Note from Author: In the beginning of this story a lot of the conversation is written in two languages. In the story, where a foreign language is used, the translation is in brackets behind it.

The language used is called Fries. It is from a province in Nederland that still has it's own Flag, Anthem and Language. In fact, it is the only recognized minority language in Nederland. The language comes from before the Middle Ages when the Fries people lived next to the Saxons and other tribes like Germanic. It has commonalities with English, Dutch and some other old extinct languages.

Like the author, the main character is proud of his heritage as a Frisian national.

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 1

 

I slammed the door shut. Another lousy day at school. Mom's voice came from upstairs.

"Who's there? Is that you Gabe?"

She still pronounced my name like we said it in the country I was born in. Meaning that the a and e are like the a and e are pronounced in the word father.

I answered in my normal gruff voice, "Ja mem, ik bin wêr thus." [Yes Mom, I'm back home.]

"I told you to speak English, Gabe."

I sighed, "I praat alline mar Ingelsk oeral oars. Ik wol graach Frysk prate hjirre." [I only talk English everywhere else, I really want to speak Fries here.]

Mom came downstairs, "But I need the practice."

"Okay, can I go to my room?"

"Sure Gabe, Tutsje first?"

I gave Mom a kiss on her furry cheek, "Careful, you're mixing languages again."

Mom cursed, but I already ran up to my room. I was happy to have a room again. This was already our fifth new location since we got kicked out of our country. Well, not exactly kicked out, more like strongly encouraged to leave. Dad was part of the MORFS supremacist movement in Nederland. When the government decided to act against it, we had to move away.

Now we live in an Enclave in Western Canada with other Morfed people. Dad had been lucky to get a job as a security chief here. Of course he is well suited for that job, as he is a true wolf hybrid. He looks like a regular werewolf from the movies. Mom is also a canine hybrid, but more like a husky. This led to my being just a mutt. I don't look too much like a dog anymore though.

At first I did look like a humanized dog, but then I caught MORFS at 12 and changed to a more human appearance. Still I have the fur, fangs, tail and sense of smell, and I also have much enhanced muscles and quick healing power. As all our neighbors are similar full hybrids, the neighborhood wasn't my problem. But I still had to attend a regular school, and there I got hammered for being what I am.

I'm an only child since Mom can't have more children after me. The doctor said it would kill her. Sometimes I really regret that. It would be nice to have a sibling to talk to about school, and in general things that you just can't talk to your parents about.

The evening went as normal as ever, with me doing my homework, Mom and Dad watching TV or complaining about non-morfed and non-hybrids, and eventually I went to bed.

Morning came to soon again.

I yelled to my parents, "Ik gean nei skoalle." [I'm going to school.]

Mom answered"Ferjit dyn iten net mei te nimmen." [Don't forget to take your food with you.]

"Ik haw it al in myn rechsek." [I already have it in my back pack.]

I set off for another lousy day at school. It isn't easy being a child of hybrid parents. Not that I'm complaining, but the jokes and harassment never seems to stop. Of course there are laws against discrimination of hybrids, but children don't think, or don't seem to care. And you know what, children are cruel, very cruel.

As I came near the school, it started again. "Hey, look there is the son of a bitch. And I do mean that literally."

All the guys laughed out loud of course. Well, two can play at that game.

I sniffed in the air, "At least I don't smell like a piece of shit, Alan."

Some of the more moderate guys snickered while Alan made a face. He thought hard, trying to come back with a good reply.

"Well, what do you know? It can even speak," tried Alan as a snide remark.

I just gave a short laugh. "I have better grades than you will ever have."

Alan stood up and came at me. "I'll show you, you freak."

Menacingly, I stood before him. "Bring it on. Forgot who is stronger already?"

Alan backed off in a hurry. He knew he couldn't match my strength, even with some help. So a fight would not be to his benefit. During classes I always kept a watchful eye out for someone trying to get me into trouble.

At lunchtime I doubled my alertness.

At last school was out. I prepared to go home, but got called into the principal's office.

Mr. Rickman said, "You're a good student Gabe Kramer. But I foresee many problems in your way. I don't want to do this, but some influential parents complained. Please give this letter to your parents. I wish you all the luck and good fortune." He handed me an envelope.

"You're kicking me out?"

I could hardly believe what I just heard. Shit, the school wasn't the nicest place to be, but I really learned stuff here.

Mr. Rickman made a sour face. "Like I said Gabe, I don't want to do this. But I'm left with no choice in this matter. I did include a good recommendation for you."

I snorted, "Thanks, for all the good it'll do me."

I left his office feeling even worse than before. I hadn't been feeling well all day already, probably from being at this stinking fucked up school. Now I felt a bit queasy. I didn't pay much attention to my surroundings, thinking about what to do next. The nearest other school was at least three times as far and I wasn't even sure they would accept me. Lost in thought I made the biggest mistake of my life. I walked out of the school without checking for trouble. I walked straight into a waiting ambush. My first clue was the baseball bat landing hard in my stomach. I keeled over in pain, cursing myself of being so stupid.

Someone said, "New rule in school. No dogs allowed."

I growled, I wanted to rip their throats out. Everyone single one of them. I rose up from the ground, but felt so sick that I stayed hunched over and puked my guts out. It landed with accuracy on Alan's shoes and pants.

"Fuck, what a sick puppy we got here. Hold him, Harve!"

I felt a pair of strong hands grab me from behind. Yep, that would be Harvey Slinks, the football blocker. He wouldn't be able to hold me for long though, if I just didn't feel so bad. Then I remembered that I'd felt like this before, when I got MORFS. Shit, could I get MORFS again? I didn't think I could get it again. Now I was in real trouble, not only was I seriously sick, but I would get beaten up in the process.

My one last attempt I tried to free myself failed miserably as the pain inside me doubled. The boys around me didn't waste any time as well. They were raining punches and kicks on my body. Fortunately it took only a few moments for me to lose consciousness but they kept up their beating much longer.

I've been told it only stopped as principle Rickman was coming out of school. The boys stopped their assault and scattered in all directions. Mr. Rickman was shocked and furious at the sight that this could happen at his school. As he quickly checked my pulse, he dialed 911.

The ambulance arrived in a record time and took me straight to the ER. I arrived there still alive, but then went into cardiac arrest.

Somehow, I could see myself lying on the gurney while doctors and nurses were working on me, did CPR and put some air into my lungs. They charged the paddles of the defibrillator and put it to my chest to shock me back to life. As it fired I got ripped back into my body. What happened outside was even weirder. The defibrillation unit overloaded as my body sucked out all the power.

"Fuck," said one doctor. Then he asked, "Is he an elemental?"

A nurse checked my records that they already pulled. "Not according to this."

The head physician said, "Get another unit here stat, preferably one with a higher capacity. And make sure it is surge protected."

Moments later they tried to shock me again, but the current just vanished into me again. However right after that, my heart did start beating again. How had it started again? Nobody had a clue. The hospital staff didn't complain though, I was back among the living. They put me through an MRI and had a Medical Bio Elemental standing by.

My parents had been alerted by the police. When they rushed in, anxious about my state, the doctor told them what had happened and what was happening to me at the moment.

"Gabe is in very serious condition. Not only did he receive an almost lethal beating, but he is also in a rapidly advancing stage of MORFS. He arrived already in Stage 2 and we are feeding him all the energy and fluids we can and have to hope that he can survive it. From the scans that we took, we can see some new organs forming inside his body, but it is too soon to tell what they are."

My parents were shocked. Their son was going through MORFS again and he had also been viciously beaten in an attack.

For the next several days I lay comatose in my hospital bed, my body changed rapidly and drastically. The hospital documented it carefully, while Mom and Dad watched the changes with horror and fear.

~~~~~~~~~~

At the school

The next day, principle Rickman gathered all of the students.

"One of our students was viciously attacked and beaten to near death. Right now he is fighting for his life on the ICU ward."

A buzz started among the gathered students. Some questions were audible, like "Do you know who?"

Mr. Rickman continued speaking more loudly, "What is even more disturbing is that the persons responsible are students at this school."

The buzz grew louder as students started asking more questions and looking around them.

Mr. Rickman waited a little for the buzz to quiet down.

 "I want the students responsible for the attack. Come forward now and there might be some leniency. If no one responds, we will all wait here till someone does."

At first, no one dared to step forward, but as time went on, some voices spoke out softly at the cowards in the auditorium. Then Harvey and Ricky stepped up to the platform. Alan and the others didn't, however. It didn't matter anyway, as for a reduction in their punishment, Harvey and Ricky gave the names of all the boys involved.

~~~~~~~~~~

Gabe in the hospital

I opened my eyes and discovered I wasn't at the school grounds anymore, I was lying on my back on a soft mattress. The air had a peculiar smell. Hospital smell came to mind. So I'm in hospital? Then that dream about me hovering over my body wasn't a dream, It had really happened.

I lifted my arm. Wow, it doesn't even hurt. Actually, now that I think of it, not any part of my body hurts. So why do I have tubes attached and a needle stuck in my arm?

I didn't like seeing a needle sticking out of my skin. Wait, skin? Did they shave of all my fur? And what happened to my claws?

Now that I thought more about it, my tail should have been squished lying on my back. My tail, I couldn't feel it anymore. Did I lose my tail? Before I could go on with my examination, a nurse going by noticed that I was awake, and soon a doctor came into my room.

"Hello Gabe, I'm doctor Sutrani. How are you feeling?"

I managed to utter in a quite clear voice, "Fine, better than I should after a beating."

My voice? It wasn't a deep gruff growl anymore. Now it was just like another guy.

"Well, I think that being in the third stage of MORFS helped you with that."

Oh yeah, I forgot. I got MORFS again. "How long have I been out and in here?"

"You've been here just over a week now."

A whole week had already past by? What the hell happened? "How, what?" I managed to stammer out.

"Let me sum it up for you, Gabe. All your fur, claws, fangs and tail are gone. Well, you do have a bit larger canines, but otherwise you look just like a normal teenage kid now. Your tissue is a little denser than normal, and I suspect your strength is a bit above average as well. I would like you to be tested as soon as possible. We suspect that you might be an elemental now."

The last words almost didn't register in my mind. I looked like a normal human now? What would this mean for me now? What would my parents say? What was I going to do?

The doctor asked me something, "So, is it okay for a telepath to come in here and test you?"

Absently I nodded. The doctor went out and a few minutes later a nice looking young woman came in.

"I see you're quite shocked by all what happened to you and how you have changed. If you want to, I can come back later."

I shook my head, "No, it's OK, Miss. I've got nowhere to go anyway."

Then I heard a voice in my head. *Okay, then let's get started.*

Wow that is weird. She must be a really powerful telepath.

The woman just smiled. Of course, she heard my thoughts.

It took only a little while for her to concentrate and to probe me.

Then she said, "Oh sorry, I didn't introduce myself. I'm Sandy and no, you can't take me out to dinner."

Shit, she heard my thoughts again.

She continued, "As far as I can see, you're a powerful electrical elemental. You know about electric eels and rays right?"

I nodded quietly.

"Well, you have a similar organ now that lets you make or absorb electrical power. Probably with some training, you can vary the voltage and current at will."

My eyes widened, I couldn't wait to try it out.

"I do have to warn you, Gabe. Don't try out your power just yet, please. Find an isolated and preferably insulated place, or go to a designated MORFS center before using your power. If you don't have the necessary control, you might destroy property or even kill people. And you will be held liable for anything that happens with your powers."

Bummer, I got a cool power, but cannot use it. "Ok Sandy, I will refrain from using my power at the moment."

Sandy smiled amusingly again. God she looks good.

"Gabe, I know you really want to try out your powers, but be careful and thank you for the compliment."

I closed my eyes. I really need to learn to shield my thoughts. Sandy just smiled at me, and said, "goodbye and good luck," to me.

Moments later doctor Sutrani entered my room again. He gave me a short exam, asked me some questions and then declared me fit to leave the hospital. He gave me a referral note to report to the MORFS center in Vancouver and gave me my clothes. Soon I was dressed. My clothes were a little too big for me now, and not warm enough. They were intended to be worn over my furry skin, but I didn't have the fur anymore.

I was half expecting Mom or Dad to be waiting to drive me home, but neither one was at the hospital. The nurse at the duty station did tell me they had come to visit when they thought I was dying, but the last couple of days they hadn't looked in on me anymore.

I counted my money. I had enough for the bus ride to the enclave. Soon, the bus arrived, and I found a spot in the back. It was deserted, so I had the entire bus all to my self. I got to wondering why my parents weren't there at the hospital. But I just couldn't figure it out.

So, instead I thought about my powers. Some years before, I'd found an old VCR tape that my dad made when he was young. They didn't have the equipment anymore to play it, but I found an old player at a junkyard. I tinkered with it till it worked and watched the tape. It was a recording of several TV shows. One was an episode of a TV series called Mutant X. Apparently the show was about young people gaining powers through gene manipulation. Almost frighteningly similar to what is happening with us in this world.

The episode I watched was okay and quite well done. The theatrics were a bit too much, but okay. The thing that stayed with me was about one of the guys on the show. He had gained electrical powers, like I have now. He could play with the electrical currents around his fingertips and for more power, rolled his hands close together like making a snowball. But instead, he made an electric power ball that he could throw. From what I'd been told, I thought I could just use my power as a power socket and power up a device, but this effect might look cool and give me a chance to practice a little without too much danger. Or at least I hoped, time to try something out.

As the bus puttered on towards home, I tried to power up my fingertips and let the currents jump from one tip to the other. It took a while to get the hang of it, but then I succeeded and soon the electric currents were playing between my fingertips, just like in the movie. I played with it for a few minutes before wanting to up the power.

This time I used both hands and rolled them like making a snowball. At first, nothing happened. I put my hands a little closer together and suddenly a small ball of lightning started to form. I poured more power into it and it grew. Soon I had to make the gap between my hands bigger. I made the ball grow even bigger, but then realized that I couldn't release it here. So I drew all the power back in.

Apparently my actions were noticed, as the driver asked, "What the hell are you doing back there, boy?"

"Over the sound of the engine I yelled back, "Nothing sir, just testing my flashlight to see if it is still working."

My explanation must have satisfied him, because he didn't ask anything else. Then I saw that the next stop was my exit. I pressed the button for stop. The driver stopped right at the puddle, of course, but I managed to jump over it, and get out of the way before the rear tire could splash me.

The rest of the way to the gates of the MORFS enclave I walked. A few guards that I didn't know so well were on duty at the gate and Dad was nowhere in sight. He must be patrolling the grounds. I stepped up to the gate. The guards, MORFS survivors of course, looked at me with disdain.

"What do you want, normal?"

Shit! I forgot I look like a non-MORF now.

"I live here. Let me in, if you please." Better be nice to them.

"We don't allow your kind in here. Go back home and be with your own kind, boy."

I started to get upset. I fought to control my anger and to keep calm.

"I want to speak to Chief Kramer. Ask him to come here, please."

They were not happy that I knew the chief's name. They hated to interrupt his patrol, but they didn't have a choice. If this normal boy knew his name, maybe the chief knew him, too. One man spoke briefly in his radio set. Soon Dad came running in his big leaps. He took one look at me and sent the guards away.

"What do you want?"

"Wat bedoelst do Heit, I wenje hjer noch hieltiid?"[What do you mean, Dad? I still live here.]

"Dat falt noch te besjen Jonge." [We will have to see about that, boy]

A cold fury started inside me. Were they throwing me out of the house and the enclave?

"Kom no earst mar iens mei nei hûs." [Come home with me first.]

Without problems we reached our home and found my mother waiting. I could tell she had been crying.

"Mem wat is der oan de hân." [Mom, what is it?]

Mom looked up at me like she saw a complete stranger saying something bad at her.

"Ik haw gjin bern mear." [I don't have children, anymore]

Then she started crying again. Dad pushed me to my room. There he growled, "Mem kin net acceptearje datsto gjin hybride mear bist. It is better datsto nei omke Frank in Amerika giest." [Mom cannot accept that you are not a hybrid anymore. It is better that you go to uncle Frank in America.]

He left me in my room, going back to console Mom. I was stunned for minutes. They were throwing me out? Mom hated me now? What was I going to do? Now I could stay in school because I looked normal, but I couldn't stay at home anymore.

I felt like crying, like smashing things. I even thought about firing a big lightning ball. But in the end I did nothing.

I sat down on my bed, looking at my room. There wasn't much in here. Moving around isn't good for collecting things. I wouldn't have to pack much. I got up slowly and searched my closet. I had a few T-shirts and pants. I even had a sweater. Good, I need it now without my fur protecting me.

I put the pants, some socks and underwear with the shirts in a duffel bag. I also took a multimeter, a flashlight and several light bulbs. I took all my hidden cash money, credit card, and everything else I needed on a long trip, including my passport. Shit, I needed a visa for the USA.

I only glanced at the few books that I had. I packed a book that I hadn't read yet, and said goodbye to the rest of them. I couldn't take them with me.

Finally finished, I went back down. Mom still sobbed quietly on the sofa, and Dad was sitting next to her trying to console her. He looked up to me angrily, like I was to blame for everything. Well, I did catch MORFS, but it wasn't my fault, right?

I returned his look with an angry one myself.

"Ik haw jild nodig foar the reis en papieren wêr mei ik een visum krije kin foar Amerika." [I need money for the trip and some papers with which I can get a visa for America.]

Dad looked pissed. He got up with a growl and metaphorically told me where I could find the papers. He looked like he was going to hurt me, a lot. Well, I wasn't going to wait for that. I started up the fingertip lightshow and let the lightning dance along my fingers.

"Foarsichtig no heit, Ik bin gjin hybride mear, mar ik bin net helpleas. Ik bin no in elemental." [Careful now Dad, I'm no longer a hybrid, but I'm not helpless. I'm an elemental, now.]

Poor Dad, he trembled as he controlled himself. Fishing his wallet out of his pocket, he gave me some hundred-dollar bills with a snarl, than sat back down next to Mom. I killed the lightning show and put the money into my wallet.

From the sofa Dad said, "Mear haw ik net, ik wit net watsto bedoelst mei papieren. Probearje it consulaat mar." [I don't have any more. I don't know what you mean with papers. Try the consulate.]

"Goed, dan gean ik mar. Ferjit net omke Frank te skiljen." [Good, I'm going then. Don't forget to call uncle Frank.]

With those words I stepped out and slammed the door behind me as hard as I could. They don't want me here anymore? Fine, then I'm out of here.

I walked through the compound at a brisk pace, ignoring all the surprised looks of the neighbors. I'll bet they are asking themselves why a normal is walking around in the Enclave. Maybe they even saw me get out of the security chief's house.

A little girl with the features of a bunny, you know large floppy ears and a fluffy tail in a ball, asked, "Hi, who are you."

I knew her, I had even babysat her a few times. "Hi Britney. It's me, Gabe. I just morfed back into a human."

She blinked, "Oh sorry. So you are no longer my doggy?"

I hunched down. "No little bunny, I'm no longer the doggy. But I do have a power now."

I showed her my fingertip show and she squealed with excitement. Her parents heard her and came looking what was wrong. They saw their little girl with an unknown normal and ran towards us. I doused my lightning and raised my arms to show them I didn't mean trouble. Mr. Peasly squealed in his high voice, asking what I was doing here.

"Mr. Peasly, don't worry. I'm Gabe Kramer. I just morfed, and I'm leaving the community. I was just saying goodbye to Britney."

Mrs. Peasly came closer. "I recognize you Gabe. What happened?"

"Oh, nothing much. I just got thrown out by my parents."

The Peasly's started to apologize and asked if I wanted to come in. I declined politely. I didn't want them to get into any trouble. So I said my goodbyes and walked on out of the Enclave.

I could take a bus again to the town, and get another bus there to Vancouver. But I decided against that. I would walk all the way to the train station and catch the train there. I would take me much longer and I had to walk quite a distance, but I had a purpose doing that. The path would take me along an abandoned quarry where I wanted to practice my powers.

It was already quite dark when I finally reached the quarry. Even worse, the clouds were so thick and dark, I realized it was going to rain soon. I hurried to get to the tool shed. I reached it just before the rain started and found a dry place for my bag and coat. I took off my sweater, pants and shoes as well, and ran out into the quarry barefoot, wearing only shorts and a shirt. It was quite cold outside, but I didn't care. Out there I looked up at the sky. It looked menacing. I shouted, "You want power, I'll give you some," and shot my electricity upwards.

Well, I shouldn't have, because now the electrical charged clouds had a conduit, and discharged the lightning straight back into me. Of course it didn't hurt me as I absorbed it, but it did scare me a little at first. The clouds were full of charges and soon afterwards, another burst slammed into me. I reveled in it. It only gave me more power. I felt great. I laughed out loud, even when the rain started. I rubbed my hands together to make a ball and soon I had a big ball of lightning ready. I threw it like a baseball and it slammed into a big rock, splitting it in half.

Wow! Even I was surprised. I could do that with my power?

Now I understood the warning from Sandy. I would have to be careful with my power. Well, at least here I didn't have to worry about damage. As long as I didn't hit the shed, it was all right. I practiced using my power for at least an hour before having enough. I wasn't tired doing it, though. The lightning hitting me from time to time charged me enough to last for a long time.

I retreated back into the shed, and dried myself, put on some clean clothes and sat down to watch the weather outside. After a while I grabbed a light bulb and the multi meter to try a fine-tuning of my power. I held the bulb and slowly tried to pour a little energy into it. It flashed brightly and fizzled out. Shit, too much power.

I fetched another bulb and tried it again with an even smaller amount. This time it began to glow a little but very quickly grew in intensity. I toned down the power and soon had my own lighting for the shed. I checked the power with the meter and soon knew how to control the voltage and amperage. I practiced some more for hours, till my eyes started to close and I almost nodded off. I brushed my teeth and made a makeshift bed on the floor.

The morning smelled very fresh after the thunderstorm and I woke with the birds singing their songs. I cleaned the mess in the shed and packed my meager belongings. As I prepared to get underway again I looked back into the quarry. Wow the damage hadn't looked that bad last night. I inspected the rocks up close and saw that my balls of lightning were a real threat. Even my one-hand blasts from the fingertips had packed quite a wallop.

Well, at least I know what I can do and what I should be aware of.

Happy that I had found this out this early, I got back on the road to the railway station.

At the station I bought myself a ticket and waited 3 hours for the train to arrive. I didn't want to practice my power out here in the open, so I read a little in my book, had a short nap and was stiff from sitting on the hard bench when the train arrived. It took only a few hours to reach Vancouver and it was still light, so I went to the MORFS center. They said that they couldn't do anything for me today though they did make an appointment for the next morning. Bummer, now I had to spent more money sleeping in the city. While I searched for a room I also found an old newspaper. I held on to it for something to read.

I managed to find a cheap room and went to sleep early. Before I did, I read the newspaper. There was a story about my old school. They found out all the students that were responsible for beating me up. The school punished most of them, but Alan and a few others were turned over to the authorities for indictment. The reading made me sleepy, so I went to bed.

Early in the morning I got up for my appointment with the MORFS center. I went to the center very early, and soon had my real post MORFS exam. They wanted a demonstration of my power and I gave them one in an insulated room. They were impressed with my control, but very concerned about my raw power. They registered me as a potential danger to society. Next, I had a talk with a psychologist.

The psychologist was an older man with graying hair. He introduced himself as Pat Fielding.

"So Gabe, you did well on your physical, I see. They did mark you as a potential danger though. Can I ask where your parents are?"

I looked back at her with a look between neutral and menacing, "They are at home."

Pat looked back with a curious smile. "And why aren't they here with you?"

I couldn't keep my neutral face anymore. Now I showed contempt, "Because they threw me out of the house."

Pat kept the same neutral curious smile on his face. "Can you please elaborate?"

"I lived in an Enclave that is only for hybrids. Since my most recent MORFS change, I'm not a hybrid anymore."

I looked down and felt some sadness. "My mom even said that she doesn't have children anymore. Dad was tempted to attack me, but I showed him a little of my new power and he backed off. They told me to go to my uncle Frank."

"I see ... So how do you feel about all this Gabe? Doesn't this make you upset, angry, even furious?"

"Hell yes, it makes me angry." Then I fell back into the chair I'd risen from during my outburst. "I can't change it. They don't want me anymore, so I've closed off that chapter of my life."

"I don't think you have fully accepted and coped with it. Maybe you should try to talk to your parents again."

My temper flared again, "I don't think so, not now, anyway."

Pat calmly responded, "Maybe not right now then. How about later, say after a few weeks, or months."

I calmed down, "Okay, Pat. I'll think about it."

"There's a good lad. Now, you do have a bit of a problem. Since you're a minor at 17, you can't go into the US just like that. You have to have a visa."

Dejected, I answered, "I know that. I asked my Dad for some papers, but he said he didn't know where they were. He told me to go to the consulate."

"Maybe you don't have to. Did your Dad already contact your Uncle Frank?"

I didn't know and told Pat so.

"Do you have his phone number?"

I gave Pat the number and he dialed it. It rang for a few times before someone answered. Pat put the phone on the speaker so I could listen and talk to my uncle, as well as Pat.

"Hello."

"Hello, this is Pat Fielding from the MORFS center in Vancouver. Am I speaking to Mr. Frank Kramer?"

"Yes Mr. Fielding, I'm Frank Kramer. What can I do for you?"

"I would like to know if you have been contacted by your brother..."

I mouthed and said softly, "Keimpe."

Pat continued, "Keimpe. He is your brother from Nederland who not too long ago settled in Canada."

"I know who my brother Keimpe is. The answer is no. He didn't call or write me. He doesn't talk with his non morfed family that much."

Pat frowned, "Well, I am sitting here with his son Gabe. Your brother wants him to go live with you, now."

I interrupted, " Hi, Uncle Frank."

He stammered back on the speaker, "Oh, uh Hi. Hoe giet it with you Jonge." [How are you doin,  boy?]

I smiled. My uncle was mixing English with Fries even worse than Mom.

"Uncle Frank. My English is just as good as Nederlands or Fries. So please talk English only. It will be better for Mr. Fielding to follow as well."

"Okay, Gabe. So, what is this all about your father telling you to live with me?"

"The story is this, I just morfed again, and changed into a non-hybrid human form. Mom and Dad don't like that, so they threw me out."

Frank sighed, "I'm not surprised to hear that. So they told you to go to me?"

"Yep. So can I stay with you then?"

"I guess it is okay. You are still family. So what do I need to do? Come and get you?"

Pat responded instead, "Are you willing to vouch for your nephew Mr. Kramer? Gabe is still a minor, so his parents or guardian has to vouch for him so he can get a visa."

Uncle Frank agreed to vouch for me, so Pat asked him formally if that my uncle would act as my guardian till I was of age. Uncle Frank said that he would. Pat thanked him. I said to him that I would come there soon. Uncle Frank asked if I had the address. I confirmed and read the address to him. It was correct, so we ended our call.

"Now I have the authority to issue you a visa here. I'll have it drawn up in a moment. What are your travel plans? How are you going to travel to Savannah?"

"I haven't made my mind up. I want to save as money as I can, so maybe I'll hike and hitch a ride if I can."

Pat wasn't too crazy about my plan. But he did recognize that I was mature enough to decide for myself. He did warn me not to use my powers along the way. He also wanted me to report to the MORFS center in Savannah as soon as I arrived there. They would keep an eye on my control of my power and decide if I still was considered a danger or not. Half an hour later I had my travel documents and my clearance for school. They included a referral paper and transcripts for my transfer to another school. Together with the recommendation I got from Mr. Rickman, I was all set for my new school. There wasn't much time left in this year, though, and this was my graduation year. Maybe I had enough points to get my diploma. Otherwise I might have to redo the whole year again. I said goodbye to Pat Fielding and set out in the world for my trip to Savannah, Georgia USA.

 

Chapter 2

Just outside the city limits of Vancouver I found a truck stop with several trucks parked. If I wanted a ride, this would be the best place to get one. I was about to go into the restaurant, when I heard a man swearing. I walked on a little and saw a short man looking under the hood of his truck. He was swearing and cursing about his lousy truck.

"Hi mister, what seems to be the trouble?"

The man looked up from beneath the hood. "The damn thing won't start. Maybe the battery is flat. Now I'll have to ask one of the others to come here and help me start it. That is, if he has the power cables to do the job."

The man stepped down the truck towards me. "It'll take me at least an hour more to get under way."

He extended a thick muscled arm, "I'm Farrell Downing."

I shook his large hand. "Gabe Kramer, nice to meet you Mr. Downing."

"Same here, but call me Farrell, Mr. Downing is my father. Well, if you'll excuse me, I'll go ask someone to help me start this damn thing."

I quickly interrupted, "Hey, what if I can get it started. Will you give me a ride?"

Farrell turned around, "If you can start it? I'll not only give you a ride, I'll give you a ride to anywhere you want to go in the US."

Obviously he didn't think I could start up the truck just like that.

"Well, then Farrell, go sit inside the cab. Try to start it up on my signal."

Farrell looked at me as if I was crazy, but he got into the cabin like I said. I looked under the hood, and looked at the battery. There wasn't much juice left in it all right. I channeled my power through my hands and charged the battery. It needed more than what I put in to start it, so I stuck my head out to Farrell and nodded to him. I kept putting in more power while he started the engine. With a few turns of the starter, the big bio-diesel began to turn over and started up. I took my hands from the battery and checked the current from the alternator. It still seemed to be working well. I closed the hood and climbed into the cab next to Farrell.

"How in the world did you do that, son?"

"It's easy Farrell, I'm an elemental. I can generate electric currents."

He looked at me like I was crazy. I hope he isn't one of those pures or MORF survivor haters. I wouldn't get my ride then and even had to get away quickly.

Then Farrell extended his hand, I shook it, and he said. "Well, I'm really glad to have you aboard. I hope the battery holds out this time till I can get it replaced."

I didn't tell him that I could charge it anytime again, but maybe he already guessed. Farrell pulled the truck out of the stop and we were on our way towards the US. The first several miles we just sat there quietly. But then Farrell started talking again. "Eh, Gabe, I know that I said I would take you anywhere you want." He gave me a wry smile. "But I can't go too far out of my route. I'm headed for Butte Montana. From there I have to get back up into Canada. Sorry."

I gave him a reassuring smile back. "That's okay, Farrell. I wasn't really planning on asking you to take me all the way to Georgia. Just a ride to where you're going is good enough."

Farrell sighed relieved, "I will treat you to a good meal though. I know just the diner to go for a fantastic meal."

I didn't respond to it. He probably thinks it is the best diner. But I already thought that most things he said should be taken with a grain of salt. He continued chatting away while he pushed the limit on the interstate. A few times I dozed off a bit, till Farrell asked me something that he wanted me to answer.

Our first stop was at the diner that Farrell said was the best on his whole route. It didn't look bad, I had to admit that. The waitress was also quite enjoyable to watch. I think she was the daughter of the proprietor. I was quite hungry, so I ordered a big steak and fries with some vegetables on the side. Farrell shook his head, while the girl smiled a wary smile at me. I didn't get their meaning till the food came. Wow, talk about a big dinner! I didn't think they served dinners that big anymore. With half of the steak gone, my stomach already felt full, I did finish it, but with difficulty, I was literally stuffed. The steak was so good I asked if I could get the recipe. I'm quite good in the kitchen because I've prepared dinner at home a lot of times. I have been told many times I have a knack for making something special and tasty.

Farrell had his battery replaced at the stop, so my services weren't needed anymore to start it up. We continued on our journey to Butte and made good time going there. At the border there was a slight delay as they checked out my papers and the truck. They were a little suspicious about me traveling alone, but they did let me pass. We didn't encounter any more problems and arrived with out a hitch in Butte. Farrell said, "I've got a layover here for a day. Then I can take you as far as Boulder. Or you can try to get a ride here."

"Thanks Farrell, I'll take my chances here. Have a good trip." I waved to him and walked towards the center at a brisk pace. There weren't many trucks in sight, so I just looked for a diner or something. Instead my eye fell on an open truck which said on the side that it was based in Bozeman. I assumed that it was here on business and would go back there. I didn't want to look for the driver to ask him for a ride, so I just climbed inside the back to wait for him.

I was slumbering a little while waiting and suddenly woke up surprised that we were moving. I couldn't get the attention of the driver from where I was, so I just had to wait till we stopped. A little while later the car stopped at a warehouse on the outskirts of a town, and I climbed out. The driver was surprised to see me and asked, "What are you doing in my truck, boy?"

I raised my hands to show him I didn't mean any trouble and said, "I was waiting for you to come back, but fell asleep. I would like a ride to Bozeman."

The man relaxed and shrugged, "Okay, but you're out of luck, I'm not going there. You must have thought that I would be going there because it's written on the truck right?"

I nodded and he continued, "Well, I only bought it there. I'm driving from Butte to Basin and then I'll go home somewhere in between."

"So this here is Basin?" and I pointed to the small town that was visible before me.

He nodded, "Sorry, it's just a small town, not much to do or see here. And I'm not going to a highway or interstate anytime soon."

I cursed inside myself. I took a wrong direction by mistake. "Thanks, I'll try to get a ride somewhere."

"Good luck, I don't think you'll get a ride here very easily."

He went into the warehouse while I grabbed my bag and started walking towards the town. It was still light, though it was getting late in the afternoon. As I reached the center there was a disturbance. Several people were gathered and pushing someone around. Slowly I found my way through the crowd to see what the commotion was all about. Finally I got a look at the person the people were agitated against. He was a Porcupine hybrid MORFS survivor. He was being harassed and pushed around by the people around him.

I was about to say something about it, when there was a flash quite far from the town. Later a shudder ran through the ground and much later, a loud sound like an explosion. Long before the sound reached us I saw the sight everyone fears. It looked like a nuclear bomb had been detonated. The epicenter was quite distant fortunately, but still, the sight of the mushroom cloud was impressive and fearsome. I thought to myself, 'Who in his right mind would want to detonate a nuke here in the middle of nowhere?' It didn't make any sense.

All the people around us were similarly stunned by the fearsome sight of a nuclear explosion and the blast that echoed through the street and. Then a guy took a piece of wood and came at the porcupine hybrid. "You or someone like you did that. I'll show you what we do with people like you. The hybrid wasn't exactly cowering, but he didn't have a defense (or didn't want to use it) against the man swinging a 4 by 4.

I stepped in and used a technique that I had learned a long time ago from a friend. He had been a bit afraid of all the strong MORF guys around him, including me, and joined Aikido training to keep from getting harassed. He was my friend and though at that moment I hadn't needed it, he taught me a few moves as well. Now I used the technique called ShihoNage or four corners throw, and wrestled the swinging man's arm with the wooden beam back to his back and threw him into a side direction. Now another man stepped up and pointed a gun at me.

I reacted without thinking and dropped the man with a move called Rokyo. It is a move where you take the wrist and lower arm locked under your arm like a newspaper and force him to the ground. Then I took the gun from his hand. By the time I had done that, it occurred to me that he was a cop. Another cop pointed his gun at me and said, "Drop that gun boy. You're under arrest, and so is your buddy, the animal."

I dropped the gun and put my hands in the air. Soon both the Porcupine hybrid and I were handcuffed and the people started pushing again, shouting that we should be killed. They again blamed us and other MORFS survivors for that explosion. I wasn't that worried. All I had done was defend myself and the unknown hybrid against violence. Well, I was wrong, I should have been worried. Soon I was going to find out what was going on here and how. The sheriff did manage to escort the two of us unharmed to the county jail. But there we were left alone in our cell.

They had taken our cuffs off, so I looked at my cellmate and extended my hand to him. "Hi, I'm Gabe Kramer."

He shook my hand, smiled and said, "Darren McCabe, but my friends call me Spike." He laughed, "Bet you can't guess why they call me that can you?"

I smiled, "Nope not a clue. But I am wondering how you can get dressed or undressed with those." And I pointed at his quills.

Spike smiled back, "Very carefully. But seriously, I have full control over them, so I can lay them down enough so they don't get caught."

I looked at the door of the cell block, "Any idea when we get to see our lawyer? I would like to get out of here."

Spike looked weary, "Sorry man, but I don't think you know what trouble you got yourself into. I'm pretty sure that they won't give us a chance to talk to anyone, much less a lawyer. They'll probably leave a door open and let the mob lynch us, much like they already were prepared to do out there before you came to my rescue. By the way, thanks for that. Though I think you only succeeded in delaying the inevitable for me, and got a death sentence for yourself in the process."

I sat down on the dirty bunk. "Why would they do that to me? I don't look like a hybrid, right?"

Spike laughed ironically, "You stuck up for me. That's reason enough for some of them. Why did you do that anyway? And you're right. You don't look like a hybrid to me."

I sighed, "I used to be one, Spike. Now I look like a normal guy."

Spike looked with big open eyes at me. "You were a hybrid? Gee, I didn't know you could turn from Hybrid into normal."

"I hadn't heard of it either, but I used to be a dog hybrid, now I'm almost as regular as any non-hybrid."

Spike perked up, "Almost?"

I sighed, "Yeah, I don't want to talk about it."

Spike lay down and stretched, "It'll be some time before they will get the nerve to do something to us in here. Better get some rest before they come. We'll need all our strength to get out of this in one piece."

I lay down as well and tried to think what to do. I didn't want to use my power just like that. I was registered and could get into a lot of trouble if I used it. On the other hand, getting killed wasn't high on my list of things to do as well. I thought about things while my new friend started to snore a little. Oh, well better catch some sleep as well.

I woke at the sound of some noise. It was morning already. The deputy that I had overpowered was right outside our cell. He was clanging with his nightstick against the bars. He didn't say anything, not even to taunt us. He just looked menacing and paced before our cell. Then the sheriff walked in to the cellblock. "Time for some answers. Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

I looked at Spike, but he just kept quiet. Well, I didn't have anything to hide, "My name is Gabe Kramer and I'm a Dutch national on my way to my uncle. I would like to say that I would like to speak to my attorney as soon as possible. I've only defended myself against an attack."

The sheriff interrupted me, "Shut up boy. I asked only for your name and why you were here. You'll be punished just like that filthy animal."

I glared at the SOB, but said nothing more. The deputy did mumble something that sounded like, "Damn foreigner."

The sheriff pointed his attention to Spike. "You! You sorry excuse for a ... something. Who are you and what rock did you crawl out from under?"

Spike just kept silent lying on his back. The sheriff got madder but was not stupid. He didn't do anything that would give us an opportunity. Both the sheriff and the deputy went back out and left us alone. I was getting a little hungry now. But I was even thirstier. Some woman did come in and gave us each a plate with sandwiches and water. But other than that they didn't give us any water or food the whole evening and night. Nobody showed up the next morning as well, till about 10 AM.

That's when the deputy came in with a tray full of food and drinks. He grinned wickedly and sat down across the hall from our cell. He started to eat the food and said, "This is good, you won't need any food anyway. You're going to die soon. Shot while trying to escape."

I shook my head, "Isn't that too cliché? Nobody believes that line anymore. Why don't you come up with something new?"

The deputy laughed his ugly laugh, "Don't you worry, and nobody will question us about it. We've done it before. Well, if you don't mind or even if you do mind, I'll just help myself. My lunch break isn't until 1 PM. That is, if I even get a break from the sheriff."

I was kind of furious. I snarled at him, "That food was meant for us then."

He just laughed while nodding his head. I got me even madder. I would have liked to hurl a lightning ball to him. But it wouldn't get me out. I might destroy the lock with a big lightning ball, but I wouldn't bet my money on it. I said to Spike, "Too bad you can't sting him with your quills. He really deserves it."

Spike laughed, "You mean like this?" Then he raised his arm and two quills spat out of his arm and embedded themselves into the thigh of the deputy.

He jumped up from the pain and the surprise. "Why you rotten dirty piece of shit. I'll get you for that. He limped to the bars and stuck the key into the lock to open it.

This was my chance. I was already holding the bars myself and as soon as he held them, I send a quite high electrical charge into the metal. The deputy froze and twitched, dancing to the electrical impulses. I didn't keep the juice on too long, and cut the power soon enough. He fell down unconscious while the key was still in the lock. Spike was stunned. He didn't have a clue as to what had happened. I got up in a hurry, "Spike! Get up! This is our chance. They won't be ready for us to break out yet. Or would you rather take your chances later."

Spike came into action now as well. As I turned the key and opened our cell door, Spike ran out past me and checked the deputy and then looked through the window in the door for other possible problems. The coast was probably clear, as he turned to me and said, "How did you do that?"

I gathered all the bottles and some food in the meantime before answering, "You didn't tell me you could shoot your quills. I am guessing that you didn't even need me defending yourself in that crowd."

Spike looked back at me with a calculated look. "I could have, but I'm registered as a possible dangerous hybrid at the MORFS center. I'm not comfortable with using my quills. Besides, they can cause infection."

I picked up the bag with the supplies and swung it over to Spike. "Well, I have the same reason for not using my power. I'm registered as a dangerous elemental. I can destroy or kill with it very easily. Now, were did they put my bag?"

I looked around for a moment until Spike said, "I saw them put your bag into that electronic locker there. It's a digital lock so I don't think you can crack it."

I went over to the locker and looked at the lock. There wasn't much to see on the outside, but I sensed the electric currents inside. There was a circuit feeding power to the coil of the magnet keeping it locked. I sent a spark into the system totally frying the electronics. Then I surged an electric pulse into the coil attracting the magnet locking the door. It clicked and I swung the door open. Inside was my untouched bag. Swiftly I took it out and even quicker checked the contents. Everything was still there, they hadn't been touched. 'So that sheriff didn't even think to look at my bag to see who I was.'

Spike whispered quite loud, "Come on, let's get moving. They could be back anytime."

I didn't say anything, but swung my bag on my shoulder and followed Spike to the backdoor.

Soon we stepped outside and tried to stay in the shadows and cover that we could find. We managed that for all of half an hour, before we were seen and had to run for our lives, as a kid started shouting, "Those animals have escaped! Come here, quick!"

Spike found a quad ready for use and hotwired it with a quill. I sat behind him and we tore out of the town with several people running after us. Some others started up their vehicles and started chasing us as we rode like hell towards the east. Soon we arrived at some forested hills and abandoned the quad. We went up the hill between the trees, and though we could hear our pursuers, we couldn't see them anymore. Good, that meant they couldn't see us as well. I didn't know the area here, so I let Spike do the navigating. He led us higher up the hill, but put in some angles to our original heading, to get our pursuers off our path.

We walked in relative quiet for some time, hearing only the birds and other natural wood things. We even stopped a few times to eat and drink some of the provisions we took with us. Then suddenly we heard barking. Spike swore, "Shit, they got some dogs to hunt us."

We picked up the pace and ran up hill again. The barking got louder sometimes and sometimes just seemed to die away. But I was sure that we hadn't seen the last of our pursuers. It was already getting dark when we ran out of forest. The trees began to stand wider apart and soon we emerged out of the forest onto a rocky hill. There was a storm brewing above us and Spike looked worried at it. "I think we'll get hit by a thunder storm. It isn't safe to be here. Let's move on towards the other side and go on."I wasn't that worried about the thunderstorm. I knew it would only fuel my power. But I didn't feel the need to tell him that. We started climbing the rocky incline when we heard the dogs again. Very close by in fact. At a ledge I halted a moment and looked back down. Yep, there they were, hunting dogs leading a posse towards us. Any minute the men chasing us would see us. We climbed on in a hurry, but barely a few minutes later we heard, "There they are. Get them."

I heard some gunshots and I got hit by some rock splinters as the bullets struck the rock close to us. I urged Spike to hurry up and even passed him on the way up. The bullets kept striking ever closer to us, but none had struck us yet. Then I reached the summit. I looked back at some men that started to climb the hill and others kneeling down to get a steadier shot. I could feel the thunderstorm above me, though it wasn't about to unleash its fury yet. Well, I wasn't going to wait. Not when I can help it along a bit. I shot a charge straight up and soon the lightning came down towards me. It struck me with a loud boom, charging me up. I imagined that the people down there would look up in fright at the sight. Spike who was just below the summit stopped climbing and looked at me with awe.

I felt alive with the power. I pointed downwards and released a good part of electrical energy. The men down there scattered for cover a bit late, and at least one got a sufficient charge to be stunned into unconsciousness.

Spike was about to ask me what I was doing, when we heard gunfire again. A few men crouched down behind some boulders and continued to shoot at us. I had enough of them. I started a lightning ball, a little hampered by the lightning striking me again. Soon I had quite a large ball ready and hurled it at the rock boulder the men hid behind.

With a loud bang the ball hit the boulder dead on, and it cracked into several pieces. The men now really got scared. Most of them ran away into the trees accompanied by some lightning bolts that I threw above their heads. Two men stayed behind as well as the unconscious one. They didn't fire at us anymore and looked up at me, frightened. The lightning continued to strike me, and everyone but me cowered in fear from it. Even Spike tried to shy away from the violence that nature was throwing at me.

I motioned to the men to take their fallen comrade, and they cautiously went over to him. They picked him up and quickly vanished into the forest. The storm wasn't over yet. In fact it started in earnest now. The lightning continued to strike me, making Spike very afraid. Over the ruckus of the wind I yelled at him, "Go down that side, I'll join you soon." I pointed to the side of the hill where we were heading. Spike didn't need to be told twice, and hurried down that side of the hill. I just kept on standing on the hill in the wind and rain while being struck by the lightning and giving lightning back to the sky.

After a long time the storm subsided and I went down the hill myself. I was soaked to the bone and getting cold. It helped that I still had some electrical charge inside me though. Spike was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. "What was that? You rock man! Or like my grandparents used to say. Du blitzt. Hey, that is a good name for you, Blitz."

I looked at Spike, "How did you get at that name. It's German right?"

Spike looked at me, "You speak German? My grandmother is German. She refused to learn good English, so I had to learn enough German to speak to her."

We walked on to where Spike led us, and I told him that my country of Origin was next to Germany. I explained to him that I had learned enough of it to talk to Germans in their own language, but couldn't do it as fast and well as I could talk in English. We talked about our background some more during our walk and Spike kept calling me Blitz. Well, I didn't mind it that much, so I sort of adopted the nickname Blitz.

Spike did ask me a lot about my power. I told him honestly that I was an electricity-Elemental. But didn't say much about how powerful I was. He had seen me in action already, so I probably wouldn't have to, anyway. I also told him about being a former dog hybrid, but I didn't tell him about my family problems. I just mentioned that I was going to live with my uncle for a while.

After a while we emerged from the forest and saw some buildings in the morning light. We had walked all night long through the forest. I realized only now that we had walked for that long, and suddenly felt very tired and a bit sleepy.

Spike went straight to the house and as an old man came out he greeted him, "Good Morning, Grandpa."

The man looked up in surprise, "Darren? Is that you? Where have you been?"

Spike ran to him before answering, "I got arrested by the sheriff in Basin. The people accused me of being responsible for the explosion. But they probably just wanted to bash a hybrid."

The old man looked at Spike and saw that he was being earnest. Then he looked at me. "And who is your friend here? One of the hybrid bashers?"

Spike hurried to say, "No grandpa, he was defending me in Basin. So, they arrested him as well. He used to be a hybrid and is an Elemental now."

The old man looked at me before saying, "So you defended Darren? Why?"

I walked up to them, "I just don't like discrimination like that. In my past I was beaten almost to death by some boys. It didn't pan out as they thought, but it ended well enough for me."

The man was satisfied with my answer and after shaking my hand, invited us both inside. Inside was quite an old woman. I could tell she used to be quite beautiful. She still was a looker, but the old age showed. She saw us and said, "Willkommen, mach dich zu hause." [Welcome, make yourself at home.]

I answered her, "Danke schön." [Thank you]

This got her attention very quickly. "Sie sprechen Deutsch? Was ist deine name?" [You speak German. What is your name?]

I smiled at her, "Ich bin gebürtig aus die Niederlände. Ich bin jetzt im wege zum Georgia. Meine name ist Gabe Kramer" [I was born in the Netherlands, I'm on my way to Georgia now. My name is Gabe Kramer] I pronounced my name as I did in my country of Origin, with the a and e pronounced like the a and e in the word father.

Spike's grandmother was quite happy to talk to me. We talked in German for quite some time. Spike didn't get all of it as we talked. I felt a bit sorry for him, but he said that it was okay. After we had some breakfast I got some well deserved rest and slept for a few hours. Then Spike woke me up and said that his grandfather was driving us to Boulder. A good friend of his would take us further to Bozeman where I would be able to get transportation to Savannah. Darren was going with me, as he didn't want to found by any friends of the people from the town Basin.

We said our goodbyes and soon were on our way to Boulder.

A short while later we arrived in the outskirts of Boulder, where the friend of Darren's grandfather was already waiting for us with a big 18-wheeler. Spike said goodbye to his grandfather and I also thanked him. We climbed aboard the truck and we were off to our next destination. We talked little in the cabin of the truck. The friend didn't ask us much, and he didn't give us his name. Well, I think it is better that nobody knew too much anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~

Darren's grandfather

As Bob Hunt came home, some men were waiting for him at his house. He just returned from delivering his grandson and a friend to Boulder. Bob had expected someone to come looking for the boys, but these guys were fast. They already talked to his German wife Magda and she looked at him with an apology in her eyes.

One of the men, probably the leader, said, "Hello Mr. Hunt. We would like to talk to you about your grandson Darren McCabe. We already talked to your wife and know that he and another boy were here."

Bob Hunt looked at the two men with a poker face. "I've got nothing to say..."

The man interrupted Bob, "I'm sorry. I'm forgetting my manners. We're Federal agents. We're not here to make a quick arrest. We're here to investigate what happened."

Bob still didn't fully trust the men, "Can I see some ID please?"

Both men showed FBI credentials which looked genuine to Bob. But how would he know a real one anyway.

"OK, Mr. White. What is it that you want?"

Mr. White, as the man was called by his ID, smiled. "Can we go inside and sit down?"

It wasn't an unreasonable request, so Bob and Magda invited the men inside. There Mr. White said, "I know that Darren, who is a registered hybrid because of his quills, had been arrested in Basin. I also know that some other boy, presumably the registered boy Gabe Kramer, who is an electrical Elemental, was imprisoned with him. What we don't know, is why they were arrested. The sheriff is not cooperating. We want to know what happened from the boys."

Bob was quite angry, but he understood that tact and finesse was required. He explained to the FBI men exactly what had happened as the boys had told him. They told him that they had been arrested just because Darren was a hybrid, and because Gabe had helped him. Mr. White asked why they broke out, and what happened at the hill. Bob told him that they were fearful of being lynched. He didn't know exactly what happened at the hill though. Mr. White had written the details down in his tablet. Then he asked, "So, where are the boys now, Mr. Hunt?"

Bob answered truthfully, "I don't exactly know. I took them to Boulder, where they caught a ride on a truck."

"What kind of truck, which way was it headed? Look, I need to talk to the boys themselves. They can have charges brought against that sheriff."

Bob sighed, "Can't help you, I'm afraid. But if you give me your card, I'll tell Darren to contact you soon."

The FBI-men, or rather, ASA agents that were posing as FBI, didn't like it. But there was nothing they could do about it. They would continue to try to track down the boys though. They knew that Gabe Kramer was headed for Savannah, Georgia, so he could be found there later.

"Okay, Mr. Hunt. I'll leave it at this. But if I find out that you've been lying, there'll be consequences."

Bob said coolly, "I understand. Good day gentlemen," as he escorted the men out of the house.

~~~~~~~~~~

Gabe & Darren

When we arrived in Bozeman, Montana, the truck driver said that he would stay a few days here with his family. He told us that he could take us further in a few days. Darren and I got out and looked around the town. I went over to the train station to see when the next train would arrive. As it turned out, a slow local train would come by in an hour. But the high speed train towards the southeast wouldn't be here till the next morning. A bit dejected, I joined Spike. He was looking at the station diner. I was a bit thirsty myself, so I invited him to go in with me. We went in and almost got run over by a young girl who was running around carrying loads of trays. She managed to juggle everything around well enough, so nothing would fall and apologized to us in the process. I watched her running around. She was very busy doing all the stuff. Spike looked at the menu in the meantime.

He said, "I have to be careful with my money. Don't want to spend too much yet."

I looked at him. "I know what you mean. I'm doing the same."

The girl came back our way and stopped at our table. "Hi. Welcome to Rennick's Diner. Sorry that it took so long, but I'm all alone here now. My boss had to go to a funeral and my colleague called in sick at the last moment. Now I have to cook, be the waitress and everything. But hear me rambling. What'll it be?"

'Wow, talk about a fast talker.' If she could wait on tables as fast as she talked, she could do all her work and have time to spare. I cast a glance at Spike, and then said to her, "Well, if you have a place for us to sleep and some food, we could help you out with the work."

Spike looked at me with astonishment, while the girl squinted at me. I guess she wasn't sure if I was joking or being serious. So I added, "I'm not bad in a kitchen, and my friend can take orders or take the plates around."

Spike's face showed astonishment. He leaned over and whispered, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

I whispered back, "Trying to get a free meal and a place to sleep. All it'll cost you is some sweat and work."

The girl had thought it over in the mean time. "Okay, suppose I accept. What's the catch?"

"No catch. All I'm asking is a free meal and some place we can sleep for a while tonight. Tomorrow we'll be gone." I looked at her, showing just a little hint of a smile.

"Okay, mister. You're on. But I want a trial first. I want to be sure you two are up to it."

I smiled, "Fine. Just give me an apron and show me the kitchen. By the way, I'm Gabe and this is Darren." I extended my hand to her.

She shook my hand and said, "Sabrina. I've got an outfit here for you." And she tossed me an apron.

"And this one for you, Darren." Spike caught his apron and we put our luggage and coats down in a closet.

Soon I was getting busy in the kitchen while Spike was helping Sabrina with the customers. I made short work of all the orders and looked into the supplies to see what else was available. The owner sure had good quality food stocked. Sabrina came into the kitchen and asked, "What did you do with the food you prepared? Several of the customers just asked for seconds. They never did that before."

I smiled, "Just cooked it like I think it should be cooked. So where are the new orders, then?"

Sabrina gave me a list and disappeared back to the front. I made the orders ready again and this time added a little decoration of some spices and aromatic leaves. It would give it just the right touch. I had just decided on what I would cook for us and started, when Sabrina came in again. She gave me a kiss on my cheek. "They loved it. We got lots of good tips. Can't you stay longer? I never had such a good day."

I gave her a bit of a sad look. "I have to get to Georgia, sorry."

Sabrina looked down. "I understand. Thanks anyway for the good help. You've more than earned a meal and a place to sleep. There is a room in the back with a bed and a sofa. You'll have to fight for who gets to sleep where, though."

"That's okay, we're not choosy. Thanks for giving us a chance."

"I'm glad that I did give it. Say, what are you doing?"

I showed her my preparations. "I'm going to cook up some dinner for us."

She looked with anticipation, "Is there enough for three? I would like to try it."

"Sure, Sabrina. You'll have to wait a little. I haven't finished cooking yet."

I shooed her out of the kitchen and finished my cooking. I came out with a tray of plates and sat down with Sabrina and Spike in the now deserted diner. Both Spike and Sabrina smelled the lovely odors rising and watched with watering mouths at what I had prepared. I told them to dig in and they didn't waste any time doing it. I helped myself to a portion and soon we were all quietly eating.

A long while later even Spike who ate a lot pushed his plate aside. "I can't eat anymore. However good it is. I don't think I ever had such a good dinner."

Sabrina joined him, "Yep, you're a wiz in the kitchen, Gabe."

I just laughed, "Oh, I'm not that good, I just happened to pick up some things along my travels."

They both tried to tell me that I should open a restaurant business with my skills. It would be a hit within days. Well, I wasn't so sure yet. There is more than just cooking to running a restaurant. But I had been thinking of going that direction for my studies. They were still talking about that when I interrupted.

"There is still one thing to do."

"What?" they both asked in unison.

"The dishes and the kitchen need cleaning. I'll do some of the appliances, so who's going to do what?"

Sabrina smiled, "I'll do the dining room, table's chairs and everything. Darren, you go do the dishes. Just rinse them and put them all in the dishwasher."

Spike grumbled a bit, but soon trundled off with me to clean all the dishes and utensils.

It took us about an hour but then everything was clean as a whistle. Sabrina commented, "I don't think it ever looked so clean here."

Spike responded, "Well, enough then. I'm beat. I just want to sleep. Where's my bed?"

Sabrina showed us the room and Darren gave me the bed, while lying down on the sofa to sleep.

I was asleep within moments myself and only woke up when a large man shook my arm. "Who are you, boy and the other one? What are you doing here?"

This must be the owner of the diner. I smiled a little while saying, "Hello Mr. Rennick. My name is Gabe and my friend there is Darren. Yesterday Sabrina was all alone working here, and we offered to help her in exchange for some food and a place to sleep. She accepted, so here we are."

Mr. Rennick huffed, "She said that, did she? I'll have to confirm it with her."

I shrugged, "Go ahead. Do you mind if we freshen up?"

He pointed to the sink and pulled out a cell phone. Moments later he turned back to us. Spike had gotten up in the meantime and splashed some water on his quill ridden skin. Mr. Rennick told us to follow him and had us sit down in the diner.

"According to Sabrina, you two are a godsend. You not only helped her with all the work, but cooked so well that everyone wanted seconds and gave big tips as well. Now, I know Sabrina. She isn't one to brag. So, what kind of drug did you give her?"

Spike laughed, "Nothing sir. My friend here is just gifted with cooking."

Mr. Rennick frowned, "Okay, suppose I believe that. Why is the kitchen so clean and spotless?"

I answered this time. "Only a clean kitchen afterwards makes it a good chef. A bad cook leaves everything behind sloppy."

Mr. Rennick screwed his eyes, "Are you calling me a bad cook?"

I looked him straight in the eyes, "Nope, just telling you something what a really great chef once said."

He stared back, "I like you boy. You're not scared easily." Mr. Rennick started laughing. "I guess you're okay lads, so how about some breakfast?"

Both Spike and I sighed with relief. He believed us and wasn't mad. Spike didn't let the man ask twice about the breakfast. He was ready immediately. I packed up my stuff first. I still had some time before the train came, but I wanted to be ready. Moments later we were eating fried eggs and bacon. They were good, but I think I could make them better.

We talked a bit more with Mr. Rennick and he said that he was grateful to us for helping out Sabrina. He hadn't known that the other waitress had called in sick. We just waved it away and said that she helped us out as well. I gave Mr. Rennick a few pointers on how to improve on the food and the menu, and he said that he'd try it.

Then Spike dropped a bomb on us. "I think I'm staying here a little while longer."

"What?" I looked at Spike with astonishment. "I thought we were going on together?"

Spike gave a wry smile, "Well, I really don't have a clear destination like you have. So I'll just help out here in the diner for a little while, if that is okay with you Mr. Rennick?"

Mr. Rennick nodded, dumbfounded, while I asked, "Do you like waiting on tables?"

Spike smiled, "Well, it wasn't that bad, and it is work so, Mr. Rennick? Can I have the job?"

Mr. Rennick agreed, I was about to say more, but then I heard a horn in the background. The train was coming. I got up in a hurry, "Well, Spike it has been a pleasure. How can I get in touch with you later? I want to talk to you again in the future."

Spike wrote down an email address which I put in my wallet. Then the train blew its horn again. I really needed to get out there. I shook hands and said my goodbyes to both men. They accompanied me to the platform and watched me get onto the train and get settled. I was a bit sad to leave behind a new friend, but he did have to make his own choices. So, off I went on the next leg of my journey to my uncle Frank in Savannah Georgia.

 

Chapter 3

 

Though it was a very fast train, with all the changes and the long distance it still took me all day and night to get to where I needed to go. I managed to catch a few naps in the train still I was quite exhausted, arriving Tuesday morning early in Savannah. First I went over to the MORFS center to make an appointment. The secretary gave me a few choices and I choose the next morning early at 9 AM.

After having taken care of that, I hailed a cab and went to my Uncle Frank's house. I was surprised at the big mansion that my uncle lived in. It seemed he was doing better than Dad had always told us. It was still early, so he should be home. In fact I think I called him out of bed.

A bit sleepy he asked from a half opened door, "Who're you?"

"Hi Uncle Frank. It's me, Gabe."

He had to think for a moment, and then his face cleared up. "Gabe, sorry I forgot all about you coming here." He opened the door even further and motioned for me to come in. "Welcome to Savannah. How was your trip? Did you have any problems?"

I went past him, entering a huge front room "Not too many problems. I'm beat though. I would like to sleep, but I also need to arrange a talk with a school soon."

Uncle Frank showed me into the living room, "I already made some inquiries. There are several schools for you to choose from. There is one just a block away which I would personally recommend or you can go to the more expensive partial private school. But I have to tell you that they expect the students there to wear uniforms."

I had a look around. The living room was quite spacious, but a bit impersonal. 'I guess Uncle Frank still isn't married.' He was starting to say something when a new clear and quite pleasant contralto voice said, "Frank? Who is this?" I turned around to see quite a striking beautiful woman standing in a nightgown at the entrance to the living room.

Uncle Frank went over to her, "Darling, this is my nephew. Remember I told you about him?"

She looked at me, "Of course! Gabe, right? How are you doing? I'm Vanessa O'Dale." She extended her hand to me. I shook it and only hesitated a little before getting closer and giving her a kiss on her cheek. She smiled brightly and kissed me back. "I like him, Frank. He's a nice kid."

I looked at Uncle Frank with a question mark in my eyes. He answered, "Vanessa and I are dating. Sometimes she stays over for a night."

Aunt Vanessa interrupted, "Well, more than one night, and not sometimes, but most of the time." She giggled and turned around to leave the room.

Uncle Frank cleared his throat, "Well, I'll show you to your room Gabe." He showed me where everything was, and to a guest room which would be my room. "So, which school would you prefer, Gabe?"

I didn't have to think long. "I think the school closest will be just fine. I hope to be there only a few months anyway. I still have hopes that I can graduate this year."

Uncle Frank looked in surprise, "You're that old already? I didn't know. Well, I'll see when the dean can have a talk with you."

He left me alone in my new room to make the call and I took in my surroundings. Wow, this room is big. My old room in Canada or Nederland wasn't this big. Too bad I don't have things anymore. What am I going to do with all this space?

I unpacked my meager belongings from my bag and washed myself before going downstairs again. Aunt Vanessa was dressed in a professional looking outfit and was eating some breakfast. She stopped as she saw me. "What would you like for breakfast, Gabe?"

"Just some fruit, thank you. My stomach is a bit upset from the traveling." I picked an apple and a kiwi and we both ate in silence for a moment.

Uncle Frank came in wearing a suit. "Sorry Gabe I've got to go to work. Talk to Vanessa and I'll see you tonight."

I just watched in confusion. He told me that he'd set up a talk with the dean! "Uh, Uncle Frank?"

He interrupted, "Oh right, here you are." He pulled out his key ring and gave me a key. "Your own key to get in. Sorry I've gotta run." With that he left in a hurry, leaving me dumbfounded behind at the table.

Aunt Vanessa spoke up, "He's always like that Gabe. You'll get used to it."

I turned to her, "But he was going to set up a meet with a school dean?"

Aunt Vanessa gave me an amused smile, "And he did. What did you want to talk about?"

I squinted at her, "You're the dean?" When she nodded, I stammered, "Uh, I eh ... I need to eh..."

Aunt Vanessa laughed coyly, "I know Gabe. I've heard about your problems. I can enroll you into school. You've lost some lessons, so you'll have to catch up. I'm looking into how to let you graduate with good grades so you can get into college well enough. What would you like to study?"

I didn't know what to say. Here she handed me a solution on a platter. "I'm thinking of business and cooking. I'm not bad in a kitchen, so I might have a future there. Later I would like to have a restaurant or something."

Aunt Vanessa smiled her pleasant smile again, "I can give you some ideas later. Please join me on the way to school. We can talk more there."

We walked to the high school together and in her office, we talked more about my future and my application to the school. She asked some teachers for some assignments for me so I could catch up and dismissed me a few hours later. I returned home, and got into studying my new assignments. It was a quiet day for me and I took a long nap in the afternoon to compensate my lack of sleep during the train ride. Later I made some dinner for three. Uncle Frank and Aunt Vanessa were pleasantly surprised that I had fixed dinner. Aunt Vanessa said, "Delicious, I go out quite often for dinner. But this rivals the most expensive restaurants. Please tell me how you make this."

Uncle Frank was also enthusiastic, but more subdued in his praise, "It's good. You can prepare dinner more often."

I went to bed early as I had an early appointment at the MORFS center the next morning.

I didn't even have to wait for my appointment at the MORFS center. Though I was early, my case handler asked as I came in, "Hi, are you Gabe Kramer? I'm Gavin Benson. Shall we go to my office?"

I followed him and we sat down in his nicely furnished office. Gavin looked into some papers before starting.

"Let me tell you a little about me. I'm a telepath and psychologist. I'll be the one deciding if you're cleared for school. Since you're registered as a potential danger I'll be monitoring you frequently. We'll have regular talks, say once a month or two months."

I showed him a poker face as I nodded to him. He continued, "Well, I see you had quite a trip? You've gotten yourself arrested and threatened people with your lightning. Then you fled across the state line to here."

My face now changed to austere, I icily responded, "I was only defending someone from getting beaten. Then we got thrown in jail without a phone call or a lawyer. We didn't get proper food & water and feared for our lives. After we escaped, they threatened us by shooting at us. I only scared them with my lightning."

Gavin smiled, "I know that. I already got a report from some FBI men. The sheriff of Basin is already under investigation for that and other things. The FBI interviewed McCabe's grandparents and Darren McCabe himself in Bozeman. But it's good to have it confirmed by you."

I calmed down a bit. "So you were baiting me, to see if everything went like they others said?"

"Yes I was. Would you mind being questioned by the FBI so they can make a case against the sheriff and that town?"

I didn't mind, so I confirmed it.

Gavin pulled another paper from the folder in front of him. "I also have here a questionnaire from the constable in Canada. He wants to now if you'd like to press charges against the boys that almost beat you to death."

I thought about it. It was tempting to get back at them, but it wouldn't help me would it?

"If I don't, will they still get punished? I mean they shouldn't get away with it. But I'm not there anymore. I probably still would've gone through MORFS again, and my parents would still throw me out. There's no point in taking revenge."

Gavin nodded, "I'm impressed with your maturity. Of course if you press charges they could be made to compensate you financially."

'Well, I could use some funds for my college, but to pluck them?' "What do you recommend Mr. Benson?"

"Call me Gavin. Well, it's up to you. If it were me, I would fill in the paperwork and sue them for a significant amount. I think you really could use the money."

"Okay, Gavin," I signaled with a motion of my head. "So, what do I have to do?"

Gavin gave me a form to fill in and gave me suggestions on how to fill it in. Then he told me that he would take care of getting it to the correct authorities. Afterwards we talked a bit about my school and what I planned for college. We didn't watch the clock too much and suddenly Gavin said, "Oh, I'll have to cut it short. I have another appointment now."

We went outside the office and talked a bit about making another appointment. Meanwhile he frowned and nodded to someone down the hall. He kept talking to me while I glanced to whoever he'd he nodded to. There was a small man with a quite good looking girl and two bodyguards. Gavin escorted me to his secretary and we made an appointment for the next month. I exited the building soon after that, and as I did, I saw several men running through the building.

I spent the rest of the morning getting my bearings in the city and explored it thoroughly. Afterwards I immersed myself in my homework assignments. Aunt Vanessa had told me that I wouldn't start school until next Monday, so I had a few days to try to catch up. That evening I had a talk with Uncle Frank, I didn't even know what he did for a living. He told me all about his work as city code inspector. He is quite an important man in the city.

The next day I was doing my assignments as the doorbell rang. Two men in suits were there. They identified themselves as FBI men. I invited them in and they questioned me about all that had happened in Basin. It only took a little more than an hour before they left with all the answers they wanted. Afterwards I just relaxed a bit and went on with my assignments.

Friday I was fed up studying on my assignments at noon, so I went out. I had found the perfect diner/ice cream parlor/ restaurant on Wednesday. So I went to Everybody's Place for a treat and saw a sign hanging, that said, "Help wanted in kitchen. Must work evenings."

I asked for the manager, but the owner himself, a heavy set European looking man came to see me.

"Hello, what can I do for you young man?"

I smiled, I recognized his accent. He was probably Belgian. "I saw the sign help wanted. I'm not bad in the kitchen, so I would like to apply. My name is Gabe Kramer."

He asked with suspicion, "I don't know, it's not for starting position as a washer, but as a cook's helper. Do you have any references?"

"Well, I did help out in a diner in Bozeman Montana. Here's the phone number." I showed him the card that Mr. Rennick gave me. "Besides that, I did help out some times at a friend's restaurant in Nederland."

That got his attention, "Bent ge Nederlander?" [Are you Dutch?]

"Ja, Ik kom uit Nederland, maar uit het noorden, Friesland." [Yes I'm from Netherlands, but from the north, Friesland.]

"Welkom in mijne zaak, zoals ge kunt horen kom ik vanuit België. Mijn naam is Andre Vanderluijke." [Welcome in my establishment, I'm from Belgium as you can hear. My name is Andre Vanderluijke.]

A middle-aged woman joined us and Andre changed to English. "Brenda. This young man is applying for the job. He's a Dutchman." Then to me he said, "This is my wife Brenda. Sorry, but she doesn't speak Nederlands."

I smiled and shook her hand, "That's okay, I'm fluent in English myself. My name is Gabe Kramer."

She excused herself, "Brenda. Sorry for not saying the last name. I'm married to Andre for 20 years now, but I still can't pronounce it well enough."

I knew how hard it could be on people to say names like that, so I just smiled. We talked a bit more on the work, and when I could start. I would start on a trial basis next week. The work usually wouldn't start until 5 PM or 6 PM,, so I still could have some free time in my holidays.

After finishing the talks I bought an ice cream and sat in the parlor to enjoy it. As I licked on my Ice cream I thought by myself, This is great ice cream. I want the recipe for this.

Then three girls stepped into the parlor. The last one was a vision of beauty. I thought I had seen her before, but couldn't place her yet. I forgot to eat my ice cream as I looked at the girl in her nice feminine clothes. She looked a bit on edge, watching her surroundings like she expected to be attacked or something. Then she looked directly at me and I averted my eyes. I resumed licking on my ice cream and stole a few more glances at her. Every time I did though it was like she noticed and looked in my direction and I turned my eyes away. Suddenly I remembered where I had seen her before. She was the girl in the MORFS center. But that girl had a tail.

Then I saw that she was wearing something that looked like a belt, but the tip was moving and twitching. She's using her tail as a belt? Nice touch. Maybe I should approach her and introduce myself.

But I've always been too shy to do anything that bold. Still she has an attraction that I can't explain or resist.

Then my ice cream was finished. I still had work to do at home, so I got up and cast a last glance at the girl. She was watching me now, but turned away with her cute smile. I smiled myself and stepped out into the street to go home.

Back home I fixed dinner for three and did some homework while waiting for everyone to get home. Aunt Vanessa came first and called me in to talk with her. She said that they offered a few weeks of tutoring with two teachers along with a student of another school. That, coupled with my grades would be enough for me to get into the college I wanted. It would be something like a summer school. I would have class until noon and have the rest of the day off.

"Thanks, Miss O'Dale. I'll take that offer. But I will not have the whole rest of the day free. I just got a job in the evening at a restaurant. I'm starting there next week already."

"Are you still calling me Miss O'Dale? Gabe, whenever we're home you can call me Vanessa."

I sighed, "Sorry, mi ... Vanessa. I wasn't brought up like that. But I'll try to remember."

That evening I brought Uncle Frank up to speed on my plans and perspectives. He applauded my diligence and resolve. He said that he would support me in every way. He even offered to support my tuition for college, provided that I did my best to earn my own money for it. I told him that I already wanted to do most of it on my own anyway.

The next week, both school and my job started. At school I mostly kept to myself, but after a few days I became friends with another weird hybrid in my classes. He is a serpent hybrid who called himself Snake. He introduced me to his girlfriend, a lion hybrid by the name Leona, Leo for short. It suited her well. He wanted to introduce me to his other friends as well, but most of the time when he proposed for us to go see a movie or do something, I had to work. I only met his friend Batman, and never got to see his close friend Maren. Well, not until much later, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was working my ass off with homework and the job. But it paid off. My college fund was rising steadily with the income from Everybody's Place. I used the money from my parents only to buy some clothes and a Tablet. I needed it for my assignments and some other stuff. The time quickly passed by and soon it was graduation time.

Snake asked if I would go to the Prom. He said that his close friend Maren would be there. I did want to meet that mystery girl. Snake told me that they used to be quite distant, but that she caught MORFS and changed from a boy with a serious disease into a healthy beautiful girl.

However, I would have to wait to meet her again. I was working the night that the Prom was being held, not that I really minded, though. I would have hesitated to go there anyway. Why? Well, one big reason. I don't know how to dance. And I'm too shy to just try something. I felt embarrassed to do something like that. I worked most of the weekend as well, because I didn't know how much time the tutoring would take from me.

Early Monday morning I went to the community center where the lessons would be held. I sneaked out of the house so as not to wake up Uncle Frank or Aunt Vanessa. I shouldn't have bothered as it turned out later.

As I neared the community center, I saw that beautiful girl from the Ice cream parlor again. As I looked at her, I saw her looking back at me. Darn, why does she look at me every time I look at her?

I looked away from her as she kept looking at me. To my surprise she walked up to the center just like me. As she got near to me I felt a bit strange, like I wanted to chase her and catch her. Weird, very weird.

As we met at the entrance there was an awkward silence till I started, "Hi, I'm Gabe."

She looked at me for a moment and responded, "I'm Maren."

That name rang a bell, and I remembered Snake telling me about the friend he wanted me to meet. "Do you have a friend who is a serpent hybrid with the name Snake?"

She looked back at me surprised, "Yes, I do? How do you know him?"

"He's in some of my classes. He tried to get me to meet you I think, but I was busy with work, so I never went with him to meet you."

She gave me a little smile before looking a bit sad, "Actually, Snake tried to get me to meet you, too, I think. But I've been neglecting my friends the last months."

Sitting down on a bench, I said, "Oh? Want to tell me more about it?"

She sat down next to me. "Not right now. But why are you here?"

"Well, I missed some lessons when I moved here, so I have to take some lessons to catch up for College."

"Hey, I'm here for that as well. They said that there would be another student from another school attending the class with me. So that would be you then?"

I nodded my head. "So what happened to you that landed you in these extra lessons?"

She looked to the ground and said, "Oh, nothing much, I got kidnapped, was held hostage for a few months and then blew up a mountain while escaping and returned home. How about you? What's your story?"

I smiled, thinking she must be making something up. Well, I could do that too, but the truth was so unbelievable that I could just tell her that. "Oh nothing fancy like that. I got beaten to death for being a hybrid, went through MORFS again, got thrown out by my family and made my way here."

She squinted at me but then the time for talking was up as Aunt Vanessa was walking towards us. I was a little surprised to see her, but it made sense. She is the Dean, after all. I guess class was about to start.

She stopped just short of us and said, "Hello Gabe, Maren. Let's go in, shall we?"

She guided us to a small room with chairs and tables. It was cozy, but functional.

Aunt Vanessa told us "Today's focus is on history and language." She had a few books for us to research and then had us give a short speech on history. Maren selected American History, while I settled for European History. Aunt Vanessa gave us both an okay on our performance and then told us to work on some languages. Since I speak several languages, I was helping Maren a lot with it.

We studied until about noon, when Aunt Vanessa dismissed us till the next day. We walked out together and Maren said, "Um, Gabe. Would you join me for lunch at Everybody's Place?"

I gave her a peculiar smile and replied, "Sorry, Maren, but I've got to work."

Hearing that news, she pouted as I continued, "But I'll walk you there anyway."

For a moment, confusion showed on her face. Then she snapped at me, "You don't have to walk me there. I can take care of myself you know?"

I laughed out loud, "No Maren. You don't understand. I work at Everybody's Place."

She turned away like she felt embarrassed. I put my arm around her, "Hey, you couldn't have known. Tell you what, lunch is on me."

"You don't have to do that. I can pay for myself."

I made her look at me, "I want to buy lunch for the prettiest girl I know, and you refuse?"

She looked at me. "Okay Gabe, but just lunch."

"Sure Maren, just lunch. Say, I've been experimenting with a new sandwich, would you like to try it?"

Coyly she looked at me. "I don't know. What's in it?"

I told her all about what I would put on the sandwich and what different kinds of options there were on the way to Everybody's Place. Soon we were there. I showed her to her seat before disappearing into the kitchen.

A short while later I came back with some sandwiches for her and went back to my work in the kitchen so she could eat her lunch peacefully.

Later I got a call from the waiter named Lester, that a beautiful girl was asking for me. I went back out to the lunchroom and asked Maren, "So what did you think?"

She told me honestly that some combinations didn't do it for her, but that I made fantastic sandwiches. I smiled at the compliment and excused myself. I had a lot of things to do in the kitchen. Several times in the kitchen I got caught sort of daydreaming. I couldn't keep Maren out of my thoughts. I've never felt something like this. Maybe it is true that you can fall in love at first glance.

All the way home after my work I was humming or whistling. When I came home I was still doing it, which promptly caused Aunt Vanessa to remark, "Someone is in a good mood. Does it have something to do with a certain girl?"

I glared at her, "Now why would you say that? Before today I didn't even talk to her. I only saw her a few times from a distance. And by the way, why didn't you tell me that you were giving the lessons?"

Aunt Vanessa laughed a charming laugh, "It was a last minute decision. Besides, I wanted to surprise you."

"Well, you succeeded. Where's Uncle Frank?"

Aunt Vanessa sighed, "He's still at work. He called for us to go and eat. He'll grab something there. Now would you mind giving me a hand with dinner? You being the expert at making food."

I laughed, "Sure, Aunt Vanessa. Can I ask you a question?"

"Shoot!"

I hesitated only a moment, "How tight are you and Uncle Frank? Are you serious?"

Aunt Vanessa smiled, "Well, I could say none of your business."

I turned a bit disappointed, "Of course. I understand."

But she continued, "But yes, we are serious and I'm expecting a proposal from Frank anytime now. I really love your Uncle. But sometimes he can be such an inconsiderate dunce. But I expect nothing less. He's a man after all."

I feigned indignation, "Hey, I'm a man too."

Aunt Vanessa didn't say anything anymore, just looked warily at me. I decided not to say anything more about it but instead, started helping to make dinner.

The next morning I got up very early. I wanted to practice my power and have a bit of a workout. I had seen a site with a demolition crew working slowly taking down brick walls with a big ball. The men were setting up for another day breaking down the walls. I went over to the foreman and asked, "Hi, can I ask a question? Why don't you use explosives to break it down into rubble?"

The man looked at me sort of amused, "Well, we could, there's nothing in the neighborhood that might be endangered or be bothered with the noise. But we would have a cost overrun and getting the clearance just takes too long. I'm hoping that our stone elemental is free soon to take care of this so we'll be done faster."

Feeling bold I asked, "How about trying something else?"

With his interests peeked he asked, "What do you have in mind, son?"

"I'm an electricity-elemental. I would like to practice my power, but I can only do it in a safe environment. I can cause a lot of destruction. So I'm asking if I could take a whack at those brick walls and see if I can make it into smaller chunks."

The man looked at me for a moment like he was sizing me up, well maybe he did. Then he said out loud. "Guys, gather here for a moment."

As all the workmen gathered around us, he continued, "This young man would like to try blast some walls apart. I would like to see it, how about you?"

Most men nodded in agreement, though some looked indifferent or a bit hateful. Maybe they're Pure sympathizers. The foreman motioned to me to go into the open aired building. I didn't hesitate and stepped right towards the middle of the walls. I turned to the biggest wall still standing and made sure I was well out of reach if it came toppling down.

I concentrated for a moment and between my hands an electric charged ball started to form. I let it grow and grow to the size of a baseball. Then I threw it with accuracy to the base of the wall. The ball hit the wall almost at the right spot, just a little too high, but the effect was immediate and spectacular. With a loud 'bang' the ball exploded, causing the bricks to crumble and moments later the whole wall came crashing down. Even I was startled by this much destruction and got caught in the backwash of dust. The men looking in from outside the walls saw what happened and cheered. I didn't like the dust shower though, so I wanted to try something different. This time I made a ball in each hand. It wasn't as easy as making one with two hands, but eventually I got them there. They were only the size of a tennis ball, but when I threw both simultaneously at a wall they broke the wall down well enough. It didn't produce the same big dust shower, though the dust still flew around a lot.

I continued to throw lightning balls for another quarter of an hour and felt quite drained by then. Only a few walls were still standing, and none were intact anymore. I emerged from the rubble and walked up to the men watching me. I went to the foreman, "Thanks for letting me work out. I really needed to let go."

The foreman smiled back, "No, thank you, young man. This will shave off some time for us. You can come back to where we are demolishing any time."

I smiled, and said goodbye before returning home. I really needed a shower and change of clothes. I changed in a hurry and made my way to the center. Aunt Vanessa wasn't home, so either was already there or we would have our lesson from someone else because she had something else to do. Quickly I walked towards the center and saw Maren walking towards the center as well. 'Boy, does she look great. She really is a looker. I bet she has lots of boyfriends wanting to take her out on a date.'

I approached her and said, "Hi Maren, ready for another half day of lessons?"

She smiled, "Yep, how about you?" she looked at me like I should say something more.

I didn't get the hint, so I just said, "Sure, let's go inside."

As we entered the room, Aunt Vanessa was already there. We sat down and took our books out. Maren was still looking at me with a scowl, and then Aunt Vanessa gave me a disapproving look as well. "Gabe! Why are you looking like you just got out of the shower?"

I startled. "Aun ... Dean O'Dale, I had a work out this morning and got a little dirty. So I showered and changed before coming here."

Aunt Vanessa smiled at me before she began with the instructions of today's lessons.

After the lessons I packed my books and walked out with Maren. For some reason she dawdled till I was ready. As we went out the door she asked, "Gabe? Do you have to work again this afternoon?"

I thought, Is she interested in me? Nah, she's just being polite. She must have lots of admirers and boys hanging around.

So I said laconically, "Yeah, I want to make as much money as I can, so I don't have to worry about college fees. Why do you ask?"

She stammered, "Uh ... oh nothing, just wondering."

Then she looked at me strange and expectantly. I didn't know what to do, so I just smiled at her. Then she went ballistic, "Oh you ... you barbarian. I gave you every chance and you just..."

She didn't even finish her sentence and walked away. I was flabbergasted. What is she raving on about? I don't understand. So I went after her and said, "But Maren? What do you mean? Wait for a moment."

She turned around. She pointed her fingers at me and fired some kind of lightning beam. It was only a mild charge though. I easily absorbed the charge, it felt kinda nice. I was quite stunned. I didn't know that she had a power, let alone an electric power. Without looking at me she just turned around and ran away. I'll never understand women. What did I do? Why does she run away? I'm not hurt, but if I was, she should've looked after me. She should have made sure that I wasn't injured or something.

Feeling confused, I walked to Everybody's Place and started my work. During work I thought a lot about what happened, and still couldn't make heads or tails of it. It even affected my work as I almost burned a fish. It wasn't till I got home that I found out what it was all about.

Aunt Vanessa was having a late snack when I came home. I already had dinner at work and Uncle Frank still wasn't home. Aunt Vanessa asked me about today, starting with my appearance. I explained to her about my practice with my power. She frowned a bit but praised my initiative. Then I explained what happened after class and asked, "Do you know what she is blaming me for?"

Aunt Vanessa laughed, in fact she laughed so hard that she began coughing. I was even more confused. What is so funny?

Finally she calmed down enough and said, "Oh Gabe, how ignorant you are. Maren went to a lot of trouble this morning to look her best. She put on some make-up and wore a very well balanced outfit. Obviously she wanted you to comment, to tell her that she looked great."

Now I was crestfallen. She wanted me to notice her? How can I not notice her, she always looks great. Is she interested in me? Damn, did I blow my chances with her?

"How was I to know? She never said anything."

"She shouldn't have to. She's not an ordinary girl, just talk to her tomorrow. I won't say anything more, but you've got more in common than you might expect."

I went up to go to my room, after replying, "Okay. Thanks, Aunt Vanessa. If she'll let me I'll talk to her. I really like her you know."

"I can tell, but I think you've got a lot to learn about women. Oh, before I forget, tomorrow you'll have the lessons from a teacher from Maren's school."

I thanked her and went to my room to study and think about today. I really hoped that Maren wouldn't be too mad at me. My mind drifted back to her all the time. 'She looks so good and has a nice smile. She's smart and is easy to talk to and she has a power as well, so she won't be too frightened about my power.'

 

Chapter 4

I got up early again and this time paid a little more attention to my appearance. I picked out some clothes I thought would be tasteful and even tried to get my hair into some form. I made some sandwiches for both Maren and myself before I ate a quick breakfast and then I was on my way to the Community Center. I saw Maren from a distance and smiled to her. She smiled back and waved. As we got closer both she and I began to say, "I'm sorry."

Realizing she'd just apologized to me for some reason, I motioned to her, saying, "Go ahead."

She replied, "I'm sorry I shot you with my stun beam. I shouldn't do something like that. I hope I didn't hurt you?"

I sat down with her on a bench, "I didn't mind that Maren. It was kinda nice. I guess I should tell you, I'm an electricity elemental. I had no problem absorbing what you shot me with."

Her eyes got big, "Still I shouldn't have done it. I usually have my power under better control, but my emotions ran rampant yesterday. I know better than to use my power like that. I can be quite dangerous you know. In fact I blew up a mountain with my power with the force of an atom bomb."

Now it was time for my eyes to go wide, "That was you who blew up that mountain near Yellowstone?"

She swallowed and screwed her eyes, "Yes, it was. Why do you ask?"

"Because I wasn't too far from there myself. I saw the explosion. It happened only a day before I..." I trailed off.

Suspiciously, she asked, "Before what?"

Swallowing to calm myself, I managed to utter, "Before I scared my pursuers away with a lightning storm that I made worse than normal."

She looked at me, "That was you? I saw a freak electrical storm in Montana just before I came back here."

I nodded, "Yes. But back to you, you mean everything you said about the reason you're taking these lessons is true? You really were kidnapped and blew apart a mountain?"

She nodded, "And you? How much is true about your story?"

I gave a wry smile, "All of it. My enemies at school beat me almost to death, because I was a hybrid. After I was admitted to the hospital I went through MORFS again. It cured most of my hybrid characteristics and gave me an elemental power, but my parents who are both hybrids, rejected me for no longer being hybrid. That's why I came here to live with my uncle."

She looked at me with a look between respect and compassion. Then she asked, "What kind of hybrid were you?"

I looked puzzled at her, "A canine. Why?"

She looked lost in thought before responding, "I think that's why I felt awkward around you. I felt like that before with another Canine hybrid. My feline hybridism reacted to it."

I was about to say something when a man walked up to us. "Hi Maren! And you must be Gabe Kramer. I'm Mr. Brands, your teacher today."

We got to our feet and followed him inside. Inside the classroom he asked, "So how is my favorite student? Zap any students lately?"

I thought, How the hell does he know about my powers? I never told him, Did he hear it from Aunt Vanessa? But she would keep it quiet she said.

Then he continued, "Hey I'm only kidding, Maren."

I sighed, He must have meant Maren with her power. Of course! I wasn't even his student.

Maren looked up to him, "Well, yesterday I did happen to zap Gabe here with my stun beam."

I interrupted, "But she didn't know that I'm an Electricity Elemental, so it just fed my power."

Now Mr. Brands looked perplexed. "So instead of one student with powers I have two? Well, that is a surprise. I'd like to know more about both of you. I already know quite a bit about the things Maren can do and I'm writing a scientific paper about such things. Don't worry I'll let you two read it first and I'll keep your names out of it."

After we'd talked a bit more about what he wanted to do he asked me if I could demonstrate my powers. I powered up and made lightning dance between my fingers. Rubbing my hands as if I was making a snowball, I created one of my patented lightning balls. After I dissolved it, I told him, "I don't dare do much more, as I can be quite dangerous with these lightning balls. But I can also detect electrical impulses and power almost any electrical device."

Mr. Brands discussed with us things about our powers for half an hour before we started our physics and math lessons. Maren was quite good at it and helped me with some problems. After our lessons we walked out and sat down on the bench again. I surprised her with the sandwiches I'd made for us to eat. As we were eating, she started again, "I'm really sorry for getting mad at you and shooting you."

"Don't be silly. I'm the one to blame. You've always looked good to me, but yesterday you looked sensational. I should've said something nice about it. It took some advice from my aunt to open my mind and tell me I should have told you so."

She looked at me, "You asked your aunt for advice? Who is your aunt?" Then I think she saw the light dawn, "Dean O'Dale is your aunt?"

"Yes, well not really my aunt. She's living with my Uncle Frank. They might go further in their relationship in the future, but they haven't yet."

She asked, "Don't you have to go to work today?"

"I've got a few days off. Andre, he's the owner, is changing some things inside, so it's closed. Besides, I have an appointment later this afternoon with Gavin."

"Oh, I have an appointment with Gavin too! When's yours?" she asked.

"At 4 o'clock so I have lots of time to kill until then."

"I have mine at 3. Would you mind going there together with me?"

I smiled, "No problem, Maren. But I want to ask you something else. What do you say we go to the beach with the other guys tomorrow? We can sunbathe, maybe swim a little and have fun with the others."

She hesitated a little, "Um ... I don't know if I can go. I mean, if I should."

"Why? What's wrong? Did Morfs give you some kind of deformity on your body, or are you just too shy to show yourself? Please, tell me Maren."

She flushed pink, "It's not that. But I don't own a bathing suit or anything like that."

She hesitated and I looked expectantly at her to continue. "The truth is, I never learned to swim."

Surprised, I looked at her, "That's it? Well, I can teach you I'm quite a good swimmer. Not that I will win many races, but I can hold my own. Or is it a cat thing and are you afraid of water?"

She reacted indignantly, "No, it is not a cat thing. It's just that before my MORFS I had a serious disease, and my life expectancy was measured in years, not decades, so I never bothered to learn how to swim."

I pretended to be indignant, "Sorry, don't kill me!"

She smiled at my words. Then her tail swished in front of me and I grabbed it and started stroking it. She began purring and closed her eyes. She moved her body a bit and leaned towards me. When she opened her eyes, our heads were suddenly close and with our lips close enough I took a chance. Leaning towards her, I lightly brushed her lips with mine. After seeming to enjoy it for a moment, she pulled her head back, startling me.

I was about to ask her a bit sharply why she had done that that when my memory connected several things together. I remembered that Snake had told me that Maren used to be a boy with a serious disease, who'd changed into a girl. And just moments ago she'd told me the disease part herself again. I can kick myself. Here I am kissing a girl who used to be a boy. No wonder she's shy. She's probably confused about this whole thing.

I stroked her tail again to get her into a good mood again. This time she did purr again, but kept looking at me. "Maren I'm so sorry. I should've remembered that you had a gender change during your MORFS. I can't begin to understand what you're going through emotionally."

She flushed again, "It's okay. It's not your fault, it's mine. I've been steadily growing into being a girl, but sometimes I still try to resist becoming one totally in my mind. I think it's time I resign myself to being a girl both in body and mind." She leaned towards me and retuned my kiss, not just brushing my lips, now it was my turn to be totally surprised.

I enjoyed it immensely, but after a few seconds an idea came to me. I broke off the kiss, "You said that you don't own a bathing suit?" When she nodded I asked, "Well, what do you say we go shopping for one?"

She hesitated, biting her lip before answering, "Okay. Are you buying?"

I laughed, "I had that coming. Yeah sure, I'll pay. I did ask you to go shopping with me, so the least I can do is buy it for you. Do you have any preference as to where to shop?"

"Sure, I know just the place and they have some clotheslines especially for hybrids with a tail like me," she replied as she got to her feet.

When we got to the mall, she went straight to a store that didn't look too big in front. But it was deep inside, with several stories full of clothes. Maren quickly found some bathing suits, picking out some with long sleeves and sort of pants legs.

I shook my head, "Maren you can't wear those! You'll look ridiculous." I picked up some bikinis that would show off her assets extremely well. "Here, these are more suited for the beach."

"No way!' she snorted. "No way am I ever going to wear something like that."

She looks so cute when she's indignant, and I couldn't help laughing. "Well, the one you picked out will make you a laughing stock for everyone on the beach."

As she looked at the ones she had picked, a voice asked, "Maybe I can be of some help? I gather that you're not agreeing on what to wear to the beach?"

We both turned to the saleswoman and I smiled, "My friend here has never been to the beach. so she needs something that's fashionable so she won't stand out too much with our friends."

"Hi, I'm Anita, let me look around a minute." She searched in the racks of clothing and came back with three different bathing suits. "Here, try these on. There's a changing booth right over there." She pointed to the left and back of Maren.

I waited impatiently for her to come out. When she did, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She looked stunning in the light gray very revealing suit, even though she looked uncomfortable in it. Not in the sense of ill fitting, more like she felt embarrassed. Quickly, she said, "I'll try another one on."

She stepped out not too much later in a shiny wet look black bathing suit. She looked good in this one as well, but not as good as the first one. Without a word, she stepped back into the booth and came out a little later with the third on. This time it was almost a two piece. Like a bikini, but with a metal ring in front connecting the top and bottom. I nodded, it looked good on her, too, but I still liked the first one best.

Maren stepped back into the booth and came back out fully clothed. "I don't think any of these are for me. Maybe I should look further?"

I protested, "Nonsense Maren. I agree that the last two aren't really you. But the gray one really suits you. And your tail isn't bothered by it either."

Anita agreed with me and added, "I do know a lot about hybrids with tails and none looked as good as you did with the gray bathing suit on."

Maren seemed to be thinking about it, so I thought that she needed a little more convincing. "I know you've never worn a bathing suit like that before. But there's a first time for everything. You look good in that gray suit."

She punched me in the shoulder, "No need to say it. I know it already. Just let me decide on my own, okay?"

Anita asked softly, "Well, what will it be?"

Maren was silent, lost in thought but finally said, "Okay, I'll take the gray one. I just hope I don't regret it."

Anita took the garment for Maren to the register, telling her, "Oh, you won't. This is one of the best we have. I'm sure you will like it."

I followed her and Maren to pay for it. It was expensive, but it was worth it. Anita pointed out that it was made with nano-tube fibers, meaning would be very sturdy and would give her a lot of wear without damage.

I carried Maren's bag as we walked to the MORFS center, arriving a bit early while talking about the beach trip the next day. I told her about the country I was born in. I told her about all the waterways we had and that we were pressed to learn how to swim early on. We saw Gavin walking by as we were checking in at reception. He waved Maren over and looked a bit surprised that I was already there, too.

I sat down in the lobby while Maren followed Gavin to his office. Figuring I was in for a long wait, I picked up a magazine and looked through it. I saw an article about cooking with tips from a very well known chef, so I started reading. Time flew by very quickly and before I knew it, it was nearing 4 o'clock, still no Maren or Gavin in sight, so I kept on reading. When they finally emerged from his office a half hour late, I got up and raised an eyebrow, questioning what had taken them so long. When they got closer I saw that Maren had been crying. Why did she cry? What did Gavin ask her? I hope she'll be okay.

Gavin asked, "Gabe, do you want to do it quickly or would you mind rescheduling? I'm running out of time."

I answered casually, "Oh there's not much to tell, really. I helped out a demolition crew while practicing my power. The site was quite secure so I don't think that it is a problem, unless you see differently."

Gavin cocked his head, "I will check it, but I don't think that it is a problem. What did the men say?"

"The foreman thanked me and said that I was welcome on their next job."

Gavin laughed, "Well, that's good to hear." He turned to Maren, "I guess we're done here then? Now remember Maren, another appointment soon okay?"

I looked at Maren, who nodded and went over to the secretary. I waited till she was finished before escorting her out of the building. We were walking towards my home when Maren suddenly said, "Gabe I can't go with you to the beach like we were planning. Yesterday I found a baby squog. She's dependent on me and requires lots of care. Isabel took over for me today, but I need to take care of her tomorrow."

I frowned, "What do you have to do for ... what did you call it? A squog?"

She smiled, "Yeah. It's a Morfs hybrid between a squirrel and a dog. I had one before, but he got killed trying to save me from getting kidnapped."

"Oh ... okay ... Uh, so what kind of care does this baby squog need?"

She sighed, "Well. she needs to be fed every 2 to 4 hours, and when she's awake someone needs to keep her busy. That's pretty much it, really."

I shrugged, "Do you have a leash or something? Couldn't you take her to the beach? Maybe she'll like it as well?"

She hesitated a bit before answering, "Okay Gabe, I guess that'd be okay. But how are we going to get there?"

I rubbed my chin, "Well, I'm hoping to borrow my uncle's car. But I don't know if I can get it yet. Do you have a driver's license?"

She gave me a wry look, "Sorry, I haven't got around to it yet. But I might be able to borrow Mom's car if you can't borrow your uncle's car, that is."

I smiled back at her, "Okay thanks, but I still want to try my uncle first. We'll go straight from class to the beach then?"

She smiled back, "Yes. Oh ... I just thought of something else. I hope Mr. Brands doesn't mind me taking Cyn to class."

"Who is Cyn?"

She smiled with a twinkle in her eye. God I like it when she does that.

"Oh, that is my pet squog's name."

"Oh, I see. Well, I'm almost home Maren," I pointed to uncle Frank's place. "I'll see you tomorrow then?"

As I walked on towards home I turned around several times, and each time she waved and I waved back. I really like her, she so beautiful, so easy to talk to, and smart.

When I arrived home, Uncle Frank was already there, so I decided to ask him right away, "Uncle Frank. Is it possible for me to borrow the car tomorrow? I'd like to go to the beach tomorrow."

Uncle Frank gave me an amused look, "So you're taking your girlfriend to the beach tomorrow?"

I looked at him with surprise, "What girlfriend?"

"Vanessa told me about the girl taking lessons with you, Gabe. Am I right or not?"

I gave a dirty look, "Fine, I'm taking her to our friends at the beach, but she's not my girlfriend, at least, not yet. So can I borrow the car then?"

"I wish I could say yes, but I'm afraid that I'm going to need the car myself tomorrow. Sorry."

Aunt Vanessa spoke up from the doorway, "You can borrow my car Gabe, if you promise to be careful with it."

I smiled brightly at her, "Sure I'll be careful. Thanks Aunt Vanessa."

She smiled as she walked up to us, "No problem, Gabe. I hope you have a nice time with Maren."

Uncle Frank agreed, "Yeah, have a good time tomorrow. Speaking of girlfriends, that reminds me, I almost forgot. A week from Saturday we are invited to a wedding. The Fire chief is getting married and he asked me to be there as well, with family. So are we all going? And Gabe, you can take your girlfriend with you if you want."

I hesitated, as I don't much like to go to weddings. "Okay, I'll ask her tomorrow. Now, shall I start dinner?"

Aunt Vanessa laughed, "No, not today Gabe, we're going out to dinner. So change your clothes and we'll get going."

I changed clothes quickly and asked, "What's the occasion?" as we were walking to the car.

Aunt Vanessa said cheerfully, "We're celebrating that your uncle and I met each other 1 year ago."

Uncle Frank added, "Yeah and she still hasn't had enough of me, so there might be a chance for me yet."

I just smiled, They really seem to be in love. I'm glad for them. Then I started thinking about Maren again. Would Maren be interested in me? I really like her a lot, maybe love. But I can't tell her, she's so insecure about that. I don't blame her though, must be difficult to change from a boy into a girl and start a relationship with someone who is what used to be your own gender.

My thoughts were rudely interrupted as Aunt Vanessa asked, "Gabe what are you thinking about? You haven't responded to anything."

I gave her a grin, "Sorry, lost in thoughts. But tell me Aunt Vanessa, speaking of weddings, when are you and uncle Frank getting hitched?"

Uncle Frank stiffened behind the wheel and Aunt Vanessa gave me a piercing glare, as if she wanted to say, "Don't say anything like that." But what she actually said was, "I don't know, that depends on your uncle. He still hasn't proposed to me."

Uncle Frank didn't say anything but I could see that he wasn't comfortable, like he had been found out or something. Maybe he felt guilty about not asking Aunt Vanessa yet. I didn't really know though. I thought I might just be reading his body language wrong.

Dinner was good, though it wasn't as good as where I worked. But it was part of a chain of restaurants with a well known name, which maintained high prices and served quite good food. The conversation during dinner was light and easy going. But just before dessert was going to be served, uncle Frank got up and stepped to the side of the table near Aunt Vanessa. I had a suspicion of what he was going to do, and I think aunt Vanessa did too, for she just sat there with an amused smile on her lips.

Uncle Frank dropped to one knee, taking a small jewelry box out of his jacket pocket and asked, "Vanessa darling, will you marry me?"

Aunt Vanessa took the hand holding the box and said, "Yes, of course I will, Frank. What's the matter, did you feel pressured into this by what Gabe said?"

He glanced at me. "No, I was already prepared to ask you tonight. Gabe was just ahead with reading the situation. I was afraid that I would betray my intention tonight in the car."

Aunt Vanessa laughed, "You can never hide your feelings for me. I already guessed what you were up to tonight. In fact, I was afraid that you'd back out with Gabe and his remarks."

They both looked at me now, and I tried to look innocent. "Hey, I didn't know anything. I was just guessing."

Aunt Vanessa hugged me, "It's all right Gabe, You are more perceptive sometimes than is good for you." Then she asked Uncle Frank, "So, what date did you have in mind, honey?"

Uncle Frank sat down on his seat again, "I don't know, I can clear my schedule very rapidly, so why don't you decide. I'm sure that you will want to arrange everything."

They chatted a bit more on who was going to do what and what they wanted while I dove into my dessert, Ice-sorbet is always a favorite of mine.

The next morning I carefully drove Aunt Vanessa's Toyota station wagon to the center. I had already filled a big heavy refrigerated container with lots of snacks and drinks.

Maren was just walking up to the center as I sat down on the bench to wait for her. She sat down next to me and showed me her pet. It didn't look like a dog, but wasn't a squirrel either. I had never seen a squog before, so I looked carefully. When she woke up from her slumber and saw me looking, I think she was scared. She tried to hide in Maren's arms, but Maren held tightly onto the little pet and calmed her down.

The squog still felt apprehensive, but after I let her sniff my hands, Cyn began to relax. Only then did I start petting her. She really liked that and before long she came over to me to let me hold her. Maren took her over again when we saw Mr. Brands approach. He looked at us and said, "What do you have there Maren?"

She showed him Cyn and said, "This is my pet squog, Mr. Brands. We found her starving next to her dying mother. She and her brother have been adopted by Cynthia and me."

Mr. Brands took a closer look, "Real interesting, I would love to study her more closely. But why did you bring her to school?"

I jumped in, "it's my fault, Mr. Brands. I asked Maren to come to the beach with me this afternoon, and she can't leave her pet at home all day, so I told her to bring her squog with her. I hope you don't mind?"

Mr. Brands gave a thoughtful look, "Well, I don't know. I would have liked to be asked first." Then he laughed at Maren's pouty look, "No, it's okay. Is it okay for me to study your squog while you're working Maren?"

Maren's face brightened, "I guess, but she does need to rest sometimes. Maybe you can feed her later? That is, if you don't mind doing that."

"Oh, I don't mind at all. I do have some experience in that sort of thing. In my past I raised some bear cubs that were abandoned by their mothers or fell victim to poachers."

Maren was clearly felt relieved that it all worked out so well. We all got to class and soon were engrossed in our lesson. I sneaked several peeks at Maren and saw she was watching Mr. Brands a lot while he was busy with Cyn. She really watches over her pet squog, she'll be a good Mother I think.

Before I knew it, it was already time to go. I walked Maren out to the car and she was surprised by what I managed to borrow for the day. I helped her to get in by holding Cyn and the bag Maren had brought. I hurried to get in myself and carefully backed out of the parking lot. I had already preprogrammed the navigation system, so I could just relax and drive at a leisurely pace.

As we were driving I kept waiting for Maren to say something but she didn't, so instead, I asked, "Um, Maren? Would you like to go a wedding with me a week from Saturday?"

She made a weird sound before answering me. "Sorry Gabe, but I can't. I already have to go to a wedding."

I felt disappointment, but then began thinking what she said, She has to go to a wedding? "What exactly did you say Maren?"

She started laughing, before asking "Who's marriage have you been invited to Gabe?"

Suspiciously I answered, "Uncle Frank says that the fire chief is getting married."

She laughed even more, and I was getting quite upset by it. Then she hurried to say, "He's marrying my Mom, so I can't go with you. I'll already be there."

I relaxed as I joined in her laughter, "Oh, now I see. Well, then I'll see you there."

I kept laughing and I tried to think of a way to get back at her. I suddenly had it and asked, "Then how about going to the next wedding with me?"

Now I had her confused. She sundered perplexed, "What next wedding. Who is going to get married next then? I'm not ready for marriage, and I'm not sure that you're man enough for me."

I laughed at her indignant reaction, 'Why does she think I was referring to us getting hitched?' "Maren I wasn't talking about us, though I wouldn't mind taking you out on a date someday."

I could hear the barely contained fury in her voice as she asked, "So if not us, whose wedding do you mean?"

"My uncle asked Aunt Vanessa last night to marry him." Then I continued on an indignant tone, "Hey! What did you mean I'm not enough man for you? Want me to prove to you that I am?"

She snickered, "Just how are you going to prove that?"

On a thoughtful tone I said, "I'll tickle you till you give up? Or zap you silly with my lightning."

She giggled again, "You can zap me all you want, and I'll just absorb it with my power."

I was about to answer her when someone on a bike shot in front of the car and I had to swerve like mad to avoid him. I exclaimed, "Verdomme, sjoch ut dyn eagen." [Damn, watch out]

Maren looked at me, "What did you say? It sounded funny."

I looked sheepish at her, "Sorry, I cursed in my native language. Literally it meant: Damn, look out of your eyes."

"It sure sounded funny when you said it."

We drove a few more minutes in silence till we reached the turn off to the beach. I pulled into the deserted road and parked on the side. "How about it? Would you like to try driving for a little while?"

She looked shocked, "I can't drive. And this is your uncle's car. Really, I can't."

"Well, actually it's my aunt's car, but the road's deserted, so have a go."

She hesitated and bit her under lip, looking so cute, "Okay then, but only a short way, okay?"

I agreed with her and we swapped seats. She drove for a while but then stopped and told me, "That's enough for now. Please, you go on and park it."

We switched seats again and I parked the car next to all the others already there. Maren carried the bag with Cyn. When I got out the big container with snacks and refreshments, she asked, "What's in there?"

"Lunch! Snacks and drinks for us and the others."

Maren looked appreciatively at me, I think she was happy that I had thought of that. We had to walk some distance to the beach, and we went on our way. As we neared the beach area, Maren stopped and said, "I haven't even thanked you yet for allowing me to drive. Here." She gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Before I could say anything, she noticed her friends and ran ahead of me, already waving and shouting greetings to them. I plowed on through the sand but suddenly found Lance getting in front of me. I noticed that he looked upset about something, but just said, "Hi Batman, how's it going?"

In a threatening sort of way he came at me, so I put down the container. Then Lance growled, "What the hell are you doing with Maren? Get away from her! She's spoken for!"

I screwed my eyes, "Unless I hear from Maren that she has a steady boyfriend I will take her anywhere she wants. Or are you supposed to be her boyfriend?"

Lance kept coming closer, "Maybe I am her boyfriend. You just stay away from her."

I kept my ground and snarled back at him, "Nice boyfriend you are! But I asked Maren here and she said yes to me. Now get out of my way!"

Lance pushed me and I pushed him back. Then he charged straight at me, I sidestepped and with my shoulder under his arm, threw him further so he stumbled and landed in the sand. He quickly got up again and shouted a short burst of ultrasonic sound waves, making me dizzy. He paused for a breath and I came out of my spell. He was about to shout more sonic waves at me but I warned him, "Batman, don't or you'll be sorry." I started to power up very quickly. Soon the air around me crackled with the electric energy swirling around me. The lightning sparks started to go back and forth between my fingertips, as I prepared to do what I felt was necessary to stop Lance from doing damage.

 

Chapter 5

I was ready to throw a lightning bolt at Lance at a moments notice when I heard Maren shout, "Stop it. Stop it you two."

She stopped between me and Lance and touched my arm. In doing so she absorbed quite a lot of my electric energy and drained my power. I glared at her, but she faced Lance first and exclaimed, "Don't you dare shout a sonic blast or I'll blind you for a long time."

She turned back around to face me, "You're not my boyfriend yet, so why don't you please go over there with my friends. I'll talk to you soon."

I stared at her for a moment, then cast my eyes down and gave in. Quietly I picked up the container and plodded along through the sand to where her friends were sitting. I saw the hybrid horse girl holding Cyn and since Maren already told me a little about her hybrid sister, I knew who she was. I put the container down near them and said, "Hi, I'm Gabe Kramer. I drove Maren here from the classes that she shares with me." I faced Isabel first. "I know that you must be Isabel. Maren told me about her horse hybrid sister."

Isabel just stared at me before finally coming to her senses. "Oh ... yeah, sure. I'm Isabel, and this is Cyn. But you probably know that already."

The other girls saved her from embarrassment, "Hi Gabe, I'm Mandy, and this is Denise."

The black girl shook my hand, "They also call me the Match, since I'm a fire elemental. So what are you? I saw that you had an aura or something around you when you faced Lance."

I smiled at them, "I'm an Electrical Elemental. I can generate lightning and other electrical power at will."

The girls all looked at me with big staring eyes, like I was the new messiah or something. "Hey, it's nothing special. I'm sure that there are lots more who are similar as me."

Denise came out of her awe first. "So do you have a nickname like me and Synergy?"

I smiled and thought back to Darren who'd given me a nickname. "Yeah, a friend of mine called me Blitz."

Now Isabel was ready to comment again as well. "Nice name ... Blitz. Well, I'm certainly glad to finally meet my sister's boyfriend. So tell me, how good is she at kissing?"

Now I felt embarrassed. Did Maren tell her that we kissed? Or is she just guessing and baiting me? Besides Maren just told me that I'm not her boyfriend, so maybe I should keep everything that I did with Maren a secret. I'm sure that she'd want that.

Then I saw that Isabel was glancing behind me, and guessed that Maren was on her way back to us. I was right, she saved me by saying, "Hi guys, I see you've met Gabe already. He's taking the extra lessons with me and since he has a drivers license he offered to drive us here."

I turned around towards Maren and saw she was holding Lance's arm. I scowled at that sight. I don't even know why, Maren had told me that I wasn't her boyfriend, but I guess I really wanted to be just that. Then she pushed Lance forward, "Lance has something to say to you, Gabe."

Lance hesitantly started, "Um Gabe. I'm sorry I tried to start a fight with you. I had no reason to do that, but I guess I still had some hope of being Maren's boyfriend. But she's made it absolutely clear to me now that I'll never be that." He looked alternately at me, and Maren, "So friends again?"

My mood cleared, So Maren isn't sweet on Lance? I hope I can persuade her to go out with me sometime.

Still, I was a bit upset and wanted to give Lance a warning. I smiled at them, "Sure Lance. No hard feelings." I extended my hand to him and he shook it. Then he let go with a yelp as I gave him a little zap as a warning of my power.

Maren gave me a stern glare, as if she was about to scold me for doing that. I started laughing and said, "Just a little joke, Lance. I just couldn't resist." Lance joined in, and soon we were all laughing at it.

Isabel said to Maren, "Nice boyfriend you have there, Sis, and good looking too. Where did you find him? I want one like him."

Then I got it, Isabel was teasing Maren about boyfriends. I was lucky that I hadn't answered her question about kissing. I was pretty sure that Maren wouldn't like to admit that we kissed already.

Maren changed the subject, turning her attention to me, "Gabe? I'm hungry since I didn't have lunch. So, what have you got in there," as she pointed at the ice chest.

"See for yourself! I've got your favorite sandwiches, and all kinds of treats." I opened the container and gave her several items as well as a bottle to drink. Immediately the others also wanted a look, and I just let them take their pick. Soon we were all either eating or drinking or both. My sandwiches and snacks were a great hit, as I had intended. The only thing was that I hadn't counted on was that there were vegetarians in the group. Isabel felt a bit left out I think, as I'd only made a few vegetable sandwiches.

I sat down next to Maren and feeling a bit sleepy, I lay down and relaxed. I didn't sleep however, from under my eyelashes I kept looking at Maren. She's so beautiful, I hope I can take her out later.

I saw Maren shake her head at someone, probably her sister. Is she teasing Maren again? Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to ask her to come here for a swimming lesson.

Suddenly I noticed Snake and Leo walking towards us. I got up quickly and asked, "Hi Snake, Leo. Where did you come from?"

Snake smiled, "Hi Gabe. I see you found Maren on your own. I was going to introduce you two, you know."

Maren joined us and smiled at him, "Yes, we met while having catch up lessons together. But you didn't answer his question. Where did you two come from?"

Leo purred, "There is a cove there with an inlet from the bay, where the water is calmer and not so deep. I am not that comfortable in the water, so Snake helped me get over my fear of water."

Maren laughed, "You don't have to make up something like that. Why don't you don't you just admit you were making out?"

Snake looked around terrified, like he feared being found out. He whispered, "Shush, please keep it down."

Maren laughed again, "What are you afraid of? There isn't anyone around to hear us. Besides we all already know that the two of you are seeing each other. Now you said that the water there was calm? I still haven't learned how to swim, so maybe I should try it there. If it's secluded enough I can learn to swim without a lot of people looking."

"Let's go there now. Maren," I told her. "Snake and Leo can cover for us and we should do right now, while Isabel and Denise are running to the water." I pointed at the girls racing to the waterline.

We quickly walked over to where Snake had pointed to the cove. He was right. There was quite a nice calm inlet and Maren ran straight into the water. I felt something churning inside from my past, a feeling of hunting, and followed closely behind. I didn't want her to get in too far at first, so I grabbed her waist, "Hold on, not so fast!"

She giggled and turned to me. I wasn't quite sure what she thought I had in mind, so I explained that she should get used to the water first, by walking in the deep parts and getting used to being in the water and underwater. Patiently, I talked her through the lesson, and before long Maren was paddling along using a breast stroke. After about an hour, I decided that it was enough for today. "Don't stay in the water too long. It may feel fine, but it really is still quite cold. Water drains heat from the body much more quickly than air, so we should go join the others and take in some sunshine."

We headed back to where the others would be sunbathing or swimming and enjoying themselves. As we rounded a corner that had shielded us from them, I saw the others were playing with a ball in the water. Suddenly, Maren started running, yelling back, "Last one there is a rotten egg."

I felt the thrill of the chase and the hunt inside me. I hadn't felt it in a long time, except for a brief burst earlier. I think it was something left over from my full canine days. As I chased after her, a feral growl escaped my mouth. I was quickly gaining on her, when she looked back and I saw a spot of fear in her eyes. She started going faster, but I was still catching up to her as she reached the water. She was wading into knee deep water when I caught up. I threw myself forward and grabbed her, so we crashed into the water together. For a moment I feared that she would be angry with me that over that, but then she turned her face to me and started kissing me.

I kissed her back and we got to our feet, still kissing very passionately. I had never kissed a girl like that before and it felt like I was in Heaven. My animal side, however minute it was, even felt an attraction to her that I can't explain. We were lip locked for a long time, until I heard someone cry out, "Isabel? What are you doing? You're supposed to catch, not bounce it with your head ... oops." Then there was a silence, and nobody said anything. I pulled away from Maren and looked behind her at the others. Isabel was staring at us with her mouth wide open. Some of the others were smiling, while others just looked in wonder or scowled at us.

Maren half turned to see what I was looking at. Then she quickly ran away from the water towards were we'd left our clothes. I yelled after her, "Maren, wait! Please wait! Don't run away!"

Isabel was suddenly beside me and said softly,, "Let me go to her. I'm her sister and an empath. She's boiling over with emotions right now, embarrassment being a big one of them."

Isabel quickly jumped with her powerful pony legs through the surf and towards Maren. While I just looked on. Snake came up to my right, "I hope you know what you're doing, Gabe. Maren is one of my best friends. I don't want her to get hurt."

I turned to him, "I have no intention of hurting her. She's special, and I really like her."

Lance came up to us next. "You'd better treat her right or I'll come after you myself. But you should know that she told me that she likes you a lot."

Now I had something to think about. Maren likes me? Of course she likes me, that kiss said it all. I hope I didn't ruin it with such a public performance'

I looked at both of them, "Like I said, I really like her. Besides, she can take care of herself well enough."

They looked at me, then nodded in agreement. I walked towards where our clothes were and saw Isabel walk off with Maren. They were talking animatedly, so I just went over to Leo, who was playing with Cyn. When I grabbed a soda can from my cooler, Cyn decided to jump into my arms. I played with her till I saw Isabel running back towards us, with Maren hot on her heels. I put Cyn down near Leo and got up to meet her. She stopped just short of me and I looked at her with hesitation and guilt, "I'm so sorry Maren. I shouldn't have..."

She interrupted me, "Gabe. It's not your fault. I just wish we had done it a bit more privately."

Mandy looked at Maren, "But then we would have missed it. I would've died if I'd missed that. It looked sensational." She hugged Maren tightly.

Maren was obviously embarrassed again and asked, "Um ... guys? Can we just forget about it? I don't want to be reminded, so let's just drop it for now."

They all grumbled and muttered something, but then sat down without talking about the kiss. I did notice some glances at Maren and me, but that was it. I sat down quite far from Maren. I didn't want to crowd her now and just give her some space, though I would've rather sit next to her.

Soon we all were having a good time and with more drinks I produced from the big cooler, until Lance suddenly jumped to his feet and looked at his watch. "Shit, I need to get home."

Now everyone started looking at their watches, and we decided to shower and pack up to go home. I quickly showered in the guys changing building, then had to wait with the guys for the girls to come out. It always takes them longer. But then again, they do have nice long hair that doesn't dry as fast as our short hair. I kept myself busy packing all the things in the car though.

At long last the girls were ready and Maren sauntered over and asked, "Um, Gabe, can Isabel and Denise ride with us? It'll save them from hitching a ride with someone else, since Lance already left."

I smiled and said, "Sure, no problem." Then I whispered in her ear, so only she could hear it, "But that means no goodbye kiss."

She blushed quite prettily and smiled back at me demurely. We had just put the last of the girls' things in the car when Cyn suddenly escaped. She ran out onto the sand and Maren went after her in a hurry. Snake followed her in a heartbeat, while I was busy on the other side of the car and couldn't follow.

It didn't take Snake and Maren long to catch Cyn again. They were talking to each other as they returned, and I saw Maren whack Snake's behind with her tail. I gave her a questioning look, but she ignored it. Maren wanted to ride shotgun, but chatted a lot with Isabel and Denise, while I just concentrated on driving home safely.

The girls told me which way to go and before long we dropped off Denise at her house. Then Isabel and Maren both started to give me directions to their place, until I cut them off, "One at a time please."

Isabel whinnied, and I thought, Man that will take some time to get used to'

Then she said, "Sorry. You go ahead, Maren."

Maren told me that it wasn't far, and guided me quickly to a nice big house. I parked on the driveway and Isabel jumped out, saying, "I'll go ahead so you two can do what ever you have to do."

I frowned at what she said, but Maren looked at me and laughed at the face I was making. "Isabel promised not to tease me too much about the kiss. She's an empath, and felt our emotions during our kiss. She said that you're hard to read, but that she likes you from what she got from you."

"Hm, I don't know. Should I be glad about that, or worried?"

Maren leaned over, "Just kiss me before someone sees us."

When I kissed her on her lips she responded, kissing me so passionately that I got turned on. Finally she broke it off, to my disappointment. I think it showed, because she smiled, "More of that tomorrow Gabe."

I sighed, "Goodnight Maren, see you tomorrow. And we do have to do this again sometime soon."

"Why?" Maren looked puzzled, but with a happiness in it.

"Well, you don't expect to be a good swimmer after only one lesson, do you?"

Maren laughed as she got out of the car. "No, I guess not. We'll talk about it tomorrow. okay?"

"Sure, and bring your swimsuit tomorrow just in case. Good bye"

She waved to me as I slowly backed out onto the road and drove home. I was early enough to be the first back, so I started a nice dinner for my uncle and aunt. I had a simple and fast meal ready by the time they arrived home. As she came in, Aunt Vanessa said, "Hi, Gabe, I see that you brought my car back in one piece. So, had a good time today?"

"Yes I had a good time. So how was your day? Did Uncle Frank pick you up?"

Uncle Frank stepped through the door right at that point, "Yes I did. So how was your date?"

I sighed, "It wasn't a date. We just went to the beach, where I taught her to swim."

Uncle Frank just smiled, "If you say so."

Aunt Vanessa saved me, "I see that you already fixed dinner. Good, I'm famished."

Uncle Frank put his briefcase into his study and came back to me, "Say Gabe, I know someone who has a small pool. He gives permission to some people to use it as long as they keep it clean and tidy. It would be perfect to teach your girlfriend how to swim. There'll be no one around to make comments."

"Thanks, that would be great." Uncle Frank gave me the friend's number and I immediately made a call. I talked to Mr. Downing on the phone, who said that he would be happy to let us use the pool. He would be out the whole day anyway. That way his pool wasn't sitting idly.

Later, while we were eating, Uncle Frank asked, "Gabe, did you ask your girl if she'd like to go to the wedding with you?"

I was drinking some wine at that moment and choked as some of it went down my windpipe. I coughed for a while and Uncle Frank said, "Did I say something bad?"

I coughed a little more before answering, "No... 'cough' ... you didn't. I did ask her, but she surprised me and said that she couldn't go with me." Uncle Frank raised his eyebrows. I continued, "She said she had to go to a wedding." The look on my uncle's face was priceless When I continued "She said it's her Mom's wedding that we're invited to."

Now Aunt Vanessa started laughing. Soon we all joined her and had a fun time that evening talking about things.

~~~~~~~~~~

Hybrid compound in Canada

The furry Wolf hybrid said to his wife, "Amarins, Ik haw pine in myn linker skonk. Kinst dêr ek eat oan dwaan?" [Amarins, I have pain in my left leg. Can you do something about it?]

The furry dog hybrid woman patted next to her on the couch, "Gean sitten Keimpe, Ik sil sjen wat Ik der oan dwaen kin." [Sit down Keimpe, I'll see what I can do.]

As she was a weak bio-elemental, she knew a bit about healing scars and open wounds, and could even do a little about broken bones and muscle ailments. She examined her husband's leg, but couldn't find anything. So she just massaged it. After a while he said, "Tanke wol schat, it fielt in stik better no." [Thanks honey, it feels a lot better now.]

She said however, "Ik tink datsto moarn oars mar efkes nei de dokter moast foar in ûndersiik." [I think that tomorrow you need to visit the doctor for a checkup.]

The wolf hybrid called Keimpe shrugged, "Dat is net nedich, mei myn herstel kreft haw ik neat om benaud foar te wêzen." [That isn't necessary, with my recovery power I have nothing to fear.]

She was still worried about her husband, especially after they had driven their son out of the house. She missed him terribly and regretted so much the harsh words she had said. She really wanted to talk to him. But she didn't think he would talk to her, so she hesitated calling him. And her husband was so stubborn as well. Gabe was a lot like him, would she ever see him again? She hoped that he was all right with her brother in law.

~~~~~~~~~~

Gabe in Savannah

The next morning I was up early to practice a little with my power as well as working out. Then I was off to the last day of school this week. Maren was already waiting for me and she had brought Cyn with her again. She was playing with her, trying to get her to fetch a ball. However, Cyn lost interest when she saw me and ran over to me instead. I petted her for a while before Cyn decided she wanted to go back to Maren's arms.

I sat down next to her, "Hi Maren, how are you feeling today? No muscle pain from all that swimming yesterday?"

She leaned over, "Nope, I feel fine," Then stopped talking to give me a kiss on the lips.

Responding, I put my arm around her as we kissed for a long time. I didn't close my eyes though, and saw some older people walking by giving us disapproving looks and shaking their heads. So what! I don't care!, I really like Maren, and anyway, all we're doing is kissing.

The kiss did end though and I guess Maren felt a bit embarrassed for kissing me with such passion. I kept my arm around her and just sat there with a wide grin on my face. We started chatting a bit about current affairs and our lessons. And before we knew it Mr. Brands arrived and we entered the class room where we had a routine morning.

As I still had a day off from work, I took Maren to the small outdoor pool after class. Fortunately she had remembered to pack her swimsuit and we tied Cyn securely with enough line to keep herself occupied. Maren made sure that she had some water, while I continued to teach her how to swim. Maren is a fast learner and managed to get along fine in a short time. We had the pool to ourselves, as this was more of a private pool. In fact Mr. Downing only gave permission to swim here to some teenagers that were recommended and who didn't want to be crowded. He asked only that we respect his property and kept it clean.

After doing some laps around the pool, Maren stopped swimming near me and stood next to me in the high waist deep water. She looked questioningly at me, "So how did I do, Mr. Swim instructor?"

I smiled, "Pretty good. Of course this is only a small pool, but you really picked it up fast. You do need to learn a lot more before you can get a certificate, though."

Maren huffed, "I don't care about certificates. I just want to be able to handle myself in the water, so I don't get left out when I'm with friends at the beach or something like that."

"I don't think that you have to worry about that. With some more practice you can do pretty much everything they can."

Maren smiled coyly at me, "Everything they can?" With that she moved closer and though I expected it, she still surprised me with the fierceness of her kiss. I even lost my footing and we slipped into the water still kissing. That soon put an end to it, as we had to get up for air, but once we could breathe well enough again we continued were we had left off. I felt something getting very hard down below and got a little uncomfortable. I guess Maren felt it as well, as she stopped kissing and looked down. "Oops, I think things are getting out of hand."

I lifted her head to look at me, "I don't care. I love you Maren."

Now she really broke it off. She climbed out of the pool and went over to Cyn. I followed her, "Maren? What's wrong? Did I say something bad?"

She tensed her lips, "I ... Why did you have to say that? I don't know if I'm ready or if I'll ever be ready for love."

I sat down next to her, dripping all over Cyn, who shook the water off her. "Maren, I'm sorry about that. But it's how I feel. It doesn't mean that I want to push you. Whatever you want is important. If you want me to back off, then I will. If you just want me to be a friend, that's fine too. If you want me to jump into bed with you, then I'll jump into bed with you. But you are in control. Don't shut me out, that's the only thing I ask of you."

Maren smiled at me. "Thanks Gabe. You really are a nice guy. I do want to kiss you again, though. Especially since I get all worked up around you, too. Just give me some time to sort out my feelings." With that she kissed me lightly again before running back into pool, where she started swimming again. Cyn was pulling on her line and wanted to follow. So I untied her and let her try swimming under my watchful eye.

Maren picked her up soon enough and said, "Why'd you let her swim? I'm afraid she might drown."

I said reassuringly, "That isn't true. Sure small animals can't swim too long, but I've learned that they can already swim at this young age. And she wanted to follow you, you know?"

I took Cyn over from her and went back to the grass to watch Maren do some more laps. After a little while she got out and sat down next to me while we ate some sandwiches and talked. I told her, "I have to work the whole weekend. Everybody's Place is opening again, and we're going to have a sale to attract more customers."

She looked a bit disappointed, but said, "I understand. Say, I might need a job. Are you hiring?"

I thought for a second, "I don't know exactly. I know that Andre is always looking for some waitresses. But if that is now, I really can't say. Of course you can ask him."

She smiled back at me. I was thinking, I should do more to help her, but I don't really know how.

When I finished my food I got up to get the cleaning net from the side. Maren asked, "What are you doing, Gabe?"

I showed her a long pole with the net. "I'm going to clean the pool a bit. Would you mind picking up all the stuff around the pool?"

She got up, and together we cleaned the area around the pool and the pool from leaves and other stuff. After we cleaned up very well, we packed up and headed towards her house. I watched her go in before going back home myself.

I got up early on Saturday morning, knowing we were going to be swamped with the re-opening. Andre was already busy in the kitchen when I arrived, and I quickly started my work. As the other cooks came in, we really got cooking and soon most things were ready. There was time for a breather and I saw Andre take a small box from his pocket. He kind of hid it from the rest of us, but I could make out that he swallowed a pill of some sort. I went over to him, "Hee Baas, is er iets mis met U?" [Hey Boss, is there something wrong with you?]

Andre turned to me, "Nee, natuurlijk niet, waarom zou er iets mis met me zijn?" [No of course not, why would there be anything wrong with me?]

I scowled, "Omdat ik zag dat je een pilletje nam. Als het niets ernstig is, hoef je er niet over te liegen." [Because I saw you taking a small pill. If it's nothing serious, then you don't have to lie about it.]

Andre motioned for me to follow him to the front. There he said, "Okee, de dokter vertelde me dat ik het wat rustiger aan moet doen. Ik heb een paar hart probleempjes. Maar ik wil dat jij het voor je houd." [Okay, the doctor told me that I have to take it a bit easier. I have a few heart problems. But I want you to keep it to yourself.]

I nodded and we went back to the others. Andre asked for some silence and then said, "Okay guys, you all have done a great job. Not only today, but in the past, as well. My doctor tells me that I have to take it a little easier, but I will still be a nuisance to you all. However I need to delegate some chores. For that I need to appoint a head chef."

The guys all looked at him tensely. I just watched it all. I was the newest guy in the place, so I was sure that he wouldn't pick me. Andre continued, "And I want the person to be the best cook in the place, so I have picked Gabe as my head chef."

I stared at Andre. Did he lose his marbles already? I'm the new guy, and I'm sure all the others will feel passed over and will hate my guts for him doing this.

Then old Mike came up to me, "I couldn't agree more with that decision. I have worked here for a long time and I know a great chef when I see one. I think the boss made an excellent decision."

The others congratulated me on my new position as well. I almost couldn't believe it. Not only was I now the head chef of Everybody's Place, but they all supported the decision of Andre. But I had to speak up, "I don't think I can accept this. I mean, I'm still in school. I can't work full hours!"

Andre said in response, "We all know that. I'm appointing Mike as head chef in absentia. Meaning, he'll be in charge when you can't be here. But when you're here, you'll be in charge, only I can overrule you."

Since I didn't have anything to object to anymore, I grudgingly accepted the honor.

The rest of the day was very busy, and we could hardly keep up the demand for food by all the customers. But we did manage, if only marginally. I was so tired that evening that I went straight to bed. The next morning I was back at work early. Even Andre wasn't there yet. He had given me my own key, so I opened up. I was soon joined by Paco, and we started cleaning the things that we didn't get to the evening before. We were still open for business, but fortunately it wasn't that busy.

I was in the middle of explaining some new dish to Paco, when my old style Cell phone rang. I motioned to Paco to hold it for a moment and answered, "Hello?"

It was Snake on the other end. "Gabe? I'm at the hospital. Maren's been shot. Can you come over?".

 

Chapter 6

I explained things to Andre who just showed up, and he said to go to the hospital immediately. I rushed over to the hospital where Snake had said that they had taken Maren to.

When I got there I saw Snake pacing the waiting room and I went over to him. "Any news? Do you know what happened?"

Snake shook his head, "Maren's mom called me. She only said that she and her sister had been shot in the dance studio. She didn't give any details though."

Just then a good looking older woman walked up to us quickly. "Hi Snake, did you hear anything?"

Snake shook his head, "They aren't telling me anything. Maybe you'll have more luck, Miss Landers."

The woman gave a wry smile and then looked at me. "Who is this young man Snake?"

I introduced myself, "Hello, I'm Gabe Kramer."

She looked at me with a bit of surprise and curiosity, "Glad to meet you, Gabe. I've heard so much about you from Maren and Isabel." She shook my hand and smiled at me.

How much does she know about me and Maren?

I was about to say something when she looked around and said, "Sorry, but I'm going to ask if I can see my daughters." She left us standing and went to the receptionist to ask where her daughters where. We held back a bit and went back to pacing and waiting. I never did like waiting in hospitals.

A little while later Maren and Isabel were wheeled into the waiting room with their mother right behind them.

She quickly got out of the wheelchair and came over to me. She threw her arms around me and started kissing and hugging me. "How did you know I was here?"

I put some distance between us so I could look at her, "Snake called me. What happened, Maren? They said you had been shot, seriously. How badly are you hurt?"

She smiled, "Oh I'm perfectly all right. Someone asked an MBE to heal us. There isn't a mark on me anymore."

I frowned hearing that and I was about to ask why someone would pay the hefty fee for an MBE, and so quickly. But Maren must have guessed what I was going to do and quickly said, "I'll tell you all about it later. Now, I have had enough of the hospital, so can we leave here now?"

I looked at Snake, Maren's mom and her sister. They were all rearing to go by the looks of it. I put my arm around Maren, eliciting a snicker from her sister. Maren didn't care though, she just clung to my side as we walked out.

Soon we came to a hastily parked car and Maren's Mom said, "I guess you don't have a car right? I can only seat 4 people, so I guess we're overcrowded."

I interrupted, "That's okay. I have to get back to work anyway. I'll see you Monday then?"

Maren responded to my question, "Sure, Gabe, too bad you have to work again."

I shrugged, "I need the money and experience. Well, see you later." I gave Maren a peck on her cheek, but she took my head between her hands and lip locked me with her lips for quite a while.

When her Mom cleared her throat, Maren stopped kissing me, with a blush on her cheeks. She turned to go to the car and I took off on a run to get back to work.

I arrived back at Everybody's Place quite fast. As I came into the kitchen near Andre's office, I heard a heated discussion going on. I recognized the voices as those of Andre and François or Frankie as we called him. I couldn't hear it well enough to understand yet, especially since they were talking in French. Being Belgian, Andre spoke that as his second language. As I came closer I saw the others looking in the direction of the office. I gave them an inquisitive look, but they shrugged, indicating that they didn't know. Probably because they don't speak French. As I got closer I could hear it better, enough at least to understand what they were talking about.

Frankie said, "Tu as commencé par le faire chef à ma place, et maintenant, tu ignores mes idées. Je démissionne, je ne peux pas travailler comme ça."

With that he stormed out of the office and ran past us in a hurry, not looking up or speaking to us. I knew enough French that I understood what he was talking about. He had said that I was being placed over him as chef, and that his ideas were ignored. From what I heard after that, he said that he'd quit and wouldn't want to work here anymore.

I went into Andre's office and asked, "Andre? What is going on with François. Why does he say that he quits?"

Andre looked at me with a weary face. "He had some ideas that I don't think are appropriate for our business. I think that his anger has been smoldering a lot longer, though. I'm sure that he wanted the position of chef. And then you came and were a better cook than him."

I must have shown some kind of guilt on my face as Andre continued, "But he doesn't blame you or my decision. He's just unhappy. I really don't want to lose him, you know. He's a real pro and there is nobody better at cakes and desserts than him."

I glared at Andre and he laughed, "Well, you could give him a run for his money, I know. But he really is a professional in his speciality."

I sighed, "I know. I can still learn a lot from him. He's a wizard with the cakes, and his puddings are quite a hit with our customers. Do you mind if I try to talk to him?"

Andre waved, "Go ahead, be my guest. I doubt you can make him change his mind. But if anyone could, it would be you."

I nodded and quickly left the office, going outside to look for Frankie. I didn't have to look too long. He was sitting in the alley behind the restaurant. He just sat there looking at the ground. I sat down next to him and kept quiet for the moment. Frankie started, "What do you want Gabe? I don't feel like speaking right now."

Softly I said, "Listen François, I can understand enough French to know what the fight was about. I didn't ask to be made chef."

He sighed, "I know that and I don't mind it that much. I know that you're the better overall cook. I specialize in desserts."

"Then what is really on your mind? Tell me what is troubling you. If you keep quiet about it, nobody can help you."

Frankie sighed again, "I don't think you can help me, Gabe. I wanted to expand the business of the restaurant to another avenue, but Andre just doesn't see it my way."

I grimaced, "So, what big idea do you have? Do you want to start a business for yourself then?"

"Well, I wanted to start a catering business, you know wedding cakes, birthday cakes, party catering stuff like that. But I wanted to do it with Everybody's Place, because I don't have enough capital to start, and we have such a good reputation on quality."

I thought for a moment, It might be a good idea, but I can see why Andre doesn't want it. This is too much off the track for a restaurant or diner or ice-cream parlor. And though we should diversify, we shouldn't want to do too much.

"Frankie? I need to think about it. Please do me a favor and take the afternoon off. Tomorrow both Andre and you will have cooled off. We can discuss things more clearly then. Okay?"

Frankie gave me a wry smile and said in a relieved tone, "Okay, Gabe. You'll make a great chef. I wouldn't have gone after an employee to have a talk like you just did."

I grimaced again, "Go home you frog! Just come in tomorrow for work, and after my lessons I want to talk to both you and Andre."

Frankie smiled and after getting his bag, set off. Andre was curious and asked, "What did you say to him Gabe?"

"I told him to go home for the day. I need some time to think. I want to talk about it tomorrow with both you and him, if you value my opinion on it that is."

Andre looked relieved, "Sure Gabe, sometimes I react too emotionally. I know that. I don't want to lose François as an employee. But we can't afford to spread ourselves too thin. His ideas are good, just not for us right now."

"I know that, but I think that there may be a solution. But I need some time to think it over."

Andre agreed that both he and Frankie should calm down, and we went back to work. The solution of this problem eluded me the whole afternoon and evening. It even kept me awake for a long time. Just as I started to get up and grab something to drink, I suddenly saw a bright flash of light shoot through the night sky. It blinded me for a moment. There was no way this could be natural. I knew of only one person who had the power and ability to do something like that. I guessed that Maren lost control of her powers for a moment. I made a note to ask her about it in the morning.

Thinking about Maren, my mind wandered a bit further and I realized that her Mom's wedding was the next Saturday. That's when I had my epiphany. I suddenly knew what to do with the problem of Frankie and Andre. Satisfied that I had my problem solved I went back to bed and fell asleep moments later.

The next morning I met Maren outside the center. She looked a bit haggard, but smiled when she saw me. She gave me a kiss before I asked, "Hi Maren? How was the rest of your day yesterday? Give any lightshows lately?"

She groaned, "How did you know that, Gabe?"

I smiled, "I couldn't sleep, I kept thinking about a problem at work. And then I saw your lightshow. At least I think it was your lightshow. You are the only one I know that can do that."

She grimaced, "Yeah well, I had a nightmare again. I already have an appointment with Gavin about it. Can we just drop the subject? I already feel so bad at what I did."

"Sure, Maren, let's get to class then." I pointed at my Aunt Vanessa walking up to us.

The lesson was quite easy to do and I finished it quickly and read a bit more in my books to pass the time. We were almost done for the day when Aunt Vanessa said, "I'm pleased with the progress and results you both have produced. Gabe, you are finished with all your assignments already. Maren, you still have a few more to complete. One of them is that you have to bake a cake or pie for your Home-Economics assignment. Please think about what you want to bake, and tell me tomorrow."

Maren paled a little and looked worried at hearing my Aunt Vanessa's words. I didn't want her to worry too much, so I said, "Don't worry too much Maren. I'll help you prepare for it."

Aunt Vanessa warned, "She has to do it herself Gabe. You can't help her bake it."

"I know that. I'm just helping her to show what she has to do and how she can do it. I'm the cook around here so I should help her out," I pointed out to my Aunt.

Aunt Vanessa sighed, "Oh very well. I think that is allowed. Well, I'll see you tomorrow Maren. Oh, before I forget, what kind of present does your Mom like for her wedding?"

I could see from her looks that she was taken by surprise with the question. "I ... uhm ... well I don't really know."

Aunt Vanessa smiled, "Oh well, I'll find something." Then she looked at the clock. "Is that the time? I've got to go to a meeting. See you tomorrow then, Maren. And I'll see you tonight," she said to me.

I accompanied Maren out the door and asked, "Maren if you want to, I can introduce you to Frankie. He's the best at baking pie's and such. Even I can learn some things from him."

She looked a bit sad and said, "I would like to, but I have the appointment with Gavin in a half hour. He called me last night after I gave my lightshow."

"Oh yeah, I forgot already. Well, give him my regards then. We do need to get together to show you how to bake something. How about coming to the restaurant, after you've finished with Gavin."

She smiled, "I would like to. I'll have to see how late I'm going to be. So don't wait for me if I can't make it today, okay?"

She gave me a kiss and I watched her walk off to her appointment. I sighed, I really love that girl.

Then I remembered what I had to do today and set a quick pace to Everybody's Place. Frankie was doing his normal work and I found Andre scowling in his office. I called Frankie over and together we entered Andre's office. He looked up at us with a scowl.

Before he could say anything I asked Frankie to sit down. Then I started, "François, you said that you want to bake wedding cakes and birthday cakes, right?" Frankie just nodded in agreement. "Okay, now Andre. You think this is too much, and too far away from our usual business."

Andre began, "Yes that is it. It is not that I don't like it, but we can't handle that much pull in a different direction."

I interrupted, "Please hear me out first, Andre." He closed his mouth and grudgingly let me go on. "Now François I know that you are hesitating between staying to work here, or leaving and starting your own business."

Andre began to interrupt again with an emotional outburst, but with a simple gesture, I managed to halt him.

I continued, "I also know that you like working here and we sure wouldn't want to miss you as well. Last night I thought about a compromise between both. How about you starting your business part time and work the other hours here? For a minor fee we could also rent you the use of the baking ovens for your business. Of course the restaurant business has priority."

Both Andre and Frankie were about to speak agitatedly, but I motioned them to silence. "Look, this way we don't lose your expertise and your valued workmanship, and you don't have to get into debt already to start up a business. I even might have a first order for you as a catering job, but you should accept our help for big events as well."

I turned to Andre. "This will save us the quarrel about going into a different direction, but we won't miss out on it entirely. You don't have the strain of the new business, as Frankie will handle that. But we get to keep his skilled workmanship and if we ever want to go into that kind of business, we can have a joint venture with Frankie."

Both men were speechless after my long talk and thought hard about what I'd said. I was about to give up and get to my usual work when Andre chuckled. "Well done, Gabe! I would have never thought of something like that. I like the solution."

Frankie started smiling as well, "Mais oui. This is something I can feel comfortable with. But how are we going to manage..."

I interrupted him, "That can be worked out later. You need to make a business plan first, right after you make your desserts for today."

Frankie looked at me with his mouth open, and then he laughed. "Okay, Gabe. You got it. But I did hear that you said that you might have a first order for me. What is it?"

I smiled back at him, "Well, my girlfriend's Mom's wedding is too soon, this Saturday already, but I can talk to my Uncle to see if you can cater his wedding."

"You would do that?" asked Frankie with disbelief in his tone.

"Sure I would. Why wouldn't I? I know how good the food from here is and that you are a master at cakes. So why not?"

Frankie took my hand and shook it, "Merci beaucoup!"

"No problem. Shall we go to work now?" I asked in a mock serious voice.

As we went back to the kitchen I glanced back and saw Andre give me a thumbs up.

Maren didn't show up that afternoon, so I guessed she didn't have time. Then as the evening went on, the lights started to flicker and before long all the power went out. Andre looked outside and said, "The whole block has lost power. Well, I guess I'm going to have to send the customers home. I mean, I can light the place with candles, but our equipment won't work anymore."

A thought sprung up in my mind, "Don't do that just yet, Andre. I have an idea. Start putting candles on the tables and light them. Also, I need some food for myself and a cable connected to only the absolutely necessary equipment."

Andre looked at me with a lot of questions burning behind his eyes. He was about to ask, when I already said, "You do know that I'm an Electrical Elemental. I can power several machines. So set it up, please. That way we can stay in business as one of the few in the whole block. Some others may have a generator, but most don't."

Old Mike asked, "Are you sure about that Gabe?"

I nodded, "We can do this. I don't want all those customers to go home. We need to be there for them. Come on, let's get to work."

Soon I was sitting at a table eating some of the ice-cream that we had prepared earlier and would have melted without the fridge available. We had the switches set to disconnect us from the power grid, and a cable hooked up to the service entrance in the circuit breakerbox. Then new customers arrived, a family of four, but I only had eyes for one of them. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, she was wearing a small black dress that made her figure stand out even more. And she was my girlfriend. Or at least I hoped she was. I almost forgot to keep the power going, but I remembered just in time to do just that. The control lights on the makeshift control box were already warning me to put in more power.

While I concentrated on powering and eating, I saw Maren listening to something her sister said before she made her way towards me. I smiled at her, "Hi, Maren, you look beautiful! What's the occasion?"

She smiled back and sat down in front of me, "We're having a dinner with the family before the wedding. What're you doing? Why aren't you in the kitchen?"

"Well, there is a power outage, as you might have noticed. I'm powering the most essential equipment so we can stay in business." I responded.

She looked closer at the cable I was holding in my hand. "Oh, now I see. Well, I better get back to my family. We're out together and it wouldn't look good if I stayed with you all the time."

I smiled, "Of course, but do come back here again a little later. You still need to talk to Frankie, and decide on what you are going to bake for your assignment."

She groaned before saying, "Okay, I will stop by after dinner, but only shortly tonight okay?"

I just smiled as she got up to join her family. I stayed put and continued to power the restaurant. Andre came up to me, "How is it going, Gabe? Can you handle it well enough? I don't want you to overtax your self."

"I'm doing fine Andre. It's not so much a strain on me, but it does get tedious. Of course I will be tired doing this, but I can manage."

I kept sitting and supplying power, but started to feel a bit sleepy. Maybe I had overestimated my endurance to keep powering it. I asked Paco for a cola. It did give me a little boost, but I still started to feel sleepy and tired. Then I noticed that it was a bit lighter outside. I looked closely and saw that some electrical lights were on again. I called Andre over and we slowly switched the power grid back on, with me taking up the difference during the change over. We had just gone all the way back to normal power and operations when I yawned. Andre noticed, "I want you to go home and sleep. And take a day off tomorrow. You're no good to me sleeping on the job."

I was about to protest but saw the look on his face and conceded. "Okay Andre, I'll go home soon, first I want to borrow Frankie for a talk with Maren."

I could see that Frankie was a bit confused, but also curious, so I explained, "The girl I have classes with needs your expertise. I will be helping her, but she has to do it herself."

With that I went over to where I had seen Maren disappear to. I found the family quickly enough and hesitated a bit about going over to their table. Her mother saw me and motioned me to come closer. As I did, I saw Maren turn towards me and she suddenly blushed a bit.

I halted in front of the table and asked, "Hi, is everything okay here? Did you enjoy the food?"

Isabel snickered, while Maren just looked at me. The man said to me, "It was great, even with most of the resources down, you managed to put on a very tasty meal. My compliments to the chefs."

I smiled, "I'll pass it on Mr ... eh?"

"Gannen, Shane Gannen. This is my fiancée, Naomi, and her two daughters Isabel and Maren. But you know them already, I guess."

I smiled, "Yes I do. If you don't mind, I would like to steal Maren away for a while."

Shane narrowed his eyes, but a smile crept over his face, "Oh? What are your intentions with her, young man?"

I hastily said, "I mean to introduce her to Frankie, our expert on cakes and pies. Maren needs advice on her cooking assignment for school."

Maren quickly got up and said, "Sure, Gabe, let's go."

I took Maren's arm and escorted her to a table near the kitchen where Frankie was enjoying a drink on his breather. I introduced them to each other and we started talking about the various kinds of simple cakes or pies that were suitable for Maren to bake.

They started talking about all the kinds of pies and cakes to choose from and I offered my suggestions. Maren already had an idea in her head, and together with Frankie she decided to try to make an apple-pie. Frankie explained in detail how to make it, and Maren jotted it down in a notepad. As we wrapped it up, Maren kissed me goodbye and I said, "Don't forget to take your swimsuit tomorrow. We can go swimming again."

The next few days I picked Maren up from her class and took her swimming, and then to the restaurant to learn how to cook. She wasn't very good at it, but she could remember our instructions well enough to make something reasonably good. On Thursday, she baked her own pie, with a lot of help from me though. And I watched on Friday as she baked the pie all by herself in class. She almost ruined it by not taking the pie out of the oven in time. I was happy for her that she did get a good enough grade on it.

Then it was Saturday, I had a day off from work, and after a shower, got dressed in the nice suit that Uncle Frank bought for me. We had to wait some time for Aunt Vanessa to get ready, but finally were on our way to the church where the wedding would be held.

I saw Maren standing just inside the entrance talking to a guest as we waited to sign the guestbook. I cleared my throat and Maren turned around to face us. Uncle Frank introduced himself and us, "Hi, I'm Frank Kramer, this is my fiancée Vanessa O'Dale and my nephew Gabe."

Maren smiled, "Welcome, Mr. Kramer. I already know Miss O'Dale and Gabe. I had summer classes with him."

Uncle Frank smiled back, "I should've remembered that. But please, call me Frank."

He wrote all of our names into the guestbook and he went inside the church with Aunt Vanessa. I stayed behind and leaned over to Maren. She evaded my impending kiss and said, "Not now, Gabe, I don't want to ruin the make up. Besides, we're going to start soon."

She is turning me down? Oh well, whatever she wants'

I gave her a disappointed look for a moment before smiling and followed my uncle and aunt into the church.

I watched as the girls and their mother walked down the isle. I noticed that Maren was looking a lot in my direction. She even missed a step where she had to stand, and almost fell down. Her sister whispered something to her, and she paid more attention to the ceremony.

After the nice ceremony, we followed the other guests out to the party and I sat down with Uncle Frank, Aunt Vanessa and another couple. The man said he was a fireman in the groom's brigade. He told us some stories about him. I didn't listen to most of it, though one story caught my attention. He talked about a mystery girl that ran into a burning building and spectacularly blew out the fire. They had never managed to identify the girl though. I thought, That sounds like something only a fire-elemental, or maybe a converter can do. Maybe it was Maren. I think that something like that would be her style.

I asked the man a few questions, "So what did that girl look like?"

He said, "Well, all of us were so busy with the fire that few people saw her, and then, only at a glimpse. There was some footage taken by a camera crew, but they still haven't been able to identify the girl. The only thing we know is that she had quite long black hair, and some kind of belt hanging loosely on her."

Quite casually I pointed at Maren and said, "So, someone like her."

The man looked, "Yeah, well she looks a bit like it, but then again, so do half the girls here."

Then he started another story about the exploits they had encountered, while I was having my own thoughts about the previous one. Then the Bride and Groom were asked to start the dancing as the first couple on the floor. I had a feeling that Maren would come seek me out to dance. It wasn't a happy prospect, as I couldn't dance if my life depended on it. I was still seated between my Uncle and the wife of the fireman, so I tried to wriggle my chair a bit backwards. Sure enough, Maren looked for me at the end of the second dance and was made a beeline towards me. Suddenly I saw a way out. Lance sat just to my right and was looking at Maren coming my way with a longing look. I gave him a slight electric jolt. As he rose from his chair thanks to the zap, he started turning towards me. I managed to push him towards Maren. She was blocked from reaching me and Lance quickly asked her to dance. I was safe again, but only for a short time. Quickly I slid the chair backwards, and as unobtrusive as possible, made my way outside. I walked around the building and sat down on a wall looking at the lake behind the building.

After some time I noticed someone behind me, but didn't turn around. Maren sat down next to me, keeping quiet and sipping some fruit punch. I didn't look at her, but just kept staring out over the water. How can I start telling her that I can't dance?

Then she said, "Why are you all alone here, Gabe? Did I do something wrong? Is there something the matter?"

I turned to her with a wry smile, "There is nothing wrong and you didn't do anything wrong. It's just that I can't dance. That's why I came out here."

Maren started laughing, making me a bit upset. She's laughing at me for not being able to dance? How dare she?

Before I could say or do something, she quickly said, "Gabe, that's nothing to be ashamed about. And I can help you with that. How about I teach you how to dance? It's the least I can do to pay you back for teaching me how to swim."

Putting my arm around her I said, "Sure, Maren, if you can stand having your toes stepped on a lot."

She laughed again. "I'm sure that it won't be that bad. I'm just glad that you're not mad at me for not letting you kiss me earlier."

"Why would I be mad at you, Maren? I can understand that you didn't want to damage your make-up. Or even kiss me in front of all the other people there," I exclaimed a bit indignantly.

She gave me a dirty look before replying, "I don't mind kissing you in public. What gave you that idea?"

As I was about to say why, she kissed me on my mouth smothering my reply. I was taken back with her initiative, but didn't want to turn down the opportunity, so I responded in kind and we kissed for what seemed hours.

Finally she withdrew and said, "I think we better get back into the party. And I need to repair my make-up a bit."

"Okay." I helped her up and we walked back together to the party, where she disappeared to the ladies room.

We enjoyed the party for sometime, even when the newly wed couple left to be alone in a hotel, and the firefighters got rowdy. Snake offered to drive Maren, Isabel and Lance home, but not before she kissed me goodnight. I drove Uncle Frank's car home, as he'd had a little too much to drink.

The next day I slept in late, and went to work as usual. Maren came in and had a talk with Andre about a job as a waitress. She was hired on a trial basis, and would start on Monday afternoon. We did kiss for a moment, but I had to get back to work and she went back home early.

I finished my shift and arrived home in the middle of a debate about their upcoming wedding. I saw as a good opportunity and said, "I told a colleague of mine that I would recommend him for the catering. Francois wants to start up his own business part time from Everybody's Place, and he's really good with cakes and such. So would you consider him for the catering?"

Both Uncle Frank and Aunt Vanessa looked at me. Uncle Frank said, "I would like to see an estimate first. I'll have a talk with him then."

"Fair enough. He's still working in Everybody's Place. You can have a talk with him there." Uncle Frank nodded at my reply and I felt tired, so said goodnight and went to my room to get ready for bed.

Like I usually did now, I met Maren before class on Monday. She hesitantly went into class leaving me outside. I just wanted her to feel not too lonely, so I stayed within sight of her. I passed the time reading some cookbooks from renowned chefs. Afterwards we went to the restaurant together to start working. I was busy in the kitchen, so I didn't see much of Maren. But at some point Andre called me up front and told me that Maren wasn't working out as expected. She forgot too many things and he didn't have the heart to tell her that he was thinking of letting her go.

I watched her myself for about ten minutes, and though she wasn't lazy or just plain stupid, I could see that she just couldn't get into the flow of the job. I'm sure she would have picked it up eventually, but I thought she would be better off in a different line of work.

I called her over and asked her, "Maren, let's take a breather out back."

She argued, "But I still have things to do, I'm not ready yet."

Putting my arm around her I said, "That's okay, we're not that busy at the moment."

I was wondering how to tell her the bad news. I think she already felt it coming, so I tried to soften the blow to her confidence. I started, "Maren, how do you like the job?"

Hesitantly she answered, "I like the job just fine, I'm just having some trouble starting. Why?"

I didn't know how to start giving her the bad news, so I looked down and stammered, "Well, eh ... I eh ... I don't really know how to bring this." Damn I hate giving her bad news. And it's worse because I love her.

Sharply she asked, "Are you firing me?"

Now I was really in trouble. I looked at her with a feeling awkward, "Yes, I'm sorry. But Andre feels that this isn't your forte. I really wish it was different, but we just don't want you to look stupid."

She roared, "I'm not stupid!"

With a small voice I started, "I didn't say that you are."

She interrupted, "Yes you did. Don't deny it." Then she zapped me with an electric charge.

I was stunned, which turned to fury as I thought, She zapped me? Is she really out of control now? Good thing I'm an Electricity Elemental.

I snarled, "That's quite enough, Synergy." I gathered some energy and released it at her, the lightning sparking from my fingertips towards her, with arcs and alternative paths snaking about.

I suddenly felt twice as heavy, it was anchoring me quite effectively to the ground, next I was bombarded with a blast of air with heat and light as well. I was hammered fiercely by that. But then I felt my weight diminishing and suddenly I flew through the air for about 15 feet and landed hard on the concrete.

I fell down hard and just wanted to lie down there groaning a bit. Before I knew it Maren had rushed over to me and while kneeling next to me asked, "Gabe, are you all right? I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have done that."

I groaned again, but sat up. "You got that right, Maren. Boy, remind me never to let you get really angry at me."

She smiled sheepishly at me, "I'm really sorry about that Gabe, I just felt very angry and ... and..."

I interrupted her because I knew that she hadn't meant to hurt me, "That's okay, Maren. I shouldn't have released my electrics on you as well."

Maren kissed passionately me before saying, "I was so charged up by that, which was also a reason to assault you directly. You pack quite a wallop with your power."

I looked at her, "I wasn't anywhere near my full strength yet."

She looked back at me with her eyes wide open. "You can generate even more power?"

I just nodded and started getting back on my feet. I looked myself over for any damage to my clothes or myself and dusted my clothes off. Satisfied that I was quite all right, I hugged her. "Maren, I'm sorry we both got carried away. Look, we're not exactly firing you. We do feel however that you won't be happy in this job. But if you still want to try, we will give you the chance."

Maren looked at me, "Thank you for the offer, Gabe. I think you're right, though. I don't think I have what it takes for the job. Besides, I made the classic mistake of thinking that working near you might be fun. But we would both be too busy, right?"

I just nodded thinking, We both made mistakes with that. It's good that she's taking it this well.

She continued, "Then I won't continue as waitress. But thanks for giving me the opportunity."

She kissed me again before we went into the restaurant to take care of the details to put Maren out of a job again. But I would help her with whatever she wanted to do next. We talked shortly with Andre about our decision and he said that he was sorry for not being able to help. Maren assured him that it was okay, but Andre insisted that she would always get a discount in his establishment.

I waved her off before getting back into my job. I ate there as well and was home quite late. Uncle Frank and Aunt Vanessa were kind of fooling around on the sofa and acted like they had been caught in the act. I laughed at them, "Hey, I'm only a guest here. You can do whatever you want. You're adults, so don't mind me. I'll go up to my room and get ready for bed."

Uncle Frank got up, "You're not only a guest here, Gabe. He gave me a pat on the shoulder before disappearing towards the bathroom. I was about to follow him towards the stairs when the phone rang. I slowed down to find out at least who was calling this late.

Aunt Vanessa answered the telephone, "Hello? Yes, this is Frank Kramers house. No he is..."

She paled a bit at listening to the phone, "Oh, I see ... How, why ... I ... sure."

She walked up to me and gave me the phone, turning away.

I took it with wonder and I said, "Yes who..."

I shut up when I heard a familiar voice say, "Gabe, ... dyn heit leit op stjerren." [Gabe, ... Your Dad is dying.]

I knew it was Mom talking, but her voice was very gravelly. I could hear her grief and desperation all through it.

With a coarse voice I asked, "Hoe kin dat, wat is der bard?" [How is that possible? What happened?]

With her grief stricken voice she answered, "Hy hat in aneurysme in syn holle, de MBE kin net folle dwaan want syn natuerlike genezingskreft besyked it te meitsjen, mar dat makke it allinne mar slimmer." [He has an aneurysm in his head. The MBE can't do much because his natural healing power is trying to fix it. But it is only making it worse]

I almost couldn't say it, "Hoe lang hat er noch te libjen?" [How long does he have to live?]

With a sob she answered, "Se hâlde him in libben, dêrom wol ik graach datsto hjir hinne komst." [They are keeping him alive, that's why I would like for you to come here.]

I assured my Mom that I would go there as soon as I could. As I put the phone down, Uncle Frank came up to me. "Vanessa told me that there is something serious, but she went to the bedroom before saying anything more. She was really upset. Is there something wrong Gabe?"

I looked at him, "My dad, your brother, is dying. That was Mom on the phone. She asked me to go there. I would like you to come with me, if you wouldn't mind."

Uncle Frank looked at me with concern, "Sure I'll go with you. I thought that his healing power could handle any disease and injury though. What happened?"

Looking down I answered, "Apparently he got some kind of aneurysm that is not only not fixed by his power, but his power makes it worse, and an MBE can't do anything either, because of his healing power."

From behind Uncle Frank, Aunt Vanessa spoke up softly, "Why don't we all go there? I would like to accompany you both as well."

Thinking of something I asked her, "What about school? Maren still has some classes. Darn it, I have to tell her that I will be out of town for a while. And I've got to ask Andre for some days off."

Aunt Vanessa gave me a wry smile, "Maren's lessons are almost done, I'll give her the last few days."

Thanking her, I picked up the phone again and called Andre, "Hallo Andre. Je spreekt met Gabe. Ik hoorde net dat mijn vader op sterven ligt en wil graag een paar weken vrij vragen om naar hem toe te gaan." [Hi Andre. You're speaking with Gabe. I just heard that my father is dying and would like to ask you for a few weeks off to go to him.]

Andre quickly gave me all the time off that I would need, and offered his sympathies. I thanked him and went to my room to get ready for bed and to start packing for the trip. I looked on the Internet for some flights going there, but couldn't find one till later the next day. Instead, I went to bed thinking about my father. Sure, he'd chased me out of house the last time I saw him, but he was still my father.

Early the next morning I got up and walked over to the community center to meet Maren. Aunt Vanessa decided to join me, so we ended up walking towards Maren together. She saw us coming and must have seen something as she asked, "Gabe? Is there something wrong?"

I looked down and hoarsely answered, "I have to leave for a few weeks Maren. My father is dying."

Her eyes went wide with shock. Then she asked, "How? why? Oh I'm so sorry for you Gabe."

"Thanks, Maren. My Mom called me, and asked me to go there. Both Uncle Frank and Aunt Vanessa will go with me."

Maren looked in wonder to Aunt Vanessa, "But my lessons?"

"You are almost done, so I'll cancel the rest of your lessons. As of now, you're free till you go to college."

"Thank you, Miss O'Dale. Would you like some company Gabe? I would like to go also, if you don't mind."

I looked at her, "Are you sure Maren? We are going north of Vancouver, Canada."

She nodded, "I'm sure. I want to give my support to you. Besides, maybe I can combine it with a visit to someone else that I owe a lot to."

Quickly I agreed, it would be nice to have her around. "Okay, Maren. If you want to come with us, I would like you to."

She did say thoughtfully, "I do have to ask Mom, of course. We can go to her now already, if you can."

It was agreed and the three of us went to her Mom's dance studio. Mrs. Gannen heard our plans and asked for a bit more detail from Aunt Vanessa. She told us, "Hold on for a moment" and disappeared into her office to call someone. Soon she came out and said, "Well, if you have room for two more, we would like to come as well."

We all looked at her, 'What is she talking about?' and Maren asked, "Mom?"

"Shane and I were still debating where to go on our honeymoon. I wouldn't mind driving around there, so we'll go there with you, hire a car and drive around in that neighborhood."

Maren looked at her Mom in surprise. "You mean you want to have your honeymoon there? With me around most of the time?"

Mrs. Gannen smiled, "Well, it won't be that kind of a honeymoon. And I doubt Shane is the type for going to a beach or something. So I thought we'd go with you and keep you company if you like. But if you want some privacy, I can understand it."

Maren suddenly blushed heavily. I could understand why. Her Mom was implying that she would like to be alone with me. Maren agreed to have her parents join us, and since I had no objection, we soon made a plan and booked our tickets online for the next day to Vancouver.

During the long flight I thought a lot about my family. Mom sounded like she really wanted to see me again. Is Dad still conscious enough? What will he say when he sees me? And what will they think about my cat girlfriend? I really missed them, but I'm not crawling back to them if that's what they think. Man! Maybe Dad will already be dead when we get there. What will Mom do if he dies? She always leaned so heavily on Dad. Maybe I can persuade her to come with us to Savannah? What if she doesn't want anything to do with me after Dad dies? I kept fretting over what might happen and what we should do.

I looked at Maren a few times, but she kept herself busy with a movie and some games. I thought that she was worried about Cyn. The poor Squog had been left all alone in a small cage in the luggage compartment.

At long last we descended into Vancouver International Airport. Maren was out quickly to gather her Squog, while I went with Shane and Uncle Frank to rent some cars. After renting the cars, we found an inexpensive but good motel to get some sleep.

Very early in the morning, after a quick breakfast, we got underway, with me driving the first car, because I knew the road and where we had to go. We had little trouble getting through the traffic in Vancouver, and soon made it up the Sea to Sky Highway. We made some sanitary stops on route, but made good time and arrived in Whistler late in the afternoon.

We left the arrangements for staying in town over to Shane and Naomi, while we went straight to the hospital. The nurse at the desk asked us our business and I replied, "I'm Gabe Kramer. My father is here in serious condition. And these are family members as well."

She looked suspiciously at Maren for a moment, and I was glad that she had her tail wrapped around her middle like a belt. Then the nurse looked at her tablet, "He's in room 204, that way." She pointed to her left.

I quickly let the way to the room and as I arrived, I saw Mom sitting in a chair next to the bed where my Dad lay, seemingly sleeping. He was connected to several machines though. As soon as she heard us, Mom got up. She saw me and came directly towards me. I noticed she had been crying, as she hugged me tightly and sobbed, "Gabe, ik bin sa bliid datsto hjir bist!" [Gabe, I'm so happy that you're here!]

I held her tightly as she cried on my shoulder. My guess that this would hit her hard was right. After a few minutes, she looked up and wiped her tears away. Only then did she notice the other people that had come in with me.

"Oh, Ik hie jimme nog net sjoen. Frank, danke wol datsto mei kommen bist." [Oh, I hadn't seen you yet. Frank, thank you for coming along.]

Then she saw the other people, "I'm sorry, where are my manners? Hello, I'm Amarins Kramer."

I introduced them to Mom, "Mem, this is Vanessa O'Dale, Uncle Frank's Fiancée. And this is Maren Johns, my girlfriend."

As Mom saw Maren she backed off slightly before growling, "She's a cat?"

I saw Maren's expression change from happy to scowling. I guess she hadn't expected this kind of treatment. I put my arm around her and growled, "Yes Mom, she's a cat hybrid. She's also a converter and a very nice person. So I want you to treat her nice."Mom was a bit put off. I can't say I blamed her though. She looked down and sniffed. "I'm sorry. I just have that reaction to cat hybrids. I didn't mean anything by it."

Maren reached for her hand. "I can understand that, Mrs. Kramer. I still have a reaction to flee from dog hybrids myself."

Mom looked at her with a look between astonishment and appreciation. "Thanks Miss..."

Maren interrupted her, "You can call me Maren, Mrs. Kramer."

Mom smiled slightly, before I interrupted their conversation, "How is Dad doing now?"

Her smile quickly disappeared, replaced by the sad expression once more. "He's in a coma, but we can talk to him sometimes with the help of a telepath. It takes a lot out of Mira to do that, so she went home to rest. She'll be here again tomorrow morning."

I understood, I went over to his bed and just looked at him. He was always so big and indestructible. He was still quite a large person, but I could see that he'd lost weight and he looked kind of fragile in the bed. I grabbed his hand and said softly, "I'm here for you, Dad. I'm sorry for all the bad things in the past. Wish I could bring you back and see what I'm going to make of my life." I thought I felt him squeeze my hand a little, but I could have been mistaken. Maren came up next to me and put her hand on my shoulder. I really appreciated that gesture. Uncle Frank sat down in a chair on the other side of the bed and motioned to me to go out for a moment.

I turned and put my arm around Mom. "Let's go get something to drink, Mom. Uncle Frank will watch over Dad."

We went to the waiting area and had a long talk about all the things that had happened after that fateful day when they threw me out. Several times Mom cried, and together with Maren, I made her feel a bit better. We all felt much better after that and Mom even smiled a few times hearing my adventures with the restaurants and Maren.

Later, Maren's Mom joined us in the waiting room and we went with her to get some sleep. I was back in the hospital early the next morning, alone. I found Mom sitting asleep in her chair next to his bed. I woke her up and sent her to the motel to sleep a bit. She didn't want to, but I insisted and she finally agreed. A few hours later Maren joined me and we both sat there talking a bit. She said that she liked the looks of my father, though it scared her as well, being so close to a wolf hybrid.

It wasn't until about 10 o'clock that Mira, the telepath from the enclave joined us. At that time Uncle Frank and Mom had joined us again. I knew Mira from before and greeted her reserved. She'd always made me feel uncomfortable. She shook Mom's hand and looked at her peculiarly. I guess they were talking telepathically. I did know that Mira is a tactile telepath. So I wasn't surprised that she moved to the bed and put her hand on my father's head.

She concentrated for a moment and said, "He is glad that you came here, Gabe. He heard you speak and thanks you for coming. He feels sorry for all the things that happened as well. He regrets that he made you leave."

I cleared my throat before saying, "Thanks Dad. I just wish you weren't dying. There is so much to show you."

Mira responded for him, "He knows. He heard you talking to your girlfriend. He wishes that he could see her."

I narrowed my eyes and responded, "Why can't you, Dad? I mean, your optic nerves aren't damaged or anything, right?"

A doctor that was passing by, stopped to answer my question, "Even if we lift his eyelids, he can't focus right now. The only thing that can do that is a weak current to the appropriate nerves. And we are not going to administer that, I can assure you."

"What nerves are you talking about, where are they located?" I asked frantically.

"Like I'm going to tell you that, young man!" said the doctor indignantly.

I took Mira's hand and in my mind asked her, *Mira can you get the location of those nerves from his head? I would like to make that last wish come true for my father.*

Mira nodded and took the doctor's hand. He froze for a moment as Mira entered his mind looking for the information. As she broke the connection, he screamed, "I'll have you arrested for that," and he took off, almost knocking Vanessa down as she came into the room.

She asked in wonder, "What was he ranting about Frank?"

Uncle Frank shrugged, "I don't really know, I think Mira looked into his mind."

Mira in the meantime held my hand and showed me the exact spot where the nerves were and how to stimulate them. Then as she turned her attention to the group, she said, "Gabe asked me to make it possible to make his father's last wish come true."

I was standing at the head of his bed and put my fingers on the sides of his head where I knew I should insert the currents to stimulate his nerves. I also knew from the information Mira passed on to me how much I should charge, taking into consideration my fathers unique body. So I carefully released the currents from my fingers and he suddenly snapped his eyes open. He seemed to stare into the ceiling but then focused and looked first at me, than at the rest of the group.

He looked at them for several minutes before his eyes closed again. Mira rushed over and put her hand to his head. She said with a voice full of emotions, "He likes your fiancée, Frank. To you, Gabe, your girlfriend looks real nice and pretty he says. He thanks you for making this happen."

Some people barged into the room. A doctor yelled, "What the hell is going on here?" Meanwhile some security men were about to move in and grab Mira away from Dad.

I growled, "Stay away from Mira. She only did as I asked her. We made my father's dying wish possible. If you have a problem with that, then sue me." With that, I let some sparks dance between my fingers, showing the security men that I wasn't going to let them do anything.

Maren stepped over to me and had a steely look in her eyes. "Even if you manage to subdue Gabe, you'll have to answer to me." And she powered up as well, shooting some sparks towards me.

Mira said, "Keimpe says that there is to be no fighting over him. He thanks you Gabe for making it possible, and really appreciate you and Maren for defending me and him. He needs some rest and wants to talk to Amarins alone now."

I powered down, as did Maren and we all went out of the room, except Mira and Mom. Uncle Frank closed the door and asked the doctor, "Can we discuss this as adults, please?"

The doctor, whose name tag said he was doctor Blake, looked at us and dismissed the security men before asking me, "What happened in there with my colleague, and afterwards?"

I explained to him about my father's wish and how we'd made that possible after the colleague refused flat out. Doctor Blake scolded me and Mira for being unethical, but he also said that his colleague should have been more diplomatic. He was correct, though in the sense that none of the medical staff could do such a thing. He said, "Let's say it is done, and not blame anyone or ask for repercussions. I will ask my colleague to let it go."

I thanked him, "Thank you, Doctor Blake. I really appreciate this. But my father wanted it, and I couldn't do anything less."

"Well, don't make a habit of this, or there will be repercussions." Doctor Blake warned.

We all agreed, and that's when Mira opened the door with tears streaming across her face. With a coarse voice she said, "He just died."

I could hear Mom wailing in there, and rushed in. Mom was hugging Dad fiercely and cried her heart out. I hugged her myself and just waited till she could let him go. I don't know how long I waited hugging Mom, but I did feel Maren hugging us as well. Finally she let go of my father's body and turned to cry even more on my shoulder. I let Mom cry and just kept holding her. Meanwhile, Uncle Frank said his goodbye to his brother and started a conversation with Doctor Blake. Probably about arrangements that needed to be made.

Slowly I guided Mom from the room and managed to guide her to the motel where we stayed. She wasn't approachable for some time, but we did manage to get her to take a nap. Maren and I took turns watching her.

The next day we made all the arrangements for the cremation and though still crying a lot, Mom did seem to be dealing with it a bit better.

After the cremation, Maren and her family left for a trip into Idaho. We decided to stay in town for a little while longer.

~~~~~~~~~~

Somewhere in the town Whistler

A badly scarred man took out his eCom. He cursed as he had trouble taking it out. He really missed his left arm. Well, maybe now he could get payback. He had recognized the girl responsible for his burns and missing arm. He still didn't know just how she'd survived the blast that she'd initiated. Maybe she ran out just before the blast. At long last he managed to operate his eCom. With his throaty voice he rasped, "Outlook 3 here. I just saw an old acquaintance of ours. It's our portable generator, the one that blew up the place. She's heading back into our backyard. Stand ready to intercept. And I also have spotted the other generator we were going to nab, here as well. It looks as they were together, but separated again."

He listened for a moment to the shrill voice, that made him shiver, then answered, "She's travelling in a new hybrid SUV with two adults, probably her parents. I will keep an eye on our other source. Outlook 3 out."

~~~~~~~~~~

Gabe and company

"What am I going to do now? I don't want to stay here anymore," Mom said sitting in our motel room.

I looked at Uncle Frank and he nodded as if he could read my mind. To my mother I said, "Mem kin mei us mei gean nei omke Frank. We binne dan wêr in familje." [Mom can come with us to Uncle Frank. We are a family again then.]

Reluctantly, she agreed with that and we made the necessary preparations for it. Uncle Frank left for the house in the enclave with Mom. Aunt Vanessa needed to do some shopping so I walked by myself through town. As I walked through town I came past the Constable's office and decided to go in.

We talked about what had happened, and my case. He told me that the boys hadn't learned a bit of good from the court's decision. Their parents had agreed to pay me the appointed money, and the kids were back in school and on the streets, still harassing MORFS survivors, though they did it more carefully now. He told me that though I looked fully human now, I should be aware of them. They might want to take revenge for their conviction. I told him that I had nothing to fear and could take care of myself. He looked at me suspiciously, "I heard rumors about you. Do you have powers?"

Nodding agreement I showed him some sparks between my fingers. He warned me, "Be careful with that, I don't want to lock you up for attempted murder or manslaughter."

Grimly I replied, "I have no intention of harming anyone. But I will defend myself. Don't worry though, I have enough control over my power to only deliver a stun charge similar to the old style Taser guns."

"Well, if you say that you have control. Just remember, that you've been warned," the Constable concluded our conversation.

In thoughts I left his office and wandered through town. I decided to window-shop a bit and see if I could find something nice to give to Maren. After walking several streets I hadn't found anything that I thought would be good enough to give her. Then I heard some shouting, one of pain, others encouraging someone else. And they sounded familiar.

I rushed towards the sound and as I rounded a corner I saw some very familiar boys standing around an obviously MORFS survivor. Even from a distance I could see that he was a raccoon hybrid. I quickly walked closer to the group and shouted, "Hey, assholes! Leave him alone!"

The leader of the attackers, who was standing aside and telling the others where to beat the hybrid, turned around. "Who the hell are you, interfering in our business?"

I smiled a cruel smile at Alan Weems. He was still harassing hybrids, just like the Constable had said, though now he didn't do the beating himself anymore. He just oversaw others who did his work for him. "Didn't learn a thing from your conviction, did you Alan?"

Now Alan stepped closer towards me, with his cronies following suit, leaving the hybrid free to get away. However to my disappointment he didn't run. He sagged a bit towards the low wall he was leaning against and just continued to watch me facing the group. 'Well, better not disappoint him, then.'

Alan stopped about 5 yards before me, "Who are you that you know me, and about the ridiculous charges from that sick puppy."

I narrowed my eyes, "I am not a hybrid anymore, but I used to be the dog hybrid that you and your pitiful bunch of losers tried to kill."

Alan had to think about it for a moment, but then he got it. "Gabe Kramer? That is you?"

I nodded with a grim smile. Then Alan shouted with a catch in his voice, "Get him! He's responsible for getting us in trouble the first time."

I warned them with a growled, "Don't come near me if you value your consciousness." And as I started a lightning show between the fingers of my right hand, I added, "I'm an Elemental now, so don't even try to mess with me."

One big guy who called himself Meat, didn't listen and tried to punch me. I caught it with my left hand which was already electrified with a charge. He yelled out in pain and fear as the charge ran through his body. Then his limbs didn't work properly anymore and he crumbled in a heap on the ground.

I laughed, "I told you not to mess with me."

The others just looked at me with pure hatred in their eyes. I stepped forward, "Now scram, the lot of you, and take this piece of shit with you," pointing at Meat.

The boys didn't know how fast they could get away, Alan ran the fastest of course, like the coward he is. He didn't even bother looking at Meat. One of the boys that I used to be friendly with, Marvin as his name was, helped Meat up and dragged him away from me. I called out to him, "I'm really disappointed in your choice of company, Marvin."

He stopped to look at me with a pensive gaze. Then he turned around and dragged Meat with him. I watched them go before turning my attention to the hybrid. "Hi there, are you all right?"

He looked at me, "Are you really Gabe Kramer? The dog hybrid from the camp?"

"I used to be a dog hybrid, but yes, I am Gabe Kramer. Who are you?"

He straightened up, "I'm Simon Vanderveere. I was in your class as well."

I recognized the name, but not him. "You went through MORFS recently then?"

He nodded, "Right after you went away. I almost wish I lived in the camp like you did."

"Well, it isn't always easy there as well. So how are you doing now? Should I have you checked out at the hospital?"

Simon shook his head, "I'll be fine."

A new voice behind me said, "Maybe it would be better if you let yourself get checked, Simon."

I recognized the voice, "Hello again, Constable."

"Glad to see that you heeded my warning. I watched the last part of the altercation. Too bad I can't do anything about it." Then to Simon he said, "Unless you want to press charges against them Simon?"

Simon thought about it, but shook his head, "It won't do much good, and they would seek revenge. And next time I might not be so lucky."

"Well, whatever you say Simon! Take care, both of you." With that, the Constable walked away in the direction most of the boys had fled.

I helped Simon get his bag and walked with him into town. He asked, "Where have you been, Gabe? You never returned to school. Some even said that you were dead."

I told him that I been thrown out by my parents, and only now was back because my father died. He expressed his sympathies before saying, "I really appreciate you saving me from those goons. How can I ever repay you?"

"There is no need for that, Simon, I would have done it even if you would be mad at me for doing that. I really don't like those guys."

Simon didn't stop with wanting to repay me and he mentioned, "I am a skilled metal-elemental, just don't have a lot of power. But I can make good jewelry, maybe something for your girlfriend?"

This got me thinking, I was indeed looking for something for Maren. "How did you know I have a girlfriend?"

He smirked at me, "Just a lucky guess. Besides, a good looking guy like you would have a girlfriend, right?"

Well, he did have a point. We talked about his ideas and settled for a pair of earrings that he would make. He said that he could make it so that they resembled real lightning bolts and with some magnetism he could make them move sort of like lightning. I would really like something like that to give to Maren, so we agreed on that. I gave him my address at Uncle Frank's where he would send the jewelry to when it was ready.

We parted company and I looked at a few more stores before returning to the motel. As I walked towards the motel a man came out of a store in a hurry and we bumped into each other. He profusely apologized and asked, "Are you alright, mister?"

The collision wasn't that hard so I acknowledged that I was quite alright. After some more apologies the man continued his way as did I. I failed however to see the smile on the man's face and didn't hear his whispered, "So far so good, hope this pans out okay."

Some time later I drove with Aunt Vanessa to the enclave camp to stay there a few days before heading back to Savannah with Mom. The guards at the gate recognized me and with a scowl, allowed me passage. I arrived at my former home and got out, looking at the house with a bit of nostalgia. I had lived there for a few years. It had been a home for me. Just as I was about to go in, I heard someone skipping on the street behind me. A high girl's voice exclaimed, "Are you back?"

I turned around and faced little Britney. Well' not that little anymore. She had grown quite a few inches since last time. "Hi Britney. My, have you grown, how are you?"

"I'm okay, and you?" she said inquisitive as always.

"Oh I'm fine. Just here for a few days, I'll be going soon again."

"Why do you have to go Gabe? I liked you much better than the sitter they have for me now," pouted Britney.

I smiled, "Well, for one, I'm not living here anymore. I'm only here to help my Mom pick up her things. You have heard that my father is gone?"

Britney nodded, looking sad. "Mommy said that he's in heaven now chasing the nasty cats."

I grimassed, "She is right about that. But not all cats are nasty though. I have a girlfriend that is a cat, and she is really nice."

Britney's face lit up in excitement. "Can I meet her? Is she here?"

I shook my head, "Sorry little bunny, she had some other things that she needed to do. So she's not here."

Britney looked disappointed, but I got saved by her mother coming to get Britney. "Hello, Gabe. I'm sorry about your father. Our condolences to you and your mother."

"Thanks, Mrs. Peasly. At least I got to see and talk to him one last time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some things to do." I felt a bit uncomfortable.

"Oh, sure, Gabe. Come, Britney, it's time to go home." Mrs. Peasly took Britney's hand and guided her back to their home.

Before she went with her mother, she looked back at me, "Bye, Gabe, I hope to see you again someday."

I just nodded to her. I thought it was very unlikely, but you could never know. I went into my parent's home and found Mom sitting on the sofa. Aunt Vanessa was sitting next to her while Uncle Frank was somewhere upstairs, judging by the sounds I heard. Aunt Vanessa told me that Mom was still a bit lethargic. I sat down with her. After a fruitless talk, I shook her and told her to snap out of it. She did seem to get back into the world a bit again. I told her to gather the things that she wanted to keep. She gave me a dirty look before leading us upstairs.

It took us a few days to gather the stuff and have it sent to Savannah. I went into town to manage a last few things, where I was approached by a grimy man who had been in a bad accident some time ago. He was missing an arm and had burn marks all over his head. I scowled at him, not really wanting to talk to him. He said, "I have seen you before with a girl, haven't I?" He didn't wait for me to answer, "I mean, that cat girl. Well, I heard she was kidnapped in Montana."

Now he had my full attention. I snarled, "Who kidnapped her? Tell me what you know! Where is she?" I powered up and had the lightning dancing between my fingers in no time.

He looked nervously back at me, "I don't exactly know who has her, but a friend of mine told me that she is being held prisoner near a place called Alta."

I didn't really believe that he didn't know who had her. I had heard enough from Maren about her previous kidnappers. He had probably been in that mountain base himself. I grabbed his coat and lifted him slightly up. "You know more! I know about the blown up mountain. Tell me where she is, and what I'm up against!"

He swallowed visibly. "I ... I really don't."

I interrupted him, "Don't you dare lie to me. I'll make your previous injuries look like bruises."

He actually started whimpering, "They didn't tell me, other than to tell you where the girl is held. I think they will ambush you, but I have no idea how and where."

"Fine," I said. "You're under citizen's arrest." I dragged him over to the constable's office. There I threw him into a bench and said to the constable, "He's part of an organization that kidnaps MORFS survivors. He just told me that my friend Maren Johns has been kidnapped again by those people."

The constable looked at me in wonder, "Again? You mean it happened before?"

I explained in short about the previous kidnap and the blown up mountain. The constable did know about that. He locked the grimy man in his cell while ordering me to stay out of this. This was a police matter. Well, I was mad enough to start a war, so of course I didn't listen.

I didn't tell the Constable that, of course. "You are right, Constable. I just want to get my girlfriend back safe and sound." I think he didn't believe me, but he just sent me out the door, probably hoping that I wouldn't pursue this matter too much further.

As I walked out the door I noticed a motorcycle parked on the curb with a note attached, with my first name in big letters. I looked around, but other than a few people walking out of a store some distance away there wasn't anyone watching me. Weird, either someone is helping me, or someone is setting me up! Either way I'm going along with it for now.

I got out my old style cell phone and called Uncle Frank, "Hallo Omke Frank? Maren is ontfierd, Ik gean efter har oan. Ik nim letter wol wèr contact op." [Hello Uncle Frank? Maren has been kidnapped, I'm going after her.I'll contact you again later!]

For Security reasons I had done the call in my native language, You never knew who would be listening in. As I put on the helmet provided with the motorcycle I examined the machine. It didn't have a normal key ignition, instead it had a biometric lock. I frowned, Who knows me well enough that someone can put in my bio-metrics?

I thumbed the scanner and the engine softly rumbled to life. Well, who ever this is, they sure went to a lot of trouble.

Again I looked around to see if someone was watching me, but still didn't see anything suspicious. Shaking my head I put the bike into gear and rode out of town, trying to make my way to a place called Alta. As I was driving along I noticed something just below the steering bar. I stopped for a moment and saw a navigation system had been installed on the bike. I programmed it quickly to take me to Alta. It came with directions quite fast, so onward I went to get my girlfriend.

~~~~~~~~~~

A sidestreet across the Constable's office in the town Whistler

The man that had bumped into Gabe a few days earlier, looked with satisfaction as Gabe climbed on the motorcycle that he put there for him. He was well out of sight of Gabe, but still had a view of him on the motorcycle. As Gabe was driving off, he glanced on the screen of his eCom. A red dot was shown, going on the road out of town. He pushed a button and briefly, a blue dot showed on top of the red dot. He smiled and said to himself, "So far so good. I hope they are still after him and that they can catch him, or that he can catch them."

Then the man grabbed his satellite communication gear, punched in a code and said, "Operation SynergyBlitz is underway. I missed the first placement due to familiarity, but had no problems with secondary placement. Follow my movements, but wait till we make contact."

As he logged off, the door of the car opened and another man got in with some snacks in a bag. "Did I miss anything?"

The first man shook his head, "Nothing much. Blitz is on his way, both devices are working perfectly. So hopefully we can wrap this up very soon."

The second man laughed, "Well, okay then. What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? Let's go."

~~~~~~~~~~

Gabe on the motorcycle

I raced along the highways and other main roads to my destination. I didn't much care for the speed limits, and one time I got a cop chasing me. He pulled along side me, indicating that I should pull over. He shouldn't have bothered, I already got that hearing him chase me with a siren on. In any case, I wasn't about to stop. I couldn't afford the time and I don't actually have a license to drive a bike. So I shot a lightning bolt into his cruiser, effectively killing his electronics and engine.

I arrived tired but still going strong in Alta, Montana. My adrenaline levels were dropping, but I still had plenty left. Now where should I start looking for Maren? I suppose there isn't a sign saying "bad guys that way". Or for that matter, something indicating where Maren is being held. I parked the bike in front of a general drugstore and walked in to buy a snack. While eating and drinking a soda I walked down the street of the small village. You couldn't really call it a town. Then I saw someone exiting a bar. He didn't have hair on his head, but it didn't come from shaving his head. It had been burned off, and whatever it was that burned him left some gruesome marks.

Bingo, I'll eat my shoes if he's not a victim of Synergy on her breakout.

I slowed down a bit and followed him as he walked out of the village into the woods. I almost lost him a few times, but managed to keep him in sight till suddenly several canisters dropped out of nowhere on the ground around me. There wasn't a target in sight for me to blast at, and the last thought I had before I succumbed to the darkness, was, Oh shit, I was right about it being a trap.

I groaned from a splitting headache as I woke up. Then I felt someone lean over me and someone kissed me on the mouth. I was confused as to who that could be, till I opened my eyes and to my joy recognized her. I had found Maren. Well, in fact I had been captured by the same persons. At least I was with her now. Now we only had to find a way out of here. I said to her, "I'm happy to see you, Maren. What's the lowdown on this place?"

I started to power up my electrical energy but as soon as I got some substantial amount, it got sucked out of me by some unknown process. I felt quite weak as I stopped generating it, and puffed from the exertion and hunched over.

She helped me up and I could see more of the place, while telling me, "Don't try to generate your power. I already tried that. The woman that built this place has a machine, she calls it a leecher, that reads our power build up and sucks it out of us." To one side was a window and I could see Maren's Mom and her husband in a cell on the other side of what looked like a corridor.

She hugged me, which felt really good, so good in fact, that I hugged her back. But we were rudely interrupted, as a man outside in the corridor yelled, "Start generating again, you mongrels. We need more power."

I thought, 'You want more power? I'll show you more power.' I whispered to Maren, "Synergy! Alone neither of us may be powerful enough to overload this machine, but what if we power up simultaneously? I'm betting that together we can generate more energy than that thing can handle."

Maren looked at me and said, "Okay how do you want to proceed?"

We were interrupted again by the man outside. "I said, start generating more power!"

I growled, "Fine, you got it." Then I winked at Maren, "In five, four, three, two, one, GO."

At that time I focused on generating all the electrical energy that I could muster. My energy level went up fast, and though the machine followed quite well in sucking it out of me, I felt that it was lagging behind. A little at first, but then more and more.

Before I knew it, the sucking action had stopped and I heard a large explosion. As I looked up I saw that the sucking machine had blown up, taking most of the roof of our cell with it, and also a part of the side. Behind that wall I could see something that looked like parts of a electric power conduit holder. And because of all the lightning sparking around those things I guessed that those were the storage banks that contained the power the machine had gotten from us. Those things were dangerous too, as they started to send lightning sparks everywhere. I quickly went between them and Maren and channeled the electrics through my body towards the door to try to blow it up. Didn't work though, but it did take most of the dangerous lightning strikes away. I saw Maren look up to the window and did the same. I saw that there were some clouds of smoke flying down the corridor, getting thicker and thicker.

I felt quite faint from the exertion, but fueled myself from the lightning I channeled from the storage banks. I gritted my teeth and watched Maren. Like her, I heard muffled sounds. It sounded a bit like explosions. Maren rushed to the window, while I went to the faint outline of a door in our cell.

I heard something like gunfire and right after that there was an explosion from the direction of the cell on the other side I heard Maren shout, "Mom!" and remembered that her Mom and stepdad were locked up there. I had just managed to find the electronic lock of the door and was about to try to fry it with a charge when Maren came up to me.

I guessed that she wanted to blast us out of here, so I pointed out the spot where I had located the lock. She disintegrated a part of the door where I pointed and a nice tiny hole appeared while the door moved a little inward. She had just stuck her finger into the hole to grab it and swing it open, when the door started swinging in already.

Despite my fatigue I powered up, ready to fire a lightning bolt at whoever it was coming in. As I recognized Naomi and Shane, I stopped and powered down. There was an armed man behind them, but he had a flak-jacket on with big letters FBI printed on it.

Maren was looking around quite distressed, I think she had too much energy inside her. I was about to tell her to put it as an electrical charge into me, when the FBI man said, "Synergy, blow that wall." And he pointed into a direction of a wall with his gun barrel. At that, she blew out the entire rock face of the whole mountain that we were in. After Maren examined her handiwork she turned and said to the FBI man, "Hound? What are you doing here?"

Hound, as he seemingly was called, smiled. "Hi, Synergy, I was trying to capture this group. And when I learned that they were after you again, I had another reason to come here."

"But how did you know where we were?" Maren asked with questioningly.

Hound explained, "I put a transponder tracer on Blitz here. He neatly led me here where I could organize the rescue and capture with my fellow agents."

I thought about it and it finally made sense. I had seen the man before. He'd bumped into me in Whistler. So I said, "So that's why you bumped into me in Whistler. And I guess you also provided the bike for me?"

Hound smiled, "Guilty as charged. Sorry to use you for bait, but you can handle yourself pretty well and we were following you every step of the way."

Then another voice said behind them, "Hound? We've got them all. Let's round this up quickly okay? Oh, hi, Synergy! Is everything okay?"

Maren smiled brightly at the new arrival, "Yes, it is now. Thanks, Slick."

"Don't mention it. Nice exit you made though!" joked the man Maren had called Slick.

Maren looked back at the hole she had blasted. "Sorry!"

Hound answered, "That's okay, Maren. I showed you were to release your energy. And you contained it pretty well this time. You should be proud of your control. But I have to ask you, how were you able to gather that much energy? Wasn't this room designed to siphon your energy from you?"

Maren smiled at him, "Yes it was, but Gabe came up with the idea to counter that. Alone, neither of us was strong enough to overload it. But together we soon were too much for it. It really was a Synergy."

I shrugged, adding, "Yep, our combined power was too much for that thing. I don't think neither one of us wouldn't have been enough, but as we did it at the same time, it worked perfectly."

Hound commented, "Well, I can see you two really blitzed this place."

We all laughed at that. Then Shane asked, "What about Owen Newman and Maggie Waters? Are they alright?"

Hound nodded reassuringly, "Colleagues of mine found them and are with them now. They were just too late to follow the kidnappers with Maren to their hide-out. We'll take you there now. We can debrief you there, I for one, wouldn't pass up on a meal from Maggie." He laughed and we joined him in it.

Maren asked suddenly a bit concerned, "How about that evil woman, did you get her?"

Slick answered, "Yes we did. Professor Verity Magrav was killed in the crossfire."

She grimaced, "Good, if she was alive, I might have killed her myself."

I looked at Maren. I didn't think she would have been that vindictive. Then again, if I had been kidnapped twice by someone, I might think the same way. Her mother though, looked at her worried, "Maren!"

"Sorry, Mom, but that's how I feel. I only hope that now I can put it all behind me," Maren defended herself.

Shane put his arm around Maren and I followed suit on the other side. The man called Hound said, "I'm sure that now you know that she is really dead, you'll have fewer nightmares."

I really hoped that Maren would have fewer nightmares now. She had endured enough, and didn't need being haunted by bad dreams any more. Then we followed the government agents out of the now exposed base of operations from that nasty organization to the vehicles of the agents.

~~~~~~~~~~

Epilogue

The bad guys that were still alive, were taken away by agents, while Agents Carl 'Hound' Bings and Ben 'Slick' Weathers escorted us to Maggie's cabin. There, we had a nice reunion, followed by a cooking contest between me and Maggie. Maren couldn't really make a decision as to who was the better cook, but she gave the honor to me, probably because I presented my cooking to her with a kiss. We enjoyed Maggie's hospitality for another day. She was very taken with the gifts from Maren. Not too long afterwards we parted, and having enough adventures went home quickly.

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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