We strolled through a tent that smelled of naphthalene and skunk. The merchant burned fruity incense that reminded me of the chemicals they put in electronic component packaging. A variety of nonhuman creatures walked in and out of the establishment, purchasing armless turtlenecks, pants with three or four legs, jackets that allowed for wings.
My hairless green girlfriend handed me what amounted to a leather strap. "Here. Put this on."
My job required me to wear a number of humiliating things. For video calls, the aliens had me in a dress with stockings and Mary Jane flats. Gender Equality Uniform. Now, for this collections sting, Ibira wanted me to take off the dress and don something worse. "Please tell me something goes over that."
Ibira put two hands on her hips, pointing to a mannequin with her third. "Does he look like he has something over that?"
She herself wore a harness of a similar style - a thong with some straps to hold it and a few pouches in place, a couple side straps to cover her six nipples. Just because I liked it on her didn't mean I wanted one for myself.
Our fuzzy, one eyed merchant sold all kinds of clothing, robes, togas, dresses, bikini things, catsuits, you name it, but Ibira had her heart set on the harness. "And why, pray tell, am I supposed to walk around in that thing?"
"Because humans are considered pets here, and our target will become suspicious if he sees a pet wearing a company uniform. Plus I think it will look sexy."
I reddened. "So I'm your pet now."
She toyed with the ruffles on my skirt. "I thought you would find the idea exciting."
I blushed deeper. "Well, I mean I kinda-"
"Ordinarily I would enjoy your awkward stammering, but we've got a large student loan to remove from default, and he's not going to pay it electronically."
I sighed. "Remind me again why I'm doing this?"
"Because our customer service stats aren't good enough for the call center, and you slept with me. Who wants to spend all day in a call compartment anyway?"
"You're right. This is more interesting." I looked all around, but saw no dressing rooms. "How am I supposed to put anything on? What kind of clothing shop-"
"Not everyone has the same concept of nudity, Jason." She indicated a large eel headed cockroach creature, who just so happened to be trying on a new robe. A feathery alligator thing also traded a leotard for its own stylish harness, allowing a pair of snake-like appendages to flop out.
The redness, which had almost faded from my cheeks, now returned in full force. "You want me to strip naked right here in front of everybody."
"It's nothing I haven't seen before...my pet."
"I can't wait until it's your turn."
Ibira laughed. "Good luck with that. We're not going to earth anytime soon."
I still balked.
Ibira rolled her widely spaced eyes, crossing two arms. Her other two hands returned to her bony hips. "They're not going to care. They'll probably think you just have an extra hand down there." But then she groaned, stretching out two of the vendor's robes with her quadruple arms to make herself into sort of a dressing screen. "You weren't this modest last night when you were clinging onto my tusks."
Two long, elegantly curving ivory tusks projected from the sides of her chin. Culturally speaking, to touch them was a supreme insult, but during lovemaking she allowed me to grab anything I liked. I liked them a lot. "I wasn't going out naked in public."
She abruptly let the robes drop, prompting me to secure my thong piece in a hurry.
"It's on backwards, dear."
My girlfriend pulled it off, helping me to secure it properly...with deliberate slowness. In exchange for the tusk touching, I had promised to let her grab anything on me.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
Ibira shrugged both sets of shoulders. "You told me you liked females who wore the metaphorical pants in the relationship." One hand gestured to my discarded dress.
When we got it all cinched up, my new outfit kinda made me look like a skinny version of He-Man. Utility pouches, straps crisscrossing the chest under a stylish designer logo medallion. "I have entirely the wrong physique for this."
The green one fingered her tusk, giving me an appraising look. "I disagree."
Thankfully the weather was warm. I felt goosepimples rising just standing next to the merchant's air conditioner. I asked about my shoes, but Ibira said a pet wouldn't have any.
She stowed my things in a satchel, leading me out into a bustling marketplace, rows of alien merchants in multicolored tents, booths, and little domed buildings. Flags from every planet and province waved in the breeze.
Just about everything in the galaxy could be purchased there, drugs, electronics, toys, weapons, jewelry, literature...They even had a shop devoted to video game consoles you controlled with your genitals, configured for every known species. Food smells mingled in the air, some delicious, some revolting (mostly revolting, in my opinion).
The leash merchant looked like the love child of an octopus and a giant crab. If I'd gone alone to the place, I would have been scared shitless by what he sold.
It was a pet store made for people. Large bags of feed with humans pictured on the label, man sized dog kennels, diapers, training pads, toys, humiliating little outfits, and, of course, leashes and collars, including that nasty one with the pointy things that jab dogs in the throat.
A nude woman sat crosslegged on a pad in one corner, leashed to a wall as she stripped meat off a chicken breast. When she saw me approach, she put the food down and smiled at me.
Ibira grabbed my chin and turned my head the other way. "Don't ogle her. She probably doesn't even know how to read."
"God," I muttered.
The naked `pet' repeated what I said, but seemed mystified by what it meant. Ibira was right. The brunette, as cute as she was, didn't look very bright. They probably scolded her for trying to open the refrigerator.
My girlfriend turned her attention to the shopkeep. "I need something for my pet."
The purple sky darkened ominously, thunder rumbling in the distance. A chill ran down my back, but it hadn't been the weather.
The octopus creature brought out a giant feed bag with a picture of a bodybuilder on it. "I think you should try this one. It contains protein and supplements that encourage rapid muscle growth, with the right amount of exercise of course."
"Thanks, but right now I just want a leash and collar."
His stretchy three fingered hand offered that horrible collar with all the pointy things. "This one is very humane. It allows you to train them without excessive strain on the trachea."
Ibira gave me a naughty look, but then, to my relief, she answered, "That won't be necessary. He's a well behaved animal." She pointed to a basic woven collar. "I want that one." She selected the human version of a girly toy dog leash to go with it.
From then on, I was her dog, trailing close at her heels as she gently tugged the leash. "All right, what's this guy look like? How are we going to find him?"
Ibira showed me the picture. Our target had a face like a nautilus, wore a heavy brown robe, its hands resembling flippers. "They say he only looks big and clumsy. He runs fast. Good at hiding in crowds. He likes this area in particular."
I frowned. "So, what, we just stand around and look?"
Her facial expression said yes. "Hungry?"
"Thinking of buying me some kibble?"
"Don't tempt me."
A few yards down the elastic concrete walkway, adjacent to a botanist and a giant sculpture of a praying mantis/platypus alien with an important looking scroll, we found a human celery plant with eyes, who cooked up stuff that smelled...passably edible.
Ibira ordered something called Hittafo Basdeta for me, which looked a lot like nachos, but didn't taste like them at all. The crumbly bits had the flavor of bleu cheese, the sauce chocolatey, and the nachos like plastic and stale saltines. "What is this?" I said between mouthfuls.
"They take the reproductive fluid from young male Runzajas and bake them on cooking sheets. The crumbly bits are crushed insects, and the sauce..."
Disgusted, I offered her the tray, but she refused to take them. "I think that vendor was right. You do need more protein in your diet."
"I don't think you understand how disgusting this is."
"Oh please. You just ate Vebduto yesterday."
Note: Vebduto are like silverfish, they come in a lot of different colors, but our company chef cooked them up like Doritos.
She scooped up a glob of sauce, veggies and crumbles, stuffing it into her mouth. "That's not bad!"
The cook nodded at the complement.
Wanting to impress her, I reached into the tray for another chip, but the moment I had one in hand, I caught a glimpse of something brown darting past, and Ibira tugged my leash with such terrific force that the whole mess went flying.
What followed was a blur, Ibira rushing between vendors' stalls, shoving aliens out of the way, climbing over plant boxes filled with things that sprayed me with fumes or tried to bite a chunk of flesh off my body.
And then Ibira, frustrated with me lagging behind, shoved my leash into the lobster claws of a random cow splotched boar monster. "Here. Hold this for a minute. I'll be back for him."
I guess that would have been fine, but the second she left, the toucan beaked oinker sold me to a tall black space suited thing with no eyes.
I screamed for my girlfriend, but the scary customer just yanked me by the leash and put a muzzle over my head to shut me up.
I suddenly regretted my submissive tendencies.