Hendrik began to wake, usually, this would be the second she broke through the fog in an instant, got up, and started the day. This morning that was just not possible, firstly was the practical reason of being in a cocoon of vines that only gave her a little space to move. Secondly was the fact that she was just content to stay right here, she was safe, she was drowsy, and she was comfortable. Instead, she snuggled further into a particular soft pair of vines and just drifted half asleep.
There was a soft melody or rhythm all around her, she felt her breathing follow it instinctually. It sounded familiar like the background noise of an AC or engine, but it was far more beautiful and captivating. She allowed the rhythm to lull her back into sleep.
When she woke for the second time her ingrained instincts beat her primal ones and she pushed herself awake. She knocked her head against the top of the cocoon, it would have hurt had it not been made out a soft moss covering.
The top of the cocoon began to unfurl “are you awake little one?” Mertha’s voice was close and very soothing. The cocoon was folding to become more of a platform, letting Hendrik groggily observe her surroundings. Hendrik was quite close to Mertha, the cocoon was inside a larger bell-shaped form of vines. The vines retracted the cocoon was pushed upwards, in a moment she was back in Mertha’s arms.
Hendrik realized she still hadn’t answered the question “only partially……I feel like I have slept for ages.” her sentence broken apart by a long-satisfied yawn. Looking at her warden she decided to inspect her again.
Mertha was very beautiful, her long dress of vines, colored by the white and yellow flowers. Her arms were slender and elegant, same as her face that now had a playful smile covering her lips. Hendrik was at a miss for why she had never realized how magnificent the affini were as creatures, and Mertha was certainly the most magnificent.
Her train of thought was derailed as a hand started to pet her head gently but firmly “I’m truly lucky to have such an adorable ward, such a good girl." Hendrik was too groggy and distracted to properly process the compliments and instead decided to lean into Mertha’s hand. This earned her more words of affection and head pats.
Displaying the mercilessness of the universe, her bliss was soon removed and she was put on the floor. Mertha began to lightly guide her towards the kitchen. Mertha sounded more confident than in a long time “after you have eaten and washed, I think that we were going to walk to the nearest park. While you need rest you also need some exercise.” Hendrik felt no need to argue with Mertha and just ate the wonderful noodle soup she was provided.
While Mertha helped her clean, she took note of the length of her hair. It had grown out while she was out for so long and had grown even more the last 4 days.
It was halfway to reaching her shoulders. She remembered when she had grown it out last. A lack of care had grown into a conscious choice and pride. It had reached the top of her back when Shivar had made her cut it. when she remembered Shivar she remembered her dream, only flickers of images and sentences. It hurt.
Mertha grabbed her face, and their eyes met “no silly thoughts now.” The memories of the dream slipped a bit further away.
Her new gown was frilly, pink, and flowing. Hendrik looked up at an amused Mertha “is this the only option, it is a bit…” she did not have the proper words to fully describe it.
Mertha lifted up the gown and held it in front of her “it is very cute, yes. I saw it on my pad yesterday and figured it would look wonderful on this adorable girl I know." When had Mertha become so relentless? Hendrik had to hide her blush with her hand.
There was no victory to be found here “ok, ok! I’ll wear it…just never tell anyone." She reluctantly put it on, yeah it was definitely very cute. She looked at herself and felt that warmth in her chest once again. It was strange to look at herself and feel anything but repressed emotions. When she managed to drag her eyes away from the dress she saw that Mertha was using the data pad to record her.
Mertha was beaming “did you think I would not record this precious moment? Perhaps I should print it out and frame it? yes! that sounds like a wonderful idea." Mertha was purposely ignoring her protests.
She looked down from the device playfully “I just said I wouldn’t tell anyone, not showing it off was never part of the agreement." Hendrik looked at the affini in amazement, such a devious plot had she not expected from Mertha.
After surviving the endless stream of playful humiliation that was the morning they left the hab. Down the elevator and unto the empty street. They walked in another direction this time, towards the center of the ship.
Hendrik felt far stronger than when they had left for the vet. She was still a bit slow, this allowed her to study the design of the area. The size of the structures was impressive, and the practical but unique formation of each building was a delightful quirk. Mertha walked close “admiring our technology little one?” she was teasing her again.
At least now she could shoot back “not at all Mertha, I was studying your architecture. Technology does little to impress me, it just requires stability, time, and luck. Give humanity as much time as the affini and we would have something similar." To Hendrik's delight, Mertha was made a bit speechless before she regained her footing.
Mertha made sure to slow down a bit “that is quite the arrogant suggestion, little one.”
Hendrik shrugged “Not that we will ever figure out, now will we? Perhaps for the best." They walked in silence for a bit. There was a strange melancholy to the fact that humanity would never again be in charge of its own destiny. Hendrik had never believed in the self-determination that the more moderate rebel admirals had focused so much on. The accord had been good enough at making sure no one had self-determination for that to be something they had lost to the affini.
She began to run out of breath, her body was far from accustomed to sustained movement. She looked at Mertha “I think perhap-” her sentence was cut short as Mertha picked her up in her vines and cradled her in her arms.
Mertha’s voice was straight but tinged with self-directed frustration “I should have known it would be too far, don’t worry. We can see the park later, for now, you deserve a treat." Mertha walked a bit further until they encountered one of the cafés that were open. It had a nice rustic design with a lot of woodwork decorations. It was positioned so that one could see the whole intersection, most of the other cafés and restaurants were empty.
Mertha sat her down on a tall cushy chair made for humans and sat down on the accompanying affini chair on the other side of the round table. Only a few seconds later a human woman walked up to them.
She was wearing a long and colorful dress, though more revealing than what Hendrik had on. Around her neck was a light red collar with a name tag hanging from a metal ring. She had a large and welcoming smile on her face, her eyes were slightly unfocused.
The floret addressed Mertha “hello! Very nice to meet you! There have been too few visors latterly, so we hope we can make you something wonderful! What would you like?” the girl was almost over-enthusiastic. The fact that she ignored Hendrik was a bit irritating, though she was still catching her breath from walking for just 15 minutes so perhaps it was a blessing.
Henrik had seen on the sign before they entered that they had waffles with ice cream, and she did not have the energy to be adventurous. Mertha answered, “I will have some lemonade."
The girl turned to Henrik “and your flor- you…I…um…em…” the girl's eyes went wide. She stepped back as she attempted to finish her sentence, the floret looked ready to run.
This hurt “just bring me some ice cream, nothing else is needed." With those words, the floret backpedaled more before turning and walking as fast as possible away.
Mertha looked completely befuddled “what was that?” Hendrik sighed, of course, this was how things would go. Just because Mertha and perhaps Serla were friendly did not mean that humans shared the same view.
She cleared her throat “that was fear, the natural reaction to seeing someone with my reputation." Before that sign of power might have pleased her but now it just felt hollow and bitter.
Mertha sounded heartbroken “oh I’m so sorry. This was all a mistake, we can leave now." Hearing Mertha beat herself up over it made her regret explaining it.
She grabbed Mertha’s hand “I was hoping we could stay. it was nice to get some movement and see the spacecraft. You said I deserved a treat so I hope you’re not going back on your promise….though you should probably get it from her directly. That girl has had enough fright for one day." Seeing Mertha smile again was all she needed to know she had made the right decision.
As Mertha went to get their order Hendrik looked around a bit deflated. It’s better to be feared than loved was an ancient saying and one she had followed for the most part. She wondered how many people still feared that she would harm them even as she was stuck far away in orbit.
Hendrik suddenly spotted something scarlet. It was only a flash of a second before the color rounded the corner. Her heart skipped a beat, could it be? No, that was impossible…Nora was safely on Centhia.
Nora…another she had made fear her. Her memory of the talk with the affini in the office was messy but she clearly remembered the look on Nora’s face. Hopefully, the bodyguard was far away, far away from where Hendrik could exploit or hurt her further.
Hendrik was so lost in her own mind that she didn’t notice when Mertha came back “here you go, my adorable ward…are you okay?” Mertha sat down the ice cream and the ridiculously large glass of lemonade, she must have noticed her expression. Mertha grabbed Henrik’s hand “don’t worry, I explained it all to the girl. She was quite sorry for her reaction."
Hendrik's first reaction was that the girl was probably sorry to avoid reprisal. She did not feel a need to explain it to Mertha who was now looking slightly happier, though still concerned. Instead, she gave her the most convincing smile she managed and ate some ice cream, she was getting better at the whole smiling thing.
When they were done with their meals Hendrik allowed herself to be picked up by Mertha. She was placed in the soft cradle with the thin-plant sheet like during their last outing. Just as they left she saw the girl give them a cautious wave from behind the counter.
Mertha made sure that she was secure before moving “just relax and we will soon be home. I have prepared the tools you will need to learn affini, but you will need to relax first." Hendrik's body was in complete agreement with Mertha, and she allowed herself to rest in the comforting vines.
While she was secured quite nicely she still noticed when Mertha stopped. There were a few noises from the data pad and then Mertha bristled. Not in amusement or joy but in frustration and…anger. After a bit more time the noise from the data pad stopped “nothing to worry about dear. I’ll explain once we get home." Mertha had a certain edge in her tone, but it was not directed at Hendrik.
When they got back into the hab, Henrik was released from the vines and deposited on the couch. Mertha was looking at the data pad and sent a few more messages. Her warden sighed “I have been called to help with some administrative work. Serla is coming over to pe-…take care of you. I won’t be back by the time you should be asleep but will be here in the morning. Do you think you’ll be okay?”
Hendrik understood that Mertha was far from pleased, the least she could do was put up a brave front. She smiled “don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’m not that fragile." She hoped that was true, she felt more fragile with each day that passed.
Mertha gave her a few head pats “that’s my good girl. You’ll find the affini learning tool on your data pad, try to behave.” And with that Mertha left the hab, and Hendrik was alone once gain.
The silence was almost deafening, she needed something to do. She went and picked up her data pad, with no one to oversee her this would be a good time to hunt for some more intel. If someone like Mertha was coscripted to help manage the occupation then perhaps the affini were more overstretched than previously assumed. The empty nature of the Agraria also pointed in this direction.
At first, she had assumed they might just lack the personnel to complete their occupation and instate their utopia. Perhaps the truth was far more in her favor. Once again she thought back to her plans. She was no further in any of them, all she had done was recover, something that was important. But it was not very productive.
Her encoded documents might prove to be a great bargaining chip. The intel on those would surely help the affini with their occupation. At the same time if they could read them then she would doubtlessly be domesticated. If she could offer to translate the information in bulk, a large enough mass of documents and the affini would have no idea what translation belonged to what document.
Mertha would never allow for that, the workload alone would be prohibitive for her careful warden. Maybe she could get into contact with the admiral of the ship, they were the executive governing body for the affini. That could prove difficult, she had a name but no address and doubted she could make it to them in her condition.
Her planning was interrupted as the hab door opened. Serla walked in, no alarm bell? For a moment she and the affini locked gazes. Serla broke the gaze and sat down in one of the comfy chairs “Mertha told me you might have fallen asleep, good to see that you are recovering well. So, who will I be taking care of today, Hendrik or the President?” There was a challenge in Serla’s voice.
Hendrik was not feeling up for riddles “explain." Serla let her vines extend across the carpets and made herself comfortable.
The affini shook her head “you truly are an interesting specimen. You manage to shift from being soft and lovely to cold and closed off. Sometimes I wonder if the person Mertha describes and the person I meet is the same, at least the picture proved that a soft side exists.” Serla had gotten the picture and was using it to taunt her.
The phycologist would never stop unless she explained “around Mertha my thoughts just work…differently. Less planning and calculation and more…other stuff. She makes me feel safe and cared for, perhaps how I behave in front of you says more about you than me.” The last part was perhaps a bit too far, but she would not back down from the affini challenge.
The affini looked amused “so what you are saying is that you enjoy being taken care of and doted on? Have you considered what I said? I still hold to it, you would make an excellent floret." Another challenge, she would have to tread carefully.
This one was easily dismissed “of course I have considered it…. I mean I have read about it. give up my political and personal rights? No thank you....You and Mertha are very different affini." This seemed to leave Serla a bit perplexed, one point to her.
The affini analyzed her again, Hendrik stared right back “we are different in a lot of ways, what are you referring to?” Now she needed to follow it up, knock the affini down a pace or two.
This was fun “well you seem to have little consideration for my independence and are constantly trying to push me to be a pet. Mertha on the other hand respects my wishes, even when I told her I would like to be domesticated she did nothing. I doubt you would have done the same.”
The chair almost tipped over as the affini fell backward before Serla managed to push herself forward “you said what?!” Oh fuck, that had perhaps not been the best thing to share.
This was Humiliating “I was not in a right state of mind, Mertha understood that." Serla was bristling and shaking with barely suppressed laughter. One point to the plant.
While Henrik tried to ignore Serla, she found herself wanting to ask a question. Serla was perhaps an endless tease and wanted to domesticate her, but she was also serious and more importantly honest enough. Serla calmed down quite quickly as she saw the face she was making.
Hendrik was almost happy without knowing the answer, but she needed to know. The words felt difficult “you and Mertha are quite close….would you say she has been harmed by…all this?” She waved her hand in a general motion pointing towards herself.
It took a bit for Serla to answer “Before all this, as you put it? She was a free thinker, excited by anything and anyone,..” ..Hendrik was holding her back, using her “..she was also directionless, easy to discourage, unsure about her place in the Compact, and frankly speaking, a bit lost."That didn’t track…
Hendrik did not have time to fully understand before Serla continued. Serla was clear and calm “after beginning to take care of you she has begun to trust herself, she has determination and I have never seen her more fulfilled. You are making her happy, you are not hurting her in any way.”
Henrik sat in silence for a bit. It was good to hear. Serla would not lie about how her friend was being treated. There was still some doubt, she just hoped Serla was right.
She felt the affini analyze her again with those large metallic eyes “what is this about?” For a second Hendrik contemplated not answering but that would get her nowhere. Maybe Serla would tell Mertha, best if that didn’t happen.
Calm breaths “I just had to make sure that I was not using or harming her. She told me that I didn’t, but Mertha is nice enough to not notice it, just like….” Nora…she had been on her mind ever since the cafe, and honestly as soon as the first day awake.
Serla pried deeper “just like who? Please finish”. She was far too deep, why was it always this way with Serla?
The words were heavy like stone “…Nora...my bodyguard on Centhia… She was my closest confidant and the person I trusted the most. I realized after the… ‘incident’ that I have…been using her. I put her at greater and greater risk…just to sate my ambition. I even had her sister as a practical hostage on terra." Her breathing was becoming shallow, she had begun to cry again.
Serla shook her head “that is quite the different story from what she tells. She told me that you rescued both her and her sister from that deplorable medical system. That you allowed her to peruse art, vacation, and education. Things she had never been able to dream of having." In retrospect, Hendrik realized that was all just manipulation, positive reinforcement to make Nora loyal.
She had to correct it “that might have been true for the first years. After that, she was with me at all times, and I never went on any vacations. As I became more and more hollow, she become more of a tool for me to use, not like the friends we pretended to be. I saw how she looked at me that night in the office when she saw what I truly was. She was horrified, how could she not be?” She had not even noticed it at the time, she had become so accustomed to the fear around her.
Serla remained unconvinced “and how can you then explain the fact that less than an hour later she was banging on our door, begging us to help her save you? Is that the reaction of a person who discovered that their friend is a monster?” Trying to get these affini to understand the brutal nature of her action was always like pulling teeth.
Henrik let out a hollow chuckle “Yeah, and what does she find? A broken man that was more willing to kill himself than accept her help. All to justify some spiteful pride. The punch that destroyed my hand was probably to save me, I just hope she got some catharsis from it as well." She waved her plant cast to underline her point.
Serla did not react with some performative show of disappointment, frustration, or sadness. She did not even look amused or concerned. Instead, there was a pure outflowing of surprise and then dangerous determination. The colorful affini rose up from the chair and towered over her.
Serla’s voice was low and almost threatening “what are you talking about?” This was not the reaction she had expected, she did not really have anything to say.
Serla leaned in “are you saying that when they found you in that cell that your hand was not already injured. That you were awake and tried to self-terminate before Nora stopped you by destroying your hand?” the confusion only deepened.
She finally got a word out “did you not know this?” Then it dawned on her, that if Serla didn’t know then that meant…
Serla began to pace the room “those two lied to us..." Serla was in utter disbelief.
This still didn’t make sense “why would they lie?” What reason could they possibly have?
Serla stopped pacing for a second “to protect you. Do you have any idea of how spilt the committee that evaluated you was? Had it not been for that lie you would have a collar around that neck this very moment.” Hendrik swallowed, they had done it for…her?
Stars! why did she not just keep her mouth shut?! If Serla knew then…. “You can’t tell anyone! They don’t deserve to be punished because of my stupid actions…please!” Serla looked unconvinced by her pleas.
Hendrik begun to cry “you can do anything you want with me…domesticate me… punish me, just please don’t let my actions harm them again!” She was sobbing, even when she didn’t know, she was still harming everyone around her.
Serla put a hand on her head “alright little petal, I won’t tell anyone. But know that if you ever display such behavior again I will collar you myself.” Thank the stars. Hendrik felt her heartbeat slowly normalize, they were safe, at least if Serla was being honest,
Serla sat down in the chair again, her leaves were still ruffled, but her expression had changed “you really have changed. Unless you are saying that your little display right now was only for your own benefit."
The plant was amused again, Henrik responded with a slight scowl “I can try to be a better person, that does not mean I was one before."
Serla expressed one of her performative sighs “I see that we still have something to work on. For now, I think we both deserve to unwind." At least she let it go, not that Hendrik was too enthusiastic about ‘unwinding’.
She could at least entertain the plant with the possibility “what do you suggest?”
Serla grinned “I do have a plethora of xenodrugs that I think you would benefit from, perhaps some of those?” That was not going to happen.
Henrik shot the proposal down “no drugs. I don’t use them, distracts me from work."
Serla merely shrugged “you’re not doing work. I won’t allow it. now, why not?” could this dammed weed stop trying to worm their way into her head for one second?
When Henrik did not respond Serla pressed further “you already go on class-G and -Z. on Centhia you also used an extensive amount of sleeping patches.” She knew she would regret talking more to Serla.
She still responded “those are medicine, not recreational. A very different beast." The affini took out her data pad and scrolled on it with a vine for a second.
Then Serla found what she was looking for “and emotional suppressants, are they also medicine? looks like you have bought quite a lot of these through the years.” How did this affini always have the ability to back her into a corner?
If Serla knew she might as well explain before Mertha got involved “after my parents died I did not just ‘work’ through it. That was a lie, but I suspect you knew as much. I bought and consumed quite a lot of those doses. Even after graduation I still used them in that vent, at least until I was out." That had not been a pleasant experience, no need to dig further into that.
She continued “after I got my job back I started again. Slowly I managed to get my shit together and used them far less frequently. Happy?”
Serla looked halfway content with the answer “the fact that you no longer use them makes me happy, yes. I hope I do not need to explain the startling number of effects this ‘drug’ has had on your health.” She did not, Hendrik already knew.
Serla did not relent “I can guarantee you that these xenodrugs will not give you any ill health side effects or be addictive. Unlike those glorified blood-pollution injectors, these might in fact be quite good for your mental health.” Serla never gave up, she would just not leave her alone.
Hendrik finally relented “fine, Fine! I'll take some of these xenodrugs, IF you promise to leave me alone. What do you have in mind?” the plant gloated for its moment of victory.
Several needle-like vines extended “well then let’s see. I got some class-c, it will increase your bonding response while also making you quite adorable in the prosses. Although you can say that about almost all of these. I also have some class-S if you want me to be able to trick your mind into sensing whatever I want to you too. Some class-W if you think that maybe you been capable of language long enough today. Class-J though I think we will save that one for later. And finally, some regular class-A for heightened sensation.” Listening to Serla enthusiastically list all the things she wanted to pump into her body was an…interesting experience. She probably had countless more just waiting to be used.
At least one of them was normal by human standards “I guess I’ll take some class-A then. My body is quite resistant to chemicals, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get the results you want.”
Serla gave a predatory grin and closed inn “we will see about that, I'll give you a bit of a low dose. I have a feeling you might react quite wonderfully.” There was a small sting in her left arm, and she felt the xenodrugs begin to spread through her body.
Oooohhh, fuck. This was not some ‘normal’ human drug. Every spot on her skin felt like it was tingling with sensation, the mere touch from the sofa made her legs curl. She tried to retreat from the sensation but her back brushed against the back of the sofa and her body collapsed sideways. The sofa was so indescribably soft, the colors in the room so remarkably vibrant.
She was so distracted that she did not notice Serla’s vine before it was to late. A simple stroke along her chin and her thoughts disintegrated. It felt so good! her body reacted before her mind hand any time to weigh inn. She pushed against the vine, trying to get as much sensation from it as possible.
The vine obliged and stroked down her cheekbones “still want me to leave you alone, little one?” She tried to say something in reply, but her mouth just let out a mewling sound as another vine began stroking her arm. The voice was close, but she could not be concentrated enough to find out from where “awwww, you are no scheming predator. You’re just a cute, tame, little kitten." Hendrik tried to grab hold of the words, but every touch washed them away until she was unsure she had heard anything at all.
Oh stars, another vine began to rub her belly. The fact that she had imagined she could give any resistance was ridiculous in retrospect. She had fought so long against being swallowed by the various comforts that the affini had tempted her with. This however was in another league. She was picked up by vines and felt every touch from the vines in incredible detail.
Every place the vines touched flared up with ever increasing yearning and bliss. Her body had rebelled against her mind, and her mind was far to disorganized to do anything about it. with every touch, she became more and more of a writhing and squirming mess.
The voice cooed and ‘aww ’ed as more and more vines assaulted Hendriks fragile and melting mind. “Such an adorable pet....though I guess you’re not one, yet. If Mertha doesn’t claim you before other affini see you being this cute. Well, the competition to be the one to collar you will be a true spectacle. Oh, you like it when I scratch you here? Such a good girl! I hope Mertha comes home soon, or I might just take you back to my hab.”
Words were important, more so when directed at her. But her mind was simply too far gone to understand them. As soon as some comprehension was beginning to form it was crushed into mush by another touch. The vines were now scratching her behind her ear and underneath her chin. She was trapped between the two sensations, both far beyond anything she had felt before in her life.
Time began to lose meaning as her mind continued to drown in bliss and ecstasy. Her mind surrendered as less and less thoughts tried to form. The few that still tried were brushed, crushed, and disintegrated. The intense pressure from the sensations burning across her body left her speech in tatters, for now she was only capable of pleasurable sighs, mewls and moans.
After an infinity of paradise, the vines stopped for a moment, there was a brush of fresh air that left her skin tingling. A new voice “Hi Serla, where is Hend-oh my, what happened?” the new voice almost sounded concerned, it made Hendrik feel a bit sad, but she did not know why.
A few vines returned to their petting, Henrik responded by curling into them as far as possible and a soft mewl. “Just a small dose of class-A” there was a brief pause to the words “she asked for them, I promise. Just look at how adorable she is, here." For a brief moment she was passed out of the vines. She let out a dissatisfied and disappointed mewl.
To her infinite pleasure, there was a new set of vines ready to grab hold and keep petting her. There was now a familiar melody close by, but it was far stronger than before. It washed over her stimulated mind leaving it a melted mess. She decided that the best course of action was simply to do what the vines wanted and that was obviously to lean against their caressing.
The petting began to intensify “I have never seen such a strong reaction, she behaves like she is on class-J.” the vines were scratching her, making their way up from the back, her back arched to embrace the pleasure.
The incomprehensible voices continued “part of it might be that she has never used any sense stimulating drug, not even human ones. This is a new experience for her system and her mind. Touch-starved Humans also show an increased reaction to class-A and our sweet little kitten here is perhaps one of the most touch-starved creatures I have met. Until now that is, just look at her." For a moment she tried to regain her composure. The vines continued to scratch her, now close to her neck and she instead leaned into them with a vengeance.
While Hendrik squirmed the old voice continued “she behaves like a pet already, sure your not going to propose it to her already? I soon have two florets myself but if you don’t…” The vines were closing in on that weak spot on the back of her head.
The new voice spoke “if she wants then that will be her decision, I don’t see why you are trying to force the issue. I think she could be perfectly happy as an independent…though you are right that she is almost too cute. Ohh she is simply TOO much, could you record this? I’m about to-”
At that point the vines reached the point, the intense bliss was too much. Her already empty mind was drowned in pleasure. As the head pats and scratches continued any other idea than just basking in it was literally unthinkable. All other senses were irrelevant as her body finally collapsed under the cavalcade of pleasure. She went limp and simply allowed the tsunami of bliss to wash over her mind, again and again. At some point, the tsunami engulfed her completely and she drifted off to a pleasureful sleep.