Courted by King Neptune

Synopsis:

Ensign Chris Marye is assigned to the USS Avenger for his first cruise after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. They will be crossing the equator and he will have to take part in the King Neptune ceremony. When he realizes how horrible this initiation ritual will be, he decides to try to win the beauty contest and become King Neptune’s queen. The queen doesn’t have to eat garbage or be paddled by rubber hoses. It seems like a good way to avoid a physical beating and humiliation….

Story:

Courted by King Neptune
By Angela Rasch

Chapter One

“Hi sailor; new in town?” His huge hands dipped into the Goldfish Cracker bowl on the bar and scooped out a third of the contents. He jammed a half dozen of them into his mouth and then flashed a disgusting, orange grin. “Are you ready for your first cruise?” Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Troy Grodin, all decked out in his dress whites, looked out of place in the Eden Valley Country Club bar. All of the rest of us wore light jackets over open neck sports shirts. “Can I buy you a drink, Marye?”

Troy was one of the few people who always pronounced my last name “Mare-ee” and he always addressed me by it, even though my name is pronounced “Mare-Yeah.” We had gone to high school together; I had been a sophomore the same year he had been a senior. Two grades separated us, but my parents had started me early and his had held him out late, so he actually was about four years older.

“Are you ready for another, Chris?” the bartender asked.

I nodded.

The nearly ivory skin on my arm contrasted with Troy’s golden-brown tan. He evidently used the country club for more than a bar.

Golf had been a low priority for me; I spent my days at the library learning about the foreign countries I would soon be seeing. Surprisingly, I had seen Troy come and go from the library on more than a few occasions.

“I’m buying,” Troy asserted, slapping a fifty-dollar bill on the bar. “Bring me one of whatever Marye is having; and keep them coming.”

“He’s drinking Pepsi,” the bartender said, as a warning to the heavy-drinking, naval officer.

“Pepsi? Someone needs to teach this landlubber how to drink. You had better put some whiskey in it. A man doesn’t waste his shore time in a bar drinking Pepsi.” A huge laugh rumbled from his massive chest, while he winked broadly at the bartender.

Troy made me feel like a fool; he always had. In school, drama held my main interest. I took part in four or five productions a year, including community summer theatre. By my sophomore year, I had earned the right to the title role in our production of “Tootsie.”

Troy never let me forget it. He also played a role, as the father of my love interest. Charles Durning played that part in the movie. I received great reviews in the local paper. They said I made Dustin Hoffman look like an amateur; and I made a much more convincing woman.

I wouldn’t call high school a pleasant experience. At a time when the loudest, brashest, and biggest ruled the school, my lot in life was to be quiet, sensitive, and small. I couldn’t wait to get away from Eden Valley. I planned to find a college so far away no one knew me, a place where I could have a brand-new start. My parents didn’t have much money for tuition, so I applied for every scholarship I could find. Luckily, the Naval Academy accepted me. The first three days at Annapolis had seemed like heaven, until I ran into midshipman Troy Grodin.

Not that he was mean to me; in fact he delighted in taking me under his wing. He couldn’t wait to tell people about the play he and I had been in. He even had kept a picture of the two of us from the scene where his character proposed to my character; he had stuck it on his bulletin board above his desk. He acted like an over-protective big brother, showing up at all the wrong times, ruining what little social life I had.

“Did you get your orders?” he asked. His insignia gleamed in the sun. He not only was bigger, stronger, and more handsome than me, he also out-rated an Ensign. His hand once again filled his mouth with crackers.

I nodded; my orders had arrived a week before. “I’m assigned to the USS Avenger.”

“Thasssmishp.” He sprayed crackers all over the bar and me. Had I been wearing my whites, they would have been in need of a cleaning. Luckily, I could easily brush his orange spray off my dark blue jacket. Somehow he ate like a pig, but kept his uniform pristine. He took a big swig of the drink that had just been set in front of him. “The Avenger is my ship,” he said with decided glee.

“No.” What are the odds?

“It sure is. Isn’t that great,” he roared as he threw his arm around me, “we’re shipmates. Let’s get shit-faced to celebrate.”

“I can’t,” I said, trying not to show how unhappy the unbelievable news had made me. Even if I felt like celebrating, I couldn’t. “I’m having dinner with my parents and then I’m going over to Carrie’s house.” My best friend Carrie and I had managed to stay close even though she had attended a local teachers’ college.

“Relax it’s only 1800 hours. What’s your hurry? Are you porking her?”

My face turned red with anger.

“You’re blushing. Geez, are you ever cute when you blush. I remember when you played Tootsie; and I would get you to blush by saying something to embarrass you. Do you remember that?”

More than I would ever admit. After most rehearsals, I had been mad enough to take a swing at him. I stood six inches less than a fathom, and he had to be ten inches taller than me. My first punch would have to be a good one, as it most likely would be my last. “No, I hardly recall being in that play.”

“Look Marye, it’s okay if you take off. We’re going to be living right next to each other on the Avenger. We’ll have lots of time to ourselves. The Avenger has a full complement of six officers and seventy-five enlisted. We’ll probably be light a few officers. Are you worried about your first real cruise?”

“I have a few concerns.” Like — how would I ever put up with him for that long?

“Don’t give it a thought. The enlisted men on the Avenger are salty. A lot of them are close to retirement. The ship nearly runs herself. The officers are decorative, except for making the big decisions. The captain is a great guy; he’s a lieutenant who was a fourth year during my first year as a middy.”

His comment would have baffled anyone outside of the Navy who was unaware the commanding officer on a ship was always referred to as “captain” - no matter what his rate.

Troy stared off into the distance. “The captain understands the difference between an officer and an enlisted man. Some of the enlisted men don’t like him because of that.”

“Do the enlisted men think they should be treated with more respect?”

“Exactly! Can you believe that? But, the warrant officer is still a good guy. He’s the top enlisted man, a guy by the name of Kevin Homerus. The enlisted men also got bent out of shape when the captain put a stop to the anchor pool. That’s the ship-wide pool that pays out to the person who picks the time we’ll drop anchor at our destination.”

“Doesn’t the captain approve of gambling?” I asked.

“That’s not it. He wants to be the one making the book so he can keep the ten percent vigorish. It would get pretty boring out at sea without gambling or alcohol.” He knew I had to leave; yet he spent the next five minutes telling me the history of drinking on ships in the Navy. He spoke glowingly of a time when grog had been used as a positive reinforcement, and then he talked with bitterness in his voice about Josephus Daniels, who had been the Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson. Josephus ordered the strongest drink aboard Navy ships would be coffee, hence “a cup of Joe.” Everything he told me I had heard a dozen times on my summer cruises or as a middy.

“Say Marye, do you know what a polliwog is?”

“Sure…. I’ve got to shove off. My. . . .”

“Stow it. This is important. Our cruise will take us to the southern hemisphere. I made the same route a year ago. We’ll cross the equator about a month in.”

“Okay.”

“A polliwog is a sailor who crosses the equator for the first time. The Navy has strong traditions. There’s an initiation ceremony when you cross the equator, before you become a shellback. It’s one of the worst initiations imaginable.”

I had heard some talk about “crossing the line” at the academy. Once again Troy had assumed a need to protect me. “I can handle it.”

“I’m King Neptune for this West Pac.” The way he said it, I assumed King Neptune would be the leader of the fun bunch that would initiate us. “The polliwogs eat rotten food, kiss my kipper, crawl through diesel fuel and water, get their hair shaved off, and are beaten with rubber hoses that have been soaked in salt water.”

“I’m an officer,” I said. “Certainly that crap is only for the enlisted.”

“Not hardly; if anything, the officers get it worse than the enlisted men. I couldn’t walk right for weeks, and sitting was out of the question.” He rubbed his rear with his hand and grimaced.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, my disgust evident. I hated that kind of thing. Some of the childish crap they had put us through at boat school had gone down wrong. I had graduated third in my class and expected to have a long and distinguished career. I hadn’t included sophomoric high jinks in my plans.

“Say — I get to have a say in picking my court. As a member of King Neptune’s court you won’t have to go through any of the bad stuff. You can be Amphitrite.”

A possible way out of the initiation nonsense sounds good. “What’s an Amphitrite?” I asked

“She’s a who, not a what. Amphitrite is King Neptune’s wife. There’s a contest which you can win easily, but after that, you’ll be my queen.”

“Contest?”

“It’s a beauty contest. You get dressed up like a woman; and the men on the ship vote for the most beautiful.”

I felt a cold cavity in my stomach. “I’ll just go through the initiation, like the other sailors. It can’t be all that bad.”

“Like I said, I wasn’t physically right for a month afterwards, and a lot of the guys got diarrhea. There’s no stigma in trying to win the beauty contest. With about fifteen polliwogs on our ship, at least five of them will try to be the queen. That’s the way it is. People who know what they’re in for try the beauty contest route. Then, if they play along with the spirit of the day, everyone thinks they’re great guys.”

“What do you mean by ‘sprit of the day’?” I asked.

“You have to really act like a woman.” He ordered another Pepsi for me -- and a drink for himself. “You can’t dick the dog; you either go balls to the walls to be feminine, or don’t even think about entering. The sailors will be pissed if you don’t give it your utmost. You have to sit like a woman, talk like a woman. . .you know.”

“It doesn’t sound like anything I’d want to do.

“It would be a cinch; all you have to do is look as pretty as you did as Tootsie; and you’ll win the beauty contest -- no sweat.”

Chapter Two

“Look where you’re driving asshole!”

I had switched lanes without checking my blind spot, and then almost forced a car off the road. Two hundred yards later he pulled up on my right at a traffic light. “Sorry,” I said, having rolled down my passenger-side window to apologize.

“Sorry, my fucking ass, you idiot.”

The next thirty seconds proved to be the longest of my life. He had every right in the world to be mad at me, and he knew it. I stared straight ahead, while listening to him denigrate my mother for birthing a moronic, fatherless son, and then accuse me of having had sex with her.

My discussion with Troy dominated my thoughts. I had worked hard in high school to get the lead role in “Tootsie.” If the truth were known, I had talked the drama coach into producing that play. From the time I was four-years old, I had had a nagging feeling that I should have been born a girl. No. . .a nagging feeling I had been born a girl, with the wrong plumbing attached. Part of my body: my large rear end, skinny torso, and slender shoulders, would have looked better on a girl.

After finally breaking away from Troy I had met my parents in the dining room of the country club for a quick dinner, but I barely heard a word they said. My thoughts were centered on Amphitrite and Troy’s Neptune. The waiter made a big deal over asking me if my hardly-touched meal had been properly prepared, before he took our plates away. Mom felt my forehead and suggested I should get to bed early.

Mom and Dad had always backed my decisions to the hilt. Even though they didn’t believe in war, they took pride in what I had accomplished at the Naval Academy. They let me know in many ways that whatever I decided to do with my life, they would always love me.

After receiving the not-so-nice fellow driver’s tongue-lashing, I promised myself that I would keep my mind on my driving, but quickly drifted into reminiscing about my relationship with Carrie. My junior year in high school became special after Carrie moved to Eden Valley. We hit it off almost immediately, even though she could have had her pick of the jocks. She told me that I made her feel like a person and not an object, and praised my maturity compared to the other boys. Of course, I wanted to believe her. We had been like any other boy and girl, although we had rarely been physical. When we did, it seemed awkward - but okay.

The two of us had found ourselves alone in my home one night. My family had gone out of town for a basketball tournament; my younger brother’s traveling basketball team played in an A.A.U. league. Carrie and I started talking about drama. Carrie had been in a few plays with me, but had never been cast in a major role. She wanted to know how I landed my first lead. I showed her a scrapbook that contained the reviews for “Tootsie.” She got all excited and wanted to see pictures. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t have any pictures of that play that I could find. Perhaps, my parents hadn’t been as proud of me during the run of that play as I had thought.

Carrie kept bugging me. She got me to admit I had looked a lot like my mother. That made sense because my mother, being the same size as me, had supplied my costumes right out of her closet. She had also shown me how to do my make-up.

“Do you really know how to put on make-up?” Carrie had asked.

“Uh huh. I did it for more than three weeks, every night for the major rehearsals.”

She wanted to know if I had ever wondered what I would look like dressed in clothes girls my age would wear. “I totally want to see what a babe you would be,” she said. “You and I are so close in size, my things should fit you. Mom has a wig I can fix into something decent.”

Before I knew it, we had gone over to her house. While I had chatted with her mother in the living room, Carrie stuffed several outfits into a bag. We went back to my house and I showed her Tootsie; only, it wasn’t Tootsie at all.

It was me.

I couldn’t hide it from someone as empathic as Carrie. She immediately saw more girl than boy in me. Our relationship changed, becoming stronger in many ways, but from that day forward we became strictly platonic. We hugged a lot and kissed each other lightly on the lips, but never, ever again did we have sex.

Carrie remained my best friend and the only person on the face of the Earth that knew the real me. Neither of us had any idea what I should do about my gender problem. I never dressed in female clothing with Carrie again after that — although -- I didn’t feel any need to repress my femininity when around her.

Part of my decision to attend the Naval Academy included putting all of that behind me. I figured the military would make me into a man. Now the military, at least Lieutenant Troy Grodin’s part of the service, seem to want to make a woman out of me.

“You don’t look so good,” Carrie said, after she opened the door to her house and peered into my eyes.

“Can we use your computer?”

“Sure, what’s the deal?”

I replayed my chance meeting with Troy. She took it all in, and then entered keywords “U.S. Navy Equator Neptune” into Google. What we saw made us both sick.

“You can’t let them do that to you,” Carrie said. “It’s inhuman.”

“It’s even worse than Troy had described it.” My hands shook. The polliwogs suffered degradation beyond any hazing I had ever heard about.

We looked at another site with a picture of King Neptune and his queen, Amphitrite, who looked like a woman. The queen sat with his legs crossed like a woman, and his hands demurely folded in his lap. He had a smile on his face and appeared to be enjoying himself, even though King Neptune had his arm draped across “her” shoulder. Amphitrite wore a stylish dress and high heels; and her make-up appeared as if someone had done it professionally.

“Lieutenant Troy said Amphitrite is expected to act like natural woman.” I often referred to Troy as “Lieutenant Troy” like Forrest Gump had called his superior “Lieutenant Dan.” I tried to smile for Carrie’s benefit. “He said there would be intense competition for the privilege of being Amphitrite.

“You should do it,” Carrie said emphatically. “You should enter the beauty contest, look your best, and be part of the royal court.”

“What if they suspect I’m. . . . You know?”

“Sweetie,” she said, she called me “Sweetie” when we were alone, “they’re just going to think you’re a great actress. Troy is bound to have told them about your play in high school.”

We laughed. I had told her about how much he liked to tell the other midshipmen about our roles in “Tootsie.”

Carrie offered to loan me the clothing I would need, as we still were about the same size. I would need to buy a pair of size eleven heels to go on my size nine feet. I had to report in two weeks, so we spent three nights refreshing my skills and teaching me new things I would need to know to have the best chance of winning the contest. For a fortnight she taught me new, more age-appropriate things about make-up. I wouldn’t be Tootsie; I would be me.

Chapter Three

After only a couple of days onboard Lieutenant Troy spread the word about our high school play and how I would be Amphitrite, if he “didn’t miss his guess.”

A few of the enlisted men told me they planned on winning the beauty contest. Several good-natured wagers had been made. It became apparent my winning had become a matter of pride for the commissioned officers. I lost all nervousness, as I realized that my gender dysphoria wouldn’t be apparent. I became determined to do as good a job as I could.

My work consumed me for the first part of our cruise. About three weeks in, Warrant Officer Homerus, had a cup of Joe with me in the crow’s nest. He had just explained that the Vikings used crows to find the nearest land. They kept crows in a barrel tied to the top of the mast. They would turn one loose and follow its flight path, which invariably headed toward land.

“You’re off to a good start with the men, sir,” he said.

“Great.” I had been worried how the men would respond to me. I had scored very low in dominance on the academy personality tests.

“When the captain and lieutenant walk the decks, they’re always covered so everyone has to salute them.”

I purposely didn’t wear a cap, so that the men weren’t required to salute me. I figured they had better things to do.

“And,” he continued, “when those two go into a mess hall or other compartment, they take their time before asking the men to carry on.”

I couldn’t wait to tell the men “as you were.” Sometimes I said it before they got their salutes going.

“Most of all the men like the fact that you’re a stickler for neatness, but don’t pull any of the “Irish pennant” crap on them.”

I had witnessed both the captain and Troy gig seaman for having a loose thread on their uniform.

“Ensign,” he continued, “no one should assume that enlisted men are stupid. Did you know a petty officer third class invented the microwave oven?”

“Was that after he retired?”

“Heck no. He noticed things and then rigged his ship’s radar so that it cooked steaks for him in minutes.”

I laughed after his grin showed me the story might be an old salt’s fable, but maybe not.

The captain could be an anal jerk, but Lieutenant Troy always treated me okay. I had never experienced what the other men complained about. There had to be some truth to what they said, but around me he seemed to be a decent guy.

Word got to me the day of the beauty contest that three enlisted men had shaved their bodies in the forward head. I retired to the officers’ head and started my intensive preparation. While I showered I shaved off what little hair I had on my body, and then I moisturized everywhere.

Carrie had talked me into purchasing breastforms that glued to my chest. I used a special liquid to hide the already almost invisible lines around the edges. When I put on my bra I had an impressive cleavage.

I attached nail extensions and painted my nails a vivid red. I exaggerated my make-up slightly, so that I would look good from a distance for the men who would be judging the contest.

I had considered a Corey Lynn Calter hot pink outfit with a boat neckline and a drop waist mini-skirt, in honor of the occasion, but Carrie had convinced me not to fool around.

She brought out the pride of her closet; which she called her “Marilyn” dress. “This dress will satisfy the inner vixen in you and break a few hearts,” she had said when she first showed me her A.B.S. gown. A sheer poly chiffon in orchid purple. . .its halter neck lunged daringly and left my back bare down to -- there. With an uneven pointed petal hem, just enough dress hid the waist cincher I used to take my twenty-seven inch waist down to twenty-four. At least, Carrie allowed me to pay her what the expensive dress had cost. I spent my free-time on board lying out on deck getting the proper tan to wear such a revealing gown and felt I looked radiant.

I had found a matching bra and more importantly, matching padded panties, so when the inevitable ocean breeze blew my dress up in my face, I would still appear to have ‘it’ all together.

Before I slipped on my undergarments, I pulled on a gaff to hide my manhood. It had been embarrassing buying a gaff, but what we read online made it seem necessary. My regulation-length blond hair hid under my blonde wig.

I finished with large, hoop, clip-on earrings and matching bracelets. Carrie had given me her heart-shaped locket on a chain. I had cried silently when I opened it and found she had carried our pictures in her locket for six years.

Just before I stepped out of our compartment to go topside, I took out a going-away present from Carrie -- a small bottle of Midnight Bloom by Stila. The card with it said the perfume had an intoxicating, exotic, and sensual scent. I had never worn perfume, but Carrie said that it would give me that little extra edge in bringing out the woman in me. I sprayed the air around me and allowed the aroma of gardenia and other summer smells to saturate my skin.

The other men in costumes had made valiant efforts. Two of them had looks of peer envy on their faces when they saw me. My acting skills and my hidden truth served me well. I had been prepared by what I had read online and from what Troy had told me; I expected lewd remarks. I gave as good as I got, without breaking my character of the sweet young thing trolling for hot, raw sex. I almost lost my composure when one of EMs referred to me as a LWFM; which I knew meant “Little White Fucking Machine.” Mostly I vamped, as Marilyn would have under similar circumstances.

One of the other contestants had dressed in a Green Bay Packer’s cheerleader uniform. I thought his choice of attire seemed pretty clever considering the keel for the Avenger had been laid in Sturgeon Bay, which is located only forty miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin.

He ran ashore when he tried to explain his outfit to his unappreciative fans. “If you guys weren’t such a bunch of idiots you would understand that the Avenger first sailed in Green Bay before moving out into Lake Michigan.” He put his hands on his hips and stuck his tongue out at the seaman assembled around him, which I thought was pretty cute.

“If you weren’t such a turd-brain,” yeoman Michowski shouted back, “you would know true Packer fans don’t give a shit about the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay cunts the cheap-ass Packers try to pawn off as their cheerleaders. So stick your pom-poms where they’ll do you the most good, asshole.” The cheerleader out-rated the Packer fan. Obviously the King Neptune ceremony sailed far outside normal Navy buttoned-down approach to service.

The voting became almost embarrassing in its one-sidedness. Troy and the captain raked in a pile of money on the bets they had made that I would win, much to the chagrin of the enlisted men. Had it been me, I would have earmarked that money immediately for a beer bust at our next port. Instead, the captain talked about a new set of irons and Troy mentioned replacing the tires on his Porsche.

Once the beauty contest ended, they brought out a throne and an accompanying chair for “Amphitrite.” I found myself pinned to King Neptune by his muscular arm. Troy acted very possessive, much to the delight of the crowd. I had to pretend I loved it, which I did by sighing and making eyes at him. Occasionally, I would make a proclamation about the incredibly handsome King Neptune. At least, he wasn’t FUBAR enough to try to kiss me.

The other beauty contestants had been sent below to join the other polliwogs. I had to scour the horizon for blue porpoise, the sign that we could start the main event. Luckily, plenty of blue porpoises swam in those waters. I only had to sing out, about two dozen times “No blue porpoises on the horizon” before I spotted them.

When the other polliwogs all came topside dressed only in skivvies and linked in an elephant walk, I realized I had made the right decision. Troy showed a distinct fondness for sadomasochism by directing the polliwogs to do things that topped what I had expected. They reached bottom when he had each of the polliwogs kneel before him and eat a raw egg Troy had cracked open on “King Neptune’s” stomach. He made vulgar jokes about how lucky they all had been he hadn’t cracked the eggs on his “Blue Peter.”

He almost never took his arm from around me. Whenever he did, the men reminded him to take care of his “Honey”, or he would lose her. Several times he whispered reminders to me as to how everyone expected me to put on a good show. As much as he repulsed me by then, I managed to smile and act as if he was the most wonderful “King” in the world.

They waited until nearly rack time before finally giving us our shellback cards. I headed below; even though I had to put up with Troy, the opportunity to wear my dress and actually act like the woman I was had been exhilarating. I really didn’t want to change back into Ensign Marye. My eyes misted as I thought I had spent the last en femme moment of my life.

When I went into the compartment I shared with Troy I found on my bunk a long, pink, chiffon, bridal robe with matching gown. The gown had spaghetti straps, V-neckline, and an empire waist. I could tell by looking at it that it would fit me perfectly. I reached to touch it, but couldn’t bring myself to pick it up. Who knew?

“I got it for you at Neiman-Marcus before we shipped out.”

I spun around to find a smiling Lieutenant Troy.

“I thought you might like something soft to sleep in after your rough day.”

My head spun. “Why? What would. . .?”

“I’ve never forgot how beautiful you were as Tootsie,” he said, “but that was nothing compared to how you looked today.”

I blushed from pleasure and shame. “I wasn’t very squared away.” All day long I had acted infatuated with Troy. At times our play-acting had been so close to real that my mind played tricks on my emotions; and now such a perfect gift. . .? I was just in character, wasn’t I?”

“No, you looked very regulation in my book.” He sat on his bunk, as far away from me as he could be in our small compartment.

It felt nice that he didn’t crowd me.

“If you don’t like it, I can take it back. I kept the receipt.”

Like it? I almost purred as I ran my right hand over the silk.

“I’ll leave. If you want to wear your nightgown in your rack tonight, feel free. I won’t say a word to anyone. What happens in this room; stays in this room. I took a psychology course at the academy. I think I know who you are and I’m okay with that.” He left without another word.

I hadn’t turned on the light, and it soon became totally dark. For fifteen minutes I didn’t move a muscle. It appeared that Troy knew more about me than I did. It felt liberating to have someone like him give approval to my feminine side. Finally I got up, took off my clothes, and then I went to the officer’s head and removed my make-up. When I got back to our compartment, I stowed away what I had worn that day.

Then I slipped on the nightgown and robe and freshened my perfume; the most natural actions I had ever taken. My mind kept saying to me. “It feels so right. It feels so right. This is exactly what you should be doing.” My psyche shifted further into femininity than I had ever been. I couldn’t wait to get into my bunk and enjoy eight hours sleep before reveille. As my head hit the pillow, the tears started. By the time Troy came back I was sobbing.

He quickly shut the hatch behind him, and then sat on the edge of my bunk. “What’s wrong? I thought you were having a good time today?”

I couldn’t control my sobbing long enough to answer.

“Didn’t you enjoy getting ready for the beauty contest?” His tone was soft and compassionate.

My eyes opened and adjusted to the lack of light.

His face showed signs of concern. “Those bozos didn’t upset you with their taunting; did they?”

Even though I still softly cried, I couldn’t help but laugh a little when I thought of what they had said to me -- and what I had said right back at them.

“That’s better.” His voice implied real relief. “Here.” He handed me a box of Kleenex. In the process he moved to sit right next to me, leaning so that he was supporting the weight of his upper body against the bulkhead behind me. “You looked like a fox.”

I smiled. “Thank you. That was my intent.” I had never received such a nice compliment. I felt closer to Troy than I had ever felt possible.

“Does your ‘nightie’ fit?” It apparently had been painful for him to say such a feminine word.

I grinned at his awkwardness. He’s such an overgrown boy. “It’s lovely. I don’t know how you knew, but it was just the thing. I guess I need a little decompression after today. I wouldn’t want to come up to fast and get the bends.” The gown relaxed me more than I had been in months. Troy wanted to talk and I needed to work some things out with a good listener.

“Wear it as often as you like,” he said. “It will be our secret.”

As much as I didn’t want to, I started to cry all over again. I don’t know if I cried because of happiness or to gain release after a stressful day.

I must have scared Troy because he moved again and took me into his arms to comfort me. “Don’t cry Marye. Please don’t. I’m here for you. Marye, I’ve always been here for you and I always will be.”

I snuggled into him and found comfort. After a bit I could talk again. I owed him an explanation. Moreover, I needed to think about some things that had happened. I wanted to verbalize my thoughts, as much to think things through as to communicate to him. “Troy,” I softly whispered, “It hasn’t been an easy life for me.”

“I know. I did a lot of studying at the library last summer; and I talked to a doctor buddy about girls like you. Don’t worry. We can make it work.”

Girls like me? Was he still in the King Neptune character? I had to continue. He had been so caring that he deserves my honesty. He had known I would feel wonderful in a nightgown. He had taken a chance giving me such a present. If anyone heard about him buying a nightgown for another male officer he would be ruined. Neither of us could afford to tell anyone anything. “I’ve had these vague feelings since I was small that I should have been born a woman.”

“That’s about average,” he said softly. “What makes you think you weren’t born a woman?”

He knows me much better than even I do. He’s making my confession much easier than I thought it would be. “Troy, thank you for allowing me this much. I think I can live now having had a day as a woman. After today, I’m more certain than ever that I am a woman, inside.” I moved to free him to go to his own bunk so that we could get our sleep. I had unloaded what I needed on Troy. I would be able to sleep. Tomorrow I would carry on as in the past, after I stowed away my wonderful nightie.

He didn’t budge. “I love your perfume.”

“I was hoping it wouldn’t bother you. I won’t wear it again. I just wanted -- tonight -- to wear it.”

He moved closer to sniff. I felt slightly uncomfortable with his nose so close to my neck, but he had always been so nice I didn’t really want to act frightened.

“It’s beautiful; like you. Gee, how could you ever think I would mind?” He circled one of my hands with his large paw.

I suddenly realized I hadn’t taken off my fake breasts, the fingernail extensions, or my earrings. I would have to get up early and. . . . “WHAT!” I pulled my hand away.

He had placed my hand on his stiff and quite large penis.

Although covered by his khakis, I had felt it throb.

“I’m saluting you.” He chuckled.

“Lieutenant, no,” I said softly, realizing that he had misread me. Damn — what all have I admitted to him about how I feel?

He unbuckled his belt and pulled down his pants. “Better?”

I didn’t dare shout again. Another officer slept in his rack for the night in a compartment less than thirty feet away. “Lieutenant….”

“Please, Honey, call me Big Troy.” He grabbed my hand again and tugged it toward his….

“Troy, you’ve misunderstood. I’m not….”

“You’re woman enough for me just the way you are.” He smiled. His hand went inside my nightgown and grasped at my faux chest.

I shoved him away. “Enough! I’m sorry if you got the wrong message today. I’m not sexually attracted to you. Please leave me alone. This has gone too far. I’m going to take off this gown and get into my skivvies. We need some rack time. We’ll talk this through tomorrow.”

He got up and moved to his bunk. “Who’s the other guy?” he asked dejectedly.

My mouth fell open. “There’s no ‘guy.’ We’ll talk about it in the morning, after everyone has had a chance to settle down.”

“Don’t you love me?” he whined.

I tried to set aside my shock and anger, to let him down gently. “Troy. Don’t be ridiculous. I’m going to forget this ever happened; and you should, too.”

Chapter Four

“It seems to me you’ve gone adrift, Ensign,” the captain said. At four bells I had been relieved of my post and summoned to the wardroom. He had received a report from Lieutenant Troy Grodin relating to my “fitness” and now expressed his deep concern. “According to Lieutenant Grodin, last night he returned to the compartment he shares with you, only to find you dressed in a ladies’ nightgown and smelling of perfume. Do you own a nightgown and a bottle of perfume?”

“No, sir -- and yes, sir. Sir, I. . . .”

“Ensign, I must warn you these charges are quite serious. Select your words carefully.”

“Yes, sir.”

He stared down at what was obviously Troy’s report. “Do you own a nightgown?”

“I’m not sure, sir.”

“You better get ‘sure’ and mighty fast. Is your mind AWOL?”

“No, sir. My mind is fully intact, sir.” I stood at rigid attention. “The nightgown was a gift, sir, but I refused it.”

“Are you saying you didn’t wear the nightgown?”

“No, sir. I did. . . .”

“That doesn’t sound like a refusal, Ensign.”

“I gave it back.”

“To whom?”

“I gave it back to the person who gave it to me.”

“Was that person Lieutenant Grodin?”

“I would rather not say.” I didn’t know what Troy had put in his report and didn’t want to create more problems then already existed. If I accused Troy of being a homosexual it could result in an investigation and Troy’s dishonorable discharge. I didn’t agree with the military’s policy toward gays and didn’t want that to happen.

“According to Lieutenant Grodin, you accused him of giving the nightgown to you.”

“Sir?”

“He said -- just before you made sexual advances toward him you thanked him for the nightgown. Is that true?”

“Yes, sir. . . . I did thank him for the gown, but. . . .”

“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.”

“Sir, I never made sexual advances toward Lieutenant Grodin -- or any other man.”

“I suppose that’s open to interpretation. Did you say ‘I’ve had these vague feelings since I was small that I should have been born a woman’? ”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you own a bottle of perfume?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I have no choice but to recommend that you be discharged on the basis of your admission of being a homosexual.”

“I have never said any such thing.”

“Are you recanting your conversation with Lieutenant Grodin?” His face had turned an ugly color of purple. His eyes dissected me.

“Sir?”

“Are you stupid, you f -----?” He stopped himself before saying some f-word. It probably wasn’t “fucker” as he said that all the time to the men. It could have easily been “faggot” or “fairy.”

“No, sir.”

“You paraded around topside yesterday looking like overripe poontang, you do admit that?”

“Sir, that was entirely in the spirit of the King Neptune ceremony.”

“Then you went below and put on a nightgown and perfume?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you told your senior officer that you had vague feelings of being a woman?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you have the balls to stand there and tell me you aren’t homosexual.”

“Sir, yes, sir. I’m not a homosexual.”

“Ensign Marye, you are confined to quarters until further notice.”

“Yes, sir.” I wheeled and made my way to my compartment. When I got there I noticed Troy’s side had been vacated.

I immediately fired up my laptop to research Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell. We had discussed the issue briefly at the academy, but it didn’t concern me so I hadn’t really been all that interested. My internet research showed the issue came to the forefront during the presidential campaign of 1992. Clinton ran on a promise to end the ban on gays in the military. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention he had said, “This is America. There is no them. There is only us.”

After his election a slip soon appeared between his lip and the cup when it came time to create legislation. Colin Powell drafted the compromise bill; and it satisfied no one. Many see the policy as a failure; and it is opposed by a percentage of pro- and anti-gay advocates, alike. Liberals find the law especially exasperating, as it is the only law in the nation authorizing the firing of an American for being gay.

In 1999, after fellow soldiers had murdered PFC Barry Winchell, Don’t Harrass / Don’t Pursue was added to the law. The Pentagon then did a survey on anti-gay harassment and found the practice widespread. Penalties for hate crimes within the military were stiffened, but little had really changed.

A basis for discharge exists under the law, if the person has said he is homosexual or bi-sexual, or has made some other statement that indicates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts. Omigosh! Troy clearly had indicated he thought I came on to him. If Troy wanted to construe my actions to be an indication that I wanted to engage in sex, I could be discharged.

It was clear that the captain couldn’t harass me, but it was unclear whether or not he could move to have me discharged.

Worse yet was the information I uncovered regarding men in the military who think they are women. Transgendered military personnel are not unheard of, although still relatively rare. They don’t seem to be included in the Don’t Ask law. Some think there are more transgendered in the service than what is known, because the macho lifestyle masks what the men really think.

I found very disconcerting cases that actually dealt with the discharge of transgendered personnel. The Army defended its action by saying such a person represents a medical problem -- in that their requirements for hormonal maintenance might not be available at some locations. Their logic appeared to be a smokescreen for homophobia.

The Air Force discharged a reservist who had completed a sex change, on the grounds of her not being physically fit to serve; basing that statement of major abnormalities of the genitals. Oh really? They argued such abnormalities could present a potential health problem that would exceed the care available at some potential places of assignment. What health problem, other than the common cold, would have “adequate care” at every potential place of assignment?

In one extremely troublesome case a Navy enlisted man had received a diagnosis of gender identity disorder from several Navy psychiatrists. One of the Navy psychiatrist recommended that she continue to receive treatment for her “condition.” She began attending transsexual support groups and began cross-dressing occasionally, believing the requirements of therapy demanded it. She was subsequently apprehended twice by the Shore Patrol while cross-dressed, once outside the bachelor enlisted quarters where she lived and once at the shipyard’s exchange. She challenged her court martial conviction on the grounds that her conduct was not illegal.

While acknowledging that such conduct was not “unlawful” or “wrongful” if done outside the military milieu, the court found that her conduct had been prejudicial to good order and discipline and discrediting to the Armed Forces. She had raised in her defense the King Neptune ceremonies. The court found that even though the service psychiatrist had ordered her to seek treatment; he had not specifically told her to do so in a place that would prejudice good order or a place where discipline is a significant issue.

It appeared to me that a military court would bend their weasel words any way needed to force a transgendered person to face a dishonorable discharge.

Further, from the cases I found, if the captain were to become aggressive toward me he might be able to send me to Leavenworth on the specious charge of “action unbecoming an officer.”

***

Three hours later, I was summoned to the wardroom again. Lieutenant Grodin smiled warmly at me when I walked in.

“Ensign Marye, are you prepared to sign a statement declaring yourself to be a homosexual?” the captain asked.

“No, sir.”

“I didn’t think so. Lieutenant Grodin and I have been discussing your situation. Did you manage to stay awake in your Uniform Code of Military Justice class?”

“I did, sir.” I answered.

“Then you know that I have the authority under the Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell / Don’t Pursue Act to whistle you out of the service.”

“No, sir. I don’t believe you do, sir. That Act has to do with homosexuals. I’ve told you several times that I’m not a homosexual.”

“That would be your sworn oath?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I could court martial you for actions unbecoming an officer.”

“You would find that a hard charge to prove, sir. I would file a complaint immediately with the commander.” I had readied myself for a fight if he wanted to bring it.

“Are you challenging me?”

“No, sir.”

“Then explain yourself.”

“Sir, my actions last night have been misconstrued and mischaracterized, but beyond that, the entire King Neptune Ceremony has an aura that would make your accusation of impropriety exceedingly porous grounds upon which to build a case.”

The captain looked to Troy. Obviously, Troy had become the brains of their two-man unit.

“Sir, if I may speak.”

“As you wish, lieutenant.”

“Ensign Marye has expressed a desire to me to be a woman.”

“I did not. . . .” I stammered.

“Please hold your remarks, Ensign,” the captain said, with little patience.

“I’m certain,” Troy said, “that is what Ensign Marye meant by his remarks.”

“And. . . .” The captain’s dull eyes gave no sign of intelligence.

“Sir, we are prevented by law from asking Ensign Marye about his sexuality, especially after he has stated on the record that he is not a homosexual.”

“Damn it Grodin, you saw him yesterday and your report. . . .”

“I know sir, the evidence all points to. . .but it’s tricky.”

I quickly changed my opinion of Troy. He’s evil.

Troy continued. “Sir, do you recall reading ‘A Man without a Country’?”

“Vaguely.”

“In it, the main character is brought up on charges; and then once convicted he is allowed to speak. He says, “Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again’!”

“Now I remember. They elected to grant him his wish. From that day forward he sailed around the world on Navy vessels, and never again saw or heard the words ‘United States.’ ”

“The story of Philip Nolan is part of the Navy tradition. I think we should grant Ensign Marye his wish. I think for the duration of the cruise he should be allowed to become a female -- our own ‘Phyllis’ Nolan.”

“You can’t make me. . .!” Troy was out of his mind suggesting such a thing to the captain.

“I can make you do anything I want, Ensign.” The captain pulled a copy of Uniform Code of Military Justice from his desk and opened it to a page he had bookmarked. It says here, ‘Article 134 of the UCMJ -- Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.’ ” He set down the manual. “Since you studied the Military Code you are aware that I have the authority to convene a Special Court Martial. You must also be aware that I can prescribe whatever uniform I wish for those under my command.”

His authority had restriction, but it wasn’t the time to push the issue. I had to avoid the court martial. “Yes, sir.”

“Are you telling me that you would rather submit to court martial and the inevitable confinement to quarters on bread and water for the duration of our cruise?”

“Sir?”

“I’m giving you a plethora of choices,” the captain said. “You can make this all easy and come clean about your sexuality, or you can stand for court martial, or you can spend the rest of the cruise as a woman.”

“I don’t think. . . .”

“Marye, this is a great opportunity for you,” Troy said. “If you’re court martialed, your career will be over. If you spend the rest of the cruise as a woman, it won't go in your record and you can chalk it up to a King Neptune ceremony that went over the top. Or, as the captain has said, ‘you can make it simple for everyone’ and admit your homosexuality.”

I had been given horrible options. How could I have sunk from the euphoria of less than fifteen hours ago, to such a horrible state? “What do you mean by acting like a woman? I’m not going to engage in any sexual activities. That’s not part of the deal.”

“Ensign,’ the captain said, “no one but a homo would think such a thing. Why don’t you just come clean; and we’ll all move on.”

“Whose definition of a woman do I have to meet?” I asked.

“That’s obvious,” the captain said, as he warmed to the idea. “It was Lieutenant Grodin who you damaged the most by your perversion. He will be the one in charge of your new duty.”

“New duty?”

“Yes,” the captain said. “The men enjoyed you so much yesterday I’ve decided for the benefit of the ship’s morale that you will continue to serve as morale officer. In that capacity I believe you will find it very beneficial to assume the attire and attitude of a woman; should you want to avoid court martial. Am I clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Lieutenant Grodin,” the captain said. “I want the ship to fly blue flags.”

“Sir?” Lieutenant Grodin looked puzzled. “Blue flags are flown by a ship that has lost an officer.”

“That’s right,” the captain said. “That’s where the term ‘feeling blue’ originated. You’re both dismissed. Ensign Marye, for the duration of this cruise my quarters are off limits to you. If you see me either on board or on shore I want you to move in an opposite direction. This ship is 224 feet from stem to stern and forty-four feet at the extreme beam. Do not cross my path unless you absolutely must. If you’re the O.O.D when I arrive on the bridge you are automatically relieved, so as not to ruin my view.”

“Yes, sir. Sir, may I have permission to eat in the enlisted men’s mess?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely. Lieutenant Grodin, tell the quartermaster of the watch that no mention is to be made of Ensign Marye’s attire in the ship’s log.

“Yes, sir.”

After we had vacated the wardroom, Lieutenant Troy stopped my in the passageway. “Aren’t you going to thank me?”

“Thank you. That’s the last. . . .”

“Marye, you don’t need to put on an act. I stayed up half the night figuring out how to arrange things so you can be yourself.”

“You idiot.”

“Once it all settles into place, you’ll see. You’ll be thanking me. Ensign Marye --- report to my new quarters at eight bells. I want to see you looking exactly like you did yesterday, only better. I’m bunking in with the Warrant Officer. I thought things would look better for us that way.”

I had fallen into the rabbit hole and had just conversed with a doorknob.

Chapter Five

At eight bells I reported to the Lieutenant dressed completely as I had been for the beauty contest. I had revised my make-up making it more suitable for normal daytime wear. Suitable that is, if I really was a woman — a woman going to a party in the middle of the day.

“Sir, reporting for duty.”

“You look regulation, Ensign.”

“There’s nothing about me that’s regulation, sir.”

“Look, Ensign Marye. There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way. The Navy way for you for the rest of this cruise is to be the best female officer you can be. It’s up to you to carry on with your orders.”

The men I had passed on the way to his station had laughed when they saw me. Their remarks although jovial, had been crude. When asked what was up, I had smiled and said I had been ordered to play Amphitrite for another day.

“Sir,” I said to Troy, “request permission to stand down from my normal duties, so that I may research a personal matter of grave importance.”

“What might those grave matters be, Ensign?”

Four enlisted men worked within earshot so I chose my words well. “I need time to check on Navy regulations regarding a conversation I had with the captain, sir.”

“Permission granted, Ensign.” Once again, Troy flashed that strange smile of his -- a mixture of contentment and contempt. Not a leer or a sneer, more of a fleer. He followed me out into the passageway and stayed with me until we were isolated as much as we could be in that part of the ship. “You won’t have to wear that dress tomorrow.”

“Did you straighten everything out with the captain?”

“You bet.”

“Thanks Lieutenant. I was beginning to. . . .”

“We’ll be going off course two points for the next six hours and will rendezvous with a ship that’s taking a unit of nurses to the South Seas. They have proper uniforms in your size.”

“Proper uniforms?”

“Navy Service Dress Blues, Dress Whites and khakis. They had everything you need, including pumps, even white ones.”

“Troy!”

“Ensign — as taken as I am with you, you would be wise to remember that I am your superior officer. As it stands, I’m the only thing standing between you and a court martial.” He frowned, but quickly relaxed into the grin he usually had on his face around me. “Normally, female officers can’t wear pumps onboard, but I think we can make an exception, seeing as how the Avenger is made from wood and not steel.” There seemed to be no end to his madness.

In a way I felt relief. At least the lightweight wool and khaki uniforms would be better than chiffon.

“I wasn’t sure about your unmentionables’ sizes. You need to give me a list of sizes for skivvies and bras and whatever you need. They’re all eager to help a person who has suffered the kind of loss you did. Imagine; losing all your personal items in a compartment fire. How sad. They won’t be sending any slacks, but you really should be wearing skirts all the time anyhow with legs like yours. I told them your slacks had all been in the laundry so you didn’t need any.”

“You told them I had a fire?”

“Yes, I told them Ensign Chris Marye had a fire. They checked your records and noted your female status.”

“Female?” I couldn’t have possibly heard him right.

“Your records have been changed, all the way up and down the chain of command.” He had just admitted to me that he had gundecked my records.

“You’re nuts! People will remember me as a man.”

“Not when they check your official record. What are they going to believe in this man’s Navy, you or your gosh-darned records?”

He had a point. Until I could get my records corrected “Chris Marye” was a female. I had officially turned in my necktie for a silk neck tab. My dress blues would be black, like all the female officer uniforms. “Sir, can we hold off on this until I complete my research?”

“Denied. Ensign, I expect that information about your sizes in my hands on the double.” He turned, walked a few paces, and then turned to me again. “Marye, I expect you to follow the captain’s orders to your utmost. Should you fail to follow those orders explicitly you will be tried for actions unbecoming an officer. I suspect the result would be confinement in Leavenworth for at least two years. Some of the men there aren’t the kind who will respect you in the morning. The Navy makes mistakes when it recruits a certain element.”

“Why are you doing this to me?”

“For your own good; everything I’ve read about women like you suggests I’m doing exactly what you want. You will have a guilt-free opportunity to dress and act the way you’ve dreamed about.”

“I over-stated how I felt yesterday; the entire day was an emotional experience. Please don’t make me do this. You can explain things to the captain. You can make things right.”

“That’s what I’m doing, Marye. Once you start enjoying yourself, things will be right. Now double time below deck and put some powder on your shiny nose, and use that perfume. I will have to write you up again, if you don’t do your absolute best with your new duties.”

As I made my way below I contrasted myself with the enlisted men working around me in their blue-denim dungarees. I would have gladly given up my commission at that moment to be one of them. I went below and found the form online that a female officer would have completed for her uniforms; including such things as my bust size.

Chapter Six

When we intercepted the nurses’ ship, they sent over a boat with several ditty bags full of clothing. They had thought of everything in response to Troy’s personal mayday for me. As he had warned, their generosity had included several regulation uniforms in my size; two khakis, one dress white and two of the traditional service dress blues — both made by Brooks Brothers. They all had been used, so at least I didn’t have to break in the pumps. I had to be careful in them to avoid the knee-knockers -- and going up and down the ladderwells.

As upsetting as it was to be in my situation, I couldn’t help but be moved by the kindness of the women who had been so charitable. I wondered if male officers would have been so compassionate.

The bags also contained a sizeable amount of hose, several nightgowns, and underwear, although I would have to wash out my waist-cincher every evening. The captain had kept the nightgown Troy had given to me for evidence, should he need it, so it felt good to have something soft to sleep in.

Navy personnel have to paint steel-hulled ships continuously. The phobia the Navy had for painting things seemed to carry over to its female personnel. One of the bags included feminine health items and a huge cosmetics kit. Lieutenant Troy stood next to me when I went through the donations. He immediately ordered me to establish a Red Flag schedule and to use the tampons and pads at least four days a month.

The warrant officer had delivered the bags to my compartment and later sat with me in the mess. “Sir, scuttlebutt has it that you’re being punished.”

I gave no indication if what he had heard was correct.

“It’s all over the ship that you’re going to spend the rest of the cruise in dresses and the crew is to treat you like a female officer. Ensign, I’m a bit of a sea lawyer; just a crusty old malcontent that has seen the lack of discipline damn near ruin this man’s Navy.” He frowned. He was a little younger than my father, but he seemed as wise. “The captain is an A-1 scum, but he is the captain and I’m going to see to it that the enlisted men follow his orders, because that’s what I do.”

“What if the orders are wrong?” I knew the answer. My search through the Code and online had proved to me that I had no real alternatives.

“That can’t possibly be, by definition. In this case, I think they’re tilted off-keel, but not so far that everyone can’t abide by them.”

“Would you do what I’m doing?”

“In a second, sir; and I think you should too. If the scuttlebutt I’m hearing is right, I think you should obey the captain’s orders and proceed with a determination to carry them out to the best of your ability. He’s trying to force you into admitting something that isn’t true. It’s been done before. Don’t give in.”

“What will the men think?” My voice broke a little, which felt embarrassing.

“The men will think a piece of radar equipment would make a great microwave oven. They will adapt and go about their duties. If they don’t, they will find that all leaves and liberty will be cancelled — by me.”

I bit my lip, and then managed a smile. “Thank you.”

“Ensign, someday you’ll understand that the world is as complicated, or as uncomplicated, as you want to make it. I know you’re probably thinking about jumping ship, but remember that it’s all a matter of attitude. You make a damn fine-looking woman. Most of the men think you look like pogy-bait. It could be a lot worse: you could look like a sea hag.”

After that conversation, I proceeded with more confidence. Rarely did I run into open hostility from the enlisted men. One day at mess, I heard one seaman say to another, “Bravo to India, a Tango is with Charlie in the Hotel.” To which the other one answered, “Charlie was in Uniform last November doing the Tango.” They were using the phonetic alphabet to call me a “bitch” and a “cunt.” Another time, some creep fashioned a lanyard into a hangman’s noose and left it on my bunk, but I carried on.

Shortly after the uniforms had arrived, Troy took me to the pecker checker to have my ears pierced. All of the earrings the nurses sent had been made for pierced ears. The corpsman had pierced dozens of ears for both male and female hands. I soon wore what he called “drainage” earrings. While we were in sickbay, Troy gave the corpsman a vial of medicine. He instructed the corpsman to inject a prescribed dosage into me on every third day.

“I can’t possibly do that, sir,” The corpsman said. “I have an oath to protect the patient from harm.”

“It’s hormones,” Troy said. The corpsman read the bottle, and then affirmed what was in it on his computer. “The doctor who gave them to me told me they were harmless.”

“Why did a doctor give them to you?” The corpsman had asked a great question.

“Why do you have a locker full of porn and amphetamines?” Troy asked.

“Corpsman, would you step out into the p-way and give us a little privacy?” I asked. Once he left, I turned to Troy. “What the hell is the deal?”

“You need to take these hormones, Marye. They’ll make you feel better.”

“Where did you get them?”

“I have friends. Don’t make this into something it isn’t. The hormones will just soften your attitude a bit, so that this won’t be a big ordeal for you.”

“You really came prepared, didn’t you?”

“Ensign, I’m ordering you to take those shots. In addition, you will take two pills a day under my careful attention, so that I know you’re actually swallowing them.”

“Or. . . .”

“Do you have to ask? The captain would love to put you into permanent dry dock.” His tone and words reminded me of his threat of Leavenworth.

I called the corpsman back in. “I don’t mind.” I rolled up my sleeve. “Corpsman, you don’t have any responsibility for this. If I were you I would dump that porn and drugs over the side. I’m sure the lieutenant’s memory will be short in regards to all of that.”

Troy laughed when the corpsman had me pull up my skirt so he could stick me in the buttocks. I could feel my life changing as the chemicals coursed through my blood. I wondered how much repair to my body I would have to make. I might have just made a huge mistake that would leave me as a female Navy officer for the rest of my life. From that day forward, I reported to Troy once a day for my pills, which he carefully administered, and every third day I went to sickbay for my additional shots.

Chapter Seven

Life aboard ship had rolled into the tedium of the open sea -- every day about the same as the last, even for me. I settled into my role surprisingly easily. Troy demanded I do everything in as feminine a manner as possible. I had to walk the walk and talk the talk. After a bit, femininity became less and less of a role and more and more of an expression of my true nature, and maybe the powerful hormones caused my change. Whatever -- I was more content than I had been in my life.

My dreams became repetitious. I always dreamt of myself as a woman, and a quite attractive one. Sometimes I would have sexual dreams; although I couldn’t see my partners they obviously were male. Several times I had nocturnal emissions; that hadn’t happened to me since I was eleven.

The sunset had been gorgeous. At 2230 hours we sailed under clear skies. For some reason we had stopped dead in the water. I had just checked the med lights, the decorative lighting the captain had ordered placed on the ship, when a chief petty officer came running up to me. His voice partially drowned out by a call to general quarters.

“You’re wanted on the bridge on the double.”

I ran as fast as my skirt and pumps allowed. I found my arms flailing in a very feminine way to keep my balance.

When I arrived I found the captain and Troy on evening watch with extremely white and drawn faces.

“The geographic position finder is FUBAR,” Troy screamed.

I checked the console and found the Global Positioning System blinking on and off and providing unreliable data. “So? What can happen in the middle of miles and miles of ocean?”

“The Avenger is an MCM-1 you fucking ninny.” The captain’s face had gone from white to purple. Evidently his anger with me trumped his fear of whatever frightened the two of them. “Our mission is to find and map mines. We’re in the middle of a huge mine field right now.”

Mines had been mapped around us, but none within ten miles of our current position. Our plan had been to navigate a corridor about five miles wide to SSW that would lead us to unmined waters.

“Is that why you dropped the sea anchor?” I asked.

“That’s not going to save us,” Troy said. “We could easily drift into mines. Sea anchors won’t stop our movement. To make matters worse all communication seems to be fouled by the same fucking interference that’s knocking out the GPS and the other electronic gear.”

“Have lookouts been set to watch for mines on the surface?” I asked.

“Done,” Troy said.

“Are you sure the sonar is out?”

Troy nodded.

“We’re going down to Davy Jones’ locker and you’re wasting time talking to Ensign Pussy.” The captain had clearly lost it. He had all he could do to spit out his criticism of Troy.

I looked around the bridge at the senior chief petty officer, Warrant Officer Kevin Homerus and the seaman, who showed utter disgust for Troy and the captain. “It has been days since we were in sight of land, using dead reckoning would be risky,” I said. “It’s time to get out Bowditch’s book.”

Kevin smiled his agreement.

Troy and the captain stared at me, obviously not recognizing my reference to the definitive book on celestial navigation.

“It’s not accurate within yards like GPS, but we certainly can be accurate enough to get out of our current predicament.” I was confident that we could do the math to be within one mile of our true position.

“You fucking fairy,” the captain swore. “If you think I’m going to turn over this ship to you and your faggoty fucking dress, you’re crazy.”

“Marye,” Troy said. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure we get in the same boat when we abandon ship. It will be an adventure.” His voice shook, but he still did his white knight thing.

“Abandon ship?” I couldn’t believe my ears. “Why leave the safety of the ship?”

“Ensign,” the captain roared, “Your insubordination is only exceeded by your stupidity. If she hits a mine we go down with all hands -- quicker than shit through a goose. By splitting the men between six lifeboats we’ll better the odds of some of the men surviving.”

“Why not use a sextant?” I asked.

“I can’t stand the sound of your freaking girly voice,” the captain yelled. “Get off my bridge. No one’s going to put my men in a situation where we have bet our lives on the use of a medieval toy and astronavigation. Warrant officer, make the ship ready to abandon. We will take to the boats at 2400 hours.”

“No.” Homerus barely had whispered, but his mutinous words bounced around the bridge like a shot. “We are not going to abandon ship, sir.”

“Warrant Officer, if the brig wasn’t going to the bottom with the rest of the Avenger, I would have you in irons.” The captain looked to the Chief Petty Officer who turned his back on him. “Is this a mutiny?”

“No sir,” Homerus said. “Let’s just say that we have great faith in Ensign Marye’s abilities. There are salty dogs on this ship who know that a sextant isn’t a toy. If the captain would like to work the sextant, or the lieutenant, we will respond to your command, but we will not abandon ship. No sir.” Kevin was by far the largest man in the room and probably the most cerebral. His de facto command of the ship couldn’t be unmistaken.

The captain knew the hands would follow Homerus, if it came to that. “No,” the captain said. “Lieutenant Grodin will handle the sextant.”

“Not me, sir,” Troy said. “I had better things to think about at the academy. Only the nerds paid attention to sextant lessons.” He turned to me. “I’m sorry Marye. I didn’t mean to disparage you. Maybe one of the men can work a sextant. We’ll check all hands.” He had just proven himself to be the world’s biggest sexist!

“I wasn’t a nerd either,” the captain said. “Damn them fucking liberal commies in Congress who cut our funding. If it wasn’t for them we would have a full complement of officers and one of them would know how to use a sextant; someone who isn’t crazy.”

“I can do it,” I said. “Warrant officer, get me the log, the charts, and a sextant with its books. Also check the accuracy of the ships chronometer, so that we aren’t blind.”

“I can’t stand to watch this,” the captain said. “I’m going below. All hands are to stay at general quarters. If we survive this, I would suggest that several of you think about the consequences.”

He had decided to cower in his quarters, waiting for the inevitable explosion. Troy at least wanted to die close enough to me to comfort me as we went down. I couldn’t decide which of them had turned out to be the biggest fool.

I spent the next thirty minutes determining the exact height in degrees above the horizon of several stars and the moon. In coordination with the ship’s chronometer, I charted the known positions of those bodies in relationship to our last logged GPS position. It was a tedious process, but I felt confident within two thousand yards, and we had a five-mile corridor providing plenty of margin for error.

Troy sent word to the captain that the ship was prepared to get under way, but the captain declined to return to the deck. Troy took command using my calculations and maneuvered slowly and safely through the corridor; in ninety minutes we had cleared the minefield. Once we sailed out of danger the captain stormed back onto the bridge.

“Blind ass luck,” he said. “Even a fucked up hog finds an acorn now and again.” He turned toward me. “Did you forget the standing order? Belay your bullshit and leave my sight.” Obviously, he wanted to put things back to where they had been prior to the incident.

Word travels instantly on the Avenger. As I made my way back to my compartment I received salutes from all the men I met along the way. I didn’t wear a hat, so they had no compelling reason to salute.

A petty officer third class I met below deck grinned. “It’s your wig, sir. The ship’s men have decided that we need to show you the respect you deserve. We consider you to be covered when you’re wearing your wig.” He snapped off another salute and stood at rigid attention. “Well done, sir. That was outstanding seamanship.”

Chapter Eight

For the next two days I stayed clear of the bridge. The captain had issued a new schedule under which I was no longer assigned as officer of the deck for any of the watches. Since I wouldn’t have to work around either the captain or Troy, I saw no reason to object. Consequently, I was surprised when I received a call to the wardroom.

“She’s your problem,” the captain said to Troy as I entered the room. Troy smiled at me as I walked in. He seemed quite happy to see me. The captain looked up and snarled, “Oh look, it’s our hero. Listen mister, or miss-fit, whichever it is, you don’t fool me. What you did with the sextant was reckless and could have cost the lives of every hand on board. It’s obvious to me that you need more discipline.”

“Sir. . . .”

“Your actions have been prejudicial to the good order and have been detrimental to discipline. You have cast a shadow across my bow; and the men are beginning to doubt my ability to lead.”

He’s going to court martial me, after all.

“Sir,” Troy said, “the men admire you. We just need to implement a little damage control. Once they see the ensign highly respects the two of us, things will return to normal.”

“You get her under control,” the captain said. “Whatever it takes; the next time I see her, I want to see a woman who understands who the man is around here.” The ominous tone of his voice indicated things had taken an ugly turn.

“Don’t worry Marye,” Troy said, reading the panic in my eyes. “I’ve explained some of the psychological things to the captain, about your need for self-actualization.”

“Self-actualization, my ass,” the captain said. “Lieutenant, we know what she needs; and if you’re not man enough to do it, I’ll get a party of deck apes to tend to her.” He turned to me and leered. “For the duration of the cruise Lieutenant Grodin has agreed to move back into your compartment. You are to make sure he’s happy. You’re dismissed. Go directly to your compartment and make yourself shipshape.”

“Marye, Meet me on the fantail as soon as you’ve gone to our compartment and freshened your lipstick,” Troy said. “I’ll be there directly.”

I thought I had experienced every emotion possible over the passed several months. Many of them had been new, but I blamed those on the daily doses of estrogen. What I felt at that moment was blind rage. They intended to…. I couldn’t even think about it. They had been embarrassed and apparently subsequently wanted to put me in my place.

When I got to my compartment, the nightgown Troy had given to me the night of the King Neptune ceremony had been spread out on my bunk. I turned around, and then immediately made my way to the fantail. I would introduce Troy to my starboard and port fists. We arrived at the fantail at the same time from different sides of the ship.

Troy immediately dropped to one knee. “Marye, I had wanted to wait until we got to shore to propose, but under the circumstances I think we need to make everything legal. The captain has agreed to marry us. He’s waiting in his cabin.”

“Marry you? Troy you’re insane. I would sooner die.”

His face turned white, then red. “Ensign,” he said as he came up from his knee, “do you mean to say that it’s merely a physical attraction with you. I don’t know what to think. My parents expect me to marry a woman of quality. I’m seeing you in a much different light.”

“Troy. Pull your. . . .”

“After all I’ve done for you; all the risks I’ve taken. Now you turn out to be nothing but a tramp.”

It became harder to hear him clearly in the wind. We might have sailed into a gale over the last few moments.

“I’ll bet you’re sucking enough dicks down in the EM mess.” He turned away from me and stared out to sea, but continued to speak. “I had to call in some big chits to get your records changed, almost as big as the ones I used to get you assigned to the Avenger in the first place.”

“I could’ve guessed. . . .”

“I’ve wanted you since high school. I’ve dreamt of you every night for years. I even went out of my way to help your application get favorable treatment to get you into the academy. My dad threw his weight around to help out my ‘friend.’ ” He turned, leering at me in a way that was — alarming.

My thoughts of hitting him were replaced by the knowledge that he was huge and I was a size eight.

He grabbed my wrist and yanked me toward him.

I lurched forward, unbalanced in my pumps.

“I know about woman like you,” he said. “I know what you want to do and what you want me to do to you. I know you’re going to pretend you don’t like what I’m going to do, so I’m prepared.”

We stood in a spot that couldn’t be seen from any other part of the ship. I would scream for help, if need be, but in the wind there would be little hope anyone would hear. With his free hand he pulled a lanyard from his pocket. “I had hoped our first time would be more romantic. I wanted to make it all nice and legal with a marriage ceremony. I can’t wait for you to use your pretty little mouth on me. As sexy as you are, I’m sure you want to.”

He forced me to my knees, as easily as one might a small child. He then grabbed my other wrist and easily put the two together. As he lashed them he continued his rant. “Once we’ve made love you will realize you were put on this earth to serve me. That is our natural relationship. We will have a family. I will rise up through the ranks to become a rear admiral, but tonight I will be your rear admiral.”

I heard a metallic click, and then heard and felt a knife tearing at the back of my skirt. I had worn only a bra and panties under my khaki service dress. He ripped my panties off and threw them on the deck. “You will be my wife tonight; and in the morning we will have the captain make it all proper.”

I screamed.

He forced me face down on the deck.

My screams echoed in my head and were eaten by the wind. The more I writhed the more I knew he would have me whether I wanted it or not.

“Belay, or I’ll jettison you over the side.” A pair of large shoes were inches from my face; they were attached to a mountain of a man. “Get off her.”

Troy rose up and brandished his knife, which Kevin took from him with motions so swift I couldn’t follow them. The knife skittered across the deck coming to rest against the fantail bulkhead.

“I would love it Lieutenant, if you would give me half an excuse to rip your fucking head off your miserable body.”

Troy’s arms dropped to his side. “You’ve got it all wrong. Marye and I are in love. We’re getting married.”

“Then what I’m seeing must be pre-marital rape?” Kevin snarled. He took off his pea coat and placed it around me; it fit more like a great coat. “Somehow I can’t see it that way. Listen asshole. The bulkheads have ears. I know what you and the captain have been planning, so I followed you. I heard every word you said. You’re going to the brig. The captain will soon be joining you.”

He reached down to me and helped me to my feet. He then picked up Troy’s knife and cut the ropes that bound my hands. He also retrieved my ripped panties from the deck and stuck them in the pocket of his pea coat. “In the morning the four of us; the ensign, you, the captain and me are going to get together and decide what will go into the official reports.” He turned to me. “The captain and the lieutenant are going to take a fall. They’re going to decide together how far and for how long.”

With that the warrant officer waved an arm in the air; and two petty officers came running to take Troy away.

Five minutes later, I was under a warm shower in the officer’s head. After thirty-minutes of futile scrubbing that wouldn’t remove the filth Troy had smeared on me, I found myself wrapped in a silky bathrobe sipping a cup of tea Kevin had brought in. He joined me drinking from a fragile cup -- part of a serving set I was surprised would be on board the Avenger.

“I’m sorry, Ensign. I stayed back until I was sure of your intentions. It was possible you were actually attracted to Grodin. I would’ve jumped him sooner had I been able to tell.”

“Thank you.” My ‘thank you’ seemed pitifully hollow given all he’d done.

He frowned. “I should have known you’re too classy for him.”

I blushed, and then I wondered if I had leaped out of the frying pan and into the fire. “What’s to become of me?” I asked. “It’s obvious my career is over.”

“Where did you get such an idea?” He reached over and patted my hand, but it didn’t seem like a sexual move. “You need to make some decisions. Have you thought about Sex Reassignment Surgery? Are you ready to go through a Real Life Test? What about breasts enhancement? Or, would you like to revert back to being a male fulltime?”

“Huh!” The warrant officer had been full of surprises the entire cruise. I never would have guessed that he would understand gender dysphoria. He must have a son or nephew, who. . . .

“There’s a large network of us in the Navy. We call ourselves the Amphitrites. Oh, not all of us are as fortunate as you. In fact, most of us never got so brave as to actually take part in the beauty contest. I look like a barge in a dress.”

“You’re. . . .” I felt giddy with relief.

“When I try to jury-rig myself to look like a woman it takes a shipload of imagination. There’s not enough face-paint in the world to make this mug look feminine, but there’s a woman inside me just like there’s a woman inside you. My very closest friends call me ‘Carol.’ ”

I shook my head to clear my thoughts. “How have you gotten by in the Navy?”

“There are five of us on board, that I know of. When you get to be my age you develop a sixth sense. We have sisters all the way up the chain. We can’t control all the bastards in the Navy, but we get in our licks, now and again.”

“What will happen to the captain and Troy?”

“They will never have another command. Both of them will be offered honorable discharges, which they will accept over suffering years in Leavenworth.”

“And me? Will I be with them?”

“For what? You will receive a commendation for bravery and whatever other medals you’d like calling attention to your breasts, IF you decide to have breasts. Troy changed your records; I can change them back just as easily. The first thing that’s going to happen is you will receive a six-month leave to go home and make a decision. The captain comes from a wealthy family; we will demand that he escrow a large amount of cash in an account for you -- should you decide to change your sex. You will want the best care available and he will GLADLY pay for it.”

“What about my career?”

“As I said, our sistership goes way up the chain of command. Don’t worry. We’ll protect your career.”

That night I went to sleep thinking about the future. I dreamt of a wedding in which I would walk down the aisle. Carrie would be with me at the front of the church, as my attendant. I didn’t know how long it would be until I would be ready to become a man’s wife. I did know it was only a matter of time.

The End

(Thanks to “Corpsman” Jenny Walker, “Skipper” Geoff and “Yeoman” Jezzi for helping me write this story — hopefully they didn’t let me get away with too much bilge.)

Notes:

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