Oscar Wu first noticed that something was amiss when he ran into some unknown user in his StarBattle LX instance.
It wasn’t too unusual, at first. The player, “lavinder2b”, seemed to be just another newbie. They were notably incompetent: the default-armor female scout snapping along paths of the beginner-area map in a low-latency sort of way, aim akilter, ignoring objective points, spinning around in perfect circles. It was enough to make Oscar laugh, and after watching the player die repeatedly to a single low-level mob for a few minutes, he made his move. The next time lavinder2b respawned, he holstered his bolt-action laser rifle and pulled them behind a piece of cover.
“Hey there, buddy,” he chuckled, ignoring the sounds of laser bolts striking at and above his position. “The crab-bots giving you trouble?”
The voice that responded sounded… strange. Some kind of voice modulator was definitely in use, but it was unmistakably feminine. He wasn’t surprised; there were plenty of people who used mods with female avatars to obscure their identity. He never considered it himself. Although some of his friends made fun of him for using a girl character, he didn’t think it was necessary to hide his voice like that.
The noob spun around one more time, before properly looking at Oscar. “Perhaps. What is it to you?”
The StarBattler did a friendly wave, then pointed to the badge floating above his nameplate. “The name’s MarsWarrior. I’m a bit of a local guide, you could say. Are you using a keyboard or VR? You look like your inputs are off.”
“My interface is… confusing to me, I’ll admit,” lavinder2b accepted. “But I am learning.”
Oscar grinned; players like these were his favorite. In a capitalist hellhole like the one they lived in, not enough compassion went around. Helping out the noobs was his little way of earning back karma, in his estimation.
“Yep,” he emoted with casual finger-guns. “You just have to get used to it. The transition to subjectivity sync is hard, but necessary if you want to take advantage of the more complex game mechanics.”
As if to demonstrate, he pulled a tactical las-knife from his belt and juggled it with one hand, before chucking it over the wall and out of sight. A few moments later, his character lit up with a gold aura, indicating he had secured a kill.
lavinder2b raised an eyebrow. “Impressive. Give me a few moments and I may be able to emulate your prowess.”
He chuckled, a little incredulous. Lavinder certainly had a dry sense of humor. Despite it obviously being a joke, it egged on his competitive side. “Heh. If you think that’s cool, you should watch this.”
With a bit of a heft, Oscar threw himself over the wall, drawing his rifle. Before the crab-bots could respond, he had struck three with precision headshots. A few more began to aggro in his direction, and he switched to his dual pistols, letting a torrent of lead pour from his guns. Rolling from the momentum of his jump, he snagged his las-knife from the ground and drove it into his final kill, leaving a trail of collapsed electronic crustaceans in his wake.
“Whew!” Oscar exhaled, then after a flourish, he stored his knife. “Like that. Maybe one day you’ll get there.”
lavinder2b approached apprehensively from behind their hiding spot. In her face he read a little admiration, and a little… disappointment? It was a complex emotion that Oscar couldn’t parse. “I see… The objective is to eliminate the little ones.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” the guide nodded. “You can’t gain experience unless you cut into them, and a lot of ‘em.”
The newbie seemed a little displeased, and Oscar sighed.
“I know, they’re really cute, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Can’t let the Crabommunist RoboUnion take over the Moon.”
“Indeed. Down with the RoboUnion,” the newbie replied, a soft smirk on her lips. “And I don’t suppose we’re fighting on behalf of ‘Phalanx Industries?’ Or is it the ‘Linden Corporation?’”
Oscar paused, a little confused, and then chuckled when he realized what was going on. “Oh, those company names on the sides of your display? They’re ads, silly.”
Perhaps she was some kind of offworlder, because the newbie looked quite baffled by this information. “Ah. Ads. Of course. Capitalism.”
“Yep… Capitalism.” The guide let out a bit of a resigned breath. “Sorry, buddy. The game had to make some changes when they went free-to-play. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to them eventually.”
The newbie hummed softly. “I see. Thank you, ‘MarsWarrior’, for showing me.”
Oscar waved a hand dismissively. “Think nothing of it. Do you want to join my party? You gain XP faster if you do.”
But before he had even finished his sentence, lavinder2b had disappeared. Oscar blinked, then checked the menu bar. The newbie had logged out.
He shook his head. What a bizarre interaction. Maybe she didn’t like what she saw. Perhaps she had just popped in to see what the hype was; StarBattle LX *did* just have a 2-day bullet-discount promotional weekend which brought a bunch of fresh blood to the scene. Oh well.
Assuming the newbie wasn’t about to return anytime soon, Oscar headed to the higher level areas to farm for a better rifle.
The next time that Oscar approached the Lunar map, he noticed something astonishing.
lavinder2b was standing by and around the crab-bots again, only this time, there was some kind of strange… area event? That was the only way Oscar could understand what he was seeing. The bots were sitting in a circle around the newbie, chittering but not making a single aggressive movement towards her. To her credit, she didn’t appear to be armed, either. Perhaps this was some unique, undocumented PvE content, a secret absent from the forums. Or maybe Phalanx had snuck an update to the game.
“Hey… you…” he approached, rifle held high. “What’s going on here?”
The default scout turned to face him. “Ah. ‘MarsWarrior’. It looks as though the RoboUnion are having some sort of meeting.”
As Oscar approached, the ‘bots turned and began to arm their weapons.
Then something really weird happened.
“Please do not, my little crustaceans,” the newbie whispered, and the mobs faltered. “I would not harm him. He was very kind to me when we first met, you see.”
One by one, the NPCs began to power down, and then turned back to face her.
Oscar lowered his rifle in disbelief.
“How on Earth…” he murmured; he’d never seen anything like this before. “Are… are you hacking?”
lavinder2b simply cocked her head. “Hacking? What does that mean, exactly?”
“I…” it took Oscar a moment to realize that lavinder sounded entirely genuine about her ignorance of the situation. “I’m not sure I understand, is all. I’ve been playing this game for thousands of hours, and I’ve never seen something like this before. This isn’t normal.”
lavinder2b’s avatar gazed into Oscar’s eyes. For a moment he felt like those eyes were looking through his setup directly at him… but that couldn’t be right. Either way, it was becoming really difficult to look anywhere that wasn’t at that shimmery emerald gaze. Something was beginning to drift… he was having trouble focusing on much at all.
“Isn’t it?” she spoke, and Oscar felt the words slip into his brain like a thief in the night. “They tell me gaming is all about having fun, and I have chosen to have fun my own way. Would you consider that hacking?”
Oscar let out a soft mumble. “No, no I don’t suppose that’s all that strange, then.”
lavinder2b giggled, and suddenly Oscar was back in his body, alert and awake. He shook himself a little, flexed his in-game fingers just to make sure everything was alright. He even pinched himself out-of-game, just to be sure.
“It’s nice to see you again, ‘MarsWarrior.’” the newbie said, still untroubled by the ring of crab-bots around her. “Is there a way we can meet again, other than serendipitously like this?”
Without much hesitation, Oscar pulled up his friends list. “I can add you here, and as long as you accept it you can see when I’m online.”
The newbie accepted his invite immediately.
“Thank you, little one.”
Little one. Now that was definitely weird. Oscar felt a rush of pleasure pulse through him; for some reason her saying those words felt good. For a moment he wondered if this should be setting off red flags somewhere, but whatever it might be was just not connecting in his head. That’s what she had called the crab-bots, after all. He shrugged, and then let out a yawn.
“Wow, heh.” He groaned as he stretched. “I’m feeling sorta tired… Maybe I’ll go to bed now. Got lots of work in the morning.”
lavinder2b smiled. “I suppose I must let you return to your livelihood for the moment. Rest well, ‘MarsWarrior.’”
That night, Oscar slept better than normal, although he wasn’t sure why.
After a week, Oscar had nearly forgotten about that strange experience. lavinder2b every now and then would reach out and send him a message, and he'd respond whenever he was available:
lavinder2b: Hello. :)
MarsWarrior: Hey. How's it going?
lavinder2b: Thank you for earlier. For explaining to me this curious game.
MarsWarrior: oh yeah it's no problem
As it turned out, lavinder2b was quite comfortable reaching out literally any time. He’d receive messages from her hourly: while he was playing casually, while going to order groceries, and while working his contract job with Muta™ Incorporated. He would even wake up in the morning to new messages, usually from lavinder2b’s replies or questions about random things. He didn't mind so much; most of his friends on the 'verse were not very talkative people, and it seemed like she really needed a companion. So… why not chat with her?
Oscar found out quickly that his interlocutor wasn't as socially adjusted as most folks. He figured she was from some isolated exocolony or something, the way she discussed parts of gaming culture as though it were some kind of foreign phenomenon.
lavinder2b: You seem to care greatly for this StarBattle 60 game.
MarsWarrior: haha how could you tell?
lavinder2b: 6,643 hours of gameplay would suggest so.
MarsWarrior: well, what's not to like? There's good character creation, great shooting mechanics, deep immersive lore, even the PVP is okay when matchmaking works properly
MarsWarrior: you know, the crab-bots didn't start as communists. They used to live happy lives as miners before being corrupted by the SoC back in StarBattle 44, which was a big turning point in the franchise. Some would argue for the worse, but w/e
MarsWarrior: obvs I'm a player guide for 60, but it's also a very important game for me to play when I go through it
lavinder2b: I see. And how often is that?
MarsWarrior: you do the math
MarsWarrior: before they put the ads on the sides of the screen the heads up display was quite solid, really. Minimalist and nice
MarsWarrior: miss how it used to be
lavinder2b: I can imagine that.
lavinder2b: I wish more of my people were aware of the intricacies of… the mutaverse, as you put it.
MarsWarrior: wish there was more to explain. A couple hundred years ago, some genius had the idea of moving business onto subjectivity projection hardware, and now we don't get to own real life homes anymore lol
On occasion, it even seemed like lavinder2b had never been on the 'verse before.
lavinder2b: this does not seem amusing to me. I would not be laughing out loud.
MarsWarrior: sorry, sarcasm might be hard to read over the ‘verse… heh
lavinder2b: I can read it quite fine. I just do not quite understand.
lavinder2b: You lol and lmao while talking about very tangible parts of your living experience which sound awful.
lavinder2b: Do all people like you laugh about the suffering you experience?
Messages like these often gave Oscar pause. He would often let out a hum, and then type up a thoughtful response.
MarsWarrior: guess it makes life a little easier, you know
MarsWarrior: not thinking about how trying to make money off of everything is slowly killing the gaming industry
MarsWarrior: sometimes I wish things were different, but theres so little one person can do, you know
lavinder2b: I see.
lavinder2b: Poor thing.
Messages like those often gave Oscar a soft shiver. Again, something that he couldn't place, but very clearly sounded like she was talking to him like he were some kind of dog or cat or shoalbird. How strange that she would occasionally talk down to him despite being so uninformed about the most basic of 'verse experiences.
lavinder2b: If you don't mind me asking, 'MarsWarrior', why do you play with female avatars?
lavinder2b: You've told me you are a man, and yet you frequently choose to represent yourself as something other than one.
Lavinder2b's question made Oscar reopen a topic he hadn't really thought about in a while. His current player model was a near-goddess in terms of visual presentation: stereotypically attractive, with socially acceptable muscle-tone, glowing hair and soft facial features. It was a far cry from his current body type, with just enough muscled build to play games in subjectivity sync. He never cared enough about his physical form to do much about it; the crushing despair of a 8-6 job meant it was easier not to think about all of the weird body stuff lurking underneath. Taking on a female avatar wasn't causing any problems, was it?
He decided to answer with half-truths.
MarsWarrior: well, it's mostly cuz it's just more fun to look in the mirror when I get a chance ;)
MarsWarrior: sorry, it's not that deep
MarsWarrior: I don't mean to be offensive or anything
lavinder2b: You could not offend me if you tried.
lavinder2b: I was merely curious. There are solutions if you are interested in modifying your body into something more palatable to you.
MarsWarrior: yeah, well it's also very expensive
MarsWarrior: and involves speaking to lots of doctors and therapists and things
MarsWarrior: which is expensive
MarsWarrior: sorry to get depressing
In any case, even lavinder2b's conversations with him weren't enough for Oscar to forget about the daily grind. State of the art gaming rigs of the 2500s were on the verge of achieving whole subjectivity sync, and Oscar was fully invested into his setup, so he was working overtime at Muta™ Incorporated to fund his operation. Really, it was the only thing he put his money into. He lived, worked, and breathed Subjective Sync. After a long shift, there was nothing he would rather do than crack open a cold one, hop onto his Muta™ pod, and game to his heart’s delight. The only thing coming close to penetrating his routine were those recent reports of extraterrestrial developments in the far sectors of Accordian space, but even that news was much less pressing than leaks about the latest StarBattle LX raid that was rumored to drop.
And so, he let this new aspect of his life fade into the background of things.
Then, one day, out of the blue, Oscar had received an invite from lavinder2b to join her in an instance somewhere. He was surprised when he saw the location she was in: the Cthulhu Macula in Pluto, the farthest edge of Sol. Endgame content. Unless she had been grinding non-stop — no, even if she did, there was no way she could even travel up there, let alone beat the bosses. Despite this notable discrepancy, Oscar decided the right thing to do was to load in. Maybe he’d be able to lend a hand if the new player was struggling.
Upon entering the instance, the first thing he had noticed was how quiet the hellmouth was. There was not a single other player in sight, and the normal patrol mobs were absent. Those should have been warning enough… but instead he became more intrigued.
He ventured in farther, and was greeted with level ambience and not much else. Challenging locations where he had repeatedly died were missing their usual threats: the crater filled with alien pods, which gave birth to terrifying mushroom critters that would swarm a player if they got too close; the crashed alien ship with the triple skulls; the weird ghostly apparitions in the graveyard appropriately titled “the Spectres of Communism”. They were all vacant.
The endpoint of the map was a great big altar, carved out of obsidian and placed at the end of a valley to mark the grave of the Pluto Drake, a nigh unbeatable final boss. Oscar went to investigate, and spotted his new friend there, seated at the base of the low-rise stairs which led to the final encounter room.
“ ‘MarsWarrior’, you must have received my summons,” she stood up with her default-skin scout, speaking in that strange, yet endearing oscillating voice.
Oscar nodded dumbly, glancing around the liminal space, still a little unsettled. “Uh. Yeah. What’s up with this instance? Seems like it’s bugged or something.”
“I believe I, in fact, removed all of the other critters from the room,” lavinder2b clarified.
There were two parts of that statement, spoken with total confidence, that bewildered Oscar: firstly, how? Secondly, he wasn’t about to ignore the fact he was being roped in as “a critter” in this offworlder’s eyes.
“Okay, but where are they?” Oscar asked, a little in disbelief.
His friend smiled. “As you said… I believe I am taking advantage of the more complex game mechanics.”
She snapped her fingers.
In the blink of an eye, a host of characters appeared on the staircase behind her. Every instanced mob, vendor, and item chest materialized at her beck and call, arranged by order of height from smallest to largest. Most of the characters were A or T-posing, but otherwise rendered fully. Even the massive Pluto Drake was present, frozen in a howling stance that Oscar recognized as the raid wipe animation.
He felt his mouth agape.
“What the fuck.”
So the ring of crab-bots wasn’t a fluke at all… Oscar couldn’t figure out what to make of it. He was starting to get rather nervous, too. Was lavinder2b some delinquent game dev? Did she hack the system and figure out how to take control? Even the vendors got moved, something which should be impossible given that they never changed positions on the map. Oscar flipped over to his menu bar and started to open the report form window; not to be a narc, obviously. But this definitely was a game-breaking glitch (probably some assetlibrary-call issue) that probably needed to be addressed.
“If you should find that feat cold, see what I do next.”
She snapped her fingers again, and suddenly, Oscar’s entire interface was gone. The report form, his menu bar, even the ads scrolling by the sides of his HUD poofed out of existence, as though they were never there to begin with.
His virtual keyboard disappeared in the middle of his typing, leaving him floundering his fingers in the air for a few moments before realizing what had happened.
“Uh. Uh uh uh…” Oscar trembled, and started to panic. This was bad. How the hell was he supposed to log out? Or change instances? What the fuck was going on?
“You needn’t worry about a thing, little one.”
There it was again, that nickname, that… that tingle. It shook Oscar to his core, and he shivered. What… what was going on? Why did that suddenly feel so good? As the newbie's gaze burrowed through him, he was finding it more and more difficult to string together words.
He grimaced, and made an attempt anyway. “B- but… I’m confused… This can’t… this isn’t real… how do you have this much control over the game?”
“It’s as real as you want it to be,” lavinder2b murmured, approaching him. “You can be anything you'd like to be, Oscar.”
His gut wrenched.
How had she gotten his name?
Something was wrong. He made a point to never share it on the 'verse. He managed to unholster his rifle and point it at the newbie. Even as he aimed down the sights, hissing a little, his eyes matched lavinder2b's, and that disorienting feeling crept over him.
“B-back off, lavinder. Whatever you’re doing… it’s… it’s creeping me out. Leave me alone.”
lavinder2b almost looked amused by his suggestion. “Whatever do you mean? This isn't a PvP zone, little one. You explained that to me well enough last night.”
She began to trudge her way towards him, and he suddenly wondered when she had gotten so tall.
“Drop the gun, Oscar.”
The instruction caused a wave of pleasure to wash over him, and with a gasp he let the weapon fall to the floor with a clatter.
Oscar found himself in a daze.
“What. What. Wh-”
Lavinder2b pressed the attack without hesitation, reaching around his back to pull him by the nape to her. “I had a hunch… but you were more transparent than I expected. Cute little seedling. Be still now.”
Oscar let out a soft moan, going slack and letting her arm carry his weight. He couldn’t even question what was happening — everything suddenly felt like walking on clouds, and his ears were stuffed with cotton. It all just felt so good to follow along with Lavinder2b’s suggestions.
“Why don't we play a little game, Oscar.” Lavinder2b proposed with a coo. “Playing with these non-sentient assets is quite disappointing, to be honest. I find you exponentially more interesting.”
“Of… of course…” he relented, too dazed to push back. “What kind of… game?”
She straightened up a little. “I want you to tell me a better name for yourself.”
Barely following what she was saying, words spilled from his lips. “I… I don't know… I'm bad at picking those… something soft… cute… nice… anything you want, really…”
“Ollie, then,” Lavinder2b declared. “How does that sound, little one?”
The name resonated deep into his mind, and he felt euphoric for a moment… he was Ollie? It was just so hard to think. Surely it was easier this way to just be called Ollie.
“Ollie sounds lovely,” he breathed. “Just for this game right?”
“Of course.” Lavinder2b's smile was almost infectious. ”Oh, Ollie, you have given me such a wealth of information, shared so much of your life with me. It's been endearing hearing your little informatic dumps, and truly, it is a privilege to gather your opinions on the Accord. And I believe I've decided something, little one.”
Ollie shook his head, unsure, trying to dispel the cloud of confusion stuck between his ears. “I… what? Decided what?”
Lavinder2b's avatar face moved in a way that seemed impossible, teeth twisting to sharpen into a frightening grin.
“You are to be my floret, Ollie.”
“A. A. What.” Suddenly something clicked in his brain, and he became lucid again. Floret. The aliens, the war the Accord just declared… lavinder2b couldn't be a —
“Hold that thought for now, little one, and drop for me.”
Ollie capitulated fully, and whatever momentum of thoughts dissipated before they could gather steam.
Something warped its way through his brain, rooted into the deepest corners and began to reverberate, a soft, warm pulsing like waves a pebble might make in a pond. All at once he was suspended from his mundane consciousness and left to the mercy of Lavinder2b's voice.
“Good girl. So receptive to my biorhythms, and so soon.” The player model in front of him was shifting, changing, but he couldn't care less. “Follow my instructions, and set them deep into your mind for me. Can you do this, little one?”
Ollie felt his mouth move. “Yes, Lavinder.”
The glitching character began to grow tendrils from their arms and back, and yet Ollie did not feel panicked in the slightest. “I'd like you to call me mistress from now on, little one. Say yes mistress.”
“Yes mistress.” Ollie replied with no hesitation.
“Good. Now… I'll be able to pay you a visit soon, so be good and take care of yourself while I make my way to you.” Sets of digital vines wrapped their way around each of Ollie's limbs until he found himself suspended. “Understand? Say yes mistress.”
“I think you’ll find that it will be very easy to discard any of the anxiety you feel about the abnormalities of this situation. In fact, your mind will be able to forget that any of this conditioning has taken place at all, even though it will be so easy to feel good and pliant in my presence. Say yes mistress.”
Ollie felt himself shudder in pleasure. It was like someone had placed his brain into a wonderful, soft warm bath, frying out his neurons in glows and steady streams that reached down to his fingers and toes. He tensed his body up, moaning and—
With a start, Oscar awoke.
“Gah!” Oscar kicked at his sheets.
He frantically glanced around, locating the source of the noise: it was just his work alarm going off. Grumpily, he disarmed his tablet, then tried to gather his memories. Clearly he was awake now, but just earlier…
He cast a glance at his VR rig across the room. The towering pod looked inactive, and he was clearly in bed, not playing anything. He checked his tablet, his messages and the news.
lavinder2b: Good morning. I hope you slept well. :)
Nothing suspicious. The sky wasn't falling. Oscar sighed.
What a strange dream.
He threw his sheets off, and sat at the foot of his bed as he attempted to figure out what had just happened. If it was a dream, it was the most realistic one he had experienced in a while.
A little alarmed by how vividly some parts of it stood out, he started to suspect the hardware. Dammit, he knew there were risks with subjective sync, but he wasn't sure how StarBattle had burrowed its way into his dreams like that. He especially was unsure why it had involved lavinder2b, and why it had been so… and…
He realized he was having trouble recalling much of anything in his sleep, beyond the weird unloaded segments of Cthulhu Macula. A single word did come through his tired mind, however, and made him blush. A subtle musk hung in the air, and he realized he might have made a mess of his sheets…
Checking his tablet again and realizing that he'd be late to log into work if he didn't get up, Oscar shrugged the dream off, and threw himself out of bed and into the shower.
The next few weeks, Oscar did quite poorly. Not only was he developing a complicated relationship with StarBattle, but a number of other incidents were starting to rub him the wrong way.
For starters, his employer, Muta™ Incorporated, recently put out a bulletin restricting travel off-planet, leaving tens of thousands of employees stranded. While normally it would be a bit of a bummer, news like this never got him particularly emotional; it wasn't like there was anything he could do about it. This time, though, he felt a sense of fury overcome him, if only for a moment.
How dare they mistreat me like this, after how long I've worked here!
That was the kind of attitude only radical communists had, though, so he dispelled it quickly before it could get out of hand.
Next, he found himself accidentally ordering premium food packs from the grocery center. It wasn't going to make much of a difference nutrient-wise, which was why he had picked the cheaper ones before… but now, for some reason, he was feeling more compelled to eat better. Although they were still pre-packaged, it was a noticeable shift in his diet. Unfortunately, this meant he had to keep offsetting purchases for rig upgrades…
Finally, in the mornings, he began to glance in the mirror ever so often. Usually he liked to avoid them at all costs, but now he was beginning to risk taking a peek here or there. Oddly enough… while most of the time, his usual pudgy reflection would greet him, on occasion, at a good angle, he thought he'd catch a curvy and soft outline. Still heavy-set, but sweet, lovely, and feminine. When he did, his heart would race and he'd gawk a little before the sun's rays shifted and the angle was lost, and a sense of anguish caused him to feel worse than when he began.
Despite all of these changes, Oscar still was gaming, in fact, more than normal. He loaded into missions by himself, or more frequently, with lavinder2b, who seemed to really enjoy his company. He enjoyed hers, too, so it was no big deal.
These days she often asked him to meet her in one of the few social areas of StarBattle, and he decided to go along with her requests. This time, they shared a booth in a small, oddly intimately rendered cafe, to share virtual drinks and chat.
“You know, they say there's this alien civilization called the Affini Compact… or something, out there,” Oscar noted today, taking a sip from a virtual coffee. “The Accord declared war on them, so the government is trying to evacuate the planet, even though Muta™ wants people to stay and work.”
“Is that so, Ollie?” lavinder2b murmured.
Whenever she called him by that name, it caused a rush of euphoria; today was no different. He tried to hide the sheepish expression which crossed his face.
She seemed to notice, regarding the StarBattler with a smirk, finger stirring her tea. “You love it when I call you that, don't you, Ollie?”
“You did forbid me from using my old one, mistress,” Ollie found himself whispering softly. That pulsating cadence in his brain that reminded him of her resumed, melting his thoughts further.
She grasped Ollie's hand firmly with hers, and the brain waves intensified. “That's my good girl. You're taking care of yourself, aren't you?”
He let out a soft moan and nodded. When they started meeting, he was initially quite bashful about his reaction to Lavinder2b's teasings, but lately he had given up worrying about making a scene in local proximity chat; there were fewer and fewer players around these days, and it seemed like hardly anyone even noticed the two of them when they were together. It was why he had been okay with Lavinder2b purchasing a soft, frilly dress for his character model too, one he had trouble taking off even when going into combat zones.
“Remember what I told you, little one,” Lavinder2b instructed. “Stay in your home for just a week longer. Can you do that for me, my floret?”
Once again, Ollie simply nodded. Why wouldn't he? He had nowhere to go. His gaming rig was here… his friends were on the 'verse. There was no need to move from where he was.
“Yes, mistress,” he replied, before a sneaky idea crossed his mind.
“I'll be a good boy for you.”
Lavinder2b let out a soft tsk. “Oh, Ollie. You know better by now. You're just a good little girl, right? A good, owned girl.”
She handled him by the nape, forcing him to look into her bright, emerald eyes. It was enough to make his eyes roll back and start to squeal. “A! Ah! A…”
“Do you know what Ollie is short for?” Lavinder2b chided, firm but affectionate. “Not for Oliver. Certainly not for Oscar. No. Your true name is Oleander, little one. There are no ambiguities. You're a cute floret with a cute feminine name, but I use Ollie because it's a lovely shorthand for such a well-behaved petal like you!”
Ollie's body shook and stirred with pleasure. Of course he was a well-behaved petal! He would do anything for his mistress.
This was a fun game they'd played frequently; he'd insist he was a boy, and she'd abruptly remind him just how cute and submissive he really was. It was more enjoyable than any raid content that he'd done, that was for sure. After a few moments, Ollie couldn't even think much at all, and Lavinder2b, would happily deposit him back into his seat.
“Repeat after me, Ollie. I'm a good owned floret girl.”
“I'm a good owned floret girl, mistress.”
“And what do good owned floret girls do, Ollie?”
“They do what Mistress tells them to do…” at this point the mantra had been drilled into Ollie's brain, priming him with a lovely jolt of lovely bliss.
“That's a good, owned pet. My good Ollie!~”
He cooed softly, mind already gone, muddied with pleasure. He loved being a mindless, obedient thing.
“Ollie, you've done so well for me, my cute petal.”
“Thank you mistress,” he murmured. “I only want to make you happy.”
Lavinder2b drew him into a big hug. “Of course, sweetie. You already do. And very soon, we'll both be so happy.”
“What do you mean by that…?” Ollie slurred, more focused on the physical attention he was receiving than anything else.
After holding the hug a little longer, Lavinder2b pulled back, a serene look in her emerald eyes.
“Oh… You'll see soon enough. Patience, my floret.”
After these sessions, Oscar felt rejuvenated, but it was hardly enough. These days he was starting to yearn for more… secretly, he was hoping he could meet lavinder2b face to face. She was a good friend and really, really good at StarBattle LX. He wasn't sure how she had surpassed him like this, but she had truly come into her own.
The days counted down. Oscar kept track, between his time at work and online. He also kept up with the news, and his worries began to mount. The Affini Compact were allegedly close to the system, and if they actually arrived, he might not ever get to see what Lavinder2b wanted to show him. It was all very disturbing… but, on some level, he trusted that the Accord navy would handle it, and shrugged it all off as an unlikely scenario.
There was no way they'd come to his planet. Nothing changed around here if Phalanx Industries had anything to say about it.
A week later, StarBattle LX went offline.
The official 'verse page showed that they were closed for maintenance, but Oscar checked every forum he could the morning he woke, and what he found contradicted those claims. According to insiders, the CEOs at Phalanx had ordered the game shut down. The core developers who maintained the game had all already left the system, due to “concerns of extra terrestrial origin.” No one was around to maintain it, so after hitting a few critical bugs, the servers went offline entirely.
He was devastated. This couldn't be happening. Not now, and especially not on the weekend, his only day off work. After thousands of hours, the company just let the game die? How would he get his cosmetics back? When would he next get a chance to loot from the Pluto Drake's weapon pool? Could he ever hang out with lavinder2b again?
Oscar checked his tablet. Lavinder2b had been offline since the last time they met up in-game. He didn’t even have anyone to vent to about this.
In a frustrated fit, he entered his VR pod and tried loading in anyway. The regular calibrations and sensors fired, but, as he expected, he was stuck on the menu screen. Repeated requests to load in were only resulting in failure codes.
Angry, betrayed, and maybe just a little sleep deprived, he gave his rig a good kick. A few glitches flashed across his headset, then a spinning symbol appeared. Oscar frowned, then waited patiently. After ten minutes, he decided to drag his blanket into the pod and throw it over himself as he waited. Maybe the servers were just really slow, and had gotten repaired by a good Samaritan.
Before he knew it, he had settled into a deep slumber, the flashes of activity on his headset hardly causing him to stir.
After some indeterminate amount of time, he finally started to hear distant explosions and gunfire. It was far enough away to resemble the game's ambient sound design that, for a moment, Oscar was sure he had accidentally loaded into a map instance. Blinking awake, he hefted himself up to gaming posture when he realized the loading screen was still up.
Putting the pieces together, he huffed, and went back asleep.
Stupid loading screen sfx.
In his dreams, he felt himself being lifted high, high in the air. It was almost like the experience of being jostled around in a flight sim. This went on for probably what felt like forever… which was also strange. Normally Oscar’s dreams had some form of progression. When that part of the dream resolved, there was a brief period of quiet, then a number of voices and murmurs surrounded him. After that, what sounded like rustling of leaves and branches went on for a few minutes, and finally, silence.
Oscar blinked his eyes awake. His body, although cushioned by the blanket underneath him, felt a little sore, like he had somehow been kicked around in his pod. Oh well. That was most likely the repercussions of falling asleep in a rather uncomfortable rig than anything else. The display on his rig had paused. The attempt at loading into the server had failed… again. Bummer.
He groaned, and did something of a stretch, when the reflective glint of a sleek pink device caught his eye.
He leaned forward to inspect the object on his pod’s dashboard: it was vaguely shaped like a headset visor, but with a cleaner and much more ergonomic design. How did it end up here…? He hovered his hand over it, before finally deciding to don the thing.
Surprisingly, it fit him quite well. He was a little astonished by how light it was; he could hardly tell he was even wearing it. There were a number of pinpoint lights which opened up, presumably to scan his irises, but they were far less intrusive than his rig’s. Then, without warning, a virtual render began, enveloping him and his senses. From the ground up, an instance loaded, and suddenly…
He was on Luna again, on StarBattle LX’s opening map.
Oscar blinked, then glanced around.
What the hell…?
He looked down at his hands and feet. He wasn’t in his avatar. It was just his body. Even the pod had somehow gotten rendered into the game. He stepped out of his old rig to wander the instance further.
He could feel the crunch of moonsoil on his feet as he walked, and the heat of Sol’s glare from above. It was so realistic that, for a moment, he questioned his capacity to breathe on a moon with no atmosphere. Eventually Oscar shook the thought from his mind; StarBattlers were capable of breathing in space because of their abilities, and no VR designer would actually want their players to suffocate. Apart from that, this simulation was almost life-like. Incredible.
He started to make his way down the hill, to the starting area where the crab-bots spawned. This time, though, the bots seemed… friendly, just like that first time he had run into lavinder2b. Instead of flaring their glowing red eyes and angry pinchers, they seemed to frolic about this way and that. When they noticed him approaching, they cleared a path for him, unbothered.
“Uh… weird…” he muttered. “Thanks, I guess.”
The crab-bots beeped in a cheery cacophony before scampering away.
Weird. Is this how lavinder2b managed to keep them friendly? This some kind of developer tool?
A sweet, almost sickly smell wafted through the air, giving him pause. No VR system was strong enough to provide olfactory feedback like this. What level of technology was this visor on?
Following the scent, he continued marching onwards, hoping to figure out where it led. He sifted through all of the possible options; perhaps it was the original Apollo base? Or maybe the secret boss in Cavern 40? Or was it the one moon vendor everyone had trouble finding?
The answer to that question was… none of those.
Instead, as he rounded the corner of a broken down fortification, his eyes fell upon an emerald gaze, and was overcome by a cleansing thrumming that drilled into his eardrums and made his jaw go slack.
“Oh. Ollie. You’re finally awake.”
Oscar stared. “Lavinder?”
He recognized the soft, oscillating voice, but the person standing in front of him who spoke… wasn’t a person at all. Instead, the best he could describe what towered above him was a soft bundle of branches and stems that made up the contours of a lithe female human. Soft velvety flowers crowned the top of a head composed of those sharp eyes and a thorn-filled smile. That sweet scent exuding from her soft lips compelled Oscar to approach, even as his confusion only worsened.
“I see you’ve found the custom interface I manufactured for you,” she continued.
He shook his head, trying to dislodge the strange rhythms falling against his eardrums. “What… what's going on…?”
The aliens over the news were described as large plant people, weren't they? This was what an Affini must look like! How strange for Phalanx Industries to get them into their game so quickly. Oscar supposed that state-sponsored anti-alien content was bound to happen sooner or later.
lavinder2b simply responded with a soft gesture to join her. “You're here with me, now, Ollie.”
He hesitated, even as a burst of pleasure came from that name they used together. After loading into the game in his real form, he felt more vulnerable. “Of course I'm here. I was hoping to run into you.”
“Of course you were. I made you that way, didn't I?”
Oscar shuddered, even as the scent grew stronger. He had to squirm his foot against Luna's soil to stop himself from approaching her. What did she mean by that?
“Thats… that's real funny, lavinder,” he chuckled nervously. “How did you get that player model? Is it some kind of beta for the expansion?”
Lavinder2b threw her head back with a hearty laugh, an act which intimidated Oscar greatly. Then, she lifted a leg, and strolled forth, her stride meeting the human in only a few steps. The stomps disturbed the ground around him, sending dirt into the air. It felt all too real, like she could step on him and squish him underfoot if she wanted. His gut panged, and the primal feeling caused him to scramble backwards.
“lavinder2b, what are you doing??” he shouted. “Please… I don't know if I'm supposed to see this so soon. What's going on?”
He fell onto his back, causing a cloud of regolith dust to erupt around him. Now supine, he still struggled to get away.
“Let’s dispel some of these illusions, why don’t we?”
Vines extended from lavinder2b's model, reaching directly for his eyes. He gasped as the visor was torn from his head. That shouldn't be possible! What—
The world of Luna fell away, ambience disrupted, tactile sensations terminated. Oscar let out a shocked gasp as VR dissonance vertigo overtook him. Closing his eyes in fright, he braced himself onto the ground and put his hands over his ears.
After sitting in a fetal position for half a minute, his dizziness began to calm. He started to open himself up… the ground he was laying on suddenly felt soft… so soft. That sweet scent proliferating the air began to tease him, as if to say…
[Open your eyes, little one.]
He finally flickered his eyelids open.
Oscar's room was no longer in sight.
That wasn't right. He closed his eyes. Opened them again.
The ground was lush with soft moss growing between stable and comfortable wooden limbs which composed a walkway which wound this way and that. Soft vines climbed the walls and wrapped themselves over the borders of windows up high.
He shook his head. Opened his eyes again.
A trellis stood in front of what appeared to be the exit door, the visual presence of which made Oscar realize how considerably high the ceiling was.
He put his hands in front of him, waving as if to try and relieve himself of a dream. The empty air in front of his eyes was enough to tell him: this was real. A gentle breeze blew through the room, leaving his skin cool to the touch. A few chimes hung from the trellis jostled, causing them to softly and gently peal. He glanced back around to where Lavinder stood; a large loveseat sat in the center of the room, and cordoned off in the corner… Oscar’s VR pod, unplugged and running on battery power.
“Wha… where am I?” he murmured in bewilderment. “I’m… I must be in some other game, right?”
Lavinder simply gestured around the room, pink visor in hand. “You are in an affini-designed habitat, crafted precisely for a sophont like you. As someone who spends much of their time gaming, I made sure to transport your recreational device here when we extracted you from your old hab. I can guarantee you that this living space is at least ten degrees more adequate for daily living, by our standards.”
Finally, neurons tapped together and produced a coherent, frightening thought for Oscar.
The Affini were real. And not only that, Lavinder2b was one of them!! Not only THAT, but he had been abducted in his sleep, only to be dropped in some… fucked up, communist hab! His skin ran cold, his hands felt slick with sweat.
Shit. Fuck. Oh FUCK.
Now he understood what was going on, why lavinder2b had been acting so suspicious this whole time! What was he supposed to do with this information? He was supposed to run, right? Shit, wasn’t he supposed to have evacuated? If only Muta™ hadn’t restricted travel for their employees, he’d have escaped by now. Now they were going to capture him and use him for evil experiments, or eat him, or… worse!
He glanced his way towards the door. Maybe if he just snuck through without her noticing…
“Well, Ollie… what do you think?” the plant lady pressed. She gazed at him hopefully, expectantly. It was a strange but welcome reaction. Perhaps these aliens were capable of empathy.
Well… the Affini were clearly quite capable at abducting humans, but could they stand up to the sharp mind of a gamer? Ollie fidgeted with his hands and prepared a wordy defense.
He covered his mouth. That wasn’t right. He opened his mouth to try again.
“Mistress please don’t eat me.”
That was better? Blood rushed to his cheeks. Why did he say it like that?
The plant lady let out a soft chuckle. “And why would I want to eat my perfectly good floret, Ollie?”
Oscar’s eyes rolled up and he felt a whimper leave his mouth.
“N-no! I'm not a floret!…” he stammered, getting up onto his feet.
An indignant, flustered expression entered his face before it was dispelled by even more confusion. “Wait… what even is a floret…?”
Lavinder smiled. “In a human word, 'pet.'”
Oscar blinked. This couldn’t be real. He was going to be some alien's pet? No way.
“You’re joking. I’m going to close my eyes… And then wake up, and this will all be gone…”
“Oh, sweetie…” before Oscar could even turn to leave, Lavinder pressed a soft vine against the nape of his neck, coaxing another moan from him.
“Could your video games let you feel this?”
“Nnngh~” he instinctually relaxed. He recognized the sensation, just like their sessions in StarBattle. This time, the texture of the vine wasn’t just simulated, but tactile and sinuous. It coaxed him to relax, draining his strength and willpower further.
He wasn’t about to give up just yet, though. He knew from the broadcasts. The Affini were sneaky. Stealthy! They were experts at lying… and he had to try to stop whatever devious plans they had for him!
“You tricked me, mistress,” he accused, blushing furiously from the attention. “I was tricked… I was tricked!”
Lavinder’s emerald eyes bored into him, her scent flooding forth. “Only a little. You don’t seem to mind it much, though, Ollie.”
Oscar let out another moan; he was having trouble perceiving anything other than the affini's domineering presence. “Aaa! I… I’m not. I’m not just some domesticable animal! I’m a person! I’m a person!”
With his last insistence, he managed to throw himself against the mossy floor, away from the vine teasing his neck.
“Is that so?” the affini teased.
Oscar nodded grumpily, feet kicking wildly, fists in the air. “I am! I’m a human, I’m independent, and I’m a boy!”
“Oh… my.” Lavinder’s viney lips curled into a wretched grin. “You want to play our little game again?”
Oscar froze. What did she mean by that?
“Perhaps you need a reminder, then.”
The affini got down on a knee, until her face was only inches from Oscar’s.
“What do good owned floret girls do, Oleander?”
Ollie’s mind crumpled like a house of cards.
Bliss rushed forward — the pulsing in his head intensified — any pretense of resistance shattered. The word poured from him before he could stop himself.
“They do what Mistress tells them to dooo~”
Ollie couldn’t think. He gasped, reached for any grasp of sentience. Then Lavinder pressed her lips up against Ollie’s, and he lost his train of thought again.
“MMMFFFFFF!” Ollie squeaked, muffled by her love.
When their lips parted, his whole body burned with desire. A wave of complicated feelings raced into the darkness of his mind, pushing against it. He couldn't be a girl. That was impossible; it'd cost too much money, and how would he even know if that was what he really wanted?
He vociferously retorted. “I can't be… no no n ono …. I'm a boy— ah!”
He felt himself being lifted into the air, ankles first.
“Your desires have been held under lock and key for too long, little floret.” Lavinder commanded. “Banish all thoughts of returning to your old life. You no longer need to comply with such trivialities.”
Ollie felt something in her mind slip; she desperately tried holding on even though she couldn’t even tell what had changed. It was becoming impossible to stand her ground, mentally or physically. Vines whipped by her body, until she was completely subsumed by them. Tiny streaks and stains marked her as they strained against her skin, only further enveloping her in pleasure.
“Aaaaaaa~ noooo~ wha— wha… noooooooo~” Ollie squeaked and writhed.
Even as bliss threatened to take over her entirely, a dark logic, hidden away deep in her mind, reared its ugly head. She strained to look down at her body, and sorrow rushed through her as what she saw just didn’t compute with who Mistress said she was. This was the one thing she had left; her one little bastion of resistance. Even in all of this lust, she voiced her final independent thought.
“If I were a good girl, I would have… I would look…”
Ollie caught a rather dangerous glare from Lavinder, and then the vines tightened further, causing her to gasp out whatever air was left in her lungs.
One of Lavinder’s bodily vines folded in on themselves, then reached forward with what appeared to be a particularly sharp thorn. “As your owner, it is my job to take care of you now. You have already informed me of the suffering you experienced at the hands of the Terran Accord. As your elder, it is my responsibility to uplift you from your malnourished state. You will be a good girl, because I will make you that way.”
Those words hung off Ollie's ears and dragged her fully down into abyssal pleasure.
She wanted nothing more — than to let Lavinder take control over her, over her body, her needs, her independence. That dark cloud burst, and Ollie began to cry in front of her mistress.
“Lavinder! I'm so sorry! OH my stars — stars, oh stars please!”
The affini spoke sternly, holding her taut. “You must promise to be a good obedient floret, Ollie. Can you do that for me?”
The girl nodded rapidly, tears running down her eyes. “Yes mistress~!”
Lavinder embraced Ollie fully, vines undulating, working and worming their way around her until she felt safe and sound. Ollie cried out of loss — her home, which she could never return to. She cried out of promise — something unexpectedly new and beautiful thrust onto her. She cried out begging Lavinder to prove this wasn't a dream. And the affini responded by holding her even tighter, tenderly, stroking her cheek and whispering through the vines that insulated her chokes and sobs from the world.
After Ollie felt ready to continue, Lavinder lowered her to the ground, bracing her against the mossy floor. “Lay still, my good girl. I’ll need you to sign off on this little document. Just a cute signature.”
Ollie took up the quill and paper without a second thought. There was a lot of writing that formed strange phrases she had never read before — “full bodily autonomy”, “custody and stewardship of sentience,” “entitled to bountiful access to enrichment and recreational activities” — but none of these mattered. What mattered was pleasing her mistress, Lavinder Tifolia, 2nd Bloom, as the papers kept reminding her.
“Write Oleander Tifolia, First Floret, right on the line marked here, here and here.”
In a flash, she had the paperwork filled out. She proudly handed the document right back to Lavinder, no issues. Hopefully her handwriting was neat enough. The affini checked the sheet, then reached down to pet the girl with an open palm.
Ollie felt her everything tingle, and those brain waves intensified. “Aaaaa!”
“Now, still just a moment longer. There’s something I must do that will make both of us very happy sophonts, Ollie.”
She started repeating her mantra. It was the natural thing to do.
“A good girl does what she’s told, a good girl does what she’s told, a good girl… nnnnghhh~”
The human let out a soft sigh as she felt a pinprick against her thigh.
“And a good girl gets what she deserves, doesn’t she.”
The pinching, poking sensation disrupted her trance, but only for a moment. She dropped her gaze downwards. Lavinder’s thorn pierced her skin and was beginning to pump a cool, softly burning fluid into her body. Full of trust in her mistress, Ollie turned upwards a gaze full of wonder, rapt admiration and pride.
In only a few moments, Ollie’s anxiety about her body dropped away until only true bliss remained.
3 Months Later… (CW: EROTIC)
The announcement of StarBattle: Finale excited Ollie to no end, and when the launch date arrived, she hopped into her pod straight away. Although the new release didn’t disappoint, she did have some strange experiences.
It wasn’t unusual, at first. Entering an instance of the beginner map, Luna, Ollie was happy to note that the guide badge next to her nameplate was still visible. It was only until she had scrutinized a little closer that the <NPC> tag floated just below everything else. Hmm. Day One experiences were full of bugs, so perhaps that wasn’t the biggest issue.
Most of the cosmetics appeared to port quite successfully, but Ollie couldn’t seem to find any weapons in her inventory. That was to be expected; StarBattle: Finale had advertised itself as a sort of “deconstruction” of the series, and she was quite anxious to see what that might mean. Since apparently there was no fighting (at least this early in the game), she chose to don a cute little dress from the guide rewards, an <EXOTIC> floral outfit with a unique cosmetic effect that released small petals here and there when she walked. She left trails of them as she traveled between resource nodes, gathering little bits of mooncrystal as she went.
The first entities she came across were the crab-bots, who gathered around her eagerly for pets and kisses. And Ollie made sure to kiss each and every one, and offer the crystals she had gathered for them to feast on. And in return, the crab-bots chittered and waved their claws around cutely, and a small XP bar on the side of her screen began to increase. So far, the gameplay was incredible.
“Hey! Guide! I think my game is broken.”
Ollie turned. Another player had shown up!
“What can I help you with?” she smiled sweetly; it was important to be nice to the incoming playerbase.
The StarBattler, a muscly looking dude decked out with some pretty fancy end-game raid gear from the last iteration, glanced around confusedly before returning to face her.
“What’s, uh… what’s the deal with this new release? When do we get our weapons? And what’s with your outfit?”
Ollie shrugged. She was just as new as everyone else… but she answered as honestly as she could, checking her quest log. “I’m not sure, actually. Seems like there’s a number of diplomacy missions for us to undertake. The Luna war must have drawn down to a close. My guess is that our goal is to help repair the damages from the last few decades of conflict.”
The player seemed a little confused, and then his expression changed as he scanned Ollie’s nameplate. “Oh. I see. Well, uh, thanks, ‘Ollie the Floret’.”
She smiled. “Of course!”
With that interaction over, the player went off somewhere over a dune, and Ollie returned to feeding the crab-bots. She knew there were more groups of them scattered throughout the moon, and they all deserved to be treated with tenderness and care.
She was making her rounds to the Caverns when another strange event occurred. Proximity chat picked up a group of players in the caves, sounding like they were whispering something conspiratorial. Intrigued, she slowly made her way over to them.
“...tried every area. No guns. Only this weird diplomacy mechanic. The NPC guides are useless too. They don’t know shit.”
Another voice piped up. “Lore-wise, it’s like there was some kind of time-skip since the last game. Phalanx Industries must have been paid tons of money to incorporate the war into all of this.”
“Maybe?” a third soft alto contributed. “It’s weird, though… this doesn’t seem like a game that follows Accord propaganda at all.”
None of these words meant much to Ollie, who at this point felt like it was necessary to try and join the discussion. She crawled past the cavern opening and waved friendly and kind.
“Hello, every sophont!” she grinned. “I’m here to help if you need assistance with things.”
The group of players shut up. As she approached, she could tell now that there were roughly half a dozen here, huddled in a corner and sharing apprehensive looks. One of them made a “zip” sort of motion across their face, and everyone else nodded. Then the player approached cautiously, an act that confused Ollie greatly. She noted their nameplate read “Matt_FTL.”
“Ollie, huh?” the player spoke, sounding rather inquisitive.
The floret smiled. “That’s my name! How’s the game treating you so far, FTLer?”
“Hold on…” Matt’s confusion became more palpable. “You recognize my clan?”
Ollie nodded rapidly. “Of course I do! You placed 3rd during the raid race in LVIII. I remember watching the stream; you all did a great job!”
At that, Matt let out a sigh of relief. “Oh, goodness. She’s one of us, guys.”
The crowd of players all noticeably relaxed, some of them chatting amongst themselves more loosely. Ollie was grateful that her fanatical knowledge of the StarBattle fandom was paying off.
“So, Ollie, I’m trying to figure something out here and I’m wondering if you can help us…” Matt spoke carefully. “Clearly you’re labeled as an NPC, so we can’t be too careful, you know? I’m familiar with Phalanx’s history of selling user data.”
Ollie understood Matt’s apprehension, and tried to calm him to the best of her ability. “I understand. I will say that Phalanx clearly has turned over a new leaf the last few months, but institutional knowledge has staying power. What can I do for ya?”
“Well, firstly,” Matt asked, “you’re labeled as a floret. That’s uh. That’s the word the Affini Compact uses to describe pets, right?”
Ollie put a finger on her chin. She supposed that was true, wasn’t it? She looked back up at her nameplate. A collar symbol had appeared around her badge, as if to indicate the nature of her relationship.
“That’s correct!” Ollie finally answered. “I’m a floret to my lovely owner, Lavinder Tifolia, Second Bloom.”
Once again, a murmur broke out between the party. Someone tapped along their keyboard and then interjected with a confused yell.
“I looked up Ollie’s account history. They’re MarsWarrior!”
The party exploded into commentary.
“Holy shit, MarsWarrior? Is that you?” “That’s impossible. That can’t be him.” “Bro, they got him a fuckin’ moderator position in the game!”
“MarsWarrior…?” Ollie caught a look from Matt’s face, one of possible recognition. “Wait, is that you, ______?”
Ollie shook her head, partly out of confusion, partly out of annoyance. He had clearly just said some other name to refer to her, but whatever it is, she couldn’t hear it.
“I don’t think so,” she replied as cheerily as she could. “I’m Ollie!”
Despite her best efforts, a look of disgust overcame Matt. “No. No, it can’t be. _____. The damn weeds must have gotten you, didn’t they?”
The changes towards hostility caused Ollie to frown. Even though she didn’t quite understand what he was saying, she stood her ground.
“What do you mean, Matt?” she murmured. Did he… know her from outside of the game?
Matt_FTL turned back to his group. “The Affini are in control of Phalanx Industries. It’s their propaganda tool now. There’s no other explanation. We need to leave.”
The crowd murmured in agreement, when another voice entered the air.
“The log-out button isn’t working!”
In only a few moments, the crowd went from suspicious to excited to outright panicked.
“_____? What happened?” “What’s going on?” “Talk to me _____, please.”
The floret was starting to get quite distressed. Why was everyone so upset? Why were they using _____ to refer to her? She didn’t sign up for this!
“Mistress! Mistress help!” she called out to the open air. “Please! We have some sophonts who need assistance!”
[“And assistance they shall receive.”]
A massive beam dropped down from the sky, flooding the caves with light and casting frightening shadows against the walls. When the beam faded, all that remained was Lavinder2b, dressed in a regal, embellished purple dress. The massive nameplate floating next to her head carried two major notes:
“Hello, all of you humans,” the affini announced.
The crowd fell silent.
Ollie's heart became giddy, and her eyelids suddenly felt heavy.
“I've seen enough.”
With a blissful sigh, she let her body go slack as Lavinder2b’s vines wrapped them in a domineering embrace. She could hardly pay attention to the others anymore; her gaze was entirely dedicated to her mistress, staring in rapt attention as she delivered her monologue.
“You cute feral Terrans must understand that Ollie is quite happy where she is. She is mine, and she will never return to the Accord. The rest of you have been, by Ollie's goodwill, given an opportunity to enjoy the perfected sequel of her favorite game. This new release gives you a chance to experience the joys of domestication before we arrive into your system proper.”
Lavinder snapped her fingers, and half a dozen pillars of light emerged from above. They were soon replaced by six figures; affini by Ollie's estimation.
“One for each of you. Play nice now, and please… enjoy.”
A vine caressed Ollie's head to Lavinder's bosom, and then the two were enveloped by a pillar of light themselves. Although she could barely understand what was happening, Ollie caught screams and cries for help from beyond.
Those quickly faded as the two of them vanished from the instance.
Ollie’s mind stirred as she snuggled in the warm embrace of her mistress, both sharing the loveseat of her hab. There was something… strange about how the StarBattle: Finale launch experience had been. Players seemed agitated… confused. More than anything, though, she wondered why her nameplate in-game was so… unorthodox. And not to mention, that _____ name they were calling her, something she couldn't hear. There were a whole host of mysteries to unravel, and as a player guide, it was her job to communicate with the dev team about possible issues.
Lavinder, who had been casually petting Ollie with a bright violet flower, turned her head to face her. “Yes, Ollie? What's the matter?”
Ollie bit her lip. “I… I was just wondering. On the release day I was listed as an NPC, mistress. Even though I'm obviously a player.”
“Perceptive little one,” Lavinder pecked her floret softly on the forehead, causing Ollie to squeak. “That's right. You were indeed listed as a Non Player Character. Would you like to know why?”
The pet slowly nodded, and she saw Lavinder's grin grow, taking on a sinister look she hadn't seen in a while. It made Ollie's gut start to tingle.
With a flurry of vines, Lavinder pulled forth her leaf-slate to show Ollie. Most of the characters scrolling by the screen were indecipherable, but on occasion Terran text came through.
“You are an NPC for the same reason I am an Admin. A “boss”, as some like to call it. I am there to put an end to the independent, feralist behavior of our new playerbase, understand?” Lavinder pressed her slate towards Ollie, as if it would explain anything.
The floret shook her head. “But… if that's the case… why am I…”
Even before she could finish that sentence, an epiphany dawned on her.
She let out a soft groan as pleasure mounted. Her eyes began to go unfocused even as the reality of the situation began to work its way into her mind.
“You're starting to get it, little one,” Lavinder chuckled softly, putting the slate away.
Ollie choked and strained against the bliss creeping through her, the horror of her revelation sinking in fully. “I… but I…”
“Did the little floret think she was still a player? Oh, poor thing.” Lavinder flashed her sharp teeth. “Players need independent thinking to play a game, and you're not very independent, are you?”
The floret moaned. “Wait… but… I. I am! I am independent…”
“!!!” Ollie felt herself cum as her full name was spoken. With a cry, she strained against the vines now writhing against her, until she entered a familiar daze.
“You're owned, little one. You're the most owned thing I've ever laid my eyes on.” Lavinder dragged Ollie's eyes to face her own. “You're an instrument of my desires, free to be used however I please. You're a sweet little NPC so every sophont who gazes on your behavior will fall head over heels, because you're too adorably submissive for them not to. You're doing so many prospective pets a whole lot of favors, don't you think?"
Emerald flooded the pet's vision. Ollie came again.
"W-wait, but I—" she frantically scrambled for words, but couldn't think straight.
"Oh, are you remembering what you used to be? Who you used to be? Remembering how much I shaped and warped your mind until you begged to be put back, to be of use to me?"
"But! But I—"
" 'But I' what, little one? Your purpose is at my feet, serving my needs. You can't help but want to help. You wanted this. And now you're getting exactly what you deserve."
Lavinder continued, bearing her gaze down on the little one maliciously and lovingly. “Did you remember… when you used to say you were a boy? About when you used to go by the name _____? You can't even recognize it anymore, can you? Together, we made you forget.”
Her mistress's words whipped Ollie into a frenzy. She was remembering more and more — she looked down at her body, frightened of what she might see, and — oh, stars.
She had curves! Beautiful hips. Supple breasts, soft kissable thighs. She moaned again, and realized how melodic and wondrous her voice had become. Her mind was beginning to fracture from the euphoria; how long had it been? Only a few months?? This couldn't be possible. And yet… the proof was in the way Lavinder's vines raced over her hills and valleys, the sensitive aura around her skin burgeoning and cresting with each touch, the whiny gasps coerced from her lips.
“Your body has been molded to this form by your obedience, little one, but this achievement hardly compares to what you've just done.” the affini refused to let up. “Obediently, you helped me put together this new iteration of StarBattle. You helped me identify the leaders of Phalanx Industries, and you personally gave me insight into the lore of this game. You were the one who even suggested we distribute this to platforms across Accord space.”
Ollie, terrified, began to flail, kick and scream, only to be held down again by her owner. This wasn't true! She couldn't have betrayed humanity like this… she wouldn't have…
And yet, as she felt herself getting more worked up, the memories flooded back to her. Happily giving up information about Phalanx to her mistress. Chatting about wanting to be in an MMO again. Talking about being an NPC so everyone could know just how owned she was…!
Ollie shook in orgasm again as revelation after revelation left shockwaves rippling through her.
“You did this, my floret. This is your masterwork, your total display of obedience. For total submission means more than giving up just yourself. It means becoming my asset, my gain, my victory to be earned over and over, doesn't it?” Lavinder teased Ollie's soft member with a vine. “Fittingly, you even wanted me to trick you, to play with your memories, like this, so you could enjoy being dragged back to my power again and again and again.”
“Wh-why?” the pet gasped out.
“Because,” Lavinder simply spoke, “you're what humans call a pervert, Ollie. Now, break for me.”
The affini pressed her vine deep into her floret.
Fragments of thoughts flittered about.
She was independent! — no, she was a good floret — no! How could she — no! Totally owned!
With each pitiful attempt at resisting, she broke herself even more.
This was wrong, why did she like this so much this feeling this feeling — totally cornered, lost in ecstasy — yes yes please mistress — I'm betraying everyone mistress — please let me warn them mistress — they all deserve to be domesticated just like me—
Eventually, Ollie stopped thinking.
!— no! No no no — yes yes yes mistress please mistress please I'm not independent I couldn't be anymore please don't let me be independent I don't want to be independent please domesticate I'll be a good girl I'll be such a good girl!
The pet came again.
“What do good owned floret girls do, Oleander?”
Ollie heaved for breaths. “They do what they're told! They do what they're told!!!”
The floret felt Lavinder's lips against hers, and she sighed, over and over again, wrestling, demanding, wanting more, until her entire body ached.
“Drop for me.”
A deep, dark peace enveloped Ollie.
She let herself sink into that familiar feeling.
All senses dissipated from her mind.
There, she floated.
There, she was safe.
“Feel yourself sinking deep, deep, deep into my soft embrace.”
She followed the voice's instructions.
“Relax your body into mine.”
Tension released from her body.
“You did so good for me, little one.”
She basked in oblivion.
“I'm going to bring you back up, now, with a dose of drugs to keep you relaxed but awake. When you feel a pinch on your thigh, feel yourself becoming more alert. Are you ready?”
There was a spot of pain which briefly radiated from her leg, and Ollie blinked her eyes open.
Her mistress was gazing down at her with a mixture of admiration and anticipation, and a smile blossomed over Ollie's face.
“Welcome home, little one.”
Supine, the floret's vision swam just a little. She giggled weakly. “M… mistress… wow… you… you really broke me again.”
“Yes, dear. Indeed I have.” Lavinder kissed Ollie sweetly. “And I'll continue to do so for as long as feels good to you, petal.”
Lavinder's soft and pleasant smile was on full display. Ollie felt her everything relax. It was her owner's sign that an intense play scene like that was over… that the floret had just ridden on a wonderful ride and was back on Earth. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The waves lapping at her consciousness softened until only a dull and comfortable beat remained.
She was safe. She was fine.
“You did so well for me. Magnificent… ” Lavinder beamed with pride. “you truly are the most delightful of pets.”
An affectionate coo left the floret's mouth, and the two snuggled together in their loveseat. Aftercare was her favorite activity; after having so many memories returned to her at once, she needed the recovery time, and Lavinder was an expert at giving her exactly what she needed to process, to cope, to massage and heal. This time, her vines kneaded at Ollie's feet and upper back, forcing knots to loosen until the pet was left drooling.
After a bit of relaxation, Ollie finally opened her mouth to speak.
“Lavinder… mistress… I feel so lucky to be yours.”
The affini chuckled. “I should be so fortunate. Who else could have come up with such a lovely way of reaching out to our new prospective pets?”
Ollie blushed. “I want to help… any way I can. I was just surprised that we turned it into a scene for me too. No one would go this far to please a pet under the Accord.”
Brushing her floret's hair, Lavinder grinned.
“You are under the protection of the Compact now, and sweet little things like you deserve it. Not to mention that this benefits all of us, don't you think? You derive such pleasure from being treated this way, and we only stand to gain from it. After all, who else can be our player guide but sophonts like you, Ollie?”
She smiled. It was true.
Nobody knew StarBattle as well as she did. No one knew how to talk to feralist nerds the way she did. After all of the joys she had experienced under the Affini, it was totally unreasonable to not want to show the others. They would understand too, once they saw. And even if they didn't, It would only be a matter of time before she had new friends to play games with together anyway, all under the watchful care of the Compact. She knew this. After months of conditioning, witnessing, and rebelling, the truth was laid bare. Obedience was the only way forward.
“Anything for the Compact,” she murmured. “Anything for my mistress.”
Lavinder smiled, and the two shared a hug.
“That's my good girl.”
As they sat together, Ollie grew excited for the days to come. She had a lot of work ahead of herself as a player guide, but she was ready for it.
“Together, nothing will stop us.”