Seril Cnidat, Fifteenth Bloom had been watching videos of Terrans swimming for an hour and a half. It was work, but it didn’t feel like it. Those adorable cuties were even cuter when they were laughing and playing whilst submerged in water. What was so special about the water to them? Did they see it so little because of those awful capitalists keeping it away from them? Terrans weren’t particularly adept swimmers, not having adapted around aquatic life, but they made do with what they had. Some Terrans could even dive a hundred meters without needing to come up for air!
Seril was the ring’s chief Xenobiologist, and xe took xyr job very seriously. Xyr knowledge of the cutest floret videos on the overnet was nothing short of encyclopedic.
Seril’s body mimicked xyr favorite parts of Mielyu and Siphonophoric bodies. A bioluminescent mermaid of iridescent leaves and salmon pink vines. Xyr slender arms grasped a Xa'a-ackétøth against xyr body. The floret was draped across xem like a shawl, its whiskers twitching, four eyes shut in pure bliss.
Galtier Zerum, Fifth Bloom weaved through the halls of the Center for Xenobiology, moving a bit faster than he probably should have been. He arrived at Seril’s office, hanging the corner and bursting into the room to find the Affini on xyr stake watching Cute Terrans Compilation Part 627421485, with only a lamp and xyr colorful bioluminescence illuminating the room.
“Seril, did you hear the news?” Galtier beamed.
“About our little Terran resident?” Seril asked, craning xyr head away from the screen, “I was the one who drew her blood, Galtier.”
“No, we were able to recreate a chemical reaction between condensed Mielyu musk and artificial Terran endorphins!”
Seril perked up, “Oh— that is definitely something.”
“I mean— we still need to do more tests, but, dirt, this is— great! I mean, how many more species do you think react this way to Mielyu musk? Rinans? Lumari? Quinoth? And I don’t know of any xenos that are naturally allergic to Mielyu!” Galtier said, leaning against Seril’s desk.
“Let’s start with the resources we have access to. We still need to do a checkup on our adorable new Terran resident, then we can proposition her for some experiments if she seems settled in,” Seril stated, looking back at the screen to catch a clip of a Terran slipping off a diving board and belly-flopping into the water below.
“Another problem— she doesn’t have a haustoric implant. She isn’t a floret, that’s going to make things harder,” Galtier said.
“Mm— I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time. Halophele Marit acquired a domestication contract from the Office of Xenoveterinary Bureaucracy for one Amida Lother today.”
“Halophele, huh?” Galtier said, raising an eyebrow and wrapping his body around the stake in front of Seril’s desk.
“Don’t be rude Galtier, Halophele has been through a lot. I think a floret would do wonders for her mental health.”
Galtier stayed silent, nodding his head. “Sorry, We should wait for her domestication to start tests, then? To be honest I’d like to start as soon as possible.”
“Maybe. We don’t need the implant to gather data. She has had graft surgeries in the past, meaning it would be easier to interface with her body, barring an implant,” Seril held up a finger to Galtier, “And— we still need consent, that’s important.”
“And how about her Mielyu companion?” Galtier pulled his tablet out of his chest and began typing notes with his vines.
“Hiren is incredibly excited about the entire situation, according to Melvol. I doubt she would be averse to participating,” Seril tapped a hand against xyr chin before pointing at Galtier. “Make mention the pair had already bonded with each other, which could affect Amida’s reactions to the pheromones. I assume you have it on record that Hiren has had a radical hysterectomy?”
Galtier nodded, adding the pair-bonding amendment to his notes. “Those are very important factors, yes,” he said.
Seril hummed to xemself, no doubt thinking about how adorable watching a Terran and Mielyu crawl all over each other was going to be. Especially a cute Terran and a cute Mielyu.
“This is going to be fun, Galtier, I am already imagining the numerous procedures we could go through and all the data we could collect,” Seril said with a wide smile.
Galtier sighed, but he couldn’t help but smile along with his co-worker. “Remember Seril, these are rigorous scientific experiments, not an opportunity for you to create bizarre bondage predicaments.”
Galtier and Seril both knew xe wouldn’t listen. It was a good-biologist bad-biologist routine they had been working on for blooms. The relationship defined them in such a deep way that they often kept up the act behind closed doors. They were xenobiologists and actors who had mastered the art of putting on a show for Affini, pleasing florets and collecting data all at once. In short, Seril & Galtier did everything the Compact loved. When the time came for some serious, by-the-books biology, or their patients weren’t into the whole cute, sexy experiments routine, Galtier and Seril were still the best Xenobiologists on the Cladophor.
“Mm— Mxtress?” Seril’s floret groaned, roused from their sleep. Their owner gave their head a gentle stroke on the chin.
“Oh— dirt, sorry Lukalani,” Galtier said, giving a small smile to the Xa'a-ackétøth.
Lukalani smiled in affirmation. That was all Galtier was going to get, though, as Lukalani had very little grasp on their executive functions unless Seril adjusted their haustoric implant.
“No problem, they’re a light sleeper,” Seril said, before lowering xyr voice to a faux-whisper, “They’re going to love what I’m making them for dinner tonight. Don’t tell them, but it’s Artem crayfish.”
Lukalani’s tail flicked back and forth and their whiskers twitched as a smile crept across their face. Seril placed a vine under their head and pushed it up to face xemself, then gave the floret a gentle kiss on their forehead.
“Aah— thank you Mxtress,” Lukalani whined. Seril ran a vine down the length of their back, eliciting an almost inaudible moan as they drifted back to unconsciousness.
“So, let's wait a little bit, contact our two subjects, then see what we can do,” Seril said, “Did you get the plaque sent to Melvol’s hab?”
Galtier nodded, “You know it.”
Seril giggled, “I was surprised you came up with that idea yourself, you aren’t usually the one doting on florets.”
“I can dote, from time to time.”
Since adopting a Mielyu, Melvol’s hab unit had become a veritable jungle gym. The species used to reside in massive flowing undersea forests where they would spend their days in the seagrass, coral, and kelp, using it to hide from predators. Eventually, Mielyu became the predators, focusing most of their combined efforts on developing military technology. Unlike the Xa'a-ackétøth, however, Mielyu were defensive. They created massive forts of stone and steel that were as labyrinthian as the forests they dwelled in. They were a ‘peaceful’ species in that Mielyu would seldom declare war on other Sophonts. If a state declared war on them, however, their homes would be impenetrable.
The Mielyu were quick to surrender to the Affini. Upon seeing the glory of an Affini flagship, they realized that the safest place to be in the universe was cradled in the arms of loving Affini owners.
Species with such strong prey instincts were a breeze to domesticate.
Melvol’s house was vertical, filled to the ceiling with stone, coral, and plants for Hiren to swim between and nestle into, satisfying her prey instincts. The hab’s kitchen was about halfway up the vertical length of the unit, and the pair’s television was at the very top. Both of these rooms were nestled into rocks and hidden by plants. The smallest room in the house was Hiren’s room, which she insisted was “perfectly sized”. She didn’t sleep in her room much anyway, as she would often doze off snuggled up on the couch with Melvol, or would sleep in his bed with him.
Hiren swam around the hab, weaving between stone, coral, and algae faster than Melvol’s eyes could track her. “Oooh, maybe we could put it, like— here?” The Mielyu said. Melvol had no idea where ‘here’ was.
Melvol held a circular wooden plaque in his vines. On the front was a metallic golden plate, laser etched with the words ‘HIREN RITAN, FIRST FLORET HAS OFFICIALLY BEEN DECLARED SCIENTIFICALLY STINKY AND GRANTED THE TITLE OF CADET XENOBIOLOGIST.’ Melvol wasn’t sure how he felt about his floret being given the title of ‘Scientifically Stinky’, but Hiren was ecstatic, and that was all that mattered.
Melvol’s Mielyu came crashing into him, giving the plant a hug, which he returned. Melvol wrapped his vines around Hiren. She closed her eyes, allowing Melvol’s warmth to surround her body. The affini closed his beloved pet in a cage of blue leaves and brown vines. Endorphins flooded Hiren’s body, prompting the woman to wiggle and smile. Melvol used a trio of vines to tickle his floret’s belly.
“Hey cute stuff,” Melvol said.
“Hi,” Hiren responded, burying her face in Melvol’s chest and blushing.
“Did you find a spot for your plaque?”
“Mmm, you know I’m not much of a decorator,” Hiren responded.
“How about we put it behind the couch?”
“Right next to the domestication contract?”
Melvol nodded and kissed his floret on the cheek. He swam to the top of their hab; atop a platform covered in sea grass and behind a curtain of stringy kelp was a sand couch and a bit of open space for Hiren to swim around, lit with cozy warm lighting. Melvol placed Hiren on the sand couch and affixed her plaque to the wall behind it. Two pieces now hung there, the new plaque, and a framed copy of Hiren’s domestication contract.
Hiren looked off the edge of her platform at the hab below. By most Xeno’s standards, it would be cramped. The main space of the unit was composed of deep crevices, stone and metallic outcroppings, and random plants. It was, for all intents and purposes, an aquatic cat tree. For Mielyu, however, cramped spaces like Melvol’s hab were the coziest places in the universe. Melvol did not mind any of this. It was a well-known fact that if you took a Mielyu as a Floret they needed a lot of small spaces to hide in and weave between. Despite their soft angelic appearance, they were very active creatures.
Melvol swam over the backrest of the couch and curled his serpentine body around Hiren. Hiren gave an affirmative wiggle as the pair sank into the soft gel sand below them.
“Well— you’ve had quite a long day, haven’t you,” Melvol said, using a few vines to stroke Hiren’s fins. The Mielyu leaned into the pets.
“Mm— yeah, but it’s been nice. Surprising! But nice.”
“I was surprised how affectionate you and Amida were,” Melvol said, “Not that that’s a problem, you two are adorable together.”
“Oh— Yeah!” Hiren laughed and wiggled, “She’s really nice, being affectionate with her feels, like— natural? If that makes sense.”
Melvol nodded, “Surprising! Think you’re demisexual?”
Hiren scrunched her face, whiskers twitching, “Mm— I’m still not down with the whole sex thing, I don’t think. Icks me. Don’t get me wrong, having her feel and sniff and lick my body was nice, but I didn’t really want to, like— penetrate her or anything.”
“Hey, that’s totally fine, nothing wrong with that, cutie.”
“Mm— Thank you, master,” Hiren cooed, closing her eyes.
“And hey, your first time snuggling another xeno and you made a scientific discovery? Pretty impressive snuggling there, miss xenobiologist.”
Hiren smiled in response. Melvol retrieved a tablet from his vines and tapped on it, dimming the lights until there was nothing but a gentle blue ambiance in the room. The lanky limbs of coral floating in the water cast shadows against the Affini and his floret. The pair began half-watching a cooking show as they drifted to sleep.