Written by @Wayril
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Setting and original story “Human Domestication Guide” written by @GlitchyRobo. If you enjoy my story, please give hers a read as well! This story was written with her consent and we’ve workshopped some of the world-building together.
Other authors are also making stories in this setting. You can find their works at the HDG Linktree.
Content Warning: Includes themes of dominance / submission, drugging, pet play, and indoctrination. Also includes mentions of violence and needles. While not explicitly sexual, this is a kinky story about domineering plant aliens. You’ve been warned.
Part 1: ch. 1-6 (Jul 10, 2021)
Part 2: ch. 7-12 (Aug 11, 2021)
Mel watched the bright streaks arcing across the night sky. Dozens of them filled the air, like a sparkling meteor shower. 'But they aren't meteors,' Mel reminded herself, 'they're spacecraft.' A multitude of ships entered Thypso's orbit, carrying conquerors from another world. And yet, Mel felt oddly calm about the whole situation. She breathed deeply, feeling the soft grass beneath her skin. A cool spring breeze carried the familiar scents of pollen and fertilizer to her nostrils as she sighed deeply. “It doesn't matter,” she murmured to nobody in particular, “It's not like things will ever really change around here.”
Mel couldn't have been more wrong. The next month brought more changes than she ever could have imagined! First was the new rules of the Affini Compact. Changes in government authority hardly affected her personal life and restrictions on weapons and contraband didn't bother Mel either – she hadn’t used her old ranch rifle in years. Second was... her medications became free? Mel stared at the pharmacist, slack-jawed. “But- But aren't these supposed to be 300 credits for the month?” she stammered.
The pharmacist shrugged and replied, “New policies of the Compact. Apparently they're phasing out currency altogether now. You just need to fill out the right forms to get your supplies on time.” Mel thanked the pharmacist profusely before darting out of the store.
Two months after the Affini's arrival, Mel had a conversation with her longtime friend, Abigail. “It literally makes me sick, these fucking Plants!” Abigail spat under her breath. “I can't do anything without stumbling over some rule or form I’ve failed to memorize. You can't decide anything for yourself anymore, there's no freedom under the Compact!”
Mel looked at her with surprise and asked “What exactly did we have before that's missing now? The Compact has done nothing but help me! I finally moved out of that leaky old attic I used to rent and got into my own private hab unit. My meds are fully covered and I haven't gone to bed hungry in weeks! I never could have afforded this before!”
Abigail glared at her. “They're bribing you with scraps and you're just okay with that?” She snarled. “Where's your sense of independence? Your Terran fucking spirit? You're just gonna roll over and be a slave to the Compact?”
“We were already slaves!” Mel shouted back. “I barely scraped a living with agricultural work! Now we're being taken care of better than we ever were under the Corpos, and suddenly you're upset?” Abigail hissed in frustration and stalked out of the room. Mel didn't see her much after that. The next day, every news outlet carried the same headline: the Terran government had officially surrendered to the Affini Compact.
Three months after the Affini's arrival, Mel's new supervisor requested to speak with her. Brushing the dust from her overalls, she removed her work gloves and cautiously entered the office. “You uhh, wanted to see me, Ma'am?” Mel squeaked nervously. The Affini woman turned to face her, a towering humanoid figure nearly 3 meters tall. Her skin was like a supple plant stem, her form covered in leaves and flowering buds. Numerous prehensile vines extended from her body, acting in concert with her larger arms and legs.
The alien sat down and gestured Mel closer with a wave of her hand. “Please Melrose, I've told you before to call me Sylnathi. And yes, I wanted to speak with you. Have a seat!” Mel cautiously nestled herself into one of the Terran-sized chairs as her supervisor continued, “It appears our automation program is complete!”
Mel sat very still, staring up into the Affini's large glinting eyes. “Complete? What does that mean?” She asked nervously.
“It means you are free to go!” Sylnathi said with a smile. “But I wanted to thank you personally for your assistance. Your knowledge of indigenous botany helped me quite a bit.”
“But- No!” Mel cried, jumping up from her chair. “I mean, you can't! Please don't fire me, I can't lose this!”
The Affini woman cocked her head in confusion, seeing the Terran girl before her on the verge of tears. “Melrose, what do you mean by 'lose'?” Sylnathi asked.
“Everything!” Mel sobbed. “My job, my home, my medicine, please don't send me away!”
After a moment Sylnathi shook her head and laughed “Oh, Melrose! No dear, you aren't losing anything. Your home, your life, they're yours to keep! What I'm telling you is that I no longer require your services. These crops are now nearly self-sustaining, so I don't need you to come in to work anymore.”
Mel sniffed back a sob as tears clouded her vision. “Wait, you mean I don't need to work at all?” She asked cautiously.
“Not exactly,” Sylnathi continued, “I've requested an extended stay for you here on Thypso in case I need any more help with the agricultural systems, so you are technically ‘on call’ if I ever need you. But the time you aren't spending here is yours! For whatever you wish to do with it.”
Mel was stunned. Never in her wildest imagination was 'not working' a thing you could do. You either worked or you starved, those were your options. And yet here Sylnathi was telling her she could keep living her comfortable new life? Without hours to clock or quotas to fill? “I- I don't know what to do.” Mel said meekly, turning her gaze to the floor. She felt a leafy vine curl around her shoulder and shuddered at the unnatural stimulation where it brushed her bare skin; some contact chemical the Affini produced, she'd heard.
“Melrose,” Sylnathi began softly, “If you want my advice, find something you're really passionate about and pursue that. Take the opportunities the Compact offers and use it to make yourself happy! I don't think I've seen you smile more than twice since I've met you.” Mel nodded as the Affini continued, “What sort of hobbies do you have? You must have a life outside of agro work!”
“Uhh, my tea!” Mel said suddenly. “I have my tea pants, the different strains I've been breeding. Maybe I could work more with those?”
“Not a bad thought at all!” Sylnathi said sweetly. Mel felt the alien tendril grip her shoulder a bit tighter. The sensation was distracting, to say the least. “I must say,” Sylnathi mused, “many of us Affini are fascinated by Xenos. Terrans are a special curiosity to us at the moment, adorable little creatures you are! But the primary reason I'm out on the frontier is the Flora! There's something so unique about meeting alien ancestors from other worlds. How different would we have become with a different seedling I wonder...”
Sylnathi’s voice trailed off wistfully. Mel stood awkwardly in front of her before giving a mild cough to grab the Affini’s attention. “Ohh, I'm terribly sorry dear! I was lost in thought for a moment.” Straightening up, the plant woman retracted her vine and smiled down at Mel once more. “Run along and enjoy some relaxation for a while.” Sylnathi said cheerfully, “And I'm always just a call away if you ever need me!” Mel thanked her and left the office, gathering her belongings before heading home. At first she walked, then skipped, then ran full-tilt, laughing and crying.
A slave? No, the Compact was a freedom she had never felt before!
The Affini Compact is a civilization of sentient spacefaring plants which subjugates new species through conquest. Terrans are far from the first creatures to meet this fate. Through brutal military strikes and advanced pharmacology, the Affini forced the Terran government's unconditional surrender 3 years after first contact. Though the Terran War of Pacification is officially over, holdouts within the Terran military continue to fight a resistance against the Affini.
The Compact is not without compassion, the Affini take pride in making their subjects' lives as comfortable as possible. They view themselves as a benevolent and inevitable force, their purpose to guide and protect alien species from themselves. They also find Xenos, especially Terrans, quite cute and often adopt them as ‘pets’.
Thypso is a small Exoplanet in the Alpha Centauri system whose orbit provides a nearly year-round growing season. It was terraformed into an agricultural world early on during Terran expansion into the system. As the Affini conquer worlds like Thypso, they bolster and automate existing resources and supply chains to support their empire.
A few weeks after Mel's agricultural duties lessened, Orion's Blossom opened to the public. Mel was surprised how easy it had been! No startup costs, no loans or investors, she had simply filed her idea for a tea shop with the Compact office on Thypso and waited for a response. A week later, she received a data packet approving her idea. The notice included files detailing the location and logistics of the project, the office's expectations of her, and health and safety standards to accommodate both Affini and Xeno patrons. Two weeks after that, she stood in the sunny park adjacent to her hab unit and looked in awe at the new building.
The seating area was an open lawn, spacious and dotted with chairs and tables of different sizes. Some spots were left open for patrons to sit on the soft earth. A large canopy formed from intertwining trees created a shady space to protect visitors from the sun and the rain. The physical structure consisted of a small kiosk with a countertop sheltered by an overhanging awning. The workspace held various machines for brewing and a small door behind the counter led to an enclosed glass greenhouse.
“You should be all set to begin now.” said the Affini coordinator next to her, tapping some last-minute information into their data pad. “The hydroponics in the back are all set up and you can move your plants in anytime!”
Mel stood wide-eyed, taking in the gorgeous space prepared for her in just a few weeks. “And- it's mine?” She asked excitedly.
“Well, the facility and equipment belong to the Compact,” the Affini replied, “but so long as there are no issues, the space is yours to operate and change as you see fit!” The Affini leaned down towards Mel with a warm smile. “Welcome to Orion's Blossom!”
Word spread quickly through the hab units. When Mel officially opened the shop she had a steady stream of patrons all day; Terrans, Xenos, and especially the Affini. The tea flowed as she met and chatted with neighbors she didn't even know she had. It was… honestly quite overwhelming! She felt an anxious knot growing in her stomach as more and more people passed through. Her breathing became shallow and more rapid. She looked desperately for a lull in the number of visitors, until suddenly she recognized a familiar face and a friendly wave. “Sylnathi, you came!' Mel cried happily.
“Of course, dear!” the Affini replied, smiling as she approached the counter. “You didn't think I'd miss your opening day, did you?”
Sylnathi selected a brew she had never heard of, 'Darjeeling', and Mel promptly brought her a cup of the steaming beverage. As Mel handed it to her, Sylnathi's expression changed to one of concern. “Dear, your hands are shaking.”
“W- what?” Mel asked. Looking down she saw that the Affini woman was correct. A tremor ran through her body, vibrating the liquid in the cup as she held it. Mel felt the knot tighten further.
“Melrose, why don't you take a break?” Sylnathi said quietly. She reached out one of her vines to grab a small sign which read ‘Closed, Please Come Back Later!’ and placed it on the countertop.
Mel sat with Sylnathi in a sunny grove within the park. The Affini chose a quiet spot with hardly any people around. Mel felt nervous, her hands fidgeting as she did her best to take slow steady breaths. “How is your first day going?” Sylnathi asked her gently.
“It- It's a lot.” Mel squeaked. “There's so many people, I didn't expect it to be so busy!”
“Well, you're a curiosity!” Sylnathi said with a smile. “Everyone wants to see the new place. I'm sure you'll have a more manageable number of patrons in a week or two. And of course, you- Ohh goodness, this tea is a delight!”
Mel looked at her, confused. “But you haven't drunk...” her voice trailed off as she saw one of the Affini's tendrils dipped into the cup as she held it.
“Not with our mouths, dear.” Sylnathi said. “We Affini draw nutrients from our leaves and roots. Tea was actually a brilliant idea you know, it allows us to experience Xeno foods and flavors we otherwise couldn't.” Mel watched fascinated as the level of liquid in the cup slowly lowered and Sylnathi’s expression filled with warm satisfaction.
The two talked for over an hour. Twice, Sylnathi stopped Mel from returning to the kiosk. “Your personal well-being is more important than a few missing cups of tea.” she said smartly. Mel felt her body begin to relax. Her breaths came more evenly and the knot in her stomach lessened. As her Affini companion finished her tea, she spoke to Mel in a more stern voice. “Melrose, since we've worked together I've had access to your medical records; Xeno wellness and all that. You have a history of Anxiety and Depression, yet you refuse to take any medication for it. Why is that?”
Mel felt her hands fidgeting again and she averted her eyes. “I don't say this to berate you, but from a place of concern.” Sylnathi continued gently. “Today has already taken a noticeable toll on you. Wouldn't it be better to have something which could help you with that?”
Mel shook her head and replied “I can't do that again, it's too much! Last time I tried, it- it didn't end well. I could barely eat. I ended up in the hospital from malnutrition.”
Sylnathi's expression was full of sympathy. “Perhaps with Terran pharmaceuticals, but you forget that the Compact provides access to Xenodrug substitutes for a variety of medications.” she offered. “I’m sure we could find you something more agreeable?”
Mel tilted her head, intrigued. “Something without the side effects?” She asked.
“I can't promise you no side effects, but very likely not the ones you experienced before!” the Affini reassured her. Sylnathi's strong arms gently helped the Terran girl to her feet. The contact on Mel's skin was intense, a mix of disorienting and foreign stimulation. “How about I give you a little something to help with today?” Sylnathi cooed softly, pulling Mel in closer. “And if you like it, we can make it a more regular thing. Is that okay?”
The plant woman’s touch was far softer than her appearance suggested. Mel nodded nervously. “Alright. Just- just to try it.” she whispered.
The Affini's vines gently encircled her and Mel felt a pricking sensation on her thigh. She looked down to see one of the flowering buds on Sylnathi's tendrils pressed against her leg, its petals wrapped around her skin. As it withdrew, she noticed the Pistil in the center of the flower resembled a hypodermic needle. A small red dot and a mild soreness told her something had been injected into the muscle – not dissimilar to her own medications. “What did you-”
“Give it a moment, dear.” Sylnathi interrupted her.
The vines holding her tightened their grip, supporting Mel where she stood. A few seconds later, a new sensation began to spread through Mel's body from the injection site on her leg. It was as though she were being submerged in a warm bath, relaxed and calm. The sensation of Sylnathi's skin on hers became one of comfort and pleasure, no longer alien but an embrace she craved like nothing before. A mild dizziness took her, a gentle headrush that cleared her thoughts like a ripple across a pond. She gasped, her breath steadying once more, and looked up at the beaming Affini next to her. “Well? How do you feel?” she asked.
“It's strange,” Mel began, “But I do feel better. I won't get sick, right?”
“Highly unlikely.” Sylnathi replied, slowly withdrawing her supporting tendrils. Mel missed the sensation from those vines the moment they left her body.
The two walked back to the kiosk together. Mel held on to Sylnathi's arm for comfort more than support. Stepping behind the counter, Mel began serving tea once more. The crowds seemed to bother her less now. Sylnathi stayed with her a while longer to make sure she was alright. “You should be good for today – and likely tomorrow as well – after the dosage I gave you.” The Affini said to her. “But let me know if those Xenodrugs bother you in any way! If they work well, we could get you a prescription. Or if you'd prefer, I'm happy to assist you myself!” With a grin, she tussled Mel's hair and the Terran girl felt a spark of pleasure and endearment shoot through her brain. As Sylnathi began to leave, she turned back once more and said, “Oh, I nearly forgot! I need you back in agro for some maintenance in 3 days’ time. You'll be there to help me, right?”
“Of course!” Mel cried, “I'll see you in a few days!”
Mel felt happy and upbeat for the rest of her day at Orion's Blossom. She slept especially well that night.
'Xenodrugs' is an all-encompassing term for Affini pharmacology. These include drugs designed for medical problems, as well as those designed for pleasure or Xeno subjugation. The two categories often overlap, with Xenodrugs having a powerful effect on alien species. Affini produce some Xenodrugs naturally and can administer them through their bodies. Affini scientists are constantly working on modifying and improving their pharmacology, especially when adapting them to target a new Xeno species.
Mel woke up happily to soft sunlight streaming through her window. She stretched lazily, standing up from the bed and making her way to the kitchenette in the next room. She grabbed a fresh bagel from the counter (Living on an agro-world had its perks) and poured herself a glass of cool water. Reaching across the counter, she pulled her medications from their shelf. After popping two pills into her mouth, she took the bottle containing her new Xenodrug regimen and squirted 3 drops into the glass in front of her. Mel sat herself on the comfortable couch which faced the window, enjoying her bagel and sipping the medicated water. This entire wall of the hab unit was made of transparent polymer, giving her a lovely view of the park outside. She watched the breeze play through the trees, the birds chasing each other from bough to bough. Closing her eyes, she breathed deeply and relished the sunlight warming her skin. Her mind and body felt at peace. “Hmm, at this rate I'm not too far off from a plant myself.” She joked aloud.
Sylnathi had been right, of course, she was a very smart woman. The new medication was helping Mel quite a lot and the worst side effect she noticed was a mild lack of focus. She had a tendency to drift off mid-thought, but nothing too bad. The number of patrons at Orion's Blossom also thinned out after its initial boom and she began to recognize regular visitors at certain times. Many of Mel's days were spent at the kiosk, serving tea and tending to her plants. Occasionally, Sylnathi would request her help with the agricultural equipment and she'd take a day or two off to help her instead. She could even schedule her own vacation time, updating the hours for Orion’s Blossom right from her data pad. When there wasn't much to be done, she sat outside her establishment on the soft grass and read stories on her tablet or drew sketches of patrons (with permission, of course).
Mel eagerly looked forward to Sylnathi's weekly visits. The plant woman visited Mel more often than that, for a drink at Orion’s Blossom or just to say hello, but they'd begun a tradition of spending a few hours together each week. They'd swap stories, drink tea, and enjoy the sunshine together. Sylnathi would also offer Mel another personal dose of Xenodrugs, which she rarely refused. The injection felt so much stronger and more intimate than her baseline prescription. She often found herself in a quiet daze afterwards, head pleasantly swimming, only to wake an hour or two later wrapped gently in Sylnathi's vines. The Affini's touch only became more comforting and pleasurable as Mel spent more time with her. She became loath to leave her friend's embrace when they parted. It was a new normal, one which Mel enjoyed immensely!
At one of these meetings, Sylnathi asked, “Melrose, what are your thoughts on the Human Domestication Program? Have you ever considered such a path for yourself?” Mel paused for a minute. If she didn't have her new Xenodrugs she probably would have panicked at such a question, but her medications and the Sylnathi’s affectionate touch tempered her emotions. She thought about what she'd heard, how the Affini made ‘pets’ of those who were subdued through conquest, their will broken and their rebellion brought to heel. It was a stern reminder of the Compact's superiority; their fiercest enemies converted into willing subjects. Many Terran military officers now happily gave public speeches praising their captors.
“I thought that was a punishment, for prisoners and the like.” Mel said, turning her head up to face Sylnathi. The motion made her head spin as the Xenodrugs pumped through her body. “Not a punishment, no!” the Affini smiled down at her. “Domestication is simply a different way of living. Not too dissimilar from what we share now actually, but closer and more… intimate.” Mel shuddered happily as the tendrils holding her tightened slightly and Sylnathi continued, “It is also often the best path forward for dissidents and rebels. Incarceration is a detestable practice and we do our best to avoid it whenever possible! But challenges to the Compact cannot be allowed, for everyone's safety. Better to let troublesome Terrans live out their lives peacefully through domestication, wouldn't you agree?”
“I guess so, yeah!” Mel smiled up at the plant woman, but after a moment her expression faltered and she looked out across the park. “But I don't know if it's for me. I'm really happy here! I like living next to the park, I like working at Orion's Blossom, I like my visits with you…” Mel trailed off, wistfully. “I don't want this to change. I don't want to be assigned to some stranger or shipped off to another world.” Sylnathi gave a hearty laugh and Mel looked up again in surprise.
“My dear little Melrose,” the Affini woman chuckled affectionately, “Perhaps I should be clearer: I want you to stay with me, here on Thypso. I want you to be my Floret. Is that something which might interest you?”
Mel sat still, stunned by the proposition. “I- I don't know.” She stammered.
“That's alright, you don't have to decide anything right now.” Sylnathi cooed. “But in the same way you said you didn't want to be shipped off-world to live with a stranger, I'd rather not be assigned a pet at random either. That's why I asked you. I have no desire to coerce you, but I hoped you might take my offer willingly.”
Mel stared deeply into Sylnathi’s twinkling eyes, deep blue with reflective inlays like flakes of gold. Her head swam with the gravity of the proposal and the Xenodrugs flooding her brain. “I care for you deeply, Melrose. You do know that, right?” Sylnathi asked quietly, her arms and her vines holding Mel tightly.
“Of course I do!” Mel whispered back, tightening her own embrace against the Affini.
As they parted ways that afternoon, Mel repeated the offer again and again in her mind. A driving question that she couldn't yet answer.
Affini carry the title of ‘Bloom’, which refers to the number of times that Affini has regenerated from their mother plant. Barring extensive physical damage or wilting illness, an Affini is able to bloom again into a new body when their old one has degraded too much. Example: “Sylnathi Pelos, Second Bloom.”
‘Floret’ refers to an Affini’s pet, with the number afterwards referring to how many the Affini has had over their lifespan. Example: “Elvira Nele, Second Floret.”
Mel awoke to the sound of raised voices. She groaned and rolled over in bed, confused by the lack of light in the room. It must have still been night time. The commotion continued somewhere in the corridor outside her hab unit. She sleepily pulled herself out of bed, wrapping a comfortable robe around her body. 'What could be happening at this time of night to cause such a fuss?' she wondered. Cautiously, she tiptoed through her kitchen and gently slid the door to her hab unit open a tiny amount, peering into the hallway. To her surprise, she saw three Affini in the corridor facing the entrance to the residence opposite hers. Their tendrils were raised and bristling in an unusually menacing way. Their bodies were covered in thick sections of what looked like tree bark, arranged as armor plating. With a crash, one of the Affini broke through the door and moved swiftly into the room across the hall.
The clap of gunfire shook the air and Mel screamed, throwing herself to the floor. One of the Affini outside whirled around and tore open her door, confronting the source of the noise. It towered over her, limbs writhing, it's face obscured by a mask of armored bark. The gunshots ceased and the shouting across the hall faded to whimpering, then to silence. Mel covered her head, terrified. She thought back to the Agro-Strikes when she was growing up. When the agricultural workers on Thypso formed a revolt against wage cuts, the Corpos hired a mercenary group to deal with the problem. The movement's leaders were butchered in their homes, along with their families for good measure. The protests quickly died down after that but Mel could still remember the sight of corpses in the street. She thought things would be safer under the Compact.
“Melrose? Are you alright?” A cool voice came from above her. Mel peeked open one eye and saw the armored Affini was now kneeling beside her, their form no longer menacing but still poised and alert. “Who- How do you know my name?” Mel stammered.
The Affini tilted their head slightly and then replied, “Oh, you probably don't recognize me with the armor. I'm Halthia, I come by Orion's Blossom every week or so. Are you injured?”
“No. No, I don't think so.” Mel answered slowly. The Affini carefully sat Melrose up against the wall, effortlessly moving and positioning her like a manikin. Mel was again reminded how physically strong the Affini were compared to Terrans. Looking back into the hallway, she saw a thin green vapor seeping out from the broken doorway – some kind of gas? One of the Affini in the corridor held two Terran bodies; their figures hung limply in the alien's vines, oxygen masks affixed to their faces. The other Affini seemed to be applying some sort of medical treatment to several oozing bullet-holes in their body. Their thick sap dripped audibly onto the floor like heavy drops of blood.
“What happened?” Melrose asked, looking up at Halthia. The bark-like mask obscured the Affini's expression save for their glinting eyes and Mel recoiled slightly. She had yet to see this side of the Affini and it rightly terrified her. There was a reason Terra lost the war; the Affini were formidable creatures. “Rebel Informants.” Halthia said coldly. “Our intelligence indicated they were caching weapons, and it appears we were correct. They'll be no further harm to anyone now.”
“Are they- dead?” Mel's words caught in her throat as she eyed the limp bodies. “No, merely incapacitated.” Halthia replied. “We do our best not to kill and these two may yet provide us with... information.” The Affini looked down at Mel, trembling on the floor. “Are you sure you're alright?” They asked, their voice becoming sympathetic. “Do you need me to contact anyone for you?”
Mel was surprised how quickly Sylnathi arrived after Halthia placed the call. Her Affini friend brought a safety and comfort that she desperately needed. Sylnathi spent far more time than usual with Mel that week, tending to her needs and providing more than a few personal doses of Xenodrugs. “I don't understand it.” Mel remarked one day.
“Don't understand what, dear?” Sylnathi asked.
“The rebels.” Mel continued, “The war is over, the Compact won. What exactly do they think they'll achieve?”
Sylnathi sighed and said “Terrans are a relatively young species, cosmically speaking. Not unlike the Affini in our youth. Rebellion and struggle is a part of you, a childish trait your kind will eventually outgrow.” Sylnathi stared off, appearing to lose herself in thought.
“We already suffered so much,” Mel said quietly, “And yet they keep fighting, they keep suffering. It’s like a cycle we can't escape.”
Sylnathi held Mel tightly and said “That's part of why the Compact does what it does. To show you that there is a better way; a way without suffering.”
Mel also decided to read up on Human Domestication. She looked at testimonials from other Terrans and medical information about the process. She was especially fascinated by the Implant, living Affini tissue which interfaced with the subject's nervous system and helped supply and control the body's chemical balance. As far as she understood it, all 'pets' received this procedure to complete the bond with their owner. She read everything she could, even talking to some of the patrons at Orion’s Blossom about how they felt after undergoing the process. Sylnathi’s proposal still weighed heavily on her mind. Mel did really want to form that bond with her, but something nagged at the recesses of her mind, holding her back.
Late one evening, Mel received an incoming call on her data pad. “Caller – Unknown? That's odd.” She murmured. Answering the message, a familiar grinning face greeted her on the screen. “Hey girl, how's it going?”
“Abigail!” Mel nearly shouted with delight, then sheepishly reigned herself in. “Abby, how are you? I haven't seen you in months, what happened? Are you okay?”
“I'm fine, Mel!” her friend laughed. “I think I just got fed up with things back home and needed to travel. See the sights, you know? I'm feeling much better now!” The two friends caught up for a while. Abigail told Mel about all the different planets and stars she'd seen on her travels, while Mel told her about Orion's Blossom and her friendship with Sylnathi. Abigail's demeanor shifted slightly as she heard Mel talk about her relationship. “Like, friends? With an Affini?” she asked. “I know we're all living under the Compact now, but isn't that a little weird, taking up with a plant?”
“Oh, no, she's been wonderful!” Mel beamed. “She's helped me immensely, I would be far worse off I think without her.” Abigail shrugged and said “Alright, you do you, hun. Listen, I'm coming back to Thypso for a little while to visit folks. Is it alright if I stay with you for a few days? I'm sure my old place is gone or repurposed by now.”
“Of course!” Mel replied excitedly, “There's plenty of room for you here!”
Mel counted down the days until Abigail’s arrival. She was giddy with anticipation when she got the message that her craft had finally landed. She spent the day tidying her hab unit and brewing some of her favorite teas for the occasion. At last, a soft electronic chime from the entryway filled her heart with excitement. Abigail's smiling face greeted her as she slid open the door. “Abby!” Mel cried, “It's so good to see you again!” The two embraced and Abigail held her tightly for a long time.
“I missed you too, Mel.” She said softly.
Mel and Abigail stayed up their entire first night together, talking and laughing like old times. Mel made dinner and watched with pride as Abigail ate every last speck of it. “Yeah, I’ve just been living off nutrient paste for so long, this is like a feast!” Abigail laughed. She also complimented Mel profusely on her tea. Abigail had stories from a dozen different systems and Mel listened intently to each one. The birds were calling to signal the approaching dawn by the time they finally fell asleep. They awoke together the next morning, nestled on the couch by the window where they'd dozed off.
Mel put together a simple breakfast for them and grabbed her morning medication. Abigail watched warily as Mel dripped her Xenodrugs into a glass. “I don't know how you can take that stuff.” Abigail remarked as Mel took a sip of her medicated water.
Mel looked up, surprised. “My meds? What do you mean?”
“The Xeno shit.” Abigail said, chewing her lip. “It messes with your head, makes you dull. I wouldn't touch it if I were you.”
Mel put down her glass as Abigail gave her a concerned look. “Just because you don't trust them doesn't mean they're bad for me.” Mel said. “I feel so much better now that I'm on them, like I can finally regulate myself better, or-” she was interrupted as Abigail reached across the table and flicked her nose. “Ow! Abby, what was that for?”
“You're slow. I see it in everything you do.” Abigail said softly. “You move like you're in a daze, you forget sentences halfway through saying them. The Melrose I remember would have caught my hand before I even got near her face.” Mel stared into Abigail's somber eyes, confused.
“Abby, I'm still me!” Mel cried, “So what if I'm a little slower? I used to be so high strung I didn't sleep half the time! Now I'm finally mellowed out, and you think it's a bad thing?”
“I want to make sure those damn plants aren't messing with your mind, beating you down!” Abigail snarled.
“And I want you to stop being so distrustful for once in your life when something is finally going well for me!” Mel shouted back. The two looked at each other in silence. “I'm sorry!” they both said at the same time, and after an awkward pause burst into laughter together.
“Mel, I want to be sure you're still the girl I remember, you know?” Abigail said quietly.
“And I want to make sure you're taking care of yourself out there, Abby!” Mel replied with a smile.
The two women were very amenable after that confrontation. Mel made a point to show Abigail around the changes on Thypso since she'd left, including the improvements and amenities the Affini had built. Abigail remained dismissive, refusing to hide her dislike for the plant creatures. Abigail did like Orion's Blossom though, walking through the hydroponic greenhouse with a look of wonder on her face. She ran a hand gently up the stalk of one of the plants, admiring its leaves. “Mel, you did all this?” She asked, grinning up at her friend.
“Yeah! You know, with a little help.” Mel said proudly.
Mel had decided to close the kiosk while Abigail visited, so the seating area outside was quiet. They waited together at a small table under the canopy until Mel saw a familiar form approaching. She waved the Affini over and watched Abigail's expression sour once more. “Abby, I told you,” Mel chided, “she's important to me, and I'd like you to meet her. Just a short talk, okay?” As the Affini approached the table, Mel stood and said, “Hi Sylnathi, thank you for joining us!”
“My pleasure, dear!” the Affini smiled sweetly. “And you must be Miss Abigail, yes?”
“Charmed.” Abigail muttered with a scowl.
The three of them talked for maybe half an hour. Mel and Abigail recounted their youth growing up on Thypso, while Sylnathi talked about how proud she was of Mel's accomplishments since they'd met. “If not for your little friend here, I'd have had a much harder time figuring out your local botany.” the plant woman laughed. “Who would have thought 'corn' would prove such a tricky puzzle for me?” Sylnathi wrapped an affectionate vine around Mel's shoulders as she spoke. Mel relaxed, leaning happily into the embrace. But as she looked back across the table she saw Abigail staring at her, a disgusted expression across her face. “Abby, what's wrong?” Mel asked.
“This.” Abigail breathed heavily. “This is wrong, Mel.”
Sylnathi gently extend her hand across the table and said, “Miss Abigail, I-” but Abigail leapt up away from her with a shriek and yelled “Don't- Fucking touch me!” A dead silence hung in the park, save for the chirping of the birds. Mel watched in shock and confusion as tears streamed down Abigail's cheeks. “I can't watch this.” Abigail muttered quietly, turning away and walking quickly out of the park.
Mel waited in her Hab Unit, anxious and afraid. It was dark out and Abigail still hadn't returned. “Are you sure you don't want me to stay with you, Melrose?” Sylnathi's voice came through the data pad. “Yes, I'm sure.” Mel said. “Abby doesn't trust the Affini, It'll be better if it's just me. I do wish she'd come home though!” Mel paused, then said “I'm going to make another loop around the place, just to be sure!” She left her data pad on the bed and donned a light jacket before heading out into the cool night air. Briskly, she walked the perimeter of the hab unit and searched any nearby nooks she could think of. There was no sign of Abigail. “Maybe she's back at the park.” Mel told herself, changing course and heading into the trees. Besides the few lights along the main path, the park was shrouded in darkness. Mel could hardly see, but she kept up hope that one of those shadows might prove to be her friend. She checked the dim seating area outside Orion's Blossom: still nothing.
Dejected and worried, Mel made her way back to the hab unit to call Sylnathi again. But as she walked through the corridor to her home, she noticed a flash of movement ahead. Walking further down the hall, she saw that the door across from hers was open just a crack. The same room where the raid had occurred the other week. Mel felt a terror welling up inside her, but she swallowed her fear and peered through the slit into the room. A dark silhouette moved through the empty hab unit, a Terran shaped figure which gave off flashes of dim light. The light caught their face and Mel gasped in surprise and relief as she recognized Abigail. Flashlight in hand, her friend was nervously rooting through shelves and drawers.
Mel began to enter the room, but something stopped her. She couldn't imagine Abigail would enter the wrong hab unit accidentally. She watched curiously as Abigail ran a hand over an upturned desk. The hand stopped, moved back slightly and lightly knocked twice. Abigail produced a knife and began cutting into the spot she'd found. “Gotcha!” She whispered excitedly, retrieving something from the hole and placing it in her pocket. She then made her way briskly towards the door. Mel panicked and stepped back, but not soon enough. As Abigail quickly exited the room the two came suddenly face to face; their eyes locked.
“SHH!” Abigail hissed nervously. She pointed back towards Mel's door and the two of them quietly crept back into the familiar hab unit. Abigail slid the door closed behind them and locked it, finally daring to exhale. She turned and faced Mel, then immediately choked as she saw her friend's pained expression. “Mel, look, I'm sorry, I can explain, it's just-” She was cut off as Mel wrapped her arms around her, sobbing.
“I was so worried about you, why did you disappear like that?” Mel cried.
The two calmed down and sat together in the kitchen. “Abby, please, tell me what's happening.” Mel said quietly. Abby looked at her, then averted her eyes and remained silent. “You can trust me!” Melrose said, forcing a smile.
Abigail shot an incredulous look back at her and replied “Can I, Mel? Because it sure doesn't feel like it!”
Mel could see the fear in her friend's eyes. “I promise, Abigail,” she said gently, “whatever's happening, I want to help!”
Abigail gritted her teeth and groaned. “Fuck it!” she spat. “Mel, I joined the Terran resistance. After I left. All those different worlds I told you about? I didn't see them on some traveling freighter, I've been fighting back against the Affini!” Mel anxiously watched her friend's resolute expression as she continued, “We lost comms with our informants here and I volunteered to retrieve this.” Abigail produced a small data chip from her pocket before putting it away again. “I volunteered because I knew the area, because I had contacts here. I did really want to see you again, but- coming back here was a mistake.”
Mel took it all in. “I- I'm not sure what to say.” She said slowly. “I guess- do you really hate the Affini so much?”
Abigail glared back at her and growled, “Of course I hate them! Look at what they've done to us! Look at what they've done to You! For fuck's sake, Mel, do you not see the way that Weed looks at you?”
Mel couldn't understand why Abigail was so upset. “Don’t call her that!” she said firmly, “Sylnathi cares for me, and I care for her!”
“She doesn't care for you, she's possessive of you! Like you're her fucking pet or something!” Abigail snarled.
“Abigail, you're reading this wrong!” Mel pleaded, “It's mutual, she asked me to be her Floret.”
“She 'asked' you? And what did you say?”
“I said I'd think about it!”
Abigail stared sorrowfully at Mel for a long time. Finally she stood up and said “I'm sorry I didn't help you, Mel. I should have taken you with me. I left you behind, and I’ll never forgive myself for that!”
“I don’t understand why you’re apologizing, but I’m really worried about you, Abby.” Mel said desperately. “The longer you keep going like this, the more likely it is that you'll end up dead. Why do you fight them? The Affini won, why can't you just accept that?”
Abigail stared down at Mel with a viscous look in her eyes. “I fight them,” she said, trembling, “because I keep losing the people I love. Because you're not the only person they've taken from me. And because if I have to choose, I would rather die than end up enslaved like you.”
Abigail's façade finally broke and her tears flowed freely. “Goodbye, Melrose.” she said, choking down a sob. “I love you.” Mel’s heart ached as she watched her friend leave the hab unit. She wanted to say something – anything – but the words wouldn’t come to her. The door clicked shut with a devastating finality. Mel sat at the table for a long while, lost in thought. Finally, she moved back to the bedroom and grabbed her data pad. Sylnathi picked up almost immediately “Melrose! Thank goodness, I was worried when you didn't call back. Is everything alright? You look like you've been crying.” Mel sniffed back her tears and said “Would you mind coming over, please? I'd like to talk with you.”
She met Sylnathi by the door. The Affini woman stooped down to fit herself into the Terran-sized hab unit. She practically carried Mel to the bed and sat quietly with her until the first glimpses of sunlight climbed over the treetops outside. “I've made my decision.” Mel said finally. “I want to stay here with you. I want to undergo domestication.” Mel felt a rustle of excitement travel through Sylnathi's tendrils as she said “I'm so very happy to hear you say that! It'll be hard work for us both, but I know you'll do just fine! If I might ask, what helped you make your decision?”
Mel's thoughts flashed back to Abigail; her pain, her hatred, her sorrow. “I guess I realized I was still resisting.” Mel said. “But Abigail gave me the perspective I needed to make up my mind. There's no reason to hold myself back, I don’t want to resist anymore. I want to be happy. And I want to make you happy as well.” Mel looked up at the Affini woman and saw the joyful spark in her shining blue eyes. She blushed deeply and smiled back at her.
“My dear little Melrose,” Sylnathi said happily, holding the Terran girl tightly to her, “You've made me very happy!”
Thank you for reading the First Half of Hospitable Takeover! In my original publication there was an epilogue after Chapter 6, which is now incorporated into Chapter 10 instead.
The Second Half of the story continues below. Be warned, things are about to get noticeably kinkier~
The door to the shed flung wide open. A small figure stood silhouetted against the bright light outside, brandishing a garden hoe. “Who are you?” the figure demanded. “Come out right now!”
The girl inside the shed curled herself into a tight ball, covering her eyes, willing the intruder to leave.
“Hey, are you alright?” the voice asked, softer this time. “What happened to you?”
The girl looked up to see another child about her age slowly lowering the garden hoe into a less threatening posture. But the girl couldn’t respond. She just looked up at the child, terrified.
“Come on, you’re filthy! What're you doing in our shed anyways?” the child asked, extending a hand. The girl reluctantly took it and the child pulled her to her feet. “I’m Abigail,” the child told her, “Do you have a name?”
The girl wasn’t sure. There was a name people called her, but it didn't fit. She didn’t want it. So she stayed silent.
Abigail sighed and said, “Well, let’s at least get you out of here. Come on, my Dad’s making lunch!”
The man stared at the filthy girl Abigail had dragged into the kitchen. “Dad, my friend is gonna have lunch with me too!” Abigail said confidently. The girl averted her eyes, looking down at the floor.
“Your friend, huh?” The man said cautiously. “Does he have a name?”
The girl winced. Abigail felt the girl’s grip tighten around her hand.
“Uhmmm,” Abigail stalled for a moment, looking around the kitchen. Her eyes locked onto a paper lying on the counter with ‘Melarch’s Combine Supply’ visible in bold lettering. “Mel!” Abigail said confidently. “Their name is Mel.”
The man looked back and forth between the two children and sighed. “Alright then,” he said with a weary smile, “I’ll bring an extra sandwich out for you two. Do me a favor and clean him off outside though, he’s filthy!”
The girl gripped Abigail tighter as tears began to form in her eyes.
“Of course, thanks Dad!” Abigail grinned, before dragging the girl back outside with her. The girl couldn't quite fight back her tears, but Abigail’s hand was a welcome reassurance.
Natural light slowly filled the hab unit as two of Alpha Centauri’s suns rose in conjunction over Thypso. But the sunlight didn’t warm Mel in its usual soothing manner. She sat quietly at the table by the kitchenette, staring glumly into the cup of tea in front of her. She’d taken a few sips at first, but it had gone cold now.
“Melrose, I want you to talk to me. What’s got you feeling like this?” The soothing voice of Sylnathi drifted across the table.
Mel looked up to see the tall Affini woman sitting opposite her, resting on the floor so as not to hit her head on the shorter roof of the Terran-sized hab unit. Her skin was verdant and supple like a plant stem. Leafy prehensile vines swayed in coordinated movements around her body. Her figure resembled a large humanoid, perhaps 3 meters tall at full height. The assortment of flowers growing from her form gave her a bright, colorful aesthetic and her eyes shone blue with just the tiniest spark of gold.
Mel looked back down at her tea. “I keep thinking about Abigail.” she said softly. “She was so sad. It was because of me, I think. She said she loved me, and then she left.”
“And do you love her too, Melrose?” Sylnathi asked sympathetically.
Mel gave a sad smile. “I do.”
After a pause, Mel looked back up from her tea and said, “But I also love you, Sylnathi! I know I’m a bit sad right now, thinking about my friend, but I meant what I said to you this morning. I’m ready, and I want to be with you. I know we have to figure out the Implant and everything, but-”
Mel was interrupted as Sylnathi gently shushed her. One sizable Affini appendage fully enclosed both of the Terran girl’s small hands with a firm grasp. The touch sent signals of comfort and pleasure through her arm and she looked deeply into Sylnathi’s glittering eyes once more.
“You’re getting ahead of yourself, dear.” Sylnathi said sweetly. “The Haustoric Implant is important, but there’s plenty of work to be done before we get to that. If you're serious about undergoing domestication, I want you to get used to addressing me formally. Please refer to me as your Mistress, or Mistress Sylnathi from now on. Do you understand?”
“Yes- uhh, yes Mistress.” Mel said the words slowly, making sure she got them right.
The Affini woman smiled endearingly back at her. “Very good, Melrose!” she said happily. “I understand something happened last night between you and Miss Abigail, but I also know you might not be ready to talk about it yet.” Mel felt Sylnathi's grip tighten affectionately and gasped a little at the sensation. “When you're ready, please tell me what happened.” Sylnathi continued, “I want to be sure I can provide the best care I can for you, alright?”
“Yes, I will.” Mel said, feeling her smile falter. “Just- not yet. I need a little time.” Mel hesitated. “Is- is that alright?” She asked.
Sylnathi nodded in confirmation and tousled the Terran girl's hair. Mel tried to smile again but she was worried sick; terrified of what might happen to her childhood friend now fighting with the Terran resistance. Abby would find no victory in her personal crusade, the Affini Compact was absolute. It was folly to oppose them! But even with that fact firmly in her mind, Mel couldn't quite bring herself to tell Sylnathi about what happened. Not yet.
After a minute of silence, Sylnathi's cheery voice picked up once more. “Now then, Melrose, if you’re going to commit yourself to me it’ll be best if we can spend more time together!” Mel immediately perked up at the idea as Sylnathi spoke, “I want you to move into my hab unit with me. It’s not terribly far, just on the other side of the park! Why don’t you be a good girl and pack up your things here? I’ll be right along to help you in a moment after I take care of something.” Mel nodded eagerly, filled with a renewed excitement. For a moment, she almost forgot about Abigail.
Mel set about organizing her personal belongings while Sylnathi sat in the kitchen, tapping some information into her data pad. As Mel began sorting through her home she realized how few personal possessions she actually had! She gathered her clothes, a few potted plants, and a couple of art pieces she liked. Her tablet held all of her stories, drawings, and digital media. But the linens, dishes, and most of the household products were part of the hab unit itself. Somebody else would use all these things after she was gone.
Sylnathi finished up whatever she was typing and moved over towards her. “Melrose, I want you to sign this form for me.” she said, handing the Terran girl her data pad.
Mel looked at it curiously. It was a mix of Terran and Affini scripts, she could only read half of it. “What is it?” she asked.
“It’s a sort of release form.” Sylnathi replied. “It allows us to formally begin the process under Section 51 of the Human Domestication Treaty. And since you’re not an enemy combatant, your consent is important here too. Just sign at the bottom there when you’re ready!”
Mel read briefly through the contract on the screen. It referenced a lot of other documents and proceedings, but sounded simple enough. By signing this form she pledged herself to Sylnathi Pelos, Second Bloom, and accepted a variety of agreements and stipulations regarding Sylnathi's ownership over her. It seemed very similar to what she’d read when she was researching human domestication. She initialed all the necessary boxes and awkwardly signed her name – her new name, as stated in the contract – at the bottom, recording her fingerprint alongside it. 'Melrose Pelos, First Floret' had a nice ring to it! It was comforting to take part of Sylnathi’s name as her own.
Mel handed the data pad back to Sylnathi, who checked over everything excitedly. “Excellent! Thank you, Melrose.” she said, beaming. Mel couldn’t help but blush a bit as she watched Sylnathi’s leaves rustle happily.
“The Affini sure love their paperwork, huh?” Mel teased.
“We do, actually!” Sylnathi replied smartly, “The Compact is so enduring and expansive, bureaucracy is like an art form for us! I've designed quite a few environmental guidelines and regulations myself!”
Mel couldn't help but laugh at Sylnathi's proud expression. “Wait, you actually like doing paperwork?” she asked.
“Of course! It's like a game, isn't it?” the Affini woman grinned, “Designing and redesigning the most efficient systems possible is great fun!”
“You've clearly never seen Terran bureaucracies then!” Mel giggled, unable to keep a straight face.
Sylnathi stowed her datapad and leaned down next to Mel, examining the cluster of belongings laid out on her bed. “Now then,” she asked, “what exactly are we bringing with us?”
Mel surveyed her home once more and said, “You know, Sylnathi, I don’t think I actually own all that many things.” Mel felt a vine quickly wrap it’s way around her head, forcibly tilting it back until her vision locked upon Sylnathi’s disapproving face. She blinked in confusion, before suddenly realizing her error. “Gahh, I mean Mistress! Mistress Sylnathi!” she squeaked.
The tendril’s grip changed from forceful to affectionate once more as the Affini woman smiled. “Good girl, Melrose~” Sylnathi purred.
Mel stared contentedly up at her new owner until her attention was caught by Sylnathi’s other vines, picking through the items she’d arranged on the bed. She watched as the Affini held up her clothing piece by piece, folding some back up and tossing others to the side. Mel grew concerned as the majority of her clothing landed up in an unkempt pile on the floor.
“Uhmm, Mistress?” Mel asked cautiously. “What are you doing with my clothes?”
“Ohh, don’t worry dear.” Sylnathi cooed “You won’t be needing those ones anymore.”
Two girls lay together in an open field, looking up at the stars. They counted satellites and constellations, talking about how they were going to get off Thypso one day and see the whole galaxy! And in that moment of aspiration, Mel blurted out her truth to Abby. A few moments of silence felt like an eternity as Mel lay still, terrified that she had just lost her only friend.
“Huh. Uhmm, I guess that makes sense.” Abigail said after a moment. “I mean, you’re not like any of the boys I know, you’ve always felt more like a girl to me. Why didn’t you say anything before now, though? We’ve known each other for almost two years.”
Mel gasped in relief, sputtering as the immense buildup of anxiety began to leave her. “I just- the last time I told someone- it- it didn’t end well.” she stammered, “That’s why you found me in your shed the way you did. That’s why- why I don’t have a home to go back to.”
Abigail grabbed hold of Mel’s arm, nestling tightly into her shoulder. “That’s fucking stupid.” she said, grumpily. “I can’t imagine someone being upset with you over that.”
They lay together silently, two lonely souls beneath the endless abyss hanging over them.
After a few minutes Abigail said, “I’m sorry- about the name thing. I panicked and just chose something at random. I guess that was really rude of me, huh?”
“No! I mean- I kinda like it.” Mel said quickly. “It’s just- I like that you gave it to me. It works, you know?”
“Yeah, but it’s so… ambiguous.” Abigail said, finally finding the word she was looking for. “Don’t you want to define yourself more? Have a name that you chose yourself?”
Mel looked around. She took in the twinkling heavens above them, the agro fields rolling away into the horizon, the distant trees near the town center that played gently in the moonlight, the flower gardens by Abby’s house-
She stopped. “Melrose.” she said quietly.
“Perfect!” Abigail whispered, hugging her tightly.
The size of an Affini hab unit was intimidating to say the least. While the interior looked similar to Mel's old home, everything was built for someone twice her size. The scale was disorienting and Mel rummaged worriedly through her personal belongings, unable to find what she was looking for. “Syl- uh- Mistress?”
“Yes, dear?” Sylnathi said, looking over from the counter where she was preparing some Terran food.
“I can’t find my medication.” Mel said anxiously, “Where did you put it?”
Sylnathi smiled and replied, “It’s alright, you won’t be needing those anymore. I ordered a new regimen for you.”
“But- No, I need those!” Mel pleaded. “You can’t just get rid of them like that!”
Mel’s voice immediately caught in her throat as one of Sylnathi’s tendrils quickly shot out and wrapped commandingly around her wrist. She started to cry out but stopped as she saw Sylnathi's stern expression.
“First of all,” the Affini woman said firmly, “You are not the one who dictates what will or will not happen in this relationship. Understand?” Mel swallowed hard and nodded, unable to break eye contact. “Second of all,” the vine lessened its grip and the face in front of her softened. “Please trust that I have your best interests at heart. If I decide something for you, it’s because I believe it is best for you.”
Mel relented. “Yes. I’m sorry, Mistress.”
Sylnathi turned back to her work as she continued speaking, “If you hadn’t so rudely interrupted me, I would have explained. In order to get your Haustoric Implant, you need to build a tolerance and acceptance to various Xenodrugs. Therefore, I have replaced your normal medications with a daily injection that will help your system adjust.” Mel began to protest but felt the tendril tighten around her wrist once more. “This also includes your other medications.” Sylnathi said, turning back towards her. “So you see, there is nothing to worry about! Just relax and trust me.”
Mel breathed easier and nodded as the tendril left her wrist. She felt rather embarrassed that she hadn’t thought Sylnathi would account for her needs. The Affini woman glided over from the counter and knelt down beside her. Melrose stared into her glinting blue eyes as she spoke, “I know this situation is new to you, Pet,” – that word felt like a spark racing through Mel’s mind – “But you must remember that acceptance and obedience are essential here. You told me just yesterday that you were done resisting. So, why the outburst?”
The presence of the Affini woman before her was both authoritative and compassionate. Mel gasped as Sylnathi gently brushed a leafy finger across her cheek. The sensation dazzled her senses and she stammered, “I- I don’t know- ah, Mistress. I guess- ever since Abby left, I’m just- not used to anyone taking care of me. Does that make sense? Like- If I don’t do it myself, nobody will...” Mel trailed off, feeling guilty and averting her eyes.
Sylnathi’s tendrils enveloped Mel and easily lifted her off the floor into a warm embrace. “I understand, dear.” her Mistress said gently. “The Terrans treated their own kind with such contempt, it’s no wonder it’s hard to let go of all that. But I want you to let go for me now, Pet~”
Mel yelped as she noticed the sting and hiss of the injector. She looked down to see a small cylindrical device held in one of Sylnathi’s vines pressing against her arm. A few seconds later a flood of sensation rushed through her, not warm like before but cool and electric, making her entire body tingle gently.
“Your first dose.” Sylnathi whispered directly into her ear. “It might be a bit intense. Why don’t we lay you down for a little while?”
All Mel could do was whimper and hang limply in her grasp, the sensation was so overwhelming. She felt herself carried through the hab unit before being laid on an unusually large bed. Sylnathi lay beside her, caressing her body and offering calm assurances. The experience was far more potent than any of her Mistress’s personal Xenodrug injections before this. Her body hummed with pleasure wherever Affini flesh touched her bare skin. Lying there, feeling the Xenodrugs rush through her, Mel felt utterly helpless. Yet knowing Sylnathi was right there beside her made her feel safe and secure. Perhaps being helpless was okay? So long as her guardian was there to protect her.
Mel struggled to maintain her thoughts as she listened to Sylnathi speaking to her, holding her, caressing her, “You know, Pet,” her Mistress mused, “I’ve had my eye on you for a long while. Since we began working together, in fact! I’ve never had a Floret before, but something about you... You can’t imagine the joy I feel to know that you’re mine, that you chose me in return...” Her hands and tendrils pressed more firmly, more intimately. Mel whined needily as the ministrations intensified. “You are an adorable little creature, you know that?” Sylnathi teased her, “I made sure to conduct myself properly when we first met. I didn’t want to be too crass with an independent subject. You should have heard the rumors tossed around my staff meetings after we started seeing each other regularly!” Her physical presence was enough to drive anyone wild, but the mental stimulation brought things to another level; as though Sylnathi were probing directly into Mel’s mind with her words. The Xenodrugs coursing through the Terran girl’s body created a state of semi-paralysis, but the restricted movement only made the experience more intimate. “But now, there’s no need to hold myself back either.” Sylnathi whispered intently, “You are mine now, little Melrose~”
Her Mistress’s affections frazzled Mel's consciousness as she lost herself to the sensation.
Mel regained her thoughts some time later. She wasn't sure how long she'd been out. She felt dazed and subdued, her body still twitched and shivered occasionally. Sylnathi lay beside her on the bed, her presence calm and reassuring. Mel was very happy to see that her guardian hadn't left her alone! She remained still, not wanting to wake the sleeping Affini- Wait, did Affini even sleep? She wasn't sure. Finally, she mustered her courage and whispered, “Mistress, are you awake?”
Sylnathi stirred slightly and murmured. “Yes dear, just resting.”
Mel paused, then whispered again, “Miss, do Affini sleep?”
Her question was met with a soft chuckle. “Yes, we do.” Sylnathi said quietly. “We require sleep at regular intervals or after stressful exertion, though perhaps not as often as you Terrans do.”
“Did you fall asleep after I did?” Mel asked curiously.
“No, I wanted to stay awake in case you needed anything after your injection.” the Affini woman replied, shifting in bed to look her pet in the eyes. “How are you feeling, Melrose?”
Mel extended her senses through her body. It felt light, yet sluggish; almost as if the air around her was as thick as water. “Odd.” Mel said tentatively, “But very comfortable.” The words seemed to leave her mouth so slowly.
“Good!” Sylnathi cooed, wrapping herself lovingly around the Terran girl once more. Her Mistress's touch was quite pleasurable, but a far cry from the overstimulation she'd felt after the injection.
Mel looked up lovingly at Sylnathi. She had never seen an Affini so visibly relaxed before. She could swear that her figure looked a bit less humanoid, her limbs seeming to revert to tangled vegetation. Her leaves splayed out gently and her tendrils sat limp and calm. Her voice came slow and soft, as if she herself were in a trance alongside her pet. Her Pet. Mel smiled at the thought, reaching up to playing idly with her Mistress's vines. She admired the various flowers and buds which gave Sylnathi such a vibrant appearance.
“Hey, I recognize this one.” Mel said softly, touching the colorful petals. “Snapdragon. But- that's a Terran flower.”
“Yes it is,” Sylnathi said dreamily. “A particularly lovely one. When I first saw it I knew I needed one grafted onto my Bloom.”
Mel’s Xenodrug-addled mind wasn’t capable of figuring out what that meant. “What's your- Graft?” She asked, awkwardly.
Sylnathi turned over Mel's hand to reveal the tattoo which ran down the inside of her arm. A series of lines and rings traced across her skin, each of them corresponding to a star or planet in the Alpha Centauri system. “Think of it like your arm here,” Sylnathi replied, “We can graft different flora onto our bodies, for practical or cosmetic reasons. They become a part of us and grow with our blooms.”
Mel looked back at the flower sprouting from her Mistress, fascinated. She guessed that's why Sylnathi always seemed so colorful and inviting, even for an Affini; her body was covered in exotic flowers. Being a botanist must have its perks.
Mel closed her eyes and let herself drift. As her senses slowly returned to normal, a thought crossed her mind. “Will the injections always feel like that, Mistress?” she asked.
“No, the first one is always the most potent.” Sylnathi assured her. “But you'll still feel drowsy and disoriented for a little while after your injections until you're used to them. If your regimen changes you might experience similar effects again, but I'll warn you if that ever happens.”
“Aww, alright.” Mel giggled. “I was just thinking... it might be fun to do this again sometime?”
Mel felt a tendril wrap affectionately around her throat and she gasped excitedly. “Oh, little Melrose,” Sylnathi purred hungrily, “I'm sure I can arrange something like that~”
Mel ran as fast as she could towards the screams. Abby’s screams. She'd heard the shots from across the field, grabbed her ranch rifle, and sprinted towards the commotion. Panic, fear, it lay just under the surface. But Mel pushed that to the back of her mind. Her footfalls felt heavy against the dirt path, her lungs ached with exertion. Another gunshot echoed out to meet her.
Mel slowed her pace as she neared the house. There were two bodies in the yard outside, agro-workers from the look of their outfits, with dark stains pooled beneath them. Mel swallowed hard and crept carefully onto the back porch, avoiding the one board that always creaked. Peering through the screen door into the kitchen, she saw Abigail collapsed in the corner, her eyes wide with shock. A masked figure in tac-armor stood over her, carbine in hand – Corpo mercs. In the center of the room, Abby's father lay face down on the floor. The splattering of blood was unmistakable.
Despite the terror welling up inside her, Mel didn't waste any more time. She leveled the rifle and fired. The bullet tore through the screen door and ricocheted off the merc's helmet, sending them reeling. With a scream, Mel rushed into the kitchen, throwing her bodyweight into the merc and knocking both of them to the floor. They struggled against each other, but Mel quickly found herself outmatched by her assailant.
A heavy arm forced Mel into the floor, pressing down into her windpipe, shutting off her air. She looked up helplessly into the dark visor of the helmet above her. ‘I should have just run,’ she thought to herself, ‘Now we're all going to die here.’
But the pressure suddenly lessened as both Mel and her attacker noticed Abby holding Mel's fallen rifle to the merc's head. It may have been designed for handling Burrow Rats, but at point blank range the varmint round broke clean through the tac-armor with a violent 'crack'.
The merc's limp body collapsed on top of Mel, knocking the wind out of her. Abby helped roll the armored corpse off of Mel before she lost what little composure she had left. She collapsed to the floor in a fit of sobs, her eyes fixed on her father's still body. Mel coughed, trying to find her breath again. Too much was happening. They couldn't stay here, they needed to hide! Mel acted on instinct more than thought, grabbing her rifle with one hand and Abby's arm with the other.
They took off into the fields together.
Echoing gunshots from farther off told them they weren't the only ones living this nightmare today.
Mel looked at her reflection in the mirror. “I look ridiculous!” she pouted.
“You look adorable!” Sylnathi teased.
Mel examined the knee-length summer dress she wore; white fabric patterned with yellow flowers. She was so used to wearing overalls or shorts, these new companion clothes Sylnathi had chosen for her felt odd and embarrassing. “It's so… Impractical!” she complained, looking up at her Mistress.
“For agro work perhaps,” Sylnathi replied smartly, “but exactly what work do you need to do today that prohibits you from wearing your dress? And after I took so much care in selecting it for you!” Mel turned her body left and right, watching how the fabric flowed around her. She decided it wasn’t bad, just different.
“And for the finishing touch!” Sylnathi said excitedly, wrapping a piece of cloth around Mel’s neck. Except the fabric suddenly tightened and affixed itself with a soft click. Mel cried out in surprise as her hands shot up to the black band now fastened snugly around her throat. It looked like a choker but thicker, strangely form-fitting, and impossible to remove.
“Syl- Mistress I- What is this?” Mel stammered.
“A Companion Collar, dear!” Sylnathi said proudly. “It’s normal for pets without their implant to have one, I had to pick one up this morning while I was out. I can load it with various Xenodugs as needed, but to be honest, I just like how it looks on you~” The way Sylnathi said those last few words caused Mel’s face to flush a deep red. She stared at her reflection, embarrassed by just how much she liked both the look and the implications of the collar.
The two sat together for breakfast. Mel enjoyed some fresh honeyed toast and milk as Sylnathi drank tea and read on her tablet. Halfway through her meal, Mel realized something she hadn't yet considered. “Mistress?” She asked, “What's going to happen to Orion's Blossom if I stay here with you?”
Sylnathi put down her tablet and gave her an affectionate look. “Well my Pet, there's no reason you can't continue to work there. But you're going to need an adjustment period and I don't want you overworking yourself! I think we should hold off until after you've recovered from your Haustoric Implant.”
“But- I can't get my Implant for another two weeks!” Mel complained.
“And you'll have at least two more weeks of recovery after you do.” Sylnathi reminded her.
“But that's too long!” Mel pleaded. “I need to at least tend to my hydroponics regularly, my plants might die otherwise!”
Sylnathi thought for a moment, tapping the side of her teacup gently. “Is there someone you’d like to take care of Orion's Blossom for you while you recover?” she asked.
Mel thought for a moment and realized that while she knew dozens of friendly acquaintances, she really didn’t have any 'friends' that she trusted. After Abigail left, Sylnathi had become her closest friend. It didn’t feel proper to ask her Mistress to pick up her slack, Sylnathi had her own duties on top of caring for her. Mel knew that she was rather introverted, but the full extent of her social isolation surprised her a bit.
“No,” she began slowly, “No, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head.”
Sylnathi took a moment to finish her tea. “Well then, I just might have a solution!” she said cheerfully, “It’s time you met someone.”
Mel looked at Sylnathi’s curious smile. “Who exactly do you have in mind?” she asked.
The park was sunny and peaceful, as it usually was. Mel enjoyed the fresh air and the warm sunlight as it played across her skin. She sat patiently with Sylnathi and waited for their guests to arrive. Two figures approached their sitting area and her Mistress gave a friendly wave towards them. One was an Affini, tall and elegant, the other was- a Terran boy? Mel watched her fellow Terran closely as he approached. He looked to be a few years younger than her. His black hair was cut close and styled neatly and he wore Affini companion clothes; a crisp shirt tucked into his thigh-length shorts with high socks. Mel also noticed the boy wasn’t wearing a collar like hers. As the pair approached, Sylnathi stood up and greeted the other Affini with an affectionate intertwining of vines and a short conversation in their native tongue. With a start, Mel realized their Affini visitor was Halthia. Two images flashed through Mel’s mind: One of the firm yet gentle soul who sipped tea by her kiosk, the other of the deadly masked enforcer towering over her during the hab unit raid. Mel shivered and focused on the former.
As the two Affini sat down together, the Terran boy joined them. His expression was content and placid, his eyes distant.
“Hello again, Melrose.” said Halthia, “I think congratulations are in order, First Floret!”
Mel blushed as Halthia smiled politely at her. “I- uhm, thank you Miss Halthia!” she stammered. Mel felt one of Sylnathi’s tendrils press reassuringly against her back and relaxed slightly.
“Melrose,” Sylnathi began, “I wanted you to meet Halthia’s ward. I think he might be just the person to help with your predicament.”
After a nudge from Halthia, the Terran boy cleared his throat and said “Uh, hello Melrose! I’m Niles Re, Third Floret. It’s really nice to meet you!”
Mel smiled and responded, “Nice to meet you too, Niles! I’m Melrose Pelos, First Floret.”
The two sat awkwardly, facing each other, unsure what to do next. Halthia was the one who broke the silence. “Sylnathi and I think you two should talk for a while and get to know each other,” she said, “but I also understand that may be difficult with the two of us listening in.” She turned her attention directly towards Niles, one of her tendrils lifting the boy's chin up towards her. “We’re going to take a walk around the park.” she spoke in a commanding voice, “I want you to get to know Melrose and see if you can help her. Do you understand?” Niles’ face held a look of pure obedience as he happily responded, “Of course, Mistress Halthia!”
The two Affini stood up together. Sylnathi leaned down to caress Mel’s cheek and said, “Get to know Niles, dear. I’ll be back in a little while. Behave yourself, Pet!”
Mel’s cheeks flushed as she stammered, “Yes, I will- uh, Mistress!”
The Affini walked off together, leaving the two Terrans alone in the sunny park.
Mel and Niles sat together nervously, still unsure of themselves without their owners around. After an awkward silence, Niles asked, “So, Melrose? How long have you been with Miss Sylnathi?”
“Uhmm, just three days so far, I think.” Mel said.
She watched Niles’ eyes widen in surprise as he exclaimed, “Three days? Wow, so this is brand new to you then, huh?”
“No! I mean, I’ve known Mistress Sylnathi for several months!” Mel corrected herself. “But we just made this official the other day.” she said, indicating the collar around her neck.
Niles’ face lit up with excitement. “I see, so you’re a volunteer then? That’s really nice to hear! I wish I had volunteered, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.” The boy gave a sheepish grin.
Mel felt surprised as she looked at the passive young Terran sitting next to her. “You didn’t volunteer?” she asked, intrigued, “You were a prisoner?”
“Yeah! I joined the Cosmic Navy when I was 19, right after the war started.” said Niles.
That grabbed Mel's attention. “You fought with the Terran Resistance?” she asked, excitedly. “Did you know a girl named Abigail?”
Niles thought for a moment. “No, nobody named Abigail.” He said, slowly, “My ship, Mercury's Fortune, was captured during the first year of the war. Mistress Halthia's strike team subdued us and I’ve been with her ever since.”
Mel imagined Halthia as an Affini Commando, moving like a wraith through empty space, her crimson eyes glistening with violent intent. “You fought Miss Halthia?” Mel whispered, “What- What was that like?”
Niles furrowed his brow and spoke quietly, “It’s not pretty. When a ship gets captured I mean, it’s- chaotic. Smoke and fire and gas and- and-” Niles faltered, gasping softly as his eyes unfocused. Mel watched with confusion as the boy blinked several times before regaining his composure and taking a deep breath. “Sorry...” Niles said, sleepily, “I have some... unpleasant memories from that time. When it gets bad, my Implant kicks in and… balances me out again.”
“Ohh, stars!” Mel cried, mortified. “I’m really sorry Niles! Are you okay?”
“I’m alright.” Niles smiled again, returning to his usual demeanor. “Let’s just talk about something else, okay?”
Mel nodded and wondered about the hefty dose of Xenodrugs the boy must have just had pumped into him.
The two talked for a while about their lives. Niles enjoyed hearing stories from Mel’s youth on Thypso (She omitted the Agro-Strikes for both their sakes), and Mel listened intently as Niles described the ins and outs of interstellar travel aboard an Affini Cruiser.
“Melrose,” Niles said during a pause in their conversation, “Mistress Halthia said you had a problem I could help you with?”
Mel blinked. “Oh! Orion’s Blossom!” she exclaimed suddenly.
“The tea shop?” Niles asked, “You run it, right? I’ve had some of your tea before, it was delicious!”
Mel blushed and replied, “Thank you, that means a lot! But the problem is that I haven’t been able to open the kiosk for nearly a week now. I had some trouble with- with an old friend. And now Sylnathi- Sorry, Mistress Sylnathi says I can’t work because I’m still adjusting to my Xenodrugs. Plus, I’m getting my Implant soon so I'll be recovering from that for a few weeks, and-” Mel realized she was rambling and took a moment to collect herself, “So… I guess I’m looking for someone to help me with that?”
Niles immediately broke out into a smile. “You want me to help you with Orion’s Blossom? I mean, I’m flattered! That makes sense though, I remember I was really out of it after I got my Implant. What can I do to help?”
Mel quickly ran through the logistics of the tea shop in her head. “Well, I’ll probably need to teach you a few things.” she said, retrieving her tablet.
Sylnathi and Halthia returned to find their wards plotting the operation of Orion’s Blossom on their data pads. They sat a little ways off, enjoying each other’s company, watching Mel and Niles work together. “I have no idea how you found yourself such an obedient pet.” Halthia said in their native tongue. “You aren’t even keeping her on a leash! It took me weeks to get Niles to fully submit, he was ever so resistant at first.”
Sylnathi smiled with pride. “I guess I just know how to pick them.” she teased. Halthia gave her a scowl, and Sylnathi grinned as she continued, “You also forget, I spent months working on Melrose before she started domestication. It took a lot of attention and a bit of prodding, but she came to me willingly from the start. That’s why she’s so well behaved, even without an Implant!”
“I’m just saying, it's a little disappointing how willing she is.” Halthia purred, “I do enjoy breaking them in~”
Sylnathi couldn’t help but chuckle at her friend’s comment. “Don't mistake me, Halthia, Melrose still needs to learn proper discipline.” she said, her mouth turning up into a hungry smile, “But I find a gentle touch to be far more… persuasive.”
”Melrose! Oh fuck, what happened?”
Mel looked up at Abigail, her hand wrapped in a bloody towel. A trail of scarlet droplets led back to the countertop where a grisly knife lay beside most of an apple.
“I- I’m sorry- I was cutting, and then-” Mel stammered, unable to make sense of what happened.
Abigail grunted in frustration. “Wait there, I’ll grab the medical kit from your bathroom.” she said.
Mel waited on the floor, keeping pressure on her hand until Abigail returned. Her friend knelt down and gently removed the soaked towel, revealing a deep laceration across her palm and her fingers. “Stars, Mel, you’ve gotta be more careful!” Abigail chastised as she began to properly bandage the wound. Mel sat miserably as her friend attended to her injury. The throbbing pain in her hand was insignificant next to the shame she was feeling. She wasn’t sure if it was the meds, the long work hours, or the fact that she wasn’t sleeping properly. She just felt so tense and uncoordinated lately.
“I’m sorry,” Mel said, choking down a sob. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess. I’m sorry you have to keep taking care of me.”
Abigail sighed and shook her head, lifting up Mel’s chin to face her. “The trouble is, dummy,” Abigail said with a smile, “that you think you’re a burden to me. I help take care of you because I want to! Because I care for you! Because I can’t imagine my life without your stupid smiling face in it!”
Mel laughed, the motion forcing a stream of tears down her face. “Thank you, Abby. I just- I just want to be sure I’m not holding you back.”
“Never!” Abigail teased as she finished wrapping a tight bandage around Mel’s hand and drew her into a snug embrace. “Mel,” Abigail whispered, “you’re the only thing on this rock that I actually care about. I’d be a stars-damned idiot if I ever threw that away!” She leaned in and kissed Mel on the forehead before helping her back to her feet. “Now then,” Abigail said, surveying the bloody countertop, “I’m guessing I need to help you make lunch?”
The Terran boy turned with a smile, “Yes, Melrose?”
“What's it like?” Mel asked, “The Implant I mean.”
Niles took a break from washing teacups and thought for a moment, reaching up to stroke the thin scar on the back of his neck. Mel looked up at him from her resting place on the ground. The grass tickled her exposed skin as thin slivers of sunlight trickled through the verdant canopy over Orion's Blossom.
“The Implant is like… feeling normal.” Niles said after a moment. “It's consistency, peace of mind, purpose. I don't need to worry, I know my Mistress will care for me. And I know I like it this way.” Niles paused again. “You know, it's difficult to explain. I never would have said that before I was domesticated, I think I would have hated the idea. Funny how life changes, huh?”
Mel watched the boy's glazed eyes blink and refocus. He turned his gaze down towards her. “Do you think it might be different for you?” he asked, “As a volunteer, I mean.”
“Well, I already feel a lot of what you're describing,” said Mel, “I've always worked better with someone looking out for me or telling me what to do. It feels easier. Safer.” She smiled at Niles, who blushed a bit and turned back to cleaning the teacups behind the counter.
“Are you going to tell Miss Sylnathi what we talked about?” Niles asked. “About Abigail?”
Mel bit her lip. “I mean, yes, I have to, don't I?” she answered glumly. “I should have told her sooner but I was too scared.”
“Told me what, Pet?” Sylnathi's voice interrupted Mel's thoughts. She and Niles both yelped with surprise, turning to face the Affini woman next to them. For such a large creature, her Mistress sure was stealthy! Or maybe her senses just weren't as sharp as they used to be? Mel sat up nervously as Sylnathi lowered herself down to the ground next to her.
“Now then, Melrose, what would you like to talk to me about?” Sylnathi asked in a firm voice. “Niles said it concerned Miss Abigail. You never did tell me what happened that night, though I have my suspicions.” Mel gritted her teeth and looked helplessly at her owner. She risked a glance back towards Niles, who was trying hard to remain as inconspicuous as possible behind the counter. “If you've told Niles about it, it must be weighing on your mind.” Sylnathi continued, “Best to say it now and be free of it, don't you think?”
She was right. Mel told her everything.
Sylnathi smirked as Mel finished. “I appreciate your honesty, dear.” she said, teasingly. “Last I heard, Abigail is currently aboard the vessel Ursa's Roar. Affini Intelligence is tracking them near Proxima Centauri.”
Mel blinked in shock. “You mean- you knew she was working with the rebels the whole time?” she cried, horrified.
“No, not exactly.” The Affini woman replied. “After the incident with the informants in your old hab unit, Halthia and her team set a trap. Miss Abigail just happened to be the one who took the bait.”
Mel looked at her Mistress, feeling guilty and scared. “Don't worry, pet, I'm not upset.” Sylnathi sighed. “I only found out about it myself from Halthia a few days ago. She shares things with me sometimes, especially since this one concerned you.” Sylnathi stood up once more and gazed down at Mel. “Besides, I did say to wait until you were ready to tell me, so you didn't really disobey my orders. But no more secrets, Melrose. Understand?”
Mel nodded and swallowed hard.
The sting of the injector didn't bother Mel anymore. She sighed happily and settled back into the chair, feeling the cool rush of the Xenodrugs entering her system. Sylnathi stroked her cheek and said, “Very good! Only two more to go.” Mel smiled as her limbs fell limp and she relaxed into the sensation. Two more injections. Two more days until she got her Implant. She'd been looking forward to the operation; its promise of completion and finality, the thought of truly belonging to her Mistress. Mel found it odd how calm she was about it all. Before Sylnathi, even things she enjoyed carried some degree of worry or fear. The Xenodrugs definitely helped to suppress her anxiety and regulate her emotions.
She looked out the window in front of her, rain gently pattering against the transparent polymer wall of the hab unit. Even without its usual sunshine, the park looked so peaceful. She watched as people outside went about their business, colorful umbrellas bobbing gently as they walked along the winding paths. Mel breathed softly, letting the sound and the images blur together. A long swirling mix of sensation and relaxation clouded her mind as the Xenodrugs coursed through her veins.
Mel blinked, reality coming back into focus once more. The rain had stopped. She turned her head slowly to see Sylathi looking down at her. “Oh, hello Mistress.” she said cheerfully.
Sylnathi smirked and gently stroked Mel's head. “Stars, look at you!” she cooed softly. “I'm sorry if these last few injections are a bit much, but you're almost done!”
“It's… There's, umm...” Mel tried to respond but the words wouldn't seem to form in her mind.
“There, there, don't think too hard, you might hurt yourself!” Sylnathi giggled, lifting Mel up out of the chair. “Come on, Pet, let's bathe you and get you ready for bed.”
Mel couldn't think. The Xenodrugs wouldn't allow it. She simply existed. It was part of the recovery process, the Clinic had assured her. In order for the Haustoric Implant to bond with her nervous system correctly, she needed to stay sedated for several days. But time didn't seem to have meaning now, she couldn't keep track of it. She observed through her eyes only when she remembered she had them. The images filtered in and out so easily, impossible to keep track of. The one thing she could be sure of was Sylnathi's affections. She was with Mel constantly, checking in on her, reassuring her, touching her. Mel drifted between calm nothingness and blissful entanglement.
As a warm tingling washed through her body, Mel's mind began drifting upwards. She felt more aware, but she couldn't quite breach the surface. She blinked and tested the responsiveness of her fingers. They were sluggish and floaty. A pressure on her shoulders told her Sylnathi was beside her. “How- long?” Mel asked slowly, her tongue struggling to form the correct sounds.
“Five days since the operation.” her Mistress's voice came from behind her, calming and absolute. “And everything went splendidly! You've done very well, Pet.”
Mel thought back to fuzzy images of the Xenoclinic, of her Mistress holding her hand, of the needle entering her arm… but her memories seemed to end after that. “That's- long time- still…” Mel's words failed entirely as Sylnathi pulled her in tight.
“Shhh, just rest.” the Affini woman whispered, “It'll take some time to feel normal again, don't rush yourself.”
Mel happily obeyed, feeling herself drifting into slumber once more.
“Stop scratching, Pet.” Sylnathi's words seemed to pierce Mel's mind.
“Yes- sorry Mistress!” She replied, awkwardly lowering her hand.
“Good girl~” Sylnathi said, affectionately rubbing Mel's head. “You're learning very quickly!” Mel grinned, basking in the praise and the physical sensation of her Mistress’s touch. The scar on the back of her neck still itched terribly, but her owner's words were resolute in her head. The itching sensation suddenly faded, drowned out by a wave of fresh Xenodrugs pumped directly into her bloodstream. She sighed happily and teetered on her feet, but Sylnathi’s tendrils caught and supported her before she fell over. It happened sometimes, she was still adjusting to her Implant.
Melrose Pelos, First Floret, stood in the kitchen of Sylnathi’s home, preparing some tea for her Mistress. She'd had her Implant installed for nearly a week, and while the most intense part of her recovery was over, the little scar still bothered her sometimes. She finished brewing the tea and handed one cup to Sylnathi, keeping the other to sip for herself. “Mistress, should we do my injection now?” Mel asked softly.
“Melrose, you don't need the injections anymore, remember?” Sylnathi reminded her.
“Oh- right! Sorry, just- habit.” Mel apologized, feeling silly for asking. All the chemicals she'd ever need now flowed directly from the implant through her body. Mel had been especially excited when she learned the Implant was made with tissues donated directly from Sylnathi; her owner was quite literally intertwined with her. Mel quietly sipped her tea and imagined a vine gently weaving throughout her entire body.
Her daydream was interrupted as Sylnathi softly called to her. The Terran girl's attention snapped immediately to her owner's voice. “Yes, Mistress?” she asked.
“I thought you should know,” Sylnathi continued, “I received word this morning that Ursa's Roar has been captured.”
Mel thought hard for a moment before the memory clicked. “Abigail's ship?” she asked, excitedly.
“That's exactly right, dear!” Sylnathi said, flashing her an adoring look. “It seems your friend was counted among those taken alive during the battle.”
“Oh, good!” Mel sighed happily. “I'm glad she's okay.”
Mel sat in contentment as Sylnathi gently stroked her head. But something nagged at the back of her mind and she struggled to recall what it was. “I remember- Abby told me she didn't want to be taken alive. That she would rather die.” Mel paused. “Isn't that odd?”
“Is it?” Sylnathi asked teasingly. She effortlessly plucked Mel from her chair, seating the Terran girl on her lap instead. “What do you think, Pet?”
Mel gasped at the intense sensations. Her Mistress's embrace was already pleasurable when she was taking her Xenodrug prescriptions, but the Implant had made Sylnathi's touch positively euphoric! Mel nestled into her owner's enveloping grasp as her head swam and her eyes fluttered. She didn’t notice her Mistress tapping something into her data pad, but she did feel the subsequent rush as another dose of Xenodrugs entered her system. She writhed with the sensation, her owner gently caressing her skin. She never wanted this to end.
“I do think it's odd, Mistress.” Mel sighed, dreamily. “Why would anyone want to fight this?”
Mel gasped as her mind snapped to attention, like a heavy blanket being suddenly yanked off of her. She hadn't felt this alert in- oh, months maybe? Not since she'd started taking Xenodrugs at her Mistress’s recommendation. As she made that comparison, one thought stuck out to her right away: she did NOT like this feeling! Already she could feel her old worry and anxiety creeping back into her head, and only worsening the more she thought about it.
“How are you feeling, Melrose?” Sylnathi asked cheerfully.
“I don't like this, Mistress.” Mel whimpered. “Can I go back to normal?”
“Not until we run a few tests and make sure everything's healed properly.” Sylnathi replied, checking the diagnostic tool held in her vines. “And I may need you to be clear headed like this sometimes regardless. What about it is bothering you?”
“I'm- anxious!” Mel muttered, trying to get her words right. “I'm not used to it, I just-” her brain moved faster than her mouth and her words fell off completely.
Sylnathi tensed and shot a guilty look at Mel. “Oh, of course, I'm sorry.” she said apologetically. “That's why we started you on your Xenodrugs to begin with. It can't be pleasant to have all those feelings rush back at once.”
Mel couldn't stop fidgeting. She was hyper aware of her fingers ceaselessly tapping and squeezing against themselves. She swallowed hard and looked up at Sylnathi. Even like this, with the Xenodrugs in her system essentially nullified, she felt a great sense of calm and affection towards the Affini woman. Towards her Mistress. She took a deep breath and watched as her owner continued the diagnostic. Her fingers twitched a bit less as her breathing evened out.
“Just a short while longer, dear.” Sylnathi said, quickly tapping some information into her data pad. “You're doing very well so far.”
“I'm- I'm sorry I complained like that.” Mel said sheepishly, hanging her head. “I've dealt with this before. I can do it again. It just- caught me off guard is all…”
Sylnathi smiled sweetly. “There's nothing to apologize for. I don't wish to cause you any more discomfort than is absolutely necessary.” she said, examining her tablet. “Everything looks good though! The Haustoric Implant has bonded correctly with your nervous system. I'm restoring it now.”
Sylnathi finished working with her data pad and Mel felt the familiar soft relaxation return. Her intrusive thoughts dissipated, uprooted by the Xenodrugs once more.
“There!” Sylnathi smiled down at her, “Better?”
Mel tested her Implant, she couldn't help herself. She tried to hold on to her anxiety, her pain, her unpleasant memories. But her mind faltered and her thoughts shifted away from those feelings, the Implant continuously regulating her emotional state. “Yes, it's working alright.” Mel sighed with relief. “Thank you, Mistress! It's-” her voice caught for a moment, “it's okay if you ever need to do that again, I- I understand.”
“I appreciate your bravery, little Melrose!” Sylnathi replied sweetly.
After the diagnostic, the Affini and her pet enjoyed breakfast together. Sunlight shone pleasantly through the windows of the hab unit as the trees outside stretched lazily towards the generous warmth. Mel couldn't help but feel content. Her life on Thypso, Sylnathi's ownership over her, everything felt right! For a moment she wondered if it was the Implant making her feel that way. But as soon as the thought entered her mind, she realized she didn't care. She loved being here with her Mistress.
She didn't have to worry anymore.
Abigail's façade finally broke and her tears flowed freely. “Goodbye, Melrose.” she said, choking down a sob. “I love you.” Her heart ached as she walked towards the door of the hab unit. She didn’t want to leave, but she knew her friend was gone. There was nothing to be done. The door clicked shut behind her with a devastating finality.
Abigail walked briskly through the corridor, exiting the hab unit and finding a tram line. She needed to get back to the city center. She had some time, but she needed an escape shuttle, stat! Despite her loyalty to the Affini, Mel hadn’t sold her out. Well, Abigail didn’t know for certain. Mel could well have called the Compact authorities as soon as she left. Her mind was broken enough that Abigail knew she couldn’t count on her friend anymore. She had to move quickly, get off Thypso, and get back to Ursa’s Roar. The data chip was too important!
The automated tram silently opened its doors and Abigail boarded. At this time of night the station was deserted. Abigail took a seat in the empty cabin and waited nervously. She breathed a sigh of relief when the doors finally slid closed with her as the only passenger. As the tram picked up speed, Abigail looked out the window. The familiar agro-fields flew by at a remarkable pace, drumming up memories of her childhood. Of THEIR childhood.
Abigail couldn’t take it. She broke down again, buried her face in her hands, and wept freely. “Oh, Melrose!” she gasped, “I’m so sorry!” The tram hurtled through the night, passing swiftly over the fields and canals. But the distance didn’t reduce the pain. Perhaps, once Terra was freed, maybe Melrose could be herself once more? It was a stupid thought, but Abigail needed something to cling to. The resistance was falling to pieces. There wasn’t much left to hope for.
From the shadows surrounding the empty station, a lone figure watched Abigail’s tram depart. Their crimson eyes shone brightly and their vines curled up with smug satisfaction. The figure casually retrieved their data pad and opened a communication channel. “The target is moving towards you,” Halthia spoke softly in the Affini tongue, “Be sure her shuttle departs safely. I'm certain she’ll lead us to a much bigger prize.”
Mel couldn't help but notice Sylnathi's concerned expression as the Affini woman looked intently at her data pad. “Mistress, what's wrong?” she asked, cautiously.
Sylnathi seemed to jolt out of whatever thought occupied her mind and turned towards Mel. “I- Stars, am I that easy to read?” she chuckled. Mel nodded and Sylnathi sighed. “I've just received an… Unusual request.” she said, choosing her words carefully. “Do you remember when I told you that Ursa's Roar had been captured?”
Mel seemed to remember her Mistress mentioning the name, but the memories from her recovery period were rather hazy. “Wasn't that Abigail's ship?” Mel asked, nervously, “Did something happen to her?”
“No, no, nothing bad!” Sylnathi said quickly, “I told you a few days ago that she had been captured. She's safe aboard one of our command ships.”
Mel breathed a sigh of relief as she tried to recall the fragmented events of the last two weeks. “Right,” she murmured, “right, you said that before. Sorry, it's still… fuzzy.”
“It's understandable, Pet, you were on some pretty serious Xenodrugs at the time.” Sylnathi reassured her, “But I've just been contacted by Abigail's... prospective owner.”
Mel cocked her head curiously as Sylnathi's voice became hushed and worried. “Apparently she is having a difficult time adjusting to her new life. Her owner has… asked me if you could talk to Abigail. Aboard The Amarantha.”
Mel's eyes widened in surprise. Normally she would have jumped at the chance to see Abby again! But after their last meeting, Mel wasn't so sure anymore. “You want me to go and- talk to her?” she asked nervously.
“I- I don't know what I want you to do.” Sylnathi said quietly, decidedly not making eye contact with Mel. “It's an uncomfortable situation all around. You're still recovering from your implant and- and what she did to you.”
Mel thought back to her friend. She didn't think it was fair to put this all on Abby. Her actions were wrong but understandable, Mel didn't hold it against her. If anything she felt sorry for her! After a moment of quiet tension, Sylnathi spoke again, “I think this decision is best left to you, Melrose. I cannot say one way or the other what is best. Perhaps going to see Abigail could help her, but...” Sylnathi turned to look at Mel, her eyes full of concern. “I don't wish to see you hurt again, little one.”
Mel thought it over. She really did want to see Abigail again. To tell her what she couldn't seem to say the night they parted. Maybe she could help her see the Affini from her perspective? To show her that they weren't monsters, that they really did have Terra's best interests at heart. “I want to go,” said Mel, “I think I can help her.” She paused, looking up at Sylnathi again. “What happens if- if she doesn't get better?”
Sylnathi frowned. “If she continues acting the way she has, there's a possibility she could become Class O.” she said.
Mel didn't understand what that meant, but the way Sylnathi said it concerned her. “Mistress, what's Class O?” she asked, slowly.
“Class O is a… last resort.” Sylnathi said, hesitantly. “It's reserved for those who completely reject domestication or cannot live comfortably without it. Essentially, Class O Xenodrugs override your being entirely. The subjects become euphoric for the remainder of their lives, but they lose themselves. Permanently.”
Mel shivered. She enjoyed her own Xenodrugs immensely, but the idea of permanently losing her consciousness or personality was still frightening. Even more so for Abigail, that girl's spirit was so vibrant! The thought of it extinguished was- Mel shook her head. “I can't let that happen!” she cried, “Not to Abby!”
Sylnathi looked at her sympathetically. “You wish to go then, Melrose?” she asked, “I'm worried about all this, but I promise I'll be right there with you the entire time.”
“I have to try!” Mel said firmly.
Sylnathi watched the mix of fear and determination in her pet's eyes. Her apprehension shifted to pride as she smiled down at Mel. How had she ever gotten herself such a good Terran?
“Melrose, stop it! You’re going to make yourself sick!”
Mel laughed and continued floating in circles. It looked as though the entire shuttle was revolving around her while she remained completely still. Suddenly, an icy sensation flooded her body. Her muscles fell limp as a heavy fog clouded her thoughts.
Sylnathi's scowling visage drifted into view, data pad in hand. “Honestly, Melrose, if you want to stay lucid you need to listen to me!” the Affini woman scolded her.
“Sorrry Mistresss…” Mel giggled, watching her owner seem to spin in circles in front of her.
Sylnathi halted Mel’s rotation with her tendrils and dragged her back to their seat on the shuttle. As she tapped something on her data pad again, Mel’s mind and body returned to their normal state. Mel couldn't stop laughing quietly to herself. While she didn't mind the odd glances and whispers the other passengers directed towards her, Sylnathi seemed positively flustered. But Mel was too excited to contain herself. She had finally left Thypso for the first time, just like she and Abigail always talked about!
“Stars, this Implant is really something, huh?” Mel giggled.
“Yes, and if you don’t behave yourself I’ll have it incapacitate you until we reach The Amaratha.” threatened Sylnathi.
“Sorry, Mistress!” Mel said more earnestly, “It’s just- I’ve never been in microgravity before. I’ve never even been off-world!” She looked up at Sylnathi’s stern expression and broke out into a sheepish grin.
“How is it that you go from a well behaved pet to a ridiculous brat with just a change in gravity?” Sylnathi asked, sighing heavily. “We’ll be docking in an hour, sit quietly until we do.” Mel composed herself and obeyed; she knew better than to push her Mistress’s patience and she didn’t want to embarrass her owner. At least, not any more than she already had.
Mel looked out the viewing port next to their seat, marveling at the vastness of space all around them. The night sky of Thypso was beautiful but this was on another level! The stars looked like a billion pinholes shining through a dark blanket. It was impossible to keep track of them all. “Mistress?” Mel asked softly, “What’s this ship we’re going to? The Amaratha?”
“The Amaratha is one of our command vessels.” Sylnathi replied. “It’s one of three currently in the Alpha Centauri system. They serve as mobile stations and docking ports for The Compact.”
“And is it all Microgravity like this?” Mel asked, curiously.
“No, the habitation rings use a centrifuge to create artificial gravity.” said Sylnathi. “It might be a bit lighter than you're used to though.”
“Aww, okay. I liked the floating part.” Mel giggled again.
Sylnathi tried to scowl at her, but Mel's earnest expression rendered that impossible. “You're lucky you're cute, Pet.” she teased.
A few minutes later, The Amarantha came into view. Mel's jaw dropped as she took in the titanic structure. It just kept going! It must have been Kilometers long- Tens of Kilometers even! An entire colony floating through space. Mel could also see the glowing exhaust from dozens of vessels flying alongside the command ship. There were large and colorful Affini ships, small metallic Terran vessels, and a few other designs she didn't recognize. It was a truly impressive sight!
After the shuttle docked, Sylnathi led Mel through busy markets and lively common areas, occasionally checking her data pad for directions. Mel had never seen so many people in her life; Affini, Terrans, and Xenos all living together on one vessel. Mel saw more than a few Terran pets with black collars and companion clothes. Their eyes were glazed over, their expressions cheerful, eagerly accompanying their Affini owners around the ship. Mel wondered if that's what she looked like as she followed attentively at Sylnathi's heels.
Eventually the crowds thinned out and they arrived at a small lush sitting area with a transparent dome above. It reminded Mel of the park back on Thypso, a quiet growing place to rest and relax. Sylnathi led Mel to a small table where another Affini sat, their form similar to her Mistress but with darker hues of reds and browns. The two Affini greeted each other in their own language, their vines intertwining in a shared greeting. After a short conversation, the new Affini looked down at Mel and smiled sweetly. “Greetings, Melrose! I am Thaelia Ayles, Third Bloom.” she said with an appreciative nod, “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”
Mel stared nervously at the sliding metal door in front of her. Sylnathi and Thaleia stood beside her, watching expectantly. “I just- I don’t know.” Mel whined. “What if she doesn't want to see me again?”
Sylnathi wrapped a comforting vine around Mel's shoulders, her body relaxed at her Mistress's touch. “Melrose, I know this is scary, but Abigail is your friend.” Sylnathi reassured her. “You said before that you love her, right? And Thaleia has told you how difficult things are for Abigail right now. Don’t you think she could use her friend?”
Mel swallowed hard. Of course her Mistress was correct. And she wanted to help Abigail any way she could. But all that stuck in her mind was the sight of her friend leaving, tears streaming down her face.
“Melrose,” Thaelia said softly, “I understand this is difficult for you, and I truly appreciate your help.” the Affini woman knelt down next to Mel. “Abigail doesn't trust me, but I believe she trusts you. I know you can help her see things more clearly.” Thaelia gave her a warm smile.
Mel inhaled deeply and summoned her courage. “I’ll try.” she said, determined.
The door slid open and Mel looked into the hab unit. Its layout was familiar – the Affini's modular housing was fairly standardized – and she quickly took in everything’s location.
“Abigail is waiting by the bed.” Thaleia said. The two Affini followed Mel into the hab unit, lagging a little ways behind. As Mel rounded the corner she saw Abigail seated in a chair, her limbs anchored with black cuffs, a companion collar fastened around her neck. As Mel entered the room, Abigail stirred and glared at her – before suddenly realizing who exactly she was glaring at. Her expression shifted from hatred to anguish as she stammered, “Mel? What- What are you doing here?”
Mel made her way cautiously towards the chair. “Hi, Abby. I was asked to come here. To talk with you.” Mel said gently.
Abigail stared at her, then turned her head furiously back towards the doorway. “This is a sick fucking joke, you stars-damned Weed!” she yelled. Mel looked back to see Thaleia watching the two of them from the entryway.
“Abby, that’s not the only reason!” Mel pleaded, returning her attention to Abigail. Her friend turned to face her once more, tears filling her eyes. “You told me when you left that you loved me.” Mel continued, “And I didn’t know how to say that I loved you too! I have for a long time, ever since you helped look out for me when we were younger. So I guess- Is it alright if I help you, now?”
“Help me how, Mel?” Abigail choked, “Break me out. Kill me. Do something!”
Mel stepped forward and clasped one of Abigail’s hands in her own. Her friend squeezed back tightly, desperately. “You know I can’t do that, Abby.” Mel said softly, “But I can make sure you don't have to go through this alone.” Abigail broke entirely, her body collapsing into the restraints, wracked with sobs.
Mel turned back to where Thaleia watched from the doorway. “Miss Thaleia, is it alright to undo her restraints?” Mel asked, “Just for a little while.”
Thaleia looked curiously at Mel. “I suppose we can, for a time.” she said, cautiously, “But the collar and cuffs stay on. She’s bolted a few times since she came into my care, though with Sylnathi here too I doubt she’ll get very far if she tries anything. Are you sure she won't hurt you, though?”
“I'm positive.” Mel said firmly. Thaleia retrieved her datapad and nodded to Mel. With a series of soft clicks, Abigail's restraints detached from the chair. Mel caught her friend as she slumped forward, slowly guiding her to the floor. She sat down with her back against the wall, holding Abigail tightly to her. Abigail was in such a state that she didn’t even attempt to move, existing limply in Mel’s embrace, weeping freely. “Just like old times, huh Abby?” Mel said softly, “Except I'm the one taking care of you for once.”
They sat together for a long while until Abigail ran out of tears and began to compose herself. She nestled tightly against Mel, letting her friend support her bodyweight. “What am I going to do, Mel?” Abigail whispered desperately.
Mel affectionately brushed the loose hair from Abigail’s face as she caressed her head. “Abby, there isn’t much to do.” she said in a calm voice, “Changes are always hard. You helped me through the hardest change I’ve ever been through when we were younger. This is no different! You accept the hard truths and you keep moving forward, one step at a time.”
“No, Mel, this is different!” Abigail whimpered. “They want to take away everything, take away who I am!”
“No they don’t, they want you to accept who you are! The same way I accepted who I was.” Mel reassured her. Abigail sniffed awkwardly and shook her head, burying herself in Mel’s grasp once more. Mel held her close, running her fingers through her hair, softly kissing her forehead. “Things don’t need to be scary if we have each other.” Mel said gently. “I'm right here with you.”
Mel eventually managed to guide Abigail to the bed, lying down with her on the large mattress. She let her body gently wrap around her friend, trying to provide her with a familiar touch. Abigail welcomed the embrace, meekly holding on to Mel’s hand. After a few minutes, Mel carefully pulled herself away from the bed. Abigail's hand caught her arm as she stood and Mel turned back to see her frightened face. “Mel, please don't leave me!” Abigail whispered.
Mel grasped Abigail's hand firmly once more, removing it from her wrist and holding it against her cheek. “I'm not going to leave you, Abby!” She said reassuringly. “Wait here, I'll be right back.”
Mel knew she needed to speak with her Mistress. She left the bed and made her way back towards the entryway, where she found Thaleia and Sylnathi speaking quietly in the Affini language. They paused their conversation as she approached. “Melrose, are you alright?” Sylnathi asked her.
“I'm okay, I think,” Mel replied in a hushed voice. “But Abigail is afraid, Mistress. She's terrified! I- I want to be here with her, to help her get through this. She means the stars to me...” Mel trailed off, averting her eyes after making such a bold request of her owner. She really didn't want to leave their life back on Thypso. She wanted to return to the park, to Orion's Blossom, to see Niles again. But she also knew Abigail needed help. She didn't want to lose her friend again.
Looking back up, Mel saw Sylnathi smiling down at her, a bemused look on her face. “That's quite the request you just made to me, Pet.” She purred.
Mel blushed and stammered, “Yes, I- I know Mistress, I'm sorry! I wouldn't have said it if- if it wasn't important!”
Sylnathi pondered for a minute and exchanged a few words with Thaelia. “I suppose we could stay for another week or so,” she began, “so long as we leave while The Amarantha is still within shuttle range of Thypso.”
“Yes!” Mel gasped, “Yes, please, thank you Mistress!”
Sylnathi leaned down and gently caressed Mel’s head. “I'll make the arrangements and request a temporary hab unit for us.” she said with an affectionate smile. “You'd better inform Niles that his tenure at Orion's Blossom will be slightly longer than expected.”
Mel felt relieved. She sent Niles a quick message on her tablet before cautiously re-entering the bedroom.
Abigail was still lying on the bed, but her eyes were wide open, watching the doorway. As Mel returned, Abigail relaxed slightly and said, “You- You’re going to stay? I was listening, I just- Mel, I-” but whatever Abigail was trying to say kept getting stuck in her throat.
“Hey, it’s alright!” Mel said gently, returning to the bed with her. “I can't be here forever, but I'll stay with you as long as I can.”
Mel curled back up with Abigail and held her close. The two drifted off to sleep together, savoring the familiar comfort.
The two Terran girls sat by themselves at the kitchen table in Thaelia's hab unit. Mel happily ate from a plate of not-quite-pancakes while Abigail warily eyed the glass of blue-ish juice in front of her. With a stiff motion, she took a big sip of the beverage before awkwardly putting it back down again. “You know, it's funny,” Abigail said, “I know this is laced with Xenodrugs, but at this point I don't care anymore. I just want to enjoy a meal again.”
“Then enjoy it, Abby!” Mel teased, holding a fork full of pancake in front of her.
Abigail stared intently at the food dangling in front of her, before shouting “Fuck it!” and stuffing the entire bite into her mouth. The two of them promptly demolished the breakfast prepared for them until not a scrap remained on their plates. Afterwards, they moved to the adjacent sitting room. Abigail flopped herself down on the large couch which faced the viewport into space and extended her arms, looking up expectantly at Mel. Mel took the offer and laid down beside her, nestled herself into Abigail's shoulder, swinging one leg over her friend. Abigail returned the embrace, wrapping Mel tightly in her arms, softly caressing her head and back. Mel listened happily to Abigail’s steady breathing, while Abigail took in the intoxicating floral scent of Mel’s hair. Together, they watched the stars outside slowly crawl across the viewing port as the Habitation Ring spun on its axis.
Mel felt Abigail's finger gently trace along the scar on her neck. “Does it- hurt?” she asked, anxiously.
“Not at all!” Mel reassured her. “It was itchy for a few days, but I can't remember feeling any pain.”
“That's good.” Abigail said, fidgeting slightly. “I just worry, you know? Like, I keep wondering if this is all a lie, a trick, but-”
“Abby,” Mel interrupted her friend, “Miss Thaelia really does care about you! Look at how patient she's been so far, even asking me to come out here to see you. She's doing it because she wants to help you!” Abigail shook her head and clung tightly to Mel. “When I got my Implant, my Mistress waited on me day and night while I recovered!” Mel continued, “She was always making sure I was okay, checking if I needed anything. Why else would they do so much for us if they didn't care about our wellbeing?”
Abigail held Mel closely and asked, “You really believe that, Melrose?”
Mel stroked her friend's hair and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. “I do.” she said, confidently.
“I'm not sure if that's reassuring or terrifying.” Abigail laughed quietly. “Thank you for staying with me these last few days, it’s- I wish you didn't have to go tomorrow.”
“Me too, Abby,” replied Mel, “But I know you'll be okay. Besides, it's not like we'll never see each other again! Plus, you’ll be able to call me whenever you’d like.”
“Yeah, I guess that's true!” Abigail smiled, “Now that I’m not trying to hide all my transmissions from The Compact it'll be easier to stay in touch. I do want to visit Thypso again though, I really liked your tea.”
“I'll be sure to send you some as soon as I get back!” Mel promised.
The two of them watched the stars wheel overhead, making this moment last as long as they could.
Another impact rocked the ship. Ursa’s Roar groaned, but didn’t buckle.
“But this means- This means I lead them back here!” Abigail whispered, her eyes wide.
“Yes, it does.” the captain said, gloomily, “But it was my call to send you to Thypso in the first place. Don’t put this all on yourself.”
Another hit, harder this time. Abigail felt it rattle her bones as the horror and finality started to settle in. “We can’t get away this time, can we sir?” she asked, quietly.
“I doubt it.” the captain sighed, rising up from his desk. “But we’ll give them hell all the same. To your station, Corporal!”
Abigail gave a quick salute and sped out of the captain’s office. She ran as fast as she could to the armory where the marines were already donning their equipment. “A bit late, Abby!” Tybalt yelled, securing his helmet. “C’mon, grab your shit! We’ll make a soldier out of you yet! For Terra!”
“FOR TERRA!” The cry was echoed by everyone in the room.
Minutes later the corridors were filled with gas and gunfire. The Affini warships’ vines had fully immobilized Ursa’s Roar. The fight was hopeless. But that didn’t stop them from making a last stand nonetheless. Exactly what Free Terrans do!
Abigail’s rifle clicked empty and she fumbled for a new charge cell. She couldn't stop coughing as she felt the gas seeping through the cracks in her oxygen mask. Freya lay unconscious beside her, a dark blue ichor seeping from her lips. Tybalt screamed as a sudden mass of writhing vines pulled him into a dark vent. The corridor was spattered with dark red Terran blood and whatever sickly cyan-blue sap the Affini Weeds had inside them.
With a pitiful laugh, Abigail stumbled, supporting herself against the bulkhead. More gas crept into her mask, she felt so heavy now. “Exactly what Free Terrans do…” she choked, her head spinning. The corridor seemed to turn upside-down as she collapsed to the floor, the slithering of leafy vines closing in around her.
Mel accepted the incoming message and a familiar grinning face greeted her on the screen. “Hey girl, how's it going?”
“Abigail!” Mel cried happily, “It's great to see you again! How are things going on The Amarantha?”
“Things are alright, I guess.” Abigail shrugged, “I'm still not used to everything, but at least I'm feeling more myself again. The Xenodrugs definitely help, I feel a lot calmer than I used to. Also, turns out Miss Thaelia is a sort of... Astrographer? I don’t quite get it, but that means so long as I'm with her I'll get to see all the planets and stars I could ever dream of!”
“That's great to hear!” Mel said with a warm smile. “I know you've wanted to travel like that since we were little! Did you get the tea I sent you?”
“Yeah! It arrived with a freighter the other day.” Abigail replied, “It's delicious, thank you again!”
“Wonderful, I'm glad you like it!” said Mel, “Make sure Miss Thaelia gets some as well!”
“Of course, I already did! She says it's very good, by the way.” Abigail laughed.
Mel took a moment to hold up her data pad, giving her friend a wide view of Orion's Blossom. Soft sunlight filtered down across a bustling sitting area with dozens of patrons. “Stars, that's- Mel, that's so many people!” Abigail gasped.
“I know, right?” Mel beamed, “Niles and I are running the kiosk together now, we can keep it open longer and serve more people that way! Plus, it's helpful if one of us needs a break.”
“Is that Abigail?”
Mel turned to see Niles looking over her shoulder, a small tray of fresh teacups in his arms.
“Heyy, Niles!” Abigail teased, “How're you doing?”
Mel stifled a giggle as Niles blushed and stammered, “I- uh, hello Abigail! It's nice to talk with you again.”
“Niles, you're looking very cute and proper today!” Abigail said with a smirk. Niles turned a vibrant shade of red and attempted to look very interested in something on the other side of the sitting area.
Mel couldn't contain her laughter any longer. “Abby, stop teasing him!” she cried.
“Okay, okay!” Abigail snickered, “Niles, I'm looking forward to meeting you in person in a few weeks! It'll be nice to talk outside of a video call for once.”
Niles stole an awkward glance back towards Mel's tablet and nodded.
“So, you are gonna visit me after all, huh?” Mel grinned, “Told you we couldn't stay apart for long!”
Abigail sighed and said, “Yes, you were right, rub it in. Miss Thaelia has been pretty accommodating to be honest. Next time The Amarantha is within range of Thypso, we're coming to visit.”
“How are things between you and Miss Thaelia?” asked Mel.
“Well, we've got a rapport now, I think.” Abigail smirked, “I do my best to follow her instructions, but I'm also good at finding loopholes. It's fun to see what I can get away with!”
“Stars, you always were a brat!” Mel giggled.
“What, I've gotta have some fun!” Abigail grinned, “Honestly, I get the feeling Miss Thaelia actually enjoys it. It also helps take my mind off- other things.”
Mel looked sympathetically at her friend. “You've gotten a date for your implant, then?” she asked.
“Yeah, a little more than a week from now.” Abigail replied, “I'm still nervous as hell!”
“It's okay, Abby,” Mel reassured her, “You're the strongest girl I know! I'm confident you'll do just fine!”
“That- wasn't exactly what I meant…” Abigail said, anxiously. “But at this point- look, there's no sense delaying the inevitable, right? It is what it is. Just gotta take it one step at a time.”
“Exactly right, Abby!” Mel said with a smile. “I am very proud of you though, I know it isn't easy to adjust and you're doing so much better already!”
“I uhh- thanks?” Abigail said, blushing slightly. “Honestly, It's comforting to see you so calm and sure of yourself. It makes me less nervous about everything, knowing you've gone through all of this too. I'd probably still be a wreck if you hadn't come to see me…”
Abigail trailed off, looking wistfully at Mel through the tablet screen. “Mel, listen, I'm so sorry for how I treated you before! I can make up justifications for why I did it, but that doesn't change the fact that I hurt you. And despite all that, you still came back for me, so- thank you, is all.”
Mel gave Abigail an affectionate look and said, “I appreciate the apology, but I'm mostly just glad you're doing okay again! I'm happy that you're safe and that we'll get to see each other again soon. I love you, Abby!”
A tear rolled down Abigail's cheek as she smiled and replied, “I- thank you, Melrose. I love you too!”
Mel helped Niles close up Orion's Blossom for the day and the two of them parted ways. Later that evening, Sylnathi returned from her duties looking flustered and exhausted. “Welcome home, Mistress!” Mel called as her owner entered the hab unit.
“Uhff, hello again, dear, I-” Sylnathi stopped as she noticed the Terran girl in front of her patiently holding up a cup of freshly brewed tea. “Well, aren't you a good little girl?” She said, her expression brightening at the gesture. “Thank you, Melrose, I needed this!”
“Of course, Mistress!” Mel replied happily as Sylnathi took the cup from her, “Usually when you get home late it's because something got complicated with work, so I thought this might help.”
Sylnathi sighed deeply as she drank from the teacup – Darjeeling, her pet knew her all too well at this point. Between the warm drink and the wonderfully obedient Terran, she started to feel herself relax from the stressful day. As she finished the tea, Sylnathi noticed Mel nestling up against her, gently working herself further into her vines. “And what exactly are you doing now?” she asked, bemused.
Mel grinned sheepishly up at her. “Well, Mistress, I thought you might like to unwind another way as well.” she said as innocently as possible.
“You thought I might like to, did you Pet?” Sylnathi teased, wrapping a flowery tendril around her Terran. Mel giggled and looked up at her with adoration.
Sylnathi smiled hungrily. Melrose was right, playing with her Terran would be an excellent way to relax! But she wasn't going to allow such an obvious implication from her pet to go unchallenged. Sylnathi slowly entangled Mel more and more, vines wrapping firmly around her entire body. She lazily splayed open a flowering bud right in front of her pet’s face, letting the needle-like Pistil reflect in the light as a hefty drop of purplish liquid formed at its tip. “If you really want me to unwind,” Sylnathi purred, “You can’t be making feeble suggestions to me. You need to ask for it, Pet~”
“Please, Mistress!” Mel whimpered, her voice needy and subservient, “Please, play with me tonight!”
“Play with you how, little Melrose?” Sylnathi asked, dangling the open flower in front of Mel's eyes.
“Drug me!” Mel whispered desperately, “Touch me, use me, command me! I'm yours, Mistress!”
“That you are, Pet~” Sylnathi said sweetly as she drove the pistil into Mel's thigh, pumping the poor girl full of fresh Xenodrugs.
Sylnathi spent a long time playing with her pet, indulging herself thoroughly. As Mel finally fell into unconsciousness for the night, Sylnathi looked down at her affectionately. She was so calm and peaceful, safe and content. The Affini woman sighed happily and settled down in the bed next to her. It just felt so right, taking these poor adorable creatures under their care. As happy little pets, Terrans – and all other Xeno species in the vastness of space – could finally have proper, fulfilling lives.
The Xeno Domestication Programs were the greatest gift the Affini Compact could offer to the universe!
Thank you for reading Hospitable Takeover!
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The Human Domestication Guide setting was originally created by @GlitchyRobo with her story “Human Domestication Guide”. If you enjoyed Hospitable Takeover, please go and read her story as well!
Several other authors on Read Only Mind are working on stories set in the 'HDG-verse' as well, check out the HDG Linktree to see more works in this setting!