[tsat home] [#17] [stories]

by J R D
©1999, 2001 by J R D -- all rights reserved

The doctor finished surgery and went out to clean up. His patient had been lucky. He had been helping out at a local church fund-raiser when a gang had decided to make the priest there -- who had been an outspoken opponent of the local gangs -- the target of a drive by. The man was handicapped and in a wheelchair. When the bullets started flying, most of them went over his head and he was able to throw himself out of the chair and onto the ground before the level of fire lowered to the point of being directly dangerous, but, as occasionally happens when sub-machine guns throw a hail of bullets through the air, a ricochet caught him right in the back. Luckily, the wound had been clean and had done minimal tissue damage. His most serious problem had been blood loss.

The nurse came in and said, "His wife is waiting for news. Want me to handle that?"

The doctor shook his hands off. "No, I can do that."

He went out to the waiting room and asked the nurse on duty where the wife was. She pointed to the end of a row of chairs and the doctor saw a dowdy, brown-haired woman. He went down and said, "Miss Jackson?"

From the vending machines at the end of the row of chairs he heard, "Right here."

Realizing that the vending machines were in the same line from the nurse's station as the end of the row of chairs, the doctor turned and was struck dumb. The woman was a Nordic Goddess! Six foot tall, yellow hair, the color of daffodils, well-developed bosom, and a physique that looked like she could win a wrestling match with a grizzly. She could've stepped right from the pages of a book on Norse mythology and, despite himself, the doctor wondered how an average-looking cripple managed to score a babe like this.

The doctor was too stunned to move and couldn't even speak as the woman said something. Finally what she was saying got through to him. "Is she okay, doctor?"

The doctor shook off his reverie and said, "Excuse me?"

"My wi..." Then, as if realizing she was saying something wrong, she said, "My husband. Is he okay?"

"Oh, yes, that. Can I speak to you alone?"

She got a concerned look on her face and nodded. The doctor led her into a small office and she said, "Is there something wrong with my husband, doctor?"

"Your husband is fine. He lost a lot of blood, but took little damage." She breathed a visible sigh of relief. "But your husband is what I wanted to talk to you about."


"Out in the waiting room just now, you referred to him as a her, and just a few seconds ago I was sure you were about to refer to him as 'My wife.' Is there something we should know about? Is he a female to male transsexual?"

"No, nothing like that."

"Then what?"

She sighed, and, almost as if talking to no one in particular, she said, "You'd think that after all this time that I'd learn to refer to her in the masculine." She looked to the doctor and said, "I don't suppose I could talk you into just forgetting about that?"


"You got a while, doc? This is a bit of a story."

"Well, I just got off, so feel free to talk."

"The story starts about a year ago, on the other side of the galactic core, at a school for an alien race known as the Torivan that teaches manipulation of psychic abilities."

"What does this have to do with you and your husband?"

"Patience, doctor. You'll see."

Ilanna Tarvera glided into the headmaster's office. "You summoned me, sir?"

"Yes, Ilanna. You have a visitor."

Ilanna suddenly became aware of another presence in the room. "Papa!" She extended energy tendrils as he did the same and the two performed the alien equivalent of a hug. "It is good to see you, father, but why the telepathic cloak? Why mask yourself from my awareness?"

"Because I needed to see for myself whether the reports the headmaster has been sending me were true. That shield should not have been powerful enough to hide from a first year student, much less a student who is about to graduate, such as yourself. Your telepathic and empathic abilities are still stunted, aren't they?"

The elderly alien felt a wave of shame emanating from his daughter. "Shame is useless, Ilanna. Correct the problem. Don't dwell on it."

"I have tried, papa, but no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to forge the lightest links."

"The headmaster and I have been talking. He feels that your status as a royal princess has given you an aloofness that interferes with your ability to form a close link with anyone."

"But, as princess, don't I have a right to a certain level of distance?"

"Not if it interferes with your development as a Torivan. We are an energy race that relies upon its telepathic and empathic abilities for communication. Perhaps if you could only link with other Torivans, that might be tolerable, but without the ability to link with others of our own race, you would never be tolerated as queen by the citizenry."

"But what can I do?"

"The headmaster and I have discussed that, and come up with a possible solution. One of our anthropologists, on a return visit to a backwater little planet on the other side of the core, met up with someone he considered a friend from his last visit. During his last visit, the man was personable, pleasant, and a joy to be around, even to a telepath. On this visit, the man was sullen, moody, and withdrawn; withdrawn to the point of being unreadable by the anthropologist's own telepathic skills. Remembering that the man's personal light was the kind that will help his planet overcome its barbarous nature, he asked for a telepathic master to come and work with him. We are instead sending you."

"Instead of sending a telepathic master, you're sending someone with no telepathic ability? Forgive me, father, but your logic escapes me."

"Despite the man's previous light, he has not actually accomplished enough to merit a telepathic master, but that doesn't mean we're going to abandon him. By sending you, and making it your mission to find and correct whatever has driven him into himself, we hope not only to correct his problems, but yours."


"You will be forced to rely on non-psychic means, simple communication and such. In order to make it work, you will be forced to develop a certain minimum level of empathic skills which will allow you to break through and develop your other skills."

"Alright, I'll do my best. What do they call this world?"

"I believe it's called -- dirt?" he said, looking to the headmaster for confirmation.

The headmaster emitted an emotional wave of amusement. "The residents of the planet pronounce it Earth and, although in our language, both dirt and Earth translate to the same word, you must be careful to use the proper pronunciation and not one of its synonyms."

Ilanna asked, "Why do both words translate to the same word in our language?"

"Because the humans have a belief they are descended from animals and that a mix of chemicals in the depths of their oceans is what spawned life. Some of them even refer to their planet as 'Mother Earth'."

"You're kidding. How could any energy race still believe they are only chemicals?"

Ilanna felt amusement from both men. Her father said, "The resident race is still at the stage where they believe their physical bodies to be necessary things. A few even believe they don't have souls at all."

"You're sending me to such a barbaric world? Isn't it going to be dangerous?"

"I told you, love. They don't believe they have souls, and as such have developed no weapons capable of affecting souls. The body we construct for you to use may be in danger, but you will not."

"And I must go there?"

"Both of us think it best."

"As you wish, papa."

Ilanna went right to the medical lab to have a body constructed for her. The technician there asked, "What do you want it to look like?"

"I hadn't really thought about it. What do the Earthans look like?"

The technician accessed his computer database. "Biped, hair of various colors in limited places on their bodies, two manipulating limbs, a few other significant features."

"Well, since I don't know anything of the race, scan the data banks for their idea of an ideal form."

"Do you want it to be ideal male or female?"

"They have sexes?"

"Sure. Admittedly, they're a rarity. Most biological sentients are either hermaphroditic or asexual, but there are a few who have developed gender differences. Apparently Earth is an extreme rarity in that most of the biologicals have developed different sexes, even the non-sentients."

"Uhm, I guess I'll stick with female."

"You may want to rethink that. Apparently there's a schism between the two sexes. The planet is still far too focused on the physical and too many of the people on the planet believe that women are an inferior subclass, just because the men are physically stronger, although the part of the planet you're going isn't as bad as some others."

Ilanna thought about it. She briefly considered taking a male body, but if she was to succeed in her mission the compatibility between body and soul would have to be maximized. "No, make it female, but just in case, maximize its physical parameters. If the Earthans are impressed by physical strength I want to be as strong as possible, even without resorting to telekinesis."

"As you wish."

The technician scanned the data banks and constructed the body she needed. After the pod lit the "Done" light, the technician said, "You will have to enter the body immediately upon opening the pod. Biologicals disintegrate quickly without an animating life force."

"I've been through the courses in physical body animation."

"Okay. Are you ready?"


"The technician punched in the release code on the pod. There was a release of steam and a hiss as the vacuum seal released so the remains of the chemicals inside were exposed to the atmosphere. Ilanna flowed inside and took control of the body. She went through the standard checklist for taking control of a lifeless body: Start autonomic systems, check control relays in neurological control center and individually tense and release every muscle in the body. She opened her eyes and pushed the lid of the pod up, she stepping out feeling weird as the body shifted in strange ways.

She looked down at the curvy form she now controlled. She hefted the large globes hanging from her chest. "What functional purpose do these serve?"

"Data banks say that when the females of the species gives birth, those glands fill with liquid sustenance for the newborn."

"Are they this large for the entire species?"

"No. In fact, most are much smaller, but you asked for beauty. The men of the species find larger mammaries attractive. The computer evaluated the relation of body size, shape, stress factors on the body's spine, etcetera and gave you the largest size possible within the range for average."

"Okay." She looked at her hands. "These claws don't seem very sturdy."

"They're called nails and they're more for beauty than for any form of defense."

"Am I ready to go?"

"The body is finished, but the culture requires you to cover it. Apparently, in most places, you are required to cover your body and, except in very limited places, in public you are required to cover your genitalia and the front quarter of the mammaries at all times."

"The mammaries are a source of attraction for the humans, but I'm required to keep them covered? That makes no sense."

"You'll find the customs of most biologic cultures to be riddled with inconsistencies like that. Most of them you just have to accept."

"So where do I find these coverings?"

"The Cultural Preparation Division will give you what you need -- and they call the coverings clothes."

Ilanna walked to the Preparation Division. They outfitted her in a collection of clothes for Earth, the American subculture. They also gave her a collection of information to learn about the place she was going, which included political situations, local geography and languages.

On the ship to Earth, she was astounded to find that Earth was a fractured planet, which is to say that the planet had no single governmental body running the planet. The world was, compared to the Torivan kingdom, in a state of perpetual chaos. There were constant border skirmishes, both on the micro and macro scale; wars where thousands of lives were lost were fought over simple differences of ideas and wide scale hate based on genetic differences were amongst the worst of the problems. She was just glad she had only the problems of one man to deal with.

When she landed she was met by another Torivan animating a body, this one male. She stepped up to him and asked, "Are you the one who requested aid for a human friend?"

"I did. Are you the telepathic master I requested?"

"Not exactly." Quickly she outlined who she was and why they had sent her.

"Great. This man is in pain -- even I can sense it -- and they're playing with experimental learning techniques."

"My father knows what he's doing."

"I hope so, princess. The last time I was here, my friend, Oscar Jackson, was a stable point for me. The chaotic emotional state of most of the residents of this planet plays on your empathy, wearing you out. Normally, Torivan visiting this planet need to go into seclusion one out of every fourteen days in order to recover their stability, but just by spending a few hours out of every week with him, I was able to go over forty-five days without going into seclusion.

"But now... I don't know. He's withdrawn, reclusive. He's like an emotional black hole. Now, I spend any time near him and I need to go away. He needs help. And I hope you can give it to him."

"Any idea why he's withdrawn so much?"

"Most likely it's due to the infirmity that he picked up. Apparently he's been diagnosed with a condition called Multiple Sclerosis. It causes a breakdown of the biological communication channels between the body and the primary control system that the soul uses, what they call the brain. Depending on the exact progress of the condition, it causes a wide variety of effects. In Oscar's case, extreme leg stiffness, loss of manual dexterity in the fingers, extreme exhaustion, and some vision problems."

"If this is all caused by a medical condition, then why not just ask to have the damage repaired?"

"Because the medical science of this planet has no idea how to cure it. If he were to suddenly go from being bound to a wheelchair to perfect health, he would become a study subject, with no part of his life being his own until they found out why."

"What is a wheelchair?"

"An assistance device. His legs are so unusable that he is forced to sit in a chair with wheels and move himself around that way."

"Do you have any suggestions for how I should approach him?"

"That's easy enough. He's starting classes at the local community college tomorrow. You've been enrolled in the same classes. Approach him over some study issue. If it's something he's good at, ask for help. If it's something he needs help on, offer to work with him."

"Alright, then, let's get to work."

"You've been outfitted with a collection of local accouterments to make your image more realistic. An apartment, a vehicle and a budget to make any purchases you may find necessary."

The next day, Ilanna went to her first day of classes on an alien planet. The local college struck her both with its similarities and with its differences. The open curriculum mystified her. She could understand choosing your profession, but once that choice was made, you should go through a proscribed series of classes, so you got a minimum standard of skills for your desired profession. Likewise with the proscribed time system. A class should consist of a certain collection of skills and knowledges. It should be that you passed the class when you had those knowledges and could perform those skills, not if you got a certain percentage within a quarter of a year. The open discussion forum, however, was old hat to her and the camaraderie between students and teachers was likewise familiar. Much of the learning was done in the same way as at home, so she shouldn't have too much trouble.

She met Oscar during their first class together, College Algebra and she attempted to get over to talk with him, but she found the first drawback to her choice of bodies. After she left the classroom, she was besieged by young men trying to get her to agree to spend time with them. They were constantly asking if she would go with them for a quick bite to eat, or if she was available for a meeting on the weekend. Unfortunately, Oscar was never amongst them and by the time she politely -- and sometimes not so politely -- disentangled herself from them, he was long gone. This went on class after class and by the end of the first week, she still had yet to even talk to him one-on-one.

The second week she didn't fare much better, but at least the men seemed to be getting the hint that she wasn't interested in a romantic relationship at this time; or ever, but that was another matter. It was the beginning of the third week when she finally managed to catch Oscar on his way out of their Algebra class.

She called out to him as he rolled down the hall with a non-formal greeting, "Excuse me," she said, but he just went right on as if he didn't hear her. She ran up to him and grabbed his shoulder, startling him. "Sorry," she said, "but I just wanted to talk to you."

He looked up at her, suspicion evident in his eyes. "Why?"

"Well, I've noticed we're in all the same classes, and that you seem to be having an easier time of it than I am. I was wondering if you had a few minutes to discuss the class work."

He gave her a doubtful look, but said, "Alright. The cafeteria's on the way to my next class. We can stop there for an hour or so to discuss things."

They went down to the cafeteria together. Ilanna tried to engage him in conversation, but he barely replied usually responding in monosyllables or grunts of assent or denial. When they got to the cafeteria and found a table, he asked her, "What do you want to discuss first?"

"Let's start with math. I'm having the most problems with that."

It was an out and out lie. The one constant in this universe was that no matter what culture you were from, math was always the same. No matter what the individual names used, two plus two always equaled four, the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference was always the same, and so on. Even advanced math was the same no matter where you went -- and she had passed this level of math almost two decades ago by Earth time. However, it was also the class Oscar seemed to be best at and she wanted to try to give him a feeling of confidence and importance in their dealings.

Unfortunately, it proved the exact wrong thing to do. About fifteen minutes into their discussion, he slammed the book shut and demanded, "What the hell is going on?"

Mystified, she could only say, "I don't understand."

"You don't have a problem with this. At worst, you might say you have a few rough spots, but even that would be stretching it. You don't need my help with this. So what's going on?"

Not thinking she would be caught, Ilanna hadn't thought up a suitable answer and just sat there for a few seconds until he said, "Oh, great, another fuckin' amateur social worker." He grabbed his book off the table and jammed it in his bag. Without even looking at her, he said, "Look, I don't need some little do-gooder thinking she's doing the poor, crippled boy a favor by sacrificing her vital time to socialize with him since he's so alone as he rolls down the hallway. "He released his brakes and rolled away from the table. "Do us both a favor. Choose someone else for your charity work." She was too stunned to say anything as he rolled off towards his next class.

She tried to apologize to him the next day, but he just said, "Don't apologize, just don't try to do me any more favors."

She tried to engage him in conversation many times over the next month, but he made it clear that he wasn't interested in any way, shape or form.

For the next three weeks, Oscar behaved in much the same way, being reclusive to the point of unsociability, and wouldn't let Ilanna get anywhere near him. It was when the snows came early that year that Ilanna finally saw a way she could get closer to him. Because of the snows, Oscar was forced to use a door to door lift system run by the city. She found out that he scheduled his rides in advance and could also cancel them with a few hours notice. So, at the beginning of the next week of school, just before class, she called the lift system, and, faking Oscar's voice, canceled his ride home.

After class, Oscar went down to wait by the door for his ride. Since the lift system wasn't a precision outfit, it was over a half hour after his scheduled pick-up when he pulled out his cell phone and called to find out what had happened. After a few minutes on the phone, he angrily slammed the phone closed, saying, "Damn it!"

Ilanna took that moment to step up and ask, "Something wrong?"

Too angry to think about what he was saying, Oscar said, "I've just got to pay for a cab home."

"If you need a ride, I'd be more than willing to help."

Oscar stopped right in the middle of dialing the number, and gave her a suspicious look. "You did it, didn't you?"

"Damn," she thought, "how could a man so closed off to those around him be so intuitive?" But she tried to deny it. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Your face is an open book, lady. You're a lousy liar." It was a drawback of taking a biological. The physiological responses to lying were built into the brain's control set up. Although those responses could be controlled or sublimated, that took practice and experience with cultural references and she had not devoted herself to that task.

Oscar continued to punch numbers into his cell phone, saying, "Whatever this costs, I expect to be reimbursed by you."

Ilanna was beginning to feel a little put off. She had tried the nice approach and had tried trickery. Now maybe it was time for a little direct anger. She reached out and snatched the phone out of his hand.

"Give that back!" he demanded.

"Not until you hear me out. Yes, I canceled your ride and I'm sorry for any trouble I've caused you. And I admit I made a mistake in trying to trick you into helping me with a subject I didn't need help with. All I wanted was to just be a friend, but more I try, the harder you push me away. What have I done to you, really? What have I done that was so wrong?"

"Nothing," he answered and Ilanna smiled, thinking that maybe she was making some headway, but he dashed that hope by saying, "And that's how I want to keep it. Now can I have my phone back?"

"Fine." She extended the phone back to him, but before he could take it, she yanked her hand away. "But I have a perfectly good car to give you a warm, comfortable ride home in. I made the mistake, so you should give me a fair chance to be the one to make up for it. You want a cab, you pay for it yourself."

He just stared at her for a while before saying, "Fine."

She went out and got her car, driving it as close to the door as she could. He rolled up to the passenger door, opened it and got in before she could even offer to help him do more than fold the wheelchair up and put it into the backseat. As they drove together, she tried to engage him in conversation, but once more, he resorted only to monosyllables and grunts as replies. When they got to his place, she set up the chair, then pushed him up the driveway hill.

As he unlocked the door, she asked, "Can I come in and talk?"

He wasn't even polite about it. He just said, "No," opened the door, and pushed himself inside. As the door closed behind him, she stopped it and barged inside. "What is wrong with you?"

"Get out of my house!"

"Answer the question first. Ever since I have met you, I have only tried to be nice and helpful. I only want to get to know you, but you keep pushing me away. I don't deserve this. No one does."

"So take the hint and realize I'm gonna do it anyways and leave me alone!"

"That is it!" She slammed the door behind her, walked up to Oscar, unbuckled the seat belt on his chair, lifted him up, and carried him into his bedroom, him complaining all the way.

She set him in on his bed, by which time he had become petulantly silent. "Now, you're going nowhere until you talk. Your chair is in another room." She quickly reached into his jacket, snatched his cell phone and tossed it into the other room onto the chair. "Your cell phone is with it and you can't get up without my help. Now talk to me."

He remained silent until she said, "Fine. You want to be petulant? I can wait here as long as you can. Now why won't you let me be your friend?"

He said nothing for a few seconds before she said, "Well?"

He yelled out, "Because it's a fucking lie! You'll be my friend only so long as my handicap doesn't interfere with your life, then you'll drop me like all the rest!"

Ilanna was stunned. "You don't know me. I won't drop you."

"You say that now, but what happens when you're forced to choose between me and that party you've been invited to -- that party in a building that isn't wheelchair accessible."

"I could carry you into any building you wanted."

"First off, I don't like being carried anywhere. I don't like being reminded of my problems, at least not any more than I have to be. Secondly, people don't invite me to parties. In my chair I take up way too much space. Third, there's no point to going to a party. I don't drink -- alcohol interferes with my medications -- and god forbid I express a romantic interest in a woman. I can watch the interest in being anywhere near me drain from their face. So, thanks, but no thanks."

She stood beside him for a few seconds before saying, "You push people away before they push you away."

"I find it saves time."

"Don't you have any one?"

"I used to think so. I used to think I had a lot of friends. And I'd do anything for them. When I could drive, if they needed to go anywhere, I'd hop in the car and take them wherever they needed to go. But after I couldn't drive any more, when I needed a ride they were always busy. When I wanted to get together on a weekend, they'd always found something else to do." Ilanna saw tears forming in Oscar's eyes. "At a time when I needed someone to be there to say, 'Hey, I haven't forgotten you're alive,' they wouldn't even return my phone calls."

She tried to say something, but the impact of what he was saying necessitated her sitting down beside him on the bed. He looked quizzically at her face, but she was staring off into the distance. "I guess I did the same thing. I wanted people to like me for who I was, but people only got close to me because of what I was." She didn't know it at the time, but Oscar assumed she was talking about her beauty causing others to treat her differently. "People weren't staying near me because they wanted to know me. They were staying near me because they just wanted to be near me. I got tired of it and just pushed them away before they could betray me."

She shook off her reverie and looked to Oscar. "Tell you what. You be honest and be my friend and I'll do the same for you. If you need me for any reason, even if it's only for someone to talk to, call, and I'll do the same." She lifted her hand for him to shake.

Before he took it, he said, "You don't know what you're getting into. I've got a lot of problems you may not want to be a part of."

"I'll take my chances."

He just looked at her hand. Finally he lifted his and took it. "Now," she said, "do you want me to carry you back to your chair?"

"I told you, I don't like being carried around. Just get my chair and bring it in here."

She did as he asked and offered to help him. He politely turned her down and wheeled out to the table. She asked, "Want to do homework together?"

"Sure. But don't pretend you don't know something when you do. Be honest with me."


They sat together and did their homework. Neither one needed to ask the other for help and it was done in silence, but strangely, neither seemed to need it otherwise.

The next month was spent much the same way. With them meeting in between classes and after school each day to work on class work, or sometimes just to talk. Ilanna was beginning to see some of the Oscar that the anthropologist described beginning to peek through his shell, but he still hadn't really opened up.

It was a week before Thanksgiving when she saw the first real cracks appear in his shell. They were working on some math work in the cafeteria, when she made a mistake recalling one of the math rules she needed to memorize -- even an energy based being made mistakes some times -- and he called her on it. She was a little indignant. He never seemed to make any mistakes at math and quipped, "Well, all of us can't be human calculators."

He seemed a little put off, but then he smiled and asked, "Can you go get me a doughnut while I get us some sodas from the vending machine?"

She gave him a suspicious look as he pushed away from the table and went to the vending machines, but got up and got the doughnuts he asked for. He was already back at the table when she got there and set the doughnut in front of him. She took the can of soda, opened it, and was rewarded with a spray of soda in the face.

Oscar said, "Sorry, but back when I was a kid, people always used to tease me about my math skills. You just brought back a lot of old memories."

As she wiped her face, Ilanna said, "I suppose there are worse things you could've done," and thought, "like close me out again." She then said, "But you could've just said something. I didn't mean anything by it. One other thing."

"What?" he said as he lifted the jelly doughnut to take a bite out of it.

She reached out and smooshed the doughnut into his face. "You deserved that."

He grinned. "I suppose I did." He took some napkins and started wiping off his face.

"Let me," she said and he graciously allowed her to, saying nothing. After she finished, their eyes caught each other and Ilanna felt the strangest sensations. The nipples on her mammaries seemed to tighten and shrink and she had a sudden uncomfortable feeling of dampness in her crotch.

Later that day, she discussed it with the anthropologist. "Sounds like female sexual arousal, although not having ever animated a female body, I can only rely on second hand accounts."

"Why haven't I felt it before? If the body is responding to a stimulus, shouldn't it have responded before?"

"You were sublimating the physical response, an advantage we energy beings have is that we can control involuntary responses of these bodies far easier than the humans can. It's not as hard as they make it out to be, but it's still easier for us."

"But why is it happening now?"

"I think 'Why are you not sublimating your desires anymore?' is a better question." And that she had to think about.

It was two weeks later when she finally figured it out. She was in a meditative state in her apartment when the phone rang. She answered it and heard Oscar say, "Ilanna, can you come over here right now?"

"It's midnight, Oscar. Is something wrong?"

"It's just... I need some help."

"I'll be there as soon as I can." She ran out and jumped in her car, driving as fast as she could to Oscar's. She knocked on the door and opened it, calling, "Oscar?"

"In here."

She walked in and saw Oscar laying on the floor. She asked, "What happened?" as she rushed to his side.

"I was on the toilet. I stood up and pulled my pants up, but then my legs suddenly gave out. I had to crawl out and use my cell phone to call you."

She lifted him in her arms. "Has this ever happened before?"

"Yes. Usually I call the non-emergency number for the police, but this time, I just felt the need to call you."

She walked him into the bathroom and set him in his chair. "I'm glad you did." She pushed him into the bedroom and helped him to sit on the edge of the bed. "Do you need me for something more?"

"Sit beside me for a minute."

She sat beside him. She was surprised when he leaned against her and started sobbing. Then it happened. She actually felt him. As the emotion drained from him. She actually felt the negativity dissipate from his mind and soul. Her Empathy had blossomed!

She held him until he pulled himself together and apologized for his emotional display. "Nonsense. Actually it tells me you trust me enough for me to tell you something."

"What's that?"

She kissed him on the lips. "I love you, Oscar."

"Don't play with me."

"I'm not."

Oscar was stunned. "Girls aren't interested in guys in wheelchairs."

"I admit, if someone had asked me four months ago to list what I wanted in a spouse, it wouldn't have been on the list, but you are everything I want. And if that means being with a man in a wheelchair, so be it." She leaned over and kissed him again. She got those strange feelings again and asked, "Would you like to try sex?"

"I wish I could, but my body still hasn't recovered from that fall. But, if you want to sleep with me tonight, we can try in the morning."

She helped him undress, then got into bed beside him. She got in close and held him. At that point, she began to understand the humans' fixation on sex. This was definitely one of the most pleasurable sensations ever.

She awoke the next day to see Oscar's smiling face. "Don't you ever sleep the entire night?"

"Nope. It's an unfortunate side effect of my MS. I can't get into a deep sleep. But I was beginning to think last night was just a dream."

"It was a dream for me. A beautiful dream."

"You're getting mushy."

"I'm a woman. It's my prerogative." She leaned in and kissed him.

He held her to him. She felt his need for her, both physical and emotional, and once more rejoiced at her new found Empathic talents. She held him, saying, "Relax, I'm not going anywhere." They kissed again, and she asked, "Are you up to having sex this morning?"

"Yes, but I don't have any condoms."

"There's nothing to worry about there." She could have any diseases cured and, except in special circumstances, constructed bodies were always built sterile so as to prevent any risk of pregnancy.

"Are you sure?"

She kissed him and pressed him onto his back. "I'm sure."

She knew from her cultural studies that the "standard" position was male on top, but she also knew that Oscar would never be able to manage that. She straddled his hips and he reached up and took her mammaries in hand, gently stroking them to elicit a favorable feeling in her body. They moved together until she felt her entire body shaking in her first orgasm within a biological construct.

She collapsed on top of him. She said, "That was incredible."

She heard, but not with her ears, "You're incredible."

She looked up at him. "Did you say something?"

"I was about to say you were just as incredible."

"Do you mean it?"

She heard in her mind, "With all my heart," just before Oscar echoed the words with his voice.

She planted her lips on his. "What was that for?" he asked.

She couldn't tell him the full truth, that his willingness to love and be loved had awakened both her Empathic and Telepathic talents, so instead she just said, "Because I'm so glad to be with you," which was at least part of the truth.

Over the next month the two became inseparable. Ilanna got to the point where she was pending four out of every five days with Oscar. During that same time her psychic abilities blossomed in full. All those abilities which her teachers had tried so hard to explain to her before, but that she couldn't understand were now so simple to her. She found that light that the anthropologist had described before as Oscar became a true joy to be with, but her days of joy came to an end shortly after what the humans referred to as the "New Year." She was checking in with the local base when she received a call from her father. He had gotten all her reports, and was glad to hear of her new found abilities. Unfortunately he was also ordering her back so she could resume her proper studies. After she signed off, she almost broke down in tears.

The anthropologist asked her what was wrong.

"I have to leave him," she said.

"Certainly you realized that was an inevitability. For you, that body is a tool. Something that you'll discard when you're finished with it. For him, that body is a necessity. You're immortal and you know it. He's... mortal, limited."

"What happens to them after they die? The being inside?"

"They re-incarnate. Like us they purge the old identity and take a new one. Only for them it happens in around 70 to 80 of their years where we last for three thousand."

"So I lose him in what, another 50 Earth years? Even if I can talk my father into letting me come back."

"Maybe sooner. MS ridden bodies fall apart 10 to 15 years earlier than others."

"You're not helping."

"Sorry. Look. Worse comes to worst, you can come back as soon as you finish your studies in... how long?"

"I'm expected to finish in two Earth years."

"He's young yet. Even with his more limited time you should expect to spend another half-century together."

"I suppose I have no choice."

When she walked into Oscar's apartment that evening she told him, even before removing her coat, "Oscar, my father has called for me to come work in the family business. I've... got to leave the country."

She could feel him grow desperate. "But... you said you'd be there for me as long as I need you. I still need you, Ilanna." Worse yet, her telepathy was hearing his unvoiced pleading for her to not leave him.

"I'm sorry, Oscar. I can't say no to my father."

"Please, Ilanna."

Tears flooded to her eyes. She said, "I'm sorry," and turned and ran from his apartment before another word was said.

She got to the street, not directly visible from inside and wondered if she should take one last look inside. Perhaps it would've been easier if she just made a clean break, but she had to see him one last time.

She used her clairvoyance to look right into his house and see how he was going to take her news. He was still sitting right where she left him, tears dripping from his cheeks. She tried to read what he was thinking, but he had withdrawn so much that she could only feel his depression. As she watched, he rolled out to the kitchen, reached into the silverware drawer and got a serrated steak knife. Ilanna wondered what he was planning as he rolled into the bathroom. He rolled over to the tub, leaned over and pressed the blade to his wrist.

She finally understood what he was planning. Ilanna had heard stories, but she never figured to see it in action. She never actually figured on seeing someone trying to end their own life.

Exploding into action, Ilanna ran back into his place and was by his side before he could even make the slightest cut. She grabbed his wrists and shook his hands. "Put it down!" she yelled, shaking the blade from his grasp. After he dropped the knife, he didn't even bother to sit up. "What are you doing? I'll be back. It'll only be a couple of years, but I'll be back."

"I can't do it. I can't go back to the life I had before you. I'm sorry for being so selfish, but I can't do it."

She wanted to say something to get him back to his previous light, but instead she only felt herself withdrawing. The only thing that had allowed her to face leaving was the fact that she would soon be back with him. Now she was facing the fact that if she left, she would never be with him again. Yet, her father would never allow her to stay. Oscar just wasn't important enough. She despaired of ever knowing his light again.

Then a thought came to her. It would stress her new telepathic abilities to the limits, but she had to try. And it had to work. It just had to.

She unbuckled his seat belt and lifted him out of his chair. He said nothing as she carried him into the bedroom and set him on his bed. She held him, saying, "Oscar? There's one way I can think of to guarantee we'll be together."

She felt a flicker of light in his despair. "There is?"

"Yes. But you must trust me implicitly. Can you do that?" She felt his despair dissolve as he nodded. "Good." She kissed his forehead and gently touched the points in his head that would make him sleep. This would be much easier if he wasn't consciously aware of what she was doing.

Oscar felt someone shaking him awake. He was holding someone in his arms, and there was some stranger saying, "Princess, it is time to leave. Our hyper-spatial window only remains open for another hour."

He looked over and saw a strange glowing ball of energy floating there. What? What are you..." He looked at the person in his arms and was shocked to see it was... him! He lurched backwards off the bed and away from the glowing light. "What the hell's going on here?"

Surprisingly, he didn't fall on his ass. His legs worked perfectly. He looked down and saw a curvy form and blonde hair fell in front of his face. The Oscar he had been holding fell on his face on the bed, waking up. "Damn," the other Oscar said. "I wanted to be awake to discuss this with you earlier, but I was just too tired."

Oscar looked around and into a mirror and saw the reflection of Ilanna looking back at him. "What happened to me?"

Reassuringly, the Oscar body said, "Nothing. You're just in my body. And I'm taking care of yours." He stared at his old body. "Ilanna?"

He nodded.

"But how? Why?"

The glowing light said, "Something I'd like answered as well."

"Oscar, I'm not from your planet. I have powerful psychic abilities. You needed a boost. I figured I'd slip you onto the ship in my body and you could see the sights of the universe and get a new lease on life. It'd be too late to turn back once they were through the space gate and it'd be two months before they'd get you back. Then maybe you could wait for me to come back."

Oscar shook his head. "You don't get it, hun. It's not new sights I need. Before you came into my life, I was in a dark pit of loneliness. You brought light into my life. If I was out there and you were here, I'd still be alone. It was that loneliness I couldn't return to. I need you."

The light said, "You heard him. Now switch back and let's go."

Ilanna said, "No."


"I will not leave him and you can't make me."

"But what of your father?"

"If my father objects, he can come talk in person."

The glow seemed upset, but faded from view. After he it was gone, Ilanna said, "I didn't realize your body would be so stiff."

Oscar looked at the clock. "You slept through the last dose of medication." Oscar got the bottle and gave it to him? Ilanna fished out a couple of pills and took them with some water Oscar kept by the bed. "It'll take about an hour to kick in. Do you want to switch back now or wait?"

"Love, we can't switch back."

"Why not?"

"In my normal state, I'm an energy being. I don't need a body. If I switch us back, all they need to do is destroy that body and then they can force me to leave, but they can't destroy this body because it's not mine and they can't destroy that body because you still need it. If you want to stay together, it has to be like this. With us in each other's bodies."

She thought he'd be upset but he just said, "As long as I'm with you." He sat beside her and kissed her. "But you may learn to hate that body after a very short while."

  It was two months later when both were awaken in their sleep by a blinding light. "Ilanna!"

Ilanna, still in Oscar's body, brought her hand to her eyes and said, "Papa, turn it down."

The light dropped a bit and the King said, "Ilanna, why did you not return when I ordered it?"

Ilanna kissed Oscar and said, "Leave me with my father for a bit?"

He replied, "Okay," and left the bedroom.

"Now what's going on?" her father asked.

"I love him, papa. And if I leave him, I will lose him. It's no more complicated than that."

"You love him? A biologic?"

"No, papa, I love a soul who thinks he's a biologic. I will not risk losing him."

"But what about in 40 or 50 years when this body you're in gives out?"

"By that time I will have instructed him in his true potentials and he will be able to exist without a body and he can join me on the Homeworld."

"As your mate? Do you expect the populace to accept him as prince or king?"

"Irrelevant. If they won't accept him, then I will renounce my crown."

"And what if you fail? What if he reincarnates despite your efforts when that body breaks down? Even that body will break down."

"Then I will know I did my best. But I can't just abandon him."

"And how does he feel?"

"He's told me that if I ever want that body back, it's mine." She peeked out to see if Oscar could hear her. "But I think he likes it more than he lets on."

"You're determined to do this?"


Ilanna felt a wave of well wishes. "Then be happy." He then faded from view.

Ilanna then said to the doctor, "So what do you think?"

"You expect me to buy that?"

"I assure you, it's all true."

"If you're really Oscar Jackson, why was the story all about Ilanna?"

"Because from my point of view, it's the story of a depressed, morose individual. It's rather bleak really."

"And why tell it from the third person?"

"Because Ilanna used her telepathy to impress the story from her perspective. As a result, if I use the word 'I', I could be referring to either Oscar or Ilanna."

"Why tell me this at all?"

"Because I made the mistake of saying 'she' in describing Ilanna in my body and although I could blot out the memory of having said it, I can't blot out the curiosity you felt."

"I thought Ilanna was the telepath."

"It's part of what she's been teaching me."

"Right. Now how 'bout some proof?"

"Ironic that the very act of blotting out your memory will give your subconscious the proof you need."

The doctor stared at the woman, disbelieving, but then he experienced a sudden wave of disorientation only to discover he was being shaken by the woman. "Doctor, is my husband alright?"

"Oh, yes, just blood loss. He's still sedated, but you can go in and see him any time."

"Thank you."

As the doctor left, he wondered why he had felt the need to take Mrs. Jackson aside, just to tell her that her husband was okay. Oh, well, a ten-hour work shift could make anyone loopy.

Oscar walked into the room where Ilanna and his body were in recovery. He heard Ilanna mentally say, "Hello, love."

"Don't 'hello, love' me," he thought back. "Why didn't you protect yourself telekinetically?"

"I did. I just forgot to protect myself all around and got caught by a ricochet."

"Next time do better. I'm not ready to lose you yet."

As "she" leaned over and kissed her husband, a nurse couldn't help but wonder how an average looking cripple scored a babe like that.

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