Fawx took a sip of her piña colada. She mulled the taste over as the tropical breeze of the Gulf of Mexico swept her blue hair back. She decided she didn’t like the taste of it. Officers weren’t allowed to drink alcoholic beverages while on duty and Fawx had rarely been off duty since becoming an officer. She assumed she didn’t like the taste because she had never had the opportunity to develop a taste for alcohol.
“Fine by me,” she muttered to herself and put the drink down. She was now smaller than her old self so she doubted she could keep her liquor very well. Last thing she’d want is to end up drunk. Who knows what she would do if that ever happened.
She continued leaning on the deck overlooking the Cancùn beach. She wasn’t sure if the place she was considered a bar or a restaurant but it certainly was nice and laid back. The sun was beginning to approach the horizon and the tide was beginning to rise. She felt the light mist of the ocean against her bare thighs.
She glanced down at her smooth legs. Maria, Fawx’s sister had convinced her that she needed to adjust and accept basic feminine hygiene and grooming habits. She originally resisted but Maria had always had a way of convincing her brother she was right. Fawx knew she was right too; it was either adhere to the societal standards or be stared at and she sure didn’t want that. And although she had originally opposed the feminine clothing, she had to admit that as she sat in a tropical climate, the sleeveless polo and the shorter-cut female shorts felt very comfortable.
Maria had let Fawx live with her family for a month and had helped her buy a new wardrobe to fit her new body and adjust to her new life. Maria took Fawx’s new gender rather well- but let her have it for not talking to her in three years. Fawx knew she deserved the lashing she took and it made taking Maria’s advice easier to accept- especially after all the time they would spend together talking. The month of living with her closed the distance the three years of no contact had created.
As she continued to watch the waves crash against the sand, Fawx noticed a pair of cute, young male patrons giving her body a quick look over. A few months ago such things bothered her, but now she practically could ignore it. She couldn’t blame them at all- it was only natural for any man to take in at least a glimpse or two with her body. It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise when her body had been handcrafted for that purpose-
Then again that brought into question exactly how much handcrafting her body had gotten. Maria had pointed out how Fawx’s new face looked exactly like their mother’s face. She even pulled out some old pictures of their grandmother when she was young and surprisingly their grandmother had been just as stacked as Fawx now was. With her hair grown out to her waist (Maria had talked Fawx out of getting her hair cut) she looked uncannily like their grandmother. It made Fawx wonder if the Yrch really had actually done any crafting or if he instead just found attractive feminine traits already hidden in the crew’s DNA and brought them out.
A tap on her shoulder brought Fawx back to the world around her. She turned around and was met with a steady pair of brick eyes and a smile that could melt butter. The familiar soprano voice greeted him. “Sorry I’m late, Captain.”
Fawx smiled and greeted her most trusted advisor and closest friend, Com. Novak. “We’re on vacation. Forget the titles.”
“So sorry but I wasn’t sure what else to call you,” Novak’s mouth morphed into a grin. “- Cali.”
Fawx smiled and began chuckling. “How did you find out I changed my name?”
Novak leaned onto the wooden railing overlooking the beach. “I was just going over the different files on all the officers of the Sabine for a presentation I had to give to the council. I noticed an edit on yours. Where did the name Cali come from?”
“My sister Maria suggested it. It was a family name- one of my great-grandmothers had it or something. I was against changing my name at first but she pointed out it would be more awkward to explain why my parents named their little girl Bennis.”
“It fits you.”
“The name. You look like a Cali to me.” Fawx shrugged and went back to staring at the ocean. Novak sighed and smiled. “If it makes you feel any better you’re not the only one who decided to change her name.”
“Oh really? Who else on the crew changed their names?”
Novak laughed. “I’m talking about me you idiot!”
Fawx turned her gaze from the beach to Novak. “Oh, really? What to?”
“Its root is a Greek word that means ‘resurrection’ or ‘rebirth’. I figure given the situation, that’s a very appropriate name.”
“Why did you change it?”
“Same reason as you. I’m trying to avoid awkward situations where I have to make up lies to cover for what happened. If I tell people this cute brunette is named Adam the conversation is going to go in a direction I rather not it be taken.”
“I guess we’re on the same page-just going to take some getting used to thinking of you as a Stacy.”
Novak chuckled as a waitress approached the two and greeted Novak. “Could I help you two? May I get you some drinks?” She obviously hadn’t seen Fawx occasionally sipping on her drink earlier.
Fawx picked up her piña colata and handed it to the waitress. “Could you bring me a soda or something? How about a root beer?”
The waitress paused a second before taking it. She obviously wasn’t used to the tourists opting for less exotic drinks. “Happy to do it ma’am.”
Novak turned around and faced the girl. “What drinks do you have?”
As the waitress began listing off the choices they offered, Fawx finally took note of what Novak was wearing. A blue, button up, silk blouse covered her top. What really caught Fawx’s attention was the white, wispy skirt around her thighs. She was voluntarily wearing a skirt?
“That sounds interesting. I’ll have one of your Sandiablas. That sounds interesting.”
The waitress nodded. “All right, I’ll be right back with your drinks.”
As the waitress walked away, Fawx leaned in. “Two questions- Stacy. First one is why are you ordering an alcoholic drink? As I recall you hate the taste, and besides there is no way these bodies can handle that much.”
Novak leaned her back against the railing. “Hey, we’re in new bodies- Cali. Maybe my taste buds are different. Besides, it’s not like I’m drinking vodka. It’s one of those fruity drinks the girls would order at restaurants when we were at the Academy. What’s the second question?”
Fawx smirked. “The second question is did you lose a bet or are you wearing that skirt by choice?”
Novak chuckled and straightened her skirt. “By choice. What of it?”
Fawx shrugged. “It’s just that it’s- well a skirt. I haven’t worn one since I turned the ones the Yrch made into the Science Counsel for study and haven’t looked back.”
“Well, as weird as this sounds, I find them very comfortable.”
Novak stretched the material out a bit to display it. “Well yeah. Typically made of lighter material. Nothing scraping against the insides of my legs. For weather like this it feels great.”
“But what? Don’t tell me you’re wearing a sleeveless polo and short shorts because you think you look nice in’em.”
“Well- okay so you got a point there.”
Novak laughed and turned back to the ocean. “You know, the past seven months have been rough, but I think the adjustment hasn’t been too rough for me. I’ve at least had something to keep me busy and focus on.”
Fawx turned to face the ocean as well. “How has work on that committee been going?”
Novak sighed. “Frustrating at times. The politics of changing policies can be rough. Especially when you’re having to adjust policies to determine the best way to combat potential magical enemies. Everyone wants to make sure to cover their own asses and to protect their own pet policies. Then there is the group who question whether there are any policy changes that could have prevented what happened to us. Then of course there are those that want to use this committee to further their political aspirations. There is a lot of jockeying for position going on because they know that four new Warcruisers are being built and people want to be senior officers on them. And it really ruffled a lot of people’s feathers when they found out you’ve already been approached to captain one of them.”
Fawx chuckled. “Sounds like you’re having a blast.”
Novak sighed. “It’s not all bad. We are making changes that are for the better. Everyone agreed that it would be best if we no longer sent ships through the Muffler Sector alone. There are also new rules on having more hidden weapons caches, self-destructible escape pods so we wouldn’t have to hot wire a scuttle bomb again. Stuff like that. It just feels like every decision comes with a pound of flesh for as much work and arguing that happens.”
“At least some changes are being made.”
“Like I said, at the very least it’s keeping me busy. The frustrations aren’t so bad- at least I’m not like Dr. Teffri.”
Fawx turned to Novak. “What’s wrong with Dr. Teffri?”
Novak pushed one of her bangs out of her eyes. “She went with the investigative team to visit the Yrch government to see if they could find more magic Yrchs. Seems their government knows as much about magic people on their planet as we do on ours. Even with all the evidence we presented, they didn’t want believe us. I don’t completely blame them; after all, as the committee I’m on is showing, it takes quite a bit of pain and suffering to figure out how to adapt to a world where you have to defend yourself against magic.”
“So what happened with Teffri?”
“After six months of study and searching they found nothing useful. Whoever these magic people are, they don’t want to be found. So they left, feeling like they just wasted time. Most of the people who left the expedition sent a recommendation to find magic users on Earth who may be able to help. But Teffri was tired of waiting and now has retired to a lab and buried herself in research and experimentation. She’s grown dangerously thin as she skips meals to work. She’s now short with everyone and those who pass by her in the lab say they sometimes just find her crying uncontrollably. She’s losing it.”
Fawx nodded. “Considering all that she lost, I can see why.”
Novak shook her head. “It’s not healthy though. She’s a doctor. She should know that!” She sighed. “I made contact with her myself. I tried to talk her into taking a break. She accused me of giving up hope. I tried to tell her it wasn’t giving up hope- she wouldn’t hear it.”
“Well, has she made any progress?”
Novak shrugged. “Well, she not sure what the magic did to cause it, but she discovered how our bodies changed. A relatively small number of our cells were overwritten in such a way that they were given our new female DNA. Somehow the magic then stimulated the new female cells to multiply at what medically could only be described as a suicidal pace, using our old male cells as the resources they needed to do so. Once we were ‘complete’ the stimulated cell multiplication ceased and our new female cells reproduced at a normal rate as if they’d always been female.”
“So what is Teffri trying to do?”
“Teffri is trying to develop a retrovirus that would attack the extra X-chromosome we now have and replace it with a Y chromosome but there are several problems with that as well.”
“And they are?”
“Well the first and biggest problem is that Teffri is not geneticist. She’s a doctor. Another problem is that attempts to create this kind of retrovirus have been done before for people seeking gender change and all those attempts proved to be failures because the retrovirus developed never fully did the job and put the animals they tested it on in such pain that most died. On top of that, there is the fact that even if Teffri succeeded where all others failed, it wouldn’t even begin to address the issue of how the Yrch made us younger.”
“Yeah, all kinds of scientists would love to figure that out.”
“Not really, because it’s illegal to do so.”
“It was explained to me like this. There is something attached to our DNA called a telomere that shortens every time our DNA replicates. Most science supports that there is a link between telomere shortening and the aging process. For over a century scientists tried to figure out a way to use drugs or gene therapy to lengthen telomeres, thereby extending human life. But it would seem nature frowned upon such treatments because as they tested the different telomere lengthening techniques, the subjects tested became more and more susceptible to cancer, cutting life expectancy significantly. About a century ago, telomere length modification was outlawed in Terren space for that reason along with ethical concerns. So even if Teffri succeeds with the retrovirus, we couldn’t return to age we were before the Yrch attacked without Teffri breaking laws or leaving Terren space.”
“Sounds like Teffri has taken a world of trouble upon herself.”
“She’s angry and bitter and seems to be in a downward spiral. I don’t get it. She seemed much calmer than most everyone else on that ship when the changes happened.”
“She hadn’t been hit with the consequences of what had been done to her yet. She’s now 40 years younger than her wife. She’s desperate. I don’t suppose either of us could understand that since we’ve never been married.”
Novak looked down at her feet and sighed. “I guess not.”
They gazed at the descending sun silently. Fawx just listened to the waves roll in and breathed in the ocean air. The waitress interrupted the silence. “Here are your drinks, ladies.”
Novak took a sip of her so-called Sandiablas. “Mmm, thank you.”
Fawx took a swig of her root beer. “Thanks.”
“Anything else I can get for you two?”
Fawx shook her head. Novak took another sip. “This will be fine, thank you very much.”
The waitress walked away. Fawx continued the conversation. “Any other crew members having problems?”
“Problems adjusting? Well, everyone has had their struggles I suppose. But nothing like Teffri. Now if you are talking about crew members causing problems, that’s a different story.”
Fawx raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
Novak took another drink. “Airman Mateo and Sgt. Garrick are both having disciplinary hearings shortly.”
Fawx groaned. “What did Garrick do?”
Novak waved at the air as if to dismiss the question. “It’s not so bad with Garrick. She was doing some illegal ‘astro-racing’ while away and got caught.”
Fawx shrugged. “We always knew that might happen. It’s why she signed up with the TSF in the first place- for the action. Considering how good a pilot she is and the fact that she has no ship to fly for a few months at least we should have seen this coming. What kind of discipline is she looking at?”
“Well, considering she was involved in the ‘Sabine Incident’ they’ll probably go easy on her. Probably just a few days in the brig. But that might be a moot point. Garrick is talking about petitioning to be released from the final year and a half of her TSF tour of duty.”
Fawx nearly spit out her root beer. “She’s quitting the TSF! Why?”
Novak let the taste of her drink sit in her mouth a bit before answering. “Here is the crazy part. Apparently it’s the off season for IGRA.”
“The Inter-Galactic Racing Association. Anyway, I guess during the off-season a lot of IGRA drivers do illegal racing to pass the time. So some of the people Garrick was racing against were official IGRA racers. And she was competing with them- even beating them in a few races. I guess one of the racers was able to swallow his pride enough to tell his sponsors. Word got out that a young, attractive female racer might be able to compete and Garrick now has a few companies who want her to drive for their team.”
“You got to be shittin’ me.”
“Nope. There are women in IGRA but none who regularly compete for the top position. Given Garrick’s skills, age, and looks- there are a bunch of people who think they can make her an IGRA starlet.”
“Who would have thunk? Well good for Garrick but bad for us. There goes my pilot.” Fawx swished some root beer in her mouth. “So what happened with Airman Mateo?”
Novak bit her bottom lip and exhaled. “Apparently Airmen Mateo needed some quick and easy money. I think she or a relative had some sort of debt they needed paid off. As it so happened, she knew someone who knew someone who had some connections with the people at Beyonds -”
“Beyonds? If that sleazy magazine is involved I already don’t like where this is going.”
Novak sighed. “Well it’s going exactly where you think it is going. Mateo went under the pseudonym Bella Vistas and posed nude for their ‘The Women of TSF’ issue. Someone was able to ID her in the magazine and now she might be kicked out. I don’t know all the details; I’m kind of getting my info second-hand from Lt. Petton who is getting her info second-hand from someone else.”
Fawx grimaced. “That’s just disgraceful. That was the very thing Irium had the Yrch change us for- just to titillate the depraved senses of society. I can’t believe Mateo would do that.”
“Apparently she really needed that money.”
Fawx slammed her cup down. Tears seemed to try to escape her eyes but wouldn’t. “I don’t care how badly she needed the money! She sold herself out! We fought tooth and nail just to prevent us from being turned into sex objects and now Mateo just goes and does it willingly? Stuff like that makes me wonder what the hell we sacrificed for if people are just going to degrade themselves! She doesn’t deserve to wear the uniform.”
Novak nodded. “I know what you mean.” She sighed. “And frankly I think the disciplinary council agrees with you. I hope she liked modeling because she’s likely to get kicked out of the TSF.”
“Serves her right.” Fawx stewed over her emotions. Had she always felt this strongly? She wondered how much her recent experiences or new body were contributing to her stronger feelings.
Novak didn’t seem to like the silence that was tensing up the atmosphere. “So have you thought about the Admiral’s proposal?”
Fawx sighed, letting go of her anger. “Yeah.”
“Well, are you going to accept his offer of being Captain of one of the new Warcruisers?”
“I- I’m not sure. I haven’t decided yet.”
Novak guzzled a little more of her beverage. “You only have four more months before the Admiral needs a decision.”
“I know! I know. I just-” Fawx shook her head and finished off her root beer.
“You just what?”
Fawx hung her head, staring at the wooden railing. “I’m suddenly in my early twenties again. I wonder if there is something else I’m supposed to do with my life. I don’t really believe in karma or anything like that, but I wonder sometimes if things happened the way they did for reason or something.”
“You think some higher force wanted the Yrch to transform us?”
Fawx scoffed. “No. Not anything like that. I just- I wonder if maybe there was something I was supposed to learn from all this. Like maybe there is something else I’m supposed to do with my life.”
Novak smiled. “I see what you mean. So what do you think you were supposed to learn from it?”
“I’m not sure.”
Novak put her arm around Fawx’s shoulder. “I look it at this way, my old yet young friend. It’ll be another year before you have to get all trained up on how to be a Captain of a giant Warcruiser. That’ll put us biologically at twenty-one to twenty-three years old you start captaining that new ship. But because we’re really in our late 40’s, we’d only have about three more years of service left until we hit retirement pension. So that would put us at biologically our late twenties and we get to retire- still plenty of time to do something else with our lives while we’re still young and can sow our wild oats.”
Fawx laughed, which came out more like a giggle. “Sow our wild oats? You sound like a frat boy!”
Novak stuck her tongue out. “Or sorority girl.”
Fawx giggled again. “You’re acting weird. I think the alcohol is beginning to get to you.”
Novak dumped the rest of her drink over the railing. “You’re probably right.” She put her cup down and then pointed at Fawx. “But it doesn’t change the fact that neither of us have had a serious relationship since the war with the Minalonians. From what I hear that’s supposedly one of the most fun and rewarding parts of life. Maybe we should give it a try some time.”
Fawx had thought about that same thing several times. It had been something she and Maria had talked about. Still, a relationship was something she had never really felt ready for- and now that she was a girl those feelings of being unprepared were only heightened. She desperately wanted the subject changed. “So even if I did accept the position, you think they would let me pick my officers?”
Novak bobbed her head side to side. “Well they’d definitely exercise their right to approve or disapprove your choices.”
“What if my choices were you, Petton, and Moden?”
Novak let out a pleased breath. “Me- I don’t think they’d break us up after over a decade of serving with each other. Moden I think they’d definitely approve of.”
“Let’s just say Moden has really impressed the high level engineers. She came up with, designed, and built a prototype weapon that took out an enemy that had abilities never encountered before. She did something no other engineer has done in hot wiring a scuttle bomb. They put her on the team that is helping design the new Warcruisers and while I don’t know what, she apparently has made some suggestions on some modifying certain things here or there that the other engineers think are brilliant. About two months ago they had a training conference for the engineering teams and they had Moden as a speaker at it on the subject of new shield power grid fluctuation management or something like that. There was so packed some were sitting on the floor.”
“Okay, how much of that was her brilliance and how much of it was nerds wanting to check out the hot female nerd they’ve never seen before?”
Novak started laughing uncontrollably. It took a few moments for her to regain composure. “Well, that probably did have a factor. But she has shown herself to be quite capable. People have got an eye on her.”
Fawx happily nodded. Before their encounter with the Yrch, she had always found Moden to be a little off and borderline annoying. But the danger they had been put through had pushed Moden’s brain and nerves to their limits and she proved herself more than capable. The experience had even helped her grow into a more capable leader. After that incident, she couldn’t imagine anyone but Moden being her Engineering Officer.
“What about Petton?”
Novak sighed. “Petton- I’m not so sure on. Right now she’s training potential security officers at the Academy. Under the circumstances I don’t know how she could have done any better but the fact remains that while she was the head of the Sabine security team, our ship was tracked, disabled, and boarded. On top of that the entire crew was transformed into buxom young women. It doesn’t look good on a résumé.”
“Yeah, but while she was head of Security we also defeated a Minalonian battleship, repelled much a better equipped boarding team, and assassinated the biggest fugitive humanity had. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
Novak gave Fawx a sad look. “Considering what happened to you after Irium got away, I would think you of all people would know that people tend to remember the mistakes a lot easier than our successes.”
The sun had now just barely begun to kiss the edge of the horizon. The blue of the sky was already being embraced by the purples and oranges of a sunset. The warm tropical breeze was slowly but surely being covered by cool, crisp air of a coastal night.
“Petton will get her chance. If for no other reason than she is now the youngest Security Officer in the fleet by almost a decade. Hell, we’re all now as young as the new cadets. If you played your cards right- you could be the youngest Admiral in the history of TSF.”
Fawx laughed. “No thanks. I’ll leave that job to someone who wants more stress in their life. My plate is full already.”
The conversation was interrupted once more by the waitress. She was carrying a tray with two Sandiablas on it. “Excuse me ladies, but these drinks are for you.”
Fawx squinted in confusion. “Um, but we didn’t order any drinks.”
The waitress smiled and nodded her head towards a table with two men that looked to be in their early to mid twenties. “I know. Those two gentlemen over there ordered them for you.”
Fawx and Novak looked over to see the young men. They both were obviously trying to act casual and just continued their conversation but Fawx noticed them constantly glancing over at the two deceptively young looking women, obviously hoping for something. Fawx couldn’t herself from thinking that the tall one with blond hair was kind of cute. As Fawx chided herself for thinking such things, Novak picked up the Sandiablas and forced one into her embarrassed Captain’s hand. “Thank you so much.”
The waitress smiled and walked away with a wink. “Good luck, ladies.”
As she walked away Novak chuckled. “We’re being hit on by young men who are half our age. The poor boys have no clue what they’re getting themselves into. Probably just down from college on spring break or something.”
Fawx tried to wrest control of her thoughts. That’s when Novak’s mouth shifted into a mischievous smile. “Come on Cali. Let’s go sit down and thank the two cute boys and make small talk with them.”
“Okay, you have got to be drunk! You can’t be serious.”
Novak put hand on her hip in a very feminine manner. She began gracefully striding to the boys. “Oh don’t be such a stick in the mud. We got free drinks. I want to encourage the practice of getting free stuff on vacation as much as possible. If it takes a little small talk with college students so be it. Besides, this kind of thing is going to happen now- might as well get used to it.”
Fawx slowly inched towards the boys as well. After a few moments of trembling, Stacy grabbed her hand and coaxed her forward. “C’mon Cali. Just calm down. Nothing bad will happen. Think of it as a mission into an uncharted star system. We’re just exploring a new part of the cosmos. See, you’ve done this before.”
“How do I let you talk me into these things?”
Stacy winked. “I’m your second-in-command. It’s my job. Now just relax. What’s a vacation without a little adventure?”
Cali took a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. The two boys were now looking directly at the two young women. Her eyes made contact with the blond guy’s eyes. There was no turning back now. “I know I’m going to regret this but okay. Course is set. Let’s roll.”
There we go. The end of Crew Shift! I think this helped tie up all the loose ends that were left from the last chapter. I really didn’t expect this to be that long. Maybe I should change it from an epilogue and title this the last chapter. Meh, I’ll figure that out later.
The artist of the picture would like to apologize for the incompleteness of the picture. The artist said the background took much longer than expected. Still, I think looks pretty good. It has been so long since I’ve had art to accompany a chapter. I think it just adds a nice flare to any story to have pictures go along with it.
Some people have asked me if I will use the Crew Shift characters again for a later story. As of right now I don’t have any plans for it. I’m not sure what else I could build upon or do to Fawx and her crew that would really add to the theme I presented in Crew Shift.
Okay, now I have a few questions for you all to answer for me. This is for future reference so I can improve my stories (and I do listen to readers input. Especially if that reader is Pip) so that they are more entertaining.
1. How did you find this story?
Just email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org please. These responses will be used to frame how I will be writing future stories so here is your big chance to help shape how I’ll be writing in the future!