– I –
I had much to think about on the night flight from the marina to the apartment complex in Ar Telica as the civilian VTOL flew us over the horseshoe shaped harbor, its waters glistening with light from the city-state’s immense pyramidal buildings.
My decision to live as Isabel and to fight as Mirai weighed heavily upon my shoulders.
Knowing that I was abandoning any chance to return to my old life squeezed my heart and chest. But I didn’t know what else to do. My options were few if any, and I wasn’t in a position to fight back. Moving forward as both Isabel and Mirai was the logical course of action, and in truth it wasn’t one I’d taken lightly. It also meant that I believed what Clarisol had told me, and Erina’s reaction when I questioned her had proven Clarisol’s assertion that my life as Ronin Kassius was a thing of the past.
So what kind of what life could I look forward to?
Feeling as though I was living minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, reluctant to think of what the sunrise would bring, should I even allow myself to ponder my future. When I did so, there was the question of whether I could live on as a girl, or was it something that would come to me gradually now that I was inside Mirai’s female body and brain?
As the VTOL flew over the harbor, my gaze wandered through the large window beside me, and by chance it floated over one of the three islands poking their heads above water. I didn’t think it was Telos Island that I glimpsed, but the sight of that island was enough to send an anxious jolt through me as I thought of what returning to the academy would be like now that I was Isabel val Sanreal, and not Ronin Kassius. But was it something I should worry over? In other words, was it not the least of my problems?
That depressing line of thinking made me turn away from the window, and I regarded the plush interior of the passenger cabin with its forward and reverse seating.
The VTOL was moth shaped, with six landing struts and wedge-shaped levitator wings fanning out from the dorsal superstructure. With a body thirty-feet long it had plenty of space for the passenger cabin. Despite my mood and situation, I nonetheless appreciated the lavishly appointed interior that was outfitted like a limousine with comfortable leather seating, wood paneling, climate control, and noise dampening for a whisper quiet ride.
However, my appreciation for its luxury was tempered by my troubled thoughts exacerbated by the company that I shared.
The Cat Princess, to whom Erina referred to as Akane, was sitting beside me to my right and facing forward. For now, her stun baton was clipped to her thigh, and the handgun she carried was holstered and hidden beneath the windbreaker jacket she wore. However, it wasn’t the heavy caliber handcannon she’d threatened me with aboard the yacht, but a smaller sidearm she could easily conceal under the jacket. I was hesitant to call it a lady’s gun, but that’s how I viewed it.
My sister, Erina, sat directly opposite me and faced the rear of the cabin with her eyes closed as her head rested back against the seat. She had changed her attire to an all-white affair – an ensemble of slim trousers, blouse, blazer, kitten sling backs – and once again she looked resplendent. Should I say, worth a fortune? In fact, she looked so good my feelings soured into a gloomy mix that swirled around in my stomach and gave me a belly ache.
The last of my companions in the cabin was a petite young woman wearing thin glasses, a business skirt-suit, and a long summer coat. She was waiting for us at the marina’s wharf, and introduced herself as Doctor Umi Pearson, a member of Erina’s team that put Mirai together. When she offered me her hand, I gave her a cruel smile that portrayed my intention to rip it off. Erina saved her by stepping between Pearson and I. At the very least, I had conveyed me feelings to the young woman, and she wasn’t going to make the mistake of being friendly with me.
Seated beside Erina, Pearson tapped away at the large magazine sized tablet on her lap.
“This is her schedule,” Pearson handed the device to my sister who blinked away for a while before wordlessly taking the tablet.
I watched Erina study the contents on display, and couldn’t refrain from sniping sarcastically at her. “Do you need a blood and urine sample?”
Erina shook her head faintly, her attention on the tablet she held. “No, we obtained those while you were unconscious.”
“How considerate of you.”
“It was simply less trouble that way.”
“Won’t the samples be contaminated by the tranquilizer?” I asked.
“We factored that into the analysis,” Pearson replied with a weak smile. “We won’t need another sample until tomorrow”—she glanced quickly at her slender wristwatch—“I mean, later this morning.”
I clapped softly. “So what’s next? Do you want me in a rat’s wheel? Shall I show you how quickly I can run?”
Erina exhaled unhappily yet continued reading the contents on the tablet’s screen. “Isabel, grow up.”
“Into someone like you? No thank you. I’d rather jump out of this VTOL now.”
The Cat Princess yawned. “Eri, just say the word—”
“And you’ll what? Shoot me?” I asked her.
The Cat Princess tapped her stun baton. “No. I’ll shove this up your—”
“That’s enough! Both of you,” Erina warned us, suddenly alert. She placed the tablet on her lap as she regarded me with a stern light in her eyes. “You assured me you would behave.”
I thought back over my conversations with her. “I don’t remember saying that.”
Erina clenched her teeth and exhaled loudly. “Then will you behave? You do realize you can make this a lot easier on yourself.”
“You mean a lot easier for you.”
Again, Erina exhaled loudly. “You’re going to give me gray hairs.”
I clapped softly again. “Why stop there? When I’m done, you’ll be bald.”
“That does it,” the Cat Princess snarled. “Time to stick this up your—”
“Not happening!” I reached over and started grappling with her.
As we tussled on the back seat of the VTOL’s cabin, the craft lurched abruptly causing Erina and Pearson to cry out in panic.
The Cat Princess and I stopped fighting as we listened to the pilot’s voice enter the cabin.
“Apologies, Doctor Kassius. Mild turbulence over the city.”
The VTOL lurched again and suddenly Erina and Pearson clutched at the armrests fitted to the cabin doors.
Forgetting about the Cat Princess for a moment, I stared at my sister as a distant memory came bounding to the forefront of my mind.
“Are you…still afraid of flying?”
Erina glared at me and clenched her jaw as the craft bounced in the air with enough force to make me feel weightless for a heartbeat.
“Hah,” I scoffed, then resumed scuffling with the Cat Princess.
The tussle ended minutes later when the pilot announced we would be landing soon
The Cat Princess relented on her choke hold, and I was able to breathe again, though I was shocked to discover Mirai could hold her breath for more than two minutes before turning blue.
At the same time, I released my hold on the girl’s head, and the mechanical avatar could straighten her body after I’d deliberately pinned her into an awkward posture against the starboard side of the cabin that would have broken a human girl’s back.
Moving to opposite sides on the back seat, we fixed up our tattered clothes.
My top had a long rip down the middle that exposed my bra and voluptuous cleavage. “Bitch.”
Her jacket was missing a sleeve. “Whore.”
I turned to her and pointed at my crotch. “Hey, at least I have all the right parts now, Machine Girl.”
“What? You want a prize?” she hurled at me.
My mouth fell open. “Wait a minute. Are you a guy? Are you a guy operating that body?”
“No, I’m not! I’m a girl. Okay.”
The Cat Princess gave me a dumbfounded look before growing angry. “My name is Akane Straus. I’m a girl. In fact, I’m twenty-three years old. So you should be showing your elder some respect.”
“Aren’t you a bit old to be calling yourself a girl?”
I waved a hand. “I thought you were like those online male gamers who pass themselves off as girls by using female avatars.”
“Never mind,” I muttered, then noticed the exhausted look Erina was giving me, and the disbelief plastered on Pearson’s face. “What?”
Though she kept her attention on me, Pearson half turned to Erina and hesitantly asked, “Are you sure the transfer worked?”
Erina rubbed both her temples. “Yes, it worked.”
“But…I thought your brother was more—”
“More what?” Erina asked her bluntly.
Pearson inhaled deeply before blurting out, “Compliant?”
Erina gave Pearson a troubled look before she resumed rubbing her temples. “Don’t ask.”
“So something went wrong,” Pearson murmured.
“Hey, Glasses,” I snapped at her. “Of course something went wrong. I’m a guy in a girl’s body all because of you”—I pointed at my sister—“and this megalomaniac.”
Erina lowered her hands and frowned at me disapprovingly. “I’m not obsessed with power.”
“From rags to riches, huh, Sis?”
My sister’s expression grew hard and sharp. “That’s enough.”
I crossed my arms, aware that by doing so I pushed up my big breasts. “So, when do I get to meet this rich fiancé of yours?”
“When you learn to behave,” she replied.
“Better make sure you put in me in a lion’s cage”—I made clawing gestures at her—“or you never know what might happen.”
“Eri, put me in a cage with her,” the Cat Princess requested. “I’ll pull out her claws.”
I raised a fist at her. “Why wait for a cage!”
“This time I’m choking you blue!”
“And I’m tearing your head off!”
“ENOUGH!” Erina screamed.
A loud rip underscored her cry.
A heartbeat later I felt the VTOL lurch gently as it touched down.
“Doctor Kassius, we’ve landed at the complex.”
Pearson pressed a hand to her chest and wilted into the leather seat. “Thank the gods. Down in one piece.”
The sliding cabin door beside Erina and I opened to reveal a man wearing a ground crew jacket with fluorescent stripes.
He took one look at the Cat Princess and I locked in combat, and froze.
“Ex—excuse the interruption.”
Then he hastily closed the door.
Erina dropped her head into her hands.
Pearson cautiously reached out and patted her shoulder. “Eri? Are you all right?”
“Do I look all right?” my sister mumbled.
“Um…maybe you should let me take over.”
Erina swiftly raised her head and stared at Pearson in disbelief. “Do you think you can handle them?”
Pearson gave the Cat Princess and I a long, thoughtful look, then visibly shrank back in her seat. “I—I get your point….”
Erina turned her attention on us. “Akane. For the love of the gods, act your damn age. You’re the team leader for Team Novis. How the Hell do you expect to lead if you can’t control yourself? You’re acting like you used to back in high school.”
The Cat Princess slackened her grip on me. “Oh, right….”
Erina regarded me. “I will box you. Is that clear? I don’t care what happens. Damn the consequences, but if you don’t behave, I swear to the gods I will box you.”
I released my hold on the Cat Princess. “Fine. For now.”
“Not for now!” Erina shouted. “Forever! Do you hear me! You will learn to act your age, and behave like a lady of proper standing. Is that clear!”
I frowned at my sister who was trembling in rage. “Okay. I get it. I’ll be good. For now.”
“For now!” I yelled back at her with a rage of my own. “Don’t ask more of me!”
Pearson’s eyes suddenly widened to the size of platters. “Oh my gods!”
Her reaction cut through my anger, and I stared at her in confusion until I noticed my dark locks of hair in the corner of my eyes.
I changed again?
Pearson covered her mouth for a heartbeat. “What—what is that?”
Erina was breathing heavily but staring at me with worry. “I don’t know. I don’t know what that is. For all we know, it could be the dark side of her personality manifesting itself.”
“The dark side?” Pearson whispered, then her eyes brightened with a sudden passion that made me glare at her. “We need to examine her immediately.” Noticing my glare, she squeaked and quickly shied back. “Her—her eyes glow!”
“Yes, I know,” Erina replied, then quickly shook her head. “We’re not examining her now. Later, but not now.”
There was a series of loud knocks on the cabin door beside me, then it slid back a few inches and the man from before peeked in.
“Um, excuse me. But we’re expecting another flight.”
Erina sighed heavily, and nodded equally so. “Yes, we understand. My apologies.”
The man pulled back the door, exposing the side of the cabin, and Erina was the first to disembark from the VTOL, using the steps that had extended down from the flank of the craft to the ground.
I followed after her, with both arms thrown across my chest to cover my exposed breasts after the Cat Princess ripped my top and bra.
The mechanical bitch climbed out close behind me, and Pearson was the last to exit the VTOL, visibly giving us a wide berth as she hurried over to Erina’s side.
The man in the ground grew jacket called out to me. “Uh, Miss.”
I stared at him, wondering what he wanted and expecting his eyes to be glued to my chest. Instead, I was surprised to see him take off his heavy jacket and offer it to me.
“Here. You should take it,” he said while averting his gaze.
I weighed my options: walk half naked to wherever we were going, or put on someone’s sweaty jacket.
Holding back a groan, I smiled weakly as I took the jacket, and then turned away from him and everybody else so that I could put it on. “Thanks…,” I muttered over a shoulder.
At the very least he hadn’t peeked at my chest, though he was probably holding himself back through a monumental effort. Or maybe I was just imagining all that in my head.
I really needed to stop being so self-conscious about Mirai’s huge bust.
Zipping up the jacket, I could smell the man’s scent on the material through Mirai’s sharpened senses. This was despite the strong wind blowing over the top of the landing platform. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant but it wasn’t pleasant either, and I resolved to strip out of my clothes and take a shower at the earliest convenience. However, he’d been a gentleman after noticing my state of undress, so I wasn’t going to throw his jacket back at him. Instead, I bowed slightly toward him in a show of gratitude.
There were other ground crew on the platform, and they ushered the four of us urgently though politely away from the parked VTOL that had flown us from the marina to the city. Moments after we’d been escorted into an enclosed lounge area adjoining the platform, the moth-shaped VTOL pointed its levitator fins downward, revved up its engines, then smoothly hopped into the air.
I watched the craft spread its levitator fins before it banked away southward. As my gaze followed it across the sky, I ended up looking out over the city.
I’d never observed Ar Telica from this high up and the lounge treated me to a resplendent midnight view of the sprawling city-state.
The building the VTOL had delivered us to was one of the dozens of pyramid-like megascrapers that bordered the west end of the horseshoe shaped harbor. That meant we were in Ar Telica’s Ring Zero that followed the shape of the harbor, with a thousand more megascrapers towering behind us to the west in Rings One to Twelve. Looking eastward at the immense watery expanse, I saw the lights of the city undulating with the waves, and my gaze traced the bridge connecting the shore to Telos Island. Shrunk by distance, the school buildings resembled miniatures illuminated by their rooftop floodlights.
I was growing tired of seeing the academy by night.
Turning around, I looked through the transparent walls of the waiting lounge at the building we were standing on.
From what I could see of the megascraper, it was a hexagonal, steep sided Aztec pyramid. Because we were standing at an elevation that was level with most of the megascrapers around us, I guessed the building was around the average of two hundred stories high. If this was an apartment complex, then I assumed the top floors would be home to spacious suites that could house a few dozen students. They would certainly be far larger than the apartment I used to share with Erina when we were younger.
My sister was watching me, and I met her gaze without flinching.
After a moment, she indicated that I should follow her.
When I sensed the Cat Princess fall in behind me, I looked at her over my shoulder.
“Don’t think of running away,” she warned me.
“Can you fly?” I asked her.
“Why? Are you thinking of jumping off the building?”
I grinned at her. “I have wings, remember?”
The Cat Princess missed a step, then hurried to catch up. “And I have a gun, remember?”
Unzipping the top of my jacket by a few inches, I reached in between Mirai’s boobs and the remains of my clothes to pull out my hard-earned prize. Then I turned around smoothly and pressed the muzzle of a small yet hefty handgun to the Cat Princess’s forehead.
“You mean this gun?”
The Cat Princess froze and I heard a gasp that could have come from either Erina or Pearson.
I grinned broadly at the mechanical girl and cocked my head slightly. “You feeling lucky, Punk?”
The girl remained completely motionless except for her mouth and lips. “How…?”
“Back when you and I were scuffling aboard the VTOL.”
I pushed the gun’s muzzle into her forehead, forcing her back a step.
Then I took a step back myself.
Relying on Mirai’s imprinted familiarity with weapons, I ejected the magazine from the gun’s grip, then slid the receiver to empty the chamber of the bullet within, all without having to stop and think about the process. Nor did I look directly at the weapon itself, though in truth I could see it clearly because of Mirai’s unnaturally wide field-of-vision that probably rivaled that of an owl’s.
Twisting the gun with both hands, I succeeded in bending the grip so that it couldn’t be reloaded with a fresh magazine. Then I tossed the weapon to the ground where it subsequently slid under a lounge seat.
The Cat Princess took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “You really are a pain.”
“Like I said before, Kitten, you’re not so tough when I can see you.” I turned around and walked up to Erina. “Lead the way, Doc.”
The petite Umi Pearson discreetly hid behind my sister who regarded me with an anxious look that brought a smile to my face.
“What?” I asked her.
“Where’s the stun baton?” she inquired.
I shrugged and answered her honestly. “I have no idea. Probably back on the VTOL.”
“What the—!” The Cat Princess shouted abruptly as she realized she’d been disarmed. “You bitch.”
I looked at her over a shoulder and then shrugged. “You didn’t think I was picking a fight with you for nothing, did you?”
The cat ears on her head suddenly popped up and began twitching madly as she glowered at me. A moment later, I realized that the ground crew hadn’t mentioned or noticed her cat ears, and it was because she’d folded them down and hid them in her long platinum hair.
“I am going to teach you to respect your elders,” she promised me.
“Meow,” I replied and made clawing gestures at her.
Erina exhaled tremulously. “You truly are devious.”
I faced my sister. “No. I’m a Gun Princess.”
From behind Erina, a pale looking Pearson was muttering, “…not cute…not cute....”
I chose to ignore her as I pointed in the direction of the escalators leading down into the building from the far end of the enclosed lounge. “I’m tired and I want to take a shower. Are you going to lead the way or not?”
Erina wet her lips before revealing, “Akane likes to keep a knife around.”
I pulled the aforementioned knife out of a pocket. “You mean this one?”
“Aaaah!” The Cat Princess yelled. “You thief!”
I handed the knife to Erina, who took it reluctantly. “Worried I’ll stab you in the back?” I asked her.
“The thought did cross my mind,” she admitted as she pocketed the knife.
Pearson’s mumbles fell to a whispered, “…not cute…not cute at all….”
Dear Readers, just a reminder that GPR Book Two is available here from Amazon KDP.
I'm hoping to serialize Book Three on TG BigCloset by posting at least once a week.
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