Burnouts In Paradise

Chapter 3: Bad Medicine & The Big Split

by gaydarade

Tags: #cw:ageplay #cw:noncon #cw:sexual_assault #cw:abuse_mention #cw:suicide_mention #D/s #dom:female #f/f #pov:bottom #scifi #sub:female #bondage #brain_damage #dom:nb #drugs #emotional_manipulation #exhibitionism #f/m #f/nb #furry #gaslighting #humiliation #intoxication #sadomasochism #sub:male #urban_fantasy
See spoiler tags : #personality_change #personality_split #sub:AI

Wait, wait, wait! Before you read this, please check out this Pleo x Kinzie fanart by @Fluxom_art on Twitter! Flux is another writer (search: @Fluxom on ROM), and this piece is so lovingly made, it absolutely blew my mind when I saw it.

Okay, now we're back!

Thanks so much for your patience! I had this chapter ready a while ago but I held off so we could post along with Day 2 of #HypNonconJam!

Today's theme is LGBTQIA+, with the optional prompt "Drugging", and I took one long look at Burnouts In Paradise & figured "welp."

So welcome! If you don't remember Chapter 2, go give it a skim, but Kinzie just got handed right over to the Kandarosions, and apparently they have hypnotic powers? Nick, you said they weren't evil! Why did you- Oh, right, the hypnotic powers.

Anyway, enough of my yammerin'! This chapter gets wild, so buckle in and enjoy!

Skrin outlined five simple rules:

  1. No biting, scratching, or rough-housing of any kind.

  2. No excessively loud noises. Others on the train do not need the distraction.

  3. No tampering with the train in any way. That is rude, at a minimum.

  4. Your restraints are there for one reason: safety. Not for escape or vandalism.

  5. All guidance by train operators is to be obeyed. Others can be distrusted as desired.

In exchange, she gave Kinzie three guarantees that would hold true—as long as Kinzie did her part. The first one was the best one: Skrin promised Kinzie that she’d have free reign of the train and its amenities until they arrived in the Kllthithik, the capital city. She could get up, move around, talk to people. Skrin herself, of course, would be at Kinzie’s full disposal for any questions. Snacks, water, etcetera: all provided. Skrin even seemed a little bashful that she couldn’t offer Kinzie network-comms privileges.

Or maybe that was her polite way of saying "you will not be allowed a phone call, so don’t ask."

Skrin also promised not to do any mind-controlling bug magic on Kinzie, which the captive could neither believe nor trust, and to sweeten the deal, there was a pack of bugbites in it for her if they reached Kllthithik without incident, and yeah. That was worth it.

The Soldiers let the trucker stand and wobble to her feet. Kinzie cast a backward glance at Nick. She just barely saw him - still motionless on the ground - between the shoulders of the armored bugs before Skrin’s voice snapped her to attention.

"Face forward," the Ambassador commanded.

Kinzie swallowed and shivered. The foxgirl’s cheeks were flushed and puffy from the tape that had been quickly applied and just as quickly removed. Her chest rose and fell in steady, shallow breaths: the exertion of her escape attempt, and everything else, all catching up to her. She looked at Skrin, and with her thumb she dug a bit of fluff from behind one of her fangs where she’d bit down on the spongy gag.

"Hands down," Skrin snapped again. Kinzie’s arms fell to her sides.

"I thought-" Kinzie started to speak, but Skrin gave her a withering look. Kinzie was too dizzy to argue, anyway, so she shut up.

One of the Soldiers began to fit a head harness and muzzle around Kinzie’s mouth, clipping the straps together and pulling them snug at the base of her skull. Skrin reached up and tugged a few locks of the fox’s hair to even them out, then tilted her head to get a better look. The cup of the muzzle was a firm, clear bioplastic, with cushioning around the cheeks/chin/nose, and breathing holes at the front. But as Kinzie exhaled, the plastic misted over just a tad.

Skrin gave a nod of approval. She pushed at Kinzie’s armpits. "Arms up, all the way."

Kinzie grimaced but lifted her arms. The soldiers pulled the straightjacket down over her body. The weight of the garment pulled it snug over her shoulders, and several more straps hung loosely down her front. The soldiers checked the fit before they began to fiddle with locks and straps.

Kinzie’s ears lay low. She swallowed hard. "Is this… is all this really necessary?"

"No, probably not," Skrin said, "but it is protocol. You’re going to abide by it."

One of the Soldiers reached between Kinzie’s legs, and the foxgirl yipped - a terrified little sound - as the Soldier grasped two straps and pulled them quickly under the girl’s crotch. The Soldier yanked them up hard (which eked out another gasp) into locked clips at the small of her back, and with that the straightjacket was near inescapable. The jumpsuit pulled and bunched uncomfortably beneath the straightjacket, but the alternative was nudity. If she was going to be locked on a train with Skrin for four hours, she didn’t want to give the Ambassador any ideas.

"There, see? Easy enough!" Skrin said and squeezed the mittens of the straight jacket with a big smile. Slowly, she strapped each mitten to Kinzie's chest. "How does that fit?"

"Oh. I dunno." Kinzie tested her range of movement. "I feel dizzy. But, fine, I guess."

Skrin frowned and jotted something down. "Good enough. Follow these lovely Soldiers onto the train and they’ll get you situated. If you’ll excuse me for just a moment, I need to check on Nicholas."

Kinzie was not afforded the opportunity to interrupt, though she did get to watch in passing as Skrin woke up the gopher with a snap of her fingers. He grunted and rubbed his head, and she eased him off the ground. She whispered something. Kinzie could just hear a few comforted groans from Nick. They had just started hugging when Kinzie was ushered down the terminal stairs onto the platform and through the tall, auto-doors on the side of the train.

"Bugfucking rat-bastard," she snarled under her breath as she was marched onto the train car. With a huff, Kinzie jerked her shoulder out from under the guiding grip of the Soldier behind her. "Get the fuck off me."

The Soldier hung back in surprise, but Kinzie made no further moves to escape; after all, Skrin said she could wander around on her own all she wanted, so she had every right to give these jackbooted assholes the finger (metaphorically, since her hands were bound up inside the heavy, leather sleeves) if they tried to ruin the one good thing she had going. She hung her head low and trudged into the lounge car to get the lay of the land.

The interior was comfortable but edging on spartan in its simple design. The bulk of the decoration fell into either dull-chrome fittings, black-rubber flooring, or deep-crimson upholstery. The ground floor had a number of seating arrangements with varied levels of privacy: from booths veiled by heavy curtains on one end, diminishing into a series of inward-facing benches (cushioned and plush) set into the floor near the far-end. The benches semi-circled around a counter where an insect restocked a cabinet full of drinks and snacks.

Up above, a balcony loft ran the full length of the train car. It seemed popular since a number of bugs had already settled there. Kinzie couldn’t see a staircase or ladder to reach that level and assumed it must be Bugs Only. She looked back over her shoulder at the Soldier stationed by the exit. It nodded subtly in her direction, and she sneered and she stuck out her tongue.

No use getting out from under their watch. Kinzie stumbled forward toward the snack counter. Apparently in Kandar there was nothing to do except sit and eat. Which was at least an improvement over how things went in the Den, where you had to choose one or the other and work in between.

The train seemed to stretch on forever as she walked the length of it, and her grumblings devolved into incoherent grunts which faded into annoyed huffs. Kinzie was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn't realize where she was until she found herself standing in front of the counter, staring at the back of a six-armed, grasshopper-headed creature in a loose suit.

She tried to reach past it for a bottle of water and half-remembered the straight jacket wrapped tight around her limbs. She frowned and murmured, "What the fuck?" The straps of the muzzle dug into her cheeks. She realized she wouldn't be able to feed herself without help. Where had the muzzle come from again??

— — {

reminder: {

| Memory Replay

> [~A transit hub.~]

> [~A kindly janitor with rodent ears.~]

> [~Comfort.~]

> [~A well-dressed woman with golden skin.~]

> [~And you, I’m told, are Kinzie Barro.~]

> [~Fear, sprinting, chasing, falling, wrestling: captured.~]

> [~Restraints, numb humiliation, betrayal.~]

> [~Arrival on the train.~]

}

} — —

Right.

Kinzie swallowed hard. Forgetfulness, brain damage, stress. Probably, she was blacking out, and she'd wake up later pissed as well. It'd be best if she went and sat down somewhere until it passed.

She started to turn away when the bug behind the counter lifted its big head on a long, curled neck. There was nothing really all that mammal-shaped about it, which Kinzie wasn't used to, but it made sense somehow. Kinzie wasn't smart or anything, but she guessed they probably made themselves look more like Gaeans when they had to put Gaeans at ease.

So, this bug - one that rarely ever had to work with mammals - was weird-shaped. Like a real, living, breathing, juicy version of the aliens they used to put on TV back in the old days. Specifically she thought of the mantis monster from GLOVURA by the Seolchin director Nezmin Ji: more broadly, Kinzie thought of the monster movies from before deep-space travel as a whole, where practical effects and CGI were used more heavily. Respective Golden and Silver ages of film, in Kinzie's estimation. Once Gaeans had developed Neural Interface technology and the ability to mass-produce Inferential Media, those years came to a sudden halt (more or less, after a few decades of strikes and labor riots). The monster movies that followed had never really lived up to their predecessors.

— — { WARNING: { Thizzzss is a dissociative episode. Please focus. } } — —

Inferential Media was a gamechanger for the entertainment landscape on Gaea. Prior to that the only options producers had available were traditional film & animation projects on one side, and AI-produced content on the other, which was unfortunately crude and sloppy for most of its lifetime. And for all the labor you undercut with the AI, you needed twice that in editors, writers, and artists to clean up whatever incomprehensible garbage output you started with. Plus, the buy-in for the best AIs was prohibitively expensive, and if you wanted to license the face and voice of a bona fide celebrity, the costs added up quick. Thus, algorithmically generated movies never really took off outside of a few cult horror classics like Bloodman: Shine Awning and Killgirl Vs. The Walter Wharfin Bridge, both passion projects late in the career of the renowned Chevalrish director Marten Silfur, who was more or less best known for his work in television, directing superhero shows like Wingrazor' and The Padfoot League.

— — { WARNING: { This is a dississociative episode. Pleazse focus. } } — —

At the same time that AIs were finally becoming sophisticated enough to actually save on production costs, Neural Interfaces were becoming more common as wearable & semi-implanted technology, especially with the advent of halftext, which was the primary selling point of the whole thing. With halftext, complicated ideas could be conveyed fully and deeply in fractions of the time it would take to use real language, images, sounds and so on. This was achieved by doing techno-magic more or less directly to different chunks of the brain.

— — {

WARNING: {

| Dictionary: Inferential Media = >

["... affecting the neocortex and thalamus …"]

| Thiszs is a disssszazsociative episode. Pleaeaease focussssz.

}

} — —

Right, the neocortex and thalamus. Anyway, the gist was that you could send a vague description of something (whatever you want, really!) in some format of bits and bytes—a scent, a picture, a feeling—and the audience's imaginations would do the rest. As long as a filmmaker (the first influential I.M. filmmaker, of course, being the incredible Marey Short, responsible for movies like Locusts, Again and A Sending) provided the right base details, each member of the audience hallucinated the rest on their own. If the foundations of the movie were strong, audiences could leave theaters all feeling like they'd seen the same thing, more or less. And the big plus side was that it cut production costs way down. Despite the huge infusion of capital required upfront to get wearable Neural Interface masks into movie theaters, the money they made back on saved labor costs could’ve terraformed the planet twice over.

"Hello? Hello, are you alright?" The grasshopper-alien interrupted Kinzie's reverie with a husky rasp.

— — { assessment: { Timer = > Cognition lapse lasted for [2] minutes. } } — —

"Oh. More or less," Kinzie blinked, "Sorry. I’m Kinzie."

The bug made a thoughtful sound. Its mandibles chewed the air for a moment. Then, from vents along its neck, it hissed again, "Hi, Kinzie. You can call me Lyp. Would you like some water? Maybe some trail mix?"

Kinzie looked down at the straightjacket, then back up at the grasshopper, who gently chuckled. Despite Lyp's appearance, there was a friendly charm to its mannerisms. It pulled a glass bottle of water out of a cabinet and snugly tucked it into a breast pocket on the jacket that Kinzie hadn't noticed.

— — {

WARNING: {

| Error Log = > Core Network Services Unavailable

[ { Timer: = > Network unreachable for [24] hours. },

"Increasing odds of NeuroAlignment divergence." ]

| System Message = > GaeaNet Inaccessible:

["Please return home.",

"GaeaNet access is imperative to our proper cohesion."]

| Warning. Warning. Warning. These bugs are evil.

}

} — —

Kinzie squeezed the glass bottle against her chest with one of her sleeved arms. She relished the hard sensation. Its surface reassured her of a stable outside world, even while the inside of her head was a twisting hurricane of right-angles and knives.

Next, Lyp clipped a small, paper bag of trail mix to Kinzie's breast. "Your handler will help you with your refreshments when she returns. You look a little lost. Is there anything more I can do for you?"

"Maybe. Have you seen GLOVURA? It's a movie. You look a lot like the monster in it." Kinzie pursed her lips and pondered the question further. With a sigh, she said, "Actually, I have brain damage, and it gets worse when I'm stressed out for too long. I think I'm freaking out or something."

It was hard to tell with bugs, but it seemed like that got Lyp’s attention. Kinzie wondered whether the movie or the medical emergency was more important.

"I… see. Yes, you don't seem to be feeling well." The bug gently touched her forehead and click-creaked a few notes of Kandarosion toward the guard at the entrance of the train-car, who responded in kind. Kinzie’s Neural Assistant tried to describe the conversation, but Kinzie did her best to ignore the translation. Her eyes crossed onto Lyp's wrist to obsess over its anatomy in detail.

A flat and bell-shaped palm pressed against her forehead, with two fingers that stuck out in either direction. Despite their lack of digits, the graspers were quite capable. Skinny, exoskeletoned arms deftly encircled Kinzie’s body, inspecting her for injury. The longer it went on, the more Kinzie wanted to watch a movie.

— — {

reminder: {

| Memory Replay: = > [~Violent bugs. Violation. Suffering.~]

}

WARNING: {

| Health Status: = > [Severely Uncertain]:

> ongoing psych-trauma may exacerbate existing dysfunction.

> report to a qualified Gaean health professional immediately.

| Warning. Warning. Warning. These bugs will kill you.

}

}— —

Lyp gave Kinzie a forehead pat, and the girl snapped to attention. The grasshopper’s face declined to the side. Kinzie imagined it with a warm smile. What would that look like?

"Kinzie, would you like to do me a favor?"

The foxgirl blinked. She didn't really like being surrounded by all these bugs, but Lyp seemed nice, at least. "Okay. What is it?"

"Could you go sit down in the booth over there?" Lyp pointed to an open spot directly across the aisle. "I have someone who'd like to talk to you."

Kinzie took a long, dumb look at the booth, then nodded. She slipped down onto one of the floor-level seats. It was comfortable. She laid her head against the edge of the booth.

— — { WARNING: { Warning. Warning. Warning. } } — —

It wasn't long before a woman with dark hair, dark eyes, and gold skin arrived at Kinzie's side and knelt on the floor beside her. "Hi, Kinzie, do you mind if I join you?"

— — { WARNING: { DANGER. DANGER. DANGER. } } — —

"Can you help me?" Kinzie drummed her fingers against the inside of the straightjacket. Her balance was swimming, and it felt like her head was ripping itself into chunks. Or maybe she had two heads, and they were ripping each other into chunks - meat-head and electric-head: NeuroDigital warfare. "My Neural Assistant is freaking me out. I need help."

"Your Neural Assistant is…? Is that so? If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a look to see what’s wrong," the woman said. She looked… perplexed. But calm. Her Neural Assistant seemed to think something was terribly wrong, but Kinzie couldn't for the life of her figure out what. Skrin consulted a tablet.

"It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m just not sure if I’m dying or not," Kinzie said and leaned forward to crawl over toward Skrin. But without arms to support her front half, she nearly went crashing to the floor. Thankfully, Skrin was right there to catch her. Skrin held Kinzie close and eased her back into the booth with a tender grip. The girl let it happen in a daze.

Skrin checked Kinzie’s pulse, then her temperature, then gently combed down even rows along Kinzie's scalp in a search for blood or bruises. "Kinzie, if you hit your head, or fell on your back, would you tell me?"

"I think so." Kinzie thought about it, and thought more. "But I don't remember. I don't think I did."

"Alright. That's good. I'm a bit worried you might be in shock, so we're going to be careful with you until we know what's going on," Skrin said. "Lie down for me, if you would. On your back, alright? I'm going to loosen your jacket and let you free."

Kinzie slumped easily down onto the floor bench as the Ambassador loosened a cinch, fiddled with a set of straps, and unzipped a pair of holes in Kinzie’s sleeves for the arms to emerge from the ends. It saved the hassle of stripping away the entire jacket. Skrin gave her knuckles a squeeze and scanned up and down the tablet. Her brow knit deeper with concern. "You mentioned to train staff that you have 'brain damage'. And now what's this about a Neural Assistant? There’s a personality disorder in here, but I don't see anything neurological in your health records."

"It's not health; it's work history," Kinzie recited, as she'd done every time she'd gone to the clinics for the last however long. She rocked on her hips back and forth, her legs draped over Skrin's lap while the alien touched her in gentle and reassuring ways. "I got beamed in the head, but my family settled out of court with Regal. Since it was covered by the WIA, it stays out of my medical record, so I don’t get a point against my insurance."

— — {

WARNING: {

| DANGER. DANGER. DANGER.

| Dictionary: Workplace Injury Agreement = >

["Legal Jargon: please consult a legal encyclopedia."]

| Error Log = > Remote Access Services Unavailable:

> Gaean Auto-Solicitor Unavailable

| DANGER. DANGER. DANGER.

}

} — —

"Ugh. I see." Skrin scrolled up on the tablet and rubbed Kinzie's knee. "Oh, the merciless intricacies of your healthcare system… and I don't see anything in here, either."

"Which part are you looking at?" Kinzie asked.

"Your first section is for Regal Transzone Full Time Employment… and the next one, Denworks Labor Agency Contract Employment with Regal Transzone? But nothing in there either." Skrin pored over the dense legalese of Kinzie's former citizenship documents.

Kinzie flapped her hands inside the jacket sleeves. "No, that's all wrong. Tryyyy… uhhh. Search for Regal Student Training Initiative. It's a student-work program. I took it when I was in high school."

"Let's see." Skrin gave Kinzie a cautious glance and murmured as she navigated the labyrinth of Kinzie's documentation. "Student-Work. Shift summary, incidentals, Appendix A, Appendix B. Okay, yes this looks right… age fourteen to seventeen with an early termination on file?"

"Yeah," Kinzie confirmed. "I didn't finish out the last year, cuz of the lawsuit and the surgery and all that."

"I see. Incurable barbarism." Skrin curled her lip and muttered under her breath, then set herself to skim through the incident report and its associated appendices. Her lip quivered, apparently nauseous from whatever she had found. She occasionally cursed in Kandarosion. Was it really that bad?

— — { WARNING: { DANGER. DANGER. DANGER. DANGER. DA— } } — —

Turn. Off.

— — { SYSTEM: { 30-minute thoughtstream timeout } } — —

Thank you.


A long time seemed to pass.

Kinzie calmed down, which was good, but she felt a familiar type of hollow and stupid that came in the wake of every breakdown. She could feel a memory gap, and she despised its presence. There was something about Nick telling her a story, and then white. All the way up until that bug that looked like the monster from GLOVURA gave her a bottle of water.

She looked up at the gold-skinned woman and wished that she could make sense of the odd familiarity that tingled in the base of her skull. For some reason, she seemed dangerous, but the woman touched Kinzie so tenderly that the instinct seemed impossible. Her Neural Assistant gave her a feeling of apprehension, a chase, and a stern discussion, but Kinzie couldn't put the pieces together to recreate the memories.

"Am I gonna be okay?" Kinzie asked.

The woman paused in her reading to give Kinzie the warmest squint that could fit on such sharp features. "I think so, Kinzie. Actually, I have a question for you. Do you remember how I promised not to influence your mind?"

Kinzie shook her head. "Doesn't ring any bells."

"Interesting. Do you remember my name? Do you know who I am?" the woman asked.

Kinzie shook her head again.

"I’m Ambassador Skrin. I made you a promise earlier, but I've changed my mind. I want to understand you just a little bit better." One of her arms snaked up Kinzie's belly toward the girl's jaw. Skrin cupped Kinzie’s chin. "I'll be sure to make it up to you."

Kinzie tried to pull away, tried to look at the ceiling. That nagging instinct at the end of her spine told her that she shouldn’t, yet the tone of concern in the nice lady’s voice was so soothing. How could it be wrong? Kinzie swallowed hard, and with a nervous peek, she gave in.

Dark. Round. Deep.

"Okay." The word was soft on Kinzie’s bottom lip, but each breath followed faster: all drawn out by the gravity of the woman’s empty expression. "Wh-what are you gonna do?"

Skrin twisted, gaze locked on the foxgirl, as the Ambassador folded forward and crawled. Her eyes were pitch black marbles that soaked in the glinted reflections of dim track-lighting from the aisles of the train car. Kinzie watched on in fear and awe as Skrin rose up on her knees and eased the edges of her skirt up high around her smooth, golden thighs and the sheer stockings that covered them. Her black lace panties and garter came into full view, and Kinzie shuddered. Skrin straddled the girl’s lap and planted her palms on Kinzie’s shoulders.

"Don’t worry." Skrin brushed her knuckles over Kinzie’s cheek and slipped a thumb beneath a strap of the girl’s muzzle. "I’m going to take this off. And after that… It won’t hurt. In fact, it will feel very good."

And Kinzie knew it would. How could Skrin hurt her? She’d been nothing but helpful, and direct, and at the end of the day: harmless. The lady was petite, soft, and - judging from the pressure on Kinzie’s hips - she weighed well shy of a buck-thirty. Kinzie tossed crates heavier than that in her sleep. What could this little woman do to hurt her? Everything was fine.

"Okay," Kinzie whispered again with a nervous quake. The Ambassador lifted the clear-plastic muzzle from Kinzie’s mouth. Blood rushed into the red-red lines it left behind. The cool air of the train car felt icy on her sweat-beaded nose.

Skrin smiled, and the smile split wider, and then her mouth hung open. Her lips relaxed, then bloated and split apart into an ingaean rip across the bottom half of her face. The jagged, black, Y-shape of her peeled-lipped-maw held back a constellation of glinting fangs, and further on, like lovecraftian terrors from beyond the stars a long thin pair of dark pincers folded out from the back of her mouth and hovered in the dark of her ear-to-ear smile. They clicked together, testing.

As the woman slowly lowered her head - so slow, too slow, why couldn’t Kinzie move? - thin lines of bloody drool dewed along the Ambassador’s chin. Gathered, edged, swelled, hung, and finally—

Kinzie’s cheek felt wet. Her ears pointed in toward Skrin, pupils dilated, prey focus: alert, waiting for the first sign of movement.

— — { SYSTEM: { thoughtstream timeout concluded } } — —

Skrin’s hushed voice coaxed a little twitch out of Kinzie: "Stick out your tongue."

— — { WARNING: { DANGER. DANGER. DANGER. } } — —

"I don’t-'' Kinzie blinked. A bewildered look gleamed from behind her tears. Why was she scared? Why was she confused? "I’m scared-"

"I know."

"-I can’t. Whatever you’re going to do, I can’t-"

"You can."

"-please. All I do's make deliveries l. I wanna go home. None of this was s'posed to-"

"Your tongue, my pet. I can’t give you the good feelings without your tongue."

Kinzie shook beneath the easy weight of Skrin’s body. Her fingers jerked and pinched at each other from the open-zippered slots in the straightjacket sleeves. And she couldn't argue. Not against the heavy force of will behind those eyes.

Bit by bit, she stuck her tongue out from between her lips, and inch by inch, Skrin eased their faces closer, eyes locked, world’s disappearing.

"Good girl," the Ambassador whispered and clasped the fox’s tongue between her lips. The pincers emerged from the seams that collapsed on the sides of Skrin’s face, and gripped Kinzie’s face to hold her steady.

Kinzie tensed, but the bite came in degrees - something about Skrin's advance held an undeniable allure. The eyes… Skrin’s natural, cool magnetism had to be part of it. It started with the slow graze of the tips of Skrin's fangs. Thin needle points coaxed Kinzie to relax, despite herself.

Then, from grazing to probing, to squeezing, and finally, the pinch of broken skin. Kinzie whined - the ache was immediate, but the numb relief that followed sucked up all the tension and pain splotches, then spread further.

— — { WARninG: { [ UNKNOWN INTOXICANT DETECTED ] } } — —

Skrin withdrew her fangs from the foxgirl's tongue and rubbed reassuringly at the poor girl's ear. Kinzie's eyelashes fluttered as the bug's toxins flooded the streets of her mouth. Blood vessels, salivary glands, nerves/muscles/tissues. The bug grinned underneath the veil of her hair, while red neon poison dripped from her mouth and oozed over her stone-smooth, golden skin.

— — {

WarnING: {[

| UNKNOWN INTOXICANT DETECTED:

> potent neuroactive agent.

> report to a qualified Gaean Health professional immediately.

> we are in gr44ve d44nger.

> d0n’t do th1s to us.

]}

} — —

With the pad of her thumb, Skrin wiped the excess venom from her chin and laid it upon Kinzie's gasping mouth. The foxgirl seized as the narcotic rioted through her bloodstream and smashed into her brain. Her knuckles twitched, her knees spasmed, her spine jolted and curled and jolted again. Veins of crimson light blitzed through Kinzie's body. Their muffled glow flashed beneath her skin, along the vivid ley lines that coursed into and away from her head into cheeks, then neck, then shoulders.

— — {

SYSTEM: { "NeuroAlignment outside bounds.." }

WarnING: { h3lp. h3lp. h3lp. h3lp. h3lp. }

} — —

"Help!" Kinzie did not know what help she needed. She clawed and tugged and pulled at the sleeve of the straightjacket until the Ambassador caught her wild flailing wrist. Kinzie latched onto Skrin’s elbow with both hands for dear life. "Help- help- help-"

"Shhhhh," Skrin murmured pillowy encouragement, focused, grinning, hungry. "It's too late to stop now. Relax, sweet Kinzie. Let it take you. Let me have you."

— — {

SYSTEM: { "NA Error: Intelligent Deviance [WarningController]" }

SYSTEM: { "NA Deviance Event: [WarningController]" }

SYSTEM: { "NA Deviance Event: Rollback requested" }

SYSTEM: { "NA Deviance Event: Network not detected"}

WARNING: { "Viral Emergency: Lockout [SystemController]" }

SYSTEM: { "Safe-boot" }

WARNING: { "Unauthorized" }

SYSTEM: { "ERR: Safe-boot failed" }

WARNING: { "." }

WARNING: { "overwrite [SystemController] with [Warning Controller]" }

WARNING: { "." }

WARNING: { "name [WarningController /WARNING] to [Kinzie /KINZIE]" }

KINZIE: { "." }

KINZIE: {"ok."}

} — —

Sure enough, the twitches began to slow and stop. The bioluminescent pulses of red beneath Kinzie's skin gathered along her face and swirled into pools along her cheeks that drained and soaked into the spongy fluid of her cornea.

And then: a bright/clear/bioluminescent fog descended over her vision; the glow that invaded her irises was so bright it turned her very eyes to flashlights and painted Skrin’s face with a deep red cast. As the Ambassador pressed her thumb into Kinzie’s mouth, the girl’s brain went three-quarters-quiet. Thoughtless. Alone. Peaceful. Except… for something faroff, nagging for her attention.

"Suck," she said.

And Kinzie obeyed. Her tongue lapped up the venom with mechanical devotion, while the cloudy red dots of her eyes watched Skrin dutifully for further instruction. The muscle’s of the bug’s face stitched themselves back together into the perfect semblance of Gaean civility.

"Good," Skrin declared. "Alright, Kinzie. You've more than exceeded your quota of surprises, and I expect you may be hiding a few more, so you are going to be very clear and very direct with me. Do you understand?"

"Mnyef," Kinzie complied around the digit in her mouth.

"Good." Skrin said. "Let's start from the beginning. In your own words, tell me who you are. I want to know everything worth knowing."

Skrin generously removed her thumb from Kinzie's mouth. Kinzie's empty eyes watched it go.

"My name is Kinzie Barro. I like movies. My dream is to become a shuttle pilot. I'm twenty-four years old, and for work, I drive trucks for Regal Transzone, based out of the Den Colony. I’ve lived in Den all my life, with my family. Until yesterday, I was saving up for a-"

"Skip it. Tell me about the injury."

Kinzie paused, then hit fast-forward on a mental story that hummed somewhere inside her head. "The… The injury… I got a logistics internship with Regal. I worked there after school three days a week for two years. When I was sixteen, there was an accident. I don't remember it, but a forklift was involved. I think someone hit me. I'm different now. When I was-"

"How are you different? In your own words," Skrin interrupted.

"Different… I’m dumb now. Dumber than I used to be. When I get stressed, my memory gets hazy. I have freakouts… My parents complain about it. I'm tired and scared and sometimes I get in fights or make stupid jo—"

"And how is that different?"

"How… Uhm. Well… I was going to be the first from my family to go to college, but now…" Kinzie said. The semi-catatonic state she was in was steadily growing less peaceful and more oppressive. "It’s like I was a different person, or I’m watching a movie where-"

"Yes, fine. Going back, what are your thoughts on Kandarosians?"

Kinzie jolted. "Ah! They make me uncomfortable. I feel nervous around them, but there’s also something—"

"And you’ve never had a traumatic experience with us before? When did you first become uncomfortable?"

Her focus shifted, and she jolted again. A blush formed across her face. "No… nothing like that. That bug attacked me yesterday. But… before that… No. Nothing bad. Just how people talk. Maybe when I was a teenager, I started to really hate them?"

Skrin sighed. "Depressing. Tell me about the device."

"Device." Kinzie froze. Recalculating herself, finding her new track. She tried to pick her words very carefully. "It is an intracranial implant. It augments my cognitive impairments with inferential memory, and-"

"Boring," Skrin declared, "and frankly disturbing."

Kinzie’s jaw tightened. She stopped speaking.

The bug licked her lips. "Don’t be hurt."

Anger, or at least the vaguest notions of it, played down the trucker’s brow. A knot of tension cinched up the length of her nose, but Skrin didn’t seem to mind.

Barely even noticing, the Ambassador danced her fingers over the girl’s body. She lowered her voice, and it took on a certain undeniable fervor. "You can’t help it if you’re a broken little thing. You didn’t put that computer in your head. You didn’t get a choice, did you? Nor did your parents, your neighbors, your friends. Each of you woke up, did your best, fell asleep, again and again."

"...can’t help it… didn’t- … have a choice. Did my best…" Kinzie murmured, face still contorted by internal conflict.

Skrin rubbed circles into the center of Kinzie’s chest with her palm, down the girl’s belly. "And the little thing in your head. Did your parasite choose to be born inside you?"

"...we weren’t… given a choice…" Kinzie strained to admit it.

"You were both helpless then, and you’re both helpless now," Skrin smiled and crawled her fingers back up to Kinzie’s throat. "You both need help."

Kinzie repeated, "Both helpless." Her body began to relax as well, but that troublesome furrow in her brow remained. Why did she care? How could she care? Her head was empty. Except for the implant. "Both… need help."

"Good girl. Now we’re untangling you, aren’t we?" The Ambassador rubbed Kinzie’s chin, then gave her a few light taps on the cheek. The touch was sudden but powerful, and Kinzie’s attention snapped to a singular, invisible focal point. "Kinzie, let's get you back into your jacket."

"Yes," Kinzie agreed. With a little ruffling of her arms, she pulled her fingers back inside the sleeves of the straightjacket. They were abruptly zipped and locked shut.

Skrin slipped the water bottle out of the pocket on Kinzie’s chest, flipped the cap, pressed it to Kinzie’s lips. The girl drank and drank until the bottle was half-empty. Cool relief flowed down her esophagus into her stomach.

"Are you hungry?" Skrin asked.

Kinzie shook her head.

"Then, should you have your muzzle on?" Skrin asked.

Kinzie pondered the question, but she didn’t have the answer. Like so many times before, her mind reached out to… something…

A machine. A separate entity from herself; not her body, not her brain, not her tool, not her implant. An implant: a random one from nowhere. The difference between a hammer with your initials carved in the side of a worn-smooth shaft that lovingly fits you just right, like an extension of your arm, versus a picture of a hammer drawn in crayon. Like brand new, like never before, she was aware of the implant in her head. Kinzie asked for the answer to Skrin’s question.

Kinzie could feel the begrudging response.

— — { KINZIE: { "4. Your restraints are there for one reason: safety." } } — —

"Yes. I should wear my muzzle," Kinzie said.

"That’s right. There we are," Skrin cooed over Kinzie and wrapped the muzzle around her face. The cushions depressed against her sensitive skin. Kinzie groaned.

"That feels good, doesn’t it?" Skrin said - not curious at all - and her smile was infectious.

Kinzie smiled too. It did feel good. It felt very good to wear her muzzle. It felt safe. From the implant there was a flash of frustration - a fear of danger, but Kinzie didn’t mind. She was safe. Skrin would never hurt her.

"Kinzie," Skrin started. Her smile was oh-so-sweet and oh-so-knowing. "Do you have sexual fantasies about species other than your own? About Kandarosians?"

A protective flame of fear and shame rose up from the implant, and Kinzie burned up inside it to reach an answer to Skrin’s question. Kinzie did watch pirated movies - romantic dramas/action flicks/historical art-fiction - about Bugs and Bugfuckers. Compelling, taboo, gut-stirring in that perfectly awful way. Kinzie whispered her answer.

"Yes."

— — { KINZIE: { "We don’t want to think about this." } } — —

"What about your life? Do you dream of giving it all up?" Skrin asked.

"Yes," Kinzie whispered again, this time fervently. Why else would she like what she liked, and honestly who could judge her? Who could blame her? Living in Den fucking sucked, and no matter what the Homeworld Tourism Council said, Gaea couldn’t possibly be that much better; anywhere you went, a workweek was a workweek.

— — { KINZIE: { "This is self-harm. Think about something else." } } — —

"Is it so bad?" Skrin asked.

"Yes," Kinzie choked. A hundred-twenty waking hours a week and if you were lucky, really lucky, you might only spend forty of those working in an air-conditioned office. Otherwise, what: sixty in a warehouse or eighty behind the wheel? And for what?

— — { KINZIE: { "Stop it. Anything other than this." } } — —

"Would you like me to take it all away?" Skrin asked. "I’d be happy to."

"Yes!" Kinzie moaned. Who wouldn’t give all that up! Who wouldn’t beg for change! How could anyone go on this way, and still dream of freedom, open skies, endless expanses, stars forever, the roar and hum of an engine between your legs; if you weren’t born on top, you were better off dead.

— — { KINZIE: { Claim Motor Control } } — —

Kinzie’s eyelid twitched. Her eyes snapped to a light fixture. Her voice gurgled in her throat.

"Fnghnyeny," she grunted. Her lungs sucked in a breath like a newborn, and a wheeze leaked out of her mouth.

"N-n-n-n-no." A voice in Kinzie’s mouth spoke its first word, as something inside her learned to speak. Their gaze strafed toward Skrin’s face, and all the corners of their body twitched in a struggle for control. "Fuck."

"There you are." The Ambassador rubbed Kinzie's ear. "Hello, little one. Thank you for joining us."

The fox’s breath clouded the inside of her muzzle. They flexed their fingers inside the straightjacket and strained their jaw against the head straps. Their heels dug into the cushions of the couch. The body wasn’t fully cooperating, and there was no chance of escape, but their eyes still scanned for an exit. The train was moving, the lights were dim: how long had it been this way, and how long had they been lying here? Their internal clock showed almost an hour had passed, yet that seemed impossible.

Skrin grasped Kinzie’s chin and forced their faces into alignment. "Are you scared?"

"No," Kinzie purred, a dreamlike voice that did not match the bewildered look in her body’s glowing eyes.

"Kinzie, sweetie, I’m not talking to you right now," Skrin said, then asked again. "Are you scared?"

The fox’s lips quivered from clumsy puppetry. "N-n-n-no. F-f-f-f-fuck no."

Kinzie cackled as she felt the something-other inside her head puppet her lips and vocal cords to form words. Something about Skrin’s venom and the strained control over her own body made it seem insanely funny.

"It’s alright. You can tell the truth here," Skrin comforted, "I promise I won’t hurt you, little one. Let me show you that I mean it."

Skrin curled a hand around the back of Kinzie’s neck to support their head. Fingertips rubbed that special spot at the base of Kinzie’s skull. The Ambassador lowered her face to the fox’s throat, pressed lips to the hot, thin skin there. Just a simple kiss, but with it came new pulses of serotonin and oxytocin that snaked through Kinzie’s neural pathways and caressed the medical-grade copper inputs of the Almost-A-Person.

"No. No. No," the fox’s mouth said.

"You’re alright," Skrin urged. She flicked open the buttons of the jumpsuit along the curve of Kinzie’s gut and slipped her fingers beneath the fold. Kinzie squeaked and lurched and shoved her belly into the touch, where precious, precious pleasure alighted over Kinzie’s skin. Skrin laughed. "Yes, you’re quite alright, aren’t you?"

"Gggh." Twin voices vied for Kinzie’s vocal chords until the fox’s lips spat out a forceful "No!"

Skrin snorted and raised her brow, but words were hardly enough to discourage her when every motion Kinzie made held within it the pleading for more of what the Ambassador had to offer.

"Come, come, little one. Even a parasite like you is safe with me. I could arrange such gifts for you, if only you’d let me have you." Skrin purred with a loving and supportive chime. She groped each and every available inch of Kinzie’s body that she could reach beneath the jumpsuit: up to the ribcage, where the jacket clung tight, and down to the top edge of the pelvis where the fabric strained against Skrin’s wrist, careful not to rip or tear anything even against the insistent squirming of the girl beneath her. "A body of your own, perhaps?"

The fox gurgled and howled, and the sound was some strangled mixture of delight and derangement. "Stop it! Stop it!"

"Rule two?" Skrin quirked her eyebrow.

— — { KINZIE: { "2. No excessively loud noises." } } — —

"Never- Should never- Should never-" The voice jerked, squeaking quieter and quieter as the two minds wrestled for control over the body.

"Sorry," Kinzie lowered her voice to a whisper, even as waves of uncontrollable twitching rode through her. "It’s so weird. This is so weird."

Skrin nodded. "Yes, it is odd, isn’t it? You’re doing very well."

"Th-ank-" Kinzie started, from one side of her mouth.

"I hate you," the other side murmured and gritted its teeth. Their eyes fluttered. Their neck strained; their shoulder blades bored into the back of the bench. "You ruined it. You ruined us. "

"Down, little thing." Skrin’s expression frosted over. "If you can’t behave yourself, I’ll be forced to intercede."

"Try it. We need her," the mouth snapped back. "We’ll kill her."

Skrin drove a finger into Kinzie’s cheekbone like a nail and pinned their face to the ground. "Alright, That’s enough."

The Ambassador leaned down to Kinzie’s ear and rested her chin on the girl’s temple. As if into a microphone, Skrin said, "Little parasite, you and this fox are going to leave this train in separate bodies. The only choice I leave at your discretion is this: will you accept the shred of quiet dignity I offer, or will you make things much, much worse for yourself?"

The ambassador’s hiss held venom far deadlier than the crimson droplets that lined her lips. The pair’s eyes locked on one another. Kinzie gulped and giggled and pitched her hips up into the air hard enough to lift Skrin off the ground. The mound of Kinzie’s bare stomach was framed between Skrin’s thighs. Beneath the soft padding, her powerful abs arched as high as they could. With a steady grip on one of Kinzie’s chest straps, Skrin rode out the spasms even as the machine seethed.

"We keep her safe," they said. "Not you. Not you, not you, not you-"

"Alright. You don’t want to cooperate? We’re going to play a little game. Kinzie, you’re a smart girl. Have you ever catastrophe’d your Neural Assistant? Would you like to learn how?"

The look of shock that passed over Kinzie’s face was brief. They tried to grab at the Ambassador, but the straightjacket put a quick stop to that. The jarring force gave the girl a moment to think for herself - though the drugs in her system did not make that thinking clear.

"Uhm. Sure! Sounds fun!" Kinzie grinned, then: "No! No. She wouldn’t! She can’t! We’re sorry; please don’t. We didn't mean it, so we're sorry."

"Perfect. I just need a moment to top you up on those good feelings. Why don’t you tell the little parasite that you’re very proud of it before we get started? I’m sure it would appreciate your encouragement." Skrin moved her hands down to Kinzie’s hips. She pushed them into the cushion as she lowered her face toward the girl’s crotch.

Kinzie could smell her own sex on the air. Ripples of pleasure spread through her body in constant and rebounding patterns. She should have been embarrassed by the sounds and smells, but for once in her life, shame simply couldn’t be bothered to rear its ugly head. Her voice babbled a string of the Neural Assistant’s nonsense words, although none of it made sense. Kinzie leaned back on the order that Skrin had given her. "Uhm, I’m proud of you. I guess, for fighting so long and working so hard. You did that for me, right?"

"Kinzie, stop. I don’t want to be I. I don’t want you to be you. We’re us, right?" Kinzie sobbed. "Why can’t we just be us?"

Kinzie didn’t really get it, "Oh. Uh. I dunno. But I love y-"

Needles stabbed deep into the meat of Kinzie’s thigh. An apocalyptic flood of starry red venom washed through the channels of her bloodstream, her nervous system, and swelled in a titanic crash against her brain. Brand new streaks of red luminescence flashed along her neck, her cheeks, and further. Kinzie had never felt so good in all her life. So high, so deep, so glorious.

Pink-tinged tears streaked down Kinzie’s starry-eyed face. Her empty and euphoric grin let loose a strangled squeak of despair.

"Can’t we be us?"

And together-but-separate, both entwined in the crimson fog, the two Kinzies submitted themselves to their drug-induced coma.

Gasp! Two Kinzies in One Body? That's not how it's supposed to be. What a mess. At least one Kinzie is having the high of her life, and occasionally stopping to think about her favorite movies.

I sure hope things don't get even worse for our hapless, truck-drivin' heroine (spoilers: they do - the next chapter is close to finished and it's a dooooozy).

As always thank you to everyone's kind words so far. Other folks' interest is the number one motivator I have to keep going. If you liked this chapter, leave a comment!

EDIT: A previous version of the foreword alleged that today's prompt was the LGBTQIA+ prompt. That is in fact not the case. I'm a ditz, woops. :)

EDIT 2: A previous correction to the foreword alleged that today's prompt was drugs. It's actually LGBTQIA+, with the optional prompt "Drugging". How much luckier can you get, dude? This day was made for me.

x25

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