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
Author's Note: Joreymay kindly allowed me the use of some of her characters. She wrote much of the dialogue and actions of her characters. Thanks, Joreymay!
Chapter Twenty-Three: Mopping Up
The next day, there were some changes in the lunch room. It may be merely symbolic, but it served to consolidate our efforts to wipe out the prideful elitist attitudes that had poisoned so many of us. When the few pures who stubbornly clung to their beliefs came to sit down, they found that the former pures table was occupied not only by their former cronies, but by everyone from the 'sane but not normal' table. We were also joined by some of the people who had changed over the weekend. When they found that they were outnumbered, they slunk off to the former misfit corner.
When sixth hour rolled around, we filed into the autatorium for a special assembly. Everybody did, too, because the principal assured them that roll would be taken, and that anyone who was missing would serve a special detention to watch a video recording of the assembly. Anyone who had an unexcused absence would serve an extra hour of detention beyond that.
The principal started the assembly by announcing that the school was being hit hard by MORFS, and that we expect a disproportionate amount of gender changes and absolute hybrids. He turned the meeting over to the Doctors Martin, who gave their well-practiced spiel. Then, Doctor Myra Winters took the podium and announced that she, along with a team of counselors, would be spending several hours a week here help students with their changes, and to facilitate several support groups. She then introduced several parents that she had recruited to help kids and parents with their changes. Finally, she called up those of us who had taken our turn in front of the churches yesterday. She reminded the assembled students that we had already gone through MORFS, and that we were more than willing to help anyone who asked.
After the assembly broke up, Jerry and I walked over to where our parents and the Martins were chatting. We hugged them goodbye as a dark-haired girl approached. Without any fanfare, she disappeared, followed closely by the Martins.
Kim sensed my startlment. *Don't worry. Robin is a professional teleport. She took us home so that we can get ready to teach our evening class.*
*That sounds like a really handy trick! I wonder...*
*Not any time soon,* Kim said. *We have pretty much pushed the envelope here. If we aren't extremely careful about handing out powers, people are going to start getting suspicious.*
Jerry and I were busy all week. Fortunately for us, we got a lot of help from the friends that we had made in the few short weeks since school started. With all the people in a panic over coming down with MORFS, and with all the disoriented and depressed kids coming back, we barely got a breather. Fortunately, the teachers were lenient when we were a bit late with our homework. We worked hard to get it done on time, but what can you do when someone panics and needs you right now? Also, our daily flights helped keep us sane. The freedom of flying kept us from feeling trapped by our self-imposed responsibilities.
School was a madhouse. Thank God for all the help we got from Doctor Myra and her colleagues. Thank God for the loving support of our parents, the Martins, and our other friends. As the week continued, we continued to get more and more frazzled. Meanwhile, the school was getting furry. I never saw so many absolute hybrids in one place at one time. Our church attracts MORFS survivors, but it still doesn't have the concentration of absolute hybrids and gender changes that come from AMORFS. I'm sure the testing center is going nuts. The state school board sent an army of speech therapists here to help the kids learn to talk with their new face shapes. The national swap shop chain rented a couple unused classrooms and stocked them with teen clothes.
Jerry and I were elated to get an invitation to spend the weekend at the Kitty Mansion. We were told that, while we are undeniably valuable as peer leaders and counselors, we need not spend our time flying around and monitoring people at home. We are no longer working virtually alone. We are part of a team.
Chapter Twenty-Four: New Friends
When the last bell rang on Friday, Jerry and I ran out of the school and leapt into the air. Our new friends waved at us as we flew away. We didn't have to worry about monitoring AMORFS victims, preparing to address groups of people, or anything like that. Somehow, the Doctors Martin convinced our teachers to give us a weekend without homework. Even our clothes were already at the Kitty Mansion – compliments of Doctor Myra.
As soon as we got there, we were led to the big conference room in the basement. It was set up informally – more like a lounge than a conference room. The table was loaded with soft drinks, snacks, and the inevitable energy drinks and power bars. Jerry and I sat in the love seat next to the one that Cindy and Jim occupied. Cara and Larry sat together in another love seat. Amy and Sue came in with a stack of pizzas and closed the door.
"I Suppose You're Wondering Why I've Called You All Together," Kim said.
"Oh hush, you!" Sara said as she swatted Kim with her tail.
"Now you get to see why we spent a good part of yesterday visiting the Denver area," Kim said. "We met five remarkable teens for the first time, and chatted with each of their parents. They should be arriving any second now." She paused for a second. "The teens, not the parents."
Without fanfare, two people appeared in a circle in the corner of the room. On the left was the same dark haired girl that had teleported Kim and Sara so that they could teach class after the assembly last Monday. The other was a very pretty blond with innocent blue eyes. I could tell that she was a low-level bio elemental with that same extra processing talent that allowed Amy and Cara to make custom morfs. She was wearing a necklace with an angel figurine on it. It looked different, somehow. I focused my senses on it briefly. It appeared to be made from a single crystal of titanium alloy, except that the crystalline structure was deformed to match the figurine. The coloring was interesting, too. There were no pigments. Instead, a fine pattern of ridges selectively absorbed some light wavelengths and diffracted others so that the desired colors appeared. I made a mental note to ask her about it later.
The two girls stepped out of the way, and two other people appeared. The girl, slightly taller than the bio elemental, had blond hair and blank white eyes. I sensed in her a strong telepathy/empathy/telesense suite similar to the one that I enjoy. I smiled at her knowingly.
Her companion was imposing – about as tall and muscular as Jerry, with large white wings that stuck up above his shoulders and went down to his thighs in the back. Those large wings must get in the way and make it difficult to find a suitable seat. They made me appreciate my own wings that, while not very big, are able to settle neatly on to my back.
I sensed in him some serious power. He has a kind of a remote sensing ability that differs from my own. In addition, he's a powerful illusionist and can transmute matter. If it wasn't for his kind heart, he would be scary. I sensed a bond between him and the telepath. She smiled knowingly at me as that thought crossed my mind. I'm so used to being among telepaths who are friends that it never occurred to me to shield from the people in the room. Of course, if the Martins invited her into their house, I can probably consider her to be a friend. She sent me a friendly telepathic smirk.
A fifth person appeared. She had black hair and light skin, and was tall for a girl – about 5'10". I could see a little precognition sense in her, and also something weird. I saw some kind of limited but powerful telepathy that would only receive, and would send all the information into the same kind of unconscious processor that allows some bios to see the path of MORFS, gives technopaths their ability to control electronics, and stuff like that.
The Doctors Martin walked up to them and greeted them warmly, then invited them to be seated. They had been thoughtful enough to provide a love seat with a gap between the seat and the back that accommodated the tall illusionist's beautiful white wings.
"Sanura has told us a lot about you," Kim said to them. "It isn't easy to impress Doctor Miller," she couldn't quite stifle a giggle, "but you five managed to do it."
Sara turned to us. "These five are responsible for the umm... anomalies that we noted in the Denver area.
We had gone through the epidemiological data when I was here a few weeks ago, so I knew the implications of what Sara was telling us. I was impressed, as was everyone else. I filled Jerry in telepathically.
Sara addressed us all. "We hope that this will be a fun, relaxing, and informal weekend, but I think we need to start by introducing ourselves.
Kim hopped up and said in a whiny little girl voice, "Hi my name is Kimmy and even though I'm half boy mommy Sara makes me wear skirts and dresses and other girly clothes..."
Sara put her hands on her hips and glared at Kim, trying not to crack a smile. Kim assumed her exact posture and expression, then smirked and said, "You know, you look mighty cute that way." Sara couldn't hold it in any more and dissolved into a fit of giggles.
The blond bio elemental had a concerned look on her face. *Don't worry. Their sense of humor might get the best of them on occasion, but they're really wonderful people,* I sent to her. She looked back at me and smiled.
"Seriously, though, I am Professor Doctor Kim Ma..." Kim made a face. "I'm Kim Martin. With the exception of some formal situations, or if you are unfortunate enough to take one of my classes, you should call me Kim." She smiled and continued. "I was born Howard G. Martin, but the bug worked me over late in life and turned me into the fuzzy-eared varmint that you see before you." She assumed a posture that I have seen in the classroom many times. "Somehow, we got infected with the same bug that got our lovely children. We got the same suites of genetic changes – DNA group 1255C high density muscles, DNA group 3266B carbon nanotube reinforced bones, nails, and claws, seal point feline genes, and a few others. Appearance wise, our hair color is our original hair color, but increased in intensity. My lovely bride went from dark brown to raven black. I went from dark blond to straw blond. My handsome young boy's mousy brown hair morfed to dark blond, and that fire-haired beauty over there used to have auburn hair."
Sara folded her arms across her chest. "Oh, doctor Martin."
"Yes, Doctor Martin?"
"Are you going into professor mode again, Doctor Martin?"
Kim blushed. "It's a hard habit to break, Doctor Martin."
She waited for the chuckles to die down, then continued, "Anyhow, the bug got me, but didn't give me any powers that I could find. Then, our young friend Cara woke up our telepathic and telekinetic powers. Later, Amy remorfed us all so that we have pretty much the same suite of powers – telepathy, telekinesis, empathy, remote viewing, and bio elemental. Alas, we couldn't remorf Amy because she's a bio. She is quite adept at sharing our powers, though, so it really isn't an issue."
Kim sat down and Sara got up. "I'm Sara Martin, and it's my job to keep these three" she waved at Kim, Larry, and Cindy "reined in. Alas, Kim is the most difficult of the bunch." This caused a chorus of snickers.
"While the bug did add some interesting new parts to my anatomy, I haven't had to change my mannerisms or the way I face the world. I did have to toss out all my old lady clothes, though." She paused and thought for a few seconds. "My story is about the same as Kim's, and we enjoy the same powers."
"I'm Sue Jones. My husband was a deacon in the Genetic Purity Church, so I had to take Matthew from the home when he got MORFS. Soon after he morfed into Cara, I managed to get the exact set of changes. Cara and I both started out with empathy, telepathy, telekinesis, and two types of remote sensing. Cara did a wonderful job of helping ease me through my transformation and teaching me to use my powers. I can't thank the Martins enough for taking Cara and me into their home and taking us under their wings. Amy, too, has been a wonderful addition to my family."
"I'm Cara. As my mother mentioned, the bug changed my sex when I wasn't looking. This was just one of many adjustments that I had to go through. I can honestly say, though, that life is better than ever before." She smiled warmly as she looked around the room. "I can't thank the Martins enough for welcoming me in my hour of need. They have taught me much. They seem almost like a second set of parents to me, and Cindy is definitely like a sister to me. Amy used to be my girlfriend, but she has become my adoptive sister." She put her arm around Larry and pulled him close. "I have also become quite fond of this kitty boy." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
"I'm Larry Martin, and what can I say? Mom and Dad took good care of us when we morfed. Soon after they morfed, they brought some new people to us who have filled our house with warmth." He thought a bit. "Adventure, too. These past few months have definitely not been boring.
"I'm Amy Jones. When I morfed, I wasn't as fortunate as the Martins, or even Cara. My parents turned me over to the church." She sniffled a couple times, then said in a low voice. "They tied me up like a dog, humiliated me, and threw stones at me. They buried me alive." She took a few deep breaths, then brightened. "But I have to count my blessings. Cara, after getting stoned herself, dug me out of the ground and literally infused life back into me." She sniffled. "Cara and Sue invited me to join their family. I owe them, and the Martins, so much." She paused and thought for a while. "Oh yeah, I'm a telepath and a bio elemental; and I can create custom morfs." She paused again. I could tell that she was communicating with someone. "Um..." She paused for a few seconds. "The first time I created a human morf was by accident. We were thinking of nasty things to do to the pures when I realized that my bio nature was putting together a morf package. When some pures grabbed me a couple days later, I accidentally released the virus packet. That little experience taught me to be more careful with my powers in the future."
"I'm Cindy Martin. I can only echo what my dear brother said. It's definitely been fun – most of the time. It's also been a joy watching Cara blossom as a young lady. I look forward to having her as a sister-in-law some day." She looked over at Cara, who blushed cutely.
"I'm Jim Reynolds. My story is rather boring. I morfed with no great fanfare. My parents took care of me like parents should. I was just starting to get used to the new me when I met this wild bunch on the school bus." He pointed to Larry, Cindy, and Cara. "It didn't take long for Cindy to become a bit more than a friend."
Everyone looked at me expectantly. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm Tina Shepherd. I had spent the last five and a half years slowly dying of some form of cancer that isn't really cancer. Mom and Dad took me to the Martins' church for a special prayer service. After the service, I was escorted downstairs." I sniffed, then continued. "The whole crew of them, Kim, Sara, Cindy, Larry, Amy, Sue, and Cara, worked together and stripped every tumor from my body." I paused a bit to let my breathing settle. "They said that the tumors would come back unless I went through MORFS. They took a chance and let me in on their secret." I stood up and slightly unfurled my wings. "I chose this form. I chose the wings because I have always wanted to fly. The wings represent a freedom that I never had before. I chose the rest because I want to be like the people who gave me back my life. The past few weeks have been like a dream, and I owe it all to my new friends. I owe them my very life." I sat down and put my arm around Jerry.
"I'm Jerry Wright. Like Tina, I was plagued with a disease that made my life miserable." He got a dreamy look in his eyes. "I remember talking to Tina on the email support groups for young people with terminal or chronic illness. I remember feeling happy for her when MORFS commuted her death sentence, even while I was feeling sorry for myself, and maybe just a bit jealous. I remember sitting in the misfit corner eating lunch at school when this adorable flying kitty girl, who could have joined just about any clique she wanted, decided to sit next to my poor battered body." He looked at me with love in his eyes. "It took me a while to figure out that it was more than her personality that made me feel better every time I saw her. She had been quietly curing some of the symptoms of my disease. When I came down with MORFS, I panicked because my parents were members of the Genetic Purity Church. She took me to the school nurse, eased my fears, and helped my parents come to realize the errors of the church's teachings. She sought Amy's help to change the course of MORFS." He took a deep breath. "It wasn't regular MORFS. It was AMORFS, and I was going to turn into a monkey girl."
I felt a pang of... something from the blond bio girl, but it was quickly hidden.
Jerry stood up and slightly unfurled his beautiful golden wings. "Tina, with the help of her friends, gave me this form. She didn't tell me, though. She says she wants me to like her for who she is, not what she does." He pulled me into a tight hug. "She does what she does because she is who she is. The Martins and Joneses chose well when they decided to give Tina her form and powers. She has a heart of gold."
I blushed, then wrapped Jerry in a hug, furling my wings around him.
"That's why we call them The Lovebirds," Larry said dryly.
"Awwwwww," swooned Cindy. "Ain't they just sooooooo cute?"
I stuck my tongue out at her and sat down.
The bio elemental was suddenly aware that everyone was looking at her. She shrugged, and began, "We should probably go in order of change. Um... " She looked at two of the other girls, and had a brief telepathic conference with one. "Penny?"
"I'm Penny Johnson. Some people call me Cassandra. I was eleven, almost twelve when I came down with MORFS. At first, all that seemed to have happened was that my hair changed color from auburn to black. Then the evaluation came back with a little bit of precog and some sort of psi ability they couldn't identify. It turns out that I get, on a subconscious level, all the special sensory and extrasensory perceptions of every morf within my range. All the time. I tried to learn to make some of it conscious, but it nearly burned me out. The special part of my brain that handles the whole thing looks for potential trouble that I would be concerned with, and makes me aware of it. They think the process somehow ties in with my precog." She paused a moment, then shrugged and sat down.
The blond indicated the telepath.
"I'm Lena Morgan, AKA Radar. I got MORFS when I was twelve. Even before that, I was a full-of-myself little snot despite the best efforts of my parents. When I woke up from the change, the world was screaming at me and I couldn't see right. I didn't know how long I was in that nightmare place, but it seemed like forever. With a lot of help, I recovered and started to learn how to use my new abilities and compensate for my new disabilities." She waved toward her white, pupil-less eyes. "I would like to say that the experience turned me into the fine, upstanding citizen you see before you, but it ain't so. When I recovered from the shock, I reverted to form. I was gonna rule the world! Everyone else would acknowledge my supreme power, and do whatever I wanted. That lasted all of a week before another telepath – a very powerful telepath – took me in hand and taught me the facts of life. She didn't just take me down a peg, she dropped me off the fracking board. But she didn't just teach me to use my abilities responsibly. She helped me find my way back to being human. She also pointed me toward ways I could learn to leverage my abilities even more powerfully. She taught me that knowledge and understanding were far more powerful than anything MORFS could provide." She paused and took a deep breath. "Since then, I have helped other morfs when and where I could, and tried to be a good friend and person."
She sat, and the bio elemental spoke. "I'm Angel O'Connor. Before the change, I was a latino."
I could tell that there was something more to the statement. My friends agreed, but nobody felt right about speculating or probing deeper. We just let it slide. We have all been well trained about the importance of respecting privacy.
"The MORFS hit while we were moving to GV - a suburb of Denver. We were going to be visiting family on the way, so it just changed our plans a little. I started changing in the car, and the nice little drugs the Doctor gave us kept me out cold. We got to our first visit, and I finished changing there. My family helped me adjust to my changes and learn to use my abilities. I had to learn a whole new culture."
She paused for a second to think. Again, we could tell that she was leaving something out. Also, something was making her uneasy.
"Since I didn't look obviously morfed, my cousins and I decided to try out my new identity at a big rally the Pures were holding. The night before, we sat around BS'ing about divine retribution – what would be the most fitting thing to happen to the Pures. I hadn't been tested yet, and I didn't know about my powers. I just... had to go to the rally, and work as an anonymous volunteer. There were a lot of them. I had to meet and touch a lot of the more prominent and social of the Pures there. And something happened."
She stopped, and looked at Lena. They locked eyes for a second.
I could tell that Lena knew what was going on. Still, she played the straight part. "You spread AMORFS there?"
"No. Yes. But... I created it. I didn't know I was doing it. I didn't know I had done it. I didn't even know I had these powers – not yet. I didn't know I had any powers. We were just joking around, and then I went to that rally, and then... later... everything was there."
Amy asked, "You didn't know about your powers?"
"I didn't seem to have any, other than the physical changes. I just had some funny stuff with my vision. And the pamphlets said that was normal. And temporary, in most cases. It wasn't until later, when I got my evaluation, that I found out that I had bio elemental abilities. Very weak bio elemental powers."
She paused, and seemed to start over again.
"We have a family thing about taking stuff we have very little of, like money all too often, and making the most of it. I couldn't do big things, so I went the other way. My grandmother helped me learn to recognize different kinds of microbiota, and I accidentally learned that I could modify them as well as move them around or even destroy them. From there, I eventually figured out I could do custom MORFS. I also figured out what I had done at the rally. When I heard about the anguish, and the suicides..." she choked back a sob, and took a moment to regain her composure. "I finished the move to our new home, and met this crazy telepath. She introduced me around, and soon I had a whole bunch of friends. And two good jobs."
She looked over at the winged boy, then sat down.
Before he could speak, Amy interrupted. "I was personally trained by two of the preeminent MORFS experts in the world. I had the support of a community – make that a family of people who helped me make the most of my powers. Ever since Cara dug me from the ground, I was surrounded by a strong support group." She looked over at Angel, then down at her shoes. "When we were joking around about how we would like to morf the pures that gave us so much trouble, I could feel my bio nature putting it together. I knew what was happening, and I was scared." She looked Angel straight in the eye. "And I still messed up! I knew what I was doing, and I still messed up! When those two pures grabbed me, I released the bug without even thinking. Instantly, I knew what I had done." She lowered her voice and almost whispered, "but it was too late."
Angel looked down at the floor. "I did that too," she said quietly.
Amy looked over at Kim and Sara. "They never judged me. We are in and out of each others' mind enough that I would know if they disapproved. They couldn't hide it without shutting me out." Cara got up and went to her. Amy continued, "The Martins have more integrity than anyone I have ever met, and they didn't judge me. I can feel... I can tell that nobody here judges you, either."
Sara looked at Angel. "There is no sin in making a mistake. If you were to let that incident scare you away from continuing to develop and use your powers, then there would be a problem."
Kim added, "But we both know that you have gone to considerable trouble and risk to help others... to use your powers to help others." I wondered what she was talking about, but I figured we would find out some time this weekend.
Kim nodded to the winged boy. He stood, flaring his wings slightly to regain his balance. "I'm David Streight. Someone was going to call me the Angel, but the name was taken." He grinned. "So I ended up with Captain, or CP for short."
I caught a brief image of an action figure in a modified package, and of using telesense to peek into the girls' locker room. I couldn't help but snicker. The other telepaths in the room thought it was funny, too.
"I didn't know it at the time, but I was the first trial run of this strange idea my friends here had. They used the rumors about Pope Hill for a cover, to let Angel use her custom MORFS power in secret. I got what I wished for, but I didn't realize what it would be like when I woke up from the changes. If it wasn't for Lena and the others, and my family, I would have lost it entirely."
"He got better," Radar grinned.
David continued, "I also got a girlfriend out of the deal." He caressed Radar's cheek with his hand.
"Our own lovebirds," Angel declared, with a cheeky grin. Right on cue, the "Awwwww's" sounded again.
The dark haired teleport stood. "I'm Robin Brown, or Flit. I was the final dress rehearsal for Pope Hill."
I looked at her. "What is Pope Hill?"
"A place near our homes, where a Pope who later became a Saint had a big gathering and supposedly did something special. Off and on since then, it's had a reputation for strange things happening. The perfect cover for our plan." She made a face. "Anyhow, I saw what happened when David woke up, and didn't want any part of that. I can teleport, get invisible and/or intangible, and do some limited time traveling."
Cindy asked, "Limited?"
"So far, I can only go back a week or so. It's getting better with time and effort, though." She sat down.
"And on that positive note," Kim said, "I think it's time to put a serious dent in our supply of pizza."
Rather than taking up room at the table, I TK'd two plates and several slices over to Jerry and me. Flit looked at me and smirked. A plate appeared in her hand, closely followed by a slice of pizza. An empty glass appeared on the wide arm of her seat. A fraction of a second later, the glass was filled. The liquid rippled just a bit as it settled to the shape of the glass.
*Show off!* I said to her as I floated two two full glasses over to Jerry and me.
Soon, we were all chatting like we had known each other for years. I listened to their fascinating descriptions of how they pulled off the Pope Hill caper. They also told us about how they met Doctor Miller, and how she managed to uncover their scam. She definitely has the patience and instincts of a stalking cat. I made a mental note not to cross swords with her. Cara had a number of stories to tell, too. Her old church really had it in for her. Sara encouraged me to talk about the afternoon when I rescued little Ruthie. That led to a discussion about our efforts to help the people affected by the AMORFS epidemic.
Angel was feeling bad – not really guilty in the sense of feeling that she deserved punishment, but she felt regret about the trouble caused by AMORFS.
I walked over to her and took both of her hands in mine. "Angel, you're a good person. I'm not delving into your thoughts because I respect your privacy, but my empathic sense can't help but see a kind soul that wants to help others." Before she could answer, I continued. "I'm grateful for AMORFS. AMORFS gave me my boyfriend. AMORFS rescued his family from the seductive clutches of the Genetic Purity Church."
She looked at me, not quite wanting to believe what I was telling her.
"It's not a salvage operation that we've been engaged in for the past week. We weren't just picking up the pieces after a disaster and trying to save what we could." I looked at her earnestly. "It wasn't disaster recovery. It was rebirth. It was painful for some, but that's a characteristic of the birth process." I had pretty much everyone's attention at this point. "We went into Jerry's old church with the news that they were about to wear fur. We gave them good advice and offered to help them. We can mourn the third who chose to hold on to their old bigoted pride, but I prefer to celebrate the two thirds who were delivered from that mess. I celebrate the people who, when faced with a choice, took the right path."
Kim came over and added, "Tina's right. It may have been an accident, but I can't think of a better solution for the problem with the pures. AMORFS didn't simply wipe them out or scatter them. AMORFS gave them a much needed wake-up call and allowed the majority of them to free themselves. It's one thing to smite your enemy, and another thing entirely to heal them and make them your friends. World leaders crave the ability to purposely separate the weeds from the flowers the way that you did accidentally."
Angel looked at me, than at Radar. I slid out of the way. Lena and Robin held her and let her cry herself out.
*Thank you,* Radar sent to me. *She needed to hear that.*
The rest of the evening was considerably less intense. After trading more stories and letting our food settle, we all hit the pool. It was chilly outside, but the Martins had a dome over their pool and a large part of their yard to extend the swimming and growing season. Jerry tried to demonstrate to David how to take off from the water, but he almost ran into the side of the dome.
"Don't run into the glass, bird boy!" I yelled to him. Everyone laughed as he banked sharply to avoid the glass, swooped down, grabbed me, and dropped me in the deep end. I came up sputtering, then dove down and pushed off of the bottom. I rose to the surface like a shot and came out of the water like a submarine launched ICBM, TKing myself dry as I emerged. Just before I got to the glass, I arched backward and flew upside-down and parallel to the glass. Before I hit the ground, I rolled back and flew low over the dirt, then the plascrete pool deck. I flared, landed in front of Jerry, and stuck my tongue out at him.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Swapping stories and techniques
We continued to swap stories, as well as some tips and techniques. We learned from Angel how to isolate injected, ingested, and inhaled drugs. She also taught us a self-defense trick where we lock the attacker's nerves on so that they feel heat and pain. We compared our knowledge of microbiota. We had learned a number of bugs from cultures that the Professors Martin brought home from the college labs, and Angel had come across quite a few in her travels and experience at the theater chain. She taught us how to make natural tattoos, telling us an amusing story about how she had marked some party crashers. We, in turn, passed on the templates for a bunch of biochemicals and microbiota that provide quite a palate of colors – including some bioluminescent bacteria that the Martins brought from the school. It soon degenerated into a female paint fest. Jerry snorted and rolled his eyes, so I painted his body with outlandish colorful stripes. "Save the baby polyesters," I quipped.
We learned a lot from Radar. She has been a telepath for a long time – longer than any of us. In fact, she morfed at about the same time my body tried to morf. My body tried to morf, but it ended up making tumors instead of rebuilding itself. I was thinking of that, and the long years of pain, when I felt Jerry's arms fold themselves around me. "If going through that made you the person that you are, then it was worth it. Take it from someone who has been there."
"He's right," said Sara. "You have a level of maturity and caring that's unusual for someone your age. I think you realize that you're the youngest one here."
"These abilities that we have aren't everything," Kim said. "MORFS gave you some tools that helped you play a major role in this past week's project, but it's your heart that recognized the need and motivated you to contact us and get the ball rolling."
Jerry added, "When the future Possum Girl first accosted me, I was just going to toss some insults at him and send him back to the pures table. You're the one who reached out to them all and worked hard to help them."
"I couldn't have done it without your help," I said to him.
"I followed you," he replied. "If you hadn't had the compassion and recognized the need, nothing would have happened until things started to really hit the fan. Then, it would have been too late for a lot of people."
"It ain't what you got, it's how you use it," Jim intoned.
"Well I wouldn't know about that," Cara said, trying to sound indignant.
"Certainly your memory isn't that short," Amy said dryly.
Angel stifled a giggle. I caught a brief mental image of a similar scene with her mom and grandma. Pieces started to fall into place. Latino, not Latina. A new culture. Her reaction to Kim's little speech about being dressed like a girl. Her reaction when Cara mentioned her sex change.
I smoothly hid those thoughts. I don't know why Angel would want to hide her sex change from us, but it's not for me to judge. If she wants to keep it a secret, I'll have to respect that.
Radar smiled at me knowingly, then distracted the telepaths by continuing her lessons. We had already swapped some of the processing procedures that we have developed, but there are a whole lot more things that need to be learned the old-fashioned way. Some tasks require creativity and judgment.
Soon, the subject returned to the scam that our new friends had pulled at Pope Hill. Angel was a little concerned that the Doctors Martin had managed to track her down by looking at the DNA signature – even if it did require access to the elemental database that even they don't have.
This brought up a discussion of DNA signatures and the way that Angel, Amy, and Cara make custom morfs. Kim surprised us by announcing that they had been doing some secret research in their basement lab.
"Custom morfing works by making a genetic change in every cell of the body, then forcing the somatic reconstruction. We don't have the processing necessary to actually create custom morfs, but we can read the DNA, predict what will happen, and do some dicing and slicing." Kim assumed her standard professor posture and continued, "We sliced and diced all of our samples and came up with a couple dozen other virii that will work. Any bio elemental who can read morfs can use the virii if they are also supplied with the DNA 'payload.'"
Sara picked it up from there. "The reason we did that was to muddy the waters for anyone trying to hunt down Angel, Amy, or Cara." She nodded to Amy, who touched each of the bio elementals in the room and delivered the virus packets. When I received mine, I let that unconscious part of my mind analyze and store them. I noticed that there were another dozen packets that already had a payload that would cause the recipient to receive powers, but wouldn't otherwise change. To design a custom morf, the bio elemental generally needs to read the recipient. I later found out that the Doctors Martin, Amy, and Cara managed to get around that requirement by carefully limiting the scope of the morf.
Kim said, "The virii you just received are similar to the AMORFS component that overcomes natural resistance and triggers the somatic reconstruction. When it is administered, it will read a large number of cells to determine the base genome of the patient. It will then modify that template by removing known genetic defects. If there is a payload on the virus, it will add the paylod. It will then update each cell with the new code – incidentally stopping any cancerous cells dead in their tracks. If there is a payload, the virus will finish the job by forcing somatic reconstruction."
"How does the virus do all the calculating?" Jerry asked. "It's not like a virus has any processing power."
"The processing part was created by Amy and Cara," Kim replied. We think that it comes from n-dimensional patterns that are attached to the Virus DNA," Kim replied.
Sara said, "While everyone thought we were just flying around and playing with our new LBSC Swift, we were infecting carefully selected medical people with bugs that would give them a carefully designed suite of powers, and also, to draw attention away from our recent activities with the two churches, modifying the changes of some AMORFS patients. We would like to recruit you all to help us spread what will no doubt be referred to as 'AMORFS 2.' The plan is to use a variety of signatures so that there is no way to trace a particular signature to a specific person."
We spent some time brainstorming, then decided to take care of the specifics later. That turned into a discussion of various ways of infecting someone without their knowledge. The Pope Hill Gang used a number of techniques, but now generally have Flit and Angel do the job while invisible and mostly intangible. When Angel mentioned that they wanted to have a big blow-out on Halloween night, Kim suggested that we all fly over to Denver and do it together. That will allow us to try a variety of techniques, and to muddy the waters by using a variety of signatures.
We talked well into the night, then finally went to bed. I bunked with Cara and Amy, and the other guests stayed in the various guest rooms. Saturday morning, breakfast was cooked by whoever got up first. Angel taught us her special recipe for pancakes that keep well for snacks. Flit made omelets by teleporting the filling into the pre-cooked eggs.
We were all having lunch in the shielded conference room when a large black oval disk appeared. A second later, a very petite kitty girl stepped out of the hole. I immediately recognized her as Doctor Miller, the elementolgist that wrote so many of the online courses that I have taken. I also noticed that she was a very powerful elemental – something that wasn't mentioned in any of the literature that I read about her. What puzzled me is that I couldn't determine what element she controls. I was totally boggled.
"Pick your jaw up off of the floor, dear," she said with a smirk. I blushed and stammered an apology. Her glance flicked over to Angel and back to me. "The question you want to ask is, 'What the hell ARE you?'"
I blushed. Angel blushed even darker, and it showed up very well on her fair features. Kim and Sara tried to hold back their mirth, but couldn't quite do it. "You definitely have the cat's instinct of toying with her prey," Kim commented with a chuckle. She turned to me and said, "Someone in this room, who will remain nameless, actually asked Doctor Sanura that question."
I didn't think it was possible, but Angel's blush deepened.
Doctor Miller looked at Kim. "I seem to recall a certain professor who took great pleasure in toying with people's minds, and this guy didn't even have the excuse of having been enhanced with feline genes."
"I will neither confirm nor deny..." Kim intoned.
"I have taken way too many of your classes for you to get away with denying anything," Doctor Miller interrupted. Then she turned to me. "To answer the question that you have way too much grace to ask," Doctor Miller said as her glaze flicked briefly at Angel again, "I am a dark energy elemental. I have researched it extensively, but even I don't know quite what it is. It's very useful, though."
I could only nod. I guess dynamite comes in small packages. I picked up glimpses from the Pope Hill Gang's minds of having been out-maneuvered by her, then toyed with. I did note, however, that she seems to be rather fond of them. I decided right then and there to be totally straight-up with her. Trying to hide something from her would most likely just give her way too much entertainment.
We finally got down to the business at hand, which was discussing plans for spreading AMORFS-2 to selected people in the medical community, and of muddying the waters in general so that we can better get away with making custom morfs on occasion. After all, Doctor Miller and the Doctors Martin had independently tracked down Angel. They were, therefore, best qualified for the task of keeping others from tracking us down.
By the time Sunday came, we were all acting as if we had been friends for years. After some discussion, we decided to skip church – except for Sue and the Doctors Martin. That left us teens to just hang out.
When everyone came back from church, Jerry's and my parents were with them. Mom and Dad looked rather pekid, and were already wearing portable IV units on their forearms. I helped them up to a guest room and gave them some privacy so that they could change into their night clothes. They pushed the 'go to sleep' button and were soon sleeping peacefully. I listened to the mutterings of their unconscious minds for a while, then went back downstairs. When I got down there, Angel smiled at me. "Looks like flying kitty morfs run in your family," she said with a smirk.
"They do now," I replied."
I noticed that Dad had parked the car in the garage. That makes sense, since it will be sitting there for a few days. I grabbed my parents' luggage and took it to their room. I spent a few moments looking fondly at them. I knew that they already had some clothes that would fit their new appendages because Jerry and I were there when they bought them.
All too soon, it was time for us to say our goodbyes. I rode home with Jerry and his parents, and they dropped me off at my home. My grandparents greeted me at the door. I'm always happy to see them. They looked really good, and had a spring in their step. A quick scan with my bio senses showed that they were still doing well after their earlier 'tune-up,' They were doing even better, in fact.
(End of part seven)
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/