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 Seventeen: Begin a rising exponential
The next day, even more of the pures were down for the count. I went over to the table and reiterated our offer. "When your friends come back, don't reject them. Almost all of you will be changing within the next few weeks."
Karen was feeling a little under the weather. Jerry and I took her to the school nurse, who called her parents. By the time her mom got out of work and came to pick her up, she was feeling pretty lousy. We had just helped Karen into her mom's car when we sensed the stirrings of Mr. and Mrs. Wright. They would be waking up in about half an hour. We went to the school office, signed out, and flew straight home to pick up the clothes we had selected for Jerry's parents. Then, it was off to the Kitty Mansion. *Just walk in,* Sara told us as we were coming in for a landing in their front yard.
We handed the duffel bags to Kim, who laid them out on the bed. When Jerry's parents finished their showers, they spent some time drying themselves, then put on the clothes. When they came out of their room, Jerry surprised himself by giving them each a hug. I gave them a hug, too. "Welcome to the world of the butterflies," we said together, then started laughing.
After feeding the hungry butterflies, we all retired to the living room. Jerry was just bubbling over with enthusiasm, telling his parents how much fun they were going to have.
After a while, Jerry couldn't hold it any longer. He insisted that they come out to the back yard with us. We faced them and encouraged them as they unfurled their wings fully for the first time. Soon, we were all flying.
We came down when my parents pulled into the driveway. I greeted them warmly, then stepped back for a good look. "Um... Mom? Dad? Did you know that AMORFS is contagious, and seems to prefer people who are naturally resistant to MORFS?"
They frowned a bit. Mom asked, "If we lose our vocal cords, will you be able to fix them?"
I nodded. "Yes, that should be no problem. Hopefully, though, you'll come out similar to the Wrights. After all, you probably caught it from them, and have been living close to me."
*How do you want to MORF?* I asked them. *I'm sure that Amy or Cara can give you what you want, but it'll cause less suspicion if you choose something similar to me or the Wrights.* Mom and Dad looked at each other. "Let's go down to the lab and see what we can figure out," I said to them out loud. *I know it's kind of scary, but I'm excited for you,* I added as I led them to the conference room that the Doctors Martin had set up earlier.
"We may be kind of prejudiced, but we like the flying kitty person look," Mom told me.
"That's good, because people will assume that it runs in the family," I replied. "Of course, from now on, it will". I started forming pictures of what Mom might look like in my head and flashing them to Mom and Dad. "You two seem to think alike," I told them. I formed a picture of Mom as a leopard-spotted kitty girl, and Dad as a handsome tiger-striped cat man. I gave them each cat eyes, tails, and black wings, but left their ears human. Mom will have emerald green eyes, and Dad will have eyes the color of liquid gold. I showed them the images, and they liked them.
I had a quick conference with the Doctors Martin, and they sent Cara down to do the honors. We decided that it would work best if they start morfing a week from Sunday in the evening. That will be consistent with the normal incubation period of AMORFS, and allow them the time to help get the local churches through their AMORFS epidemic.
After dinner, the Wrights changed into nicer clothes and we all piled into the minivan. We drove to our old church, almost making it there in time for the Wednesday evening service. Generally, the Wednesday evening service attracts the more serious church-goers. People who want to learn and worship go there, while those who mostly want to play the game, posture, and pretend, tend to limit themselves to the regular Sunday service.
Heads turned as we walked in. Pastor Steve was startled, but I also sensed embarrassment and determination from him. He startled the heck out of me by getting down on one knee in front of me and saying, "Please forgive me for the way I treated you two Sundays ago."
He startled the heck out of everyone else, too.
I smiled at him. "You're forgiven," was all I could think to say. Then, I added, "I forgave you before we came in today." As he stood up, I hugged him. "That must have been hard."
He looked at me seriously. "After that Sunday, God laid a heavy burden on my heart for the way you were treated. I prayed hard for a chance to make it up."
"Your prayers were answered, but probably not quite the way you imagined," my Dad said dryly. At the pastor's questioning look, he said, "My daughter noticed at school that a bunch of the kids that go to church here will be coming down with AMORFS soon. I imagine it's the same with the adults."
"We're not an exception," Mom added. We'll be down for the count in a week and a half."
Pastor Steve looked startled.
I looked around, focusing on the thirty or so people here – about a quarter of the standard Sunday attendance. "It looks like the majority of the people here will be morfing."
One of the elders shook his head sadly. "Divine retribution."
"Perhaps," said Pastor Steve. "Or, perhaps it's His way of winnowing out the chaff and building the rest."
"We know some people who can help you with your changes," I said. "The teens will have a rougher time because most of them will become absolute hybrids, and some will change sex. Still, I know plenty of people who have switched sides, and it's not the end of the world."
I walked up and down the aisle as I spoke. "You all remember me as that sickly girl who was hurting all the time. MORFS cured me of that, so I have to admit to being biased. Still, I have met so many people whose lives have been improved by MORFS. It's not a punishment. It's not a judgment. It's not a death sentence. I should know, because I was once under a death sentence." I took a deep breath. "The biggest problem that MORFS has caused is the turning of us against each other. If you grow fur on your body, the biggest problem is that some people will treat you like an animal." I saw a number of people cringe when I said that. "Still, in this church, we're going to outnumber the unchanged." I looked around the sanctuary. "That's the inclusive 'we.' Most of us here are going to be wearing fur in the next few days or weeks. Believe me, it's not that bad. In fact, it's kind of nice." I smiled and went up to my mom and hugged her. She smiled and stroked the fur on my back.
"I have never seen my girl speak so passionately about anything," Dad said proudly. He took a deep breath. "I have to admit to being just a bit afraid about what is going to happen to me. Still, it's something that the teens face every day. Compared to them, we have it easy. Microsurgery or a quick visit to a medical bio elemental will cure our voices, and the fur is no big deal."
The Pastor Steve stood up. "This is the core group," he said, indicating everyone in the sanctuary. "The Shepherds have been kind above and beyond the call of duty. We rejected them, but they came back to help us in our hour of need." He looked at his flock with an intensity I have never seen from his pulpit. "We have been faced with a crisis. The Chinese histogram for 'Crisis' consists of two characters – one meaning 'danger,' and the other meaning 'opportunity.'" He took a deep breath and let it out. "This crisis can tear us apart, or build us up like never before!"
Instead of holding a regular mid-week church service, we spent our time making plans for facing this challenge head-on. We decided who to contact before next Sunday, and what would be done at the service. Meanwhile, I was having a virtual meeting with Kim and Sara. They thought that it would be a good idea for some of the MORFS survivors from our church to come to the next service and talk about their experiences. We also decided to alter the pattern of the AMORFS changes on a select few people in order to draw attention away from my parents and the Wrights.
The impromptu meeting went longer than a normal service. It had been a long day. We dropped the Wrights off and went home. It's a good thing Mom had milked the goats before driving to the Kitty Mansion. They were milked early, but being off schedule once in a while shouldn't hurt their production.
Chapter Eighteen: Some Maggots Want To Stay Maggots
I had kind of gotten used to riding to school with Jerry. I missed him as I landed at the bus stop.
*I miss you too, Kitten,* he said.
*I'll meet you half way between our houses, or maybe a bit closer to yours if you dawdle,* I said to him with a smirk.
"Tell the bus driver that I won't be riding today," I said to the other kids at the bus stop. I leapt into the air and headed straight toward Jerry's house at about a hundred and ten miles per hour. It would be exhausting to keep up that kind of speed for very long, but a little telekinetic boost does wonders.
We met in mid air. Noting that the buses wouldn't be arriving at the school for better than half an hour, decided to fly around. We checked on some of the church members.
Brothers Simms and Geralds were still down for the count, as were their wives. Their kids would be changing in a few days. Jerry's old preacher's household was down. A few more students were down, and none were waking up yet.
We were a bit sweaty when we landed at the school, so I TK'd us clean. We walked in and went to class. *See ya in gym class,* I sent to him.
When third hour finally arrived, I couldn't wait to get to advanced gym class.
*You're quite hopeless, you know that?* Cara smirked.
*I heard that!* Jerry said.
*Yeah, but you don't deny it,* Cindy teased.
Jerry and I walked into the gym at the same time. He saw me padding in wearing my 'cat suit,' and did a double-take. Then, he flashed the image, colored by his feelings, to all of our friends.
*It would appear to be mutual,* Larry commented dryly. I smiled.
We were startled back to the here and now by the sound of a coach's whistle. The teacher gave us a stern look, then waved us over to the area where the rest of the students were lined up. The fact that we have similar enhancements made a good excuse for us to work together. We went around the various stations that work on strength and agility, but we enjoy the monkey bars the best. We had a great time flying from bar to bar. Jerry had to literally fly once because he couldn't grip the large wooden bar that I generally grab with my claws. He cursed, tucked, dropped a couple feet, then untucked and spread his wings. His muscles rippled as he glided gracefully to the floor and flared for a landing.
*It appears that someone is appreciating the sights,* Cindy said.
*Don't you guys have class or something?*
*Advanced gym, just like you,* Cindy confirmed. *We're resting after a particularly hard set, though.*
I snorted and jumped up to the next bar. My claws caught, and I swung around and gracefully flipped up and landed on top. I heard telepathic applause, so I took a bow.
*Jerry seems to be appreciating the sights, too.*
I ran the length of the bar, took a flying leap in a 'swan dive' position, tucked, rolled twice, and landed on another bar. Meanwhile, Jerry flew up to the bar he had missed. He repeated my performance, but without the claws. There is something to be said for raw strength and extra height. As he landed on my bar, I took a flying leap to the next one. He did the same, adding a couple rolls. We heard applause drifting up from the floor.
I took a running leap to a couple rings that were dangling from the ceiling, grabbed them, and did a handstand. I released them, dropping head-first toward the floor. Just before I hit, I spread my wings, swooped within inches of the floor, and used the speed to climb back up. A couple flaps of my wings, and I was near the ceiling again. I deftly landed on a platform dangling from the ceiling right at the center of the gym. Jerry followed suit, and landed next to me. Then, he leapt off the platform and flew back to the monkey bars. I followed him as he went from bar to bar. We followed each other around the jungle gym until the coach blew his whistle and pointed at the clock.
Class had let out five minutes ago.
Time flies when you're having fun. We flew down, thanked him, and headed to the locker rooms. We kept in touch as we changed and showered. When he was done, I let him use my TK to dry himself.
*This is quite handy. I wish I had TK.*
*As long as you stick with me, you do,* I replied.
*Awwwwwww* came Cindy's unmistakable mental voice.
*You guys are having way too much fun! We're going to our place in the misfit corner now, thank you very much.*
*We're already eating lunch, you slowpokes,* Larry smirked.
We walked out of the locker rooms at the same time, and held hands as we walked to the lunch room. *No comments from the peanut gallery,* I sent.
As we walked into the lunch room, a couple of the students who had gym with us smirked and sent us a mock salute. We smiled and took our place at the sane but not normal table.
"What was that all about?" Charlie asked.
"We kinda got carried away on the monkey bars and ended up getting out of gym class late," Jerry replied.
"It was quite a performance," Tom commented. "You guys ought to come up with a routine for the talent show."
When school got out, Jerry and I decided to fly around. We let our parents know that we wouldn't be taking the bus home. We flew around and checked on the various butterflies in making. Sure enough, Brother Simms was awake, and Brother Geralds wasn't far behind. We landed in Brother Simms's front yard and knocked on the door. "We just stopped by to see how you're doing," Jerry said.
"Are you going to gloat at us now?" he whispered. Try as he might, he couldn't manage anything but a rough whisper.
The changes to his body were complete, and the virii were leaving quickly. There are no phases in adult AMORFS, so it would be no trick to make some modifications. "No, we don't want to gloat," I said. "Is it OK if I try to fix your voice?"
I concentrated on his vocal cords, and tried to convince them to be 'right.' Unfortunately, according to his new genetic information, they were right. I searched and found a vague cellular memory. I used that as a pattern to thin his vocal cords and make them usable again.
"Try it now," I said.
He cleared his throat. "Aaaaaah... I can speak again! Thank you!"
I smiled. "Do you want me to fix your wife, too?"
He hadn't lost his sense of humor. "It's tempting to say no."
Just then, Jeannie came in and gave him a playful swat on the head.
I looked at her. "Do you want your voice fixed?"
I fixed hers, too.
"I can't do too much of this without incurring the wrath of the AMBE."
"AMBE?" Brother Simms asked.
"The Association of Medical Bio Elementals," I replied. "I know two medical doctors, and a few bio elementals who can act as assistants. The usual office visit costs will apply, but they should be able to get everyone fixed up as the AMORFS epidemic spreads through the two churches."
"Yes; yours, and my old church," I replied. "We're working with some people from our new church to try to keep this AMORFS epidemic from causing too much damage. I think things will work out in my old church, but yours may be a problem."
"You ain't kidding!" he agreed. "There's no telling how some of our more radical members will respond."
"Brother Geralds is coming out of it," Jerry said. "Do you guys want to help us welcome him back to the land of the living?"
We all got into their car and rode over there. Brother Geralds and his wife both looked depressed, but getting their voices back perked them up considerably.
Next stop: the preacher. Mom and Dad were almost there, so Jerry and I flew over while the Geralds and Simms families drove.
I felt fear and betrayal when we landed on their front lawn. I heard a gunshot, and felt pain. Someone had been shot in the gut. I turned my telesense to the inside of the house just in time to see the preacher put the handgun under his chin and blow the top of his head off. His mental touch disappeared.
I found myself connected to the power grid again.
I used my TK to totally shatter the lock and burst into the house with Jerry right on my heels. I flew up the stairs and was greeted by a grisly scene. Blood and brains and bits of skull and skin and fur were scattered all over the place. The preacher's brain was totally destroyed, but the cells themselves were still alive. My telepathic senses felt a kind of ghostly presence as the clumps of neurons randomly fired. My bio senses registered the rapidly fading life as a kind of shell around the room.
On the floor was an AMORFS victim with the top of his head blown off. Across the room was a rather cute raccoon hybrid with a gunshot wound in her belly. She was curled up on the floor and almost unconscious.
I ran to her and scanned her. I healed a severed artery, then a few smaller vessels. That took her out of immediate danger. I blocked the pain, then set to work. I carefully worked the bullet out and healed the areas behind it. Fortunately, the round didn't mushroom or shatter. Still, there was considerable damage from the shock waves. She was still wearing her stim pack IV thingie, so I was able to use the extra nutrients to replace the lost blood and fix her wounds. Jerry used his technopath powers to increase the flow. It took a lot of my energy, but I finally got her insides straightened out.
Officers Trowbridge and Saouda showed up, followed closely by the EMTs.
I took the girl's hands in mine and looked into her eyes. "You're going to be OK now. The EMTs will be taking you to the hospital for observation, but your wounds are healed."
At least, the physical wounds are healed.
Officer Saouda asked her a couple questions, then motioned for the EMTs to take her. I scanned the house with my telesense and found that the preacher's wife was dead on their bed, and that their other two children were cowering in the closet of their shared bedroom. Officer Saouda and I tried to calm them. It took a hefty dose of empathy to get them reasonably calm. They were then taken into protective custody until some sympathetic relatives could be found.
I had done all I could. Officer Saouda walked me out to where my parents were waiting. I latched on to Mom and Dad and cried my eyes out. Officer Saouda put her hand on my shoulder and said, "You did great! You saved that girl's life. You've earned a rest."
I looked at her. "What about the paperwork?"
"We can deal with that tomorrow. You need to get home."
Jerry came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "I'm proud of you!"
I took his hand and squeezed it. "Thanks!"
Mom and Dad took me home. I showered and showered and showered, and still couldn't get rid of the picture of slowly dying pieces of brain splattered all over the room.
*Let me help,* Sara said.
I opened my mind to her. I heard her calling for help, and soon felt another presence. *Doctor Myra?*
*I'm here, Tina. You had a rough time of it, but you'll be OK.*
As I was talking to them, I got out of the shower and drew a bath. I put in some naturally scented bath beads that are designed for morfies with feathers or fur. I must have fallen asleep, because all I remember is waking up later with the vague memory of them telling me that I'm going to be OK now, and that they're proud of me.
*I'm still here,* Sara assured me.
I groggily climbed out of the tub, TK'd myself dry, got into a long white silky nightie, and crawled between the covers. Sara must have been talking to Mom and Dad because they were there just as soon as I had settled myself. They prayed over me, kissed me, and left quietly. I drifted off to sleep.
Chapter Nineteen: The Aftermath
I slept soundly for a long time, but morning still came all too soon. Mom and Dad had decided to let me sleep in, even if it meant missing some of my morning classes. As it turned out, I had time to fly to school if I got ready quickly enough. The bus was long gone.
I flew quickly to the school, landed right next to the door nearest my first hour class, and rushed to the classroom. I almost expected the bell to ring just as I walked through the door. Instead, it rang just as my butt hit the seat. The teacher raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
*Dedication above and beyond the call of duty,* commented Larry.
*That's for sure,* said Jerry. *I would have definitely been taking a long weekend if I had gotten hit that hard.*
*You were there, too,* I commented.
*I was, but you were the one who worked so hard on little Ruthie, and you're the empath who felt everything – the death of the preacher, the pain of Ruthie, and the fear and betrayal of Esther and Michael,* said Jerry.
*You did a wonderful thing last night,* said Sara. *You saved one life, and helped ease the pain of two others.*
*You all know about saving lives,* I said with a soft smile. *Because you saved my life, I was there to save Ruthie's. You all can share in the credit.*
*The chain goes back further than that,* said Amy. *My adoptive mom saved Matthew, who morfed into Cara and saved me. My powers allowed you to live and get the powers that saved Ruthie.*
*Not to mention me,* Jerry said.
*You were already doing better by the time you got hit by MORFS,* I said to him.
*And I was doing better because you were quietly curing me with your powers.*
I was stunned.
He smiled. *I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you did for me.*
*How did you find out?*
*Do you really think you could keep something like that from me? You kept the thoughts from me, but I could sense your feelings of... accomplishment? Satisfaction? Anyhow, you didn't hide those feelings. I noticed that I always felt better after seeing you. I put two and two together...* He trailed off.
*It doesn't pay to underestimate your boyfriend's intelligence,* Amy smirked. I blushed.
*What I want to know is how I got such a favorable transformation from AMORFS. You said that you can't change the course of MORFS,* he said to me.
*I can't,* I said. *Think about what would happen to anyone who was found to be able to control the direction of MORFS. Think about what would happen if it was even rumored that someone could do it...* I trailed off.
Jerry turned white – a curious thing to 'see' through a telepathic link.
*I can't do it. Look into my mind and feel the truth in that statement.*
*Cara and I can do it,* Amy said quietly. *We trust you to keep our secret, but we really want to let as few people as possible know about it.*
I could tell that Jerry was touched. *I won't betray your trust,* he said. Then, he turned to me. *I'm so proud of the way you didn't play the gratitude card. You helped me without drawing attention to yourself.*
*I want you to like me for who I am, not what I do,* I replied.
*You did what you did because you are who you are,* he said.
"EARTH CALLING MISS SHEPHERD!"
I looked at the teacher. "I'm sorry! I was lost in thought. I had a really hard night last night."
"Would you like to share it with the class, Miss Shepherd?"
I sighed. "OK, if you insist."
"Well, the preacher at the church my boyfriend used to attend committed suicide, but only after killing his wife and nearly fatally shooting his oldest daughter." I said.
"What does that have to do with you?"
"I couldn't save the adults," I said softly.
He just looked at me. Then, his eyes got big. "You're the young bio elemental that saved his oldest daughter's life, aren't you?"
I nodded. "It was a really ugly scene. Those poor kids..." I put my face in my hands.
*We're here for you,* Sara said.
"I'm sorry," the teacher said. "I shouldn't have brought it up." He looked like he didn't know what to do next. The computer on his desk beeped, indicating that he had a message.
"Apparently, you have a visitor in the office. You're excused for the rest of the class. I'll email the material to you."
"That would be Officer Saouda to get my statement," I said.
"Uh... Miss Shepherd?"
"That was a wonderful thing you did. I'm proud to have you in my class."
"Thank you sir."
*I second that,* Officer Saouda said.
*I third that,* said Kim. She was followed by a chorus of assents.
When I got to the office area, I was led to a side office. Officer Saouda handed me a clipboard. Officer Trowbridge sat back, sipped her coffee, and munched on a donut.
*You know the drill,* Cindy smirked.
*You were linked to me when all this was going on, right?*
*Yeah, so?* Cindy asked.
*That means that you need to make a statement, too,* I smirked.
Officer Saouda raised an eyebrow. *If any of you have anything to add to Tina's statement, please do so.*
After that, it was pretty much routine. I dictated the statement while TK writing it, answered some questions, then signed the statement
I still had better than half an hour before second period, so I went to the study hall. I tried reading, but I couldn't concentrate.
*Just sit back and relax,* said Sara. *You don't have anything to prove. You can even skip the next class if you need to. Your parents will back you up.*
*I'll be OK,* I told her.
*You'll be OK faster if you relax,* she replied.
I tried to relax, but the grisly scene just kept wanting to play itself over and over. Finally, I went ahead and let it play. I let the facts replay themselves in my mind. I let the feelings come and have their day in the sun. Each time they came, they dragged up some little chunk of the past with them – a forgotten television show, the first time I participated in butchering chickens, the time our dog got hit by a car...
After a while, it was all exhausted. All the junk that scene had hooked into had been yanked loose, displayed, relived, and allowed to dissipate.
It was all exhausted, and so was I. I slumped in my chair and did nothing for some unmeasurable span of time. I was drained of energy, but I was also drained of all those old bits of pain that come back whenever something new resembles them.
The bell rang. I got up and wandered to my second hour class.
I smiled. *Yes. Yes, I do. I think I really needed to do that.*
Second hour went pretty normally. I sat in class, took notes, and even managed to retain most of the material. Considering how busy this weekend promises to be, it's going to be hard finding time to study.
*Sunday is pretty much taken up,* Sara confirmed, *but we're purposely leaving all the teens plenty of time on Saturday.*
When I got to advanced gym class, I had plenty of steam to blow off. Jerry and I went through the obligatory regimen of weight training, calisthenics, and stretches. Then, it was time to (literally) fly around the monkey bars.
After exhausting ourselves, Jerry and I hit the showers. I felt him borrowing my TK to dry himself off. We chatted as we each got dressed in the separate locker rooms. We headed out the doors at about the same time, joined up, and walked to our usual table in the misfit corner.
As we expected, even more people were missing from the pures table. I walked over and made my usual offer. They were rather subdued. It didn't look like anyone felt like jeering. They were watching their friends disappear, and were coming face-to-face with the fact that they themselves may end up becoming that which they despise and ridicule. It's hard to take, I'm sure.
I went back to our table and ate lunch with my friends. Jerry and I didn't mention yesterday's adventures. We just chatted about school work, shows and movies, singing groups, various social events, and other teenage stuff.
The rest of the day was uneventful. After school let out for the weekend, Jerry and I decided to take advantage of the remaining good weather and fly around a bit. We were heartened to see that the kids that had come down with AMORFS were being properly cared for. We were also happy to find out that Karen was well on her way to waking up as a leopard-spotted flying kitty girl. We dropped in to talk to her parents, who were both infected with AMORFS. We conferred with the Professors Martin, and they told us that giving the parents changes similar to the Wrights will help set a pattern that will hide our meddling from the epidemiological programs. Hey, they're the experts. Amy made the code for the genetic bomb, and I assembled and quietly delivered it. I gave her mother some advice on getting clothes for Karen to put on when she wakes up, then we took our leave.
After a little more flying around and stretching our wings, we checked in with our parents, then went to Great Grandpa's picnic shelter and did our homework. While I was leaning back into Jerry, I used my eCom to read through the lesson that my first hour teacher had sent. It didn't take long to read through the material. Studying the material as Jerry absently stroked my hair and back fur was certainly more pleasant than sitting up straight and paying attention in class.
(End of part five)
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/