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Have you ever had a day you wake up and realize. “What the hell 
happened?” Well… Consider the nuances of trying to figure things out right 
before your brain fires up. Joanna awoke to the sounds of scratching from under 
her federal issue bunk area. 
“Huh?” Was the second thought that came to Joanna. Mumbling to her self as 
she awoke to the scratching. Also realizing that the time of day should be about 
right for her to get up. Joanna reached under the bunk for what ever was making 
the sound. 
Finding a box that wasn't there when she went to bed and pulling it out 
Joanna discovered a small ball shaped thing reaching out with a robotic arm to 
scratch against the side of the box. It did the scratching against one side, 
retracted the arm, rolled to the next side and repeated said scratching. 
“I swear if Alex is leaving more of his gizmos lying around to annoy people 
again the captain my just make him jump ship…” Joanna thought to her self, 
picking up the little robot. 
The ball feeling it not move under its own power had all eight of its arms 
extend as well as two of its cameras. “Bee up” the ball said.
“Just getting you out of the box. Do you have a designation or something to 
call you?” Joanna asked setting the little robot on the bed.
“Beee be op pppeeep beeep.” 
“Right, Alex really shouldn't have let you roll out and about on your own. But 
did he name you?”
“Be bep booo”
“No name, huh usually he names all of his creations. Well can't have that.” 
Joanna considered for a moment “How about Tachi?”
Tachi bobbed his camera appendages and scuttled up Joanna's arm to sit on 
her shoulder. Hearing a knock at the door. Joanna sat Tachi on the dresser. 
“Yeah?”
“Come on Joe we need to go. The commander said we had to be in by 0800 or 
he would space us. You remember what happened last time when we were late?” 
Alan P. Hoffman insistently said after knocking. 
1Oh yeah, commander Dominion, at least that's what the recruit flights called 
him, His actual name being commander Dominic Michael Libertin of the Saia 
prime federation. Commander Dominion earned his name not so much through 
the recruits he trained but with how he led the flight squad he had.
The best flight squad Commander Dominion had was S. P. F. 40. A large 
company of scouts and three H.A.B.T.R.s that had done well for themselves in 
the dog fights and stealth missions assigned to the group. Keeping in mind that 
the company only did the same kind of work wherever they went. Get to a new 
planet, see if it's populated by people or creatures that were smart enough to 
train. If not then land and setup shop. Leave a beacon for the main fleet to find 
and populate that planet. 
After about forty years of exploration and conquering most of the planets that 
had habitats or even the ability to support life, this left a rather large feather in 
Commander Dominion’s hat. He had taken over thirty planets as well as helped 
take over another twenty five under the previous Commanders term of service.
The last time Joe and Alex were late for formation, Commander Dominion 
had made the two of them enjoy the fine embrace of the P.T. Sargent. Twenty 
laps, to warm up of course, timed runs through the obstacle simulators and a 
four hour two on one physical training for the both of them, see dictionary 
heading for beating. The two pilots figured that running late a second time in the 
month would be a bad idea.
Having finished dressing into a proper uniform for one of the H.A.B.T.R.’s 
and picking Tachi back up. Joanna headed out the door. 
Tachi scuttled up Joanna's arm to her shoulder and attached it's appendages 
to the uniform. “Beee bep” 
“You are probably right. But I don't think that not bringing you with will hurt 
anything.” Joanna said as she exited her room. Heading straight to roll call 
Joanna passed by the technician system and development facilities. 
“Alex, hey did you leave a gizmo or something with me yesterday?” Joanna 
asked as she spotted the techno-magi walking by.
“What gizmo… I did’n ah build nuthin in the last three days. Been work’n on 
the habtr’s jump systems. Yer’s is up fer maintenance.” Alex said in his strongest 
Irish brogue. He looked up at Joanna as she presented the little robot attached to 
her uniform. “What do we have here then?” Looking at Tachi inquisitively. 
2“If you didn't make him then could you watch him until I get out of roll call?” 
Joanna asked after lifting Tachi off her shoulder. Alex nodded excepting the little 
robot. 
“Beee bop booo.” Tachi responded. Bobbing the little cameras. 
“Okay then Tachi, it is nice to meet you. Joe I'll watch the little guy. Might 
even study him a little… but honestly I did’n ah make him.”Alex brogued at 
Joanna.
“Go raibh maith agat.” Joanna replied after hurrying off to roll call.
“Boo beeep bop bee?” Tachi asked with his questioning cameras.
“Oh Joe dear told me thank you. More accurately she said, May you have 
goodness. But it means about da same.” Alex responded to the little droid. 
“Looks like we need to put some more smarts in to you. Mind if I upload some 
things to help you out?”
“Bee be bop boo.” Tachi responded bobbing his whole body in the affirmative. 
Tachi scuttled up Alex's arm to his shoulder attached little robot arms to Alex's 
lab coat then beeped again bobbing the little camera appendages.
Joanna had ran off to her position in line for roll call only to find that she was 
actually early. Seeing a moment of peace for what it was Joe checked over her 
uniform and insignia. Find everything in place she pulled up her checklist for the 
rest of the day. 
‘Need to go over settings for my H.A.B.T.R. And make sure bio suits 
responses are within parameters for space to surface operations. I wonder if Alex 
has time for a programming session? Need to get some more bugs worked out of 
the auxiliary systems for FTL jumps. To many people are hoping for a single 
person jump in one of those blasted planet killers.’ Joanna had figured out early 
in life as an SPF 22 bio suite pilot that usage of the large planet killer needed 
various and constant maintenance as well as de-bugging of the software systems. 
So being in constant contact with one of the department techno-magi helped 
3her further maintain the ship that was assigned to her. ‘Yeah assigned me a ship. 
More like grew the thing from a tree and had the thing grow into a ship. Odd 
that the engineers needed a blood sample from me so it would grow to benefit 
me.’ 
The assignment process for the H.A.B.T.R. was a five year commitment. First 
the engineering crew that took care of the evaluations for a B.T.R. have to get 
multiple blood samples to even determine if one of the H.A.B.T.R.s will allow the 
person under evaluation to use it. Then after the extensive selection process a 
techno-magi has to be assigned to watch the growth process to determine what 
kind of B.T.R. the seedling will grow into. After that the rider will begin training 
for that type of construct. During the growth process of the seedling it is fed 
essentially more samples from the rider until the little tree starts to communicate 
with the rider. 
If the rider is able to make first contact with the seedling while it is still just 
starting to grow, the engineers and techno-magi are able to start infusions of the 
seedling into the rider. A few riders get stronger, faster and able to heal from 
most debilitating damage. Fewer develop low level psionic abilities, mainly 
being able to actually carry on a conversation with the seedling. A couple in a 
select group start to develop plant like features. Documented examples being 
change in hair color, shades of green and white depending on the seedling used. 
Also riders may develop another layer of skin that looks like the bark of the 
seedling. 
Researchers are still trying to determine the significance of the cases that 
develop actual leafs in the pilots hair would be.
Joanna's condition on the other hand was the oddest of the cases due to her 
bone structure slowly turning into super dense wood. Engineers, techno-magi 
and some of the doctors in the testing part of the evaluation facility started to 
worry when that development started. Scans were showing the bone structure 
starting to stiffen but still had marrow inside it for blood to be produced. About 
eleven months after the first in fusion with her tree-ship Joanna felt growths 
along her spine as well as below her wrists and ankles. The doctors scanned and 
watched as the growths on her back proved to be large oak leafs. 
Although the leafs looked like they came from an oak, the color matching 
more the shade of an oak leaf in autumn. The shear size of the leafs was 
4astounding. Three wide and two feet long at the widest tip to the connection of 
her back Joanna could wrap herself in the top two leafs on her back all the way to 
just below her hips if she wanted. 
The growths on her wrists and ankles being much smaller developed in to 
littler leafs that seemed to only wrap around he wrists and blossom out of her 
ankles. The ankle leafs were still problematic for her and the wearing of boots as 
well as socks going higher than her ankles. 
She felt uncomfortable when any of the leafs were bent in the wrong 
direction. So standing there in her bio-suit uniform waiting for roll call to get 
over was something she was getting used to. Even if her shoes were not 
regulation boots like everyone else. She didn't have to deal with the constant 
bending of the leafs at her ankles. She had figured out how to hide the back leafs 
easily enough after growing out her hair down to her hips. That and regulations 
for the H.A.B.T.R.s was relaxed somewhat for the ones that had odd mutations 
that inhibited them for not being properly dressed in the full uniform of a B.T.R. 
The commander knew which ones were the H.A.B.T.R. operators and which 
were not. Which Joanna and the six other pilots of the H.A.B.T.R. appreciated. 
The other pilots of the scouts and medium class didn't have the major changes a 
heavy arms did. At least not like what Joanna and the six other pilots went 
through.
All in all Joanna was not entirely the lucky one of her group of seven pilots. 
That honor went to the other female in there little band, Claire Adele. She was 
gifted with a flower bush for hair. Her hair stayed the silvery blonde that she had 
started with but flowers bloomed in various shades of blue and red. Joanna 
found out that Claire originally was five foot two. Now Claire stood at six foot 
three with an Amazonian body built for fighting. 
Claire for her part was actually a very sweet woman. She went out of her way, 
when off duty, not to bother someone or be intrusive. She came off shy and 
secluded when ever seen out of uniform. 
When dressed for being shown off by the brass she cut a no nonsense figure of 
quality and stoicism. Nevertheless when she talked with the others in her flight 
group her responses were quick, quiet and curtailed to the situation at hand. 
Claire and Joanna had been in the same group when in training as well as bunk 
5mates. 
Joanna had become fast friends with her from the get go. Never mind the 
trials of being a test subject in a process that had an eighty percent failure rate. 
Both Claire and Joanna had helped the other cope with some of the pain of 
growing seemingly random or odd appendages. Claire had grown her hair out a 
long time ago due to her upbringing. But with the mutations and growth spurts, 
having another couple feet of hair helped hide some of her tendrils that were 
mixed in. Those tendrils that grew flowers on them also had rose thorns even 
though the flowers that bloomed were not roses. 
The engineers and doctors were very helpful when she started having 
headaches. Scans of her head and upper body were showing signs of muscle 
growth and that small tendrils were dug into her scalp. Those tendrils then 
proceeded to grow under most of her hair, anchoring to her skull while also 
wrapping around her entire spinal column. The headaches only proceeded to get 
worse. Joanna actually found Claire one day passed out in her bed bleeding from 
her ears and nose. Joanna pressed the panic button in there room summoning the 
doctors on call for such an occasion and made sure Clair was still alive. 
The doctors isolated Clair for three weeks. Joanna worried for her friend for 
those three weeks. When Claire was released Joe met her at the hospital section 
of the facility only to get a bit of a shock when Claire stood to meet her. “At least 
getting a late growth spurt shouldn't mess up finding you.” Joanna joked as she stepped up to her now Amazonian friend. “Right even if I feel stretched out like a rubber band. Joe I'm hungry for some food and find my self in the company of a good friend that may have just saved my life. Doc said the food intake for me should be raised by a good bit but that I should still take it easy for a few days.” Claire said as she put her thinner than normal arms around Joanna hugging the smaller woman to her. “Hey easy there She-ra. You might actually break me.” Joanna said laughing as she was picked up in a strong bear hug by the other woman.“Truth be told I have no idea how much has changed. I'm not even trying to squeeze hard either.” Claire said after setting Joanna back down. Looking a little sheepish when Joanna commented on how strong she had gotten. “Looks like I get to be retrained all over again.”


“Don't worry, you know I'll help you with it. Heck at least now we can rearrange the room easier.” Joanna joked as the two walked out of the waiting room of the hospital. Claire just shook her head, accidentally having her hair brush against Joanna. Joe for her part jumped forward when she felt a stinging in her backside. “Hey no pinching just for fun.” Joanna said trying to rub the spot she thought was pinched only to pull a small thorn out of her jeans. “Something else we need to work on?” Joanna asked holding up the thorn. Claire looked sheepish again realizing the one of the tendrils had gotten Joanna on the bottom. “Yeah, but served you right. Picking on a poor defenseless woman just out of isolation."

”Defenseless my ass. Literally…that hurt you know. Anything to worry about with the thorns?” Joanna asked after taking a closer look at the small barb. “Not to my knowledge, docs are testing one that came off just like that one. Just for precaution tho you may want to get the wound looked at.” Claire said as the two walked along. Joanna nodded before pulling out a case and putting the thorn into it. “After lunch, your not the only one wanting food. I know a good buffet about ten minutes from here.” Joanna said after linking arms with her friend. 


“Okay then let me put my hair up at least.” Claire said putting action to words. Getting her hair up in a high ponytail with a loop so she didn't brush the tendrils against Joanna again.


Joanna smiled remembering that day. She did visit the doctors afterwards tho Claire almost had to dragoon Joanna or she just might had shrugged the thorn off as an accident entirely and nothing to worry about. The doctors calling Claire, telling her that the thorns were not life threatening but if someone was stuck by one that person had a few hours until they passed out. Joanna had made it back to the doctors with Claire in tow about an hour in a half later. Joanna saying she was fine but stumbling every so often. One shot later and Claire helping her to bed, Joanna had not really remembered much after getting the hypo-shot. Claire started being stoic with her for a couple weeks. Joanna finally asked what was wrong with her roommate and best friend, only to find out that the hypo only took care of some of the effects of the thorns. A rather embarrassed Claire had finally told her that Joanna could not stop herself from stripping down to her undies and pulling Claire into bed with her. Joanna looked rather embarrassed after finding out the two had been slightly intimate. 


Joanna for her part apologized profusely when she was told. Joe offered to change rooms if that was an issue for Claire. Only to find out that Claire was only embarrassed due to the fact one of her thorns had brought on the bought of… ‘Yeah not much else to call that other than either love making or something. Still glad we are in the same room tho.’ Joanna thought after a moment of looking at Claire. Joanna still did not know what to do or say to Claire sometimes. Claire would catch Joanna starring at her. Only to have Claire walk over then bend herself close to Joanna's ear, whisper something soft to her making Joanna shudder and whimper back a quiet yes. Claire would then lean back up and sashay out of the room. The people that would witness the display often commented that Joanna's face would turn the same color as her hair. 


A few hours later the two could have been seen coming from there shared room rather well dressed for a night on the town. Claire in a pantsuit that didn't hide her female frame and Joanna in a emerald green dress made to show off in. Mind you her back leafs hadn't grown in yet and her hair covered most of the plunge the back of the dress took off her shoulders. A thin sequined shall help with the slight chill for the night. “Platoon Sargent Werner, good to see you on time.” Joanna heard as she snapped a salute.

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