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[Fic] [Open] The Changeling
[Fic] [Open] The Changeling
So it was sometime in late 2023... you know, a little after Mackie fucked up with his Griffon project and nearly got everyone killed at Frigga, and about six months after that whole United Belt Alliance fiasco.

Here's what only some people know about that time... you have to remember that UBA was trying to throw all sorts of wrenches into the JMC works - and it was in a big bid to force us to work for them, or to fold up, and to either way isolate everyone who wasn't under their banner further and tighten up that set of thumbscrews.

Overall, it was a really rough time for everyone out Jupiter way, almost but not quite as bad as the Boskonian War had been for us. After all, I came out of that Milestone Event with a biomod, using a dose of the substance Handwavium to basically change from someone who was rapidly dying to someone who was going to keep on living. Oh, and it included a level of involuntary gender flipping whenever I’d get excited or stressed. But that was usually once a day, tops, and either would reset when I’d get sufficiently calm, or had gotten a good night’s sleep.

A little thing about the UBA situation now that you know about the biomod... my gender flipping had gone into serious overdrive from the stress... I was literally spending, well, not full up days at the time, but I was finding there was less and less male time as the stress had mounted from dealing with what they were doing to be maximally disruptive to our operations, the shift happening pretty much every single day and earlier and earlier in the day. It took months after enough information was found to bring that entire thing down around their ears for us to finally start getting to where we could deliver on time regularly.

My variable gender thing... didn't really recover quite so neatly. I was still finding myself randomly changing, in both directions, with no apparent cause or reason, and it stopped even being as predictable as “early in the day”, to say nothing of the fact that relaxing was no longer guaranteed to shift me back and make it stick. It took a little bit to realize why. Of course, it wasn’t me who realized it first.


I woke up in the middle of the night with the overriding need to use the head, and did what I always did up until that night, padding into the head, pulling down the front, standing over the toilet and doing the business, as it were.

I didn't hear the sound, at least as soon as I should have... but the warm, wet sensation that unexpectedly spread down my legs brought me right awake.


Nene woke with a start to a muffled groan almost becoming a scream from the head of the small sleeping area aboard Starbug 1. She quickly threw off her side of the blanket and rushed into the head nestled between the two cabins. Jeph was there, leaning against the wall, panicking a bit... her underwear still bunched down around her hips and dripping with something that clearly wasn’t water.

"Jeph... are... are you all right?"

Jeph seemed to come back to herself, her lips quivered, and she lunged against Nene, grabbing her into a hug and practically sobbing.

"Nene... nene... it... make it stop... I... i can't..."

Nene did the only thing she could, taking Jeph into a hug, lowering her carefully down to the floor and seating herself to cradle her, letting the crying fit run it's course, stroking her hair and making soothing sounds. "Jeph... it's all right... it'll be all right…”


I don't remember, honestly, how long the sob attack lasted. Nene held me until it had properly passed. I felt more than a little wrung out.

"Ne...Nene... I... gods I just want this to be stable..." I sniffed, straightened myself back up, then leaning against the bulkhead. "I need to just be one gender for a day... just one damned day..."

Nene looked at me, and there was that look again, the one that told volumes about the depths of the love she could hold.

"Jeph... OK, first of all, take a shower... a good soaking long shower, as much as you need, OK? I'll go down to the galley and put on some of that Death Wish on the pot and a couple of bagels in the toaster. You come down as soon as you're ready and decent, and then we'll talk about what we can do, OK?"

I nodded. I was a bit numb as I showered... I hadn't woken up female like that in a long time, not since sometime in the middle of the War, and that had been a week that included a major flashback to nearly getting killed... and something had hit me really hard about it when I'd felt my underwear get soaked when I expected the stream to just hit the bowl… and it was clear the last bit of gender consistency I’d had - waking up in male form - was no longer going to be.

I yanked myself away from that, and worked on getting myself cleaned up, washed out my hair just to be certain and to partake in the ritual of cleansing, so to speak, and rustled myself up some clothing while wrapping my hair up in a towel. Pants, shirt, undershirt ‘waved to become a bra (which it did immediately) shorts, the whole drill at the time. And I slinked down the stairs, feeling a little more out of sorts than I had been feeling of late, while smelling the sweet roasted bean smell of caffeine ready for the cup.

Nene had gotten the coffee and bagels out as she'd threatened, and had even taken the time to make scrambled eggs and bacon, which had become a fair luxury of late for us as they still haven’t figured out a way to vat grow a satisfactory form of bacon. She put a steaming cup of coffee and a nice, hot plate of breakfast down on the table, and indicated the chair. We both sat down, and she watched me intently as I ate and drank, and gave me a few minutes to eat in silence before she sighed.

"OK... I'm just going to take a page from Priss' playbook for a change and just come right out with it, right now, and spare us a lot of drama and misunderstandings and everyone else around us second guessing all of this. Something's been really off since all the business with Maico and her Saber Chase, like it’s thrown your balance way off and you’ve never really recovered it, and given the way it's gotten even worse now, I think I have some idea, after all these years, what it's all about." She took in another breath, held it, let it out, then,

"Jeph... all of that stress, then dealing with the Griffon fallout... there's definitely been a lot more to the variable gender thing you have than most anyone have been aware of." She gave me a look, much sharper than I was used to seeing on her face. "It... it's like it’s been part of a mismatched and bodged up coping mechanism, isn't it?"

I looked at her, still trying to shrug off the awfulness of the morning thus far, as she pulled out her laptop, opened it, and read the file that was already pulled up on it. "OK... I'm going to ask a few questions, and I need you to answer them completely, and honestly. This comes from those Biomod Psych Tests that Peters came up with."

She asked me the question: What was my name before I went Up and joined Fenspace. I said it, three names. First, middle, last.

Her expression, it didn't quite sour, but it got more thoughtful. "Uh... huh."

She asked a few more... all of them were about my past, how I grew up.

She closed her laptop up. "Jeph... OK... I think... I think we can stabilize this a bit, but I'm not sure how much you're going to like the idea."

I sighed, shuddering a little. "Nene... I need a lot more gender stability than I've been getting... It... it's like I change for no reason now, no stress, no excitement, just suddenly." I shuddered. “It’s starting to feel like Hell.”

Nene reached over, and took my hand in hers. "Maybe... we should ride this day out. Take it as just two girls today. Geo says we're about an hour from landing. Don't worry about changing back for right now, just see if this will be stable for today." She smirked. "If history is any indication so far, it takes anger or a good night's sleep for you to go all boy again, and the latter clearly isn’t reliable at this point. Might as well just work with it." She breathed again. "I also went ahead and rescheduled that one meeting you had today for tomorrow. Explained that we had some unexpected issues aboard Starbug to iron out."

I could only nod. Part of my brain was still a bit all over the place from the really rude awakening I'd received from a body that had, lately, seemed determined to mess with my head.

She got up, got me another mug of coffee, and sat back down. "Oh, and Jeph? That name you went by? Can you say it again? And THINK about it this time?"

I opened my mouth to say it, and thought about it, and right then, I realized it wasn't the name I'd been given when I was born. Not quite. The last name was the same, and one of the other names matched, but wasn't the middle name, but the first. I’d heard of the phenomenon, but it was shocking, if not disturbing, to actually FEEL what it felt like to have had the discontinuities in one’s psyche wallpapered over. Nene's face wore an expression of sympathy as she watched me suddenly find something that I'd not been aware of since I'd gotten biomodded in 2012.

"Jeph... here's the deal... I remember we decided to not sell that lifesaver kit you'd developed... and I know you'd bred that strain of 'wave for it specifically..."

"Yeah... because I wasn't sure it was going to have that effect on others, and we decided not to take the chance."

She nodded. "You were the only one who worked on that strain. I... I think you put more of yourself into it than any of us suspected at the time, nor suspected until recently." She gave me that piercing look again. "There is something else I've noticed, now that I can really think about it, and seeing the stuff that happened with Jet when she incepted Mackie has brought it into stark relief. You're... more comfortable once you've shifted. Every single time. At least once you're past whatever triggered it, whether it be excitement over something, or general stress." She looked towards the cockpit door. "Geo noticed it too, but I didn't really put two and two together myself for a while, and he literally can’t connect the facts because he doesn’t quite understand the reasons, but I think the excitement causes you to drop the barriers you’ve erected, and when it's general stress, it's happening to remove an element of stress to give you more room to cope with it."

"...and what do you think is the stress it... it's removing?" I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the truth.

"Jeph... I... I think you're just more comfortable as a woman. And you always have been." I opened my mouth to protest. “And no, you know what my history is, both before and after inception.”

“But… but what about… well…”

“In bed?” Nene tapped me on the forehead, three times. "THIS is what I'm in love with... what's inside that thick bone skull of yours. I've... spent time realizing that I don't care about what sort of package it's actually been wrapped in. I love you, the person, not the bundle of hardware you happen to be installed on." She looked me straight in the eyes. “I want you to be happy, Jeph. That’s the one thing in the ‘verse that is guaranteed to bring me pure joy, seeing you happy.” And she snorted. “Besides, has what form you’ve been in stopped us having a little fun? It’s just different avenues to the same end for me.”

<I hate to interrupt the counseling session,> Geo tweeted over the intercom, <but we’re coming into the Ganymede Traffic Control Area. Captain to the bridge, Blue Alert!> I quickly dumped another round of coffee into my cup, slapped the lid on it, and we made our way from the common area to the “bridge”, which was way too small to really qualify as such, but was also ludicrously larger than what you’d really consider calling a “cockpit”. Someone on the internal JMC listserv had once sarcastically suggested we call it the “codge”, but the sheer intensity of the groaning was almost too much and the idea was tabled without further debate.

I sat down at the forward right control station, dropped my cup into the cupholder, looked at the radio, and looked back at Nene. “I… I’m sorry, my throat’s a bit raspy from crying.”

Nene gave me a sympathetic look. “It’s OK.” She sat down at the station right behind me, and put in the headset mic. “CQ CQ CQ, this is Starbug 1 to Ganymede ATC, we are on approach, and requesting a landing course, over.”

“This is Ganymede ATC to Starbug 1, we have you on scope. Landing course is already open on Beta 5, destination pad is your usual green zone.” There was a pause, and a new voice came on. “This is Commander Hayes, is everything all right over there, Romanova? Usually Captain Antilles speaks for Starbug 1. Over.”

Nene sighed. “This is Starbug 1. Nothing a little bit of rest won’t solve, Commander. We had a little bit of a rough night after the last course correction. Over.”

“Ganymede ATC, anything you’d need to report? Over.”

Starbug 1, negative Commander, it was all internal logistics, we have it under control for now. Over.”

“Ganymede ATC, understood, happy landings, over and out.”

Starbug 1, over and out.” Nene pulled the mic back off, and sighed again. “You know, they’re going to ask after the next town hall.”

“I know. I’ll have to figure out what to say… at least, once I figure out what I really need to get on and do about this. Geo, you have the course?”

<Yeah, Boss, all green on my boards. Need me to take us in?>

“Knowing my state right now, I’d probably manage to bang into the pad and bend one of the landing legs. So yes.”

Geo made a happy chirping noise. <I don’t get to park us often enough. Consider it done. You take it easy and let me handle it. Like a pillow made of feathers.>

Nene mock quailed. “Oh no, I’ve heard that before… we’re going to crash, and then explode.” She dropped the mock quail, and got thoughtful. “Or was it explode, and then crash? I can never keep the correct order straight in my head.”

<Har har sis.> Geo twitched his head back and forth in an expression of annoyance, only made mock by holding his holoprojector up. <I’m only going to take it gently because I know Hayes would demand you uninstall my flight controller software.> The last was one of the raspy blurts that was the astromech form of a raspberry.

“OK, OK, you two, settle down. I just want to get home. You can be bratty siblings all you want once we’re at home and settled back in.”

“Awww…” Nene mock groused as Geo chortled. <You got it, Boss.>

Ganymede got much bigger in the viewports, the ground rushing past as the horizon went from curved to flat quickly. We’d made this approach so often that I could almost see the exact moment of the transition between the two now, and then the beautiful, glittering domes of Serenity Valley appeared from behind one of the last crests of mountains. For once, not distracted by the task of piloting, I felt the catch in the back of my throat… as pedestrian as the sight was to me these days, there was still some level of beauty in seeing it, of coming home after weeks out in the black pursuing business.

<Bay doors are open, starting the landing cycle,> Geo reported as the engine’s timber changed, and we felt the angle shift, our ship slowing down considerably, and the landing legs rotating from travel mode to landing mode, as we slipped past the huge hanger door meant to accommodate the much larger Blue Midgets, then spiraled in and passed through a much smaller door into the dedicated parking slip that was only marked with a big green “1” above it.

Starbug 1 slowed further, kicking up a cloud of dust in defiance of all physical laws, spinning almost in place above the turntable pad before finally settling down on her four pads, even as the door we’d come in dropped closed and a gangway extended from the staging walkway nearby.

<And we’re down.> Geo stated as the engines spooled down, from a rumble to barely a vibration of anything. <And not a moment too soon... Boss… something really didn’t feel right about something in that landing, but I can’t pin a servomotor on what’s wrong.> I paused, going over it in my head, then nodded.

“I’m not going to trust my senses myself, given the way the morning’s gone, Geo… schedule the deep inspection team to come in and give the ‘Bug a proper going over.” I unbuckled my harness and stood up, reclaiming my coffee cup from the cupholder and brushing bits of peanut shells from the seat of my shorts. “Right now, I just want to get home.”


OK, yes, I'm finally putting paid to part of why Jeph's biomod worked the way it did. Feel free to chime in with your pieces if you have any, since I'm starting to post it. Also, I'm hoping doing some posting will help me kick the rest of my writing of this story into gear. There is still more to come that's in the datafile.
"You know how parents tell you everything's going to fine, but you know they're lying to make you feel better? Everything's going to be fine." - The Doctor
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
I've been looking forward to this for a while, even as I too struggle to put words on page.
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
Been thinking really hard about what, if anything to say. I supposed I'll keep mum for a bit and wait for the next part.

Quote: but it was shocking, if not disturbing, to actually FEEL what it felt like to have had the discontinuities in one’s psyche wallpapered over.

If talked to about such matters, Jet would say 'When it comes to things like this, trust what feels right, unless your feelings are wrong'.

This is probably not as intelligent as she thinks it sounds, but she's trying to say something.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
Yeah, I know, I'm late and stuff with updates. Life happens.


Myk claimed the plate of peach salsa and chips he’d just set up and sat down on the couch, picking up one of the game controllers from the charging area of the coffee table and firing up the latest game. When one was as busy as he was running a training and education company, it was the little recreational things that he had time deliberately carved out to help to keep his sanity. Lately, he’d been enjoying a few meditative simulator games, yet he was looking forward to coop street racing once Jeph and Nene were back and settled back in to the house they shared.

Before he could get past the startup splash screen and into the menu, the front door rattled, then slid open, letting Jeph and Nene into the living room. Myk stood up, was about to speak a greeting, but it was quickly replaced as he took in Jeph’s current state and mode. “...rough trip?”

“Kind of,” Jeph said, looking a little subdued. “I… I woke up like this, this morning, and didn’t notice until I went to the bathroom.” She bit her lip a bit. “I, um, freaked out a bit.”

Myk set the controller down, the game pretty much forgotten. “Oh. Yeah, that might be an issue. I assume that’s why you’re home and not at that business meeting?”

Jeph nodded, went and sat down on the couch, sighed, and steeled herself a bit.

“I’m sure you noticed… that my gender fluidity has gotten a less… predictable.” Myk nodded, sitting down at the edge of the easy chair while Nene went around the back of the couch and put a hand on Jeph’s shoulder. “Nene thinks… she thinks that I may have been fighting with the biomod… that I’m more comfortable this way ultimately… and… and… I think she might be right.” Jeph closed her eyes, sniffing, and tears streaked down her face. “If it’s true… I… even if it’s not… I need stability in this… I need to be one thing for one week… to be able to use a public restroom for even a day without having to check what’s in my pants…”

“Huh, OK. Whatever you need from me so you can figure out how you’re going to deal with it going forward.”

She nodded. “I just need to see… if I can make it through the next day or so first. See if… I can let go of what “default” has been in my mind, and see where it takes me.” She wiped her eyes with a couple of fingers, and looked up at Myk. “If it does mean I need to be this instead of just stumbling along trying to be both while being neither… then that’s what it’ll take.”


That evening, I found myself looking in the full length mirror on the bedroom door, stripped down to just my shorts, regarding the sight. I hadn’t made a habit of looking in that mirror, especially lately, unless I was checking an aspect of some cosplay I was attempting.

“Credit for your thoughts?” Nene chimed from the bathroom door. As usual, she had changed into one of her nightshirts - this one being the one with Skeletor on it, proclaiming that “You’re All Fools!”

“Just… wondering if this is what I’ll wake up to tomorrow, that’s all.” I glanced over, and sighed. “One thing I can actually thank that asshole Mason for is that it finally convinced me to have work clothes made for this shape. It looks like I’ll be needing them.” I looked back at the mirror, and contemplated the sight again, running a finger through my golden blonde hair, before reaching over to the nightshirt I had sitting on the chair in the room, a simple white and red number with a small number 5 on the front, and the name Davison on the back over a much larger 5 like a baseball jersey.

“Whatever you wake up as, we’ll manage,” Nene said, sliding under the sheets of the bed as I put the nightshirt on, and turned out the light.
"You know how parents tell you everything's going to fine, but you know they're lying to make you feel better? Everything's going to be fine." - The Doctor
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
I'm glad your still posting this. We can wait.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
For reasons, Lynn asked me to post this on her behalf. I'll be posting as is, including some entries involving my Fenspace counterpart.


The alarm went off. I hit the snooze button, rolled over.

Seven minutes later, the alarm went off. I rolled back over, hit the snooze button, and groaned. Nene shifted over, and wrapped one arm around me, snuggling up.

Fourteen minutes, the alarm went off again. My bladder duly informed me that, yes, it was indeed time to get out of bed and face the day. I rolled back over, gave Nene a kiss, and sat up.

I only frowned for a moment, as I felt things jiggle. Not entirely unexpected now, but the jury was out as to whether it was welcome. At least I was awake enough to be aware of it this time.

I managed to do my business without the surprise drama that had occurred the morning before, and took a quick shower. Then, the traditional brushing out of my long hair. I hemmed and hawwed a bit in front of the mirror for a bit, before deciding to just leave it loose today - normally I’d put it into a ponytail, especially when going into the office, but it just felt more like a day to leave it loose.

Nene was checking herself in the mirror across from the bed as I came out of the bathroom. “Morning. How’s the shape feel this morning?”

“A little, erm, bouncier than I’m used to this early in the morning… but not in any way unpleasant. Just a little strange,” I admitted, digging out the “business office standard” - beige button up shirt with a light brown tie, and brown slacks - distinct from “field business standard” that was blue and black but otherwise of the same cut. The tie was really just for meetings - dress code was otherwise “make sure you’re appropriate for the occasion where you might be moving boxes or operating the forklift,” which usually meant a properly fitted jumpsuit. I pulled on the “magic underwear” - ‘waved shorts and bra - and got into the uniform. I usually left the tie “pre-tied”, but the tie wasn’t quite cooperating, so I groaned, undid it, and quickly knotted it back up.

“...and that’s a difference already,” Nene noted, eyebrows quirked. “You have always had trouble remembering how to tie that damned thing without looking it up, or asking me to help. This time, you just did it.”

That stopped me as I was cinching the tie up to the collar. I glanced in the mirror - yeah, that was indeed a nearly perfect “half windsor” knot I’d just tied in the thing, without needing to reference a set of instructions. “Huh. That’s… well, add that to the pile of things going strange this week.” I looked up at the ceiling. “Hopefully I won’t be having any more brain breakers. One was enough for this week, thank you.”

Nene came up behind me, and wrapped her arms around me, pushing my breasts up slightly as she did so, pressing her cheek up against my back. “I’d also like you to not have any more of those, but if you do, I’ll be here to pull you through like I did yesterday.”

I put my arms over hers, and squeezed them. “I’ll try not to put you out too much.”


We got to the office a little earlier than normal, pulling up to the gate. I leaned out as the guard came up from his post.

“Morning, Mike. Anything eventful happen while we were out?”

“Nah, boss, it’s been nice and quiet.” He paused a bit, and leaned in closer. “You doing okay, boss? The last time I saw you come in like this, this early in the day, was the day you got back after that incident at Frigga.”

“Just a rough day yesterday, but I’m managing for now, thanks.”

“Just making sure, boss. Have a good day now.”

“You too, Mike.”


“Here’s the way I see it… whatever you have going on, you’re the one who knows what you’re on about. All I need to do is just nod my head, regardless of whether or not I can understand, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t change that it’s your right to do it, and if doing it makes you happy, then that’s all that matters.”


To: “SMOF Net” (Recipients redacted)
From: “Jeph Antilles” (LordAndMaster@jmc.fen)
Subj: OK, Folks, time to admit I'm making some changes
Date: 2023.11.06

OK, so I figure I’d best start here, before the rumor mill starts working in the next few weeks. I kind of figure people will start putting two and two together in a hurry.

I’ve had my first stretch of almost 48 hours since the United Belters’ Alliance nightmare that I’ve been one single gender. Literally right before this I’d swapped like six times in one day.

The only problem? Well, that depends on if you would call it a problem, but the gender I’ve been stable with has been female.

I’m still personally sorting through the ramifications involved; part of this working has been just relaxing and going with the flow so far rather than trying to force back. We’ve got ideas of what’s going on, and I’ll be blunt and out with it, that odds are that I’ve been fighting with a transgender aspect of myself that actually influenced my biomod in the first place, and the UBA thing just hastened the timetable of what’s been happening, that I would have gotten into gender flipping with less and less predictability anyway.

to: lordandmaster@jmc.fen
Subject: RE: OK, Folks, time to admit I'm making some changes

Hey, how're you feeling?

I'm sure A.C's already been quick on the draw with her best advice - she's far more qualified about the practicalities than I am. I'm not sure if I've any to give that'll be helpful. If you need space to rest, or get away from the universe for a bit, we have a lot of that out here. I've a little secret hideaway - a pocket of another universe deep underground. Nene might know a little bit about what I'm talking about. It's quiet, it's out of the way and nobody knows it exists.

If you'd like to spend some time in a penthouse from 2032, Let me know and I'll make it ready, for as long as you need

If you're up for it, I might have some spare parts lying around - enough to build a hardsuit or two. Something a little special to wear when it feels like the universe is set against you.

Best regards. And best of luck Smile



I looked in the drawers, and I must have actually scowled when I looked in.

"What’s wrong,” Nene asked, in the process of hooking her bra on.

“I don’t have any regular clothes left. Everything I have left is the stuff that I ‘waved and had nothing but issues with. You know, the ones that turn into denim tattoos and shit.” I grumbled a bit, and resisted the urge to slam the drawer shut. “Y’know, it’s one thing if it’s for a Rock Band gathering, at which point I’d pull out that Priss outfit I put together and have at least a little fun with it, but this is everyday stuff we’re doing. In Serenity Valley. Where everyone knows us.”

“I’m not sure you have a choice,” Nene responded glumly. “I know my stuff won’t fit you, not unless you really want to bare your midriff in a... less than aesthetic fashion. Blue Sun doesn’t deliver on Mondays. And Mel said she won’t have our washer fixed for at least a few more days.”

“I could always try to… change to the other form.” I actually shuddered as I said that, there was something about the thought that felt very, very wrong, much more wrong than I had ever expected it could feel, and it must have been audible as Nene gave me a sharp look.

“OK, I can tell that idea gives you the actual willies now.” She frowned. “Well, you could always put that stuff on for now while we try to get you some more clothes that aren’t ‘waved. You could throw on that longcoat that you have and never wear.”

“I don’t wear it because the damn thing makes me feel like someone expects me to be some sort of damned hero, riding eternal, shiny and chrome,” I muttered as I yanked on the pair of black jeans that were on top of the, well, emergency pants pile, and suppressed the yelp as they practically shrinkwrapped themselves to my legs. “I think I had enough of that during the war. But I suppose it’s better than showing my ass to everyone on Main Street.”

“I dunno, I happen to like that ass,” Nene quipped as I pulled on a shirt, and it did a similar sort of shift, showing way more cleavage than I think I had shown with the Priss costume, and more than a little strip of flesh - practically more like an oversized push-up bra than a shirt. I groaned. Everything I’d tried to ‘wave for the variable gender thing that wasn’t footwear, regardless of the strain of ‘wave I tried, had done this to me, which is why it wound up in the pile of Emergency Clothes.

“Gods, I feel like I should be out on display somewhere.” I grabbed my boots - pretty much the only ‘waved daily wear that actually had worked out for me, yanked them on, and felt at least a bit of comfortable familiarity as they reshaped themselves to my feet.

“It’s only for a little bit… it’s not like we shouldn’t get you a new wardrobe anyway… a couple of nice dresses…”

“NENE!” I shrieked, while I grabbed the aforementioned longcoat out of the closet and shrugged it on over my shoulders. It still fit OK - my shoulders were less broad than the jacket had been measured for, but it wasn’t by much - I’d always been on the slim side. It did at least cover most of what I was allegedly wearing, which was about all I could say for it. “When the hells can I wear a nice dress with our schedule?”

“OK, see, you want to wear one, don’t you?” She got on her red and pink longcoat, which wasn’t going to be conspicuous at all over on Main Street, oh no. “OK, we’ll stick with mostly practical clothes. Pants, trousers, a handful of sturdy blouses. But I’d like to see you in at least one dress.” She grinned. “We do have to celebrate our anniversary in a month, after all.”


We pretty much walked out of the first store after only about ten minutes of going through pants.

“...what the hells is up with the wannabe not-really-pockets on those things they call pants? Do they have any idea that pocketwatches are a thing here?” I shoved my hands deeper into the pockets of my longcoat. “It’s almost like they’re there just to make one look good and practicality is way down the list of criteria.”

Nene sighed. “Afraid so there.” She looked back at the storefront. “I’m not sure how the hells they’re selling clothes all the way out here when they’re stocking those.” She pulled the end of a cable out of her longcoat pocket, and plugged it into a socket just below her ear, and her eyes focused on something in front of her that I couldn’t see. “OK. There’s a store just down the street that has more of what we’re looking for. Pants, shorts and skirts with proper pockets, and not those little sewn on strips meant to just look like pockets. I should know, I buy from them online all the time. And they are open right now, luckily, which was what I was specifically checking.”

The store we wound up at was one I’d not recalled ever seeing. I thought I knew most, if not all, of the businesses in Serenity Valley, if only by virtue of them showing up on our shipping docket at one point or another. But it’s also easily possible that I’d just missed it… it only went by the moniker “Atomic”, which wasn’t the most descriptive name for any sort of store to have, and last I checked, there were at least five companies in the Jovian lunar system alone using Atomic in their names. And the outside storefront didn’t give any indication other than a sign over the door that might easily be missed when you drive by it in any sort of ground vehicle.

“For the record, this place is pretty independent, they’re run by a couple of Fen with a distinct interest in serving people like us who want to look good, but need it all to come with a certain amount of… proper function, shall we say.” And with that, Nene pushed the door open, and led me inside.

The store inside was a LOT larger than I expected. Clearly it was taking up much more of the building than could be seen from the street,or someone had finally figured out how to do void locking. It was clear that the place was divided into several areas of specific interest. A large sign hanging from the ceiling just inside the door proudly proclaimed “Fashionable, Trendy, yet Practical Totality!” The center area was very much the “for most needs”, with the basic options well represented from my quick glance.

“Oh my… JEPH?!”

I turned, and had to blink at the pair of people who were behind the counter. Long black hair on the guy, short bright red hair on the woman, both obviously either dyed or the result of a biomod of some sort, but also both immediately recognizable to me.

“Rob! Cori! I wasn’t aware you’d come Up!”  They came from behind the counter, and we exchanged a full series of hugs. “If I’d known, I would have carved out at least a little time to stop by.”

“Don’t sweat it… we haven’t been Up ourselves very long, and we’ve seen how busy you’ve been.” Rob leaned in a bit, and mock whispered, “it was kind of hard to not notice what that asshole corporate type was doing to you and your own operations at the time we got up here, and we thought you’d be way too busy putting all the pieces back in.”

I sighed. “Unfortunately, you were right about that… I still would have found a way, though.” I glanced around. “How long have you been doing this? Last I knew you were doing the convention vendor scene.”

“For at least a few years,” Cori replied. “The problem is that at a certain point, we were booking more flights to hit Convention up here than we were booking rooms downwell, so it just made sense to finally move closer to the action, and we decided to open a proper store while we were doing so.”

I scratched an ear. “Well, I’m glad you came here, although I would have expected you to open a storefront more on, say, Luna, than here…”

“Logistics,” Rob commented. “There’s already people selling stuff like this on Luna, and Mars, and Venus doesn’t have much market for any of what we’ve got.” Cori rolled her eyes a bit at that. “We definitely got into the market with the various miners that need something a little more practical to relax in, although we’ve also got the jumpsuit line just for them, plus it’s been easy enough to stuff product into boxes and take it down to have your people do the shipping.” He smirked. “It helped a bit that apparently the only people doing casual wear in Serenity Valley believed way too much in ‘looking like a Fen’ than in ‘looking like a Fen yet be practical’.”

“Believe me, I noticed,” I commented a bit bitterly. “Seems like those don’t think pants should come with someplace to put my PDA.” Cori eyed my longcoat. “No, I don’t wear this normally… unfortunately, most of my clothes are either dirty, or not really suitable anymore.”

“Oh?” Cori commented. “Something up with your biomod?”

“Just a bit,” I said. “It’s been a little unstable… and what I’m wearing under the jacket is ‘waved to fit both ways, except it kinda likes… being clubwear rather than practical.” I opened the longcoat a little bit so Cori and Rob could see.

“What do you mean? Those look like fine jeans there.”

I blinked, and looked myself.

At some point while being frustrated at the earlier store’s selections, I’d stopped paying attention to the fact that I was laminated in denim, so to speak, and the pants had loosened a little bit… and were now a skinny boot cut instead of fetish-worthy tight… and indeed, even my top had also relaxed a little bit, the hem dropping enough to sit just at my beltline, and the neckline no longer showing cleavage.

“Well, OK then… that… that explains what was causing that particular quirk.” I looked up at the ceiling, and muttered, “as if I didn’t already have enough evidence of the way this thing’s going at this point…” Even as I looked, the clothes didn’t do what I was expecting and reshrink back into the “even a Senshi wouldn’t wear it” category, but remained stubbornly casual.

Cori and Rob both clearly heard what I’d muttered and had clearly been putting two and two together, but it didn’t seem to phase them much if at all.

“OK, so now that we’ve established that you’re here both to buy clothes and visit,” Rob said, smiling, “let’s see if we can get you all set up while we catch up. Casual? Work? Dressy?”

“A little from all the columns,” Nene said. “Mostly casual with a little dressy, though. I don’t want to encourage her to work more than she already is.”

I rolled my eyes. “Nene, I don’t work that hard.” She shot me a look. “OK, maybe I do work a little harder than I should.” A harder look. “OK, OK, OK, sheesh.”

RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
The restaurant was an odd affair, attached as it was to the more private area of the main docking rings of Serenity Valley, and overlooking one of the main approach vectors. It even had a bit of an odd name - The Perfect Landing.

Of course, it wasn’t quite so odd to many of the residents of Serenity Valley, or to many regular visitors. Most who knew about the place managed to come in and eat here at least once a year - the food was good, the decor wasn’t ostentatious, although definitely space flight themed - tastefully placed models of spacecraft, framed photos of spacecraft both real and fictional, an old NASA jumpsuit in a frame - and the overall atmosphere was relaxed.

May Wood had always enjoyed coming here, even before she became short, green and curvy… that it became a whole culinary experience after that was just an added benefit. She hadn’t been able to come here lately, being so busy with yet another company expansion that it seemed like she was everywhere but Ganymede.

That she came here without fail when she was on Ganymede, and it was always meeting with friends, was a major bonus to visits here in her view.

As usual, she came in, checked in with the maitre de, and was escorted to the table where they were already waiting for her. Both Nene and Jeph stood up, and May blinked, seeing how Jeph was now dressed, in some sort of black A-line shorts over tights - actual bonafide tights - in burgundy no less, paired with a matching burgundy t-shirt emblazoned with gold letters proclaiming, “FANFICTION - For when Canon hurts too much”. Decidedly feminine compared to what Jeph usually wore. Yet… it didn’t surprise her in any way either. In fact, it looked more ‘right’ than the other woman had for quite a while. She gave them both firm hugs, then took in the sight of a much more comfortable looking Jeph again.

“OK, I’ll bite, what finally tipped you over the edge?” She smiled. “Not that I mind seeing the change, it looks good on you.” They all sat back down, and idly checked the menus while they worked at getting caught up.

Jeph coughed. “You remember how our schedule got completely ruined last year, just before Maico broke the story about UBA? It was so stressful that… I didn’t quite get back to that delicate balance of self-denial yet not being overt torture.” She rubbed a hand at the back of her neck. “In fact, my variable gender was becoming increasingly volatile if I was in my old male form at all… like, several times a day.”

“ was that bad? Oh man, at least I got mine all at once,” May replied, looking sympathetic. “I mean, yeah, it was a rough adjustment there, but at least I didn’t have to deal with flip flopping back and forth. For me, I’d become a woman, so it was more about accepting the fact than anything else. If I’d had the old me to deal with...” She made a face.

“Yeah, it wasn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows,” Jeph replied. “This is the second week in months I haven’t had to wonder which damned way I was going to be using the toilet any given hour. In fact, I think I’ve done only one pair of flip flops in the past ten days.”

The smaller girl nodded. “And how’s it felt?”

“Honestly? Outside of having to make sure I sit down in the morning instead of remaining standing, it’s been pretty good so far. It’s… I’m sliding into a routine that feels like it fits in better for me. And wasn’t being imposed by my biomod insisting that I needed the extra coping room.”

“And I’m finding she smiles before she gets her first cup of coffee,” Nene added. “That’s just uplifting to see.”

“The smiles do come more naturally, don’t they?” May noted with a nostalgic smile. She also took note of the way Jeph’s eyes seemed to radiate a little bit of joy when Nene referred to her as ‘she’.

“Yeah, they do.” Jeph looked out the window, out over the transit pattern, smiling as in the distance they could see a couple of the big Blue Midgets taking off from the JMC complex. “So, what have you been up to with that expansion?”

“Well, Kit’s personal ship is almost done. Her own custom hull, just like she wanted.”

“Complete with all those options? Wow,” Nene commented, and May nodded, smiling. “She showed me her wish list for it, that’s got to be a pretty nice place she can trick out.”

"I swear, it feels like it was only yesterday she was in an extra server on the Void Eagle, parental controls in place," May sighed. “Of course, given she’s planning on spending a few months out past the Limit, drifting in space and just ‘taking in creation’ as she puts it, I’ve ended up going ahead with more people on the administration side than initially planned…”

The trio remained there until the early evening, sharing stories and taking full and shameless advantage of their biomods to indulge in the Landings comprehensive sweets menu. Eventually, as May took great delight in an unreasonably large chocolate mint chip sundae, the topic came back around to gender, and the confusion around such things.

“Is it wrong of me to envy you a little?” Jeph mused, considering the other woman. May paused, spoon stopping halfway into her mouth, and Jeph shrugged, looking embarrassed. “Maybe it’s a little petty of me, but your biomod was very definite about ‘you’re a woman now, accept it.’”

Taking a moment to consider that (and appreciate the ice cream), May nodded. “No, I can see that. I mean, even when I’ve had doubts and uncertainties, and Gods knows there’s been times, my body provided a rock for me.” She gave her friends a slightly evil smile and ran a hand over her breasts, enjoying the way both sets of eyes lingered on the bounce. “It helps that so much of that ‘rock’ is what I always dreamed of being, even if I didn’t always admit it.”

“Always?” Jeph asked, curious.

"Always." Her expression became more thoughtful as she leaned back. "I used to say I was gender neutral, and not particularly concerned with my gender. That's what I said. What I felt, well, that was a lot more complicated. Heck, if I'm honest, it changed from day to day. Mostly because back then, I was an anxious mess that liked to second guess myself. But deep down, I knew who I was."

Sipping at her drink, Nene frowned thoughtfully. "But you never went ahead and deliberately biomodded?”

May shrugged, then started counting with her fingers. “Well, one, it was helpful to have a safety net in case I got hurt. Which, given the unscientific jerk… yeah. Two, I had this paranoid fear that if I went and deliberately rode the ‘wave like that, something would go wrong."

"Not entirely paranoid," Jeph noted. “Myk’s got a whole folder of examples that I try not to look at too often.”

Pausing to consider that, May couldn’t help but shudder. “Three, I'm a creature of habit. Which is a fancy way of saying I don't do things differently or make big decisions without a lot of mental pushing to get me out of my ‘comfort zone’." She giggled, shaking her head at a memory. "I had my first jar of handwavium for nearly three years before I started seriously using it."

“So you were comfortable enough to not press the issue?” Nene asked.

That question drew a mild frown from the green skinned woman. “No, not exactly comfortable, even if I told myself I was. It was more a pain I was used to, like a bad back. Which ties into the fourth point, which is the big one for me.” Shoulders slumping, she stared at her sundae. “I was scared. Scared of what it would mean, how people would react…" Unconsciously, she began drywashing her hands, as even with friends she knew wouldn't judge her, the fear returned.

Jeph reached across the table and put a hand on May’s, her expression filled with sympathy. “I… I think all of us on this particular biomod train have been there. It’s a big change, and change at that level comes with a certain amount of fear.” Jeph sniffed, her eyes a little wet. “I fully understand all your reasons, if only because I’ve shared them.”

"It's been years since my change," May sniffled. "And the fear is still there. Just waiting for the wrong moment. The wrong person. But that said, I'd much rather be who I am now, as opposed to the old me. To like who I see in the mirror, to be comfortable in simple ways I never could before…" Laughing wryly, she gestured at her skirt and blouse. "If nothing else, I certainly didn't have the figure to pull this off a decade ago."

"That has merit," Jeph agreed with a smile.

Eyes gleaming with a sudden delight, May leaned forward. "And at least you had your realization before certain events." Both the other women looked curious, and she giggled. "Jeph, this means you get to wear a wedding dress." Her eyes lit up even further as she watched the intrigued look cross Jeph’s face as she contemplated this fact. Not to mention the look of absolute glee that crossed Nene’s face.


I strode into the bay where Starbug 1 “lived” whenever we were back at Serenity Valley, and approached the deck foreman who was leading the inspection team.

“Alex, what’s the situation you called me about?”

The woman turned… Alexis Blaise was a cyber, of a similar type to Jet Jaguar - ceramic and steel plate armor in red and silver covered most of her body, although her head was more or less human except for the gently glowing blue irises of her eyes.

“Hi, Chief… not anything close to good news I’m afraid.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, my heart sinking a little bit.

“Maybe I should just show you.” She led me inside the ship, into the main common area. Various maintenance personnel were scanning the interior walls, which was itself not a great sign. Much of the bulkhead around the passage to the cockpit had been removed, and that’s where she took me. “It’s mostly visible right around here, Chief.” She indicated along the main support ring that held the connecting collar between the first and second sections of the ship. I scowled - when I’d built the ship 15 years ago, that ring of metal was smooth as could be, but now it was visibly rippled and kinked in one spot. I ran a hand along it, and confirmed that it was definitely no longer smooth.

“ bad?” I asked, realizing that I already knew the answer.

“It’s extremely bad, I’m afraid. We’ve scanned the entire area forward of this frame, and it’s a similar story. I went ahead and did some more physical exploration in the command area.” We moved forward into the cockpit, where Geo’s entire station had basically been disassembled.

I knelt down, and looked into the hole in the deck where the operations console had been mounted, and down into the inner framing members for the pressure vessel… and there was similar rippling in the main structural rings there as well.

“We’re scanning the whole structure now… but so far, out of every structural member we’ve scanned, every single one of them has exhibited significant metal fatigue.” I brushed my knees off, got back to my feet, and regarded Alex.

“Alex… cut it to me straight.”

Alex sighed, and then looked right into my eyes, dead serious. “The way I’m seeing it right now, Chief, is that Starbug 1 is no longer safe to fly.” She gestured around her. “It’s amazing she’s made it this long… I know she’s the last of the first generation Fenships still active, but it could well be that we’re at the end of that era. And before you ask, no, it’s likely not worth trying to repair all the damage, we’d have to tear her down so far to manage it that we might as well just build a brand new ship.” She put a metal hand on my arm, her expression softening as I felt some tears come to my eyes. “I wish the news was better.”

I sniffed. “No, it’s fine… it’s just… this was my home until the war…” I walked to the pilot station, brushed the latest (and probably last) round of toe gnawings and peanut shells off the seat, and sat down. “I suppose she has had a good run, though… last of the first generation…”

“Probably due to her quirks, Chief. I watched the original show, after all, I know how tough that little Bug was, and I understand that this one was pretty tough too.” She pulled a cable out, and plugged herself into the information officer console, and the displays lit up, showing the range of potential options. “I can forward the options to you, for you to make a decision later, about what we do with her, and if you commission some sort of replacement.”

“Thank you… although... “ I pulled out the antique PDA I always carried, and scrawled out a message with the battered stylus.

Nene, Geo: Come to the Starbug landing bay. We have bad news.

“OK, I sent a message… can… can you send Nene and Geo in here when they get in? I… think we’ll need some time to decide what we’re going to do.”

“Sure thing, Chief.” She unplugged from the console, went to the hatch to the common area, then turned and looked at me sympathetically. “If you need anything, give a call out, OK?”

I nodded, no longer trusting my voice, and Alex left me alone with my thoughts, and the creaking of the pilot’s chair as I rotated around and put a hand on the forward console, patting it gently.

“You’ve done well, old friend… but it’s time for you to rest.”


To: “Those On My Christmas List” (Recipients redacted)
From: “Jeph Antilles” (LordAndMaster@jmc.fen)
Subj: Well, that really really really really sucks
Date: 2023.11.21

Damnit, this feels like we just had an unexpected death in the family.

I just got done reviewing what we can do, I figured it was best before making the announcement.

Starbug 1 has been retired, effective pretty much immediately, due to advanced materials fatigue. My engineers have informed me that the frame is already so badly compromised that she is not safe to fly again, and it’s really not worth trying to get her rebuilt.

We’re still not sure what we’re going to replace her with. Given the distances that can be involved in any trips we take, we can’t go to relying on Cerulean Edge or Mogwai for most of our travel. I know one thing we’re not doing; once Starbug 2 reaches retirement, we won’t have any more Starbugs in the little fleet. I don’t think we could build a Starbug 3 that would feel right as a Home Away From Home like Starbug 1 really was at the end. That, and I’m not sure we can risk the potential quirks.


Walking into the bay, May took in the sight of Starbug 1, parked in its usual mount. For a moment, it felt like any other visit, until she saw the caution signs someone had set up around the ship. Sighing, she walked over to one of the elderly ship’s landing struts, gently tapping it and watching the familiar wobble. “It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere,” she sang quietly, eyes watering. “I’m all alone, more or less…”

<That line’s never been accurate for this ship.> Turning, the small orion woman watched as the familiar sight of Geo rolled across the bay towards her, coming to a halt next to her. <Heya pixie. Looking for the boss?>

May shook her head, grateful yet again that whatever mystery of the ‘wave allowed her to understand Teeseven extended to other Astromechs. “No, just… I needed to say goodbye to the old girl. There’ll probably be others.”

<Old timers are welcome,> Geo replied with a dismissive beep. <Fenboys can go walk out an airlock.> After considering the droid for a long moment, May rested a hand on the top of the droids leg joint. <What?> he protested, his ‘head’ swiveling to look at her. She just gave him a patient look, and after a moment he let out a low, long beep, the astromech equivalent of a sigh. <Yeah… Yeah.>

“Want to talk about it?” she offered.

<I’m not sure I want to,> Geo admitted. <But maybe I need to. Get it on file, you know? Normally I’d probably just vent to the boss, or Nene, but, well...?>

“They’re working out their hardware issue, on top of all this?” May said, gesturing at Starbug 1. To her surprise, that particular comment got a reaction out of Geo, several panels opening slightly automatically. “What?”

<Hardware… that’s… I hadn’t thought of it that way before.>

She shrugged slightly. “It’s not a perfect droid comparison, but it works as a starting point. I think I used it with Teeseven one time when trying to explain the concept to him.”

Geo’s optic lens lost focus, the droid considering the matter for a moment. <Incompatible operating system working with the wrong… hmm… And she’s been dealing with this since the biomod, no, longer...?> He sighed again, lens refocusing on her. <Organics are confusing.> There was something off about the droidspeak, something May couldn’t recall hearing in the years she’d known him.

After a moment, she realized what it was, and she had to repress a wince. “Yeah, we are. It’s been getting to you, hasn’t it?”

Spinning on the spot, Geo rolled closer to Starbug 1. <How am I supposed to help out the boss when it’s a problem I can barely even conceive, let alone understand? She’s been hurting, maybe for longer than I’ve been alive, and I barely even noticed until all this happened?> He rolled back and forth across the hanger, May watching him in concern. <And now Starbug… Even it knew!> His conversation partner tilted her head in confusion, and Geo’s optic locked onto her. <It’s been getting worn down, and I never noticed. Then Nene helps Jeph, we land, and… I notice it didn’t feel right.>

Stopping in place, Geo looked up at the elderly ship. <It was holding on. For her.> He barely noticed as May came up behind him, wrapping her arms around him as best she could. <Now it… she’ll never fly again, not in any way that matters.> He fell silent, and May let the moment linger, as Geo ran his optic over as much of the ship as possible, as though it could vanish at any moment. <I was there the most. Back when we were building her, I mean.>


<Yeah. Jeph still had responsibilities, and Nene could at least go out in public. But me?> He laughed, a distorted ‘blat’ that echoed around the empty bay. <If I went wandering around in Colorado back then, it wouldn’t go well for anyone. Me least of all. So I spent a lot of time in that barn, mixing up ‘wavium, welding the pipes, arranging chicken wire… There was so much paper mache,> he added, sounding almost nostalgic for a moment.

Giggling softly to herself, May looked up at the ship again. “The first Fen ships really were a demonstration in reckless enthusiasm,” she noted, thinking of the Void Eagle. "And the second generation too. If nothing else, I had my star wars DVDs and game discs vanish into the Void somewhere…"

<I think that was when I realized just how incredible the goop really was,> Geo noted. <I mean, I knew it literally MADE Nene and me, but with that, I woke up in a bathtub after it was done. When you watch the impossible happen in front of you… She really was magic.>

May nodded in understanding. “She still is. In the ways that matter, she always will be.”


I sighed, looking out over the still ruddy, roiling lower atmosphere of Venus, and the single bright speck visible in the distance just above it. Nene glanced over at me.

"What's wrong? Second thoughts?"

I looked at Nene, sniffed, and looked back out at the bright speck again.

"No. No second thoughts at all. Just more than a little anticipation." I turned and looked back at our passengers... Geo was laying down in the back cargo area of Mogwai (the only way he'd damned well fit other than the front seat), and Myk, sitting in what, 40 years ago, was my position on the driver's side of the rear bench seat when the little white Gremlin was owned by my parents, smiled, and turned back to key the radio up.

"CQ CQ CQ, Magellan Control, this is shuttle Mogwai out of Green Planetoidy, please come in, over."

"Shuttle Mogwai, this is Magellan Control, we read your signal at 90%, and we have you on the radar track now. We have Underside Bay #4 ready to receive you." There was a pause. "Can you confirm if your visit with us today is Business or Pleasure? Over."

That was the cue; the last question was only ever asked of anyone who had a more intimate reason to come, one of the last points that one could decide, nah, and do one of the former. No one but someone scheduled for the Oath of Venus would ever be asked that before docking.

"Magellan, this is Mogwai, our purpose is for neither, this is a personal trip this time. Over."

Another pause. "Understood, Mogwai, we will have the carpet laid out for you, Underside Bay #4 is ready, Magellan out."

"Underside Bay #4, understood and confirmed, Mogwai out."

It only took a few minutes from there for me to park the old car in the indicated bay underneath the giant piece of Lunar Unreal Estate that held up Crystal Tokyo itself. On the wall opposite the door was a sign that read, "WARNING DO NOT DISEMBARK UNTIL ALL LIGHTS AROUND SIGN ARE GREEN" with a single red light above it.

That light went out, flashed, then the whole border of the sign lit up green in a way that lit the entire bay up and overpowered any of the white light in it.

"Well, guess they really wanted to be sure after that last accident," Myk commented dryly as we disembarked. It took only a little effort to lever Geo out of the back and onto his feet.

<Pardon me if I take the fucking bus next time, Boss,> Geo griped. <I really don't like riding like that, it cramps my servos.> I knelt down, and placed a hand on Geo's leg joint.

"I love you too, Geo, and I know you're worried... don't hide it behind the sarcasm this time, OK?"

<You do know this isn't just another contract, right?> Geo said, <I know it's really you, but what about everyone else? To all too many of them, you'll be a whole new person walking out of there.>

"Most of the people that matter have probably figured it out years ago, and already accepted it," I said. "Any who haven't and think this would be an issue, can go pound powdered asteroids for all I care."

Geo twitched his holoprojector up, and cheerily chirped. <OK. I just wanted to make sure, Boss. You're the Boss, and as long as you're the happy boss I like to see, then it's what we do.>

"Good. You're the best astromech this side of Pluto."

<I wouldn't go nearly that far, Boss,> he replied. <I didn't sacrifice my leg to save people.>

Speaking of such things, when we entered the airlock proper, one of the faces of our honor guard was familiar, but took me several moments to figure out.

"We're here to escort you and yours, Captain," said the young... I'd guess teenaged, girl, with blue hair and an earnest look that was almost infectious. She was dressed in what appeared to be the costume of some sort, but not the typical Sammie or Sailor type, although it had a lot of the same sort of hallmarks - white dress with red details, and an armor chestplate, pauldrons and greaves in bright red, all with a vaguely scifi sort of air to it. "Hero Stratos, part of the new ARKS division!"

I blinked as the pieces fell into place. At the end of the rushed evacuations of Crystal Osaka, we'd been forced to load Starbug 1 with as many people as I dared fit without jettisoning more equipment, and three of them were a family, with a young girl with blue hair that happened to answer to the name Stratos. I could feel the smile hit my face.

"Oh my, it's been years! And I see you've taken inspiration from somewhere."

"Mm. I was inspired by you to pursue being a Hero. And it turns out I'm one of the first of a new type here! ARKS!"

"ARKS... isn't that one of the newer MMO inspired groups?" She nodded, smiling brightly.

"Yeah... Artificial Relict to Keep Safety!" I winced at the really awkward acronym... someone was going to have to get hurt for that one. Preferably to the theme song of Mister Ed. Any guess for me as to whether it was the source material or the fandom. Then she paused, dialing down her energy and becoming more serious. "When they asked for volunteers for your honor guard, I remembered how you saved so many of us when the city was falling into the deep atmosphere. I... I figured it was a way for me to pay it back, just a little."

I smiled. "I'm honored... and you've already paid me back by reaching for so much of that potential that you have."

“And the honor is all mine to escort you today!” She looked over my party, and nodded, her posture straightening as she came to full attention. “Captain Antilles, are you prepared? And these three will accompany you?”

“I am. And they will.”

"Captain Antilles, please approach." I stepped forward. At this point, it was all about the ritual. "You have petitioned to take the Oath of Venus - to ask that all of Fenspace treat you as a gender that may not have matched that which you were originally perceived to be. This is not a step to be taken lightly. Do you still wish to proceed?"

"Your Grace, I do still wish to proceed. This is something I have to do for myself, to affirm an identity that, like so many others, I tried too hard to bury."

"Very well. Captain Antilles, of Ganymede, of the Jupiter Mining Corporation, Companion of the Order of the Crescent, your petition has been read, and approved. Will you go forward, and spread your Love and Justice, secure in the Knowledge and Truth we affirm today of who you are? To never waver from your course in your Truth and Honesty?"

"I will."

"And will you continue, as you have before this, to let your Light guide your actions? And to be the Light to guide others?"

"I will. Without hesitation."

"Then step forward, and take the Draught, and complete this Leg of your Journey towards your Truth."

I stepped forward, and took the proffered glass... four ounces of green liquid. This was mostly symbolic for me, given that I'm already biomodded, but it was part of the ritual. The only difference for most was whether it was some form of liquid Guacamole or not, and what the specific drink was that was the vehicle.

I'd chosen Lime Koolaid. Because, well, that's what was the base for the Guacamole variant I'd made that Nene had administered to me, over ten years before, and it just seemed appropriate now, to drink it to finish this particular phase of my life. Which I did, knocking back the overly sweet liquid in one quick slug.

There was a brief flash of memory sparked by the taste, the feel of my back thumping the side of Cerulean Edge, my hands clutching at the spikes that had been driven into me by the booby trap, Nene screaming, the inhaler shoved into my mouth, and then it faded just as quickly. Unlike previous times… I didn’t freak out, it just washed over me and vanished, leaving little to no trace like it had in times past, not overwhelming my senses and making me forget where and when I was. Instead, I felt something… finally settle deep inside me, almost like a joint popping back into place or a muscle loosening up after being massaged, that had been tight and out of place for so long that I’d stopped noticing it.
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
I'm glad this found its way to a satisfying ending.

At least, and in part, especially, considering the circumstances.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
Just now read the last few posts. I wish I could offer hugs (especially to Lynn, but really to everyone). Still coming to grips with being Not Cis myself.
RE: [Fic] [Open] The Changeling
(11-10-2022, 05:36 PM)Proginoskes Wrote: Just now read the last few posts. I wish I could offer hugs (especially to Lynn, but really to everyone). Still coming to grips with being Not Cis myself.

It is just as normal to be trans as it is to be cis (says and thinks this cis person).

This isn't as safe a space as I thought it was a month ago, but gender and sexual orientation aren't things that matter here. ... Well, at least they don't matter to me.
Rob Kelk

Sticks and stones can break your bones,
But words can break your heart.
- unknown

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