-Chapter Two-

While Bryce was sobbing in the bath, Theora went out to the living room and tapped in the vu-phone code for the vacation inn room that Cheviot was staying in.

"I told everyone I was not to be disturbed," Cheviot said crossly.

"I know, sir, and I'm sorry," Theora replied. "This is an emergency situation, however."

"I have my own emergency to worry about," Cheviot complained. "Zik Zak just contacted me. They're pulling their sponsorship. Something about a package failing to be delivered."

"Sir," Theora replied "I'm sorry to hear that. However…"

"I'm sure Network 23 security…"

"Network 23 security let it happen, sir," Theora said. "They let Breughal and Mahler kidnap Bryce."

"Breughal!" Cheviot exclaimed in alarm. "Is Bryce…"

"He's alive," Theora replied, glad to see the look of relief on Cheviot's face. "Or rather She's alive."

"She?" Cheviot frowned. "You're telling me that someone had Bryce turned into a girl?"

"Ashwell did, sir," Theora replied.

"Is Bryce okay?"

"Am I okay?" Bryce demanded, walking awkwardly over to join them. "Am I okay? Oh I'm just fine, thank you! There's nothing like having someone cut off your bits and turn you into a walking powder keg to brighten your day!"

"That time of the month," Theora apologized on Bryce's behalf.

"Shut up!" Bryce snapped, settling onto Theora's bed and holding the pillow to her abdomen.

"I'd probably better fire Ashwell," Cheviot said, "before she kills him."

"I can still hunt him down," Bryce's irate voice drifted over from the bed.

"Take care of Bryce," Cheviot told Theora, "Get her whatever she needs. I'll reimburse you for expenses. The loss will just come out of Ashwell's final paycheck."

"Yes, sir," Theora agreed.

"And, Bryce," Cheviot said to the girl on the bed. "I'm very sorry this has happened, believe me."

"Not your fault," Bryce muttered, half into the pillow.

"We'll discuss this further when I get back tomorrow," Cheviot told Theora.

"I thought you were on a two week vacation."

"Under the circumstances, I think it best I return first thing tomorrow," Cheviot explained.

"Yes, sir," Theora agreed. "Sorry about your vacation."

"Thank you, Miss Jones."

"I assume you'll be docking that from Ashwell's final paycheck as well."

"You assume correctly."

As soon as Cheviot was off the vu-phone, Theora fished through her purse until she found what she was looking for. "Here," she said, handing a pill to Bryce. "It's for the more unpleasant menstrual symptoms."

Bryce took the pill, which wasn't very big, and dry-swallowed it.

Theora fetched her a small glass of water.

Bryce drained it and set it on the nightstand.

"I'll take you clothes shopping once your period is over," Theora told her.

"I have clothes," Bryce remarked.

"You'll need new shirts at least," Theora pointed out. "You won't fit in your old ones anymore. At least you're only a b-cup. Which reminds me, we'll need to get you fitted for some bras."

"Lovely," Bryce complained. "I can't wait."

"I'm sorry," Theora told her. "Look, there are some things that are just a part of being a girl. Menstruation and bras are two of them."

"Is there any way of stopping it?"

"There is a way of stopping menstruation, yes. But since it involves having a baby, something you're not ready for, you're just going to have to put up with it. There used to be a birth control pill that girls could take that would regulate their periods."

"Great, I'll take those."

"They're banned for the next twenty years," Theora told her. "We lost so many people during the Big 3 that the politicians banned all forms of birth control for two decades. Even interruptus. Once a couple begins making love, they're committed to making a baby."

"Making love?"

"A term for sexual intercourse," Theora explained. "And since you can get pregnant now, I'd better discuss a few things with you."

Edison Carter was about to knock on Theora's door when he heard a teenage girl's voice go "EW!"

"It's actually rather nice," Theora's voice replied. "But you're too young for that sort of thing. You're not ready for babies."

"Someone thought she might be," Edison called through the door.

Theora answered it. "You know it's very rude to eavesdrop."

"I didn't want to interrupt," Edison explained. "Anyhow, I found out why Bryce is a girl."

"And?" Bryce asked.

"Apparently you were supposed to be sent to New Tokyo after the switch and married to Ped Xing's son Sun."

"I don't even know the guy!" Bryce protested. I don't want some guy I don't know doing gross stuff to me! Ugh!"

"Had the talk, I take it?" Edison asked.

Theora nodded.

Bryce looked at Edison, recalling the time she'd been cuddled up to him at Security Systems.

"How long do I have to wait until…"

"Nip that idea in the bud right now, Bryce," Edison told her. "You and I will always be best pals, nothing more."

"Well, when I get older…"

"When you're older you'll want a nice boy your own age. Or a girl."

"I can't date a girl if I am a girl. Can I?" Bryce blinked.

"You can date anyone you want," Theora told her.

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