Amida pressed her head into the door of her new hab unit and grunted. She had failed herself. She explicitly said she did not want to break down into an affini’s vines today, and she had. The event had played out almost to a tee how she did not want it to play out. Credit to Halophele, the affini did not, in fact, offer to domesticate Amida. Amida could tell she wanted to though. Affini got a look in their eyes when they saw a submissive and domesticable creature. And Amida was anything if not submissive, but that last part had proved elusive.
Whatever. Amida stared up at her new hab. This unit's top ended in a cone instead of being flat like the average hab. This was to make way for the dry rooms. Amida imagined the top floor would feel like a cute little yurt. That sounded fun. The hab itself was built on a small platform jutting out from a coral spire about 500 meters below the surface. It had a couple other habs directly adjacent to it, almost like a little culdesac. A culdesac without the worry of your neighbors waking you up at 12am, all thanks to the magic of affini sound-isolation technology.
Amida cracked the door to her hab and swam into the space. The lighting was a gloomy blue, and the layout was open. Covering the floor were almost microscopic circular bits that were too dense to be sand but too small to be pebbles. Amida let her feet fall to the floor and realized these objects were made of cushy gel. They felt similar to sand but were less coarse, and walking along the floor did not kick them up like it would sand. In the main room there was a large screen and what Amida assumed was the underwater equivalent of a couch. Nothing about it was particularly soft to the touch, but it did look cushy. Amida swam over and pressed a hand into the clear cushions, finding that they were actually gel padding, as was the backrest.
Beside the couch were two thick stakes that could be repositioned as the inhabitant pleased. Amida knew from research that this was the xa'a-ackétøth equivalent of a futon. The creatures would wrap their serpentine bodies around the soft stakes and place their heads in a manner that allowed them to view their television screens. Affini in the shape of xa'a-ackétøth would also use this method to relax. That or they would bury themselves in the sand, using crescent shaped “backrests” to make a deep reservoir of sand that they could rest in.
Amida swam to the furniture and lounged her body across the couch, humming a low tone in an attempt to stop her head from racing again. The gel conformed to her toned tummy. Amida allowed herself to sink into the soft surface of the couch and her eyes to close. She took a few moments to filter water and clear her mind. The sensation of water flowing through her gills was just about as relaxing as taking a deep breath; in on 6, out on 6.
When Amida peeled herself off of the couch a few minutes had passed. She boosted off the couch and swam over to her kitchen. It was similar to other hab kitchens, as it was a large area separate from the rest of the hab. Xa'a-ackétøth could eat raw food, so most of their culinary expertise came from mixing foods and spices uncooked. Amida could eat said raw food as it could be generated free of bacteria that would be harmful to her human body. The Artem food she ate earlier had, in fact, been “raw” by human standards. With this in mind, it wasn’t a surprise the kitchen mostly consisted of tools to cut, blend, emulsify, and in general change the state of food and spice so it could be served in a particular way. Some parts of the kitchen looked more like a chemistry lab than a kitchen, populated by glass devices intended to move ingredients without small pieces getting lost in the water.
The rest of the lower levels were bare, waiting to be decorated. Amida wasn’t sure exactly what she was supposed to do with all the space she was given. Paintings? An indoor garden? Statues? Furniture?
A hatch on the ceiling slid open when Amida approached it. Orange light streamed into the water, and a ladder extended to allow Amida easy access to the surface. Amida climbed up, finding herself in a pentagonal metal chamber with vents on each side. The hatch slid closed and Amida was blasted with warm air, dried from head to toe by the time she stepped out into the room, the terran didn’t leave a single wet footprint on the burgundy carpet. A cozy wooden bed sat in the center of the room, flanked by a walk-in closet and an exit to a non-aquatic restroom. The top of the hab was conical, as she had hoped.
Amida wasn’t much interested in the closet or bathroom, instead flopping onto the oversized bed. The door to the walk-in closet was cracked revealing her move-in boxes, which she would deal with later. Whoever had moved her boxes had, however, taken the liberty of removing her weighted blanket and plush toys and placing them on her bed. The girl reached up to the headboard and pulled her oversized oarfish plush against her slim body. She reached into her arm-band and pulled her communicator out, opening her messaging app to a couple of messages.
The first message was from the Cladophor itself, welcoming her and giving her information on important locations, addresses, and where to find amenities.
The second was from Gortha:
AmphibiousEngineer: Hey cutie! If you would like to hang out, please message me! I told one of my friends about you, you may meet her today! Her name is Halophele, she is lovely!
Gentoogrl: i met her, we hung out today. i knew you were behind that chance meeting…
AmphibiousEngineer: I hope you two cuties had fun! How is your hab unit?
Gentoogrl: its wonderful and bigger than the one i had on earth. idk what to do with the aquatic part of it yet tbh.
AmphibiousEngineer: it is your first day being aquatic! You’ll figure it out :).
AmphibiousEngineer: Eaten and taken your meds?
Gentoogrl: yes mom.
AmphibiousEngineer: I’m not your mother, silly! Though I don’t mind you calling me mommy, cutie! ;)
Amida giggled. Her cheeks went flush at the thought of calling Gortha mommy. The plant would probably call her a good girl and pet her head and drug her and…
Gentoogrl: its a joke, because youre looking after my needs like a terran mother would :p.
AmphibiousEngineer: Oh I get it!
AmphibiousEngineer: Have a nice rest of your evening!
Amida found herself rubbing a hand across her plush oarfish, feeling the soft fabric between her fingers. She began shifting her focus down her body in an attempt to remove stress from her muscles. She focused on her head, letting her neck go slack and jaw unclench, her shoulders relax and fingers extend. She moved to her chest, slowing her breaths and untensing her midsection. She stretched her legs and let them go limp, then flexed her bare toes. She felt the tight top on her chest, her hair on her shoulders, and her compression shorts hugging her thighs.
The terran clutched her communicator and began searching for Halophele in the Cladophor’s database.
Gentoogrl: hi! this is amida. i hope you had a nice time today!!
Wetpaper: Hello Amida, I did, and I hope you did as well.
Gentoogrl: i did! i’d really like to hang out with you again sometime…
Wetpaper: As would I.
Wetpaper: What does your username mean?
Gentoogrl: oh! The auto-translation probably isn’t great… the gentoo is the fastest aquatic bird
Gentoogrl: on earth
Wetpaper: Ah, that is adorable.
Amida flapped her hand and clutched her plush.
Gentoogrl: thank u!!!
Gentoogrl: do u know Gortha?
Wetpaper: Yes. She was the one who suggested I meet you at the station.
Gentoogrl: why were you so surprised when we met??
Wetpaper: She just said you were a xeno, she did not specify you were terran.
Wetpaper: I cannot understate how surprising it is to see a terran on this station, let alone this deep underwater.
Gentoogrl: can we hang out tomorrow
Wetpaper: If you would like to.
Gentoogrl: Yes but would YOU like to…
Wetpaper: Very much so.
Wetpaper: What would you like to do?
Gentoogrl: i don’t really know what kinda activities you do underwater for fun?
Gentoogrl: surprise me i guess
Wetpaper: Will do. Have a nice evening, Amida.
Amida closed her communicator and shoved her nose into her plush.
Halophene shoved her communicator back into her vineyard of a body and flicked her tail, sending her flying across the aquatic hab she lived in. The affini’s walls were adorned with 3-dimensional art woven from aquatic plants. The edges of her gel-sand floor were flanked with various bits of coral and colorful anemones that swayed as she passed.
Halophene stopped in front of a small panel on the wall of her hab and scanned it. She extended a vine to tap a few options on the touchscreen. The lights in the room shifted almost imperceptibly.
UV LIGHTS: OFF
NUTRIENTS IN WATER: BALANCED FOR SHALLOW-DEPTH PLANTLIFE
Truth be told Halophele could set the hab to automatically simulate a day/night cycle, but something about the routine of doing it herself felt nice. As did the routine of drinking an evening glass of pocyna, an intoxicating beverage made with cyanide, a brain coral native to Xa'a-ackétøth space, and a spice similar to terran cinnamon. The affini removed a wine bottle from her kitchen table and a covered cup from a cupboard. She placed the tip of the bottle on top of the covered cup, pressed a button on the side of the cup, then watched as the yellow liquid spilled into it without any outside water invading.
The affini swam over to a small crescent in front of a large screen. The crescent surrounded a mound of gel-sand. Halophele burrowed into the sand, curving her body around the edge of the crescent and poking her head out of the gel-sand.
The affini let her face droop. If she was being honest with herself, she didn’t want to go out tomorrow, but Gortha wouldn’t let her live it down if she didn’t. Hell, she wouldn’t let herself live it down, going out with a cute little terran was sure to be a wonderful experience. Either way, the threat of a scolding from Gortha was enough to force the mopey affini to enjoy herself. Halophene’s communicator buzzed.
AmphibiousEngineer: How was your day with Amida?
Wetpaper: It was wonderful.
AmphibiousEngineer: So what do we say…? :3
Wetpaper: Thank you, haha.
Halophele took a sip out of the suction-controlled straw on her cup. The bitter taste of pocyna crept across her mouth. The affini hummed to herself.
AmphibiousEngineer: If you don’t domesticate her, I am. Just letting you know :p.
Wetpaper: Who said I wanted to domesticate her?
AmphibiousEngineer: More cute terran for me then!
Wetpaper: I’m going to bite you.
AmphibiousEngineer: No you won’t :p.
AmphibiousEngineer: Are you going to hang out with her again soon?
Wetpaper: We are going to out tomorrow.
AmphibiousEngineer: Where at?
Wetpaper: I’m not sure yet.
AmphibiousEngineer: Painting! Terrans love painting. Go painting!
Wetpaper: That’s a good idea actually.
Halophele closed her chat tab and opened another with Amida. She nestled deeper into the sand and took another sip of her pocyna.
Wetpaper: Do you want to go painting tomorrow?
Gentoogrl: i said surprise me, doof :p
Wetpaper: I am sorry, I am bad with surprises.
Gentoogrl: i’m teasing you, i dont mind, haha. id love to go painting.
Wetpaper: We will do that then. Goodnight, Amida.
Halophele checked the time and realized it was past time for her to sleep. She placed her communicator back in her body and swam over to a door, which opened to reveal a bedroom. Aquatic affini had a vast array of preferred methods for resting, but Halophele’s was the common xa'a-ackétøth method of burying oneself in the sand inside a cushioned crevice. As such, Halophele’s room consisted of a pit of sand that was both deeper than the other rooms in the hab, and contained sand particles that were thicker. Below the sand on one side of the room was a hole in the wall that Halophele would squeeze into when she wanted to rest.
Halophele buried herself in the sand as soon as the door opened and crawled to her hole. The affini curled her body in her thick vine-tail. Her crevice was warm and tight, it was the coziest spot in her hab. Halophele always looked forward to this part of the day.
Xa'a-ackétøth would often sleep in crevices like this. It was believed to be a holdover from when they were predatory ambushers living their lives in small rocky patches. Nowadays there were a few different ways that the xa'a-ackétøth liked to sleep, and affini had even more sleep-styles. Halophele, however, preferred this one. As did many other aquatic affini.
Terran beds were becoming more popular, and many aquatic affini were even getting 24/7 dry rooms with the express purpose of owning one. There was a specific advantage to terran beds that had nothing to do with sleep: sex on them was exquisite.
Halophele wondered if Amida had a terran bed.