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Short Story - The Body's Key (Drawn by Trunchbull)

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Special thanks to :icontrunchbull: who finished this commission.

They have written a story to go with it, proofread and updated by :iconryanashkoort: (Tigerstripe).

Short story

A metallic orange dragon streaked through the hospital corridor, sending bystanders leaping aside as if a wild lion was storming past.  Bermeze left a trail of tears as he passed, but didn't care about that, so fixated on his destination as he was.  He rushed toward the massive doorway marked 'Operation Hall' in a frenzy, having just learned of his friend's decision to take advantage of the same cybernetics technology that gave him this body: a cytran.  The news had hit him particularly hard, since Vex Bills had never told him.  Bermeze feared he might be too late.

The door's airtight seals and locks release for him the moment he mentally asks the computer to override it.  Recognizing his military access permissions, the barrier slides open obediently.  He dashes through.

The room beyond is large, with a uniform dull grey color theme.  It is nonetheless tidy and brightly lit by the windows and operation lamps.&n bsp; This is where new cytrans begin their new lives; where their human pasts come to an end.

Bermeze had expected security guards to intercept him, especially in the middle of a transplantation.  But instead, only two people occupied the floor in the middle of the room.  One is the technician responsible for the final assembly of a disembodied brain with the new artificial body — this one was an ordinary human, wearing the clean anti-static protective suit labeled "BTU" for Brain Transfer Unit.  The other figure is a brilliant satin-blue dragon lying absolutely still in front of the technician, perfectly clean and fresh from manufacturing.

Both his eyes and pupils widen at this sight.  His friend had already completed the extraction surgery, leaving his old human body behind.  His unharmed brain was now wrapped in the electrodes of a brain-computer interface, and encased in the metal box the human was holding, nourished by the box's life support systems, and much safer than the limited protection a bone skull could provide.  It was exactly like the one nestled inside Bermeze's own chest.

Most confusing though was that dragon's appearance.  By dragon standards, there wasn't a trace of masculinity to be found.  Those small pearlescent scales were quite attractive to any male dragon... and the shiny, royal-purple draconic eyes would be perfect for giving the cutest and gentlest expressions — unlike Bermeze's metallic grass-green eyes, which reflected his energetic personality so accurately.

THIS was what his MALE friend had chosen?  A dragoness?  Was he in the right room, or had he come too early or too late for Vex?

Bermeze had frozen when he saw the dragoness begin assembled, and was so quiet that the clamp of the shutting doors behind him seemed to echo down the hall.  After watching for a long minute, he finally gets the nerve to speak.  "Where... is Vex Bills...?"  His deep and steady tone sounds almost disheartened.  Surely he must be witnessing the wrong transplantation!

The BTU is a human woman with some recent Asian lineage.  She had just connected the grounding wire from her wrist to the anti-static socket on the floor, and slowly knelt forward to put her hand into the partly-disassembled dragoness.  "Vex Bills is fine, but also officially deceased," she responded.

"Then where is he?!"  He held ground and clarified.  "I mean, what he is going to become?  Is that him?"

She nodded.  "Yes.  Her new name is Vevesca, and she is perfectly intact and safe.  Please relax."

Vevesca...... that's an exact match to the signature on a strange message he received a few days ago.  At the time, there was nobody by that name in the personnel database, so he paid no attention to it.  He thought it was just a joke, and he continued his patrol duties.  Vex was not the joking type, and Bermeze suddenly realized the message was the answer to all his questions.  If he had paid attention to it, he would not have freaked out when Vex's name appeared on the "in operation" list — after all, the sudden unannounced appearance of a name on that list usually meant the transplantation was being done because it was a necessary lifesaving medical intervention.  If he expected it, he would have been here to support his friend.

The technician continued working with practiced ease, connecting two thick cables to the braincase she held.  Inside was Vex's entire central nervous system, delicately liberated from his organic body, plugged into a small pump and gas exchanger to keep nourishing oxygenated fluid flowing through the existing blood vessels in his brain, and wired up to the most sophisticated and complete brain-computer interface ever invented.  Once a cytran, always a cytran.  Bermeze knew enough of his own anatomy to recognize those two cables as the nutrient and waste lines: a critical part of the entire life-support package.  The braincase could keep the brain alive on it's own for only a little while, but indefinitely once connected to the proper support equipment... like what was inside every cytran body.

Bermeze quietly steps around them, observing without interfering, silent except for his soft footsteps and his tail dragging on the floor.  He's still in a state of mild shock about Vex's choice to be a dragoness... and such a beautiful one at that!  Vevesca, he corrects himself; Vex was being reborn right in front of his eyes.

All this is far too realistic to think he's dreaming.  Those blue scales are, in a word, perfect.  So new, and so obviously smooth.  Her wings are the same as his; hawk-like, with elongated pleated scales known as 'sceathers' filling the same role as a bird's feathers — every flight-capable cytran had this essential feature.  Her body is a little smaller than his, to reflect feminine proportions.  She had all the right curves in all the right places.

He still could not imagine Vex Bills would have wanted to become such a goddess of draconic beauty.  He knew Vex so well... or he thought he had.  They had been in the military together, some time ago.  Vex never seemed like the transgendered sort... and even though Bermeze had no problem with that sort of person, this twist of reality left him puzzled.  There must be a reason for the gender change, right?  It's not something done lightly or on a whim.  Becoming a dragon made perfect sense to him, but he was admittedly biased in that viewpoint.

The dragoness continued to smile slightly, a weak and unmeaning expression, devoid of life... yet.  Her pretty purple eyes were like lifeless glass spheres, not yet holding the flicker of life, but held open and unblinking in an eerie expression of feminine kindness.  Would the former male human, who used to be cool, change to be as lovely as that expression suggested she would be?

"Why were you in such a hurry?" the technician broke the silence while she checked the braincase.

"He didn't tell me—"

"Of course she did, silly," she interrupted.  "Day after day, your friend kept sending you messages, and you simply ignored them.  We all knew what she wanted.  You just chose not to believe what was right in front of you."

She grabbed a strong band to wrap around the dragoness's artificial lower neck muscles, and bent them up out of the way, fixing them in place.  She double-checked the interior of the dragoness's chest to make sure everything was ready for installing the braincase.

Bermeze slowly stepped around the back of the new dragoness, sad and scolding himself for being so blind, but his curiosity made him bring his head closer to the back of her neck.  "If you say so..." he replied.  "I should have paid more attention to the signs, and been more careful to care and protect hi— her.  At least she can have a new body, like mine..."

Debt, pity, regret... so many negative thoughts he had about his friendship with Vex... but would she forgive him, or give him a second chance?  More importantly, was Vevesca doing this because of him?  He tries to hold back his tears while his muzzle softly caresses the smooth scales behind the dragoness's neck.

The technician didn't mind if he tends to the new female, as long as her job isn't interrupted.  She pulls out three electric cords from the body, and removes the protective caps from their ends.  These are computer data cables that tie the brain into the cybernetic body.  She carefully attaches the brain diagnostic cord to the small socket on the braincase, then looks up at Bermeze.

"Hey, I'm about to connect the input.  If you keep doing that, she—"

"She is mine."  He asserted, climbing onto her back and expanding his wings with a jerk, telling the technician by body language how interested he is in this pretty dragoness.  He starts to twist his tail around hers in a display of affection, even though hers is still limp and unfeeling.

The technician shrugs.  "Well, I hope you don't end up losing a... girlfriend."  She chuckles lightly as she firmly plugs in the thick sensory input cord.  A glimmer of awareness suddenly appeared in the dragoness's paralyzed eyes, as the purple irises automatically shift to correct for the bright lights.  She can now feel Bermeze hugging her back.

Bermeze finally understands what he had missed this past year — the subtle signals Vex has been giving him — but he would rather not think about that.  Instead, he simply accepts it all, and is already licking her, enjoying her 'new-scales' scent, and gently caressing her flanks, as he watches the technician prepare to connect the motor command output cable that will animate Vevesca.

Even though he can't see his human friend ever again, he could still let his friend, Vevesca, know he will definitely care for her the most.

And Vevesca already knows.
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I would become a dragon if I could