33: Pieces of the Puzzle

The breeze from the Caspian Sea gently stirred the leaves above, as Shakira, her twin Saghira and Strawberry had their heads literally together, reading a map. Farrah removed her camcorder from her bag.

“Farrah should you even be doing that?” Saghira gasped. The beauty school student wanted to come along, but wasn’t exactly the type for anything that could be called espionage or participating in conspiracies. Both twins travelled through time and space but Saghira’s life almost completely revolved around her home and family until last week, her first day of her diploma.

“If we save the world, I wanna show everyone how we did it”, Farrah answered, sticking her tongue out.

Strawberry pointed to the vague directions’ starting point, stolen by Ursula several days ago. “What is the blue moon?”

“Something blue and involving moons”, Shakira replied flatly.

Saghira jumped. “The mosque!”

“Which one?” She stopped pointing and looked more closely at the map, searching for this mosque.

“The Imangali Mosque on Satpaev Street”, Saghira explained. “It is blue with crescent moons.”

“Are me and Farrah allowed inside?”

“Yes but the directions say behind it, so we don’t need to go inside.”

The four women then took the nearest bus, stopping not so far away from the mosque and complete with passengers noting their peculiarities: abayas (must be tourists?), no arms (how does she do anything?) and very short hair (butch or ex-chemo patient? Why no wig? Women need long hair!). Both Farrah and Shakira paused to take a few pictures of it, then they made their way around the corner, past the benches and minarets, to the back wall that was facing a river bank.

“And…now what?” Shakira asked no one in particular. There was mud, and trees, not much that could really conceal anything, or any obvious signs of manmade structures.

“There’s trees….” Farrah trailed off. “And they have giant roots…”

“With something to hide?” Strawberry added.

The water lapping against the river bank provided background sound to their minimalist conversation. Along with several birds. “Such as a safe maybe…trapped by the tree roots? So it won’t wash away?” These last two questions were shared by Shakira and Saghira. They headed over to the largest tree, specifically to the most prominent roots that were facing the mosque. Taking out her sonic screwdriver, Shakira scanned for any signs of metal or plastic.

“Something is there!” she suddenly exclaimed. “It is being held by the roots, we were right.”

Saghira reached into her bag. “I thought there would be digging involved”, she said, pulling out a tiny gardening shovel.

“Can you see what it is with that thing?” Farrah lent in. Strawberry shrugged her shoulders, as her short arm-stumps weren’t capable of digging and she hadn’t learnt how to garden with her feet either.

“No I can’t…keep going Saghira! You are almost there.” Shortly afterwards, Saghira struck metal on metal, and with Farrah’s help she revealed: a sweet tin.

“That’s all?” Strawberry asked.

“Or maybe there is something inside…” Shakira opened the tin, which contained…..a piece of paper that was obviously torn from something else, detailing part of the schematics for some type of machine, and an RF oscillator.

“So we only found part of whatever it is we’re looking for…..” Farrah sighed.

“I would have liked a full schematic and where to find the other parts”, Shakira said, pocketing the torn off paper and oscillator. “We must see if there is anything else in the newspaper clippings.”

Previously, Shakira had left her sonic screwdriver on the ground. This was now held by Strawberry, who was crawling along the sand on her knees with it in her mouth. She circled the other tree, paying close attention to its root system.

“Mmmghmghhhmmm!” She pointed with her arm stump to whatever it was that the sonic screwdriver had picked up, now getting the attention of the others. They rushed over and began digging around the oversized roots…to unearth a case panel for some variety of machine. It was large, black and had a semi-irregular arrangement of holes meant for various meters and controls.

“And we have…” Saghira began.

“Something we could need, but is no help at all right now!” Shakira finished.

“Maybe we should go home…and read the newspaper clippings…” Farrah sighed. Shakira straightened, her protective instincts awakening. “I think I have another healing reaction coming on.”

“Aww honey!” Strawberry hugged Farrah with her face and shoulders, after dropping the sonic back into Shakira’s hand. “You want me to carry you?”

She smiled, answering with “Sure”, and climbed onto Strawberry.

“I’m all legs, I know”, she said as they both giggled. Shakira and Saghira carried their findings for the day, carefully watching for any danger – vans, people, helicopters – in every possible hiding place. One they made it back to the TARDIS, excusing the panel as something needing recycling when asked by the bus driver, the doors were quickly locked to ensure a safe return  trip back to Kos III, and later Thera. Locking the doors was warranted, however, as they were being watched.

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32: Hidden Plans

“Where do we have to go again?” The Italian pretty-boy whispered into the ear of his co-conspirator.

“The head office, any others we think are important.” The light from the cafeteria ceiling reflected off of Dex’s glasses. Shakira was out that night, so she gave him and Lawrence instructions on obtaining more information of whatever was going on. Assassination plans, propaganda agendas, the numbers she found, anything was helpful at this point. Farrah was too terrified of capture to assist her doctors, which was reasonable because this was mostly about her. Suddenly thinking of her, Lawrence suggested, “The oncology department? I don’t look out of place there.”

“And it’s safer…..they probably have the head office booby-trapped now…hehe boobies.”

“You have to be childish when we’re doing something dangerous”, Lawrence said, rolling his eyes.

“You don’t think I’m scared? I overheard their plans to finish off Michael Jackson; they don’t leave any opportunities for failure, not anymore at least.”

“Come on, we’re going to oncology and there’s a mastectomy patient who’s making you fit right in.” The two men quietly proceeded to the oncology department, first needing to take the elevator.

“Farrah’s file?” Dex half-whispered.

“Yeah, seeing as I don’t ‘need’ it anymore”, Lawrence answered. Once they arrived, they kept a low profile, not looking anyone in the eye. “It’s in my office”, he added. Opening the door, he paused to look around for assassins, traps and so on, before sliding up to the filing cabinet and shoving his hand into the section labelled “F”. Eventually, his fingers walked themselves to ‘Fawcett, Farrah’, and he pulled this folder out from among the others it was sandwiched between.

“Anything different?” Dex whispered, his eyes darting around to check for any intruders.

“Her records haven’t been changed, except for…..Oh GREAT! They added the original scan to the altered ones from her false diagnosis!” Pissed off, Lawrence held up the originals so Dex could see them.

His eyes jumped out of his head, then he asked, “Were the sticky notes there before?”, pointing to a couple of notes with their yellow corners poking out of the file. Lawrence opened to the page that one was stuck to, and read out “5821435. Huh? What does that even mean? Wait, Shakira told me about a similar number that fell out of assassination plans!”

“Phone numbers? No, they are only seven numbers, could they be a code?”

“I have no idea…what’s this?” He pulled off another note, adhered directly behind the note with the number. “Atyrau. Find and destroy all information? This just keeps getting worse!”

“So….the numbers are connected to a place called Atyrau?” Dex was equally confused. It *was* getting worse, first Farrah was diagnosed with cancer, then her latest diagnosis turned out to be faked, then her doctors, including him to a lesser extent, became assassination targets so she would lose all protection and actual care. And now wherever the fuck Atyrau is has become the latest potential target of the pharmaceutical industry’s goons because of information that didn’t even make sense to doctors!

“Snap out of it”, Lawrence hissed, clicking his fingers in front of Dex’s face, as thinking about these things caused him to space out completely. “There’s another note with what the room number of a storage closet would be.”

The two men then cautiously took the elevator down to the hospital’s lowest level where Farrah had her last MRI. Next to that room was the storage closet mentioned on the note. Lawrence opened the door by a crack to check for more traps, and when he was satisfied with what safety he had, fully opened the closet door. Inside were a mop, extra spill kits and various cleaning products. They split the containers between themselves, searching for any more files; Dex even searched the mop and the insides of the spill kits. It was also Dex who rummaged through the last container, but the only writings of any kind was something scrawled onto the bottom in black marker. It read “SURPRISE!” with a cheeky smiley face next to it.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHH!” Both men screamed, fearing that this meant ‘Surprise! There’s a bomb in here, or possibly assassins waiting for you, since we knew you’d find this, now you’re going to die!’ They bolted for the fire stairs, as usual, and raced for the exit of the hospital. Their hearts stopped as they noticed a car parked on the grass………and realised that it was Ursula’s time-spaceship, which took the form of a blue Chevrolet, and unlike Shakira’s TARDIS, was not bigger on the inside. Now, they ran towards her car, as they could see Ursula sitting inside it, reading something.

“Guten abend!” she cheerfully called out. “What are you doing here?”

“We were looking for more information but all we found were these”, Lawrence said, producing the sticky notes he stashed away.

“That’s more than what I found”, she admitted. “All I have in here are newspaper clippings and a very unclear set of directions. What is Atyrau? Do you know? It sounds like somewhere Shakira said she went on a trip to in her sponsored student days.”

“I don’t remember that from any of her stories, but one of the notes we found mentions it too….something about destroying information there?”

“What are the newspaper clippings?” Dex asked.

“Some are of Farrah from these last few years, some are of alternative doctors in South America and the Central Asia, a few are of Michael Jackson in East Europe”, she answered. “I don’t know if they mean anything or are trying to waste our time…but who knows then?”

29: Trespassing May Have Consequences

“Farrah you’re healing really well!” Strawberry piped up, surprised that damage she once thought to be permanent was reversing.

“Wait what? That’s great! Sorry I wasn’t paying attention…I wanted to ask you, how long does it take to make a baby on Transsexual?”

Strawberry froze at the mention of that planet’s name. “Th-there’s two months gestation and then seven months with the baby developing in an egg”, she said as she disposed of her feet gloves. “Has he sent you any more threats?”

Farrah sat up. “No, I wanted to visit the baby when Frank N Furter’s not around; I’m the one who got him pregnant…somehow.” Strawberry then fell off her chair, exposing her underwear with the cherries on them, and the white garter with the strawberry on it that she regularly wore. “Are you alright?” Farrah asked, reaching for one of the tied sleeves of her white coat.

“Sorry he just scares me! I’m not taking you, you’ll have to ask someone else!” She got up and wrote down some co-ordinates. “This is how to get to his house, I don’t know, ask Ursula.”

“Thanks for flying us to see the baby…egg…he or she is still my baby too!” Farrah poked Ursula as they began their descent onto the roof of the building where Frank N Furter lived. It was an obscenely tall apartment complex, and he lived in a penthouse that took up the entire top two floors, which was perfect for the outrageous parties he threw. The abandoned mansion he lived in on Earth was not noticeably larger.

“Don’t break anything this time!” Kate teased. “Ow!” Dex elbowed her in the face accidentally, as he and Thomas were trying to win some stupid game. He then uttered a quick “Sorry!” before getting back to whatever they were doing.

“I won’t touch anything this time so I’m not going to break anything!” she said, remembering what happened last time. They touched down on his personal landing strip, knowing that he wouldn’t be home until the next day.

“Tom!” Ursula handed over one of the rheon carbine guns, the smallest and easiest to use Sontaran weapon. “Protecting them is your job too.”

“Ja, I know…” he lowered his voice to a whisper. “I don’t trust Dex either.”

“Knowing Farrah, she will try on Dr Furter’s clothes and unintentionally set off an alarm”, she whispered back. They joined the others, who were waiting at the door to be let in, and then descended the stairs to Frank N Furter’s penthouse. As expected, Farrah found a pair of ‘Dr’ Furter’s shoes and one of his hats, then put them on and paraded around as if she were modelling them. She then strutted to a complicated looking machine he had in the middle of his living room for showing-off purposes and pretended to work on it. Flipping her still-short hair, she moved to another side of the thing…and then tripped onto it. The some-kind-of laser beam spun activated, spun around, and then hit Dex and Thomas, consuming them in a pink light. Seconds later, they had once more become visible, but as women! Their transformation was thorough enough that Dex had long, dark curls with a rose in it, a frilly gypsy style top and a short denim skirt, while Thomas had his clothes changed to a pantsuit and his hair into a short bob.

Farrah stood up with the help of a speechless Kate and a button-free area of the machine. “What….just…..”

Ursula laughed. “I am sorry Tom, I just always imagined this to be you if you were a woman!”

“HEY! It’s not funny!” they both yelled.

“Don’t worry! We will find a way to change you back!” Ursula began to look for a manual with the others, until Kate jumped up and read out: “The Sex Change Ray: A Surgery-Free Option for Transgender Transylvanians. Manual written by Dr Frank N Furter, the inventor.”

“What does it say?” Farrah asked, reaching out to flip through the pages.

“Go to the index!”

“R-Reversal. Page 120”, she read out as Ursula and the ex-guys joined them.

“Reversal of sex change is possible, however is often desired due to family and peer pressure. Therefore it is only possible to initialise with a DNA sample of the operator”, Ursula continued from the pages. “His hairbrush?” she added after a pause. Tom was the first to sprint off, looking for the bedroom or bathroom where Frank N Furter would keep his hairbrush. Farrah found a shelf of sex toys and Ursula found some exotic/frightening scientific equipment, but eventually Dex stumbled upon a bathroom, with a pink glittering hairbrush that had “Dr Frank N Furter” emblazoned onto it. “I found iiiiiit!” he happily yelled out in his now-female voice, as he was finally doing something useful and didn’t have to explain himself to Strawberry. Everyone rushed over, and Thomas asked “How do you know it’s his?”, after emerging from a guest bedroom.

“Well it has his name on it and there’s a note in the bathroom saying ‘touch my goodies at your own risk’, so it must be”, Dex answered.

“I think we should change back now, hmm?” Thomas suggested, aware of Dr Furter’s nature from Strawberry’s stories.

“While you’re turning back into men, can I go and see the egg?” asked Farrah, also wary of the time.

“Of course you can, but don’t be too long.”

Farrah, leading Kate by the hand, raced to the room where she found his egg/baby. Picking it up, she said softly: “Hey there…it’s your mommy…..I know your daddy won’t want me seeing you, so I’m gonna leave this for you”, she paused to leave a rattle underneath the blanket, with ‘From your mom, Farrah’, written on it, then continued, “I hope we meet again someday.” As she kissed the eggshell and held it for a few seconds, she thought she could feel the baby kicking gently at her face.

“You can’t help yourself, can you?” Kate asked, poking her.

“Nope…let’s get out of here before he comes back or I want to take back my…whatever this is.”

“I AM A MAN AGAIN!” Dex shouted as Farrah and Kate made their way back to the living room.

“I missed it too, and as a woman I think my sense of style was missing something”, Thomas agreed.

“So everyone is alright to leave now?” asked Ursula, thinking she could hear footsteps at the front door.

“YES!” was her answer, as everyone was increasingly on edge. Then, a knock at the front door, which functioned as a starting gun for something resembling a race back to the roof. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

28: New Beginnings

“Shakira! Heyyyy!” the voice on the other end of Shakira’s phone rang out, as she tried to remember when she had given the woman her number.

“Salaam Joan, what is it?” It had been a few weeks since Joan was almost murdered, and she had made a full recovery. Shakira, on the other hand, was just relaxing at home on one of her days off, and Lawrence was back on Earth. In several Muslim countries on Thera, the answer to gender equality without ‘ruining’ their culture was to build massive women-only cities (Saudi Arabia’s idea, who else?), and since she had moved into one of these five years ago, she had to sneak him in to her house. A TARDIS, however, made this very easy.

“I’m starting pre-meds next week!” she yelled into Shakira’s ear. Already? That was fast, Shakira thought. She was close to Farrah and all of the versions of her under her care, but their universal habits of being loud and hyperactive sometimes got annoying.

“That’s wonderful! How are you feeling?”

“Much better! But my maid won’t stop fussing over me…um, I was gonna ask, can you help me study today? I have to read some things before I start but I can’t understand them all”, Joan continued, unable to stop yelling.

“That is alright with me, I don’t have anything to do today…what is it you are having trouble with?”

“Mostly the endocrine system. We have readings on anatomy and physiology.”

Shakira paused, and then sat up. “Joan I know of the perfect place that we can go! Get your notebook and camera, I will come right over.” They both hung up, Joan to find her camera and her college notebook, Shakira to put something hijab-appropriate on and fly her TARDIS to Joan’s house. Soon enough, she and her TARDIS, which resembled a mahogany Victorian closet, materialised in Joan’s living room.

“That was fast!” Joan sprung up from the couch as Shakira stepped out, with a satchel over her shoulder, but wearing her camera around her neck.

Shakira laughed. “I told you that TARDIS travel is fast!”

Joan’s maid entered, with a suspicious look on her face. “Don’t you get her in any trouble, alright?”

“Joan will be fine, I am her doctor, and the doctor of around two dozen other women who are almost identical to her! Besides I am helping her study, we are not fighting the Daleks on Skaro!”

Her maid stopped folding her arms, and put them on her hips instead. “Fine…..I still don’t trust you aliens…but I suppose you are some kind of different.”

Joan giggled. “I told you, she saved me! I’ll be okay”, she said, and kissed her on the cheek. As she walked towards the TARDIS console, looking around, Shakira closed the doors behind her. “Where exactly are we going?”

“A strange planet that seems to defy the laws of nature, as it resembles a human body. Sometimes I consider it to be enemy territory.”

“Why? You told my maid we were gonna be safe.”

“The five people I am speaking of are not dangerous, however they have stalked some of my friends and filmed inappropriate videos of them.”

“That’s disgusting!” Joan replied, still looking around the TARDIS as Shakira flew them to their destination. The last, and only, time that Joan was in the TARDIS was when she almost died from being poisoned, which didn’t give her any real opportunity to see it.

“And we are here”, Shakira said, interrupting Joan’s exploration of the console room.

Joan immediately closed a drawer that she was rummaging around in, and asked, “Do we need diving stuff?”

“No, not here…but my only warning is that if it looks electrically charged, don’t touch it!” Shakira locked her TARDIS as they both left; Joan snapped two polaroids: one of whatever was above them, the other mostly featuring her surroundings but also including part of her face. “Do you know where we are?”

She looked up. “We’re in the diencephalon…and that’s the thalamus, right? And over there is the hypothalamus?”

“Yes you are right…what do they do?”

“The thalamus controls things like consciousness and relays signals to the cerebrum…the hypothalamus isn’t just in control of temperature and thirst and stuff, but it produces hormones….like dopamine and ones that control the pituitary gland.”

“That’s correct.” Shakira smiled, and ran to catch up with Joan, who suddenly took off to get a picture of the pituitary gland’s entrance. It was surprising to see how much she had changed, when she still lived with her husband, she was quite mopey and only happy when with her horse. Now, there was a sparkle in her eyes, of new life and opportunity – a life where she wasn’t just wanted for her family’s money but for who *she* was and what she could do. Even during that rotten first night, which reminded Shakira of Farrah’s first night out of the hospital, Joan still had that sense of moving forward from her old life as a trophy. She peered down into the pituitary gland’s entrance, which didn’t look too unusual until some weird ‘local’ stuck his head out, while Joan finished writing something and stuck her now developed pictures into her book.

“And the pituitary gland produces these hormones, right?” Joan asked, pointing to something she had written.

“Yes…you’re doing really well actually, why did you think you needed help?”

“I don’t know…just reading stuff doesn’t help, I have to see it right in front of me, you can’t learn to ride a horse just by reading.”

“No, I wouldn’t try that! But you will have many practical classes when you become more advanced.” She paused, thinking she could hear someone. “Is there anywhere else you want to go, after you’re finished with your notes?”

“The thyroid and reproductive system are easy, but I can’t remember much on the adrenal glands.” Joan put her book back into her satchel and tightened her ponytail.

“Well there is a hovercraft over there”, Shakira suggested, pointing, “they leave things lying around a lot here; I don’t think they have much sense of personal property.”

Joan looked over at the hovercraft, a two-seated convertible that was similar in shape and colour to an over-the-counter painkiller. “Sure, if we won’t get in trouble”, she agreed and headed over to it. Shakira had to turn it on with her sonic screwdriver, which didn’t take long, and soon enough they had left the brain and were on their way to the adrenals. “Hey the thyroid gland! And those are the parathyroid glands! They make a hormone that increases the level of calcium in the blood, right?” asked Joan, as she pulled out her camera to take another picture.

“That’s right!” Shakira stopped hovering and continued to fly them to their destination. After Joan had asked again to stop so she could take a photo of the pancreas, they reached the planet-human-body-thing’s left adrenal gland.

“What’s that?” Shakira laughed, pointing at something Joan had written and circled in her notebook.

Joan giggled. “That’s just something I was told to help me remember the functions of the adrenal glands….’salt, sugar, sex, the deeper it goes, the sweeter it gets’! Mineralcorticoids, glucocorticoids and the sexual hormones such as DHEA!” She took out her camera to get a picture of the adrenal gland they had parked near.

“You know you could ask one of the local people to explain that in further detail”, Shakira said, and then paused. “Wait…maybe not…” She could hear the voices of a certain group of ‘superheroes’ with a history of stalking, including making a sex tape of one of her friends.

“What is it? Hey who are those guys?” Joan pointed to a group of five people making their way towards them, all dressed in red and white.

“They are my enemies, less dangerous than some, but they are stalkers who made a sex tape of one of my friends, and they only approve of pharmaceutical and surgical medicine so they have interfered with my own work several times.”

“HEY IT’S THE ONE WITH THE STICK UP HER BUTT!” shouted one of them, an obese imbecile obsessed with both food and its eventual fate in the human body.

Shakira facepalmed. “And they have noticed me.”

“Should we get out of here?”

“I was just about to ask the-“

“Let’s show her how effective chemo can really be! This is for letting out that kid taken by CPS and flying their family to Mexico! We don’t care if the kid went into remission by the way!” The asshole ‘heroes’ summoned a horde of tiny police officers intent on attacking Shakira; whether they intended on killing her, jailing her or just ruining her day was unknown.

“What child? I have never – not in the time you would be – that hasn’t happened yet! Anyway, you can never catch me!” She started the engines once more, propelling them to safety. Unfortunately, the tiny police were able to follow the hovercraft, as they had their own cars hidden somewhere.

“Joan can you take over?” Shakira asked, letting Joan take the wheel, and screamed, “How is THIS for being metabolised?” as she disabled their hovercars with her sonic screwdriver.

“No I want to fly us back, this is fun!” said Joan as she resisted Shakira’s attempt at taking back the steering wheel.

“Fine but I am giving directions….veer to the right….be careful!”

“Sorry!” Joan narrowly missed crashing, and began to steer more gently.

“Don’t hit that…just slightly turn left….follow that thing…now slowly…drive through there!….be very careful…almost…and we are here!” They had arrived back at the TARDIS, just in time, for the voices of the assholes and tiny police-things were once again audible, even to Shakira. The asshole horde had spotted them, but it was too late, as Shakira had unlocked her ship and slipped inside with Joan just before the leader(?) of the assholes directed the police-things to charge.

“Is there anywhere else you want to go?” Shakira asked.

“Let’s go home, I think we can study there…a big house with a maid beats being chased…OW!” The police and assholes were now shaking the TARDIS, thinking they’d just fall out or something stupid.

“I cannot disagree”, she replied, entering the co-ordinates to Joan’s asshole-free family home. Who thinks people will just fall out of TARDISes when you shake them anyway?