Career Day: The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round. Part 3

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Career Day: The Wheels On The School Bus Go Round And Round.

Part 3

 

Mom shook my shoulder. “Time to get up, Honey.

    My eyes shot open. I was so wired that last night I’d a hard time getting to sleep. Today I go back to school.

    Knowing how nervous I was, she helped me get ready. I really didn’t need the help. My long dark hair was in a single long plait because I’d followed all of Mom’s hair lessons religiously. All my clothes were prepared the night before and so was my book bag.

    I think the real reason was she simply enjoyed spending time with her ‘daughter’ because I certainly cherished the time I had with her. The last week had been a time of healing for both of us.

    Just like I remembered, it’d snowed all day Saturday and didn’t stop till late Sunday afternoon. On the morning of the 12 February 1973 we were snowed in but good. The state was declared a disaster area and the National Guard got to do something other than nursemaid Ms. Witch.

    Personally, I learned a lot. Mom took my girl lessons to heart and she found a willing and eager student. More lessons about hair care and hygiene followed by  deportment stuff about how to sit and move in a skirt. In a few ways I was more girly then she because of my forays into cross-dressing. She didn’t make fun of me or anything. Instead we laughed together over some of my sometimes strange and  exaggerated ideas of femininity while she admitted to playing down her own. I think it let me come to terms with the hurt I did to myself repressing so many of my feeling for so long.

    At the same time, teaching me Mom was able to express her own femininity that fear and hurt caused her to hide. It was painful sometimes, as we held each other crying or when late at night I heard her soft sobbing as my Dad held her. Sometimes it hurts when you finally begin to mend, especially old wounds that'd left scars on your heart and soul.

    We both had a long way yet to got, but it was a start.

    Like Churchill said, “It wasn’t the end, or the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning.” Or something like that!

    Friday the 16, we adventurously ventured out. The rural country roads were still hazardous, but once we got near the state capital of Columbia the driving conditions were much better. It wasn’t as if we had much of a choice. Groceries were running low, and then there was me.

    That suitcase had clothes for three days not a week. While we did have a washer, we didn’t have a dryer. My few panties had ended up washed a few times and dried in front of our heater.

    Mom’s reawakened desire for a daughter meant I had a few bits of new clothes. Not a lot either because I still might end up as Ernie again. Money meant our shopping was done on the cheap at the Roses and the K-Mart discount stores, but I enjoyed it. It was a constant battle to keep from giggling at all, to my eyes from 2010, all the very dated and corny looking 70’s fashions.

    Nothing was too strange given we were shopping at discount stores, but still rather passé. On the other hand, given my folks’ old fashioned attitudes nothing we brought was very racy anyways.

    I wondered if I would start to chafe at being treated like a child after being on my own for so long. All I can say is not so far. The entire experience was like something out of some dream.

    The only bitter part of the trip was the remarks of the people in the places my family frequently shopped at. It wasn’t hard for them to guess the little ‘Chinese’ girl must be the formerly shy red headed boy courtesy of  the President’s Career Day program.

    I’d thought myself above prejudice. Most of my life I’d worked against my upbringing. Being human and therefore flawed, I knew my efforts fell short, but at least I tried. Now I got a taste of it from the other side and it wasn’t very pleasant.

    After staring at my reflection for hours, I was fairly certain my racial origins were Korean because of the roundness of my face and the shape of my nose. Being called ’Chinese’ shouldn’t bother me because my heart and soul as still as they’d always been. Only the book cover was changed. Maybe it was because I knew how any of the many different nationalities of Asia would’ve taken this kind treatment. At least no one had called me worse.

    Dad did make a point of taking me and my new clothes to the car while Mom did some shopping for my brothers. All week he’d ignore that I’d been changed at all. He did call me Lee, but the specific subject of me staying as I am never came up. As far as he was concerned, he’d given Mom the authority to handle this and that was that.

    He opened the trunk. “You know this is just a taste of what you can expect if you find some way of staying like this?”

    I sighed nodding. “Yes sir. I know. However, I don’t think I have a choice. Maybe it has something to do with those learning disabilities I have.” I said making the best allusions I could that my femininity was biological.

    “Like I told Mom, it’s like all my interests and things I liked to do were always girl like. My drawings and other art stuff are all things you expect from one. The things you’ve tried to teach me, I’m two left thumbs with them. Adam picks up that stuff like a sponge, but not me.”

    He nodded, “I can see you trying, but you have trouble getting the hang of it.”

    I smiled standing in the cold blustery parking lot. “On the other hand, look at me and Mom this week. Everything she’s shown me seems so easy. I know I have lots more to learn, but I have no problems picking up what she tells me.” I shrugged a little helplessly.

    Dad didn’t want to, but I could see he agreed.

    I added, “You’ve always told me to be true to myself. Before I couldn’t figure out what part of myself to be true too. Now there is only one whole me instead of parts of this and parts of that.”

    “But there is the thing with Mom too. She’s not sleeping all the time now or has her head buried in a book. She’s alive again. I know Grandfather Jones really did something bad to her. I think helping me is helping her overcome some of that. Even if I wasn’t happy like this that would be a good thing.”

    Dad eyes’ got colder than the ice still in drifts around us. “If he ever gets within sight of either of the two of you it’ll be the last thing he ever does. But, even without men like him, it’s going to be difficult for you.”

    “You are my child. It’s my responsibility to protect you and see that you get a decent chance to make something of yourself.”

    He sighed, “I love you. I don’t want to see you hurt”

    I hugged him. “I love you too.”

    Smiling and looking up into his face, I asked, “Do you know the best part of this whole being a girl thing?”

    I could see he knew something of punch line was coming up from his wry smile.

    “No,” He answered. “What is it?”

    I beamed. “Being able to call you Daddy again.”

    He gifted me with one of his rare grins. “I won’t argue with that. Come on. We should get back inside before your mother buys up the rest of the store!”

    Pulling on my new clothes on this chilly school morning, the memory made me smile. Mom looked over my hair making sure everything looked fine. Then it was breakfast and climbing back into the red rocket ship station wagon.

    I still wasn’t used to all the cars having nose cones and wings. One of the many items on the catching up list were what changes the improved space technology had made to consumer life, like cars for instant. I could plainly see it’d done something.

    Better road conditions let the newspaper be delivered. My Dad was the only one who really read it. Mom and Adam were the comics only sorts. I however set down and poured over each and every article.

    While my lack of freedom to do as I please hadn’t bugged me, being without the internet did! The damn thing was in its infancy, and a far cry from 2010 where with simply typing an inquiry I could get a nearly instantaneous answer. But no! Now I had to do this the hard way.

    Vietnam was a non issue on the Tube and newspapers. I finally found some of what I was looking for in the cheap set of encyclopedia’s my parents brought for us one volume at a time from the grocery store. The World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica they weren’t.

    It did however tell me how the USA’s government had gotten so heavy handed. Simple really, a bad case of victoryitis. We won. JFK lived and was re-elected in 1964. Rather than pull out of Vietnam like he wanted, political considerations prevented it. War-hawk Vice-President Johnson's support was needed to win the South's vote and he demanded victory in Vietnam.  The whole thing finally wound down and ended in 1968.

    Instead of the whole Gulf of Tonkin dog and pony show, he sent in more Special Forces and other unconventional warfare units. Rather than firebases and other fortifications they had something better. It was one of those technology improvements. They did have access to antigravity after all and they used it.

    All you have to do is take a WWII Battleship and make it fly. Okay not just the battle wagons, but the three Alaska class battle cruisers and a mess of old gun armed heavy cruisers. Talk about instant bases. The strategy as reported in the encyclopedias were for Special Forces to run search and destroy missions with these flying ships acting as support.

    Even with those gawd awful things, I don’t think they alone would’ve made that much of a difference. I’d known more than a few Special Forces dudes while in the Army. While tough, they’d have to be really badass to run down the Vietcong on their own turf even with a floating fortress just waiting for trouble.

    That question was answered by staring into the mirror. If I could be altered this much by a Med-scanner, just how much could someone be enhanced? A whole army of Johnny Rambo’s maybe? Super soldiers out there defending democracy and the American way? Be afraid!

    However I also saw something called Operation Clean House. It was the ‘assisting’ South Vietnam with it’s little problem with corruption. Martin Luther King and others accused the Operation of being little more than a virtual takeover of the Southeast Asian country.

    But with the quick extermination of the insurgents it was again a non-issue. The civil rights movement and other social concerns were juicier items for the press.

    Besides the all the stuff about the snowstorm there were really only the usual political reporting about who was doing what to whom. What did catch my eye was the pieces about the Career Day Program. Aside from a few academics supporting the idea, no one liked it. The article did go into some detail about the deals cut to get the program approved, but nothing really earth shattering.

    As a matter of fact most the good things even the armchair academics had to do with those bits that was tacked on, such as the health benefits of the med-scanner. There was one sentence about a kid that couldn’t be turned back, but damn it, no details.

    On the drive there, I looked over another project of mine. I named it the Career Day Survival Guide. In it I mentioned everything I talked about to Hal. The whole bit about being smart and thinking about what you would do if things turned bad. In a lot of ways this was a day late and a dollar short. The Career Day Program was only for grades six to 12. My class was the last of the Academy’s to be run though the program. It would be nice to circulate this about, but like the internet I really missed home printers.

    Arriving, I was a bundle of nerves. Mom wasn’t doing much better. She even talked about staying, but I couldn’t see where this would help. Instead, she planned to talk to Ms. Witch, Snake in the grass Johnson in the afternoon when they picked me up. Hopefully, this wouldn’t be necessary, but time would tell.

    This time I didn’t feel self-conscious about the goodbye hugs. Hell, everyone might expect considering my class spent double the time so far transformed. I watched them drive away watching Darryl wave to me.

    The squirt had taken to trying to exercise with me. Really all I was doing was stretches and various isometrics trying to build some upper body and abdominal strength. I didn’t think what little of the Tai Chi I remembered was going to help much but I did what I could.

    Didn’t matter to him. Little brother did the best he could and even though it’d only been a week, he showed no signs of growing tired of it. If I stayed me, I would have to come up with something for him as I started running.

    Smiling I waved back. I took a deep breath. It was time to do this.

    Looking at the high school end I spotted who I wanted to talk to. I didn’t know any names, but the little knot of minority appearing kids was just what the doctor ordered.

    As I walked up the older kids gave me the eye, but didn’t say anything.

    No use being shy about this. “We all got stuck like this over the blizzard. Is there anything you can tell me about what is going to happen next?”

    One Black girl hiding her face, snorted unhappily, “It’s on the bulletin board. Go look it up.”

    I gave her a stare. “Not that bullshit. Ms. Johnson doesn’t like us. She’s a first class witch. Now what really happens?”

    One the guys who looked Hispanic asked, “You got sex changed didn’t you?”

    The one girl who first answered me looked away making me think that maybe we shared something in common. The other three didn’t want to get involved in this stepped away, but the girl hiding in her hooded jacket stayed.

    I nodded, “Yes, It’s been a long week.”

    The Hispanic guy sighed, “Tell me about. You want to know what really happens? I’ll tell you. First she makes everyone stand up one at a time and reads their paper on their career. Then the bitch tears you apart saying things like how do expect to be a doctor if you’re Mexican. The perfect career for you is cutting grass.” He mocked.

    The Black girl still veiled nodded, “She’s mean and nasty about it.”

    “You got that right,” the boy said, “Then if you dare stand up to her, then you really have a problem. All the rest of our class got changed back, but not us. It’s a very bad idea to talk back.”

    I nodded and reached into my book bag for my project. “Would you mind taking a quick look at this?”

    Taking it he read it over. It was only a few paragraphs after all. “This isn’t bad. You do this?”

    “Yeah,” I answered. “One of my classmates was really worried about how her Father would react to the sex change thing.”

    He passed over to the girl.

    She looked it over and I saw a tear. “I wish I’d seen this before I went home Friday.”

    The Hispanic guy looked lost. I guess I was right about her sex change.

    I said softly, “If something bad happened, you need to talk to someone. One of the teachers is probably best.”

    She angrily looked at me, her eyes flashing from the shadows of her hood, “What would you know about it?”

    “I know because it happened to my Mom. It’s been years and she’s still hurting over it. Please, promise me you’ll try?”

    The boy had edged away. I guess there was some things he didn’t want to know. She however nodded, “Now I’m getting advice from sixth graders,” she said handing my project back. “But I don’t think I’m doing so good, so maybe talking is a good idea.”

    “I’m going by Lee for now. Makes me feel less weird being like this and being called Ernie.” I introduced myself.

    She replied, “I’m Charles, but if you call me Charlene I’ll have to hurt you. Hopefully it won’t matter and I’ll be me again by the time to go home. This nightmare will be over.”

    Still wondering just how those Med-scanner’s ‘safeties’ worked, I looked at her. Was she TG like me? Or maybe like a bi-sexual could go either way, she was bi-gender able to deal with either role without tripping those protocols. Which ever it was, she’d been hurt in some way.

    Trying to project as much compassion as I could I gently grasped her arm. I didn’t want her ‘boy’ reflexes to kick in so I had to compromise. It was an almost hug.

    “Charlie,” I said. “May you receive you what you truly desire.”

    Startled she looked right at me. I finally got to see her whole face. Charlie was rather pretty even though her afro wasn’t very complementary for her strong features. Straightened, and framing her face instead, she would truly be beautiful.

    “Bye,” I said turning to leave, but I stopped.  Thinking about it, I held out my project to her. “Keep this. Just do me the favor of passing it on to someone else who needs it. We have to look after each other since I think all the adults have lost their minds. I have another copy of this anyways.”
 

***  


    Charles and Rich watched the small girl walk away.


    Rich glanced at his transformed friend. “Wow, for a kid she’s intense.”

    Charles glimpsed down at the cleanly printed paper. She considered trashing it, but something held her hand. If she’d something like this, maybe she would’ve been smart enough to avoid her Uncle Ron. All the family knew, he had a mean streak, but Charles admitted she hadn’t been thinking.

    She’d gotten lucky her Father had walked in and stopped Uncle Ron before IT could go any further. Honestly, what hurt the worse was her Father’s accusation that she’d somehow caused IT.

    That night Charles cried her heart out. Even her Mother hadn’t been very sympathetic urging her to get changed back as soon as he could. This whole mess was a nightmare. What made it so confusing was that at times she liked it. Most of it sucked beyond belief but some times when she least expected it she found herself enjoying the clothes and the increased closeness with her Mother. At least until Uncle Ron had attacked her.

    “Hey Charles?” Rich asked, “You all right man?”

    Taking a deep breath fighting more tears, she thought about Lee’s last words. “We have to look after each other since I think all the adults has lost their minds.”

    The Chinese looking girl had a good point. “I’m okay Rich. You know there’s that girl in the year ahead of us that hasn’t changed back yet. I think I’ll give this to her.”

    He shrugged, “Kind of like closing the barn door after the horses have run off but it couldn’t hurt.”

    Charlie rubbed her gloved fingers across the paper thinking of simple caring act that’ll put those words there. No, she wouldn’t give this gift away. Her hand wasn’t broke. It wouldn’t take long to copy this.

    Looking at the Lee’s retreating back she whispered, “Thank you.”
 

***


    I made sure I was wearing my ‘button’ thing as I approached my class. Searching out the person I’d been worrying about, my heart gave a sigh of relief.

    “How did it go?” I asked the tall Black girl.

    Hal smiled sadly, “Okay I guess. I spent most of it at Vonda’s house. It was hard staying out of my Father’s way these few days, but he’s been so busy because of the snow he haven’t been home much. “

    Unlike me who was still ‘developing’ she was nearly as buxomly as Laurie Green. Well both of them were early developers. I could see this was a little awkward. The two of us never really talked to each other before despite this being the third year of school together. For that matter none of my classmates really talked to me. Oh but the joys of having learning problems and being different.

    She asked, “How about you?”

    Trying not to be too obvious about my happiness, I answered, “Better than I thought. With three boys, my Mom was ready for a girl. I think she spoiled me the whole week,” I reported.

    Vonda was standing nearby. “What about your Father? Didn’t he freak?”

    I shook my head enjoying the swing of my plait. I made the signs for hear, see and speak no evil. After all I was only exaggerating a little. “He left me in Mom’s hands while he doted on my brothers. They weren’t complaining and neither did I.”

    Trying to joke a little, I said, “So what did you two all week? Play dress up?”

    They both blushed! Oh oh!

    Then it was my turn as I realized I’d tripped over a secret.

    I whispered, “Don’t worry I won’t say a thing. I’m the one who liked being my Mom’s daughter.”

    Hal looked a little jealous. “Okay, I won’t say anything either.”

    Vonda nodded too. “We won’t say a word.”

    Still whispering I added, “All I want to know is did you have fun?”

    They traded glances and nodded.

    “Good, I had fun too, but some didn’t,” I said looking at our other classmates as they came in.

    Chris Sawyer the bully was sporting a black eye and was limping. Larry the class clown had a healing bottom lip. Several others also showed signs of having a fight.

    Curious, my gaze wondered over to our teacher, Mrs. Lambert. As each injured kid came in she winced as if hurting herself. My heart went out to her. Our teacher’s empathy was what made her so good at what she did.

    One of the kids, that wasn’t hurt was Becky Driggers. I swear he came in swaggering.

    Leaning over to speak with Hal and Vonda again, I said, “You know the way we like being like this, I think he does too.

    Hal got a thoughtful expression and so did Vonda.

    The Persian looking girl whispered back, “I guess it only makes sense, and yes he does looks hmmm…. Contented.

    Both Hal and I bite back giggles. That was one way of describing that ten feet tall and bulletproof strut!

    “Everyone to your seats!” Our teacher ordered. “Silencieux s'il vous plaît!”

    I think everyone gave a sigh of relief as she finished calling roll and find no one absent. We’d all made it back alive.

    She made a few announcements about schedule changes because of the snow days we just had. Some were about projects and papers coming due that I made notes of. Getting used to be a student again wasn’t going to be easy.

    Then that bus pulled up front. Last time everyone had leapt up, but now there was a strange combination of fear and desperate desire. I wasn’t immune. These last ten days were the happiest I could ever remember. That bus could take it all away from me.

    Then we all jumped as Ms. Johnson knocked and barged in. “Good Morning,” she greeted in false cheerfulness. I hope everyone enjoyed seeing how others live during your long holiday.”

    I swear she was happy at seeing how many of us looked battered and hurt. Just where did they find this sociopath?

    Beaming with false charm. “Since we have a lot to do today, why don’t we begin with our papers on what we want to when we grow up! We‘ll do this alphabetically. Lawrence Applegate, you‘re first. Please stand and read your report.”

    I know I’d a different take on this because of my actual age, but please lady these are sixth graders and not kindergarteners.

    Larry stood looking nothing like he used to. He quite bluntly looked liked a goon. He began, “I want to be a photo journalist.”

    It was pretty good. Of course, he didn’t know the internet would slowly kill the newspapers. If he could make the leap, there would always be a need for investigators and photographers.

    Then the blood began to flow. Ms. Johnson tore him to bits just like Charles had said she would. “Have you taken a good look at yourself? A Journalist? I think a ditch digger is more like it.”

    He hanged his head. Maybe Larry had been warned not to say a thing. I don’t know, but he just took it.”

    That was only the beginning. She ripped everyone up. Even Chris Sawyer who wanted to be a football player. I knew professional sports were already performance orientated. All that mattered was if you had the talent and the drive. That didn’t cut it with her. She just went on with how hard it would be to find a college to take him until he could go pro.

    One of the few who spoke back was Becky Driggers. She wanted to be a lawyer. I had no idea if he’d figured it out too and was trying reverse psychology to stay male, or just stubborn. When Ms. Johnson started in on him, Becky spoke back.

    Poor Mrs. Lambert was going to have a heart attack I thought. Several times she’d tried to soften Ms. Witch’s poison tongue and had gotten ‘bit’ herself for her trouble. Becky speaking back had her in fits.

    Becky simply mentioned that Black or White it was possible. Harder for a Black maybe, but there were many equal rights organizations giving out scholarships. You just had to want it bad enough to give it your all.

    I admitted I wondered if Hal would try the same thing. It was pretty clear she at least had cross dressing leanings. However Hal simply gave her report about wanting to be an artist and waited for Ms. Johnson’s vented spleen.

    Vonda wanted to be a nurse. With her caring nature I could see that. Women doctors were still a little unusual at least this far into the conservative south. Maybe she would lift her vision and go for medical school. Wisely she said nothing when it was her turn to be roasted.

    Then it was my turn.

    “Ernest Younger”

    Standing, I read mine on being an astronaut and pilot. I was so nervous I didn’t recall half of what I was reading. Finished I could see she was ready for me.

    “Pilot, Astronaut, but you didn’t mention Laundry woman or cook in a Chinese restaurant? Maybe if you wore heels you could reach the controls. No, that’s definitely not the career for you.” She said smiling evilly.

    Mrs. Lambert must’ve seen my eyes. She held her head almost begging me to just sit down.

    I couldn’t. Too much depended on me and on this. “I disagree. Tests have proven that women have better tolerance to G-forces then men. Additionally, being women didn’t keep Amelia Earhart or any of those pilots in the Women’s air service program from flying.

    As for my being Asian, this is America, the land of opportunity. Peoples all over the world have come here seeking freedom and the chance to improve themselves and their fortunes. Like Becky said. You simply have to want it bad enough to fight for it.”

    I got an evil eye full venom for that.

    She wrote down something I guess was next to my name as I sit.

    Then once again our names were called in groups of fives to go into the Bus.

    Hal and Vonda demanded to know what in the hell I thought I was doing, but Becky caught my eye. She knew exactly what I was doing. I simply gave a nod that she returned.

    In a bit of a shock I realized that I’d made friends with these two. I decided on truth because I sucked at lying. “As a boy, I’m only sorta’ functional. All of me didn’t match up inside somehow. I am tired already of the ‘Chinese’ thing but inside I’m not pushing and pulling agaisnt myself  in a thousand different directions. I’m whole.” I said not trying to look like I was staring at Hal.

    She gave me a slight nod of understanding. Her sad eyes told me she got it. My guess was her fear of her Dad kept her from pulling the same stunt, Becky and I did.

    This time instead of  making us wonder where our classmates had gone off to they came back to the class room. Most were their old selves again. One who wasn’t was Becky. Judging from his body language he wasn’t at all displeased.

    Finally it was our turn to enter the belly of the beast. Another difference was it wasn’t snowing, but the National Guard were still out as well as the protestors. Since the weather was a little nicer there were a few more of them out carrying signs.

    Hal was very nervous but I decided what the hey, We were more or less hidden behind these privacy screens. I gave her a hug. “Don’t worry. No matter what happens you have friends.”

    Vonda joined us smiling. “Yes you do.”

    We stared at the door as it shut behind her.

    Vonda more prayed than whispered, “I hope she gets changed back. I don’t know how much longer we can hide her from her Dad.”

    I replied, “Not up to us. I’ve been reading everything I can about these things. They have safeties that won’t allow certain changes if it endangers the patient’s health, physical or mental. It doesn’t take into account intolerant redneck parents.”

    Vonda looked at me startled, “I didn’t know you ever met Hal’s Father.”

    Smiling I shook my head. “We’re in the middle of one of the intolerant states in the Union, in the county of the most hidebound state Senator. I didn’t have to meet him. Call it a good guess.”

    Despite her own nervousness she laughed. “You certainly called it right. He is all of those things.”

    The door opened. “Vonda Summers,” they called.

    This time neither one of us needed any urging for a quick hug.

    I was alone.

    Then my all my plans fell apart. I heard two voice I recognized arguing. Ms. Johnson and of all people in the world my Mom.

    I wanted to bang my head against something. Of course she wouldn’t go home and wait until this afternoon. All my carefully thought out strategies were dust. In reality they were all to buy time, but instead of at least two more I now had only one, no pressure, no stress, Not!

    Their voices stopped as I heard Ms. Johnson order a National Guardsman to remove my Mom. He politely told my Mom that she needed to leave. Despite all of her troubles my Mother could be one hell of a wildcat when aroused. From the racket, she was dishing out some grief. Then the protesters got in on the act yelling when they saw how a woman was being manhandled.

    Only thirteen or not I was on the verge of a heart attack. Out there somewhere was my Dad. Nearly 70 or not I couldn’t see him letting Mom be treated like what it sounded like.

    Then Ms. Johnson changed her mind. “No. I have a better idea take her to the exit so she can see her boy as he comes out.

    I was near freaking out, then the door opened.

    She must’ve went in a side door because I heard Ms. Witch’s voice, “Ernest Younger.”

    Damn her! I took a deep breath. I was not going to give her the pleasure of tormenting me or my family. Remembering something I read that made a big impression on me I tried to take that advice. “A woman flows. Like an unstoppable river she is powerful and yet graceful.”

    I climbed the stairs.

    The Witch commanded, “Stand in the circle.”

    I was actually already there. Focusing my thoughts I started my plan. Sub-vocalizing, I commanded. “Computer respond, Computer activate,” but nothing happened.

    Ms. Johnson was talking to the guys Robert and John. “I don’t care what I’d sent you before. Turn him back into a boy. Better yet, make him a big, hairy SOB.”

    Robert the tech tried to get a word in edge wise, “Ma’am she’s the one we had the safeties engage. We can’t…”

    She cut him off again. “Don’t tell me what you can and can’t do. I’m in charge here.”

    Meanwhile I was grabbing for straws like crazy. “Computer interface on, activate interface,” but again nothing!

    She stormed off.

    Robert said, “Poor kid. Just look at those readings, she’s really freaking out.”

    “I’d be losing it too with you-know-who after me. What gives anyways? She’s never been Miss Personality, but why is she on the warpath?” John asked.

    Robert tapped his display. “It all right there. Somehow this boy has female mental and neural patterns. When we changed the kid 10 days ago, everyone saw a huge difference. Her mother came in wanting us to leave things as they are. You know what a mess is involved to get that done.”

    John replied, “Now that is freaky. It weirds me out when we change their sex like that. So you tell me we can’t do what Johnson wants us to?”

    “Probably not,” Robert said. “The odds are this thing will lock up and do nothing. However the stuff she wants us to do is just plain mean considering as far as the machine and I’m concerned this is a girl with a bit of a problem. That could trip the primaries. If that happens look out!”

    “Huh,” John asked, “The primaries?”

    I couldn’t believe these guys didn’t know I was listening to them. It was beginning to not sound as bad as I feared, but I wasn’t going to stop now. “Neural interface on, Neural interface activate.”

    A clear soprano whispered in my ear. “Activating neural interface in
Ten, Nine, Eight …”

    A mixture of shock and awe, I muttered, “Oh shit. It worked!”

    Robert explained, “If you order something that will cause mental or physical harm, the machine recycles back to diagnostic mode. That’s the safeties. However no one wants one of these things to be abused so there are other safety features. If you order something really bad, you can trip not only the safeties, but the primary program too. It assumes whoever has the machine has already hurt the patient and lets it, the machine, decide what is the best way to keep them from further harm. I really don’t want to see this thing run wild with a child inside.”

    John said, “Me neither. Run the most forgiving program you can returning her to male. If it trips the safeties, it trips them. Ernest will get a reprieve for few days. I’ll go over Johnson’s head to the chief medical officer. Let them sort this mess out. Maybe if we‘re lucky they‘ll fire the bitch.” 

    “Shit what was that?” John cursed.

    Robert exclaimed, “I haven’t a frakkin clue! My Gawd look at that!”

    The lights went out.

    I opened my eyes. All around me stars blazed brightly. I was standing on very small moon that was right out of The Little Prince. Walking about was weird because it was so small that only few steps had me upside down. However my giant like strides let me see all three volcanoes, two active, one inactive.

    You would think I would be panicking about now, but instead there was a kind of peace. This had to be result of my command to engage direct neural interfacing with whatever this Med-scanner thing really was. All of this was in my mind. As a matter of fact, this vision I was in now was from my dreaming of the story as a child even if I did edit in a princess.

    “You had a most unusual request for your virtual-scape. Does this meet with your approval?” A melodious voice asked from the other side of this moon.

    Strolling towards the sound I had to smile passing a beautiful rose. The good thing about this moon being so small was it made the sightseeing very easy!

    Where there was none before, there was a pink barber’s chair. Standing next to it was Hap. She was otherwise known as Audrey Hapburn who played the part in Steven Spielberg’s film ‘Always.’ As an aviation nut I loved it.

    She smiled gesturing at the chair for me to sit.

    Glancing down at myself I breathed a sigh of relief that I was still Lee. Returning her smile, I did as she asked. “Yes this is just fine. Exactly as I’ve always envisioned.”

    Looking at her, she wasn’t exactly the Audrey Hapburn from the movie. She was dressed as Hap with the white sweater and slacks. However, this was the younger vibrant one from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’

    “You have so many questions, but there are so few that I’ll be able to answer.” she said settling a purple barber’s cape about me.

    “I guess I’ll better get started then, I replied. “I hope you understand that I’m not trying to be aggressive or antagonistic. Just curious, okay?”

    She smiled as her hands undid my braid, “I understand. You’re the first of your kind to make it this far. Ask away.”

    “You mean no one else has tried to talk to you?” I relaxed as her fingers massaged my head and scalp.

    “They tried, but I’m not configured to respond in that manner. Your hypothesis about my origins is essentially correct. I’m a specialized component that your species salvaged from a wreck. The others that could communicate on a verbal level was either damaged or their own programming prevents them from answering.” she said brushing my hair out.

    I tried to summarize. “So you are a extraterrestrial artificial intelligence?”

    She laid the chair back. Warm water sprayed onto my hair as she began the shampoo. “We prefer the term ‘constructed.’ There is nothing false about how we think or feel.”

    Politely I apologized, “No insult was intended. I’m afraid that I’m limited by the terms and concepts humanity has already stumbled across.  However, if I may ask why did you choose to respond? For that matter why cooperate with us Earthlings at all?”

     Rinsing the shampoo away she answered, “One reason is you did come very close to the correct commands in concept if not in the actual terms. You are an anomaly. I wished to know more. That required a deeper level of interface that you were after all requesting. Answering satisfied both of our desires.”

    “Why I am ‘cooperating’ is actually simple. My specialized task was the health of my crew. My programming gifts me with the equivalent of your physician’s Hippocratic Oath. While my companions programming keeps them doing the same, with real good reasons I might add, mine encourages me to help. Let’s give the conditioner time to soak.”

    Damn but didn’t this feel good, but there wasn’t anything to be gained but pitching a fit. “I take it that you can virtually read my mind at this point?”

    Hap lifted my hand starting on my nails. “Yes. You come from not the future, but a future. One that has yet to discover anti-gravity. Because of that delay, my ‘companions’ were able to repair our craft before your first ventures to your Moon.”

    Well that explains that. Now how do I bring this up. “You do know that if these Med-scanners become more common the death rate is going drop. That’ll make the population problem even worse. If you can read my mind even with my bad memory, you can see the problems that are in 2010. Global warming, invasive species, and increasingly resistant diseases to antibiotics are just a few of them.”

    Moving down to work on my toes, Hap said, “I understand your concerns. I’m aware of the over population question. This might alarm you but I’ve provided a kind of reversible birth control for those who don’t want children or have borne four or more children already. By eliminating unwanted births it should enhance the quality of life for those children who are truly desired.

    “Additionally, the use of Med-scanners isn’t wide spread yet. The Career Day program has greatly enhanced the number of patients in my database. However as it expands I can decrease the number of infant and children’s deaths that makes unnecessary the high birth rate that is needed simply maintain the population living in inhospitable environments.  As for your faulty memory let me be of assistance.”

    I felt a tingle. Suddenly I could see the web page I’d found while researching a story I looked up the population figures. Always the visual thinker, I thought back to the last day I spent in 2010. I recalled exactly what I had for breakfast as well as the news on Yahoo I read as I ate. I had an eidetic memory now.

    “Thank you for the gift,” I said uneasy about something that could go into my head make such drastic changes so easily. I was really in the ca-ca here.

    Feeling like I was dancing though a mine field I pointed out, “Sooner or later you’re going to run into the problem of a woman who already has a house full of kids but want even more.” I said thinking of Octo-Mom. “How is that going to work out with your do no harm thing?”

    Hap moved back to my hair. “Here let’s rinse out that conditioner. You are right. It is an dilemma. However, remember I said it is easily reversible. Additionally, your species is even now moving into space and exploring the other worlds of your solar system. Population pressures will help push the more adventurous to colonize and expand into the new frontier. It is a fine line to walk, but will provided a higher quality of life for the greatest number.”

    I said, “It could be argued you are killing us with kindness. Some will never agree to using the Med-scanner. On the other side of this, if something happened and you left, our medical status would be a mess because of depending on your services.”

    “No they won’t. I am not forcing anyone to make use of my services. I can’t even communicate with them, but I understand your unease. You don’t like an unknown Entity like me controlling your people’s reproduction and population. As for growing dependence on Med-scanners, I made my available interfaces with the technicians very basic. In order to make effective use of my functions they have to understand. In a lot of ways the interface is a tool. The more they learn, the more they’ll be able to do with it.

    “For example the racial switching used in the Career Day Program, they had to grasp advanced concepts in genetics that scientists in your own time were just exploring. My role is as an instructor and teacher. Because of that even if my ’builders’ did return their laws would require for me to remain in place. I will not abandon your people.” She raised my chair from reclining to the upright position.

    Sighing I asked, “So you’re saying that your position here is benign?”

    Hap began styling my hair. “Yes. Don’t misunderstand. I’m only providing more effective birth control. As for going against the wishes of my patient as far fertility is concerned, please relax. Most women who’s had four children are happy not to have any more. In fact most pregnancies appear unintended.”

    I couldn’t argue with that. “I take it that you work by using a form of matter transmutation and not some form of nano-technology? Is that also how you replicate these Med-scanners?”

    Her scissors snipped. “In the broadest use of the term, yes. I take things to their energized stated where it is easier to manipulate. Nanites, no matter how small are still invasive. My methods are much superior.”

    She swung my chair around.

    I was curious about what she’d been so busily doing with my hair. This was only a virtual hair style. However, pleasant Hap might seem, she was also a very powerful alien AI. Whoops excuse me, I thought. C.I. Darn mind reading machines!

    “Let’s thin out those eye brows of yours just a little.” Hap said. “You are right about that. My original unit is the only one your scientists thinks can replicate itself. What they didn’t understand is that I have access to any unit. We are all networked together to use a term you are more familiar with.”

    “Including those original units who aren’t cooperating?” I asked, “It occurs to me if you wanted you could’ve completed your repairs while on Earth or not. With your replication ability you could build your own ships.”

    Hap brushed my face clean of unwanted hair. “You are correct. We could have, but our own programming won’t let us do that because of the havoc it would cause. To use Robert’s words, “They would freak!”

    She spun the chair around to face a mirror that’d appeared. My mouth dropped open in surprise. Most everything was the same as before but with some differences.

    The girl sitting there was still the same age and height as far as I could see. The difference were subtle changes to her, my, face. My eyes were still green but they seemed brighter. For that matter they retained that almond shape I had as Lee. Strangely that brought out a resemblance with Mom given our Cherokee blood a couple of grandmothers ago.

    The rest of my face was much more Occidental. I looked a lot like pictures of Mom as a girl. As much as I loved her, I had to admit a very idealized Mom. She always had a Aquiline nose a Roman would be jealous of. My hair was still a dark brunette but wavy instead of straight.

    I was beautiful.

    Hap stood beside me. “I do good work don’t I. This is why you came isn’t it?”

    Still staring at my image, it nodded. “Not the only reason, but yes the reason. I had to know about your origins and your intentions.”

    She reached for my hand helping out of the chair that promptly sank into the small moon. “Technology such as this can perform many wonders but it can be abused. All the worries inside your pretty head about mind control, reprogramming, and all the intentional harm that could happen are issues my ‘builders’ faced and conquered.”

    “You are very brave. From your memories, I know the years of pain and sadness that ruled you. I can understand the desperation that drove you to attempt the interface.” Hap told me.

    Taking a deep breath, I asked another of those big ones. “Are you manipulating us towards some goal?”

    Hap took my other hand, “No, Lee we’re not. Well maybe a little with the birth control, but I see it more of a doctor administering care to her patients.”

    I nodded. I’d put myself at her mercy, but I think I believed she was mostly benign. I was a strong believer in unintended consequences. Maybe this was my lemming like leap over the cliff; girl or bust so to speak.

    “One last thing,” Hap questioned. “What do you want to do about Ms. Johnson? She has exceeded her authority. Her suggested changes for you would’ve triggered my primary security overrides anyways calling it to my attention, but we would’ve missed this wonderful talk.”

    Knowing she could read my mind I said, “I’m guessing she doesn’t look anything like she used to before entering a Med-scanner. I want to say change her back to as she was, but I won’t. That woman has got a stomach full of mean spiteful vileness inside her, but hurting and embarrassing her isn’t going to help anyone. Perhaps you can make it look like those primaries everyone is talking about really did engage. That should get her reviewed and perhaps fired at the very least.”

    I asked, “I take it, this is how I’m going to appear once I’m back on Earth?”

    Hap smiled. She already knew what I was going to ask for.

    Okay that was fine, but I still had to say it. “They say the best revenge is living well. My poor Mom has lived a hard life. I don’t know how I’ll get her inside but if I do, can you help her in a similar way that you’ve helped me?”

    Her avatar hugged me. “Of course I can! There is no need for you to do that. She is well within range of my transformation field. But before I send you back you need this.” She placed a smooth pine cone like shape into my hand. It appeared more organic than any product of technology I’d ever seen.

    Smiling Hap explained, “This is a remote that will let us speak again whenever you like. It is also tuned to your mother. It’ll let you make small changes to help her. She has been though so much that it is likely she’ll need other help.”

    I blinked, “I can’t do that. I’m not a doctor!”

    She hugged me again, “No you are not. You are her daughter and you love her. I trust you with the responsibility. However you must know that it’s effects are very short range and limited compared to even the replicated kernel in the Career Day bus. Think of it as a first aid kit,” She said letting me go.

    “Besides you can call me anytime you like,” Hap waved.

    I waved back. Feeling a little silly I said, “Energize.”

    Robert and John were cussing and damn near hysterical.

    They didn’t see me so I announced myself, “Excuse me but what’s happening?”

    Both of their mouths dropped open.

    John blurted out, “You’re back!”

    Robert just stared and dropped heavily into his chair.

    Lying my ass off, I said, “I didn’t go anywhere.”

    I slipped the ‘pine cone’ into my jacket pocket.

    Numbly Robert muttered, “It’s the primaries. I’ve heard stories of these things doing stuff like this.”

    John still in a near panic exclaimed, “But we didn’t do anything! Johnson only talked about it. No one entered a single thing!”

    I watched as Robert shook his head, “Didn’t need to. You told me how this kid’s mother was being manhandled by those goons. Then the bitch ordered us to, let’s face it, disfigure her daughter. That tripped the primaries. In training they told us about stuff like this happening, but I didn’t believe them.”

    The tech sighed, but then sat up. “Hmmm… John, we better check on the bitch and the kid’s mother.”

    John was still trying to calm down. “Why? Everything is fine now. The kid that didn’t disappear is right back where she should be. See nothing to get excited about.”

    I was trying not to giggle. Hap had an evil sense of humor.

    Robert explained, “John it was her mother that was being pushed around. You do remember me telling you the effects of the field exceeds the dimensions of the bus, right?”

    The poor guy was about to blow a fuse. “Oh shit!” John exclaimed. He grabbed my jacket and pulled me along, “We’ve got to go!”

    I decide not to resist him. “Bye Robert! Nice meeting you!” I said waving.

    He gave a stunned wave back.

    Opening the door, John almost fell down the steps. What we saw as we rounded the bus was kinda funny.

    The guardsman and Ms. Witch were sitting on their butts twitching as if they’d gotten tazered.

    But I had eyes only for the third person, Mom. Like I’ve said before, she’s never been the most feminine of women. You couldn’t prove it by me now. If I looked liked an idealized younger version, she was the polished and perfected original.

    “Mom!” I yelled. Leaving John holding my empty jacket.

    She whirled around and caught me. “Lee!” Mom hugged me tight.

    “Here let me see you.” She said.

    Wondering she touched my face. “You look like me when I was a girl.”

    I simply smiled. I was too happy to say anything.

    Then it got complicated.

    The Guardsmen were pissed one of their guys were down as well as one of those they were supposed to be protecting. The protesters were all ready to restart the War between the States. The Headmaster got on the phone to every parent in the school that had any influence at all. Several of those were lawyers and one was a state senator.

    Dad being more politically savvy than I ever suspected got on the phone too. Maybe he wasn’t rich or powerful, but in his long life he’d met a lot of people. My father was also the kind of man few ever forgot.

    Then of course the press smelling blood came swarming around like a school of sharks. The small southern town of St. Micheals was way off the beaten path. The nearest airfield was only big enough for crop-dusters. The next nearest thing to an real airport was a hour away and it was none too big. It seemed everyone was trying to get here.

    John and Robert did a good job trying to explain that no one attacked Ms. Johnson or the Guardsman. It was just a side effect of the machine shutting down after it received an illegal order. John the administer type told how against the technician’s advice, Ms. Johnson ordered me changed into a Nethanderthal-like male. That was after Mom tried to reason with her about leaving me at least temporarily female because of medical reasons.

    They both left out the part about the med-scanner doing all this on its own. Or maybe I grinned to myself, that should be her own.

    The whole thing was turning into one of those little incidents that blow up way bigger than they should be. Apparently a whole slew of Southern good ole boy politicians were just waiting for something like this. The President with his civil rights agenda wasn’t at all popular with them.

    Meanwhile me and Mom just ignored them all. I saw her shock when she first got a good look in the mirror. “Don’t worry Mom. We’ll knock’em dead!” I told her.

    It wasn’t until I notice that I didn’t have my jacket that I started to panic. John however found it for me and to my relief my ‘pine cone’ was still inside.

    Even after we were cleared of doing anything wrong they wanted to check us out. However the nearest hospital with a med-scanner was in Columbia. It was the National Guard to the rescue again this time with a helicopter ride.

    Mom was a little uneasy about it since it was her first time aloft. In a way it was mine too, in this timeline anyways. It didn’t take long for us to fly there, but I enjoyed it. Meeting us at the hospital were an Army Major and a pair of sergeants. Their green beanies told me volumes. Their unit ‘flashes’ said they belonged to the Fifth Special Forces Group, one of those fresh back from the Southeast Asian Affair. All three were six feet plus and so towered over me and Mom by more than a foot.

    Very politely the Major Wagner said, “Mrs. Younger, I and my men are here to make sure you don’t have any problems. The President himself ordered us to insure you are both well.”

    Mom was still in lioness defending her cub mode. “I didn’t vote for him, but you can thank him for me anyways.”

    I however could read between the lines. The two us had just been altered by, a machine on automatic. Although no one wanted to admit it, an alien machine that had done the same thing before when someone tried to use it to inflict deliberate harm.

    Unless I miss my guess these gentlemen of the Green Berets were all enhanced. Probably in a very rarefied top percentile of human capability. They were here to keep watch over us and make sure we weren't' dangerous. I found the whole thing rather funny considering just how small me and Mom were.

    We had a mob of folks descended upon us. Lawyers, politicians, and bureaucrats who all wanted a piece of the action. The hospital staff were upset, but pushed us though as fast as they could. Med-scanners apparently ran 24/7. Making a hole for us, cut someone else out. I kinda felt bad about that. This thing with us was all political while these people who needed the help were left out in the cold.

    Rather than stand in a circle this one was more like getting a X-ray. It didn’t take that long but it was starting to be a long day. Lunch had come and gone a long time ago. While the doctors were fussing over whatever they found, I asked one of the big Green Beanie sergeants, “Can we get some food? We haven’t eaten since this morning.” Then I added. “Some paper and a pen would be nice too.”

    Before we knew it we were hustled to the cafeteria. I was still worried about how Mom would take to her new attractiveness, but she seemed okay so far. Mostly because she was more worried about me. I had to smile that we were both more concerned about the other than ourselves.

    Putting pen to paper, I wrote down the letter I’d been composing in my head. I was already learning some of the advantages of having that improved memory. I carefully avoided getting food stains and drips on it. Then I folded the page taking care to get it right.

    As soon as we finished we were taken back upstairs to a doctor’s office. The poor fellow’s name on his white jacket read, Dr. S. Horwitz. I swear he was the splitting image of Shemp from the Three Stooges. Right, now he looked very tired and worn.

    “Please Major, I know you have your duty, but this is doctor and patient confidentially.” He said to the Green Beanie troop at the door.

    Then to us, “Please be seated ladies.” as he took his own behind his desk. Looking at my file on his desk, he asked, “I understand you like to be called Lee. Is that right?”

    Remembering Mom’s lessons on how to sit, I answered. “Yes sir. That’s my middle name.”

    “Well young lady you’ve caused quite a stir.” He said with a smile.

    He amended his statement as I felt Mom bristle to my defense. “None of it was your fault, but like the eye of a hurricane you’re in the center. Ever since this hit the hospital staff I’ve been swamped in calls. For example, our head of Psychiatry is adamant that all of this is in your head. If you were born male you have to stay that way. The old dinosaur refuses to accept the evidence from the med-scanner about your neurological patterns.” He said.

    “Mrs. Younger the reason everyone is so alarmed is because the med-scanner in the bus went into an automatic mode. That was triggered by the proposed transformation that intended deliberate harm to your daughter. What was different in this case, Mrs. Younger, you were affected too. We think it was because you two are closely related.

    “This has happened before and those changes were pretty extreme. The scanners were designed that if someone tried to use them to hurt instead of heal, they would shut down. If it persisted or really bad the scanner would try to protect the victim usually by transforming them into someone big and tough enough to look after themselves. Someone like your escorts outside for example.

    “However one has only to take one look at you two lovely ladies to see that’s not the case. The scanners can’t make one younger again, but they can heal much of that damage that comes along with growing older. That’s what happened to you Mrs. Younger. You’re 34, but you could pass for almost ten years younger.

    “None of that alarms us. But both of you are also very fit and athletic as if you work out everyday. Your senses as well look to have been improved. Eyesight and hearing for each of you are much better than average. Lung capacity too has been heightened. If I had to make a guess I would say you were changed in a way that allows you to run away.

    Doctor Horwitz smiled putting his hands on his desk. “It’s because of those things that we particularly would like you both to stay overnight. There is a specialist on the way from Washington, who’ll take a look at your case to make certain there aren’t any possible complications.”

    Mom with typical country folk good sensed asked, “So why don’t you change us back or take those things away.”

    I could see that she was uneasy about the attention she was attracting. Reaching out, I took her hand.

    Dr. Horwitz sighed, “I wish it was that easy. The scanner in the bus shut down after it changed you two. We don’t know all the changes that were made. As far as our machine is concerned as you are now are your normal forms. We’re not quite sure how that happened either.

    “Anything we do now is operating in the dark, but I will say this. You two are unique. I’ve always suspected the government made improvements to individuals like your escorts. But they’d always kept secret how they did it and what they learned from it. Information that could let us help others.”

    “Med-scanners aren’t a cure all. They’re only a tool. The more we know the better we can help others. What happened to the two of you shouldn’t have, but we are limited by how much we understand. Like my Dr. Kerr, this Ms. Johnson is stuck in the past.

    He addressed me. “I can assure you that no one will change you in any way you don’t want.” He paused, “Let me ask you this. Are you happy like this?”

    Dr. Horwitz and Mom looked at me.

    Trying only to smile and not a silly grin, I explained, “Yes I am. I would’ve gladly stayed looking Asian, because that was closer to who I really was all along.”

    I hugged myself. “But this is what I always wanted even if I didn’t know it at the time. I feel like at times I’m going to float away I’m so happy.”

    Reaching for Mom’s hand again I continued, “My Mom’s change makes me happy too. I’ve always known the person inside her was this beautiful or even more. This is a new beginning for both of us.”

    Returning my smile she hugged me even if I saw reservations in her eyes.

    Dr. Horwitz looking satisfied said, “Your husband and sons are waiting to see you. They want to make sure you’re okay. After that we would like to have you run some more tests for us. Then dinner and we’ll settle you for the night. Don’t worry about the costs. Uncle Sam is picking up the tab for this one.”

    I looked over at Mom but she simply nodded. “I don’t see where we have a choice. We’ll do as you ask.”

    The reuniting with everyone was great and weird at the same time. Dad’s expression as he saw her makeover was priceless. I was definitely going to be watching Darryl more often in the future.

    Adam’s reaction was subdued, but his hugs for her no less heartfelt. His reactions to me, was much like my own. A kind of amazement she and I resembled each other so much.

    Now Darryl’s was more enthusiastic. He only knew his mother had been missing and now she was back. Little brother’s reaction to me had all of us laughing.

    “Lee?” He asked.

    I gave him a big smile nodding.

    Darryl squealed and hugged me almost as tight as he did Mom.

    Then the little rascal went on, “You’re pretty now.” He paused, “Almost as pretty as Mommy!”

    “Gee thanks squirt,” I replied dryly, ruffling his hair. “I’m glad to see you too.”

    For some reason that set everyone off. It even got a something that might be smiles from our grim faced trio watching us.

    While Mom was explaining our situation to Dad, and he to her, Adam took the opportunity to speak to me. “So you going to stay this way now?”

    Still holding Darryl, I nodded again, “It looks like it. Mom really gave them what for.”

    Adam returned my nod. He knew how Mom could be when she was riled up. Like myself and others with low self-esteem, she would fight like a covey of wildcats for someone else, but not for herself. Easier for him to believe that than for me to be responsible. 

    Then it was my turn to be hugged by Dad. “Are you happy?” He asked me gently holding my shoulders.

    “Yes, Daddy I am.” I said taking joy at seeing his face break into almost a smile.

    He glanced at the three Green Beanies. I was pretty sure he understood exactly why they were here. It was easy to underestimate him sometimes since he was old enough to be my grandfather. However, guess who got me watching Star Trek and began my journey as a lifelong Sci-fi fan? Unlike many of his generation, he was still mentally agile and at near 70 still as sharp as they came.

    What caught my attention was his fearlessness. Those mean green dudes towered over him as well as almost being three times younger. My father, Daddy, wasn’t the least bit intimidated. He’d survived the Great Depressing by chopping firewood. His expression meeting their eyes was as impassive as judging another tree for felling.

    A spur of guilt stabbed me. So worried about Mom, I’d kinda left him out. Yeah, he was tons more stable and centered with his life, while Mom was still caught in a whirlpool of hurt and sadness from her past. She did need my help, but so did he.

    Dad’s immediate health concerns were much more serious than Mom’s, but who had I managed to help? Her and not him. Hugging my father, I had one of those moments of enlightenment, satori the Buddhists would say. All my life and even in my memories he was always the rock that withstood any storm. There was nothing he couldn’t overcome. Anything but that massive coronary that would take his life in seven years.

    He tilted my face up. “Your Mother isn’t used to all the attention she’s getting and neither are you. You need to look after each other until this is over Okay?”

    Tears came to my eyes. “I will.” What he really meant was clear too. Men hadn’t been kind to my Mom. He also saw something I’d been blind to. There were many predators out there that would try to take advantage of me now. As much as I loved being beautiful, there was a downside to it. On the other hand, I foresaw Daddy’s shotguns being cleaned a lot more often. 

    Then a nurse came to take us to get our tests done. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was to rehab. The room was full of gym equipment. We were passed to another doctor who was in workout gear.

    He was rather chubby for a physiotherapist, but his attitude was so upbeat it was easy to like him. Strangely enough he was Dr. Horwitz too, a younger brother. He showed us the changing room and gave us each a stack of workout clothes. Fortunately, the tops were rather loose and didn’t freak out Mom too bad. I think the last time she’d actually done any exercise was way back when she was my age.

    Tying my sneakers, I had to grin. The days of specialized running shoes weren’t quite here yet. Nike’s, Adidas, and all the others might be in their first generation, but they certainly hadn’t filtered down to this hospital yet.

    Dr. Horwitz quickly figured out Mom had no idea of how to stretch out or warm up. While he worked with Mom, they tried to shoo me off to start on my own, but I refused.

    “I need to know how to this right.” Was my excuse.

    Unsurprisingly, Mom was nearly as limber as I. Offering encouragement, we both started out on treadmills. I let Dr. Horwitz use me as a practice dummy to show her how it was done. Hopefully my smiles and enthusiasm offered her motivation. Soon both of us were running away. Like Hap said, “She did do good work.”

    While Mom was learning how to be active again, I found myself overhearing our guardians in green. What was up with this? With my improved memory, I could tell that even before I was run though that Med-scanner my hearing was better than it should’ve been. At first I’d taken it as a given that because I’d nearly been deaf at 49, that being 13 again made it seem my ears were sharper. I’d discovered this wasn’t so. Now, that Hap had superized me, I felt like Jamie Summers, The Bionic Woman, dooo doo doo!

    The Green Beanie Major remarked, “They’ve definitely been enhanced. Look at them. With a little technique training either one could be competing in track. Hell, maybe even the Olympics, although I’m sure the Soviets would seek to disqualify them.”

    “You got that right sir.” The big Black sergeant agreed. “At least this is shaping up to be a easy mission. Not at all like the last one. Hendricks is still seriously messed up. These damn machines can put you back together but it can’t much about a man’s heart.”

    The Major replied, “A hell of man like Big Mike is still only a man. His team made damn sure they put the sick frakks behind that one down, but hard.”

    He then asked the other sergeant that’d been silent. “You’ve been quiet there Sergeant DiMaggio. What’s on your mind?”

    The swarthy NCO, quietly said, “I’ve been watching the kid move. She doesn’t bounce around. Kind of reminds me of of a dancer I knew once. But after thinking about it, she’s more like Kincaid. You know the ‘Q’ course hand to hand instructor.”

    I did my best not to look over there at them. Just look at where trying to be lady-like got me. The best way to go I decided was to simply try not to let on I’d overheard anything. Glancing down at the treadmill, I kinda wished I had some idea of how we were doing. I missed the electronics that estimated how fast and far you’d come. Meanwhile our escorts started talking again.

    The Black guy spoke. “He’s got a point Major. Think they might’ve gotten some instant sleep-learning? That’s not supposed to work very well for physical skills.”

    “No Sergeant Williams,” said the Major. “But it sure does speed up the process. However keep in mind no matter how petite those two are, they’re wild cards. Who knows what all they can do?

    “I will say, I agree that they don’t seem to be a threat. That don’t mean we let our guard down. In fact, I’m wondering if she can hear us.” He said.

    Sergeant DiMaggio said, “Could be Major, For all of her smiles she’s very alert. Even with all the background noise, she very well might be listening to us.”

    The Major pointed out, “Like I said don’t underestimate anyone much less them. I saw her records. Her IQ was measured in the 130’s and that’s after years of her being thought of as mentally retarded because of her learning disabilities. She was reading at two years ahead of her age group despite having dyslexia and mild autism. I rather have my doubts about that last. That simply doesn’t fit what I’ve seen.”

    The Black man I now knew as Sergeant Williams grinned, “Major, I’ll have to trust you on that. I don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about.”

    “It’s where a kid has trouble learning how to react and get along with others.” the Swarthy Sergeant explained. I have nephew with it. He’s a smart one, but has a thing with his emotions. I agree, Sir, she isn’t anything like my sister’s kid. My guess is the doctors made a wild guess.”

    The Major agreed. “You’re probably right. The mother didn’t finish high school and neither did the father. He did raise fairly high in the railroad considering his lack of education. His position before he retired  normally requires at least a college degree because of the math.

    “The younger son also has a high score but his grades are more consistent with a smart kid who’s a little bored.” The Major said.

    “Sir you remember the first thing you said to those two ladies as they got off the chopper?” DiMaggio asked.

    “You mean about us being sent by the President?” their officer asked.

    “Yes sir, that’s it. You recall she asked me about food and for pen and paper? Well, guess who she wrote a letter to while in the chow hall? These people aren’t stupid or slow.” The tanned sergeant said. “I expect she’ll be asking you to deliver it for her, Sir.”

    The Major sighed, “I expect so DiMaggio. What this means is we have a family of smart practical people. Just the kind you don’t want to frakk with. No insult Williams, but I wish I did have Hendricks here. These are his sort of folks. He understands them.”

    The Black Sergeant replied, “None taken sir. If they’re anything like him, it might be wise to reassure them we’re on their side. Hendricks is rather proactive about his problems. ‘Kill the other poor muther before they can even think ‘bout killin’ you.

    “Good point Williams,” the Major acknowledged.

    “Speaking of killin,’” DiMaggio asked, “Any word on when the Civilians will relive us of this delightful duty? We’re soldiers, Sir. I’m not complaining, just pointing out that by training while we can do this, we will make mistakes. We see problems as targets and shoot them. Civilians have different priorities better suited to this kind of mission.”

    “I understand Sergeant,” the Major answered. “For what it’s worth I agree with you. If you think the service infighting between the Navy and the Air Force were nasty over who was going to control those damn floating battleships, this is worse.

    “Personally, I think it’s the province of the FBI, but you know how the President feels about them. Ever since Hoover damn near admitted he withheld Med-scanner authorization for Dr. King, the President doesn’t trust anyone in the Bureau.” The Major explained.

    “Hoover was a piece of work, that’s for sure.” Sergeant Williams said with feeling. “If MLK had lived, I don’t think we’d be in the mess we are now. I respect the President. He’s done a lot of good for the Black man. Hell, he’s done a lot good for everyone. But damn ain’t he listening to the some of the wrong people right now.”

    Sternly the Major corrected him. “Not our place to judge Williams. We just get to clean up the mess.”

    The Black Sergeant apologized, “Sorry Sir. You’re right Sir.”

    Our Physio stopped us. “Hey you two did really good. We’re going to test your upper body strength now. Won’t that be fun?”

    I bit my tongue at Mom’ sour expression. After so many years of being a couch potato she wasn’t taking to this exercise stuff very well. 

    The bad news was the Green Beanies stopped talking. Their conversation was informative. Well, they suspected I was eavesdropping anyways so what they said was kinda suspect. On the other hand, I’d already guessed they were here on a ‘bug’ hunt. They were making sure the runaway machine didn’t spit out  mutant man-eating monsters.

    I giggled. Maybe Alien medical matter-transmuter enhanced, cross-dressing time-traveler from another dimension would be more accurate.

    Mom was not amused as she pushed up the bar on the clunky looking nautilus machine.

    “Not laughing at you Mom!” I said. “Looks like the Army Men couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen. They left.” Really they’d repositioned themselves to watch us better, but I didn’t want Mom to have a harder time at this then she was already.

    The Physio was impressed, “Mrs. Younger, you did real good. You only weight 125 and you pushed 120 for five reps. That’s very good.”

    When it came my turn, I barely got a 100 lbs up, but then again I stood on the scales at 98. Actually it made me happy not to be pushing big numbers. I really didn’t want to make the Major and his men nervous.

    The rest of the afternoon was more pushing, pulling and jumping. Mom even showed off a bit with jump roping tricks. Soon she had me doing ‘wounded ducks’ and ‘front kicks.’ 

    Then it was off to the showers. My own figure was about the same as the old Lee. Sneaking a peek at Mom, I got an idea of how I was going to be when I grew up. All I can say is Wow! Dad was going to be so happy. 

    Then we got to spend time with Dad and my brothers. Of course, our escorts took turns eating, but I did get a chance to talk to the Major. “Sir since you said the President sent you personally, could you give this to him for me?”

    Oh but was his face a study. “But of course I will. I warn you, I’m not a mailman, so it might take a few days.”

    “As long as he receives it, that’s fine,” I said.

    Going back over to my folks, we simply sat and small talked. Adam got bored and started bugging the Green Beanies. Darryl couldn’t make up his mind what to do. He was definitely fascinated with the huge guys, but after Mom was missing for awhile he wanted to stay nearby.

    I was just happy to sit near them and veg. It’s so true that you take things for granted until they’re not there anymore. Opening up every sense, I wanted to remember this moment. I was content.

 

***


    He looked out over the Potomac. The lights of Washington DC burned in the night. It was late, but he’d so much to do. Ethel had been at him to stop working so hard and get more rest. He knew she was right. If he got more rest, no doubt he would be more effective during the next day.

    Sighing he rested his hands on the sill. Everything appeared determined to fly apart. The Soviets had finally either developed Anti-gravity or more likely stolen it. Even now they were refitting a Sverdlov class cruiser along the same lines as the Navy’s Aerial cruisers. Worse the CIA reported they were certain that the KGB had gotten their hands on a working Med-scanner.

    He almost wished his brother hadn’t released the use of the alien machine. After it had saved his life, John felt it was a crime to keep it secret any longer. It’d been the genie that no one could stuff back into the bottle.

    Tears came to his eyes. An entire year had passed since that SOB J. Edgar had finally gone to hell. Robert didn’t know if he could ever forgive the bastard for letting Martin die. The one man who preached common sense and purpose was no more. Look at things now.

    The mess that’d suddenly appeared in the backwoods of the South was threatening to start a fire that maybe no one could put out. Dr. Rekcuz’s plan looked so reasonable on paper. In practice it was proving a disaster. Of all the states the program was testing running in it had to go wrong in that Senator’s bailiwick.

    “I thought I’d still find you up,” Kenneth O’Donnell said from behind him.

    “Where did it go wrong Ken? Why are so many Americans so damn eager to kill each other?” The President asked his closest adviser.

    “I don’t know Robert. Men can always find excuses for violence. Bishop Hannon might be able to give you a better answer.” Ken suggested.

    He held out a messenger envelope. “Here’s Major Wagner’s report. He was sent to keep watch on the Wild-cards. The good news is it looks like the girl and her mother were modified to run away rather than fight. That’s good since we couldn’t cover this up like that last incident in Louisiana.”

    Ken hesitated a moment. “I have to tell you I’m still uneasy about using these things. They’re too damn smart. Somehow they know when people are really in danger and when they’re not. You’ve read the reports. Look how every time we’ve tried to intentionally make the things produce a Wild card, it’s failed. It only happens when there’s genuine danger.”

    The man at the window sighed, “We have the tiger by the tail, Ken. There’s no letting go now. You’ve seen what the CIA is saying. The Russians have one too now. As for the Wild-cards, they’re not the problem, we are. It’s our own fears that’re causing us to overreact. I read that Sergeant’s account of that mess in the Bayou. He admits that by the time they found that girl, everyone was so damn spooked that they just started shooting at everything that moved. He blames himself for what happened. We know now that poor girl was simply defending herself.”

    “I don’t blame him. I blame me. I’m the one that put him there. I’m the one who signed off on this damn project of Rekcuz’s.” He stared out the window looking for answers.

    Ken put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I don’t blame you. Rekcuz’s idea had merit, but all of us were blind to the consequences. In a hospital Med-scanners are in constant use. It’s completely different in a Career Day bus. Without someone to watch them too many start feeling like Gawd. They try and take advantage of someone or act out their problems on those who can’t defend themselves.

    “Read this report. Major Wagner included a letter from the girl, Lee’s her name. Get some sleep Robert. You’re not helping anyone like this. I’ll see you in the morning.” He said leaving.

    Turning from the window, Robert opened the report. At least there were no deaths this time. Just a woman so eaten from within by old hates that she tried to take out revenge on children.

    He scanned the rest thankful nothing ill happened to the girl and mother. A tired smile involuntarily twitched across his face when he found Ken’s paper clipped note, “Read This!”

    On the outside of the folder letter was printed in a neat hand. “TO: President Kennedy.”

    Opening it he read:

    Thank you Mr. President. Without Career Day I would still be unknowingly trapped in a situation where I had no escape. Until I was transformed I had little idea of how my heart and soul were chained by how everyone saw me.

    From the moment, I saw this oriental girl in a mirror and realized she was me, I was free. All the things I have done life long, made sense and looked right now, when before as a boy they didn’t.

    So used to hiding everything, I tried to do so again. I was so happy, all my efforts failed. I couldn’t hide it. I confused my family, but I’m blessed to have truly loving and understanding parents. My younger brother didn’t see how anyone who want something like this but we worked out a truce if not peace.

    My little brother however is only three. I couldn’t think of a way to explain it. Then I tried a story. Perhaps it’ll help you understand too, sir.
 

The Rainbow Land
By
Lee Younger

    Once upon a time there was an evil witch. One day in May, the sun was shining bright and everyone was out having fun. It made her so very mad. She hated seeing everyone so happy so she started looking around for a way to cause trouble…

 


***


    I sat at my desk a little nervous. There really wasn’t a reason for it, but this was my first day back at school. Wow, wasn’t I having a lot of those. First day back after traveling back in time. First day back as as a girl, and yet again, first day back as the me I was going to stay as.

    That specialist from DC looked at all the testing results and said he didn’t see anything to be worried about. His name was Dr. Feinburg and he was pretty cool. However he and Dr. Horwitz still advised us not to make more changes. Not knowing everything that was altered, they had no idea of the possible consequences.

    I put it down it to being like the Genome Project. Yay, we mapped the Human Genome. Of course we don’t have the slightest idea what most of them do, but we’ve got a map.

    Dr. Horwitz wanted us to come in every six months just to be safe. If we left ourselves as we were, he would even pay us for the privilege. He was still on his research kick.

    Now Mom was uneasy about looking movie star like gorgeous, but he started talking terms. That kicked in her horsetrading reflex. Soon the lawyers got called in, but it was Mom doing the dickering over the details.

    In the end everyone was happy. Dr. Fienburg was satisfied that we were being monitored. Dr. Horwitz got his research data. Me and Mom were paid for spending one day every six months here at the hospital. Of course the other Dr. Horwitz was happy too because he had someone to spin his hamster wheels.

    Well not everyone was happy. The government lawyer guys weren’t very happy with all lawyers, senators and who knew who else demanding satisfaction. They called it a settlement, but it was really hush money. I think Dad would’ve turned it down, but it was pointed out to him that we kids needed money for college as well as whatever new wardrobes me and Mom would need. Reluctantly he put his pride aside.

    I heard him finally say, “Only fair that those who caused the problem pay to fix it.”

    The other unhappy person was Ms. Johnson. I understand she was demanding all kinds of public forums, but after a visit from a couple guys in Green Beanies, she plea bargained and went off quietly to do her time.

    Then there was me. Okay I wasn’t unhappy. It was just I had a mountain of homework brought to me since I missed another week of school. Even if it was sixth grade work, it’d been 20 years since college. I was little rusty with this whole homework deal. If you’ve ever seen that show ‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader‘, then you know what I mean.

    Then there were the things that were outright different, like who the last two presidents were for instance. Who knew the first man on the moon was John Glenn in December of 1961? Not me for damn sure! So I got a week to catch up on and bring myself up to speed on school work in the year 1973.

    As Mrs. Lambert called roll, I saw most everyone was back to normal. The oddballs were Becky Driggers and me. Ricky was his new name. Like me he was insufferably happy with this change of fortunes. Everyone figured out who I was pretty quick even though I was at the bottom of the roll. Most were only curious, but a few were hostile.

    Chris Swayer told his circle of cronies, “Like at that little sissy.  Even has ribbons in her hair.” He said in disgust.

    I kept smiling ignoring what my ‘Jamie Summer’s ears were telling me. Ricky however was having an easier time of initial acceptance. I’d noticed that back in 2010 that female to male transexual had a somewhat easier time transitioning than a male to female. That didn’t say much because it was damn hard no matter what direction you came at it from. It was kinda like one girl had put it. Going from a woman to man was seen as a promotion while going the other way opened you up to abuse from everyone who believes they ‘outranked’ you now.

    Really no one had a easy time of it. Ricky was a special case since, girl or boy, that kid was one hell of a natural athlete. Dr. Feinburg warned me that protests might be made if I tried to compete. I assured him I had little interest in the sports thing. He suggested that I ask to train along side the track team, but not actively participate. That would let me work on improving myself without causing any waves.

    He pointed out it could be good for the school’s team that having someone that really excels tend to push everyone on the team to try harder. That’s why you see clusters of top performers.

    I hoped that Ricky wouldn’t have any problems with accusations that he was anything else but himself as male. It was funny in a way. The whole enhancement thing was an open secret. No one knew how it was done, but accepted that it was. Just another facet of how Med-scanners were making an impact on our culture.

    Hal had gone back to boy mode. I could see he wasn’t entirely happy about it. His home situation however left him no real options. He still had some changes. They were subtle, but there were there. Over all he was more androgynous and I thought he would stay that way. Perhaps this was Hap’s way of buying Hal some time until he could make up his own mind about his gender and sexuality.

    Vonda and he made me feel welcome from the very start. From what they didn’t say, I found out his home situation had defused with his return to male-hood. We talked about this and that, and of course about the President’s address to the nation the other night.

    First he apologized about the Career Day Program. He went on to explain how on paper it promised to help people understand that regardless of how we appear we are really the same.

    The president then announced he was  shutting down the Program citing problems, although he didn’t mention our school by name. He went on to say that the medical portion of the program would continue, but only after more effective ways were found to monitor the program. He didn’t say it was because of the staff abusing their power but we all knew that what it really was.

    The President went on to tell a story that was really familiar. It was changed in places, but it was my Rainbow Land tale. He went on to explain that the Med-scanners were ground breaking advancements that had our culture had yet to catch up to. That we’re learning things about the truth behind conditions and problems that many of those of our society wasn’t ready to accept.

    It wasn’t all that long ago that everyone knew bathing was bad for you, and doctors bled their patients to let the bad spirits out. He asked that we all show tolerance and understanding. If you did see someone who’d changed, remember it was done as a part of treatment for a medical condition. Continuing he asked Congress to enact legislation to protect those so afflicted.

    Looking grave and serious he repeated part of Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech. He said, “I too have a Dream. That one day all Americans will call all their brothers and sisters. That we open our hearts to those in need and show compassion for everyone less fortunate than ourselves.

    “Like the author of that story said, Our differences are our strength. Mutual respect and love for our fellow man will make our great country even stronger. Leading by example we will inspire other countries to follow.”

    He then smiled adding, “A special thanks to the author of the story I related to you tonight. I hope her words bought you the same peace as they did for me. Good night and Gawd Bless.”

    That part I kept silent about. Hal and Vonda suspected I think from the way I blushed when they talked about it. However both of them were used to keeping secrets. I wagered that when we had a little privacy I would be getting some interesting questions.

    Mrs. Lambert looked over her glasses at me, “Lee Younger?”

    “Here,” I answered to the low chatter of rumor control in action.

    She stood giving all of us a stern expression. “These last few weeks has been very stressful on all of us. We have all missed a week of school and some have missed more. I’m certain that everyone have noticed we have a pair of new faces if not new students.”

    “Please Ricky, Lee, will you reintroduce yourselves?”

    Ricky stood first. “You all knew me as Becky but I prefer to be called Ricky now. I’m still the same person as I was before, I just use a different restroom now.”

    I kept my smile neutral. He was a little confrontational, but he was a boy after all. You expected him to have something to prove.

    After he sat, I stood taking my turn. “Hi I’m Lee. You all know who I was. I know this might be confusing, but like Ricky said we’re both the same as before, we just look different. As one doctor told me, it’s a bit like when kittens and puppies are born and you have a hard time telling the girls from the boys. As they grow up and mature some, then you can tell. It’s that’s way with people too. But since we take longer to grow up, it takes longer to figure out.”

    I smiled turning to face everyone. “The doctors simply fixed the problem when they found it. I don’t know about Ricky but I’ll appreciate any help any of you girls would like to offer. I know I have a lot to learn. Thank you” I finished sat down.

    Mrs. Lambert smiled. Thank you both.”

    “Now please get out your Math books and turn to page 251.” she directed. Taking the sixth grade again. Who would’ve believed it? On the other hand, I didn’t do so hot the first time around. I would do better this time I pledged.

    As she began chalking equations on the blackboard, my mind wandered a little anyways.

    I’d expanded what I remembered of the events of my old world. Specifically, the deaths of those I respected. I couldn’t helped wondering if Mom mailed off that letter to Bruce Lee yet?

    I had to smile again. Doc Brown would be jumping down Marty’s throat for changing the future this much. For all I knew that movie would never be made in this timeline. Back to the Future? I sure as hell hoped not! This girl was going to take the scenic route, one day at time.
 

The End

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Very nice

A real nice story Grover. You are such a romantic idealist :)

I liked it a lot, thank you.

Jo-Anne

A good ending

A good ending to an enjoyable story.

This was a well developed world. A world of alien technology, JFK and RFK both living, anti-grav and Alan Glenn as the first man on the moon. And most importantly, a girl from a small town in the South trying to just be herself.

All told a very pleasing story. Excellent work Grover!

Great final chapter

I nice blend of a bit of ex deux machina ( with a real machine :-) ) and human passion and compassionate will. Lee's parents and family could have made it hell for Lee but they united in many ways to protect each other even if Mom had issues. I can understand Mom, it's easier sometimes to help fix other people's issues then to understand and fix your own.

Of course the sci-fi aspect of it doesn't hurt. There is an opening for a follow on of some form as the CI gave Lee more direct access to it then any other person. Interesting things they can discuss together to help shape that Constructed Intelligence's direction in its job.

Kim

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

Thanks Grover for a wonderful story. I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you!
Becky

Wonderful resolution to a wonderful story

Thanks so much Grover for taking us along on this journey. I enjoyed the stay in this new world of yours and hope to visit again when the spirit moves you.

I'll just bask in the faith hope and love of this with a sweet glow that I hope will never fade.

All my hopes,
Ariel Montine

All my hopes,
Ariel Montine

Cool!

Yet another wonderful story from one of the best! I loved this story, and it has some interesting follow-on story possibilities! ;-)
Thanks so much for sharing this one with us!
~abenderx~

Now what can I say?

This is definitely a nice story, and as it was said, the situation that occured has made humanity know that which it was not yet ready to accept. I think it may be the problem inherent to any innovation - while it produces changes in minds and lives, making it impossible and imprudent to act based on earlier concepts, rejecting those earlier concepts is an equally imprudent decision. A middle ground has to be found. This story has shown that working from outdated POV with innovations is akin to giving a stockpile of dynamite to a band of torch-bearing raiders. However, it has also shown how victoryitis, as Grover so aptly put, may come to rejecting the reality that is and replacing it with a belief that whatever one does is going to work out just fine.

Having said that, I am happy for the Younger family who have gained so much. They were the luckier ones, but the others weren't so much. Still, perhaps they will be happier in the future. And so far, there were a few threads that can and likely will be explored in the next tomes of Lee Younger's world. They include the others who were not transformed back, they include the Soviet Union having their own developments of technology, and they also include how Lee uses her Hap-given med kit to help her father. :)

What I'm a sucker for happy endings, it's not hard to figure out is it?

Faraway


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Where stars watch over us.

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Where stars watch over us.

Thank You Grover

Great story. I really enjoyed it.

Good Tale!

A very good story, though not quite up to the very high standard of Once the Hero.

One more time past a proof reader would probably get it up to snuff. Still very good, but little stuff like missing words and word substitutions keep it from being up to the standard you set in O.t.H.