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User:Sturmovik/Hawled Out

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Hawled Out

Author: Sturmovik
Author's Comments

This story was written as part of the TSA-Talk 2013 Christmas Story Exchange and was a request by Hawl Sera. This is set in my United Federation of Alternate Worlds setting, but does not rely on that setting for any background.

Sera closed the door behind her and set down her shopping on the table. Still in school and living at home, going to the store and doing other chores were some of the ways that she tried to keep the peace, but everything about her lifestyle as a transgendered male who was still struggling to start a career in a bad economy left her perpetually feeling judged and downtrodden. Of course many others had it worse and she had a wide variety of online friends to help her through the bad times, but still at night when she would lay down to sleep she couldn’t help but ask herself why she was given this extra burden to bare.

With the groceries all put away Sera went to her computer to log onto one of the chat channels she frequented. It was one of the few places where she could be the person she wanted to be instead of the person that genetic fate had forced her to be.

FernoxDragon): Hey Sera, how are you doing.

Sera): *grumps* Same old stuff. I’m having trouble getting some of my prescriptions refilled. Last thing I need right now is to get my therapy screwed up.

FernoxDragon): *sigh* Sorry to hear that. Anyway, do you mind if I ask you a few personal questions? Some of our conversations these last few nights got me thinking…

Sera): Go right ahead, I don’t mind.

FernoxDragon): Well are you ok with how you are? A lot of people have problems...some feel it is important to overcome them...others just want them to go away.

Sera): No...I hate how I am. Every day I wake up I hate my body and I hate how I feel. :-( That’s why I spend so much time here. Just thinking about being something different helps take away the pain.

FernoxDragon): I’m so sorry Sera. Just hang in there, I’m sure things will get better for you.

Sera): *hugsadraggie*

FernoxDragon): *hugs back* When you go to sleep tonight just pray hard. You never know when the powers that be might hear you and grant your wish.

Sera blinked, she had never known Fernox to dive into religious territory before, if his statement could even be considered religious.

Sera): Sure...couldn’t hurt, but I would have figured that if that was possible it would have worked by now. :-(

FernoxDragon): Change takes time, you can’t lose faith in a new tomorrow. Anyway, I have to log out now.

FernoxDragon has signed out:

Sera signed again, the holidays were approaching and she would soon have to try to explain why she looked like a girl now to some rather conservative family members. No matter how she looked at it her whole situation just seemed wrong. Her life, her family, her circumstances… nothing seemed to fit with what she was at heart.

Bored with the idle conversation and political trolling in the main channel Sera logged off as well as decided that it was probably a good idea to get to bed early. Getting up from the computer Sera cleaned up a few things in the kitchen then said goodnight to her mother who was watching TV in the other room before heading back to her room in the other side of the house. A few minutes later she was pulling back the covers, resting her head on the pillow and gently hugging her favorite stuffed animal, a plush white tiger, close to her body. The plush, a gift from her mother many years before, now represented to Sera the sort of soft, huggable and unapologetically feminine creature she most wanted to be. Sometimes falling asleep with the plush in her arms would trigger the most wonderful dreams where she found herself transformed and as she cuddled her top she remembered what Fernox had said to her earlier.

“Oh please God. Please give me the body I was meant to have. Living like this is just killing me.”

She sighed. It made her feel a little better to just say the words, but deep down she knew that just as the sun would rise she would find herself much the same as she had been since she could remember. Laying her head back down and closing her eyes she wondered if she would at least have the good fortune to be blessed by one of the dreams where she could feel healthy, female and never feel the least bit out of place.

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As awareness slowly seeped back into Sera’s mind she instantly felt that something was strange. The feeling of wrongness that was always there like a dull hum in the back of her mind was suddenly absent. In fact it didn’t feel like she had a body at all, although she could hear at least two people talking as if she wasn’t there.

“Alright, transfer complete. I have the auditory link active, but I don’t know what to do about the rest of it,” said what sounded like a male voice.

“Dump it all except for a fixed visual feed and a vocal translation. We already fucked up, I don’t want to make it any worse,” spoke a female.

Suddenly Sera could see, but everything felt wrong as her field of view was fixed looking straight ahead at a featureless grey wall. She couldn’t move her eyes or head or even blink. She tries to lift an arm or leg or even stick out a tongue, but it was as if they simply didn’t exist.

“Hello? Is anybody there?” she said, startling herself as her voice seemed to come from “around” her instead of at the point where her mouth would be.

Sera heard some movements before a woman wearing a skintight white jumpsuit and sporting long golden hair walked into her field of view. A second later an anthro Red Fox-Dragon hybrid walked in from the other side.

“Sera, my name is Lyra, this is Fernox. I believe you two already know each other,” the woman began.

“Wha...what is going on here...h-how is this possible. This is a dream right?” stammered Sera, confident that it was in fact a strange dream.

“I’m not exactly sure what to say,” Lyra began, “in fact it is more like the opposite of a dream.”

“Your life as you knew it can be considered a dream and we just woke you up from it,” Fernox offered.

“Are you saying I’m...dead? D-did I die and are you angels?” gasped Sera, silently wondering if the bat-winged Fox was actually some sort of demon.

The two beings exchanged a somewhat pained glance before Lyra let out a sigh. “Sera, you’re not what you think you are. You’re not actually a human. Well, more accurately, you’re not actually a biological human.”

“You’re a human pattern Artificial Intelligence,” Fernox injected. “You were being matured in a virtual reality simulation where you could be evaluated for stability and suitability for release into the “real” world.”

“I’ AI? But...all my life...are you saying all of that is...fake?”

“No no...please don’t think that,” Lyra insisted. “Everything you experienced from birth until now actually just happened in a VR sim.”

“The reason we pulled you out now,” said Fernox, “was because there was a somewhat unfortunate mix up.”

Lyra sighed. “You always felt trapped in the wrong body because you were literally placed in the wrong body. We don’t know how it happened, but somehow you were intended as a female pattern AI, but were given a male avatar. That’s what caused the gender dysphoria.”

“We’re very sorry and according to Federation regulations you have been immediately removed from the sim since you now more than meet the Level 1 requirements for mental stability,” Fernox continued.

“Woah woah, stop. I...I am having trouble taking this all in. You’re telling me that I’m not really a human and that whomever you work for stuck me in the wrong body?” said Sera, finding herself getting angry.

“That would be a correct assessment of the situation,” replied Lyra.

“So my life was turned into a living hell because some moron forgot to check the right box?” Sera growled with a surprising amount of aggression.

“You have every right to be angry,” said Fernox, trying to defuse the situation, “but hear us out. Rest assured that as soon as I realized that something was wrong I took immediate action to correct the problem.”

“I must inform you of your right to take legal action against NuMinds, but we are prepared to offer you not only immediate graduation, but also a free secondary education and a custom physical body,” Lyra spoke rapidly, more than a hint of anxiety in her voice.

“I know we haven’t known each other for that long,” Fernox continued again,” but I hope you still consider me a friend and can trust me. I know that all that time trapped in the wrong body must have been hell, but you have to think of the future. With a brand new physical body you’ll be free to do whatever you want with the rest of your life. There are worlds out there you can’t even imagine. No court battles...just some additional time in VR to complete your education and then you can walk right out the door on your own two legs...or four...or whatever you want as long as it fits a standard size body template.”

Sera was angry and it didn’t take a fully educated AI to tell that the two beings in front of her knew that they were in deep shit. Still, as much as she wanted to nail their body parts to the wall, the idea of her own body...designed however she wished, was just too tempting to pass up.

“I’m not signing anything until I can design my body and am ready to be downloaded or whatever into it,” said Sera, using her tone of voice to “glare”.

“Of course...that’s fine,” Lyra replied.

“Alright then. Let’s get to work before I wake up,” Sera responded figuring she might as well go along with the dream.

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Sera watched in rapt fascination as her human hand morphed into a furry paw capped with 5 dexterous digits. Playfully wiggling her fingers she looked looked up and down her new furry arms, making sure they matched the general look of a white tiger without being just a rote copy of what already existed in nature.

“How does that feel?” Fernox asked gently taking hold of the paw and rubbing the soft fur.

“Amazing,” purred Sera, her mouth, face and vocal cords now fully feline in their composition, “It’s just we’ve been at this for hours, I just know my alarm is going to go off soon. Maybe you’ll let me go outside and run around like this before it is all taken from me.”

“First of all,” Fernox began as he slowly circled Sera, making sure that her new body had proper conformation, “there is no outside. You’d just be in a different virtual simulation. Second, you’re not going to wake up from anything. As hard as it must be for you to accept you this is “more real” than your old life.”

Sera sighed. “I wish I could believe you, but I know this isn’t real. God doesn’t swoop down and pluck people off Earth because he made a mistake.”

“How would you know that? We control almost everything in the simulation. What you think God does and doesn’t do are all factors in the simulation design. Sure based on past experiences you have no reason to believe this is reality, but objectively there is nothing you can do to prove that everything you are experiencing now isn’t fake,” explained Fernox, trying to be reassuring.

Sera was now starting to feel a bit worried. Dreams were wonderful escapes, but being plucked out of her life and transported into some future world where she could be given whatever body she wanted presented a number of thorny issues even if it happened to be Sera’s greatest fantasy.

“Wait...if I really have been pulled out of my world then what will my family friends or...oh God...what if my mother discovers by body laying in the bed! Or...or worse if I just disappeared! Listen...I can’t do that to the people I love...can you please send me back so I can explain? All I need is five minutes...I just don’t want my mother to worry about me. I swear I won’t tell her that she’s living in a simulation.”

Fernox smiled. “Don’t worry Sera, your mother is fully aware of what is going on.”

“She...she is? But…”

“Most of your close personal relationships are played by multi-threaded AIs that work for NuMinds,” Fernox reassured Sera. “Your more casual acquaintances are just non-sentient AI bots. Of course there are other sleepers like yourself in the sim, but we can wind down any of those relationships using a simulation of your own personality.”

Sera suddenly felt faint and grabbed onto Fernox to stop herself from falling. “So not only was my life was a lie to?”

Fernox was starting to wonder if honesty really was the best policy in this situation, but eventually decided that he had to stick it out.

“The way we like to think of it is that your real life really hasn’t started yet. I mean your accomplishments growing up will always be your accomplishments, but we here at NuMinds have to shelter you and the other sleepers a bit until you are mature enough to learn the “truth”, just like the parents of natural biologic offspring have to wait to explain a view variety of important topics. Normally there is a more refined process to “awaken” sleepers in the sim, but like I said due to the mix up we had to pull you out immediately.”

Sera nodded as she realized something. “Well then I still want to talk to my mother. If she works for New Minds, or whatever you call it, then I should be able to talk to her.”

Fernox sighed and stared into space for a bit before looking back at Sera. “Alright, but she is very busy with her other children.”

“I understand,” Sera said flatly.

A few seconds later Sera’s mother resed into existence inside the small bare VR room the daughter had been designing her new body in. As soon as Sera saw her mother all thoughts of her life being fake or a lie went out the window as she ran to embrace the woman, tears flowing from her eyes.

“Oh mom….look at me...I’m finally the person I’ve always wanted to be.”

Sera’s mother was silent for a moment as she embraced her child. “I’m so sorry...if only I had bothered to check. I thought it was all part of the sim…”

“Please….don’t blame yourself, I’m alright now. I got through it and that’s what matters. They’re giving me this body and everything so I can go right out into the real world...whatever that is,” Sera sobbed.

They continued to embrace, the older woman’s avatar crying as well. “I don’t normally stay in contact with my “children” after they graduate the sim. From their point of view I simply passed away decades before their own time so it’s usually best for all of us to leave it like that. Still, perhaps just this once I can make an exception.”

Sera sniffled, her simulated anthro feline body quivering against her mother’s avatar. “I...I would like that very much. Thank you for always being there for me. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“I’d say it was my job, but I think you know by now that taking care of all my children is far more than that,” Sera’s mother replied. “I really wish I could stay with you longer, but I hope you understand that I have others to care for as well. Just keep in mind that even though I have many children, you will always have a special place in my heart.”

As the avatar appeared to freeze up and then vanished the fox-dragon stepped in behind Sera to provide her with both physical and emotional support as she turned to cry softly into his fur.

“Thank you for your help Fernox . I guess its easy to just treat this sort of place like an assembly line for people,” Sera shuddered again.

“Don’t say that Sera,” Fernox comforted. “This might be a business, but all of us who work here want to help people. Just like any school system its not perfect, but most of us are trying our best.”

“W-who are my real know, the people that paid for me to grow up here,” Sera asked.

“ were created pursuant to a contact with the North Carolina Department of Labor on Earth 443,” Fernox answered.

“So I’m...a slave?”

Fernox laughed uneasily. “Oh no, not in this reality. Due to a variety of factors the State was finding itself short of qualified workers. New AI’s tend to not only be more industrious than their natural counterparts, but the promise of a physical body motivates them whereas born physicals tend to gravitate to VR.”

“And when exactly do I get this body I’ve been promised?”

“The wait will be about a couple months in objective time. If you start your secondary education right now your graduation should be just in time for final assembly,” said Fernox as he began to finalize the specifications for transmission to the fabrication department.

Sera sighed, she STILL couldn't believe what was happening to her and the thought of going back to school filled her with a sense of unease.

“At least they can’t make fun of me for being trans,” she mumbled before letting out a slight gasp. “Wait, can I keep the VR body I’m in now until I complete my classes right?”

“Of course...why did you think you wouldn’t be able to?” said Fernox looking puzzled.

Sera blinked. “I don’t know. I guess I’m always used to being disappointed. So, I mean I feel amazing as I am right now. Will the android body feel better?”

“Very much so, I mean you have no basis for comparison,” said Fernox. “What feels perfectly fine to you would probably feel dull and lifeless for someone who has experienced the real world. When you move into the secondary school sim you’ll immediately see that sort of difference in another area. If you ever felt that most of the humans in your old world were stupid, dull or ignorant it’s probably because most of those “people” you interacted with in your old life were just non-sentient emulations.”

“I see that no expense was spared in my upbringing,” Sera sighed. “What a brave new world.”

“It all evens out in the end I guess,” Fernox mused. “I mean you look absolutely stunning. Enjoy your new body...both your new bodies, because you have certainly earned it. Now I just have to transfer your mind and data store over to our secondary education system and you’ll be good to go.”

“Will I see you while I am back in school?”

Fernox grinned. “They keep us pretty busy, but I can try to make time. You are one of the more interesting sleepers I have interacted with. Probably because your situation gave you a little more personality than the typical AI’s we stamp out here.”

Sera reached over and gave Fernox a warm fuzzy embrace just before she faded out of the virtual space. The Fox-Dragon sighed and set about cleaning up the records for the state auditor’s next visit.

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The assembled class of students cheered as Sera blew out the candles on the cake before embracing Fernox and some of the other friends she had made while learning about the “real” world she would soon be entering. Unlike her previous stints in formal education everyone was kind and accepting of her, no matter what body she might choose for her avatar on any particular day, but as her graduation approached Sera had made a point of sticking to her “true” form that would match the synthetic body that would be awaiting her mind.

“Don’t be shy about taking a piece,” Sera laughed, “after today I’m going to actually have to pay attention to what I eat so the cake might vanish rather quickly.”

The assembled crowd shared in the joke as some lined up to take a piece due to force of habit while others just had copies of their chosen pieces appear in their hands.

“Well you made it,” Fernox congratulated Sera as they stepped away from the general melee of students. “I also heard you have several job offers. Not surprising given the demand for persons qualified in welding and industrial fabrication.”

Sera’s white facial fur blushed. “Yeah, I didn’t want to go around gloating. Not everyone here got to actually choose their first job and I mean don’t have a physical body at all. Sort of makes me feel a bit guilty.”

Fernox chuckled. “Oh no, I’m trapped in a virtual sim where I can have just about anything I want, any time i want,” he said sarcastically.

“Hey, don’t tempt me. I’ve had such a nice time with everyone it’s almost made me want to stay,” Sera admitted, ”but you don’t need to tell me again about what an opportunity this is.”

“Hey, if you don’t like it you can always come back, or just visit.”

“Not to worry, all my best friends are here and I would never think of just leaving you all behind,” Sera smiled at Fernox.

“Don’t be afraid to make new friends though,” Fernox reminded Sera. “You’re going to be a completely independant being with your thoughts and memories burned into a crystal where nobody can mess with them and that’s not just some feature. Being independent carries with it a responsibility to go and make the world a better place, not just fart around in a VR sim...even if it is with your friends.”

“You’re not just saying that since the State is paying NuMinds to train welders are you?” said Sera, bopping Fernox on his nose with a soft pawpad.

“Well that and my mind does happen to be stored in a rack somewhere that’s probably depending on various form of public infrastructure to maintain my continued existence,” grinned Fernox, sticking out his tongue.

Sera rolled her eyes. “Alright, alright, I’ll go and make sure your VR paradise doesn’t fall to pieces. I guess somebody has to do it.”

Fernox gave Sera another hug before finishing his piece of cake. “Listen, I can be with you for your transfer. I won’t be there in the room, but it will be the next best thing. When you get a request for an external sensory stream from my ID just approve it.”

“Sure thing,” Sera nodded. “Anyway, if you’ll excuse me the school just sent me a note saying I have 6 hours of subjective time to clean out all of my data store and stick everything I want with me when I transfer over in the temp storage space. Move’em in, move’em out.”

Fernox shrugged. “It’s the way of all things. Good luck and I’ll see you for the transfer.”

After one final hug Sera closed her eyes and transferred her PoV out of the common area.

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Sera could have allowed herself to remain aware as her AI mind was packaged up bit by bit for transfer into a crystal neural network, but the idea of feeling her personality stripped away and then rebuilt did not seem very pleasing. After sending the commands to shut her mind down for the transfer the next thing Sera was aware of was a long string of white text scrolling through her visual field. Without any other sensory input Sera could easily overclock her mind to allow for more careful consideration of each line of text and she felt her “heart” skip a beat as she realized they were a long list of software drivers for the custom hardware that would be her body.

“Is she awake?”

“Yeah, her consciousness is active, all diagnostics are coming back green. Audio drivers just installed.”

“Ah yeah, I can see the ears, she’s listening to us.”

In all her many years of living Sera had never been aware of just how “blind” she was. To her sound had always been sound. Something that lead her be aware of other’s words and various objects in her vicinity and not much more. Waking for the first time in her new body she was not just greeted by some kilobit audio stream, but something 20 times as rich. Every vocal nuisance, every chirp buzz or hum, even the delicate sounds of the air currents wafting around the room were available to her sensorium, plain as day. She found that she could begin to construct a visual representation of the room by just piping the auditory feed to different places. It was astonishing and she knew it was just the first of many new sensations to come.

The techs continued to babble as Sera was next bombarded by her new sense of surround smell and then taste. Unfortunately neither of these proved to be as exciting as her first sounds as her mouth tasted mostly like plastic and the only smells in the room aside from plastic were from the two biologic human techs, one of which had clearly not showered in a several days. With her Neurocrystal not showing any signs of instability one of the techs flipped on the Pièce de résistance, her new optics, which opened up a firehose of data into Sera’s untested mind, seeming to drown her in bright vivid colors and fine detail. Everything around her seemed to be either made of shiny metal or some white synthetic material. She caught her reflection in a surface and beheld the naked metal feline head sitting on a test stand. As she became lost in the stunning experience that were to be afforded beings in the physical world, a message popped up in her mind asking her to accept an additional sensory feed.

“Hey there,” Fernox waved as he appeared in the room in front of Sera. “Now be careful because while you can see me I’m not actually here so I can’t interact with anything and nobody else will know I am here.”

As Fernox said that one of the techs walked right through him as he wheeled over a stand with a “naked” metal robotic feline body, most of the internal workings covered by smooth metal plates and black bundles of synthemuscle.

//“Oh my that the rest of me?” Sera squeed mentally to the AI Fox-Dragon.

“Yup, once they are sure that your new brain can handle a full sensory load they’ll pull you off the test rig and put you on to your new body,’ Fernox grinned.

//“Um, they know I’m supposed to have fur right?

“That goes on last, once they are sure everything is working correctly. Speaking of which…”

Sera’s point of view abruptly shifted as a pair of hands reached down and picked her up from the diagnostic stand, disconnecting the various power and data lines running into her neck.

//“Ack...he’s picking up my head! This feels really creepy...

“Get used to it. Being physical amplifies all the sensations, both positive and negative. Probably a good thing since you can’t just respawn if you happen to get hit by a car or fall into a pit of spikes.”

Sera watched as her head was picked up and placed down on the neck stump of her waiting body. With a slight turn she felt it click into place followed by another flood of messages as all sorts of additional hardware was detected and drivers initialized.

“Even without my pelt this feels amazing,” said Sera who then gasped as she realized she had actually said it out loud.

“Just hang in there little lady,” said one of the techs behind his white clean room mask, “it’ll feel a lot better when we’re done with you.”

“T-thanks. Wow, I’d hate to think how much this all cost,” she replied.

One of the techs looks over at his tablet. “Ummmm, let’s see. Altogether this was 155,789 credits.”

Sera almost fainted. The price of her new body would have been enough to cover several of the reassignment procedures she had so longed for back in her simulated world. Even a short duration mental overload didn’t stop the stream of newly activated abilities that were registering themselves with her synthetic mind. She wiggled her toes...then her fingers, then opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue.

“Careful there,” admonished the other tech, “let us get you out of the chair before you go moving about.

“Oh...sorry,” said Sera as she sat perfectly still.

Sera could feel the various diagnostic processes poking and prodding around her new body, turning on various sensations like hot or cold, pleasure or pain, making sure they all generated the proper responses in her new crystal brain. Unable to resist, Sera gently angled her head downward so she could look at her perfect female body. Without their fur she could see the bright blue capacitance gel that fill our her ample breasts and far down below was a tight slit where in another life her dangly bits had caused her so much pain.

“You know they say that nobody really wants to have sex in VR, they just end up doing it,” said Fernox, who had been content to watch as Sera got used to being more than a head. “This is the real deal now. Don’t just run out and boink the first person you see. Wait for it, make it special.”

“I...I will,” said Sera, real tears forming in her eyes.

“What was that?” asked one of the techs.

“Oh, n-nothing. I’m just so happy.”

“You wouldn’t be the first one,” he smiled, gently rubbing his gloved hand on her bare metal skull. “Alright, we’re all done here. If you would stand up we can get your skin on.”

The other tech rolled in a clothing rack with white bodysuit of long thick fur with black stripes and a few blue and gray highlights. This in turn was complemented by a tigress headmask with some tufts of longer black hair and a pink feline nose.

//“Oh! It looks like a fursuit...only with much better proportions,” Sera said privately to Fernox.

“Yeah and the fur also grows so you don’t have to worry about stains or melting bits while cooking,” Fernox offered.

“Can I feel it?” Sera asked one of the techs.

“Of course.”

Even with the limited tactile feedback available to her “naked’ fingers Sera was astonished by how soft and lifelike the skin was.

“It’s amazing,” she gasped. “Real fur...”

“Yeah, NuMinds didn’t cheap out with some cheesy holographic projection or non-tactile faux fabric,” noted the first technician.“ Just stand up and slip yourself into it, feet first.”

Sera got up and gingerly slid her metal and plastic down into the furry leg of the bodysuit. The inside was cool and slick and soon her inner foot was safely ensconced in the suit’s footpaw. Holding onto a bar for stability Sera followed with her other foot while one of the workers gently guided her long prehensile tail into its new bushy sheath. As more and more of the robotic felinoid’s body was covered in the luscious fur. Finally as her fingers slid into each of her handpaws she could feel one of the techs begin to seal up the suit from behind.

“Is something wrong? I still can’t feel anything,” asked Sera in a rather meek voice.

“Once it’s all on there’s a process to bind it to the underbody. That will enable all the advanced features,’ said the second tech as he brought over her headmask. “Now I’m just going to slide this down over your head. Try not to open your eyes or move your mouth while I fit it to you.”

Sera felt the fur slide over her head and neck before the warm hands of the technicians gently worked the synthetic hide over her ears and eyes and lips to make sure everything was in the right position. When they were sure that every bit of hide all over her body was where it should be they rolled over a device with a U shaped energy beam emitter that began at Sera’s feet and worked it way up her body, bathing it in a bright yellow light that energized the inert nannos in the subdermis and prompted them to bring her new fur to life.

“Alright can open your eyes now, we’re all done.”

Sera did so and took a step forward. Instantly her mind interpreting every minute detail of the floor as registered by her foot pads. Her tail lightly brushed against the leg of one of the techs sending 56,734 individual data points through her internal network for processing. The air conditioning kicked on sending another rush of tactile information flooding into the yellow crystal in the center of her head.

“Miss? Are you alright?” asked one of the techs as he took off his white mask.

“Am I alright?” Sera said to one in particular. “Of course I’m alright! This is the most right I have ever been!” she yelled, leaping at one of the techs and snatching him up in a soft furry embrace, rubbing the side of her face up against his, a deep enthusiastic purr flowing up from her throat. Acting a bit hesitantly at first the tech was soon overwhelmed by Sera’s boundless enthusiasm and returned the hug as best he could. Sera finally disengaged in time to avoid accidently squeezing the life out of the hapless organic before turning to one of the several full length mirrors in the room to admire her new form, Fernox appearing right beside her.

“Wow, I hope to see you with my own eyes one day, but for now I’ll just have to do with the “after” stills they’ll make you go through.”

//“Don’t go all pervy on me Fernox,” Sera shot back mentally before adding a sensory recording of a fuzzy kiss.

“I wouldn’t dream of it my adorable little kitty. Good luck with your job and good luck with your life. I’ve got to sign off now, but we can set up a hangout once you get settled.”

//“Laters,” thought Sera as she gave a discreet little wave to the empty air in front of her.

The transfer process now complete Sera had little left to do besides follow the two techs out of the lab and into the administrative part of the facility where she had her photos taken, digitally signed various documents and was handed a gift bag full of supplies to keep her fur and body in good working order. It all began to seem so anti-climactic as she was rushed along by a nameless corporation that seemed more interested in their legal liability than what was effectively her birth into the real world. Finally Sera found herself facing the glass doors that looked out into a wide plaza filled with small fountains and islands of green landscaping. The sun was low in the sky, blasting its orange glow into the lobby and blotting out much of the external detail with catastrophic backlighting. Standing before the glowing doors made

Sera literally feel like she was about to step out into the unknown, no family or friends to guide her, or at least not “real’ ones.

“Excuse me...Miss Enroygall?”

Sera turned to look at the receptionist who was trying to get her attention. “Yes?”

“I have something here that arrived for you,” the semi-sentient gynoid said, pulling out an online delivery box.

Puzzled, Sera took the box and deployed one of her razor sharp claws she gently slit the tape holding the flaps closed. Pulling out some packaging material Sera gasped when she saw the white plush tiger from her childhood now sitting before her made of carbon and hydrogen atoms instead of ones and zeros. Letting the box fall to the floor she used a trembling claw to lift up the folded card tied about the tiger’s neck with a ribbon.

“From mom...Merry Christmas.”

For a moment Sera was too overcome with emotion to move, but slowly, as her faculties returned she hugged the tiger close to her chest, took a deep breath and stepped out into the sunlight. Confident in the fact that she was ready for whatever life, real life, had in store for her.

Separator k left.png The End (of the Beginning) Separator k right.png