Cleo woke in the middle of the night, she must have slept through most of the day. She was in Owner’s lap, Owner was sleeping. Just looking at Owner made her feel good, she nuzzled further into the lap. She did not want to wake them, but she also wanted to be as close as possible.
Cleo knew she would fall asleep soon, she was quite a sleepy pet after all. Before she did so, she just enjoyed the quiet moment. The apartment was dark and quiet, but she was not alone. She yawned and rolled around a bit, Owner’s lap was the best. Cleo began to feel sleep come over her and decided to surrender. Tomorrow would be another wonderful day.
Nora finally pushed herself up from the bed. After her talk with her sister, she spent the next hours looking up documents, tutorials, and explanation documents about domestication. She had even watched quite a few videos of florets or affini, sometimes even both, explaining how it was to be a pet.
It struck her how much she had simply ignored the whole process. First and perhaps most frighteningly of all, she did not know about the Haustoric Implant before this research session. She had always thought that the scar on Darla’s neck was just from some injury, not from having plant matter implanted into her nervous system.
The way the implant was described it sounded like essentially mind control. It didn’t sound too scary unless you didn’t trust the affini that owned you, It was the same for the loss of rights. Sure back on Centhia losing the few rights one had would be horrible. That was because she would end up so some slave to be exploited, here it was so that she could be better taken care of. In the end, it all came down to if she trusted the affini that would own her.
She trusted Serla, perhaps even more than herself. This factor of trust led her to the second major discovery. Nora did not know why she hadn’t questioned it before, but it was suspicious how fast she had trusted a total stranger, and an alien at that.
She had found the reason during her rabbit hole research into the affini. Apparently, the huge plant people could not only hypnotize humans but also ‘connect’ to them using their biorhythm. She was not sure entirely how it worked but she was certain it was true the moment she read it.
Nora listened, it was almost completely quiet. The calming rhythm that had become ingrained as background noise in her mind was gone. Nora remembered hearing it the first time she had met the aliens on the platform, then later during the dinner. She had not been particularly affected until she had visited Serla to spy on them.
The fact that she had been that incompetent and open with the affini was proof enough. She had not even noticed the effect. This also explained how she had trusted Serla and told them about the coup. It helped a bit with the guilt. it was still partly her fault, but due to the extent she had been affected, it was a miracle she had not told the affini everything. This did not mean that she blamed Serla, the fact that she had told them was good. If not, Henrik would be dead, at least now Nora had a chance to make things right.
The lack of Serla’s biorhythm in the background did make her feel a bit alone….Nora decided to put her mind off the issue and unpacked the painting set Serla had given her. She started with some basic training exercises to prove that she could still use a brush. It took a few attempts, but the ingrained training that had laid dormant the last years soon awoke.
Nora was about to start for real when she saw how late it was. It could wait for tomorrow, it was her vacation after all. As she prepared to sleep the last few questions she had begun to float to the surface. A mix of doubt and guilt made her unsure if asking for domestication was truly the right thing to do. Painting had helped her in the past with getting over mental hurdles, she hoped that it would work this time as well. The last thought she had as she fell asleep was the fact she missed Darla’s warmth and Serla’s presence.
Cleo woke again as Owner began to stir awake “guess we both fell asleep, hab: dim lights on.” The hab was bathed in a gentle light. Cleo yawned and sat up, she then received head pats from Owner. It took a bit of time for both of them to fully wake up, but that just meant more time for pets and cuddles.
The more Cleo woke up the more energy she realized she had. After Owner sat her down on the ground she managed to get up without any issues. Her legs were still a bit unsteady, so she decided to walk around. It felt nice to finally move on her own accord, not that moving to Owner’s accord was bad. After she had made a full lap around the sofa she looked back at Owner. Owner had been watching her with loving and adoring eyes “feeling better?”
Cleo nodded and walked up to the kitchen table “hungry? Right, I should make you some food, just wait one moment” Owner stood up and helped Cleo onto the chair, they then moved to the food and cute outfit maker. Owner was about to press something on the screen, stopped, and looked back at her “I want to try something…tell me if it makes you feel uncomfortable.” Owner turned back to the maker <floret-filter1 disable, compile unit from log: nutrient bar.> The machine lit up before a plate of food was ready, Owner lifted it out and put it in front of her.
The thing on the plate looked like a soft rectangular gray rock, was this food? Cleo looked up at Owner with confusion. Owner had begun to chop fruit but was looking intently at her. Cleo decided to try, she leaned forward and nibbled a bit on the rock. Her face contorted in disgust, and she spat it out, it tasted horrible!
Cleo felt bad almost immediately after the shock of the taste wore off. Owner had given her food, and she had spat it out! That was not how a good pet ate their food “sorry…im…I’ll ea-“ She was interrupted by being lifted up and hugged tightly in her Owner’s arms.
Owner was smiling at her? “Nothing to be sorry about at all, they are very nasty. I’m very proud of you for rejecting it.” Cleo felt very confused. Perhaps it was something she was too much of a pet to understand. At the very least Owner was not disappointed, they were proud of her. That was all she really needed to know.
After the strange test Owner fed her actual food, a wonderful tasting fruit salad. Owner made sure she could savor the sweet-tasting fruit before swallowing. Owner was petting her while she ate, the increased affection was pleasing, her work must be paying off.
After she was full and satisfied she got off the chair herself and walked to the bathroom, she knew how the morning worked. As Owner turned on the water, she opened her mouth so that Owner could brush her teeth. It felt strange to feel the tiny vines and brush enter her mouth, but she kept still like a good pet.
While they waited for the water to be ready Owner lifted her up into her arms and began to pet her. She purred and nuzzled into her owner’s arms. Owners’ pets made her ignore the increasing restlessness that was growing in her legs and mind. When the water looked ready she looked up at Owner with the cutest begging face she could muster “can I bathe before cleaning today as well?”
Owner’s slight bristling was proof that her cuteness was working “only a bit. I was thinking we could take a small trip outside today, and let you stretch your legs. So, you will need your energy for that.” Going outside…Cleo had only vague memories of ‘outside’. Still, she felt excited on an almost primal level. A whole new place to explore. Perhaps she could find more ways to be even cuter.
When the water was ready, Owner let her swim. Cleo made sure to be careful and only gently dip in the water. Part of her wanted to bask in the weightless freedom but she needed her energy for later. Cleo realized as she was lying in the pool and looking up at the roof that there would be people ‘outside’. This was a great opportunity to show the world her prowess in being cute. She would have to prepare carefully.
Owner began to clean her and after that groom her hair. As they did Cleo looked into one of the tall mirrors that crowded around the pool. Her body was getting cuter each day, her hair had reached down to her shoulder framing her slightly rounder face. It made her almost unreasonably happy to see the progress. That part she did not have to think about, Owner had it covered.
After she was clean Owner picked her up and placed her in front of 3 new outfits. They were some of the ones she had selected yesterday. Her current outfit was adorable of course, but variation was important.
She looked at the first one, it was pink, fuzzy, and extremely soft. It was slightly baggy, and the top part had a hoodie with triangular ears. It was very cute, but she needed to consider the others to make the right decision.
The second one was far more revealing and had a lot of cat-face-shaped holes. It also had long black stockings and a few cute bells in several places. It was cute as well but something she wanted to wear with Owner, it felt…inappropriate to wear outside.
The last one was a black, frilly dress with a large white apron. It also came with a cute white headband. It was cute as well of course, she would never choose an outfit that was not cute enough.
She contemplated her options, each had strengths and weaknesses. She felt Owner move behind her “having difficulty choosing? I can make some of the others from the list of…167 outfits that you selected.”
Cleo shook her head “no these are fine, just need to pick the cutest one for the situation. you can wait outside, it might take some time.” What she did not tell was that she would also have to prepare her secret weapons.
Owner gave her an affirming pet “I know that you will be cute whatever you pick but take your time. I’ll wait in the living room.” The affini gave her a nice hug, which Cleo obviously reciprocated.
After Owner had left Cleo contemplated her options once more. It was between the pink fuzzy one and the black and white one. In the end, she decided that the pink fuzzy one would be the best option. It was loose so getting it on through her paws would be easy, there was also something about getting the other one dirty that felt wrong.
After the outfit was selected she looked at herself in the mirror, very cute. Cleo looked very soft, she looked forward to cuddling with Owner later. Now she needed to prepare her secret, during the time she had looked at outfits she had seen other pets wearing them. This had been useful for imagining how she might look in them. More importantly though was the fact it drew her attention to a field of cuteness she had ignored so far: poses.
Cleo began to mimic the poses she had seen the other pets make in the square. In the future, she was confident she could make her own poses but for now, she would borrow the weapons of others. Her cute paws made it hard to make any shapes, mostly heart ones, that many of the florets had made. Posing her paws in certain ways, especially in correlation to her face made up for this fact.
How she used her eyes was also of prime importance. Displaying emotions with them in a cute way would be very effective. After a few more minutes of practicing, she felt ready. Any challenge to her cuteness would be ruthlessly crushed with adorable poses until they were forced to admit that she, Cleo, was indeed the cutest pet.
Cleo left the bathroom and headed up to Mertha, who was looking at her data pad. As soon as Owner saw her they bristled slightly, success! Owner scooped Cleo up in their arms “we are going to the park, it is quite a bit away so I will carry you there. It's beautiful outside so we can go for a nice walk until you feel tired.” Cleo couldn’t wait, maybe she could even make a new friend there.
As they were about to leave Cleo felt the need to test her new weapons “after the walk, do you think I can get ice cream?” Cleo had positioned her downwards pointing paws just below her face. She made her eyes as wide as possible and her mouth questioning. The perfect begging expression. Owner bristled again and their eyes flashed for a second with an exciting predatory energy.
Owner closed their eyes for a moment “yes…of course you can get ice cream…”, <please someone give me strength.> Cleo smiled, she had secured a treat for later and proven the cuteness of the pose.
Cradled in Owners vines, they carried her out of the hab and down onto the street. Cleo recognized the streets and the path they took. Part of her was relieved that they did not walk in the other direction she recognized. It led to the clinic. When she tried to remember why she disliked the place her emotions began to dissipate like mist.
Owner carried her through the empty streets, there seemed to be fewer people than she had expected. Deciding that all of these thoughts were not as interesting as snuggling into a good position, she began to do that instead. Owner walked quietly but the thrum from their center was humming loudly, Cleo leaned in a bit closer so she could hear it better.
At some point, they encountered another affini, and Owner began to talk. The new affini sounded happy and were talking in people language <hello! Good to see that the ship is not entirely abandoned.>
Cleo did not need to follow this conversation, so she just kept relaxing <it is indeed nice to see someone still onboard. I guess most are helping with the domestication of the planet.> The affini looked up, so Cleo did as well. Above them, there was a huge window showcasing the void and a huge gray planet floating eerily close.
The other affini sounded less happy now <if you can even call it domestication at this point…oh! I must be overworked, I didn’t even see your adorable floret. Can I pet her?> the other affini leaned down to look at her.
Owner held her forward <she is only my ward so you will have to ask her.> The other affini looked surprised up at Owner before lowering their gaze back to her
The affini smiled “hi there sweetie, you look very cute. Can I pet you?” Cleo looked at the affini, it was still strange for her to not feel or think anything on instinct when she saw people. It was better this way though, a pet should not be…suspicious, that was the word. Cleo wanted pets but did not feel like speaking. She closed her eyes and smiled as she extended her neck to show her approval.
The affini wasted no time, several vines began to pet her head and scratch her under the chin <awww, a little charmer this one. Are you sure she is not a floret? she sure acts like one.> Being a pet was taking up all of Cleo’s attention.
Owner sounded slightly exhausted <it’s a…complicated situation. Tell me, are the domestication efforts really going that poorly? I have been too busy taking care of this little one to pay full attention.>
The other affini continued to per her vigorously as they spoke <then you are lucky, sometimes it feels like all we can do is keep the peace. We are so few that the human government is necessary just to keep things going. The humans are being very cooperative, so that is nice, still feels wrong to make sophonts work.> Cleo was enjoying the pets so let out a disappointed mewl when they stopped.
The affini gave her one last pat “sorry little one, I need to move on. Take care! both of you, and I’m sure your situation won’t be ‘complicated’ much longer. I have heard that there might be a floret moratorium instituted soon so don’t take too long.” Cleo purred lightly as thanks for the pets and lulled herself back into Owner’s vines.
The two affini said their goodbyes and then they were moving again. It did not take long to get to the park. From where they were standing they had an overview of this side of the huge park. It was filled with green grass, tall trees, a large blue pond, and cobblestone roads creating paths. Around the park, there were cafes and restaurants. There were a few more people here but the size of the area made it feel even emptier.
When they got to the park, Owner put her down on the ground. Owner extended a vine towards her, Cleo knew how this worked and lifted her head so Owner could put her on the leash. The vine stopped as Owner looked at her. The vine almost looked like it had been reaching for her hand, but that made no sense. Cleo tilted her head slightly and gave her cutest smile, it felt like the right thing to do in this and every other situation. Owner bristled again and the vine finally grabbed around her collar.
They began to move, Cleo walked first making sure to inspect everything that caught her interest. Owner walked slightly behind her and just watched her, the leash was pretty loose. During her exploration of the park, Cleo found a small patch of beautiful flowers. She wanted to pick some to give to Owner but her large clumsy paws made that impossible. Cleo looked at the flowers, there had to be a way.
She was a very smart pet so eventually, she found the solution to this obstacle. She leaned down and carefully nipped one of the flowers with her teeth. Making sure to not harm the flower she then brought it over to Owner. She pulled one of Owner’s hands down and then gently deposited the flower. Cleo wanted to say something as well “you’re an amazing owner...and I’m very happy that I’m your pet.” She covered her face with her paws in embarrassment.
Vines scooped her up and she was in seconds face to face with Owner. Their eyes were mesmerizing, a deep happiness glowed from within each of the orbs. Owner leaned a bit down and kissed her on the forehead “you are a wonderful pet, and I am very lucky to be your owner. Seeing you this happy means more to me than you can ever understand.” Cleo’s heart melted and she hugged her affini, the hug was returned. They hugged in wonderful silence until Cleo felt her grip weaken and she let go. There were a few tears of happiness in her eyes, she used her paws to dry them away.
They continued to walk alongside the pond until they came to a large field of reeds that were almost taller than Owner. Cleo wanted to go in, but the leash stopped her, she looked back at Owner questioningly. Owner walked up to a large bench and sat down, then Owner tapped the part of the bench next to her. Cleo understood and with a bit of Owner's help she got up as well.
Owner slithered a vine around her shoulder and Cleo leaned into the embrace “I understand that you want to explore more but we should stop for today. If you behave well I can let you explore the reeds by yourself tomorrow, does that sound fun?” It did so Cleo nodded and pushed deeper into Owners side, a few more vines slithered to hold her tight.
Cleo and Owner looked at each other for a few wonderful moments. “Cleo, I have some questions I would like you to think about. They might be difficult so take your time.” Cleo would not miss an opportunity to show what a smart pet she was. Owner patted her gently “you told me earlier that you are trying to be cute because it is your job, correct?” That was not very difficult, Cleo nodded. Owner looked at her lovingly, “and you are happy doing that?” Another very easy question, she nodded enthusiastically.
Owner stroked her hair gently “let’s say hypothetically, that you were not a pet. Is there something you would be happy doing then?” That was a difficult one, Cleo found no imitative answer “that's okay, just take your time.” Cleo and Owner sat there peacefully while she tried to find an answer to the question.
Her first instinct was to reject the question entirely. She was a pet, not being one felt wrong. But it was just hypothetically, a type of game…a game. The thought stuck in her mind, winning a game? She didn’t know why she found the concept important. Wasn’t the point of games to have fun while one played them? and what game was she even thinking of? It made no logical sense, perhaps her pet mind was just a bit confused. She threw away the idea.
Another thing she would be happy doing? Cleo couldn’t really think of anything. Suddenly an idea found her: control. Another silly idea, a pet had almost no control, but she was very happy. How would having control make her happy? Was cuteness a form of control? Augh…her mind was going in circles, and she was getting nowhere.
She looked up at Owner “I’m sorry…I can’t think of anything….I’m sorry I disappointed you.” Perhaps she wasn’t that smart of a pet.
Owner lifted her up into their lap and leaned down “you don’t have to be sorry, it was my mistake. There is no way for a pet to be disappointing to their owner, ok? I need to be sure you understand that.” Owners’ eyes were swirling, Cleo decided to store Owners words deep into her mind. she nodded and nuzzled Owner. Owner smiled, “Now then, I promised you ice cream and you deserve a treat for being such a good girl.” Cleo felt warm inside, she was a good girl!
Nora threw away another canvas, she was just not getting it right. Whenever she tried to start her mind would focus on something else and she never managed to hold onto a good source of inspiration. This was the 7th canvas she had ruined, at least she had an infinite amount of them.
She was getting frustrated, so let herself rest for a while. Part of her wanted to go back to Serla’s hab. She missed them both, but she still didn’t feel ready. Nora wanted to be able to come back with an answer. She used the compiler to make herself some food, it tasted a bit unnatural, a bit too perfect. Serla would have made her food……
Her data pad suddenly made a noise, she had received a message.
[Comfortvoice]: video recording attachment, click to open
Nora hesitated for a moment before opening the video. It was Serla and Darla sitting on the couch together. Serla spoke first “hi Nora, hope you are doing fine. We just wanted to say hi!”
Darla pouted “it’s also not fair to leave just after you won, I deserve a rematch. I hope you come back soon so I can defeat you.” Serla laughed….it sounded so beautiful
The affini petted Darla calmingly, Nora felt only a bit jealous “I might also be dealing with a bit of a sore loser. Just send me a message if you have any questions or needs. Hope you come back soon!” The video stopped.
Nora felt a shiver go up her spine as it did. The biorhythm in the background of the video had almost reflexively made her relax. Now that it was gone again it felt even quieter. She missed those two, a lot. Part of her wanted to go right now, but she was not yet ready.
Nora got an idea, she downloaded the video and put it into an audio editing program. After a bit of work, she managed to isolate the biorhythm from the video and made it into its own file. She played it over the speakers in the hab. That was better, she looked at the canvas she had prepared.
Nora began to paint again, with the biorhythm in the background it felt much easier. She just allowed the brush to flow where it wanted, and the colors came naturally to her. After a few hours, she stopped. It was a good start, but she needed a more….natural space to finish this. Somewhere secluded but still outside. Luckily she knew of just one such spot.
Mertha looked down at her pet who was sleeping on her lap. After the park, the girl had gotten her ice cream and she enjoyed it with gusto. Of course, Mertha had fed her, but Cleo did not seem to mind, even in public.
When they had come home Cleo had asked her for cuddles and struck one of those cute poses. Mertha did not have the restraint or will to deny her and soon the human had been a purring, mewling, puddle in her vines. After dinner, they cuddled even more until Cleo finally fell asleep.
Vonzin had told her that she would come by next morning instead. Apparently, some work had come up. The dose would last until then, so it was no problem. At least Cleo would be awake and could socialize with Ida, the two really seemed to hit it off the last two times.
As Mertha pat Cleo more she realized that she had leaned into it. She was treating Cleo like a pet, and more like it for each day that passed. Not that there were many days left until Cleo was to go off class-j. Mertha felt guilty and quite nervous about when that happened. She knew that Cleo would never have wanted to be treated like this without the class-j. At the same time the pure happiness that Cleo was showing made it worth it.
Seeing the human so happy, expressive, safe, and comfortable. It made her happier than anything else in her entire life could ever hope to. She took out the flower that Cleo had given her in the park from the nock in her chest. Mertha decided that she would graft it on after she put Cleo to bed. She knew it would take some time before she could force herself to move Cleo from her lap. Mertha still felt nervous about the future, but the present was more than pleasant enough to make it worth it.