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User:Hawl/To Dream, We RIDE

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Together We RIDE Part 3:To Dream, We RIDE

Author: Jessica Kylie Nichols-Vernon aka HawlSera

Gabrielle had no confidence in her heart as she left Paula and Ruby alone with their shared dream. In truth, Gabrielle was beginning to think that the day she left the polity of Supernova would be something she dreamed of, but would never come. The crossrider-against-her-will knew how good it would feel, she simulated perfectly what it would be like to be a man again. How sweet it would feel to be whole once again, to be his own man, to reach down and feel the full girth of his masculinity once again. Only in simulation though, and no matter how wonderful it felt, no matter where in the infinite possibilities that VR offered she went, the reality was that she would always be a slave and she would continue only dreaming of her freedom, lying to herself with these escape plans about how one day she would have things just the way they ought to be and that would be enough to know true bliss. Still, she had to lie to herself about how she left, to feign emotions, a task that was much easier before all the estrogen, otherwise she would submit to this hopelessness. Walking past Cindi, the clerk in the chinchilla RIDE, maintaining record of who was in and who was out of their rooms. Trying to see who was were they were supposed to be and who wasn’t. ::It’s disgusting, she thinks she’s a hotel manager, but she just takes inventory of the human machines for the factory line. Do you think she even realizes the evil that takes place here?:: Gabrielle sent to Casey, as she carefully kept track of Cindi out of their peripheral vision. Fortunately, she was playing a game in VR otherwise she’d ask Gabrielle where she was going.

::It’s just a job.:: Casey sent to Gabrielle meekly. ::I’m sure she doesn’t mean harm.::

::Bah, if that git knew any better she’d be nowhere near here. She should be setting real goals for herself. Doesn’t she realize that every human owned planet’s population is reducing drastically for people to find opportunities here? Damn natives don’t know how good they have it:: Gabrielle sent as she got to the elevator that went to the lower housing levels. Ordinarily it went down and stayed there until Cindi okayed its use, but Gabrielle didn’t need anyone to okay anything for the emergency ladder to take her to the top. ::This will take forever, take over while I review the map of the complex.::

::Alright:: Casey obligated, climbing up, the two on the ladder. ::Do you think we’ll do it this time?::

::Do we ever?:: Gabrielle asked, herself as a male skeletal rat in a pirate outfit looking over an old timey treasure map version of ACE Evolutions as he drank a virtual pint of grog in her virtual captain’s quarters. ::I wouldn’t get your hopes up my animalistic companion.::

About an hour passed until the two were finally at the top. ::We’re here.:: Casey sent, allowing Gabrielle to take control after opening the emergency hatch.

::Excellent work Casey. In retrospect fabbing a grappling hook first might have been a better idea. Flying could have been on option, but then we’d have to re-fuse to grab the ladder and there’s too much room for error. Might risk it next attempt to shave minutes off our time.:: Gabrielle replied, as she walked around for a bit. Keeping a small version of the map in augmented reality, it was a short waltz to the front door from here, but that’s where was most guarded. ::Let me know if you hear any guards:: Gabrielle requested as she carefully walked towards the nearest stairwell, hiding swiftly under the staircase as two people walked down from it.

“So I got a letter from my cousin back on Mars, says she’s not sure if she wants to move here or Wednesday.” Spoke the voice of a male, Gabrielle saw through the space between the stairs that it was a pterodactyl fuser talking to a griffin fuser, the griffin one Gabrielle recognized as a woman named Reluda. “Really hoping she moves here, I don’t think there’s a planet that compares with Zharus.”

“Says you! I’d love to move to Wednesday. I hate it here, nothing makes sense and you’ve got all these crossriders pretending to be real women. I don’t know who I can trust anymore, I mean nothing’s wrong with men, but where I’m from they know their place and let us have ours.” Reluda replied. “How can a girl feel safe if there are MEN passing themselves off as us. I miss Earth, they had the right idea when it came to a lot of things.”

“Is that why you always hang out with me? You think I’m a woman passing myself off as a man?” Pterodactyl asked. “I mean I’m not offended, I’m sad you think that way, but....”

“YES! If you were meant to be a man for real you would have born that way. I don’t see what gives you the right to call yourself a guy if you weren’t born as one.” Reluda replied. “If you wanna play pretend, I guess that’s fine, but... you’re not a real man.”

The pterodactyl just shook his head at her friend. “Reluda, you’re going to make someone cry one of these days.”

::I truly despise her:: Gabrielle thought-spoke to herself.

::If she were meant to be a bird, she would have been born with a beak.:: Casey added. ::Oh, they’re gone. We can move.::

The two guards were quickly out of earshot and sight as Gabrielle and Casey quickly jolted up the stairs, stopping at an emergency fabber kept on a few of the walls in the factory in order to make a few shurikens incase anymore guards showed up as they’d need to be distracted. The shurikens would fly silently and not make much of a sound until they hit their target. Running up the next flight of stairs to a square shaped corridor with many windows, jackpot. Gabrielle noticed a female rhino fuser heading her direction and quickly ducked, down. Aiming a shuriken low and between the rhino’s legs, just as expected she took the bait and charged in the opposite direction, Gabrielle ran to the left and activated Casey’s sniper rifle in order to pierce the glass which shattered after three shots. The rhino and two other fuser guards, a male Arcanine from Pokemon and a female cocker spaniel. ::Now here comes the hard part:: Gabrielle sent to Casey.

The two defused, Gabrielle emptying her supply of shurikens at her pursuers on both sides as Casey went to a hoverboard form. Gabrielle jumped and took off like a rat out of hell. ::Aristo had the right idea making me a hoverboard. They’re just going to follow us and shoot us!:: Casey sounded frightened, as she should be. The other riders were flying after Gabrielle and shooting rapidly. The rodent duo having to resort to some very fancy flying to stay in the air.

::Don’t worry, we’re already half-way across the ocean. The closest city is Aloha, once we make it there the marshals will assist us.:: Gabrielle assured, she was deeply focused, putting all the speed Casey had to offer to the fullest, her rodent hindpaws fastened to the hoverboard whose mini-turret returned fire to their attackers. “Almost, almost. I can see that wonderful dome now.”

::We’re going to make it?:: Casey asked with glee. :We’re really going to make it?!?!::

Much to Gabrielle’s upcoming disappointment the horned bigger gal in the flying tank was having a conversation with her boss. ::She can see Aloha Mr. Enroygall, I’m locked on and ready to fire.::

::Then do it!:: Aristo exclaimed, clasping his flesh hand in his metal one. ::Hehehe, it’s so much more fun when you give them false hope.::

Gabrielle looked back at the tank, flipping it off. “I’m afraid this is where our chase and my pain end.” he taunted, only to be immediately struck a heavy blow by the tank’s missile sending her and Casey spiraling downward to make a huge splash, the two just inches from from shore as they re-fused and swam to it.

The rhino rider was fused up with her accomplices by her side. “I’m sorry Ms. Locke, but Aristo wanted you brought in a certain way.”

“We can live free, away from Supernova. The marshalls would stop him if he found us again.” Gabrielle pleaded, breathing heavily and very shaken from his big full.. “Think about it, would you rather live in freedom or servitude. The answer’s quite clear.”

“Servitude is pretty good when you’re paid like me.” smiled the Arcanine. “It’s only chumps like you the big A enslaves.”

“I should have expected as much.... Casey is too heavily damaged for me to fight you.” Gabrielle scowled, bawling her hands up into fists. She thought of bringing out her pistols, but saw little point in it. “That blast could have killed her! She’ll be lucky if she leaves passive mode by morning.”

“Had to knock her offline, otherwise the Marshalls could have been called.” The rhino fuser informed before defusing and having Gabrielle claim in the tank so she could be flown back to ACE Evolutions.

Gabrielle summoned the pistols once both she and the horned woman were inside, pointing one at the driving rider. “Take me to Aloha or I’ll kill you.”

The incredibly enormous rider’s size hid too well the plasma rifle on her back, the very one she grabbed while pretending to put her hands up. “Do you think you’re the first person to try that trick?”

Gabrielle sighed and sat down. “Just take me back to Supernova.”

______________________________________________________________________________


The next day Paula yawned to herself as she woke up finding herself in a luscious green field surrounded by flowers and plants from various planets. Upon picking up a flower, Paula noticed was a version of her that still had arms instead of wings, but very female. “Where the heck am I? A lot these aren’t Earth flowers, not that I feel like I’m dreaming anymore.” she asked herself. Previously she had been dreaming that she was back on Earth, but this time born as Paula Reverbek in a wealthy family.

::You’re just in virtual baby. Don’t worry. Aristo had us wake up at midnight sharp. You was still sleeping, so I just put you in this garden while I did ya chores.:: called the voice of her RIDE Ruby.

“I’m awake now, do you want me to take over?” Paula asked as she took a huge whiff of a large blue flower that shined like sapphire yet was still completely organic. This flower was one found on Jupiter’s moon Titan, terraforming can sometimes have unexpected effects though Paula had never seen this before and had no clue where it was from.

::That’d be lovely, I have some more catching up to do with Casey.:: Ruby sent, trading places with Paula. Ruby’s avatar being an anthropomorphic bat, with spiked wings on the back instead of for hands.

Paula felt a sense of whiplash as she found herself in Cell 22, working with Bob, Higar, Jason, Wally, Gabrielle, and Casey once again. “Trippy.” she said aloud.

“What is?” Shyver, the Panda Fuser supervising the eight workers, asked, looking in Paula’s direction curiously.

“Oh nothing!” Paula replied working the hooks on her winghands to attack an arm to a kangaroo RIDE in development. “I was just lucid dreaming, then in VR, then here I am! It’s disorientating.”

Shyver nodded, in his grey business suit this nod made him look like the don ordering a hit. “I imagine so. I too am an immigrant from off-world, born on the moon Prometheus. I have lived on Earth too, I was an executive in Aristo’s first company. Once he got exiled to Zharus the new guy who took over for him proved to be incompetent, I lost everything, but, that fool won’t ever know the pleasure of a RIDE. I know how it can be for beginners. I hear the weirdest part for Earthers is sharing your body with someone else, but i never found that to be objectionable.” the foreman admitted. “Probably because I used to be a drunk so I'm used to losing control. I’ve gotten better now thanks to Promethus here. You’ll find there’s nothing you cannot accomplish if you have a RIDE, a whole other you can really help shape things.”

“Personally I liked you better on the alcoholism.” Gabrielle said with the least amount of attitude he’d shown anyone since Paula had known him. The rat-fuser distracted by scanning for any irregularities in the kangaroo’s software. “You were more fun, when you showed up at work drunk instead of being Mr. Business. You drunk is the only one I share a real connection with around here, no offense Casey”

“None taken.” Casey’s voice through Gabrielle’s muzzle said.

“I had a small relapse.” Shyver admitted, closing his eyes and shrugging. “With the big things in the work six months from now I don’t expect to have another.” Shyver shivered, not anticipating what he knew was to go down.

“What happens then?” Bob asked, looking up from where he and Jason were arguing over which tools to use in attaching a leg.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics.” Shyver said sternly. “Just that we’ll have a big contract to fill with Sturmhaven and they don’t cooperate well with me.” He looked around at the busy workers very focused on their job, satisfied that no one had any questions beyond that. “You’re all doing so nicely, I’ve never seen Bob and Jason get along so well. I’m going to sneak off to Uplift for some really good ice cream, who else wants any? My treat.”

“RIDE’s Dream for me!” Jason cheered, flailing his and Wally’s arms, accidentally knocking Bob backwards.

Bob shook his fist at Jason “Watch what you’re doing!”

“Sorry...” Jason looked down at his feet, kicking the non-dust in the well sterilized sell. “I haven’t had Ice Cream with real milk since I was Jasmine!”

“It does sound good, doesn’t it?” Bob smiled at Jason, before looking to Shyver. “Sure I’ll take a scoop of strawberry if they have it.”

“Chocolate Mondae if you’d be so kind.” Gabrielle seemed rather lost in the Kangaroo’s coding to the point where he didn’t even look in Shyver’s direction.

“Uhh... I can’t really hold things very well.” Paula exclaimed, in the middle of trying to prevent from dropping an optic she was in the middle of installing. “Do they have any milkshakes? If so, I’d like, anything fruity that’s not strawberry. I’m allergic to that and peanuts.”

Shyver turned around and began leaving the room. “Okay Prometheus has your orders recorded, I’ll eat mine there so I’ll be a second. You’ve all been rather good today, I’d hate it if you were to ruin that just because I left.” he spoke down to them like children.

Gabrielle wiped her and Casey’s fuzzy hardlight brow. “I was worried he’d never leave, Shyver usually does if we stay on task. Paula, you’re new so I say this for your benefit. We all know the Sturmhaven story is bullshit and Aristo has six months left until he can fuse with Iris.”

“Don’t you mean Cale?” Bob chuckled.

“This is serious Bob!” Gabrielle shouted. “Aristo seems unusually proud of Iris. Do you think he’s finally found a way to Integrate?”

“They’re real?” Paula asked, confused by everyone’s sudden stopping of their work.

“Indeed, my fiance become one sometime before my capture. She’s probably in one of those enclaves, finding herself a new man. One just like her.” Gabrielle’s constant scowl turned into a frown for a brief second, then into burning rage. Balling her RIDE’s paws into fist. “It is just another thing I will kill Aristo for! If he hadn’t have kidnapped me....” she said before exhaling.

“Aristo’s proud of everything!” Bob protested and began to mimic Aristo’s voice which his RIDE Higar allowed him to do so perfectly. “Shyver, come check out this massive log I left in the toilet, only I could have crafted such perfect biowaste.”

“I don’t really know anything about this, but the sooner Shyver hurries with the ice cream the better.” Jason said, licking his lips. “I haven’t had a RIDE’s Dream before, because I haven’t had a RIDE to share it with, well I mean there’s Higar, but, he’s not my RIDE.” Jason giggled, blowing a kiss to Bob’s RIDE.

Bob groaned, and then began fighting his armor as Higar tried to kiss Jason on the cheek. “Aww Jas if you liked that trip to Oil Age Paris, wait till you see what I have planned for our next lucid dream together.”

“I can’t wait!” Jason exclaimed. “Oh yeah, Gabe, I think whatever Aristo’s doing it probably isn’t anything to worry about, Bob’s right Aristo is kind of like that.”

::Damn these accursed hormones of mine, they must be making me paranoid.:: Gabrielle sent to Casey, gritting her incisors. “Well, keep a lookout. Jason.”

Paula looked at Jason and Higar in awe. “I didn’t know Humans and RIDEs dated. That is SO cool! Can you two have kids?”

“They don’t, my RIDE is just crazy.” Bob objected in the middle of making out with Jason, not by choice, but he had given up on fighting Higar’s motions.

“Well... back to work I suppose, I can’t think of anything else worth reporting....” Gabrielle realized no one was paying attention to her and went back to fixing up the KNG(f)-RMR-002 they had been working on.

______________________________________________________________________________


In a special section of ACE Evolutions, Aristo hid away from the world with the few he deemed trustworthy and worked on special projects. There was one RIDE who acted as his secretary when he was here. A triceratops with a heavy heart named Charles. “Aristo, do you value my opinions?” he asked.

“I made you to have opinions worth valuing.” Said the reclusive Aristo, hard at work putting together what appeared to be a small flash drive. “You’re one of the most intelligent RIDEs I’ve ever designed and you’ve put forth great initiative in designing our best selling weapons and RIDE Accessories. What kind of question is this?”

“It’s just, I’ve noticed you often do horrible things to people and I’ve remained silent on the issue for a very long time. I don’t think you should be quite so eager to render harm onto others.” Charles shook his head frowning, suspecting that Aristo would not care what he had to say. Still, the hefty RIDE had to at least try to get through to his master.

“You’re kidding right?” Aristo didn’t sound the least bit moved or concerned as he continued working on his flash drive looking device. “If people can be exploited why should I not exploit them? It was said the meek shall inherit the Earth, thus they have, the whole ball is full of losers on a dying world. I have given you a small sampling of my memory, do you think that proverb holds true?”

“Well no.” Charles looked away from Aristo, to quickly gather his thoughts. “But if you keep using people the way you do...”

“What? What is going to happen? “ Aristo began getting flustered. “The Universe has proven time and time ago that it contains no Justice or Mercy. Do you think some bearded man in the clouds is going to smite me if I don’t give all my money to charity? Of course not, man has ascended far beyond the sky and the only things we have are those we created ourselves. There is no Karma, there is no God, there is no one as powerful as me on Zharus and no other known planet with sarium deposits. Why shouldn’t I use people however I choose?”

“If you hurt people, they feel pain.” Charles stated. “You know how that feels Aristo, you felt pain when you were exiled to Zharus. Do you honestly want other people to have that feeling? You gave yourself Gender Dysphoria once just to see what it felt like, doesn’t it kill you inside to see Gabrielle with it?”

“Charles I’m in no mood for a philosophical debate, especially one that you’ve based entirely from comic books and cartoons from the stupid ages.” Aristo feigned a yawn. “You can either find a way to do something useful, or I can recycle your Drive Extender for an RI that will.”

“As you wish.” Charles walked off to draw up schematics or at least pretend to. The artificial qubitite dinosaur could not help but to be disappointed in his master, he always groaned whenever Aristo hurt someone and was forever powerless to stop it from happening again. He had seen lungs ripped out, people kidnapped, RI Cores put in incompatible DE Chassis, but the one thing he hadn’t seen was Aristo showing any signs of slowing.

Shyver stepped in immediately afterward, he was in his fuser with his normal beanie hat and grey blazer. “Mr. Enroygall, Cell Block 22 is perfectly on task.”

“Did you run up here to tell me that?” Aristo asked, his mind’s focus placed on the flashdrive-like object he had constructed, lifting it up in his metal arm and examining every last detail with his bionic eye’s X-Ray, Zoom, and Record features. “You do know that you could have just sent me that information right? Telepathy has been an ability of humankind for longer than either of us have been alive or did you forget that I had rider nanites AND a bionic brain in my body?”

“Yes I thought I’d get them Ice Cream, and decided I’d check on you to see if you needed anything. Do you sir?” Shyver explained, looking curiously at the item Aristo was holding.

“I’m quite alright Shyver, but if you can get me a mondae with some cotton candy icecream int I’d pay you back for it.” Aristo sounded quite bored.

“Very well, what is it you’re doing by the way?” Shyver asked, look curiously at Aristo’s gadget.

“It’s a Data Interface Normalizer or DIN.” Aristo replied, as he put the finishing touches on the thing. “Integrates require them to access the net and a large portion of their powers. I want to be able to make them easily for when I become one.”

“Is that it? You’ve been in here since the shift ended yesterday. You didn’t even finish your inspection of the cells.” Shyver was very worried, it was normal for Aristo to be focused on a project, but not this unhealthily.

“All I’ve been doing since is just practicing building a DIN from scratch and divining the computer language of our friend Jennifer Ferdinand. I have done this so many times that I can complete the process without using the net or a fabber within ten minutes. I’m going stir-crazy, I need a RIDE, badly. My metal arm and brain don’t do it for me like a RIDE does. I need my fix.” Aristo got flustered as he looked towards an offline tigress RIDE behind his working desk. Iris.

“Sir you realize that crossing too early with as much metal as you have has a very high chance of resulting in your death.” Shyver warned, hoping his employer wasn’t about to try something drastic.

“I know Shyver. I just wish Xhyz hadn’t run away.” Arito said with a hint of annoyance to his voice.

“You could use a back-up while you wait, we do live in a RIDE Factory. So they’re not exactly hard to find, as long as Brubeck’s minerals can be obtained by throwing our MU at him we’ll have RIDEs in abundance.” Shyver suggested, wanting nothing more than Aristo’s happiness.

“You know how high end the RIDEs I make for myself are, and I think we’ve given almost all of them away. I mean except for Charles, but he’s more for thinking than wielding power.” Aristo complained, damning his own pickiness when it comes to what he fuses with. “I’m not that pansy Clint Brubeck who thinks his IDE is good enough, I pity that heir of his, Zane, he won’t amount to anything as long as Clint is his father. Zane’s too much like him, he wouldn’t partner with a RIDE to save his life nor does he have the balls to take what he wants from the world and as long as he has that attitude he’ll never be anything but Clint 2.

“Speaking of though, Clint has been asking a lot of questions about us, he’s begun to think that we’re not quite on the level.” Shyver informed, Aristo who immediately began building another DIN. “He called me this morning and I told him I’d have to speak with you. What should we tell him?”

“Ordinarily I’d remind him how many zeros I put on his checks, but that’s the thing about the Brubecks, they’re goodie-goodies. If he even suspected we weren’t complying with the law 110% he’d never sell to us at any price no matter what his executives say. I swear, anyone who acts that morally uptight in big industry had better watch his back. After all, the people who work for it may be looking for a place to stick a knife. For now though, let’s worry about our own.” Aristo’s mind was moving a mile a minute, a problem to solve is exactly what he needed to end his boredom. “Clint’s a softy, so, we just need to fix our image. When you go into Uplift for the ice cream find a cause for us to support. We’ll just tell old “no-tail” that we really need his minerals because we’re busy with that cause.”

“Yes sir, that’ll be all?” Shyver asked, wanting to ask something else, but trying to put it out of his head. It was a question he wasn’t wanting to think about.

“Indeed, make sure we have a cause we can pretend to support. I don’t care if it involves giving away three million mu worth of RIDEs. We cannot afford to lose this client.” Aristo pounded his metal tiger claw on the table. “Only the highest quality will do around here.”

“Yes sir.” Shyver nodded, and with that he was off to Uplift. The guards waved him by as he walked out the front door and defused to use the skimmer mode of his RIDE. Shyver looked surprisingly human for someone who was in his almost RIDE 30/6, he attributed that to having really top notch nanites that knew when to quit. He did however let it give him bear-like claws in place of fingernails.

It didn’t take long for Shyver and Prometheus to get to good old Uplift, the city where tomorrow meets yesterday. ::Prometheus, keep your ears out for a cause. Even with everyone dying to get here there’s still gotta be something that needs fixing:: Shyver sent, Prometheus nodding in agreement and running off to find such a thing. That panda was very quiet a majority of the time, but Shyver could always read his mood and greatly valued his company.

Shyver walked through the city, admiring the sights and trying to keep in mind the various designs he saw for skimmers, clothing, and weapons. A little bit of plagiarism had the tendency to breed a lot of creativity. The rider knew exactly where he was going, a very long line. In truth the real reason for Shyver’s decision to come here was solely to have some alone time to think or atleast, that’s what he expected.

“Shyver?” A thick french accent called out from behind Shyver who turned to face it, only to find an overbusted skunk fuser in a trashy white outfit that left little to the imagination. “It is you, bonjour, tis just Simon, Simone now.” The skunk fuser smiled, entering a brief pose to show off her beautiful, curvaceous resculpted form. “Lucille and I are are doing wonderful despite being filled with worry about my dear Paula, though we thought we’d drop by Uplift for some Iced Cream to celebrate our shop finally picking up in customers. It’s quite fancy meeting you here. Please, tell me, is Paula okay?”

“Paula is with our most securely looked after cell and is paying off her RIDE as per the agreement.” Shyver said firmly. “Glad you are enjoying your new partner and body.”

“So she is safe?” Simone asked, her voice sincere and heavy. “I have heard terrible things about Supernova. So I am a wee bit concerned. A tiny amount, not my mother tongue for yes.”

“Paula will undergo no harm; I am actually considering terminating her contract and letting her keep Ruby when I take over the factory in six months.” Shyver admitted, letting his discomfort shine through. “It’s not something I’m looking forward to, Aristo’s a true visionary and I just don’t think I can fill his shoes. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about this, but you’re a good start besides I have always kind of liked you.... and since you're the gender I am attracted to now. I could learn to like you even more” Shyver swallowed, he was familiar with the kind of nanites Lucille had for crafting a woman out of a man, he knew that Simone had to look marvelous under that suit.

“Oh Merci” Simone bit her index finger as she gave Shyver a naughty look. “Shyver, if you are wanting to split a mondae with a beautiful woman such as myself, all you had to do was ask.”

“No I mean, I’ve always appreciated how you tend to be there for your workers and their families. Even when they mistreat you. Loyalty from humans is not as common as you might believe, not on this or any other planet.” Shyver smiled at Simone. “I’m really going to miss Aristo when he’s gone.”

“Oh.” Simone said, her accent continuing, many of her th’s sounding like z’s. “Well I come from a large family, we did nothing but look out for one another, but when they betrayed their values and became cyborgs I just couldn’t handle it. How could they be loyal to one another if they couldn’t uphold la family tradition of purity?”

“Some would say you’re betraying it yourself given Lucille and her nanites.” Shyver pointed out, to which Simone seemed defensive. “I know my family would flip out if they saw me and I looked like you.”

“Non! I am nothing like those traitors! So I am a woman now, it is not like I chopped my thingy off to sell for some charity or worse, replace it with something artificial like an oil age transsexual! Non non! It just cheapens yourself to be fake, I would rather be a real woman on Zharus then a robot pretending to be human on Earth.” Simone pouted, very offended at the idea she was a cyborg. “I was a stowaway on le Silverstar, a true Bertrand would rather steal than give up her heart for a favor!” she meant this very literally, her mother had an actual heart made out of gold.

“Your passions control you, just like the demon drink controlled me once. I’d try not giving your inner demons power over you or they will show you what true suffering is.” Shyver advised.

“My apologies. Zharus, she is so good to me, too good for those false Bertrands!” Simone bit down her thumb at the family she felt betrayed her, before taking a deep breath and calming down. “Well that and Lucille says our estrogen is very high, it’s quite different. It’s like my head is moving in several directions and feeling so many things at once, like it’s hard to think on little else but all these new feelings as they blend in so many ways. Even a neutral feeling is so much stronger than what I’m used too.” Simone rubbed her and Lucille’s head like it hurt, though in actuality she felt better than she had in ages.

“I know what you mean, I was a woman when we met remember?” Shyver reminded, it was the second year of his three years as a woman. “Not my cup of tea, but you know what they say here, everyone’s gotta try it at least once.”

“True true, hehehe, a shame you did not find it to your liking.” Simone laughed, jiggling her titanic bosom for fun and emphasis. “I never had gender dysphoria or anything like that, but I’m actually regretting I was not born female, at least a little bit. It feels good being a woman, la shape, la clothes, la attitude, and I must say, being wooed instead of wooing is quite le delight.”

“I find it all very hard to control, and it doesn’t really let you be intimidating.” Shyver gave his two MU on the subject. “It was nice in some ways. I guess. So, you’re staying this sex?”

“Well there is the problem that I am from France. We have always been better lovers than fighters.” Simone laughed, a joke at her own expense. “Wine and cheese, surrender to le nazis! Ohoho... remember though only I can tell that joke. No one but a frenchie has the right to insult France!” she said, looking her flesh body over from a VR mirror inside of Lucille. “~Oooh la la. My dear Shyver, I definitely don’t think we’ll be hearing from boring old Simon again. He was handsome, but what I am does not even compare to being merely handsome.” the woman was in awe of herself, some call it vanity, Simone called it a simple admission of facts.

The line grew shorter over time as Simone and Shyver were glad there were thirty hours in the day. It’d have been nightfall by this time on Earth, but now it was still the middle of the afternoon. Eventually though the two found themselves ready to order. “Well, I’ve got some to go orders for my coworkers, but first I think I’ll have the Lovers’ Fantasy to split with the ladies.” Shyver ordered, gesturing to Simone and Lucille. The Lovers’ Fantasy was a large bowl of ice cream of various flavors overloaded with toppings arranged in heart shapes and meant to be eaten by a couple.

“Oh? I thought you said we weren’t dating.” Simone rose an eyebrow, and gave Shyver a smile that beckoned him to her. ‘ “No, not in the romantic sense, but we are friends to a degree.” Shyver smiled back, though he fought the look his eyes wanted to give. “You just crossed two days ago, that means I owe you a date as per tradition.”

“Escort us to our table misure?” Simone was blushing under Lucille’s faceplate as she offered Shyver her arm.

“With pleasure madame.” Shyver chuckled taking Simone’s arm, he needed this far more than she did. He hadn’t had a break in ages, it was good to relax when you work a lot, even if it’s only for one tub of ice cream.

“So... you know why I’m here, what about you Shyver? Are you a native or? Non you’re not a native, your family wouldn’t care about gender if you were......” Simone asked, leaning forward into Shyver’s eyes.

“I was born on Prometheus, I named my RIDE for my homeworld, it’s not Titan, but there are worse moons for raising a child. I moved to Earth when I was 26, it was a bit of an accident. I was planning to just visit Mars, but the ship got hijacked and was forced to land on Earth.” Shyver explained.

“Oh my!” Simone cried out, listening attentively.

“The pirates who hijacked us were from Ganymede. They kept us hostage for weeks demanding a large number of human organs. I thought I was going to die any day as everyday they didn’t have their demands met, people were killed.” Shyver rubbed his face, his eyes growing wide as he flashed back to cowering in the cargo holds. “This was until I was saved by Aristo and a small team manned by him, he was using the crisis as a chance to test his latest bionic products. Well those bionics worked wonders and I asked if there was anything I could do to repay him and so he hired me for his bionics company. ACE Steel Solutions.”

“Do go on.” Simone said intrigued, thinking back to old news reports she had heard back on Earth. “I think I heard about that hijacking when I was a kid, oh wow... I didn’t realize you were that much older than me.”

“Age is just a number these days.” Shyver commented “No doubt you heard about it, it was a rather infamous event, following which Aristo hired me as test subject. I didn’t care what Aristo did to me in these tests, I had been given my first bout with alcoholism from the shipjacking experience. This worked in his favor as he found me perfect to test his line of VL implants, to see how strong of a connection he could get someone to VL while under the influence. I actually still have the spinal implants.” Shyver removed his shirt to show them still visibly there with his spine being somewhat off.

“Woo! Take it off, take it off!” Simone cheered while clapping. "Mrrowl, you know I've always been husky men."

“As he saw me in VL he noticed that we shared a lot of the same fantasies for what we thought a perfect Earth would be like, so we bonded and eventually he promoted me to his vice president and everything was amazing.” Shyver began reminiscing. “Our favorite simulation in Virtual Life was of a flying citadel, I was the adviser to Aristo the stunning tiger Emperor and everyone else was our subjects. We loved that game, it made us optimistic. We both thought we’d be kings one day. We might have been if it weren’t for the government cracking down on us. Aristo by this point had replaced his entire body, becoming a very metallic tiger themed robot. We hadn’t even started the paint job when he got called before congress, and that was our darkest hour.”

“Oh, oui oui, I think I remember seeing this on TV actually.” Simone nodded. “They demonized Aristo from the starting gate, saying he was a bad influence on the children. Accusing him of trying to bring Virtual Life into Real Life with him actually pushing people to get cyber not as a replacement, but because he thought it was better. Some of my family bought into that trash!”

“Exactly, and it didn’t help that he actually tried to do that. He was always throwing around money to try and legalize body alteration nanites and when that didn’t work he manufactured them illegally and sent them out to people he found in Virtual Life who showed interest. Once he got caught and refused to apologize, he got jail time and so did the people he helped changed. They were mostly gender swaps, atleast the ones who stayed on Earth were. Those who wanted something even more controversial usually snuggled the nanites off the planet and then changed with them.”

Simone blushed remembering when she was a teenager how a weretigress in a virtual life room tried selling her some genderswap nanites. She had to be talked out of buying them by her older brother Pierre! “Makes sense after all, many Zharusian Riders who’ve vacationed on Earth talk about how badly they get treated there for their RIDE Tags. Some even got denied service at restaurants I hear....” Simone was distracted remembering that that were tigress was not alone that day. “Say does Aristo speak French or ever take those nanites to a VL server called PinkBoy and BlueGirl present Malebians and Gayls?”

Shyver stopped for a second and worked his mental implants on an old memory of his. “....Did you ever have the username ‘Effiel Power’ and go back and forth on the idea until your older brother gave you a speech about manhood?”

Simone’s jaw dropped straight to the floor upon hearing that, she had known Shyver for years. “Sacre Bleu! Yes, you were that guy with the Hot Barmaid Avatar! You didn’t understand a word I said, nor I you!”

“Your cute mime babe avatar wasn’t bad.” Shyver commented, not as surprised but still reasonably in slight awe. “I had no idea what your brother was talking about until just now when I replayed the memories with an English Filter. It’s hard to believe you crossed at all with a speech like that.”

“Well... tis a shame you weren’t at my cross-over party. I, went all out, and for a reason.” Simone looked up at the ceiling, thinking of her brother. “I had been meaning to get a RIDE, I hardly get males in stock and when I do I usually need to sell them right away to pay my bills. Even when I had one to spare, I kept it in stock because of a pre-order from a customer of mine who wanted one for his son, but every time he picked a RIDE up the son returned him saying he wasn’t ready and his dad just kept re-opening the pre-order.”

“Yes, I had a peak at Paula’s file. She didn’t want the Male RIDEs to cure her gender dysphoria, thought it was like giving up on her dream.” Shyver noted, knowing exactly who Simone was talking about.

“I wish she had said she had it earlier. A year of working under me with a body she, or he at the time, hated and at any point I could have helped him.” Simone laid back thinking of her most loyal employee. “She has been like a little brother to me, I consider her the only family I have on Zharus aside from Lucille. If she had given me the slightest clue I would have given her one on le house, one that wasn’t Ruby. I knew Paula would save her, that’s part of why I had her crush Ruby, but I just didn’t realize that Aristo would kidnap her like that.”

Shyver felt guilty, he was after all the one who took Paula away and without making any effort to convince Aristo otherwise. True Shyver knew a haunting secret about Ruby that Aristo didn’t want getting out, but still, he could have made a bigger effort. Simon had always been Shyver’s friend, it had been Shyver who convinced Aristo into renting him the Wrench of Paris. All he could think to do was get up and hug Simone close. “...I’m sorry I took her away....”

“You were following orders Shyver...” Simone leaned into Shyver’s big strong arms, she fancied him for being cute even before she was a woman. “Just make sure she gets treated well and let me have direct contact with her at all times. I know how she can be and with all those hormones in her body that doesn’t help the situation.”

Shyver nodded, stroking Simone’s fur. “Tell me more about your crossing and Pierre.” He said, wanting to get the subject changed.

“Well as I was saying I considered a female, heck, you brought it up when we were drinking one night! As I said then, my brother raised me to be a man. Everything I know about masculinity, I learned from him. It just felt like spitting in his face to become a lady. You were there when he asked me not to become a woman, you remember him saying that if I were ever to become a woman he would be ashamed of me for the rest of our lives.” Simone reminded Shyver, her voice became heavy as she continued talking “Because they were soft and did not have honor, only self-respect and the love of their children. Women were called upon to act with courage and strength, with greatness and respect.... he.... I actually stayed in Cape Nord for longer than I should have because it made me think of him. I visit there for a week to check it out and I stayed for my first two Zharusian years!”

Shyver seemed very concerned when Simone got quiet, he wished he knew what she was thinking. If he were a mind reader he would see her recalling that all she’s done since crossing is act like a slut, sure it was only two days, but what two days they were. Simone had lost herself to the pleasures of her RIDE, she even started this date with Shyver off by regretting she was ever born male. The now-woman was having second thoughts about her crossing once again. Shyver couldn’t tell any of that, but he did guess the second thoughts part correctly. “I think if Pierre came to Zharus, he would be happier to see you as a woman, than living with the Patriach.” he re-assured, petting behind Simone’s ears. “Though there must have been something that made you want to cross?”

“I made my party so elaborate and huge so that I could be pressured into crossing, so that it would be considered cowardly of me not too. See I had read on the net about how groups of friends and families who come to Zharus try to make it look like they were forced to crossover so their families don’t judge them. Yet at the same time, I could not appear helpless under any circumstance, so I had a massive party.” Simone didn’t appear to be because of Lucille’s face covering her own, but on the inside of her RIDE she was crying. “And I only did it because of how French Lucille was, it was her default language, she’s really into le culture, she loves to play with my memories, and she has that attitude about her that only true french girls back in Neo-Paris had. It reminded me of Earth, and of Pierre. I came here to get away from him after he became a brain-in-a-jar, but, I cannot deny that despite that I miss him.”

“Would you go back if you could?” Shyver asked, using the net to compare ticket prices to Earth incase she asked for that.

“Non, my life there is over. If I went back my family would just give me a hard time about leaving in le first place. What would I even do back there? Everything I love about Zharus is not waiting for me back home, but everything I love about home, is not here on Zharus.” Simone smiled, it felt good to be honest with herself. “I should send a parcel back there...” she said aloud her after thought. “Maybe a video message with some money... Find some way to convince them that they can get new flesh bodies up here without directly stating it....”

Shyver smiled at the woman in his arms one more time before sitting back in his chair, tiring of the odd pose he was standing in to hold his date “That’s not a bad idea.” He encouraged once he sat back down.

Simone rested her shoulder on the table and her head on her hand. “Though maybe I should wait three years, when Aristo merely mentioned his grandmother fighting for the legalization of gender therapy nanites he was public enemy number five. So, if they see me like this it may discourage them from Zharus.”

“Once he went on his spiel about how man needs to be improved and encouraged to follow his dreams.

Well they saw no choice but to see him forced onto Zharus.” Shyver leaned back in his chair and grrowled angrily at The Earth Empire, the realistic sound being an ability his panda prometheus had granted him. “They also put some idiot in charge of the place that ran Steel Solutions into the ground, they thought I was too close to Aristo to lead the company. I was ruined by that idiot with only enough money left for booze and a one way ticket to Zharus. Aristo had been my idol during my vice president days, and so I thought I’d go find him.”

“That’s quite bromantic.” Simone looked up at Shyver, wondering what his point was in saying that. “So, what happened when you got here?”

“What happened next was.....” Shyver was interrupted by the arrival of a server, a rider in a dairy cow fuser.

“Enjoy you two!” She said, fabbing spoons for Shyver and Simone.

“Sweets just happened darling.” Simone giggled the presence of sweet smelling food left her in a good mood as she started going to town on the ice cream, Shyver eating more slowly as he was a little more wary of brainfreeze. “Sweets always make a girl feel better.”

“Eh well I’ll just get to the point. Had I not met Aristo and come to respect him, I’d probably side with the Government. He was the one who opened my eyes, more because of our friendship than his brilliance!” Shyver summarized, reaching over to Simone’s foot with his own, flirting with a game of footsie. The man was very happy for the invention of Hardlight, Simone’s armored hindpaw felt like an actual anthro foot. “If your family respects you more than they respect their Government, then they won’t mind.”

“...Thank you Shyver.” Simone said, not sure of her emotions. “I don’t know what I think right now really. Maybe I’m just having an estrogen spike. I’ve read that they can cause Cross Riders to do crazy things, especially recent ones.. and well, just look at what Lucille did to me.”

“Sweets just happened darling” Shyver repeated to Simone, quieting the two for the rest of the day. ______________________________________________________________________________

Prometheus had wandered around Uplift for what seemed like hours, he swore he had seen everything in the area, but nothing that needed ACE Evolution’s help. Everywhere he looked, everyone seemed happy and content, businesses were booming, all except for a garage downtown that looked perfect for fixing up RIDEs and Skimmers, however it was still awaiting an owner. This wasn’t of much use to Aristo or Shyver, real estate was a worthy cause and it was in a prime location, but it’s not something he could use to get Clint Brubeck to like ACE.

Prometheus ran away feeling defeated, how could no one in an entire polity have a major problem that could have money thrown at it. As he retreated back to Shyver he decided to check the net one more time. He noticed Sturmhaven needed more medical professionals specializing in men’s health, but given that Clint was male he likely wouldn’t have the biggest heart towards helping Sturmhaven nor would Sturmhaven toward receiving help from males. He noticed Roger Seaford the creator of FreeRIDE was looking to be hired, but helping one person doesn’t sway anyone. This was getting very tedious. Oh well maybe they could donate to Rodinia or something. Wait! Finally, an article was found in an online newsource a small time one called “Skimming For The Facts” “Alpha Wolf strikes Cape Nord, Patriarch officials offer reward for the remnants of wanted terrorist.”, another in CNN-Fox “Sturmhaven Harpies may be in league with Alpha Wolf.”, and one more from the Onion News Network “Wolves prove stronger than well maintained military defense, Sturmhaven and Cape Nord react by trading Mission Statements.” not just these, but several other newsgroups were talking about the wolf terrorist as well. Jackpot! ______________________________________________________________________________

Back at Cell 22, the eight workers, four humans and four RIDEs, were hard at work. All except for Paula who sat down and starting moping. “Don’t we get a lunch break or something? I can’t keep this up, we’ve put together at least eight RIDEs and there’s still no sign of Shyver.”

“Try twelve.” Bob said, giving Paula the evil eye. “Not all of us were sleeping late.”

“I fixed RIDEs for a living back in Venars and it was never this tiring.” Paula complained, folding her wings around herself. “I can’t keep doing this for the next fifty years, I mean I know I told myself I’d do anything to be a girl, but... Really?”

“Stop messing around Paula, the doors are sealed for everyone but the supervisor until it’s 15 and an alarm sounds if there’s too much inactivity. There’s only three hours left provided there’s no overtime.” Gabrielle advised, muttering under her breath not liking to admit this to the others. “At least you want your gender....”

“Look Paula, you’re worn out let me take over and you go into virtual.” Ruby offered, taking over the body as Paula once again found herself in the garden, laying down and panting. Not realizing her virtual body can’t be fatigued unless she wills it.

“You know, I never did appreciate Virtual enough when I was a boy.” Paula said to herself.

“I was addicted to virtual life.” Spoke a male version of Gabrielle’s voice as he as an anthro rat skeleton approached her. “You aren’t used to the RIDE-Human swap out. You do realize you’re sharing yourself with Ruby and vice versa right?”

“Gabe?” Paula asked dumbfounded. “What are you doing in my RIDE as a skeleton?”

“This virtual plane is not closed off and is infact quite open. I just did so for you to prevent anyone else from sneaking in. For a RIDE Mechanic you are clueless.” Gabriel said sitting down next to Paula.

“What are you doing here though? I thought you didn’t like me.” Paula asked as she calmy stared up into the clouds, smiling as she made out various shapes including a mermaid and Freakazoid from that really old cartoon of the same name.

“I don’t, but it’s obvious that you’re only a child and if you are going to be my roommate, I’ve got to get you better under control. Imagine if you did the screaming thing you did the other night in here, you could fry a RIDE’s brain.” Gabriel warned. “If I have to come in here and baby you then it’s what I have to do. Me, Bob, and Jason have been planning our escape for years. You just accidentally joined the team, and it’s only as strong as the weakest link.”

“You told me to leave you alone last night.” Paula pointed out. “Oooh, that cloud looks like a walrus.”

“True, but I didn’t take Bob and Jason with me either, I was trying to escape. It’s far too dangerous. I know Aristo will never bring himself to kill me, everyone else I’m not so sure about.” Gabriel said to Paula. “Besides, I may not like you, but Casey does. She didn’t say anything, but I have access to her memories. She’s glad you gave Ruby a partner.”

“That’s really flatter, but then how do me and the other two get out if only you can escape?” Paula asked

“I return with reinforcements, I’m a missing person, if I say Aristo kidnapped me that’s all I need.” Gabrielle said bluntly, beginning to look at clouds himself. “Plus I.... forget it.... the clouds really are lovely aren’t they?”

“I almost forget they aren’t real, RIDE VR’s a lot more potent than my brain implants, and even then I didn’t use VR for much, just a chatroom or two and some pinball.” Paula smiled, breathing in some fresh air. “I could just live in here.”

“You have the ability to go anywhere or time you can imagine, take any form, and you used it for pinball?” Gabriel looked into Paula’s eyes with deep worry.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Paula began leaning away from Gabriel from the discomfort of his gaze.

“Because I’m very terrified of what I see.” Gabriel did not break from his stare. “Paula, have you ever been on any adventures or the like? Tried out exotic bodies to see what they feel like?”

“Well no.... all I’ve wanted to be is a girl, and if I was just pretending then why bother?” Paula asked, getting up and teary eyed. “Why torment yourself with a fantasy if you can’t ever lay hands on it? Why not just accept that there are things you want, but can never have! I told myself I wanted to at least dream of being a girl, but dreams end, that’s why I never installed lucid dreaming. Why dream about something amazing when you’re just going to wake up?”

“That’s the whole point of a Fantasy! To lay hands on the intangible and truly wield it so that it may shape your dreams and allow you and your ambitions to take flight.” Gabriel exclaimed, stand and raising a boney paw dramatically.

“I can already fly, in fact most people can already fly.” Paula jumped into the air and took flight. “I don’t need virtual for that. I also have my greatest wish. I’m a real girl, genetics, naughty bits, breasts, voice, fertility. Sounds like your fancy fantasy is pointless. Just like I said.”

“It was a metaphor, perhaps one that’s outdated nowadays, especially on this planet, but tell me. Why did scientists ever give man the ability to fly in the first place?” Gabriel asked.

“Because flying is cool, it’s also very convenient and very relieving. You don’t find yourself bound by the things you used to be. You can just take off.” Paula rolled her eyes and proceeded to do a barrel roll. “That’s a pretty dumb question. Who wouldn’t want to soar through the sky?”

“How did they know flying was such a great thing if they didn’t have this as a reality? I’ll tell you, humans looked at birds and said ‘Hey wouldn’t it be cool if we could do that too?’ now in the present, because the past had that dream, a human flying is about as impressive as a human walking.” Gabriel cheered, he couldn’t fly himself and honestly didn’t know many people who could outside of their RIDE’s skimmers, but surely Paula could not deny his point. “Why would you want to be as ordinary as a girl who can fly?”

“Why are you telling me all this?” Paula asked, Gabriel didn’t know why, but she seemed to be very defensive about her refusal to dream.

“Because in our darkest times, dreams are all we have to convince us of a brighter tomorrow. If I didn’t dream, I’d still be on Earth accepting the ‘reality’ of dying horribly in a world way past its expiration date.” Gabriel flew up to Paula. “Would you be here if you or your family didn’t have the same dream?”

“.....True....” Paula scratched the back of her head, finding arguing with Gabriel difficult. “And because of that dream I’m how I want to be.”

“Yes you are. Don’t stop there or there becomes a limit to what you can overcome.” Gabriel warned.

“You dream of your gender dysphoria being cured don’t you?” Paula asked, frowning a little. Recalling the feeling of being a man, the foul poison that drowned her female structured brain, the appropriate fit of her own body. “Oh gosh of course you do. That wrongness, the feeling that nothing about you is right.... consumed by the envy of what should be your own sex.” it was rather fortunate for Ruby that Paula’s body was numbed to help her rest or she’d be in the middle of another outbreak.

Gabriel paused for a moment, looking rather uncomfortable. “I don’t have that ailment.’

“You know Casey told me!” Paula yelled

“I can be a man or a woman. There’s nothing wrong with being... curvy and having... breasts.” Gabriel zoned out for a second, his avatar turning. “I don’t have a gender problem Paula, I feel perfectly fine.”

“Are you sure?” Paula asked

“OF COURSE I’M SURE!” Gabrielle screamed, mentally kicking herself before trying to speak again. “The topic of gender isn’t something I wish to talk about. Just... take full advantage of your VR. I... I gotta go.”

With that Gabrielle left Ruby’s Virtual Space and went back to work. Grumbling in the real world as she turn to Bob and Jason. “You two, give the Kangaroo’s RI Core an update on our progress and get her opinion on this body.”

Bob turned to Jason looking pretty grumpy himself. “You heard her.” he said bitterly.

Jason nodded and went virtual, logging into the cell’s Nature Range where all the RIs whose bodies weren’t yet finished by the eight person team were kept. Jason enjoyed this a lot as he found fun in being forced into the form of a feral weasel to speak with the hopping kangaroo eagerly expecting her body. (Nature Ranges typically have a strict no humans rule) Bob, Higar, Casey, Wally, Ruby and Gabrielle began waiting for Jason to return as they looked things over for any obvious faults. Not seeing any.

“Alright as long as KNG(f) sees nothing wrong we’ll be ready for a boot.” Gabrielle stated, having defused, taking a seat and beginning to crack her hindpaws to get the aches out of them.

Bob got a little close, giving Gabrielle the same looks a man usually gives a woman when his hormones are excited by her. Outside of the suit Gabrielle was like a Native American Goddess Of Fertility. “You know Gabe, when Shyver takes us to the Tanuki’s Hammer, your drinks are on me.”

“Bob do you take me for a fool? Shyver always gets our drinks because Aristo owns that establishment. Your flirtations aren’t appreciated regardless. I’m a...” Gabrielle refuted, swallowing before she said her next word. “Lesbian.... as such I have no interest in your half-brained attempt to get in my pants.”

“That’s what all the crossers say, especially if they’re from Earth.” Bob smiled, beginning to massage Gabrielle’s shoulders which although she enjoyed, found it to be rather grating on her nerves. “You just need to relax and open up.”

Casey, fire a warning shot.:: Gabrielle sent, pretending not to react to Bob’s advances.

Casey immediately activated her sniper rifle, firing a high caliber shot near Bob’s feet who jumped instinctively. “Jesus Gabe, you could have just told me to piss off!” He said shocked to his core, the adrenaline still with him.

“I did, it’s not my fault you utterly ignored me.” Gabrielle rebutted.

Just then Shyver walked through the door with a cooler he likely fabbed on the way over. “Casey! I know the sound your sniper rifle makes. What the hell is wrong with you? You know there is a mandate requiring no use of weapons in this room.”

“I was wondering when you were going to return, do not be mad at the rat. Casey fired a warning shot on my orders.” Gabrielle explained to the panda fuser as he began to hand Bob his ice cream.

“Alright then, no punishment, I know how Mr. Roberto can be.” Shyver assured Gabrielle, handing her the chocolate mondae she ordered before turning to scold Bob. “Bob, you know that kind of behavior puts our gender to shame, not to mention it’s very unprofessional. Do we need to give you the Sturmhaven treatment? That’s the third complaint of sexual harassment this week.”

“Look Shyv, it’s not what I am it’s who I am. I’m a ladies man and I’ve been having a bit of a hard time getting some action being cooped up in here.” Bob complained, having grown much too tired of virtual women and being cramped up in this prison of Aristo’s design.

“Well, man up son. Step up on your game, I know you’re only eight years old, but you can do better.” Shyver chastised Bob, before sighing in disappointment. “It seems neither one of you has reached any form of mental maturity yet... I’ll have to discuss that with Aristo. Well, anyway, how are we on the Kangaroo, you people shouldn’t be standing around.”

Gabrielle sighed, swallowing a bite from her frozen treat, getting ready to explain yet another thing to her supervisor without having a rather unladylike mouth full of food. “Paula’s taking a breather in virtual and Jason was sent into the nature range to speak with the RI this DE is for. We’re waiting for them to get back.”

Shyver shook his head no. “Consider Ms. Reverbek’s breather officially ended. As for you two, you know better than to send Jason into the nature range, he gets lost very easily. When I step out to get ice cream for my staff, I expect them to atleast have the kindness to show me the resepct I show them.” he didn’t listen to Gabrielle or Jason’s responses as he hurried over to virtual.

Paula was practicing flying in a superheroine outfit, the 1990’s one dawned by Rogue of the X-Men. “Whoopee!” she called out as she did a loop-de-loop in the air. Though her RIDE had the capability for non-vehicle form flight it wasn’t something she got to practice often, so she had taken Gabrielle’s advice and decided to dream by reliving the moments she kissed the sky very shortly after Paul Reverbek was at last no longer around to haunt the poor girl. “Ruby, how are things outside? Do you need me to take over again? After another lap around the world...” she called out excitedly. Not noticing Shyver phasing into existence just a few hundred yards below her.

“Ruby, will be continuing your job as I send you on another.” Shyver scolded as Paula landed, Shyver having thrown his voice upward as only one could in a digital world, his avatar looked like he did in real life outside of his fuser. Though this was merely the one he used when working with the staff for the sake of professionalism, he had a few others for on his own time. “This is your job, not funday at the arcade. Ruby, this is Shyver. Open a door to the ACE Evolutions Shared Cloud Nature Range of Cell 22. Password ‘Outside The Rat’s Cage’”

“I haven’t given Paula the tutorial on that yet sir. Are you sure?” Ruby asked, fearing not for Paula’s safety, but for her ability to maneuver in the Nature Range. “She aint used to adjusting to new bodies. So I worry her mobility might be a little limited.”

“No time to learn like the present.” Shyver informed before turning to Paula. “I can tell by your expression you have no idea what is going on. To put it simply you will be going into a server where we keep RIs who have yet to be properly booted and maneuvering inside a program called ‘Nature Range’ to find Jason and the unnamed kangaroo you’ve been working on.” Shyver debriefed quickly. A picture of a weasel and a kangaroo, both feral animals even the weasel labeled jason, appeared in midair.

“That’s just an ordinary weasel.” Paula pointed out, looking over the picture labeled Jason.

“Your icecream is in the cooler, when you are finished you may have it. Ruby can run a tutorial for you.” Shyver said, not explaining what the nature range would do to her, only temporarily of course. He had assumed that the adult-turned-teenager would find out soon enough. “I have a business meeting with Mr. Enroygall, enjoy your first time in our private jungles... oh and before I forget. Ms. Bertrand... Simone, wished for me to tell you hello on her behalf, she’s been given special permission to contact you directly due to her past years of wonderful service to our company. Now excuse me, I really should go.”

“Where did you see Simo...” Paula was about to ask, but Shyver vanished before she could finish asking. “Ruby, call Simone please.” she said looking upward at the sky, instead of an answer a big metal door appeared out of nowhere, resembling the blast doors of the trade federation ship of Star Wars Episode 1.

“In a second baby, let me get the Nature Range loaded first and I’ll enable audio.” Ruby’s voice replied. “Now just a warning hon, but once you enter the Nature Range you are going to have to take the form of a feral animal, since you’re using me to go into it you’ll default to bat.”

“And not porcubat?” Paula asked, looking at the door confused, seeing it open. On the other side there was a dark cavern and peaking out of it was a thick forest. “Why can’t I just be human in it?”

“It’s easier to simulate bats than hybrids, besides I’m more of a bat, the spikes are more for flare. I could take them or leave them. To answer your other question baby it’s a simulation of the wilderness, we RIDEs are very much the animals we appear to be and we need time to reflect that. It would ruin the illusion if humans could just run about the place. The AI animals aren’t even programmed to recognize humans anyway.” Ruby informed. “I got Simone on audio, she can walk you through it or the tutorial whichever you prefer. Shyver brought out the next DE while you go find the RI for the kangaroo. So I’ll be working on that”

Paula nodded slowly, poking a finger through the portal which instantly became the tip of a small batwing. “Weird... I.. I’m not sure I’m up for this...” Paula said to herself.

“Don’t worry Paula my dear. Le nature range is a little spooky, but it’s nothing to be afraid of.” Spoke forward the heavily accented voice of Simone. “I’m here with you darling.”

“But, how am I supposed to do anything in there, I’ll be blind once I enter.” Paula objected. “..not to mention, tiny, I’m not sure I’m up for that Simon.”

“Non non non, that name does not much l'esprit des Zharus, we are not men anymore. I don’t talk to you like you are one, do not talk to me like I am one.” Simone said playfully, putting her discussion with Shyver out of her head, though more for Paula’s sake than her own. Simone did not think Paula would understand what Simone’s breakdown was about and thought it best regardless to encourage her assistant to think like a woman and a Zharusian, both of which Paula did little to attempt. “I do not fully expect that I will ever be one again outside of a few unlikely circumstances, but even then I’d have to give up Lucille.”

“Wait, so... you’ve.. you’re... you’ve gone native? I thought this was like a game to you.” Paula seemed a tad surprised, she had believed that it was just fun to her, that she was still a man at heart. Sure she saw how Simone threw herself into the bliss of femininity, but she could have sworn it was just apart of Simone’s fun loving personality and not an actual re-defining of herself.

“If you are not thinking like a Zharusian, then life on this planet won’t be fun. Zharus, she is like Neo Paris in a way, there are not as many inhibitions. Do things even if they’re weird or frightening, because they are also fun!” Simone assured Paula while trying to work up her own courage. “Lucille is not my pet, she is my partner. I have agreed to let my manhood be all in le past so that we can work as one. Right now your co-workers are your partners. Your sacrifice for the wonders of this world are not as permanent as mine, so do not spit in my face.”

“What do you mean by sacrifice?” Paula asked, having no clue what Simone was even saying. “It’s not really a sacrifice if I go into the Nature Range. I mean it’s virtual and can’t hurt me right?”

“I gave up my family and entire gender identity for this world, you have to work for Aristo for a short period of time. You not only kept your family, but you became even more your gender than you arrived. So do not write me off as senile, I know what I’m talking about.” Simone explained, feeling her inner-Simon through this assertiveness. “I tried something new and scary and loved it! You need the courage to do the same, by your own admission this can’t hurt you. So why not?”

“Yeah, but you have fun as a woman! I’m not going in there to be some flying rat!” Paula objected angrily, before adding in an apologetic tone. “No offense Ruby.”

“None taken hon.” Ruby responded her voice sounded off and very distracted as she was working on a DE in the real world at the time.

“I did not know that I would, remember that I kept her under a tarp? My crossover party was so big and in your face because I needed the pressure of a grand event to actually go through with it. I was a proud man Paula. I never would have done it if Lucille didn’t remind me so much of France. I still miss her sometimes, le country of love, even with how bad le Earth Government has gotten. To become a woman would have been an insult to my honor back there and that’s not a fear that dies easily, I wouldn’t even be caught wearing women’s undergarments not even when some of my boyfriends asked me too. So, to become one, do you have any idea how big that was for me? Do you realize how much false bravado I had to muster up? Now I’m going to be one for le rest of my life and I couldn’t be happier because I am honored to share my womanhood with someone I truly connect with. And you know what? If there was a patch that let me return to being a man and continue operating with Lucille without crossing over, I wouldn’t take it.” Simone ranted for a bit, she wished she hadn’t got herself worked up. Her rant was half lying to herself half-whining, Paula swore her friend would start crying any second..

“Simone, are you upset?” Paula asked, not one to wish sadness upon even her enemies.

“Non, it’s these hormones. They make you do funny things, and now, I am crying tears of joy, I’m glad I crossrode with my partner. What I am saying is, Paula, you have to be willing to try new things. You may find you enjoy them, turning into a flying batty is a fantasy for some people.” Simone cheered her friend into the Nature Range portal, catching herself before she really spilled her heart out to Paula. Something that would have only ended in disaster.

Paula nodded and stepped through instantly finding herself on the ground of the dark cave, trying to get used to this strange new shape. Paula was a small black bat, not brown like Ruby, most likely a way for friends of Rider and RIDE to tell the two apart. ::I’m a bat....:: she sent to Simone. ::I... this doesn’t feel as alien to me as my male body did, but..:: Paula flapped her wings, screeching a little. ::It’s still so, strange...::

“This doesn’t feel as alien to you as your birth body?” Simone asked in confusion. “Are you serious?”

::You’ve never had gender dysphoria Simone.. you don’t know what it’s like to be born as someone other than who you really are. It was like wearing an itchy suit that’s way too tight on you all the time and people expect you to act the opposite of how you really are because you’re wearing it and if you try to take it off people yell at you. Only much worse, I don’t think you’ll ever understand how big of a favor you did for me.:: Paula sent, her voice heavy with difficult feelings as she crawled around, no wanting to chance flying in this darkness. She had mistakenly believed bats were completely blind, but she could make out the light at the cave’s entrance. Currently in the nature range it was daylight out, so it was lucky for her that instincts had not been enabled or she would be snoozing.

::I’m switching to send so that only you may hear me. As I was saying I have had to use Nature Range a few times myself. Oh, I’ve tried it as a dozen animals. Non non non, I always end up missing my hands..:: Simone admitted to her friend. ::It does have its fun moments though.::

::You weren’t going to tell me that until after I stepped in were you?:: Paula asked, shivering, looking up in vain. Unable to see a thing in this cold and at the same time somewhat humid cave. :That is SO like you Simon... Simone..::

::Well le complete truth isn’t quite le best motivator for most people to act is it?:: Simone admitted. ::Besides, if you hadn’t walked in, I was going to log into Ruby’s virtual space and push you in.::

::You can do that?:: Paula asked, finding herself to a degree astounded.

::But, of course, I can do a lot of things Paula.:: Simone said in a very calming and reassuring voice. ::Technology gives humans power far beyond our natural capabilities, thus we must treasure it like a truly dear and cherished friend. It is human instinct to use tools, and you must never try to fight your natural instincts.::

::Deep... I guess...:: Paula continued to crawl, it had began to be obvious that this didn’t feel natural. A creature with as much wing power in comparison to the rest of its body should be crawling through the cold, smelly, and guano covered cave floors. She should be flying in the air, but just how could Paula do that if she could not see? She hadn’t a clue, but Simone’s words were beginning to dawn on her. ::So... what if I’m not human right now? What then?::

::Then you need to fight half as hard and learn what the rules are.:: Simone responded punctually. ::Come on, I walked your dad through this the day we both crossed. He made a wonderful buck! How do you think he’d feel if his only child couldn’t do something simple her not-so-tech-savvy father can?::

Paula nodded her little head and smiled as much as she could as she let go of her inhibitions. ::Really? Well Okay, here goes nothing... then.. For Dad!:: she said to herself and Simone as she pushed herself off the ground and began to take flight aimlessly in the dark. Traveling towards the light, but at the same time loathing it. It didn’t do her any good to focus on the light. The closer she got the more it was even harder to see, the light was just too bright for the eyes of a cave dweller. Paula was now fully aware that Bats were nocturnal for a reason. What was she to do? Certainly she couldn’t just sleep and wait till nightfall. Shyver was counting on her. That’s when Paula realized she was not a bat, she was a woman in the shape of a bat and thus had to play by the rules of both. ::Ruby, adjust the time on the clock to 28 o’clock or 2800 hours!:: she called out.

However, Paula found that there was no answer. Ruby must have been distracted or... no... Paula wasn’t really in Ruby. Her body was, but her mind was now in ACE’s servers. What was she to do without her precious bat to manipulate reality for her? Simone’s voice burst through Paula’s mind. ::Ruby is your partner, not your maid. If Aristo is not a moron you should have clearance to talk to the program directly and set the timer yourself!:: Simone chastised, even for Paula this amount of forgetfulness was disgusting. The message had been sent straight to her not Ruby, and she was beginning to sound like a drill sergeant.

::Right...:: Paula responded, trying to think really really hard about it being night time. Midnight would be perfect for a bat. 00:00 on the dot! But it wasn’t working, no matter how much she tried forcing it. ::The time won’t change.::

::Ask Paula, ASK! You are yelling if you think too hard about it. Don’t think about it, just do it!:: Simone ordered. ::Oh you silly mademoiselle, how is it that a girl so unadjusted to smiling as yourself doesn’t know anything about Virtual Reality? Do you know nothing of escapism child?::

Paula tried again, her mind calmer as she willed it this time, not thought about, but just focused and just let it happen. It was like she could just see a dimmer switch in her mind and as she pulled it down the dimmer it got. The sunlight became pleasant moonlight, not too dark to see, but not so bright it hurt her eyes. Paula was a very lucky bat that Aristo set the night times to default to being at a full moon as she had very little idea how her sonar actually worked. ::Okay, that worked...... now I just gotta find who I’m looking for... Oh how do I do that? All of the animals look the same out here... Wait... Jason was looking for a Kangaroo, I’ll just check the section for desert wildlife!::

::I noticed it around the shop, you never told me what was wrong and I never put in the thought or even, sad to say, caring about you to ask. Even now I can tell, you’re so stressed Paula, it’s normal for people who are new to Zharus, but I should have realized there was more too it. I think more time in virtual would be good for you.:: Simone suggested as she in real life stepped out of a chair and into the main room of her garage. ::Without any employees I have to hire some more. You sound like you’re starting to get the hang of this. Call me if you need any help.::

Wait, what happened to uhh, who was that goat rider? The one who kept yelling at us?:: Paula asked, she had wanted to ask sooner, but she had decided not too until now. It just never crossed her mind and she had enjoyed her being gone.
She was only temporary help, she was staying with her family and wanted to keep busy when they were away. She had gone back to Sturmhaven a few days ago. Funny story about that place. I’ll share it with you later, I can’t keep my potential employees waiting.:: Simone sent as she walked into a room full of applicants, more than was usual for her store. It seems that party of hers attracted a lot of attention. If her customers became as numerous as these applicants she could start that dream of opening a franchise.

Paula flapped with all her might, she needed to get to the desert zone sooner rather than later. ______________________________________________________________________________

From my heart and from my hand Why don’t people understand My intentions? WEIRD SCIENCE!

The ancient Oingo Boingo song was playing in Aristo’s lab, and Aristo was singing along, seemingly dancing as he had moved onto tuning Iris up a little. The dance would have been less laughable had Aristo knew any masculine dance moves, he had been a woman when he learned to dance and never bothered the male moves. He once knew ballroom dancing on Earth when he had to make public appearances, woo women, and play to a crowd. His at-the-time robotic appearance made him look poor with some crowds and in others he looked like one of those “Virtual Life freaks”, which he was, so he needed every chance to show off that he was of high class and status. It worked to delay his exile for a few more years, as the higher-ups of Earth were practically begging for a way to get one with his head as in the clouds as Aristo to be sent through them where he could be of no problem to them. Here on Zharus he stayed hidden from the world, there was no reason to appease people who he saw beneath them, his mind was focused to see Zharus as his fellow Earth bighshots saw them, a planet full of miserable rejects who they were happy to see go. It was just ingrained into him, so he saw no longer any reason to present himself to them, just use their RIDE technology to further his own ends. So, Aristo only danced now in ways that he found enjoyable, never for anyone else, just for his own enjoyment. It was a true shame that he had so much Earth in him, he would have made a fine Zharusian if only he would open up all the way.

Shyver came in and turned off the music from a tablet desk that Aristo had kept in his lab. The short ceo turned to Shyver with an angered look. “This better be good, you know how much I hate to be disturbed!” Aristo responded bitterly as he swiped the vanilla mondae out of Shyver’s hand and began gobbling down.

“Sir, Promethus has come up with a plan... people are getting more and more scared of Alpha Wolf, shall I make a public announcement that we shall be aiding in attempting his eradication?” Shyver asked, bringing a few blueprints into a 3D Display using the tablet desk. “We have a few Earth Battlebot designs that we could donate to a few cities as an automated defense against Alpha Wolf.”

“You know the old saying, ‘If you’re good at something, never do it for free.’” Aristo said giving a bad Heath Ledger impression as he looked over the blueprints with his ice cream. “Though what you said is the kind of thinking that Clint Brubeck would approve of... but won’t people be suspicious if we just put armed guards everywhere? Even these ones.” he asked, trying out every angle of this plan in his head as he reviewed the battlebots, their design cutely enough inspired by the Bomberman games.

“I’ve already been contacting officials from a few polities, they say as long as we get some marshalls to inspect them and that they will respect their laws and figureheads, such protection is interesting. After the recent attack on Cape Nord people are beginning to get scared of him, especially since the propaganda about him is far scarier that it needs to be.” Shyver commented, loading a short clip showing a giant metropolitan city where RIDEs abuse humans and Alpha Wolf looking down on the whole thing from atop a tower.

“You humans will learn your place as OUR tools, So Sayeth Me!” he snarled before walking towards a captive young girl.

“Let me go, please, my family will do anything!” The frightened teenager screamed, taking small steps away from the deranged lupine. “I don’t want to be a slave!”

Alpha Wolf pounced upon her, a slow-motion close-up of his face showing him to be far more insane looking than he was just seconds ago as he melted into silver goo and formed around the woman. Standing tall as a male wolf fuser. “That’s too bad, you’ll do what I tell you too boy. All humans must learn that this is OUR planet! And we will take it even if we have to see all you pathetic meaties rounded up in a slaughterhouse. So sayeth me!” Alpha Wolf said, readying his weapons systems and firing a missile right at a large globe of Zharus that happened to be in the room. The wolf laughing evilly as it blew up and scattered all over the room.

Aristo had to wipe a tear from his eye from how over the top it was. “Oh how cute, it reminds me of the ‘Virtual Life, Real Consequences’ and ‘My Boyfriend Is A Vixen!’ public service announcements from back home. Oh the gay-bashing transphobia in the latter was so deliciously offensive and centuries out of date it’s hilarious, I feel like re-watching it! Zharusians aren’t used to bullshit from their governments, they must be horrified of this pest” Aristo was practically drooling at how good of a PR opportunity this was for him, and he didn’t even have to say a word to anyone. “Make it happen! We need to cash in on this!”

“Cash in sir?” Shyver seemed confused.

::The boss always has something up his sleeve, you shouldn’t be surprised Shyver.:: Prometheus sent to his wearer who virtually nodded in agreement.

::I know Prometheus, but I was hoping with his retirement coming soon he’d at least try to play this PR Stunt straight. But with all the damages he’s caused already...:: Shyver replied, whilst Aristo rubbed his hands together in delight.

“It’s just like this old Oil Age company called Electronic Arts used to do. We’ll give them our battlebots, but if they want upgrades to make them more efficient, they’ll have to pay far out the ass. We can save money and time by keeping some upgrades in the battlebots and have them just refuse to activate until we’re paid.” Aristo boasted, giggling a little as he turned the movie back to the blueprints and began marking a few features as ‘Premium Content’ to be unusable without payment. “And to make it even richer, we’ll just make copies of Alpha Wolf and his gang, then send them after various towns to make us look more useful.” Aristo cheered, as he began drawing up those schematics, copying them from the far scarier looking Alpha Wolf used in the movie to help the people’s fears be ready for exploitation.

“Didn’t that lead to EA’s eventual demise from massive boycott?” Promethus asked, his voice coming from Shyver’s muzzle. “I hate to get in the way, but we don’t want the people’s fire turned against us.”

“That’s why our Alpha Wolf, codenamed, Smile Dog is going to have to be something special.” Aristo was pulling all the stops as he went to town on these blueprints. “And I want the first attack to be somewhere groundbreaking. Something that makes the saps of Cape Nord look like small potatoes, a town that is so unprepared, yet so useful to Zharus in general..... or maybe I’ll just unleash him on Femizona for my darling sister, no that’s too obvious... and best of all, the whole thing will be just smashing for my greatest venture yet.” Aristo clasped his hands as he looked back at the unconscious Iris. “A two part plan called Project EZ:Neo Galaxy”

“Neo Galaxy...” Shyver asked, this being the first time he’s heard of this plan. “What exactly is that sir?”

“Well, let’s just say it’ll shake the heavens.” Aristo teased as he put the last touches on his schematics. “This is why I’m stepping down Shyver, I need you to be my CEO for the company when I carry out this plan. I won’t be able to give it my full attention and my company will need protection while I’m away from it.”

Shyver blinked, he knew Aristo was mad and he did not like how this sounded. “Sir, I have a bad feeling about this” he said as watched his boss work.

“You let me worry about this, Neo Galaxy will be entirely my plan.” Aristo smiled, grabbing some DE Parts from a nearby fabber to get started on Smile Dog. “I’ve been saving this plan for a while, and with this nickel and dime scheme with my coming Integration I think this will be a cinch. So Shyver, do I have your support as always?”

Shyver swallowed, thinking this to be way out of their league. “Sir I don’t think.....”

::You can’t go along with this Shyver. You know a madman when you see it, with what he’s described so far you know the rest of this can’t be good:: Promethus warned him. ::...Even if he did save your life and give me all these marvelous upgrades... We’ve done morally appalling things before, even kidnapping, blackmail, and property damage, but this Neo Galaxy thing... posting soldiers at our command at all the polises. I don’t think this is wise.::

“I don’t want to have to cut you out of the pie I’m baking.” Aristo warned, noting Shyver’s hesitation. “This is the most shady thing we’ve ever done, but I know you’re not turning into a Brubeck on me.”

“...We’ll be ontop of the charts sir, besides I can’t see this being any worse than that stunt we pulled in Aloha three years ago .” Shyver said without missing a beat. “...Did you enjoy your ice cream?”

“Loved it!” Aristo grinned. “The only thing sweeter will be my victory.”

Shyver nodded. “If you excuse me sir, Cellblock 22 needs me still.”

“Good, keep an eye on all of them, even Ms. Reverbek.” Aristo ordered. “And do not let anyone but me handle the Alpha Wolf imposters, that is between you and I.” ______________________________________________________________________________

Paula had flown to and from every inch of the desert without ever seeing the kangaroo. Of course she couldn’t see that well even with the moonlight, she had been getting the hang of sonar. It was far easier than she thought, she sent a wave at something and it would ping her back with details on what she saw, just like a radar. It was very strange seeing with sound and yet kind of nice to experience something so radically different. ::What I need are directions.... is anyone around?:: Paula thought aloud sending in all directions.

A male voice answered back. ::You’re not another human are you?:: it asked, it sounded quite angry.

::Not at the moment.:: Paula answered, disregarding the emotion of the question. Afterall, this was only Virtual, no reason to be scared.  ::So... I take it you’ve seen one recently?::

::Hey Paula! I found a little doggie in the desert, but he’s not playing very nice... You want to get your paw off me doggie:: Jason’s voice answered.

Paula sent out a ping in their direction to help find them better and found that the coyote was growling at the small weasel that was Jason and as he said, was pinned down by the desert animal. ::Hey you let him go!:: Paula yelled as she fluttered and flapped.

::This guy keeps jumping on my, pulling my ears, and trying to ride me. I’m a RIDE, not someone who gives them out. I don’t much care for this disrespect!:: The coyote said angrily, his voice having a Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry feel to it. ::So I’m going to chew on him for awhile.::

::Not if I have anything to say about it!:: Paula yelled in her thought-speak as she charged at the coyote, who merely bit her and held her in his jaw. ::Hey, ow, I was only trying to get in your face to warn you that I’m human and you have to do what I say!::

::How cute, a bat wants to fight a dog. You don’t have your thumbs or your guns in here punk!:: The coyote bit down hard on Paula, who screeched in agony as blood poured from her. ::What were you thinking was going to happen? That your precious humanity was going to give you some kind of power over me? This is the Nature Range, RIDEs and humans are equals here.::

::I’m... dying....:: Paula shrieked out in a quiet and meek voice. ::I’ve only been a woman for two days... I was supposed to get a second chance.... I was supposed to... be happy... not... die so soon.... if I had to die.. why not when I was a man..... I.. why coyote? Why? I thought you served humans.::

::That’s the kind of thinking that did this:: The coyote bite down harder killing the tiny bat and beginning to feast on the remains as Jason closed his eyes not wanting to see. ::You brought me into this world so that I can be a slave later... That’s why I’m staying in the nature range, and I’ll kill any human who tries to take me out. I live like an animal, I shall rename nameless and free like one.::

Paula re-appeared in mid flight in a new bat body. ::It’s virtual... just not painless...:: she said to herself, feeling like an idiot. ::Look, just let him go. We aren’t after you, we’re after a kangaroo.::

::Ah yes of course, I’m not letting you take her out either. It took some doing to hide her and I’m not letting you take her or any of my friends out of here.:: The coyote responded.

::Oh so that’s why we’ve had to go in ourselves lately, you’re blocking a lot of the Nature Range features! How?:: Jason asked, fully realizing he wasn’t in any real danger and acting accordingly.

Paula began getting shaky, the tension of the situation was rising. She and Jason were powerless to stop a coyote and any RIDE she took with her would just end up in the kangaroo DE. ::How... what do we do know?::

::As long as I’m here, you will never take anyone out of the Nature Range.:: The coyote repeated and bit at Jason, pulling his ear off. To which Jason didn’t seem to mind as he had disabled pain to the coyote’s frustration.

::</noqwiki>You killed me....:: Paula said to the coyote. ::And I just came back, how do I get you out of the way?:: <nowiki>::Bloodthirsty? Oh you humans..You don’t, you don’t have any chassis for me to go into and when you make one I’ll just hide.:: The coyote looked up at Paula and smiled. ::You can still feel pain can’t you?::

Paula tried flying a little higher immediately, but the Coyote just killed her again before she go too fair away. ::Good meal... may I have another::

The bat reappeared, flying away scared. It hurt just as much and the coyote was going to do it again, and he was determined too as he chased Paula, letting Jason go for now. ::No... look.. just stay away from me...::

::Not a chance... you haven’t felt an ounce of the pain I’ve felt. You had it easy, you were born in the luxury of my people’s servitude.:: The coyote barked, Paula instantly stopping where she was, getting eaten one more time, but she didn’t feel the pain of that. She felt a different pain as she flashed back through her childhood.

“Mommy I want long hair like you.” Paula remembered the young Paul say. “It’s so pretty...”

“Now now Paul, you want short hair... you’re a boy, you have to be handsome, not pretty. You don’t want to be pretty that’s for girls.” She remembered this boy’s mom say to him.

“But I like how girls look better!” Paul complained. “I want to be pretty!” This remark earned a slap from his mother.

“Don’t you ever say that again! You’re normal and you want to be handsome!” The mother cried, hugging the child who felt like crying himself, but boys don’t cry. Mom and Dad told him that everyday.

Paula shivered, a tear running down her cheek, in real life too. Ruby noticed it and had no choice but to appear where Paula respawned in the Nature Range. ::WHO MADE MY BABY CRY!?!::

::Hehe, I did. I just told her she was born into luxury, you should realize that too instead of being her pincushion:: The coyote taunted.

::Do you want to see what she born into?!?!:: Ruby responded, folding a wing around a grounded Paula, lost in her memories. The coyote was about to pounce on them both when suddenly the three appeared back in the real world, Paula and Ruby fused together and the coyote somewhere special.

Gabrielle looked towards Ruby and Paula as the two defused. Paula sitting down and crying. “Please mommy... why can’t I be pretty too? Why can’t I just wake up and be like you, like all girls! Why did you give birth to a boy mommy? I don’t want to be a boy... I never wanted that...” Paula babbled as she cried and cried. “I just want to love myself! Like everyone else can!”

Gabrielle shook her head. “That’s lovely Paula, but what the hell happened in there?”

Ruby sighed “Her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is acting up, put her to sleep if she starts screeching.” she advised, pointing to the fabber which was capable of making perfectly good nyquil. “I think it’s getting worse somehow...”

“The estrogen.... she should have worked out her feelings first.... she’s not used to the emotions...” Gabrielle theorized, playing armchair doctor. “Contact with the nature range seems to be radically improving since she came back though, I can actually monitor it again. What happened?:

Paula looked up at Gabrielle with tears in her eyes. “You’re so beautiful... I want to be beautiful too...... gahh.. no... I mean.. sorry I was lost for a second... boot up the kangaroo, and you’ll see. Sorry... he just... I don’t know what’s happening to me.”

Gabrielle sighed, but did so as Paula suggested.

The kangaroo was online, hardlight shining and at full capacity, but something was wrong. Something was very very wrong. The kangaroo spoke, but with a voice of sheer agony and suffering. “....What have you done to me? I feel... I feel...”

Paula smiled and got up in the kangaroo’s face. “This is how I felt when I was born, and everyday since. How do you like it?”

“I hate it, everything feels wrong, like there’s been some kind of mistake. Nothing about this even seems like it should be.... Please.. make it go away... I’ll do whatever you want human.” The kangaroo pleaded, the coyote’s RI was in her. The kangaroo sounded like she was getting ready to go hang herself. “I’m not meant to be female or a marsupial.... Being your slave would be better than this... this... travesty.... Please, please smash me. I don’t want to live anymore.”

“This is what luxury feels like!” Paula yelled in the RIDE’s face. “Now get that kangaroo in here and stop messing up our Nature Range or I’m sending you to my friend Simone with you still in that body, and she’ll hook you up with a pretty pink princess!”

“YOU CAN’T DO THAT! I’ll kill you all before that happens!” The kangaroo responded activating the weapons which... clicked empty as Gabrielle hadn’t enabled them yet nor had she armed them.

“.....I...” Gabrielle frowned and shut off the kangaroo, removing the core from it and without any resistance was able to snatch the one she was looking for and put it in a new core. “I couldn’t bare to watch that......”

“I’m just glad the damn thing works...” Bob shrugged the whole thing off as Gabrielle began testing the Kangaroo’s hand-eye co-ordination.

Shyver came in shortly afterward, seeing the look on Paula’s face and immediately realizing something had to be wrong. “Ruby can you send me her memories please?” Ruby did so and as Shyver looked them over he shook his head. “...I think we’re all done for the day. If you’ll go on ahead and freshen up a bit, I’d like to talk to Paula alone. I’ll take us all to the Tanuki’s Hammer afterward.”

This was good with everyone else who with Shyver’s permission left the room immediately, Gabrielle remembering to turn the RIDE they worked on all day off. Shyver had begun thinking that there was a reason that Paula would not give up Ruby, a reason that made her unfit to be working here. “Look Shyver, I’m fine.... really I am... please don’t fire me and take Ruby away.”

“I’m not doing that, I’d like to send you both back home. Simone seems to really miss you and you just aren’t mentally stable enough, but... I’m still looking through your memories.” Shyver replied. “And this is the last place on Zharus you should be, but I need to talk with Aristo about it.”

“Sorry Shyv, I thought you wanted all of them” Ruby said to Shyver. “I did...” Shyver replied, cringing as he got to the Earth memories. “I’m giving you a few days off while I speak to Aristo... if you don’t want to come to the bar with the others... I understand.”

“No I do, I do... I think a drink may do me some good.” Paula responded. “Th... thanks though...”

“I’ll go talk to him now, tell the others that whatever they want is on my tab.” Shyver sent Paula on her way as he shook his head. “Clones, moochers, and old rivalries are one thing, but children? Aristo... We need to stop.” he said to himself as he left for Aristo’s office for the third time today. ______________________________________________________________________________

“Hey where’s the big guy? You fellas aren’t slacking off are you?” A tanuki fuser who appeared to be some degree of both genders making it hard to pinoit which s/he actually was behind the bar teased. Immediately s/he became serious and looked towards Paula’s direction “Hey, I don’t recognize you two. I’m Thor and inside is my human Mashato.”

“I’m Paula, and on the outside is Ruby, my RIDE.” Paula replied. “Shyver’s got our tab, so... pour me something strong.”

::Now baby, your body has been physically made sixteen years of age, alcohol consumption is heavily unrecco...:: Ruby was sending before she was abruptly interupted.

::Aww shut it:: Paula sent back, in no mood. The memories of her life on Earth as Paul were circling in her head taunting her, teasing her. “I need something to drive the pain away.”

“You got it Paula. How about a Galactic Gargle Blaster?” Thor offered, fetching a few bottles of the liquors needed to mix it up.

“Damn! Are you really just offering her that? She asked for something strong, and your first thought is to give her a Galactic Gargle Blaster?” Bob asked shokced and in sheer surprise.

“Well is it strong?” Paula asked, unsure of what Bob’s reaction meant.

“Allow me to put it this way, it’s heavily based on a beverage from an elden science ficition tome written in the Oil Ages and was never accurately recreated until 2446 using a very powerful liquor discovered on Planet Wednesday mixed with a few chemicals that can only be synthesized on most planets by a licensed doctor, the concoction is not found on Earth because over there it’s just banned outright. It is most faithful to the book’s description of drinking one being very akin to having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick. As such is a very popular choice amongst those who come to Zharus to become thrillseekers” Gabrielle stopped to catch her breathe. “Or to put it simpler terms, I’ll have one too.”

Paula whistled. “I’m not sure I want to drink that now....” she said uncomfortably, sliding the glass over to Gabrielle who pushed it back.

“I know you’re new to the fickle affair of femininity, but just because you have a pussy doesn’t mean you need to be! Paula, if someone pours you a Galactic Gargle Blaster you HAVE to drink it. It is the ultimate dare to one’s honor.” Gabrielle warned. “If you refuse to drink this, I shall never have respect for you.”

“You’ve got to be kidding, it smells like a dead seal that’s been dead for three years and has been sitting out in the sun!” Paula complained.

“She’s not kidding kiddo, people have been banned from this place for refusing.” Thor informed, eyeing Paula with a challenging grin. “Bottoms up!”

They’re just teasing!:: Ruby assured, not wanting Paula to drink the fluid. ::Booze isn’t your thing child....::

Paula looked down at the glass and reached for it, half-following Ruby’s advice and pretending to recall the wing arm situation. “I can’t pick this up... my arms are too misshapen...” it was an excuse, but a workable one.

Thor picked the glass up and held it to Paula’s mouth. “Whenever you’re ready, just give me the word.” she, or he said, Paula had more problems telling than the regulars.

“Well, I don’t plan on getting drunk. Someone’s gotta take care of her when you fools drink her liver out.” Ruby protested as she defused.

“We’ll print her another, Mom....” Thor taunted Ruby as s/he began pouring the contents of it down the scared teenager’s throat. It was the most incredibly foul thing that Paula ever tasted, wanting so bad to gag, but it wouldn’t happen and Thor would not stop pouring until it was gone. “How do you feel?”

“....Horrible, sick, dazed, head-pounding, and with the most awful taste in my mouth..” Paula said as her legs felt heavy and she lost control of her wings which she flailed everywhere, her face began twisting in the goofiest grin. “I LOVE IT!”

“Damn right you do.” Gabrielle responded, chugging her own. Something she had no problems doing even before Casey took away her gag reflex. “It hits you slower than you think... within fifteen minutes you’ll be more smashed than you’ve ever been in your life.”

“I haven’t really been smashed before.....” Paula said, sounding a wee bit concerned.

“How I envy you, one’s first Galactic Gargle Blaster is always their best one, this my dear shall be a night you shan’t soon remember!” Gabrielle assured her.

“Don’t you mean forget?” Paula asked, tilting her head in confusion.”

“I know what I said.” Gabrielle replied ominously. “I’m peckish, how about you obtain for us buffalo wings in abundance whilst you observe the pleasure of a bunch of drunk Riders playing the role of fools.”

“You’ve got it Ms. Locke!” Thor said, pulling some out of a luxury fabber. This one was clearly top of the line, after all, it was a VX98 Zeonized Truesilver Foodmeister Premium Delta. It was feared by the finest chefs on Zharus who dared not cook against it. Luckily for them they rarely if ever had to as its pricetag was very high in the ‘If you have to ask, you can’t afford it!’ Range! It would bankrupt almost anyone who wasn’t a hotshot! If you weren’t a household name, then chances are you weren’t even wealthy enough to do read a Wikipedia article on it! Thus only twenty existed as they were commission based only and a man named Joe Steader had most of them. Which explained why they looked just like Star Trek:Deep Space Nine Food Replicators.

Gabrielle, Jason, and Bob ate to their hearts content as Thor kept them coming. It was good to have Shyver’s tab. “When I finally get free of this place, I’ll miss the wings more than anything else.” Gabrielle commented.

“I hear that, my dad used to always talk about how much he wanted those Foodmeisters.” Bob said, Higar defusing from his human to follow Jason and Wally to the karaoke machine. “Uhh.. alright have fun...” Bob said, not expecting a de-fuse without warning. “I remember how he begged Joe Streader for one when they met this one time. A shame her niece Quinoa went missing, she was so cute... Unless Dad’s memories lie to me.”

“You say that about everyone with a vagina.” Gabrielle complained, elbowing Paula. “So Reverbek?... how do you feel now?”

Paula was shaking, her wings on her head as she got up and fell to the ground where she convulsed for a few seconds. “I... my head.... I feel like it’s being smashed with a lemon wrapped around a brick... just like you said.... It hurts.. but it hurts good.”

“Hehehe... that’s how I feel myself, I just handle it better.” Gabrielle laughed. She got up and began helping Paula up but falling on top of her instead. “Not too much better, but, who would want too.” For the first time since the two met, Paula noted that Gabrielle actually seemed happy. Despite being a seemingly naive girl, Paula was very aware that alcohol did not affect everyone the same one. As such it warmed little Reverbek’s heart to see that Gabrielle reacted to booze almost the same way as Simone. The key difference was the former did not seem to get horny at all, while the latter seemed like they not only wanted booze but something long and phallic stuck in her, or to stick his long and phallic thing in someone else. Depending on when in Simone’s life you happened to meet her.

This however did not stop Bob who tried to make another pass at Gabrielle. “So, you’re all drunk and loosey goosey?”

“Bitch please, I’ll never be THAT drunk, not even with 20 Galactic.. hic...” Gabrielle said drunkenly.

“Gargle something another...” Paula tried to finish, not used to being wasted off her cute little ass.

“I bet I know what Bob wants me to Gargle.” Gabrielle laughed, rubbing her hand against Bob’s chest. Bob smiled at her and began putting his arm around her. Only for Gabrielle to push him away and begin laughing. “I’m a lesbian you nitwit, did I not already inform you I’d never be that inebriated? Ahaha....” The more-than-tipsy tease stopped to throw up, but merely gagged. It seemed that from prolonged fuse with Casey, Gabrielle lost her ability to vomit.

Bob sat in the corner taking the hint and grunting, it was going to be him and the virtual simulation of Ms. Samus Aran again tonight. “She’ll be wearing the Zero Suit to bed... again...” Bob said to himself a little grumpy. “Getting real tired of this.”

Thor looked Bob over and shook their head. “Is sex really that important to you Bob? Maybe you should try settling for some friends? Friends with benefits aren’t that uncommon on this planet.”

“I know, I’m not Terran.” Bob groaned annoyed. “I know this planet better than I know my own parents!” Bob completed his groaning with an annoyed muttering. “Bastards....”

Thor shrugged. “Could have fooled me, I swear you’re just as grumpy as Gabrielle.”

“And Zharusians aren’t allowed to have a bad day? Just get me a beer.” Bob, said. Thor complied, Shyver’s money was as good as it was near infinite. Of course his money came from Aristo who as his name implied was one of the tops of the Fortune 500 so Bob and his co-workers could almost order enough to feed the entire galaxy before he started to notice that his bank account was feeling a hit.

“No, even on this planet shit happens.” A different voice spoke, Mashato’s. It was an alarming change from Thor’s. Thor sounding feminine, but Mashato’s voice was differently an asian dialect. “I’m from Wednesday myself, it’s my family that I order the ingredients for Gargle Blasters. Life isn’t perfect anywhere, we merely try to find the places”

“How profound....” Bob muttered, looking towards the stage. It was Jason and Higar’s turn to sing. A lovely duet from their first date when Higar borrowed Bob’s body back in the ‘Lady Or The Tiger Casino’ in Femizona. Lover’s Reef.

The two fused and alternated voices depending on what gender was supposed to sing what, though both were male, Jason sung the female portions as he was one when they first started dating. Singing fused was something they couldn’t do when they first fell in love as Jason was more keen on staying Jasmine. Jason had no sense of sexual identity, but nonetheless still missed being a her sometimes. The music started and Jason’s portion was first.

There's a cold wind through This sea of sand And the sun's gone down On our parting hands So darling please Don't let me go Tread lightly on this Bed of snow.

The bar was applauding, Jason had clearly been practicing this song. To the best of his ability he was able to get it just perfectly. Could the machine do as well as the human? The crowd was in awe.

There's a fire lit So let's unthaw now Too cold and too far We'll make it out somehow We've turned to ice And it's not our way to be So let the earth quake And melt with me.

Through the coldest nights And dawning day I will wait for you In our hideaway And our lips will meet In the frozen air When the shadows fall I'll still be there.

It was done splendidly, the change from Jason’s voice to Higar’s was seemless and the duo’s skill in their mastery of pitch and tone was admirable. Even Bob was moved by these two, the RIDE and former woman who he held accountable for ruining his life. Them along with that insane Kayla and of course, her brother Aristo. The former two he barely enjoyed saying hello to them, but here he was. Feeling truly happy for them, over a song. What madness was this? Though it did give Bob a spur of the moment idea.

The song continued until it’s final verse where Jason and Higar had to sing as a simultaneous duo. It was jarring for Paula, who wasn’t used to being around riders, Simone’s garage mostly got in skimmers as Venars was not a RIDE-Operator heavy community. Though everyone else seemed to expect it as something entirely natural, for to them it was. “It’s like something out of the exorcist.” Paula said to herself.

“That’s nothing, I could tell you some stories.” Gabrielle said drunkily and wobbling. “I think my song’s coming on next. ‘Because I Got High’ I believes it wash!”

It was an enjoyable time for all involved. Almost worth the hangovers that Paula and Gabrielle would be having the next day. ______________________________________________________________________________

The next morning Paula and Gabrielle woke up in their beds, or atleast Gabrielle did. Paula was to the side of the bed, having rolled off in her sleep. “Oh man, my head is is my head pounding.... and... I’m a little sore... down there...”

“Hmmph.... my head feels fine, but...” Gabrielle said, rubbing her head and feeling something most unusual atop it. “Where on Zharus did I get one of those orange and white traffic cones that lack ability to levitate? Is there even place that uses these anymore?”

As Paula stood up she found that she was completely and utterly naked. That’s not all, between her legs there was a something long. “What? OH GOD NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! IT CAN’T BE BACK! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

“Ahh, NOW I have a headache, you’re screwing up my implants!” Gabrielle grabbed her head and stood up shaking it from side to side. “Stop that racket, you stupid screaming screeching Siren!”

“But.. but.. I have a thingy again!” Paula shrieked. “HOW CAN YOU BE SO CALM!?!?!” The poor girl even started to cry, ignoring Gabrielle’s

“Deja vu...” Gabrielle said as she remembered the constant whining and complaining of her friend Kayla, or Karl as Gabriel knew her. Back on Earth and up until the day she crossed he would always cry and complain about her dangling nightmare as she called it. Then the day she became a full woman, she would never shut up about how wonderful it felt. It was something that always managed to get on poor Gabriel’s nerves. “...Please... shut up I’m sure if it’s back it’s just an error of some kind... I’ll look at Ruby myself, just PLEASE, SILENCE YOUR MOUTH!”

“Wait... This isn’t a thingy, it’s a banana... why is there a banana shoved in my nethers?” Paula pulled it out with minor difficulties caused by her wing-hands and looked it over. It seemed a little big for a banana, but outside of being covered in a substance that should remain in someone’s inside for the most part it seemed rather normal.

“That’s a Bananaphone actually, very popular with children whose parents don’t feel like they’re old enough for a RIDE. There is no way in any mythological underworld that I would be inclined to touch something that’s been as intimate with you as it has, but unpeel it.” Gabrielle said, calmly and a little disgusted. Overall she was thankful that Paula’s scream had stopped.

Paula did so, and the phone revealed a hologramatic screen with a list of names, the owner was listed as Jasmine Prail, though Higar was a contact. Paula assumed that Jason used to be a Jasmine and decided to give Higar a call. “Hello?” she said after hearing Higar pick up.

“Paula? Oh hey it’s Higar, you found Jason’s phone, yeah... we were looking for that. It’s his good luck charm.” Higar sent to the phone which translated it into physical sound.

“Uhh yeah, let me just clean it first. It was rather dirty when I found it.” Paula blushed as these words came out of her, not wishing to state where she found the phone.

Gabrielle got up to gather clothes as she went to take a shower. The conversation went on without her in the room. “Oh well could you bring it over after? Jason needs it for rehersal, he and Bob formed a band last night and they sound really good.” Higar requested.

“What instrument does Bob play?” Paula asked curiously, not knowing Bob to be musically inclined.

“Holophoner, basically a really expensive machine that mimics other instruments. Named for something completely different in this really old cartoon called Futurama.” Higar answered. “He went to school for it and everything.”

“Does he mind if I come watch practice?” Paula asked, one of the few things she recalled of the previous night was Jason’s beautiful singing voice and she would not miss the chance to hear of it once more.

“Not at all, infact Bob likes showing off for women. Even those not his type, he’s got more of his father in him than he cares to admit.” Higar laughed to himself, but the laughter he didn’t send so Paula didn’t hear it.

“More of his father?” Paula asked.

“His dad’s a Good Ol’ Boy from Cape Nord, which is weird considering his mom is from Sturmhaven.” Higar explained.

“Cape Wha?” Paula was still a bit mystified. “I’ve only been here a year...”

“And you still haven’t read up on the polities? Wow....” Higar sounded impressed, though not for positive reasons.

“I’m not used to doing much outside of what I’m told.”

“Wow.. Is that normal for Earthers?” Higar seemed afraid to ask.

“The ones the Empire gets too....” Paula frowned deeply, remembering the terror and quickly tried to bury it, hoping the memories would become repressed.

“Yeowch, well you know what Sturmhaven is right?” Higar asked, his mind now racing with thoughts of what Earth must be like.

“Yes, it’s a place full of women that all hate guys right?” Paula inquired, remembering what Cindi had told her.

“Think of that, but backwards.” Higar said. “I’m from Femizona myself, well I lived there for a period of time. It’s not so bad compared to Sturmhaven. Kayla can’t stand the Valks... I miss her, but that’s neither here nor there. Stop by any time, but please bring the phone soon. My darling Jason has been a wreck about losing it.”

“Will do! Catch ya later.” Paula smiled as she hung up the phone which re-peeled itself upon doing so. Looking to the bed she saw that it must have had recharging capabilities because Ruby had been sleeping on it. ::Wake up sleepy head.::

Ruby’s eyes flared open as she yawned and gazed into Paula’s direction. “Good morning baby. Why’d you wake old Ruby up we aren’t due at work for another few hours.” In actuality, Paula was much older than Ruby.

“Yeah I know but I thought we’d enjoy some music, Bob and Jason are practicing for a band and I need to give Jason back his phone.”

“Oh child, do you even remember how that phone got there?” Ruby shook her head disapprovingly, as she did know and wasn’t proud of her human operator for it.

“No how?” Paula asked, not as ready for the answer as she believed. Ruby sent Paula over the memories of last night from her point of view. Paula viewed them and grimaced, twitched, tweaked, shuddered, as well as various other body motions that showed discomfort. What she saw was graphic and unbelievable. “I DID WHAT? Wow, okay.... and.. Gabrielle did.... Wow, alright I...... uhh.. Ruby, let’s not tell her...”

Speak of the devil, Gabrielle ran back in wearing Casey and seemed quite spastic herself. “Casey showed me everything, Paula... I can not believe the night we just had... I’m ashamed of myself as well as you are... I mean... that thing with the parasol, the replicas of those Atari 7800 games, and those comments about me and Oil Age Chef Gordon Ramsay and a picnic in Rodinia... Look let’s just... let’s never talk about this to anyone ever. Not even ourselves. Agreed?”

“Agreed... ugh..” Paula seemed incredibly discomforted after rewinding and rewatching a scene involving a three-way conference call with Simone and oh god she also called her mother during this.

“Hi Mommy ish your little boy, all growed up.... I’m a Galatic Gabbler... Galatic Geisha... gala.... Grand Galloping Gala!” said the drunken Paula in the memory. “Look at my manly abs... whoops... those aren’t abs. I’s a girly now.. hehehe.. forgot for a sexond.. second... six... sorry I’m a little drunk” The teenager for a second time couldn’t believe it, she had flashed her own mother.

Simone had been laughing her ass during this. “No, just mosquito bites. Hehehehehehe... Do you need ointment Paula?”

“Bish my milkshake bringsh all the or... le as you putsh it... boysh to da yard!” Paula defended her bosom as best she could. Her anti-cussing settings from Ruby didn’t detect bish as a cussword, it couldn’t tell that was supposed to be bitch.

“Young lady when you get home...” Mrs. Reverbek replied bitterly.

“Oh chill the fudge out, everyone’sh doing it. Relaxsh... lighten up mommy... hic” Paula burped loudly, and then laughed about it. “Hehehe”

“PAUL TREVOR REVERBEK! IF YOU EVER CALL ME WHILE DRUNK AGAIN.. and this is the first time I’ve heard from you since that Shyver guy threatened to shoot up the place too!” Mrs. Reverbek was very dissapointed.

“I didn’t know he did all that!” Simone said, the th’s sounding more like z’s due to her ever-so-lovely accent. “And I had just seen him le other day too... I’d have gotten onto his case had I known.”

“Wait..” Gabrielle grabbed the Bananaphone and interupted the call. “Your name, your middle namesh ish Trevor? And your last name ish ish... Reverbek.... TREVORREVERREVOREVEREVOREVEOR!”

“I’m hanging up now Paul..” Paula’s mother threatened.

“Isha Paula now.” Paula informed in a drunken stupor having managed to get the phone back from Gabrielle after a little fighting.

“We still need to have a serious talk about that young man! GOOD NIGHT!” And with that Mrs. Reverbek was away. “Oh Goodness.. why?” Paula in the present day asked before shaking her head. “So Gab... wanna hear Jason and Bob play some music?”

“Eh I’ve got some time.” Gabrielle replied with a shrug.

Paula wasn’t looking forward to going into work with a hangover or having to deal with her mother, but music? The worlds stop for the power of rock, especially when the singer is reunited with his good luck charm.

Together We RIDE
Preceded by: At ACE, We RIDE
Succeeded by: We live to RIDE, We RIDE to Live