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"Thank you for bringing in a new patient to St. Gamer Hospital." the receptionist smiles, cheerfully to Alex, entering in Alex's details into her desk terminal.
A Doctor swiftly races away, pushing a wheeled stretcher with the griefer on it. The griefer is noticeably injured. His eye is blackened, and his nose bloodied. They race to the left, past a sign that directs Full Heals to the left, Body Mods to the right, and Medic Rentals on the second floor.
"And I get my referral rewards, right?" Alex asks, casually.
"Yep!" the receptionist cheers, sitting under the logo for the hospital. A pair of warm hands, gently holding a game controller.
"What's my current Gamer Rewards Account balance?" Alex inquires.
"You currently have enough Gamer Rewards Points to redeem for a body mod surgery, sir!"
"Hell yeah!" Alex exclaims. "I'd like to redeem that right now!"
"What sort of body mod are you hoping to get, if you don't my asking?" the receptionist asks.
"I'm gonna finally get my XX Chromosomes replaced with XY Chromosomes."
"Oh great! Well you can head right on over, ma'am!"
Alex goes from cheerful to grumpy. "If you weren't already clearly a member at St. Gamer Hospital, I would be turning you in for Gamer Rewards Points for misgendering me like that."
"I'm sorry," the receptionist apologizes. "I have transphobic tendencies typical of people in my line of work."
Alex growls, "I'm going to let this slide as there's no benefit for me to punish you for this."
"Hello!" Alex announced, shoving open the door to the Doctor's office. "I am here to redeem the vast amount of points that I've earned from bringing in dozens of new patients to this hospital for a replacement of my second set of X Chromosomes for some Y Chromosomes."
"Oh how fun!" replies the Doctor. Shiné, the lady from chapter one who was thinking about the video games she plays. "Let's give it a roll and see what we get!"
"Huh?" Alex asks, confused by what she means by 'roll'.
"Gamer Referal (sic) Rewards Program Points are redeemable for gift box prizes! I'll go ahead and roll your points right now!" Shiné sings.
"The wording on the card did not specify that it would be a RANDOM body mod!" Alex complains.
"Well let's see what you get before you get salty, okay?" Shiné says, pulling up her tablet to display what Alex rolled.
"You rolled 'New Prostate'." Shiné declares.
Alex can't believe what he's hearing. He smirks and holds up his hands. "I don't want a new prostate! All they do is get cancer and kill you. Anybody running a prostate is trolling. I have a Skene's gland."
"Actually we now understand that the Skene's gland and prostate are the same thing," Shiné explains.
"What the fuck?" Alex laughs. "Am I being pranked? I don't care."
"Okay well I'll just reroll for you." Shiné decides. "How's teeth replacement sound?" Her display reads 'MYTHICAL - NEW TEETH!'
"No thanks I like my teeth," says Alex.
"Okay, well," Shiné looks down at her tablet. "Teeth shape and size are thought to be related to sex."
"Yeah, thought," Alex scoffs, not missing a beat. "But when tested, trained dentists can only determine the sex 47-59% of the time."
"You just know that off the top of your head, huh?" Shiné asks, partly amused, and partly nervous that she still hasn't satisfied her customer.
"I'm trans. Of course I do."
Shiné rolls for another prize on her tablet. "Okay, rerolling... New Adam's Apple!" Shiné declares, confident that Alex will go for this one.
"I already have one. Testosterone moves fat off your neck to reveal the one you already have. It's not even a good gender marker anyway: Plenty of cis women have 'em visible and cis men don't."
"Oh, here we go!" Shiné exclaims. This one for sure! "Vagina removal. That's gotta be something you want, right?"
"You're joking right?" Alex cocks an eyebrow and chuckles. "What if I wanna get fucked by my awesome gay husband? You're clearly not thinking."
"Well that's all of your free re-rolls," Shiné says, mirroring Alex's eyebrow cocked expression.
"This sucks!" Alex quetches. "I didn't want any of the free surgeries I rolled from this RNG bullshit."
"Well you can still buy it directly," Shiné offers, raising her hand.
"And how much is it?"
"Well it comes down to parts and labor, really!" Shiné explains. "Labor is three hundred dollars, or twenty-nine thousand bits."
Alex puts his hand to his chin and considers that. "Well it's not free," he thinks to himself, "but that's actually pretty affordable. It's even cheaper if I pay with my Twitch Prime Bits. I could eve get my hundreds of subscribers to chip in and this wouldn't be so bad at all."
"And the parts cost 5 trillion dollars, or 405 trillion bits."
"What the fuck?" Alex exclaims, smirking again, like he's hearing a dirty joke. "That's bullshit. How am I supposed to afford that?"
"Well if you register an Amazon Credit Card--"
"Lemme stop you right there." Alex cuts her off. "No."
Alex takes another moment to think things over. "The labor is totally affordable but the cost of the parts is waaaay too high. If only there were a person who had a jar of Y Chromosomes who would be willing to part with them due to owing me a favor."
Meanwhile, back in her home, Heather sits at her computer. A voice comes over her headphones from the in game voice chat.
"Sorry, I have a condition," the Gamer explains.
"Not a problem," Heather states confidently. She sits in her chair with her arms folded, dressed in a comfortable night shirt and pajama pants, with the word "Communism" written over her chest. She thinks to herself, "Thanks to Alex I know that this person is most likely telling the truth and I can be loving and compassionate without fear!"
Heather stands confidently with her arms folded in sincere gratitude. Alex, on the other hand, slouches with his arms hanging low. While Heather is energetic and lively, Alex's eyes have bags under them. He's exhausted.
"Thank you for hitting that guy with a bat and making my BLOPS experience slightly better!" Heather cheers, dressed in a short pleated skirt and Japanese School Girl Sailor Fuku uniform top, with a ribbon tied around her forehead, knotted at the back. Heather assembled this outfit to cosplay as Sakura from Street Fighter, though she has since replaced the ribbon with one from her own collection.
"You're welcome," Alex groans.
"Alex!" Heather gasps. "What's the matter? You're acting like you're feeling negative emotions. Aren't you the one who taught me that negative emotions are worthless in the current meta?"
"Yeah I know but I'm really tilted right now." Alex sighs. "I had this plan to change my chromosomes for almost a year now, and right at the end I got countered by some degenerate RNG money strat."
Heather is stunned! She double takes, unsure if she heard him correctly!
"Alex! I didn't know you were trans!" Heather exclaims, rotating her entire body toward him. "I thought you were just the only cool cis person I've ever met in my life!"
Alex recoils in surprise. Heather has gotten much closer to him than he's used to or comfortable with. Luckily, she backs off quickly.
"This is so shocking and exciting!" Heather cheers. "I'll help you out in every way I can!" Heather's thoughts race. "We're almost the same size! I'll let you try on my dresses and teach you how to do makeup!"
"Woah, hold up, Heather!" Alex laughs, energized by her excitement. "You've got it backwards. I'm not a transwoman who was in the closet." Alex's exhaustion leaves, rejuvenated with confidence. "I'm a trans man!"
Heather is stunned! She double takes again! She realizes she is not properly dressed for such a mind blowing experience.
"Alex!" Heather exclaims, returning, confidently crossing her long sleeved arms. She donned a beautiful long coat with a fierce shoulder scarf, and elaborate golden buttons. This outfit was also originally coordinated to cosplay a Street Fighter character. This elegant ensemble is in the style of the cerebral Rose, the perfect outfit for such a mind expanding revelation as this. "I had no idea you were a trans man in need of Y-Chromosomes to save several trillion dollars on parts for a surgical procedure to replace your second set of X-Chromosomes with a set of Y-Chromosomes."
"This is my curse." Alex bemoans, exhausted again after having time alone to think while Heather got dressed.
"Alex, you don't understand!" Heather cries. "I have a jar of Y-Chromosomes! I asked to have mine saved instead of thrown away for exactly this situation!"
"Nice!" Alex exclaims, enchanted by the serendipity of this moment. "And here I was helping you for intrinsic benefit!"
"But wait... My trust in the system is broken by a recent bad experience." Alex puts his fist to his chin and squints his eyes. "What if they play a combat trick, like revealing that they won't perform the operation unless we use the Y-Chromosomes they sell?" Alex asks, hypothesizing a likely scenario given the information he has recently gleaned of St. Gamer Hospital's policies.
"While I don't think that things will go wrong, you should know that if it does, this isn't the end," Heather states, acknowledging Alex's fears without trivializing them, and providing solutions to help his mental state. "We have other options, such as witchcraft."
"Thanks for that reminder." Alex gives, smiling cheerfully once more. "Although I would like to avoid witchcraft if possible, as I'd prefer not to have cat ears, this makes me less afraid of possible failure."
After another quick change of clothes, Heather and Alex return to the Doctor's office to speak to Shiné. Shiné holds the jar of Y-Chromosomes in her hands and asks, "What is this?" with raised eyebrows.
Alex, now backed up by his friend, boldly proclaims, "That is a jar of all the Y-Chromosomes of the last guy who got between Heather and Gaming!"
Heather immediately backs Alex up, "That guy being me and my dysphoria!" She folds her arms with the confidence of a woman who knows no fear. She's wearing the most diplomatic outfit she owns: Her American Revolutionary Military Captain Regalia, complete with golden shoulder tassels, lace frills, and loads and loads of pockets, quite unlike the pocketless fashion normally expected of feminine clothing, yet still sensually emphasizing her bust. This outfit was coordinated to cosplay as Ivy's Player Two outfit from Soul Calibur 2.
Shine's expression saddens. She has bad news to deliver to these two who look so happy. "Well I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to use this jar of Y-Chromosomes, because I can only perform the operation using Y-Chromosomes purchased from St. Gamer Hospital."
"Dammit!" Alex sidebars with Heather. "I knew this would happen. No amount of love and/or compassion could counter this terrible RNG money meta. At least I have a backup in the form of witchcraft," he bargains.
"Wait!" Heather exclaims, standing proudly. "Can't you find it in your heart to break your company's policy just this once?"
Shinés eyes open wide, unable to believe what she's hearing.
"Can't you empathize with how much it sucks to not be understood?" Heather pleads.
"Huh! You know, although I have no way to connect my own life experiences to the idea of being trans, I do, however, understand what it is like not to be understood." Shiné's eyes tilt up toward the ceiling, to the tiles. They're all in a regular consistent pattern, but some of them have turned ever so slightly over time. "I play rare video games that are both very hardcore and also very obscure," Shiné continues. "Despite having a plethora of tools available to play online..." Shiné's eyes focus on one such out of place tile on the ceiling, "Due to the lack of available opponents, I rarely find a match to play IaMP or PoFV anymore. I understand this pain very well." She looks back to the two friends. "That's the same, right?"
Heather and Alex don't say anything. Heather's expression remains diplomatic while Alex's slowly becomes more and more agitated. As Heather considers the moment, finding the right words, Alex starts to eject, "No, that is n--"
"Yes." Heather cuts him off.
With diplomacy no longer an issue, Heather quickly gets changed into a backup outfit she brought with her. A Karate Gi and undershirt, with a ribbon accenting her neck. In the event diplomacy broke down, Heather brought this Makoto from Street Fighter cosplay, but it's also much more comfortable than the other outfit, so here she is wearing it.
"Now that I have connected your experiences to ones of my own that I understand and empathize with, I am going to help you!" Shiné announces to get everybody back on track.
"Thank you so much!" Heather exclaims, folding her arms with satisfaction.
Alex presents the spot on his arm that Shiné cleaned with alcohol to prepare for an injection while Heather was changing. As she sticks the needle in his arm he thinks, "Wow! So this is what it's like to finally interact with an ally!"
"Cool! So what happens now?" Alex asks, hopeful and excited.
"We're all done!" Shiné answers, just as happy.
"It's just an injection?"
Alex in puzzled. "If it's so easy then why was the labor cost 400 dollars?" he asks, getting annoyed.
"Because up until a moment ago, you were a girl and/or woman, and therefore that special surcharge applies," Shiné explains, delighted to have helped.
"Uhuh." Alex grunts, unamused. He turns back to Heather and asks, "And you were just cool with signing up for that?"
"Hell yeah!" Heather cheers, never doubting herself for a second!
Alex and Heather exit Shiné's office. Alex proudly states "Well that was a total load of bullshit. I don't even feel any different."
As soon as he says this, the transphobic receptionist calls out, "Have a nice day, sir!"
Hearing this, being correctly gendered by the woman who had previously misgendered him, he concludes, "Oh wait right, this kicks ass."
"Well let's let my awesome self driving car take us back to my place!" Heather declares, taking a seat in the driver's seat of her electric automobile.
"Sweet." Alex affirms, buckling his seatbelt. He's tired, and can't wait to wind down with some gaming.
Later that night, the pair sit on Heather's couch in her beautiful apartment. Alex shakes a pair of maracas based on the on screen prompts, saying "Oh of course I'm not gonna pay. What're they gonna do? Tank my credit score? It's already 310! They've got nothing!"
Heather sits up a little straighter in her authentic Amiga red salsa dress, cosplaying as Amigo's energetic tambourine playing sister. The perfect outfit to watch Alex play Samba De Amigo on her Nintendo Nautilus.
There's a knock at the door. Heather comments, "Oh, there's somebody at the door." This is an unconscious request for Alex to get up, as he's much more energetic than she is.
Alex of course, hops right to his feet to open the door. On the way there, he continues his story. "But yeah, debt collectors? They do literally nothing. You can just ignore them! We win!"
Alex opens the door to reveal a law enforcement officer. "We lost." Alex sighs.
"Hello sir," the cop says, pretending to be a human being. "I'm here investigating a murder. Do you mind if I ask you a couple questions?" The cop's expression is deadpan, like that of a murderer and/or murder apologist who is statistically significantly more likely to abuse his family members, and who exists only to protect the wealth of capitalists and has never helped a single person in any way while doing his job. His bored face reads like a person who, if he has done any good in his life, it was unrelated to his profession. A deeply soulless individual with absolutely no purpose except to cause harm and protect those in power. A truly horrible waste of a child that could have grown up to be something worth existing, and instead became a fucking pig. The world would be better off without them.
"Murder? So not about medical debt?" Alex asks, giving away a lot more information than he should to this walking threat in a flesh suit. Alex knows better than to talk to cops, but he's had a long day and isn't thinking clearly. Cops show up at strange hours, bothering good people when they're at their most vulnerable on purpose.
"No, not medical debt. I'm here about murder," the class traitor confirms.
"Easy!" Alex exclaims, foolishly believing the badge wearing thrall of capital. This cop may be telling the truth, but one can never trust them. They are trained to lie. "Easy game!" Alex shouts, overjoyed. "And if the debt collectors try to sue me, it'll cost them more than it'll cost me!"
"MURDER??" Heather shouts from the couch.
"You didn't say you were going to MURDER him!" Heather shouts, standing dressed in Ulala's outfit from Space Channel Five complete with Headset and thigh high boots.
"Please excuse my friend." Alex calmly tells the bastard at the door. "The reason I didn't say I was going to murder anybody was because I was not planning to murder anybody." Alex continues to show poor judgement by speaking to law enforcement.
"I find her emphasis suspicious, but ever since President Ace Watkin's last balance patch banned non-physical evidence from court, I just tune that stuff out," said the short haired muscle employed by the state to exact violence on its people. His soulless expression gives a hint of sadness that his worthless job that only exists to make the scale unbalanced in favor of those who are already winning to snowball the game of capitalism into a truly unrecoverable state, got just a tiny bit less easy when Gamer President Ace Watkins passed a series of laws to make it more difficult for cops, prosecutors, and judges to mass incarcerate innocent people. The banning of plea bargains, the massive funding for public defenders, banning of non-physical evidence in courts, the right to a proxy plaintiff to stand in as a beautiful white person if you have a fear that the jury might discriminate against you, and many more changes have helped tremendously. "I'm just here to collect a DNA sample."
"Do you have a warrant, officer?" Alex asks, tersely.
"Okay. What kinda DNA?"
"I don't give a shit. Hair is fine." the Cop says.
"Okay. Here you go."
"Alright. Lemme just run it through the thing." the Cop says, forced to use a handheld forensics device by legal mandate that prevents cops from leaving you with undue anxiety. He hates that he can't just take the hair back to 'the lab' and leave Alex stewing in fear and possible guilt, and instead has to settle this matter right here and now.
After a short moment and a quick lookup through a database, comparing against the DNA evidence they already have on hand, the Cop replies, "Alright. You're good to go. Your DNA did not match the DNA of the person we're looking for."
Heather thinks a sigh of relief. "Phew. What a relief. For a second there I was worried that my friend committed a murder. THat would be a real shock that would make me have to reevaluate our friendship!" Heather considers, privately.
The Cop follows up, "They had XX-Chromosomes."
Heather is shocked at this revelation! They had JUST gone to change Alex's Chromosomes today! This might clear him in the eyes of the law for now, but Heather isn't so sure!
"Well, GLHF with your investigation," Alex closes, politely.
"Thanks." With that, the Cop takes his leave.
Alex and Heather stand in her hallway. Heather has changed her outfit again, this time to a cosplay of Yuka Kazami from Touhou. The most powerful character from the original PC-98 series. She wears this outfit when she needs to assert herself to her friends.
Heather stands with her arms folded, reserved but guarded. She stares at her friend with intensity.
Alex doesn't notice this energy at first. He happily recaps, "Well that certainly went a lot smoother than the last time cops showed up at the door for me." Alex lifts his hand like he's holding a fancy glass with his pinkie out. "Remember? When I had that case of Mountain Dew Weed Flavor from Mexico, that was flavored with actual weed?"
There's a tense silence as Heather stares at Alex with her arms folded.
Realizing something's different, Alex asks, ernestly, "Are you upset right now? I can't always tell your mood from your facial expression due to my being on the autism spectrum."
No matter how upset she might be right now, Heather knows better than to give the silent treatment through a sincere request for clarification. "Sorry. Yes, I'm upset right now." she replies.
"Is this about the griefer?" Alex asks, holding out his hands in a showman's shrug.
"It's about my friend being a murderer!" Heather shoots back.
Alex isn't phased by this. "Okay first of all, no. I'm not a 'Murderer'. A jury would need to convict me for me to get the Murderer tag," Alex states casually. "Secondly, it'd be manslaughter at best. I took him to the hospital and turned him over to the doctors, alive."
"You expect me to believe that?" Heather scoffs. "It's a hospital! People don't just die in hospitals from doctors failing to save their live." Heather tightens her grip on her arms, crossed over her chest. "That only happens in fictional stories."
"Well I'm not lying, so I don't know what else to tell you!" Alex grumbles, angry that he's not being believed. "Hell, we don't even know if that cop was here about the same guy!"
Heather groans, "Oh give me a break."
"I've hit a lot of people."
A narrator's box reads "Hours Ago" as we look into a scene of the griefer from before, lying on his back on a wheeled hospital stretcher in the middle of an empty hospital room. He is covered in bandages, with a patch over his left eye. The counter behind him is bare. A sink is turned off. All of the cabinet drawers are shut and drawers closed. He stares at the ceiling and thinks.
The griefer has a self reflective moment. "Wow... after having had doctors totally stabilize me and patch up all my injuries, I've had time to self reflect."
The griefer stares silently at the ceiling, for an empty panel.
The griefer thinks, "Hehe... Oh man... It'd probably really ruin that guy's life if I just fucking died right now though."
There's another quiet empty panel of staring at the ceiling.
The griefer's eyes are covered in X's, and he fades away, becoming transparent. As he fades away, like a dying video game character, he thinks his final thoughts. "See you in Elo Hell." This is a reference to a term in online competitive games that use an "Elo" system, which is a mathematical tool used to order people by a rank for the purposes of matchmaking. Elo Hell is a concept where you are only matched with and against low rank players while you yourself are a low ranked player, so it becomes difficult if not impossible to improve your game well enough to escape a divide between the very weakest players and people who play the game at a level good enough for the match to be considered interesting.
Beneath this comic is a banner that reads: END OF CHAPTER 2. "Double Crossed Chromosomes" GAMER Comics, a Graphic Novel by Remi Autor.
What twists! What TURNS! I can't wait to keep reading!