Ryo bounded up to the platform, laughing happily and
grinning at Lana, his owner. 'What do you think you'll be today?' Lana asked.
'I don't know,' he replied sheepishly. 'A Maraquan
Her response was a slight giggle. 'What, tired
of being a disco Aisha already?'
He grimaced. 'More than you can imagine. I hate being pink.'
'You've wanted to be a Maraquan Draik since
they came out,' she noted, then pulled the lever. The energy inside the ray
compounded, yellow and black mixing sluggishly, then rapidly spiraling out at
him in jagged lines. He braced himself for the hit and closed his eyes. 'What
happened?' he asked, his voice squeaking.
Lana shook her head, too shocked to speak.
'What? What?!" he demanded.
'Ryo, you-you're a female!'
'No!' he cried, a bit melodramatically.
The next day they returned.
'What do you think you'll be today?' she asked for the sake of tradition.
'I don't know what's worse, being pink or being female. Wait, I do. I hate
being a girl.'
She crossed her fingers and pulled the lever. He gained a level. The
memory still pained him, a fresh wound from the day before. Suddenly a more
painful sensation awoke in him as Lana threw the blinds open. "Wake up!" she
"Neoschool starts today, don't you remember?"
His eyes widened. "I can't go! Not like- like this!"
"You have no choice. I already signed you up."
"Can't I be sick this one time?"
She glared at him strictly. "Come downstairs, breakfast is ready."
He groaned. "Coming."
* * *
He trudged to school, his dainty paws dragging behind him. He looked down and
sighed. It was going to be a long day.
No matter how much he bided for time, he managed to arrive just after the
late bell rang its last chime. He saw no familiar faces in the class assembled
in front of him and sighed. It was going to be a long year.
His teacher smiled at him, the lines around her eyes wrinkling. "Hello. I'm
Ms. Degenta. Glad you could make it, Miss…?"
He groaned. "Mister. Ryo," he muttered in a strangely high voice. The class
around him tittered with laughter.
"Beg pardon," she said absentmindedly. "Take a seat."
A bubbly rainbow Usul waved him over. "Hello,
Ryo. I'm Laeta."
"Hi," he mumbled.
"Interesting color choice," she complimented.
He chuckled and replied, "Lab ray. Can't you tell?"
"Oh…" she nodded. "I see. I went through the
lab ray too. I used to be a purple Grundo," she giggled. "It gets pretty bad
sometimes. Once I was male for a day!" She wrinkled her nose, then looked up
quickly. "No offense or anything."
"None taken," he grinned grimly.
Ms. Degenta looked over at them, a cross look on her face. "Settle, children."
* * *
As the days went on, Ryo and Laeta grew to be best friends. She waited patiently
by his front door every day, wondering what species or color he would have changed
into. After two weeks or so of this, he came out of his Neohome proudly. Instead
of teasing him about his new, strange appearance, which she usually did, Laeta
gasped. "Ryo!" she shrieked. "You're a Maraquan Draik!"
He smiled. "Do you like it?"
"Lucky," she muttered. "Now you don't have to go through the lab ray anymore,
"Er," he sighed. "I don't know."
"Why?" she questioned. "What's wrong?"
He lowered his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it."
She pouted. "Please tell? Please?"
"Fine, but promise not to tell anyone," he replied.
He took a deep breath. "The lab ray turned me into a female the first day of
"So? I don't care. You're still my best friend," she said offhandedly.
"Yeah, really. Now, come on or we'll be late!"
"I'll race you!" he challenged.
"Okay, but I have to warn you, I've been training. You're going down!"
So the Usul and Draik charged down the road to
Neoschool, laughing and panting.
* * *
Ryo had only just sat down when Talar, a Darigan Eyrie, and his friends approached
him. In Talar's eyes, every second not making someone miserable was a second
wasted. Ryo knew he was up to something by the malicious look in his eyes.
"Hi Ryo!" Talar squealed.
"What do you want?" Ryo asked, his voice flat.
"Nothing, we don't make fun of girls," Talar chortled.
"What?" he demanded.
"You heard me."
"I'm not a girl!" Ryo cried.
"Yeah, sure. That's not what I've heard," Talar sneered.
"Who told you?" he asked, aghast.
"I have my sources," Talar stated as he walked to his seat.
Ryo glared across the room at Laeta. "What?" she mouthed. He turned his back
"Settle, children," Ms. Degenta advised, her usual cross look playing across
her face. "Take out your History textbooks and turn to page three hundred and
ninety-four. Today we'll be learning about the Giant Omelette."
Ryo reached into his desk moodily.
"Who can tell me anything about Sabre-X?"
Laeta rose her hand. "He's a Tyrannian Lupe who
guards the omelette. He makes sure you can only get one piece a day."
"Very good. Does anyone know about its origins? Ryoki?"
Ryoki looked up, startled. "Uh… doesn't something lay it?" he mumbled.
"Good. Now, we're all on page three hundred and ninety-four, correct? Study
this for ten minutes, and a pop quiz on it will be directly following."
Today was getting worse by the second.
* * *
Laeta caught up to Ryoki at lunch. "Are you mad at me or something?"
"What do you think?" he asked darkly.
"Okay. Can I ask why?"
"Don't you know?"
"You told everyone I got turned into a female!" he hissed.
"What?" she asked, shocked. "I didn't tell anyone! I don't really care."
"Don't lie to me, you're the only one who knows!"
"I promise I didn't tell anyone!" she cried defiantly.
"I don't believe you," he growled as he walked to the other side of the dining
"You're so aggravating!" she screamed at his retreating back.
He said just loudly enough for her to hear, "At least I can keep secrets."
"At least I trust people!" she had caught up to him.
"I trusted you before you told everyone about what happened to me."
He walked away without saying anything.
* * *
He never went to the lab ray again, but in school the same thing happened for
days. Laeta would try to talk to him and he would ignore her every attempt.
Finally, she approached him with a bag. "I can't believe you don't trust me,"
She rolled her eyes. "But you were-and still are- my best friend."
"I doubt that."
She sighed. "Okay, I did not tell anyone. Can we still be friends?"
"I bought you something." She shoved in his chest sharply and walked away.
Flustered, he opened it. It was a strange (gender-changing)
"Laeta!" he called. She kept walking. He ran up to her. "I'm sorry."
"You should be."
"Look, I trust you and I know how much these cost."
"So you trust me now that I've bought you something expensive."
"It's not that. You wouldn't buy this for me unless you didn't say anything
"Finally, you're seeing!"
"And I'd like to make it up to you," he told her.
He inhaled sharply. "You can use my lab ray."
"Really?" she squealed. "I've always wanted
to be a disco Aisha!"
She beamed at him. "Friends!"