Calytrix held up a needle from one of her many flowers. I gulped as I looked at it. I asked her to help, or rather my sisters told me to let her help. To us it was the same or even more important that our siblings made the decision we couldn't. That didn't take away the fear.
My sisters were in the same boat. Melanie chose this, but we were scared. My sister managing to use words asked. "W-What's in that?"
Running a comforting vine through each of our hair she answered. "This is a class-H xenodrug. The H stands for hypnosis. Not intentionally, but it'll be a useful trick for you all to remember. This will open your mind up so when I give your mind signals through various sensations they will stick. For this session, I am going to take away that zoning out coping mechanism you developed in your imprisonment."
I couldn't feel the needle go in, but I felt my mind shift. My lucid nature sank down, while my awareness remained in some strange capacity.
Calytrix had her bundles of color in our faces, her vines that coiled around us began to apply pressure in various areas in various sequences, and she began to intone a series of sounds that shifted swiftly and precisely. She did so with multiple simultaneous voices.
Each sensory input like a piece of code placed into a little sophonts mind. Each one shifting the strength of various neuron connections aided by a xenodrug that allowed for such shifts in such a rapid manner.
I was keenly aware my precious Melanie had merely asked for help rather than give each of herselves to me fully. Still, I was overjoyed. That dialogue was a spur of the moment opportunity that could have backfired, but turned out beautifully. She needed that push and ultimately it meant so much more that the final bit came from her sisters telling her to accept what she had already known in the back of her mind.
I delicately unwove the pathways that caused her shut downs. They had been trained recently which should have made the connections easy to fix, but they had so much reinforcement. I had spent a large amount of my free time refining these inputs for when she finally asked. Now I finally got to use them.
A probing series of touches caused a reflexive twitching of her fingers that let me know my input was nice and complete. The fact I managed to do it with all three simultaneously was a noteworthy achievement. An achievement only accomplished because they had nigh identical minds. The drifting of individuality while noteworthy was not enough to prevent it from working.
I had made sure to restrict their drifting as they all seemed to fear it. Every word I spoke to them was balanced acoustically to be heard in the same way despite their different positions. Their food consumption and intake were identical. Every touch I gave them was positioned as similarly as I could get. Unfortunately, there are inherent limitations to what could be maintained, but from the way they spoke it was clear I was doing well.
Ultimately, once she was fully mine and they had their implants connected, I could get lax with most of it. They'd naturally correct their disparities as they desired and the implant regulating her nervous systems and brain chemistries would only further that.
I peered down at the lovely future florets. Three absolutely beautiful minded girls with a single shared identity and sense of self. I would give them everything and they would be mine forever.
I still had her under. The temptation to do more was there. I should do more. She needed more. Alas, I told her I would only do this one fix, and establishing that trust was far more important. They were terrified to do this and the little ones gave me their trust. To let my hubris, undo my work now… I'd learned from my mistakes.
I woke up. We woke up and I was still me, still Melanie. However, my thinking felt a little off. Far less than when we all got hooked on the girl juice which I hadn't regretted. This time it was subtle. The sensation became more pronounced as I thought about it more. As I thought deeply. The strangest part of all was that it was familiar. This is how it was before the cell. I would think deeply and get lost in thought, but it never made me shut down.
In a way I was a little sad to lose it. It was a coping mechanism after all. Drifting off started intentionally. The peace of being mindless and motionless for a bit. That didn’t change the fact it was dull, and dangerous. Accidently, doing it was too risky and we needed to ditch it since we were going to need to live on our own eventually.
Calytrix did what she said, and I was still me. I had trusted her and as far as I could tell she did exactly what she said.
We looked up at her and said, "Thank you." Before making eye contact and falling prey to her enthralling look. She caught us looking and covered our eyes.
"Petals, you are all very welcome." Her voice still had that same pleasant tone.
"Uh, why do your eyes still do that?" We asked. It wasn't as bad as before but we were still being drawn in.
Calytrix looked uncomfortable with the question. It was weird, she had a humanoid body, and affini in the videos emoted and stuff like normal people. The rainbow affini's motions were more reminiscent of my sisters. Sort of. Obviously, it wasn't the same because she wasn't Melanie, but it was still oddly readable.
"Melanie there are quirks of affini physiology that I know would have you look at me very differently. I do not wish to upset you with the exact process. I know you well enough to know that it would do so. I break eye contact because if you knew you would ask me to."
Okay that opened up a massive can of worms. Like what could her eyes be doing that I'd not like? Did they shoot cancer beams? I think she'd be able to cure that if she can clone me. It probably has more to do with how I get lost in them. Like with hypnosis.
I tried to peek again and she stopped me with another vine. So, if it's hypnosis it's just an innate affini thing… wait is that what the pet stuff is about? They just naturally enthrall people. That should have horrified me, but at this point it just made sense. It probably helped that they were friendly and nice and stuff.
"It's hypnosis, isn't it?" My sister asked.
Dang Calytrix looked guilty. "You three are very clever. Yes, there is an effect akin to hypnosis tied to our eye patterns. It is minor, but you three are especially susceptible. Most terrans would not become awestruck like you all do from that alone."
It was my turn to speak alone, "It didn't at first, is it because we kept doing it?"
"Yes and no. We can talk more about it another day. It is late and you three need to eat and get rest, because tomorrow you all have your call with your eldest sibling."
She was obviously changing topics to get us to not ask questions, but reminding us we are going to talk with our sibling tomorrow… that was a good distraction.
Thinking of all the ways talking to Kennedy could go wrong. The gender stuff, the having identical sisters. Then there was the fact that she was a floret and an unwilling one at that. Would she be drugged up? Would she be the same big sister we remembered?
We were absent mindedly led to the kitchen while dwelling on older sister troubles. It was a conundrum with no answers and that only made me think harder trying to find them.
Calytrix then got us thinking about the delicious chicken tendies she made. It was hard to worry when eating our favorite food or one of them. Pizza and fried chicken, maybe we could eat them together at some point. Clearly, when you like two things you put them together. Food good.
After dinner. our colorful affini caught us ruminating on talking to Kennedy tomorrow, again. "Girls, I have been informed that Kennedy is very excited to talk to you all tomorrow and was told to tell you three that she misses you all very much."
Yea, we needed to hear that. I missed her too. It had been about two years since before the experiment that I last saw her. Sure, she wasn't perfect, far from it, but she was our sibling. We loved her. She was the only person we could say we loved outside of each other. Maybe Devon but… like in a friendship way? We definitely weren't into guys, but he was probably the nicest person we knew outside of the impossibly perfect Calytrix.
She led us off to bed as it was getting late. We were yawning even if our minds were still all over the place thinking about tomorrow. It didn't even cross my mind that the affini led us to her bed rather than us sleeping on the couch again. She picked us up gently and set us down on the bed.
"Now, I have to ask. Do you want me to sleep with you three? I'll be perfectly happy sleeping elsewhere if you three prefer." She was asking this time. Last time… we weren't in a state to be asked. It was comfortable before, and we wouldn’t dare make her not sleep in her own bed.
"I-If you want." We answered.
She made the happy face. "I very much do." She got into bed with us shifting our positions until we were snug under the covers and under her vines. That relaxing warmth of her mixed with the sleepy cuddle pile that was Melanie had us fall right to sleep. We were safe and secure in the colorful vines of our affini.
As we were about to get dressed. "Maybe we shouldn't wear companion dresses today."
"Yea, what if Kennedy mistakes us for florets?"
"That has been a problem…"
We all looked up at Calytrix. She tilted her head with a little smile. "I'll go get you three something else. Pants, skirts, or a dress?"
"Uh…" We had definitely gotten used to the dresses. But also, Kennedy doesn't know our gender. Does that mean we should go with pants because she'd expect them, or with skirts to make the gender thing clear. Then again skirts weren't gendered except that was only true with a very progressive group of people we met in college.
"I don't know." Our timings a bit off.
She reached down and gently ruffled our hair right after we all just got it brushed. "Then I'll decide for you."
A moment later she came back with striped long socks, colorful box pleated skirts, and tee-shirts with cartoon ravens on them. It was a very cute outfit and it took us all a great deal of reassuring each other before we could accept that maaaaybe we all looked pretty and cute in it. I mean they both looked adorable. Did I? Hard to say. I just had to take the words of my sisters and our affini caretaker.
Eventually we found ourselves on the couch beside our favorite giant woman. She said we were going to do a call with her, but something was up. Not knowing what was up was anxiety inducing but Calytrix acted so calm and confident. We just had to trust her. Things went well when we trusted her.
"So, before I connect us, I want to make a few things clear. First is that I had Kennedy's Mistress inform her about your three's situation. She is very happy to see you all again and has no problem with having three little sisters. Second is that we arranged more than a simple video call." She reached over a vine and gave us each a reassuring touch. "Things are going to go great." She sounded so confident. Her words were definitely welcome.
She then connected us and the holoprojector instead of displaying 2D images, created a hologram of another couch across from us. This new holographic couch had two individuals on it, an affini and a very familiar woman with our same dusty brown hair in the affini's lap.
Kennedy while having similar features took more after our father while we looked a bit more like our mother. She had a choker of her own along with a magenta companion dress. She looked to be in great health and was more than happy. Our fears of a drugged-up sibling weren't very grounded. She looked like she was on something, but she was far more sober than most florets we had seen.
Her affini, her Mistress, had thorny vines and red roses about her form. Her arms wrapped around our sister in a possessive and loving way. Kennedy seemed rather happy, but her vision kept flickering to our sibling.
I along with my sisters were very nervous. Sure, it was our sister, but even talks with her weren't always on the same page, and there was that strange affini. An affini that wasn't our caretaker that had taken Kennedy against her will and turned her into a pet. We couldn't trust her.
The eldest Maelstrom spoke first. "Oh. My. Stars. There really are three of you now, and you all look so adorable! The name's Melanie now, right?"
I opened my mouth to answer and nothing came out. What a great time to go nonverbal. I hoped my other siblings fared better but no words were spoken. I nodded as I could do that much.
"It's a great name and I'm so happy that you… three found yourselves. Sorry if I'm being awkward, I'm just not sure how to talk to all of you at once." She finally noticed we weren't exactly responding. "Are you three okay? Is this another one of your nonverbal things?"
We nodded and fiddled with our hands, including each other's. We had tablets in hand and typed up an, 'I'm sorry.' that we held up.
Our sister was more than understanding. She always had been when our parents very much weren't. "Melanie there's nothing to be sorry for, this is normal for you all. I'm sure your Mistress can give you something to fix it."
We quickly scrambled with our tablets but Calytrix corrected her for us. "I am not their Mistress little Kennedy. But you are correct. Girls, I have a class-W here that can give you your speech back if you want a chance to talk with your sister."
We shared a hesitant look. And began typing up our responses to each other's thoughts.
Kennedy asked. "Does she not normally just take xenodrugs?"
Kennedy's Mistress looked down. "Flower, not everyone feels the same way about them and as independent sophonts it's their choice."
"Yea but xenodrugs are awesome! Why wouldn't they like them?"
I hit send and my others sent the same message. 'Let Calytrix help you.' was sent three times in a private chat only we could see. The one of us closest to her then held up a note that just said help. A moment later we all felt something get injected into us.
It didn't really have a feel but supposedly it let us talk.
"H-Hi." Melanie meekly said to our sister.
Melanie and I followed her lead, also saying, "H-Hi." with little hand waves.
Kennedy's smile got nice and big. "See, aren't xenodrugs great? They can fix like every issue with them. Also, they're super fun!"
"-but it's a little scary."
Kennedy tilted her head in confusion, "What's scary about it? The affini know what they're doing. They'd never let anything bad happen to any of us. They love us so much! And I love my Mistress." She nuzzled the affini she was being held by.
I sort of winced. She was definitely different. I asked, "But you weren't like willing, right? Like she somehow made you a-a-"
"I mean sure I was confused and resistant, but I didn't know better! I'm so much happier now that I have Mistress. She took away all the bad stuff and now I'm just happy and loved all the time. I love being a floret and am so happy she turned me into a happy pet." Our older sister was just like the florets in the videos…
My identical sister argued, "But she like messed with your head, you're not s-supposed to be like that!"
"You were always so independent and stuff."
"She changed you…"
Kennedy looked mildly bothered, "Yea, but I needed it. Mistress knew what I needed even when I didn't. She took me as a scared hopeless medic forced into the navy where things were awful. I can't even remember how awful it was because Mistress took away the memories. They were hurting me. I'm happy now. There's no such thing as a free terran, just those that understand how great the affini are, and those that don't yet." Having to say those words seemed to lower her mood a bit, which… She was talking about like PTSD or something.
Her Mistress held her close and Kennedy's eyes flickered a bit before her smile came back. "Feeling better flower?"
She nodded vigorously, "Thank you Mistress I love you!"
"I love you too my darling Kennedy." The affini told her as she pet our sister who practically melted into the embrace.
The slightly more doped up Maelstrom girl then told us. "See Melanie? She can make me happy, and take the bad away. Just trust them they'll fix everything. Nothing bad can happen because I have my Mistress and that's all I need."
"So enough about that stuff, how have you been? I haven't seen you in years and now there's three of you! And you're girls too. Tell me everything." Kennedy just happily drifted her eyes between us, a mix of happy glazed and an attempt to be attentive.
"-I, we failed out of college-"
"-and like mom and dad sort of didn't want to deal with us-"
"-we moved into an apartment but-"
"-we were alone, and things were bad-"
"-our job was awful and we quit-"
"-and we were almost homeless-"
"-then we found a thing with the navy-"
"-and ended up locked up while they cloned us-"
"-we were stuck and uh had time to think-"
"-and discovered we weren't a guy-"
"-and then Calytrix saved us all and-"
"-now we're together but uh-"
"-we're not doing great…"
We pulled each other into side hugs. It was hard digging that stuff up again. Kennedy was here being all happy and possibly brainwashed, while we were free and miserable.
Calytrix put a firm vine on each of our shoulders. "But you're doing better, and you're getting help. You three are very strong to finally start accepting assistance."
"I wish I could get up and hug you three." Kennedy said from hundreds of light-years away. "I'm happy the affini are helping you all. Just let them help and things will be better. I know they will be. You're all my little siblings and you deserve to be happy."
We started crying happy tears. Everyone was so nice, too nice. They kept saying we deserved things. We ended up pulling on Calytrix's vines to hold and hug together. She took that as a sign to bundle us up in a proper affini hug.
Our big sister said to her Mistress, "Can we go visit them? I want to meet in person and hug them and stuff. Please Mistress."
"Of course, we can. You know I'd do anything for you." Kennedy's Affini said.
"Thank you so much Mistress! I love you!"
"I love you too, my beloved flower." She paused for a moment before looking at Calytrix, "Should we end the call for now?"
"I think the little ones want a moment to calm down before talking some more." Our big rainbow affini seemed to know what we wanted even when we couldn't say it. It wasn't fair how perfect she was. Just being so unconditionally kind. Seeing Kennedy with her Mistress really drove home how much the affini did for us even when we didn't know better.
Eventually we calmed down and switched to less heavy topics. That meant that Kennedy had to do all the talking because we weren't that social and we didn't have a lot of light topics. She just chatted away about little things that happened to her that made her happy. Her favorite things she found aboard the ship she was on. She also talked a lot about her drug trips and how much fun they were.
We were still in Calytrix's lap for the rest of the call. She gave us room to leave if we wanted, but it was more relaxing just to stay with her. Something about being against the affini was calming. Also, the warmth. It was hard to steal warmth in the hugs with my siblings being the same, but Calytrix was like the perfect temperature. Not too hot, but hot enough. She was also hot in another way…
"So, if you three aren't pets, why are you all wearing collars?" It was a question asked in innocence by the distant Maelstrom sister.
Obviously, we had to correct her. "They're chokers not collars, and we thought they looked cool."
Our eldest sibling raised an eyebrow and snorted a laugh. "Those are totally affini pet collars. Like same as mine." She tapped her own.
We looked at each other's chokers while blushing. They couldn't be pet collars, could they? One of my siblings turned to Calytrix, "A-Are these pet collars?"
Calytrix had such an amused look that gave the answer away. "You three told me you wanted them… I didn't want to ruin your fun. They do look great on you three." Kennedy was quick to agree that they looked good as did her Mistress.
I mean we knew that florets wore them but… "What's the difference between a choker and a collar?"
Our affini answered. "There is not a significant difference between the terms other than the connotations for the type of neck apparel. They are chokers, but when looking at them most will think only of the fact that they are pet collars."
"Oh…" My hand found my collar. Did I still want it? I didn't want to be thought of as a pet, but I did like wearing it. At this point my neck would feel naked without it. Besides my sisters, including my eldest one and also Calytrix all thought it looked great.
The rainbow affini switched the topic for us to food, and oh boy could the three of us talk about the food here. Kennedy seemed to understand too. Once you've had an affini cook for you… Accord food sucked and we didn't know how bad it was until the affini showed up. This was probably what food tasted like to our ancestors before centuries of optimizing flavor for cost efficiency happened. Maybe this stuff was even better. The affini were better at everything, why not food too?
The call did come to an end. It was nice, and the fact the holoprojector made it feel like she was here in the room with us made it a lot better. Even if we still had conflicted thoughts on the whole domestication thing, it was nice to see her happy. Happier than she had ever been when we knew her. It was like she said, her mistress could make her that happy.