Acts of Humanity
Out Of Retirement
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.
Categories: Hybrid, Elemental, PSI
Chapter Six: Back To Sun City
Esther was skiing with some friends from her previous online course when I was invited to Kim's and Sara's home for dinner. They have a lovely place right on the lake.
Sara pointed to a house across the bay. "That house is up for sale. Isn't it about time you stopped living in the company dormitories?"
I nodded. "Thanks. I'll check into it tomorrow."
We had a nice dinner. It reminded me of similar dinners that Molly and I had shared with Howard and Sara, and later, with Kim and Sara.
"You're missing Molly, aren't you?" Kim asked.
"Sort of," I replied. "It's more like I miss the girl that I thought Molly was. Or maybe I miss having someone to share my life with."
"For a genius, you can sure be stupid at times," Kim said.
"I can't help what my heart feels. I'm smart enough to let her go, but that doesn't mean that my heart likes it."
"Nitwit," Sara said. "You have the solution staring you in the face, and you don't have the wit to see it."
"I suppose you are right. I don't have a clue what you are talking about."
Sara stabbed me with her glare. "When are you going to ask that poor girl out?"
"Ask who out? The only people I have been seeing regularly are my fellow students, and my employees."
Sara swatted me on the forehead the way she used to do when I was a kid, they were just recently married, and I had just said something particularly stupid. "Esther, you flaming dingdong!"
"But, she's just a kid!"
"A kid? She's a over quarter of a century old, very mature, and crazy about you!"
"I'm over twice her age!"
"So? You don't look it. You two are so cute together when you forget to be serious and just enjoy her company," said Sara.
I sighed. "That still doesn't change the fact that I'm almost forty-one years older than she is."
"What difference does it make?" Kim asked. "Are people going to look at you and say, 'Look at him! He's robbing the cradle?' Or maybe they will say, 'Look at that that trophy wife he has. I sure envy him!'"
"It's... just not right," I said.
"Why? Why isn't it right?" asked Kim.
I hate it when people ask questions that I can't answer.
"Will it make a difference when you're 1,387 years old, and she's only 1,356?" asked Sara hotly.
"OK, so I'll ask her out in a thousand years," I said flippantly.
Sara just glared at me.
"OK," said Kim. "I'll answer my own questions. It isn't right because the two people involved will have different levels of physical energy, which will interfere with physical intimacy. It isn't right because one will die long before the other, leaving the other lonely. It isn't right because one will be vastly more mature than the other. Some might even say that it isn't right because they look like one could be the parent of the other – that their difference in age is glaringly apparent to all bystanders. Which of those reasons apply to you and Esther?"
I just stared at her.
"I think you broke him," Sara said.
"Don't you dare say anything about your relative maturity, or I'll swat you upside the head just like I used to do when we were kids," Kim said. "She's mature way beyond her years, and you can be such a flaming dingdong at times."
Then, Sara went for the kill. "There is this guy in her old online class that has the hots for her. He's the one that suggested that they go skiing with the group today."
I couldn't suppress the spike of jealousy that hit me. Nor could my two empathic siblings miss it.
"You have no right to get jealous if you don't intend on asking her out," Sara said.
"OK, OK. You two are absolutely right, as usual. I have been fighting to ignore my feelings for her because I thought that it could never be. I've been so stupid!"
"That's the smartest thing that you said all night," Sara said.
"The part about being stupid?" Kim asked.
"No, the part about us being right, as usual," Sara smirked.
"No, the smartest thing I said is that I am going to ask her out just as soon as I see her."
"You didn't say that," said Kim.
"Yes I did. Just now."
So they sent me off to my lonely dormitory room at the company. The dorms are not intended for long term occupancy. They are luxuriously appointed rooms for customers, visitors, and employees on temporary duty.
I had a quick shower, then put on shorts and a tank top. I have never been vain, but I like the way that the tank top shows off the muscle definition that I gained from MORFS, and improved upon with my workout program.
I was in the cafeteria sipping an herbal tea when she came through. I walked up to her and opened my arms to her. She looked a bit surprised, but gladly hugged me.
"Will you go out with me? Like, on a date?"
She laughed, then threw her arms around me again. "So, you finally got a clue?"
"No. Kim and Sara beat me with a clue stick. Actually, they had to use the whole clue tree. I'll have to make sure to thank them."
"I will too," she laughed. "They are right, you really are a flaming dingdong. It's a good thing you're such a sweetheart. And a genius."
I blushed. "So, how was your ski trip?"
"The skiing part was great! The new physical enhancements make it easy, my tail is great for keeping balanced, and it's great knowing that my bones won't break if I spill. You should have seen me taking the black diamond hill," she said enthusiastically.
I hugged her again. "We'll have to go skiing together soon. And scuba diving in Sun Lake. And sailing."
"Certainly better company than I had today. I mean, most of them were OK, but this one guy just wouldn't leave me alone. Next time I see him, I'll tell him that I already have a boyfriend," she said just before she laid a serious liplock on me.
It had been so long, I almost forgot what to do. Almost.
When we came up for air, I asked, "Would a friendship ring help? I know this one metal elemental..."
"As long as it's not too gaudy."
"Not gaudy. Understated. It'll tell everyone in an understated way that they can't afford you."
"I can see you doing that. I would object to the expense, but I know that it's nothing to you."
"You'll be making that kind of money soon enough. People with your skills can pretty much write their own ticket."
"You just love me for my mind," she said jokingly.
"I love you for your soul, too," I said seriously.
"And my body?"
"And your body. And your sense of humor. And your patience. Thanks for waiting for me to get my head on straight!"
"I think it was worth it," she said as she snuggled up to me.
We were both startled by the sound of applause.
"Yay! Daddy gets the clue award!" said Mindy the cream point.
"You got a real fox this time," said Carol the calico.
"You kids behave yourselves, before I put you over my knee," I replied.
"Seriously, I'm glad to see you live for something besides the company. You've smiled more since you found Esther than you did for all those years after Mother betrayed us all."
I sighed. "Don't be so hard on your mother. She can't help what MORFS did to her. And for all the pain, it was worth it because I got you all." Then I smirked. "Don't forget that you have half her genes."
I turned to Esther. "And getting shot at and all that stuff was worth it to get you."
"Awwwwww!" the kids chorused.
"You didn't just get shot at. You got shot," said Esther.
"Still worth it," I said.
The next day, we went water skiing, then looked at the house that Sara had pointed out to me. It was perfect. I put in an offer. I'll be able to close on it in three months.
The day after, we went to my metal elemental friend. I handed him a wad of cash, some jewels, and some gold. I let Tabitha feed the images I had in my mind to him. In seconds, I had two rings in my hand. I slipped one on to Esther's finger, and she slipped one on mine. They fit perfectly.
Then, we took a day long scuba class, complete with open water training. It took all day, and well into the night, but it was worth it. Already being certified, I didn't actually need to take the class. I took it anyway just to be around Esther and watch her swim around in a bikini.
The day after that, we went sailing. After that, we went skiing with our bio elemental MD class. Esther had been invited to ski with her old classmates again, but she opted to ski with me.
She was right. We foxy people do have an advantage on the slopes. Cat people, too.
The slopes were well attended. Her old class was there, along with a few others. And some tourists.
"Hey, what's he got that I ain't got?" said a rather sturdy looking baseline guy.
"Me!" Esther retorted.
"A tail," I said jokingly.
"My tail," Esther added.
I swear I saw smoke coming from his head.
"Maturity," said one of his friends, as he put a calming hand on his shoulder.
One of the girls grabbed Esther's wrist and held up her hand. "With a friendship ring like this, I can just imagine what her engagement ring is going to look like." She turned to him with a smirk. "You can't afford her."
"Figures she allowed herself to be bought," he grumbled under his breath.
Esther was in his face in a flash.
"Do you really think that I'm that shallow?" she asked hotly. "If you want to have a good relationship with a worthwhile girl, you're going to have to become a whole lot less judgmental and a whole lot more mature!"
He gave way as Esther advanced.
"For your information, he risked his life to rescue me from radical pures, including the sheriff, my ex boyfriend, and my own father. He took a bullet for me without hesitating. He went through considerable trouble and risk to get me out of that little hate-filled self-righteous podunk town that I grew up in. He is not only loving and supportive himself, but he introduced me to a whole support network of wonderful people. He's a genius, but doesn't lord it over others. It's not his money that I'm after. I can make that on my own. What I want is a soul mate, and I have found it in John Martin!"
Then she shrugged and said more calmly, "But even if I hadn't already fallen for John, I wouldn't have given you the time of day. I'm tired of dating little boys that work hard to be sooooo kewl and sooooo impressive, but don't have the wit to know that some women just don't want to be possessed or lorded over. Do you want an equal, or do you want someone to be your little fifties housewife? If you're looking for a sub, you aren't going to find her in college taking advanced classes."
I have never seen her lambaste someone like that. It looks like she took the aggravation and frustration that she had built up over the years and laid it all upon this poor clueless lad. It was actually quite impressive.
I just chuckled and looked at him. "There is some good advice in her words, if you have the wit to dig it out and implement it. I won't say that she's out of your class, but I will say that you need to learn how to respect others and look at more than their appearance if you want to have a satisfying relationship sometime in the future. Or maybe you would rather be shallow and have some fainting violet worship at your feet."
After receiving that much abuse, he turned and walked away. He was hard to read, but I think he was processing what was said to him. Maybe.
"Martin? Hey! Are you Kim Martin's little brother?"
*See? I'm still living in your shadow!* I sent to Kim
*Only around campus, little bro. Around Martin Engineering, I'm living in your shadow,* Kim replied to all of us.
*Anything you say, big bro,* I sent back with a mental smirk.
Of course, someone had to bring up the whole gender thing again. And I had to explain again about how Kim was my big brother every bit as much as she was my big sister, and that she has been my big brother for a whole lot longer.
A ruggedly handsome and muscular young man commented to me that misgendering can be painful – a verbal assault, in many cases.
"I know that," I told him. "I would never do that to someone who is genuinely trans gendered, but my dear sibling has never gone through that pain. Her new gender was foisted upon her by MORFS. She never felt felt like an alien in her own body."
He looked like he was holding back tears. I took another look at him. A real look, with my bio, empathic, and telepathic vision.
"I infer that you were coming along well with your transition when MORFS set you back to square one. I'm sorry that my words hurt you."
"More like square negative ten," he – I mean she replied. "It's not your fault. And it's not my business how you relate to your siblings. It's just... it's just so hard right now."
I gave her a hug and let her cry on my shoulder. I knew it looked funny, but I didn't care. It was easy to ignore the looks of her body when she screamed 'girl!' to all of my other senses.
"I think I know some people who can help you out," I said.
Esther joined us in our hug. "I know for a fact that we can help her out. In more ways than one, too."
Just then, I felt a rush of wind and saw a flash of golden wings. Jerry flared and landed right next to us. Seconds later, there was a second rush of wind and a flash of black wings. Tina landed next to Jerry.
"What brings you here, mister Wright?" asked the girl Esther and I were comforting.
"Suicide watch," he said pointedly. "And away from the classrooms, it's just 'Jerry.'"
She ducked her head down. "I wasn't..."
"You were headed for the black diamond hills along the cliff before you got distracted. I know someone who doesn't care if she lives or dies when I feel her," said Jerry.
"You're an empath? I thought you were a technopath!"
"Yes, I'm a technopath. I'm also an empath, among other things, through my flying kitty Brianna and my wife Tina," he replied. He turned to me. "John, this is Candice Smith. She is one of our prime students in the class that I TA."
A boy of about twelve piped up, "TA? Is that like Tits and A..."
He was interrupted by his mother. She grabbed him by the collar and said, "That's Teacher's Assistant. Get your mind out of the gutter and don't interrupt when adults are speaking!" She turned to us. "Sorry about that."
"No problem. Boys will be boys. He'll eventually grow up and be suitable for polite company. Maybe." Esther said with a chuckle.
"As I was saying," said Jerry, "Candice here has a real passion for engineering. Her morf made her a technopath, but stole all of her progress on her transition. Her soul sings when she's working on a project, but some well-meaning group of people thought that she would be better served by getting her mind off of everything and hitting the slopes."
"Bad Idea," was all Esther could say.
Candice just buried her head in my shoulder and softly wept.
I used Cara's trick to pull some toner from a vial that I keep for just such a purpose and printed on the back of one of my business cards. After heating it with my TK, I handed the card to Candice.
"Take this over to the headquarters of Martin Engineering on the North Cliff. I trust Jerry's judgment enough that you now have a co-op job doing what you love if that's what you want."
"You can do that after your appointment with the Bio Engineering division," Tina said as she joined the hug. "I've arranged things with the Professors Martin. We are going to see about getting your body to match your mind again."
I felt hope stir in Candice, then realization, then joy. She grabbed Tina in a fierce hug. "Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! When do we start?"
"No time like the present," Tina said. "That is, if we can get John and Esther to help. Otherwise, we'll have to wait until the Professors martin, their kids, or Amy and Cara are done with their day. In any case, it's happening soon!"
I smiled at Esther. "Shall we? If nothing else, it'll be educational. Besides, we need to take good care of our new employee."
"I recommend putting her in your aviation division. She's crazy about flying."
"Sounds good to me," I said. "But first things first. Where are we going to do this?"
"The same place we upgraded you," Tina said.
Chapter Seven: Changes
Candice was wearing a loose fitting medical gown, and sitting on the treatment table. She looked a bit embarrassed, even knowing that we could all see through her clothes, anyhow.
Jerry started, "Subject is Candice Smith. Attending are Jerry Wright, technician; Tina Shepherd-Wright, John Martin, Esther Newton, bio elementals; Doctor Sara Martin, MD, PHD, via audio/video and telepathic link, attending physician. Candice Smith is to receive the standard health enhancement upgrades, as well as a change of physical gender from male to female. This is complicated by her recent morf."
"I'm all ready," Sara said over the audio link.
"I went through the same thing, Candice. It's painless and very effective. You're in good hands," I said to her.
"We're going to explain the enhancements to you. You may elect to not receive some of them, but there may be complications because some of them work together. Do you understand this?" Tina asked.
I handed her a sample of the subdermal armor and explained it to her. Then I explained about the nanotube enhanced bones, nails, hair, and teeth.
"You won't have hair follicles, except for on your head, eye brows, and eye lashes. Is that OK with you?" Esther asked.
Candice smiled and nodded. "I never liked shaving."
"Some people wanted to be hairy, for some obscure reason," Tina commented as she looked pointedly at me.
Candice just giggled. Esther ruffled my hair.
Sara chuckled. "He tried so hard to hang on to his 'grumpy old man' looks. All he succeeded in doing was to look strange and confuse people.
"Hardy-har-har, Sara. It's sooooo funny until you realize what's going to happen at the next sales meeting when I want the customers to respect me and what I am trying to sell them."
"And this from the man who was trying to retire," Sara shot back. "Now you have an excuse to avoid all of those boring meetings and foist them off upon your kids."
I smiled. "That's the best thing I heard yet."
"Anyhow..." Esther said. "I love you just the way you are. All the high school girls are so jealous!"
"Good looks, athletic prowess, and money," Jerry smirked.
"High school stud on the outside, grumpy old fart on the inside," I said, finally feeling OK about my new form.
Tina pulled up a diagram on the monitor. The leaves of visceral fat between various organs were highlighted. "Your visceral fat will be replaced with an organ system that stores minerals and glycogen, filters various toxins out of the blood, produces all of the vitamins and micronutrients known to man, and even produces all necessary amino and fatty acids. You can live on sugar and mineral supplements if you choose, though we don't recommend it."
Candice studied the screen. "Wow! No more dieting! Or... What happens if I get too many calories?"
Tina smiled. "You'll end up excreting the excess in your urine. Also, you'll know about it. The organ system is hooked into your brain so that you can get a good internal view of what is happening with your body – similar to what a bio elemental gets. You'll know when you need to top off your mineral stores, and exactly how much energy is stored as fat or glycogen."
I added, "Before I morfed, I had this enhancement set. I still have it. Anyhow, it takes a while to get used to what you are actually sensing, but you soon find it to be really useful. It makes your liver kinda redundant, and gives your kidneys a lot less to do. It takes care of fatigue poisons. You feel good all the time. If you end up drinking too much coffee or hooch, you can have the organ system clean it out of your blood."
"And let's not forget the DNA group 1255C genes for dense, high output muscles," Jerry added.
"What the bird boy is saying," interrupted Tina, "Is that you can be anything from anorexic to rubenesque, and still be strong and healthy. And you can change the amount of fat you carry – within reason. The 1255c muscles don't take up much room, so you can be strong without being bulky."
Sara asked, "Do you want to be a hermaphrodite? If you go with the 204F DNA group, everything will be tucked away until you will it. You will look like a regular girl in all aspects, even fully nude."
Candice shuddered. "No! I don't want one of those things! I can't stand it! I can't wait to get rid of it!"
She put her hands over her mouth and blushed. "Sorry! I didn't mean..."
"That's OK," I said. "No offense taken. I understand that it's just not compatible with who you are inside."
Sara said, "Sorry. I knew that there wasn't much chance that you would want it, but I would have been remiss if I hadn't offered it to you."
"Moving right along," Tina said dryly, "Do you have any specific requests? A tail, perhaps?"
"Can I have wings?" she asked. "I really want to fly like a bird!"
Before anyone else could say anything, I said, "Yes, but it will cost you." At her somewhat confused look, I said, "Not money or anything like that. Almost all flying morfs do so with the help of some kind of telekinetic, elemental, or gravity power. We can't give you powers, so you would have to fly via muscle power – and you would be the biggest and heaviest flying animal on Earth. Currently, that is. A pterodactyl called the quetzalcoatlus weighed upwards of around a hundred and fifty pounds, but sported a thirty-five foot wingspan. Wings that big would be rather inconvenient, don't you think?"
She nodded thoughtfully.
"Computer. Load project Pixie Princess. Authorization: John Martin, Head Honcho of Martin Engineering."
"Done," came the computerized voice. A picture of a pixie with dragonfly wings appeared on the screen. The wings were bigger than the standard 'Tinkerbell' archetype, and were spaced a bit further apart – about the same relative distance as on a real dragonfly.
"This is a project that I have been working on with my favorite co-op student. We want to be able to fly, but don't know of any way to increase our telekinesis or give ourselves gravity powers. It is ready for human testing."
"Are you familiar with the square-cube law," I asked.
She rocked her hand side to side. "So-so"
"OK, so imagine a bird – a sparrow, or instance. If you double its size, you quadruple its wing area, and increase its volume, and therefore its weight, by a factor of eight. You therefore double the wing loading. Similarly, tripling its size will increase its wing area by a factor of nine and its weight by a factor of twenty-seven – tripling its wing loading. For any three dimensional object, increasing its size while maintaining the same shape will increase its surface area by the square, and its volume by the cube of its increased size."
Candice nodded. I could see all of the implications dawning upon her.
"And you kid Kim and me about 'professor mode,'" Sara quipped.
"I never claimed that you were the only ones," I said to Sara.
"Anyhow, before I was interrupted..."
Sara blew a raspberry.
"There are implications beyond flight. Mice have dainty skinny legs, while elephants have huge tree trunk legs. Small animals have to have thick fur to stay warm, while elephants have to be hairless because they have so little skin area compared to their volume."
I pulled up a diagram. "You will have bird lungs because they are more efficient at gas exchange. They have air capillaries instead of alveoli, and the air flows one way through them instead of inflating and partially deflating. You can look up the details later, if you like."
I pointed to the wings themselves. "We developed muscle tissue that's even better than the 1255c muscles. They have carbon nanotubes inside, and also on the outside to conduct the waste heat away. The wings can rotate about 300 degrees, and can change shape by flexing internal muscles and moving fluid around. In fact, the wings are stiffened with fluid and can be totally retracted by deflating them."
Esther took over. "Bird and bat wings hold the air during the power stroke, but fold up and, in the case of bird wings, spread their feathers during the return stroke. The return stroke is still counterproductive. We eliminated that by going with the dragonfly wings."
Esther stood and moved her arms forward and back, keeping them level with the ground. "Your wings will move like this when hovering in a vertical position – kind of like treading water. They will tilt to produce the appropriate airfoil on both strokes. When the top wings are moving forward, the bottom wings are moving back, and vice versa. When hovering in a prone position, the wings will be scissoring and doing about the same thing. When flying forward, the motions are combined. Also, you will be able to glide. Most people don't know this, but dragonflies can glide."
"The price you pay," I commented, "is that you might have to get used to people calling you 'short stuff.' Not way off the standard deviation curve, like I initially thought, but short enough. Like, about four feet eight inches tall. Fortunately, you'll be able to fly up and get things out of high cupboards, so it won't be as big of an inconvenience as if you couldn't hover."
"We created a lot of biological enhancements to keep from having to shrink you too much. The new muscles run very well off of fat, which is good because fat is about as energy dense as you can get in a biological system. It's approximately as energy dense as gasoline and jet fuel. Still, your blood glucose level can go well over a thousand milligrams per deciliter – about ten times normal, and way more than is safe. Your blood vessels will be modified to handle this without a problem. Your blood will be able to carry more oxygen. Your bones will be bigger in diameter, but hollow. This will reduce their weight while allowing better muscle purchase. Your center of mass will be shifted up, which will give you an exaggerated wasp waist."
We waited patiently while Candice studied the engineering details, fascination written all over her face.
Tina chuckled. "You nerds are all the same."
"I resemble that remark," smirked Jerry.
Once Candice looked away from the display, Tina asked, "Ready to put together your new appearance?"
Tina started with Candice's pre-morfs appearance, then modified it to fit within the constraints of the 'Pixie Princess' package.
Tina carefully read Candice and flashed different pictures at her – some with wings, and some without. After a lot of back and forth, and a lot of reading Candice's emotions about the various forms, they came up with a solid choice.
Once the decisions had been made, we went to work.
Because we had three bio elementals, and we were making changes well out of the ordinary, we used our bio power instead of the bio printers to make up the new parts. The changes took a long time, and required a lot of energy, but we were successful.
Laying on the treatment table, looking cute as could be, was a four foot eight inch pixie woman with flowing blond hair, very curvaceous legs and hips, moderate breasts, an elven face, pointed ears, and subtle creases in her back where the wings emerge. Candice had chosen to embrace the pixie image, especially since there would be no way to pretend to be unmorfed.
Jerry picked her up, wrapped her in a blanket, and carried her to a small apartment in the medical wing so that she could sleep it off.
We took a tunnel trolley to the headquarters on the North Cliff. Jerry and Tina jumped off the balcony and flew home. Esther and I went to our dorm room and fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
(end of part three)
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/