UF-2 Book 1 Chapter 2

“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!?” I recoiled from the table as some of them landed in my lap. Furiously I brushed them away.

Toni had walked in along with David. She looked at me strangely as if she was studying me. She had been looking at me differently since this mess started. I chalked it up to nerves and lack of sleep.

“Bill, you're already infected so it doesn’t matter, but the truth is, they won’t react to you. These are a marvel of genetic bio-mechanical engineering. Way past what we could design.” David flicked one with his finger and sent it rolling across the desk.

“If we move out of the room they will start rolling in hide and search mode. They can sense bio-bodies and can tell if that body is infected with the DNA female coding or not. Not just males, because they also attack females who aren’t infected. It has to be their DNA coding or they will attack.” David smiled as he rolled a few more around on my desk.

“Attack? How, and with what?” I leaned over to get a closer look at one of the small black beads. It looked like a small ball bearing.

“It’s so simple, it’s ingenious. They propel themselves by forming a bump in their surface opposite to the direction they want to travel. As they roll, that bump forms continuously against the surface they are pushing against.”

David looked exasperated at my blank stare. “Take a round balloon. Then if you could put your finger inside push out gently. That forms a bulge. If the balloon is resting on a surface, and you slide your finger downward until you are pushing against the surface, the balloon will roll forward away from where you are pushing with your finger.”

Cautiously I pushed on one with my finger. It felt like a steel bearing. “But they are so hard.”

David smiled. “Yeah, but even steel expands with heat. They don’t use heat to form the bulge though, but some other means. I think it is part of the bio part of the thing that does that.”

“Then what? I don’t see something like that jumping on and digging into anyone. Surely we would have noticed them before now? Is there a micro organism on the outside and all we have to do is touch it or have it touch us?” My concept of weapons was not a BB unless it was propelled by a gun of some kind.

Shaking his head, David picked one up. “Not even close. When they sense an uninfected bio-organism they shoot the organism with a micro bio-mechanical organism. That organism in turn burrows into a host cell and starts to work. It clips the host DNA coding and inserts the re-programmed DNA.”

“Keep in mind that it doesn’t replace all our DNA strand, only parts of it. After that cell has replicated the new DNA strand, then the coding is sent into adjoining cells. And then more adjoining cells, until our whole body is built on the new DNA code.”

My hope of staying as me had returned, now that David knew how it infected us. I was positive David or Toni would figure out the cure now. “How soon before you can come up with an inoculation against this thing?”

“Probably not soon enough for what you want. Remember, it kills any DNA that is not a match for itself. I don’t know how they did it but they locked in the snippets where they spliced the code. I, and a dozen other crew members, gave a liter of blood each for DNA testing. Even the women want us to solve this problem. They don’t to be re-programmed any more than you or I. We have been trying to pull the strands apart in the lab. Everything we know about DNA is not working on this code.”

I looked down at my hands. In the short time I had been infected they looked softer, smoother and yes, even smaller than before. I was positive David had guessed right that first day. I hated him for being so smart. “I’ll send out a Death-Com Level Standby.”

It would tell Command Central we had found the intruder but not killed or isolated the problem. It would give us a reprieve from a Star Destroyer for up to a year. No one could come or go from the station, but at least we would be alive… If changing sex meant staying alive. Now that the problem of dying from a Star Destroyer had been pushed back, I was again hating the idea I was changing, instead of wishing I could live. “I’ll fill out the report and send Command Central a sample of the intruder. Can you neutralize those things or should I send them intact?”

“Send them a dozen intact. So what if someone gets careless and gets zapped? It'd give them someone to study and research on their end if it happens.” David pulled a packet out of his pocket as he reached down on top my table and pushed a bunch of the BBs up into it.

He held it out to me. ”Here, send these.”

“David! Drop them in a contamination container and make sure it’s sealed. I’ll fill out the report to go with it in an hour or two. I’m not sure I could make out an intelligent report at the moment, I’m so tired. What about all those others you dumped on my table? They are scattered everywhere.” I really didn’t want to stay in the same room with, even if they weren’t going to attack me because I had already been infected.

“Housecleaning has been programmed to find them. When you go back to your room, turn it on before you lie down. You wouldn’t believe the number of those things we are collecting in refuse. We will discuss this after you had your sleep and sent in your report.” David turned and left the galley as my sleep deprived mind was trying to understand what he had told me.

Toni waited and walked with me back to my room. “I will check with engineering and make sure housecleaning bots are set to scan continuously for the infection carriers. They could hide almost anywhere as small as they are.”

“Thanks, Toni. I’ll have to keep the uninfected personnel in quarantine until we are positive we have all those things cleaned from the station.”

She stopped as the door to my room opened. “Some changes are ordained.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I watched as she turned and walked off without answering. Damn. I hated it when she did that. If she meant I should accept the change those damn little monsters had programmed into my body then she was mistaken. David might not have any qualms about being a man or a woman, but I sure as hell did. I had heard there were men who changed to women and women who changed to men through the off world clinics. When a species gets dispersed as far and wide as ours; along with the scientific and medical knowledge to do just about anything, there were always those who would want to do almost anything. I definitely wasn’t one of those.

“Housecleaning on, now. Bed, now.” Part of the wall folded down with my bed, as another part of the wall opened up and a floating bucket slid out. The bucket was a robotic cleaning tool. It would gather up any dust and, I hoped, all those foreign BBs David had shown me. David’s little speech about those things not attacking someone already infected did little to quell my dislike of those things. I made it to the bed and died.

I dreamed of things foreign, but not in the normal sense. These things were foreign to a male. I dreamed of long hair that cascaded down my back and across my shoulders. Long sexy legs, and small delicate hands with long fingers. I dreamed of….!

“Eeeeee!” That scream came from me as I woke in shock. What I had dreamed was frightening and disgusting. I couldn’t believe I had screamed. I was still panting and close to hyperventilating as I tried to calm my heart, which was racing. Fighting the fear of finding what I was going to see, but with the need to see if my dreams were a premonition of things to come, I held up my hands to look at them. Were they really smaller, or was it my fear driving my mind? My boots had been flopping on my feet for several days now. I had been denying that my feet were getting smaller.

Reluctantly, I slid out of bed and tried on one of my boots. I didn’t have to reach down to pull it on. My foot fell into it like an abyss. There was no denying it any longer. Damn David’s intuition! Why me? God why me? Two hundred and seven crew members had escaped infection. Why couldn’t I have been one of them?

I laid back down on the bed and cried hysterically in my pillow until it came to me what I was doing. I never cried! Damn! What the hell was wrong with me? Slowly I rolled out of bed and padded softly across the room to the bathroom. I was going to have to drop into supply and pick up another uniform. The one I was wearing was too big for me, the same way my boots were too big.

As I walked up to the potty and tried to find my water pistol I decided it was too much trouble. “Damn and double damn!” I dropped my pants and sat down. I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to aim it anyway. Probably end up peeing all over my pants and down my leg if I had persisted in doing it the ‘good old boys’ way.

David was waiting when I stepped out of the bathroom. He also had noticeably softened in looks. When he nodded and smiled knowingly at me I felt like throwing myself at him and strangling his neck.

“What the hell do you want?” It didn’t come out like the growl I intended. My voice cracked instead.

“Commander, you better get a grip and realize what you are feeling is only the beginning. There are one thousand, eight hundred and ninety nine others who are going to be looking to you for how to cope with this. If you are going to fall apart, then let me know now so we can replace you.”

David didn’t mean it as a joke. He was dead serious. When I sent us to Death-Com Level we stopped being a totalitarian leadership with Command Central designating who was in command. By law, we became a democratic isolation. The crew could vote in, or out, anyone as commander at any moment.

I wiped my eyes as I shook my head. “I can handle it. Give me some time.”

“Time is the one thing you don’t have the luxury of. The crew needs someone who will show them how to cope with this thing that they are all going through. Bill, when there is no other option but to go ahead, then there is no reason to try to back up. Are you ready to face that option, or should I call for a meeting?” He studied me as he waited for an answer.

Shaking my head I knew David was right. There was a small problem with that though. So many things were going on inside my body, I felt like screaming instead of giving orders. “Let’s get down to business. I have yet to fill out that report to Command Central. Give me an hour and I’ll get back to you. How are you coming on tracking down where we picked up those bio-mechanical organisms?”

David nodded before he turned to leave. “That’s our Bill, back on track. We will talk about it after you fill out the report and send it in. I’ll send up some clothes in a few minutes. You don’t look like a leader right now. Quite the opposite, you look like some adolescent trying to play grownup.”

“Out! I have a report to send in.” I found it not funny and I wanted to pick up something and throw it at him.

It was closer to two hours, rather than one, when I finished up that report and sent it off, along with the bio-mechanical samples to F.E.A.R. (Federal Experiments and Research). That was a research outpost set up by the government to check incoming contaminated or hazardous packages like the one I sent.

There were literally hundreds of thousands of those posts, like the spokes on a wheel. The package I sent would be trapped and locked up at the first F.E.A.R station. There they would examine it for any potential threat to humanity in two stages, contained and uncontained. If the package was deemed confinable, then they would ship it to the second F.E.A.R. station in the chain of command.

I had no idea how many F.E.A.R. spokes and hubs that package would have to pass through to get back to Command Central, but it was hundreds if not thousands. I guess misery loves company because, at that moment, I didn’t care if someone screwed up back at Command Central and got zapped by one of those damn BB’s.

David was back within minutes after the report and samples had been shipped. Toni was by his side. I didn’t know if it was because they had been monitoring the security channels, or if they knew I was finished because one or both of them had read my mind? Either way it didn’t make much difference. There were no secrets on UF-2 between David and me. And obviously no secrets between Toni and the rest of us.

Toni held up the uniform she had brought. I choked as I stared at it and then at David. Was this his idea of a joke? “You’re outta your ever loving mind! You can’t be serious?”

“As serious as a heart attack.” David looked serious himself. “You might as well, and the sooner the better. It will make it easier on all of us who have the same problem.”

“But...”

“No buts, Bill. You aren’t going to be able to sneak up on this because it’s going to happen whether you like it or not.”

“Your uniform, Commander.” Toni held the uniform out toward me.

I was taking quick glances between the uniform, Toni, and David. I would rather have died than what they were suggesting. “Can’t we wait a few weeks or...”

“Some are changing faster than others. It has a lot to do with their DNA. You are one of those who aren’t going to be able to wait.” David stepped up closer as he put his hand on the uniform for emphasis.

At that moment in time I really did prefer dying to what David was telling me. “How soon can I expect to start looking... uh... that is... I... expect…?”

“Expect to look female? Bill, look in the hologram reflector. You already do.” David glanced down at my feet.

Looking down I didn’t see my feet. My pant legs were drooping so badly my feet were hidden under folds of material. “Shit!”

“If your uniform wasn’t so big you would have already noticed you have the beginning of very nice breasts. I’ll make a wager with you. I bet you had to sit on the potty this morning.”

I never made a wager with David and expected to win. Oh, I made many bets with him, but I knew I was going to lose when I was doing it. Up until now, it was all in fun. “It’s that obvious already?”

“Yes.”

With a heavy heart and a reluctant hand, I reached out and took the uniform from Toni. “No cure?”

David shook his head. “We haven’t found one yet. Don’t feel you are all alone in this, Bill. All the rest of us are in the same fix. You will see that some of the crew are as advanced as you and some don’t even look like they have been infected yet. It doesn’t make any difference. We will all end up swinging our hips when we walk.” David turned and walked out of the room.

I stared in shock as I watched him leave. Was he rolling his hips as a last joke, or was it affecting him in that way already?

As I watched David leave, Toni smiled as if she was reading my mind. “Some things are ordained.” She turned and walked out of the room.

I watched her silently walk across the floor as she left. She didn’t roll her hips. I had never thought about that aspect of her walk before now. If I was going to be female I didn’t have to roll my hips either. I would walk like Toni did. Fuck this female life! I hated it already.

After dropping my clothes and slipping into the uniform and boots, I walked over to the wall. “Reflection.” Instantly a hologram mirrored image of me appeared. Damn David’s soul, he was right. I was looking at the image of a woman. Oh, there was still a lot of Bill left in there, but not enough so as to leave any doubt as to if I was female.

Men’s and women’s officer uniforms were different in the extreme. The men’s uniform had long sleeves, a turtleneck collar with their rank bars imprinted in gold on the collar. Best of all, we wore pants.

The female officer’s uniform was a sleeveless, sweetheart neckline, the rank bars were imprinted in gold over the left breast, and the skirt was a tight skirt. Their boots had a two inch heel for general duty. They wore four inch heels for dress regulation codes. It also didn’t escape my attention that the women wore tan colored pantyhose that bonded to their skin. That was the standard uniform, unless we went into space on field work. Then men and women alike wore full body jumpsuits and boots.

UF-2 was not a field research post in the aggressive sense, so we never changed from standard issue uniforms. UF-2 was more of a watch post to make sure no alien life forms slipped by us into the thick of humanity.

I felt UF-2 had done it’s job as I looked at the hologram reflection. Whatever it was, we had trapped, it was a real strong dose and some of us paid a hellacious price. No soldier wanted to fight an enemy that wouldn’t show itself. I was wishing we had been a research post. I would have accepted a jumpsuit to what I was wearing.

“Rotate.” I watched in fascinated shock as the hologram slowly turned, showing all sides of me. My God! From the back view I was showing curves and the side view was showing a small bust line. I stared at the face as it rotated back in view. There was very little doubt that the eyes and mouth were feminine. Not fully developed yet, but I could see where I was headed.

“Shit and double shit!” I had seen more than I wanted as I spun on my heel and headed for the door. When I found who was doing this to us I was slowly going to carve off very small pieces of him with a laser scalpel. Maybe take months or a year or more before I let him die. Or... maybe I wouldn’t let him die? Maybe I might just give him a dose of his own medicine and see how he liked it!

Toni, David, and a couple dozen crewmen were waiting outside my door when I stepped out. He gave me an approving glance. “We held an emergency meeting in council. Bill Wickman was relieved of duty as Commander of UF-2 as of zero ten hundred hours.”

“Whaa…” I didn’t think anything else could shock me after what I had seen in the hologram, but I was wrong.

David held up his hand to stop me. “As I was saying, we took a vote. Seeing as how Bill Wickman was indisposed and unable to carry out his duties as Commander in Chief of station UF-2. By legal vote and duly registered in the station’s log, Brandy Winters has replaced Bill Wickman as Commander in Chief.”

Furiously I was searching through my mind as to who Brandy Winters was. No one I could think of came to mind. “I’m relieved of duty then?” I really didn’t blame them. I had let all of them down when this infection invaded our station.

David shook his head. “No, you are replacing Bill Wickman, Commander.”

“I can’t replace me. I am...” Slowly it dawned on me. David and the crew gave me a new name and retired Bill Wickman.

“Brandy? Don’t you think you might have given me the opportunity to pick my own name?”

“Did Bill get a chance to pick his name? No, we are starting a new beginning here and the crew wanted a voice in who was going to be their Commander in Chief. Brandy received the most votes and was selected as our new commander.” David smiled, knowing he had backed me into either accepting the name, or rejecting my command. The bottom line was, I was either Brandy or out of a job.

Leaning over toward David I whispered. “I don’t get mad, I get even, Sherry.”

David winked so only I could see it. “Touché, Brandy.”

He turned to face the crew as he snapped to attention. “Attention.”

The crew snapped to attention at David’s command. “Guards remain, the rest are dismissed.”

Everyone dispersed except David and four women who were carrying military issue pistols on their hips and rifles slung over their shoulders. David turned to look at me. “Your guard, Commander. Ready to tour the station, ma’am?”

“I’m guessing this is to give the crew a look at their new commander, Dav... Sherry?” I was going to have a real hard time adjusting to the new faces and the new names.

Pointing down the hallway, David... Sherry, nodded. “Shall we inspect engineering first, ma’am?”

“Damn your soul, David. You’re enjoying this entirely too much. You call me ma’am one more time and I’ll have you court martialed.” I glared at David, hoping he was intimidated, if only just a little. I should have known better.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you ma’am, but I’m not one of your soldiers. You can’t court martial me. Bill should have left you more explicit instructions as to who was or wasn’t under your command.” He grinned back at me like a Cheshire Cat.

“Maybe not legally, but I’d bend the rules to do it if you don’t stop calling me ma’am. I believe I would be entirely justified in having you shot, if for no other reason than you are enjoying yourself too much.” I headed off down the hallway as I was arguing with Da... Sherry.

Toni had stepped up to my right as she walked along with me. It didn’t escape my attention that she had dropped her right hand down on that cannon she carried on her hip. If I didn’t know better I would have sworn she was my protector. She certainly had all the looks and signals that indicated she was protecting me, and she looked serious. My male ego was silently screaming that this couldn’t be happening.

With two guards in front of us and two guards behind, there was no doubt it was an official inspection of the station after a changing of the command. I knew there were going to be a lot of eyebrows raised as we gave the station an inspection. Hell, I would have raised my eyebrows if the tables had been reversed. I was wearing a female officer’s uniform and looking more and more female by the hour now instead of taking days.

As the days rolled past, the obvious changes took place on most of the personnel on the station. Sherry was unbearably cheerful. Toni was also hanging closer to me than I liked. Before this started she seemed friendly but distant, but I really liked her. Now she seemed more than friendly and, at times, I almost thought she was going to put her arm around me. If there had been any files on Pash I would have looked one over to see what was going on. Alas, there were darn few files and they didn’t tell me anything. Obviously, they didn’t hang around humanity very much. So why was Toni hanging around with UF-2?

I was in pain in more ways than one. My mental anguish was probably the worst pain I suffered. I hated going to sleep because I hated getting up and looking at the replication in the hologram. My physical pain was an added distraction I would have bypassed if given the option. Every woman understands the pain of going from adolescence to adulthood. Emotions run off the scale, from the top of the charts to the bottom of the charts, as hormones surge through their bodies. If that wasn’t enough, their bodies are stretching and expanding to accommodate engorged breasts, widening of the hips, and padding of the buttocks as their waists shrink. Achieving soft, shapely curves is the thrill of every adolescent female.

I was a lot of things, but thrilled wasn’t in my vocabulary. Suicide was in my thoughts an awful lot. I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines either. Every day, Sherry was locking up three to four personnel in sickbay and having them sedated to prevent them from killing themselves.

Thank God for Sherry’s, and possibly Toni’s ability to read minds, or we would have been jettisoning those bodies into deep space, or worse. One of them had decided to demolish the whole station. She would have made it too, if Toni hadn’t intervened.

Toni was in Engineering when Clark-Dana decided to set the self destruct and wipe all of us out of our misery. They said Toni walked in a few seconds before Dana came charging into the room with a phaser in her hand. Dana was screaming she was going to save us all. Toni backhanded her and Dana dropped like she had been axed. If being alive meant anything, then Dana was lucky Toni didn’t use those claws of hers.

Morning and night were not in the life cycle of UF-2 as we had no day cycles. Personnel slept when they felt the need and worked or did other things as needed. I was leaving my office after a sleep. It had been almost three weeks since we had first been infected. Medical was no closer to figuring out how to reverse the infection. The reports we were getting back from Command were no help. They weren’t able to break the coding down and reverse it either. One would think, with all their labs, all their resources, all their skill at manipulating DNA structure, they would have had the answer by now.

I was slowly adjusting to the fact UF-2 was a post of females. Of the two hundred and seven crew members who had escaped infection, one hundred and eight were male. I also had accepted the fact I was female. The thing that made it possible to accept looking at Brandy in the hologram everyday was, I considered it a training exercise like Boot Camp. Soon the training would be over and Bill Wickman would be back.

Sherry met me as I was leaving my office. “I checked quarantine a few minutes ago. The crew is getting cabin fever.”

“House cleaning find any new intruders the past ninety six hours?” I motioned for her to follow me as I headed toward medical.

“One in cargo hold nine.” She picked up the pace beside me.

“Tell quarantine to hold them for another forty eight hours. If we don’t have any new collections then they may leave quarantine at their own risk.” It was funny in a warped way. We were the ones infected and the crew members who hadn’t been altered were the ones in quarantine.

Sherry had come up with the idea of drawing any of those critters out by having decoys roam the station. I wanted to know if it had been put into play yet? “Has medical and engineering come up with the traps replicating human DNA?”

“Launched the first two a couple hours earlier. They are going through the crews quarters first. We received a supply ship from M-4 a few minutes ago. It’s in isolation now. You want to go with me to check it over before it’s opened?” Sherry pointed toward the lift leading to the docking bays.

“Sure. My trip to medical was to see how they were doing on reversing the code we were infected with. I imagine you know already.” I stopped at the lift and the doors slid open. We both stepped inside.

“Docking” I commanded before turning to study Sherry as the lift sped off toward the docking bay.

It was unbelievable how feminine she had become. Long shapely legs, beautiful hands with long fingers, and long sharp fingernails. Her reddish hair framed an angelic face. Her eyes changed color from hazel to gold, or bluish gold, depending on God only knew what. She had full sweetheart lips that begged to be kissed and doe shaped eyes with ultra long, thick, lush lashes. As if that wasn’t enough, she had high cheekbones and a voluptuous body that looked as if it had been designed by a sex crazed, genetic scientist.

I didn’t have a bit of lesbian tendencies in my soul, but it wouldn’t have taken more than a hint of an invite and I would have been lying in her bed. I imagine the whole damn station felt the same way. Sherry had been right that first day when she told me about the virus. As David changed into Sherry, she became undoubtedly the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

The doors slid open as the lift stopped at docking. Sherry pointed toward a containment chamber over to our right. “We have it shielded on the possibility it’s carrying something besides our standard shipment.”

I nodded as we walked over to inspect the shipment. Usually we never quarantined shipments between known stations. We really didn’t believe there was anything out there that could catch, or keep up with, our supply ships. However, since something had managed to get on our station without us figuring out how. We were no longer taking any chances. All incoming would be quarantined until cleared.

“Visual” We had stopped outside the shielded area. I wanted to look over the cargo ship.

A hologram of the ship appeared in front of us as if the shield was no longer there. I didn’t see any abnormalities. “Rotate horizontally”

The hologram rotated in front of us, as if the ship was on a big turntable. I let it go twice. “Rotate, laterally”

Sherry and I were looking at a ship as if it had been skewered from nose to tail and rotated on a stick.

“Standard” The hologram placed the ship back on the deck in normal position.

“I didn’t see anything on the outside. Scanners pick up any abnormalities?” I backed up and turned toward the crew who were watching the monitors.

“Seal to the hatch was broken and then repaired, Commander.” One of the women pointed toward the enlarged hologram of the hatch that had appeared in front of me.

“Sherry, did you request a seal on this shipment?” I was studying the hologram to see if I could see the repaired seal on the hatch.

She walked up and put her finger on the hologram. “Yes, it was possible our shipment had been intercepted in space, loaded up with the bio-mechanical balls, and sent on. I requested a seal on this shipment before they sent it.”

“Look at this seal. It’s been broken and then repaired, I suspect by the same intelligence that sent the bio-mechanical balls. There is molecular separation and repair on this seal. If we hadn’t been looking for it we never would have noticed. It’s almost perfect.” She touched the hologram with the long nail on her right index finger and ran it down the seal.

I had focused on Sherry’s hand and finger where she was pointing. Instead of worrying about contamination of the station, I was thinking I needed a lobotomy or a brain wash. I was jealous of how beautiful she was. “No one is to go inside the quarantine area. Take that thing apart with the bots and don’t leave any pieces together where one of those damn bio-mech balls can hide.”

It was going to take a few days to disassemble that ship. I turned on my heel to go. “Sherry, keep me posted if you turn up anything.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

That stopped me as I turned to reprimand her. She was smiling, knowing what she had done. I caught myself before my mouth opened. Sherry was in a Catch 22 situation as far as me being able to give her orders. She was a civilian and not under my direct command. I could reprimand her or fire her, but not order her to do what I requested. Yet, by default she commanded everyone under me. As much as I liked her and owed her my life several times over, she could rub me all wrong at times.

“You may be enjoying what you are, but I sure as hell am not! Would you mind trying real hard not take so much pleasure in what you have become? And while you’re at it, try real hard to stay out of my reach since I would like nothing better than to slit your cheerful throat.” I spun on my heel. I did my best to not put a swing in my walk as I left Sherry behind. I found I only made things worse. Women swing when they walk or they look clunky and awkward as they lurch clumsily forward with each step.

After I stepped on the lift, I looked back at Sherry. She shook her head and mouthed, ‘This is how you do it’. Smoothly and gracefully, she glided over to where the technicians where watching the monitors. With each step her hips rolled like a ballerina in motion, her full skirt accenting her grace.

I hated her! She didn’t lurch, she glided with each step. ‘Up yours!’ I mouthed back as she looked over her shoulder at me.

The door on the lift closed and I was thankful. What Sherry didn’t know, or maybe she did, I was consciously studying the way all the women walked as I headed back to my office. It was obvious which ones had been men and which ones had always been women.

Those who had been men lurched as they walked like men, instead of letting their hips swing with each step. It was obvious when Sherry pointedly made me think about it. Men walk differently than women. Even though we were female in form, the mind still functioned like a male. Etiquette classes were going to start in twenty four hours!

Toni met me in the hall as I headed toward my office. “Commander, I request your permission to leave.”

I shook my head as I motioned for her to walk with me. “Toni, I can’t give that permission. We are under quarantine. No one is allowed to leave. We received a supply ship less than an hour ago and it's contaminated with those damned bio-balls. Until we can reverse the process those things carry then I’m sorry, but no one is allowed to leave.”

Toni reached out and placed her hand on my shoulder stopping me. She turned me to look at her. “Brandy, I know your laws and rules pertaining to this station and to your species. Your laws say when any space traveler sets foot on your post they accept the laws for that post.”

As I watched in fascination, her pupils closed to vertical slits to drive home the point that we weren’t the same.

“Rrrrrrr” She let out a soft purr before she continued. “I’m not human and my species has no pact with your species. Neither I, nor any of my kind, are regulated under your laws. Our laws are simple, but explicit. Some that might interest you are; We do not take a life unless it is necessary. We do not take any property any life deems as theirs. We do not take another’s mate. We do not enforce our will upon another.”

“That all?” I held up my hand as she started to speak. “It was a joke. Toni, we make laws for the common good of all. I can not allow you to leave. There is no debate here. If you are carrying the virus or one of those bio-balls and carried it to another post, or even a settled world, we would have to quarantine more people than I want to contemplate.”

“Brandy, what part of ‘I am leaving’ did you not understand? I will be back in less than forty eight of your hours.” She dropped her hand off my shoulder as she turned and headed for the docking bay.

It didn’t escape my attention, she had addressed me as Brandy rather than Captain or Commander. I was caught up in emotions as I watched her step into the airlock leading to her ship. As Commander of the station, I wanted to stop her. As her friend I wanted to let her go. I com linked to Control. “Linda. The Pash is leaving. Don’t try to stop her.”

“Understand Captain. Under what orders?” My com link replied.

“Emergency relief. Contact Command Central and notify them that a Pash left our station, our quarantine has not been lifted.”

“I’ll notify Command Central.”

Except for the part about telling Command Central, I didn’t think there was one darn thing any of us could have done to stop Toni. If that cannon she carried on her hip was any indication, she probably carried more firepower on her ship than we had on the whole station. I certainly didn’t want to get in a fire fight with her and find out I was right.

I looked up as Sherry had stepped into my office and was patiently waiting in front of my desk. “What did you find?” I was working on the daily report I had to keep up with Command Central after declaring Death-Com Level.

“You will notice it in the information report from docking, but I wanted to tell you myself. We found the same bio-mechanical balls on the cargo ship as the ones that infected our station earlier.”

The first thing that sprang into my mind was impossible, but remembering the seal, I halfway expected as much. “How much or I guess I should ask, how many?”

“Several thousand count. They were scattered all over the cargo craft and even up in the electronics. I understand why we were infected without realizing it. They are inert, except for shooting that DNA cutter into anyone not already infected. It’s impossible to see or feel what they are doing with the naked eye. The action is too small and too quick to see.” Sherry walked over to the window where she could look at the stars. She was wearing a blue dress that hugged her body like paint. The tight mini skirt emphasized her tiny waist and abundant hips, the same way the deep, plunging top clung to her huge breasts.

“You have a plan for finding out how they are getting their bio-mechs on our ships? Also, do you have a plan for catching them once we figure out the first question?” I stood up and walked over to the window. I was looking at the infinite number of stars, while thinking about the infinite life forms they had spawned or could be spawning. It was sheer hypocrisy to believe humans were the only intelligent life. Mankind was bad at measuring other life forms by our standards. When we first started exploring we had met other space travelers, but they didn’t have the ability to push out in space past their own universe, so we didn’t classify them as intelligent. That kind of thinking made me realize how dumb our own species was.

“Commander, as hard as it is to believe. I think they are stopping our cargo ships and loading the bio-mechs on them.”

Sherry let that sink in before she turned to look at me. “Remember, nothing is impossible, only improbable. What we think in our minds is limited to what we believe is possible. Remember Einstein’s theory was, nothing could travel faster than light. We believed that until Remmy designed and tested a warp drive ship.”

“I remember my history. As usual, the science fiction writers had it all wrong. They designed space ships that looked streamlined and propelled them with fuel or matter and anti matter. We propel our ships like the writers envisioned, but they look like building blocks so each pod can be self sustaining in case of catastrophic disaster.” I wondered where Sherry was going with this conversation?

She closed her eyes as she nodded. “Our warp drive ships look like tin cans, or boxes, or a combination. Smooth sleek lines are not in any of our interstellar ship designs. The flat or bulky designs of the ships are necessary for warp travel. Those ships travel faster than anything known as the anti matter drive reacts with the matter drive.”

Sherry sighed. “There is a theory of something even faster than warp drive. Although only a theory, what if someone figured it out already?

“Do you have an idea how and why we are receiving those bio-mechs? Or, are you rambling to see if I am paying attention?” I knew Sherry never rambled. If she didn’t have something intelligent to say, she didn’t speak. I also knew she was priming me for something I wasn’t going to believe.

“We are under attack. I mean the human race is under attack.”

That one choked me. “How? When? Why didn’t I receive an alert from Command Central?”

“Because they don’t know it yet. You are the only one I have told this to. So far it’s only my gut feeling. I can’t prove it yet. Some ‘thing’ is trying to wipe out humanity.” Sherry looked back out into space as if she was searching for what this 'thing' could be.

“Okay, give me what you have.” I walked back over to my chair. Lately I couldn’t stand on my feet for more than a few minutes at a time or my arches started killing me. They were hurting now.

Sherry waited until I sat down. “Your feet hurt?”

I had kicked my flats off and was rubbing my feet. “Stick to the problem at hand. Tell me why you think humanity is under attack from an unknown?”

“I’m trying to tell you, if you will listen. Your feet hurt don’t they? It’s because your heels aren’t high enough….”

“You’re out of...”

“Don’t interrupt me.” She took a deep breath. “They are good, and I mean really good, at understanding DNA and how it works. Think about it, Brandy. With our hundreds of thousand of years we can do what with DNA? We can make babies any sex we want. We cut out damaged pairs from the DNA that causes hereditary defects such as blindness, Parkinson’s, and thousands of other defects. We grow spare body parts upon request. We can design almost anything a human wants, such as smaller or bigger breasts on a woman, or blue or brown eyes. Yet for all our knowledge of DNA, we can not change skeleton or bone structure after the person has matured.”

She turned to look at me. “Along with your body shape, your bone structure changed. You have the bone structure of a woman, not a man. It wasn’t done with a laser scalpel, but with DNA coding. Humans don’t have that kind of knowledge. Your feet hurt because you are not wearing a high enough heel to support your instep. Humans haven’t figured out how to do that with DNA.”

Way down inside my stomach I got a sick feeling. My body had been redesigned and reprogrammed by God only knew what. I had no idea where it would stop. “You’re working on the code aren’t you? I know our lab technicians are giving it their all.”

Sherry held out her hand and studied it before she answered me. “Have you noticed every infected person on this ship looks at the few males like they were prime meat? I bet you have been thinking about inviting one to bed yourself.”

That made me blush from my head to my feet. “No I haven’t... been thinking... I guess I have.”

“I know you have. It is your body chemistry. It comes as part of the package. I promise, if you have sex before you take your birth control shot, you will have a baby. You and every other infected female on this station are as fertile as a rabbit. It’s part of the battle plans our enemy has drawn up.”

“Oh God…!” The idea I could have a baby had never entered into my psyche. The idea I was a woman was tolerable as a short term concept. We were the most advanced intelligent race ever, at least that we knew about. I was positive medical could find a cure. Now, Sherry was telling me I could possibly not only have a baby, I was designed as a baby factory! Damn those who did this!

FROM THE EDITOR: As a certain "Leaper" used to say... "Oooboy!" Chapter 3 will be posted on Friday. Stay tuned and thank you for commenting, kudoing and reading this great story.



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