Acts of Humanity 3:
Higher and Higher
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.
Categories: Hybrid, Elemental, PSI
Chapter Fourteen: Welcoming a New Butterfly
The next two school days were long. I studied and did my work as always, but I was worried about Jerry.
*Oooooo girl, you got it bad!*
I rolled my eyes. *Come on, Cindy. You know I'm just worried about my old friend.*
*A likely story,* said Cara.
Amy giggled. *I knew something was up when she gave me that image of what Jerry should look like after he morfs.*
I blushed. *You guys are having way too much fun.*
Of course, they were kind enough to keep me company as I took care of Ginny, took a ride out to the pond, and made my daily flight. As I was gliding down from about 12,000 feet, I felt the stirrings of Jerry's mind as he started to come out of his sleep. I folded my wings back and went into a steep dive, reveling in the feel of the wind as it whipped past at two hundred miles per hour.
I can't wait to share this with Jerry!
I automatically scanned the area as I dove. There were two men in a parked van near Jerry's house. They didn't want to be there, but they felt that it was their duty. Mostly, they were bored. I contacted Officer Saouda telepathically and let her know. She was off duty, but she immediately called it in.
Up high, I can easily be mistaken for a bird. I made sure that I was out of their line of sight as I lost altitude. I leveled out and skimmed low over the rooftops, dodging the trees. I landed in Jerry's side yard, out of sight of the van. I sent feelings of boredom and tiredness to the two men, and walked up to the porch when they were both looking away. Jerry's mom answered when I knocked at the door. "Hello Mrs. Wright," I said to her with a smile. She invited me in and introduced me to Jerry's dad.
"I was hoping to meet you," he said. "Jerry has been telling us all about you, but he left out a few details."
I smiled. "I can only imagine."
We just stood there awkwardly looking at each other. Nobody could think of anything to say.
"I was flying around when I felt Jerry starting to wake up." I listened to his brain briefly. "He should be conscious in a couple minutes. Do you want to be with him when he wakes up, or do you think he would be better off discovering his new form without any distractions?"
They looked confused. "We don't have any experience in stuff like this. What do you think?"
"Considering his personality, he'll probably do better by himself for a couple minutes. I can monitor him and let you know if he gets upset."
They nodded. I was reading a curious mixture of confusion, submission, and determination in their minds. Motivated by their love for their son, they were willing to scrap a whole bunch of indoctrination and listen to a high school girl that their former church would have stoned, or at least rejected as hopelessly evil. If I was sure that they could handle telepathic communication without becoming unhinged, I would have asked the Professors Martin to talk to them. As it was, I was definitely calling upon them for advice.
I heard Jerry's mind become fully awake. I sent comforting thoughts up to him, but stayed in the background. I let him know that I was there for him without forcing myself upon him.
"He's awake," I told his parents.
I watched as he sat up, checked himself over, and walked over to the mirror. He had some trouble getting his wings to behave, but he soon got the hang of it. He sniffed a couple times, made a face, and walked into the shower. After he was done, he dried himself. He had some initial difficulty working around his wings, but he soon figured it out. Still, he had damp hair, wet fur, and soggy wings. He sighed, then put on the pair of shorts that his parents had provided for him. They barely fit.
"He's all showered off and has his shorts on," I told his parents. "If he's anything like me, a hug will be much appreciated right now."
They went upstairs to see their son. They were ecstatic to see him healthy and free of the tubular sclerosis that had plagued him for his whole life.
*Come on up,* he sent to me. He stood up as I entered his room, and enfolded me in a warm hug, wrapping his golden wings around me – something I had done with him a number of times in the past.
And he did look good. His wavy golden-blond hair blended smoothly into the silky golden fur on his back. It was almost a shame to cover that fur with his wings.
"Well, good morning, handsome," I said to him with a smile. "Welcome to the world of the butterflies!" I stood back and eyed him critically. "Yep, you came out just fine! I think you'll do."
He smiled at me. "You don't look so bad yourself, Kitten."
I looked at his parents. "So, what's the plan? Should we carve some wing holes in an old t-shirt and drag his tail off to the clothing store?"
He turned and looked at his butt. "I have a tail?"
"Alas, no," I said with a smirk. "The good part is that you won't have a hard time finding pants."
"Know any good places to buy shirts with wing sleeves?"
"Funny you should ask," I replied.
Then I remembered the guys out in the van. I told the Wrights about them, and supplied an image of them to Jerry.
"It's Brothers Simms and Geralds," Jerry said. "They're probably here to officially boot us all out of the church."
"They aren't intending on stoning you?"
"That congregation in the city has given us all a bad reputation," Mr. Wright said.
"Amy and Cara and Sue are good friends of mine," I told them seriously. "I don't doubt you, but I can't help but be a bit paranoid."
"Why don't I invite them in for coffee?" Mrs. Wright asked. "We're not going back to that church, anyhow. We might as well get it done and over with."
I followed her with my remote senses as she went out to talk to the men. They came in, looking embarrassed and apologetic.
"Go ahead and serve us with notice that we are officially excommunicated," Mr. Wright said.
Brother Simms stood up. "First, I want to congratulate Jerry on being cured." He went over and shook Jerry's hand. Brother Geralds followed suit.
"I know you have to follow orders," Mrs. Wright said gently.
Brother Simms pulled out a small leather-bound book, opened it to a page that he had bookmarked, and read it solemnly. Then, he handed the Wrights an envelope, apologized, and walked out the door.
"My old church did it without ceremony, but I was rejected just as soundly, and much more sincerely," I commented to them. "Our new church is about an hour away, but it's well worth the drive. I feel more welcome and loved there than I ever was at my old church." They looked at me with hope.
"You're more than welcome to come. We can pick you all up tomorrow and introduce you to our friends."
After feeding Jerry a good lunch, and eating something ourselves, we dragged Jerry out to the mall. Mrs. Wright and I had a great time picking out clothes and forcing him to try them on. Mr. Wright just looked bored and gave his son moral support.
Jerry decided to ride home wearing his 'flying clothes' – a snug-fitting jump suit with a smooth finish to reduce drag. He looked really strong and muscular.
Once we got to his home, I led him to the side yard. I stood facing him and spread my wings. He spread his beautiful golden wings, displaying two feet more wingspan than I have. I watched as he tested his wings. Then, I ran toward him, spread my wings, leapt into the air, and flew low over his head. *Can't catch me!*
"Oh yeah?" he said out loud. He leapt into the air and was on my tail in a flash. We linked up telepathically so that I could help him learn the finer points of flying. With someone there to help him, he was able to learn a whole lot faster than I had. Soon, we were gaining altitude, doing loops and rolls, diving, and generally having a blast.
We went up to fifteen thousand feet, taking advantage of our increased lung capacity to get oxygen from the thin air. We dove down, skimmed the housetops, came to his side yard, flared, and landed in front of his parents. They had really proud looks on their faces as they hugged him.
I surveyed the three of them with tears in my eyes. "I'm really happy that things have worked out so well!" They all thanked me and gave me a hug.
After checking with Mom and Dad, I let them know when we would be picking them up for church.
Gregory met me in the air about the time I got about half way home. I landed first, and he landed in my arms. He was purring loudly as I carried him in. Mom and I started dinner, then went out to help Dad with the evening chores.
Chapter Fifteen: Introducing a New Butterfly
The next morning, we got an early start. I mentally checked with Jerry between chores and breakfast. After a quick shower, I put on a nice dress with an open back. I have come to favor open-backed clothes because my wings settle more naturally. I put some flying clothes and a swimsuit into a duffel bag, and suggested the same to Jerry.
When we got to the Wrights' house, I introduced Mom and Dad to everyone. The Wrights were a bit overdressed compared to us, but certainly not more so than some of the more conservative members of our church. I sat in the very back seat with Jerry and conversed with him mentally. Dad and Mister Wright sat up front, and the ladies sat in the middle row of seats.
Before we knew it, we were pulling into the parking lot at church. As we were approaching the building, I spotted my friends standing just outside the door.
*Design your own boyfriend; what a concept!* Cara sent not quite privately enough.
*Hey!* said Larry.
*If I was going to design a boyfriend, he would look just like you,* Cara said with a smirk.
*Awwww!* chorused Amy and Cindy.
*I'll have you know that it was a collaborative effort. He doesn't know it, but I used most of his ideas when I imagined his change to Amy.*
*A likely story,* smirked Cindy. *I have to admit that he's quite the hunk, though.*
*Hey!* said Jim.
*You're a hunk, too,* she said as she gave him a kiss on the cheek. He blushed.
Jerry gave me a confused look.
"My friends are picking on me," I said to him out loud.
"We were just wondering where Amy found such a hunk," Cindy said to him. He blushed.
"I like him for who he is inside, I assure you," I told them. "Of course, I ain't complaining at all about what MORFS has done to him."
He was starting to feel like he was being discussed like a piece of meat, so I gave him a hug, then introduced everyone. Mr. and Mrs. Wright were welcomed warmly by the adults, who led them up to the front. Cindy and Larry, meanwhile, dragged us off to a knot of teens that was congregating in the back of the sanctuary. We chatted for a few minutes until we heard one of the elders clearing his throat. We looked up at the front of the church, blushed, and made haste to take our seats.
The fourteen of us definitely took up a good part of the front. I sat between Amy and Jerry. We watched respectfully as the elder read the announcements.
Kim walked up to the lectern. "I, the official announcer of changelings, greet you," she quipped. We all chuckled as Jerry walked up to join her.
"Last week, Jerry was suffering from tuberous sclerosis complex. Generally, the people with that genetic condition can live a normal life span, some with hardly any symptoms. Jerry came close to dying from it, however. Somehow, he started to get better. It's a good thing, too, because he wouldn't have survived MORFS in his earlier condition."
She looked up at Jerry. "As you can see, he's now as healthy as a horse, and almost as strong." We applauded as Jerry and Kim returned to their seats. I gave him a hug before he sat down, much to the amusement of certain people.
The elder took the podium again. "Are there any guests today?"
My father stood up and motioned to Mom and me to do the same. "Two weeks ago, we were guests. We have decided that this is our home church now.
Everyone applauded. They were sincere, too.
Mom and I sat down. Dad remained standing, and motioned for the Wrights to stand up. "We brought some new guests who are currently without a church home. I'm sure we can do for them what you did for us."
Other guests were introduced. Some people had brought visiting family members to church with them. One couple, a Mr. and Mrs. Harrond, came in with their recently morfed squirrel hybrid son Tom because of our church's reputation of accepting and helping MORFS survivors. Larry coordinated with the teens to make sure that we welcome him properly.
The elder made a final announcement. "The grub committee has outdone itself again. I think we need to start calling them the the fast response team." Everyone chuckled. "Jerry woke up from MORFS on Saturday morning. On Saturday evening, the Martins found out that the Wrights would be coming here. I have to hand it to our dedicated food preparers; they set up quite a spread in a short period of time." We applauded to show our appreciation. "Now, everyone please rise and greet each other."
I'm beginning to like this part of the service best of all.
The message was about growing where God plants you, and sharing and spreading His blessing. I had to smile about the appropriateness of the message.
After the service, we led the Wrights to the fellowship hall. They were overwhelmed. Instead of aloof suspicion, they were greeted with sincere welcome. There was no initiation or period of probation.
"Don't be ashamed to stuff yourself," I told Jerry. "We morfies need to feed our powers."
"What powers?" he asked.
"You mean I didn't tell you? You're an electrical elemental and a technopath. That ought to go well with your chosen career path, don't you think?" I told him with a smirk. He just looked at me with a boggled expression.
"Overwhelming, isn't it?"
"In more ways than one," he confirmed.
As we passed the eggs that my mother had brought, I picked up a green and a blue one. "Which one do you want?" He looked at me funny. "If you don't like them, I'll tell my hennies on you and they'll peck your toes!" He rolled his eyes, then took the blue one.
As soon as we were done eating, we joined some of the other teens who had gone to welcome Tom, the new boy.
"I know how hard it can be," I heard Carol say soothingly. "I was a boy before I got worked over by the bug. That changed all my relationships. I lost some friends to prejudice, or just due to the fact that they aren't comfortable with my change." She put her arm around Cara. "I've gained some new friends, though – real friends who will stand by you."
He started to look hopeful, but added. "I was kicked out of my old church."
"So was I," I said to him. "They just kind of quietly rejected us, but Jerry here was officially excommunicated."
"That's a real shame, but not quite as painful as getting stoned," commented Cindy.
"Tell me about it!" Cara and Amy said together, then giggled.
"The ones," Cara confirmed. "We're the troublemakers who managed to convince the local Genetic Purity Church to disband, and hopefully save some lives in the process."
"Painful, but worth it," Amy said.
"You probably saved my life," he said. "The preacher lamented that it wasn't safe to do what they are supposed to do, so they could do nothing but ridicule us and kick us out." Then he smiled. "I guess I don't have it so bad, after all."
"The bad part is that some of your more superficial friends will leave you. The good part is that you'll know who your real friends are," said Larry.
"The best part is that your parents are standing with you all the way," said Amy.
They started discussing some of the physical enhancements that come with being a hybrid, and what abilities are useful for what sports; which quickly turned it into a guy fest. I was getting bored with the discussion, so I wandered off.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Myra was leading Tom's parents downstairs. *Tom seems to be doing better,* I told her.
*That's good to know,* she replied. *I think you guys are better therapy than any dozen psychologists.*
*Karen might be good therapy, too,* I commented, referring to that cute prairie dog hybrid that was making cow eyes at him.
Carol walked up and caught my eye. "Whatcha plottin?"
"Oh, I was just talking to Myra. It looks like Tom is going to do OK."
"Especially if he happens to notice Karen," she giggled. Then she looked at Jerry. "I understand we have another technopath in the flock. If you want, I can help you develop your powers."
"Hey, he's mine! No poaching!" I said with a smirk.
She rolled her eyes. "You can come too, if you like. After all, it looks like you guys are getting cozy enough to be sharing powers." Jerry looked at us and raised an eyebrow.
"You have been sharing my powers, so now I'm going to share yours," I said to him. We checked in with our parents, who were about to go with the Martins, then went to the sound booth with Carol.
The first step was to help him find his powers. After that, the three of us linked and Carol showed us all the tips and techniques. She showed me a trick that Cara had taught her. Jerry provided high voltage at a low current, and I provided containment for a kind of neon light. After a while, we were invaded by the rest of the youth group. They informed us that it's time to go to the lake to take advantage of one of the last warm days of the year. We had just enough time to change.
We had a great time at the lake. I found that my wings make swimming a bit of a challenge. I also found that I could take off straight from the water with the help of my TK. Jerry doesn't have TK, so he swam as fast as he could with the crawl, did one butterfly, then quickly spread his wings and made a powerful downstroke. After a bit of practice, he got quite good at it. Hey, if ducks can do it, why can't we?
I found out that I'm pretty good at volleyball, but not spectacular. Jerry was better, largely because he has practiced more recently. I hadn't been able to participate in any kind of sport since I was about ten years old.
One of the teens wasn't feeling very good, and got sicker as the day went on. Amy and I looked at him, and told him that he needs to got to the doctor for some stim packs and sedatives. We could see that he was going to be an absolute hybrid – a dog, complete with a furry face and muzzle. Amy quietly toned things down so that he'll only have fur on his torso and tail, and will still have a human face. She also changed things so that he'll keep his human color vision, rather than be stuck with the limited color vision of a dog. One of his friends dropped him off at the urgent care clinic, where he met his parents. That left us all short one car.
Jerry and I volunteered to fly over to the Martins' home rather than taking up room in a car. After one last swim, I TK'd us both dry and we slipped our flying clothes on over our swimsuits. Cindy took our bags and gave us the GPS coordinates of their home. We took off a little after everyone had left, but still beat them home.
When we got there, I was surprised to find that Jerry's parents were nowhere in sight. "They came down with AMORFS," Sara told us gently. "We had one of our colleagues, Doctor Mary Jacobson, come over and set them up with stim packs. They're going to be fine in a couple days."
Jerry looked stunned. "But... their voices!"
"Don't worry, Jerry," said Kim. "They seem to have picked up a variant. They'll get about as much fur as you have, but no horns. Their vocal cords will be fine."
"It looks like some of your changes rubbed off on them," Sara added. "They're going to have wings, and the physical strength enhancements that go with them."
Jerry smiled. "Thanks for taking care of them."
I sent to Kim and Sara privately, *Thanks!*
*You suspect of us of something?* Kim sent to me.
*I think that Jerry's changes 'rubbed off' on them the way your changes 'rubbed off' on me.*
Kim smirked, then nodded.
We relaxed with our friends until it was time to make dinner. Then, Jerry and I helped Larry, Cindy, Cara, and Amy. Dinner is always so much better with good company.
When it was time to go home, Jerry came home with us. We stopped by his house to pick up his tablet, school backpack, and a week's worth of clothing. We were pretty geeked to be spending the week together. Mom and Dad just rolled their eyes. "Don't be getting any bright ideas, young lady!"
We went to the kitchen table and studied. We went though our school work quickly, then worked together on our FAA studies.
The Federal Aviation Administration allows human flyers to freely flit about uncontrolled airspace under rules similar to those that govern unlicensed ultralight pilots. We're expected to wear a transponder, carry a radio, and know the 'rules of the road' when we enter controlled airspace, however. The easiest way to fly where we want without excess restriction is to get a pilot's license. We think of the 'ground school' training as extra homework.
Chapter Sixteen: Maggots Spin Cocoons, Too.
The next morning, I went to school by myself while Mom took Jerry for his post-MORFS testing. Out here in the country, there is less waiting. He was certified safe for school, and was able to meet me for lunch at our normal table in the misfit corner. We had slowly been collecting friends, and have taken to referring to our table as the 'sane but not normal' table. We were considered to be almost cool, but we would need to be more exclusive and stuck-up to be really cool.
Our friends congratulated Jerry on his change, and made some snide remarks about "fly united".
"You filthy animal! You brought the degradation to church, and now my parents are cursed!"
We turned around and saw one of the boys from the pures table. He looked angry, but I could sense that he was trying hard not to cry.
"It doesn't do any good to blame Jerry," I said. "AMORFS attacks pures only, and is very contagious."
"If your parents have it, you probably do, too," said Jerry. "Maybe your former cronies will start calling you 'Monkey Boy'... or maybe 'Monkey Girl.'"
I put my hand on Jerry's shoulder. "He's suffered enough. Let him be." Silently, I added, *It's going to be 'possum girl,' by the way. He's going to turn into a halfie with opossum features and a very female shape.*
I turned back to him. I silently projected sympathy and kindness to him. "I know some people who can help you after you change. You're welcome to come join us. Meanwhile, take good care of your parents so they can take good care of you in a few days."
He scowled, turned around, and stomped away. I watched him walk back to the pures table. I looked and noted that most of them were infected with AMORFS. Some will be starting their change tonight, while it's still a few weeks away for others. Jerry and I recognized people from both of our old churches.
I waited until he sat down and started eating, then walked over. "Most of you will be morfing soon. Some of you will be changing sexes." I pointed to the misfit corner. "We'll be here to help you if you want it." I walked away, leaving them too stunned for the usual rude jeers. Some of them were angry, some were worried, and some were even grateful. I contacted the Professors Martin and let them know about the two churches that were about to get hit hard by AMORFS.
Once we got home, Jerry helped me with the chores. We rode Ginny together to the pond and did our homework under Great Grandpa's picnic shelter. When we were finished, we rode back and stashed our books. After dinner, we got into our flying clothes and took to the air. We went to Jerry's house and picked up the address list for his old church. We also picked up some extra clothes for Jerry's Mom and Dad. I felt funny sorting through Mrs. Wright's clothes, but I needed to find a bra that would work with wings, as well as a dress with an open back. Fortunately, I have experience with that. Jerry, meanwhile, chose a couple of his own shirts for his dad. Back home, I added one of my looser flying shirts.
The next day, we flew together to the bus stop. I could sense the disappointment of a couple of the boys sitting near the back of the bus when Jerry and I sat together. I smiled. Jerry kind of smirked, too.
We had to split up when we got to school. He went to his first hour class, and I went to mine. We could keep in touch telepathically, but we kept it to a minimum because we were supposed to be paying attention to the teacher. When third hour came around, Jerry went to advanced gym for testing. He passed, of course. Now, we have a class together! Yay!
After a good workout in third hour advanced gym, we showered and went to lunch. I noticed that Karen, a dear friend who abandoned the pures table and stuck with me after my change, had the unmistakable signature of AMORFS. Like most adolescent AMORFS victims, she was going to be an absolute hybrid – a cat, in this case. It broke my heart to think of this sweet girl being changed into a scruffy tomcat. Fortunately, Cara was able to provide the template so that I could reduce the severity of the changes and let her enjoy some of the strength advantages of normal hybrids. I flashed different images just above conscious level to note her subconscious reactions. Cara worked the results into her changes. She's going to be an adorable leopard-spotted kitty girl with a prehensile tail and regular human ears. We decided to give her wings and fur on her back since that will help reinforce the already common notion that people who hang out together tend to get similar changes due to exposure to similar DNA. Anyhow, nobody will have a clue that she was changed by AMORFS, and not MORFS.
As I predicted, a few of the pures were missing. The process has started.
As we were flying home, I felt some excitement coming from Gregory. He was looking at snowpuff, who was in labor. She was nervous about being in labor, and also because Gregory was there. Tomcats generally don't hang around when the babies are being born. In fact, toms have been known to eat kittens that were fathered by another tom. I used projective empathy to calm her down.
Two of the kittens were out by the time we got home. Snowpuff gave birth to the other five as we watched. She cleaned them off and started nursing without any help from us. Gregory looked so proud, watching protectively over his mate and babies. It didn't bother him at all when Jerry and I picked them up and cuddled them.
"Which one do you want?" I asked Jerry.
"What do you suspect?" he asked as he picked up a little seal point girl. "I have a certain fondness for flying seal point kitties."
After that little bit of excitement, my parents, Jerry, and I had a virtual meeting with the Kitties and Elves to discuss the impending AMORFS epidemic. Kim and Sara decided to meet with some of the other elders at our church to make plans for a special mission to help the two churches.
Jerry and I did our homework in the picnic shelter again. After dinner, we flew around and checked on some of the members of our old churches. We didn't actually visit any of them. We used my remote senses to see who was coming down with AMORFS. Ironically, Brothers Simms and Geralds were down. They will be done changing in a couple days. Jerry's old preacher was right behind them.
(End of part four)
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/