My new brother

A short story by leonardo maffi

Version 1.2, 3/18/2004

This text is for mature readers, and it's a kind of answer of mine to the chakat
"Transformations" stories written by Bernard Doove (see notes in the end).

Day 1, Nbamba.

After a moment of non-existence we materialise inside this old small ship. During the last stages of the teleporting, I can see the warm smile of my chakat friend forming again, like the Cheshire Cat.

Dustpaw's strong cougar body requires a bit more time to materialise than mine. Hir white-speckled grey fur is quite puffed up by the teleporting even under hir suit.

There isn't any gravity, but we are used to it. I open a small bin to free thirty microprobes that look like jet-propelled robotic bees, they start at once to disperse to collect data about all this place.

Dustpaw reads some data about the air from the probe sensors, "The air is still breathable, very low radiation," shi says.

We open our helmets, but we keep on our very light vacuum suits.

I check my sensors too; the communications with the near Chinese space station C.U.S. 'Zheng Sui' are still full strength.

"The oxygen is a bit low for a human, are you okay?" asks Dusty.

"I'm fine, I'll breathe some oxygen from the suit now and then. Let's go."

Using handrails, we float down the corridor. We enter the engine deck and start to dismantle a small part of the old engines. Some smart robots have already removed all the most dangerous parts, but some secondary systems still have some energy inside.

After about twenty minutes, I go to the command deck to dismantle part of the engine console. One lift is still functioning. I feel a bit lonely inside this dark place, but I try to concentrate on my work. I'll have plenty of time to meet my furry friend later again.

Brrouuummmm!

Strong vibrations! An explosion! I close my helmet again and I fly to the engine deck as fast as possible. Inside the lift I use my elenses, electronic contact lenses, to ask some questions of the old sensory net of this ship. Most of it is out of order, but many sensors are still online. The outer hull of the ship is still intact!

"Small explosion on engine deck! I require immediate medical and engineering help. Please hurry! Dustpaw was there!" I yell into the comm.

I force open the door. There's so much fog that I can't see anything, but my sensors helps me find hir. Shi's unconscious. I grab hir and I close hir helmet so shi can breathe clean air. The life support is still operative and it's rapidly cleaning the air. There's no radiation, but these vapors are very corrosive... way worse than hydrogen chloride. There's a lot of blood floating... Oww! A projectile has cut a hole into hir suit and the gases have melted a lot of hir lower body! I use my hands to try to close the big arteries... Shi is losing lots of blood... my elenses can receive data from his suit, it says that hir head and upper body is still almost intact, maybe just some fur eaten away by the gas... some gas must have dissolved inside hir blood and tissues too. Hir four lungs are surely damaged.

"Cough! I want to live..." Shi says weakly.

"I swear I won't let you die!" Then shi passes out again. I don't know how I'll keep my promise.

The room is full of blood and melted tissues, shi has already lost lots of blood! This old ship still has two working teleporters. I hold hir between with my legs and with one hand I manually activate the teleport, typing some commands on the flexible display sewn over my suit sleeve. Dusty dematerialises before my eyes, but I don't let hir materialise again.

In the meantime two humans materialise beside me, then the technician starts to check the engines.

I show the display to the doctor, "I've reconfigured the teleporter to keep Dusty into a self-regenerating loop inside the old teleport memory. Shi is like frozen inside it now."

She can see the 3D representation of the teleport memory, where Dusty is floating, frozen into an empty space.

She looks at the 3D image of Dusty, zooming and rotating it, "The teleporter is very old, and its memory is going to decay about 150 seconds from now, shi must materialise again soon. Hir body has received too much damage... Even letting hir materialise inside the station's infirmary, there's a probability of about 30-40% of losing hir life. I'm sorry. We'll do what we can."

Thirty percent is too much! Shi is my best friend and colleague.

"Wait, I have to try something!" I program one station's teleporter to scan my body too, but I don't let it dematerialise me, then I delete the suit from my and hir 3D image and I swap the two memory images. Many precious seconds pass.. I let hir materialise again here...

I see a nude bipedal body materialising in front of me - it's my human male body. He's unconscious, I catch him. He's wet, bad smelling, very slimy and covered by big lumps of raw meat... but there's no blood and his body seems perfect and unharmed.

I force two breaths inside his lungs... he breathes!

"You have done something prohibited, but you have probably saved hir life," says the doctor.

"Oww! Cough! Mm... m hed! I feel strang..."

Dusty is alive!

"Medical emergency! Three humans to transport to infirmary, now!" Says the doctor to his comm.

After a not-moment, we are inside the space station again. The doctor helps me move Dusty over a bench, I cover his nudity with a plastic sheet, then I let the doctor do his work and check his body.

Dusty is still conscious! He is very strong. I'm not a doctor, but I can read some data and I can see that his body is quite okay.

"Nbel?! Nbel?"

Shi is calling me! "I come! I'm here!" I grab his hand.

"I do't fel somh par off m bodh... th gasss hav eatennn..."

"Yes I know. But now your body is complete again," I say.

He looks amazed at the palms and backs of his now furless hands...

"Yes, you are a male human now. You look just like me. I've used the teleporter to give you a new body. But you had lost too much tissue because of the gas, so I've had to use a human body image. I'll help you to walk and control your body again. I'm sure your parents will still accept and love you, and I'm surely going to be at your side. Today we have lost a friend, but I think we have found a twin brother."

Day 1, Nbamba, later.

I'm sitting inside the infirmary, waiting. From here I can see the doctors checking Dustpaw. They say that Dustpaw's body is quite well now, they have given him just a light drug to keep him calm.

He has passed out three times already, but now his body seems to be adjusting.

In the meantime Dustpaw's Companion is arrived, Macchiaboscosa [1] is a very young and very cute Terran chakat, shi has hugged Dusty, has washed his body, and now with a small towel shi keeps cleaning the saliva that he keeps losing a lot. Macchia comes from the Euroitalian Sector, shi is a lynx patterned chakat with a tawny mane, after the adolescence hir short lynx tail has lengthened to a normal chakat length. After leaving the old Euroitalian University that has given hir a home, shi has worked about two years on commercial sea ships, before meeting Dustpaws and coming to work inside this space station.

I still consider myself lucky to be Dusty's friend, chakats can make very fine friends. Some of them tend to touch people a bit too much, but usually I don't mind their very human hugs. Their dead undercoat fibers can't stick to the suits that I usually wear, and my parents have removed all my allergies to the fur before my birth.

"Ett... choooo! Imh colbd!" Says Dusty.

Dusty's Companion covers him quickly. Inside this infirmary the air is quite warm, but Dusty doesn't have his fur coat anymore.

All of a sudden there's a lot of activity, Dusty must have some problems.

Soon the doctors say that Dusty is slipped into deep coma, and they don't know how to help him, this is a very new situation for them. Have I killed hir?

Day 1, Nbamba, late night.

"His human brain can't cope with the very new situation, I'm sorry," says a doctor to me and Macchia, "We can't wake him from his very deep coma. So we have put a helmet over his head. The helmet is lined with microSQUIDs. We have started to stimulate his human brain, and we hope to modify some of his cerebral areas to make his brain more similar to a chakat one [2]. It will require many days."

This sounds slightly crazy to me...

I go beside Macchia and I strongly caress hir rump, "I'll do what I can to help you both," then I leave the infirmary, I know that Macchia will stay awake for him all the night, and tomorrow they will need me.

Day 28, Nbamba.

People aren't allowed to use teleporters to change people's identities, or to duplicate people, so I was processed for using the teleport to change the species of a sentient creature. I had even done it without hir informed consent... But fortunately the doctor helped me with the testimony, and in the end they acquitted me because I had used the teleporter to save hir life.

Life goes on. I go to my service every day. Dusty is still into a light coma, but the doctors say that his brain has modified itself, and soon he will wake up. They have used some drugs, stimulants, and other things to keep his muscles, tendons and internal organs toned and strong. Macchia seems always near Dusty, sometimes shi even sleeps in the infirmary; I feel some pity for hir.

I enter the infirmary... Dusty is awake! He seems quite well, he can move his arms, he is smiling at me and Macchia...

"Hi Dusty, we're on your side."

Day 29, morning, Nbamba.

Now I have time, so I can go to the infirmary to see Dusty. There's a medic that is helping Dusty exercising his voice. He has already learnt to speak intelligibly.

"Dustpaw, this new body is almost fine. It's healthy and strong, and your brain is more fit for your mind. You can start the rehabilitation exercises as soon as you want. 'Bye and good luck," the medic says, then she leaves.

I'm near Dustpaw as a teleport technician arrives beside us. I know him a bit, I've seen him sometimes.

"I have good news Dustpaw, some days ago I've succeed to reconstruct the complete image of your chakat body from your last teleporting to the small old ship," says the technician.

"Yippie! Very good!" I say.

"Please wait, there's still a problem," he says, "During such transformation processes a small part of the information become lost. My teleport image is perfect, and we can reconstruct Dusty's physical chakat body using almost every kind of material as a mass source, but doing it two times can produce too much copying errors. I've discussed it with some people, and we think that the best thing to do is to use some tissue from your former chakat body as mass source, to avoid many errors. The leftover material after your transformation was too damaged, but still there are some of your chakat cells inside the station's cryogenic bank. We can use them to cultivate about one hundred kilograms of your chakat muscle meat inside a vat. An expert says that it will take about sixty to seventy days to grow it all."

"Ih accepth," says Dusty after few seconds.

"I accept it too," says Macchia.

"Do you want to be hibernated during the growth of the tissue?" asks the technician.

"I whanth tho lhiveh the life and makeh experiences, even not good ones. I'm not happy to be a human, but I still want to live. During the growing time Ih hope toh learn what means being human. It's a very unusual situation."

Dusty wants his body back, I'm still silent.

"Nbamba, I like humans, and I like you, I dhon't have anything against human bodhies, but I still prefer my old one. We'll be friends anyway."

"I agree. But sixty days are a long time... It's very unlikely, but you can become used to this body..." I say touching his thorax.

"Then we'll disintegrate the raw chakat meat... it isn't a problem," says the technician.

"I'll go back to my old body anyway, I swear. This body is just temporary," says Dusty.

Day 29, afternoon, Dustpaw.

I haven't paws anymore, so everyone call me just Dusty. Most of them used to call like that even before my change, so it's okay for me.

They have given me a kind of dressing gown, I'm in a small gymnasium and I'm doing rehabilitation exercises for more than two hours now. Thanks to the biofeedback sensors I've already improved my coordination a lot.

I'm sickened to be circumcised, so I'm taking some smart drugs to make the skin grow back, in few days my penis will be normal.

"I have my service to do," says Macchia.

I try to greet hir with the tail, but I haven't it anymore... so I have to use my voice, "Okay, see you later."

My Companion Macchia has to work, but Nbamba is still beside me because the station has given him a special license for some days, to let him help me. It's a bit strange, why haven't they given them to Macchia instead?

I'm laying flat on a mattress. I try to get up in a sitting position... but I fall down. Sitting is still very strange for me.

"I even don't know how to sit! I'm dumb like a cub!" I hit the mattress with a fist!

What I have done? "Ow sorry!"

"It's okay, don't worry! You are learning quite quickly to control your body," he says.

"But... Have you seen it?"

"It's normal for us. We usually have some more aggressiveness that chakats. You still have to learn to control your new instincts," says Nbamba.

"I feel very incomplete... I've lost three grasping limbs! How can you do everything with just the hands to grasp things!?"

"It's right. Inside your brain you still have the capability to use your handpaws. We primates come from monkeys that lives on trees, we still have a reflex to grab things with a foot," he strokes a finger under my foot, and the foot fingers contract.

He searches some things with his elenses and then he shows me a rigid display, I see the old images of a phocomelic [3] human woman without arms. She is holding her baby and a feeding bottle full of milk, using just her feet. Gulp!

"Human bodies are simpler that chakat ones," says Nbamba, "But you still have something! That woman shows you that our feet can be very useful. Try to use as best as you can what you have now."

"Okay."

I try to use my feet. He helps me into a sitting position, then I try to touch a foot with the other foot. Then I try to touch his rigid display. Then I try to grab the screen between my feet... done! I try to touch icons on it with my left big toe...

Bip! Bip!

I can select items quite easily, "Whoa! You are right, it's easy!" I yell.

"It's easy for you. I can't touch things like that on a display. I suppose your brain is mapping your pawhands on your feet. You are already using your feet a lot better than me, and almost better than your hands, and I'm sure you will further improve. I suggest you to use some kind of sandals, so you can use your feet to--"

"I think I'll just go barefoot. I've never worn shoes inside this station. I like to feel things with my feet," I say.

"Remember that now your feet are tender because I have always used shoes. You can go barefoot in your free time, station's floors are smooth and service microbots keep them always clean; in time the soles of your feet can become hard as your chakat ones, and you can become used to the cold too, but the regulation says that humans must wear shoes during service time."

"Sigh! I remember, you are right."

"The rehabilitation nurse will help you. Now I have to go."

Nbamba leaves, and I keep doing the excises. All this sweat that I keep producing now is quite disagreeable...

Later I don't see Nbamba all evening, just Macchia. Where has he gone?

Day 30, morning, Dustpaw.

I'm already eating all by myself with a spoon! My face is full of soup, but I'm improving. I know that I don't have fangs anymore, but I don't like to eat vegetables soup at 9.00 am!

Now I feel these hands like my hands. My human nails seems a bit fragile, but I don't have to worry anymore about clawing people or things for mistake. These nails are also better suited than claws for scratching myself.

"Hi! Are you ready?" says someone.

Nbamba is here! He has startled me. I haven't perceived him; I'm sort of deaf now.

"Have you finished your soup already?" asks a nurse.

"I'm already full, thanks." I give her the plate smiling.

Nbamba has brought a kind of wheelchair. He helps me to sit over it. I'm still not used to just sitting! It's still a very strange position for me, but I'm already adjusting to this body. Sometimes I fear I might adjust too much to it, and to become a human. Maybe I'm doing everything the wrong way, this fear can't help me.

Nbamba straps me on the wheelchair, then he guides me out of the infirmary. After a while, we reach another infirmary. The label says 'Prosthesis section'!

"Ow!"

"Don't worry Dusty," says Nbamba, "Remember that I'm your friend and I know quite well that your kind doesn't like surgery. Here we'll not do anything invasive to your body. Here I'll never pierce your skin, and you can refuse everything you don't like. Last night I designed and produced some things that you can appreciate."

He shows me two brown thumb-like things, with a strap. They have some sensors over an almost flat face...

"Your human body is complete, but the medics say you still feel like a severe amputee because now your brain isn't totally human anymore."

"Nbamba, you are insensitive. It's not nice to remind me my situation this way."

"Sorry, but you are a technician too, and you know that we have to see the problems before trying to fix them. They have modified some parts of your human brain to mimic a chakat brain a bit better. Yesterday I've seen that your brain still remembers how to use handpaws, and I want to help you. So these are opposable thumbs that you can strap on your feet. They are self-powered. They aren't very strong, but you can lift some small things with them, I suppose."

"But how can I control them?" I ask.

"With this," he shows me a headband and then he puts it on my head. It's colorful, and it has a lot of sensors inside.

"This headband is full of SQUID sensors that can read your motor cortex from outside the skull. The artificial fingers haven't motors inside, they have very silent and strong artificial muscles," says a technician from across the room.

I strap the opposable thumbs to feet, they stick very firmly like magnets to my skin, and after few seconds of trials I can make them move a bit. I think that with some exercises I can learn to control them.

"You can walk too with those thumbs on. They are at the side of the foot," he says.

"They look quite strange, almost like monkey feet, but thank you Nbamba. Now I have four grasping appendages again," before the transformation I had five, and now I have to sit down to grasp things with my feet. Despite the good intentions, no prosthetic could ever be as useful and intuitive as the real thing, and they only serve to remind me of what I had lost... But they still can be better than nothing. Maybe I'll find them useful.

"We have just started!"

"What?"

"You aren't feline-like anymore; welcome to the ape world! No more whiskers, cat licks, big muzzle, big sharp fangs, and claws. I know, I'm insensitive again, but I'm trying to help you realize your new situation. I know you feel incomplete now, and I'm here to help you. Last night, I and that crazy human over there built you this prosthetic tail. We apes descend from monkeys with a tail. Inside our spinal medulla we still have some nerves used to control the tail, but with that headband you don't need them. I hope you can control this tail using just your brain and the headband."

He puts in my hands an appendage more than one meter long. It's covered with a gripping material, and touching it I can feel that it's full of artificial muscles inside... it's cylindrical and about one centimeter and a half thick.

"You can strap it over your butt... yes. The headband can allow you to control it. We hope," says Nbamba.

I disrobe completely, and he helps me strap the tail over my bottom, then I try to control it. It's very difficult, my brain is quite human now... but I see I can move it a bit, "It's painfully slow and awkward, but I think I can learn to use it."

"You will have to punch a hole into that suit for the tail," says the technician. He is clearly amused.

This tail is quite smaller and weaker than my old one, but I think it can grab smaller things. It's like a grasping snake that I suppose I can learn to control.

"You can use this to walk," says Nbamba. He straps another thing on my bare back. It's quite flat and big and apparently it does nothing.

"Is it too heavy?" He asks.

"No, it's light enough. But what is it?"

"It contains some very fast spinning gyroscopes to help you keep the equilibrium when you walk. Yesterday the doctor said that the equilibrium centers inside your brain have very low functionality. Chakats and other taurs have four legs, and they don't need too much equilibrium sense. We humans have just two legs, our body is like an inverted pendulum, and we need to have a very good equilibrium to just keep ourselves upright. Your still have my brain equilibrium centers, but it seems you can't use them. You can learn to have a better equilibrium, but it I think it will take weeks or more, and you have just two months to feel what it means being human. So I've built this. You can wear it under the clothes or the suit."

He grabs just my hands and I try to stand upright... Nbamba is nice and insensitive at the same time. He's a strange person. The back gyros are helping me a lot indeed. Then I sit down again on the wheelchair. I still have to learn to walk, but this backpack can help me, I hope.

He covers my nudity, "Thank you. Now I feel a bit full of things over my body."

"We haven't finished yet. I know you feel that your human senses are quite dumb compared to chakat ones. Now we try to improve your human senses. Let's start from the simpler things. These are a pair of electronic glasses, but we have modified them. The images are projected inside the eyes by lasers controlled by computer."

"Eglasses are very old technology! We can use contact e-lenses," I say.

"Contact elenses don't suffice. These eglasses has many extra sensors. It has zoom, it can show you VR images, and it has image intensifiers to help you see in near darkness just like a chakat. Maybe I can improve them some more in the next days, but they can't help you too see more electromagnetic spectrum, like chakat eyes, sorry. You can just switch to infrareds or normal human visible spectrum."

I think I'll try to program it to mix the two sets of images. I put them, I've used eglasses like these sometimes when I was a kitten cub. Few people still use them, sometimes they are used for just historical reasons. Nbamba switches off almost all the lights in the room. My improved eglasses switch instantly to night vision. I can see quite well in near darkness, "These eglasses adjust to very low light faster than chakat eyes. I like them," to answer me he just sticks out his tongue in the darkness.

"Now the hearing," says Nbamba switching on the lights. I haven't perceived any over-exposure of light, good.

The technician comes beside us, "The eglasses have hundreds of very fine nanophones too that can help your ears to hear more things than a chakat's ones would. Over the eglasses' ear grips there's a transducer that can transmit sounds to your inner ears through the bone. Some old people use such microphones, sometime they are used even by very old chakats that don't want hearing devices surgically implanted inside their head. But these are different, yesterday night we've had a lot of fun... you know we are geeks. Your headband SQUIDs can read the audio centers of your slightly modified cortex. Their reading is raw, but it suffices for them to read the spatial direction of your audio attention. The headband then communicates this information via radio to the eglasses, and they use it to filter the audio intensity according to the sounds direction," he says.

"I've tried those eglasses too, and I can control the sounds too. But you have a different audio cortex, and I know you can change your audio attention direction much better than a normal human because felinoids are much more used to do it," says Nbamba.

Then I finally understand, "I can use them to replace my directional hearing!"

"Right! You can't move your convoluted human ears, but with some practice I suppose you can control your hearing direction very well, almost like your former ears. You have to learn how to control it, and the neural-net-like processor inside the headband has to learn how to read your audio cortex. They have to adapt to each other, it will require more than a day."

"You two have done a lot of work... thank you. Are we done now?"

"Almost there. You have told me you feel almost odor-blind now, but yesterday some tests have shown that your olfaction is still finer than mine. It seems strange to me because you have a human nose now, my nose. Just as you can't use very well my equilibrium sense, they think you can use my nose better than myself, because you are used to rely on your nose a lot more, and you still have lots of odor memories that help you. Your eglasses frame contains another sensor, an artificial nose spread all over its surface, that is much more sensitive than a human nose. Its raw sensibility to molecules can be better that of a chakat nose."

"How can I use it?"

"Sticking this small nanofilm over your olfactory epithelium inside your nose. The artificial nose of the eglasses can communicate with it using radio induction, and the film stimulates your smelling organ using thousands of nanoelecrodes. In the long run the electrodes can damage the neurons of your smelling organ, but that's not a problem, you will have your chakat body again in two months."

"Thank you for all this, but I don't want to harm my body," even this human one. This is the first time I think about this one as my body.

Inside the station there are still some political discussions in progress. I think they won't allow me to change back to a chakat form. Here it isn't allowed to use the teleport to change identity and appearance. I'll have to transport my grown tissues inside my parents' colony and I'll have to transform there.

"Sigh! Okay, you are right. I'm too used to fixing robot bodies... You can read the odors inside your visual field as text and icons with the eglasses. It can show you a list of names and concentration of the subtler odors that your human nose can't perceive. Text interface is much slower and unnatural... but it can be still useful to you."

"That is much better, thank you," I say.

"If you say so. There are also a couple of artificial nose sensors on the tip of the artificial thumbs of your feet. They ignore the smell of your feet."

Moving the eyes to select an item in a menu I try to use the smelling sensors of the feet, a long list of many chemicals appear inside my field of view. I can't read them all... I can select another menu so the eglasses can show me just the common odor names. Now it shows traces of that limonene used with a soap robots sometimes wash the floor with, a smell that humans usually appreciate and most feline and feline morphs hate. Maybe now I'll appreciate it too...

"So I can smell the ground without having to bend down. This can be very handy, because most odors are near the ground."

"Handy feet," says the technician smiling.

I'll need days to learn to use all these things, and with a tail and extra thumbs I surely look funny... like a cybermonkey that can grab things with the feet but has problems staying and walking upright. I've changed from being a tauroform felinoid to being an ape. I just hope I'll not have to groom other people backs!

Day 31, Dustpaw.

The doctors have finally dismissed me from the infirmary, Macchia helps me enter our room again with the wheelchair. The room seems bigger, most things have slightly different colors, and there aren't many smells.

I have missed my two pets a lot... Shistho, a bio-genengineered asex microdragon, and Berry, a virtual pet that now runs on the station nanocomputers net. I caress Shistho's long emerald neck. I know he can't recognize me, but his species is polite with everyone.

Berry is very intelligent and looks like a real herm bear cub, I can see hir over the big wall-screen playing with some squirrels into his virtual bush. Inside hir world is almost night and shi have ignited a nice campfire. In the beginning shi was just a standard public domain bear cub v-pet. Shi will always look like a bear cub, but in the last years I've designed and added to hir mind some parts that have increased hir intelligence to the maximum before reaching legal sentience. Now I can't add any more of them, I don't have anything against having a virtual son that resembles a bear, and the laws doesn't forbid me to do it, but it's bad to make a sentient being without hands, I'd have to give hir a biped body and hands.

"Berry!" I say, shi runs near the virtual camera to greet us.

"Grouu!"

Shi is happy and recognizes Macchia... just Macchia. My heart bleeds...

"Sorry Dusty," says Macchia.

I know Berry's mind much better than my own, and I know that shi is much more complex and flexible than a standard v-pet, shi can learn to appreciate me in this human form too in few days. Selfishly I'd like to have hir support, I need friends now, but I don't want to confuse hir...

"Berry, please freeze yourself," I say.

A textual error message says that the simulation environment has refused my command because it doesn't recognize my voice.

I look at Macchia, "Berry, Dustpaw asks you to totally freeze yourself, please," Macchia says.

Berry nods, and then hir and hir environment freeze. Now shi can't feel the flowing of time, hir mind and universe are totally paused.

"After my anti-transformation, please defrost hir, even if I die. Shi must live again."

"Okay." Macchia may free hir into a public virtual bush reserve or into some virtual worlds, but I'm sure shi will keep hir. Berry is a member of our family.

I switch off the screen and I go near Macchia's flowers. They are tiny, Macchia grows them just for their smell and not to be showy. I smell them. I know why humans usually cultivate flowers for their visual appearance only, "They still smell good for my nose, but now they have almost all the same odor. I can distinguish only one or two different types of odors," shi slowly nods, but we both know there are about twenty different varieties of flowers here, each one has a different, rich and complex odor for a chakat nose. I feel like crying...

Day 33, Dustpaw.

I'm living again inside the room that I share with Macchia, and now I've learned to walk with a stick and to use my new tail a bit. It's mostly useful to point things and to anchor myself in microgravity. Macchia is on service now.

I look at my nude brown body into the mirror, I just wear my thumbs, tail, eglasses, headband and gyros. Now I'm a black human, a very handsome one. Chakat brains are derived from human ones too, our minds were created to appreciate humans too, and I've lived side by side with humans for all my life, so I can appreciate human bodies too. I'll have to keep this form for many more days. I prefer dark skinned humans; whiter skins feel too transparent for me. I've never become used to see all the veins... A body without a fur coat shows all its workings... like a transparent robot. I miss my breasts... my muzzle. I feel this face too flat. And mostly I miss my fur!

I don't like too much this flabby big sex that hangs between my thighs, with this soft scrotum similar to a billy-goat one, chakat sheaths are much nicer, and wolf-morph ones too.

This body is much similar to many other brown humans, I miss the big differences that every chakat coat has compared to every other. I'll have to wear different clothes to be different from other men... If I mated with a woman, my human children would look just like me and her...

This station is quite small, but it still has a swimming pool. To improve my motor skills in the last days I've swam a lot. I've learned to swim better than I did to walk... this glabrous [4] biped body seems designed to swim. Now I appreciate swimming much more than before. But Nbamba doesn't like to swim at all. It seems strange to me.

Beep!

There's someone at the door. Using the eglasses I open it. It's Nbamba.

"Hi," I say.

"Haven't you become used to clothing yet?"

I hug him, then I start to cry a bit... "I miss my fur a lot. We have made love many times, and you know I used to like your male body a lot. I still don't like clothes, but now I understand why most of you humans, we humans, appreciate clothing so much. Clothes keep the body warm, and give some warmth to the mind too. Maybe humans miss the fur that almost all mammals have, and this has created inside most humans some vague sense of loss... I've tried to appreciate this body, but still... It's not easy."

"I like all kinds of fur, but I think I don't miss any of it," says Nbamba. "You have lost some chakat instincts, but you must have gained some human ones. I think now you can appreciate the human body more than before, your human brain is built to sexually appreciate human bodies."

"I don't know about instincts, but I still appreciate furry bodies more."

"I like them too! Ha! --- I have contact e-lenses," says Nbamba showing me his eyes, "VR with me, brother?"

"Okay."

I close my eyes for a moment and I sit down on the floor to avoid falling. Using my eglasses, we go into VR. I'm a nude human inside this VR too and not a chakat. I follow him to the Knowledge virtual museum, he quickly instructs the computer to create a virtual hall all for ourselves. Nbamba shows me lots of nude human statues and pictures. The Knowledge Voice follows us like a ghost and tells us lots of things about the authors and artists, with their history. The corridors are very long, and the statues are from Classic Greeks to most modern ones. The dark Bronzes of Riace bodies are quite impressive...

"These personages look human and divine at the same time, between reality and myth. They represent the Greek conception of heroism and beauty, the classical composure and dynamic vitality. They represent a figurative language of a very high poetical value, based upon the plastic canons of the Hellenistic art. Their harmonious forms are expressions of a rarefied and ideal beauty and of the main features of the ancient esthetical conception, connected with an extreme realism expressed by many anatomical details. Each part, each detail is harmoniously set in the whole, while the movements of their members, trunks and heads are all in perfect synchrony [5]," says the Knowledge voice about them.

They have fine asses indeed...

Later I can see other images and figures that I know well already, under a beautiful light. Like Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty. The Aphrodite of Melos statue, the Venus de Milo [6], lost when the Louvre of Paris was destroyed during the last part of Genewars. She has no arms, but it doesn't matter.

I'm crying again... this time for her marvellous beauty... I'm enchanted. Her small juvenile breasts... her Hellenic nose... She is so human, furless, and so wonderful too...

At the end of the journey we come back to reality. With all that fine art I've learned some more Terran history, and... I've started to look at the human body from another point of view. I still prefer feline-like ones, but thanks to Nbamba I appreciate human ones more than before.

"I'd like to walk really a bit now," I say. Walking in VR doesn't help leg muscles.

We exit my room and we walk a bit down the corridors of the station.

"Do you want something to drink?" he asks. I nod, so we go to a recreation bar.

The ceiling is low and dark, and I bump the head into something! I miss my whiskers! They usually help avoid obstacles too.

Some people keep looking at us, mostly women, because we are identical, because my gray tail, and because I'm nude.

Here humans aren't prudish, and they can tolerate naturists in every public place, but I'll have to wear clothes when I'll be in service.

Today identical twins, either human or morph, are unusual. People feel that sharing the face with someone else is quite awful. When a zygote divides into two or more parts, most human parents inside this station choose to let live just one of them.

We sit, "I don't hate clothes, and I like the standard human engineering suit."

"Good to hear it."

I took a tomato juice and Nbamba took something with some real alcohol inside, I can smell it even without the eglasses telling it to me. I have human metabolism now, and I have to keep an eye on alcoholic beverages, my liver is weaker and I can become drunk more easily.

Everything tastes differently, the tomatoes too.

I touch his face, but he is clearly uncomfortable with it, so I stop immediately.

"You move quite differently from me," says Nbamba, "Your movements and postures are still very feline, you seem very light."

"Thank you! But I think I've lost many feline instincts, like the need to clean my arms with the tongue, and such things. I still can do it to clean the skin, but I have a small tongue that becomes tired soon, and I don't feel the need anymore."

"Are you becoming used to expressing and asking most things without odors? Eglasses can't help you a lot with that, I suppose."

"It's hard to express everything using just voice and hand and face gestures. Macchia is very nice and caring, but we still have to learn to understand each other again. But there are some advantages too... I can sleep about ninety minutes less than Macchia every day. I try to not awake hir... So I'm alone and I can make more exercises. This body is much lighter and I can turn instantly; and turning the head and turning all the body is almost the same thing! I've done a lot of physical exercises... They say I could become a fine swimmer."

"They also say you are exercising too strongly. I understand that you feel weak, but our bodies have one heart each and we aren't athletes. You have to train more slowly."

"Okay. -- A nice young woman is looking at us, she's over there," I say. I've used the eglasses zoom without even thinking about it.

"She is looking just at you!"

I smile and nod, "I think I miss licking my genitalia, like I used to do sometimes, but I can't because human backs are too stiff."

"Two minutes ago you have said that you have lost your feline grooming instincts."

"Maybe not all of them... and it's a habit too."

"Human backs are stiff, but your body is adaptable. A human can make exercises to improve the back flexibility. I think some months would be sufficient," he uses his elenses to send me some very old 2D images of some circus human girls so bent that have their heads between the legs... crazy humans.

"There are few other advantages," I say, "In the morning it takes me fewer minutes to be ready, even if I still have to learn the fine control of my hand's movements. I don't need anymore about 30 minutes to wash, dry and brush all my long fur. Fur coats are very beautiful, but sometimes uncomfortable too. Yesterday I've tried to wear clothes, and when I move from a cold room to a warm one or vice versa I don't have to endure cold or hot, I can remove some of my clothes or add some more of them, as you suggested to me yesterday. You can't remove your fur coat depending on the station rooms temperature. Clothes are very handy. Fur is fixed, and when it's wet and you haven't anything to dry it, it can become quite uncomfortable. Human body is almost glabrous, but it's 'faster' too... I don't know how to express it. It's like having long hair, they can be nicer, but less 'practical'. Fur is beautiful to look at and under the touch, but human bodies are more practical, I mean that these human bodies seems fitter to become soldiers, to wear armor, space suits, all things useful in particular situations. I don't lose a lot of dead fur anymore, so I think the robots can clean my room in a bit less time... And I don't need fur-repellent clothes anymore."

"You will still need them, because of Macchia and other morphs around."

I nod, "Right. Human bodies are more 'Spartan' than chakat ones. I'm still trying to find words to express this feeling so I can make a comparison. It's like a human that shaves his head to wear a particular helmet. A shaved head can be uglier, but it can allow him to make more things than before, to be more similar to a robot body. There's the same relation from a furry body like a chakat and a human body."

"I don't feel like a robot. -- Fur is nice but it requires some work, I see," says Nbamba.

"For me it feels unnatural to shave my face, so I've decided to let it grow."

"Okay, good. So people will distinguish each other more easily."

"But why do you shave your face? Why many male humans like to do it?"

"To look younger from women and children points of view, I've read. Later I'll suggest you a book about humans."

"I'm still a chakat inside, and I feel that shaving my face is like a small self-harm to my body."

"I feel it too. But having a shaved face can be handy sometimes. Anyway, I don't shave any other part of my body, as everybody can see on you and between your legs."

I close my eyes and I try to relax a bit. I have hairs on my head, they are short, very curly and black, but somewhat nice... I think I'll let them grow a bit more as well.

Day 34, Dustpaw, morning.

I switch off the communication with my parents. They are still a bit sad, but they are very supporting too.

Nbamba enters my room, he hugs Macchia and then he hugs me. I'm wearing my pyjama.

"How are you today?" Nbamba asks me.

"Yesterday night Dusty has mounted me for the first time after the change, he's still good," says Macchia smiling.

"Ah! Good. I think Dusty knows it too, don't you?"

Yes Nbamba, "I remember you inside me very well. My body and my penis are the same as yours, but I'm sure Macchia felt something different, because I surely make love differently from you. Making love isn't a physical thing only," I say.

"You still move and make love like a cat, I see..." Says Nbamba.

I'm just another person, that's the reason.

Macchia leaves us alone. I lay down on the floor, so the eglasses can show me images on the ceiling. A few seconds later, Nbamba lays down too.

We chat a bit about work matters, then about my new substitute, a very young fox morph that is helping him inside the old small ship. Nbamba has asked expressly to have a morph as a colleague, he likes to interact with morphs a lot, I don't know why.

I put a hand over his thorax, then I slowly go down to his abdomen, then over his crotch... I start to caress his maleness... but he stops me and removes my hand.

"Sorry Dusty, in the past we have made sex sometimes... but I think it's wrong now."

"But I was male too in the past! And you haven't refused my chakat male sides."

"Do you remember how much time it required for me? But we are just brothers now."

"Sometimes chakat sisters make love together..."

"I know, but sex between adult human brothers is quite rare. I've made love to you, to your chakat body, and I've appreciated it a lot. But still I'm not gay, and you haven't a female side anymore. For me the situation is very different and I can't do it with you now. We are brothers now. We were friends before, and we are friends too now, I hope."

"Okay, brother. But I'm still bisexual..."

"I know. You have Macchia, and on this station there are lots of men that can appreciate your body. We aren't bad after all."

Day 34, a Dustpaws' dream, early morning.

I lay down nude in my human bed. Macchia comes near me and caresses my legs saying something sweet. Shi starts to stroke my hardening penis with a warm hand.

"Spread your legs, yes more," shi says. I comply.

Shi keeps masturbating me and shi starts to push the points of the fingers of the other hand against my perineum. This increases my pleasure, I'll come soon...

"Open yourself for me!" Shi says. What does shi means?

Macchia insists pushing and stroking... I have a quick male orgasm...

I feel good, but shi keeps pushing and caressing. I feel something strange... some more pleasure...

I feel even more good for many minutes... Oh! I have a small female orgasm.

I look down, Macchia's fingers are inside me! Inside my vagina! It's just under my external scrotum. Thanks to Macchia's love I'm a herm again!

The place is changed, I'm sitting in the infirmary near Macchia, and I wear clothes. I know that I was pregnant and I've just given birth to our first son.

The human doctor gives me our son rolled up inside a blanket, I carefully open it to see hir face for the first time...

Owww! Inside there's a robotic chakat cub! Macchia hugs me... I'm a cyborg so our son is a robot! I cry and cry some more...

I wake up. Don't panic! That was just a human nightmare. It's early morning, Macchia's strong rump is near me, and we don't have a robotic son. As a chakat I've never had so bad nightmares. I don't like this unbalanced human brain.

Mmm, that was a wet dream too, I'll have to give my sheets to the service robots.

This body and brain are male only, and I can't have female orgasms, but my chakat memory remembers them quite well, and during a dream I can have them too... this is comforting. Let's try to sleep some more. I have to become a chakat for Macchia too.

Day 35, Nbamba, about 22.00, inside the bar.

"Have you really already found a male human partner?" I ask. I'm astonished.

"It's easy, there are many places to find a man, but it's ugly, it's just sex..." Says Dusty.

"Finding sex is easy, but love is much rarer, everybody knows it. Anyway, it was just an experiment to test your new body, I suppose. Don't be too sad. How's it gone?"

"Bad. Today I've tried to made sex with a man that I had met just fifty minutes before. I've told him that I'm not you."

"And?"

"He was nice after all. He has given me time... But we haven't done anything. I can't do it with a person that I don't appreciate."

"I see, and I think I agree with you," I say.

"I love Macchia, so I have made love with hir. This time I've taken hir."

Ouch! He still must miss his female side, "Ehm... And you liked it?"

"Not at all. Macchia was careful, but it was disagreeable and a bit dolorous too."

I think that taking a chakat for the first time requires a lot of courage... "Chakat penises are quite thick..."

"I know! And I don't want to do it again. But it doesn't matter. I can appreciate Macchia other ways. And I still appreciate males too, but I don't want to be taken like that anymore," says Dusty.

"I understand. Some bisexual human and morph males surgically modify their anus to make it more suitable to penetration, and to... map true female sexual sensations on it, modifying their brain too with some drugs. They can switch off and on the female sensations at will. Some of them even grow breasts, but they are rarer."

"That's disgusting!"

"I know that your chakat culture refuses such body modifications. But even the Chinese government gives them the freedom to do it," I say, "They don't harm anyone."

"From my point of view they seem quite crazy, and they harm themselves. They just have female sensations too, but they can't become pregnant. They are just males with a ghost female side. -- I have learned to control most of this body and my hands, and the Chinese Work Control says that now I'm almost fine and I'll have to work again soon otherwise I'll have to leave the station. So today I've visited one engineering section, now I can enter inside the smallest repairing ducts! Small rungs ladders aren't a problem anymore, I can climb them very easily with this human body and the prostheses."

Yes, just like a monkey...

Day 36, Dustpaw.

I've started to work again a bit, they have reassigned me to the worst engineering section, inside the most internal levels of the station, and I can't work with Nbamba. Today I've used my feet to support small things while I clean or fix them.

This section is for half-sentient morphs or for the dumbest robots, or people with big handicaps like me, and I hate it. Most of my new 'colleagues' can't even talk with normal vodors [7]. Their brains don't have language areas, and their cerebral speaking prosthesis must include them too.

It's like a zoo here, there are even some nonmorphic horses. I don't know why someone allowed them to come inside a space station.

I'm alone in the mess reserved for this section, eating a soup with some strange blue spheres that tastes like meat. Most of my biological 'colleagues' are eating the same thing from bowls on the floor, just like dogs. My mood is quite low. This very bad food is the perfect ending of a part-time work shift where I've probably seen the hottest rooms of my life, the heating control centers of the station. The only good thing is that now I know that in a desert as a homosap I can survive much easily, I need very little food and without fur, I don't have many problems with hot places... I can just sweat like a fountain. In a desert my worst problem is to find all the water that I need now... in hot places I seem to be always thirsty, I have to carry water with me just like Nbamba.

"Can I sit here?"

I look up, there's a young homosap woman with a tray, "Yes, sure."

She sits beside me; she clearly has Chinese parents, and seems quite nice.

"Why do you work in this Section?" I ask.

"You seems quite direct! What's your name? Is this your first day here? I haven't seen you here before."

"I'm Dusty, and yes, this is my first day here as a sub-person."

"Dusty and?"

"Just Dusty, I don't have a surname," I say.

"Good. I'm Lùo, a horse with a dark mane."

I don't know what she means.

"It's the meaning of my name. -- Do you think that your colleagues here are sub-persons?"

"I don't know. Many of them seem just animals or dumb robots..."

"Mmfh! For example look at that 'animal' over there that looks like a regular Shetland filly. She doesn't have hands or vocal cords, she just calls herself 'Blonde'. She belong to a Chinese species of small genengineered horses derived from a pony race. They were created few years before Genewars to work like intelligent animal slaves in leas and collective farms. She's a very intelligent and competent engineer, you can learn a lot from her. Here you can start to look at 'animals' with different eyes. You still have a lot to learn."

"Sorry. By the way, I'm not exactly what I look," I say.

"This is the 'freaks' workforce, as someone in the Direction calls us; almost no one here looks like what they are. That's why I've said you can learn a lot here."

"Why are you here?"

"I'm working here because recently I've gone through an explosive decompression during an external control, my suit has broken and I've lost my eyes, a lot of skin and some other things. Yes, these are artificial eyes, and I'm still healing, mind and body. And you?"

"I was a chakat."

"Are you Dustpaw!?"

"I used to be hir," I say gravely, "But for now I'm a just Dusty."

"You are famous. We are less than ten thousand in this station, and you are unique. I've seen you some days ago inside a bar with your clone or twin brother. Now I have understood. He's called... Nbamba I think."

She is very nice. And I need a friend here...

"That's right. My body is a copy of his one; I'm more than a clone, I'm almost physically identical to him."

"But do you still feel a chakat inside, right?"

"Right. I was a chakat for all my life... I can't change so much so quickly."

"Chakat minds are much similar to human ones. Your species was designed to integrate easily with the human one. You can learn to behave like a human if you want it."

"Do you like me?" I ask, touching her hands.

"Ah! Yes, you still think like a chakat... yes, you seem rather cute. And handsome too. I have to go back to work now. I have a full-time job. We'll meet again Dusty. Bye!"

"Bye..."

She smells like... corn. I hope I have found a friend.

She can be more than a friend for me. Now I've understood for the first time the difference that homosaps make between buddies and possible sexual mates. At the bar some men can think about me as a possible buddy but most of them can't and don't want to think of me like a possible mate. We have the same sex... The 'friendship' between people of the same sex is something that as a chakat I haven't learned. Such relations are 'lighter', simpler. The absence of sexual possibilities makes these relations simpler... I have had some friends in my life, but the fact I'm a herm makes all relations with people possible sexual relations... The possibility to have true buddies is quite a new relation and experience for me.

I hope to meet Lùo again.

I go to help some of my colleagues, I have good hands and I must help them to transport back the empty bowls.

Then I caress and clean the flanks of a very big and very beautiful black non-morph stallion that is eating some vegetable rations.

I caress his nose and forehead, I really like horses, natural or morphs, and this one is beautiful and very elegant. He can't speak, but his eyes clearly show that he has some intelligence and he appreciates what I'm doing... even too much, he seems to become sexually aroused. I suppose his species is modified to feel nice when a biped rides him and to feel pleasure when someone caresses him. So I keep caressing his neck and rump, his nostrils dilate, and his cock grows some more, then I have to stop, I don't want him to stain the mess floor.

Some of them are looking at me... but I don't care.

The horse licks my face two times, "Brrr! Very good brown human with a tail. You are learning quickly. Welcome with us... I don't know your problems, but we are a family here and we'll take care of you too. You aren't alone anymore. Here no one is left behind."

Ah! He can speak! He has a hidden good vodor.

I cry on his rump... I'm wetting his fur... and he nips my flanks to keep contact.

Sorry... Sorry... We are made of the same matter, Lùo is right, I'm the animal if I don't see that we are much the same.

Day 37, Nbamba.

Macchia has asked my help because Dusty seems to have some problems. I enter Dusty and Macchia's room. Macchia is in service now. The room seems dark, when the door closes behind me I see that the lights are totally off. Macchia says that Dusty seems depressed like just a human.

I walk slowly in the darkness...

"Room: near darkness lights," I say. Now there is very small amount of light, just enough to allow me to see Dusty on the floor...

I sit beside him, then I lay down like him. He has removed his tail, his gyros, his opposable thumb-big toes, his eglasses... everything. He seems a bit depressed indeed.

"How are you? Does your feel your heart low?" I ask him.

"I'm not depressed. Anymore. I'll put the prosthesis back later, don't worry. It's just that sometimes I like to remove them."

"I understand. You are free to use them as you like," I say. I close the eyes... I suppose wearing them all the day can become uncomfortable.

"They are useful devices, and I like to use them. They help me a lot. I feel they are so useful that I wonder why humans don't use some of them too..."

"Sometimes we use the eglasses or hearing devices, but we aren't used to pointing our ears like felines. I suppose that we simply don't feel the need for something that we have never had, like the opposable thumbs on the feet. Anyway, I think I'll try the tail some day... it seems quite funny and useful."

"I'm not depressed, really," says Dusty again, "I've switched off the light and removed my prosthesis to think. Not having the senses assaulted is very useful to think about things like the meaning of my life..."

"Mmm"

"I mean that with this human body I'm not distracted anymore by my senses, like olfaction, and this allows me to become more meditative, and more thoughtful about what I'm doing. Humans are very sexual beings too, but I'm different now. I can't tell it to Macchia, but I feel I'm not conditioned by sex anymore, I feel free, in a sense. I can enjoy my mind too now, much more that before."

"You used to be quite intelligent like a chakat too."

"Yes, chakats too can think and meditate, but it's a bit different now. I feel more distant from my body. I don't have the female parts anymore. I feel the lack of a thousand things... I still feel like having a much more 'shrunken' body. In the first days after my change, I asked myself how humans can do all the their things just using two prehensile appendages only. I've seen my colleagues at work, some of them do not have any natural prehensile appendages, some of them use robotic arms controlled by their brain, like my tail. Now I have seen that the limitations of this body incite me to think and act even more than before my change. At work I've become friend with a marvellous and wise nonmorphic black horse. He's strong, huge and very excitable... he teaches metallurgy, helps to transport heavy things and does other things. He has told me about a very small e-book from the library, I've already read it, it tells the story of an old Terran Native American, he thanked the spirits that he thought had given him the blindness... How can someone be happy to have become blind? That old human said that the blindness allowed him to see more than before. Was he a fool? I've tried to remove my artificial senses and my prostheses, and I've understood... He was referring to the eyes of the mind, the blindness had coerced him to use just his mind to solve problems inside his tribe, to think much more than before. And he has found that thinking about such problems is better. This is true for my olfaction sense too. The olfaction is a very concrete sense to 'understand' things. Chakats have a very fine olfaction. I remember that as a small kitten I had to work a lot to stop 'thinking' about things using just my nose, and to start thinking more abstractly with my mind."

"I have a very good olfaction, for a human. I don't really understand what you mean with 'thinking just with the nose', but I understand that you can't use the nose to study geometry and mathematics... Sometimes having less is having more, I suppose," I say.

"There's more, much more. I feel incomplete now."

"Do you mean physically, psychologically or both?"

"Both. And I'm starting to feel that sometimes it can be an advantage," he says.

"This is very strange from a chakat point of view, I suppose. What do you mean? I'm listening."

"This sense of incompleteness makes me work more than before."

"You have more time awake."

"Yes, but that sense makes me look for a reason too."

"Some people from Terran Asia can agree with you, I think. They have some similar ideas inside their culture."

We just breathe and think in silence for some minutes.

"I think that now I do more than before. Not just because I have more time, but because I feel more incomplete, and I feel that I have to do more things. The chakat body, hir fur coat, hir psychological equilibrium... my fur coat and some feline sides used to give me 'company', to make me feel complete. Now I feel nostalgia for something that I've lost, and I think all humans feel a bit of it. All this incompleteness makes me do and look for reasons in my life, in life."

I've never heard him say such things. Dustpaw used to talk just about engineering, love, sex, food, music, some astronomy and horse paints.

"It seems that this time as a human is showing you lots of things."

"Maybe I'm just growing. That's what the black intellihorse has told me after I'd explained to him who I was, when I was grooming him," he says.

We stay silent in the darkness some more minutes, but my free time is almost over.

"Religion, transcendence... Many chakats aren't atheists, but they aren't much religious either," he says. "Chakat culture isn't much religious, from the very beginning, Katherine Turner probably was an atheist. Beside our culture, I've always suspected that humans are biologically more suitable for religion than chakats. Now I think it's true, with the awareness of his or her limits, a human can become religious, and can start to explore the religion... I think I'll never become strongly religious, I don't have enough time anyway, but now I can understand humans and their need of religiousness better than before."

"I'm atheist, just like my parents. And I've never felt the need to be religious. -- I have to go soon," I say.

"Okay. You surely aren't a philosopher. Thank you for listening me so much. I needed it."

"You're welcome, I like to listen to you, but you know, I'm just a technician..."

"Apart from Macchia, you are my best friend. That's more than sufficient. I think I'll never become very religious, I'll become like a human in a desert: I have a lot of free time and I'll study philosophy."

What does he means? What desert?

I let the door close behind me, and I walk down the corridors. There's still too much light for my eyes. Why did I have to transform hir into a male? Sigh! I'd have really loved hir as a human woman... But I can't tell it to him. I really hope to have hir back as a chakat. We must stay together, like friends or more. I already know that I'll hate to share hir with Macchia, I'm really monogamous at heart. I like Macchia, and Dusty loves hir a lot, so I don't want hir to leave Macchia, and I don't want to live without Dustpaw. I'll just have to endure sharing hir... I see very complex times ahead in my life, but interesting too.

Day 45, Nbamba, night.

Today was a holiday for this station, so we have had all day free, Macchia, Dusty, his cute colleague and new friend Lùo, and myself.

In the morning we have seen a very depressing action movie suggested by Lùo. After the sad movie we have played a lot inside a room with microgravity and padded walls, using an Augmented Reality virtual "mad ball" created by our eglasses inside the real room. Lùo is still healing so he hasn't played much, but we three have had a lot of fun. Dusty is almost better than Macchia, his lower human weight and the grasping feet are very useful in microgravity.

Day 46, Dustpaw, lunchtime.

Now I can control my body very well, but I'm still working part time, so I have a lot of free time, I don't know what to do and I'm bored. I've tried to see some non-interactive virtual porn, made by virtual actors of all ages and species, but soon it has become boring for me. With Macchia, I have all the real sex that we like.

At night I can't sleep well. I'm uneasy, it seems I'm never hungry and I think I'm becoming a bit depressed. I'm not used to such emotions, chakats have more balanced minds, but I can still deal with them.

I call Nbamba with the eglasses, the computer shows me that he isn't on this station, he is on a nearby shuttle helping to fix something. I ask the computer if Nbamba is on duty, and it says that Nbamba has just finished eating and he is free for a few more minutes, so I call him. I can see him with my eglasses.

"Hi Nbamba, do you want to talk a bit?"

"Sure, I have about other twenty minutes free. How are you and Macchia?"

"Macchia is fine, thanks."

"Have you eaten something?" he asks.

"I've eaten something before. But I think I'm depressed."

"I see. I think you aren't really depressed; you are bored, just like yesterday. You have learnt to control your body and the tail, but I think you still have to learn to control your brain. You still don't know how to control strong changes of your mood like these, humans learn to do it during their childhood."

"How do you know?"

"Your psychologist told me."

"You aren't supposed to tell me those things!"

"That's wrong. He's not your friend, and he has told me that I can tell you things when I think it's the right time."

"Sorry, you are right. You are better than him anyway. I'm uneasy, I feel fear for the transformation back to a chakat. It has some dangers, as you know. I fear what is happening inside my mind too, and I don't understand. The only thought that helps me support myself is that few days from now I'll come back to what I was. Maybe. But I fear that this body has changed my mind irreversibly."

"You are free to stay as a human or you can choose to turn back to a chakat. Anyway people grow and change, and you can't go back to what you were. I suggest you to start painting, you can paint some horses. You were a good draftsman. I have to go back to work now. Bye."

"I'll think about it. Bye and thank you."

Day 47, Dustpaw, afternoon, Nbamba's room.

"I've followed your suggestion, and I've tried to paint something, with some help from the computer. I've created many dark images, sometimes scary, full of privation, with some of my most unlucky colleagues, a Shetland pony, some amputee... I can't show you those images, they are disturbing, and I think they are unhealthy. I'll delete them all! Maybe I'm becoming crazy, I have to make an appointment with the psychologist again."

"Sometimes it's just right to be depressed, when you lose something or someone precious. You don't need the psychologist, you must help yourself. Humans can have strong unbalances of the mood, like rage. For us sometimes it's quite normal to become anxious, and you are in a very stressful situation. Chakat minds are more balanced than our ones. Please, before deleting them I'd really like to see those dark images," says Nbamba.

"Okay," I use the eglasses to call the images from the station net and show them over one of his displays.

"Wow, they are very dark mood images indeed. I'm not an artist, but I've seen lot of artworks, and I think that these are a bit raw, but not so bad. I think it's not right to delete them. I'm sure that other people can appreciate those images. I suggest you to put them online in the station art publinet."

"I'll think about it..."

Day 47, Dustpaw, early night, Nbamba room.

"I've followed your suggestion again", I say to Nbamba, "And I've already received some appreciation notes from a human Japanese teenager on board. She says that she likes them!"

I show him her textual comments, and he smiles, "Good."

"She has said that those images represent quite well what she feels inside, so she has thanked me for showing them on the net. She has said that my images remind her that she isn't the only depressed person on this station, and that at the end of the tunnel there still is a light... I think she was referring to the small light that I've put into some of the images to represent the unknown of my transformation back... I can't understand how someone can say that those gloomy images are 'beautiful'."

"It's a different kind of 'beautiful', I suppose. Human life have many faces, some of them are scary. Artists can express their feelings and view of the universe, and your images are an honest gloomy vision of it." Says Nbamba, "Your results are technically raw and quite naïve, but they can still be appreciated."

"I see something pathological inside my images..."

"You are right; they show a depressed mood, some of them maybe even desperation. Those moods can become pathological for a human. But still they are a very genuine expression. Chakats rarely become depressed, they really have a more balanced mind. People with very abnormal psychology usually can't create anything good, but the human story is full of artists that have written or created artworks inclined by their abnormal psychological states, like a light depression, a small fad and so on. Obviously they must have lots of technical capabilities, they have worked a lot, but that's not sufficient; to create something you must have the inclination to express something too. I think you are feeling bad because you are really slightly depressed. You aren't strongly depressed, trust me. You have difficulties to sleep, but you have to look at the positive sides too: without this low mood you cannot draw those images that that teenager girl has appreciated so much. Chakats' minds equilibrium is useful, but it's a loss of a side of human nature, a dark side that has inspired generations of artists, and maybe some scientist too, etcetera, that has given them some reasons to create and express something. I'm still waiting to read a very good novel written by a chakat. Most of them look just like romance novels. They lacks some of the darker sides of life."

"Chakats too can become mad or depressed for many weeks, I've seen chakat parents become very depressed after losing one of their cubs. They aren't - we aren't always happy like the dumbest robots! We know that pain and sufferance can teach lots of things too, for example to care for other people that suffer."

"I know. You know that I love chakats and I've never said that you are insensible like an old-style robot."

"Human depression or madness can be terrible for a person..." I say.

"You are right. The human psychological instability can be a big disadvantage for the single human. That's why I'd like to be born like a chakat. But for the entire human species, it can still be an advantage. It's such instability that makes our nature so rich and complex."

"I don't understand."

"I'm talking about biodiversity. We aren't an artificial species that comes from very few individuals, we have a much higher biodiversity than any artificial species like the Taurofelis adamo, the chakat species."

"This is well known, and chakats are still working to increase it inside their species. It can require centuries," I say.

"Having a higher biodiversity means that inside our homosap species there is a higher variance of genetic, physical and psychological characters. For an individual having an extreme characteristic like being pathologically depressed is usually a disadvantage, but when there is a bell distribution of characteristics, due to biodiversity, it's inevitable that there exist some unfortunate individuals that fall into the tails of the gaussian distribution. But this biodiversity of the species is an advantage, because it allows the species to confront many different situations. For example, sometimes slightly depressed or slightly unstable persons can constitute an advantage for all their species, maybe because they have some more reasons to make art or to invent new things. The existence of such different people imply almost inevitably the existence of some other rarer individuals that have so strong problems that they can't do anything good. Chakats are more balanced, and this is good for most part of individuals, because it allows them to make a better life with less sufferance, but it precludes them to have all the 'psychological biodiversity' and some occasions that makes the human species so adaptable. AIs don't need those gaussian tails into their population to be creative just because their minds are designed over very different principles from mammalian brains, like chakat, human and morph ones. There's few very new genengineered biological species that have such gaussian tails partially removed by some inner controls, but they are still quite experimental. They still have to show most of their qualities and disadvantages."

Day 48, Dustpaw, lunch pause, mess.

I've not fallen in love with Lùo yet, but we are becoming very close. I've just told her that I want to become a chakat again. She is quite sad, but she isn't angry with me, she says she understands me.

"Don't you like chakats?" I ask her.

"I like almost all morphs very much, most of my best friends aren't human, but I want a human husband, I'm not polygamous and I want a child. Can you understand? You are a beautiful person, outside and inside too, but if you will become a chakat again I cannot become your mate. But I hope I could be your friend still..."

"I understand. I like you a lot... and I know that I'll have to work a lot to become accustomed to my chakat body again, but I have do it."

"Can I ask you why? You have told me that you like this human body. You are slowly learning to walk without your gyros, and your other devices can be improved some more. Your chakat parents and friends and Nbamba are still with you, and when I've met your chakat mate Macchiaboscosa shi has told me that shi still loves you almost as much as before. I know that very soon you will have back your old job with Nbamba, and I know that such transformation with the teleport has some risks. I repair teleports too, and I know. You have told me that inside you aren't a human yet, but I think you can become one, you just have to want it and work to realize it. This mess is full of creatures that have big problems, but they still endure and try to learn to be fully functional people, to learn using robohands or vodors."

"I feel that it's a very strange confirmation, it's almost absurd and incomprehensible from my point of view. I'm still a chakat inside. I was a chakat for more than twenty five years, and now I'm a human since less than two months. I can't change so much... How can a person consciously decide to become something different? Some people choose to change sex, and some humans even use surgery to change their appearance becoming like morphs, and vice versa. But most of such people feel that they are just adapting their wrong external appearances to match their real hidden nature, so I think their situation is similar to my one, I'm still a chakat inside and I want to look like one. How can I choose to become what I am not? I suppose I can try to mimic some human people, I can learn something, and maybe in the long run such things can become so natural for me that they can become like a second nature. But still how can I decide to voluntarily transform my chakat psychology into a human one? I think I'll become mad if I try to do it. Even with this human body I can learn to behave like a human, in most situations, but I can't decide to voluntarily transform my psychology into one like yours."

Day 48, Dustpaw, late night, Dustpaw's and Macchia's room.

Macchia is sleeping beside me, but I'm still not sleeping, I'm thinking about what I want to do of my life. I'm lucky because I have the freedom to decide for myself, but it's not an easy choice.

Both being a chakat and being a human have advantages and disadvantages. Both bodies are very interesting, both are beautiful and both lives are surely worthy living.

For me it's not really so important to be a human or a chakat, because I like both... I think I'd like to be both, maybe like a voluntary shapeshifter... He he!

In the end I've told Lùo that I want to become a chakat again, but not because I think chakats are better than humans, but just because my mind is still much chakat, and a chakat mind belongs more to a chakat body. Less than two months of being a human haven't changed what I am. I'm adult and at my age the bases of psychology can't change so quickly.

I've decided to become a chakat again, even if I have to leave Lùo. She will be just a friend of mine. Sigh!

I already know that I'll miss this human body a lot, I like to swim and to dance music for bipeds. I nip up Macchia some more, shi warms my heart so much...

Day 54, Nbamba, late morning, O'Neill colony.

It's a holiday at the station. In the last days Dusty's mood is improved a lot, thanks to Lùo's friendship too. Dusty is with Lùo now, teaching her to swim again, so I and Macchia have decided to pass the day together. We have taken the early morning shuttle for the close international O'Neill colony, that is in the Earth-Moon L5 lagrangian point. We are over the internal surface of a really huge cylinder. It rotates around its axis to simulate the gravity. The Coriolis force due to rotation is almost imperceptible, I can feel it only when I turn direction.

We are near the village where Dusty's live, and we are walking in the countryside. It's clearly simpler and younger then any Terran countryside, but the air is good and it's still better than every place inside the Chinese space station. Macchia makes me look up. On the axis there are some clouds, and beyond there is the immense transparent window through which we can see the beautiful Earth.

"When Dusty becomes a chakat again, will you want to become hir Denmate?" Macchia asks.

Aside from Dusty, you are the only one that has the right to ask it... I don't know the answer.

"You two are good friends for a lot of time. And recently you have demonstrated that you care her a lot, you have helped Dusty a lot. I think shi can appreciate becoming your mate. I still don't know you enough, but you seem a rather nice person, and I wouldn't be displeased with you becoming hir mate," Macchia says.

"I don't know," I say, "I'm great friends with Dusty. I'd do anything for hir, but I'm not sure I'm in love with hir."

"And what do you think about me?" shi asks.

I don't want to become your mate. You deserve a sincere answer, "You seem faithful, sincere, affectionate, beautiful. I think that Dusty has a good mate. You are still quite young," I say.

"I understand..." shi says, slightly sad.

Day 54, Nbamba, afternoon, O'Neill colony.

We have had lunch as guests of Dusty's parents. They are very grateful for the help that I've given to Dusty.

Later Macchia and I are returned to walk in the countryside because we miss nature a lot.

"I think I'd like to become a chakat using the teleport," I say.

"Do you want to do it to be with us? You don't have to do it. Dusty and I like you and we can stay with you as a human too," says Macchia.

"Yes, I'd do it to be with you too. But to become a chakat is an old dream of mine that I used to dream even before meeting you two. Dusty, transformation have just shown me that I can realise that dream. It's a big legal problem, but I think I may solve it."

"A dream to be like me... I suppose I have to be flattered. But you have seen Dusty, having a human body hasn't sufficed to change hir inside..."

"It doesn't matter. To become a chakat 'outside' can suffice for me. I'd like to live as long as 150 years like you, to be strong as your race, to have the capability to give birth, to have all your fine senses, your speed, your tail, your handpaws, and so on. I'm not religious, and I've learned to appreciate both your sexual sides, etceteras. I believe that I can become used to be a chakat. I can't be sure now, obviously," I say, "I know it has some risks, but if I can't stand being a chakat I can always change back to human."

"You can take drugs to prolong your human life, and you can use devices like Dusty's to simulate some of our senses," says Macchia, "If you become a chakat just 'outside' you will be nor human nor chakat. You can become something in-between, you may become uneasy with people of both species. Sometimes being a chakat isn't easy. Some people don't appreciate morphs, herms, and so on."

"I'll learn to behave like you, I believe that I can do it. I believe that in the future many humans will choose to become chakat. Maybe it will be a very small percentage of the population, but still it will be a lot of people."

"If you are right, then all those new chakats derived from adult homosaps and morphs will change our culture..." Shi says coldly.

"They will render your culture more complex. I suppose it will be an improvement for you. Anyway, mine is just an hypothesis, I don't really know how much people like to become chakat. Maybe it's just a dream of mine and very few other people."

"So, do you really want to become a chakat?" Shi asks.

We stop walking, and we lay down. I caress hir rump and hir tail until shi starts purring a bit. Shi is so sexy... I'd like to give hir much more pleasure. I must admit that I'd like to make love with hir too... but I can't tell it to hir.

"I don't know. I'm thinking about it from when Dusty is human. I don't know if I'll ever do it. I like to think a lot about things. It's an important decision," I say.

"Mmrrrrr... I'm really uneasy about such transformations. But if you will choose to become a chakat, then you will have all my help to learn how to become a chakat. And I'm almost sure Dusty will give you all hir help as well," shi says, "If you will become a chakat, later will you become Dusty's Denmate?"

"I think yes I will do."

"I understand," shi says, "But do you love Dusty?"

"No, I think mine isn't love. I all my life I've never fallen in love with anyone, but I don't want to live alone anymore, and Dusty is my best friend. Beside hir I feel good, shi gives me a reason to become really committed to everything I do. Shi makes me appreciate life. I want to be always beside hir, anyway. If I become a chakat, I'll ask hir to become Denmates, and later we could even make a cub together. We are friends for so much time that we know each other very well, we feel good together, on work and during our free time. In the end my fondness for hir has even made me overcome the problem of hir having a male side too. I like to make love with hir, and I like hir looks a lot."

"To chakat ears what you say sounds a bit strange. But I know that there exists many kinds of love, and romantic love isn't the only one. I think yours will be a good relationship, practically it will have everything except romantic love from your part. I believe you will become good denmates, and maybe, later... you could become lifemates too," shi says.

Day 92, Nbamba, Epilogue, O'Neill colony.

The tissue is grown enough to balance the missing mass. We are inside the O'Neill colony, and we have transported the tissues with us. Here the doctors have drugged Dusty just before the transformation to make the process less stressful. And thanks to God, and to the transport technicians, the transformation with the teleport has gone without problems. Dustpaw is a chakat again, we have already cleaned hir body and shi is in a bed in this infirmary. Hir DNA has shown very few defects, so the intelligent drugs can fix it completely in very few days.

Macchia, Lùo and me are silently chatting in the infirmary near Dustpaw, waiting for hir awakening.

"Och! Cough! Oww my!"

"Dusty is awake!!"

"I haf fur anf breasts againf! Yuppie!"

Macchia is ecstatic and has started to dance on the infirmary floor! How cute!

"Ahh! Ah! Look how happy we are! Welcome back Dustpaw!! I don't have words to tell you how happy I am to see you again. I can't live without your friendship and your paws. How do you feel?"

"I canh't control my tongue and hands again! Buth it feels good toh be home again."

"Ah! Your chakat body is exactly the same of two months ago. You have gained about two months of life," says Lùo, like a technician. But she hasn't considered the added DNA defects...

"The two most intense months of your life, I suppose," I say.

Dustpaws strongly grabs me and kisses me on my mouth, tickling me with hir whiskers; then shi says, "The most intense months of my life are still the first three after I've fallen in love with Macchia," Macchia hugs us two and wraps hir tail around one of my legs, "But those last two months are just behind!"

"Chakats usually don't roar, but I'd like to hear you do it, just because now you can do it," I say.

"Okay, brace yourself! ROOOAARRRRrr!"

I know that from this experience Dusty has learnt a lot, in the last days he had written a half book that tells of his experience, and shi says that now shi wants to write the second part, the one that describes the 'return' to hir chakat body and life.

In the last days shi has written a very short essay too about human religions for chakat readers. Being just a motor technician, shi isn't bad after all... Many chakats have the capability to write an essay like that, but most of them don't feel the need to do such thing.

Dusty has already gifted me of hir mechanical tail, the special eglasses, and the other things, and I'll try them soon. I'm still thinking about my future. I still don't know if I'll become a chakat, I'd like to do it, but there are some problems. But surely I'll be near Dusty for a lot of time.
_________________________
 

Notes

Many thanks to Alessio "Scale" Scalerandi and Bernard Doove for the check proof of the text.
Thanks to Charles Honeycutt for his corrections.
This story is a kind of opposite to the story "Transformations" by Bernard, Part I, II, III:
www.furry.org.au/chakat/Stories/Forest16.html
www.furry.org.au/chakat/Stories/Forest17.html
www.furry.org.au/chakat/Stories/Forest18.html
This story is also my way to say "thank you" to Bernard and to everybody else in the chakat subculture from which I've received so much.
Writing this story have given me uneasiness because it contains a dualistic view of the mind, that is probably wrong. Teleporters that swap the same mind between different biological bodies are much likely impossible, because the mind isn't a software that runs on the brain hardware, the mind is something created by a very specific brain. Star Trek-like teleporters are probably impossible anyway.


1. An image of teenage Macchiaboscosa (which means about "Woody bush" in English) by Enrico "Opal-Hellenic" Russo:
www.furry.org.au/chakat/Images/Macchiaboscosa.jpg
Image of Macchiaboscosa with Goldfur, by Scale (image for adults only):
www.furry.org.au/chakat/Images/s_chakasutra_c.jpg

2. SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) = Magnetic field sensor with high sensitivity utilizing superconductivity.
www.yokogawa.com/ME/whatmeg/squid_e.htm
(I don't really know if a magnetic stimulation can produce such big modifications in a brain.)

3. Phocomelia = A congenital deformity resulting from prenatal interference with the development of the fetal limbs, characterised especially by short stubby hands or feet attached close to the body.

4. Glabrous = Having a surface without hairs or projections.

5. Paragraph about Bronzes of Riace copied from:
www.emmeti.it/Welcome/Calabria/Bronzi/index.uk.html

An image seen by Dusty:

www.emmeti.it/Welcome/Calabria/Bronzi/img/bronzi1.gif

6. Some images of the Venus de Milo statue:
www.eleganza.com/detailed/pix/venus.jpg
www.frontiernet.net/~imaging/v_torso.jpg


7. Inside this SF story the "vodor" is a computerised apparatus connected with the brain that works like an artificial vocal area of the brain. It produces a synthesized voice and allows creatures with some (many) intelligences but without a language to learn to speech.

"My new brother" (c) 2003 leonardo maffi
Chakat species (c) Bernard Doove (www.chakatsden.com).
Chakat Macchiaboscosa (c) 2000-2003 leonardo maffi.

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