Experimental Procedure

Waking up in a strange place with your arms strapped securely against your sides is a rather disconcerting experience. Even after you realize you're in a hospital.

Of course there are only a couple reasons why one wakes up strapped down in the hospital. Either you're a criminal or they're afraid you'll hurt yourself. In case you're wondering, I'm in category 2, and not in the "he might have a seizure" kind of way.

It's rather disappointing to fail at suicide. Of course that's when they call it 'attempted' suicide, but there was no 'attempt' about it. The only possible reason I can think of for being alive is sheer dumb luck. I'm not sure whether good or bad.

Then again, I probably could have used a more sure-fire method, like a bullet to the brain or jumping off a building, but those seemed rather messy to me. I didn't want some poor janitor having to scrub me off a sidewalk or my landlord having to put in new carpeting. So instead I took enough narcotic painkillers to put down an elephant.

Even assuming that I for some reason vomited up most of them, I should still be a corpse on a couch. That means somebody had to find me and call an ambulance. As the door was locked, that means either the apartment manager or my sister. As the apartment manager would've had no reason to come in that means it was my sister, the only person with a spare key to my apartment.

I sighed. That meant she was somewhere crying her eyes out or trying not to. She really was a sweet girl, and the only member of my family I have any real connection with despite the 11 year age difference. The 'why' is something of a mystery to me, though it may be because I was the only one around much after our mother died when she was four. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that bond relies most heavily on her.

As I was contemplating the situation a doctor walked in. She was middle-aged, short brown hair, seemed to be in good shape. When she saw I was awake she smiled and said, "Ah, Mr. Colt. How are you feeling?"

I just gave her the same look you'd give someone who asked you if water was wet. Not only is the question ridiculous, the answer is obvious to anyone with normal brain and sensory functions. She looked somewhat taken aback at my reaction, but refused to be daunted.

"You know you're very lucky to be alive Mr. Colt."

I managed to choke out a sarcastic laugh for that one, but she went on unperturbed.

"If the paramedics had gotten to you even ten minutes later we couldn't have revived you. We should be thankful your sister found you when she did." Well, theory confirmed. "Now, Mr. Colt, in cases such as this we are required to keep you for a minimum of 48 hours for observation and provide psychological counseling."

She paused, apparently waiting for a response. "Sure. Whatever. If you've got my wallet somewhere it's got my psychiatrist's card in it."

She nodded. "We've already contacted Dr. Illian. He's waiting outside with your sister." Great. She looked at the straps holding my arms down and then to me. "If you give me your word you won't try anything I'll undo those."

I just shook my head. "Don't worry, doctor. I won't do anything." I made an un-amused snort. "At least not while I'm here at any rate."

She didn't look at all pleased with my answer, but she still undid the straps. While doing so she said, "By the way, I'm Dr. Sarah Thomson. I also happen to be the one who saved your life." As she finished she gave me a look and shook her head. "But you don't seem like someone who'll be thankful for that."

I just stared blandly at her until she sighed. "Since you seem fairly lucid I'll tell your sister she can come in."

I shook my head. "No. Tell her to go home, eat something, and get some sleep and I'll see her in the morning."

Dr. Thomson gave me a funny look. "She seems pretty upset. I think seeing you up and well will help calm her down."

I shook my head again. "I've been here since what? Sometime yesterday afternoon?" She nodded. "Then my sister's been here without sleeping our eating since. Tell her I won't see her until she's done both."

She stared at me a moment before nodding. "Alright. Shall I have Dr. Illian come back later as well?"

I sighed. "No. Him you can send in."

Without much further ado she left to inform my sister and shrink. I was also fully aware they'd be the only two people being informed of my condition. I didn't have any friends, father wouldn't give a rat's ass, and my brother had been too ashamed to see me for nearly 8 years.

When my psychiatrist came in I had to smirk. He looked just as pristine as ever. An anal retentive if ever there was one. Of course he was British by descent, which might explain that. I'm not really certain how he got his last name though. Illian isn't exactly a common surname to begin with, let alone in England.

He gave me a nod as he pulled up a chair. "Hello, Franklin."

"Hello, Robert."

We just looked at each other a moment before he broke the ice. "So, would you care to talk about it?"

"I don't really see the point. We've been talking about it for 8 years."

He nodded. "True. But that doesn't mean we can't talk about it. My wife and I have the same conversations two or three times a week."

"I have a feeling those conversations aren't quite like this one doctor."

"Hmm, I suppose not. But we should still talk about it. For forms sake if nothing else."

"Alright. Let's talk then."

"In that case let's start with what I'm sure you feel is the obvious. Why?"

I almost laughed at that one. "Why, huh? Well, where to begin? I'm a 5'5" 400lb tub of lard because of a glandular problem that can't be treated because I'm allergic to the drugs. I look like a leper because of a skin condition that's so aggressive that the best treatment available can barely keep it from spreading. Over the past three years I've developed rheumatoid arthritis in my hands so bad that I can't even use them without taking prescription painkillers. I'm going bald at the ripe old age of 28. Hmm… what else? Oh, yes, I'm also deaf in one ear, nearly blind in one eye, missing most of my teeth, walk with a limp, and my penis is little more than a pissing hose because some fuckers from a fraternity got the shit kicked out of them by my older brother when they tried to force themselves on his girlfriend, and then because they were too scared of him they got drunk and decided to get some metal baseball bats and beat his 'fat, disgusting little brother' to a bloody pulp as their revenge. Does that cover everything?"

Dr. Illian sighed. "Other than the subsequent emotional shut down, I believe it does." He sighed again. He tended to do it a lot when talking to me. "We've been seeing each other once a week for nearly eight years now, haven't we?" I nodded. "I've been practicing psychiatry for over thirty years now, Franklin. In all that time you are the first, only, and I sincerely hope last patient I've had that I couldn't help." And yet another sigh. "You know, you've always reminded me of some of the terminally ill patients I've worked with. Like you're waiting for death, even welcoming it, but you need those you care about to let you go first."

We just looked at each other for a bit, and then he stood up. "You know, I'm somewhat surprised it took this long to get here. I once thought of having you committed for your own safety, but I realized that option had less chance of helping you than I did and would likely have spurred actions such as this." He sighed once more as he turned to head for the door. "Just remember, Franklin, there is one lovely young girl out there who will be terribly saddened by your death."

If you're somewhat shocked at my psychiatrist's method, don't be. He sincerely tried to help me for 7 of the last 8 years. But there's only so much a person, even a psychiatrist, can take before they give up. In fact, I commend him for not sending me to another psychiatrist who would've had to feel the same sense of failure he did.

Anyway, as he reached the door I called out his name. When he turned back I said, "Cameron is the one and only reason I've lasted this long, but it's just not enough anymore, Robert." I closed my eyes. "I'm going to sleep now, Robert. And if God is merciful I won't wake up in the morning." The last thing I heard that night was the latch clicking closed.

*****

Of course god is rarely merciful. Thus I woke up to the slightly noisy sounds of the nurse changing my roommates IV. Aside from the sunlight streaming in the window, the first thing I noticed was an oddly familiar man sitting in the chair near my bed. When he noticed I was awake he smiled.

"Morning, Frank. It's been a long time."

Hmm. Unruly blonde hair, green eyes, slightly crooked nose, winning smile, pretty boy looks. Ah. "Jacob, right?" He nodded. "Sophomore year at UW?" Again the nod. "I hear you cured cancer."

His smile grew wider. "Indeed I did, Frank."

"How's your mother, then?"

This time his smile was softer, and decidedly more real. "She's doing great, Frank."

I nodded. "Glad to hear it. So why are you here?"

Jacob chuckled. "You never were one for small talk, were you? All right, straight to brass tax it is. I'm here to make you an offer."

I shook my head. "I'm not interested in work, Jacob."

"I'm not offering you a job, Frank, though I wouldn't mind doing so." He paused. "What do you know about BT Industries?"

I shrugged. "They're the 3rd largest biotechnology company in the world, though the only one known for their humanitarian efforts. Why?"

"I'm their current head of R&D. We've recently gotten approval for human trials on a new… procedure. I'd like you to be a participant."

I just stared at him. Finally he laughed at himself. "Asking all the right questions by not actually asking a question, huh? Though I suppose it would be impossible to have you agree without being totally forthcoming." He relaxed back into the chair and smiled. " The… procedure is called Project Green, 'GReEn' being an acronym for Genetic Restructuring and Enhancement. The technology was originally developed by the military as part of their covert and supposedly non-existent super soldier program. When they realized the cost-benefit ration was significantly too high for their use they shelved the project. It was declassified and transferred to the private sector. We have since revamped the technology and changed it to suit what is essentially a medical purpose, the complete elimination of genetic disorders, diseases, and defects."

I admit that at this point I was curious. Based on the look in Jacob's eyes he could tell. "The process is essentially a combination of nanomachines with drugs designed to tag, block, remove, alter, or replace defective genetic code while unblocking and activating superior sections of genetic code. Then it promotes a new growth cycle in the body designed to replace all the existing cells with the enhanced and restructured cells." His smile grew drastically. "We've already successfully tested the process on rats, cats, dogs, and some primates. The results are, quite honestly, amazing."

I quirked an eyebrow. "How so?"

Jacob's smile was almost demented. "Let me put it this way. I adopted one of the feline test animals. His name is Felix. We play chess."

I'll admit, that was rather intriguing. Jacob seemed to be rather excited as he continued. "All the animals tested showed increases in strength, stamina, intelligence, and overall health. Some of the animals even showed individual enhancements that weren't present in the rest of the species. To be honest, we can hardly wait to see the results of the human trials."

He looked a little like the proverbial kid in the candy store. But it all seemed fishy. "It sounds to me like you got the results the military was looking for?"

Jacob nodded, and seemed to sober just a little. "Indeed. But the 'enhancement' effect was not something we intended. It seems to be a by-product of the genetic restructuring process. We aren't even sure how it works. We have been proceeding with caution, but no tests have shown any detrimental effects from the procedure."

"With all that, I'm surprised the military hasn't reclaimed the project."

Jacob gave a sad smile. "They already have." At my look he continued. "While BT Industries is still technically in-charge of the project, it was re-contracted to the government six months ago. They're currently letting us proceed as we please, but I imagine if the results of the human trials are something they feel they can use in a military purpose then the project will immediately be reclassified and everyone involved silenced in one fashion or another."

I actually managed a chuckle. "'Silenced', huh? And why are you giving me such detailed information?"

"Two reasons. Well, three actually. First, I know that if I'm not 100% candid with you there's no chance whatsoever that you'll participate. Second, I know you well enough to know that you won't tell anyone else. And third, considering how things stand, if you don't participate in the human trial there's every chance you won't be around to worry about in a couple days."

I smirked. "Candid indeed." I thought a moment. "What are the odds for surviving this procedure?"

"In the tests there was only one fatality, and that was from attempting to run the procedure too quickly. The dog's brain expanded faster than its skull and the resulting pressure led to its death. Overall we expect that the odds of a fatality occurring at this stage are less than 1 in a million."

I sighed. "I'll think about it Jacob."

Jacob nodded and pulled a card out of his jacket pocket. "If you decide to participate call me at this number. But I need a decision by tomorrow at 5pm. That's when the participant list is finalized. When you call I'll also give you all the other pertinent information you'll need."

With that he headed towards the door. Before leaving he turned back and said, "Frank, before you make a decision, remember to ask yourself what you have to lose?"

He nodded to the nurse who'd been there the whole time and she followed him out. She was quite obviously working for him. I looked to my roommate who was out cold. The nurse had likely given him something to ensure he wouldn't be hearing the conversation.

I looked at the card in my hands. Really, what did I have to lose?
*****
Renowned Dr. Jacob Suttley climbed into the back seat of his company car, followed closely by his nursing uniform clad assistant, Vanessa Reeves. As they pulled into traffic she asked him, "Why did you give that man so much information?"

"I said it already, it's the only way I had any chance of getting him to participate."

"I know you said that, what I want to know is why? Why is it so important to you that this man participates?"

Jacob sighed. "Vanessa, I'm only 29 years old, but I'm already Head of R&D for a major biotech company. Do you know why?"

She looked a bit sheepish. "Of course. You cured cancer, saving millions of lives." She became a little quieter. "Including my own."

Jacob nodded. "Yes, I cured cancer. Do you know how long ago that was?"

"Seven years."

"Seven years. I was still just a junior at UW. After that they practically gift wrapped my Ph.D." He turned to look out the window. "Everyone used to say I was a genius, and that accomplishment has been haled as the proof. What most people don't know is that I'd spent 3 years prior to then desperately studying in search of cure." He turned to look back at his assistant. "My mother had been diagnosed during my senior year of high school. Up to then I'd just wanted to be an ordinary doctor, maybe even a surgeon. But when the doctors told us that even with treatment she could expect 5 years at best I swore I'd find a cure. That I'd save her."

"But you did."

Jacob smiled at her. Vanessa was a good girl, and a wonderful assistant, but she'd always regarded him with just a tad too much hero worship. He supposed it was because his cure came out just in time to save her life. "Yes, I did."

"Sir, what does this have to do with that man?"

"Just listen. By my sophomore year I'd been over every scrap of information there was on cancer and possible treatments. Because of how much I understood, because of my 'supposed' genius, I was becoming convinced there was no cure." Vanessa started to protest but he stopped her. "It was at that time I got a new roommate. The roommate nobody wanted. Not only was he extremely unpleasant to look at, but no matter how hygienic he tried to be he always had an almost revolting musky odor about him."

Vanessa pointed back toward the hospital. "You mean…?"

"Yes. My roommate was Franklin Colt."

"Is that why you're pushing so hard for him? Because he was your roommate?"

Jacob snorted. "Hardly. Like everyone else I didn't want to be anywhere near him. For the first couple of months we never even spoke to each other beyond our initial introduction. In all that time the only thing I learned about him was that his younger sister was called Cameron, and that's because she came to visit every Saturday." He stopped a moment. "Anyway, my frustration finally hit a boiling point and I threw a fit one night. Then I threw something that bounced and knocked over Frank's computer monitor, which he hadn't even looked away from until that point. At that point he turned to me and asked what was wrong. Being belligerent at the time, I shouted back, 'What the fuck do you care?!' He just looked at me and said 'I don't know. I can't know if I'll care unless you tell me.' And oddly enough, I told him. When I was through he just nodded his head, picked up his monitor, and went back to work."

Vanessa looked shocked. "What a callous bastard."

Jacob laughed. "That's what I thought too. Which is why I rather childishly shouted, 'What, nothing to say?!' Then he turned back to me and said, 'What do you want me to say? You have a very good reason to be angry and upset. Nothing I say can change that. What's the point in meaningless words? So be angry if it helps. Just try not to break my things.' And then he went right back to work."

He laughed at the expression on his assistant's face. "I know. Who talk's like that? But he often does, and he's usually oddly insightful when he does. It wasn't long after that that we finally started talking to one another. Over time I learned two important things. First, the man is a bona fide genius. Perhaps even greater than I am." He raised a hand to forestall any protest. "That's a personal opinion, so don't try to argue. The second thing I learned is why no one else seemed to notice that genius. To put it simply, he just didn't care. Not about grades, not about success, not even about the science itself. The only thing he cared about, the only thing I'm certain he still cares about, was his little sister. She was his driving force, his animus. Without her I'm fairly certain he never would have been around to go to college." He paused a moment. "But even with just that, I'm also certain he could've revolutionized any field he went into."

He sighed and Vanessa asked, "Why didn't he then?"

"Because shortly before the end of our sophomore year 3 drunken frat boys decided to take some aluminum baseball bats and treat him like a piá±ata. They beat him within an inch of his life and were enjoying it so much they never even noticed as campus security came up and hit them all with tasers. If they'd had another minute he'd have already been dead. One of the assailants happened to have a rich daddy, so Frank got nearly $5 million in the lawsuit afterward. Then he quit school and I haven't seen him since."

"That still doesn't answer why you want him in the program so badly."

"There are two reasons. First, shortly before that incident Frank gave me a note, the contents of which I personally believe are the only reason I successfully created a cure for cancer. And no, I won't tell you what it said. Second, I desperately wish to see who he could become if the weight of his genetic disorders and the life they force him to lead weren't crushing him. It's like looking at a Mozart who can't play because he has arthritis in his hands. You know what beautiful music those hands could make if he could just use them."

They were both quiet for a bit after that. Then his assistant asked, "Do you think he'll do it?"

Jacob smiled. "He'll do it. After all, I saw his sister walking toward his room as we left."

*****

It wasn't too long after Jacob left that a 5'8" blonde tornado of fury stormed into my room. She really was a beautiful girl, even when she was angry. It was almost impossible to believe we were related. But then again it was the same with my brother.

"Morning, Cam."

Her face screwed up in fury. "Morning?! Morning?! Is that all you have to say you… you…" At which point she threw herself on me and started bawling. Of course she was also hammering on my chest, which while perhaps not uncalled for was certainly painful. After all, she learned karate from our brother.

"You idiot! Why?" She looked me in the eye. "Why, Teddy?"

'Teddy', huh? 'Big brother teddy bear', her childhood nickname for me. I just looked at her until she said, "You'd really do it? You'd leave me?"

I brushed the tears off her cheek. "You're getting too old to need a 'Teddy', Cam."

She hugged me tighter. "I'm a girl. I'll always need my 'Teddy'."

That got me to smile. "No, Cam, you're all grown up now. You don't need me anymore." I closed my eyes and leaned back. "And I'm so very tired."

We didn't say anything for a while after that. Then out of the blue she says, "I broke up with David."

Hmm. "Really?" She nodded her head against my chest. "Why?"

"He caught me making out with Sabrina."

I couldn't help myself. I laughed. Cam chuckled along with me. "Seriously? Your best friend since you were 8, that Sabrina?" She nodded again. "Ouch. Being two-timed for a girl. I can see where that might hurt."

She looked at me with an indignant expression. "Hey, I told him I wanted to keep our relationship open until we knew we were right for each other. It's not my fault he didn't really accept that. Besides, Sabrina and I have been in a loose relationship since we were 14."

I chuckled again. "Well, that's news to me. Though I wonder why you choose now to impart such knowledge?"

I gave her a knowing look and she laid her head back down on my chest. "Because… I don't want you to go."

It was a while later that she said, "You know, I'm going to be a senior next fall?"

"I know."

"I'm at the top of my class. I'm almost certain to be valedictorian. That means I'll have to give a speech." I nodded my head and she looked up at me. "I want you to be there. I want you to see me graduate. I want you to hear my speech. Promise me, Teddy. Promise me you'll be there."

I almost let out a groan. Why does she have to look at me like that? Why does she have to need me? Why has she ever needed me? She wouldn't graduate for more than a year. Did I still have that much time in me?

I looked over to the card I'd laid on the table next to my bed. What did I have to lose? I looked into my sister's eyes. What did I have to lose? Just one bright, shining star in the sky.

"All right, Cam. I promise. I'll be there to see you graduate."

*****

I'd never flown in an airplane before, so it was a little strange that my first would be a private corporate jet. Though I'll admit, I probably couldn't have flown on a commercial aircraft. I was too big for the seats.

After my sister left me at the hospital I called Jacob and accepted his offer. He then had someone bring me the papers I'd need to sign and fill in all the details. In essence I'd be confined to a special research facility until the procedure was over along with the 49 other participants. In all the process was slated to last a full year, starting at the beginning of May. That meant I'd be finished barely a month before my sister's graduation.

I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, along with some forms on compensation. Basically all living expenses are accounted for and the company covers all of your usual bills for housing and etcetera until the project is over. Afterwards if any special life changes are necessary due to the procedure the company will cover those expenses. In the event of death participants were given a $500,000 life insurance policy to be paid to the person of our choice.

Participants were allowed to bring whatever luggage they felt they'd require, but no communication equipment. Not only would all bags be searched but outgoing frequencies at the research facility would be constantly monitored. We were given a number to give to our immediate family if they wanted to contact us.

So I signed the papers. When I was discharged from St. Peter's I went about getting my affairs in order. There wasn't much. My sister was upset when I told her I'd be gone for the next year, but settled down when I gave her the contact number and told her I was going someplace that would help me keep my promise to be there for her graduation.

Thus it was on April 30th I packed my bags, locked my apartment and made my way to the Port of Olympia to board the jet I was on with 7 other participants, heading for a secret research facility somewhere around Spokane. There appeared to be a couple Down Syndromes, a couple palsies, and some I wasn't sure of the exact problem. One was a girl in a wheelchair who had an oversized head on a stick figure body. Another was a man without any arms.

None of us really spoke to each other, and the flight went relatively quickly. We landed at what appeared to be a private airstrip and were herded onto a bus by men who looked more like they worked for the Secret Service than a biotech company. About 15 minutes later we arrived at a non-descript, but ridiculously large single-story cement building.

We were told to leave our bags on the bus and that they'd be delivered to our rooms when they'd been thoroughly searched. Then we were led inside through what almost seemed to be an airlock. I will admit, the inside was significantly more impressive than the outside. There were dozens of labs behind glass enclosures with varying types of equipment running off down a large corridor on each side. Judging by the slight curvature I'd say they ran in a ring along the outer section of the building, which meant we were likely to be staying in the inner section of the building.

My hunch was proven correct as we were led past the corridors to another set of airlocks. Inside we were met by eight nurses, one for each of us. I recognized the pretty brunette nurse who came up to me.

"So, not with Jacob today?"

She smiled. "That's a good memory Mr. Colt. I've been assigned as your personal nurse and consultant for the duration of this procedure. My name is Vanessa Reeves. You may call me Vanessa."

She held her hand out to me and I shook it. "And you may call me Frank."

"If you'll come with me, Dr. Suttley wants to address all the participants in the Garden this evening."

We participants followed our nurses down a veritable maze of hallways until we emerged into what appeared to be a spacious indoor botanical garden. We were apparently the last group as about 40 other obviously genetically defective people where sitting or standing in a ring on the lawn around a gazebo. And standing in the gazebo was my old roommate.

"Welcome," he said. His voice projected rather well I thought. "It seems that all of the participants have now arrived. Please get comfortable, though I'll only take a few minutes of your time this evening. First, once again, welcome. You have all chosen to participate in a procedure for Genetic Restructuring and Enhancement, or Project Green."

"The procedure itself will take 9 months to complete. This time frame is to prevent any complications arising from rapid alterations to the body. For 3 months after the procedure you will undergo physical testing, rehabilitation, and psychological evaluation. This means you will be here for just about 1 full year. During that time you will not be allowed to leave this facility."

"In order to make this time less stressful we have in this facility several indoor parks and recreational areas, such as this garden." He waved his hand around and everyone looked at the garden. It was a rather nice spot. If the sun was shining through the glass dome overhead you'd hardly know you were inside. "We've also included a full gymnasium, a swimming pool, a sauna, and even a movie theater. We want this time to be as pleasant for all of you as possible."

"Should any of you wish to speak with someone outside this facility simply inform your nurse and he or she will take you to an office where you can call them. Or should someone call for you then your nurse will be notified and will bring you to an office where you may take the call. But remember, all communication will be monitored."

"Starting tomorrow morning you will all have some blood taken for the purposes of an initial DNA benchmark, followed by some tests. Then you will begin the series of injections that will tag damaged and unwanted genetic material. You will receive these twice a day for the next week. After that you will receive prep nanites once each day of the following week. These will trace and isolate the tagged genetic material. After that you will receive once weekly injections of the 'worker' nanites. These will repair, restructure, and/or remove the damaged genetic material, while also promoting the growth and duplication of the now 'enhanced' cells."

"I remind you that progress will be slow for the sake of safety. You will likely have no noticeable changes for at least a month after you start the worker nanites, possibly even longer. I will let you know now that most significant changes will not begin occurring until the procedure is nearly halfway complete, so do not get discouraged by a lack of immediate results."

"That being said, I would like to wish you all a good night. Your nurses will give you all a tour of the facilities before taking you to the cafeteria for dinner, after which they will show you to your rooms. Once again I wish you good night, and I hope this procedure is successful and beneficial for all of you."

With that he hopped of the stage of the pagoda and strode out of the garden. I guess all those speeches he had to give on television taught him something. At that point Vanessa came back over to me.

"Well then, shall we begin the tour?"

"Oh, by all means."

Thus I was shown my way around this labyrinthine single-story palace. The gym was rather impressive. It had a running track, basketball court, tennis court, and a fully stocked weightlifting area. If this procedure doesn't deliver this place is going to look like one massive insult to everyone here.

The pool was Olympic sized, and not too far away was a row of hot tubs. Until this procedure shows some results the only things likely to be used are the hot tubs. I also saw the gardens and parks. They were rather nice. There was even a Japanese garden that I think I'll spend some time in.

She showed me the movie theater. It was an actual theater screen with seating for 120 people. Enough for all the patients, their nurses, and a few extras. They would actually have all the new weekly releases, but there would be only one show a day except on Sundays. So they would show something different each night.

There was even a little shopping district. There were clothing stores for men and women, and a little grocery stand with health food snacks and health drinks. It even had a place to rent movies and game systems.

After that it was back to the cafeteria for supper. They were serving a surprisingly good grilled chicken with vegetables and rice. When we were through Vanessa began to lead me to my room.

"So Frank, what do you think?"

"If you mean the food, it was pretty good. If you mean this place, it's nice but rather too extravagant for a research facility. But considering how much Jacob didn't bother to tell me, and certainly didn't bother to tell any of the others, there could be any number of reasons for that. Even something as simple as they normally use this facility for the treatment of rich and/or important patients."

She gave me an assessing look. "You are rather perceptive, aren't you?"

I just shrugged. We finally arrived at what was basically a hotel room door with the number 137 on it. It even had a card reader handle. Vanessa pulled the expected card from a pocket on her uniform and handed it to me.

"Use this card to open the door. It will also grant you access to all parts of the building you have permission to go."

So without further ado I went into my room. It was kind of nice. It looked like a good hotel suite. There was a living area with a couch, chair, and coffee table, and a flat screen TV on the wall across from them. Nearby was a little mini-fridge. A little further on was a queen sized bed and some dressers and a closet. In fact it looked like my suitcases had already been unpacked. My clothes were hanging in the open closet and others were tucked into drawers left open so I could see what was put where. There was no sign of my luggage.

But overall I was most impressed with the bathroom. It had both an oversized shower and an oversized bathtub. When I finally turned back to Vanessa she was looking at me expectantly.

"It's a nice room. Though I could've put my own clothes away."

She smiled. "I imagine so. But each item was thoroughly examined as it was removed from your luggage and put away. The luggage itself is being stored until you are ready to leave."

I smirked. "Just in case, right?"

Her eyes twinkled. "Right. If there's nothing else you need then I'll see you in the morning?"

"No, no. I'm fine."

"In that case good night, Frank."

"Good night, Vanessa."

Thus she left and I was left alone to find sleep on my first night in this odd place.

*****

The next morning when Vanessa knocked and walked in I was sitting on the couch scribbling in a notebook.
"What are you working on this morning?"

"Nothing really. I just jot down my musings from time to time. It keeps me busy."

She nodded. "Then would you care to get some breakfast before heading to the lab? I'm afraid this first day if going to be a bit more full than Dr. Suttley made it sound."

I put my notebook and pen on the table. "I suppose we'd better."

When we got to the cafeteria most of the others were already there. The food was set out buffet style and we simply took what we wanted. I took some bacon, eggs, and hotcakes, and Vanessa just grabbed a cup of yogurt.

Once we'd sat down she said, "For these first two weeks every meal except dinner will be served pretty much a la carte. You'll also be allowed to eat essentially whatever you want and how much you want. However, once you start on the 'worker' nanites, as Dr. Suttley calls them, your diet and intake will be regulated daily based on what nutrients the nanites need to most efficiently do their work."

I nodded to that, seeing as it made sense. She continued. "When we're done here I'll take you to the lab. You'll have your blood taken, followed by some tests, followed by lunch, followed by more tests, and finally you'll receive your initial injection of taggers this evening after dinner."

I sighed. "That is significantly more than Jacob made it sound like."

She grinned. "Don't worry. You only get this full work up once a month until near the end of the procedure, then it goes up to once a week or as much as needed. Otherwise you'll have a basic checkup once a week, and once you start on the 'worker' nanites you'll have a finger prick blood test each morning to determine your nutritional needs for the day."

I just nodded and soon after we were on our way to the labs. First they took some blood, then I was subjected to every test imaginable. Then after lunch I was subjected to tests I didn't even know existed. By the time dinner rolled around I'd had every inch inside and out poked, prodded, scanned, probed, and generally defiled. As we walked back to my room after I'd received my first injection of taggers I asked, "Do I seriously have to go through that once a month?"

While her laughter may have been pleasant to hear, I'd meant the question seriously.

*****

The next day I was taken to see Jacob. I'm not entirely certain why he wanted to see me, but I figured I'd take the opportunity to ask a few questions I hadn't gotten to before accepting his offer. It's not that I'd forgotten them, just that after my promise to Cameron they became relatively moot.

His office was rather nice. It had some rather impressive furnishings, including a desk where the surface was a computer monitor. It also had what may well have been the buildings only window. Jacob was working at the desk when I was led in.

He looked up, smiled, then got up and came around to shake my hand. "Frank, welcome. How are you finding everything?"

I shrugged. "It's a rather nice place, Jacob."

He looked at me as if hoping for more, but he should've known better. At last he said, "Well, I got the results of your DNA analysis and there's something I feel it's appropriate to ask you. Are you aware that you have an XXY sex chromosome pairing?"

Ah. "Actually, yes. They felt if might be responsible for several of my 'health' problems. Though I am surprised you didn't know about this beforehand."

Jacob looked a bit chagrined. "Yes, well, I don't personally go through the medical history of all the participants. Not even yours."

"So, is it a problem?"

Jacob shook his head. "I don't believe so. But you should know that during our animal testing we never had an animal with a sex chromosome disorder, so we have no way of knowing exactly how the procedure will deal with this. So I felt it necessary to offer you a chance to withdraw from the trial if you were concerned about the results."

I chuckled softly at that. "You know I'm not concerned with dying, Jacob. And in the event of something unusual death is always the inevitable cure-all. Besides, participating in this procedure is probably the only way I can keep my promise to Cameron. So no, I won't be withdrawing."

Jacob seemed relieved. "I'm glad to hear it."

I decided now was a good chance. "As long as I'm here, I have a couple questions for you, Jacob?"

It was hard to spot his slight hesitation. "And what would those be?"

I tried not to smile. "Don't worry. There are only two, and one might even be considered frivolous." He nodded. "First, what did you do with all the test animals?"

I could tell he hadn't been expecting that question. But he looked a little sad as he answered, "We put down most of them. Most people do not actually want hyper-intelligent pets. And no one wants hyper-intelligent rats. The few animals that are still alive have all been spayed or neutered to prevent their genetics from entering the pool of their species."

I nodded. It was pretty much what I'd expected. Jacob asked, "And your second question?"

"Why isn't this already a classified military project?" I think Jacob almost choked. "Based on what you've told me, your results are exactly what the military wants. It stands to reason that they would have completely reclaimed the project by now. Why haven't they?"

We sat looking at each other for some time before he said, "The reason this is not already a military project is because the process only works on those with inherent genetic defects." He sighed. "They really want this one, Frank. I mean really want it. Our results are even more amazing than I've told you about. But we haven't just been testing on animals with genetic defects. We had our control group of completely healthy animals as well. Based on those results, a genetically healthy individual will see almost no improvement from the process. Maybe a little healthier and a little more fit, but nothing that couldn't be achieved with drugs and a fitness routine."

This was rather interesting. He continued, "It's like the process shifts you to your opposite on the spectrum. If average is dead center, then you wind up pretty much at the same spot after the process. But if you're on the extreme of defective before the process, then you achieve an extreme of 'enhanced' afterwards." He gave me a look. "As you've seen, we've gathered a collection of disorders ranging from the common to the extreme for the purposes of this trial. I imagine if the results are uniform enough then the military will take complete control of the project again."

"That's rather disconcerting, Jacob."

He nodded. "I know." But he had an odd air as he said, "I have a personal theory, though, based on our other trials. And if I'm right, the results of this procedure will be far too varied for the military to make any significant use of."

"Care to share."

He shook his head. "Not at this time, Frank." After we were both silent a minute he said, "Is that all?"

I nodded. "In that case," he said, "I have some things I need to take care of." He offered me his hand. "I wish you luck, Frank. Barring anymore unusual circumstances we probably won't see each other much until the process is finished."

"Thanks, Jacob. I'll see you around."

And with that I was led out of his office. I had much food for thought. Based on what he said I was quite looking forward to what these 'enhanced' results might be. And I wasn't overly concerned about the military. I imagine that if they felt they could use the results they'd rather conscript us than kill us. But I did find it somewhat odd that Jacob had allowed Vanessa to stay in the room the entire time we were talking. But then again, he probably did give me the one nurse that already knew all the gory details.

******

Journal Entry June 2, 2025

I've decided to keep a journal to help me better document any changes, both physical and potentially to my thought processes. It will also make a good record of events. So far, no changes have been evident. Based on the schedule Jacob gave us, that's understandable.

Most of the first month passed before I really spoke with any of the other participants. Though I did speak with my sister just about every day until I told her that I'd only accept calls from her on the weekend. She doesn't need to be worrying about me that much.

I spent most of my time either in my room or in the Japanese garden. I didn't really watch movies, and I didn't particularly care to swim. I once would have used the weightlifting facilities, but I couldn't grip the bars anymore.

I will say I haven't been much for the food requirements since I started on the 'worker' nanites. All of the food is good, but I've never been much of a vegetable eater. And I wouldn't complain except that I've only gotten meat four times in the two weeks since it started. But apparently nearly all the nutrients my body was in need of were found in vegetables, so oh well.

But I did talk to two of the other participants while in the Japanese garden. One was the girl from the plane ride with the stick-like body. Her name is Elizabeth and she's nineteen. Her doctors tell her she'll be lucky to make it to thirty.

The other was a boy called Adam, he's fifteen. The entire right side of his body is shrunken and underdeveloped, even his head. His mother abandoned him in a dumpster when he was born and he was raised in an institution. His doctors are honestly surprised he's still alive.

They seem like sweet kids and I hope things work out for them. As for myself, I haven't decided yet whether I really want it to work, or if I'm hoping for that 1 in a million complication.

*****

Vanessa walked into Dr. Suttley's office. "You wanted to see me, sir."

Jacob looked up from display on his desk. "Yes, I did. Tell me Vanessa, what do you think of Frank?"

She gave him a confused look but said, "Honestly, I think he's a nice, quiet man who was given a horrible deal."

"Is that all?"

"Well, he's also unusually perceptive, but yes, that's what I think."

Jacob leaned back in his chair and sighed. "I take it you haven't spoken with him very much?"

She shook her head. "No, we talk everyday."

"No, you've spoken to him, not with him. Otherwise you'd have a much broader opinion."

She thought for a moment and then grudgingly admitted, "Yes, sir. I suppose it has mostly been just me explaining things to him. But he doesn't seem to want to talk."

"I told you before, Frank doesn't waste words. He won't start a conversation, and even during one he won't say anything if he doesn't believe the person he's speaking with is actually interested in what he has to say." He waved her over to his desk. "Come here. I have something to show you that may 'broaden' your opinion of Frank."

She walked over and looked down at the display of his desk. He brought up enlargements of several pictures of what appeared to be notebook pages. He highlighted five of them. "These are pages from the notebook Frank has been writing in since he got here. Most are just silly or philosophical musings, some of which are actually quite insightful. But these…"

He enlarged the highlighted sheets. "These two seem to detail how to use magnetic energy to break down matter back into constituent energy. This one looks like a description of a working inertial dampener. That one shows the process for creating what seems to be an amorphous liquid metal alloy. And this last appears to be the structure for the processor in a light-based computer." He looked from the display to Vanessa. "And these are just random musings to keep himself busy this past month. Think of what he could do if he actually concentrated on any one of these."

Jacob could tell by the look on Vanessa's face that she finally understood why he wanted Frank in the program. "This is the man I wanted in the program, Vanessa. This is the mind I want to set free. I want to see the world I know he can see. To be honest, I don't know if I'd be able to keep up with him if he breaks through. But I know I very much want to try."

*****

Journal Entry July 18, 2025

The results of the procedure are proving to be most interesting. Everyone's been taking the 'worker' nanites for just over two months now, and while the results are minimal so far, they are becoming obvious.

The man with no arms has shown signs of limb regeneration like one might expect when a lizard re-grows a tail. The people with palsy are showing significant signs of increased muscle control. The participants with Down Syndrome have shown a reduction in the size of their foreheads, and all the people whose disorder's caused mental impairments are beginning to express themselves more clearly.

To my surprise I seem to be developing an actual friendship with Adam and Elizabeth, the first two participants I spoke with. I also occasionally converse with a girl my own age named Sarah, whose disorder confines her to a wheel chair. But I do find it odd that I'm 'meshing' better with a couple of teenagers than with someone my own age. In fact, all three of us don't seem to be connecting very well with the other participants.

Actually, I've noticed several groups forming, and age doesn't appear to be a factor in most of them. There's one group where the oldest is a man of almost 40 and the youngest is a girl of 12. The tightness of these groups seems to vary, but they are distinct all the same.

As to the changes in my own little 'group', Elizabeth appears to be coming into proportion. Her body is filling out, and she even has muscle movement she's never had before. I've lost count of the number of times she's cried from the sheer joy of discovering a newly active muscle.

Adam seems to be filling out as well. His shrunken side is beginning to expand, but he says it's a little painful. He also claims that his developed side is stronger than it used to be. I'll have to take his word for it.

As for myself, I've lost 6 inches off my waist, my skin condition is receding, my hands hurt less, and I'm beginning to see and hear from my left side, something I hadn't done in 8 years. I confess to feeling a certain amount of excitement, but also some trepidation. It's hard to explain, but I'd been without hope for so long that finally having it back was frightening. Not in having it, but in the thought I might lose it.

According to Vanessa, after the third month changes will start happening at a much more progressive and noticeable rate. Again I'm uncertain whether excitement or trepidation is foremost in my thoughts. The very fact I am so concerned is evidence of a not inconsiderable alteration to my thought processes. When all this began, I wouldn't have cared.

*****

"I can't believe it took this much work to convince you to see a movie."

"Oh, shut up," said Elizabeth. "Frank already told you why he doesn't like going to movies."

Adam had the grace to look sheepish as his nurse pushed him along. "Yeah, well, they've got seats here that'll hold anyone." He gave me a once over. "Besides, I think you've lost enough weight to sit in a normal seat."

He was right of course. We'd been taking 'worker' nanites for just over three months and I'd gone from a 64" waist to a 52" waist, plus I'd grown two whole inches, making me a glorious 5'7". I supposed I just might be able to squeeze into a normal theater seat.

I smiled at both of them. They were looking pretty good. Elizabeth was getting along enough that in another month she might actually be able to walk on her own, and Adam would only be a little bit behind. I was happy for them, and oddly grateful for their friendship. It was even stranger because we were so different.

Adam was always in high spirits, even from the start. How somebody with his past could be so high-spirited was a mystery to me, and almost everyone else. He liked to joke and he was always in a rush. I suppose I could understand the rush. His doctors had pretty much believed he could literally die at any moment. Plus he was one of only about 8 black participants.

Elizabeth was both outspoken and oddly confident. She always said what she thought, and quite frankly was capable of more vulgarity than most men I knew. She would never let anyone do something for her she was certain she could do herself. She'd taken over wheeling herself around as soon as her arms were able, which had been about 5 days ago. She said she always wanted to play soccer. And unless the procedure changed something she would never be a great beauty, but she had the most amazing black hair I'd ever seen.

Of course it was blatantly obvious to me that I'd developed a crush on her. It was both odd and disconcerting. I'd never had a crush on anyone before, but luckily I wasn't someone whose behavior was overly affected because of the fact. It was also worrisome because it showed one more alteration to my thought processes that I was pretty sure I was incapable of when I arrived.

As my thoughts wandered we arrived at the theater. "So, what have you successfully dragged me here to watch?"

Elizabeth and Adam smiled at each other. Adam said, "Don't worry. You'll love it."

Just shy of two hours later we were coming out of the theater and Elizabeth and Adam were wearing self-satisfied smiles. Even our nurses were smiling. Finally Elizabeth turned to me and said, "Enjoy ourselves, did we?"

I just smiled and shook my head. They'd taken me to see an action flick. While it might not have had the best plot, it had good action and was rather exciting. Their satisfaction came from during one of the more impressive action scenes where I let out an excited "Yes!" when the protagonist did something extremely cool. I'm sure no one was more surprised than I was.

But I was once again concerned. While before all of this I might've enjoyed the movie, I certainly wouldn't have gotten excited enough to yell out anything. In what was becoming an unusually common occurrence, Elizabeth and Adam noticed my concern.

It was Adam who said, "Yo, what's wrong?"

"Nothing really. I'm just thinking about how my reactions recently haven't been what I expect them to be."

They both gave me understanding smiles. "I know what you mean," said Adam. "Lately I find myself instinctively trying to do things with my right side instead of my left." He held up his whole left arm and developing right arm. "Maybe I was supposed to be a righty."

Elizabeth nodded. "I know. I keep trying to get up and walk around even though I know I can't yet. And I'll look at something I've seen a million times and suddenly it'll have a whole new meaning for me."

I nodded to what they said. It wasn't exactly what I meant, but it was obvious we were all dealing with new issues as our bodies continued to change. Adam said, "And don't worry about the outburst in the theater. You may not've noticed, but Liz here shouted out at the same spot you did."

I looked at Elizabeth and she was a bit red. "What? It was cool."

We all laughed a bit, and I did feel oddly better. Afterwards we talked a while longer before finally splitting up to return to our rooms.
When Vanessa and I got to my room she asked, "So, is everything alright?"

I chuckled a bit. "That depends. If you mean physically, I've never felt better in my life. My skin condition is nearly gone, I've lost a foot off my waist, I have barely any pain in my hands anymore, and I can see and hear on my left side again. So in that respect, everything's wonderful. But I'm very concerned about other things."

"Such as?"

"Such as my mind. Before I started this procedure that outburst in the theater never would've happened, not even in my younger years. And that's just one incident among many. It's like my entire thought process is altering."

Now she seemed concerned. "Altering how?"

I shook my head. "I'm not sure. It's less that it's actually changed than that a new element has been added."

"And what element is that?"

"Emotion. Before all this I was pretty much dead emotionally, I admit that. Even when I was fairly young it was true. But now I've got excitement, fear, desire, sadness, joy, and loneliness all bumping around and influencing things. Whenever I'm alone with my thoughts I find myself wanting to go out and find Elizabeth and Adam and see what they're doing. Such things never bothered me before. And this conversation. I'm never this open. Not even with my original psychiatrist."

She nodded and gave me a small smile. "Welcome to the living." At my look she said, "It sounds like you're finally dealing with the emotions that everyone else deals with all the time. Maybe your physical improvements have finally allowed you to let them out, or maybe some aspect of your genetic disorder was blocking them and now they can get through. Either way, what you're going through sounds like the general emotional turmoil of everyone else."

She could tell I was surprised. Not so much at her response, as it made since, but that she was the one who made it. She grinned. "I may not look it, Frank, but I'm a fully accredited therapist, along with all the other nurses here. Dr. Suttley felt it was important that all of the participants have someone to help them through any emotional difficulties caused by the procedure."

I had to laugh. "That sounds like Jacob. Always thinking ahead."

We were quiet for a bit after that. I was fairly certain she was right about me though. What I was experiencing was likely the standard emotional turmoil everyone deals with. As the procedure develops I might gain a few non-standard ones, but for the moment it was just the things everyone else likely dealt with. It would just take some getting used to.

Eventually Vanessa said, "You know, there's something I've wanted to ask you."

"What's that?"

"Well, Dr. Suttley once told me that you gave him a note which he claims is the reason he successfully cured cancer. But he won't tell me what it said. I was wondering if you would?"

I thought back a moment, then I laughed. A real laugh, something I could never remember doing. I laughed so hard that tears came out and my sides hurt. I do believe Vanessa thought I'd lost my mind. Finally I got hold of myself. "Sorry, but I hadn't thought of that note in a long time." I sighed as my chuckles died off. "Though considering how famous he is now I can understand how he might find discussing that note a bit embarrassing."

She smiled at me. "Well, now I have to know."

I nodded my head. "Alright. First, you have to understand what he would find embarrassing. Back in college he was something of an RPG fanatic." Her attention was completely focused so I continued, "If it involved a band of heroes coming together to battle some tyrannical demon lord then he played it."

"So what was in the note?"

"I'm getting there. Anyway, he'd been growing more and more frustrated with his research. I'd seen his work, and I noticed his thought process was pretty linear on the subject. Try this, rule it out, try that, rule it out, and so forth. I figured he'd never get anywhere if he didn't start looking at the problem differently. Thinking about his interest in those RPGs, I wrote him a note that said: Stop thinking like the demon lord. Start thinking like the hero."

She gave me a rather confused look. "He was focused on finding one definitive cure-all. A cancer panacea. But that's thinking like the demon lord, that one entity can have that much power. The hero gets a band together, all with varying talents that complement each other and allow them to overcome the demon lord, either by subduing him or killing him."

A look of comprehension came over her face, then she laughed. "So that's how he came up with a multi-part cure for cancer? Because of that note?"

I shrugged. "I don't know if that's the reason it's a multi-part cure. But I figured it would help him reassess how he was looking at the problem."

She just chuckled to herself for a minute. "Wow." I could tell by the look in her eyes that she planned to have some fun with this information. I almost felt sorry for telling her.

We talked a little more after that. It was the first time we'd had a significant conversation, but it also felt like just that, a first. I was actually a little sad when she left for the evening. I don't know where this 'procedure' is heading, but for now it was looking like it might be a nice place.

*****

Journal Entry September 16, 2025

We've been on the 'worker' nanites for 4 months now. It's fairly safe to say that the changes we've undergone are obvious. There aren't that many signs that anyone here was born with a genetic defect anymore, and the process isn't even half over.

Elizabeth walked on her own for the first time a week ago. Now she can do it whenever she likes. Her nurse was a nervous wreck for the first few days. Adam finally stood on his own two feet for the first time yesterday. Since he's fairly competitive with Elizabeth I'm certain he'll be walking on his own by the end of the first week as well. It will also be hard to tell he ever had a genetic defect by then.

I'm wondering if some of my thoughts on the procedure might be true. Elizabeth is looking prettier all the time, and that's from an objective standpoint. Now that her limbs have filled out she's also starting to develop a figure. She's absolutely thrilled that she won't look like a skinny boy anymore, never mind the fact she used to be stick thin, period.

As for me, I'm now down to a 40" waist, and my skin condition is gone. I've also grown another 2 inches and I can see and hear on my left side just fine now. In fact my shrinking and growth have been so impressive that Elizabeth has dragged me on a shopping spree every week. Though I'm not certain you can call it a 'spree' when there's only 1 male clothing shop in this place.

My hands feel like new, and I've felt so good in general lately that I've been using the gymnasium for some running and weight training, and I'm not the only one. Though only a few people have tried the basketball and tennis courts. Actually, I'm somewhat surprised, though I'm certain it's an effect of the procedure. My weight maximums right now are still what they were before I had to give up weightlifting because of my arthritis. And they're only getting better.

Also my bald spot is filling in, though my incoming hair is a different color. My hair used to be dark brown, now it's coming in honey-wheat blonde. At least that's what Elizabeth and Vanessa call it. I call it yellow. I've also noticed the appearance of my thinning face. It seems a little off from what I imagined it would be. It's not really as broad as I thought it would be.

I've also heard something interesting from Vanessa. Apparently she decided to be naughty with what I told her about the note and waited for just the right moment to spring her knowledge on Jacob. Thus while he was drinking coffee a few days ago she asked him, "So, are you the demon lord, or the hero?"

She said he almost snorted the coffee out of his nose. I'd've loved to have seen it. Of course I imagine he'll be somewhat upset with me for revealing that the next time we talk. Which, oddly enough, will be after the monthly diagnostic tomorrow. But as he's meeting with everyone after this 'halfway' diagnostic, it's nothing special.

Despite the rather intrusive nature of the upcoming tests, I'm actually interested in the results. My chest has been feeling a little achy, and my stomach has been what I'd call fluttery for the past week. Hopefully these tests will tell me why.

*****

Jacob's office was pretty much like I remembered it, except for the massive amount of paperwork on his desk. When he looked up the concern on his face did nothing for my peace of mind.

"Hey, Frank. Have a seat."

As I did he pulled out a file. A rather thick file. I must admit I'd been a bit concerned since the previous days tests had been a little more exhaustive than the previous times I remembered. He looked like he didn't know where to start.

"It's alright, Jacob. Just tell me what's wrong?"

He gave a half-hearted laugh. "Wrong? No, nothing's 'wrong', Frank. There's just a… well, a development that I'm not sure how I should present."

"Come on Jacob, tell me what's happening."

He gave me an odd look, for which I almost hit myself when I understood. Once, I never would've said anything. I'd have just stared at him until he talked. This procedure's effects on my mental state were getting annoying.

He started by saying, "You know that Down Syndrome is caused by an extra 21st chromosome, right?" I nodded. "In our patients with Down Syndrome, all the new cells they've developed don't have the extra chromosome. We assumed the same would happen with your XXY sex chromosome pairing. However, all of your new cells still have an XXY pairing."

That was interesting, but I could see he was struggling with a lead-up to the real issue. "According to the test results, it would appear you are developing a uterus, ovaries, and vaginal canal, as well as female secondary sex characteristics. It also seems that your penis and scrotum have reduced in size."

He said it all very clinically, and never once looked me in the eye. I could understand. It's gotta be hard to tell another man that the procedure you convinced him to undergo is turning him into a woman.

We were both quiet after that, and I got reacquainted with how I felt before the procedure started. I was totally and completely emotionally numb. Of course I realized this numbness was different. I was just in shock. When my brain finally managed to wrap around this information I'd probably freak out.

Eventually Jacob said, "Frank…"

"I think I need to be alone for awhile, Jacob."

He just nodded and motioned Vanessa over. "We'll talk tomorrow. Alright, Jacob?"

I just nodded as Vanessa led me out of the office. The concern on her face was evident. When she asked if I wanted to return to my room I said to take me to the Japanese garden. There was a nice secluded spot there that I liked.

I sent Vanessa away when we got there. I suppose I should've contemplated my situation, but I just drifted while listening to the water flow in the garden's brook. It was cloudy so the sun wasn't shining in. That was too bad. The little spot was almost like heaven when the sun was shining.

I'm not really certain how long I drifted before a felt a hand on my shoulder. When I looked over Elizabeth was kneeling next to me.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey."

And then we just sat together for a while. During which time I had the odd thought that they needed to put some birds in the garden. Some time later she gently asked, "You wanna talk about it?"

"Not really. I'd rather not even think about it."

"Hmm."

After that we continued to sit a while. Then, without preamble, I blurted out, "I'm turning into a girl."

I'm not sure who was more shocked. Her at what I'd said, or me that I'd said it. Then she asked the obvious question. "Really?"

I chuckled sadly. "Yes, really. According to the test results not only is my penis shrinking, but I'm growing a uterus and developing female sex characteristics."

I could tell she was shocked, though certainly not as much as I was. But she didn't ask the obvious and stupid question. She just pulled me into her arms, put my head on her shoulder, and whispered, "It'll be all right."

I cried then. I don't mean I bawled like a baby or anything. Tears leaked out and I sniffled a bit. There might have even been a choked sob or two. Oddly though, I felt a sense of relief. Like some pressure had been released, easing the tension.

When I was done I leaned back and wiped my eyes clear. "Thanks," I said.

She smiled. "That's all right. Did it help?"

"A bit."

"Then I'm glad I was here."

After that we just enjoyed each other's company. At least until we heard, "Hey, guys!"

We both turned to see Adam hobbling towards us on crutches. He sure didn't waste any time trying to get mobile. I saw his nurse hovering not too far away looking like she was about to have a heart attack. I didn't blame her. With every lurch Adam made I thought he was going to take a face-plant.

When he got to us he seemed a little out of breath. "Hey, man," I said, "what's the hurry?"

He opened his mouth, then shut it and looked a bit sheepish. "I'm not sure."

Elizabeth and I looked at each other, then I asked, "What do you mean?"

"Well, I was taking a nap, and when I woke up I felt like something was wrong. And then I felt like I should come here. But that feeling sort of vanished on my way here."

I was curious, but then I saw the look on Elizabeth's face. At my inquiring glance she said, "Actually, I came here for the same reason. Only I was reading a book when I felt it."

That was interesting. But I just looked at both of them, then gave them mock suspicious looks. "So, turning psychic are we?"

They looked at each other, then looked at me and shrugged simultaneously. At which point the laughter started. And it felt good, to laugh with friends. And that's when I thought, Elizabeth's right. It'll be alright. I may not want to be a girl, and the idea was certainly disturbing, but it wouldn't kill me. And for the first time in a very long time, life looked better than the alternative.

*****

Soon after that we all went to my room, where the situation was explained to Adam. While he didn't pose the obvious and stupid question, he did make an obvious statement.

"That sucks, man."

We discussed things a while longer, and then drifted into other topics. When the night wore on Adam took his leave first.

"I'm beat guys. I'll see ya tomorrow." He gave Elizabeth a nod and said to me, "You need to talk, Frank, I'll be around. And remember to look at the bright side."

I did not like the look of his grin. "What bright side?"

"At least you're not turning into an ass. Oops, too late."

And with that he quickly hobbled down the hall. Elizabeth and I just looked at each other for about 5 seconds before we started laughing.
Elizabeth said, "That was so corny I'm not sure why it was funny."

I nodded. "I'm not so sure it was what he said, as it was the attempt at a quick get-away afterwards."

She agreed. "He always tries to make things look bright."

I nodded as I sat down on the couch. "I know."

She gave me a concerned look, then sat down next to me and put her hand on my shoulder. "We're here for you, you know that."

I put my hand on hers. "I know."

We sat a while before she said, "You won't be the only one, you know."

I looked at her and she was blushing slightly. "Only one, what?"

"Having to deal with becoming a girl." At my look she said, "I've never really been a girl either. I didn't really… develop because of my condition. So even though I've always had a vagina, I don't really know much about being a girl." She took my hand. "So we'll be there for each other, alright?"

I gave her the best smile I could manage. "Alright."

Then we just sat together until she had to leave for the night. And so I lay in bed trying to sleep. And trying to convince myself I wasn't scared shitless.

*****

When I was taken to Jacob's office the next day there was only one significant issue on my mind. My sister. What the hell was I going to tell her? True, I was repressing just how scared shitless I was, but my foremost worry was about her. As for my father and brother, they could go to hell as far as I was concerned.

Thus it was that after some intensive argument Jacob agreed that if she signed a strict NDA then he'd bring her out here and we could explain what was going on. Honestly I think the 'arguing' was more for forms sake than anything else. As head of the project he had to show that he was trying to protect the confidentiality of the experiment.

So, after an exhaustive phone call with my sister to arrange for her to come out to the facility the next weekend, Jacob and I got around to discussing my situation. Oddly his first words on the subject were, "In all honesty, this isn't that surprising?"

I'm certain my incredulity said it all and he hastily added, "I mean from a genetic perspective. 9 out of 10 people with an XXY pairing are female at birth."

I was indignant, which I think was actually a first for me. "Yeah, well I was born male. Switching teams this late in the game was not part of the plan."

Jacob looked at me sadly and said, "As I recall, you were planning to quit the game entirely. That seems slightly more extreme than switching sides to me."

Okay, he had me there. Plus I'd thought pretty much the same thing the previous day. That didn't mean I wanted it thrown in my face. But before I could say anything he continued, "And you might want to consider that, even if the attack 8 years ago hadn't destroyed your testicles, there was every chance you were sterile. Most people with an XXY pairing are. This alteration may simply be one that allows you to have children in any fashion."

Oh god. Did not want to go there. So did not want to go there. And he continued, "Also, your new cells are still XXY, so we can't honestly say where this process is going. It's quite possible that you could just wind up hermaphroditic. In fact, that option is quite plausible under the circumstances."

Ouch. Now I'm scared shitless, depressed, and I want to beat the shit out of Jacob. Emotions are kind of annoying. As for the conversation, in the words of Daffy Duck, "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin."

He gave me an odd look, then chuckled sadly. "Yes, well, I wanted to get as much basic information out of the way as possible." He sighed. "But what I said is true. We don't actually know yet where this is going or how far, so we just have to watch and wait. But you should also ask yourself, is it worth becoming female to have a body that actually works?"

I actually groaned. "You know, if you didn't make so much logical sense I wouldn't be able to stop myself from strangling you right now."
He looked slightly chagrined. "Well, then it's a good thing I'm making sense."

We were quiet for a bit after that. Then I asked, "So, what do we do, Jacob?"

He leaned back in his chair and shrugged. "Like I said, we watch and wait. I've told you before, we can't ultimately determine the exact course this procedure takes. So we watch, and we wait. And we get ready for your sister to visit."

I chuckled at the last bit, then groaned. "Oh god, what am I going to tell her?"

"I generally recommend the truth."

I glared at him. "Very funny, jackass. Of course the truth. I'm just not certain how to tell it?"

"One word at a time."

If looks could kill, Jacob would be on his way to the morgue. As he tried to act nonchalant I said, "Are you this mouthy with all your patients, or is it just me?"

He smiled. "Just you. After all, I wasn't roommates with any of the others, thus I reserve special privileges in this case. Besides, it got your mind off the problem"

I opened my mouth, closed it, then chuckled a bit. "You know, I don't remember you being this much of an ass back in college."

"Of course not. I had to get my Ph.D. first."

"My doctor the comedian."

Jacob smiled, but sobered up as well. "Only when I need to be. I know this is going to be hard for you, Frank. But remember, unless my powers of observation fail me, you don't need to go through it alone."

I smiled a bit. He was right. I now had two friends who were as dear to me as anyone in my life had ever been, with the possible exclusion of my sister. And I knew, without a doubt, that they'd be here for me.

"Yeah."

*****

I was nervous as hell. My sister would be arriving in about 10 minutes, and I didn't even know if she'd be able to recognize me. Jacob planned to meet her first and explain what was going on. That meant I likely had at least 20 minutes to fret.

We were meeting in the same garden where Jacob gave his welcoming speech, and my entire gang had decided to join the event. Vanessa and the other nurses weren't too far off, and Elizabeth and Adam were standing next to me. Adam had finally managed to ditch the crutches the previous day, but he still couldn't walk very fast.

Liz and Adam were aware of my nervousness and did what they could to help. Liz was right next to me with her arm around my side, which was rather nice regardless. And Adam had a hand on my shoulder like a supportive brother. Neither one really said anything, they were just there. They were great. Of course I was still driving myself insane with worry.

Whether it was 10 minutes, 20, or a week, I'm not sure. All I know is it felt like eternity before I saw Cam walking in next to Jacob. I could tell she was looking for me. Her eyes swept by me twice before zooming back. Then she pointed at me and asked Jacob something. I assume it was roughly, "Is that Frank?" At his nod she zoomed over at speeds I didn't think were humanly possible. Thus she slammed into me, taking Elizabeth and Adam down in a tumble with us.

As we came untangled I discovered that she had her head buried in my shoulder and her arms wrapped around me. She looked up at me and asked, "Is it really you, Teddy?"

I smiled. "Yeah, it's me." At which point she buried her head back in my shoulder and renewed the hug. To my surprise I was hugging her back. It felt pretty good. Of course it wasn't until my vision went blurry that I realized I was crying.

We finally pulled back and were smiling at each other. Then she said, "You look good, Teddy. Have you lost weight?" That got me laughing and her giggling. Luckily my 'girl' development hadn't proceeded to the point that I was giggling too.

After that she crawled off me I took a quick wipe at my eyes and we helped each other up. As we stood we continued holding each other's hands. It felt nice, but also kind of 'not-guyish', which was kind of uncomfortable on a mental level.

She looked me up and down before shyly asking, "Is it true?"

I sighed. "Well, that depends on what Jacob told you, but if it's what he was supposed to, then yes. It's true."

"So, you're really in an experiment to help fix your problems? And you're really turning into a girl because of it?"

I nodded. "Yes, on both counts."

She gave me a short contemplative look, then she pulled me into another hug. "It's alright. You're still my Teddy."

And that, as they say, was the last straw. Some dam broke and I bawled like a baby as she held me. I should have been embarrassed to be in that situation with so many other people around, and I was. But that couldn't stop it. I cried for my current situation, I cried for how much I loved my sister, and I cried for 28 years of suffering without a single tear. All in all, I'm actually more surprised it only took me a few minutes to pull myself together.

Through it all Cam just held me and told me how much she cared about me. And with each second that passed I loved her even more. I'd always loved my sister. She was a tiny, cheeky little angel. She'd been my sole reason for living for nearly half of my life. But I'd never been able to express it well because in all that time it had taken every ounce of my will just to use that bond as a life preserver. Now that love was bright and shiny and connected, and I never wanted to let her go.

But of course we did pull back. Cam had tears running down her own cheeks and a little smile on her face. My own vision was still blurry and my face was soaked. I started trying to wipe my face when I was handed a handkerchief. It was Liz.

She had tears running down her own face. When I looked so did Adam, and even Vanessa. Jacob had a smug little smile on his face. I ignored him for the moment and pulled Elizabeth into another hug.

When I let her go she gave me a sheepish smile, which I returned. When I looked at my sister she had an obviously questioning look on her face. So as I wiped my eyes I said, "Cam, this is my friend, Elizabeth." I gestured to Adam and Vanessa in turn. "That's Adam, and that's my friend and nurse, Vanessa." Vanessa gave me a little smile. "Everybody, this is my sister, Cameron."

There was a quick chorus of hellos before Cam came over and pulled Liz into a hug. Elizabeth seemed a bit surprised, but hugged her back. Then Cam did the same with Adam and Vanessa. Afterwards she came back and pulled me back into another hug. She whispered, "I don't know if this is appropriate right now, but I'm happy for you, Teddy."

I smiled at her. I knew what she meant. This was the first time in my life I'd ever had friends, and they were one's who'd cry when I cried. While the whole 'guy to girl' thing was rather disturbing, the rest of my life was infinitely better than it used to be.

After that the conversation turned to my sister getting to know my friends. There was the basic how did we meet, the sharing of embarrassing moments, and so forth. When Liz and Adam described what condition they'd been in when the procedure started, Cam could hardly believe it. Vanessa actually went and brought some photos to prove it. Cam looked back and forth between them and their 'before' photos, then she burst into tears and gave them both hugs. All around I think my friends fell in love with my kid sister too.

After a while they all made excuses and left so Cam and me could talk alone. We just sat on the grass next to each other for a while. Then Cam said, "I really like your friends."

I smiled at her. "I'm glad. I rather like them myself."

She shook her head and gave me a light punch on the shoulder. "Ha ha." She gave me a smile. "Seriously, I like them." I just nodded. Obviously she was having some trouble getting to 'the' topic. "So, Teddy, um… are you okay with this? I mean, really?"

I gave her a somewhat sad smile. "Honestly?" She nodded. "I'm scared out of my wits. But there's no way to go back at this point, so I can only move forward. Besides, no matter the outcome, I could never go back to how I was."

She just looked at me for a moment, then nodded. Then she gave me a quick up and down glance and asked, "Have you gotten taller?"

I gave her a wide grin. "Yep. I'm currently 5'10"."

She put on a mock pout. "Great. Now I'm the shortest member of the family."

I gave her a quick shoulder hug. "Hey, don't worry about it. Besides, you're still the biggest pain in the family."

She snorted and punched me in the arm. "Oh, shut up."

We both chuckled a bit. Then I said, "So, now that I'm covered, how've you been?"

She shrugged. "Oh, everything's been pretty normal with me."

Oh-ho, the old 'nonchalant' game. She should know better than to play that with me. "Really? So there hasn't been anything interesting you didn't mention on the phone?"

Her cheeks flushed a little. "Nope, not really."

Hmm. "So how are things with Sabrina?" And with that her face went positively neon. "Ah-haaa, so you two have gotten a little bit more serious I take it."

She buried her face in her hands and collapsed back onto the grass. "Oh go---d."

I nudged her in the side with my finger. "Come on. Out with the gory details."

She peeked at me from behind her hands. "You know, you're kind of annoying when you're cheery like this."

I poked her again. "That's as may be, but you're not changing the subject. Come on, out with it."

She groaned. "I think I'm in love."

That was an eye popper. "Seriously?" She nodded. "Since when?"

She pulled her hands away from her face and sat up. "Since forever. I think I was just oblivious because of the whole best friends thing. But after that night… God, I was so deliriously happy the next day I was practically floating."

I just smiled. "Alright. So how did this little development occur?"

She shrugged. "It wasn't anything much. We got together to watch a movie at her house, and do a little making out." I could tell she was embarrassed, but she continued, "But then something just kind of clicked, and we both started getting more into it. Then one thing led to another and it just sort of happened."

"And how have things been since?"

"Okay."

"Just okay?"

She gave me a smile and said, "Yeah, it's been going great."

Hmm. "Alright, what's wrong?"

For a second she looked like she was going to deny it, then she slumped. "You know, you've always been freakishly insightful. It's rather annoying."

"Mm-hmm. So what's wrong."

Cam hesitated for a second, then said, "I'm scared."

"Of what?"

She gave me a very puppy dog look. "I'm scared that if things don't work out with us then I'll lose her."

I couldn't stop myself. I pulled her into a hug. "It's alright, Cam, you won't lose her. You're both young, and it may not be the kind of love that lasts forever, but I don't think you'll ever lose her." I pulled back a little so I could look at her face. "But if you want to be absolutely certain then there's something you need to do the next time you see her."

She gave me a hopeful look and asked, "What?"

"You need to tell her everything you just told me. You have to say to her, 'Sabrina, I love you. I always have. I've been deliriously happy since we got together. But I'm scared that if things don't work out I might lose you.'"

She gave me a rather incredulous look, then broke down into giggles. I just smiled. "You know," she said, "I'm a girl. I don't think I'm supposed to be quite that straightforward."

I shrugged. "Maybe not, but it'll certainly get the job done."

She laughed and gave me a quick squeeze before pulling back. "You always give the best advice, Teddy."

"What can I say, it's a gift."

After that we went in search of my friends, and we spent the rest of the day hanging out. We saw a movie, and Cam was rather impressed with the theater. She was also impressed with the five stores for women's clothing we had. She and Liz shopped excitedly while Adam and I hung back. I might be turning into a girl, but I haven't caught the shopping bug yet. And honestly, I sincerely hope I never do. That's just too 'not me' to deal with.

When the day finally wound down Cam crashed in my room with me. It was a little odd to wake up with my sister cuddling me like a real teddy bear, but oh well. And it wasn't long after breakfast that she was scheduled to leave. Me and my friends were all there to wish her farewell.

She actually gave Adam, Liz, and Vanessa hugs first. "It was great meeting you guys. I hope we can see each other again sometime."

Liz nodded and said, "Of course. I'd love to see you again."

Adam smiled and said, "Definitely."

Then Cam gave me a hug and said, "I won't get to see you again until this is all over, so you can surprise me with the new you, okay?"

"Sure."

She gave me a devilish smile. "And then we can go shopping for your wardrobe."

Dear lord, I could definitely see the horns holding up that halo. Without further ado she was led out of the building and was on her way back to Olympia. I turned back to my friends and Liz spoke first.

"I really like your sister, Frank. It's too bad she can't come back out here before the process is finished."

I shrugged and smiled. "Yeah, but this was a special case to begin with. No one else gets to see their family until it's over. If things weren't so extreme, I wouldn't have been allowed to see her at all."

"Still," said Adam, "I'm glad we got to meet her. Your sister's pretty cool."

Vanessa agreed. "Still, it's hard to tell you two are related."

I nodded. "I know, we look nothing alike."

Vanessa waved my comment away. "No, it's not that. She's all sunshine and joy, and you're such a gloomy gus. You're nothing alike at all."

Liz and Adam both nodded like they were making a solemn agreement. "Oh, ha ha, you bastards, ha ha."

Liz walked over with a smile and put her arm around my side. "Ah, cheer up Mr. Gloomy Gus. Tell you what."

I smiled at her. "What?"

"Last one to the theater buys the popcorn."

With that she was off like a shot. Adam and I both stood stunned for a second before I took off after her. Adam shouted out as he stumbled along, "Hey, this is unfair to the guy who just learned to walk."

Of course neither of us stopped. After all, the popcorn was free.

*****

Journal Entry September 22, 2025

I'm sort of freaking myself out. My sister just left and my behavior when she was here was very weird. I've never been so touchy-feely in my life. I think I was involved in more hugs in two days than I had been in the rest of my life previous, including childhood.

But still, I'm glad I got to see her. I feel a hell of a lot better about everything now. Still freaked out, but better.

All I can really say on finding out I'm turning into a girl is that I hope I'm average. I've always only been attracted to girls, and based on my current attraction to Elizabeth and a few of the other girls around, I still am. I have absolutely no desire to be 'eye candy' quality. Beyond that, I'll just have to cope.

*****

Journal Entry October 17, 2025

The process has just gotten past the 5 month mark. I'm beginning to believe I should not express hopes as regards my final appearance. The opposite tends to happen. Based on the testimony of Elizabeth and Vanessa, and even Adam, I'm beginning to look 'pretty'.

Of course I shouldn't be surprised. Over half of the participants were receiving cosmetic upgrades. I guess it just goes to show that appearance is an evolutionary survival trait.

If Elizabeth says I'm 'starting to look pretty', then she's already there and then some. Also, if things keep going at the current rate, she's going to be supermodel gorgeous by the time the process is finished. Personally, I'm not complaining.

Based on the other girls around, it was also becoming obvious that Adam was becoming good looking in his own right. Elizabeth and I have taken to counting the number of girls who make googly-eyes at him during meals. At this rate he'll be the equivalent of a black Brad Pitt.

As far as my own changes go, I've gained another inch and a half in height, putting me just shy of 6 feet. My body shape is definitely starting to go female, though not noticeably yet. I'm also embarrassed to admit that I had to let Liz and Vanessa take me shopping for bras and undershirts. The irritation to my chest and nipples was just getting to be too much. I now officially have A cup breasts. I did get to see Liz modeling some bras for her B cup beauties, though. So I guess it was, in a sense, worth it.

Also, it turns out Jacob's theory on me was right. While I'll wind up looking female, I'm technically going hermaphrodite. The most recent tests showed the development of what appear to be internal testicles in the lower abdominal area. And my penis is less shrinking so much as it's withdrawing into my body. It's also starting to look a little different from a normal penis. The doctor's speculate it may wind up resembling the kind of penis animals with sheaths have.

They also suspect that the vaginal canal will open sometime in the next month, though sexual organ development won't be complete until there's only about a month left in the process. I can honestly say I'm not looking forward to that. My body's weird enough as it is.

There is a spot of good news. Cam took my advice and talked with Sabrina. Apparently Sabrina fell into her arms sobbing and confessed she'd known she was in love with Cam for a while, but she was also afraid she'd ruin their friendship if she pushed things. Based on what Cam's told me they're so lovey-dovey that I'd probably be sick if I had to see them in person.

She did tell me there was one blot on their happiness. Although they try and keep PDA's to a minimum at school, they do often hold hands. Apparently some of the more jackass-variety students have been giving them a hard time. Her old boyfriend David even called her a dyke. I told her not to pay attention to such assholes and report any abuse to the office. Of course I personally wanted to track that bastard David down and turn him into a human pretzel.

My voice hasn't changed yet, though it has started cracking in the last couple days. I’m basically going through puberty a second time, only as a girl. I'm also starting to notice some irrational emotional displays, likely as a result of new hormones. All I know is the other day I went on a crying jag for no reason.

If I weren't so god-damned stable this whole thing would be driving me insane.

*****

Journal Entry November 14, 2025

The last month has been pretty hellish for me, but whatever my new hormonal balance is I seem to have reached it. I start crying or get really pissy for no reason whatsoever. Liz jokingly referred to it as PMS on steroids. Unfortunately she did this while I was in an irrationally pissy mood, so it didn't go over too well.

Whatever this weird empathic thing is that our group has, it probably saved our friendship during this period. Lord knows I couldn't have put up with me without it. They were there when I needed them, they gave me space when I needed it, and they were there when I said I didn't want them, but secretly I did. And, oddly, the whole thing has actually made us an even tighter knit group.

About the empathic thing, there's definitely something going on. And it's not just in our group, or within the group. Almost all the participants seem to be showing an increased awareness of the emotional states of others. But it is true that this awareness seems strongest between members of the same group.

Another thing I'd noticed lately was that the groups had pretty much solidified. There was some interaction between groups, but nothing significant. But this wasn't due to exclusivity like some kind of high school clique system. It was more like the groups that form when family and friends get together. The little kids have their group, the older kids have theirs, and so do the single and married adults. Of course I still don't have a clue what the 'distinguishing' factor for each of the participant groups is.

On the procedure side of things, my voice has firmly entered the 'female' category. It didn't really change range all that much, but the timbre and pitch are definitely female. As far as the rest of me goes, I finally had to bite the bullet. I might have a sheathed phallus, even internal testicles, but my body shape was 100% female, if slightly butch.

In all honesty, "biting the bullet" wasn't so much admitting that I was effectively female, it was allowing Liz and Vanessa to take me clothes shopping. With the way they shop it should be classified as an endurance sport. The damn place only has five stores, but they still managed to spend 8 hours dressing and undressing me like some living Barbie Doll. I only set one ground rule. No dresses or skirts. Maybe someday, but definitely not now. But the end result is still that from underwear to outerwear, every last piece of clothing that currently fits me was designed for a woman.

I begrudgingly admit that not only do the female clothes fit me better, they actually feel pretty good on my skin. And I shamefully admit that one set of panties they got me to put on was so silky smooth and felt so wickedly good that I left them on for the rest of the day. Liz and Vanessa gave each other knowing looks while I turned several shades of red.

I will admit that Liz has been good about being there. Adam's there for me, but he admits he's out of his depth. But Liz wasn't kidding when she said she's only about 1 to 2 months ahead of me in girl development. She tells me things and asks me questions about things that, while horribly embarrassing, do help a lot. Of course I was rather disturbed by the 'first period' talk. That is definitely not something I look forward to, and could definitely live without.

As far as the equipment goes, I now have a vagina. It looks like a normal vagina, and the head of the sheathed penis looks like a slightly engorged clit. And if sensitivity tests are right, it acts as one too. Oddly, I can control whether my penis is sheathed or not, even when excited. The only difference is it's only semi-rigid when not excited, and rock hard when it is. As for the girl parts, the vaginal canal is mostly developed, but the uterus and ovaries have a way to go.

I also got some wonderful culture shock with all this. As of about a month ago, I had to start sitting down to pee. As of less than a week ago, I no longer pee out of my penis, but a small hole near the vaginal opening, much like a normal woman. All I have to say is it's freaking weird. And after this Vanessa gave me a rather disturbing course in Vaginal Care 101. Needless to say I'm currently somewhat of a nervous wreck.

To wrap up my personal changes, I'm now just over 6 feet tall with B cup breasts that are shooting for C. I'm not skinny or voluptuous (thank god), but I'm athletically trim. In fact Liz and Vanessa think I look like a female Olympic athlete. As for my face, I reluctantly admit that I'm pretty. Currently just on the female side of androgynous, but definitely pretty. While any normal girl would be pleased, I was more distressed. I very seriously did not want to enter the 'eye candy' category. Unfortunately it looked like I was on my way there.

Now that I'm out of the way, I can mention my friends. Adam has officially cemented his position as the hottest guy in the teenager bracket, and he's certainly taking advantage of it. By that I mean he was sampling every eligible young thing that approached him. I imagine that, with the exclusion of Liz, he's made out with every last teenage participant, and then some of the older ones. And oddly enough, that includes both sexes. He says he's getting his flings and experimenting out of the way early. So far his consensus is 'girls are best'.

With Liz, I believe three letters say it all, OMG. She was extremely pretty at the beginning of the month, then she completely bypassed beautiful and gorgeous and went straight to heartbreaker. Every time I see her I'm literally struck dumb. And when she smiles at me I damn near hyperventilate. Okay, maybe I'm slightly biased because I have a gigantic crush on her, especially since she still has the outgoing, fun-loving, slightly vulgar personality I fell in love with. But nearly every teenage guy has tried to go out with her, and two of the girls. Luckily I think her appearance might be finished. Much more and she'll achieve an inhuman standard of beauty.

Recently, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, she likes me too. I can't be certain, but some of the things she does to tease me… Let's just say I'd never say or do such things to a person I had no interest in. Then again, I'd be too embarrassed to say and do some of it at all.

God, reading back through this it looks like some diary entry, not the progress journal I started. But I suppose that just proves my point about recording how my thought process changes. Now that I think about it though, there are a few strange things to note.

Nearly every participant has been a bit energized lately. I don't think there's been a single minute in the past week where someone hasn't been using either the gym or the pool. I know our group spends at least four hours as the gym every day. We ran, we played tennis and basketball, and we lifted weights. Things were definitely strange there. I 'd lost size in my limbs, and I knew for a fact my muscles couldn't be as big as the one's I used to have underneath my fat. But I was lifting more weight than I ever could. I was benching 500lbs. That's 150lbs more than I ever did as a man. There are only 3 people among the participants who can lift more, and they're all men. But even Liz and Adam were doing amazing. Adam was benching almost 400lbs, and Liz was doing 300lbs. Most girls her size couldn't bench 180lbs if their life depended on it, but she barely strained herself.

Adam and Liz also spent a good deal of time at the pool. I went to watch Liz and the other girls in their bathing suits, but I happily accepted the title of 'chickenshit' when it came to getting my own swimwear. I was in no way comfortable putting that much skin on display. Of course if Liz keeps at her current persuasion tactics I'm not sure how much longer I can last.

Anyway, there are a couple weird physical things to mention. Adam has these strange little bumps between his shoulder blades and spine, and Liz's ears look like they're gaining a bit of a point. My own personal strangeness is that my new hair is super thick and feels more like fur than hair. Also, I think I look younger than my age, but that seems common among a lot of the older participants.

All of the participants just had our monthly physical, but so far nothing's been said. Though I was informed that I could look forward to a full pelvic exam next month, so now I'm scared shitless and Liz is trying to be supportive without showing the slight bit of demonic glee she feels. That aside, Jacob has called a meeting in the pagoda garden for tomorrow. I have a feeling he's about to address these little oddities that have been popping up.

*****

All of the participants were sitting on the ground waiting for Jacob to arrive. He was scheduled to address us in about 10 minutes. Most of the others were trying to figure out what the meeting was about, but I was keeping my opinion to myself.

Liz and I were sitting pretty much right next to each other. Adam was a little ways away speaking intimately with his latest conquest. She was a redhead named Charlotte from somewhere in the Midwest. She was quite pretty. Although looking around, most people here seemed cosmetically appealing. You'd never pick any of them as ever having had a genetic defect. Hell, some looked like models from fashion magazines.

My attention was brought back to Liz as she readjusted to make herself more comfortable, which also moved her a little closer to me. I rather liked having her closer, but I was jittery as hell. To answer why, I had discovered something interesting that day. Apparently, my sex drive was now active.

Of course, I'd been attracted to Liz for a while, and I had the hugest crush on her. But that seems somewhat innocent compared to what I now had going. Full blown lust. And her usual teasing that was meant to embarrass me was now exciting me in ways it was proving difficult to control. I've already learned that rock hard nipples under a T-shirt are just as embarrassing as tenting your trousers as a guy. I've also discovered that a damp crotch is mildly uncomfortable. And to top matters off, I felt exactly like a teenage guy who needed to let one go, but I was still too new to all this to try and take matters into my own hands, so to speak.

I think I could've handled it better if her current line of teasing wasn't so damn provocative. She was trying to get me to wear clothes that revealed a bit more. Right then I was wearing a slightly lose T-shirt tucked into some loose khaki pants. The only skin showing was from the neck up and my forearms.

Liz was currently wearing a skirt that showed her legs from mid-thigh down matched with a top that showed some cleavage, left some midriff bare, and barely had what might be called sleeves. I'd damn near fainted when I first saw her. The day had then been filled with both visual and verbal teasing. Right now I was more high-strung than a kite.

It didn't help any when she leaned close to me and whispered, "You know, you really should try wearing something more daring. If you don't want do it with outerwear then I know this great white lace thong set that would make you feel just wicked to wear under anything. Or even better, under nothing."

Oh, sweet Mary mother of Jesus. I didn't know it was possible to actually be so horny it hurt. "Would you please cut it out, Liz? You're driving me nuts."

She leaned back and shrugged, which did wonderful things to her chest. Dear lord, I think I'm going to pop a blood vessel. Luckily (I suppose) I was saved by Jacob arriving at the Pagoda.

He looked rather somber as he began his speech. "Welcome, everyone. If you'll bear with me, we have some things we need to discuss." He took a deep breath. "According to the results of the most recent round of tests, it appears that all of you have entered the final stage of the process. This is also known as the 'enhancement' phase. I'm certain many of you have noticed increases in strength, speed, and stamina, and possibly even heightened intelligence and senses."

A lot of people were nodding. "This is expected, and it was described to you when you agreed to undergo this process. We estimate that each of you will be at least 3 to 4 times as strong and twice as fast as any average person." That got a lot of excited and hushed conversations going. I was personally doing a refrain of 'yada, yada, yada' in my head.

"However," he said, "we have also seen some results that do not fall within the intended parameters." Everyone quieted down. "Most of you appear to be developing 'enhancements' that are not present in the rest of group and which seem to be dependent solely on the individual's genetic make-up." That got some more muttering going. I was doing a mental '*cough* bullshit *cough*'.

"At this stage we can only detect these alterations, none of the specifics. These alterations will likely make themselves known in the coming weeks. We ask that if you do notice something, or you feel any sort of discomfort, please let your nursing assistant know. We will do everything we can to help." Of course that just got more muttering going on. "I would also like to point out that unforeseen occurrences were discussed with you when you agreed to participate. In the event that any alterations require special attention, whether in appearance or lifestyle, I remind you that BT Industries will cover any expenses as a result. But based on all current records, none of these alterations is likely to be detrimental."

Well, now everyone was abuzz. Some people even looked upset and angry. Of course then I noticed that Liz and Adam were sitting quietly watching me. And thus aware, I also noticed our weird empathic bond thingy. Both of them were worried, but all I was putting out was the emotional equivalent of 'yep'. I had the inkling that I would be answering some questions in just a little while.

Jacob continued, "There is one other item of interest. It would also appear that many of the older participants are undergoing age regression. Some have actually lost several years off their physical age. By that measure, we believe that the process is actually extending your life spans. Detailed tests will be performed at the end of the process to determine to just what extent this has been done."

Well shit, I didn't just look younger, I was younger. I glanced around at the faces of the participants and finally noticed something. The oldest participant in the group used to be almost 50 years old. Now there wasn't a single one that looked out of their mid-30s. Damn.

"I realize that many of you have questions and concerns. I ask that you please discuss these with your nursing assistant. If they are not able to help, please feel free to make an appointment with me. I've freed up some time to assure that anyone who wishes to see me directly may do so. That being said, I wish you all a good night."

As he left the garden most of the participants went to find their nursing assistants. Liz and Adam stayed right by me.

"So," said Liz, "care to tell us what's going on?"

Adam nodded. "Yeah, you don't seem all that surprised, Frank."

I saw Vanessa giving me a look. Oh well, cats out of the bag. "Come on guys. Let's go back to my room and I'll explain."

When we got to my room I had them sit down and very purposely kept Vanessa and their nursing assistants outside. So, where to start. "I don't know if I've mentioned it, but Jacob and I used to know each other."

They both nodded. Liz said, "Roommates in college, right?"

I nodded. "Right. Then have I mentioned that Jacob personally invited me to participate in this project?"

Their mouths opened a bit and they shook their head. "No, that you haven't mentioned," said Adam.

"Alright, then I'll start there. Jacob paid me a visit two days after I tried to kill myself." Adam held his breath for a moment and Liz actually gasped.

"You tried to kill yourself?" asked Liz.

I nodded. "Succeeded, technically. At least for 37 seconds. Then they managed to revive me."

Liz had tears in her eyes. "How? Why?"

"With narcotic painkillers, and considering you saw me when we all got here, you know why."

Liz and Adam looked at each other, then they got up and pulled me into a group hug. We all got a bit teary eyed. The biggest part for me was that I could literally feel their understanding.

"I know what it's like," said Adam. "I thought about it a lot myself."

Liz nodded and sniffled. "I did to. But it just felt like giving up, and I always told myself I'd never do that."

I gave them both a sad smile. "I know, but it wears you down. But that's all behind me now, and I hope it's behind both of you." They both nodded and I gave them one last squeeze before letting go. "Alright, now sit down so I can continue." They did, Liz wiping her eyes in the process.

"Well, anyway, Jacob showed up and asked me to join this project. But he knew me well enough to know that I wouldn't participate without a good deal of information. Though I'm not certain of his reasons, he apparently wanted me to join badly enough that he gave me significantly more information about their prior findings than he did to anyone else."

I could tell they were slightly upset so I said, "I know it's not exactly fair, but this is supposed to be a blind study. And basically every scrap of information I have that you don't pertains solely to the possibility of individual enhancements, so his little announcement didn't surprise me. And I didn't know about the possible age regression. All he told me was that the enhancements weren't always uniform and that sometimes individual enhancements appear. He also informed me that the only death caused by the process happened because they ran it too fast."

Because of the weird empathic thing they both knew I was telling the truth, unfortunately they could also tell I wasn't telling the whole truth. "So," Adam said, "what aren't you telling us?"

Well crap. Then, it's not that I wasn't willing to tell them, I just didn't think it was a good idea to say out loud. They felt my concern and gave me the time I needed. I held up a finger to ask for a minute and I went and got my notebook and pen. I wrote down what I had to tell them on a blank page.

As I came back to them I motioned for them to scoot closer together, which they did. I carefully handed them the notebook, making sure to keep what I'd written hidden. It said:

Hide this as best you can. The government is interested in using this project for military purposes. But they want repeatable results. We are actually better off if everyone shows individualistic and random enhancements. Don't let on that you know.

They looked from the note to me, and Adam carefully closed the notebook. "Why tell us?" he asked.

I shrugged. "You're my friends. I don't want to keep secrets from you."

They both looked at each other, then pulled me down into a hug between them. I hate to admit it, but I'm becoming a big fan of hugs. Especially with girls, and for multiple reasons.

After that we settled into our fairly normal discourse, though we did discuss what the individual 'enhancements' could be. Adam is apparently a very big fan of the X-Men. When they left for the night I couldn't help but be very happy about where my life was going.

*****

Journal Entry December 16, 2025

It's been seven months since the process started, and if I could get Jacob alone I think I'd strangle him. There are two reasons for this, one justified, one irritating. The irritating reason is that Jacob failed to mention that everyone would lose their teeth. New ones have mostly grown in at this point, but there's nothing to cause a mass freak-out like everyone's teeth starting to fall out. But the form of some of these new teeth leads me into the justified reason.

Fully 47 out of 50 of the participants are showing 'individual enhancements', as Jacob calls them. Basically that means they either have something other than basic enhancement to speed, strength, stamina, mental capacity, and the five senses, and/or that they have exceptional enhancement in one or more of those categories. Unfortunately the 'other' category does not include anything that might be considered a 'superpower', or at least not so far. What is does seem to include are alterations to basic physiology. And generally, the more drastic the physiological change is, the more drastic the overall enhancement is. This gets into the reason I would now like to strangle Jacob.

For 28 of the participants these alterations are fairly subtle. They could be changes to the eyes, teeth, ears, hair, or extremities. For some there isn't any physiological change, just an exceptional case of enhancement. A couple of them have senses well outside normal human capabilities, and one man is now capable of solving pretty much any math problem in existence in a matter of seconds. Overall, you really couldn't tell there was anything different without close observation.

12 of the remaining 19 participants fall into what I would call the 'obvious but not shocking' category. All of these participants have physiological changes and enhancements that are noticeable, but not decidedly freakish. One man looks like a seven foot tall Arnold Schwarzenegger and is physically the strongest participant, currently able to bench press 1200lbs. Two boys and one girl actually look like the Forgotten Realms depiction of elves. One of the boys is a big fan of the genre and couldn't be more thrilled.

The final 7 participants have what I would call 'extreme' alterations. In most of these cases the alterations include the addition of blatantly obvious animalistic traits. Guess why I would like to kill Jacob? This happy group includes not only myself, Liz, and Adam, but also two guys, Scott and Cody, and two girls, Rachel and Adam's current red-headed paramour, Charlotte.

Starting outside my group, Scott's alterations are very much in the realm of the simian. He seems to be growing thick fur over most of his body, and his feet are changing in such a way that they will likely be functional as hands. He also shows the growth of what will likely be a prehensile tail.

Cody's inclusion in the 'extreme' category is the only case that doesn't involve animal traits. He is currently 9 feet tall, fully proportional, and still growing. He's not only eating just about everything in sight, but if he keeps growing at his current rate he'll likely be between 12 and 13 feet tall by the end of the procedure. Luckily the primary ceiling height of this building is 15 feet.

Rachel's alterations are of the mammalian, but from a decidedly unique section. She appears to be growing bat's wings, and her ears are extremely elongated. Her hearing has also increased to the point that she can hear someone's heartbeat from 10 yards away.

Charlotte's alterations are equally odd, but in a reptilian fashion. Her tongue has become forked, and she's apparently developing a Jacobson's organ. She has no hair other than what's on her head, and what appear to be scales are visible beneath her skin. Her nails are also changing into talons.

As for our little group, Adam's changes are obviously avian. His eyes are mostly pupil now and he gives new meaning to the term 'eagle vision'. I'm not even sure they can properly measure just how good his vision is. And the two nubs on his back have now revealed themselves to be developing wings with black feathers. Liz joked that at least he's color coordinated.

Liz and I seem to have drawn straws from a similar end of the gene pool, feline. Liz has pointed ears now, and it seems the lobes are disappearing. Her eyes are also definitely feline and her nails are turning into retractable claws. She's also growing a tail with black fur on it, and her teeth are definitely designed for a primarily carnivorous omnivore. All in all I'd say very panther-like.

I on the other hand seem to have drawn the lion's share, so to speak. Turns out my new hair really is fur, and it's spread to most of my body. In fact, the only places I'm not growing fur are my face, breasts, and lower abdomen. Luckily it's short and from a distance I just look like I have a golden-brown tan, which oddly enough matches what my skin tone has turned to over the last couple weeks. I have teeth like Liz's, but my eyes and ears still look normal. My nails also seem to be changing into claws. Oh, and I'm also a member of the 'tails' club. The odd thing about the tail, I didn't even notice the damn thing until the bump interfered with putting on my pants.

So there you have it. It's perfectly understandable for everyone to be freaking out. The strange thing is, no one is freaking out. I mean there's certainly concern, especially about being able to fit in with normal society, but I'd generally be expecting the average person to be suffering a serious nervous breakdown at this point. I've always been a cool customer, so my being just irritated and somewhat pissed is within the realm of understanding. But that all of the participants, and the extreme cases especially, would be so calm about the situation is strange.

After talking with several of the participants, Liz and Adam included, I've come to a conclusion. When we arrived we were all deformed (some hideously) genetic defectives. Now we're all stronger and faster than any average person, some of us extremely gifted with physical and/or mental prowess and some with practically superhuman senses, and even the least attractive of us is still better than average in looks. Compared to that, having some physical alterations that not only look cool (once you get past the whole 'mutant' factor), but serve to enhance those new abilities, is hardly a significant cost.

Honestly, it is hard to argue on the detrimental side when the opinions of even the 'extreme' cases are decidedly optimistic. Scott commented that he'd always wanted to play on the jungle gym as a kid and thought it was funny that now he might be able to play in an actual jungle. Cody only seems concerned that he'd have to duck in most buildings. Rachel and Adam both just hope that when their wings are fully grown they'll actually be able to fly.

I'd normally have thought the whole lizard thing would be freaking Charlotte out, but it turns out she really likes lizards and has a pet iguana at home. Not only that, but she thinks, and I actually have to agree, that the pattern of her incoming scales looks like a rather beautiful full body tattoo. Even Adam has made some comments about her tongue that I'm far too embarrassed to write down.

Liz's only complaint is that the tail is forcing her to wear nothing but thong underwear unless she can get something custom made. This also led to a rather embarrassing period for me during which she commented that I would have to do the same and proceeded to drag me shopping. Until I saw her modeling thongs and forcing me to do the same for her I never thought it was possible to be both mortified and horny at the same time. I will admit that once you wear them for a while you hardly notice them. She also tried to use this opportunity to get me into a skirt, but that's still a big no-no. I just modified the back of my pants.

Honestly, I suppose I understand where everyone is getting their positive attitude. You only have to look at what we can do now. Adam not only has what is essentially 'supervision', but he is officially the fastest participant at 60mph. He can't do a normal bench press anymore, but his deadlift is 800lbs, or about 4 times the human male average. We also learned from a game of 'dodge the tennis balls shooting from the ball machine' that he has superhuman reflexes. We started from across the court at only about 40mph. Moving closer, and with some tinkering to the machine, we found he can dodge a 150mph tennis ball from 12 feet away. Then we wised up and decided getting any closer at those speeds was stupid, not that 12 feet at 150mph wasn't stupid. I sometimes fear I'm starting to think like a teenager.

Liz is now officially heart-stoppingly gorgeous. In just the past month I've seen 9 men and even 1 girl either slam into or trip over something because they were paying more attention to Liz than where they were going. I have luckily avoided that particular pratfall. She is also the 4th fastest participant with a peak speed of 48mph. She's benching 430lbs, or just shy of 4 times the female average. While she may not be Adam's equal in vision or Rachel's in hearing, all of Liz's senses have gotten a serious upgrade. It's somewhat annoying because I can't even mumble under my breath near her anymore.

As for myself, there are some things I'm fine with and others that just plain freak me out. I'm perfectly okay with the fact that I can now run 35mph, or that I'm the 3rd strongest participant, able to bench 950lbs and deadlift 1300lbs. If we take my current body into account then that's 9 times the female average. The somewhat enhanced senses, especially vision and hearing, come in pretty handy. I'm definitely happy with my current 6'2" height. And to be honest, I'm even sort of intrigued by my new animalistic traits, even if the fur is a pain in the ass to dry, and I don't mind the Mediterranean complexion.

The thing that does freak me out is that I'm pretty. Scratch that, beautiful. According to the opinions of Liz, Adam, Vanessa, and even myself, I look like somebody crossbred an Olympic athlete with a runway supermodel. The C-cups pushing D-cups don't help matters. To make things worse, I couldn't possibly be physically older than 20. In addition to that, I've been getting hornier with every passing day for the past week. My nipples are almost perpetually hard, and my dreams are getting steamier every night. Hell, I haven't woken up without damp underwear since the dreams started.

Dear lord, this is starting to sound like some horny teen's diary entry. Of course with the age regression, that seems an almost embarrassingly correct assessment. I'm still too freaked out by the new plumbing to deal with the issue personally though. Then again, if it gets much worse I may not be able to stop myself.

Moving on to less embarrassing and personal topics, it seems Adam will be turning 16 in just a couple of days. The only reason we've discovered this is because his nursing assistant Bethany told us. As revenge for withholding this information, Liz and I have decided we will throw a party. With the help of Vanessa, Charlotte, Liz's NA Carol, and a few others, we have arranged a party with all the trimmings to be held in the Japanese garden. It wouldn't be the first birthday party held, but it would be the first for our group. Current readings indicate that Adam will be both suitably embarrassed and overjoyed.

*****

So far the party was going well. Adam had looked suitably chagrined when he arrived, and then thoroughly embarrassed when everyone chorused the Happy Birthday song. And I do mean everyone. Pretty much all of the participants and their nursing assistants were present.

Presents were hard to come by considering we were sequestered, so it was very much the thought that counted. Of course Adam seemed fully appreciative of his gift from Charlotte. Not only was the kiss good enough to be cheered, but I think it took his brain a good 5 minutes to reboot afterwards. Charlotte certainly looked rather self-satisfied.

For the most part it had now degenerated into people talking in groups while listening to the music. The tunes were pretty good overall, but some of the stuff chosen for Adam's benefit was a little too heavy metal for my taste. As for the birthday boy, he seemed to be spending some quality time with Charlotte. Apparently he'd finally settled on a girl.

Last I saw Liz she was talking with Rachel and the elf-looking girl. I really did need to learn more people's names. Vanessa was spending some time with the other NAs and talking about god knows what. And I was sitting by myself in the little secluded spot I liked.

Mostly I was just trying to get a handle on things. I'd caught several of the guys in attendance checking me out and it gave me the creeps. Luckily it was all pretty standard 'Ah, look, she's hot' checking out, not any leering or ogling. Actually I found it odd that the closest thing to an 'asshole' among the participants was one guy who didn't know when to stop joking. Then again, an even temperament and personality may have been selection criteria. Anyone who was violent or a plain old pain in the ass wouldn't have done well sequestered for an entire year.

For the most part I'd managed to take a step back and calm down. For most of my life people had done their best not to look at me, and now I was getting far too much visual attention. I'd just have to adjust. Now if I could just deal with how god-damned horny I was I might be getting somewhere. I swear, I felt like I was being infused with concentrated horniness of an entire high school football team watching cheerleading practice.

Despite that, it seems I succeeded in tuning out the world, because when I felt a hand on my shoulder I damn near jumped out of my skin. When I turned I saw Liz doing her best not to burst into laughter. She was wearing a short black skirt with a white blouse. Dear god, she was beautiful. And the fact I could see up her skirt from my position was not helping me calm down.

"A little jumpy, aren't we?" she said as she sat down next to me.

I shrugged. "Sorry. I was just sort of tuned out." Seeing how close she was to me I thanked god that our group's weird empathic bond didn't seem to include 'horny' in its broadcast wavelengths.

She nodded while looking off into the party crowd. "You know, I think Adam and Charlotte might actually have something special."

I followed her eyes and saw Adam and Charlotte sitting together laughing. I could literally feel his happiness, and there was practically a voice attached shouting 'Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte'. To a somewhat lesser degree I could feel the same thing coming off Charlotte directed toward Adam.

I couldn't help but smile. I didn't know if it was that always ephemeral 'true love', but it was definitely love. Unfortunately it would be hard to embarrass him with this knowledge thanks to the empathic bond. I wondered if a joke about the 'Dragon Lady' would be in poor taste.

When my attention returned to Liz she had a thoughtful look on her face. "I'm going to start getting out there too." Huh. "I mean, I've been too shy to really try getting together with anybody so far, and I've been pretty much asexual most of my life so I'm not even that sure what I'm attracted to. But I've been masturbating pretty much every night for a month and I think it's time I put myself out there."

It's a good think I wasn't drinking anything. As it was I choked enough on thin air. Before I could compose myself she gave me a teasing look and said, "How about you? Spend any time dialing the pink telephone?"

Oh, dear god. I had to be as red as a tomato. "Please don't say things like that, Liz. It's embarrassing."

She grinned and gave me a playful slap on the arm. "You know I'm just teasing, Frank." Then the mischief came back into her voice. "But if you haven't, you don't know what you're missing." She shivered. "I'm practically addicted myself."

Sweet Jesus, have mercy. I hugged my knees to me and buried my face against my thighs.

"If you're trying to eat yourself out it might be easier if you spread your legs."

Oh my god. I fell backwards on the grass and covered my face with my hands. I also burst out laughing. "Dear god, Liz, that's so dirty."

The only response I got was her laughing. Ah jeez, I was totally smitten with the filthiest-minded girl on earth. When we both stopped laughing she said, "Frank, I…" She paused. "How did you not hurt your tail?"

I took my hands off my face and looked at her. "What?"

She pointed to her own tail and mimed leaning back. Huh? I leaned to the side a bit and saw the tip of my growing tail pointing out at my side. I sat up and it shifted back to pointing almost straight behind me. I lay back down and it automatically shifted back to the side.

When I got back up I just looked at Liz and shrugged. She tried lying back too and her tail did the same thing. We looked at each other, then our tails, then we burst into giggles. It took a moment after the giggles died for complete mortification to set in. I'd giggled. Not chuckled, giggled. Crap, I really was turning into a teenaged girl.

Thankfully Liz paid no attention to my self-mortification. "Now that we've established our tails have minds of their own, back to what I was saying." Oh joy. "I'm planning to do a little relationship experimentation of my own." Well, there's news no guy… er, girl with a crush wants to hear. She gave me a smug smile. "So tomorrow I'm going out with Daniel, and the day after that I'm going out with Rachel."

Huh? "Wait a second. You're going to go out with a guy tomorrow, and a girl the day after?"

She nodded. "Yep. And we're going to do the whole spiel. We'll hang out together for a while, see a movie together, eat dinner together, and then a little making out. Afterwards I'll hopefully know whether I'm more interested in guys or girls."

Okay, besides being a massive disappointment to me personally… "That seems like a strange way to find out what you're attracted to."

She gave me a haughty sniff and a shrug. "Well, I'm a bit strange. Besides, I think both Daniel and Rachel are very attractive. I just don't know which I'm sexually attracted to. I mean, I may be masturbating every night," oh god," but I don't really have a clear image of a partner. I just have the hazy imaginings of another person. So excuse me if my idea to find a solid basis for what I like is a little strange."

Geez, if the words weren't enough, I could feel the slight sting my 'strange' comment had given her. Dammit, I'm too nice a guy - well, girl - for my own good. "I'm sorry, Liz. I didn't mean it like that. It's just that this whole thing is strange. I mean, where else can you find people who're in a situation where they've gone from a non-sexual entity to a sexual entity. It's just not, you know, everyday stuff."

Yes, eloquence is my middle name. Liz was giving me a miffed look, which slowly transformed into a playful smile. She pulled me into a hug and said, "No worries. All is forgiven." God, she smelled so good.

When she let go and pulled back I actually felt a mew build up in my throat that I had to choke back. "Besides," she said, "I think you need to start getting out there too." Huh? "I know you still like girls and don't even want to think about guys, but you should still start trying things. I was talking to Natalie, and she was wondering if you're interested in her."

Okay, my brain must've been malfunctioning. "Uh, who's Natalie?"

She gave me a smack on the arm. "You know Natalie. The elf girl?" Oh. I nodded. "So?"

"So what?"

"So are you interested?"

Being completely dumbfounded, I nodded. I mean, the girl was definitely hot. "I suppose. But I don't know her that well."

Liz nodded. "Great. Then you won't mind meeting her at the pool tomorrow afternoon at 4. It'll give you a chance to get to know each other. I told her you'd be wearing a bikini."

I think my heart may have literally stopped for a minute. "What?" I squeaked.

Liz smiled evilly. "I told her you'd meet her tomorrow at 4 by the pool and you'd be wearing a bikini."

Ok, enter the gibbering idiot. "But, but, I don't have a bikini, or even a swimsuit. You know I don't, I mean, and, but, I mean, what if I didn't agree, I mean, don't agree? You know I don't wear anything like that?"

She gave an evil chuckle. "Oh come on, you know you'll look absolutely fantastic in a bikini."

"But, but, but…"

"That's right, I'm certain Natalie will love your butt in a bikini. That means we'll just have to go get you one first thing in the morning." She scooted right next to me and gave my baggy jeans and shirt a once over. Cue gulp one. "And we'll need to get you some sexier clothes for when you take her out to eat afterwards." Cue gulp two. She leaned in close to my ear. "Of course, I know you've already got the sexy underwear covered, since I helped you pick it out." Cue gulp three. She reached up and tickled the fur at the back of my neck. I felt a bolt of electricity shoot down my spine. "Or perhaps Natalie would rather see you in nothing. I wouldn't blame her."

Dear sweet Jesus, I felt like my heart was going to beat its way out of my chest. I could barely catch my breath. Suddenly Liz jumped up and said, "Well, we'd better get some rest. You'll need your energy tomorrow." She walked away saying, "See you in the morning, Frank."

Dear lord, I couldn't move. And what the hell was that when she tickled the fur on my neck? Then I felt something tighten in my crotch and I knew I needed relief. I needed relief right fucking now.

It took an extraordinary amount of willpower not to start masturbating right where I was. I got up and ran as fast as I could back to my room, I don't particularly care if anyone saw. My hands were shaking so bad it took me three tries to get the door open and I was cursing at the lock the whole while. As soon as I slammed the door behind me I literally ripped off my clothes, fell to the ground, and went to it.

I was clumsy and had absolutely no idea what I was doing, top or bottom, but I learned quickly. It took almost no time at all before I reached my first orgasm. Then another. And another. And another.

At last the tightness receded and I was able to stop. Not that I had to, or even particularly wanted to. God, I felt absolutely fan-freaking-tastic. I was super-energized and yet I was floating in the warm, languid grace. I chuckled to myself as I contemplated that if my orgasms were this good while masturbating then they'd have to be completely out of this world during actual sex.

Eventually the grace state receded enough for embarrassment to intrude. I stopped the casual rubbing of nipples and vagina I hadn't even noticed I was doing until that point. I tried to bury my face in my hands in embarrassment, but that only lasted until I got a whiff of my hands.

It was then I shot bolt upright and my whole little descent into debauchery came back to me. I could still taste the 'self-sampling' I'd done on my lips. I also had a moment to thank the gods that our rooms were essentially soundproof, as I'd made a rather significant amount of noise. Then I looked down and noticed the giant wet spot on the carpet. It extended a good few feet. Apparently I'd actually squirted and been too out of it to notice.

Then my hormones did the whole flip-flop thing and I buried my face in my knees and wailed like a baby. At some point anger started to enter the equation and I pounded on the floor. Not a good idea with my strength as things actually jumped. Finally my mood switched completely to pissed and I got up and stormed into the bathroom.

I started the tub filling with steaming water and rummaged angrily in my cabinets, an occasional sniffle escaping. I found what I was looking for, two bottles wrapped together with a note from Liz. It said: When you finally decide to use these you'll wonder how you ever lived without them. The bottles were bubble bath and bath oil.

I poured some of both bottles into the tub and got in as it finished filling. Then I did my absolute best to think of absolutely nothing and just luxuriate in the first ever bubble bath I could remember taking in my life. Okay, Liz was right. I don't know how I ever lived without this.

*****



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