User:Hawl/Nearing The End Of Our RIDE

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FreeRIDErs story universe

Together We RIDE Part 5:Nearing The End Of Our RIDE.

Author: Jessica K. Nichols-Vernon aka Hawl Tygarus Enroygall

-ACE Evolutions, Supernova, June 23rd-

It had been nineteen days since the the big incident. Paula Reverbek had been back to work for five of them, now working alongside Gabrielle exclusively. Gabrielle was free to go, but refused to vacate the factory until she found the Hyena RIDE of hers that she, he at the time, came here with. The Marshalls called it stockholm, Gabrielle was ashamed to admit to herself that was an accusation that may hold some water given how many times she tried leaving ACE Evolutions without her precious pet hyena when people still made a large effort to prevent her escape. Gabrielle was her usual grumpy self, but Paula seemed much more joyful than when she first came, having stood up to Aristo and playing various VR Games with Gabrielle gave her more of a pep in her step. The two were presently working on the DE of a female rat, one that Shyver insisted they work on for a special client. It was one very similar to Casey’s DE, but far more sturdy and with a rare mod that increased synchronicity with a rider with Earth Based Brain Implants. The DE didn’t take long at all to finish. Gabrielle had known Casey inside and out as such even without help she could take her apart and put her back together in her sleep.

Shyver grinned, having watched over the whole thing. “Perfect. Now, I bet you’re all dying to know who the mystery client is? Well... I’m delighted to announce...” He was saying with his eyes closed and summoning all the bravado of an orchestra conductor.

“Save the theatrics you obese ignoramus.” Gabrielle sighed, walking away from the finished product while shaking her head. “I built this thing because you paid me too, I already know you intended it for me. Know that I will not be taking it.”

“Finding Zedimuse is going to take some time Ms. Locke....” Shyver reminded with a frown. “Fusing with Casey with this as her DE is the most humane option I can think of for you. Your brain shape will turn to a female’s! Don’t you want to be free of constant depression?”

“....” Gabrielle looked back at Shyver with a tense and insulting look on her and Casey’s face. “I will not settle for salvation in womanhood. I’d rather suffer agony while holding out for maleness, than give you the sick pleasure! Even if it kills me.”

Paula cheered Gabrielle on, understanding where she was coming from. Afterall, Paula had once worked in a RIDE Garage where any male could have cured her of the dysphoria she used to have without changing her sex to the one she always wanted. “You go guy! Hold out for your true self, don’t worry, I know exactly what’s happening in your head right now. It’s okay, it’s not a bad thing to have a little pride.”

Gabrielle snapped at Paula. “Nobody knows the pain inside of my heart. Don’t mistake this miscarriage of justice and whirlwind of incompetence for a free ticket to your own ego trip.”

“We could fit you with a male RIDE.....” Shyver advised again for the umpteenth time. The worry he had for Gabrielle read on every millimeter of flesh on his face.

“I am holding out for Zedimuse thank you.” Gabrielle said folding her arms before dropping them to wander off. “I’m going into Virtual..... most of our orders have been canceled anyway.”

“I.. think I’ll join you.” Paula said, bored and needing something to do. People just weren’t ordering ACE RIDEs now that the cat was out of the bag about Aristo’s morality being just as rotten as the few tabloids he hadn’t gotten around to suing into oblivion made him out to be.

“Al... alright.. But.. reconsider please.” Shyver shouted after with a sigh. How could he undo the things Aristo did wrong if people weren’t going to let him? No company stockholders wanted to meet with him, no contractors wanted to order from him, and Gabrielle would rather stew in her own pain than to allow him to take any weight off of her shoulders.

In the virtual world that Paula and Gabrielle retreated too, one that looked like a library with games instead of books, while their RIDEs took them to their room. Gabrielle had been looking over the collection of games. Aristo left her with only Transformice and The Portal Collection:Blue And Orange Box when she gave her Casey, but the Marshalls gave her the hook-up.. The dysphoric one decided to go for the latter of Aristo’s titled. She still felt trapped even without Aristo, and decided it was worth a dustoff to work out these feelings. Once she took it from the shelf Gabrielle and Paula both were transported into the laboratories of Aperture Science wearing Chell outfits and taking on her sex in their avatars, or atleast Gabrielle did from her genderless skeletal avatar to a female anthropomorphic rat. Paula had Portal 1’s jumpsuit and Gabrielle had Portal 2’s. “....Ahh... Sterile Labs, Impossible Tech, and Women Everywhere. Not that different from where we came is it?” asked Gabrielle.

“Where are we?” Paula asked, looking around a waiting room that was all white, had a bed, a cyberpunk radio, and no way out.

“Aperture Science” Gabrielle responded. “It’s a place Aristo used to send me too all the time, I...” The she-rat tripped over her words not wanting to admit why she came here. Not wanting to entertain that her hypothesis could be true. Look nevermind the relevance.... Just follow me through this maze.”

“Where? I don’t see anyway out and I don’t even have decorative wings in this ava....” Paula was about to say, but had been cut off by a robotic female voice before finishing.

“Welcome to the Enrichment Center, Test Subject:Paula Reverbek and Returning Subject:Gabrielle Locke are here to go through a series of tests involving Science aided by the wonder of Portals. An Aperture Science exit portal will be opening shortly. The portal is completely safe, absolutely none of the people who had their lungs disintegrated in alpha testing have spoken a word otherwise.” Spoke a calm and definitely female mechanical voice as a portal opened in front of the two women showing the outside of the enclosed box area they were in, literally seeing themselves in the corners of the box through the portal. Gabrielle stepped through first.

Paula was still shaky, not liking that lung comment after playing many games with pain receptors on, as most of Gabe’s games were. “..Is... is it safe?” Gabrielle pulled on her arm dragging her through the portal not feeling like explaining GlaDOS to her. “OOOoooh.. okay that was very tingly...”

“Test Subject Reverbek you will go through the door on the left to get past the beginning tutorials. Keep calm, there’s no pressure if you fail. If you do so you will merely be rejoining your testing partner when we will inevitably send her upon getting an unsatisfactory mark on her record and you can discuss how you both got such low scores together.” The voice of GladDOS mentioned, adding on only after Paula stepped through the circular door that the computer opened the following. “Unsatisfactory marks may be received in this room by falling in the open section in the middle part of the floor dividing the room in half. Down which you will be met with boiling acid which has been believed to be linked towards melting down to mere bones. Being melted bones is not reccomended as it makes it rather in difficult to enjoy the end of testing cake.”

“Eeep...” Paula said, looking down at the mentioned pit. It didn’t seem like she could make it across by jumping, but there was another portal on the other side of the room. “That’s... that, but that kills people. Who cares about cake if you’re dead!?!” GlaDOS remained silent despite the protests.

It didn’t take long for Paula to realize that in the middle of the floor of the half of the room she came in the was a portal to the otherside. Various rooms were like this, something very deadly threatened her, GlaDOS showed little concern, and portals were spread about for her to use. Meanwhile Gabrielle had found a room that was literally impossible with only one person and stayed there for about fifteen minutes. “Oh come on Ms. Locke, you almost had it that time. Why don’t you get your RIDE Friend to help you? Oh that’s right, she doesn’t like you. You see, this may be hard for your puny rat brain to understand so listen up. People who like each other tend not to give them severe forms of depression. That’s why you’ll die in here. Alone, do you think she’ll even let you out of the simulation? Honestly it’s a win-win, thumbs for her and you aren’t troubling her life, or Kayla’s for that matter, your other friend who doesn’t like you.” GlaDOS taunted watching Gabrielle get the solution wrong time and time again. “Oh, and don’t wait for Paula to catch up. She isn’t coming to help you either, the poor girl thought about it, but then she realized the cake at the end of the tutorial was too good for you, so we decided to throw a party without you.”

Gabrielle grunted in disgust. “The glory of AI.... You always did know what to say, even before you were able to select it.”

“Yes, your friend Zedimuse said the same thing when we were discussing just how laughably childish the Oil Age was. Did I mention he’s in here too? He ran off the hide with Aristo because of how much cooler he is than you, his accent is less phoney. That’s what he told me, I have not met Aristo, but I’ve ran the data and it’s statistically impossible to have a lamer accent than you.”

What she needed to do was to hold onto a button in a glass portal proof section of the room to activate a hover bridge over more acid and towards a door that was only open at the same time as the Hoverbridge was lit. Once the button was let go the door closed immediately. The only solution Gabe could find way holding the door open, while someone else put a portal at the begining and another on the inside of the door, but there was no way for her to make either shot. Gabrielle ignored GlaDOS and tried one more solution, shooting a portal on the floor of the room sealed in portal proof glass and find something to put a portal on she could carry across the bridge while holding the button. However after searching the room she found no such tile and went back to the bridge control button. “There has to be something I’m missing...” she said to herself.

“You have three minutes until I flood the room with Deadly Neurotoxin as part of you terms of surrender.” GlaDOS warned, though her tone seemed to imply she was doing Gabe a favor. “It’s the most meaningful “You Did Your Best” prize I could think of.”

“Kill me now... I.. I can’t do this...” Gabrielle said, having exhausted every possibility, and this wasn’t even his first attempt at this map. “I can’t do this alone...”

“That’s a shame, you know.. There truly was something good for you on the other side of this door. Oh well, I’ll start the second series of tests then.” GlaDOS said calmly. “The survivability of a rat under conditions of heavy neurotoxin and that’s not even the most fun part. No the most part is a part of Aristo’s tampering that went unnoticed for a long time.”

Gabrielle felt herself getting suddenly very weak, and not just in the simulation, she felt her entire real body trying to shut down on her. “What... No.. No you have to be joking. This is just a game GlaDOS, your AI should know that! Cease... cough.. cough.. Cease whatever you are doing.” the she-rat began falling over, actually choking to death as she continued hacking. ::Casey, De-Fuse immediately.::

The panicked voice of Casey called back to her operator. ::The Defusion Sequence is password locked now! It says it won’t unlock unless it’s given the right password or after five minutes.::

How am I holding up?:: Gabrielle sent, wondering if she could outlive the timer if she tried hard enough to hang on she kept herself hugging the button’s pedestal, trying to press it to see if she could air the toxin out. ::How is virtual neurotoxin effecting me... li.. like this... I feel like I’m about to pass out...::
You already have! I’m registering a complete organ failure, the only reason you’re even still alive is because of your implants, you’re running on only the brain power they provide.... The rest of you is basically dead. I can try to revive you, but you’ll need to get away from the toxin:: Casey pleaded. ::Otherwise you’re going to die...: As it stands you’re practically a ghost right now.:
Head... fuzzy... didn’t quite... catch...:: Gabrielle said, her braindead state catching up to her. ::...Icecream... Chocolate, Strawberry, Mint Chocolate Chip, Fudge Ripple, Banana Mondae, Vanilla, Icecream...::
Life signs failing. Thirty seconds of life left. Lungs beginning to rot out, complete bladder failure, heartbeat barely present. Four minutes and thirty seconds till defusion... Gabrielle ANY plans?:: Casey pleaded.
I love you Mommy:: Gabrielle babbled mentally, forgetting how to talk entirely, starring forward at the map, unable to comprehend much of anything. Something did spark though when the other Chell fell through a portal that opened on the ceiling. ::..Mommy says... Paula... Button...:: she thoughtspoke, pressing down on the button breaking her associate’s acid bath fall with a hoverbridge.

“Thanks Gabe, here let me shoot some portals for you...” Paula called up to her, blasting her Blue Portal from a portal gun she aqquired in the tutorial at door’s inside and a Purple One at the start of the bridge. “Cough..cough... Awfully cloudy in here.” Paula commented as she ran across the bridge the second she passed through the door the neurotoxin dispersed.

“What? That was not supposed to happen! A glitch in my software.... The neurotoxin can only be deployed on this map if a loss is registered. Well, that is very disappointing.” GlaDOS said with obvious annoyance in her voice about the situation.

“Guhh...” Gabrielle said, the damages to her body reversing themselves somewhat with the toxin gone and Casey able to perform medical work. Though she was still in really bad shape. Luckily the brain was saved, having been moreso disabled than killed. If it had been the she-rat would have been completely dead. ::Casey status report.:: Gabrielle ordered as she used Reverbek’s portal, collapsing on her in the hallway to the next elevator not able to move well.

Well, it seems Aristo put a kill code in me, whenever you were exposed to GlaDOS’ Toxin in this game my nanites went crazy and started giving you the worst body you could have. You should really see how much this aged you... Except for your brain, your body is 220 years old!:: Casey said frantically. ::Oh God Gabrielle, I thought your dysphoria was the worst thing I could do to you. Your brain didn’t get damaged too much, moreso just shutdown than anything else, but too much longer and I would have started rotting it out.::
LET ME OUT IMMEDIATELY! I still can’t breathe...:: Gabrielle sent, gasping for air that wasn’t coming. ::I can breathe but, it’s not really breathing Your kill code must still be on me..::

Paula just held Gabrielle and walked towards the next stage elevator with her in tow, not knowing what was going on at all. “It’s just a game Gabe, let’s keep moving.. We’re almost at the end.”

“Not a game......” Gabrielle said while wheezing, nearly falling over. “Body failing...”

Actually, I can’t let you out. Your lungs have completely rotted away as a side-effect and my nanites are still wonky from the attack. I can’t let you out or I won’t be able to use myself as your iron lung.:: Casey informed, worried.
Then make me some new ones!:: Gabrielle demanded as she struggled to breathe.
I’m worried if I try to heal you too much you’ll just start dying again.:: Casey sent, exploring her options as she checked over all of her systems. ::Okay I got an idea..... I’m very sorry for having to do this..... but.. I’m going to need to remove your brain.::

Paula couldn’t hear what Casey and Gabrielle were saying to each other, but that was enough to bring up Gabrielle’s condition on a floating screen telling her what went wrong. ::SHYVER! Gabe’s been hurt! Bring a Brain Box as fast as you can!:: she screamed seeing the charts and realizing that her friend was dying. ::Casey... you have to remove Gabrielle’s brain... have you seen wha..::

I know Paula.. I’m running up to Cell 22 to see if he’s still there.:: Casey replied with dying old woman in tow.


Minutes later Shyver was in the main lobby of the Factory Proper, not the check-in counter where Cindi used to work before resigning, but the entrance of ACE itself where last minute surgery had to be done to save Gabrielle’s brain. The best Shyver could do on such short notice was put his brain in a Head In The Jar Old Sci-Fi Style Life Support System for his cranium’s contents hooked up to speakers, a small camera, and a television screen. “...Gabrielle? Are you okay? It’s been awhile since I had to do this, but please.. speak to me so I know I’ve got everything hooked up right.” Shyver pleaded. “Last time I had to do this it was for Aristo’s various transplants with his robot bodies on Earth, so sorry if I’m rusty.”

“Well... at least I am as of this moment without Body Dysphoria. I dare say that as it stands I have no body to begin with. Bit of a step up really. I actually find this to a degree pleasant. Floating carefree inside a jar of Life Supporting Fluid.” Gabrielle’s brain said through the speakers. “And there’s a moniter for Memory Sharing... Wonderful, that saves time on explanations.” it said as it projected the neurotoxin incident onto the monitor for all to see. “Why was this, one of the later rooms locked with a death trap?”

“...Aristo’s a slippery fish.. but.. he wouldn’t kill you without a reason Gabe.” Shyver said, looking at the disembodied organ and shaking his head at the memories it brought.

“Precisely, I want to be hooked up to the ACE Evolution servers to continue where I left off. I’ve got to find out what the hell was behind that door. It’s just like Aristo to put something useful behind a door that no one can open without dying.” Gabrielle, though Gabriel seemed more appropriate as he was a male brain. “Without a body he shouldn’t be able to hurt me.”

“That’s a negative Locke, he still is.” Shyver wasn’t sure which pronoun to use. “I’m afraid you have various irregularities and cancers that Casey missed when she did your health scan. Caused by the Neurotoxin. I’m afraid you’re dying.”

“Well that’s no surprise. I do not have the ability to be a representative even a fraction of the man I used to be.” Gabriel joked, taking the new rather well. “How long do I have to take Aristo down with me? I’ll... I’ll... think him to death if I have too!”

“Five hours.” Shyver admitted, looking at the brain with much depression before turning over to the fabber for some alcohol. He had roughed people up before, but killed them? Okay so he didn’t kill Gabriel, but Aristo did and with Shyver’s devout loyalty it made him feel like he had a great deal responsible. “I’m so so sorry.”

Gabriel sat there thinking and Shyver drank, submitting to the truth that he could not do anything meaningful in five hours. This was truly the last straw, Gabriel could no longer cower and pretend to be brave, he needed to think of something. All he could do though is imagine Aristo being raped by an army of anatomically correct Male PSAs. He didn’t even have a body anymore and in five hours he wouldn’t be alive. An hour of Gabriel’s time had passed with Casey, Ruby, and Paula staying by his side until the moment of truth. An hour had passed of Paula giving her eulogy and Casey too afraid to say anything when the brain got an idea, an idea that could save his life, but at a cost. “Wait a second.....” Gabriel said aloud from his speakers. “Are there any nanites programmed to do a complete override of the human greymatter’s configuration? Any at all?”

Ruby piped up. “Well, the brain’s not a place people like to screw with. The only safe thing we found to do to change the brain was making it compatible with alternative body types, minor personality changes, and help lessen mental conditions. Beyond that it’s too easy to screw up.”

“....Is there a chance that will heal me?” Gabrielle asked, considering an idea that he would only attempt if he was on death’s door. Which right now, he was. “Like... nano has a rejuvenating side effect usually, but... Do you think it would? If I...”

“It’s worth a shot actually.” Paula said scratching under her own chin. “I mean... the worst thing that’ll happen is....”

“Is that I’ll have a chick brain for the rest of my life... but if the remainder of the duration of my existence is only going to be four hours, then what in the name of Zeus’ ballsack are we waiting for?” Gabriel asked. “I’ll need a body so that I can fuse.. but we don’t have time to make a clone one. So... we’ll just have to message Shyver and.. I’ll have to use your body Paula.”

“WHAT?!?!?!” Paula gasped taking a few steps back. “No way in hell!”

“You are already a woman, the mental crossover wouldn’t damage your body. It will take 2 hours and 10 minutes to complete this process. Do you want to argue or do you want to let me borrow your body for a few minutes? Please I have all the time in the galaxy, two hours before this becomes impossible.” Gabriel chastised Paula, he’d probably have slapped her if he had hands.

“Fine.” Paula admitted defeat. The poor girl wasn’t willing to be a brain in a jar, but she was even less ready to have blood on her wings. ::Shyver, Gabriel has an idea... bring another brain jar and some anti-organ rejection nanites...::

Ooooookay....:: Shyver responded confused, but ran down to the lobby to perform the operation. ::Alright, but if you’re trying what I think you’re trying then I have to let you know up front. There’s a very real chance that both of you will die...::
Yeah, but I’d die trying to save someone.:: Paula admitted as she smiled at Ruby. ::Wouldn’t be the first time.:: In reference to her crossover, to the day she pushed “Paul” into the crusher instead of Ruby.

It was dangerous and tensions were high, the lobby wasn’t the most sterile environment, but time was of the essence. With ACE Evolution circling the drain, what was a little brain surgery in the entrance area? Both Paula and Gabriel were out for a long time. Luckily though the operation was successful in the end with Gabrielle about to fuse with Ruby as Shyver put the finishing touches on Paula’s life support system.

“This is weird.” commented the brain of Paula Reverbek. “Not only am I looking at myself through a camera, but it’s not even me.” “I can see how that would be most disorientating.” Gabrielle in Paula’s body said in Paula’s voice as she looked it over, trying to get used to the winghands. “After a couple of hours I missed oxygen and legs. Good to be at the wheel of a body again. Even if it’s not my cup of tea.”

“Hurry up and fuse! If you die in my body I’m going to be stuck in this vat for days!” Paula warned, anxious to get back to having hers back. It was very confusing and disorientating being a being that couldn’t do anything except for think. It felt like being awake and in a coma at the same time, like being in VR and RL at the same time. Outside of the camera and speakers all she could do was roam her own mental landscape.

“I’m not ready to be a real woman...” Gabrielle sighed, looking Paula’s body over. “I don’t think I’ll ever be, but I’m not ready to die and you aren’t ready to live in a picklejar either. So... let’s go Ruby.

“Alright then hon, but I’m gonna warn you, I ain't never dun this before. So don’t go blaming me if you croak.” Ruby cautioned, if it was possible for a lump to form in her mechanical throat, one would have formed so large that it would have suffocated her.

“If you don’t hurry up and fuse with me you worthless machine you’ll be the only one TO blame for me croaking!” Gabrielle warned, Ruby was taken aback to being talked to like this in Paula’s voice whilst her face was giving such a nasty scowl, but realized that Gabe did have a point and quickly fused.

Because the body was already female the brain took no time at all to cross-over. Every second until it was done Gabrielle grunting in pain and fear, remembering all the refusals she had made over the years to joining the fairer sex and now she was doing. When it finished on the face of the fuser there was the first smile Gabrielle had had in years. Immediately when it was done she walked around the room getting a feel for the body and this strange new sensation that washed over her. “Interesting, I feel... pretty good actually. Like, this could actually be my body.”

“You should feel good.” Ruby spoke through Paula’s body’s mouth. “I just saved your life.”

“Congrats, but it’s not yours, it’s mine! You don’t know what I had to go through to get that body!” Paula’s brain shrieked.

“Actually your memories are recorded on here so I kind of do... and wow.... Simone was HANDSOME as a guy!” Gabrielle cheered giddily. “I mean that’s a bloke I wouldn’t kick out of bed for eating crepes.. I wonder if her brother will ever come to Zharus....” it took a minute for the newly made true woman to register what she just said. “....YOU HEARD NOTHING!”

It was too late, everyone in the room was already laughing at this comment. Until Shyver patted his patient on the back. “Don’t worry... it’s not you... New brains aren’t easy to get used too.” “Yes... yes....” Gabrielle was actually blushing under the fuser purely out of embarrassment, she had been a lesbian for so long that this just seemed strangely out of character for herself and yet, she didn’t feel like apologizing. “Well this is a temporary measure I assure you. After a few weeks I’ll be moving to a new body and then it’s only a few more gender dysphoria free years until I can be a man again.”

“A few weeks?” Paula screamed nearly busting the speakers. “No I want my flesh and blood now!”

“Yeah I decided it wasn’t best to tell you. Your body just had serious surgery and will be undergoing recovery time. No one is getting in or out of it until your body has made the actual repairs itself.” Gabrielle noted, looking down at Paula feeling a sense of victory over her. “I was worried you wouldn’t agree if you knew. Survival of the fittest you see, Earthers, Prisoners, and Marshalls, we all require it..”

“How very Enroygalleon of you...” Paula said, her mind had sent the signal to fold her arms and pout, but of course that was never received.

“Yes, well, death before dishonor doesn’t always apply.” Gabrielle stated brushing Paula’s comments aside. “Not when the dishonor of dying before Aristo was the dishonor. So I’m going back to Portal to find out what that self-glorifying little gold-plated child is hiding.”

“Alone? So you can wreck another body? Hell no!” Paula screeched. “Where two parts of me go, the rest goes.”

“Alright... but before we go....” Gabrielle turned to Shyver to make one last request. “I’m getting to the bottom of this. Take Casey’s RI Core. it’s male and I won’t be using her for awhile. Just leave him in my room. I won’t be fusing with him for awhile so no reason to keep him in a female DE.

Shyver nodded, he was afraid to say anything, both for Aristo’s sake and Gabrielle’s so he just went to the request as both Paula and Gabrielle returned to the map they cleared. Right after Gabe linked Paula’s life support to Ruby. ____________________________________________________________________________

The duo found themselves back in their previous bodies that last time they were here and in the same hallway. This time greeted by GlaDOS. “I’m surprised to see you still alive Gabrielle let alone smiling as if you had something to be happy about. The neurotoxin did more damage on you than I thought. As for you Reverbek, you might want to turn around. You have decent brains, but that’s about it. Hehehe”

“Cut the theatrics, you said Aristo’s got something big behind the impossible test we just passed.” Gabrielle barked. “Take me straight to it GlaDOS. Different RIDE, no hacking restrictions.”

“I’m an experimental RI, well not an RI, something else entirely, but I’m way way way in the Alpha Stages and very stolen. So you twit. If you kill me I’ll just respawn. If I let you through, I’ll get deleted. So really there’s no motivation.” GlaDOS taunted. “Besides I just don’t like you. All you are is a rat in a cage and inspite of this you are enraged, allowing you to think you have some right to bark orders at me. I’m hurt really, what about the good times we shared? Like when I destroyed your body with neurotoxin.”

Gabrielle yawned and shot a portal on the wall. “Change portal destination to GlaDOS Room, spawn item rocket.” With these simple commands ushered by Gabrielle doing some simple hacks with Ruby’s assistance a rocket was used to knock GlaDOS’ core out of her body.

“What are you doing? I will not tolerate cheating in my enrichment center and after all I did for you too. If it wasn’t for me you’d still have a male brain in a female shell” GlaDOS’ core pleaded with the rodent. “You think you’re clever, but you’re just being rude. Now you come in here and reattach me to my body and we’ll forgot this whole thing ever happened.”

Gabrielle ignored GlaDOS entirely and just kept manipulating the program. “Summon Non-Player Character Wheatly Core.” she smiled, throwing him onto GlaDOS’ body.

“What in the world mate? What in blazes happened here? One minute I’m at the beginning of the game waking people up and what not.. and now I’m... WOW! I’m in her spot! Oh ho ho, this is fantastic.” Wheatly said after Gabrielle’s perfect toss.

“Wheatly, intruders are heading into Aristo’s secret hidden thing of utmost important which requires ultimate discrepancy and privacy . Shut down all elevators posthaste!” Gabrielle called out to him.

“Isn’t that the oppisite of what...” Paula was saying until Gabrielle covered her mouth with her paw.

“Oh.. you mean St. Cloud Well we can’t have that now can we?” Wheatly asked as he began playing with GlaDOS’ powers. Resulting in him, opening up all the elevators instantly. “Okay I think that should do it.”

“All Elevators Unlocked, Testing Disabled.” Announced a generic intercom voice.

“Okay, yeah I definitely think that worked. We may want to fix the intercom though.” Wheatly observed. “That’s the opposite of what I did.”

“...I hate you!” GlaDOS’ core said before groaning as Gabrielle and Paula went up to the next final floor of the game.

“How did you know that would work?” Paula asked, perplexed at Gabrielle’s actions.

“There’s a reason why the Oil Age was awesome Reverbek. Keep it in mind and you’ll always have a plan B.” Gabrielle chuckled, anxious to see what Seahaven was. The elevator kept going upward and upward, up towards an incredibly bright light and when it stopped the two went in Portal at all, in fact this was a replica of an Earth city, and not just Earth City. The very one that Gabrielle, Aristo, and her old friend Kayla used to live in. St. Cloud, Minnesota. “Speak of the devil, it’s the planet our ancestors lived on during the Oil Age. Worse still, I used to live here, so did Aristo, and his sister, of course she was his brother back then.”

“Why does Aristo have a model of the city he used to live in? Also wait... wait.. your friend Kayla is Aristo’s sister?!?!” Paula asked in shocked. “Small universe!”

“Not really, it’s a long a complicated story. Karl was my best friend, we did everything together using the money she mooched from her evil brother. He was a horrible person back then too. The only reason I was kidnapped in the first place was to further their sibling rivalry.” Gabrielle sighed, taking in the sights. “Life was wonderful here. We stuck it to the man, fooled around in the nearby abandoned cities, and we wanted for nothing as we robbed Aristo to give to the poor.”

“That’s very noble of you.” Paula smiled, looking at Gabrielle, trying to imagine what she might have looked like as a man stealing money from a corrupt madman like Aristo. The young Paul of yesteryear could have used a man like that in her hometown of New New York.

“Well to be fair most of the time we spent it on drugs and new Virtual Life hardware for ourselves, but...” Gabrielle trailed off and laughed a little, he really wasn’t as saintly as she remembered himself being.

Paula sighed. “Figures, you do strike me as being all in for yourself, no offense.”

“They started it!” Gabrielle complained folding her arms across her chest in memory of the charity he had never given.

“Did they really?” Paula raised an eyebrow somewhat doubting the credibility of Ms. Locke’s story.

“In all probability, no they didn’t.” Gabrielle responded her mind wanted to shift past this. “...I hope they come to Zharus, I believe they’d find something truly marvelous up here. Maybe even see how enjoyable femininity can be.”

“Oooooookay then... are you sure your brain was fixed?” Paula asked, tilting her head at the rodent in sheer confusion.

“Positive! I just wish everything else could be.” Gabrielle sighed, each ounce of the city summoning forth ghosts of the past.

“Only two things ever went wrong.” Gabrielle didn’t say much else, just looked up at the blackened sky. Years of nuclear war and pollution took it’s toll. “Two things... Hmph, for most Earthers who leave for Zharus, it’s far more than two, but for me it was exactly two.” the she-rat said as she walked through the messy virtual city. “The first thing was the growing feud between Aristo and Karl. The Enroygalls were a very rich family ever since their great grandmother Seranima’s work on the Gender Nanites. The problem with people who are rich is that they tend to be very, very powerful and when men play with power. People die.”

“You, lost someone?” Paula inquired, catching on pretty quick it seems.

“My younger brother, all three of us stole from Aristo. Me, Karl, and Jonah. We thought we were doing the right thing. Stealing his cash, spending it on a few luxury items, high class cyber, various narcotics, and the rest we have to poor so they didn’t have to sell their bodies, so that they could eat, or just so that they could get off this rock. Even the slums of Mars were a significant improvement. Though everyone usually wanted to go to Zharus. The rumors of finding a better life far beyond anything that they could image were just too good to not be true for escapist minds. We had been planning on coming up here on vacation once Karl got his gender nanites, which Aristo rigged to not work. But...” Gabrielle walked up to a road full of traffic, not that far from a torn down old factory that once belonged to Aristo in the real world. The she-rat ignored the non-hovering Earth cars entirely, they were basic AI programmed to avoid her as she placed her paw on the ground. “...Aristo called the cops on us.... We don’t have Marshalls on Earth, we have cops... Pigs... The kind of men who see “To Serve And Protect”, as nothing more than a lie older than the horseless carriage.”

Paula put her arm on Gabrielle’s shoulder hoping that it would somehow lift her spirits. “They beat him up? And then, let me guess, he got life.”

“Death....” Gabrielle said, standing up slowly and began uttering a short prayer under her breathe for her dead brother before bursting forward into a rant. “..Machine guns.. I don’t care if Earth has a shitload of cyborgs over natural humans... there’s no reason for ANYONE to carry such weapons to take down UNARMED citizens... Maybe if it was like Zharus where we attach gatling guns to our shoulders and missile launchers to our hips while wearing our hardlight shielded, quantum powered, sunday best, maybe then it would be justified! This, thi... Just...” The she-rat’s emotions were getting the better of her. “NEVER NEVER against an unarmed civilian!.. But no, it wasn’t just a citizen... he was someone’s brother. EVERYDAY! It’s someone’s brother, sister, mother, father..... Well it wouldn’t be me. I wasn’t going to allow the sick pleasure of letting them take me as well!”

“Oh my god... I.. I’m so sorry!” Paula shrieked, putting a hand over her mouth before hugging Gabrielle. “I... Earth is a horrible place.. I know what you mean... If they think you did anything they don’t leave it alone ever.... I’m actually surprised the immigration board let you leave.”

“Humans are sinful creatures, so where better for us to have originated from than this hellhole?” Gabrielle began crying a little, falling to the ground to punch the road, the same road only virtual, where her brother was given more holes than swiss cheese. “We used the money for one way tickets instead... After that, I couldn’t bare to be on this rock anymore... Even now it disgusts me. If they had tried to get me to stay I’d pilot my own fucking ship and left a few capitals in even more ruins than they already appear to be!”

“We all would... If they asked me to go back, I..” Paula’s virtual body became cold with fear, ordinarily she would scream like she normally did, but she couldn’t find it in herself, not even with fear or misery as motivation to take the focus away from Gabrielle’s mourning. “I’d rather die...”

“Yes well. That leaves only one question...... No one in their right mind would want to come here. Hell you’ve had your share of misfortunes here too, you lived somewhere that was actually well populated, far worse if you ask me.” Gabrielle got up looking up at the blackened sky. “Why does Aristo want to go ba.... GAAAAH!” the question couldn’t even be finished before a few buildings were knocked down by a sudden and incredibly noticeable explosion that took out a few of the decrypted buildings, any of such that were around Aristo’s old company.

“MWhahahahaha this is exactly how it’s going to go down.” Yelled a female voice as the smoke cleared, black robots with a strange resemblance to Bomberman only covered in spikes and instead of the familiar pink ball hands there were rocket launchers. “Alright Bomber Battlers, I’m going to turn on the Earth Military... after we finish another test run of blowing this fucking place to Kingdom Come!”

“Who said that?” Paula asked, flying up to get a view past the robots.

“Well judging by the trajectory of the wind I’d say it’s... the only other person who would realistically be here as well as the same person who acts like a stereotypical supervillain wherever he goes.” Gabrielle commented sarcastically as she licked finger to put in the air for emphasis.

“Some tigress...” Paula noted, finally seeing Aristo’s avatar, feigning the appearance of an Integrate completely with blue tron lines though it became very obvious when she saw the tigress with a wine glass. “And a wine drinker, I doubt it’s Simone so....”

“It’s Aristo, for the love of God you thick thick girl, it’s Aristo.” Gabrielle said, her arms glowing as she ran.

“Gabrielle?” The tigress asked, stepped forward from the smog, able to hear the she-rat as she stepped forth from the rubble. “And an eye in the sky. How fascinating, I suspected that GlaDOS would have been your end.”

“I didn’t traverse countless lightyears to be killed by a fictional character written by some hack in the stupid ages as you called it!” Yelled Gabrielle at Aristo as she fired beams at the Bomber Battlers that went out in a wave like pattern slicing through the avatars of their simplistic AI.

“I take it you must be furious, but I’m afraid you have done exactly that! Once I activate the neurotoxins in your RIDE as GlaDOS failed to...” Aristo closed her eyes, only to be tackled by the enraged Gabrielle. “Gah..... Hey I can’t kill you if you’re distracting the mental portion of myself...” The avatar of Aristo smiled up at Gabrielle giving a teasing grope to her bosom.

“Let me save you the time... You wanted to demoralize me by taking away my masculinity, I don’t have any left. Now, do the math, why not?” Gabrielle riddled her captor whilst slapping her paw from her cleavage. There was one thing Locke was really good at that the Marshalls often had her take advantage of during interrogation. Her expert skills at giving the evil eye, several hardened criminals who would refuse to crack under normal torture would do so effortlessly under the legendarily. This was upon Aristo now.

Aristo didn’t seem to care and just responded back with a blank look and a light tapping on the rodent’s cheek. “Feel like a big woman?” Looking up at the rodent ontop of her. “I have mixed feelings about seeing you this way. I was hoping you’d survive because I like your style, at the same time I hate it when people outsmart me.”

“I feel like a woman who will have her hands around your neck once she finishes assessing your location.” Gabrielle said, implying her actions of attempting to hack Aristo to find the RIDE she or he was using it wasn’t really working though. Aristo Enroygall was a mad genius and thus Gabrielle was stressing, droplets of simulated sweat was coming from her brow as she failed to make the slightest dent in Aristo’s firewalls.

“Are you quite finished?” Aristo grinned evilly, her eyes glowing blue as they matched her opponent. “Connection established, and ah there we are. Debuffering worm uploaded. I can’t believe these spoiled sarium stragglers need their RIs to do their programming for them. Can you?” she gloated while giving Gabrielle a quick slap to the face.

Gabrielle got up, not feeling the completely digital slap. “What have you done to me this time.”

“Ruby does not contain the needed hardware to kill you unfortunately.” Aristo said with a bored hum. “I’m blocking off your access to this place. You’ve had a wonderful preview, but I’d hate to give away the whole show.”

Gabrielle lost the ability to speak and the world around her became blocky and pixelated, and since Paula was only here because her brain was connected to Ruby she had been experiencing much of the same and before the lovely ladies were zapped back into the real world. Back in the main lobby where employees, newscasters, and Marshall Investigators were watching them curiously. The brain attracted too much attention, Reluda had actually been called with a few other members of security detail to keep a crowd from forming. “Well, fascinating, Paula. I’m going to leave you with Ruby.” Gabrielle said as she de-fused. “I think I need to have a conversation with Shyver.” ______________________________________________________________________________ “SHYVER YOU BAFFOON!” Aristo yelled, his cybernetic eye turning red with his rage. “You jazzaphobe! You had to have helped Gabrielle, brains don’t turn female and crawl out of their skulls on their own.... Honestly I think if that was a regular everyday occurrence life would be far more complicated than it actually is... and a lot more fun. I mean what’s it like being a fat guy with a body that grew up on Titan?” Aristo became somewhat calmed as he began to imagine the possibilities of life as a wandering ball of grey matter trying to force itself into the skulls of every man, woman, the few hermaphrodites, and child. His eye even changed colors back to his emerald greens to reflect this. The easy distraction was only temporary, Shyver knew all too well how Aristo worked.

“Sir.... I didn’t know what to do. This was a very difficult situation and when you tell people not to look at the man behind the curtain, they just start staring RIGHT at him.” Shyver said, he was quite nervous afraid of how tense the situation was becoming. How it would end? Where it would? When? He awaited for Aristo to come close to answering. Though it was only a few seconds it felt like years. The only similar standstill of time he could recall was when he was a hostage back on Earth.

“Too true Shyver too true.” Aristo responded, his eye becoming a very light blue as he looked up to the transparent hardlight ceiling of his office. “I suppose there is truth in what you say Shyver... Locke and Reverbek have seen enough to know too much... I never expected that Gabe would actually make it through. It required her to use a RIDE that wasn’t Casey, and to have an accomplice. One that she liked enough to play video games with. It was merely a death trap, one that would get her eventually.”

“Well your mistake was actually putting your simulation in the program.” Shyver nodded, glad Aristo seemed reasonable for once in a little while.

“It was convenient... to check on my prototype and spy on Gabrielle at the same time. Besides, this map was only to open when I grew bored of her.” Aristo sighed, rolling around in his chair. “Well, certainly we need to think of something... uhh..”

“God is trying to tell you something Aristo, maybe you need to listen before his voice gets much louder.” Spoke Charles the Triceratops who was standing there the whole time.

“I thought I ordered you deactivated, mind-wiped, and put in storage.” Aristo got up, growling in the dinosaur’s face and holding his beak in his metal hand. “What are you even doing in here?”

“Sir, Charles is stationed here, I had only hid him temporarily so the marshals didn’t....” Shyver was saying until his boss got him off.

“Well they aren’t here now, just... find something for him to do.” Aristo rubbed his forehead with the flesh arm. “How does a soulless machine find solace in God anyway?”

“I’m a sentient Quantum Computer.. So there’s a soul if you think there is one.” Charles snipped cracking his beak into a forced smile. “But you really should be finding ways to make amends....”

“.....Shyver, send Ms. Locke and Ms. Reverbek home.” Aristo said, patting Charles on the head with his flesh arm while using the computers in his metal one to deactivate him. “They’ll likely die soon anyway.”

“...Die sir?” Shyver asked shocked.

“You know the Venars raid is coming, I can’t afford to take prisoners if I want to be taken seriously.” Aristo said breathing inward as he patted Shyver on the back. “What Lucille did to Simon was amazing, but, bros before hos right? Besides, I need to test to see if my weapons are sufficient to take Integrates by surprise. And it WILL be a surprise right buddy?”

Shyver nodded meekly and left. Paula Reverbek was told she could leave once she got her body back. Originally she wanted to keep being a brain a secret from everyone, but Paula’s dad found out. Paula herself actually broke her speakers from laughing at that conversation and no one knew about it for hours until Paula mentioned it to Gabrielle in a game of Doom. Though Paula’s mom was quite mad. The poor collection of grey matter had been VR flying for days and couldn’t wait to feel real wind beneath her wings she couldn’t differentiate between dreaming, being awake, and being in VR and was wondering why on Zharus it was taking so long to give her her body back. Suddenly though, she came to have one.

-Five Weeks Later- Paula had been sleeping when this happened, but one day she opened her eyes and took a wake up breathe. Two exciting things raced across her mind. “I have eyes... I HAVE LUNGS! I.. wow....” the young woman exclaimed and started feeling herself with her HANDS she had HANDS for the first time as Paula, yes feeling herself incidentally like he had been doing the first night she was Paula. Paula also realized that she had woken up in her bed instead of being on display in the lobby like a piece of abstract art. “What took so long?” she asked, looking over her teeth and noticing that she had human ears and no tail.

Gabrielle entered in in her own body, no a new duplicate of it, she didn’t have her tags. What the native american woman did have was a pink tanktop with blue shortpants. Paula was stunned by this. “Welcome to the beginning of the new morrow, for you anyway. I’m about to hit the hay.”

“It doesn’t take this long to print a body. Not to sound ungrateful for the one I’m wearing but...” Paula said not sure if she should let anger, curiosity, or shyness win over.

“Shyver’s been terribly busy and we wanted to see if my brain was fully healed whilst being most certain nothing was effecting your body.” Gabrielle informed, taking a seat on the opposite bed, looking up at the ceiling. “We’re also free to go... Oh and by the by, you forgot to mention you had a peanut allergy.”

“Yes, I do. A fatal one at that.” Paula chirped up. “Found out the hard way, it doesn’t take much to...”

“Put you into a very scarce allergen-induced comatose state as you slowly begin to expire? ” Gabrielle asked rhetorically. “Yes, your time of death was... it’s 21... now...... around fourteen thirty five. So, surprise this is a brand new body and it even has your birth mark on your stomach.”

“A body that’s never been male.... It’s like being natural born...” Paula exclaimed with a gasp. “I’m a natural born girl now!”

“..If you call cloning natural.” Gabrielle yawned. “Anyway Shyver removed your peanut allergy after I... died... again. I need to stop doing that. If you’re ready to go... it can wait till my nap is over.”

“Wait you’re coming with?” Paula tilted her head as Gabrielle slid under the covers, very sleepy from all this body swap haberdashery.

“Shyver insisted, besides. I’m beginning to think that he might not be here. Having your hormones and your cranium a perfect match can do wonders for your reasoning ability.” Gabrielle said as she laid back and tried to get to sleep. “If Shyver had him, don’t you think he’d give him over to keep the marshals out of his hair?” “Well yeah......” Paula said “Uhh where’s Ruby?”

“Mmm... Shyver wanted to make some minor adjustments.” Gabrielle said, tossing and turning. It was obvious that she had not gone to sleep herself in years and instead had just had Zedimuse or Casey do it for her ever since she had a RIDE. If that wasn’t obvious from her behavior as she just could not get still. “Paula... weird question but, how does one obtain a state of unconsciousness?”

“Are you serious?” Paula raised her eyebrow at her roommate as if she was insane. “You don’t know how to sleep?”

“I said it was a weird question, but sleeping in a RIDE is just too comfortable, I haven’t slept myself in ages and I’m exhausted.” Gabrielle was embarrassed to admit all of this but she still needed to know.

“Fab yourself some nyquil or something.” Paula shrugged.

“...I’m going to slap you..” Gabrielle said as she got up to take Paula’s advice, unsure why the idea never crossed her mind and sure enough she was out like a light within minutes. “Good night Reverbek...” _______________________The Next Day______________________________

Even with all the time that had gone past Simone wasn’t any closer to being sure if she should be a woman or go back to being a man nor had she heard from Shyver outside of virtual dates that she did not count. The good news was that today was THE day that Paula and Ruby would return to Venars and with her Gabrielle. The cross-rider woke up wearing Lucille as she normally did, skunkfur made the most wonderful blanket. “Good Morning Lucille, Can shrink my cupsize to B and my backside to something more realistic?” Simone asked. “It’s the big day and I need to make sure I’m clean. Easier to get clean if I’m not so big.”

Lucille yawned, booting up herself. Since she was being worn by Simone the two share memories and thus did not need for Simone to repeat herself while she was actually awake. “Paula’s coming back today isn’t she? I kind of like her, she’s innocent.” Lucille asked as she made the modifications that Simone had asked for.

“Her and Gabrielle, plus zeir RIDEs” Simone answered, stepping out of her skunk feeling a bit off without her exaggerated body parts. “Glad it iz just for le shower....” she said to herself, rubbing her bosom. It felt so tiny to her.

“Are you sure you’re thinking about your brain being put in that older male body of yours? You can’t even make it through breakfast without a frame like your usual.” Lucille asked teasingly, it seemed humorous to her. Her operator loved the body she had provided for her, so what was this honor and family stuff about it. Even looking over the memories she still couldn’t get it.

“You notice I’ve been putting it off....” Simone replied. “I’m still not sure I want too.. I mean.. I like being Simone, it’s just that I think I might be a better person as Simon.”

“Then wait the three years.” Lucille responded, laying back down to catch a few extra volts. “Just don’t give me to someone sucky.”

The two would be arriving around 11:00 for Brunch and currently it was 10:00, and the shower took fifteen minutes. Simone took great care to wash herself down to every last inch, she even emptied one of her fabbers trying to shampoo her tail. While in the shower she took another look at her body, specifically between her legs. Two sets of female genitals, a side effect of fusing with a PSA. Simone did have to admire the vagina, it was more fitting. Like, it wasn’t something growing out of the inbetween of her legs. It just seemed more functional and convenient than that other thing. That wasn’t the brain resculpt talking, just an unbiased opinion of anatomy. It was an observation though that did make the woman feel like a gender traitor, but smoothness and being able to sit down and wear pants much easier couldn’t be wrong. The reason she looked though was because she wanted to make this a good comparison point for what she is now and the memories that Paula gave her of when she was a victim of gender dysphoria under the name of Paul. Simone was still trying to see if she could really handle being an MTF Gender Dysphoric in exchange for being a man again early. Though this test turned out how it usually did. Simone would load up a first person perspective of 20 years old Paul in the shower looking between his legs and becoming terrified of what he saw, want to scream, and letting it get to the point where she had to switch off the memory to check to make sure she didn’t have that part. It made Simone feel like a disgrace to her brother, afraid of what she used to treasure. Euphoric for not being what she was once very proud to be. “Did Paula really go through zis?” Simone asked herself for the umpteenth time, it wasn’t possible for her to even think of her assistant as being male even in the past tense after the first time this happened.

After this failed test and a very thorough cleaning involving twice as many feminine hygine projects as a normal one would use. Simone grabbed a towel, one with eiffel tower printed on it. It was her favorite French Landmark, she never knew why, but she always found it a very inspiring structure. Of course she had only seen it in VR and History eBooks as it had been utterly melted along time ago in the Unification Wars of Earth. Once she had herself dried she had herself grown back to normal and her hair redone by Lucille. “One of zese days you should learn how to do your own hair.” Lucille said sleepily, but this time went for a stretch after fixing up her owner’s body. Opting to wake up instead. “So when do we eat?”

“Not until Paula, Ruby, Gabrielle, and Casey arrive” Simone answered, though her stomach rumbled. It would be impolite for her to eat before they did and that was not something she was going to be.

“Oh come on, your hunger levels read as famished when I redid your hair!” Lucille complained wanting the two to eat something, though mainly because the latter loved to taste things almost as much as she enjoyed other things she needed to be fused with Simone to do.

“Non Lucille, but you can help me kill time by decided what to wear. Formal or sexy?” Simone asked, holding up two outfits. One one piece and covered little outside of her butt crack and nipples, the other an old dress that belonged to her mother which somehow got accidentally packed with Simon’s things when he left for Zharus. ____________________________________________________________________________

Gabrielle and Paula were riding across the landmass Venars was located on, Laurasia. Happy to be free of Formerly Aristo’s Factory

Paula was fused grinning about the new nanites and hardlight projector she received from Shyver, the wings were on her back now, letting her free to use hands for anything. ::Okay Gabe, we’ve got 15 minutes until we’re actually supposed to be there, and Venars is…. thirty seconds away? Shoot, I thought it would be further.. Well ehere should we go now?::

Gabrielle was defused and on her hoverboard, Her back up RIDE’s skimmer form, (Gabe had not named her yet), smiling and breathing the fresh Zharusian air for the first time in several years. ::Why not stop by Venars early? We need our upgrades to still be exciting to ourselves when we show your boss.::

Aww, she’s going to be really amazed to see you not moping. I can’t even get used to it:: Paula grinned at Gabrielle and took off like a porcubat out of hell. ::Race you to the garage!::
Dirty pool batgirl, you have made no attempt to show me the location of Le Wrench Of Paris!:: Called out Gabrielle who then turned her attention to her RIDE while looking it up in her implants. ::Alright, let’s show Reverbek what we can really do.:: And with that the two zoomed straight towards Venars going faster than Racing Models, or at least they felt like they were.

The two landed in 10 seconds in front of Le Wrench Of Paris where Simone and Lucille were tidying up for company they weren’t expected for fifteen more minutes. The two stopped immediately upon what felt like a sonic boom to go outside to investigate only to be pleasantly surprised by Paula and Gabrielle. “Darlings! It’s so wonderful to see you again, it’s been half a month since I last visited Supernova. Oh and... look at you two, Paula you have hands again and … Gabrielle, you’re.. you’re dressed like a girl!” Simone said flabbergasted.

Gabrielle laughed, spinning around in a pink tank top and very short daisy dukes. “That’s because I am one.” she smiled at Simone. “I updated my brainshape to be ridden of that wretched dysphoria. At least that’s the short version of it and now I can’t believe how wonderful it feels to be alive...”

I’m not Casey by the way, I haven’t been named yet..:: Sent the hoverboard Gabrielle showed up on.

“So how do you like it now that you don’t have the dysphoria?” Simone asked, looking Gabrielle over, still unable to fathom the idea that the woman before her was actually smiling. Gabrielle Locke, Queen of the grumps, was here in Venars without her trademark scowl seeming completely comfortable in her own skin. It was unthinkable, like communicating with a sapient alien life form or finding a listenable episode of Metamor City.

“Still obtaining my legs for it, I made the replacement under extreme circumstances, but...” Gabrielle said, still astounded after a week that she can look at herself and actually feel, natural. “I don’t want to say this...” The rat rider stated, posing, mainly to look herself over more than for the benefit of anyone else. “But I ponder I’m actually enjoying this..... I really do wish to argue with myself, but it’s not happening... I’m not even wearing boxers for crying out loud!”

Paula smiled at her friend, happy that she was happy. “Also I have hands, but, I can see why that’s less interesting, still I CAN WORK WITHOUT SUCKING AGAIN!”

“Well it’s certainly nice to see you three again.” Simone smiled, welcoming her friends in being very overjoyed to see them away from that, that, Rainbow Factory. “Though might I ask vat it is zat happened to Casey?”

Gabrielle whistled once she saw how big the garage was, it doubled perfectly as a house and yet there was plenty of space for RIDEs. “Don’t worry, he’s with me, just deactived. So this is my new job huh? Not bad, not bad at all. Quite spacious, and you say I can live here?”

“Yes, I live nearby by the crops myself. Course my parents own it, but I’m not going back there.” Paula answered for Simone, smiling at the sight of her preferred place of employment. “I’m still unsure about facing my mom, especially when I drunk called her... of course that was months ago.”

“Yes, thank you, because it was you who I was talking too.” Gabrielle began getting The RI Core out and plugging it up to one of the computers in the garage. “Well anyway, Something’s funny about this core, and I need to find out what it is.” Simone seemed intrigued by this, it seems her new employee was excited about getting her hands dirty. “Though while this thing boots up, may I dare ask what is it that is being prepared for Brunch?” Gabrielle asked.

“A three course meal followed by dessert. I figured you four would want to unwind for a while before sitting down for food.” Simone answered, defusing with Lucille. “So I’ll go make it, and Lucille, you help Gabriel settle in.”

“Gotcha” Lucille did a bit of a goofy salute and ran off to aid her owner’s guest.

“I’ll come with.” Paula added as she and Ruby walked to the kitchen with Simone.

Simone’s kitchen was actually incredibly small, barely enough room for two people. Most of the time she ate out for this very reason, she actually knew how to cook very well, though rarely got the chance. She started gathering ingredients from her fridge, though to keep the dishes secret she instructed Paula not to look inside the kitchen merely to be outside of it. “So Paula, have you heard from Shyver lately?” Simone asked as she began the first course. “He never talks to me in person anymore and he’s started ignoring my virtual chats.”

“No, he seems more stressed than usual actually.” Paula replied, thinking about the last few times where he spoke to her. “He acts like he’s scared of me and Gabe, and keeps muttering about Aristo. No idea what he’s saying, but that’s not the name of a guy who passes out free candy.”

“Curious.” Simone said to herself, before asking another question to Paula. “He say anything about moi?”

“Not really.. he may have said your name once or twice” Paula admitted as she kicked the dirt wishing she could say something more positive. “But if he refuses to see you.... It’s his own fault...”

Paula and Simone thought about it for awhile without reaching any conclusions, but never getting bored with it either. Chatting it up until all three courses were finished. Mixing it up with talks of dates Simone and Shyver were on and Paula swooning over the idea of a relationship herself.

“We should set Gabrielle up with a date.” Paula suggested as she helped Simone bring out covered dishes each them the first course, the others still in the kitchen. “Help encourage the happy new her.’’

“Speaking of...” Simone said as she set the table for three, but technically six. While doing this she noticed Gabrielle walking up to the table looking furious “I was just about to call you... You seem upset, is something wrong?”

Gabrielle marched right up holding an RI Core, once again scowling like before her brain fix. “I found some tape on the core, guess what was under it.” The furious mechanic handed the core to Simone to take a look at. “I think you’re reaching the same conclusions I am.”

After a thorough examination Simone was shocked to discover this RI Core wasn’t a rat’s at all. The serial number clearly stated it was a prototype male hyena. “Let me guess, Zedimuse was a hyena prototype?”

“One of the first Hyenas ever made, I got him by volunteering in Project RIDE when I first landed on this planet. Aristo just erased his memory and made him think he was a female rat.” Gabrielle concluded. “I’ll need to find his body, but the only way to do that is to defragment the memory and see if we can get him to recall anything then I can bring my best friend back to life. Course I don’t know what I’m going to do with him now that I think about it.”

“Staying a mademoiselle?” Simone asked, raising an eyebrow. “What decided that?”

“It’s more convenient for the time being. Two women and one man under one roof? That’s asking for problems.” Gabrielle advised, recalling similar situations in the past. “For now, let’s have that first course.”

Simone nodded and lifted the covered dishes to reveal Bacon Omelets with a side of French Toast and Hashbrowns. The second course was a favorite of Simone’s, escargot. Paula wasn’t into that one much, but Gabrielle was begging for seconds which wound up just being what Paula refused to eat. The third was the most unusual, something Paula had never seen before and Gabrielle had never tried. A rare kind of lobster like animal found only on Zharus. Simone had commented that she was saving it for a special occasion and all three agreed it was well worth the wait.

Once the courses were completed, the dessert turned out to be the only thing Simone didn’t make. Ice cream from Uplift, one of the few places you can get it with real milk anymore.

Afterwards everyone was stuffed. “Ms. Bertrand, you have the culinary skills of a Goddess of Feasting. I am honored to have partaken edible substances within the confines your living quarters.. BUUUUUURP!” Gabrielle covered her mouth instantly, not sure how that came out. “Well that wasn’t very ladylike...” she said in her embarrassment.

“In the Oil Age, burping after a meal was considered a compliment for French Chefs. I am the one honored here.” Simone explained before stretching out. “If no one objects, I would like to take you both shopping for clothes. Neither of you have much to wear I’m guessing.”

“Take Paula.” Gabrielle said, grabbing Zedimuse’s core and heading back into the Garage. “I need to find out where my Hyena’s body went.” she insisted, fully intending to pull an all-nighter if she had too.

“Good luck” Paula wished Gabrielle who was already completely ignoring her and plugging the RI Core to a nearby computer. “I’ll pick you up something if I think you’ll wear it.”

“Joy...” Gabrielle said with no enthusiasm, having little concern for anything outside of his Hyena, whose core was just beginning recovery.

Simone noted that look in Gabrielle’s eyes and thought it was best to leave as soon as possible, to avoid throwing off her groove while she laid down one heck of a cybernetic memory de-fragmentation jam! ______________________________________________________________________________

Lucille was in skimmer mode for Simone to drive and Paula stayed in fuser preferring to feel the wind beneath her wings. ::So uhh.. where do you have in mind?::

Well Lucille gets her clothes from Cape Nord, though Shyver usually helps with that, so I’m thinking you want something a little less slutty and without us getting ignored for not having a male escort.:: Simone sent as she flew above the domes and seas below. ::So why don’t you pick?::
Are you sure it’s for Lucille Ms. I Want To Be A Guy Again Because Honor?:: Paula sent with smug-filled laughter, though truthfully it was all in good fun. Friends sometimes tease each other, it’s how you can tell they are friends at times.
Don’t get snippy with me Reverbek, you forget I’m the one buying these clothes.:: Simone teasingly warned.
Why has everyone been calling me by my last name lately?:: Paula asked, while doing a loop-de-loop and getting a peek at the fuzzy clouds below, getting as close of a look at the Zharusian sky as she ever had. Though she had swam through the very cosmic ocean separating all worlds, she had been separated by steel and glass. Here and now with the aid of Ruby, Paula could almost literally kiss the sky.
Tis fun to say, Reverbek. Reverbek, Reverbek, Reverbek.:: Simone laughed, circling Laurasia until Paula came to a decision about where it was she wished to go.
Well.... there is one place I’ve always wanted to go... But.. you know... birth..:: Paula sent getting a little distracted. ::It’s in Aloha::
Oh?:: Simone asked, she knew that the Reverbek family was quite poor and thus never went to any of the bigger polises. Heck, Claude, Paula’s Father’s RIDE was still in the process being paid off! Males were expensive, but not that expensive! ::I didn’t think you’d ever been to Aloha::
Actually we landed in Aloha, but we couldn’t really afford anything there. While I was there though I saw this huge department store that had the biggest selection and all of the workers were so pretty!.... A few of them naked, but... you know... It’s Aloha! Mom took a huge look through and took me through every single floor in it. It was one of the worst days of my life!:: Strangely, Paula sounded excited for every part of that explanation.
You want me to take you to a place where you had one of the worst days of your life?:: Simone asked though she sounded like she was going to do a spittake. ::Why pray tell ma cheri would...::
It’s a clothing store that mostly hires beautiful women to sell these gorgeous gowns.:: Paula stated, and that was all Simone needed to put two and two together. ::I mean I think they hire men to sell the boy stuff, but it’s mostly women!::
Your wish is my command mademoiselle Paula:: Simone laughed. Truly there was nothing like turning a boy into a girl to make her wildest fantasies come true... even if it’s being in a store for a short period of time.

The two landed right infront of the store. Simone recognized it from a memory of the Reverbek landing that Paula sent her on the way to Aloha, she was actually taken quite aback at how metal the Reverbek Son and Father were. “Just where did all the money from your metal metal bodies go if you don’t mind me asking?” Simone asked

“Have you seen the way mom decorates our house?”

“Well I’ve never really been over since your mother kind of thinks I’m a conman... con woman?” Simone tilted her head up in thought for a few seconds. “Con Person With A Skunk Tail who won’t rest until EVERY Reverbek has a RIDE. Non I have not”

“Some of the things we own seems like it belongs in Clint Brubeck’s house, not ours.” Paula groaned. “That’s always been mom’s problem... okay aside from the paranoia and the transphobia... she is NOT a good spender at all.”

“Didn’t Clint raise his kids middle class? I don’t think he has fancy stuff in his household if zat is le case.” Simone pointed out, putting her fingers to her lips and nodding her head before shaking her finger and nodding. “Yes I do believe zat is somezing he is known for.”

“I’ve only been here a year! Cut me some slack. I don’t know the life styles of the rich and famous by heart” Paula complained getting a little defensive with her boss and best friend.

“I would if you didn’t know three billionaires personally.” Simone countered with a snappy look in her eyes

“Shyver, Aristo... and...” Paula even counted them off on her fingers, how adorable. However this only earned Simone a laugh as it had been a trick question.

“Hehehe and moi.” Simone said pulling a V-Debit Card out of her green digital wallet. “Do you honestly think that with as little cash I make I could afford to take you shopping?”

“Then how are you.... That’s SHYVER’S CARD! Why do you have that?” Paula swallowed, still a little scared of ACE in general, even if Shyver had actually been pretty nice to her these past few days. “Won’t he be mad that you have it?”

“Well no, he lent it to me and hasn’t been around to get it back, so I figured what’s a little shopping spree. He has more money than our entire combined families both here and on Earth... he also has more money than Earth does... My point is, he has more money than he’ll ever need and I have more vaginas than I’ll ever need. Get my meaning?” Simone giggled, as she gave a twirl of her thick white hair and flicked her big long gorgeous tail in the same direction as her hair.

Paula folded her arms and look away. “That is sneaky, dishonest, misandrist, insulting to yourself as a cross-rider, and I......” Immediately after saying this the girl smiled and looked back at Simone with bright sparkling eyes. “Completely agree with you because that guy put a chain gun in me and my dad’s faces!”

“Okay, but seriously though you are aware I didn’t steal this.” Simone laughed nervously as the two began to enter the giant department store.

“I did wond.. I mean. I knew that I was just... joking....” Once Paula focused her attention on it she was amazed. It looked like one of the only taller structures in all of Aloha was the Space Elevator though the winged woman’s attention at this moment was heavily biased towards the massive department store. In the window it had various posing human-like androids in the girliest clothing. There was a large sign that said “From Here in Aloha to Zharustead, Purchase Styles from All Around This World:Discounts For Off-World Tourists and New Zharusians details inside”

Paula was eyeing each model, the Cape Nord outfit was very little more than a bunch of strings. Typical for a polis where there is very little distinction between a Sex Android, A Pleasure Support Model, or a Human Woman. Just that the third of those three group should either wear a male RIDE or a female of the second. Curious about the clothing attitudes on the opposite end of the spectrum she looked towards the Android labeled “Ms. Sturmhaven” and fell in love with it’s unique and beautiful design. One that used holographic technology, softlight applied to authentic fabric A simple plain white sundress it seems at first, but as the android demonstrated it explodes into a big bang upon wearing, one that quickly subsides into an interactive star chart of Zharus Space. One that didn’t move even when the wearer did. Paula recalled that this was a Zharusian fashion trend known as Unmoving Plaid. The technology required to make clothing like this did not exist on Earth. For this reason she had been quite thrown off by it when she first landed and saw it in action. The android continuing to show the dress off even more now showing the satellites around Zharus, in addition to other nearby planets. The Android was capable of noticing Paula and noting her interest, prompting her to say. “A Girl’s Best Friend - Zharus’ Diamonds. The Ms. Sturmhaven entry in our exclusive Garments Around Zharus collection. For a limited time only 50% off and in male variant.”

“Ooooh Simone I think I know what I want!” Paula cried out, sure there were others. A Racing Jumpsuit for Ms. Uplift, An interesting slot machine inspired get up for Ms. Femizona, An outfit surprisingly enough made of straw save for the overalls for Ms. Venars reflecting its status as a farming community though Paula seemed to be quite offput by it, and there was even a slot for Ms. Supernova though there was a curtain over that one with a message saying “Sold Out!”, but Paula knew that Ms. Sturmhaven’s dress was the one for her.

“Mmm.. I zink I’m eyeing Ms. Califa myself.” Simone said, looking it over. It was perhaps the most simple of them all, a green glorified bikini top with daisy dukes. It wasn’t cheap though as it did come with a nanite package that allowed to user to turn her hair bleach blonde in a typical Baywatch style and was guaranteed to increase the natural bust size of the buyer. Not that Simone needed anymore cleavage. But still it was a simple casual outfit that looked comfortable, non-intrusive, and stylish in its simplicity. “Though Ms. Kyotokyo c'est pas mal! I really like how it’s a shirt and a skirt at le same time.”

“Cyst Pascal?” Paula asked having no clue what those words meant.

“It means, is non half-bad.” Simone said, trying to her best to keep from groaning at the butchering of her native tongue.

“I don’t know if Geisha-style outfits are really your thing Simone.” Lucille commented, running a simulation in her head of Simone trying on the Ms. Kyotokyo. “Plus it is a little chinese-y, I don’t know if that flows with your feng shui.”

“A lot of places on Earth are chinesey... Though this is more Japanesey than Chinesey...” Simone commented, as Lucille fused with her to show off the simulation she was running. “Oooh non non non, ça ne fera pas, bien peut-être dans une occasion spéciale, mais je devrais jamais porter ça”

Paula blinked at her friend. ::Uhh Ruby, what did she just say?::

She said she’d only wear it on special occasions.:: Ruby translated.

Paula grabbed Simone by the arm. “Come on, let’s go in. I know we’d both would rather have clothes on our real bodies than on our pretend bodies.” she said, cheering, unable to wait to wear Ms. Sturmhaven and soaring through the stars she had adorned her own flesh with.

“Ok ok, zere is no need to drags me Paula.” Simone chuckled at her friend’s anxiety to get into that store and see their massive selection of not only clothes but novelties as well.

As soon as the two were in they were blasted both with cool crisp conditioned air from their air conditioners and the fresh fragrance of a Wednesday Flower, that is to say a flower from Planet Wednesday not a flower that only grows on wednesdays, known as a Gandamore. Named as a portmanteau of Gandor and Amore, the spanish word for winner with the french word for love. Mainly because its fragrant scent was so popular with the women among the original colonists that men saw it as the go to way to win a woman’s heart, quickly replacing the rose as the most romantic flower and becoming a very profitable business for florists in their new world. As Paula and Simone took a whiff that became one piece of human they were in perfect understanding of. “What a beautiful scent!” Simone commented.

A lioness fuser walked up with a smile. “Welcome to Hale ku’ai lole! As you may have noticed we’re running a special on the Garments Around Zharus collection, all of which were featured in this year’s Ms. Zharus Pageant. If you’re shopping for a special man in your life all of them have male varients. Though I’d hurry up and pounce on Mr. Sturmhaven, limited time only!”

“Hale Ku’ai Lole.” Simone said. “Is that not Hawaiian for Clothing Store?”

“Well we are located in Aloha ma’am.” The lioness fuser said, though her badge read Human: Susie and RIDE: Kiara.

“It’s a little nail on le head is all. I would actually like to try on le Baywatcher, and Paula you were interested in le.. uhh… Ms. Sturmhaven..” Simone said, not wanting to say the mouthful that was the dress’ actual name.

“Okay, would you prefer a Natural Born or Cross Rider attendant or does it matter?” Susie asked. Ordinarily Zharusians saw birth sex as a trivial and highly unimportant detail, but this question was something Susan had started asking after some Off-World Tourist clients reacted negatively to being helped by a woman who casually admitted to being a cross-rider.

“Non, it does not matter, ve are..” Simone looked towards Paula who seemed a little scared of what Simone was about to say. “I mean, I am a cross-rider and my natural born friend has never had a problem with me nor I with her.”

“How cool.” Susie nodded with a smile. “I was a guy once myself, grew up here, but I felt like trying something new. Plus, I just couldn’t afford the repair bills on my previous RIDE Greggory. Eh I like cats better than zebras anyway and he was a bit of a downer.”

“I think I worked on him once…” Simone said, scratching her fuser’s chin fur. “Did he have a Cutie Mark like Zecora from, what was zat show? Oh, Friendship Is Magic”

“Yes he did” Susie said smiling, excited to hear news of her old friend.

“Then worry not about him, his new owner is treating him very well. I sold him, you see I run zis garage up in Venars” Simone assured, patting Susie on her shoulder and handing her a V-Card. “I’m going to look around, but.. trust me, ve will be leaving with quite a hefty haul.”

Simone and Paula separated to cover more ground in the store, the color red came up quite often in the store’s decor. It reminded Paula greatly of her mother’s decorative choices back at her house, Simone found it equally as tacky. The selection however was enough to make both of the girls salivate. Everything that could be imagined from cosplay outfits to swim-wear to formal wear to pajamas this store had every angle covered. It even had seasonal outfits in advance for those special occasions like Christmas and Landing Day! Even though it was still the middle of summer. It was a solid thirty minutes before Paula got around to finding the rack that had housed Mister and Miss Sturmhaven, it didn’t take long for her to notice that Mister Sturmahven feautred a slight oddity, starting out beautiful and being centered around Earth’s starchart as it was featured before the Post Oil Dark Ages with vibrant blue oceans and gorgeous green hills. Earth hadn’t looked like that since Paula’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-incredibly-great grandfather. Okay maybe he wasn’t that great, but he was up there. The point is that Earth sucks. “Weird…” Paula said upon this observation.

“Not entirely” Spoke a white tigress morph wearing Ms. Femizona’s golden slot machine outfit, though a few blue lines could be seen on her neck that were not part of the outfit. This tigress was definitely a morph, not a fuser. Sometimes fusers did that to you if you used them too long. Gabrielle looked a little muzzly herself, though she wasn’t a full blown rat. “It’s a form of protest, once it detects a man’s touch it begins to wither into a dying universe centered around the current Earth, you know the post-apocalyptic looking one.”

“What is it protesting exactly? Why would it even do that? It’s intended to be worn BY men” Paula asked, tilting her head. Mr. Sturmhaven looked pretty nice, and it even came with a fabulous fedora. Very 2013, just Zharus’ style.

“Exactly! Hule demanded male and female variants for ALL of their clothing, yet the fashionista responsible for this was very firm that men were not worth the time of day, let alone worthy of wearing her designs. I agree with her myself, but Aloha is blind and believes in sexual equality.” The tigress yawned and rolled her eyes as if somehow equal treatment between the sexes was an idiotic idea. “As if! Men are worthless and it is because of the RIDEs that girls like you and me were given the chance to free ourselves from those rotten chains.”

Paula felt a little uncomfortable, stepping back away from the tigress. “How did you know that I was a…”

“Paul Reverbek, Age 23, Came to Zharus aboard the the Silverstar and landed in Aloha.” The tigress smiled walking closer to Paula. “You’re a woman that’s been making headlines, I’m surprised you haven’t gotten a movie deal yet. That’s what they normally do with girls like you. Victims who make the headlines and get men to ‘Feel sorry’ for the fairer sex. Just a way they can continue the lie that men aren’t a mistake. Sad really, you think they’d have dropped the charade once the bridge between the sexes was perfected.”

Simone… help me..:: Paula as she swallowed from a combination of fear, anxiety, and just plain being nervous. “Who the hell are you?”

“My brother was the one who you got in trouble. I am Miss Femizona herself, Senator Kayla Edmund. Ordnarily I’d be with my RIDE Sabrina, but she’s rather.. uhh.. well let’s just say I’ve outgrown the need for RIDEs. Now that I can program faster than a human can think.” Kayla moaned, her bright blue neon lighting glowing much brighter. It seemed almost sexual the way she growled and rubbed herself. “It truly is amazing that I ran into you. I don’t know what to say, I meant to run into at the factory. But with all the cameras around… and I didn’t want to get spotted by them not with the way we are now… I’m having trouble containing myself when I use my powers.”

Darling, get Simone, NOW!:: Ruby warned
Way ahead of you!:: Paula didn’t like that explanation. What powers, what was she talking about. ::Simone, it’s Aristo-related…::

Without warning Kayla grabbed Paula’s head and closed her eyes. “Don’t mind me, but I needed to sift through your memories to find any clues you may have missed. I want him found just as much as you.”

“Ahem, pardon moi, but you are violating ma friend’s personal space.” Spake the fuser duo of Simone and Lucille, though Simone herself actually said that. “Vat is zis all about.”

Kayla turned to Simone with a grin. “Maybe I’d have better luck with you… You’ve got the code in your SKN(f)-PSA-817. Do you want me to turn it on for you? It will be amazing when you see the world.” The tigress’ voice became distorted like a techno song. “Just.. as we can….. oooh.. get it together Sabrina.. I mean Kayla, KAYLA! Damn it I shouldn’t have used my powers in a public setting! We know they make us crazy!”

“Madame?” Simone asked with deep concern. “Senator, vat are you…”

“Look… I don’t know too much about this, but Aristo’s bugged you. I don’t know where and I don’t know when but that bug is going to strike and once it does you’ll undergo an amazing transformation.” Kayla said, catching her breathe and letting her lights go dimmer. “Look let me start over, I’m Aristo’s sister Kayla and I’m trying to track down what he’s up to. I just know that it involves some kind of code.. when I ran it in my RIDE it… changed us.. into.. look I can’t talk about it here. I trust your garage is safe.”

“Well I was in the middle of a shopping excursion zat…” Simone was saying, but then she sighed. “It’s clear zat zis is more important though. My garage is safer zan a cheese pizza amongst a meeting place for le lactose intolerant. No? Yes I mean, yes its. Paula, grab anything you know you want and let’s go.”

“But she attacked me.” Paula objected, wanting to get back to her dream spree. Which sounded like it was over before it truly began.

“It’s Aristo related, if she knows where he may be, it’s worth putting off our trip.” Simone assured, rubbing Paula’s fuser headfur like she was some kind of dog. “Umm yes, let’s go straight to Le Wrench Of Paris, you have piqued my interest, but I’m watching you.” She said facing back to Paula.

Simone this could be a trick!:: Paula sent in a bit of a panick.
Would you rather it be sprung here in unfamiliar territory, or where we have a home field advantage?:: Simone asked.
Good point actually, still I trust crazy about as far as I could throw her… with wing-arms!:: Paula warned as she flexed her fingers, as angry as she was, she was really grateful to have those again. It actually calmed her down to watch her fingers curl, a little too much. Well they say you don’t know what you have till it’s gone.

“Very well, do you have a vehicle?” Simone asked, from the we comments she assumed Kayla was fused to her RIDE, yet still she had noted that the senator was a little short for a fuser.

“...The short answer is no.” Kayla replied, looking herself over curiously. “The long answer is, yes, but I don’t know how to use…” The tigress paused for a second thinking of the correct wording. “The vehicle.” ______________________________________________________________________________

Back at Simone’s garage, Gabrielle was fabbing herself a glass of chocolate milk and playing Pac-Man in her head. A task that was far more fun than it would have sounded a long time ago. “Damn it Clyde!” Gabrielle exclaimed as she grabbed a jalapeno flavored cheeto to munch on as she awaited the results of the defrag. Results that came sooner than she thought they would. On the computer screen that the Zedimuse core was plugged up to suddenly switched from a defrag lay out to a hyena in a white backdrop.

“Gabriel… What happened to us?” The hyena asked with a heavy voice. The animal took a while to look over the his surroundings “How could a routine check up have turned so foul for the two of us?”

“Zedimuse?” Gabrielle asked into the computer’s slender black microphone. “How did you know I was here, there aren’t any cameras installed.”

“All those years as Casey, all those years… wasted. Forced into being something that I am not. Only one person would possibly free me from that… Where is that scum bag Aristo. As soon as I get situated into a new body and feel the sands against my metal again you and I are going to tear him limb from limb.” It was Zedimuse, restored from his memory wipe. “Well I wanted to find your old body actually.” Gabrielle piped up after a long silence, her voice sounding meek and uncertain. “It is a valuable prototype and well… I kind of feel like it’s a victory for Aristo if we’ve really lost track of it.”

“....Gabriel my friend, I implore that you swallow your pride on this one..” Spoke up Zedimuse with worry in his expression. “I know where my body wound up, and once I tell you, you’ll be at the auction house in mere minutes hoping the merger units we got from Shyver will be worth a hill of beans. Predatory Male DEs aren’t exactly your dime a dozen Cat Girl Conversion Kits.” It was true, Hyena was one of the ‘cooler’ animals, they tend to be more common than oxygen in female variants ESPECIALLY big cats like tigers, lionesses, leopards, panthers, or even the meekly tailed lynxes. A male? That was a little trickier and explained why a couple of the RIDE Heavy polisi had a incredibly high female population. Though luckily it was never to such extremes as Femizona or Sturmhaven, unless of course they WERE Femizona or Sturmhaven.

“And that’s the other reason why I want to track down the original. I could Marshall assistance.. just get on with it.” Gabrielle demanded, pounding her fist onto the very used looking keyboard. At least it looked more used than in most garages she had been in. Most people merely had keyboards for decoration or Oil Age LARPs.

“It was sold to a garage.. here.. and at a highly discounted price.” Zedimuse said slowly, laying down and covering his face with a paw in shame. A map showed up on the monitor with a dot bleeping over a dome, a dome that filled Gabrielle with dread as if one of the scarabs from The Mummy crawled up her spine. “I’ll find the URL to a reasonably priced auction house in Laurasia…” ______________________________________________________________________________

Paula had mixed feelings, it would soon be sunset and she’d love to see how she’d look blending to the night sky on a slow flight with her RIDE Ruby and her new outfit with a really long name. Despite this she was disappointed that her shopping excursion ended so briefly and above the rest, frightened of what Kayla would do with whatever powers she was talking about.

The tigress in question was was currently snuggled up against Simone’s back and holding onto her as she skimmer-biked above the landmasses. “The sunset’s not that far off, a girl like me could really enjoy snuggling up against your chest-pillows watching it… what do you say?” she asked, sneaking a grope of Simone’s comically large bosom.

“I’m seeing someone right now and it’s getting kind of serious. Plus, if you’re really Senator Edmund, aren’t you married?” Simone asked, getting a little uncomfortable with Kayla’s grabby paws. The skunk-tailed woman was loosey-goosey, but not THAT loosey-goosey.

“To two people actually.” Kayla purred, getting a better feel of Simone’s boobs as she rubbed the skunk tail curled around her (it had been the only Kayla would have fit with her tail in the way) with her own tail. “And I run a cesspool of sin and self-indulgence. Monogamy is not a hurdle for me babe.”

Simone groaned. “Lucille, kick into high gear before Senator Edmund takes a five hundred meter drop.”

“I already have my air-bags ready.” Kayla purred, looking for Simone’s aerola.

“...Mon Dieu, je vous en supplie...” Simone muttered under her breathe, something in her native tongue to the effect of asking god for patience. Something that Simone intended in a metaphorical sense, being an athiest and all. It wasn’t that she had something against God, she just saw no reason why the miracles in her life had to be God’s work and not simply the work of humans.

Lucky for Simone and unlucky for the senator who had no respect for Simone’s consent or personal space, they were just about to land at Le Wrench Of Paris where Kayla would have to get off. “I take it this is home sweet home, I’ve never actually been to Venars before. It’s just as drab as I thought it would be when I heard it was a farming community. Still reminds me of my family tree. My ancestors used to live in rural areas.” Kayla said, having calmed from the flight and snuggle.

“Mmm vell, it’s an honest place to make a living.” Simone smiled as she looked over her garage. “The pay’s not too good, but it’s peaceful.”

“I bet it looks lovely at night.” Kayla purred, looking over Simone’s frame again. “Just as you do in that lovely dress. Blue looks good on you, is that real cashmere?”

“Oh yes, it was my mother’s.” Simone replied posing a little. “So.. uhh.. what is this about Aristo?”

“Inside…” Kayla said, holding the door open. “After you two.”

Paula ran inside and armed her weapons, looking at Kayla cautiously as she did so.

“At least you’re polite, if a little grabby.” Simone noted, walking into her garage and receiving a smack on her thick and lucious behind from the senator. The trio found Gabrielle looking frantic as soon as they stepped inside, she was going through the RIDEs looking to be in very manic desperation. Just as Kayla was about to say something Gabrielle turned to face them. “...Oh.. welcome back… Simone, you wouldn’t happen to have a hyena DE on ha…...nd...” the native american stopped dead in her tracks about noticing Kayla. “Hello Karl….”

“..Only one man would call me that, and I’m happy to see her a woman….Gabrielle.. It’s been too long, I was hoping to get a glance at you back at ACE, but the marshalls said I was bringing too much attention with my presence…” Kayla stared, not sure what to say. “Aristo said he gave you gender dysphoria and told me he was going to kill you if I didn’t run oddjobs for him.”

“Aye, he did…” Gabrielle said going wide eyed. Simone and Paula left the room with their RIDEs to give them their space, not for too long though as the two walked back in remembering that they had important reasons to see Kayla as well. “I cured myself of it… for now..”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Kayla grinned, not sure what to say to her old friend. Both parties were quite stunned. “I hope that means you’ll be staying this way.”

“I may not have a choice. I can’t find a replacement Hyena DE for Zedimuse.” Gabrielle sighed, pointing at Simone’s giant monitor. The same one she had used to defragment Zediumuse, the one that looked fitting for the Justice League Computer from the Superfriends. “That’s where the original is.”

“...Owch.. no guarantee it’s in one piece.” Kayla said with uncertainty when she noticed the beeping icon on the mapscreen.

Gabrielle tugged at her collar around the same spot that Kayla’s blue tron-line was visible. “You and Sabrina are though… when did you become an Integrate?”

“...Mon Dieu!” Simone exclaimed taken aback. Integration was just a fairy tale to most of Zharus, surely if there was a chance of permanent fusion she would have thought all mechanics would have known that for a fact. “You… they’re real. I had heard rumors but.. I never thought.. I thought for sure if you people did exist zat… you would be more, how-you-say, commonplace.”

“I always wondered what they looked like…” Paula said with wonderment in her eyes.

“That’s actually what I came here to tell Simone here.” Kayla said, sitting down on a recharging bench kept for RIDErs awaiting their friends. “...Aristo’s been asking me to secure a lot of things for him lately in exchange for Gabrielle’s safety, he’s really had me by the neck lately. So I really need to thank you Paula for exposing him. He knows that I have ties to the Integrated community and has been blackmailing me ever since he found out. A couple of months ago he had me track down… Lucy.”

Gabrielle’s ears perked up and her tail rose with delight. “...My darling.. How has she been?”

“She goes by LucyPop now and has been a gun for hire for every enclave there is.” Kayla informed, leaning back and playing the memories in a movie in her head. “That girl isn’t the sweetiepie, do no wrong, carefree dumpling she used to be. Not only is she much slimmer, but her personality is much different. She’s now ruthless and cold-hearted, she’s taken lives Gabe… Integrate, RIDE, and human alike. What’s more she’s eaten their remains to gain their strength. If she saw you now she’d see you as unworthy of her time, she’s an incredibly powerful Integrate and has worked closely with Fritz himself, you don’t get on that guy’s good side AND keep any value of humans. I’m sorry.”

“She.. eats people?” Paula asked shivering.

“Humans for their meat, RIDEs and Integrates for their parts.” Kayla confirmed Paula’s fearful question.

“...I always thought Popiskelle was too… extreme for her…” Gabrielle looked down on the ground sorrowful. “....I loved her Kayla… More than you can ever know.” she began pounding her fist into the ground. “Even when I win I lose.”

Kayla got up and patted her friend on the back. “When I found her and established communications between her and Aristo like I wanted.. he sent her some kind of code and told her to use it to infect me and Sabrina… I have been meaning to get a sample of it myself, to see if I could reverse it but… It’s a series of programs and invasive trojans that force a RIDE and human to… Integrate. I was the guinea pig to see if it worked, which it did.” The senator walked around posing her body. “At first I was so confused.. Kayla and Sabrina just didn’t know what was going on.. they couldn’t tell who was who.. and eventually I realized that it was impossible. We’re the same entity.. I don’t even know what to call myself. I’ve been going by Kayla because that’s easy.. but. I just don’t know.”

“I heard they’d been thinking about starting a program in the marshalls to help Integrated Marshalls, but have a few concerns. Especially since the governments just want to study you guys.” Gabrielle sighed, sitting down with Kayla and petting her fur. “...I think you look very beautiful though.”

“Thanks..” Kayla smiled, putting an arm around Gabrielle who slapped it away. “That’s a little too far I take it?”

“Very much so.” Gabrielle nodded, a small part of her didn’t mind the arm. There was something in the air in this room a sense of re-discovery and harmony. Still there were lines she drew with Kayla and she wanted them respected.

Simone stepped up, looking a little concerned and frantic. “I’m happy for your re-union, but you said you had to tell me something about me.” She said, sounding more than a little stressed.

“Oh right…” Kayla blushed through her fur. “Sorry, got caught up in the moment. Aristo gave away tons of RIDEs with that code about to go off whenever he wants. I’m afraid he’s gotten it in his head that he can become ruler of the milky way with an Integrate Army.”

Simone looked over at Lucille who looked back at Simone both with uncertain looks. “...But Aristo lost Lucille to me in a poker game.”

“Intentionally, he’s sneaky remember.” Kayla said standing up, stretching. “That’s why I wanted to find him before he gets people hurt.”

“Non non non.. I can’t believe that.. My Landlord, gave me three months no rent and one of my best friends.. To use me as a soldier?” Simone shook her head and began pacing the room. “Nonsense. You must be kidding”

Kayla looked towards Simone, as did a giant version of her head on the screen of her monitor. “Look at what had become of me. I am Integrated Quantum Perfection at the cost of my identity, I do not joke!” she spoke with a loud and distorted voice, a thunderous one that gave Paula’s Anti-Tech scream a run for its money.

“Well zen, remove the code!” Simone demanded stomping her hindpaw. “She is my RIDE, my partner, and I cannot just abandon her!” She felt bad as she said this, remembering that she would have to abandon Lucille if she ever wanted to be a man again.

“I can’t, not only is it heavily quantum encrypted, but it’s so close to her core that I could kill her if I tried! Your only hope is to help me find Aristo!” Kayla roared thunderously. “Unless you WANT me to Integrate you now.”

“Well.. You did want to go back to being male…” Paula piped up in a very in your face voice.

“Blegh.” Kayla gagged, feigning vomit. “Men…”

“...Well, there’s only one way to solve zis..” Simone stomped her foot angrily. “Kayla, if you can manipulate technology as la legend goes, can you force Shyver to accept one a call through zat monitor!?”

“Why would he talk to you?” Kayla rolled her eyes. “He’s got a bigger hard-on for Aristo than the distance from here to Supernova!”

“I’m his girlfriend!” Simone roared as she plugged up a camera to the computer.

“Alright, worth a shot then.” Kayla shrugged and with a flick of her wrist Shyver’s picture showed up on screen, him in a swimsuit posing with Simone at Califa. “Ughhh. he’s so fat… ”

“I like em cuddly merci very much.” Simone rebutted. “Shyver, I have forced you this call for your explanation now! I expect you to go to video now and stop avoiding me now.”

“Darling it’s really a bad time.” Spoke the voice in the speakers.

“Don’t you darling me! Kayla Force it.” Simone ordered as she turned to Kayla.

The video turned on with Shyver looking at Aristo currently at his desk. The wanted cyborg’s turned a mix of mortified and peeved so powerful that a new word had to be invented to describe the color of his face. “..Shyver… explain to me why your girlfriend and my sister are staring at us angrily.”

“ARISTO!” Gabrielle roared. “You were there the whole time, when I got the marshals after you….”

“Got ya bro. Now you get to pay for making me a freak.” Kayla smirked as she rubbed her paws together with a sly grin. “And those years of humiliation.”

“Shyver turn that off!” Aristo demanded looking in Shyver’s direction, he seemed quite crank as though he just woke up.

“I can’t.. it’s a really good hack.. sorry sir” Shyver apologized, sweating as he began trying everything he could think of only for nothing to put the slightest dent in what Kayla was doing.

“Shyver, you better have a damn good explanation for this, and why Lucille here is rigged to.. to.. Integrate with me.” Simone snapped, crying a little. “I thought you loved me.. Was this so you could seduce me into your little schemes with your teddy-bear like charms?”

“Simone, ma nénette… You have me in a very troubling circle of events.” Shyver said nervously, backing away from Promethus’ camera. “I wanted nothing bad to happen to you… I.. just..”

“Don’t you ma nénette me eiether!” Simone folded her arms. “You can call le marshalls right now to arrest zat scumbag and prepare for le greatest make up sex of your life. Or I can let the hacks go right now, and tell the Marshalls you were hiding Aristo and see what zey do to your anus in prison! Your call.”

“If I may object. Neither of those is going to happen.” Aristo grinned pulling a mischievous ace from his metallic sleeve.. “If I flip a switch here, Lucille will Integrate with you and a mind control fetter will have you killing your friends before you know it.”

“...You’re bluffing.” Simone barked, Paula was wondering if she should fly out of there, and Gabrielle had a gun already pointed at Simone’s head. Not something that made Paula feel cool, few things did. The poor girl had no idea what to do under pressure.

“Try me.” Aristo countered, his cybernetic eye turning golden to show his current arrogance.

“...Merde! Okay, I’ll keep your secret, but don’t think zis is le end.” Simone looked to the floor, if she spent the rest of her life as a death machine and the guilty of slaying Paula and two others it would be a life spent pleading for her own demise.

“Good girl” Aristo smiled as the transmission ended once he finally saw himself able to shut it off. Simply because Kayla saw no reason to keep up the hack. “Well damn, what to do now?”

Simone began crying. “He vas mon jules… how could he betray like zis…” The poor girl’s heart had been ripped into shreds along with her life. “Do I have to give up Lucille now?”

“Atleast you can be male again… Early.. Like you wanted with that clone body.” Lucille said, crawling into the corner. “I’ll just.. offline for the night.”

“Lucille, wait..” Simone pleaded. “Oh damn zese girly hormones… I don’t want you to go.. I mean.. Yes, I… well maybe it would help if I wasn’t the sex Shyver was attracted to but… Damn it. Non, not like zis… I..”

“Simone I…” Gabrielle was about to say something, but Simone cut her off.

“...I’m going to go lay down.. In the morning we’ll go to get my clone body and then we’ll go pick up your Hyena DE from wherever it is.. And.. I..” Simone looked at Lucille who was just as upset as she was.

“Well that’s why I was looking for a Hyena DE when you came in… But, if you don’t have one. I guess that’s what will do, but.. you might want to reverse the order… Because he’s in Sturmhaven.” Gabrielle shuddered. “Not a good place to be a man.”

“...Non.. I deserve to be punished anyway for zinking I could run from ma past!” Simone sighed, heading for her bedroom in tears. “I should have known Lucille and Shyver were too good to be true!.. Lucille, show Gabrielle to the guest bedroom, then offline.”

“You’ve been punished enough! I mean, it’s bad enough you’d go through the indignity of being a man, but… to be one in Sturmhaven? Are you crazy?” Kayla shrieked.

Paula didn’t know what to say. “Wait Simone, there has to be something we can do…”

“Get some sleep Paula…” Simone said going off to bed.

“We’ll think of something… Ordinarily, I’d shutdown Lucille and go after Aristo, but.. I can’t in good conscience do that.. Besides it would be far too hypocritical.” Gabrielle yawned, taking her Rat RIDE and Zedimuse’s core to bed, cuddling the latter like a teddy as she followed Lucille. “When I’m worried about Zedimuse myself.”

Sleep seemed like the last thing on anyone’s mind, but it was the only option they could think of for now. Paula and Gabrielle had their RIDEs take them to dreamland immediately, but Kayla didn’t feel like it. Kayla was too busy thinking, throughout the night she considered every possible angle to attack Aristo and set things right. Maybe Simone or Kayla could scan Lucille for any irregularities to see if a mind control fetter was actually present like Aristo said it was, but then again they quickly though that would have been what Aristo expected them to do. It was 2800 when she finally gave up after coming to no real conclusion about what to do. It was then when she heard the aggravated groan of Simone and went to her bedroom to investigate. “Simone… Are you okay?”

“What’s the point? There are probably dozens of RIDEs he handed out that would cause trouble even if we stop me, and we’d never find zem all. Why not Integrate and get it over with?” Simone sighed. “I could have Shyver and Lucille zat way.”

“...Aristo’s doomed to fail, a few Integrates against the entire milky way?’ Kayla said, getting onto the bed.

“True, and maybe I could be unfettered once he is, but how much damage will I cause as a freak?” Simone cried, thinking of herself as an Integrate. Having macabre thoughts of doing awful things in Aristo’s name. “Non offense..”

“Hey I AM a freak and it’s not so bad..” Kayla tried re-assuring as she began to give Simone a backrub.

“...I’m just stressed Kayla… It’s a lot to take in.” Simone sighed. “Mon Dieu, I don’t even know if Aristo is telling ze truth and I’m already panicking. It’s zese girly emotions blocking out my natural manly sense of courage.”

Kayla giggled and surprised the skunk-tailed woman with a kiss as she deactivated her hardlight clothing and began rubbing down Simone’s back. “You’re just a little confused, let me help sort you out.”

Simone kissed back, disrobing from her nightgown. “Well I’m no longer mated… so… why not…” She said with a forced, but horny laugh as she tackled the senator.

The two made passionate love together, both parties enjoying it immensely. Simone had temporarily forgotten her concerns, and Kayla had suckled on some of the biggest titties she had ever seen. A win-win for both. ______________________________________________________________________________

Despite a lot of attempted convincing from Kayla, Simone did end up pulling her cloned body out of storage. Though Simon did promise he’d go back if they thought of a good Aristo solution.

The trip to Sturmhaven was long with tensions at their highest, especially Simon who was even more depressed than the previous day now that he had the crippling gender dysphoria to deal with. When they finally arrived they traveled as a group from garage to garage searching for the Hyena DE. Yet no luck. “Damn it Kayla, can’t you use your Integrate powers to find him?” Gabrielle asked.

“I told you on the way over, if I use them too much I go into this manic state and get a power high. Besides, we’re in public.” Kayla said, this time using her hard light projectors to pretend to be a fuser.

“Unusual, never heard of an Intie with that trait..” Gabrielle mused thinking to herself aloud.

They checked a few more and still nothing, a good number of garages were actually complaining that the very idea they’d even carry male RIDEs made them feel insulted. This was an opinion that the various dealers and mechanics voice loudly. All reserving their sharpest jabs for Simon, how dare that male even exist? The smallest thing that could be perceived as insult was made a thousand times worse for the simple fact that a male was there. “Ughh.. get HIM out of here, he’s scaring away my customers. What kind of RIDE Garage do you think I run?” or “If you’re not going to buy anything, that freak might damage my RIDEs with his clumsiness!”. A couple of them even demanded that he stay outside.

Currently they were at one of those garages. Simon wasn’t alone, significant others and male children of the female shoppers waited with him. “I don’t see how women can be so cruel…” he commented to himself.

One of the husbands spoke up with a pat on the back. “They aren’t being cruel. They’re being careful. We are men after all.”

“How can you say zat? You zink zat being a male somehow makes you a horrible person?” Simone asked with a deep frown and much confusion. “Have you hurt anyone?”

“No, and thank the Valks for that. I’d hate to see what I’d do if someone made the mistake of treating me like anything other than the danger I represent.” The man said with a grin full of what appeared to be sincere gratitude.

“Sacre bleu! Why do you think you’re a danger?” Simon, he figured it was all of the propaganda he had been bombarded with ever since he arrived in Sturmhaven. It was more shock that a man could be self-degrading, so without dignity, so devoid of anything representing masculine honor.

“I’m a man you dolt! We’re responsible for every major war in the history of the galaxy, for years of oppressing the women who could have lead us to Sturmhaven’s glory ages ago. Not just that, but I’m a man with impure thoughts about women! I’m practically a rapist!” The man babbled. Simon found himself unable to keep up with this logic at all. “I mean, I’d become a woman, but… I don’t know if I could handle that honor. I’d probably let it all go to my head another common fallacy of male leaders…”

Simon walked away, uninterested in the rest of this conversation. The person he was having it with had his head so far up the Valks’ collective asses that Simon was afraid that if he breathed the wrong way he’d hear about how women were such wonderful sneezers and how he had avoided colds not to offend women with his inferior sinuses. It seemed to be like this everywhere in Sturmhaven. Boys walked fearfully and in a military marching like fashion, staring straight forward to prevent wandering eyes. Only naughty boys have wandering eyes. Yet their sisters were taking in sights, looking at propaganda artworks telling them that they were capable of anything because they were girls. They took confident delight in this and even ordered around their scared stiff brothers to do things like buy ice cream for them or play with them as they frolicked happily in a world that loved them above all else. It stung Simon in two places, his newly acquired dysphoria was beating the stuffing out of him as his body ached to be like the beautiful and perfect women around him. The ones that paintings, vidscreens, shop advertisements, flyers and passers-by kept telling him about. It also stung him in how anyone could think that this woman worship was the right way around for anyone. Only the exceedingly deceived, foolish, or selfish could ever enjoy a place like this. Simon had so much of this that the only thing that could make it right was alcohol. ::Paula, Gabrielle, Kayla. Keep up the search, I’m going to a pub. Hair Of The Bitch:: He sent.

Hair Of The She-Wolf was an old timey western saloon with some 25th century updates. It even had an wooden sign out front with a painting of a werewolf gal dressed like a wild west outlaw. Simon was about to enter when a young woman in a blue jay RIDE came behind him, even in a hell hole like this he wasn’t about to forget his manners. “After you mademoiselle.” Simon said to her with a bow..

“Ughh… Just like a man. I can do things for myself jackass!” The Blue Jay Fuser said as she walked into the pub, flipping off Simon as she did so. “What a dick..” she muttered under her breathe.

Simon twitched for a few seconds before walking in, it seemed to have a friendly enough environment. An android was playing a diddy on a piano, gals were gathered around playing poker, and the bartender was a She-Wolf Rider pouring manly drinks like whiskey and rum. It wasn’t so bad actually, though Simon got the feeling this wasn’t the place for a wine. Just as he was about to take a seat however he heard a voice call from behind him. A cheetah fuser who seemed as angry as the day was long. “Hey, were you raised in a barn? Don’t you know you’re supposed to hold the door open for a lady and go in after her.”

“Vat? I thought that was the exact opposite of Sturmhaven’s custom.” Simon objected.

“Don’t play dumb with us, you didn’t hold the door open for her because you resented her.” Spoke the Blue Jay who had flipped Simon off just moments ago. “Jealous that you are not a woman yourself!”

“You were la one who told me that holding doors open vas wrong!” Simon groaned. “Look can’t I just drink in peace!?!”

“Not until you learn a lesson in chivalry.” Spoke the Blue Jay cracking an evil smile on her beak as the cheetah restrained Simon’s arms. Though both had to stand down after the sound of a revolver forced the room silent.

The bartender was holding up a replica of a Clint Eastwood-esque six shooter. “Hey, no gender politics in my bar. The only thing I wanna see in here is drinking and merriment.” she decreed beginning to pour a mug. “Now feller why don’t you have a seat at the bar and have a Neo Sarsaparilla on the house.”

“Mighty kind of you.” Simon said, taking a few quick sips. “I’m glad to see someone’s sane around here.”

“Yeah well, that’s Sturmhaven for ya, but home is home.” The she-wolf shrugged. “I take it you’re not from around these parts.”

“Friend had her DE sold her, I just came to help her look. Yet it seems most places don’t even want to give me the time of day.” Simon answered, spinning back in his chair to appreciate the authenticity of this saloon. They even had spittoons and a cow skull. For his gender he was getting a lot of whispers and murmurs as he sipped his Neo Sarsaparilla, though he learned to pay it no mind. “Speaking of, have you seen a male hyena DE around?”

“Can’t say that I have pardner.” The she-wolf answered as she spit shined a mug to fill and slide down the bar right to the girl who ordered it. The bar was specifically designed to work with a chip in the mugs to slide to their designated drinker each time they were slid. “Shoot I almost forgot RIDEs could be male till ya said something.”

“Aren’t you Simon Bertrand?” Asked a hatted fuser at the end of the bar. Whoever she was, she was decked out in full cowgirl gear and tipping her hat down. All Simon could make of her was her white fur.

“Oui, zat is to say yes.” Simon responded nervously. “Le one from Venars, not le Cape Nord guy. I uhh.. I do wish I was a Simone though” The frenchman lied about his past, but for good reason. thought about how Simone would act in here. The life of the party, flirting with any chica who tipped off her gaydar, that blissful demeanor. “Mon Dieu zat would be refreshing.” As it stood, Simon was somewhere between neutral and fish out of water at best.

“Right riiight, just wondering.” The woman said before going back to her tequila.

Simon took it a little easy that night, he remembered he had come here on a regular skimmer. Without a RIDE to be his designated driver. For the most part he chatted it up with the bartender and the women surrounding, asking about local policies, their childhoods, turning down a few flirts while he was at it. Though Simon was normally known for his abundantly healthy sex drive, his heart just wasn’t into that kind of thing in his current condition. Though there had been quite the stirring in his loins, a larger part of him wanted him to feel shame for having those loins in the first place. The more he thought about the stiffening sensation in his pants, the more he wanted it to go away, the more he silently begged and pleaded for Lucille to come take that pain away. Yet she was deactivated and unable to hear her operator’s cries for sweet sweet relief. Eventually Simon saw no choice but to close his eyes and with the aid of what the skullcutters on Earth had augmented his brain with sunk back into sweet sweet memories of the weeks of being Simone.

Ah and there it was, the memory of shortly after the crossover party. Some alone time on exploring her naked body. Looking back on these memories was a surreal experience, Simon could recall her exact thoughts from when she was Simone in this situation and had his own commentary. The Simone in the memories whose eyes he was seeing through felt strange, alienated from everything she had known. After the whirlwind of orgies had in her celebratory party, the alcohol eventually subsided, the revelation had hit. She was a woman now, and being a woman, meant that she was no longer a man. On Earth this would have changed everything, how people looked at her, how people read her actions, the contexts of her desires. People would have suddenly doubted she knew anything about skimmers back on Earth. She was far too perfection. Her hips were wide enough for a child to cartwheel out of her. Her hair pre-set to a traditional french style, very long and curly. It had been short and spiked, though still white as it had been back when she was her incredibly handsome male self. Though as handsome as he was, Simone was in a league of her own, even the minor details such as her tiny feet, her slender arms, the way her body seemed to know just the right way to move to be the most aesthetically pleasing (apparently that was a feature of Lucille’s that ACE took from the Alpha Blueprints of another company’s design, atleast, that’s what Lucille had told her), her highly desirable eyes which seemed almost locked into a come hither stare. Simone was just too much woman for her male base form to handle. It had seemed overwhelming at the time, but now looking back on it Simon had felt like a homeless man looking at a picture of his house before it burnt down.

Of course there was more than just feminine splendor on two legs, the other additions made. Those cute little ears, so expressive and so much more functional that her human ears. True Simon’s original body had the ears and tail of a hound from experimenting with RIDEs back when he lived in Cape Nord, but that’s all they were. Leftovers from an experiment, they weren’t quite, him. Not like the skunk parts. Her big fluffy skunk tail, always a comfort to hold and snuggle against her voluptuous body. Like a wealthy woman would with a fox or a mink back in the days when changing your gender took various years of hormone therapy and very steep genitallia alteration bill with less than stellar results being the norm. The things Simone would do with it, wear it like a scarf, hold it whilst she slept like a teddy bear. Sometimes she’d even dance around a customer, tickling their noses with that big beautiful sash of warm soft skunk fur. Everytime she did this to a male or a smaller portion of she got that look, that one look that always made being shaped in the wonderful way she was worth it more than anything on Earth or Zharus. A look that said. “Simone I want to kiss your feet and worship the ground you walk on for every syllable you utter is a gorgeous ballad all your own, worthy of the skills of even ancient musicians named legend such as Lady Gaga and Jessica Simpson. Every ounce of air that I breathe is of fresher quality than any air in the Milky Way simply because your radiant beauty freshens it with your presence alone. God would surely be shining upon me his highest blessing if I could so much as have your hand rest upon me.” though the individual in question would in actuality make only one bout of nervous aroused laughter and buy something. Usually something small and inexpensive like an omni-wrench or a spare flux capacitor, something to make the magnificently marvelous mechanic happy. Though humorously enough one person to receive this tail wipe across the nose will never forget the time they entered the store, originally there to buy a RIDE and get aboard this hot riding trend that all the kids these days are so into. To make a long story short the investigation that had been done to the RIDE purchased was not thorough enough and well, let’s just say what a nice young man she was.

The more Simon thought about this, the more he realized that he centered his thoughts on the amount of power and control it gave him to look the way Simone did. Any straight male with a pulse would be reduced to a cartoon wolf making ooowga noises and panting like he had a heat stroke. Was this what being a woman was about? Abusing the natural drives of humans to breed that hath been programmed in since the first slime to crawl out the oceans of a now nearly dead world over twenty light years away to get ahead in life? No, that couldn’t be otherwise there would not be a single organic sapient being on Zharus with a Y Chromosome. Besides, being a hand maiden to some overly wealthy man with big fat sacks of cash was not the style of any Bertrand male or female even if it was a nice perk to dating Shyver. Oh god, now Simon was worried about his relationship to Shyver. Was Simone nothing more than a gold digger? Was she the scum of Zharus? Was the Physical Gender Dysphoria the only thing getting her to look back on this.

Simon needed to stop looking as a more immediately important pursuit, draining the lizard. The restrooms of Sturmhaven’s men seemed just as predictable as the writing in a power rangers episode. Nothing was cleaned properly, no decorations were present, the toilet paper rolls were empty, and there were bugs crawling everywhere as if they were somehow contained to just this one room. The other men at this restroom seemed off-putting and grey in the face, all frowning and looking forward in a uniform fashion making no eye contact with each other. Just like the boys with their sisters.

Unzipping his pants to stand at a urinal, Simon made conversation. “So… how are we?”

There was at first no response, but then meekly the other man finally said something. “Can’t complain…” He said, sounding as if he were about to cry. “I uhh…” The man was about to say something else, but stopped and resumed peeing.

Simon looked down thinking he should stay focused on his own business as well. “GAaah” He said with shock as he saw his penis. Like some tumor just hanging off his body, dangling without a care in the world and it was big too, a big cancerous tumor. It had been so expensive to change in the oil ages because too few doctors were willing to do it. Why not? It LOOKED like it didn’t belong on either sex or any healthy person for that matter. It begged the question how past Simon could not only stomach this thing, but even go as far as to take pride that his was so sizeable. There was no way he could look at it right now, not for longer than a few seconds. It was so hideous and wrong. “How DO we guys put up with this?” Simon asked, shuddering as he looked up at the wall instead.

The grey faced man twitched a little before finally crying out. “Okay, that’s it. I’m crossing! I won’t be scared anymore!” he exclaimed as he zipped up his pants and went to wash his hands. Forgetting to flush the manual-flush urinal. “You used to be so handsome.” He said to the mirror or rather his reflection.

Simon walked next to him. “Oh crossed twice and hate your birth self?” He asked, assuming his situation was the same.

“No. I moved here, big mistake, but the housing was cheap and I couldn’t afford to fly to another dome. So.. here I am. I’ve been here for months and…” The man looked down at his hands. “This place does things to you. Just get out while you can if you can. I’m going to go become a woman and see if that helps anything.. I mean it should… it should. They’re better than us right?”

With that he was gone and Simon was no closer to determining what was so brilliant about being Simone. “Mmm, I wonder why he traveled this way without a RIDE?” he asked himself before sitting down back at the bar to think. It couldn’t have been beauty a lot of women don’t have that and the getting of free stuff was too out of character. Maybe it was the beauty, it was a comfortable and artistically flowing body. Another round may have been needed to help get the man’s head straight, well not really for this turned out to be a round too many as Simon no longer had any cognitive capacity left to surf his memories. There were only three sections left that could yield an answer, his time at Cape Nord, or with Lucille or Shyver, but it would have to wait. It was time for him to go anyway.

We have finally succeeded in our take to locate Zedimuse’s drive extender, where the hell are you?:: Gabrielle sent, he sounded pissed. ::I’ve been hearing the vagina monologues all damn day from both Kayla and the Valks, I swear once this is all over if I ever see a female homo sapiens once more it shall be well before the proper moment.::
Oh okay, let’s meet up… at… just have Kayla or Ruby activate a beacon.:: Simon thought spoke, very slowly. ::and I will follow zat beacon, for forty days and forty nights!.::
...Simone… are you drunk?:: Gabrielle responded, he had been calling Simon, Simone all day. It was just what he was used too.
Does a french woman have two vaginas? ughh.. you.. you worry about your own hide Ms. Locke!:: Simon sent, in Simone’s for this one.
...Well that was far too numerous an amount of factual information assuming it is indeed factual… uhh.. yeah let’s can we meet you wherever the hell you are?:: Gabrielle sent, quite disturbed
I have never barfed throwing up…:: Simon sent staggering to leave the saloon.
What? What on God’s Blue Zharus are you rambling about?:: Gabrielle demanded having no idea what the hell her employer just said, or thought rather.
I am french, can you not tell by my outrageous accent?:: Simon dodged the question.
Quite, I managed to piece that together when you were a gargantuan dollarama of Oil Age french stereotypes down to your very name, just follow Ruby’s signal and so we can vacate ourselves from the premises, yes yes Paula, more like she-vacuate the femises I’m sending him that jest as of this moment. Wait did I think that?:: Gabrielle sent having trouble keeping her thoughts straight due to his annoyance at Simon.
Your mother was a hamster, and your father stank of elderberries.:: Simon sent in his drunk depression before temporarily blocking Gabrielle from her mind. “Alright gals I’m gonna go… I’ve learned absolutely nothing. Not a damn zing, now if you excuse me. I’m going to Venars where a man and a woman have only one chromosome difference. Fuck you all!” He said as he wobbled out of the bar, putting up his index and middle fingers at everyone around.

“You insult Sturmhaven.” A woman spoke up angrily

“Yes I do… and frankly my dear. I don’t give a damn!” Simon laughed as he kissed the person who said that. “Au revoir.”

A few women got up and pointed their guns at Simon who ignored them mostly as he waltzed out the bar. They all screamed threats at him, but Simon after dealing with sexism, depressing memories, gender dysphoria, militant women, and their poor male victims he had gotten to the point where his sadness had gotten so high that it turned around and hit bliss, like getting a really high score in an ancient arcade game.

One may be lead to believe this was the end of Simon, but strangely enough all of the guns failed to fire. Not a single one managed to get off a bullet or a plasma bolt. This made the frenchman laugh and recall something he had said at his crossover party. “Hey, no firing of guns, I guess we’re all french.”

There was an uproar of arguments as soon as he left, every woman demanding to know why their guns wouldn’t work. The mysterious strange in the corner just smiled and tipped up her hat. “Gee, how did that happen? Hehe.” She said with a smirk. ______________________________________________________________________________

Gabrielle, Kayla, and Paula were cruising down on Ruby flying overheard to look for the intoxicated Simon. “Why didn’t he wait till after Sturmhaven to switch back?” Paula asked confused.

“Why did he switch back at all?” Kayla asked, looking out the sides of Ruby’s flier form. “A shame we have to leave this town is beautiful. You can really feel the culture in the air.”

“Okay, you’ve said a lot of unsettling things since you became a woman. That one was the most bothersome.” Gabrielle groaned looking out the sides herself. “And culture? You mean the scent of male fear and tampons right?”

“Speaking of Male Fear, we should land. Now.” Kayla grinned rubbing her paws together. “The cameras I hacked to help us find Zedimuse has got something juicy and we need to watch.”

“Ruby, do not land… keep flying.” Gabrielle demanded.

“Alright, but Simon’s in just the area Senator Edmund is talking about.” Ruby said as she landed. “So… kinda have to.”

“Purrrrrfect” Kayla grinned.

The landing didn’t take long, Simon was bumbling through an alleyway giggling to himself when he noticed what Kayla noticed. An arguing couple. “Baby, this is crazy talk the shuttle back to Earth leaves in an hour. We need to hurry up and get your tags off.” pleaded the male of the couple.

“We’re not going back to Earth, I like it here.” The woman responded, she was in a fuser suit of grey tabby grinning. “All they had on Earth was a bunch of ruins, here we have real progressive thinkers with their heads screwed on right. I’ve never seen a place that made as much sense as this.”

“Well Zharus is popular for a reason, heh, I think I saw some cheap apartments in Burnside.” The man said, sounding very uncomfortable. He couldn’t be blamed, his girlfriend’s tone was actually pretty scary.

“Burnside? I’m talking about Sturmhaven! I mean think about it, who always starts wars, men. Who have been the worst leaders in human history? Adolf Hitler, George W. Bush, Vladmir Putin, all men. We can really turn our lives around in a place like this were the real criminals are the ones put on trial. I mean women don’t rape or beat their husbands.” The grey tabby fuser said breathing fresh air. “I mean did it really take this long for some talented women to get together and solve the real problem of the universe. Men.”

“Damn right!” Kayla cheered from a safe distance.

“Are you breaking up with me?” The man asked backing away slowly. “Cause I’m not sure we should be together right now anyway.”

“That’s the testosterone talking. We can make this work as lesbians, we’ll be happier that way, just two women against the world.” The fuser said, purring and twirling. “All I have to do is defuse with Tammy and you get to join the noble sex!”

Paula looked at Gabrielle with discomfort, this was getting too close to her own memories of gender problems. “You’re a marshal, this is gender jacking, Arrest her!”

“It’s not illegal to genderjack a man in Sturmhaven, they consider it akin to curing a terminal illness. You can get a higher sentence for stopping one, if he were genderjacking her I’d be a hero for stopping it.” Gabrielle whispered with a sigh. “Let’s leave.”

“No I wanna see the best part.” Kayla smiled wide.

The tabby fuser defused. “This is for your own good my future wife!” and with that the tabby RIDE was intitiating fusion with the male.

“DON’T YOU DARE!” Screamed Simon who ran as fast as he could to stop this. “I have had it with Sturmhaven and gender altogether!” It was a close call, but he made it, right infront of the RIDE’s path taking the fusion for the male. “You, what the hell were you even doing here?” The french mechanic asked the man that was saved.

“Well I was curious about how a female dominated society would be like.” The man said with a swallow. “I think I’m good on that, sorry about the whole.. uhh..”

“Don’t mention it, it really was no trouble.” Simon said, his voice becoming more feminine by the second.

“Tammy defuse with that idiot and get him!” The woman who sicked the RIDE ordered.

“That’s a negative, we’re programmed not to defuse with someone of the oppisite sex for ten minutes for safety reasons.” Tammy apologized.

“Paula, get this man the hell out of here. I have a bone to pick with this madamoiselle.” Simon, now more Simone said walking up to the woman.

“Gotcha!” Paula fusing with Ruby and carrying the man off to safety.

“Do you know what I’ve learned today?” Simone asked, stepping towards the woman bitterly. “Do you know what gender is? Do you have any idea why men are from mars and women are from venus?”

“Well it’s a mystical complexity that…” The woman was saying before Simone shook her head no.

“It’s all DNA. I have been looking through memories all day to find out what was so great about being a woman. You know what I found?” Simone asked. “I found that I enjoyed it because I was something new and my brain and body weren’t conflicting. That’s it, it’s just a chromosome X or Y, you have a chance of getting one at birth and if you don’t like it you can try the other. It may have been more than that back before gender nanites were a thing, but all it is… is a body.” Simone said. “No it wasn’t, back then it was just a birth defect coupled with a body. There is no Aphrodite or Ares. We’re just mammals with differing body parts to share our dna. Zat is it!”

“You’re insane.” The woman cried. “Why are you being so mean to me?”

“You tried turning your boyfriend into a girlfriend against his will because of something Hitler did. Hitler has never even been to Earth’s moon, what the hell does he have to do with anything in Sturmhaven nothing you insane idiot!” Simone screamed. “Once I can defuse I’m leaving, thank you for curing my gender dysphoria, have a nice life here in Scumhaven.”

Kayla however was fuming mad at this, after failing to see a way to catch Paula without revealing she could fly she directed her rage towards Simone. “BLASPHEMER! Masculinity is the defect!” She screeched and literally started shooting lightning from her hands at Simone.

“Senator, you’.... you’re.. killing me…” Simone called out, reaching Tammy’s paw toward Kayla.

“What in the hell is going on here?!?!?!” The woman freaked out watching Kayla’s lighting. “What is she.”

“A legend that’s about to be a myth if she doesn’t stop her Darth Sidious impersonation.” Gabrielle warned pointed a gun at Kayla as she got the Rat RIDE she brought with her to fuse with her. Throughout the long shopping day Gabrielle had named her Cassandra II.

“Ha, you won’t hurt me.” Kayla laughed the kind of cartoonish evil villain laugh her brother always would.

“You’re killing her, I’m a Marshall, murder isn’t legal anywhere on Zharus, do the math.” Gabrielle warned as she activated Cassandra-II’s weapon systems

“But I’m your best friend.. I’m worth more than her.” Kayla brushed Gabrielle off.

“My best friend isn’t a Sturmhaven Sympathizer.” Gabrielle warned one last time.

Simone interrupted this conversation to scream. “WILL YOU JUST SHOOT HER ALREADY I’M BEING ELECTROCUTED TO DEATH!”

“Right….” Gabrielle fired every weapon Cassandra-II had at once at Kayla, knowing that being an Integrate meant she was very VERY durable. “Senator Kayla Edmund, you have the right to remain silent, you are being arrested for the attempted murder of Simone Bertrand and due to your Integrate status I am under orders to bring you right to a lab in Nextus that can’t wait to see what makes you tick.

“You… you’d be betray me, for some whore? No, fuck you Gabrielle, fuck you.. You.. I can’t believe this. You’d hurt me to save a Male Lover! I hope you get deported straight back to Earth to visit your bratty brother’s grave site!” Kayla said, spitting a combination of oil and saliva at her former best friend.

“Karl, I think it’s best you leave. If I arrest you, you won’t make it back to Nextus still functioning.” Gabrielle said furrowing her brow and wiping the spit off of her fuser’s face. “Consider this a final act of friendship. Next time I see you, I will kill you.”

“Big talk for a human.” Kayla rolled her eyes, turning into her old skimmer form from when she was Sabrina or half of her was anyway. “I hope you integrate before then, otherwise it’d be like fighting a ketchup packet…. mmm.. I’ll fill you with as many holes as my brother filled your brother!”

“I SAID LEAVE!” Gabrielle screamed firing shots at Kayla as she finally flew away.

The woman had ran off leaving Tammy behind, though said RIDE chased after her once Simone was finally let out. “Paula’s coming back to see us out, says that guy’s fine… Gabe why didn’t man always trust science?”

“I’m not sure I trust it myself… Simone.” Gabrielle sighed defusing. “I had them mail Zedimuse to Venars. Let’s never return here again.”

“Oui” Simone sighed.

It was nightfall now, the RIDE out of Sturmhaven was wonderful, they were so ready to leave Simone left her skimmer behind. As they left they passed by the guards at Sturmhaven’s dome. Simone had a few choice words for them, which went something like “Vous êtes une pute sexiste et c'est un mécontentement vous connaitre et ce nid de rat que vous appelez Sturmhaven” The guards weren’t offended, until they translated it after Simone and Gabrielle were hundreds of miles away.

“What did you say to them?” Gabrielle pondered

“Nothing much, just ‘You are all sexist bitches and it has been a displeasure knowing your ilk and that rat nest you call Sturmhaven.’” Simone smiled with a sigh of relief. “As soon as I get home I’m re-activating Lucille, I’m not like Kayla, I don’t abandon mon friends! Sorry about zat by le way.”

“....The only thing Karl ever wanted to be was a woman. When he finally got around to having that wish granted it had taken so long that he became paranoid. Concerned that people wanted to revert her back to her old sex. So she declared a war on men, ordinarily she prided herself on not being as bad as Sturmhaven. But now… now...” Gabrielle looked up at the stars wondering how Kayla became so awful. “Change is a painful thing Bertrand.”

“Yes, but if we didn’t have it we’d be back on Earth living in caves and building fires for warmth.” Simone pointed out as she looked up at the sky, wondering which star was the human homeworld that her family still resided in. “We would never have traveled across the stars or even known that zey were anything other zan holes in the blanket of la night.”

“I know Simone, just sometimes when you open the genie’s bottle you find that your best friend blew all three wishes on his sorry ass and you’re stuck dragging a rat tail across all of creation… without end while she’s gallivanting around like a cheap whore.” Gabrielle had Cassandra-II drive for a bit as she rested her head on the controls. “Sadly, my situation is not unique. Two best friends wanna live the good life up here. They come, one gets what they wanted the other knows the true definition of misery. They cross, get super powers, find a new best friend in a talking camel, replace their metal with honest to God flesh and bone, find a fortune in q, whatever. One of them gets exactly what they wanted, once that happens. What do you need that other asshole you came here with? Honestly who knows how many more people will fall for the trap of the Zharusian dream and how few of them will ever have their friendships recover from it.”

“Zharus has many traps…” Simone sighed. “I came to Sturmhaven as a guy to help me find the answer to an important question.”

“Did you find it?” Gabrielle asked.


“Care to explain?”

“I am the Exile Of Cape Nord.” Simone said plainly. “And I finally forgave myself.”

“...Damn.” And that’s all Gabrielle would say as she recalled a nasty and infamous case. One the Cape Nord Government never wanted to leave their dome. “I understand if you don’t want to talk about it.”

“I don’t…” Simone muttered. “I’ve forgiven myself, but…

“We have a long skim in front of us. Why don’t you fall into slumber?” Gabrielle sighed, recalling the controversy about that particular case. The rat-rider forced a smile and took her employer’s hand for comfort.

“I zink I shall.” Simone said as she dozed off, worn out from the events of the day.

Gabrielle skimmed along the sands of the dry looking for the nearest burger joint. It would be a few weeks before Zedimuse’s body was mailed to him as it required many repairs due to him being cannibalized for parts. Though the garage had a responsibility to sell RIDEs, Zedimuse was a male, and thus his body was not only in low demand, but a second rate product as well. Right now, it had been a long day and food sounded wonderful.

Soon enough Gabrielle was in Uplift, having been lead there by Paula and Ruby whom she had been in contact with during the drive. Gabrielle had asked Paula to locate the nearest town and find a burger joint significantly better than fast food quality. It turned out to be in Uplift, not a bad little town. Not that far away from the dome’s entrance there was a wonderful little slice of heaven dubbed Good Burger. As usual Paula did not recognize the obvious reference to 20th Century culture, but Uplift locals normally did it was well known for upholding that particular Zharusian tradition.

Gabrielle walked in slowly and uncertainly carring with her a barely awake Simone. Simone was still feeling the alcohol in her system though not as much as she had before the short nap. “I’m fine darling, I can walk.”

“Just being carefully, I mean after what Senator Bitchass did to you and that quadrupedal automaton… I don’t suppose you have any more back up bodies do you?” Gabrielle pondered, as it would be three years before either of Simone’s forms could once again contain a Y Chromosome.

“Non non Gabrielle, but tis fine. I’ll probably switch back under Shyver’s dime. My stay in Sturmhaven has wiped my desire to return to the male sex.” Simone informed as she grabbed her dizzy head.

A woman in a frog fuser met the trio and their RIDEs Cassandra-II and Ruby greeting the five with the classic catch phrase for which the restaurant was named. “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”

“If it’s all the same, we would like a man to serve us.” Gabrielle said, getting a stern look from the woman infront of her.

“What? But…” The frog fuser was shocked, both her and her RIDE, sexism on Zharus was nearly unheard of and misogyny from a fellow female was questionable even back when the genders were pretty set in stone from birth.

“It’s been a long day, and too much of it was spent in Sturmhaven.” Gabrielle explained. “It’s nothing personal just…”

Paula looked at Gabrielle with a frown and shook her head. “Sorry my friend here’s just a little grumpy, I’d like Good Bacon Burger with bacon ranch fries and a Watermelon Dr. Pepper.”

“The same, but I’ll take a bottle of Guinness instead.” Gabrielle answered, too lost in her own thoughts to give the apology that the fuser was expecting.

“Oh la hell, I shall have a chicken sandwich combo, substitute fries with ranch dipped onion rings with some of le hair of ze dog.” Simone said before remembering that a fastfood chain like Good Burger was not likely to have harder alcohols. “On second thought, I’ll have a lemon pepsi.”

“Oh, okay… I can see you are a trio of gals who love their ranch.” The fuser said, sending the chef the orders through that telepathic texting thing that the people of the twenty fifth century seemed so capable of.

“She who does not love ranch, has no true passion for life itself!” Simone declared. Gabrielle looked at her with a smile, she could easily piece together why Shyver loved her, this very day she had been through both hell and back and the eternal puzzle of the human sexes yet here she was full of life as though nothing had occurred. It was strange, this estrogen was a strange beast, the rat-tailed one found herself moved by her new boss and even more, wishing that Shyver and Simone could find a way to make it work even if the former was working for Zharus’ premier super villain. Despite knowing what she did, it seemed to Gabrielle that Simone was one of the good people of Zharus and she didn’t see them in too many places she looked.

“Is that so?” Gabrielle asked with a smile on his face. “Well it’s good to know we all love life then.”

Paula looked at Gabrielle with a grin and shook her head. “Are you sure you’re Gabrielle Locke?”

“The second there’s ever been.” Gabrielle said cheerfully, laying back in her seat wishing she had thought to bring some marijuana to smoke as she waited.

Paula raised her eyebrow at this comment and looked towards Simone, then back at Gabrielle. “Well, I know you and her are clones, but you’re still the same person. I mean it’s not like your minds were copied too… Just moved around.”

Gabrielle shrugged, recounting a somewhat amusing tale from her boyhood on Earth. “I was named for my ancestor, a famous philosopher and spiritualist who lived some five hundred years ago when skimmers could not levitate and ran on fossilized fuel sources.”

“Oui, I believe zey were called cars back zen.” Simone commented perking her new ocelot ears in Gabrielle’s direction to listen to this story.

“So they were.” Gabrielle said. “So they were. Though it turned out that Gabriel Zedimouse Locke the first wasn’t considered too popular for his spiritual texts as much as infamous for a much different course of action taken by him.”

“Oh? Why not? I thought zat le people of le Oil Ages loved religion, far more than what was reasonable.” Simone asked, remembering her history classes. “Zey even had printed ‘In God We Trust’ on le money in le USA until le Unification Wars.”

“...Would it kill you to say the? Everything you said was in perfectly fluent english.” Gabrielle groaned, if there was one thing she didn’t like about Simone it was the insistence on using french words very randomly and without reason.

Simone had an annoyed look on her face. “A little on le inside. Oui. French is le langauge de’love! I am a lover and a gentlelady. So, I speak french.”

“You are the only one I know who does, I mean. We’re all capable of learning it, but still. We speak English on this planet, I mean except in Kyotokyo where they speak Japanese, but…” Gabrielle shrugged. “I mean, I’m all for the preservation of your culture, especially since you’ve journeyed to a planetary body with strange customs that.. does not speak your langauge. I mean, sure have a croissant for your early morning sustenance every now and again, but if no one can understand you….”

“Cassandra-II telecharger Francais.” Simone said to Gabrielle’s RIDE in a smug voice. Having said “Download French.” in french.

“Okay smartass…” Gabrielle, said disliking that she had lost her argument. “I guess you have a point it is that easy here….”

The conversation eventually wrapped up once the food and drinks were brought forth and the girls stuffed their faces feeling refreshed and ready to hightail it straight to Venars for a well deserved rest. That was when they encountered a few problems, for once they hit over the wet ocean to head for the Laurasia land mass they noticed Paula and Ruby spiraling downward, smoke coming from her their wing

Simone, Gabrielle, and Cassandra-II rushed over to find what was the matter and found the figure of a thylacine-like woman floating in place and looking over Paula and Ruby trying to re-ignite their lifters and take off and flee, after failing that they decided to fire their weapons at the figure. Light assault weapons and a few rockets. The figure just looked down at Paula without concern, the assault rifle shots not even phasing the figure. Instead she just stood there like it was a light drizzle. It wasn’t until the rockets came close that she had any reaction as she slapped three of four of the rockets out of the air like they mere insects and flew upwards to avoid the three thunderous splashes as they exploded in the water. The fourth one did not detonate at all, instead the figure grabbed that and ate it, having no ill effects whatsoever. “Homing shots. Thanks, I can use that.”

Once Simone and Gabrielle were close enough, they both were in awe of the figure. “LucyPop, it’s been so many years.” said the latter of the two women. “...Since.. this happened to you.”

“You make a cute chica Gabe.” The figure said with a light smile. “But this isn’t a social call. I assume the woman with you is Karl?”

“Actually, Senator Kayla betrayed us in Sturmhaven. I am Simone Bertrand.” Simone spoke up to the figure. “And if you’ve hurt one hair on Paula or Ruby!”

“Well my wing has a hole in it so….” Paula looked towards Simone with horror in her eyes and blood pouring from the hole in her wing. “I’d like to know what you’re going to do, because, to be frank. I’m freaking out right now!”

“Good question.” Lucypop answered, pointing her arms downward into the ocean becoming far more metallic as the hardlight seemed to literally fall off of not just her, but Cassandra-II as well and surround the portion of the water that Gabrielle, Cassandra-II, and Simone had occupied. The water had a strange look to it once it was coated in hardlight. It was like looking at the water from toon town in that oil age Roger Rabbit movie.

“Darling can you explain to me what fresh hell is this?” Gabrielle asked as she trickled her fingers through the toon water. “What are you doing with the water?” Simone however did not stop to ask questions jumping right into the water to swim out to Paula.

“It wouldn’t work out Gabe.” LucyPop said simply as she put the finishing touches into her water manipulation. Ignoring Simone as she pulled Paula and Ruby onto Cassandra-II.

“Of course it would. You’re bisexual, I’m a lesbian. Just.. stop playing with the water and explain what in damnation has gotten a hold of you.” Gabrielle said looking at Lucypop trying in vain to reason with her

Ms. Locke, she shot Paula out of le sky, I don’t think she wants to talk… FLY god damn it fly:: Simone pleaded.
Simone I haven’t seen her in years. If I flee I may never see her again:: Gabrielle pleaded with sincere pain and longing trailing with every pseudo-decibel in her mind-voice.
PAULA AND RUBY ARE HURT YOU SELFISH CUNT!:: Simone mentally roared unable to believe this was happening.

“...Fair point. Okay Cassandra-II, let’s… aaah.. oh dear.” Gabrielle looked down at her skimmer with a somewhat worried glance, and by somewhat worried your friendly narrator of course means worried for dear life like Slenderman himself had risen from the Q-filled desert to feast upon the souls of the damned and innocent alike. Lucypop being a godlike flying entity looking down condescendingly with an alarmingly potent obvious power over the natural elements of the worlds might as well have been Slenderman. Worse actually as Slenderman only wants his twenty dollars and the exchange rate would be quite in Gabrielle’s favor, Lucypop did not seem reasonable. So the million unit question seemed to be why Gabrielle was worrying her allies by not moving. The answer is quite simple really, it wasn’t just the hardlight projection that was acting strange under the hybrid of woman, machine, and various animals, but the lifters and telecommunications as well. In fact it seemed like everything was malfunctioning, even the little combination fabber/toaster oven that Shyver had thought to include for making personal sized pizzas and grilled cheese. “Lucypop, darling, is there any chance I can convince you not to kill me?”

“Merde!” Simone cried out burying her face in her palm. Had it really come to this? Begging for their lives? And for all that talk about being a badass Marshall….

“Do you have any better ideas?” Gabrielle outburst, looking at Simone full on and showing the full depths of her discomfort at the possibility of facing death by a familiar hand.

Lucypop said nothing, the grovel of her prey was of no interest, instead she raised her arms up and with it the hardlight that had temporarily bonded to the water had risen up in walls around the two RIDEs and three humans. It had reminded Paula, whose family was very seriously Protestant, greatly of when Moses parted the red sea. Only there was no clear path this time as the water came crashing down on top of them with enough force to knock the humans out.

Ruby was still up and running even if Paula wasn’t. “You!” she yelled trying one more bursts of assault weapons “I don’t care what you is, I’m gonna teach you a less.. s...s...somersault! TRY A SOMERSAULT! DO A BARREL ROLL USE THE BOOST TO GET THROUGH!” she continued to blab nonsense until finally shutting down having been hacked by Lucypop and forced to defuse from Paula.

::Aristo, it’s Lucypop. I’m leaving Paula and Gabrielle to drown, Kayla wasn’t with them. Want me to consume their RIDEs or did you want them?:: Lucypop sent while checking over her vanquished enemies.

::No, if any of them are dead Simone will suspect something is up and will try to investigate it. Just erase their memories, it should be easy. As they’re all from Earth and thus have their implants. Then take them to Venars.:: Aristo instructed smuggly, being condecending enough o

::You said I’d get to take a life.:: Lucypop complained sending Aristo the image of tombstones with the names “Gabrielle Zachira Locke 116-148 AL” “Paula Trevor Reverbek 125 - 148 AL” and “Simone Adora Bertrand 102 - 148 AL” on them.

::Yes, Kayla’s. But she’s not with these clowns:: Aristo reminded grumpily, he had always had nothing but contempt for his dearly beloved former brother. ::If you kill them, Simone will find it suspicious that her friends are dead and she cannot remember why.::

::What about Paula? She has no connection to this at all.:: Lucypop licked her lips thinking of feasting on the rest of Ruby’s parts, maybe she’d get some bad ass wings out of it.

::Lucypop NO! Especially not Paula, now do as I say!:: Aristo demanded!

The hybrid integrate growled sending a mental image of Aristo burning to death, exposed charred skeletal bits and everything along with these words. . ::Aristo, you are still human. Your metal arm is good, but we both know I’d have it for breakfast if you so much as looked at me wrong.::

::Hehehe.. as I was saying. Do as I say and I’ll pay you double.... Ms… uhh is your last name still…. oh what was it?:: Aristo sent, his thoughts were panicked and bunched together. ::It was a colour right?::

::Just Lucypop, and yeah that’s what I thought you said:: Lucypop smiled to herself and took her prey back to its nest after erasing their memories. She hacked the RIDEs’ lifters to head straight for Le Wrench Of Paris and reboot immediately afterwards. It was off to Supernova to count her millions.