The Pentwater Chronicles 1:
Incomplete Without You
A MORFS Universe Tale
by Ray Drouillard
Instead of building a resort or a city, Marvin Pentwater built a haven and workplace for people who have been gifted with powers. Years later, his grandson and heir, Marvin Pentwater III, received his gift. Young Marvin couldn't complain about his physique, nor could he complain about the gaggle of talents he wielded. What he could complain about was the distinct lack of power. He grew up in a place where powers are common and esteemed, but he couldn't lift but a few ounces with his telekinesis. Soon, he met an unusual friend with similar challenges.
Categories: Elemental, PSI
Chapter Five: Summer
Since I was well ahead of my age-mates, Mom and Dad let me start my summer vacation early. They called it vacation, anyhow.
I finished off the current lessons, took the tests, and started intensive powers training with Mirna. That meant, of course, that just about everyone in the compound got to meet her. That's not the problem that it would seem because we are quite used to keeping secrets from the rest of the world. Pentwater Compound is frequented by operatives from the ASA, military representatives, and a number of other people who require secrecy.
Mirna and I trained together, both at Pentwater Compound and Dragon Valley. We also found ourselves acting as guinea pigs. The dragons want to find out if the psi-linking can be used to control them, and if so, how to counter it. The humans are interested in studying the dynamics of a psi-link between peers who are not of the same species. Previously, psi-linking only occurred between two humans who have a very close (generally romantic) relationship, or between a human and a non-sapient pet. My link with Mirna is unique because there is no dominant partner, yet we are not of the same species.
We also trained separately. Mirna had to train with both the fire and the water dragons in order to make full use of her powers. She also received some advanced flight and other physical training. Like we humans, dragons do most of their academic training in the winter, and concentrate on physical training in the summer.
Since I had recently morfed, I received some intensive physical training. While it has been argued that someone with TK powers can take care of himself without any special training, the powers that be (my parents) insisted that I take martial arts because it will give me an extra edge, and because it will improve my grace and physical confidence.
As if that wasn't enough, Mom came back from a meeting with some ASA agents and was all bubbling over with enthusiasm. It seems that the Monochrome Trio thought it would be a good idea for me to take dancing lessons. I'll have to think up some suitable revenge for that one.
With all the extra training we have been subjected to, it would almost have been easier to stay in school. Still, I have to admit that we have been having lots of fun. When I was small and weak, I hated any kind of physical training. With my newly enhanced body, I was really enjoying martial arts, gymnastics, and even dancing. Alas, my favorite person, Mirna, is not someone that I can dance with.
While we have gotten closer and closer in the past weeks, our relationship can't be described as romantic. To be honest, I don't really know how to describe it. It has a lot of the closeness that you would expect from a romance, but that's not what it is. It's more than a friendship. It's similar to a brother/sister relationship, but that doesn't really cover it. It's almost like we're two halves of the same person – but not quite. We are definitely separate and distinct. I have learned to stop asking questions and just enjoy it.
While I find my relationship with my family, with Mirna, and with my friends to be good, there is still something missing. I talked this over with one of the compound's counselors, and he assured me that it is normal – that one type of relationship can't take the place of another. While he notes that I'm a bit young to have such a strong desire for a romantic relationship, it isn't uncommon for people who receive mature-looking bodies from MORFS.
To top all that off, Harry – I mean Brenda – is coming home for the summer.
Don't get me wrong. Harry and I have been best buddies since forever. Since he morfed into Brenda, though, I haven't figured out how to relate to him – her. We used to do a lot of 'guy stuff' when we were younger. Of course, we're both too old to do some of it. As for what's left, how much of it will Brenda still want to do? We used to go camping and fishing out in the mountains. We went with adults or teens when we were younger, but it didn't take long for us to become good enough at it to be trusted to fend for ourselves. Now, things are different. Nobody thought twice about letting two buddies go out and have some fun in the wilderness. Now, though, I expect that the powers that be will want to send a chaperon with us.
As if we would do anything like that. He... she's my oldest pal, after all.
The problem is me as much as it's her. I want to do stuff with my old friend, but when I see her, I see someone that I want to date. Do I relate to her as an old pal, or as someone who wants to date her? Part of me thinks that it would be wonderful to date her because we have so much in common. Part of me is afraid that the very thought will gross her out and drive her away forever. I'm afraid that my hunger for a romantic relationship will ruin a lifetime friendship.
And she'll be here in two days.
Chapter Six: Reintroduction
While the powers that be at the compound and at Dragon Valley were working hard to keep Mirna and me busy, we had some built-in respite time. Nothing beats flying through the mountains in the glorious summer air, and we were pretty much guaranteed at least one round trip every day.
The day was bright and there wasn't a cloud in the sky as Mirna and I flew to Dragon Valley. The cool but strong wind contrasted with the warmth of Mirna's shoulders and back. Her body rocked gently and her muscles contracted and relaxed under me as we winged our way across the sky and over the unspoiled expanse of the Rocky Mountains. I breathed deeply, enjoying a wonderful combination of relaxation and exhilaration The subtle scent of the mountains in late spring made me feel more alive.
Mom broke my reverie by sending, *Brenda is expected at the airfield at 5:30.*
*OK, Mom, I'll try to make it back in time.*
*Don't just try. Cut your visit short if you have to. She'll be disappointed if her oldest and dearest friend can't tear himself away from whatever he's doing to welcome her home.*
I rolled my eyes. *Yes, Mother dear.*
Mom sighed. *I'm serious, Marvin. Don't be a Neanderthal. Girls are easier to hurt, and she's just learning to accept her new gender. You will get there ten minutes before she lands and greet her with a smile if I have to ask Marsoll and Brisla to kidnap you and drag you home kicking and screaming. She did well in school, but she misses her home, and she really misses you.*
I couldn't help but smile a bit. *I miss her, too. I have to wonder if it'll ever be the same, though.*
Mom made a face, and somehow sent the expression across telepathically. *Of course it won't be the same! It wouldn't be the same even if neither of you had changed. Growing up does that, you know.*
*But the sex change...* I sent to her.
*The sex change will definitely redefine your friendship, though not necessarily for the worst.* Mom sighed and paused to think. I could almost feel her switch to counselor mode. *You two have been friends practically since you were born, so you have a long history together. Lean on your friendship as a foundation for whatever comes next. What you two did together is shared memories. That's important, but not as important as the deep understanding you have for each other.*
*But he – she has changed,* I sighed.
*So have you,* Mother replied. *There is no doubt that she has changed more, but she is still the same deep inside. The deep part of her that made you two such good friends is still there. The rest is just window dressing. You will both adapt if you don't scare each other away.*
Mirna listened quietly to the exchange. *You'll be fine,* she said. *You're a kind and caring person. Just keep in mind that Brenda is your friend, and that she needs your help to redefine herself.*
*Every kid redefines himself the first time he moves away from home,* Mom said gently. *It's the natural way of things – Kid goes away to college, redefines himself, and comes home to find that everyone treats him just like they did before he left. He then has to somehow reconcile the old and new person.*
I said thoughtfully, *And Brenda has changed more than most...*
*People aren't going to know how to treat her. She isn't going to know how to act. It's going to be very hard for her. You can help by accepting her no matter how she has changed.* Mom gave me a telepathic smirk. *You may very well find that you prefer the new Brenda.*
*Mooooom* I whined.
Mom sobered a bit. *I can't predict what's going to happen. All I can counsel is that you support her while she figures out who she is and how she relates to everyone here.*
*I will,* I said thoughtfully.
Mirna and I flew toward Dragon Valley in silence for a while, lost in our own thoughts.
She gave me a telepathic smile and withdrew.
We were ushered to the laboratories as soon as we landed. We were definitely getting used to the drill. Telepaths and bio elementals studied us closely as the researchers directed us through various tasks. I felt like they were crawling up my tail end with a microscope, except it was even more invasive than that. Still, Mirna and I were committed to the goal of making sure that the dragon nation was never controlled by anyone again – dragon, human, or otherwise. We lost track of time as we were put through our paces.
*I hope you're in the air right now.*
*Uh-oh,* I sent back to Mom.
She sighed. *I thought so.*
Mirna was about to extricate herself from a tangle of instrumentation when Mom said, *Don't bother, Mirna dear. They're going to keep monitoring you while Marvin flies home on Zarch.*
I hugged Mirna around the neck and gave her a kiss on her big scaly cheek, then ran out of the cave. Zarch was waiting for me just outside the entrance. I vaulted up to his back as he was lifting his wings in preparation for that first downstroke. I had barely settled on to his shoulders when he leapt into the air.
*It's good to see you, buddy,* I said as I wrapped my arms around his neck. I couldn't see his grin, but I could feel it telepathically.
In order to reduce drag and fly faster, Zarch headed up to an altitude of 18,000 feet. We passed through a few light, fluffy cumulus clouds on the way up. Even with my MORFS-enhanced body, that's as high as I can go without supplemental oxygen. I saw the world spread out around me as we winged to the compound's small airfield. Meanwhile, the researchers had Mirna and Me do a number of mental exercises as they watched their instruments.
Pentwater Compound's executive LBSC Swift was turning for its final approach as we neared the airfield. I used my technopath powers to keep Zarch off of the Swift's radar screens. Zarch flew through some light cumulus clouds as we approached. I bailed about a mile from the airfield as he banked sharply, dove, and headed back to Dragon Valley under the Swift's radar. I used telekinesis to fly to the airfield and land next to my family. "All I need now is a cape," I smirked.
Gertie wrapped me in a hug. "My hero!" she said, batting her eyelashes dramatically.
Dad snorted. "You guys are a trip." He glanced at the Swift, which was settling on to the helipad. "I'm glad you made it here in time."
Mom came and put her arm around me. "I second that."
I had a slight urge to duck out of her embrace, but I suppressed it. It's not like she doesn't give me space when I need it.
I saw the passengers disembark as we walked toward the Swift. Brenda ran to her mom and dad, who sandwich-hugged her. Mindy, her little sister, squealed as Brenda picked her up and swung her around. Her little brother Mark eyed her warily, not quite knowing what to think of his changed sibling. Brenda grabbed him in a tight hug and kissed him on the cheek as he struggled. "Good to see you, dear little brother!" she smirked.
I hung back a bit as we approached the group. She gave Mom and Dad a quick hug and kiss, then turned to me. We faced each other, unsure what to do. I didn't invade her mind, but my empathic sense detected nervousness. I smiled at her tentatively, took a deep breath, and said, "Hi Brenda. I missed you."
She smiled back, then launched herself at me and wrapped me in a hug. Reflexively, I hugged her back and kissed her on the cheek – just like I do with Gertie.
But it was nothing like kissing my little sister. It was like electricity shot through the both of us. Her eyes were big with surprise as she looked into mine. I'm sure that my eyes were every bit as big. The rest of the world ceased to exist as I kissed her full on the lips.
"Break it up, you two," said Gertie with a smirk.
I stuck my tongue out at her. "What if we don't want to?"
I looked nervously at our families, but they only smiled back – not hiding their approval or their amusement. "You knew this was going to happen," I accused my mom. She just smirked back at me.
I detected fear and uncertainty in Brenda, so I turned back to her. "I would never hurt you," I assured her. "We've known each other since forever. It's going to be OK." I tenderly brushed a tear from her cheek, then lifted her like one would a small child. She stiffened, then relaxed in my hold. I could feel her old male nature warring with her new body and hormones.
I loaded her luggage into the compound's transport van, took her hand, and walked with her to the path that leads to the compound. Everyone else rode back, so Brenda and I were by ourselves for the mile hike. As we neared the edge of the airfield, the Swift left with the customers that had been at the compound for the past week.
*I told you so,* came the distant mental voice of Mirna. I could almost see the grin on her scaly face.
*I would never argue with you,* I sent back with a smirk.
Brenda looked up at me, making my heart melt. "Who are you talking to?"
"Mirna – a um, friend of mine. I met her about a month ago."
She looked at me, concerned and vulnerable. "Your aura flares with love when you talk to her."
"I love her dearly, but it isn't a romantic thing," I replied. "She's no more able to take your place in my heart than my mother or sister can."
Brenda looked dubious, but could tell that I wasn't lying. I used my empathic senses to peer deep into her soul, and opened myself so that she could do the same. I saw the same emptiness that had plagued me until I met Mirna.
"Mirna somehow completes you," Brenda said. "It's hard not to envy you – and her."
"I think it's time for you to meet her," I said, then contacted Mom and Mrs. Orpenheimer.
*Oh, sure. She doesn't even make it home, and you're ready to go trotting off with her,* Mrs. Orpenheimer said.
*I think she really needs this,* I replied. *Besides, it's not like you didn't just spend a month up in Sun City with her.*
She sent me a telepathic smile. *Just funnin' with ya, young buck. Take good care of her, and bring her back in one piece.*
*Have I ever done anything else?*
*We won't talk about the time you two managed to run your canoe over the falls,* she replied.
*Mooooom!* Brenda whined.
I chuckled. "Well, it's all set up. We'll take the fork to the right up ahead."
"You mean to that clearing where we used to camp when we were kids?"
I nodded, and took her hand. She hesitated, then smiled and relaxed. We walked in companionable silence.
Chapter Seven: Sparks
It took us about ten minutes to reach the clearing. "Don't be startled," I said to Brenda.
To her credit, she just raised her eyebrows a bit when we rounded the curve and entered the clearing. I led her to Mirna and made the introductions.
"Mirna, this is my girlfriend Brenda." Again, Brenda's old and new natures briefly struggled with each other.
"Brenda, this is my pet dragon Mirna..."
Mirna snorted, then poked me with her nose. "I love you too, little one."
"And I'm her pet human," I finished.
Mirna gave me a toothy smirk, then inclined her head toward Brenda. "Pleased to meet you."
I lifted Brenda up and set her on Mirna, then settled myself behind her. "Don't worry; we're perfectly safe," I said to her as Mirna crouched and leapt into the air. Brenda was startled, but soon picked up on my exhilaration and relaxed. I leaned forward and kissed her on the side of the neck, which caused her to giggle.
"Remember how long it used to take us to get to our favorite campsite by the lake?" I asked.
"How could I forget? It used to be a really long day's hike. We would always be dog tired by the time we got there."
I pointed at a patch of blue ahead of us. "We'll be there in a few minutes. Zarch is going to meet us there. He's Mirna's old childhood friend."
The blue patch grew as I related to Brenda how Mirna and I had met.
"You mean you went from the weakest elemental to the most powerful in the compound when you psi-linked with Mirna?"
"Yes, and she suddenly gained access to her own elemental nature. We really did complete each other."
"That's amazing," she said. "That must have been quite an experience."
Our conversation was interrupted when Mirna flared for a landing. After we hopped off of Mirna's back, Brenda looked around in wonder. "I almost forgot how beautiful this place was," she said, breathing in the fresh scent of lake and pine needles, and listening to the soft sound of the waves lapping the shoreline. "I just wish we had some food. I'm starving."
I handed her a power bar and some beef jerky, then pulled out a couple collapsible canteens. I emptied a pouch of energy drink mix into each one and used my water elemental powers to purify some water from the lake. I led her to Mirna, and we sat down and leaned against her as we munched on our makeshift snack. Before too long, a colorful speck appeared in the sky.
*Good afternoon! Am I missing the party?*
*Hi Zarch,* I said. *I brought an old friend of mine that you might want to meet.*
It didn't take long for Zarch come in for a landing. Brenda's jaw dropped as she looked at him. "He's... beautiful!" she said softly.
I introduced them. Mirna and I backed away, remembering what happened to us when we had first met. Sure enough, as soon as they touched, the sparks flew – literally.
"It would appear that your electrical elemental powers are no longer weak," I said to Brenda.
"You could have warned a person," she sputtered. She had a huge smile on her face, though.
"Where would the fun be in that?" I asked with a smirk. "To forewarn is to inhibit."
Right on cue, Mom weighed in. *Just couldn't wait, could you?*
*Why wait? I love Brenda too much to make her wait for one second more than necessary,* I replied.
*So, do we have a dragon in the family now?* asked Mrs. Orpenheimer.
*It would appear so,* I said. *And that empty spot in her heart has been filled. I think you are going to have a very happy daughter on your hands.*
She sent me a telepathic smile. *Considering what Mirna has done for you, I have to agree.*
*So, when do I get to meet my new daughter?* asked Cala, Zarch's mom.
*I think we need to give Brenda and Zarch some alone time so that they can get better acquainted. Why don't the rest of us meet somewhere and let them come when they're ready?*
Blon, Zarch's dad, took charge. *There's plenty of room in our cave at Dragon Valley. Mirna, you bring Marvin. Marsoll, Brisla, Garndl, and I will pick up everyone else. Can we land at the compound, or will we need to use the clearing?*
*There are currently no uncleared visitors at Pentwater Compound,* Dad replied.
*Don't forget to dress warm,* I sent to everyone. *The trip to Dragon Valley is cold because of the altitude.*
"Now, you tell me," said Brenda.
I pulled an emergency jumpsuit out of my utility belt and handed it to her. She stepped into the gauzy thin pair of coveralls, zipped it up, and waited while it automatically drew itself in to fit her small curvy frame. She turned the insulation dial, and air was drawn in to fill tiny voids between the layers. This particular model has a hood and is rated for sub-zero temperatures, so she won't have any trouble.
I gave Brenda a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek, then hopped onto Mirna. We left Zarch and Brenda alone on the beach and winged our way to Dragon Valley. As we gained altitude, I turned the insulation dial on my own coveralls.
When we got there, I smelled the delicious aroma of beef roasting on a spit over an open fire. "The fatted calf?" I asked as I quickly grabbed a pair of shorts and a t-shirt from the stash of clothing that I keep here. I never worry about body modesty among the dragons.
Cala smiled. "What could be more appropriate?"
"I think you're as happy about all of this as Zarch and Brenda."
"And you aren't?" she teased. "If you're trying to hide how you feel about that girl, you aren't doing a very good job of it."
Mirna came up an nuzzled me. "That's for sure. He's been flying high ever since they touched each other at the airfield."
I leaned against her and wrapped my arms around her neck. "It just keeps getting better!"
As soon as they heard that guests were coming, some of the younger dragons had volunteered to gather 'animal food,' as they like to teasingly call the vegetables that we omnivorous humans enjoy eating. I walked over to the pile and prepared them for steaming. Then, I used some of the supplies that had been brought over for my frequent visits and used them to make a cherry and a blueberry pie. I put them in a brick oven that had recently been built for human visitors.
We heard a commotion outside, so we went to take a look. A group of dragons was taking off to meet the four that were just coming over the ridge.
Escorted by their honor guard, Blon, Marsoll, Brisla, and Garndl landed next to the cave entrance with their human passengers. Everyone but Dad had to double up, but the dragons didn't seem the least bit stressed. Brenda's brother and sister were grinning from ear to ear, and babbling about the flight.
"Hey squirt, time to take over the cooking duties," I said to Gertie with a grin."
"It doesn't look like you left me much to do," she replied.
"Just set the table," I said, pointing to the human-sized table that one of our dragon friends had made recently. Gertie shrugged, motioned for Mark and Mindie to help her, then dug into my stash and came up with a container of concentrated raspberry/white grape juice.
Cala had managed to locate some extra beanbag chairs for their guests, so Mirna and I showed our appreciation by collapsing into one. I leaned back into her and she covered me with a wing. It had been a long day, and it was by no means over.
After some indeterminate length of time, I was awakened by Brenda's welcome mental touch. *We're on our way over,* she let us know.
I got up, yawned, stretched, and walked over to the food preparation area. I gave the veggies a final rinse, put them in the steamer basket, and placed the whole assembly over a container of boiling water. I was going to check on the pies, but I noticed that they were already on the table.
Gertie poked me in the ribs. "Welcome back to the land of the living, bro."
I poked her back, causing her to giggle. "It's been a long day, and I suspect it's far from over." I put a hand on either side of her face, drew her to me, and kissed her forehead. "Maybe you ought to take a nap, too."
"I did," she giggled. "Garndl makes a nice bed."
"Gertie has a boyfriend! I teased.
"You ought to talk!" she retorted. "You have two girlfriends. How are you ever going to keep them from fighting over you?"
"I have my old buddy Zarch to help me keep the girls in line," I said with a smirk.
"Who's going to keep whom in line, little one?" Mirna asked as she floated me over toward her. I didn't resist as she put me on the floor and pinned me with one of her front feet.
"Pleeeeease don't eat me, dragon breath!" I said loudly as I struggled dramatically.
"Can't roast ya, and you'd be too tough to eat raw," she said as she wrapped her talons around me, picked me up, and dismissively tossed me over her shoulder.
I altered my trajectory so that I would land in the fire next to the slowly roasting steer. I laid there for a second, sniffed, and said, "Hmmm, something's burning." Then, I jumped up and used my best cartoon voice. "Youch! Ow! Ooooooh! Yip! Yip!"
Gertie rolled her eyes, then TK'd me over to the pool that the dragons had made for their human visitors I sunk down to the bottom, blew a few bubbles, then floated back to the surface. I swam to the edge, climbed out, and TK'd myself dry. Something felt funny. I turned to look at my backside, then blushed bright red.
Gertie started laughing, and was soon joined by everyone else. "You might be fireproof, but your clothes aren't!"
I sighed, then TK'd a bathrobe from my stash to me. After pulling the robe around me, I ditched the burned clothes. There was nothing left of the back of either item. I held them up, looked at them, and blushed all the way down to my toes – much to everyone's amusement.
"I understand that I missed quite a show," Brenda said as she dismounted. Zarch had approached so quickly that he was here before I noticed him.
"Nothing you haven't seen before, old friend," I smirked.
"That's not quite true," she argued. "You're a lot cuter now that you've morfed, and I was never in a position to appreciate the view before."
"MORFS has been good to you, too," I replied. This time, it was her turn to blush.
Zarch led her up to the cave and introduced her to his family, then to Mirna's family. The steer was done cooking, the veggies were done steaming, and the table was set. Dad said the blessings, and we all dug in.
Chapter Eight: Relationships
After dinner, Mirna and Zarch curled up together on one of the larger beanbag chairs. We were about to join them when we heard the four mothers chatting.
"That is so cute," Zarch's mom Cala said. "I haven't seen those two curled up together like that since they were both young dragonets."
"I suspect that they are seeing each other a little differently now," Brisla said.
I smiled and looked at Brenda. "They have been best buddies forever; probably because they are both from mixed marriages. I never saw them curled up together like a pile of cats before, though. I wonder what's going on."
"Are you really that oblivious, or just pretending to be?" Brenda asked with a smirk. I blushed, but didn't say anything.
"Look into my mind," she said.
I saw an image of my old self, but the image didn't look like the weakling that I had considered myself to be. Rather, it was the image of a close, trusted, and respected friend.
"In our minds, everything we sense has baggage attached. Every person that we know has a context within our minds. When I think of the old you, I think of my childhood friend."
That wasn't news to me, though I had never heard it expressed quite that way. I wondered if she had learned that in school.
An image of the changed me appeared in her mind. It had the same baggage – that of a beloved childhood friend. There was also apprehension – as if she was afraid that the new Marvin might be somehow too good for her."
"That's how I saw you right after you changed," Brenda said. The image in her mind shifted a bit. The apprehension disappeared, and a new type of respect appeared. "Once I got over my own insecurities, I came to appreciate that you were the same person, and that you weren't about to ignore me and seek out a different crowd."
The image changed again. The image was colored by Brenda's insecurity, and a feeling that things could no longer be the same. "After I changed, I didn't know what was going to happen. Before I could ruminate on it too much, my parents sent me off to the Sun City Prep School."
The image changed one last time. The image contained all the overtones of our old friendship, along with an added dimension. She had bared her soul to me – letting me know that she sees me as a lover and a life mate. I reciprocated by looking at her and letting her see the same thing in my mind.
We turned to our dragon friends, who were grinning toothily at us. It didn't take us long to note that they see each other the way that we see each other.
(End of Part Two)
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/