Note: This story was dynamically reformatted for online reading convenience. PART ONE ONLY SO FAR. (Sorry, can't edit title). Story codes: MF, ScFi, humor, fdom, a little nc...this is edited but not revised. Marie hadn't told anyone else why she had made an entry in the worktrade pool to get the afternoon off. As she finished cleaning up her lab bench she wondered what they would have thought if they had known. Dr. Callum was older and might have disapproved entirely. She had heard some of the older chemists, especially those with a biology background, say things to suggest they weren't entirely against it. The thing was that most of them had electronic partners onto which new appearances could be projected. Some just had machines. A woman younger than her had had a baby last year through artificial means, which was the norm at the office where Marie worked. Or there were services. You could join a surrogate co-op. But somehow it all seemed so ... clinical. There were reasons for using a real breeder. It was still the best, most dependable method. It was better than a trip to the doctor's office, right? And you got to know your sperm donor quite intimately. Marie would never have told anyone in the office this, but she couldn't understand why people didn't want to certify the quality of the donors themselves. Just knowing how well they did on tests of intelligence and physical fitness was not really the same, was it? Wouldn't you want to know what their... hair... voice... everything was actually like? Marie didn't want to look at her future little girl and wonder where all her features came from. Maybe it was vanity, but she wanted to know exactly what was hers, or her family's, and what wasn't, and why. It was the scientist in her again. Yes, that's what it always came down to. And she was kind of excited. It was something she'd always told herself she was going to do. Of course it would mean a lot of extra expense and hassle. She had only ever seen a real man twice in her life. The first time was when Dr. Cooper had come to the lab, although maybe that didn't count. It was still strange to think Dr. Cooper had started life as a male. She was accepted immediately by all her co-workers. Actually, she was quite a bit more popular than Marie. It probably helped to have a sense of humor like that. Marie felt perfectly comfortable around Dr. Cooper, so why not any other man? But then it was wrong to think like that, since obviously gender was something in the brain. Unless you stayed a man, then it was just your fate, apparently. If you were born male and chose to stay that way, you were doomed to stay in an institution. At least they had figured out a way to selectively kill male sperm. Before that, in order to keep the male population down to the ratio it needed to be in herd animals, it had been necessary to do the same thing they did in farmyards... better not to think about that. Anyhow, as one half of all the representatives of the male population that Marie had ever seen, Dr. Cooper really didn't seem all that different from everybody else. And then there was the other time. Marie was unable to distract herself from that unpleasant thought, even as she gathered her things and checked off the group chores on the whiteboard. One weekend over spring break in college some of her friends had convinced her to go to one of those places in Mexico where they had real males for recreational purposes. The whole thing had been so tacky. She could not even remember what she'd had to drink that night, but she did remember the three of them teasing the creature who was semi-undressed on the bed, the arousal chip in his brain turned all the way up for eight hours or so as they took turns with him. At the store, she felt self-conscious telling the salesperson she was there for a longterm, live lease. That was splurging even for someone on her salary. The hostess scanned all of her credit chips and bank information, and went to notify the clerk at the back, who nodded to Marie, who was instructed to step past the booths. They had to take the elevator downstairs. "That's where we keep all the livestock," the hostess, whose facial implants were unusually prominent, told Marie. Of course Marie already knew this because she had been visiting the online rating guides for months and had collected detailed information on the process, but she nodded anyhow, and smiled politely. "Of course we have quite a few in service now, so if you don't see something you like I can show you holograms." Marie thanked the woman without reminding her of her intent to buy a live model as they stepped out of the elevator. The room was full of unclothed men in semi-restraints, some of them sleeping. "Would you like me to wake them up?" "Mm, I'll let you know if I see one, I guess," Marie said, trying not to be a difficult customer, even though she was afraid they would take advantage of her if she didn't give them a hard time during the process. It seemed to Marie that there were two kinds of men: the fair ones and the dark ones. They were all bred quite tall. Interestingly, the group seemed more proportionate racially to the actual population than the recreational stock did. She admired one near the door who was small compared to the rest of the group and had a sort of widow's peak. His face still looked like a little boy's. Well, she thought, no use just looking at faces. She then spent several minutes with another who had dark hair and a trace of olive in his complexion. He could say a few words in English. He liked her. Many of the others looked apprehensive or angry. Then she saw something that made her heart drop to her knees. "What's wrong with this one?" she asked the woman. "He started looking sick several days ago. Unfortunately our resources don't allow us to provide long-term male medical care, so we've priced him to sell." Marie suddenly remembered going into the pet store as a little girl and seeing the sick birds who were discounted. Why was it always the birds they never seemed to care about or treat? Some of them didn't even look sick, as much as depressed. The live caught ones clearly would never trust humans. She suddenly began to revile the woman and the entire place. "I've got a background in androcology," she announced. "Let me see what I can do." "The sale will be final," the woman warned. "Of course," said Marie, and had the arrangements made to transfer the skinny figure huddled in the corner to her living quarters. She was nervous, to say the least. For the next two days, while she was waiting for the delivery service, she agonized. What if his ailment something really serious and she had just wasted half her life-savings on a dead man? Was she really even attracted to him or was it just pity? Would she be able to breed with someone she regarded in the same way as she did those poor pet store birds? Could she even remember what the man looked like? Sometimes at work when she was sitting at her hood she tried to remember his features exactly, but she had never been good at faces. He was one of the fair ones. He had small, blue eyes. Kind of a light grey color, maybe. A little bit of ginger in his hair. Did she want a ginger daughter? Marie could just hear what her mother would say about that. And was her poor daughter going to hate her? Okay, so he wasn't perfect. He would do. He was nice. She reminded herself a conscious wasn't a liability. Maybe unscrupulous business practices were a liability, she thought smugly, remembering that terrible woman in the red suit. Was she just trying to sabotage herself because she was so nervous? A man from a breeding pool would have already had quite a few women. More men than she had had. Of course it wasn't like he had any say in the matter but she still felt self-conscious. ---------- They brought him the next day when she was home from work. There were restraints, controls on his implanted chips which she needed to learn. When they left she cried. She put him to sleep so she could look at him. She decided to start with some simple blood tests. Soon enough, through running tests in the lab over lunch hour when she could be alone, she discovered a vitamin D deficiency. Easy to fix. Not even that major. If she had taken him to the male doctor they would have told her the medical model for men wasn't very well developed because no one wanted to soak that much money into experimental procedures on a man, and there were no studies being done on them. That's what they always did, apparently. But this was something that had been around for years and it was a pretty obvious thing to check for in someone who was never allowed to go outside. How horrible. Anyhow, why didn't they do studies on men? Were they that different from women? She remembered her training on the past abuses of the medical establishment and how they ignored women for so long. In school they had always said that men and women were very different. She asked herself if that seemed true. She brought home various vitamin injections from the lab over the next couple of weeks and clicked him asleep when she administered them. She decided to make his bed more comfortable, too. That's the way she always was with her pets. He started to look better. He started to look at her and not through her. She thought she would try giving him the injections awake so he would know what was going on. He watched the needles going into his abdomen with confusion. She tried to explain. He didn't seem to understand. Certainly didn't know any English, and didn't vocalize. She wasn't sure how much language he had ever picked up. In spite of his health problems, he still had more well-defined muscles than she was used to seeing on a person. She was afraid he would spook or get violent. She kept him in the restraints when she worked on him. Once when he was restrained sitting down against the wall after she had been on her knees giving him the injections, she put a hand on his forehead. The next time, she clicked him to sleep in the same position. She cradled his face in her hands, then. She ran her palms from his shoulders down to his hands. His skin felt different than what she was used to. Thicker and more electrically charged. "Maybe that's actually me," she thought, but when she felt her skin it wasn't there. It was almost as if he was responding to her while unconscious. She carefully tilted his head up toward her. He had stubble, but it only seemed to show above the corners of his mouth. She ran her thumbs along it as she held his head. It was sharp. She felt her breath quicken. She kissed his lips, forcefully, but they remained slack and cold. "That's what happens when your lover has an off-switch," she thought. Finally, she let his head drop and relax on one of his shoulders. The next day, she repeated the whole process, only without the restraints. What was the point? He wasn't going to wake up. She would just have to put them on again when she was finished. This time she picked up his hand, held it, kissed it, ran it over her face, then her entire body. She put it in her mouth. She put it between her legs and squeezed. His fingers were thick and the joints seemed stiff. She put them in her mouth again. Why, she wondered, didn't anyone share her enthusiasm for these strange beings? It just wasn't the way they had been raised. Her mother had never talked to her about them. She would have to hide him from Mother. What ever would she say if she were seeing this? She tried to forget that last thought. Weeks passed, and she would come downstairs to find him exercising in his pen. He was feeling better. She was still afraid to approach him. One day, in a fit of inspiration, she smuggled some tools home from the lab and managed to modify the electronic restraints so that his right arm would be free. He was watching her as she cut and reconnected the circuits with the electron microscope glasses and the nano-solderer. Intently. When she was finished with the work and had hastily patched up the control panel of the pen, Marie stood up and announced, "All finished. I think you'll like it. But give me another hour," dusted herself off a bit and skipped upstairs. "God," she thought, "I'm like a little girl. Listen to me talking to a man. It's ridiculous." She always fed him good food. There were no sweet choices on the fabricator. She knew what the temptation would be like for him, now that he was by himself all day. But today, she hoped, would be special. She made a plate of various vegetables from her hydroplot on the roof; fresh tomatoes, fried squash, beans, and a seasoning of sweetcorn kernels. She brought everything down to the holding area on one plate, and switched on the restraints. She watched him sink down into position against the wall with his right arm flailing. She noted that there might be some more work to do in refining the modified restraint system. Furtively, she entered the pen. Set the plate down in front of him. Began to eat with her hands. Motioned for him to start eating. He followed suit. She broke bread for him. When they were finished, she cleaned his hand with a napkin and gave him the injection. As soon as she had recapped the needle, he reached for her. She gave a startled shake. The weight of his hand on her shoulder was like a hammer falling from the ceiling. "You liked it?" she asked, not expecting an answer. She pointed to herself. "I'm Marie. Marie." He nodded and said something she couldn't distinguish as speech. His voice was light and clear. She smiled. He pulled her closer to him. Always polite, Marie tried to hide her terror of the situation. Thankfully, when she got close to him, he didn't try to overpower her or bite her face off. Instead, he said something she didn't understand. He looked at her meaningfully. At least she thought it was meaningful. She felt her entire body soften as he held her. Coyly, she nodded and removed herself from his grasp. She left the pen and turned around to activate the walls. He was still looking at her with the same expression. Her hand fell from the electronic lock and went instead to the restraint controls. She released them and watched his limbs readjust as they disappeared. He didn't move, however, but remained crouched in the corner. That's when it registered that he didn't have any clothes. "Damn," she thought, "I knew I forgot something." She went to the fabricator and looked through patterns for basic sets of male clothing. There was a cloth suit which she chose the bottoms from and guessed at an inseam. But the top wasn't right. She gave the selector another spin. A white shirt? Something more comfortable. She shortened and widened the sleeves to match the shape of the pants, and selected a coarse jersey material for the top. A little texture. For some reason it was exiting to her, choosing fabrics for her new breeding model. Why hadn't she thought of having any clothes made before? He was a living, breathing person after all, who would need clothes. She supposed it was because she had barely been around him when he wasn't sitting in the corner of the pen. The clothes descended from the door of the fabricator, still warm. She picked them up and felt the texture and weight of the fabrics, slightly different than what she was used to. She unfolded them, checking her work and comparing it to his size. They looked like they would work. And her breeding model, for his part, was still sitting modestly in the corner, looking attentively at her. She finally handed him the clothes. He eagerly stood up and slipped them on. She adjusted the shirt around his shoulders. Patted his chest, smoothed the sleeves. She thought he looked a little happier now than he had before. "I'm sorry," she said, "How could I have forgotten?" They both smiled, and for a moment Marie forgot her terror of the beast. As soon as the smile faded, however, she found herself thinking, "Now what?" She could activate the arousal chip, she told herself. But she couldn't bring herself to do it. Why was she so nervous around him? Just as soon as it started mattering that he was naked, she seemed to have lost sight of his original purpose. Was he becoming more than a breeding model to her? Did she need professional help? Maybe it had been a mistake to buy him in the first place. Now that she had felt pity for him and nursed him, it was like she regarded him as... someone. And it made her self-conscious. He must have had his own thoughts, after all. She couldn't just push the stiffy button and force herself on him. What would he think? Especially now that she was allowing him to wear clothes and walk around without restraints while she was in the pen. Somehow, what was normally regarded as usual behavior seemed unusual. Was she going crazy? She thought again about the possibility of obtaining professional help. Well, this was awkward. Now they were just standing there. Sharing more awkward smiles. His face showed confusion, and something else. It was that look you got when you should have done something by now. She decided it was time to make a run for it, and, patting him on the shoulder as a way of saying goodbye, turned and exited the cage again. Even the process of de-activating and re-activating the invisible walls seemed strange. Invisible walls. How strange. What a strange way to separate someone from yourself. "What MUST he be thinking?" she pondered. And decided that was the problem. She would be able to use him in the appropriate manner, she assured herself, if only she could communicate a little bit with him first. Entirely for her own sake. Yes. She would find out what he was thinking first, then she could have her way with him. It made perfect sense. And she had an idea. It was five-thirty and almost no one was still left in the lab. Of course Dr. Aziza would be sitting at her bench all night reading, and Dr. Johnsdaughter would be playing with the electron microscope glasses all night trying to make it look like work. God, what a loser. But the two of them were absorbed in their activities and easily avoided. She stood up and grabbed her lab coat and a large off her chair. "I really should wash the flower pots," she said loudly to anyone who was listening, as she put her arms through the sleeves of the coat. "But where is that cleaner?" Then she left, reaching grabbing the supply closet chip hanging next to the door on her way out. A friend of hers had worked in facilitated communication for people who were not capable of speech and was always raving about the new technologies. Just like there were chips that could be implanted in the brain to allow people to regain the use of limbs, there were now chips that could help people make complex speech sounds just by thinking of what they wanted to say. In case of injury to the voice or speech centers, those could be regenerated, but it took a few months. In the meantime they could supply you with a... what did she call it? Direct Communication. They had this device that worked directly, mind-to-mind. However, you needed to have a receiver implanted. Usually only family members and health-care workers did it. There were still bugs, and the idea of changing a "normal" brain to be accessible to someone using facilitated communication was as radical as the idea of closed-captioning had been. Her friend had said it was a whole new model of "mutuality of accommodation." Well, Marie would just have to take it upon herself to be one of the early adopters of this new technology, then, wouldn't she? The receiver wouldn't be difficult to program or operate. Even the implantation was a standard program on most surgery machines. There was a whole bank of them the 5th floor, somewhere. The problem was, in a situation where two people were not able to produce speech that was meaningful to the other, they both needed transmitters. That was going to take a little research. And a few of the things she had just shoved into the bag over her shoulder. She shut the supply closet lights off, shut the door, and returned the key to the lab. It took all night to figure out how to make the transmitter. Mostly because it was hard to find the blueprints on the crappy university database. Once you had that, it was all relatively simple. It was just like any computer chip, except it went in your brain and worked off the electrical impulses there. It took some doing to combine the transmitter and receiver in a way that would keep the device from communicating to itself. Marie congratulated herself on anticipating that problem. Her workshop was in the basement, and was conscious of him watching her as she worked awkwardly with the tools. That was the thing with science. Once you figured out what you were doing, it turned out you were going to need a set of tools you were almost entirely unaccustomed to. But then, she had always been bad at working with her hands. She imagined him smirking as she soldered the devices together. "It's good for him to see this, though," she thought. "Because I'd have absolutely no way of explaining it." She was tired. Should they go tonight or wait until tomorrow night? Marie remembered asking herself that question just before she woke up the next morning still at her worktable. ----------------------- "Okay, here's what we do," she said. She knew he didn't understand, but to Marie, the consummate scientist, it seemed like a good idea to go over the plan anyhow. Marie stopped for the retinal scanner and the two sets of electronic doors slid open. He was still standing on the forecourt examining the building's artifice as she started through the doors. "Hurry," she half-whispered, in an attempt to tone down her tendency to shout, and grabbed his hand in an attempt to make their entrance more natural for the cameras. As they continued together into the lobby, Marie became vaguely aware of a strange feeling she had. It was something like pride, but shared. "This is where I work," she said to him, not expecting him to understand. She noticed him admiring the place, though. They made it to the elevator without encountering anyone. Marie realized too late that she had neglected to scope out the work habits of the 5th floor before now, and didn't know if there might be someone up there yet at this time of night. Hell -- there had been other cars in the lot, too. Every one of those cars represented somebody walking around somewhere in this building. Her apprehension grew as she watched the elevator register the ascending floors. They were still holding hands and her palms were starting to sweat. Finally the elevator door opened. Marie peered down the hall in both directions and didn't see anyone. Nor could she see any footsteps. "Let's go!" she said, and they continued quickly and silently down the hallway, her companion seeming to grasp what they were doing. She thought, "He knows he's dressed as a woman, and he knows I'm sneaking him in here. I wonder what he thinks I'm planning to do to him once we get in a room." They had to go straight to the surgery bank to get the key to the supply closet. She wanted to outfit the machines with new scalpels, cauterizing ones in particular, since the risk of infection would be higher given the unusual circumstances of the surgery. Of course the wounds could always be post-sterilized with an active microbial inhibitor, but that seemed a little over the top. They managed to make it to the closet and inside the OR air shower just before a nurse went by. Marie outfitted the machine with scalpels, her devices and the insertion blueprints and programmed it to start in fifteen minutes. She showed him how to do the same, and then she hit both their ether buttons at the same time. He looked frightened but he was doing what he asked. Next thing she knew, Marie woke up with a large man in a dress on top of her, shaking her. "How long have I been out?" He only signaled to her that someone was in the next room. "All right, let's get out." Unfortunately, as soon as they got into the hall, they heard footsteps. Marie grabbed her companion's arm again and raced for the closet. Thankfully they were just inside the door when whoever it was outside decided to open it. Marie was pushed against the adjacent wall while her slave was pushed forcefully into her back. There was barely enough room for both of them. Fortunately, it was just Dr. Ammonis coming to steal a few chemicals to clear her kitchen sink, and she didn't even bother to shut the door as she grabbed them off the shelf. When she finally left, the two intruders took a breath for the first time in several seconds. ---------- At first, she had been afraid of activating the devices. Sure, it would give him an idea of what she had done to him. But she wasn't quite able to explain, she felt, in spite of all her mouth-to-ear gestures between them. And besides, was there anything in the world that could prepare you for this? For herself, Marie had read the literature on it, but that wasn't the same as experience, was it? Never was. They had classes for the relatives of disabled people to attend which explained what it was going to be like, prepared them. Had Marie given much credence to the idea that you could prepare someone to share someone else's thoughts, she would have felt it irresponsible that neither one of them had gone through the counseling first. As it was, there was no literature in the ad hoc pidgin language which the breeding models spoke amongst themselves. The only thing they understood of her language was basic commands, at least until someone decided to teach them. But that process was so... it wouldn't have solved Marie's problem of feeling "wrong." You could still use words to lie and enslave another person... it made her feel gross. She had heard from her friend that relatives who got these appliances often became extremely sympathetic to the people using them to communicate, and healthcare workers only switched theirs on when absolutely necessary -- hospitals had found it necessary to limit employee use to a few hours a day to avoid burnout. It was called "receiver brain" -- people with receivers had tried to sneak patients out of hospital wards on their wished, would do anything for them. It was like they were under the control of the person sharing their thoughts and emotions so intimately with them. Which made the results of her experiment all the more interesting to Marie, as a scientist. The first time she activated the devices, she was indeed overwhelmed by the information she was receiving. His feelings, intentions, the force behind the words she had been unable to interpret. He would look at her, and a level of attraction was there. It waxed and waned with something as simple as the angle from which he observed her; she had anticipated that. And there was still a feeling of desire for others sometimes, when they were watching her soap operas, for instance. In those cases she knew that he was also aware of her arousal. It wasn't just the shows, either, it was the ads. Between the two of them, it seemed like they were always thinking about sex. But it wasn't just that either. Every time he looked at her there was the feeling of tremendous gratitude. He regarded her with such warmth and pride, also. He was obviously aware of what would have happened to him if she hadn't saved him. He had since felt her feelings toward him at the time. He seemed to have very positive feelings toward her in general, a high estimation. She had also figured out which foods he liked and liked to give them to him as a reward for this loyalty. They both liked the game where she fed him in restraints. There were other feelings, too, of a different order. His anger. She believed there had been traumatic events in his past. Sometimes it didn't take much more than a long day stuck inside without her for the sadness to come. And another, even more instinctive thing, that came on its own. It wasn't the sort of thing Marie herself felt, exactly, but she recognized it as similar to her own feelings when she had first seen him huddled in the corner at the brothel. A desire to keep one's object of affection safe from harm. She did not use the restraints now, except for their games. She was allowing him to sit on the furniture with her. They had meals together, relaxed together. He was her companion at home. She was starting to show him how cook real food for himself, from the hydrogarden. He had his own ideas of how to do it. Now that it was midsummer, sometimes he would go out and get tomatoes and slice them for her for when she got home. She became increasingly aware of his feelings when she was away. He wanted to help, be useful. His pride suffered when she was gone, or when she came and went for work with a feeling of satisfaction from a successful project. He needed more to do. At times like that, she really had to fight to keep from thinking the implants were a mistake. They both managed to keep their minds off the negative emotions with breeding. He liked to do a good job and she appreciated it. They both had had their own mental pictures of what was happening, which slowly reconciled into one. They could figure out what the other one was wanting. Feeling eachother's pleasure had cut things short at first, but each of them had learned to turn down their receivers at the right moments. This could be done through mental concentration alone, though it took practice. Marie had had to communicate the concept to him by turning her own device up and down in her mind. After a few fits and starts, he caught on. To her surprise, she also found that he liked her to be in control of his receiver sometimes, and manually switch it on and off. She wondered if she would have had the same discipline. Then one day, it happened. It wasn't supposed to happen right away, or at least Marie knew it probably wouldn't, but it was as if she could feel it. She could feel his apprehension, but he could feel her certainty, too. There were nervous smiles. He wasn't shaven, they both had forgotten about a broken shaving device. It softened his appearance. They had both been sweating, their scents mingled in the sheets. Throughout the week, she would still get that strange, indescribable feeling. After seven days had passed, she scanned herself. Then it was certain. He was proud. The other emotions were there, too, the darker ones. She knew this was natural, it was why men didn't live in society. Why he could never stay. Of course she would miss him. A pet was like a member of the family, after all. They both felt it. The sadness of being separated. But wouldn't he just be frustrated staying with her? Lonely? Finally, one day as she sat on the couch idly playing with the home ultrasound while he sat at her feet, she felt the dark feelings overwhelming him. It was as if he felt he owned them both, she and her as-yet unseen daughter. He didn't want to go. Perhaps she had been to nice to him. Perhaps she had let his feelings in more than she ever intended, or should have in the first place.