I always liked this concept and wished it had gone a bit further detailing the transformation aspects but.... it does its job well enough:)
By Ingrid Halb
Reassignment Case file 2107-6306-G
Subject: Candace (Ethan Kaine)
Yes it was possible for a tired 47-year old man to continue to be a productive member of society, but Ethan Kaine had chosen an increasingly obsolescent career path. His line of work was rapidly being automated with new AI software. But after 22 years of federal service Ethan was of the firm belief that the system worked and that the Government would take care of its loyal servants. So he chose to disregard the slashing of the research project and the rising tide of more and more autonomous AI programs to handle more and more of his job. Five years ago, his latest supervisor tried to warn him.
"Ethan," he said, "get out while you can and get yourself a voluntary reassignment. Or next thing you know you're on your way to the colonies."
"Oh c'mon," Ethan would usually reply. "They're always going to need someone to supervise these programs. They don't watch themselves you know."
Three years later the supervisor took voluntary reassignment and was gone. Two years after that, Ethan was still there. So, he had been warned. But in his defense it would be tough to find a better job than his current position. Government housing with work at home privileges, business class healthcare, retirement support, and all the holidays and scheduled pay advances that come with working in the civil service made this a comfortable life. And comfort makes it easy not to worry too much about the future.
In reality, Ethan was afraid to change careers. Sure he fantasized about making a big leap for a flashy new job with excitement and sexappeal, but for those jobs he would be competing with guys less than half his age. No, civil service was it, boring but safe with a nice predictable career path. That was, until this morning when he tried to log onto his home workstation and found a flagged message on the desktop instead.
'Remote terminal access denied. Digital ID signature indicates you are occupying a redundant employment position and/or one deemed slated for automation. You have seven days to report to your local Government Assignments Department office for reassignment evaluation. If you believe this message to be in error contact the Help Desk at your nearest Reassignments Center at your earliest convenience. Send receipt/acknowledge (Y/N)?'
All the blood seemed to rush out of his head and his field of vision shrank till all he saw was the message board. Maybe if he did not reply or just turned the system off he could pretend he never got the message. But of course they already knew. They always know. Information flowed too easy for that. In one week's time someone would come around asking why he had not reported. And they would not ask nicely either. Underground was always an option. Live outside the system, hacking in every now and then for supplies and entertainment. But who was he kidding, really? He would report. Ethan always followed the rules and went along with the system. It was in his nature and all he knew even if the system was landing square on top of him.
Funny thing was that he had voted for it. Not directly, of course, but it was the campaign issue three elections ago. End unemployment and welfare. Expand the human race to new frontiers. No more useless duplication of work as a person is found to fill every needed job, even if we have to alter that person to fit the job. A shudder ran through him thinking of that.
No reason to dwell on genetic transformation though. There were plenty of jobs needing a skilled program oversight developer. Besides, he had an engineering degree. They needed him. They needed him in spite of that damned 'redundant' message. It had to be a mistake. He just needed to go talk to someone at the help desk and he had seven days to do it.
Three of his seven days he spent gloriously drunk. Another day was spent nursing a hangover and generally feeling sorry for himself. He did check in early, though. Figuring they did not need an excuse to mess him up, he reported at the check-in station two days early.
"Ethan Kaine," he said slipping his ident card through the reader.
"One moment please," she answered, obviously bored and probably overpaid for the human interaction role she was performing.
"Yes, Mr. Kaine," she finally responded. "You are scheduled for career reassignment. Your new ident card will be issued when you check into Reassignment Section Intro Interviews. Follow the green line to the left, thank you."
"Excuse me," Ethan said, kind of perturbed when his ident card wasn't returned. "I think there may have been some kind of mistake. I do have a computer engineering degree."
"I wouldn't know about that, sir," she replied dully. "Central registry doesn't make mistakes. They'll be able to clear everything up at Reassignments."
"Thanks," he said snippily. Clearly he was not going to get any clarification here. The kind of people they hired for these help desks were limited at best. He was going to need some sort of management help to rectify this. But management was not at Reassignments either. What was there was another clerk at another help desk.
"I'm afraid I can't help you until you create a new ident card by filling out the Reassignment questionnaire and preference form."
"I understand that," he said rapidly reaching an over quota of frustration. He had trouble believing these people had jobs while he was declared redundant. "I just need to speak to someone in charge. Your manager, or supervisor, or someone. You see, I just think that there has been some sort of mistake and I'm sure we can clear this up quickly if you just let me talk to someone in charge."
"I'm sorry, sir. But there's nothing I can do for you until you fill out the Reassignment questionnaire..."
"...and preference form," he finished sarcastically. "Thank you so much for all you do."
He snatched the temporary ident card from the attendant and stormed off to a terminal at the far end of the room. This whole thing was ridiculous. Sure he worked for the government too, but he performed a valuable service. This guy was just a button pushing bureaucrat. Ethan was still muttering under his breath as the terminal hummed into life.
The questionnaire itself was very straightforward and most of it was auto filled from the Government databases. The preference form was much more interactive. A lot of it was asking for his likes and dislikes. Some of the questions were pretty weird. Questions like 'Which of these trees are you more likely to draw?' or 'How many close friends do you have now compared to when you were a child?' It was pretty detailed and took most of an hour to fill in. Towards the end it asked about career preferences. He still thought this was all a misunderstanding, but did not want to jinx any chances of clearing this up. So he carefully chose 'Civil Service' as his first selection.
After that, he just got silly. The whole situation was preposterous and he chuckled to himself as he checked off 'Actor/Entertainer'. Let's see them find me a job as a movie star, he thought. He was still chuckling when he hit send and the terminal accepted the input.
He stopped chuckling when the terminal spat out his new ident card. He had expected a standard card with name across the top and career field on the back. What he got was superficially similar in that it was the right shape with all the usual imbedded circuit chips, but it was bright orange. It had his name on top, but no picture, and instead of a career field all it said on the back was 'Pre-Assignment Medical/Physical Section'.
"Excuse me," he asked the incredibly unhelpful clerk at the help desk, handing him the new ident card. "What sort of job is this supposed to be?"
"Oh," the clerk said, a little too serious for Ethan's liking. "That's not a job. That just means you need to report to the Pre-Assignment Medical/Physical Section before they can issue you a new career."
"First off, I don't want a new career. I want my old career back," Ethan demanded. "And secondly, why do I need some medical section to get a new job? Isn't that what you're supposed to do here?"
"Normally, yes," the clerk admitted. "They just want to make sure you're physically suitable for your new career and medically capable of handling any changes."
"Changes? What do you mean 'changes'?" he demanded. "You mean 'genetic changes' don't you!"
The clerk realized he had made a mistake.
"Oh I wouldn't worry about that, Sir," he answered in a faux cheerful voice, probably meant to reassure, but only worried Ethan further. "Very, very few people who come through the Reassignment section ever need any physical changes."
"Really?" Ethan asked. "And how many of these 'very, very few' people got orange ident cards?"
"Um..." he stammered. "I... I don't know, Sir."
"Look, just give me a new ident card and I'll straighten this out with your supervisor."
"I... I can't do that, Sir. Only Medical/Physical can issue you a new ident card now."
"Then give me my old card back."
"I can't do that either, Sir. It doesn't exist anymore. That PreAssignment card is the only one in the system now."
Ethan wanted to shove the card down clerk's throat and rip his limbs off one by one. Then he wanted to feed the pieces into the card reader until it spat out a proper ident card. What he wound up doing was grit his teeth, snatch back his orange ident card and storm right out of the Government Assignment Office and head for home. This was still a free country and nobody could force him back there.
The trouble with a free country is that almost nothing in it is free. Food, drink, public transportation, access to your credit line, all cost something. Not much mind you. A swipe of your card and you barely notice it until the monthly bill. You do notice it though when you have a bright orange ident card that does not accept charges.
It was a long walk home, a long, hot, dusty walk home. And the relief he felt as he finally reached his front door was almost enough to put him in a good mood. That was until he found out the orange ident card also did not open the front door. All it did do was to generate a holo message that read 'The contents of this dwelling have been placed under protective seal pending career assignment of registered occupant'.
Pounding on the door did not help. Neither did kicking it or sitting in front of it for two hours. In the end, all he could do was walk back to the Reassignments Center and check into the Pre-Assignment Medical/Physical Section.
Things were a bit anticlimactic. The clerk there seemed to be better informed and assured him that mostly they just eliminated careers that the person was unsuitable for. Changing people to fit jobs was a miniscule part of their routine.
That was reassuring, but of more immediate interest was the fact that they had a cafeteria, a really big cafeteria and his ident card worked there. More of a restaurant really, in that a waitress took your order. His was a sweet young thing with a short mop of auburn hair and looked maybe nineteen years old. She was on the skinny side and a bit flat-chested, but she had these long legs that were well displayed by her short skirt and high heeled boots. It did not seem that she had been working there very long. She was clumsy taking his order and never made eye contact. But she was cute and after wolfing down his meal Ethan tried to strike up a conversation.
"Excuse me," he said touching her hand as she reached to take my empty dishes away.
"Yes?" she asked pensively after flinching at his touch.
"I'm sorry. I'm not usually so forward. My name's Ethan."
She stared like a deer in the headlights.
"What's yours?" he asked.
"M... Melissa," she stammered.
"Melissa. That's a pretty name. And you're the prettiest thing I've seen since I got here."
She looked nervously around and he decided not to push too hard at this time.
"Maybe I'll see you around," he finished.
"Y... Yes sir," she replied before rushing back to the kitchen area.
That definitely could have gone better, Ethan thought. The rest of the staff was much more approachable. This one blonde girl named Angie was a lot more approachable. She might have been dressed like Melissa, but she was a whole lot curvier and a heck of a lot friendlier.
"You're a Good Time Girl!" Ethan said putting two and two together.
"You got it, Sugar!" she answered silkily. "I'm going to be, anyway. Right now I'm just a trainee learning my way."
"So how about training a little with me tonight?" he offered.
"Oh, sorry Hon. I get a few for showing you around but they can't figure the creds until you get yourself an assignment."
She seemed genuinely disappointed but that did little to clarify Ethan's confusion.
"Creds?" he asked.
"Credits. Company money."
Ethan showed no comprehension.
"It's what they pay us in and what your card works on now," she explained. "No one uses real money here."
"And we can't have sex, why?"
"Cause they can't figure out how many creds it would cost, silly."
"But when I get an assignment..."
"You just give ole' Angie a call Hon', until then..." She reached up and gave him a deep passionate kiss. "That was on the house."
Ethan was dazed for awhile and by the time he had recovered Angie had already turned to go.
"Wait!" he shouted after her. "The other staff, the waitresses in the cafeteria... Are they Good Time Girls, too?"
"Sure, Hon. That's where we first step out and learn to be nice and sweet and grow to look like this." She smiled, cocking a hip and gesturing to her body with both hands.
"So, when I'm assigned, I could get them to sleep with me?" he asked, his mind churning with images of Melissa.
She smiled wryly before answering.
"Maybe, Hon'," she shrugged. "They're just a little shy when they're new. But you never know."
She was still smiling as she strutted away flaunting her backside. So Melissa was a Good Time Girl. Or was going to be one, anyway. He never would have guessed it consciously but something had put the thought into his head. She was cute. Not 'bombshell' cute, but cute none the less. More of a waif, really. Angie was closer but none of the waitresses exactly had that heart-stopping sultry look that one associates with Good Time Girls. Then it struck him where he was. These girls were being enhanced to be Good Time Girls! Each of them was going to grow sexier and sexier over time. The idea was erotic. The thought of Melissa going through this transformation piqued his libido and he vowed to get closer to her.
In the meantime it had been a long and stressful day and he was tired, so he sought out his assigned room which turned out to be utilitarian. There was a double bed, a closet, a chest of drawers, a secure internet access terminal with card reader, a mirror, a small bathroom area. Home? Not if he could do anything about it. But sleep came first and it came fast as Ethan drifted off while planning his escape.
He woke the next morning feeling incredibly refreshed. At least the beds were comfortable. And the shower felt good. The annoying part was that everything seemed to cost something. He was being charged for toilet paper, toothpaste, shower water, everything. It irritated him that there were charges in what felt like a prison. They even placed restrictions on what he could buy. For clothes he could only buy either a plain white track suit or disposable bathrobes. Given that as is option, he spent the next few days exploring the Center while wearing a white track suit.
Overall, the Center was a curious place. Some places were off limits, but nobody made him do anything. Nobody listened to his complaints either, except to tell him that there was nothing they could do until he had undergone his physical. Subsequently, he hung out at the cafeteria a lot.
His attention was drawn to the waitresses. They ran the gamut of skin tones and hair color and varied in height, but never in a freakish way. Many seemed nervous or clumsy. Some were more self-assured and openly flirty. These comfortable ones were curvier and generally prettier, so he assumed they must be further along the process of becoming Good Time Girls. The thought of all of them slowly transforming into sexy playthings was erotic beyond belief.
Melissa must have been a fairly new addition to their corps and the thought of her transforming was especially enticing to him. But no matter how he tried to chat her up, he could not get more than a few short polite words from her. It was frustrating. Here he was surrounded by the titillation of developing Good Time Girls and none of them would touch him until he got an assignment.
All the while his protests were going unanswered. The staff was sympathetic but unhelpful and angry emails disappeared into the ether. Nobody was forcing him, but it was becoming apparent that he needed to get a career again before he would be noticed. And to do that, he had to undergo the physical.
Registering for the physical was simple enough. He turned in his track suit for some slippers and a hospital gown. The physical itself took three days during which he was never given any other type of clothes to wear. It was kind of embarrassing, especially at meal times. Then again, he had seen people wearing hospital gowns at the cafeteria before and no one seemed to care. So, perhaps it was no big deal. He had hoped that Melissa would warm up to him once she saw that he was undergoing the physical, but she remained shy and distant.
The physical took three days, but it was not one prolonged process. Each day had a distinctly different focus. Day one was spent mapping his body and Ethan had never been so thoroughly measured in his whole life. It was intrusive and exhausting. Day two on the other hand was more concerned with his physiology and what his metabolism did as he lifted weights and jumped or ran for great time lengths. It was exhausting, but he felt kind of pleased by his performance. Not bad shape for an old guy, he thought, feeling confident.
Day three was the odd day out. Instead of measuring him physically and physiologically, they spent the day putting things into him. He was given foul liquids to drink and needles seemed to be injecting him every fifteen minutes. There was even an enema involved, although what they expected to learn from that he had no idea. The scariest part was when they stuck him in front of a whirring machine while they hid behind a protective barrier. Every few minutes they would shut the machine down and rearrange the protective padding on him before once again retreating behind the barrier.
Day three was a short day but an exhausting one that left him feeling achy with a mild headache and a sore throat. Isn't that how it always goes, he thought. You feel fine, you go see a doctor, and then you start to feel sick. Maybe he was just reacting to something they gave him but whatever it was just left him feeling sicker and sicker. Even the thought of seeing Melissa again was not enough to make him feel like eating. Instead, he told the staff he was ill and went back to his room. They were sympathetic and told him they would have a nurse come check on him.
Bed did not make him feel better as he continued to feel worse. Sweating and feverish, he drifted in and out of awareness. True to their word, a nurse did come in and check on him on a regular basis. They fed him and cleaned him and did the best they could to ease his suffering. It seemed that there would be no end to his misery, but gradually he began to recover.
Eventually boredom overcame malaise and Ethan gathered himself up to venture out of his room only to find that there had been a couple of changes. His Ident card was still orange, but now instead of saying 'Pre-Assignment Medical/Physical Section' it read 'Assignments' with a time and date code for later on that same morning.
The other change was to his clothes. The hospital gown he had been given to wear was now of a completely different style. Before it had been a standard sort of hospital gown; open in the back with three ties to hold it closed. Now there was only one tie located at the back of the neck. The lower part was a tube you had to step into before pulling the gown up. There was just a hint of sleeves now so that his shoulders were mostly exposed and the color was different. The old gown had been hospital green, while this one was a pale purple color. His slippers were replaced by a pair of hard soled sandals. They were comfortable enough, but he did not care for the clicking noise they made as he walked down the hall to the cafeteria.
The cafeteria was pretty much as it had been before, except that this late in the morning there were plenty of empty tables. Ethan chose a seat in an area which he knew was Melissa's section. He may have been feeling a little weak, but he was still determined. Hopefully she was working this shift.
Luck was with him as he saw her carrying out drinks to a group not four tables from where he sat. She still had that air of shyness and nervousness. One guy sitting at the table startled her by patting her on the ass, then letting his hand trail down the back of her nylon-clad leg. She nearly dropped the tray, but instead she gave the jerk a forced smile and continued to serve the drinks while letting him fondle her leg.
She's learning her craft and trying to be a better Good Time Girl, Ethan thought. It was hypnotic. He imagined it was his hand caressing her leg, feeling the texture of her stockings. Would he be able to feel her changing? He pictured her as she would become. In his mind she would have long shiny hair, almost reaching a shapely ass. Her breasts would be large, maybe even huge. They would look like they were about to fall out of her shirt as she bent over to serve drinks like she was doing now. Her forced smile would slowly change and relax before becoming an expression of lust and longing. Comparing the frightened waif in front of him with his mental image of what she would become was incredibly arousing.
Almost on cue Melissa looked up and saw Ethan. The forced smile was still on her lips as her eyes showed weary recognition. Surprise flashed across her face for a moment, followed by a visible sigh as tension left her body. A wide and friendly smile spread across her face as sauntered over to him.
"Hi! It was Ethan, right?" she asked, seemingly very happy to see him. Ethan was distracted by her eyes. They sparkled.
"Uh... yeah, I'm Ethan."
Stupid, he thought. He already told her that. No, she already told him that. No, I... she already knows that.
"You all finished with your labs?" she asked.
Her question was not hard, but it left him flailing. His smoothness was gone. She had the initiative in this conversation.
"Yeah, how did you know?" he said, trying to turn the momentum around.
"Your clothes." She gestured to his outfit as she spoke.
"Oh," was all Ethan could offer, nervously fiddling with the light purple fabric.
"It hasn't changed a bit since I had my labs."
"You came through Medical/Physical too?"
She smiled and nodded yes. Stupid. He berated myself again. Of course she came through Medical/Physical. She was being enhanced to be a Good Time Girl. She smelled nice, too.
"Does everyone wear this outfit?" Ethan asked, distracted by his slowly hardening erection. She was so close, she filled his mind.
"No, silly! Just us!" She giggled as she touched his forearm.
Her touch had been brief and suggested nothing more than overt friendliness, but to him it was electric with promise. Ethan chuckled along with her, not getting the joke.
"Can I get you something?" she asked, leaning into him, resting her hand on his bare shoulder.
There was that electricity again. Was she flirting with him? Ethan gave silent thanks that the table hid his growing excitement.
"Um, no thanks. I haven't been very well lately."
"Oh, man! Wasn't that the worst? I can't believe how sick I felt. But don't worry; it's not going to feel like that again."
"Good," Ethan replied, confused as ever. How did she know he would not be sick again?
"So how many girls are in your group? Cause you know we could really use the help around here."
Ethan fought a losing struggle to make sense out of those statements.
"You know. How many were with you at Assignments?"
"I... I haven't been to Assignments yet."
"Oh, that's right!" She tapped herself lightly on the forehead. "You have to go to Education first. I get so bubble headed sometimes. Well anyway, welcome to the team!"
With that she bent over and gave him a big hug. Her skin was soft and her hair smelled of lilacs. His mind was so muddled that she had already turned to leave before he could respond.
"Melissa, wait! Will I see you again?"
"Of course, silly. We'll be right here."
With that she turned back to the kitchen, offering a fine view of her long legs and tight little ass. Wow, he thought, what was that? He guessed it was good. She spoke to him and she said she would see him again. She was friendly and seemed to like him. Wow.
It was some time before he could stand without displaying his aroused state to the world. Ethan kept imagining what she would finally look like as a fully fledged Good Time Girl; long shining hair, full rack that would bounce slightly as she moved, narrow waist, and a round sexy ass. Wow, indeed.
Eventually though, he did calm enough to stand without embarrassment and by then it was nearly time for his appointment with Assignments. He ambled along and with the directions from a few of the staff members he found himself in a large room with about four dozen other people. They were all seated in comfortable enough chairs that were grouped in fours and permanently mounted to small tables that were secured to the floor. The tables were scattered, but the chairs were biased to one side, so that everyone seated could pay attention to the front of the room. It reminded him of his old university classrooms.
There were three other people seated at his table; a man dressed in a light blue track suit and a couple dressed in shiny silver unitards. Other people in the room were dressed in a diverse pattern of clothing, each of which still left the impression of being a uniform of some type. The most common set of clothes worn was a track suit, but they varied in color between the sets. He felt under dressed in his hospital gown, but the others at his table barely noticed. Plus there was at least one other person in the room wearing a similar outfit, so that went a ways towards easing his feeling of exposure.
Eventually two large bored looking men entered the room and started talking quietly and generally ignoring those seated in the room. They had the look of security guards, which was enhanced by the stun batons slung on their hips. They were followed a short while later by a much smaller man dressed as a technician and carrying a cup of coffee. A few more stragglers trickled in and took their seats before the technician made his way to the podium and flipped some sort of switch.
Apparently this was to be a recorded briefing, for the center of each table lit up with a holo display showing the logo of the Government Assignments Department, which hung in the air for a moment before being replaced by the image of a young smiling woman.
"Good morning Citizens. And welcome to the first day of your new assignments! Each of you has passed the Medical/Physical section and you are now ready to begin your exciting new career. Your country thanks you for volunteering for productivity."
Governmental crap. Who volunteered for this stuff? Not Ethan. And that fake cheery voice, where do they find these people? Probably at the Assignments Office, he thought smiling at his own joke.
"If you will check the name side of your temporary identity card, you will find a six digit code ending in a letter. In a short while, we will be calling you up by this letter which also corresponds to the color of your trainee uniform. So please be patient and we will get to you shortly. Once again thank you and get ready for the rest of your lives!
"When your letter and uniform get called, just come to the front of the room and we'll get you to your Assignment desk."
This last was shouted disinterestedly and with rehearsed blurring of the words by the technician sipping coffee at the front of the room.
"Now if you're all ready, let's start with the letter 'O' and this uniform," the disembodied voice of the recording continued while the holo image displayed the rotating shapes of a generic male and female wearing steel grey swim suits. Both suits were clingy with the male's version being a standard hips and crotch covering of moderate modesty. The female version was a one-piece backless cut high on the hip.
Three people got up and padded barefoot to the front of the room. At first glance Ethan thought there were two women and one man, but he realized that in fact there were two men, one of which was wearing the female version of the swim suit.
"There go the fish," commented the man at his table wearing the light blue track suit. This was greeted by glares from the couple wearing silver unitards.
"Fish?" Ethan asked.
"You know, squids," he answered.
"Sea monkeys?" he offered keying in on Ethan's confusion.
"You shouldn't call them that," the woman at their table chided while her partner gently tried to calm her down.
"Whatever," blue track suit answered rolling his eyes.
'Sea monkeys' was a slang Ethan had heard before. It referred to the denizens of the sea colonies. Another term was 'Mermaids'. These were people transformed for life under water. This was pretty much a oneway trip as the gills did not allow for much travel in dry air.
"Poor bastards," blue track suit muttered, referring to the trio in swim suits. "Especially that one, losing your lungs is one thing, but losing your balls is way over the top."
This drew more glares from the silver unitard woman. Ethan kept quiet.
"I mean, who would volunteer for that?" blue track suit asked gesturing at the man in the female swim suit.
"No offense," he offered looking at Ethan.
Ethan did not know how to respond to that. Lately it seemed that everyone knew what was going on but him. The three sea monkeys were ushered through an open hallway at the front and the holo image on the table changed to show the same generic man and woman now wearing silver unitards.
"Let's continue with the letter 'S' and this uniform," the disembodied voice cheerfully announced.
The couple at Ethan's table got up holding hands, exchanged excited smiles and almost bounced down to the front of the room. This whole thing was starting to remind him of the boarding procedures for air travel as about ten more people wearing silver unitards made their way to the front of the room.
"Bye-bye, alfs," blue track suit offered sarcastically to the departing group. "Freaking volunteers. God I hate volunteers! You're not a volunteer, are you?"
"Me? No. They got me on Involuntary Reassignment," Ethan replied.
"That's a damn shame. Still, at least we're both staying human. Not like those freaks."
Unlike the term 'fish', Ethan had heard the term 'alf' before. It referred to people altered to live in space or on planets with hostile environments. The term was no less offensive, but he was not about to dictate political correctness to his table mate. Especially since Ethan was just now realizing that he had dodged a bullet and avoided two of his biggest fears.
"So they're not going to alter us?"
Blue track suit gave him a funny look before answering.
"You really are Involuntary," he said. Which was not an answer, nor was it a question. And so the conversation hung painfully vacant for a while.
"Listen," blue track suit said sympathetically. "If we're here, they're going to make it so we fit our jobs."
Ethan looked confused.
"You really have no idea what's going on here, do you?" Blue track suit looked like he thought Ethan was playing a trick on him. Ethan struggled to understand. Clearly he was missing something and it seemed important.
"But we are going to stay human, right?" he managed.
Blue tack suit nodded his assent, but he still looked like he was feeling sorry for Ethan.
"Don't worry, you'll be human," he said. That was somewhat reassuring but with an ominous undertone to it. There was little time to ponder this before the disembodied voice returned.
"Let's continue with the letter 'G' and this uniform."
"I think that's you."
Ethan looked at the holo image his companion had just gestured to. The male and female form wearing silver unitards had been replaced. Floating over the table now was a slowly rotating image of a lone female form wearing the same light purple hospital gown Ethan had on. The lack of a corresponding male figure confused him and he thought for a moment that it was not his turn. A quick glance at his Ident card confirmed the letter 'G'.
"I guess it is my turn. Well, goodbye. Maybe I'll catch you later."
"If I can afford it," blue track suit answered with a sharp laugh.
Ethan left awkwardly and made his way to the front of the room where he was the last to join five other people dressed exactly as he was. The technician shepherded them through the open doorway in between sips of coffee, eventually handing them off to another technician. This one was a woman, smiling in that professional hostess manner.
"Good morning, Team! And welcome to your new assignments. My name's Trish and I'll be your Education Coordinator. I know you're all eager to get started, so let's you over to the Education center so we can get you your new ident cards."
Finally, Ethan thought. A real ident card would let him access his accounts and get him the hell out of here. Maybe things were starting to go his way.
It was with some relief that he followed the group down the hall. This was also the first opportunity he had to consider the group he was in. They were all women, and varied greatly in height, weight, and age. He was a good head taller than anyone else. About the only thing they seemed to have in common being the 'uniform'. Each wore the same hard soled sandals and the same light purple short sleeved hospital gown, with one tie around the neck, and sealed material from the hips down. It looked better on them than it did on him. Tied off with more of a flourish and resting on a female frame made the uniform look more like a dress than a hospital gown. Ethan admired the view, but something about that thought worried him and he was not reassured by the sound of their heels clicking down the hallway.
Finally they reached Education Room 32 and Trish held the door open for them to enter. Inside it reminded Ethan of another university classroom with side by side terminals and a large holo screen at the front of the room.
"Take a seat anywhere and we can get started." Trish moved to the front of the room and turned on the holo screen.
"If you switch on your terminals and insert you temporary ident cards into the readers, you will be issued your trainee cards. Once everyone has their trainee cards we can start the introductions."
Trainee cards? That did not sound like he was getting out of here any time soon. Still, it seemed to be the only way forward so with some trepidation Ethan switched on his terminal and inserted the bright orange card into the reader. The familiar whir of a new card being issued was followed by a click as an unfamiliar card was spat out of the reader. A standard card was mostly white with green printing and included a holo of the person it belonged to. This one was pale purple with white printing and instead of Ethan's picture there was a cartoon of a female form like one would see on the door to the women's bathroom.
This could not be his card. It did not even have his name on it. Where a proper card would have read 'Ethan Kaine' across the top, this one had the single name 'Candace' written on it. Ethan flipped the unfamiliar card around to the back to read 'Trainee Good Time Girl' written on it.
"Excuse me," he shouted out to Trish. "There's been some sort of mistake here."
"Please leave all questions until after the introduction."
"But this isn't my card."
"Please," she stressed. "The introduction should answer most of your questions."
"But... okay," he shrugged. If they wanted to waste time, that was their call, but they were going to feel pretty stupid when they realized their mistake.
The lights dimmed to accommodate the holo screen which was showing the logo of the Reassignments Center and the Government Assignments Department. This faded to the image of the generic female form wearing the light purple hospital gown. Ethan recognized it as the same image used to call them to the front, back at the room they had just left. The rotating image had cartoonish qualities which were slowly coalescing into the appearance of real clothing. The underlying female form took on less of a mannequin look, gradually becoming more human. With a flourish the image became totally lifelike and an upbeat dance number filled the air as the image spoke.
"Hi girls! And welcome to the best job in the world! My name's Katherine, but you can call me Kate. And I'm here to tell you the first things you need to know."
The image smiled as it seemed to be looking at everyone in the room in turn. 'Kate' was a knockout. She had long wavy black hair that shone in the light and rich brown eyes. She also had more curves than any two of the girls in the room together and moved with a sultry easiness that threatened to seriously distract Ethan.
"First off, you've probably noticed your new cards are not the same as a standard ident card."
The card she held up looked like Ethan's. The image zoomed in to show the details on her card as she went over some of the changes.
"These are trainee cards and these will be your legal ident cards for the next year or so."
"They work just like the temporary cards you gave up, except that now you can collect credits on them too!"
Great, Ethan thought, he could now make non-existent money. Yahoo.
"You've also probably noticed that you've got a new name now. This is to help you start fresh with your new life. Your old names have been taken out of the system and from now on this is your legal name. And don't worry; everyone gets a last name assigned when they graduate."
Ethan was beginning to feel a little worried. If this mistake went as far as Kate said it did, he would be legally Candace until he got this cleared up. That would be embarrassing.
"Finally, your picture doesn't look much like you now, does it? This is because YOU don't look much like you're going to! Every day you are going to become more and more beautiful as you are genetically enhanced to become a real live Good Time Girl, and since we can't get an image of what you'll look like next year, we've replaced the holograph portion of your card with this symbol. Don't worry; the card is imprinted with your genes just like a standard ident card. It legally identifies you as a trainee here at the center and nobody else can use it."
Ethan felt a cold sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Genetically enhanced? They were going to play with his genes. But they wouldn't try to change him into a girl. Would they? Just how far did these changes go?
The screen was showing images of plain, or even ugly, women slowly morphing into classic beauties. Changes in height, weight, hair and skin color all seemed possible judging by the graphic. Even skeletal structure seemed to shift as the girls blossomed into beauty.
Clearly this was all a mistake, Ethan reasoned. It did not make sense for anyone to turn a program oversight developer with an engineering degree into a sex kitten.
"Once your transition is complete, you'll be entering a world of glamour and entertainment! Not only will you have the stability and benefits of a government career as you perform a vital service, you will also have the opportunity to increase your income as a part-time freelancer while you attend some of the most fabulous events and entertain some of the most famous people."
The morphed beauties on the screen had been dressed in the same hospital gown Ethan wore, but when 'Kate' started talking of glamour and entertainment, the images shifted to show the girls in a dazzling variety of situations wearing a dizzying array of outfits. There were formal gowns at gala events, bikinis at fabulous beaches, short tight dresses at discotheques with pulsating lights and music, and even softcore bedroom scenes with little of any clothing. As Kate finished talking, the scene shifted again with Kate now front and center as the smiling beauties filled in behind her
"You will be joining a sisterhood of proud professionals, ready to contribute to society in a meaningful and productive way."
The women in the holo scene all wore the same light purple hospital gown Ethan had been given to wear. On them, it had the distinct look of being female attire. Perhaps it was just the way they filled it out that made it look like a dress. It had also looked like a dress on the five women in his group. It looked like a dress on everyone... Oh crap, he thought, it is a dress! He lamely tried to cover the skirt portion of the offending clothing with his hands and forearms, mentally willing the material to transform into a pair of pants. He was wearing a dress. Nobody in the room seemed to be paying him any attention. They all thought he was supposed to be dressed like this, in this room, listening to this. They all thought he was one of them.
"And we have only one thing to say to you... Welcome to the team!"
The last portion of that had been chanted in unison by the bevy of Good Time Girls in the holo scene. It was surreal. They actually expected him to do this. Well to heck with that, Ethan thought as he stood up to leave.
"Please remain seated for the entire introduction," Trish chided.
Ethan paid no attention to her as he stormed out the door and marched back down the hallway they had started from. His face burned more as each step caused the hem of his dress to brush against his legs. Trish called after him as she chased behind. His progress was finally stopped near the start of the hallway by one of the security types from the auditorium.
"May I help you?" the guard asked, not sounding particularly helpful.
"It's alright, Greg," called Trish, trying to catch her breath as she caught up to them. "I've got this."
Ethan paid her no attention and directed his comments to the authority figure in front of him.
"Someone better," he demanded. "They've got me in the wrong room! I need to talk to someone who knows what they're doing!"
He looked at Ethan's ident card closely then glanced sideways at Trish.
"Now Candace," Trish said gently trying to take Ethan by the arm. "You need to come back and join the others for the rest of your inbriefing."
"My name's not Candace!" he shouted, violently pulling his arm away from her. "It's Ethan! Ethan Kaine! And somebody has made a terrible mistake!"
"I think maybe you need to calm down, Miss," the guard said menacingly.
Ethan might have maintained his composure by just a slim margin if the guard had not added 'Miss' to the end of that statement. As it was, it became the first time Ethan had ever lost it when dealing with the legal authorities. It was also the first time he had ever been tagged with a stun baton.
"There's always one. Get her out of here," Ethan heard the guard mutter as he slipped into blackness.
The one thing Ethan truly learned from that encounter was that a stun baton may be non-lethal, but it was far from harmless. He awoke some time later with a pounding headache. His hands and feet were painfully tingling and his mouth felt as if he had a mouthful of sand. Even his eyes hurt and he could not seem to get a high pitched hum out of his ears. Groaning, he pulled himself awake and tried to take stock of where he was. He was back in his room, in bed. His room given to him at the Center, that is. Someone had dragged him back and put him to bed.
He remembered why they had stunned him in the first place and sat up with a start, fearful that they had carried out the threat. A quick check reassured him that he was still the same person that had walked into the Center. Shaking his head in relief he got up and checked myself out in the mirror. He was unchanged. He tried to picture myself as a woman and had to chuckle. These people were crazy. There was no way he could pass for female.
Crazy they may be, but they did actually seem to believe what they were saying. And if he wanted to avoid being turned into some kind of freak, he had better find someone in charge real fast. This mistake needed to be straightened out before they did something permanent. Getting mad had gotten him stunned so maybe playing nice would get him to someone in charge.
To a certain extent it worked. It got him into the waiting room for the Assistant Deputy Director for Homeland Employment, Northeast Region. This, as it turned out, was three chairs across from a busy receptionist who giggled when she read his ident card.
His real name and old occupation got him absolutely nowhere, as if he never existed. The only way he got this far was to tell a dozen officials and computer terminals that he was a trainee Good Time Girl named Candace. Sitting there and thinking about that made his skin crawl and he shivered involuntarily. Though that may have been because the dress and sandals he was still stuck wearing did nothing to keep him warm. He could feel the air-conditioning blow across his exposed legs and he tried to pull the hem down. There wasn't anything he could do about the shoulders and neckline. The clothes made him feel naked and it didn't help that the waiting area was little more than a busy hallway. It seemed that the whole world was staring at him.
"Miss Candace? Mr. Betancourt will see you now."
"Thanks," he answered through gritted teeth.
Mr. Betancourt rose to greet him as he entered.
"Miss... um... Candace is it?" Mr. Betancourt asked glancing at his desktop display. "Please, have a seat."
"Thank you. I appreciate you seeing me on such short notice."
"Not at all. Now what exactly can I help you with?"
"Well you see, I think there's been some sort of mistake made."
"Yes. My name is really Ethan Kaine and I'm a software engineer with Light & Power not a Good Time Girl at all."
"Well I'm sure we can get this straightened out. May I see your ident card?"
Ethan handed over the offending card, glad to be rid of it. This was going well. Finally he had found someone who could clear this mess up. Maybe the system works after all.
"I see what's happened," Mr. Betancourt said after several moments at his terminal. "Your position with Light & Power was declared redundant on August 3 and you were slotted through Reassignment at this office where you reported on August 8. Two days early, very commendable. And you were reassigned to your current position following routine check in procedure. I'm afraid everything is quite in order."
He had the nerve to be smiling as he handed Ethan back his ident card.
"No that's impossible. Okay, so maybe my old job is gone, but there's no way I can be a Good Time Girl."
Mr. Betancourt seemed puzzled for a moment.
"I don't understand," he said. "If you didn't want to be a Good Time Girl, why did you request it?"
"Because I didn't request it!!" Ethan snapped angrily. "There's been some kind of mistake!"
Mr. Betancourt seemed a little flustered as he began checking something on his terminal in earnest.
"Here it is," he said regaining his composure and turning the view screen to show Ethan his in-processing questionnaire. "You chose 'civil service' and 'actor/entertainer' as your primary and secondary career preferences. That combination creates a very narrow career field from which you were assigned to the priority fill which happened to be Good Time Girl."
He did not actually look and sound smug, but more like a child that had figured out a puzzle box on his own.
"That's ridiculous!" Ethan shouted.
"No, really. Good Time Girls are defined as entertainers and granted it isn't the first thing you think of when you think of civil service, but until you pay back the rejuvenation and transformation costs, you will be working on government commission."
"That's... Wait... What?"
"Good Time Girls are defined as entertainers."
"No, the other thing."
"Yes... No! The rejuvenation thing."
"Ah yes, that is one of the perks of your new career. All Good Time Girls receive full body rejuvenation treatments in exchange for a certain number of years pledged government service."
Mr. Betancourt had Ethan's attention. Rejuvenation was one heck of a big carrot to dangle in front of someone. It was hugely expensive, like 'lottery winner' expensive. And the price got higher the older you started or the younger you finally looked. Most people he knew were trying to save up as much money as possible for even a few years of rejuvenation. Few could afford it. Ethan knew that at his age, buying even five years was a lost hope.
"How many years service?" Ethan asked cautiously.
"It varies," Mr. Betancourt answered. "Starting at your current age of 47 and moving towards an end state appearance of somewhere in the late teens to early 20's and given that you will be working in a high demand priority fill career, you will incur... let's see... here it is! Twelve years of mandatory service."
"Twelve years? Mandatory service? So that means what? For twelve years I have to be some sort of government slave?"
"Hardly a slave. You will be a highly paid professional working towards a government pension."
Mr. Betancourt knew how to spin an offer, but this offer had one heck of a catch which he underscored by what he said next.
"Plus, you can work freelance and wind up earning more money than you did before. You'll be meeting a lot of rich men and many of the girls in your line of work retire as wealthy women."
This nut job was acting like he believed Ethan was already Good Time Girl. What were they going to do, wave a wand and magically transform him? Yeah, right, but a stab of fear ran through him when he remembered where he was. This was a Reassignments Center. They were in the business of transforming people. If they could change people to live on other planets or in the ocean and have that change breed true, what would stop them from turning a man into a woman. Not much.
Fortunately this was still sort of a free country. They could not make him take a job. So all he had to do was refuse any job that involved him being turned into a woman. He would have to tread carefully.
"The problem with that is-" Ethan paused to consider his next words. "I don't want to be a Good Time Girl. I'm going to have to officially refuse that line of work."
Mr. Betancourt furrowed his brow in thought.
"I see," he said. "You understand that rejuvenation is an extremely expensive process and if you choose a lower priority career you will increase your liability for repayment. We could find you a position in one of the colonies. The added costs would increase your overall liability, but your mandatory years in service would not change much."
"No, not the colonies," Ethan added quickly.
"Hmmm." He considered his desktop display for a while. "Well we have listings for Surrogate Mother and Nanny. Although choosing Nanny as a career would take you to over thirty years of obligatory service."
"Any careers involving programming?" Ethan asked.
"Yes, but that would make you liable for the costs involved in your gender change as well. You would be much better off choosing a female specific career."
"Look, Charles," Ethan said reading the nameplate on Mr. Betancourt's desk. "I don't want a female specific career. I don't want a female anything. Let's just choose me a nice male career and leave it at that."
"Why don't we leave you as Good Time Girl for the duration of your Education phase and we can make the decision after your training. It will take about a year after which you may decide you like your new career and it will save everyone a lot of bother."
"If you think I'm going to hang around here for a year and pretend to be a woman while you 'train' me, you're crazy!" Ethan shouted and continued to shout, "You can keep your gender change and your rejuvenation! I don't want either of them!"
The room seemed very quiet. Mr. Betancourt blinked a few times and folded his hands thoughtfully.
"I'm afraid there's a misunderstanding," he said calmly. "Rejuvenation is a micro-cellular process to refresh each individual cell into a younger version of itself. Nanite technology is then used to track the patient's genome and reassemble the younger cells into younger tissues and organ systems. If we wish to induce changes beyond rejuvenation, then we introduce tailored retroviruses to alter the genome ahead of time. Rejuvenation then would proceed as normal and rebuild the person according to the new pattern which can take up to a year to complete."
He paused to see if Ethan followed him so far.
"I don't care how it's done. Just keep it away from me." Ethan was firm, but still very much on edge.
"I'm afraid you still misunderstand," Mr. Betancourt replied. "Both the nanites and retroviruses were inoculated into you during your physicals. By the time you recovered from your initial fever there was not a single Y chromosome left in your body. You already are female."
Ethan was not a hundred percent sure what happened next beyond it being the second time he had ever been tagged with a stun baton. It was probably an automatic defense built into the desk or something that got triggered when he lunged to complete his plan. In hindsight it was not much of a plan. Pick up Mr. Betancourt's name plate then use it to bash him in the head.
"Glad to see you're awake," said a woman's voice from somewhere in the room. "I was beginning to wonder."
"Wha...?" Ethan managed to choke out past the sandpaper feeling in my mouth.
"You've been out for over six hours. Here, drink this. It'll make you feel better."
She handed him a mug of something warm which he smelled dubiously.
"It's just herbal tea, silly. It'll help take the headache away," she added.
Ethan was still skeptical and feeling paranoid.
"If I wanted to drug you, I wouldn't wait six hours for you to wake up first," she chided in a friendly manner.
She had a point there and mentioning 'headache' made Ethan realize how much his head hurt. He sipped the tea a few times. She seemed familiar, but Ethan could not place where he had seen her before.
"Who... who are you?" he managed to scratch out. The tea helped but everything still hurt.
"I'm Jennifer. According to my new ident card, anyway," she shrugged holding up a pale purple card with white writing that looked to be the twin of his.
Now he recognized her. She was one of the five women who had inprocessed with him at Assignments. She was older, maybe late 50's, and he had not given her much consideration at the time. She was attractive enough in a faded-glory kind of way with dark hair and a slender build. She was dressed differently than Ethan remembered, which had hindered his recognizing her. At Assignments, they had all been wearing the purple dresses and sandals. Now she had on blue jeans and a t-shirt with jogging shoes.
"My name's Ethan," he said.
"I thought it was Candace," she giggled.
"That's a mistake!" he said wincing at the reminder.
Jennifer shrugged noncommittally.
"It is a mistake," he repeated probably a little too defensively. "And I'm going to correct it as soon as I get out of here."
"Whatever." She shrugged and smiled. "But until you do, it looks like we'll be going through Education and Training together."
"Listen," Ethan said getting a grip on his embarrassment. "Thank you for the tea, but I'm not feeling well right now. Maybe you should just go."
"Okay," she said still smiling as she got up to leave. "My room's just one section away, so if there's anything you need, just call me on the terminal."
"Thanks, I will," he said politely with no real intent to ever call. She paused at the doorway and turned back with a mischievous look in her eye.
"Bye, Candie girl. See you later," she teased and slipped out the door with a laugh before he could sputter out a reply.
Ethan spent the next hour feeling miserable and thinking about what he should have said to her. Then he spent the next two hours thinking about what he should have said to Mr. Betancourt. Thinking was not going well for him. This whole week was hitting him hard; losing his job, this reassignment screw-up, nobody listening to reason, getting stunned twice, and now this 'Jennifer' woman calling him candy girl. That irritated more than he cared to admit. It was a little too close to the childhood taunts he had received for having the last name of Kaine. He could remember the playground fights whenever anyone called him 'Candy Kaine'. It was then that he realized Candie was short for Candace. His name really was Candie Kaine, or at least it would be if he got the Kaine part back. Things just kept getting worse.
Ethan tried to review what had happened. What did Mr. Betancourt actually say? He said that Ethan was already female or that he was genetically female at least. It was something like that. That had to be wrong. He did not feel any different. Legs, arms, head, everything seemed normal except for some lingering aches and pains from the stunner. Gingerly, he prodded his chest area looking for anything unusual, any swelling, or sensitivity, or lumps. Nothing. Nervously he inspected his genitalia. Everything was normal, near as he could tell.
Gaining confidence Ethan approached the mirror and examined his face in detail. It looked the same. Brown hair kept short, getting grey on the sides, hairline a little higher than he would have liked. Eyes also brown, looking kind of bloodshot at the moment. Same large Kaine family nose with a slight cut on the bridge that had not been there before, but that probably happened when he lunged at Mr. Betancourt. Chin and mouth looked normal. He was in need of a shave. There was about a day's worth of stubble that felt reassuringly scratchy. And there was the same semi-prominent Adams apple. He looked like himself. He looked masculine. Mr. Betancourt was wrong. He was not a woman, he was a man. This was just another mistake on their part.
How was he to fix this and get his life back? He needed to get away from the Reassignments Center and talk to someone at Records or maybe Social Administration. They should be able to convince the Center who he really was. Social Administration might even be able to get his old ident card back. It was a good place to start.
So again, he had a plan. And again, not much of a plan; get away from here, convince the powers that be who he really was, have them straighten everything out and get his life back. But it was a plan. Unfortunately there was something he needed to get first, but did not know where to get it. He did however know someone who did and she did say to call her if he needed anything.
"Candie? Hi girl! What's up?"
"Hi Jennifer," he answered, wincing at both the 'Candie' and the 'girl' reference. "Do you remember saying that if I needed anything I should call?"
"Sure. What can I do for you?"
"Can you tell me where you got those pants?"
"I'll do more than tell you. I'll show you!" she said.
There was a gleam in her eye and a bemused look on her face that should have warned him. He tried to tell her it was not necessary for her to come over, but she insisted it would be fun. Somehow that did not reassure him.
It turned out that Jennifer's idea of fun was a shopping trip to the mall a block away from the Center where, he was told, his ident card would be accepted and the Center billed for all purchases. No real money was needed. That seemed odd, but he was more concerned with being seen out in public wearing a dress. Jennifer assured him that there would be lots of people there from the Center and that everyone would be used to seeing oddly dressed people.
Oddly dressed. He definitely felt oddly dressed, but it did not take him long to find a decent pair of jeans and a normal looking shirt.
"It's not going to work, you know," Jennifer said
"What?" he asked sipping on a coke in the mall food court.
"This clothes thing," she answered. "It won't change what they did to you."
"They didn't do anything," he said, a little too quickly.
"Whatever," she answered. Things went on in silence for awhile.
"You know, you're not very nice," she mentioned almost casually.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, that we've spent most of the morning buying boy clothes for you, but I still want to go shopping," she said. Ethan thought about it for a second. She had helped him without asking for anything. And yes, he could be nicer.
"Okay," he said. "Let's do something you want to do."
What Jennifer wanted to do was more shopping and what followed was a whirlwind involving shoes, shirts, skirts, and a lot of underwear. It all amounted to several armloads of parcels of which two seemed to still be with him when he wound up back in his room at the Center. Sighing, he tucked the bags in the corner of the closet, vowing to never think on them again.
The next few days were an exercise in frustration. Nothing he could access on the public net would let him connect to anything associated with 'Ethan Kaine'. His ident card defined him as: Candace, F, Good Time Girl trainee, Government Reassignments Center #144. And Candace did not have access to Ethan's financial and personal connects. Nor did Candace have access to Ethan's Friends list and no one who knew him as Ethan would accept a blind connect from some trainee prostitute with one name living at government quarters. For the moment at least he was stuck, but determined to escape.
Over the course of the next few weeks frenzied, but frustrated, activities began to degenerate into numb repetition and further degenerate into boredom. Ethan wound up spending more and more time at the mall where he could pretend to be living a normal life. Normal but unemployed, he thought, in a world where no one was unemployed. Jennifer would find him moping there and she would hang out. She loved shopping and he was bored, so they often went shopping.
The companionship was welcome. She let him vent his frustrations. She was a good listener and sympathetic to a point. The trouble was that she was totally on board with the idea of both of them going on to become Good Time Girls. She was actually excited about it and wanted Ethan to share the excitement. She took it on as her personal mission to encourage him to accept his new role.
"You're only making it worse you know," Jennifer said one day at the food court. They had been shopping all morning and he had offered to buy lunch.
"What?" he said, expecting the usual lecture on his clothes.
"You. You're making it worse by wasting your time here in the mall and spending money like water."
This caught him off guard. He had had no luck accessing his financial accounts and had only been using the credits on his ident card to purchase anything.
"What? I haven't used anything, but Center Credits since I got here!"
"And if you keep using them like that, you'll never get out of debt," she chided. This confused Ethan.
"It's not even real money," he offered in defense.
"Duh, you still have to pay it back."
"What?" he managed to say for the third time.
"You have to pay it back or they won't let you graduate," she explained slowly.
"So?" he asked, not understanding her point. "Why would I want to graduate?"
"Silly," she laughed. "You don't want to be a trainee forever, do you?"
"No," he said slowly.
"Well they won't give you a real ident card until you do graduate."
The lights went on in Ethan's head as the significance of what she said began to sink in. There was a way to get a real ident card. Once he had that, by law they had to give him access to his old accounts. He could get out and find someone to fix this mess and let him get his real life back. All he had to do was graduate. The rest of the conversation was a bit of a blur and he made quick excuses to get back to his room and check his accounts. This time he did something that had not occurred to him prior. He checked Candace's financial accounts.
His first reaction was a mild shock. It had been only five or six weeks since he entered the Center and already he owed 24,863 Credits. The list of charges did little to explain the huge amount. Charges for clothes and food purchases were expected, but there seemed to be additional charges for wearing clothes after he had purchased them. There were also a lot of penalty charges, some having to do with his complaining, but some were a total mystery. What was 'Name Violation'? Whatever it was it had cost him dearly.
There were a few minor pluses in his account. Curiously, he got 10 Credits just for going to the mall and extra Credits just for doing things with Jennifer. He needed more information.
"Of course they pay us, silly," Jennifer said the next day at the mall. They had been shopping all morning and were taking a small break at the food court. Jennifer had been talking between sips of a diet Coke. "Honestly Candie, how else are we going to graduate?"
Ethan had been toying with a french fry and asking questions between his own sips.
"But what exactly is it that we get paid for?"
She rolled her eyes and touched him on the arm before replying.
"Well duh, we get paid to be what we are, professional women. Good Time Girls. What did you think you were going to get paid for, girlfriend?"
He had grown used to Jennifer referring to him in the female gender and for the most part, was letting it slide.
"What about penalties, Jen?" he asked. "I mean, what the heck is 'name violation' anyway. It's costing me a fortune."
Jennifer smiled, picked up a French fry from the plate they were sharing and using it as a baton, waved it as she lectured.
"Name violation," she began, "is when you intentionally use the wrong name."
"What do you mean, 'the wrong name'?"
"Like when you keep calling yourself Ethan."
"But that is my name."
"Not anymore, you're Candie now."
Ethan winced at the sound of the name they were forcing on him. It was preposterous.
"Cut it out. No one is turning me into Candie, I mean Candace. They don't turn men into women. It's impossible."
She cocked her head and glanced askance at him with a wry smile on her face as she indicated people around us who were obviously residents of the Center.
"Okay, it's possible," he admitted. "But they didn't do it to me. I'm still all man and my name is Ethan. So can we just drop it?"
"Fine with me, but you are in some serious denial, Sister."
The frosty silence did not last long. Jennifer loved to talk, but she did him the courtesy of changing the subject. She knew how to find the limits of his patience, but she also knew enough to not push past those limits. Ethan shared a comfortable rapport with her despite her obstinate refusal to refer to him using the male gender. Today however Ethan brooded and eventually excused himself and made his way back to his room alone.
The trouble was that Ethan was scared. He was at the Center. Every day he passed people in the halls and cafeteria who were part way between what they were and what they were becoming. They could change him into a girl. They could change him into anything they wanted if he let them. He needed to get out of there.
The only thing that seemed to be stopping him was his trainee ident card and the credits he had to pay back before they gave him a real one. He needed to earn credits and he needed to stop getting fines. Jennifer's comments helped me figure out that 'Name Violation' meant that it cost him every time he called himself 'Ethan'. The decision was there to be made. He could hang on to 'Ethan' and run deeper in debt or he could 'temporarily' adapt to being 'Candace' and start working off some of the debt. Maybe if he worked on some of the other behaviors they wanted him to embrace, he would be able to earn enough credits to get out. It was galling, but he supposed he could stomach being called 'Candie' for a few months, at least until he got his debt paid off. How long could it be, anyway?
"This is your plan?" Jennifer laughed, the next day as he joined her on her way to Education and Training. "You're going to learn how to be a Good Time Girl just enough to avoid becoming a Good Time Girl?"
Sure, when she said it, it sounded stupid, but it was still his only plan.
"Are you going to help me or not?" he managed, his face turning beet red with embarrassment.
"Of course I'm going to help," she said. "I think you're stubborn and delusional, but you're still my sister and us girls should always stick together. I'm glad you're coming. Maybe you'll learn who you really are and not fight it so much. It's a beautiful thing we do and it's beautiful people we're becoming. So maybe you should sit down, relax, and try to keep an open mind."
With that she led him into Education and Training where for the next four hours Ethan began to learn an awful lot about clothes. Fashion, color, day wear, evening wear, shoes, lingerie, all had their own lessons along with hair, makeup, accessorizing, and many others. Ethan started with Introduction to Fashion and Style, but soon realized that this was over his head and switched to Basic Clothing. Even that was more than he could take in on one day. There were too many names for things, made out of too many fabrics, cut into too many styles that came in too many colors. A person could spend a lifetime studying this, which is exactly what the Center had in mind for him. That thought galvanized him into action and he spent the rest of that morning trying to learn as much as he could about women's clothes.
By lunchtime Jennifer and Ethan took a break and headed to the mall. Ethan was surprised by how much of his studies had sunk in. Normally following Jennifer around on a shopping trip was a blur, but now that he was starting to understand what she was talking about he began to see some of the distinctions she was making. Ethan found himself looking at women in the mall and noticing their clothes. It was the skirt, not the legs and the blouse, not the boobs that seemed to catch his eye. The names of the style of their pants or the cut of their necklines would pop in his head and he worried if he would ever be able to look at women the same way again.
This made him wonder if the cost of his plan might be too high. Yes he needed to do what they wanted in order to earn credits, but the problem was that they wanted him to be a woman. More specifically, they wanted him to be a Good Time Girl, a sex machine dressed up in fancy gift wrapping that anyone could unwrap for the right price. And they were capable of making it happen. Ethan shuddered involuntarily.
He thought of Melissa and wondered if she was still waiting tables and if she had progressed any further in her transformation since he had last seen her. Even she had seemed to be having trouble accepting that lifestyle and she was a girl. Not like Jennifer. Jennifer embraced the idea and was trying to drag him along with her. It seemed odd that they would take two girls that different and try to make them both Good Time Girls.
By the end of the day Ethan found that he had earned more credits than he had spent, barely. At this rate it would take him years to pay off his debt. He needed to do more. He needed to show a bigger commitment to his new role or he might be stuck with it for life. He thought of the shopping bags that Jennifer had bought for him, sitting there forgotten in the closet. Gingerly he poked through the bags like they held snakes. There were a couple of blouses and a skirt. He picked up a training bra and considered it for a moment, but thought that someone might notice the straps. Finally he found a pair of panties, light blue with a lacy trim.
He looked around nervously even though he was alone in his room. He stripped out of his pants and jockey shorts and paused for a moment, standing there half naked holding the panties in his hand, telling himself that this was just underwear, a little different than his usual underpants maybe, but underpants just the same. At least they were blue. Gritting his teeth he stepped into the panties, pulling them up as far as they could go, which seemed to be not far enough. They sat on the sides of his hips and he fought the urge to pull them higher as doing so caused them to ride up between his butt cheeks. He felt ridiculous.
Checking his financial accounts made his private embarrassment worth it. There was a substantial bonus in his accounts! It was enough to make paying off his debt seem a distinct possibility. Putting his pants back on, he walked around his room to make sure nothing unusual was visible. It felt weird, but looked okay. No one would notice. He could do this! Finally something seemed to be going his way.
The next morning he once again donned the panties and headed out to join Jennifer at Education. Ethan found out quickly that it is one thing to walk around in women's underwear in the privacy of your own room. It was another thing entirely to walk around in public. He was certain someone was going to notice. He had also seriously underestimated the discomfort factor. The thinness of the material as well as the skimpiness of the panties made it feel like there was nothing between his butt and the material of his pants. Except for the feeling of the panties riding up his ass, that is. The overall feeling of discomfort and fear of being caught left him constantly fidgeting and trying to surreptitiously adjust his underwear.
"Whatever is the matter with you today, Candie?" Jennifer finally asked. They had been studying at Education for about two hours, during which Ethan could not have sat still for more than a couple of minutes at a time.
"Wha...? Nothing, I mean I think I... I might have a rash or something," he stuttered, seizing on the first lame excuse I could think of.
"You should see the doctor. Maybe they can give you a cream or something," she offered helpfully. "How bad is it? Can you show me?"
"Sure. Hey can you explain that thing about winter colors and summer colors again?" Ethan did not really need an explanation, but he did need to change the conversation fast and Jennifer did love to talk about fashion.
"Sure, it all has to do with skin tones..."
The rest of her explanation was actually a review for him, but he nodded appropriately and asked a few naïve questions to keep Jennifer's mind away from his 'rash'. It worked and he was almost smiling as he headed back to his room at the end of the day. He felt good. He had a plan and it was moving forward.
The next morning his plan hit him in the face, or rather his reflection in the mirror did. Instead of brown hair going grey he saw blond hair, honey blond. It stunned him and he had to touch the mirror to make sure it was real. He was blond! Even his eyebrows were blond. It was then that he noticed his eyes. They were green! He had honey blond hair and bright green eyes. In panic he started to examine himself. His pubic hair was blond, his armpit hair was blond... he was blond. It had to be a trick with hair coloring and some sort of eye tint, but the hairs on his arms and legs were not just blond, they were almost gone! And his chest was smooth and hairless too! And his chin and upper lip were clean. Not just 'not needing a shave' clean but like hair had never grown there clean!
This was real. He was growing blond hair and he was growing it like a girl. They HAD changed him! They were still changing him! He examined himself with renewed panic, but did not find any additional changes. He stared at is reflection for an hour, trying to see the nanites inside. It made his skin crawl. He had to stop them and there was only one person at the Center who would help him.
"Well, look at you!" Jennifer said, looking up from her view screen at Education. "Do we call you Blondie now?"
"Cut it out, this isn't funny," Ethan replied with urgency in his voice. "They're really changing me!"
"Well, duh, girlfriend. What have I been telling you? What has everyone been telling you?"
"Please, you have to help me!"
"I would say so, that color shirt does NOT go with your new hair color."
"What? No, I mean you have to help me stop this. I can't let them change me into a girl!"
"Technically, they've already changed you into a girl, Candace!" Jennifer said, using his new name with drawn out emphasis.
"I have to stop them before something physical changes. Something more physical," he added after reaching up to touch his transformed hair.
"And how do you propose to do that?" she asked.
"I have to graduate as fast as I can and get out of here so I can stop this before something important changes."
"Is this that plan of yours again, where you avoid becoming a Good Time Girl by learning how to be a Good Time Girl?" she asked rolling her eyes.
"Yes," Ethan could feel blood rush to his face. The plan sounded stupid even to him, but it was the only plan he had. "Will you help me; will you teach me how to be a girl?"
Jennifer got up and walked around Ethan a few times studying him in detail.
"All right, I'll do this," she said. "Only because I think it will help you realize who you really are."
"Great, thank you," Ethan said with relief. "Where do we start?"
"We start by finishing our Education lessons for the day where 'we' will learn everything there is to being a blonde." With that Jennifer took Ethan by the arm and shepherded him to a workstation where she punched in a quick search query and pulled up several lessons on coordinating makeup and clothing to his new hair color. Ethan gulped but tried to concentrate on the lessons as variously clad images of long-legged blondes scrolled across his screen.
This is going to play hell with my self-image, he thought, and wondered if this plan might not backfire on him after all.
For her part Jennifer was very patient with Ethan and over the next few weeks got him to make some significant adjustments to his life. She was pleased to note he was already wearing panties and convinced him to replace all his male underwear. There were significant hurdles. Personal hygiene was one.
"Why do I have to shave my legs?"
"Because in our line of work your legs are part of the advertising."
Ethan and Jennifer were in his bath room where Jennifer had been trying to teach Ethan personal grooming habits. She had already convinced him to learn how to bathe with more feminine flair, which had sounded innocuous enough to Ethan and the bubble bath seemed a sensible nod to modesty. He was not prepared for the bath beads and scented oils that Jennifer added to the water as he lay soaking and he had balked when she handed him a pink razor.
"You'll want your legs to always look smooth and sexy like this." Jennifer ran her hands down her own legs as she spoke drawing Ethan's eye as she did. "You never know when some guy will break out a credit card just to touch them."
"Yeah, but I don't want some guy touching my legs for money!" Ethan was perhaps a little over agitated because he had been thinking of running his hands over Jennifer's legs. The idea that he should try to make his legs look more like hers confused him at a very deep level.
"Fine," she said, "then do it for the credits the Center gives you when you act like a proper Good Time Girl. Either way, you're still selling your legs."
Ethan grumbled, but took the razor.
"Call me when you're done, I want to show you some good moisturizers," she said turning to leave Ethan alone in the bath. Ethan raised one sudsy leg out of the bath water and with a sigh started to shave.
"Don't forget your armpits!" Jennifer called from the other room.
Once that ice had been broken, Ethan adapted well to a regimen of shaving, hydrating oils, body washes, deodorants, exfoliation and moisturizers. At first he was a bit put off by the flowery smells of these products. Repetition and the association with bathing and washing led him to relate sweet smells to cleanliness. Soon the faint perfume became a normal part of his body odor and slipped into the background of his awareness.
Clothing was a much more difficult pattern for him to change. He openly resisted any clothing choices that were blatantly feminine and cosmetics were a taboo subject. It was only with a lot of cajoling and a few well placed intimidations that Jennifer was able to convince him to make any changes at all, but by the end of the month Ethan had agreed to wear brighter colors and finer fabrics. His shirts were really all blouses with the buttons on the right, even if they were rather plain. He refused to wear anything but long pants, but Jennifer did get him to buy ones with a feminine cut. Jennifer had also convinced him to wear clear nail polish and to regularly use uncolored lip balm.
All of which amounted to a substantial increase in the bonuses he received from the Center. Unfortunately this had to be set off against the costs of acquiring these new lotions and clothes. So by the end of his first month Ethan had reduced his debt by only 1,400 Credits.
"This isn't working," he muttered standing in front of the full-length mirror in his room.
Jennifer looked up from the fashion news web site she had been viewing.
"I don't know," she said. "Maybe if you wore a jacket?"
"No, not the outfit. This whole thing! This whole place!" Ethan waved his arms in the air before slumping down to sit on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. "It'll take me a year and a half to pay off my debt at this rate."
Jennifer walked over to sit beside him and put her arm around him in comfort.
"You know, Candie, sometimes I forget you're still trying to become a real boy," she said. "Well cheer up Pinocchio! Your plan could still work. You just have to girl it up a bit more. Try dressing sexy for a change, you might like it."
Jennifer stood and posed in front of him. She was wearing a sleeveless low cut blouse and brightly patterned leggings. She had bold makeup on and a few colorful pieces of clunky jewelry. Ethan's lessons kicked in as he looked at her. She was probably showing a little too much cleavage and she should have been too old to wear something that daring, but for some reason it worked on her.
Because she had suggested it, Ethan imagined himself dressed that way. His first reaction was that those colors would never work with his hair and skin color. His second reaction was to get upset at his first reaction. He sprung up agitated and walked back to check himself out in the mirror. He was wearing a peach blouse with three-quarter sleeves and dark brown slacks with a slight pleat. He looked gaunt and the blond shock of hair on his head was starting to look shaggy. He had gotten used to the blond look, but the lack of beard or mustache still shook him.
"I look like a gay man," he said.
"Well we both know that's not true," Jennifer said sidling up to him to once again put her arm around him. "You know you're not gay and I know you're not a man."
"Cut it out Jen, I'm not in the mood."
"Lighten up, Candie. Besides, you asked me to help."
"I'm sorry," he said. "You're right. I owe you. I'm just kind of frustrated right now. I don't think this is working. I think I need a new plan before any new physical changes kick in."
"New changes? Duh, girlfriend! Where do you think your complexion came from? Or mine for that matter." Jennifer turned his head with her hand forcing him to look into the mirror. "We're in this together, you know?"
Ethan looked at his reflection. His hair was longer than it should have been and that alone was evidence of his transformation. But his skin was smooth and spotless, much more so than it should have been. He had not noticed it prior, but his skin was blemish free. Jennifer's too. Both of them had lost any sign of crow's feet or age spots. The faces that looked back at him from the mirror could have been twenty years younger.
"That doesn't come from moisturizers," she said. "You and I, we're getting younger each day. And soon we'll be beautiful Good Time Girls. You can keep on fighting it like you have or you can lay back and let that magic happen."
Ethan looked at his reflection again, this time with dread. He did look younger and if not exactly effeminate then maybe a little androgynous with the blond hair covering most of his ears and the bangs almost in his eyes. He swallowed reflexively once before replying.
"I guess I can girl it up a bit more," he said weakly.
"That's the spirit!" Jennifer said giving him a big hug. "And I while I admit you're a work in progress, I think with the right makeup and clothes we can get your 'gay male' look all the way up to 'bull dyke'."
Ethan stuck his tongue out at Jennifer which only made her laugh harder.
That conversation was a profound turning point for Ethan. It represented the point where he acknowledged his body was on a timetable. It was also the start of a paranoid vicious circle in which every day Ethan would examine his face and imagine signs of feminization, only to do something more feminine to himself as his only means of fighting the change. A small hint of color to his lip balm and a touch of rouge on his cheekbones rapidly led to a wide collection of cosmetics to include lipsticks, tubs of lip gloss, concealers, makeup for both day and evening, powders, rouge, glitter and of course the associated cleansers, masques, and conditioners to protect him from the daily application. A touch of mascara led him within a week to experiment with a rainbow of eye shadow and liner as well as the tweaking and shaping of his brows. Ethan soon lost track of which changes were caused by his metamorphosis and which ones he was doing to himself.
Ethan was desperate. He tried to keep the cosmetics subdued in public and minimized the places he would go while wearing them, but he earned no bonuses from experimenting in his room. Plus the high costs of purchase almost compelled him to wear some of them out in public if only to avoid going deeper in debt. In the end all he could think to do was to try and make his face look as natural as possible while still wearing enough makeup to maximize the amount of bonuses he earned. All this did wonders for his bottom line, but at times it seemed to Ethan that preserving his masculinity was becoming a losing effort.
"You know you're getting good at this," Jennifer said to him one day.
"At what?" he asked. He and Jennifer were at a cosmetics counter at the mall where Ethan had been trying to pick out a new shade of lipstick. Most of these looked too red plus he was trying to avoid the pinks.
"What do you think?" he said turning to Jennifer holding two boxes of different shades on either side of his mouth.
"That one," Jennifer said picking one of the boxes.
Ethan looked at it critically.
"You don't think this is too red?" he said.
"You should go with red, it goes good with your color," she said while looking over some samples of concealer. "Does this match?" she asked holding up a tube.
"Maybe, depends what else you're wearing," Ethan said glancing up at Jennifer before resuming his search for the right shade of lipstick. "Getting good at what?"
"You said I was getting good at something, what?"
"Oh, that," she said. "Well, this. You're getting real good at all this."
Jennifer indicated the cosmetics counter and displays all around them. Ethan looked at her strangely.
"Don't give me that look," she said. "You know more about makeup than anyone else I know. You even know more about it than I do!"
"I just study the lessons a lot," Ethan said defensively.
"I'd say you mastered them," she said. "I mean, look at you. Your face is perfect. Every blemish smoothed out, just the right highlights in just the right places. You should probably go with more color, but everything looks so natural I have to look twice to make sure you're wearing anything."
"Well it's all just part of the plan, you know," Ethan said, turning red with embarrassment. "I'm just trying to get the biggest bonuses to pay off my debt."
"Nope, you're a natural," Jennifer replied, not letting Ethan down play what she saw as a talent. "Just look at your eyes, I've seen what you can do with eye shadow, but here you are with just a little color and brown mascara and your eyes just pop."
"It's the green color," Ethan said looking down self-consciously.
"Candie! Shut up and take a compliment!" Jennifer said rolling her eyes, but smiling as she did so. "Most girls never learn half of what you know and you learned it all in less than two months! Now let's go do something I'm good at."
"What's that?" Ethan asked as Jennifer started tugging on his arm.
"Shoes!" she said with a slight squeal of excitement. Ethan groaned but let her pull him away from the cosmetics counter anyway. She was his best friend and finding the perfect shade of lipstick could wait for another day.
It was not that Ethan was bad at shoes. His fashion sense with shoes was no better and no worse than it was with anything else. It was just to him shoes seemed to exemplify everything that the Center had in mind for him. Women's shoes just seemed so girly. Sure he could have earned a huge bonus by stepping out in heels, but that would have been too much of an admission. He tended toward comfort sandals or clogs to avoid the penalties for wearing men's shoes and had been buying a new pair every week just for the bonuses. In his mind he could think of them as being androgynous even though he purchased them from women's shoe stores.
Jennifer's attitude on the other hand was the antithesis of Ethan's when it came to shoes. She adored them. She would have owned hundreds if she could have afforded them. As it was there were scores of pairs back in her room in a multitude of styles and colors. Lately she had taken to wearing only very high heels which seemed to grow higher as the rejuvenation process got hold of her. His own footwear consisted mostly of bargain bin sandals that seemed to rapidly stretch out causing him to ever search for a better fit.
Ethan sat and watched her as she tried on a pair of ankle boots with a good five-inch heel. She looked so young to him; young and happy. She was clearly enjoying her transformation. He envied her taking such pleasure out of the simple act of trying on shoes, but was not prepared to give in and share that joy. After all, she was not the one spontaneously changing gender. That thought only reminded him of his current situation and that he probably looked just as young as her. So could he put on shoes like that? Would he have to anyway?
"What do you think?" Jennifer asked.
"What?" Ethan said, disturbed back into the real world. For a moment there he thought she knew what he had been thinking.
"Jeez, Candie. Are you spacing again?" she said. "I asked what you thought of these boots."
"Oh. They're nice," he said.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Just the usual problem, you know, boy trouble," he smiled.
"That's not funny," she said. "You know I worry about you. We're in this together."
"I'm sorry," he said. "It was just a bad joke. I'm fine."
"So tell me, what do you think?" she asked again, posing for him.
He thought carefully for a moment. Stood up and looked at her from several angles.
"Too slutty," he said.
Jennifer stuck her tongue out at him and both of them broke off laughing.
"Well I'm getting them anyway," she said. "At least one of us should have a little flair."
"I have plenty of flair," Ethan replied back good-naturedly. "I've got flair coming out of my eyeballs."
"Not on your feet, you don't," Jennifer teased. "You should try on a nice new pair of pumps instead of those old sandals. You know you want to."
"I'm not trying on pumps," Ethan said feeling his face burn in embarrassment. He had been just thinking about the inevitability of wearing high-heeled shoes, but that did not mean he was ready to and it definitely did not mean he wanted to.
"Oh come on," Jennifer continued her friendly badgering, sensing a little weakness to his normal response. "Don't you like the way a cute pair of new shoes looks on your feet?"
"I don't want a cute anything on my feet."
"But you'd look great in heels. Or you would if you let your legs show a little more. Why don't you try on a pair just in the store here and see what I mean. What are you, like a size eight?"
Jennifer was persistent and Ethan was off guard.
"I'm not showing my legs more," he said self-consciously wrapping his hands around his knees. "And I'm a size ten."
"Ten? No way you're a ten," Jennifer said eyeing his feet critically. "I'm a seven and your feet aren't that much bigger than mine."
Jennifer put her foot alongside Ethan's which did not prove anything since she was still wearing the ankle boots with the very high heel.
"Look, I know I'm a ten, okay? I've worn a size ten or ten and a half since high school."
"Bet you're not."
"I bet you're not a size ten. We can get one of those foot measuring thingies and find out what size you really are."
Ethan thought carefully. He was confident he would win, but cautious about traps.
"What if I win?" he asked.
"What do you want?"
"If I win then you can never again try to get me to put on shoes I don't want to."
"Okay, and if I win then for the rest of the day you have to wear a pair of shoes that I pick out."
"You're on!" Ethan said confidently. His confidence paled along with most of the color from his face when Jennifer showed him the results of the measurement.
"Eight?" he said with a little tremor in his voice. "I'm a size eight? How can I be an eight? I mean I know those sandals were a little loose but... jeez. How did I lose that bet? How can I lose two shoe sizes?"
"You were betting against science, sweetie," Jennifer explained with a lot of compassion in her voice. "I know you're changing, but you don't quite get it yet. Every day both of us get a little closer to what we're supposed to be. You don't see it, but you're a lot smaller than you used to be."
"Size eight? How did I not notice losing two shoe sizes?" Ethan whispered somewhat in shock.
Jennifer thought about pointing out to Ethan that that was a women's size eight which would be about four sizes smaller than the men's ten he had worn prior. But she judged that Ethan probably did not need any more shocking revelations for the day. She was however not about to let him get out of the bet.
"Well you're always wearing those silly sandals," she said. "And I've seen you. You're always tightening the straps. No wonder you didn't notice."
"I thought they stretched a lot," he said weakly.
"Nope, that was all you," she said, "and now it's going to be all you and a pair of heels!"
Ethan felt the bottom drop out of his stomach when he realized what he had set himself up for. He tried to cajole his way out of the wager but Jennifer was having none of it. And as punishment for trying to wheedle out of the bet she made sure he tried on at least a dozen different pairs before she settled on the pair he would wear for the rest of the day. She was going to take it easy on him and go with a lower heel, but her own sense of fashion got in the way. She finally decided on a pair of black pumps with a three inch heel as the minimum acceptable style over comfort.
"But why do I have to pay for them?" Ethan complained as he swiped his ident card in the reader.
"Duh, because you lost the bet," Jennifer said cheerfully paying for her own purchase. "And because they're your shoes and because you'll probably get enough of a bonus to pay for them anyway."
Ethan thought that that might very well be true, but it still did nothing for his spirits.
"Oh cheer up," Jennifer said. "They look cute. Now come on, we've got shopping to do!"
"Wait. Not so fast," Ethan said tottering after her in the unaccustomed heels.
Ethan was never so glad to get back to his own room. His calves ached, his back ached, his toes felt crushed, and he was pretty sure he twisted his ankles at least once each. How women put up with this every day was beyond him. At least Jennifer had been right. The bonus for spending the day in heels more than paid for the shoes. He sat on his bed trying to rub feeling back into his feet. Even now he had a hard time believing that they really were smaller. They still seemed proportional to him.
He paused at that last thought. Something Jennifer had said was nagging at the back of his mind. She had said something about being smaller without his noticing. Ethan had taken that to refer to his feet. Now Ethan was starting to get a sick feeling that maybe she was referring to more than just his feet. Was his whole body getting smaller? If it was gradual enough, would he notice? He tried to imagine his height compared to Jennifer's. Was she taller than him? Maybe today, but she had those five inch heels on. And he had three inch heels on. Was he really less than two inches taller than her? That did not seem right. He needed more proof.
Frantically he tore into clothes at the back of his closet. Lately he had had to buy new clothes almost every week. He thought he had just been losing weight, but now he needed to find out for sure. Finally he found the first pair of pants he had purchased with his ident card. They had fit well when he bought them. In fact he had paid extra to have them tailored. He almost tore them in his haste to pull them on, then stood there dumbfounded. There was more than a handful of loose material at his waist and he was quite clearly standing on a good four to six inches of the cuffs of his pants.
Jennifer was never entirely sure why Ethan suddenly surged in his desire to learn and adopt feminine ways. She knew it was not acceptance driving his behavior and she suspected it had something to do with the shoe wager. Whatever the reason, she was more than happy to help with what she saw as Ethan's transition into Candace.
From Ethan's point of view the reason was simple. He panicked. Now that it had been pointed out to him he saw signs of his diminished stature everywhere. True, some of them were only in his mind, but everyday he felt himself getting smaller and weaker. In desperation he clung to the one plan he had; to continue to earn enough credits to get out of the Center and stop (and now reverse) his transformation. And the only way he knew how to earn credits was to do what the Center wanted and act more and more like a proper Good Time Girl.
To that end he began to embrace behaviors he had been avoiding. He let his makeup become bolder and more colorful and wore it openly in public. He got his ears pierced and painted his nails. He took to carrying a purse, which turned out to be handy enough to make him regret not doing it sooner. He even went with Jennifer to a hair stylist where they added highlights to his surprisingly thick hair and trimmed it back into a regular shag style with a side part and sweeping bangs. All this paid for itself and more with bonuses, leading to some significant reductions in his debt.
Clothing did not work out quite so profitably for him. First off, it soon became apparent that he was still getting smaller and seemed to need a new full set of clothes almost every week. While he would earn a sizeable bonus for making a bold clothing choice, which was usually enough to pay for the clothes, that same article of clothing would only give a minor bonus when worn a second time and then only if well matched as part of the complete outfit. In fact he even earned penalties if the same clothes were worn too frequently or in an unflattering ensemble.
He found himself buying clothes regularly and trying desperately to match the style that would earn him the biggest bonus. Unfortunately the style the Center had in mind for him was that of a young flirty Good Time Girl and he found himself being steered towards short skirts, tight dresses, skin-tight pants, short shorts, colorful leggings, and very high heels. Any new clothing had to fit in with this rapidly developing style or earn him a substantial penalty. He felt trapped.
Jennifer was a tremendous support to him during this time and the two of them frequently went shopping together. Both were slated for the same line of work, so it was not surprising that they found themselves choosing similar styles. They continued to adapt to their new roles physically too, at least to the point where they looked younger and were able to share some of each others' clothing. So over time, when the two of them went shopping, all that the world saw was two sexily dressed girls not long out of high school. There was little to show that the vivacious brunette was really 50-something year old Jennifer and the leggy, but flat-chested, and much more demure blonde with her was really Ethan, the 47-year old former programmer.
Naturally two apparently young girls wearing short skirts and high heels drew the attention of the male half of the population and Jennifer and Ethan found they were getting hit on regularly. Jennifer, having an actual figure, drew most of the attention, but more than some of the gentlemen would also take a shot at Ethan. Jennifer loved it and was a natural flirt, often getting Ethan stuck in awkward situations. Ethan hated it and soon got tired of being told that if his name was Candie, he must taste sweet. But he found he could not escape the attention of men whether at the mall or the Center. Actually it was worse at the Center because people there were beginning to assume he was a trainee Good Time Girl and were presenting him with some very rude propositions.
Ethan's first reaction was to lash out verbally and physically which earned him considerable penalties on his debt. It was also not the safest move. Most men were bigger and stronger than Ethan by now. Even his tallest heels only brought him up to the height of an average sized man. His apparent gender bought him a little leeway from the threat of violence, but he did get 'Bitch' thrown at him on numerous occasions. It was frightening.
Eventually Ethan began to defer in his dealings with men. It was safer. A little shy smile, and a few polite excuses could deflect most of the unwanted attention. And if things really got scary he could hide in the ladies room. It was also safer to be with someone. Walking alone was asking for trouble and dressed like he was he had a pretty good idea of the kind of trouble he could get into. This was one of the reasons why it felt a little like abandonment when Jennifer told him she was going to start working at the cafeteria.
"What do you mean you're getting a job?" Ethan asked a little plaintively.
"It's not a job, it's development," Jennifer said checking her makeup in the mirror. "We all have to do it, you know?"
The two of them were in the ladies room, where Ethan had once again fled to avoid the amorous attention of a particularly persistent young lad. Jennifer had followed and it was there that she told him her plans.
"But Jen, I need you with me! Who am I going to go shopping with?" Ethan pouted as he tried to adjust his bangs. His hair had been getting a little long for the shag look and he probably needed another trip to the stylist.
"We can still go shopping, girlfriend," Jennifer said giving Ethan a quick hug. "Except now it will have to be during my off shifts. Hey, you should come with me! We could start together! You're always looking for new ways to earn credits and it's something you're going to have to do eventually anyway. It'll be fun. What do you say?"
Ethan did not have anything to say about working at the cafeteria, but he could have gone on at length on his opinion of the eventuality of it. For Jennifer's sake he said he would think about it and agreed to at least visit her while she was at work, which for Ethan was quite a concession. He had been avoiding the cafeteria ever since he had learned of his pending transformation and had not visited it more than twice since. Somehow the idea that all of the waitresses were developing into Good Time Girls seemed more sinister than it had before. Subsequently, the whole idea of the place built up as a feared icon in his mind, which got worse the longer he avoided it. So it took a week and then only with great trepidation before Ethan finally screwed up the courage to visit Jennifer at work.
"You made it!" Jennifer squealed as she saw Ethan enter the cafeteria. "I'm so glad to see you! Here sit in my section. I'll be right back, I just have to put in these orders then check on a few tables. Can I get you anything?"
"Uh, just a coffee, thanks," Ethan said, sitting at the table Jennifer had led him to.
"Right, be right back," she said before bustling off.
Ethan sat nervously; looking around at the place he had been dreading. It was a bit anticlimactic. It looked like a cafeteria, a big cafeteria. Patrons sat at most of the tables and there was maybe another dozen trainees along with Jennifer busily waiting on them. He looked at the girls cautiously. They did not seem threatening. They all wore the short skirts and high heels which served as the Good Time Girl trainee uniform. Kind of like what he was wearing now, and having spent the last six weeks in heels, Ethan had a lot of empathy for anyone who had to work a whole shift wearing them. He began to quietly critique the girls' makeup and clothing choices while he waited for Jennifer.
"Here you go," Jennifer said when she got back, putting the coffee cup down in front of Ethan. "Don't forget to tip your waitress!" she added with a laugh.
Ethan chuckled back. No, this place was not threatening. Not that he wanted to get comfortable here, mind you. But he could see himself coming back here, at least to visit Jennifer.
"Oh hey, there's someone I want you to meet, stay here," Jennifer said, then quickly hurried off.
This gave Ethan another chance to look over the girls tending tables. They were about what he remembered, young girls showing a variety of ethnicities, hair color, and body type. There were a few skinny girls who looked shy and nervous as they tended the patrons. Some of the girls were much more buxom and boisterously flirted with the customers, making a lot of casual body contact. Most of the girls were average, showing an average amount of curves and a variety of behavior types. All were markedly young looking with clear skin and bright eyes.
They're all pretty, Ethan thought, not sure why that seemed like a clinical assessment to him. Jennifer appeared, making her way through the tables with a very buxom auburn haired beauty beside her. Something about the girl seemed familiar to Ethan.
"This is her, this is Candie, the girl from my group I was telling you about," Jennifer said by way of introduction. "Candie, this is Melissa. She's my shift manager and runs things around here."
"Actually, we've met," Ethan said. He stared in amazement. Now that he had heard the name he had no trouble linking the girl in front of him with the Melissa he had first met and then fixated on during his earlier visits to the cafeteria. The changes were amazing. Physically she had grown from a tiny waif of a child into this full figured woman in front of him. She was not fat, but generously proportioned in womanly curves. She also clearly did not recognize Ethan.
"We have? When was that?" she asked.
"It was about three or four months ago," he said. "I had just gotten to the Center. We talked about how sick labs made you feel and how you needed help around here."
"I think I remember," Melissa said after a short pause.
"They called me Ethan back then," Ethan replied. "I guess I've changed a lot."
"Ethan, that's right. I remember now. So, blonde now, huh?"
Ethan smiled defensively and self consciously adjusted his hair wishing he had gone to the stylist.
"Well we still need help around here," Jennifer said enthusiastically. "What do you think, Melissa? Don't you think Candie would fit right in? Candie, stand up and let Melissa see you."
Ethan was not sure why, but he stood anyway. He was immediately shocked to realize that Melissa was taller than him.
"You know, Jen, I think you're right," Melissa said looking Ethan over carefully. "I don't think it's too soon at all. How about it, Candie? Do you want to work a few shifts with Jennifer and see how it goes?"
"Oh, I don't think that's a good idea," Ethan said uncomfortably.
"Why not? It will be fun!" Jennifer said.
"Yeah, I don't think I'd fit in," Ethan replied.
"Sure you would," Jennifer insisted. "You're plenty pretty. Melissa, tell her she's pretty."
"Jen's right," Melissa said nodding in agreement. "You wouldn't stick out at all. Nobody can tell, if that's what's bothering you."
"Look I just don't want to! Okay?" Ethan said sounding a little shrill even to his ears.
"Well you're going to have to eventually anyway," Jennifer said petulantly.
"Now, now Jen," Melissa said in a calming voice. "If Candie's not ready, that's okay too. Not everyone's as enthusiastic as you. Now go get table 23's order, they look a little impatient"
Jennifer harrumphed a little bit, but went off to table 23 anyway.
"Thanks," Ethan said.
"That's alright, I remember how nervous I was when I first started," Melissa said. "You should have seen me. Wait, I guess you did see me."
Ethan stifled a giggle. For some reason he felt very relaxed with Melissa. She was way more friendly than threatening. She exuded a kind of casual camaraderie that was contagious.
"Jennifer really is a sweet girl, and she has a big heart," Melissa added. "She's got nothing but nice things to say about you, you know. Sometimes she just pushes this girl thing a little too hard."
"Don't I know it," Ethan said. "She's really my best friend here but sometimes..."
Melissa just smiled.
"Hey, can you give me a hand? There's a couple of tables I still need to clean. Maybe you can help me carry some dishes back to the kitchen?" she asked with wide innocent eyes.
"Sure," Ethan said and followed her to the two tables in question. There were a lot of dishes there and Ethan helped her carry them back to the kitchen.
"Oh dear," Melissa said in a very worried voice.
"What?" Ethan asked concerned about what might be wrong.
"Well table 37's order is up, but I don't have a waitress handy and the food's getting cold. Would you mind terribly carrying it out to them for me?"
"Uh, okay," Ethan replied. "Which one's table 37?"
"The group of four, right at the back on the right over there," she said pointing. "They're all numbered. If you get confused just check the side of the table."
"Got it," Ethan said and carried the tray out to the table. He came back a few minutes later.
"Two new guys sat at the table beside there, I think it's table 44?" Ethan said. "Anyway they wanted a couple of beers and I handed them some menus."
"Could you be a dear and get the beers out for me? The bars over there, just tell them it's for table 44. And here..." Melissa handed an electronic order pad to Ethan as he was about to turn to the bar. "Just punch in what they want on this and the kitchen will get the order."
"Thanks," Ethan said before turning off to get the beers and take the order. He also took the order for table 28 and was taking the payment slip back from table 36 before he realized what he was doing.
"Hey!!" he said aloud to no one in particular.
The very next day Ethan was in Mr. Betancourt's office. Ethan had asked for this meeting and had tried to dress as conservatively and as professionally as possible in order to be taken as seriously as possible. Of course conservative and professional take on relative values when your entire wardrobe was that of a 20 year old Good Time Girl trainee. Ethan smoothed the hem of his skirt and was in the middle of checking whether his nylons were straight when Mr. Betancourt walked in.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," he said making his way to his desk. Ethan nervously pulled his hands back to his lap and tried to smile.
"Now Miss Candace is it? Good morning," Mr. Betancourt said offering his hand to Ethan.
Ethan cleared his throat before speaking and let Mr. Betancourt take his hand by way of greeting.
"Good morning Mr. Betancourt and thank you for seeing me on short notice."
"Not at all, my dear. All part of the job. What can I do for you today?"
"Well I've been here for over four months now and lately I've worked very hard to do everything the Center wanted me to."
"Don't think it hasn't been noticed either. We're all very pleased at the progress you've made. You look lovely."
Ethan could have done without the compliment, but this meeting was too important to get upset.
"Thank you," he said. "I was hoping with all the progress I've made and everything that it might be possible for me to leave early."
Ethan could tell right away that he had made a mistake.
"Sorry, that came out wrong," he said. "I meant that I have finished all my requirements early and I'm ready to graduate."
"I find that quite unlikely," Mr. Betancourt said skeptically. "Our records show that you only started working at the cafeteria yesterday and that you haven't as yet started any of your Erotics Practicum."
"My what? Look... it doesn't matter," Ethan was trying not to get flustered and keep control of the conversation. "First off, I'm not 'working' at the cafeteria. I was helping a couple of friends. And second, well there is no second. I just want to get out of the Center and get a real ident card so I can get on with my life."
"This is a free country," Mr. Betancourt replied, "so you may leave the Center at any time. But you do understand the difficulty, don't you? While your skeletal realignment has almost competed, your soft tissues are still primarily male which will make it very difficult to start working in your current profession. You are quite lovely and you may be able to find a certain specialized clientele, but I do think you will find it difficult to raise the graduation fee much less pay back the rejuvenation costs. I recommend you stay at the Center at least until you are functionally female."
"Ah!" Ethan said with rising confidence. "But you are wrong. I've already got your graduation fee almost paid. There's only another 893 credits left and I'll have that before the end of the week, or next week at the latest."
With that Ethan leaned back with a smug look on his face and his hands crossed neatly in his lap. Mr. Betancourt looked puzzled for a moment, then frowned as he checked the electronic readouts for Ethan's file. A smile crossed Ethan's face and he felt a great calm. All the cross dressing and girl-acting had been worth it. He was soon to gain his freedom and start reestablishing his manhood. Reflexively he took a small mirror out of his purse and checked his makeup.
"I think there's been another misunderstanding," Mr. Betancourt said slowly. Ethan raised an eyebrow suspiciously.
"Oh?" he said.
"I'm afraid so," Mr. Betancourt nodded as he spoke. "There are 893 credits outstanding on your current debt accounts."
"That's what I said."
"The graduation fee is a token amount set to indicate that the trainee is capable of earning an independent living. I'm afraid you must be able to show that you're capable of earning a profit, not just cancelling a debt."
"So... what does that mean?" Ethan felt a familiar throbbing building in his temple.
"The graduation fee is a challenge that must be accounted for in addition to any incurred debts."
"How much?" Ethan said rubbing his temples.
"Well the exact amount is set as a percentage of the expected income of an established professional in the field and then modified according to..."
"How much... for me," Ethan said sharply, interrupting Mr. Betancourt's explanation.
"Ah, yes, um, for you that would represent an additional... let me see now... um... 75,000 credits."
Ethan felt the blood roar in his ears and his vision began to fade into a narrow black tunnel focused on Mr. Betancourt's yellow tie which faded into a blurry yellow blob that bobbed in rhythm with Mr. Betancourt's voice.
"So your total debt, including the graduation fee would be exactly 75,893 as of this morning, not including any fines or bonuses earned today. And at your average rate of accrual that would represent a time span of approximately 13 months here at the Center. Lord knows how long on the outside. Of course you could cut that time in half with regular work at the cafeteria. And any paid sexual acts would contribute greatly toward..."
Ethan lunged at the bobbing yellow blob intent on squishing it into being quiet. That was the third time Ethan had ever been tagged with a stun baton. He awoke later, crumpled on the bed in his room. His skirt was hiked in disarray and he was wearing one shoe. A button was popped on his blouse and someone had neatly placed his purse and missing shoe on his dresser. It was clear that he had been unceremoniously dumped into his room to recover.
Ethan groaned under the residual effects of the stun and thought maybe a shower would help him recover. And it did some, but the look of his makeup smeared face did little for his self esteem. Methodically he cleaned his face and standing there clean but naked he considered the slim androgynous reflection in the full length mirror. It did not seem possible. Four short months ago he had been a strapping tall middle aged man. The image that reflected back at him now had a hard time passing for boy let alone man. If he covered the face of his reflection with the palm of his hand he could still see the boy form, although the shaved legs and especially the painted toenails argued against that interpretation.
On the other hand, covering the crotch and to a lesser extent the flat chest with his hand showed him the image of a young girl, her blond hair brushing against the tops of her shoulders. Ethan shuddered. There was no way he would last a year. How much time did he have until the only thing he saw looking back at him from the mirror was Candace?
The next day Ethan reported for work at the cafeteria. Where there was possibility there was hope. Ethan knew he would never last a year without becoming Candace, but if working as a waitress could cut that time in half then that was a straw he was prepared to grasp. Melissa just smiled, welcomed him to the team then assigned him a section of tables. Jennifer gave him a hug which helped, and then Ethan went to work as a waitress at the cafeteria.
He hated it. Something about being subservient really grated on Ethan. Women customers tended to sneer at him and men were mostly jerks. He had been wearing short skirts and high heels for some time, but something about being dressed like that while serving food made him feel like he was on the menu. He had to put up with near constant verbal propositions and quite a bit of physical pawing. At times it seemed that every man in the place thought he had the right to grab Ethan's ass or stroke his legs. Ethan tried his best to smile through it all, because nobody tips a bad tempered waitress, but really he just wanted to smash a few heads with the drink tray.
"Hi, I'm Candie, I'll be your server today."
"Candie, eh? So would you be sweet if I licked you?"
Ethan smiled through clenched teeth. There had not been a day go by this week where some half witted horny guy did not make the same tired play on his name. Or some variation of the same joke anyway.
"Can I get you guys something to drink?" he said batting his eyes at the three alfs seated at his table. He made sure to lick his lips and smile as well as turn his left foot out and cock his hip in a way that tended to get him bigger tips. Colonials were usually good tippers. Ethan took their drink orders then turned back to the bar, knowing without looking that there were at least three pairs of eyes tracking his ass and legs as he walked away.
He was starting to get accustomed to the feeling of being constantly watched everywhere he walked. That was not to say he was getting used to it. Ethan did not think it was possible to ever get used to the feeling of being the focal point for a roomful of hungry eyes. He did realize he was not the only one on display. The other girls he worked with also drew more than his share of the attention. Ethan caught himself thinking 'other girls' and mentally kicked himself. He was not going to fall into that trap. He was not a girl. He was a guy. This waitressing job was just a way to earn enough money to get out of here. Taking a deep breath, Ethan smoothed his blouse and straightened his skirt before taking the drink order back to the table of alfs, once again feeling eyes turn his way as he walked past. At least this time no one grabbed my ass, he thought.
"Here you go, guys," Ethan said in as friendly voice as he could manage and a big artificial smile on his face. He almost dropped the drink tray when he bent over to give them their drinks and felt the hand of the man to his right on his ass. He did give a start, but managed to recover the fake smile on his face. Think of the money, think of the money, think of the money, he kept telling himself as he felt the hand gently caress his bottom. He almost screwed up the food order when he felt the man's hand slip down his leg and start to rub the back of his thigh. He did get the order though and managed to turn around without making a comment. There better be a huge tip after this, he fumed as he headed back to the kitchen.
Normally the wait staff did not need to enter the kitchen. Orders were transmitted directly and there was a window to pick up the food. But there was also a small rest area for the girls to get off their feet and it got Ethan away from the eyes and hands of the customers.
"AAARGH!!!" Ethan screamed, not loud enough to be noticed outside, but loud enough to turn heads inside the kitchen.
"Candie! What's wrong?" Melissa who had been talking to one of the cooks, walked over with a concerned look on her face.
"I've had it!" Ethan responded slumping into a chair at the rest area.
Melissa sat down beside him and put an arm around his shoulders.
"Hey, are you okay?"
"I'm good, it's just... Argh!! Melissa, how do you do it?"
"Everything! The staring, the grabbing, the bad jokes and pick up lines and propositions and... everything! How do women put up with that all the time? How do I put up with that and not go nuts?"
"Oh, that." Melissa smiled and brushed an errant lock of hair from Ethan's face. "Candie, honey, you have to understand that you are a very beautiful girl now and men are going to do all sorts of stupid things to get your attention. And they're going to look and grab when they think they can. They can't help it. They're jerks."
That made Ethan smile, a little. Melissa gave Ethan a hug.
"And besides it's not every woman who goes through that," she said. "Well, not every day, anyway. We're Good Time Girls. Sex and being sexy are going to be an everyday thing for us, so you should relax and try to get used to it. It's natural."
Ethan sighed heavily.
"That's easy for you to say, you were a woman," he said. "I was a man and an involuntary reassignment. There's no way this will ever feel natural."
"Oh, I don't know. You might be surprised," Melissa said, her smile broadening. "And I suppose I should thank you for the compliment, but we're not that different after all. I remember when I first got reassigned. I cursed and fought every change. I didn't even put on a skirt until I started working here. There was no way I was going to let them turn me into a woman. Now look at me."
Ethan's jaw dropped open and his eyes slightly bugged.
"You were a man?" he said.
"Uh huh," Melissa nodded, "and an involuntary reassignment. So believe me when I tell you, just accept what's happened and soon it will all feel very natural. You might even find you like it, especially the sex! Now do you need a little break? I can get Amy and Carol to cover down on your tables."
"No, that's alright," Ethan answered a little woodenly. "I better get back to work."
Ethan worked the rest of that shift in shock. He kept stealing glances at Melissa whenever they were in the same room. He could not believe that she had once been a man. She was voluptuous and moved with an easy sensuality. Ethan watched her in action as she flirted and was flirted with. Ethan knew it was more than flirting involved. He had seen her leave with male customers at the end of her shift on more than one occasion. He had assumed she was sleeping with them. Now he wondered how. He recoiled from both the physical and mental permutations. It dawned on him that she was probably taking credits for it too.
There was no physical sign that she had ever been anything but a woman. She had narrow shoulders, slender arms and hands, narrow waist, well rounded ass and shapely legs, and very, very generous breasts. Unbelievable, Ethan thought, remembering the waif girl he had first met. Melissa then had been thin, flat-chested, and shy, stumbling over her own name and avoiding eye contact, kind of like he was now. Even her hair, the long auburn tresses she had now reached the small of her back. Ethan remembered the short mop of hair she had when he met her. How fast did it grow? Ethan grabbed his own short shock of blond hair, barely touching his shoulders. Like Melissa's had been. How fast would it grow? If Melissa could change this much in four months, how long would it take him?
Change did not come overnight, or even over the next couple of weeks. At least not noticeably and Ethan began to relax enough to the point where he could talk to Melissa without freaking out. He even managed to earn a few thousand credits from wages and tips at his waitressing job to make it seem possible that he would be able earn his graduation fee and still hold on to his manhood. That was until the day he started to dress for work and his skirt was too tight.
Until now Ethan's whole experience with clothes at the Center involved him purchasing ever smaller sizes as his frame shrank. He had no experience with outgrowing a piece of women's clothing, so at first he thought the skirt had shrunk somehow. It took him a couple of days to realize that all his clothes were getting tighter around the hips, so he began to worry that he might be getting fat. It was not until he began to get an itchy sensitivity around his nipples that he began to fear the truth. Change had found him again.
The truth was staring at him from the mirror. He was starting to get a figure. Not much of one yet, but there was a roundness to his hips and a puffiness on his chest that promised things to come. He thought of Melissa and how fast she had changed. Would he also have a body like that in just four short months?
Changes came slowly, but steadily over the next couple of weeks. Each day Ethan would examine himself and each day he would convince himself that his breasts were not growing, that his areolas were not bigger and pinker than they had always been, and that his nipples were not standing out more at the slightest provocation. By the end of two weeks it was apparent that he needed an A cup.
If Ethan had felt that he had been subjected to excessive attention before it was only because he had no idea of the level of harassment someone with the right assets could expect. And his assets, while still small, were starting to garner notice. Of course he was still obliged to dress appropriate to his new position in life and the tight blouses did nothing to hide his developing bust line. The tight skirts began to accentuate the increasing sway to his hips and developing wiggle he made as he walked. The slight thickening of his thighs followed the curve of his hips and made the outline of his legs smoother and somehow more graceful looking. All this did help raise the number and size of the tips he earned, but it also ratcheted up the level of harassment.
"Hello, my name is Candie and I'll be your server today." Ethan did not have to give his name to this table. The two gentlemen were regulars at the cafeteria, regulars in the sense that they had been taking every meal there since their arrival at the Center one week prior. But Ethan wanted to maintain as much distance as possible between him and these two.
"Candie girl, when are you going to let me taste your sweetness?" said Bob, the shorter, fatter, and Ethan thought greasier of the two. He was the more persistent of the two and had seemed to take it a personal challenge to proposition every girl in the cafeteria. This included Ethan.
"Now Bob, you know we can't do any of that kind of business until you've been assigned a career," Ethan said smiling sweetly. Not that he would consider that kind of business with Bob or anyone else for that matter, but especially not Bob. Ethan was just thankful that none of the other girls had let slip that they occasionally gave out freebies. That was all he needed was for Bob to find that out.
"We got jobs!" Bob's friend Danny said.
"You don't got jobs, you have labs," Ethan said pointing to the white hospital gowns they both wore. Ethan was a little upset that they did have labs. If they had just gotten jobs then both of them would have been out of his hair by now. As it was he would have to put up with them. Hopefully they would get assigned to one of the sea colonies. That way they would get stuck at the pools and he would not have to deal with them.
"Maybe you can give us a job," Bob said slyly.
"Yeah, blow jobs!" Danny laughed loudly.
"So you get your candy lips ready," Bob laughed along, "cause' little Bob is mighty interested in that fine ass of yours. And as soon as we get ourselves a career we're coming back here."
"I can barely contain myself," Ethan said rolling his eyes. "You guys want the usual again or what?"
Even in a room full of pigs, these two were particularly bad. Even though they were not exactly unique, Ethan would have been well satisfied to never see them again. So he did not miss them one bit when they did not show up and quickly forgot about the pair until they dragged themselves back to his table four days later, looking weak and shaky after their labs.
Ethan recognized them and the uniform they now wore. Both were wearing the pale purple dress and sandals that marked the uniform of a newly christened Good Time Girl trainee. Ethan stifled a giggle when he saw them. There was no way these two were voluntary. The idiots probably even selected sex-trade worker on their preference forms. He wondered if they even knew what was in store for them as he strolled over to their table with a genuine smile pressed on his face.
"Bob! Danny! How are my two favorite customers in the whole world?" Ethan sounded almost lyrical as he handed out the menus and cutlery. "Feeling a little woozy from your labs?"
"Uh, yeah," Bob managed to croak out. "A little rough this morning."
"Well I see you both managed to 'dress' yourselves and I'm sure a little time here at the cafeteria will have you in the right 'form'." Ethan looked for any reaction. "Can I start you off with some juice or coffee?"
"Yeah, sure, juice," Bob said sounding only tired.
"Coffee, black," Danny added.
"Coming right up!" Ethan said cheerily. No, they did not know. He thought about telling them and wrecking the surprise. He wanted to tell them, but decided to let the Center surprise them the way it had him. Still, he could not resist one little dig.
"Oh, and Bob remember how you said you wanted to get in my panties? I think we can see about making that happen real soon," Ethan almost purred the words into Bob's ear before turning to his friend and licking his lips suggestively. "And Danny, I think I see a lot of sex in your future."
"You serious?" Bob asked perking up.
"Uh huh, I bet every girl here is going to make you two feel real welcome in a little while." Ethan batted his eyelashes at the two.
"Every girl?" Danny said his eyes glazing over, lost in the thought.
"Every one," Ethan nodded, dragging his fingertips across first Bob's and then Danny's shoulders as he vamped around the table. "I'll be right back with your drinks."
"Dude, we have so got it made!" Danny said excitedly.
"Candie is gonna be the first one I screw!" Bob said, not seeming to notice that Ethan was still in ear shot.
"Nah, Melissa," Danny replied. "I gotta have bigger tits!"
Ethan could not quite stifle a giggle as he left. He was quite sure that Danny would get his wish, at least the part about bigger tits, anyway. He kept giggling at the thought of those two learning how to walk in heels. And the only relationship they were going to have with either him or Melissa is when they showed up here to learn how to work the tables. Well, he would be here; Melissa would probably have graduated by then. He wondered how the two new girls would look when they showed up for work. Probably kind of like what Melissa had looked like when he first met her, thin, flat-chested, with a short mop of hair. Kind of like what he looked like now.
Ethan frowned. It would be at least three months, probably four, before either of those two showed up here. By then he would be further along the transformation than Melissa had been when he started working here. He might even be the shift manager by then. Ethan finished the rest of his shift in a dark mood.
"Oh my God, did you see those two, Danny and his creepy friend Bob?" Jennifer said cheerily.
Jennifer and Ethan had gone clothes shopping. Or rather, Jennifer needed new bras and had dragged Ethan along. The two were now in Jennifer's room modeling their new underwear.
"I couldn't believe it. I thought it was one of their scams and had to go talk to Trish in Assignments to find out if it was real. And she said it was true." Jennifer was happily posing in front of her mirror admiring her new D cups.
Ethan was wearing the new B cup push up bra that the salesgirl had measured him for. He was depressed by how well it fit. Ethan sighed, trying to come to grips with the idea that he had cleavage now.
"She said they were part of a special request for a set of twins. Can you imagine? Those two are going to be twins! I think that would be fun being a sexy twin, fooling everyone," Jennifer tried a pouty look with her shoulders back.
Ethan was preoccupied with his own breasts. A little over five months since his reassignment and he had boobs. Less than two months as a waitress and he was already up to a B cup. At this rate he would be a D cup in only a couple more months and no guarantee it would stop there. Plenty of Good Time Girls were bigger.
"I wonder what hair color they'll have?" Jennifer continued. "I bet they have rhyming names! Something like Mindy and Cindy."
Ethan wondered how long it would be before his genitals changed. They might be already changing. Lately his testicles had shown a tendency to retract up inside him a little too easily and he was not sure, but he thought his penis might be smaller. It was hard to measure when the proportions of your hands and hips had changed. He could get a ruler but Ethan was afraid he would not like the results.
"Are you even listening to me?" Jennifer asked.
Ethan turned to look up at Jennifer and burst out in tears crying.
"Candie! What's wrong?" Jennifer cried rushing over to hold Ethan.
Ethan was unable to do anything, but sob miserably as he buried his face on Jennifer's shoulder.
"Shhh, it's alright," she said gently rocking Ethan and patting him on the back.
"Oh, Jen," Ethan managed to get out between sobs. "I'm a... I'm a... I'm a girl!"
"I know, honey. I know," Jennifer said soothingly and kept rocking Ethan until he had cried himself out.
That night was a critical night for Ethan. It marked the point where he officially gave up on his plan. He was going to be a girl no matter what he did, so he either had to get used to the idea or go crazy. There was a certain relief to becoming resigned to one's fate and Ethan certainly benefited from not obsessing over his credit accounts and the futile progress he made on accumulating his graduation fee. He would be Candace the Good Time Girl long before he raised that sum.
The problem was that Ethan now walked around in a sexual identity limbo of sorts. His body was mostly female and he tried to think of himself as a girl. The phrase "I'm a girl" repeated itself in his mind like a mantra, but he could not quite wrap his head around the idea of having sex with men. As a Good Time Girl he knew he would be expected to perform on a regular basis, but the idea had no appeal to him. He tried to be a good student and study his Erotics lessons, but it all seemed kind of mechanical, like something expected of him rather than an expression of desire. He remembered Melissa's guidance to relax and try to get used to it and things would start to feel natural. He hoped so.
"Hello, I'm Candie and I'll be your server today," Ethan said trying to sound chipper and animated.
Ethan dutifully followed his homework and tried to think of the lone man at his table as a potential sex partner. He supposed the man was 'good looking'. His brown hair was well kempt and he was broadshouldered manly sort of fellow who wore the white track suit of a newcomer well. As per his lessons, Ethan tried to judge the size of the man's hands and feet and extrapolate the information. The man turned to look at Ethan.
"No it's not, it's Candace, and I'm Alistair," he said in a confident voice fixing his gaze on Ethan. "Tell me," he said, "are you still a man or have they completed the change."
"What... what do you mean, I'm... I'm just a girl," Ethan stammered, he felt like he had been caught wearing a dress.
"No, you're a victim of a repressive Government that doesn't care how many people it cruelly shapes to its will. Like me." He touched a strange looking collar around his neck as he spoke this last line.
Ethan stood there speechless, transfixed by Alistair's brown eyes. There was fire behind them and passion behind his voice.
"Or perhaps I am wrong about you," Alistair continued after a short wait for Ethan to respond. "Perhaps you wanted this. Did you grow up dreaming of makeup and skirts?"
"NO!" Ethan said almost too quickly and loudly, and then looked around sheepishly if anyone had heard him. "No," he said again more quietly. "I never wanted this. They did this to me."
"I understand," Alistair said nodding in a knowing way. "But you never answered my question. Have you been completely transformed?"
Ethan blushed deeply and looked down.
"I'm still a boy... down there," he said in a small voice.
"I see, then there is still hope. Go now before they suspect us," Alistair dismissed Ethan with a small wave.
"What? But I... I don't understand," Ethan stammered.
"They are watching me and therefore they are watching you," Alistair spoke as if he were explaining something that should have been obvious. "If you ever hope to regain your manhood then we must be smart. Go quickly and bring me back an espresso, no sugar and something sweet to eat."
Ethan looked around to see who might be watching. He wanted to say something, but a warning look from Alistair quieted him. He turned in confusion and hurried back to the kitchen aware for the first time that a man was not staring after him as he left. His body was tingling with excitement. He did not know how or why, but he knew this handsome stranger was going to save him.
Jennifer greeted him back at the kitchen.
"Who's that guy at your table?" she asked staring out the pick-up window.
"I don't know," Ethan said joining her at the window. "He said his name is Alistair."
"He's gorgeous!" Jennifer said.
"You better stay away from that one, girls," Melissa said coming up behind them. "See that collar he's wearing. That's a confinement collar. He's here for punitive reassignment."
"I wonder what he did," Jennifer asked as both she and Ethan continued to stare.
But Ethan did not stay away. It would have been difficult anyway as Alistair seemed to seek out Ethan's table whenever he dined at the cafeteria. Alistair typically drove the conversation and probed Ethan on his background and what he knew of the Center and the surrounding neighborhood. All Ethan learned for his part was that Alistair's last name was Roberts and that he was a political prisoner.
"I could save us both," Alistair was saying as he and Ethan strolled nonchalantly through the halls of the Center. "If I could get outside. I would show them what a free man would do."
Ethan loved to hear Alistair talk. His voice held a tone of conviction that made you believe anything was possible. His anti-Government tirades went against everything Ethan had worked for during a long career in the civil service, but there was nothing like being subjected to an involuntary reassignment to make one believe that the Government may not always have your best interests in mind. Still Ethan was nervous to be seen in company with the prisoner.
"Candace, look me in the eye." The larger man turned Ethan and held him firmly. Ethan felt his heart thumping as he looked up. Alistair clasped Ethan's hands and slipped a data stick into them. "You must do something for me. I need to get word out to my men, but all my communications are monitored. Take this and send it by commercial courier. Don't use the Government systems and don't send it while in the Center. Can you do that for me?"
Hazel. His eyes are definitely more hazel than brown, Ethan thought as he nodded agreement and hid the data stick in his purse. At that point he would have agreed to almost anything Alistair asked of him.
And so it was for the first time in his life, Ethan did something against the Government for which he had worked all these long years. It was a small thing, but terribly exciting for Ethan; sneak a data stick out in his purse and deliver it to the nearest public courier office. We're dissidents fighting a corrupt Government, he told himself surreptitiously making his way, or at least as surreptitious as a leggy blonde in a miniskirt can be. He felt like a spy and made sure to wear dark glasses and check his compact mirror a lot to see if he was being followed.
"Well done, Candace," Alistair told him after he reported back.
Ethan glowed under the praise.
"It was nothing," he said blushing. Lately he had been getting a fluttering feeling in his stomach whenever Alistair complimented him. "I wish it was more."
"So do I, but unless I can get this off and get out of here, we're stuck," Alistair tapped his confinement collar as he spoke and sighed.
Ethan thought long and hard about what he said next.
"Suppose I could do something," he said. "Suppose I could get that collar off and get us both out of here."
Alistair fixed Ethan with that penetrating gaze of his.
"If I did that," Ethan continued, "could you arrange it for me to be a boy again? Change me back to a man, I mean?"
Alistair leaned back and looked Ethan over from head to toe. He looked a little skeptical to Ethan, but answered positively enough to give Ethan hope.
"Anything that can be changed can be changed again," he said. "But your old life is gone, stolen by the Government. You would have to become someone new and yes that could be a man. How are you going to do this?"
"Leave that to me," Ethan said in a remarkably calm voice. "But I may need some time."
"Take what time you need, but hurry. And Candace, this is a great thing you are doing."
Ethan did not trust himself to do anything more than just smile, but he felt like he was walking on a cloud after they parted.
It actually took a week to plan, but then Ethan was trying to be careful. He had never hacked a Government computer system before or any computer system for that matter. Once he was past the initial firewall and established fake administrator privileges it went surprisingly easy. His impression was that if the Center was in the habit of taking laid off computer engineers and making unwilling Good Time Girls out of them, then they probably should invest in better IT protection. Granted it was tricky, but straight forward enough that Ethan spent an extra two days making sure it was not some sort of trap.
Today was the day his plan was ready. He and Alistair were breaking out. He had a hard time not telling Jennifer what he was planning. She was his one friend here at the Center and the only one he was going to miss. Well maybe Melissa a little too and some of the other girls he worked with were nice, but not the guards, not Mr. Betancourt, not any of the clerks, and definitely not the grabby customers with their cheesy pick up lines. He was through being a Good Time Girl. Alistair was going to fix it so he would not have to go through life as a sex object for horny guys. Alistair was going to save him.
Ethan checked himself in the mirror before starting his shift and smiled. Just thinking of Alistair gave him a warm pleasant feeling. He adjusted his bra a little. Lately his nipples had been getting hard at the oddest times. Ethan straightened his blouse, leaving it open just enough to hint at his cleavage. Then he touched up his makeup and lipstick before trying to fluff up his hair a bit. He wanted to look nice when he told Alistair the good news.
Ethan was worried that he would not be able to pretend that everything was normal, but he slipped into the practiced routine of the cafeteria with little difficulty. He gave no hint that this was not just another day. On the outside he was just another trainee learning how to be a Good Time Girl. He laughed and giggled with the other girls and even flirted a little with the customers. It would have been a good day if he was still interested in earning credits. On the inside however, Ethan was very cold and calculating. All preparations were in place. Today was going to be the last day he ever wore a skirt or heels again. Ethan just needed to enter the coded signal on his electronic order pad and all the subroutines he had crafted would be triggered. He and Alistair would escape the Center and all it had tried to do to him.
He had not realized how tensely he had been waiting for Alistair until he saw him enter the cafeteria. Alistair strode confidently towards Ethan's section. He moved with a lithe smoothness like he owned the room. Ethan's heart leapt at the sight and there was that fluttering feeling in his stomach again. Ethan kept his calm persona in place as he walked over to where Alistair sat. His knees felt like they were going to buckle and the feeling in his stomach had spread making his nipples tighten up again. Telling himself it was just the excitement of the pending escape he leaned over to whisper in Alistair's ear.
"It's all set," he said. "As soon as the alarms go off, follow my lead."
Alistair's eyebrows rose questioningly, then he gave a short discrete nod of understanding. Ethan straightened and smiled before entering the coded trigger into his order pad.
The first thing that happened was that the two guards who always seemed to be around wherever Alistair went, crumpled as their stun batons discharged back on themselves through the bypassed safety screens. Then, in rapid succession, the fire alarm and sprinklers went off as the main power cut out. Ethan feigned concern for the guards and pocketed both of their security passes just as the emergency lighting kicked in. Ethan was particularly proud of the feedback routine he had done on the stun batons and hoped that Mr. Betancourt was somewhere near his desk when that subroutine had taken effect.
Patrons and staff rushed around in confusion for the emergency exits. Ethan walked calmly through the noise, darkness, and falling water to take Alistair by the hand and lead him out through the kitchen. Ethan led them through to the staff entrance and men's changing room. It was quieter and drier here.
"Sit down and hold still for a second," he said.
Alistair sat down obligingly as Ethan popped off the back of his order pad and removed the card scanner. Inserting one of the stolen security passes he typed in a short sequence on the keypad. The confinement collar snapped open and fell off of Alistair's neck.
"I'm impressed," Alistair said rubbing the spot where the collar had been. "But how do we get outside?"
"Bio-scanners will be down for less than thirty minutes, so we'll have to work fast." Ethan waved the jury-rigged security pass over the main door lock and every locker in the room opened for inspection. "Facial recognition is off, but the Center clothes will be a dead giveaway. Find something dry to wear and get changed quickly."
Ethan quickly got to work searching through the lockers until he found one where the clothes might be small enough to fit. He kicked off his heels and shimmied out of his soaked skirt. He had just taken off his blouse when he got the feeling that he was being watched. He looked over his shoulder and saw Alistair standing there with his shirt off staring. It occurred to Ethan that this was the first time he had gotten changed in the same room as a man since he had entered the Center. Ethan could only imagine what he looked like; wet hair, wet clothes, more girl than boy from the back at least, and Alistair just behind him with those broad shoulders and strong arms.
"We better hurry," he said, shaking his head once to clear his thoughts as he peeled off his nylons and undid his bra.
The borrowed clothes were too big, but would have to do. The jacket and pants felt rough and heavy on his light frame and he was thankful for the t-shirt he had found, as it protected his nipples from some of the abrasion. There were no socks or underwear so Ethan went without. His hair tucked up under a cloth cap from a different locker completed the look. From a distance Ethan might have been able to pass as one of the male cooks, a very great distance. He wished he had thought to bring nail polish remover, but jamming his hands in his jacket pocket helped the disguise.
Alistair on the other hand looked like he had changed into his own clothes. The shirt, though not tailored, fit well. The pants were a bit short, but he had managed to find a pair of socks and shoes that fit. Ethan marveled at how calm and on top of things Alistair always seemed to be even when dragged unsuspecting into a crazy situation like this.
"Ready?" Alistair asked.
"Here." Ethan tossed Alistair one of the security passes. "We'll need them at the door. There's more guards there, but they should be out from the stun batons."
Ethan led Alistair down the hall to the exit. Ethan found that he was no longer accustomed to walking in flat shoes and that the backs of his heels began to hurt in a relatively short time. He wrote that off to the ill-fitting shoes and tried to walk more on his toes to alleviate the pain, determined to drive on.
There was only one guard at the exit and he lay unconscious on the ground. Ethan breathed a sigh of relief as he and Alistair stepped over the prone figure. Both of them swiped their security cards and the door opened to the outside air. Ethan was halfway through the doorway when Alistair stopped and turned to the unconscious guard and started to kick him viciously in the ribs and head. Ethan squeaked in surprise and tried to pull Alistair along by his arm, but the bigger man continued his attack on the helpless guard for several more kicks. Alistair gave him one more kick to the head for good measure, then strove out the door into freedom. Ethan had to hurry along after him.
Once outside, Alistair led the way. Ethan looked nervously from side to side, taking rapid short steps in the uncomfortable shoes. Alistair strode purposefully until they got to the shadowed alcove of a public card reader. Pulling Ethan inside he stopped to look back with a long measured stare. A chuckle turned into a triumphant laugh as he turned, picked Ethan up with both hands and spun around with him before giving him a hard kiss on the mouth and setting him down.
"Candace, that was amazing," he said, still chuckling. "Now give me all the cards you've got."
Ethan was speechless as he handed over the borrowed security card and his ident card. Alistair threw the security card into some nearby bushes and fed Ethan's card in to the reader. It seemed to Ethan that he was entering an awful lot of information into the terminal.
"Come here," he told Ethan. "Take off your hat and jacket. Try to brush your hair out and smile."
The excitement of the escape, the brutality to the helpless guard, and the unexpected kiss all left Ethan disorientated. He found himself following Alistair's orders. The familiar whir click of the card dispenser followed and Alistair handed Ethan a new ident card. Ethan was surprised to see that it was the white with green writing of an official card and for a brief moment thought that Alistair had somehow managed to give him back his old career. But that hope was dashed when he read the name and career field; Helen Marrone, Sales Analyst.
Just a fake, he thought, good for flashing, but useless for any transaction needing a gene scan for confirmation, which was most of them. The holograph was his image though, or at least what he looked like now. Ethan wished he had had a chance to brush out his hair first and his eye makeup was a little smudged.
The whir click of the reader indicated Alistair had his card too.
"Come on," he said, pulling Ethan by the arm.
"Where are we going?"
"We're going to find a place to lay low for awhile. Now don't ask questions."
If Ethan was surprised that their fake ident cards got them onto public transportation, he was flabbergasted when Alistair was able to book them a motel cottage.
"How did you do that?" he asked when they were safe inside their room. "You didn't use your real name did you?"
Alistair showed him his ident card with Alistair's holograph, but with the name Jason Kipling.
"How?" Ethan said again. "How did you get this room with a fake card?"
"What did I tell you about questions?" Alistair said sternly with a hint of irritation in his voice. "Look, you got me out of the Center so I'm doing you a favor. The cards are real. Use it all you want. Use it anywhere you want. You could walk out that door and be Helen Marrone. Even the Government thinks you're Helen Marrone now."
Ethan had a hard time believing Alistair. Ident cards were coded for your DNA, finger prints, and retinal patterns and were considered unfalsifiable proof of identification by everyone everywhere. Your entire financial and medical history was linked to them. What Alistair was saying was impossible.
"Don't believe me? Check it out." Alistair gestured to the internet terminal in the room. "Stay here. Don't call anyone who knows your face."
"Where are you going?"
"I'll be back in a while. Don't leave the room."
With that Alistair left Ethan alone in the room. At first Ethan was leery of trying his new card out in the terminal, but when a few hours went by without Alistair's return, he started to get a little bored. He inserted the card and expected it to be spit out immediately or even confiscated with alerts sent out that someone was using an illegal card. What he got was the private web pages of Helen Marrone, a Helen Marrone that looked an awful lot like him.
According to this card he was Helen Marrone, a 24-year old woman from Pittsburgh with a college degree from Penn State and a job history as a Sales Analyst with a marketing firm. The medical history looked enough like his to avoid suspicion and not get him killed, except that it listed him as being born female. He also had a credit line and bank accounts set up. Real money too, not just Center credits. Not as much as he had had in his prior life, but a tidy sum none the less.
The only odd part was that the contacts files were gone. There were folders for family, friends and business associates set up with numerous sub-groupings available, but they were all empty except for a single holograph of Alistair listed in the friends folder under the name Jason Kipling. It was as if someone had taken an existing life and scrubbed it clean before dropping Ethan's face and other identifying features into the empty slots.
It was another two hours before Alistair returned. When he did he was wearing a new suit and carrying two suitcases. One he put on the bed the other he handed to Ethan.
"Here, get dressed. We're going out. I'm hungry."
With that Alistair opened the suitcase on the bed and started removing clothes, shoes and personal items. Most of them were obviously new with tags on them that Alistair removed before putting the items away in the dresser and closet. Ethan heaved the heavy bag he held onto the bed and opened it. Inside were several skimpy dresses, nylons, bra and panty sets, and a couple of pairs of high-heel shoes, several cosmetic kits, and a small clutch purse.
Ethan looked up in dismay.
"Don't worry, it all fits," Alistair said, continuing to put his clothes away. "I got your sizes when I made your new card."
"Justin," Alistair interrupted. "I'm Justin now. And you're Helen. You have to remember that."
"...Justin," Ethan started again awkwardly. "These are not the kind of clothes I had hoped for."
"I think you'll look hot in these. You can buy more on your own card."
"But I... I kind of hoped I could start being a man again."
Alistair actually laughed at that.
"You're kidding, right? I mean look at you," he said. "If we uglied you up some, you might be able to pass as a teenage boy. Then how do we explain you travelling with a grown man? No, you have to be a woman for now. Besides the hotter you look the less likely they'll be looking at me."
"I suppose," Ethan said reluctantly picking up a flimsy blue dress. There was something wrong with that logic, but Ethan had to admit he would have little trouble passing as a woman. "As long as it's temporary, I guess."
"Atta girl, now hurry up and get dressed," Alistair said.
Ethan took the dress along with a set of underwear and nylons into the bathroom. He felt self-conscious changing in front of Alistair. It was dumb since they were both males, but he felt shy getting naked in front of him.
It was also a little depressing how normal the new clothes felt as he automatically slipped on the bra and panties. The stolen male clothes had felt heavy and rough. The dress was light and silky and the feeling of it holding his butt tightly while the hem brushed freely across his thighs was familiar and comforting. The bra felt good too or at least it did for now. Ethan was thankful that it kept his boobies from bouncing too much, but he knew that it would eventually start to pinch. Ethan looked at his reflection in the mirror. His face and hair were a mess. There was no way he could go out in public like this.
"Are you done yet?" Alistair called impatiently from the other room.
"Just a minute," Ethan said as he came back into the room and grabbed the cosmetics kits. "I have to fix my face," he said, then squeaked in happy surprise as he grabbed the brush that Alistair had also purchased. "And my hair!" he added as he scampered back to the bathroom.
"Well hurry up!" Alistair shouted after him.
The cosmetics were expensive and high quality. Not the colors Ethan would have picked out, but with enough variety for him to work with. He worked diligently and in his opinion quickly, which was not easy with Alistair yelling at him from the other room to hurry up. Finally with his hair brushed out and his face made up in an acceptable way, Ethan slipped on his heels and stepped out.
"Bout time," Alistair complained, then gave a low whistle as he caught sight of Ethan.
"How do I look?" Ethan said striking a pose. He had been a little worried that the sore feet he got from wearing the borrowed shoes would be aggravated by the heels, but his feet felt fine.
"You look great," Alistair said appreciatively. "Now let's go, I'm starved."
The evening went well. Ethan had been afraid he would mess something up and give them both away, but once he relaxed he got into his role and even began to enjoy playacting as Helen Marrone, out on a date with her gentleman friend. Ethan made special effort to always call Alistair 'Justin' and tried hard to respond to the name 'Helen'. The training he had received at the Center helped a lot as he held onto Alistair's arm and let him open doors and hold chairs for him. It was all a very proper date at a nice restaurant with excellent food and expensive wine.
There was perhaps a little too much wine as Ethan found himself getting slightly drunk and very giggly. He also caught himself starting to slip into some of the flirting routines they had taught him as a Good Time Girl trainee. He stopped as soon as he noticed he was doing it, but it made him giggle even more. It was funny, him a boy in a dress flirting with a big strong manly man like Alistair. So he did it again and it was just as funny the second time.
Ethan was definitely woozy when they left the restaurant and was thankful to have Alistair to lean into. Ethan clung to Alistair's arm and rested his head, breathing in the slight musky smell of Alistair's cologne. Ethan had his eyes closed and so was a little surprised when Alistair stopped and turned to face him.
Ethan looked up into Alistair's eyes and giggled again. He reached up one hand to touch palm down on Alistair's chest. He could feel the hard muscles of the broad chest. Alistair reached down and brushed a stray lock of hair away from Ethan's face and looked down at Ethan with those fiery eyes. Ethan found his other hand reaching up to touch the stubble on Alistair's cheek. There was that fluttering feeling in his stomach again and the world was very dizzy when Alistair reached round to pull Ethan close and bent down to kiss him passionately.
Ethan felt weird, like he was falling down a tunnel. It all felt weirdly familiar and totally different. The last thing he remembered was the feel of Alistair's beard scratching his face.
He woke up in bed and yawned.
"Good morning," Alistair said.
Ethan rubbed sleep out of his eyes and saw daylight through the window.
"Morn'," he managed to reply. He had a headache and there was a strange metallic aftertaste in his very dry mouth.
"I'm going to need you to stay here a few days while I go take care of some business," Alistair said while buttoning his shirt.
"Business?" Ethan said sitting up letting the blanket fell down as a result. Alistair's eyes panned down. Ethan realized he was not wearing any clothes and snatched the blanket back up with both hands to cover his naked chest. Alistair smirked.
"You'll be fine. I'll send someone to check on you. In the meantime go shopping or get your hair done or whatever it is you like to do."
"But when will you be back?"
"I told you I'd send someone," Alistair spoke with a stern hint of annoyance. "You can go out, but use this room as your home. And remember you're Helen."
With that Alistair left the room. Ethan watched through the window until Alistair walked out of sight.
"Bye," he whispered.
As hiding places go, a high end motel cottage was a very comfortable one. And if one had to pretend to be a 24-year old woman then the nearby district of boutiques and salons made it easier. Especially if one was using the credit line of a non-existent person that did not need to be paid back. At least Ethan hoped he would not have to pay it back. He was enjoying himself too much.
Ethan had never been pampered to this level before. Clerks fell over each other to show him the latest dresses or have him try on expensive jewelry. He only wished Jennifer could be there with him. He missed his friend. Shopping was not the same without her, especially the shoe stores. Although she would have been proud of the heels he did pick out. And she definitely would have enjoyed the salons. Ethan went all out with massages, manicures, pedicures, and hair styles. In general, he indulged himself.
All this did little to ease his confusion. Everything since the escape had happened too quickly. It was good to take a break from Alistair. Ethan did not know what to think about that man anymore. The charming soft spoken dissident he had met at the Center did not seem to have much in common with the rough and rude Alistair who had had been apparent on the day of their escape. There was much to be admired in Alistair's confidence and style, but the brutality shown to the unconscious guard and the way he had automatically assumed Ethan should take a girl's identity left Ethan feeling conflicted. He wanted to do things for Alistair and to follow his lead, but did not care for the automatically submissive way he behaved whenever Alistair told him to do something.
He was thankful that Alistair had been such a gentleman on their date. A bolder man might have tried to force Ethan to do something unsavory, especially with only one bed in the room. Ethan thought a lot about that bed. There was only one. He and Alistair had to have shared it that first night together. He had lain naked in bed with a man. Good thing he had passed out before anything happened. Ethan still intended to be a man again when this was all done and did not want to carry any homosexual memories with him. He had nothing against homosexuals; he just did not want to be one, even if it was with someone as good looking as Alistair.
The idea was absurd anyway. Ethan had no idea whether Alistair was gay or not. Sure they had kissed right after the escape, but that was just spontaneous. And yes they had kissed again during their date, but that was just playacting and Ethan had brought it on himself by getting made up all sexy then flirting with Alistair. He remembered that much. Everything after that was kind of a blank.
Odds were that Alistair liked girls and if Ethan really was a girl, he could see the two of them together. Funny the way things worked out. The Center had tried to turn him into a Good Time Girl, but Alistair was going to save him. If he had let the Center turn him into a girl, then he and Alistair could have wound up together, maybe even married. That would have made him Candace Roberts, or would that be Helen Kipling now? Ethan practiced writing both names out just to see how they looked. He missed Alistair and hoped he would come back soon and make a man of him again. It was just too confusing to stay half way like this.
Ethan was on his own for five days and was starting to think that Alistair might not come back. He sat at a bistro table alone, picking at a salad, wondering if this playacting as Helen might become a lifetime role. His body was still changing. The rate his hair grew out proved that. It rested easily on his shoulders now and required a lot more care. How much longer would it be until he lost what little manhood he had left?
"Helen? Helen Marrone?"
Ethan started at the sound of his assumed name. The person who asked it was a thick-muscled man who managed to look disheveled in an expensive suit.
"Yes?" he said.
"Get in the car, boss wants to see you."
"What? Who? I don't understand."
"The boss, you know, 'Mr. Kipling'? Look lady, do I have to spell it out for you?"
"Oh, Justin!" Ethan said in rising excitement. He had not been forgotten after all.
"Right, now get in the car." The man gestured to a late model sedan parked on the road. The driver behind the wheel could have been this man's brother.
Ethan knew better than to get in a car with strangers. But this fellow seemed perfectly willing and capable of picking him up and tossing him in no matter Ethan's thoughts on the issue. Plus there was the novelty of riding in a privately owned automobile. Not many of those were left in the city. He felt like a celebrity riding through town and wondered if people could see him through the tinted glass. He tried to act blasé and mysterious, but inside he was delighted.
The ride ended at a secluded address with a private gate. Ethan was impressed by the tree-lined driveway and the stone work leading to the modern revival ranch-style home. This place was expensive. He was a little disappointed that the ride was ending, but stayed in character as he waited for his escort to open the car door for him.
Ethan walked into the house like he owned it, nonchalantly taking in the décor and playing it cool. His demeanor broke a little bit when he caught site of Alistair. There was that same jumping of his heart in his chest and the now familiar fluttering in his stomach. He started as if to run to Alistair, but froze when he saw a big chested blond woman walk up behind Alistair and wrap her arms around him.
"I'm telling you, we're ready to start production now." Alistair was seated and speaking to the air around him.
Ethan realized that Alistair was on one end of a private holo link. He had no idea who the blonde was or why she was being so familiar with Alistair. Ethan kept calm as he walked into the room.
"We can have half a dozen live-ware ready to go inside three months." Alistair kept talking without looking up at Ethan.
The unknown blonde had her hands on Alistair's shoulders. Ethan thought the dress she wore looked a little cheap, maybe even slutty.
"Okay, only two complete, but you can make as much money on a partial. More, if you have the right clients." Alistair was very animated in his conversation.
Ethan felt his teeth clench as he watched the blonde slowly massage Alistair's shoulders, pressing her hips against him from behind as he talked.
"No, that's guaranteed," Alistair said to the ether as he patted the woman's hand.
What a bimbo, Ethan thought.
"They won't even know themselves." Alistair nodded as he listened to the silent other half of the conversation.
Definitely a slut, maybe even a whore, Ethan thought as he watched the woman bend down to nibble on Alistair's neck. Alistair did not flinch but kept talking.
"Full production inside a year. I can get you a hundred."
Ethan thought her hair looked fake and those boobs were clearly enhanced. Why did women like that think cheap and slutty were sexy?
"Well how many can you move?" Alistair asked.
The tramp even had the gall to smile at Ethan. Slut, Ethan thought but smiled back.
"Well shit, I can get you as many cards as you want, but they'll cost you." Alistair was sounding a little irritated.
Ethan fought the urge to snatch the hair right off the woman's head.
"You do that, in the mean time, I got a business to run." Alistair signaled for a disconnect. "Morons," he said.
"Good, you're here," Alistair said looking up and acknowledging Ethan, then turning to the unknown blonde he added, "Rachel I want you to meet Helen. She's the one we owe the favor to. Helen, this is Rachel, my wife."
Ethan felt a rush of blood leaving his head and the world tilted around him. Managing to keep his balance and stay in character, he smiled woodenly and clasped hands with Rachel.
"Charmed," he said smiling sweetly.
Rachel raised an eyebrow and smirked. "Likewise," she said.
"Rachel, I want you and Helen to switch." Alistair spoke quickly and with authority, like he was giving orders. "Then Helen goes up the east coast and tries to draw attention to herself, while I take my new bride on a long honeymoon to Las Vegas. Then lose everyone and meet back up at the house in Chicago when we're clear."
Ethan looked dumbstruck at Alistair. Something about all of this seemed like betrayal.
"I thought..." Ethan started with hesitation. "I thought we were going to change me back. You know, once things calmed down."
Alistair shook his head. "No, things are still too hot. Better if Rachel and I disappear in Las Vegas for a couple of weeks."
Ethan stood there confused as to what to say. He wanted to beg Alistair to either turn him back or take him to Las Vegas instead.
"Go!" Alistair said with irritation. "I have to catch that plane in three hours."
Ethan tried to size up Rachel as they left. They were both about the same height, with Ethan maybe a little shorter. It's just the heels, he thought. He could be taller too if he wore shoes like that. His own three-inch heels were much more tasteful, but he could probably wear a taller pair just to show up Rachel. Both were wearing modest day dresses. Ethan thought Rachel's looked too tight on her, probably because she was getting fat. Also, he was wearing a fitted designer label. That rag she had on was clearly off the shelf. Rachel had much bigger boobs. Probably where she kept her brains, Ethan thought, feeling a little inadequate. Her hair was longer too and more of a strawberry blond color than Ethan's honey toned hair. What Alistair saw in her was beyond Ethan. Slut, he thought.
"So," Ethan said trying to start a conversation. "You and Alistair, huh? How long you two been married?"
"About an hour and a half now," Rachel answered.
"Then you and he haven't... I mean you and he didn't... So, a honeymoon. That sounds like fun."
"Oh, please," Rachel said rolling her eyes and looking over her shoulder at Ethan, giving him a head to toe and back to head look as she spoke. "I'm sure things will be very entertaining, given Alistair's taste in women."
Ethan was still trying to figure out what that meant when they arrived at a fancy card reader in the next room.
"Let me see your ident card," Rachel said, holding out her hand.
Ethan handed over the 'Helen Marrone' card and watched as Rachel fed it into the reader along with her own card and did something unfamiliar to the key pad. Ethan noted that it was a variation on the diagnostics pattern, but included a few applications he had not seen before. There was the familiar whir click click as the machine spat out both their cards.
"Here you go," Rachel said, handing him his card. "Hope you enjoy Las Vegas."
At first Ethan thought she handed him her card by mistake. But closer inspection showed him that it was his height, weight, eye color and honey blonde hair under the identifier Rachel Calloway, Caterer.
"I'm a caterer?" Ethan said scratching his head.
"Sounds better than being a Sales Analyst," his escort said looking at her new card.
"But I don't know how to cook."
"Doesn't matter. You won't need to in Las Vegas."
"Wait, I thought you were going to Las Vegas while I go up the east coast."
"No, Helen goes up the east coast while Rachel goes on her honeymoon to Las Vegas. You're Rachel. I'm Helen."
Ethan's head swam and he suppressed a nervous urge to giggle. He was going to Las Vegas.
It did not take Ethan long to realize there were going to be problems with this new identity. There were no issues with pretending to be a woman. Ethan had that act down pat. Hair, clothes and makeup were no different than when he had been Helen Marrone. The problem arose in that he had to take on the role of Rachel Calloway, nee Lefler, justmarried wife of Andrew Calloway. So he and Alistair had to be a young married couple on their honeymoon with Ethan as the blushing bride.
Ethan could play the part. Holding hands, kissing in public, or just leaning onto Alistair as they walked came easy to Ethan. It confused him how easy and natural it did feel. Ethan would find himself gazing into Alistair's piercing eyes and the world seemed a nicer place. Of course he realized they were both still two fugitives on the run, but he felt a lot more secure and safe whenever Alistair held him tight.
The airport was a blur, as was the flight and cab ride to their hotel. Ethan had tried to immerse himself in the role, doting on Alistair while touching and kissing him at every opportunity. And Alistair had reciprocated enthusiastically. Now that they were in the hotel and Ethan was alone in the bathroom, he finally had time to catch his breath and think as he brushed his hair out.
What was he doing? How did he get here? Why had he thrown his lot in with Alistair so readily? The woman looking back at him from the mirror had no answers, but kept brushing her hair. It was getting long. Ethan put the brush down and tucked a stray bang behind an ear so as to touch up his makeup. 'Andrew' wanted to take his new bride 'Rachel' out tonight and Ethan was adding a more evening color to his face. Normally he went with natural tones, but tonight he wanted things to be special. Tonight he was going with smoky grey and violet eye shadow and bright red lipstick and matching nails.
He knew what he was doing. He was trying to impress Alistair. Why, he was not quite sure. His feelings were complicated. Alistair was an impressive man, very forceful and confident in his ways. And Ethan wanted to be equally impressive standing by his side.
Ethan busied himself with getting ready. Alistair had picked out a silver and white mini dress for him to wear and he was having trouble deciding if he should go with the sheer black nylons with the ankle boots or no nylons and the strappy silver heels. The heels would show off his toenails better, but the black nylons seemed more sophisticated. He especially liked the way the sheer highlights complimented the contours of his legs. So black nylons it was. He almost changed his mind looking in the mirror, he was so nervous. Tonight he wanted things to be perfect.
The evening turned out to be a lot of fun. Ethan had never been in a casino before and was enjoying the noise and lights. Alistair even let him make a few bets on his own, but mostly he just cheered Alistair on. It was nice just being by his side and occasionally blowing on the dice for good luck. And he drew a lot of attention by his looks too. Not every man was dissuaded by the wedding ring he wore either. Luckily Alistair was being very protective.
The only problem was the free cocktails that kept showing up. Ethan was not sure if they were provided by the house or if gentlemen were buying them for him, but there always seemed to be one at hand. Ethan tried to pace himself and he thought he was handling them pretty good until that last one that Alistair gave him. After that one Ethan felt himself getting very giddy and he increasingly leaned on Alistair for support. That felt nice too. The world seemed very soft and mushy and started to spin. He remembered leaving the casino.
He awoke the next morning in their hotel room lying naked in bed with an equally naked Alistair asleep and spooning him from behind. Ethan fought back panic as he disentangled himself from Alistair without waking him. He tiptoed into the bathroom and locked the door. What the hell had just happened? He could not remember. The last thing he did remember was leaving the casino, then nothing before waking up naked next to Alistair... naked Alistair. His heart thumped loudly as panic once again threatened to overwhelm him. He had been drunk. That was all. He had a headache and a funny metallic aftertaste in his mouth so he had to have been drunk. They had both been drunk. Why else would Alistair want to sleep with him? He was a man, after all!
Not much of one, not anymore, he thought. The changes had continued. His penis was unquestionably smaller now, smaller even than his now slender thumb. And his testicles as often as not rode up retracted inside him. One day they won't come back down, he thought with the word ovaries looming in the back of his mind. He avoided thinking it openly as if acknowledging the thought would make it so. He was still becoming a woman. In some ways he was already more woman than man. Except here, he thought covering his genitals with his hand. The image that looked back at him from the mirror was of a young curvaceous girl, demurely covering her genitals with one dainty hand. Her honey-blond hair lay over her gently sloping shoulders and her breasts were full and well rounded, but with the pertness of youth. Smooth belly, wide hips, and long supple legs completed the look.
Ugh, I forgot to take my makeup off, he thought disgusted with himself. Ethan threw on the short robe he kept in the bathroom and tied his hair back before scrubbing his face clean. The cleansers and moisturizers felt normal and it was good to do something routine, but his thoughts kept drifting back to Alistair lying naked in the next room. Finally finishing despite the distraction, Ethan tiptoed quietly back to the bedroom to get his clothes.
"Good morning," Alistair called sleepily from the bed. He lounged sitting up on one elbow, his strong muscled chest and abs on full display. It was also quite apparent from the tenting in the blanket that he still had his morning erection.
"Morning," Ethan answered back, frozen to the spot, very aware that he stood there naked except for the silky robe that reached barely past his hips.
"Come here," Alistair said, patting the bed beside him.
Ethan's eyes were drawn to the bed and Alistair's semi-covered body. His heart was thumping and his stomach fluttered. Ethan was afraid. He was sure that Alistair could see him shake as he walked up to the bed and sat down. He flinched when Alistair sat up and reached for him but all Alistair did was remove the hair tie that Ethan had used.
"You should wear your hair down," Alistair said. "It looks better."
Ethan instinctually reached up as his hair fell over his shoulders. It easily fell past his collar bone to brush against the tops of his breasts. Their hands momentarily touched, then Alistair's hand followed Ethan's hair down. The back of Alistair's hand brushed Ethan's breast through the thin material of the robe. Ethan could feel the robe start to slip open, but did nothing to stop it. Alistair's hand slipped inside the robe and gently cradled Ethan's breast before he leaned forward to kiss Ethan full on the lips with half open mouth.
Ethan's feelings were in a tumult. He was having trouble forming any coherent thought. All he knew was that the feeling of Alistair's fingers massaging his breast while his nipple was being gently tweaked and pinched was the most delicious amazing feeling he had ever had. He eagerly returned Alistair's passionate kissing; the scratchy feeling of Alistair's morning beard only heightened the feeling.
Ethan could feel Alistair's other arm slip in behind his back and with one fluid motion he was swept onto the bed beside Alistair. Ethan's robe fell open all the way, slipping past his shoulders and slightly pinning his arms to the side. Ethan shook himself free of the robe and started to run his hands over Alistair's hard muscled chest and shoulders. He's like a stallion, Ethan thought ever mindful of the occasional poke of Alistair's erection against his thighs. Alistair stopped momentarily to take in Ethan's naked form, then bent over to bury his face in Ethan's chest. Ethan clutched Alistair's head to his bosom and found himself start to moan softly as Alistair sucked and nibbled on his nipples.
Ethan could not help it as the pace of his breathing picked up and the volume of his moaning increased. Alistair's hands were like magic. Everywhere they touched they left shivers that did not immediately go away as they shifted to some other part of Ethan's anatomy. No, not magic, these were the hands of an artist. Ethan felt his whole body being raised to a high level of excitement. At one point he felt the shivers overwhelm him for just a moment as he cried out loudly. It was all very personal. At that point Ethan felt that he and Alistair were sharing a very deep moment together that felt ecstatic.
Alistair never stopped, but kept his hands moving. Ethan 'eeped' slightly when he felt Alistair slip one hand onto his crotch and begin to rub rhythmically with the palm of his hand and tickle with his fingers. Ethan felt obligated to reciprocate and wrapped his hands around Alistair's shaft. It felt enormous and hard. Ethan was slightly worried that his own penis was not responding, but that worry was lost in the tingly feeling spreading from his thighs to his toes and the warm hot feeling where the erection should have been. Ethan was starting to make high-pitched gasping noises as he rocked against Alistair's hand.
The shivers were also starting to come back and building to a higher level than before. Momentarily forgetting about Alistair's penis, Ethan dug his nails into Alistair's back and clamped his thighs against Alistair's hand. The shivers had merged with the tingling feelings and Ethan gave a loud shriek as the flip-flop feeling one gets at the top of a roller coaster poured through him, centered on his hips but spreading up through the top of his head.
It took Ethan a second to realize where he was as he lay there panting looking up at Alistair's eyes. "Wow!" was all he could say as he licked the sweat off his lips. Alistair just grinned wickedly as he moved to straddle Ethan, his penis pointing toward Ethan's chest. Massaging Ethan's boobs together, Alistair began to slowly fuck Ethan's chest. Immediately getting the idea, Ethan helped by pressing his breasts inward to provide more friction and rock against Alistair's rhythm.
This was nice too. Not as nice as before, but still very nice as Ethan was happy to give back to Alistair. It was not too long before Alistair made a gurgling noise of his own and Ethan felt him tense just before feeling the spray of warm come hit him on the throat, chest and boobs. Ethan felt a weird sense of satisfaction as he slowly stroked Alistair through the last few spasms.
Alistair slumped to the side of the bed panting. Ethan let him catch his breath eager to start back up again.
"Get cleaned up, get dressed," Alistair ordered.
"But..." Ethan said.
"Get up. We're going for breakfast."
If Ethan thought Alistair had been a domineering person before, it paled in comparison to his behavior after that morning they had sex. Soon he was telling Ethan exactly what to wear and who he could and could not talk to. He also became a very demanding partner, insisting on sex several times a day. Ethan did not mind at first. It felt great. Alistair had this ability to drive him over the top crazy with pleasure and he could do it several times a session. But Alistair was becoming increasingly selfish. Sex was over when he was done, no matter where Ethan was in the process. Occasionally this left Ethan going several days in a row in a semi-aroused but frustrated level of sexual excitement. And that made it easier for Alistair to push him around.
From Ethan's point of view it seemed everything was spinning out of control. How did he wind up being a sex toy? There was little doubt in his mind that that was what he had become. Alistair barely spoke to him anymore except to demand sex or tell him what to do. So how did this happen? How did Ethan go from being a feminized man desperate to hang onto his masculinity to being Alistair's bitch?
He had to admit to himself that the orgasms had a lot to do with it. Although it did take Ethan a few days to admit that they were orgasms. They felt so different than those from before his transformation. And took longer too, he noted. The word climax made more sense before; the tingly excitement would rise until it reached a climax which was followed by a massive release. Now things were a lot more uncertain. Now he could get a couple of little releases, mini climaxes if you will, or one really big one that left him screaming. Or if he was really lucky, he could get two really big ones. He was never really sure when he was finished. It all depended on what Alistair did, which occasionally led to an anticlimax.
It was difficult getting used to someone else being in control of your orgasm. Alistair could always control the pace of his own release but Ethan had to try and slow things down to draw Alistair out and give Ethan enough time to build up to his own release. Ethan found it helped to open up emotionally to the experience. Whenever things were going just right he felt that he and Alistair were in sync on some glorious level. It felt like Alistair was looking deep inside him and still wanted him and that all he had to do was surrender himself to this man and everything would be complete.
Without a doubt Alistair used this to his own advantage. Ethan was coming around after one particularly mind numbing orgasm after two days of frustration to find Alistair's penis brushing his lips. Kissing turned to licking and before he realized what he was doing, Ethan was giving Alistair head. Then it became hard to say no whenever Alistair demanded it again.
It had been like that with the anal sex too. Spooning languorously after a long session, Ethan had found Alistair's penis pressing from behind along his inner thighs and butt cheeks. Impressed with the display of stamina, Ethan had reached between his legs to stroke Alistair to attention. Everything was still wet and sticky down there and before Ethan realized what he was doing Alistair had penetrated him. It had hurt at first, but with enough tittie play, Alistair's rhythmic stroking started to feel good enough to reward Ethan with a little orgasm of his own. After that, doggie-style became one of their regular positions.
Ethan knew he was being used, but he was also a little afraid. Alistair had a temper. The one time Ethan had balked at sex, Alistair had knocked him down to the ground with a backhand. Alistair apologized and bought Ethan an expensive pair of earrings the next day. Ethan wrote it off to the stress Alistair was under from hiding out and he accepted the apology. His rationalization was that Alistair had to care for him a little bit or he would not have bought the earrings, besides it was probably partially his fault anyway for not wanting sex. A few more similar instances and Ethan quickly learned to never directly deny Alistair anything.
"Get dressed, we're leaving," Alistair said without warning one day.
"Now?" Ethan said. He was lounging around the hotel pool in a very revealing bikini that Alistair had picked out. In the three and a half weeks that they had been in Las Vegas, Ethan's penis had finally shrunk enough for him to wear the suit and he was hoping to work on his tan.
"Yes, now!" Alistair answered crossly and Ethan knew better than to delay. It would only make him angry.
"And here," Alistair added, throwing Ethan an ident card, "we're different people now."
Ethan picked up the card that Alistair had thrown him and saw that it was indeed his picture and physical information under the identifier Audrey Hughes, Administrative Assistant. Ethan risked delaying long enough to confirm that the Rachel Calloway card was missing from his purse, then gathered up his things and hurried to catch up to Alistair.
"So what do I call you now?" he asked when he caught up to him.
"You call me Boss," Alistair answered tersely. "But to everyone else, I'm Mitchell Martinez."
"Okay 'Boss'," Ethan said daring to roll his eyes and even daring to make sarcastic hand gestures as long as Alistair was ahead of him and looking the other way. "What happened to Rachel and Andrew?"
Alistair stopped and turned around, leveling a cold stare at Ethan.
"They ran out of money," he said in short clipped words. And that was the end of the conversation.
The new identities required a change in hotels and for Ethan, a change of duties. Alistair, as the very important Mr. Martinez, occupied an executive suite by himself. Ethan, as Audrey, Mr. Martinez's personal assistant, had a more modest business class room on a different floor. Ethan's post was at the reception desk of Mr. Martinez's suite where he screened calls and scheduled appointments. Ethan found the change in status rude. He knew he was not really married to Alistair, but resented the demotion from wife to secretary anyway.
It was also difficult to get used to having to work for a living again. As Helen Marrone and then Rachel Calloway, Ethan had got used to living the life of a woman of leisure. His days had been filled with shopping, bistros, spas, and salons. Now, as Audrey Hughes, his days were filled with politely answering the phone and trying to coordinate Alistair's quixotic time table. The man was a nightmare to schedule. He would drop appointments and make last minute changes in plans that had Ethan scrambling on the phone to accommodate. And the pace! There always seemed to be someone who really needed to see Mr. Martinez immediately. Ethan did his best to adjust and people were not always happy with him as he screened and prioritized all calls, visitors, and electronic communication. Nobody got to see Mr. Martinez without going through Ethan.
Ethan threw himself into the role of Audrey Hughes and for the next six weeks worked hard to be the best secretary Alistair could want. He found that he needed to keep notes on the large number of people who wanted some of Alistair's time. Using what he knew about computers Ethan blocked off a little space on Alistair's server for his own notes with links to Alistair's contacts and calendar. He cross-linked everything he found on all of Alistair's visitors complete with ready links to Alistair's personal files. It was not long before Alistair became reliant on Ethan's uncanny ability to anticipate schedules and provide files and information on demand.
That did not mean that Alistair had changed. He was still a very demanding man and still told Ethan what to wear, which was always very high heels and very high hem lines. He also liked Ethan to wear tight shirts or plunging necklines, anything to show off Ethan's still growing breasts. They were a full C cup size now and Alistair liked them on display. Ethan wished they were smaller. Sure they were fun while having sex, but living with them 24-7 was often bothersome. Ethan sighed, wondering how much longer he would have to go on pretending to be a woman before Alistair thought it safe enough to change him back.
"Hello Audrey! It's been awhile, miss me?"
Ethan instantly recognized the faux cheery voice and strawberry blond hair color of the woman he had first known as Rachel Calloway while he had still been Helen Marrone. Ethan smiled back politely and looked 'Rachel' over; she was wearing a baby-blue bustier top and a leather miniskirt. Slut, Ethan thought.
"Have we met?" he asked sweetly. 'Rachel' just laughed.
"Right," she said. "Is Mr. Martinez in?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Martinez is a very busy man and is only seeing people on appointment," Ethan replied in his crisp professional tone.
"Ask him if he's got time to see Nicole Winkler."
Ethan's smile froze woodenly on his face and he shot daggers through his eyes. Nicole Winkler did have an appointment, one that Alistair had given high priority to. But if Ethan had known who Nicole was, she would have found herself rescheduled to oblivion. Still smiling, Ethan opened up a voice link to Alistair's desk.
"Mr. Martinez? There's a Nicole Winkler here to see you," he said.
"Show her right in," Alistair replied.
"Yes Sir," he answered to the link before turning to Nicole. "Right this way, please."
Ethan escorted her to Alistair's office and returned to his desk after being told to leave them alone and hold all calls. Ethan fumed at his desk. He tried to concentrate on his work, but found himself obsessing over why Alistair was taking so long with this Nicole person. Eventually Nicole did emerge from Alistair's office and stopped at Ethan's desk to reapply her lipstick using a compact mirror.
"What's the matter Audrey?" she said giving Ethan a wink. "Mr. Martinez not banging his secretary like he used to?"
There was enough truth in that to make Ethan's blood start to boil, but all he could do was muster a harrumph noise as reply. Nicole laughed and strutted out of the place. Ethan immediately created a file folder named 'Slut' and moved everything he had on Nicole Winkler under it. Shortly thereafter Alistair emerged from his office. Ethan noticed the slight disarray of his clothes and the faint smell of Nicole's perfume that clung to him.
"Audrey, get two tickets for Chicago," he said. "We're moving the office back there."
"Right away, Mr. Martinez," Ethan replied.
"And book mine under Roberts."
"Yes Sir ...Mr. Roberts," Ethan stumbled on the name, but recovered smoothly.
"Good girl, Audrey," Alistair said smiling.
The move to Chicago was hectic, but went off smoothly thanks to Ethan's diligent coordination. He was a virtual tornado of activity, making sure that all of Mr. Mitchell Martinez's business transferred smoothly to the office of Mr. Alistair Roberts. Ethan's personal computer files were invaluable in making sure that everyone got taken care of and no appointments missed. In due course Ethan found himself as the personal secretary of Alistair Roberts instead of Mitchell Martinez. Or rather, Audrey Hughes did since the name Ethan Kaine was still tied to the Center. So officially it was Audrey that quit her job in Las Vegas and moved to Chicago to work for Alistair.
This was all right in a way. For Ethan, it felt good to have a place he could call his own even if it was a studio apartment that he rented and lived in under his female persona. The trouble was that everything was starting to feel kind of permanent. Outside of work, nobody in Chicago knew him as anyone other than Audrey. And work was starting to feel like employment. Before, he and Alistair had been hiding out in Las Vegas using assumed names. Now, Alistair was Alistair again, while Ethan was paying taxes and contributing to a retirement fund under the name Audrey Hughes. He was not even being that well paid. After clothes and cosmetics, that studio apartment was about all he could afford.
To add insult to injury, Ethan found that he was working for Nicole as much as he was working for Alistair. Apparently she was some sort of partner of Alistair's and privy to a lot of business that Ethan was denied access to. It galled him to be asked to leave the room when they wanted to discuss business and he was fairly sure that the two of them were not always talking during these private meetings.
Frankly it had reached the point where Ethan was about to give up. Alistair was no longer interested in him except as a secretary and gave no indication of ever wanting to change him back. He had not seen his testicles for almost a month and even he had to look for the tiny nub that was left of his penis. There was also the tell-tale beginning of a sensitive depression running in a line where his scrotum should have been. It was just a shallow little slit, but Ethan knew it would only deepen. If he chose to, there was not much stopping him from walking away from Alistair and living out the rest of his life as Audrey Hughes.
Except I'm really a man, Ethan thought. The clothes, the hair, the makeup, and even the boobs were just the outside shell. That did not make him what he was inside. There was always the possibility of applying for a gender change under the name of Audrey Hughes. A normal gender change without rejuvenation would make him male again, albeit a short blond one with slender feet and hands. But that would put him back in the hands of the Government Assignments Department and they might recognize him and send him back to being Candace the Good Time Girl. Even if they did not recognize him, there was no way he could afford it on what he made as a secretary. He was stuck. He needed Alistair.
It all came to a head one day about six weeks after the move to Chicago. Ethan had not been feeling well. He was generally achy and tired, with a background headache. Also his breasts seemed unusually sensitive, even sore. They also seemed to have gotten bigger than they were even a few days prior. At first Ethan thought it was just his breasts still growing. They had topped out at a D cup a month prior and seemed to stabilize there. Ethan rued the idea of them growing even bigger. But when the pelvic cramps started, Ethan figured something else was going on. A quick search of his symptoms online gave him an answer he was not prepared for.
He was having a period! Not a full one, he did not have the plumbing for that yet. But it was starting. He vaguely remembered feeling poorly about a month prior and now with a shock realized he was going to feel just as bad again in about 28 days and every 28 days thereafter. This realization hit him like a steel pole. At the Center they had told him that menstruation would mark the end point of his physical transition. He was losing the last vestige of his masculinity and would soon be a very normal and very fertile woman of approximately 20 years physiological age.
Once again Ethan panicked, or perhaps it was a hormone-based reaction driven by emotion. In either case, Ethan made the rather poor decision to barge into a private meeting between Alistair and Nicole and demand that they change him back into a man immediately.
"You ungrateful bitch!" Alistair screamed at him.
Ethan momentarily wondered why he was on the floor with Alistair looming over him, and then remembered that Alistair had just hit him in the face. He tasted blood and reached up to touch the pain in his mouth. Ethan tried to get up, but Alistair punched him twice real fast, knocking him back to the ground.
"Sorry!" Ethan said quickly and slightly inarticulately past a split lip. Alistair kept screaming at him.
"I gave you a job! I gave you a new life! And you come in here and demand I change you back?"
Ethan cowered before a very angry Alistair who picked Ethan up by his blouse and yanked him to his feet. Ethan had been knocked out of his heels and his blouse was torn open as he stood and trembled in front of Alistair. Alistair grabbed Ethan by the throat with one hand and proceeded to slap him hard repeatedly, first forehand then backhand in a painful rhythm punctuated by yelled insults.
"You bitch! You cunt! Do you think you're a man? You're just a slut!" Alistair stopping hitting Ethan long enough to reach past the torn blouse and painfully rip Ethan's bra off.
"Do these look like they belong on a man, slut?" Alistair shouted while painfully twisting one of Ethan's breasts.
Ethan tried to mumble apologies, but Alistair punched him once more in the face. Ethan crumpled to the floor.
"Get up!" Alistair screamed. "Get up, slut! You want your dick so bad, then get up!"
Ethan pulled himself painfully up on his hands and through bloodied eyes looked up to see a large fully erect penis inches from his face.
"Get a good look at it, slut. That's the only way you'll see a dick from now on. Now suck it!"
Ethan, at this point afraid for his life, hurried to take the member into his mouth and proceeded to use all the little oral tricks he knew Alistair liked.
"Oooh, you were right, Alistair," Nicole purred. "She is quite the little cocksucker."
Even through his battered state, Ethan was beginning to realize that something was weird. Nicole's voice was coming from too close. Ethan looked up to see that the penis he was sucking on belonged to a very naked Nicole who stood there playing with her nipples as Ethan sucked her off.
"That's right, slut. Keep sucking!" Alistair yelled from somewhere behind Ethan.
Ethan was stunned, but kept going, as much afraid of the evil look on Nicole's face as he was of Alistair. And he was afraid. Alistair seemed mad enough to kill and Nicole giggled crazily, occasionally pulling hard on Ethan's hair. Ethan redoubled his efforts on Nicole and Alistair began to quiet down. It seemed forever before Nicole finally spurted her load, catching a distracted Ethan by surprise.
"Get her out of here," Alistair growled. "Take her to the factory."
Ethan was tossed into the bathroom where he lay on the floor, bloodied and torn. His head was throbbing and he was having trouble seeing through the blood and the swelling. He wavered on the edge of consciousness and must have tipped over that edge at some point because when he awoke he was laying on a cot in a small unfamiliar room. Worst of all, Nicole was in the room with him.
"You're a mess," she said. She was fully dressed now, in a red silk top and leather pants with calf-high stiletto boots on. As usual, her face was immaculate and Ethan could not help but notice the stun baton that swung on her hip.
"What were you thinking?"
There was a faux compassion in her voice as she sat herself down in a hard-backed chair beside the cot. There was also a cold sense of amusement there that left Ethan chilled. He tried to pull the remnants of his blouse around him, but Nicole stayed his hands and opened his blouse to examine the bruises made by the bra straps and Alistair's hands.
"Well we can't have you walking the hallways looking like this," she said smiling. "You'd scare the product. Let's clean you up a bit."
Nicole reached into a basin on the nightstand beside the cot and took out a wet sponge. Ethan shied from her hand as she reached forward.
"It's just water," she said in bemused tones.
Ethan winced as Nicole dabbed at his battered face. The sponge came away bloody. Nicole's eyes sparkled. She was clearly enjoying herself.
"You're a mess, alright. It's going to be a little while before we show your face around here."
"Where's here?" Ethan managed to mumble past a split and swollen lip.
"This," Nicole used both arms to flamboyantly indicate their surroundings, "is my factory! Where we make wonderful things!"
There was a rapturous but frightening look on her face. Ethan was not sure if he should ask any more questions.
"What sort of things?" he asked which started his lip to bleed again.
The smile on Nicole's face transitioned to a smirk and there was steel in her eyes again. She stood up without answering and began to walk back to the door.
"You know you should thank me," she said over her shoulder. "If I hadn't been there, Alistair would have killed you. Fortunately he liked our little performance. So now you belong to me and we will see what sort of wonderful things we can make."
With that Nicole left the room. Ethan heard a solid click as the door closed. She's freaking nuts, Ethan thought, or was 'he' more appropriate? What the heck was Nicole anyway? She looked and sounded all girl, at least until you got her pants off. Ethan had a hard time wrapping his mind around the concept. Whatever she was, she was crazy and Ethan had no intention of staying at her factory and being experimented on.
Ethan got up carefully and gingerly made his way around the room. It was small and the door was firmly locked. There was the cot, the chair, and the nightstand, as well as an unenclosed toilet and sink. This was a jail cell except for the holo monitor. It was a dummy terminal, designed to receive predetermined signals only, which in this case seemed to consist primarily of banal nature scenes. It did have an input device and it did not take Ethan long to find the diagnostic mode. This gave him a single narrow access point to the system. He carefully reset everything the way he found it. What he had in mind was going to take some time. Hopefully he would have enough.
The factory proved to be an intimidating place complete with muffled cries of anguish and the occasional sound of someone being beaten. Ethan also recognized the distinctive crackle of a stun baton on several occasions. His jailer was always one of three large men who spoke little, but brought his meals and an occasional change of clothing. They were also the ones who escorted him for his daily visits to see the Doc.
Ethan was not sure that he really was a doctor, but the guards all called him Doc. He did treat Ethan's cuts and bruises as well as give him a thorough physical on each visit, a very thorough physical. It was creepy. The Doc was of an indeterminate age with a shaggy head of artificially black hair and an ashy grey skin color. His face had the palsied look of someone with subtle nerve damage, but he spoke in clear tones usually directing his comments through the guard as if Ethan was not still in the room. Ethan felt like a specimen.
The examination room itself looked like a small surgery. It was way over capacity for a small clinic. Ethan even recognized a few pieces of equipment from when he had gone through labs at the Center, although they were never used during his daily checkups here.
The routine of it all was a godsend. It gave Ethan predictable times to explore his electronic link. He found that the nature scenes on the holo were cover for a neuron overlay signal. He was not sure what they were trying to program him to think, but he disabled the signal anyway. The backdoor he had written to get at his secretarial files was still in place and he used it to get into the general system. He found the spy cameras and microphones the first day, then spent the next two days building up enough files in the buffer to let him loop signals of him lying in bed or pacing his cell. This gave him the cover he needed for more blatant hacking as well as some creative dismantling of the monitor to scrounge parts.
Ethan found he could redirect the spy camera feed and use it to look into the other rooms of the factory. He was able to discern that there were three other guests present. His immediate neighbor was a woman whom Ethan nicknamed zombie-girl because she would sit motionless for hours at a time. He had to check to make sure it was not a frozen image, but she would just sit in place until a guard came for her. On the other side of the hallway were the cells of angry-guy and crybaby. Angry-guy was a big naked man and there was never fewer than two guards armed with stun batons when they came for him. This was where most of the sounds Ethan heard of fighting and stun batons going off came from. The cries of anguish came from crybaby's room who mostly sat there sobbing. At first Ethan thought crybaby was another woman as he was usually in a dress until the one time Ethan saw him forcibly stripped and assaulted by Nicole in the training room.
The training room was the scariest place in the factory. It was set up like a stage with the bed and restraints able to be wheeled into place. Behavioral modification devices abounded, both simple pain and pleasure stimulators as well as complex medical equipment. Crybaby and zombiegirl were taken there a lot. Crybaby was usually dressed up and made to perform sex acts on Nicole or the guards. Zombie-girl was different. Nicole would meticulously dress and pose her then leave her in place for hours. Ethan thought she looked like a mannequin.
Angry-guy was never taken to the training room. He was always taken to the examination room full of fight, then dragged back to his cell afterwards limp and semi-conscious. Ethan would have loved to have eyes in the examination room, but there were no cameras there. He hated looking in on the training room, but he wanted to track Nicole's and the guards' movements as much as possible. Plus he figured it would only be a matter of time until he was brought there.
After one week's time the swelling had gone down and Ethan's routine began to change. Instead of the loose shapeless dress he was usually given, they had him dress in an overly sexy, almost fetish matter. Antique stockings and super high heels were usual. The first day it was pink stockings and a red teddy. The second day it was a black nylon dress with a plunging back. The third day it was a little miniskirt schoolgirl outfit. Ethan would be given time to dress, then taken to the examination room, where numerous leads were hooked up to him. He would be told to slowly undress, go through a few simple motions, and then get dressed again before the leads were removed and he was led back to his room.
Ethan had no explanation until during one of his spy sessions he managed to catch a snippet of conversation between Nicole and Doc in the hallway after a session with zombie-girl in the training room.
"I think our doll is coming along nicely," Nicole said watching a guard lead zombie-girl away.
"I'm not entirely happy with some of the autonomic response," the Doc replied with his usual scowl. "Her breathing could be shallower if we lower the metabolism."
"Ah, but she still needs to perform her robotic movements. Keep the metabolism where it is and let's see if we can train a shallower breathing pattern."
The flat sound from the spy microphones gave an unreal quality to their voices. The resolution on the hall cameras was also not the best. But Ethan could not stop watching.
"What about our other projects?" Nicole asked.
"Well Mr. Edmunds is still clinically depressed. I've upped the endorphins to the safety limit and tripled on the homosexual conditioning, but we may have to go with a mind scrub."
"Damn." Nicole hit the wall with the heel of a balled up fist and thought carefully for a moment. "I don't want this one mind scrubbed. Push the endorphins past the safety limit, but be careful. I don't want to lose this one."
Doc nodded and made some entries on his keypad.
"I mean it, Doc," Nicole said with noticeably more menace in her voice. "We were paid for a happy little she-male. It would be a shame if we had to start over with someone new."
Doc stopped his entries and looked up at Nicole for a moment as if to judge how serious to take her threat.
"What about our Mr. Galloway? Have you decided how you want to proceed?" he said, changing the subject.
"The boss wants punishment on this one and an example made," Nicole said, a look of enjoyment and a cruel smile visible on her face, even through the low resolution cameras. "So keep his mind intact. I'm thinking furry. See what you can come up with in an animal crossover that's small and fluffy. And keep it feminine. Very feminine."
"I'll throw together a prospectus with several options," Doc replied in professional tones, making more notes. "What about our new girl, Ms. Hughes? Have you decided on any physical modifications for her?"
"Doc, you surprise me," Nicole said and continued in a smug tone of voice. "That is a genuine Government Assignments Department Good Time Girl body. Under a genetic copyright no less. You don't cut into an asset like that."
"Then how do you wish to proceed?"
"How blank can you get her mind and still leave full sexual response?" Nicole spoke as if she definitely had something in mind.
"Almost non-existent. Do you want her as a simple fuck toy?"
"Let's call that plan B. I'm thinking of a blank Good Time Girl body that still responds, but that someone can jack into while it's being screwed!" Nicole actually giggled at this point which raised the small hairs on Ethan's neck to hear.
"Interesting, but possible," Doc said, nodding as he thought the concept over.
"Interesting?" Nicole seemed slightly incredulous, but remained jubilant. "We'll make a fortune! Do you have any idea how many people would pay top dollar to feel what's it like to be a Good Time Girl getting fucked? Hell, you could even jack in while you're fucking her. You would feel yourself being fucked by yourself while you're fucking yourself!"
"Would there be enough customers to warrant the risks? It strikes me as a lot of felonies to indulge in a kink. Plus she would burn out quick."
Ethan could not listen anymore and turned the rest of the conversation off. There was fear in the pit of his stomach, but also a cold certainty that he was not going to let them get away with this. He also knew that it was only a matter of time till they came for him. He would have to be ready.
It actually took three more days. At first Ethan did not realize that this was not just another daily visit to see the Doc. The clothes he was given to wear were sparser than usual, but not out of character. A silver micro mini skirt and a white halter top which did not cover up a lot of skin. The lack of underwear did not help his sense of nakedness, either. You can see my boobs through this, Ethan thought. The white go-go boots with the ultra high heel only made things worse.
Great, now I'm naked and I can't run, he thought as he got dressed and followed the guard, resigned to another session of stripping and dressing for the sensors. His heart started pounding when he realized that the guard was not taking him to the examination room, but instead was leading him to the training room. Once they arrived Ethan noted the presence of Nicole and Doc, but no other guards.
"Hello Audrey," Nicole said smiling.
"What is this place?" Ethan asked, feigning ignorance of his surroundings.
"I have good news for you," Nicole said, ignoring his question.
"It seems that Alistair has forgiven your little outburst."
"Really?" Ethan said calmly.
Nicole took no real notice of Ethan's demeanor, but continued her smooth well rehearsed lines.
"Yes, we had a long talk, he and I. And I was able to convince him that it would only be fair if we did turn you back into a boy again."
"That... would be fair," Ethan replied carefully.
"Of course, after all the trauma you've been through, we do want to make sure you're healthy enough for the process. So I've asked the good doctor here for one last check-up, just to be safe."
"It's good to be safe," Ethan agreed, looking carefully at Doc.
"I knew you'd see it our way! So if you'd just hop right up here in this chair we can start getting you ready." Nicole smiled and batted her eyes at Ethan as she patted the arm of the training chair.
You lying bitch, Ethan thought as he walked over and got in the chair. He steadied himself for what would come next. Timing was important. He carefully maneuvered the small wireless capacitor he had hidden under his tongue. He had removed it from the holo monitor in his room three days prior and programmed it, making sure to keep it hidden in his mouth every time he left his cell. Biting down hard filled his mouth with an acrid taste like licking a battery, but the coded pulse it sent out was effective. An alarm began to sound off in the distance.
"See what that is," Nicole snapped angrily at the lone guard in the room, who hurried off in quick obedience. "Keep going!" she said to Doc.
Ethan bit down hard a second time and every alarm in the factory began to go off.
"What the hell is going on out there?!" Nicole shrieked as she rushed off to the main control console in the room. The monitors were flashing a confusing array of random recorded images. Doc moved up beside her to stare at the pandemonium.
Ethan quietly got off the chair and moved to a nearby keypad he had noted in his earlier observations. He tried to be quiet as he entered code. Nicole must have noticed something because she turned to see Ethan at the keypad.
"What are you doing?" she shouted and managed to take one step towards Ethan while reaching for her stun baton. She promptly slumped to the floor as the baton discharged back on her through the bypassed safety screen.
I love an old trick, Ethan thought. Doc, noticing that something was wrong with Nicole, turned away from the monitors and bent down to check on her. Ethan grabbed the nearest, heaviest object he could find and calmly walked up behind Doc and swung it into the back of his head with as much strength as he could muster. Doc collapsed on top of the still twitching Nicole.
Ethan checked to make sure no one was getting up quickly, then turned his attention to the main control console. He quickly triggered every lock into shut down mode and started to turn off the alarms and random displays. He needed to find the guards and maybe find them quickly if he had any hopes of escape. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw two of the guards were down and lying near their backfired stun batons. The third guard presented a problem as he was very much awake. This was the guard that Nicole had ordered out of the room. The other two probably grabbed their batons when the alarms started to go off but this one felt safe enough around Ethan to not need one. That left him awake and dangerous, but for now safely trapped behind locked doors.
The problem was that he was trapped in the hallway outside of the prisoners' cells. Ethan bit his lip in frustration at that piece of bad luck. He had intended on freeing his fellow prisoners. It may be too late for zombie-girl, but there was no way he was going to leave anyone behind in this house of horrors. Now the only way to get to them was through a very large and very angry guard.
Well, why just cross a bridge when you can burn it down completely, Ethan thought and got to work. In short order he had disabled the factory's firewall and privacy shields and linked every system he could to the public drives. He threw it all out there for full view, the location of the factory, Alistair's offices, every file there was on Nicole's projects, also everything he had in his secretarial files including all of Alistair's contacts and appointments, all the identities he and Alistair had had, and everything else he could find on Alistair's ident card process. He rewrote a quick and illegal spam generator and started pinging every federal law enforcement website he could find. That should do it, he thought, then calmly walked out into the street.
Fortunately it was still late summer in Chicago, or the halter top and micro mini skirt he wore would have caused even more serious problems. As it was he was drawing more attention than he felt comfortable with. He was not sure who he was afraid of more; Alistair or the police. He had certainly broken a lot of laws. He had hacked a government computer and helped Alistair escape for starters. That alone could send him away for quite awhile. On the other hand Alistair would kill him. Ethan sat in a nearby park and tried to evaluate his life.
He had nothing. No purse, no ident card, no money, just two pieces of skimpy clothing and a pair of ridiculously high boots. He was almost entirely a woman by now and would probably lose the 'almost' by the time of his next period. About two weeks from now, he thought grimly. Getting a replacement ident card and trying to live out the rest of his life as Audrey Hughes was not an option either. Alistair's group knew that name and would probably make the rest of his life pretty short. The police also knew that name, thanks to the files he had uploaded. They would realize he had escaped from the Reassignments Center and the best he could hope for from them was to be sent back to finish becoming Candace the Good Time Girl. He could go underground, but there were only so many ways for an undocumented woman that looked like he did to make a living. Faced with nothing but bad options, Ethan sighed, then walked to the nearest public card reader, keyed in 911 and waited for the police to arrive.
The next two days were a blur as Ethan was taken in for questioning, booked, interrogated, held, interrogated again, transferred to federal authority, interrogated several more times, dressed, bathed, fed, and interrogated again. Through it all Ethan told his entire story and stuck to the truth even while confessing to the laws he broke. He was resigned to his fate and not surprised to find himself at the same Reassignments Center he had started at, waiting to see the Assistant Deputy Director for Homeland Employment, Northeast Region.
"Ah, Ms. Kaine. Do come in and have a seat," Mr. Betancourt said greeting Ethan as if this were an ordinary office visit. "Can I get you something to drink? Tea? Coffee? Something stronger?"
"No, nothing," Ethan said, slightly confused by Mr. Betancourt's politeness and by his use of Ethan's last name. It had been around a year since he heard it last. He was also not sure why he had been given the white jump suit of a newcomer to the Center rather than the purple dress he had expected.
"You caused quite a commotion here," Mr. Betancourt said with a note of reproach in his voice as he walked over to a side table with a carafe on it. "We certainly did not expect you and Roberts to break out so easily and disappear so completely."
"Sorry," Ethan said halfheartedly.
"Do you realize the difficulty I was placed in, trying to explain how it was possible to subvert a Class IV security system?" Mr. Betancourt poured himself a glass and sat at his desk across from Ethan.
"You are quite the talented programmer," he said. "I am told that the job you did at the factory was most impressive."
"Then it worked?" Ethan asked. "They rescued those people?"
Mr. Betancourt nodded.
"And those monsters that did that to them? Nicole and the Doc?"
"Arrested," Mr. Betancourt replied calmly, "along with our old friend Alistair Roberts and several dozen of his associates. All thanks to those files of yours."
Ethan let out a long breathy sigh he had not been aware he was holding in.
"What happens to me then?" he asked.
"Rest assured there will be no criminal proceedings," Mr. Betancourt said, trying to sound reassuring. "You have done your country a great service and we owe you a debt of gratitude. Of course we do ask that you be available for any testimony, if need be."
Ethan nodded. This conversation was not going the way he had thought.
"So that's it?" he said. "I just go back to being Candace and we forget about all this?"
"If that's what you want," Mr. Betancourt said with a shrug. "But I am here to offer you an alternative."
"Ms. Kaine, as I had said, your country owes you a great deal. We have expended a great amount of time, effort and several lives trying to get close to the identity theft ring anchored by Alistair Roberts. Inside half a year you not only infiltrated and brought down Roberts' entire operation, you also gave us enough intelligence to implicate dozens of other illegal operations. Not the least of which is that so-called factory and their forced transformation slavery ring."
Mr. Betancourt looked like he had bitten into something unpleasant when he spoke of the factory. The wheels were starting to turn in Ethan's head.
"Why do I get the feeling that you're not really the Assistant Deputy Director for Homeland Employment?" he said.
"Oh, that is my title," Mr. Betancourt replied. "Let's just say that my job description does not have me report to the Deputy Director for Homeland Employment."
"I believe I'll have that drink now," Ethan said. Mr. Betancourt kept talking as he rose to mix Ethan's drink.
"We can use someone with your skill set, especially a young attractive woman with your skill set. We think you have a natural talent for infiltration. You have this remarkable ability to adapt to your surroundings which scored high in your Reassignment questionnaire. That and your programming skills are why we recruited you. Of course we had no idea how talented your programming skills really were."
"You recruited me?" Ethan said, taking the drink from Mr. Betancourt without thanking him.
"My apologies for the charade," Mr. Betancourt said, sitting on the edge of his desk. "We needed someone to be close to Roberts who could recognize systems he used in the identity theft process."
"You said theft," Ethan said. "I thought those ident cards were clever fakes."
Mr. Betancourt shook his head sadly.
"No," he said. "I am afraid those were very real identities, taken from very real people."
"My God!" Ethan said, visibly shocked. "What happened to those people?"
"Typically very bad things," Mr. Betancourt replied. "Roberts and his associates would drop a new identity on the victim that would quickly get them out of the way. We know of prison sentences, deportations, and even unnecessary surgery. We still can't trace all the victims. That's why we needed stop these people. Thanks to you we did. And thanks to your files we will be able to track more victims and help them reclaim their lives."
"But why make me a woman?" Ethan said.
Mr. Betancourt thought carefully before replying, knowing he was on delicate ground.
"We knew Roberts had a fetish for the partially transformed, blondes in particular," he said. "We also needed someone who could plausibly have a grudge against the Government. An involuntary reassignment was what we came up with."
"So you turned me into a Good Time Girl!?" Ethan said with more accusation than question in his voice.
"Physically, yes. But you were never mentally suited for that job. When the mission was over, the plan was to agree with you that there had been a mistake and begin the process of reassigning you to more appropriate work. Your performance suggests that that more appropriate work might be with us here as an agent."
"You're telling me that you run a spy ring here at the Center?"
"I'm offering you a job."
"I could have been killed!"
"You were under constant observation by experienced agents and supposed to be always under our control. We only wanted you close to Roberts. We didn't anticipate you helping him escape."
"What if I say no?" Ethan asked after a long thoughtful pause.
"We're not the bad guys," Mr. Betancourt said with a chuckle. "You've done us a huge service and your Government is genuinely grateful. We're prepared to offer you priority-free voluntary reassignment. You could even go back to being Ethan again."
"And if I say yes?"
"There is a six month field agent boot camp. If you wash out, we still want your talents in a desk job. If you graduate, you'll be paired with an experienced agent as a mentor for at least one year. We specialize in infiltration. You should expect subtle or extreme transformations with each mission. Missions may be boring, dangerous, or both. We deal with some very dangerous people."
The room was silent for awhile as Ethan sat and thought about all he had gone through this past year, his life as Ethan and about going back to being himself again.
"What do you say, Ms. Kaine. Will you take the job?"
Ethan took a sip of his drink, leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs.
"Call me Candace," he said.
Six months later Candace was back at her old apartment as a Center assigned valet packed up some of her old clothes and brought her new wardrobe in. It all seemed unreal somehow as she thought it over. A year and a half ago she had been an unemployed program oversight developer. Now she was an agent for the Center, a field agent at that, she added with pride.
"Cute apartment, Rookie," Jennifer said as she came around the corner from the kitchen to the living room. "Although it looks like some boy lived here."
"Thanks, some boy DID live here," Candace replied playfully, sticking her tongue out at Jennifer, who only laughed.
It had taken Candace a while to relax around Jennifer again after she found out that Jennifer had been one of the agents assigned to watch over her. She was not sure how much of their friendship had been genuine and how much a professional act. But the old camaraderie was still there and after six months their friendship was back to where they left it. Which was a good thing as Jennifer was going to be her mentor for at least the next year. They were going to get their first assignment together later that day. Technically it was their second as the whole Alistair Roberts affair counted as their first, but Candace relegated that whole episode to the 'Ethan' part of her life. This would be her first assignment as Candace.
Candace thought back to Alistair, wondering what had happened to him. Technically he had had his day in court and Mr. Betancourt was entirely pleased at how things had gone. It still left a sour taste in Candace's mouth. Yes they were able to arrest over 70 additional crime figures when Alistair testified for the Government and they were able to find an additional 27 victims of identity theft with his cooperation. But that weasel deserved worse than witness protection for what he had done. They even gave him reassignment services with preferences. That galled. Of course after turning on some of the biggest crime organizations in the world, there was no way Alistair would live long without being given a new identity, one that no one could trace.
Almost no one, Candace thought with a smile. Of course she could only hack a little ways into the Justice system. That was illegal. Still it was deep enough to tweak some of the preferences Alistair had submitted. She wondered what kind of job he would get with Child-care and Cosmetology listed as his career preferences. He was also going to be surprised to find out he volunteered for the colonies. That was patriotic of him, Candace thought, her smile growing even bigger.
"We almost done here, Candie?" Jennifer called impatiently from just outside. "I want to grab a bite to eat."
"Just a second, Jen," Candace called back to her before turning to sign the offered paperwork from the valet.
"Candie, huh?" he said, looking Candace over with a hungry smile. "Does that mean you're sweet?"
It was the same lame joke on her name that she had heard hundreds of times before in a hundred different variations. Still though, this guy was kind of cute.
"I don't know. Why don't you taste me later?" she said, signing the form on the bottom, then adding her holo link address, before giving the valet a smile and a wink. Tonight might be lucky after all.
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