Center of Creation

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Center of Creation

Postby LilJennie » Mon Feb 26, 2018 9:01 pm

(note: This is an idea that has been in my head for a long time, not fully formed. I'm not sure it was ready. But Miki was a good sport and went along with it. It seemed to meander around in need of direction quite a bit. I hope it's not too badly meandering. -- Jennie)

Center of Creation

by LilJennie & Miki Yamuri

Elaine locked the door to the Center and walked across the parking lot to her
home. There were a few clouds in the late autumn sky, and the sunset lit them
up with liquid fire. A few stars were appearing. It still seemed odd to Elaine
that it no longer mattered how far away they were.

A lone car drove into the lot, heading straight for Elaine. The window rolled
down, and someone inside called out, "Excuse me -- the Center, is it still

"Sorry, just closed for the night," Elaine said. "We open tomorrow at 8 a.m.,
though, so please come back then!" All her employees had already gone home, off
to their homes or apartments in White Hill, which was the nearest town despite
being 12 miles away. She'd been the last one out, as usual, but then as the
owner of the Center she had additional responsibilities.

"What if we don't want to wait?" said the driver, and three other people got
out of the car -- they were tall, so Elaine assumed they were men despite their
ski masks and heavy coats. They were taking out guns.

"What do you want?" asked Elaine calmly. "I don't carry much cash, and the
Center doesn't have more than a few hundred on site."

"We know what you can do in there," they said. "You're going to give it to us."

"That's not my decision," Elaine said, backing away. "Look, you don't
understand --"

"We know you can do incredible things in there," the driver said. "You can
reshape bodies and minds. You can reconfigure the building blocks of
matter. That means you could create a ton of solid gold if you wanted to. And
we want to be the ones doing that, so to put it quite simply, you're going to
give it to us, or we're going to kill you. Simple choice."

"Well, you're right," Elaine said. "I can do some pretty amazing things in
there. But you're wrong about one thing."

"I'm not wrong," the driver said. "I've done extensive research about you,
Elaine Seven Stars. And whatever machines you've invented, you're giving them
to me."

"There are things I don't tell anyone," she said. "And one of them is ... the
things I can do in there? I don't have to do them in there. There are no
machines. It's all me."

"That's ... not ... possible," the driver said, uncertain that what he was
saying was true.

"You forgot to bring your guns," said Elaine. "You've all come with gifts for
me, because you want to introduce yourselves. You all have something you want
me to do for you at the Center. You misjudged the travel time and got here too
late, but you will go back to White Hills and stay at the hotel for the night,
then come back in the morning." As she said this, the driver and his three
henchmen froze, standing still, with an amazed look in their eyes. They were
all holding fancy chocolate bars in their hands, and they looked down at
them. Elaine could feel the molecules change from steel to organics, and she
could feel the neural pathways in their brains rearranging to follow the new
patterns that she suggested to the universe.

"I ... um ... I hope you will consider helping us," the driver said. "We've
come a long way. I've always felt that I was trapped in this body. Sorry we
didn't manage to catch you while the Center was open. We'll head back to White
Hills and see you in the morning."

"In the meantime, I hope you like chocolate," said one of the others. "We
brought these as a token of our esteem. Your interview in the Guardian said
this was your favorite."

"I thank you very kindly," Elaine said with a smile. "Please come back in the
morning, but it's a pleasure to meet you all." She accepted the gifts of
chocolate graciously.

"Well, you take care, Ms. Seven Stars," one of them said. "See you tomorrow."
They got back into the car and drove off.

Elaine watched them go, then walked the rest of the way to her house.

It had all begun several years ago, when Edward Seven Stars had first heard the
song. "Congratulations, Ed," said his English Literature teacher, shaking his
hand at graduation, "I have no doubt you'll go far. Your imagination is like
nothing I've ever seen before. Please promise me to keep creating -- if not
writing, then in some medium."

"Well, I don't think I can stop, really, Ms. DeWitt" he'd said. "I don't think
I can abandon my girls." He was referring to a series of stories he'd written
for her class, in which two teenage girls had adventures and solved
mysteries. "But lately I'm thinking that I might look into music -- last night
I dreamed the most beautiful song, and when I woke up I was heartbroken that I
couldn't really remember it well enough to do it justice."

"In search of the Lost Chord," she replied. "Will your life be the story of
Coleridge, trying to recapture a dream briefly glimpsed?"

"Probably something more practical than that," he said with a smile. "I'll find
my inspiration somewhere out there," he added, making a sweeping gesture with
an arm as he turned around -- and at that moment the song from his dream
returned with full force, causing him to stagger.

"Are you all right?" she asked. "Did you spin around too fast there, with your
grand theatrical gesture?"

"I'm ... not sure," he replied, regaining his balance. "It might have been
... something trying to tell me something. A vision." His grandmother had told
her about visions, but those were stories from back in the old days. His family
was pretty far removed from the old traditions nowadays.

"Destiny calling?" Ms. DeWitt said. "But seriously, if you have another dizzy
spell like that, please, go see a doctor. Poetry is one thing, but your health
is quite another. Good luck, Ed." She shook his hand again.

His parents drove him home to the graduation party, but the memory of the
vision haunted him. He remembered the song even better now that he'd
encountered it again, and while awake. Had it been some kind of seizure? The
next day he went to a place he liked to go, the town of White Hills' only
public park, where there was a monument. Some parks had monuments commemorating
those lost in wars, but this one was a monument dedicated to the idea that
there shouldn't be wars. He'd always liked that idea better. It was a stone
sculpture of a pair of hands releasing a dove, which was flapping its wings. He
parked the car and walked up to this sculpture, but this time he didn't really
look at it; instead he looked into the distance.

He tried that same sweeping arm gesture, but nothing happened. Wait, which
direction had he been facing when he'd been speaking to Ms. DeWitt? The stage
was set up on the west side of the gym, and she'd been to the left side, so
he'd started out facing approximately south ... he tried it again.

It happened again. He almost lost his footing. He merely turned to face the
direction where it happened. He felt it a little ... he tried raising a hand
into the air. The sensation was more powerful. He raised both hands.

He woke up on the ground, his head in the grass. He was lucky he hadn't cracked
it on the pavement.

The next day he found a magnetic compass and a map and tried triangulation,
remembering geometry class. He felt like he was one of his heroines, using her
mind to solve a mystery. He also tried "listening" for the song while sitting
down, which worked, though less strongly, meaning that he wasn't in danger of
passing out and getting hurt. The map pointed to someplace in the nearby
national forest.

He drove nearer to that point, hoping to get a more accurate fix on this -- it
was fascinating that it seemed to be coming from an actual place. But why was
this happening now? Why was he the only one affected? And why did it seem to be
stronger than it had been the previous day?

It was just Ed and his family's car in the forest, with the light getting dim,
and Ed was playing adventurer-detective, turning around in the car seat with
both arms up as high as they could reach until he found the direction where the
song resonated loudest in the vaults of his mind. Looking at the compass and
making a note on the map, he got a new reference point, and when he did this in
two more places, he got another estimate ... someplace there, deep in the
woods. He took the flashlight he'd brought with him and went there.

He'd told his parents that he was going out with friends. He'd told his friends
he'd been going out with his parents. Part of his mind knew that if something
happened to him, nobody would come looking for him until tomorrow at the
earliest, and they wouldn't start looking here in the forest. But he pressed on
anyway, looking at his phone from time to time to check his GPS position with
the map and the old-fashioned compass.

The song had quietly begun to ring in his mind at all times now, getting louder
and louder. His detective heroines would be proud. He didn't really know why
he'd picked a pair of female protagonists for his stories -- perhaps he just
wanted to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, as all his friends who were
girls seemed like so much more interesting people than the guys. But once he'd
started, he'd found that the characters had taken on a life of their own, and
he could easily imagine what they'd want to do, what they did for fun, what
their home lives were like, how they'd met, how they'd grown to be the teenage
investigators they were, and so forth. It was as if they were part of him,
especially Elaine, who he felt was sort of his alter-ego. If he'd been a girl,
he'd have wanted to be like Elaine. So practical, so level-headed, but always
thinking of others, and all while being reasonably cute -- not drop-dead
fashion-model beautiful, but endearingly sweet.

And this was when Ed found the cave. Or rather, it found him. There were
barricades around it, but they were decades old and poorly-maintained. Ed
didn't see them until later, because in the direction from which he'd come
they'd crumbled to nothing. The flashlight had shown him a barricade ahead --
but by this time it was already too late. His next step was into a crevice, and
nothing stopped it. He fell until his crotch met stone.

Writhing in horrible pain, Ed nevertheless did not shout or call undue
attention to himself in the wilderness. He took a deep breath. He counted to
10. He tried to think about how to free his foot, but suddenly the ground
beneath him gave way, and he tumbled through the darkness.

No no I want to live Elaine wants to live please please no ...

"Interesting," said a voice. He didn't see or feel anything. It was as if he
was floating in darkness. The sensation of the song was overwhelming. "This one
has two selves."

"Hello?" Ed tried to call out. "Who is that? Where are you?"

"One of the two wants information," said the voice. "And yet it is the other
one who quests for knowledge."

"What are you talking about?" Ed asked. "The song --"

"This being has perceived the universal ordering," said the voice. "Is this
because its two selves are in balance?"

"Why won't you talk to me?" asked Ed.

"Why isn't the one who asks questions asking questions?"

"Fine," said Ed. He imagined himself as Elaine, as if he were writing her role
in a story.

"Where is this? And who are you? And what is the universal ordering?" asked
Elaine's voice. Ed was astounded. But perhaps this was all going on inside his
head, which was where Elaine existed. Maybe it was a dream, or a vision.

"The music of the spheres is what one called it," said the voice, "one who was
more than a little attuned to the ordering. It may be beyond the capability of
your limited mind ... at least, for the moment. For with the ordering, nothing
is impossible. The ordering is the universe."

"The ordering sounds like a process," said Elaine. "Is the universe a process?"

"Astute, you are," said the voice. "The universe is creation. Creation is a
process. The universe is always undergoing creation."

"Is the ordering an intelligence?" asked Elaine. "A guiding hand that drives
the ongoing creation of the universe?"

"The ordering does not guide," said the voice. "The ordering is guidance."

"I don't understand," said Elaine. "Can you help me understand?"

"There is no me to help you," said the voice. "I am not. I am your mind
struggling to understand."

"You're saying that I can help myself understand," said Elaine.

"Help yourself," said the voice.

"My mind can understand the ordering," Elaine said to herself. And suddenly,
her mind expanded beyond anything anyone on Earth had ever understood
before. She had made contact with a primal generative principle at the core of
all that existed. She understood the Big Bang. She saw within the event
horizons of black holes. She knew what existed before the universe and what
would exist after.

And simultaneously she knew that her broken and battered body lay at the bottom
of a cavern miles deep next to a glowing blue stone that had been placed here
by an alien intelligence before the Solar System's formation. She knew that
this had all taken place in the last instants of her life before her
consciousness was snuffed out and itself became part of the universal
ordering. But she also knew that she could change that.

And she did. She could suggest to the universe that her body was fully intact
and sound, that her brain completely recalled all this knowledge and was able
to fully comprehend the vastness of what she had learned ... and that the
cavern was sealed, because this knowledge was for the moment too dangerous for
the human race to possess in its current state.

She touched the blue stone set into the cavern floor, large enough to place
both palms upon, and understood the ancient travelers who had put it here. One
day the human race would do likewise. But that day was not today.

She suggested that she was not in fact trapped within a cavern miles beneath
the surface but instead standing next to the car with her phone, flashlight,
compass, and a map with no marks on it. No one else needed to find this
place. It was dark, but not terribly late. It was time to go home. She drove
the car home in the ordinary way. Despite what she had learned, she was still a
human and would still have to live in the human world, and that was fine.

On the way home, it occurred to her that she had left home in Ed's body and was
returning in Elaine's. She corrected that for now. That change would have been
too sudden and unexpected by others.

"Well, that was a surreal dream," mumbled Elaine to herself as she woke up the
next morning. "I dreamed I was ... oh." She saw her face in the mirror across
the room -- short black hair, broad shoulders, large hands.

"You dreamed you were what?" asked her mother, walking by in the hallway
carrying a basket of laundry.

"I ... dreamed I was a girl," she said, in Ed's voice, in Ed's body. "I dreamed
I was Elaine, from my stories. I solved a mystery. A big one. A
fate-of-the-entire-world kind of thing."

"Sounds like quite an adventure," said her mother. "Why not write down the
story before you forget? You might have a best-seller on your hands."

She looked at her hands. These were not the hands she wanted to have for the
rest of her life -- which might be a very long time, considering that she might
in fact be able to do almost anything. "Mom?" she asked. "What would you say if
I told you that Elaine was ... kind of the real me?"

"What?" asked her mother. "You mean, like ... some kind of transgender thing?"

"Yeah, I dunno," she said. "It's ... well, it's kind of like when I started
writing about Elaine and Lori's adventures, Elaine kind of resonated with me,
like I'd known her my whole life."

"Huh," her mom said. "Well, I don't know what we do with that. It's ... a weird
thought to me, but then not as weird as all that. It's said that there are some
who are two-spirited. But we'll work through it together. Your father will

"I will?" asked her father, coming late into the conversation. "Ed's
two-spirited? You know, your aunt Irene was, well, what they're calling trans
now. But she was a lot closer to the tribe, and the old beliefs always had a
better way of dealing with that than the modern world does."

"Ed's going to college in the fall, though," she reminded him. "How does that
all work?"

"If Ed's going to be Elaine, or whatever, there's no timetable," said her
father, looking at her. "You just go with what feels right. You can change your
name to Elaine right now, or wait a couple of years, or whatever. Rushing never
helped anyone, though."

"I'm ... going to stay Ed for now," said Elaine. "I want to learn more about
this. When I go to college I'll be able to do just that. There are people who
know more than I know. I have to learn from them."

And that was true. Elaine alone among all humans heard the song of the
ordering, but human history, human art, human law -- those could only be
learned from other humans. So she went away to college and avoided making
suggestions to the universe ... unless it was absolutely necessary.

Elaine sat back in her comfortable and snugglie pillow chair. She couldn't help
thinking about those men. She knew they would have done her grave harm if she
hadn't changed things a little, but she'd changed things as little as
possible. Altering too much could have strange side effects.

She picked up the very thick, very old book that lay on the coffee table. She
opened it to the bookmarked page she had left off on. The ink on the page
seemed to smear, then run to the center in a liquid sort of whirl, before
vanishing from the page. Elaine smiled as a small gold fire appeared, then
began to write words across the page in a softly glowing script. It told the
thoughts and dreams of ... exactly who, and where, and when? ... Elaine didn't
truly want to know; all she wanted to know was the collective dream. She'd
learned long ago that some of the things she created with the song could go far
beyond what she'd originally envisioned.

Elaine couldn't wait for tomorrow to come and those men to return. She thought
the first guy with the long hair under his ski mask would make a cute little
blonde ditzy girl -- which he had always wanted to be, according to the song;
she'd just given him permission to follow that dream. She would be a perfect
match for that skinny guy with pimples -- which he wouldn't have after
tomorrow. She smiled as she continued to read. People came to her with problems
that couldn't be solved any other way, and a desire to do violence was
certainly a problem.

Elaine had just moved into her dorm room at college and was unpacking her
things, when suddenly there was a crash coming from somewhere out in the
hallway, and a loud shriek. Elaine knew right away where it was coming from;
the song told her. She ran out into the hallway and down the concrete stairs to
see a red-haired student who had fallen while carrying a small but heavy dorm
refrigerator. He had tumbled down half a flight and had hit his head; the metal
fridge had also fallen on his arm.

Elaine saw the young student's injuries more clearly than any other human could
have. He would have a concussion and already had green-stick fractures to his
forearm bones. But the song was also telling her what to do. In that instant,
she suggested to the universe that his injuries need not be so severe. It was
good that she'd been the first one there, or else someone else might have seen
the wounds vanish from his skin. Deep beneath, bones repaired, ruptured blood
vessels were made whole, and pooling blood and fluids disappeared. The young
man's groans of pain subsided. Elaine picked up the fridge and moved it
aside. "Whoa, are you all right?" she asked him.

"I ... guess so," he said. "It hurt a lot at first, but I guess I got
... lucky?" Others began to arrive.

Helping him up, Elaine said, "Call me ... Ed. I'm not sure your fridge was as
lucky, but better it than you."

"Yeah, I mean, it sucks, but ... I mean, my shirt's torn. That could've been my
arm." He looked at the rip in the arm of his shirt. "Oh, uh, I'm Jim." He
dusted himself off.

"What happened? Is anyone hurt?" asked an older student, evidently some sort of
dorm assistant.

"I'm fine," said Jim. "I think there's something slippery on one of the steps,
though." Elaine knew without looking that there was, and it was leaking
refrigerant from Jim's broken refrigerator, meaning that it might already have
been broken before he slipped -- or perhaps something stranger had happened
because of her alteration of reality. She would have to think about that and
learn more about what it meant.

"Well, let's get it cleaned up." Several students helped out, including Elaine.

"Wait," said Elaine, "my roommate's name is Jim. Are you going to 323?"

"Hey, yeah," said Jim. "I guess we're roomies. Ed, right?"

"Yes. I got here yesterday. Need any help?"

"I wouldn't turn it down," Jim said, so Elaine-as-Ed helped Jim carry his boxes
and suitcases in. "So what are you here to study?" she asked as they carried.

"Pre-med and pre-law," said Elaine. "I'm not sure what I want to do in the end,
but I want to help people. If I end up being a doctor, or a lawyer who helps
defend people who need it, I think that would be an honorable life."

"You're pretty fast," Jim said. "And you knew how to help, I guess. Maybe you
should be a doctor, or like an EMT."

"Well, you weren't actually hurt," Elaine replied. "But yeah, I guess I got to
you pretty fast. The first thought I had was that someone needed help."

Even with all the modesty and denials of actually doing anything, Elaine still
had many people give many praises on her fast actions along with many more
suggestions she become a doctor or some such.

She finally managed to return to her room and shut out the confusion still
reigning in the hall. The song had changed slightly. It was a very subtle
change, but enough that she could tell it had changed. The way it had changed
tickled Elaine to her soul.

She sat back in her comfy pillow chair, and brought up the current news as
background chatter as she did some studies. Most of what she read was dry and
boring. Without consciously thinking it, she wished it would be a bit more
... interesting.

Elaine's eyes got large as the print on the page changed. It had said that the
legal definition of theft was to fraudulently and without colour of right takes
or converts to his/her use or the use of another person anything animate or
inanimate, blah blah blah -- but now it gave an example that read like a
thrilling true-crime novel. What's more, she suspected that this had happened
not just to her copy of the textbook, but to every existing copy in the
world. She would have to be very careful not to use the song accidentally. Wait
... she could use the song itself to help with that.

She closed her eyes and lay back, suggesting to the song that modifications
shouldn't happen unless she were quite certain and deliberate and that she
didn't want to make changes to the very universe based on passing fancies,
whims, or even dreams. She didn't need this to turn into a Lathe of Heaven
situation, waking up from a dream to find the world in flames with billions
dead. And the song showed her how to put those safeguards in place.

One thing she did want to happen ... she wanted to be Elaine again. Someday she
wanted to be able to change into Elaine and have a life as herself. Yes, she
had lived most of her life as Ed, but once Ed had accessed the part of him that
had always been Elaine, writing her into his stories, he had grown to realize
that Elaine was a bigger part of her than she had ever suspected. But Ed
couldn't just disappear -- the police would search for him, and he'd be
declared missing, and then presumed dead. Likewise, Elaine couldn't just appear
-- with no past, and no one having memories of her. The song was telling her
that she could change all of that and was even showing her how ... but she
didn't want to modify people's memories and even past timelines. That could
have far-reaching effects on a lot of people. No, she had to find another way.

She allowed her mind to drift through the many thoughts and ideas she had. A
vivid image formed in her mind. What she saw was herself, dressed in medical
scrubs, in a large and well-equipped clinic, standing next to an operating
table on which lay a beautiful blonde girl, and before it faded away she knew
that this girl's appearance had been Elaine's doing.

Elaine's eyes popped open. She knew exactly what she was going to do. She
reached over and grabbed a large, heavily bound book called "Johansen's
Biological Approach to Human Anatomy."

It would be difficult in many ways, but she would survive it, and in the end
she would help many people.

Once Elaine had made up her mind to pursue a medical degree, she discovered the
course was not only extremely easy for her, it was down right fascinating. She
finally discovered the element she was looking for. The exact time when the RNA
decides an individual's gender. It was such a simple thing to manipulate too.

That was when another vivid image formed in her mind. It showed one of her
changing from Ed ... to Elaine. It was what she would again do one day. The
change was remarkable to observe, but not nearly as remarkable as the end
results. As the image faded, Elaine was extremely overjoyed how beautiful she
would turn out.

Elaine turned the page of her Biology book. Nestled within the pages was a note
from her teacher, Professor Macshane. It was a formal request to become her
undergrad assistant. Elaine smiled, this was perfect because it guaranteed her
a free ride for the rest of the year, but also insured she had a placement in
the doctoral program almost a year early.

"Hey, Ed, what's that?" said Tim, a biology major who was in the same
class. "Wow, undergrad assistant! Congrats! I was kinda hoping to get that, I
gotta admit. But hey, it's good for your future."

"Yes, I'm lucky, I suppose," said Elaine. "I've got a goal, and I'm going to do
my best to get there, you know?"

"Yeah, you said you wanted to be a doctor and help people," Tim said. "And
that's totally great -- I wish more people were focused on, you know, helping
others and stuff."

"What do you want to do?" asked Elaine.

"Well, my family went to California once, and we saw Ocean World, with all
those dolphins and whales and all," said Tim. "I got to talk to this girl,
well, you know, young woman, and she was so enthusiastic about learning about
the ocean and how little we really know about it and how much we humans are
messing it up ... anyway, I wanted to be just like her. Uh, I mean, I wanted to
study marine biology and try to help the ocean."

Elaine nodded. "I think that's very admirable, Tim," she said. "Fixing
humanity's messes is a big job, but it has to start somewhere." She had had a
hard time listening to Tim as he had told his story; the song told her that Tim
was trans but was in the closet about it, much as she was. Maybe they could be
friends and support each other. "Listen, Tim ..."


"Uh ..." It suddenly occurred to Elaine how many things could go wrong if she
just came out and said it. Tim could be freaked out and never speak to her
again. He could even bury that part of him so deeply that it wouldn't come back
out for years. She had to be careful. "I just wanted to say that we have a lot
in common. If there's anything you need to talk about, anything at all, I'm
willing to listen."

"Uh, OK!" said Tim. "Yeah, we both want to help everyone and save the world,
and it's not gonna be easy! But class is about to start -- I gotta get to my

After class, Elaine went up to talk to Professor Macshaine about the
assistantship. "Oh, yes, Ed, if you could follow me to my office, I'll explain
what I'd like you to do. There's another assistant, too, Christina -- oh yes,
here she is now. I'll be explaining to both of you how the job goes. You see,
I've got two huge sections of this class, and ..." The professor explained all
the details.

Afterwards, Elaine said to Christina, "OK, that seems pretty straightforward,
though I've never done this before."

"Me either," she replied, "but hey, it's all new, isn't it?" She grinned. "It's
like seeing a whole new world for the first time -- college is, I mean. You
know, in high school everyone was there because they had to be, but people are
only here because they want to learn."

"Well, mostly," said Elaine. "I guess there are a few with rich parents who
just want their kids to have a piece of paper giving them a better future, not
that they care."

"Well, you're just a ray of sunshine," Christina said with a laugh.

"Sorry," said Elaine. "I'm just ... I kinda pick things up when I'm near
people, and there's this one guy I'm sitting behind who just exudes
privilege. He's only in the class because it's required for his major."

"Oh ... yeah, there are always gonna be people like that, though. Hey, what do
you get around me?"

"Excuse me?"

"I mean, if you pick things up near people, what do you pick up from me? I'm
just curious. You don't have to answer or anything."

Elaine was frankly confused by what the song sang about Christina. "It's
... it's like lots of sparkles and joy but with regrets ... a simplicity but
also a sense of overwhelming complication ... I'm not sure what to make of it."

Christina was taken aback. "Whoa," she said. "That's ... amazing. You're not
secretly reading my emails or something, are you?" She giggled. It was an
actual giggle, almost like she was years younger than she appeared. "Well, I'm
going to go to my room before supper. See you soon, I'm sure, Ed!"

Elaine was certain that Christina was wishing for a return to childhood
somehow, as if the world were too much for her sometimes. But she didn't know
what that meant. She supposed that everyone sometimes longed for those simpler
times, but this went beyond that somehow. It wasn't as if Christina was
childish -- she was an excellent, driven student, or she wouldn't have gotten
the assistantship. Perhaps she'd find out more once she got to know Christina

The idea of being younger than what your adult status would tell sang in
Elaine's mind throughout her next class. She saw how easy such a thing could
be. She realized that within everyone lived an inner child -- possibly multiple
images at different ages.

Elaine gathered up her books from her desk, then began to leave the room. She
turned her head and looked at the remaining students in the class. A smile
crossed her face as she realized how much she could help each of them realize
their ... highest potential.

The short walk to the dorm gave Elaine time to think about the scope of her
newfound abilities. She then had a flashing thought of how it would feel to
finally be able to stay her female self for good. Elaine knew that she was
going to become more and more unhappy maintaining her Ed persona over time.

When Elaine arrived at her dorm room, she placed her books neatly by the
computer, then sat back in a soft chair. Visions danced all through her head of
the many things she could easily change. She also saw images of some of the
strange twists that might happen if she did. For everything she did there had
to be an accounting somewhere else. But she had already made changes to her
brain, allowing it to more easily handle the balancing of these shifts in
reality. Perhaps she would become better at it with practice.

Elaine applied herself to her studies, and her professors were impressed by
both her ability and drive. She was still just a first-year student, but they
believed she would go far.

Of course, what they really believed was that "Ed" would go far. What would
happen when she revealed that she was really Elaine inside? She had made some
friends, such as Jim, Tim and Christina, but this just made her worry that she
would lose them when she inevitably came out. When would be a good time?

Fortunately this wasn't the 1950s, and it was a college campus. Elaine went to
the college's LGBT resource center one weekday between classes. "Can I help
you?" said the person at the desk cheerfully. He was a blond student wearing a
pink shirt and a pride button.

"Uh, hi," Elaine said. She knew she looked like a largish guy, dark hair,
probably part First Nations, but she didn't know whether it would sound strange
to ask, "I was, um, wondering whether you had any advice here on, well, coming
out, as transgender."

"Oh -- sure do, just look right behind you on the wall there," said the
student, getting up to show her. "There's a bunch of different information
packets -- take whatever you need! There are also support groups that meet
every week -- here's a schedule. You can join online groups too."

"Um -- I really just want to know how to come out to my friends and what will
happen if I come out to my professors," said Elaine. "By the way, you aren't
allowed to --"

"No, no, Honey, no way would I do anything like that," said the student. "What
you say here stays in here. Believe you me, I've had the same fears you have,
and they're no fun, are they? We're here to help -- well, I say we, even though
I'm the only one here right now, ha! But don't you worry. There's a website,
there's the brochures, and if those are too impersonal, just try coming to a
support group! Not only might you get some helpful advice, you might also be
able to help others, and that's a great feeling. I'm Brad, by the way."

Elaine didn't feel anything from the song that suggested that Brad was anything
other than himself, so there was no desire to change his body -- unless he
wanted that mole removed that wasn't usually visible -- but that didn't mean
they couldn't be friends. "Uh, wow, Brad, well, I'm Ed -- though inside I'm --

"Well, Ed or Elaine, I'm perfectly happy to call you whatever you'd rather be
called," said Brad. "You have the right to choose how your life's gonna
go. Other people can choose how they're gonna react to you, and you can't
control that, but you have absolute control over what you choose to do, and
nobody can take that away. You go, girl!"

"Wow ... thanks Brad," she said, "I feel lots better already -- I'm gonna check
out one of the groups." She might meet others who might need her help in the
future, and, well, she still needed to find out how to talk to her friends and

The brochures stated unequivocally that her professors were forbidden to treat
her any differently if she came out as trans. They also made it clear that
coming out was her choice, and nobody could make her do so -- if anyone who
worked on campus revealed that she was trans, they would be in a great deal of
trouble. However ... they also stated what Elaine knew for a fact, and that was
that whether it was forbidden or not, people would treat her differently,
whether subtly or overtly.

Elaine gathered up several of the pamphlets and brochures with website URLs and
contact info for the many support groups. She stuffed them into a pocket so
they were not seen, then left the office. Just as Elaine passed through the
door, she ran right into Tim, who was coming in.

Tim's face turned a bright crimson red as he stammered, "Oh ... uhhh ... hi
Ed. I ... ummm ... I kinda like ... umm ..."

Elaine patted Tim on his shoulder lightly and said, "I was just going, and it's
not polite for me to pry. If you have anything to tell me, you can, when you're
ready. But I might as well tell you ... Tim, I think I'm trans. I'm just
starting to explore my options ... but there it is. You're the first one I've
told other than Brad over there. And by the way ..." Here she raised her voice
a bit. "Brad is really awesome and great at his job and made me feel a lot
better!" Brad looked up from his desk and smiled as Elaine left Tim in Brad's
capable hands.

Back in her room, Elaine read the brochures and did some searching online, but
... she already knew the best way to "transition." But she had to make it look
believable. She imagined what would happen if she just used the song to change
back to Elaine.

Government agents: "Come with us. You're either a military asset or a threat to
national security."

Elaine: "I will keep teleporting you back to your office building if you keep
coming to bother me!"

Agents: "You have to sleep sometime."

Elaine: "No, actually I don't, but this is getting really annoying!"

So Elaine would have to transition in some sort of socially-acceptable way, as
if transitioning from male to female was a socially acceptable thing to do at
all. But she might as well start the process. At least her parents knew. Kind

When Jim got back, she said, "Oh, hi, um ... Jim, I've got something I have to
tell you ... about myself."

"Oh? ..." asked Jim. "Should ... I sit down?"

"Err, if you want?" Jim sat down anyway. "Jim ... I think I'm trans. I think
... I was meant to be female."

"Uh, oh. Um, OK." Jim paused. "I don't know how to react to that. I was
thinking you were going to tell me you were terminally ill. I mean, I'm glad
you're not! I just ... um. Does this mean you'll be transferring to a women's

"Err, eventually, I guess?" pondered Elaine. "It won't be tomorrow. I'm going
to be talking to therapists and doctors and stuff. I don't know what to do
yet. I just ... wanted to tell you because I see you everyday, and that way you
won't have to wonder why I'm buying different clothes and doing my hair
differently and putting on makeup."

"Um ... ok, good luck with your journey, I guess?" said Jim, sounding
perplexed. "I don't know if I can help ..."

"If you want to help, you can help by just acting like it's no big deal,"
Elaine said. "I mean, you don't have to change pretty much everything about
your life. But nothing's going to change right away. It's gonna be ... by
degrees. Like I said, I haven't even talked to a therapist yet."

Before any of that happened, Elaine decided to make a slight change. That
night, after they turned off the lights, she ever so slightly shrank her body,
making herself about half an inch shorter and changing everything else
proportionally. Nobody would notice that she was five feet nine and a half
inches tall instead of five feet ten. This would make it just slightly easier
later on.

She talked to a therapist, of course. It would look odd if she didn't, for one
thing. But obviously she couldn't open up about absolutely everything -- such
as being in touch with the primal song that vibrated behind all of creation and
reality in a very real and provable sense. She could see how that conversation
would go.

Therapist: "I am seeing myself either on the cover of every scientific journal
or on the imperial throne of the world."

Elaine: "I'll keep erasing the knowledge from your memory unless you forget
about those ridiculous ideas yourself."

Therapist: "You'll have to let up sometime."

Elaine: "No, I won't, actually, but this is getting really annoying."

So she just said the obvious. "I think I was ... supposed to be a girl," she
said, once the therapist had invited her in and shown her to a comfortable
chair. Her name was Joanne Richards, one of the college counseling center's
therapy staff.

"I'm listening," Joanne said. "You can tell me all you're comfortable with
sharing about that feeling."

So Elaine told her about the stories she'd written, and about how the character
of Elaine had become sort of her fictional avatar, and about how she'd started
feeling jealous of the character in a way, because she could express herself
... and how it had made her realize that there had been so many times growing
up that she'd wished she could do things that she'd later written into
Elaine. Elaine the character had gotten to have girlfriends without any sexual
tension. Elaine the character had gotten to be and feel pretty without any fear
of social reprisal. Elaine the character had gotten to freely express her

"I'm seeing that you identified really strongly with a female fictional
character," said Joanne. "That's not unusual. It's slightly unusual that she
was a character you created yourself, but still, remember, you're OK. There's
nothing wrong with you."

"I'm glad you think so," said Elaine. "Actually I don't think there's anything
wrong with me either. I've come to realize that Elaine, or someone like her
anyway, is who I really am. Without originally meaning to, I wrote Elaine to
express who I really was inside."

"Well, my next question is, do you want to do anything about this?" asked
Joanne. "You mentioned you'd visited the LGBT center."

"And I plan to go to some support meetings and see how it goes. Am I really
trans? Am I really a woman? Is that my path in life? You're going to tell me
that only I know that for sure."

Joanne laughed. "You're right, that's exactly what I was going to tell you. I
can't tell you what to do; I can only make suggestions. But I can tell you that
you're already doing what I'd suggest. As for whether you're really transgender
-- I'd have to talk to you for a while longer before I could really answer
that. It sounds like you are at the moment."

Elaine continued to go to see Joanne, once a week at first, and started to go
to the support meetings. She was happy to see Tim there. "Hi, everyone," said
the group leader, "I'm Shari, and you're all welcome. You can share all you
want to about yourselves here -- that's the rule. That also means you don't
have to share anything you don't want to. Another rule is that names are
powerful. You can use whatever name you want for yourself, whether it's
Suzanne, or Jennifer of the Jungle." There were chuckles. "You can also decide
that you'll use a different name this time than you did before -- for us, more
than most, life is a search for our true identity, and a search is a journey,
one that doesn't necessarily ever end."

Everyone nodded at this. Shari was tall and had a visible Adam's apple, but her
voice was very convincing, and her long brown hair was well complemented by the
print top, faded jeans, and open-toed shoes she wore, exposing her painted
toenails. Her facial structure was a bit ... angular. The song was telling
Elaine exactly how to make Shari look more like what she wanted to look like,
but she resisted doing anything without permission. Besides, she was here for a
support group. When it was her turn, she shared what she'd shared with her
therapist Joanne.

"... And so, without realizing what I'd been doing, I think I created Elaine as
sort of a surrogate for the girl I couldn't be. Or didn't think I could be. One
day, though ... I realized it. It was ... like a bolt of lightning. One thought
that changed my life forever: What if I were Elaine?"

"That is amazing," said Shari, clapping her hands, and some of the others
clapped too. "Can we call you Elaine? Is that OK?"

"That is ... more than OK," Elaine said. "That's who I want to be. I guess I've
sort of created my own role model."

"Well, welcome to the group, Elaine," said Shari. "I hope you'll stay and help
and be helped."

"Thank you -- everyone. I think ... I want to hear what some of the others want
to say. One of the things Elaine always does in my stories is help others."

"And that's what we're here to do," said Shari. "Good segue. Let's move on ..."
She turned to Tim. "Are you interested in telling us about yourself?"

"I ... maybe soon," said Tim. "But ... right now I don't feel ..."

"Hey, it's OK," Shari said. "If you don't feel comfortable right now, nobody's
going to press you. But I hope you keep coming back. Maybe someday soon you'll
feel like opening up, but if that day isn't today, that's fine. You're still
welcome here." There was a lot of nodding. Elaine nodded encouragingly at Tim.

One thing about being on a college campus was that it was about as common for
girls to wear jeans and T-shirts as guys, so there wasn't a great amount of
incentive for Elaine to drastically change her wardrobe, but she did start
growing her hair out and wearing hair bands to keep it back and out of her
eyes. It got to that awkward stage where it wasn't long enough to pull back
into a ponytail but it was long enough to look messy without doing something,
and the hair band helped with that. It was also just a slight feminine touch
that made her feel like she was making progress.

Shari from the support group did another good thing: she led shopping
trips. This helped Elaine learn how to shop for nail polish, makeup, and
clothes -- including shoes. Elaine started painting her toenails and got new
shoes and a few new outfits -- she wasn't worried about getting clothes that
she'd just gradually shrink herself out of eventually, because she could shrink
the clothes with her. Elaine wanted to eventually be about five feet five, and
that was a long journey a half inch at a time. She probably couldn't risk
taking off another half inch from her height for another year or so.

"Ed," said Jim one evening, "I'm gonna have to just come out and say it. This
is just ... weird. I don't know how to handle this."

"Handle ... what, my transition?" asked Elaine.

"Er, yeah. I don't ... it's like I don't know how to deal with you, or even how
to talk to you."

"Just one of the guys, I guess? Or one of the girls? Do you have a sister?"

"No, just brothers."

"That might be one of the problems, I guess," Elaine said. "I was gonna suggest
just treating me like one of your sisters, but if you don't have any, that
template doesn't exist."

"Yeah, that doesn't really work," Jim said.

"You can feel free to call me either Ed or Elaine, and I'm OK with calling me
he or she."

"I wish I knew which."

"Just pick one and stick to it."

"I just don't feel right calling somebody who looks and sounds like you 'she.'"

"Then use 'he,' then. It's OK."

"Well, as long as you're OK with it."

"I am for now anyway. Probably will be for at least the rest of the year. No
reason we have to be roommates next year at all."

"That might be ... for the best," said Jim.

That night, Elaine tossed and turned. In her mind, she could almost hear all
the many people around her that were merely pretending to be the person they
outwardly appeared to be. She felt the tension it created within each
individual as they had to keep changing their masks so society would act as if
they conformed.

An underlying ongoing soothing voice kept saying how each individual could be
helped from afar and still have everyone around them accept their true self.

Elaine sat bolt upright. She knew for a fact there was a place she must go, and
she had to do it soon. She wasn't quite sure how she knew, but she knew that a
few miles out of town, near an old mine shaft, she would find someplace she had
to see, and an object that will belong to her.

The next morning, she looked at maps and satellite photos of the area online
and discovered that the amount of detail available was oddly sketchy, as if
something was actively discouraging humans from gathering information about
it. And ... the song told Elaine exactly how to make such a thing happen. Was
she not the first human to make contact with the song? She would have to go
there to find out. But this morning, she had classes, so it would have to be
later, perhaps that weekend.

So she got ready for class, putting a bit more attention into her appearance
than usual. Being part First Nations, she had only sparse facial hair, so it
wasn't hard to keep from having a shadow there, but she did make a point of
keeping her eyebrows tweezed, though she wasn't that interested in having a
heavily made-up look, so she didn't do her eyelashes or put on lipstick or
blush. She put on a top with decorative fringes and a matching hair band. It
was getting cold, though, so she didn't wear open-toed shoes.

On her way to class, she noticed some new posters that had gone up --
apparently some extremist right-wing figure was going to speak on campus next
week. She vaguely remembered hearing about him, but she didn't know that much
about him. It gave her an uneasy feeling, though, that the college would invite
someone like that, who would definitely have an anti-LGBT message. What if it
were someone with a racist message? Would they invite someone like that? Then
why was this guy OK?

Anyway, she made it to class, where Professor Macshane called her Ed and didn't
act any differently toward her -- because she hadn't taken the step of coming
out to him or asking him to call her Elaine yet. She was starting to feel more
irritated each time someone called her Ed, now that she knew there was an
alternative. Her sense of self felt under attack, now that she'd discovered it.

"Some of us would rather go cold turkey, rip off the bandaid," Shari said at
the group meeting. "Going all-out, changing our name right away and abandoning
the old one. That's a valid way to do it. Others do it more gradually, coming
out to more and more people until no one is left, and then making the legal
name change. That's valid too. There's no one right way to do it. I, well,
chose the first way. But that doesn't mean you have to. Some take a long time
because they don't feel ready. It's up to you. Let's go around the circle. How
are you doing?" She had turned to Tim to ask this.

"I ... haven't even decided on what my real name should be," Tim said. "I just
know that ... Tim doesn't feel right. I'm open to suggestions."

"Tammy," came one suggestion from another group member. "Tina." "Tanya!"
"Tori!" came others.

"It's entirely up to you, and there's no timetable you have to follow," said
Shari. "I can't even tell you that there will come a day when you'll wake up
and just know what you should call yourself."

"Have you ever known anyone who -- didn't change their name at all?" Tim asked.

"Oh, yes," said Shari. "I have a trans friend whose name is Chris. Before and
after." Tim nodded. "How about you?" she asked another group member.

It was Saturday morning, and after breakfast Elaine decided to do something
about the object in the mine. She didn't have the family car here at college,
but she had other ways to get there. She dressed warmly, as it was getting on
into fall, and she asked the song to take her there. She knew the song could do
this, as she had transported herself from the bottom of the cavern to the
surface right after she'd discovered the alien artifact that had introduced her
to it. The song told her that she could transport herself straight to the
object -- but it suggested that she not do that; it told her that she should
begin at the mine entrance.

Why? But no sooner had she formed the question than the song informed her that
these were the wishes of the one who had placed the object there, for the one
who would come after. Figuring that there must be a good reason for this,
Elaine formed the suggestion that she be at the mine entrance, and ... there
she was.

But it didn't look like any kind of mine entrance; it looked like a cave
mouth. She could feel the song brushing at her mind, telling her that the place
was dangerous, but she knew that was a message to keep others away. She turned
on her flashlight and went in, holding the cold metal in her gloved hands.

Looking around her, she didn't see anything that looked as if it had been
worked by human hands. She wondered how long ago the object had been placed
here, and the answer was ... before humans had existed. So how was there a
mine? There wasn't, came the answer. It had always been an abandoned mine, too
dangerous to enter, according to every European who had ever wondered about
it. And the First Nations had always considered it a sacred or cursed place
before that, not to be entered.

The artifact that had introduced her to the song had been just outside her
hometown. This one was just outside where she had chosen to go to
college. Something somehow knew her path of destiny, or was guiding her. She
tried not to think about it too hard. She slowly made her way into the
narrowing, rough tunnel, illuminating the way with each step. There was no flat
floor here; woodland creatures were apparently discouraged from entering too.

Then she came to a crevasse. The only way appeared to be down, but her
flashlight didn't show her the bottom. It was too far. She hadn't brought rope,
nor was she trained in using it anyway. But ... she suggested to the song that
gravity overlook her for now. She felt her weight leave her behind and took a
step out into the air, settling slowly toward the bottom. Stalagmites sharp as
daggers rose up in all directions, and she saw a few impaled animal skeletons,
none human. Perhaps some animals had been startled enough by predators to run
in here from time to time.

After going down in what felt like the right direction for several minutes,
Elaine found an entrance and drifted toward it, landing on her feet among the
sharp rocks. There were branches and forks to the path, leading upward and
downward, but the song told her the way to go. And soon ... she reached what
was obviously not a natural cavern.

She entered what appeared to be a naturally made cathedral. She could tell
where statues stood, although they were covered with untold centuries of
mineral deposits. As Elaine shone her meager light around the huge cavernous
area, she could see only so far. The beam of her flashlight was lost in the dim

Without warning, the flashlight began to flicker and grow dim. Within seconds,
it flickered once again and went out. A darkness surrounded Elaine that was so
deep that she could feel it pressing against her.

Just behind her, on what appeared to have been a finely sculpted pillar before
centuries of accretions dripped over it, a small light appeared and
blossomed. All throughout the cavern appeared many such explosions of
light. Within moments, Elaine found herself standing in front of a large dais
surrounded by a deep pit. On its top lay a large chest of some kind. The song's
intensity convinced Elaine she had to make her way across a narrow stone bridge
to where the dais stood.

Elaine knew her flashlight was fine. She could feel it. The song wanted her to
see things this way. Fine. She walked to the start of the bridge and looked
across at the chest. She could feel a cool breeze coming from below -- air
currents caused by what? The song told her, but equations came to mind having
to do with diffusion and fluid dynamics. She kept an eye on the dais and the
chest ... and quickly ran across the bridge, not giving herself time to fall.

The chest was made of what Elaine had thought at first was some sort of stone,
but it turned out to be some kind of unearthly metal that had not corroded at
all despite the millions of years it must have been here. But she could easily
see how to open it. All she had to do was request the song to help her and lift
here and here ... and with a click it opened.

It didn't just lift open; it flew open. The hinged lid was flung back, and a
blinding light poured forth from within, as if it had been building up under
pressure and had just been released. Once Elaine's eyes adjusted, she could see
that inside the chest, nestled within a cavity made specially for it, was an
orb of blue-white light, similar to the object that had given her first contact
with the song. She looked at it, then reached forth with both hands to pick it

But instead of touching an object, her hands felt only air, and the orb of
light instead grew to quickly envelop her body. She was now glowing blue-white
like the orb had been. What did this mean?

"Greetings, O Hearer of the Song of Creation," said a voice, echoing through
her mind. Elaine didn't think she was hearing it with her ears. Another
blue-white figure appeared in the air above the chest -- non-humanoid, with a
body shaped like a horizontal disc from which descended three limbs that were
perhaps legs and from which projected three other limbs that might be
arms. There were a number of what might have been eyes around the edge of the
disc. Elaine could tell that this was a message, left by a being that had
visited and departed long ago.

"I know that this experience must be new to you, as it was new to me at one
time," said the voice. "There comes a time in every intelligent race's
development when a representative arises who is worthy of the Song. I humbly
admit to being my race's chosen. You are yours. I know not how long it will
have been since I left this message for you, but I left messages like this one
on many worlds ... as will you, before moving on."

Elaine listened, but she wanted to ask questions, like what happened to this
being and his, her, or its race, but the message seemed to have anticipated

"The Song gave me great patience and wisdom once I learned to listen to it,"
the being said. "I was able to slowly guide my species toward greater
understanding and away from petty, wasteful pursuits such as greed and war. In
time more became able to hear the Song, and eventually, all my people
could. Then ... we moved beyond the Veil into the Realms of Light beyond it,
where we now dwell in bliss, adding to the Song."

Anticipating another question, the being said, "You can feel it, I am certain
... you now have no fear of death or pain. Like me, you can guide your people
to the Song ... but it will certainly take time and patience, as it did for my
people. But do not despair, and do not give up. Truly, nothing is impossible
for you now."

"There will be those who refuse to hear the Song and will never be guided to
it," said the being with sadness in its tone. "Such ones cannot touch the
Realms of Light and will perish. But all you can do is show your example and
bring light to your world. Defend the defenseless and give hope to the
hopeless. There will be a time when others will start to hear. You cannot make
them hear, not really; they must come to the Song themselves or not at all. Be
patient, and the time will come. I have now given you all the help I can, but
the Song can guide you, if you listen. Farewell, worthy one ..."

The light faded, but Elaine could feel it within her. She had never heard the
song so clearly, and it wasn't fading.

Her flashlight came back on. Elaine didn't think it was bright enough. She
could see how to make it light up this entire chamber, and the song helped her
change it into something else. She suddenly held something that looked like the
same flashlight, but its brightness was like daylight, and its power source was
something that would last for thousands of years. The mineral concretions on
every surface in the cavern glinted with crystalline brilliance in this light,
making this place one of the most beautiful things Elaine had ever seen.

And the change in the flashlight had been so easy to do.

But it was time to go. She turned the light off and willed herself back to her
mundane dorm room at her dull, everyday college, knowing that she had knowledge
that no one on Earth would arrive at for a very long time, and that she would
one day see that happen.

"Where'd you go?" asked Jim, waking up, as Elaine opened the door.

"For ... a walk," she said. "To clear my head." She started taking off her
jacket and boots. "Kind of cold out there."

"Mmnngg," said Jim, staying in bed.

Without thinking, Elaine stood the flashlight on end in the place on her
nightstand where she usually kept it. She slipped out of her clothes down to
her jockeys and crawled in bed. Elaine was so tired she was asleep before her
head hit the pillow.

Elaine was awakened suddenly by a loud boom. She sat up in bed totally
awake. She could hear wind blowing and freezing rain beating against the window
of the dorm room. Elaine could hear Jim stumbling around the darkened room near
her nightstand.

"Wh -- what's going on?" Elaine asked. She realized that her voice sounded, not
exactly right, but more feminine than it usually did -- a bit higher in pitch,
a bit different in inflection, as if her vocal practice had been helping.

Jim said with irritation, "Nasty storm out there. Looks like you came back just
before it hit. Seems the power went out. Don't worry, I've got your flashlight
right ..."

There was a small click -- and then a light so bright that not only was Elaine
temporarily blinded, both she and Jim could feel the pressure of it on their
very skins.

Jim yelled and dropped the light. It went out when it hit the floor. "What the
... Just what kind of flashlight is that? I've never seen one that bright

Elaine replied as she rubbed her eyes, "It's one of those new emergency
lights. The self-defense setting's supposed to be bright as day. Not supposed
to use it in confined spaces."

Elaine picked up her flashlight. The song in her told her the light was
undamaged, the fall had merely turned it off when it landed. She suggested that
it perhaps should have lower settings and felt a sliding switch appear under
her fingertips. She got out of bed and pulled on some jeans, "I think we should
see how the others are taking this." Another bright flash happened outside the
window, accompanied by a thunderous crash. A large oak that shaded that side of
the building exploded in showers of bark and flaming bits of wood. Elaine
yelped in surprise.

After pulling on a shirt, she and Jim went out into the hallway. Elaine turned
the flashlight down to what she hoped was a normal level and turned it back
on. It was still bright, but only as bright as the emergency lights that lined
the hallways. People were opening their doors and looking out. "What was that?"
asked Ray, one of their neighbors.

"Lightning hit the tree," Jim said.

"Bad storm tonight," said Andrew, another neighbor, stating the obvious.

"Everyone OK?" asked Elaine. There was general consensus.

Virgil, the floor assistant, emerged from his room and started asking the same
questions. "What about Dave and Will?" he asked. "The tree was right outside
their room." He knocked on their door. "Dave? Will? You guys OK?"

The door flew open. "I think Dave's hurt!" said Will, panicked. The window was
shattered, and Dave's bed was broken -- with Dave in it. "I don't know what to

"I know first aid and CPR," said Elaine, rushing in with her flashlight, and
Virgil followed close behind. There were fragments of wood of all sizes in the
room. The foot of Dave's bed had been forced inward, causing it to pull loose
from the frame and drop it on the floor, and the piece of branch had gone on to
hit Dave in the head. The song told Elaine that Dave had taken a serious head
injury, but he was alive. "Somebody get me the first aid kit!" Elaine shouted,
and as someone from the hallway passed it in, Elaine asked the song to make
sure Dave would be all right ... but not too all right ...

"Hold still," said Elaine, checking Dave's eyes with the flashlight to make
sure they reacted. She knew they would, though, as she had made sure there was
no internal bleeding or pressure on his brain. The song had seen to it. "Hold
the flashlight for a second," she said, handing the light to Virgil before
cleaning Dave's wounds with an alcohol rub. Dave regained consciousness and

"Wh-what's going ...?" Dave asked.

"You got a knock on the head, but it looks like you'll be OK for now," Elaine
said, bandaging his cuts. "We're going to want to get you to the clinic in the
morning to get you checked out, but I'm not seeing any signs of concussion."
This was eerily similar to what had happened to Jim on the day they'd moved in.

"OK, you guys," said Virgil, "you're going to want to get anything out of this
room that can be damaged by water, because the rain's still coming down out
there, and you've got no window. Everybody else, get out of the way unless
you're helping with that. I've got to write up a report so this can get

"You guys can stay with us," said Elaine. "Or one of you can."

"Or us," said Andrew.

"Or us," said Ray.

"Let's help them get their stuff out of here," Elaine said. "Things away from
the window should be OK, like what's in their closets, but their books and
computers need to get out of here." Everyone helped carry Dave and Will's
belongings out, and Elaine helped the still wounded Dave get to her bed. She'd
sleep on the floor. It was fine. But the wind kept howling outside and the rain
kept pounding.

"Thanks, Ed," said Dave, once she had him safely in bed and made sure his cuts
were all covered. "Ed ... I hope it's not insensitive, but ... are you trans?"
he asked.

"What? Uh, I mean ... well, yes," said Elaine. "I've been coming out

"You just kind of sounded like more of a girl than a guy tonight," said Dave,
"and I've got some trans friends, so I guess I can recognize it. Sorry if it
was a bad question ..."

"No, it's not a problem," said Elaine. "I guess I can cross you off my
come-out-to list, then."

"Hehe, yeah."

"Get some sleep! We don't know if you're OK yet."

"Oh, right, OK. Night."

"Night, Dave."

"Night, Dave," said Jim. Elaine lay on an air mattress that she hadn't actually
had until just a moment ago, but nobody had questioned her when she'd pulled it
out of her closet and started inflating it. She thought and wondered who else
suspected she was a trans woman instead of a man. Before falling asleep, she
frowned and also wondered who suspected she was a crossdresser instead.

Elaine continued to gradually transform herself. Every day that passed, she
seemed to become more feminine and more beautiful. Her skin changed and became
softer. Her body hair fell out, leaving only her eyebrows, eyelashes and
scalp. The hair on her head became silky and soft as it rapidly grew
longer. The more she could do herself before she got examined by an actual
doctor, the less mysterious change there would be to explain later.

It wasn't long before the counselor had invited Elaine to go on another
shopping trip. She had assured Elaine that it was just to acclimate her to
being out in public in her new persona.

Shari led Elaine into the intimate apparel section of HV Quarters. Before Elane
knew what was happening, Shari had handed her several cute pairs of lacy bikini
panties and matching sports bras.

Elaine's eyes grew large as she realized what Shari was doing, "Wait ... I
... I'm ..."

Shari gently turned Elaine around and showed her her reflection in one of the
mirrored displays, "Why not now? You are prettier than me. I think it's time
you at least dressed like a woman underneath."

"But ... I don't have any curves," she said. "I'm not even on hormones yet."

"You will be sooner or later, right?" asked Shari. "You'll be ready this
way. We're here -- we might as well take advantage of that."

Elaine blinked. "You know what? You're right. I don't know how big my cup size
is gonna get, but we'll assume it'll be more than AA, right?"

"That's almost certain," Shari said. She tried on some of the sports bras and
bought some A cup ones, reasoning she could get bigger ones if need be -- and
inwardly, she reminded herself that the song would help her resize all her
clothes at once.

Joanne said, "Now, you probably realize this already, but there are only so
many times I can see you." Elaine had been to see the campus therapist four
times now. "Mostly I'm here to deal with students in crisis, and refer them to
someone who can see them on a more permanent or ongoing basis. Here's the name
of a psychiatrist who handles a lot of gender dysphoria patients -- she can
prescribe medications, too, while I can't." She handed Elaine a card. "It's not
that I don't enjoy talking to you -- it's just that there's only so much I can
do for you."

Elaine looked at the card. "Simone Pelletier, M.D.," she read.

"I've already spoken to her about you, and I've even got you penciled in for an
appointment at the regular time we've been meeting," said Joanne. "I figured
the time would be OK. She might want to start you on hormones. But ... have you
been taking some on your own? You've been looking different over time."

"I, well, I've been taking ... natural supplements," said Elaine.

"Herbal stuff?" Joanne asked. "I wouldn't have thought they'd have made that
much difference. What brand are you using? ... No, never mind, we can talk
about this later. I've got another patient waiting. The point is, good luck,
and I'm still here for you if you need me."

"His name's Ward Campion," said Shari at the group meeting, "and the campus
LGBT organization is up in arms. Apparently he's not being paid by the college
to speak -- some conservative groups have put up the funds."

"Isn't he the guy who picks some trans girl on campus and shows
before-and-after pictures of them during his speeches?" Tim asked.

Shari answered, "Yeah, that's the guy, though he doesn't always do it. Point
is, he's an anti-trans extremist and doesn't care who he hurts; people he's
targeted have quit college all over the US and Canada because of his
shaming. And he gets paid well for it."

"Seems like protesting just feeds his ego and draws attention to him, too,"
said Holly, another group member.

"Yeah, it makes it hard to decide what to do," said Shari. "If you protest, you
give him attention. If you ignore him, you make it look like what he's doing's
OK. If you show up, not only does it increase the chances that he'll target
you, it looks like you support him."

"Amazing nobody's sent him death threats," said Yvonne, another member.

"He has gotten death threats -- lots of them," Shari said. "But that only makes
him look like the good guy, the rebel that the 'establishment' hates."

"Wait, aren't we the rebels?" asked Elaine.

"Rebels against one of the oldest established ideas in history," said
Shari. "Anyway, I just wanted to make sure you all knew that this guy's going
to be speaking, and it's Thursday night. There are going to be protests on both
sides, and whether you want to join in or avoid them, you all need to know."

Elaine wondered what to do. Was Campion actually going to target someone at
this college? Would it be her? With the power she had, she could do just about
anything -- but what? There was anti-trans sentiment out there, of course --
there always had been and probably always would be. But punishing people who
felt that way wasn't a way to reduce anti-trans beliefs. The song even told her
that taking such a path wouldn't lead to a good result. She was surprised,
actually, to learn that the song could show her which courses of action were
likely to lead to good results, though the song itself warned her that it
wasn't always right. But there was one path that had the greatest chance of
leading to no one getting harmed and the night ending peacefully.

Campion's speech was only two nights away. But her plan would only work if it
happened quickly anyway -- giving Campion's people no time to react. And only
Elaine could make this happen.

The next morning there were posters all over campus about it: Diversity Fest, a
massive party that was scheduled to take place on the same night as Campion's
speech. Actually, several of the student groups had already planned an event
with that name on that night in an attempt to compete with the speech -- but
suddenly Diversity Fest had gotten much, much larger and more
interesting. There would be music and dancing, a massive video game tournament,
appearances by celebrities, and the second biggest draw for any college campus
event: free food. Free beer would have been even better, but Elaine wanted to
avoid the violence that would doubtless result from combining alcohol with
conflicting political opinions. There was email in everyone's inbox about the
event, chalk on every sidewalk -- and nobody seemed to know where all this
publicity and support had come from.

"Professor," said Elaine after biology class, "If I might talk to you about a
personal matter for a moment?"

"Oh ... my ... gosh! ..." said Christina, who was across the classroom, jumping
up and down and trying to be enthusiastic quietly.

"Certainly, Edward, if you like," said Professor Macshane, "as long as it
doesn't cross the bounds of propriety."

"Well, I'm going through ... a transition in my life," she said, "and I'm
'coming out' to everyone in my life about it, one at a time. I'm
... transgender. My name is going to be Elaine once I go through the legal
process to change it. Right now I don't mind being called Edward or Elaine as
long as it's done respectfully. I'm still ... finding my way." She took a deep
breath. "Did I do that right?"

"Yes, I think so," said Professor Macshane. Across the room, Christina was
making quiet happy squeaking sounds. "I'm not bothered or troubled by this,"
the professor went on. "There is nothing about our relationship, professional
as it is, that is affected by whatever gender you present as. And you are not
the first student to make this transition by any means. Rest assured that I
will endeavor to accommodate your process to whatever degree possible, and know
that you have my support."

After a pause, he grinned and added, "But please have the papers graded by
Monday," before leaving the room.

"Elaaaaaaine!" cheered Christina, running down and across the classroom and
bouncing up and down in front of Elaine with enthusiasm. "You're coming out! I
knew it! I knew you would! I want to hug youuuu!"

"Go ahead," Elaine said, and she practically jumped at her, wrapping her arms
around Elaine with joy. "I guess ... I don't need to come out to you, then?"

"Well not unless you want to!" said Christina, letting Elaine go. "I ... I'm so
happy for you! I mean, how awful it must be to know inside that you're
different but have to hide it from the world, but then you decide to quit
hiding and be your real self! That's ... just magical!"

"Do you ... is there something you hide from the world?" asked Elaine,
bewildered. "No, I have no right to ask that. I mean ... I'm willing to listen
if you do, but we're not close friends or anything. Not yet, anyway. We mostly
just work together."

"I'll ... I'll tell you when the semester's over, OK?" Christina said. "I've
got a thing about getting too close to people I work with. And we're both
course assistants. I mean, yes, I guess that probably means we're likely to be
assisting with the same class at some point in the future, but it's not too
likely to happen next semester. And during the holiday break we won't be
coworkers anyway."

"Oh -- OK!" said Elaine. "I'll be happy to listen to you any time you feel
comfortable!" She smiled. Christina was quite competent when it came to science
and math, but in person she was just so ebullient and childlike. It wouldn't
surprise her if ... and the song told Elaine that she was right: Christina had
an amazingly strong inner child.

"Yayyy!" Christina cheered, jumping again. "So hey, are you going to that
Diversity Fest thing? Don't tell me you're going to that boring Campion guy's
speech. Ugh. All he wants to do is hurt harmless people. The only people going
to that are like Nazis and racists and stuff."

"I'm not going anywhere near that guy," said Elaine. "No, I wanted to check out
the music. And the video games." She grinned.

"Fun! I heard they're going to have all kinds of games -- I mean, shooting
games of course, but also all sorts of variety!" Elaine talked to Christina
about the party, and she could speak with some authority, because she'd spent a
lot of time working with the song to create all the details and plan the

The time for the speech had arrived, though the Diversity Fest had already been
going on for a few hours, with loud music, spotlights, and even
fireworks. Elaine had timed the video game competition at exactly the same time
as Campion's speech, though.

The parking lots had overflowed and they had opened the service gates to the
sports field and started using that as a parking area. The auditorium where
Campion was to speak, had a large crowd, but nothing compared to the Gala going
on in the open commons.

The music was fantastic, the food was great and plentiful. There were many
games and activities that attracted many. The wonderful aromas of the foods
drifted delightfully all around the campus attracting even more students.

Elaine just enjoyed the music and food, most of which she had generated out of
nowhere by means of the song. There was even a way to generate nondescript
phantom people to serve the food and drinks -- nobody would be able to remember
afterwards what exactly these men and women had looked like, assuming they
tried. She could make video screens and speakers that were as large and as loud
as she wanted -- money was no object, after all, and they wouldn't even exist
after the event was over. Celebrity appearances were more difficult, but she
knew that there were enough famous people who didn't like Ward Campion and were
willing to make some kind of statement in support of the exact opposite of what
he believed in to fill several hours. All she had to do was ...

"Hello fellow students!" called out Brad, from the LGBT office, stepping up on
the main stage and looking a bit bewildered at how large this event had grown,
but he was taking it in stride. "I hope you're having a good time!" There was
massive cheering. "I cannot believe the amazing amounts of support we've gotten
for this event from the worldwide community! Here to kick us off is a statement
from famous actor George Landrieu, via the magic of virtual reality!"

An image of the actor appeared on stage, right next to Brad, looking for all
the world as if he were really there. "Wow," he said, "it looks like I'm really
here! I can see you -- can you see me?" The audience waved and shouted. "Hey, I
can hear you too! Technology, what will they do next?" He didn't know the half
of it -- Elaine would ask Landrieu to do this brief speech years later, and it
was basically being broadcast through a twist in space and time.

"So I just want to say a few things about being different," said Landrieu. "In
school I was always the one who was different. Dressing up every day as a
different character, some of which I made up, acting my way through the day,
talking in funny voices and accents. I got detention for bringing puppets to
school, so I had to stop that. But here's the thing -- you out there who do the
things that others don't, make the art that others don't, sing the songs others
don't, play the parts others don't -- you're the ones who move the world. You
see, the world doesn't move, doesn't change, if everybody does the same thing,
if everybody listens to the voice of disapproval and stops being
different. Refusing to conform -- that's how creation happens. Your gender,
your color, your sexuality, express who you are, don't hide it behind some
mask. You're gonna make the world a better place. And you can start
today. Thanks for listening!"

There were a lot of cheers -- everyone had seen Landrieu in at least one movie,
if not several. He waved and walked off stage as if he'd actually been
there. Brad came back on stage, clapping his hands. "Wow! Thank you, George
Landrieu, give him a big hand everyone! I don't know how we got him to come
here! But anyway, there's more to come, so stick around!" The DJ turned the
music back on, and the crowd went back to dancing.

Elaine took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She could see Ward Campion
speaking in the auditorium across campus, thanks to the song. He was saying,
"You all get it. You know why they're having that big party over there. It's
all about us. It's all about you. They want to distract from our message. Our
message that we are the real people who drive the world forward. People with
will. People with purpose. People who know the right way to live and the right
way to be. Real people who know what real men and real women are and who aren't
afraid to be real men and real women."

"Not people like ..." He blinked as if something confused him. "Ed Seven
Stars." A picture of Elaine as she had appeared in public recently appeared on
the screen behind Campion. "He's going by Elaine now, but his real name is Ed,
he was born a man, and he'll always be a man. Don't let him lie and tell you
differently. Here's a picture of how he looked just a little while ago." The
screen now showed a picture of Elaine as she'd appeared the day she had
discovered the song -- fully female, perfect lighting. "Wait -- that's -- is
this the person we'd --?" He looked off stage. "Well, find the right
picture. Anyway, this is a man who thinks he's a woman. And that's not
diversity. That's not self expression. That's mental illness." The picture
wasn't changing, however.

Elaine smiled slightly. They had been planning to target Holly, one of the
trans women from the support group, and she didn't think that was right. Elaine
would take that hit instead, and if she was targeted as a result, so be it. She
could take it. And she could make Campion and his lackeys look like fools in
the process. Right now he looked like he couldn't put together a simple
presentation. He was preaching only to the already converted, and even then he
wasn't impressing anybody. And nobody had any way to prove Elaine was behind
any of it.

The gala continued to grow larger as one of the hottest bands, Booties and the
Glowworms, began to play their current top hit. More people crowded around to
listen to the wonderful and extremely popular song. This left the other "guest"
with very few people who remained in the auditorium to listen to his speech
filled with hate and discontent.

The campus news website had a big story about the Diversity Fest and the
amazing spectacle it had been -- with more than a few interviews with its
mystified organizers, uncertain about the infusion of free food, beverages,
equipment, and celebrity presence courtesy of someplace called the Center of
Creation, which nobody could identify. Meanwhile, there was a small article
about Ward Campion's speech and how he seemingly couldn't get it together, and
how he'd picked a supposed campus trans woman to target but didn't seem to have
any "before" photos to prove she wasn't just a female student. Elaine had a
number of sympathetic messages in her inbox saying how awful it was that this
speaker had targeted her, but at least it hadn't been Holly.

"So, Elaine, or is it Ed?" asked a random student -- these were invariably
white, male, and well-dressed, speaking of lots of money from home -- as she
walked to class.

"I prefer Elaine," she replied. "Do you prefer Himmler, or Goering?"

"They were misunderstood," muttered this guy with a bit less self-assured

"I bet you'll get a lot of girls, talking like that," she said. "As long as you
beat them up a lot too."

"You probably like it rough."

"Are you admitting you're attracted to me?"

"No, holy crap, you're a guy."

"Then why are you coming on to me?"

"Because I -- I mean, I'm not! I wasn't!"

"Really? Then why does it matter whether I'm a guy or a girl?" Elaine
asked. "If you're not interested, why do you care? I think you're attracted to
me. Which is a pity, because I'd never be attracted to fascists like you, not
in a million years."

"I ... I ... look, I gotta go," said the student, almost running away. It was a
good thing he was alone, and they were in public and in daylight, or else there
might have been trouble. Trouble that Elaine would have made them regret, but
trouble nonetheless.

But here, having put him in his place, Elaine got whistles and cheers and
applause. "You go, girl!" shouted a woman's voice. "Nazis go home!" Elaine
smiled. She'd rather these bigots didn't exist, but at least there were lots of
people who didn't approve of them.

Elaine waded through the many onlooking students who continued to cheer over
the way Elaine had put one of the hate mongers in their place. By the time she
had reached bio class and sat on one of the benches, Professor Macshane had
taken notice of her arrival.

He walked over and said comfortingly, "Well, how's our newest celebrity this
morning? I hope you managed to grade those papers? They need to be handed back
to the rest of the class."

"Oh -- of course, Professor," Elaine said, opening her backpack and taking out
a manila folder. "They're right here." She gave him the folder.

Looking through the papers, Professor Macshane said, "Yes, these appear to be
... plans for some sort of major gathering of people? ..."

"Oops! I'm sorry, that's the wrong folder, Professor ..." She took a deep
breath and listened to the song. Yes, the right folder was on her desk in her
room. Reaching into her backpack, she asked the song for help ... and pulled
out the right folder. Trading it to the professor for the other one, she placed
the party plans from the night before back on her desk by putting them back
into her backpack. She hoped Jim, who was still in the room sleeping in, hadn't

"Ah. Yes, this is the right folder, it seems," said the professor. He flipped
through the papers. "Yes ... yes ... ah, unfortunate about Bridgeley's work; he
seems to be slipping since the start of the semester ... Hanrahan is improving,
however ... well, I'll just let you hand these back out once class begins."

"OK. I entered the grades online as usual."

"Excellent, excellent --"

"Ooo! Yay! I'm still on time!" said Christina, bursting in. Indeed, there were
only a few students in the classroom.

"You're ... not late ..." said Elaine.

"Yeah but I'm late for being early!" Christina said. She carefully laid her
folder of graded papers on the countertop in front of the classroom. Professor
Macshane flipped through her work.

"Yes, yes, very good ... oh my, Terriman, what were you thinking? ... Washian,
how did you get all the other problems right but go so wrong on that one? At
any rate, well done, Christina -- and I must commend you on your penmanship,
although I'm not certain you can be taken fully seriously when you dot every I
with a heart."

"Sometimes I do flowers ..." said Christina with a blush. "Maybe I should save
that for friends."

"At any rate, it's about time to begin," said the professor, as more students
had been filing in and taking their seats. "If you haven't already," he said,
speaking into the microphone at the lectern, "please see your course assistant
to pick up your graded homework. We'll begin in five minutes."

The rustle and bustle of the preclass filled the area as the students each
sought out their papers. Of course the moans and groans of those who didn't
fare well could also be heard lamenting in the hubbub.

Elaine smiled and felt good inside as she also heard the many favorable
comments about the Gala. She also heard praise for the earlier encounter with
one of the intolerant groups. It was things like that that told Elaine that
what she was going to do was the right thing. The process would be slow but ...

The end of the semester was rapidly approaching, and finals with it. Like
everyone else she knew, Elaine was busy studying for tests and writing
papers. She could "cheat" using the song, of course, by doing things like
seeing others' answers, but she wouldn't learn anything by doing that, and if
she didn't learn she couldn't help anyone. She did occasionally use the song to
find out who had library books she needed, though.

"This is the last meeting of the group before the holiday break," said Shari to
the support group, "so let's talk about something fun -- here's my idea. What
would you ask Santa to bring you, if he could bring you anything you could
imagine? I'll start by saying I'd want some kind of gift certificate for all
the rest of the surgery, laser hair removal, and all of that stuff so my body
quits reminding me of all the things that give me dysphoria feelings."

Everybody nodded -- everyone in the group either experienced exactly the same
feelings or at least understood them well by now. Tim said, "I'd ask for some
way to help make up my mind about who I really want to be. I mean, you all know
by now that I feel like I should be a girl, but what kind of girl should I be?
I haven't even decided on a name."

"It's OK -- nobody thinks less of you just because you haven't made those
decisions yet," said Shari.

"There's still plenty of time," said Elaine.

Holly said, "I'd ask for a wardrobe of cute clothes in my size. They're so hard
to find -- especially decent shoes!"

"You are soooo right," Shari said.

Elaine said, "I ... well my dream is to build a place to help everyone. I want
to be a doctor -- I'd ask for a center where people with dysphoria could come
and I could help them become who they really are."

"Wow ... I hope you get your wish someday," said Tim.

"Thanks," said Elaine.

Elaine had had a few appointments with Dr. Pelletier, who had prescribed doses
of hormones for her, along with blood tests to make sure the levels were
correct. Elaine, however, had been using the song to monitor things herself;
the fact was that due to her connection with the song, the hormones weren't
actually going to do anything. She wasn't going to age for the same reason. So
she was carefully making tiny changes that were in line with what the hormones
were supposed to do. Her chest was developing ever so slightly, and her face
and hips were just beginning to fill out a bit, but nothing that was really
visible yet. But she made sure there were hormones in her bloodstream that
would show up as reasonable levels in her blood tests.

Finally it was the last day of classes. "Whew!" said Christina as biology class
ended. "That's it -- nothing left but finals!"

"Exemplary semester, both of you," said Professor Macshane. "I must say you're
two of the best undergraduate assistants I've ever had. Nothing to complain
about, and a great deal to commend. Oh, and by the way, happy holidays!" He
handed each of them a gift bag printed with holiday designs, tied with a
festive ribbon.

"Oh wow! You shouldn't have!" said Christina. "Can we open them?"

"Of course," said the professor. "They're nothing big, just a token of my
appreciation. My wife helped." Christina and Elaine opened their gifts to find
Christmas cookies and candy.

"Thank you so much, Professor," said Elaine, "and happy holidays to you too!
Mmm, I like candy canes."

"I love cookies!" said Christina. "Thank you very much! But we didn't get you

"Quite all right," Professor Macshane said. "There'll be plenty of time for
that if you continue in the program. Juniors and seniors get to participate in
the department's secret Santa exchange."

"Oooo fun! I can't wait!" Christina said.

"Well, if I don't see you until then, happy holidays to you both, and I'll see
you in the new year," said the professor, gathering up his books and leaving
the classroom. Elaine started to go too.

"Elaaaaaine!" said Christina. "Elaine stay here please!" Elaine stopped.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

Christina said, "Well, we're not coworkers anymore!"

"What?" Elaine said. "I ... guess not ..."

"That means I can tell you," Christina said.

Elaine paused. "Oh, right, because you don't like to get too close to
coworkers. But what if we assist on the same class sometime in the future?"

"Well that's not too likely to happen, but oh well, I'll have to deal with
it. Anyway ..." Christina took a deep breath. "I'm ... not like a lot of

"You're certainly unique," said Elaine. "I think you have a very strong inner

"That's ... not the half of it," Christina said. "I ... um ... inside it's like
I really AM a child."

"You're saying that ..."

"Well when I'm all by myself I like to act like a little itty bitty baby," said
Christina. "There, I said it."

"Oh. You regress to relax?" asked Elaine.

"Yeah! I have plushies and footed sleepers and sippy cups and ..." She
blushed. "Even pacifiers and diapers."

"Wow, so you really regress."

"Yeah. I, um, yeah. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, telling you." Christina
looked very embarrassed, as if she were about to run out of the room.

"I won't tell a soul," promised Elaine, "unless you say it's OK. But ... look,
I don't think any less of you. You're fine. I mean, we all started out as
children. It just means you're closer to your roots than most."

"You really think that?" Christina almost shouted.

"Sure," Elaine said. "I'm willing to bet that you're not the only one like

"Oh, I'm not," she said. "There's lots. I mean, everyone's different, but I go
online and talk to lots of others."

"Well, thank you for telling me," said Elaine. "I've got something else to
think about now. I'm not sure how it would even work."

"What? That's all mysterious and stuff."

Elaine explained, "Well someday I want to be a doctor and start a center where
I can help people with gender dysphoria. I don't know if it's possible, but
maybe there's a way I can help people like you too?"

"Whoa! How could you even do that?"

"That's ... what I have to think about," said Elaine. "I really don't know."
The song, however, was showing her exactly how to physically turn Christina
into a baby again, and even do things like return some of her infantile
behavior patterns. But were things like this ethical? They would leave
Christina helpless -- even if they were temporary, she'd be temporarily
helpless and would need a caretaker for that period of time. Perhaps if there
were some kind of daycare center?

"Well ... whatever you're thinking of doing in the future," said Christina, "I
know you want to help people, so I know it's going to be something good. But
meanwhile, happy holidays!" She hugged Elaine. "Thanks for listening and not
thinking I'm crazy!"

"You're not crazy!" said Elaine. "And hey, we can be friends now, right? You
said we could."

"Yayyyyy girlfriends!" Christina said. "And you know my deepest darkest secret
already, so I don't have to worry about blurting it out or something. And
you've already come out as a girl so you don't have to hide that either!"

"It's best not to hide things from friends," said Elaine. Which made it
complicated, because she really shouldn't tell anyone about the song and her
connection with it, because she wasn't even sure that very good friends would

They talked about their holiday plans, and then they said their goodbyes for
this semester -- they both had finals to prepare for.

Elaine sat at her desk and studied hard. It was getting to be very late in the
evening as she heard a timid kind of knock on the door. She looked over at the
disheveled bed across the room and saw Jim all cuddled up with his large body
pillow. It was clear he wasn't going to awaken easily.

She got up from her chair and walked to the door, "Yes? Who is it? It's getting
very late and I have lots of studying to do."

Christina's shy voice replied softly, "It's me, Christina ... I ... I'm sorry
to come over this late, but it is kinda something I seem to need you to know."

Elaine raised an eyebrow as she opened the door. Standing there, wrapped
haphazardly in a cute blanket, Christina stood with her thumb in her mouth. It
was obvious her pajamas were made like an infant's footie.

Elaine felt a tingle of joy as she beckoned the adorably dressed Christina into
the room. Elaine walked to the sofa away from the sleeping Jim and sat with

Christina said shyly as she looked down just like a little girl, "I ... wanted
you to know. I'm ... really just this little girl. I even gotta wear diapers n
pullups so I don't have accidents."

"But Christina," said Elaine, "you're a college student. And a good one. I know
you do great academically."

This only seemed to make Christina more upset. "I do, but ... it's all fake
... I'm good at pretending I have it all together but I totally don't
... adulting just isn't a thing I am any good at." She seemed on the verge of

Elaine felt for her new friend, but didn't know what to do. She was clearly
having some kind of emotional breakdown, if she had come all the way here
dressed like this to talk to someone who she didn't know all that well
... because they'd only started to get to know each other ... wait. Elaine
realized she might be the only person she'd told her baby secret to. Elaine
realized what Christina really wanted.

"Christina," said Elaine, "do you live in this same dorm?" Christina
nodded. "Is your roommate home?"

"No, she's out somewhere."

"Let's go back to your room, OK?" Elaine put her arm around Christina's
shoulder and took her out the door and toward the stairway. "I can stay with
you for a little while. You ... don't get a lot of parental attention, do you?"

"N-no, not for a long time," Christina whimpered, "not s-since Mama wented
away." Elaine subtly let Christina lead them back to her room. "Daddy and her
used to yell a lot."

"I'm so sorry," Elaine said. "Is this your room?" Christina nodded and fumbled
for her keys. Elaine helped her open the door.

"Let's sit you down for a second, OK?" Elaine tried to aim Christina at a chair
but the girl sat on the floor instead and immediately started sucking her

Making sure the door was locked, Elaine turned to Christina and said, "It took
a lot for you to tell me about this side of you, didn't it?" Christina
nodded. "I ... I have something to show you. But ... it's got to stay super
secret, OK? It's the kind of thing that could change the world ... or destroy
someone's life, probably mine."

"I-I pwomise," said Christina, around her thumb.

Elaine listened carefully to the song. She wanted to be able to return the
room, and especially Christina, to their original state later. Then ... she
made a suggestion to the universe, a temporary one.

Christina suddenly shrank, getting smaller, and her clothes shrank with
her. Elaine could tell she had an adult diaper on underneath her sleeper, but
it became a thick baby diaper instead. Christina's bed became a crib with lots
of plushies in it -- the bed had already had some, of course, but now there
were more. A soft bumper ran around the inside of the crib, and a mobile hung
down above it. The rest of the room changed too -- it became the perfect baby
nursery, the roommate's things vanishing for now, replaced by a playpen,
changing table, toy box, and other things, including a rocking chair for
Elaine, who picked up the baby Christina and sat down in it, rocking back and

The tiny Christina's mouth fell open, revealing her few baby teeth. "Wha -- wha
happen?" she asked. "You ... did magic!"

"Shhhh, Little One, it's OK," said Elaine, rocking back and forth and holding
Christina gently. She rubbed the tiny girl's back soothingly with one hand.

"It ... not possi ... uh ... mmm ..." Christina sighed happily as she was held
and rocked. Elaine could tell she was confused but intensely contented at the
same time.

"I can make changes to the universe," Elaine said. "But I want to help
people. And part of it is that I can see what the changes are going to do. So
if I just do things willy-nilly ... it won't really help. Bad things will
happen. In time I'll be able to do more good. But for now ... just little

"Me ... baby," Christina said, looking at her pudgy fingers in amazement.

"Just think for a minute," said Elaine, "and you know that you're pretty
helpless right now. You can't do anything for yourself. Your potty training is
nonexistent, and you can't change your own diapers. I can't just leave you like
that forever -- and I can't quit school to take care of you. What's more, you
have a bright future ahead of you, and I'd be taking that away from you. But
... you can be a baby for right now, and I can look after you for a little
while, and then we can go back to being college students."

"Thank ... you ... 'Laine," said Christina sleepily. Elaine smiled -- and then
wasn't entirely surprised when the baby girl wet her diaper. She'd asked the
song earlier, and Christina wasn't physically incontinent at all ... so her
problems staying dry were entirely psychological, though right now in baby form
she was completely diaper dependent. Elaine only knew a very little about the
girl's family life, but it sounded very broken, and growing up in that
environment would certainly explain why Christina was so emotionally broken as
well. Maybe this would help. Although a real therapist would probably help

"Maybe you need to sleep a bit," Elaine said, and laid Christina down in her
crib, starting the mobile. Colorful butterflies slowly flew in circles as a
gentle lullaby played. Christina saw them and gasped, reaching upward toward
them, but shortly her eyes started to close and she yawned.

Elaine managed to get some studying done as her friend slept, safe in her crib.

Christina opened her eyes to the wonderful sensation of being lifted up and
gently twirled around several times. All she could do was screech with
glee. She found herself on her back suddenly as Elaine rubbed noses and cooed
softly, "Good morning little baby girl. Auntie will have dipee changed inna

Elaine quickly cleaned and rediapered Christina and picked her up to her
shoulder. Christina was in a gloriously infantile daze as her bottom was softly
patted before she was placed in the playpen.

Elaine couldn't tell when Christina's roommate would be home, so she knew this
couldn't last forever, but there was one thing she could do, and that was make
this moment seem to last longer and have a beneficial effect for her
friend. The song told her what positive changes this was making in Christina's
psyche, and all Elaine had to do was reinforce those. Careful not to set up an
addiction situation, Elaine did something akin to making a regular night's
sleep feel like a great night's sleep. So, after Christina played in the
playpen for about half an hour, Elaine returned everything in the room to
normal -- with one exception.

"W-wow," said Christina, stretching her arms while she sat on the floor where
the playpen had been, "that was ... amazing. I feel ... like ... I dunno. I
feel like I just played for a week." Elaine smiled. "I have no idea how to
describe what I just experienced." She turned to Elaine. "But thank you so
much! Don't worry about me telling anybody about this -- thing you can do. I
don't even know the words for it."

"Well, someday I want to build a place where I can help people whose bodies
aren't right for how they feel inside," said Elaine. "I was originally thinking
that was just trans people -- but you've given me something else to think

"There are lots of people who feel like they're still kids," Christina
said. "But I'm not sure many of them would want to be turned into kids again
for real -- at least, not permanently."

"There's lots to think about, as I said," Elaine repeated. "But that's all in
the future. I've got to finish school first. Meanwhile, you've got to study for
finals. So do I, but I got some done while you were sleeping and playing."

Christina sighed. "You're right," she said. She got up from the floor, her
diaper crinkling loudly under her footed sleeper. "Hey -- what's --" She felt
her diaper with her hands. "This is ... much thicker than what I have ..."

Elaine grinned. "I just scaled up the baby diaper you were wearing," she
explained. "In all three dimensions. It's going to be a lot thicker than what
you had on before."

"I ... oh great, now I'm gonna have to find a way to get diapers this thick,"
said Christina. "I wonder if anyone makes them like this. Research time!"

"Study time first," said Elaine. "I have to head back to my room. It's getting

"I'm not tired at all," Christina said. "It feels like I just slept a week!"

"Goodnight, Christina," Elaine said.

"You could call me Chrissie, if you wanted."

"OK. Goodnight, Chrissie." Elaine smiled. "Good luck with studying." She left
and went back to her room, where she took her pills and went to bed.

In between finals, Elaine checked online and saw the Internet posts Ward
Campion and his following had been posting about her. They'd found the pictures
they'd meant to show during the presentation and posted them online. They said
a lot of awful things, and what was more, they'd posted her campus address, and
they'd found her home address and phone number too and posted that. But she
couldn't just use the song to delete them. At the presentation, she'd changed
things before anyone had seen them, even Campion himself. The only person who'd
seen the original version had been Campion's speech writer, who was confused
about the details, but since the overall speech had remained the same he hadn't
questioned it much. But lots of people had already seen these posts -- Campion
and his cult following would either accuse the social media service of
censorship or assume one of their enemies, of which they had many, had hacked
it. However, there were some things she could do.

She saw the first results immediately. "WTF dude?" asked the next
reply. "That's my address, not this tranny's!"

"You're nuts," said the reply to that message. "It's not your address, it's my

"It clearly says my address when I look at it," said a third response. "I don't
know what you guys are seeing."

"Look, here is a screenshot of what my screen says," said the first
poster. "It's MY ADDRESS."

"You're still nuts, it's my address."

"You're both crazy, that's my address."

The fighting began. The addresses and phone numbers were viewer-dependent. No
two readers would ever see the same information. Eventually they'd register a
complaint with the social media service, which would attempt to debug the
problem, which would cause a server crash, and the only way to fix it would be
to delete the data.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it. "Clearly this Ed Seven Stars has
powerful friends," Campion himself posted. "They are the enemies of the truth
-- after all, are we not merely exposing him for who he really is? You have the
right to be who you truly are, and these people are perverting that right by
claiming to be someone they aren't and have never been. A man is a man, and a
woman is a woman, and one cannot become the other. Fear not, my friends; I will
find out how this hack occurred and who is truly behind it, and they will have
no rest. The truth cannot be stopped."

Elaine read this and sighed. This Campion guy was so self-deluded. His mind ran
in circles. She wondered whether he hated trans people so badly because he was
secretly trans himself ... but the song told him no. He was gay, but not
trans. But his experiences of not being accepted due to his sexuality had not
taught him anything about accepting others. He had fought his way to
acceptance, and now that he had his, he didn't care about anyone else. It was
pure self-centeredness. Perhaps one day his followers would learn that he
didn't care about them, except in the sense of what they could do for him. But
for now, this man's pathology would continue to hurt trans people everywhere he
went. So ... Elaine would just have to keep doing the opposite, helping them
wherever she went.

So Elaine sat down to write a letter, asking a very special place for their
help. It was a place that didn't exist, but she would change that.

"Director, Center of Creation, Torvost Island, Norway ... Dear Director, I am a
transgender college student and wish to inquire about your reassignment surgery
schedule. I understand your services are highly sought after, so I would like
to be placed on the schedule as soon as possible. I am including references
from my psychiatrist, who will continue to keep you updated. Sincerely, Elaine
Seven Stars"

There was no such place ... only there was now. The island had come into
existence as she imagined it, and the Center was now the most prominent address
upon it. Never before had she made such a blatant and drastic change to
reality, but the song made it all possible. Over the years its story would
grow, and she would become a part of that story.

"I'd never heard of the Center of Creation before," said Dr. Pelletier, "but
then, it's overseas. I've been doing some research, and the stories I'm hearing
about the place are very positive. They seem to have a very good record for
results. Once I'm certain that you're a candidate for the surgery, I'll
certainly recommend you, but yes, you're right to try to get onto their
schedule as soon as you can. Places like that have waiting lists years long."

"Thank you, Dr. Pelletier," Elaine said. "I'm certain this is what I want, but
I know your medical opinion is what has to be satisfied." Actually, Elaine knew
that the phantom pseudo-people who currently populated the Center would do
whatever she wanted them to do, but in time there would be real people there --
in time for her.

Off the coast in the cold frozen land of the elks, a strange phenomenon
happened. To the animals that observed it, it first appeared as if reality
began to wrinkle and twist. Where there had been only the frigid water of the
North Sea, a small island appeared, then grew larger. Then, like soap bubbles,
several large sweeping arched structures formed and then solidified upon it.

Around those, large domes arose and all were interconnected by a system of
tubes that facilitated a pneumatic rapid transit system to get to any location
in the huge structure.

Along the shore, a huge and ornate dock and cargo handling facility seemed to
materialize from the thin wispy fog that lay round about. The door to the the
Dock Foreman's office opened, and out stepped a nondescript sort of man, who
shortly was joined by a large group of others. The clothing began to take
shape. Some were dock workers, some were orderlies some were Doctors, some were
just civilians.

Back at the university, Elaine opened a map website. It showed Torvost Island
as if it had always been there. She opened a world atlas in book form and saw
the same. There was a small town there and a complex of buildings, the
satellite photos showed, but they weren't very detailed.

The town's history now went back hundreds of years, and the Center of Creation
had opened in the 1950s. But in all the world, only Elaine knew that the island
and its buildings hadn't been there just a few hours earlier.

Over the next week, each student at the college took their final exams and went
home for the holiday break. Elaine was no exception. Her father drove to pick
her up and took her home to the town of White Hills.

On the way home she talked about what she'd been going through, in general
terms. "So I'm more sure than ever that I'm trans," she said. "I'm Elaine, and
I'm determined to be Elaine to whatever extent I can be. For the rest of my

"Well, you can talk to Aunt Irene," said her father. "She's going to be
visiting for the holidays. She's getting on in years, but she's not afraid of
traveling, even in weather like they say we're going to have. She's a feisty

"You said she was two-spirited," Elaine said. "I guess our immediate family
hasn't been that close to the tribe and its old ways. But her branch of it is
closer to it?"

"Yeah," said her dad. "It's not as if we're totally cut off from the
tribe. It's just that your mother and I are from different tribes, and we both
got jobs far away from our families."

"Did you tell Aunt Irene about ... me?" asked Elaine.

"Nope, she just wanted to come. Maybe she's just got some kind of
intuition. Maybe it's just your mother's famous pie."

"She's making it?"

"Plans to." Her dad smiled.

"Now I'm extra happy I'm gonna be home for the holidays."

Elaine found herself standing on the walk to the front door of her family
home. She knew she no longer looked like her old self. She now, more than ever
before, looked like a rather shapely young woman, if still somewhat tall and
gangly, and not the large man she had appeared to be before heading off to
college. Elaine walked the path to the door and opened it. When she entered,
Elaine's mom came from the kitchen into the living room and saw her standing
there. A look of surprise came across her mother's face, before a huge smile.

He mother held out her arms and said joyfully, "Come to me daughter of
mine. It's very nice to see you have turned out so well."

"Aww, Mom," said Elaine, "it's ... it's ..." As she went to hug her mother, she
suddenly burst into tears. She couldn't help it, and she didn't know why. "I'm
... sorry Mom ... it's just ... such a beautiful thing to be called your
daughter ..."

"Aww, there, there, Sweetheart," her mother said, "I love you no matter
what. You'll be the best daughter ever, I just know it. I just wish I'd known."

"Me too," Elaine said. "It feels like I wasted so much time."

"Does this mean you want to learn how to cook finally?" asked her mother.

"Mom ... that's so old-fashioned," Elaine said. "Also yes." She giggled.

"Well, then," said her mother with a laugh, "once you're settled, you can come
help out."

"I'm losing my football-watching buddy," said her father. "Except you never
watched football with me ever. Also I can't stand football." He chuckled. "Not
that you ever watched hockey with me either."

"Girls can like hockey," said Elaine. "I just ... don't."

Preparation for Christmas went fairly smoothly, once Elaine started to get the
hang of really helping out in the kitchen, and she could still help her dad
with the lights. Somehow all the strings of lights weren't tangled this year,
and there weren't any burned-out bulbs. Elaine was sure there would be some
kind of backlash from using the song to create the Center out of whole cloth,
but she could ensure that minor uses like fixing broken light bulbs had no

Elaine's mom was apparently ecstatic to have a daughter. She kept taking Elaine
off on shopping sprees to the large department stores down in Wanipigow, where
she would buy new and really cute clothes for Elaine. All protests fell on deaf
ears as her mother ensured that Elaine had a full wardrobe complete with all
the trimmings.

Finally, the two women showed up at the makeup table. The young woman behind
the counter was very zealous to help give Elaine a makeover. It tickled Elaine
to her soul as the young woman fretted and fussed. It tickled slightly as she
brushed and blended the makeup. Elaine's mouth fell open as the girl showed her
a mirror. Elaine hadn't realized just how attractive she had become. The
shopping spree finally ended as the two of them returned home with all the new
items. Elaine realized she had had the time of her life being out with her
mother. None of the people they had encountered had even realized that Elaine
was trans.

Of course, the new dress and hairdo helped a lot. Not to mention how nice she
herself looked in the dress. Part of Elaine thought, though, that if she hadn't
passed so well, that wouldn't have been the case. She had used her knowledge of
the song to help her, and there were so many trans people out there who didn't
have that ability. She reminded herself that she wanted to help others like
herself once it was possible. Yes, she could make fantastic changes to the
world around her, but she also knew that such drastic changes just wouldn't be
accepted. The right context had to exist first.

Elaine was curious to meet Aunt Irene again for the first time in years -- and
the first time since realizing she was trans -- and finally that day came, two
days before Christmas. Her beat-up station wagon pulled into the driveway, and
Elaine was at the door waiting for the gray-haired woman to get out of her
car. Aunt Irene was surprised when the door opened before she had even
knocked. "My goodness, aren't you a little fireball?" she chuckled.

"Aunt Irene! It's you!" said Elaine, taking her suitcases off her hands. "Come

"Here, give me a hug first," said Aunt Irene. "Your dad told me I had an extra
grandniece! Looks like you've been shopping." Elaine hugged her happily. When
she'd been young, she'd just accepted that Aunt Irene was a woman. It wasn't
until she was in high school that her parents had mentioned that she was
two-spirited, not that she'd fully understood what that meant. In fact, Elaine
wasn't sure she understood it even now. She'd never followed either of her
parents' tribes' old ways, because her parents didn't much either.

"Oh! Irene! Come in, come in," said Elaine's mother.

"Already in, and this one's got my bags for me," Irene said. "My, she's turned
out pretty. Strong, too."

Elaine actually blushed. She'd been thinking about Aunt Irene a lot lately and
had started to consider her something of a role model, even though she didn't
know her that well. A compliment from her gave Elaine quite a rush.

"Ah, Aunt Irene, I'm so happy you could join us for the holidays!" said
Elaine's father, coming in and hugging his aunt. "Here, you can have my
chair. It's the best one."

"Looks too soft," she said with a wink. "But anywhere will do." She sat down on
the couch, and Elaine brought her some water and sat beside her.

"So. I'm not used to having a young apprentice," Aunt Irene said with a
grin. "Or is it called a padawan? Those movies confuse me."

"That depends on whether we're the light side or the dark side," said Elaine
with a smile.

"Light side, I think. That's the good one, right? Nothing wrong with the dark,
though. Owls and bats like it better, after all."

"I never thought of it like that. But we're not owls."

"Or bats. Anyway, so you've decided you're a girl," said Aunt Irene.

Elaine was a bit taken aback. "No, it's ... more like I finally realized that
I've been one the whole time," she said.

"Ah," Aunt Irene said, nodding. "Then it's for real -- not just some passing
fancy or pretty distraction."

"Oh, you were testing me," Elaine said.

"Sort of," Aunt Irene replied with a nod. "Sorry. Just checking."

"I'm not sure I'm ... the same as you, though," Elaine said.

"You're not, because you're not me. And I'm not you, and you're not your father
or your mother. And that's as it should be. But I'm sure you're calling
yourself transgender or whatever they say nowadays. That's a new thing. What I
am is an old thing. Two-spirit is a new word too, an English word. Not a very
good one, either. Tries to be all things to all peoples."

"What would you say you are?"

Aunt Irene said a word in her tribal language that Elaine didn't quite get. "It
means I've chosen the task of being a woman."

"Did you ... choose it at an early age?" asked Elaine.

"I suppose so. I was awfully young back then. Young enough that I didn't know
what I was doing. But I did what I felt was right, and before I knew it
everyone took it as a sign. The traditions honor us, but they also set us apart
from others."

"Do they believe that you have ... a strong spirit? Or anything like that?"

"Some say that we're supposed to. I don't know." Aunt Irene looked at
Elaine. "Although ... as I said, there's something about you, Elaine. Something
very strong."

"I ... wonder what that means," Elaine said. Elaine almost told her about the
song right there and then, but the song warned her about telling anyone, even
her family. The world was just not ready. Perhaps one day she could tell those
closest to her, but not yet. She'd already taken a risk telling Chrissie, but
she knew Chrissie wouldn't tell, because she wanted another experience like the
one she'd had.

"Probably that you're not going to take no for an answer, determined to do
great things, and change the world around you," said Aunt Irene, not knowing
how right she was. "And you go right ahead and do that. Lots of people say no,
don't be who you are. Don't listen to them. They're idiots. They're pretending
to be happy even though they're not, so they want you to be unhappy so they can
keep on being fake-happy. You should ignore them and be really happy. Then at
least someone's happy."

"'Those who abandon their dreams will discourage yours,'" Elaine quoted a
bumper sticker she'd seen.

"Yeah, that." Aunt Irene was not smiling. "There are people like that even in
the tribe. Usually young people. The ones that get corrupted by Western
culture. They usually leave the tribe, or get wiser as they get older, but the
damage they do before then is hard to heal."

"I'm sorry," was all Elaine could think of to say.

"Doesn't mean we don't try to heal it, though," said Aunt Irene. "Hard to
do. But rewarding when it happens."

Chrissie sat up in her crib like bed and looked around. Her roommate could
barely be seen off in the dimness of the large room. She wasn't really sure
what she had just been dreaming about. All she could tell was it made her feel
really good inside. That was when she noticed the soggy wet coolness. She
looked down and saw the large wet spot where she had wet the bed once again.

As she changed into a cute pair of pullups and put the wet bed clothes in the
hamper, she knew just what she wanted and how she was going to get it. She was
sure Elaine would agree to this ... she just had to.

Chrissie went and got her cell and punched in Elaine's number ... she was going
to ask for a very large favor.

It was later that evening. After making some more Christmas cookies, Elaine's
parents and Aunt Irene were talking in the living room, while Elaine was
looking at some books for next semester. Her phone rang. It was Chrissie.

"Hi Chrissie, are you OK?" Elaine knew Chrissie's family life was messed
up. "Is it ... your family?"

"N-no, I'm not going home for Christmas," said Chrissie. "I just ... there's
something I wanted to ask you ..."

"Um, is this about ... the other night?"

"Yes, well, kind of? It's related?"

"Let me ... hmm ... OK I'm just going to make sure we can't be overheard." And
suddenly ... they were both sitting in a room.

"I, uh, where are we?" asked Chrissie, looking around. They appeared to be in a
cozy ski lodge. The huge fireplace crackled warmly as the snow fell gently
outside. They seemed to be the only ones there.

"In a memory of a place I saw on TV recently," Elaine explained. "This is all
imaginary. It could look like anything, but I wanted us both to be
comfortable. We're communicating mentally."

"Oh ... OK then ... I just ... there's ... someone I want to be."

"Well someone I respect asked me a question recently ... is this someone you
decided to be recently, or is this someone you've realized you've always been?"

"I ... I'm not sure ... I ..."

"Well, this is all mental," said Elaine. "What's your first memory of being
this person?" The song told Elaine how to help Chrissie find this memory, so
she did.

Chrissie stared and seemed to look into the distance. "I can ... see it ... I'm
not even four years old yet, I think ... and that's when ..."

"It's not happening now, Chrissie," Elaine assured her. "It's like it's on
TV. Like a recording. You can play, pause, go forward, reverse -- you're in
control." There was a large TV screen above the fireplace, and Chrissie now
held a remote control in her hand. "You can see it, but you're not part of it
right now. It's not happening now. It's OK."

"I can't take it anymore, Leroy!" a woman was yelling on the screen. She was
putting on her winter coat. "I'm going to Mom's house! I don't ... I don't know
for how long!"

"Mommy," said a small voice from the screen, but the speaker wasn't
visible. However, Elaine was saying the words at the same time. "Where are you
going? Are you going away? When are you coming back?"

"I ... I can't!" She ran out the front door without even closing it. The man
she'd been yelling at closed the door and looked out the window as the car
drove away into the rainy night. He kept his face turned away.

"Daddy, where's Mommy?" said Elaine and the child's voice from the screen.

There was a fast-forward. The man was on the phone. "I ... I see ... I'll call
a cab and get there as soon as I can ..."

Another fast-forward, and they were in a church, and the man was there in a
black suit, and there was a toddler girl nearby in a black dress. The man said
in a voice heavy with grief, "Elaine, you're going to have to help me more now
... do you understand? You're going to have to look after Suzy
sometimes. You're going to have to be the big girl in the family now."

"Oh, Honey," said Elaine. "That was when things changed for you, didn't they?
And ... that little girl you were had to stop existing ... only she never
really did, did she? And meanwhile you had to see your little sister get to
keep being the baby, and those times were over for you, suddenly and forever

Chrissie's hand was over her eyes, and she was visibly sobbing and nodding.

"The person you were ... was torn away from you, and it wasn't your fault,"
said Elaine, almost sobbing herself. "That's so awful. I want you to be happy,
but I don't know how I can help ... I can change you into a little girl but I
can't leave you that way -- you'd be small and weak and couldn't take care of

Chrissie looked up at Elaine. The expression was so miserable and adorable at
the same time. "I know I can't ask you to take care of me," said
Chrissie. "That would mean giving up your education and your plans, and I know
you want to help lots of people, and you couldn't do that ... it would be so
selfish of me." "But ... I don't know what to do ..." Elaine's heart
melted. That was when she came up with an idea. Elaine was positive this would
work, and it was more or less what Chrissie had wanted anyway.

Elaine closed her eyes and listened to the song. It played happily all through
her spirit. Elaine heard a gasp and a small delighted squeak. When she opened
her eyes, Chrissie was ... still Chrissie, but now she was dressed differently
in this imaginary scenario. She wore a pair of short overalls with a rainbow
applique on the front pocket over a yellow top with a bit of white lace around
the collar and sleeve cuffs, with similar yellow and white socks, and tennis
shoes that blinked when she moved. Chrissie asked, "You ... changed my

"No, this is all imaginary, remember? You can be wearing anything you decide
you should be wearing. This just means ... you feel free to look like
this. Come here, Chrissie." Elaine opened her arms welcomingly. Chrissie came
over and sat on her lap almost automatically. Elaine took Chrissie in her arms
and cooed softly, "This is the best I can do. You will now really be a
wonderful mix of little girl and big girl. There will be some ... things that
are more little girl now, but you will have to work through them."

"I'm ... little and big at the same time?" Chrissie asked.

"You already were. But you felt like you had to hide your younger self inside
and could never let her out. There was a ... sort of mental block that you'd
put there yourself. You don't need that. But ... you'll have to learn to get
along without it."

"I'm not going to ... suddenly run and play hopscotch in the middle of class?"
Chrissie asked. With a giggle she revealed that part of her thought that would
be great.

Elaine smiled and replied, "Not if you decide that it wouldn't be a good idea
overall. Now, I don't think you were, um, fully potty trained at your little
self's age, so it might be a good idea to take, um, precautions ..."

"Oh. Well I, um, wear at least a thin diaper all the time," Chrissie
admitted. "It used to be just so I could feel close to my inner little girl."

"It might be a bit more necessary now," said Elaine. "Oh -- you'll have more
clothes, if you look in your closet when you wake up from this. I gave you some
things based on images from your imagination. It's up to you to decide which of
them you should wear in public, though. I don't know about some of them."

"Wait, why am I sucking my thumb?" Chrissie said, removing her thumb from her
mouth. "I mean, I guess this is imaginary, but why am I imagining myself doing
that without really thinking about it?"

"It's probably something that your younger self used to do a lot," Elaine
said. "You and she are the same person, so it's not really like she's going to
take over your life, but her habits are your habits now. There might be some
side effects that I can't predict. I hope you can be careful until break is

"My roommate already thinks I'm crazy," said Chrissie with a giggle. "I think
she'll think I took that as a challenge."

Christmas and New years had passed. Another set of new classes and Elaine had a
problem. She no longer looked like a man and she had been given male
athletics. This meant she had to go to the overcrowded Scheduling Office and
await her appointment.

As she sat and thought about what other classes she wanted to take, she saw a
folded newspaper sitting on the space next to her. Elaine picked it up and
began to read. Her mouth fell open as she saw the smear campaign that Campion
had started against trans people. An idea popped into her head. Why not leak as
much data as she could ... on his own, abnormalities. A smile crossed Elaine's
lips as a film that Campion had thought locked away in his own personal safe,
became an overnight internet sensation as it went viral.

Campion's whole hypocritical campaign suddenly was in jeopardy as more and more
of his supporters began to question, then abandon the movement. How on this
earth could a person who made a gay X rated film of himself and another man
carry on so about trans people? That was a question Campion couldn't answer.

Closer to home, Elaine thought it might be time for her to start looking into
making all the arrangements for transitioning. Elaine knew she had to at least
keep up appearances and go through the motions. About that time, a very
handsome man came out of a back office and called out, "Edward Seven Stars?
Please come into my office ... Edward Seven Stars." Elaine got up and walked

The man had a wide eyed expression for an instant then regained his composure,
"Well, please do come in. I understand what the problem is and I think I can
have it all worked out in short order."

Elaine followed him into his office. "First of all, are you sure your name is
Edward? I think there's been some kind of clerical error."

"Oh," said Elaine, "It's not exactly that. You see, I'm transgender, and I'm in
the process of transitioning, so I guess your records haven't been updated

"I ... see," the man said. He appeared to stiffen up a bit, looking
uncomfortable. Elaine recognized the symptoms of someone who either disapproved
of trans people outright but had to deal with them as part of his job, or
someone who merely didn't know how to react and was constantly second-guessing
himself. Time would tell which one this man was. His desk had a nameplate that
said, "R. Daily."

"Mr. Daily, can that problem be fixed here, or is there another office I need
to go to?" Elaine asked, keeping on task.

"No," he began, then corrected himself, "I mean, no, you shouldn't need to go
anywhere else. Let me just make a call." He dialed his desk phone.

"Hi, Sandra, this is Rick Daily at Student Scheduling ... we have a student
with a name change ... Edward Seven Stars? ... Yes, it should be Elaine ..." He
spelled out "Elaine," keeping an eye on Elaine's face so she could correct him
if he spelled it wrong, but he didn't. "This may go without saying, but
... yes, you will probably want to change that to female ... OK, I'll tell, um,
her. Thanks, Sandra." He hung up.

"OK, Elaine," said Daily, "The people at Student Records are going to need you
to sign a few documents if you're going to change your name. But before they'll
accept them, they'll need to see a driver's license or other ID with your new
name on it. That means you're going to need to get one, if you haven't

"I haven't. I'll go to Vehicle Registration soon."

"All right ... I can't imagine how complicated that's going to be."

"Pretty complicated, so far, and I think it's going to get worse," said
Elaine. "I hope you don't think this is something I'm doing for frivolous
reasons. Because I'd have to be insane to want to do all this for essentially
no reason."

"Oh, no, that hadn't crossed my mind. Um, I don't know what they require to
change your name and gender on your ID. Maybe some kind of note from a doctor?"

"A note from the supervising case physician, in this province," said
Elaine. "I've got one; I just haven't done it yet. There's a lot to do, and I'm
registering for classes at the same time." That was a hint.

"Oh, right -- your schedule," said Daily. "They've now tentatively changed your
records to say female, and obviously you're not going to be taking men's
athletics. But women's athletics ... is mostly full. There's an opening here
... but that's at the same time as this ... but we can move you to another
section ..." He worked on his computer as he spoke. "All right, how does this
schedule look?" He turned his monitor around.

"That's much better, thank you," Elaine said. She had to wonder whether there
would be any pushback with her going to a women's athletics class
... especially considering it would mean her using the women's locker room
... before she'd had that particular surgery. Not that she ever planned to make
that particular change to herself via surgery specifically ... but that's what
the records would say. The change would be far more ... fundamental when it
happened. Although ...

"OK, just sign this as soon as it comes out of the printer," Daily said as a
document came out of his laser printer.

Elaine was excited -- what Daily didn't know was that this was the first time
she'd be signing her name as "Elaine Seven Stars." She did so and couldn't help
feeling as if there were some magic to it, a gravitas or importance that no one
could see except herself. Its emotional impact was significant.

As Elaine stood looking at her new signature. Time seemed to drag out, slow
down, and come to a seeming stop. She felt really strange all through her
body. Small cramps in her tummy and between her legs told Elaine something was
wrong ... or perhaps right.

Like a large rushing wind, time returned to normal. Elaine realized she was no
longer ... male. Something had caused the song to transform her -- but the
emotional elation of signing her first legal document as her true self offset
any shock or impact. It could well be that it had simply been ... herself. She
smiled, then left the office after completing the rest of the signatures.

She wondered whether she should change herself back with the song. After all,
the hormones she'd been taking were prescribed based on the assumption that her
body was male and producing male hormones. Then again, she'd been basically
negating the effect of those hormones and making changes to her body herself
anyway. She had to stay about the same height, at least until she could go to
the Center, but there'd be no problems if she just continued doing as she'd
been doing. Besides -- now there wouldn't be any problems with her using the
women's locker room. What about medical examinations, though? After all, she
could hardly be recommended for surgery if it was no longer necessary. Well,
she'd deal with that when it came up.

"Whoa," said her roommate Jim when she got to their room, "it's only been a
couple weeks, and you look ... really different."

"Good, I hope," Elaine said, helping him carry in his luggage. She'd made sure
her voice hadn't changed too much -- that was something else that couldn't
change dramatically until her visit to the Center. She sounded like a
deep-voiced woman now -- mostly because she'd been practicing the differences
in intonation and inflection that told English-speaking cultures that the
speaker was a woman. The pitch of her vocal cords was basically the same. She'd
even made sure that she still had somewhat of an Adam's apple. Again, that
would go away once she could get an appointment at the Center.

"Yeah," Jim said, "I don't feel like I'm rooming with a guy now. Not that I
have a problem being roomies with a girl -- it's just ... well, I didn't know
how to think of you before, I guess."

"I understand," said Elaine, "but don't we strive not to pigeonhole people?
White, Black, Asian, Indian, and so on? Aren't male and female just two more

"I ... guess," said Jim, "but ... it just seems harder to do. Like ... there's
no pigeonhole for somewhere between man and woman, so there's no guide to how
to act."

"Well, maybe it's easier for you to deal with me now," Elaine said. "But be
careful -- you're going to meet people who are nonbinary and want you to call
them 'they' and 'them.' I guarantee it. You'll have to invent a pigeonhole for
them someday -- or give up on that particular kind of pigeonhole altogether."

"Kinda hard to do when English has such an ingrained notion of gender," Jim
said, "and other languages are even more strongly gendered."

"That's true," Elaine said. "But we'll all have to deal with it. It's not just
going away."

"Chrissie!" Elaine said happily when she went to her first biology class of the
semester. "How ... how are you feeling?" They hugged, and Elaine noticed that
Christina was wearing pink and yellow flower-print overalls over a sky-blue
sweatshirt. It didn't escape her attention that the overalls had snaps up the
insides of the legs, or that Chrissie carried her books in what looked very
much like a diaper bag. She even crinkled softly when she moved. She was quite
obviously a very little girl, to anyone who knew what to look for.

"Oh! I feel so wonderful!" Chrissie gushed. "I'm not feeling like I'm hiding
myself anymore! I'm a little nervous about being out in public like this, but
the first person who says anything negative about it is getting a piece of my

"Just ... let me know if anything bad happens," said Elaine. "Some people might
take it as a sign that you're somehow helpless or ... easy prey."

"I don't want that," Chrissie said with a frown. "But I've taken self-defense!
And I refuse to dress differently just because something might happen. How a
girl dresses isn't an invitation to do ... just anything." She was trembling a
little, but she had a brave attitude.

"Believe me," said Elaine, "anyone who tries anything with you will regret it

"But look at you!" said Chrissie. "You're looking great! I look at you and I
see a girl now!"

"Thanks!" Elaine said. "I'm trying to work on that. Trying very hard, in
fact. I've gotten a lot of support, thankfully."

"It's unbelievable," said Dr. Pelletier, "but your letter from the Center of
Creation came back. They've accepted your application and are ready to make an
appointment, as soon as approval goes through. Which is up to me."

"Whatever you think, Dr. Pelletier," said Elaine.

"It's only been five months, so that's way too soon, but you're responding well
to the hormones, and I'm not seeing any signs that you're anything other than
the case of gender dysphoria that you appeared to be at first," the
psychiatrist said. "What's more, you're clearly committing to living as female
in this society, even though others will probably see you as trans for now."

"I'm working on that," Elaine said.

"And working hard, I can tell. Next fall, when it's been a year since you
started seeing me, I'll recommend the treatment, assuming nothing unusual
happens. I've sent the Center a tentative reply. You can make a tentative
appointment for next October." Which is exactly what Elaine did.

Elaine continued going to the trans support group, and continued trying to help
the others as they helped her. Occasionally they had special events, and once
the weather got nice they had a group cookout at one of the city parks. Elaine
had never been a particularly great cook, but she'd gotten lots of lessons from
her mother over Christmas. "So ... you're grilling the barbecue sauce right
into the hamburgers?" asked Shannon, who was still going by "Tim" in her
college life, but the support group was fine with calling her by her name of

"Yep," said Elaine, "and the cheese too. I hollowed out the ground beef and
stuffed it with cheese. Now I'm basting them with sauce as they cook. Should be
nice and moist and horribly fattening and also way too delicious."

"Oh my god," said Shari, coming up from behind Elaine, "I can't wait! Those
smell so great! I made my famous potato salad. Old family recipe."

"Wow, that sounds great," said Elaine. "I love ... uh ..." She felt
strange. Something was very wrong. She saw her Center of Creation ... one of
its buildings was in flames.

She could hear Dr. Pelletier's voice saying, "Assuming nothing unusual
happens." She couldn't look like she was having some kind of seizure. Not
now. So ... she made time slow to a stop. It had happened to her numerous
times, but this time she made it happen. She felt what was going on. It had
been some kind of attack. Two of the buildings were damaged and on fire after
an explosion. A few of the shadowy pseudo-people whom she had created to work
there had been killed. So, while time was stopped, or at least moving very
slowly, she carefully made things work the way they should: fire control
officers scrambled, ambulances got the survivors medical attention, police
closed off the island and began investigating, and officials prepared a
statement for the media. Only once the details had been worked out did she
restore time to normal.

What had she been talking about? Oh, right. "... good potato salad myself," she

"Are you all right?" asked Shari. "You look very tired all of a sudden."

"I guess it's been a long day," said Elaine. "Also, I'm starving. Come on,
burgers, cook!"

Checking her phone once they'd sat down to eat, Elaine found out what had
happened. "What's that, Elaine?" asked Shannon. Elaine handed her the
phone. "Oh no!"

"What?" asked Holly.

"The 'Center of Creation,' a medical center specializing in transgender
treatment and surgery in Norway, was bombed Thursday," Shannon read. "Wow, this
just happened!" She continued to read, "The suspect in custody appears to be
Ian Barnestad, who appears to have driven a truck bomb onto the island housing
the Center and detonated it remotely. He was unable to escape afterwards when
police sealed off the island's bridge and ferry to the mainland ..."

"Hey, Ian Barnestad," said Shari, "he's one of that Ward Campion guy's
people. Barnstead was here with Campion last semester. I feel icky just knowing
he was breathing the same air."

Ward Campion was enjoying the deep penetration feeling his new male partner was
giving him, when a knock came at the bedroom door. The sound of many feet
scuffling quickly about could be heard plainly.

With another sharp knock, a stern no-nonsense voice said authoritatively,
"Campion, come out with your hands up. This is the FBI. We have a warrant for
your arrest."

Campion's very fem-looking male date scrunched up and held a cover over his
body. "OMG!" the very young man gasped in an almost feminine voice, "Why
... would they come after you?"

Campion grabbed his shorts just as the voice out the door said, "Break it in."

"I ... I ... no, I haven't done anything," Campion said. "They're --" The door
frame splintered as the door was kicked in.

"Ward Campion," said one of a number of agents, all wearing kevlar vests
labeled FBI, "you are under arrest." He advanced on Campion with handcuffs,
while his date whimpered.

Campion put his hands behind his head and lay there on the bed naked. "I'm
sorry, agents, but I have no idea what --" He was roughly interrupted as the
agent grabbed his wrists and cuffed them together, then dragged him out of
bed. "I -- I have the right to know what I'm charged with!"

"You are charged with aiding and abetting a terrorist attack," the agent
said. "Let's go."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Campion complained. "There's no way
that charge will stick!"

"That's not for me to decide," said the agent, dragging Campion out into the
hallway, still stark naked, as another agent brought at least a towel to wrap
him in. "You have the right remain silent. If you choose to waive that right,
anything you say may be used against you in court. You have the right to legal
representation. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided at no
expense to you."

"Oh, I have a lawyer," Campion said, "and you're going to let me call him, and
things won't be going well for any of you!"

"Get moving," the agent said. "Let's get you into a nice jail uniform."

The Internet news story was saying that Barnestad's only connection with the
Center of Creation was that his father, now his second mother, had been treated
there five years ago. "But ... I ... that's not ..." said Elaine aloud, reading

"What's wrong, Honey?" asked Brad, who wasn't trans but had been invited to the
cookout anyway, because he was such a stalwart volunteer at the LGBTQ Student

Elaine couldn't say what was really troubling her -- that she'd only just
created the Center a few months ago, so there was no way anyone could have been
treated there five years ago. "It all just makes no sense," she said aloud.

"It sure is senseless," Brad agreed. "I just don't get lashing out at people
who are different, because what harm are we doing? Seriously? Meanwhile, guys
like that are causing lots of harm, no question about it. Not to change the
subject, your burgers are To Die For. I'm gonna have to go on a diet for weeks,
but Totally Worth It." Elaine could hear his capital letters.

"Hehe, thanks," said Elaine, blushing a bit. "It says they're going to arrest
Campion in connection with it -- looks like he communicated with him

"Couldn't happen to a nicer guy," Shari said. "I hope they're very gentle and
don't use any police brutality whatsoever," she added in a voice dripping with

"I -- seriously, I wouldn't wish that on anyone, not even my worst enemy,"
Elaine said. "But it says that the explosion killed three people and injured
10, by the latest information." She had mixed feelings -- the "people" killed
hadn't truly been real; the shadowy figures she could wish into reality via the
song were somewhat like robots, automatons that went through the motions of
life but weren't truly self-aware, and Barnestad was going to be legally held
responsible for murdering them as if they were real people. She wasn't sure
what to think of this morally -- on one hand, he hadn't technically committed
murder at all, but on the other hand, if he'd picked a different target and
done exactly the same thing, there'd be no question about it. He'd certainly
intended to kill people, and he certainly now thought he had.

"That's the place you're trying to get an appointment with, isn't it?" asked
Shari. Elaine nodded. "Then I see why this is affecting you so strongly," she
said, and the others nodded in agreement. "But you can't do anything about it
here, now, so you might as well eat before it all gets cold. It's still not
summer yet!" Elaine tried, but she knew full well there were things she could
do about it -- she just didn't know what.

Over the next few days and weeks Elaine found out that there were a lot of
people who cared about the Center and what it did for people, as donations
started to come in from around the world to repair the damage Barnestad had
done. Elaine could have fixed it instantly, but she didn't -- not only didn't
she want to reveal the existence of her power to the world, even though no one
could have connected it to her, but she wanted their donations to mean
something. Another result of the attack was the fact that, ignored for years,
the Center was suddenly in the public eye, meaning that people were applying to
be doctors and employees there now, which meant that there would be medical
professionals observing the procedures being done there -- this complicated
Elaine's vision for the Center, as she'd imagined that everyone treated there
in the past had merely undergone change via the song.

And that was another thing. Apparently the song was able to affect the past
when it occurred as a side effect. She couldn't deliberately make it happen, or
at least she couldn't yet, at her current level of mastery. But she'd created
the Center as a well-established institution, which of course meant that it had
been around for years. And that meant that there could be many people around
the world who'd been treated there.

Elaine would just have to continue playing it by ear -- it was hard to plan
something that no human being had ever done before, or even imagined doing. She
was altering the shape of reality itself and trying to do so covertly.

Chrissie awakened to a loving pat on her diapered behind. She had gotten really
lucky, and her roommate, Liz Lambert, was someone who had always wanted a
living babydoll type person to care for. Neither young woman had expected to
discover what she was looking for in her roommate.

Chrissie's roommate rolled her over gently and cooed softly, "Good morning,
Babygirl. Auntie hopes you had the sweetest of dreams," as she unsnapped
Chrissie's footie jammies and undid the thick diaper she had on. "Just relax,
I'll have Baby all clean and comfy in a jiffy."

With that, Liz pulled open the unsnapped front of Chrissie's footie and blew a
very large raspberry. Chrissie's eyes got large with surprise as she screeched
with joyful pleasure. She kicked and squirmed as any baby would under those

Liz wiggled Chrissie's feet free from the jammies and slid her plastic panties
down and off, then undid the large disposable diaper. "And they didn't even
send out a severe thunderstorm warning for your diaper," she joked. She cleaned
Chrissie up with baby wipes and put a new, slightly thinner diaper on her
before snapping her jammes back up. "There ... can't leave you out of a diaper
for long! So ... what does Baby want to do for breakfast?"

"Huh? Bweffist?" asked Chrissie, looking confused.

"Oh, that's right," giggled Liz, "babies don't know very many words. Well, I'll
just pick. I think we should go to the cafeteria, since they're still open and
have pancakes. You'll have to be a little bit grownup and not wash your face
with them, but I know you like pancakes!"

"Pan ... cakes ..." Chrissie said hungrily. "OK Auntie Lizzie, I can be a big
girl for pancakes! Lemme get my stuff so I can take a shower."

"Wait, wait," said Liz, "I know I just got that diaper on you, but remember,
you're not allowed to take it off yourself anymore. It's the rules."

"Oh ..." said Chrissie, remembering. "That's right. Sowwy, Auntie."

Elaine was getting up very early in the morning lately. She was making sure her
Center was doing things right, and morning dawned very early in Norway. But she
also had a lot of classes and homework to juggle. What was more, she had her
appointment with Dr. Pelletier today. She would have to change form a bit in
order to avoid suspicion.

"Hi, Elaine," said the psychiatrist as she came into the office and sat
down. "What a beautiful day it is, isn't it?"

"Oh, definitely -- it looks like spring has finally decided to stay! So many
trees and flowers blooming -- it's just wonderful!"

"Well, your blood tests have come back, and it looks like your hormone levels
are a bit high but nothing to worry about; we'll just adjust your dosage
slightly." Elaine sighed with relief. She had to basically fake her blood
hormone levels when she went in for those tests, considering the pills had no
effect on her. She wasn't sure, but one of these days she'd have to confirm her
suspicions that her blood wasn't normal blood any longer. It was quite possible
that due to her prolonged exposure to the song, she might not bleed.

"I have an appointment at the Center for October 22," she said.

"That's wonderful!" said Dr. Pelletier. "I hope the attack that happened not
too long ago didn't, you know, discourage anyone there from continuing with
their mission."

"It doesn't seem that it did," said Elaine. "They have a new director of
operations who's determined to help as many people as possible. She's making it
more efficient, or so I hear."

"Are you excited?"

"How could I not be?" Elaine replied. "I mean, also a bit apprehensive -- it's
taking a step that there's no coming back from. Am I doing the right thing? Am
I going to regret it later? But ... I ask myself the same questions about
signing up for classes. If I take chemistry now, what if I can't get into orgo
next semester because they only have a few sections of it in the fall ... you

Dr. Pelletier laughed. "I remember all too well. But your dysphoria is a fact
-- as long as you feel that you're not at home in a male body, then this is the
right thing for you. I mean, they can't make your body truly female; nobody can
do that. Well, not yet. Maybe not ever. But the Center is one of the best I've
ever heard of. They seem to really pride themselves on making their patients
look the very best they can. Though you're already looking great; don't worry
about that!"

Elaine felt a tingle of joy when she heard this. Dr. Pelletier always knew what
to say. She did have a certain amount of apprehension about her appearance --
the times when she couldn't transform herself fully were times when she wasn't
sure how others saw her. But then there were the other times, such as her
athletics class. None of the other girls even suspected that Elaine was
trans. Of course, the coach knew, but then again the coach seemed to take an
interest in her anyway and was always buzzing around giving a bit extra here
and there.

The semester passed, and Elaine focused primarily on her courses. Her gender
progress was more or less mapped out. Of course, she gave as much support as
she reasonably could to her fellow trans people, from the support group and
online. Then there was Ward Campion -- he was out on bail, and it looked like
his charges would be minor compared to his friend Barnestad's. But he'd had to
cancel a lot of his speaking engagements, because the court had ordered him not
to leave the city he was in until the trial. He'd still been speaking at
colleges and universities in that city, though, still spreading his hateful and
hypocritical anti-trans message.

Meanwhile there was a famous feminist figure named Megan Blackwall who had been
crusading to pass laws keeping trans women out of women's restrooms, oddly
allying herself with her former right-wing enemies on this one issue. She
called it "child abuse" when parents allowed their trans children to express
their genders and especially when they gave their kids medicines that delayed
puberty to give them time to be certain what they wanted to do. Somehow her
focus was entirely on the trans women and girls; trans men and trans boys she
completely ignored.

"How can she even call herself a feminist?" Elaine asked at a support group

Shari answered, "Same way all those warmongering right-wing politicians can
call themselves 'pro-life.' She thinks that if she says it enough, people will
believe it. And guess what, it's working."

"I'm glad there are parents who are believing their kids when they come out as
trans and supporting them," said Holly. "I wish mine had. I wish they would
now. They call me by the wrong name whenever they see me, call me, send me
letters. They don't get it, no matter how many times I tell them. Every time
it's like the first time they've ever heard me say it."

"Some kind of ... selective dementia?" asked Elaine.

"They probably think you're going through a phase," said Shari. "They just
overlook it and forget about it, until next time, when they do it again."

"They probably think you're 'back to normal' whenever they don't see you," said
Shannon, making finger quotes.

"Don't sweat it," said Shari. "Sooner or later, they'll come around. Or they
won't. Does it change who you are? No. Meanwhile, your life goes on, you have
support, and you make more friends as the real you. I'm sure it hurts, but
they'll eventually see that they have to make a choice about whether they want
to be part of your life or not."

"I ... miss them," said Holly. "I miss them already. And I miss my little
sister. She's fine with me being, you know, me, but she never comes with them
to see me here. I think they're deliberately not bringing her."

Elaine sighed. "I wish ... I wish I could fix everything, Holly. I wish you
could be happy and everyone could get along."

"I wish that were the world we lived in," said Shari.

The semester ended, and Elaine did very well on her finals. She was still only
a college freshman, but she was already one of the most promising pre-med
students in the program. She sent out a lot of applications for summer
internships and assistantships and ended up being a student assistant at the
local hospital back in White Hills for the summer. She lived at home, and her
parents were very happy to see her so often. But summers end, of course, and
soon it was back to school for the fall.

Elaine lived in an apartment that year with two roommates -- Holly and Shannon,
as it turned out, which made Elaine very happy. No roommate who didn't
understand and always felt uncomfortable around her, meaning she felt the
same. Once she got her things moved in and had taken a shower to clean up, she
stood in front of her mirror and looked herself over. The "hormones" had been
having a clear effect. Her hips had widened, and her waist had narrowed. She
turned the other direction and saw that her bottom had become a really nice
round one. Elaine looked at her face, turning slightly and looking at the
reflection from the corner of her eyes. It would be very difficult for someone
who was first meeting her to realize she wasn't female. And of course she
wasn't even in her fully-female form.

Elaine got dressed and walked to the sofa, where Shannon had left the
mail. There was a large manila envelope with her name on it. Elaine picked it
up and opened it. Within was a passport, round trip airline tickets to Norway,
and several tickets for transportation to the Center from the airport.

In an enclosed letter, the Center director and the surgeon who did the
assignments welcomed Elaine and told her that she was expected at the center on
October 22. The director more than indicated how pleased he was Elaine was
coming to them, and she would be in the very best hands there were. Her
excitement grew. This was really going to happen. Of course, the song was going
to do the work, with only some assistance from doctors, but it meant that soon
-- very soon -- she wouldn't have to keep changing form for different
situations. She could stay herself permanently.

As the date approached, Elaine really buckled down and got her assignments done
ahead of time. She would have to miss classes for several days before the
appointment to travel there, and for several days afterward to recover and
travel back. Some of her work she'd be able to do online or via the mail, but
she was trying to minimize that. Things got lost in the mail, and some
professors didn't accept assignments over the net.

"Elaine!" said Shari at the support group meeting, "I understand you're going
to have to miss a few sessions, and when we next see you you'll be a changed
woman! I think this calls for a celebration." Taking a bottle out of her
backpack, she said, "Now, I'm not allowed to bring alcohol to these meetings,
so we'll just have to pretend, but enjoy the sparkling grape juice. Oh, and I
ordered pizza."

"You guys!" said Elaine, tears in her eyes.

"I'm happy you're able to do this," Shari said. "I can't afford it. I'm saving
every penny I've got."

"I want to help," Elaine said. "You have no idea how much I want to. To help
you all. And I will."

"You just keep following that dream," said Shari. "You'll get there. And then
-- you can. But right now, just get yourself sorted out, come back, and be the
best you you can be."

Elaine had never really appreciated how far away from everything the Center
was. Of course, she'd put it on an island out in the middle of nowhere, far
away from anywhere else, which meant that after she got off the plane, she had
to take a train, then a bus, then a cab. As they took the narrow bridge across
the fjord to the island, the buildings of the Center came into view, with their
futuristic architecture amid the fog and mist. It was just as she'd imagined
it. Of course, she could have instantly transported herself here. It would have
saved so much time and effort. But it would have looked odd in the records to
anyone who looked it up later, and she suspected someone would be doing
so. What she wanted to do, helping trans people via medical and other means,
meant that she would have enemies. Someone had already set off a bomb at her
creation. She had to be careful.

The people of the Center were so very welcoming, just as she'd envisioned, but
there was something else. She could feel the song very strongly here. It
vibrated in her very heart and soul. It sang of warmth and acceptance. She
almost cried, thinking that something she'd dreamed into existence was capable
of shining that kind of light into people's hearts. What kind of person would
want to blow it up?

A person who was convinced they'd never get that kind of acceptance. A person
who'd given up. Not necessarily a trans person, but a person who felt left out
of life and felt like they'd never be allowed to come in from the cold. Their
chance was gone, they felt, so the only way they could go on was to try to deny
it to others.

"What's wrong?" asked one of the staff in accented English. "This is a place to
be happy."

"Nothing," she said. "Nothing is wrong. I'm going to be happy, and I'm going to
make others happy too." She resolved not to think about Barnestad anymore while
she was here. It was time to focus on herself.

"Now, we all used to have to be artists," said one of the doctors, "but
nowadays we can do this with computers. Judging from your skeletal measurements
and projecting hormone levels, we think you'll look more or less like this a
few years after your surgery here." The computer monitor showed an image of a
future Elaine, a confident woman, with long, dark hair and a solid but
curvaceous figure.

"That's the fun part," he said, "but then there's the reality, and that's the
fact that after surgery there's going to be a lot of pain initially, and in
some really intimate parts of your body at that." Elaine let this all
slide. For her there wouldn't be surgery -- in fact, she suspected that there
had never truly been surgery here; it had all been the song, with perhaps an
abbreviated time of recovery pain for believability. Of course, once real
doctors started to work here, they would probably have to do things their way,
but even so, the song could make sure the patients healed very quickly, and the
other staff could simply claim it was the therapeutic Nordic air or the hot
springs or something. Elaine made sure that the one real doctor who was
currently on staff wouldn't be assigned to her case.

The time finally came -- she was dressed in a surgical gown and lay down on a
gurney; they wheeled her to the operating theater. There was an
anesthesiologist who put his mask over her face and told her to take deep
breaths and count backwards from 10, but the gas was having no effect on her
because she didn't want it to. The song just sang to her, and she sang back and
suggested to the universe that time would not pass for the doctors in this
room, who would have memories of conducting a routine and flawless procedure
and would behave as if she were recovering from surgery afterward, to the
extent of putting dressings and bandages on incisions that they saw but she
didn't even have.

And Elaine let the song transform her as it had been desperate to. This was the
form she had been living in for months already, except that she'd had to keep
changing back to fool her psychiatrist or classmates or family or even the
support group. They saw her too frequently to accept a sudden and drastic
change. But now ...

Elaine rounded out her facial features, smoothed out her Adam's apple,
transformed her sex organs, sculpted her curves, and changed her very DNA. This
was who she would be from now on, for the rest of her life, which might be a
very long time indeed. She even made herself slightly shorter again. And she
aligned her teeth -- no need for orthodontia when one could shift one's own
shape. She saw, felt, and even heard what she looked like and how she fit into
the rest of the world. And when it was done -- she felt tired. She allowed the
surgeons to move again and actually fell asleep.

When she woke up, she was in a hospital bed in the recovery ward. She looked
around. Beautiful, colorful works of art decorated the walls, and positive
music played quietly in the background.

"Oh -- you're awake!" said a nurse. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel ... whole," she said. "Real. I feel like I've never felt before. How
are you? And who did all this artwork?"

"It's all art that was done by former patients," said the nurse. "Some of them
have been artists, and they wanted to express how they felt after their time
here, so they donated these to the Center."

Elaine's eyes filled with tears again. Nobody could know that she'd created
this entire place, but something she'd done had inspired artists to create
paintings. This place already had a life of its own. And she would spread
it. She would make it available to anyone who needed it.

"Oh, and my name's Katerina," said the nurse. "Just let me know if you need
anything. Are you hungry? I could bring you something -- though it'll have to
be liquid because of your throat surgery." Elaine lightly touched the dressings
on her neck. "We'll see how you feel in a few days."

She felt fine, but again, she had to make it look realistic for the record. "I
really wouldn't mind something -- do you have something cold?"

"Well, it is Norway," said Katerina with a giggle. "I'll see if I can bring you
a flavored ice or perhaps a milkshake?"

"Either would be fine, thank you so much!" said Elaine.

"I'll be right back -- don't you try to get out of bed, now!" Katerina said
before hurrying away.

Elaine closed her eyes. Not sleepy anymore, she reached out with the song and
felt the vibrations of the world. Right here, there was positivity and light
and harmony, but she could feel the areas of the planet where there was discord
and cacophony -- even so, under those there were still the harmonies of life
and nature. She could reach out and soothe the world, especially bolstered by a
place like this -- but she knew the disharmony would just return. Artificial
solutions wouldn't last. Change had to come naturally. But there were so many
who were singing so strongly that there was a chance. A good chance.

Campion was out of jail for the time being. He was furious with some of his
followers at how they were turning away from him. His boyfriend was showing
large signs of wanting to come out as trans. Campion fumed slightly within his
mind as he looked the very pretty and effeminate young man over.

He was dressed in a tight pair of hip hugger jeans and a cute pullover
top. Shuggie, as he wanted to be called, looked more like a girl now than a
year ago when Campion had first started sleeping with him.

Shuggie said in his cutesy feminine voice, "An' another thingy. Why comes you,
of all people, got it down on trans? You an' me been sleeping together for a
year now ..." He paused to run his hands down his shapely curves. "... an' you
never acted like you had an issue with me."

Campion snapped, "I'm still obviously a man. I might be gay, but I still look
like a man."

Shuggie said with heat in his voice, "I don't. I look like a girl. And you
wanna know somethin? I'm making an appointment to have reassignment surgery. So
there." He stuck out his tongue, grabbed his purse, and left Campion's office
slamming the door forcefully.

"I don't need him," Campion said to the empty room. "I don't need
anybody. There are still millions of people who will come see me speak. I
inspire them. And someday they'll elect me."

Campion's phone rang, and he answered. He listened. "Thanks for telling me," he
said. "Hey, if you can, let me know if he makes any appointments anywhere?

"You look about the same to me," said Elaine's dad, picking her up at the
airport. "On the outside anyway. But I can tell. You feel different. You look
like you've got some kind of new energy or something. Like you're about to
burst out singing."

"I'm not gonna burst out singing," said Elaine with a laugh. "But thanks, Dad."
They both got into the car after putting her luggage away. "I just ... I know
lots of people who get no support from their family -- or outright resistance,
even condemnation. You're ... you're just the best. You have no idea how much
your support means to me."

"You're our child, whatever gender you are, and we love you," he said. "I just
wish I was driving you home to see your mother instead of back to school."

"The holidays aren't far away," said Elaine.

The first person to see her once she got back to her apartment was Shannon, who
opened the door for her as Elaine fumbled with her keys. "Elaine!" Shannon
said. "Oh Emm Gee! You're back! And ... what did you do, bathe in the magic
Norway hot springs of magicness? You look amazing, especially for someone who
just got off a plane!"

"Well, she didn't just get off a plane," said her dad, "she just rode in a car
for an hour and a half after getting off a plane." They brought in Elaine's

"I hope Holly gets home soon; she'll be as knocked flat as I was."

"What's the deal?" asked Elaine. "I don't think I look different."

"You look ... OK, you look the same," said Shannon. "It's more how you
act. There's ... some kind of confidence or energy."

"If I said I felt more like myself than I ever have before in my life, I
wouldn't be lying," Elaine said. "It's something I want for you, too, and all
my friends, and anyone who doesn't feel at home in his or her, or their, body."

"I'm ... not sure," said Shannon.

Elaine replied, "I know, and I know that your family has a lot to do with
it. But once you are sure ... you have support. Guaranteed. And maybe I can
help you out. I told the doctors at the Center. When I get my M.D. I want to
open up a branch of the Center somewhere here. The first branch in North

"You're ... an inspiration," Shannon said.

Holly was indeed gobsmacked by the new Elaine, and there followed another
conversation, this one tearful, where Elaine promised her undying support for
her friends.

Elaine didn't have to be constantly shifting form between female and male
anymore, which was a blessing, but it had an unintended consequence that she
should have anticipated. She got home after a long day of classes, went into
the bathroom, and found blood in her underwear.

"What? I ... can't ... oh wait ... I can," she said to herself in the
bathroom. Her sexual organs were female. She hadn't had surgery; she'd changed
her shape using the song and was female through and through, which meant that
now that she'd been in female form constantly for a few weeks, her period had
become an issue. Shifting back and forth as she'd been doing before her visit
to the Center had been resetting her clock once or more every day. No shifting
meant that things were taking their natural course.

"Can't have this happening or people will know something's up," she muttered to
herself. "OK, then." She listened to the song and found a way to suggest to it
that she wasn't going to be ovulating or menstruating. And while she was at it,
she un-ruined her panties. She'd still have to be very careful -- if she went
in for an MRI or X-ray, doctors might see her female organs and be very

The days and weeks passed. Elaine continued her stellar performance in her
classes and kept applying for internships and other opportunities. Shari, who
was a graduate student, announced that she'd saved enough money to get her
"bottom surgery," and the fact that she'd gotten a deep discount from the
Center had made it possible years earlier than she'd hoped. Holly's
relationship with her family was deteriorating, and she stopped going home for
holidays and summers, taking jobs locally to help pay for school since she
refused to accept her parents' help. Shannon finally came out fully as trans to
everyone and found it much less of a shock than she'd originally thought it
would be. Her family was bewildered but at least said they'd try to go forward
together, which was a lot better than what she'd thought they'd do.

Chrissie toddled into the den of the large apartment she and Liz shared. A
large, fuzzy snuggle worm suddenly catches chrissie's eye. What ever adult
thing she had been thinking was now overshadowed by a huge desire to ... play
wifs that thingy.

She quickly toddled a few steps before losing her balance and plopping on her
thickly diapered hinny. Chrissie sat for a few seconds with an adorably wide
eyed expression before Liz cam in.

Liz rushed over as she cooed softly, "Aww, didum faww dawn go boom?"

Chrissie looked up at Liz, nodded her head and poked out her bottom lip

Liz's heart melted and she stooped over and lifts Chrissie to her feet and
patted her hinney lovingly, "There we go, baby." she cooed lovingly, "let aunty
help you over."

Liz took Chrissie by the hand and led her over to the large snuggle
toy. Chrissie immediately plopped on her bottom and snuggled with it.

It had been getting harder and harder for Chrissie to be a big adult college
student and go to classes, but Liz was making sure she did it, so she could
graduate and get her degree. Liz wanted to make sure Chrissie had a good
future. Of course, at home, Chrissie was almost always a baby. She hardly ever
spoke adult words and sucked her thumb or pacifier constantly as she played
with baby toys or watched cartoons. And she wore her diapers whether she was in
adult mode or baby mode, because she had accidents either way, and they seemed
only to be getting more frequent. Liz found it adorable and would never leave
Chrissie's side, but she made sure Chrissie got her homework done. As for
Chrissie, she was in heaven and wanted to be Liz's baby girl forever and
ever. She was brilliant, but currently her emotional drive was to fully explore
her baby side, and she currently had no use for adult words or potty
training. She focused on her classes because Liz wanted her to, and that was
enough reason for her, but Liz worried that Chrissie's potential was going to
end up wasted.

"I guess baby Chrissie likes her new friend, huh?" Liz asked with a
smile. Chrissie just closed her eyes, nodded her head, and sucked her
thumb. Liz patted her diapered bottom and realized that Chrissie had wet
herself. But these diapers were quite good and kept her dry for a long time, so
she'd let Chrissie have her moment for a while. Chrissie just squirmed a bit at
being patted and sighed happily.

"I don't know why you don't want to lead the group, Elaine," said Shannon, who
had led the trans women support group for their entire senior year. Shari had
graduated two years ago and had a job working for a marketing company. Others
had taken over the group in her place, and there were more members than ever.

"I just ... I wouldn't have the time to do it justice," said Elaine. "I've just
got way too much going on with all my applications and exams." She'd been
accepted at several different medical schools including a very prestigious one
in Europe. Her grades and testimonials from every internship she'd done were
glowing with praise for this promising young graduate-to-be.

"I guess that's true," Shannon said, "but still, I'm glad you're with
us. You're an inspiration. I mean, looking at you and listenin to you, there's
no one who would guess that you weren't trans."

"Me? Look at yourself," Elaine said. "You've come a long way." Shannon had
finally come out to her friends and family. She'd lost a few friends but gained
others, and although there were some members of her family who weren't
currently speaking to her, there were others who were. What's more, she'd
somehow managed to get a deep discount at the Center of Creation; all she'd had
to do was pay for that and her transportation there and back. That had happened
over the summer after her junior year, and she'd spent her entire senior year
as the young woman she'd always felt she should be. Her grades had improved,
her outlook on life was soaring, and her depression that she sometimes felt was
a thing of the past.

"I'm ... just happy that we can be here for all the ones who are coming after
us," Shannon said, blushing slightly. "Pay it forward, you know?"

"I know," said Elaine, "and I intend to."

Elaine, Shannon, Holly, Chrissie, Liz, and many others graduated that year and
moved on to new phases in their lives. For Elaine it meant traveling to Europe
-- she knew that she wouldn't be seeing her parents often. True, the song meant
she could see them whenever she wanted, but they didn't know about that, and
she didn't want to completely shake their sense of the nature of reality. What
Elaine knew challenged everything about physics and philosophy.

One night Elaine had looked up at the night sky and wondered if there were any
planets around the star she was looking at. The song told her that there were,
and it told her just what they were all like, including one that she could walk
on if only she were protected from the heat, radiation, and vacuum. She wished
that could be so, and suddenly she found herself on another planet. She was
surrounded by some kind of energy bubble that moved with her, but she was
walking on a lava planet under a huge close-up sun. It was astounding. How far
was she from home? The song told her: over 400 light years, as the human mind
understood distance. She was suddenly filled with an intense desire to be home,
and just as suddenly she found herself back in her room, in her parents'
house. She took a deep breath. Fortunately her parents seemed to be out at the
moment. She closed her eyes and opened them again, and she was back in her
apartment, the one she was renting for the summer as she did another internship
at yet another hospital. She hoped no one had seen her vanish from the park,
but it was night, so it was unlikely.

"Well, that was a thing that happened," she said to herself. "Saved myself a
walk home, but wow ... traveled home by way of planet Kepler-78b." The universe
was a lot smaller for her after that, but a lot bigger at the same time. All
the horrible people of Earth doing all their horrible things to each other
suddenly seemed so ridiculous. They had no idea how pointless their feeble
gestures of self-aggrandizement were. The people who did good for others seemed
more heroic now -- they were struggling against the vastness of all there was,
but they still tried to a good deed for their fellow human beings. And the song
sang to her about the changes she could make to Earth if she only chose to. But
once again she knew that anything drastic wouldn't last and that real change
had to come from within. All she could do was help a few people here and there.

Elaine awoke one bright and sunny morning to the knock on her door. She didn't
think about the fact she was in just her panties and a cute top and she
sleepily walked to the door and opened it. The man standing at the door's eyes
grew large. What he saw was a very pretty young woman in her undies.

He said with a real surprise in his voice, "Is this how you plan on attending
the meeting scheduled for ..." He looked down at his watch. "... two hours from
now? The committee has gathered to show their support for the plans you
submitted. They all feel it's a wonderful idea to build a North American branch
of the Center."

Elaine's mind came back to awake instantly. She looked down at herself. All she
had on were a white cotton pair of bikini panties and a floral flutter top. Her
hair was all around her face and shoulders in a very cute wild and daring sort
of way.

Elaine squeaked as she snatched the cover off the sofa and wrapped herself in
it. She said in a really embarrassed tone, "I'm so sorry. I was up late last
night studying for the exit exams. I'm going to actually complete my internship
finally and can start thinking about a practice."

The man lifted his briefcase and patted it, "That's why I'm here. The committee
has a few things they want to offer you and to ... fund for you if you decide
to accept their offers."

"Offers? Oh my G ... um, please come in! Have a seat! Please allow me to get
ready!" Elaine scrambled as the man chuckled a bit and let himself in, closing
the door and sitting down on her couch. In a bathrobe, Elaine offered him some
tea. "I've got cream and sugar -- sorry, I don't have any coffee ..."

"I'm just fine, but thank you. I'll let you get ready." He looked at his
smartphone, checking his email.

"Thank you! I'll just be about 15 minutes." She hurriedly leaped into the
shower, where she took a deep breath and relaxed. She had other
resources. Sometimes she'd used them to save people's lives, but now she used
them to make herself presentable quickly.

This man was clearly an employee of the Center, but he was a real person. She
could make sure that the Center made the right decision, but she still wanted
it to be as honest and real as she could make it, which meant that she had to
be dressed and ready ... and on time. So after cleaning up in the shower, she
got out, turned on the hair dryer for exactly one minute, and stepped out of
the bathroom ... suddenly fully dressed, makeup and hair done, everything in

The man turned to see her and looked amazed. "That was fast ... how long was I
looking at email?" He looked at his phone. "No, that really was very fast."

"You learn a few tricks about getting ready quickly, interning at a hospital,"
she said. "Now, let me just gather my materials ..." She quickly found the
folders of information she'd put together, in both paper and electronic form,
and put them all into her own briefcase. "Ready to go!"

"Excellent," said the man. "I can drive us, if you like. The meeting's at the
Milton Hotel, in their conference suite."

"I'm fine with that," Elaine said.

"After you, then, Dr. Seven Stars."

"No, after you, Mr. ..."

"Andrew Norville," the man said.

"Mr. Norville, then," said Elaine, opening her door. "And I'm not Dr. Seven
Stars just yet -- very soon it'll be official, though."

The drive to the hotel was uneventful. On arrival, several bellhops seemed to
compete over who could do what the fastest and most efficiently. Elaine was
escorted to the front desk where Andrew told the person at the desk who they
were and that they were needing to attend the staff meeting going on in the
conference suite.

The person behind the counter smiled as he said in a very effeminate voice,
"Oh, my. You must be the representatives from that Creation place. I would so
love to get to talk with one of you." He handed Elaine a map that clearly
showed the way and an electronic key card, "Jerry, come show this young woman
and this young man the way to the Executive Conference Suite. Make sure all the
refreshments and food are served promptly as well."

Jerry doffed his hat in salute as he indicated the direction with his hand, "If
you fine people would follow me, the elevator is just down this corridor."

Elaine and Andrew followed Jerry and soon found themselves in the conference
room, a large chamber with a long meeting table that had curtained windows all
along one side and a big projection screen at the end. Seated at the table were
many well-dressed men and women who smiled and stood up as Elaine walked
in. Everyone seemed to want to shake her hand. She smiled and greeted everyone,
handshaking and networking.

Now, she could tell that some of them weren't real; they were shadow people she
herself had created via the song of the universe to run the Center. But now the
real live staff had grown to nearly equal the artificial staff; the Center had
been growing and replacing the shadow staff as they "retired" to maintain
appearances. Surgery was performed at the Center by real surgeons more often
than not nowadays, but the song helped by guiding the surgeons' hands, reducing
pain, preventing infection, and speeding the healing process afterward. Elaine
knew that the real doctors were understandably amazed at their patients' speed
of recovery. Even those who were at the Center for counseling rather than
surgery found themselves accepting their feelings more easily than anywhere
else in the world and left feeling better about who they were -- and the real
therapists on staff were almost at a loss to explain why their results were so
overwhelmingly positive.

Elaine gave her presentation, showing her market analysis and business model to
prove that a branch of the Center of Creation could be profitable, specifically
a North American branch. "In conclusion," she finished up, "I just want to say
that I myself have been a patient at the Center of Creation, and it has been my
lifelong dream to help other transgender individuals as the Center helped
me. Today, I think that goal may actually be achievable. I hope you will
consider my proposal. Thank you."

There was enthusiastic applause -- from both the shadow people and the real
ones. Of course, the shadow people who had done the hiring in the beginning
wouldn't have brought in anyone who was skeptical about gender dysphoria or
trans issues. And she had put forward a compelling case for the profitability
of such a venture -- after all, the only people who would stand to lose money
were the airlines, trains and buses who carried patients to the Center in
Norway -- and they wouldn't lose much, since patients would still be coming in
from other parts of the world besides North America.

The members of the Center's board of directors said they'd consider it at their
next meeting. "However," said one of them named Dr. Karina Norberg, "I don't
want to get your hopes up too high, but I'm feeling very positive about this
idea. Our lawyers would have to figure out how to make it work, but I'm sure
they can do it."

Dr. Donald Rydstrom nodded and said, "And that is the only obstacle I can think
of -- I think that unless there is some kind of insurmountable legal barrier,
there will be a Center in North America soon."

Shaking their hands again, Elaine said, "Thank you! I just hope that the
lawyers will find a way to work things out -- thank you! Here's my card in case
you don't have it already. Thank you -- that's very kind!" And she knew that
she was expected to leave the room for now so they could discuss what they'd
just heard.

Andrew left the room with her. "I think that went very well," he said. "I'm
just a paralegal, so I can't tell you whether the lawyers will have any
problems with it or not -- we'll have to see. But the important thing is that
it sounds like they want to try to make it work, and often that's what it
takes, the drive to solve the problems. There are legal barriers to a lot of
endeavors, and the ones I've seen surmounted are frankly the ones where they
didn't give up too early."

"I hope they don't give up on me!" Elaine said.

"Oh, I think you're fine," said Andrew.

Now, Elaine knew she could have manipulated the universe with the song to
simply cause the new branch of the Center to happen, but this was like changing
the nature of humanity -- if it didn't happen the natural, usual way, it
wouldn't last; it would disappear as soon as Elaine turned her attention from
it -- that wouldn't happen for decades, of course, but she wanted to get
something started and leave an opening for herself to pursue other things

Sitting alone in his room, Ward Campion grinned darkly. The case the FBI had on
him had completely fallen apart. It wasn't illegal to say that someplace should
be firebombed or talk about blowing something up, and nothing he had said in
any of his texts or emails to Barnestad had sounded like an order or a
directive to carry out the bombing. He'd gotten off scott free.

What was more, his following was as strong as ever -- his hate-filled internet
videos pulled in millions of views, ultra-right-wing fans flocked to his
speeches, and his friends were urging him to run for public office. He was
considering it.

Turning in his chair to pick up his phone, his eyes glanced across his laptop
screen, which was showing the latest news headlines, tailored for him by an
online service. That was when he noticed the article: "Brilliant Surgeon to
Open First North American Branch of Famous European Transgender Clinic." He
clicked on the article and began reading.

"It ... it's that Stars person," he was saying on the phone just moments
later. "He's still calling himself a she but ... it's not possible, I can't
find any male pictures of him anywhere; it's like he was never photographed
before he was a sophomore in college, even though I'm sure we had photos of
him, but now it's like those don't exist anymore. But anyway, did you see this?
Yeah, it's a branch of that place Barnestad tried to blow up. And it's north of
the border, but it's still closer to home than I like."

"Yeah, I know there are lots of those sex reassignment surgery clinics, but
this one, and that ... person ... if only we could do something about it," he
said. "Maybe we can find a way to keep it from being built."

"Hi Liz," said Elaine, "is she home?"

"Oh, she's home," Liz said at the door, "but she's awfully little. You know how
it is -- spends all day at the lab, then comes home and turns into Baby
Chrissie. Some people veg out in front of the TV -- she gets put right into her
playpen and plays with blocks and plushies. It's no different except for the
diaper changes."

"Oh ... well do you think I can talk to her?"

"Sure, though all you're likely to get out of her is chatter about her new soft
blocks," Liz said with a grin. "It's so adorable! But I have to make us
dinner. Good thing I love cooking, but I can't help translate."

"It's fine," Elaine said with a smile. "I ... well there are just things I can
talk with her about that I can't really talk to anyone else about."

"OK, then, I'll be in the kitchen."

Elaine found her way to the living room, where a larger-than-normal
custom-built playpen was set up, and inside, playing on its soft inner floor,
was Chrissie. She was dressed in a white butterfly-sleeved onesie over thick,
obvious diapers with pink booties on her feet, and she was sucking vigorously
on a yellow and white pacifier while she played happily with a set of bright
pastel-colored soft blocks that made rattling noises when she moved them
around. Each time she heard the noise she gasped in surprise as if it were the
first time she'd heard it, even though she did it over and over again. Elaine
was fascinated. This play was clearly something Chrissie needed deeply.

"Hi Chrissie!" Elaine said quietly and happily, kneeling down outside the
playpen's netting side.

Chrissie looked up and gasped. "Awaine!" she said. She reached out her arms in
an attempt at a hug, apparently not realizing that the netting wall of the
playpen was in the way -- or choosing to behave as if she didn't realize it, at

"Awww," Elaine said with a smile. "I wish I could hug you -- oh wait." Suddenly
the two of them were both inside an enormous playpen that stretched hundreds of
feet in every direction and contained all of Chrissie's toys and more. "We can
hug like this." She happily hugged her college friend.

"You come see baby!" Chrissie said. "Me happy! An' lookit bwocks! They sof an'
they make funny sound!" She picked one up and shook it, fascinated by the

"Those are awesome!" said Elaine. She picked one up and shook it too. Chrissie
gasped at that as if it was the first one she'd ever seen.

"Oh! How the Center thingie doin'?" Chrissie asked. "You can find a way to help
me an' Lizzie?"

"Well, that's kind of why I came to talk to you," Elaine said. "You're one of
the only people I can really talk to. Because you know the secret."

"Yeah," said Chrissie, nodding. "But me never tell. Never tell nobody. Not even

"Good girl," said Elaine. "I know that I could just want it to happen, and the
Center could just be there, fully formed. But I also know that there are people
who hate it and would wonder why they didn't remember it being built. So
... I'm trying to get it built the regular way. But it seems like wherever I
go, somebody files some kind of lawsuit to keep it from happening."

"Meanie poopy heads," said Chrissie, which made Elaine giggle.

"Yeah, but they're all super-right-wing nutjobs that follow Ward Campion and
others like him," said Elaine. "I wouldn't be surprised if he was even
directing all of this. It kind of ... feels like he is."

"Ooo," Chrissie remarked, "when you getsa feelins ... gotsa mean somefin'."

"Well ... that is true, usually that means the song is telling me something,"
Elaine agreed.

"What it tell you to do?" asked Chrissie.

"You know ... I hadn't really asked," Elaine admitted. "I wonder if ... wait
... that's a perfect idea."

"Did it work?" Chrissie asked.

"I think it did!" Elaine said, somewhat surprised. "It said ... build it on
friendly ground."

"Bettern not friendly," Chrissie said with an emphatic nod.

"It certainly is," said Elaine with a giggle. "Thank you, Chrissie, and I'll
come visit again soon!" She hugged Chrissie, and they were back in the living

"Your Honor, might I ask why my case has been summarily thrown out?" the
attorney asked. "I represent a group of county residents who are concerned
about the effect that the institute's presence will have on their property
values and community standards."

"The institute in question is being constructed on private property, already
purchased by them, that lies outside the incorporated city limits of any
community," said the judge. "I also point out that in charge of the
construction is Dr. Elaine Seven Stars, who was born in this county and knows
more about this community's standards than do you or anyone you represent. As
the Center's attorneys have pointed out, none of you have lived in the area for
longer than two months, and you yourself have never lived here."

"But --" the attorney tried to interject.

"Your suit is clearly personal or political in nature," said the judge, "and I
don't care which, but this court has no time for frivolous suits." He banged
his gavel. "Next case."

"But, Your Honor --"

"Next case," the judge repeated, "and if you do not clear my courtroom, I will
have no choice but to find you in contempt. Officers, if he does not leave, he
is to be removed." The court officers turned toward the attorney, who said
nothing else but picked up his briefcase and left the courtroom.

He passed by Elaine in the hallway outside. "You!" he said to her. "Don't think
this is over. I'm going to appeal."

"That's your right," she said, "if that's something you feel you must do."

"Well, I do!" he said. "You -- you're a crime against God and nature!"

"What would you say if I told you that I'm closer to nature than anyone else
you're likely to meet?" asked Elaine.

"I'd say you're insane," he said.

"I see," Elaine said sadly. "Well, good day, then, Counselor."

"Good day," he said, turning to walk away. And Elaine, in that moment, could
tell very clearly that Ward Campion had sent this man here. She felt Campion's
signature discord and strain in this attorney's part of the song. He had
clearly had a great influence on his life, but many other factors had led him
here as well. It made her sad. She could quiet his inner turmoil, but it would
only begin anew unless he truly made a change, a change that had to come from

The months went by, and Elaine was glad she'd chosen to build the new branch of
the Center near her hometown of White Hill. The people knew her, though many
were bewildered at how much she'd changed, and her family was here. She could
see them many times a week. But she didn't want to be a burden to them, so
she'd bought a house of her own in town, within walking distance of her parents
but not too nearby.

"Why, Dr. Seven Stars!" said an old lady as Elaine was returning home with a
sackful of groceries.

"How are you this evening, Mrs. Martin?" she asked politely. Elaine could see a
little bit of arthritis plaguing the old woman's joints, and she couldn't help
suggesting that it back off and leave the poor lady alone.

"I'm doing well, thank you," she said. "I'd heard you were moving back to
town. Word travels fast, you know. Goodness, I remember seeing you playing down
in the vacant lots on Sycamore Street -- of course there are houses there
now. I know we knew you as Ed back then, but ... my goodness, I can still see
that child in you! You're ... different, but you're the same, aren't you?"

"Oh, yes," said Elaine, "we all change as we grow up, don't we? We learn things
about ourselves, and they're not always things we would've guessed."

"Well, you're beautiful now, my dear, and I'm glad you've come back," said
Mrs. Martin. "Your family's always been fine and upstanding."

"I'm hoping that's always going to be true," said Elaine. "But right now, I've
got to get home before the ice cream melts! Good evening, Mrs. Martin."

"Good evening, dear. Ah, the fresh air does a body good!" Mrs. Martin stretched
out her arms and looked up at the glowing sky as Elaine continued home.

In a rather cramped living space, Campion and his attorney sat and argued over
what could be done next, "I'm telling you, Campion, there's only one other
thing I can legally do." He removed a survey map of the local area the Center
was being constructed on. "If I can show that the creation of that Center's
estate disrupts the flow of this small creek, the environmental boys will be
all over it like bees on honey. Thing is, I think they've already thought of

Campion sat back and let his breath out slowly in a frustrated way, "There has
to be something we can do that has more teeth than that."

The lawyer snapped, "If you have any really bright ideas that I haven't already
tried, why don't you spit it out now and let me know what it might possibly
be. I've done everything short of ... I don't know, sending in people to take
things. And that isn't even an option." He snapped the lid of his briefcase
closed angrily as he stood.

Campion said through his hands, "I'm sorry. It's just so frustrating to be
blocked like this. I would think there would have been a large public

The lawyer softened. "I did too. But you need to understand, I really have
fought as hard as I could. There's just no real grounds to justify any kind of

Campion said tiredly, "If you come up with anything, let me know."

Before he left, the lawyer replied, "I'm filing for the appeal in the
morning. I want you to know, we have already lost. We have no grounds."

Ward Campion sat alone in his apartment. You win some, you lose some, he
thought. But when you lose one battle, you find one to fight somewhere
else. His movement was gaining ground in getting people polled to think of
liberalism as a mental illness. The lefties were starting to distance
themselves from the term. Next they would be able to go after "progressive" ...

He had many followers, it was true. He tiredly pondered the thought of
encouraging violence. That's what had led to the attack on the Center in
Norway. Sure, Barnestad was still in jail there, but Campion himself was fine,
since he'd never actually told Barnestad to do it. If there was no evidence
... well, without directly saying it, it would take time to egg some of his
less stable followers into doing something he could later say he regretted and
condemned. But better late than never.

The actual opening of the new North American Center of Creation was somewhat
anticlimactic. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which Elaine and several of
the original Center's directors participated in, but in actuality its clerical
department had already been in operation for months, handling paperwork, making
appointments, and answering questions. Once the doors actually opened,
appointments began immediately, and everyone was very busy.

This included Elaine. She was now in charge of the first branch of the Center
staffed entirely by actual humans, though she was the only person on Earth who
knew this. That meant she felt a responsibility for the happiness and
well-being of everyone there, patients and staff alike. She was able to use the
song to help with that, but she couldn't just relax and stop worrying about
it. Especially with the threats.

During the months of construction there had been all kinds of threatening mail,
phone calls, emails, social media posts, and so on. Elaine supposed it was
unavoidable that someplace like the Center would be a political lightning rod,
but she still didn't like it. However, she had one consolation: the song could
tell her which of these were serious and which were just trolls. There was an
emotional charge that came with the serious threatening messages, but the ones
that were just empty harassment looking for a reaction didn't have that same
tone when looked at via the song. However, Elaine still couldn't tell which of
the serious ones were actual warnings of an actual threat. Were they sent by
someone who really knew how to make bombs or really intended to show up on site
with firearms? Or was the sender just really angry with no true violent plans?
The song couldn't tell her that.

After his movement's major loss against the Center of Creation in court,
Campion had managed to garner enough support to go on a tour. He stood at the
lectern and looked over the large crowd that had paid to come hear him speak.

At first Campion had worried that all his supporters were going to desert him,
like rats leaving a sinking ship, but there had been a rebound after the court
loss -- there were a lot of people out there who were angry that courts seemed
to uphold the rights of people they didn't like. Campion smiled as he leaned
forward and began his tirade against transgender people. He beat his fist on
the podium. He yelled and showed slides of many people ... but none of Edward
Seven Stars. To his amazement, the only pictures he or anyone else had been
able to find of this person were of a very shapely and beautiful young
woman. There just weren't any "before" pictures to be found anywhere. He'd
apparently been very successful at destroying all early pictures of himself.

This and the earlier snafu with the addresses on the net led Campion to expound
on the violent nature of certain individuals and the means by which they had
been historically dealt with. Campion was very careful not to make any kinds of
statements that could be said were orders to accomplish such acts.

"I ... I don't know what to say," said Holly, who had been one of Elaine's
first appointments at the new Center. She hadn't been able to afford a trip to
Europe, but now that a North American branch of the Center existed, it was only
a few hours' drive away, and Elaine had gotten her a deep discount on

Holly was looking at herself in the mirror. She had changed completely. Instead
of curly black hair, she now had curly blonde hair. Instead of being over six
feet all she was now five feet four inches, and there was no trace of any
masculine hair anywhere on her body. Her facial features were delicate and
fine, unlike how her face had developed at puberty, much to her dismay. But she
was still undeniably the same person -- her voice was higher but had the same
inflections, and she used the same figures of speech. The shape and arrangement
of her eyes, nose, and mouth were the same, just finer and more delicate. "How
... how in the world did you do this?" she asked.

"Much of what we do at the Center is a trade secret," said Elaine with a
smile. "Much is just basic plastic surgery that you could get done
anywhere. But it's all done with the goal of making you happy with your
body. We want your outside to look like you imagine yourself inside."

"It's ... like a dream come true," Holly said. "I never thought I'd be able to
afford to look like this. But ... wow. I guess I'll need a new wardrobe."

"We've provided you with a few starter outfits," Elaine said. "Just basics, but
we're not going to send you home naked." They both grinned.

"It's so good to see you again!" Holly said. "I knew you were planning to
become a doctor and help other trans people, but ... this is beyond anything
I'd imagined."

"It's great to see you too," Elaine said, "and I'm just glad we could help you
to finally be the you that you'd been longing to be. I hope this helps your
family to accept you."

"Oh, the ones who were going to accept me have, and the ones that weren't going
to didn't, and I've moved on," Holly said with a shrug. "Wow," she said again,
looking in the mirror. "I look like ... me."

Over the next few months there were many astounding success stories buzzing
around the Center, and their appointment schedule got more and more
crowded. Trans women and men left the Center feeling extremely confident with
themselves -- whether they came for "surgery" or merely for counseling. Some
left not wanting to change their bodies at all, but with a powerful sense of
who they truly were.

"And now we have this Center of Creation," said Campion at one of his
speeches. "Some guy goes there and comes out looking exactly like a
girl. There's barely any way to tell anymore. Technology has improved to that
degree now. I ask you, is this really what we need technology to be doing for
us? Aren't there better things to be working on? We haven't cured cancer, but
we can turn women into men and men into women? What an utter waste."

His audience applauded, of course. They applauded anything he said as long as
it upset the left. "So how would you feel?" he asked. "You spend a night with a
woman or man, and you can't tell the difference between them and the real
thing, and then you find out they used to be the opposite? How would you feel?
I mean, OK, I'm gay, but I'm up front and honest with you about that. If I
sleep with some hot guy I don't want to find out later that he was a
she. That's deception. It's betrayal. And we've got places like the Center of
Creation to thank. Oh, if only places like that didn't exist. Don't think we
haven't tried. Lawyers, some of them friends of mine, sued over and over to
keep that place from being built, but it's heavily funded by liberals from
overseas. If you wish it could be wiped off the map, you're not alone. How many
tears would be shed if, heaven forbid, it somehow just blew up one day? Would
anybody here be happy about that? Who'd be happy about that?"

Naturally the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. Campion chased it by
saying, "And they say they have trade secrets there. Trade secrets. Secret
technology that can reshape faces, bones, bodies, fool any facial recognition
software, change your identity, hide from law enforcement -- I mean, how is
this even legal?" He did not mention that any plastic surgeon could alter a
face, and it was perfectly legal. "What are they hiding in there? They could
make a fortune catering to criminals, and really, aren't they criminals

Of course, there was no shortage of men who heard what Campion was saying, in
both the live audience and his audience online, and read perfectly between the
lines. They started stockpiling weapons, ammunition, and explosives. In secret
forums on the dark net they made their plans to go to this new Center of
Creation, destroy it, and take whatever technology was there for themselves and
their own profit ... or perverted amusements.

The timing was perfect. The men had been sitting in the car for several hours
observing the comings and goings of the Center. No one particularly paid any
attention to the car. If any had managed to get a glimpse within it, they would
more than likely have been very afraid. Many weapons, many cases of ammo for
them, and a large cache of high explosives.

They watched as the employees of the Center left and the parking lot
emptied. At long last, one car was left and a very beautiful and shapely
looking woman came from the Center and locked the main doors. As she began to
walk into the lot, the driver started the car and drove toward her.

"Excuse me," said Rod, the driver, rolling down the window. "The Center, is it
still open?" Meanwhile, the others were getting their guns ready. This was
definitely Dr. Elaine Seven Stars, formerly known as Edward -- though even
these four extremely bigoted men would all have admitted that there was no way
to tell that this woman had ever been a man, at least not by just looking at
her. They'd been talking about all the latest conspiracy theories about her and
her clinic during their eight-hour drive here. With what the Center could
supposedly do, they must have some kind of miracle technology inside. They
could practically turn lead into gold, and what were they wasting it on?
Turning men into women -- and probably women into men, too, but that was barely
mentioned or even thought about. The thought that they might be attracted to
what looked like a woman but turned out to actually be a man drove them to
ever-increasing heights of outrage and fury, for some reason that they never

The doctor said the Center was closed for the night and wouldn't open until
morning, and Rod was asking what if they didn't want to wait, so the others had
one hand on their guns and the other on their door handles. They nodded at each
other and stepped out of the car all at once.

And shortly after that ... things changed dramatically.

Elaine still didn't know how to go back in time and deliberately alter the
past, but she could slow down subjective time almost to a halt. In reality she
wasn't affecting time itself at all -- she was just thinking and acting very
quickly, so it wasn't as if light stopped moving or red shifted into radio
wavelengths. But she had all the time she needed to deal with these would-be
assailants. Her pulse was racing with fear because she saw guns in their hands
and sensed even worse things inside the car -- but between heartbeats she still
had plenty of time to do everything she needed to.

The four of them had met online, on one of Ward Campion's fan forums. All four
had a great deal of homophobia -- not transphobia, as one might think. They
were all terrified of feeling sexual attraction to another man, even if they
were certain that the object of attraction was a woman at the time they felt
it. And they were all ex-military, mostly US, though Jerry was Canadian, so
they all knew their way around firearms and detonators. And they had all been
talking about Campion's recent speeches in which he had talked about the
Center, in whole or in part, as a target for destruction. Thanks, Campion,
Elaine thought with an inner frown.

Elaine could see clear as day that Rod had identified with girls in childhood
and was probably himself a trans girl, but his bigoted parents had drilled into
him early on that wanting to play with the girls was something that only gay
boys did. The thought that others might think he was gay led him to feel
greatly ashamed of the trans side of himself, so he'd buried it deeply and
attacked it from all sides. Being thought of as gay was like a death sentence
to him; he avoided it at all costs, even though the cost to himself was
incalculably great.

Elaine didn't like to use the song for this, because it took away the element
of choice from a patient and had less of a chance of leaving a stable and
healthy individual, but this was a matter of life and death. She reached out
and took the fearful and shameful dissonances from the song of his mind,
replacing them with harmonious chords. His repression of his feminine self no
longer had any fuel.

Jerry's case was similar, though he actually was gay and not trans at
all. Still, his self-repression was severe to the point where he attacked
anyone or anything that even suggested homosexuality, subconsciously hoping
that it would dispel anyone's notions that he might be gay himself. He still
felt feelings and urges, but he had found ways to make them cease -- other
sensations like pain and cold would distract him from them. But Elaine heard
this in his song as clear as a bell, and suddenly he had no more self-loathing,
only complete self-acceptance, though where this would take him on life's path
remained to be seen.

The other two were just as easy, though of course each one was
different. Parental disapproval, religious inculcation, peer pressure, all of
these things combined in different proportions to make life intolerable for
many young people who stepped outside the straight and narrow, and Elaine found
it tragic, but at least she could undo the damage. She could also tweak their
memories of the last few days -- and changing the nature of their weapons and
their car's deadly cargo was actually the simplest matter of all.

But not before she had gleaned all the information she could about Ward
Campion, his followers, and their activities from their brains. She needed to
know what to expect and how to protect her employees, her patients, and
herself. After all, Chrissie was coming. She would never let anything happen to

"I ... I'm sorry," said Rod, feeling an overwhelming and confusing welter of
emotions. "I - I'll ... I mean ... we'll come back tomorrow."

"If I'm not mistaken, you all have appointments," said Elaine. "Some for
counseling, others for procedures. We want everyone to leave here happier and
more fulfilled. But for now, get some rest, OK? Tomorrow's a big day." She
walked to her own car, got in, and drove away, leaving the four men standing
there, wearing ski masks and carrying boxes of chocolate.

"OK, why do I feel absolutely wonderful?" asked Rod. "I don't know what's going
on. Why am I here? I'm the happiest girl ever!"

"You're -- you're a girl?" asked Chuck. "Why didn't you ever tell me? We could
have been girlfriends together! Well maybe now we can be!"

"I guess I'm doomed to be the girls' gay friend," said Jerry. "I'm always the
bridesmaid, never the bride."

"Hey, we're all friends already," said Rod. "We just found out things about
each other, that's all."

"I don't know what all the fuss is about," said Joe. "We're in a place where
people go to learn how to accept themselves. It's what happens here."

Very early the next morning, the men's car pulled up into the Center of
Creation's parking lot. This time when they exited the car, all of them were
dressed very differently. One of them, the others sort of seemed to fawn over,
was dressed much like a little girl, although it was more than obvious it was a
short man dressed in the adorable outfit.

Shortly after that, Elaine arrived and parked in her usual spot near the
entrance. She beckoned the men over, then turned and unlocked the Center's
door. Within a minute, the men from last night were all over her, chattering a
mile a minute all at the same time.

Elaine raised her hand and said with a laugh, "All right, people. I'm opening
the doors now. We will take care of whatever your needs are, or refer you to
those who can. Now come inside and sign some papers so we can get started."

With that, Elaine and the men entered the Center.

"So ... do you remember being part of Campion's fan base?" asked Elaine once
she'd had a chance to have a counseling session with Jerry.

"Oh, yes -- though now it doesn't seem to matter," said Jerry. "It just felt so
... good to be around others who felt so much anger at everything, and it was
OK to express that anger."

"But you never expressed the fact that your anger at openly gay people stemmed
from the fact that you're gay and have had to repress it?" Elaine asked.

"Never," said Jerry, "not a word. I didn't consider myself gay. I didn't
consider myself cured or converted either -- I just didn't consider that to be
a part of me. Not anymore. Of course, now I remember feeling those old
attractions when I was younger and knowing that I had to bury them deep."

"You don't have to, you know, not anymore," Elaine reminded him.

"I know that," said Jerry, "and now I feel like I've wasted so much of my

"Well, remember, what you do know is up to you," said Elaine, "and only
you. But you're also responsible for the consequences."

"Yes, you're right," Jerry said, "and it's almost ... well, impossible to
decide what to do next. So many possibilities!"

"That's good, though, right? You still have so much time ahead of you -- time
you can live out as your real self, not as someone that others expect you to

Rod, or Rina, as she called herself today, had somehow managed to find a
little-girl-style dress that fit her at a thrift shop between yesterday and
that morning. Reading her intentions now that her inhibitions had been lifted,
Elaine had gotten her an emergency appointment for a procedure at no cost -- in
other words, she'd decided to handle it herself.

Not much staff were here this morning -- just a few nurses and interns, all
wearing surgical scrubs, wheeling her into the operating room. Elaine leaned
over her and said in her calming voice, "Now, dear, don't worry about a thing
-- you're just going to go to sleep, and when you wake up you'll be who you've
always been meant to be." Rina was so excited by the thought that she didn't
think she'd be able to fall asleep --

-- but then she found herself waking up in a hospital bed somewhere else in the
Center, wearing adorable pink footed pajamas. Everything seemed ... bigger. And
... what was the deal with the underwear she was wearing beneath the pajamas?
Her panties seemed very thick, almost ridiculously so. But she couldn't unzip
it to check -- the pajamas seemed to zip up the back, and she couldn't quite
get hold of the zipper.

"Aww -- you're awake too!" said Carrie, who had been going by Chuck until her
epiphany last night. She was in the next bed over. Her hair was longer, and she
looked so beautiful, with well-formed curves and everything.

"Cawwie!" said Rina, then stopped in surprise. Her voice sounded so high -- and
so much like a little girl's -- that she couldn't believe it was really
hers. She felt a thrill -- it was perfect!

"That's right, it's me, Carrie, and it's really me now!" said Carrie. "But look
at you! Oh my gosh! What a little princess! Is there a mirror in here?" She got
out of bed and closed the bathroom door in front of Rina's bed, which had a
mirror on it.

Rina gasped. "That ... that's not ... me ... is it possible ...?" She had long,
shiny black hair and a smooth, tiny face with an elfin nose. She put her hands
to her face and felt how smooth her skin was and how tiny her fingers felt. She
was so full of emotion, though all positive, that she barely even noticed how
wet she felt under her pajamas -- until the diaper she was wearing quickly
absorbed it all and locked it away before what had happened registered.

"It sure is possible, darling, and you're so precious that I just want to pick
you up and rock you in my arms," said Carrie. "And you're so small that I could
almost do that, too!"

"I ... Cawwie ... I ... want you to do that vewy much," said Rina.

Elaine didn't think these particular former Campion minions would be causing
her any more problems now that they had new outlooks on life, but that only
left millions more just like them. She sighed. It would take time before the
world stopped making more wonderful, beautiful people who then had that beauty
and magic pummeled and crushed out of them by parents and authorities who
thought they knew what was best for them. But with the Center as a beacon to
draw them out of those horrid situations, in time they would all become the
happy and positive people they had been destined to be from the start. And if
she could do this for people who had been so completely averse to changing ...

"Elaine?" asked Chrissie, walking in the front door to the main waiting room,
where Elaine had been standing, lost in thought.

"Chrissie!" said Elaine with a sudden smile. Chrissie ran across the
almost-empty room to hug her. "I've already been here for a few hours -- had
some super-early emergency appointments. We're just about to open for the
morning. How are you? Where's Liz?"

"She's right over there," Chrissie said, and indeed Liz was now coming in the
door at a normal pace.

"We're going to talk about what you both want me to do for you, OK?" said
Elaine. "But we should meet in my office. I have something to explain to Liz
that I'm pretty sure she doesn't know."

"You ... you just ... think and it happens?" asked Liz.

"More or less," said Elaine.

"But ... but ... all the people you could help ... people in wheelchairs,
people dying of cancer, people in comas ..."

"I know," said Elaine. "And believe me, I do help them when I can. Cancer is
going to be cured within 5 years ... because of things I've quietly made
happen. But I can't really just do it in most cases. If it became common
knowledge, it would destroy civilization as we know it. Surely you can see

"I ... see," said Liz. "Of course. People would either see you as a god or a
demon. Between people worshipping you and trying to destroy you, the world
would ignite in the worst religious massacres in history. Anyone you'd helped
would become a target for those who hated you, and anyone who attacked you
would become a target for your fanatical followers ... wow."

"And that's only the simple version," Elaine said. "It's a gift, and I'm trying
to use it wisely, to make a few people happy here and there while quietly
trying to make the world a better place behind the scenes. And that's where we
come to you and Chrissie."

"Yay!" Chrissie said.

"Yes, I've known for a long time what Chrissie would like to be," said
Liz. "You ... want to be smaller. Younger."

"Yeah!" Chrissie said, nodding. Her hair was in pigtails and bounced crazily
when she did so.

"I ... can make people younger," Elaine said. "In mind and body. But then we
start to get into issues of consent. I want to make Chrissie's dreams come true
without destroying the person who would appreciate them. So mentally I don't
plan to do anything other than simply giving Chrissie access to the little girl
she used to be ... which frankly wouldn't be much of a change at this point."

"That is true," said Liz. "She's very free to express that side of herself."

"Also, she has a career and an income," said Elaine, "and I don't want to take
that away from your household. I could make her the exact size and shape of a
toddler, but that would be a huge hindrance -- not only would it become quite
difficult for her to get by in a workplace, her coworkers wouldn't understand
such a change. It just doesn't happen."

"Yeah ..." said Chrissie, sounding sad.

"But let me show you some things I could do," said Elaine. "For one thing, I
can alter your habits. It's something I've learned. You can burst into tears or
giggles at the slightest provocation. You can have an irresistible thumbsucking
urge. You can be scared of the dark or lightning and thunder."

Chrissie gasped. "Wow ..." she said, imagining the possibilities.

"I can make less visible changes to your body," Elaine went on. "You can be
less coordinated, spilling and dropping things more easily and even finding
walking difficult. These things might interfere with your career too, though,
unfortunately. You can be truly incontinent, needing to wear diapers for real,
with no hope of ever being out of them again. Since you already wear them all
the time, that wouldn't make a noticeable change in your life."

"That is true," said Liz. "But it would mean more messy diapers, wouldn't it?
She usually makes it to the potty for those."

"Usually?" asked Chrissie indignantly. "Almost always!"

"Almost," said Liz with a grin.

"I can make you a couple of inches shorter," said Elaine, "which would
contribute to your being lighter and easier for Liz to pick up. And ... Liz, I
can make you stronger without looking like it, so you'd be able to pick
Chrissie up more easily."

"Interesting," said Liz. "So picking her up would be as easy as picking up a
real baby?"

"Well, except for her size. She'd still be quite a bit larger than a real

"Can we try a few things and then come back?" asked Chrissie? "Because I'd like
to ..."

Chrissie then began to explain the many things she had always thought that
being the little girl she still was meant. "I wanna has more accidents," she
said, blushing softly pink, "cuz babies do that. A bit smaller would be mostus

Liz broke in with a tiny voice, "Would it also be possible that I could ... you
know ... be induced to lactate? I would love to breastfeed Chrissie."

Chrissie's eyes got large as she went, "Ooo , yea ... that would be mostus baby
wunnerfuls." as she started clapping her hands together and bouncing up and
down like the toddler she so appeared to be, "An an an I wanna be mostus baby
whenevers I no at work or sompins ... but .." she blushed again as she held
between her legs and got big eyed, "I ... I wanna ... " she looked a Liz with
the most adorable poopy face a little girl could have as she had a for real
poopie accident in her pullups.

Liz laughed. "Give us a minute or two. I think baby Chrissie needs attention."

Elaine smiled, "That's perfectly ok. A place to change her is in the adjacent
room." She pointed to the door on the other side of the room they were in.

When they returned, Elaine told them, "I've had a minute to think about
it. There might be a way to do what you want -- that is, to change your
behavior more when you're not in a situation where you're required to act like
an adult. However ... it's more complex. I'll need to observe you in both
situations, and it will require more than one session."

"OK?" said Chrissie. "What does you need me to do?"

"Well, first of all, if you'll both follow me."


Elaine got up and led them out of her office, down hallways, around corners,
and across an enclosed skyway to another building, then down a hallway and into
a large room. As soon as they had entered the room, Chrissie stopped, stared,
and gasped. It was like they'd entered a huge playpen -- or like they'd been
shrunk to baby size and put into a regular, if still large, playpen. There were
enormous teddy bears and blocks. There were squeaky toys almost too large to
play with. There was a ring stacker with rings that fit over Chrissie's arms,
which she found out by trying it out. For Chrissie the temptation was too great
-- she immediately shifted into a baby-like mode and started playing on the
soft, waterproof floor while Liz and Elaine watched.

Elaine, though, used the song to monitor what was happening in Chrissie's brain
-- and then to emphasize it, making it stronger and suggesting more
changes. She had observed many real babies with the song and knew what their
thoughts were like when seen that way -- and she now used that experience to
shape Chrissie's thought patterns. Chrissie gasped, and her face lit up with
joy. Her patterns of play suddenly changed subtly. She started sucking on her
fingers, rolling on the floor, and crawling over the giant teddy bear until it
fell over, which caused her to giggle uncontrollably. Elaine gave Liz a bag of
toys and said, "Go ahead, see if she likes any of these."

When Chrissie saw Liz, her eyes lit up in recognition and love. "Awwwww!" Liz
said, her heart melting. "You're just so adorable like this! Here, does
Chrissie want her pacifier?" She had found a pacifier in the bag, big enough
for Chrissie, and she held it up to Chrissie's mouth. Chrissie opened her mouth
and moved her head toward it, so Liz held it until Chrissie had it and was
sucking on it.

Elaine observed this, found the melodic line in the song that was Chrissie's
long-faded suckling instinct, and strengthened that until it was as strong as a
similar line she'd seen in babies, though she hadn't known then what it
meant. Elaine was able to completely suppress Chrissie's bowel and bladder
control nerve impulses -- she could make the nerves and the muscles they led to
cease to exist, if Chrissie wanted, but for now she just removed any control
she had over them. She suppressed Chrissie's higher language function and
emotional self-control. She weakened Chrissie's muscular control and
coordination. And she made Chrissie just an inch shorter overall, not enough to
notice at a casual glance.

Liz was playing with a squeaky toy she'd found in the bag, making Chrissie
giggle at it, which made her drop her pacifier -- this caused her to look all
confused and upset, until it looked as if she were about to cry, when Liz would
pick up her pacifier and give it back to her, whereupon she'd start sucking on
it contentedly again and reach for the squeaky toy again. This cycle repeated a
few times until Elaine said, "OK, that seems to be going well. I'm getting the
hang of this -- by which I mean that I think I have a handle on the parameters
that need to change. If we were going to leave her like this permanently, that
would be all I'd need to do. But we have more to do."

Elaine changed Chrissie's tonal balance back to where it had been
earlier. "Wha? Huh?" she asked. "I ... wow! That ... that was amazins! I can
hardly remember what happened ... but it felt sooooooo wonderful!"

"I'm glad," said Elaine, "but now we have another test." The room's contents
vanished, leaving them standing in an empty white room for a moment with
nothing but the lights in the ceiling. Then they were suddenly standing in a
classroom, with a projection screen at the front and a variety of
interested-looking people sitting in the chairs. Elaine took a seat and
motioned to Liz to sit down as well. "We're all here to hear you talk about
your latest progress," Elaine said to Chrissie. "Don't worry -- there's no
judging. We're just interested."

"Oh!" said Chrissie. "Oh. Well, as you know, I'm Dr. Christina Reneux. What I'm
working on is a way to make studies of brain-cell-type-specific proteomics
possible in vivo." The screen behind her lit up with illustrations -- protein
molecular structures, graphs and charts, lists of proteins studied, and so
on. "It seems that if we use amino acids not normally found in the cells,
introduce them into the living tissue, and observe how they're incorporated, we
can classify ..." She went on to get more and more detailed, and besides
finding this highly interesting scientifically, Elaine was also using the song
to analyze Chrissie's frame of mind now that she was in this setting. The
shadow people Elaine had created for this asked Chrissie polite questions --
this was possible, because Elaine was an M.D. and had been reading about
Chrissie's biology research -- and Chrissie was happy to answer them,
practically glowing from the attention.

Once Chrissie had answered all the questions, Elaine stood up and said, "Thank
you, Dr. Reneux -- I found that talk fascinating, and I think everyone else
here agrees." She applauded, as did everyone else in the room, including Liz,
who looked proud of Chrissie.

"Oh, thanks Elaine, and ... everybody ... I just hope ... oh, thank you ... and
I hope you have a good day too! ..." She was busy for a few minutes as she
shook hands with the shadow people, who looked like ordinary people with a
scientific bent, although they all left via the doorway and vanished once out
of sight. But Elaine observed how her thought patterns behaved as she
interacted in an adult way.

"All right," said Elaine as the room returned to being an empty white room once
again, "I think I have an idea. I'm going to try something, and you're probably
going to want to lie down for this -- both of you." Comfortable couches
appeared next to Liz and Chrissie, and a chair for Elaine.

"It -- won't hurt, will it?" asked Chrissie.

"I think that it will be the exact opposite of hurting," said Elaine with a
smile. "You'll feel like you fell asleep and are just waking up, even though it
will only have been a moment."

"Should we close our eyes ..." Liz started to ask, then her eyes closed and
opened again with a start. "What? How long was I out?"

"About two seconds," said Elaine. "Now, I'm going to warn you that your body is
now lactating fully. You're wearing a maternity bra now, and there are some
nursing pads and a breast pump in your bag there. The thing is, normally, if
you go for a while without nursing a baby, you're going to stop
lactating. Well, that's not the case for you -- you won't stop no matter what,
unless you ask me to stop it. Which I'll do, if you want, just call me. But
you'll be producing way too much milk -- Chrissie's body isn't a baby's body,
so she can't rely only on your milk for sustenance. So you'll have to watch out
for leaks and express whatever milk she doesn't drink."

"Whoa," said Liz. "You don't mess around. But ... wow. This is something we've
both dreamed about for a long time."

Chrissie yawned and stretched. "Morning Mommy," she said to Liz. "I -- huh?
Where -- we're still here?"

"Yes we are," said Liz lovingly. "Silly baby girl," she added with a tickle
under Chrissie's chin.

Chrissie giggled -- and then her eyes went wide and she gasped in joy. She
babbled wordlessly but happily at Liz and reached out one arm toward her,
putting the other hand's thumb in her mouth.

"OK, so you're going to want to be careful interacting with her like that,"
said Elaine, "because calling out to her little-girl side is going to make her
switch fully into baby mode. She can't walk, talk, or feed herself, and she's
completely diaper dependent. She recognizes you and trusts and loves you as her

"Oh," said Liz with joyful tears in her eyes. "So beautiful!"

"Now, interact with her in an adult way and her mind will shift gears back to
adult mode," Elaine continued. "This may require a bit of tweaking to make sure
it works properly, which is why you might want to stay nearby for a week or so
and come back to me if there are any problems. For now ... do you want to be
alone together?"

"Y-yes, please," said Liz. as she sat on Chrissie's couch and began to unbutton
her blouse.

"Very well," Elaine said. "Just have anyone page me when you want me to come

Elaine left the two of them alone. Elaine took one last look over her shoulder
as Liz dropped the flap on the nursing bra and put one of her nipples in
Chrissie's mouth. Chrissie began nursing, and Elaine shut the door to give
mother and daughter privacy.

Elaine turned her mind to the last of her "patients". She smiled. She felt
slightly bad about feeling some satisfaction about this -- Unfortunately for
the homophobic individual that this person had been until recently, she was
going to turn out to be the party girl all the guys longed for. It was who she
was, deep in her heart; she had looked inside and released the repressed,
tormented inner self that had been locked away under all that lifelong abuse
and toxic masculinity. Elaine shook her head -- oh well, at least she wouldn't
be blowing up any more clinics or hurting anyone because they were different.

She entered the room and saw this person, who had done a very rushed attempt to
dress as a woman and failed miserably. Actually, all thoughts that this was
revenge vanished now that Elaine saw her. If she'd grown up in an evangelical
and intolerant family, this could have been her. The song swirling around her
patient still echoed with dissonances of self-hatred and shame.

"I know your name is really Andrea," said Elaine, having heard that in the

"How did --" she asked.

"That's not important -- what's important is you," Elaine said in a soothing
voice, reaching out to calm and soothe the dissonances and disharmonies. "Can
you tell me how you feel?"

"I -- everything somehow changed last night," said Andrea. "You -- did you do

"You're doing the heavy lifting," Elaine said. "I only created a space that
allowed it to happen." It was almost true. "But go on -- how are you feeling?"

"I feel -- free, but apprehensive," she said. "How am I going to face my
friends? My family? The people I know online?"

"Those are all valid questions," Elaine said, nodding, "but let's deal with
that later. Right now, how do you feel about yourself?"

"I'm -- I'm -- not right," she said. "I've known it forever. I don't want this
body. I don't want to be, well, hairy and smelly and muscly. I don't want
this. Or this. I don't want to be male."

"You don't have to be anyone you don't want to," Elaine said. This wasn't the
way she usually worked, but this wasn't a normal case. She encouraged a
trancelike mental state as she gradually changed Andrea's body to be more like
what she was picking up from her imagination.

"I -- feel -- all tingly and weird," Andrea said. "I'm ... floating ..."

"Don't close your eyes," said Elaine. "Keep looking. Look at yourself in the
mirror. Tell me what's wrong. And what's right."

"My ... face ... so smooth ... no beard ..." Andrea said, and Elaine made it
so. "Yes ... hair the same color but finer ... longer ... finer eyebrows
... slimmer arms and hands and fingers ... yes my chest developing just like
that ... but slimmer waist ... and wider hips ... what if I didn't have to
shave my legs ..."

And as Andrea watched, Elaine changed her into a beautiful young woman who
would look great with almost no maintenance. What was more, she would be hard
to recognize as ever having been the extremist homophobic bigoted man who had
come here to set off bombs. She materialized clothing to perfectly fit Andrea's
new form and said, "Do you feel any better now?"

"I ... what? Did that just ... really happen?" Andrea looked at herself in the
mirror, touched the glass, touched her own face.

"There's no doubt that something just happened," said Elaine, "but is it
something you need to remember, or is it more important to think about the
future now, a future where you'll really be you, not someone that anyone else
wants you to be, but the you that you want to be."

"I want to be ... her," said Andrea, pointing at the mirror. "Me. That's me?
Yes. That's me. That is me."

"Do you want to meet your friends?" Elaine asked. "Don't worry -- they'll
understand. They've all gone through some changes too."

"I ... well ... all right," Andrea said.

"Come with me," said Elaine, taking Andrea's hand. They walked through the wall
and were suddenly in the ward where Rina and Carrie were recovering; Jerry was
reading in the nearby waiting area.

Jerry was the first to notice them arriving. "Oh, hi Dr. Seven St -- oh myyyyy
are you who you think you are?" he said, noticing Andrea.

"Jerry, this is Andrea," Elaine said.

"Wow! Looking good, girl!" Jerry said. "Of course, I'm not pretending to be
interested in that way, like I used to, but I can still say you're looking
super amazing!"

"Thank you," Andrea said with a cute blush. "Jerry, you seem just so alive!
More you than you've ever been! And -- oh wow! Is that --?"

"Oooo Cawwie, is Andy Andwea now?" said Rina in her cute voice. "Andwea you awe
vewy pwetty!"

"Careful, Rina, let me help you out of your crib," said Carrie, coming around
to lower the bars that kept Rina from falling out of her hospital bed.

"It's notta cwib!" Rina said. "I'm a big girl!"

"A big girl who needs a diaper change," Carrie said.

"No faiw!" Rina complained, blushing brightly. "You don't gots to tell
evwybody!" She hopped down to the ground, ran over, and hugged Andrea.

"Wow -- well, this is a big change," said Andrea. "Or maybe ... a little one!
You're so adorable! And you look wonderful, Carrie!"

"Thanks!" said Carrie. "You look great yourself! Don't mind the baby; I'm gonna
be taking care of her for a while, until she's grown up again."

"I am not a baby!" said Rina grumpily, and Carrie giggled.

"We'll let you all catch up," said Elaine. "The nurses will let you know when
it's OK for you to go, but it should be later today."

"Thank you Doctor!" they all said, and Elaine left to check on Liz and

Elaine tapped on the door to Liz and Chrissie's temporary quarters before
entering. She stopped and saw Liz sitting on the floor in a pair of boyshort
panties and no top. Chrissy had on just a diaper, a pair of purple rumba
panties, and fuzzy booties on her feet.

Elaine stood and listened as Liz cooed softly, "Come to Mommy, Baby." Liz
clapped her hands and held them out invitingly. Chrissy squealed with delight
as she crawled quickly over.

Liz grabbed Chrissie up in her arms and held her close. She kissed Chrissy on
her nose as she began to tickle her in her ribs. Chrissie squirmed and giggled
like any baby.

Elaine finally said, "Well, how are things going now? I see the new mother and
her daughter seem to be getting along very well."

Liz turned and smiled. She said softly, "Oh, this is so wonderful. The only
request I could ask, is that you make it possible she gets ... a little bit
smaller ... but over time so people don't really notice."

Elaine took a deep breath. She knew that Chrissie would be all for it, and even
being reverted back to an actual baby. She also knew Chrissie had much to offer
as a baby pretending to be a big girl. Elaine snorts a small laugh, "Sure. I
think we can arrange that. She's going to be ... well, it'll be like she never
went through puberty physically. But talk to me every few months and I can make
her a bit smaller each time."

That was when Elaine felt a terrible disturbance in the song. She froze --
literally. She stopped time as she'd done before. In reality time was flowing
normally, but her perception of it was slowed down almost to the point where
nothing was moving at all. She was thinking and acting so quickly that whatever
she was feeling was unable to act.

And that was good, because there'd been another bomber, one who hadn't come
with the others, one who the others hadn't even known existed. She knew where
the bomb was. She knew it was set to go off not on a timer, but when he called
a number on a mobile phone. And she knew he'd just called it.

First of all, the bomb was now at the core of the planet Jupiter. Its detonator
had already been primed, but it was now crushed to powder and being chemically
combined with the elemental metals and pressure-polymerized hydrocarbons
there. Second, the bomber was in a hotel room in White Hill. He was now deeply
asleep, and Elaine now knew all the information within his phone, and
everything in his laptop, which was open on the desk in front of him. It was
Campion. He had been suggesting that his followers do this without truly
telling them to, so he wouldn't be legally liable. Elaine sighed inwardly. She
could eliminate Campion so easily -- but he wasn't really the problem. Someone
else would just take his place; the world had no shortage of prejudice and
bigots. What really needed to happen was ... the opposite of prejudice.

Well, the Center was safe for now. The song told Elaine how to modify the
vibrations around the Center so as to alert her whenever explosive materials
were brought on site. She'd get more warning now. And now ... she would have to
do something that was possibly the hardest thing she'd ever done.

"I'm your host, Shari Fontaine, and welcome to 'Face to Face,'" said the
host. "Tonight we have a socially and politically charged topic, transgender
rights. With us are Ward Campion, Internet celebrity and famous opponent of
trans women ..." Most of the audience booed and hissed, but there was a section
that applauded and whistled. Elaine noticed that apparently he'd brought his
own fan club.

"Dr. Elaine Seven Stars, director of the Center of Creation, a gender and
sexuality clinic near White Hill, Canada ..." The audience applauded except for
Campion's cheering section, who booed and jeered loudly. The studio security
guards edged closer to that section in case there was trouble.

"Megan Blackwall, self-proclaimed feminist and author of 'The Trans Hoax' ..."
There was scattered applause and a few boos, but most of the audience was
silent. Had they heard of her? Elaine wasn't sure they had.

"And Jerry Lebeau, a former follower of Mr. Campion's who had a change of heart
and now rejects what he calls Campion's message of bigotry and hate." There was
applause; Elaine had supposed correctly that most people supported recovered

"Now, as always, I want to remind everyone that this is a forum for civil
discussion and not a brawl. Shouting down others will just get your mic turned
off, and disruptive audience members will be removed from the studio." Shari's
expression changed from firm to welcoming as she began the discussion with,
"Now let's start with Mr. Campion -- what do you think? Are trans men men? Are
trans women women?"

Campion smiled. "I'll just say what I've always said -- this whole thing is
ridiculous. Men are men and women are women. If you're born male you'll always
be male. Same for female. It's just a fact, and you can't deny facts." The
audience made noise in outrage at this, but Campion just smirked; he was used
to being the target of ire.

"Dr. Seven Stars, what is your opinion?" asked Shari.

"What is a fact," said Elaine, "is that 'man' and 'woman' are human terms,
social roles that we humans have constructed. The idea that women wear dresses
and makeup and men don't is entirely arbitrary. The fact that males can wear
dresses and makeup just illustrates that point. With only a few exceptions,
women can do anything they want, and so can men."

"Ms. Blackwell?" asked Shari, turning toward the blonde-haired woman. Elaine
hadn't encountered her at all, although she'd read the woman's books in
preparation for this interview as well as several news articles about her

"I'm glad that I agree with Dr. Seven Stars," said Blackwell, smiling
smugly. "Women can in fact do anything -- except become men. Women cannot
father children, which is the very definition of what a man is. Likewise, men
cannot become pregnant or give birth, which is the very definition of what a
woman is."

"Mr. Lebeau?" asked Shari. "I know that you're not transgender, but do you have
an opinion on the subject?"

"Well no, I'm not trans," Jerry said, "but what does it hurt women if somebody
wants to be a woman? It doesn't do me any harm if somebody who was assigned
female at birth finds out they're a man. And what we're not talking about is
all the people out there who don't identify as either. There are lots of
non-binary or genderqueer people who don't want to be either."

"Dr. Seven Stars, you look like you want to respond to Ms. Blackwell," said

"I just wanted to state that in the medical profession, what she stated were
the definitions of 'fertile male' and 'fertile female,' not man and woman,"
said Elaine. "There are many women who can't become pregnant or give birth --
postmenopausal women, to mention one large group of them. To say they're not
women simply because they can no longer become pregnant is ridiculous. The
terms man and woman are social roles, like child, adult, doctor, or talk show

"But that's just what I say all the time," said Campion. "I wear makeup
everyday -- to cover up blemishes, hide shaving nicks, you know. But I know I'm
a man. Gender is dead."

"Transgender people don't think it is," said Elaine, "but even if gender is
dead, why attack trans people over it? What's it to you?"

"Because trans people are out to fool and deceive everyone," said Campion. "I
don't want to find out some guy I thought was hot is really some chick."

"Trans people are actually doing quite a lot of damage," said
Blackwell. "They're starting to convince parents that they should support their
'trans children.'" Blackwell made quotation marks with her fingers as she said

"Instead of doing what, when they discover their children are transgender?"
asked Shari.

"Instead of getting them treatment," Blackwell said. "They're young and
confused. They don't know what they want to be yet, and they need guidance."

Elaine knew this was Blackwell's main issue, and she wasn't surprised that this
woman had turned the conversation to the one area where she knew how to make an
argument. But Elaine was here for one purpose, and it didn't have anything to
do with Blackwell, who was here mainly because of the talk show's format. The
main thing Elaine had to do was stay calm, but she could do a few other things

"Exactly," said Elaine. "They don't know what they want to be yet -- and
they're giving them space in which they can discover that. One of the things my
clinic does is counsel parents and children about gender issues --"

"And going to a clinic like yours is like handing parents a loaded gun," said
Blackwell. "Gender-permissive parents are doing their kids irreparable
damage. Sometimes they even find a doctor to give the kids hormones, which
cause irreversible changes in their growing bodies."

"Ms. Blackwell --" Shari tried to cut in.

"I just can't see why nobody is thinking about the helpless children being
victimized by their abusively permissive parents and the gender doctors,"
Blackwell said, sounding more and more hysterical. "The kids are the reason I
do what I do. All the school board meetings I attend, all the phone calls I
make, all the legislators I call demanding action -- and so many of them simply
refuse to do anything! I'm close to my wits' end sometimes! Thank goodness
there are a few lawmakers willing to listen and do what's right! We're going to
get it banned! We're going to make sure the trans kids get taken away from
their abusive parents and sent to where they can get real help, to camps I'm
going to set up where we can show them that their real gender is the right

"Gender ... camps?" asked Elaine. She was being very calm and looking confused,
but she was using the song to amplify Blackwell's already upset emotions about
her favorite hot-button issue so the woman would look completely hysterical on
national television.

"That's right! The perfect environment to encourage right behavior and
discourage bad behavior! We'll show the boys how to be boys and the girls how
to be girls and they'll be happy! Then we'll find them parents who won't change
who they really are!"

"Wait ... but ..." Campion tried to cut in. Not even he was comfortable with
this idea. After all, there were those who tried to do the same to gay teens.

"We have to save them! They're in danger!" Blackwell screeched, pounding on the
table, nearly in tears.

"Um, it's time for a word from our sponsor," said Shari. "We'll be right back."

"Welcome back," Shari said to the camera. "Ms. Blackwell is taking a break; she
wasn't feeling well. We'll bring her back out if she decides she feels
better. But for now, let's continue. Mr. Campion, you've been accused of outing
trans people, usually trans women, during your ... presentations."

"I'm telling the truth," said Campion. "They're the ones who are lying to
you. I'm just exposing the lies."

"Now wait a minute," said Jerry. "You're gay. What do you care if a woman is
trans? You're not into them either way. I'm gay too, and that's not my thing."

"They're still lying, deceiving everyone around them," said Campion with a
shrug. "I don't do it for me. I do it for my fans."

"You do have quite a few fans, don't you, Mr. Campion?" asked Elaine.

"I suppose I've built somewhat of a following," he answered. "They just
appreciate someone who tells them the truth for a change."

"Why don't you tell us the truth, Mr. Campion?" Elaine asked him. She used the
song, in a different way this time. "Why do you really attack trans people?"

"I ... I ... found a great divisive wedge issue, and it really brings in the
crowds," he said. "What? I meant to say ... it really brings in the money. I
mean ..."

"So you don't really believe that your followers deserve the truth?" asked

"No, I don't care about the truth," said Campion. "I only care about being
popular. Maybe if I can get enough of a following I can run for office. Being
famous validates my ego -- being elected would pump my ego even more. That
feels great. A real high." Campion's cheering section was staring open-mouthed
almost to a man.

"Wait, what's going on?" asked Shari. "Let me get this right -- you're coming
clean about completely lying to your followers for all these years?"

"I ... uh ... evidently am," Campion said, looking very confused. "You have no
idea how great it feels to be considered the edgelord among edgelords. When you
can say the meanest, most inconsiderate things, and everyone just thinks you're
telling the truth that the liberals won't let you say, when really you're just
saying it because controversy sells. I'm going to stop talking now."

"Well, that's a first," said Jerry. "You have done more damage to LGBTQ unity
than an army of Republicans. Trans people are part of our movement, man! It was
a trans woman who threw the first rock at Stonewall. They have been there for
us from the beginning. And now you and guys like you want to shut them out,
hang them out to dry, now that you've got some measure of acceptance. You make
me sick. I can't believe I used to be one of your fan club. I'm so glad I wised

The conversation turned to how Jerry had hidden his gay identity, online as
well as in his family and social life, until he had finally come out after
counseling at Elaine's clinic. Campion didn't say very much, because he had
finally discovered that he couldn't lie anymore, though he wasn't sure how that
had happened.

Meanwhile, Campion's cheering section had erupted into arguments. Some were
shouting that somebody had hypnotized their leader, others were abandoning
Campion because of his deceptions, others were attacking them, and the argument
was getting out of control, so the security guards started dragging some of the
more violent among them out of the studio, screaming and yelling. The cheering
section was looking sparser now, and the rest of the audience was looking
relieved, finally able to hear the discussion on stage again.

"Your clinic does more than just transgender surgery, then," Shari was saying.

"Yes, we have counseling of all kinds, even marriage counseling -- we've
counseled people against reassignment surgery in some cases, when we've found
that their issues actually had different solutions," Elaine explained. "It's
not really accurate to call the Center of Creation a transsexual clinic, though
we do perform that surgery -- we just do many other things too."

"I ... mischaracterized your clinic deliberately in order to gain followers and
satisfy a longstanding revenge fantasy," Campion muttered. "I'm not feeling
well and think I'll go lie down, if you don't mind."

Elaine was reading an article on her computer screen with the headline,
"CAMPION ADMITS TO DECEIVING FOLLOWING," when her cell phone rang.

"Elaine Seven Stars," said a voice.

"Is this ... Ward Campion?" she asked.

"Y ... yes," he answered. "I think ... I might have a problem. I understand you
have counseling services and are among the best."

"We try to provide the best services to our patients that we possibly can,"
said Elaine. "Mr. Campion, if you need counseling, we'd be happy to provide it
-- but I can't be your therapist. For one thing, I'm primarily a surgeon, and
for another, we've got past issues between us. I can recommend some great
therapists we have on staff, though."

"That would be fine," said Campion quietly. "But before you transfer me, I just
wanted to say ... I'm sorry. I used you as a wedge issue. You only want to help
people, and I used you to hurt a lot more."

"It's ... a very important step in anyone's progress as a human being to admit
that they're wrong," said Elaine. "It's a sign that you really want to
improve. Why don't you call either Dr. Evan Newburgh at ..." She gave him the
numbers of a few different Center therapists that she knew were accepting

When she hung up, she leaned back in her chair and looked at the ceiling with a
contented sigh. If there was hope for Campion, there was hope for anyone. She'd
removed the no-lying effect from him after they'd finished recording the talk
show, but she could tell via the song that he hadn't been lying on the phone
just now. His Internet following was in total chaos at the moment. He'd finally
admitted to himself that he'd been a liar and manipulator and that this wasn't
a good way to live. Perhaps he'd do something more productive with his life
from now on.

Elaine knew there would still be threats and attacks from time to time. Angry
bigots weren't going to vanish from the human race overnight. But she would
continue her work, she would help others, and she would gradually make the
world a better place for everyone. And she would keep working at it for a very,
very long time.

She smoothed the song around the Center into a calm, serene harmony and checked
on her schedule for the day.

~~ The Beginning of a Story with no ending ~~
Sunshine & rainbows,
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