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Whose Body Is It, Anyway?             by: Brandy Dewinter

 

Chapter 12 - Report

The rest of our escape from Machovia posed no additional problems. On his way to the shipbay door, Eryx activated the mechanism that opened the bay weather shield but I had already expected to force my way through it if necessary. It’s thin structure would have been no problem for the Federation material in our ship. No other planetary armaments were a serious threat to the rapidly accelerating Robin, already rising faster than a Machovian artillery shell before she cleared the tops of the neighboring buildings.

After I punched in the commands to leave, I just sat in my pilot’s chair, staring unseeingly at the controls. Titania let me have a few moments "to myself" before mentally nudging my elbow.

"Up and at ‘em, girl, you stink," the symbiont said.

"Huh? What? I do not!"

"Well, you will if you don’t get us into a shower pretty soon, and you need to eat something, too."

"Oh, yes, you’re probably right," I agreed without enthusiasm, rising to do as I was told.

I stood in the shower for a long time, my eyes still seeing things that only existed in dreams. At least, so far.

Titania gently interrupted my thoughts, "I know. I wish we would have had time to see what the rest was like, too."

"Huh? What are you talking about?" I asked.

She didn’t deign to answer my question. Instead she said, "We were *so* close."

Denial was a waste of time. "I know," I sighed, wistfully. Even as part of my mind insisted it was wrong, another part admitted that I wished we hadn’t been interrupted.

Once again Titania nudged me back into motion.

"What color would you like?"

"What?"

"What color would you like? Or would you like to wear some of the clothes they prepared for you?"

"Oh, no, the jumpsuit is fine. Um, maybe we should save the black for special occasions. The dark red you started with is fine."

"Fine," Titania replied with a giggle.

With my attention focused on the tasks that needed doing, I was soon out of the shower and back in the ship’s lounge. I ordered up a couple of decadently high-calorie doughnuts and a cool fruit drink. This time, it seemed like I was the audience behind my eyes as I hardly paid attention while my (our?) fingers punched the commands for additional chemicals to be added to the juice, replenishing whatever Titania needed. Even without conscious communication, I was aware at some level of our needs.

When the "work" of the meal had been completed, I started eating, but even as I did, I spoke to my partner.

*Ti, what did you do to me when Eryx kissed me?*

My mental tone was carefully neutral, but trying to hide emotions from my symbiont was as useless as trying to lie to her.

"Pretty powerful, wasn’t it?" Titania crowed.

"Yes," I blushed.

Titania let that blush show because she thought it was charming even as she answered my question with a question, "Would you believe, hardly anything at all?"

"I don’t think I would call that, ‘hardly anything at all’?" I snorted.

"Nor would I," Titania agreed. "But you asked what I did, and the answer truly is, ‘hardly anything’. You did most of that yourself."

"I have *never* felt that way before, not even with a woman, and *certainly* never with a man."

"Well, that’s part of the ‘hardly anything’," Titania explained. "You have a tremendously responsive body. Why have you been suppressing it for so long?"

"Suppressing it?"

"Yes. After I, um, hooked up a few triggers so that your body would respond to your desires, it was all I could do to keep out of the way."

"But I never desired to kiss a man!"

Titania didn’t say anything.

"I didn’t! Ever!" I insisted.

"Dear, we discussed this before. You can hide things from me by not thinking of them. Anything buried in your past stays there. But if you think of it, then there is no sense denying it to me."

"Well, okay, but I never *did* anything about it!" I muttered.

"Which is suppression, is it not?" Titania asked gently.

Rather than force me to offer any explanation, Titania continued with a bit about her culture. "As symbionts, our gender relationships are not the same as yours. We merge matrices, something analogous to your sharing of DNA, every time we touch as when you shook hands with Commander Tryx. If we choose to integrate the new matrix material into ourselves, we can do so, or we can just use it to share information."

"Nonetheless," she continued, "we do have something broadly equivalent to your genders, though it is more related to mental attitudes than anything physical. I found in my research while preparing to be a symbiont that women of your culture are more free to express themselves emotionally, while men are expected to be calmly rational. Suppression of desires is quite common in your culture, at least for men. I therefore chose a feminine personality for myself, and imposed it on your body. I "trained" your body to accept its own desires. In so doing, I can find fulfillment for myself as well. We both benefit, which is what symbiosis is all about."

"My own desires?" I heard my soft, musical voice repeat the words.

"Yes. I improved the pathways to release what was there, but I had to have something to build upon, or it would have been obviously false."

None of that resolved my basic dilemma. I insisted, "But I *know* I desire women!"

"That desire is not mutually exclusive with a desire to *be* a woman, and to know the love of a strong, handsome man," declared Titania.

"But I don’t *want* to be a woman!" I cried.

The silence from Titania was louder than any denial.

"But Bee didn’t do anything like that to Tryx," I reminded her.

"How do you know?" asked Titania.

"Well Tryx was, um, her reputation even before she paired was, uh, well, not suppressed."

"Good for her. Which means that she will probably benefit from the calm presence of Bee as much as you will benefit from my more . . . active presence in *your* life."

"Will I ever be a man again?" I asked, trying to get my mind around all the previously-forbidden ideas that Titania was forcing on me.

"You will be whatever you truly desire to be," Titania promised.

"But I will be watching to see what you *truly* desire. Trust me."

"I don’t seem to have much choice," I murmured. "Just whose body is it, anyway?"

"Why, it’s *ours*, of course," Titania answered with calm acceptance. "We are bound together now for a time no one can predict. There is no way to divide us again, and we have no experience to predict the lifespan of a human-symbiont pairing."

Then she hit me with a thought that was even more troubling to my conscience. "Would you deny me the opportunity to experience life to the full? I am trapped within you just as surely as you might feel trapped within me."

What did I owe my partner? My life, or at least any freedom in it. That much was certain. Without her I’d still be chained up somewhere in Machovia, forever lost to any Federation assistance. But there was more than that. I thought about the old Xora, slowly aging in place behind an analysis terminal. Was being young, and healthy, and, yes, beautiful all that bad? That answer was obvious even as I phrased the question to myself.

‘Experience life to the full’? What did that mean? Was it frightening? Or . . . enticing?

Titania was "listening" to my thoughts, of course. At some level I knew that was true, even though at another level my mind cherished the idea of a little private reflection. Titania wouldn’t let me lie to her. I was beginning to realize that meant I wouldn’t be able to lie to myself, at least not once she forced an issue into the open.

‘Life to the full’ was enticing. The memory of being kissed by a man like Eryx still sent shivers through me. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the, um, "full" experience, but . . .

"All right, Ti. We’ll give it a try. I’m not promising I won’t want to turn back into a man, so you have to promise that we can do that, at least after a while."

"Of course," she agreed instantly. "But for now, well, watch out, Galaxy! Here comes Xora, the hottest babe in the Federation."

I wanted to tell her to settle down and not go overboard on this, but then I had this mental image and giggled, saying, "Wait till we tell Jonesy."

"I expect he already has a pretty good idea," Titania laughed in turn. "You weren’t terribly subtle when we left."

"Oh, that was that hypno compulsion."

Titania let her silence speak for her once again.

"Damn it, Titty, if you’re going to go silent on me every time you disagree with me, our conversations are going to be pretty boring."

Titania laughed at me and said, "If you keep calling me, Titty, you’ll wish I did keep silent."

"Ha!" I snickered. "I *do* have a way to reach you."

Before Titania could answer with a counter-threat, I continued, "Oh, Ti, this is going to be complicated."

"Real relationships usually are. Now, why don’t you call Jonesy?"

"Are we in range already? Why, I guess we are."

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I stood and went to the communicator.

In seconds a signal was on its way toward Admiral Jones’ headquarters. We received an immediate response from his robosec.

In just a few moments more the Admiral himself was looking at us.

"Good day, Admiral. I’m on my way home."

"Good day, Commander. I’m glad to see it. How did your mission go?"

Titania nudged my mental elbow, and I let a sad little pout form on my lips and sighed, "Oh, my, back to ‘Commander’ again."

"Well, but," Jones sputtered, "you called me ‘Admiral’ first."

"Oh, but I respect you *so* much," I breathed into the audio pickup.

The flush that lifted itself from Jonesy’s cheeks was all that I could have hoped for. My beautiful voice giggled with a sound like golden bells caroling, but I let him off without further teasing. "The Machovians are definitely *not* ready for admittance yet, but they will be. I think I should go back in about six months for a follow-up. This time, I’ll know what to look for, so I can go openly."

"Hmmm, if they’re not ready, but you want to go back, what exactly happened?" he asked.

"It wasn’t easy," I replied, frowning for just a moment. "Without my symbiont, I’d never have made it."

"Why, thank you, ma’am," Titania giggled.

*Oh, be quiet. But thank *you*. I meant what I said to Jonesy.*

Jonesy was confused. "Then why do you want to go back?"

"Well, I met one of their leaders, and I’m convinced he’s working to make things better."

The admiral made a few quick keystrokes, then asked, "You met Winner Jorn?"

"No, but I met a man who is at least as powerful. Eryx."

Another patter of keys, and Jones was saying, "I don’t see his name on my records as any sort of official at all."

"I didn’t say, ‘official’, Admiral. I said leader. It will all be in my report."

Titania’s snicker sounded in her mind, "All of it?"

*All that Jonesy needs to know about,* I qualified my promise.

Jones nodded, all too familiar with how real governments operated, full of back room deals and influence without the need for visible power. He looked again at one of his displays and said, "Your ship’s data link says you’ll be home by this time tomorrow. I’ll have my robosec set an appointment."

Then he dropped his formal tone and asked, "Will you be sorry to give up your luxury yacht?"

"Well, sure, but I didn’t spend much time in it. Except for transit time, I think I can say that I didn’t wallow in luxury."

"Now *that* is something that we can agree on," Titania said.

The rest of the trip back was as smooth as the trip out had been, and as boring. Since I knew I would be female for at least a while more, once again I went through the clothes that had been prepared, trying out color combinations and learning to reach impossible fasteners (mostly with the help of Titania’s extended "fingers"). Still, my simple jumpsuit, which was of course the most complex clothing there had ever been since it was really Titania, seemed to meet my needs best of all.

I went to Jonesy’s office on the day we reached Earth. Everyone recognized that a last night spent in the luxurious accommodations on the yacht would leave us well-rested and ready to report and the robosec had scheduled the appointment accordingly. Once again I found myself sitting in a chair in his outer room, listening to muted laughter through the door to his inner office.

And once again it was Commander Tryx who had been the cause of the pleasant sound. I rose as Tryx reentered the outer office and we moved immediately to shake hands.

"So, Xora, how did you enjoy living in skirts?" Tryx teased.

I laughed and said, "You know, other than trying a few on to see what it was like on the trip, I never wore a skirt the whole time."

"Lucky you," Tryx replied with a faked grimace. "On my first mission with my symbiont, I had to wear one enormous gown or another the whole time. The lightest one must have weighed 40 pounds and several were worse. And the corsets! You don’t want to get me started on the corsets!"

"Don’t try and kid a paired team, kid," I snickered. "I know you loved every minute of it."

"Well, yeah, but I don’t want anyone else horning in on the fun," Tryx admitted with a laugh of her own.

"What about you?" Tryx asked politely. "Did you enjoy your first paired mission?"

"Not all of it," I mused, but the memories behind my eyes gave me away, too.

Tryx laughed again, "But you did enjoy some of it, didn’t you?"

Titania let the blush show on my cheeks, and Tryx leaned forward to give me a friendly hug. While our heads were together, Tryx whispered, "I’ll get the rest from Bee. After, um, Titania - interesting name, that - fills you in, let’s meet and compare notes."

"I’d like that," I replied. Anything further I might have said was interrupted by a very unmusical bellow from the inner office.

"Is Commander Xora here yet? I told him, uh, her to be here promptly at 1100!"

"Oops," Tryx smiled. "I made you late. Don’t worry, his bark is worse than his bite."

"Oh, and just how bad does he bite?" I purred, grinning.

Tryx’s eyes lit up and she laughed, "We are definitely going to have to talk later."

Then she pushed me toward the door and said, "Welcome to the ranks of symbiont sisters."

"Thank you," I replied as I moved to the door. "I’m happy to be here."

As we watched Tryx’s shapely bottom sway toward the door, Titania whispered inside my ear, "We’re going to have a *lot* of fun!"

 

Finis, pour maintenant

 

 


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1999 by Brandy Dewinter. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.