For a Better Universe

Part 1

by SapphicSounds

Tags: #cw:big_emotions #cw:character_death #dom:plant #Human_Domestication_Guide #sadmoods #sub:universe #the_least_kinky_hdg_fic_you'll_ever_read #f/f #scifi

Hey folks! Here's an HDG story I wrote a while ago. This is a bit of a unique one. Namely, it's not really kink at all and is instead largely just a mediation on the setting, me trying to grapple with some of the political / philosophical ideals and ends at the core of it, along with a some worldbuilding for the setting. Some of you maybe have actually already read this because you found it on the HDG wiki or the link tree or my patreon, but anyway, I kinda just never put it up here cause I wasn't sure if it really belonged, but decided to go ahead with it anyway (if there are some issues with a less kinky story being on this site, happy to take this down, though).

Anyway, I wanna preface a bit more about the story itself cause I think it might be good for some folks to know ahead of time what they're getting into. There's some big CWs in this one, so I'm gonna go over them before we start. I'd also like to restate for those in the back that this isn't a fun kinky pet play fantasy story.  It's a serious, contemplative work full of some very difficult emotions, contrasted by very high highs, and an ultimately very optimistic, happy ending. Much of it is bitter, before finally ending on a very sweet note. So if kink is what you're hoping to read, you might want to either adjust your expectations or skip this one (though I hope you won't skip it. I think it's quite worth the read). One last thing I'd like to mention is that if some of these CWs scare you, do bear in mind that there is a happy ending for literally every single character in the story.
 
CWs: mention of the deaths of multiple florets (from age), depictions of depression and existential crises of feeling lost / adrift in an unending life, critical examination of the Affini Compact and the ethics of its actions, mention of an actual proper war, mention of a really shitty / totalitarian space empire, as well as the destruction of a culture. Mentions of affini accidentally making some big mistakes with wide ranging consequences.
 
Anyway that's that, let's get this road on the show, shall we?
 

Alcea Pallis, First Bloom stood over the quivering form of her newly assigned floret. The poor thing looked scared out of her wits. Watching the frightened girl, Alcea couldn’t help but wonder: if rebel officers hadn’t filled her head with all sorts of horrible lies about the Affini Compact, would any of this have been necessary? With a soft smile, she knelt to extend her hand. 


“It’s alright, Olivia. I’m not going to hurt you.”


Olivia spat in her face.


* * *


Alcea Pallis, Second Bloom opened her eyes for the first time. She stood, and stiffly crossed her hab on legs she had yet to fully regain control over. Everywhere she looked, she saw reminders of a life that was no longer hers. A floret gone, a chapter of her life which her body had quite literally closed for her. An itching feeling was growing in her roots. Alcea needed to go. 



* * *


Her ship was running low on fuel; without a doubt she had enough to get to her destination, especially with the vacuum of space to propel her along, but her astrogation and piloting would need to be nigh flawless. Of course, it really wasn’t an issue either way; all affini craft, no matter how big or small, were equipped with state of the art distress beacons. Honestly, even if it were a possibility, the idea of being stranded, left to drift alone in space forever didn’t particularly scare her. 


So many affini, far older than Alcea, had called her reckless, apathetic. They weren’t wrong, but they spoke to her as though she were one of their florets. As though the way her grief had ruined her was simply a phase. As though Alcea hadn’t seen for herself the ways they broke when their own florets left them behind.


Her gaze flickered to her fuel gauge, then her beacon’s transponder. Curling her hand into a fist, she smashed the transponder. Perhaps with a little risk she would finally feel something.



* * *


Two entire blooms had come and gone since Alcea Pallis, Fifth Bloom had so much as spoken to a human. For whatever reason, no matter how foreign or even impossible to pronounce her name was for some of the sophonts she had met and cared for along the way, Alcea couldn’t bring herself to let the name go.  


A quarter bloom or so had passed since the loss of her most recent floret: a darling lumari with feathers which had so beautifully matched the gradient of their scales. What hurt the most was how used to the cycle of grief she was getting. Another loss, then a new period of roaming, then she’d settle on another new home for another bloom or another half a bloom or even another a bloom and a half. It depended on how long it took for her to find someone new. 


Then she would find a new floret, and the whole thing would start all over again. Because that’s what affini did. 


* * *


Without a doubt, Izzie Landen gave the immediate impression of outstanding intelligence, charm, and wit. Alcea Pallis, Eighteenth Bloom was immediately intrigued. The two made fast friends, Izzie’s passion for the cultural and artistic history of just about every sophont species in the local cluster often left the pair talking long into the night. Simply put, Alcea needed to possess her. Not two Terran weeks had passed since Alcea first arrived on the Hydnora and befriended Izzie, when Alcea sat Izzie down to discuss her domestication. And then Izzie said no. Domestication simply wasn’t something the little human had ever wanted for herself. Before Alcea had even begun to process her disappointment, however, Izzie proposed that she and Alciea enter a romantic partnership not as owner and pet, but as equals. The very notion caught her off guard; Alcea accepted without a moment’s hesitation.



* * *


As her vines gently curled along Izzie’s cheek, leaving the little human shivering and gasping in pleasure, Alcea couldn’t help but wonder if she’d made a mistake. Had she been shaped by all the millions, billions of cultural and social norms which affini simply took for granted? Or was this simply her nature, affini nature? There was no set point in time Alcea could point to, but slowly over days, weeks, months, things had changed. The strokes of her vines had strayed from simple affection toward indulgent doting; her eagerness to support and please had become eagerness to control and protect; xenodrugs stopped being a fun way to experiment with intimacy and improve mental health, and slowly became a tool to create bliss and docility. 


Bloom after bloom, floret after floret, coaxing submission and domestication from sophonts had become as natural as breathing. To say the affini saw it as both a science and an artform would be an understatement. Domestication was affini culture. All the creativity, the opulence, the exploration and innovation was a means to an end of fuelling the endless quest to care for the universe. Alcea was no different. In many ways, she couldn’t blame herself for slipping up. That didn’t ease the conflict inside her.


On Izzie’s end there were certainly no complaints. She had, after all, been the one to request her own domestication. But did Izzie change her own mind, or had Alcea changed it for her? The first time Alcea had tried to bring the matter up to Izzie, her floret had blinked up at her with big, glassy eyes full of trust and submission, cocked her head to the side in a display of adorable confusion, and asked for pets. Alcea decided then it would be best to wait ‘til her floret was a bit more lucid before asking again. 


The second time around proved more helpful. Izzie had grown thoughtful, hummed a bit to herself, and asked Alcea whether or not that even mattered. “It’s hard to know for certain,” she’d said. “But I don’t think I am no longer myself. Perhaps you disagree, but if not, all your doting, penchant for control, and liberal application of xenodrugs did was show me that I was wrong about not wanting domestication. That this is a way of life I very much can be happy and fulfilled in. It’s true, I probably wouldn’t have wanted this without your… encouragement. But I see it as little more than you convincing ne I was wrong. Nothing changes the fact that I’m happy this way, or that I wouldn’t trade your care for anything.”


That had been enough for a while. But it didn’t keep Alcea from wondering, from time to time, was she incapable of seeing or treating a non-affini sophont as something other than a potential floret? If that was the case, wasn’t that wrong? Izzie didn’t seem to mind either way. She was happy, happier than she’d ever been. And they loved one another. Perhaps that was what mattered most. It was what mattered most for Izzie, anyway, and by her own admission, Alcea couldn’t deny that Izzie was brilliant.



* * *


Across many blooms, Alcea Pallis, Thirty-Seventh Bloom had visited every corner of the Milky-Way. She had, by this point, perhaps even done so a few times. She had seen it grow from a wild frontier filled with conflict and suffering, to a galaxy filled with sophonts living happy lives. Each and every one of them was grateful, even the ones who didn't know why or what for. There was genuine beauty wherever she went, every ship, station and planet a place that knew nothing of war or hunger. Nobody wanted for anything, at least not for long, as everything that could be provided, would. Everywhere she went, she saw shining examples of the good her kind had brought the galaxy. And so, Alcea was grateful; Alcea was happy. 


* * *


From one of the many rear-view windows of Paeoniifolius, Alcea Pallis, Fifty-Third Bloom, could see the Milky Way nearly in its entirety. She’d needed to leave for a long time. The memories, both good and bad, were too numerous. Alcea tried not to dwell on how numerous the memories she no longer had might be. The joy she’d brought to countless sophonts, floret or otherwise, was all that mattered. The pain was worth it. The grief she and her fellow affini always felt when it came time to part ways with a loved one, even the suffering of those who opposed them was worth it when the Compact finally brought them happiness in the end. 


None of that changed the fact that Alcea had to go. There was an entire universe out there to see. An entire universe which needed the guidance of the Affini Compact.


* * *


From the bridge of Merlutz, Alcea Pallis, Four Hundred Twenty-First bloom tried, and failed to emotionally process the sight before her. When, in all of affini history, had not one, but three affini warships been outclassed? Certainly engagements had been lost, and these were small scouting vessels, but three ships? Even seeing their wrecked hulls with her own eyes, part of her simply couldn’t believe it. They had told her when she agreed to redeploy the Merlutz for combat that the Hrulian Empire was the most advanced civilization, and one of the most warlike civilizations the affini had ever come into contact with, but this was worse than she'd ever imagined 


Muffled voices barely registered behind her. Someone touched her arm, Alcea turned. Before her, was the worried face of her navigation officer, Paith Limini, Third Bloom. “Captain, what do we do?” He asked in a trembling voice. Alcea took a step backward, glancing out at the bridge around her. Dozens of eyes looked to her, all as frightened as she was. All far, far younger than she was. Did they all look to her thinking that in her long life, she would have seen something like this? Or did they simply see their captain and hope for guidance in this moment of shock and fear? 


Alcea stilled herself, and spoke. “What you’re seeing before you is the result of negligence, our hubris. In a universe so infinite and teeming with life. Something like this was bound to happen. It scares you, I know. It scares me. We will not allow this to happen again. Merlutz, Jaryth, Selocyt, Poralyth, and dozens more ships the likes of which are a marvel to behold for even the most seasoned of affini engineers are all encroaching on this sector. We will bring peace to this galaxy, as we have to so many before it.” 


* * *


In a garishly decorated, open air garden and bistro, Alcea Pallis, Four Hundred Twenty-Fifth Bloom overlooked the slow, lazy traffic of countless pedestrians on the street below. She took a moment to try and appreciate the open air, the endless view unmarred by what was once an endless skyline, and the feeling of wind in her leaves. A low moan disrupted her attempt before she could put any honest effort into it. Stiffly, she turned to face Paith, who was in the middle of tending to his Hrulian floret, scratching his fuzzy little horns and watching with glee as a bit of drool trickled from his mouth. It was unsettling just how adorable they became once suitably pumped with hefty doses of xenodrugs. 


Paith caught her eye, and gave a satisfied smile. In spite of her internal conflict, Alcea couldn’t keep a smile from forming on her own face. “It’s good to see you again,” she murmured.


“Been too long,” he agreed. “What is it now, tenth of a bloom or so since I last saw you?”


“Is that normal blooms or is that Hrulian war blooms?” Alcea grinned. 


He barked a hearty laugh. “Normal ones. Though I’m certain my friends back in the core worlds will be quite confused when Paith Limini, Tenth Bloom comes marching up to them while they're all just starting out their fourths.”


A teasing smirk played across Alcea’s lips. “Is that why you were always such a reckless dirt clod? Trying to wrack up some artificial seniority around here?” 


With a shrug, Paith leaned back into his chair. “Well I’ve got to catch up to you somehow, captain.”


Alcea grew still, her smile fading slowly. “You haven’t heard then? It’s not captain anymore. I’m not going to be sticking around in the area, even the galaxy much longer. I’ve already arranged for transport actually.” 

“Dirt,” Paith muttered. “Don’t want to stick around for a while, see the fruits of all that… awfulness?” When Alcea remained silent, Paith sighed and rattled his vines. “Well, I’ll miss you. Be sure to look me up if you ever wind up around the core worlds.”


Before Alcea could formulate a proper reply, another moan from Paith’s floret disrupted the pair. Immediately, Paith began fussing over his pet, cooing and showering him in praise in the local tongue. Alcea couldn’t help but glance out at the wide open space around her again. Hesitantly, she glanced back to her friend. “Have you ever listened to their music?” she asked. 


“Who's?”


“The Hrulian’s,” when that did little to clarify what she was getting at, Alcea tried to elaborate. “I don’t know. I was considering staying around, taking one as a pet. I went to one of the adoption centers, walked past row after row of support pods full of Hrulian’s, every one of them drugged out of their minds and ready to go. There was one I really even took a liking to, cute little thing she was. Then I got to thinking, if she’d had the chance, she would have killed me in a heartbeat before all this. But why?” 


“They were misguided,” Paith answered. “Their ideology was destructive to themselves and others. They conquered and subjugated race after race of sophonts.”


“Sounds familiar.”


Paith practically bristled at the response, his leaves rattling as he narrowed his eyes. “You know it’s different with us. We don’t have things like forced labor, we don’t kill. We work to increase happiness, not to further our own selfishness.”


Calmly, Alcea played her vines out openly in a gesture of apology and calm. “You’re right. It is different…” she trailed off, letting her thoughts wander for a moment, before returning her gaze to Paith and continuing in a level, soft voice. “But your average Hrulian thought they were doing what was right for the galaxy, too.”


His face twisted in confusion. “What do you mean?”


Alcea shook her head lightly. “I’m not sure; really it’s just a rumor. I shouldn’t have spoken like it was a sure thing.” Apparently that wasn’t good enough as Paith seemed to be somehow physically prodding her along with his intent gaze alone. “When the historians came through to document everything there was to document, they came across some old records. Probably around thirty-eight blooms ago. The Hrulian’s had just begun exploring the local galactic sector when they picked up a warning message sent from another civilization; we're still unsure which. The best those historians could figure, though, is that the warning was about us. Intergalactic conquerors set to subjugate all life in the universe. There’s a working hypothesis that the Hrulian’s were as awful as they were because they were trying to muster an empire strong enough to win against what they thought was an existential threat to their way of life. To the whole universe even.”


Paith gave a skeptical hum. “But that’s only a hypothesis. Besides, it doesn’t justify what they did. They were fascistic, cruel, endlessly hungry for the subjugation of ‘lesser’ species.” 


“You’re right. It doesn’t. But is this our fault? Because Paith, look around you.” Alcea made a wide, sweeping gesture at the open air around them. “We’re atop one of the only somewhat tall buildings for kilometers around, in the core of what was once a thriving metropolis. It’s gone now. We took apart their culture out of fear of preserving their nationalistic identity. They were worried we were a threat to their way of life, and we were.” She grew quiet for a moment, and sighed. “Anyway, I got to thinking about all that at the shelter. Then I went home and listened to some of their music. It was really pretty. I don’t know, maybe this wasn’t entirely their fault. At the very least it certainly wasn’t the fault of individuals caught up in a culture that taught them militant xenophobia. All the same we’ve obliterated their culture, put the majority of them on xenodrug regimens so strong they could hardly be considered themselves anymore, since hardly any were willing to stop fighting us with everything they had, and taken guardianship over all the other sophonts they had conquered.”


“And the overwhelming majority of the ones they conquered thank us. They don’t live in fear anymore, not of violence, or hunger, or of forced labor. We show them kindness, patience, love. We take great care to respect their values, teach them things they would never have learned, help them be their best selves. Happiness and wellbeing in this galaxy is inarguably at an all-time high. Our treaty even stipulates that any resistance or former combatants from those cultures will never be forced into domestication.” Paith’s defensiveness was understandable, he himself had been a huge advocate for that clause in the treaty so as to ensure the ethical treatment of those forced to make war by an occupying power. In all honesty, Alcea was quite proud of him for it, too. He had come a long way from the trembling young affini she’d seen shaking with fear on her bridge.


Gingerly, she reached across the table to take his hand, offering a comforting smile. “I know, you're right. We aren't them. I know we’ve helped far more people than we’ve harmed. I know that even to those we’ve harmed we have gifted long, happy lives.” She sighed, and leaned back in her chair, looking toward the horizon. “I’m sorry, maybe I’m just old. Maybe I’ve seen this play out too many times. I just can’t help but wonder how much we’re doing all of this for them, and how much we’re doing it for us.”

Hey there folks, don't have a ton to say besides thanks for reading! I'm posting the whole thing here today so I won't be dangling that sweet sweet early access over your heads. That being said, there's a ton of other stuff available on my patreon if you wanna read it.

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