Acts of Humanity
Out Of Retirement
(Part 01)
A MORFS Universe Tale
by Ray Drouillard

John Martin had turned his successful engineering business over to his kids much to their consternation.  While camping deep in the national forest, he met a fox hybrid in great need of help.

sex: 2/10
violence: 6/10
profanity: 3/10

Categories: Hybrid, Elemental, PSI

Timeline: 2068

Chapter One: Interrupted Vacation

The first indication that something was wrong came from a bolt of pain and fear that I felt through my link with Tabatha.

Tabatha is my flying kitty.  She's got black wings, silky black fur, and amber eyes.  She was given to me by Tina Shepherd, a friend of my kids.  She's one of the best gifts I have ever received.

I can't help but smile when I remember when she was first placed in my arms.  Tina took that moment to forge a telepathic link between me and Tabby.  From that moment, she was my cat, and I was her person.  We each feel what the other feels.  I can see through her eyes and hear through her ears.  I can feel the air flowing over my I mean her wings and fur.  I can share her empathic and telepathic skills.

Anyhow, I had done a little shopping in the local town, and was on my way back to my camper when the growing unease I had been feeling turned into pain and fear.

When I turned my attention to the problem, I found three other entities keen for the hunt and filled with righteous anger and hate.  I recognized the emotional signature of the pures all too easily.

Tabitha, as usual, was flying high enough that she would be easily mistaken for a bird.  Still, since she literally has eagle-sharp eyes, she had no problem spotting everyone involved.

There were three men of varying ages chasing a young partial fox hybrid.  Every time one would stop to take a shot at her, she would dodge.

I sent her reassurance through Tabatha, and quickly spun my ute around and gave chase.

It turned out that she was a telepath.  My wordless reassurance was returned with equally wordless gratitude, and a vague picture of what she was facing.

Her leg collapsed under her just as I was approaching.  I saw two people take careful aim, so I pulled out my pistol, flipped on the laser, and snapped off two quick shots.

It isn't as easy when you're under fire as it is at the range, but my many hours of practice allowed me to do a credible job.  I hit one a bit low in the stomach.  The other I got in the shoulder.  I fired a few shots at the third person, but he dodged effectively.

But you can't shoot while you're dodging bullets, which is the point.  Unfortunately, you can't shoot when you're trying to rescue someone.  That's why I got hit.

Fortunately for me and the person I was rescuing, my dear elder brother had made some modifications to my body.  The carbon nanotube webbing underneath my skin kept the bullet from penetrating, though it hurt like hell, left a bruise, and bled.

I put her into the passenger seat, slammed the door, and vaulted over the hood.  Several bullets hit the armored glass as I drove away.

Yes, the ute that I drive around is armored.  I'm an eccentric retired engineer that likes to play with carbon nanotubes.  So sue me.

I had just turned Martin Engineering over to my children two weeks ago, much to their consternation.  They aren't cooperating.  They created a new position on the top of the org chart called 'head honcho,' and voted me into that position.

I guess I can offer them sage advice as I drive around the country and veg out.  They'll have to call me when I'm in a good mood, though.

Anyhow, once I drove about half a mile, I stopped to assess my patient.  She had belted herself into her seat, and seemed alert, though she was also in pain.  The bullet that had made her fall didn't break her leg, but it tore up her muscles pretty badly.

"I'll be OK soon enough.  Just get us out of here."

So I drove her home.  Home sweet home, my grandpa's old Winnebago motor home, slightly modified.

OK, it is heavily modified.

Actually, there is little of the original vehicle left.

I was surprised to see her hop out as soon as I pulled up to the old RV.  "I am a bio elemental," she said.

"Well, that's one less thing to worry about," I said.  I grabbed a couple of power bars out of the glove compartment and tossed them to her, along with an energy drink that I pulled from the cooler.

I ran inside and quickly straightened a few things out.  Then, I retracted the slide outs.  That includes the one in the back that retracts into the living area and leaves a small 'garage' in the back.  I ran to the ute, drove it into the garage, and pulled the ramp up.

At her quizzical look, I said, "I don't expect your attackers to give up that easily.  We need to leave.  First things first, though.

I asked her to follow me in, fired up the computer, and made a call.

"State police, sergeant O'Riley speaking."

"Hi.  I would like to report an assault and attempted murder.  A group of pures attacked a partial fox hybrid."

"OK, let me transfer you to hate crimes."

"Hate crimes division, lieutenant Davison speaking."

"Hi.  I'm Esther Newton.  I finished morfing yesterday at the Herrington medical clinic.  I was attacked by my father, Samson Newton, sheriff Marshall Morton, and my ex boyfriend Tom Morton.  All three shot at me.  I don't know which one hit me."

She had been holding it together, but she started to lose it.  I hugged her as she cried on my shoulder.

"I'm sending the raw footage from my helmet and vehicle cameras now."

I started the transfer, and also gave them access to the cameras mounted on the RV.

"I don't expect the attackers to give up now, especially since I managed to shoot two of them.  I'm sending up some drones so that we can get some advanced warning."  I turned to Esther.  "Can you give them your story?  I need to break camp and batten down the hatches."

I pulled my helmet back on and went out to break camp.  That consisted of retracting the awning, picking up the lawn furniture, retracting the jacks, pulling in the party lights, and picking up the clutter.  I retracted the hose that draws water from the creek, and the other hose that drains gray water into a three foot hole that I had dug in the sand well away from the creek.  Then, I filled in the hole.

I listened to their conversation through the headphones in my helmet.

It turns out that Esther had been studying morfs on line ostensibly to help her father and the Church of Genetic Purity to fight the morfs menace.  In reality, she had planned on moving to Sun City once she finished her course work.

She came down with morfs perhaps a month after finishing her course.  She had planned on leaving before that, but the opportunity hadn't presented itself.  She figured that her father had suspected something, and had been keeping her busy.

When she felt herself getting sick, she went to the clinic just in case.  At twenty-six years of age, it wasn't very likely to be morfs, but she wasn't about to take any chances.  Unfortunate accidents tended to happen to people who caught morfs.

When she saw her father, his buddy the sheriff, and her ex boyfriend coming to the clinic, she went out the back with nothing but her tablet computer and the clothes on her back.  She really had nowhere to run, so she ran out to the national forest.  It was a move of desperation, but it worked out in the end.

I drove along the trail to the national forest fire road, and headed away from town.

The drones detected three different groups of cars converging on me.  The state police office called the sheriff's office and informed them that there was an arrest warrant issued for Samson Newton, Sheriff Marshall Morton, and Tom Morton.  Of course, calling the sheriff's office with an arrest warrant for the sheriff is problematical.

The state police bumped it up to the Department of Homeland Security, since the various pures organizations are registered as domestic terrorist groups.

The state and federal authorities have no real control over the county sheriffs.  That is a feature, not a bug.  It prevents federal takeovers.  The sheriffs can't be ordered to violate the constitution by, for example, collecting everyone's firearms.

On the other hand, the sheriff should not be blocking the execution of an attempted murder warrant.  The fact that one of the warrants is against the sheriff himself is a problem, of course.

Just another example of our famous checks and balances.  It could as easily work the other way.  The sheriff's office in my home county would protect my family from overzealous state or federal officials, should they decide to go after my morfed kids.

But this time, we have a rogue sheriff's office to deal with.

Meanwhile, I had to figure out how to get to the main roads and out of the county without intersecting any of the sheriff's vehicles.

I took a quick glance at the map and saw that all routes were blocked by the posses that the pures had mustered.  I had little choice but to head straight to the lake.

"Esther, tell lieutenant Davison that we are going to head to the lake and take refuge on one of the islands."

She looked dubious, but relayed the message.  Meanwhile, I went down a side road, very thankful that the active suspension on our big cumbersome rig kept us relatively stable.  I braked hard, turned toward the boat launch ramp, and hit the water with a mighty splash.  I engaged the propellers and headed for the more distant of the two islands.

Lowering the hydrofoils allowed us to travel the mile or so quickly.  I slowed down and retracted the foils as we approached the island.  Even with six wheel drive, pulling the heavy vehicle onto the beach was difficult.  Fortunately, we didn't get stuck, and I was able to maneuver the old Winnebago so that it was partially hidden by some bushes, but pointing toward the water.

The lake was surrounded mostly by forest and rocky shore, with a few small sandy beaches interspersed.  There were a number of good camp sites, but the only part that was accessible by vehicle was the public access site with its boat ramp.  Since we were on the back side of the more distant island, there was no way for the mob to see us from the access site.  Of course, we're not the only ones with drones.  We haven't spotted any police drones yet, but it was only a matter of time.  Besides, vehicle tracks leading straight down the ramp and into the water would have to be a dead giveaway.

We contacted my family and let them know the situation.  We tried not to worry them, but no dice.  We checked in with the state police and made sure that all of our security feeds were available to them.  We also gave them control of the drones.  They told us that they were sending a special unit to us, but that it would take a while.  Apparently, they had two morfed police in an airborne unit that specialized in helping morfs.

"Now that we have nothing to do but sit on our hands and wait, it's time that I took a look at that bullet wound," said Esther.

I shrugged and pulled off my shirt.  Before I had it even half way off, she was done healing the bullet wound and the minor scratches and bruises that I had acquired in our brief scuffle.

"What's the story?  That bullet stopped dead, leaving surface abrasions and some bruising."

I went to the cupboard and grabbed a stand and what looked like a small piece of cloth.  I set it white side up on four pegs that supported it by its four corners.  I tapped it a couple of times to show that it was stiff, then flipped it over and drooped it over a dowel that was set horizontally on the stand.  A white line was drawn across the black side of the cloth.  Then, I handed it to her.

She took it, looking puzzled.  She found that she couldn't bend it by pressing on the white side.  The white side could be made convex to some extent.  Also, she could fold it on the line.

I took it from her, extended my arm palm up, and set it in the crease of my elbow.  I could bend it the way that my skin naturally bent, but it became stiff when I tried to bend or stretch it beyond what my skin would naturally tolerate.  Then, I handed it back and let her try it.

"The cloth that you are holding is a special nanotube weave with aggregated carbon nanorod scales on the white side.  I have a similar material under my skin.  Inside my skin, actually.  The weave is loose enough so that my skin cells grow through it.  The only thing above the mesh, aside from a few capillaries, are the cells that grow the part of the skin that is continually shed.  The bullet scraped that off, and the shock waves caused some nasty bruising.  It hurt like hell, but didn't do any real damage."

"How did you manage that?  You don't look like you morfed.

"That would be my big brother, some of my kids, and their friends.  They haven't been able to figure out how to induce morfs in older people, but any decent medical bio elemental can make some changes.  They are developing techniques that make minimal use of our limited supply of MBEs."  In essence, they want to cure aging.

She looked at me more carefully.  I could tell that she was using her bio vision.

"Hmmm...  Interesting...  There are cells that create and modify the matrix, sort of like the osteoblasts and osteoclasts in regular bones.  It looks like they constantly update the cloth.  That would be very useful for people that might morf."

"I'm well beyond that age.  I might not look it, but I am sixty-seven years old."

She nodded.  "It looks like they did a good job.  It'll be interesting to see how quickly you age, and how often you will need a repeat treatment."

"They're hoping never.  It remains to be seen, though."

"You look both old and young at the same time.  Your perfect hairless skin makes you look like a kid, but your facial features and build make you look older."

"Yeah, that was my idea.  I knew that asking them to put wrinkles and age spots on my skin would be futile, but I managed to convince them to leave everything else alone so that I wouldn't look like some young wet-behind-the-ears kid.  It really didn't work as well as I had hoped."

She looked some more.  "You have more than epidermis on the outside of your sub-dermal armor.  Your sweat glands pass through the outer layer.  No hair, though.  Except your eyebrows, eye lashes, and on your head"

"That would be Amy and Mindy, my daughters.  They say that it would be a waste of effort to make me hairy, when modern refined women prefer their men to be clean-shaven.  To which I replied that I don't intend on robbing the cradle.  To which they replied that no old lady is going to go after a young-un like me.  To which I replied..."

"That you're not in the market, anyway."  She tapped her head.  "I know.  Empath, remember?  What's wrong with being clean-shaven, anyhow?  Do you like being all hairy?"

"In my day," I huffed, "Only women and French men shaved their legs.  Besides, not all modern men bother slathering themselves with follicle deadener, and not all women prefer the smooth look."

"It's not your day anymore.  Or, rather, it's your new day.  You need to get with the times," she smirked.  "Go to a dance or three.  Hit the singles bars.  Take some liberal arts college classes."

I rolled my eyes.  "Liberal arts?  Just what I need, another dingbat that needs a daddy and not a husband."

I guess some of my old pain came out, because she suddenly got a serious face and asked, "What happened?"

I sighed.  "I fell in love with this cute collie morf.  She was the sweetest and kindest girl ever.  She would do anything to please me, and I did everything that I could do to please her."

"Except?" she asked.

"It turns out... I just didn't understand...  She was just so sweet, but..."  I sighed.  "She's a dog morf.  She was the cutest little thing.  That fluffy tail.  Those curves.  Her honest need to please..."

"Yes?" Esther asked.

"She's a submissive.  She has a deep need to be controlled, to be dominated.  I just didn't see it.  And when I did, it was too late.  And even if I had seen it in time, I wouldn't have been able to do it.  I just don't understand.  I'm not a dom.  I'm not a sub.  I'm more like a cat loving, but independent.  I don't want to dominate, but I won't dominated.  I won't tolerate it.  I really can't understand why anyone would want to be pushed around.  I accept that they do, but I don't understand it."

She gave me a hug.  "I know.  I feel the same way.  I want to partner that is my equal, but everyone I meet that is my age is immature and stupid and wants to lord over me.  And the church tells us that that's the way it's supposed to be."

"Not all churches," I said quietly.  "In fact, should you go to a regular Christian church, you'll find that they preach little of the nonsense that the Genetic Purity church preaches.  Though it varies from church to church."

She sighed.  "I'm sorry I went off on a tangent.  I was supposed to be asking about you, not venting my own frustration.  I just want to get out of this little podunk town so bad!"

"You're out, and you're not going back.  Over my dead body, anyhow.'

She hugged me again, squeezing me tightly.  "I forgot to thank you for saving my life!  I was so scared!  It was like the cavalry rode in to the rescue!"  She sniffed.  "I just hope I didn't get you killed."

"There's no way I was going to stand by and let an innocent girl get killed.  I just couldn't do that.  I would rather die than stand by and let you get killed."

I went over to the weapons locker and opened it.  I handed her a classic AR-15.  "Do you know how to use this?"

She checked the safety, pulled back the charging handle, locked the bolt back, pushed the charging handle back in, and eyeballed the chamber.  She inserted a thirty round magazine and let the bolt fly forward with a metallic clank.  "I usually don't lock and load inside, but it seems appropriate in this situation.

I grabbed a heavier caliber weapon and did the same thing.  I think we both felt better being armed.

"So what happened with your wife." she asked.

I went to the computer and pulled up a vid file.

Two dog morfs walked up to the house and entered.  The scene shifted to an internal camera.  An older/younger looking version of me asked the collie morf, "Who's your friend?"

"I'm her mate," the bulldog morf said.  Then he walked around as if he owned the place.  "This is a nice place.  I'm going to enjoy it."

The older version of me just looked at him mildly.  He gave a faint smile, which seemed to infuriate the bulldog.

"That's right!  This place is mine!  Molly is going to tell the judge about how you abuse her and the kids.  Every time you had sex, it was rape."

I looked at Molly.  "You know that isn't true.  Would you really lie?  Would you really betray the love that we have?"

"I... I can't."

"What's wrong, Molly?  What have I done to you?  I've done everything I could to make you happy!"

She burst into tears.  "That's the problem, John!  I need a strong man.  In don't need some namby-pamby boy that just loooooves me, and won't put me in my place!  You... you're too nice!  I kept trying to get you to be my master, but you're too stupid and wimpy to do it!"

"But Molly," I said, "If you really need to leave... I'll miss you.  But understand that I love you.  Don't return my kindness by lying about me!"

The bulldog had been looking around, opening cupboards, turning on the faucets, and things like that.  When Molly started to look like she would listen to me, he ran to her and punched her in the face, knocking her to the floor.

In a flash, I pulled out my .44 magnum and aimed it at him.  "You are now officially trespassing.  Leave now and do not come back."

He looked like he wanted to jump me, so I backed up and pulled back the hammer.

"This isn't over!" he yelled as he fled the house.

I said, "Security lock down.  Monitor external camera three."

A view of him walking to his car appeared on the kitchen monitor.  Meanwhile, I called the police and an ambulance.

The video file ended.

"What happened next?" asked Esther.

"To make a long story short, she did, in fact, lie to the judge, and he told the judge that I had punched her.  His lawyer really should have known that I had entered the security footage as evidence.  The fact that I let a court telepath read me was just icing on the cake.  I guess he got what he paid for.  Anyhow, he ended up in jail for perjury and assault.  She ended up with a suspended sentence because a psychologist verified that she had been unable to resist his order due to her morf."

"So, you divorced her?"

"No, she divorced me.  The judge wasn't very kind to her.  I offered her a small house at the back of the property, and supervised visitation with the kids.  The kids were not to see her when she was in the presence of her boyfriend.  That's all she got, and it's more than the judge was going to award her."

"She stuck with him?"

I sighed.  "Yes.  When he got out of jail four years later, she drove over and picked him up.  They still live in that house, and she is still trying to get the kids to visit her.  They haven't seen her since they grew old enough to have a choice.  They haven't forgiven her for lying.  They haven't forgiven her for trying to take Martin Engineering and our home away from all of us.  They never speak of her.  They have friends that know nothing about her, and that just have to accept that asking about their mom is a very bad idea."

"It could be worse," Esther said.  "At least she didn't try to kill them."

Now it was my turn to give her a hug.  "I seriously can't fathom how a parent can do something like that, but I have seen way too many cases where it has happened.  My brother was there when they found a graveyard full of morfed pures kids that had been murdered.  I think everyone had nightmares for weeks."

I squeezed her tighter.  "Don't worry.  We'll get out of here, and I will take you to Sun City, and I'll introduce you to my big brother and his wife and all the other kids.  They'll love you and we'll make sure that you get settled into a life where you won't have to deal with the pures ever again.  And I'll have big bro pull some strings and get you a scholarship.  The University of Sun City has a scholarship program for people who want to study any subject that relates to their powers."

I was holding her and trying to comfort her, but I had to let her go to keep from sneezing on her.

I got up to get a tissue and blew my nose.  I felt weak and dizzy, so I sat down on my bed.  "Esther, can you get me the lab rat box?  It's in the medical cupboard."

She found an instrument that looked like an extra large version of the familiar home morfs test kit.  It had "Lab Rat" scrawled on the top with black marker.

I turned it on and stuck my finger in the hole.  I winced when I felt the poke.  The machine gave my blood a thorough analysis much more thorough than the 'blood work' that was done by a fully equipped lab when I was a kid.

The machine automatically sent the data to my brother.  It also sent its proclamation to the video screen near my bed.  MORFS.

"Now how the hell did that happen?" I mumbled to myself.  "Just like my big brother."

"What?" Esther asked.

"I've got MORFS.  Can you believe that?  Maybe big bro was right in making sure that all of my alterations could handle a case of MORFS."

She rummaged through the medical cupboard, and came over with two stim packs, a glass of water, and a sleeping pill.

I choked down the stim packs, but told her that we can't afford for me to be unconscious.

"lieutenant Davison told me to give you the pill.  They have been in contact with your family.  Apparently, your big brother pulls some weight.  Big bro wants you treated properly for MORFS."  She held up her rifle.  "Don't worry.  I'm hoping those bastards give me an excuse to take some pot shots at them.  By the way, why did you build a motorhome with gun ports?"

"I'm eccentric.  What can I say?  As it turns out, it was a good idea.  It's bulletproof, too, by the way.  Nothing short of an antitank round will pierce it."

She handed me the pill and gave me a look that brooked no argument.  I meekly took the pill.  My awareness was fading rapidly, so I was barely aware as she tucked me in and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Tabitha settled in her usual place at my feet.

Chapter Two: Interrupted Flight

I woke up with a bursting bladder.  I stumbled into the little bathroom/shower, stripped, and let go.

To save space, I had made a small waterproof cubicle with a toilet and shower head.  It's actually more convenient, since the outside of the toilet gets rinsed off every time I take a shower.

I wet myself down, soaped, scrubbed, and shampooed.  Then, I turned the water back on and rinsed.  That's the standard technique for showering with a limited water supply.

After toweling off and putting on a bath robe, I checked the level of the tanks.  The water tank was almost to the top and filling.  That meant that Esther had run the supply hose out to the lake and turned on the filtration system.  Smart kid.

The waste tank was almost empty.

Gray water, like what comes from the shower and the kitchen sink, can be simply allowed to drain into absorbent soil away from the lake.  Apparently, she had pulled out that line, too.

We might have to leave the hoses behind if we need to make a quick getaway, but it's worth it to be able to use all the water we want.

There were a couple of stim pack bars and some water on the stand next to my bed.  I started munching on them.  Yum yum.  Not.

Esther came back from the front of the vehicle.  She was wearing a pair of my shorts and a t-shirt.  They didn't fit her very well, but they were better than the dirty, torn, and bloodied sweats that she had been wearing.

"Those two police women in the flying car are wearing out that mob of hoodlums.  The telepath knocks 'em out and the strong lady zip ties 'em and throws 'em in the back of the car."

"How many are out there?" I asked.

"Probably a hundred.  There were, anyhow.  They had all the men of the church out there.  Some snuck away when things got hot.  The police ladies picked off any that got separated from the mob.  The state police ground units have them hemmed in, but are loathe to start a war"

"Anything happen here?" I asked.

"Well, the pastor took the sheriff and a few of his deputies out here to search for us.  I managed to put a few holes in his nice shiny fiberglass bass boat.  They panicked, hit a rock, and went into the drink."

I snickered.  "Did they swim up here and try to arrest us?"

"Well, they wanted to.  I kinda discouraged them.  The last I saw, they were dragging their soggy asses up on to the shore.  I was so tempted to finish them off, but that just wouldn't have been sporting."

"Not to mention the fact that they were no longer a threat," I smirked.  "You have a good head on your shoulders.  We have to be above reproach if we want to get them all tossed in the slammer where they belong."

She blushed a bit, and changed the subject.  "Anyhow, John.  How are you feeling?"

"About like you felt a few days ago," I grumbled.  "I'll get over it soon enough.  Do you see any changes happening?"

She scrutinized me.  "Your eyes and ears are changing.  I think you're going to have slitted hexachromatic vision.  Your outer ears are moving up and getting a point, so you'll probably have cat, wolf, or fox ears.  And the hair that fell out is growing back red.  Same color as mine, as a matter of fact.  And it has a carbon nanotube weave core, like neosilk."

"Big bro told me that if I had morfed, I would have been a cat hybrid like him."

"It looks like you might be a fox hybrid, like me," she said softly.  "Who would have thought that MORFS would be transmitted like a blood borne disease?"

"Do you think that's what happened?  We'll have to talk to my brother about it.  Meanwhile, we had better keep it quiet.  We don't need to see morfs supremacist groups and foreign militaries kidnapping kids for their powers."

She nodded seriously.  "Well, it looks like you are flagging.  You had better get into bed."

I nodded and slipped under the covers.  Tabitha curled up next to me.  Esther had exchanged the sheets while I was showering.  "Thanks."

The next time I woke up, Kim was sitting there studying me.

"Hi Howie," I said.

She rolled her eyes.  "It's Kim now, you flake.  What kind of trouble did you get yourself into this time, little brother?"

I shrugged.  "Oh, nothing much.  Shot a couple police officers.  Aided in the escape of a fugitive.  The usual."

She looked at me seriously.  "A lot of the local community sees it that way.  The state police are playing it very carefully.  Meanwhile, I'm here to get you two out of here.  Mike and Rodney have volunteered to drive your rig back once the mob leaves."

"How did you get here?"

"Oh, Sara and the kids dropped me off in the Swift.  They're over at an airfield in the next county waiting for you to finish morfing so's we can get out of here."

I sighed.  "Well, I had better get to work at this changing thing, then.  But first, I need to shower and piss.  Not necessarily in that order."

So I did my ablutions, scarfed down three stim packs, and crawled between the covers.  Tabitha laid on me and purred.

The next time I woke up, I felt great.  It took me no time to get cleaned up and dressed, though I did spare a few seconds to frown at my new face.  I was ravenous, so the eggs and bacon that some angel had prepared for me while I was showering was most welcome.

Esther glared at me.  "You didn't tell me that your 'big brother' is the famous Professor Doctor Martin!"

"You didn't ask me," I smirked.  "Besides, I gave you plenty of clues."

She just snorted.

"Time to get a move on," said Kim.  "Sara and the kids are on their way."

I was about to throw some extra clothes into a backpack when Kim said, "Don't bother.  Your kids packed some clothes for you and they're waiting in the Swift.  And you'll be home at your Martin Engineering office in Sun City soon.  Just sync up your tablet and take it."

"What about the Martin Engineering compound?  It's a lot closer."

Kim said, "Our lawyers recommend that we go to Sun City.  That'll make it harder for the local sheriff's office to try to extradite you.  Not that they are likely to do that with sheriff Marshall Morton sitting in a federal jail."

"They got him?  Great!"

"Yeah," Esther smirked.  "The flying duo picked him and his cronies up a little after they dragged themselves out of the drink."

"With them gone, we ought to be able to just drive out of here," I said.

"Nope.  You two are heading to Sun City.  We have already arranged for a teleconference with you and the state police.  Not that they really need anything from you besides an official statement.  They are impressed with your drones, and are thinking of ordering a few."

"I'll give them a good discount," I said.

We walked outside in time to see the LBSC Swift swoop down low over the lake and hover ten feet off the water.  The side hatch opened and two figures waved at us, then jumped out and landed with a splash.

They quickly swam to shore and came out sputtering.  "Aunt Kim, you could have levitated us over!"

"What would be the fun in that?" she asked with a smirk.  "Besides, some exercise and a good washing did you good.  But I guess I could TK dry you two just to keep you from dripping all over your father's rig."

I gave each of the boys a hug.

"Love the ears, Dad," Mike said.

"And the tail," Rod added.

"Not to mention the new face," said Kim.  "You can go to the local high school and pick up chicks."

"You're going to have a time getting the store clerk to believe that your ID is real.  Maybe you'll have to send one of your employees to buy your beer for you," added Mike.

"Yeah, yeah, yuck it up!  Hardy-har-har!"

"You have to admit that it's funny," said Rod.  "After all of your efforts to look old and cranky I mean dignified, you morf into a sixteen year old."

Kim said, "I haven't heard Esther complaining."

"She's been too busy trying to stay alive," I said.  "Besides, girls like to look young and perky.  How many billions do the thirty and forty somethings spend trying to reclaim their teenage looks?"

"I'm not that shallow!" she huffed.

"You're not that old," Kim chuckled.

"Actually, the whole fox package makes the kid face seem insignificant," Esther said thoughtfully.  "I haven't really thought of the practical aspects.  Everything was pretty much overshadowed by my desire to get out of that nasty little podunk town."

"Consider yourself gone," I said with a smile.  "You won't ever have to see that town again.  Or the people.  Except maybe in court, and then only briefly."

She smiled and gave me a hug.  "Thank you!"

The swift moved to shore and extended the stairs.  My dear sons gave the Swift a sour look.  "Why couldn't you have done that before we got out?"

"Because your auntie Kim thought that you could both use a nice swim," came a voice from inside the Swift.

(end of part one)

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