Acts of Humanity 1:
Better Late Than Never
A MORFS Universe Tale
by Ray Drouillard
Doctors Howard and Sara Martin have been studying MORFS since MORFS first appeared. As some of the world's foremost experts on MORFS, they were ready when Larry and Cindy, their twins, came down with the condition. But before they could catch their collective breath, they received the opportunity to study MORFS from a completely different perspective.
Categories: Male to Hermaphrodite, Female to Hermaphrodite, Hybrid, Elemental, PSI
Chapter One: The Beginning
How did it happen? That's the burning question, I'm sure. All you adults who ran the gauntlet of puberty and came out unfazed now have something to worry about – or maybe not.
But hey, it's a long story. I'll try to keep it down to the essentials, but there is still a lot to tell. I do have to warn you, though, that I'll probably go into 'professor mode' a few times before I'm through. Sorry, but I can't help it. I have been a professor for a long time.
To start with, Sara and I were junior high sweethearts who stayed together for life. I know that doesn't happen much, but it happened to us.
Actually, we had known each other for our whole lives. We were always friends. Our parents were friends, and we played together when they got together. We even kept on playing together during the 'boys are yucky/girls are yucky' stage of our lives. When we started holding hands in fifth grade, we were teased a lot. We didn't care.
Oops... sorry about rambling. Didn't I promise not to ramble? I guess that's just one of those things of old age.
Anyhow, by high school, we knew that we would be together forever. There was no MORFS back then, so we didn't have to worry about one or the other of us going through a forced sex change.
We took all the college prep classes together. We could concentrate on our studies because we studied together. We were inseparable. While all the other kids were chasing boys or girls, dating, and partying, we spent our time together.
Oh sure, we did a little partying and went to concerts and stuff like that. Still, with a stable relationship, we didn't have to goof around posturing and searching. We enjoyed our time together – studying, sitting on the couch and watching TV, walking in the park, floating down the river, or whatever.
When you enjoy what you're doing, and enjoy the person you're doing it with, you tend to do it well. We did school well, and both graduated with a perfect 4.0 average. We shared the number one spot in graduation, and both had to make a speech.
Then, it was off to college.
We were in our sophomore years when MORFS reared its head. With genetic engineering and molecular biology majors, we jumped on the bandwagon and started studying the transformation process.
MORFS was scary back then, but it was also a wonder.
It was scary because some people didn't survive it at first. Their bodies simply ran out of the raw materials needed to complete the transformation. Also, it dragged on for so long that the victims' bodies became too fatigued to go on. Interveinous feeding was the order of the day for those difficult cases. It didn't take long for the medical professionals to find out that giving the patients an abundance of nutrients sped up the process and reduced mortality.
Sara and I were undergraduates when the real push to develop what later became the modern 'stim pack' started. We can't claim to have played a major role in those early days, but we certainly spent enough time in the labs working under the guidance of the more senior researchers. We eventually came up with several versions. The preferred type is an interveinous solution that keeps working throughout the transformation process – whether or not the patient feels like eating. We developed a solid bar and a drink for third world countries and remote locations, but they became popular among the general population because they could be used at home. Eventually, the biomedical engineers came up with the familiar home IV that the doctors affix to the patient's limb.
Once the immediate emergency was over, we could study the condition in earnest. There were lots of questions that needed answers, but we had set them aside while dealing with the critical issue of helping the victims survive.
First of all, how is it that MORFS hands out functional and usable changes, rather than random mutations?
The vast majority of the random mutations foisted upon living organisms do nothing at all. Of those that do something, the vast majority are useless or harmful.
While you can turn someone's brown eyes blue by changing a single gene, giving someone wings or extra arms or improved senses requires a complex set of genetic changes that are less likely to happen by random chance than having a monkey type out the complete works of Shakespeare in one shot – and that's no exaggeration.
The fact that the changes are functional at all is exceedingly improbable. The fact that a large fraction of the changes vary from harmless to very useful really threw us scientists for a loop.
For that matter, how does it make changes to a mostly grown organism?
If you were to carefully make changes to the DNA that controls your body structure (a tiny minority of the DNA that you contain, by the way), and somehow copy those changes to every cell in your body, nothing would happen. The genes that carry the instructions for building our bodies are quiescent in an adult. In fact, almost all of them are quiet within just a few weeks after conception.
So, how does it happen? How does MORFS take the instructions for building a body and use them to change a body?
That's what Sara and I studied in graduate school. That's what our doctoral theses were about. That's what we spent our lives studying. That's what consumed us all through our young adult lives and on to middle age.
And yes, we learned a lot about it. You'll find the information in the dozens of papers we have published over the years, not to mention the handful of text books that we authored.
Chapter Two: The Surprise
We entered our fifties and realized that it was too late to have kids. Sara was showing signs of menopause. Her periods were starting to get a bit sporadic, so we didn't think anything of it when she went three months without that periodic visit from Aunt Flo.
Morning sickness? Hey, when you hit middle age, you get used to aches and pains. We were healthy, but we still had joints that were wearing out and stuff like that. A couple bouts of the morning barfies was barely noticed.
So there we were, a middle age couple who were looking forward to becoming parents for the first time. That's right; Sara started to show, and it wasn't floppy like fat. A trip to the doctor later, and we were in shock. Our families loved it, of course.
It's a good thing we had been doing all we could to say healthy. Even without the technology we were trying to develop, we expected to make it to the century mark.
As soon as we found out that Sara was pregnant, we started preparing. We set up two bedrooms for the kids.
That's right; kids. Plural. We don't do things half way. Sara was pregnant with twins.
We set up a laboratory in the basement so that we could continue our research while staying home. We hired Gladys, our house keeper, so that we could take the time that we usually use for routine home maintenance and spend it with the kids.
We kept our jobs at the school, but most of our research work was now done in our basement laboratory. We wanted to aggressively search for a way to trigger the somatic reconstruction that makes up stage two of MORFS. We wanted to rebuild our bodies to their youthful forms. If we could make a couple changes while we were at it, that's OK. Mostly, we just wanted to stay around long enough to see our kids grow up. We wanted to be healthy enough to enjoy a relationship with them as they grew to maturity. We wanted to meet our grandchildren. After all, we would be 74 years old when they were due to graduate from high school, and 78 when they got their four year degrees and entered graduate school.
As the blessed day approached, we both ended up spending more time at home. We decided to share a single part-time position at the university just so that we could keep our collective foot in the door. We had made some good investments, so it's not like we really needed the money. We just like being part of the action in the labs.
We took some family leave time when the kids were born. Sara and I poured out hearts into raising Larry and Cindy. We also poured our intellect into working in our lab. We ended up teaching one or two classes each semester, and the students used to joke about not knowing from day to day which Doctor Martin would be teaching.
As the kids grew, we got closer to an answer. Raising them added love to our lives, and gave us more incentive to extend our lives and stay healthy. Playing with them and sharing their dreams gave us a spark of youth in our souls that we hadn't realized that we had lost.
As they grew older, the kids each had to have their own labs. They wanted to play like Mom and Dad, but didn't necessarily follow in our footsteps and work with genetics or molecular biology. We didn't try to steer them in any particular direction. They are their own people, and need to find their own passion. If they want to play with physics or electronics or computer science, we'll support them all the way.
In fact, they both started to get an interest in a new branch of physics.
Even back when we were kids, people had postulated things like morphogenetic fields – a pattern that guides the growth of organisms. Before that, they talked about the 'essence' of substances – as if there were more to things than the mere matter. For instance, some experiments with homeopathy showed that, even after a substance is diluted so much that any sample is unlikely to contain even a single molecule, it can have some effect. Back in our day, the scientists rejected any evidence because it made no sense. Now, they are looking at it and wondering how it works.
Sara and I started studying all the research papers just so that we could answer Larry and Cindy's questions.
Then it hit us.
These patterns that seem to be engraved into the very fabric of the universe may be the missing part of the genetic code. They may also be the source of the metaphysical powers that some MORFS survivors gain. It makes sense that the instructions for the various telepathic, telekinetic, and elemental powers are coded in those patterns. That explains why we have never detected a DNA group for any of the powers.
This was exciting stuff. Imagine rubbing amber and silk to create static electricity, and then wondering what might come of it – computers, television, electric motors, and the whole shebang.
We had already pretty much traced the path of the stray DNA that ends up in the genetic code of some MORFS victims. That was actually relatively simple. After all, early genetic engineers were rather consternated to find that the genes that they stuffed into our food crops refused to stay there – creating super weeds. Roundup-ready soy beans planted one year would result in Roundup-resistant weeds a few years later.
But now, the missing part was finally falling into place. These patterns interacted closely with the viral DNA and the DNA of our bodies. It was almost as if it was simulating the results of the combinations and choosing combinations that were beneficial to the organism. We still didn't know how it was happening, but we were starting to be able to reproduce it.
We also postulate that our very souls are made of these patterns. That explains why most MORFS victims quickly adapt to their new form.
So, our best theory is that when someone comes down with MORFS, the person's DNA, any DNA from the trigger virus (MORFS is triggered by a regular cold or influenza virus), any stray DNA that can be pulled from the environment, and the person's soul all interact to create a new pattern and genetic code for the body. If the person's mind is reasonably healthy, the new form will reflect something that is within the soul of that person.
Yes, I know that the existence of a soul has never been scientifically measured or proven. Use a different word if you like. Assume that our consciousness is nothing but the firings of some neurons deep in our brains if you like.
There still seems to be something like a soul that makes us what we are, and is involved in the MORFing process. Call it what you like, and hypothesize all you want about its nature. You might even be right.
Sara and I were in the middle of running some tests and preparing some reports for the professional journals when it happened. The kids came down with MORFS.
Chapter Three: MORFS gets personal
We had seen MOFRFS enough to know what it was right away. We had induced it in enough laboratory animals to know exactly how to treat it. We have a big stash of stim packs and sleeping pills. Still, we took the kids over to the doctor to have it properly diagnosed.
A life time in the laboratory taught us the value of reading instructions and carefully doing things the right way. We had helped develop the drugs and nutrients used for treating the virus, but we read the doctor's instructions carefully. Then, we put our poor sick kids to bed and took care of them. As is our custom, we laid hands on them and prayed over them. "Lord, we thank you for these children. Please make their changes a blessing, and not a curse."
Once they were sleeping comfortably, we collapsed on the love seat and just held each other. Soon, Sneaky and Sassy, our seal-point Siamese cats, decided that it was time to demand attention. Anyone who is owned by a Siamese cat knows exactly what we mean.
The kids' case of MORFS was pretty much textbook. We should know, since we wrote the textbook. We watched the transformations. It looks like the genetic materials of our cats somehow got into the mix. There were no forced sex changes. We were happy about that because they both seem to be well adapted to their current gender.
I guess I should mention that we were watching that part of their development pretty carefully. You see, the apple doesn't generally fall all that far from the tree. The kids lucked out, though.
It's not like Sara and I are gender dysphoric to anything like that. The truth is that my gender is not a large part of who I am. My nerdiness, curiosity, and tendency to nurture and teach are a huge part of who I am. My spirituality is a big part of who I am. Also, Sara is a large part of who I am. I have been with her for so long that I don't really know who I am without her.
Sara is pretty much the same. We have different personalities, but a large part of who we are is that which makes us natural professors.
When either of us takes one of those gender identity tests, we come out in the 'versatile' category. We're in the middle, and happy to be there. We don't went to be controlled by our reproductive systems.
So, I have a number of feminine traits, and she has plenty of masculine traits. Being the oldest sister of a family of eight, she is pretty bossy. I tend to be stubborn, so she doesn't dominate me. Still, it took a couple decades to get to the point where we have a harmonious relationship.
I, on the other hand, tend to be rather emotional. Also, there have been many times when I wished I could wear nice clothes, perhaps indulge in cosplay. Don't get me wrong – I wouldn't give up my maleness to become female. It would be great to do it part time, but a lot of me is very male.
Fortunately for Sara, it's socially acceptable for a female to dress and act male. She was quite the tomboy as a kid, and interacted well with the guys all through life.
I was one of the guys, too, but I also spent lots of time with the girls. I tended to be well liked by the girls because I was non-threatening. I was already attached and committed, and therefore not on the prowl. Also, I never pulled any of that male superiority stuff. All female teams were fairly common at school because if they let one male on the team, he would tend to want to take over. I never did that, so I was accepted gladly. Also, if they wanted Sara, they had to accept that I came along with the package.
But the kids are both very well adjusted to their gender. Larry isn't overly macho, and Cindy isn't overly girly, but neither seem to have any yearnings to take on the opposite role. Sara and I have watched for evidence, and have seen none.
The kids had plenty of surprises in store when they woke up, anyhow. They may not have to get used to a new gender, but they were by no means left untouched. I wonder what it's like having a tail, cat ears, and retractable claws.
Sara and I got some monitors from the lab and set them up so that we would have some warning before the kids woke up. The monitors contain EEG and vital sign sensors, and are designed to alert the lab workers when a subject is about to wake up. We didn't think that the kids would freak, but we figured that it would be a good idea to be there when they woke up.
At about 3:00 in the morning, the monitors went off – both at the same time. Sara and I rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, threw on some clothes, and went into the kids' rooms. Sara decided to sit with Cindy, and I went over to Larry's room.
I silently slipped inside, said a quick prayer over Larry, and sat on a chair in the corner of the room.
After about twenty minutes, I heard Larry start to stir. It was too dark in the room for me to see more than a vague form as he sat up in his bed.
"Dad?", he asked.
"I'm right here, son. How do you feel?"
I walked over to his bed and put my hand on his shoulder. He got up out of bed and gave me a hug. You know that you've done a good job loving your children when you still get hugs from your teen-age boy.
He padded over and flicked on the light. He gave an amazingly cat-like screech, shut his eyes, and dimmed the lights.
I looked into his eyes and was surprised to see that they had changed from their former blue-green to a startling sapphire blue. More interesting, though, was the fact that his pupils were now slits. His eyes look a lot like our cats' eyes.
"Don't be too startled, Larry, but there have been a few changes. Overall, though, I think you are still quite the handsome lad."
He gave me his usual "Aw, dad!" and walked warily to the mirror. He jumped a bit, then started scrutinizing himself carefully. I could see the wheels turning, but it was hard to tell exactly what he was thinking.
"At least I won't have to buy new clothes," he commented. "We're going to have to cut a tail hole in all of my pants, though."
I smiled at him. "I'm really glad you didn't freak out on me."
Then, we set about the task of cataloging all his changes. The kids had helped us in the lab many times, so the exercise actually lent an air of normalcy to the situation. Sara and Cindy met us down in the lab, and we set about the task of giving them both a post-MORFS inventory.
It turns out that they both have excellent night vision, and can see long-wave ultraviolet. Specifically, they can see UVA – centered around 350 nanometers or so.
A normal human retina can sense near ultraviolet, but the lens normally blocks it off. In the kids' case, though, they actually have UVA cones, and the lens passes UV just fine. They have four color vision instead of normal three color vision.
"So, what does UV look like?"
"I dunno, Dad. What does red look like?"
She had me there. How do you describe a color?
Their hearing has similarly been improved. Those cute seal point kitty ears of theirs can swivel just like Sneaky and Sassy's ears, and they are pretty good at focusing in on faint noises. I expect that they'll get better with time.
After some practice, they became fairly adept at controlling their tails. Usually, though, their tails seem to have a mind of their own. I can tell when they are agitated or sad by the way that their tails twitch and move.
The big feat of engineering, though, is their retractable claws. They really don't resemble the standard design of a cat's paw at all. A normal cat's claw is controlled by the equivalent of the joints at the ends of our fingers. The claws are curved into a semicircle, and flexing that joint extends or retracts them.
In the case of the kids, though, there are extra muscles that move the satin black claws into and out of a pocket under their fingernails. The fingernails are reinforced with carbon nanotubes and a little thicker than normal fingernails, and act as reinforcement for the claws. With the claws retracted, their hands look normal – except for a faint dark stripe down the middle of the nails. Cindy hides hers under fingernail polish, and Larry just ignores his.
Most MORFS-acquired cat claws continue to grow for life. If they are exercised by scratching something like a board or a tree, they will remain sharp and short enough to be fully retracted.
Cindy grinned wickedly, extended her slightly curved claws, and walked toward the couch.
"Claw my furniture, young lady, and I'll throw your fuzzy tail outside with Sneaky and Sassy! How would you like to learn how to use the litter box?"
She smirked and took a swipe at the couch. Luckily for her, she retracted her claws first.
Anyhow, our kids still look like our kids, but they definitely look different. Cindy's hair has changed from auburn to a fire red that goes very well her little seal point kitty ears. Her eyes are a bright emerald green, and have the same lens-shaped pupil that Larry's eyes have.
Larry ended up with sapphire blue eyes and long dark blond hair that we quickly cut shorter, though not so short that the barber would have a difficult time with it. It's pretty common for MORFS to leave both males and females with long hair, and we wanted to get Larry feeling a bit more like himself. Cindy, was thrilled with her long hair.
Both of the kids have bigger eyes, giving them good night vision (and a look of wide-eyed innocence). The iris is bigger, but it all but disappears when the lights get dim. As the lights come up, the pupils narrow from the sides, creating a lens shape that is about twice as tall as it is wide. As their pupils shrink further, that lens shape remains constant, shrinking from all sides at once. Fortunately for the kids, their pupils can close down enough for them to function in very bright sunlight. Some cat hybrids have to wear sunglasses during the day.
The kids have almond eyes, giving them an exotic and slightly Mediterranean look that kind of reminds me of that princess on Disney's rendition of Aladdin. Actually, it's more of a 'Siamese cat' look. In fact, their faces have a very subtle feline appearance, though they are definitely human faces.
Both kids are somewhat lighter and a lot slimmer. They look lithe, graceful, and, well, feline. Cindy is a real heart-breaker, with a graceful body and very feminine curves. Larry is by no means feminine, but he definitely moves with the grace of a stalking cat.
They both appear to have lost muscle mass, but they have actually gained strength. Genetic tests show that they have managed to acquire DNA group 1255C genes for dense, high output muscles. If they choose to work out, they will become very strong.
The obligatory post-MORFS visit at the doctor's office found the same thing we did. "I wish all my patients were so together," commented the doctor. "You probably don't need this, but here you go," he said as he passed us the usual post-MORFS information packets.
We took the kids to the mall to get a few clothes that will fit their slighter frames and accommodate their tails. Most of the clothes they have at home will work fine, so we are in no hurry to set them out with a new wardrobe. Larry was happy about this, but Cindy was disappointed. I expect that Sara will be taking Cindy to the mall later.
Sara took Cindy to the beauty salon for a work-over, so I took Larry into the barber shop for a trim. It didn't take long, so we waited for Sara and Cindy over in the tool section at Sears. I think we ended up spending more money than the girls did. We'll have to make it up by doing some projects around the house.
When the girls caught up with us (How did they guess where to find us?), I was astonished. The beautician had done some magic with Cindy's long red hair that caused it to frame her face while enhancing the look of her little kitty ears and bringing out the exotic look of her new features. Her nails were painted so that the the base and tips match the color of the base and tips of her ears. Her toenails were painted the same way. She slid out her claws, showing off the fact that the tips of her fingernails match them.
We grabbed a quick lunch in the food court, stopped by the school to pick up homework assignments, then went home. I had an afternoon class to teach. Sara could just as easily have taught the class, but I decided to take the class and leave her with the kids. They can normally take care of themselves, but we figured that they might need some moral support today.
Sara got the kids started with their homework while I showered and prepared for class. I didn't really have to take a shower, but I always felt better if I washed myself thoroughly. It's almost as if I could wash off the less than wonderful body image that I have saddled myself with.
After my shower, I scrutinized myself in the mirror. It looks like I'll have to put some follicle deadener on my face soon.
Have you ever wondered why some hair, like the stuff in your eyebrows, never gets long? It's because your hair follicles turn themselves on and off in a set cycle. The length of the cycle determines the length of the hair. Not long ago, some colleagues of ours found out how to turn them off all at once. Women use that stuff on their legs, and I like to use it on my face. Some people use it to remove MORFS-induced fur from inconvenient places – like the palms of their hands. Some men use follicle stimulator on their scalps.
Researchers in Sun City are trying to develop a method permanently setting the cycle length. If this can be done selectively, it'll be possible to set a person's hair length, removing the need for cutting. Stylists will instead decide on the length of the hair needed for each part of the scalp, paint the stuff on, and do the curling and moussing.
Whoops... professor mode again. Like I was saying, I was scrutinizing my face. My dark blond hair was shot through with gray, especially at my sideburns. I had never considered myself to be handsome, but old age had been kind to me. The gray hair and slightly wrinkled face combined well with a suit and tie to give me a look that can best be described as 'distinguished'. I may never be one of those heartbreakingly handsome dudes, but I definitely looked the part of the honored professor. Of course, if I wear old clothes, I'll end up looking like a scruffy old man.
I was just a bit tired as I waved goodbye to everyone and headed out the door. I guess getting up at 3:00 AM can do that to my old bones.
Class went well. Sara and I don't do undergrad classes anymore because the school considers our limited time to be better spent teaching the advanced classes. After all, we have been in the field for as long as the field has existed.
After the lesson was over, one of the students raised her hand and asked me about the kids. Apparently, her little brother had mentioned that Larry and Cindy had dropped by school briefly today.
I was detailing their changes and the results of the DNA scans when a wave of dizziness hit me. I staggered a bit, but recovered quickly. I should have sat down right then and there, but my male mind made me hide my weakness and keep going. I was about to open the floor for more questions when I felt dizzy again. I heard the bell ring as I collapsed.
Chapter Four: MORFS gets really personal
The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital. Doctor Mary Jacobson was examining me.
"So, Howard... got tired of studying MORFS from the outside, eh?"
I just kind of groaned and said, "Huh?"
"You and Sara have a weird case of MORFS. Gladys about freaked when Sara passed out. She called 911."
I looked over and saw Sara's sleeping form. She didn't appear to be changing yet. Of course, we didn't know if this strain would change us or not. It might do nothing, or it might kill us.
I looked up at Mary again. "How long have I been out?"
She smiled. "Oh, only about a day. We should probably knock you out again for the duration, but I'm wondering if you know anything about how you managed to get MORFS."
I reminded her about the research Sara and I were doing, and suggested that she and some of our colleagues go through our lab. I gave her the passwords to the secured folders and the location of the papers we were writing, then sank back to the bed.
Mary injected something in my IV, and the lights went out.
I woke up feeling great. In fact, I felt better than I had in a long time. The room was bright and cheery, and the colors were vibrant. They were somehow different. Then, it dawned on me that I probably have the same UVA vision that the kids have.
I rolled over and saw the cutest little catgirl looking at me.
"Cindy?" My voice sounded funny.
"No, silly! It's me, Sara. Cindy and Larry will no doubt be here soon enough."
I shook my head, then smiled. "It looks like we managed to come up with a youth formula after all. You look great!"
"You don't look so bad yourself, cutie!"
So I, the distinguished Professor Doctor Howard G. Martin, picked my tired old body up off of the bed and walked toward the bathroom.
But I felt neither old nor tired. I hopped up with a spring that I had never had before. I also felt some bouncing on my chest that I had never felt before. I looked at the mirror on the back of the bathroom door and jumped about three feet in the air. I almost hit my pointy little cat ears on the ceiling.
An adorable little catgirl with straw blond hair and big blue eyes looked back at me and mimicked my every motion.
Sara looked at me with amusement. "I wonder if our students are going to give us the respect they used to give us."
"Well," I mused. "If nothing else, they ought to give us even more attention. The problem might be getting them to look at the board instead of us."
After all the thousands of post-MORFS exams I have done in my career, it was definitely a different experience to do one on myself.
"Hmmm...," I mused. "Despite appearances, I guess I haven't joined the squat-to-pee club after all.
"I know," replied Sara. "I'm a halfie, too. I guess that means that we're still made for each other."
She walked over to me and gave me a hug. "I can hardly wait to get home and try this new equipment."
"Mind if I join you?"
We both started laughing. That must not be common behavior for post-MORFS patients, because a nurse we had never met before came bursting into the room. She looked concerned, then she smiled at us.
"Well, it looks like you kids are handling your changes well."
We busted up again. I looked at Sara and said, "So, Doctor Martin, how are you handling your changes."
"Just fine, Doctor Martin. And you?"
"Oh, everything's just ducky, or peachy-keen. The cat's meow, even!" I replied.
Sara looked at me and said, "Technically, you can keep your old name. Still, I don't think you look much like a 'Howard' any more."
The nurse looked confused, then comprehension came across her face. She turned red and said, "Oh, I'm sorry about calling you kids!"
"No worries," I said. "We actually got a kick out of it."
The nurse left the room, so we both let our shapeless hospital gowns drop and looked ourselves over critically.
Sara is about the same size as before, but slimmer and more lithe and feline and sexy. Actually, she looks a lot like our daughter, only more mature. She has that perky look of youth combined with the smooth look of maturity. Her breasts are somewhere between a B and a C cup, and are perfect for her new body shape. I think I fell in love with her all over again.
Her formerly chestnut brown hair is now a lovely midnight black that shows off her perky little seal point kitty ears. Her eyes are the same emerald green as Cindy's, and her face has the same exotic look. When I look at her, I still see the same woman I have loved throughout the years, but with changes that make her even more lovely and exotic.
My changes are considerably more dramatic. While I'm still technically as male as I am female, my body doesn't look even a tiny bit male. The fact is, Sara and I have both managed to get the suite of genes that give us both male and female parts.
Sara had used the slang term 'halfie', but the technical term is 'hermaphrodite'. The legal/social term is 'intersexed.' I'm not fond of that description because it isn't very descriptive. It is used for any person that Isn't strictly and totally male or female. Any change or ambiguity in the primary or secondary gender traits is enough to get one labeled as intersexed.
Anyhow, there are several types of hermaphrodites. Over the years, we have cataloged them and mapped the DNA that produces each type. This is possible because the standard post-MORFS exam includes a complete genetic scan. Statistical analysis is used to map the suite of genes. Interestingly enough, we haven't managed to map the suite of genes for any of the elemental powers.
So, we appear to be DNA group 204F Hermaphrodites. That's good because the testes are tucked up inside where they're nice and safe (they work fine at body temperature, so they don't have to dangle perilously.) Also, the other male bits are fully retractable, and stay retracted until we tell them otherwise. That makes for less embarrassment when wearing tight female clothes.
"Well, it looks like you'll have less to complain about the next time we go wilderness camping. We can both piss on a tree."
"We haven't been wilderness camping since the kids came along," she replied.
"Then it's time to do it again. Our bodies seem to be up to the task."
We each stood there lost in our own thoughts. The world has opened up again. The things that we did before, we can do again. This time, though, we can take the kids along. Also, we won't have to worry about getting back home on time and making a living.
I looked at the two of us standing in front of the mirror. Our bodies were pretty much the same size and shape. We both have an interesting pattern of tanning. Our color varies from a creamy light Caucasian color to a satiny dark color that is reminiscent of both the color of our seal point ears and of a dark-skinned Mediterranean person. Our feet and the tops of our hands are dark – just like a seal point. Our legs lighten to a 'California tan' color, as do the tops of our arms. Our palms, the bottom of our forearms, our biceps, our bellies, and our breasts are all a creamy white. If we face a mirror with our arms at our sides and our palms facing the mirror, most of what we see is white. The color darkens gradually at our sides and on our backs, and the area immediately around our spines is the same dark color as our hands and feet. Our tails are colored like a seal point Siamese cat.
Where Sara has midnight hair, mine is straw blond. The base of my ears match that color, and they quickly fade to the warm velvet black of a seal point. Our faces have the same tan look, but Sara's face appears lighter because of her dark hair.
I'm still as male as I am female, so I definitely got turned on looking at myself. That'll take some getting used to. The real turn-on, of course, is looking at the two of us in the mirror. What man wouldn't be turned on by such a pair of lovelies? The curvy body shapes that are so similar to each other accentuates the difference in hair and eye colors. Sara's emerald eyes go well with her midnight hair, and my sapphire eyes perfectly compliment my straw blond hair.
After a good shower, we spent the rest of the morning getting the standard post-MORFS tests. Of course, that means that I got my first pelvic exam. Then, the doctor examined my prostate. There ain't no justice, I tell you.
We came out pretty much like the kids. We probably managed to get infected by the same suite of bugs. There's no doubt that we're going to turn heads when we go anywhere as a family. After all, how often do you see a family of four who all have the ears and tail of a seal point Siamese cat?
Actually, they'll probably think that we're brothers and sisters. MORFS really did turn back the clock for us. We have the development of someone of about 25 years of age, but we look more like we're sixteen because everything is brand-new.
The genetic results were interesting. Among other things, we have DNA group 1255C high output muscles and DNA group 3266B nanotube reinforced bones, fingernails, and claws. The nanotube parts are particularly interesting because the DNA that allows nanotubes to be synthesized is totally man-made. How did it get into the genome?
The telepaths couldn't get a reading on us, so we don't know if we have any powers. Apparently, we have the ability to block telepathic reading. We don't have any conscious control over it now, but we may get some control later.
Gladys brought the kids over as soon as she heard that we were up and around. They managed to get here just as we were finishing up.
"Oh, you guys are all so cute!"
I rolled my eyes. Sara jabbed me in the ribs and informed me that that's not a ladylike expression.
Gladys pulled out a camera and insisted that we all line up for our first all kitty family portrait. I protested that we're hardly dressed for a portrait.
"Oh, you can get a better one done later. This one is for the scrap book and will commemorate the first time the feline four got together."
She handed us a bag of Cindy's clothes, so we wasted no time getting out of our hospital gowns and into the tank tops, shorts, and sneakers that Gladys had brought for us. I had seen Sara put on a bra enough times to know that it's easiest to put it on backwards, do the clasps, spin it around, and put my arms through the loops.
We walked out of the bathroom and lined up for our mug shots.
The first was a picture of just Sara and me. After Gladys took a few shots from different angles, Cindy stood next to me, and Larry stood next to Sara. After she took a few shots, we all cuddled up close so that our hair was touching. We tried a number of other outlandish poses, having a good time until a nurse came and kicked us all out.
The ironic thing is that we look like three girls and one boy. In reality, our family of four contains three boys and three girls.
"Come on, Kitten Mitten, let's go."
I looked at Sara and pretended to be offended. "Kitten Mitten?"
She giggled. "It fits you, you know."
I sighed noisily. "Well, I'll just have to take your word for it."
"Yes you will, Kitten Mitten."
"I guess you can call me Kim, then. I don't think 'Kitten Mitten' would look good on my birth certificate addendum."
And so that's how we did it. On the way out of the hospital, we stopped by the post-MORFS record center, turned in the paperwork that the doctors had given to us, gave them my new name, and had our mug shots taken.
Now, Sara and I each have a birth certificate addendum. The government used to issue amended birth certificates for MORFES survivors, but they now issue an addendum. The original birth certificate is unchanged, since it is supposed to represent our status at birth. The addendum contains our new biometrics (fingerprints, retina prints, iris prints, and the like), a DNA scan, some pictures, and medical data. The office automatically sent the changes over to the school and the DMV so that we could get a new college ID and a new driver's license. We also had them send the information to the FAA, FCC, and PADI so that they could update our pilot licenses, ham licenses, and scuba certification cards.
We were quite the celebrities over there because most MORFS survivors have only school ID and maybe a driver's license to change. We're the first people over the age of thirty to change.
We picked up our new documents on the way out. For a government office, the Post-MORFS record center was remarkably efficient. We'll have to wait for the FAA, and PADI to send new stuff in the mail, but the common stuff is printed right there at the center. The FCC no longer issues amateur radio licenses on paper, so our updated licenses appeared pretty much instantly on the FCC web site. I wonder how long it'll take for the changes to trickle through the other various ham-related sites.
So, armed with our new cards, we went to the mall. We started by dropping off my wedding ring to get it resized. Sara's hand is pretty much the same as before – the only change being slightly longer fingers. My hands have changed considerably.
Sara dragged me into the beauty salon. Gladys had taken the liberty of making an appointment for us, and we managed to get there just in time.
Chapter Five: The obligatory mall trip
Armed with their allowances, Cindy and Larry headed to the music store – leaving me to the tender mercies of Sara and the mob at the beauty salon. They crooned and cooed over our changes, and were definitely prepared to give us the works. I tried to be grumpy about it, but they could tell that I was enjoying the attention. I made one tactical error, though. I commented to Sara that her kitty ears weren't going to work with her ear rings, so she would have to give them all away – unless she wanted to get her navel pierced.
We both ended up with holes in our belly buttons. Me and my big mouth. When Cindy came back to check up on us, she was shanghaied and perforated, too. In the end, they worked the same magic with Sara and me that they had done with Cindy.
After that harrowing experience, we went back to the jeweler and picked up my wedding ring. It was a bit thicker because the gold was pressed into a smaller diameter band. It turned out to be quite comfortable. The metal elemental that owns the jewelry shop did an excellent job.
Then, we went shopping. I tried to get out of it, but no dice. I pointed out to Sara that her size hasn't changed much, and that I'm now her size and can wear her stuff until I get around to getting more stuff.
So, we shopped.
The people at the beauty salon had done a considerable amount of testing – draping different colored pieces of cloth on us to determine what colors go best with our new complexion. We went shopping armed with little packets that contain snippets of cloth. The fashion police have spoken.
I'm used to the drill, of course. I had done it before. Several years ago, we found the best shade of navy for my suits. Sara grumbled when I found a suit that worked well and ordered a dozen of them.
Hey, it worked. To get ready for work, I just had to grab a crisp, white shirt, a pair of pants, and a suit jacket.
Oh yeah, I did have to choose a tie. Generally, I just closed my eyes and grabbed one – much to Sara's consternation.
But I don't think I'll be getting away with that anymore.
We started with the underwear. I already knew my size, so I just went down the row and grabbed a few packages of cotton panties.
But hey, I'm not a total cad. I got white ones to go under light clothes, and black ones to go under dark clothes. Why are women's clothes made out of such thin material, anyhow?
Sara snatched the packages out of the shopping cart and shook them at me. "Heretic! Heathen!"
I just shook my head. "OK, dear. Why don't you pick out whatever you think is appropriate, and I'll just carry my new plumpified rear into the dressing room and try on whatever you deign to pass to me?"
She gave me a mock stern look. "That's more like it!"
And so it went.
And so it went some more.
And so we went around the store, holding clothes up to check the color, trying things on, chatting with the sales people, and generally spending a fortune. Cindy decided to hang out with us. She told us that we need her help choosing clothes to fit our new image. No more fuddy-duddy old people clothes for us! I think she was just hoping to pick up a few more outfits for herself, but who am I to argue? Besides, it gives Sara someone besides me to focus upon.
Still, it didn't take long for me to find myself attired in a black leather mini skirt (with a tail hole, of course), a short charcoal gray tank top, and sandals with low heels. Now, the world can see my flat belly, decorated with a sapphire that matches my eyes.
Cindy managed to con her mom into getting her a pleated skirt and crop top. Sara chose a mini and crop top that match her hair. The effect was stunning.
"Meow! Where have you girls been all my life?"
Three boys who looked to be about fifteen were approaching us. I could see Sara's tail twitching in annoyance. Cindy was kind of smirking, but she didn't look at all impressed.
"Well," I said, "Sara and I have been teaching at the university, doing research on MORFS, and raising Cindy and Larry."
I don't think they believed me.
But hey, it was an obvious pick up line so I figured that an answer to the actual question would be appropriate. When they realized that they weren't going to get anywhere with their attempted pick up, they wandered off. Sara called Larry on her eCom and had him meet us at the food court. Soon, we were sitting around a table and pigging out – I mean dining.
Larry looked up, then waved. Soon, a boy about his age walked up. "Dude, you never told me that you had three gorgeous sisters!"
Larry smirked. "I don't. I only have one sister."
The boy looked confused.
Sara said in her best motherly voice, "Larry, don't you think you ought to introduce us to your friend?"
Larry blushed. "Sorry!" Then he said, "Mom and Dad, this is Peter Nelson, one of my best friends at school." He indicated each of us in turn. "This is Professor Doctor Kim Martin, my father, and this is Professor Doctor Sara Martin, my mother, and you already know my sister."
After the obligatory shaking of hands and polite 'Pleased to meet you' statements, we invited Peter to sit with us.
Cindy broke the awkward silence. "I believe you enjoy messing with your friends' heads."
Larry snickered. "I was just watching Pete here try to figure out how to ask the obvious questions without sounding impolite."
He pulled out his wallet and opened it to the family portrait that he keeps there. "Mom and Dad got hit with the same MORFS strain that got Cindy and me. Apparently, it got contaminated with some DNA they were goofing with. They were trying to figure out how to get a person's body to rebuild itself so that nobody has to die of old age."
I could see the wheels turning. Finally, he said, "Oh! You must be those two researchers that we learned about in health class! If Mister Smith knew that he had your kids in his class, he would be pestering you to be a guest lecturer."
I turned to Sara. "What do you think? Wanna teach health class for a day?"
"Sure!" She turned to Larry. "Tell your teacher to give us a call so that we can set something up."
We chatted while everyone finished eating. Like the kids, Sara and I have an increased metabolism and appetite We all ended up getting second helpings, then dessert.
Finally sated, we collected our bags and headed out the door.
There seemed to be a demonstration going on, but we ignored it. In general, demonstrators tend to say their piece without really directly engaging their audience.
But it was different this time.
Being a long-time MORFS researcher, I have always had little use for the 'Moral Purity' folks. Oh, I believe in morality and grace. What I don't believe is that being MORFS survivor has anything to do with what's inside someone's heart. And, even if I did, I wouldn't be using hate in a misguided attempt to bring people into God's kingdom. Spiritually, that's not the way it should be done. Pragmatically, it doesn't work very well. You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
We're used to being able to ignore these little demonstrations and pass by unnoticed.
But not this time.
"Heathens! Freaks!" shouted one of the people in the group. "Repent and save your soul!"
"My soul has already been saved," Larry said dismissively.
When you have been a professor for as many years as we have, you learn to project your voice with authority. "But Yahweh said to Samuel, 'Don't look on his face, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Yahweh sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.'"
"Heresy!" shouted one of the demonstrators.
"No, it's First Samuel 16:7," replied Sara.
"Perhaps you should read your Bible instead of acting like a bunch of Pharisees," said Cindy.
"That should give them something to think about, but I doubt if thinking is their strong point," mumbled Larry.
After that little confrontation, we walked without further harassment to our car. I saw some motion over in the shadows, but I didn't think much of it. I had just loaded the last of our purchases and closed the trunk lid when about ten men surrounded us. "We don't like what you said to the pastor, freaks!"
We should have been petrified, but we all forced ourselves to remain calm. Showing fear is a sure way to get beat up.
"I think you realize that attacking us could get you a lengthly stay in jail. How about letting us go so that we can all forget about this assault?"
He answered by grabbing my arm. "Come on, Kitty Girl. Time to go see the pastor."
"Let go of me!" I growled.
Before anyone could do anything, Larry rushed him and gave him a quick uppercut to the jaw; knocking him out. As one of his buddies went after Larry, I whirled around and gave him a knee to the groin. I gave a third assailant a quick punch to the solar plexus. Within seconds, it was over. All of them were laying on the ground, some sporting deep scratches. I wanted to just leave and let them pick themselves up, but that would give them the opportunity to pull together some web of lies and get us in trouble. I pulled out my eCom and called the police.
Soon, the ambulances took away the protesters, and we were talking to the police. Fortunately for us, Cindy had set her eCom to record just as soon as the first insults were hurled by the protesters. The police took our statements, grabbed a copy of Cindy's recording, and left.
The drive home was quiet. We were all lost in our own thoughts.
Once we got home, we all took our booty and stashed it. We carefully packed all of my old clothes into boxes so that we could give them to the local Salvation Army store. They're all good items. Someone will be blessed by them.
There wasn't a single item that I really wanted to keep. When you go from 6'2" and slightly pudgy to 5'9" and lithe, little will fit. Sure, I could probably use my winter coat or maybe some of my sweats (the tops, anyhow). Why bother, though? It's not like we can't afford to replace those few items. All I kept were some t-shirts that Sara and I can use for sleeping or covering up at the pool.
Sara had a lot of stuff to ditch, too. There were a lot of things that she could still wear, but, being realistic, probably wouldn't. There were some items that look good on a 70 year old woman, but would look quite out of place on a cute teenage catgirl. Even the conservative suits that she used for teaching would be too loose to look professional.
Time for a clean break. We packed everything up and the kids helped us load them into the back of the truck. Gladys volunteered to take them over to the Salvation Army store for us.
As I was putting on my bikini, I noticed that my navel piercing was already healed.
We were still a little subdued when we went into the back yard and sat around the pool. Sara pointed out that we're letting the idiots win if we let them control our attitude. With that, Cindy threw a wadded up piece of paper at Larry, yelled "Can't catch me!", and ran toward the old oak tree in the corner of the yard. Larry was right behind her when she leapt up to the lowest branch, which was about twelve feet off the ground. Her claws caught the wood, and she scrambled up onto the branch and to the top of the tree. Larry scrambled up after her.
I rolled my eyes and looked at Sara. "Kids!"
She smirked at me. "Come get me, Kitten Mitten!"
I almost caught up to her on the way to the tree, but she was soon scrambling for the top. I followed her up and caught up with her about half way up the tree. I put my arms around her and kissed her deeply. Something stirring in my groin told me that we would definitely be experimenting with our new equipment tonight.
"Awwwww! Ain't that cute!"
I smirked up at Cindy. "Age hath its privileges!"
"Just don't make a bunch of noise, or the neighbors might throw a shoe at you."
We all climbed down and did a few laps in the pool. Then, we just splashed about and had fun. Larry and Cindy were already pretty much used to their new bodies, but it was all new and wonderful to Sara and me. We should have been exhausted by all the activity, but we were no more than just a bit tired. It was a good kind of tired. It was starting to get dark, so we ate a light dinner and headed for our rooms.
"Are you ready to experiment, Doctor Martin?"
"Of course I am, Doctor Martin!"
The kids just rolled their eyes and went off to their rooms to do homework, check on their email, and whatever other stuff teenage kids do. Sara and I, of course, experimented. No, the neighbors didn't throw a shoe at our window. We were happy that the walls of our bedroom were somewhat sound absorbent, though.
Chapter Six: A new day, a new life
The next morning, I woke up refreshed. There was a tangle of blond and black hair in my face. I was spooned up to the cutest little kitty girl, and my arm was around her. I lightly stroked her soft skin, and she started purring. Life is good.
I slipped away and showered. I used some of that gentle shampoo that the person at Fur and Feathers recommended, then followed it with conditioner. I had never used conditioner before in my life.
The person at Fur and Feathers also sold us a special shampoo that's designed for people with fur. I jokingly referred to it as flea shampoo. I used it on my tail.
Sara came in when I was in the middle of my shower. We soaped each other and scrubbed each other's backs. When we were done, she gave me some pointers on the care of long hair. We both found out the hard way that a shower head will squirt water straight down into our kitty ears.
Since we were taking the kids to school, and wanted to talk to a couple of the teachers, we dressed appropriately. Actually, we dressed a bit on the conservative side to differentiate ourselves from the students. We also packed a bag with workout clothes and a suit so that we could work out at the college gym before we taught class.
By the time we got downstairs, Larry had breakfast ready. "You girls take way too long to get ready," he smirked.
"You're just jealous," I said.
Soon, Cindy was heading down the stairs carrying a gym bag. "I hope you cooked enough to feed us high metabolism people."
"A pound of bacon, a pound of sausage, a dozen eggs, and a whole bunch of pancakes. Enough for you, sis?"
we all dug in with gusto, complimenting the cook.
"What I want to know," I commented, "is how we managed to make such short work of those ruffians – not that I'm complaining."
"I think it has something to do with that martial arts training you foisted upon all of us," observed Sara.
"A high strength to weight ratio, combined with feline grace and coordination has a lot to do with it, too," said Larry.
"Not to mention these," Cindy said as she held up her hand and extended her claws.
"Speaking of feline grace and coordination," I said, "how did you guys come out in your physical testing?"
"We're both in the advanced gym class now," Cindy said with pride. "When are you going to get tested?"
"That's a good question," Sara mused. "All of the college students who morph end up going to the local high school. I guess we'll have to do that, too."
With that, she pulled out her eCom and called the school. After a short conversation, she looked at me and said, "We're to show up at the advanced gym with the kids.
So, carrying our gym bags, we four kitty people got into the car and headed for school.
We dropped the kids off and went into the administration office. After some paperwork, we asked to talk to the health teacher. When we talked to him about setting up a time, he suggested that we do it today.
The kids came to their second hour health class and found us sitting in the front row. They sat next to us. After the second bell rang, Mister Smith got up and addressed the class. "Since we are studying MORFS, its effects, and how to recover, we are very fortunate to have two renowned scientists in that field as guest lecturers."
The class looked confused. Where are the guest lecturers?
Mister Smith continued. "I am very happy to introduce to you Doctors Kim and Sara Martin."
The students gasped as we got up and went to the front of the class. Larry and Cindy just looked smug.
"To answer your first question: Yes, Larry and Cindy are our kids. Sara is their mom, and I am their dad. My name was Howard before I morphed yesterday."
I let them stew on that for a second. Then, I continued.
"Although MORFS generally hits people between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, there are some rare cases in people as young as nine, and as old as twenty-eight. At seventy-one, Sara and I are the oldest people to get hit."
That got their attention.
"But hey, we're not complaining. You young-uns don't appreciate your own youth. Suffice it to say that it's worth it to simply not have to put up with all the routine aches and pains that we old fogies have to deal with every day."
Sara took over. "There are other advantages, too. Those of you who haven't changed may want to remember that when you're puking your guts out some time in the future. For instance, MORFS survivors tend to look anywhere from ten to twenty years younger than their age-mates. This is because MORFS repairs and rebuilds the body."
We launched into standard non-technical spiel about where MORFS originated, what it does, and the importance of picking up your life and moving on once it has worked its changes. Then, we went back to our own story.
"When the kids came down with MORFS, Howard and I took them to see a doctor, then took care of them. We were somewhat surprised that they came out so similar, but didn't think too much of it. It's not all that rare. We had just gotten the kids through all their post-MORFS rigmarole when we came down with it. The fact that we came out almost exactly like the kids indicates to us that it was triggered by the same bug."
I said, "The fact that we got hit at the age of seventy-one told us that something strange was happening. Be assured that some of the finest minds over at the university are looking at the data – including everything from our basement laboratory."
I could tell that I had the kids' attention.
"A substitute has been teaching our class at the university for the past week or so. We'll be going back this afternoon to teach the class and assemble a team to sort through this new data. We hope to find out how to induce MORFS in older people, and how to control the changes that are made. It's a big project."
After a few more words about surviving MORFS and moving on, we opened the floor for questions. A pretty girl with bright blue hair, elf ears, and an elven figure and face raised her hand. I pointed to her and nodded.
"You don't seem to be at all bothered by turning into a girl. How did you adapt so quickly? Do you miss being a man?"
I rubbed my chin and thought for a second.
"Well, first off all, I'm still male. Of course, I'm female, too. Sara and I both have some new plumbing, so we're still made for each other."
I put up the information for DNA group 204F Hermaphrodite on the e-board.
"But the answer to your question actually comes in several parts. First of all, it's worth any number of changes just to ditch my old seventy-one year old body and fit myself with a young, healthy one. Secondly, I have been a man for seventy-one years. I'm not missing any opportunities by losing my male appearance. I'm not losing my girlfriend or being kicked off of the football team. All I'm losing is the outside appearance of a distinguished, gray-haired professor. That's not to say that I don't have some adjustments to make. My self-image was always male – though that has never been a huge part of who I am. As I grew as a scientist, and as I grew closer to my wife and raised a family, the trappings of gender identity started to become less significant."
Then I looked right at her.
"The big secret is, though, that you have to separate who you are on the inside from who you are on the outside. You can't change your outside much, so you have to keep the inside parts that are really you, and change the rest so that they work well with that the world sees. You have to become comfortable with who you are."
I could see that she was near tears.
"I know, it seems easy to me, eh? In a way, it is. It's easier than getting old and watching my body fall apart. I won't pretend that I would be nearly as joyful about the change if it had happened when I was a teen-ager."
"Look, I can see that you are hurting a lot. Why don't you arrange with Cindy or Larry to come over to our place so we can talk about it?"
She smiled and thanked me.
Another girl raised her hand, so I pointed and nodded.
"Doctor Sara, how do you feel about seeing your husband as a girl?" The girl blushed.
"If we had both become girls, it would have been more difficult. In this case, though, our bodies are right for each other. The important part is that Kim is the same person inside. The essential things that made him Howard are still there, and only some more superficial parts have had to change to adapt to her new body."
A boy raised his hand. "What are the best and worst parts of your changes?"
"Well," I said, "Probably the second best part is that Sara and I are healthy and have the energy and vigor of teen-agers. Yesterday, for instance, we all chased each other up a tree," I held up my hand and extended my claws. "and followed that by doing laps in the pool, then just goofing around. Before, we wouldn't have been able to do that. Now, it didn't even wear us out."
Sara cut in. "Second best? What are you calling the best?"
I just looked at her and smiled. She turned red. "Kim! Don't corrupt the children!" She swatted me with her tail.
The class cracked up. Larry and Cindy looked like they wanted to slide under their desks.
I continued. "The worst part is that some people consider us to be animals. They are a minority, but they are very vocal. A group of them attacked us last night."
The class gasped.
"Don't worry. They are now in police custody, and we are unhurt."
Another question: "How do you feel about your cat shape?"
I smiled. "I think that Sara is just the cutest little kitty girl I have ever seen! The kids ain't too bad, either."
The kids blushed.
"On a more serious note, we all really enjoy some of the enhancements that come from being a hybrid. Larry and Cindy are in advanced gym class, and we probably would be too if we were still in high school."
The bell rang, and the classroom emptied quickly. I overheard someone saying, "Your parents are cool!" Sara and I smiled at each other.
The girl who asked the first question came up after the rest of the class had filed out. She looked ready to burst into tears. We found out that her name is Cara Jones.
"My dad hates morfies. I'm afraid to go home."
Sara put her arms around her and let her cry on her shoulder. The girl sobbed for a long time, and eventually cried herself out.
"We'll see what we can do to help straighten things out. Meanwhile, you can stay with us."
I gave her one of our business cards, then got her eCom address. "We'll be picking up Larry and Cindy after school. Do you know them?"
She sniffed. "I used to, until I changed."
"They won't reject you no matter how much you changed!"
"I know, but I just couldn't talk to them. They don't know who I am anymore."
I looked at the clock. "You have to get to your next class. When do you have study hall? We'll get everything straightened out then."
We arranged to meet her for lunch and her fourth hour study hall, then scooted off to gym class for testing.
Chapter Seven: Students again
We went to the girls' locker room, grabbed our bags, and got into our gym clothes. We jokingly called them 'cat suits'.
We walked out of the locker room and into organized chaos. The gym teacher, a spider monkey hybrid, was busy instructing a group of students and setting each about his or her task. Larry and Cindy were climbing around a large wooden jungle gym and leaping from area to area. They took a second to wave to us before continuing their exercise routine.
Once he had set everyone to their tasks, he came to us and introduced himself as Mister Jacobson. He immediately got to business and started testing us.
We went though a number of the standard exercise machines. They were pretty much like the ones we have always used, except that they were sturdier and held more weight. Then, we had to climb around the jungle gym with Larry and Cindy. He had them go through a routine, and asked us to follow them.
We spent most of the hour working our tails off. He seriously ran us through the ringer. When we were done, he told us that we qualify for advanced gym class. When we commented that we haven't been in high school for years, he told us that the advanced MORFS classes are funded separately, and that they are available to to all MORFS survivors.
We signed up. Hey, it'll give us an excuse to spend some quality time with the kids. We'll be working on the same thing, and starting at the same level. That should motivate all of us to put our hearts into it.
By the time we were showered up, Mister Jacobson had our test results ready. He handed us the packet. "I look forward to working with you. How do you like researching MORFS up close and personal?"
After we left the gym, we went back to the school office to discuss Cara's issues with the principal. Since the school can't speak for Cara or her mom, they called her and asked her to come in.
Half an hour later, Sue Jones came in, looking rather haggard. She looked at us and asked, "Are you the guys who put those furrows on Randy's face?"
"Randy?" I asked.
"He's in jail right now for attacking four cat hybrids at yesterday's rally."
"I guess the answer is yes, then. We were attacked by a bunch of ruffians, and they didn't come out of it too well."
She held out her hand. "Well thank you so much! Having him away from the house has been such a blessing! Everything Cara and I own is now packed away and stored."
Then she started sobbing. She had been strong for way too long, and it was finally safe to let it all out. Sara and I held her while her body was wracked with the force of her tears.
"It's OK. You're safe now. We'll help you and Cara get a new start."
She looked up at me. "I don't want to be a burden."
"It would be a burden on our hearts," Sara said, "If you didn't let us help you."
We spent some time taking care of the details, like having ourselves and our home added to the restraining order, changing Cara's address, changing her bus, and the like. We found out that Sue had been considering filing for divorce for quite some time. While Randy cooled his heels in jail, Sue and some friends moved all their personal items to a storage locker. Meanwhile, she filed for divorce with full custody of Cara. Also, she asked for a restraining order to keep her soon-to-be ex and his church from harassing her or Cara. All in all, it had been a very rough week for the two of them.
Sue still had some banking and other details to attend to, so we told her that she could meet us in the study hall or, if she was detained, at our home. We used one of our tablet computers to add her hand print to our house's list of authorized people.
Sara and I went over to the study hall. We looked just like a couple students working on an assignment. Actually, that's pretty much what we were doing. While we were under the weather, our colleagues have been sorting through our research, the genetic code of the suite of virii that had attacked our kids, and the virii that got us. We sorted through their preliminary reports, made appropriate comments, took notes, and essentially brought ourselves up to date. Before we knew it, the lunch bell rang. Time flies when you're having fun.
As promised, we met Cara for lunch. The office arranged for us to get lunch as faculty members because of our lecture this morning.
The kids came in and sat with us. Cara reintroduced herself to them. It turns out that her name had been Matthew. We filled everyone in on what was going on, and arranged for them to meet us at the study hall after eighth hour.
When lunch was over, we went back to the study hall. We continued to sort through the data and plan out our lecture for this afternoon's class. We had some time to kill, so I wrote up the following:
Sara, the 135 pound Amazon Cat Girl, wishes to jump to a tree branch. To do that, she has to raise her center of gravity by five feet. She will crouch two feet at the start of her jump.
1) How fast does she have to be going when her feet leave the ground?
2) What is the acceleration of her body as she springs?
3) How much force does her feet have to apply to the ground in order to accomplish this?
I sent it to Sara's computer and asked her if we should send it to the kids' physics teacher.
She sent back:
1) 17.9 Ft/s
2) 80.5 ft/s^2 (which is 2.5 gee)
3) 472.5 Lb
I looked at her. "OK, smart-alek! Show your work."
"Why?" she smirked. "Don't you know how to do it yourself?"
I just rolled my eyes and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
We relaxed for a while, just happy to be with each other. After a little while, Sue showed up. She was tired, but happily reported that she was finished with her errands. She had pulled half of the money from their joint accounts and put it into a new account in her own name. "That should last me for a while. I'll let the judge divvy up the rest of it when the time comes."
Soon, the last bell rang. The few students that were in the study hall left. Soon, Larry, Cindy, and Cara showed up. We all got up and headed for the visitor's parking lot. When we got there, we split up. Sue had parked across the lot from us. Just as we were getting into our car, our sensitive ears picked up the sound of an altercation. "No, I won't go with you!" we heard.
We all sprinted to Sue's car in time to see four men trying to push a struggling Cara into a car that was parked next to Sue's.
"Let her go!" I said in my best authoritative voice. It wasn't nearly as impressive as it had been when I was a pure male.
"Buzz off, kitty freak!"
"Call the police!" I said to Sue. She rummaged through her purse for her eCom.
The four of us surrounded the attackers.
"Leave us, you heathens! We're doing the lord's business!"
"Not likely," I said. "You are nothing but common kidnappers."
"This child's father requires that she go to him."
"Cara's father has a restraining order against him. He is not allowed to approach her," I replied.
The police arrived. "Time to let the professionals handle it," I said quietly to Sara, Larry, and Cindy.
We all backed away from the car. The attackers shoved Cara into the car, and the driver attempted to get away. He started to take off, and almost collided with a police car. He put it into reverse and ended up running into the pusher bumper of another police car. The police car was undamaged, but his back bumper ended up getting crumpled.
When he tried to go forward again, he found himself totally pinned.
The police quickly pulled everyone out of the car and let Cara, shaking and sobbing, run to her mother. It took about fifteen minutes to verify identification, take all our statements, and download the audio that Cindy, bless her heart, had had the presence of mind to record.
"We're going to have to stop meeting like this," I joked to one of the officers. "Do all MORFS survivors have to put up with this much harassment?"
"Some more than others," he admitted. "I suspect that you are on their crud list, now."
"I suspect that we'll go to the top of their list once we give our testimony in court," I sighed.
The trip home went without further incident.
When we bought the house many years ago, we had supplemented our income by renting the flat out to trustworthy students. It had originally been built over the garage as a mother-in-law apartment, but the second owner renovated it and made it into a student flat; complete with four bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Because of this, it has an inside stairway going to our living room, and an outside stairway for rental use.
Once home, we made haste to move Sue and Cara into the flat. Since it has its own facilities, they can feel more independent, and less like they are imposing.
Sara called the college and told them that we might be a bit late. It's not a big deal, since John, the post doc student that has been acting as a substitute teacher, was slated to start the class today.
As it turns out, we got there just before the bell. We were the last to enter the room and sat unobtrusively in the back row. John had intentionally prepared a short lesson. After about twenty minutes, he finished up and asked the class if they had any questions.
"How are doctors Howard and Sara doing? Did they come out of MORFS OK?"
John smiled. "I love it when someone feeds me a straight line."
We walked to the front of the class.
This is our place to be. Sara and I were in our comfort zone as we walked up to the front of the room. I smiled at the class. "Good afternoon."
They were all smiles. Their faces welcomed us.
"Since the name Howard no longer suits me, I have taken the name Kim. Sara has kept her name, though her face has been upgraded somewhat." That got a chuckle from the class.
I started the lecture. "While we were indisposed, the field has advanced a bit. Our colleagues sorted through the data from our adventure with MORFS, along with some data from our work in the basement lab. If you have already put your notebooks away, please get them back out."
I continued, "Because of the interests of our children, we have recently been looking at a new branch of physics that deals with time-space fabric patterns. It is similar to quantum physics and superstrings in that all parts of the universe are defined as patterns in the fabric of n-dimensional space. The details are beyond the scope of this class and, quite frankly, beyond me. The gist of the matter is that those patterns can manifest themselves as matter or energy, or they can manifest themselves as something that we don't perceive at all. It is postulated that our souls are made of those patterns. It is also postulated that those patterns are the hidden part of the genetic code – a kind of a template that helps in the construction or modification of an organism."
I could see that I had their attention. Some of them were scribbling furiously. All were recording us.
"Since none of the elemental and metaphysical abilities that some MORFS survivors manifest have been found in the genetic code, we postulate that these abilities are contained within the metagenetic pattern. Also, we postulate that the abilities themselves stem from an ability to modify these patterns."
I finished up. "Obviously, much research needs to be done. Some of you may become involved with this."
Sara started her part of the lecture. "We were working on some genetic code that we hoped would be able to trigger the regenerative portion of MORFS in an older adult. Since we were working with straight DNA, and not a virus, we were a little more lax with biocontamination than we should have been – fortunately." Some of the students smiled when they caught her meaning.
"Apparently, when our children came down with MORFS, that code found its way into some of the virii that had infected them. When we subsequently became infected, that code allowed MORFS to be triggered in our own seventy-one year old bodies. We have samples of that suite of virii, and believe that we can infect any adult with MORFS if we want to. Obviously, this is going to require much further research."
She put one of the cuter of our kitty family pictures up on the e-board. "It also appears that the virus suite can control the direction of the MORFS changes. We hadn't noticed this before because MORFS is generally triggered by a regular cold or influenza virus, and such a virus has no genetic code that can be used in our own bodies."
She paused a bit to let the students digest this. Then she laid it out explicitly.
"Our bout with MORFS indicates that it is possible to induce MORFS in a mature adult, and that we can probably produce the genetic changes that we desire. If our research pans out, we may be able to provide custom modifications to any adult. At the very least, we will be able to extend our lives indefinitely. If all goes well, we will be able to choose our forms."
I concluded the lecture. "After this class, Sara and I are meeting with the college board. The board will be soliciting funding and putting together research teams to explore these new breakthroughs. Some of you may be on the teams. Whatever they decide to do, we will be sponsoring our own research in our basement lab. We already have some people in mind, but are definitely looking for more volunteers. If you are interested, tell us in writing why you are interested and what you believe you can add to the team."
I put the list of DNA groups from our own transformation on the e-board, and turned the floor back over to Sara. She briefly went through the list.
"As you can see, Kim and I received identical suites of DNA modifications."
She finished up, "I'll now open the floor to questions. We're all friends here, and I'm sure that you're curious, so personal questions are OK."
There were a few questions regarding the new research projects, but it quickly became very personal.
"Doctor Kim, you seem quite comfortable with an outwardly female appearance. How did you adapt so quickly?"
I knew that one was coming.
"First of all, I'm seventy-one years old. Getting a younger body, no matter what gender, is a huge blessing. Also, having gone through an entire lifetime of maleness, I don't feel that I have lost any opportunities."
I smiled at Sara. "It would have killed me if anything happened to my family relationships. As it is, Sara looks better to me than ever, and we are definitely having fun with our new bodies."
"That, too," I smirked. "But I wasn't only talking about our new plumbing. After we got home the first day, we rediscovered the childhood joys of climbing trees and generally goofing around." I held up my hand and let the claws slide out.
Sara added, "We had pretty much given up some of the things that we did when we were younger, like wilderness camping and some of the more the more energetic sports that we used to enjoy. Now, those activities are open to us again. We can share them with our kids this time."
"It certainly beats doddering around slowly and treating yourself as fragile," I said.
One of the students asked, "Are they any down-sides?"
"Well," I replied. "It mostly has to do with others' perceptions of us. The anti-MORFS people gave us a rough time. Also, this body doesn't command quite the respect that I got when I had gray hair and wrinkles. Plus, there are a couple minor physical issues. Sara got to learn all about prostate exams, and I got introduced to Mister Speculum."
Sara snickered. "Just wait until I start teaching her about high heels and the fine art of makeup."
"Doctor Sara, what do you think about having your handsome husband turned into a girl?"
Sara just smiled. "Oh, I think she's just the cutest thing around!"
I swatted her with my tail.
She grabbed my tail and started stroking it. "She's cute, and my new body gives me an entirely new appreciation of that. The real telling thing, though, is the fact that the love of my life is still there inside that cute little head."
Having my tail stroked felt really good. With some regret, I pulled it out of her grasp. "Let go before I lose my composure," I said. "You can have all the tail you want tonight."
"Promise?" she asked.
The students snickered.
Just then, the bell rang.
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/
More writing and photography by Ray Drouillard at http://ray-d.deviantart.com/