DISTAFF

by Enola Jones

"Split up!" Starsky yelled as he faded left. Without so much as a nod of acknowledgement, Hutch faded right.

They were going after a guy who had stolen an experimental gun from the Bay City Labs. Thanks to Huggy Bear, they had the guy on the run. They'd decided to use the pincer approach on him.

As Hutch approached him from behind, the suspect suddenly whirled and fired. The gun did not fire bullets, but light. When it hit Hutch's arm, he gasped. He then lunged at the suspect, who fired again.

This time the shot hit Hutch full in the stomach. He went down, unconscious from the radiation laced into the light.

Starsky screamed to see him go down. He too lunged at the man, who repeated the process.

Laughing, the suspect ran away, leaving two radiation-soaked detectives lying unconscious on the ground.

Nobody was there to witness their bodies begin to glow.

~~~~~~~

Hutch woke to find a young woman crouching beside him, shaking his shoulders. "Hutch?" her musical soprano said. "Hey, come on buddy wake up!"

Hutch tilted his head up at her and frowned. Buddy? He sat up... and swayed.

"Take it easy, Blintz," she said, supporting him. "You'll be disoriented for a minute. I was."

He frowned at her. Then his eyes widened again.

Her hair spilled over her shoulders in raven curls. Her blue eyes were sharp and piercing, her face less angular, her body definitely not the same, but ---

"....S...Starsky?"

He didn't know which shocked him more -- the unchanged crooked smile, the single nod, or the fact the voice he'd heard emerge out of his own throat had been a breathy alto!

"Brace yourself, babe," she whispered, and gestured at Hutch.

He looked down --- and yelped in shock to see a female form filling out his clothes. "Wh...what..."

"That gun...it was experimental. Nobody knew what it'd do."

Hutch gave a tight chuckle. "Hell of a way to find out!"

"Come on, let's get back to the Pits... maybe Huggy can help us deal and get that creep." Starsky was already heading toward her car.

"Deal?" Hutch squeaked, following. "I donít wanna deal, I wanna get back to normal!"

Starsky looked over the Torino and frowned at her partner. "Till we can, we gotta deal. Get in."

Stunned, Hutch obeyed. The doors closed...and nothing happened. Hutch turned to Starsky, annoyedly pushing cascades of blonde hair off her shoulder as she did so. "What's wrong?"

Starsky just looked at her, a sheepish grin on her face as she reached for the lever at her feet. "....we're smaller --- my feet don't reach the pedals now."

CHAPTER TWO

The Torino pulled up outside the Pits and the two got out. They paused before the entrance. "Well..." Starsky sighed. "You ready?"

"No,Ē Hutch glared.

"Good." Starsky pushed the door open and walked in.

~~~~~~~

Huggy Bear looked up as he wiped down the bar. Two beautiful young ladies were walking into his establishment.

"Well, good afternoon to you, pretty ladies!" he said, grinning as he approached them. Taking their hands, he led them to the bar and sat them down. Returning to the other side, he smiled. "So tell me, beauties -- what can Huggy Bear do for you, hm?"

Both women blinked in stunned surprise. Then a familiar grin spread over the black-haired one's face. She leaned back in her chair and looked over at her blonde friend. "I could get used to this," she giggled.

The blonde glared at her. "You would," she said in an aggrieved tone.

Hubby blinked, then shook his head to dispel the incredibly unreal feeling of deja vu he was experiencing. These two were acting like ----

Nah. Couldn't be. No way.

"Can I get you beautiful ladies anything?" he asked charmingly.

"Yeah," the brunette said, now unsmiling, leaning forward and piercing him with startlingly blue eyes. "Information."

Huggy felt his world tilt again. Those eyes....that body language.... His eyes flicked to the blonde.

She leaned forward and drummed her right index finger on the bar in time to her words. "We need everything you can dig up on an experimental gun stolen from the Bay City Labs."

Huggy swallowed visibly. He couldn't tear his eyes from her hand. Again with the too familiar body language....

Seeing this, the brunette grinned. "What's the matter, Huggy?" she laughed. "You act like you've seen a pair of ghosts!"

Huggy turned away. He had to get control of himself --- this was ridiculous! Deja vu was one thing...but this....

He looked up to try to help himself get his thoughts straight. The movement enabled him to look out of one of the Pits's windows ---

---At a distinctive cherry-red Torino with a white stripe.

Huggy's jaw dropped. He whirled to look through wide eyes at the women. Then he looked out the window at the car, then back at them. Belatedly, his brain registered the small women were in Starsky and Hutch's larger clothing -- belted tight, rolled up, and tucked in fast. His mouth worked, but no sound emerged.

The brunette nodded. "That's right, Hug. It's us."

"St...St.......Hu...Hu...." was all Huggy could manage.

Both nodded --- Starsky with a grin, Hutch looking as if she were going to be sick.

Huggy didn't feel too well himself. He sank onto a stool behind the bar and wiped his mouth and chin.

"Lord help me, I've been workin' too hard..."

CHAPTER THREE

Huggy hung up the phone and sighed. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked at the two women who sat at his bar.

The brunette was halfway through her second hamburger, enduring the good-natured ribbing of her blonde friend. Huggy hung back and watched his transformed friends, scarcely able to believe the petite women were in reality Starsky and Hutch.

"What have you got in there?" Hutch quipped, picking up a fork. "Two stomachs?"

"Nah," the brunette grinned. "Just the requisite one." her grin faded as she saw the trembling in the blonde's fingers as she tried to spear the tomato on her salad. "Hey."

"Hey what?" Stab, stab, stab.... that tomato seemed to live just out of reach.....

Hamburger forgotten, Starsky reached over and lay her hand over her partner's. "Hey," she repeated. "What is it, babe?"

"N-Nothing," she said, pulling her hand away.

"Yeah, well, that 'nothing' has got you shakin' like a leaf. C'mon, this is me, remember?"

The fork hit the plate with a clack! "Is it?" Hutch asked, her head bowed.

Starsky pulled back slightly, startled. "Wh-what?"

"You heard me," Hutch asked, raising her head and fixing piercing blue eyes to her friend. "Is it you? David Starsky is a man. Last time I looked, you were a woman. So am I . Are you still you? For that matter, am I still me? Did who we are change with our gender?"

Starsky's eyes widened during her soft tirade. Her mouth worked, but nothing came out.

Huggy stepped forward. "Hey....Hutch, lemme tell you what I'm seein'."

"Two beautiful women," Hutch sighed, not meeting his eyes.

"Yeah, I see that all right," Huggy said, sliding their plates slightly to the side. "And I also see m'main golden one shinin' through you."

"What?" Hutch whispered as her head raised, eyes locking onto his.

"In your eyes, your movements --- I see Hutch. A chick, yeah, but still Hutch." He pointed without looking at her to Starsky. "And Starsk there is the only one I know that can put away three burgers in five minutes flat!"

Hutch looked at Starsky and they smiled at each other before she turned back to Huggy. "So... what you're stayin'... is what makes us us..."

"Is the same," Huggy finished. He took one of her small hands in both of his long-fingered, thin ones. "The packagin' is a lot different --- but the product inside is the same classy person and good friend I've always known."

Hutch smiled "Flatterer," she teased.

"Hey, it's my job," Huggy chuckled.

"So," Starsky said around a mouthful of burger, "What did your sources say?"

Huggy gave a sad sigh as he released Hutch's hand. "Nothing yet. They're all on alert though. I... ah... also called someone who really deserves to know and may be able to help."

"Oh yeah?" Starsky looked up. "Who?"

"I'll be damned," Dobey's unmistakable voice breathed from behind them. "Brown, I did not believe you..."

"Betcha believe me now, Marshall," Huggy said softly.

Blonde and brunette heads both dropped onto their folded arms as they emitted nearly identical groans.

CHAPTER FOUR

After the story was told --- again --- Dobey leaned back in his chair. "This is....totally unbelievable!"

"But you believe it," Huggy pointed out.

Dobey shot him a look designed to cow the informant. He ended up blinking hard as Huggy returned the look with a crooked smile. Dobey finally sighed. "Yeah, I believe it." He turned to the women. "I don't really have a choice but to believe it!"

Huggy excused himself and moved to answer his ringing phone. Hutch sighed and leaned back in her chair. "Captain, this is driving me insane!"

"How come?" Starsky asked, grinning. "I'm having fun -- seeing how the other half lives!"

"You would," Hutch sighed. "It's not what I was born to be! I was born male, not female!"

"Seems to me," Starsky said slowly, winding a lock of Hutch's blonde hair around her finger as she spoke, "You'd be a lot happier if you'd quit tryin' so hard to hold onto what you were born as... and accept that for right now, Ken Hutchinson --"

"Looks more like Barbie than Ken," Hutch chuckled.

Starsky blinked, then laughed. "You're gonna be all right, Blintz," she said, pulling Hutch into a warm, sisterly hug. "You're gonna be all right."

"We both are, Gordo," Hutch whispered, returning the embrace. "Long as we stay together, we'll be fine."

"Me and thee as usual, huh?" Starsky asked, breaking the hug.

"Always and forever, partner."

Dobey looked at Huggy, who had walked in in time to hear the last bit. "I'd say something about emotional women, but these two were like that before!"

Huggy allowed himself a small grin before he took his seat again. "Got some word on your sci-fi toy."

"Hardly a toy," Dobey protested. "Look at them, Brown! No toycould do this!"

Starsky lay a hand on his arm. "Settle down, Captain, that's just the way Huggy talks."

"Yeah, Marshall, an' if I may continue...." Dobey glared at him, but said nothing, so Huggy went on, "It seems the dude who stole the gun's tryin' to black market it. But what it's reported to do is so outlandish, nobody wants to touch it with a ten-foot pole!"

"I don't blame 'em for that," Hutch sighed as she pushed her long hair from her eyes.

"Yeah, me either," Starsky sighed. "Anything else you got for us, Hug?"

The informant smiled. "Two more things. My source is puttin' in the word that a pair of ladies --- one dark, one light --- are puttin' out feelers t'buy the thing."

A delighted smile spread across Hutch's face. "Whoa.... that means this is gonna be over soon!" At Starsky's nod, she pressed, "You said two more things -- what's the second?"

"Got a name for your suspect. Scott Damien. Ring a bell?"

It was Dobey who nodded. "He's one of the men who designed the gun in the first place!"

"Well, seems scientific research don't pay as well as the black market does," Huggy growled.

The other three nodded grim assent, then Hutch stood up. "Let's go then -- sooner we get this over with, sooner I --- we --- can get back to normal!"

CHAPTER FIVE

Starsky and Hutch tracked Damien to the same warehouse where their tenure as females had begun. Hutch sighed. "Hey, Starsk? Why is it they always return to the scene of the crime?"

"Lack of imagination?" Starsky asked, shrugging. "Let's just get this guy."

Hutch held up a hand. "Hold on, I thought you liked being a girl!"

"It's....interesting, yeah. But I'd like to get back to my old self before PMS strikes!"

They were halfway to the building before Hutch got her spluttering under control.

"Damien?" Starsky called. "Damien? Come out, come out, wherever you are!"

A man and a woman emerged from the shadows. The man saw the women, recognized them, and with a curse, began to run.

Even as females, Starsky and Hutch were still the best around. Without saying a word, Starsky shot after Damien, and Hutch moved to the woman's side. "You are ---?" she asked.

"Roger Thomlinson," the woman said with a smile. "Guess I don't need to tell you what happened to me, do I?"

Hutch smiled. "No, you don't. Why aren't you running like he is?"

Thomlinson shrugged. "What would that do besides make us both tired? Besides, I'm as much an innocent party as you are. I'm Scott's lab partner -- the first victim of the gun." The smile returned. "Which is inside, by the way. He doesn't see me as anything but a bargaining chip." She turned and began to walk toward the building. "Come on, I'll show you where the gun is."

~~~~~~~

By the time Dobey arrived on the scene, Starsky had returned with Damien, who was in handcuffs. She smiled at Hutch and nodded toward the blonde's hands as she turned Damien over to a pair of uniformed officers. "That sure looks familiar."

Hutch shot her a wan grin. "Let's step over here and get it over with."

Starsky nodded. They moved to the side as Thomlinson went to have words with Damien. They heard her voice rise in "I hope they put you away for life, you've ruined mine!"

Starsky took the gun. "You first."

"Huh?" Hutch blinked.

"Let's get you back to normal first, Blintz. You're the one havin' the harder time of it."

Hutch smiled and nodded. Starsky took careful aim and fired the light-gun.

As Hutch fell unconscious from the radiation-laced blast, Damien burst into maniacal laughter. Thomlinson ran over and grabbed the gun from Starsky's hand, slamming it onto the asphalt and breaking it into three pieces.

"What the hell ...." Starsky backpedaled rapidly. "Why'd you do that?"

Thomlinson was trembling. "Do you know what you've just done?"

"Yeah, I dosed my partner to turn her back to a guy!"

Tomlinsonís eyes were compassionate even as her body shook. "Detective... the radiation wears off after 24 to 48 hours!"

Starsky just stared at her. Her mouth worked for a moment, but no sound came out. Then she stammered, "W...W...wears... off?"

The other woman nodded. "If you'd not dosed her again, both of you would have been male again soon!"

"But I did dose her...." Starsky whispered.

Damien broke his laughter long enough to chant in a singsong voice, "One dose turns, second dose seals! One dose turns, second dose seals!" He laughed again as he was put into the back of the black-and-white.

"Seals?" Dobey gasped, going to their side. "What does he mean, 'seals'?"

Thomlinson met his eyes, her face pale. "He means... now she'll be that way...for the rest of her life."

"And...the gun was dest...." Starsky's knees buckled. Dobey caught her, relieved to see she had not --- quite -- fainted.

"Starsky?" he asked her, concerned.

Starsky's eyes were locked onto her out-cold partner. "....she.... was the one who had trouble....accepting this....in the first place...."

Not knowing what to say or do at the moment, Dobey tightened his grip on her. "Starsky..." he began slowly.

"What have I done, Captain?" she whispered raggedly as she stared wild-eyed at the sleeping woman she knew Hutch would forevermore be. "Oh, sweet Lord --- what have I done?"

The End





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