Ch 2 - The Big Bang
Iris Reedsong, Fifth Bloom had been chasing these little feralists for the better part of a week. She’d find one of their nests, capture the cuties, sending one or two off with subcutaneous trackers (injected while they were asleep) so she could find more nests, then repeat the cycle. It was more fun hunting them this way than just using the ship itself. Maybe she liked to surprise them, to see them realize that they are finally done fighting. Maybe it’s to make them feel like they had more of a chance, give them an opportunity to feel proud of themselves for going down fighting. Terrans certainly liked to feel important, like they’re doing their best, and by the Everbloom, she was going to give it to them.
There was that one odd time where her ship received an SOS from a nest, but not one of the little darlings admitted to sending it. They kept blaming it on some sophont of questionable parentage. What that had to do with the situation, she couldn’t hazard a guess. She knew it was considered rude, though, and so she was glad to put a stop to it anyway with some handy class-Zs. But it did spark her curiosity. Was there a terran who was somehow staying ahead of her? If that was true, she would find them. She had to know.
There was a rumor of a nest a little to the west of her current position, though none of her tagged cuties had made their way there yet. She and her team found the place with scans and the fact that there had been some kind of firefight near there a rotation or so ago, made a plan, and were ready to go. They started off with quietly pacifying the handful of guards outside, then using an EMP and a Firebreak, then the show was on, and they lifted the roof off of the building. She was so proud that the little ones had constructed this building so well! Wait, save that for after the operation, Iris. As the roof came off, she called out to the little Terrans inside “Hello, sweeties! The Affini Compact is here to help make your lives better!” One of the darlings in what looked like a cell was facing her and trying to fire a pistol. Thankfully, their toy was disabled, or they might hurt someone! Her team all set the roof safely off to the side, and she grabbed the two sophonts. The one with the gun kept yelling nasty things at her, and she tranquilized him (they certainly look like they identify as male, though her colleagues would find out soon enough.) The other, though, the female, seemed anxious, but not trying to fight. “Hello there, sweetling. I’m Iris Reedsong, Fifth bloom, she/her. You aren’t going to fight me, are you?”
The Terran looked awestruck and possibly a little frightened, but she bowed her head a little. “No, miss. I’m Lex, she/her pronouns. A-are you here to take us to the mines?” Iris laughed. “Oh, little one, there are no slave mines, or terran buffets, or whatever else those feralists keep trying to say. We are here to help, and to make sure you become the best possible version of yourselves. Now, while we finish collecting those naughty little darlings, you’ll be a good girl and stay here for me, won’t you?” She looked Lex in the eyes as she said this, and the sweet little sophont half muttered “Yes, miss.” She set her back down in the cell, with the mean one fast asleep, and they finished that part of the mission. She called back to the young Affini in the ship to keep scanning to make sure they don’t miss any of the little ones. As the last of the expected terrans were gathered up, she turned and was delighted to see Lex standing right where she’d been left, shaking her head as if to wake herself up. Had the little darling only just started to come back now? That piqued her interest even more. The little thing seemed a little under-nourished, but that could just be capitalism. She didn’t fight when Iris picked her up, so it’s possible she’s not a feralist. Could she be a seed? Maybe she’s found a floret after all this time?
Iris asks the other Affini in their native tongue if they can easily bring all of the other sophonts up, because she wants to spend time with a particular one. They laugh knowingly and agree, this little bunch of sleepyheads won’t be any problem at all for them. She thanks them for their continued help as they bundle their captured sophonts up and head back to the ship, as she turns her attention back to that precious little one waiting for her.
- - -
Lex’s head is full of cobwebs. One moment, she and her old man were about to go at it like old times, the next he’s unconscious, she’s in the arms of one of those Affini monsters, who sounds like she’s just trying to pick up a Friday night date, then she was asked to stay there, and not even God herself could move her. She finally started to come out of it when she heard Iris coming back. “Hey Lex! Such a good girl for waiting for me!” She feels Iris scritching her head, and something about the feel just hits right. She loses herself for a moment and whimpers softly, before catching herself and putting her internal wall back up. “H-hey. It’s not like I could go anywhere, between the four walls.” Iris’ wooden face drops in shock, “Dirt and dust, I was so caught up with finishing up that completely slipped my mind. I am SO sorry, petal! I didn’t mean to leave you in that nasty cell. Please, allow me to rectify that.” The 3 meter tall Affini picked her up and stepped out of the compound’s remains. After walking a few steps, Lex was put down and she took a breath. Despite the feeling of panic at being next to one of these mythical monsters, she was used to panic and was able to breathe through it, and not run away.
Looking the Affini up and down, she got the impression of a gorgeous human, though made of pale brown, woody vines. What passed for her hair looked like long growths of spanish moss, curly and a brownish gray. Strange bright metallic blue eyes, and a smile that, on a terran, would be considered mischievous. Lex keeps trying to start to say something, but can’t come up with anything that she thinks is intelligent. ‘What brings you here?’ Yeah, genius. Invasion. ‘How’s your day going?’ Trite. Argh! How in space do normal people talk to each other?
Iris, on the other hand, was happy to sit and watch the adorable little sophont obviously unsure of what to say. She didn’t want her to feel too uncomfortable, so she chimed in. “Little one, whatever were you doing there, in that nasty little nest? You don’t seem like a feralist to me.” “Trust me, I wasn’t there by choice. I was trying to get some food and they caught me.” It then clicked in Iris’ mind. “Oh gosh, sweetling. That’s not a terran head fashion, is it? Let me take a look! May I bring you closer?” Lex thought for a moment, then nodded. “I may not be an expert in terran biology, but I know a few basics and may be able to help.” She picked Lex up and set her in her lap. “Is your injury in the front or the back?” “Back, as far as I know. I was knocked unconscious, and the bandage was there when I woke up.” “Hrm. Ok. Let’s see what we are working with.”
The bandage was carefully unwound, and Iris looked closely. “I do not see any external injury. Does it hurt anywhere in particular, little petal” Her fingers were particularly gentle as she felt along the back of Lex’ head. They found a sore spot and Lex winced enough for the attending giant to notice. “Oh, dear, I’m so sorry. I will make note of this, and we’ll get you some medical attention immediately. Would you come back to my ship to get that looked at? I assure you, nothing will happen without your consent.” Lex gestured at the Affini a little ways off who were taking unconscious terrans to their ship. “Why am I different? Pretty sure they didn’t consent.” “True, petal, but you were not trying to shoot at or otherwise attack us. In addition, you have also been a very calm cutie for me.”
Lex didn’t have a response for that, except for “Makes sense. I suppose you’ve been trustworthy so far, and haven’t immediately done anything untoward, so sure, I suppose. Your mothership or whatever is equipped to handle Terrans?” Iris gave a strange look. “Mothership? You mean station? We don’t have a station within a light year of here. But our scout ship is perfectly equipped to handle your sweet little terran bodies.” Lex shrugged and decided, against her screaming instincts, to go along. Anyone that could make her dad panic is worth a chance in her book. “Let’s do it.” Both of them stand, though Iris bends over a little again. “Petal, would you accept being carried by me? I can cross distances faster than you can, and I promise to make the ride gentle.” Having already agreed to go to the ship, Lex saw no reason to object to that and she nodded. Vines reached down and wrapped around her, bringing her to a rapidly forming cavity in Iris’ torso. As she sat down, it felt surprisingly comfortable. She could hear a soft, humming musical tone in the background as they traveled, but she knew that was illogical, and wrote it off as her imagination. It was highly doubtful that this alien race came with a sound system and muzak.
Through a hole left by Iris, she watched their progress, as the landscape sped by. Iris called out something in a strange language, probably their native language, and climbed in. “Kind of small for a warship, Miss Iris” Lex called out after being put down and sitting in a seat, at which Iris and the other Affini stopped what they were doing for a moment, looked at each other, then started chuckling. “Oh, sweetie, this is a simple scout ship. We have a transport just outside of the system, because we were scouting a couple of planets, but no, the nearest ship you might call a warship is still sitting in the Terran system.” Lex’ jaw dropped. “A scout ship? Oh, that’s gonna chafe dad’s ass something fierce!” “Language, petal!” Iris chided. “Such language is unbecoming of a sweet little sophont like yourself.”
Lex gave a strange look to her Affini.. Captor? Companion? Friend? She feels so out of her depth, just trying to go with the flow. She shakes her head, then asks “When are we taking off?” There’s a response from the front of the ship from a voice she doesn’t recognize. “We’re halfway back to our ship, cutie!” If she hadn’t buckled herself in as soon as she sat down, she would have fallen out of the seat. “Bullsh-” “Language, please, sweetness! And I’d say come see for yourself, but we’re about to leave the gravity well of the planet, so it won’t be safe. But we’ll safely be aboard the scout ship shortly!” Lex sat there, blinking, momentarily stunned. The Accord never had a chance, did they? The Affini were so far out of our weight class, that it was absurd. She gave a silent thanks to whatever deities were listening that she’d never gotten caught up in that Free Terran nonsense. Then again, her dad was a good enough reason on his own to stay the hell away.
A moment later, she felt mild discomfort from what she assumed was exiting planetary gravity. The voice from the front called out again “Petal, we’re free of the gravity well. Would you like to come up and see our ship?” She wasn’t going to turn that down! She quickly unbuckled herself and headed to the cockpit, finding a greatly reduced gravity odd to move in. She was guided into a seat, only for her jaw to drop as they came upon a ship that was larger than she’d ever seen. Yeah, she’s even happier to have stayed out of that horse’s nest. She heard more of the Affini speaking in their own language, as the shuttle entered the bay of the continent wide ship.