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The SETI Machine
by Prudence Walker
Edited by Gabrielle
Jose was concentrating hard on finishing the machine, when all of a sudden...
"We are very disappointed in your lack of progress so far," whispered a voice in his mind.
Jose froze in shock at the cold, but very feminine sounding voice coming from inside his head. He had been about to give up on the machine he was trying to build. He didn't know what it was supposed to do; the idea had come to him in a dream, about a month ago. A chill went down his back, as this voice reminded him of the one in the dream, giving him very precise instructions. For a few days, he had ignored it, until the dream's nagging urgency, compelled him to act.
He was an electronics specialist, working for the government on some of their sensitive projects. A month ago he was at a radio telescope installing some new SETI equipment, when something odd occurred. He had his head deep inside the equipment when a spark leapt across a junction and struck his face burning him slightly. That night he had a dream, a very vivid dream in which a woman's voice urged him to build this machine that was now sitting on the table at his home, and, who's purpose was as yet, undefined.
The voice came again, telling him to reverse the polarity of the connections to one of the complex series of circuit boards. Shrugging his shoulders, he removed the wires and soldered them in the reverse order; knowing that until he did; he wouldn't sleep that night. He didn't want to analyze the reasons he could hear a voice in his head, let alone a female one. Maybe the stress was getting to him. If he said anything to his boss, he knew what would happen. He would be pulled off the projects so fast, he'd get blisters. Hopefully, when the machine was working, the dreams and the voice would disappear.
Time to test the machine again. He turned on the power... a hum filled the air, rising in pitch until it hit the ultrasonic level. An empty glass nearby shattered, the unexpected noise making Jose's heart jump. As he glanced over to see the cause, he missed the green glow emanating from the unshielded microwave magnetron. Turning back to the machine, he found that the glow had reached out and enveloped his hand resting on the table
He tried to snatch his arm back, but found it was paralyzed. He tried to shift his body backwards in an attempt to move away. Nothing...he could do nothing, but watch in fear, as the glow moved upwards, over his skin. He could see his hand changing form, becoming smaller...? 'No!' He thought, this can't be happening. It's not possible.' But possible or not, it was happening, the glow advanced up his arm, and started covering his body. His fear grew into terror as the changes progressed. Thankfully, he felt no pain as the alterations to his body continued.
He could move his head only slightly and he watched his chest expand forming what looked like a breast as the changes swept across. Soon both sides had prominent bulges pushing out against his shirt. He saw it moving downwards, and up towards his neck. He felt a moments panic, fearing whatever it might be; it would completely erase his memories as it altered his head. He felt the weight pulling at his scalp as his hair grew down towards his shoulders. Then like someone pulling a plug, he blacked out, his body slumping to the ground in a boneless fashion.
He woke some time later to find he could move freely again. At first, he thought he'd dreamt everything, until he moved. Realizing that the feeling of strangeness coming from his body was due to changes his body seemed to have undergone, at least his fears of losing his memories were groundless. He carefully got up and walked unsteadily to the mirror in the hall. What he...no, that was wrong...what she saw... was a contradiction. Looking back from the mirror was a woman, a woman in every sense of the word. She was standing incongruously, in male attire that didn't look remotely suitable for her. She saw her new body was now about six inches shorter than her old form, with dark honey blonde shoulder length hair.
Pulling off her shirt, and the trousers that were threatening to fall down, she again viewed her image in the mirror. Now her shape could clearly be seen. She had a slender waist and wider hips and her butt seemed nicely rounded, some might refer to it as a bubble butt. She ran her hands over it checking the ample flesh. On her hairless chest were two firm breasts that didn't sag. She cupped them tentatively, amazed at the feel and the weight of them. As she caressed them, lost in the thoughts that were racing through her mind, they hardened, sending shivers through her body.
'I can't be a woman. Whatever will I do now?' Jose thought. 'Maybe I can reverse the process,' she hoped, as she ran back to the machine.
The machine was still running as she reached it, Jose tried fiddling with it, again, and again before turning it off and then turning it back on. It was to no avail. The unit hummed, and went through the same cycle as before, but the green glow never showed when Jose reached out putting her hand nearer to the magnetron.
"Bloody hell!" she exclaimed, feeling very frustrated. "Why doesn't it work?" her voice sounded extremely sexy and she cringed a little, thinking that she was now stuck with it, in this body.
"Primary function executed, no further exchanges actionable." A voice sounding exactly like hers intruded into her mind.
"What! Who are you, and why did you change my body?" Jose yelled out.
"Primary function to assimilate higher life form of planet 287.123 beta and create young for assimilation by our species. The form first acquired was not capable of bearing progeny so changes were made. Please go out and start the procreation process," the voice demanded in an emotionless fashion.
"You can go to hell, there's no way I'm going to go out and have sex with a man." Jose stated flatly. "I want my old form back now, and if you don't do it, I'll go to the authorities and your little plan will be exposed."
"Do not resist me. I can, and will, ensure continuance of our plan; with pain to you as an incentive, if necessary." The mental voice said, chillingly.
Jose said nothing, but picked up a large spanner and struck at the machine...well that was his intention, as he struck out, his arm froze and an electric charge went off in his head.
As she became aware of things again, the voice continued to warn her about damaging the machine. She found herself lying on the carpet, fortunately without injury apart from protestations from the two additions to what had been 'his' chest. Rolling over to her back, Jose wondered if the entity could hear her every thought.
"Who are you? And what do I call you?" she verbalized.
"We are the Zapyrians, and you may call me Zerti. We need the unformed minds of your young so that our minds can fully function in these new bodies."
"Why?" I mean why do you need us or at least our babies?" Jose persisted.
"Our race is dying. We need the new challenge of wresting your planet into our control to keep us motivated. When we received the radio transmissions from your planet, it was decided that we could transmit our mental beings to your planet. I was already in transmission and was ultimately headed into one of your computers when I sensed your brain waves in the machine."
"So what happens now? Why our babies? Can't you just leap across into our bodies?" Jose persisted, trying to glean as much information as she could.
"I cannot control your body directly while your consciousness is able to resist my commands. We need to inhabit young bodies so that we can suppress the tiny intellect with our much stronger one, that way we learn to control the body much the same way as you do as you grow up."
"So if I walk out and inform the authorities, you can't stop me?" Jose questioned, forming a plan.
"I could stop you by the same method I used to prevent you from destroying the machine. In time I will be able to use your body while it is unconscious, when your will does not oppose mine."
Jose realized that time was short, when Zerti learned how to control this body; there was no telling what she might do. Playing along seemed the best idea, her plan of just going to her bosses needed a lot more thought. It seemed her thoughts were her own at the moment, only when she verbalized her thoughts, could Zerti hear her.
"You will go and copulate with a male, so he can impregnate you," the 'voice' repeated.
"Well we can't go out like this," Jose said indicating her attire. "Social interaction requires appropriate clothing." She spoke, trying to emulate the entity's precise way of speaking.
Jose walked into her bedroom and looked for something that might be suitable. She found a t-shirt that could work and a pair of shorts and a pair of bikini briefs, but little else. A pair of thongs would have to do, even if they were way too big. Getting an idea, she walked into the bathroom, and began running a bath, explaining she needed to smell nice to attract a male, to the Zapyrian. She took her time getting to know her new body the sensations started to overwhelm her with pleasure, until Zerti called a stop to it.
Standing in the bath, Jose reached out for the hair dryer and plugged it in, then, while the dryer was going, she suddenly dropped it into the bath. Agony flooded her body as the electric surge lit up every nerve cell. Her last thoughts, before darkness overtook her, was, 'will it work?'
She opened her eyes to darkness... pain flooded her body. She could feel blood in her hair and an ache from where her head had impacted the tiled floor. She groaned as other sensations made their urgent pleas. She moved gingerly, from the awkward position, outside the bath, fortunately, her legs were up on the edge of the bath, clear of the water. It took her a few minutes to get to her feet and switch on the light. She shivered with cold. Lying wet on cold tiles for about four hours hadn't been fun.
"Zerti? Are you here?" Jose called out.
She waited, wondering whether the alternating current had managed to erase the entity's hold on her mind. She knew that it could have killed her, but that too, would have been an acceptable risk, at least then the entity would be dead also. She wrapped a towel around her chilled body and went out of the bathroom. She got a hammer from her toolbox and went over to the machine. Taking a breath, she smashed the hammer down onto some of the fragile circuit boards, breaking them into an unrecognizable ruin. Pulling out the cable linking the machine via the modem to the computer in the SETI research lab, Jose relaxed in relief.
Going to the phone, Jose picked it up and rang a number to a very secure and highly classified building. Listening for a moment, she said four words.
"Jézabel action, code fortran,"
"Affirmative, five minutes." was the equally terse reply.
Jose knew she had five minutes, so she raced to the bedroom and put on the clothes she had picked out. Looking in the mirror, she saw a woman wearing clothes that seemed reasonably gender neutral. Still recovering from the fall in the bathroom, she got herself a snifter of brandy and sat down to await developments.
Four minutes fifty eight seconds later, the doorbell sounded. Jose sighed, wondering what would be the reaction, as she went to open the door. Two men stood there, dressed in dark suits. They each had a hand inside their jackets, and a very intense look on their faces as Jose opened the door. They showed no emotion at the sight of woman who beckoned them in, but Jose noted that they both did a full inventory of her assets before moving inside. Their movements showed they were trained well, as first one covered the other as they went room by room though the house. No words were spoken until they were satisfied everything was clear. They came back to where Jose had remained standing in the lounge.
"Where's Jose Canseco?"
"Sit down gentlemen," Jose said quietly, her voice sounding unintentionally seductive. "This is kind of a weird story."
The two men remained standing, but relaxed their stances somewhat.
Jose started off with..."I'm Jose Canseco." Before they could express any disbelief, she rattled off a few code words only Jose could have known.
Those few words got their immediate attention, and one took out a small radio and made a call. After listening for a few seconds, he handed it to her and she answered a few questions given her, handing it back the man listened to the person on the other end, nodding a few times to himself. With an "affirmative," he put it away and saluted Jose.
"Anything we need to do... SIR?" he snapped out crisply.
"Yes you can bring that machine that's sitting on that table with you, then we can leave."
When the machine was securely loaded into the not so subtle black limo, they headed off to security HQ where a tall lanky man had Jose sit down in his office.
"Hi Sam," Jose said, holding out her hand in what used to be 'his' customary manner.
"Um...Do I know you?" Sam asked slowly, taking in her appearance with an appreciative eye.
"Yes you do. I am... or was, one of your top men...now, I'm one of your top woman." Jose said wryly. "I'm Jose Canseco," she added at his confused look.
Jose started telling her story from the moment 'he' got the burn in the equipment to the moment she rang them. She sat still, watching for Sam's reactions. Sam paced his office deep in thought, and then fired a few questions at the woman. She answered them correctly without hesitation, confirming her bizarre story.
"Jose? It really is you under that new shape. Wow! How does it feel? ... I can't believe this, it's like a story out of X files or something."
Jose snorted, sounding very un-ladylike. "You can't believe it? What about me... I'm living it, and I still find it hard to believe."
"Okay, you're right, sorry... it's just a lot to take in. So what's our next move?"
"I suggest we shutdown all SETI research until we secure every radio telescope and isolate their computer systems from the outside."
Sam wasted no time, ringing several places to set things in motion.
"We need to explore this situation, but under our own terms." Sam mused. "Can you rebuild the machine?"
"Sure, I only broke a few boards. They are mostly standard amplifiers. I could get it working again in a few hours...why?"
"Well... I had a thought, if we do it again, with a volunteer. We could gain some valuable information. We could try it with a woman so there would be no need of a change in sex." Sam explained.
"Or have a pre-op transsexual as the guinea pig, I'm sure you'd get plenty of willing volunteers. I'd hate to subject a woman to it, she may not be able to survive the removal of the entity afterwards, at least I've proven it can be done by a genetic male." Jose speculated.
"Good idea, actually I have a cousin who is about to go though 'her' RLT. She would leap at the chance to become a real woman." Sam said excitedly.
"Jose, it means real life test, where a guy heading toward a sex change lives life as a woman for a year."
"So when can we do it?" Jose asked.
In a week I guess, we need to set up everything for our candidate. Now, what about you? We need to sort your life out too." Sam added.
"Well, I think I'm stuck with this body, luckily I have no romantic relationships in my life. I've always been too wrapped up in my work to get to know anyone closely." Jose sighed. "I guess I'll stick out in a crowd a lot more now," she joked, looking down at her breasts. "No hiding away anymore, which reminds me. I need a new wardrobe, can I get it under company policy?"
"I guess we owe you a lot more than that, I tell you what, go out and take this card and buy anything you want." Sam said handing him a platinum credit card. "In the meantime I'll get your new identity records set up, everything a girl needs." He added with a laugh.
"Owwwh... you're so sweet." Cooed Jose, blowing him a kiss, laughing at the effects her little joke had on Sam's face.
"HEY! Before you go and spend half the national debt, what name do you prefer to be called?"
Jose paused, thinking, "Maria Louisa Canseco. It is what my mother would have named me had I been a girl," he added at Sam's raised eyebrow.
On the way out of the building Maria, (deciding to start thinking of herself with her new name) grabbed one of the secretaries and bribed her with the promise of a new dress if she'd help her shop for everything from the skin out. Maria waved the credit card under Helen's nose and watched with a grin as Helen's eyes widened.
At first, shopping for clothes seemed a pain with all the changes of outfits, but as time went on, and she began to feel less self-conscious, Maria started to enjoy the feeling of being admired. The men, with their wives or girlfriends, kept looking admiringly at Maria when she came out of the changing rooms to check herself in the shops main wall mirror.
Helen was a great help, giving her some great advice. She was amazed at the amount of money Maria was spending on everything and finally had to ask her why. Maria, after getting assurances that it wouldn't go further, told her the story over lunch. She was skeptical at first, but finally, she was convinced. She said that she would help her learn the essentials of being a modern woman. Maria spent over seven hours that day, buying and trying clothes, with just the short break for a light lunch.
Driving home, she was surprised to find Sam outside her house.
"Sam, what are you doing here?"
"Taking you to your new home, Maria." Sam replied, smiling.
"My what?" Maria blurted in surprise.
"Courtesy of the governments appreciation, you get a new name, a new ID, with a new life and home. You still have your old job if you still want it, or training for any sort of new job you may desire."
Her new home came fully furnished suitable for a single woman, with tasteful but decidedly feminine furnishings. Maria with Helen in tow, walked though it, examining everything, before unloading her new purchases. Sam told Maria that it was fully stocked with food and that, apart from any personal stuff at the old house she might want, she could move in immediately.
Maria stopped Sam before he left, saying she wanted to know what was happening about the SETI project.
"Maria, I am allowed to tell you, but this remains in your head, okay?"
"No problem, we wouldn't want a panic starting." She agreed.
Well we will try once more with a human subject, you know the person I mentioned? Well, he agreed to volunteer. We hope to learn more about these aliens without risking our world's safety. There was talk of trying the exchange with other animals, something we can control, but that's not decided yet. Anyway, when we decide that we have learned enough, and are happy with the method to erase the alien personality, maybe it could be used as a treatment for gender disphoria, at least for the male population, but that's for others to decide. The machine will be set up at the telescope site with no external communication link to the outside. Plus we will set up a self destruct to prevent it falling into the wrong hands." Sam looked at his new female employee with concern.
"Maria? Are you okay? ... I mean really okay with all of this," he paused, indicating her body with a gesture. "If you want, you can retire and live on the compensation you will be given, I hear it will be substantial."
"Sam, thanks for worrying, I ...I should be okay. I do need the credit card for tomorrow though. Helen's taking me out to buy shoes and jewelry, and I would like about two weeks off to acclimatize myself... get to know me, if you get my drift."
"Fine, and I can give Helen time off to help you too. It's the least we can do. What about later? Will you come back to work? We do still need your skills, and I wouldn't want to lose my top man...woman now would I?" Sam said quickly, fumbling momentarily over the gender description.
"Oh, I'll be back." Maria laughed at the corny line. "Be assured of that, but I want more time off now that I'm a woman." She grinned at Sam's scowl, and went on. "I want to see mom and show her the new daughter she has. That should be interesting," she mused to herself.
"Good luck with that, I hope she doesn't have a heart attack." Sam said worriedly.
"Oh I think she'll get over the shock, especially if I take her out shopping," Maria found herself giggling.
Sam left then, after hugging his former male colleague. Maria went back inside to start sorting out her new life. 'One thing at a time,' she thought to herself. 'One thing at a time.' With a heart set on trying to make the best of her new life, she went to the phone and dialed a number....
"Mom? Is that you? ... It's your daughter, Maria Louisa Canseco,"
© 2002 by Prudence Walker. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.