Caught in the Filter

Caught in the Filter

A round-robin story by Shadow Dragon, MrMarvel, Sylvia Waldgrave, Bobbie Cabot, Spindizzy, Paradox, Trismegistus Shandy, and another who wishes to remain anonymous

Edited by Trismegistus Shandy

The first draft of this story was written in #the-campfire channel of the TGS Discord chat room. We started it October 29, 2017, and finished November 14. Later, Trismegistus Shandy edited it for orthography, clarity, and consistency.

* * *

The dripping sound was what had awoken him from a fitful and restless sleep, plagued by dreams most frightful. The dreams were gone now, but the fear was not, and the dripping matched the speed of his racing heartbeat.

He rose with a light groan escaping his lips, the feeling of uneasiness not dissipating as the fog of sleep lifted, only increasing. In his tired state he noticed he was no longer in his room and the dripping sound came from an IV attached to his arm. He looked around the darkened room. It was not a hospital that was for sure, and all saw was a simple door.

His breathing intensified as he tried to piece together how his current situation had come to be. He was too tired to think; no, it was more than that, he couldn’t recall a thing, not even his own name.

He extricated himself from the bed, grabbed the IV pole and made his way to the door. But when he tried the handle, the door wouldn’t open. Frustrated by the closed door, he ripped the IV needle from his arm and checked around some more, finding yet another door flush against the wall — it was a connecting door to another room — and it was ajar!

He cautiously drew the door wider and peered through it. In that room he saw a beautiful woman lying on a bed like his; an IV drip was attached to her arm as well.

It was an odd sight to see. Her hair was so red and vibrant it was as if flames were raging, yet it lay across the pillow seemingly as gentle as a small stream running from spring’s first snowmelt. Her eyes remained closed. She lay as still and peaceful as a model freshly sculpted from ivory, the faintest of breaths sounding out as if to indicate she truly lived. Yet he felt as if this stranger was in fact no stranger, but someone he had known for the longest of times.

She woke up and looked at the man in horror. “Why do you look like me?!” she screamed.

“Because I ate a lemon-flavored meatloaf,” the man replied.

What did he just say? He had tried to tell the strange girl he didn’t remember a thing of who he was or how he got here, but instead he said, “Because I ate a lemon-flavored meatloaf.”

He tried again. “What do you mean?” he asked. “I don’t look anything like you.”

“Have you looked in a mirror recently?” she asked.

“Not in the last few minutes,” he replied, “and I can’t remember anything before that. But I’m a man and you’re a woman.”

“And over in the corner is a cat, but that doesn’t mean you should eat lemon-flavored meatloaf,” she responded.

“Cat?” He looked around, but didn’t see any cat — but it might be hard to see in the dim light.

Moments later, several men rushed into the room; Brad was blinded by bright light from the room or hallway beyond. One of them slammed into him and knocked him down.

“Don’t move,” he whispered in his ear, a knee pinning him down. “Don’t even breathe.”

He turned to his apparent leader. “This one doesn’t have an IV, boss.”

“Who is she?” the lead guy asked.

The man grabbed his left arm. “She’s number thirteen,” he said. “Which one is that?”

“Let’s see,” he said, and pulled out a smartphone. “Yep, it’s one of the experimental ones. No telling what she will do. Cuff her and let’s watch the process finish.”

“How about this one?” one of the others asked, pointing to the one on the bed.

“Give her a sedative, and let her sleep. She’ll assume this was all a dream when she wakes up.”

The man brought out a hypodermic and injected it into a valve in her IV tubing. “Okay, let’s go.”

All of them left again, dragging him with them, his hands cuffed behind his back.

“Why do you keep calling me ‘she’?” he asked his captors as they manhandled him along.

As his captors brought him into a small room and plunked him down unceremoniously in a chair, one of the armed men looked at him and laughed. “You should see yourself in the mirror, Toots.”

The others laughed. Most of them left the room, except for three, including the one he took to be their leader.

This room was more brightly lit than the others they’d passed through. He didn’t see a mirror, though, just a few chairs and a sort of desk or table. As he glanced down at himself, the leader of his captors sat down in one of the other chairs; the other two remained standing.

“Eleven delight crimson petrichor!” he exclaimed, noticing the small but well formed breasts on his chest. He may not have remembered much from before waking up, but he was positive men do not have breasts.

The man gave a nasty laugh at his reaction.

“Looks like it’s started on the language center of your brain,” he sneered. “This next part is my favorite.”

“Window needs?” he asked. He’d meant to say “What next part?”, but it didn’t come out right. He gingerly touched his crotch. His penis was there, but kind of on the small side — with no memories, he couldn’t compare it to what it was before.

He struggled to regain control of his words, repeatedly clearing his throat. “Why...want... halibut? — grrr — happening?” he managed through gritted teeth.

Instead of answering him directly, the leader of his captors said to one of the others, “Bring her a pitcher of water and a big cup.” Turning to him, he explained, “Tearing out your IV didn’t do you any good, you know; we’d already stopped the drugs, and were just giving you fluids. And you’ll need a lot to keep from dying of dehydration during the process.”

The man’s use of female pronouns, the fleshy mounds on his chest, the steadily growing aching sense of wrongness in his body. As impossible as it seemed, these people were changing him somehow. He couldn’t guess why, but he was sure it was not going to be pleasant. He shook his head, trying to deny the facts, only to feel something soft tickling his shoulder.

“Drink up,” his captor admonished him as one of the others brought in a pitcher and cup and unlocked his cuffs. He poured a cupful and took several deep gulps, trying to ignore the sensation of hair growing faster than hair should possibly be able to grow.

The water tasted cold and sweet and he was so so thirsty. The water seemed to fuel the changes. Red hair was falling in his eyes and his bones creaked and popped painfully as his skeleton started to shift. Gulp, gulp, gulp, and then his captor poured him another cup before he realized the first was getting low. He was sweating more and more, all over but most noticeably between his growing breasts, probably losing water almost as fast as he was drinking it. Sweat slicked his skin as he squirmed in the chair. Under the damp sheen his tan faded. His skin became pale white apart from a dusting of freckles. His captor licked his lips, his eyes roaming over his body as it transformed, clearly excited by what he saw.

“You’re getting off on this, aren’t you, you sick bastard?” he tried to say, but it came out as more nonsense. He took a last couple of swallows and threw the empty cup at the creep’s head.

The man batted the cup away with one hand as the other stroked his erection through his pants. “That’s the spirit, Sugar Tits,” he said. “Hold on to that fire, it makes it so much more fun to break you in.”

He growled in frustration, crossed his arms, and refused to drink any more. Better to die of dehydration than let those creeps turn him into some kind of sex slave. But the thirst was too much for him. A few minutes later, he grabbed the pitcher and drank from it directly, spilling a fair amount of water on his loose shirt and making it stick to his breasts. They were already much larger than when he’d first noticed them. The constantly shifting weight on his chest was almost enough to distract him from the other changes working through his body; his hips were wider and his ass larger and rounder. Every moment that passed, he looked more and more feminine. Even his hands were smaller, making it hard to hold the large pitcher. He tried to ask for the cup back, but more nonsense came out; he gestured at the cup instead.

Finally, after drinking another whole pitcher of water one cup at a time, the strange feelings throughout his body seemed to — not cease, exactly, but diminish. The thirst abated and he put down the last cup unfinished. He put a hand to his crotch and confirmed that the changes were complete.

“That’s a good girl. I knew you’d get there in the end,” the man said, patting his victim’s now soft and stubble-free cheek. “What shall we call you? Arabella? Augusta? Myrtle? Maude?”

“How about Chloe?” one of the toughs pitched in. “What? My sister’s called Chloe,” he said when his boss glared at him for interrupting.

“Very well, you are now Chloe,” the boss said with a shrug. “Who are you?”

“I’m Chloe,” he said with a defiant tone before realizing what he had said. “No, wait, that’s not right. I’m Chloe... Damn it. Chloe... Chloe...” No matter how he tried, he couldn’t force himself to put a “not” in that sentence. He might not remember his true name, but he knew Chloe couldn’t be right.

“Take her to the showers and have her wash off all that sweat, ” his captor commanded.

The thugs grabbed him by his arms, pulled him out of the chair, and practically dragged him from the room. Even if he had still been a guy, there would have been no way for him to resist the two brutish men. The best he could do was go limp as they took him to a communal bathroom. They pushed him into a doorless shower cubicle containing a bar of soap and a mini bottle of shampoo.

“Well, get on with it,” one of them grunted, watching with his arms folded.

“Give me some privacy,” he tried to say, but it came out as “Enjoy the show.”

“I love it when the filter kicks in,” one of the thugs guffawed.

He looked up at the two men, realizing just how much smaller he was after his transformation. He wanted to scream his defiance at them, but even if the “filter” in his head would have allowed that, the knowledge of what they could do to him would still have stopped him. Instead, he turned his back on them and began to strip off the damp and ill-fitting clothes.

He tossed the shirt, pants, and underwear over his shoulder without looking and turned on the water. While he washed up, to keep his mind off his new body and stave off the panic from seeing himself naked, he tried to think. Should he experiment and see how the filter worked, whether he could work around it or find loopholes to express himself? Or defy his captors by keeping silent, so the filter couldn’t twist his words?

The hot water flowed over him, washing away the sweat and grime, but making it hard to ignore his new body. As much as would have liked to stay silent, he needed a distraction.

So this is how you perverts get your jollies, watching naked guys wash their bits? At least that’s what he tried to say; instead, he heard himself giggle and say: “So this is how you guys have fun around here, keeping an eye on my sexy, soapy ass?”

Fuck, that was no good. He needed to experiment. Try single words at first, not whole sentences... “Tree. Shoe. Megaphone.” All those came out without distortion, good. Phrases? “On the beach. When he saw. Never again.” Fine so far. “You assholes.” But that last one came out as “Cuties.”

Fuck! “Darn it!” How is this even possible? “Ooh, it’s so clever how you fixed my brain, how’d you do that?”

“Don’t worry your pretty head about the science of it,” one of the thugs said with a laugh. “Just shiver with anticipation at the other stuff the boss is going to do.”

He couldn’t afford to lose his temper. Back to experimenting. “Head, nose, finger, arm, heart, stomach,” all came out as intended, but “breasts” became “boobies”, “vagina” became “cunny”, and “penis” came out as “cock”. Maybe he could fool the filter by spacing out his sentences so it thought they were isolated words and phrases, and not using any key words that would get distorted?

He chose his words carefully, taking several minutes to think while he washed his hair. “It’s just like...” He paused taking a deep breath. “So unfair...” So far, so good. “I so want a guy...” Shit! “I want... To” Come on... “A big sexy stud of a guy.”

He could feel his pale skin blushing red, but he had managed to say what he wanted, more or less. He hoped that with a little more practice, he’d get better at working around the limits they’d imposed on him. And if he managed to escape, he’d be able to tell the cops exactly what had happened to him. He rinsed off, turned off the water, and, covering his breasts and crotch, turned around. One of the thugs tossed him a towel — too small to cover up with, barely big enough to dry off with.

Drying quickly became a farce. His breasts (he shuddered at being forced to think of them as his) proved particularly unruly, bouncing free at the slightest provocation. From the corner of his eye he could see the men enjoying the show, eyeing him like dogs looking at steak. Finally he was forced to abandon any attempt at modesty and use both hands to dry his long red hair. It seemed to take forever and he was still unpleasantly damp when the towel became too soaked to be of any more use.

“Okay, Chloe, that will do,” Thug One said, tossing him a bundle of clothes.

He quickly got dressed, continuing his experiments by muttering the name of each garment as he put it on. “Panties, bra, skirt, camisole, sandals.” None of them were substituted by the filter.

He tugged at the clothes in a vain attempt to make the tiny scraps of fabric cover more of his unwanted assets.

“Great, now I get to dress like a total hottie!” The filter kicked in, twisting “have to” and “hooker.” No, remember, one word at a time! He tried again: “Get. Me. Some. Men’s. Clothes.” Whew, that worked!

They responded with malicious laughter. “Men’s clothes, that’s a good one. Men’s clothes are for men, sweetheart; do you really think you still qualify?” Thug Two groped his breasts to further drive the point home.

As they hustled him out of the bathroom and down the corridors, he felt sick, more violated than ever before. He hoped that if he threw up, all the vomit would go onto his captors. He had to keep his head up. He couldn’t remember his original name, but he was damn sure it wasn’t Chloe. Even if the filter wouldn’t let him say it, he need to make up a strong, masculine name to think of himself by, to hold onto his original self until his memories returned.

If they ever did.

He tried to think of the most manly names he knew. Josh, James, Justin — he shook his head; none of them seemed to fit. Brad! — that’s more like it. He almost remembered thinking he used to look like a Brad. He was reasonably sure Brad hadn’t been his actual name, but the possibility that it might have been was something to hold on to.

They ungently ushered him into a room with a bed, a dresser, a vanity table with a large mirror, and a closet with no door, full of women’s clothes. In one corner of the room there was a sink and toilet, but there was no wall or even curtain separating them from the rest of the room. There was a paper cup dispenser over the sink.

“Keep drinking water, Chloe,” Thug One advised him. “You don’t need to drink as much as you did earlier, but one of those cups every hour or so. Somebody will come get you when it’s time.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound sinister,” he muttered to the closed door.

There was a solid-sounding clunk of a lock sliding home, and then, for the first time since all this started, he was completely alone. He prowled around the room inspecting his surroundings in more detail. There were, of course, no windows or other doors. Small vents provided a steady stream of stale-smelling air. The clothing ranged from merely immodest to the downright pornographic. He picked up an outfit that was nothing more than a collection of straps and wondered why anyone would wear such a thing. The toilet was at least clean, but he was still grateful he didn’t need to use it yet. Finally he took a deep breath and turned to confront his own reflection.

In the face, he looked a lot like the woman he’d seen earlier. He had freckles; probably the other woman did, too, but he hadn’t been able to tell in the dim light. His breasts didn’t look as large from this perspective, but they weren’t small.

Okay, okay, this is not so bad, he thought. I was worried they’d turn me into some hyper-sexualized freak, but she’s pretty normal looking. The girl looking back from the glass was certainly pretty; she could even have been beautiful, with a little makeup and a slightly less terrified expression on her face. But all things considered, it could have been a lot worse. Still, I get the feeling I do not want to hang around to find out what happens ‘when it’s time.’ I need a way out of here, and soon.

But after exploring the room thoroughly, he determined there was no way out from here. The door was firmly locked, and the vent was much too small to squeeze into even if he had tools to open it. The drawers of the dresser and vanity contained clothes, hair care and makeup supplies; he tried unscrewing one of the screws on the vent with a nail file, just in case he found larger vents somewhere in the building, but it didn’t work.

Sitting at the dresser, he wracked his brain for a solution, more to avoid thinking about how wrong his new body felt than anything. He dredged up a bunch of action movie cliches. Strange how he couldn’t remember his own name, but he could perfectly recall Bruce Willis murdering/joking through a building full of bad guys. Looking down at his dainty hands, he knew he couldn’t possibly strong arm his way out.

Lacking anything else to do, he tested the filter some more. He found that he could hardly say a disrespectful term for a man (“bastard” came out as “stud”, for instance) or a respectful term for a woman (“woman” or “lady” came out as “slut”). “Dick” came out as intended if he were thinking of a penis, but as “stallion” if he were thinking of a selfish man. The same effect prevented him from using most negative and pejorative adverbs and adjectives; even “no” tended to come out as “yes” unless he imagined someone asking him something like “Do you hate being a woman?” That was terrifying. Finally, he discovered a loophole. The filter didn’t block him from using archaic insults like “scoundrel” and “wastrel”. He smiled at the small victory.

As frustrating as having a censor in his head was, at least they didn’t seem able to make him believe the things he was saying. For example, when he slipped up and found himself talking about “loving thick cocks,” he felt nothing but disgust.

He was still thirsty, but luckily not nearly as thirsty as he had been. He continued taking sips of water and studying his reflection for more changes. Were his breasts a little larger? His lips a little fuller? He couldn’t be sure.

At last, his eyelids grew heavy, and though he’d only been awake for at most three hours, he felt sleepy. The transformation had taken a lot out of him. He took off his shoes, and looked in the closet and dresser for something more comfortable to sleep in, but didn’t find anything he would be willingly caught in when the thugs came back “when it’s time.” He laid down, pulled the sheet over him, and soon fell asleep.

* * *

Suddenly, he was awakened by someone putting their hand over his mouth. “You need to keep quiet. We’re getting you out of here.”

Brad opened his eyes and saw a woman close to his face. She looked just like him; the same eyes, the same nose, the same freckles, the same red hair. He nodded as well as he could with her hand over his mouth, and she let go, standing from her crouch and whispering, “Follow me.”

His doppelganger crept toward the door, stepping over the prone form of Thug Two, flat on his face with a syringe in his neck. Brad hesitated a moment before realizing that the man was still breathing.

“Don’t worry about him, he’ll have a hell of a headache in the morning, but he’ll live,” the woman hissed. “Now come on, we need to move quickly.”

Brad followed her down the hall and around a corner, where they met three other women — two of them identical to Brad and his rescuer, the third with black hair, darker skin, and a leaner figure — coming from the other direction.

“You run into any trouble?” his rescuer asked the black-haired woman, who replied, “Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

The redhead led them through a maze of corridors until they reached a heavy security door with a keypad lock. She told them to wait while she tapped out a lengthy code, muttering under her breath about recursive algorithms. “Got it,” she announced as the door slid back, revealing an empty room. “Okay, in here, you should be safe for now.”

Brad and the other prisoners went into the room, expecting their rescuers to come with them. But they started to close the doors on them. “Wait!” Brad said. “Why. Are. You. Leaving. Us. Here.”

“Trust me,” she barely time to say before the door sealed.

“Well, shoot!” Brad cursed as much as the filter would allow before turning back to his fellow captives. “So, um. I’m Chloe and I’m just like super thrilled to be here. How about you guys?”

One of the other women said perkily “I’m Isadora and I love being a girl!”, but her look of frustration belied her words. The other woman just scowled and refused to say anything. Brad growled at himself, then said: “If. You. Say. One. Word. At . A. Time. You. Can. Sometimes. Fool. The. Filter.”

The woman who’d remained silent nodded, and her brow furrowed in concentration. “Alissa,” she said after a pause. “No! My. Name. Is. Alissa... ah... Alpha. Lima. Echo. X-ray.”

Introductions made, Brad had a chance to get a proper look at his companions. On closer inspection it appeared the three of them weren’t completely identical. Brad was a little taller than the other two; Alex, a few pounds heavier; Isadora’s eyes half a shade darker. Brad had a thousand questions, but he knew asking them and getting straight answers around the filter would be tricky.

“Do. You. Remember. Anything. Before. Waking. Up. Here?” he asked.

Isadora shook her (or his?) head. “A. Few. Vague. Isolated. Memories. Not. Who. I. Was.”

“I. Was. A. Man. A. Black. Man. I. Don’t. Remember. My. Last. Name,” said Alex.

Brad responded, “You. Too? I. Can’t. Remember. My. First. Name. Either. I. Made. Up. A. Name.” He spelled it out like Alex had done: “Bravo. Romeo. Alpha. Delta.”

Isadora and Alex furrowed their brows in confusion for a moment, then Alex said: “Brad?”

He felt a surge of triumph at hearing the name he had chosen for himself. Whatever else happened to him, he could still feel like a man inside. Between the three of them they establish that Isadora had been there the longest, and also had the most severe memory loss. She vaguely remembered Brad waking her up and then getting recaptured. Brad was the most recent arrival; Alex said he’d been there for two days before the rescue.

Suddenly, there was a booming noise that vibrated their internal organs like the subwoofers at a rock concert, the room shook slightly, and the lights went out. They were left in pitch darkness. Isadora and Brad let out girly screams, and Alex exclaimed “Oh, I’m so scared of the dark! I want a strong man to hold me!”, then growled and spelled out several curse words in the NATO alphabet.

Brad fumbled for the door in the dark, his hand finding warm soft flesh several times. When his hands wandered onto one of his fellow captives, he instinctively tried to apologize, but it came out wrong.

“Oooh, what nice boobies you have,” he’d find find himself saying, or “I just love your sexy butt, it’s so tight and firm.”

It was more than a little embarrassing, even more so when the others did the same to him. Eventually they managed to find the cold metal of the door and feel around the edges hopping to pry it open somehow.

Suddenly, the sound of gunfire overtook the room and everybody took a dive to the group, hoping to avoid getting shot. But Brad was the first to realize that the gunfire wasn’t directed at them, but at someone, or something else.

The gunfire continued for maybe half a minute or a minute, with intermittent shouts, too muffled by the door and walls to be distinguishable. At last there was silence, and then, a while later, light. Someone had opened the door. At first, their dark-adjusted eyes were blinded by the bright flashlights someone was shining into the room, and they weren’t sure if they’d been rescued or recaptured.

When their eyes readjusted to the light, they were met with a large and well armed group. They were wearing gas masks and helmets, making their faces impossible to see except for the eyes. But the most important, and welcome, thing about this armed group of people was that their vests said FBI.

Isadora exclaimed: “It’s nice to finally see some hot guys,” but Brad managed to hold his tongue long enough to plan out what he was going to say. “Are. The. Cute guys. Who. Did. This. To us. Dead. Or. Under. Arrest.”

“Dead,” one of the armed FBI agents said.

Brad and the others broke out into wordless cheers.

“What did they do to you?” one of the FBI men asked. “Are you and the other woman like you quadruplets, or did your captors do some kind of plastic surgery on you to make you identical?”

“I’m afraid that’s above your pay grade, officer,” a familiar voice interrupted as the woman who had freed them pushed past three armed men. “I will need you to arrange transport for these women and stay on guard — I wouldn’t put it past Dr. Carlson to have left a few surprises behind for us.”

“Sorry, ma’am, but I need to remind you that we have our orders, and those orders come from the guy above your pay grade, and our orders are to remove any survivors rescued from this place to a facility outside the state,” said an agent who walked up to the group just in time to hear that.

“Can. You. Undo. This?” Alex asked.

“Ma’am, we will do what we can for you,” the agent said, sounding just a little too vague for Brad’s liking.

“Can. You. Change. Us. Back. Into. Stallions,” Brad asked, gritting his teeth at that last substitution.

“Quiet,” the woman who looked like him barked, and “Forget you heard that,” to the FBI men.

The agent in charge flashed a look at the woman, telling her silently to shut up. “Turn you back into stallions? Please explain.”

“I, uh,” Alex stammered, seeming suddenly uncertain, “I’m sorry, I get kind of confused around big strong men like you. What was the question again?”

“Those. Scoundrels. Changed. Us. Into. Sluts,” Brad insisted, “And. They. Messed. With. Our. Speech. If. We. Try. To. Talk. Fast. It. Comes. Out. Wrong.”

The agents all looked at each other, casting glances towards the girls. The agent that appeared to be in charge of the group took another, who appeared to be the second in command, to the side, and began to quietly talk about what they were just told. “Sounds like they were much farther along than we originally thought. This is going to complicate things, both for us, and for those girls.”

The woman gave Brad an exasperated look. “So close,” she seemed to mutter under her breath before going to talk to the two agents. While they argued about what to do with them, the three transformed women were left to talk among themselves.

“Studs. Will help. Make. Us. Hot guys. Again,” Brad said, the hope in his voice clear despite his stilted speech pattern.

“I’m. Not. Sure. They. Can,” Alex replied.

Isadora looked back and forth between the other women and the agents, and said: “We. Can. Hope.”

The agent in charge glanced at the girls. “I don’t know if we could turn you back. We have no idea how these sickos modified the technology they stole, and it’s new and poorly understood even in its original form. But we should, with a bit of time, be able to reverse the mental conditioning.” Then, turning his attention to the original, “I still want to know how you ended up having three identical sisters.”

“Turn them over to my agency,” the woman said. “I can’t guarantee we can change them into who they once were, unless we can identify them and find samples of their original DNA, but we can change them into men. I wasn’t born looking like this, either.”

“I am aware of your background, Dr. Klein,” said the lead agent, bristling slightly. “I am also aware that if it wasn’t for the technology you developed, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. You’ll forgive me I’m reluctant to entrust you with the safety of these young women.”

“Um, excuse me, sir,” Brad cut in. “I know we are just silly girls, but. We. Should. Have. A say?”

“He’s right,” Dr. Klein said, and Brad felt a frisson of joy at being referred to with the correct pronoun. “My agency can help them; your agency cannot.”

“Just because you recklessly tested this technology on yourself, and just because these three unfortunate women survived Dr. Carlson’s use of it, doesn’t mean they’ll survive another treatment. We’ve found the remains of five others who died part way through the transformation, and we haven’t finished searching yet.”

“I’ll. Take. The. Risk.” Brad insisted, but Isadora shook her head and said:

“I love being a girl.”

Alex looked at her questioningly, probably wondering, like Brad, whether the filter was making her say that, and asked: “What. Are. The. Odds?”

“I wish I had an exact answer for you,” Dr. Klein said with a regretful sigh. “if it were just my process, it would be simple, but Carlson has been getting creative. I’ll need to establish exactly what he did to you before I can make that call.”

“Take. As. Much. Time. As. You. Need,” Alex said, and Brad added, “When. You’re. Ready. Test. It. On. Me. First.”

Isadora said: “I. Can’t. Remember. Being. A stud. I. Don’t. Want. To die. I. Just. Want. To talk. Normal.”

Dr. Klein replied, “Unfortunately, the filter part was Carlson’s own invention, though he based it on work he stole from us. It may take longer to figure out than re-transforming those of you who want to be men. Here,” she said, handing Brad a pen and notepad, “see if the filter affects your writing.”

My name is Brad and I would very much like to have my penis back, he tried to write, but, as he feared, the filter twisted his words even in written form: “Hi! I’m Chloe and I rilly rilly wanna yummy cock between my legs.” Brad watched his treacherous hand form the words in smooth, looping cursive, dotting the i’s with hearts adding a smiley face to the o in Chloe before finishing with a row of kisses. “Foxtrot. Uniform. Charlie. Kilo!” he cursed.

Dr. Klein was reading over his shoulder, and shook her head sadly. “You can probably work around it partly by writing one word and pausing a bit before writing the next, like you’ve been doing with speech. I can’t promise we’ll solve that problem right away, but I’m confident that my people can help you with it sooner and more effectively than the FBI.”

It wasn’t a hard choice for Brad; Klein genuinely seemed willing and able to help, while the agent couldn’t even manage to respect his pronouns. “Want. Go. With. Slut... Klein,” he said, giving her an apologetic glance and hastily adding “Sorry.”

Alex and Isadora nodded their agreement. “I understand,” Dr. Klein said. “You can’t help it; I don’t take it as an insult. So, gentlemen,” turning to the FBI agents, “are you going to stand aside and let my agency handle this, or are we going to have to go to court over the jurisdiction question?”

“Fine, if that’s their choice, I can’t stop them,” he said in a way that suggested he really wished he could. “But make no mistake, I will be taking this up with the brass. In the meantime, I must insist you let one of my men observe.”

“Of course,” Klein replied with an insincere smile. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

* * * Two Weeks Later * * *

“Good luck,” Isadora said, and hugged Brad goodbye. “Next time. We meet. You’ll be. A hot guy!”

“My turn next,” Alex said, and put out his hand to shake. “You better not. Have any. Complications. That make them. Delay fixing. Me.”

“See you soon.” Brad turned and followed Ms. Wellman, the black-haired woman who’d been with Dr. Klein during the rescue, out of the safe house to the car. They’d go to the agency’s secret clinic, where Brad would be injected with a tailor-made nanotech drug that would give him a unique body designed to his specifications — not a copy of someone else’s, like Dr. Carson’s stolen and modified supply of the drug that had given Dr. Klein her ideal body. He’d spend the night in the clinic, getting IV fluids and nutrition to fuel the transformation. If all went well, he’d return to the safehouse, male again, sometime tomorrow.

They spent most of the morning running him through a battery of tests, but by this point that was almost normal for him. In the last two weeks he had been poked, prodded and examined enough to last him a lifetime. They had confirmed that he was indeed an apparently healthy woman in her early to mid twenties. His girl parts all seemed to be fully functional to the point where they had provided him with a pack of tampons. He sincerely hoped that today went well and he never had to use them. His brain scans had caused the biggest stir among Dr. Klein’s team. Apparently the way Carlson had used the drug to block some areas of his brain was revolutionary. Brad was likely to become a minor celebrity in neurology circles if his story was ever declassified. More importantly for him, they seemed more optimistic than ever that they would one day be able to restore his memory. Eventually Klein declared it was safe to proceed. “I’ve made this as safe as I can, but there are still risks,” she told him. “Last chance to back out...”

“Do. It,” Brad said. The nurse swabbed his arm and started an IV. Within half an hour, he had gotten the transformation drug and they’d switched to IV nutrition.

Brad felt the familiar warmth spreading through his body. His skin tingled as the changes began. He groaned as bones creaked, stretching and growing. “It’s working,” he said, thrilled by the idea of becoming a man again. “I can feel my body changing.”

Despite the IV nutrition, they had him eat and drink as much as he felt hungry for, which was a fair amount. The mass for his slightly larger body had to come from somewhere. He ate a big meal every two or three hours, and snacked on protein drinks between them. This transformation was slower than the last one, perhaps because Dr. Klein and her staff were taking better precautions. Or perhaps it only seemed slower because now he could look at a clock, and there wasn’t a clock in the room when he transformed last time... and, too, he’d been unconscious through the early part of the changes.

The first noticeable change was his skin tone. It darkened steadily, the freckles vanishing under a deep and even tan. His hair was already short; he’d had it cut as soon as he and Alex had figured out a way to ask for it without the filter kicking in. Even so, it was a huge relief for him to see it shifting to the sandy brown he had chosen.

His breasts had already shrunk a little by the time his hair started growing out in brown, but they didn’t atrophy away to nothing until near the end, many hours later — well after he’d grown hair on his chest, which felt weird with small breasts. It was two or three hours before his clitoris grew enough to be visible when he peeked (much too frequently) under the hospital gown. By then, his hips were noticeably narrower and his shoulders already broader.

As the change neared completion, he rapidly bulked up, adding muscle mass as fast as he could shovel down the protein drinks they gave him. He was grateful he had listened to Dr. Klein’s advice and not opted for a bodybuilder physique. It was enough work adding enough mass to be lean and athletic, and if he really wanted those kind of muscles, he could always get them the old fashioned way. As it was, the the hospital gown that had been loose and long on him when they started was now tight across his shoulders and almost indecently short.

He was getting more and more tired as the transformation proceeded. When it finally finished, he was too tired to get up and look at himself in the mirror; he sank into an exhausted sleep.

He had no way of telling how long he was out for, but when he came round he could see morning light slanting through the clinic windows. He was still hooked up to an IV and a bunch of monitors. He felt like he had combined running a marathon with a three day bender, but it was all worth it to look down and see a familiar bulge under the sheets. Damn, he thought to himself, I never thought I’d be so glad to have morning wood. He had mostly tried to ignore his female body, but on a few occasions, curiosity had gotten the better of him. He had tried experimenting, but his body’s responses had been too strange and wrong; he had just ended up frustrated and sickened with himself. It was an enormous relief to have a body that reacted in ways he understood.

Alex went through the procedure a few days later, and neither had any serious complications. They remained in the safehouse for a couple more months, though, with frequent clinic visits, until Dr. Klein and her team made a breakthrough on removing the filter.

It wasn’t an instant fix; there was a lot of hard work and intensive therapy before they were able to fully shake off the compulsion to talk and act like ditzy bimbos, but they kept at it until they were finally free of the programming. Their memories returned more slowly and it seemed likely they would always have significant gaps.

Brad remembered that he grew up in Nashville, and that he had two brothers. Their names and faces didn’t come back, though. Nor did Brad’s original name. After they’d made good enough progress with the speech therapy, the Agency enrolled them at a community college a few miles from the safe house. That helped fill in the gaps in their knowledge and skills, but nothing could replace their personal memories.

Isadora had the least success recovering her memory, and declined to become a man, explaining that she was happy as a woman. Even more surprisingly, she soon started dating the FBI observer assigned to the project (who turned out to be a pretty decent guy). Accepting that they could never return to their old lives, they set out to build new ones for themselves.

Then, one day in Brad’s third year of college, after he’d been living on his own away from the safehouse for over a year, he got a call from the FBI. “We think we’ve figured out who you were,” they said.

Brad met with Kyle, the agent who had been assigned to work with them at the lab. “I wanted to show you this in person,” he said, pulling out a manila folder. “As you know, we took your original prints from the room you we held in at Carlson’s lab but we didn’t get any matches. Until now...” He laid out a series of photographs, crime scene photographs. “We took these from a cold case,” he explained. “A drug lab in Nashville. Local PD raided it a little over a year ago, things went south and none of the perps made it out. At least that’s what we thought; turns out there was one more person present and his prints are a match for yours...”

Brad was stunned. Apparently he’d been a criminal, a drug dealer or working for one. Did he want to know more about who he used to be? Maybe find out who his brothers were, and his parents if they were still alive, and reconnect with them — if they weren’t worthless criminal scum like he apparently used to be, if they were willing to forgive him for getting his life in such a mess.... Or should he tell Kyle not to tell him any more, put all that behind him and continue reinventing himself as Brad? “Don’t tell me any more just yet,” he said. “Let me think.”

“Take your time,” Kyle said.

Brad thought about it for several minutes, and then he decided.

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