Bree sat huddled in the corner of her room, hands cupped over her ears, The fighting outside was too loud, she didn’t care what the outcome would be; anything was better than the mayhem she found herself stuck in the midst of.
The Affini couldn’t be anywhere near as bad as she’d heard other Terrans say, they were plants. Plants couldn’t be mean. They couldn’t hurt a fly… or wait… they could only hurt flies? Either way, there were no plants that could hurt humans aside from poison or thorns but those were merely passive defensive measures. Bree couldn’t imagine the massive plant-women as anything other than peaceful, but she did have to face the reality that they had invaded her colony… But they had offered a peaceful solution and only retaliated when the Terran Navy had jumped in and escalated the whole thing.
Bree was shaken from her thoughts when she heard a loud crash come from across the street, she didn’t dare move from her spot to look out the window. Even that was too much for her to handle. Bree closed her eyes and clamped her hands over her ears tighter than before. It hurt slightly but it was well worth it to avoid the deafening sounds from outside.
Why had she told them? She was all alone out here in this colony. Her parents weren’t that bad, she should have kept her mouth shut and waited longer. Had she known that there would be so much fighting she would have never taken the risk of coming out. She hadn’t even gotten a chance to get comfortable here, she was too nervous to leave her home most days, let alone try to meet people.
Bree felt the beginnings of tears forming in the corners of her eyes. Stars, Why was she crying? She should have been more angry than anything, why did the navy have to interrupt like that? The settlement had been well on its way to a peaceful solution. It didn’t make any sense. The Affini were so much more advanced than what anybody could even imagine, the terrans never had any chance against them, why didn’t they realize that and make everything worse for everyone else involved. Bree had heard news about a few colonies that had been peacefully integrated into the Affini. In reality, the news had been about the Affini infiltrating and toppling the power from within before forcing the people’s hand into surrendering, but there were a few accounts from people who told other stories, about the Affini taking care of the populous and allowing some to return to their families in other colonies. Those accounts seemed far more reliable than the news articles that the government seemed intent on pushing.
Bree unclenched her teeth, trying to quell her sudden flare of anger. It didn’t help her at all in this situation. This wasn’t a dumb story where someone gets angry and suddenly becomes an incredible fighter and takes on a whole army by themself, that wasn’t-
Bree felt a gentle tap on her shoulder, startling her out of her head. She jerked her head up and to whatever had touched her to see an Affini towering over her. The Affini crouched over Bree, still remaining at least as tall as Bree's full height. Bree hadn't prepared herself for just how big the Affini would be, of course, she'd seen images and heard stories but that never could prepare her to go face to face with a plant-person twice her size.
Bree was speechless at the sight of her, luckily, the plant took the initiative and spoke up in a soft voice, "hey? Terran, Are you okay?"
Bree considered not responding but decided there was ultimately no point in being stubborn. She shook her head, silence followed. After a few moments, she spoke again, "I need you to come with me, I know you must be scared, but it's dangerous here." She placed her hand on Bree's and squeezed reassuringly, "I'll keep you safe, I promise"
Bree nodded in response, anything to get her away from this fighting.
"Can you stand?" the Affini asked, Bree nodded again. "Good, follow me." She offered Bree a viny hand and helped her to her feet.
Even at her full height, Bree felt so small next to the large Affini. It was a strangely comforting feeling, to have someone so much bigger and stronger than her who was there to protect her.
Bree gave her home a final look as she followed the Affini out of the house. It would have been her house for at least the next year had the colony not broken down at the arrival of the Affini. Despite having lived in it for nearly six months already, Bree hardly ever thought of it as home, it was just where she lived. There wasn't anything worth taking with her. Even with how few possessions she had, none of them meant anything.
Her neighborhood had been destroyed. She counted at least four houses that had been completely leveled and nearly every other one was in some form of disaster ranging from broken windows to missing entire walls. Further down the street, there were flashes of light, each punctuated with a loud bang. Gunshots. To Bree's relief, the Affini was leading her in the opposite direction from the gunfire. Bree was never a very good runner, there had never been any reason for her to, until now. She had an increasingly hard time keeping up with her Affini guide as she got more and more exhausted and out of breath.
Bree heard another human scream something from behind her, she couldn’t quite tell what they had said, but she hardly had any time to ponder on it.
The ground shook beneath her feet, causing Bree to lose her footing and collapse to the ground, scraping her palms as she tried to cushion her fall. A fraction of a second later, searing, piercing pain exploded from her left calf. Bree was no stranger to pain, but this was a whole new level of agony. She couldn't focus on anything other than her nerves screaming at her. She tried to get back to her feet but her leg refused to follow her commands and she was reduced to weakly crawling across the pavement.
Before she could even crawl a meter, her Affini companion had rushed back to her and picked her up with her powerful arms. “Oh, Dust, I’m sorry little one. I should have stayed closer.” She brushed the hair out of Bree's face with a stray vine. Bree smiled weakly at the oddly motherly action. It wasn't much, but it helped calm Bree's pain-addled mind. The Affini smiled back, dull pink bulbs for eyes fixed upon Bree's own.
The Affini only stood still for a moment, before continuing her desperate sprint away from Bree's former residence. Bree was so tired she had Been so overwhelmed ever since the Navy arrived two days prior. The soothing rhythm of the Affini's stride threatened to lull the exhausted girl to sleep, but not before she stole a look at what could have possibly happened to knock her down like that. The last thing she saw before drifting off was a smoldering crater where her house used to be.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Fenaia messed up. She failed at her one job. The others were supposed to push the fighting away while she scanned the area, safely collecting any terrans left behind. The terran had gotten hurt because she hadn’t protected them.
The terran had fallen unconscious. It took all of Fen’s willpower to not gawk over how cute they were, even as they whined wrapped up in her vines. Fen hadn’t learned much about their biology, but she knew that the fluid leaking from their leg was not a good sign. Fen couldn’t worry about that at the moment though, she needed to get them somewhere safe before stopping to assess their wounds.
Fen sprinted back to the transport pod, deftly maneuvering over the debris of the ruined settlement with dozens of vines to keep the human’s ride as smooth as possible. She finally made it to one of the transport pods that her group had descended on. They were a little tight, but they didn’t need to be comfortable. The longest Fen had ever stayed in one was just under fifteen minutes, in one particularly high-orbit descent.
Fen quickly, but gently, laid the Terran down on one of the seats as she hit the “ascent” button with a stray vine. The pod door slid closed and Fen heard the telltale hiss of the airlock sealing itself. As soon as the pod lifted off the ground Fen relaxed some of the tension she’d been holding in her core and turned to the Terran. A small pool of crimson liquid had formed around their leg, almost matching the hue that Fen had chosen for a portion of the flowers that dotted her vines.
That couldn’t have been good. Fen knelt over the Terran, observing the leg that the fluid seemed to be coming from. The Terran’s lower clothing had been soaked in the stuff, staining the blue fabric with dark brown splotches. She needed to get the garment out of the way and fashioned a sharp claw from a few thorns on the end of a vine. She slashed the cloth away, revealing the pale skin of the human, lightly covered in the same red liquid.
Fen quickly noticed the two wounds on the human’s leg, clearly an entrance and exit wound. Other than the loss of circulatory fluids, this seemed to be a less than critical wound. Fen prepared a vine and wrapped it tightly around the wounds, creating a bandage from her own vine. She felt a sense of pride wash over her core, she stabilized the Terran! Feeling accomplished, she sank back into her seat as the transport pod continued its ascent, observing the small figure resting at her side.
There was something strange about this Terran though. This wasn’t the first time she’d seen one, many of her friends aboard the Disalix had Terran florets whom she’d watched from time to time, but this one had… stripes? Unlike any she’d ever seen before, all up and down their legs were thin horizontal stripes of darkened skin, closely resembling the patterns of a birch tree. Fen had never seen or heard anything like it before, maybe she’d discovered a new type of Terran! Before she had much time to consider the thought, the pod announced that it had boarded with the Disalix.