Cassiope Ericaceae, Captain of the fair Affini Interior Domestication Scout Cyanococcus, is something of a perfectionist, a micromanager even. Typically such Affini, upon granting of a commission, would take a smaller vessel, but Cassiope prides zirself on zir ability to have many cakes in the air, or however that Terran expression Vitales’ floret used a few days ago went. Yes, while the Cyanococcus isn’t exactly a large ship by Affini standards, but it does boast a crew of two thousand and a sophont contingent of around five thousand. Cassiope tries zir damndest to speak with every one of those crewmembers at least once every week, as a means of making sure every part of the ship works as intended - even if it’s not a particularly important mission. The local region of a few dozen stars need to be swept through to make sure there aren’t any stragglers on small orbit installations or in miserable little colonies starving themselves. Though every few months there’s something interesting, one of those colonies being found with a few huddled Terrans inside, most of the mission has been quiet and unremarkable.
That is, until a few hours ago. An old mining facility orbiting a gas planet, abandoned by the company that built it after a new round of air filters was deemed too costly to justify, had recently been identified, and a few expeditions had been chartered - readings indicated the installation giving off heat from exhaust ports, and every so often an awfully decayed radio signal would be emitted from the damaged transponder onboard. The first inspection had revealed definite signs of recent inhabitation, but no certainty on if it was from someone still inside the facility or a recent stopover made by a lone pilot who was already hundreds of lightyears away by now. Thus, Cassiope scheduled a second expedition, which probably should be back by now, or at least having reported back if further investigation was worth it before moving on to other possible inhabited zones nearby. It was at that return that Cassiope would have zir weekly chat with the expedition’s leader, Rosales Cannabaceae, so ze’s even more involved than ze regularly would’ve been at this, even with a delay in essential operations as is happening currently.
Sensors Lead Eudicot Gunnerales broke the Captain out of zir contemplation with something approximating clearing one’s throat, and ze turned to face the officer with a nod. “Cass, can you take a look at this?” Eudicot spoke with an unsure waver - he couldn’t believe what he was seeing either - and began advancing a feed of the mining installation from last night frame by frame, revealing that on one frame, it was there, and the next, it wasn’t. The timestamps lined up, it wasn’t as if a stretch was erased, and multiple angles showed the same thing. Cassiope remained silent, paging through the frames zirself for a moment or two.
“And before you ask - it’s not an explosion, there’s no debris of any kind anywhere. It just… vanished.”
The Captain is trumped for a second, but soon raises a question. “Does this thing have any propulsion capacities?”
Eudicot shakes his head sadly, saying “None at all, and if it did, any propulsion method would’ve left a trail behind, a wake in spacetime, but there’s just no sign this did anything other than exist, then stop existing.”
“Any spikes on any detectable channel?” Cassiope has a good idea the answer would be no, but ze just had to make sure, and sure enough Eudicot just shakes his head again.
Cassiope speaks curtly, “Initiate Emergency Procedures.” To which Eudicot only glares at, asking an unspoken question to a clearly enjoying zirself Cassiope. “Code Vermillion.” is offered shortly after, in a tone which belies that ze’s in on the crew-wide joke of zir very long and very extensive list of Emergency Procedures. Not to end the conversation on a comedic note, however, ze quickly adds with a rare genuine enthusiasm, “We’re going to find Rosales, and we’re going to find her soon.”
Marty, for his part, decided to completely ignore the talking plant thing in the spaceship and casually head back to the truck without another word. Maybe the DARE ads were right, he mused to himself while he spun the keys around his finger. Maybe in smoking enough crap dirt weed Francis and Marty accidentally stumbled onto something really bad, and their world will collapse into a twisted psychodrama of their inner minds, attacking every piece of them until they’re completely different people. At the very least it was easier for Marty to accept momentary - or perhaps even permanent - insanity before accepting that not only are aliens real, but of all of Earth’s supreme dumbasses, first contact happened to him. Marty mused to himself as he leaned against the rusted metal of the driver-side door, staring up into the blue sky through the tree cover, trying to think what strange event would befall them next - eyeballs with wings, the loch ness monster, etc.
For Francis’ part, he was almost entirely transfixed on the strange creature that stood before him - the way the vines comprising its form moved like flowing water, the surprisingly deep eyes curiously staring back at him, the kind smile fashioned in thick bark that he couldn’t help but return. Somehow, looking at this thing gave more sensation than just visual appeal, but he had no idea - and no want to think about - how that might be. Perhaps it was something auditory, as a distant part of his brain registered the sound of a quiet, good-natured chuckle right as he forgot to remember how long he had been looking for. The next sound was considerably more detectable, as a formation of vines near the thing’s false face made a sharp snapping noise that compelled him to return to a mental state of possessing basic information about things around him. Francis’ smile turned embarrassed and sheepish as he tried to reconstruct if the creature had said anything to him at all, to which that wonderful voice spoke up again.
“Do I have you again, petal? Oh wonderful, I’m very sorry, I’m rarely around those particularly.. susceptible, so I forget to tamp everything down. Now, I must ask, what planet are we on?” The words sung to a tune Francis was sure he’d heard before, but he was able to steer control over himself soon enough to prevent spiraling back down into whatever had just happened to him.
Going from perceiving language to expressing it was something of a jump mentally, so it took Francis a few moments to actually organize sounds into words. “Earth? It’s a very good planet.” He really didn’t have a clue why he said that last part, even with his regular propensity for saying dumb shit, this was a situation which absolutely required focus, presence, and word choice.
Rosales’ smile broadened. Earth, that was good. Being the former capital of the Terran Accord, it was a very early priority of the Compact to ensure it’s full potential was realized, a safe, free, and wonderful home for humanity. She took a moment to take a still-aching vine and probe around for her tablet, switching it on and expecting to be greeted with a number of concerned messages from her crew, but instead being met with something that was very rare indeed for Affini devices - it had no signal. One of the first pieces of infrastructure to be constructed in domestication projects was network relays, which themselves had very long ranges, so typically even if one found themself far away from populated space, they still had some measly scrap of a connection that they could broadcast their location with. If a tablet had no signal, ninety-nine times out of ten, maybe a few more, it would be because it was configured wrong. Rosales shrugged, assuming it broke in whatever sent her to - assuming the very compliant sophont in front of her was telling the truth - Earth. She was trying to unjam the exterior door mechanism when said sophont spoke up again in that adorable voice of his.
“Uhm, excuse me Miss Alien, do you know where our weed is? We know it’s here somewhere.” Though the two would never admit it, not to each other, both Marty and Francis were at the moment seriously contemplating their own insanity - Francis was just willing to roll with it, so to speak, as he very kindly asked the extra-terrestrial if it knew where his marijuana was. One of Francis’ best traits, as he would often say, was his ability to keep up any bit, any riff, for as long as desired or needed. Over time this had generally corroded into a passive acceptance of basically anything that happened to him, which led commonly to situations like this, though most of the time dramatically less insane and world-altering.
The plant could only help but laugh, a deep laugh that resonated through the forest. What a permissible owner this cute thing must have, she thought, letting him call her a weed. Well, perhaps there was some sense of admiration in the ‘our’, a genuine concern intoning the whole thing, so he most likely must mean well. More of a handful than Rosales could tolerate, that’s for sure. After once more seeing those sparkling, dopey eyes stare into hers, she raised her voice again, having just gotten the door to swing open. “Well, wouldn’t you know it, I’m lost too, so we can look for it together. Rosales Cannabaceae, Twelfth Bloom, she/her. Do you have a tablet with you? Mine appears to have sputtered out like my craft here.”
Francis was transfixed for just a single moment as he processed what the alien had just said. She wanted to look for the weed with him? And what did she mean by tablet? Wait, Francis said in both his mind and out loud, before, using more of his brain than he had ever before used, deduced the incredible truth - aliens are coming to earth for our weed. We have the best weed in the galaxy, and they want it. It resonated through his body like a profound and hidden truth, one that he felt compelled to share to the currently out-of-sight Marty. “Marty, she’s come to smoke with us!”
That, Marty supposed, was the probably the most likely thing to happen after sudden alien invasion. Francis declaring that they were now in the plot of one of those stupid stoner movies he hated but Francis loved. Aliens are here, and they’ve come to smoke our weed - check out Ahston Kutcher in Invasion from the Green Planet, coming soon to a Walgreens near you! Marty could only sigh deeply and clamber into the driver’s seat of the truck, leather all ripped up and covered in some strange grease that always clung to his brother’s clothes.
Smoke with? Rosales tried to jog their memory to remember such a Terran turn of phrase, not coming up with very much. Oh - they were in a forest, they must mean a campfire. As committed to service as she was, Rosales did always admire the aesthetic of taking a floret out on a camping trip deep into a forested park somewhere, experiencing the great nature abound in the universe. Marty must be the annoyed-looking little thing in the car, perhaps a friend or pinnate. As she finished emerging from the wreck, she gave a small wave to them. They buried their head in their hands in response. She turned to Francis. “So, where did you last see them?”
Francis blinked a few times, first out of confusion of just how tall this thing was - easily over ten feet tall, vines fashioned like a long, flowing dress with a mess of flowers to add a whole host of shades of green in mesmerizing patterns - and second, out of confusion as to what this incredibly tall plant woman meant by her question. “The weed? Yeah, no, it’s around here somewhere, Marty was the one who saw it last, not me. I need it, dude, or else I’ll be anxious and jittery all night.”
Rosales’ false face of bark and sinew rendered in twine worked into a small smile. By far, the sweetest sight an Affini could ever see that didn’t involve one of their own florets was an adorable sophont pining after her owner, and the one in the pajamas and the bleach-blonde tousled hair certainly was adorable indeed. Even as she was in quite the situation, she couldn’t overcome her more base instincts and gave the precious thing a couple good pats on the head, to which he seemed at first confused before shooting a glance to his pinnate in the car, still thoroughly unamused and not looking anywhere near the Affini and the dopey floret. After such visual information was confirmed, he began to lean into the viney hand, still unsure of himself as he was. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, petal, we’ll find it real soon and it’ll replace all the nasty thoughts with comfort and happiness.”
Francis couldn’t help but smile too, given both the unexpected physical affection - of which he rarely got, he realized with stray worry that quickly got replaced with a renewed gusto for his quest to share Earth’s best-in-the-galaxy marijuana. After a frankly curious amount of time spent getting his head patted, the alien retracted her hand, and another stray worry danced across his face before he spun around in place to head for the truck, his footfalls matched by a symphony of the forest at his back as the green giant plodded behind him.
In time with the noises approaching him, Marty slowly leaned the driver’s seat back further and further in an attempt to escape whatever insane fate was about to befall him. This was, however, until some kind of connector snapped in the seat’s reclining mechanism and he was suddenly rocketed to laying flat on his back looking like a dumbass as his roommate and the goddamn invader from another world approached. Francis’ bony knuckles rapped on the window with all the trepidation of a six foot four linebacker staring down some shrimp kid quivering in his helmet. He started to yell something about the weed before the alien’s viney tentacles shot through the busted passenger window to, presumably, begin all manner of probing, testing, and other malicious extraterrestrial plots. As the voice of the thing rang out before halting, Marty realized in just how little he could hear anything that he was screaming, and quite loud. This was the penultimate sensation he experienced before he slipped into surprisingly peaceful unconsciousness, the final one being a strange and small prick somewhere on his chest, like a little needle.