Chapter 20

 

While I was relaxing in my fortress of solitude, my thoughts kept going through the recent events. After returning from the Turnerville siege, I had a talk with Naomi, Maren and Isabel. I told them the fate of my brother without going into details what I had done. They were horrified at what he was about to do there and felt sorry for me that I had to kill him. I told them that I was fine with it.

 

Just as I was about to get up to get some food, my eCom buzzed. The caller-ID said government, so my thoughts were Gains or his office. I accepted the call and a woman appeared in the hologram.

“Hello Mr. Feral. My name is Dawna Hern, I’m with the Attorney General’s office. We got a call from Statesboro PD for your help. They asked specifically for you by name. Do you know someone there?”

“Not to my knowledge, did they give specifics about why they asked for my help?”

Dawna looked perturbed, “They only said that they wanted the help of Feral, they didn’t say what it was about, just that it was urgent.”

“That’s all right; I’ll be on my way and ask them myself. It’s not far from here anyway. Thank you for the info, my regards to Gains.”

She acknowledged before signing off. With a sigh I went downstairs to the restaurant and informed Gabe. “My services are needed again, you’ll be okay here?”

“Sure, the security system Elliot installed is working perfectly. We don’t even need you here anymore.”

I didn’t say anything back; I just went out the back to take the back roads to the Gannen residence where my bike was stored.

 

To my surprise Maren was at the house, and she offered to inspect my bike with me. We checked the drivetrain, wheels, engine and she tested the Synergy thrusters herself. A good hour later I was satisfied that the bike was in perfect working order. Maren asked me about my mission, but I couldn’t tell her more than that it was in Statesboro. She told me to be careful and wished me luck before going out to be with Gabe. I had a light snack being a small melon that I sliced into pieces with my razor sharp claws. Maren had been on my case to eat some fruit. Before relaxing a bit since it was only an hour’s drive to my destination and I wanted it to be night and dark before going on the road. Traffic would be lighter, and I could see much better in the dark. I would also be less visible at night, meaning people wouldn’t report seeing a black panther driving a bike on the road.

 

After a relaxed drive, I arrived in the in the middle of the night at the Statesboro Police Department building. I had my bike stored in an online rented box and took the back roads and alleys to the building. People were still going in and out, but not too many at this hour. Patiently I waited till it seemed to quiet down to even less and slunk my way through the door. Luck was with me as no one was about in the area before the desk sergeant and I rose up on my hind legs before him. “Hello, someone here asked for my help, my name is Feral.”

The desk sergeant, a young woman, looked up with a bored expression, which immediately turned into an expression of surprise and then fear.

She opened and closed her mouth a few times without making any sound. Then she squeaked out, “I … eh … I’ll inform the Lieutenant.”

She activated a com channel on her desk, “Lieutenant? There is someone here by the name of Feral for you.” Her voice was shrill and squeaky, but admirably without skipping.

Then she addressed me again, and her voice was a bit more controlled. “I’m sure she’ll be right here, if you’d like to have a seat, eh …”

She didn’t know what to call me and I smiled internally. I knew what effect I had on people. “Can you tell me why I’m here and why the Lieutenant asked for me by name? I’ve never been here before, and don’t know anyone here.”

Before she could answer, a female voice behind me said, “Well, I wanted the A-team, but they were busy. So, you’ll have to do.”

I turned to her and recognized Shawnee Ataresta from my run in with her in Rincon. She was wearing a good-looking suit and a lieutenant’s badge displayed on her belt. She was smiling at me as I dropped to all fours and slinked towards her.

“Will you please follow me, Feral? I’ll get you up to speed.”

I didn’t answer, but just followed her through a sparsely populated squad room. The people still present gave me inquisitive and sometimes frightful looks as I stalked past. I didn’t give them any noticeable looks but kept them in my peripheral vision.

Shawnee Ataresta closed the door of the interview room she led me in and was about to say something when I said, “So you got bumped up to Lieutenant?”

She blinked once before answering, “Well, after someone caused a massacre in Rincon, I was fed up working for that asshole chief of mine. I applied for a job here and with my qualifications they made me a lieutenant. I just passed the exams, so now I’m in full gear. But enough about me. How are you doing?”

“I’m not at liberty to divulge much intel on past exploits, but I’ve saved some people in my duties for community service.”

“Yes,” interrupted Shawnee. “I heard about that, it’s why I asked for your help. So, you got out of the legal problems okay?”

I sighed, “It finally came out that I was framed into most of the things, and for some other transgressions I got a deal to do community service for six months.”

Shawnee smiled, “Well, I’m happy for you and me. I have a peculiar case on my hands, and I would like your expertise as a tracker on it. If you’re not too busy that is.”

“I’m at your service.” I said mockingly. “What’s up?”

“Well,” started Shawnee. “We had some mysterious break-ins lately. There doesn’t seem a point of entry or exit and the things stolen varied from valuable to mere trinkets. We’re stumped on the how and why.”

“I assume you’ve tried all the usual and unusual forensics?”

“Yes, we have. There’s no teleportation involved we’ve ruled that out by using a teleporter that can tell if a teleport has been done in the vicinity. Also, a place that has shielding in place against teleports and portals has been breached. We’ve also ruled out a hybrid or semi-sentient animal doing the thefts. At least one place was hermetically sealed from the outside even from atmospheric entry. It had its own air-supply and records did show that someone was inside breathing air, for 14 minutes long. Our dogs either didn’t find a scent inside a crime scene or couldn’t follow it outside. I’m hoping that your nose can do what they can’t. You have at least the intellect to go with it.”

“Thanks, I think.”

Shawnee was about to respond when her eCom gave a sound like a big cat hiss-roar, A bit like the one I usually made, but probably one from a Jaguar. ‘Interesting ringtone she has,’ I thought. The sound of her eCom was set to low, but I could still hear a voice coming from the speaker. It sounded familiar, but I didn’t pay attention. It probably was a private call and my memory of voices was playing tricks on me. She stepped out of the room and I just made myself comfortable.

 

A while later Shawnee stepped back into the room with an intriguing smile on her face. I eyed her suspiciously, but she didn’t let on why she was smiling. Instead she said, “I’m sorry to keep you waiting, but there is nothing to do at the moment till there’s another break-in. I could show you the other crime scenes, but my guess is that the scents are contaminated by all the people trampling through there.”

“Your guess would be right. I might get some useful sniffs, but it may very well lead me to a false trail.”

Shawnee sighed, “How about I show you around in my car and when a call comes in, we get there sooner.”

I got up and walked behind her towards her car parked in front.

“Want to sit up front or in the back?” Shawnee asked me.

“I’m not too comfortable in front, so I’ll take the back seat, provided that I have enough visibility from there. Besides, you’d get too much attention if I rode in front.”

“You’re probably right about that. That reminds me, how did you get here?”

“I rode my special custom-made bike. It’s in a storage box for now.”

Shawnee drove around for a while, showing me where the previous break-ins had taken place and places of interest, which I might need to know. Suddenly she said, “I’m hungry, how about you?”

“I can eat,” I replied. I wasn’t too hungry, but it had been a while since I last had something.

“I know a great place near here that serves the best veggie burgers ever.”

I snorted, “My friend in Savannah runs a restaurant that is the best in the country I’m told. Besides that, I’m on a meat or fish diet. I don’t do veggies.”

Shawnee looked perplexed at me. “I’m sorry, I forgot all about your situation. I think they also have meat. I’ll ask them.”

Just then the radio squawked, “All units, break-in reported at the 21 Matthews Road.”

Shawnee sighed, “There goes dinner, that location is close by. We’ll be there in no time.” Then she activated her comms, “This is Lt Ataresta, I’m on route with a tracking specialist. No one goes in except to turn off any alarms.”

“Acknowledged Lieutenant, waiting for you and specialist before entering the building.”

Shawnee didn’t waste time; she turned on her siren and lights and sped towards the new crime scene.

 

Arriving at the scene, we saw two squad cars and a civilian car approaching from the other side. Shawnee quickly got out and opened the back door for me. I stayed inside for a while longer though. I didn’t want to spook anyone just yet. As the civilian car came to a stop, a short heavy-set man got out and said, “I am the caretaker and have the keys for the locks. Do you want me to shut down the alarm as well?”

Shawnee said to him, “Yes, by all means open up and shut the alarm off. But only that, I want my expert tracker to go in first, so he can get a good scent from the scene.”

The man looked at her puzzled, “Scent?” Then he shook his head and started opening the door.

I got out and looked from the dark towards the building. It looked like a church to me, including a cross on the wall and everything. I slinked my way over to Shawnee and asked quietly, “Is that a church? Why would someone break into a church?”

Shawnee didn’t turn towards me, but softly answered, “Yes, it’s a church. I don’t know why someone what want to steal from here either. Like all the other break-ins it doesn’t make any sense.”

The caretaker came out as the alarm slow whoop died. He said, “Ok, I’ve shut down the alarm, so where is your expert?”

Shawnee warned the others “Don’t be alarmed by the expert’s looks. He’s a friend and a full MORFS hybrid.”

I slinked through the assembled officers and went past the caretaker, who despite the warning still startled from my appearance. He gasped for air as I went past him, letting me get a whiff of his scent in the process. As I got inside the door, I smelled first only him, and then some other faint scents. But nothing that set off alarm bells for me. As I went through the whole building room by room, I got into what seemed like a library. There I got a new fresh scent. It was a weird scent though; it smelled like male, but at the same time female as well. And there was another component that I couldn’t even identify. It was so weird that it threw me off, like it was something that made me not want to smell it. Maybe that is what made the dogs not wanting to pursue the scent trail. I followed it towards a wall and there it sort of went through it. It was wood paneled, but behind was bricks, so it couldn’t have been an elemental of either wood or stone. I had never heard of an elemental possessing power of transmuting both. Then again stranger things had happened with MORFS survivors; I was a good example of it myself.

“Did you get something, Feral?” asked the approaching Shawnee.

“I have a strange scent that is confusing and even wanting me not to smell it. Of course, I can follow it, but it went through the wall here. I’ll go outside and try to pick it up there.”

Taking my own advice, I went outside and trotted along the walls till I got the scent again where I lost it on the other side of the wall. This time the scent trail was leading me away from the building towards the road and after a short while it ended at a bus stop. There I lost it again as the person leaving the trail probably had entered the bus. I turned around to Shawnee, who had followed me. “Can you reach out to the bus company and get the security camera footage to see who entered the bus at this location? If we can get a good look, we can get a direct identification. But at least we’ll get the stop where this person got off and maybe I can pick up the trail again there.”

 

A few moments later Shawnee got a call on her tablet and swung it around so I could see it as well. She started a video and it showed a hooded figure entering the bus. From the angle we couldn’t see a face or even if it was a man or a woman. Shawnee fast forwarded it till we got to a stop where the person got off. The video showed which stop it was and Shawnee said, “I know where that is. Let’s ride.”

Quickly we got back into the car and with only one squad car trailing us we went to the stop where the person had gotten off the bus. As we drove on, a call came in from the officer at the church. “The caretaker said that an old book with so called magic spells is missing. Nothing else seems to have been disturbed.”

“What the hell? Magic spells? This is getting weirder with every break-in.”

“Maybe not,” I mused. “What if the perp needs all the things and the spells for some kind of ritual or supposed magic thing. It might make some sense if you think about it.”

“You’re serious? I don’t believe in magic, so it still doesn’t make sense to me. Then again, you might be right, Feral.”

I told her, “Some people believe in that kind of thing even if it doesn’t work, they’ll blame it on their work or some other thing that wasn’t correct.”

“You seem to know a lot about it?” Shawnee said in a questioning tone.

“Not at all, just common sense, that’s all.” I replied curtly.

 

We arrived at the stop where the person had exited the bus and I got out to try and pick up the scent again.

It took a while and going around in circles around the bus stop, but I found the scent again and started following it down the street. A few times it suddenly disappeared, but with some reasoning I managed to find it again every time. However, we got into more populated areas and my appearance was gathering unwanted attention. Shawnee was having the same thoughts and said, “Your looks are going to warn our perp that we’re on its tail.”

I growled a reply and soon found that she was right. The trail was leading towards a public restroom. The suspect was either thinking that it might throw me of the trail or to try to change appearance and slip by us. Just as I was thinking it, the scent got a lot stronger and fresher. It was mixed with a lot of perfume though, just like someone wanted to mask the scent with another strong scent. I wasn’t fooled though. A short stocky black man walked past us and I just knew that it was our perp. “Shawnee, the black man. He is our target.” I was about to jump towards the man myself when he pulled out a device and I got hit with a stun charge. It took me a moment to recover and of course the man had disappeared. I looked around and saw Shawnee getting back up on her feet. She was still shaking from the charge, though she had been farther away from the blast than me. “What the hell was that?” I asked her.

“That was a Stunner, a sort of rechargeable device like a grenade.  It’s developed for crowd control and room entry. It causes short term paralysis with disorientation. How in the world that guy got a hold of one I don’t know! We don’t even have them in our armory yet.”

“Then how do you know so much about it?” I asked curiously.

Shawnee snorted, “Because I read up on the specs, before ordering it for our department. Well, at least we now know what the man we are looking for looks like. Can you still follow him?”

I sniffed the air and nodded, “I still have the scent. It did change slightly, but I can follow it.”

Putting my words into action I trotted to where the man had disappeared with Shawnee following me closely. The trail took us through alleys and streets, and one time it ended at a wall. The suspect thought he was smart and went through the wall again. It took a little time, but I managed to get to the other side and pick up the scent again. Continuing through the streets my big animal panther form was attracting lots of attention. Only the fact that Shawnee and a few patrol officers were with me, kept people from running away in fear. They still recoiled and flinched as they saw me. It gave us free passage to follow the trail.

 

Sometime later we neared a street riddled with bars and cafés. Some drunken men took offence of me walking the streets and started to make threats, only the fact that their numbers were too few to hide in a group, held them back. As I trotted along the street, the scent became very strong again, but again it had subtly changed. A shapely woman flinched as she walked past me. I inhaled deeply the scent of this woman and realized that the man I had been following was in fact a shape shifter of some kind. He was now this woman. I didn’t say anything this time; I didn’t want to alert the woman that I was on to her. She’d try the stunt with the Stunner again and I’d be just as far as before. I jumped onto her back knocking her over. I growled, “Stay down!” Then I said to Shawnee, “This woman is our perp.”

Shawnee didn’t hesitate for a moment and ran over to help me subdue the woman. She shrieked a cry of alarm, as the shock of being jumped by a big animal had worn off. A few men on the street wanted to come to her aid. I roared and hissed at them, making them think twice before acting against Shawnee and an officer helping her to subdue the woman. Just as they were gathering enough courage to take a stand against me and the officers, a truck roared down the street and several SWAT officers jumped out, coming to our aid. Finally, we could apprehend the woman in earnest and I approached her. She was screaming, “Why are you attacking me? I’ve done nothing wrong. Stop it, you’re hurting me!”

I growled at her, “You’re under arrest. You can change your shape, gender and almost everything else. But your scent stays mostly the same. You tried to cleverly hide it with perfume, but I can still smell who you are. I’m not a dog that you can fool.”

That shut her up finally and we put her in special stun cuffs designed for shifters of any sort. The public on the street tried once more to riot against the police presence, but it was quickly squashed.

 

Several hours later I finally got my meal of a raw steak, which I ate in a secluded spot, while Shawnee and her officers ate their food in the cafeteria. After cleaning myself, I took a nap and had a debriefing with some officers. Shawnee was busy with the suspect. I wanted to go back to Savannah, but stayed put, just in case my services might still be needed. I hadn’t been told that I was dismissed. After another nap, that took most of the day, I went in search of Shawnee and she saw me coming towards her. She got up and ushered me into a room. “I can’t thank you enough, Feral. This person was a real slippery one. We still can’t say with certainty if it is a man or a woman, and it tried to slip out of custody disguising itself as an officer. I think it is a combined shape shifter and cell shifter. How that is even possible I don’t know. It still refuses to talk to us, so we don’t know what it drove it to those crimes.”

I snorted, “Well, it’s none of my concern. I’ve done my part, unless you want me to interrogate the person. I can be very persuasive at times.”

Shawnee, laughed, “I think we’ll pass on that. It might violate any rights even this person has. So, you’ll go back to Savannah? If you want, I can take you to where your bike is parked. You just tell me where to go.”

I should have sensed something odd about it, but I didn’t. Well I’m not infallible, so I went along with her suggestion.

 

As I arrived at the storage box, everything seemed in order. It was still locked and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. However, when I opened the box with the digital code, it was surprisingly empty. My bike had been stolen again. Shawnee had followed me in and commented, “How nice, you have an invisible bike. Isn’t that hard to find?”

I snarled, “Very cute Shawnee, my bike got stolen again. Want to fill out a stolen motorcycle report?”

Shawnee didn’t react at all like I expected. She didn’t look surprised, which should have triggered another alert with me. But I was a bit angry at having my bike stolen again.

Shawnee said, “Sure, what brand and color is it?”

“It isn’t a brand motorcycle. Its custom made. Color is black with some grey striping and decoration. Excuse me while I make a phone call.”

I turned away from her and speed dialed Hank.  He picked up directly, another clue for me to be suspicious, but again I failed to pick up on it. “Singal motorcycles, how may I help you?”

“Hank, it’s me, Feral. Someone stole my bike out of a locked storage box. Can you please tell me where it is?”

“Just a moment, I’ll get my locator.” Hank replied without any banter, which should have alerted me as well. Then he came back with, “That’s odd. The locator is showing your bike back here in Savannah.”

Now I was getting a bit suspicious. “Where exactly? What’s the location?”

“Sorry, it’s still moving, you’d better get back here and we’ll hunt it down.”

Shawnee spoke up, “So where is your bike?”

Distracted I said to her, “It appears my bike is in Savannah.”

She smiled, “I have a few days’ vacation coming, I’ll drive you there and you can get your bike back.”

Suspiciously I eyed her, “Why would you do that?”

“Well, you just solved my case here in record time, so I owe you. Besides I’d like to meet your friends, especially Galatea, since she’s my friend as well.”

I couldn’t argue with that, so I accepted.

 

A few hours driving later, which I spend mostly taking a nap, we arrived at Savannah. I knew Shawnee had navigation in her car, so I just gave her Hank’s address. I didn’t see her type it in, but I didn’t have a reason not to trust her. However, as we drove on, my senses told me we weren’t heading to Hank’s shop. In fact, we were heading to a very well-known location. Well, very well known to me that is.

As we drove through the gates of the Benteen estate, I asked with a low growl, “Why are we at the Benteen estate? What is going on Shawnee?”

She avoided my glare and said apologizing, “I was told to go here earlier, and was told not to tell you. Sorry about that.”

Then my senses told me that the wind shifted. I could see the leaves going away from us, where earlier they pointed towards us. I was about to question it, when my nose indicated the scent of my niece was coming to me. Now this was interesting. Was she creating the wind shift on purpose? I smelled a trap or surprise figuratively. So, I prepared myself for any surprises that awaited me.

 

The car pulled up before the main entrance and Brian was waiting for me. As I got out of the car, he started, “Hey Feral, what are you doing here?”

I snorted, “Can it, Brian. I noticed the wind shift and smelled my niece. I know you have a surprise waiting for me.”

Brian looked at Shawnee with a questioning look, and she said, “Don’t look at me. I didn’t divulge anything.”

Now I remembered the phone call that Shawnee had received when I arrived at her station. The familiar voice that I heard had been Gavin’s voice. So, Shawnee had been in on it from the start. “So, how many people are involved in this? I can scan the grounds with my TK you know.”

Brian sighed, “All right, I’ll get on with it. Follow me.” He turned and walked to the front door.

I followed close by and as the door opened, a chorus yelled, “Surprise!”

I didn’t flinch or showed anything out of the ordinary, which prompted Sienna to say, “He didn’t even act surprised!”

Brian said apologetic, “Sorry, but his natural instincts and reasoning already alerted Feral about the surprise.”

Maren came running up to us from behind and said, “What? With all the trouble we went through?”

I stood up on my hind legs and said to her, “Sorry to ruin it, but I could smell you and the wind shift wasn’t natural. But I do appreciate everything that you guys did. But why are you doing it?”

Maren smiled at me, “You haven’t figured that out? Then let’s just say…” She paused for a moment and then all of them yelled, “Happy Birthday!”

I had totally forgotten that today was my birthday. I didn’t pay attention to dates that much and I didn’t even know if I should count my real birthday as such or the day that I changed into this fur as my new birthday. Oh well, it didn’t matter that much to me. So I just hugged my niece and then said to everyone, “Thank you all, let the party begin!”

 

They all went into the dining room which was redesigned for the party; I just followed, and ignored my nose for once. It was assaulted with too many scents of family, friends and more. As I looked around, I saw all kinds of familiar people and just followed Maren to the back of the room where they made a low podium for me to sit on some soft thick blanket.

As I sat down, Gabe leaned over to me and said, “If you’re hungry I have some treats for you in a secluded spot. I don’t think people would enjoy seeing you eat raw meat.”

“I agree with you, but I’m not that hungry yet. I’ll eat later.” I softly said back to him. By then some caterers started going around offering cake to the people.

 

As the party started to get going, Sienna came forward with Salome in tow. They positioned themselves just to the side of me and started singing Happy Birthday. As they finished, they started another song which was a nice duet between them and though I am not much of a music lover, it was quite enjoyable.

Salome stepped back and Sienna went back to her brother sitting with the VanderLuyke family. But already the next person stepped towards me. It was Larry Darby and he looked better than ever. I noticed he had already partial use of his right arm again, which pleased me a lot. He gave me a wrapped package and said, “I found this laying around and thought that you might like it. Hope you can find a use for it.”

I answered controlled, “Thanks Larry, looking good.”

He moved his arm a bit and said, “Yeah, suddenly I got invited for a trial for a new treatment.” Then he thought by himself. “Wait a minute, you’re not even surprised. There wasn’t a new trial was there? It was you who paid for this new treatment.” He sounded angry, but I could hear the banter through his voice.

I admitted, “Guilty as charged, I knew you wouldn’t take it directly. I had my niece set it up for you. Please just accept it from me and don’t insult me by refusing to ride it out.”

He did say softly, “You know I didn’t want to trouble people for it, but thanks man.”

“Don’t you mean cat? You’re welcome, you’re my friend and I will help my friends where I can.”

Then Lester came up to my seat, “Happy birthday, I got lucky and shot myself a bear wolf hybrid, since it was so massive, I want you to have some meat from it.” He pulled out a huge chunk of meat packed in some cellophane.

Gabe came up to my left and said, “Can I take it? I’ll put it with the rest of his food stuff.”

Lester just grinned and gave it to Gabe. I said to him, “Thanks for the snack. So, this is what it takes to get you out into civilization? I should have thought of it earlier then.”

Lester laughed, “Only for special occasion and when your niece called me, I already had a call from Larry about it earlier. Besides you’re a fellow ranger.”

As he stepped back two more approached, Eiko and Takane Tanikuma stepped up to my seat. Takane said, “Happy birthday Lando-san. I hope you will accept this as a present and an apology for trying to kill you when you were actually being of help.” With that she gave me a long package. I tore it open and found a real Katana blade with a shorter tanto blade.

Then Eiko bowed to me and gave me a package as well. It contained a stand for the blades and I accepted the presents with a bow. “I’m honored. Thank you.”

Already the next person was waiting, another Asian girl, but one that I had gotten to know well. Kumiko walked up in her slinky tiger way. “Hiya, old cat,” She greeted me.

Jokingly I answered, “Hi yourself, little catty girl.”

She appeared angry, but I knew better. “I resent that. Anyway, I’ve got a gift for you as well. Just the thing for a playful kitten.”

Oh oh, what did she get me?’’ I ripped open the wrappings and saw that she had given me: a stuffed kitty in black and white. Not really my style, but I could find a good place for it. “Thank you, Kumiko, I’ll know just where to put it.” This scared her a bit as she feared retaliation from me.

She was saved by two little girls skipping past her towards me. Sophie Dennison and Annie Goodwing stopped just before me. “Hello, Mr. Feral.” Both said in unison.

“You can call me just Feral, girls.” I said just as their adoptive parents Albert and Judith walked up behind them.

The girls giggled, looked at each other and said in unison, “Okay, just Feral.”

I complained to Albert, “Are they always like that?”

He chuckled, “Afraid so. How are you doing, Feral?”

Before I could answer, the girls rolled out a big piece of paper that contained quite a good drawing of me digging in collapsed houses. “We made this for you, just Feral!”

I gave up trying to correct them, “Thank you so much I’ll have it framed and put it up a wall.” I talked with them a bit longer till they stepped back to their table.

But their place was directly taken by Maren and Hank Singal. I thought, ‘Oh oh, what now?’ I wasn’t disappointed as Maren said to me, “I’m sorry for stealing your bike from Statesboro. I just finished a new set of Thrusters and wanted them installed as a surprise on your bike. These new thrusters make it possible for your bike to fly at a height of 15 feet or a gradual decent from a greater height.”

Hank added, “It was easy for me to find your bike in Statesboro, and I needed some time to install the new thrusters along with a control system for them. But I’ve got your bike here now and it’s all ready to go again.”

They showed me where my bike was and as I sat on it, I looked over the changes. In the middle a little to the right side was now a joystick that would enable me to fly the bike as a low flying plane and some new gauges where installed on the dash. I started it up in the courtyard and managed to fly a short circle before landing it again in front of Maren and Hank. “It seems to be working perfectly; I’ll give it a good shakedown later.”

As we got back inside, Isabel walked up to me. “You can’t drive that thing without this.” And she gave me a packaged something which I opened in a hurry. It turned out to be a faux leather jacket with a print of a black panther on the back.

“Thank you, Isabel.” I said to her as I returned to my seat with the jacket in hand. Dawes commented softly to his neighbor Larry, “It’ll hide his flak jacket nicely.”

“Yes, Elias, I guess it will do that.” I said to him.

To which he muttered, “Those darn sensitive ears of him.”

Then I was distracted as a whole committee stepped up to me. Maren, Gabe, Naomi and Shane came up before me. Gabe was elected spokesperson I guess, since he said, “Happy birthday from us and also from the people who couldn’t be here.” He gave me some cards and I read that they were from Emily Lake, Ryan Martinez, Wolf, Quartz, Jet and Lisa.

As they stepped away, two men marched up to me; Colonel Ruben Wendell and Lieutenant Hyram Tippets stopped before me and saluted. I returned the salute and Wendell said, “For your help and excellent performance at saving the hostages, you are awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.”

Tippets presented the case and opened it for me. I accepted it from him and showed it to the people. They all clapped, but I heard some whispers about what it was all about. So I clarified, “A short while ago I was asked to help out in a dangerous situation which is still classified. But I assume you all heard of Waco, so you have a bit of understanding what it was all about.”

 

There was a lull in the people coming up to give me something or just to congratulate me, and I talked to Galatea and Shawnee when they walked by. Then John Dillinger, Don Hugg, Roni Sharpe, Elisa Wengren and Skye Blommers breezed past with congratulations.

I was looking to get something to drink, when another trio walked up to me and I sat up straight. Gavin Benson, Elias Dawes and Lothar Gains stood before me and Gains started, “Sir Lando Johns aka Feral, since you’ve handled yourself admirably I’m hereby authorized to tell you that your community service has been fulfilled. You are pardoned and are a free man. Though I hope I can still call you for assistance.”

I replied dryly, “Sure, as long as you understand I don’t come cheap.”

He smiled, “I’m sure we can reach an arrangement.”

Then Dawes took over, “Feral, we have something else for you as well, and this is from you-know-who in cooperation with the Justice Department.”

Gains smiled again and added, “I wasn’t really looking forward to their proposal, but then I thought, if we can’t stop or control you, we’d damn well better use you.”

Gavin added, “So we are giving you FBI credentials, just as Dawes has.”

Dawes warned me, “This doesn’t mean you can use them where and whenever you like, you know!”

I nodded and took the digital chip and added it to my storage that also held my driving license.

I was about to accept the congratulations from Ella Lexings as Delphine cried out in pain. Ella directly went over to her and asked, “Contractions?”

Del just nodded and grimaced in pain. Ella added, “I’m an MD, I’ll be here for you until we can get you into hospital.”

Del said, “No time to go to hospital, it wants to come out now.

Ella didn’t waste any time, “I need hot water and towels and a secluded room.”

Salome called out, “I have a guest room right here.” Then she gave orders to her staff to get whatever Ella needed.

 

The party was really winding down now and some of the guests excused themselves, as they had to get back home. I thanked them for coming and wished them a good return trip. Especially Larry and Lester got a hearty ‘So long’ and a hug. Since there wasn’t much else to do but wait, I went to an out of the way kitchen and had a snack and water. Just as I was thinking of going back to the family and remaining guests, my sensitive ears picked up a baby’s cry and I knew the child had been born.

 

Quickly I went back to the main hall and saw that the door to the room, where Del gave birth, opened. Ella stuck her head out and said softly, “Brian and Feral, can you join us please.”

I let Brian go first as he is the father. I followed right behind him and saw a beaming Del lying in a bed holding a small bundle in her arms. She softly said, “Hi guys, meet our daughter.”

Brian quickly went to her side and I saw a tear rolling down his cheek. “A little girl?” He asked superfluously.

I came closer and stood on my hind legs. I looked into the bundle and saw the tiny face of an apparent healthy girl. “So what will you name her?”

Del said, “Mari.” Brian followed with “Tacey.”

I snorted, “Well, when you come to an agreement let me know.”

Del laughed, “We are naming her Mari Tacey Sommers.”

“Oh, ok. So what do I have to do as her godfather?” I said to her.

“Well,” she started explaining it to me. A while later the other guests that had stayed had a look and talk as I snuck away. I had my own plans to make and I was looking forward to it. However Hank was looking for me and I had a talk with him first.

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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