Saturday, November 20, 2004
I'd suggested to Agent Jones that it might be a good idea to use me to track down Nat, but they said that wasn't happening. It was the first thing they thought to do, too, but putting a civilian in harms way is pretty much a last resort thing with them. Just because their Hostage Rescue Team is among the best in the world at what they do doesn't mean they want to create those kinds of situations. Fair enough, I guess, but it means I'm on the outside looking in.
Jones has done a pretty good job of keeping me informed, not just because it's much easier to track someone's emails and phone calls if they co-operate. I have to admit, I was more than a little nervous with how quickly they opted to treat Nat as an adversery; the idea of a socialite in her third trimester as an enemy of the state is a tough concept to wrap one's head around. As the Feds pointed out, though, she's in possession of what is potentially the world's most dangerous technology - one which can render every security provision moot - and she's clearly planning to use it. Plus, she and her people have nabbed Alexei-Martin (I'm apparently still Martin-Michelle to them, too), and kidnappings are part of what the FBI does.
The thing is, Jones is probably the agent I know best, so as soon as he flew cross-country to handle the search in Seattle, Carter and I were significantly less welcome at the Boston office. Around two o'clock, the ranking guy told us to go home and wait by the phone; they'd call us if they needed me to talk to Nat or something like that. They want you out of their hair, see, but don't want to actually let you go on your own. Not that I really cared in this case; though I can be distracted, I was far away from "let's blow this off and see a movie".
The Red Line was crazy; I hadn't heard that today was the day of the Harvard-Yale game, and it seemed like everyone who had ever gone to an Ivy League school was taking the subway to our stop. We were packed in like sardines, and when I got off at Central, I couldn't find Carter. No biggie, I figured - our apartment is almsot exactly halfway between the Central and Harvard stops, so she might not have been able to push her way through the scrum and just opted to get off with the crowd one stop later. I half expected Carter would beat me home, since we're actually a little closer to Harvard than Central.
When I got home, Maureen was cooking. She said she figured that maybe something feminine like a homemade dinenr would help convince her siblings that she was the same Mo they'd always known and just happened to like girls (besides, her assistant concierge job means she's got to keep track of events and thus she knew that there'd be no room in any restaurant anywhere because of people in town for The Game). I'd completely forgotten that she had planned a get-together with her brothers and sister and apologized, but she said it was okay; finding out about Nat and my whatever-Alexei-is-to-me would push everything else from my mind. She thought it was really great that "Sam" was supporting me, but it's not like she didn't have a legitimate gripe of her own, being held prisoner with Alexei's son planning to use her body to ferry peoples' minds into the country.
While the roast cooked, we got changed - nice, but not showy dresses; it was just a dinner at home with family. We got out the leaf for the kitchen table and the card table, since Mo's brothers are married and one has twins, and ten people is much more than we usually feed (with our schedules, it's a rare occasion when the three of us are eating at the same time). By the time that was all set, we noticed it had been an hour and Carter hadn't shown yet.
Maureen, naturally, got worried, and called the FBI office, figuring maybe "Sam" had gone back. Nope. She called hospitals and police stations (and since there are like a zillion of the former in the Boston area, that took some time), asking if a small, blonde girl had been injured. Nothing. She'd just finished the list in the yellow pages when he doorbell rang to announce her brother Sean (and his wife Pat). As soon as that happened, she put down the phone, and went into hostess mode, saying that Samantha was detained and we expected her back any minute now - Marti and Sam had been across the river assisting the FBI with a case, you know.
Really, they said. Oh yes, I was exposed to some experimental chemicals the FBI didn't want me to describe too fully last year, and Sam had later been kidnapped by the people responsible, and there'd just been a new lead (even without knowing Carter's true identity, Maureen didn't want to hit her family with too much at once). Amazing, they said, nothing like that ever happens in their little town. Well, you probably wouldn't know if it did - these people don't like to advertise.
Connor and Trish and Jimmy and Jamie (fraternal, a boy and a girl) were next to arrive, at which point all of that talk stopped, since Jimmy and Jamie are three, the age where parents are aware that the kinds can at least record the words your saying and spring them on people later. They soon discovered that I would read to them if they showed me a book, which meant that I got pulled off to the side and was busy talking about Harold and the Purple Crayon when Maureen's sister Krista arrived, apologized for taking so long to get here. The kids immediately forgot me to jump on Aunt Krista - apparently, 19-year-old aunts and uncles are the coolest people kids can imagine. I guess the logic is that aunts and uncles are usually grown-ups but since the rest of the family treats them like kids, they're like double agents. Or something.
Still no Carter. Maureen was starting to show cracks.
We waited as long as we could, but eventually Mo figured if the roast sat in the crock pot any longer it would become rubber, so we dug in. Maureen can cook, no question. Dinner was nervous, though - everyone had come out to meet Mo's girlfriend, and be convinced that "Sam" was cool and made Maureen happy and Mom and Dad were being stubborn... And then it looks like she stood the whole family up. they hung around for another half hour after dinner, but eventually the kids started getting restless, so people started making excuses. While Trish was putting the twins in their car seats, the rest pretty much made it clear that they'd tried to come with open minds, but even if we had managed to convince them that Maureen having a girlfriend wasn't unnatural (this was mostly Connor), Sam clearly hadn't impressed them. Maybe, Krista said, this was a wake-up call about the wisdom of this lifestyle choice. Sean and Pat seemed to be the coolest about the Whole Lesbian Thing, but they did mention that one of Maureen's high school boyfriends still asked about her.
As soon as they left, it took all of about ten seconds for Maureen's composure to just drop, and she pulled out her cell, saying that if me and "Sam" carried them, then this would never happen. I reached out and closed it, because I'd figured out what happened earlier. Don't bother calling anyone, I said, I don't think she's in town any more. She's probably gone to Seattle.
Why, Maureen asked, she's just a girl Krista's age - what can she possibly do that the FBI can't?
That's the thing, I said - she's just not a teenaged girl. Remember Carter?
Maureen doesn't immediately get it, thinking Carter did something to her before he died. That's not it, I say - it wasn't Carter that died. When "Samantha" came back from Europe, there was a man named Mikhail inside her, and after meeting me, he decided that he wanted to be my boyfriend...
Maureen stopped crying. So Samantha... is actually Carter? Why didn't you say anything?
I said outing her wasn't my place, even though I told him repeatedly that you deserved to know. But, also - you were the one good thing that had happened to Carter since the switch, and I didn't want to ruin that. But she never really liked being a girl.
Maureen is not stupid. She was right there with me. So if you're right, she said, and he/she/whatever has flown out to Seattle, it's not to try and bring Nat and Alexei and company in, is it? Carter figures that if you're not going to jump at the chance to have your old body back, then she might as well have it, right?
That's about right. But it's only a guess, I say.
Maureen doesn't say anything, then she kicks a chair. She screams, she says she doesn't know whether to call Carter just a bitch or a son of a bitch (Maureen never swears, by the way), and how can she just leave her like that. And what if that made her family right, that she didn't really like women but the last two men she was attracted to just happened to be in women's bodies? Did that make her a fool or even more of a freak, if men in women's bodies were what turned her on?
And then she stopped being angry and just started crying again. She must have had her head in my lap crying for a solid hour before she got up, wiped her tears, and started cleaning the kitchen, saying I should call Agent Jones and tell him this theory.
Women - I've been one for a year and a half and I sometimes think it's given me no insight into how their minds work. She was right, of course, and I did, though I had to leave voice mail. I called the Boston office for good measure, and the woman I talked two cursed, saying she should have put two and two together when Maureen had called earlier. I asked if there was anything I could do, and she said she had to call the rest of the team, but she was sure they'd have questions to ask us.
They haven't called back yet, though, and now that the dishwasher is loaded, Maureen's starting to cry again. I'd better go sit with her.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Where to begin?
Last night, I guess. I did meet up with Kate and Jen after work, and we had a few drinks and went to see The Incredibles and basically had a good time. They didn't refuse to let me pay my way, since this birthday doesn't mean much to me, but it makes a good excuse to hang out. Jen is of the opinion that everyone should have three birthdays scattered throughout the year. My birthday, she says, is in January. Did I ever get a new bike for my birthday when I was a kid? No way. But if you have a shitty "Michelle birthday", well, your "Martin birthday" is just a few months away.
It's an interesting point of view, and we saw a great movie, and under normal circumstances I'd be writing more about it, but bigger things were afoot when I got home at eleven-thirty. When I got to my room, Carter told me that the crazy pregnant woman had been calling all day and had no respect for time zones, calling again at quarter of eleven. I looked at my watch, figured it would only be about nine o'clock in Seattle, and said I'd call her back from the living room. The phone rang right then, though, and it was in fact Nat.
"I'm so glad you're finally home! Listen, I've got someone who wants to talk to you."
I was about to ask what this person had to say that was so important when I heard Nat yell "talk!" from the background, and then "Martin? Listen, you've got to get her to listen to reason--" before the phone was yanked away, but it was enough time to recognize the voice.
My voice, or at least the voice I'd considered mine when I last heard it at the beginning of the year. Well, almost. He wasn't bothering to hide his accent, or maybe that was just panic. Somehow, Nataliya had tracked Alexei Gubanov in my old body down, and it didn't sound like they were having tea.
Nat confirmed that. "We found him. It took us four months and I don't even want to think about what my father paid the private investigators and bounty hunters, but they found the son of a bitch down in Oakland and brought him here."
"Nat - you've got to call the FBI and let them know you have him."
"That was the first thing I was going to do, until these guys showed me what else they found. Open your email."
It took five minutes for the computer to boot up, and Carter grumbled, but I had mail from Nat, with JPG attachments. But these attachments weren't sonograms. These pictures were of four vials, like Mags uses at her work, two with red caps, two with blue, and numbers written on their labels. The numbers on the red ones match, as do the ones on the blues, but they don't match each other. Then there were other pictures, of a laptop with a cable running from its USB port to a black project box that had a hole drilled in the top. A wire came out of the hole and it had a pair of antennae attached to it.
By this point Carter was wide awake, and he knew what he was looking at just as well as I did. I spoke into the phone again. "Is that..."
"Oh, yeah," Nat said. "Somehow, he got himself a new black box and the nano-whatevers to make a couple of switches. Looks like he knows he can't hack being a woman."
"Nat... This is huge. You've got to call the FBI so that they can find out where he got them."
"Not yet. He's been making noise all day about what a good father he'll be, but he's lost that right. Don't you get it, Marty? You can have your old body -- your old life -- back! If the FBI gets hold of this, it will disappear, and you'll probably never have a chance like this again!"
I was just stunned. So was Carter. "Nat," I said, "That's a hell of a thing to offer. And to do... I mean, that's the father of your child you're talking about."
She said he was no father, and that she knew it was a lot to absorb, but that even though the right thing to do in this situation "is so obvious", I could sleep on it and call her back.
Sleep on it. Right. Neither Carter nor I got any sleep. We just sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and hashing it out. She pointed out that it wasn't like I had a boyfriend right now, and that Nat's child deserved a better father than Alexei, and that I could be whole again, something she can never have, because "Carter Drummond" was cremated and scattered to the winds.
But, I responded, am I not whole now? That I freaked out when I just thought Maggie might be pregnant last year; was I ready to be a father, at least in the eyes of the law, in just a couple weeks? And was what I wanted worth Maggie (or someone) not having those vials of nanotech to study?
It was about six-thirty when I finally called Special Agent Khalil Jones. Not because I was absolutely certain of what I really wanted, but this whole situation scared me, the decision was bigger than me, and I wanted the pros involved. Jones told me and Carter to get down to the FBI's Boston office right away so that they could get detailed information. We called in sick to work and went.
It was like May all over again. The agents were nice enough, but persistent, and by noon we were exhausted. That's when they told me that a couple of agents from the Seattle office had nocked on Nat's door, but she wasn't home, and her family wasn't being much help in finding her. Seeing that Carter and I were both running on 30-odd hours without sleep, they sent us back home.
I think I did the right thing. I have to confess, all the female things that I've been taking for granted for months are suddenly feeling strange to me, and I think of being able to walk up to my mother in my old body and have it not be weird and my heart breaks. I made Agent Jones promise that the device and nanos will not just vanish into the bureaucracy, and he's never been anything but straight with me. I'm taking a chance, I know, but there was something about Nat's voice last night - she sounded anxious, desperate, like she hadn't thought things through. And that's not the state of mind in which to make this kind of decision or undertake something which has this much of an effect on people's lives.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Instant Messages Only I Get
From Kate: "Hey, Jen and I were thinking of taking you out for your birthday tonight. Is it the right month?"
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Last night, I finally told Maureen that she had that look again. When she asked "what look", I told her that it was the condescending, morally superior one which we hadn't seen much since I moved in here, but which she wore a lot when she first started working at BioSoft. She said she didn't know what I was talking about and maybe I just had a guilty conscience. Well, yeah, I do, but that's beside the point; it just must be awful nice to have the sort of clear conscience and spotless life where you can smugly look down on someone for a bad decision or two.
I mentioned this to Nat, and she told me that was nothing - try being single and eight and a half months pregnant with a fiancé who bailed on you and is wanted by the FBI for questioning. That is, I must admit, rather worse than having your roommate act snooty because you slept with one boyfriend while seeing another two months ago. Especially in Nataliya's circle - sure, some folks are cosmopolitan not to get all judgmental about being pregnant out of wedlock, but that she'd gotten involved with someone as apparently shady as this "Martin" fellow... Scandalous! Of course, if they had married and he was still in trouble, they'd expect her to stand behind him one hundred percent.
So, anyway, I tried to meet Doug to apologize again after work, figuring that the twenty times I've done it to his answering machine don't count. I decided to stop screwing around, and went to his apartment on the pretext of returning my key. He was home, at least, but we didn't have much time to talk - he had theater tickets of some sort, and was changing when I got there.
I apologized, saying I knew it was a bad decision as soon as I'd done it, which was why I hadn't said anything, figuring maybe it would just go away, but that never seems to happen.
So, he says, you think saying you're sorry's going to make everything all right? Well, no, but the last time I failed to be forthcoming, it didn't exactly go well. Oh, so you're playing "ignorant of how to be a girl" again, he says, and what can I say but no, I'm playing someone who doesn't seem to be better at sustaining a relationship in her second life than the first. I honestly don't expect any sort of rapproachment and just think, hey, you don't deserve to be treated like dirt. Well, thanks a lot, he says, takes the key back, and says he'll return my stuff I've got there later, since he's entertaining one of their corporate clients' reps and has to be out the door
So, that's that. I'm sure it's utterly unimportant that this corporate client had left her cute little purse in a chair pushed under the dining table that I just barely glimpsed as I walked out. I suppose the fact I was bothered by that sight makes me the biggest hypocrite of us all.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Honestly, I think I'm going to have to leave work early sometime and actually wait outside Doug's office building if I want to talk to him. It sounds stupid - let's stalk somebody in order to make a clean break! I can't think of any excuse that doesn't sound petty ("I'd like the jeans I left at your place back" is pretty darn weak), and part of me says "you're broken up, that's how you want it, so just let it stay that way". Is it some pride thing about wanting to have the last word? I don't know. I mean, I don't deserve the last word, and what would that last word be - "I'm sorry, but you've got to understand that the role that Kurt has in my life is much bigger than yours, even though you're the first person to love me despite knowing what I am"?
Maybe it's best just to let sleeping dogs lie.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
I can't believe Kurt hit on me last night. Well, not literally - it happened, and my brain didn't say "sorry, that's impossible, get him to repeat himself". I just thought wow, that's tacky.
I mean, gads - was that some sort of lame master plan - break me up from Doug and swoop in? The creepy thing is, he did it as he was giving me a ride home from the midnight movie, all "now that you're not seeing that lawyer any more, what are you doing next Friday?" I felt kind of trapped, and didn't like it at all. I suppose I should have said something noncommital, but that's not really my style. I said, number one, I don't think I'm going to be dating for a while - not only has it yet to go well, but I feel like I've lost the ability to relate to men just as friends. He, and Carter, and Doug were the only men I've spent a whole lot of time with since I woke up in this body, and I wound up dating and sleeping with all of them. I mean, that can't be healthy. Besides, and this is selfish and arrogant, but if things go well, some other goober might propose to me, and I think we've already determined I don't handle that well.
And, secondly, Kurt specifically - we've just got too much history. I know that's been said by every woman or man who doesn't want to quote ruin a friendship unquote, and I'm normally the first to say it's crap, but with us, it would be so much worse. I readily admit it would be fabulous for as long as things are going well, but the second it doesn't - well, we're in trouble, and there's nobody who can help us.
Maybe that's the wrong reason for not getting involved - I've always said that you can't be thinking of the end or the threats to a relationship at the outset, but doing things for the wrong reason is my pattern with Kurt anyway. I asked him if our relationship was ever healthy - I got involved because I figured I had to in order to get my old body back, I slept with him not because I was ready but because I was afriad I'd lose him to Denise, the wedding hook-up was spectacularly ill-conceived...
He took it well. He said he was figuring I'd say something like that, but it was worth a shot. After all, everyone always says that they're looking for a woman who can also be their best friend, and there I was...
Not happening, I said. But at least we know where we stand now.