Mirabilis Luz, Seventh Bloom, had, in the words of her darling pet, ‘flown off the handle.’ For one, anything which happened to be both ill-timed and critical enough to tear Mirabilis away from the girl during her recovery was, practically by definition, going to be unpleasant. For two, she had put in the request days ago to be notified the moment this exact errand became necessary, and, of course, hadn’t been told until half a day later. At the very least, Mirabilis had the been awarded the slightest stroke of good luck when Seductrix—the Terrans just had to have a subspecies of moss called ‘shiny seductive moss,’ for her rooting dirt-clown friend to name herself after, hadn’t they?—volunteered to keep Mirabilis’ little treasure company while her Mistress was away. And, loath as Mirabilis was to admit it, Seductrix was actually very good with the little human. Really, Seductrix was a hit with just about any floret, especially the ones blissed out of their minds, probably on account of her being very fuzzy.
Regardless, the fact that her precious pet was in good hands did little to quell Mirabilis’ annoyance. What did lend her some small satisfaction, however, was that the look on her face and the purpose in her stride were apparently enough to ensure that anyone she crossed paths with would stay out of her way. Mirabilis was also at least a little grateful that the Baiera was a small ship. If she’d been aboard something larger, then stars knew how long it might take for word to finally reach her. As a small bonus, it also meant she didn’t have to walk as far. Rounding a corner into the Baiera’s detention area, she caught sight of two familiar faces, and quickened her pace. The pair were huddled together, practically intertwined, discussing something in a somewhat hushed, worried tone, but as Mirabilis drew near, she caught their attention, and the pair straightened out, then turned to face her. When recognition didn’t immediately dawn on their faces, Mirabilis cleared her throat and introduced herself. “Hesperia and Ilex, yes? We spoke very briefly this morning.”
“Ah, yes, Mirabilis Luz. Our apologies, we’ve been a bit distracted this afternoon. We just had a rather… difficult meeting with a captured rebel,” Hesperia—at least, she was fairly certain that one was Hesperia—replied.
“She’ll be okay,” Ilex added. “Poor dear has just been through a lot.”
“She has a lot to unlearn,” Hesperia agreed.
Refocusing their attention, the pair gave her an inquisitive look. “We won’t make you wait any longer, though. We have people looking into her needs.”
“How can we help you? Something about one of the ships we captured recently?”
“Petrichor,” Mirabilis answered. “It was captured last night, was it not?”
Neither Hesperia nor Ilex appeared to have the slightest idea of what Mirabilis was talking about. They gave her a blank look, then shared one of their own, before understanding bloomed first on Hesperia’s face, then Ilex’s. “Ah, you mean that recovered wrecked freighter? We weren’t involved in that.”
A chill spread through Mirabilis’ vines. Wrecked? What did they mean wrecked? Dirt, roots and leaves this had better be some kind of misunderstanding. “I’m looking for the captain of the ship. A rebel named Serena Pace. It was my understanding you two were the ones to speak with regarding our sudden influx of rebels.”
Again, Mirabilis was only met with confusion. “We can show you the report. But our understanding is that Petrichor was already abandoned when the Baiera discovered it.”
“Apparently they flew as far outside our sensor range as their thrusters would take them—at least without activating their jump drive—and got a pickup from another ship,” Ilex explained.
“But not before activating their distress beacon and rigging Petrichor with an irksome little bomb.” Hesperiea looked to Ilex, as though to confirm. They shared a nod, and Ilex continued.
“The silly fish thought they could catch us in a trap.”
“They used a civilian distress beacon too. Tricky little things.”
Mirabilis didn’t want to believe it, but she had no reason not to. “So… that means Serena is gone?”
“I’m sorry,” Hesperia answered. “We have no information regarding a Serena Pace.”
With that, Mirabilis slumped forward, feeling a slew of new emotions wash away and replace her annoyance and anxiety. There was disappointment, no small amount of anger, most of all though, Mirabilis couldn’t bear the thought of having to explain this to Kenzie. No matter how much Mirabilis assured her floret that they would find Serena one day, the poor dear remained a little ball of anxiety unless subjected to a healthy dose of Class-As. With her Mistress’ help, Kenzie had even gone so far as attempting to contact Serena directly, recording a message and setting it to loop on the private encrypted comm channel which she and Serena shared. It had recounted her capture and experiences with domestication in detail, begging Serena to disregard the rebel’s propaganda and join her. But with Serena’s location unknown and the Baiera soon to be moving on from the sector, neither Kenzie nor Mirabilis had any idea whether the message would reach its intended recipient. When the Petrichor arrived in the sector, had Serena simply not received Kenzie’s Message? Or had Serena abandoned Kenzie? To her dismay, Mirabilis realized that If she was asking herself that question, then Kenzie was certain to wonder about it as well.
Seeing Mirabilis’ distress, Hesperia and Ilex drew in closer, each putting a comforting hand on either of Mirabilis’ arms. “This rebel, who exactly is she to you?”
“We may not know where she is now, but we can put out feelers.”
“Absolutely, we’re always looking for new fish to hook.”
With a sigh, Mirabilis nodded appreciatively. “She’s not much to me. Or, at least, I’ve never met her. She’s my floret’s girlfriend.”
Hearing that, Hesperia and Ilex immediately perked up. They shared a look, politely excused themselves for a moment, and began to talk in hushed whispers. Their strange reaction was almost enough to make Mirabilis forget just how awful she felt. That, and it kind of seemed like she might have just told them something important, which was certainly a little intriguing. A few moments later, they straightened out, and turned back to Mirabilis.
“This Terran you’re looking for. Do you know what she looks like?” Ilex asked.
Mirabillis nodded. “I’ve seen pictures of her, yes.” A kernel of hope was starting to build within her; she did her best to keep it in check.
“Short black hair, freckles, purple eye mods, cute mole on her left cheek, large erm...” Ilex trailed off.
“Dawn calls them ‘mommy milkers,’” Hesperia added helpfully.
Mirabilis grew rigid in surprise, then stifled an amused giggle while also struggling very hard to keep that rapidly growing hope. “Um, that sounds about right, yes.”
Seemingly equally encouraged, Ilex continued. “Your floret, is her name MacKenzie? Formerly MacKenzie Powell?”
At this point, it was just hope, Mirabilis was overcome with relief. “Yes, yes that’s her. Please tell me you know where Serena is.”
“We do have a Terran rebel matching that description,” Hesperia answered. “Yesterday afternoon, a little while before Petrichor was found, we were attacked by a rebel pilot who stole a ship to try and rescue her girlfriend.”
“Which is honestly very adorable. You have no idea how much self control it took to keep ourselves from fawning over her. Or rather, how much self control it took one of us to keep from fawning over her.” Ilex shot a pointed, but amused gaze toward Hesperia, who simply shrugged. “Regardless, at the time we had no idea where this Terran came from, but in hindsight it only makes sense that she must have taken off from Petrichor,” Ilex explained.
Hardly able to believe what she was hearing, and half expecting some little detail to come along which ran counter to all the evidence, Mirabilis found herself struggling to respond. The next few seconds were mostly characterized by her awkwardly tripping over her own words, before finally managing to make her tongues behave. “So she’s here? I’d like to take her home with me please, as soon as possible.” Her relief was palpable as she spoke, the tension evaporating, leaving her almost giddy.
“Well, there is one problem,” Hesperia replied.
Seeing the way Mirabilis suddenly tensed, Illis hurried to explain. “Nothing unusual, just typical rebel mistrust for affinil. Maybe a little exacerbated by how worried she is about your MacKenzie.”
“Honestly it would be quite adorable if the poor thing wasn’t so upset.”
“We wouldn’t want to push her over the edge by forcing her to go with you. She might get violent then.”
“She could hurt herself!”
“It’s certainly something we can overcome,” Ilex assured, “we just don’t want to put the cart before the salmon.”
Pausing in confusion, Mirabilis cocked her head to the side. “Don’t you mean cart before the horse?” She asked.
“Ah,” Hesperia muttered flatly.
“She’s one of those,” Ilex chortled. The pair broke out into oddly synchronized laughter, before returning to the matter at hand. “Never mind that. Would you be able to fetch your pet? I’m sure as soon as little Serena hears it straight from the salm—um, excuse me—as soon as she hears it from her girlfriend, she’ll realize everything is fine.”
It was about then that an inconvenient realization struck Mirabilis. “Hmm,” she murmured. “That actually might be a bit of a problem, especially if Serena is worried we mean her or Kenzie harm. Again, nothing we can’t overcome, but another obstacle.”
“Oh?” The pair asked in unison, their voices rising, drawing out the sound to the point they could almost be considered harmonizing.
“Kenzie had her implant put in a few days ago. She’s still recovering and can barely string together a few words. If Serena saw her now she’d think… well.” Mirabilis trailed off uncomfortably.
“She’d think we’re exactly what her rebel propaganda tells us we are,” Hesperia answered.
Frowning, Mirabilis nodded. “Exactly that.”
The three affini paused for a moment, weighing their options, before Ilex chimed in. “How soon can you have her relatively lucid?”
“Good question,” Mirabilis began. “She’s healing very well, responding to her drugs well too. She might get a bit grumpy, but I think I can start offramping her tonight and have her presentable by tomorrow evening.”
“I’m assuming from the way you talk about her that she’s already well behaved and would be willing to talk to Serena?” Hesperia asked.
“Oh goodness yes. Poor thing was scared half to death when we captured her. Apparently her superiors were starting to suspect she’d defect, which they were right about. Kenzie was hardly excited to be captured, but as soon as she realized I wasn’t going to hurt her she came apart wonderfully. And she adores the way I put her back together—when she’s lucid, anyway.” For a brief moment, Mirabillis allowed herself to get lost in indulgent memories. She remembered the look on Kenzie’s face when Mirabilis first collared her, the way her eyes had begged for her Mistress to take her. She remembered the first time Kenzie asked Mirabilis to drug her. Eager to indulge her floret, Mirabilis had tied Kenzie up in soft silk, then cranked the girl’s sensitivity up, and her lucidity down as she teased the girl with the gentlest of phantom touches all over her body, showering her with praise the whole way.
A pair of amused smiles crept across Hesperia and Ilex’s faces as they watched Mirabilis reminisce. “I can see you’re eager to do it all over again,” Hesperia commented.
“You have no idea. Two adorable little girlfriends, both of them mine? I think about it every day. All the lovely little things I’ll do with them, all the lovely things I’ll do to them. I think about it almost as much as I think about the look on Kenzie’s face when she sees what I’ve brought home for her.” Actually, Mirabilis had already picked out a collar for Serena. Purple, to match her eyes, and linked to a special microchip which formed a network linking Serena’s collar to Kenzie’s collar, as well Kenzie’s implant, and someday soon, Serena’s implant as well. Mirabilis had spent many an evening gazing down adoringly at her pet, thinking of all the fun she would have once she finally owned them both.
“You’ll have to send us pictures when you finally get them together. If nothing else, so we can see that adorable face when it isn’t wet with tears.” Ilex mused.
“Or at the very least, when it’s wet with a different, more fun kind of tears,” Hesperia added, causing the pair to again burst into almost conspiratorial laughter, as though Hesperia’s innuendo were some private joke.
Mirabilis frowned at the sound of that. In her excitement, she’d allowed herself to forget that her would-be floret was currently not only not hers, but was actually apparently having a pretty horrible time. Suddenly stricken with worry, Mirabilis’ worst impulses prodded at her. “She’s… being observed, correct?”
“Of course, if she attempts to harm herself a nurse will intervene.”
“An affini nurse,” Ilex reassured.
Mirabilis thought for a moment, thought about the poor girl alone in a detention hab, convinced something horrible had been done to the woman she loved. Serena had been so brave. And yes, obviously Serena had been misguided. But even so, Mirabilis couldn’t help but feel strangely proud of the Terran. She’d attacked the Baiera alone, certainly knowing how desperate and futile that was. More so, Serena had done that while wholeheartedly convinced that, if she were captured, the affini would do awful things to her. Why then, had Serena done it? Mirabilis knew the answer to that, of course. Serena had done all of it to protect Kenzie. Strangely, Mirabilis almost felt a kinship with the Terran. Adorable and misguided as she was, Serena did what Mirabilis tried to do every day: keep Kenzie safe and happy. Knowing that, the thought of leaving Serena to suffer alone, scared, depressed and uncertain, even if it was just for a night, was simply unacceptable. Nodding to herself, Mirabilis looked to Hesperia and Ilex. “Do you know if she’s awake now? I’d like to see her.”