The look on Captain Trapper’s face was enough for just about anyone to understand just how fucking bleak their situation was. She did her best to keep her face a stern, expressionless mask, but there was no hiding the fear. “Arrangements have been made with your ‘handler.’ Theoretically you should be turned over to her as soon as you arrive. There’s no easy way to say this, but once you’re in you may well be on your own. If you run into trouble and the opportunity presents itself to extract you we’ll do our best, but we can’t guarantee anything.”
“Understood, captain. I’ll find them.” Somehow, William managed to keep his own creeping dread in check. Which was good, he was certain he’d need to keep a level head.
A curt nod hid Trapper’s uncertainty. “Find what you can, but remember, the priority is intel. You could find half the Cosmic Navy and it wouldn’t matter without a way to reliably extract them.”
An awkward pause followed, the sort of pause that often accompanied an officer—or at least, an officer with some semblance of compassion for their troops—ordering a subordinate off to near certain demise. Trapper took a slow breath, and clenched a fist to steel herself. “Your shuttle will be ready in about an hour. And Lieutenant? I don’t mean to jinx this. If anyone’s tough enough to pull this off it’s you, just… Good luck.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.” They exchanged a salute, and William turned to go.
* * *
Clara Sepal, First Floret knelt before her owner, gazing up into the shimmering fractal patterns of Citrodora's gorgeous, sparkling eyes. The world around her faded to soft static under the smothering weight of her Mistress' will, blocking out her worries, her nagging doubts, her insecurities, replacing them with the knowledge that she was exactly, perfectly who and what her owner wanted her to be. And, since her owner could never be wrong, Clara had nothing to worry about.
* * *
His beacon active, and the shuttle’s autopilot set, there wasn’t much to do besides sit and wait. Sighing, William sat back in his chair, anxious and unarmed, and drummed the console. He felt so fucking naked without at least a sidearm, not that it would have done him any good. How the fuck was someone supposed to prepare for what he was about to do? All he knew was that the entirety of human civilization was perched on a precipice, and the affini were doing a damn good job of shoving them right off it. Someone needed to do something, or it was only a matter of time before the plants got whatever it was they wanted with humanity. At least it was him, and not someone else. He was strong; he had suffered. And in the end, if his life ended in some mine or factory—or, if the plants were to be believed, as some kind of broken pleasure toy—at least it would be his life lost and not someone who actually wanted to keep living. Whatever they would have in store for him, he could grin and bear it long enough to find what the navy needed to turn the tide. He told himself that made him less scared. He was lying.
* * *
A quiet stirring at the door roused Clara from her state of quiet relaxation. Immediately, she perked right up, rolling off the sofa and scurrying toward the door. Part of Clara knew her Mistress was doing this on purpose, making a deliberate show of fiddling with the door to catch her floret’s attention and give ample time for her to rush to the door and greet her. That did nothing to make the little ritual any less special or authentic for Clara; if anything, she appreciated her Mistress all the more for it. With practiced timing, the door began to open, revealing Citrodora's face just as Clara rounded the corner. As her eyes locked on the most beautiful sight in the whole universe, her Mistress’ smiling face, Clara’s already wide smile stretched even further. “Mistress!” She cried as she sprinted full-tilt toward her owner, then eagerly leapt into the air, certain she would be caught by Citrodora's waiting arms and vines.
The next moment was all smiles and laughter as Citrodora lifted Clara into the air, spinning her around before pulling her into a tight embrace. A hand came to rest atop her head, gently petting Clara’s hair as Citrodora carried across their hab and back to the couch, where the pair settled into a quiet, relaxed cuddle. “I missed you, Mistress,” Clara murmured.
“I missed you too, my darling, beloved pet.” The words rang out from all sides as Clara’s Mistress enveloped her entirely. Once, what felt like a lifetime ago, the idea of being so completely at an affini’s mercy would have terrified Clara. But there was nowhere she’d rather be.
* * *
“Terran Cosmic Navy Shuttle CE-02991, this is Annularia, we are reading your distress signal loud and clear. It is our understanding you have made arrangements with one Citrodora Sepal, Second Bloom for your surrender and defection to the Affini Compact, is that correct? Over.” The crackle of his radio roused William from an uneasy sleep, he bolted upright in his chair, fumbling for the ships comms. It sounded like… a human voice on the other end? He’d heard affini voices from some of their broadcasts. The way they mimicked human voices was never too far off. But they always had this strange otherworldly musicality to them which just wasn’t present with whomever sat on the other end. Perhaps they allowed some of the better behaved prisoners to act as a friendly face to new arrivals.
“Copy that Annularia, this is Lieutenant William Bailey of the Terran Cosmic Navy, I have been in communication with Citrodora Sepal, and am seeking refugee status per the offers on your… broadcasts.” The word ‘propaganda’ weighed heavy on William’s tongue, though he managed to keep himself from speaking it.
“Roger that, William. We’ll be opening one of our hangar bays to you. Sending nav data to the ship computer. I’ll stay on the line with you to guide you in.” Glancing upward out the shuttle’s front window, he saw it. Of course, like everyone, William knew that even some of the smallest ships in the affini armada dwarfed the largest of Cosmic Navy ships. Nothing could have prepared him for how fucking massive Annularia was. How could the navy ever hope to stand up to that? “William, are you there?” The radio crackled.
“I’m here.” He forced calm into his voice. None of that mattered, William reminded himself. He would find a solution, a way to win. If not, he’d at least take a few of those damned xenos with him.
“Good, let’s get you home then. And by the way? A word of advice, I’d drop the ‘lieutenant’ from your name when you introduce yourself around here. Might give some affini the wrong idea.” Not a bad bit of advice.
“I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” William relaxed a little. At least the welcome committee seemed nice enough. Though that was probably intentional. His moment of comfort was immediately dashed as the radio crackled again, and another voice sang out across the airways.
“Welcome to Annularia, little one. We’re so glad you made the right choice and decided to join us. From now on, everything is going to be okay.”
* * *
A gentle tug on her leash roused Clara from a distant, floaty, but thoughtful headspace. She took a stumbling step forward—not because her owner had been too rough with her, but because, drugged as she was, her balance was completely shot—and was easily caught by Citrodora's waiting vines. After allowing her Mistress to right her, Clara beamed up at her owner’s smiling face, then took another stumbling step to throw herself into Citrodora, closing her eyes in contentment as she wrapped her arms tightly around one of her affini’s legs.
“Welcome back to reality, my love,” Citrodora purred, stroking Clara’s hair affectionately. “What was on your mind?”
“My last fight,” Clara mumbled into Citrodora's leg.
“You did very well dear. I still can’t say I understand this terran urge to compete in such a violent manner, but I am happy it seems to bring you joy. And I am proud of you for being such a passionate and bright girl.” Though her tone dripped with all the love and emotion her words suggested, Clara didn’t really need either. She could literally feel the her Mistress’ pride bloom in her. Few things felt so wonderful. Still, that actually wasn’t the point. And Citrodora's overwhelming approval in spite of her reservations may well have actually been part of why it had taken Clara so long to come to this realization.
“I actually think I’d like to stop,” Clara explained. “Back before—” just mentioning the way she used to be made Clara shudder and tense up. Citrodora pulled the girl into a tight hug.
“It’s alright dear, that’s not you anymore. It never has to be again,” she soothed.
Relaxing into her owner’s touch and sweet words, Clara nodded, and continued. “Before, fighting was all I had. It was the only thing that made me feel important, wanted, in control. I thought I liked it. When I became yours I took it up competitively because I didn’t know who I was without it. And you were so nice about it. Always so proud of me when I did well, always there for me when I lost. Plus I just didn’t really know what to do with myself. But now, I don’t know. I guess I realized it’s not fun. I don’t want to fight and struggle anymore, even if it's just pretend.” Part of Clara, the wrong part of her that Mistress was working to silence, worried that she’d been bad. Mistress had said it herself, she was proud of Clara for being passionate. What if she didn’t—a silent presence in her head that felt like Mistress cut that thought off before it could continue.
A vine gently cupped Clara’s chin, forcing her to look up into her owner’s beautiful, smiling face. “I’m very proud of you for speaking your mind with me, my love. Let’s get you home. We have a whole new schedule to consider now that you’ve got so much more freetime.” Without another word, Citrodora scooped her pet up into her arms, and set off.
* * *
Annularia’s interior was a wonder and a terror to behold. Far too familiar with cramped, dimly lit grey hallways and poor gravity, the glittering, sprawling cityscape into which William emerged from his shuttle was a baffling, and intimidating sight. Worst of all, it was packed with plants. Still, they seemed to be paying him no mind as he disembarked from his ship, docked at what looked more like a parking space at a public park than a landing zone in a drab hangar bay. Whatever they had in store for him must have been coming later, which made sense, it made sense to lure people into a false sense of security, then pounce when it’s too late. Setting foot on solid, clean ground, William caught sight of what appeared to be some sort of welcome party.
About twenty feet from the shuttle’s off-ramp, stood a human man in brightly colored flowing garb. He gave a too-friendly wave, and as William began to approach, his greeter closed the distance between the pair in a few eager strides, thrusting a friendly hand forward. “William! It’s good as hell to see you!”
Stunned, William stuck his hand out and awkwardly shook it. Did he know this guy? Admittedly, the man did look somewhat familiar. “Have we met?”
The man nodded his head enthusiastically. “Yeah! Though, erm, you probably wouldn’t recognize me now. But it’s Cal! Remember me?”
Realization struck him right upside the head. And, despite himself and his situation, William couldn’t keep a moment of happiness from blooming inside him. “Oh, shit. When Canis’ Claw got nabbed I thought I’d never see you again. You look really good, man. I guess… the um—” William made a point of giving a harsh look toward the xenos going about their business on a nearby street. “They let you transition? Makes sense, I suppose. Give the prisoners just enough and they won’t revolt or whatever,” he muttered under his breath. Cal just scrunched up his face in confusion, like some kind of lost puppy.
“I don’t really get what you mean. But my owner has been keeping me on Class-G’s, yes. They’re much more effective than the terran drugs.” Owner. Admittedly William expected Cal to be something. It wasn’t as though it made sense for the affini to just allow humans to run around living normally. But William wasn’t expecting his old friend to be so casual about it. Was it indoctrination, perhaps? Given how clean, healthy, and downright soft Cal looked, he was probably one of the personal ‘pets’ the plants kept, not fit for hard labor. Was that better, or worse?
“Anyway, when it came down the line you were surrendering the folks down in acquisitions got in touch with my owner cause they thought it would be a good idea for you to see a friendly face first thing. So here I am!” Everything about Cal’s demeanor was so fucking cheerful, almost bubbly. Nothing at all like the jaded, angry gunner William had served alongside back at the start of the war. It was unnerving, to say the least. This wasn’t the person he had known. Cal was… weak. William couldn’t help but wonder whether they’d really sent Cal out to lure him into a false sense of security, or as some kind of intimidation tactic, as though to say ‘look what we did to your friend, we can do the same to you.’ They wouldn’t. He wasn’t going to crack.
Grimacing, William did his best to play along, he was going in blind, so it was best to not act out until he had a better sense of his situation. “Right, well, what happens now?”
As though the thought had only just struck him, realization dawned on Cal’s face, and he nodded. “Right, well my owner—they’re sitting right over there, by the way.” Cal turned, and waved to an affini lounging on a bench which William only now noticed. His blood turned cold. Of course he was being watched. What else could he expect? So much for a false sense of security. “My owner told me that once you’re good to go I can lead you to your handler’s hab unit. Willing surrenders get a lot more wiggle room than captives who fight til the end do. So you’ll be granted a temporary ward status under Citrodora's guardianship, then so long as you prove yourself to not be a danger to yourself or others, you’ll be inducted as an independent citizen to the Compact! Of course, you can always volunteer for domestication if you want, I highly recommend it.” Part of William had to wonder how long this charade was going to continue. He was certain any moment vines would burst from all sides to haul him off to hard labor or something of the sort. His hand twitched, tensing into a fist, then relaxed.
“I suppose I’m ready as I’ll ever be, go ahead and lead the way.”
* * *
For the fourth time in the past hour or so, Clara’s tablet buzzed. She didn’t have it in her to sit up and check, though, not when Mistress had her so thoroughly entangled. Besides, Citrodora seemed to be taking care of the matter herself. A stray vine snatched the tablet, and Clara’s Mistress gave the screen a cursory glance. “It’s your little friend again, dear. Did you want to say something?” In all honesty, there wasn’t much of anything Clara wanted to do besides cuddle with her Mistress.
With a little shake of her head, Clara nuzzled into Citrodora's chest and spoke in a sleepy mumble. “No, she understands that I’m not always going to be good at replying. I think she’s just a bit over excited at getting to see me for the first time since before the war.” That wasn’t to say Clara wasn’t also excited to get to see Sally. The two had been very close at the naval academy, and before the war often coordinated shore leave to spend time together. Still, for Clara, that was a lifetime away, and she couldn’t help feel a little nervous. The world outside her Mistress’ vines was scary, afterall.
“Something is troubling you, pet.” It wasn’t a question. Mistress was right.
“What if Sally doesn’t like the new me? I mean, I told her about my transition, and that I’m a floret now, but… I don’t know. Independents never quite get it, from what I’ve seen. Plus, she used to know me as this gruff, strong soldier. I’m not strong anymore; I’m not brave anymore. You took that away from me.” Part of Clara knew that was the exact sort of talk an independent might be put-off by, but to any floret or affini, it would be incredibly clear just how much joy and gratitude Clara spoke with.
“The war is over, my love. You haven’t seen her for over three years. You became mine two and a half years ago, and haven’t spoken to anyone in the navy since. I’m sure your Sally has changed quite a bit during all that time, especially since the navy’s surrender.” Comforting vines wrapped around Clara’s torso, pulling her gently into the air and holding her in front of Citrodora's face. “Nobody expects you to be who you used to be. Not now, not ever again. I’m sure when we go to see her in a few days you’ll see that first hand. Nobody could look at you and expect you to be anything but a sweet, loving pet.”
“But what if you’re wrong?”
“If such a thing were to occur, then clearly the only take away would be that I didn’t go far enough breaking you and remaking you the first time. And that I’d have to see to it that nobody could ever make that mistake again.”
Satisfied, Clara noded, and sank back into the blanket of her owner’s tight embrace, and comforting rhythm.
* * *
Two weeks had passed since William came into the ‘care’ of Citrodora. His every waking moment was spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. At this point he was beginning to wonder whether stewing in anticipation was actually worse than whatever the affini really had in store for him. The stupid plant had just been so… nice to him. The worst part was he had to keep pretending to not be a secret spy otherwise she might put her guard up, so he couldn’t even complain or insult the damn weed. He just kept having to grunt polite words at her whenever she cooked him his favorite meals or brought him whatever luxury item he could think to ask for. And then there were the drug trips which he’d been unable to deny for fear of arousing suspicion. He’d spent way too many nights in a haze of sleepy, comfortable bliss, clinging to the plant’s vines because when he was like that William simply didn’t know better than to trust her. It was fucking humiliating just how happy that weed was to pamper and dote on him, and how stuck he was playing into the dynamic for fear of blowing his cover.
She even let William hang around while she was working. That had been the whole conceit of the operation: get close to an affini in the military hierarchy, learn their secrets, find a weakness. And Citrodora would—much to his embarrassment—just plop William down onto her lap during meetings with other ranking affini military officials, listening to their deployments and strategies as though the presence of a former Terran Cosmic Navy officer posed no threat at all. Part of him almost felt like he should be happy. He had more freetime than he could ever need, he was regularly eating the best food he’d ever had, he had free roam of the ship and access to all the entertainment he could ever need. Instead he just felt constantly on edge, and constantly worried he was on the cusp of going soft, but otherwise numb.
At the very least William was familiar with the feeling. He hadn’t felt truly relaxed and happy since puberty, when his body started to twist and warp him into a hulking, angry person. When his father suddenly had expectations for him to be manly, tough and stern, instead of a carefree child. Still, the whole situation was enough to prove just how broken he truly was. Even when afforded everything, all he could think of was the worst. Not that he was wrong to do so. The affini had to be lying, right? He’d yet to discover evidence of any mines or factories or prison camps in his investigation of the ship and his questioning of Citrodora. But surely there was something. Surely the countless florets William had seen since arriving weren’t really just what they appeared to be on the surface? Surely the ‘independent’ terrans he’d met were just being forced to act that way by hidden cruel masters. But to what end? It was driving him crazy. He felt like a paranoid, frothing conspiracy theorist peeking around corners and hoping to discover dark secrets, only to see more wonders.
To make matters even more complicated, Citrodora had even deemed him safe to live independently, meaning his wardship with her had terminated, and he was running out of excuses to keep hanging around with her. Worst of all, was how much Citrodora had begun to flirt with him. She kept bringing up how cute she thought he was—as though anyone could think that about him—or commenting that she thought he’d make a lovely floret, if that’s what he wanted. William wasn’t a fool, and Citrodora was hardly being subtle. Was that what she was waiting for? Would the real torment only begin once William asked her to become her permanent prisoner? And what other choice did he have but to become hers when it was the only way to continue spying on her?
The matter came to a head when, one afternoon, Citrodora returned from an errand to see William tersely pacing her hab unit. With casual ease, the affini strolled up to him, snatched him off his feet, and set him down on the couch. Cupping his chin, Citrodora made William look her in the eyes as she knelt down to his level. “What’s wrong, my dear?” She asked. That was another thing, Citrodora never called him by his name, which was something he was simultaneously grateful for and thoroughly annoyed by. On the one hand, he’d always hated his name. On the other, she only addressed him in ways that were either flirty, condescending, or, most commonly, both.
Perhaps he was in a bad mood that day, or perhaps the weight had finally grown too much to bare, but William couldn’t hold back anymore. “Would you just fucking stop? Stop pretending to care about me. Stop treating me like I’m not a prisoner of war. Stop this big stupid act that I have anything to look forward to but a life of suffering under you. Spit in my fucking face, beat me, I don’t care. It’s better than this stupid insincere smiling jailor routine you’ve got going on.”
A small smile crept over Citrodora's face, and she sat herself down beside William. “So,” she began. “I guess you’re finally willing to be open and honest about what brought you here in the first place?”
* * *
Seated comfortably in her Mistress’ lap, Clara waited for the transport to take off. Their cabin was small, still scaled up to affini size, but hardly a proper hab unit. By no means was this a problem, they were only meant to be on board the ship for a four or five hour trip. It was meant to be a place to relax and lounge in, not a home. Most of the other affini and florets aboard were socializing in the common area. Clara, however, was feeling a tad anxious. It was her first time leaving Annularia since she’d first arrived; part of her couldn’t help like she was setting foot into a world that wasn’t for her anymore, regardless of how untrue that was.
As the ship lifted off from the hangar, Clara tensed, but her Mistress soothed her with a guiding hand, and a quick injection of something nice. A cool, relaxed feeling bloomed from the injection site and out into Clara’s body, and the floret drifted off into a peaceful slumber.
A thunderous boom yanked Clara from her slumber. Then another, and another. The ship was shaking. She was in Citrodora's arms, her focus was returning. Citrodora was running. Bewildered, Clara glanced up toward her Owner's face. An unfamiliar look of worry and anger was etched into her leafy face. That was right . Mistress wasn’t supposed to feel that way. “What’s going on?”
“Rebels.” Citrodora murmured, trying to mask her troubled state for her pet’s sake, and failing. “They’ve got a heavy gunship parked between us and our destination. We’re trying to turn around, but they’ve got a couple of corvettes circling us, keeping right in front of our nose to stop us from jumping.” She glanced down to her pet, and stroked Clara’s cheek lovingly. “Don’t worry though, my precious girl. Their guns can’t damage our hull. Backup is on the way. We’re safe. We just need to find an opening and escape.”
Part of Clara thought she should be more panicked, but her owner’s rhythms were blaring loud in her ear, nearly drowning out the gunfire entirely. That, at least, kept her calm. She glanced about, and saw that Citrodora had taken her to the central common area, where the rest of the affini and florets aboard were all gathered. The ship’s captain stood in the center, barking orders to her crew and keeping an eye on the passengers.
Just as it seemed the affini were getting everything under control, the captain’s comm unit burst to life with an exchange in the local affini dialect, and her face grew grim. “Dirt.” She muttered. Standing up straight, the captain glanced over the meager crew and passengers she had at her disposal. About ten affini in total and fourteen florets. “I need everyone to stay calm, and get ready.” She murmured. “We’re about to be boarded.”
* * *
“Clara. Clara. Claaaraaa.” She felt fucking ridiculous, laying alone on the couch of Citrodora's hab unit repeating the word over and over again, rolling it around on her tongue to see how it felt leaving her lips. Citrodora had given it to her, at least in a roundabout way, among other things. After her little breakdown, the affini had sat her down, and gently, but insistently pried out a great many truths from Clara, including many she hadn’t yet been ready to admit or accept. And the stupid, controlling, kind, patient, understanding, pretty plant had known she was a spy all along? It was bullshit. And now the affini wasn’t even allowing her to hide from the things she’d admitted to during their talk. Like how she had been finding it harder and harder to really believe the affini were malevolent. Or how she actually didn’t really mind the good food and nice luxury items, but despite them, Clara’s life still felt empty regardless.
And, perhaps most obviously, was that she had always felt uncomfortable with herself and the way people saw her, which apparently took her down an inevitable path toward realizing she was a girl? The worst part of all was how much Citrodora had completely refused to allow Clara to deny it once her feelings were out in the open. She’d tried to argue her feelings weren’t real, or authentic, or that other people deserve the things she wanted in her place. Citrodora had dismantled each of Clara’s objections with the same leisurely ease as popping little bubbles. Then, once she’d extracted an admission from Clara, had somehow also managed to draw out a name, along with an admission that Clara actually kind of liked having someone to talk about her feelings with.
And that was how Clara wound up lying alone in Citrodora's hab, rolling the name around on her tongue like she was learning to speak for the very first time. She’d even, for some stupid, and stupidly appealing reason, asked Citrodora to extend her wardship for a little longer, while she figured out her gender issues. It was equally stupid how stupidly happy Clara had been when Citrodora had been delighted at the prospect of ‘keeping’ her for longer. After that, things became a bit of a blur. Clara remembered feeling a sudden burst of shame at how ‘weak’ she was allowing herself to be. Then she’d tried, and failed to walk back on everything, as Citrodora expertly deflected any attempt at further denial.
The plant had asked Clara whether it would be okay if she helped Clara calm down and ‘adjust’ to her new identity with some xenodrugs. Clara had agreed; the next thing she knew the needles were out. Citrodora had muttered something about ‘class-e’ and ‘class-h,’ then Clara was waking up alone in the hab. It didn’t take her long to figure out what Citrodora had done to her. As soon as she tried to take stock of her situation and recap the events of their conversation, Clara quickly realized that, when it came to matters of gender, she was completely unable to think of herself as anything but a girl, a woman, or some other feminine aligned term. Not only that, but her old name just felt foreign and incorrect. Instead, she defaulted to the name which Citrodora had apparently taken great care to etch into her mind. Loath as she was to admit it, Clara was actually very grateful, and, worst of all, actually thought it was kind of hot.
That realization illuminated Clara’s mind with a startling, stirring, and strangling realization. Clara liked Citrodora. She like liked Citrodora. Her affini had promised Clara that she would secure Clara a supply of class-gs to facilitate her transition. Had promised her the best, most advanced care the Affini Compact could provide. Had promised to take care of Clara forever, if that was something she wanted. She did.
The door to the hab unit swung open, and Clara sat up. She was going to need to have another talk with Citrodora.
* * *
Bombs. The rebels had strapped bombs with heartbeat sensors to their own chests. Too low, too high, it didn’t matter, any deviation from the norm and they would all go up. They must have finally gotten it through their thick skulls that an affini’s worst nightmare was the deaths of other sophonts, especially their pets. Mistress had told Clara it would be fine. They were going to get the bombs disarmed. Mistress was missing an arm from when the doors first opened into a hail of gunfire. At first, nobody—including the rebels—really seemed to know what to do. Tense silence had hung heavily in the air, neither side truly certain how it would all go down. Then there was a gun in Clara’s face. In the other florets’ faces. One of the affini crew was hiding her tablet behind her back doing something, Clara could just barely see that out of the corner of her eye, but she was already being lifted over someone’s shoulder and carried off toward the airlock. There was screaming now. But nobody was stopping them. Clara’s eyes fell on Citrodora's. It’ll be okay, she mouthed. We’ll save you.
Just as she was being spirited across the threshold, that affini, the one with the tablet, stood suddenly. The beeping and blinking from the rebel bombs went out. The ship exploded into vines and bullets as the rebels sprinted away. Some were saved; Clara wasn’t so lucky.
* * *
The first coherent thought Clara had after awakening from her implant surgery, was that even if she had managed to complete her original mission, and found some non-existent weakness in the invulnerable affini armada, she had no fucking clue how she would have ever even gotten that information back to the fleet. It hardly mattered, though. She laughed, a long, joyful belly laugh. Attracted by the sound, her owner appeared, hovering over her with a look of perfect care, safety and love. Clara knew then, that no matter what happened, she would never need to worry about her old life again.
* * *
At first, like the rest of the captive florets, Clara was inconsolable. She wasn’t meant to be without her owner. Forget her emotional attachment to the safety and love and comfort Citrodora brought Clara, it was a biological need at that point. But as she sat, strapped to a seat in the rebel shuttle, staring emptily through teary eyes at the blurry face of whatever rebel soldier was speaking to her, something happened.
A feeling bloomed from Clara’s implant, ringing with her owner’s rhythm, sending instructions, thoughts, feelings, memories, instincts which she had gladly allowed to be buried by Citrodora's will. She understood what she needed to do, who she needed to be. With a slow breath, Clara shook the cobwebs from her mind, and blinked away the tears. Her vision cleared, focusing in on the now familiar face hovering before her.
“Lieutenant Bailey,” the woman was calling out to her. “I know you’re in there Lieutenant, I know you would never let them make you into one of those.”
Rolling her shoulders forward, then cracking her neck, Clara made her best approximation of a low, threatening growl. It wasn’t what it used to be. Her new voice wasn’t made to sound intimidating, it was made for adorable moans, and needy gasps, and chirping the words ‘yes, Mistress!’ with bubbly excitement or docile dreamyness. Still, it wasn’t the worst. Clara chewed the inside of her lip, then leaned back in her chair, crossing one leg over the other, regarding her enemy with a well-practiced mask of friendliness. “Sally,” she drawled. “Good to see you again. And thanks for pulling me out. I can feel that fucking weeds grip on me lessen with every inch we put between us and her.” Clara spat, literally. Smirking, she thrust out her cuffed wrists. “You wanna get me out of these? I learned a hell of a lot back there. And I’m sure as shit eager for revenge.”