Shapeshifters

Resolution

by dianevea

Tags: #f/f #Human_Domestication_Guide #scifi #dom:female #sub:female

(cw: abuse, suicidal ideation, oblique mention of identity death, and general intense emotions)

Something was… off.

I mean, lots of things were off. The weird glowing walls that changed colour all the time, the Internet that wouldn’t work no matter how many times I tried, the plant alien who kept showing up to talk at me. At least it had stopped holding me down all the time, claiming that “my evaluation went well enough” and “you are deemed to not be a threat to yourself”, but I knew you could open that door from the inside, and yet it never seemed to work for me at all.

Speaking of, those sounded like footsteps… three, two—

Sure enough, it was back, with one of its vine clusters carrying a rather large box; while it came over to me, those vines separated out and started grabbing objects out of the box and putting them in random cabinets. Wait, there were cabinets this whole time? How the hell was I supposed to find anything in here?

“Well, cutie, it starts with getting out of bed from time to time.” 

Right. Gotta be careful with saying things out loud.

“Good morning, by the way!” it chimed, in that oddly musical way it tended to. “We’re still stretched a little thin dealing with the rest of your planet, or else you’d have a full-time caretaker already, but I hope these occasional visits will suffice for now~” Oh, god, it was serious. It actually wanted to be my therapist. And from the sounds of it, not just mine, but… everyone’s?

I rolled my eyes, and muttered, “More than.”

“Now, now, darling,” it chastised, “these little visits are important! For one, your species is a very sociable one, so having someone to talk to is a veritable necessity, but for two…” One of its vines grabbed a plate out of the box and brought it over to the bed, gently setting it down in my lap. “I made you breakfast!”

On the plate were a pair of fried eggs and a gently buttered slice of toast, as well as a blue plastic fork with which to eat. I stared at it for a moment; it should have been unremarkable, and yet… the trim of the whites looked perfectly crispy without being burned, the yolks were still runny inside, the butter was drizzled over top of the bread so that it toasted with gorgeous patterns, and the whole plate smelled savoury and delicious in a way I couldn’t even begin to describe. It seemed less like a meal, and more like a masterfully prepared work of art, like it’d somehow be wrong for me to eat this.

“Well, what are you waiting for, petal?” she prompted from across the room. “Go on, eat up!” And I did, in what was probably a couple minutes but which felt like a perfect eternity.

Almost as soon as I finished, the plate and fork were whisked away from me by another long vine, placed back in the box on the ground. The alien then walked over to my bed and sat down on the side of it, and at that point I remembered the real reason it had come here.

If the food was that good every day, though, I’d go to as much therapy as I was told to.

“So, what’s on the docket for today, Doctor?” I sighed. “The food? My sleep? You want me to talk about my childhood?”

“In order, dear: no, no, and perhaps at some point, but I can tell you’re not ready for that yet.” It was still being annoyingly sincere, it seemed like; god, I’d never get used to that. “Actually…” Suddenly, its vines shifted around, and a whole array of flowers in a rainbow of colours came into view from somewhere inside of its weird plant body. “I think that it’s time we switch you over to your new medications, petal~”

“…Okay. Go for it.”

There was a weirdly long pause there for a second; was that the wrong answer? Did it want me to say no? But before I had the chance to ask for any kind of clarification, it burst into song-speech again. “Well, I know that your terran doctors had you on quite a few medications, but from the scan we did yesterday it looks like none of them were especially bioavailable? So we’ll have to start from scratch; thankfully, though, that means that you managed to evade any nasty withdrawals from tapering off things. My stars, those terran drugs do have… I’m sorry, are you following me alright?”

And of course, just like my old therapists, this one refused to believe that I was an adult. I pulled my sheets over my face and grumbled into them, “Yeah, just fine, you just haven’t let me talk.”

“Sincerest apologies, petal; you just didn’t seem like you were in a very talkative mood.” One of its vines cast a shadow over my face as it moved towards me, and I instinctively froze up a bit, knowing better than to resist. All it did, though, was grab the end of the sheet and pull it back so that my face was uncovered again. “What did you want to say? I’m listening,” it continued, a facsimile of a gentle smile forming in the shadows under its eyes.

“When you say ‘medications’, do you mean the pills that were on my dresser?” I asked, trying my best to focus on anything other than the shifting mass of plants in front of me.

“Precisely, yes!” The alien happily clapped two of her vines together, and then reached into one of the cabinets and pulled out an assortment of familiar bottles. “The ones that were on your dresser, and that are tucked in with your clothes at the moment.”

I sighed. “The ones I’ve never taken?”

At that, it stopped in its tracks, very nearly dropping the bottles onto the floor. “That…” It considered that for a moment. “That would explain why they didn’t show up in your scan… but then why are they all half-empty? Why wouldn’t you want to take your medicine?”

I wanted to snap that flower in half. “Do you want the short version, or the long version.” I asked, trying to force as much disdain into my voice as possible. Of course, just to spite me, it decided on the long, and communicated as much in that same never-wavering cheery voice that had haunted me for the past couple of days. God, if only I could just shut that plant up… Well. It said it wanted the long version.

I took a deep breath in, and began.

“Because after getting kicked out of university, disowned by my parents, and cut off by every friend who’d still dared to speak to me in person, I got lucky. Some bureaucrat apparently saw my last name, pulled some strings, and convinced the central government that I was still worth their investment, that I could make them back their investment tenfold at least if they just patched my brain up. I don’t know how, or why, but I do know that they’re the last time anyone in my life hasn’t just left me for dead.”

There was a rattle as the bottles dropped to the floor, but the plant made no moves to pick them up. It just froze in place, its eyes pointed directly at me and shimmering dark blue, looking strangely like tears. If they were tears, good.

“They gave me money. I could have a house and food. And if I ever took a wrong step, they would leave me for dead again.” My fists were starting to hurt from clenching, but I didn’t care. I was going to get this fucking thought out if it killed me. “Anyone in your species ever treat you like that?”

It was still for a moment, and then solemnly shook its head.

“Didn’t think so,” I spat. “So I had to make sure I didn’t ever feel worse, or else they’d give up on me. And I couldn’t ever feel better, either, or they’d decide they had helped me enough. So if I just threw out a random handful of pills every week, they’d think I was taking them, and I could delay the inevitable just a little bit longer. And every other moment of my life, I spent asleep, distracted, or hoping that when they eventually saw through me and let me die that my parents would be as fucked up by my debt as I was. Is that a good enough answer.”

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t for her to immediately lean down and wrap her arms around me. “You poor, poor, little petal; I’m so sorry.” Her words resonated throughout the entire room, in the sort of tone that sounded like nothing I’d heard in my entire life, making my body feel all sorts of sensations it couldn’t process. “There isn’t a sophont in the universe who deserves to live that way,” she sang, “and certainly not one as precious as you.”

For one, brief, perfect moment, her touch on my skin, the humming of her voice, the warm red lights around us fading into black, it all melted into nothingness, and all that was left was her, and me. Sara.

“Don’t worry, dearest; you won’t ever have to feel that way again.”

And then I snapped out of it.

“Then how should I feel?” I yelled. “If you know so much about what’s best for me. If you want me to be better.”

It just kept staring at me, its vines tight around my body. “I-I can’t decide that for you,” it stammered. “Unless you’re considered a harm to yourself or others—”

“Tell me. What. I. Should. Be.”

Silence.

“You should be… happy,” it eventually managed. “Contented. The best possible version of yourself.”

Without even realizing why, I burst into tears, crying, “Then give me whatever fucking drugs do that to me, because I don’t know how.” And with that, the last of my energy faded from me, and I drifted off into unconsciousness, still being restrained.


Illaria had a problem on her hands. Well, in her vines, but still.

While, technically speaking, the affini as a whole were perfectly prepared to start dealing with a species as soon as their cotyledon was complete, this particular one was perhaps a bit outgrowing her roots. As much as she couldn't help but acknowledge a certain degree of affection for her ward, she badly wanted to pass her onto someone else, leave this tricky and emotional business to someone with more specific training and go back to the work that was her real pride and joy. And yet… there was a war going on, after all.

It wasn’t much of a war, she admitted to herself, navigating through the rubble and active construction of the terrans’ old city. Getting this far out from their home planet was certainly a very impressive feat for them to manage all by themselves, and she was very proud of them for it, but none of their technology was in any danger of overpowering the affini for more than a couple minor setbacks. This planet housed about five million sophonts, almost all of whom were insistent on resisting in one way or another, and within just a few days almost all of them were captured or had turned themselves in—at which point, the bulk of the affini fleet left, off to the next planet in the system with their new pets in tow. Some of the terrans had had some attachment issues, and stayed a little longer than the rest of their species, but even they had mostly been brought back up to the auxiliary command ship in orbit by now, and the only sophonts that were supposed to be left outside of records were the construction crew and a gardener, to prepare the planet for more permanent habitation and preserve as much native flora as possible.

And then, days after even that, that gardener picked up a very unusual life signal, traced it as best she could, and stumbled upon jan Sala—completely oblivious to the affini presence, speaking a language so strange her translator could only sometimes pick it up, and somehow both perfectly docile and incredibly, furiously resistant at the same time.

The hab unit was just supposed to be a temporary measure. Get her somewhere safe and hygienic that wouldn’t be demolished, give her as much of a support structure as possible, and wait for her to either blossom enough to provide her own input or prove that her behaviour justified forced domestication. But instead…

“No wrong steps,” Illaria muttered to herself. How had she managed to live like that for so long? What were you supposed to do in this sort of situation that wouldn’t make her feel worse? Class-O? she thought, and then shuddered. It would work, technically, but… Illaria remembered those excited and caring eyes she saw, the first time they had a real conversation. Surely, there had to be a way to fix this without crushing her thoughts altogether.

She had walked far enough that the rubble had entirely ended, giving way to nothing but perfectly polished new construction—and, in the centre of this cluster of buildings, one ornately crafted little room that marked it as the local records office. She headed towards it and softly pulled the door open, offering a “Hi, Alophosia” as she entered.

The aforementioned Alophosia Azorica, Fifth Bloom, gave her a bit of a bemused look. “What brings you over to the land of paperwork?” he grinned, his sharp leaves forming a toothy smile. “Found a cute little flower you simply had to make sure we all knew about?”

“Well…” said Illaria, before shifting some vines to reveal the woman inside of her, still sleeping soundly. Alophosia gasped.

“Who— is that a feralist? Are they drugged?”

Illaria shook her head in response. “I found her when I was out doing flora searches; it looks like she didn’t even realise that we’d arrived? And no,”—she locked eyes with Alophosia, trying to temper his obviously shocked feelings—“I don’t know how that happened either. But she’s in a very unstable state right now, and I’d like to get her feeling better, and I’d like for the one responsible for that to not be me because it has been a week and I clearly do not know what I’m doing.”

“A week?!” Illaria couldn’t tell if he was concerned or outraged. “And you’ve been with her this whole time?”

“…Sort of?” she admitted, her eyes drifting away to some interesting bit of foliage outside the window. “I’ve kept an eye on her, checked in every now and then, but I haven’t been entirely by her side.”

Alophosia twirled some vines in the air as he thought on that. “If she’s in as unstable a state as you claim, and no one else has seen her, there’s no way she hasn’t been affected by your rhythm. Pulling her out of your care would probably mess with her head something badly… unless you think Class-Os would be better for her?”

“Absolutely not,” Illaria cried, pulling her ward’s body back into herself. Alophosia just chuckled at that.

“Well, if that’s off the table, you probably ought to bring your pet back to wherever you’re keeping her before she wakes up and has an even worse time of it; we’ll handle getting her registered once she can come here conscious.” He tilted his head a bit, then asked with a smirk, “Are you going to need those forms?”

“I-I may already have them,” Illaria admitted. “But there is one thing I want to ask you specifically.”

“Go right ahead, babe,” came Alophosia’s reply. “How much of my boundless knowledge do you need me to impart?”

Illaria untied the vine connecting the translator to her body, and then passed it over the counter. “Could you check the history on this?” she asked.

Alophosia simply picked it up and immediately hooked it to his computer, the luminescent xylem flowing in and out of the system like a beautiful little dance. Illaria couldn’t help but watch; she knew the basics, of course, but it always astonished her the way that her favourite little leaves and flowers could be strung together into such astonishing devices. The clerk tapped in a few inputs, and the entire machine glowed with a flurry of colours before fading away, just as a screen illuminated in bright pink with a cute little ‘Beep!’.

“Alright, let me see…” he said, eyes focused on the screen. “The conversation we just had; translator detected an affini language from both participants, declined to translate. Before that, translator detected only its owner’s speech, declined to translate—you talk to yourself on the way here?”

“It’s a habit,” Illaria admitted with a shrug. “And before that?”

Alophosia scrolled down on the screen. “From this morning? Translator detected terran language, Standard English, both participants. Declined to translate.”

That couldn’t possibly be right.

“Could you check before that?” she asked, only slightly trembling, and trying her best to keep it that way. Alophosia tapped a couple more times.

“Let’s see, a quiet period, more of you talking to yourself, another quiet period…” He stepped back from the screen for a moment. “Translator detected terran language, Standard English, from owner; unknown language from other participant.” Reading from the screen, his voice was neutral, but obviously wavering. “Unable to translate. Illaria, what the dirt did you get yourself into?”

She sighed. “I thought it was just broken. You mean she’s been speaking different languages?”

“Not just different,” Alophosia corrected. “The translation network is built off of cycles of observation, of both the terrans themselves and their communications systems. If anyone, at any point, anywhere in their system, had spoken or written this language, we’d at least have picked it up and logged it in the system. What kind of person speaks a language that no one else has ever heard?”

“Probably, someone who’s been alone for a very long time.” Illaria steadied herself once again, then turned to head out the door.

Alophosia chuckled.

“Okay, I get that you’re trying to end this conversation on a dramatic note,” he smiled, “and that’s very cute. But you should take this back before you go.” The clerk gestured to the top of the desk, where her translator had been gently laid just a moment prior. “I switched it to log conversations over to my system, so I’ll let you know if I can find anything of use. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to make fun of you too much for talking to yourself~”

“You know, I actually wasn’t worried about that until you said that,” Illaria laughed, and then picked up the translator and gently reattached it, her vines delicately entangling with it until they were fully linked together. “Keep in touch, then?”

“Of course, cutie,” he replied, and then Illaria was off on her way.

Before she managed to make it back to the hab, though, she felt two things moving inside of her. The first was her tablet buzzing; finding a place to rest against one of the sleek new buildings, she pulled it out and turned the screen on, finding a message from Alophosia.

The second, as she sat there and read the words “could she be a sophont pluribus?”, was her ward starting to stir.


mi tomo mi ala. jan Ila li poka e mi.

“Oh, dear, oh roots, oh stars, this should not have happened, I should have been more careful, I…” ona li toki e mi ala, taso luka ona li sike e mi. mi la ona li wile tan e pilin pona mi.

mi toki: ‘jan Ila? sina pilin pona anu seme?’

ona li kama kalama ala, li toki: “Good evening, petal. We were out on a walk. Would you like to head home?”

mi kalama pona wawa. ‘ala! mi wile awen tawa!’

“Alright, then, little one,” ona li toki. “Shall I keep holding you?”

mi toki: ‘lon!’ ona li tawa li pilin e mi. jan Ila li jo e luka mute, li pona lukin mute tawa mi.

tenpo pini la ale li ante. suno li suno mute; kon li walo pimeja ala, li laso. sinpin tomo mi li laso kin… tan ni anu seme? mi lukin e tomo suli. tomo ni li jo kasi mute, taso mi lukin e jan kasi ala. 

“What’s on your mind, jan Sala?” ona li kama lukin e lukin mi.

mi toki: ‘sina ken sona e toki mi?’

“It’s still hard to understand you, dear, but…” ona li kalama ala.‘toki’ means ‘talk’, right? I would like to hear you talk.”

‘tan seme?’

“It doesn’t have to be about anything in particular, I just… I have asked you a lot of questions. And I think you might feel better if you could talk on your own, without me prompting you.”

ona li nasa mute. apini ale li nasa kin anu seme?

‘sina apini. sina kasi. mi lukin e kasi mute, taso kasi ni li apini ala. mi sona e apini wan; apini ni li sina. toki insa mi la apini li monsuta, taso mi sona e apini suwi. sina o! toki insa mi li toki monsuta e ni tan seme?’

ona li pilin pona tawa mi. ona li sona lili e toki mi, taso… ona li pilin pona tan toki mi anu seme?

‘sina suwi mute. jan ma li suwi ala. toki insa mi sona taso e jan monsuta… ala sona? toki insa mi li monsuta meso kin.’

ijo ona li kalama lili. ona li kama jo e ilo nanpa kasi ni: jan Ila li pilin e ona.

‘mi olin e sina. moku sina, en toki sina, en kasi sina, li pona mute tawa mi. sina pona.’

ona li lukin e mi. ona li lukin sona e mi.

“And you, little one, are very good yourself. Thank you for helping me get my translator working again.”

mi pilin pona mute.

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