Mane sat up in her little mattress fort. One room over, she could see that Effus was deep in thought over some paperwork. Mane nervously held one of the books on domestication under her arm, having suddenly become acutely aware half an hour ago how incriminating some of the edits she'd made to it would look in the eyes of the affini. As the adrenaline rush of her father's murder and her subsequent adoption by these aliens had started to wane, she felt things starting to feel...not quite normal yet, but sort of quaint and domestic. Effus almost felt less like an imposing monster to be grappled with and more like an annoying family member that just happened to be legally untouchable.
Still, adjustments had to be made sooner or later if she was going to make it out of this...alive or not. She hopped out of bed and approached Effus awkwardly. The affini continued to while away at their paperwork and didn't seem to notice her. A part of Mane whispered that she could back out here and now, that perhaps she SHOULD back out here and now. Effus was frustrated with her already, after all, and she was more likely to get what she wanted by mollifying the foreign power rather than continuously giving it new reasons to be angry.
But Mane needed space. Especially if she was going to continuing her research into the domestication program without revealing just how much disdain she actually held for it. Asking Effus to give her a room was scary, but if she was to avoid barrelling face first into oblivion it was a necessity. Mane took a deep breath. She put her hands in the pockets of her coat and balled them tightly into fists. There was no backing down for her anymore. Backing down from the affini was what got her caught.
"H-hey. Effus." Mane spoke. Her voice wasn't as strong or as authoritative as she would've liked it to be. It was shaky and infirm. She knew deep down that no intelligent creature could hear her voice and not immediately grasp what a weak position she knew she held. Still, she would have to hold it. There was no other choice. Effus didn't look up yet. Was she too absorbed in her work, or had she decided not to humor Mane's words on the grounds that they were so pathetic and empty? Had...Effus even heard her? "I want a room of my own," Mane pressed, slightly louder. This time Effus glanced up from the papers to look Mane in the eyes. Her body and all its bizarre extensions wriggled madly. Mane forced herself not to step away or avert her gaze.
"You'd like a room, little one? That can be arranged." Effus glanced all about the hab. Mane tried not to let her eyeline be dragged with the alien's. She maintained a stony, straightfaced glare. "I took you as wanting out in such a hurry, that possibility hadn't crossed my mind! Oh, you poor sophont! Yes, yes, of course! A room for you, post-haste!" Effus shoved aside whatever paperwork held her attention. Notably she stayed hunched over, so intensely that her gaze was almost level with Mane's...almost. "I can give you papers to fill out describing how much room you want, where you want it, all kinds of accom-"
"No need," Mane cut her off. Was she being too hostile? She decided to pump the brakes. Effus wasn't actively antagonistic towards her, after all. "I just...all I want is space. I'll happily keep the pillow for Aria made, even. It's…" she blushed. Thinking about Aria's kindness made her feel weak and bubbly. She liked that feeling, but it was counterproductive when she was engaged with an affini. "...comfy. It's comfortable."
"Yes, dear," said Effus, her vines flapping with, Mane could only assume, delight. "No problem at all. I'll have your room ready by tomorrow night. Are you enjoying your tablet? The clothes? Are you out of any snacks?"
Pretzels, Mane thought to herself, clementines and baby carrots too. She wasn't going to send Effus to the grocery store just for that though. It seemed so...trivial and pathetic. "Nothing, thank you. Just want space for myself." Did Effus...trust her? After the cuffs it seemed ridiculous. Perhaps Erias had told her something.
"Absolutely, little one. Undomesticated Terrans need privacy. It's absolutely understandable."
Undomesticated Terrans. Something about that turn of phrase made Mane angry. The implication that florets didn't need any didn't surprise her much, not rationally at least; most florets seemed to be every bit as needy and dependent as rebel propaganda painted them to be. Still, being confronted with it in this sudden unexpected way filled her with agitation. "Undomesticated Terrans." As if they were the strange ones for having a normal human need that the affini erased because it was inconvenient to them.
"Yeah, I...yes, I suppose, that we do." Mane smiled awkwardly in an attempt to pave over her anger. Effus' body language seemed to change for a moment. Had she noticed Mane's feelings? If she had, she had quickly chosen not to say anything. "It's important. Being in the living room all the time, or at least, not having any space that's really mine...it feels demeaning." Effus nodded with understanding in her eyes. She grabbed her tablet and started to tap away at it. Mane took that to be a victory for her and returned to her little fort to finish a romance novel as a treat for herself.
She'd stood up for herself against an affini. She figured that was enough to rightly say she had earned a treat.
It was a few days before Mane confronted Effus about her lack of a room. Daisy took a seat in front of the unusual affini. She set her briefcase down next to her. She was so tall and her body so dense and thick that the room almost didn't seem monstrously oversized for her. It still did, though- after all, it was designed for affini, and Daisy was only human.
"Those are impressive," Erias commented, gesturing at both the briefcase and the shackles. "Your owner wanted a checkup before your implantation, correct?" She took a seat in her chair, tablet at the ready. Daisy stretched her arms and seemed to enjoy the clinking of the chains. She nodded with a defiant little smirk.
"He thinks you can change my mind," Daisy declared as if she was challenging Erias to a duel. Her mouth was in a wide powerful grin of defiant pride.
"Change your mind?" Erias inquired. "About domestication, I take it? That's odd. Why does he not want you domesticated?"
"Not about that," Daisy almost growled. She showily crossed her legs and rattled her restraints. "The method. He messaged you about it."
"Well then," Erias mumbled, "let me check the recOH MY STARS. YOU-" she looked up and down, her line of sight bouncing between Daisy and the tablet repeatedly. "You...asked for this?"
"I demanded to be domesticated by none other than the biggest, baddest affini this side of the big bang," Daisy remarked. She wriggled her fingers experimentally. "And for the most grotesque implantation possible."
"But this-" Erias looked down. She paused. "May I make sure this isn't some kind of self-harm?" Daisy laughed. Her laugh was hearty and powerful, but Erias had already regained her composure.
"But of course, cherry affini. What's...I just realized I've never asked for your name."
"So you haven't!" Remarked Erias. "My name is Erias, dear. You may call me that."
"Gotcha, Erias," Daisy commented. She grinned. "I have a reputation, understand."
"Yes, of course," Erias nodded her head. "You're The Bulldog. The only human in recorded history to kill an affini with a melee weapon, spared from affini prosecution for your crimes-"
"Pfft. Crimes. The door to the only exit was locked and he stood in the way. That was an enemy combatant, even more than the others boarding the ship were. I killed him in self defense, and besides-one of your doctors said that his core got shipped back in some kind of medical cryo-pod, and that it might be salvageable. I might not even have killed him- don't you dare act like I'm some cold blooded killer."
"Yes," Erias agreed. It caught Daisy off guard long enough for the affini to talk again. "My apologies. You are absolutely correct. No just system would condemn what you did as a murder, even if we were certain he was dead- not under most circumstances, in any case. You could have handed the weapon over and requested freedom, though. Not that I consider what happened a murder."
"You don't?" Asked Daisy, one side of her mouth and that eyebrow both cocked up.
"It was a tragedy. I mourn for his loss, but I understand that the circumstances were...anything but safe, for you. In any case, you were spared the usual punishment, because your defense and leadership of your homeworld against the Terran Accord were judged by Thunder as worthy of a pardon."
The suitcase vibrated.
The entire room vibrated.
In morse code.
The vibrations spelled "do you question my judgment?"
"No," answered Erias, "no Thunder. Of course not. You sure you've got room in there?"
"Fitting in a briefcase is neat!" The entire room answered.
"In any case, you consented to being domesticated on the grounds that Thunder become your owner. Your only other demand was an open surgery, with no anaesthetic, and that the implant, in your own words, 'go in the front.' Why?"
"I'm not becoming a pet unless I get to be a big badass guard dog," Daisy snarked. "If I were given a little incision in the back I lose. If I get to stare my surgeon in the eyes as they cringe at the task of having to physically open my ribs...well. That's hardly a surrender, is it?"
"I suppose," Erias mused. "You want to be domesticated, but you want it made perfectly clear you chose to be. And you want rebels to know that you're still you."
"Damn straight I do!" Daisy laughed. "Hey Thunder, are affini psyches all like this? Cause lemme tell you: Terran ones fuckin suck."
"No, not quite," the room spelled out in morse code. "Erias is unique among our ranks as well. I figured she would gel well with you and your eccentricities."
"Well," Erias began, "I'll call in a human to escort you out for a moment, Thunder. My meetings with independent sophonts are fully confidential, I hope you understand." She pressed a button. Ursula scurried in and grabbed the suitcase. She and Daisy shared a meaningful look. Ursula seemed flustered. Daisy seemed delighted and fluttered her eyelashes in a flirty manner. As the aide ran out she was very red in the face and also very gay.
"So, Daisy," Erias began, "tell me what happened between the fall of the Murxengear and Fresch's surrender to the affini."
"My home planet's name is pronounced Fresk," Daisy corrected the affini. Erias made a note in her tablet.
"My apologies, Daisy. It won't happen again."
"Everyone gets it wrong, it's fine. Anyway," Daisy started, "After I got in the escape pod I drifted off into space. It hit me pretty fast that I only had so much oxygen and right about then panic started setting in. Some human space pirates found me before the affini- thank the stars- and I told them what happened."
The pirates hadn't believed Daisy at first. She was a known figure for her time as both a union organizer and her time before that in the Navy. When ordered to turn her might on the common man, she broke her commanding officer's jaw. Her status as a kind of celebrity of the people limited what the Accord felt safe doing to her, but she was still court martialed for it.
Thanks to this celebrity, the pirates' second in command recognized her. Her massive, brutish weapon and the sappy stains on her suit corroborated her story. Less scrupulous terrans would have handed her over- either to the accord or the affini- but as fortune had it, these folk did not. The pirates wove through Terran territory back to Fresch, Daisy's home planet. There she was welcomed by her people with open arms. The local government tried to use her for Terran propaganda, but a worker's revolt deposed them. They were either killed or shipped off to other planets under the Accord, and Fresch seceded.
With Daisy as its hero and the working class resources available to it, Fresch was left alone by the Accord. Daisy still didn't know why. Perhaps turning its guns on the hero of Man was considered a bad move. Perhaps they feared her like a proper enemy. Perhaps they merely wished to avoid a war on two fronts. For whatever reason, through most of the war, her planet was left alone.
Then the affini arrived. A ship that had been mistaken through the war as the affini mothership, a station the size of a planet, appeared in orbit around Fresch and declared it was challenging them to trial by champion. Knowing victory in proper combat was impossible they had no choice but to accept.
Inside the ship awaited the biggest affini Daisy had ever seen. A veritable giant the size of a Terran mountain, one which could make full scale humanoid avatars with material that amounted to nail trimmings, trounced her. She beat its many puppets with ease, but she was faced by more and more and more for hours. When she realized where the affini was-the towering world sized tree that dominated this hollow planet's horizon- she tried to scale that mountain so she could slay it.
It was then that Fresch's champion lost the contest of strength and her people fell under the Affini Protectorate.
Later she realized why: he had come to claim her, personally, before his military comrades did. They, he warned, would not be as forgiving.