Chapter 3: The First Clue

by Doeposting

Tags: #cw:noncon #accidental_conditioning #caregiving #Human_Domestication_Guide #initial_self_destructive_drug_use #mindbreak #nonverbal #actually_I've_decided_this_involves #because_furry #bondage #deer #does_this_count_as_bimbofication? #dom:female #f/f #humiliation #hypnosis #scifi #sub:female

(In which Doeposting realizes how much she loves fantasizing about communal spaces and mutualistic/naturalistic architecture)

Today is gonna be a double feature! Two chapters in a row, to make up for being gone for a hot sec.

It took about fifteen minutes for backup to arrive, longer than Laria had expected. She had been wondering what was taking them so long until she recognized the face of Belseth Lix, Sixth Bloom, peering from the viewport of the hover transport which had arrived to secure the Terran patrol group.

Laria gave a respectful nod to her superior. That Belseth had personally arrived to oversee the group the scout subdued made her fungal pods quiver nervously. Lix was no small name in the field of human domestication; she had just come out of a brief retirement and was now heading advance operations all across Cervina II. 

"Xylon!" The veteran addressed the scout with an irreproachable mirth. Although her silhouette through the violet drug fog casted a menacing illusion, Belseth's jovial demeanor quickly cleared all ambiguities about her. Today she decided to don a pair of oversized sun visors, her fashionable human attire of the day; she flipped them up with a viny finger to reveal a set of friendly glowing red eyes, and flashed a confident smile. Laria gave a brief salute in response.

"Your work here is impeccable,” Belseth observed warmly, kneeling over a fallen terran and prodding it with a vine. “No collateral… not a superfluous injury upon any sophont. I'm envious."

Laria smiled anxiously. "Thank you, ma’am. I just did what any scout would have done."

The elder affini picked up a laser weapon, sticking her eyes down the barrel with an aloof curiosity. "Are you injured? We've received reports of these quaint devices causing problems for affini up and down the sector." 

The scout shook her head.

"No ma'am. I am healthy and ready for further instructions." 

With an approving hum, Belseth set aside the weapon. Her gaze moved towards the scout’s Observer, and raised an eyebrow. "Was this one with the others?"

Laria looked down at the sophont sleeping in her lap; they had only been sitting together in the scout ship for about ten minutes. The comfortable seat must have been enough for Kiki to decide a nap was a good idea.

"No, ma'am," Laria answered truthfully. "I found this sophont in one of their intelligence hives. Her name is Kiki. She seems partially domesticated already, and I intend to bring her to the embassy for further investigation."

An inquisitive look crossed Belseth’s face as she returned her attention to the pacified terrans on the ground. "Partially domesticated, you say? I was about to ask if you had taken a pet, Laria."

"Me?" The scout blushed a little. "Not while still operating on-site, ma'am. I discovered her in the middle of the Terran base. With your permission I would like to probe Kiki's whereabouts further, and perhaps identify her owner."

The veteran was already piling the unconscious members of the Terran patrol group into her vehicle. "What a mystery! Permission granted. Laria, you have a sharp mind. If anyone on our team can resolve this issue, it would be you. Just make sure to keep me in the loop."

"Thank you ma'am!" The scout exclaimed, perhaps a little too excitedly. “I will, ma’am.”

"Please," Belseth flipped her sun visor back down as she powered her transport up, flashing a toothy grin, "call me Bea."

With a soft shimmering noise, the transport cruiser took off. It was enough to make Kiki stir, lazily kicking a leg as she yawned. Laria attended to her, caressing Kiki with her leaves and coaxing soft baas out of her. As her superior sped off into the night sky, the affini was secretly glad the circumstances surrounding Kiki were so strange. After all, it was giving her an excuse to spend more time around such a cute floret.

"Hey, little one," Laria whispered to the pet. "Ready to fly?"

Kiki's mostly closed eyes widened, and she nodded.

Not ready! Not ready!

“Naa! Naaaa!” she quivered fearfully at the speed by which the ground sped past. 

“Kiki, are you alright?” Kiki withdrew further into the Laria’s body as the sights began to overwhelm her. The comfort of Laria’s body was slowly drawing the fear out of her… but it was still a lot.

Kiki shivered in response. “Mlem…” 

“It won’t be long, sweet. Feel free to take in the sights if you’d like. It’s a beautiful canyon we’re passing over.”

The Laria was right, as always. The ridges that marked the geological history brimmed with vibrant colors. Kiki had always liked that part of the planet. It was cute! With a cute flowing stream and little crackles drawn out in the earth like crooked smiles… wait, those weren’t little… they were far away!

The more Kiki watched, the more she was drawn into a focused curiosity, hypnotized by the passing sights. She stopped shivering. Something stirred in her mind for a moment, registering this was something profoundly strange, and she planted her face against the windshield to observe more closely. 

…How was this even possible? They were soaring past the speed of sound, but there was no disruption to the flow of the ship or its movements– it simply passed through the sound barrier as though there was no interruption whatsoever. Kiki tried thinking about all of the other vehicles she had been in. Rockets and hovercraft were one thing, but… something like this… it was far more advanced than anything she had ever seen before…

Kiki’s train of thought derailed, brain going fuzzy. Her vision flew into a blur, and she started panicking again.

“Naaa! Naaaaa!”

The Laria extended a vine to pull Kiki away from the window, and the pet snuggled deeper into the plant lady’s lap. A soft leaf caressed her head and she felt her heart rate calm once more.

“Perhaps being drugged up this much and looking out the viewport isn’t the best idea for you right now, little one…”

Kiki nodded… and just like that, the viewport went opaque, and suddenly she no longer could witness much of anything. Her vertigo dissipated almost entirely, although she knew instinctively that she was still in the air. The flying was smooth but it certainly didn’t feel like sitting on the ground.

“Don’t you worry. The craft can navigate to the embassy without my help. Here… just relax.”

A few vines once more wrapped around her, and although it was easy to follow the Laria’s instructions, Kiki felt something lingering at the back of her mind. There was something strange going on with her, but she couldn’t place a finger on it. Maybe if she—

—Laria’s leaf entered Kiki’s vision. It was a fuzzy leaf, one of the first ones Kiki had ever been petted by. 

She followed her instincts and put it in her mouth.

“Nnnnnn~” a sense of overwhelming joy surged through her again as she wrapped her lips around the greenery. For a moment Kiki basked in a giddy thoughtlessness.

“There you go. Seems you really like putting things in your jaws, don’t you, little one?”

Kiki’s eyes dilated as she bleated affirmatively, and began to gnaw.

“...huh. I hope your owner has a sturdy stem graft for you to chew on.”

The pet had stopped registering anything the Laria had said by this point. Instead, she spent the rest of the trip hyperfocusing on the texture of the leaf, suckling until she fell back into a thoughtless and satisfied stupor.

When they finally landed, Kiki was ecstatic. She pawed at the cockpit window, begging to be let out with soft cries. As the dome around the vehicle lifted, the evening air rushing into her nostrils, a torrent of energy built up into her chest. Kiki leapt from the scout ship!

“Careful now, dear.”

A series of vines caught Kiki and gently lessened her fall, before releasing her to the ground. She landed, all fours, onto the reception deck. She was touching floor! It was back! The earth that loved her so very much… this wonderful, wonderful source of stability and goodness.

“Don’t run off too fast now…”

The landing pad had a doorway, a big one. Maybe that was the way out! To outside. Kiki loved the idea of being outside. Without hesitation she charged through the exit to the deck, ignoring the confusion of the plant lady at the kiosk she had barely registered—

And skidded to a halt, stunned.

She hadn’t ended up outside. Not quite.

It was the size that stopped her in her tracks. The word “hall” would be the best way to describe it, but what took up her view was a grand panorama of grace and beauty, spanning the length of a large park. The curved canopy above, spackled with luminescent lapis orbs, vast skylights and vined latticework, was a cathedral’s height away. The pillars and walls which held the ceiling up exuded sturdiness and elegance of design, striped patterns and brilliant ochres which evoked the natural landscape of Cervina II. The aisles and windows between the supporting walls allowed moonlight and gusts of calm, warm summer air to flow uninterrupted. She found herself standing on a floor, a raised gallery which snaked around the outer perimeter of the hall. On this path alone there already were small houses and shacks, kiosks and tables, community spaces, and what looked like shops… and dozens… no, hundreds of plant people milling about. 

That wasn’t all. From this floor descended six grand staircases and dozens of elevators. Kiki stepped towards a landing to get a better look at the space below, and the view took her breath away. 

The lower floor was filled with what resembled a nature conservation. Breathtaking arches, imposing buttes, sheer cliffs and gentle hills alike gave the impression that the embassy was simply accomodating a beautiful stretch of land, rather than attempting to erect itself on top. Hardy looking trees still dotted the area, undisturbed. Roads and paths of soft sienna weaved through the park organically. Ornate benches and fountains lined the routes. And most notably, platforms and observation decks had been constructed with respect to the landscape, almost blending a little too well. As she looked closer Kiki realized that there were people down there too, sitting under clay rooftops and relaxing upon oversized but imminently climbable furniture… clearly built for the plant peoples in mind first. In fact, everything was built on a scale beyond what Kiki had ever seen before.

“Ah. The embassy. Still under construction. Lots of work to be done here. This way, little one.”

Kiki was snapped out of her reverie by a bundle of vines which pulled her up and into the air. She let out a surprised yelp, and before she knew it, she was back into the harness arrangement that Laria had made for her. Being so high up made Kiki even more aware of how large the place was, only now… she could admire the vast density of the space. It wasn’t just tall… it was populated! So many plant peoples! So many people going about their evening business, chatting idly or relaxing. She even could spot humans like her! So many… humans… like her…

Activity bristled at the back of her mind. Most of them were on leashes, being led by their owners from one place to another. Some were being carried just like her, looking quite content in the arms of their keepers. Dozens of them, just in this grand corridor. She felt herself blushing. How envious she was. They all looked so happy with their owners… blissed, yawning, giggling, soft faces, all content with their lot.

For some reason it disturbed her, and a sadness began to enter her mind. It was just that… 

Well, there were so many owners.

How was she supposed to figure out which one was hers?

After apologizing to the kiosk affini and going through basic check-in procedures, Laria followed the pet into the embassy. It brought her some pleasure to see Kiki enjoying herself, but it simply wouldn’t do to leave her unattended. With a heft, she wrapped her vines intimately around the human as before and set the sophont upon her shoulders. After the first time, she found it profoundly easy to configure her vines to the contours of Kiki's body. She felt guilty for a moment; this might have been someone else's pet, and here she was remembering Kiki's shape the way a proper mistress might…

She refocused. Back to the task at hand. She needed to find the Embassy Medical Centre.

And so the affini began making her way over. Every now and again Laria would check upon Kiki, who generally appeared wide-eyed and confused, even shy. Despite being social creatures, the terrans of the Accord had somehow managed to build societies which alienated many of their own kind. Laria postulated that Kiki was perhaps uniquely poorly socialized. Was she some kind of loner before she was domesticated? 

I can relate, little one. 

They passed the Xenopropaganda studio, the most Terran looking building in the area. Its appearance had been considerably softened with an Affini touch to make it visually palatable, since they regularly filmed for broadcasts both inside and outside the studio. Laria recalled a cringeworthy memory of being on set for an interview once, and hastened her pace.

"Mmrrrr?" Kiki made a curious trill, sounding like she had noticed Laria's discomfort.

Laria sighed, and gently patted the pet. "Nothing for you to worry your little head about."

Eventually, they found themselves in front of the medical centre, greeted by an open entrance of vine and clay. Here, Affini architecture had prioritized easy cleaning and sterilization of surfaces so any medical procedure had little chance of being compromised, so the tiling and the textures of the walls inside were quite clean and sterile to contrast with the rugged, more naturalistic exterior. 

Laria approached the front desk, though due to her relative shortness as an affini, her head barely poked over the lip. A copper colored nameplate read "MEIPLE ZOSSIX, 1st BLOOM. SHE/HER". Just above, soft auburn tendrils speckled with ash colored bark tapped away at a console keyboard, and further up, the youthful face of the receptionist strained with a rapt concentration. Her hair was "cut short" as it were, a carpet of feathery looking seeds crowning her which made for a cute bob. It was the kind of aesthetic Laria had trouble taking her eyes off of, but it was rude to stare, so…

The scout glanced away, and muttered. "Um… hello, ma’am."

"How may I help—" the receptionist began to speak, then glanced up from her console. For a moment she seemed bewildered, taking a beat to look around before finally spotting Laria at height with the desk. "Oh! My apologies. Silly me."

Meiple’s head shook as she let out a ditzy giggle, and a few of those feathered seeds twirled down from her scalp. As Laria watched them drift to the ground, she noticed the floor around the desk was sprinkled with the receptionist’s “hair”, and plenty more swept up and piled into a waste bin nearby.

"Sorry, you seem a little distracted. I don't mean to bother…" she clarified, hoping her short stature wasn't causing too many problems.

The receptionist waved her arms apologetically. "No no no! I shouldn't have been… well, so busy. Um. What can I do for you and your pet today?"

Laria balked, and her blush intensified. "Hah! Well uh. You see. Kiki here actually isn't mine."

An expression of curiosity donned Meiple's youthful face.

"Is that so? But she's so cute!"

The scout glanced over at Kiki, who was chewing cutely upon one of her vines again. Meiple was right. It couldn't be helped. 

"Indeed…" Laria let out a disappointed breath. "My name is Laria Xylon, Fourth Bloom. I'm a scout for this domestication project, and during one of my sorties, I found Kiki… well… in this state."

It was becoming clear very quickly from Meiple's mixture of adoration and restrained befuddlement towards the pet that Laria's explanation wasn't helping. The poor bloom probably didn't need to hear all of the details, so Laria hastened her conversation along. " any case, we're looking for her owner."

"Well… the Office of Domestic Administration is around the corner," Meiple chirped helpfully. "But I'm guessing you want help with procuring some antidotes, right?"

Laria nodded. "Correct. Something to off ramp these Class-Js in her body so we can get her more coherent."

The desk worker paused, taking a moment to process Laria's request. For a moment the scout was worried she had said something wrong.

"Did you say Class-Js?" Meiple asked for confirmation.

Laria stole another look at Kiki, whose eyes were partially glazed over. "Yes. This looks like a classic case of Class-J induced mental haze. Kiki's attention span is shot, and she also can't speak more than her name, so…"

"Well, it's just that…" Meiple scratched her head, then rapidly typed at the console. "...we haven't brought any Class-J drugs into this system. Not yet on record at least. And beyond that, Kiki doesn't seem to have a chest implant to administer drugs of that caliber consistently and effectively…"

Laria paused. She hadn't even thought about whether the human had been implanted or not. For the first time, she decided to slide her vines under Kiki's shirt to check. The pet grumbled but allowed the affini clearance, and the scout worked thoroughly, sweeping limbs across her body before finally reaching an incontrovertible, confounding conclusion.

“Oh. Dirt…”

Meiple was right.

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