Acts of Humanity 2:
Journey To Humanity
(Part 01)
A MORFS Universe Tale
by Ray Drouillard





Matthew Jones is the only son of Randy Jones, honored deacon of the Church of Genetic Purity.  He and his girlfriend, Amy Cox, have been taught from birth that MORFS is a symptom of moral depravity.  While they had quietly questioned that doctrine, they were not prepared for the opportunity to find out for themselves.

sex: 1/10
violence: 7/10
profanity: 3/10

Categories: Male to Female, PSI

Timeline: 2060





Chapter One: Ruminations


Sometimes, I want to ask 'Why me?'  If I think too much about it, I start to feel the whine rising in my throat.  I get ready to throw a pity party for myself.  Even as the tears start to come, I realize that a pity party is the most expensive party that one can throw.

But that was then and this is now.  When the brown smelly stuff starts to hit the fan, you can either curl up and feel sorry for yourself, or you can grit your teeth and do something about it.  It actually hurts more when you curl up and whine, but the urge seduces you.

It is said that trials lead to growth, and that has been well proven to me.  I have finally come to the conclusion that feeling the pain without growing from it is wasteful like paying for some great treasure, but failing to collect it.

But that's not what I was taught by my so-called spiritual leaders.  They didn't speak of a loving God who chastens and teaches his children.  They taught me about a punitive God who curses those who displease him by marking them and turning them into animals.  They taught me to fear the God who can condemn my soul and mark my body for ridicule.  They taught me to ridicule those who have been thusly marked.

But that was then and this is now.  That was when I was Matthew Jones, the only son of Randy and Sue Jones.  I can't say that I had a happy and care-free life.  It was more a case of ignorance being bliss.  I really didn't know any better.

We, the family of Randy Jones, honored deacon at the Church of Genetic Purity, sat in the front; in an area reserved for the families of the church officials.  We got to see the preacher up close and personal as he assured us that we were the only true people of God, and that it is our job to defeat the horde of Satan-spawned gene scum.  There is an official Bible study guide that uses the Bible to back up the teachings of the church.  While we were not actually discouraged from reading the Bible, we were told that we must always have the official guide at hand lest Satan trick us into misreading God's word.  It is the job of the learned elders of the church to properly interpret the scriptures.

I didn't realize it at the time, but this contrasts sharply with the attitude of the other major churches.  The first time I visited a different church, I was shocked to see so many people carrying a Bible, rather than the official study guide.  I later learned that one of the characteristics of a cult is that they insist that their members blindly follow the leadership rather than thinking for themselves.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was blithely going through life, proud to be the son of the most honored Randy Jones, deacon.  I was happy to be dating Amy, the daughter of the most honored Mark Cox, deacon.  Our fathers encouraged us to sit together in church, and attend all church functions together.  They encouraged their children to date within the church.

We saw each other at school, too.  With all the stuffy decorum, we were able to do a little more than hold hands and talk to each other about church-approved subjects.  At school, we could steal away to play a little kissy-face.  At school, our conversations weren't monitored by the thought police.  We could discuss whatever pleased our hearts.

School was also the source of some confusion.  At church, they taught us well about the evils of MORFS.  At school, we saw a number of our friends change.  I was supposed to to reject them and believe that they had turned into something evil, but I couldn't ignore the fact that they were the same people inside.  Even the ones who picked up some real animal characteristics remained the same inside.  Oh, sure, some of them looked different or got extra strength, and a couple even got some minor powers.  Still, they were the same people.

This confused me.

At school, we were told to accept MORFS survivors (as the school encouraged us to call them).  We were reminded that it could happen to any of us.  The church spoke differently, but it wasn't lost to me that some of my friends at church had disappeared in the past couple years.  We were told that our purity and righteousness protected us, but those who disappeared didn't appear to be any less pure or righteous than the rest of us.  We were to accept that God's judgment is correct.  Of course, we were never told what happened to those who disappeared.  Sometimes, the family disappeared with them.  They were never spoken of again.

I was shocked and saddened when Amy disappeared from school.  It was rumored that she was sick, and would return in a few days.  Still, I worried.  This is how some of my other friends at church had disappeared.

So I prayed for her, as I had been taught.  They taught us about prayer at church, but my mother is the one who taught me to pray for others.  The soft and heart-felt entreaties for others, and the humble thanks for our blessings contrasted sharply with the prideful prayers at church.  At church, we thanked God for making us the chosen righteous, above all others, and asked for his judgment upon the heathens.

Unbeknownst to Father, I had been praying for the MORFS survivors at school.  I prayed for my friends, and asked God for understanding of why they were stricken.  As Mom had taught me, I asked to be an instrument to my friends' salvation.  I asked for wisdom and understanding.  The contrast between what I was taught at church and what I was taught at school really preyed upon my mind.

I had been irritable all week.  I was so concerned about Amy that it was affecting me physically.  I felt run-down and nauseous.

When Amy failed to show up by the end of the week, I really started to worry.  I had hoped to see her at church, but she wasn't there.  Her mother and father were both there, but they had very closed expressions and were unapproachable.

Meanwhile, I was feeling worse.  I expected the worst.

After the service, Father took me aside and informed me that it was time for me to be initiated into the inner circle.  I would be going to a secret gathering place with the deacons and other church officials.  I was filled with unease, but also felt pride that I would now be a part of the chosen few.  Mostly, I was confused.  It just didn't feel right.


Chapter Two: Secret meeting in the woods


I was wedged between father and another deacon in the back of a van.  I really couldn't see where we were going, except that we were going out of town.  After a long while, we were driving down a fire lane in the woods.

We got out and walked for a space.  We soon came upon a clearing.  In the center of the clearing, a small hooded figure was huddled, chained up like an animal.  The deacons were standing nearby.  Father led me over to join the rest of the deacons.  As one, we faced the captive.

"We begin now," said the preacher.  He opened his Bible and read.

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

"One of our own has been smitten.  May God have mercy upon her soul.  We must now cast evil from among us."

One of the deacons pulled the hood from the figure.  I stared in shock.  It was Amy!

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!" she yelled.  The deacon slapped her.  I could almost feel the pain and humiliation on my own face.  Her hair and eyes were bright violet, and her face was subtly different.  Still, I could tell that it was her.  She looked at each deacon in turn staring intently.  Each turned away, as if in shame.  I was standing behind father, so I managed to avoid her gaze.

Father pressed a large jagged chunk of granite in my hand and pushed me forward.  "You know what must be done, son.  You have the honor of casting the first stone."

Amy looked so pitiful as she stared at me.  I could see the pain and betrayal on her face.

Father growled at me.  "Go ahead!  What are you waiting for?  Do your duty!"

I hung my head.  I just couldn't do it.

I heard Amy's voice in my head.  *You must get away!  I can see the blackness of their souls.  Yours will follow if you stay with them.  Throw the stone, go home, then escape!*

Aloud, she said, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do."

"Heathen!" someone yelled.

I straightened up, lifted the stone, and cast it in her direction.  I came close way too close.  But, I missed.

My father cursed at me and slapped me hard in the face.  I fell to the ground and tasted dirt.  Father cast a rock.  I heard Amy's cry of pain.  I started crying.

*You have done no wrong.*

Another rock hit her.  I heard another cry of pain.

*Matthew!  Your life is in danger if you don't play along!  My life is over, so you must promise me that you'll live yours as best you can.*

"I promise," I said softly.  Nobody could hear me, but Amy somehow did.

*I hold you to your promise!  Go find another love.  Teach your children about love instead of hate.  Escape!  Escape!*

Another rock hit her.  She crumpled to her knees.  "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

"Heretic!" Father spat as he hurled another rock.  She fell to the ground.

*Don't cry for me, Matthew.  The pain is gone.  I'm going home.  Don't ever lose your faith!  You are a good person.*

There was a loud crack as a rock hit her in the head.  She jerked once, then was silent and still.  Rocks continued to pummel her broken body.

Father looked down at me with disdain.  "It is always hard the first time, but you must remember that it is your duty to stamp out the evil ones."

I said a silent prayer for Amy and for myself.

"What are you praying about, boy?"

"I'm praying that the evil here will be cast into captivity, and that what is left of Amy will be purified and welcomed by the Lord."  Father didn't look very happy, but he couldn't argue with me.

I couldn't look at the broken figure on the ground as I was led away.  I was too upset even for tears.  When I got home, I collapsed on my bed; not even bothering to get undressed.  I was numb too numb to feel anything.  My body ached and I wanted to throw up, but my mind was overloaded.  It just shut down.


Chapter Three: Not feeling better


I felt even worse when I got up.  According to the clock, my alarm would be going off in ten minutes.  I sullenly stripped off yesterday's clothes and went into the shower.  Try as I might, I couldn't scrub off the filth of yesterday's experience.

Have you ever wanted to pray, but couldn't find the right words?  "How could you allow this to happen?"  I cried in my anguish, but there was no answer.

Somehow, wordlessly, comfort came.  I don't know how, but I was comforted.

I finished my shower, dried off, and started to get ready for school.  Instead of feeling better and more awake as I prepared for school, I felt worse.  I chalked it up to yesterday's activities, and nervousness.  What was I going to say to my friends when they ask about Amy?  Do I lie?  I can't see telling them the story about how she was... murdered.

Yes, murdered.  There is no other word for it.

I heard father leave for work.  I expected to feel better, but I didn't.  Finally, I staggered down to the kitchen for breakfast.  Mom looked shocked when I walked in.  "You look horrible!  Why did you even bother getting ready for school?"  She sent me upstairs to put my books away and change into sweats.  On my way back down, I took a detour to the bathroom and lost my breakfast.  She was just hanging up the phone as I plodded back downstairs.  We silently rode to the doctor's office.

I went through the whole process in a daze.  I was poked and prodded and perforated.  The nurse put a drop of my blood into a special machine.  It only took a few seconds, but it seemed like forever.  Presently, the display lit up, pronouncing my sentence.

MORFS.

I sat there in a daze, wondering how much it will hurt when the rocks strike my body.  Tears welled up in my eyes and Mom pulled me to her.  "They're going to kill me," I whispered to her.

"No, they won't," she replied with quiet determination.  "You're not going home.  Your Aunt Lori is taking you in, and those self-righteous pharisees at the church will never find you."

"Aunt Lori?"

"You never met her," Mom replied.  "She's your great aunt your grandpa's sister.  She never liked your father, and has avoided us since before you were born.  He probably doesn't even remember her, which is a good thing.  He won't know where to look for you."

I sagged against her with relief, burying my face in her hair.  Grief, sadness, guilt, and relief all mingled together leaving me numb and unable to even cry.  I had lots of questions, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

We did end up stopping at home briefly.  Mom grabbed my school stuff, tablet, computer, and all my personal stuff.  She grabbed some basic clothes, but left most of them behind.  Who knows what new shape I'll wear in a few days?  Besides, she didn't want to make it too obvious that I was moving out.

I looked at the house as Mom packed everything that I owned into the back of the car.  It was the only home I had ever had, and I would never be going back.  There is no place in my father's house for gene scum.

The trip to Aunt Lori's was a fever-filled nightmare.  Twice, I had to use the barf bag that Mom had given me.  Finally, I felt the car come to a stop.  I heard Mom speaking softly with someone else.  I felt strong arms pick me up, and looked up into the furry face of my Uncle Mark.  He, at least, won't judge me for coming down with MORFS.

Mom put another stim pack cartridge into the portable IV that the doctor had affixed to my left forearm.  She pushed the 'go to sleep' button and the machine injected a sedative.  Lights out.

I woke up when my bladder woke me up.  Mom was there, and guided me to the bathroom.  I didn't have the strength to be embarrassed when she helped me unzip so that I could empty my bladder.  Then, it was back to bed.  I lost track of the number of times that I repeated the cycle.  Sometimes, my aunt Lori would help me.  Other times, it was Uncle Mark.  I vaguely remember being curious about how I would turn out.  I had no clue.  I was too tired and sore to inspect myself, and there were no mirrors.

The next time I woke up, it was night.  The room was well lit by a night light and the moonlight streaming in through the open window.  Somehow, it seemed to be a whole lot brighter than it should have been.  I could see Aunt Lori sleeping on a comfortable chair in the corner of the room, so I padded quietly about.

I had heard enough stories from my friends about what it's like to wake up from MORFS, so I was somewhat prepared.  Still, it's impossible to prepare yourself for the sensation of breasts jiggling on your chest and the feel of a soft, silky nightie.

I noticed that there was a full-length mirror on the back of the door.  Why didn't I notice that before?  Probably because the door was always open when I was assisted to the bathroom.

I slipped the nightie off and looked at myself.  I had definitely lost some weight.  The muscles I had worked so hard to earn were gone.  Instead of an angular, masculine frame, I wore a lithe curvy feminine body.  The male that still inhabited my head was very attracted.  I was totally hairless from the eyeballs down.  What was there was bright blue even my eye brows and lashes.  My eyes were big and innocent and the same color as my hair.  My features were fine and feminine and elven.  I even had pointy ears.  I sighed heavily and put my nightie back on.  No sense rebelling against girly clothes.

"You look quite beautiful, Cara."

My Aunt Lori pulled herself up out of her chair and came over to me.

"Cara?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied.  "Your mother would have named you Cara if you had been born a girl."

"Thanks for everything," I said to Aunt Lori.  "I don't know what I would have done without you."

She enfolded me into a warm hug.  Then, her nose wrinkled.

"It was the least I could do, dear."  She took my hand.  "I think that too many days of fever has left you a bit the worse for wear.  You'll feel better after a hot shower."

And so I got my first hands-on lesson in feminine hygiene.  Oh, sure, they now teach it to everyone in health class.  There is a big difference between learning it and actually doing it, though.

Thankfully, Aunt Lori isn't one of those gung-ho ladies who believe that you have to indoctrinate new girls into the girly arts by tossing them into the deep end and making them wear all the frilly stuff on day one.  Instead, she gave me some ordinary white socks, cotton panties that weren't too different from my old briefs, and an ordinary set of sweats.  The only thing that gave me reason to balk was the bra, but that item is really necessary even for my petite elf-like B cup bust.

She gave me the nickel tour of the house, then fed me an early breakfast in the kitchen.  She suggested that I get more sleep, but I had been sleeping enough.  I could see the sun just starting to rise in the East.  I found my tablet on the desk, so I checked up on my email.  There was an email from Amy that was dated on the Saturday before she was murdered.

This time, the tears did come.  Maybe girls are better at crying.

After I was done, I thought about some of the things she had said to the deacons who were stoning her.  They sounded like Bible quotes to me.

Amy and I used to study the Bible together when we 'officially' courted (with a church-approved chaperon, of course).  We always had our study guide, but we tended to ignore it and see what the Bible had to say to us without someone else's interpretation.

Let's see... what was that about casting the first stone?

I found it at the beginning of Matthew chapter eight.  I found out later that the story is very well known among most Christians, but the Genetic Purity Church tends to not address it.

A woman is accused of adultery a sin punishable by stoning according to the old law.  When she was brought before Jesus, he told her accusers, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her."  After that, he drew in the sand.  There is some speculation that he was writing the sins of her accusers in the sand.

Is that what Amy was doing?  Did she read their minds the way she apparently read mine?  Did she tell their sins to them the way she sent advice and encouragement to me?  Is that why Father shoved me to the front to cast the first stone?  What a coward!

In the story, her accusers walked away one by one.  When they were gone, Jesus asked her, "Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?"

The woman replied, "No one, Lord."

Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more."

If only it had worked that way for my Amy!  Apparently, the most honored deacons at the Genetic Purity Church have less honor and humility than the scribes and pharisees.

And I was being sucked into that vile body.

There was another thing she said.  It was something about stiff-necked and uncircumcised.  It sounded vaguely familiar.  It took a long time, but I finally found the story in Acts chapters six and seven.  It was about the martyring of Stephen.  He was an honorable man of God, but he was falsely accused of blasphemy.

Falsely accused?  Like Amy?

He stood up to his accusers, giving a long speech about their history, and ending it with a good lambasting.  He accused them of being stiff-necked and uncircumcised, among other things.

They stoned him.

I started crying again.

They stoned him, but he saw the glory of Heaven, his new home, before he died.  I think that's what Amy was trying to tell me just before she died.

*Lord, please tell Amy that I will miss her, and that I will honor her by living well.*

Aunt Lori silently came in and looked over my shoulder.  "Despite what you father has taught you, your new shape is not a curse from God."

I looked up at her.  "I know that, Aunt Lori.  I'm not crying for myself.  I lost a friend, and I know I'm going to miss her."

She misunderstood.  "If she rejects you because of MORFS, is she really a friend?"

"No, no," I said.  "She hasn't rejected me.  She's dead."

She said nothing.  She just pulled me into her warm embrace and let me cry myself out.  She led me to my bed, helped me out of my sweats, and tucked me in.  She was right; I did need more sleep.

I awoke again at ten and wiped the crusted tears from my eyes.  After washing my face and brushing my teeth and hair, I put my sweats back on and padded downstairs.  Mom and Aunt Lori were at the table sipping coffee.

"Cara!"  Mom ran to me and grabbed me in a bear hug.  "You look wonderful!  I'm so glad you came through all right."

I had to smile at her enthusiasm.  Who knows?  Maybe she always wanted a daughter.  With father being the way he is, I can see why she stopped at one child.  I think she moved out of his bedroom about the same time he got involved in that church.

I still didn't know what to think about my new body.  Everyone else seemed to be enthusiastic about it, but I had too many other thoughts running through my head to even give it a second thought.  I suppose I would have been upset about losing my girlfriend to my gender change if I hadn't already lost her to the hatred of people like my father.

Mom and Aunt Lori didn't give me time to stew about it.  They dragged me off to the mall where Aunt Lori usually shops.  In a few hours, I had a hair cut, a manicure and pedicure (with polish that matches my hair), a book of cloth swatches that are supposedly 'my colors', and a modest wardrobe.  I just kind of went with the flow.  Mom and Aunt Lori didn't comment about my lack of enthusiasm or my lack of objection.  I just kind of cooperated with everything without comment.

After that, we went to the clinic for my post-MORFS check-up.  I was surprised to find that I didn't lose any strength.  I was all girl, though.  Yeah, big surprise.  The mind reader couldn't read my mind, but she could read my emotions.  It would seem that I'm feeling depressed.  Yeah, big surprise.

So, I'm now officially certified safe to return to school.  Yippy skippy.

On the way out, we got all the government paperwork taken care of.  I now have a new birth certificate addendum, state ID, and school ID.

We still don't know what we're going to do about my father and the rest of the church.

But, there is no reason to keep me out of school for even one day longer.  Mom had all the information sent to the school, so they will be expecting me.  We packed all my stuff, including most of my new clothes, into the car.  Mom helped me lay out my clothes for tomorrow, then kissed me good night.


Chapter Four: Back to school


The next morning, we got up bright and early.  It took longer to shower and take care of my hair, but I had already expected that.

Normally, it would have taken an hour to get from my aunt's house to the school.  We used a route that took us around the other side of the city so that nobody watching us would be able to tell which direction we came from.

We shouldn't have bothered.  We got a call from Aunt Lori telling us that there were some people from the church watching their house.  One of Aunt Lori's friends had read from their minds that they got the information from an insider in the state's record center.  Very soon after we had registered my new name, they tracked us down.

The upshot is that we don't have a place to live anymore.  We can't go to Aunt Lori's, and we can't go home.

But I could go to school.

So, in I went.  A few people guessed that I was Matthew, but most didn't.  I didn't bother to reintroduce myself.

Second hour health class was interesting.  There were four kitty morfies sitting in the front row.  Is it common for that many people to get the same changes?  In any case, they seemed happy with their bodies.  I could almost see the peace and joy radiating from them.

I was surprised when the teacher introduced two of them as honored professors because they looked like teenagers.  The other two were their kids, Larry and Cindy Martin.  I made a note to reintroduce myself to them after class.

Professors Kim and Sara gave us a very interesting lecture about MORFS.  They radiated cheer and good humor as they talked about their changes.  The most interesting part was where they explained how to adapt to your new body once it's all over.  I asked them a couple questions.  They did their best to answer them.  Actually, they did a pretty good job.  They could see that I wasn't happy, though.

I talked to them after class.  Right out of the blue, they invited me to their home!  I couldn't believe it.  I don't think they even realized how badly I needed a place to hide.  As promised, the Martins met me for lunch.  Also as promised, Larry and Cindy treated me as if nothing had happened.  The Martins seemed to almost radiate warmth and good will.  I felt safe and loved in their presence.  I hated to leave when lunch was over, but I had two more classes to attend.

When the long school day was finally over, I ran straight to the study hall.  I met Larry and Cindy on the way, and walked with them.  They smiled at me.  They actually smiled at me!  Not the phony, assessing smiles of the girls, or the lust-filled smiles of the boys, but smiles that contain genuine affection.  They gave smiles that welcome me for who I am.

I was surprised to see Mom when we got to the study hall.  She looked calm, happy, and relieved.  She opened her arms and I ran into her embrace.  Matthew had never done that.  She told me that she had moved everything of ours out of father's house.  She's divorcing him, and we're going to move in with the Martins.  I gave them a grateful smile.

We walked out to our cars.  The Martins were parked on the opposite side of the lot, so we had to split up.  Just as we got to our car, I felt someone grab my arm.  It was one of the deacons.  "No, I won't go with you!" I yelled.

They tried to shove me into their car, but I fought back.  The Martins were there in a flash, and surrounded us.  Mom was digging through her purse as the Martins argued with the four deacons.

I felt relief come from the Martins.  They all backed up at once and I was thrown in the car.  Why had they abandoned me?

But they were still there angry, but not worried.  I felt the car surge forward, then jerk to a stop.  It went backward and crashed into something.  Soon, the car was surrounded by police officers.  They roughly pulled the deacons out of the car.  I ran to my mom and held on for dear life.  There was confusion for a while as the police looked at ID cards, asked questions, and wrote things down.

Finally, we were allowed to leave.  Mom followed the Martins home.  She didn't let their car out of her sight.  We parked in their spacious garage between their car and a pickup truck.

They led us through the living room to a separate area of the house.  They explained to us that it is a flat that they used to rent to students, and that we are welcome to stay as long as we want.  The apartment has its own bathroom and kitchen, so we don't have to intrude too much on the Martins' hospitality.

The professors had to teach a class, so they asked Larry and Cindy to help us get settled.  With four of us doing the work, we soon had our closets filled and our personal items stowed.  Once that was done, Cindy suggested that we all take a dip in the pool.  She had to lend me one of her old swimsuits.  I felt silly in a girl's one-piece, but I guess I'll have to get used to it.

We had a great time swimming.  I found out that my swimming skills improved when I got a new body.  I have the same strength, but less body to push.  I couldn't believe how good the water felt.  I was comfortable, truly comfortable.  It was almost as if I belonged in the water as much as I belonged on land.

All too soon, it was time to go in.  Mom and I went to our apartment and changed out of our wet swimsuits.  Mom chose a pair of shorts and a light blouse for me.  I was going to go for sweats again, but she commented that it's a bit warm for them.

We were about to go back to the living room when we heard a knock on the door.  I opened it and saw Cindy standing there with a pile of clothes.  She handed them to me.  "I grew out of these clothes a couple years ago, and they ought to fit you pretty good."  I thanked her and told her that I would meet her in the living room in a few minutes.

Mom insisted that I try a few of them on.  As Cindy had claimed, they fit me well.  How did she know that just based on the way the swimsuit fit?  It must be a girl thing.  Apparently, I have a lot to learn.

By the time we got done trying on and stashing the clothes, the professors were back. ("But just call us Kim and Sara.")  I plopped down into an overstuffed chair.  I looked over and saw Mom looking at me with a weird expression on her face.  "OK, Mom, I know.  That wasn't a lady-like way to sit, was it?"

She smirked and shook her head.  "I guess I shouldn't expect perfection on your second day as a girl."

I sighed and leaned back.  After all the exertion, not to mention being run through the emotional wringer, I was getting tired.

Less than two weeks ago, I was Matthew Jones; honor student, and the son of an honored deacon.  I had a pretty girlfriend who was intelligent and had a great sense of humor.  I was looking forward to spending my life with her.  A tear leaked from my eye.

In just a few days, that was shattered.  In a few more days, what was left was turned upside-down.  My girlfriend has been murdered.  The murderers want to murder me, too.  I couldn't help Amy.  Will anyone be able to help me?

Wait a minute!

The fog that had been enveloping my mind since I saw my father participate in the murder of my beloved started to lift.  I have been reacting rather than acting ever since I saw Amy chained to that post like an animal.  A murder has been committed!  Why am I sitting on this information like an idiot?

"Ummm Mom? Kim? Sara?  We need to talk."

Somehow, I managed to spill the whole story.  I delivered it deadpan.  It hurt to much to think, let alone feel.  I looked up and saw everyone staring at me.  I saw their anger as a palpable presence surrounding them.  I recoiled.

"We're not angry at you, honey," my mother said gently.  "We're not disappointed with you, either.  If anything, I'm disappointed with myself for closing my eyes and trying to believe that this wasn't happening."

I hadn't noticed that Kim had left the room.  "The police are on their way to take your statement," she said as she returned.

I put my head down.  "Does that mean that I'm in trouble for waiting so long?"

"I don't think so," she answered.  "It really looks to me like you came out with it just as soon as you were emotionally able to.  If you cooperate fully with the police, I'm sure that they will be grateful for your help."

And so the police came.  A very nice police lady with Elvin feature similar to mine introduced herself as Officer Trowbridge.  Her partner, Officer Saouda, is a police telepath.  Together, they gently pulled all the details from me.  Officer Saouda had a very difficult time reading me, but was able to do it after she got me to relax.  Apparently, I have a good shield that goes up whenever I feel threatened.  When haven't I felt threatened since I changed?

The only thing they couldn't pull from me is the location of the clearing.  I hadn't even seen which way we were heading as we left the city.

Officer Trowbridge asked, "Did you have anything like a cell phone or eCom with you?"

I pulled out my eCom and handed it to her.  She plugged it into her tablet computer, asked my permission, then copied its contents.

She assured me that I was in no trouble, and that she greatly appreciated my cooperation.  I saw a mixture of feelings.  She was sad, angry, determined, and even hopeful.  I'm sure she was sad and angry about the murder.  Determined?  Yes, I guess she should be filled with determination that they will put these murderers away for good.

But hopeful?

I asked her about it.  She gave me a weird look, and the telepath was looking intently at me.

"I guess I'm hopeful that we will finally put this case to rest.  We have suspected these people for a long time, but have never come this close to catching them."

"I'll be glad to take my turn on the witness stand," I assured her.

The telepath touched me on the hand.  "Are you aware that you're an empath?"

I looked at her with confusion.

"You can directly detect people's emotions.  That's why you found it so easy to trust the Martin family.  Would you like for me to check you out for other talents?"

I nodded.

She put her hand on my head for a second.  "It looks like you have some telepathic powers.  I can't tell how strong it is.  You might also have some telekinetic powers.  Even when you cooperate, you're hard to read."

I thanked her.

She and her partner asked us if we had any questions, and gave us each their cards and told us to call if we think of anything.  As they were leaving, I leaned back into the chair and closed my eyes.  I felt someone softly stroking my hair.  It was my mother.  I could feel the sadness that she felt for Amy.  I could feel the anger that bordered on hatred that she felt for father and his ilk.  I could feel her worry.  I could feel her gratitude for the Martins' generosity.  Most of all, I could feel her love for me.  I opened my eyes and smiled up at her.

After resting for a while, I went up to my room.  I have been reacting ever since Amy was murdered.  It's now time to act.  I fired up my computer and searched the web for information on telepathy, telekinesis, and empathy.  I read a few opinion pieces, then downloaded some free on-line courses.  I read the introduction to each course, then tried to decide where to start.

Since I was already using my empathic skills, I figured it would be best to concentrate on the other two.  Telepathic skills involve reading minds.  That kind of an invasion of privacy made me uncomfortable, but it wouldn't be as bad if I practiced on strangers.  Since I didn't want to violate the trust of anyone here, that left me with telekinesis.

I started by balancing an unsharpened pencil on its end.  It didn't take much force to knock it over, so it didn't take long for me to accomplish that.  I could have done the same thing by breathing hard or gently bumping the desk, but it was a thrill to do it by just concentrating.

After about half an hour, I had the pencil spinning in the air.  I picked up a sharpened pencil used it to write.  After a while, I just concentrated on what I was writing, rather than the mechanics of making the individual strokes.  I pictured a drawing in my mind and watched in amazement as the pencil recreated that drawing.  I took a break and tried to read my surroundings.  I could feel Mom's presence downstairs.  I could feel the Martins, but they felt different.  I could only read their emotions, where I could actually feel Mom's mind.  I could probably have gone further and read what she was thinking, but I had already decided to limit such things to strangers at least for now.

After half an hour of listening to my music and otherwise just letting my mind float, I got back to work.  I picked up the pencil and spun it in the air again.  I closed my eyes and 'felt' for the pencil.  Pretty soon, I had a pretty clear image of it in my mind.  It didn't contain any color, but I could feel the textures of the different materials.  The eraser was spongy and soft.  The wood was kind of, well, woody.  The lead was denser, more brittle, and a bit harder.  According to the course, a TK can feel his surroundings by applying a very gentle pressure and feeling the resistance.  I threw some coins and dice into a box and shook it.  I gently felt inside the box.  I found all the objects.  After some practice, I could feel the impressions on the coins and the spots on the dice.  I turned each coin to 'heads' and each die to six.  I don't think I'm going to be welcome in any casinos.  I used my TK sense to feel around the room, exploring all the common objects so that I could get a feel for what is normal in the world around me.  Then, after relaxing with my music for a while, I went back downstairs.

Kim looked up at me as I came down the stairs.  "Been playing with your new powers?"

I answered by picking up one of the coffee table books and levitating it around the room.  I walked to the overstuffed chair and, in a very ladylike fashion, sat down.  Then, I reached upstairs, felt for the pencil and pad, and brought them downstairs.  I looked carefully at Kim's smiling face.  Her smile widened as the pencil, in a blur of motion, drew her face on the pad.  The paper then lifted itself from the pad and flew over to her.

"Very impressive!" she said.  "You seem to have control down pat.  How much force can you apply?"

"I don't know," I replied.  "It didn't seem like a good idea to push my limits this soon.  I'm kind of tired, you know."

"Ah," said Sara, "An admirable level of restraint.  But what of your other powers?  I thought I felt a bit of tickling in my mind a while back."

I turned red.  "When I was resting after my first session, I let my mind wander and 'look' around.  I detected your emotions, but nothing else.  I could actually feel Mom's mind, but I didn't try to go any further.  I have already decided that I'm not going to play with my telepathic powers until I'm among strangers.  I don't want to betray anyone's trust."

"But it's OK to read a stranger?" Mom asked.

"Well, I need to learn to control my power or I'm likely to accidentally read someone when I shouldn't.  If I practice on strangers, the things that I find out will be nothing but anonymous facts that don't relate to anyone I know."

"It looks like someone has been doing her research," Sara said approvingly.  She looked at my mother.  "You must be very proud of your daughter."

I blushed.  Sara walked over to me and put her hand on my shoulder.  "You're not used to approval, are you?"

My eyes started to tear up.  "Mom has always loved me, but I get precious little elsewhere."  I couldn't stifle a sob.  "Except for Amy."

Sara knelt down and pulled me to her.  "It's OK to cry."

Here I go again, bawling my eyes out.  These female hormones can get real old real quick.  Mom and Sara led me upstairs, helped me change to a nice, silky nightie, and tucked me in.  I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.


Chapter Five: New day, new hope


All too soon, Mom was waking me up.  I groggily got out of bed and hit the shower.  I dressed without comment in the clothes that Mom had laid out for me.  I was about to whip us up a quick breakfast when Cindy came up and invited us to eat breakfast with them.

Larry was putting a plate of mini omelets on the table as Kim set down a plate of waffles.  Larry, wearing a smirk, daintily picked up a crystal bell and rang it.  "Breakfast is served, gentlepeople."

"Why thank you, kind sir," said Sara.

Cindy giggled.  Mom and I joined in.  Breakfast was wonderful.  The companionship was even better.

I rode to school with the Martins.  I sat in the back seat with Cindy and Larry, but I somehow didn't feel squeezed in.  Rather, I enjoyed the closeness and companionship.

Once we got to school, I really started to pay attention to my empathic sense.  Most of the students were feeling the usual mixture of boredom, interest, worry, and the like.  Some were really bored with school, while others were happy to be there.  Most didn't react to my presence for more than a fraction of a second as they glanced at me.  Some looked at me with curiosity (presumably wondering who I was before), some with interest or even lust, some with sympathy, some with pity, and some with hate.  Most of those who looked upon me with pity or hate were from my church former church, that is.

When I showed up for my third hour gym class, the teacher directed me to the advanced gym class for testing.  There, I met Mister Jacobson.  My former compatriots referred to him as 'Mister Monkey,' so I had to be careful to adjust my attitude.

He greeted me warmly and started putting me through a series of tests.  Kim, Sara, Larry, and Cindy all gave me the thumbs up.  When it was my turn to play on that big jungle gym, they were the ones who led me around.  I found that I could pretty well follow them, except for the areas where the bars were too big for me to grasp.  They used their claws to get a grip, but my hands slid off.  I fell to the floor.  Just before I hit, I felt myself being slowed down.

"That was interesting," I said as I picked myself up.  "I guess my TK is strong enough to break my fall."

"Be careful about overdoing it," said Mister Jacobson, "But you may very well be able to fly using your TK.  We'll train you in advanced gym class."

"You mean I made it?"

"Yes," he replied, "but you still have to finish your testing so that we have a good baseline."

So off I went again to the jungle gym.  I quickly learned to use TK to grab the large bars.  If I had a long jump, I used TK for a bit of an extra boost.

After the agility tests, I went to the machines to test my strength.  Mister Jacobson had to remind me to not help myself out with my TK.  "We just want to test your muscles now.  We'll work on your TK strength later."

"Welcome to advanced gym class," said Kim.  "Mister Jacobson agrees that you should train with us.  We're all starting out at the same level, and have similar strengths."

I almost committed the faux pas of going into the wrong locker room.  Kim gently steered me to the girls' locker room.  "It's disconcerting, I know."

During study hall, I alternated between catching up on my missed work and practicing my TK.  It only took me a few minutes to realize that I could get my work done faster by using my TK to write.  Apparently, my TK is more coordinated than my muscles, because my TK handwriting (TKwriting?) is a whole lot neater.  Soon, I was finished with the work I had brought.  It seemed to be easier than it was before I got MORFS, and I did the writing a lot faster.  That left me with some time with nothing to do.  I amused myself by using my TK sense to 'look' around.  I became more familiar with the texture of common materials and objects.  I even started to be able to sense color.  Perhaps I have a bit of that telepathic sense that generally shows up in people who gain telepathy and lose their eyes when they morf.

I tried to read my books without opening them.  It was hard to adjust my vision so that I could see one page and only one page, especially if the paper was bent or wrinkled.  Soon, though, I was reading my own books, the books of the other students, and even the books in the library.  If I had still been male, I probably would have amused myself by looking into the girls' locker room and through people's clothes as they walk by.  As it is, I already have access to the locker room.  Sadly, it doesn't hold quite the same interest it used to hold.

As I was sitting back in my chair with my eyes closed, I started to read whispers of thoughts.  I focused on them and read them more clearly.  I carefully refrained from focusing on my friends.  I practiced at shutting out all but their surface thoughts and emotions.  Soon, my mind started to automatically do that.

I was startled out of my reverie by the bell.  Without thinking, I used my TK to pack everything into my backpack.  I felt a stab of hate and fear from across the room, but it was soon gone.  I had been getting used to that, so I didn't give it much thought.

I walked into the girls' room on the way to class.  As soon as I went through the door, I was grabbed roughly.  "Where are you going, freak?  This bathroom is for humans."

Another one said, "This is the one who made the police arrest my father.  We need to teach her a lesson!"  She was behind me, but I could still 'see' her clearly enough.  I remember seeing her sitting in the deacon section at church.  She came around to the front and cocked her fist back.  She took a hefty swing, but she never connected.  "You can't stop me with your black magic!"  She tried to kick me, but didn't connect.  The rage and hatred radiating from her was painful to see.  I used my TK sense to find her carotid arteries, and gently pinched them shut.  She crumpled to the ground.  I released her arteries and broke her fall.

"Do you want to join her?" I growled at the two who were holding me.  They gave me a shove and ran out the door.

By the time I was done relieving myself and washing up, my attacker was waking up.  I carefully stepped around her, left the restroom, and went to class.  My fifth and sixth hour teachers were pleased with the work that I turned in.  I told them that I expect to be caught up in a week or less.

I rode the bus home with Cindy and Larry.  We're slim enough to sit three to a seat, so I sat between them.  I played with my TK and telepathic senses on the way.  I closed my eyes and remotely sensed the bus.  I could sense the road going by underneath us.  I focused on the wheels, then on the motors inside them.  The magnets felt kind of different.  After concentrating a bit, I sensed the magnetic fields generated by the permanent magnets, and the changing magnetic fields created by the electromagnets.  After a while, I could sense the electric currents as they were switched by the electronics of the motor controllers.

I shifted my attention back up to the inside of the bus.  A few students were listening to audio players or eComs through earphones.  I concentrated on the earphone wires and detected the current.  After concentrating, I could 'hear' the music through my TK/TE senses.  I concentrated on the moving air inside their ears and similarly heard the music.  I felt for their emotions and detected a variety.  The emotions of some of the students reflected the music, while others didn't.  I tried looking into their minds, and saw what was making them feel the way that they were feeling.  When I looked into the minds of those who's emotions reflected the music, I heard the music itself.  It was different, but it was recognizable.  It was the music as they heard it, not as I heard it.

I was startled to see myself in the minds of some of the boys.  Some saw me as I was, while others were 'undressing me with their eyes'.  I was really annoyed, but I soon realized that I had done the same thing when I was male.  If I'm to be entrusted with the ability to read others' thoughts, I need to learn not to judge.  I need to think about how embarrassed I would be at times if my thoughts could be read.  I felt a hand on mine.  I focused closer and 'saw' that it was Larry.  I opened my eyes and smiled at him.  He really is kind of cute.

Where did that come from?

"A penny for your thoughts," he said.

"I was using my telekinetic, telepathic, and empathic senses to look around.  It's a whole new way of seeing the world.  I'm still getting used to the novelty."

"What can you sense from me?  Can you read my mind?"

I blushed.  I can read his emotions just fine.  I can tell, for instance, that he likes me and not quite the same way that Cindy likes me.  Also, my remote sense sees right through his clothes.

"Well, I can read your emotions just fine.  I can also feel your physical presence."  No sense being too specific about that.  "I can't read your mind, though.  I haven't tried, but I can always sense the presence of someone's mind even when I don't try to look inside."

"Can you try to read it?  What if I try to open up and let you look?"

"OK," I said.  "I'll try."

I focused on his emotions, then tried to see what was under them.  I got a faint glimmering, but it seemed distant and weak.  I touched his hand, and it got stronger.

"I can tell that something is there," he said.

"Concentrate on letting me in.  Or, maybe, concentrate on the feeling that something is there."

I closed my eyes again.  His mind became a bit clearer.  *Can you hear me?* I sent to him.  I felt his hand twitch in surprise.

"Yes," he said.

*Try answering me with your mind.*

*Hi Cara.  Can you hear me?*

Suddenly, his mind opened up wide.  It was if we were both suddenly on the same wavelength.  In his mind, I could see an image of my face.  It was more beautiful than I have ever considered myself to be.  I had to stifle a sob.

*Cara!  Are you all right?*

*Never been better!* I told him truthfully.  I opened my eyes and concentrated on his handsome face.  *Look into my mind and see what I am seeing,* I told him.  I saw a smile form on his face.

Cindy cleared her throat.  "All right, you two!  What are you up to?"  I sensed amusement and something else in her.

"Larry is helping me with my telepathy," I said innocently.

"A likely story!" she snorted.

*I think you have some telepathic sense.  Why don't you try 'looking' around the bus for a bit while I try to read Cindy?*

*OK.*

I turned to Cindy and took her hand.  "Concentrate on letting me into your mind.  When you feel someone knocking, concentrate on that."

I could read her better than I read Larry.  *Can you hear me, Cindy?*

*Yes!  This is wonderful!*

I opened my eyes and looked into her face.  *Try to read what I am seeing.*

I saw my image in her mind as I see her that of a close friend; almost a sister.

*The way you were google eying my brother, we may end up being sisters in law!* she snickered.

*I heard that!* Larry said.

I blushed.  Somehow, that went through the telepathic link, too.

*Let's look around the bus,* I suggested.

*Ewwwww!* Cindy said.  *That guy is undressing us with his eyes!*

*Get used to it,* I replied.  *It's what guys do.  Besides, how many times would you have not wanted to have someone read your thoughts?  We have to be careful with our attitudes or we will end up being disdainful of the whole world.*

Larry focused our attention on another passenger.  *That guy thinks that I'm so lucky to be sitting with two hot babes,* he chuckled with amusement.

I'm still more used to being the observer than being the observed.  The fact that I have been concentrating on so many other issues doesn't mean that I'm totally comfortable and accepting of my new gender.

*You'll get used to it,* Cindy said with sympathy.  *You can talk to Dad if it helps.*

*I can't pretend to know how you feel,* Larry added.  *I have a pretty good idea, though, since you have allowed me to look into your mind."

Cindy lightened the mood a bit.  *What he isn't telling you is that he likes you better this way.*

I thought about it a bit.  *I can't say that I prefer to be female, but I definitely like who I am better than I did before all of this happened.*

*We like you just fine,* Cindy said, *but you can tell that just by 'looking.'*

*It's still nice to hear,* I said.

"Look at those freaks!  They must be up to something!" one of the students whispered to another.

*I'm so tempted to say something nasty to them, but it would do nothing but confirm their suspicions and add to their fear and hate,* Larry commented.

We sensed another telepath on the bus, but quickly broke contact with him.  He used his telepathic sense to look around, but he couldn't see us.  He then tried to hide himself, but wasn't totally successful.  We were tempted to see if the three of us together could break through his block, but that would have been rude.  We continued to look around the bus.  I found that I was able to pipe my telesense through the link to them.  After some practice, they developed their own sense.  It wasn't quite as detailed as mine, but it was usable.

We were shaken out of our reverie when the bus came to our stop.  We were still communicating telepathically as we walked toward the front.  I smiled and waved at the telepath as we passed him.  He looked at us suspiciously, but smiled back.

Mom, Kim, and Sara were sitting in the living room sipping sparkling fruit juice when we entered.

"You guys look like the cats that ate the canary," Sara said.

"Me?" I asked innocently.  "I figured I looked more like the elf that hid the fairy dust."

Kim snickered.  "All right, out with it!  What have you three been up to?"

"I asked Cara to try to read me," Larry said, "and she ended up unlocking my own telepathic skills."

Cindy asked, "Do you guys want to try it?"

Cindy went to Sara and Larry went to Kim.  Pretty soon, everyone was conversing.

"I kind of feel left out," pouted Mom.

*Can you hear me, Mom?*

"Yes!", said Mom.

*Try answering me without speaking out loud.*

*Like this?*

*Yes!* everyone chorused.

With someone to show them the tricks, Kim and Sara soon got the hang of using their telesensing.  Kim, Sara, Larry, and Cindy all had remarkably similar sensing abilities.  They think that it's that way because they all got hit with the same bug.  They all have some TK ability, but can't control it as well as I can.  None of them can write with it, unless they use large letters.  They had very fine control within an inch or so of their bodies, but couldn't do the drawing trick from across the room.  They did, however, have plenty of power.  None of them had any trouble lifting three or four people.  We figured that we would all talk to Mister Jacobson about it tomorrow.

Kim looked over at Sara and Cindy.  "Are you girls going to drag Cara out to the spa the way you dragged me?  She's the only changeling girl here without a perforated belly button."

"Beauty salon, dear; it's a beauty salon," Sara replied.  "A beauty salon is where we girls go to look beautiful.  A real spa, like Mrs. Tabor's, is a full-service rest and beauty resort that will make a new you from top to bottom," she said wistfully.  She added with feigned disdain, "Now, what you have been erroneously calling a health spa is one of those sweaty smelly testosterone-laden places where you used to push weights and grunt and build up those bulky muscles."

"I don't recall you complaining about my bulky muscles.  In fact, I seem to recall you spending considerable time studying them supposedly for anatomy class."

"Especially your gluteals," she smirked, "and I don't recall too many complaints coming from you."

"Alas," he sighed, "my new body doesn't seem capable of amassing such bulk."

"Hey, I'm not complaining.  You are still one fine piece of tail!"  Sara grabbed Kim's tail and started stroking it.  Her eyes were half lidded as she leaned back into the love seat.

Cindy rolled her eyes, then started giggling.  "Daddy's purring."

"If it's any consolation," commented Larry, "I don't think I'll be building any bulk, either."

"I guess you'll just have to find someone who loves you for your mind," said Sara as she continued to stroke Kim's tail.

"Yes," said Cindy, "Perhaps someone who has already looked into his mind, and likes what she sees."

Larry blushed.

OK, I blushed, too.  So sue me!

Cindy must have 'said' something to Mom, because she looked at me and raised her eyebrows.

*Larry is a sweet friend.  Cindy is reading a lot into the fact that he and I shared thoughts as we practiced our telepathy.*

*Yeah, right* snickered Cindy.

*Hey!  That wasn't aimed at you.  How did you read it?*

*I was talking to your mom at the time, so I saw it flash through her mind,* replied Cindy

*Obviously, we have a lot to learn about this stuff,* I commented.

Larry piped in, *Alright, what are you guys plotting?*

*Nothing, dear brother,* Cindy smirked.

Discretion being the better part of valor, I decided to change the subject.

Kim and Sara were curled quite comfortably in the love seat.  They were draped over each other like... well, like a couple of cats.  They had their mental shields up.  Actually, they seemed to be sharing a single shield.

*I think your mom and dad are purring,* I sent to Cindy and Larry.

I could tell that Cindy was trying to come up with something to say.  Finally, she decided better of it.  *Thanks for resisting temptation,* I sent to her privately.

*You don't know how hard it was.  You owe me one.*  Out loud, she said, "Hey, who's in for a swim?"

Taking my cue, I went upstairs to put on a swimsuit.  I studied myself critically in the mirror.  The aquamarine color of the suit contrasted well with my sea blue eyes and hair and my light skin; like a tropical white sand beach where the aquamarine shallows fade out to the blue depths.

Now where did that come from?  I don't recall thinking like that when I was Matthew.  I sighed.  Well, if I have to be a girl, I might as well start thinking like one.

"Very pretty," my mother said, startling me.  I really must have been out of it if I didn't sense her approach.  "How is your homework coming?" she asked.

"I'm ahead of schedule," I said proudly.  "I can write faster with my TK, and I also seem to be retaining what I read better."

She gave me a hug.  "I'm proud of you, darling!"

I leaned into her hug and give as good as I got.  I never did that when I was Matthew.  This girl stuff isn't too bad.  I bounded down the stairs and ran out to the pool.  *That's not very lady-like,* my mother thought to me.

*It is if you're an athletic girl!* I replied.

She rolled her eyes.  I couldn't see her, but I could sense that she rolled her eyes.  I giggled.

I dove in and did some laps, reveling at the way my new body glided smoothly through the water.  I angled down and swam underwater for a space.  I experimented with a few different strokes, but ended up with a simple flutter kick.  I blew out air as I swam up.  I surfaced, took a deep gulp of air, and went back down.  I did a few flips, kicked off of the bottom, angled to the edge, and climbed out the ladder.

"You're quite the fish," said Larry.  The image of me in his public mind was flattering.  I smiled.

"Thank you," I said.  "I have always liked the water, but my new body almost seems to be made for it."

"Almost," he agreed.  "I have seen people with fins and gills, but I like you just fine the way you are."

I blushed.

Then, I changed the subject.  "That on line course I downloaded said that liquids are particularly hard to TK."

I concentrated on the water at the center of the pool.  Soon, I had a nice fountain gushing up.  I played with the stream, widening and narrowing it, forming it into graceful curves, sending it in a spiral, and making it widen to a spray at the top and fall.  This isn't so hard, after all.

Larry managed to get a good spout going, but didn't have anywhere near the level of control.  I noticed that the raw amount of water was quite a bit greater than I could manage, though.  I joined with him, increasing the volume and control.  Soon, we had a huge river of water flowing straight up, into a spiral, through a couple loops, and straight back down through the center of the spiral.  Cindy added her power to the display and the river got thicker and faster.  We were working almost as one mind.

I noticed that Mom, Kim, and Sara were watching from inside the house.  *Come on out,* I sent to them.

They came out.  Kim and Sara added their power and control to the display.  We sent the water even higher, and through several more loops.

It occurred to me that heat is nothing more than the motion of the individual molecules.  I separated a side stream from the main river going down and broke it into small balls of water.  I concentrated on sucking the heat out.  Ironically, it took power to remove the heat.  Soon, the pool was full of balls of ice.

"Setting the pool up for polar bears?" asked my mom.

I stopped making ice balls and, instead, heated the water as it went down.  I also concentrated on heating and melting the ice balls.  Soon, we had the entire pool warmed up to a comfortable eighty-eight degrees.

I could feel fatigue in all of us.  Of one accord, we stopped pulling water from the pool and let the stream run out.  It was fun watching the tailing end of the stream go through all the loops and spirals.

*I think we all need some energy drinks and power bars,* said Doctor Kim.

*Where are they?* I asked.  Cindy visualized the drinks and bars, so I felt for them with my senses.  As one, we picked up the food and drink and floated it out to the pool, setting two bars and a drink by each person, including Mom.

"It's a good thing that the power used to move that water didn't come solely from our food, or we would never be able to replenish it," said Sara.

"We're still trying to figure out where the energy comes from when people use TK or elemental powers," agreed Kim.

I took a bite of power bar, washed it down with some pep juice, sighed, and laid back in the chaise lounge.  The sun shone red through my eyelids as I laid there.  I idly sensed the area and noted that everyone else was reclining, too.  Kim and Sara shared the same lounge.  I finished up my snack and laid back again.  I retracted my senses and let my mind wander.  Before I knew it, I was asleep.

"Wake up, sleepy head.  Time for dinner."  Mom smiled down at me as I yawned and stretched.  The sun was lower in the sky than it was before.

"How long have I been out?"

"Oh, about two hours.  Everyone else got up a few minutes ago, but you didn't stir.  We decided to let you sleep until the table was set.  Go upstairs and change."

I launched myself up the stairs and changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.  Everyone was getting seated as I scooted to my place and... was about to plop into my seat, but remembered to sit like a lady.  Mom smiled and winked at me.  Cindy sent me a telepathic giggle.

After dinner, Larry and Cindy got up to clear the table and do the dishes.  I remained in my seat and levitated all of the dishes over to the sink area.  I put the dishes that would fit into the dishwasher, and placed the rest into the sink.  Then, I turned on the water and guided the stream, along with some dish soap, to each large dish in turn.  Finally, I rinsed and dried them.  Pushing the water off of the dishes was tricky, but I soon got the hang of it.  I could sense the difference between the solid dish and the liquid, so I was soon able to push the water off by feel.

I went up to my room and got further ahead on catching up on my school work.

Does that make sense?

OK, I have a schedule for catching up on my school work, and I'm ahead of that schedule.  In other words, I'm ahead at catching up from behind.

I think I ought to run for congress.

Anyhow, after getting ahead at getting less behind, I laid out my clothes for tomorrow and prepared for bed.  I decided to do some light reading, so I dug one of Mom's old Asimov paperbacks out of the boxes.  I found it easier to lay it on the nightstand and read it with my remote senses than to sit up and hold it.


Chapter Six: Another day, another adventure


The next morning, I tried using my TK to dry off.  It was a little tricky at first, especially on my hair.  Once I got the hang of it, it saved me a bunch of time.

With all the time I saved, I got down to the kitchen before anyone else.  By the time Larry arrived, I had breakfast pretty much prepared.  We chatted while he set the table.

"Looks like someone got up early to beat the rush," commented Cindy.  "Don't you know that we girls have to be fashionably late?  We have a reputation to maintain!"

"Gee, sorry about that," I said.  "I guess I should sleep in tomorrow.  I'm just not used to the fact that I can dry everything, including my hair, in about three seconds using my TK."

"I wish I had your level of control," Cindy said wistfully.

"I recall you doing some very fine manipulations yesterday.  You just had to have the object in question within a couple inches of your body.  Try pushing the water away from the hair that's near your scalp, then running your hands down the length of your hair to get rid of the rest.  Or, lean forward so that all of your hair rests right on your body."

"Great idea!" Cindy said.  "I think I'll try it after gym."

After breakfast, Mom went to her job, and I rode with the Martins to school.  Larry, Cindy, and I went to class.  Kim and Sara took their tablets to the study hall to take care of whatever writing or research they needed to do, then met us for our third hour advanced gym class.

We had a great time training together.  Mister Jacobson noticed that we weren't talking to each other, but were still coordinating everything just fine.  *Managed to find your telepathy powers, eh?* he sent to us.  Apparently, he is used to working with telepaths.

*Not only that,* Sara said proudly.  *Cara also helped us all unlock our telekinetic powers.*

*I'll arrange to have you all trained by someone with TK powers, then,* he replied.

After gym, we showered and quickly dried using our TK.  Everyone was well pleased with the time it saved.

Since Kim and Sara are now enrolled in the advanced gym class, they can eat cafeteria food with us peons I mean students.  Lucky them.  Good company makes the meal, though.  After lunch, they went on their way.  I went to the study hall and more catch-up work.  Now, I'm way ahead on my campaign to not be behind.

I felt an icy stab of fear.  I was confused at first, but soon realized that someone else was feeling the fear.  I reached out with my senses and saw the same three 'purity' types harassing a sweet looking girl with squirrel features.

*You'll be OK,* I sent to the frightened girl.  Then, I reached out and gently compressed the carotids of the perpetrators.  They fell to the floor, leaving the squirrel girl confused.

*Just walk away from them,* I said.  *They'll be up and around in about thirty seconds.*

I contacted Cindy and Larry and told them what happened.  We all agreed to keep tabs on them, and anyone else who might show violent tendencies.

*We need to be discreet,* I said.  *If we can protect the victims without hurting anyone or tipping our hand, we might actually make a difference around here.*

*We'll need to figure out how to harmlessly take them out,* Larry said.  We don't have fine enough control to do what you did.*

*Just physically block them from attacking and give me a shout,* I said.  *If I'm not around, you might have to come up with something else, like pushing them fifty feet down the hall.*

Cindy vented a telepathic snicker.  *I might actually enjoy that.*

I monitored the hall as the attackers slept.  They got up without incident and quickly left.

The bell rang, so I went to my next class.  Fifth and sixth hour passed uneventfully.  The teachers were pleased with the work I turned in.

*I'll save us a seat on the bus,* Larry said.  *I'm glad it's Friday.  It's been a long week!*

I sat between Larry and Cindy.  I leaned back and closed my eyes.  It might have looked like I was snoozing, but I was actually looking around the bus.

*Don't look now, but that other telepath is knocking on our door,* I said.  *We can't really fault him for being curious, can we?*

I focused my remote sense on his face and adjusted the image in my conscious mind to make it look as much like ordinary vision as I could.  Then, I dropped my shield back so that he could see my public mind.

He jerked in surprise as he saw his own face appear in my public mind.  Then, of course, he got to see himself jerking in surprise.  Larry snickered and looked at me, allowing a picture of my face to enter his public mind.

I like the way my face looks through his eyes.

Cindy and I giggled.  We all introduced ourselves to him.  He introduced himself as Jim Reynolds.

Soon, we were all chatting like old friends.  It turns out that he had morfed a couple weeks ago, and was just getting used to his changes.  We compared notes and arranged to meet each other some time this weekend.  After the bus let us off, we carried our stuff to our rooms, changed, and hit the pool.  I could really get used to having a pool.  What I was having a little trouble getting used to is the fact that I was more interested in looking at Larry than at Cindy.  While I never lost my appreciation for the female form, I was noticing things like Larry's well-muscled back and shoulders, the feline grace of his movements, and the way his face had a kind of exotic yet rugged handsomeness.

*I think you're pretty cute, yourself.*

I blushed.  He gave me a warm chuckle.  *You have only yourself to blame, you know.  You're the one who unlocked my TE.*

He looked at me and allowed a picture of me to form in his mind.  It wasn't just a factual photograph of my appearance, but an image colored by what he feels for me an image tinged with warmth and affection.

*It's natural for us to hide and avoid being vulnerable, but Mom and Dad taught us from a young age that life is better when you allow others to know how you feel about them.*

I smiled and formed an image of him in my mind an image that carries the same affection.

"You guys making google eyes at each other?" Cindy asked out loud.

"Oh hush!  I saw the way you were looking Jim on the bus," I replied.  "Maybe you should invite him over for a swim so you can get a better look at him."  Now, it was Cindy's turn to blush.

Larry called Jim telepathically.  It took him about ten minutes to get changed and come over.

It seemed to me that I saw him somewhere else besides on the bus.  Perhaps advanced gym class.

*Are you in mister Jacobson's third hour advanced gym class?* I sent to him.

*You mean you don't remember seeing me there?*  He tried to pout, but didn't quite pull it off.

I watched as he climbed to the high board and gracefully dove off.  He has the same athletic but not bulky build that many MORFS survivors are blessed with.  Other than that, there is little that screams post-MORFS.  He has silver hair, and his light blue irises are veined with a color that's somewhere between cobalt blue and indigo.  Taken together, one might surmise that he has gone through MORFS, or that his parents or grandparents have.  Still, he could easily pass in a pures convention by hiding his hair and maybe wearing tinted glasses or contacts.  I could certainly see why Cindy is attracted to him.

The four of us had a great time swimming and lounging around the pool.  Sometimes, it's great to forget all your cares and worries and just enjoy the moment.

*Now who's making google-eyes, Missy?* I sent to Cindy.  She blushed.  She was about to say something back when the phone rang.

Cindy answered, talked for a while, then turned to us.  "Mom wants us all to get ready to go to the mall.  They'll be by to pick us up in half an hour."  She asked Jim, "Do you want to come with us?"

"Let me check with Mom and Dad."  He concentrated for a second, then said, "OK, I can come."

I sent a telepathic smirk to Cindy.  *What?* she asked innocently.

We all rinsed off and changed.  Jim had brought some clothes for the trip home, so he changed in Larry's room.

I was relaxing on my bed when I sensed the approach of Mom, Kim, and Sara.  We all went downstairs and walked out the door just as they were pulling into the driveway.

*Get out of the driveway so I can pull into the garage,* Kim sent.  *We're not all going to fit in this car.*


Chapter Seven: What else?  The mall.


We all piled into the minivan and headed for the mall.  As we walked in, we saw a pair of teens with canine features holding hands.  We smiled at them.

If we had any misconceptions about human nature, they died at the mall.

*When you can read all the idle chatter in people's minds, you lose your innocence really quick,* Jim said.  *I'm still learning what is normal and what is dysfunctional.*

The first order of business was to head to the food court and get dinner.  We MORFS survivors need to fuel our high metabolism.  Somehow (quite by chance, of course), I ended up sitting next to Larry, and Cindy ended up sitting next to Jim.  Mom, Kim, and Sara sat on the other side of the table.

Mom looked across the table at me.  "I'm proud of the way you're adapting so quickly."

"Indeed," said Kim.  "I rarely see people adapt to a new gender so quickly.

I blushed.  Then, several different feelings welled up and fought for dominance.  I felt grief, happiness, love, acceptance, and a bunch of other feelings all tangled together.  I closed my eyes against the tears that welled up.  "I'm adapting to a new life more than just a new gender," I said.  "I have to leave behind the old stuff because it isn't coming back.  Good riddance to most of it, to be honest."  I opened my eyes and looked at the three adults.  "My old life was headed for destruction, and I didn't even know it.  I came face to face with it the day before I changed."

The memory of Amy's last day made my voice shaky.  "My old life the life where I was blithely heading for the pit started to end when I arrived at that evil place and saw that pitiful figure, huddled and shaking, chained up like an animal.  It came crashing down when they pulled the hood off her head."

I hung my head and sobbed softly.  My mom and new friends listened quietly.

"Amy's last words were not spoken out loud.  They were spoken straight to my mind.  She told me that the souls of her captors was black, and that I would share their fate if I didn't escape.  She told me that her life was over, and made me promise to live my life to the fullest.  She told me to find a new love and teach my future children to love and not hate."

Tears were streaming down my cheeks.

"I am doing my best to do that in my new life.  I'm throwing out the garbage.  I'm winnowing the chaff from the grain, and burning the chaff.  I'm casting aside those who teach hatred and keeping those who love me.  My new life was conceived when I made that promise to Amy.  I was born into my new life when I woke up from MORFS."

I looked straight at Mom's face.  "There were only two people in my old life that were worth keeping.  They killed Amy, and Mom saved me from sharing her fate."  I took a couple deep breaths and tried to regain my composure.  "I have a new life now.  Mom helped me into my new life just like she birthed me into my old life.  I have new friends and a new home where I am loved.  I can do things that I could never do before."  My voice softened.  "There are advantages to being male, but there are just as many advantages to being female.  If I have to give up some of the perks of maleness to get this rich new life, it is well worth the price."

I closed my eyes and hung my head.  "The only loss I regret is Amy.  We would never have been able to share the same relationship, but we would have been best friends.  I lifted my head back up.  "But Amy is in a better place now, and she still lives in my heart.  I will never forget her."

Mom came around and put her arms around me and let me cry on her shoulder.  Soon, I was surrounded by my new friends a treasure well worth every loss.

After I had recovered, we ate and chatted about inconsequential things.  I felt a stab of fear.  I recognized it easily this time.  *Trouble!*  I cast about for the source.

I found it quickly enough, and piped my perceptions to everyone, including Mom.  I saw the couple with the canine features surrounded by about a dozen people in an out of the way corner near the restrooms.

"Come one, come all, come see the amazing dog-faced boy!  See doggy-doo and his dog-faced bitch!"

"They should be neutered," another said.  "We don't need more of their kind around."  He pulled out a knife.  He lunged at them, so I pushed him back.  I used my TK to pull the knife from his hands and stick it into the ceiling tiles.

*I need some help with this!*

*You got it!*

Starting with the closest, we quickly knocked each attacker out by pinching off their carotids.  Once they were done, Cindy talked to the couple.

*You're safe now.  They're going to wake up in less than a minute, so walk away now and don't look back!*

With so many people participating in our little operation, it was easy to watch the couple and the sleeping attackers at the same time.  By the time the attackers woke up, the couple was on the other side of the mall.

*If you have any more trouble, give us a yell,* I said to them.  *We can't promise to be close enough to hear, but it's worth a try.*

"You guys did a wonderful job," said Mom.  "I wish I could have helped."

But we weren't finished.  Kim called the police.

I asked the couple to meet us.  We were easy enough to find based on the description that we gave them.

Officers Trowbridge and Saouda first rounded up the attackers and had another unit take them to jail.  Once that was taken care of, they retrieved the knife from the ceiling.  More accurately, I TK'd it straight into the evidence bag.  Then, they took everyone's statement, handed out business cards, and said their goodbyes.

We went back to chatting about inconsequential things as our food settled.  I could feel the warmth of of their affection for me and each other, and I basked in that warmth.  Cindy gave me a kiss on the cheek.  "It's good to see you smile."  Larry shyly put his arm around me.  I leaned into him.  I was concerned about what the adults might think, but I could feel their approval.  My smile broadened.  If I could have purred, I would have.

After a little while, Mom stood up.  "OK girls, time to do some shopping!  You guys..." she indicated Larry and Jim, "can go look at tools or something."

"Hmmm..." said Kim, "I have more than enough clothes right now.  Maybe I'll go see what I can add to my tool collection."

Sara gave her a dirty look.

"I have plenty of clothes, too," I said.  "and Father has all our tools.  I guess I should start my own collection."

My mom impaled me with a wicked stare.  "Oh no you don't!  We have plans for you, Missy!"

"But, but..."

"You don't need to start your collection quite yet," Mom said kindly.  "Your father is going to be in the slammer for the foreseeable future, so we should have no problem claiming the entire collection for ourselves."

Kim walked around and took my hand.  "Go ahead and let the boys drool over the tools.  I'll stick with you and protect you from certain overzealous people."  He indicated Mom, Sara, and Cindy.  "Besides, you can use my workshop any time you want.  Just ask Larry to show you where everything is."  She gave me a sly grin.

So that's how they dragged me, kicking and screaming, over to those sections of the mall that I used to be able to avoid.

"I feel your pain, sister, really I do," said Kim.

Predictably, they dragged me over to the clothes section.

"Really!  I have plenty of clothes!"

My mother looked at me.  "That is not how a teen girl is supposed to act, young lady!"  She made a show of looking at me and checking out my attire.  "Did you really think you could get away with being the only girl in our little group to come in sweats?  We simply must remedy the situation!"

So, they had their way with me.  It didn't take them very long to find a plethora of clothes.  It took forever for me to try them all on, however.  In the end, Mom had a few bags of clothes, including the sweats that I had been wearing.  I, meanwhile, was feeling exposed in a red pleated skirt and a sand colored top that didn't even pretend to cover my midriff.  Then, it was off to the makeup counter.  That was one of the trappings of femalehood that I had hoped to avoid, but my tormentors had other ideas.  I did listen to the sales lady's instructions, though.  If I have to do something, I might just as well do it right.

Once they were all satisfied with the paint job, Mom held two ear studs to my ears.  One was aquamarine, and the other was coral.  Both were made out of the real thing.  I had to admit that the contrast worked well with my hair and skin.

"Wait a minute!" I said, "I don't wear jewelry.  Besides, that stuff only works for people with holes in their heads."

"You don't say," Mom said.

Sara and Cindy led me, like a lamb to slaughter, over to the beauty salon.  I sighed and sat in the reclining dentist chair, resigned to my fate.  Sara took my left hand, and Cindy took my right.  *Relax, Cara.  It won't hurt.*

I let them calm my mind telepathically.  I closed my eyes and let my mind drift.  I felt cold metal on my left ear and felt a snap, but no pain.  Then, there was another snap.  Then two snaps on my right ear.

*Relax.  You're not done yet.*

I felt the cold metal on on the fold of skin above my belly button.  A quick snap, and I was done.  I got up groggily and let them lead me to a full-length mirror.

I had to admit, the jewels looked nice.  The coral red and the aquamarine contrasted well with my hair and eyes.  The aquamarine jewel dangling from my navel finished the look.  It didn't even hurt.  I guess they put some kind of a topical anesthetic in the sterilizing solution.  All that angst for nothing.  Pthui.

For some reason, the guys weren't in the tool section.  Maybe it's because they didn't want to spend three hours there.  Did we really spend three hours shopping and getting perforated?  Time flies when you're... oh, never mind.

But you know, they did have some pretty cool tools there.  Kim and I were looking at a nice computer guided water cutter when we felt ourselves being levitated away.  *Gotcha!* chorused Sara and Cindy.

After a quick call on the eCom, we found Larry and Jim in the sporting goods section.  They were just loading some serious loot when we caught up with them.

"Whatcha got?" I asked.

Larry turned toward me and his jaw dropped.  I could see something... attraction, I guess.  It was similar to what I saw when boys were undressing me with their eyes, but it didn't bother me coming from him.  In fact, I could get used to this quite easily.

"Put your tongue back in your mouth, oh brother mine," said Cindy with a snicker.

Larry blushed.  It was really cute.

"What's in the bags, Larry?" I asked.

"We can't tell you," Larry smirked.

"OK, fine!  Be that way," I pouted.

"She's only been a girl for a few days, and she already has pouting down.  I think she'll do fine," commented Sara.

I didn't know what to think.  Part of me was pleased that I was adapting, while part of me mourned what I had lost.  Mom saw the different emotions cross my face and came over and enfolded me in a warm hug.

*I'm sorry,* said Sara.

*Not your fault,* I replied.  *I am what I am, and I'll get used to it faster if I bump into it more.*

Larry held his bag of loot in his left hand and took my hand with his right.  We followed everyone out of the mall and to the minivan.  Soon, we were rolling.  Before we got home, we dropped off Jim and his bag of loot.

As Larry was carrying the mystery bags in, it occurred to me that I could peek inside with my telesense.

*Don't you dare!* he admonished.

I gave him an innocent look and went upstairs to get ready for bed.  As an experiment, I used my TK to remove everything, including the makeup, from my body.  It worked, but wasn't as refreshing as a shower.  No biggie... I wasn't dirty enough to need a shower, anyhow.

I slipped into a neosilk nightie.  Some parts of being a girl are really nice.

I covered up with a large robe that went below my knees, then went down to say goodnight to everyone.  I give good night hugs to everyone, including Larry.  Before I could stop him, he kissed me full on the lips.

Of course, I didn't really try to stop him.

I reluctantly broke the embrace and went up the stairs.  I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.


Chapter Eight: Weekend!


I awoke well-rested.  Saturday... nothing planned!

I found myself wondering what I should do with myself.  Then, I remembered that I still had some school work to catch up on.  I was going to do it at my desk, but I decided to be lazy.  I laid back in my bed, closed my eyes, and used my TK to unpack my school backpack.  Soon, I was reading through the text books and doing my assignments.  In less than two hours, I was finished.

*Breakfast is served, lazy bones!* came the call from Larry.

*I just finished up my school work, I'll have you know!* I sniffed.  *I'll be glad to go down and eat your food, though.*  I got up, stretched luxuriantly, used my TK to push off the little bit of sweat that had accumulated overnight, donned my robe, and went down.

For practice, I tried eating with my TK.  The kitty four did the same thing.  Their control has been improving, though liquids are still a problem for them.

"It looks like we won't be needing to wash as much silverware from now on," commented Mom.

Once breakfast was over, we all (except Mom) made a game of cleaning up without leaving our chairs.

"Hey sleepy girl," said Cindy, "How 'bout getting yourself dressed so we can give you your surprise down in the garage?"

"And no fair peeking in the garage!" commented Larry.

"Or anyone's mind!" laughed Mom.

"Wear something athletic," added Sara.

So, I went upstairs, took a quick shower, TK'd myself dry, and dressed in shorts and a tank top that bared my midriff.  I chose aquamarine clothes (aquamarine is starting to become my favorite color for clothes), and switched to the coral navel ring that Mom had gotten for me yesterday.  The hole was already healed.

I looked down the staircase and didn't see anyone.  I jumped to the bottom and used my TK to slow me just before landing.  Mom walked around the corner just in time to catch me in mid leap.  She looked at me and rolled her eyes, then led me to the garage.  Larry grinned at me and handed me a bag.  I opened it and pulled out a skateboard.

"I know how much you missed your old one after Dad got rid of it last year," Mom said.

The skateboard and matching helmet were beautiful.  The helmet, board, and trucks were made from carbon nanotube composite.  The truck assemblies had tapered roller bearings and races that were coated with ACNR, making them harder than diamonds, and wheels that are specially formulated for high traction and low rolling resistance.

Rather than the plain solid red of my old board and helmet, these have an image of a tropical island with palm trees and beautiful white sands and aquamarine shallows that fade out to a deep blue.  My eyes started to tear up.  "Thank you!" I said as I tried to hug everyone at once.

"OK, girl, let's see what'cha got!"  Larry tossed his board to the concrete, hopped on, and was off like a shot.  He went to the end of the driveway, kicked back to lift the front wheels, pivoted to the right, and shot down the street.

*Oh yeah?*

I did the same, using my TK to get moving.  Cindy was hot on my tail.  Jim was just coming out as we passed his house.  We shot down a side street to a park that had a couple nice ramps, a quarter pipe, and a half pipe.

I shot into the half pipe, went up one side, micoredged, went back down and then up the other side, jumped, pivoted in the air, and went straight back down.  The board seemed glued to my feet.  I had been unconsciously using my TK to keep the board attached to my feet.

We spent a couple hours developing routines and using TK as little as possible.

The four of us went to a bench and sat down.  We watched the other teens play around on the ramps and pipes.  Some were better than others.

I was watching a boy of about twelve going through his routine when he slipped while trying to microedge the top of the quarter pipe.  He tumbled and went flying.  I grabbed him with my TK and lifted as hard as I could.  He barely cleared the top of the quarter pipe as momentum carried him past it.

*Help!* I called to Larry, Cindy, and Jim.  I felt them add their power to mine.  Together, we lifted him, moved him to the soft grass, and gently set him down.

"Thanks, whoever did that!" he said loudly.  We waved at him.

After goofing around for a while longer, we rocketed home on our skateboards.  Who needs a car when you can pass traffic on your skateboard?  We managed to make it home without getting pulled over for speeding.  I took a quick shower to wash off the sweat, changed to my swimsuit, and went outside to lounge around the pool.  The rest of the day passed agreeably.  We all practiced our TE and TK, did lots of swimming, and even climbed the big oak tree in the corner of the yard.  After dinner, the Martins sat down to read over the next day's Bible study.  They invited Mom and me, and we happily accepted.

It was nothing like the Bible study at our old church.  It was more like Amy and I used to do.  You get a much clearer picture of a loving God when you don't pick and choose little bits and pull them out of context.

After we were done, we all went to the living room.  We chatted, played games, and all that other stuff that normal families are supposed to enjoy stuff that I would do sometimes when Mom and I visited our relatives.

I decided to go to bed early and get a good night's rest.

I woke up refreshed.  After a nice shower, I TK'd myself dry, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and went downstairs to cook breakfast.  Sara and Larry were already working on it, so I set the table.

After breakfast, I went upstairs to choose a nice dress for church.  No such luck.  Mom beat me to the punch.  I went to my room and found a modest dress, nylons, and heels all laid out.

Good grief!

I briefly considered ignoring her offerings and making my own choice, but I didn't want to come off like a toddler insisting that 'I can do it myself!'  Aside from the heels, there really wasn't anything wrong with what she chose.  OK, so I'm not really ready for nylons.  Still, I have to do them sometime.

Why do they call them nylons, anyhow?  They're made out of neosilk, not plastic.

I have to admit that the nylons felt good; as did the neosilk panties, bra, and slip.  The naturally dyed algacotton dress was light and comfortable, too.  The heels, on the other hand, were a pain.  They weren't as tall as some I have seen, but I'm simply not used to walking on my toes.  It was very cumbersome until I started taking smaller steps.  OK, so it was still cumbersome after I started taking smaller steps.  I managed, though.

I practiced by walking around the apartment.  I tried to walk without jiggling my tush, but it didn't work out.  Maybe that's why they were invented.  I think that MORFing the guy who invented these things into a female would be appropriate punishment.  Of course, there are enough women who wear them voluntarily.

Anyhow, after I managed to learn to walk without looking like too much of a fool, I headed for the stairs.  That's when my dear mother cleared her throat and hauled my little plump tush back to my room.  I guess painting my face is the next order of business.  It turned out that my nails didn't need much touching up.  It saves a lot of wear and tear when I do a lot of work with TK instead of my hands.  I guess I'll have to make a point to use my hands to keep my muscle tone and coordination from atrophying.

Once I was painted and decked out to Mom's satisfaction, I was allowed to go downstairs and join everyone else.  Cindy stuck up her thumb.  *Looking good!*

*Thanks,* I said shyly.

With a glance at Mom, I remembered to lift my skirt slightly, sit down demurely, and smooth my skirt back out.  Larry came trotting down the stairs and plopped down next to me.  I knit my brows in annoyance.

*Good morning, beautiful,* he sent to me.

How could I be annoyed with him after that?  I smiled at him.  *Good morning.*

"What are you guys plotting this time?" asked Mom.

"Nothing at all," I said.  "It just seemed politer to talk quietly instead of filling the airwaves with noise."

She snorted.

But it was a ladylike snort.


Chapter Nine: A new experience in spirituality


On the way to church, we passed my old church.  I started shaking uncontrollably as we approached.  Mom took my hand.  "Are you all right, sweetie?"

"I'll be OK," I said in a shaky voice.

Sara looked at me with concern.  *Can I come in?*

I opened my mind to her and let her look around.  Her presence was comforting.

*You're keeping a lot of stuff bottled up inside, Cara.  It'll help if you can talk to someone about it.*

*Will I live, Doc?*

She chuckled, then turned serious.  *You'll live, but you'll live a whole lot better if you deal with the pain instead of trying to bury it.  Can I talk to your mom about it?*

*Go ahead,* I said.  *There are so many new things going on in my life... What's one more?*

She talked with me for a while longer and helped me calm down.  The fear was irrational, but real none the less.  Sara told me that I need to set aside some alone time, think on the fear, allow it to come and have its day in the sun, then let it fade away on its own.  If I do that enough times, the fear will lose its power over me.

About the time we were done, we arrived at church.  A feeling of unease hit me again.  My four feline friends were there for me, though.  They assured me that this church is totally different from the one I was used to.

And it was.

I walked inside and was overwhelmed by the atmosphere of warmth and love.  Mom held my hand when she saw the tears forming in my eyes.  She looked at Sara and nodded, then led me up to the front of the church with the Martins.  We sat in the second row, near the center.  I took a few deep breaths and let the calm flow over me.

*Where is he deacon's section?* I asked Sara.

*There is none.  We don't stand on ceremony here, or exalt one of us over another.  We have elders, several assistant pastors, and a pastor.  All of us consider ourselves to be servants, not masters.*

I gave her a telepathic smile.  *Yet another contrast between your church and mine.*

*Your old church, you mean.  This church is your church, if you'll have us.  You're welcome here.*

I was overwhelmed with emotion.  *Thank you!*

I leaned back in my chair and let my mind wander.  I am well practiced at just observing without actually reading anyone's mind.  I noticed another telepath across the aisle and about half way back.

*Welcome,* she said.  *You must be Cara.*

*You know me?*

*I was just chatting with the Martins,* she replied.  *It was sweet of you to help them unlock their abilities.  They have been saying wonderful things about you.*

Just then, a middle-aged man got up from his seat, walked to the front of the church, and stood behind the lectern.

*I'll talk to you later,* she promised.  I gave her a telepathic smile.

The music director led us in song.  It took a while for me to get used to singing with my new voice, but I eventually got the hang of it.  After three or four songs, an older gentleman took his place behind the lectern.  The elder read the announcements.  He announced several upcoming classes, a teen party, a two day couples devotional to be held at a lodge about a hundred miles from here, a sleep-over for the kids of the couples, some weddings, the choir practice schedule, the post-MORFS support group schedule, and a number of other events.  He announced birthdays and anniversaries, then asked if there were any more.  Then, he said, "It is our tradition to reintroduce recently morfed members.  Would the Martin family please come up to the front?"

"You met Cindy and Larry last week, when their parents were in the hospital.  Now, I would like to introduce to you the whole family whom many have affectionately dubbed, 'The Kitty Four.'"

Kim took the microphone.  "On behalf of my family, I would like to thank you all for your prayers and well-wishes.  After studying this condition for such a long time, it is truly a blessing to see it from the inside.  It has certainly been an eventful week.  Not only have we had to swap out a bunch of wardrobes, we have been learning some new skills."

*Cara and Sue, come on up, please.*

"Also, we have been blessed with some new friends, whom we hope can stay for a long time."

The church applauded as we took our place among the Kitty Four.

"Cara changed at about the same time we did.  Instead of having the support of a loving family and a caring church, young Matthew faced his impending change with fear.  Fortunately, Sue had the courage and wisdom to leave with her son before her husband, a deacon in the Church of Genetic Purity, got a chance to do him harm."

The church members gasped.

"Cara's father is in jail pending trial for assaulting us and murdering Cara's dear friend.  Cara's courage in facing all of this her change in appearance and gender, the brutal loss of her friend, and the enmity of her father and the members of her former church has been nothing short of astounding.  Still, she needs all the prayer she can get."

I looked out with tears in my eyes and saw the congregation stunned, full of sympathy, and radiating love.

"I would also like to thank her for helping us the whole family unlock the gifts that we received through MORFS."  She stood there for a second, then handed the microphone back to the elder.

"One final announcement; There will be a pot luck lunch right after the service to welcome the changed Martins back, and to welcome Sue and Cara into the fold.  Please show our newest family members how God wants His church to treat people."  As we were walking back to our seats, the elder said, "Everyone please rise and greet each other."

Everyone stood up.  Some stayed shyly near their seats, while others roamed far and greeted everyone they passed with a hug or a hand shake.  The Martins led us around and introduced us to everyone.  It was all genuine, too.  A few people were cool, and a bunch of people were shy, but nobody was hiding behind a facade.  This was so different from any experience I had ever had in my old church.  After a few minutes, the organist went to the front of the church and started playing.

After mixing with everyone else, the elder went back to the lectern and introduced Pastor Dan.  Pastor Dan called forth the elders and asked them to receive the offerings.  "Don't give because you have to; give because you love God and want to return some of His blessings.  If you're afraid that we'll get your money, just go ahead and keep it in your pocket.  If you're a guest here, remember that you don't charge your guests for your hospitality.  You don't need to pay us for ours."  The organist played hymns that I recognized from some of Mom's music files.

*I noticed that there are a whole bunch of hybrids here,* I commented to Kim.

*We make it a point to welcome MORFS survivors here, and we have a ministry to help people who have had difficult transformations.*

*I feel so comfortable here,* I told her.  *It's no wonder there are so many of us here."

After the offering was taken and blessed, Pastor Dan gave a very upbeat message about fighting the good fight.

"I know you don't want to hear this, but there will be trials in our lives.  It's hard to be happy about trouble, but we need to understand that trials lead to growth.  God is well known for taking the bad and redeeming it taking what was meant for harm and turning it to good.  We need to follow His example."

No talk of stamping out the evil people.  No talk of impending doom if we disappoint God.  No talk about receiving his wrath if we happen to slip up.

"Even though it's hard, we need to grit our teeth and rejoice in our trials.  When the going gets tough, thank God for putting another weight on your spiritual exercise machine and keep pushing!  Through the tears, cry out to God if you must, but don't give up.  The Devil can't hurt you.  The only thing he can do is make you give up."

I found myself smiling.  Yes, there is a reason for all of this.

If only I could get my Amy back.

But Jesus tells us to store up our treasures in Heaven.  Amy is certainly a treasure, and that's where she is.

I was emotionally exhausted, but happy, by the time the sermon was over.  The music director came up and led us in our final song.  It was upbeat.

Pastor Dan went back to the lectern and gave us a final blessing.

The music director led us in the final verse, while Pastor Dan took off his lapel microphone, walked over to the door, and waited to greet people as they left.  Not many left, though.

I sat in my seat for a while, lost in my own thoughts.  Two weeks ago, my life was... just my life.  I was going to school and preparing for life in the adult world, just like every other teen.  Now, I'm dividing my time between counting my blessings, mourning my losses, learning how to use my new skills, and wondering what the future has in store for me.  In other words, I'm one confused guy... I mean girl.

It helps when I have something to concentrate on.  Those moments of clarity allow me to push away the doubt, and fears, and sadness, and just try to accomplish the task at hand.  I wonder if that's why some people work so hard to fill every waking moment with... something; a task, some recreational activity, drinking, or just watching the television.  But I wasn't doing that.  I was sitting there in a rapidly emptying sanctuary, trying to make some cohesive sense of all those conflicting thoughts and feelings.  I felt a hand on my shoulder.

"Come on to the pot luck.  After we eat, we can see about helping you sort everything out."

"I didn't know I was thinking out loud," I said to Kim.

"I don't think you were thinking that loud.  The only reason I could read you is because we have been in each other's mind so much, and we trust each other."

I followed Kim through a short hallway and into the fellowship hall.  There were a number of tables set up.  Kim sat me at a table with Mom, Sara, Cindy, and Larry.  Soon after I was seated, Pastor Dan asked for everyone's attention and blessed the meal.

Sara got up and took my hand.  "Come on, today's our day.  Let's go get some grub."  The six of us went to the serving tables and started to fill our plates.  A line rapidly formed behind us.  I felt funny about filling my plate so much.  It helped that everyone in our little group, except Mom, did the same.  Our new bodies need fuel for our high metabolism.

A number of people stopped by when we were eating.  They congratulated the Martins, and welcomed Mom and me to the church.  A couple of the teens dropped by and invited me to today's outing.

*Come along,* said Larry.  *Cindy and I are going, so we already have transportation arranged.*

I didn't know what they would be doing, but I accepted their invitation.

After a while, I became aware of some anger, frustration, and sadness.  I followed the source to a family seated over in the corner.  There was a girl sulking and facing away from everyone.  Her mother and father were concerned about her.  Her brother and sister were concerned, too, but were starting to get impatient.  Without thinking, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, "Do you want to talk about it?  Your mom and dad are concerned and love you very much."

"What do you know about it?" she snapped.  "Do you have any idea how it feels to wake up and find that you're a g-g-g-girl?"  She broke down and started sobbing.

I sat down next to her and tried to project comforting thoughts to her.  I pulled her to me and let her cry on my shoulder.

*Yes, I know exactly how it feels.  It's OK to cry about it.*

She sniffed and looked up at me.  "You must think I'm a big sissy."

"I have cried more in the last few days than I have since I was about five," I assured her.  "It goes with the territory."  Silently, I told her, *You don't have to talk out loud if you don't want to.  I can hear you just fine.*

*How long have you been a girl?* she asked.

*I woke up last Monday.  It's been a wild week, believe me!*  I thought for a bit, then added, *I probably would have taken the change a lot harder if I hadn't been distracted by some other issues, and if I hadn't come to the realization that my life as Matthew Jones was headed straight for destruction.*

*Do you like being a girl?*

I had to think that one over.

*It has its perks, but I would rather be male at least, that's how I feel now.  I expect that to change after a while, though.  We girls have plenty of perks, and my mind is rapidly catching up with my body.*

*So I should just accept what and who I am, just like Mom and Dad keep telling me?* she asked.

*Do you have a better idea?*  Then, I smirked.  *I don't know about you, but turning into a girl didn't take away my ability to think logically.*

She looked at me like she was going to protest.

*Look,* I continued, *I can tell that you're as smart as you were before.  The stronger emotions can mess with your mind for a while, but the old thinker still works.*

*Yeah, you're right.  I either adapt or spend the rest of my life being miserable.*

*That's the spirit!* I said.  *The first step is to make the right decision.  Then, we have to try to sort out who we really are inside.  My mom and the Martins have helped me out a lot with that.*

*The Martins?*  She suddenly looked at me as if seeing me for the first time.  *You're the girl who was up in the front with them!*

*The same,* I said.

*You must think that I'm a real wimp!  I can't imagine going through what you did.*

*Hey,* I said.  *We all have our own issues.  I can see the pain and frustration in your mind.  It must be hell losing your manhood without getting something back to compensate.*

*Like you said,* she replied, *We all have our crosses to bear.  Didn't Pastor Dan just tell us that trials make us better than we were before?  Maybe that's compensation enough.*

*That's the spirit!*  I paused for a second.  *But, while you're analyzing your gains and counting your blessings, you still have to mourn for what you have lost.  It'll take some time, but we'll both manage to sort through everything.*

*Let's trade eCom addresses,* she said.  *We need to keep in touch so we can compare notes and cry on each other's shoulders.  If we have to be girls, we at least ought to do it right!*

I took my eCom out of my purse and touched it to hers.  We let them exchange addresses.  We had been talking pretty intimately, and I just learned that her name is Carol Stinnett.  Some of her accounts still bore the name Mike Stinnett.

"So, did ya get anything?" I asked.  "What did the evaluator tell you?"

"I haven't been to my post-MORFS checkup yet," she replied.

"Want me to try looking?  I've never done it before, but the on-line course I took told me how."

*Sure!*

*OK.  Just relax and try to open your mind to me.*

There was something blocking me from probing more deeply.  It was as if there was a mental shield under her public mind, rather than over it.

I looked at her.  *Look at my face.  OK, now listen to my mental voice, then look at what I am seeing.*

The image of her face came into focus in her mind as she concentrated on what I was looking at.

*OK, now show me what you see with your eyes.*

I saw my face reflected in her mind.  Still, I couldn't get past the block.

*Now, concentrate on the images that I am sending to you.*

I sent a series of images.  I sent images from around school, in the church, around the pool, during advanced gym class, and the like.  I could see her emotional response shifting with the images, but I still couldn't get through the block.

*I still can't get through.  I have found out that you have a regular heterosexual response, though.  Don't fight it, and you'll adapt fine.*

*I still think that girls look good,* she replied.

*I know.  So do I.  Aesthetic appreciation is different from attraction, though.  Think about looking at a beautiful flower or a beloved pet.  There is no sexual attraction, but it is still enjoyable.*

I could feel her start to think about what I just told her.  Suddenly, I realized that I was looking at her thought processes.  I was through.  I looked around and saw a very logical mind.  It's no wonder having out of control emotions threw her for such a loop.

*It looks like you're a powerful electrical elemental; perhaps a technopath.  If you ever wanted to get a ham license or take up electronics as a hobby, now's the time to start.*

She gave me a big smile.  *That's great!  I'm planning on going to college for an electrical engineering degree after high school.  How can I find out how to use my elemental powers?*

*If you download a free on-line course, you should be able to get a good handle on your abilities,* I replied.

I thought for a moment, then told her, *Having a shield under your public mind means that you have to watch what you think out in the open, but it also means that you can hide things and most telepaths won't even know the difference.  If you can learn to control your shield, you might even be a telepath yourself.*

*How do I do that?* she asked.

*Can you feel me in your mind?  Try to push me out.*

She concentrated.  Suddenly, I couldn't read any of her deep thoughts.

*Good!  Now, try pushing me all the way out.*

She concentrated again.  I tried to fight her, but she soon had me pushed all the way out.

"Think about how you feel now," I told her out loud.  "When your shield is out all the way, nobody can read you or send to you."

She relaxed, and I could see her public mind again.

*How do I look now?*

*Great!  It also looks like you sent that, rather than passively allowing me to pick it up.  Try sending something to your mom.*

*Mom, can you hear me?*

I looked across the table and saw a look of startlment on her mother's face.  Then, it looked like she and her daughter were having a private conversation.

I felt a hand on my shoulder.  "Are you ready to come up for air yet?"

I looked up at Kim.  *Wow!  That was intense!  I guess I haven't been a very good guest, though; spending all my time in private conversation with one person.*

*Are you kidding?* Kim said.  *Carol came in here sulking, and her whole family was worried sick about her.  Now, she's all smiles.  In a very real way, you gave her a new life.*

I followed Kim down to the basement and into one of the Sunday School rooms.  The telepath that I had talked to earlier was there.  Kim introduced her as Myra Winters.

"That was quite some performance with Carol upstairs," she told me.

"I was just talking to her," I said.

"Have you ever considered going into psychology?  A telepathic psychologist can do quite well," she commented.

"A surgeon with her level of control of TK can do well, too," Kim observed.

"I honestly never gave it much thought," I replied.  "I have just been trying to catch up with my studies in high school, learn how to be a girl, learn how to use my TE and TK, and stay sane."

"That's why I brought you down here," Kim chuckled.  "Myra is a psychologist, and she's volunteered to help you get a handle on your situation."

"Though it looks like you have gone a long way in that direction," Myra observed.

I smiled.  "Thanks.  I can use any help I can get."

Kim quietly slipped away.

"The best way we can start is for you to open your mind and let me have a look inside.  Remember that client confidentiality is a sacred trust, and I take it quite seriously."

I settled back in the comfortable recliner.  *OK, come on in and poke around all the dusty corners.  No telling what you're going to find, though.*

I felt her poking around unobtrusively.  She had a very light touch.  I suspect that I wouldn't have even known she was there if I wasn't telepathic myself.

She started talking to me and transmitting images to me.  She later explained that she does that to watch my reaction to various words, situations, and images.  She showed me around my own mind telling me where I was doing well, and leading me to a few areas that needed work.  She showed me some exercises that would help me find my real core being and align it with my new body and situation.  She assured me that the process is already well on its way.  When we finished, she typed a few things into her tablet.  A few seconds later, she grabbed a printout and handed it to me.  She diagnosed me with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), survivor guilt, and a minor case of temporary post-MORFS gender dysphoria.  She explained to me that the 'temporary' part comes from the fact that my new body is encouraging my mind to become fully female, and that the only thing slowing things down is my old habits.  The printout also contained a list of exercises that I need to do.  After explaining them all, Myra came around the desk and gave me a hug.

"Can you send Carol down to me, please?  I need to help her with her transformation, though it appears that you have made my job a lot easier."

"OK, I'll go get her."

I went upstairs and called out to her telepathically.  *Hey, supertech!  Doctor Myra wants to sift through your brain cells.  She's downstairs.*

*Sift through her brain cells?* Myra asked me with a chuckle.

Carol gave me a quick hug as we passed each other.  *Hey, sister morfie,* she said, *I'll catch you later.*

Mom was over by Carol's mom, so I walked over.  Carol's mom got up as I approached, then wrapped me in a warm hug.  "Thank you for giving my daughter back to me!"  She was practically in tears.

"All I did was talk to her and find her power.  I think she's really geeked to be a technopath."

"Oh, Cara, you have no idea how hard it has been these past few days!  She was acting like her life was over!"

"She's a very strong person, and really bright.  She thought she was faced with an insoluble problem and she was.  She and I will be girls for the rest of our lives.  I just had to show her that she's the same inside, and that life can still be good."  I thought about Carol and smiled.  "She's really a very impressive girl.  I think we're going to be good friends."

"I always liked Mike, too," Cindy commented as she walked up to us.  "I think I need to get a few girls together so we can initiate you and Carol into the sorority with a good old-fashioned sleepover."

"Hey, I've never been to a sleepover!" complained Kim.

"You and I can have our own private sleepover at a nice luxury hotel that night," said Sara.

Kim gave a feral grin.  "OK, you have a deal!"

"Just give me plenty of warning so's I can make myself scarce," said Larry.

"You don't have to go through all that trouble, brother dear," said Cindy with a smirk.  "We could always make you an honorary girl!"

"That's what I'm afraid of!"

Cindy giggled, then explained, "The last time he hung around, we abducted him, did his hair, painted his nails, and dressed him up."

"He came out very pretty," commented a girl that had walked up a minute or so ago.  "I bet he'll be even prettier with those kitty ears and that tail."

"Hi Linda!  Want to come to a sleepover at our place?  We're going to indoctrinate Cara and Carol to the wonderful world teenage femininity!"

"Why do I get the distinct feeling that I should run and hide?"

Cindy put her arm around me.  "Come on, cute stuff!  You'll love it!"

"Be afraid, be very afraid," said Linda.

"Aw, come on, Linda!  You know you had a great time when we initiated you last year."

I looked over at her.  "MORFS?"

She smirked.  "Yep.  I used to be Joe, but I got worked over by the bug.  It's been... an interesting ride."  She came over and put an arm around me.  "Don't worry; it gets better.  If I had to go back to being male, I'd be bummed."

"I think your boyfriend would be bummed, too," commented Cindy.  Linda blushed.

A few more girls wandered over, and soon the air was filled with the sound of giggling as we plotted and planned our sleepover.  I noticed a couple boys on the other side of the room looking wistfully at us.  *They morfed into boys a few months ago.  They took it hard, but they're starting to adapt,* Cindy told me.

*Does our church tend to attract gender change morfs, too?*

*Yes, we seem to be a place of refuge for just about any type of difficult transformation.  If I recall, Linda's parents were pretty much at their wits' end before they came here,* Cindy replied

*That's what I like to hear; a bunch of chicks chattering.*

"Hi Myra!" we all chorused.

*Carol's coming up.  Be sure to make her feel welcome!*

*Thanks,* I sent to her.

*You're right about Linda being an electric elemental and a technopath.  Most electrics that are highly intelligent are technopaths, because the technopath part requires lots of processing power.*

*Did you have any trouble getting past her shield?* I asked Myra.

*There is no way I could have gotten through if you hadn't gotten her to relax and taught her how to let me through.*

I used my remote vision to watch Carol come up the stairs.  *Don't look now, but the rest of the girls are plotting to initiate us.*

When she came up the stairs, I beckoned to her.  "Hey there, techno-chick!  Come over here and help me before all these girls come up with too many ideas."

She smiled and walked over.  She surprised me by giving me a hug.  "Thanks for helping me get my head screwed on straight!"

I hugged her back.  "Hey, just trying to increase the size of my support group."

After much discussion, we decided to hold the sleepover next Saturday night at the Martins' home.

After a while, Mom, Kim, and Sara went home.  We just hung out until it was time for the youth group to meet.  The youth group was more like an informal gathering of teens at school than anything I have ever experienced at church.  There was no false righteousness, pretentiousness, or stuffiness.  In short, we had fun.

Tired but happy, I hit the hay early.  I had been informed that my presence was required at court for a bail hearing.  The prosecutor is moving to deny bail, and our testimony will help prove that they are too dangerous to be running loose.  I'm all for keeping them locked up for good.  There's no telling what they would do while they were free awaiting trial.


Chapter Ten: Confronting evil again


The next morning, I went through my standard ritual of showering and TKing myself dry.  Mom had set out a white dress that came to my knees, along with some white flats.  "We want to give you a look of innocence, vulnerability, and sincerity," she explained.  She deftly applied makeup that gave me a look of wide-eyed innocence and vulnerability.

We had to go to the district court, not the local city court.  I tried to enjoy the ride through the country, but I was too nervous.  I wasn't looking forward to seeing the authors of my nightmares again, and I certainly wasn't ready to face my father.

We got to the court house in plenty of time.  The prosecutor and her staff were very supportive.  After we signed some forms that allow a court telepath to monitor our thoughts, they coached us about how to present ourselves, what to say, and how to respond to the defense attorney's questions.  The actual hearing was... stressful.  I was asked to describe, in vivid detail, Amy's death.  It was impossible to get through the whole ordeal without crying.  The prosecutor told me to not even try.  I shouldn't fake tears, but neither should I try to stop them.

The deacons and preacher looked at me with undisguised hate.  Father, on the other hand, refused to meet my eyes.

In the end, the defendants were denied bail.  They were deemed too dangerous to be let out of jail.

After the ordeal was over, we talked to a counselor.  I showed her the diagnosis sheet that Doctor Myra had given to me.  She commented that Doctor Myra is a very good psychologist, and that she will try to get the defendants to pay for counseling with her as part of the restitution.  She also commented, off the record, that we can probably get Father's entire estate by filing suit and scheduling it after his criminal trial.

We finally got out of there at about 2:00 PM.  With the court ordeal behind us, I was able to actually enjoy the scenery on the drive home.  We had just rounded a bend when we came up to what looked like the scene of an accident.  Mom slammed on the brakes.  We came to a stop a reasonable distance from what turned out to be parked cars.  I noticed a smell similar to that of over the counter spray sleep remedies.  I opened the door and stumbled out.  Just as my head was starting to clear, I felt the jab of a needle.

I woke up feeling far from refreshed.  Mom was holding me, but she wasn't in much better condition.  She had a metal collar around her neck, and was chained to a stake in the ground.  I then noticed that I was similarly chained up.

*Help!* I sent out with my TE.  Nothing happened.  Icy cold fear threatened to overcome me.  I had to shake it off if I wanted Mom and me to survive.

I tried sensing my surroundings, but could barely do it.  I sensed a variety of emotions hate, fear, worry, sadness, determination.  I couldn't reach into anyone's mind.  I couldn't even read Mom.  I tried my TK, but couldn't even move a pebble.

As Mom was holding me, she was silently praying.  I sent up a few prayers of my own, then tried my powers again.

This time, I could sense Mom.  I concentrated on reassuring her, but she couldn't 'hear' me.

Brother Taylor, the oldest of the deacons, came forth and gave a long speech about the evils of genetic contamination, and the treachery of my mother against the church.  He gave her the opportunity to repent and save herself, but she stood mute.

As my head cleared, I could read the people a little better.  Brother Taylor's mind was putrid to the core.  It was black and evil, with no redeeming qualities that I could see.  There were three others like that who wore similar robes.  Their hearts were as black as their robes.

Amy's brother and sister were there and they stared at me with hatred and loathing.  "Harlot!  Jezebel!  You seduced Amy from us, and now she is gone."

The rest of the people were in their late teens or early twenties.  They felt fear and sadness.  I could tell that they were, for the most part, reluctant to have anything to do with the situation.  They had been dragged here and told that they had a duty to perform.

I showed Mom a picture of the putrid deacons.

Mom yelled to them, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

Brother Taylor puffed himself up and yelled back, "You seek use the word of God to accuse the righteous?  You have had your chance to repent.  Now, you shall face your judgment!"

He picked up a stone and cast it at us.  I automatically used TK to push it aside.

"Your witchcraft will not save you!"

He cast another stone.  I deflected it.

"Brothers!  Acolytes!  Cast your stones and overwhelm their witchcraft!"

*Help!* I called again as I worked to deflect the stones.  There were simply too many to track and deflect, and my energy was fading rapidly.

A large rock hit me me in the face.  Another hit Mom in the shoulder, bloodying her and ripping her dress.  She hugged me to her and tried to protect me.  I kept trying to deflect rocks.  I deflected most of them, but we still took quite a few hits.

I kept calling for help.

Suddenly, I felt myself infused with strength.  I still couldn't track all the rocks, so I pulled my TK sense back a bit.

I remembered that when I was first working with my powers, I soon learned to think of the words that I was writing, rather than the individual pen strokes.  Similarly, I formed a pattern in my mind where any rock that wouldn't impact us would be ignored, and the rest would be deflected.

The rocks stopped hitting us.

I could tell from Mom's mind that she was seriously hurt.  She couldn't feel her legs.  I used my senses to check her body, and found a chip of bone pressed into her spinal cord.

By now, the rocks were being deflected without any conscious attention from me.

I concentrated on feeling that bone chip, then gently pulled it from her spinal cord with my TK.  Once it was well out of the way, I held it there as I gently laid her on her back.

*Thanks!* I sent to the people who were helping me.  I could feel Kim, Sara, Larry, Cindy, and Jim keeping my TK strong.  Carol and Myra were there, too somehow feeding me strength.

*The police are on their way.  The tracker network has you pinpointed, and help will arrive within half an hour.  You are quite a ways out in the woods.*

I didn't recognize the 'voice' at first.  Then... *Officer Saouda?*

*The same. Hang in there, Cara!  Help is on the way, and you have some good people helping you.*

*We're on our way, too," sent Kim.  *We picked up Jim and his parents, and are flying here as fast as we can move.*

*Carol and I are on our way, too,* sent Myra.

*Some police air cars are on their way,* sent Officer Saouda.  *They should arrive in about five minutes.*

While the rocks were being deflected, I turned my senses to my collar.  It was held on with a simple nut and bolt.  I used my TK to remove mine, then Mom's.

*Four air cars are stationed around you.  If you can distract the suspects, they can capture them all," sent Officer Saouda.

*I'll do better than that.*

Starting with the four robed deacons, I compressed their carotids.  Then, I moved to Amy's brother and sister, and finally to the rest of our assailants.

*I just knocked them out.  They should be out for thirty seconds or so.*

Suddenly, four aircars descended upon us from over the trees and dropped into the clearing.  Sixteen officers got out and quickly cuffed the suspects.  Then, they came over to me and Mom.

"Mom has a broken back.  Don't move her!"

One of the officers watched over Mom while the rest moved the prisoners into two groups the robed deacons, and the young people.

I walked over to the young people.  "Some of you came here against your will just like I did a week ago.  If you tell your story honestly and allow a telepath to read you, you may end up with a lesser charge.  Otherwise, it'll probably be attempted murder."

Amy's brother and sister looked at me with hatred.  The rest looked worried and ashamed.

"I know some of you from when I was in the church.  Most of you aren't bad people.  If you work with me, I'll help you if I can."

"Why should we consort with an infidel like you?" spat Amy's brother.

"Your choice," I said sadly.

I heard sirens, so I went back to my mother.  The EMTs ran out with a stretcher.

"She has a bone chip near her spinal cord.  Let me lift her onto the stretcher for you."

They tried to push me aside.  "We appreciate the offer, but we're professionals."

"She's my mother, so you can just stuff your professional pride!"  I used my TK to keep them away, then I secured the bone chip and gently TK'd my mom onto the stretcher.

"Anyone have a piece of paper and a pencil?"

One of the officers ran back to his aircar and got me a clipboard.  I sensed my mom, then used my TK to quickly draw what I saw, highlighting the bone chip.  I gave the drawing to one of the EMTs.

*Matthew?*

It was faint, but unmistakable.

*Amy?  But how?*

*Matthew!  They buried me alive!  I can't last much longer!*

I echoed that to everyone, than ran toward the direction of the call.  I ran as fast as I could, but stumbled on a root.  I used my TK to keep from hitting the ground, then sped myself up as I flew about four feet off the ground.  Within about a minute, I was at a small clearing that had a number of areas of disturbed soil.  I reached underground with my senses and found Amy buried about four feet down.  I used my TK to start removing the dirt from on top of her.  I could tell that contacting me had taken up way too much of her remaining strength.

She wasn't the only one running out of strength.  Still, I was soon down to her.  With infinite tenderness, I removed the last layer of dirt from her body the way I remove water from my own body.  They had buried her naked and left her mouth and eyes open.  Her eyes were sunken and blind.

I levitated her out and into my arms.  I sat on the ground and held her.

*She needs water, nutrients, and all the energy we can pump into her,* said Doctor Sara.

Soon, a bunch of stim packs, energy drinks, and power bars came flying through the forest.  Officer Saouda had ordered the EMTs to get them from their stores, and my friends TK'd them over to me.

Doctor Kim said, *The stim packs work best when injected through a large vein, but she can probably absorb them if you can get her to drink them.  She appears to be a bio elemental.*

I touched Amy's mind, but it was fading fast.  I used my senses to find her inferior vena cava, then drew a tube of force from the vein up to the stim pack.  I TK'd the liquid through that tube and into her vein.  Meanwhile, we were all feeding her all the strength she could absorb.

I felt her get stronger and become more aware.  I could see an image of the workings of her body form in her mind.  She was actually able to guide the nutrients.  She started by guiding everything to her brain, heart muscle, and lungs.  Then, she sent the iron straight to her marrow and set it about the task of making new red blood cells.  Her sallow skin started to take on a healthier shade of pink.

*Matthew!  Thank God you found me!*

*You're going to be OK now,* I soothed.

*Can you increase the flow of nutrients?  Try pressing harder when my heart is taking in blood.*

I could read the concentration of the nutrients from her mind, and carefully adjusted the flow to what she had determined was ideal.  The stim pack started to get low.  Cindy read that fact from my mind and levitated another stim pack into place next to the one I was using.  I punctured the second pack and started drawing from it as the first one was emptied.

I saw Amy's sunken eyes fill in.  Her muscles started to get some tone. She sat up, and I made haste to keep the stim pack flowing properly.

*I need more liquid.*

I picked up an energy drink and held it to her lips.  She drank it greedily.  I could see through her internal vision that her stomach was absorbing the liquid rapidly.  I gave her another.

*I have enough nutrients for now, but I need more water.*

Doctor Sara had anticipated this.  I found several bottles of filtered water next to me.  I handed one to Amy.

The second stim pack was empty, so I withdrew the tube of force.  Amy healed the hole.

I looked into her violet eyes.

*Matthew?*

*It's Cara, now.  How are you feeling?*

I felt my wounds start to heal.

"I'm fine," she said out loud, "but you need a power bar and two energy drinks."

"Yes ma'am," I said.  I hadn't realized how good an energy drink could taste.

*Your body needs it.  That's why it tastes so good.*

I downed the rest.

For the first time since I woke up tied to a stake like a dog, I allowed myself to relax.  The EMTs were standing there looking at us in awe.  "We need to get you two back to the ambulance.  We're supposed to carry you on a stretcher.  Rules and all that stuff."  He almost sounded like he was pleading.

"OK, come and get us.  I'm pretty exhausted, anyhow."

I took Amy in my arms and held her tight.  One of the EMTs slipped her into a hospital gown, then helped her onto the stretcher.  Another EMT helped me.

On the trip to the ambulance, I started shaking and sobbing uncontrollably.

*It's OK,* soothed Myra.  *It's over, and everything is going to be all right.*

*I need a hug.  I really, really need a hug!* I sobbed.

A few minutes before we got back to the ambulance, the Martins' van pulled in.  Suddenly, Amy and I found ourselves surrounded by Kim, Sara, Larry, Cindy, and Jim.

I got my hug.  Lots of them, actually.

Since Amy and I are both relatively small, and the ambulance is a model designed to be able to carry large hybrids, they took us to the hospital together.  I noticed that the air cars and all the suspects were gone.  Officers Trowbridge and Saouda were still here.  They loaded Amy and me into the ambulance.  Then, everyone caravaned off to the hospital at a sedate pace.

*You guys make an awesome team!* said Officer Saouda.  *I have never seen such seamless coordination.*

*Thank you,* I smiled.  *I'm just glad that it's all over and we're all safe!*

*And the bad guys are in jail,* added Larry.

On the way back, I looked at Amy.  She was lovelier than ever, with her bright violet eyes and hair.

*I guess I can't be your boyfriend anymore,* I said sadly.

*You can still be my best girlfriend and sister.  Will you do that for me?*  She looked very vulnerable.

I smiled.  *Very happily!*

*We have always loved each other, but we really never had a romantic relationship despite our best efforts.  I really think that we were meant to be sisters.*

I had to admit that she was right.

*I hate to intrude, but can I ask Amy a few questions?* asked Officer Saouda.

*I'll be glad to help any way I can,* replied Amy.

*Did your mother know what happened to you?*

*Yes,* Amy said bitterly.  *She and Dad turned me over to the preacher with great ceremony.*

There was a pause.

*We already have your father, brother, and sister in custody.  An officer is being sent to pick up your mother.  Do you have anyone who can stay with you at your house?*

*She can stay with us,* Sara said.  *She can stay in the apartment with Sue and Cara, or we can put her up in a spare bedroom.*

*She can stay with us!*  I turned to Amy.  *Hey, sister!  We get to be roomies!*

Amy smiled and reached over to me.  I took her hand.

Officer Saouda asked Amy a few more questions, then assured us that there were some forensics experts camped out in that makeshift graveyard.  They will be identifying the remains and looking for psychic residue.

When we got to the hospital, we were put in a room with my mother.  Bless Kim and Sara for pulling strings!  Mom looked a lot better with all the blood washed off.  There really was no telling how much of it was hers, and how much was mine.  It's a good thing neither of us had any blood-borne disease.

Amy started healing Mom.  "Hey, you're supposed to be the patient!" quipped one of the nurses.

"Mrs. Jones has some kind of a virus that I can't figure out," Amy told her.

We were poked, prodded, and generally examined.  Except for Mom's virus infection, we were given a clean bill of health.  Still, they wanted to keep us overnight for observation.

As soon as the doctors were done with us, we found ourselves surrounded by our friends.

"I told you you were part of my support group," I said to Carol.

We all chatted about inconsequential things for a good long while.  Larry came over and kissed me on the lips when he thought that nobody was looking.  *I saw that!* Cindy informed us.  So he did it again.

After a while, a nurse came in and chased everyone out.  We were too exhausted to argue.  We fell asleep within minutes.


Chapter Eleven: Rebuilding and redefining the relationship


Early the next morning, Kim and Sara came in with their lawyer.  We all decided that Mom and I would file suit against father, and that Amy would file suit against her entire family.  We signed the papers and got the ball rolling before anyone could hide their property.  As an afterthought, we decided to sue the church itself.

Mom was feeling pretty lousy by then.  A nurse came in and took some blood.  We were all surprised when the verdict came back.

MORFS.

Amy and I threw on some clothes that Kim had brought for us.  Just as we were about to leave, Mom got a call on her eCom.  The police had located our car.  She arranged to let Kim and Sara pick it up.

Kim dropped Amy and me off, then went to get Mom's car.  By the time they got back, we were both showered, dressed, and well fed.

We arranged for an officer to meet us at Amy's house, and we went in and essentially emptied her bedroom.  We grabbed everything that belonged to Amy, and left the rest for the courts to take care of.  We expected that Amy would eventually get all of it, but we wanted to do everything by the book.

Amy made a quick scan through the garage, then grabbed her bicycle, skateboard, helmet, snorkel gear, and other assorted stuff.  Her dad had taken the skateboard from her at about the same time my father took mine.  Once we got home, I happily helped Amy move in while Kim and Sara went to advanced gym class.  They teased me that I have more catching up to do.

"How did you manage to survive a week with no oxygen?" I asked.

"Essentially, my body shut everything down except for my heart and lungs, and a tiny portion of my brain.  I managed to get enough oxygen to keep things going barely."

"Boy, am I glad you made it!  I had already decided that getting out of that church, getting new friends, and getting cool powers was well worth the cost of being changed into a girl."  I looked at her seriously.  "Still, none of that made up for losing you.  Getting you back was more than I dared pray for."

Tears in her eyes, she came over and gave me a hug.  "I thought I was a goner, too.  I sure got a crash course on how to be a bio elemental!"

We sat on her bed and hugged each other for a long time.  Wordlessly, we consoled and comforted each other.  We had both lost much, and gained much more.

I got Amy back.  Amy got her life back.  Still, I had lost my father, and she had lost her entire family.

Or, maybe we just lost our illusions.  What kind of family turns their own over for stoning?

After a while, our churning thoughts and emotions started to settle down.  *We're home, we're safe, we're together, we're free from that church, we have a future, and we have people who love us,* we agreed together.

I sent her a copy of the online course for telepaths, and she downloaded the course for bio elementals.  After perusing them for a few minutes, we got into our swimsuits and went down to the pool.

"Hey, what's with the bellybutton jewel?" she asked.

"Hang around and they'll probably perforate you, too."

Kim and Sara had hung out in the study hall after gym so that they could drive Cindy and Larry home.  When they got here, they found Amy and me lounging by the pool.

"We're going to have dinner early and go visit your mom," Larry told me.  "Go ahead and get yourself ready while we get dinner ready."

After a quick rinse, I put on a light sun dress and a pair of sneakers.  I could go in something more casual, but I figured that Mom would appreciate it if I dressed nicely.

And, with MORFS, I'm sure she can use some cheering up.  I remember all too well.

"How did you get all showered and dried so quickly?" asked Amy.

I smirked.  "I push the water off my body with my TK."

She shrugged, then dressed similarly to the way I was dressed.  We made it downstairs in plenty of time to enjoy a nice dinner with the Martins.

While passing through the hospital hallways, Amy was kind of quiet.  She seemed to be looking around with her bio senses.  *What are you doing?* I asked.

*I'm looking at some of the patients.  I see some infections, but nothing that looks like what your mom has.*

When we went to the MORFS unit, she said, *Ah, I can see it now.  MORFS doesn't look like the other infections.*

As I had guessed, Mom was starting to feel really lousy.  She was happy to see us, though.  She complimented us on the way we were dressed, which made us feel good.  I guess I'm becoming a real girl, after all.

*It's almost as if I can see what your mother is going to become.  I think she's going to look a lot like you.*

We tried combining our perceptions to get a clearer picture, but I couldn't 'see' anything that really added useful information.  After assuring Mom that everything is OK, and that we'll hold down the fort in her absence, we went to the post-MORFS testing area.  Amy's parents hadn't seen any point in having their daughter tested before they turned her over to be killed.

On the way out of the ward, we did it with the other patients.  After a while, we got a clearer picture of what they would turn into.  We talked to Kim and Sara about it, and they asked Amy to write down her perceptions so that they can be checked against the actual outcomes.

The results of Amy's post-MORFS inventory were unsurprising.  They found improved strength and agility to go with her lithe elven shape, and also nanotube reinforced bones and nails.  That explains how she managed to survive the stoning.  She was found to be very healthy, telepathic, and a strong bio elemental.  She was certified safe to return to school.  A quick trip to the front desk to pick up her addendum and her new school and state ID cards, and we were done.

Kim took me back to Mom's room so that I could look in on her.  The nurse didn't want to let us in because Mom is out cold and changing, but apparently Kim has a little clout in this hospital.

I walked in alone and looked at Mom's sleeping form.  Some of her hair was falling out, and I could see blue hair just starting to grow out of her scalp.

*Welcome to the world of the butterflies,* I said to her.  There was no answer, of course.

I touched her face tenderly.  She was feverish.  Was it a result of the infection, or a way for MORFS to increase her metabolism and affect the changes faster?  I probed her sleeping mind gently.  I could sense nothing but the routine mutterings of her brain as it kept her body going.  I sensed a shield just starting to form.  Was she going to be telepathic like me?

I kissed her tenderly on the cheek.  *I love you.*  I felt the faint stirrings of an answer, and a small smile formed on her face.  I quietly walked out of her room.  Everyone else was already in the van, so we met them at the entrance.

Kim and Sara surprised Amy and me by driving us to Doctor Myra's clinic.

She saw me first because she didn't expect me to need much time.  After sifting through my brain cells, asking questions, flashing images and thoughts, and generally doing all that headshrink stuff, she told me that I had apparently found an effective way to eradicate survivor's guilt completely.

"Yeah," I quipped.  "Just bring the person back to life.  Works every time!"

"Your PTSD had been much reduced, too.  Do you feel less helpless about the situation now?"

"With the perpetrators in jail?  Yes, I think that my experience yesterday kind of helped me resolve things.  I just hope that Amy will come out of it OK."

"How do you feel about your relationship with Amy?"  She listened to my thoughts as she asked.

"Well... I'm profoundly relieved that she's still alive.  I'm kind of disappointed that we will never have the relationship that we sought, but relieved that we don't have to try making our relationship into something that it isn't."

I thought for a second, forming in my mind the image of us sitting together on her bed and crying on each other's shoulders.

"I'm happy to have a sister," I whispered.

"What about Larry?" she asked.

I blushed.

"I thought so," she said.  "You're going to be fine.  Just keep up with your exercises and check in with me every once in a while.  And, if you have any questions or concerns, talk to me about 'em.  That's what I'm here for!"

She smirked at me.  "Go tell Amy that it's time to have her brain cells shifted.  I'm looking forward to meeting her under better circumstances."

I walked into the waiting room and went to Amy.  *Doctor Myra is really a wonderful person.  Open up to her if you can.  She has my complete trust.*

She gave me a hug, then followed Myra into her office.

After that short but intense session with Doctor Myra, I just closed my eyes and leaned back.  I let my senses roam about at will.  There was a shield around Amy and Myra, which was good because I had no intention of snooping.  Mostly, I was doing the equivalent of counting the holes in the ceiling tracing the wiring in the walls, noting the hidden construction details of the building, 'listening' to the music playing in the next room.

I idly wondered if I would be able to listen to the traffic on the computer network.  I felt for the currents in some of the lines.  I could tell that there was something there, but it was moving too fast for me to make anything out of it.  Perhaps with practice... or perhaps not.  It's really more of a job for a technopath, anyhow.

I tried some of the optical network lines, and had even less luck.  I could vaguely tell that there was something in the line, but couldn't make anything of it.

Oh well...

I continued to poke around.  I like to poke around any new environment I encounter so that I can sharpen my perceptions.  Kim tells me that human perception is based on pattern recognition, and that pattern recognition comes by example.  The more I look, the sharper I'll be able to see.

I felt a low seething level of fear, anger, and resignation.  I focused my perception on its source, and 'saw' a man in orange prison fatigues walking down the hall with short steps.  He was taking short steps because he had manacles on his ankles.  They were connected together with a short piece of chain, as were some wide cuffs around his wrists.  The manacles and cuffs were connected to each other with a longer piece of chain.  This man was well and truly bound.

I looked into his mind.  It wasn't as bad as the deacons' minds, but it was close.  If this guy ever got out of jail, it would be too soon.

I followed them to a room down the hall, where the prisoner sat down while the attending policeman watched.  There were two other people in the room.

I continued to scan around the building for new and interesting things when I noticed power being used in the room with the prisoner.  The lock on one of his leg cuffs was loose, and the other was moving.

I did a quick scan of the area.  There was a person walking away from the room, leaving only three people in the room the cop, the prisoner, and a third person.  That third person was the one loosening the cuffs.

I quickly compressed his carotids.  As he fainted, the prisoner jumped up and tried to kick the cop.  I blocked the kick, then compressed the prisoner's carotids.

*The other person in the room tried to free your prisoner.  He is armed.  They will only be unconscious for half a minute or so,* I quickly sent to the cop.

It was over before I could even ask my friends for help.  They watched with me as I kept an eye on the situation, though.  The cop quickly disarmed and cuffed the person who tried to free his prisoner.  Then, he reattached the prisoner's manacles.  Both men woke up to find themselves face down on the floor.  The telekinetic prisoner tried to open his locks, but I opposed him.  I warned the cop about this.

Soon enough, backup arrived.  Both prisoners were led away.  I continued to unobtrusively look around.  A familiar presence appeared.

*Hello Officer Saouda,* I sent.  *Are you looking for the person who foiled that guy's plot to escape?*

She gave me a telepathic smile.  *It would appear that we owe you one.*

She walked into the waiting room.  "Alas, no good deed goes unpunished.  I have to make a report, but we can do it later if you're busy now."

"Amy's in there talking to Doctor Myra.  I suspect she'll be a while.  Being buried alive for a week can't be good for your mental health."

"You'll both be happy to know that the forensics team managed to come up with a list of suspects after sifting through that graveyard," she said.  "That might help her mental health a bit."

"It'll help mine, too," I replied.  "Anyhow, do you have a pen and some paper?  I can write everything down if you like."

I set the paper and pen on a low table, then wrote down what I was saying as I dictated it to her.  She was impressed with the way I used TK to write.

She asked me a number of questions, which I answered and transcribed.  When we were finished, I signed the paper by hand and gave it to her.

"Give my best to Officer Trowbridge," I said as she left.

*Ever think of going into police work?* she asked.

*Right now, I'm concentrating on keeping up with school, learning how to be a girl, getting used to hanging around people who love me, figuring out how to use my powers, and trying to maintain some semblance of sanity.*

*I can see that you have a full plate.  Don't forget to enjoy your teenage years while you're at it,* she chuckled.

*That, too,* I replied.  *The Martins have a nice pool, and they gave me a great skateboard this past Saturday.  I just need to make sure I allow myself the time to enjoy those toys.*  As an afterthought, I added, *Do you have any advice for a former boy who just got ambushed into attending her first sleepover?*

*Yeah,* laughed Officer Saouda, *Enjoy yourself and don't take anything seriously.  At least, that's what I did when it happened to me.*

*You're a former boy?*

*Yep.  It was depressing as hell at first, but there's no way I would go back now.*

*I have already decided that everything I have gotten from my bout with MORFS was well worth the one downside.  It's not that my life sucked before or anything like that.  I was definitely headed for disaster, though.  I just didn't know it.*

"What are you two plotting?" asked Larry.

"Oh, just girl talk," I replied.

He came across the room, sat on the couch next to me, and put his arm around my shoulders.  He released me when I blushed.

*Just because I'm not used to it doesn't mean I don't like it,* I told him.  He gave me a kiss on the cheek and put his arm back around me.  I leaned into him and closed my eyes.

Kim, Sara, and Cindy tried to hide their amusement.  There's no hiding from an empath, though at least, not without putting up some good shields.

*Sometimes, a girl just needs a hug,* I sent to them.

I was still leaning on Larry, and practically asleep, when Amy and Myra came out of the room.

"You seem to be adapting to girlhood rather well," commented Amy.

I blushed.  "Hey, my life has changed in so many ways, what's one more thing?  I need to embrace my new life if I want to maintain some semblance of sanity."

"You seem to have no problem embracing the cute kitty boy," Myra quipped.

This time, Larry was the one who blushed.

"You gotta take the good with the bad, and this is definitely the good."  I sat up and planted a kiss on Larry's cheek.

The nice thing about being an empath is that you always know how people feel about you.

When we got home, I changed into some athletic clothes.  Cindy had given me something that looked a lot like a cheerleader costume, but without the garish colors and school letters.  It consisted of a short top and a short skirt with built-in short shorts.  The skirt didn't even pretend to cover anything.  Still, it was less revealing than a typical swimsuit.  Cindy and Amy were similarly attired.  Larry looked cute in shorts and a tank top.  We all hopped on our skateboards and headed for the park.  I gave Amy a TK boost so that she could keep up with us.

Jim was just coming down his driveway as we passed his house.  Apparently, Cindy had given him a call as soon as we decided to go to the park.  I sent her a telepathic smirk.

As we approached the park, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of pain.  The others could feel it to.  We headed for the source and found the same twelve year old boy that we had rescued from a spill a couple days ago.

*Can you relieve his pain?* I asked Amy.  I immediately felt his relief.

I looked him over.  *He broke his arm.  If I set it, can you heal it?*

*Sure thing, doc.* she replied.

"Hold still.  You'll be OK in a minute," Amy said to him.

We combined our images of his break.  I carefully held the bone on the side of the break nearest his body, and pulled the other.  His muscles fought the pull, so Amy caused them to relax.  I aligned the bones and let them slide together, making sure that the jagged edges didn't pinch any tissue.  Amy then healed the break and the bruising in the surrounding tissues.

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe sky diving isn't for you," I quipped to the boy.

"What did you do?" he asked.

"Just put humpty dumpty together again," Amy said.  "You might want to consider investing in some protective gear."

Larry, sensing that we were a bit fatigued from the delicate use of our powers, pulled two energy drinks from his backpack and handed them to us.

For the next couple hours, we could forget all of our concerns and just be teens working on our routines.

Sweaty and well worked out, we headed for home, showered, and sat down for dinner.

Gladys had been cleaning today, so she prepared dinner for us.  She was rather entertained by our 'flying dishes' cleanup routine.  After dinner, Amy and I went upstairs to to study our on-line courses and just generally hang out.  The introduction to her bio elemental course had a short but interesting article by an elementologist.


Chapter Twelve: Learning and plotting


Doctor Miller divided the use of elemental power into three components; the raw power itself (analogous to muscle strength), the automatic control (analogous to coordination), and processing (analogous to intelligence and/or idiot-savant skills).  In my own case, the amount of weight I can move is power (moderate), my fine control is similar to coordination, and my ability to write or draw (translating a concept in my mind to the movement of the pencil) is intelligence.

Yes, I know that TK is not an elemental power.  Still, many think that it comes from the same source.

In Carol's case, the amount of raw power (voltage times current) that she can produce is power, her control over that power is coordination, and her ability to read or control external circuitry is intelligence.

Amy explained to me that there seems to be a hidden part of her mind that works on things without her attention.  That's how she can see infections and get some indication of the direction of a MORFS patient.

Amy borrowed a microscope from the basement lab and used it to identify various microbes.  She would put some bugs on a slide, then use her powers to clean all but one type.  Then, she would look under the microscope to identify the bugs.  She tried that with food, dirt, and various surfaces about the house.  The Doctors Martin were impressed, and promised to bring her some cultures from the university.

Meanwhile, I played with my telekinesis.  I tried setting up an invisible boundary around myself.  I went outside, turned on a sprinkler, and watched the water run off of my 'shield'.  I changed the properties a bit so that the water, rather than being deflected, changed direction so that it would miss me.  It was as if the rain parted in order to leave me dry.  I decided to leave a ghostly shield in place to stop any fast-moving object that might be heading my way.  Who knows what the pures will try next?  A bullet-proof shield sounds like a useful thing.

I found some paint that consisted of small beads of plastic pigment suspended in a clear resin.  I mixed the colors, then separated them.  I spread the mixture on a piece of paper, then lifted most of it off, leaving an image.

Cara Jones, human camera.

Since I was playing with microscopic pieces of plastic, it occurred to me that I might be able to focus down and look at microbes with my TE vision.  I excitedly told Amy about it, and we tried combining our perceptions so that we could compare them.  This made the process of identifying microbes much quicker.  I got to be almost as good at using her bio vision as she was.  I had to be reading her mind to do it, of course.  Later, we practiced our telepathy by probing each other's minds.  We tried allowing each other in deeply, poked around to sense the source of our powers, practiced putting up shields, practiced breaking through shields, and the like.

Well and truly tired out, we headed to our separate bedrooms, said a telepathic *good night* to each other, and were asleep in seconds.

After all the fuss, school was routine.  Amy had missed better than two weeks, so she was loaded down with homework.  She qualified for advanced gym, so we have yet another person to train with.  I found myself wondering if Mom would be working out with us, too.

We received a call from our lawyer when we got home.  Apparently, the local Genetic Purity Church made haste to remove everything that wasn't nailed down from their building, then officially disbanded.  Many of the members have disappeared.  They got away with the undocumented contents of the building, but their financial assets were frozen by the court.  The building and property will go to the winners of the suit.  Because there is nobody left to sue, the court entered a default judgment.  The only hold-up now is a mandatory wait for more plaintiffs.  Since the forensic work on the graveyard is stirring up quite a bit of attention, additional plaintiffs are likely.  As nice as it would be to grab all the dough and run, I would rather see the others who have suffered get their piece of the action.

On Thursday, I felt my mother's familiar thoughts when we were all eating lunch.  "Mom's waking up," I told them.  We made haste to sign out and head for the hospital for the grand unveiling.

Mom had just finished her shower when we arrived.  She looked like she could be my twin sister (fraternal twin, anyhow,) except that her curves were more womanly than girlish.  Still, the regenerative power of MORFS gave her the fresh look of youth.

"Wow, Mom, you look great!"  I gave her a big hug.

It didn't take us too long to get her sprung.  We went straight to the post-MORFS testing area.  Interestingly enough, she came out with changes identical to mine.  The DNA tests showed the same modifications.  The 'reader' couldn't read through her shield.  We handed in her paperwork, got her ID changed, and dragged her to the mall.

Pay back time!  Hee hee hee!  Cindy, Amy, and I gleefully chose some fashions designed to show off her new charms.

"Hey, Cindy!"

"Yes, Cara?"

"Somebody here needs to have her bellybutton perforated."

"Two somebodies," my mother reminded us.

Mom ended up with the same set of stones that I did.  Amy could only be talked into a simple silver loop.  She wouldn't let the salon do the job, either.  She used her bio elemental powers to perforate herself.  She didn't have to be coaxed into increasing her wardrobe.  She used the debit card that her parents had earlier given her for clothing purchases.  Apparently, they hadn't gotten around to canceling it.

Actually, they really couldn't cancel it or do anything else to close out her life without causing suspicion to fall upon them.  They had to look like worried parents who were holding out hope that their child would return soon.

We went home and hit the pool.  Anyone watching would swear that we were holding a teen party at the pool.  Of course, only four of the seven were teens.

Friday found us in court again.  Amy's mother, brother, and sister glared at us as we sat next to each other.  Amy testified about her original stoning, and I testified about the attempt on my life.  Mom added her own testimony.

The second group of defendants were denied bail.  At my suggestion, the prosecutor allowed that anyone who wants to submit to a telepath may get a second hearing.

We sat in the visitors' section as a third set of defendants were brought in.  I recognized some of them as the parents of church members who had disappeared.  None of them were at the original two stonings, but they were arrested based on forensic evidence from the makeshift graveyard.  Most of them had been collected from other congregations.  They had moved after suspicion fell upon them after the disappearance of their children.

We met with the prosecutor after court.  She leveled with us about the likelihood of getting a conviction based on forensic and circumstantial evidence.  She suggested that offering a plea bargain to our assailants might convince them to testify against their former partners in crime.  Without the plea bargaining, she would be seeking the death penalty.  She will settle for life without parole in exchange for their testimony, though if we are agreeable.

It didn't take us long to agree.  Allowing the plea bargain is clearly the path to putting the most people behind bars for good.  The prosecutor said that even without allowing the adults to plea bargain, the teens that were coerced into attending could give some convincing testimony with telepathic verification.

Emotionally exhausted, we headed for home surrounded by our police escort.

We got home in time to see the Martins putting the finishing touches on their new security system.  The system had been installed by a contractor chosen by the police, but they chose to program it themselves in order to reduce the chance of compromise.

"I'm so sorry you have to go to such measures because of us," Mom said to them.

"Hey, the court paid for it.  We essentially got a free security system out of the deal," said Kim.

"Besides," said Sara, "You guys have become like family to us.  We wouldn't consider doing any different."

After dinner, Cindy and Amy disappeared into Cindy's bedroom.  They had a shield up around them, so they must be up to something.  Shielding against empathy is difficult if you're not an empath, and I haven't tried to train them.  My empathy sense gave me an impression of mischief and maniacal giggling.

They're definitely up to something.

I took Mom upstairs and introduced her to the wonderful world of TK and TE.  It was easier to connect with her because we used to 'talk' before she became empowered.  Once she learned to retract her shield, it was easy for me to directly show her the techniques.  She could sense how it feels to me when I move something, and do the same thing.  Also, when I share a TK or TE view with her, she can also sense what I have to do to get that view.

It was an intense session, but well worth the effort.  Just like any other recent MORFS survivor, Mom has a bit of somatic dysphoria the body she is inhabiting isn't what she sees when she thinks of herself.  When there are definite advantages to one's new body, it's easier to get used to wearing it.

Mom and I were getting ready for bed when Amy came in.  "All right, what have you two been up to?" I asked her.

"What makes you think we were up to something?" she asked innocently.

"You were well-shielded, but that doesn't affect my empathic sense.  I caught the distinct impression of maniacal giggling and mischief."

"Looks like you're busted," said Mom.

Amy just smirked.  "It'll be even more fun to watch you try to figure things out."

"I think I'm going to make myself scarce when you guys have that sleepover," Mom commented.

Amy smirked again, then got herself ready for bed.

I sent a telepathic *Good night!* to Mom and Amy, then to everyone else.  *Good night, Kim; good night, Sara; good night, Cindy; good night, Larry!*

That was followed by a chorus of *Good night!* by everyone in the house.  Finally, after it had pretty much died down, Kim said, *Good night, John-Boy!*

Sara snickered.  *You're showing your age, Kim.*

Nobody else had any idea what she was talking about.

The next morning, when I was going through my morning routine, Larry told me to get dressed in my skating clothes.  *I have been informed by the planning committee that I am to distract you for a few hours.*

*I know that they're up to something.  They aren't giving me any clues, though.*

*Be afraid, be very afraid,* he snickered.  *You're going to have to handle it on your own, though.  I plan to be long gone by the time the girls start showing up.*

*Chicken!*

*You got that right, except the proper term is 'fraidy cat,'* he snickered.

I went down and helped him cook breakfast while Amy and Cindy did whatever they were doing.  Kim and Sara had already left for a little rental cottage where they planned to spend the night.  Amy and Cindy ate when they were called.  They seemed to be conversing telepathically, but were otherwise silent.

"You guys go ride your skateboards or something.  Amy and I will clean up," Cindy said.

So we went.


Chapter Thirteen: Here we go again...


Larry led me in the opposite direction to a park that's about five miles away.  We still made it in less than ten minutes and without a speeding ticket, too.

This park was even better.  Larry and I started working on a routine together.  We criss-crossed, clasped hands to exchange momentum and turn each other, and a bunch of other stuff.  After a while, we decided to make prodigious use of our TK just because we could, and because it's fun.  We chatted telepathically as we worked out.  For our grand finale', we decided to come up the half pipe at full speed, fly about fifteen feet in the air, grab our boards, and land on the grass.

There was applause.

We turned red.  We didn't know that we had an audience.  We smiled at them, bowed, then went to a bench to rest for a while.  After a while, one of our fans came up and asked, "How did you do all that stuff?  It looks impossible."

"We cheated," I said as I held my hand over my board and levitated it.  "We weren't trying to impress anyone.  We were just having fun and practicing our telekinesis."

"It was impressive anyhow.  You guys make a great team."

"Thanks!" we said in unison.

We leaned against each other while sipping an energy drink and munching a power bar.  All that exercise had worn us out.  We were rapidly gaining our strength back, though.

"This park is for humans only, freaks!"

I recognized the speaker from my old church.

"Last I checked, I still had 46 chromosomes.  You look like you might have an extra one or two, though."  I really wasn't in the mood to take any crap off of the local pure supremacists.

"You two look mighty cozy.  Are you going to have his kittens?"

I rolled my eyes.  "I'm likely to become a parent some day, yeah... which is more than I can say for you if you keep on your present course."  I smirked at him.  "If you keep on your present path, you're really likely to end up in the slammer with your daddy.  The thing about the slammer is that there are very few opportunities to become a parent.  That might be a good thing, though... natural selection.  Survival of the fittest."  He was starting to turn red.  "Of course, that doesn't mean you won't get 'married.'  Some large pig or dog hybrid might take a shine to you and make you his bitch.  You can have a real cozy relationship with your cell mate."

*What are you doing?* Larry asked.  *We need to get out of here, not antagonize them!*

*Look,* I said.  *Those bastards stoned Amy and buried her alive.  They chained Mom and me up like dogs and tried to kill us.  As long as we just sit and take it, and run from confrontation, they'll keep killing kids like Amy and me.*

I made sure my shield was in place, and that my senses were poised and ready to pick up any sign of an attack.  *Goliath taunted God's people, and they took it.  It took young David to put a rock in a sling and send it to his forehead.  Do you remember David's speech to Goliath?*

"You guys call yourselves pure humans, but you have the hearts and souls of animals!  You are like tombs, all white and pristine on the outside, but full of filth and corruption on the outside.  You are hypocrites, claiming to do God's will, but knowing nothing of His true nature."

"You are the animals," he said in a low, dangerous voice.

"Really?  And you're the fine, upstanding humans?  What human participates in the murder of his child?"

"A human who seeks the righteousness of God does what is necessary!" he scowled.

"Where in the Bible is there any record of a mother or father sending his child to his death?  Abraham proved his dedication and faith by doing that with Isaac, and God proved his righteousness and love by refusing that sacrifice.  After that aborted sacrifice, and Christ's true sacrifice, no more sacrifice is necessary or wanted!"

I continued, "Know this!  You can catch MORFS just like anyone else.  It happens to the people in your church all the time.  Understand that if you came down with MORFS, and your father was able, he would kill you.  Where is the love in that?"

*Keep sharp, Larry.*

"You defiled impure freaks are an affront to God and a blight on the human genome!" he screamed.

I looked around and memorized each face.  I knew most of them, but they had no idea who I was.

"Do you remember Matthew Jones?  Do you remember Amy Cox?  Matthew and Amy were part of your congregation.  They were betrayed by their own family members."  I scowled.  "But you know what?  Both of them still live!  Your vile murderous deacons were unable to harm two kids, and now they sit in jail.  They sit in jail, and your old church building and all your money will soon belong to Matthew and Amy and maybe some other of your victims.  You are all cowards.  You tied us up so that we couldn't escape and you threw rocks at us.  You buried Amy alive, but I rescued her.  You failed before, you are failing now, and you will fail in the future."  I stood up.  "You will all fail because you are doing the Devil's work.  God is not with you.  God is not in you.  You are nothing but filthy defiled tools of Satan!"

They looked at us with hate and frustration.  "You dare accuse..."

I spat on the ground in front of me.  "And I live.  God is in me, and I live.  My enemies gather around me and hate God, while pretending to serve him.  Meanwhile, I am blessed and I live."  I lowered my voice a bit.  "I can see the blackness of some of your souls.  I can see your hate."  I paused a bit.  "I can see that some of you are filled with filth.  Others are confused and still have some goodness.  If you don't want to involve yourself with death and hate, walk away now.  If you are filled with hate, you can stand and be frustrated as all your attempts fail."

Someone in the front threw a rock at me.  I deflected it just enough to miss by a few inches and laughed at him.

*Officer Saouda, are you around?  We're being attacked by a bunch of the former church members.*

*Cara!  You seem to be in the middle of things all the time.  We have you pinpointed, and a fast response team is on the way.*

*Thanks!  Keep reading our minds so that you can write a nice report.*

"You guys are truly pathetic," I taunted them.  Another stone came at us.  Larry and I were linked, so we could deflect the stones together instead of duplicating efforts.  More stones came.  I watched as they threw them, trying to keep track of who actually threw the stones.  About half of the people left the scene and headed for home.  Rocks were coming in one after the other, but none of them hit.  We laughed at our attackers.

Three of the people came back.

*They're hiding weapons,* I sent to Larry and Officer Saouda.

I studied the mechanism of the shotgun as it was being carried toward us.  I bent a couple of the internal parts, and moved on to the next weapon.  A few bent parts later, and the two handguns were disabled.

I detected a small object heading straight for us at well over the speed of sound.  It would take about a quarter of a second to reach us plenty of time to deflect it.  I sent it into the ground well short of the crowd.  No time for finesse.  I used all the TK strength that Larry could lend to me to crush the end of the barrel.  The next time he pulled the trigger, the gun blew up in his face.

"If God was on your side, you wouldn't be failing right now," I taunted them.

Six air cars came in from six different directions and formed a circle around our attackers.  I started pinching carotids to make it easier for the cops.  They soon had everyone rounded up, including the unfortunate fool who tried to shoot us with a hunting rifle.

*I think we need to assign someone to look after you guys.*

*Hi Officer Saouda,* I said.  *I hope there's room at the jail for these clowns.*

*You taunted them on purpose, didn't you?*

*Yes, Ma'am, I did.  If I keep running, they'll keep hounding me until the day I die.  I watched helplessly while Amy was stoned.  I was tied up like a dog and stoned.  I'm just not going to take it anymore!  I'm not going to live my life like a rabbit cowering before the big bad wolf.*

*This is off the record, but That's the spirit!  Too many people say that we need to run away, but doing so just emboldens our oppressors.*

Larry and I watched the police load everyone up and carry them off to jail.  Then, we sat down at a picnic table with Officer Saouda and gave our statements.

"More paperwork," sighed Officer Saouda.

"Whatever it takes to get those people behind bars is worth it to me," I said.

"You seem to be taking this personally," observed Officer Saouda.

"Yeah, when someone tries to kill the people I love, I tend to take it personally.  I know better than to go outside the law to do something about it, though.  I'm not going to take even a single step in the direction they chose."

She smiled at me.  "Good girl!"

I grinned back at our private joke.  "By the way, Amy and Cindy are cooking up something for the sleepover tonight.  I have no idea what's on their devious minds."

"You mean a powerful telepath like you can't figure it out?"

"Trying to bust through their shields would be impolite even if I could do it.  They didn't shield against empathy, though.  I got a definite impression of maniacal giggling and mischief."

*Do I detect someone taking my name in vain?* came Cindy's unmistakable mental voice.

*Nah... I just got done giving my statement to Officer Saouda, and I'm soliciting her advice on how to survive tonight with my sanity and dignity intact.*

*Oh, your sanity will be fine,* Cindy giggled.  *I won't make any promises about your dignity, though,*

*Maybe I can do some minor infraction and get a free night in the slammer.*

*That won't work,* Officer Sauda chuckled.  *I didn't see a thing!*

*Hi Officer Saouda!  What brings you here?  Is Cara causing trouble again?*

*She's definitely attracting trouble.  If she keeps this up, our jails will be bursting with bigots.*

*Which will save a few lives, no doubt,* Amy commented.

*Meanwhile, I would really like for Cara to keep her hide intact,* commented Officer Saouda.

*Yeah,* said Larry.  *I kinda like her hide, and wouldn't want to see it damaged.*

I gave him a hug.

*I was about to ask,* said Cindy, *Are you ready to bring your barely intact hide home?*

*Barely intact?* I huffed.  *I'll have you know that every rock missed, as did the bullet from that high-powered military rifle.*

Cindy cringed.

*Don't worry.  We were careful,* said Larry.

*High power?  How high?* asked Amy.

*7.62X54 Mosin Nagant,* I said.  *It's a shame I had to ruin it.  That thing was probably made before world war one.*

*Unlovely rifle,* Larry piped up.  *The Russians started developing it in 1882.  Millions were made.  It saw a whole lot of action.  Ugly, but very, very effective.  Venerable history.*

*What did you do to it?* asked Cindy.

*Pinched the end of the barrel,* Larry said.  *It blew up in the face of that murderous bigot that was wielding it.  It died an honorable death.*

*Maybe we can give it a decent burial after the police are done with it,* Amy said.

*Or fix it.  That tough old workhorse can probably be made as good as new with a new barrel and maybe a few other small parts,* commented Larry.

*It's good to see you kids taking such a keen interest in world history,* Officer Saouda said with a chuckle.

*I wonder if the police will let me keep that bullet,* I mused.  *It's the first time I have ever gotten shot at, after all.*

*Not something to celebrate,* Amy said.

Larry said, *Still, it puts us in rarefied company.  That has to be worth something.*

"Well," said Officer Saouda, "It's time to get you two home.  I'll just toss your skateboards into the trunk, and we'll be on our way."

"We can get home almost as fast by skating..."

"Nope," she cut me off, "I have been told that you need to be driven home."

I thought I heard Cindy chuckling in the back of my mind.

"Are you sure you don't have a nice, warm jail cell for me?"

"Now Cara," said Larry, "You can't run off.  Carol needs your support."

*That's it, Larry.  Appeal to her sense of duty.*

Cindy was having way too much fun with this.

"Larry!  Don't leave me with those fiendish females!"

"The last time I checked, you were female, too."

"Yeah, but I'm not fiendish!"

"Alas, I shall have to leave you to your fate.  My beloved sister assures me that you will keep your sanity, if not your dignity."

"Gee, thanks a lot!"

Chuckling, Officer Saouda led us to her squad car.

"I wish I could watch," she grinned.  "I'm sure you'll all have a great time."

Larry smirked.  "I know I will.  I'm getting together with some friends so we can watch action movies, burp a lot, play some video games, do a little target practice with the pellet guns, go into his dad's workshop and goof with the tools... you know, guy stuff."

"That sounds like more fun than painting nails and playing dress up.  I think I'll join you."

*Not on your life!*

*Eavesdropping again, dear sister?* asked Larry.

I had been mostly joking around, but I was now starting to get a bit depressed.  I like video games, action movies, tools, guns, and all that stuff just as much as I always did.  It sounded like Larry would be having more fun than I, but I don't fit in with that group any more.  I would end up putting a damper on things, and that depressed me.

*It'll be OK,* Amy said gently.  *A guy would put a damper on our evening, too.*

*You'll have fun.  Just wait and see.* Cindy added.

*But...*

Cindy interrupted, *But nothing!  We like tools and computers and stuff like that, too.  Carol's a technopath, for crying out loud!  There will be no lack of nerdiness tonight.*

*I doubt if there will be any lack of crudeness, either,* Amy commented.

*Girls' locker room talk?*

*Something like that,* said Amy.

Officer Trowbridge pulled into the driveway.  Officer Saouda pushed a button to open the back doors so that we could get out, then got our skateboards out of the trunk.  Larry immediately took his, thanked them, and went scooting down the road at high speed.

*Coward!* I called after him.

*Dern tootin'!* he called back.

*You're supposed to protect me, not leave me to my fate!*

*My sister has given me her solemn promise that she will take good care of you.*

*That's what I'm afraid of,* I replied.

Giggling, Amy and Cindy each grabbed an arm and steered me into the house.

"Thanks for the lift!" I called back to Officers Saouda and Trowbridge.  They waved at me.

I went inside and plopped on the couch.  I felt tension that I hadn't known I was carrying drain out of me.

Amy and Cindy looked at me with concern written all over their faces.  I could feel their worry.

"I'm OK..." I started to assure them.  Then, it all came crashing down.  It was as if, after carrying a weight for way too long, I collapsed under it and was crushed.  Amy and Cindy were there in an instant as I started shaking and sobbing.

"It's OK, it's OK.  It's OK to cry.  Just let it out.  It's OK.  You're safe now."

Part of me was appalled by my weakness, but part of me was well aware that they were giving me good advice.

"You're a girl now," Amy told me.  "You are still strong and can hold it together when you need to, but you have to accept the fact that you're going to collapse when the adrenaline crashes."

"Is that what this is?  adrenaline crash?"

"Bet on it," Amy said.  "I could see it draining out of your body when you sat down.  I can't believe that you managed to hold it together for as long as you did."

A power bar and energy drink came floating over.  I'm sure glad they come in a variety of flavors, considering how many of them I end up consuming.

"What did you hope to accomplish by antagonizing those morons into a thundering rage?" asked Amy.

"I wanted to get the ones who seriously intend to do us harm tossed into jail," I replied.

"Well, it would appear that you succeeded.  I hope the ones who walked away make good choices in the future."

"We can only hope and pray for them," I said.  "The difficult part of all of this is that we used to consider some of them to be friends."

"We were in that world, too," Amy reminded me.  "We would still be there, though perhaps not so close to the edge, if MORFS hadn't claimed the two of us."

I smiled.  "Yeah, thank God for MORFS."

"Even if it changed you into a girl?" Cindy asked gently.

"Sometimes it's hard really hard.  Sometimes, it really sucks to be reminded of what I have lost.  Still, I've gained so much more.  I wouldn't trade back.  Even if someone could change me back right now, and let me keep all the relationships I have made... well, maybe if I also got to keep my powers.  I don't know.  Certainly, I wouldn't make any change at all if it cost me my friends."  I gave them both a hug.

I sat on the couch with my two best girlfriends for a while, then went up to the apartment to shower and get ready.

I decided to put off getting ready, though.  Instead of a shower, I treated myself to a long bath, then curled up on my bed and took a nap.  I was never privy to the details of slumber parties, but I knew enough to figure out that a good nap would help me survive the upcoming marathon session of feminine initiation.  I guess I really needed some rest, because I crashed and crashed hard.


Chapter Fourteen: Party!


*Welcome to the world of the conscious, sleepyhead,* Cindy sent to me just as I was climbing out of sweet slumber.

*I'm not conscious yet,* I sent back with a telepathic yawn.

*Just be happy that we have suspended the usual rules for early crashers at a slumber party.*

*I appreciate it,* I said, *but technically, I crashed before the party, not during.*

*Picky, picky,* sent Amy.  *Just put on your swimsuit and drag your cute tush down here.*

I yawned theatrically, sending it to any and all in the house.  I 'heard' lots of giggles from the general direction of the swimming pool.

Oh well... time to face the music.  Now, what to wear?

*Wear your aqua bikini with your coral jewel,* Cindy suggested.

*Oh, eavesdropping on my mind?*

*You were thinking pretty loud, you know.*

I went to my dresser, took off my nightie, put on the bikini that Cindy had suggested, and swapped bellybutton jewels.

I walked over to my mirror.  *Satisfied?* I asked Cindy.  I heard another chorus of giggles.

*Hey, you didn't have to relay it all over the place!*

*I didn't relay it, silly!  You must be a natural born exhibitionist.*

*Just what I need,* I sighed.

More giggling.

*What have I gotten myself into?*

*Just come down here and enjoy yourself, already!* Amy sent.

So I did.

With some trepidation, I went down the stairs, through the sliding glass doors, and over to the pool.  There were about a dozen teen-age girls lounging about in skimpy swimsuits.  A couple weeks ago, I would have been stunned by the sight.  I kept that thought well shielded, of course.

*The scenery is good, but we both would have enjoyed it a whole lot more a couple weeks ago.*

I turned bright red.  *Carol!  How did you...*

*I wasn't reading your mind, silly!  Just a good guess... It takes one to know one, doncha think?*

*OK, from one former boy to another, I guess I'll have to admit that I would have really enjoyed the scenery a whole lot more two weeks ago.  For that matter, what I see in the mirror every day would have done it.*

"All right, what are you two plotting?" asked Cindy.

"The take over of the world?" suggested Carol.

"Nah... too much work.  Once you got it done, you would have to be on your guard too much to enjoy life," said one of the girls that I hadn't been introduced to yet.

"Don't let 'em fool ya," Linda said.  "They're both thinking about what they would do about all this scenery if they were still boys."

"Liiiindaaaaaa!" Carol and I chorused.

She just giggled.  Then, she came over and hugged us both.  "It's only been a year for me, chickie-poos.  Welcome to the former boys' club!"

Everyone giggled, of course while Carol and I turned bright red.

"It looks like someone needs to cool off," Cindy smirked.

Two girls grabbed me and started to walk me toward the pool.  They were surprised when they suddenly lost traction because their feet left the ground.  I smirked at them.  "Were you planning on taking a dip?"

Suddenly, all three of us were hovering over the pool.  I pushed myself straight up as I felt Cindy's force release us.  The two girls that had grabbed me fell into the pool, sputtering and splashing.  I rose up about ten feet, moved myself horizontally, then set myself down gently at the pool's edge.

As soon as I released the force, I felt myself being pushed into the pool.  I couldn't react fast enough, so I ended up splashing and sputtering right next to the other girls.

*Very funny, Cindy!* I sent to everyone.  She was too busy laughing her cute little kitty cat tail off to reply.

I did a surface dive, swam underwater for a few feet, then went to the bottom of the deep end.  As an experiment, I used TK to form a tube and bring air down.  I couldn't expand my chest against the pressure of the water, so I tried pulling the air down in the form of bubbles that remain at the ambient pressure of the water.

Viola!  TK scuba!

*Whatever you do, don't hold your breath!  Breathe out on the way up.*

There was some real concern in Cindy's mental voice, so I did as she said and swam to the edge of the pool.

"The reason they make you take a test to get a scuba certification is because it's really easy to hurt yourself badly if you do something wrong.  If you take a lungful of air at depth, then hold it while you're coming up, it can expand in your lungs and pop them.  That is called an air embolism."

I looked at her.  "OK, I'll wait 'till later to try it again.  Maybe I'll take the course or something."

She smiled.  "Sounds good to me.  Meanwhile, I'll lend you my PADI text book."

"PADI?"

"Professional Association of Diving Instructors the people who teach us mortals how to blow bubbles without killing ourselves."

Soon, everyone was in the pool either voluntarily or involuntarily.

After a while, Cindy excused herself to make a phone call.  The better part of an hour later, the pizza delivery man came.  We took the pizza at the gate.  He tried to be cool about it, but we could all tell that he was checking out the scenery.  Some of the girls played it up a bit.

"That's an awful lot of pizza," someone pointed out.

"It'll all get eaten," I assured her.  "A few of us morfies need lots of energy to feed our powers."

"And the rest of us just got done expending lots of energy in the pool," someone else agreed.

I took one last diving leap into the pool, hopped out, and dried myself with my TK.

"How did you do that?" Carol asked.

"Like this," I said, as I used my TK to dry her.  "I just push push the water away with telekinesis."

After that, I ended up drying just about everyone.  That saved them from either changing or sitting around in a wet swimsuit not that there was much swimsuit to be wet.

After we stuffed ourselves silly, everyone filed in to watch a movie.  I sat back in my favorite chair, watching the selection process with some amusement.  I never have been a big fan of movies, so I didn't have much stake in it.  I figured I would read or something once everyone else got engrossed in it.

*It'll be a chick flick, no doubt,* I sent to Carol.  *Maybe we can sneak away and play a video game or something once the movie starts.*

Sure enough, it was a chick flick.  It was all about this macho dude who morfs into a girl.

While the other girls were sniffing and sobbing over some sappy scene where she and her former girlfriend decide that they still love each other and want to redefine their relationship so that they're sisters now, Carol and I snuck up to my room and got out the game console.  We loaded a first person shooter, put on our VR glasses and head phones, and went at it.

She kicked my butt.  Badly.

I was looking with my mind vision and noticed that she wasn't even touching the controls.

*You cheat!*

She snickered at me.

I could see the current flowing through the wires.  No help there.  I looked at my own controller.  I noted how my hand movements activated contacts, broke light beams, and the like.

Two can play at this game.

I started using my TK to move the internal parts of the controller.  At first it was clumsy, but I got the hang of it.  Soon, I would just think of what I want my avatar to do, and it would do it just like when I learned how to write using TK.  Since I didn't have to wait for the nerve impulses to travel from my brain to my hands at 300 miles per hour or so, my reflexes got a whole lot quicker.

Apparently, she had learned over the past week how to take good advantage of her improved reflexes.  She would jump out into the open and blast away, confident that she could dodge better than I could.  I purposely slowed down a bit just barely avoiding her attacks.  Then, when she jumped out in the open, I went in for the kill.  She growled in frustration.

I slowed down again.  Then, at just the right moment, I got her again.

I took a few hits, but that just made it easier for me to keep up the ruse.  It almost became routine - slow down, bait Carol a few times until she can't resist, then mow her down.  After a while, she started to catch on.  Then, it went fast and furious.  We were pretty evenly matched, Carol seemed marginally better.  Still, I fought with determination.

We were both trying to peek around some cover and get a clear shot at each other when, suddenly, about a dozen Big Bad Uglies jumped out and mowed us both down.

We could both hear giggling through our headphones.

*Oh yeah?  Come on, Carol; we'll whip them all!*

We reset the game, then went hunting.  We took more than a few hits but, in the end, we got them all.  After a while, I noticed that one of our attackers was just a little more bold than the others and she would hit us as often as not.

*I think Cindy is the one with the red helmet,* I sent to Carol.  *It looks like she has learned my trick.*

Coordinating telepathically, we came up with a plan.  One of us would lure her out, and the other would blast her.  This worked for a while, but she eventually figured out what we were doing.

Finally, we all agreed that we had had enough.  We all pulled off our VR goggles and headphones and looked around.

"That was a slick trick you came up with," Cindy told me.  "I'm glad you weren't shielding too tightly for me to learn it from your mind."

"You snot!  I had to invent it all on my lonesome.  Meanwhile, Carol kicked my tail three ways from Sunday."

"You don't have a tail," Cindy smirked.

"It's a good thing, too, or it would have been kicked bloody."

Carol stood up and bowed.  Everyone giggled.

Then, she looked at me.  "What exactly did you do, anyhow?  Are you a technopath, too?"

"Nope," I replied.  "I have fine control over my TK, along with the ability to set up some complex processes.  I just started operating the switches in the controller that way."

"What other nifty tricks can you do with your TK?"

My desk opened, and a pad of paper and coffee mug full of pencils floated over.  I started by quickly writing a page of text.  Then, I did a pencil drawing of her face.  I grabbed a bottle of pre-mixed yellow, cyan, magenta, and black paint, and set it next to the paper, then took a quick look at Amy and Cindy.  I TK'd a blob of paint out of the bottle, caused it to spread in an approximate rectangle, and let some of it settle to the paper.  The unused paint went back into the bottle and the cap secured itself.  On the paper was a life-like portrait of Amy and Cindy.

Everyone else wanted a portrait.  On purpose, I made the portraits sexy the kind of thing you would give to a boyfriend.  I made a portrait of Carol holding a lit bulb in her left hand, and shooting lightning from her right index finger.

"OK, tech chick, time for your parlor tricks."

She unplugged my desk lamp and lit it.  She put her fingers on a headphone jack, and 'talked' through the headphones.  She typed on the computer without touching it.  She held her hands a couple feet apart, held up her index fingers, and caused an arc to jump from one to the other.  The arc started by going straight across, but started to bulge up in the middle as the conductive path of hot ionized air rose.  Soon, the path was too long to sustain the arc, and it started again, rose again, and broke again just like you see in all the monster movies and bad sci-fi flicks.  I used my TK to hold the hot air down, and the arc stayed.  Then, I moved it around, finally writing 'Carol' with the arc.

"Hey, we'd make a great team!" she said.

"I'm all for it," I grinned.  "Let's try to change things a bit.  Lower the current to about five milliamps."

As she did that, I allowed the hot air to leak out, then reduced the pressure in the 'tube' I had created.  Soon, it was glowing like one of those old-fashioned neon lights (which don't really use neon) that are used for advertising and decorating.  Because of the oxygen and nitrogen, it glowed blue.

"Well, that was fun," Carol said.  The light went out, so I removed the virtual tube.  There was a slight pop as the air filled in the low pressure area.

"Let's try something else.  Look around with your elemental perception and open your mind."

I started to read all of the circuits in the area.  Where I had earlier been unable to read the data in a network cable, I could see it clearly.  I couldn't see a thing in the fiber optic cables, though.

I looked at the part of her mind that directly sees the currents, and saw stuff that was moving way too fast to understand.  When I looked at what she is actually perceiving in her mind, things were clearer.  Just like ordinary vision, the raw data has to be processed in order for the mind to use it.  It was sort of looking first at the data that's in the optic nerve, then at the data after the visual cortex has processed it.

I fed the perceptions to everyone, then added my own.  Since I could see the light inside the optical fibers, Carol was able to process it and read the data.

*This is cool!  We can even see the tiny electrical impulses in our bodies,* I commented.  We could see everyone's heartbeat, nervous system, and brain.

Amy added her perceptions to the mix, and we could read everyone's bio field.  It was hard to get all of that information integrated, but we could do it if we just concentrated on one thing at a time.

After a while, everyone got bored with the game.  We were here to party, not practice our powers.  So, I found myself dragged downstairs, where someone had set up a whole bunch of cosmetics.  Oh, joy.

It turned out to be more fun than I thought.  I learned a lot about how to apply makeup for a specific look or occasion or type of lighting.  After a while, I started to use my TK to apply the makeup.  I could apply it really thin that way.  I could also apply an incredibly smooth coat of polish to my nails, reducing the need for multiple layers and clear coat.

Amy, meanwhile, figured out how to change the color of her skin.  At first, she was only using colors she could get from natural melanin.  Then, someone suggested that she try using other organic molecules.  She started going around the house and yard looking for plants and animals to study with her bio vision.  The Martins have a coleus plant, so she was able to get a variety of colors from it.  The various flowers planted around the yard increased her palate.  I dug back to my boy roots and turned over some rocks and boards in the back yard.  Bingo!  Nice, shiny beetles perfect for adding a bit of glitter.

It soon degenerated into a paint fest.  Any color scheme that could be imagined could and would be read by Amy and implemented.  She even figured out how to color our hair by having colored bacteria grow under the scales.  After we all came up with some very outlandish (and alluring) color combinations, we decided to do a bit of malling.  We piled into three cars and headed out.

We definitely attracted some stares.

No, we weren't wearing our swimsuits.  Neither were we dressed conservatively.  Short skirts, halters, and low heels were the order of the day.  I was having way too much fun reveling in the attention.  I guess that's when I really embraced my new gender.  We attracted some negative attention, too.  Some of the pures stared balefully at us, but didn't dare harass such a large group.

*I know you think we're hot,* I sent to several of the guys.  *You want to hate us, but you can't help it, can you?*

We all giggled.

*You better get your boyfriends away from us or they'll be dreaming of us when they're kissing you.* I sent to the girls in the group.  We giggled again.

We couldn't resist trying on a few clothes, though nobody but Amy actually bought any.  After all, we weren't planning on keeping our outlandish coloration.

As we were walking to our cars, we were confronted by about two dozen people.  *They just never learn, do they?* I said sadly.

They hurled the usual insults at us, but didn't make a move in our direction.  Maybe they are learning.  We calmly got into our cars and drove away.  I quietly went over each one with my senses to check for sabotage, but they were fine.

*Paranoid much?* asked Cindy.

*It's not paranoia if they're really trying to kill you,* I replied.

The drive home was uneventful, but not nearly as happy and giggly as the drive there.  When we got home, a few of us started muttering about the pures.  "I wish we could give them a case of MORFS," someone said.  "That would teach them a thing or two."

"That would be interesting.  What changes would we make?"

"The first thing I would do," I said, "is change their physiology so that they are incapable of throwing rocks!"

"I agree!" said Amy.  "While we're at it, why not reduce their physical strength to that of a ten year old girl?"

"We should give them cloven hooves, red skin, a pointy tail, and horns," suggested someone.

"Not to mention goat fur from the thighs down.

"And goat eyes."

"What do goat eyes look like?"

"The pupils are kind of shaped like a rounded rectangle not lens shaped like a cat's eye, but with the ends chopped off; and they are sideways instead of vertical."

"They would figure out how to hide their feet.  We should give them an aversion to wearing shoes, so that they leave hoof prints in the dirt and snow."

"We should turn them into boys," suggested Cindy.

"A fate worse than death," I said ironically.

Cindy blushed.  "Sorry!  I didn't mean it that way.  I just figured that if they're all boys, they won't be able to reproduce and nobody else is going to want them."

"I know," I said gently.  "I was teasing."

"Don't make them boys," suggested Carol.  "Make them sexless, but make them attracted to everyone."

"Especially MORFS survivors," someone suggested.

"While we're at it, make them resilient to the cold, and give them an extreme aversion to wearing any kind of clothing."

I noticed that Amy was being quiet.  She had a concerned look on her face, and I could detect some fear.

*What's the matter?* I sent to her privately.

*My bio elemental nature is tingling.  I think I'm developing a virus that'll MORF someone just like everyone is suggesting.  This is freaking scary!*

*I know what you mean.  There were a number of times when I wanted to kill someone, and came really close to actually doing it.*

The rest of the girls were looking at us with concern.

"Amy and I are just discussing something related to our past experience with the pures, and what might be an inappropriate use of our powers.  Sorry... We don't mean to put a damper on everything."

It wasn't the whole truth, but it wasn't a lie, either.

"I think it's time we started talking about something else, anyhow," suggested Amy.  "We can't let those Neanderthals ruin our party."

"Who wants to watch another movie?"

Carol and I groaned.

"Come on, girls!  You two need to embrace your new nature," teased Cindy.

"Not every girl likes chick flicks," retorted Carol.

"Besides," I said, "That movie was so improbable."

"Which part?" asked Amy.  "The part where he turns into a girl, or the part where the new she becomes best friends with her former girlfriend?"

"Or maybe the part where she falls for a cute boy that she knew when she was a he?" suggested Cindy.

I turned beet red.  Everyone giggled.

So we were forced to actually sit through this one.

"Admit it.  You actually enjoyed it," said Amy.

"I admit nothing," I replied.

"You don't have to admit anything," Cindy retorted.  "I can read from your mind that you were really getting into it."

"That's what I get for letting my shields down," I grumbled.  Everyone had the extreme lack of grace to giggle.

By that time, we were all hungry again.  Amy, Cindy, and I whipped up a bunch of party food.  It was nutritious, but it was still party food things like nachos, trays of crackers, lunch meat, cheese, all-fruit preserves, melon balls, berries... stuff like that.

And I mean 'whipped', too.  Things were literally flying all over the place.

"That TK stuff looks like fun," Amy said.  "I wish I could do that."

"And I wish I could turn myself all kinds of colors and heal myself.  I guess we just gotta go with what we got." I smiled.

"Well," she mused.  "I wonder if I can trigger changes in someone who has already gone through MORFS."

"I think we need to do some animal testing, first.  Let's talk to the Doctors Martin about it tomorrow."

Everyone enjoyed the 'flying food' show, and the eventual meal that came from it.  We sat around the living room and chatted until past midnight.  After a while, the girls started unrolling their sleeping bags and lounging on them.  After most of them were sleeping, I yawned and stretched, got up, and ambled up the stairs.

"Nothing doing, chickie!"  Cindy, looking rather cute in her nightie, was staring at me with her hands on her hips.

"Huh?" I asked sleepily.

"This is a sleepover.  We're supposed to camp out in the living room, not sleep in our beds and leave the guests to fend for themselves."

Two sleeping bags came floating down the stairs and unrolled themselves next to Amy.  She smiled sleepily at us.  "Coming to join me?"

I reached upstairs with my TK and grabbed a nightie out of my drawer.  We're all girls here no sense being shy about changing in front of everyone.  Cindy had put my bag between Amy and her.  I laid down and sighed with contentment.  My sensitive nose picked up a faint and not unpleasant scent.

"This is Larry's bag, isn't it?"

They both giggled at me.  "He took his old one so that you could use the new one," Cindy told me.

Amy propped herself up on one elbow and looked across me over at Cindy.  "You're trying to get her to have erotic dreams, aren't you?"

Cindy feigned hurt innocence.  "I would never do a thing like that!"

"You're going to have to shield a lot better than that if you want to fool me," I said.

"What's going to be even more interesting," Amy teased, "is when Larry goes to use it after Cara slept in it all night."

"Especially if she ends up getting all hot and bothered," Cindy agreed.

The whole situation should have bothered me, but it didn't.  I just burrowed down into the sack, pulled the covers over my head, and had sweet dreams.

No, not those kinds of dreams.

Well, maybe a little.

I woke up the next morning well rested.  I wandered up to my room, grabbed a quick shower, and put on a sun dress.  When I got downstairs, most of the girls were awake.  There was a small team in the kitchen cooking breakfast.

"Good morning!  I hope you had sweet dreams," said Cindy.

I turned red.

"I thought so," said Amy.

"I'm not turning red because of what I dreamed.  I'm turning red because of your unfounded assumptions."

"Unfounded?" said Cindy.

"Yeah, right," said Amy.

"What am I ever going to do with you guys?"

"Give us a hug," they said together.  They treated me to a sandwich hug.

"Well," I sighed, "If I'm going to get set up, I might as well get set up by my two bestest girlfriends in the world."

"Sisters," insisted Amy.

"Definitely sisters," echoed Cindy with a smug grin.


Chapter Fifteen: More changeling introductions


After breakfast, everyone showered and dressed.  There were enough showers in the house that everyone could take their time without causing a long wait.

We all did the 'dressy casual' thing for church.  We would all be caravaning there and entering together, so we might as well look like we just got back from a slumber party.

We got there just a couple minutes before the service started.  Mom and the Martins were already seated near the front, so we all joined them.  We pretty much took up that section of the church.  Larry and his crew, meanwhile, were seated across the aisle and took up a good portion of that section.

*Good morning Larry!  Have fun burping and grunting and shooting things?*

*Good morning to you, too!* he replied.  *We had a good time, but I missed you.*

*I missed you too, sweetie.*

I can't believe I said that!

*We had a good time.  Carol and I played a knock-down drag-out game of Antares Mercenary until the rest of the girls discovered us and ambushed us.  We proceeded to kick their butts until your darling sister figured out my secret and started wiping us out.*

*What was your secret?* he asked.

*That's for me to know and for you to maybe figure out.  Meanwhile, I challenge you to a game of Antares Mercenary when we get home.*

*Why do I feel like you're about to wipe the floor with me?* he asked with a smirk.

*Only because I am, sweetie.  By the way, once Carol and I figured out what Cindy was up to, we got her back.  But you'll find out all about that.*  I favored him with my best telepathic rendition of an evil villain's laugh.

One of the elders went to the front and read the announcements.  It was pretty much the same as last week.  He called Kim to the front.

"It would appear that I've just been elected the official changeling and new member announcer," she quipped.

Carol walked up and stood next to Kim.

"A couple weeks ago, Mike Stinnett got worked over by MORFS.  Waking up as a girl threw Carol for a loop, but she recovered quickly, and has even been initiated into the world of teenage femininity by the wild group that you see in front of you."  Kim pointed at us.  We giggled.

"So, please welcome Carol Stinnett to our flock.

We all applauded.

Carol asked for the microphone.  "When I woke up as a girl, I thought that my life was over.  I'm afraid that I put my family through a rather rough time.  I would like to thank them for their love and patience."

We applauded.

Carol continued, "What finally dragged me out of my deep blue funk is my true blue-haired girlfriend.  I'm ashamed to say that I snipped at her at first.  She patiently and lovingly helped me to realize that life is not over that, in fact, it can be better than before.  This is a lesson that all new changelings can take home, and all future changelings will do well to remember."

Everyone applauded.

"Finally, I would like to thank Doctor Myra Winters for helping me sort through the rubble and build a new me out of the pieces."

More applause.

Carol handed the microphone back to Kim.

*Come on up,* she sent to me and Mom.

"Last week, we introduced Sue and her daughter Cara, who had just gone through MORFS.  Since then, several things have happened.

We walked up and stood next to Kim.

"As you can see, we have sisters except that they're not."

She put her hand on Mom's shoulder.

"In the third case of adult MORFS I have ever seen, Sue has managed to get the same changes as her daughter Cara.  Please welcome the new Sue to our family."

There was applause.

"Last week, when we introduced Cara, she had quite a story to tell.  When she was Matthew, he had been forced to watch as the pures stoned his girlfriend Amy."

There was silence.

Kim continued, "On the way home from district court, the pures kidnapped Sue and Cara and stoned them.  To make a long and very gruesome story short, Cara managed to deflect most of the rocks and telepathically call for help.   Unfortunately, she and Sue did sustain some nasty injuries.  Right after the police rounded up the perpetrators, Cara heard a call for help."  Kim looked at me proudly.  "Ignoring her own injuries, she ran through the forest to the source of the call.  With some help from her friends, she dug the dirt off of a grave where the pures had buried their victim alive."  She had to wipe a tear from her eye.  "In one of the most dramatic rescues, and one of the most profound demonstrations of love I have ever seen, Cara infused her own strength into Amy and used all her talents and resources to bring her back from the brink of death."

Amy walked up and stood next to me.  I pulled her in for a quick hug.

"Amy is now living with us, and has been a wonderful addition to our household.  Please welcome her to our church family."

There was more applause.  Kim led us back to our seats.

The elder came back to the lectern to finish the announcements.  "I know we just had a pot luck last week, but it is our policy to celebrate all victories.  Besides, we'll take any excuse to have a party.  The grub committee has outdone itself.  With just a couple days' notice, they managed to contact enough people to pull this together.  If you didn't bring anything, you have to eat twice as much to make up for it."  He smiled and continued.  "Pulling Amy back literally from the brink of death is definitely reason to celebrate.  I have it on good authority that Amy and Cara have declared themselves sisters.  The entire Martin household wants to thank everyone for their prayers."  Then, he said, "Please stand and greet one another."

It was another free-for-all, just like last week.  People came and congratulated us.  Amy had tears in her eyes.

*A little culture shock, sis?* I asked her.

*I can't believe it!  These people are so genuine!  When you told me that we were going to church, I expected something like our old church.*

I smiled at her.  *When they call this our church family, they aren't kidding.  Also, you'll find that their teachings have little in common with that 'study guide' that was foisted upon us.*

*It feels strange to be able to throw it away without a guilty conscience.*

We suddenly felt ourselves enfolded in a big bear hug as Pastor Dan wrapped his arms around us.  Amy was startled at first, but soon read the welcome from my mind.

"Hello Pastor Dan," I said as I gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"Hello Cara," he said.  "You certainly look a lot happier than you did last week."  He turned to Amy.  "Welcome to our church family!  We're really happy that you can join us."

He gave us another squeeze, then excused himself and circulated among his flock.

*He's genuine!  He really means it!* Amy said in wonder.

The elder wandered back to the lectern and asked that everyone take their seats.  Larry ran up to me, gave me a quick hug, then went to his seat.  It looked like he was taking some kidding from his friends.

*Buddies giving you a rough time?* I sent to him.

*They're just envious,* he replied with a snicker.  I smiled and settled back into my seat.

The elder introduced Pastor Dan.  Pastor Dan's message was about forgiveness.  Forgiveness is something that was never mentioned in my old church, and it certainly wasn't something I really wanted to think about at the time.

He made some good points, but I somehow missed most of them.  How can I forgive the people who all but killed Amy, and tried to kill Mom and me?  Every time I thought of them, I could hear that final crack as a rock hit Amy in the head.  I could see her slump.  I could see her naked and filthy body laying in the grave with her open and caved-in eyes, and her mouth full of dirt.  I could feel the rocks impact my own body.  I could feel my mother's pain and despair as she tried to protect me.

As the nails pierced his body, Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

But he's God.  He knew the plan from the beginning, and went through with it because he chose to.  He could have saved himself, but he had a bigger purpose.  He knew from the beginning that he was going to do it, and that he was going to come back to life.

I felt a hand on my shoulder.  *He did it for me.  He did it for you.*

I looked up into Sara's green eyes.  *I know that I'm supposed to forgive them, but... it's just so hard.*

People were filing out of the sanctuary, leaving Sara and me pretty much to ourselves.

*You can't do it alone,* she agreed.  *Still, the pain that you are feeling will continue to come back and haunt you until you do.*

I closed my eyes against the tears that threatened to well up.

*Have any of them asked you for forgiveness?*

*No.  They probably never will.*

*Don't worry about it yet, then.  You can push it aside for now, and deal with it once time has dulled the pain.*

She put her hands on my head, and I could sense that she was praying.  Then, she took my hand and led me to the fellowship hall.  By the time I got to our table, I was feeling better.

We have won.  They have lost.  We have our lives ahead of us, and it really looks like those lives will be rich and full.

As we approached the table, Amy looked at me with concern.  I smiled back.  *I'm doing better now.*  Larry got up and gave me a hug, then led me to a seat between him and Amy.  Cindy stuck her tongue out at him and smirked.

*What?* I asked her.

*I didn't say anything.*

I stuck my tongue out at her.

We were in the front of the serving line again.  This time, Amy and Mom were the guests of honor.

I had to use my TK to eat because I was holding hands with Larry.  If anyone noticed, they didn't say anything.

After a while, people started to come over and welcome Amy.  A couple people congratulated me on my rescue effort.

Myra retired to her makeshift treatment room in the basement for a while.  There were no big therapy sessions, but she checked up on a number of people including Amy and me.

After a while, there was nobody left but the teens and a few adult leaders.  Since everyone was already at the church, we decided to leave early.  The youth pastor called the canoe rental place and verified that they had canoes ready for us.  While he was doing that, we all changed out of our church clothes.  I put a long t-shirt on over my favorite aquamarine bikini, and stepped into a pair of flops.  It felt funny being in church attired like that.  Soon, we were caravaning to the Hobart bridge.  Sure enough, there was a baker's dozen canoes waiting for us, along with some paddles and life jackets.  The drivers dropped us off and went to the pick-up point, and then all came back in one car.

I hadn't been in a canoe since I was very young.  Once father had gotten deeply involved in the Genetic Purity Church, recreational activities had fallen to the wayside.  Fortunately, Larry didn't have that problem.  He sat in the back and did a very good job of guiding the canoe through all the rocks and fallen logs.

It's the job of the person in the back to plot the path and steer the canoe.  It's the job of the person in the front to provide power and act as a look-out 'because I can't see through you'.  Of course, at least one smarty-pants said it's 'because he's busy looking at you.'  I guess I have to believe the second, because he perfectly well can see through me.

I was actually rather impressed with the Larry's skill.  There were many times that I was sure that he was pointing the canoe way upstream of where we wanted to go, only to find that the current took us precisely to the clearest path.  A quick flick of his paddle, and we would glide smoothly through the opening.

A couple times, we beached the canoe and sat on the bank near a particularly difficult section of the river.  Watching the other canoeists hit something and flip was always good for a bit of amusement.

It's common for the canoeists to eschew their life vests because the river is shallow in most places, and it is narrow enough to swim across easily.  Unfortunately, one young lady who decided to go without her vest ended up dumping in one of the rare deep areas and panicked.  It really looked like she was joking around, but I could feel the panic coming from her.  Fortunately for her, Larry and I lifted her out and deposited her on the bank.  Once her partner righted the canoe and retrieved all the floating items, including her discarded life vest, she decided to put it back on.  Of course, the fact that the water is quite cold this time of the year (any time of the year, for that matter) might have convinced her that extra insulation is a good thing.  That, and the life vest covered the evidence that she found the water to be cold.

After a while, we got back into our canoe and continued down the river.  By then, I was getting pretty good at reading the river and judging the current.

Up ahead, the river curved to the right.  The water to the left was deep, as expected.  The outside of a curve is almost always deeper.  There seemed to be some obstructions there, though.

Of course, the real tip-off was the fact that the bank was lined with spectators.

As we got closer, we saw a tree that had fallen into the river years ago.  It had been undermined by the eroding left bank.  There was a nice cut just to the right of the tree.  Carefully compensating for the cross current, Larry lined us up so that we could glide effortlessly through the narrow space between the limbs of the tree (which had been cut) and the rocks to the right.

As we approached, we saw a kid swimming exactly where we needed to go.  Larry dodged to the left, avoiding the swimmer.  He tried to get us back into the groove, but there was no time to do it in the swift current.

"Duck under the branch," he instructed me.  The branch passed over, barely clearing the top of the canoe.  Larry didn't have room to duck and maintain control at the same time, so he grabbed the branch as it came up to his chest.  While he held the canoe steady, I climbed back into my seat.  I could feel the current rushing underneath us.

Larry leaned backwards, doing the limbo under the limb.  He had to push up on the limb, which pushed the back end of the canoe down into the water.  It was a very unstable position, and we had to fight to keep our balance.  He held on to the limb as it passed over his face and past his head, then released it.  The canoe rocked quite a bit, but we managed to keep the dry side dry and the wet side wet.  He picked up his paddle and we continued nonchalantly as if nothing unusual had happened.  I had been prepared to use TK to right the canoe, but it wasn't necessary.  I thought I heard some applause coming from the spectator section, but I wasn't sure (and I didn't feel like 'reading' them.)

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful.  As we approached the livery, we were complimented by a couple people on our excellent save.  I think some of the girls particularly enjoyed Larry's acrobatics.  I have to admit that leaning over backwards while holding that branch did show off the definition of his pectorals.  (Not that I would notice something like that.)

Within a half an hour or so, the group was back together.  A few of the people were shivering.

"How did you manage to stay dry?" asked one of them.

"She cheated!"

"That's right.  I cheated."  I hooked my arm around Larry and pulled him to me.  "I got a partner who knows how to handle a canoe."

"I have to agree," said Amy.  "You should have seen the acrobatics he did to keep them from dumping."

"It was something to see," said one of the girls.

Larry blushed.

*Some of those people are starting to get borderline hypothermic.* Amy told me.  She sent me a mental image of the worst ones.  It was easy to tell because they were shivering pretty hard.

I walked up to one and used TK to dry her off.  "Thank you," she said.  I quickly dried everyone else off.  That cheered up the group considerably.

"How do you get the water off right next to the skin?" someone asked.

"It's kind of a reflex.  I have practiced the ability to tell the difference between 'person' and 'not person', and just push the water away without affecting your skin.  I do the same thing with the clothes push the water through and out while leaving the fabric alone."

"But how do you do it under our clothes?  How can you tell where the skin starts?"

I smirked.  "My senses aren't stopped by something as simple as clothing."

One of the boys blushed and put his hands in front of his crotch.

"I can see through your hands, too," I said.  "But don't fret about it.  It's nothing I haven't seen before.  I used to have the same equipment, after all."

While we were waiting around, two people drove up to the Hobart Bridge and brought back the one car that had been left there.  Soon, we were all headed home.  Some people went back to the church to pick up their cars, but most were dropped off right at home.  We got back just in time for dinner.

After dinner, I showered off, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and went downstairs.  Sneaky and Sassy, the Martins' seal point Siamese kitties, came to see me.  Sneaky jumped up on my lap first, so Sassy pretended that she didn't want to see me anyhow.  She hopped up on Amy.

Sneaky lifted his back as I stroked it.  I scratched him behind his right ear, then followed his jaw line down and gave him scritchies under the chin.  He leaned into it.

"You sure know how to charm a cat," Amy observed.

"I have always loved kitties," I replied.  "I kind of miss the one Mom and I used to have."

Cindy giggled and gave me a smirk.

"What?" I asked innocently.

"Hmmm... I wonder if Jim enjoys the charms of the feline world.  I'll bet he particularly likes seal points," I mused mischievously.  This time, it was Cindy's turn to blush.

"We ought to get him into the youth group," said Amy.  "He would probably have enjoyed canoing today."

"I'm sure Cindy will be able to talk him into coming," I commented.

Soon enough, it was time for bed.  I went upstairs and caught up with my email, did a little web research, and made sure that my homework was all finished properly and ready to go.  I packed my backpack, laid out my clothes, and got ready for bed.  As I was laying back and idly sensing my surroundings, I realized that I could read the data going through the network cables.  How did that happen?


Chapter Sixteen: Court again, more learning, more questions


The next morning, it was time to go to court again.  This is getting old.

The defense lawyer tried to intimidate Larry and me mostly me.  He intimated that they were merely defending themselves against my vicious verbal attack.

"Since when it it proper to use sticks and stones against a verbal attack?  Besides, I was just using my first amendment rights to tell them that their current course of action would land them in jail.  Some listened and left.  Those who didn't wise up are in jail."

This group was denied bail, too.

This time, we got to school in time for advanced gym.  Mom passed the tests with flying colors, and is now working out with us.

When we got home, I discussed my ability to read network data with the professors.  As near as we can figure, I managed to incorporate Carol's ability to process the data.  As an experiment, I tried giving Kim the ability to interpret my TE and TK vision.  She managed to pick up most of it.  With some practice, she learned to see everything that I could see.  Apparently, a lot of the acuity of vision is due to processing.

Later, we passed the skill on to everyone else.  Amy couldn't get all of the TK vision, but she got some presumably that which overlaps with regular TE vision.  None of us managed to gain her ability to read bio fields.  We learned to use each other's powers.  I could just sit and relax and let one of my trusted loved-ones into my head, and she (or he) could use my fine control of telekinesis.  It was kind of fun using Amy's bio elemental powers to change the color of my skin and stuff like that.

Kim and Sara were working hard on their research.  They tried to figure out how to induce MORFS in adults, but were getting nowhere.  There was little similarity between the suite of bugs in their own transformation and that of Mom's transformation.  Despite their earlier assumptions, there was nothing to indicate that the transformations had anything to do with each other.

"It must be a coincidence," said Kim.

"I don't believe in coincidences," said Sara.

"I agree that it is statistically highly unlikely that the only recorded cases of adult MORFS have nothing to do with each other, and yet they occurred in the same household," agreed Kim.

One really confusing part is that Mom seems to have picked up some DNA from me, or maybe father.  She now has some DNA that didn't appear in the analysis that they did on some skin flakes and hair that came from before her transformation.  That DNA is identical to some of the DNA that I inherited from father.

The fact that I carry that man's genes makes me faintly ill.

Meanwhile, Amy has been inducing MORFS changes of her choosing in adolescent lab animals.  She started doing it here in the basement lab.  The Martins decided to take her to the college and let her work there as a lab assistant.  It isn't uncommon at all for young MORFS survivors to use their powers to help researchers.

Interestingly enough, the MORFS that Amy induces in animals doesn't follow the standard MORFS pattern.  A suite of virii induces a genetic alteration, then forces the body to implement those changes.

All four of us have been working and learning a lot in the Martins' basement labs.  Kim and Sara are hoping that they can help us earn an academic scholarship.

Amy made things even more confusing by inducing changes in adult animals.  To muddy the waters more, those changes had little to do with either the Martins' or Mom's changes.

I was expressing sympathy to Kim when she said, "We're not upset.  Frustrated, perhaps, but not upset."  She paused a bit, then added, "If everything we scientists did went as planned, we would never learn anything.  It's when the unexpected happens that breakthroughs are made."  She gave me some examples, like the time Flemming found that the bacteria died near a mold colony that had contaminated his petri dish leading to the discovery of penicillin.

The school year slipped by and ended.  We all joined the summer advanced gym class so that we could keep practicing.  We talked Mom and the professors Martin into getting skateboards.  After a while, we overheard some people talking about 'the kitties and elves.'  Of course, Jim doesn't fall into either category.

One day, when I was lounging out by the pool, Amy came back from the university carrying a strange looking cat.  It looked like a seal point, but its back looked strange, and its tail reminded me of a kangaroo rat.  It seemed to have a wider section on the end.

Amy gently laid the critter in my lap, and it was love at first sight.  I could feel in his mind a kind of happiness that comes from finally being home.  It's as if he was made for me.

"He was made for you," Amy told me.  "I morfed him in such a way that he would immediately connect to you.  He's psi-linked to you.  Go ahead and read it in his mind."

Sure enough, this cat was sure that he was my cat.  He stood on my lap and spread his wings, begging me to stroke the soft fur underneath.

Amy had given me a one-of-a-kind winged cat.  I was touched.  I gave her a hug and thanked her while the cat sat on my shoulders.

He carefully launched himself from my shoulder without using his claws.  He circled around a few times, then landed in my arms.  "I think I'll call you Markus."

For the most part, he is an ordinary seal point Siamese.  The only external differences are his wings and his tail.  At the very tip of his tail, he has sprouted some tail feathers.  Since they are at the end of his tail, they provide the leverage he needs to be very maneuverable.  He's pure death on the bird population, so I asked him to avoid killing the more desirable species.

Seal points are among the most intelligent of cats, but Markus has them all beat.  He isn't as smart as a human, but he is remarkably well adapted and can understand what I send to him.  He spends the nights either curled up at the foot of my bed, in the crook of my arm, or up near my head.  I taught him to use the toilet, so we don't have to mess with kitty litter.  He prefers to go outside, though.  Larry made a cat door for him that's kind of complicated to operate.  Markus had to press three buttons in sequence to get in.  That's a trick that a coon or possum won't learn.

Markus turned out to be the best pet I've ever had.  People have often commented that their pets could read their mind, but Markus really could.  If I was sad or upset, he would quietly come to me and comfort me.  He seems to like skateboarding almost as much as we do.  When we get our boards out, he gets excited.  As we're going down the street, he flies overhead and keeps a good lookout.  He really does, since we all can read his mind and see what he's seeing.

We had a nice summer, but most of our attackers didn't.  Several of the youth that were involved in the stoning of Mom and me volunteered to be read by telepaths.  Some got off scott-free because they were coerced and did everything they could to avoid participating.  Others got probation and counseling if they agreed to testify against their former mentors.

I greeted them all warmly after they were let out.  I assured them that I know how they feel I was forced to participate in Amy's stoning.  Some of them were happy to see Amy and me, but some weren't.  Some still hold to their old beliefs, and think that Amy and I are nothing but filthy gene scum.

The saddest part of the affair is that some are going back to single parent homes, while others are going to foster homes.  Some are going to a home that is newly without a father, and others are going to the home of a parent who had earlier divorced.

I gave them all my email and voice contact information, and invited them to my new church.  "If you need anything, feel free to give me a call," I told them.

That was just the first of many court appearances.

The plea bargaining went well.

Father agreed to pay restitution to me as a part of his bargain.  In return for that and his guilty plea, he got life without parole except nowadays, life without parole really means that he can get paroled if he proves, with the help of a telepath, that he is extremely unlikely to repeat his crime, that the beliefs and attitudes that caused the crime are gone, and that he will be a productive member of society.

While it wasn't an official part of the plea bargaining, it was hinted to father that things would go better for him if he released the remaining part of his estate to Mom as a divorce settlement.  He also relinquished all parental rights over me, not that it matters much.  After he signed everything, he was escorted back to the jail by a police officer.  He looked at me wistfully, but didn't say anything.  I wasn't in the mood to try to read his mind.

Amy's parents did the same.  They released their estate to Amy, and relinquished parental rights.  It didn't take much to get the court to assign Mom as her official guardian.  We squealed, jumped up, and hugged each other.  "Now we're really sisters!"  The judge banged his gavel, but smiled none the less.  We looked suitably chastened and sat down.

The rest of the perpetrators got a similar deal.  Only the preacher, Brother Taylor, and a couple other deacons ended up standing trial.  In the end, they got the death penalty.

Apparently, Mom, Amy, and I were the only three people who survived stoning.  At least, no other survivors or family came forward.  Mom had intended to relinquish her share if Amy and I agreed to put our shares into separate trust accounts that would be used for college.  We talked her into going with the original three way split, and setting up three college trust funds.  After all, we reasoned, there is no reason Mom can't go to college.

The liquid assets were immediately divided, and the church building was put on the market.  It took a while, but it was eventually sold for a good price.

Once Mom received her divorce settlement, we had a decision to make.  We considered moving back into our old house, but there were too many bad memories there.

Kim and Sara suggested that we sell everything and stay right where we are.  "You have become like family to us, and we really want you to stay with us," they told us.

Mom insisted that we won't feel right if we don't contribute.  They pointed out that we had already been contributing not just with the food that Mom insisted on purchasing and stocking into the pantry, but with all the assistance we give in the lab and in the home.

So that settled it.  We will all stay here until it's time to go to college.  Then, we'll figure things out from there.

And yes, there was lots of research to do.  We couldn't follow all of the complicated biochemical and genetic stuff, but we could, and did, help run the experiments and take care of the animals.

Doctor Kim was looking at a large map on the computer.  There were several shaded areas and spots on it.  One group of spots, I noticed, was at Sun City.  There were a few smaller concentrations, a powerful blip south of Sun City, and a really minor one here.

"This research program uses a combination of artificial intelligence, expert systems, and statistical analysis to look for anomalies in the pattern of MORFS cases.  Kim zoomed in on our location.  "For instance, what we see here is a household that has seven MORFS survivors, all of whom have desirable powers.  Four are feline hybrids, and three are elf-like.  Also, three of the MORFS cases occurred in adults, which is another rarity.  Finally, all four felines are remarkably similar, and two of the elves are almost identical."

She smiled at me.  "This household is way off the charts statistically.  Of course, the number of people involved is way short of being a statistically valid sample."

"Oh Doctor Martin," Sara said as she entered.

"Yes, Doctor Martin?"

"Are you in lecture mode again, Doctor Martin?"

"It's a difficult habit to break, Doctor Martin."

I was trying not to laugh.  Sara tried to look stern, then giggled.

"What Doctor Martin is trying to say is that our family here is an anomaly, but it is pretty much buried in a sea of statistically uninteresting families."

Sara zoomed in on Sun City.  "Here, we have a lot more interesting stuff.  More of the households have a high concentration of interesting MORFS survivors."

I zoomed in on the intense blip nestled in the mountains to the south of Sun City.  "What is this?"

"That," Kim said, "is the Pentwater Compound.  About the time Sun City started out as a resort, Marvin Pentwater got together with some friends to create a refuge for themselves.  They now live in a climate-controlled area similar to Sun City.  They actively recruit people with powers.  They live there in luxury and anyone who wants their services goes to them.  On the surface, they sound like snobby recluses.  For the most part, though, they are very nice people."

"I'll bet they don't have any problems with the pures," I said.

"The pures have enough trouble with the likes of us.  I'm sure that they would be in way over their heads if they tried to tackle the people over at Pentwater," Sarah commented.

Kim said, "Anyhow, we know the story behind our own family here.  We also know that Sun City and Pentwater attract MORFS survivors like honey attracts flies, and that receiving interesting or favorable results from MORFS runs in the family.  Therefore, it is expected that they will look like this."

"What are we looking for?" I asked.

"Clues, mainly.  If we see an anomaly that we can't explain, we'll study it.  It may be nothing, or it might lead us to something big."

After I finished my work in the lab, I went upstairs to get ready for bed.  It didn't matter much in the summer, but the next day was Saturday.  We planned on heading out to the bigger skating park to meet some friends.


Chapter Seventeen: Confrontations, healing, renewal


I was coming downstairs when I heard a knock at the door.  When I answered it, three people came bursting in and said, "We came to pick up Amy Cox."  I quickly read in their minds that they were up to no good.

*Visitors!  Amy, stay well out of sight!  Mom!  Kim!  Sara!  I think I need some adult help here at the door.*

Kim walked up to the trio.  "Can I help you?" she asked politely.

"Yes," the leader said.  "We have instructions to pick up one Amy Cox for her safety."

"I am Amy's legal guardian, and I can assure you that she is perfectly safe here," said Mom.

"Our instructions are to remove Miss Cox from this household.  Please step aside."

"Do you have a warrant?" asked Kim.

"Look, kid, don't play living room lawyer with me.  Step aside or we'll call your parents!"

Kim walked up and looked him right in the face.  "I am an adult, this is my house, and you are not invited.  Please remove yourselves now."

The two men who had come in with him pulled handguns.  Immediately, the guns pointed at the floor, then flew out of their hands.  Then, the attackers fell to the floor.  I pinched the carotids of the one on the right, and Larry did the one on the left.  He didn't quite have the control at that distance, but compressing the entire area worked well.

Sara and Cindy restrained the ringleader while Kim called the police.  Soon, officers Trowbridge and Saouda, along with some backup, were here.

It turned out that he did have a court order to take Amy to a foster home, but didn't have a warrant to come into Kim and Sara's house.  The court order came from a lower court, so it didn't override the court order that gave Mom legal guardianship of Amy.  Still, the fact that the people who were trying to get their hands on Amy managed to get a court order was ominous.

We contacted our lawyer the next day, and he filed the appropriate legal papers that would allow Mom to adopt Amy officially.  Since Amy's parents had signed away their legal parental rights, there was no opposition.  Meanwhile, an investigation was launched.  What did those people want with Amy, anyhow?

Amy and I were enjoying a little 'sister time' at the local park when we were accosted by a couple of the pures that we recognized from school.  They didn't go to our old church, but they were pretty obnoxious.

"Can't you guys ever learn that we just want to be left alone?" Amy sighed.  "Maybe things would change if you got MORFS."

They came over and got into her face.  "That is not the way to address your betters!" they said as they grabbed her.

I felt something weird through my link with Amy as if she released something.  It felt a lot like it feels when she induces MORFS in an animal.

I used my TK to unwrap their grubby mitts from Amy's arms, then pushed them away.

*What did you do?* I asked Amy.

*I don't know.  I think I gave them MORFS.*

I couldn't help but snicker.  *I guess you got your wish, then.  I just hope they don't get any powers.*

*Nope.  I think they are getting that custom strain that we were all dreaming up the night of the sleep over.*

I giggled.  *I guess they won't be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, either.*

We telepathically followed them home.  We kept checking up on them and their families.  Sure enough, the came down with MORFS about two days later.  They changed pretty much like we had all discussed at the party.  I almost felt sorry for them.

Almost.

We had all been practicing our powers, but this was the first time we found out for sure that Amy could custom morf a person.

The Sunday after next, we had some guests at church.  Some of our members had invited a family over for a special prayer session.  The young lady was ill with terminal cancer.  It was very hard on the parents, and on the doctor, who was a family friend.  Some of our church members, relatives of the family, had urged them to come over.  Whenever a member is sick, either the elders, or the entire congregation, will pray for them in a session much like the descriptions in the Bible.

I was looking at her body and saw hundreds of tumors inside her.  Amy and I combined perceptions, and I could see that the cancer was growing and spreading everywhere, and that it had some of the signature of MORFS.  We also saw that she didn't have long to live.

The doctor explained that he had had a bio elemental lined up to treat her, but the elemental had disappeared.  It has always been difficult to find bio elemental help at any price they are just too rare.  Now, it's almost impossible.

It was a very touching ceremony.  The elders and the youth group all laid hands on her and prayed over her.  The congregation, for the most part, held their hands out in her direction.

After we were done, Amy talked to the girl's doctor.  *I'm a bio elemental and my sister has very fine control of her telekinesis.  The rest of our household can help us by lending energy to us.  Can we all meet downstairs after the service?*

I saw the doctor whispering to the parents.  After a short conference, he replied.  *Thank you!*

After the service, we all went over and led the four of them downstairs.

Once we got down to Myra's makeshift treatment room, we all introduced ourselves.  The girl's name was Tina Shepherd.  Her parents were Mary and John, and her physician was Doctor Josephson.

"Doctor Martin and Doctor Martin?  That sounds familiar.  I remember two Doctors Martin from when I was in med school in Sun City."

"That would be us," said Kim.  "We have changed a bit since then, but we're still the same people."

We explained to Tina that Amy is a bio elemental, that I am a telekinetic, and that everyone else is telepathic and can lend energy to Amy and me.

Amy and I combined our perceptions and looked at Tina.  We shared our perceptions with the doctor.

"OK, Doc, we can start any time you're ready.  Just guide us and let us know what we need to do."

I was up first.  The doctor chose a tumor, and I studied it.  By combining Amy's bio elemental vision with my own remote perception, I learned the difference between 'tumor' and 'not tumor.'  This allowed me to surround it with a kind of shield.  Then, I liquefied it and drew the liquid out through a tiny tube of force.  I did a few of them, but the meticulous work soon became tiring.  I let Cindy use my fine control to do it while I relaxed.  Then, Mom did some on her own.  Larry, Kim, and Sara all took their turns.  We followed round-robin like that as we carefully removed each tumor.  The doctor watched over the whole operation, and was impressed.

Once we did that, it was Amy's turn.  She found all the 'wrong' places in her structure and fixed them.  When we were done, each cell was brought back to its 'right' state.

"The tumors are caused by some kind of anomaly in her genetic code.  The MORFS genetic code reacts to it badly, and creates tumors.  It's going to happen again if we don't do something about it," said Amy.

"We're grateful for every day added to her life," said her mom.

"What happens if she gets MORFS?" asked the Doctor Josephson.

"According to what I am reading in her, that will cure her permanently."

Just then, Pastor Dan came down with a pile of power bars, energy drinks, and other snacks.  We all sat back and ate and relaxed to replenish our energy.

I looked at Tina.  "If you could choose how you MORF, what would you choose?"

Tina looked adoringly at the kitty four.  "I think I would like to look like them, and have wings, too."

"Any powers?" Amy asked.

"Telepathy is really cool, and I would like to help people the way you did."

I asked Amy, *Can you give her your elemental powers combined with my suite of powers?*

Amy seemed to think about it for a while, then knitted her brow.

*What's the matter?* I asked.

*I can't give her the ability to create custom morfs.  There is a missing component that I can't give her.*

She looked around with our combined vision out to the limits of our perception.

*I guess we really are sisters, because I can give you the ability.  The Martins have such powerful intellects that I can give it to them but I'll have to do it a piece at a time.  I can't find anyone else that's even close.*

*That might be a good thing,* I said.  *We wouldn't want anyone to be able to make an army of morfs.  Meanwhile, let's take care of Tina.*

Amy asked Tina to visualize what she wants to look like.

"It's all set to go.  All I have to do is give her the bug."

Kim spoke up.

"Doctor Josephson, it's my opinion as a MORFS specialist and as someone who knows Amy well that she can successfully give MORFS to Tina, give her exactly what she wants, and cure her of this cancer forever.  What do you prescribe?"

He smiled.  "Ah, the legal stuff."  He looked over at Tina's parents.  "As her doctor, I prescribe a case of MORFS, as induced by Amy Cox.  What do you say?"

"If Tina wants it, you have our permission."

Amy looked at Tina questioningly.  Tina nodded.  "Do it, please."

Amy touched Tina on the arm and released the virus packet.  "It's done.  You'll come down with MORFS in two days."

The doctor was happy to see his patient cured, but he felt regret that he couldn't do that for more people.

*Amy, can you give the good doctor the same suite of powers you just gave Tina?*

Amy concentrated a bit, then sent, *Adults can't get MORFS, but I can give them a bug that'll do the same thing.*

She looked at Doctor Josephson and said out loud, "You regret not being able to help people more.  I can give you the same suite of powers if you like.  Would that be OK?"

"If you do that," Kim commented, "you need to do his wife, too.  After all, MORFS is going to set back the clock for him, and it would be a huge strain on his marriage if his wife didn't get the same thing."

"Unfortunately, Candice isn't here.  She had to work at our practice today," said Doctor Josephson.

"I could give you the bug, and make it sexually transmittable," Amy snickered.

Doctor Josephson blushed, but said, "That actually sounds like a perfect solution."  He thought about it for a bit.  "Does there have to be a physical change?  Can we both come out looking the way we do now?"

"Except for the fact that you'll both look younger, there doesn't need to be any change," Amy said.  "In fact, if there is no physical change, the symptoms should be almost nonexistent."

The doctor smiled.  "OK, that'll be perfect."  He held out his arm.  "Zap me, please."

Amy did.

"Please understand," Sara pointed out, "That there are people who would stop at nothing to get the power to change morfs.  For Amy's sake, don't let anyone know how you got your powers."

A few days later, Amy and I were hanging out in the park when we saw the couple that she had infected earlier.  They started walking toward us.

*Uh oh,* I said to Amy.  They were smiling, though.

"We wanted to apologize to you guys for being so rude a couple weeks ago."

We just stared at them with our mouthes open.

They introduced themselves as Marvin Donaldson and Dolly Vincetti.  Then, they described their former appearances and reminded us of the earlier incident.  "As you can imagine, getting MORFS has pretty much changed our attitudes."

I held my hand out.  "Welcome to the world of the butterflies."  Amy and I both felt a bit guilty, though.

"You know, these bodies aren't the best things that we could have gotten, but it was worth it if that's what it took to shake us loose from our destructive path."

"You know," I said, "I said pretty much the same thing.  I was the son of a deacon at the Genetic Purity Church.  I didn't know it, but life was sterile and I was headed for destruction."

"I was his girlfriend," Amy added.  "We were good friends, but wouldn't have made it as girlfriend and boyfriend.  We're much better as sisters."  Amy smiled and gave me a hug.

They looked pretty much identical.  It would have been impossible to tell who was originally male, and who was female, if we couldn't have read their minds.  I also sensed a curious type of contentment.

For most of their lives, they have been living with the conviction that the gene scum were spreading evil in the world, and that there was little that they could do about it.  Suddenly, reality shifted.  They found out first hand that going through MORFS doesn't turn you into a monster.  The big insoluble problem that had been a central part of their lives suddenly evaporated.

I guess the same thing happened to me.  I had already been working on my perception and attitudes about MORFS, but tolerance was always at odds with what I was taught by parental and church authority.  Now, the dearest people in my life are MORFS survivors, and life is undeniably better.

We chatted with them for a while.  While they regret the loss of strength, and wish they looked less like the classic devil caricatures, they are happy.  They even shyly admitted that the loss of their gonads hasn't prevented them from pleasuring each other.  Amy privately noted to me that there are some interesting concentrations of nerves in those areas.  I quietly conferred with Amy, and she agreed to give them another case of MORFS that would trigger in about a week, and would get rid of the horns, change their facial features, give them back their strength and flexibility, and give them the ability to change their skin color.  We decided that weak telepathy would be good, too.


Chapter Eighteen: A question of forgiveness


I had a disturbing dream that night.  I don't remember much of it, but I remember vaguely that I'm being asked to forgive my father.  I had been putting off that issue, but I knew it would eventually come back to bite me in the butt.  I decided to talk to Kim about it, since I have been going to her for a lot of advice since I moved in here.

Kim called Pastor Dan and made an appointment for me.  I didn't really want to talk to the pastor about it, but I wasn't going to tell Kim that I didn't appreciate what she did for me.  Also, I really like Pastor Dan.

But still, what good will it do when he tells me that God wants me to forgive my father?  I already know that.  Shoot, I can quote a couple of the verses from memory seventy times seven, and all that stuff.

But he's the pastor.  It's his job to tell us what God wants us to do.  So I went anyhow.  I smiled and thanked him for taking the time to talk to me.

Before we sat down, he handed me an envelope.  "Let's get this part out of the way right now."  I took it and looked at him curiously.  "No, don't open it yet."

"What's in it?" I asked.

He gave me a smirk.  "It's the obligatory lecture about how God wants you to forgive everyone, supported by a bunch of quotes from the Bible.  You probably already know a lot of that stuff, but I have to give you the information, anyhow."

I must have still looked confused.  He waved at a comfortable chair, and sat himself down.

"The fact that you find forgiving your father to be difficult is proof that failing to do so will hurt you."

I looked at him without comprehension.

"Has he asked for forgiveness?" he asked.

"No," I admitted.

"Then it's all about you.  You don't even really have to tell him.  In fact, it's quite possible that he considers himself to need no forgiveness.  He may think that he did what was right."

"Then what's the point?" I asked.

"When you think about your father, what happens?  How do you feel?"

"My guts clench up," I admitted.

"Is that a good feeling?"

"No, of course not," I replied.

"So, you have three choices.  You can go through life feeling your guts clench up every time something reminds you of your father, you can make a good attempt to never think about him for as long as you live, or you can try to forgive him."

I mulled over that for a while.  I closed my eyes against the tears that threatened to come out.

"I don't have to be a psychologist to know that you had PTSD from your experiences with the stonings.  How do you feel now?"

"Well," I said, "at first, I was full of fear.  After a while, their ability to make me afraid started to go away."

"How did that happen?" he asked.

"First of all, I made a decision that I wasn't going to give them power over my life like that.  Myra helped me make that decision and stick to it."  I sat and thought for a bit.  "Later, after I had defeated them, then after the incident in the park, I came to realize that I'm not totally helpless in the situation.  I defeated them twice, and they're in jail."

He smiled.  "Most PTSD survivors don't have the advantage of your later experiences.  They have to face back the fear, knowing that it is still all too valid to feel afraid.  Faith helps a lot of people.  Knowing that, in the end, God will see to that they win is the final thread of hope that they cling to."

"That helps me a lot, too," I said.

"But what about the clenching in your guts?  You have managed to pretty much put aside the fear, but what of the other?  Your attackers no longer have the power to make you afraid, but they have the power to make you harden your heart."

I looked at him with new comprehension.  "How do I do it?  I can say it.  I can even will it.  How do I make it real?"

"Start by admitting that you need and want to forgive him, but that you just don't have the power to do it on your own.  Then, pray about it."

I thought about it for a while.  "Needing to do something that I can't do makes me feel powerless," I told him.

"Join the club," he said.  There's an old song that says, 'Just give it your best, pray that it's blessed, and He'll take care of the rest."

"I recall reading something like that in Paul's writings; but it all seemed so theoretical to me."

"Philippians 4:13, and a number of other places," he affirmed.  "And it's not theoretical at all.  It's something that we all experience when we bump our heads against the wall, then ask for help when the wall refuses to crumble."

I sighed, then smiled.  "I guess I'll just have to do what I can and wait to see what happens."

"That's very often all anyone can do.  Still, knowing what you need to do, and why you need to do it, is a big step."

"Yes," I said.  "I need to get rid of this hard lump in my heart because it's hurting me more than it'll ever hurt father."

I got up and thanked him.  I started by shaking his hand, then gave him a hug.

After I got home, I laid on my bed for a while; lost in thought.  Then, I changed into a swimsuit and lounged around the pool.  I prayed about it that night, and every night thereafter until there was resolution.

Summer continued to pass amiably.  We all continued to attend advanced gym class, practice our powers, work in the labs, swim, skateboard, walk through the parks, and do general summer stuff.  I played with Markus a lot, and he has gotten quite good at landing on my shoulder without scratching me.

Kim and Sara sequenced the virii that Amy used to morf animals and people.  In general, it was shorter than most 'wild' DNA.  If the DNA that Amy creates looks like a well-designed program, the wild stuff looks like a very large, old, and haphazardly maintained piece of legacy software.  Kim and Sara's research showed some distinct difference between the morfing of themselves, the morfing of Mom and me, and the morfing that Amy can induce.

There are three ways of morfing an adult, and no consistency between them.

And then there were four.

We started seeing reports of a curious batch of adult morfing, and it couldn't happen to a nicer group of people.  These people grew furry, sprouted horns, and lost their voices.  The fact that it was the pures that were hit made us suspicious.  Amy insists that she never envisioned those particular changes, though.

The Martins got samples of the virii.  It turns out that three separate virii are needed to induce the morf.  They are similar to Amy's in that they are coded neatly, but they lack Amy's signature.

When working with DNA, there are many ways to get a specific result sort of like programming, but much more so.  Therefore, it is possible to use statistical analysis to detect a very distinctive 'style.'  Amy has morfed enough test animals for the statistical analysis programs to assemble a very definite signature.  The AMORFS suite of virii doesn't match that signature.  The good doctors suspect that another bio elemental did it.

So, out came the epidemiology programs.

This bug seems to have a long incubation period.  I wonder if the perpetrator of the plague did that to make it difficult to track down.  We would have to have lots of private information about lots of people to do an effective job.

The Martins sent their results to several of their colleagues, including the elementologist in Sun City who administers the MORFS registration database for elementals.  They debated talking to her about Amy's abilities, but decided to wait.  The last thing we need is for Amy to get the attention of some powerful groups who want her abilities.

We have lots of decisions to make about that.  How are we going to use her abilities to their greatest advantage while keeping them secret?  How are we going to protect her if she is found out?

One day, I got a letter from father.  It was from the state penitentiary; from Randy Jones, followed by a long inmate identification number.

My gut clenched.

I was about to throw it out, but I decided that I need to read it or I'll never get out from under his power to stir up my guts.  This is where faith is tested.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  I need to reach past how I feel and do the right thing, or be under his power forever.

Dear Cara:

I'm sorry.

I was wrong.  I was horribly wrong.  I know that my admission doesn't mean much, but it's all I have to offer.

I'm not asking for mercy.

I lost you.  I lost my wife.  I lost everything I have ever worked for and earned.  I lost my freedom.  I almost lost my soul.  I fell under the deception of the preacher and his ilk.  They seduced me by stroking my pride and telling me that I was one of the chosen few superior ones.  Oh, how my prideful soul drank in their flattery.  If things had kept going, I would have lost my soul.  Instead, I lost everything else.

Including you.

I know it's too much to ask from the likes of me, but I really need your forgiveness.  Can you find it in your heart to forgive a foolish man who has hurt you so and stolen much of your childhood?  I'm not asking you to lessen the consequences that I have fairly earned.  I just want your heart to free me and not hold me bound.

I regret the childhood that I stole from you.  I regret the energy that I put into hatred when I should have dedicated myself to caring for your mother and you.  I regret the children that I would have fathered if I had loved your mother instead of driving her away.  I regret never having had a daughter, and I regret that I drove you away before you became my daughter.

Since moving into jail, I have come to know what God really wants from us.  I learned of a loving God who would rather save than condemn.  I pray for you every day.  I pray that you will avoid the pitfalls that have ensnared my life.  I pray that you and your mother will find happiness and be successful.  I pray that you will never be tainted by my sin.

So, if you can find the grace to forgive a man who deserves death or worse for what he has done to you, I will be eternally grateful.

I love you very much.

Dad

I put the letter down.

Why are there tears in my eyes?  Why do I care?

Somehow, some part of me felt sorry for father.  Somehow, part of me missed him.  Somehow, early memories of being bounced on his knee, playing catch, being read to, and other happy events of my childhood came to me.  I shuddered, put my face in my hands, and sobbed.

Kim and Sara came running over to see what was causing me so much distress.  Sara took me in her arms and held me.  Kim saw the letter sitting on the table.  She picked it up and looked at me.  I nodded.  She started read it.  I could tell that she was sharing it with Sara.  She set the letter down.  "It's hard, isn't it?"

I looked at her questioningly.

"It's hard to love and hate someone at the same time," she said.

I didn't know what to say.  I just nodded.

"This is where the rubber meets the road," said Kim.  "You're sitting on the fence, and fence-sitting is never comfortable."

I asked, "What do I do?" but I knew the answer.  My heart wasn't believing it, though.  Father had hurt me too badly for me to let go easily.

"You can choose to try to forget the good times and concentrate on hating him, or you try to let the hate go.  Your choice.  Which choice will bring you the most peace?"

Sara got a far off look in her eyes, then looked at me.  "Have you ever heard the song, 'Amazing Grace?'"

I nodded.

"It was written in the mid 1800s by a slave trader named John Newton.  In his song, he celebrates the fact that his sin, which had broken the hearts and lives of countless slaves, was forgiven.  I doubt if many of the slaves forgave him, though.  I would like to think that I am the kind of person who could forgive him, but I'm not at all sure."

"And my father is like the slave trader?"

"Yes," said Kim.  "It's not up to us to judge who's sin was greater, but both have repented.  The biggest real difference is that your dad is paying much more dearly for his sin."

"Want another story?" asked Sara.

"Sure," I said.

"Joseph was the favorite son of his father Jacob, and Jacob didn't make that a secret.  His brothers were jealous and intended to trap and kill him.  They started to do just that, but changed their mind and sold him into slavery instead.  He did well in his new life as a servant, but the lies of his master's wife landed him in jail for a number of years.  He was finally sprung, and ended up working for the pharaoh.  He became second only to the pharaoh in Egypt."

"You left out some details," I said.

"And the ending," Sara replied.  "But what is the point of the story?"

"People kept doing bad things to Joseph, but he just bounced back better than before," I said.

"They tell us in Sunday School that what others meant for evil, God turned to good," Kim said.

I nodded.  "In the end, the very brothers who sold him into slavery came to Egypt to beg for help and he helped them."

Sara smiled.  "I wonder how many years Joseph's guts twisted every time he thought of his brothers, or Potiphar's wife."

"Are you telling me that I have to forgive my father?"

"No," said Kim.  "We don't need to tell you that.  What we are telling you is that it is possible to move beyond all this pain.  It doesn't help to know what you're supposed to do unless you know that you can do it."

I nodded.  "Yeah, I know what I'm supposed to do."

A new thought hit me.  "He wasn't even there when they tried to abduct me.  He wasn't there when they stoned me.  He was all too willing to kill Amy, but would he have changed his heart if I had stayed home when I morfed?

"I don't know," said Kim.  We know that he has changed his heart, but we don't know when it happened.  He would probably tell you if you asked, though."

I gave Kim and Sara a good night hug and went upstairs.  Emotionally drained, all I had the strength to do was to drop the letter on my bedside table, say my prayers, and collapse into bed.  I slept soundly.


Chapter Nineteen: Using our gifts


The professors continued to trace the epidemic.  It continued to spread among the pures, pretty much leaving everyone else alone.  Whoever designed it did a very good job.

We found out from a news broadcast that the fur on an AMORFS victim is resistant to follicle deadener.  Whoever did this did a really good job.

Church was interesting.  Tina Shepherd, the young lady that we treated for cancer, made the long trip to our church.  As promised, she had morfed into a winged kitty person.  She has the same seal point Siamese features as the Martins, but the colors are subtly different and go well with her blue hair and violet eyes.  Amy and I were both flattered when she chose that color combination.

Praise reports are always great.  Everyone in the congregation was happy that not only were their prayers answered, they were exceeded.  Tina, her parents, and Doctors Herbert and Candice Josephson all thanked the congregation for their prayers.  Some people noticed that the doctors looked like they were doing well.  Nobody mentioned the part that we played, which was fine with us.

The sermon was about the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.  They were talking about money, not skills though it works for either.

A master gave three of his servants varying amounts of money.  Two used the money well and multiplied it, while the third hid his away.  The two who used their talents were rewarded, while the one who hid his away lost even that.

"We all are given gifts, and we are meant to use them," said Pastor Dan.  "Some of us are given more than others, but that doesn't matter.  We need to use what we have.  If we're faithful in doing that, we'll get more."  He pointed out that we honor the giver when we enjoy and use our gifts, and that we honor him even more when we share our gifts and use them to benefit others.

We had yet another pot luck.  This time, we were celebrating Tina's cure.  I could get used to getting lunch at church just about every Sunday.

I was pleased that a couple of the people from my old church that were released from jail were here.  They greeted Amy and me warmly, and thanked us for helping them get out of jail.  Those that were young enough joined the youth group

Cindy had talked Jim into coming, too.  Actually, that wasn't difficult.  A whispered invitation would have been enough.

Tina's parents were hesitant to allow her to come with the youth group because they were so used to having to protect their fragile daughter.  It didn't take much convincing to get them to see that she is no longer fragile, and that she has missed out on a lot of her childhood because of her illness.  She needed to make up for lost time.

This time, we helped a number of our older church members with house work, yard work, and home repairs.  Everyone had a good time and ate lots of pizza.  After they were done, the Martins invited them over for a swim.  Mom, the kitty four, and I amused them with our water spout trick.  Tina joined in once she saw what we were doing.

While we were gone, the Martins and the Shepherds had been plotting.  When we got back, we found that Tina had been moved in to a spare bedroom, and that the Shepherds were packed and ready for a romantic week at some unspecified resort.  Tina wasn't the only one who needed to make up for lost time.

At dinner time, there was a horde of hungry teens to feed.  This requires much food in the best of circumstances, but this time, some of those teens are feeding MORFS-induced powers.  The Martins had made a special shopping trip just for the meal.

After dinner, there was more splashing and laughing and chasing each other up the oak tree in the corner of the yard.  After a while, though, the teens started to drift toward home.  By the time the sun was heading for the horizon, everyone who wasn't spending the night was gone.

Even with all the members of the youth group gone, the living room was full.  Between the Martins, my family, and the Shepherds, we had ten people crowded into what is usually a spacious room.

We asked Tina about her plans for the future.  After having terminal cancer for so long, she wasn't used to thinking past the next few months, let alone plan out a career.  Still, the medical profession has a place in her heart.  With her new gifts, she will make an outstanding doctor.

The conversation shifted to our own powers, and what we can do with them.  We talked about our adventures in discovering what we can do, and promised to use the next week to train Tina.  That included, of course, plenty of swimming and skateboarding.

Markus sat quietly on my lap the whole time, occasionally lifting his wings so that I could stroke the soft fur underneath.  Tina was fascinated with him, so I tossed him over to her.  A couple flaps of his wings, and he landed gently on her lap.  Amy gave the virus packet that she had used on Markus to Tina so that she could store it and use it later.

It had been a long day.  Cindy, Larry, and I had used our TK a lot when doing all the yard and house work.  Amy used her bio powers a lot, too.  For the most part, she did it quietly.  The people she helped felt better without knowing why.

Tina got a good workout, too.  We asked her to do things mostly for the training she would get from it, but they also provided value to the people we were helping.

We all decided to turn in early.  After getting Tina and her parents settled, we all went to our own rooms and crashed.  I laid on my side in a half-folded position, and Markus laid down on my thigh.  I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The next day, we decided to skate to the park.  Cindy mentally called Jim, of course.  Soon, the nine of us were heading down the road.

When we got to the park, Marvin Donaldson and Dolly Vincetti waved at us.  We introduced everyone, silently reminding Mom and the Martins of the earlier incident where Amy had given them MORFS.

They were a whole lot more attractive this time.  Apparently, their second case of MORFS went over well with them.

"I didn't know it was possible, but we got MORFS again!  We got rid of those horns, got our strength and flexibility back, and even a little bit of empathy," Marvin said.

I smiled at them.  "I noticed that you're no longer red, and that your faces look more angelic than devilish."

"Yes," Dolly said.  "I definitely like this look a whole lot better.  We have fun changing our colors, and it's amazing how sure-footed we are with these hooves."

"We no longer have that strange aversion to clothing," Marvin said, "but we have grown quite used to running around that way.  After all, we have nothing to hide."

"And we can change our colors for a variety of looks," said Dolly.

"And we save money," commented Marvin.

"But I kind of miss shopping," pouted Dolly.

"There's nothing stopping you from shopping," I commented.  "With your face and body structure, you will look nice in girl's clothes."

"What about me?  I used to be a guy," said Marvin.

"So did I.  Welcome to the club."

"Do you ever miss being a guy?"

"Sometimes," I replied.  "When I do, I just count my blessings I look at everything I have gained."  I gestured to my family and friends.  "My life was sterile and heading downhill.  I've lived more in the few weeks since I've morfed than I had in the previous fifteen years."

*Contact me telepathically if you need any help dealing with your change, or just want to talk,* I said to Marvin.

*OK,* he replied.  *I was wondering if you were telepathic.*

*Yes, I have telepathy and empathy.  There are a bunch of careers open to those talents.  You two might want to check it out.*

Marvin and Dolly sat and watched as we practiced our routines and taught Tina how to skate.  With her enhanced strength, agility, and balance, she caught on quickly. She'll do very well with practice.  She looks very good skating with her wings partially unfurled for balance and control.  At one point, she came smoking up out of the half pipe, soared through the air for about fifteen feet, grabbed her board, spread her wings, and flew over to us.

*Marvin and Dolly don't look like regular MORFS survivors,* Tina commented.  *They look more like the AMORFS people.*

*You noticed that, eh?  It's something that only a bio elemental is going to notice,* said Amy.

*There are no secrets among us.*  Kim indicated our current group.  *However, the pures are very upset about the AMORFS thing, and would gladly take it out on anyone that they think might have caused it.*

*Amy didn't cause AMORFS,* I said, *but you and she both would be prime suspects in the eyes of the pures if they knew what you could do.  You really need to keep some abilities a secret.*

*In general, people will distance themselves if they know that you have powers.  In general, it's best not to flaunt them,* added Sara.

*Indeed,* said Mom.  *You want people to like you for who you are, not hold you in awe because of your powers.*

*You want people to relate to you as a person, not to your powers,* I commented.

I did a quick scan and noted that nobody can hear us.  "If you want to hang out with the supers at school, you can do that.  It's more fun to hang out with people who actually like you, though."

"That's pretty much the case with all cliques," Cindy observed.  "You can make friends, but it's more status and political maneuvering than anything else."

"Actually," Larry observed, "We seem to have created our own clique."

"My power is part of who I am.  If I have to hide it in order to be more easily accepted, I can do that.  Still, it's wonderful to have a group where I don't have to hide a thing."  Amy smiled at all of us.

Tina looked kind of wistful.

"Don't worry," I told her.  "Between your telepathic and empathic talents, and your ability to see MORFS powers in people, you'll have no trouble finding kindred spirits."

"And if you ever need to just talk," Cindy said, "we all are literally just a thought away."

We refreshed ourselves with some power bars and energy drinks, then did more skating.  We put a lot into it, and ended up all hot and sweaty.  After we were done, I used my TK to push the sweat off of my body and clothes, then I did Amy.  Everyone else followed suit, including Tina.

After we got home, we all showered and ate lunch.  After that, most of us went down to the labs.  I did my usual chores in the MORFS labs, then followed Larry over to the electronics bench.  We worked on a couple of our projects, and I studied for my ham radio license.  I also used the lab equipment to practice at 'reading' electronics.  I can tell when there's a current in a wire, or when there's a voltage potential between two points, but I couldn't put numbers on it until I compared it with the measurements I made with the oscilloscope and multimeter.  The 'scope was the most interesting, because I learned to actually 'see' the waveform, along with the DC level it was riding on.


Chapter Twenty: Reconciliation


After dinner, I went up to my room and did some light reading.  Later, I picked up father's letter and reread it.  That's when I realized that I was thinking about him without twisting my guts.  When I thought about him, I saw a man who was paying for his mistakes.  I no longer saw the man who struck me when I failed to stone Amy.  I no longer saw the man that I fled from.  When I shared this with Mom, she asked me if I wanted to visit him some time.  Mom had visited him since receiving a letter from him, but I had declined.  She didn't press me at the time, and I knew that she wouldn't press me this time.  Still, I allowed that it might be a good idea to visit daddy.

Daddy?  Where did that come from?  I hadn't called him that since I was about three years old.

That night, as I was saying my prayers, I thanked God for taking the burden of hate from my heart.

When I woke up the next morning, I remembered the story of Joseph.  He suffered, but the end result was the salvation of his entire family.  Dad followed the wrong people, but the end result was that I was there to rescue Amy.  Was that worth my stolen childhood?

Even if that was the only benefit, it was worth it.

But there was more.  Tina is alive because Amy was there to save her.  Countless of Doctors Herbert and Candice Josephson's patients will live, or live better, because Amy was there to give them the powers that they need.  My own life is richer because of my relationship with the Martins, and with Amy.  How many more lives will be enriched in the future?  We're still discussing strategies for using our powers to benefit as many people as possible.  We'll probably have Amy infect each of us in order to allow us to spread custom MORFS infections without drawing attention to any one person.  Those who can't create the virii can at least store and deliver them.

We'll probably also target the medical community.  It's a real shame that lives are being lost because there simply aren't enough bio elementals around to save them.  It's hard on the elementals, too.  They have to live with the fact that taking a break actually costs lives.

Daddy made a mistake, and is paying dearly for it.  Meanwhile, a whole lot of people may benefit.  What man meant for evil, God turned to good.

All of that ran through my mind as I did my morning rituals and went downstairs to help prepare breakfast.

Summer has been going by pleasantly, if not eventlessly.  We all had mixed feelings about the upcoming school year.

A few days after finally coming to the point of being able to face Dad, I found myself riding to the jail with Mom.  I never heard so many doors close behind me in my life.  I was led from the guest waiting area through several places where I was scanned and my mind was read.  Of course, they weren't the only ones doing the scanning.  It was interesting to see the lengths to which they go in order to keep telekinetics from opening the doors.  The locks are quite complicated, and they all have a bunch of sensors designed to detect any unexpected movement of the internal parts.

As an experiment, I put up a phony public mind, and kept myself totally shielded.  The telepath who read me didn't even notice.  I don't think he was very strong.

When they finally led me to an empty room where Dad was standing, I surprised myself by running up to him and enfolding him in a big hug.  He tried to hug me back, but the chains he was wearing prevented that.  The people who run the jail don't take any chances.  We retired to a couple chairs that were provided for us and chatted.  He was very interested in hearing all about my adventures and my new life.  I was shy about telling him about how happy I am because it contrasts so much with his sterile life, but he wanted to hear it, and was genuinely happy for me.  He made me promise to keep him informed.  He told me that he is using the leadership skills that he had learned in our old church to good advantage.  He is now heading up a Bible study class among the inmates, and is even learning how to act as a counselor.  He seems to have gained a wisdom that I have never seen in him before.

All too soon, our time was up.  Tears were in both our eyes as I enfolded him in a hug.

"Good bye, Daddy.  I love you!"

And I meant it.

As promised, I started keeping a journal.  Daddy tells me that reading that journal is the bright part of his day.

I asked him to start a journal for Mom and me to read.  He was hesitant, but agreed.  I'm glad he did, because it turns out that his life isn't as sterile as I had assumed.

He spends a lot of time studying.  Even with the 'no parole' option tacked on to his sentence, he can get out if he makes a complete and telepathically verifiable turn-around.  He plans on going into the ministry when he gets out.  Meanwhile, he is still running the Bible study group.  He also spends a lot of time counseling other inmates.  He has managed to bring a lot of his former church members around.  Amy and I both celebrated as, one by one, her family members turned away from their past hatred.

By the time Tina's week at the Kitty Mansion was over, she had formed a strong bond with all of us, and was also well trained in her powers.  We hated to see her go, but she missed her parents.

Her parents came back from their vacation on Saturday evening, spent the night, and attended church with us again.  After church, we all lounged around the pool until it was time for them to head for home.

One day, while I was leafing through one of the many textbooks authored by the professors, there was a knock at the door that leads from our apartment to the outside.  The woman introduced herself as Jorey Robbins, and told me that she was sent to do a special post-MORFS assessment of me for the school to determine if I would need any special services.

She seemed pleasant enough, and there was no hint of malice or deception in her mind.  I led her to my room so that she could assess whatever it is she was sent to assess.

She talked to me for a while about how I felt about my transformation, and how I felt that I was adapting.  I was honest enough no reason to be deceptive.

Then, she started asking me to do some simple math problems.  I was starting to get irritated.  Why was she asking me to do simple addition and subtraction problems when I would be taking calculus in a few weeks?

Then, she pulled out a thin book and handed it to me.  "Dick and Jane get MORFS?" I asked incredulously.

"Very good!" she said brightly.

I rolled my eyes.

"Can you read it?" she asked.

"You want me to read this?"

"Yes, can you do it?"

I sighed.  "Sure, no problem."

I hopped up, tossed the book on my seat, and sat down on it.

"See Dick.  Dick is sick.  Dick feels bad," I read with my remote senses.  "Dick is sad.  Mom puts Dick to bed.  Mom gives Dick a stim pack.  'Yum Yum.  This is good', says Dick."

"Whoever wrote this tripe obviously never tasted a stim pack," I commented.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm reading the book with my butt," I said.  "Do you have something a bit more challenging, like, maybe a chapter book?"

"Young lady, don't you realize that how well you do on this test will determine where you are placed next year?  You need to take this evaluation seriously!"

I read out loud, "Copyright 2045, Church of Genetic Purity."

"Why are you using a book written by those people?" I asked.

"What do you mean?"

I picked myself up off of the book, grabbed it, and opened it to the first page.  There was a piece of tape over the copyright notice.  I caught a fingernail under it and used my TK to help lift it off.

"Why would you use a book written by MORFS haters in a post-MORFS evaluation, and why cover the copyright?" I asked.

She looked confused.  "It's the book they assigned for this case," she replied.

"What are you supposed to evaluate?  What information did they give you about me?"

I read the information from her mind as she tried to formulate a tactful answer.  Someone had told this lady that MORFS had lowered my intelligence, and she was to figure out where to place me in the system.

I sighed.  "Let's cut to the chase."

I set my tablet between us and brought up an on-line course designed to prepare students for calculus class.  "I wasn't quite ready to take the advanced placement calculus class, but the professors told me that they would help me get into the class if I complete this course satisfactorily."

I paged through to the end of the course, brought up a couple of the later assignments, and did some problems for her.  Then, I showed her the text book I had been reading.  On the front was the title Introduction to MORFS Studies, 12th edition, with the authors listed as Dr. Howard Martin and Dr. Sara Martin.

"I live with the people who wrote the book on MORFS," I said proudly.  "They're working on the thirteenth edition right now.  Since it's the textbook for a freshman level college class, they have recruited their kids, Amy, Mom, and me to act as test readers.  By the time we're done, we'll all be able to skate through the class."

Jorey looked embarrassed.  "It would appear that I have been sent on a snipe hunt.  Please accept my apologies."

"No problem," I told her.  "It was actually kind of amusing.  I can't help but wonder what your report will look like, though."

"I'll be sending a copy to your mother," she told me.  "I'll be sure to send an additional note telling her about your sense of humor."

I smiled.  "If you like my sense of humor, you'll love Professor Kim.  She has been acting as my mentor since I moved in here."

*Did I hear my name taken in vain?* asked Kim

I quickly let her know what was going on, and invited her to join us.

"Hello Ms. Robbins," Kim said as she walked into the room.  At Jorey's confused look, Kim said, "When you live in a house full of telepaths, information travels quickly."

I got up and gave Kim a hug.

"You must be proud of your house guest here.  She's quite bright, and has a great sense of humor," commented Jorey.

I handed Kim the Dick and Jane book.  With a twinkle in her eye, she dropped it on her seat and sat upon it.

"What are you going to do if the students start sitting on your text books?" I asked with a smirk.

"If they can read 'em that way, more power to 'em," Kim replied.  "Other than that, I'm not too worried about editorial comments.  If they want to use them for toilet paper, I'll just smile and continue to collect the royalties."

Jorey rolled her eyes.  "I think my assessment is done."  She shook my hand.  "Thank you for your time, Miss Jones."  She turned to Kim.  "It was a pleasure meeting you, Doctor Martin."


Chapter Twenty-One: Decisions, questions, plans


A couple weeks before school started, we discussed the possibility of having Amy induce MORFS in all of us.  The fact that her induced MORFS tends to be very mild, very often without symptoms, in fact, makes the idea more palatable.

"So," said Amy, "Would you like to be a boy again?"

I felt a stab of panic from Larry that was quickly hidden.  I put my own shields up and thought about it.

What would I gain?  My masculine pride?  The ability to attend something like that burp-fest that Larry attended when I was at the slumber party?  How about physical strength?  Probably not.  My new body is sporting high-density muscles as it is.

What would I lose?  Would my relationship with Mom be the same?  Probably not.  Would it be as good?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

How about Amy?  I'm closer to her as a sister than I ever was as a boyfriend. Could I pick up where I left off?  Maybe, but probably not.  Could I be as close as a brother as I am as a sister?  Probably not.

Would I want to look like I used to?  Maybe I could be a kitty boy like Larry.  The thought of Larry made me smile.  Would he and I be buddies?  Probably.

What about strangers?  Would I get more respect?  Maybe.  In general, people would be more demanding, more aloof, and less kind.  There would be different expectations.  I would attract less lustful stares, but also less appreciative glances.

So, I would get more respect from strangers, and that would increase as I age.  Does that matter?  Who's respect do I want, anyhow?  The people who know me well respect me for who I am and what I do.  Male or female, that won't change.

I spent fifteen years as a male.  Just after I switched, I Probably would have switched back if I had been given the choice simply because I had been male for my whole life.  I have since built a new life; a much better life.  If I switched back to male, I wouldn't get (or want) my old male life back.  I would have to build a brand new life as a male.  Would it be better than the life I have now?

Probably not.

I would pretty much do the same things with the same people.  I wouldn't get as many hugs.  I wouldn't get any kisses from Larry.

I like who I am.  I like who I have become.  Why change it?

Amy was waving her hand in front of my face.  "Earth calling Cara!"

I opened my eyes.  "Huh?"

"You had your shields up tighter than I have ever seen.  We couldn't read you.  Are you OK?"

I displayed everything I had been pondering in my public mind and dropped my shields.  *Read my mind.*

Amy smiled.  "I was hoping you would make that decision."

"Why did you ask, then?"

"Because it has to be your decision.  Now that you have consciously made it, you know deep down that you have what you want, and not something that was foisted upon you."

Larry came over and gave me a kiss.  "I'm glad you made that decision, too."

So, the week before school started, Amy induced MORFS in Larry, Cindy, Mom, and me.  We are all bio elementals now.  Also, Mom and I have high-power TK, and Larry and Cindy have my level of control and perception.

All too soon, summer was over.  On the other hand, all four of us have identical schedules.  That was largely by design Amy and I studied hard during the summer so that we could take the same advanced placement classes as the Martins.  Jim has also managed to get most of the classes that we got.  This pleased Cindy greatly, since she and Jim had been getting pretty close.

School cut into our extra curricular studying, and into our swimming, skating, and other summer activities.  It didn't change our responsibilities in the lab, though.

We were all looking over the same map we had seen before.  The blip from our household was still there, as was Sun City and the Pentwater Compound.  Kim had the program look for changes in the results over the past few weeks.  It turns out that things were pretty much the same, except that the Denver area has been showing some blips.

"So, what's the story with Denver?" I asked.

"That, my dear, is the million dollar question.  I think we need better data," said Kim.

We dug into as many of the details as we could access.  A couple of the MORFS cases in that area have the same neat DNA code that we see in Amy's MORFS cases, and in the AMORFS cases.  In fact, the signature seems to be quite similar to the AMORFS cases.  There aren't enough types of cases (all the AMORFS cases have identical viral DNA) to give us a statistically valid picture, but the similarity is quite striking.

Our access to the database allows us to query it for statistical information and some data about unnamed cases, but we need to know more about the individuals.  We really should meet them, but we don't know who they are as individuals.  That information is locked up in the MORFS database, and we don't have the proper access.

But the Doctors Martin know someone who does have access.  They sent their analysis to Doctor Miller, the administrator of the elemental database, and requested a secure conference.  They told her that they had more information, but that it was very personal, and had to come under the client privilege rules.

It didn't take much time for Doctor Miller to arrange things.  The very next day, we were all downstairs in a heavily shielded room that had been hastily converted into a conference room.  At the appointed time, a hologram appeared.  Seated in the hologram chair was a petite cat hybrid with midnight black hair, gray cat ears, gray fur on her forearms and paw-like hands, a gray tail, and blue cat eyes.

"Good morning, Doctor Sanura.  Thanks for 'coming'," giggled Kim.

"Good Morning, Doctor Martin.  Still can't call me Doctor with a straight face can you?" said Sanura.

"Call me Kim.  And even though we see you as a colleague, I can't help but remember you as one of our budding students."

"OK.  By the way, when did you get a psi-proof room in your basement lab?"

"The room itself isn't psi-proof.  Everyone in here is a powerful psychopath, so we won't have any problems."

Sara swatted Kim with her tail.  "That's telepath, not psychopath!"

Sanura chuckled.  "You guys haven't changed a bit!"

Kim flicked one of her ears.  "Not even a little?"

"Behave yourself, Kitten Mitten," Sara said to Kim.

Sanura smiled.  "Welcome to the Kitty Cat Club.  Next time we meet, I'll have to show you the secret handshake."

"As long as you keep those meathooks of yours retracted, I'm all for it."  Kim held up her hand and briefly extended her claws.

Markus chose that moment to stand up on my lap and spread his wings, begging to be petted.

"How are you keeping eavesdroppers from reading your cat?" asked Sanura.

"Markus is psi-linked to me," I replied.  "It's actually safer to have him in here with me."

"He's a very striking animal," said Sanura.  "Where did you get him?"

"He's a gift from my adoptive sister Amy," I said as I used my right arm to pull her in for a quick hug.

"The exact origin of the cat is something that we need to discuss with you," Sara said.

"Before we get to that, I want to catch up on the gossip.  How is it that you ended up with a house full of powerful morfs?"

"Surely, you have that information in your database," Kim snickered.

"I have studied all the data I have, but there are some holes."

So, we all gave her a quick rundown about how we all came to live here.  I watched her reactions as we told her about our old church, the stonings, Amy's rescue, and the like.  It was disconcerting to not be able to read her with my empathic senses.

"You guys need to consider coming over to Sun City.  We have our share of people who don't like hybrids, but we don't have any organized groups of morf-haters."

"Going into recruiting mode?" Kim smirked.

"The University of Sun City would be disappointed if I didn't," Sanura replied. "They want you back, especially now."  She paused for a second, then snickered.  "By the way, how's the weather over there?"

"We had a wonderful summer, if somewhat hot," Sara said.  "We're getting some chilly nights, though.  We already have the dome up over the pool, and will be shutting it down soon."

"We would go skiing, but I'm afraid my old bones would break," commented Kim.

"Nothing short of a Mack truck is going to break those carbon nanotube reinforced bones of yours," Sanura giggled.

"We are still trying to decide exactly where to go with our newly extended lives," Sara said seriously.  "We have the resources to retire completely and spend the rest of our lives walking the beaches, floating the rivers, and hitting the slopes."

"And being bored out of your minds, if I know you,"  Sanura pointed out.  "What would you do without all the students and researchers you seem to like to hang out with?  Meanwhile, you can still do all that other stuff in Sun City."

"So sweeten the deal," Kim said.  "Part of what we want to do with our extended lives is to spend them with our loved ones."

Sanura looked at Larry, Cindy, Amy, and me.  "How are you doing in your advanced placement classes?"

"So far, so good," Larry answered for us.  "Of course, the school year has just started."

Mom was the next person on Sanura's hit list.  "Now that you have a new lease on life, as it were, have you considered going back to college?"

Mom nodded and looked thoughtful.

She turned back to Kim and Sara.  I have been authorized to offer you a large condo on Sun Lake, plus five full ride scholarships to the University of Sun City, and four scholarships to Sun City Preparatory School.

Kim smiled at her.  "Can you get them to add two more?  Tina Shepherd and Jim Reynolds will need a college education, too, and I don't think Cindy would want to leave Jim behind."

Cindy blushed.

Sanura smiled and nodded.

"Also, we have a room full of bio elementals.  Do you think you can get them positions at the Sun City Medical Center, along with the appropriate practical training?"

Sanura looked stunned.  "Bio elementals?  That isn't in my database!"

"That's because we did it recently, and the post-MORFS inventories didn't detect the new powers."

Sanura just looked at us and raised an eyebrow.

"Amy and Cara can induce custom MORFS changes.  For that matter, we all can, if Amy or Cara gives us the genetic information that we need.  Anyhow, Amy changed Marvin Donaldson, Dolly Vincetti, Tina Shepherd, Dr. Herbert Josephson, and Dr. Candice Josephson.  If you analyze the viral DNA involved, you'll see that it all has a similar signature, and that the signature differs from that of the AMORFS survivors and the MORFS survivors that we noted in Denver," said Sara.

Sanura chewed on that for a while.  "So, it would appear that we have some people who can induce MORFS.  Most of them are in your house, and one is at large in the Denver area."

"I don't need to tell you," said Kim, "that this information must be kept in the strictest confidence.  I can think of several groups who would stop at nothing to gain this ability."

"Also," said Sanura, "we need to protect the bio elemental in Denver."

"Which is why we contacted you," said Sara.  "You have the data that we need to track him down, and you know people who specialize in dealing with potentially explosive situations like this."

Sanura sighed.  "I haven't taken one of your classes for quite some time, and here I am getting a difficult assignment from you again."

"I guess some things never change," agreed Kim.

"... and others do," smirked Sanura.  "This time, I'm way ahead of you.  I have a pretty good handle on the bio elemental in Denver."

"That's good to know," said Sara.

"Can you get me a list of the people who know about your new abilities?" asked Sanura.

"That's easy enough," said Sara.  "Aside from all of us, Tina Shepherd's family knows, as do Doctors Herbert and Candice Josephson.  Marvin Donaldson and Dolly Vincetti have no clue, though."

Kim said, "That leads us to the next part of our discussion.  Just exactly what are we going to do with these new abilities?"

"The world is crying for more bio elementals, but it's dangerous to even hint that we can produce our own.  If we do produce our own, and I really want to, we should offer it to established medical doctors that we can trust," said Sanura.

"Or maybe we need to be a little less ethical about it and just cause it to happen without anyone's permission.  Maybe we can make it look like an offshoot of the AMORFS epidemic," Sara said

"On the one hand, spreading the talent around increases the chance of exposure.  On the other hand, it dilutes the danger faced by any particular wielder of the power," Kim commented.

"We need to be very careful about who we allow to cause custom MORFS, but we can anonymously give health professionals useful suites of powers that don't involve that ability," Sara said.

After much discussion about strategies for using the ability to create custom MORFS, Sanura ended things up by promising to get in touch with us about the bio elemental in Denver.

"Speaking of custom MORFS," said Kim, "Do you have any burning desires?"  She was looking at Sanura.

"Amy has got millions of animals running around over here, so being a tamer like her would be useful, but my own elemental power does pretty much anything else that I might want. I still don't think I've discovered its potential," said Sanura.

Kim smirked.  "Maybe Amy would like to become a halfie.  That way, when you two decide to have children, you can have her baby."

Sanura put a grim look on her face and bit her lip, revealing her fanged teeth. "Kim, as a doctor I would assume you would know that the correct term is intersexed."

"Of course, sorry," Said Kim while Sara shot her a look.

"I was also planning to tell you that Amy is expecting our first," said Sanura, the smile returning to her face.

"Congratulations!" said Kim.  "You and Amy are starting on a huge adventure.  Trust me on that one."

Kim looked thoughtful for a second, then smirked.  "There are other benefits to the arrangement, of course."

"Oh hush, you!" Sara said as she swatted Kim with her tail.

We four teens remained silent.  We couldn't believe the way this conversation was heading.

"Speaking of having kids," Kim said as she looked at Sara, "If our next batch turns out half as good as our current crop, it'll be well worth it."  Larry and Cindy blushed.

"That sounds good, but you get to squeeze 'em out this time, Kitten Mitten," said Sara.

"I guess it's only fair," said Kim.  "I'll want your help nursing them, though.  After all, with all these cat genes in our bodies, we might end up with a litter."

Sanura watched them with a weird expression on her face.  "You know that there is no recorded case of that happening, Doctor Kim."

"And I sincerely hope it stays that way," Kim said with a shudder.

"So do I," said Sanura. "I had nightmares along those lines shortly after my change."

Mom looked amused.  The four of us were doing our best to slide down our seats and under the table.

They ended the meeting and the hologram disappeared.


Epilogue


As it turns out, the University of Sun City made good on their promises, and then some.  Kim and Sara have a beautiful detached condominium, complete with a separate apartment, on Sun Lake.  Technically, it is mortgaged.  The university is making payments for as long as Kim and Sara hold full-time professorships.  If they quit, they will be responsible for the mortgage.

Mom used her money from the sale of our old house, divorce, and lawsuit to make a big down payment on a similar condo right next to theirs.  The university, in lieu of putting us all up in the dorms, is paying rent to Mom for herself, Amy, and me.  This just about makes the payments.  Most of the money that we are earning by working as medical bio elementals at Doctor Miller's medical practice is being put away so that we can get a good start on life once we graduate.  Jim and Tina both live in the dorms, but they visit a lot.

"We need to get over to the Martins'," Mom told us.

We all walked over and settled with them in front of the video wall.  "The show's about to start." Kim told us.

"Welcome to our two year retrospective of the AMORFS epidemic," the announcer said. "Just two years ago, adults, mostly from the anti-morf movement, started morfing.  The changes were amazingly consistent, and didn't follow the standard MORFS pattern. Nobody has yet identified the source of the epidemic."

Angel snickered.

The announcer went on to show several of the victims, and to describe the changes. He also speculated at length about the perpetrators.

"Investigators agree that the designer of the plague is a bio elemental of considerable power and experience, and that he worked with the support of a large organization."

"Or, maybe a low level bio elemental accidentally did it all by her lonesome the day after she woke up, without even knowing that she had the power," heckled Larry.  That got everyone chortling.

The announcer then introduced Kim and Sara; "Doctors Kim and Sara Martin are the first known adult victims of MORFS."

"I would hardly call us victims," said Kim to the camera.  "Who wouldn't want to trade in an old 71 year old body for a newer model with some nifty powers?"

"Those who want to keep the genome pure," commented the announcer dryly.  "What do you say to the speculation that you are responsible for the epidemic?"

"The obvious statement is that there is no evidence to support the accusation. Conspiracy theories abound, but the epidemic caught us as much by surprise as anyone else.  In fact, it bore no resemblance whatsoever to our own changes or those of our friend.  Believe me, we sequenced the DNA involved, and found no correlation, much to our frustration," said Kim.

"What are your theories about the AMORFS-2 epidemic?"

"Someone wants to bless the human race by improving our medical resources," said Sara.

"Do you have any idea who is responsible?"

"Yes," said Kim.

"Who?" asked the announcer.

"A friendly group of bio elementals," said Kim.

The announcer, starting to show some frustration, asked, "Do they have names?"

"Yes," said Kim with a smirk.  "I don't know of anyone who is truly nameless."

"Someone warned me that you two would come off like smart ass teenagers," the announcer grumbled.

"We're smart ass septuagenarians," said Sara.  The camera zoomed in on her.  When it zoomed back out, there was a different announcer.

Kim chuckled.  "Are you going to cut all of this out, or are you going to show your viewers what they have to look forward to if they take one of our classes?"

"I'm sorry about that, Doctor Martin, Doctor Martin," apologized the new announcer.

"Don't worry about it," chuckled Sara.  "I have a hard time keeping Kim reined in myself."

The announcer smiled.  "Back to the subject at hand," he said.  "What can you tell us about the AMORFS-2 epidemic?"

"In the first place," said Sara, "epidemic may be a rather strong word for it. Most people who contact AMORFS-2 are very pleased with the results, as are their patients."

Playing the straight person for once, Kim said, "AMORFS, or 'Adult MORFS,' is a bit of a misnomer.  AMORFS has little to do with the MORFS DNA that was foisted upon us by the terrorists so long ago.  Rather, it is a trio of virii that codes changes and forces a very limited somatic reconstruction.  AMORFS-2 is similar to AMORFS-1 in that it is spread by a trio of virii.  The genetic code of the virii have a different signature, however.  In fact, there are several signatures, even though the results of all of the earlier AMORFS-2 infections are identical."

"None of the AMORFS-2 signatures resemble the AMORFS-1 signature, implying that AMORFS-1 came from a single bio elemental, whereas AMORFS-2 originated from several elementals, none of whom are responsible for AMORFS-1" added Sara.

"What else can you tell us about AMORFS-2?"

"AMORFS-2 appears to have been custom designed to make doctors more effective at caring for their patients.  The bio elemental part is self-explanatory.  The telekinesis that they are given has a very fine level of control, allowing for almost invasion-free surgery.  The accurate telesensing that seems to be part and parcel with TK and telepathy makes x-rays, terahertz wave imagers, cat scanners, MRI scanners, and just about every other medical diagnostic tool obsolete," said Kim

"What about the telepathy and empathy?" asked the announcer.

Kim replied, "Well, the empathy part is simple.  Who hasn't wished that doctors had more empathy for their patients?  They tend to treat us more as people and less as machines in need of repair when they can feel what we're feeling.  Also, to a limited extent, they can project comforting feelings.  They can calm us down.  As for telepathy..."  Kim mused for a bit.  "There is some controversy about whether we can really call it telepathy.  They can't read our minds, though they soon become quite adept at telling when we are lying or maybe exaggerating.  What they can do is read our senses.  They can see what we see, hear what we hear, smell what we smell, and most importantly, feel our pain.  They soon become adept at telling the difference between heartburn and angina, for instance, so the patients don't have to try to describe it."

"Medical professionals, generally doctors, receive the virus.  It is sexually transmittable, so the doctor's spouse also becomes infected.  No matter when the transmission of the virus suite occurs, the spouse always starts changing two days after the initial recipient of the virus finishes changing," added Sara.

"But, how does the doctor become initially infected?" asked the announcer.

"There is much speculation, but that is generally unknown," replied Sara.

"It turns out that a lot of doctors are taking their marital vows much more seriously now, since there were a few cases where people other than the doctor's spouse have become infected," commented Kim.

"Meanwhile, other doctors are attracting one night stands by letting it be known that they are doctors."

"What about the case where everyone in the office but the doctor's wife got infected?" asked the announcer.

"That one was bad," admitted Sara.  "It had a happy ending, though."

"How so?"

"The doctor's wife sued for divorce," said Kim.  "In court, however, the doctor stated that he still loved his wife, but that she hadn't shared physical intimacy with him in years.  'I tried to keep my promises,' he said, 'Even though she didn't keep hers.'"

"And?" asked the announcer.

Kim answered, "Even though the frigidity of the wife is generally not considered an excuse for infidelity, many consider it to be.  In the end, his wife broke down in tears and offered to forgive him if he forgave her for cutting him off."

Sara continued, "The marriage was saved, but renewed intimacy didn't cause her to get AMORFS-2 because the infection had already left his body.  That strained the already fragile marriage because of the difference in energy level and apparent age."

"Then," Kim smiled, "She came down with AMORFS-2, but the signature was different from the bug that got her husband.  She claims that she hasn't been fooling around, and her husband believes her.  More to the point, the skills he received from AMORFS-2 allowed him to see that she wasn't lying."

Amy looked away from the video wall to me.  "You did a good job, Sis.  She never suspected."

"What is being done about the AMORFS-2 epidemic?" asked the announcer.

"We're all praying real hard that more doctors get it," said Kim with a smirk.

"What about you?  Do you want it?" asked the announcer.

"I already have some nifty powers," said Kim.

"I like her just the way she is," said Sara.

"Awwwwwwwwwww!" Chorused all of us teens.

"To be serious," said Kim, "we are actually doing something about AMORFS-2.  We have set up a message board so that medical professionals can compare notes.  We also have a place where doctors can request to get AMORFS-2, or request to not get it."

"How does that work?" asked the announcer.  "Are you in communication with the perpetrators?"

"Nope," replied Kim.  "The board is public, so anyone can read it.  The engineers of this blessing can read it just like anyone else."

"Have you tried to track down the IP addresses of people who read it?"

"A number of people read it through anonymous servers or the TOR network, and we purposely mirror it through one such server.  We want the people who read it to feel secure.  We want them to read the board and use the information well."

"Has anyone thought of carefully watching the doctors who requested MORFS?"

Sara smiled.  "I'm sure that some people have, but we always suggest that the doctors who want to get AMORFS-2 travel widely in public areas so that there is plenty of opportunity for someone to infect them."

"In other words, you're cooperating with the perpetrators of AMORFS-2 as much as possible," accused the announcer.

"Yes, we are," said Sara.  "They are doing it to help us all, so we feel that we should do our part."

"What about people who don't want AMORFS-2?"

"So far, everyone who has contacted AMORFS-2 is very happy about it.  We speculate that the doctors are carefully screened telepathically before they are infected.  Our message board is simply another source of information for the AMORFS-2 team."

"How can you be sure that they are reading your board?"

Kim smiled.  "We can't be sure.  Still, those who don't want the bug don't get it"

"What generally happens once a doctor gets AMORFS-2?"

"Generally, his caseload goes way up for a while until he manages to cure those who have been repeat customers.  Very often, his spouse lends a helping hand."

"Isn't it illegal to practice medicine without a license?"

"Yes, it is.  On the other hand, a doctor can prescribe the help of another person.  For years, nurses and other practitioners have provided services as ordered by a doctor.  To a lesser extent, lay people have done the same thing," said Sara.

"So, as long as the doctor has done an assessment, and is in control of the proceedings..." said the announcer.

"Correct," said Sara.

"What about the doctors who choose not to contact AMORFS-2?"

Kim shrugged.  "Those doctors are generally pures, and they generally already have a lot of pures in their practice.  They advertise themselves to the pures.  They generally have all the business they can handle."

"So there you have it," said the announcer as he faced the camera.  "AMORFS-1 has frustrated the research community and devastated the anti-morfs movement, while AMORFS-2 is seen as an unmitigated blessing by many."

Sara pushed a button on the remote and the video wall went blank.

"It looks like the lecture tour that we did for the university was perfect camouflage for our project," commented Sara.  "Little did the doctors know that we were giving them a present when we shook their hands."

"Team Teen did a great job of spreading the blessing, too," said Kim.  "It's amazing how much you can do with a little bit of careful planning."

"I never knew I was qualified for so many odd jobs."  I rolled my eyes.  "Waitress, concessions stand attendant, life guard, baby sitter, maid, hostess, cashier, gofer..."

"Caddy, bus boy, bathroom attendant, valet..." added Larry.

"All that, just so that we can zap a few doctors and students," said Jim

"Using the Summer Work Program as camouflage was brilliant," said Kim.  "While students from dozens of colleges and high schools were out there ostensibly building character by working all over North America, some came back with improvements, most of which were taken to be regular cases of MORFS."

"It made it easier for us to work at Doctor Miller's medical practice without raising too many eyebrows," I said.  "The fact that the infection is so mild that some don't notice it made it easier for us to show up with elemental powers without having gone through a nasty case of MORFS."

"Gee, I might be a bio elemental and not even know it," quipped Jim

"You all did a wonderful job," said Sara.  "How does it feel to be unsung heroes?"

"I hope we remain that way," Cindy said with a shudder.  "The last place I want to be is in the hands of some powerful group that wants their own army of custom morfs."

"We need to develop some kind of a contingency plan," said Kim.  "Perhaps we can develop a way to give them what they want, but have the changes revert to something else after a few months."

"Meanwhile, those who receive the change can infect their masters with something else," added Jim.

"This definitely bears some thought," said Sara.  "We need to come up with a plan to keep our powers from being abused, and another plan to escape."

(end)

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/
Visit Ray's blog at http://nerd-in-the-country.blogspot.com/
Visit Ray's other blog at https://wild-beauty-photography.blogspot.com/