Here's a brief notice to maybe read the review responses if you have questions. You might just find the answer in there.
"Behind Blue Eyes"
I'd never been happier to get under a shower. Nothing like some warm water to get your vascular system running nice and smooth.
Too bad whoever was in charge of the ship was a fucking asshole.
Only two minutes for a shower? That's lunacy. You should complain about it.
They felt like long minutes though. I didn't imagine that, did I?
Probably not. Hey, at least you got the puke smell out of your hair.
I stepped out of the shower stall with a sigh. It didn't matter how long the shower was. Aside from towels and the shower itself, there were no amenities for me to take advantage of. No shampoo, body wash, loofah, brush, and definitely none of that stupid fucking cleanser I'd been using because fuck my face.
Fortunately it didn't appear that I needed that last one anymore. While I hadn't had it for long enough to be certain, my new face wasn't nearly as oily or poorly cared for as my old one. That is to say who the hell is this person in the mirror?!
It definitely wasn't my old face. Of that I could be quite certain. I'd been very plainly white caucasian, almost stereotypically so. Short brown hair, green-hazel eyes, round face, a genetic double chin, and a small upturned nose. Not having a plain skin color, it was hard for my untrained eye to place the race of this face, and that was assuming it had one at all. The only telling factors were the black hair and blue eyes, not to imply that I knew enough about racial genetics and heritage to actually pull anything from those factors. Everything was differently shaped as well; eyes were rounder, cheeks more pronounced, nose still small but no longer upturned, mouth and lips slightly more pronounced… and again I knew nothing about what any of that meant. All I knew for certain was that I looked human, and the aliens called me a human as well, so at least I still had that going for me.
I closed my eyes and threw some water on my face. The image of my reflection remained like it was branded onto my vision. I stood there for a moment, eyes still closed, taking in the sound of the ship's inner workings humming in the background. Cold water ran down my skin and into the sink, and I couldn't help but notice that the water was running down different facial contours than what I was used to.
Inhale… count to eight… motherfuckergodddammitpieceofshit… exhale.
It was hard to digest. What else can I say? Think what you will about acceptance and gender identification. It's one thing when you makes those decisions on your own. People, for the most part at least, live their lives by their own decisions. That's the way things naturally occur. It's when people are forced to change that things get awry.
I hated being forced to do things. Always had. Even after years and years of doing it, I still got miffed when someone told me to take out the trash or do the dishes. I'd do them without a word though, knowing that they were just harmless chores and it was good to help out. Afterward I'd get over it and maybe even feel accomplished in the fact that I got it done. This… change with my body and life was bigger than that, almost hilariously so now that I've compared them. I couldn't just write this off and get over it. Looking in the mirror and seeing something that wasn't what I'd been for the last nineteen years was just… well… disturbing, for lack of a better word. Knowing that I wasn't given a choice in the matter… Every time I looked my reflection in the eyes, a pit of nausea rose up. Not disgusted nausea, but that telltale awkwardness that accompanies the confusion you get when things aren't what you want or expect. And that's not even getting to the even more uncomfortable stuff, like…
I scowled, looking down and putting a hand around one of my pasty breasts. The things were small, or so I'd decided. Not being the biggest player in terms of the great sexual game, my direct experience with female anatomy was limited to the disgusting habit of… er… You know what I'm talking about. The point is that I wasn't positive how to properly describe my qualities, and it definitely wasn't a conversation I felt like having with anyone. Even thinking about it made me squirm, like I was breaking a taboo or something. Was this what it felt like to be the guy who accidentally walked into the girl's locker room?
I blew out another deep sigh and decided to move on for the moment.
To address another development, I still had no idea what I was going to do with the hair. I was trying my best to tolerate it, even as I stood there trying to dry it with nothing but a towel and my wits. It seemed to work, but I'd still have given quite a bit to get my hands on a blowdryer and a brush, not to mention the aforementioned missing hygiene essentials. My dependence on Head & Shoulders to contain my scalp's incessant need to produce flakes came to mind, as did my journey to have better teeth.
I flashed my teeth into the mirror. I had the full set, all white and ready for smiles. To contrast my old set had been rather discolored and snaggled in a few places, not to mention its possession of a few false pieces.
Oh shit. They fixed your teeth?
More likely that they weren't messed up in the first place.
Yeah, something tells me that this body never took that face-first plunge into concrete.
I winced at the memory. Stupid balance…
If they did, they got reconstructive surgery.
Maybe. Hey! Think about this. Why don't you take note of all the positives about the new body? You've got better teeth. What else?
What's the point of listing positives if I didn't earn them?
...Shit. That's just depressing.
I didn't care what my inner thoughts believed. Taking in positives seemed pointless if they weren't things that I'd worked towards and earned. I'd been given better teeth. I hadn't worked hard and gotten reconstructive surgery or braces or whatever. They hadn't even been a gift from my parents, like braces usually are. The only person around who even knew that I'd ever had bad teeth was me, and like hell if I was going to boast about something I got for nothing. Alas, the vicious cycle of low self-esteem.
What even were the other positives anyway? Paleness wasn't a positive, at least not as far as I was concerned. 'Beauty' was a matter of opinion, so… What? What even was there?
Your excess skin is gone.
That was true actually. I'd lost a fair bit of body fat in the last few years, and it'd left me a little flabby. This body, while by no means a runway model, lacked the flab.
Another thing cosmetic surgery could've fixed, but was given to me instead.
Oh my god, dude. Can you please lighten up? Too much more and you're going to start listening to The Cure.
My eyes unconsciously rolled. Do you have to comment on everything?
No, but that won't stop me. By the way, what's your obsession with cosmetic surgery?
It's not an obsession. It's a means to an end, specifically the end we're discussing. Teeth don't straighten themselves. Excess skin doesn't just go away.
Point, but why do you-
There was a ping from the door.
"Everything okay in there?" It was the voice of the amphibian alien doctor from when I'd woken up. He was speaking to me via the panel on the door, hence the filter on his voice.
"I'm fine. I'll be out in a moment," I responded.
"Okay. If you need anything, just say it."
The panel pinged again, signaling the line was no longer active.
How long have we been in here?
With that established, I finished up attempting to dry my hair. Shaking the stuff loose, I let it fall around my shoulders and torso. Its length was its most agitating factor, with it easily coming down past my sternum and only stopping at the end of my ribs. It was thick as well, covering me almost like a hood and shirt. A trim would be in order, of that there was no doubt.
Until then… I caught myself blankly staring into the mirror with a grim look on my face.
Y'know… You kinda look like a less fucked up version of Alma from FEAR.
I choked on a laugh. Jesus Christ… Was that supposed to be a compliment or something? Because it wasn't.
That's for me to know. You can totally take it as a compliment though. You look like someone who's been on three video game boxes. That's gotta count for something, right?
My eyes rolled again. Of all the rogue personalities to pop up in my head, it had to be the one who thought they were funny and clever.
What's with you trying to be positive all of the sudden? What happened to 'optimism bleh'?
That was before you had an attack and became all depressed.
I looked away from the mirror and scowled. Depressed? Me? Never.
With nothing else to accomplish at the mirror sans perhaps a few more rousing sessions of self-pity, I moved on to getting dressed. The clothes they'd given me were simple, amounting to little more than a gray shirt and pants combo, equally gray slipper shoes, and the modesty it all provided. I couldn't complain, seeing as everything fit my new form a hell of a lot better than the space suit had. I was just lucky that they had emergency supplies for just about any scenario, including clothing for people who weren't part of the crew. Why? Who knows? Maybe it came in a supply kit they'd bought and stowed without picking through what was relevant to them.
I exited the shower room looking only slightly better than when I'd entered it. The doctor was there waiting for me. We were still in the medbay, with it having its own shower so that patients didn't have to wander.
"A little," I said with a shrug. "What's next?"
"First, there's this." He held out a small brown candy to me. "It's a lozenge. Won't fix everything, but it should get rid of the cough."
I took it without further prompt and popped it in my mouth. The flavor was nothing special, so I simply accepted it and let him continue.
"Second, I've got the results of that scan we took earlier. You want to go ahead and get that out of the way?"
"Sure," I said with a nod.
With that we returned to where we'd been when I woke up. I sat on the bed while he took the chair.
"Let's start at the beginning, shall we?" He brought up his wrist hologram as he spoke, a keyboard appearing under his other hand. "What's your name?"
I immediately regretted agreeing to this conversation. A swallow of salve from the lozenge ran down my throat as I threw that question around. I mean, yeah. It sounds like a simple question, but consider this: How does one explain having a guy's name when one's body is visually female? You might be thinking 'there are several explanations for that', and I considered those as well, but I had a few problems with just throwing around LGBT terminology and beliefs like they were excuses. Problem one, I didn't consider myself L, G, B, or T. Problem two, I liked to think that I respected those parties too much to just pretend to be a part of one. There was also the vague explanation of 'my parents blah blah blah', but my head wasn't working fast enough to consider it.
Which left the more painful explanation, which is to say 'the fucking truth'. As far as I knew, I'd been a guy up until waking up in that fucking tank yesterday… morning… whenever-the-fuck. If anyone was to ask, my first instinct would be to tell them that I was still indeed a guy. The problem was that this could lead to them asking further questions, some of which I wouldn't have a real answer for. Sure, I knew that there were some people out there who were accepting enough to not need to ask, but then I also knew that for every accepting person there was an equal and opposite asshole, and I didn't want to deal with that asshole.
This brought me back to the question. What should I tell this guy? I tell him my real name, then I commit to it and run the possibility of dealing with that asshole. Alternatively… I could always...
"You don't have to say if you don't want to."
There's your door.
"I don't want to say."
"Okay." He took it in stride, simply typing something into the hologram before moving on. "I'm Rel, by the way."
Cue the guilt trip.
I'll think of something later.
"And how old are you?"
"Alright. In terms of physical ailments, we've already done what we can for your throat," he stated. "Recommend you avoid raising your voice until it completely subsides. I'll get you more lozenges once we arrive planetside."
Planetside? Where do you think they're taking us?
"Apart from that, you're in decent enough shape. No underlying issues, injuries, or illnesses as far as I've detected," he went on. "Oh, and your implants are showing no signs of rejection. My regards to the medical techs who installed them."
I stared at him blankly for a moment. Implants? "What are you talking about?"
He stared back awkwardly. "Your implants. Do you not know what I mean by that?"
It took a second, but I eventually reached up and touched the jack on the back of my neck. The awkwardness grew a little, especially when I realized that his tone when he asked that was slightly incredulous. It was like he couldn't believe that I wasn't aware of what was inside of me.
Little does he know…
I said 'shush'!
"Yes," he confirmed about the jack, giving a quick nod. "What can you tell me about it?"
A moment passed before I could answer, as I had to debate the intelligence of telling him about the zap I'd felt before getting released from the tank. Apart from the fact that it hurt, I didn't have any real details concerning that moment. I knew what I felt, but then I didn't have the knowledge to prove it'd been because of the jack. Thus…
"Not a thing." This awkwardness isn't going away, is it? "All I know for certain is that it's attached to me and I don't like it being there."
This seemed to throw the doctor for a bit of a loop, as he quickly looked down and began typing furiously. "It was put there against your will?" He didn't look up as he asked.
What if you gave consent and don't remember?
What part of 'shush' do you not understand?
The doctor continued to-
His name is Rel.
Rel continued to type into his notes, his mouth moving as he went. If he was actually saying something, I couldn't hear it. Then he sprung back to me.
"In short, it's an interface that links to your brain and nervous system, its purpose being to introduce artificial stimuli in the patient. False experiences, if you will." he said, sounding rather serious about it. "It's rare, usually only used to train soldiers without field experience, and even that use for it never caught on. Too expensive to implant and maintain function, and requires a lot of programming to use properly."
So… basically what we thought about on the pod?
He paused, typing a little more. "What do you know about the station you were on?"
I centered on the question, using it as an excuse to ignore thinking about that terrible train of thought again.
"Uh…" Unfortunately I didn't have a real answer for him.
He knows something.
Ask him the same question.
"What do you know about the station I was on?" For better or worse, I found my inner thoughts' suggestion to be sound. He wouldn't have asked if he didn't have something to work off of. Besides, despite having put the mystery of that place aside for a while, my curiosity towards it hadn't waned.
"Remarkably little," he answered quickly. "This ship was chartered to deliver basic supplies to that place on a regular basis. We were actually on a delivery run there when we came across your lifeboat, hence why we had those clothes for you."
I looked down at the gray outfit. That explains it.
"I take it since you asked that you don't actually know anything."
I hesitated, looking for the right words. "It's… complicated."
He didn't vocally comment, dropping us into a moment of silence. His large gray eyes stared at me, scanning me up and down as if in search of something. Was he examining me for nonvocal clues? Maybe he was just waiting for me to speak.
He seems nice enough, and he's curious about that place as well. Maybe you can figure it out if you work together.
It's not the worst idea.
"Look…" I started, letting out a sigh as I came up with a plan. "I've had a messed up time in the last day or so."
The idea was that maybe if I tell him the story, he'll be able to pull some facts out of it.
"Are you feeling tired? We can take a break if you need to."
"No, it's not that." I couldn't rest now if I tried. "Can I… tell you what happened back there?"
The voice on the pod told you to 'be mindful of your words in unauthorized company'.
What? You think the doc is involved with that?
Not sure. Just making sure you know what you're doing.
"You can tell me whatever you need to," the doctor… Rel said, sounding concerned enough to imply genuineness.
Of course I don't know what I'm doing. Also you're the one who told me to collaborate with this guy.
Yeah, well… Hesitate later. Converse now.
"I woke up in a tank."
"A tank?" He typed that into his notes without breaking eye contact with me.
"Yeah, y'know… Glass casing, filled with liquid…" I wasn't really sure how else to put it.
"You were inside of it? In stasis?"
"I…" Is 'stasis' different from regular sleep? "I don't know."
"But you were released?"
"Y-Yes," I bounced back. "I don't know why, but the tank let me out. And then…"
I flinched. Hard.
Ripping the breathing tube out, coughing and gagging...
"What is it?"
"I just…" My eyes were clenched shut.
Lifeless silhouettes in the others tanks, pale like me, blood clouding their features...
"Is it a headache?"
I shook my head.
Breathe. Inhale… count to four… exhale. Inhale… count to four… exhale.
"You should lie down."
Seven dead people. Their bodies and their blood strewn about the room.
I felt the hand on my shoulder. My skin crawled instantly, throwing an even sharper flinch through my body.
Where are the killers?
"Don't-!" I stopped myself before I could even get the second word out. Rel was now reeling backward with his hand on his face.
My only reaction was to cover my gaping mouth with my hands and stare in horror at the stunned alien. A raw sting afflicted the back of my hand, that being where I'd caught his jaw in my 'flinching'.
An indeterminable yet short amount of time passed, during which I was forced to watch the doctor go through some emotions. He was clearly surprised by what had happened, though I dare say that he seemed less so than me. He didn't seem mad, or if he was then it wasn't directed towards me. In fact he actually had the fortitude to keep facing me and put his hands up in a nonthreatening way.
"Easy…" he said slowly. "That was my fault. I shouldn't have done that."
"I hit you." There was no way around it. If you need emotional input, try 'absolutely fucking mortified'. The quiver in my voice made me very aware of myself for a few seconds, and then I noticed my vision blurring with liquid. In case it requires saying, that was the first time I could recall striking someone like that. And I'd done it to someone who'd only been trying to help me.
My head was in my hands, sobs and tears pouring out.
How could I have done that? God damn it!
We shouldn't have talked about that. That was a terrible fucking mistake.
I just shook my head and tried not to think about it.
There was another moment of silence, though this time silence was relative. I eventually stopped my sniveling, and Rel seemed content to just type some more. Just tiny sniffs and taps, a shift in his chair as he sat back down. When I finally pulled my head up, I found him reading his notes and quietly moving his mouth. I was shaking, and his silver skin gleamed in my tear-stroked vision, but I could still see dark lines coming in on his cheek.
"I…" What could I have said? Sorry? "Your face…"
"Hm?" He checked his reflection in the screen of a tablet that was sitting on his desk. "Oh, this is nothing. I had a patient buck me across the room once. If you think a bruised cheek is bad, you should try cracked ribs on for size."
I had to bite my lip to keep from being distrustful. How could he not be mad? I didn't understand. If someone had hit me like that, even if it was just an accident, I'd have been livid. Yet here he was cracking jokes.
"But nothing." He threw his finger out as he interrupted me. "I already told you that it was my fault. You were clearly upset, and I've taken enough training courses to know not to touch distraught patients. It was a reflex move, and a poorly timed one at that. I apologize."
What? I mean… What?
He's apologizing? But we hit him!
Instead of dignifying that internal repetition of logic with a response, I took another deep breath. I needed to reign in my rationality, lest this remain unresolved.
"Right," I accepted his apology. "And I'm sorry as well. I should've handled that better."
"No, no, no." He waved my claim off before I'd even finished. "You have nothing to apologize for. You've clearly gone through something terrible. I may be a physician and not a psychologist, but I've seen enough PTSD victims to recognize the signs."
PTSD? …Oh shit.
"I have PTSD?"
"Well, again, I'm not a psychologist," he quickly disclaimed. "But the beginning of your story plus that reaction doesn't leave too much to the imagination."
I found myself looking down, uncertain how to feel or think about things at the moment. PTSD hadn't even crossed my mind, though at the same time it kind of made sense. Post-traumatic stress disorder, right? What else had my time in the facility been but trauma? Stress? Between the new body and unfamiliar surroundings, I could very well be pictured in the dictionary next to 'stress'. Now that I was thinking about it, it was pretty hard to deny, especially after having struck Rel.
"So what do I do about it? Therapy?"
"Therapy," he repeated with a nod. "That and also a reduction of stressors in your life. Move out to the country, go fishing, whatever it is you humans do to relax."
I almost chuckled. Almost.
Before anything else could be said, the medbay door pulled apart. My body tensed at the sight of the visitor, it being none other than the alien that had come at me with a gun and caused me to faint. My eyes wasted no time in checking their belt, only to find it missing entirely. Actually, once I'd given them a full check, I found them to be carrying no weapons at all.
She noticed me staring more or less instantly, not having taken two full steps into the room before speaking.
"Hey…" It was an awkward and soft-spoken greeting, probably brought on by the fact that I was leering at her. My brain was a little hung up on associating her with the panic attack I'd had when last we met, thus I caught myself unconsciously looking at her like a cat might a loud and obnoxious stranger.
It wasn't her that freaked you out. It was the gun.
I'd say it was combination of both. Also the gun was only there because she brought it, so that makes them all but the same entity.
"Cia," Rel stated, presumably stating their name.
She doesn't have it now though.
Hence why I'm just glaring at her and not, say, freaking out and dropping like a brick.
"Everything going alright in here?" she asked, turning her attention to Rel. No answer could be given before her eyes narrowed on the doctor. "What happened to your face?"
My heart nearly skipped a beat as the tall, sharp-featured alien's eyes flicked at me for the briefest of instances. No surprise, but her face still seemed to be defaulted to that harsh glare. Her tone hadn't been accusing or anything, but the glance was all I needed to assume that she suspected me in some way.
"Hm?" Rel brushed a hand over where I'd struck him. "Oh, I hit it on a shelf earlier. Does it look bad?"
My teeth clenched down on the inside of my cheek, stopping me from reacting more severely as Rel lied. I couldn't imagine what possessed him to do so, but at least the false explanation hadn't mentioned me.
The only problem was that Tall, Dark, and Pointy wasn't buying it.
"That's a slap mark," she called the bluff. It was so fast that I didn't even have time to fully register my raised hopes before they were dashed again. Disappointment turned to fear almost immediately as the menacing alien turned fully at me.
Oh god no.
"You responsible for this?"
I can only assume that my expression as she stared me down was that of the proverbial deer in the headlights… or maybe an actual person in the headlights, considering that deer typically weren't capable of opening their mouths and choking on startled apologies.
She took one step towards me, no doubt intending to come over and teach me a lesson. I unconsciously yelped and threw myself backwards. There was only one problem with that course of action, that being the fact that the medical cot I'd sat on was set into the an alcove in the wall. This meant that 'backwards' from my sitting position lead me back-first into a slab of metal, trapping me with the incensed alien only a few steps away. I tried to press back through it, but of course that didn't work.
Oh please god no.
My head sprung back up when I registered Rel's interjection. My eyes focused in time to see the amphibian taking the taller being aside and pulling their head down so he could whisper into their ear.
She doesn't have ears.
Not showy ones like a human, but he's still whispering into her head. Ears are implied.
Weird how these aliens have anatomy similar to humans and stuff.
Evolution's a bitch.
They muttered back and forth for almost thirty seconds, eventually moving to the complete other side of the room so that I couldn't even hear the inflections of their tones. What little I picked up implied an argument, presumably him talking her down.
Also you're assuming that Pointy is a girl.
I hear a woman's voice when she talks. She's a girl.
They probably hear a girly voice when you talk too. Are you a girl?
No… wait… Shit.
The tiniest of flashbacks to the first time I looked down at my new body blinked through my mind. I shook my head a little to dispel it.
Ugh… Gotta stop doing that.
We need a safe word. Something to make you stop and think happy thoughts.
Brain bleach command? Turnip.
Turnip's the reboot password. We can't be tempted to switch off and on again every time you get freaked out.
For the record, my internal lexicon referred to my ability to stop and unfuck myself as 'rebooting'. 'Turnip' was the trigger word. Why? Because Harvest Moon used to be my go-to relaxation game, that's why.
Shit we're hungry.
I wish I was playing Stardew Valley right now.
"Okay," Rel all but yelled into the room to pull attention his way. He was walking towards me, a less-than-thrilled Pointy in tow.
"This is Cia," Rel introduced her to me in a more proper fashion. Naturally he used her correct name instead of the silly nickname I preferred.
To my surprise, the female-esque alien appeared to have returned to the awkwardness that had been present when she first walked into the room and noticed me staring at her. Her mask of a face was hard to read, but some part of me dared to think that it had the potential to be the apologetic kind of awkward. It was enough to keep me from thinking up a quip, if nothing else.
"She might not be willing to say it, but she's sorry for acting so… impassioned."
"Impassioned?" the alien woman repeated, sounding offended. The awkwardness increased to new levels. "Rel…"
He's hosing her.
I wonder if they teach that in medical school.
"What? Someone has to apologize for you."
She stammered through some nonwords before reigning in her frustration. "Fine, whatever. I came in here to tell you that T'Shin wants to speak with you."
"Excellent. You can watch the patient while I go take care of that." It was a statement, not a request or suggestion.
She produced more stammering and nonwords, but to no avail. Rel just smiled, winked at me, and walked out of the room without another word spoken.
Damn, he's smooth.
The medbay door shut behind the man, leaving me and Cia an astonishingly pregnant awkward silence.
Cia was the first to move, wheeling around to find me sitting cross-legged on the bed. I was leering at her again, as if I could possibly do anything else while stuck in a room alone with the living, breathing source of not one but now two panic attacks in as many meetings.
This initiated a staring contest. I dug my incisors into my lip while she narrowed her hawk-like eyes at me. I couldn't help but wonder what was going through her mind right now. It was clear that she didn't want to be here, though whether it was because I was bothering her or she actually had something else to be doing was up for debate. The real question was what needed to be done in order to avoid making enemies of each other.
God forbid you actually talk to her.
Patience we must have, my young Padawan. Let her make the first move.
After nearly fifteen seconds, the alien finally blinked. Bingo.
"Spirits…" There's that oath again. "I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to scare you earlier. The same goes for back in the lifeboat. I was just being careful."
My brow furrowed in surprise. That was more sincere sounding than I expected.
"Alright," I said with a nod. "Just to say, I wasn't going to hold the lifeboat thing against you. You were probably just doing your job."
You were totally holding it against her, and you only thought of the second point just now.
Shut up! I'm trying to build a bridge here.
"Yes, that was the case. I run security on this flying hunk of metal, so carrying a gun around is kind of my job," she explained. The relief in her voice was clear to pick up, hopefully coming from my understanding. She did make a show of patting her beltless hip though. "Rel gave me an earful about it regardless of that fact though, so I decided to make an effort to avoid a repeat scenario."
I nodded again, going along with what she was saying.
Apologies left and right today.
Better than holding grudges and letting misunderstanding fester.
"It's fine. Water under the bridge," I offered.
She paused, blinking a few times. Then, in what was easily the most amusing thing I'd seen since waking up in that tank, I watched a tall and sharp-edged alien move their hands in a way that resembled water flowing. Her eyes followed her hands, as if looking for something that held meaning. Another pause, some deep thought, and then she pointed at me.
"I get it," she claimed eagerly. "Is that a Human euphemism?"
I nodded once again, this time stifling a laugh. "It means 'what has passed is past'."
"Right." She gave her own nod.
There was another brief silence, albeit one of contentment.
Then my stomach growled.
"What the hell was that?"
Another laugh, only this time there was no stifling. I let out a much needed raspy chuckle.
It almost felt good.
And that's some light character introduction. We get a little bit of an idea what really went on back at the facility, and our intrepid hero is dealing with awkwardness of being stuck in the wrong body. Will the day ever come when it's not awkward for them to think about it? No, probably not.
Oh, and they freaked out and slapped someone. That was neat.
Sorry if it feels like not much is getting done in this chapter. Next chapter is a direct continuation of it. Hopefully I can get it out without too much of a delay (don't count on it).
Menchenblut: Another episode in the pod would've shown Protag pounding their head into the wall. Didn't feel like letting things devolve that far. As for tractor beams, what I was able to find states that 'tractor beam' is the phrase for something that attracts something else from a distance. By that definition, even if ME tech is integrated, it's still a tractor beam. And they sneeze in German because I DEMAND IT.
1KBestK: It won't be obvious, but right now the idea is to stay true to ME canon without actually featuring said canon. We'll be dodging the games' events in favor of the expanded galaxy.
Fan-rei/Griezz: 'Genderless' is not quite the right term for Protag's condition. It's more like they're a woman without genitalia. They might use the word 'genderless' to make themselves more comfortable, but it's ultimately just an unreliable narrator being unreliable. When the doctor says they're a woman, it's because he sees the basics of a woman. He doesn't bring up the lack of genitalia in this because it simply isn't relevant. It's not a recent operation or anything with scars to bring up. They never had genitalia. It's just the way they are.
Once again, a huge thank you to all the reviewers. Your kind words keep this story rolling, and your criticism keeps me learning.
I've been The Blocked Writer, and I hope you're having a wonderful day.