|In this past October (2020) the Shifti Community lost Chris "Robotech Master" Meadows to an accident involving an SUV hitting his electric bike and leaving the scene. While we may never know the full story of this event, the administrators of Shifti will work to preserve his account and works here as he'd wish us to. Thank you all for being such excellent people.|
|Paradise story universe|
|This story is a work in progress.|
|Works by MatthiasRat on Shifti|
To Rob's complete surprise, the real problem with inviting Jan and Dennis to Blacksburg the last weekend before the August Change to join them on their trek down the Cascades Trail was not that Jan would get to see CM the she-bear naked. Rather it was that the boar would have to disrobe himself and as it turned out, he was genuinely nervous about doing this around others.
To even convince Rob that this was something they could do CM had promised to wear a male swimsuit. But the skunk had never expected that Jan would insist on wearing even more before agreeing to go into the water with the rest of them. Dennis the hedgehog had no such inhibitions and skinny dipped like the skunk, his spines rustling like a swimming sea slug as he moved through the waterfall fed pool.
Jan slipped into the water so only his porcine head was visible. "This is very nice," he admitted, his nostrils flaring momentarily as he settled down. CM swam on the other side with Rob and Dennis between them. Their cleaning gear remained on the bank. "Are all your Summer days like this?"
"Yeah, this area is great in Summer," Rob replied. "No humidity, rarely over eighty degrees, it's great."
"Especially with all this fur!" CM trumpeted before diving beneath the water. A dark brown mass swam back and forth and then lifted up with a fish trapped between her jaws. Even though he'd seen his friend do this a few times now, it still unnerved him. Dennis gaped, little eyes widening in disbelief. Jan stared for a moment and then guffawed.
"I think you've been a bear too long, yah!"
CM climbed on bank and deposited the fish in a plastic bag filled with water. Her thick fur clung to her body and as she lumbered on all fours, apart from the swimming trunks, she looked very much like a normal bear. "Leslie loves it when I bring back fresh fish. And since you both are staying for dinner, I'm going to catch some extra."
Jan shook his head and waved his arms in the water. After getting into the small pool beneath the forty-foot waterfall, he'd not moved from the rock shelf he'd settled on. Rob swam a little closer and found another shelf nearby. "So, Jan, I've never asked you what you do for a living."
The boar kept his eyes on the rippling surface of the crystal clear water. He twitched when a small fish brushed one of his bristly legs. "I work at a small engineering company. We do contract work around the area, so I get to play with all sorts of toys. Is how I met Dennis."
"I thought you worked as an insurance auditor," Rob said, turning to the hedgehog.
"I do. We contracted Jan's company to verify a client's claims. We'd used them before, but I never really knew Jan until he changed. I've met a few other Changed because of my job too. Just last week we added three more Changed to the NoVa community."
Rob idly watched CM catch another fish in her jaws. He really hoped no hikers came up the trail. The skunk dunked his head under the water and then shook it out of his fur. "You met three at once?"
"Through this Jack Russell lady. She filed a claim on some furniture she'd destroyed. Claimed her dog did it, but those claw marks were obviously not her dogs. I made her drop the claim to prevent an official investigation. She already knew two other Changed in the area, and we all got together and pooled our money to buy her new furniture."
"That's interesting," Rob admitted, glancing between Jan and Dennis. "I wonder how many Changed know each other but haven't met people in the network. CM, what do you think?"
The she-bear dropped her fourth fish from her jaws into the plastic bag and licked her jowls. "Finding isolated pockets of Changed? It's happened a few times. I think it's going to happen a lot more over the next few years. I wouldn't be surprised if we found some other websites for Changed communities that don't know anything about us." CM shook like a dog and sprayed water all over the river-smoothed rocks.
Rob pondered that thought as he relaxed in the water. The day was pleasantly cool in the shade of the valley, while all the trees swung with a light breeze, green leaves rustling and pines thrumming. The falls provided a constant crashing splatter that drowned out everything else. The vaulted walls of slate rising upward, domed by a variety of deciduous trees, sheltered them in an arboreal sanctuary.
"The network scrubs the web already," Rob pointed out. "If there were any such sites, they would have been found. Or they're going to be found eventually. Whatever."
"We're going to see a lot more Changed after next Sunday, ya?" Jan asked.
"Well, probably not right away," CM admitted as she slipped back beneath the waters. Rob wondered why she bothered to shake off if she was just going to get back in, but knew there was no point in asking. The Change brought some strange instincts that were often hard to resist. "Odds are we won't know anybody who Changes, but we need to keep watch anyway. Which reminds me, what are the NoVa Changed doing to prepare?"
"We've made lists," Jan replied. "At least ten people each that we'll check up on next Friday and Saturday for the sickness."
"And we've got everyone's phone numbers," Dennis added with a shrug of his shoulders. His spines rippled along his back and upper arms. "I'm not sure what else we can do except keep our eyes open."
"There's really not much else you can do," Rob pointed out. "I just hope there's more people here locally who've Changed."
"Kyle's coming down to Tech the week after," CM pointed out as she sank into the water. "And Barb knows a lot of people we don't."
"I'm hoping for somebody middle-aged," the skunk said with a churr in his throat. "We'll have three college students and a retiree. We need more variety to make all the connections we need in town."
The she-bear frowned and waved her arms back and forth to keep steady in the natural pool. "Well, as college students, we probably won't be living here forever."
"True," Rob admitted. "Which just makes our need for more people who do live here more important."
Jan grunted through his nose and played his hoof-like hand across the water's surface. "I'll be happy so long as I stay a boar."
"I'll be happy as long as I go male again," CM said with a heavy sigh.
"Ya, I hope so too," Jan replied, a twinkle filling his beady eyes. "You look too good to be a woman."
CM glowered and splashed him with a wave of her paw. Rob and Dennis laughed. The hedgehog shook his head and sighed, "Well, I'm stuck this way. Coming up on two years for me now. What about you, Rob?"
"I wouldn't mind changing again as long as I stay male. I'd love to become feline. But skunk isn't so bad. I'm not drinking as much as I used to which helps. I really hope Audrey changes though. And it'd be nice if some others from SOAP did too."
"It'll happen eventually," CM said. "Well, if we're right it will. Anyway, we've been checking in with the other Changed in the area, and things sound pretty good. I think everybody's ready for next week, or as ready as we'll ever get. Everybody's trying stuff similar to what you NoVa Changed are doing, so we'll compare notes and see how we did in two weeks."
"Sounds fair," Jan nodded. "Are we going to try meeting again like we did at Technicon?"
Rob groaned, "Oh I hope not! At least not at Technicon. I don't even want to think about Technicon for another three months."
CM chuckled and snuffed. "We probably won't be able to get everybody together like we did that time, but we may try to organize a couple get togethers. We'll see. First, we have to get through another Change Day."
"Do you really think it's going to be that bad?" Jan asked.
"Who knows!" Rob shrugged. "All I know is that I'm going to spend all day tomorrow working on the server, changing out cables, and figuring out why I'm getting an intermittent signal on my remote laptop." The skunk then elaborated on exactly what the problems were and what he thought he needed to do to solve them.
When he finished, the hedgehog, eyes raised, said, "And on that note, I think I'm going to start scrubbing." Jan guffawed and followed his friend to the slate ledge where they'd left their gear. Amazingly, CM's shaking hadn't completely drenched their things.
The sky cleared by the time late afternoon arrived. The four friends laughed and teased each other as they made their way back down the Cascades trail. After scrubbing the shampoo through their fur, or in Dennis's case, bristly spines, they'd washed clean, played around a bit longer in the pool, and then lay in the open air drying off. Jan never lost his self-consciousness and kept his swimming trunks on despite how sopping wet this made him all the way back down the trail. When they reached the parking lot, he rubbed his middle down one last time with his towels while CM, Rob, and Dennis stowed their gear in Rob's Matrix.
As Jan finished drying himself off, his brow furrowed, eyes staring fixedly at the pair of bikes parked next to Rob's Matrix. He wrapped his towel behind his neck and snorted. "Hey CM! I got an idea."
The bear lifted her head from the trunk of the car and said, "Uh oh. What's the idea?"
Jan laughed and gestured to his bike. "Would you like to ride my bike down to the main road? Is not a long ride and there won't be many cars."
CM shifted her weight and regarded both the boar and the bike. He had shown her so much in the last five months that she had begun to feel very comfortable on a motorcycle. However, he'd never let her do more than drive around parking lots. If she became a rat again like she suspected, with such a long tail it would be nearly impossible for her to ride until her next Change. This was probably her last opportunity.
"Just to the end of the road. Not onto 460?"
The boar grabbed either end of towel draping over his neck and pulled gently. "Ya. It'll give you a taste of what bikes are really like."
Rob slapped the bear on the back and said, "Get on the bike and get it over with. You know you want to."
CM laughed, her fur and jowls shaking with the pleasure. "Okay, fine. You sure you trust me?"
Jan patted the seat and grunted. "Yah. Speed limit's only thirty-five. Take it easy on the turns and you'll be fine."
While CM took those few steps toward Jan and the motorcycle, Dennis climbed on his bike and chuckled under his breath. "I'll set a good pace for you, CM. Just stay a car length behind me and you'll do fine."
"Thanks, Dennis." CM swung one leg over the bike and felt her bulk settle comfortably into the seat.
Jan handed her the keys, patted her shoulder once, and followed Rob to his Matrix. "We follow you and watch you," the boar declared with his usual aplomb. "I'll let you know how you did!"
CM ignored the boar's attempt at a joke, inserted the key into the ignition, and started the bike. It rumbled to life and roared pleasantly when she gave it gas. Dennis nodded his pudgy head in approval, started his bike, and slowly eased out of the parking space and into the empty lot. CM gently followed him, feeling an anxious tightening in her heart as the bike responded to her commands. With a twist of her wrist, she shifted gears and turned to follow the hedgehog.
The parking lot was shrouded by deciduous forest on every side. Only the road leading to 460 offered a way out. Dennis eased down the road as it plunged beneath leafy boughs that obscured the solitary power line, and CM followed him, her paws gripping the handlebars tightly. The road ducked and wove as it followed the meandering stream to the valley's entrance. Rocks clustered on their right, huge stacks that supported trees and the vast hillsides that stretched from the mountains. Moss clung to their surface, and even as they cruised past, CM could smell the rich aroma of the wide variety of deer, grouse, and other game that made these mountains their home.
After only a few minutes the forest thinned enough that they started to see houses and yards on either side. Most were run down or in poor repair, with plastic siding or wooden beams long in need of replacing. They weren't truly poor, those who lived here, they just didn't have enough to rebuild what was slowly falling apart. The four of them were fortunate so far in their lives, but they could all just as easily end up living somewhere remote. For a Changed, it might not be such a bad thing either.
But none of this was on CM's mind. For the first time, the she-bear was riding a motorcycle down a road without assistance. And as she made turn after turn and kept her speed under control, she felt her confidence increasing. The wind sliced through hr fur and pounded at her chest, but it was a good feeling, strong and powerful that made her call on her strength to beat it back. She sat firmly in the chair, her thick legs supporting her upper body as it bore the brunt of the air's cloying hands.
Her nostrils flared with the rich scents pouring her way. CM's ears folded back as she listened to the growling of the engine between her legs. She smiled and chuckled to herself at the odd sensation of the wind cleaning her fangs. Her stub of a tail twitched with delight in her shorts.
And then they passed out of the hills and onto the small plain that was the town of Pembroke. The road straightened as it neared the much larger and far busier 460. Dennis slowed and CM eased back with him. Behind them, Rob pulled the Matrix off to one side while Dennis and CM parked on the shoulder. CM let out a long sigh of pleasure as she turned the key and rubbed her paw pad over the bike's chrome handlebars and across the fuel tank.
"That good, huh?" Dennis asked with a knowing smile crossing his snout. His spines shivered down his back like a wave passing through sand.
CM nodded and could not disguise the awe in her voice. "Oh yeah. That was amazing."
Jan laughed as he climbed out of the Matrix and clopped his hooves to her side. "You looked like a natural, CM! Did you like it?"
"I loved it! I'm so getting one of these when I can afford it!" CM roared in delight, rubbing her paws along the bike's front some more. "This was a really sweet ride. Thank you, Jan."
The boar nodded, "You look right for a bike. Maybe one day we go riding together, yah?"
"I'd like that. These mountains beg to be ridden!"
Jan crossed his arms, glancing once at the low, green mountains that surrounded them. "Yah, they do. But there's just one thing."
CM looked back at him. "What's that?"
The boar's expression was of pleased amusement. "Could I have my bike back now?" Rob beat his paws against his steering wheel to keep from laughing.
When not working, CM and Rob spent the next few days calling the few Changed they knew in Virginia and the surrounding states. They discussed strategies for looking for new Changed, and the warning signs that would precede the Change. Much of this was merely refresher for the others who'd been preparing on their own, but for most of them, this would be the first time they'd be actively looking for new Changed.
Much of their time on the phone was spent catching up with those who they'd gathered with at Technicon earlier in the year. Claire, the otter from Bristol, had her paws full getting her children ready for the next year of grade school. Edgar, the opossum from Richmond, boasted of his recent promotion and how smart his three year old boy was. Carl, the Golden from South Boston, spent most of the time asking them what they were doing in their lives, but did admit that his nephew was home from his tour of duty overseas and was most amused that his old fogey of an uncle had attended Technicon. Kyle the chipmunk wouldn't stop raving about how excited he was to be coming to Virginia Tech in another week. And of course Jan and Dennis were already talking about dragging CM on a biking trip into the Jefferson National Forest in September.
The only other Changed that had been there, Barb the panther, was local and had her own network of friends that she promised to keep an eye on. And so with little else to do but wait, Rob and CM kept up the facade of a normal life around their friends and coworkers as the days of the week trickled past. Until the sickness came on the fifteenth, they wouldn't know who might join their August company on Sunday morn.
Leslie could tell that CM was a little anxious, and it pained the she-bear not to be able to tell her wife what was amiss. But there always lingered that hope in her ursine chest that in a few days Leslie would join her amongst the ranks of the Changed and there would never need be any secrets between them again.
By Thursday night, CM's anxiety had reached such a height that he could only be thankful that Leslie worked that evening. The she-bear climbed into her Saturn and took the long drive down Harding Avenue heading out of Blacksburg. It was a particular favourite of theirs, winding down into a valley lined by ridges with ranches and old country homes on either side of the twisting road. At that hour of the night, he saw deer at the edge of the woods, and sometimes a raccoon or skunk.
The road changed names and turned down several other roads, including route 42 which climbed up a steep mountain face before returning to 460. By the time that CM returned home it had been a two hour drive, but it had done its job. The bear was finally able to calm down and collapse in bed. The metal groaned under her weight, but she was long since used to it. Her mind, once racing with wonder what the next day would bring, had calmed down enough that simple prayer kept it focussed.
Dreams of Leslie sprouting fur in a few days kept her in a pleasant slumber. CM could never quite tell what Leslie was becoming, but the sight of her changing was enough. With such sweet dreams, CM never cared what happened to herself.
But when her eyes crept open Friday morning and felt a crushing headache pounding on either side of her massive ursine head, and a sickening tightness stirring her corpulent gut, CM couldn't think of anything but herself. The agony raced from one side of her head to the other, like giants playing ping pong in her mind. She dug her claws into her belly fur and groaned loudly, twisting beneath the blankets.
Beside her, Leslie stirred and lifted one arm to rub at her forehead. CM opened one eye and felt a glimmer of hope. But then she scooted up and blinked her eyes clear of her usual pre-coffee bleariness. "Are you okay?" she asked in clear tones.
CM grunted and sighed. "Feelin' sick."
Leslie leaned over and rubbed the top of the bear's head, feeling for a fever. The usual pleasure CM would have felt at Leslie rubbing her head fur was not there. "You always seem to get sick right before the fall semester."
CM grunted and closed her eyes. "Yeah. I guess you're feeling okay?"
"Need coffee, but yeah." Leslie lifted her hand away. "You definitely feel hot. Is there anything I can get you?"
Medicine never helped this sickness. It just had to run its course. By tomorrow evening he'd feel fine again. But she'd have to wait at least another year for Leslie to Change. The she bear sighed. "The phone, so I can call off from work."
Leslie nodded, kissed her on the forehead, and climbed out of bed to retrieve the phone. CM sighed and kept her eyes closed. The pain was familiar but still debilitating. If not for the Change that followed, she wouldn't wish it on anyone.
There wasn't anything else CM could do but lay in bed and wait for the pain to go away. She hoped that Rob and the others would have better luck.
After calling off from work and being kissed and tended by Leslie, CM spent most of Friday laying in bed. She attempted to read, but her eyes didn't want to focus on the pages. She tried at one point to climb out of bed to go watch a movie on the couch, but it took an hour to convince her body to make that journey; then after watching the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring she decided she'd rather try to sleep anyway. Apart from one time in the evening when she plopped herself on the porcelain pedestal to make her bodily offering, she never bothered trying to get out of bed again.
Leslie was kind enough to leave the phone at her bedside once she went to work, and so CM was able to answer the phone when Rob called to check on her. The skunk asked her how she was doing, but once he knew that CM was suffering the Change sickness, he excused himself and hung up. CM felt like growling at the world, but that would probably only make her stomach tie itself into even more knots. Instead, she lay in bed and let her bodily misery run its course.
Like all things, time worked its own wonders, and the she bear found the patience she'd honed in her many years alone and the seven times she'd suffered this before (not to mention all the periods she'd undergone during her five female years) helped her endure the long Friday. She got little sleep that night, and the illness persisted Saturday morning. Another quick call to work and she resumed her sojourn in bed. Leslie understood her need to suffer alone and after doing what little she could for her husband, Leslie closed the bedroom door and quietly went about her daily chores before work.
By the time Leslie left for her afternoon-evening shift, the pain began to ebb. CM opened her eyes and took a long deep breath of air that stank of bear fur. She panted, drool wetting her cheeks. With her right paw she thrust the covers off her frame, and enjoyed the relatively cool air inside their apartment. A few minutes later, she managed to lumber to her feet and began navigating her heavy bulk over to her dresser. She pulled a loose t-shirt on and a pair of shorts. If she was lucky, she wouldn't need the bras and panties after tomorrow morning, so decided not to bother with them.
Their dog Crystal lay sleeping on her beanbag, but did open her eyes at CM's approach. The she-bear pet the elderly Cairn on the head and then entered the kitchen to find something to eat. It would be her last meal as a bear, possibly forever, and after a day and a half of laying in bed, she was starved!
A hour later, CM had cleaned out the fridge and sat contented, one paw idly storking her distended and gurgling belly through the fur. If not for being female, she'd love being a bear. And, CM had to admit with a sigh, being female wasn't so bad either.
But tomorrow morning she wouldn't be a bear anymore, and there was plenty to do still to prepare. Being the middle of the Summer, as it was only six o'clock they had a few hours until night cloaked their little mountain town. But CM wouldn't be able to stay up much more after that, not when she had a Change coming the next day.
With a grunt, she hefted herself out of the chair, found the phone, and gave Rob a call. The skunk answered on the third ring. "Hey, CM! Feeling better?"
"Much," CM replied. "No more headache and my belly's fed, so I'm good. How about you? And the rest of SOAP?"
She could almost see him shake his head. "Looks like I'm going to stay a skunk, and none of the other SOAP members reported coming down with the flu recently. Barb and I also checked with a bunch of folks from VTSFFC, but nobody there either."
It only took CM a moment to remember that VTSFFC was the local science fiction and fantasy fan club; technically Technicon was started by VTSFFC, but the last few years it had been mostly run by the furs from SOAP. "So nobody new that we know," CM said with a rumbling sigh. "It was probably too much to expect. What about the others across the state?"
"I called them yesterday to let them know you were out of it, but nothing on that front either. At least not yet. Not even Jan and Dennis had anything to report. Tomorrow's the big day. If anything's going to happen it'll be then."
"And then some," CM added with a faint laugh. "Well, next time you see me I won't be a bear. Most likely. We should keep our eyes and ears open tomorrow. If folks don't show up to work or church and all that, it could be because they've Changed."
Rob laughed. "I was hiding in my room last year! I don't know how long I would have stayed in there if you hadn't shoved your claws under my door! It'll probably take a few days before we can be sure."
"True." CM leaned her head back, shifting the handset from ear to muzzle as she spoke and listened. "Either way, when Kyle gets here, there'll be four of us in Blacksburg."
"He's already here," Rob replied. The skunk snorted and CM could imagine him rolling his eyes. "He's suck a chipmunk. He couldn't wait and is crashing over at the furry apartment until the dorms open up. Patrick's going to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't leave fur all over the place."
The bear laughed and felt a smile crease her jowls. "I should have known he'd come early."
"Hey, CM, does Leslie work tomorrow night?"
"Since Kyle's here, I'm going to have a Changed party at my place tomorrow night. Only going to be four of us it looks like, but Patrick and Audrey will be there too. If you aren't going to tell Leslie, at least come join us to celebrate a year."
CM nodded. "I will. If I become male again, I'll have to tell Leslie. Until then, we'll see. Thanks for the invite though. I guess I'll see you tomorrow."
"Show up whenever, but not until after five." The skunk paused for a moment then added, "You don't work tomorrow do you?"
"No, I asked for that day off weeks ago."
"They probably think you took the last two days off to extend your holiday."
CM grunted, tongue clicking against the back of her fangs. "They better not."
Rob laughed and said, "Well, I'm going to go over the server one more time to make sure it's ready. If we're right, we should get a whole lot more Changed joining the Network in the next few weeks."
"Indeed! Take care, Rob. I'll see you tomorrow."
"I may try to come to Mass too," Rob replied. "See you then!"
CM hung up the phone and smiled. Well they may not have any new Changed from amongst their friends, but at least there'd be more of them local no matter what happened. It was a stark change from previous years when CM had spent her days and nights wondering if she was the only in all the world.
CM lumbered into the computer room and opened her private closet. She pulled out the numbered boxes and opened all those marked "3". It was time to put all of her bear things away.
With care and precision, CM took her clothes out of her dresser and closet and one by one folded them tight and stuffed them into the boxes. She had to shove a few times, and snagged her claws in a few loose fibres a few times too, but managed to get everything inside. Next came all her bras and panties, as well as other female accessories she wouldn't be needing for the next year if she were lucky. Even if she did need them, she'd likely need much smaller versions.
CM stalked every corner of their apartment for anything else that had to go into the boxes. Such a thorough inspection offered several opportunities to clean which she took without thinking. By the time she stuffed all but a single pair of shoes in the boxes, she'd knew Leslie would be very pleased with seeing how nice the apartment looked. Twilight descended outside, and all that CM had left to store in the boxes was her current attire, the last pair of shoes, and her wedding ring.
Time enough for one last jaunt around the complex with Crystal, and then she should get to bed. CM slipped the shoes over her feet, watched them disappear, and called her dog after her. Crystal climbed off the beanbag chair and followed the bear out the door. Crystal was an old dog, but she managed the stairs fine. The evening was pleasantly cool and the slight breeze felt good through her thick fur. Crystal sniffed around and them ambled after the bear as they walked around the Chasewood Downs complex.
She didn't see any of the other neighbourhood dogs, and so after fifteen minutes they wended their way back to the apartment. CM closed the door behind them, gently pet Crystal on her hairy head, and then stretched, letting out a rumbling sigh. "Well, I guess it's time to go to bed, eh, Crystal?"
Her Cairn Terrier licked her nose and laid back down on the bean bag. CM laughed and padded back into the computer room. She stuffed her last pair of shoes into the boxes, and then removed the last of her clothing, folded it, and shoved it in. She closed up the boxes and put them back into the closet, making sure that the boxes marked with a "4" were now on top so she could get to them easily if she changed as she expected.
Completely naked apart from her fur, CM turned off the computer room lights and entered her bedroom. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror and shifted about, noting the bulky, ursine form. Her belly curved outward as if she'd hidden a basket beneath her fur. Her breasts sagged, though covered by her brown fur, they appeared only as very noticeable lumps on her chest. Her face, broad and dark, ended in a wide black nose, while her eyes, small and black, stared out with a warmth that she had grown to love in the last year.
CM smiled and her fangs glistened beneath her jowls. Yes, she'd miss being a bear.
CM climbed into bed and pulled out her journal. She tapped the pencil against her fangs for a moment and then began to write.
Aug 16, 2003
Another year comes to a close, another chapter in my unusual life comes to its end. Tomorrow I will Change again, and the only thing I can hope is that I will be male again. I've been female for three years now, and I hate to admit it but it's starting to rub off on me. But there's a very good reason for that. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">This is the first time I've been seen and treated as a female. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">But this is also the first year I've realized that I wasn't alone. There are so many more who are Changed like me into animal-men. First my friend Rob was turned into a skunk. Then there was this lawyer from Cleveland, Walter Lundh who is now a long horn bull. And through him I met Carter Ryan a black wolf from Buffalo, who I've been working with this last year on calculating the number of Changed. And then there's the ones we met at Technicon, Jan and Dennis, Claire, Barb, Carl, Kyle, and Edgar. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">I'm so happy to know I'm not alone, it made being treated like a female from time to time well worth it. It's kind of funny, because I don't even mind the way Jan leered at me the first time we met anymore. I guess he's more than made up for it with his visits, and the time he's spent teaching me to ride a bike. I know I want one of those one day. Ah, but first I need some real money. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">The money we made from the work with the number crunching helped pay off some of my education debts, but there's plenty more of that to go. It's better to pay off debt anyway. Wish the government would figure that one out. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">Ironically, the money I used to pay off my debt was tax dollars, so I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">It was rather interesting to meet Congressman Sandrick. Good to know there's at least one person in congress who understands our needs. But I really enjoyed meeting Number Two. Reynaldo De Smet was a very interesting fox, and he seemed to understand my situation better than most. It was nice to finally have a chance to talk with somebody who's been Changed longer than I have. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">The important thins above all else, I'm not alone. No matter what happens tomorrow, I'll never be alone again. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">Bear. Female. It's been interesting. I love being a bear. I even love having a big belly and dealing with hibernation hunger. And I love making Rob, Jan and the others squirm when I catch a fish in my jaws. And it's kind of fun seeing the way they act all embarrassed around me when we're bathing. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">Ah... but the year of bear is over. And hopefully the years of female are over. I only wish that Leslie was Changing too. <p style="text-indent: 2em; line-height:1.2;">Lord, I don't know what You still have in store for me in the years to come, but I will trust in You that everything will be okay. No matter what happens. Please guide me. In nomine Patris, et Filli, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. </div> CM closed her journal, turned out the light, and lay her massive head down to sleep on her last night as a bear. For the first time in a log time, she was truly happy before a Change.