Transplanted Life
Friday, May 07, 2004
Freaky stuff
It was Khalil Jones's idea, but Carter and I thought it was a good one. The FBI wasn't getting very far with the people at Alexei Gubanov's long-term care facility, since the staff there is naturally protective of their patients, and the agents have instructions not to mention "the process" to civilians. Khalil, though, figured that the staff had seen Samantha Haskins around before, if she'd come with Dmitri. And if it became necessary, he pointed out, we're not (and can't be) under any instructions not to lay the whole body-switching thing out to people.

I was, quite frankly, shocked at how quickly Carter agreed to it. I thought the idea of pretending to be Sam would be anathema to him; he hated it when her parents were in town, and even though he's never quite sure about whether to call me Marta or Michelle or something else when there's no-one else around, he's adamant that Mags and I call him Carter unless there's someone else within earshot. But he really wants out of that body, and he's also a guy who's served his country in the Air Force. It's not just personal to him; he sees the propogation of this stuff as a threat to the country, too.

We had to take the commuter rail and a cab to get there. The lady we met there mentioned almost didn't recognize "Sam", although she did say that it was nice to see Sam no longer dying her hair black and doing the whole goth thing. We asked if Alexei had any visitors other than his son, either recently or in the past. She didn't think so, but she'd only been there a little more than a year, and even over the past year, Dmitri had been visiting his father less and less, and not staying as long when he did. Carter pointed out that with Dmitri in jail, someone else would likely have to take over Alexei's care. That elicited a lot of "I can't believe that happened, he seems like such a nice boy." Fortunately, she hadn't remembered "our" names from the coverage. She did think it was odd that Dmitri's lawyer hadn't called in the past few weeks to arrange something. I almost couldn't help saying something about how he probably doesn't care any more. She did say she would check with the other staff members, who had been there longer, and get back to "Sam". He gave her our number, and we had almost left when she asked if we were going to see Alexei.

We should have said no. It was freaky. As soon as the attendant left, Carter walked to the bed, leaned over so that his face was about a foot from his, and just stared. "She's in there, isn't she?"

I nodded. "Yeah, probably."

"Do you think she knows we're here? Knows I'm here? I mean, here I am, walking around in her body, while she's stuck in there. What's it like for her?"

"I don't know." I shook my head back and forth. "When I talked to Shelley in December, she just described it as 'missing time'. I don't think she's suffering; at least not actively."

"'Not actively'. I'd trade with her, you know. She should be in here, and I'd at least be a man, even if I'd be old and not like to ever wake up..."

"Don't say that. Don't ever say that. Don't ever feel guilty for having a life to live. We'll find a way to get her out of there, but we'll do it without sacrificing you. There's only one person who should be in there, and he's..."

That's when it really hit me - I was standing next to the body of the man who had taken my old one. He's in his early sixties. Jowly, like he used to be Dmitri's size but a few years of eating through a catheter had caused him to waste away, but his skin hadn't caught up. I don't necessarily want to be Martin Hartle again to the point of not being who I am now anymore, but that someone took it, and left someone else trapped inside there... It made me angry. I'm angry now, a day later, just writing about it. It's a violation, and though I know it couldn't have been Alexei's idea, it doesn't look like he said "this is wrong" when he wound up in this body. No, he chose to steal another body, and the closest he came to not being totally self-serving was not to lock my mind inside a comatose brain.

I kicked the wall and sat down in a folding chair. I wiped away some tears, saw Carter was starting to cry too, and mentioned we only had an hour until the next train back into the city. A corner of his mouth twitched up. "Yeah, hate to miss it."

And we got the hell out of there.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
The FBI was back at BioSoft today, checking more machines, saying they found indications that incriminating things on Dmitri's was referencing files elsewhere on the network. It's really starting to piss the people there off, because the FBI has only told the executives what they're investigating, and they've been asked to keep quiet about it. So everyone is being inconvenienced by the FBI, they've started to say "Patriot Act" when people ask for information, and now they're starting to stop worrying about what I've been through and start wanting information from me. Kate and Maureen have been good about standing up for me, and so has Jen, but it's killing Jen to know that there's something I'm not telling her. I'm sure it's bothering everyone else, but Jen really likes knowing things. Not only that, but her fiancé was the first policeman on the scene when three people she knows were involved in a shooting, and the FBI is freezing him out, too.

And I'd tell them if not for Carter. Not all of them, but Kate and Jen at least. I think Jen could keep something this big to herself, or just between her and Carlos. But then I'd have to explain the whole Carter/Sam thing, which Carter has said he does not want, and I've got to respect his wishes on that. Of course, eventually they're going to want some sort of explanation of why "Sam" is living with me when I really don't have room for a roommate.

But right now, Carter's not my biggest problem. One of the agents, a nice enough guy named Khalil Jones, took me aside and asked if I knew where Martin Hartle might be. I asked him if he'd been briefed, he said he had, and maybe he could phrase it better. I asked how many people knew, and he said just the top four or five people on the investigation know "the process" has actually been used. Anyway, he asked, had I had any recent contact with Alexei Gubanov, currently occupying the body of Martin Hartle? No, I say, why?

He's missing. The FBI sent someone from their Seattle office to pick him up for questioning last Wednesday, and they said he hadn't come back from vacation that week. They'd alerted the police, but you're apparently supposed to wait 48 hours before filing a missing-persons report, and they figured that was more the purview of his fiancée...

My reaction is, of course, along the lines of waitaminutewaitaminutewaitaminute - he's just running around with my old body and no-one knows where he is. What about my mother, or my friends? They ask me to give them a list of any people "Martin Hartle" might try to contact, so I mention Kurt and Wei, but they're not terribly optimistic - after all, these are people who might be willing to help Marty Hartle if he/I was in trouble, but who Alexei had never really met and who, for all he knows, might know everything. They've been questioning Dmitri, but he's apparently not telling them anything useful. Apparently the search for information at the long-term care facility where Alexei's body (and Sam's mind) is resident is getting nowhere, and they're getting interagency runaround from the CIA, trying to find Alexei's handler. The FBI doesn't trust the CIA, so they don't want to tell the spooks about "the process", but in the meantime it is, as you might imagine, difficult to get information on who someone who is verifiably in a coma might turn to if he was in trouble.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Well, I kind of knew it wouldn't be Carter's thing
The Kendall Square movie theater sends out a weekly email, offering free secret screenings tickets. I'm on it, but I haven't tried for tickets since Carter escaped from Dmitri. The whole more important things, not wanting to leave him alone, that sort of thing. I haven't even been reading a lot of the emails and webpages I usually frequent; I've sort of been getting out of the habit. So I didn't even realize they were doing a preview screening of Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music In The World. Maddin's a little on the peculiar side, to say the least, but I'd liked his Dracula ballet last year.

I found out when Kate handed me a copy of the email necessary to get passes; even though the show wasn't until 7:30, she said she and the other finance folks were being crushed with work this week and she'd be in the office too late to get to the screening. I'm not surprised; lots of calls to be routed to Kate and Lizzy the past couple days. Heck, I'm usually out of the building at 5pm sharp (I'm eligible for overtime, so it's encouraged), but the switchboard's just been burning up, and I couldn't get out for another hour. I called Carter, told him I had free movie tickets, and maybe we could stop by the mall and get him some workout stuff.

The sporting goods store was a weird experience for him. He's still not sure about the whole sports-bra thing, but I assured him that they do a pretty good job of holding one's breasts steady, which is really nice when you're running. We wound up spending a little extra money, but he was more comfortable with the ones that practically look like T-shirts, albeit tight ones which bare one's midriff. He just stared at the running shorts for a bit. "I used to run in shorts just like these, and it wasn't any big deal. Why is it now?"

"You've complimented girls' legs but probably haven't been told you had long sexy legs as a guy. You can't help but be aware of that."

"How do you handle it?"

"To tell the truth, having people interested in my body is new and fun. I was a fat kid and even though I lost weight in high school and college, I was never anything exceptional as an adult. Having people like what they see is neat.

"Best thing for you is just take it as recognition for the results of working out. Make it be about recognizing success, not good looks."

Carter grumbled, but didn't disagree.

Then we went to the movie, and I thought it was hilarious, but Carter wasn't impressed. Maddin likes to work in black and white, with a sort of silent movie vibe and really bizarre humor. He made a comment that one good thing about not being my boyfriend anymore would be not getting dragged to weird movies.

Monday, May 03, 2004
Working out
I think it's a good sign that Carter was doing sit-ups when I got home. It's not like he's suddenly taking pride in his body, but he says he was disgusted by sleeping straight into Sunday afternoon after spending Saturday laying by the river and watching movies. I suppose that's a fair reaction; I pointed out that it's probably the most walking around he's done since he got that body, but he wasn't interested in hearing that. He'd been in the military, after all, and while being in the Air Force isn't exactly being an Army Ranger or Navy SEAL, you've still got to keep yourself in shape.

Still, the exercise wiped him out pretty good - I imagine tomorrow the cycle will start again, with him being ticked off about being asleep by eight o'clock. I think we're going to have to get him some workout stuff, though - he said he wasn't sure what was worse about trying to do sit-ups, how weak his arms were or the feeling of his breasts pulling on his chest. Sam's a really petite (and not particularly curvy) girl, so Carter has had the luxury of going braless, especially since he hasn't been going out much, but I think I'll be able to convince him that he might want to pick up a few sports bras.

Sunday, May 02, 2004
Girl power movies
Oh, my back. I really should have picked up some sort of futon or cot or the like yesterday while we were out, but I got sidetracked.

It was a gorgeous day, though. Bright sunshine, temperature in the seventies... fantastic. After I finished my shower and was rooting through my bureau for clothes, I told Carter it would be a waste to spend the weekend cooped up inside, which immediately made him nervous. What if the FBI called with information? I told him they'd leave a message, and that for all we knew they had the weekend off, too. The guys who examine computers probably only work Monday-Friday, and that's where the investigation was, right? He supposed that was true, but...

"Look, if you want to stay here and wait by the phone, that's your call, so to speak. I'd like to get out and do something. And come one, aren't looking at the same four walls driving you..." I stopped, not sure whether I was dredging something painful up. He gave a grim smile, and said that at least there were lights and heat here. But, yeah, maybe it would be nice to get out. He grabbed some clothes and brought them into the bathroom. It's sort of become our arrangement when we both get up around the same time.

When he got out, though, he looked at me in shock. I'd put on shorts, sandals, and a halter top. There was exposed cleavage along with other skin. "You're not actually going out like that, are you?"

Truth be told, I'd expected this reaction and decided to provoke it; there were more conservative things I could have worn. "Yes, I am. I'm not asking you to, but this is how I dress for warm, sunny days. Heck, I've even got a bikini in the closet for when it gets really nice." Not that I bought it myself.

"But your breasts are just..."

"Carter, honey, it's not like I could hide them even if I wanted to." I brought him to the corner of the bed and we sat down. "Look - back in December and January, what would your reaction to seeing me in an outfit like this be?"

"I guess I would have liked it. But things were different then!"

"For you, certainly. But not for me. Well, things are always different from day-to-day, but you've got to remember - I'm the same girl you knew back then. I've been through the hating my body and wanting to hide it away because I'm ashamed to have to wear a bra or bleed every month. This is who I am now, and I'm not going to live my life ashamed of who I am. You helped me with that. Remember the first night we made love?"

He smiled a bit; I gather it's still a happy memory for him, if one of the last ones before his life was ripped away from him. "I guess. If I'd known about you..."

"Then we both would have missed out, right? We did what we did and we both got something out of it.

"You don't have to go down my path, okay? And if you think I'm making a mistake in my life, I want you to tell me. But I don't think trying to enjoy my life is a mistake. Okay?"

He said it was okay, though I didn't see him changing out of the loose-fitting pants and long-sleeved T he'd chosen.

So, we walked over to Harvard Square area, hit a bookstore, and grabbed some stuff to read by the river. Some girls had already broken out bikinis, but I don't quite trust the weather this early in the year (and it would have given Carter a heart attack). It's kind of funny, though - there's an unspoken rule that people leave each other alone. You're in the middle of the city, with hundreds of folks around, wearing clothes to show off your body, but everyone understands that hitting on each other would be inappropriate. Still, Carter was a little uncomfortable, so he'd swiped my walkman and was shutting the rest of the world out.

Anyway, around 3:30 we decided to go to the comic shop and pick up my subs. We were walking past the Brattle when we spotted Kate and Dennis. Actually, they spotted us, and waved us over. "I knew you'd get to some of the IFF!"

I'd totally forgotten about the Independant Film Festival of Boston, actually. "What are you seeing?"

"Double Dare; it's about the stunt doubles for Wonder Woman and Xena. Dennis's idea, but it looks cool, and the stars and director are going to be here in person! Why don't you guys get tickets?"

"Sounds like fun!" Besides, it wouldn't hurt to show Carter that you can still be tough and cool even without a penis.

And it was a pretty fun movie. Of course, with the latter half being about how the younger stuntwoman was auditioning for the part of Uma Thurman's double in Kill Bill, I suddenly realized I hadn't seen Volume 2 yet. Kate didn't believe me, but since it was playing at the Loews in Harvard Square, we went straight there after the Brattle. It kicked ass. After that, pizza was in order - we hadn't eaten since 10am. Kate and Dennis left us then.

We found the one place in Harvard Square that serves food after nine without a reservation, Tommy's House of Pizza, and split a pepperoni. Carter looked pretty depressed as we were waiting for it, so I asked him what was wrong.

"I'm ruining your life. I know you love doing stuff with Jen and Carlos and Kate and... what's her new boyfriend's name?" "Dennis." "Dennis. And I've been keeping you from that."

"It's okay. I owe you; I think one of the reasons Korpin chose your body was that you were dating me."

"Someone's got a high opinion of herself."

I laughed. "You just made a joke! Good for you! Seriously, though - I remember how hard it was to have to deal with a body that doesn't match how I thought of myself, and I know it would have been easier on me if I'd had someone who'd been through it and wasn't going to lie to me or try to use me.

"Besides, I love you. I may not have the same physical attraction to you in that body, but you were my first real boyfriend. I liked Kurt, and by the end it was a little more than just wanting to be near an old friend, but in the end breaking up with him was a relief. The way it ended with you... I mean, Mikhail Korpin in your body... Do you know how relieved I was to find out that it wasn't you for the last month or so? That you were still the same good person I fell in love with, even if you were in a different package? I love you and I'll be there whenever you need me, okay?"

He actually smiled a happy-looking smile then. "Okay."

So, while we ate, I filled him in on stuff he'd missed. Jen and Carlos being engaged, Kate and Dennis, goofy stuff at work. We got out a paper and tried to figure out which movies he owed me for keeping me in the apartment. That sort of thing. We noticed there was a Japanese action movie playing the IFF at the Brattle at 11:30, so we decided to go to that.

We took a taxi home afterward. It's funny; I'd have no problem walking it myself and I'm the one who thinks of herself as a girl without my mind rebelling too much, but I felt protective toward Carter, and worried it wouldn't be safe. He dropped right into bed with his clothes still on and was out like a light; I guess his body still needs to build up a little more stamina. He's still asleep now, in fact, even though I've been writing this for like an hour.


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