini from her troubles. Argonia was more than happy to show her around the ship, though it was doubtful they'd be able to see it all in one day.
What Hyacynthia did see, however, was the florets. And so many of them at that.
Bipedal, quadrupeds, winged and many other creatures of all shapes and kinds, as well as the Affini that owned them. When you reach this deep into Affini space you realize that a lot of Affini tend to take shape after their favorite sophonts. She could even spot a few other Affini with human florets who happened to take a similar shape to her own, though seemingly they were much more practiced with it. Stepping around with a pair of legs was certainly a new experience for her, to say the least.
And yet… As she gazed at those other humans. Sleeping soundly. Snuggling their beloved owners. Getting pats, and being fed while purring with delight. All she could imagine in her mind's eye was taking care of her own human that way.
<"You're still thinking about her, aren't you?"> As usual, Argonia read her like an open book.
She sighed. <"How can I not? She's my responsibility, Argonia. I can't just pretend all that time spent watching over her hasn't changed me. Just look at my form. It's so… Alien.">
Argonia chuckled. The irony of that statement wasn't lost on her either.
<"It's funny. When you left to care for your garden world, you mentioned how you want to follow in the footsteps of the old Affini. Those unlike us, who didn't have domesticated beeples and advanced technology. Those whose reblooms meant a deeper connection to the earth, rather than new means of self expression or regeneration.">
<"I still feel that way, in a sense."> She shrugged. <"I've never taken a floret before for a reason, you know. Despite my career choices… I always felt at home with the plants around us, rather than with other sophonts, Affini included. It's funny, in a way. Despite most of our race being made to deal with such low gravity… I yet found my inner peace deep within the surface of a world. I suppose becoming an admiral was my way of dealing with these emotions, until that too failed. I'm… Much wiser now, thankfully."> she paused for a moment, looking dreary still. <"And yet, I want to make her happy. There was just something about a human walking through my gardens. Exploring the wilds there for the first time. That innocence… I want to protect it. She suffered so much on that dreaded ship. She deserve a happier life.">
<"No argument there…"> Argonia put two pairs of arms behind her neck. <"That reminds me… The other humans from that ship. I could update you about them, if you want. I promise it's good news.">
<"Sure. Perhaps knowing there's hope could lift my mood yet.">
They found a bench to sit on. A rather sprawling construct designed more for Affini comforts regardless of shape or size. As they leaned into the well designed curves that complemented their vines comfortably, Argonia kept explaining the situation. How most of the sophonts on that ship were still relatively fresh clones, and thus, weren't in immediate risk of heart or organ failure at large. There was enough time to bring in transplant organs from other systems and use them to cure those who needed it. For some it was even as easy as just a xenodrug regiment. For others… Well, at least they had time to get proper transplant organs from across space.
All of them had to be domesticated, naturally. Some went more peacefully. Most went out with a metaphorical bang. By now, most of the Class O cases had gotten to permanent doses. Which was sad, but at least they'd be happier that way.
<"And what about the floret you mentioned you might take?">
<"Right. About her. She's doing okay, for the time being. Another one of the Engineer crew, actually. I think her old name was Fire? I decided to call her Aqua instead.">
<"Ah yes. Aqua. A perfect name for the situation."> That actually got Hyacynthia to chuckle again.
<"That reminds me."> Argonia blinked for a moment and remembered what she was going to ask on that matter. <"The human in your care. Rage, I believe her name was. Do you…">
<"Have any other names in mind for her? No, not yet."> Hyacynthia caught on to her train of thought before she could finish it. <"I want to talk to her about it. Who knows. Maybe she'll want to pick her own name. I'm sure it'll be a magnificent one.">
A smile crept to her face again. That seemed to elevate Argonia's mood as well, who quickly gave her a quick pat on the head. <"She'll be okay. I chose Xaxavex for a good reason. It's one of the best vets Core Worlds have to offer, I assure you. If anyone can stabilize her condition… it would be it.">
Incidentally, the silvery Affini realized she was getting a message. She pulled out her portable pad. <"We should really get you a new pad when this is all over…"> She muttered out loud as she opened up the message, and her eyes glimmered anew.
Hyacynthia couldn't help but notice, and leaned in. <"What is it?">
<"It's calling us. I think Xaxavex is done.">
The walk back to the medical center was a lot shorter than the one out of it. Unlike before, this time the two Affini rushed to the complex that housed the Genesis Lux's medical facilities, where the good doctor was already waiting for them outside.
<"How is she? Please by the stars tell me that she's okay."> Hyacynthia blurted out as soon as the two of them made it within speaking distance. Xaxavex nodded.
<"If this operation doesn't earn me any accolades, I don't know what will. It's a good thing you had all this core overgrowth, I had to experiment several times with different designs to make sure it fit. But… I'm glad to say that her body is responding well to the operation. I put her on Class Z's for the time being to keep her unconscious, but she'll survive. I estimate that by the time we land on the nearest Core World she'll be ready to be awakened.">
Hyacynthia fell to her knees, tears of relief came down her wooden face, some of the moisture already being re-absorbed back into her body. <"Thank the stars above…">
<"Now."> It beckoned her. <"Would you like to be there when she wakes up?">