Tom squinted in the dim light of the bar. The place was loud, crowded, and smelled bad. Why David would insist on meeting him here was beyond him. It was probably one of Dave's famous practical jokes. The guy hadn't even called, just left a note stuck in his windshield.
Someone waved from a booth in the back, and he started towards the signal. But as he got closer, it turned out to be some really scruffy woman. Must have been signaling someone behind him. Luckily, he was able to veer off into an empty booth and avoid being embarrassed.
Sitting, he looked around for David, already starting to fume. If this was a trick, so help him, he was gonna... Tom blinked as the scruffy girl from the end booth slid into the seat across from him. "Uh, I'm waiting for someone, uh, miss." Up close, she wasn't bad looking. Could be real pretty if she fixed her hair, put on some makeup, and wore something a little better than an oversized T-shirt and rolled up jeans.
She grinned at him, and sprawled casually on the seat, sitting on one leg. The position was familiar, as was her face. "Excuse me, miss? Do I know..." He froze, suddenly recognizing the shirt. It was David's favorite, one he'd gotten in Australia. Nobody else had one like it. And the face. "Are you related to David?"
The girl rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You might say so, Tom-Tom." Unpolished nails picked at the T-shirt." You might say we are inseparable." Noting the confused expression on his face, she added, "It's me. David."
Tom's mouth fell open, and then shut again. "But... That's impossible." He looked around the bar. "OK, whoever you are. I know he's here somewhere. What did he pay you to do this?" He studiously avoided looking at her, but finally had to look back when she didn't answer.
For a brief moment, he thought it might be David dressed in drag. No, that wasn't right. She was wearing his favorite clothes. And no amount of makeup could change his friend's face to look that.. feminine. Tom set his jaw and leaned back, sure this was still a trick of some kind. "All right. What's the punch-line?"
She looked at him and tilted her head. "Last year, when you got fired from TechWorks, you destroyed their accounting database with a virus that made it look like a disk crash. There's only one person in the world who knows that."
Tom swallowed hard, looking around nervously. "Shit! That could still get me jail time! I can't believe he would tell...." He stopped talking. That was the whole point. David wouldn't tell anyone else. Which meant that... His mouth fell open again. "You really -are- David, aren't you?"
She gave him a sad smile and nodded. "Now you know why I couldn't call. And I still haven't figured out what I can do about it." Dave leaned across the table. "Look. Can we go back to your place? I'm scared outa my mind, and I gotta talk to somebody."
He nodded. As they got up, he was surprised by the girl's height. She was a little taller than he was. Of course, Dave had always been taller, but it was unusual to see a woman who topped 6 feet. He was uncomfortable with all of the stares he got. Dave looked more like a bag-lady than someone you'd pick up at a bar. And there was nothing feminine about his walk or posture.
When they got outside, Tom looked around the parking lot. "Where's your car?"
She sighed. "I was scared to drive. My license, security badge, everything is for a 28 year-old guy. I can't even get back to the lab like this. The electronic key would work, but the guard wouldn't recognize me."
"The lab!" Tom snapped his fingers as they walked over to his Taurus. They both worked for the same company, GenTech. However, while he spent his time creating data models, Dave worked in the actual labs as an assistant to the super-brains GenTech had developing gene-splicing technology. Obviously, David had been affected by something he was working on. Then he frowned. "But how the Hell did it happen? I mean, even the models I'm doing are still basic stuff. They shouldn't have the capability to do anything like this!"
When there was no reply, his eyes narrowed. "You did something, didn't you. Played around with some stuff you shouldn't have touched, right?"
Dave's shoulders drooped. "I was just trying to play a little joke. One of the women researchers there is a real bitch, and I thought it would be funny to yank her chain." Then her eyes flared. "Like you never did anything like that?"
Tom tried to suppress a grin, only to burst out laughing. "Not anything that gave me tits!" The ridiculousness of the situation, combined with nervous tension, made it hard to stop, and after a moment, even Dave joined in. Wiping his eyes, he opened the car door and plopped down in the seat.
David opened the door and plopped onto the passenger seat, wiping his eyes. "Shit, Tom! I never meant for anything to happen. All I did was program in some stupid nonsense code into the splicing matrix. It shouldn't have done anything. I saved the original file so it could be restored in just a minute. Even ran a test of the equipment to make sure nothing would mess up."
"A test?" Tom got in and shut the door. "What kind of test?"
She squirmed a little. "We've been experimenting with molecular beam technology. Sort of a great-grandfather to the transporter idea they have in Star Trek. You know I'm lost with most of that stuff. But Doctor Lavin, the bitch, goes ballistic every time a number doesn't compute the way she wants. Not like we've done anything but burn a lot of kilowatts.
"Anyway, I saved the original encoding matrix and then replaced it with a messed-up copy. And I turned everything on just to make sure it wouldn't cause any delays on Monday. A joke's OK as long as it doesn't really hurt anything."
Tom nodded. "Uh-huh. I can see just how harmless your joke is. Just how did you 'mess up' the matrix?"
"A random set of characters inserted in the middle of the sequence." She sighed. "There was a big flash, and I felt sorta hot for a minute. Then I got a little off-balance, and when I looked down..." She indicated her breasts, but didn't touch them. "They've been working for months trying to get just a blip out of the system, and I do this by accident."
Shaking his head, Tom started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. "What are you gonna do? Call Lavin?"
"Hell, no!" David pursed her lips. "She'd go crazy, and then I'd end up being studied like some freak. Look, I gotta get back to the lab. Maybe I can straighten this out myself."
"You?" He snorted. "Isn't one accident enough? Besides, you'd never get past the guard."
"I would if you took me in as your girlfriend."
Tom slammed on the brakes, skidding to a stop in the middle of the street. "Are you crazy? There is no way in the world I would try to pass you off as a date! Have you looked at yourself? I mean, it's OK to be a slob when you're a guy, but as a girl you look like shit! No way. Absolutely, positively no way!"
"I'll get you for this." David hissed the words at Tom as they pulled up to the guard post. She pulled at the pantyhose, trying to get them halfway comfortable. "No matter what I do, it feels like someone is giving me a wedgie."
Tom gritted his teeth and hissed back. "Shut up, stupid! Time to play bimbo for the nice guard." They stopped at the gate so the guard could verify his ID badge. The man's flashlight played on David's face. Between the two of them, they had managed to figure out some basic makeup that didn't look too bad. Well, truth be told, David looked like a cheap hooker, but it was an improvement over how he had looked at the bar.
She did her best imitation of a brain-dead smile, and ran a hand through Tom's hair. The guard grinned and waved them through, not knowing the real reason for Tom's furious blush.
He drove to the main building. Being late on a Friday night, there was no one else around. That was a stroke of luck, as was the fact that both of them worked in the same division. Since research was just starting, security was not as tight as it might have been. There were no cameras or special protocols. All they needed was David's card to get into the lab.
The systems were still on. "Damn!" David loosened the bra straps. "Why the Hell did you make me dress up like this? I coulda come straight from the bar!"
Tom grinned. "Yeah, but if I'm gonna risk my job, I figured I'd make you suffer."
"Suffer?!" Her voice gained an octave. "You think this is fun? I tried to take a piss, and sprayed the floor instead. And everything feels wrong. My ass is swollen, these boobs keep pulling me forward, and my balls are gone. You're the only person I know I could trust to tell, you shit!"
He had to admit that while David was OK as a buddy, she was a miserable failure at being feminine. Even with the makeup and having her hair brushed out, she still looked like someone from a leather bar. "So, what do you want me to do?"
She indicated the main computer console. "I gotta figure out what the random characters were, and replace them with something that will change me back."
Tom snorted. "Oh, right. Out of maybe a billion lines of code, you need to pull out one set of random numbers, and figure out another set that will make things all better? Listen to yourself! It's impossible!"
There was a long silence, and then David turned to look at him with watery eyes. "I know. But I gotta try something, man. I don't want to spend the rest of my life learning how to use a Tampon. Please. We gotta try!"
Tom sat down at the console and stared at the screen. "OK. Give me the disk with the original sequence. I'll run a cross-check to find the deviant code line. Once we have that, maybe we can figure out how to change you back."
It took six hours just to locate the added line. Tom looked at the printout. "3ax900138gxx? This is garbage! Are you -sure- that's the only thing you did?" David nodded, looking miserable. "Buck up, guy! We got all weekend to work this out, right?"
She paled, and looked at the clock on the opposite wall. "Wrong. We got maybe another two hours before Lavin comes in. The bitch works Saturdays, too!"
They poured over the code, trying to find anything that might match up with the random sequence. According to David, Lavin always showed up precisely at 7 a.m. every morning. By six, they were both dead tired and frustrated. David crumpled up the sheets she was looking at and threw them in the trash. "Dammit! There's only one way to do this." She went over to the console and brought up the code line.
Tom stood up, stretching. "What are you going to do?"
David stared at the keyboard a minute, and then started punching keys. "I'm gonna change the random code a little, and turn the stuff back on."
"You're crazy!" He jumped out of his chair. "No telling what could happen to you!"
The woman sighed and turned to him. "Look. There are millions of DNA codes that make up what we are. I stumbled onto something that changed my sex. Even if I mess up, what are the odds that anything else could be affected?" He started to reply, but she cut him off. "Don't! Look, Tom. This is my life and my body. Besides, there isn't any time left. Lavin will be here soon, and it will take me a while to get things set up. I can use the automatic shutdown option, so the system will go off after the operation is run."
David shook her head. "There's no point in you getting into trouble here. Go back to your office and wait for me. It was my card that got us in here, and if I'm caught, well, that's my problem."
He hesitated, and then sighed. "All right. But if you aren't there by 7:15, I'm coming back after you, OK?"
She nodded, and gave him a weak smile. "See you in a few, bud. I hope we can have a man-to-man talk after this."
Tom went back to his cubicle and turned on the terminal. Waiting was torture, and he toyed with a couple of games. A flicker in the power made him jump. Ten of seven. Well, whatever had happened, David must be on his way back.
Twenty minutes later, he was pacing back and forth when a hard female voice made him jump. "Mr. Jackson?"
He spun around to see a older woman in a lab coat scowling at him over the divider. It had to be Lavin! His heart pounded. What had happened to David? "Uh, yes?"
"If you can't keep your son confined to your own area, I'll have security ban you from bringing him in here at all. I don't like children, especially brats who parade around naked in public places, and don't seem to be potty trained!"
Bewildered, Tom stepped out of the cubicle and saw that the woman was holding the hand of a naked 3 or 4 year-old boy. The child grinned at him, and then inclined his head towards a large yellow stain on the Doctor's coat. "I have a boo-boo, daddy!"
Swallowing hard, he reached for David and hefted him up in his arms. "I'm, uh, sorry about this. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again. He, ah, isn't quite himself right now."
Lavin sniffed disdainfully. "There is a lot of very expensive equipment around here. If anything has been damaged, I will make sure to report this!" Then she spun around and stormed back towards her lab.
David giggled as he watched her leave, and then looked down at his tiny but fully male crotch. "Well, I got that much right."
Tom felt lightheaded, and sat down on the edge of his desk still holding the child. His new 'son' kept looking back down the hall and giggling. "What the Hell is so funny? You're a damned baby! And Lavin isn't stupid. You left your clothes in there, and the system log will show that it was used. What makes you think she won't put two and two together and come up with you?"
David grinned. "Oh, I know she's gonna figure out what happened. You see, I didn't erase the extra code, so when she turns everything on, she's gonna get a first-hand demonstration!"
The lights flickered.