After a few minutes of comforting Hellia, Henry looked thoroughly confused. He had at this point repressed his feelings about going home and put on his neutral face again. "So, anyways, I guess like... are you guys gonna send me back to America?"
Hellia whimpered and rustled her many needles wanting to very very strongly drug and cuddle Henry to take away all that pesky sadness but Sachra held her down and responded. "Only if you want to Henry, would you like to go somewhere else? I know many soldiers like yourself don't always have the best home to return to."
"Nah, I dunno, maybe visit Europe at some point? Not really something I've thought about though. Wait, I don't think I told you I was a soldier? Did I?" Henry realized that he frankly couldn't remember what he had said or not, he was almost constantly hungover or drunk when he did interact with the Affini.
"No Henry you did not. I know because we have all your records. It wasn't hard to piece together a missing soldier with the name Henry Gelder and whose former CO had put in a formal inquiry to the Compact with your full name and that you'd be in Saigon. Not to mention a photo ID which was easy to match."
"Wait Kray told you guys about me?"
"Yes, he was domesticated a month or so ago after the surrender of the US feralists, I mean "Free" US soldiers. He was quite worried about what happened to you and your squad mates. I hear he's actually quite a nice man who cared about you all despite his appearances."
"Huh, well it's nice he cared I guess, he always seemed like a hard ass. Wait a second, what the hell is this domesticate stuff. Hellia mentioned it but I have no idea what that means." Henry looked more confused than concerned, which was good so far to Sachra. She didn't need him turning into a feralist here and now. Although....that would be grounds for domestication potentially. Regardless, she continued.
"How do I put this Henry.... we the Affini 'protect' sophonts though individual..... action"
"What does that mean? Also, don't you guys have like a better word then. I'm pretty sure domestication is like for animals, though I can't remember."
"Well Henry, it frankly is the right word. We take full responsibility for some people and provide care to them for their whole life. We want to give people their best life by making sure they never need to worry or be unhappy again."
Henry still had trouble processing this. "So like, you take people as pets??"
Sachra sighed and hoped to the Everbloom that Henry would not freak out, despite her personal benefit in such a case. "Yes Henry, a pet is the perfect word for it. We give them everything and anything they could ever need. We even have a suite of medicine which makes sure sophonts can be happy and fulfilled. We can help people work through any issue and bring them more happiness than you could even imagine. " Sachra tried her hardest to not scare Henry, that was the last thing she needed here.
Henry nodded quietly. "I see...."
"Henry if you are afraid, I can fully expla-" Henry cut her off.
"No, no it's okay. I guess it's kinda funny, aliens want to take humanity as pets."
"Henry..." This wasn't fear but it also wasn't a positive reaction.
"So like is Hellia gonna take me to be a pet or something? She kept telling me she would have to domesticate me if I didn't go to this dinner."
Sachra had a number of thoughts on what he just said, but she was more concerned as Hellia pounced to attention. "I can make you a pet if you want!! We can do it right here and now!"
Hellia quickly pulled out from deep within her a pile of papers which Sachra immediately recognized.
Henry sighed. "Do I get a choice?"
Sachra quietly pulled Hellia's enthusiastic body back and replied. " You do Henry, so long as you don't demonstrate you are a danger to others or yourself. Oh and under the American-Compact Treaty, if you are feralist who fights against the compact. Though you would be placed under a warship in that instance."
Henry spent the rest of the evening lying in bed, he wasn't sure what to do with all the information he just received. He felt empty. It was as though there was nothing he could do, if they wanted to take him as a pet it probably would happen. Was he unhappy at that? Frankly he couldn't tell, he just didn't feel anything. He understood the world had so drastically changed compared to just earlier this year and all he could think was how little he mattered in the grand scheme of things. He had made nothing and contributed nothing to the world when he did have agency and aliens weren't here to take over. Now he probably had nothing. He could do something but would it really matter if they were in control? Maybe he should just get domesticated now so that the little anxiety he did have would end. He sat in a room for 7 months and the world just moved on, what difference would it make if it just kept going like this? At least breakfast tasted good.
Henry fell asleep and woke up the next morning to his new routine. He got up and went downstairs and enjoyed a decent meal with Sachra. It was more subdued than the previous ones but he was at least partially confident it would continue for a while. Meanwhile dinner with Hellia was as though nothing had happened the night before. Hellia bombarded him with conversation starters and sometimes he would respond and sometimes not. She kept asking him if he wanted to see any more of Saigon but he frankly didn't even know what to do in the city before the Affini. He was here because of the war and at least was supposed to go back home when it was over. He didn't come here because he wanted to, he was just pushed into it like the rest of his life. He assumed Hellia would probably push him into the next thing.
And so it went on. He wasn't sure when things were supposed to change, but for the next month things like this were normal. Breakfast, then dinner, and then Happy New Year.