The lights went out to signify lockdown. The electronic bolt slid shut in the door. Kryten's night vision switched on automatically, but Kochanski had none.
"Shit! I was just about to get a royal flush." Kochanski threw her cards on the table of their cosy little cell. Kryten found the suggestion unlikely. If he remembered correctly – and he did – all jacks were already out of the game. He didn't say so, of course. Instead, he offered his condolences and a rematch the following night.
"Yeah." Kochanski sighed. "Just like every night." She got up and fumbled her way to bed, hitting her shin on a chair on the way and letting out another string of obscenities.
Kryten sat for a moment in the dark, gathering wool – if that was indeed what the term meant. He was reordering his data files in another attempt to delay the inevitable - the thing he knew it was his duty to do.
In the end, his primary programming overtook that corruption of his files that he called his personality. Kryten got up stiffly, waddled to the electrical outlet, plugged himself in and began the process of reprogramming his behavior models to fit his new classification.
The main thing was to force his brain to accept that he was a woman now. He decided to begin with a modification of his linguistic assignation. He was now a 'she'. That was simple enough. If: referring to Kryten, pronoun: she, her. Done.
The rest was going to be more difficult. Kryten had a library of information concerning female human behavior, which seemed to him both illogical and contradictory. It was not so much the behavior implied that was contradictory, as were the sources. Anything, it seemed, could become typical female behavior, if only enough women did it, or enough women were assumed to do it. The research tended to be squiffy and the references incomplete or unreliable.
That was odd. There seemed to be a glitch in the programming. Kryten tried it again, adding some more forceful code.
That was better.
She decided to continue by simply modifying her voice. She'd taken the opportunity earlier to download an array of feminine voices in the prison digital library. She chose one that had a pleasant alto timbre.
There was a rumbling in her corrupted files that came very close to a feeling of nausea, so she decided to end the night's efforts there, and test the changes made on her companions tomorrow. Gender was largely social, or so she'd read, and she didn't want to fail that part of her transition.
Simulated morning arrived in a single thunk, as it always did, as the lights switched on and the alarm rang out. Kochanski sighed and turned over in his bed, pulling a pillow over his ears to block out the sound. Kryten unplugged herself from the electrical outlet and stood up, fully charged and then some. Really, she should be more mindful of her batteries, but she'd been re-organizing her files again, and there had been something comforting about the steady flow of electricity through her system.
"Good morning, Mr Kochanski," she said politely and trotted over to the kitchen to get Kochanski his customary morning caffeine pill and a glass of water. "Fifteen minutes to shower time, like every morning."
"Thanks," Kochanski said as he accepted her offering. His face was scrunched up into such an expression of distaste that Kryten had to remind herself it was normal for humans after a lengthy period of recharging. She shook her head with an indulgent smile.
"Anything else I can get for you, sir?"
He peered at her through blurry eyes. "What happened to your voice?"
"Do you like it?" Kryten asked shyly. "I made some adjustments to better fit my new classification."
He smiled. Kryten and Kochanski didn't always see eye to eye, but he did have a rather smashing smile – enough that sometimes Kryten even understood what Miss Lister saw in him. "Suits you, actually," he said.
Kryten allowed himself a modicum of modest self-satisfaction.
Shower with the boys was as pointless and uncomfortable as ever. Human nudity was strange for a great number of reasons, but what bothered her most about it was how aware it made her of her own mechanical body, and how different it was from all those jiggling constructions of flesh that – she remembered from an earlier experience – had no working outlets at all.
It also reminded her that she'd meant to test her new womanhood by engaging with other women, which meant going out and finding some. She let Mr Kochanski know while they were toweling off. "I think the changes are working out rather well," she told him. "I believe my central processing unit has fully accepted that I'm a woman now. I have to tell you, sir, that for a while there I had doubts. The antipathy I felt towards identifying as this sex has quite disappeared."
"As long as you're happy, I suppose," Kochanski said, folding his towel on the bench.
"I can't wait to see Miss Lister and the other girls from the Dwarf," Kryten gushed. "They'll be happy to know that I'm finally going to be just like them again, and that they'll probably let me transfer to the women's quarters soon..." Her voice trailed off. Somehow past events didn't match the present. Mr Kochanski was staring at her with a confused frown.
Back when Kryten had been a him, she had been told that she was a she, so she'd... no.
Kryten sat down on the bench and grabbed her head. She felt her units working overtime and the cooling fan whirring wildly to keep his head from smoking. Her head.
"Are you all right?" Kochanski's hand rested on her shoulder, on his cheeks.
"Reset," Kryten said, choking on smoke and confusion.
Kryten woke up lying on a slab with an unknown technician in a lab coat and protective goggles frowning down at him.
Kryten scanned the small room. There were appliances, drills and heavy machinery. On one wall there was a window with bulletproof glass, through which he could see an efficient-looking clean-cut woman in a lieutenant's uniform observing him.
"How many fingers?" said the technician, holding up three.
Kryten answered that and another nine bland, ordinary questions correctly. Finally the technician asked, "Which sex are you?"
"I'm male," Kryten answered promptly, "but classified as female."
"You realize you are a mechanoid and therefore do not have any reproductive functions?"
"Yet you say you are male?"
"I do," said Kryten. "I am."
The technician looked up at the officer behind the glass. She shrugged imperceptibly, took out a notepad and scribbled something on it. She then gestured for the technician to join her, and Kryten was left alone on the slab, feeling naked and fresh.
It wasn't that bad. The nausea and confusion were gone.
Maybe he was just a damaged machine, but who wasn't? Some things were simply true and required no further examination. That may not have been logical, but he did find it strangely comforting.
Despite there being no-one to see it, Kryten smiled.