Cleo woke in Owners’ arms, the smell of prepared food accompanied the pets she received. Cleo felt tired, the energy of the last two days was no longer with her, she let out a long yawn “I think I’m a sleepy pet again.” Owner's smile filled her heart with happiness and warmth.
She received another few pets “that is okay, little kitten. I think we are going to have a nice relaxing day. no appointments, no walks, just us two enjoying every minute.” A spoon of some sort of soup was lifted to her lips, a vine taped the side of her mouth and she opened. The soup tasted amazing, just like all the food Owner made her.
Owner fed her the soup until she was full, at that point she was fed a dessert made of strawberries. Owner gave her a glass of some liquid that she drank enthusiastically. It tasted a bit sour but very refreshing. The owner gave her more pets. “did you like the lemonade?”
Cleo looked up at Owner and purred “it was so tasty. Can I have more?” Owner poured her more lemonade.
Owner pressed her tight “today you can have anything you want. I should have made you drinks long ago, I bet even your water tasted foul. But never mind that. I have some activities planned.” When Cleo was done drinking she was carried to the bathroom.
The water was already ready, and it smelled different. When Cleo was ready, Owner walked into the water and lowered her into it. The water was warm and made her skin begin to tingle. “Now then, just relax and let me massage you.” Owner words were so warm, and Cleo obeyed like a good pet.
The vines pressed down on her back in all the right spaces. The tension and soreness that Cleo had not even known were there was squeezed and pushed out.
Her legs, her thighs, her back, her arms, her head. All were massaged with gentle and loving vines. The water made every sensation feel that much more vivid, Cleo became limp under the wonderful vines of Owner.
The vines holding her up and the vines that pushed down together with the water created a perfect weightless balance. The pure joy in Owner’s melody washed into her mind and filled her with indescribable happiness. Cleo had never felt this comfortable and content.
After a blissful eternity Owner lifted her from the water. “was that nice my little pet?” Cleo grabbed hold of Owner’s arm and looked up.
She knew her voice would carry all the happiness that she felt “yes!” She was squeezed into a wonderful and loving hug. Cleo looked around and became a bit confused “where are my clothes?” There were no new outfits prepared.
Owner smiled knowingly “don’t worry, little kitten. I have a surprise for you.” Owner carried her into the living room and then into the closet door on the right. The room was dark for a brief moment until the lights turned on.
The room looked familiar, though Cleo had never been here as far as she could remember. There was a large red and white bed but that was not important. What was important were the dozens upon dozens of outfits that were prepared on the carpet. The outfits formed a corridor that led to a changing screen on one end, on the other there was a large chair.
Mertha sat her down on the ground “now we are going to play a game. You are going to pick an outfit, change into it and then show me how cute you can be. Does that sound fun?” Cleo’s eyes went wide, that sounded like the perfect game!
She nodded and went to look at the outfits she could choose from, Owner sat down in the chair and observed her. The outfits were all from her selection, there were so many options! Cleo knew that if she stopped to think, then she would never choose, she had to be decisive. She saw the black and white outfit that she had denied two days ago and picked it up.
She changed, her paws were slightly in the way, but she was used to that by now. She made sure the outfit was properly on and that the headband was looking pretty in her hair. The shoes were nice and black, with long white stockings underneath. Owner had been nice enough to provide a mirror. Seeing herself like this made her heart sing in joy, now she had a game to win.
Cleo walked down the path and ensured her steps were proper and orderly. When she came in front of Owner she gave a slight bow, lifting the dress with her paws like the floret in the picture had done. Owner bristled “who knew I had such a cute maid working for me? You look absolutely and perfectly adorable, here's a treat.” Cleo opened her mouth and was rewarded with one of the tasty berries.
She was lifted into Owner’s loving arms and received cuddles for several minutes “you did wonderfully, do you want to play again?” Cleo did not need to answer that question. Once she was let down she looked for a new outfit to wear.
She decided that she would wear the other one that she had not chosen, it felt right to give it a chance, and it was very cute. To her pleasant surprise, the outfit came with the cat ears that it had lacked previously. The outfit was a bit too revealing for regular use but perfect to show how cute she was in front of Owner.
She walked confidently down the path, the small bells jingling whenever she took a new step. As she got in front of Owner she lifted one of her paws slightly above the other in altitude while keeping them close to her face and facing downwards “Nya!” Cleo had practiced the pose and voice just before she had met the nice red-haired girl in the park.
Owner bristled and leaned in before giving her a long and tough head pat “you truly are my little kitten aren’t you? Perhaps you can get some real cat ears one day. You are so astoundingly cute!” Owner began to pet her more and more until Cleo was lying on the floor, a squirming mess.
They played the game many times more. Each time Owner would praise her and cuddle with her, sometimes gently, sometimes more intensely. Cleo felt the joy in her heart grow with all the affirmation and affection.
At some point, Cleo became hungry and was fed dinner. It started with a small selection of raw fish, then a large course of pasta with that wonderful cheese. The dinner ended with a dessert of ice cream and waffles.
After dinner, they cuddled a bit more before they played a few more rounds of the game.
Cleo yawned, she was getting tired. “I think it is time for some rest, I have one last outfit that I want you to try on, and then we can go to bed.”
Owner covered her eyes as they put on her clothes. There was a slight clicking noise as Owner removed her collar, her neck felt naked and exposed. Before she could complain, another collar, much smoother was fastened around her neck. Owner moved her and removed the vines in front of her eyes “you can open your eyes now.”
Cleo was standing in front of a mirror. The outfit was the same one she had chosen the first day. Around her neck was a new and far cuter collar. It was velvet red and smooth against her skin, right in the middle there was a small golden ring and a silver name tag connected to it. It simply read “Cleo” in nice bold letters.
Owner was standing behind her, glowing with pride and joy. Cleo felt a few tears of happiness run down her cheeks, she felt complete.
Owner dried the tears away and lifted her into the bed, letting her rest in their vines. Cleo felt so very tired and so very happy “Owner, can we start the day again?”
The voice above her was so soothing “I don’t think so, why?” Cleo knew that would be the answer, but it still hurt slighly.
She grabbed one of Owner's arms and nuzzled it. “I think this is the best day of my life…I don’t want it to end.” Owner looked sad for a moment.
Then she smiled “don’t worry, we can have many, many such days soon. Now then, I need to give you some medicine, just relax.” Owner held up the vial of clear liquid.
For a moment Cleo felt scared but she trusted Owner and let them inject it. Cleo felt her body begin to sleep before her mind had done the same, but it was not far off. She looked up at Owner “I love you!” then Cleo fell into the abyss.
Nora stood in front of the door, she felt a bit nervous. That was a lie, she was extremely nervous. She had been in shootouts with fewer nerves than this. The door opened and Serla looked down “Nora! It's very good to see you, do you want to come in?”
Nora smiled “yes, is Darla home?” the affini guided her in the door, it was nice to be back.
Serla shook her head “no, she is at a sleepover with a friend. I hope that is not too disappointing.” Nora felt a tinge of relief, this would make things easier.
Nora looked up at the affini “no that is fine, I wanted to talk to you. I have something I want to say…but I am too nervous at the moment….sorry.” this was embarrassing, she had worked herself up so much before coming over and now she was a flustered mess.
Serla smiled “that is perfectly okay, I’ll go make us some tea, and then we can cuddle on the couch. Will that help?” That would definitely help, Nora nodded and put down the package she had brought. It would be for later.
She walked into the hab and sat down on the couch, Serla walked into the kitchen and began making the tea. Nora turned her hearing to the max, she could hear the water begin to boil and the tea leaves dissolving slightly with a cracking noise. Most importantly, she could hear Serla’s biorhythm thrum through the hab. It was wonderful and she already felt sure about what she was about to say.
Serla came back and sat down and handed her a cup of warm tea. Nora leaned into Serla’s side and Serla coiled a vine around her shoulder. They both sat there for some time, Serla draining her tea and Nora sipping it.
Nora felt at peace, at home. Then she remembered why she was here and blushed.
Serla broke the silence “I don’t know if it is the reason you came here but I heard that you met Cleo. I need to know if you are okay, you don’t need to say anything more if you don’t want to.”
Nora sighed, it would be a good place to start “I know it wasn’t her, at least not fully. But just seeing her okay and healthy was very nice. Now when I think of her I can imagine a doped-up lap floret instead of what I found in that cell. It was very weird to see her like that, but it is an improvement.”
Serla tightened the vine around her shoulder, letting Nora lean in further “talking to Mertha also helped, I was so wrecked with guilt that I didn’t consider things how I should have. Looking back at how Cleo has treated me I don’t think she would want me to feel guilty. I know she would want me to be happy, to make sure I got my affairs in order.” She was close to saying it, it was at the tip of her tongue.
Nora breathed in “you and Darla make me truly happy, and I have thought about this a lot...” Nora took the dive “Serla, do you want me to be your pet?” Serla’s eyes were filled with a barely restrained predatory glee.
Serla stroked a vine down her chin “are you sure about this?” Nora nodded, there was no other answer.
Serla stood up and lifted her with “then we need to sort through the legal part before I lose the little restraint I have, let’s go.” Serla carried her to the kitchen and from one of the top shelves grabbed a large stack of paper.
With them both sitting down Serla took out a paper from the pile “now then, before you can sign and become mine, I need to know that you understand everything and that you add whatever preferences to the contract that you wish for.” Things were suddenly moving very fast.
She looked at the stack of papers “this is the domestication contract? You had it here? available?” Nora felt more embarrassed than at any time before in her life. Everyone had apparently expected her to become Serla’s pet, and well...she was.
Serla nodded “yes it is, most of it is bureaucratic mumble that I can barely remember even after having read it twice. This is the important part.” She handed Nora the paper, it was filled with a few bullet points with checkmark boxes behind each one. In the middle of the page, there was some blank space. At the very end, there was a dotted line with “Sign here to acknowledge your understanding and acceptance of these terms» written above.
Serla must have seen her expression “do you feel ready? There is no shame in waiting and thinking it over some more.” Nora was ready!
She looked at the first point “I’m ready, do you have a pen?” Serla’s grin split wider and handed her a nice metal pen.
1. Above all else, you, Nora, must obey your Guardian, Serla Adri, Fifth Bloom in all things. This is for your safety, wellbeing, and care.
Serla nodded and checked the box, she had been obeying for such a long time. This one was easy
2. Your Guardian, Serla Adri, Fifth Bloom, owns you. You are her property. You do not have political rights in the Affini Compact.
Nora chuckled a bit. She had always left the politics to Cleo, little would change there. She knew that despite her human mind feeling uncomfortable with the term ‘property’ it meant something very different for the affini than for Terrans. She checked the box and moved on.
3. You do have a guarantee of your wellbeing, as defined in Section 57 of the Human Domestication Treaty.
Nora smiled, that would be nice. She had fought for so long to stay alive, and well-being would be welcome. She checked the box.
4. This guarantee of wellbeing does not preclude your Guardian from disciplining you, as outlined in Section 61 of the Human Domestication Treaty.
Nora blushed, she had read up on section 61. She knew that if Serla ever did need to discipline her it was probably for the best and she would probably like it. She checked the box.
5. As the property of your Guardian, she may add, remove, or modify conditions of your wardship at any time for any reason within the limits established by the Human Domestication Treaty.
Nora paused and looked up at Serla, her soon-to-be owner was watching her intensely “what kind of conditions can you add, remove or modify? It’s not very specific.”
Serla answered with a question “do you think I would ever modify the contract in a way you were uncomfortable with?” No, she didn’t. She checked the box.
6. Your full name is Nora Adri, Second Floret from this moment forward.
For a second she paused. She and her sister would soon not be connected by name…but they would still be sisters. Nothing in the universe, not being lightyears away from each other could ever change that. She checked the box.
7. Below this line are additional terms that you Nora Adri and your Guardian, Serla Adri, Fifth Bloom, have stipulated.
This was the important one, Nora laid down the pen “do you have any stipulations?”
Serla smiled knowingly “yes I do, but I want to know yours first. If you have any of course.”
Nora had thought about this a lot “first of all, I want to be able to do art. So xenodrugs that make that impossible need to be done with consent first. I would also like to be able to travel and see new art.”
Serla took the paper and wrote a legal approximation of her words “secondly I want to be able to visit my sister at least once per year.” There was more scribbling from the pen.
Nora breathed out “and lastly I want to wait to get the implant until Cleo is fine.” The writing stopped.
Serla looked at her quizzingly “that does not need to be in the contract. I will still respect your wishes, but I need to know why.”
Nora came with her reasons “getting the implant will take me out of commission for a good number of days. I need to make sure that she is okay before I can do that. It's not about guilt, but I need to know that she is fine. Even if she does not want to see me I need to be there for her, just like she was for me when I needed it.”
Serla nodded “what if she does not become fine, how long will you wait?” The question felt like a punch in the gut.
Nora stammered “what do y…you mean? You have told me time and time again that she will be fine.”
Serla smiled softly “and we will do everything in our power to make that true, I still need you to answer the question.” Nora thought about it.
The solution made sense “if she is not fine, then you will get to decide when it is time.” Serla smiled.
Serla lifted the pen “now for my stipulations:
1st. Nora Adri is to always tell her guardian, Serla Adri, when she is feeling guilty, or something is weighing her down.
2nd. Nora Adri is to continue to develop her great artistic talents, even if she feels dissuaded.
3rd. Nora Adri is not to take responsibility for another sophont unless her guardian, Serla Adri, consents to it.”
Each point was written down as Serla continued to look at Nora. She considered the stipulations. The first one was good, she needed to be more emotionally open. The second one was almost irrelevant due to her own stipulation, but perhaps Serla would force her to feel better about her work when she was down? The last one was a bit more difficult…but it made sense, and as long as Serla consented she would be able. It just meant that if she was doing something unhealthy it would be stopped.
Nora nodded and was handed the document, she checked each of the boxes in turn until only the dotted line was next.
She felt nervous, was she going to sign away her rights? She looked up at Serla….yes she was.
Nora Adri, second floret
As soon as the last letter was signed a wave of vines engulfed her. Nora was carried up and a second later only centimeters from Serla’s face “now you are mine little one, mine to cherish, mine to take care of, mine to mold into the best one you can be. you can say it now.”
Nora felt the full power of Serla’s biorhythm and eyes upon her “I love you…mistress!” The wines wrapped around her even further, something was fastened around her neck.
Serla’s eyes were full of satisfaction and pride “and I love you…my pet!”
Hendrik woke up. Not fully, not completely, but she woke up. Her head was confused and foggy, what had happened? Where was she?
Hendrik opened her eyes and saw Mertha sitting by the hospital bed. Right, she had collapsed on the way to the clinic. But that couldn’t be right…her body felt far too good for that to be the case.
She tried to sit up and a few vines helped her when she couldn’t “try to remain calm, focus on breathing slowly. How are you feeling?” Mertha was speaking slowly.
Henrik tried to remember what had happened, and the fog slowly dissolved “Cleo, are you okay?”
Cleo? What was she talk-
The fog disappeared and a floodgate opened. A tsunami of memories washed over her mind. 7 days where she had been someone else. The memories were happy, warm, comforting, and more alien than any affini. They could not co-exist with the rest, not without struggle.
Her mind split between the incompatible memories and for a short time, there were two personalities in her head.
On one side was the person she had been, the governor, the president. Molded into an iron fist over the better part of a decade. Cold, hard, suspicious, ruthless, and in pain.
On the other the person she had just lived as, Pet, Cleo. Warmly embraced by Mertha, who she had embraced in return. Warm, loving, trusting, and happy beyond any measure that Hendrik had.
The clash did not last for long, the iron fist shattered Cleo into splinters. The cold, hard mind that had laid dormant obliterated Cleo within seconds. There was not even a contest, the weak and open pet-self had none of the protection, none of the experience, that was needed to survive. But that was all the President had, and it felt no mercy. Tearing into Cleo like the existential threat that she was. Until there was nothing left, only shards and broken hope.
Her mind turned on the memories, Hendrik wanted it to stop but had no control. Each warm, happy wonderful memory was ripped to shreds and judged. Weakness, humiliation, degradation, vulnerability, comfort, unproductive, pathetic! Each memory that had been so filled with joy left a black, venomous pit in her mind.
Hendrik wanted it to stop!
She tried to protect one memory, just one. It was of her and Mertha hugging and looking at each other with warmth. The iron fist came and brutalized it as well, destroying it like a broken toy.
The world seemed to grow colder, hostile, and unwelcome. Hendrik looked up and saw Vonzin standing next to her. The gear in her mind that had been forced dormant, spun into action. Vonzin had wanted this to happen! To take away her control, leave her defenseless. They wanted her dead! Every thought was another scar on her already tortured psyche.
She closed her eyes….
Her mind went silent, the iron fist had finished its purge, and now only Hendrik, the President remained. Now she could get back to what she had to do, play The Game. Find a source of power and regain control. The worst part of her mind rejoiced as plans, schemes, and lies began being manufactured, entirely without her consent.
Hendrik felt her mind begin to take shape once more, the remnant of the infection was washed away. Feelings of anger and frustration began to rise within her. How had they dared do something like this to her? Treat her like that? like some sort of animal?!
She let the anger build, she wanted to shout and berate the affini for what they had done to her. Anger was familiar, it was an emotion that exposed no weakness. Before she could utter a single word, all the familiar emotions were drowned in a single, unfamiliar one.
Like an enveloping and bludgeoning force upon her mind, loss. More total and complete than any thought she could ever hope to muster. She had been happy, and content, together with people who loved her. Now it was all gone, forever. She was alone….
it hurt more than anything she had felt in her life.
It was a raw sense of pain, that only grew the more she felt it. Hendrik had been accustomed to this life, the cold, the suspicion, the loneliness. It had not hurt before, not when she was numb to it. But now her mind felt its absence like searing and ever-growing pain.
She had been happy! And as soon as she returned to herself she had destroyed it all. The iron fist began to rust. It no longer felt worth it. it crushed harder upon her mind, it needed a reason for why she could not be happy. It found its reason, guilt. The emotion embraced her mind until guilt and the loss were all that remained.
The world was lightyears away as the struggle in her mind continued. Hendrik knew someone had put a vine on her shoulder, but she could not feel it. She knew she was crying but could not stop it. All she felt was the loss of what she had lost and the guilt telling her it was right.
A person like her should not be happy. After all she had done, everyone she had harmed. Perhaps there was some justice in the universe after all. This was the punishment she deserved!
Despite its effort and strength, the guilt could not hope to remove the loss she felt. Instead, both swamped her mind. She wanted to be happy, knew that she couldn’t, and believed that it was right for her to suffer.
The struggle continued, she wanted it to end! But she could not escape her own thoughts.
Hendrik did not know what was right and what was real. Too much pain and conflict left her confused. Did she even want to be happy? If not, then why did it hurt so much?
Her thoughts hurt so much, but it was all she had.
She was trapped and it just wouldn’t stop! She needed it to stop! It hurt too much! It felt too wrong!
Finally, as if some entity had heard her pleas, all the tension and energy left her body and mind. She fell backward and into the void, her mind finally stop struggling, the pain went numb and then ceased.
Hendrik hoped and pleaded that when she woke, she would not have to struggle anymore.