Anything for Love - Part 4 - Final

 

 

 

Emergence

 

I'd been to Stephanie's other home a few times and I was always very impressed with it. I was even more impressed this time because this time I got the full tour. Stephanie made sure to point out the local government surveillance group and even told me which of the house cleaning service staff were government plants so I would know who to be extra careful with in my encounters.

Stephanie actually laughed when she told me she had to fire five sets of groundskeepers because none of them knew how to even care for a lawn let alone some of the plants in her yard. Eventually the government clued in and got someone who could actually care for the grounds at the same time as they spied on her.

Life quickly settled into a routine. Several times one of us would be required to go back to my hometown to give further evidence or answer questions. We always went together; something that annoyed both of our employers. My father was actually out of jail but under house arrest, with the latest electronic monitoring. I had also gotten a restraining order preventing him from approaching me or even communicating with me. It didn't look good for my father, the evidence from the EMSU and the attempt on Stephanie's life almost clinched a prison sentence for him.

Stephanie got away with a warning for threatening to crush my father's larynx, but other than that she was free. As long as she stayed out of trouble for five years the threat would be forgotten. Of course we knew that eventually the government would use it against her and us.

We also avoided having to give over any of Stephanie's medical proof. We validly pointed out to the prosecution lawyers that although we knew the evidence was valid it was all gathered through modified or experimental medical devices and therefore would be completely inadmissible in court. When the lawyer asked about getting the devices certified we said that it would take years, and that there were a number of potentially highly profitable patents involved, should the devices prove themselves suitable for their intended use. Until such time as the patents were filed the devices themselves would have to remain secret to protect their value to their inventor.

When things had settled down to a dull roar it was time for me to start the process of changing my sex. However before that began I needed to ask Stephanie an important question.

"So how was your day?" I asked as we sat down for dinner one evening.

"A pain in the backside. My boss has finally gotten wind of my medical scanners and is concerned that I may have inadvertently used some of the technology that my company owns in their creation. I assured him that was not the case. That I was working on scanning devices and not drugs which is the department I'm in. The various research groups don't even work in the same areas of the building and we are definitely not permitted in each other's lab areas, not unless we are working on a joint project. So there's no way I could knowingly be encroaching on their intellectual property."

"I'm sure if you did show it to them, the lawyers would have a good look and then various technical types from the relevant fields involved and before you know it forty or fifty people will have detailed access to your work. Ten of which will immediately run back to the government with everything they can get their hands on."

"That's pretty much how I see it. I don't know how long I can stall them though. Their financial resources could wipe out mine in the courts very quickly."

"Things really are getting out of hand aren't they?"

"Yes." she said with a big sigh. "So how was your day?"

"Pretty much the same as normal. I put in my eight hours of work for my company and then spent around two hours tidying up around here and making meals. I also found these."

I dropped a small box of bugging devices on the table. Stephanie did a quick head count.

"Hm, twenty-seven this week alone. They really are stepping up their surveillance."

"But why all the interest in a bunch of new and improved medical scanners?"

"I don't know, maybe they think I've gone back to my previous research interests. There's no way I'm ever going back to that given what happened."

"What did happen?"

"Sorry, Hon, you know I can't tell you, it's classified information."

The two of us had been playing similar games since I moved in. We'd talk about her harmless work and I'd occasionally probe her to find out what the big secret is. I'm sure they weren't buying any of it, but it was fun for us.

"Stephanie, can I ask you something?" I said this in a more serious tone so she knew it wasn't the game anymore.

"Of course."

"Well now that things have quietened down back home I want to start my transition and get on hormones as soon as possible. I was wondering if before I got on the hormones if you wanted me to store some of my sperm?"

The look on her face told me I'd blindsided her with that one.

"It's okay I don't need an answer right away, but in the next month or two I'll have to do it, or not as the case may be."

"I don't know, Tamara. I haven't really ever thought about having children of my own. My life has been my work and you."

"It still would be. I mean I can't have the child myself but I'd happily be the one to stay home and care for our child, a baby wouldn't have to disrupt your work that much."

"Yes, that's true, but it would disrupt the time we spend together and I don't know if I'm unselfish enough to share you, even if it was with our own child."

"Oh."

I looked down at my food, no longer hungry. I hadn't really taken that into account when I thought about this. I was hoping she would just say yes. I'd love to give birth if I could. The next best thing for me would be for her to give birth to our child.

"I'm not saying no, just I haven't really thought about it and all the ramifications. I guess too we still don't know if we can make an us", she gestured to indicate meat space, "work."

We certainly knew I could be any woman she wanted in a sim, and we were certainly able to 'work' there. I was hating my father more and more. This would never have been an issue if it wasn't for him.

"Why don't you just go and have some frozen, just in case? Besides if we don't work out you may find someone who will have your child."

My eyes got moist and the tears started down my cheeks, "I don't want anyone else's child, I want our child."

I got up and ran from the dining room and locked myself in my bedroom. God, I was such an emotional mess. I was losing more bits and pieces of Todd every day. Which was a good thing, but it left me very emotional at times.

What really hurt though was that she could suggest that there ever could be anyone else. There would only ever be her for me. Stupid I know, but I just know that she is the only one for me.

There was a knock on my door. "Tamara, can we talk please?"

I wasn't in the mood for talking and I grabbed the other pillow and pulled it tight over my head so I couldn't hear her anymore. Although I could still hear her try for a few more minutes before giving up.

Only her giving up made me cry even more.

'Why didn't she try harder? A few more minutes and I would have let her in.'

At some point I must have fallen asleep while crying my eyes out. I woke up to Stephanie gently stroking my somewhat long hair and cuddled up behind me. I had forgotten she had a key to the door.

"I'm sorry, Hon. I didn't realize how much a child meant to you. It was also a very thoughtless thing for me to say that anyone else could ever replace your feelings for me. I know no one else could ever replace my feelings for you."

I rolled over and hugged her tightly to me and gave her a loving kiss on her lips. I didn't realize I was in Todd's meat space body and not Tamara's sim body until I saw the look on her face.

"Oh god! I'm so sorry, Stephanie, I forgot...."

I couldn't say the rest in case there were any undiscovered bugs in the range of my voice. This only got me crying again. How could I do that too her? I knew the answer. All that was left of Todd was mostly just a physical shell now. I was almost completely mentally and emotionally Tamara now.

"It's okay, Hon, you just surprised me. I almost think I could be okay with you now; well up to a point. You are so much more a woman now than a man. It's been amazing to watch your transformation over these last few weeks. Those little personality quirks and physical behavioural traits that annoy me on occasion have virtually disappeared. It's like you're a different person now, better somehow, more in tune with yourself and me. I don't know. I didn't think it was possible, but I think I love you more now than ever before."

Of course this just added to my tears. She can say the sweetest things to me and I just melt.

"Stephanie, I love you more too. It feels like Todd was always holding me back, which I think he was. Now I'm free to experience my emotions unhindered by the conditioning he was under."

"You talk about that aspect of you like it was another person?"

"He is. He's virtually gone now. But he's also a part of me. Only now there is only me in control of my life and I'm free to be who I was meant to be now. He's too weak to exert any kind of control over me now. In a short while he'll be completely gone only his memories will remain a part of me."

"How do you feel about that?"

"For the most part I'm happy, and very sad. Mostly my sadness is because in order to create Todd, my father cost me my life as a woman and due to that, both he and I lost each other because of that decision and his arrogance. I'm afraid though that the pain of all this will eventually cost me my mother too. I'm not sure what to feel about her. How could she let my father do what he did to me?"

"I'm not sure, Hon. People do some stupid things in the name of love."

"Yeah, I guess we all do. I'd do anything for you."

"I'd do anything for you too."

"That's good. Because I seem to remember you were cuddled in behind me when I woke up a few minutes ago."

I rolled over so she could get back into the same position which she did. Again she started to gently stroke and run her fingers through my hair. That felt so good and so relaxing. After a few minutes of this I was so relaxed I started to fall asleep again.

"Tamara."

"Mhmm."

"Put Todd's sperm in the sperm bank. I'm not making any promises now. But who knows how I'll feel in a few years. Marcus did once make a comment about my biological clock ticking, so let's be prepared."

"Okay." I said dreamily in my half asleep state. "I love you, Stephanie."

"I love you too, Tamara." She moved slightly and kissed my cheek. "Get a good night's sleep, Hon."

"Mm. You too." I drifted off to sleep with her arm draped over my side and the oh so wonderful heat from her body warming my back.

The next few weeks were an absolute blur. I was trying to keep up with my work commitments, keeping house for Stephanie, going to various doctors and specialists appointments. I also made deposits with two separate sperm banks, just to make sure that if one company screwed up there would be a backup. I really wanted the two of us to have children together.

It was while I was in my psychiatrists office I noticed one of those brochures all doctor's offices have. Since my psychiatrist specialized in male to female transsexuals the brochures were targeted at us. The one that caught my eye was for complete and permanent removal of unwanted hair in less than a week. It was guaranteed painless and one hundred percent effective on whatever skin surface was treated. They also claimed they could get rid of the thick, visible hair inside the nose that many of us suffer from. I certainly grabbed that brochure so I could do some follow up research on the process.

It was about a week later, after much research, that I'd decided that this new method was the one for me. Basically, the method required a five day stay in the facility, it was expensive, but when compared to the cost of full body electrolysis and the pain and time involved, it was a bargain. Same for laser hair treatments. Lasers progressively damaged the hair follicle, but becomes increasingly ineffective as the pigment is destroyed in the hair. It like electrolysis only worked on active hair follicles and not dormant ones.

This new process was actually a modified version of an old cancer treatment. Basically a light sensitive delivery system bound to a toxic drug is introduced to the body. This delivery system had a particular protein coating on it so that it bonded only to hair follicles, or in the case of the cancer treatment, cancer cells. Once bonded to the hair root its chemical composition changed slightly so that the next step would work more easily. The next step involved zapping the drug with a laser of a specific frequency. The laser's energy broke open the shell containing the drug which then destroyed the hair root.

The great things about this process is that it also caught dormant hair roots too. The wonderful thing about this process is that the laser didn't have to be all that powerful, just enough to penetrate deep enough into the skin and cause the release of the toxin into the hair root.

The big drawback to this system was that it required five days of monitored treatment in the facility. It took about two days to ensure that even the dormant hair follicles had enough of the drug bonded to them. During this time the patient had to be kept in very low light conditions, to ensure that hair that wasn't intended for removal wasn't accidentally affected by ambient light; unlikely, but no one wanted to be sued if it did happen. The areas that needed treatment were then zapped with the low power laser. The next two days were spent purging the drug from the patient's system so normal lights wouldn't cause any unwanted hair loss, again unlikely, but....

The system was so accurate they could permanently sculpt your eyebrows. Although they recommended against this in my case. If I had work done on my brow bones later, to make them more feminine, it would alter where my brows sat on my face and possibly make the eyebrow sculpting look wrong.

When I showed Stephanie she said it was a safe technology, but because it was relatively new it was very expensive. I pointed out that the time spent on the other technologies and the costs involved, and the discomfort that most people experienced actually made this cheaper and well worth the cost, well cheaper if you could afford the up front cost of the process.

With her blessing I arranged to have the procedure done. My employer wasn't happy with me wanting the extra time off as sick time, especially because I was falling behind on my workload. However they had no choice when my psychiatrist said I needed the time for medical reasons. It was probably stretching the medical necessity a bit, but I couldn't wait to be rid of my male body hair.

The day came and I entered the clinic, definitely excited about what was about to happen. I was given a final pre procedure medical, an IV was attached to my arm and from there I was taken to a barely lit room and the drug was released into my body. Every few hours when the bag containing the drug emptied a new bag was attached to my arm. After two days of sitting in a dark room, I was getting very bored and very tired of peeing every half hour. The third day I was taken to the treatment room and every part of my body below my eyelashes was denuded of hair. Actually I hardly felt more than a tiny warmth where the laser was directed.

After that it was back to my room and boredom as more IV drips were attached to me to flush the remaining drug from my system. Again I spent a hell of a lot of time in the bathroom peeing and giving urine samples so they could gauge how quickly the drug was being flushed from my body.

The moment I awoke on my last day in the clinic I knew something was wrong. I knew I'd been sedated sometime in the night. I knew this because I'd become proficient in detecting the after effects of such drugs, even the subtle ones; given how many times Stephanie had put me under either while at her secret lab or getting me to or from there. The other thing was I had a bad headache. I reached up carefully and detected a small scab at the back of my skull.

They had tried to implant me! My worry now was had they succeeded or had Stephanie's implant done its job and blocked theirs?

To say that my pulse and blood pressure sky rocketed would be an understatement. I wanted out of there, and I wanted out of there now! But there was nothing I could do. If it was done, even Stephanie didn't know how to safely remove the government's implant, or if it was even possible. All I could do now was wait until she picked me up and I could get her to run her modified scanner over me. Then all that would tell me was if I still had my own free will, which I'd just recently attained, or if I was now a government controlled zombie.

The other thing was, if the government implant didn't work then they would want to know why it had failed on me. They would then find her implant and they would want to know how Stephanie's implant prevented theirs from working or taking hold of my brain. That would mean that I would soon be a government guinea pig as they tried to discover the secrets of her implant. No matter what the outcome of the scan, I was now royally fucked!

 

 

On the run

 

When Stephanie picked me up that afternoon she immediately knew something was wrong.

"What's up, Hon?"

I looked her in the eye and indicated with my eyes that I couldn't say anything.

"Just antsy. I've been in a dark room for five days and it was getting to me. I also woke up this morning with a pounding headache but they didn't want to give me anything until my urine samples came back clear."

"Do you still have a headache now?"

"A bit. But it could just be because I've been in the dark for a few days and I'm finding normal light is taking a bit of getting used to. Besides I want my favourite doctor to give my body a special scan and tell me how wonderful my skin is now it doesn't have any that god awful male hair on it."

I said this in a sexy voice, but my eyes conveyed to her that there was nothing sexy about my request. She gave a barely perceptible nod indicating that she had understood my message. The look of worry on her face said she had fully understood my meaning.

We kept the banter up until we got home. As was our custom after both of us left the house or we had other people inside we swept the house from top to bottom for bugs. Two hours later we had twenty-five of the little buggers disabled. Um, no pun intended there. This was way more than normal. The real worry was, were we supposed to find these and miss stealthier ones, or were they just hoping the sheer numbers of bugs alone would make us sloppy and miss some. Both of us felt that there were stealthier bugs that we hadn't found. Unfortunately we'd found all we were capable of finding the way we were currently searching for them.

After disposing of the bugs we playfully made our way to her bedroom. She was much more physically affectionate to me now that Todd was all but history. Yet there was still only so far she could go with my still male body.

"Now, Ms. Bronson, if you would be so kind as to disrobe and lay down on the examination table."

I did my best to do a sexy strip of my clothing and hopped on the bed trying to be all sexy. I don't know, is it me or is there really nothing sexy about a male body and men's clothing? But then I am a lesbian so maybe it is me.

When Stephanie pulled out her modified scanner I made a big fuss.

"Um, Doctor Ingram, that's not the type of scan I meant. I wanted something more personal."

Again this was said sexily but my eyes conveyed another meaning.

"Well, Ms. Bronson, you were under another doctor's care. I'm just making certain my favourite patient is one hundred percent healthy. I might just give you a more personal scan after I'm sure that those drugs haven't harmed you in any way."

She made a fuss about arranging me just so on the bed before giving me the scan. The fuss was so that she could surreptitiously feel the back of my skull for the scab I'd found. The second she touched it she stiffened slightly. The look on her face told me that my suspicion was well founded; they had tried to implant me. The next question was, had they been successful or had Stephanie's implant protected me?

My life as I knew it was over. No matter what there were only two choices available to me. The first being to sit back and let the government own me and eventually dissect me piece by piece to understand Stephanie's implant, the second was to run. Running gave me the only hope of controlling my own life and destiny, but the odds of me making it more than half a kilometre before being captured were small, not with the surveillance we were both now under.

The hopes and dreams I'd had for Stephanie and I were now utterly dashed. There would be no us, no child or children, there would likely be no more shared intimacies with the woman that made my life have true meaning.

I wanted to scream at that moment, to cry, to yell and spit my hatred at the universe for its contempt toward me, toward us. I wanted to do those things, but I couldn't let on that we knew about their attempt to implant me. Something had to give at that moment, I had no way of containing it all within me. I did the only thing available to me at that moment....I blacked out.

Ewww, what an awful stench. What a way to wake up.

"Tamara, wakeup! Honey, please wake up."

Stephanie's voice was both pleading and worried. I'm sure she had no idea why I'd just blipped out on her. Yet I couldn't tell her for fear of those who might be listening or watching.

"Please could you get that thing away from my nose. It smells awful."

"It's supposed to. How are you feeling?"

"I don't know. Maybe you had better do your scan on me after all."

"Okay, you just lay there, relax and don't move until I'm done."

"You're the doctor."

I smiled to let her know that I was really okay. This method of communicating was difficult at times because it was much easier to misinterpret the meaning of some silent gesture.

Even with my reassurance Stephanie went all out on the scan, she even did an EEG scan in addition to the one she could detect implants with.

"Well my Dear, you are healthy. That little scare just now is nothing to worry about."

Thank god! The government's implant had failed. That meant I still had my free will for the time being. Hopefully it also gave me a few days to permanently lose myself. How do I tell Stephanie, that our good news wasn't so good after all? Hopefully she was already aware of this and would be working something out to save the both of us.

"That sure is good news. Do you know what happened just then?"

"No, but I'm going to check you out like this a couple of times a day from now on until I'm absolutely positive this was just a freak occurrence."

"By the way Hon, you bare skin feels wonderful to touch now that the hair has been removed."

"Care to touch it some more?" I said in a playful voice.

"Not now, maybe later. I really have a few things that I need to do."

"Can I help?"

"Um, no. But if you're up to it, this place didn't get cleaned while you were lazing about for five days. You'd better go over it from top to bottom."

Another bug hunt. I'm not sure if I could find anything that our previous search missed, but I'd do my best. I think this time I'll try harder than normal to find the bugs.

As it turned out I did manage to find a few. A sophisticated setup inside a carefully weighted wine bottle in the wine rack, it even had a fine layer of dust on it like the other bottles had. Several of the interior security cameras had been modified to include a battery and transmitter. Even the ultradef television had an extra circuit board in it. Yeah, I know some of this required pulling things apart to find, but all in all I got rid of six of the more sophisticated spy devices.

So that made us feel a tiny bit more secure, but we could never really trust that even the walls didn't have things buried inside them, completely out of sight. The only way to catch these devices would be to have a frequency scanner on all the time and catch the burst transmitter when it fired off its accumulated data. Chances are you'd never get a fix on it, only that it was nearby.

On a personal front I kept the television, radio and music players all off, since they could be used to trigger the government implant. I wanted to delay as long as possible the government figuring out their implant had failed. If I wasn't using any media that they could embed a signal in, then their implant would remain dormant. The only way they could activate it now would be if someone with a remote control for it was within range. That would only work if they could trigger it based on what I was doing hearing or seeing. Since I had cut myself off from any kind of stimulus they could manipulate it was pointless for them to try. So for the next few days I cancelled all my appointments and didn't answer the door or phone. I didn't know how long I had before they acted on my suspicious behaviour.

Stephanie and I really needed to have a private conversation. To try and achieve this I took one of the empty rooms in the basement and basically stripped everything out of it along with the interior walls of the room. All that was left was the joists in the room. It became a totally bare room with no place for any surveillance equipment to be hidden.

It was in this room where we were able to have our first potentially private conversation since coming back from her secret lab. We even left our clothing outside well way from the room before we entered.

"Stephanie, I've got to run. I can't stay here any longer. Sooner or later they're going to try and control me with their implant. I can't let that happen, I won't let them control me or use me against you."

I didn't want to say anything about their implant failing or being blocked by hers in case they could still hear us somehow.

"I know. This has all gone so wrong so quickly. The only way I can see us getting out of this is if we are both dead, or they think we are."

"True, but how do we pull that off."

"I've arranged a couple of things with my friend. On the twelfth there will be a diversion that should allow us to slip away." she held up her fingers and indicated that it would actually happen in two days time, not a week and a half. "Then we get out of the country, I've already worked out some fake identities for us."

"That won't leave us much time to get our stuff together."

"We go with the clothing on our backs, nothing more. We will be leaving this life completely behind."

"I'd do anything for you my Love."

"I know, Tamara, I'd do anything for you too."

Of course to protect our escape plan Stephanie didn't give me any more details. If our watchers were still able to hear our conversation in the room they would only know the fake date of our escape.

Two days later I greeted Stephanie when she got home from work. I closed the door and we gave each other a long hug. As we did this she whispered very quietly in my ear.

"I'm going to slip something into your tea that will give you bad stomach cramps. I'll call for an ambulance. As soon as we are in the ambulance I'll give you the antidote, but you'll have to continue to sound like your are in pain. Be prepared."

"I've missed you. I can't get enough of your hugs." I said.

"It's the same for me. What's on for dinner? It smells good."

"Yesterday's table scraps."

"What?"

"You'll have to wait and find out."

"Can I get you anything in the meantime?"

"A cup of tea would be lovely. I'll be down as soon as I've had a quick shower."

A few minutes later she came into the kitchen.

"Oh, Hon, I didn't get a chance to finish making the tea, could you do it please?" I said.

I figured this would give her a chance to put the drug in my cup of tea without it looking suspicious, this way she had a legitimate reason to be touching my cup should anyone be able to see and hear us.

"Here you go, just the way you like it."

"Thanks. So how was your day?"

"Busy and stressful. My boss is still giving me a hard time about my private research. He said the company lawyers are going to insist that I prove to them my work isn't infringing on any of their patents or my contractual obligations."

I took a sip of my tea. "I think I'll let my tea sit for a bit, it's still a bit hot."

She gave me a weird look but I figured bad tea would be a poor excuse for a stomach ache. Some food, especially the chicken I'd cooked might make a better excuse.

"How was your day?"

"My boss has been giving me grief because I'm falling behind. They know I'm going to change my sex and I know my boss is really uncomfortable with that. They'll probably fire me in a few weeks time for failure to perform my job adequately. I'm thinking I might quit before then. That way I won't have their prejudices messing up my employment record. To top it off I've been feeling a bit under the weather lately and today my stomach has been quite off." I figured that just added to the legitimacy of my imminent attack.

"Do you think you are coming down with something?"

"I'm not sure. It's probably just stress. Worrying about my job and money."

"Well if you do quit you don't have to worry about money. I can easily provide for the both of us."

"That sweet of you, Hon, but I'd feel better if I was contributing as much as I can. I'll just see if I can find something locally, it'll be easier and cheaper than flying every two weeks for office meetings."

I took another sip of my tea. I was starting to get a little upset rumble in my stomach and I guess it showed on my face.

"Are you okay?" she said with concern.

"Just my stomach is acting up a bit more. I'll be fine."

"Maybe a bit of food might settle it?"

"Yeah maybe. Dinner's ready. I'll get it on the table." I took my cup of tea with me and took another sip.

'Ow! This is getting really uncomfortable now.' I thought. I needed to delay this as much as possible so it would be convincing.

I dished out the food and carried the plates out to the dining room. I was barely able to stand up at this point and I was breaking out into a sweat. I got the food onto the table before I almost doubled over in an excruciating cramp.

"Tamara! Are you okay?"

"I will be in a few minutes. I just need to catch my breath."

I made my way out to the kitchen and took a last sip of my tea before dumping the rest down the sink and rinsing the cup out. No sense tipping them off too soon. I'm sure as soon as we leave the house they will be checking the food out to verify the legitimacy of my complaint. I still had the cup in my had when the next cramp hit me and I fell to the floor. I heard the cup shatter next to me.

'Why am I always the one to be falling down?' I thought.

Stephanie came rushing into the room, "Tamara? Oh my god! Tamara? Are you okay?"

"My stomach hurts like hell." I let out another groan.

"You're burning up. Do you still have your appendix?"

"Yeah." groan, "I've still got my tonsils too. Ooooh shiiiiit thaaat huuuurtssss!"

"Damn. It might be your appendix. I'm calling for an ambulance. Try not to move. I'll be right back."

She ran off to make the call. I was almost seeing double by the time she got back.

"I'm so sorry, Hon." I knew she was genuinely concerned for me and the pain I was going through.

"If it's your appendix you are going to be laid up for a few weeks, that'll mess things up for us quite a bit."

Again a message for those who were listening, especially if they heard us talk about the twelfth as our planned date to escape.

A few minutes later and she informed me she could hear the ambulance. She told me she'd be right back. Shortly after that I heard the clattering of a gurney coming down the hall and Stephanie talking.

"Yes, she said she's been feeling a bit off recently and her stomach has been bothering her today, but it got a lot worse over the last half hour. She collapsed about ten minutes ago, which is when I called for an ambulance."

The paramedics came into the kitchen and were instantly confused. "I though you said the patient was a woman?"

"Yes, this is, Tamara, she'll be a woman once she's had her surgery. Her current legal name is, Todd Bronson."

One of them started taking my vitals while the other questioned Stephanie.

"How old is, um, she?"

"Twenty-seven."

"Any medications?"

"None currently, she was wanting to start hormone replacement soon. Oh yes, last week she had that photo drug laser hair removal process done. It should be harmless though from what I understand about the drug and process."

"Who's her physician?"

"Currently I am. Although we are looking to find someone else because it wouldn't be appropriate for me to continue treating my own partner." That threw them for a loop.

"Pulse is high, one-thirty, BP is one-forty over ninety. Temperature is thirty-nine."

"Can you tell me where it hurts, um, Ms. Bronson?"

"I don't know. It's the worst" groan, "cramping I've ever had. I don't think I can localize it. All of my bowels seem to hurt with each wave."

"Anything to eat or drink in the last hour?"

"We both had some tea, it was steeped in the same pot, so it can't be that. Tamara, have you had anything else that I don't know about?"

I shook my head as the next wave of cramping was making it difficult to talk. God, I wanted this over. Now!

"Okay, let get, um, her on the gurney."

They had me on the gurney within moments and I was covered and strapped in. I was wheeled out to the ambulance and loaded securely in the back.

"We're taking her to the Ridge Emergency Department. You can meet us there."

"No way, I'm her physician and she's my partner. I'm riding with her."

The paramedic looked like he was going to tell her no, but the look on her face made him back down. Have I ever mentioned that no one can stare her down. He gave in after about three seconds. He lasted longer than most.

The paramedic went up to talk to the one driving for a few seconds. When he did this Stephanie came over to me and whispered.

"Don't swallow this, let this dissolve under you tongue. The cramps should stop by the time we reach the hospital. Just remember to keep pretending you're in pain."

With that she slid a pill into my mouth and sat back moments before the paramedic came back and the ambulance began the journey to the hospital.

A few minutes later and I was checked into the hospital. True to her word the pain started to fade about five minutes after we got there. By this time I was in the ER and the ambulance crew had been discharged. Within moments I was back in the non public area of the ER along with Stephanie. After getting all the same information as the paramedics did and my vitals checked over for the tenth time I was informed that despite the pain it was probably a minor ailment. They would send me for tests as soon as higher priority cases had been seen too. With that we were left alone.

We made idle chitchat, although I still punctuated it with occasional moans and groans that were followed by her assurances that I'd be okay.

While we were doing this she silently indicated that I should get back into my clothes. She handed me a hospital ID badge with my picture on it, but with another name on it. She took her cell phone out of her purse and indicated I should do the same with mine. She took both phones and buried them under some garbage in a trash can.

About a minute later and I was back in my clothes. Stephanie peeked up and down the hall and motioned me to follow her. She quickly had me lost as we made several turns here and there until we came to a door marked maintenance. She pulled a security card from her pocket and held it to the reader and there was a click as the door unlocked. We went through and again I was led through a maze. I was hopelessly lost in the bowels of the building. Eventually we ended up in front of a door that was barred and welded shut; we were in a dead end. Yet she didn't seem upset. There was a storage closet next to the barred door and she opened that.

She handed me a small bag and whispered, "Here, get out of everything and I do mean everything you're wearing and put on these clothes."

"What's going on?"

"Just get changed, I'll explain everything in a few minutes."

While I was getting changed she was doing the same. We stuffed our old clothes, the ID badges, the card she'd used to get us down here and personal ID into the bags. We then went a bit further down a side passage way where we came to an incinerator which quickly destroyed everything.

We then made our way back to the closet where we had just gotten our new clothing from. She took a last look at her new watch. She held her finger up to her lips for me to be absolutely quiet. The lights flickered for a moment. She pushed on the back of the closet and she practically shoved me through the opening that had appeared. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to keep my mouth shut and not protest.

She quickly closed the back of the closet and there was a brief flicker of the lights yet again. She still held her finger to her lips, but motioned for me to follow her. To me it looked like we were now behind the sealed doorway. Not that there was a lot to see it was a very long corridor, with conduits and pipes taking up most of the available space. There was just enough room for two trim people to squeeze past each other, otherwise it was just wide enough for one person to walk down. After we had gone a fair distance she stopped.

"Sorry, Tamara. We are in an old maintenance tunnel that connected hospital and the old university medical centre, before the new medical centre was built. This tunnel has been virtually forgotten about by most, except a few people who occasionally need to use it to do maintenance on the pipes and wiring in here. They used to have students breaking into the hospital to steal drugs through this tunnel, so they welded the hospital side door shut. The maintenance closet on either side just hides the fact that there's still a way to get through at this end. A.o.T. flicked the lights to indicate that she had bypassed the access warning alarm in the hospital's security office.We had to get through as quickly as possible because the missing status signal would have been flagged by the system after thirty seconds.  They won't even be able to track our movements through the hospital because the DVR's that record this section of the building had a system failure that required them to be manually rebooted."

"Okay, so now what?"

"We continue to the end of this tunnel and get into the old university medical centre. From there we switch to another connecting tunnel to another building on the university campus. I won't say anything more though until we reach that destination."

Again we continued our trek through the tunnel. I must say it felt like we went on for a very long distance, but she told me later that it was only about one point five kilometres. There wasn't any security at the other end of the tunnel to worry about so we listened for about five minutes to make sure there wasn't anyone nearby and exited the tunnel. Another maze of twists and turns in the maintenance bowels of this building before we came to another tunnel and proceeded into that. This time the distance was much shorter before we entered the new building. She led me through a few more twists and turns before we came to some personnel lockers. She quickly entered the combination on the locker in front of her and there we were in for another change of clothes.

As we changed out of the workers' coveralls I noticed Stephanie still had my ring around her neck. "Hon, you need to leave this behind too."

I touched the ring with my fingers. She looked shocked that I would suggest such a thing. I held my finger to my lips this time and unhooked the chain and left the ring in the locker and motioned for her to follow me about ten feet away.

"Think about it, Stephanie, that is the one thing that you never take off, the one thing you always have with you wherever you go. It's the perfect place to hide something. It is also something that if we changed our appearance would tie our new identities back to our old ones. I don't want you to leave it behind anymore than you do, but we've got no choice."

"You're right." Her eyes were moist at leaving it behind.

We finished getting dressed in university normal street clothes. This time Stephanie also had a short haired red wig. It took a few minutes to get her long black hair pinned up so the red wig would look normal. Instead of her normal high heels she wore boots with only a three centimetre tall chunky heel. If she needed to run these would allow her to do so much more easily.

A few minutes later we made our way up into the building and quickly disappeared into the crowd of students still moving about the campus. After about twenty minutes of moving through the campus we boarded a bus and headed away from the campus.

We sat in silence, holding each other's hand for about twenty minutes before we got off the bus and walked into a parking arcade and found a nondescript car. Stephanie found the keys hidden under the wheel well and we got inside the car.

"There should be a package stuck under your seat."

I reached under and after feeling around for a minute found the package and pulled it free and handed it to her. She opened it up and pulled out a wallet and handed it to me.

"You are Chris Johnston and I'm Janine Wallace. We should only use those names when we talk to each other now. The IDs are valid and the credit cards and cash cards should have enough on them to get us to our next destination."

I won't bore you with the next few legs of our journey. We changed our identities a couple more times along the way, each time giving us a slightly different look. A.o.T. had thoroughly covered our tracks, not to mention everything was always ready for us at our next stop. We slipped out of our country and into the country that housed Stephanie's private and oh so secret lab. Of course we never officially left our country nor did we officially enter the one where her lab was. As Stephanie had once told me, there are ways of getting people and things in and out of countries that bypass official channels, you just had to have the right amount of cash and know the right people.

Our first stop was to stock up on supplies that we would need for at least a few weeks at the house. Our last stop before we got to her house was a warehouse where she had a rather large container on a trailer hooked up to the truck we were travelling in. She wouldn't tell me what was in the container though. We drove for hours before reaching a relatively deserted mountain area and then it was several logging roads before finally coming to an old little used, half overgrown road that eventually led to an old concrete bunker beside a mountain, which she opened and we drove inside. Once the doors were closed she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Okay now we are in a shielded environment. So we should be able to talk without having to worry about potential ears listening to us or anything being able to track us."

"So where exactly are we?"

"The entrance to the house and my lab."

"Well then I think I was only off by about five hundred kilometres on the actual location. I figured this place was about one hundred k' east and about three hundred k' north of here. Closer to the other major city."

"That's too close for my comfort. You didn't look it up online did you?"

"No, I had an old world globe that I looked at from time to time. I only ever peaked when a news story related to this country came up. It's something I always do for world news reports, look at the globe to get a better idea of where a place is located in the world, so I don't think I could have aroused any suspicion that way."

"That's a relief. Come on we've got a lot to do over the next few days including getting this into the lab."

"What is it anyway?"

"It's our government's secret surgical tech. They shouldn't notice it missing for about another ten days or so. There are only five of them in existence and this one was in secure storage after having been serviced recently."

"Shit! This isn't something they're going to take lightly. Once they find this missing they will be on the warpath. If they tie it to us they will be out for our blood."

"Which is why we need to be done and out of here as quickly as possible and destroy everything here. So the sooner we can use this to change our bodies, our identities and become people they're not looking for, the better for us both."

"The problem with all of this is that I think they already know where this place is."

"A.o.T. doesn't think they do. She's pretty sure they're still looking, although the stuff they have on you, me and my work, on the systems she can access is pretty limited. She suspects that they may realize she's working with me and are only storing the important stuff on offline systems."

"That's almost a complete contradiction Stephanie. If they know she's helping you and are hiding the information they have about you from A.o.T., how can she be the least bit sure that they don't know where we are right now?"

"We can't. It's just an educated guess based on what she can find out and by what's not available on the systems she can access."

"Or it's all engineered to give that impression."

"Well either way, we have no choice. If we want to live and be free of what they want to do to both of us we have to use this and change who we are. Todd/Tamara Bronson and Stephanie Ingram/Carson have to disappear forever. When we destroy this place there should be so little left they will never know if we were killed in the blast and fire here or not. They will certainly have no idea who we have become or what our new identities look like."

"The big question now is; do we have enough time?" I said.

"Yes, but this is our only chance at freedom and our time is running out."

After that it was a blur of activity. We had to uncrate the surgical unit and load it up on a moving dolly and into the house. The tunnel which connected the bunker to the house was about five kilometres long and went under a small mountain.

"You couldn't have afforded to build all of this." I remarked as we were slowly making our way through the tunnel.

"Of course not. It was actually built by a drug lord years ago. There's an old silver mine in this mountain, that was tapped out long ago. He used the mining tunnels to connect the house with the bunker entrance and reinforced it to modern standards. Parts of the mine still have bits and pieces of the drug lab he built in there. The whole thing is powered by a geothermal generator in the depths of the mine. The government of this country eventually caught the drug lord and auctioned the house off. Through some very carefully hidden financial transactions I became the owner.

"The house was already fortified so I didn't have to do more than add a Faraday cage, juice up the security and add the self destruct system. Most of my money has been invested in this house. It's one of the reasons why I was working. I had to have a source of income to make up for the loss of money on my investments.

"A.o.T., found an investment broker who was, how shall we say, ripping his customers off. I made many investments with him, because at that time he was still considered legitimate and one of the best. However once the money had passed through him, A.o.T., redirected it several times before it ended up in a bank account I have in this country, which is under a completely different but legal name in this country. Once my money was safely moved, he was of course caught, thanks to A.o.T., and ended up in jail."

"Can you be sure you can trust her? I mean what if she was working for the government?"

"I doubt that. She could have just as easily given us to them and this place, only the three of us know exactly where it is. It just doesn't make any sense that she's in with them. Besides at this point it doesn't make any difference at all to the outcome does it?"

"I guess not." I said, feeling like this was all so out of control that there was no hope for us ever coming out of this intact, let alone with our destiny in our own control.

Eventually the surgical tank was installed in Stephanie's lab and hooked up. I had to make several trips to load up the groceries into the kitchen. I pitied her since she had to do this all on her own in the past including lugging me from the vehicle to the house and up the stairs to my room.

For the next few days she practically lived in the lab. She had to hunt down and remove or bypass booby trap code in the unit so that it would be safe for us to use. In theory these booby traps would prevent unauthorized use of the device and make it too dangerous to operate, except by authorized personnel. Eventually, however, she pronounced it was safe for us to use.

"Tamara, I want you to let me modify a few of your remaining male behaviours. Basically change them so they become more feminine."

"Do we have time for this?"

"I don't know, but it would help me accept the final result of your physical transformation. It's your choice, Hon. We'll work through this together so nothing is changed that you don't want changed. You also get to say how strong the change will be."

Two hours of discussion and demonstrations in the lab and I was convinced she was right. I wasn't really happy about having my mind messed with yet again. It seemed from the earliest I was doomed to have my world, my perceptions of myself played with by others. The only difference with Stephanie was that I had a say. My father hadn't, and the government wouldn't, offer me that.

"Okay, Hon, I want you to get onto the sim couch and get comfortable." She moved the big hair dryer like scanner into position over my head and lowered it.

"I'll give you a light sedative to make you sleep for a couple of hours. By the time you wake up the process will be finished. Thankfully there is little we need to change now. You'll be as female in behaviour as any born woman, not that you're all that far away from that now, but with this no one will ever know."

"Okay, I'm ready."

"See you in a couple of hours, Tamara." she injected me in my arm and I drifted off to sleep.

A few hours later I was awoken by a gentle shake of my arm. "Come on sleepy head it's time to get up. You've had enough beauty sleep for now."

I yawned and stretched and looked at the woman I loved so much. I got up and took care of some personal needs. She kinda hung around me as I moved about the house and prepared lunch for us.

It was really getting to me having her following me around and watching me so intently.

"What?" I said, when I couldn't stand it any longer.

"I'm just checking to see if the changes worked the way they should have."

"Well I'm sorry to say this, but I'm not doing a thing differently from the way I've always done it. I'm afraid your process didn't work."

She got a smirk on her face and then laughed.

"What?" I said again.

"Tamara, every move, every gesture you have now is completely feminine. You haven't once sat like a guy would. Your few remaining male behaviours have been eliminated. From everything I've observed since you awoke it's a complete success."

"But I don't feel any different. I'm not thinking differently."

"Of course not, Hon. To your brain, your mind, this is the way you have always acted, moved and spoken. If you tried to do it any other way, the way you did four hours ago, that would now feel strange to you."

I was a bit flabbergasted. I was sure I would notice something, not nothing. But what she said made sense, this new way of behaving to my mind was the way I'd always behaved and moved, yet I could remember everything we discussed about the changes. I was now behaving like we had decided upon and not they way I used to behave; yet I felt like this was the normal and natural way to behave now. This technology of hers was too scary to ever let anyone get hold of it. The sooner it was destroyed the better it would be for everyone.

She broke me out of my reverie. "Come on, we need to eat and get back in the lab so we can program in any final adjustments to your new body and face before you get inside the surgical tank."

A quick meal and a cleanup later and it was back to the lab. Stephanie had decided that since we were going to give ourselves new faces that she wanted something a bit more exotic with me. Blue eyes, like hers, long straight black hair, like hers, but here is where she wanted to make me exotic. My skin tone would be a bit darker, not exactly Asian, nor Hispanic, something hard to define. My eyes would be ever so slightly almond shaped, my nose would be classic Caucasian female, not Roman or Nordic, softer, more feminine. My body would be lean and athletic. I'd have trouble putting on weight with a tweak to my metabolism. She was able to moderately make my hands and feet a bit smaller, slightly more feminine, but not too much because the surgical device had its limits. I'd have nice firm, large breasts, with sensitive nipples that she intended to be merciless with. Of course she had a smile on her face as she said this so I knew I was in for a lot of pleasure. My new female genitalia would look perfect and would be quite sensitive and lubricate when I was aroused. It would take some getting used to, but the woman I would become sure looked exotic and sexy as hell, even if she was a bit on the tall side and a tiny bit masculine in shape. However I'd still be shorter than my Stephanie.

It was finally time for me to get into the medical chamber and start my physical transformation.

"Are you still sure you want to go through with this? I can make things the way they were if you want? After this there is no turning back."

"I want this Stephanie. I want to be with you with all my heart. I won't regret my decision. Besides can either of us go back at this point?"

"No, I guess not. As long as you are sure, Love."

"I'll see you when I'm done."

She smiled lovingly at me as she closed the lid to the chamber. I could still see her through the distortion of the clear chamber wall. She pressed a couple of buttons on the outside of the surgical tank and went over to the computer that would control the process.

I gave her a thumbs up to let her know I was not going to back out. Again she smiled. I knew I had made the right choice. I heard the tiny distant whir of a motor starting up and I began to go to sleep as the drugs entered my body. I would be asleep while the unpleasant aspects of the procedure took place, sparing me any possible pain.

Just as I was losing consciousness the lab door slid open and someone entered behind Stephanie. I wanted to move to warn her but my world went black before I could lift a finger or utter a sound.

Not that awful smell again. I can't stand it. I drunkenly batted at the smell I was being forced to breathe in.

"Come on, Tamara, hurry up and wake up. We've got to move now." Stephanie implored.

My vision was swimming as I saw Stephanie's father and mother in the lab with us. Her father was setting up a suitcase sized device of some sort that to my addled brain looked like a weird bomb. I wondered how her parents had gotten into the house without triggering the house's defences.

"We can't wait for her to fully recover we will have to carry her out."

"I'll carry her, she's my responsibility." said Stephanie as I was lifted and thrown across her shoulders.

Have I ever mentioned just how strong she is?

My head was clearing faster than my body was. Physically I still felt like I was massively drunk, but I could now hear, see and understand things properly. I noticed that I was now clothed. Hopefully it was Stephanie who had taken care of that detail.

"Come on, we now have ten minutes to get away from here. After that they might be able to detect us."

"What's going on?" I slurred.

"Sleep tight and nighty, night, Tamara." said Stephanie's mother and I blacked out. Actually that was the wrong word for it. I was no longer conscious of my environment. I was now completely vulnerable and in a hypnotic trance.

"Wakey, wakey, Tamara." Said Stephanie's mother.

My head suddenly exploded with things that had been locked away in my mind for decades. I remembered everything. It was Stephanie's mother/aunt who was the psychiatrist that had made me become Todd. Stephanie was the young girl I was so taken with as a young girl. I remembered all of my sessions with her mother and every word she had ever said. It was a clear as if it had just happened yesterday.

After the flood of memories finished bombarding me I came to my senses standing in the woods.

"Tamara, we don't have time for explanations now, but are you capable of running." asked Stephanie.

"Yes."

I remembered that Stephanie's mother hadn't wanted to do what she had done to me, yet I still didn't understand how she could have let it happen or even be part of what had happened to me. I decided I'd find out the answers soon enough.

With that, the four of us were racing through the woods. Damn, her parents were way older than me and they were not having any trouble keeping the pace. Only I was. Eventually we stopped when we reached the edge of a small clearing. I greedily gulped air into my lungs and tried to calm my racing pulse. I was almost knocked over by the blast shock wave that hit me. Stephanie's house, her lab, her work, were now history.

I could see she realized the same thing as she turned and looked back toward where the house had been. There were tears forming in her eyes. She loved her work almost as much as she loved me. I held her in my arms for a moment.

"It's okay, Hon." I said somewhat breathlessly. I didn't have to tell her it was for the best; in her heart she knew it as much as I did.

"I'm sorry you two but we are not out of this yet. We still have some more ground to cover." her father said.

Again we were off at a run. About two minutes later we slowed. Ahead was something. I couldn't make it out. The harder I looked it the more I couldn't see it properly. It was starting to make my head hurt.

"Tamara, don't look at it or try to figure it out. If you stare too hard you'll give yourself a bad headache. Just head toward it."

Even when we were only a few feet away from it I couldn't figure it out. Her mother was right I was getting a headache looking at it.

As if she was reading my mind, "I did tell you not to stare at it, Dear."

At that point something changed and the visually painful image changed and I could see the inside of it which looked completely normal in comparison to its incomprehensible exterior.

"Get in. Once we are in and on our way we will explain everything."

It had about the same room on the inside as her parents' limousine had. That was about the only comparison I could make. The rest seemed right out of some futuristic scifi movie. Her father moved to the front of the craft(?) and moments later the hatch closed and I felt a bit of motion. Looking out the window I was surprised to find the ground appeared many kilometres below us in just those few seconds. Stephanie and I just exchanged a very shocked look. Had we somehow just stepped into the Twilight Zone?

"I know you two have a million questions. But first, are you both alright?"

We both nodded still in shock.

"Tamara, do you remember everything now?"

I just nodded.

"Now it's time for you to remember everything. It's time for little Stephanie to awaken."

Stephanie blinked and shook her head a couple of times and looked at me. "I remember. It was you."

"Yes, and I remember it was you too. It was your mother who made me mentally and emotionally become Todd." We both turned to her wanting an explanation.

"I know you both want to know why. Tamara, before I can give you an answer I need to ask you something very important. We are leaving soon and Stephanie must come with us. You can come too, but if you do you will have to leave everything you know behind. There will never be any going back. Do you want to stay with her?"

I looked at my beautiful Stephanie. She knew my answer, as I'm sure her mother did.

"My place has always been at her side. Wherever she goes is where I belong."

Her mother smiled at this. "I knew you would say something like that. That day when you and Stephanie met in my office she said that the two of you would be together forever. The way she said it I knew what she had said was more than just words, she was seeing the future. Some small children have a way of tapping into greater truths, they can sometimes make statements that come true. I knew the moment she said it that the two of you were bound together in some special way. I also thought that maybe you becoming a male was your destiny to be with her. Of course we didn't know at that time she would be a lesbian. Then circumstances forced me to make you both forgot about each other for a time. Believe me, making you both forget about the other was harder than locking away Tamara and creating the boy your father wanted."

"But why did you do this to us and why did you make Tamara think she was a boy?"

"Because I was sloppy and Tamara's father found some things out about me. He never really understood the true significance of what he had found out, but it was very dangerous for him to know and for me that he knew it. I was the top of my field and he wanted my talents to transform his inter-sexed and definitely mentally and emotionally female daughter into his son. If I hadn't acceded to his demands he would have exposed me and worse for you my child he would have gone to some very dangerous psychiatrists that would have essentially destroyed the real you in favour of what your father wanted. The result would have been a very emotionally damaged person.

"I knew I could safely hide the real you and protect that. I just couldn't stop him from surgically making you a boy. After your physical transformation I continued to see you for a while as I worked on your male counterpart. Eventually your father dropped his guard and I was able to implant a hypnotic command to make him forget about me; I did the same to your mother. I never took any kind of payment because I was ashamed of what I'd done. I'd always hoped that I could get to you at some point and free the real you.

"That was part of my plan when I moved Stephanie to your home town. But I didn't want to just undo the conditioning. I wanted to see how you were doing in your male life. If I knew you were happy being a male, then I would leave you alone.

"Then Stephanie announced that she had decided on a boy in school that she thought would be a likely candidate for a friend. Imagine my surprise and the lack of it, when she told me it was you. Her childhood prophesy was coming true. I decided I couldn't interfere at that point and let things develop naturally between you.

"It was also during that time that our suspicions that she was a lesbian were confirmed. The strange dynamics of your relationship made it impossible to tell what was best for either of you. So again I elected to just watch and wait and to do my best to help each of you should you need help.

"Somehow the two of you have always found some way to stay together and have your relationship grow, despite Tamara's physical handicap of being male.

"The big surprise for me came when Stephanie informed me that you had told her that you wanted to become a woman and that your name would be Tamara. That was too great a coincidence for it to ever be chance. Stephanie, did you ever say anything like 'Wakey, wakey Tamara!'"

"Yes I did, and just after that she lost motor control and her eyes started to spin around in her head for a few minutes. There were some really strange brain waves associated with that event and a few others."

"Hmmm. I'm guessing that because you said my control phrase and you're my child, that Tamara partially heard it and awoke, but not fully because it wasn't me giving her the command to awaken."

"There's something else though." I cut in at this point. "When I had just told Stephanie about me, about Tamara, she needed some time to figure things out so I went for a walk and had an emotional meltdown. The thing is the more I wanted to release what was inside me, I heard my father's voice in my head saying, 'Be a man, Todd!' Every time I heard it I fought it. It kept coming back and coming back. Each time I fought the voice it kept on getting weaker and weaker until I couldn't hear it anymore. It was later that Stephanie said your phrase to me. When she woke me up the next morning."

"Yes, we were in a sim and Tamara was in the feminized version of her male body. We needed to get work done and I was trying to wake her and used that phrase. That's when it happened. Oh yes, she also had a dream in the middle of the night. That's where we first found those weird brain waves."

"What do mean you were in a sim?"

Stephanie hesitated for a moment, "Um, well, you see I gave us both brain implants to protect us from the government's implants. My implants allow for total sensory bypass in addition to blocking the government's implant from being able to take over our brains. Through my implant and the sim environment we found a way to be together as two women. It was after spending almost two weeks in sims as different women that Tamara realized she was meant to be a woman. It was on our next trip back to the house that she told me she wanted to change her sex and be female."

"Yes. Stephanie at first thought I wanted to change my sex just so that we could be together. I told her even if she couldn't accept me, that it was something that I had to do no matter what the consequences to our relationship.

"The real breakthrough was when I told my father about me and he tried to use his control phrase on me to try and keep me as Todd. I had a major episode, but at the end of it I was completely free of further control by him. I also remembered every single command he had ever given me to control my life. It took weeks for each of those forced behaviours to stop working and my natural behaviour to reassert itself."

"The mental and emotional transformation from Todd to Tamara was amazing to watch. With each passing day I grew to love her more and more. I couldn't live without her before when she was Todd, but as Tamara, I knew I was hopelessly and forever in love with her."

"The last bit of our story was a couple of weeks ago when the government tried to implant me during a minor medical procedure. As soon as I awoke I knew what they'd done to me. I wasn't supposed to have been sedated during the night and I recognized the telltale aftereffects of sedation, even one as subtle as they used. I knew at that point that my time and Stephanie's had run out. Soon they would realize their implant hadn't worked and they would want to know why. We both decided that it was time to run and change our identities."

"Yes, you two led the government on a good chase. They didn't know where you were, however despite Angela's attempts at hiding you they got your location. That surgical unit had a special hidden transmitter on it. So they had a signal from it right up until you got it inside the bunker. Angela didn't discover that information until it was too late to warn you. Since the signal from the surgical unit stopped broadcasting in a foreign country it took time for the government to arrange for the necessary military involvement and access. They should be at your house and lab right about now, we barely got to you both in time.  Because of Angela's involvement they are on their way to her now. They eventually managed to trace where the hacks were coming from because several were done quite hastily to help with your escape. That cost her the location of her hiding place. We'll be picking her up in a few minutes."

"Okay, so this is the part where one of us is supposed to ask you which government you represent, but given the craft we are in, I'm guessing it's not local, not to Earth anyway?"

"That would be correct, Tamara. My team is part of a monitoring and, um, tweaking group. Our primary role is to observe, and where possible through secondary means to try and gently nudge the various peoples of your planet onto a peaceful and enlightened path so that as a species you can join with the rest of the space faring civilizations. Your planet has been interdicted for about thirty thousand years since humanity was discovered. About fifteen thousand years of which we've surreptitiously attempted to help humanity find your way to joining the galactic community. Only teams sanctioned by the Council of Elders are allowed near your solar system.

"My group and many others over the years have been tasked by the Council of Elders, which represent the various galactic races, to guide your people. Unfortunately your race is stubborn and has continually twisted every peaceful philosophy or belief system we have helped shape into something potentially destructive. The same goes for technology. We can't give you technology ourselves, but we can give you the genius to create it." She turned and looked at Stephanie.

"You my dear, are such a gift to the people of this planet. You are mostly human, but some of your genetics is ours, which gives you that wonderful brain of yours. Your role was to take human technology and with your genius help advance human scientific development. Our role was to watch over you and make sure your work progressed in the right directions. We were originally meant to stay in the role of your aunt and uncle, but then your biological parents were killed and they had named us as your guardians in their will. As for my true relationship with your mother? Of course I couldn't really be her sister, she was made to accept and think I was her long lost sister who was given up for adoption before her birth, but that was the extent to which she was manipulated.

"You came into being because your parents were having trouble conceiving and that's where your uncle and his genetic skills came in. He fixed the problems with your parents' DNA that was preventing successful conception, but he also added some of our genetics into your DNA. This gave you your wonderful memory, intellect and slightly enhanced strength. Even by our standards you are a genius; beyond what we had thought possible."

Stephanie's father called from up front. "Thirty seconds to Angela's location. We have seventeen minutes before the authorities arrive."

"Well children we'll have to work quickly since she's completely bed ridden because of her injuries. I only hope when we get her home our doctors can repair the damage to her spinal cord."

There was a gentle bump as the craft settled beside an isolated farm house. I had no idea which country we were in. I guess it didn't really matter. The four of us rushed into the house and found A.o.T. in a medical bed surrounded by life support equipment, even more computer equipment and all kinds of devices that allowed her to control computers. There was an expensive handicapped assistance robot that appeared to be quite capable of doing most of what she needed; sitting silently in the corner.

Stephanie's mother rushed in and gave Angela a big passionate kiss on the lips. Stephanie and I exchanged a 'What's going on here?' glance.

"I've missed you so much my, Love. It's been too long." said Angela

"Yes it has. I wish we had more time, and time for proper introductions."

"We'll need a stretcher to get her out of here." said Stephanie.

Her father pulled a small package out of his pocket and pressed a button on the protrusion on the side of it. Within moments the whole thing began to expand into a perfectly flat surface, which included four handles; instant stretcher. Stephanie and I looked amazed. I took a hold of it and it was almost as light as a feather. The whole thing didn't feel like it weighed more than an old fashioned paperback novel. It was also very solid like wood, yet the upper surface was soft and yielding.

"How long will the batteries in your life support equipment last?" Stephanie asked Angela.

Again Stephanie's father produced another small package and this time quickly attached it to Angela.

"This will run for weeks on the charge in it. It will take over for these life support devices."

"Okay, let's get her on the stretcher."

The four of us got Angela on the stretcher and we were soon on our way back to the headache inducing craft we'd arrived in. I still couldn't make any details from the outside and again I started getting a headache trying to interpret what my eyes were seeing.

Stephanie's father ran back into the house with another suitcase device, like I'd seen in the lab. Moments later he returned.

"Tamara, the craft's exterior is a computer controlled meta material. It's constantly altering its optical and electromagnetic properties, to keep it as difficult to detect as possible. You can't see it properly because visually it's doing things with light that our brains haven't evolved to interpret, and it's constantly changing those properties thousands of times a second, so your brain has no hope of keeping up with the changes."

During Katherine's (Stephanie's mother) explanation we had gotten Angela and her stretcher secured in the back of the craft.

"We've got plenty of time. Three minutes to spare." said Stephanie's father as the hatch closed and the cottage receded quickly, becoming a small spec far below. Off in the distance I could see a string of police lights quickly approaching the farm house. Just before the house was out of sight there was a flash below and only a big black empty area remained. No more evidence there for anyone to make use of.

"Well I guess introductions are now in order, although I think we all know each other's human names. Tamara, Stephanie, this is Angela, my wife. Angela of course knows you both from all of the work she did to get you both out of the government's grip. Frederick up front is actually our son, well, it's actually more complicated than that."

"Your wife?" said Stephanie, quite confused. I had to admit I was too, but it did fit with Katherine and Angela's greeting.

"Yes. I guess the easiest way to explain this is that our species has three sexes. Basically two female and one male. One of the sexes is pure female like human females, that would be me. The other type of female has both male and female reproductive organs, like my darling Angela. Pure males like your uncle Frederick, Stephanie, are neuter and non sexual.

"I've often tried to come up with human terms to properly describe this to you when the time came. The best I've come up with is that I'm a queen, Angela is a princess, and Frederick is a prince."

"That doesn't make any sense." Stephanie and I said at the same time.

"No it doesn't from your perspective, other than the sexes represented by each word. However it does from my perspective, because the words represent the importance of each group. Family units on my planet are made of up of queens at the top. Normally a family or clan unit will have one or two queens. The queen's role is the head of the family and when the family cannot come to a consensus on an issue the queen or queens have the final say.

"The next level is princesses. Princesses play a pivotal role in the family. Without them, no queens, princesses or princes could be born. Queens cannot produce children with each other, except by artificial means and that is only sanctioned in exceptional cases. When a princess mates with a queen, the queen can either bear a queen or a princess. Princesses can also mate with each other because they're true hermaphrodites. When a princess mates with another princess that child will always be a prince, again princes are neuter and have no sex organs or sex drive.

"Our families are very stable in comparison to your species since the sexes capable of reproduction carry their babies to term and nurse them until they're weaned, thus forming strong bonds with the baby. The princes, like your uncle are free from the need to compete for females or to spread their genes around. Most princes are very skilled artisans, scientists, writers, builders or whatever makes them happy. In our society a family or clan is partially considered successful by the number of princes it has and their abilities."

"So again at the top we have one or two queens heading a family, there are normally up to a dozen princesses in a family clan, usually there are an even number of princesses, and many, many princes. All female members of the family, with the exception of offspring, are married to each other and mate with each other."

"Queens or princesses who are candidates to join the family group in matrimony will normally be a part of the family for about two years. During that time all members of the family get to bond with the candidate wife and she with the family. When all members of the clan and the candidate wife are ready, a vote is held. Unless there's one hundred percent agreement amongst all of the female clan members and the candidate wife, the marriage cannot take place. Princes can also have a say in this process. This normally doesn't happen, but a prince can make a case for having a say."

This was making my head swim. I was beginning to wonder if Stephanie and I should have stayed behind. But then I don't think there was an option for her to stay behind. Something in the way her mother/aunt said it made me think otherwise. It almost sounded like she had to come regardless of whatever her choice might have been. So if she has to be here then so did I.

"I guess the other thing to mention is that although your race and ours share most physical attributes and a lot of similar genetics our faces are a bit different to yours." added Angela.

"Oh, how so? I can't see any difference?"

Katherine answered for Angela, "No, you can't, that's because we've been surgically altered to resemble your species. Our true faces are longer, a little bit like your domestic house cat in some respects, but without the animal teeth or fangs. The reason our faces are longer is we have a very excellent sense of smell, similar to that of your dogs. One of the reasons why our civilization is mostly peaceful is that we can tell who is family just by smell alone. Actually we can identify people we know just by smell. We can smell when someone is upset, angry, sad or sick. To us smell is just as important as our sight, hearing, taste or sense of touch. We can also smell how closely related someone is to us. It's rare that one meets someone who isn't within about ten generations of being a family member. It's even rarer to meet someone who isn't a distant family member at all.

"Also because of our sense of smell princesses can't have an erection if they don't smell the appropriate pheromones from their partner. If a princess' partner isn't interested in sex nothing is going to happen, not unless both parties want it. Rape is virtually unheard of in our society."

"It sounds like a perfect society?" I said.

"I wish that were true, Tamara. In comparison to yours it may seem like it, but we do have our problems, occasional murders and rarer wars. There are other crimes too. A perfect society would be something similar to the Flelm. They have no war, no disease, no murder and no crime. They don't even have words for those things. They are a hive mind, all members are part of the same collective mind. They live to an average age of about twenty-seven thousand Earth years.

Our race normally lives to about fifteen hundred of your years, although a bit over two thousand is not unheard of. Our longevity is mostly due to our health care. We can repair most bodily injuries and genetic damage. Diseases that affect the brain have been eliminated. We can replace whole organs or limbs if necessary with healthy cloned ones. Although there's some damage, like the damage to Angela's spinal cord, that may not be treatable, especially after all this time." She paused for a moment and looked at Angela. "I do wish you had let us send you to the base so you could get proper medical treatment."

"If I'd let you do that then I couldn't have continued with our mission. My miracle cure would have brought even more unwanted attention to our work here. Besides there was no one else as capable of hacking into computer systems as me. At least no one that could look like a human."

"I know." There were tears streaming out of Katherine's eyes. "But to lose Marianna and then have this happen to you. I should have pulled us out and gone home as soon as she was killed.

"There was more than us needing my skills here on the planet. I couldn't let everyone down by running away. This was the only choice we could make."

They just stared at each other, tears in their eyes, lost for words. Knowing that nothing could change the past or the pain they felt.

Stephanie decided that we still needed to know more about our fate and interrupted uncomfortable silence.

"What will happen to Tamara and I now? Do we end up in some kind of zoo? Will we be dissected and preserved in some lab or museum?"

The question shocked Katherine out of her silence. "Why would you believe any of those things?"

"Because you made it clear I had no choice in leaving the Earth. If we had a choice in leaving then I would be a little less nervous about all this. Especially since both Tamara and I have been manipulated and used by you and those around us all of our lives."

"Stephanie, because of your abilities it was too dangerous for the people of Earth to leave you behind. Those that abused your work before would have abused it again and would find ways of making you do their bidding. With us you both will have normal productive lives. You will learn, work, live and play as equal members of our society. You can both have children if you want. Above all you and she will be happy, not because we make it that way, but because you both can be free to be yourselves and not live in fear of being exploited. You both will be welcome amongst my people.

"There are many different galactic species living on my planet, the two of you would be no different from any of them. You will enjoy the same rights as I or anyone else on my planet enjoys. But along with those rights you will also have responsibilities too. Our laws are somewhat stricter than the laws you are used to, but I don't think that either of you will have any trouble living within the laws of my people."

"Thirty minutes to the base." called Stephanie's father, er uncle, or whatever, as he came into the back of the craft with us.

"Um, Katherine, you said princesses are normally an even number in family groupings. I get the impression that the three of you are a family grouping or clan as you call it. You and Angela couldn't produce Frederick, so isn't there another princess in your family?" I asked.

The three of them looked saddened by my question and Stephanie's father had a tear or two in his eye. "Marianna was the other princess in our family. She died in a car crash a couple of years before Stephanie was born. Since we had just established ourselves and our identities amongst your people, we elected to stay and complete the work we had started. Marianna was Frederick's birth mother. Angela is his sperm mother. Of course in our own language we have terms that are simpler and more concise. Since you have nothing similar in your earth biology you've never developed the right words to properly convey those meanings."

"I'm so very sorry I shouldn't have asked that question." I felt mortified that I'd hurt them all with my question.

"It's alright. We would have told you eventually, you two are officially part of our clan now."

The implications of that caused both Stephanie and I to have a worried look.

"No, that doesn't mean you will have sex with us or anything like that, but it does mean that you both will be treated and valued just as Frederick is. Besides, Stephanie really is like family, some of her DNA sequences are from myself, Angela and Marianna. Frederick is an absolute genius when it comes to genetic manipulation. If it wasn't for his skill, Stephanie's parents would never have been able to have a child together. We would have helped them have a normal, completely human children had they lived and wanted more."

"So why pull us out now? Wouldn't it have made more sense to have done this before the government moved in on us."

"It was when the government did that, we were ordered to get Stephanie and leave. Actually all of the observations teams are being pulled off the planet. There will only be remote observation of your planet and its broadcasts from our base on planet's your moon."

"Why? Surely it can't be because of Stephanie alone."

"You're right about that. What happened to you both was only the catalyst for speeding up the planned pullout. Your race is becoming a danger to itself, our teams and to our enhanced humans. The whole planet is on the verge of potentially devastating conflicts on all scales. From increased terrorist activities all the way up to your superpower nations being in full conflict. We predict that global war will happen within a maximum of ten years time. We've done our best to gently guide your people onto a peaceful path but unfortunately we've failed. The Council has ordered us out and to only observe now. We can only hope your species will learn from what is to come. When things improve we will go back and do what we can to help humanity rebuild."

"What if we can't learn and change our ways?" said Stephanie, voicing my unspoken question.

"Measures will have to be taken to ensure your race does not threaten the rest of our galactic civilization."

"What measures?" we both said simultaneously.

"That depends on the circumstances. Most likely we would ring your planet with defence satellites. Any attempt to leave your planet would meet with deadly force. If you somehow managed to get through those defences humanity would be destroyed. Usually we tailor a virus that will wipe out your entire species, but only your species. Oh, it wouldn't be painful, every last human on the planet will become completely sterile. No more babies and ultimately no more humanity."

"That's horrible. The anarchy and death that would result from that would be unimaginable."

"Yes it would. But it would be the choice of your people to engage in such activity. I hope that it can be avoided because I have no wish to be a part of anything like that."

"You don't sound positive about that, Katherine." I said.

"No, unfortunately I'm not. It's not definite that things will turn out that way, but my time amongst your people leaves me with little hope for a positive outcome."

"So if Stephanie and I have children what would become of them should the worst happen to our people?"

"Nothing. You've become part of the galactic civilization now. Your children will too. As long as each individual can live in peace with the rest of us, no harm will come to any of your descendants."

"Well it'll be hard for our children to find mates out here."

"That's not actually the case. Many of the teams on earth has a charge such as Stephanie. Many of those charges have mates such as yourself, Tamara, that have chosen to stay with their partner. All of them will be living on our planet, each a part of the clan that they are family with. There are several hundred teams on earth. There are more than enough of your kind to make a viable population amongst the stars."

"As long as we don't follow in the path of those left behind on Earth?"

"Yes, that's true, Stephanie. Long ago there were major clashes between the various space faring species. Whole planets turned into burnt out cinders. Entire intelligent species forever removed from the universe. Eventually a kind of detante and then lasting peace was achieved. It's been over a hundred thousand years since any major aggressions have taken place. This was all long before my species ventured to the stars. The last one to happen was between two rival species. The aggressor in that case was summarily wiped out by the rest of the galactic community. It's harsh justice, but it is a deterrent that has encouraged peaceful solutions ever since that time."

"So if our descendants ever went down such a path all of humanity regardless of where it is located or its involvement would be wiped out?"

"Yes." Stephanie's mother hung her head. "It's not something any of us really wants, but it has been the only way to keep the peace."

This was pretty heavy stuff. To know that our people may be on the brink of global war and possible forced extinction sometime in the future. No matter what kind of blockade was placed on Earth we knew our species would try and break it, I'm sure Katherine knew this too. It was just our way to push past such obstacles. We would fight to the death for our freedom.

Frederick spoke up. "I have a bit of a surprise for you too, Tamara, but I think I'll keep it until later. I think you two ladies have had enough information dumped on you in the last hour. Once you've had a few hours to catch up, eat, sleep, or whatever, we'll talk then."

"Um, thank you, I guess. You're right though, this has been a lot to take in."

"That's good, because I have to get back up front and land this thing now. We'll have plenty of time to chat and get to know one another properly while we stay in our quarantine suites."

Stephanie and I looked at each other and then at her father.

"Sorry, I forgot to mention that. You two will need a series of medicals and vaccinations before you can get out of quarantine. We've had most of that done in the past, so we'll only be in there for about a week with you. Just so you know the quarantine is not only to protect the rest of the population in the base from anything you may be carrying, but it is also to protect you both from anything your bodies may not be prepared to handle. Once you have been given a clean bill of health we'll give you the grand tour of our other home away from home. Then sometime after that we will be heading back to our home planet."

My head was swimming. Bugs, vaccinations, quarantine, aliens, hidden bases on the moon, brainwashing, wars, genetic chimera....When did my life become so unbelievably complicated? Oh yes, when the most beautiful goddess on the face of the Earth walked up to a socially outcast nerd at a high school dance and said she wanted to talk to him.

I leaned against my goddess' shoulder, looked up into her beautiful eyes and sighed. I wouldn't change a thing. Well maybe one thing from a very long time ago. Just so long as I'm always with the woman who owns my heart. I would do anything to be here at her side.

My life had been such a whirlwind of late. Yet, despite everything I found my eyelids drooping and eventually I drifted off to sleep, I think Stephanie fell asleep against me as well.

 

 

Epilogue

 

Wmeinth colony planet three, Sapphire 4 (English translation), six years later.

 

 

"Julie, you have to be on your best behaviour today." I said as I struggled to get my daughter dressed. She wasn't cooperating one little bit.

"Why?"

Why did she have to reach the age where she questions everything just now? If it wasn't for Katherine's help I don't think I could cope. Julie was going to be every bit as much trouble as Stephanie was at this age to hear Katherine tell it. She was just as intelligent, if not more so than her mother was. She also had a very annoying habit of asking questions well beyond her years, at the exact wrong moment and causing us some embarrassment whenever she did.

"Because we are going to meet the eldest clan mother of Mother Katherine's family. It's a very great honour for all of us."

True to Katherine's word we were welcomed amongst her people and her clan. Once you got over the physical differences between the Wmeinth and Humans, and really the only differences is that they're on average taller than us and have longer faces more resembling, as Angela had said, a domestic cat's, but without the fur and the pointy teeth. Although that description doesn't do them justice. They are a very attractive people despite that unusual feature.

We settled in right away and with Katherine's assistance we had a small home built on her clan's holdings. I look after the house and the children and Stephanie works most days at the university city on the next continent. Unlike travelling that distance on Earth, Stephanie was home each night about an hour after leaving work. Most of that time is the walking time to and from the shuttle ports at either end of her journey. Stephanie is busy trying to recreate the special protein that she developed that links our implants to the neurons in our brains and nervous systems. Apparently it makes her implant about fifteen percent more efficient than anything the Wmeinth have developed for their own biology, making hers nearly perfect in its efficiency, and it causes no harm to the neuron it's in contact with. Since our biochemistries and genetics are very similar they hope Stephanie's protein will work for them too.

The problem was that all of Stephanie's research and notes were destroyed when we were rescued. There had been no time to save any of her work. Unfortunately it, along with some other areas of her work she had not paid enough attention to, are lost. She's sure she's on the right path to recreate the protein, but it will probably take her a couple of more years to duplicate her work; she had to learn a whole new way of doing things here.

I guess you are wondering about Frederick's surprise for me. It turns out my own genetics are rather unique. I was thirty-one base pairs away from being a perfect human hermaphrodite, able to be both male and female simultaneously and without any medical complications; somewhat similar to the princesses here. At some point one of my progeny will likely reach that point. Most humans are in the neighbourhood of one hundred base pairs away. The other surprise is that I would have only been able to father female offspring, so my father's attempts at extending his family name was doomed to failure no matter what he did. Even now any child of mine, and their children, would only ever have girls or inter-sexed offspring. For whatever reasons my genetics could not produce a wholly male child. Frederick did try and explain it all to me, but it was all very deep genetic information that, truthfully, was well beyond my ability to understand. He did offer to fix things so that we could have a male child, but Stephanie and I decided that this was the way I was supposed to be so we wouldn't change it. Our decision may change the face of humanity in the millennia to come, since it's apparently a dominant genetic trait.

Katherine was right about their medical technology being close to performing miracles compared to Earth medicine and surgery. They were able to physically transform my body so that I was indistinguishable from any other tall, somewhat masculine shaped human female. My transformation also included a fully functional set of ovaries and reproductive system and female genitalia grown from my own DNA. Other than my genetic anomalies it's now impossible to tell me apart from any other naturally born human female.

Julie was Todd's last contribution before I did away with the final physical vestiges of him. Of course you realize it was done through artificial insemination, not the heterosexual way. So that makes Stephanie, Julie's birth mother and me her sperm mother....although I was the one who nursed her until she was weaned. We called her Julie after Stephanie's birth mother. Our other daughter, baby Katherine, resulted from the genetic combination of our ovums' DNA. I was her birth mother. She's only six months old now. Both girls turned out to be completely female although their own children may end up inter-sexed. Between Julie and baby Katherine I'm a very busy mother.

"When are we going?" Julie's question brought me back to the present.

"As soon as you're properly dressed and Mother Katherine and Mummy Stephanie get here."

"When will that be?"

I looked at the clock.

"Any minute now. So you had better help me with getting you properly dressed."

She gave me a look that said, 'Do I have to?'

"Now Julie!" I hated having to get a bit cross with her, but sometimes it seemed the only way to get her cooperation.

"I'm sorry, Mummy Tamara." she said with a sad little pout.

"That's okay, Honey." I gave her a hug, which seemed to cheer her up. "Now we've got to hurry."

"So, Mom, do you know what she wants to see us about?" asked Stephanie

"Yes I do, but she has asked me to let her tell you all." said Katherine in a very serious tone.

"Oh." Stephanie and I had a feeling that this was more than a social occasion.

"How old is she? I've heard she's one of the oldest Wmeinth on the Council of Elders." I said to keep the conversation going.

"Yes, she is the oldest, Tamara." Katherine paused for a moment to think. "She's one thousand seven hundred forty-two Earth years old."

"So what is her role on the Council of Elders?" I asked.

"She's on the Earth Interdiction Committee."

"So does this visit also have something to do with Earth?"

"Tamara, whatever she wants to talk about I can't, by tradition and personal honour, reveal to you. All of you, please try and curb your curiosity until she's ready to reveal the full purpose of this meeting. Whatever you do don't pry or ask. That includes you too Julie, absolutely no questions until she's told you everything.

"Our traditions are that the oldest mother of a clan is due absolute respect. I'll let you know this, Great Mother Jainnethi has earned every last bit of respect she's due. Also don't let her age fool you, her mind is just as sharp as it's ever been. We've been on opposite sides of some issues in the past eventually she's always convinced me that I was wrong and that she was definitely right. If you're asked a question whatever you do don't answer quickly, think carefully about your answers before you speak. Above all be honest, she knows a lie when she hears it or smells it."

"So this is much more than a social visit then?" asked Stephanie.

Katherine sighed, "Yes and no. She's been wanting to meet you all as her clan children since you arrived here. However her Council duties keep her off planet most of the time and her various clan duties, when here, keep her very busy. This will be her first opportunity to meet you all. Now can we please drop this line of interrogation?"

Her exasperation at our human curiosity was showing. Tonight must be far more important that she is letting on. She was usually much more tolerant of our human foibles than this.

"I would have thought at her age she would have retired by now?"

"It's not really our custom to retire. One may give up one's work, but being the head of a clan only ends with death or inability to carry out that role. For most of us it's death that stops us from doing that. But as you say she could give up her position on the Council, but that will only happen when she feels it's interfering with her role as the head of this clan. So far it hasn't and she's done both admirably."

"What? No retirement! In that case I'm going back to Earth."

I said this in good humour, however Katherine didn't interpret it that way. More proof that tonight was more serious than we were being led to believe.

"You aren't happy here?"

"I was only joking. I would never go back there. I belong with my family no matter where that is. You, your clan, even your people, have been absolutely wonderful to us. Better than my own family, or even my own people. I couldn't be any happier on Earth than I am here. Yes, there are things about Earth that I do miss, but I wouldn't trade what I've got right now for anything back there."

"Not even your parents?"

"I don't think I ever want anything to do with my father again. My mother? I'm not sure how I feel about her. She could have gone to the authorities and stopped him from mutilating me and changing who I was."

"Don't forget that I was part of what happened to you, yet you seem to have forgiven me."

"I remember your pain as you were forced to do what you did to me. I remember how you did your best to protect the real part of me. I also know that you intended to release me if I wasn't happy in the life my father forced upon me."

"Don't you also remember the pain your mother went through? She loved her daughter very much. It hurt her immeasurably having him make you into what he wanted."

"I do remember that. But she didn't stop him. That's what really hurts."

"My dear Tamara, love can make people do very stupid things. Your mother loved your father and understood his male desire to have a son to carry on his family name. Her love for him is her only true character flaw in this instance. It overrode her common sense, made her believe that maybe what he desired might have been the better path for you. She never stopped loving you, either as yourself or as Todd."

"Maybe you are right. I don't know. I still haven't healed enough to forgive her. Maybe some day.

"I wonder how my father would feel knowing I'm now Mrs. Tamara Ingram?"

"If I know him, and as a psychiatrist I'm sure I do, it would probably put him in the hospital."

"And if that didn't kill him, knowing that I could never have had any purely male offspring would be the final nail in his coffin."

"We are here. Remember from this moment on to use proper titles."

"Yes, Mother Krasuthi." the three of us chorused with our heads slightly bowed to show our respect.

Katherine really was deserving of our respect regardless. She had been our champion and defender throughout this entire time. Because of taking us in as part of her clan family, as her own children, anything we did could hurt her standing within her clan and outside it. We'd done our best to fit in and for the most part we had. There were only a few instances where we crossed some line that required her help to sort it out. Our biggest disadvantage was that we can't smell the scent world the Wmeinth live in, thus we missed so many social scent clues that would prevent those situations from occurring. Humans are actually one of the few intelligent galactic species with a poor sense of smell.

The teaching machines that fed knowledge of Wmeinth society and language directly into our brains during the voyage from Earth could only teach us so much. Even in this society there were so many subtleties that people never even noticed or thought about, but knew by osmosis. This type of information never end up being quantified and stored in the education files the machines used to educate us about Wmeinth society. This also left us in a bit of a disadvantage, but most accommodated our occasional social lapses.

Our other disadvantage was that despite knowing and being able to speak the Wmeinth language, because of the different shape of our larynx, mouth, tongue and nasal passages, we couldn't quite pronounce some words correctly. Which made for the occasional embarrassing mispronunciation of some word, or worse, someone's name. Julie does much better than Stephanie and I because her first language is Wmeinth, although she's also fluent in English.

We could have had our faces modified to look like the Wmeinth but Katherine advised us against this. While we could look like them we would never be able to smell scents like them because our brains hadn't evolved the necessary skills to interpret a sense of smell equivalent to a dog. Unfortunately looking like a Wmeinth but not being able to smell and interpret like one we would likely end up in more and worse situations than we had. Better for all to know us as humans and garner more understanding for our occasional faux pas.

There were about forty adults at the gathering and even more children. The children always seemed to take first priority amongst the Wmeinth. It didn't matter if a mother or prince was immediately related or not, if a child was in genuine need its needs were taken care of by the first available adult. That is not to say the children were spoilt. Disputes between the children were addressed quickly and fairly, no preferential treatment for the queens, princesses or even the princes. Where necessary punishments were meted out. Above all they made it clear to the child why things were handled the way they were. Even if a child wasn't old enough to fully understand, adults still took the time to explain why the child was being punished. It may seem like a wasted effort, but when I thought about it I realized it meant that when the child was old enough to understand the parent was already in the habit of fully explaining the why of things and helping the child toward a more socially integrated behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect parenting by any means, but it does seem to be a step or two above what I saw and experienced back on Earth. Seeing it in action on such a scale I resolved to change my ways and adopt this style of parenting. Of course this is another one of those things that the teaching machines missed and we had to learn by experiencing it firsthand.

The Wmeinth seemed to spend as much time in discussion as needed to resolve an issue. In a deadlock they involved the next level of authority to make a fair decision. To put that differently, if Stephanie and I had a difference that we couldn't resolve we would go to Katherine, as our clan head, and get her to resolve the dispute in a fair manner. Going to a clan head meant their decision was final. Clan heads took great pride in being impartial, no favouritism was ever allowed when handling disputes.

I guess you're dying to know how our meeting with Great Mother Jainnethi went? The entire time we were socializing with the clan I was impressed with her ability to keep track of every conversation within her hearing. Nothing escaped her notice and I was very impressed with her insights.

After the socializing and the meal and some more socializing, we noticed that the room quickly cleared out with the exception of Great Mother Jainnethi, Katherine, Frederick, Angela and our little family. I guess I should mention that Angela was mostly healed from her injuries, however she did need a robotic exoskeleton to help her walk. Fortunately she had recovered the full use of her upper body and arms. If Stephanie's research is completed successfully Angela would have a small implant in her body that would be efficient enough to bridge the nerve damage in her spine and restore full control and feeling in her lower body.

"Daughter Krasuthi, I did not request Daughter Ameluthi (Angela), or Son Feduthi (Frederick) to be present for this discussion."

"With all due respect, Great Mother Jainnethi, their insights will be invaluable for what is to be discussed. To not include them would be a great injustice to my human daughters."

The old matriarch sat thinking about this for a few moments. "You have told them what will be discussed?"

"No Mother, your instructions to tell no one of the full purpose of this meeting have been honoured. However I suspect that they have discovered much of its purpose since I informed them of this meeting and my wish to have them here. They are most resourceful, which is why they were chosen for their Earth assignment by the Council." Angela and Frederick both nodded slightly.

"Very well they may stay, provided they remain silent unless called upon."

"As you wish, Great Mother." they both responded with their heads bowed.

"Now for you my human daughters. Have you also discovered the purpose behind this meeting?"

I was about to respond in the negative, but Stephanie's hand on mine silenced me.

"Many things can be learnt from silences and the looks of those who know, but cannot speak of what they know, Great Mother. Such looks can inspire curiosity and curiosity the search for answers."

"Well spoken, Daughter Stephanie, but you have not answered my question."

"Mother, I have many suspicions, but no clear truths."

"Again well spoken; now what suspicions do you perceive have truth in them."

"I will give you the facts that I have discovered. Status reports from Earth have been greatly censored for the last two solar years, especially here on this planet and the other colony planet where most us who were rescued from Earth reside. The Earth Interdiction Council has not had open meetings in about an Earth solar year. The Great Mothers of all clans hosting those of us from Earth are having similar meetings to this one during the next five planetary days."

The old matriarch sat silently for a few moments thinking about what Stephanie had revealed to her. Her Gaze fell upon Catherine, Angela and Frederick. Stephanie could see where the woman's suspicions were leading her.

"Great Mother, Mother Krasuthi, Mother Ameluthi and Son Feduthi, have not betrayed the clan or any confidences you have placed in them. What I know I have discovered independently of them. Their scent is absent in this matter."

She nodded her head slightly at Stephanie's words. A slight smile briefly flicked across her face.

"Who has helped you find these facts? I would have them explain their indiscretion."

"Then you, and all of your race must explain this thing. You have such an ordered society. Most of your people would never dishonour themselves or their clans by inappropriate action. You have lived in peace for so long you don't understand how to protect your information systems from simple human curiosity. The security on all of your computer systems is so lacking in strength it posed no challenge to find what I discovered. Other information was easy to piece together from many sources. The Council's deliberations however remain secure since the systems protecting them are more adequate to keeping the secrets they contain. Those systems were designed by one of the more troubled races I would assume."

Great Mother Jainnethi sat back for a long while contemplating what she had been told. She seemed somewhat less than she had when this meeting had first begun only minutes before.

"Your words are truth, Daughter Stephanie, there is also no scent of lie upon you. Yes, I know the emotion scents of your people. I once spent many years on your planet, long before I took my seat on the Council. Those were difficult times and in their own way more dangerous than what my children have faced on your world."

Her eyes took on the look of someone remembering times long past. Eventually her thoughts brought her back to the present.

"Very well, enough of this formality; we will all speak plainly since it appears there are no secrets between us. To be less formal you can call me by one of your English female names; Janet sounds somewhat similar to my Wmeinth name."

"Now that these facts are out in the open, Daughter Stephanie, what do they tell you?"

"That something is happening or about to happen and you do not wish those of us from Earth to know. Possibly to prevent worry or unrest."

"Very good. There has been much debate on what to tell you all and how to tell you. In the end it was decided that the Great Mothers of each clan would observe her Earth children and decide how best to bring them the news."

Stephanie and I looked at each other and then at Katherine. "So the war has started on Earth?" Stephanie asked.

"Yes, but there is more to tell. Look my children."

A holographic projection appeared out of nowhere. The Earth floated in the middle of the room.

"This is the Earth as you last saw it. And these points were the local trouble spots at that time. About two years after you left several terrorist groups stepped up their activities. Many of your western nations had devastating attacks launched against them. They made earlier attacks pale into insignificance."

The points on the globe with red marks grew significantly. Many major cities were marked in red indicating attacks.

"Many legitimate governments were accused of supporting terrorists or not doing enough to stop them. This lead to increased tensions between former allies. Troubles between some nations grew to dangerous levels and ultimately led to military action. Some of these nations, in order to survive, actually changed allegiances. One such nation started supplying one of the well funded terrorist groups with nuclear materials in secret. A dirty bomb was smuggled into this country", she pointed to a country, "and detonated in its largest city. The entire city's population was exposed to lethal levels of contaminants. The government quickly determined which country provided the materials and launched an all out assault on that country. Quite literally bombing it into a primitive state, thankfully with conventional weapons only."

"That's awful. How could they do that?"

"They are your people, Daughter Tamara, maybe you could enlighten me as to how they could do that?"

"I'm sorry, Great Mother, but I've never really understood violence and retribution, especially not at this level and I've been a victim of violence and misplaced retribution."

The projection showed even more of the globe involved in hostilities. The colours quickly enveloped almost every country and major city.

"Finally we get to the real problem. One of your nations discovered an extremely rare mineral deep under the surface of your planet. It has unusual properties, but your people have not yet discovered them. Unfortunately this nation was involved in protecting some of the terrorist groups. After additional attacks by one of the terrorists groups and with the state of the world in such disarray, one of your nations, and we don't know which one, launched a nuclear attack on the country. This mineral when exposed to the forces of a nuclear explosion significantly increases the energy levels of such an explosion. The resulting explosion blew a crater a kilometre deep and several kilometres wide into your planet's surface and instantly killed all life within a thousand kilometres of the detonation. The other effect of this mineral is that if it is converted by a nuclear explosion it becomes very toxic, so toxic it will kill any known life form that comes in contact with even the minutest amount of it; within days. We predict that the fallout from the blast will likely kill seventy to eighty percent of surface life on the planet. Vast areas of your world will not be habitable for thousands of years."

We sat there stunned. There would never be any going back now. All of us from Earth were now orphans amongst the stars.

"Is there anything you can do?"

"Unfortunately not. We never been able to develop any way of dealing with this type of contamination. The only good thing about this is that the explosion caused massive geological disruptions around your planet. Many extinct and dormant volcanoes were brought to life and their ash has bonded to the fallout and brought down a certain amount of it, lessening the spread. The crater formed by the blast is also filling with magma from your planet's core, thus sealing away more of the contaminants. How much we cannot tell at this point."

"So what happens now?"

"We wait, and according to our various beliefs, hope that enough of your people, the flora and fauna of your planet will survive so that at some point in the future we can help your people rebuild."

We sat there silently thinking about the terrible loss of life that had occurred. Even Julie had some understanding of the depth of the tragedy that had occurred and buried her face against my chest and cried. Earth and its peoples had little hold on our family, but none of us would have ever wished for such a horror to happened. Only Great Mother Jainnethi and baby Katherine did not have any tears in their eyes.

"Mother Janet, is the mineral you mentioned why there was so much interest in bringing Earth into the galactic community?" Stephanie eventually asked.

"Yes my child. The element derived from it is very rare and it is the only element known that makes hyper conductivity possible. Without this element we would be incapable of propelling our spacecraft through the vast distances of space in reasonable periods of time or shield the occupants from deadly interstellar radiation. Handled properly and used properly it's an invaluable tool to all space faring species. Unfortunately for the people of your planet they have discovered its deadly side first. The wealth of your planet belongs to your people and we have not and will not exploit that wealth so long as any of your people live. That includes all of you living here, your planet's wealth also belongs to you and your children. Coming here did not change that."

"Then how have you paid for such a long and expensive interdiction?"

"Your natural satellite, I believe you call it Luna, has been financing the entire operation for all these years. When this satellite formed it captured a great quantity of this mineral from your planet, but it is only a small portion of what your planet still contains. That is the price we have levied to help bring your peoples into our greater society."

For the next hour there was much discussion and debate about what should be done or could be done. Although in the end we were convinced by Great Mother Jainnethi that all that could be done, had been done and that when the time was appropriate, what assistance that could be rendered, would be.

"Daughter Julie, I'm sorry but I must ask you to join the other children now. The rest of what I have to say can only be told to your elders."

Julie just clung onto me with an iron grip that actually hurt, she was developing Stephanie's inherited Wmeinth strength.

"I'll be back as soon as I can get her settled with the other children." I said.

I picked her up and carried her out of the room. It took several minutes before I could get her to release her grip and stay with the other children. I quickly made my way back to the room because I knew whatever was coming was even more important than the news we had just heard.

"My apologies. When she is upset like this she doesn't like to be apart from one of us."

"You are a good mother Daughter Tamara. I hear that your mothering skills are as good as any of our own. You make our clan proud."

"Thank you, Great Mother. However such praise is misdirected if some of it isn't also given to Mother Krasuthi. Her love, patience and skill, have given me invaluable guidance in caring for our daughters." I said feeling unworthy of the praise that she had bestowed up on me.

"My human daughters, you have honoured yourselves, your people and our clan. I am proud to have you as my clan children. I shall tell Daughter Julie this as soon as we are finished here."

"Thank you, Great Mother, it will mean so much more coming from you."

She pulled a computer out of a concealed pocket and entered some instructions on the display. Within moments a dozen points in the room were targeted by visible spectrum lasers. Each point a bugging device that was quickly rendered useless.

"Hmm, it would seem that my suspicions may be well founded and that my search for answers may have been noticed."

She paused for a few moments considering something. "No matter, you my Earth daughters have a right to know. And you, Daughter Krasuthi, your life and future may depend on knowing these things now.

"What I am about to tell you now must never leave this room. You are not to speak of it even amongst yourselves. These are my own private thoughts, they are not the words of the Council. They are my own conjecture, based on my own observations and discoveries.

"I fear that Earth is in greater peril than I have already told you."

Stephanie and I just stared at her for a moment then looked at each other as our hands grasped the other's more tightly. Katherine, Angela and Frederick, looked as though this was not news of which they had any warning. Heeding Katherine's earlier advice we all kept silent and waited for the old matriarch to tell us the rest. Eventually she continued, the slight smile on her face betraying her approval of our silence. 'Think before you speak.' or in this case 'Get all of the facts before you speak.'.

"My suspicions are that one of the races that has been charged with monitoring and protecting your planet may have also been tampering with its affairs. Undermining our attempts to peacefully bring your peoples into the fold of our greater society.

"I believe that their intent is to wipe out your species on the Earth and then plunder the element we were talking about earlier. They may have even triggered the nuclear explosion which has devastated your planet. I believe they have found a way to negate or survive its toxic effects after it has been converted by a nuclear explosion.

"A thousand or more years in which we cannot properly monitor the surface of your planet and beneath. Time in which to steal what is rightfully the wealth of all of Earth's peoples."

"Isn't it possible to monitor for ships entering and leaving the planet?" I asked after a few moments of silence.

"Unfortunately not in this instance. There is a way to move non living matter from one place to another without physically transporting it. If they can survive the toxic effects they can build an underground facility completely shielded from our sensors. They can then use a special property of the element to essentially open a hole in the fabric of space and push any matter to a desired location. Depending on how far away from your planet they push it they will convert approximately sixty-seven to eighty-one percent of the element to energy, this energy will be used to open the hole. Under normal circumstances no one would waste such a precious element in this way, but since what they are doing is illegal and they would not have to buy the element from the peoples of your planet, it makes it a very lucrative way of stealing it. Especially when your planet is very rich in this element."

Stephanie spoke at this point. "I doubt they have found a way to survive the toxic effects. My guess is that they landed a small package in some remote location where they knew a seam of the raw ore was located. This package would essentially dig itself in and when it located the seam it would start building an automated mining and refinery facility along with the transfer system you mentioned. On Earth such technology was commonly called Von Neuman machines, although the gentleman it's named after preferred the term universal constructor. Basically self replicating machines that are programmed for self replication and a specific task or tasks. One of the tasks that Von Neuman envisioned it for was asteroid or moon mining. A small package would be sent to the body in question and start replicating itself and forming new machines as needed from the raw materials around it. It would mine, refine and then launch the refined material to a reception point, usually at a point in space where we would then gather it and use it. These machines would then spread throughout the asteroid and Kyper belts and even the Oort cloud, mining the mineral wealth and sending the refined materials back to Earth. In theory it sounded good, but powering it and designing the actual technology was beyond us. If I remember correctly one of the galactic races actually uses this kind of technology on a limited basis. It's possible they or one of the other races has modified this technology to operate on Earth as we have discussed."

"That may be true, Daughter Stephanie. The problem is I have no real proof. Only speculation. From my position in the Council I have access to information that even here, under these circumstances, I cannot and will not reveal. Even that does not give me proof, but it does strengthen my suspicions. However I will always do my best for Earth while I remain on the Council.

"Now in order to do that I need someone I can trust back on the moon base monitoring your planet. The commander of the facility has resigned and will be returning to his home planet soon. No one but the Council and his replacement currently knows this. It is the person who replaces this other person at the base that most interests me at the moment.

"Daughter Krasuthi, I would like you to accept the position of the head of the psychiatry department on the base."

I looked over at Katherine, worried about what this might mean for our young family and our status within the clan. Would we be uprooted again? As nice as the base on the moon had been, I wouldn't want to raise our daughters there. I also worried about her as my mentor and friend, she and I had become like mother and daughter over these last few years.

"You will have access to medical and psychological records that may point out those who may not be operating in Earth's and our greater society's best interests. Now I'm sure you won't find more than hints from this position, but it places you in the ideal position to eventually assume the role as base commander. The person currently taking over the commander position will not stay long. After fifty to a hundred years running the base you will be ideally suited for replacing me on the Council.

"Most of the Council views you and your work very favourably. I have heard and encouraged whispers that you might one day be an ideal candidate to take over as the Wmeinth representative on the Earth Interdiction Council, when I step down."

"Great Mother, you honour me." said Katherine obviously overwhelmed at the news.

"I honour you and put you in a terrible position, which may put your very life at risk if I am right about what has happened and is happening on Earth. However your appointment as the head of the psychiatry department is expected since your name was put forward by other members of the Council. You are actually the top name on the list of qualified candidates. All you have to do is accept the position when the Council offers it to you. If you find the other risks acceptable, the position will be yours."

"But what of my Earth daughters? They still need me here."

The old matriarch smiled at her concern for her charges. "They will be well looked after. I will see to it. No harm will come to them.

"I do think that you will be better suited to help them and the peoples of Earth by taking this position. There is risk and reward. The choice my dear Daughter is for you and your family to make. I will have no further say in this."

- - - - - - - - - -

With that Great Mother Jainnethi got up and left the room, leaving behind her clan children to decide their future and possibly the future of many planets and many different peoples. She did not tell them that not only was Earth's future at stake but possibly all of the allied space faring races too. She suspected that the troubles on Earth were caused by a breakaway faction about to destroy the long standing peace that had been achieved, likely plunging every world into a war unlike any previously know. Earth's rare mineral resource would be invaluable for both sides to survive any upcoming conflict.

Her private contemplations eventually took her to the room where the children were playing. Would these children now be the first generation of her people to know interstellar war? She prayed and hoped that she was wrong and that peace would be all that her children and all future generations would ever know.

"Daughter Julie, please join me. I have something I promised your mothers' I would tell you."

 

 

The end?

 


 

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Constructive comments welcome.

All rights to this work are reserved by me. Permission to post elsewhere must be given by me.

 


 

The ending of this story leaves the possibility for an open universe of sorts for anyone who wishes to write in it. That right folks, please form an orderly queue starting right here. Let me know your ideas and if I like them I'll bless your use of this universe.

Some basic rules that must be followed:

  • Stephanie and Tamara are my characters and no one else can use them. I'd also prefer it if Julie and baby Katherine were left out too. There are plenty of other humans on Sapphire 4 and plenty of Wmeinth too.

  • Great Mother Jainnethi and Katherine (Krasuthi) are open for use since they would likely play a key role in any storyline if it's set in the same time frame. Yes, Katherine takes the job on the moon base.

  • There are no miracle cures for Earth and its current troubles.

  • No genetic mutations or genetic manipulations that make super humans or meta humans. If a character has unusual abilities it should be only slightly outside of human norms, such as Stephanie's intelligence or strength. No ESP or other extra sensory type powers either.

  • There are no Wmeinth operating against Earth's or the galactic civilizations interests.

Story Background:

  • The Wmeinth and Humans are from the same seeding ship that a progenitor race seeded the galaxy with. This progenitor race is long gone and no one knows for sure who they were or where they were from. This explains the close genetic and physical similarities between our two species. Each of the other seed ships had variations on their genetic cargoes. Of all the races out there the Wmeinth and Humans are the closest known surviving 'cousins'. It also explains why so many worlds have largely compatible flora and fauna if they are of similar sun and planet types.

  • The Klithar are behind the troubles on Earth and in the rest of the galactic community. They have discovered another race that would give them a technological advantage over all the other races, provided they can control enough of the hyperconducting element. Feel free to come up with a suitable name for this element and this unknown species.

  • With the galactic government destroyed the Klithar and this other race would essentially be in charge of everything.

If you've got question or want to write in this universe please PM me:

http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/messages/new/3010?destination=user/3010

 



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