Cleo was enjoying the attention of her owner, trapped in a prison of bliss and pleasure. After the regular morning routine, Cleo had begged Owner for cuddles and her methods had proven their efficiency once more.
Owner was bathing her in loving and intense affection as they used their vines to cuddle her into sweet submission. Her skin felt extremely sensitive and each time a vine stroked, scratched, or squeezed her she let out soft moans of pleasure.
Owner was in complete control, they knew exactly what to do. Cleo embraced the pure submission and allowed Owner to use her as they wished. The bliss washed over her soft pet mind in ever stronger waves. Each time the waves washed over her Cleo felt her love for Owner increase. Nothing else mattered in the world except for the fact that she was Owner’s pet.
Cleo looked up into their eyes, they were swirling like galaxies, she couldn’t look away. The world seemed far away as the eyes filled every space her mind still possessed. Her mind was an open book for Owner to write in. Any word or suggestion, Cleo knew she would accept them all with full obedience and make them a part of her being.
Cleo continued to look and felt every piece of her independence being drained from her mind. She waited for the tension that was building to finally be realized into something wonderful. Owner’s mouth began to move, this was-
“Hi cutie, you got a visitor!” The tension was broken like fragile glass.
A blur of vines, a flurry of movement, and Cleo was lying in her bed. She was dazed, her mind still scrambling to even operate. Cleo looked up at Owner, they were rapidly straightening their vines and un-ruffling their flowers.
“Hi cutie, you got a visitor!” The voice rang out again and Owner hurried towards the door.
The door opened, Ida and the tall affini walked in “ah your home, I hope we were not interrupting something.” The voice of the tall affini was far away, Cleo’s senses were farther away still.
Owner sounded bashful “not at all, not at all. I just didn’t expect you this early, come in.” Cleo tried to follow the figures that were approaching but her eyes still felt unfocused.
The tall one leaned down “hi Cleo! How are you doing?” Cleo heard her own name and was slowly getting more coherent but found no way to react. The affini looked back at Owner “nothing at all indeed. Now then, keep still.” The affini lifted her top to look at her side, the large patch of vines was still there. The affini lifted a needle-like vine and inserted it into one of the hidden green flowers that Cleo had not even noticed.
The affini removed the vine <it has healed fully, we can remove it before we bring her up. Her hand should be fine, I can remove the restraint now.> The affini sent a few vines over to her right paw and began to…remove it.
The fog from her mind was lifted, she couldn’t lose them! Cleo tried to drag the arm back, but a few vines tied it down. the affini looked at her “don’t worry, it won’t hurt at all.”
Cleo channeled all her skill and emotion into a single expression “please! Don’t take them, I need my paws!” the affini bristled.
Her arms were still held in place “why do you need them?” The voice was slow, restrained. The affini was looking at her eyes, the plan of attack was clear.
She had to defend her weapons of cuteness “I need them to look cute!” Cleo blinked a few times and let her desperation show fully.
The affini recoiled and pulled back “fine, fine, you can keep them.” Her paws were safe! Cleo was too busy feeling relieved and proud of her victory, so she didn’t even notice the injection into her arm.
As the affini stepped back, Ida came into view and walked up. Cleo’s heart became warm, she had missed her friend. Ida leaned forward and was about to say something when Cleo embraced her in a hug. Ida hugged back but the strange position meant she soon tipped forward. They collapsed into a pile on the bed while laughing.
Ida nuzzled into her face and gave her a kiss on the cheek “you are so adorable! I love your outfit, and that face! I was sure Vonzin was going to smother you.” Ida’s affirmation meant a lot to Cleo, she was the only other pet she knew.
They were allies, after all, so she might as well share some information “the outfit is cute, soft, and perfect for cuddling.” Cleo leaned and whispered into Ida‘s ear “Your owner seems to focus on eyes so try making them look as wide and innocent as possible, a few slow blinks should also be effective.” Cleo looked at Ida, waiting to see how her ally would react to this strategically sound information.
Ida looked a bit confused before she smiled and began to giggle. Ida squeezed her tight “You truly are the perfect pet aren’t you? I bet Vonzin is so jealous that you are Mertha’s ward. Also, you are totally right, your clothes are….sooooo soft.” The last words were underpinned by further squeezing and hugging.
Cleo embraced Ida and they were soon just a bundle of two cute pets. The cuddling was amazing, though Cleo still felt the disappointment of being interrupted. Ida interrupted her disappointment by kissing her on the neck, Cleo retaliated by hesitantly kissing Ida on the cheek. Ida made another incomprehensible noise and nuzzled her neck. It was a pleasant position, so they just lay there, intertwined in each other.
The two affini had begun to talk again <she is a menace, a threat to affini society! I’m sorry Mertha, I did not realize the true extent of the situation.> They sounded amused but also a bit rattled. The affini collected themselves <her recovery is going marvelously, better than I could have expected. The metabolic boosters are working well. Are you getting her some exercise?>
Owner responded <I took her for a walk in the park yesterday and was thinking of doing it today as well. Was planning on letting her go a bit on her own, letting me…regain some of my willpower.>
<Based on how wide her pupils had dilated you must have kept her in trance for at least 30 minutes, is the self-restraint slipping?> Owner looked away, embarrassed.
<I didn’t do anything, but I was close. She is just so precious, and she knows exactly what buttons to press. I know she had to be skilled at manipulation but using it for this purpose…it’s almost too much. I can’t say truthfully that I have not enjoyed these past days. Yesterday she even gave me a flower.> Owner pointed to the flower she had given them, it was positioned in their hair. Cleo felt very happy.
Owner continued <what if we have pushed it too far? What if she wakes up and is more pet than Cleo?>
The tall affini entwined a few vines with Owner <I think it will be fine, it has only been 5 days. Perhaps she adopts a bit of what she is now. I don’t think that will be such a bad thing. Enjoy today and tomorrow. When she wakes up we will all help her through whatever she needs.>
Cleo was distracted from looking at the affini by Ida “you know, once you are feeling better. I would love for you to come to visit me and my mistress sometimes. If your owner allows it, that is. It would be nice to get to know you when you are a bit more…lucid.” Cleo nodded ecstatically and gave Ida another hug. That sounded very fun, maybe she could also learn some strategies of cuteness from Ida.
The affini stood up <she won’t need a dose for tomorrow. Here, inject this tomorrow evening. It will put her to sleep and begin to counteract the class-J. I think it is best if we bring her up at the clinic in case something goes wrong.> Owner received a vial of clear liquid.
Ida untangled from Cleo and gave a goodbye kiss on her forehead “see you soon Cleo!”
Just before the pair was about to leave Ida looked up at her owner “could you carry me home?” Cleo recognized that Ida was using the strategy she had told her about. Ida was a natural talent, the tall affini bristled and their flowers shook.
The tall affini lifted their pet up and looked at Cleo’s Owner “I blame you for this, Mertha.” The two left, leaving her and Owner alone.
Owner picked her up and smiled at her “are you ready to go to the park?” Cleo noticed that the injection had left her with more energy, not less. She nodded, if it was anything like last time it would be a wonderful experience.
Nora looked at the painting and felt content, it was begging to come together. After a lazy morning, she walked to the park and found her spot. On one side of the pond, there was a small maze-like series of paths in very tall reeds. One of the clearings was perfectly secluded and of the main path, very few affini were tall enough to see over the reeds so she was left alone.
She had painted for several hours without stopping, and her hand was feeling a bit tired. Serla’s biorhythm was humming from a speaker she had brought. The beautiful noise was the centerpiece of her artwork. The painting was abstract, the lines and waves followed the pattern of the rhythm. Nora was not yet sure when the painting would be done, something was still missing.
Nora decided to take a break, she leaned down on the bench. She turned her hearing up to the maximum the enchantments would allow. The enchantments allowed her to hear everything in a large radius, right now she did it to hear every detail of the biorhythm. It was not the same as hearing it directly from Serla, when the rhythm changed to match their actions, mood, or expressions. The recording was a suitable substitute and Nora allowed herself to bask in it.
Nora was slightly distracted as she heard footsteps not too far away. By the direction of the sound, they were walking the path closer to the pond, they would not disturb her. By the weight of the steps when they hit the ground the person was probably a human…..hold on!
Nora jumped to her feet, her pulse was rising. She knew those footsteps, the tempo was slightly off, but she could recognize those anywhere. It had to be her!
Nora ran as fast as she could, taking the path would be slower. Instead, she ran straight towards the sound, through the reeds. The reeds might be tall, but she was strong and fast, they bent or broke in her path. Nora could feel and hear her heart beating in her chest. A moment later she broke through the reeds and found herself in a clearing with a good view of the pond.
Close to the water was the creator of the footsteps, they seemed to be inspecting themselves in the water. Nora felt confused, had she been wrong? Hendrik was supposed to be recovering using xenodrugs, not walking in the park. This was embarrassing, was she this one edge?
The girl noticed her and turned around “hi!” Nora felt her heart stop. The voice was lighter and had a very different tone than she was familiar with. But there was no doubt it belonged to Hendrik.
Instead of a suit, the girl in front of her had on pink and fuzzy clothes, the hoodie had cat ears at the top. She was wearing large paws on her hands, they were a blue pastel color. She was still slender but had gained some slight curves on her hips and chest. The girl was slightly shorter than she was supposed to be. This couldn’t be right!
Nora rushed forward and held the girl at arm’s length. Hendriks’s hair had grown to her shoulders, Nora remembered something bittersweet. The usual look of exhaustion was replaced with a docile and friendly expression. Henrik’s eyes were glazed over like that of a floret. The focus and cold rationality they usually expressed had been replaced by a soft and happy shine.
No, no! they had told her they wouldn’t! “Hendrik! Are you okay? What have they done to you?” This was still Hendrik, but someone had wrapped her in a soft and cute shell.
Hendrik tilted her head in confusion “I’m sorry but I don’t know who Hendrik is. I’m Cleo!” The girl smiled warmly. Nora felt her stomach drop, what had they done with her?
She felt desperation and guilt claw their way into her mind “Hendrik! Snap out of it, please…” She could not have failed her again.
Hendrik looked even more confused “I’m not Hendrik. Do you want me to help find them?” Nora forced herself to remain calm. She would have to play along for a bit.
Just until she figured out what they had done “okay…Cleo. Could you tell me what has happened to you the last few days?”
Hendrik smiled “well I have mostly been relaxing with Owner. I have also been visited by a tall affini who gave me some medicine. Owner took me to the park yesterday, then I got ice cream….” Nora stopped listening, ‘Owner’?
A horrifying thought passed through her mind. Nora spun Hendrik around and lifted her hair, the girl offered no resistance. There was no scar from an implant or any sign of damage. A wave of relief washed over Nora. Whatever the affini were doing to Hendrik, they had not yet domesticated her. But perhaps they would soon, she needed to get Hendrik out of here.
Nora knew the way to the hangar from when she had first boarded, she just needed to convince Hendrik to come. Hendrik was looking at her with those glossy eyes “Cleo, I know where your owner is. If you follow me I can get you to them, ok?”
This would never work, even in this state Hendrik was not guilib- “okay, you are very nice!” Hendrik chirped and looked at her expectedly. Nora felt a wave of relief and anger in her mind, how could they have done this to Hendrik?
Nora began to lead Hendrik towards the path, then she heard it. Vines dragging over cobblestone, a familiar biorhythm: Mertha! Before Nora could even move the affini shouted “Cleo? Cleo, are you here?”
Nora rushed to cover Hendrik's mouth, but she was too late “Owner! I am here with a nic-“ fuck!
Nora heard that Mertha was getting closer, there was no way she could outrun the affini. She moved in front of Hendrik and prepared to fight. She had never liked the prospect of fighting an affini, even less now that she knew them. But she would not let them harm Hendrik, she would not fail again.
Mertha came down the path and into the clearing “here with who……dirt!” the affini stopped in her tracks.
Nora felt adrenaline surge through her “What have you done? I trusted you to help her!” Mertha moved cautiously, like moving towards a scared animal.
Mertha was trying to sound calm “Hendrik is fine, I can explain everything. You need to calm down.” The affini’s words were careful and deliberate.
What bullshit, that’s what they had said at the beginning as well “fine?! You call that fine? She can’t remember her own name…not even me. Why should I listen to anything you have to say?!” She was shouting at the affini, she heard Hendrik step backward.
Mertha sighed “I understand that you are upset, but if you don’t calm down I will need to restrain you. You are scaring Cleo. If you calm down I will explain everything.” Nora looked back, Hendrik was looking at her…afraid.
The guilt embraced her mind like a miasma “First of all her name is Hendrik, not whatever bullshit you have put in her mind. Now Explain yourself!” Mertha sat down on the ground.
The affini looked at her, Nora looked away to not stare into the affini’s eyes. She would not be manipulated “okay, so currently ‘Hendrik’ is on a heavy dose of class-j and some other xenodrugs. It is not permanent, she will be normal once it wears off.” Class-J?
Nora still did not trust what Mertha was saying but she wanted to believe that there was a good explanation “what the hell is class-J?”
The affini was calm “class-j is a xenodrugs usually used recreationally or in adoption cafes. It makes the user almost incapable of feeling most negative emotions. It does lessen the mental capacity to a certain extent. It also makes them crave affection and often more sleep. Xenodrugs are quite potent for ‘Hendrik’ so that is why she is acting like this.”
Nora looked at Hendrik again, what Mertha said did make some sense “why? Why did you put her on it? I thought she was in an accident.”
Mertha looked towards the pond, there was guilt in her voice “the accident…‘Henrik’ pushed herself way too far….She almost died. We couldn’t risk it happening again, so we put her on class-j. It has made her calm, sleepy, and far less stressed. All of that has helped a lot with her recovery.” Almost died?....had Hendrik been that bad? Serla should have told her. For a minute she imagined how she would have acted if she knew….perhaps not.
There was still one question “even if all of that is true, why does she call you ‘Owner’? do you seriously expect me to believe that you are not trying to domesticate her? Or is this what happens to every person who uses class-J?” Mertha sighed again.
The affini looked worried “no it is not a normal reaction to using class-J. Usually, such a state requires some sort of conditioning. One can argue that they act like pets, but no. Hendrik came up with all of that on her own.” Nora looked at the affini, did Mertha really expect her to believe that?
Nora felt her anger drain but she needed it to make sure “came up with it on her own?” Mertha looked past her, at Hendrik.
Mertha gave Hendrik a warm smile “Cleo, why do you call me owner?”
Hendrik smiled back “I look like a pet, act like a pet, feel like a pet: so, I am a pet. A pet has an owner, you are my owner.” Henrik stated it like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Nora let her guard down, she was too confused to be angry. Mertha walked up and picked Hendrik up. Hendrik looked ecstatic and nuzzled Mertha. Mertha looked down at her “let’s find somewhere a bit more secluded and we can talk this out. This is not how I wanted you two to meet, but I think you have waited for long enough.” Nora felt the energy of the situation had left her, she nodded and led Mertha through the path she had made in the reeds.
“So, she chose the name on her own?” Nora looked at Cleo, who lay peaceful in Mertha’s lap.
The affini smiled as she petted Cleo “yes, it is a shortening of the name some old Terran queen once had. She shortened it so it could be ‘cuter’ and more pet-like.” Cleo purred lightly as she was petted.
Seeing Cleo acting like a lap floret was so absurd it bordered on uncanny. For a moment she imagined Cleo sitting behind the desk in the presidential office, and she began to laugh.
Mertha looked a bit concerned “is there something funny? I’m not sure I will get it.” Nora could not stop herself, the image was hilarious.
She stifled her laugh “It’s just, she is acting so different. Could you imagine if people saw her like this? I doubt people would even believe that this person was ‘President Hansen’.” Mertha’s expression changed, not for the better.
The affini looked sad. “Before she was put on class-J we went to a café and a human became terrified of just seeing her. Nora, are people afraid of her?” Nora swallowed.
That was an unpleasant question “probably some, she is…was a powerful person. She had a lot of enemies and not a lot of allies. She told me once that fear kept people in line, stopping them from trying to kill her. I think it's a consequence of the things she had to do to survive.” Mertha looked heartbroken, Nora quickly continued “but I don’t think it will be like that for long, with you affini having control that won’t be necessary.” Mertha looked slightly better…. the affini really cared for Cleo, didn’t she.
Mertha straightens up “I heard from Serla that you took some alone time, how is that working out?” Nora looked at the unfinished painting.
She might as well tell the truth “I don’t know…I have to make an important decision. I want to do it, but I still have a lot of doubts. And I can’t fully make the doubt go away.” She moved a bit closer to Mertha and Cleo.
Mertha looked at her knowingly “I might be a bit presumptuous but is it about becoming Serla’s floret?”
Nora felt her hair stand a bit on end “how did you know? Am I that much of a seed?”
Mertha let out a soft chuckle “while that is part of it, it is mostly what Serla has told me. She and Darla really appreciate you and find your company a delight. If you were to ask, I’m sure that Serla would be very happy.” Nora was sure of that as well.
The doubt still remained “it's not that, she almost made me say it at least 8 times. I just don’t want to…disappoint or fail her…like I failed Cleo.”
Cleo spoke in a matter-of-fact tone “that’s silly, a pet can’t disappoint their owner. A pet has no responsibility, so how can it fail?” Nora and Mertha both looked at Cleo who had already closed her eyes again, ready for more pets.
Mertha chuckled again “Cleo does have a point. More importantly, you can’t blame yourself for what happened down there.”
Nora didn’t quite buy it “because I wasn’t with her she got captured and tortured. I had a duty to protect her, and I failed. look at the state she has been in, I should have done better.”
Mertha shook her head “while what the ferals did was terrible, the damage Cleo is healing from was self-inflicted. Her hand has healed, and so has her side, those things are relatively easy to fix. Years of chronic and lethal overwork takes more time.”
The guilt did not recede “then I should have stopped her from working so much. I know that you are trying to ease my mind. But I had a responsibility, as a bodyguard and a friend!”
Mertha placed a calming vine around her shoulder “and how would you have done that? Neither you, Cleo or most humans for that matter have any true control of the situations you found yourself in. I doubt you would blame someone for stealing to eat, or Cleo for trying to survive. Why should you blame yourself when something out of your control happens to people you care about? Cleo had more power and control than most and she could not save herself from that infernal system. Though in the end, you did. You told us so we could save her and then you stopped her from making a huge mistake.”
Mertha’s words began to cut through the doubt “I punched her, I ruined her hand.”
Mertha lifted her chin so she saw into her eyes “her hand has healed, if you had not done that she would be dead. You saved her life when I could not. If Cleo had her memories right now she would not say that you failed her, she would be thankful for all that you have done for her.” Nora felt tears begin to streak down her face.
Mertha coiled a few more vines around her and they sat in silence. At some point Cleo had fallen asleep, she looked so happy and peaceful. All the stress and rigidity that had dominated the face the last years was nowhere to be seen. It reminded Nora of those long nights in Cleo’s apartment all those years ago.
Nora stood up “Mertha…thank you. You and Cleo helped a lot, I think I’ll head over to Serla tomorrow. For now, I need to finish my painting.” She knew how to make it complete now.
Mertha stood up and Cleo was awoken “that is very good to hear, we also need to get back home…next time you meet Cleo she probably won’t be this calm.” There was an undercurrent of worry in the affini’s voice.
Cleo looked at Nora with a smile “you are very nice….do you think we could be friends?” The person who had once restructured the power of the entire sector looked embarrassed about the proposition.
Nora stepped forward and gave Cleo a hug, Cleo returned it instantly “that would be wonderful, Cleo!”
Nora felt she was about to cry again, this time from enormous relief and happiness. She hid it by turning towards her canvas “see you both soon.” As Mertha and the previous ruler of the sector left Nora let the tears fully flow and began to paint again, it was coming together wonderfully.