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User:Hawl/At Ace, We RIDE

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Author: Jessica Kylie Nichols-Vernon

Well, it’s the first day actually being employed at ACE. Upon my arrival the day before I had been given a brief tour and had the chance to meet two of the three Human-RIDE duos I’d be working with. The main factory building was a miniature skyscraper, Shyver told me that various parts of the building were made of hardlight. When costs came down they wanted to have the whole structure be one hardlight complex. Costs would have to come down a lot or Aristo would need to own all of Zharus because.... Woo!.... That sounds more expensive than a Star Master made of solid gold, real gold, imported from Saturn. Why saturn? I dunno it sounded fancy in my head... Well this is my recorded memory, so, I guess you already knew that. Unless you’re reading it in a text format.... Why someone would do that I have no idea. I mean even the most basic machine could probably let you VR these events and if not you’re probably on a hunk of junk from 2013 AD, well whatever floats your boat.

It was mainly the executive rooms and Aristo’s private studies that had the hardlight modifications at the present, I wasn’t sure why Shyver told me that Aristo had private studies in this factory. Security wise that seemed like a bad idea to just tell people that the owner of the company has private studies with experimental super RIDEs somewhere in the company, then again Zharus has tech far beyond anything on Earth, he could even legally look at our memories anytime he wanted thanks to the contract we signed so maybe it’s just a way to root out the suicidally greedy.

So far I’ve learned that Shyver is actually a really nice guy when he’s not collecting people. I’ve heard from Bob, the iguana rider in my four Rider cell, that it’s all an act. From what I’ve seen of the guy around the complex he’s actually like a big soft alcoholic teddy bear, outside of his large menacing Panda Fuser he’s even harmless looking, wears the most adorable little beanie with holes cut in it for his panda ears. Jason, the weasel rider, has told that Shyver is one of the supervisors who looks into the cells and that any cell who has him for that day is pretty lucky because he treats the whole cell to lunch. Real food too, not the usual Fab Food from the fabbers in the cells... Doesn’t a bottle of pop coming from the same place you get motor oil sound refreshing? I’ve never seen either of them outside of their Fusers, though that’s probably because it feels so good in one, I’ve been in Ruby as often as I can.

The cells are small black rooms made for four people and one supervisor, all five employees are expected to be in Fuser Mode during the work day. The supervisor is responsible for bringing in RI Cores and DEs for us to fix up and make sure we stay on it and in Fuser Mode, there’s this really big rule that Aristo doesn’t want a human hand, or in my case bat wing since Ruby kinda took my hands away, touching any of his precious machines. His words. What a nutcase. This is the gist of what I got during my employee orientation, I still had tons of questions about this as I’ve never seen any RIDE Factory with this setup, or any RIDE Factory at all. My first actual work day was about to begin. Because I have a servitude contract, I have to live in an apartment complex in the lower levels of the factory. Which is as charming as it sounds, the blasted thing was a glorified prison. I love that work for me had started this was going to be my life for the next few years, might as well get right to it then. Maybe I’d learn a few tricks I could show Simon... Simone, I wonder how many different pronouns are used to describe the same person in a day, I’m betting more than two.

Bob and Jason were already in Cell 22, where I had been assigned and had a keycard installed both on Ruby and in case of emergencies, my digital wallet. There was supposed to be a fourth employee in my cell, but I haven’t seen him or her around. As I walked in I saw the two coworkers-workers I had met fused to their Iguana and Weasel RIDEs and already hard at work on a subject, which from what Ruby and I could see appeared to be a DPN(m)-RMR-002, made for underwater rescue and reconnaissance. I had never worked on many males back in Simone’s Garage, something that taunted me for a bit, until I realized that dad didn’t MIND having a Cross-Rider Daughter. I certainly never worked on any Dolphin RIDEs, I didn’t even know they MADE Dolphin RIDEs, somehow I could see Jason in one of these easily, he seemed like the playful kind. Perhaps a little too playful! I quickly became the only one actually helping construct this thing, and since I was mainly using my pre-hensile feet to do so from the air progress was very slow, Jason had taken Bob’s tools and started playing “Death Star Battle" with them. Seeing Bob chase Jason around did crack me and Ruby up a bit, until two more RIDE fused people came in.

Both seemed rather bitter and rather female, Ruby, man I loved how powerful I felt wearing her, gave me their RIDE Models as “RAT(f)-LSA-817”... Aristo’s Model! and the other’s was “GFN(f)-MAA-002”

I assumed that the Rat Fuser was the supervisor from the 817, but it turned out that that was the griffin, who was fussing out the rat girl. “You’re not leaving until Cassandra is paid off, Fucking Cross-Rider!”

::Oh great, another Earthling Supervisor:: Bob’s RIDE Higar PMed to us all. I took slight offense to this, I was an Earthling myself afterall. Course I was just as annoyed at the griffin for insulting Cross Riders, being one was kind of awesome.

The rat rider seemed to have hardlight on her RIDE causing her to look like a downright albino furry! Her red eyes were off putting, but she seemed to be wearing a well put together machine. I had to admire the handy work, maybe I could get her to email me her specs. I just had to know if they’re anywhere near Lucille’s!

I looked to her and decided to be friendly, mostly because she had 817 armor and I had to know more. “So, Crossrider huh? I used to be a guy myself, I didn’t like it, but being female seems to be nice, so far. Oh sorry, not used to wearing people, my RIDE’s name is Ruby” I said to the rat-girl in a friendly tone “and I’m Paula Reverbek”

The Griffin Fuser eyed me evilly. “Two!?! Oh you fucking Zharusians.. One sex isn’t good enough... I should have stayed on Earth...” Me and the rat both shot the same look right back at her. “Oh spare me the semantics! and remember traps, NO TALKING!”

::It used to just be Bob and Jason in here, unless I got caught, but this isn’t the only sign you’re new around here. The Supervisors can’t read our minds or our RIDEs if we’re careful. My name is Gabrielle Locke, though my Crossover was not by choice Cassandra and I are still quite pleased to make your acquaintance. Friends are a rare and valuable commodity here, you may quickly find that souls are too.:: Her voice spoke through in my head, I literally got my RIDE the same day Shyver basically kidnapped me, so I wasn’t really used to this, the other people’s voices thing was trippy.

::Casey? Baby did they try to crush you too?:: Ruby asked Gabrielle’s RIDE.

::Ruby? Is that really you? I thought you were dead for sure. Naw, Aristo ordered me to Genderjack this human and now I’m stuck with her. Fetters, can’t disobey the great Emperor ya know...:: Cassandra, Gabrielle’s RIDE apparently, stated which filled in to me and Ruby as to just why our rat-girl friend wasn’t a human-boy. Though something strange I noticed was that when Cassandra did the thought-speak thing her voice seemed to be a male one.

::Yeah, it’s me, but you! Aristo sent you off to that Mr. Bertrand guy to be crushed.... I... The fact that you’re here... Oh if I wasn’t supposed to stay right here with Gabrielle we’d run off together.:: Cass sent, this seemed like a private conversation and I’m not sure why I was in on it.

::Baby, I know what Aristo did to you. What he’s still doing, but you know that if we ran off he’d just have us crushed right here and now. We’ll find some other way darling, and when we do we’ll get your RI Core back in a Male Rat where it belongs:: Ruby said, I could tell she wanted me to hug Gabrielle, so that she could hug her friend. Wait, did she say Male Rat? RIDEs can have Gender Dysphoria?! Did everyone have Gender Dysphoria on this planet? Is that why RIDEs even HAVE a notion of gender!?! I’m lost now. Well anyway, Ruby and Cassandra spoke for a good long while, Cassandra brought up the good point that Aristo’s factory HAS a crusher and that she didn’t need to be sent off for that. To that Ruby sent ::Primus knows what goes on in that lunatic’s head most of the time::

Me and Gabrielle worked on the dolphin alone, putting combobulators and power couplings in, removing things that didn’t even need to be there like a toaster just wedged inside the DE, I’m not even kidding. I eyed Jason suspiciously, he was still fighting with Bob, but I had a feeling he did this. Why Aristo hired a man like that I have no idea. I tried pulling the toaster out, I was standing now, Gabrielle had me land as she was worried the lifters around my and Ruby’s ankles might interfere with the dolphin, but my wings are new and kind of clumsy. Gabrielle freaked out as things got wedged free from the DE’s innards as I tried to remove the toaster. If only Shyver had let me train with Simone on using my new hands before abducting me. There were small hooklike grabbers on the end of my wings that were meant to be a replacement. “Back off mutant!” she said to me, rudely shoving me and Ruby aside. “Your hands contain the delicacy of a diseased drunken dog. Just stand still and look busy”.

The woman with the griffin RIDE in the corner raised her voice again. “No talking Cross Rider! Fucking fake women, I hate this damn planet. I wish I could take my RIDE back home.”

“Just think of me as a real man, shut your damn beak, and get back in the damn kitchen!” Gabrielle rebutted, sticking her middle finger up at her before getting back to the toaster. “Oh and bring me a sandwich while you’re out.”

The Griffin was at a loss for words, she clearly wasn’t used to being spoken to this way. “I.... I.... But fabbers... and...”

“Well with the advent of Fab Food I guess you’re pretty Goddamn useless aren’t you?” Gabrielle snided with a smile, literally biting her thumb at the griffin before going over to the fabber to replace some of the parts I broke trying to remove the toaster.

Gabe what are you doing?!?!:: Me, Cass, and Ruby all sent at the same time, even Bob and Jason had stopped to stare at the she-rat. All of us thinking that she was gonna get fired or something. Whatever it is that Aristo does if you violate contract.... oh right crush RIDEs, but Gabrielle didn’t want hers, so, what was going to occur?

“What? I’m tired of this sorry excuse for a supervisor coming in here every time she’s scheduled to our cell and giving me shit for being a cross-rider! News flash! It’s the second century! The second century of a planet that the species of everyone in this room didn’t originate from! It’s like the 26th on Earth! Political Correctness and Tact! have you ever heard of it? Once more I don’t like rats, I don’t even like women very much! So don’t tell me that I’m some kind of gross perverse hobbyist or fetishist! However the one thing I absolutely cannot stomach and hold NO tolerance for, is a loud mouth bitch! So if you could just solder your goddamn beak shut or disable your lifters and throw yourself off a hover bridge, WHICHEVER IS EASIER FOR YOU! I would be appreciative!” Gabrielle exploded, stomping her and Cassandra’s foot to the ground for emphasis before calmly returning to work as if she hadn’t said anything. I wish I had been holding something so that I could drop it. I... just completely lost all focus somewhere near the beginning of her rampage.

Oh child! Should I turn on my profanity filter?:: Ruby asked, I nodded in agreement forgetting for a second she wasn’t a physically separate person. Well she was, I’m not an Integrate, but I was kind of wearing her is what I meant. I found myself swearing a lot less since the fusion now that she mentioned it, well makes sense, Ruby was intended for children. I actually seemed to get a few years younger upon fusing with her, from 23 to 16.
Yes please...:: I sent, I wasn’t one for cuss language to begin with, but now I can’t even say heck, heck, heck, no no no, heck.... grrr. H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS, heck! I think this was the REAL reason mom was afraid of RIDEs. They can change your brain too! That’s why people don’t mind getting gender flipped and can adapt very easily even though even an Earthman can tell you that it should result in someone being depressed out of their gourd and unable to adapt. Unless the RIDE is particularly cruel or someone was really shoddy on making the Gender Adjustment Therapy nanites, becoming a new sex shouldn’t be as painful as it is in all those old stories. They gained popularity around the early 21st century, but they really took off during the Masculinist Movement or rather the Gender Therapy Nanite Legalization Movement would be a more accurate name. They usually focused on a guy turned into a girl and then felt no one took her seriously. Most of the MTF Authors who wrote these got chills writing the other way around, in a way writing about a woman turning into a man only served to remind them of how horrible they felt about their own bodies. There were tons of stories written like this. Though talking about this made me remember Paul. It feels like a lifetime ago, yet it was only yesterday that I was that horrible man who, along with the husk of a world he came from ruined my life! I felt a cold chill run up my spine as Ruby began to play an old cartoon about six magical pony friends to help me calm down. ::It’s gonna be alright baby, you’re not Paul anymore, you’re Paula now, everythings gonna be alright, we’re fine baby, we’re fine.:: she began to send me, I could feel warm soft arms of a mother holding my virtual body and rocking it gently like a mother with her infant child on a rocking horse. Everything felt fine after awhile, my head returned to normal and all was right with the world.

When I snapped back to reality the Griffin Rider activated her weapons and glared at Gabrielle. “I will have your ass on a platter rodent!” and was about to charge in our direction! That was until the door opened behind her and Shyver stepped through in his Panda Fuser, this caused the Griffin to seem surprised. “Shyver sir! I thought inspection was next week.” In a panic the griffin disabled her weapons as fast she could. We’re being recorded at all times in the work rooms, if she was going to attack us how the heck did she plan to get away with it?

Shyver seemed more approachable now, he wasn’t the teddy bear I had seen outside of the work day, but he wasn’t as brooding and threatening as when he took me from home. “Mr. Enroygall wanted it to be a surprise. Speaking of...” he stepped away from the door and bowed like a knight before his king, the griffin curtseyed as well.

In walked a Tigress Fuser with a smug look on her face. “Thank you Shyver, Thank you Reluda.” Shyver? Aristo? Reluda? Who names their children these things? What other crazy not-names do the staff have in here, Seranima? Sargosa? Loriod? Rufia? I’m just making these up, if anyone actually has these names then I officially give up! Then again, I guess Reverbek isn’t the most normal name either.

“Crossed-Over Aristo? I suppose it’s fitting, you are a bit of an insufferable coochie. Why not have one too?” Gabrielle called out, much to no one’s shock. Well Reluda was about to say something, but Shyver shook his and his RIDE’s head disapprovingly. Reluda shut her beak, but I was still curious as to what exactly was going on.

Aristo wore her RIDE happily, laughing and dancing forward, literally spinning and dancing onto a steel platform which began floating into the air and formed guardrails for the tigress fuser to look down upon everyone. I had to admit, Aristo was hotter than a fool on fire looking for qubits in the desert and I wouldn’t mind snuggling up to her.... Gah! Simone is a bad influence. “Not quite yet my little rat bi-girl dog, see cause you’d have to be a man to be a rat bas-man without a father.” he laughed at his own joke, Shyver and Reluda laughed with, theirs seemed far more forced. “Iris is in passive mode. I can’t swap sexes for six more months. That would cause too much internal damage, and I paid good money for my insides. I just wouldn’t dream of going into a place such as this as a mere human. It is far too disrespectful to our dolphin friend to be that way in this, his womb. Also yay! I do have a tiger tail and ears now, good to no longer be branded by that TRAITOR!” I think he was referring to Xhyz.

“Maybe you should get a hermaphrodite RIDE instead, so that you can go on a date with yourself!” I called out, after Gabe’s lead, I figured she or he knew what she or he was doing, I turned to Gabrielle who gave me a look like I did something stupid.

Ruby even said this to me in a very panicked tone. ::Oh lord child, you’ve done it now. You went and bruised his ego::

Aristo roared at me and spoke at me with his voice instead of Iris’. “Listen and listen well Paula Alexandria Reverbek!”

“How did you know my name?” I pondered aloud, frightened and confused.

“Gabrielle is....” The passive fuser said ignoring my question, beginning to pace with her, no his, hands behind his and Iris’ back. Bringing the left one up for emphasis and whirling it around like she, no he, no she, grr... He looks EXACTLY like a really tall human tigress so misgendering is not a difficult task right now... ARISTO was whirling an invisible wineglass. “A curiosity, a toy, a... a game if you will. She may insult me, that is her exclusive honor. I’m feeling a little merciful so I’m just docking your pay from your first installment.”

“When is payday anyway?” Jason had asked, looking not at all in Aristo’s direction, his eyes wandering all about it. Are the nanites going to straight to his brain? “I forgot....”

“There isn’t one! He takes it all for our RIDE loans and rent for living here.” Bob said angrily “Every friggin time money is mentioned...”

“Yes... Well, thank you for that.” Aristo said calmly, doing another spin dance, clawing all the while. I wasn’t sure if this was a dance or my employer practicing a form of martial arts. “There’s a freedom to the tigress. I can’t wait for this to be my soft, fuzzy..... skin.”

“Sir?” Shyver asked, giving him a concerned look.

“Oh right. You batling are not allowed to insult me. The punishments will be far stricter should it happen again..” The tigress took a paw to her, no his, aww screw it. Her muzzle and did a fake yawn. “Passive Mode only works for so long.” Aristo said, stretching her actually male body, tail swishing behind her. “If the dolphin is ready to be born, let him.”

My heart went cold upon hearing that, not the dolphin part, the other thing, maybe Dad was right, maybe we should have tried fighting Shyver. Well I’m here now and Aristo isn’t even pretending he’s not evil. This Gabe Girl better have a good plan. I mean Shyver didn’t give me the most warm welcome when he busted in my door, but, I don’t know I expected Aristo to be more subtle.

Bob and his RIDE nodded their iguana fuser head. “Jason, turn him on. Jason?”

Jason was staring off into space. Gabrielle sighed “You know that you cannot count on him for anything right?” and lifted her and Cassandra’s arm to the Dolphin and wirelessly activated him, his eyes opening, starting blue and blank. His RI Core needed a moment to boot up as it was the first time the aquatic male would do so. Today was his birthday... Boot Day Ruby said it was called

Bob sighed “Yeah...” rubbing his scaly green hardlight forehead “He was my roommate before this..” he seemed very exasperated, but strangely calm. As though he had told this story many times before. He shook his tail back and forth a couple of times before finally saying more. “A long time ag....”

“Yes yes, no one cares. The Dolphin! Passive Mode wasn’t meant for all day!” Aristo chided waving Iris’ paw around in an insulting fashion before literally stomping the hindpaw of the fuser expectantly. He was perfectly able to display his impatience.

“You’ve said that already.” Jason pointed out, before chasing his tail in a circle. Does he have Downs’ Syndrome or something? Does he eat a diet of sugar? Or is he just five and the fuser suit makes him look older. I’d believe it. I wonder what his RIDE thinks of him. Does the weasel he’s attached too go along with this, does he encourage it? If only I could hear what exactly he was thinking.

“Quite....” Aristo said before shaking their head “Oh good he’s booting up. Give him some air!” He moved his hands apart gesturing for us to move away, which we all did in unison.

“Machines don’t need oxygen, or do you not know your own relatives you fluffing cyborg! I’m almost positive the reason for your cold heart is because your father was a fridge.” Gabrielle yelled out.

Aristo laughed, licking around his and Iris’ fangs. “Wonderful wonderful, Shyver fab me a glass of wine.” he leaned forward eyes fully locked on the dolphin, large breasts resting on the rail. Literally laughing as her face curled in the largest smile I’ve ever seen. Even bigger than when I flew with Ruby for the first time.

“Umm, he... hello?” The Dolphin RIDE spoke up, looking at us all right in the face. “What’s going on?”

It’s your Boot Day honey, we’re gonna get you a nice strong sea loving man to work with. Things may seem scary at first, but we’re gonna get you out of here:: Ruby sent to the Dolphin.

“I’m mostly confused...” the Dolphin spoke, flapping about. Yeah this wasn’t a good walker to have, how was he was he even supposed to walk. I pondered why the heck we even built a Dolphin DE Chasis for any RI Core. Apparently I accidentally said this instead of sending it.

“Because no one anywhere has ever enjoyed swimming, especially on planets where there are vast oceans.” Gabrielle told me in an “I can’t believe you just said that” tone, gotta say I was getting a little tired of her attitude, I don’t know whose ego was worse, hers or Aristo’s.

The platform sunk as Aristo reached for the glass that Shyver brought him. He whirled it around as he walked around the Dolphin. “Splendid, just splendid.” He said to himself, looking over every detail of the mechanized blue sea mammal. “How does the hardlight look?”

“We didn’t put hardlight on this one.” Bob explained to Aristo who immediately flipped and scratched him, good thing we’re all wearing power armor. The Hardlight scales showed a bloodied scratch which immediately healed itself. Likely just a custom animation for the shield to show damage was taken.

“DIDN’T PUT... HARDLIGHT... on... ROOOOOOOOOOOOOAR!” Aristo roared, not a real roar, it was nothing more than a sound file, but it sounded pretty convincing, not to mention loud. Quickly, my boss ran to the dolphin and hugged him. “Oh what have these idiots you.. you beautiful beautiful creature.” s/he said, thumping his tail repeatedly like housecats do when they’re ticked off and ready to mutilate someone. The dolphin RIDE looked very confused by all this, I wasn’t born today and I’m a little lost. After a few seconds Aristo turned to Bob. “Listen you little nimrod, man is the lowest form of life on Zharus and you still wear the best quality of clothes available, so I want you to give me a darn good reason why the frig this friggin’ RIDE doesn’t have the highest quality coating he possibly can!”

“This RIDE is designed for deep sea diving, Hardlight is a real drain on the battery. It’s going to be a real liability if he’s burning up energy that fast underwater.... It’s just a difficult sale. Not an easy one to make already, demand for dolphins isn’t that high compared to land mammals, you’d have an easier time selling a canoe.” Bob explained in a calm relaxed voice, but keeping his distance for safety. “Not to mention it’s very pricey, I mean this stuff is getting cheaper all the time, but I don’t see this Dolphin reaching a good price for a couple of a decades, but by then he’ll be obsolete and in need of serious upgrades. We just don’t have enough Marine Biologist contracts to justify this as anything more than an expensive toy.”

“Well... put Gill Nanites in it, let the Rider breathe underwater.” Aristo argued, holding Iris’ hands up in the air like he was saying something obvious “Problem solved!”

“That could work, but it has a high chance of causing de-stability between the rider and the RIDE, just like you wouldn’t wanna put Wing Nanites on a Horse. I mean unless it was a pegasus....” Bob was caught off guard by Aristo who was looking at Iris’ wrist like it was a watch.

“Ding ding ding, we have a winner, make this a gilled dolphin and cover it in hardlight. God! It’s so hard to find good help these days” Aristo began freaking out and held up the number two for emphasis. “I mean for goodness sake it’s not wonder that John Deere is stomping us in sales?!?!”

“Then hire some of them instead of standing here yelling about how wonderful your boyfriends are!” Gabrielle screamed as he started fabbing a few parts and a few casings of Nanites. “Also I’m not a geneticist, if you want nanites for gills, you’ll need to bring them down to us.” she said as she tossed the canister of blank nanites at Aristo who immediately caught them.

“I can’t, the pay is attractive when people don’t owe me loans, but people seem to think I’m a butthole. You don’t think I’m a bad guy do you Gabrielle?” Aristo asked with a smirk.

“Burn in heck Aristo.” Gabrielle said as she resumed working, turning the Dolphin back off, her heart did not seem into insulting Aristo this time. Likely because he asked for it.

Aristo cackled and blew a kiss to Gabrielle before leaving with Shyver. “What do you think Shyver, maybe if I started a ‘Free RIDEs’ policy like the marshalls have?”

“I think our luxury RIDEs are little too expensive to just give away, besides we have a marvelous staff of people who work for peanuts. For example, what of Charles’ work that dinosaur’s Steampunk Designs were our hottest items last year in our fourth quarter and haven’t really slowed down.” Shyver said as he escorted Aristo who looked increasingly frustrated, and yet at the same time calmer, animal faces weren’t easy to read.

“You’re right Shyver, you know how I am with obsessions though, anything I want I have to have, and I want more HUMANS who aren’t awful at their jobs!” Aristo was about to leave before he held out a paw and pointed a finger up in the air. “Ah yes, almost forgot” Aristo said, as he turned around pointing her finger in the air, odd gesture, but okay, afterward Aristo spun around and looking Reluda dead in the face. The griffin seemed very distressed and panicked as Aristo gazed upon her, his newest face being hard to read, like he was both happy and disappointed at the same time, like he was judging and yet already knew what he was going to do. Eventually Aristo opened Iris’ faceplate and his real face was shown, he appeared younger than I used to look as Paul, but older than I do now as Paula. For those not keeping score or are just seeing these memories in text format, that means somewhere between 16 and 23. I could see the glow of the bionic right cat eye with metal face platings surrounding it, he shut it halfway as the eye turned red, the shutting was reminiscent of a ship door closing on an episode of Star Trek.

Reluda took a few steps back, and Aristo just leaned forward as she did so, this made Reluda’s attempts to diffuse the awkwardness not work so well. “Sir.. Is something wrong?”

Aristo held out his hand, baring his teeth, he had fangs, likely robotic replacements for real teeth, so this actually had a degree of intimidation to it. “I have been a man for six months and two years, before that I was a woman for three years, and so on and so forth till the day I jumped the gender barrier the first day on this planet! If you have a problem with Cross Riders, you have problem with me. So I’d shut your beak on this matter before you wake up with your name on three very expensive loans you’ll have to be kept artificially alive to be able to work off!”

Reluda was quiet for the rest of the day which seemed to drag on for hours and hours, I actually found myself falling asleep and having Ruby take over till the end of the shift which was around 25:30, I had started at 10:30 this morning, 15 hours straight, no lunch break outside of a cup of noodles me and Ruby enjoyed together. All in all we barely finished three RIDEs, this was going to be hard work. I stopped working after a bit entirely as became fatigued, Ruby took over until the end of the shift while I rested up, it was for the best, Ruby knew how our hands worked better.

“Do we get any days off?” I asked, stretching, hearing cracks going down the base of my spine and even into my short little bat tail, as the four of us left our cell.

“Monday.” Gabrielle joked, on Zharus the calendar only had six days, monday did not exist on this planet. The rest of us defused, Gabrielle didn’t which I found odd, why would she stay merged to a rat if she hated them so much.

“Oh brother...” I said as I left the cell defusing, yawning I stretched out my wings. Ruby who materialized next to me was a strange sight to behold, a porcubat, that is to say a hedgehog like creature the size of a Golden Retriever with Orange Porcupine Spikes and batwings for forepaws. She basically materialized right beside me as I ceased being a robotic bat-like woman with large spikes protruding from her back into a teenage girl with short brown hair, breasts that were almost a B, small spikes protruding from her back, and I had new clothes fabbed for my new body. There were large bat wings replacing my arms, I have no idea if I can fly with them, but Ruby says it’s not very likely. My new outfit was a purple tank-top like outfit that attached to my shoulders with spaghetti straps that avoided my arms. It showed off more of my spiky back than Ruby approved of, but for hands like mine it was a necessity.

“Mondae?” Jason asked as he defused and beside him was a weasel the size of a fox. The odd part was that Jason seemed to have only shrunk in size, he was still a weasel. I remembered checking my back the morning Shyver abducted me and noticing orange spikes growing, they’re a little longer now... I guess RIDEs never stop changing you. “ARE WE HAVING ICE CREAM!?”

“She’s an Earther, they have more days on their calendar.” Bob said. “Sorry my friend and I were born here. I have to admit though, maybe it’s just the first day, you’re not as annoying as most people from your planet.”

“Uhh... thanks...” I said, unsure of what to think. We all had apartments in the Underground Complex so we stayed together as we made our way to the bottom floor with various other workers, it was like a zoo seeing all of the RIDEs and people with animal body parts. I’d imagine the hallways would be less crowded if people fused up, but I guess people don’t wanna do that too long probably because of that Integration rumor or more likely because sane people don’t like wearing heavy armor all day. Some of those with bigger RIDE animals like horses had to wait until they got to their rooms. Once we got to the ground floor, we had to go down a staircase for a few floors until we found a female chinchilla fuser behind a booth like a manager at a hotel. Bob and Jason went forth first, most of the crowd had bypassed her entirely.

“Still haven’t found your Wallet?” The chinchilla asked holding a RIDE-covered furry chinchilla arm to her face. “Bob you need to stop putting your things where Jason can reach them.”

“Sorry, I was trying to get the Star Fox game on my RIDE.” Jason the anthropomorphic weasel said, looking legitimately guilty, but only for a few seconds, it quickly turned into a very fangy smile. “Hey don’t worry, we’ll find it this time buddy.”

“Yeah....” Bob said, quickly ignoring her. Gabrielle had sat down in a lounge like area with cushioned leather seats and reclined back, almost as if she had stopped breathing. I stepped into the lounge and kind just kneeled down and looked Ruby over.

I think you should ask those two at the counter once your friend for your room number:: Ruby sent to me. I looked in Bob’s direction, and then in Gabrielle’s, well, it seemed as good as advice as any. I stood back in line as Bob yacked with the receptionist, whose name I learned was Craig, until it started being Cindy just the other day. Simone, me, and Craig/Cindy all on the same day, was yesterday some kind of Cross Rider holiday and I just didn’t get the memo?

Bob’s human body lacked a nose or ears of any kind, instead of a nose he had a sort of thing going on like Lord Voldemort from the original early 21st Century Harry Potter movies, his tail was thumping against the counter as Bob put on his finest. “Hey Baby!” look, Simon did it often when he was trying to lure in a customer, male or female. I should have been able to tell he was bisexual BEFORE he became a very sociable skunkette. People had to be enticed to come into Wrench Of Paris, Venars, where my parents live as it was one of the poorer cities on Zharus, and thus RIDEs just weren’t very popular there. It may have been poor, but, even the richest city on Earth can’t hold a candle to it... I don’t want to think about Earth right now. Bob was flirting with Cindy. “I take it that’s your new RIDE, no more rentals? I bet you look amazing under that armor, mind giving me a peek underneath?”

How did he know that was his friend?:: I sent to Ruby,wondering if there was some psychic alien race that Bob happened to be descended from or something. Hey there could be, there’s lot’s of things I don’t know. I continued listening, I knew I was eavesdropping, but I’d be around these people for awhile and well I’ll need to sound more experienced than I look, I need to sound like someone who has had more experience than a garage in a town of almost no riders that barely manages to pay its bills.

What I heard next in the exchange wasn’t too helpful. Cindy just rebuked Bob’s advances, well, to be fair, the lack of a nose does ruin any charm his goatee added to his face. “I’m gonna be busy, and you know Aristo’s rules, no working while you’re human, besides, don’t you and Stacey have a thing?”

Well baby, I don’t know for sure, but he likely just talked to her using Higar while we were working on that there dolphin, you know that iguana the size of a Baby Alligator right beside him... Baby are you feeling okay? You do remember that you have them funky glasses, but in your head right? This was a silly question darling.:: Ruby sent to me, which made me feel pretty dumb given how obvious that sounded, though it did remind me, I needed to check my email to see if my family or Simone sent anything.

As I stood in line next to Ruby I closed my eyes looking at the mailbox in my mind, I saw my schedule for the next two weeks and a list of Supervisors who I’d have, pretty soon I’d see Shyver again, and a lot of him. I had him practically every day this week. There had been a special notice that “Due to the incompetence of certain employees in Cell 22, we are replacing Reluda with my top man Shyver, I’ll need the space to work on a grand personal project that will render the Human Condition obsolete and will allow all to see it for the virus it truly is.” I was starting to think Aristo was never going to take a break from the whole Comic Book Villain routine. Bob smiled at Cindy “It’s nothing serious, she’s not really going to care, and you have new plumbing to try out. It’s a win-win.”

Cindy exhaled and pulled a card from a fabber under her desk, I could tell because I knew the printing sound it made “Yeah, because she dumped your ass. Look I know from experience that it’s not hard to NOT think with your dick, hasn’t it gotten you in enough trouble?” she gave a sharp look to Jason who had long since drifted off into space in his boredom, zoning out beyond even the vastness of the ACE Evolutions building. “Here’s your backup key, it’ll work for three days try, to find your wallet.”

“What happened to the Craig I knew back in College?” Bob teased “The one who was banging dudes left and right?” More information than I wanted, but no one else seemed to flinch, I know it wasn’t as big of a deal here, but still, I’m used to Earth where Bob would have been fired for “improper workplace discussion” for even implying that someone was less than straight so my jaw dropped upon hearing that bit.

“He grew up Bob, he graduated when you flunked out! Now she has aspirations outside of having sex, watching interactive movies, and playing video games, something you have no concept of.” Bob looked to the side and shrugged. I heard him mutter under his breath, as he walked away. Cindy replayed it louder and Bob’s voice sprang forth from her mouth. “At least I’m not a receptionist in a hell-hole....” her voice returned to normal as Bob paused, and looked behind him. “I’m not under contract, I bought Chincinatti with my own money!” she called afterward.

“Come Jason, Wally, and Higar.....” Bob called as he put on his grumpiest face and ignored Cindy “Let’s get some rest.”

“We can finish reading our e-book first right?” Higar asked “I’ve been wanting to see if Holmes escapes Moriarity’s trap.”

“Sure...” Bob said sounding very tired like he just needed to relax and unwind, Higar jumped, pouncing on Bob like a wolf on a deer, seconds before making physical contact with Bob Higar melted into a silver goo and formed around Bob who gave no attention or notice as he seemingly mutated into a large iguana man. In actuality it was a suit forming around him, but the hardlight was very convincing. Eventually he disappeared into the hallway, Jason and Wally decided to follow.

“Umm.. Paul Reverbek” Cindy called out, I looked from Bob’s direction toward her. “I need you to check in hon.”

A rage inside me grew from hearing his name. Ruby noted this immediately ::Paula hon your blood pressure is reaching a high point.::

“I’m not Paul anymore!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, a scream that turned into a screech that actually began to interfere with some of the equipment. A monitor in the room showing an old 20th century show about a man with a liverpool accent eating a curry and making fun of another man with a silver H on his forehead began to lose picture quality and my own computer display in my head actually went to the infamous Blue Screen of Death!

Cindy covered her and Chincinnati's ears, whilst calling out to me. “PaulA Reverbek, please miss stop your screaming you’re damaging my RIDE. Stop! Please stop! You’re hurting her!”

Gabrielle didn’t even respond, she was lost somewhere in Casey or asleep I couldn’t quite tell.

I couldn’t, it was all flashing back again. All the thieves breaking into our house and stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down on a regular basis, needing to be walked to school by armed guards, going days without eating, getting lectures all the time about how drugs, cosmetic body modifications, and Virtual Life were gateways to hell. All the threats about what would happen if I didn’t keep my nose out of trouble. Oh and of course, all the pretty girls having what I should have been born with flaunting it all as they flirted with boys, some even with me. It was all rushing back, I was screaming louder the television was almost pure static and poor Chincinnatti actually started to spark. Doing the only thing she could think of Ruby fused with me and I felt the mother’s arms around me again and I was shown another sedative cartoon, I could actually name this one, anyone could, it was Looney Tunes. The classic Rabbit Season, Duck Season, Fire bit. All the while Ruby closed my mouth, my mind jumped forward to us living in what seemed like a luxury suite in comparison to what we were used to aboard the Spruce Goose in its yearly trip to Zharus as dad kept assuring me and mom that life would be better there if even half of the rumors about it circling Virtual Life were true.

Cindy unplugged her ears and after likely stopping to mentally ask Chincinnati for a damage report tried to contact me again. “Ms. Reverbek, please never do that again. Anyway your partner has filled out that she wants both of you to have a copy of your room key.”

“Wouldn’t we both get one anyway?” I asked, Cindi shook her head no.

“Actually no, we assign newcomers to roommates when possible. The roommate with the higher IQ is deemed the work leader of each two person team. Your RIDE sent us a scan of your mental and physical health when you signed the contract, your IQ reads out at 108, your partner’s at 153. So you’ve been beaten.” Cindi said. “And it’s the leader’s choice how many room keys are made...” She paused for a second, looking at the tv and back at me with this strange look. “umm Miss Reverbek, may I ask you a personal question?”

“Go for it.” I said, looking downward, feeling embarrassed that I let the past control me like that. Especially since it’s all behind me now, I don’t even look the same way I did in the bad times, I wasn’t even in the same Solar System.

“I don’t see any party affiliation on your record, but I’m guessing you’re a Valkyrie? When did they move into Venars? The last time I checked that place was RIDEless farming community. Of course last time I went it was for a field trip, my minor was in Agriculture you see.” Cindi said rambling a little before scratching the back of her and Chincinatti’s neck. “So what’s Valk Venars like? I mean has it Changed much? How strict are they? Like I've heard in some Valk Communities even looking at a Male RIDE can get you sentenced. I’ve always wanted to visit Femizona, play some blackjack, see the handsome studs. Well I used to work there, so I was one of the handsome studs. But I mean as a customer, not an employee.”

I shook my head no. “What’s a Valkyire?” I asked, my curiosity peaked, who would make it illegal to sell Male RIDEs? I mean they’re expensive and hard to find, but illegal?

“What’s a Paladin? Haha I love Spoony Experiment” Cindi laughed before stopping due to my silence. “Oh you’re serious?”

“I don’t keep up with current events.” I said, it was true, I don’t, all I cared about once we landed was finding a job. I didn’t want to admit that I was from Earth, one thing I’ve picked up on in my year of this strange planet was that the natives do look down upon Earthers.

“I’ll say, they’ve been around since RIDEs first hit the market. I don’t get it myself, I mean it’s just a gender. Damn Valks and their barbaric ways.” Cindi said to herself. “Alright, I was just asking because you had one hell of a reaction to being called Paul. I’ve never seen anyone react like that to being called by a male name. I have heard spooky stories about the amount of brainwashing they put on a guy to make them want to renounce all things male. I don’t even get it, male, female, it’s not like there’s anything major being changed by the RIDEs, it’s just gender. It’s not like it’s deciding between Ubuntuu Glasses or FreeBSD ones.”

I just looked at her with the most confused look on my face. “So if it’s not important, then why do you become female then?” I asked, it seemed like a valid point. “I mean, didn’t you LIKE being a man?”

“I loved it, standing up to pee, the additional muscles, but I guess the best reason for my switch is.... because I needed a RIDE?” Cindi asked, not completely grasping what I was asking “Glasses only get you so far, all the good jobs require Riders nowadays. I think you’d know that you have quite the loan to pay off and at your wages.... yeesh.”

“I’m sure it’ll all fly by. I mean, how long can Aristo keep me for?” I asked, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That detail that tortured me more than anything else in my life didn’t matter at all to the woman in front of me and she had been a man not too long ago. To her it was like changing clothes and then not wearing that outfit for three years.

“At the rate you’re going? Fifty years. I’d try to earn a raise if I were you. Aristo will keep your body on life support and refuse to let you die until he’s paid off if he has too. They shut off Frank last week.” Cindi said, she seemed deeply saddened. “I’m gonna miss him... Though I imagine he’s in a better place now.... He... no one deserved what happened to him.”

“What did happen to him?” I asked, almost afraid too not because it sounded awful, but I was so lost on the fifty years thing. She had to be joking, I didn’t want to ask if she was out of fear she wasn’t. I’ll be middle aged by then, I wanna spend my prime exploring the female life, not cooped up in a place like this. This was the kind of place Paul wasted away in while waiting for something to happen.

“I don’t want to talk about that.” Cindi said, it was obvious to anyone that a great disturbance passed over her, she looked like me when I saw Paul in the mirror on those mornings. She turned back to me from her hardlight covered head face downward as though she was about to cry and swiftly went back to a business face. “Please hand we your digital wallet.” she stated calmly.

Ruby and I defused as I looked at my pockets and then my batwing arms. I couldn’t really see anyway to fit them in to grab it. I began getting finicky as I tried to reach in, becoming quite flustered as my little hooks were near the upper part of my wings. “Dagnabbit!” I cried out in frustration as for a second I had managed to get a light grip on it.

“Woah.... umm, wow, I.... let me help you with that.” Cindi said as she reached her paw into my pocket, and then dropped it again. “There we go.”

“But you dropped it!” I pointed out.

“I didn’t need to hold it for long, now that it’s in your wallet your RIDE will be able to access the contents, but that key is only going to work if the wallet is on your person.” Cindi told me before standing still and letting her mind wander, likely tending to some files that Chincinnati was displaying for her. She really did look however like she was just standing still, hard to tell if she’s doing actual work, just leveling up in some MMO Game, or just staring off into space. At least the RIDE’s presence made it a little less awkward than the implants on Earth, but not by that much. “Sorry important email, and I’ve notified the proper authorities of your crossing your ID will change to reflect your new sex in an hour or two at the latest. Any questions Ms. Reverbek? I didn’t see anything about a spouse, I’m assuming that part is accurate.”

“Yes mam, why do I need the wallet? Couldn’t Ruby just copy the key. It’d be harder to lose that way.” I said, a little lost.

“I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, I have absolutely no idea. Aristo makes the rules I just get paid to roll with it.” Cindi said, shrugging before she zoned out again, getting back to work.

“That’s taken care of. I cannot believe they are pairing me with a child fresh off the shuttle. Must be yet another one of Enroygall’s “hilarious” pranks.” A familiar and heavily accented british sounding voice burst forth. Gabrielle was my partner? She’s all grumpy and rude, this was like one of those old buddy cop movies where that put two people together who have nothing in common. Well maybe it’ll turn out like those films and we’ll get along just fine.

“I thought you were asleep? How did you know I was your....” I said turning to face my partners who were lounging back on that comfy chair they had been in, I stopped in mid-sentence when Ruby sent me a reminder about all the telepathy the RIDEs were capable of. You’d think I’d be more used to this. I began walking up to Gabrielle, but not getting too close. She had this aura of coldness which made me keep my distance

“I first suspected it when I went to work and saw you, it had been just the three of us for awhile. My old partner paid her RIDE off. Pleasant duo they were, when they weren’t trying to get me to be more ladylike. She was a natural Earth Woman you don’t see that too often in these garages. Though yes Craig had informed me Ms. Reverbek. I imagine you stopped in mid-sentence because that queer looking hybrid reminded you. One would assume that you’d be used to all the telepathy that RIDEs are capable of, given that I assume that you have bionic implants as I do.” Gabrielle said with little emotion outside of aggravation. I must say she and Simone should have an accent battle one day. “Follow, I’ll be out and about a lot, so don’t lose your key. I doubt we shall be seeing too much of each other.”

I nodded, as she got up, and beckoned me to follow her to our room. “Alright then...” I said, not sure what else to say, this place looked cozy, but it all seemed spooky that I might be in a hostile environment that’s always telling me what to do. It’s like being back on Earth with a different paint job.

“Now let me make a few things clear, I know you’re new to being female and to this planet. Given what you’ve told me I assume you intend to go native. I will have none of it, do what you want, but leave me out of it. No girls’ nights out, no trying to pair me with boys you think I might like, no talking about our feelings, none of that crap. If it weren’t for Aristo I’d have spent the last six years the way I’ve spent my entire life, I do not like being female, I have no interest in giving it a shot, I don’t want to be shown the ropes, I am not in denial, there is no party girl dying to get out of a cold shell, and please no fabbing sultry gowns for me to try on. Are we perfectly clear Ms. Reverbek?” Gabrielle said, stating the whole thing with the amount of emotion one gives when they’re reading a list outloud. She did not even face me until the very end.

“Crystal.” I said, nodding as Ruby followed behind me. The hallway had red carpeting with golden emblems of tigers in them, the doors had a crystalline quartz-ish appearance to them, the two were perfectly tacky together. The walls and doors were so fancy, but the carpet was so bland. Gabrielle stopped and opened door “413”, the doorknob turning into green wireframes as she touched it.

“Welcome to our humble abode, like I said you will not be seeing much of me. The Fab Fluid here comes out of our salary, so try not to use it often.” Gabrielle said as she defused and stretched. I could hear bones cracking, the loudest one being her spine when she stretched out her long rodent’s tail. “I call first on the shower then I’m going to go back to VR, you may join me if you wish just keep your body image tasteful and incontext to the environment.” She said in that drone monotone voice. Monotone except for the agony present, just like how I used to talk before Ruby fixed me. Gabrielle was a very beautiful woman under the armor, she looked mid twenties and had long black hair that flowed in what seemed to be slow motion. The hair made her adorable light colored mousey ears stand out more. Her face was fair and actually very cute, almost childlike, her constant scowl I could tell was meant to be intimidating, but it only served to make me want to hug her. I couldn’t quite place my roommate’s ethnicity, her skin was orangish sort of, she could be mexican, middle-eastern, or mixed. Well I could tell she wasn’t mixed, a lot of people on Earth were, but she could pass for it. Now as for her figure, the guys would be all over her. It wasn’t exaggerated to the extent that Simone’s was, but you only see women like this in the comics. Let me put it like this Gabrielle’s figure was like Power Girl, Simone’s is like a caricature of Power Girl. Gabrielle was dressed mostly the same as she was before, very tomboyish. She could almost pass for a man in the Fuser, somehow it made her body far less obvious, even then that’s only if someone was blind in one eye and their bionic other eye was on the fritz, but like this.... I’d be picking my jaw off the floor if I hadn’t seen a PSA Skunk in action the day before.

“I... uhh.. I don’t know what to say.” I said, I really didn’t. Well I guess I’m a lesbian, or, at least bisexaul because, yowza!

“Keep it to yourself.” Gabrielle said as she walked to the shower room in her American Kirby Shirt (The difference was that Japanese Kirby was adorable, big Japanese Kirby fan here) and loose fitting jeans.

I sat down on the recharging couch, Ruby joined me being a non-organic she was the one who needed its effects. The Bat-Porcupine was snuggling in my lap as I began to pet her, being careful of the sharp spikes. It was a shame Ruby didn’t have hardlight, I could tell she enjoyed this, but she was very cold to the touch. “Do you think Cindi meant it? That I’ll, sorry, that we’ll be here for fifty years.” I asked

“Yeah baby, but don’t worry, I’m going to think of something. You don’t need to be rotting in this mess.” Ruby said to me as she looked up and smiled. It was weird, she was more porcupine than bat, but I was more bat than porcupine. I wonder what other kinks Ruby needed working out. Ruby was priceless to me from an emotional standpoint, but as far as monetary value goes she couldn’t have been worth much. Ugh, monetary value on a living sentient creature, it’s revolting!

“Maybe we can invent something new, maybe he’ll pay off the contract for it?” I suggested, though admittedly, I wasn’t sure what I could build or what I could feasibly make that he’d want.

“Well that’s certainly an idea baby, just stay positive we’ll get through this. Oh lord I hope we do.” Ruby tried to comfort me, but she was clearly plenty scared herself. I don’t blame her.

I sat and patted her on the head, looking over the room. It was small and the living room was fused with the kitchen with only three other doors. I assumed two of them lead to the bedrooms and the one that Gabrielle went into lead towards the bath. The steam pouring from the open door made it obvious. This room was very simple, outside of the Food Fabber, a table infront of the couch that seemed good for little more than putting your feet up, and the recharging couch there wasn’t much too it, not even a TV. It felt like a prison, or at least a very cheap motel. The Food Fabber looked ancient, its front was even covered in duct tape.

“So.. what’s been happening with you?” I heard a meek voice call out. I looked downward in confsion it was Gabrielle’s RIDE, an albino rat with yellowish fur the size of a fox asked. I had entirely forgotten she was in the room. Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.

I looked down, laughing to myself. “Oh hey forgot you were there. What’s your name again little girl?” I have heard in most of Zharus, Rider and RIDE can be so closely attached that it’s hard to imagine the two apart. Casey so far had seemed tacked on and not present, maybe it was because I didn’t know her very well.

“I wasn’t really talking to you, I was talking to Ruby, but my name is Cassandra. Everyone calls me Casey though.” Casey said meekly, looking around the room before burying her snout in the carpet. “It’s cause my RI is male..... Might not even be a rat, my Nature Range is just messy, so’s my VR Really. A shame, Gabe loves him some VR. He’s on it all the time.”

“I see...” I said, not sure what to think. A male RI in a female DE? A MACHINE going through what I want through? That’s just cruel, there’s no reason for a being to be designed like this. I always wondered why it happened to me, but at least then I could blame some higher power or just my bad luck. This was different, someone would need to through negligence or straight up abuse do this. Actually that’s still higher power or bad luck, huh, guess it’s not different. “Do you know why this happened?”

“Not really, I just booted up like this. I feel really bad about it though. I don’t wanna be a girl, it’s so, degrading. And well... it causes problems with my gender therapy nanites.” Casey said, burying her face again. “It doesn’t change the Gender Identity of any men who try fusing with me. They feel just as bad as I do. I didn’t even want to fuse with Gabriel. I knew what would happen, but Aristo said I HAD to! I can’t tell him no! You know what he does to RIDEs! The only reason he doesn’t do those kinds of things with humans is the legal issues.”

“You poor thing!” I cried, raising my voice, reaching the slightest bit to a screech, but not too too much. “You get up here now, someone needs to be petted!”

Casey jumped onto the couch and I patted her on the head. “Umm, okay, thanks... Uhh, listen I’d like to have a private conversation with my friend. No offense or anything, but you’re kind of a third wheel. That is if you don’t mind leaving the room or...”

“Or maybe you can fuse with me and I can see how Gabriel and you meet?” I suggested, being quite curious. “I mean umm, I was in a situation like yours recently and... well if I see what’s in your head. I can maybe try to help you two?” It was worth a shot, maybe things would be easier if I could get her to open up a little. Well I wouldn’t be automatically out of this place, but it would be more pleasant with a friend.

“No... Gabriel would be angry with me... Besides, I don’t think I could, your body is, too weird. If you haven’t had time to cooldown another major change won’t be good for you. It’s the same principle behind the gender thing. I mean, if you didn’t have wing hands I probably could just....poof, you’re a rat girl. You know?” Casey said, shivering, but giving into to my wing as I pet you.

I was about to say something when Ruby interupted me. “Baby you’ve got a video call from Simone. Says the Virtual Connection’s not working. Why don’t you talk with her while me and Casey catch up.” I nodded and she melted into a silver goo, covered my body, and began to answer the video call.

“Probably Aristo’s doing. I’m amazed that even a video call could be made, there’s a censor that catches your emails. It’s so workers can’t report this place to anyone really.” Casey said, the last thing I heard her, or I guess him say before I was inside Ruby’s mainframe in front of a video screen of Simone at The Wrench Of Paris. “Bonjour Paula, I tried to contact you earlier but there’s some kind of disturbance. Your father told me what happened, she had to hold your mother back from slapping me senseless” Simone said with her usual thick french accent, but a much better grasp on the english language than usual. “The only way I can even reach a connection outside of text based email is by using Lucille as a camera.”

“Bonjour Paula!!” Sang forward a higher pitched voice with all the energy of a drunken teenager. The camera image jumped around a bit and a skunk paw reaching outward in an awkward little wave. This was Lucille.

Simone’s bosom was much larger than it usually way, actually it was literally big enough to balance an extra large Pizza Hut pizza on it. The box was open and she was grabbing a slice. Her back was hunched against a wall and a hand stayed on a nearby table. I could tell she had balance problems, anyone could. “How have you been?”

“Not too bad, but it could be worse I guess. My roommate’s a bit of a dirtbag, and my debt’s apparently really high. At my salary the secretary predicts fifty years. I hate to ask, but is there anything you can do to help me out? I mean, in a way this is kind of well.. your fault.” I didn’t mean to say that. Simone was just trying to help, she didn’t know this would happen.

“Hmm.. I guess in a way it is.” Simone said, wiping some cheese from her mouth. “I’ve been seeing vat I can do. I can’t let my best little mechanic rot away for fifty years. Especially now that she is so adorable. hehehe. Plus yeah, your parents have been rather cross. Your mom more than your dad, your dad is beating himself up mostly...... Paula.. listen to me, I will fix this.”

"Hey! Vous avez promis que je pourrais avoir une tranche. " Lucille barked, I didn’t really understand her. I was mentally able to call forth a menu of settings before me in the form of an old tablet and turned on “French To English Translation”, I then put my finger (My virtual body image was a completely human version of myself.) to the screen, a rewind button appeared as I needed it which I then pressed which caused the screen to rewind through the previous bits of the short conversation to play that last bit back. “Hey! You promised I could have a slice!”

Simone chuckled at me, and she didn’t look too bad doing so. What is it with girls and looking cute when laughing? “I saw that you know. You could have just asked me what she said.”

“RIDEs eat?” I asked, not aware a machine would need too.

“Non, but zey can taste food if you’re fused to them. Fret not lucille, I’m saving the rest for you.” Simone laughed “I just wanted to freak Paula out. Sorry to see it did not work.”

“You already showed me you could grow your breasts at the crossing over.” I said smiling “You’re not gonna catch me off guard with that.”

“Well I tried.” Simone half-shrugged “We did not get to speak much after you crossed. Is it what you wanted? And... Aristo’s not hurting you is he?”

“No, he’s just really loud and it wants me to work a lot. 15 hour work days every day for 50 years? The guy is a maniac.” I said, before catching my breathe. “It’s wonderful being female, I mean people have been bitter and loud, but. Well the fact that everyone’s calling me Ms. Reverbek and well just look at me. I’m like a highschool cutie. It’s even better that I dreamed. I mean that, even with everything else. I’m not imprisoned by Paul anymore, I’m not forced to be something I’m not. It’s just me, true and unfiltered. It’s like I’ve removed a weighted piece of clothing. I feel just like how cisexuals must feel all the time and WOW is this something taken for granted or what. This is.... I’m me...” I couldn’t think of anything else to describe it, the massive weight lifted off my shoulders, the soft embrace of the femme, everything is in its proper place. I mean all I can say is how good I feel, how right I feel, over and over again, but, what else can I say. I’m... Myself, for the first time in my life.

Simone had no idea, she couldn’t know. Simon had become Simone, but she was happy either way. Simone may like being a woman, but she never knew how bad it felt for me to be a man. “Well that’s good, at least that happened. I still can’t get over this though. If only I’d realized that using that old junker, no offense to her, counted as stealing. It shouldn’t if he was just going to throw it away.” Simone sighed, breathing in and out, she was clearly kicking herself. Don’t worry, I’ve been increasing clientele left and right, for some reason I can’t keep the men out, or the girls for that matter. I’m going to speak with a lawyer, and chat with Aristo. Hopefully we can work something out.”

“I hope so, now that I’ve known what it feels like to be alive, I want to live, not waste away in some fake motel.” I complained. “Still, it’s wonderful to hear from you, even if I’m looking at pizza”

“I can send you text based emails just fine. Look for those. I hate to bail on you like this, but Lucille is eyeing the pizza hungrily. Though I bet you could tell.” Simone smirked, it was true, Lucille had mainly zoomed in and kept her focus onto the pizza. “Well, I’m going to speak with that lawyer like I mentioned, I’ve been trying to reach Aristo all day, but I keep getting Shyver who tells me he’s busy.”

“Alright, keep me updated. It was great seeing you again.” I said, hugging the screen.

“That I shall.” Simone stated as she blew a kiss to the screen. “Alright Lucille. Come shrink these puppies and let us dig in.”

“Finally! Farewell Paula!” Lucille shouted, the connection being broken as she began her fusion with Simone.

I woke up to the real world with Ruby using our arms to pet Casey, Ruby assuring her that would be alright, just as she had done for me at least twice today. Gabrielle came out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her body and pressed a few buttons on the fabber. “Bacon Cheeseburger, Onion Rings, Honey Mustard, chocolate milkshake.” She said before walking off into her room and coming out with another tomboyish outfit. This one consisting of a shirt with a Boo from Super Mario Bros. chasing a Raccoon version of gah! It’s that green guy again. Louie right? in addition to some brown cargo pants with a hole for her big thick tail, and began munching on her food. Upon further inspection I noticed she had black sneakers with blue laces, self-tying. I knew this because they were tying themselves right now.

“Going somewhere?” I asked, pointing a wing towards the shoes.

“Out” Gabrielle said looking up from her food briefly and after sipping from the straw on her chocolate shake. “If I don’t come back, I likely won’t ever.” the girl ate fast, I was beginning to worry that she might chew on her own fingers by mistake. Good thing she’s not completely a rat or she might bite one of her fingers off. “Come Casey.” she said as Casey hopped out of my lap and coated around Gabrielle.

“Can I come with? It seems boring around here.” It really did, I hate having nothing to do.

“Just play a VR Game, you’ll get in my way.” Gabrielle said, her breasts shrinking as Casey finished their fusion. “If anyone asks I’ve gone to ask for overtime hours.”

“Where are you really going?” I pondered.

“Out” Gabrielle repeated and out she and Casey were.

I laid down on the couch, staring at the ceiling. “Well, I guess we just wait for Simone then.”

Ruby looked up at the ceiling just as I was doing. I mean of course she was, we were fused. ::Guess so.:: she sent pretending the ceiling was made of stars on a comfortable firelit night. The kind you bring marshmallows too.

“Do you have any episodes of Tokyo Mew Mew?” I asked.

Ruby responded with ::No, but I know where to download them.:: as she did just that and downloaded them. I found the show far more enjoyable now that I was not in complete envy of the cast. I watched it until I fell asleep. Maybe tomorrow will be more exciting.

Together We RIDE
Preceded by: As A Woman I RIDE
Succeeded by: To Dream, We RIDE