IMPORTANT
A day shy of a week ago Robotech Master was out on his e-bike when an SUV struck him and drove off. According to the most recent news available, he passed away from his injuries at around 2:00 this morning. I have kept some news up on his user page and, at this point, ask that anyone wishing to leave messages or tributes do so on either his talk page or another page that can be used for such things. His account here and all of the stories he has gifted the Shifti community with will be preserved in memoriam, as we also did for Morgan.

Nat and the Vigilante/Prologue

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Alan Voss had just gotten home from work when his ex-wife called.

"Good evening, Margaret," he said in a carefully controlled tone, noting the caller ID.

"Hi, Alan. I wanted to check with you about what time you'll be picking Jack and Cecil up for the weekend."

"Probably about five forty-five or six tomorrow, as usual, depending on traffic. If I wind up having to work late again, I'll call you." He'd worked till six thirty tonight, till seven fifteen yesterday, till seven Tuesday... in fact he hadn't left work on time in a week, but he was pretty sure he could manage to leave promptly at five tomorrow, to pick his sons up for the weekend. Unless something new and surprising came up, he could easily finish the most urgent stuff on his plate by three or four, even.

"Okay. We have some errands to run tomorrow, and I was planning to do them later in the afternoon so Jack and Cecil could play outside all morning while it's not too hot yet, but I'll arange things so we're sure to be home before you get here."

"See you then," he said.

"Wait," she said. "I have some news for you, too. I didn't want you to be caught unprepared when you get here --"

"Another haemarthrosis?" he asked, his heart sinking; he regretted being out of town when Jack had that bleeding in his knee early last week and ended up in the hospital.

"No, no, it's good news. But kind of strange -- are you ready?"

"Go ahead," he said, puzzled and apprehensive.

"Jack and Cecil aren't haemophiliac anymore."

He had a clipping service send him all the news about haemophilia research. If there had been any treatment breakthrough, much less a cure, invented recently, he would have known about it within a day. "What? Is this another of your alternative medicine fads...?"

"Alan, I never stopped taking them to their regular haemophilia specialist even when I was investigating all the alternatives. And Dr. Roche himself confirmed it, when I took them to him yesterday for their clotting factor infusion; he did clotting factor tests, and they're a hundred percent normal."

"How?"

"This is the strange part. You know the genetics of haemophilia, how girls can be carriers but they don't have the disease itself..."

"I know it better than you do; girls can get haemophilia if --"

"Don't patronize me, Alan."

"I'm not -- Go on. Finish explaining."

"Yes, girls can have haemophilia if their mother is a carrier and their father is haemophiliac himself. That doesn't apply here."

"What the hell are you talking about? Get to the point!"

"Jack and Cecil are now girls. Their father is not haemophiliac. Girls with only one haemophilia-carrier parent do not have haemophilia. Therefore Jack and Cecil do not have haemophilia."

Alan was silent, stunned, throughout this syllogistic monologue and for several second afterward.

"What the hell have you done to our sons?" Even in his anger and confusion, he was proud of himself for saying "our sons" instead of "my sons."

"Have you heard of Nat Holcomb, the paranormal...?"


After Margaret hung up, Alan took his supper to his desk and did some research. He found a number of articles -- in _The Atlanta Journal_, _Atlanta Magazine_, _The Atlanta Business Chronicle_, _The Milledgeville Union Recorder_, _Paranormal Watch_, _The Weekly World News_, and Wikipedia -- about Nat Holcomb, a paranormal who could instantly and perfectly change people's sex. There were also references to her, or him, on the personal blogs of several transsexuals who had availed themselves of his, or her, services. The most illuminating, perhaps, was a long series of blog posts from a dot-com millionaire, retired at thirty-six, who had, apparently out of sheer bored-rich curiosity, hired Holcomb to change him into a woman and change him back into a man thirty days later. A week into the experiment, "she" wrote:

   I thought the weirdness, the sheer constant feeling of wrongness,
   would be gone by now.  No such luck.  I still feel off-balance
   when I walk -- and I haven't even tried wearing heels yet.  My
   breasts are constantly getting in the way.  I have to steel myself
   to walk into a women's restroom, though I have managed to avoid
   absentmindedly walking into the men's room.  A couple of times,
   when I've been hacking or reading a really absorbing book, I've
   forgotten my body for a little while; but not for very long.  Then
   when I come to myself, the wrongness hits me worse than ever.  Is
   this what transsexuals feel all the time?

Near the end, this:

   You might have heard your wife or girlfriend or sister complain
   about her period -- probably not very often, but once in a while,
   maybe when it's hurting her worse than usual.  And if you're like
   I was, you've wondered how bad it could really be, something
   natural and routine and completely non-pathological.  Right?
   It's much worse than you think.  If they complained about it like
   I used to complain about the occasional illness or injury that
   hurt about this bad, our civilization would drown under a layer of
   complaining nine feet deep.

Then, after he was restored to his true sex, he wrote:

   After experiencing gender dysphoria for a month, I feel deeply for
   the people who've suffered from it their whole lives.  I've just
   made a substantial contribution to the Caeneus Foundation, which
   helps out transsexuals of limited income who couldn't otherwise
   afford Mr. Holcomb's services; I hope some of my readers will do
   the same by clicking the Caeneus logo in the margin.
   If you've got change to spare and are thinking of having
   Mr. Holcomb change you temporarily like I did, here's a piece of
   advice:
   Don't.

Alan bookmarked the page and closed the browser window, sick at heart.

  • This*, he thought, was what his ex-wife and that greedy,

irresponsible paranormal had inflicted on Jack and Cecil. She was so obsessive about finding a cure for their haemophilia that she'd lost sight entirely of their psychological and spiritual health. Had Holcomb thought for a minute about how this would affect them deep-down and long-term, or asked any questions except whether Margaret's money was green? Alan found that about as plausible as the paragraph in the Wikipedia article (interrupted every other sentence with [citation needed] tags) about how Holcomb had supposedly beaten off the alien invasion two years ago by changing the sex of a few hundred aliens.

Somehow he needed to get Holcomb to change them back. He noticed the time: 10:48 pm. He had to get to bed soon. But first he picked up his PDA and made two entries: a reminder to call his lawyer during his lunch break tomorrow, and another to go by the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament for a few minutes on the way to Margaret's house. He would need a heap of grace to restrain himself from getting into a long, furious argument with her in front of the boys -- oh, God -- in front of the girls... and to stay cheerful and calm with Jack and Cecil all weekend. He had to treat them like the boys they still really were inside, and help them somehow with the "dysphoric wrongness" that blogger had described, until he could get them changed back.


Part One