"What did you do to that girl!?" Mera scolded.
Fen didn't understand, she couldn't have been talking about Bree, Fen helped Bree. She gave her the class G's and then helped her calm down from the thorns, she even played with her afterward, just to make sure she'd been all taken care of. That's all that the Terrans needed, right? Their drugs and lots of love and attention, she knew she'd gotten that much right.
"Fen," Oh right, Mera.
Fen shook her head, rustling the bush of multicolor petals that adorned her crown, "nothing! I- I gave her what she wanted" She made sure to emphasize that it was Bree who wanted them in the first place.
Mera did not look satisfied with that explanation.
“And how did you administer the prescription?”
Fen pulled out the Vine she’d used that morning and grabbed it with her hand, presenting the blossom to Mera. “I injected it into her Like we all do”
“But she told you that she didn’t like needles, correct?”
“After I’d given her the first dose,” Fen added.
“But then what did you do?” Mera kept pushing.
Fen shrugged, “Dosed her with some sedatives, to calm her down”
Mera stood speechless for a moment, “Fen, honey, please tell me you see the issue here” Her frustrated tone growing ever present in her voice.
Fen still didn’t understand what she’d supposedly done wrong. Mera stared blankly at her, waiting for a response.
When it was clear that Mera wouldn’t be getting one she buried her face in her hands, “Fen, please” She pulled her hands away and looked up at Fen, defeat written all over her leaves, “She told you she was afraid of needles, and then you stabbed her with one immediately after. You could have given the sedative any other way, or not at all, either of those options are better than what you did."
Okay… maybe that made a little bit of sense.
She should have thought that through for a little longer than she had. She just didn’t want those thoughts to linger in Bree’s head for any longer than they needed to.
Bree! She needed to apologize right away!
Fen tried to push past Mera in the hallway only to be stopped by several vines wrapping themselves around her arm. Weaving through her own and holding her back.
“Fen, she’s scared of you.” Mera looked genuinely concerned, “Not tonight, come back tomorrow, ask me this time, and I’ll take you to apologize to her"
Fen wilted backward. She nodded in acknowledgment.
"Thank you, Fen" Mera released her hold on Fen, letting her sulk down the hall and out of the medical wing.
Fen collapsed into a tangle of vines and flowers on her bed. She didn't have the energy to keep any form in particular as she mentally berated herself.
Fen was so stupid. It was so painfully obvious what she'd done wrong. Fen always knew she was somewhat impulsive, but now she knew what that actually meant. She was reckless. Fen was so incredibly reckless that she accidentally hurt Bree while trying to help her. It wasn't even the first time! When Fen had rescued Bree in the first place she strayed too far ahead and that was the entire reason she was in the infirmary at all. It was all her fault, her and her careless, impulsive, recklessness.
Fen singled out one vine of hers in particular. It carried the flower that she'd used to hurt Bree; its red petals practically dripped with her blood. Fen couldn't let that flower remain a part of her. It was guilty; it needed to be pruned.
Dozens of Fen's thorns collected into a single, wooden claw. Fen pressed the claw against the base of the flower. Fen braced herself and sheared the vine.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There was a knock on the door. “Bree?” it wasn’t any of the Affini who had regularly been checking in on her for the past few days. “May I come in?”
That was new, nobody had asked if they could come in at all so far in her stay, this was a nice change of pace.
“I...Sure?” Bree called out to the voice. Mera had told her that she’d have someone stop by to check in on her. Even if she turned them away she was sure that they’d come in anyway. She figured It’d be best to not start this out with anything that could be perceived as hostile at all, especially with someone who had the power to influence her medical care. Bree’d already been subjected to one less-than-pleasant experience in her hospital bed and wasn’t too keen on adding to that list.
The door slid open. Even though she knew better, Bree let out a sigh of relief upon noticing that the Affini was not Fen. It was a new Affini and a particularly unique one at that. Unlike most of the Affini she’d seen so far, they --Bree assumed they were a they, recalling her conversation with Mera from the day prior-- were a metallic purplish-red color. Where other Affini like Fen and Mera simply had bunched up coils of vines that made up their pseudo-skin, they had bark-like plates that covered large portions of their body, excluding joints and other flexible parts of like their face, palms, and abdomen. Anywhere not covered by the bark plates was just like the other affini, pale green stems, leaves, and vines that made up the rest of their body.
Their bark almost gave them the impression that they were wearing an advanced metallic suit of body armor, battle scars included. All along the surface of their bark were raised gashes of pale white that patterned their surfaces. They reminded her of her own scars, even though she knew that they weren’t scars at all. She wasn’t even sure if Affini could get scars, she just knew that some plants had patterns like that, there was nothing more to it, It was just their patterning.
Bree waved them a quiet hello as they approached her, oddly intimidated by their appearance.
“Hello there, I’m Calyx Volsia, Third Bloom, but you may call me Cal or Calyx if you want.” their voice was smooth and low, it practically hung in the air after they spoke.
“O-okay…” Bree shifted in the bed, readjusting her blanket to make sure that her legs were still hidden. She kept eye contact to a minimum, the new Affini may have acted nice, but Bree knew that they could inject her full of any number of strange drugs at any time they pleased.
“How are you feeling? Wounds been healing alright?”
“I’m going to need more of a response than that, little one” They smiled at her, Bree couldn’t tell if they were amused at her lack of a response, or just trying to be encouraging their leaves didn’t give her much to go off of.
“I’m fine… My leg still hurts but it’s getting better for sure.”
“That’s good to hear, “ they purred, “Do you mind if I take a look?”
Bree tensed up at the idea, but her rational brain won the fight this time. This Affini, like Mera, was essentially a doctor and only seemed interested in her care. She relented and lifted the blanket off her lower half, revealing her scarred and bandaged leg.
Calyx lowered themself to the ground next to Bree’s bed partially deforming their legs as they sank to the floor to check her wounds. They unwrapped the bandage, exposing the wound to the sting of the open air. The Affini made a series of low rumbling noises, probably their equivalent of the Terran “hmm’s” and similar pensive mumbles.
After a minute, the Affini stood up, seemingly satisfied with the state of Bree’s wound, not bothering to replace the vine bandages that had wrapped it up until that point.
“You seem to be healing well, I’ll have you back on your feet in no time.” Bree smiled, that was good news, she’d be able to get back to-
Well... there actually wasn’t anything for her to do. She’d been taking classes from home, but she hadn’t brought any of her school materials with her, and she doubted that the Affini would let her continue her Terran studies even if she had.
A sudden realization shocked Bree, She had no idea why the Affini had been taking over Terran colonies. She clearly wasn’t a slave, but what was expected of her now that she was here aboard this Affini ship, What had they been doing with the Terrans that they captured? It didn’t make any sense for them to rescue and care for her.
“Why am I here?”
Cal recoiled, “Because you’re hurt and need medical attention”
“Nonono, not why am I here in the infirmary, that much I get. Why am I here, on this ship?” Bree clarified, “Why are you all caring for me and not just… I don’t know, killing and conquering the whole Terran Accord?”
The affini let out an amused chuckle, “Well, little one, I was just about to explain tha-”
“And why do you all call me ‘little one’? It’s weird”
Calyx gave her a confused look, “I… Have you seen yourself in comparison to us? You’re tiny.”
Bree couldn’t deny that, They were more than twice her size.
“Anyway…” Cal continued, “back to answering your first question” They shot Bree a playful look, “There are two possibilities for your future, you’ll either be allowed to remain independent and live on your own under Affini care, or-”
Bree interrupted them again, “That’s a very worrying use of the word ‘or’.”
Cal gave her another, slightly more frustrated, look before continuing again, “Or, you could give up your legal rights to become the pet of a loving Affini owner who would spoil and pamper you so much that you wouldn’t worry about anything ever again!”
Bree didn’t even know why Cal was proposing this as an option to her, she wanted to stay free, “Pet? I don’t want to be a pet. I want to stay free.” She squinted at Cal, waiting for their response.
“Well… that’s not entirely your choice.” Oh… yep, that’s why they’d posed it like that, “If It’s determined that you are fit to take care of yourself and that you do not pose a threat to yourself or anyone else then you will be allowed to remain independent, But If it’s proven otherwise or if you volunteer, you’ll be domesticated and delivered to your new owner… And that’s why I’m here! to determine whether or not you’ll be allowed to make that choice or not”
Wait… Volunteer? “What kind of person would volunteer to be a pet?”
Cal’s eyes lit up at the question, “A lot actually! My first and third florets both volunteered to be my pets!”
This had to be a trick, right? They wanted Bree to volunteer so that she didn’t resist when they eventually made her into a pet anyway… but then why would Calyx be there to figure out where she’d belong?
Bree shook her head, It didn’t matter why, she needed to prove that she wasn’t a threat to anyone to keep her agency.
“Okay… well then I guess It’s time for you to figure out whether I’ll be domesticated or not, right?”
“Exactly right!” Cal pulled a datapad out of their chest(?), “Okay, So I’ll just need you to answer these questions as honestly as possible!”
Bree nodded, and Calyx began their interrogation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bree seemed to be doing well!
The implant in her leg had been healing up her leg nicely and she had promising responses to Cal’s questioning.
There were a few answers that had been a little worrying but nothing that instantly set her up for domestication. Cal would need to keep watch on her for a while to ensure that she really was safe to live on her own, but there was one more question that Cal had to ask her.
“So… Bree,” They wanted to delay asking the question as much as they could, but Bree reconnecting their eye contact was the cue that they needed to break and ask, “Where did your scars come from?”
Bree tensed up at the question.
“I know it might be a painful memory, but I need to know”
Bree took a shaky breath, she was clearly on the verge of tears, “I- They’re- M- My parents-” Was all she could get out before bursting into tearful sobs.
Of course, it was her parents. This was exactly why the Terrans needed to be domesticated. They couldn’t even take care of themselves, let alone their families. They’d hurt this poor girl and she was still suffering.
Calyx shushed her, they didn’t need to hear any more of it. They especially didn't want to make her relive those painful experiences again.
They wrapped Bree into their arms, keeping in mind the two flowers now sprouting from the wounds on her leg and avoiding damaging them in the embrace. An idea flowered in their mine, one that would hopefully help Bree calm down, “You said you were interested in class g’s right?”
Bree nodded wordlessly into their shoulder.
“Well, I brought you some, don’t worry, it’s not an injection” Cal reassured her.
Bree pushed herself away from their chest and looked up at their face, “R-really?” she managed between her sobs.
Calyx nodded and presented the vine that they’d prepared for Bree earlier in front of her. Bree’s eyes focused on the several glossy pink berries that had sprouted from it. She reached up and plucked one of the berries, “are these…”
Calyx nodded, "go on, eat it" they encouraged.
Bree’s eyes flitted from the berry and back to Calyx several times, “Nothing bad is gonna happen, right?”
“Of course not,” they reassured, “your head might get a bit foggy but that’s about it as far as side effects go”
Bree shrugged and popped the berry into her mouth.