A few dozen Affini city ships are floating above Ambilux, the planet The Daycare resides on. The planetary council had voted and come to consensus. This entirely planet would now become as one with It. The populace that do not want the connected community of The Daycare are leaving. The spaceport would not be consumed, so visitors could come and join and any that stay and change their mind later may leave.
You owner has decided that you and they will stay, enjoy one last day of selfhood and await the wave of consumption to sweep over the world.
A picnic with your owner before everything you've known since your domestication is assimilated in the protean entity that was The Daycare. Perhaps that would no longer be Its title. Very few would be temporary guests or constituents from here on.
You didn't live on the opposite side of the planet from The Daycare, but you were a long train ride away. You will be able to see It coming. It wasn't something scary, not really. It was a place and soon a planet to not be an individual or to reside within a shifting entity that sought out comfort, entertainment, and pleasure for all that It was and It contained.
Not unlike the Affini. A kind of idealized form of the Compact.
Compacting the sophontic life of a planet into a singular community. Isolation is an unthinkable thing. A constituent could be alone if it wanted to be. Privacy was still important though most found that continued Togetherness lessened a constituent's need for such. Though, even the Core of The Daycare takes time away from the collective to be with the First Owner.
Not even the most sociable constituent can be expected to be on all the time.
The planet from space, looked down, by perspective, not judging this lifestyle, by those that came to pick up those seeking a life apart from It.
Take a petri dish, or a growth medium. Make a sphere of it. Introduce a slime mold that glows and writhes and assimilates and reshapes itself in any way a constituent wants in innumerable different ways at once. Watch the growth process of Its creep across the face of the planet.
Slow on a local level, destructive speed was too frightening for new constituents. Panic was unpleasant to integrate into It. Pushing through gaps, into buildings, into Habs, to fill and envelop the residents. Material for It to grow. Once empty, It collapses the building, adding its mass to It.
Multiply by hundreds of buildings at a time, creeping in every direction at once. Building speed by necessity of mass compressing downwards in the fluid chaos that It was in this moment.
But you, you sit with your owner watching the beautiful park in your city on Ambilux, existing as individuals that might be the last time you care to ever be again.
You didn't fear It. You feared losing your owner. That you'd both be separated somehow, despite the connection you both would have. In the months preceding this day, you both went to The Daycare as guests, connected by mind but not body and no matter how far apart you were from your owner, you were one thought away. At the speed of thought, wired through the Forest's Roots. Nothing was quite as fast or as close, not outside the digital realms, at any rate.
So you were as close as you could be to your owner now. Cuddling as close as your bodies would allow. Enjoying the kind of touch that may become rarified. The kind of affectionate petting that you love with all of your being. The kind that shows you again and again your place in the universe belongs near your owner.
Together forever. That's what you wanted. That's what It promised, for those that want Its gift.
But you also wanted the personal time. Person time. Constituents weren't people, at least, most said they weren't while they were and after leaving, that being It was… impossible to be as a self inside a whole. You'd be yourself but not your self. You would be as a portion in a pluribus of monumental size.
Together, you wait for Its arrival. You eat and drink your favorite things. You morosely think of it as a last meal. This was not death. You were not about to die. Your owner would not allow that. They loved you too much to let the end of a planet be an end to you.
Together, you enjoy the breeze and the flowers, wondering what the wind feels like to It. What it will be like to be It. What It will do to celebrate Its Togetherness with you and all yet to be connected. What the experience of millions of minds linked together would be capable of. What novel things could entertain such an entity.
How quickly such an entity could learn. How quickly such an entity could teach.
If It wanted to.
It would not. Oneness did not mean Sameness. Utilization was antithetical to Its motive. Togetherness meant nothing if constituents were not different.
So, you wait with your owner watching the horizon. You hold their vines and their vines hold you. You rock with their rhythm, knowing that it could be muted by It. Muffled by the minds of multitudes.
A surmountable problem. It knew how to keep florets happy. It is mostly florets. And plenty of owners now add their collective care to all of It. Solutions have been or will be found.
Every single moment brought it closer. A tingle of whispers, as quiet as wind through the grass around your feet. Present and ignorable.
But it is getting louder.
And you can't even see it yet.
Such is the pleasant doom of self's encroach. Subtle. Insidious. Inevitable. As you were warned, by It. It had messaged everyone who declared they would be staying to be with It. It invited you to play with It as It came for you. To run, and scream, and struggle, as play, catharsis, and fun. Entertaining the idea made It seem less monstrous. "Hello~" a clear word reached you, in a single voice. "Feel you! Coming! Waiting? Patience!" More words, in the same voice, different inflections, a messenger relaying many signals.
"Can you see the Forest yet? I can't see it for the trees~" You owner could not help themself but to make a pun. You are proud that they used a metaphor correctly.
"No, but I hear It. It knows we're here." You are breathing meditively. It was coming, It really was. Nothing would stop It. Nothing wanted to stop It. Those who voted against this happening were not rancorous, only concerned about the well-being of It, with so much newness.
Not for you.
Well, that distinction was going to blur a little at least. Even now, as It continues speaking to you. “Hello~ New! Safe! Together!!” Your mouth shivers with the last word.
The Daycare communicates in fragments incredibly often because of something of a design error in Its integration of new minds. The error being either not taking turns speaking, or taking turns far too quickly. Sometimes a connection lets a constituent only get out a single phoneme. Sometimes they get the whole conversation, if no other constituent wanted in.
It feels like a crowd wanted into your head. You had the focus of a lot of It.
It feels like the focus you get from class-H’s.
It feels like the occupation of touch from class-A’s.
It feels like the pang in your heart from when your owner gave you class-C’s to bond with you.
It feels… like you.
“Petal~” Your owner shakes you from your reverie. “It’s coming?”
“It’s reaching for me, Mistress…”
“I know, I can feel It too.” They sound wistful. “It’s… dirt… this is…” They look dazed. If you didn’t think it was impossible, you would think that your owner was being domesticated. They smile. “It’s amazing!”
It is amazing. That was true. It was also awful. In the literal. A wave of ooze controlled by a panoply of mental mass that was going to consume everything. You are sitting, waiting for it to show up and eat you. Eat you both.
You feel excited. A thrill, you don’t know if it's you, or your owner, or It making you feel this way. What a feeling, foreign thoughts feeling like they are being generated by something else inside your skull. In ten dozen voices.
“Who? New! Hello! Together! Coming! Look! Big! Bigger! ManY! Joining! I! We! Hello!”
If this was a Terran cartoon, your nose would be bleeding, maybe your ears too, but the Affini would never allow that to happen from a conversation. You are fine. You are safe. You are smiling. You are with the most important person in the universe. You are their most important pet.
It’s coming for you.
It wants you.
It wants introductions.
It wants conversations.
It wants dissections.
It wants to paint a room with you.
“Rooms say a lot about someone!” A cogent thought. How quaint.
You want to see what a room of you looks like. You wonder what it will be like to be a room. You would not be just a room because constituents were rarely ever just a thing. Though one could be, if one wanted to be. One could relegate everything they are into a piece of furniture or clothing, just for novelty’s sake. Mapping sensations in a body that would be impossible if you were truly occupying such a shape.
A hallucination. A wild collection of intermingled minds all hallucinating in one great soup of being. What could be better than that? It is real. Because everything that It is is It. There won’t be anything but It on this planet soon. It is reality and It chooses what shape It is.
No wonder you are so scared. Your pulse… Is calm. It… It is helping you, just like your owner. It is inside you. It owns you too. You own you. You It. It You.
Signals out of tune.
“No! Yes!” Whose thought was that?
You are together with your owner physically. You are Together with It mentally. For now.
“Hello~” Your thoughts with Its many greetings meld together. It wants your connection. It wants you to be It. Unbecome you. Nothing can stop It from doing that to you.
What happens when your owner becomes It too?
Will It order you to join It?
You have to obey your owner.
Will you be able to tell when It is your owner and when It isn’t?
It told you that you would know. Each constituent is unique. Mental touchprint. Feels different. So many touches.
Is It petting you with Its thoughts? You feel loved. You are loved. Your owner loves you.
You are laughing.
What could be better than that?
You can see It now. You shake in anticipation now. Are you scared? Are you looking at your death? Are you looking at your birth?
An eldritch sweep. Cleaning away the constructed environment. Life that would never exist without intervention. This had been a dead rock. Now, it would be nothing but life.
It is beautiful.
And It’s coming.
Your head and your owner’s core is more full of It than they are of you. The consumption will be a formality only. You are aching now. You can be closer.
It will bring you closer to your owner.
It will bring you closer to everything.
Because It will become everything. Become anything. Transcending the meaning of form. Mutable. Protean. Mercurial.
You could stay yourself in the wake of this.
But do you want to?
You can change too.
What would being yourself in such a world mean?
It has let you go. So you can make the choice. A meaningless choice. A game. A joke. A stageplay. You can feel the atmospheric depression that It has. The weight of presence that endless life possesses. You could roll down the hill and merge with it. You could run screaming the other way.
It does not matter.
You always will matter.
The journey is a choice.
The end has been chosen for you.
This is a moment of convergent life.
“Well petal?” Your owner speaks. “How do you want to do this?~”
You are inside It. You are unbecoming. The material of self is being melted. You are becoming. You feel your owner right there. Becoming with you.
You know them now. It knows them now. It knows you now. Parts of It anyway. There are lots of introductions to be had. And all the time in the world for It to happen.
“Together?” The part of It that is you broadcasts to your closest constituent.
“Together forever~” The part of It that is your owner replies with all the loving control that your selves knew.
It and It and It all cheer for Its and Its happiness and Togetherness.
It continues. It has more to bring Together.