Pulling out a tablet, Doc began to message his floret while looking up something that could explain some of what he found. It took a few moments for Miss Kitten to finish the drink, and then she nodded, ready to hear it. “So, let’s first go over your blood work. Everything that I've found is what I’d expect to find in a young lady that was just pulled from a Feralist ship. You’re slightly dehydrated, calcium is low, your sodium intake is borderline normal on the lower end of things, and your albumin is low. Basically, it means that you were starved for a long period of time. Plus, your hormones are all out of the normal ranges that I’d expect to find in a young lady of your age.” He handed her another bottle of water. “Sip on that, please. I’ll have some supplements for you, but its nothing that some good meals and hydration can’t fix. Thankfully it doesn’t look like it went on for too long, so there should be no permanent damage, but I’d like you to come back in three months so we can keep an eye on that.”
“Ok”, Kitten said, sipping the water and eating another cracker. “So what's…umm…the bad news? I’m sure there’s bad news in there, Doc.”
“Well, not bad news. More like interesting news. Did you grow up in a place with a higher gravity than the standard 1 G of Terran Gravity?” He sounded interested. “It’s interesting, usually I only see readings like this from Sophonts who were born, or spent a lot of time on high gravity worlds. Most Terrans, the most that you cuties can safely tolerate is a little less than two G, otherwise it starts negatively affecting you.”
“Well…umm…yea. i grew up in…ummm”, and she blushed, sipped the water. “I remember that traders who came to visit complained about the gravity, but I always thought it was normal. Then when I ended up on Thor’s Hammer, and even now, everything seemed so light.”
“Well, that makes sense. Your body adapted to your environment, which explains a lot of things. For example, your heart is not only slightly enlarged, but it’s also far more efficient than what I’ve seen in most Terrans. You have more red blood cells in your blood than most, that’s the oxygen carrying cells and the ones that make your cheeks such a delicate shade of pink. Again, to compensate for the increased oxygen demand due to your muscles needing to work harder. Your bones are denser since they need to compensate for the gravity, which explains why you may be shorter than other Terrans, but it also means that your muscles are more compact, more efficient. I would imagine that you’re a fairly good sprinter, yes?” Doctor Manku looked up as he spoke, looking to see if the Terran had any response. This was fascinating. Had this continued for another hundred generations or so, they could have seen the rise of a new phenotype of Terran. Maybe a new species, given enough time and evolution. Fascinating stuff, really.
"Really?? Ummmm…I..kinda? I guess? We didn't have a lot of races or stuff like that. Becky…she was faster than me, but…I mean, that was there. So maybe here I'd be faster than someone who is from another place?", Kitten asked, working it through in her mind. It made sense, but she still wasn’t sure. “I don’t think the Affini had found my colony, when I was…umm…”, and she swallowed hard, playing with the water cup for a moment. “When I was kidnapped by the Free Terrans, we didn’t even know that you all existed. Let alone fighting a war.”
“I’m sorry for bringing up bad memories, Miss Kitten”, Doctor Manku said, a sad look on his face. “Now…lets get down to some other things. What can I, as a doctor of veterinary medicine and an Affini, offer to you. Well, for one thing, I can help you with some of the anxiety you have. The Xenodrugs we Affini have are light-years ahead of anything you’ve ever been prescribed.”
“I don’t want to be some…I don't want to be drugged up and stumbling around. I’m…I need my mind and fine motor control.” She looked down as she spoke, voice small but firm. “I don’t want to be a zombie.”
“And that’s ok. We can work on making an individualized blend of Class A’s or E’s that can do that. I only say Xenodrugs because they have far less side effects, work faster, and are easy to on-ramp and off-ramp. For example, Terran Benzodiazepines, while they may be useful, can be addictive and can cause seizures if you stop taking them suddenly. Same thing with some others. And Xenodrugs simply work better. For example, the Class G’s that we use for lovely sophonts such as yourself, who want to change their outsides to match who they are inside, find that they have FAR greater results and in a fraction of the time that regular Terran HRT would bring. PLUS…with Class G’s, we can actually tailor them to the desired effect, not just hope that the roll of the rabbits ends up lucky and you are happy with the results. No…you deserve so much more, and we want to help you get it. You have the right to be happy and comfortable with how you appear, Miss Kitten, and I want to help you.”
Kitten sat there, blinking, thinking, even as her cuffs beeped once, and then again. The thought of being herself, of being able to go out and wear what she wanted, to look like she wanted…’Everyone would see!! But what did it matter, I’m not there anymore, and I don’t have to GO back, nobody could force me. But what about everyone back home? What about Mom and Dad, they’ll be so upset and heartbroken and Dad’s gonna be so pissed…’ ”Ummm, do…I want to see some proof”, she said, and then hastily backtracked. “Not that I don't believe you, but lots of…Promises are easy, you know? It’s the doing that’s important.”
Doctor Manku chuckled and nodded. “That’s usually something that most Terrans ask me when I tell them this. Or at least the ones that aren't florets.” A third hand made of vines and bark went up and stroked his “beard” as he thought. “Hmmm. Here”, and he pulled out a tablet, and tapped a few times and then handed it to her. “Those are before and after pictures, obviously with their permission.”
Kitten looked, and was blown away. She would have sworn that these were different people, but there were identifying tattoos and scars on some. Others had similar enough bone structure that she’d believe it. “This…”, and she looked up, shocked as Gladialis smiled. “I don't believe this. Is this…are you shitting me?”
“I am most certainly not doing anything of the sort. I’m all the way over here, and I certainly would never disrespect you like that, young lady”, Doctor Manku said sternly, upset at the very mention of such an act.
“What? No, it…umm..it doesn’t mean THAT. It means to be fooling, to lie, to try and deceive me”, Kitten said, suddenly nervous that she’d upset the doctor. “It really does, why..umm…here”, and she handed him the tablet back. “Why don’t you look it up?”
“Oh. That’s an odd turn of phrase, then”, Doc said, frowning. “Either way, I don’t lie. I have never lied to you, and I never will. Gladialis can help you with the app, and once you decide if you’d like to look like the girl you know you are, you can use the app and we can talk.” He smiled slightly as the tablet disappeared into the body made of vines, some needles brushing it as it went in. “Now, Miss Kitten, do you have any questions for me?”
“Ummm…can I…I have some questions”, she said hesitantly, not wanting to upset him. Feeling a bit better as he nodded, and folded his hands in his lap, then squeaked as she saw a third hand grow out of his side and stroke his beard. “umm…I…I have questions about the Haustoric Implant.”
Gladialis gasped, unable to help herself. Was Kitten considering Domestication? Doctor Manku turned to her, a mild expression on his face, but she could see how his vines suddenly got a bit tenser. Was Kitten going to become a floret? Was she serious?
“Oh? Considering getting one?”, he asked, his head cocked. “Only florets get that, you know. Or are you interested in going that route and signing up for Domestication?”
“What? No, I..i just have…umm…I have some questions. Like…in this booklet, it says that the Implant can target specific memories and remove them. How exactly does it do that?”
“Well, Miss kitten, think of the brain as a giant computer. Once the Implant has finished mapping out the sophonts brain, then it’s a simple matter of targeting a specific set of memories and removing them, like removing a specific file.”
“Ok, see, that’s what I have some problems believing. How exactly can you target a specific memory unless you know which memory, how it’s coded, and where in the brain it’s stored? Meaning, you need to specifically target the synapse and the neuron that hold a specific memory. And that’s not something I think you can do with certainty. It’s like…like looking for a specific electron in a cup of water”, Kitten said, watching as Doctor Manku looked at her keenly, a slow smile crossing his face.
“Oh ho!!”, the Doctor said, his eyes twinkling. Literally. “I had no idea that you had medical knowledge, young lady. What branch of medicine are you in?”
“I…I’m an ICU nurse”, she said, blushing as he smiled at her.
“That’s wonderful!! You’re the heart and hands of the medical field, Miss Kitten. Thank you for taking excellent care of your patients, from one medical professional to another. To answer your question, the Implant maps out the florets brain, and is able to match memory patterns based on the moment-to-moment memory process in real time. Once it has fully done that, the process you’re describing can be done easily, since the implant can simply seek out specific synaptic spaces that match the markers that are created and simply render them inaccessible, or alter them.” Doctor Manku reached behind him and stuck a vine into a cup of water, enjoying the “taste” as he spoke. Speaking with a Terran who actually wanted to know the bolts and wrenches of how an Implant worked was refreshing. “It can take some time for the host brain to be fully mapped out, usually a few days. That's why we usually keep florets on high dose class A's and C's during the first few days, to help with that process. Plus the additional bonding and touch is always well appreciated. What else can I answer for you?"
"So…you're telling me that this Implant can seek out specific neurons and synaptic spaces?", she said dubiously, and frowned as Doctor Manku nodded.
"That's correct, Miss Kitten. The Implant can do all that and more. We ARE the Affini, after all. And it's not without a small bit of pride that I say that our medical tech is far more advanced than anything the Terran Accord could ever offer. What you Terrans call science fiction, we Affini have done."
"And managing someone's thoughts? Are you telling me that it can sense a thought?"
"Well, Miss Kitten, let me ask you this. What is thought but an electrochemical reaction with neurotransmitters involved? And many take a familiar course through certain brain structures. The Implant maps those, and can either stop it with a gentle micro-dose of Class A's, or perform some classical conditioning. For example, Miss Kitten, when you were younger, did you ever misbehave?"
Kitten blushed, remembering the multiple times her mother had grabbed the dish towel. The few times her father had grabbed his belt, a thunderous look on his face and the phrase, "This is to teach you, son. And it hurts me more than you." A BEEP made her blink, and she exhaled, trying to calm down. "O..once or twice."
He nodded. "Apologies if I brought up a painful topic. I've heard a few stories about Terran parental discipline, and safe to say, I disagree. Regardless, after a few times, you didn't ever do those things. Correct?" Seeing Kittens nod, he spread his hands. "So then you understand that you were conditioned at a young age. Negatively conditioned, which I think is deplorable and terrible parenting. What we do is far more gentle, and involves positive stimuli. Negative thoughts are deflected, turned aside, and positive thoughts amplified and rewarded."
"And ethically, you see nothing wrong with that? With just….just training someone like you would a dog?", Kitten demanded.
The Affini both stared at the little Terran, for different reasons. Finally, Doctor Manku broke the silence. "I think we're discussing tomatoes and apples. Both are green and then turn red, both have seeds, but never make marinara sauce with apples. Miss Kitten, I think part of the problem is that you're trying to look at Affini ethics in the same way as Terran ethics. Which might work in some ways, but not in others. Gladialis may or may not have told you, but a floret’s comfort and happiness is their Affinis top priority. Would it be better for a floret to suffer from intrusive thoughts, or crippling depression? Take a floret who wishes to harm themselves. Wouldn't it be better for that floret, in addition to mitigating the cause, to never even consider harming themselves?", he said mildly, but pointedly. Forget the fact that florets were pets, and so it was completely appropriate. THAT might not go over so well. "That conditioning helps them grow, become better. Helps them live their best lives."
Kitten sputtered, but nodded, conceding the point. "I…I see your point. But…", and she shook her head. "I don't know, something about the way it sounds just…it just sounds wrong." She took a deep breath, sipping the water. "But I see your point. Two different cultures view the same thing differently."
Gladialis blinked, surprised by Kitten's acceptance. She'd expected more of a fight, honestly. Most of her friends had said that Terrans clung to their beliefs and views tightly, like barnacles to a longboat. It seemed her ward was fairly open-minded, which was good. "Kitten, did you have any other questions for the Doctor?"
"Hmm?? Oh, yea. I wanted to know more about Xenodrugs."
"Oh? Which class are you interested in trying?", Mankurinania said. "I thought you were hesitant to try them."
"Class M Xenodrugs. I want to know their mechanism of action. It seems like a tall order, making…making", and she blushed. "Those effects", she finished lamely.
"Oh, that's easy!! Class M Xenodrugs are merely drugs that cause a dissociative state that affects motor neurons traveling from the florets brain to their muscles. They work, to be a bit more specific, by targeting the basal ganglia and rendering the ones that are responsible for motor function inactive. They also contain calcium channel uptake inhibitors that cause calcium to stay bound to skeletal muscle fibers causing them to remain where they are moved, in a catatonic state. But none of them affect consciousness or the medulla oblongata from enervating lungs and heart and other organs. Sometimes they're paired with a class A so that a sophont can enjoy the sensitivity to touch, but not be able to move."
"So they can't move?? How do you prevent pressure ulcers if they're immobile?", Kitten asked. Horrified at the potential for abuse. Don't like what you're hearing? Dollify them forever and that's over and done with.
The tall Affini started chuckling. "Miss Kitten, come on!! Now you're just pulling my sleigh!! Surely you can imagine that any Affini giving that to their floret won't be just dropping them in a corner and forgetting them. No…this is for florets who enjoy that sort of thing, but also sophonts who need time with their thoughts, and no other stimuli. And most wear off after a short time."
Kitten nodded slowly. The idea made sense, even if there were facets she didn't approve of. "I'd like some literature, if you don't mind. Drug information and all, but not..ummm..not written for a child. 'Not the floret edition.' If you don't mind."
"Of course, Miss Kitten. I'll send it to your tablet, if you'll just hold yours up." Once it was, he pulled his tablet out, pressed some buttons, and held it close to hers. A ding! showed that the information had been sent. "There you go, Miss Kitten. Do you have any other questions for me?"
"Ummm…I have…umm…I need to do some research before I ask them. Is that ok?", she asked, fidgeting. She wanted answers, but she ALSO didn't want to run in without knowing the facts.
"Of course!! My username is there, just message me with any questions you have, ok? Now, back to the question of medications. According to your intake, you were taking Terran medications for anxiety. I can prescribe those, or Xenodrugs. A small dose, a squirt really, of a Class E. Is that something you're interested in?"
Kitten shook her head. "Not at…ummm…not at this time. I…I weaned myself off of…well, not so much weaned as ran out, and I'm just kind of used to not having them right now?? Like that, except the…the anxiety is…I’ve mostly gotten used to it. I would prefer not to take anything, if that's ok with you."
"Are you sure? What about if I give you the prescription, but you only take them when you want them?"
"N..no. I…Not yet, Doc", Kitten said, resolute. She sighed to herself as he nodded, unsure if she could keep refusing if he was insistent.
"Ok. Well, if you change your mind, you can always just text me, or come on in, ok?" Doc shuffled the papers, and sat back. "Well…if there's nothing else, then have a good day, and I'll see you in three months. Ok?"
Kitten nodded, jumping off the table and landing with another thump as Gladialis groaned. "Apparently, jumping and climbing is one of her favorite hobbies."
"Oh, your ward enjoys parakeeting?", Doc asked, smiling.
"Parakeeting?? Do you mean prakourie?", Kitten asked. "It's called prakourie. And it's cool, saw some videos of it a few times. I'm not THAT good, though. But it's fun."
"Fun, she says", Gladialis "grumbled" with a smile and an eye roll. "Bouncing off the walls and climbing everything in existence. Thank you, Doctor. If I remember correctly, there was an ice cream shop that I know Kitten was dying to try. Shall we, little one?"
Kitten nodded excitedly. "Last time I had ice cream was….about nine months ago. Came out of a frozen can, but was so amazing."
"Nine?? That's a horrific crime that we need to rectify, Kitten. Have a good day, Doctor Manku", Gladialis said as she waved goodbye and held the door open. "After you, little one.”
Kitten smiled and nodded. "Have a good day, Doc", as she walked out. Happy that it was over, curious what her other test results were, and nervous regarding the future. But that could wait, because ice cream beckoned!!