Acts of Humanity 3:
Higher and Higher
(Part 02)
A MORFS Universe Tale
by Ray Drouillard

Tina Shepherd was in the final stages of dying a slow death due to cancer when she met the Martins and their friends.

sex: 1/10
violence: 6/10
profanity: 2/10

Categories: Hybrid, Elemental, PSI

Timeline: 2060

Chapter Seven: Expedition to the mall

Mom and Dad took in a movie while I wandered the mall.  Just as the Martins had warned me, I received a crash course in the depravities of the human mind.  Just as they had suggested, I withheld judgment.  After a while, I managed to get somewhat of an idea of what's normal and what's dysfunctional.  It isn't uncommon to have strange thoughts and desires.  Unfortunately, some people will put those thoughts into action if given half a chance.  Those are the people to worry about.  I'm getting used to the lustful stares, but the people who would rape me if they could get away with it creep me out.  The radical pures were just as bad.

I wandered the mall, taking in everything I could.  I read the people; learning their secret thoughts, gleaning the details of their lives.

I saw some people that I knew, and refrained from reading anything but their surface thoughts.  Soon, it became automatic.  Soon, my mind automatically filtered out the thoughts of anyone that I recognized.  Still, I could read them if I chose.

While I was at it, I followed Cara's advice.  I read everything I could with my bio, TE, and TK senses.  The pictures became clearer as I practiced.  I found a secluded place near the rest rooms and sat on a bench.  I looked around, then closed my eyes and tried to reproduce that image with my remote senses.  The colors were difficult, but I got it with a bit of practice.  I tried sensing within the restroom, but I couldn't get all of the colors.  I went in to see the colors with my eyes.  After that, the colors showed up.  Once I have seen a surface once, the colors show up in my remote vision.

I sat back down and closed my eyes.  I felt a wash of different emotions from around the mall.  A lot of people were in a kind of pleasant daze as they surveyed the merchandise  Some were tense and counting every penny.  Some were lonely and just wandering.  Some were enjoying the company of their loved ones.  Some were looking longingly or lustfully at the other shoppers.  Some were hurriedly making their choices and running off to pay for them.

I shifted gears and looked at the mall itself.  I could feel/see the currents going through the wires, though I couldn't really make heads or tails out of the network, speaker, or surveillance camera wires.  I did notice that there were more cameras than met the eye.  If there was a place that seemed to be hidden from all cameras, there was a well hidden camera focused on the spot.  That was true of the place I was sitting.  I looked straight at the camera and smiled.

"When are you animals ever going to learn that this mall is for humans?"

I was startled out of my reverie by my first encounter as a morf with radical pures.

*Help!* I sent to the Martins and Joneses.  Immediately, it was as if I was plugged into a big power grid.

*In essence, you are,* said Kim.  *We're here to help you.  You can draw upon our power if you need to, but you should be able to take care of those ruffians by yourself.*

*We'll show you how,* said Cara.  She plugged into my remote senses and guided me to the carotid arteries of the nearest attacker.  *If he makes an aggressive move, press there.*

Feeling as if my friends were right here with me, I smiled.  "You guys seem to have it backwards.  Morfing doesn't take away your humanity.  Acting like an animal does."

I felt smiles of approval from my friends.  They have all had enough trouble from the radical pures to know that backing off is a mistake.

The one who was closest to me growled, "I'll teach you a lesson, you uppity animal!"

As he lunged, I compressed his carotids as Cara had taught me.  He went down.  The others rushed me, and they went down just as the security guards came into view.

They made haste to cuff the offenders while one came to me.  "Are you OK?"

"I'm fine," I told her with a smile.

"Can you wait here until the police come?"

My friends were still with me, and I could feel them smiling.  *We'll stick with you for as long as you need us,* Sara said.  *Officers Saouda and Trowbridge will be there soon.  It seems that they have been assigned to watch over us wayward morfs,* she chuckled.

Two police women approached.  One checked on the suspects and used her radio to confirm that some ground units were coming to pick up the prisoners.  The other walked toward me and did a double-take.  "You wouldn't happen to know the Martin family, would you?"

I couldn't help but smirk.  "I met them almost a week ago just before going through MORFS.  It would appear that some of their genes rubbed off on me."

"Well, I should say so!" she replied.  "It also looks like you inherited their talent for finding trouble."

I heard a warm chuckle in the back of my head.  *Did I hear our name being taken in vain?* Cindy asked.

*I should have known!* Officer Saouda replied with a smile.

*We're training her well, don't you think?* said Cara.

Officer Saouda rolled her eyes.  *I guess I should thank you guys for being so talented at finding trouble.  The department gave Trowbridge and me an aircar just so we could keep up with you all.*

Kim somehow gave a bow over our telepathic link.  *We're only too happy to help you fill your jail with bigots.*

"Well," Officer Saouda sighed, "It's time for the inevitable..."

*Paperwork!* chorused Cara, Cindy, and Larry.

Officer Saouda smirked and handed me a clipboard and pen.  Taking a hint from Cara, I used TK to write a statement as I dictated it.  It didn't take long the incident didn't last long.  I signed the report by hand, and Officer Saouda stuffed it, along with an audio recording of my statement, into an envelope.

"You might want to get the surveillance photos from the mall," I commented.

"There are no cameras here."

I pointed to the two well-hidden cameras.  "That's what they would like potential perpetrators to believe."

She smiled at me.  "You're as good at nosing around as Cara, I see."

Cara said, *Hey!  I resemble that remark!*  Amy and Cindy started giggling.  Cara tried to sound indignant.  *Well, I never!*

Officer Saouda chuckled.  *You guys are always a trip.*  Out loud, she said, "Come on, Miss Shepherd, I need to get you to your parents."

"I'll be OK," I said.

"I know, but I gotta follow procedures."

I glanced at my watch.  "The movie ought to be about over now, anyhow."

We got to the theater just as everyone was getting out.  Mom and Dad were concerned when they saw me in the company of a police officer.  *It's OK,* I sent to them.  *I had a slight run-in with some radical pures, but they won't be bothering anyone else for a while.*  For some reason, that didn't reduce their anxiety.

Officer Saouda introduced herself, then said, "Your daughter seems to have a good head on her shoulders.  She knows when to call for help from her friends, too."

*We're only a thought away,* Sara said to my parents.  *Tina didn't really need our help, but it never hurts to have some backup.*

*But, six to one?*

Officer Saouda smiled.  *Believe me, the Kitties and Elves have won against greater odds than that.  You have little to worry about.*

She put a hand on my shoulder.  "Your daughter is learning fast, and can pretty much take care of herself."

She smiled at me, and I pulled her into a hug.  "Thanks for your help!"

"Just my duty," she said humbly.  Then, she smiled.  "And a much more pleasant duty than some things I've had to do, I must add."

It was getting late, but Mom thought that I could use a little 'retail therapy.'  Hey, who am I to argue?

Chapter Eight: Retail Therapy

On the way to the clothing store, I noticed a recently morfed hybrid that had a bit of a different signature.  She wore clothing that covered more of her body than I might have expected for the season.  She wore a hat and a wig.  I looked at her with my remote senses and noticed that, hidden under her hat, she had the stubs of horns on her head.

AMORFS.  I was looking at the first AMORFS victim I had ever seen.  I smiled at her.  She scowled back.  She was feeling angry and humiliated.  She had been ridiculed from the altar of her church, then kicked out.  I said a quick prayer that she would find peace in her new form and find people who accept her for who she is.

I was only too happy to expand my wardrobe, but I also dragged Mom and Dad to an art supply store.  I got some of the paints that Cara uses for her 'human camera' trick, along with some papers, canvases, a number of pens and pencils.  I made my purchases and we went home.

Mom and Dad watched as I played with my new toys.  I made a portrait of the two of them surrounded by a heart and hung it on my wall.  Mom asked me to read her mind and create the portrait that she imagined.  In her mind, I saw a picture of a kitty girl, wings spread wide as she flared for a landing.  She had me put a heart identical to the one on their portrait around it.  They hung the portrait in the living room.

I fired up my computer.  A couple of my friends sent nasty letters expressing disappointment that I had turned into a filthy animal, but most were happy for me.  The people in the support group congratulated me, and said that my cure gave them hope.

I'm going to have to talk to Doctor Josephson about seeing some of those people.  I can tell that his practice is going to become very busy indeed at least for a while.  Hopefully, he'll be able to take care of some of his repeat customers for good so that he can have time for new ones.

I should say 'they,' of course.  He's my pediatrician, so he's the one I see all the time.  I keep forgetting that he shares a practice with his wife.

I decided to make another portrait like the one I had made for Mom and Dad.  I scanned it in and sent it to my real friends.  I removed the ones who rejected me from my address book.  It's time to shake the dust from under my feet and move on.

I shut down the computer and went to the kitchen.  Mom was boiling some eggs that had been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.  Well-stored eggs can last ten years or more, so we don't worry about letting them accumulate.  We actually age some on purpose because eggs that are less than two weeks old are difficult to peel when boiled.  Mom generally takes our excess eggs to the food pantry every week, but she likes to keep a couple dozen ready for boiling at any time.  In this case, there were four dozen eggs bubbling away in the large stock pot.  They were white, blue, several shades of green, several shades of brown, tan, and almost pink.  I always enjoyed taking the 'natural Easter eggs' to pot lucks and the like.  Most people are totally unaware that the descendants of the South American Araucana chickens lay blue eggs, and that all kinds of colors can be gotten through cross-breeding.  In our case, we have a yard full of free-ranging 'barnyard cross' hens mutts, essentially.

After they were done boiling, we set them aside to cool.  Meanwhile, I used some of the tricks Cara had taught me to clean up.  Once they were cool enough to handle, we drained and rinsed them.  We ate the three that were cracked, and put the rest in an Easter basket.

"What are the eggs for?" I asked her.

"It's a surprise," she smirked.  I rolled my eyes, then yawned.

"OK, Kitten, I think it's time for you to get ready for bed."

I giggled.  "You know, that nickname is a whole lot more appropriate now."

She smiled at me.  "That occurred to me when you were making your wish with Amy."

"I noticed that you didn't make any attempt to change my mind."

Her face was serious when she looked at me.  "I could see the sincerity in your eyes.  I was going to say something, but you're the one who will be wearing that body for life.  In the end, it's up to you."  Then she smiled.  "I haven't seen any indication that you regret it."

I grinned at her.  "I have never been happier.  The last few days has been like a dream."

She led me to my room and suggested that I give myself a quick rinse to freshen up and wash off the day's exertions.  I took a quick shower, then used Cara's trick to push the water off of my body.  The fur on my back and tail came out silky soft.  As I was snuggling down into my bed, I looked up at my parents.  "You'll never get tired of praying over me at night, will you?"  They just smiled at me.

Chapter Nine: Meeting, Making, and Helping Friends

The next morning, I got up early.  I threw on some work clothes and grabbed an energy bar on the way out the door.  The guinea fowl decided to scream at the top of their lungs, as usual.  "Hey, ya noisy birds!" I yelled at them cheerfully.  They just squawked louder.  It's a good thing nobody in our family is prone to getting hung over.

"Good morning, noisy girls!" I said to the goats.  They were waiting for me just outside the milking parlor.  I led the herd queen in, and she hopped up on the milking stand and started eating her grain.  I gave her teats a quick wash, then put a squirt of milk from each one into the stripping cup.  Yep... all clean.  I put a stainless steel milking pail under her and started working.  I hadn't done it since I first got sick, so it took me a while to get into the rhythm of things.  Still, it's an easy and calming task.  Unlike cows, goats only have two teats one for each hand.  I would pinch off the top by circling it with with my thumb and index finger, then use my other three fingers to squeeze out the milk I had trapped.  In a couple minutes, she was done, and I was ready to lead the next goat in.  Before I did that, I weighed the milk and poured it into the filter funnel.  The filtered milk ran through tubes bathed in cold water, and into a collapsible container, which reduces its contact with the air.  After I had finished the second goat, Mom came in and led Libby over to the other milking stand.

"You want to do the loud-mouthed floppy-eared Nubian, eh?"

She grinned at me.  "You know Libby's my sweetheart."

I smiled and got Moose, our mild-mannered but slightly clumsy LaMacha.  I patted her and said, "Come on, ya funny lookin varmint."

"You don't milk the ears, Kitten," Mom said with a smirk.

I grinned.  That's the unofficial motto of LaMacha aficionados everywhere because those big, friendly, and deceptively smart goats have little in the way of external ears.  They are very good producers of creamy milk, though.

Moose wanted to be stubborn today.  She's used to being milked by Mom, and doesn't like having her routine changed.  I tried sending calming thoughts to her, and was pleased at how well it worked.

When we were done, we stashed the container of fresh milk in the refrigerator that we keep in the milking parlor and did the rest of our morning chores.  I gave grain to Ginny and brushed her down.  Perhaps I spent more time than was strictly necessary, but it's been way too long since I could do that.

Dad filled the watering trough and pitched hay.  Mom gathered eggs, gave a quick rinse to any that were smudged or soiled, and stashed them in the milking parlor's refrigerator.  Then, she drained about a quart of fresh milk from the collapsible container and brought it in for breakfast.

By the time Dad and I were done, there were pancakes on the griddle.  Dad set the table while I whipped up some scrambled eggs and sausage.  It might not be much fun taking care of the pigs, but you can't beat the taste of meat that you raise yourself.

After breakfast, Mom told me to get showered and ready for church.  We usually don't go quite this early, but what the heck.  I decided to take a long, luxurious bath instead.  I used special bath beads designed for people with fur or feathers.  Mom came in, saw me luxuriating in the tub, and shook her head.  "Come on, Kitten, or we're going to be late."

"What?"  I was confused.  "Church doesn't start in over an hour."

"We need to be out the door in ten minutes," she replied.

I shrugged, hopped out, and TK'd myself dry.

"I'm glad you learned that trick.  We might just make it in time."

I walked to my room and found a nice sun dress laid out on my bed.  I donned it in short order, and Mom applied some light makeup for me.  In five minutes, we were on our way.  I got suspicious when, instead of turning left, we turned right and headed for the freeway.  "We're going to Aunt Janice's church," Mom confirmed.  I smiled.  I was looking forward to seeing my friends again so that I could thank them personally.

As we walked in, I spotted them right away.  I ran up and gave each of them a hug.  We all sat together at the front of the church.

After the elder read the announcements, Kim went to the front.  "I have been declared the official announcer of changelings," she quipped, then telepathically called me up.  "Today, we are welcoming a changeling and giving a praise report at the same time."  I stood next to her.  "Tina Shepherd was rapidly dying of cancer when she came here a week ago.  We were able to offer her some respite from the pain, but what she really needed was the somatic reconstruction of MORFS."  She blushed a bit.  "Professor mode comes when I least expect it..."  Everyone chuckled.  "Anyhow," she continued, "Tina left here feeling better, but still very much in danger.  Two days later, she came down with MORFS.  Apparently, our genes must have rubbed off on her, because she's looking mighty cute."  I curtsied, much to the amusement of the congregation.

"I'm pleased to announce that she has been completely cured."

Kim handed the microphone to me.  With tears in my eyes, I said, "I don't recall ever being happier.  This past week has been like a dream.  Thank you all for your prayers!"

Everyone applauded as Kim and I went back to our seats.  I had just barely planted my tush into the chair when the elder went back to the front and said, "Everyone please rise and greet each other."

It was a free-for-all, just like last week.  This time, I could enjoy it.  It was wonderful to be able to hug people without being racked with pain.  I was astonished with the sincerity of everyone as they congratulated me and wished me well.

After the service, they had a pot luck in my honor.  I was touched.  The Martins and the Jones led me up to the serving line and told me to pig out.  I kind of smirked as I passed Mom's basket of eggs.  I selected an olive green one just to prove that they are edible.  "Green eggs, but no ham," I quipped.

I enjoyed hanging out with the Kitties and Elves.  Cara and Amy had interesting stories to tell.  They both were the kids of deacons in the Church of Genetic Purity.  They both came close to getting killed by the people of that church.  Now, I know what Officer Saouda was talking about when she commented about their talent for finding trouble.

I got to meet some of the people from their old church.  Apparently, they saw the error of the church's teachings.  I also got to meet Cindy's boyfriend Jim.  He lives just down the road from the Martins.  As people drifted out, the teens got together and chatted and generally goofed around.  I don't ever remember feeling so welcome in a group of people that I had just met.  When they asked me to come with them for the youth group meeting, I gladly accepted.  Mom and Dad were a bit worried, but it didn't take long to convince them that I was no longer fragile.

I guess you could say that we all went out to do work, but we had a blast.  We helped a lot of the older members with things that they could no longer do.  We cleaned houses, did yard work, repaired things, and did anything else we could think of that would help.  Amy, Cindy, Cara, and Larry made sure that I used my powers.  It made things easier for everyone, and was good training for me.  I ended up eating lots of pizza and power bars to keep my energy up.  They told me that it's best not to flaunt my powers.  In fact, Amy and I both used our bio elemental powers to make life better for a number of people; but we never gave even a hint that we were responsible for making them feel better.

After we were done, we all went to the Martins' place.  I heard a few people calling it the 'Kitty Mansion.'  Larry and Cindy weren't offended at all.

You would think that all the work we did today would have worn us out.  I guess we were, but it didn't take us long to get our second wind and enjoy the pool.  The Kitties and Elves made a kind of fountain in the pool with their TK, so I joined in.  It was good practice, and lots of fun.

The Martins, being good hosts, fed us all.  I shudder to think how much it must have cost to feed this horde of hungry teens some of whom were feeding MORFS-induced powers.

Chapter Ten: Building and Rebuilding Relationships

After everyone left, I found that my parents had yet another surprise for me.  While they're away at an unnamed resort ummm... renewing their marital relationship, I'll be staying at the Kitty Mansion with all my new friends.

"Who's going to take care of the animals?" I asked them.

"Your grandpa and grandma will be staying at our house for two weeks, and some of the local 4H kids will be coming to do the heavy stuff for them," said Mom.

"I guess your mom and dad aren't the only ones getting away for a week to renew their marital relationship," commented Kim.

"Those are my grandparents!" I squeaked.  All the adults laughed as my face turned red.

Kim decided to rescue me and change the subject.  "What are your plans for the future?"

That was a very good question.  I hadn't thought beyond seeking a cure since very soon after I was diagnosed.  "You've given me my future back," I said to them, overcome with emotion.  They smiled patiently as I gave my future some serious thought.  What do I want to do, aside from riding my pony and flying around?

Then, I remembered why I had chosen the powers that they offered to me.  My reasoning was sincere then, and that hasn't changed.  "I think I'll go into medicine," I decided.  "I need to find a way to get into a good medical school."

"The University of Sun City has a special scholarship program for people who want to get an education related to their powers.  They'll probably jump at the chance to enroll you," Sara said.

"Especially after we pull a few strings," Kim smirked.

I smiled my thanks.  I was overwhelmed.

Markus, Cara's winged seal point kitty, was purring on her lap.  Noting my interest, she tossed him over to me.  He spread his wings and landed gently in my lap.

What a beautiful animal.

Amy seemed to think for a minute, then came over to touched me on the arm.  My bio nature sensed that she had given me a virus packet, and automatically isolated, stored, and analyzed it.  My eyes grew big as the answer came to me.  The bug she gave me will morf a young cat into a close copy of Markus, and the changed cat will imprint on the first person to show it kindness.  I was thrilled.

"Thank you!"

I can't wait to get home and give it to Gregory

"Will I be able to make custom morfs like that?" I asked.

"No," she replied.  "It takes a component that I can't give you.  It's a kind of a computer made out of the same stuff that elemental powers are made out of."

"Stuff?" I asked.  "That's kind of generic.  Are we talking about matter or energy or what?"

"Or what," Kim smirked.  "It's some kind of a pattern or potential.  There is a brand-new branch of physics that studies it, but I'm afraid that they haven't gotten far."

"Don't be disappointed," Sara soothed.  "You probably have the best suite of powers in this room."

"Oh, I'm not complaining," I smiled.  "I have been high as a kite ever since I morfed.  I still don't know what to do with myself."

"Well," commented Cara, "We have a week to think up some things to do."

On that note, we went to bed for the night.  Mom and Dad led me to my room, tucked me in, and prayed over me.  This marks the my one week anniversary of being free from cancer.

Mom and Dad were gone before I woke up.  I hope they have a good time at the resort.

Everyone decided to head to the park with their skateboards.  I used Larry's old one.  It was perfectly functional; just a bit rough around the edges.  He assured me that it would be even more rough around the edges after I got done with it.  Spills and bumps are a fact of life when learning something like that.

After letting me practice for a bit, everyone used TK to move themselves down the road.  Amy could use Cara's TK almost as if it were her own.  Actually, any of us can borrow power from anyone who trusts us enough to let us in deeply.

We met some morfs that Amy had changed inadvertently.  I guess they grabbed her, and she released a virus packet before she realized what she had done.

That led to a discussion about powers.  I decided right then and there that I would be careful about revealing my powers.  It doesn't pay to flaunt them, though I'm not going to hide them like I'm ashamed of them or something.  I kind of wished I had a big support group like they all do.  They assured me that, with my empathic powers and my ability to distinguish morfs powers, I'll find kindred spirits soon enough.  In any case, I can always chat with them telepathically.

I had quite an eventful week with the Kitties and the Elves.  They took turns training me in the best use of my powers.  I also got to do some lab work and learn a few things about the various sciences.  They encouraged me to work hard at school so that I could catch up.  When I was sick, it was hard to concentrate on my studies.  I managed to pass, but my performance wasn't brilliant.  My new friends assured me that school would be a lot easier when I wasn't fighting the pain.

The week had gone by pleasantly, but way too quickly.  Still, I had a lot of fun and learned a lot.  I also came to appreciate some of my blessings like my parents.

Cara literally had to be rescued from her dad.  If her mom hadn't had the fortitude to take Matthew from his home, he probably would have ended up getting stoned to death after he changed into Cara.  Now, Cara's dad is in jail, and she has to deal with some serious forgiveness issues.

It was worse for Amy.  Both her parents turned her over to the preacher, and she was stoned.  Only her bio elemental powers and sturdy body allowed her to survive until she was rescued by Cara.  Both her parents are in jail.  Thank God the Martins were there to pick up the pieces.

*It's our calling,* Sara told me.  *We chose a life where we nurture growth and learning.*

I smiled.  *I like that.  I want to make a difference, too.*

*You will,* she assured me.

When Mom and Dad came home, I leapt into their arms.  I had been having such a busy week that I didn't realize how much I missed them.  It made me sad to realize that Cara and Amy don't have this.

*Don't grieve for me,* Cara said.  *My life is richer than it has ever been.*

*The same goes for me,* Amy agreed.  *I grieve the loss of my family, but I have a new mom and a new sister.  The Martins are almost like family to me, too.*

Mom and Dad noticed that I had suddenly gotten quiet, so I told them what we were talking about.  They hugged me even tighter.

Mom and Dad were kind of tired from their trip, so we just lounged around until it was time for bed.  They had sly smiles on their faces as they left my room and headed for their own.  I guess they weren't as tired as they let on.

I helped Cindy, Amy, Cara, and Larry make breakfast and set the table.  We had gotten pretty good at working together.  Actually, they were good at working together before I met them, and I learned to work with them.  Mom and Dad were impressed with the flying dishes show as we cleaned up.

The eleven (including Jim Reynolds, Cindy's boyfriend) of us seemed to take up a whole section at church.  I somehow felt that I belonged there.  After just three services, I was more at home in the Martins' church than I was at the church I had attended for my whole life.

After the service, we hung out with the other church members.  I went with the youth group again.  I was relishing the time I spent with them, somewhat envious that they would be coming back week after week.

But I have no call to be envious.  I have my life back, and it's time to start living it.

After youth group, we lounged around in the Kitty Mansion until it started to get dark.  It was fully dark by the time we got home.

(End of part two)

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