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From: Chris Maldonado <cmaldonado@voortrekker.com>
To: Sameen Lee <sameen.lee@recoveryinstitute.org>
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Date-Local: 2 Apr 2419 13:04:55 +0000
Date: 16 Sep 2421 11:40:55 +0000
Subject: Wish you were here! It's a beautiful day
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf8"

I got your message, Sam! Thank you so much, it's so good to hear
from you! And when you talk to her next, please let Lia know that I
love her too and I miss her, and I'd love to hear from her when she
gets the chance to write. Speaking of which, I'm sorry it's taken
so long for me to write back! It's been busy here, too.

I'm finally out of Main Control! Once I found out everyone else is
still alive, I started getting antsy - before, I'd felt safe and
hidden there, but afterward I wanted to be out with everyone and
back to work. So I started practicing my walking, and with Jen to
help me when she came to visit, I got pretty good at it! More than
that, too. But let me tell it in order.

Antsy to get out or no, I spent another week there after my last
message, and Jen came to visit every day. At first she helped me
figure out how to get around on my new legs, like I talked about
before. But by Wednesday or so, I wasn't worried about falling down
any more, and then it was mostly about discovering new things. I'm
really good at climbing now! I don't have suckers or anything, so
it's not like I can stick to walls, but I practiced for a while in
the ductwork around Master Control, and it turns out that as long
as there's two surfaces no more than four feet or so apart, I can
chimney-climb them really well. Ooh, and Jen was really mad at me
when I told her about that on Thursday! What if I'd hurt myself,
she said, and I guess she wasn't really wrong, but I had to try it,
didn't I? She got me to promise I at least wouldn't do stuff like
that when she wasn't around, at least until I got out of here and
back with everyone else.

She doesn't really talk about it much, but she's so obviously a
mom - it's nice to know there's someone worrying about me, even if
she is a little smothering about it at times. Reminds me a little
bit of you, Sam. ('Smothering?' I can hear you asking. Okay, fair,
I wouldn't use that word.) (To your face, anyway.) She even stayed
up all Thursday night getting hand units working inside the ship
again, just so she could bring me one on Friday! And an armband for
it, too. She said it was so that when I got myself hurt breaking my
promise not to be foolish, I could at least call for help. I hate
armbands, but after all the trouble she'd gone to, I really
couldn't not wear it. And I'm wearing the miserable thing right
now!

I'm a little worried for Jen. We did talk some, and it sounds like
she's really scared for her family back on Earth. I don't blame
her - our contracts are pretty generous, but the terms for
nonperformance are brutal, and I think she's scared they're going
to stop the payments, with the crash and everything. Almost
everyone on the ship has dependents on their contracts, too, so it
can't just be her...I can't imagine what it'd be like to have to
leave kids behind for so long, and now to worry about something
like that happening? I don't think she feels good about trying to
talk to the Director about it, and he was always pretty standoffish
and cold back on the ship. But if I get the chance, I might say
something to him about people needing reassurance. See if that
"open hatch policy" of his is worth anything.

Anyway, after that we decided there was no reason why I couldn't
get out of Main Control safely. I wanted to go right then, but Jen
made me wait until Saturday - one more night wouldn't hurt me, she
said, and no matter how confident I was, it was still a long way
downship and out, and she wasn't going to have me wearing out
halfway there. She was right again, but I really didn't want to
spend another night alone. Ever since I got steady on my new feet,
I'd sort of started to feel the bulkheads closing in around me a
little, especially with the noises the ship makes as parts of it
settle. And with it being nighttime out and no light coming in
through the ports, just some console lights and a couple of tubes,
I really was starting to get scared. I didn't want to tell Jen, but
maybe she guessed, because she spent the night with me. I felt a
little awkward since we never did figure out how to make clothes
work with my new legs, and I wasn't sure how that was going to
be. If she'd be comfortable, between that and -

I'm sure you've already guessed, but you did say you wanted me to
tell you. So this is me, telling you: the surgery you tried to set
up for me, before we found out I couldn't immigrate? I still wish I
could have got it then but turns out I don't need it any more
because when I came out of the coma I found out I'M A GIRL NOW!

Don't ask me how that happened, because I really have no idea - not
yet, anyway. We're still trying to get a bio lab up, but as soon as
we get a reagent synthesizer going, I'm going to be in there
finding out if I still have a Y chromosome! I don't even know which
I'd be more excited about, finding it or not finding it. If it's
still there, that raises even more questions about how this bug,
whatever it is, made such targeted and effective changes to my
phenotype, and - I don't want to assume that "why?" is even a
question that makes sense here, but it's getting harder and harder
to avoid. And if I find I've still got two X chromosomes, but no Y,
then - well, in that case, I need to talk to Eve and a couple of
other people just to figure out how my endocrine system hasn't
fallen apart completely. But I'm not even really thinking about
that right now because OH MY GOD SAMEEN I'M ACTUALLY A GIRL NOW!

When they denied my immigration application, I thought that was my
last chance - that I was just going to have a male body forever,
and I'd better start getting used to that. And I was - I wasn't
okay with it, you know that, not really. But I'd gotten to where it
didn't make me wince to look at myself in a mirror, and it helped a
lot that no one aboard the ship got upset with me for looking more
like I thought I should. Some of the men even really liked that!
Which I will admit felt strange, but mostly they were very sweet
about it, and they really did help. (Corwin's going to be really
disappointed to see me now, poor guy!) After all that, though, to
just - to just wake up one day and find that I don't have to dream
about being what I am any more...

(If I was writing this on paper, it'd be tear-stained right here.)

When I joined Voortrekker, I felt like I was running away. From
Earth, from you and Lia, from everything...I didn't want to, I just
felt like I had to. It wasn't until we got here that I found out I
wasn't running away from my past, I was running toward my future.

Does that sound silly? I'm afraid I'm not explaining it very
well. I hope I'll get a chance to try again, in person! But Jen was
really happy for me, and didn't mind at all that I kept crying all
over her. She really is a sweetheart! I'm sure you'd like her. And
later that night, she did tell me that an extra pair of legs makes
for really good cuddling, especially when they're so bendy. Even
with just a foam pad and a foil blanket, we both slept really well.

And that was Friday. Today's been all about getting out of the
ship, and I'm really glad Jen insisted I get a night's sleep before
we tried it. It's been exhausting! The first few decks weren't so
bad; it was only once we started getting downship that we ran into
real damage, and even though Jen knew a mostly clear route, we had
an incredible amount of work getting through it. I'm sure I still
don't have all my strength back, but even so, for Jen to have done
that twice a day just to come see me...

(OK, back. No surprise, I was crying again.)

Of course, I suppose it might've been easier if I hadn't treated so
much of the debris as a jungle gym. I wanted to find out what I can
do! And it's not just climbing that comes so easily now. It turns
out my new legs are prehensile! Ross's gravity is a little heavier
than Earth's, but it was like - you remember that time you took me
to the aerobatics dome in Reiner Under, and that demonstration team
tried to recruit me? It felt just like that, like tumbling and
flying at the same time. I never thought I'd get the chance to do
that again! Even Jen seemed to enjoy watching me, much as I'm sure
it made her worry. And I won't do it again, because it really was
dangerous, but...I really wish I could. Or that Ross had trees, or
something. Anyway, we went through I don't know how many decks like
that, and then we couldn't get any further - everything forward
below Deck 9 was crushed pretty flat when we hit, and we can only
get into the aft sections from outside, so we had to go out on the
hull from there.

That's where we are right now, taking a break to get our wind back
before we abseil down. It feels really good to be out in the air
again after all that time inside! I never noticed it before, but
Ross's air has just a slight scent to it. Sort of salty, like at a
beach, but not quite, sharper somehow. I don't know what to call
it, but I like it. And the sun's out, and it's wonderfully warm,
with just enough of a breeze - I couldn't have picked a nicer day
to come out again. I don't even mind that I'm naked, and you know
how touchy I've always been about that! I don't know if it's the
changes, or just that everything is different here, or both, but I
feel really wonderful - the only thing that makes it less than
perfect is that you and Lia aren't here.

Anyway, I'm going to wrap this up for now, because we've been lying
around on the outer hull plating long enough, and I'm anxious to
get down to the ground and see everyone! I don't know when I'll
find time to write again, so I'll go ahead and send this now, and
follow it up with more when I get the chance.

I'd like to hear more from you, too, when you have the chance! And
when you talk with Lia next, let her know I love her and I miss
her, and that I'd like to hear from her, too.

Yours with love as always - Kit.

(p.s. Ooh, that's a long way down. Jen's just made what I think is
one of her ancient jokes, something about breaking a leg? I'm not
even sure I can do that any more! But I might be about to find
out...  - K.)