Flip – 2 – Bootcamp

“Phil?” a gentle voice asked tentatively from the other side of the bike sheds.

“Go away,” I said, unfortunately in a little girl voice.

Stacey appeared around the corner, wide eyed, staring at me.

“No way!” she breathed.

“Leave me alone,” I said, squatting where I stood, hoping that somehow she’d think I was some waif from a nearby estate and let me be.

“That is you, isn’t it, Phil? I mean that’s your kit, but how…”

The tears burst through at that moment, and Stacey wrapped her arms around me. I don’t know why it felt so good, but it did. I was terrified. Scared of what was happening to me, scared of what people would say and do when they found out what I had become, scared of everything, and to have someone’s arms around me while I washed the terror from me with my tears was, wonderful.

At last the flow began to subside. There was no way I could convince Stacey I was someone else now, besides, I needed an ally.

“I’m supposed to be getting changed and going back to school with the rest of them,” I snivelled. “I can’t go in there looking like this.”

“Why don’t I go talk to Mr Grimes?” Stacey suggested. “I’ll say you’re walking home with me. I can pick up your things and…”

“And what? Grimsey won’t let you take my stuff, and he’ll want to know where I am. I’m guessing they’ll be talking about that field goal all the way home.”

“I could call your Mum,” she said, reaching for her purse.

“I don’t know her number. I mean it’s in my phone, but that’s in the locker room. They’re going to come looking for me soon, then what’ll I do?”

“Why don’t I go and talk with Grimsey anyway? It’ll at least give us a bit of time before they start looking, and if we disappear after that, he won’t be all that worried.”

It wasn’t the worst plan ever.

“Okay, but don’t be long. I don’t like being alone.”

With her off on her errand of mercy, I tried to sort something out with my clothes. My shorts and pants were a waste of time. I had about half the waist I was used to and there was no way I’d be able to persuade them to stay up. The socks were similarly not doing me any good, and I’d have a better chance using my boots as boats than as footwear.

“So, you had the good sense to run, at least,” the guy with the glasses peered around the corner at me.

Now I really was scared. Little girl me had no chance against this guy if he decided to try something. I couldn’t fight him, I couldn’t run from him. What’s more, he knew something about all this. Had he done it to me?

“What do you want?”

“I want you to be okay, Phillip. This day has been coming for a long time. I would have liked to give you some preparation before today, but your father refused to believe me.”

“What’s happening to me?”

“That I will explain at a later time. For now, that boy on your team you were arguing with on the field…”

“Pete Bailey? He’s the team captain.”

“He is a dummkopf. He does not listen to your ideas, even though they are good, and he is angry that the team won because of you, not him.”

“I suppose, but I shouldn’t have…”

“Nein, nein, nein. You must find your anger towards him. He nearly lost the match. Think about how you felt when you were shouting at him. Feel that anger again.”

“Why should I?”

“Because anger is your way back, yes?”

“Did you do this to me?”

“In a way, yes, I suppose I did. Yes, if you cannot feel anger towards your friend, feel angry toward me. Find your anger though, and let it grow. Do you want to be a little girl forever?”

“No.” The thought terrified me, and I started to cry again.

“Don’t cry,” the man said. “This will not happen. You will be a boy again, but you need to find your anger.”

“Why is this happening to me?” I wailed, fear and misery filling me, but no anger.

The man snorted in exasperation. “Because you do not try. You do not try. You do not try at school, so you are always in trouble, and you do not try now.”

“I do try though.” There, a spark.

“I do not believe you. You nearly lost your game today because you did not try.”

“That’s not true.” Definite anger, and growing.

“So, if you try, how is it you only win today because of luck? If you try, why is your bag filled with extra work to improve your mathematics? If you try, why is it all your results and your expected grades are E and D? If you try, why is your mother so worried for you?”

“Stop it!” I could feel myself growing, my voice deepening.

“Good.” He nodded. “Hold onto your anger and pull up your shorts. Your shirt does not cover you now. I will talk to you again soon.”

He turned and hurried off, just as Stacey and Mr Grime’s voice reached me.

“I told you, Mr Grimes, he said he was going to walk me home.”

“Yes, and I wasn’t born yesterday Miss Owen. Behind here, is he?”

I grabbed my shorts and pulled them up just before the two of them appeared around the corner.

“Mr Grimes, no.” Stacey tried to grab him, but he shrugged her off.

“Mr Merrick,” Grimsey fixed me with a knowing grin. “Thought you’d celebrate your win with a little roll in the hay, did you? I thought you had more sense, and more self-respect.”

“Sir, it’s not like that.”

“Yeah, sure it’s not. Go and get changed. And you, Miss Owen. I’ll be having words with your parents.”

“Sir,” I insisted, “it’s really not like that.”

“Which of course is why you were just pulling your shorts up when I arrived.”

“It’s not what you think, sir.”

“Then do tell me what you were doing.”

I had to turn his attention onto me, make it my fault.

“When they beat us at home last time, I heard one of them took a dump behind our bike sheds. I figured I’d return the complement.” I managed to look shame faced. “I told Stacey I’d walk her home and sent her to try and talk you into giving her my stuff. I figured it would give me enough time.”

“I’m not sure I believe my ears. Do you have any idea who would get to clear up a mess like that?”

“No sir.”

“Well it wouldn’t be the Crestwell rugby team, would it? Groundsman maybe? And what has he done to deserve you making his job that much more disgusting.”

“I didn’t think of it that way sir.”

“Well that’s you all over isn’t it Merrick? You don’t think. Get to the changing room and get your gear. You, Miss Owen, you’d better get off home. And watch it, I have my eye on you.”

Stacey flashed me a grateful look and ran. I was in trouble now, and there wouldn’t be any praise for my part of winning the rugby, but at least I had something to hang my anger on. -oOo-

“Where is he?”

Dad’s hackles were definitely raised. Best to face the music earlier rather than later. I climbed off my bed and headed downstairs.

The trip home in the minibus had been one long lecture on appropriate behaviour when visiting other schools. It didn’t help that the more juvenile members of the team found it so funny they couldn’t keep from smiling. It may have deflected some of Grimsey’s anger, but it fuelled it too. When we arrived back at the school, he dismissed us and made a bee line for his office. That meant phone calls and eventually this awkward encounter.

I edged cautiously into view until Dad caught sight of me.

“Would you like to explain to me what your teacher was telling me about you having a dump in the other school’s grounds?”

“I didn’t do anything, Dad.”

“Not for lack of trying from what I hear.”

“I said it to protect someone.”

“Yeah right.”

“The girl I was with. Mr Grimes thought she was, er trying to show her appreciation behind the bike sheds.”

“And was she?”

“No. I mean she has a bit of a reputation for spreading it about, but she’s trying to change. She didn’t need a false accusation going back to her mum and dad.”

“So, what were you doing behind the bike sheds?”

“I was hiding, Dad.”

“Hiding? Who from?”

“Everyone, Dad. I didn’t want them to see that I’d turned into a little girl.”

That got a reaction, though I couldn’t quite make out what.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dad said, not at all convincingly.

“Don’t treat me like an idiot, Dad. He said he knew you and Mum.”

“Who did?”

“The guy with the glasses and the accent. He said Mum had called him.”

Dad shot a poisonous look across the lounge, promising an argument for later, when I was in bed.

“What did he tell you?”

“He said not to be submissive, to keep aggressive, and if I felt something weird, I was to run and hide. I didn’t really get the weird feeling till the game was over, then it felt like I was drowning in it, so I ran. When Stacey found me, I was two foot shorter, ten years younger and missing a few crucial bits of my anatomy.”

“I don’t believe this, it’s not possible.”

I’d managed to hold onto my anger all this while, but now I’d had my say, it melted away like a snowball in summer. I could see Dad hadn’t hidden things from me on purpose; he was just trying his best not to believe any of it. Then there was Mum, stuck in the middle, trying to balance what she knew and wanted to tell me against Dad’s refusal to accept the not-so-impossible. She gave me a look that expressed all her regret, and it melted me from the inside out.

The softness was back. I could probably have stopped it if I’d wanted, but it was about time Dad got himself a reality check, or unreality check, or whatever this was. I reached for the feeling, immersed myself in it, experienced the same wave of pleasure. When I opened my eyes, everything was two feet taller.

“Well by all means, have a go at explaining this.”

It was becoming a familiar feeling, kecks round my ankles, oversized shirt hanging to my knees, long dark hair cascading over my shoulders, squeaky little girl voice.

Both Mum’s and Dad’s faces were priceless. Eyes wide, jaws loose. I stepped out of my trousers and went to Mum, holding up my arms and climbing into her lap.

“I don’t have any underwear,” I whispered into her ear.

“It’s alright darling. I’m so sorry.”

“I know. Daddy, it’s still me, and I don’t know what’s happening. Please tell me what I am.”

He walked over to the sideboard and poured himself a stiff drink, downed half of it and turned to me.

“Can you control it? This change you do?”

“Not really. This is only the second time it’s happened to me. The first was after the match when I got this really soft feeling inside and it took over; I couldn’t have stopped it if I’d tried. The second was just now, when I stopped being angry with you and Mummy, I felt it again, only this time I kind of reached for it.”

“How did you change back last time?”

“The man with the glasses made me angry. I think he did it on purpose.”

“Can you change back now?”

“I don’t feel angry, just tired.”

“But what if you’re like this in the morning?”

“I don’t think she will be, or he. Phillip, you’ve done this a lot more than twice.”

“My dreams, yeah.”

“Your dreams?” Dad demanded.

“I told you I dreamt of being a little girl once. You got quite angry and told me to stop.”

“So why didn’t you?”

“When was the last time you managed to control one of your dreams?” I turned to Mum. “You watched me sometimes, didn’t you? I could feel someone.”

“I hope I didn’t scare you.”

“No, it made me feel safe.” I offered her a smile.

“So, what do we do now?” Mum asked.

Dad shook his head.

“I think we should call Dr Wiesner.”

“He’s the one who caused this,” Dad said angrily.

“He’s the one who gave us our son back in the first place. And he did warn us something like this might happen someday.”

“I thought he was joking.”

“Well evidently not. He helped Phillip today, he might be able to help him more.”

“Who is he, Mummy?”

Mum glanced at Dad, who shrugged his shoulders.

“There was a time about ten years ago when we took you to see the doctor, I don’t know if you remember.”

“With the big machines and the tubes and wires everywhere?”

“You remember that? But it was so long ago.”

“Hard to forget Mummy. The place scared the willies out of me, literally it seems,” I added putting my hands into my very empty lap. I couldn’t help giggling at my own joke.

“How can you laugh about something like that?” Dad wanted to know. “I can’t believe you’re not totally freaked out about it. I am going out of my head just looking at you.”

“It did scare me badly the first time, but… I don’t know how to explain this. Now I’ve had a chance to think about it calmly, I guess I feel it completes me, sort of. It’s like this is the bit of me I’ve been missing for years.”

“What do you mean the bit of you that’s been missing?” Dad asked.

“I felt like I lost a part of myself back with those big machines and stuff. Between that and the dreams – which I guess weren’t dreams at all – I’ve had a hard time concentrating on anything.”

Mum looked at Dad with one of her imploring looks. “David, Dr Wiesner would be so much better at explaining this than either of us. Please.”

“Sure, why not? Since you seem intent on calling him regardless of what I say.”

“I only did what I thought was best for Phillip.”

“And I haven’t, I suppose?”

“You’ve been too busy pretending there isn’t a problem.”

Dad bit back whatever retort had sprung to mind, then he threw his hands up in the air. “Well, go on then. You’ve made your mind up.”

“I want it to be a decision we make together.”

“Well I don’t have a lot of choice, do I?”

“Okay, tell me what you think is right for our child.”

I squirmed around making myself comfortable. I thought about putting my thumb in my mouth, but that might have been pushing things too far.

His shoulders slumped. “I guess you’re right. Call Dr Wiesner.”

Mum picked up a phone and dialled. A short conversation later, she hung up. “He says he’ll be here in fifteen minutes. I’ve just had a thought, let me have a look in the loft. I think I may have something that will fit you.”

Five minutes later, she was back with a dusty old box filled with some of my old clothes.

“Why on Earth do we have that in our loft?” Dad asked.

“There was a time we talked about having a brother or sister for Phillip, about the time his problems rose to the surface. The doctor told us that the chances of us having another one like him were slim to none, but you decided against it. I put these away just in case you ever changed your mind.”

They were boy’s shorts and shirts, socks and underwear. Looking at them filled me with an odd sense of disappointment, but I put them on anyway, and they were more comfortable.

The doorbell rang and Dad answered it, returning with the guy with glasses.

“Ah, Phillip, I see you have found your inner girl again. How are you feeling?”

“Tired, confused and a little bit anxious to understand what’s happening to me.”

“Just so, just so. And what have your parents told you?”

“Nothing much. Just that they took me to see a doctor ten years ago.”

“Good, then I can begin at the beginning, yes?”

“Sounds like a plan.” -oOo-

“What do you understand about genetics?” Dr Wiesner asked.

I shrugged. “Pretty much what we learn in school. Nucleus contains chromosomes which are made up of DNA. DNA is a couple of long strands of amino acids in a specific order. Groups of the amino acids are called genes, and they act as the template the cells use to create proteins, enzymes, hormones, that kind of stuff.”

It had been one of my rare good days when we studied genetics.

Nucleic acids rather than amino acids, but otherwise correct. How many chromosomes are there in a human cell?”

“Er, four, er forty-six.”

“Good. What if I told you that you were born with forty-seven?”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“And yet it happens. When you were conceived, the sperm that fertilised your egg possessed both an X and a Y chromosome.”

“How do you know it was my sperm?” Dad asked.

“We analysed Phillip’s X and Y chromosomes and compared them to yours and your wife’s. One of the X’s matches your DNA.

“The condition is called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. It is quite common and can have quite severe side effects. Your parents had you tested at a young age because you showed signs of slow development, and when the diagnosis was made, your doctor contacted me.

“Modern medicine has no cure for your condition, but I had, and have, been working on an alternate therapy. It’s highly experimental, even now, but you were an ideal candidate.

“I explained what the treatment was, what its benefits might be, as well as its risks, and your parents agreed to it”

“You did not tell us that something like this might happen,” Dad said.

The doctor refused to be drawn into an argument.

“My method works by tagging specific chromosomes with a radioisotope. In your case, that meant the X and Y chromosomes that came from your father. I then used something called a quantum resonator to copy all untagged chromosomes, then a phase shifter to take a copy of those copied chromosomes, along with the X chromosome from your father, and push them into an alternate space, slightly out of phase with our own reality. Essentially, I made two copies of you, the one you have inhabited for the past ten years, and this one, which has been uninhabited and existing in a sort of timeless limbo for most of the same amount of time.”

“I didn’t think that’s how genetics worked though,” I said. “If I had mixed DNA to start with, and it made a sort of muddled version of me, how would separating out the two sorts of DNA unmuddle what had already been done?”

“It didn’t. Time did that. You were young, and with the right drugs, your bodies were able to correct themselves.”

“But you said this body was in a, what did you call it? A timeless limbo. How did this body find time to correct itself?”

“You’re very clever, very observant, so I believe you may have a suspicion or two. You may have noticed your other body hasn’t developed quite as much as your peers. This is because during the night, this body has been asserting itself for two or perhaps three hours. You haven’t been aware of it because you were asleep, except your mother tells me you have been dreaming.

“I told your parents this change would happen, but they probably wouldn’t notice it for some time. For the past ten years, the female version of your body has been shifting into this phase while you slept, and because it has been putting all of its energy into repairing itself, you have not been aware of it. Now that it has more or less finished with the adjustments, you have started to become aware of your other self when you shift into it.

“I told your parents that they would perhaps not notice the little girl phase for many, many years, and I must say I didn’t expect it to repair itself this quickly, but Mr Merrick, I did tell you that your child’s female side would always be close, and would perhaps cross into this world from time to time. I did tell you that he would need my help to adapt.”

“Yeah, but I thought… I thought you meant he would have a tendency to act girly, not actually become a girl.”

“That’s why you encouraged me to get involved in all the sports things,” I said. “You were trying to man me up.” Weird words to say when you have the voice of a six-year-old girl. “Anyway, what happens now?”

“You have to learn to live with it. You know the feelings that make you change. Once you have learned to recreate those feelings inside yourself, you will be able to change whenever you choose. But you will also have to learn to guard against those feelings, so you don’t change when it is inconvenient.

“Overall, you are very fortunate. You have two lifetimes to live, and you will experience life as a man and as a woman. It is good yes? Certainly better than if I had not treated you.”

“I don’t know what I would have been like if you hadn’t treated me.”

“Not so clever, perhaps a little clumsy, you would have a body that was mainly male, but with more female features, like breasts and wide hips. Instead you can be both a normal man and a normal woman at different times.”

“Not entirely normal, and it’s going to be a bit tough explaining what’s happened to me when I change in the middle of the school day.”

“This we can help with a little I think, and you also can help us.”

“What do you mean?”

“This I need to discuss with your parents as well, but you are uniquely qualified to do some things in secret, because your other self, this self,” he indicated my current state, “is not known to anyone.”

“Are you talking about turning my son into a spy?” Mum asked. “Because absolutely not!”

“Not a spy, Mrs Merrick, but perhaps an agent for justice. He is already fit and strong, and we can train him well enough to keep him safe.”

“Can you promise me he won’t get hurt?”

“Of course not, but there is risk in all life. Surely it is better to be prepared for when there is danger than to hide away and try to be always safe.”

“He’s right, Mum, and I do think we owe him for what he’s done.”

“How can we know you’re the good guys?” Dad asked. “I don’t want my son getting involved in anything illegal.”

Dr Wiesner reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin wallet which, when opened, identified him as having a respected status within both NATO and Interpol.

“We will have to take you out of school to train you.”

“That shouldn’t be too hard,” Dad said. “He’s just been given a week’s suspension for grossly inappropriate behaviour at school.”

Dr Wiesner looked at me with a puzzled expression for a moment, then light dawned. “Ah, what you told your teacher at the school today. That was clever. Inventive, and thoughtful to protect your friend.”

“You heard that?”

“Yes. I was close for all the time you were at the other school. I would like also to talk to your friend. It is important she tells no-one about how you can change.”

“I don’t have her number, and I only know roughly where she lives.”

“With her name, this should be enough.”

I told him what I knew, and he made a call.

“She will be brought here in maybe half an hour. Perhaps you should change back.”

“I don’t feel angry though.”

“Anger is not necessary, just easiest. When I spoke of your working for us, how did you feel?”

“A little bit scared, a little bit excited.”

“Yes. It is the fear in this matter that comes from the girl inside you, and the excitement from the boy. Perhaps you should change out of your little clothes before you try this.”

I ran to my room and came back wearing only my oversized dressing gown.

“Good,” the doctor said. “Now think about working for us. Push down your fear and focus on the excitement.”

I did, and in a similar way to before, the more aggressive side of my nature grew to fill me, and I was back in my usual body.

“That’s just freaky,” Dad said. “I never thought I’d be living in a science fiction world.”

“You have been for many years Mr Merrick, but many of the new discoveries, like the one that helped your son, are kept secret, and very many are not being used for good. Most often it is private corporations where power is given to the unscrupulous and greedy, but also there are governments using such technology for personal gain. This is why we need people like Phillip, to help bring things back into balance.”

The doorbell rang and Dad answered it, admitting a nervous Stacey who’d been brought by a chatty and cheerful young woman.

“Miss Owen,” Dr Wiesner greeted her. “Please don’t be nervous, you aren’t in any trouble.”

“She said she was from social services, said she needed to hear about what happened with Phil at the school. Honestly, he did nothing. He was trying to protect me.”

“I know, and neither of you are in trouble, I assure you. It is from concern that you saw your friend looking a little different that I have brought you here.”

“What, you mean the little girl thing? That was so unreal. I’m still struggling to believe it actually happened.”

“We need you to keep quiet about what you saw, Stacey,” I said.

“Well duh. It’s not as if anyone would believe me anyway.”

“Yes, good, but we may need a little more from you as well. Your friend has agreed to help with some investigations. These will happen during school visits, and he will need someone to cover for him. You would be willing to do this for him perhaps?”

Stacey looked at me. “Well yeah, I guess. I really owe you for taking the hit today. This is above board, isn’t it?”

I nodded and the doctor showed her his credentials.

“There will be some appreciation shown for your help,” the doctor said. “Not money I’m afraid, but there will be payment of a sort.

“But now, I need to speak with your parents, Phillip. Perhaps you and your friend would like to be alone?”

I looked at Dad, who nodded, then indicated that Stacey should follow me to my room.

“You okay? I asked as soon as the door was closed. I mean Grimsey called my Dad. I was wondering if he called your folks as well.”

“Yeah, he did. They’re not happy, but Grimsey couldn’t say for sure that we were in cahoots, so they’re giving me a warning. Thanks for covering for me. It would have been a lot worse if my folks had thought we’d been, you know…”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”

“What about you though?”

“I’ve been suspended for a week. It’s no big deal.”

“No, it is. That’ll go on your permanent record. It’ll affect you when you go to college or university. It’ll affect you getting a job.”

“I doubt I’ll be going to college or uni, and I think I’ve found the job I want to do anyway.”

“Is he for real, that guy?”

“Yeah, apparently he treated me for a condition I had when I was younger, and this changing thing I can do is a side effect.”

“So you really do change? I wasn’t sure I trusted what I was seeing earlier.”

“Oh, it’s for real.”

“Can you change now?”

“I guess I can try.”

I tried to feel for that soft place, but I couldn’t find it. There were all sorts of other feelings getting in the way.

“Nothing’s happening,” she said, rather obviously.

“I know. I guess I don’t feel much like being a girl right now.”

“What do you mean?”

I looked her in the eyes. There were traces of makeup, but nothing like the plaster job she’d been doing, and she was wearing a different dress, again not too revealing, not too short. She seemed relaxed in it, if a little nervous over being here, but she was her real self, and that made her beautiful.

“I mean,” I said feeling nervous, “I’d really like to kiss you now.”

There was that breathless moment as we drifted gradually closer to one another, then our lips met, and it was magical. The softness filled me and suddenly I was too short, and it was all totally weird.

“Wow!” She pulled back, wiping her lips. “Is that going to happen every time we kiss?”

“I hope not,” I squeaked. “I don’t know what happened there.”

“Well, no worries. We can always try that again later. I did bring something for you, just in case all this was real.” She reached into her somewhat cavernous handbag. “My little sister’s about your age, and she’s just grown out of a few things. I wondered if you’d like them.”

The first thing she pulled out was a dress. It was all frills and flowers, and my heart quite literally leapt at the sight of it.

“Oh, it’s beautiful. Thank you so much. Are you sure?”

“My mum was going to take it down to the charity shop, so yes.”

I squirmed out of my dressing gown, which wasn’t particularly difficult as I wasn’t so much wearing it anymore as inhabiting it.

“Wow, you really are all girl, aren’t you?”

I looked down to where she was looking. It certainly wasn’t masculine genitalia, though I hadn’t any first-hand experience of other girls, so I wasn’t really in a place to judge.

I grabbed the underwear I’d been wearing earlier and pulled it on, then I held up my arms so Stacey could put the dress on me.

“Yep, really all girl, from head to tail.”

I don’t know what it is about wearing a dress that makes it feel so good. I felt so soft inside, I felt like I never wanted to change back, and I couldn’t stop grinning. The girl of my dreams had been pretty enough just in my pyjama top, but the reflection in the mirror now was truly spectacular.

There was a knock on the door. “You two alright in there?” Dad asked. “You’re not going to make me regret letting you take a girl into your room wearing nothing but your dressing gown, are you son?”

I threw the door open and flung my arms around his knees. “Look what Stacey gave me Daddy, isn’t it lovely?”

I jumped back and twirled for my father.

He stood, stunned and silent for a moment, then shook his head. “I’m not sure which is worse, this or what I thought you might be getting up to. Dr Wiesner is leaving now, and his friend said she’d take Stacey home, so would you both come downstairs with me please.”

Mum’s eyes widened at the sight of me, and a dreamy smile drifted across her face. Dr Wiesner raised an eyebrow and suppressed his own grin.

“I will see you on Monday, Phillip,” he said, and placed his hat on his head.

“I guess I’ll see you in a week,” Stacey said, giving me a gentle squeeze. “Can I have your number though, so we can keep in touch?”

I fetched my phone and gave her my contact details. The house emptied, and it was just the three of us.

“I can’t believe my son would get so excited about wearing a dress,” Dad said shaking his head

“Dad, you’re going to have to get used to it. Right now I’m not your son.”

“What do you mean?”

“This body may have started out as a boy, but for the last ten years, for as long as I’ve been sleeping in it, it’s been fed on oestrogen. No slugs and snails left here Dad, just sugar and spice.”

“Yes, but your mind hasn’t changed, has it?”

“No, but then my mind was always missing something, Dad. This is it. However weird this sounds, this completes me, and I’m sorry if you don’t like it, but while I’m a girl, I will be all girl, Daddy.”

“Well, since that’s the case,” Mum said, “how would my daughter like to go out shopping with her Mummy tomorrow?”

“You’re both crazy,” Dad said in response to my delighted squeal. “What if someone recognises you? They know you don’t have a daughter.”

“I might have a niece visiting,” Mum said, “or we could go some distance away where no-one knows us.”

“And what if he turns back into a boy in the middle of the shopping centre?”

“There’s really no danger of that, Dad. Right now I have no idea how I’m ever going to change back into my male self. I feel so girly, and I’m loving it.”

“I need a drink,” he said.

“You need to face up to reality, darling,” Mum said, “and accept that the world doesn’t always work the way you’d like.”

“Daddy, can’t you be happy for me? I mean if I’d been born a girl, you’d have loved me just as much wouldn’t you?”

“You weren’t born a girl.”

“No, from what Dr Wiesner says, I was kind of born a mix. Then he separated the two parts, and now you get to have both of me.”

“Fine have your girly time. I’m going down the pub.” He grabbed his coat and was gone before either Mum or I could react. -oOo-

I’d always hated clothes shopping, always needed an incentive; the promise of an ice cream, or a toy or a comic or something. This was totally different.

Dresses, skirts, tops, shorts, shoes, even underwear, it was all a delight. Accessories too, bags and jewellery, Mum even bought me some toys appropriate to my apparent age and gender.

“What if you need to play with other girls your age? You’ll need something.”

So I ended up with a couple of dolls, a My Little Pony set and a toy makeup kit.

“We can decorate the small room for you as well,” Mum said. “What colours would you like?”

“Pink and purple,” I answered immediately and somewhat inevitably.

“We need to think of a name for you as well. I can’t keep calling you Phillip.”

“How about Philippa then.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it sounds a lot like my boy name, so even if one of us makes a mistake, it should be easy to cover up.”

“It’s not that likely that I’d name my children Phillip and Philippa.”

“So I guess I’ll have to be your niece, and maybe Aunt Lilly liked Phillip’s name so much, she decided to use something like it on me.”

“Well, alright Philippa. Welcome to the family. Do you think you’ll be with us for long? I suspect your father would prefer to have his son back.”

“I’ll try when we get home this evening, but right now I’m enjoying myself too much.”

“Me too. Personally, I am rather loving having a daughter – or a niece – to spoil.”

The rest of the day was a joyfest. There was fish and chips for lunch and ice cream in the park afterwards. We found a travelling funfair and went on the Ferris wheel and the roundabout, and the ghost train. It was all a bit naff, but I had little girl hormones, regardless of my actual age, and somehow, they made the experience magical for me. What’s more, there was magic to spare and my enjoyment of everything bubbled over into Mum, so we both loved it.

It was getting late when we staggered through the front door, our arms laden with the spoils of our morning exploits. Dad was waiting in the lounge, and he wasn’t happy.

“Where have you two been? I’ve been waiting here all day.”

“I left you a note, David,” Mum said calmly.

“Yeah, I read it. Gonna make a day of it, you said. What did you expect me to do?”

“Well, you didn’t consult with me before you made a night of it last night. Then when you finally came in, you were not in a state to talk, and this morning you were still passed out at eight-thirty when we were ready to leave. You want to have a discussion on the topic, why not start there?”

Dad actually had the good grace to look ashamed. It looked like they were going to make up any moment, and no self-respecting teen should be forced to experience that.

“I’ll just go and get changed,” I said, and disappeared to my room with as many bags as my little arms could manage.

In my room I changed out of my dress and into my dressing gown. It was enough. I could feel the hard, self-reliant centre of my male self, and I reached for it. It took a while to embrace it fully, because I’d really enjoyed being Philippa and I didn’t want to stop, but I told myself there would be a next time, and it would be so much the better if I stopped now before I wanted to. Cold, hard logic. Another predominantly masculine trait. It swung the balance, and I was me again.

Well I guess I’d still been me as Philippa, but this was the original me. I found I rather liked being back this way.

I dug a pair of jeans and a tee shirt out of my wardrobe, dressed and re-joined my parents who’d just made it past the grossest part of making up. Well apart from the sex, but euw, I was not ready to even think about that.

Sorry about the euw; still some little girl in there somewhere I suppose.

“Well,” Dad said, “I guess we’re going to have to redefine getting changed in this family.”

“Welcome back, Phillip,” Mum said. “Your choice. Help me make dinner, or go watch the football with your Dad?”

“Sorry Dad, I guess I’ll stick with Mum a bit longer.”

Dad shook his head. “You may not be wearing a dress anymore son, but you might as well be.”

“You could always help too,” I suggested.

“No thanks, I’m good.”

“And that’s why you miss out on great things, like today,” I said and pulled out the pinkest, frilliest apron I could find in the drawer. I did it deliberately, to get a rise out of him, and it worked. Mum and Dad may have made up, but I guess I was still a little angry with him. -oOo-

Monday morning arrived, and so did Dr Wiesner, bright and early at six o’clock. Mum was up and let him in, then knocked on my door.

I staggered down in my PJ’s and dressing gown, yawning wide enough to swallow the world.

“On a school day I don’t usually get up before seven-thirty,” I said, gratefully accepting the glass of OJ Mum gave me.

“Well, you are excluded from school,” she replied with a gentle smile, “so there ought to be some degree of punishment.”

“I already told you, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“This is true,” Dr Wiesner said, “but then the school does not know this. When you return in a week, you should seem happy to be back, so I will make sure you are.”

“What do I need to bring?” I asked around another yawn, as a bowl of cereal appeared in front of me.

“Just some clothes. Your phone as well if you wish, but you will not be able to use it much, and it will be taken from you if you do not leave it when you are told.”

“Little girl clothes?”

“Perhaps some, but you will not need many.”

“It’s alright Phillip, I already packed for you.”

I finished my breakfast, then did my impression of a zombie going for a shower. By six-thirty Dr Wiesner and I were out the door with my small bag of clothes.

We drove for an hour and a half out into the middle of nowhere, and ended up at an abandoned airfield.

Well, not quite abandoned. There were soldiers on the gates and patrolling the fence.

“To keep people out,” Dr Wiesner explained. “They’re there for your protection.”

“So if I wanted to leave, they’d let me?”

“Well no. For now, we need also to protect you from yourself.”

We drove onto the field, where a number of tents had been raised next to the main runway. Dr Wiesner pulled up beside one of them.

“Here is where you will sleep. There is a camp bed inside, and a place to leave your bag.”

“What’s the plan for the week?” I asked.

“For much of it, we will work on your fitness.”

“I’m already fit, you said so earlier.”

“Ha-ha-ha. You English and your sense of humour, always joking. We will also work on teaching you to control the change, and we will train you for your first mission.”

“Already? I thought that was in the future, after I’d left school.”

“No. We need you now. Does this displease you?”

“No, just surprises me.”

“Okay then. We start easy today. You have ten minutes to put away your things and to change into the clothes you will find, then you will bring out the bergen that is in there and join the soldiers here for exercises on the runway.”

“What about my phone?”

“Leave it. It will be safe in your tent.”

“Where do I charge it?”

“There is electricity in the main building. You may bring it to charge when we eat our meals. For the rest of the time, I recommend you leave it turned off. You now have nine minutes.”

“Ha-ha-ha. You Germans and your sense of humour,” I said with a smile.

He didn’t look like he was joking though. I jumped out of the car and dashed in the tent.

Less than ten minutes later I was back out in the open, wearing the course army fatigues that had been laid out on the camp bed and carrying the uncomfortable weight of the bergen on my back.

A group of soldiers stood nearby. I jogged over to join them. The guy standing in front of them did not look particularly happy.

“What are you dawdling for?” he bellowed as I approached.

I picked up my pace and joined them in short order.

“I am not happy,” he yelled into my face. “My job is to get this lot into shape, and I do not like baby-sitting snot nosed, wet behind the ears, snivelling little turds like you. You will keep up; do you understand?”

“Yes sir!” I yelled back in his face.

“You will call me sergeant,” he yelled back, to which I gave the expected reply. I’d seen enough war films to know how things like this worked.

We started off by marching the length of the runway and back. My stride was naturally shorter than most of the others, so I had to step longer than I normally would, which meant I was tiring before we’d completed even one full length. By the time we’d been doing it for a couple of hours, I was beginning to see why Dr Wiesner had laughed at me. The others weren’t even breathing hard, and I was nearly spent.

Then the sergeant called for double time, and the column broke into a trot. The straps of the bergen were really biting into my shoulders, but I ground my teeth at the pain and tried to keep up.

Twice more we covered the mile of runway back and forth before arriving back outside my tent.

The sergeant called for a halt, then proceeded to yell at us for a further ten minutes. He walked up and down the line of soldiers, commenting to each one loud enough for his insults to be heard by all.

“Pathetic,” he yelled into my face. “My six-year-old daughter could do better.”

I stood as straight as I could, breathed as shallow as I could, and held onto my anger. There was a part of me inside that just wanted to break down and cry, but I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction. Or to risk what that might bring.

“Thirty minutes to chow down,” the sergeant yelled at us all. “Fall out.”

I noticed more than one pair of shoulders slump as we headed for our various billets. I dumped my bergen and hunted out my phone and charger before heading for the hangar and the promise of food.

The afternoon was calisthenics. No weight on our backs, but more running and stopping for press-ups or sit-ups, or any of a number of different exercises. I was washed out by late afternoon when we stopped.

I was given orders to shower and join Dr Wiesner in the hanger, which I managed, although I had very little strength left.

He smiled as I entered. “Good afternoon my young friend. You are feeling fit?”

What I wasn’t feeling was in a mood for his playful banter. I grunted.

“Change into this please,” he said handing me what looked like a wrestler’s singlet, only for someone half my size.

“It’s a little small, isn’t it?”

“It is designed to stretch. There is a screen here.”

So I changed out of my clothes and into the costume. The legs came down to just above my knees and the arms almost to my elbows, but surprisingly it wasn’t tight.

He nodded approvingly when I emerged.

“This will be better for you than your underwear,” he said. “Now change.”

“What, back into my clothes?” I asked, more than a little stupefied in my exhaustion.

“No, into your other self.”

I gave him an incredulous stare. “I’m too tired.”

“And yet you need to learn to control this at all times.”

I took a deep breath and tried to focus. Fortunately, my outing with Mum was fresh in my memory. I thought about the best of the day, of looking through all the clothes and finding a succession of delights to try on – little girl clothes really are among the prettiest things you’re likely to find – of screaming with fright and exhilaration at the rather mundane fairground rides, size making all the difference to the experience.

A smile slowly spread across my face and I felt the softness envelop me.

“Very good,” Dr Wiesner said. “Now change back.”

I opened my eyes and found the doctor looking down at me from twice the height.

I looked at myself, and the singlet was now more of a body stocking, the legs and sleeves now reaching to my ankles and wrists. It didn’t feel much looser, and it looked kind of neat. Perhaps not the sort of thing a seven-year-old girl would normally wear, but it was comfy and it felt right for me.

In response to Dr Wiesner’s instructions, I directed my attention to my feelings for the sergeant. The way I felt about him made the change back easy.

“Very good. Now back to the girl.”

And so the afternoon passed with me flipping back and forth between my two selves. By the time I’d been doing it for three hours, I could pretty much achieve the change more or less instantly.

Five o’clock arrived and I was allowed some time to myself. I collected my phone and turned it on. A succession of texts scrolled across the screen, most from my mates at school, several from Stacey, and even a couple from Mum.

I read the ones from Stacey first. They were friendly and upbeat. A couple were for me as Phillip, and one for me as Philippa. In the privacy of my tent, I changed into my different personae for each of the messages and ended up thoroughly confusing my feelings. The Philippa me responded first, all girly and gushy and telling her about my shopping with Mum, then I transformed back into Phillip and wrote a couple of friendly, tending towards more than friendly, texts. For all that I’d been repulsed by the slutty Stacey, I found myself really liking the reformed version.

Next, I fired off a few messages to my mates, telling them about the boot camp Mum and Dad had sent me to. All part of the story to make this seem more punishment than preparation for whatever Dr Wiesner had in mind.

Finally, I read what Mum had sent. I was impressed that she’d figured out how to, not being particularly enamoured of modern technology. She’d received a stack of work from the school that I was to complete by the end of the week and wanted to know if Dr Wiesner could collect it for me. I replied to say I’d ask. I didn’t much fancy facing all that homework, especially not without any teachers to ask, but if it got me out of some of the drill…

Dinner was at six-thirty, after which I joined the troop I’d been training with in the morning for a run around the perimeter track. A lot of it was overgrown with brambles and bushes, making it more of an assault course, but that just made it more of a challenge. I didn’t finish first, but I beat half the field, the advantages of being small and lightweight overcoming their greater fitness.

Lights out was at nine, and early as it was, I was ready for bed. I didn’t even have enough energy to shower and was out seconds after my head hit the pillow. -oOo-

Reveille was at six the next morning. I was tired and aching, but ready to wake up. I’d slept in my singlet and found it quite comfortable. I slipped it off and shrugged on my dressing gown before heading to the communal shower. Regardless of how comfortable it was, it wasn’t likely to earn me any kudos if I was seen in it.

Not that that was likely to happen, since the others steered clear of me. Which was just as well because I felt intimidated by them, and the Philippa in me lurked close and ready to take over should I let such feelings run away with me.

The water was cold, so showering was a short necessity rather than a long luxury. I towelled off and ran back to my tent where I slipped on the spare singlet Dr Wiesner had given me and pulled my fatigues on over the top. I had no intention of transforming myself in front of the others, but wearing it helped me feel safer and better prepared.

The second day was much like the first. Punishing physical exercise throughout the morning and early afternoon, then constantly flipping back and forth between my two selves afterwards.

For some reason the transformation, which had become almost second nature the previous day, proved too hard and I faced a discouraging failure. I managed a couple of changes, but after that I became stuck – unfortunately as Philippa.

It looked like the little girl in me was here to stay for a while at least, and that would mean I’d miss dinner. Apparently Philippa’s existence was above the security level of most of the personnel on base, including all the soldiers training alongside me. As usual, I was given some time to relax, and I spent it catching up on the texts my friends had sent me. Stacey in particular.

She’d sent a text for Philippa, which I read through with delight and another longer one for Phillip. It was all the push I needed to change, so at least I would eat, not before more work though. Unfortunately, the pack of homework from school had arrived, and there was a lot of it. I tackled the English first, since I didn’t totally hate the subject, and the maths, as we were still on a topic I now understood. I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest.

After dinner was a repeat of the previous day, except the sergeant had threatened something unpleasant to any of his men who failed to beat me, so this time they pushed me, tripped me and held me back whenever they could. One particularly violent tug tore my blouse – yes they do call it that in the army – and revealed my singlet, which earned me some odd looks. I didn’t comment though, so they ended up just shrugging and moving on.

I thought about letting them all win but recognised that as coming from the Philippa in me. As much to keep her suppressed as anything, I fought back, taking a wider route and overtaking a good half-dozen of them before making it back to camp. I even found myself chasing a couple more guys in the sprint for the finish. One made a desperate attempt to trip me, but I jumped his sweeping leg and crossed the line ahead of him. The other guy beat me by a short head.

Or maybe I held back just enough. He gave me a grateful look as the two of us sucked in much needed oxygen, so no prizes for guessing what he thought.

I was grubby from being pushed in the mud over and over, so I forced myself to take a shower that evening. The Seven soldiers I’d beaten were all on their knees scrubbing the latrines with toothbrushes. The rest of the troop were making fun of them, which didn’t seem fair.

“Tomorrow it’ll be all of you,” I said, as much to push Philippa down as for any other reason.

They didn’t take kindly to that.

Wednesday started with something different. The sergeant had heard about my comment from the previous day and he wasn’t pleased. He reamed me out, then suggested a game of fox and hound that evening, with me as the fox. He’d give me a five-minute head start then the rest would come after me. If any of them caught me, I was to be their servant for the next day. If I made it round the track and collected the dozen flags that would be placed along the way without being caught, I’d get to command the troop for the day instead.

It terrified me and excited me at the same time. I focused on the excitement to reinforce my male side and agreed.

We still had a full morning of heavy exercise, only this time I was decidedly excluded from the rest of the group.

Afternoon, I focused on changing, and used Stacey’s texts to inspire me. It worked, and I had Dr Wiesner nodding approvingly after only an hour and a half.

He was all for giving me more time to do my homework, which gave me the opening I needed to talk to him.

I told him about the fox hunt, maybe hoping he’d call it off, but he seemed to think it would be a good test of my abilities. He gave me permission to switch if I wanted to, but only if I wasn’t observed in the process.

Philippa wasn’t anywhere near as fast as Phillip, so changing would only help me as a disguise. There weren’t supposed to be any children anywhere near the base, so I’d have to stay hidden as a girl no matter what. If my abilities were going to help me, I’d have to come up with an imaginative way of using them.

I also mentioned the school assignments I couldn’t do, and he suggested I ask my friends in the troop, which wasn’t the greatest advice since I didn’t have any. It planted the germ of an idea though, which made winning the fox hunt much more important.

I muddled through my history assignment for a while, but muddle was the best description I could give to the final result. In frustration, I turned my mind to tactics for the evening activity.

It would remain light throughout, so sneaking about in the dark was a non-starter. I couldn’t allow them to see me as Philippa, so how could she help me. I went for a quick jog round the track. The flags weren’t in place, but the tubes that would hold them were. All defensible positions, but hopefully vulnerable to the unexpected, if I could only figure out what the unexpected was. I studied the layout of the place and slowly a plan began to form.

At dinner, I ate sparingly, hid a few biscuits and energy bars in my fatigues, and left early to quiet jeers from my soon-to-be adversaries. On my way back to my tent, I nicked a half dozen tent pegs, one each from the first six tents I passed.

Back in my tent, I tore up an old yellow tee shirt I wasn’t overly fond of, then secreted my spoils about my body and sat back to wait.

The challenge was weighted heavily against me. I needed to run the full length of the track to collect all the flags spaced along its length, whereas my rivals only needed to get ahead of me and wait. If I was to win this, I’d really need to outfox them.

Time for the evening’s entertainment approached, and I joined the troop. I’d have a five-minute head start, which wouldn’t be worth anything if I ran straight and expected them to follow. Which was why I didn’t.

Chapter 3