It was a long first day, everything here was new and colorful and big. Like the whole place was designed for someone much bigger than us. There was a phrase… it was on the tip of my tongue.
"What's the phrase for a place designed to like not accommodate people good?" I asked Melanie and Melanie.
"Hostile Architecture?" One answered.
"Dang I was thinking something similar. It's all so big."
We indulged in a delicious breakfast of eggs and hashbrowns that made the fast-food stuff taste like trash. Honestly, I could barely remember the taste of that stuff from how long it had been, but this was definitely awesome food.
Afterwards, we were kinda left to think about the habitation unit, the affini, Calytrix specifically, and what in the stars we were going to do with our life.
"So, I've got questions…" Melanie asked. I did too but she beat me to working up the nerve to say it.
"Yea." We echoed.
Calytrix didn't seem to mind. We asked. If anything, she seemed enthused. "And I have answers. What would you three adorable little terrans like to know?"
"Uh…" We all gave our thinking noise.
"Like I don't know anything about the affini?"
"What she said."
"Well, I could sit you three down and have a long talk about it during which you three would likely do your cute but unwanted zoning out, or…" She paused for dramatic effect. "I could show you our broadcasts we've sent out ahead of our armadas to explain to terrans who we are and why they have no reason to fear us."
Dang we hadn't watched videos in forever. Also, talking a bunch and getting info dumbed did sound like something that I wouldn't be able to stay mentally here for long enough to get all the info.
"Videos!" Slightly out of sync but definitely the same word.
The big rainbow affini smiled in her colorful home full of painted walls and art that looked like fuzzy photos of fields of flowers. She towered over us yet that didn't make me feel scared. It kinda made me feel something else that I couldn't place a word to. "Of course petals, why don't we go sit in the living room and we can watch them on the holoprojector."
We followed her over taking many steps for each of hers. Only to arrive at the couch and notice it was big enough to have us struggle to get up. Obviously, we couldn't ask for help. Calytrix was far too nice to request further assistance from. Sure, her home might not be super suited to human guests, but she welcomed us into her home to make sure we're okay. Plus, she already had helped us with the whole zoning out shut down soft-lock issue.
Melanie tried climbing up and my sister and I helped her scramble onto the couch. It turned into a sort of team effort. I mean like, it wasn't that hard, but we weren't physically fit and were out of practice moving at all. So, coordinating a climb onto a couch meant for a ten-foot-tall plant was a challenge. But we overcame that challenge as sisters. I did notice Calytrix looking amused and probably was waiting for us to ask for help.
"Now I must warn you, while these videos were produced for terrans who know nothing, some of the script writers… they didn't have much experience around independent sophonts so some of them might come off as a little strange and out of touch."
Now that was a heck of a warning. I guess it made sense that affini not used to being around terrans might mess up, but if it's bad I can laugh at it with my sisters. Unless it's not funny-bad. That's the worst kind of bad video.
Calytrix didn't wait long to put up the broadcast clip. It turned out to be a woman who looked sorta not okay. She looked drunk or something. Clearly a happy drunk because oh wow did she seem happy.
The content of her words… uh what was that about an owner and a mistress? The horror started setting in. Horror in a fridge way, like she clearly didn't understand how saying that she misbehaved and got handed over to be owned by an affini who showed her the error of her ways could possibly be taken as anything but reassuring.
"Can you turn this off?" Melanie asked.
Calytrix did so immediately. "Like I said, the ones producing that were a little out of touch, others are much better."
It was clear to us that none of us were comfortable with that. "More than a little out of touch. She sounded like someone forced her into compliance, and at some point, she just sort of liked it." I spoke for us.
"Yea she also seemed a bit off, like she was drunk or high or something."
"I did think her choker looked kind of pretty." Melanie caused my brain to short out for a second. Okay, I could see why she said that. The choker was kinda stylish.
"I suppose I should explain domestication. Before you all ask, that is what we call the act of taking in a self-destructive species like your own and uplifting you all socially and technologically while providing everything you all could ever want. What she was talking about was what we do with those who resist violently in ways that could hurt themselves or others."
"That sounds not okay."
Calytrix sighed. "You see girls, we do not kill enemy combatants. We capture and rehabilitate those who opt for violence. Those like you three, who are independent sophonts, retain your liberties as much as you had under your Accord. Though in your instance of being imprisoned, I'd say you have far more liberties."
"Aren't we like under house arrest?"
"You aren't. You all are free to walk out that door, but for the time being this is your residence and I need to keep track of you three to alleviate concerns about your health and wellbeing after your imprisonment and cloning."
We all looked to the door. The exit. Honestly, I didn't want to go outside. Being in such a big and strange new home was already pushing my limits and if my sisters weren't here, I'd definitely be worse off mentally. At least the fact I could was reassuring.
Calytrix then happily chimed in. "I can get you each those chokers if you would like your own. I could go compile some right now."
"I have a personal atomic compiler that can assemble most small objects built into my habitation unit. Do you all want me to go fetch you some chokers? It'll take less than a minute."
"Uh sure." We all said before adding, "I want mine in black." That got us to give each other eyerolls.
Melanie then quipped, "Great minds think alike."
It took me a moment. Okay that was really funny and also a terrible pun. Then again, my beloved sister said it so I suppose I shouldn't groan.
My other sister groaned anyway. "That was terrible."
"But admittedly clever." I corrected.
"Thanks, I'm sure you both would have come up with it too."
"Probably, but I guess we'll never know."
The pretty rainbow giant came over with the chokers. She slipped one on each of us and they slightly tightened. My sisters showed off to me that they did indeed look cool. It felt a little snug, and when trying to find the seam there was none. The choker was magically flush with my skin. Almost like a slightly protruding tattoo. A cool tattoo.
Calytrix then put on more affini broadcasts that were not horrific. They were actually kind of nice explaining the post scarcity stuff, how much happier people seemed to be under them, and xenodrugs. They really liked bragging about their mastery of drugs.
The most interesting video explained florets. So, apparently the horror girl was a floret which is a pet person owned by an affini to be loved, cared for, cherished, etc… Outside of like military captures and violent people it was voluntary. Like apparently people volunteered to be owned. That was a wild thought. They showed off people, with suspiciously familiar flowery dresses and chokers. They were all super happy. Like the happiest people I'd ever seen, and I once walked in on my roommate having wild sex. I shuddered at the memory.
A hand found its way onto my shoulder. "Thinking about the Devon sex thing?"
"Ew, gross, why remind me of that." My other sibling said.
"Yea, also, let's never talk about that ever again." I proposed to two agreeable sisters.
Our affini caretaker and definitely not owner or mistress put on another video as if she knew we needed the distraction. Overall, we spent a lot of time just watching stuff before it turned into Calytrix showing off her favorite videos of florets being cute. We all had to admit some of the videos were oddly cute.
As lunch rolled around our host got up to prepare lunch and left us sitting side by side sort of leaning on each other.
"So, the affini seem pretty great minus the forced ownership thing."
"Yea, honestly it's like the only bad thing about them."
"The before and after videos of some of the colonies were crazy. Like they turned them from rundown industrial centers into places rich people would be jealous of."
"So, when we are done with this wardship thing we're gonna get our own habitation unit, right?"
"Yea…" I wasn't happy with the idea of living on my own. Except I wouldn't be on my own. On the other hand, my sisters had the exact same issues as me so… Well, we didn't have to work for rent or anything. With the three of us we should be able to go back to taking care of ourselves.
My mind went back to my old apartment right before I left for the experiment. The mess, the empty fridge, the forgetting to eat even when I had food, the skipped showers. I wasn't great at taking care of myself. My only hope was that my sisters would help but… I can't put my burdens on them. They deserved better. I wished I could get my old roommate back, he always handled stuff when I couldn't. He was so nice about it too even though it made me feel like shit having him help out.
"So, do you two think Kennedy got domesticated? She was technically drafted into the navy…"
Oh, wow I was off thinking about surviving on my own and she started thinking about our older sister. We really were diverging. Still, I could understand my sister's concern because as soon as she mentioned it my mind went to the same page.
"There has to be a way to find out." I said.
"Let's ask Calytrix." Melanie then shouted loudly. "Uh, Calytrix? Is there a way to look up records of who's been domesticated?"
"Or even a way to check on people who are independent sophonts?" I added on the off chance she surrendered and wasn't domesticated.
Her colorful voice came from the kitchen full of delicious smells. "There is, I'll help you look up anyone you're thinking of after lunch."
A three-part harmony said, "Thanks Calytrix."
"You three beautiful girls are so very welcome." Her words had us blushing. Thankfully the back of the couch prevented the affini from seeing that. It was our little secret, like every secret we had. Not that we had many. I wasn't really the secret keeping type.
A few moments later the spinning color wheel and nice song brought me back awake. Fuck I zoned out again. We each mumbled either thanks or sorry. I couldn't tell you who said what.
"It's quite alright. I'd love to help more if you all would let me." She offered.
"You mean with the xenodrugs?" I asked.
She was actually standing on the other side of the couch leaning over to see us. Having her just hanging over us like that was, uh. What's the words for intimidating but in a good way?
The affini said. "While that is an option, I can also do more conventional hypnosis without them. It'll take a bit more effort, but it would be an alternative to the xenodrugs you three seem skittish about."
My sister then voiced our shared thought. "Isn't hypnosis like fake and stuff?"
"It is quite real. The method I use to unlock you all when you get mentally soft-locked is hypnosis. I am using specific sensory inputs to control exact neurological connections so they behave as I desire."
Oh, wow that's…
Calytrix cut off that line of thought. "Girls, the lunch I made for you all is getting cold, so how about you all come eat while it's still warm. You all have been through a lot and should let yourselves relax. There'll be plenty of time to ask all your questions while staying with me."
Okay yea, I could smell some amazing food from the kitchen. She was right in that it didn't sound like we were being thrown out any time soon. My sisters and I hopped off the couch and went over to find pizza.
"Wow." "Fuck that looks good." "I missed pizza." Good to know we were all basically on the same page in our love of the best terran food ever made. Well chicken tendies were good too but they stopped using actual chicken centuries ago and now every fast-food place's chicken tendies tasted wildly different.
Anyway, pizza is great! The crust was garlicky and light and fluffy. There was the perfect amount of sauce, and while I didn't know what type of cheese was used it definitely fit perfectly with the rest. The strange part was she somehow knew our preferred toppings without ever having asked. AKA all the meat. After all those videos, I wouldn't put it past the affini to have some gizmo to scan your tongue or brain and somehow know your food preferences.
Three identical clone sisters shared a pizza cut into a number of slices divisible by three that were perfectly identical in mass. I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere, but we were all too enthralled by food to think of it.
Calytrix had to remind us afterwards that we asked about looking people up. We moved back to the couch as we mistakenly thought we'd just watch more videos. "So, who would my cute little wards like to find?"
"Uh…" Thinking noise. "Our sister Kennedy."
"Kennedy Maelstrom." I helpfully added.
"Yea I think her ship was called the Golden Horizons."
"She was a medic."
The affini hummed while tapping away at a tablet, which in her hands was like a phone. "It seems the Golden Horizons was captured months ago, and a Kennedy Maelstrom is now a floret aboard the Myrtales."
That was concerning. She was always a lot more independent than me. She had a drive that I hadn't really seen in any floret so far. The idea that the affini took my sister away from me and turned her into some drugged up pet had my eyes watering.
My sister pulled me in close for a hug and it turns out we were all sad about that.
"C-Can we like contact her?"
I sniffled. "Y-Yea I want to make sure she's okay…"
"Oh petals, of course I can get you three in touch with her. And please don't be sad, she's likely very happy with her new Mistress."
Right, florets were happy, but still… I really hoped she was okay. We all did. Kennedy was basically the only family we had left besides each other and my new sisters felt different than normal family. We are far too close to just be family. We were more than that.
Calytrix promised she'd arrange a video call for us with Kennedy though she'd have to work out the details with Kennedy's Mistress. We thought about asking her to get us in touch with Devon, but after a short chat we agreed today was a bit much and we just wanted to chill.
We relaxed watching videos the rest of the day. I ended up sort of cuddling with my sisters on the couch. Well, I had never cuddled before, but I assume that what we did could be considered cuddling. We only zoned out one more time that day which was definitely less time spent zoned out than in the prison cell.
Sitting there on a soft couch while drifting off wasn’t that bad. It was hard to let go of all the worries, fears, and anxieties. The involuntary zoning out thing was sort of a blessing and a curse. To just lie there not thinking without a care in the world sure was the dream. Especially with my loving sisters close to keep me company.
Eventually, Calytrix fed us dinner then realized there was only one bedroom. Calytrix offered to have us sleep with her as her bed had plenty of room, but we opted for the couch. She was nice but we didn’t want to impose. The couch was big, comfy, and we could all fit even if we ended up rather close. That just meant more hugging which we all were down for. My new sisters were just so nice and kind it was hard to believe that they were supposedly the same as me.
"Goodnight girls." The kind affini said.
We responded together, "Good night Calytrix."
With a big long pillow and a large blanket, we dozed off together.
Our colorful rainbow host woke us up as we had slept in a bit. We didn't have anything to do today so it wasn't a big deal. She led us to the bathroom and our half-asleep brains just followed like a trail of ducklets.
We were all too tired to really clean up so Calytrix offered to do it for us. It was a weird experience being manhandled by vines, but it sure was a lot easier. I think at some point we zoned out, because a little while later she did her mental unlock thing on us and we were sitting at the kitchen table with breakfast in front of us.
Melanie had to ask. "Did you carry us here?"
"Yea, weren't we in the bathroom?"
"Well, my darling petals, I realized as I finished up that you three had done your little mental freeze up at some point. You were all so sleepy I hadn't noticed and I thought you all wouldn't mind coming to with food in front of you." She seemed genuine.
It felt kinda weird to know she carried and handled us while we were out of it. It wasn't much different than some of the times I had been fetched from my cell and only realized it in the middle of a test. I was used to it. Also, waking up to food was admittedly nice.
Calytrix then added, "If that all bothered you, I won't do it again."
"I don't mind too much."
"Yea… though I'd still like to spend less time like that." I added.
"I'll avoid that in the future, and if you all want. Plus the option for xenodrug, and or hypnotic help is always available." She was being really nice about it, I sort of felt bad wording it like that since it didn't bother me much, only like a tiny bit. If anything, it bothered me less when she did it than when the people in the lab led me around.
"I don't know." My sister began. "I don't think I want to go messing with my head more when it's already messed up." We agreed. Last thing we want is more mental problems, it's like we kept collecting more.
The affini didn't seem upset at that, but she didn't do that big beautiful smile she did sometimes at our responses. I really liked that smile. Also, her eyes were really pretty and they shifted colors and I couldn't stop looking at them. She had such nice eyes.
The affini snapped her fingers which sounded oddly like a person did it despite her hands being woven vines. "Girls, you almost zoned out again. You have food to eat."
"R-Right." We all stammered before digging into our meal.
We had another relaxing day of not doing much and occasionally zoning out. There was a lot more stuff to keep our minds active here. Everything was so different and yet it felt like the leisurely lifestyle of the cell in an odd way. Definitely, a step up from that in every conceivable manner. Calytrix was pretty on point of keeping us from drifting off too much. She made sure we ate, and got cleaned up. It was sort of nice.
The only problem was my sisters and I weren't really getting experience taking care of ourselves. I was never good at it. Really bad actually, in the few months of being in my own place for the first time in my life I basically fell apart and semi-accidently sold myself to the government as a lab rat.
The only good thing that came from all of that was my sisters. They were my everything at this point. That included Kennedy who I knew we were all concerned for. We had several days until her ship was no longer in transit and could stream more than text messages over the Overnet.
That just left us with one other task as we were cared for by Calytrix. We needed to contact Devon again and ask about gender stuff.