firefox.png Primal

Starfox Howl

A story in the MORFS Universe

Chapter 1

Who's the big bad wolf?

 

I eased my way through the crowded hallway, trying not to step on or bang into anyone. School had started a week previously and things were still shaking out for us. There were five grades in high school now and a total of thirteen grades past kindergarten. I was supposed to have graduated at the end of the last school year. But I was here, in high school, instead of a dorm room at Wyoming University. Rumors were still running rampant about how we would be spending the extra year.

First bell rang as I ducked through the main doors.

I made my way slowly to my locker which was in the main hallway just past the office. A number of mostly new students stared as I approached and hurried to step out of the way. Their thoughts told me that most had had run-ins with large MORFS survivors previously with less than pleasant results for them.

From my locker it wasn’t hard to get to my home room class. I moved to the back of the room and settled at the large table provided since I couldn’t sit in the small combination desk chairs any longer.

The wash of pungent aromas got thicker as more students arrived. A pair of girls, sisters by their looks, reeked from some cheap little girl perfume and more than one boy hadn’t showered before coming to school. I sneezed loudly as one girl wearing an overpoweringly strong scent walked past, drawing a nasty look from her. Closing my eyes, I cataloged the smells, their owners and then pushed them out of my mind.

A woman walked into the room as the late bell rang. She closed the door and made her way to the ancient wooden desk sitting next to the windows. My schedule said her name was Sister Jenkins. The woman wore a scarf over her hair and some ancient floor length dress that might have been in fashion sometime during the great westward expansion two centuries ago. She stood ramrod straight at the front of the class, and waited for the noisemakers to settle.

The Sister started her monologue by welcoming us to the school and explaining that homeroom period for the day would be extended to allow for ‘necessary things’. Whatever those were.

That was about the time I tuned her out, not hard to do with the way she droned. I pulled out my tablet and entered the, hopefully, final changes to the draft class schedule I’d received during the summer and tuned back in as she was calling students up to the front of the room to pick up textbooks that we’d be using in classes. It boggled my mind that school systems were still using hardbound paper printed textbooks since virtual books, magazine and newspapers had been the norm since before I had been born.

She called my name out, and I just waved my tablet at her. “I have my books Ma’am.”

“Young…. Miss, stop being difficult and come get your books,” she snapped.

“I have them already, on my tablet. It’s part of my ILP.”

“If you’re on an ILP, you shouldn’t be in this class. ILP students are in the special education wing on the other side of the school.” The annoyance in her voice was plain.

“Yes Ma’am, but I’m assigned to regular classes with modifications. One of the mods is that I use electronic books on my tablet,” I told her, trying to keep the exasperation out of my voice.

“Stop arguing with me!” the woman snapped, slapping her hand on the desk. “ILP students belong in the special education section of the school! Go to the office and wait until you can be escorted to your proper classroom.”

I had something else to say, but it was no use arguing with the woman. In her mind, she was right, I was wrong and that was that. I barely suppressed the growl of annoyance that threatened to break free as it was. I ignored her glare, packed my carryall and left. The walk to the office was much easier than the walk to class. I still had to duck the lights.

After knocking on the office door, I went in. Either the staff was blind or chose to ignore me standing at the counter until I cleared my throat. One of the women pointed at the bench where I could sit until someone calls for you. Ugh.

The bell rang for the change of classes and still I waited. The late bell for second period rang. Another ten minutes passed before the office door opened and the Dean stepped in from the hallway. “Miss Miller, correct?” he asked.

“Milner, sir,” I corrected him. “Mrs. Jenkins sent me here. She thinks I belong in special ed.”

“I see. Sherry, please call Sister Jenkins to my office.” Dean Rivers walked to his office and closed the door.

The clock on the wall across from me ticked off ten minutes before Sister Jenkins arrived. One of the staff pointed down to the Dean’s office. The woman went in and closed the door, but it drifted open again.

“…Milner was correct; she is on an individual learning plan. Not all students on ILP’s are special needs children. You’ve worked enough years at this school to know this already. Why did you send Miss Milner to the office?”

“That, that— thing was being disruptive. It was rude and I will not allow that sort of behavior in my class.”

“Sister Jenkins, I am well aware of your personal viewpoint with regards to the survivors of MORFS. It is a medical issue, not the judgment of a divine power. Miss Milner is in your class for homeroom only, which last twenty minutes. If you are not able to put aside your personal bigotry and treat her with the respect that everyone in this school is entitled, we can make arrangements with the county for your permanent replacement.”

“You can’t do that!” the woman shrieked. “I have a contract!”

“Indeed you do Sister, a contract that can be revoked for, willful violations of school rules, policies, school board procedures or violations of state or federal laws. Now, I am sure that you are aware of the non-discrimination policy the school board has adopted and this school has implemented. I am also sure that you are aware of the federal and state laws barring discrimination against the victims of MORFS, since you attended the seminar I taught over the summer break. I remember your attendance quite clearly."

“Unlike my predecessors, I will not screen your students to ensure that no MORFS survivors are in your classes. You teach the students that are assigned to you.” The Dean paused a moment then continued. “You have a choice to make, set aside your personal prejudices and treat every student with the respect that they deserve, including MORFS survivors, or you can leave; immediately.”

The woman came out of the office and gathered her things. She stopped in front of me, giving me a cold stare.

“You should be put down, like the rabid animal you are,” the woman said bitterly.

I glared back at her, feeling the wolf push forward. A warning growl escaped as I stood up and faced downed the woman, drawing the attention of the office workers. The now ex-teacher turned away and rushed to the door; fear plain on her face.

Dean Rivers came out of his office. “Mrs. Taylor, please call the county and make arrangements for a substitute for Sister Jenkins’ classes and let them know that we will need a permanent replacement. Also please see that Miss Milner gets a hall pass to her next class.”

“Thank you, sir.” I said picking my carryall up from the uncomfortably hard bench.

“Don’t thank me, Miss Milner. Intolerance is something that I will not allow to fester in this school, nor is bullying. I am not unaware of your history, even though it happened before I was hired. I do not want any trouble here.” The Dean gave me a hard look as well.

“I don’t want any trouble either, sir,” I told him calmly. “I won’t start anything, but I will finish it.”

The rest of the morning went like every other first day of school, confusion and chaos. When lunch came, I bypassed the cafeteria and went outside to sit in the sunshine. The courtyard just off the lunchroom breezeway was mostly grass with a dry fountain in the center. A number of other students had the same idea; enjoy the sunshine outside before it got too cold.

I had barely settled and had a protein shake in my hand, when a pair of obvious feline hybrids stopped and asked if they could join me.

“Sure,” I replied as the girl sprawled to one side and the boy on the opposite.

“I’m Rose, Rose Carmichael,” the girl said, unable to completely hide the haughtiness in her voice. “The lunkhead next to you,” she continued, “is my brother, Timmy.”

“Tim,” the boy corrected in a shy voice.

“Whatever,” the girl said dismissively.

The girl started talking away about something I only half heard, my attention focused on a group of thug wannabes. Three hung back while the fourth, probably the leader, approached closer. Tim’s nervousness rocketed sky high at the boy’s approach and I could smell the sour stink of fear.

“Friends of your?” I asked Rose, lifting my chin toward the group. Before she could answer, the one standing closest opened his mouth.

“Look at this, feeding time at the zoo,” the boy sneered. “Who’s the new bitch Rosie? Another one of your freaks?” He turned his gaze on me. “Where’s your leash, bitch? No collar either, guess we need to call the dog catcher!”

The boy and his friends started laughing; sounding like the pack of hyenas I’d seen at the zoo. A puff of breeze brought me the groups scent. I breathed it deep and recognized one of them.

“Mikey!” the boy turned his attention on me.  “When did you get out of kinder-jail? What was it last time, shoplifting little girl panties at the mall?” I stared casually at the group. Their laughter trailed off when they realized what I had said.

“Listen, bitch—

“Still trying to be a bully, eh?” I sneered back cutting him off, “You have to stop wearing your little sister’s thongs if you’re going to play with the grownups. Gotta wear your superhero undies!” I taunted.

“You BITCH!” he practically screamed as he started towards me. “You gonna pay for that!”

I sprang to all fours facing him, a growl rising in my throat, my eyesight washing out to shades of grey. Mike slid to a halt.

“Come right on ahead Mikey,” my voice a lupine snarl, “but remember what happened the last time you went four on one against me.” I looked past him to the trio that had closed the gap and now stood right behind their fearless loser. “Two had to be scooped into body bags and the third was in the jail’s hospital for a year.” I focused on Mike again.

“What happened to the last one?” one of the thugs asked.

I made eye contact with the one that spoke.

“You’re standing behind him. Little Mikey ran away and hid while I shredded his brother.” I stared into Mike’s eyes. “Can you still hear his screams for help Mikey, while you simpered like the coward you are? I can,” I licked my lips, “I remember how good David’s blood tasted.”

The three standing behind Mike turned their looks on him. You could see the boy’s street cred fading like the morning fog. The trio stepped back slightly, distancing themselves.

“Kevin?” Mike asked, his eyes going wide.

I spat on the ground.

“I’m insulted. After all that time in court, I saw you sitting in the back row with the Purists, you can’t even remember my new name.” I broke eye contact with him and looked at the whole group. “Leave us alone and you won’t get hurt. Push it and…” I let the statement hang in the air and another snarl punctuated it. The wolf charged forward inside my head, trying to take complete control. It recognized its enemy and wanted nothing less than Mike’s throat in our teeth.

Mike’s pulse got faster and he glanced over my shoulder as someone or something came our way. The group backed away, then turned and retreated toward the school.

They wanted to play chase, good! I took a step after them.

NO!

I stood still with all four legs trembling as I fought the compulsion to hunt down prey.

I forced myself to turn and bolted out of the quad. My nose told me of mowed grass and woods and I ran for that smell. I crossed the running track and stopped at the edge of the athletic field near the wood line. Slowly I stalked the edge of the woods working for control, pushing the wolf down. I was in control! Katie! Not the beast! Not the wolf! Human!

I collapsed on my side, breathing hard. My ears swiveled to picking up the sounds of Rose and her brother walking carefully up to me. My tail lashed the ground as the last of the haze receded.

“Katie? You okay?” Rose asked carrying what was left of my protein drink and my carryall.

“Yeah, I’m okay now.” I smiled at the pair as they dropped down on the grass in front of me. I sat up and took my drink from Rose.

“Hun?” Tim said, sprawling on the ground.

“What my clueless brother is asking is what just happened?” Rose asked.

I winced at her remark about Tim being clueless. He wasn't clueless, just terribly shy about his change. He might be a lion morph, but he was a lion scared of his own shadow.

I smiled weakly and sucked on my drink. “A couple of months before the end of last school year, I got MORFS. It took nine days for it to finish. I was a boy when it hit, when I woke up I had a permanent fur coat, and these," I waved my hand at my breasts. "When I got back, David, that’s Mike’s older brother, started bullying me. He bullied me before I got MORFS too, but after, it was even worse."

“My second week back David, Mike and two friends tried to beat me to death and my wolf came out. The school called the police, who called animal control who had to dart me so they could get to David.”

“The MORFs center didn’t know what I was at first. The doctor had to go look it up. He called me a Primal, a wolf primal.”

The two sat across from me giving me blank stares.

“Yeah, I’d never heard of it either, before then.” I finished my protein drink and slipped the empty bottle into my carryall. “They explained that it was animal regression, instead of human progression.” Again I got the blank stares. “Okay, think of it this way. The two of you are feline hybrids, humans with cat features. I go the other way; I’m a wolf, with human features. It’s not hard for my animal side to push its way forward when I get stressed or scared.”

Tim blinked, “Whoa …”

“Yeah, you have no idea—"

The school bell cut off the conversation and we gathered our things up and headed back to the building.

~* * * *~

The rest of the day went by like the typical first day of any school year. I waded gingerly through the sea of students in the hallway between classes, making sure that I didn’t step on anyone. When the final bell rang it was easy to get to my locker. Everyone that had a parent waiting or rode bikes had to go past it to get outside. I let the flow of students carry me down the main hallway towards the large main doors.

Dean Rivers was standing near the front doors and waved me over. “I won’t hold you up but a moment, Miss Milner. I understand that you left the grounds during lunch today.”

“It was only to the athletic field.” I told him.

“Would you care to tell me why?” he asked.

“I was upset and I didn’t want anyone getting hurt.”

“Should I be concerned about your being upset, Miss Milner?” the Dean asked just loud enough to be heard over the rushing mass of departing students.

“No, sir.”

“Very well. In the future, please confine your lunchtime wanderings to the allowed areas.”

I nodded and joined the flood towards the main doors, and into the afternoon sunshine. There I looked for Dad’s car. His car wasn't in the parking lot, so I sat with Tim and Rose on the grass.

“Hi, Rose, Tim.”

“What happened between you and Sister J?” Rose asked. “Everyone’s talking about how you got her fired.” Rose said quietly.

“How did you hear about that?”  I asked.

“Simple, the biggest gossip in the school is a telepath.” Rose said with a smile.

“Regina Turner?” I asked, and then continued when Rose and Tim both nodded. I had known her from before my change. She was a gossip and a snoop. No one’s head was safe when she was around. Luckily her ability was very short range and I could easily keep her out of my head. “Not surprising, her family is in broadcasting in a big way down in Atlanta. Why is Mrs. Jenkins called ‘Sister’?”

“Oh, that’s simple. She's a member of some anti-MORFS splinter church just outside of town. They dress up in ancient style clothes, given up on technology and spout their genetic purity cra… err, crud.” Rose put one paw over her heart and the back of the other on her forehead in an overly dramatic way. “Technology has become the bane of Mankind. We will turn our faces away from this great plague and pray for the salvation of Man.”

I chuckled as Rose heaved a large dramatic sigh, and fell to her side laughing. I turned to Tim and asked, “How do you like the school?”

“It’s okay,” he said quietly. He lifted his head to look at me rather than the grass, but his gaze stopped at my chest before continuing. We made eye contact for only a brief moment before he looked away, embarrassed. If he hadn’t been covered in fur, he would have been turning pink.

Don’t worry Tim, I don’t bite. I ‘pathed and suppressed a giggle when his embarrassment shot up again. I wanted to add, but I do nibble, but held off. I didn’t want to give his sister any more ammunition to use against him.

Dad’s car pulled up to the curb in front of the steps and cut off our conversation. I waved at them and got in the transport.

The drive home was uneventful and longer than it used to be, which was okay with me, since our new place was so freaking much nicer. It had a huge lot backing up to a power line right of way, and woods! The fact that no one was around suited me fine, too.

The nervousness hit as we turned on onto the final leg of our trip. I could see the house. The side door was opened almost as soon as the wheels stopped turning and I was out, heading for the house. In the front door, clothes, carryall, gloves and slippers went flying, as did I, right out the back door and into the yard. In nothing but fur I leapt to the picnic table and used it to clear the top of the eight foot privacy fence that ran along the back of our property. It was a flat out run to the utilities right of way behind the house and straight across to the woods beyond.

The wolf was out, not in anger, but in freedom! We could smell the world, the woods, life itself as we rushed headlong into the stand of mixed pine and hardwoods. The smell of a rabbit stopped us in our tracks. We followed the scent until the animal burst out from undercover and we were off, twisting, turning, doubling back on ourselves. The rabbit made a turn that we couldn’t and it got away. It was okay, we weren’t hungry. A new scent led us to another animal that we could chase, but let it go after having a bit of fun.

Eventually the wolf retreated of its own accord. It’d had its fun, and it was easy for me to change places. I let myself through the gate in the fence that I had leaped over with ease earlier.

Opening the kitchen door, I could hear Mom at the stove. “That smells good, Mom.” It was meat sauce for spaghetti.

“Wipe your feet, dear. Dinner will be ready in an hour or so. You’ll just have enough time to shower and dry.” Mom wrinkled her nose as I got close.

I took a whiff of myself and sneezed. Yeah, I’d rolled in something stinky. I picked up my discarded clothes Mom had gathered together and bounced up the stairs.

When we had our new house built, Dad went all out on my bathroom. It was huge! The shower alone was big enough to handle two morphs my size or about four mundane humans. The hot water felt good as it soaked into my fur and sluiced down, washing away the mud and debris that had stuck to me. Shampoo, rinse, shampoo again, rinse and then off with the water. I stood there for a bit letting the water drain, then pushed the button on the control panel. Four powerful blowers kicked in and created a mini cyclone of hot air to dry my fur. Five minutes later, I stepped out, washed and fluff dried.

I could hear Mom and Dad having the same tired argument about me ever since I morphed. There wasn’t any anger in it, just concern, for each other, and for me.

“You indulge her too much, Randy,” Mom was saying, “letting her race off, naked, over hell’s half acre. It isn’t proper. It teaches her she doesn’t need to practice her self-control; that it’s okay for her to act like an animal.”

“Honey,” Dad began, “you want her to repress her basic nature. She needs the outlet to be what she is. If she bottles it up; the wolf will come out at the wrong time and in the wrong way. None of us wants that to happen.”

I walked down the last few steps directly into the kitchen. Mom spotted me and stopped me in my tracks. “Oh, no you don’t, young lady! You may be in a fur coat, but you are not going to sit at the table naked.”  She pointed her finger back up the stairs.

“March yourself up to your room and put some clothes on.” I grinned and went back up the hardwood steps. Pushing that button always got Mom off her “acts like an animal” rant.

I came back dressed in a pair of minimal shorts, and a tight neon yellow tee shirt with a magenta biohazard symbol on the front. The lettering around it said, “It’s a MORFS thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

Mom smiled and we passed our plates for dinner, which was wonderful, like always.


Chapter 2

Two months from the end of the previous school year.

Being out in the hallway was a relief from the overwhelming noise and the thumping music in the gym. The students were really fired up in the pep rally for the baseball team. Tonight’s game would decide the regional championship. Everyone was doing their best to show they were behind the team and rooting for them to bring home the trophy again this year.

Mr. Haskell, Kevin’s gym and home room teacher had asked him to get the attendance book from his classroom to make sure that no one had skipped out of school early.

When Kevin turned the corner into the next to last hallway he spotted the trio of boys leaning against a row of lockers. They saw him too, and moved to block the hallway.

“Come here you little shit,” David, the leader of the group yelled. He didn’t have to worry about anyone hearing him; everyone was in the gym.

Kevin turned and started back the way he came. As soon as he made the corner he started to run as fast as he could. He knew why David was after him and knew that if they caught him, David and his brother Mike would beat him into a pile of pulp.

Kevin turned into another hallway. One more and it would be a straight shot into the office and safety. He was the short and skinny nerdish type, not jockish at all and didn’t run well. The gang easily caught him before he was even halfway to the next turn. Several hands grabbed him then slammed him face first into the row of metal lockers that lined each side of the hallway.

“You little bitch!” David growled at him. “That paper you gave me was a phony.”

“It … it was a guaranteed A grade paper, David.” Kevin tried to stall, praying someone would come along soon.

“It was, until Miss Yamaguchi realized that it was her Asian history paper from college!” David spun the boy around and slammed Kevin back into the lockers, banging Kevin’s head into the metal doors. “She gave me a zero on it and reported me to the Dean for plagiarism. I get a zero for the semester. That means I have to go to summer school and take the class again.”

David slammed Kevin into the lockers again. Kevin had seen David mad before but this, he was out of control! The large senior punched Kevin in the stomach driving the air from the boy doubling him over in pain. Someone straightened him up so he was looking at David's anger contorted face again.

“You little shit, if I have to spend a month in summer school retaking the class, you’re going to spend a month getting over this!” David screamed then followed up with punches to the boy’s face and body.

A vicious knee to the groin dropped Kevin to the floor retching. Kicks and punches rained down as he curled up on the floor, trying to protect himself from the savage thugs. The beating seemed to last forever, punctuated by kicks to his stomach, kidneys and head. A boot heel stomp on his hand put an exclamation point on the attack.

Kevin’s scream of pain echoed in the almost empty hallway. Someone picked Kevin up from the floor and slammed him against the wall lockers again. Hands stuffed him into a narrow student locker while someone tried to close the door. When it wouldn’t close, he was booted twice more in the side to force him far enough in so the door would shut.

The space was so confined he could barely breathe. He tried to take a deep breath to yell, but the stabbing pain in his side prevented him. All he could do was moan as the shock began to wear off and the pain grew.

He wasn’t sure how long he was trapped before someone outside began yelling and banging on the locker door. He could hear a deep bellow just before the door disappeared. A fur covered hand reached in for him, but Kevin’s pain filled scream when the hand grabbed his shirt made it to let go.

The locker shifted and shuddered, then seemed to explode away from him in slow motion. Two large brown furred hands took hold of him and laid him gently on the floor.

When his eyes could focus, Kevin could see who was holding him. “Hi, Mr. Bear,” the beaten boy said weakly, his shivering body going into systemic shock. “I got your grade book, but I dropped it. I’m sorry”

“It’s okay, Kevin. Don’t talk now. Help is on the way.”

~* * * *~

Mr. Haskell spotted Kevin’s parents as they were let into the treatment area of the emergency room. He pushed away from the wall and waited for them to approach. Mrs. Milner was quick stepping, her heels tapping on the tile floor, purse clutched with one hand and a sweater draped over her arm. Other than for the worried look on her face, she reminded him of Lois Lane, from the original black and white video show he’d watched as a child, in a hurry and on her way to a story. Right behind her was Randy Milner. He had bounced a ball around the school gym with Kevin’s father during several parent teacher conference nights. The man’s dark hair and trim build wasn’t typical. Most men Randy’s age had the unmistakable signs of office spread.

As Kevin’s parents approached, a harried looking doctor stepped out of the room where Kevin lay, bandaged with an IV needle stuck in the back of one hand.

“Your son is very lucky,” the doctor said looking at the parents as he stepped through the translucent curtain and sliding glass door that shielded his patient from the view of other patients. He made a few notes on the chart before continuing.

“He’s been beaten rather severely. He has several fractured ribs, broken bones in his left hand and a moderate concussion. There are soft tissue injuries to his midsection, his kidneys and a severe crush injury to his groin.”

The doctor paused, running his hand over his short cropped sandy blonde hair. It was easy to see that the man was tired, bordering on exhaustion.

“That he’s in Stage One MORFS is a blessing. The fractures are stabilized with wraps for the moment. The rebuild his body will go through during Stage Two should leave him good as new. We currently have him on intravenous pain killers and will piggyback a MORFS mixture and a banana bag to help sustain him. He’s awake, but groggy. I didn’t want to sedate him completely until you had arrived.”

The doctor pulled the curtain back enough for them to get to the bed. His mother gasped at the damage that had been inflicted on her son. Her chest tightened as she took in the swollen areas of his face where he’d been punched, the bandages on his arm and hand and the wide wraps around his chest to keep the broken ribs in place. She wanted to turn away, but didn’t, and gently took his unbandaged hand in hers.

“Mom,” was all Kevin could get out. Tears leaked from the boy’s eyes as he finally broke down and gave into the emotions that he had been holding in check.

“You’re going to be okay, Kevin,” she told him quietly, holding his hand. “The doctors are going to make sure you get better.”

“Okay, Mom.” Kevin’s far away voice that betrayed just how much analgesic the hospital had already given him.

Both his stood on each side of the bed when the nurse came in and removed the IV bag from the pole. With a quickness borne of many repetitions, she hung the large two liter bags, removed the plastic tube from the cock stop that led to the catheter in Kevin’s vein then bled and attached the lines from the two replacement IV bags.

“What are those?” Randy Milner asked eyeing the containers.

“The yellow one is a banana bag, a mixture of minerals and water soluble vitamins his body will need during Stage Two. The other is a high carbohydrate solution to keep his body fed.”

Taking a large syringe off her tray, she injected the contents into the infusion line. Kevin’s eyes closed and his labored breathing eased. The anxious look in Mrs. Milner’s eyes faded only slightly now that her little boy was asleep and not feeling pain.

“We’ll be moving him upstairs to the MORFS transition unit,” the stocky nurse said before reaching under the covers and withdrawing the ice bag that had been between the boy’s legs.

~* * * *~

I woke up feeling like the world had dumped a load of bricks on me. I hurt everywhere. The last thing I remembered clearly was getting beaten in the hallway by David Jenkins and his brother, and another thug. Cautiously, I opened my eyes and could make out Mom sitting in a chair at the bottom of the bed.

She looked up from her book and hurried over. “How are you feeling, honey?” she asked quietly.

Mom held my hand, and I was surprised that it didn’t hurt. I still hurt plenty elsewhere though.

“Horrible, Mom. What happened? David and Mike were beating me in school.”

“You’re in the hospital. You have MORFS.”

It barely registered in my fogged mind. I could feel the gritty, grungy taste in my mouth and started to sit up. Mom helped me get to the bathroom so that I could take care of things. I eyed the shower and decided that the medical junk sticking into my arm could survive getting wet. Sometime while I was standing under the hot water, someone brought in my pajamas from home so that I wouldn’t have to get into another one of those breezy, open in the back hospital gowns.

The bed sheets had been changed and I crawled back in. The nurse was there to change the IV bags and gave me a pill large enough to choke a horse to swallow. I barely got to say good night to Mom before I was out of it again.

The pill may have put me to sleep, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t being tormented. In my dreams David and Mike were there beating me, and I was mad, fighting back against them, but it was no use. Every time, they would win. I would wake up shaking with unspent rage. Mom or the on duty nurse would help me to the bathroom to clean up once I calmed down. When I was finished I'd find that the bed had been changed, the nurse was there to give me the pill and I’d be off into nightmare land again.

Eventually my nightmares changed. No longer was I the victim. My rage at the two boys boiled through my dreams. They’d run and I give chase, catching them easily, batting at them with powerful blows that sent them crashing into school lockers. I would chase them into a corner and they would turn to look at me. I could smell their fear as I advanced, growling. One would try to run past me and I’d swipe him with my paw, catching his clothes. He would go down and I would pounce, pounding him into the ground as I bit and clawed. Leaving the one, I would chase the other down the hall, seeing him trip, and I’d leap through the air to land on his back, ramming his face into the tile floor. I howled in victory as my tormentors lay broken and bleeding around me.

As the dream faded I felt myself waking up with what sounded like a howl fading in my ears. I was lying on my side and Mom was still there facing me. She put down the book she was reading and came over to the bed, helping me to sit up. The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t hurt anywhere and the bandages around my ribs were gone. The second thing I noticed was the grey, black and brown fur running down my arm.

“Oh,” was all I could muster up the effort to say.

“How are you feeling, honey?” Mom asked quietly.

“I’ll survive, I think.” I tried to grin at her, but something told me that I didn’t quite pull it off. “I really stink, Mom. I need to shower.”

She helped me get up and made sure I was steady on my feet. I shuffled into the bathroom and took care of things. I turned on the shower and while waiting for the water to heat, I looked at myself in the mirror.

Yellow lupine eyes stared back at me. I was the wolf from my dreams. I smiled, a corner of my lip curled up to show off wicked looking fangs and teeth. I looked at my hands and could see that my fingers had been blunted somewhat and instead of fingernails I had sharp, black claws coming from the ends. Behind me, I could feel a tail twitching. The shower water was hot, so I got in and immediately started to feel better.

I started to reach for the soap, but thought better of it and grabbed the bottle of shampoo that was on the shelf. Starting from the top, I worked downward slowly, head first, the arms then chest.

My hands hit something firm and very sensitive as they spread the shampoo over my chest. That shocked my eyes wide open. Exploring a bit more, I felt not a flat boyish chest, but mounds, topped by sensitive nipples that made things tingle when I ran my hands over them.

“Ohhhh-kay,” I muttered to myself. Half afraid of what I would find, I moved my hand from my chest downward. Touching myself between my thighs, what used to be there wasn’t there any longer.

Twisty, I thought to myself. It took a moment but I realized that it didn’t fill me with revulsion or anger or any emotion I could name. It was like someone had said my bike was red. It was probably MORFS doing something to my head to keep me from going into meltdown or something.

Being a twisty wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Better than being a short, geeky boy. Guys were always paying attention to girls at school, even the not so pretty ones.

Part of me shouted that I should be upset about the changes, about something, anything. But at the moment I couldn't muster up any feelings at all, except relief; relief at finally being clean and not having to smell the stink of my change.

I got out and dried off, slicking the water from my fur and tail and still using three towels to get everything dry. Going back out to the hospital room I found that Mom was still there. Dad had been outside smoking and had a cup of coffee before coming back. Oh man, my nose was telling me all sorts of things!

Behind me the door opened. Instantly I turned and reacted, growling and barking at the intruder.

“KEVIN!” Dad shouted.

Instantly I was sorry. My ears laid back and I pushed sideways into Dad’s side.

“I’m sorry.” I whined, I actually whined! Oh, man, is this going to take some getting used to!

The nurse acted as if nothing strange had happened. She continued into the room and let us know that the doctor would be arriving shortly to give me a check-up.

The doctor was an older woman who listened to my heart and lungs, and did other doctor types of things before pronouncing me fit.

“Since it’s so late, we can either release her in the morning, or you can sign out now.” The woman gave me a smile. “The cafeteria is still open; since I’m sure you’re hungry for solid food. Nine days on fluids is a bit long, even for a MORFS patient.”

Nine days?

“We’ll sign out now,” Mom said. Dad simply nodded his agreement.

“But Mom, what am I going to wear?” I barely stopped myself from another whine.

Mom reached into an oversized beach bag and brought out a brush and comb as well as a set of grey sweats. She shooed Dad out, telling him that we’d be out in a bit.

She sat on the edge of the bed and patted the mattress next to her. She used the comb to get out the few knots and tangles in my fur and then the brush.

“I didn’t want to say anything while your father was in the room, honey, but you can’t walk around like you used to. You’re a girl now and have to keep certain things covered. Don’t worry about it right now though. I doubt that your father even noticed.”

By the time Mom was through there wasn't a hair out of place anywhere. The sweats did fit, but only just. They were tight across my bust, and any movement made things tingle. She had modified the bottoms so that there was a hole I could slide my tail through.

“We can go out tomorrow for some basic things, and then, when you’re up to it, a more thorough trip,” Mom told me in her matter of fact way.

“Thanks,” was all I could think to say as I leaned into her side.

As we left, we passed the nurse’s station and I waved at the nurse I’d barked at earlier. Me... Barked … man, things really had changed.

The trip to the basement cafeteria was uneventful. We passed only a couple of hospital workers. Either they were too wrapped up in their own world, or were used to having MORFs survivors walking around. As we entered, the smells were almost overpowering.

Dad went through the line, while Mom and I found a table in the almost empty cafeteria. I tried to sit in the chair properly, but couldn’t figure out what to do with my tail. Finally I turned the chair sideways and sat that way. Dad brought the food and we ate in silence, mostly because I was pushing the food in as fast as I could.

“Kevin, stop wolfing your food.” Dad said quietly.

I looked at him and tried not to choke as I couldn’t help but laugh. “Dad!”

“Sorry, it just slipped out.” Dad said, looking embarrassed.

I finished my burger and asked if I could have something else. My stomach grumbled loudly that it wasn’t close to being satisfied. Dad fished out some money and I went back to the serving line. The choices really didn’t appeal to me. My brain was telling me the chicken should be covered in feathers and the beef should be bloody, rather than well done.

In the end I got a double helping of chicken and some veggies and went back to the table. It was hard for me to slow down and eat normally. I really did want to wolf my food; my instincts were telling me that I had to gorge before something bigger came along to take it away.

The drive home was pretty much anticlimactic. Dad opened the door and we all filed in. It was after midnight and I said goodnight to everyone and headed to my room. My eyes were drooping as I stripped, crawled up on my bed and crashed.

In the morning, I uncurled from where I found myself on the top of the bedspread. I stood in front of the mirror looking over my new body. The bathroom door had a full length mirror on the back and I could see everything. My shape had changed, of course, and I was taller than my original 5 foot 4 inches. My legs were digitigrade. My feet had the same general shape as before, but much wider. The toes ended in long curled claws. No more human shoes for me.

My fur was longer this morning. Last night I could see the outline of my arm under the grey, brown and black hair. Today I couldn’t. My pelt was getting thicker and quickly too. My gaze settled on the most prominent new feature, or should I say features, my breasts. I cupped them with my paws. Each was more than a double handful.

I smiled at myself in the mirror, as I touched myself. The mysterious bumps all the girls had hidden under their clothes, and I now had a pair of my own. My brain ping-ponged between oh wow and so what as I explored. Each was topped by a dark nipple that crinkled hard when I ran the pad of a finger over and around it, and caused a shiver of ohhh. My legs quivered and there was a sensation of something magnificent between my thighs.

Mom yelled that breakfast was ready which ended my explorations.

I tried putting the sweats on and neither half would fit. The top was too small to pull down across my chest and the bottoms were too tight to go any higher than my thighs now. I had filled out overnight, a lot. Downstairs the kitchen door to the garage thudded shut and I could hear the outside garage door roll open. A moment later, the motors on Dad’s electric car started and he drove off to work.

I bounced down the stairs and met Mom in the kitchen.

“Kevin,” Mom said sternly, “I will not have you traipsing around the house in the altogether. Go back upstairs and put something on.”

“I tried, Mom,” I started. “The sweats you gave me last night won’t fit now. Neither will anything of mine.” I ducked my head and looked at her sidelong. “I grew.”

Mom came up with me and we dug around in my things, only to confirm what I had told her. Mom’s things wouldn’t fit either; I was larger across the bust now than she was. We ended up taking scissors to a pair of dad’s jeans, shortening the legs and putting a V-notch in the back for my tail. I flipped it around several times and nothing seemed to be pinching or binding. One of Dad’s t-shirts served as my top, with the hem rolled up and a knot between my breasts to hold everything snug.

I forced myself to eat breakfast slowly and not go face first into the plate. Mom outlined the strategy for the day, while I got seconds of everything. We’d be getting shoes, pants, skirts and tops, pretty much in that order. Mom was mapping out power shop at the mall near the house.

Dad had joked in the past that Mom planned a mall crawl the way the Allies planned D-Day.

It was Saturday and the mall was busy. It wasn’t totally packed, but it was going to get that way by the afternoon. Mom had an all-day shop planned and I wasn’t looking forward to it. The first place we stopped was a shop called Paws and Claws, Shoes and Gloves for the Discriminating Fur. I guess we could start there.

The “shoes” really weren’t shoes, not in the normal sense. These were more like leather slippers designed for clawed feet. My claws slipped through holes in the toe of the slipper. The bottoms were textured so I’d have a bit of grip on tile and other hard, smooth surfaces.

The gloves were similar, but had two designs, open and closed. The open variety covered my fingers but left my claws visible. The closed version covered my claws with a strong puncture resistant mesh on the inside of each glove finger.

Between the two of us, we picked out three sets of each. I walked out of the store carrying two, and wearing the other. It really was better walking on the tile flooring of the mall with the slippers on. I didn’t feel like my feet were going to slide out from under me. I resisted the urge to shake my paws to try and get the gloves off. I wore the closed fingered gloves because I really didn’t want to puncture something, or someone, by accident.

Our next target was pants and skirts. Mom knew of a popular store and we were off. As we walked the main floor I could feel someone watching. I looked around and spotted a trio of older teens staring at us. I’d seen the expression before, on David and Mike, when they wanted to cause trouble. I hoped these guys would pick on someone else.

It wasn’t long before Mom pulled me into a store and we were back among the pants looking for something that would fit. The store clerk spotted us coming in, caught sight of me and pointedly ignored us as we went around the store searching for pants that would work for someone with a tail.

Mom approached the clerk who was checking the tags on things she was taking out of a box.

“Excuse me,” Mom started.

“No.” was the twenty something’s reply, not even looking up at Mom.

“I was wondering…”

“NO.” the clerk looked at me, then faced Mom. “We don’t have anything … for that.”

Mom looked at the girl, stunned. Everyone had heard of discrimination against morphs in general and hybrids in particular. This was the first time we had run face first into it. I could feel that Mom wanted to lash out at the clerk but she held her temper. She turned and caught my hand as she walked past, headed for the store’s entrance.

Mom stormed up the mall’s promenade a while before running out of mad. We found a seat near the mall’s central fountain. I watched people go past while mom fished out tissues and blew her nose.

“You’re not saying anything honey,” Mom said while I watched a pair of little girls on a tandem leash walk past staring. I wiggled my fingers at them and they giggled before getting almost dragged past us by the woman with them.

“What’s there to say, Mom?”

“You’re not mad at what happened at the store?”

“Not really. It happens at school too, so I’m used to it.” I turned to face her. “The popular girls make sure guys like me all know we’re lower than slime. The jocks slam us every chance they get, cause, well, they’re jocks and we’re not.” I shrugged. “The best I ever hoped for was to have a few friends and be invisible.”

I might have had air of indifference to what had happened at the store, and what went on at school, but it still hurt. Friends might blunt the pain but knowing that people hated you for something you couldn’t control still felt like a knife in the gut.

We remained on the bench for a few more minutes before Mom got us up and we were off to another store.

This next one we visited was a bit friendlier. However, the clothes hadn’t been designed for hybrids with tails. Mostly they looked like regular clothes that had been seam-ripped and the opening basted with tape. Yes, I had taken home-economics classes that included sewing and basic cooking, Mom had insisted. Nothing caught our interest as we circulated around the store. We left that store empty handed as well.

The third store was the best. They carried teen clothing and a section for hybrids that was about a third of the floor.

Mom eyeballed my size and then swept through the racks and stacks of clothing. Off we headed to the changing room to try on the clothes. The pile was quickly pared down. I modeled the selections for Mom, who was waiting in front of the changing rooms. She nodded her approval. I kept the last blouse and the knee length denim skirt I had on and we headed to the check out.

We window shopped our way to the food court where we took a break for lunch. While we had been in the stores the mall had become more crowded. I sat with our bags while Mom got her food. I took my gloves off and laid them on the table next to mom’s purse. When she returned she handed me a couple of bills so that I could get my lunch. I had just stepped into the queue when there were loud voices nearby.

Turning, I spotted the group of troublemakers from before surrounding a small hybrid girl. She wasn’t even close to my size and there were three of them picking on her. The girl was near to tears!

A growl rose up in my throat when the largest boy in the group grabbed the girl by the arm and began pulling her out of the court. The girl tried to get away but the boy was just too big for her.

I didn’t think; I reacted and charged the group. The smaller of the two boys tried to stop me. I shoved him out of my way and kept moving toward the boy dragging the little girl. I bent the boy’s thumb backwards, prying his hand off her, then got between them. When he reached for me, I growled again, baring my teeth and stared at him, daring him to do something, anything. I wanted him to try, I was HOPING he would try. I could feel my hackles go up. He stopped in his tracks.

“Leave her alone.” I told the remaining pair between growls. I curled my fingers, flexing, ready to strike at the teen if he tried anything. “Such a brave group of thugs, three of you picking on one little ten year old.” I snarled. My eyesight had washed out completely.

“Stay out of this, you dammed furry freak!” The girl called out. She made like she was going to get closer and I snapped my teeth at her. She scuttled back behind the boy.

We were at a standoff.

The commotion had caught the attention of mall security. A small contingent of a human and three hybrids approached to see what was going on. The pair of teens tried to melt into the growing crowd, but the security squad wasn’t having any of that.

When the supervisor, a tall ursine hybrid asked what was going on, it was the oldest boy that answered. “Just trying to keep the trash from taking over.”

That comment didn’t go over too well. One guard went to where the boy I had shoved was getting his wind back and sitting on the floor. The human helped him up off the floor. I stared at him as well, my hackles up, growling at him as the guard brought him over to the other two.

Instinctively I reached back to take hold of the girl’s hand to make sure she was safe. I backed us away and was able to calm down enough that I didn’t feel that I was going to rip everyone’s throat out. I turned to face the girl and knelt down bringing me to her eye level. She had gray fur on her arms and face and a tiny black dot nose and furry, rounded ears on top of her head. A mouse hybrid.

“Are you okay?” I asked her. She nodded silently. “And what’s your name?”

“Tina. What’s yours?”

The question surprised me, as I couldn’t really use Kevin anymore. “Katie.” I told her the first name that popped into my head.

I could hear someone in heels approaching from behind us. I sprang up and spun around, facing the newcomer with a growl. That brought the woman up short as she looked at me and then down at the girl behind me.

A tug on my fur got my attention and I looked down at Tina.

“That’s my Mom, Katie! Please don’t eat her.”

“Oh. Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “Three … idiots, were picking on your daughter.”

“Thank you for keeping her safe,” the woman told me. She was a mouse hybrid herself. There was an awkward silence before the woman reached down and took her daughter’s hand and started up the court. Tina looked back and waved with her free hand. I waved back and then went to sit with Mom who’d been watching the whole thing.

“That was a very brave thing, Kevin,” Mom told me.

“Katie.” I said.

“What?” Mom asked.

“It’s Katie. My new name. I’m a girl, mom. I can’t be called Kevin anymore.” Suddenly I got a case of the shakes and my eyes were tearing. “Mom?” She reached over and put her hand on my arm.

“It’s okay, hon. It happens after something like this. It’s just the adrenalin wearing off.”

“I … I don’t know what happened …I wanted … I wanted to bite him, Mom. I wanted to hurt him, badly.”

“But you didn’t. That’s all that matters.” Mom slid a drink over in front of me to sip on while she went to get lunch for me.

The ursine hybrid guard came over to my table while I was sipping on the drink, trying to get my nerves under control.

“Hello.” His voice was gruff sounding, but something told me that it was just the way it came out. His brown fur stood out in sharp contrast to the white and orange vest he wore. He didn’t have the stink of fear around him like the trio of thugs had.

I looked up at him and tried to shrink back. He must have noticed as he squatted down next to the table so that we were more or less at eye level with each other.

“I wanted to come by and thank you for helping. That group has been annoying people in here for a while and we finally got enough evidence this time to really do some good.”

“You mean hybrids,” I said, just loud enough for him to hear. “They’ve been annoying hybrids.”

“It might sound a bit corny, but hybrids are people too. How long has it been since your change?” His voice was calm, but still my fear grew.

“Yesterday. I was in the hospital this time yesterday.” I told him, ducking my head and not looking at him. I could feel my hackles rising along with my panic. My vision started to wash out again, everything going gray.

“It’s good that you’re out and about. I took me almost a week to get up the courage to come out of the house,” he said, seemingly unaware of my growing panic.

Mom appeared about then and I grabbed her arm.

“Kev … Katie?” She asked. “What’s wrong, hon?” She reached up and stroked the fur on my head and I buried my head against her hip.

“Mom!” I yelped.

“It’s okay. Nothing is going to hurt you.” She began rubbing my head and ear.

The security officer backed away and asked Mom if we would come by their office in the mall and make a statement as to what happened so they could add it to the report. He turned and walked back into the crowd of people.

When I looked around and saw that he wasn’t there anymore, the panic receded. I was left shaken by what had happened. Then I noticed the food Mom had brought and immediately my stomach growled and I dug in.

“Katie, what’s gotten into you?” Mom asked concern plain in her voice.

“I don’t know. It was … weird. I mean, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, just talking to me. He was being nice, but I couldn’t get out of my head that he was going to hurt me and I couldn’t do anything about it. But now that he’s gone, everything’s back to normal.” I shoved an egg roll into my muzzle and crunched down on it. I finished the plate and was still hungry. I went back up and got seconds and finished them as well.

We cleaned up, and after dropping our booty off in the car we went back inside. We walked past the security office and let them know that we were there to make a statement about the incident at the food court. A ferret hybrid woman led me back to a conference room where they had a camera set up. She told me what I was to do and then turned on the camera. She read from a sheet of paper, an introduction and identified herself then asked me to identify myself. I more or less repeated what had happened at the food court for the camera. The woman asked me a few questions and pretty much that was it.

It was over in less than 15 minutes.

After we left the security office Mom headed us straight to a store that specialized in undergarments for hybrids.

“Mom, you’ve got to be kidding.” I whispered to her as we passed through the opening.

“I promise, they don’t bite, and you’ll feel more comfortable with some additional support.”

We went in and Mom led us over to one of the sales clerks, a red fox vixen.

Mom explained that I had gone through MORFS and needed to be sized for intimates.

“Sure.” The clerk had a very cheery tone. “Right this way to the torture chamber.” She giggled as she led me away.

The girl chattered at me as she had me remove my top.  “Okay, arms up” she ordered as she wrapped the tape measure around me. She snugged the tape and wrote down the measurement. She slid the tape under my breasts, then again across the nipples. I tried not to whimper as she tugged the tape snug.

“Sensitive?” she asked

I nodded, feeling the tingles starting again.

She did the measurements again, this time with my arms at my side.

“How long?”

“Huh?” I asked.

“How long have you been a girl?” She repeated.

“I finished changing yesterday.”

“Don’t worry hon, you’ll get used to it.”

The clerk smiled and wrapped the tape around my waist and hips. Taking the measurements out with her, she came back, bringing Mom with her and a stack of packages and bras on hangers. In the end we picked out six bra and panty sets and three heavy sports bra tops.

One bra attracted my attention. It was sheer, soft and featherweight. I opened the front hook on it and slipped it on. My brain yelled at me again that I should be taking this off a girl, not putting one on! The feeling that I should be upset about being a twisty came back.

I should be feeling SOMETHING, shouldn’t I?

I looked at my reflection in the mirror, and saw a hot looking girl, at least a nine on the hottie scale. It still felt like I was looking at someone else in the mirror.

Picking up a package of panties, I scored the top open with a claw tip. I pulled the sheer, pale grey colored thong from the package and looked at it. Two slender elastic bands connected the front and back with a small plastic bead chain and keeper.

It was nothing like pulling up my white jockeys. The thong settled into place with a whisper and feeling the soft cloth brushing against me caused a little shiver to skitter up from below my waist.

The vixen helped me adjust the bra straps and the plastic chain that went around my tail to hold the thong in place. She whispered in my ear that I would have to get used to men and women lusting after me. With a touch on my arm and a smile at my reflection in the mirror, she withdrew leaving me alone in the changing booth.

I redressed in the blouse and skirt, only fumbling a bit with the buttons being on the wrong side. The girl in the mirror looked pretty, but I still felt disconnected from what I saw.

Mom came back wondering if I needed any help. I shook my head.

“Are we done?” I asked quietly, emotionlessly.

Mom seemed to sense my mercurial shift in mood and nodded. We paid and left the store and walked quietly to the car. The trip through the parking lot was uneventful. I fully expected that the trio of idiots would make some sort of scene outside the mall as we left.

“Mom,” I asked as we moved with the weekend traffic away from the city center. “Shouldn’t I be upset about all this?”

“About what, dear?”

“This,” I gesture towards myself. “My change, my fur, my … everything, anything, something?” I stopped for a moment and tried to put what I was thinking into words. “Before yesterday I was a guy. I was wearing jeans and interested in guy things. Now, I’m a girl, buying bras and skirts. Somewhere along the line, shouldn’t I be mad, upset or even a little bit emotional about it all? All I feel is numb.”

“Does it bother you?” Mom asked.

“Yeah, a bit.” I told her at first, then, “No, it bothers me a lot.”

“We need to make your post-MORFS appointment. I’ll call today and try to get you in on Monday. You can ask the people that should know best about these things.”

Mom left me alone with my thoughts as we drove home. We made one stop along the way. Mom hopped out and went in the store, leaving me in the car. She wasn't gone long and came out with just a small bag.

I was relieved once we got back home. I took my haul of clothes upstairs to my room and sat it all on the bed. Opening drawers and looking in the closet told me in no uncertain terms that something had to go. I went back downstairs and got a roll of trash bags and some plastic storage boxes that we had left over from our last purge of dead holiday lights and other decorations.

Stripping out of my clothes, I put them with my other new clothes and got to work cleaning out the drawers and closet of things that I could throw out. Slowly, bag by bag I got rid of Kevin. There was little from my past life that I wanted to keep.

The shopping bags on the bed were emptied as I moved my new girly things into the closet and chest of drawers. Once done with those, I started on the rest of my room.

I had been busy for hours when I finally called a halt. There was a line of garbage and shopping bags along one wall of my room filled with things from a past life that had no meaning for me any longer. I looked at them and knew all that stuff was what I used to be, but was too numb to work up any emotion over it. It was just stuff.

The only thing that tripped any sort of feeling in me was that I smelled and I needed to get clean.

Crossing the hallway I warmed up the shower. I pulled several towels from the linen closet in the hall. I had just closed the door when there was a knock. Mom came in and handed me a bottle.

“You’ll need this. It’s better for you than regular hair shampoo,” she said with me standing in front of her in nothing but my fur.

I looked at the bottle. “It says Mane and Tail. It’s for horses, Mom.”

“It works just fine on people, and people with fur," she smiled, gave me a squeeze on the arm and stepped out, closing the door quietly behind her.

She was right. It worked great. I didn't have to stand under the shower head rinsing soap out for fifteen minutes like I had to with the shampoo at the hospital. I dried off as best I could and went into my room. Mom must have heard me. She carefully opened the door and walked in carrying a brush, comb and hair dryer.

“You’ll need these so you don’t get tangled.”

She sat me down backwards in the chair from my desk and turned on the blow dryer. With a practiced ease she worked out the knots and tangles in my fur. We didn’t say anything as she worked carefully from my head down to my tail and then out on my arms. I could see us in the wall mirror. It felt nice to have her there doing this for me. When she was done, she put her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek.

“Mom,” I started, not really knowing how to ask, “how … I don’t know if I’m asking this the right way or not… How do you know about all this, the clothes and the mane and tail all that stuff?”

“When I was growing up, I had a little brother. When he was fourteen he got MORFS and changed into a beautiful filly hybrid. My grandmother and I had to do all of the same things with her as we have to do with you now. Elise took the changes hard. It took quite a while before she accepted that she was a girl and an equine hybrid. She was quite pretty too.”

“Was?” I caught the word.

“I’ll tell you about her sometime, Katie, but not right now.” Mom said, a distinct tremor coming into her voice.

“Whatever it is that you think is wrong, we will get through it. Boy or girl, homo sapiens or homo morphed makes no difference, Katie. Your father and I will always love you. Remember that. The packaging doesn’t count. It’s what’s inside that matters most.” She gave me a final hug and got up. “I’m going to make your appointment with the MORFS center, then start dinner. Come help if you feel up to it.”

Mom went down the stairs and I heard her on the phone.

I moved over to the tablet on my desk and powered it up. As it logged on, I reset the camera to take a couple of self-portraits. I took four or five snaps and pasted the best of them into an e-mail to my friends. I let them know everything that had happened to me since the pep rally. It wasn’t much of a message, since I’d been out most of the time. But it was something, and they were my friends after all. I was surprised that my hunt and peck style of typing with claws wasn’t much different than typing with fingers.

When Monday came, Mom drove us back to the same hospital where I had changed. This time we didn’t go into the main building, but one of the outbuildings. The MORFs clinic was around on the far side. It was a real non-descript building with just a sign out front to identify it as the “Roslyn Cummings Regional MORFS Center”.

We went inside and spent the half hour before my appointment filling out the paperwork necessary to register my gender change, name change and all the other minutiae that the government kept on people anymore.

The waiting room was large, and it had quite a number of people waiting to get in. Most, I guessed, were family members waiting for someone seeing the doctors. I handed in the papers at the window and the receptionist just nodded and let me know that I would be called in a few minutes.

I never considered twenty-five minutes a few, but that was how long it took before an assistant came to the door and called Katie Milner. We were led back to a large sized examining room. When the doctor came in and introduced herself, I recognized her from the mall over the weekend.

“How’s Tina doing?” I asked her.

“How do you know my daughter?” she asked, still looking at the medical chart.

I give her a low growl and she looked up immediately. I smiled at her, letting her know the growl wasn’t serious. She looked shocked for a moment, then it dawned on her just who I was.

“You’re from the food court,” she said finally. “Tina is doing just fine. Thank you again for getting her away from those Purists.”

“That’s something I wanted to talk to someone about.” I told her about what I wanted to do to the boy, how I wasn’t thinking, but reacting. And I told her about how I had reacted to the bear hybrid guard later when he came over to talk to me. And how I felt, or rather didn’t feel, about what MORFS had done to me. It all came out in a gush of words. The woman’s pen flew across the chart as she took notes.

She told me that I could speak to someone in a bit, but that she was going to examine me first.

I didn’t bother with the gown they had for me, just got out of what I had been wearing and sat on the exam table.

“Please put on the gown, Miss Milner,” the doctor asked.

“I’m more comfortable without it,” I said.

“What if a man comes in and sees you? You’re naked,” she pointed out.

I looked down at my fur covered body and then back at the doctor.

“What’s he going to see?” I asked.

The woman shrugged, said nothing else about it and started the exam.

The exam took well over an hour. The doctor poked, prodded, measured, peeked at, and stuck me for blood. She even had me put my feet up in the stirrups, which was annoying and uncomfortable, but one of those things that I gritted my teeth and endured. I found out that I was now over six feet tall and weighed almost one hundred and sixty pounds. Once the doctor was done she asked me to get dressed. When I didn’t move to get my clothes on, she just went to the door and departed. The telepath came in a few minutes later.

“Katie Milner?” the man asked.

“That’s me.” I told him. I sat on the exam table facing him as he walked in and took a seat on the doctor’s roll-around stool.

The man looked to be in his early thirties, wearing dark shades, dressed in a lab coat and carrying a medical chart.

“Did the doctor ask you to get dressed before I came in?” he asked, looking at me.

“Sure. But what’s the point? Clothing is mostly irritating. Why should I bother when everything is already covered?” I pointed out.

“Because human society at large demands a clothed body,” he chuckled. “It’s one of the things that allow us to maintain the illusion that we are civilized. I’m Terry Fisher, by the way, duty head shrinker and telepath. Your notes say that you had a run in over the weekend. Want to tell me about that?”

“There was group of older teens that were bothering a mouse morph. I got between them.”

He put his fingers to his right temple in the classic, ‘I’m getting something’ pose.

“I’m sensing that there was more to it than that,” he said quietly.

I couldn’t stop a growl from coming out as those feelings came back with a vengeance.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said, looking at me intently. “Want to tell me about it?”

“I wanted to protect the girl, at first. I wasn’t thinking, just reacting.” I told him slowly. “One of them got in my way so I shoved him, hard, and he went down just as hard. I got the girl behind me and when another boy started towards me I wanted him to do … anything, something. I wanted to rip his throat out. I barely held the urge … no, not urge, the compulsion to take him on and kill him. It would have been so sweet to feel his throat in my teeth.”

“But you held it in check,” he said, his voice quiet, soothing.

“I almost didn’t. It was like, you’ve threatened one of mine, and now you’re going to die.” I could feel the same anger rising up in me now, the same cold murderous desire. A low growl broke out. I paced the room. I was on the opposite end of the room when I felt the pressure in my head. Instinctively I knew where it was coming from and I turned to stare at the man, a growl in my throat. He was dead meat.

The doctor bolted from his chair heading for the door. I leaped to the exam table and then pounced on him from behind just as he got a hold on the door knob. We both crashed to the ground, scattering objects across the room. My growls were full throated snarls. I stood over him on all fours. I was going to deal with this invader of my mind!

“Katie, this isn’t a positive outcome. You need to calm down.” The doctor’s voice shook with fear. He reached his hand up and put it on my arm. “Calm, Katie,” he repeated.

He kept repeating the word and slowly the anger left, the color returned to my vision. I scrambled away from him and retreated to the far corner of the exam room. There I huddled myself into as small a thing as I could. The doctor came over and sat on the floor next to me.

“I must say that I’ve had all sorts of lunch offers, but that’s the first time anyone wanted to eat me for lunch.”

I was going to snap back at him, but I could see the grin on his face.

“You’re not mad?”

“No. Why should I be? You were doing nothing more than behaving like a cornered wolf.” He became serious again. “Will you be okay here? I have to check something.”

Without waiting Dr. Fisher got up from the floor and slowly walked out of the room. Within minutes he was back, this time with Mom in tow. I was still sitting on the floor in the corner.

I latched on to Mom with both arms, burying my head against her.

Before I could say anything Dr. Fisher started.

“I must say, Katie, that you are not the ordinary sort of MORFS survivor we see here. I actually had to do a search of our database to find a match for your transformation. There have been only three other recorded cases in the last sixty years. It’s obvious that you are a wolf hybrid, but it goes much deeper than just your outer appearance. As you might know, MORFS can breakdown and rewrite a person’s genetic coding. In most instances of hybridization we see a human base with hybrid characteristics. In your specific case, it’s the other way around; we have a wolf base, with human characteristics.”

“Just what does that mean, Doctor?” Mom asked him.

“Well, in one case, it means that you are likely to regress when under stress; so that your wolf nature comes out. From your description, that’s what happened to you at the mall. You’ll need to work hard to control it. About your other concerns, I think they are in line with your lupine instincts. Bears and wolves are both at the top end of the food chain in nature. Wolves hunt in packs, but bears hunt alone. A wolf will back away from a fight if it’s alone and facing a larger animal. I think that was the panic you were feeling when approached by the security guard. It was instinctual, even though the guard had no intention of hurting you. And that is why, once he left, you recovered so quickly.

“As far as the other things, all I can say is that they track with a wolf’s basic drives. At a primitive level, wolves, or most other animals, just are. They don’t care about male or female, except during their breeding seasons, fashion or many of the other things that humans care about. I don’t think anyone has ever seen a Grey Wolf fashion show on the Discovery Channel.” He tried to give me a mirthful smile, but I wasn't in the mood.

“Am I dangerous?” I asked, subdued from the emotional roller coaster I’d been on over the last few minutes.

“Katie, we are all dangerous,” Dr. Fisher started, “given the right circumstances. If you mean, are you inherently dangerous to the people around you, the answer is no. I will be clearing you to go back to school. The paperwork will be waiting for you at the front desk. I would like to see you here in three months to do a follow-up.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Mom said as the man departed. “Get your things, honey.”

Once back down at the car, we turned away from going home and headed back towards the mall.

“Aren’t we going home?”

“Not just yet. We need to get a few more things for school and then we need to have your hair done.” Mom gave me a small smile.

I was going to argue, but decided against it. My fur had been growing out quickly and I could probably use a trim.

We reached the mall after a short drive. Since it was a weekday, it was practically deserted. Mom led me up to the second floor to a store that I recognized immediately. Inwardly I groaned as I really didn’t want to think about going back to school. Inside were school uniforms for the various junior and senior high schools in the area. It wasn’t hard to pick out what I needed. I tried one on in the back room to make sure the sizes fit my new form and we got 5 more.

As we left the store, I caught a familiar scent. Turning around, I saw the guard from the incident in the food court standing on one of the sky bridges looking down on the first floor promenade. I gave Mom the bags I was carrying and went over to talk to the big bear hybrid. I could feel my hackles and fear rising as I got closer, but I pushed them down. I was going to do this, no matter what. I was not going to let primal fears overwhelm my common sense.

I got up to within touching distance and explained about what happened in the food court and apologized. I didn’t want him thinking that I was some sort of bigot. He smiled and explained that he had never thought of me as a bigot or anything else. I spotted his name tag. Haskell.

“Are you related to a teacher named Haskell?”

“Dwain? Yeah, he’s my twin brother. You’re Miss Milner, aren’t you? I saw your name on the report from the food court incident. You’re not related to that boy that got beaten at school, are you?”

“Actually, I am the boy that got beaten at school.” I told him. “Mr. Bear got me out of the locker.”

“Mr. Bear?” the guard cocked his head.

“He lets us call him that at school.” I tell him, trying not to blush. “I’m in his gym class.”

We said our good-byes and I went back to where Mom was waiting. It wasn’t a very long drive from the mall to our next stop.

I let Mom lead me into the shop. I almost ran out again as the smell of chemicals assaulted my nose. The attendant behind the counter handed me a small tube and said that it would help. I guess I gave her a very blonde look. She took the tube and swiped it across my nose.

I sneezed once, but the stench faded to a manageable level.

“Better now?” she asked.

I nodded. The shop wasn’t crowded, so they sat me in one of the chairs immediately. Mom pulled the owner aside and talked quietly to her.

“Yes, we can do that. That won’t be a problem,” the shop owner told mom. “Okay, attention ladies. This is Miss Milner’s first visit to an establishment like ours. It will be hair and nails today, but one at a time. We don’t want to overwhelm the new girl,” the woman smiled at me and patted my arm. "A little pampering is a good thing, Katie."

Then they descended, one at a time like the woman promised. I got washed, conditioned, clipped and combed. Another woman came with her tray of implements and set up alongside the chair I was in. She started working with a regular nail file, then looked at her work.

“Maggie,” she called “she has nano-nails.”

“Eh?” I asked.

“It means that your claws are reinforced with carbon nanotubes. It puts a whole new meaning into the phrase “tough as nails.” We don’t have the equipment here to trim them, but they really don’t need trimming now. We can still make them pretty.” The shop owner went to help someone who had walked in the front door.

It wasn’t long before I heard the word ‘animal’ come from the front of the store and I swiveled my ears to catch more of what was being said.

“No, I will not sign any such petition, nor will I change this store’s policy of non-discrimination.” Maggie was saying.

“You don’t seem to understand. One of those filthy animals attacked a human in the mall, without cause. It could have killed one of our church members!” The woman’s voice bordered on shrill.

“I’m sure that if your parishioner was attacked, it was with cause. Your so-called ambassadors have harassed my customers and staff quite often in the past. Now, please leave.” Maggie told the unseen visitor, her voice showing her agitation.

“I’m trying to protect—“

“Leave. Now! Or would you like me to call the police and have you removed for trespass and harassment?”

I heard the door open and practically slam shut.

Maggie came back to the chairs. Her aggravation was plain on her face and walk.

“What did the old biddy want, Maggie?” the woman doing my nails asked.

“Wanted us to sponsor a petition demanding that hybrids be banned from the mall and surrounding shops. It seems that one of their people was attacked in the mall on Saturday.”

I couldn’t help it; I growled.

“You and everyone else here feels the same way, honey,” the manicurist said. “I’ll hold them down and you can bite ‘em.”

“I almost did.”

“Eh?” the manicurist turned her head up to look at me.

I shook my head. I didn’t want a repeat of the doctor’s office in here.

“Hon, you can’t just drop something like that and then clam up,” the manicurist teased, smiling up from where she was layering polish on my claws, “Dish out the details. You’re a girl now; it’s one of the perks of being in the secret sisterhood.”

I couldn’t help but giggle.

“The woman, she was talking about me in the mall.” I briefly recounted the events from the food court.

“I wish those church members would pack up their pitchforks and move off someplace else. They give good God fearing folk a bad name.” The woman said, checking her work and sliding my paw under a heat lamp to dry the varnish.

Mom sat in the chair next to me and had a manicure as well. By the time we were finished and walking out into the late afternoon sun, I was actually feeling okay.

Chapter 3 – Back to School

Two weeks before the end of the school year.

Tuesday morning, a screeching noise woke me at some unholy hour of the morning. I pried my eyes open to look, but it wasn’t a nightmarish monster screaming, it was my clock. I slapped the alarm and got off the bed. With my eyes barely opened I started to put my clothes on. That is, until I got a whiff of me. I had taken a shower the night before. Guess it was going to be showers in the morning from now on.

Breakfast smelled wonderful when I came down stairs dressed in my school uniform skirt and blouse. Mom had laid out a double helping of everything and I barely controlled my urge to fall face first into it.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Katie?” Mom asked as I put the empty plate and cup into the sink. “You don’t have to go back today if you don’t feel up to it.”

“I’d only be putting it off Mom,” I said quietly. “I need to go back and face everyone.”

I gathered up what I was going to need for school. Mom stopped me at the door and held out a small box. It was unwrapped and inside was a set of ear clips with a feather dangle on each.

“No girl should have to face the world with naked ears.” She joked as she helped me get it clipped on properly. The brown and black feather on each one was topped by a turquoise bead and hung from the clip by a short, thin strip of rawhide. Primitive. It went well with my fur, and somehow it seemed right.

“Thanks,” I gave her a tight hug.

When we parked in front of the ancient gothic style school building, I started shaking. Memories of the beating flashed through my head. Mom put her hand on my arm, but it didn’t help. Anger built up in me, anger at David and Mike. The snarl and snap that came out of nowhere broke me out of the flashback.

“Katie?”

I sat next to Mom, stunned. Taking a couple of deep breaths, I let the emotions dispel and opened the car door.

“I’ll be fine Mom,” I said not knowing where the confidence came from. My insides were quaking.

Mrs. Warner was standing behind the counter when we walked into the office. The grey haired lady was a fixture at the school. Students joked that she had been hired when the school was built a hundred years ago.

She smiled as we came to the service counter. “Mrs. Milner, good morning,.” she said pleasantly.

“Good morning, Janice. We’re here to get Kevin’s records updated.” Mom handed over the folder of paperwork that we’d received from the MORFs center.

“Welcome back, ah, Katie. There shouldn’t be any problem getting everything updated before the end of the day. I don’t think that we will be able to change your gym class with only two weeks left in the year. Mr. Haskell is very good with making adjustments though.” She looked through all the papers in the folder. “It looks like everything is here. We’ll call if there’s a question.”

“Thank you, Janice,” Mom told her.

“Ah, Mrs. Warner?” I asked quietly. “Can I still use my old swipe card for lunch?”

“I don’t see why not, Katie. I’ll let the lunch room staff know.”

Back in the hallway, it was getting crowded with everyone coming in to go to lockers before home room.

“You have everything, Katie?” Mom asked.

“Yes, Mom, I have everything.” I told her, hoping she wouldn’t make a scene in front of everyone.

“Okay. I’ll see you at home tonight.”

She squeezed my paw before heading out the front door. I turned and headed to my old locker, ignoring the few catcalls and rude remarks that enviably follow every girl in the school. I’d have thought that the whistles and jeers would have bothered me, having overheard girls complaining about them. In fact, they didn’t bother me at all.

My locker was right where I had left it. I had to take my glove off in order to spin the combo dial and open it. There were several cards and envelopes on the floor, probably pushed through the vents. I picked them up and slid them inside my carryall to read at break or lunch.

Someone leaned over my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Hello, sexy.”

“Go away David,” I told the mystery voice.

“How did you know?”

I closed the locker door and turned to walk away.

“Hey!” the boy grabbed my arm to turn me around, “You don’t walk … AGH!”

I turned the way he pulled and there was a very loud and satisfying SMACK.

David’s face bounced off the closed locker door before the rest of him sagged and ended up sprawled on the hallway floor. The imprint of my paw was plainly visible on his cheek.

“I will do what I want, David Jenkins. Do not touch me again.” I stared down at him, a growl rising in my throat. I turned and walked away slowly.

It took a few steps to realize that David hadn’t recognize me. He had no clue! He should have at least guessed at who I was since I was opening Kevin’s locker. Then another thing hit me. I had slapped David Jenkins! I didn’t cave; I didn’t break down in tears. I could have howled!

I almost did!

My classes were just the same as before, mostly dull and boring. The teachers didn’t make much of anything about my new shape, which was fine with me. I collected my homework assignments for the time I was out with instructions that I had until the end of the week to turn them in for marking. The following week would be class finals for the year.

I didn’t see David again until lunch. I groaned mentally when I spotted him coming towards me with one of his cronies hot on his heels. I was able to side step as he made to knock the tray out of my hands. His crony tried the same stunt, but tripped and crashed into David and they both went down on the floor. There were a number of sniggers from students around the room.

I looked at them and shrugged.

A tall equine hybrid motioned me over and I was asked if I would like to sit at the MORFS table.

“Thank you,” I told them.

There was some shuffling as people made room for my larger size. One small girl wearing a set of squared framed glasses blushed as there was another crash from behind me and David’s voice yelling as he apparently hit the floor again. She giggled and her eyes changed color from silver to blue.

Introductions were made all around. The equine hybrid that had invited me over introduced himself. “I’m Greg Trantor,” he said quietly and with some difficulty. His face had a pronounced muzzle to it, which was making it hard for him to talk properly.

“I’m Katie Milner, Greg.” I replied. “Where’s Randy? He’s in the same grade still isn’t he?”

“He caught MORFS last night. He’s home.” He cocked his head at me, “How do you know my brother? I don’t remember him having any girlfriends.”

“He didn’t show you my picture?” I leaned closer to him so I didn’t have to speak loudly, “I’m Kevin, Greg. Well, I used to be Kevin. I just got over MORFS too.”

He whickered at me and smiled. “You turned into a hottie, Katie.”

I felt myself blush but doubted that Greg or the others could see it. The rest of lunch turned mostly towards the final exams that would be coming up the next week and which teachers would be grading the hardest.

My next class was gym. I dumped my things in my regular locker and went directly to the gym, bypassing the locker room. I didn’t have any gym clothes, anyway.

Mr. Haskell was on the other side of the gym, so I trotted over and stood away from him while he was talking to another teacher.

As the other teacher left, I went up to him. “May I help you, Miss?” he asked. Dwain Haskell was identical to his brother, a little over 7 feet tall and covered in thick brown fur.

“Hi, Mr. Haskell,” I started. I could feel my panic rising, but I forced it down. There was no reason for me to be afraid of this person, no matter what he looked like. “I wanted to thank you, for getting me out of that locker.”

“Kevin?” he asked.

I nodded. “I’m Katie now. I saw your brother at the mall over the weekend.”

“And how is good ol’ Teddy doing?” Mr. Haskell asked.

“Teddy? Your brother’s name is Teddy?” I asked, sidetracked by the revelation. I couldn’t help but giggle. “Teddy … Bear.”

I could see Mr. Haskell smiling.

“I’m sorry, sir. I shouldn’t laugh.”

“It’s okay. The Universe has a sense of humor. He got used to it years ago. And as for the locker, I’m just glad that you’re okay. Can you tell me who beat you up?”

“It was David and Mike Jenkins, and one of their friends.”

“Why they would do something like that?” I hesitated a bit. “Kevin, you took a severe beating. I heard what they did to you while I waited for your parents in the ER. It would be helpful to know the why of it as well.” Mr. Haskell kept his voice low and calm, but I could smell his agitation. Funny what my nose was telling me all the time.

“They did it ‘cause I gave David a paper that Miss Yamaguchi spotted as one she did in college. She gave him a zero on the paper and told the Dean about it. That flunked him out of the course and he has to make it up at summer school. He said that if he was going to spend a month in summer school taking the course over, that I could spend a month getting over what he was going to do to me.”

I was shaking by the time I finished saying it. I didn’t want to face it. That was my past, a previous life. Why did I have to go through it all over again?

“Kevin?” Mr. Haskell asked, putting one of his hands lightly on my shoulder.

“It’s Katie, sir. I’m sorry …”

“Nothing to be sorry for, Katie.” He bent down so that he was more on my eye level and handed me his stopwatch. “We will be doing full court basketball today. Why don’t you sit up in the bleachers and be my score keeper and timer.”

~* * * *~

Thursday was the afternoon reserved for an all student assembly in the gym. As that was almost the last day before the start of finals, the school wanted to give out its awards and other things today, rather than disrupt the exam schedules. Like with pep rallies, Mr. Haskell led us into the gym and into the bleachers. The introductions had just finished when I climbed down out of the bleachers. I was headed for the girl’s water closet when I spotted David and Mike Jenkins in the hallway. There had been rumors running around the school the day before that both of them had been picked up by the police, but I hadn’t paid too much attention to any of it.

I steeled myself and walked past both of them. They just looked at me but didn’t say anything. There was a set of smoke doors in the hallway that were supposed to stay open. But suddenly two different boys came through them and pulled the doors shut behind them. One of them wrapped a chain around the push bars to hold them closed.

One of the newcomers was familiar. It was the leader of the trio from the mall over the weekend. He wore a purple and black sports letter jacket from the Genetic Purity school.

“You don’t go here,” I asked him, “Or are you here to pick on little mouse girls?”

“That morphie rodent bitch will get what she deserves soon enough, just like her mother. And you.”

I could hear David and his brother trying to move up behind me, but I turned and backed against the lockers.

David pulled a baseball bat out from under his jacket. I growled and snarled at him. It stopped him for a moment but he looked around nervously and then charged in. He missed with his first swing and I ducked under the second. I raked him across the chest with my claws and was rewarded with the sound of ripping clothes and a scream of pain. The other two boys closed in from my left. One of them punched me in the head as I turned, and the world went grey.

There were only flashes, impressions that I got, slashing, biting, the taste of hot blood in my mouth, chasing prey, running it to ground and leaping, driving it downward and howling my victory. The last impression I had was a sharp stinging pain in my thigh before the world went black.

~* * * *~

The first thing I noticed when the world came back into focus was the stink. My nose told me I was in a hospital. I slowly turned my head and could see medical junk around me and a monitor on a stand quietly beeping. The curtain was pulled around the bed. I lifted my hand, well, tried to anyway, but it was strapped down in a large leather cuff. My other hand was as well. Trying to move my feet was futile.

“Hello?”

I tried to sit up, but really couldn't since my arms and legs were tied down.

“Anyone there?”

“The animal speaks. Who taught you that trick?” It was a rough male voice. A man wearing what looked like a police uniform pushed his way inside the curtain.

“Where am I?” I asked trying to quiet the growing panic.

“Be quiet!” he said.

“I need to know—”

“You need to know nothing! I said be quiet!” He did something and my world went red from pain wracking my body.

The pain shut off, but I continued to quiver. I could hear the man’s cackling laugh.

A woman appeared next to my bed and took a look at my eyes and face.

“Thomas Covington, you use that thing too freely. There’s no way she’s able to get at you. Now, turn it off so I can examine her.”

“Where… where am I?” I asked weakly looking at the woman.

“I told you to be quiet!” the man yelled and pointed something at me. Again pain shot through my body. I screamed and felt my bladder give way.

“Give me that thing!” the nurse yelled and snatched the box from the man’s hand.

“Just you wait, animal. You’re going to fry,” the man said before walking off laughing.

“Please help me!” I sobbed at the woman.

“I’ll help as much as I can. I’m sorry about Thomas. Its poor luck on your part that he’s on duty,” the woman said, dropping the box into a pocket of her nurse’s smock.

“Where am I?” I croaked out, my nose becoming aware of the stink of the bed sheets.

“You’re in the prison ward at the county hospital.” The woman was about 40 with nice brown eyes and gray in her hair.

“Prison? I didn’t do anything wrong!” I tried to get up but the restraints kept me flat on my back. “Please you have to let me see my mom and dad!”

“They’ll be allowed in a bit. But right now you need to calm down.” The nurse’s tone went from friendly to more businesslike. “Panic won’t do you any good, and will just give Thomas an excuse to shock you again.” She put her hand on my shoulder to help ease my fears.

I nodded, pressing the side of my head into her hand.

She checked my eyes and then did a quick exam of my arms and legs and checked the bandage on my thigh.

“What happened? Why am I here?”

“There was a row at the school and it seems that you were in the middle of it.”

“There were four of them. They had me trapped, I had to fight.” I told her quietly.

“Four? The paramedics found two bodies and one boy who had been badly mauled.” The nurse said in an offhand way.

There was the clang of a metal door in the distance and the sound of three sets of footsteps approaching. The group stepped inside the curtain. I recognized the man who zapped me earlier, and shrank back. I started shaking as he glared at me and then pulled another box from his pocket.

I screamed and tried to pull free of the restraints.

“Thomas! Stop that this instant! You’re frightening the girl!” the nurse yelled at the guard.

The man just grinned manically at me and left.

“Please don’t hurt me!” I cried at them. “PLEASE!”

“We’re not going to hurt you, Katie. We’re here to ask you about what happened at the school today.” The man said. “I’m Detective Johnston, and this is Officer Shell. She’s a telepath, and is going to be monitoring our conversation. Okay?”

I nodded and then Shell came close to me. I could see why she had her name; her skin was pure white like the inside of an oyster shell. Her smile was friendly and I felt my panic recede a bit.

“I will be monitoring your surface thoughts at first. But I would like to read your memories of recent events as well. May I have your permission to do that?” she asked gently.

“Okay. But you might not like what you find.” I told her. “The MORFs center told me I was a Primal, and I went a little nuts on Doctor Fisher, the ‘path that scanned me. I didn’t hurt him and I scared myself into a corner.” I was babbling, scared.

The officer put her hand on me and I calmed down again.

Detective Johnston took out his eCom and set it on the bedside table and then turned to face me. “Interview with suspect Katie Milner, County hospital. Miss Milner, please tell me what happened today at school during the assembly.”

I told them everything. My memory of the events was crystal clear up until the point I got hit in the head. I felt myself getting angry, growls seeping out around the words.

The telepath, Officer Shell, took hold of my left arm and I grabbed her wrist with my right hand, the restraint cuff still attached. I broke out of the haze, fighting the wolf rising up in me, keeping it contained.

“Tell me what happened after you got hit,” the detective asked.

“I don’t know. Everything grayed out. I got just flashes, little pictures in my head. I remember getting stabbed in the leg and then I woke up here.”

The detective looked at Shell and she nodded.

“May I scan deeper, Miss Milner?” Shell asked.

“Okay.” I took a deep breath and relaxed as much as I could under the circumstances. It was only a few minutes before the pressure on my scalp disappeared.

“You can take the remaining restraints off her Nurse,” Officer Shell said quietly, visibly shaken.

Thomas Covington barged in through the curtains. “You can’t do that! That thing is my prisoner and it’s going to fry for killing those two innocent school boys!”

I broke down crying until Mom came and got me.

The magistrate released me to my parents, seeing as I was a minor, and the state’s attorney didn’t put up too much of a fuss over it. The Magistrate put me under house arrest, telling me I couldn’t go practically anywhere, other than a doctor’s office or the hospital.

That evening the news carried the story of what happened at the school. Mom held my hand as the newscaster told of a vicious unprovoked attack by a MORFS survivor at the junior high school and that the two dead students had been mauled in an “un-natural” way.

~* * * *~

In the week that followed, the Church of the Holy Trinity and their anti-MORFs minister held a rally in the street in front of the Milner’s house. It was small, about fifty people or so, mostly parishioners from the church but it was loud and rowdy. It was also quickly broken up by the police riot squad when the protestors started chanting “Burn the Wolf”.

“You can’t do this! We have a right to protest here!” the leader shouted as he was pushed up the street towards the busses that brought them.

“You do not have a right to incite violence, sir,” the police team leader, a tall roan colored, centaur hybrid yelled back as the squad continued to move the protesters away.

That weekend, there was another rally, one that was better attended. Outside the building that the group used as their church, the members of the Church of the Holy Trinity were met by a crowd of over one thousand people holding signs and carrying banners in support of MORFS survivors. Church members were greeted politely, if coolly; and there were enough people taking pictures and video recordings that any untoward actions, from either group, would be well documented. The video that aired on the news that night showed a large crowd of people, humans and hybrids, all standing together against the hatred spewed by the pastor of the church.

It buoyed Katie’s spirits to see the outpouring of support in that rally alone.

The hearing date came soon after the rally, and Katie was in good spirits as they travelled to the court house. Getting through the press of reporters and camera people wasn’t as bad as she expected, and they quickly reached the court room where the hearing was set.

Katie moved up to take a seat at the defendant’s table while the state’s attorney used the table opposite from them. It didn’t take long for everyone to file in and settle. Everyone stood as the judge came in and sat at the bench.

“Good morning to you all,” the judge said to everyone in the small courtroom. “This is a preliminary hearing in the case of the State of Georgia versus Katie Milner. If all the parties are present, we can begin.”

The state’s attorney, a middle aged man with sandy blonde hair, got up from the table and made his opening address. It was brief and to the point, not very passionate. Katie’s attorney, a woman from one of the city’s larger law firms that provided legal services for MORFS survivors got up. Her speech was a bit longer, outlining that the boys were the cause of the incident and they intended to show that Katie has acted in self-defense.

The state called its first witness, the animal control officer that had been on duty at the time that the incident at the school had taken place. He gave a rather dry run through of the events as he had experienced them up to the point of having to shoot Katie with a tranquilizer dart gun. Second up was the police officer who took the lead in the onsite investigation. Several other witnesses testified before the State rested.

“Your Honor,” the defense attorney stood up to face the judge, “I have a long list of witnesses that I could call to the stand, but I will forego them for now and call only one, Katie Milner.”

Katie went up to the witness box and stood as the court clerk held a Bible. She removed her gloves, placed her paw on the book and raised her right paw. Her brightly painted claws were clearly visible to everyone in the court.

“That thing has no soul! It can’t swear to God!” a man yelled from the gallery. Quickly, two court officers grabbed the man and roughly removed him from the courtroom.

“There will be no more disturbances in this court room,” the judge said loudly. “If any of you wish to demonstrate will do so from the inside of a holding cell.” He eyed the packed gallery then looked at the clerk and nodded.

“Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you give in this proceeding shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” the Clerk of the Court recited the witness’s oath from memory.

“I so swear.” Katie said with conviction.

Katie sat in the witness chair and her attorney approached.  “Hi Katie. Can you tell us why we’re here today?”

“Because of the fight at school.”

“Can you tell me what you remember about what happened that day?”

“The school was having its award assembly in the gym. I asked Mr. Haskell if I could go to the restroom. I left the gym and was on my way there when David, and Mike, and the other two trapped me in the hallway. David had a bat and tried to hit me with it. I ducked and clawed him across the front. Then I was hit in the head. I don’t remember much after that.”

“The boy that hit you in the head, do you know his name?”

“No.”

“Have you met any of the people who attacked you before?”

“Yes. David and Mike I know from school. The larger of the other two I got into a fight with at the food court in the mall. He and his friends were trying to drag a little girl away. I stopped them.”

“Did you hurt any of them?”

“I hit one of the three. He fell down. I got Tina away from the leader and put her behind me.”

“Who’s Tina?”

“Tina is the little girl that was being attacked. Her mom works in the MORFS clinic where I had my exam.”

“Why did you get involved with what was happening with Tina, Katie?” The woman stood back and smiled at the girl.

“I didn’t think about it, I just reacted. Three big teens were picking on this little ten year old mouse morph. It wasn’t right. What if she were your daughter getting attacked, wouldn’t you want someone to help?”

“What happened after that?” the attorney asked.

“Mall security came and took the three thugs away and I kept Tina until her mom came.”

“Did you have any other run-ins with any of those people after that?”

“Not until that day in the school.” Katie said, looking at the woman in front of her.

“Your Honor, I would like to play a video at this time. It is from the school security system on the date of the incident.”

The attorney clicked the remote and the video began to play on the large screen. Katie watched, feeling the memories flooding back. She gripped the railing of the witness box as she watched the scene unfold again. The boy from the mall punched her in the side of the head and she fell back against the wall lockers. Then David approached with the bat and struck her with it repeatedly. On the video, the boys continued to stomp and kick as the wolf collapsed to the ground in a heap against the lockers. The boys backed away, high fiving each other. David and Mike were talking with the older boy while the younger one removed the chain from the door. None of them realized that the wolf was getting up from the floor.

The unblinking eye of the camera missed nothing as the wolf charged, clawed, then ripped the throats out of two boys and left them bleeding and twitching on the floor. Lifting its head, it ran up the hallway. The scene changed as the wolf chased Mike and David. Mike ducked through an open classroom door and slammed it shut. David was slower and was caught in the hallway as the wolf ran, leapt and pounced on him dragging him to the ground. The wolf shook the attacker and then started biting and clawing his form. The animal lifted its head in a silent howl.

Katie turned away from the monitor, unable to watch any more of the video. Thankfully, the lawyer turned it off.

“I have one piece of evidence that I would like to introduce.” She motioned to one of the court officer who handed her a long plastic bag with an evidence tag on it. She picked up a bound report from the table. “This is the bat that was recovered from the scene, and the lab report that links it to the incident. The lab report shows that the blood, hair and fiber traces recovered from the bat match the hair, blood and clothing worn by Miss Milner on the day of the attack.

“This is the weapon they tried to kill her with, Your Honor.” The woman handed the bat and the report up to the judge on his bench. “I move, sir, that all charges be dropped, as this is clearly a case of self-defense.”

“You can’t do that! That dammed animal killed my boy!” came a voice from the gallery.

The judge banged his gavel. “Quiet, sir, or you will be removed.”

“No! I didn’t kill your son.” Katie said shooting to her feet in the witness box pointing directly at the man in the gallery. “You did that all on your own! Your lies, your hatred, your bigotry flowed in him like poison and that’s what killed him!

“You stood with your family and church members outside my home and chanted ‘burn the wolf’, and would have if the police weren’t there. Why do you fear me so much that you’re willing to kill me, for no other reason than that I exist? If you want to hate someone, hate the xenophobic, religious zealots that created the bio-weapon that was the genesis of MORFS. Oh, wait a minute, they’re DEAD. So, instead of being angry with them, you turn your hatred on the victims, like me, like every other MORFS survivor living today.”

“Do I regret ending their lives? Yes. I will regret it for as long as I live, and I will pray for their souls when I go to church. But they were trying to kill me! I have a right to my life, and I am not going to lie down and die just because you want me to!” Katie was all but shouting at the last.

The sound of wood splintering could be heard clearly in the court room. Katie looked down and saw where her nails had dug into the wooden rail and split it apart. Katie laid her ears back and sat down, looking up the judge and whining, “Sorry, sir.”

“On the question of the motion to dismiss, I believe that there is no question that this is a case of self-defense. The decedents and other plaintiffs were clearly the instigators of this attack and their motives were very clear. Miss Milner responded, and defended herself appropriately. Miss Milner, I strongly recommend that you learn to control your abilities better. All charges are dropped, this case is dismissed with prejudice attached and any bail money is to be refunded. We are adjourned.” The judge banged his gavel to conclude the case.

Chapter 4

Summertime!

The court case had been decided weeks earlier, and the media finally focused its attention on some other issue. I finally remembered the cards and letters from my school locker. Most were supportive, hoping that they could get together with me. A few weren’t able to accept the new me. The last I heard of them were their cards. I’d spent so little time at school before everything blew up that we hadn’t been able to get together. So, after a couple of rounds of emails and eCom calls, we met at The Burger Shack. It’s an old style walk-up diner with a canopy and tables out front where people could sit and eat. During the school year it was a hangout for a lot of kids and during the summer, it was a hangout for even more kids.

Today was no exception. Five of us were able to get there, Kenny, Randy, Toni, Steve and I. Toni and Steve were twins, and in the same grade as me. Kenny was a year older and just finished ninth grade, while Randy Trantor, Greg’s brother, was in the same grade as me. Kenny and Randy both had gone through MORFS, but it really hadn’t changed anything on the outside. Kenny was an empath, and Randy was a cyberpath. That wasn’t such a bad thing from where Randy stood, since he was a total computer whiz. We joked with each other, making bets on who was going to be next to get morphed. Everyone agreed that I had topped the weird scale so far.

“Randy, where’s Greg?” I asked as we found a table after placing our orders at the window.

“Speech camp,” was the only reply Randy would give me.

Someone at the window called our number and I went to get the tray. As I stood up a pair of hybrids walked up to where we were sitting.

“This is our table. Leave,” the partial bat hybrid, ordered. The other, a dog hybrid, stood next to him.

“We were here first. Find your own,” Toni told them from across the table.

“We have our own table and you’re sitting at it,” the dog hybrid growled at my friends.

I stared at the pair and felt the wolf push forward.

“Go find your own table,” I growled.

“Look, bitch …” the dog hybrid turned towards me and stopped cold.

I stepped slowly towards him, a low growl building in me. The wolf pushed way forward washing my eyesight out completely. The dog whimpered and dropped his head submissively. As I got closer he backed away. It wasn’t very far to the next table and I moved him towards it.

“SIT!” I commanded as his knees touched the metal bench. “Stay there!” I growled. I turned to look at the bat. “Your friend has found a better place to sit. You should join him.”

The bat looked at me, then over to his companion, and walked off. I sat on the bench next to Randy and could feel the shakes starting. Toni took hold of my paw while Kenny went to get the tray of burgers.

“Katie, you going to be okay?” Toni asked.

“I’ll be okay. It’ll be over in a few minutes.” I said.

Everyone else so too stunned and upset by what just happened, that no one really said anything.

It didn’t take Kenny long to get back with the tray. He looked at the burgers and handed them out. Mine was the one with the big red ‘RARE’ skewer sticking out of the top. Gustav couldn’t serve raw meat, unfortunately. Everyone was munching on their burgers when Randy looked over and asked, “How’s the burger?”

“Overdone,” I deadpanned. Everyone laughed at the joke and the mood brightened considerably.

We talked about summer plans, and such as we finished off the oversized burgers and fries. I took a long draw on the straw in my milkshake and winced as the brain freeze hit. I turned away from everyone with a sneezing fit and then blinked and wrinkled my nose trying to recover.

“Oh yeah!” I said to no one in particular.

We all had another laugh and then cleaned up, piled onto our bikes and headed for the park up the street.

The park is one of the public “green spaces” that the city maintains in a number of the neighborhoods. It has a playground and some other features, but the biggest draw is that it’s large, open and has lots of trees. A lot of groups used the area for their outdoor functions. Today was no exception.

We got to the park and I saw the group from the Church of the Holy Trinity was holding a picnic there. The gang all looked at me as if to ask, Do you want to stay with them around? I just pedaled across the grass to a different area so we would be away from the church people.

It was a nice day, and we just hung out and had fun in our own way. We were sitting in the shade of one of the large trees when Kenny grabbed his head and moaned in pain. About the same time, a woman’s screams could be heard from the direction of the church group. Randy and Toni grabbed Kenny to try and help him, but there really wasn’t anything they could do.

Kenny looked up at me and croaked out, “Stop them!”

I wasn’t sure what he meant until I saw the pair from the Burger Shack closing in on the church group. They were part of a larger group of obvious MORFS survivors that were attacking the picnickers.

The dog hybrid was running towards the crowd. I just reacted, charging up the hill on all fours and hoping to cut him off. As he closed in on the crowd, I could see who he was aiming for. It was a pregnant mother with two children clinging to her. She was either too frightened or too encumbered to run.

It was going to be a foot race to see who got there first and I knew it had to be me. Something told me that dog breath was going to do something really nasty.

As I got close, I could feel that he was going to leap and I did the same. We collided just in front of the woman and her children. I drove my shoulder into his chest and I could hear bones crunching as we both crashed to the ground. I rolled and was back up on my feet in a second. Dog breath wasn't moving too quickly. Looking up, I could see the bat hybrid taking to the air and a familiar voice from behind me yelling for him to land. When he didn’t, I heard a sharp POP and then a scream before bat boy crashed to the ground and lay twitching.

“Are you okay?” the voice asked me. It was very familiar, but I still couldn’t place it.

I nodded and my nosed picked up a whiff of her scent.

“Officer Shell?” I asked turning around to face the speaker.

Dog boy still wasn’t moving too quickly. He lay on the ground gasping for air and holding his side where we had crashed together.

Other uniformed police officers were rushing into the park from a swarm of ground and aircars. One tried to grab me by the arm. I snatched away and dropped to all fours, snarling at the man.

“No! Leave her alone!” Shell called out, and the officer backed away, looking somewhat relieved. Shell had her stunner in her hand pointing towards the dog morph on the ground as another officer cuffed it.

The chaos seemed to be dying down as the police had caught a number of obvious morphs and had them pinned on the ground or cuffed and marching them towards a large holding van that had appeared on the street.

I left Officer Shell where she was standing with dog boy and went down to check on Kenny. He and the rest of the group were walking up the small hill towards me. He was pale and shaky, but looked like he’d recover.

“You okay, Kenny?” I asked him.

“Did you get him?” he asked, looking past me at the group of police still swarming around the church members.

“I got him. The police have him now. What was that back there?”

“Panic attack. I got waves and waves of panic. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t.”

We all went back to where the police were gathered. Officer Shell was talking to the pastor of the church. I felt a tug on my leg fur and I looked down to see what it was. ‘What’ turned out to be ‘who’ and I immediately recognized her.

“Hi, Millie” I told her, kneeling down so that we were eye to eye.

“How’d you know my name?” the six year old asked with her childlike innocence.

“Cause I used to tuck you into bed with Mr. Monkey,” I told her in an almost whisper while tickling her tummy.

“Kevin!” she cried out, and latched on to me as only a six year old can. With her arms around my neck and my arm under her, I got to my feet and walked towards where her mom was sitting at one of the tables.

“Hi, Mrs. Anderson,” I called out to her as I approached. “Millie was off wandering again.”

“Put my daughter down, you animal!” she yelled, getting up from the table slowly. Even as pregnant as she was, she tried to charge towards me.

“MOM! It’s KEVIN!” Millie yelled as her mother got close.

The woman stopped suddenly and started gasping for air. I quickly put Millie down and helped Mrs. Anderson back to her table where she sat down heavily, trying to catch her breath. I knew that she was asthmatic and carried a rescue inhaler for just this type of thing.

“It’ll be okay Mrs. Anderson, where’s your inhaler?”

David, her ten year old son, had already grabbed the small canister and had it opened for her hand. She was taking puffs from the canister when I told her son to run and fetch a bottle of water for her. Color was starting to return to her face and her breathing was easier when her son got back with the water. I snapped open the top and put the bottle in her hand.

She took a sip and looked at me over the top of the bottle.

“That really is you in there, isn’t it Kevin?” she asked, her voice a bit horse from the inhaler.

“In the flesh, well, in the fur now.” I tried to smile at her but wasn’t sure if it came across like that. “My name’s Katie now. I didn’t know you went to this church.”

“My husband insisted,” the woman said sourly. She grabbed her stomach, “OH!”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she said. “The baby kicked. Here, give me your hand, ah, paw.” She took my paw and put it on her stomach, and I could feel the baby inside her move and then kick against my hand.

“Practicing for the soccer team already, huh?” I joked, rubbing the woman’s baby belly.

“You have no idea. Just like David used to,” she said, looking over at her ten year old son.

“Oh Mom!” the boy said, blushing like boys do when their moms talk about them.

It seemed that having a heathen MORF amidst the proper church going congregation was drawing a crowd. I stood up and several people backed away hastily. Millie held her hands up for me to pick her up, which I did. She wrapped her arms around my neck and held tight.

“I got to go, pumpkin.”

“I don’t want you to go,” she whispered to me. “Daddy’s mean to us.”

“You tell your mom that if you ever need help, a place to stay, you can always call me.”

I put the girl down gently on the ground and it was David’s turn to cling to me like Velcro. I hugged him as well and snarfled his ear. I told him the same thing as I had Millie.

I spotted a blanket someone had left lying on the ground and snatched it up. I folded it quickly into a pad for Mrs. Anderson and set it down on the concrete bench and helped her move over onto it.

“Better?”

She nodded. I hugged her close and whispered into her ear.

“If you need anything let me know. Babysitting, or anything else.” I told her quietly and then looked into her eyes. I hoped she had caught my meaning about anything.

The walk back to where Officer Shell was standing was tense, and I caught myself holding my breath and hoping that nothing would happen before I reached the pale skinned woman. It didn’t.

“Consorting with the enemy?” she quipped as I approached. She was dressed casually, with her badge hanging from a chain from around her neck. The hood on her windbreaker was pushed back. She carried the black and yellow stripped stunner in a cross draw holster on her belt.

“Mrs. Anderson?” I shook my head no. “I used to babysit her kids. She remarried and moved last summer. I didn’t know she went to that church.

“What about the group that attacked them?” I asked, changing the subject.

“I shouldn’t say anything, but since you helped out, I’ll tell you what I can, but please don’t repeat this to anyone else.” She asked and I nodded. “They are part of a larger group called MSA. It’s a MORFS supremacists group that’s been operating in the area for a while.”

I could feel myself groan inwardly. Another group that thought hatred and bigotry was the answer.

“I know what you mean.” Shell told me quietly. I looked sharply at her. “No, I didn’t have to read your mind to guess that. Don’t ever play poker; your face gives everything away,” she chuckled at me.

“We heard that they were planning something against an anti-MORFS group, but didn’t know where or when. This was the biggest gathering we could find, and we got lucky. What were you doing here?” Officer Shell asked.

I gave her a brief synopsis about our run in with tweedle dumb and dumber at the Burger Shack, and that we were playing at the bottom of the hill when things started happening.

“And what made you run up the hill and get involved?”

“My friend Kenny. He grabbed his head and yelled for me to stop them. I saw dog boy charging towards a woman in the crowd and blocked him. Is he going to be alright?” I asked her.

“According to the medics he has at least one broken rib and a dislocated shoulder, but he’ll be okay.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt him.” I told her sheepishly. “I just wanted to stop him.”

“Katie, you know that this is the same group that wanted to burn the wolf, right?” Officer Shell asked looking directly at me.

“I know. But no one deserves to be bullied or attacked just because of what they believe or look like. It’s wrong for the Church to want to burn the wolf, but it was wrong for the others to attack the church people just because of what they believe. They’re not doing anything wrong.”

“You’ve been in my head; you know how I got bullied in school. Just because someone can get away with it, doesn’t make it right.”

The shakes hit me about then and I sat down on the grass.

“Officer! Officer!” some man was shouting as he rushed towards us. “I want that animal arrested.”

“On what charge, Pastor?” Shell asked, stepping between the man and me.

“That creature assaulted Mrs. Hussein. I want it arrested and put down.” The man continued to yell, stopping about four feet away from Shell.

“Pastor Roberts, you do realize that Ms. Milner here helped stopped the attack on your congregation? She’s the reason no one was killed.”

“That doesn’t excuse her attacking Mrs. Hussein.” The man, dressed in a white shirt with a string tie, was sweating heavily in the heat and from the exertion.

“Who?” I asked, getting up from the grass.

“The woman there, with her two children.” The man pointed to the picnic table where a woman was sitting with her two children and a man standing over her.

“You mean Mrs. Anderson?” I asked the pastor. “If you want to call my helping her sit down and recover from an asthma attack ‘assault’, then guilty as charged.”

“Not according to her husband. You defiled them with your touch. They will have to be purged … ack!”

I hit him in the chest with the flat of my paw hard enough to lift the man off his feet and slammed him to the ground on his back. I stood over him, leaning on his chest, the claws of one hand pressing into his flabby skin.

“If you do,” I growled, leaning down to stare into his now fear filled eyes, “if you harm one hair on any of their heads; you will think the gates of Hell itself have opened up on you. I have known Mrs. Anderson for years; I’ve helped care for Millicent since she was born and I’ve babysat both her children more times than I can count.” I curled my claws downward more, letting the man know just how willing I was to use them. “They have been defiled, by you and your kind, by your hate and bigotry.” I leaned further down, my nose almost touching his.

The man tried to shrink away, but the earth wouldn’t open and swallow him. I drew back slightly as a foul stench erupted from the man.

Shell put her hand on my shoulder. “Katie, he’s not worth it.” Her voice was calm, reassuring, breaking through the grayness of my vision. “Let him up, hon. He’s not going to hurt anyone.”

I stared down at the frightened man on the ground. I was snarling, all too willing to let go, to let the wolf take over and have its way with him. In frustration, I snapped my teeth; millimeters away from his ear, letting him know how close he’d come. Pushing off I bounded away, down the hill and through a thicket of brush and trees that ran the length of the park.

When Shell found me some time later, I was sprawled out on my side, angrily digging a trench with my paw. I jabbed the earth with my clawed fingers and scooped it out of the way. My tail slammed repeatedly into the ground. She announced her approach by walking up from my upwind side, making sure that I could scent her, and by not being quiet as she got closer.

“Katie?”

“Why does this have to be so hard, Shell? Why does each side hate so much that they are willing to kill? Even to kill their own?” I asked quietly, my voice barely above a whisper.

“What do you mean?” Shell sat on the ground across from me and crossed her legs.

“That’s what he is going to do. He’s going to purge them. Purge them from the church. She sinned. The wages of sin are death.” I said not looking at the woman.

“How do you know that he is going to kill them?” Shell asked quietly.

“I don’t. It’s what I feel. It’s what the wolf tells me.” I told her, not sure if that’s what I really meant or not. “If you look inside my head, I mean … I don’t know what I mean.” I snarled and pounded my hand into the ground.

“It’s frustrating, isn’t it, Katie.” She said quietly, reaching her hand out to touch my paw and arm. “Frustrating to have so much ability and not be able to set the world to rights.” Her hand was stroking my arm now. “Your heart is telling you to do one thing, and your mind is saying that you can’t.”

I could only nod. She knew exactly.

“All I can tell you is that every decent police officer I’ve ever met feels the same frustration. They know in their hearts who is guilty and want to do something about it. But their minds tell them that they have to follow the law, they have to do things the right way, not the way that their hearts tell them to.”

I don’t know when it happened, but I ended up with my head in her lap. Shell’s warm voice surrounded me like a warm fuzzy blanket making me feel safe. I drifted, the same way someone does in that time between sleeping and waking. When I did come back to full wakefulness, Shell was still there, rubbing my ears and back. I don’t know how long I’d been out, but the position of the sun told me that I needed to get back home soon.

The second thing I noticed was that the frustration was gone; the stress between the wolf and my intellect was missing.

“What did you do, Shell?” I asked quietly as I got up. Instinctively I buried my muzzle in her lap and sniffed. The stress might be gone, but the wolf wasn’t.

“I tamed your wolf a little,” she said smiling at me. “I have a minor ability to work with animals and used it on that part of your being. I have no doubt that the wolf will re-emerge, but for a little while you’ll have some respite from the stress.”

Shell got up from where she was sitting and brushed herself off. “You need to have another exam of your abilities, Katie,” Shell said, going back into police woman mode.

“I have an appointment next month with the MORFS clinic at the hospital.”

“That’s fine, but you should try to get one sooner. I don’t know what I was feeling, and I don’t want to scare you over it, but you really should have someone scan you again. If possible, it needs to be a different ‘path than the one that saw you before.”

“I’ll try, Shell,” I told her. I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a big hug before taking off back up the hill to where the others were waiting.

The ride home was quiet. Everyone was thinking about the events of the afternoon.

Dinner that night was a quiet affair. I told Mom and Dad about what happened at the park but left out the part about Officer Shell’s little trick with my wolf. I helped Mom in the kitchen after dinner, cleaning things and putting stuff away.

“Will you tell me about Elise, Mom?” I asked her as we put the last of the dishes into the dishwasher.

Mom looked at me, then over at Dad, who was out in the living room watching some drama on the television. She nodded and sat at the dining room table that we just cleared. “I already told you a little bit about her, about how she had a hard time adjusting to being a girl and a hybrid.”

“But there’s more, isn’t there.” I didn’t make a question out of it.

“Yes. There’s more to it.” Mom said wiping at her eyes. “It’s been, what, thirty years, and it still upsets me when I think about it.”

“What happened, Mom? What happened to Elise?” I asked her softly, standing next to where Mom sat, pressing gently into her side.

“We lived out in the country. Your great Grandma and Granddad raised horses, large draft horses, Shires and Clydesdales. Danny loved riding the horses. He would beg to go to the farm every summer. I would too, I loved being out there. Anyway, Danny morphed and came out as a filly, a palomino colored filly hybrid. We spent all summer there the year he changed. Mom and Dad thought it best if he could get through it there, where there was no one to tease and pick on him and make it harder. Elise was out in one of the pastures putting out salt blocks and making sure all the watering troughs were full, something that she had done countless times before.

“It got on towards dinner time and no Elise. Granddad went out to look for her and found her on the far side of the pasture she was working. The only thing we could think of was that one of the stallions got spooked and … and …”

“It’s okay, Mom.” I told her, sliding my arm around her.

“You’re a lot like her, Katie. You’re headstrong, willful and as likely as not to charge into things where others might hesitate. I’m proud of you, and I fear for you as well.”

“I’ll be okay, Mom.”

We joined Dad in the living room and I sat with Mom on the sofa, my head in her lap.


Chapter 5

True to Shell’s word, the stress returned. It took a week for it to come back. I was edgy at home, pacing around the house and even outside, I was uneasy. Mom called and rescheduled my follow-up at the MORFS center as Shell had suggested. We went through the same battery of tests that I had been through before, including height, (I’d gained three inches), weight (gained twenty pounds, none of it fat), vision (perfect) and a lot that had been missed because of the commotion that I caused with Dr. Fisher.

Normally, the physical testing comes after the clinical tests, but they swapped things around, hoping that the physical exercise would reduce the stress I was feeling. They didn’t tell me much about my scores, but they were right on one count, the exercise helped me to relax enough that I wasn’t worried about biting the head off the telepath when she came to visit me in the clinic.

“Katie?” a small voice asked coming through the door. “I’m Mrs. Baker.” A small woman came into the room and let the door shut behind her. Mrs. Baker was a very short woman, barely five feet tall. Her slender frame was topped by a mane of white hair cascading down her back. She looked like she was about twelve years old.

“It says on the chart here that you requested someone other than Dr. Fisher. May I ask why?” The woman pushed a step stool over to the examination table and climbed onto it, bringing her closer to being on the same eye level.

“A friend recommended that I have someone who’s not seen me before re-do my evaluation.”

“Okay. In order for me to do a thorough check, I will have to put my hands on you. Is that going to bother you?”

I shook my head. “That’s fine.”

“Now, if you would please, look at the eye chart on the wall and focus on any line. Just keep your eyes on one line of letters,” she said quietly.

I did just as she asked. Her fingers slid around my wrist and my vision faded like it had with Shell. There was no pressure, no itchy feeling, just flashes of memories going past in a blur.

Then there was something, almost as if there was a click in the back of my head someplace and suddenly I could hear another voice.

Hi there.

Elf?

There was a giggle in my head. You found my husband’s nickname for me, I see.

There was another snap and then a feeling of love-concern-fear-hate-want-loneliness-jealousy washed over me. The feelings were intense, confusing and nauseating.

I wanted to break contact with the little woman, but her hand closed tighter around my wrist.

Just a little bit longer sweetie and we’ll have things sorted.

The little bit longer seemed to drag out forever, but eventually the new sensations fell into the background and my vision returned.

“Well, curiouser and curiouser, said Alice” Elf seemed to be speaking mostly to herself. “Your database entry is going to be well read, if nothing else, Katie.”

“What do you mean, Mrs. Baker?” I turned slightly to face the small telepath.

“You can call me Elf if you like. I think we’ve been close enough to be on a first name basis, don’t you?” she smiled easily. “Each MORFs survivor has an entry in the International MORFs Survivor’s Registry. It outlines any physical changes, enhancements and powers that a person acquires as a result of their surviving MORFs. Think of it as a different type of permanent record that you have for school.

“I think I found the root of the conflict between you and your primal self.” Elf sat down on the exam table with me. “As you may or may not know, most of the higher order animal species have some level of innate psychic ability. For the most part, the abilities are below the conscious level of awareness. To someone like yourself, you may be unconscious of the things your abilities pick up, but your animal self is very much aware. This is what was causing the stress, why you’ve felt nervous and edgy most of the time.

“I was able to bring these abilities up so that you’ll be aware of them in your conscious mind. With your conscious mind more aware of the psychic atmosphere, your intellect and your wolf psyche will be more closely balanced. More balanced, less stress, the less chance of you lashing out at someone.”

I hung my head and sighed heavily. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about.

“I know, it’s a lot to take in. And you are still going to need help in integrating all the parts. What Judge Davies and Dr. Fisher told you is true. You are going to have to work hard at controlling your abilities. The best thing I could recommend is that you join a wilderness retreat so that you have time to work on gaining control of your telepathy, empathy and primal nature. Until you do, the frustration you feel with the outside world will only grow and I am afraid that you will become a danger to the people around you. Up until now you’ve done a remarkable job of controlling the wolf, but without additional training, I’m afraid that your control will slip and someone will get hurt.”

“Someone did get hurt.” I said quietly, looking away from the woman.

“You shouldn’t worry about what happened in school, Katie. That was you fighting for your life, fighting for your survival,” the white haired woman pushed her hair back, hooking it behind her tall pointed ears.

“Now, young lady, I’m going to try and teach you how to cope with your abilities so that you can walk out of here and not feel like you’re in the middle of chaos.” She smiled and took a deep breath.

Two sweaty hours later, Elf called a halt.

“You’ve done well. Keep practicing and it should become quick and automatic for you to screen out unwanted noise.” The tiny lady got down off the examination table.

Thank you I sent to her, trying to keep my ‘voice’ low enough not to be painful.

Very good. Your control is getting better already. And, you are very welcome.

My legs were shaky as I left the room, but they quickly recovered. An exam table is good for one thing, but that’s not being comfortable while learning esoteric secrets of psychic abilities.

The first test of my control was working my way through the clinic. I stopped at the information desk and got flyers for camps and retreats. I’ve had three people tell me that I need to learn more, so I decided to take responsibility and at least get the information. I increased my screen to keep out the increasing jumble of mental noise that I was picking up.

Mom was waiting for me, a concerned look on her face. I waved off her questions until we got outside and into the car. I let go of the breath of air that I hadn’t realized that I’d been holding and smiled at the relief of being out of the noise of the clinic.

“Are you alright honey?” Mom asked her concern evident.

“I’ll be okay. Mrs. Baker was teaching me how not to get overwhelmed by my abilities.”

“How not to let your wolf take over?”

“No.” I gave her the folder of new reports the center had compiled on me. “I’m a telepath, Mom, and I have a strong empathy rating as well.”

“The potential for a nine rating?” Mom questioned incredulously. “Strength, agility, stamina, balance all well above human averages. Looks like you’re going to be the athlete that you never were as a boy,” Mom teased.

Mom!” I teased back at her. Then I giggled, “Can we stop by the mall on the way home? Some of my things are too small.”

Mom said okay then mentioned something about me growing like a weed.

We went back to the same store we used the first time when I needed to get undergarments. A different vixen was working, one much smaller than the one who’d measured me the first time. While Mom walked around the store I approached her to get measured again.

The girl’s gaze flicked up to my eyes then away several times. It felt like she was intimidated by our size difference.

On a whim I lowered my mental screen as we walked back to the empty changing booths.

I was glad that Dr. Baker had told me about what to expect in the heads of other people and how to tell if the thoughts were deliberate, conscious thoughts, or just the fleeting subconscious desires that people might have at any given instant. It was surprising to experience firsthand what Elf had been talking about earlier in the morning.

Dale had left high school and was hoping to be accepted into a junior college. Loved earth tone colors to compliment her warm reddish fur, vegetarian, imagining the salad she wanted for lunch, younger brother, annoying little snit, wanted to dangle over some deep hole, like the Grand Canyon, be held by strong, Amazon mistress that wouldn't let her go no matter how she struggled, shamed that she wanted it so much.

I screened again and the thoughts faded. Whew! I didn't think anyone's head could be so busy with so many different things!

Dale led me to a changing booth and opened the curtain, but I pointed back to the larger curtained area further back.

"Miss..." Dale started to protest, but I dropped my gaze so that I was looking down my muzzle at her. She caved immediately and led the way to the larger changing area.

I stood in the center and stared at Dale. She tucked her head and crept forward, reached up and unbuttoned my blouse. It was something that she had done before with very few of her customers. She felt shame that she would debase herself this way, but was also secretly thrilled by it as well.

Dale carefully hung up my blouse, then turned back to face me. I stood in front of her, unmoving. Her head dipped lower as she slipped her fingers between my breasts and unfastened the front clasp. She brushed it off my breasts being careful not to touch anything but fabric.

When it fell to the floor Dale started to retrieve it.

“Leave it,” I snapped.

She stood immediately and took the tape from around her neck. Leaning in close, her cheek brushed my fur as she reached the tape around me and I felt her breath on my nipple. The small gasp that escaped when she snugged the soft cloth tape across my nipples wasn’t forced. They were hard, and very sensitive.

Dale left to find a selection in my new size. I rejected several that she brought back out of hand, tossing the packages on the floor. It was easy to feel the woman’s conflicted feelings, shame that she had disappointed me, but a quivering excitement as well. Choosing one of the remaining bras, I slipped it on and was surprised at how comfortable it felt since the cups were sheer, almost to the point of being invisible.

I nodded my satisfaction and the vixen left, coming back with five more in colors that complimented my dark fur.

Motioning for Dale to get my blouse, I stepped up behind her when she reached for it. Sliding my arms around the vixen, I pulled her to me, holding her in place. She started to struggle then stopped, going almost limp. I slid my hands upward, stopping just below the swell of her breasts.

She tensed for a moment then leaned her head back on my shoulder, baring her throat.

"Please don't tease, Mistress," Dale whispered at me.

I held her a moment longer then released her.

I whispered into her ear, "I hope you find her."

Dale helped me into my blouse and fastened the buttons for me. She held the curtains aside for me as we walked out front. Mom paid and we wandered out into the stream of humanity that walked past the storefront.

That evening I took out the pamphlets I’d got at the MORFs center and used them to do online searches for camps and retreats for MORFs survivors. Out of the fifty or so camps that catered to MORFs survivors, I winnowed out most of them because of their location. I’m a timber wolf, not a desert fox. I don’t need to be going someplace where I’ll get heat stroke the moment I got off the bus.

Of the leftovers, three were way too expensive. I printed out information on the remainders and showed them to Mom and Dad.


Chapter 6

Wilderness Tales

From up ahead Katie heard the trail leader call a halt for lunch. She was the last in line of campers strung out along a moderately rough trail they had started the day before. The group had another full day of hiking to get to the large camp that would be their home for eight weeks. Not for the first time, Katie had wished she had taken the warnings of “primitive” and “rustic” a little more seriously. But done was done. Her parents had put up the money for the camp and the plane ticket to the Bear Lake Lodge so the least she could do would be to make the most of the camp.

She poured water from her canteen and protein powder into the shaker bottle and mixed the concentrated formula into a semi-palatable slush that she could suck up through the built in straw. Everyone she could see were munching on energy bars and trail mix, which was okay for them, but Katie’s body needed extra protein while she continued to grow. In the month before starting this retreat, she had added an additional half inch to her height and more lean muscle mass. It was going to be interesting to see what the wolf could catch out here in the woods to help supplement her diet once they reached camp.

The senior lead, Mark Western, was pointing out a number of features of the surrounding landscape and flora between bites of his energy bar and sports drink. To Katie’s untrained ear, the man seemed to know what he was talking about and her nose was detecting nothing but sweat and old stink from him and the campers. The other lead, a woman introduced only as Kierra, was eyeing the campers carefully. Like Katie, she was a telepath, and Kierra was reading each camper’s surface thoughts to see if any were distressed.

When Kierra looked in Katie’s direction, Katie was able to catch the girl’s eyes, and was surprised at their lack of white around the iris. Katie’s response to the tickle between her ears was a soft I’m fine Kierra. She had to be careful with her volume control. The first time she ‘pathed with Kierra, the other girl had squeaked in pain. Katie had apologized immediately. Kierra gave her a grin and commented about Katie being the group’s beacon if something went wrong.

The wilderness camp’s primary purpose was to get morphs with uncontrolled or only partially controlled supernatural abilities away from civilization and its distractions, into an area where they could learn to better control their abilities without fear of hurting bystanders. For Katie, it was going to be interesting two months. Neither of the leaders had any experience with a Primal; and limited experience with high powered telepaths and empaths. Even so, she had chosen this camp after winnowing the candidates down to three finalists. She guessed that the location made this one the top pick, but again she chided herself for not having read the fine print more closely.

They were halfway through the second day of a three day hike to the main camp where the group would be spending their time here in the wilderness.

This morning, Mark and Kierra got everyone up an hour after they themselves had awakened. All that really meant was that the sun was just clearing the mountain peaks when they went around rousing their sleeping charges. There were numerous moans and groans as bodies let their owners know about the unaccustomed abuse of the day before. Katie could tell that Kierra took guilty pleasure in the pain of one of the more obnoxious campers who had boasted rather loudly as they had started out the day before, that a three day hike was for girly-boys. Katie stretched, shook, then knelt down and rolled her sleeping gear, feeling none the worse for wear.

After a breakfast of trail foods and night air cooled drinks, the campers formed lines to police up any trash or garbage to be burnt or packed out. Once that was done to Mark’s and Kierra’s satisfaction, the leaders held an equipment check to ensure that everyone was set to resume the hike. Once again the group set off along the marked, but sometimes barely visible trail. The hike was tough at times, up steep grades and rocky paths. Katie loved the smell of the fresh air, the warm sun on her head and the lack of the stink of civilization. She enjoyed exerting her body too, reveling in the fact that she wasn’t a physical wreck after a day and a half of hiking.

Mark announced their half hour lunch break was over and for everyone to gear up. Katie checked her booties before checking her equipment one final time to make sure nothing had worked loose. She shouldered the heavy pack and waited for Mark to lead off. Before starting up the trail again, he let everyone know that it would be another three hours to their stopping point for the day. There were several groans, but no one backed out.

Again, Katie was at the rear of the line of hikers, which was fine with her, she could moderate her stride without having to worry about someone running up on her. About an hour into the hike she caught a scent floating on the air towards them. When she caught it again she knew exactly what it was.

Kierra, stop. Bear, she ‘pathed.

Where, Katie?

Ahead, off to the right I think.

Mark brought the group to a halt and made them get off the trail and up into the woods. Katie came up from the back and dropped her pack close to where Mark was standing. She stripped off her booties, gloves, top and shorts. She ignored the indignant looks some of the others gave her when she was finally free of her clothing.

“Keep everyone here; I’m going to see how far ahead she is.”

“She? How can you tell that?” Mark asked.

Katie tapped her own nose gently. “By the scent, that’s how the wolf translates it. Female.”

Turning, Katie jogged up the trail a bit before dropping to all fours and running the rest of the way. Her wolf tried to push forward all the way, but Katie kept it in check. She didn’t want her wolf taking over and running off with her. She cast about looking for the strongest scent and caught it again. Stopping still, she let the scent wash over her. A bear sow with a cub. The smell was strong enough that they weren’t very far away. Carefully she followed the odor to the corner of a small meadow. She stopped and crouched down, not wanting the bear to see her.

It was a moderate sized black bear with one cub that Katie could see. The cub was being playful, running at its mom as she crossed the meadow.

Kierra, it’s a momma bear, with a cub. She’s crossing the trail ahead. She hasn’t spotted me yet.

I’m coming up to you.

It took only a few minutes for Kierra to join Katie watching the bears as they continued to saunter across the meadow. Kierra lay in the grass next to Katie, her arm brushing against Katie as she moved into position.

Tell Mark that if everyone drops their gear and move quietly, they can get a look. Kierra told her.

Katie retreated from where she was crouched and covered the distance back to the group.

Katie trotted up to the group unmindful of her lack of clothing and stopped in front of Mark. “Kierra says that if everyone drops their gear and moves quietly, you can get a look at momma and baby bear.”

All but one camper did just that. The one left behind tried not to stare as Katie redressed.

“You don’t mind that everyone can gawk at you?” the girl asked.

Katie looked at her and shrugged. “It’s up to them if they want to gawk; all they’re going to see is fur.” She smiled, “It’s Lacey, right?”

“Traci,” the girl said quietly. “What’s it like, being a wolf?”

“Scary at times, fun at others,” Katie told her. “But I’m not a normal hybrid, Traci.”

Katie looked at the teen. She was much smaller than Katie; her blonde hair was streaked with blue and light pink. Her violet eyes were exotic, but fearful. She has a secret, Katie thought to herself. On instinct, Katie stepped close and took a big whiff of the smaller girl’s scent. It was a mix of male and female.

“You’re herm?,” Katie said, looking down at the smaller girl.

The look on the girl’s face went the range from shock to panic. “Please, Katie, don’t tell anyone. Promise me!” Traci said, the fear in her eyes clear.

Katie wrapped her arms around the girl to help calm her down.

“Don’t worry, little one. I won’t tell anyone.” Katie stroked her hair and could feel the panic peak and then slowly recede. “It’s okay, Traci. I don’t tell secrets.” She backed away from Traci and held her at arm’s length. “Can I tell you a secret of mine?” Traci nodded. “I used to be a boy. My old name was Kevin.”

“But now you’re all girl.” Traci said.

“Under all the fur, yes.” Katie nodded. “I’m wolf mostly. You’re afraid that the others will find out?”

Traci nodded.

“When we make camp, you can sleep next to me. And then when we get to the big camp we can be together in one of the shelters,” Katie promised the smaller girl.

“Okay.”

Katie, we’re coming back came Kierra’s thought. It felt as if the woman was smiling at her for some reason.

The rest of the trip to the second camp was uneventful. It was late afternoon when everyone dropped their packs at the new campsite. One difference from the previous night’s camp was the addition of a hand powered water pump on the camp’s edge.

Mark pointed out the pump to everyone. “The water from the pump is good, but it will taste of iron because of the pipe. I’d recommend pumping at least five minutes after you first get water; that should clear the rust and cut down on the iron taste.”

The boy that had boasted about the hike was the first to volunteer to get water from the pump. He grabbed the handle and started pumping away. Kierra tried to explain that he needed to prime the pump before it would draw from the well, but he rebuffed her attempts, so Kierra just let him hammer away until his frustration got the better of him and he slammed the handle down and walked away.

Traci volunteered next, and let Kierra show her how it needed to be done, and within a minute of starting to pump the handle, rust colored water was flowing from the pump head. Katie took over once the water ran clear and let Traci fill her camelpack. The others filled their canteens and camelpacks. Katie stopped once Mr. Obnoxious came up with his.

“It’s all yours.” Katie told him, letting go of the handle.

He just gave her a dirty look and worked the cast iron handle, filling his pair of canteens.

With the available fresh water, hot water for tea or cocoa was available. Everyone sat around the fire ring after diner talking about anything and everything. Most had pulled out long pants and sweaters to ward off the night chill. Katie sat on the log dressed the same way she had been during the hike, sans her booties and gloves.

“Katie,” Mark asked in a break in the conversation, “Aren’t you cold sitting there like that? Shouldn’t you put something on to keep warm?”

“I’m fine Mark. My fur keeps me warm enough. I’d take more off, but it would make people uncomfortable.”

“You didn’t have a problem with that earlier,” the sour toned comment came from the camper sitting next to Kierra.

“Zoe, right?” Katie asked, and the girl nodded. “No, I don’t have a problem with it. But I had a good reason. Animals are hard to sneak up on when I’m wearing clothes.”

“You do a lot of that?” Kierra asked.

“As much as I can. Letting the wolf out now and again makes it easier to control.”

“What do you mean? I thought you were a hybrid,” said another camper, one of the boys sitting next to Mark.

“It might be easier if I were. I’m what the MORFS center calls a Primal. With a normal hybrid, you have a human base and then animal features. I go the other way; I’m a wolf base, with human features and then some. My wolf nature can push forward, take over, I guess you’d call it, if I’m stressed or in danger. Or, I can let it out, like I did earlier.”

“She’s just making that primal stuff up,” the obnoxious one chimed in. “No one’s ever heard of them.”

“If that’s what you want to believe, Rusty,” Katie shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t look at him, knowing that he was just trying to bait her into an argument.

As the talk shifted to other subjects, Katie listened for a while then got up and stretched. Walking away from the fire ring she moved to the lean-to that held her gear. The shelter was far enough from the fire that most wouldn’t be able to see her because of the glare, and the rest had their backs to her.

What’s going on, Katie? Kierra sent; it was easy to hear the concern in her mental voice.

Going out for a stroll, I shouldn’t be gone very long. Please keep Rusty away from my things, Katie sent back.

The wolf rose up, anticipating a nighttime romp in a new patch of woods. Katie removed what little she was wearing and moved away from the camp, blending into the night. Her vision adjusted quickly to the moonlight and her nose ramped up the scents it sent to her brain. Nose to the ground she cast about the perimeter of the camp cataloging the scents of the various animals that had passed this way.

Working her way up a long rise she broke out of the trees and was witness to the wonderful sight of the high meadow just beyond where they were currently camped. It wouldn’t take the group an hour to walk into the meadow following the trail which stood out to Katie’s sight like a moonlit river, to the far side of the meadow where the trail ended. They should be able to reach the camp by noon.

She sat on her haunches and breathed the night air, fresh, clean, filled with natural smells. This is right, this is proper, her wolf told her. Lifting her head she howled, a long sorrowful note to human ears, but filled with happiness to one who could understand. She howled again, and this time there was a faint reply. She settled on the bare ground, the wolf content for now, it knew that tomorrow it would be closer to the wolf that answered this night.

It was near midnight when Katie returned to camp. The fire was low and Mark was sitting where he had been when she left. She circled around, still on all fours and came up to him from the side, nosing his leg when she stopped next to him.

“JEEZE!” Mark yelled in surprise, jumping up from the log he’d been sitting on.

Katie sat back on her haunches while Mark gathered his wits about him again.

“I hope you don’t plan on doing that too many times,” Mark said, trying to keep the shock out of his voice. “You’re going to send me to my Maker a lot sooner than He expects me.”

“Sorry, Mark. I really was making a lot of noise when I came in. I thought you could hear me,” she told him. “I just wanted to let you know I was back.”

“Okay,” the twenty-something told her, watching Katie stand up on two legs, tried not to stare at the fur covered teen. Katie smiled as she waved and turned away.

“See you in the morning.” She walked off toward the shelter.

Mark watched the provocative sway of her hips and the swish of her wolf's tail. He groaned silently as his shorts became uncomfortable. He had to remind himself, sharply, that she was a camper and under his care. His mind may have thought that, but his body didn’t care.

Katie reached the shelter and found Traci in the sleeping bag next to hers. Katie curled on top of her bag and up against the younger girl.

~* * * *~

True to her prediction, the group made the final camp well before noon. The whole group pitched in to get the shelters ready, opening doors and the drop shutters, sweeping out leaves and getting rid of unwanted pests. Once all the shelters were ready, Mark and the twelve boys moved into a pair of eight bed cabins, while Kierra gathered the girls together.

“Okay, how are we going to split up?” she asked.

“Kierra, Traci and I want to stay together,” Katie told the leader. Please, Kierra, Katie ‘pathed.

"That's fine." Kierra said. She paired off the remaining girls, had two join Katie and Traci, while the remainder joined her in a separate cabin.

As soon as they put their packs in their assigned shelters, Mark called them together in the middle of the camp.

“I know everyone is sweaty and tired after the hike and clean-up, so the quicker we get through this the faster we can break for the afternoon.” Mark said, standing on the flat edge of the wooden chopping block. “I know that the camp is described as primitive and rustic. For the most part it is, however, there are a few comforts that we just couldn’t do without.

“Over behind me, can everyone see the building with the tank on top? That is our shower and toilets. However, there is only one set, so we have to share. For the girls, it’s suggested that you go in pairs at a minimum. Each side has a door that can be locked from the inside if you feel the need to do so. We are not at home, so please limit your shower time. Hot water is very limited.

“Between the shower building and the fire ring, you should see a roped off circle. Please stay out of that circle. It’s the landing zone for our teleporters. While we’ve never had an accident here where we need to have someone ported out, there’s always a first time for everything. All of our ‘porters know this spot, so please stay out of it.

“We will be having nightly campfires in this ring. Each of you, when you’re not assigned other duties or out in the pit, will be expected to gather firewood.”

Mark was interrupted by the sound of an old style metal triangle bell being rung. “Right on cue,” Mark quipped. “That’s the meal bell.” He smiled at the campers. “What, you thought I was going to be doing the cooking? Three campers per day will be assigned to help in the lodge. This way.”

Mark got down from the chopping block and led the group of campers to the chow hall that had been out of sight since they arrived. A rabbit morph was standing near the door where a large iron triangle hung from a pole. Katie smiled as she locked eyes with him and barely checked the urge to chase when he turned and darted inside the dining hall.

The campers made happy noises as they passed through the food line and made their way to the tables. Traci was right behind Katie, who followed Kierra and Zoe to a table. There wasn’t much conversation as everyone dug into their food. After two days of trail foods, everyone was more than ready for ‘real’ food again.

At the end of the meal, Mark picked out Rusty and Zoe to help with clean up in the dining hall. He pointed to Traci, Thomas and another boy from that group to go with him to get the shower and toilets ready for use. That left Kierra and Katie free for the afternoon.

Don’t get too comfortable, Katie. That means we have to gather firewood.

Foo. I was thinking of playing with a rabbit, she sent back, along with a vision of her running after the morph from earlier.

KATIE! Don’t you dare!

Katie chuckled looking at Kierra’s shocked expression.

It wasn’t hard to gather enough wood for the night’s fire. Katie and the other campers dragged deadfall into the camp to where Kierra waited. The black skinned woman used an ax to chop the dry limbs into smaller sizes, which were easier to handle and would burn better. By the time the dinner bell rang, they had enough for the night’s fire with plenty left over.

After dinner, Katie quickly grabbed her shower things and headed back up the hill to the shower.

“Katie!” Traci called at her as she ran up with her towel and things. “Can I come with you?”

Katie cocked her head to one side, then nodded.

“Sure, Traci.”

The shower wasn’t that big, only a couple of shower stalls with a common dressing area and a few sinks. Katie stripped off what little she wore and stepped into the stall. It was a surprise that the water was hot almost immediately. Stepping into the high pressure spray brought a groan of relief as the wolf girl could finally clean the stuff that had become stuck in her fur during the hike out.

Traci turned the water off on her side and stepped out to dry. She carefully kept her back to Katie and pulled the towel around her tiny body tighter as Katie moved closer.

“Its okay, Traci. There’s no need to be afraid of me.” Katie said quietly. “Turn around and let me see you.” she kept her voice soft hoping that Traci would trust her.

Slowly the smaller girl turned around. Katie sat on the bench across the small dressing area and motioned for Traci to come closer. One small step at a time the girl crossed the open space until she stood nose to muzzle with the wolf.

Katie had no difficulty reading the girl’s emotions. Traci was scared witless that Katie would force her to reveal all her secrets.

"Fear is power, Traci," Katie said quietly. "Anyone who knows what you fear has power over you.” She brushed the girl’s cheek with her paw. “Why are you so afraid that people will find out what you are?

Traci's shocked expression was all the answer she needed. Her mind jumped to the events just before her change.  They locked eyes and Traci's memories and her pain flooded into the empath's mind; a boy doing boy things, getting sick with MORFS, waking up to the emotional trauma of having breasts, the discovery of her smaller size and incomplete gender change. More images and sounds flowed into Katie’s mind, the fights between her parents.

She’s our child! argued the mother.

No! THAT is an abomination! yelled the father. My blood breeds pure! It’s your fault! Your wicked thoughts and impure blood caused this! It must be purged and we must beg forgiveness from God for your sins and wickedness!

Humiliation and ridicule from the father heaped upon the new girl trying to cope with the changes, the new emotions and sensations that coursed through her new body.

The final night at home, her father, drunk, angry at the world, at things beyond his control; coming up the stairs, kicking her door open, dragging her out of her hiding place behind her bed; ripping the clothes from her tiny body and then the light, the blinding explosion of light like a sun going supernova in the room.

The images stopped as Traci fell into Katie’s arms with a soul wrenching scream. Powerful sobs racked Traci's little body as the emotional pain poured from her like putrid drainage from a ruptured abscess. Katie lifted the girl into her lap, cradling her, holding Traci while she let everything go. The tiny girl finally tired and the waves of emotional pain subsided. Traci curled up in Katie's lap, looking up with unfocused eyes and fell asleep. The wolf girl leaned back against the wall of the shower, exhausted from the smaller girl's powerful, emotional catharsis.

Katie? Are you okay? I heard screaming out here. Kierra's thoughts banged against Katie’s shield.

We’re okay. Keep everyone out for now, okay? Katie replied, holding Traci's limp form close.

We? Kierra asked, her emotions colored with jealousy.

We’ll talk about it later.

Okay, sis.

The woman's thoughts faded.

Katie pushed the hair out of Traci’s face. Poor little one, it’s no wonder you're scared of your own shadow.

It didn't take long for Traci to stir. Turning her head she looked up at Katie with unfocused eyes.

“Mom?” came the sleepy voice.

No, tiger. It’s me Katie ‘pathed back, using one of Traci’s old nicknames.

Katie?!

Traci scrambled out of the wolf's lap, and dashed to the far side of the changing room, hiding herself in the corner. Katie got up, picked Traci’s towel off the floor and sat next to her friend. She held out the towel. Traci had to turn to reach the towel and when she did Katie was able to get a good look at all of her. Traci was beautifully exotic looking, from her bright violet eyes all the way down to her toes.

“Katie, I … I’m sorry. I’m such a girl!” Traci almost wailed, turning away, clutching the towel to her chest.

Katie gently turned Traci around to face her and slid a finger under her chin to lift it up. Traci's fear filled eyes met the wolf girl's steady gaze.

"Yes, you are Terry," she said quietly. "You are a very pretty girl." She brushed the girl’s streaked hair over her shoulder.

"How do you know my old name?" Traci's face went from tearful to angry in an instant.

“I saw your memories, before MORFS, when you were a boy.” Katie told her quietly. "I saw what your father tried to do."

“You must hate me.” Traci said, her voice almost a whisper.

“Why?”

“‘Cause I’m so different.”

The statement was so innocent but it was all Katie could do to keep from laughing, but there was no way to keep the smile off her muzzle. She released Traci and dropped down to all fours.

"You want different? Look at me, gone from boy to girl to wooOOLF!" she playfully lunged at Traci and snapped her muzzle at the small girl. The girl jumped back then laughed nervously.

"Hate you? Traci, there's no reason in the world for me to hate you, not for what you are; not for what can't be helped. Now, you go turning into a gazillion watt flashbulb on some dark night and we might have a problem." Katie drew the now unresisting girl into her arms and Traci snuggled into her fur. "No, Traci, no one here hates you."

Traci pulled back after a few minutes, her eyes red and puffy. Katie tipped her head up so she could look directly into the girl's eyes.

“Get dressed before the others start thinking we’re having too much fun in here.”

Chapter 7

Wilderness Tales - II

The next morning found Traci in Katie’s bed, spooned against the larger wolf girl. Katie only smiled and disentangled herself from Traci and quietly left the cabin to head for the bathroom. Kierra wasn’t far behind and followed Katie inside.

Okay, dish. What were you and Traci up to in here yesterday? the woman asked silently not wanting to be overheard.

Katie pondered what she could tell the dark bodied camp leader without breaking her promise to keep Traci’s secret.

Kierra, is this official, or curiosity?

This time it was Kierra’s turn to take a moment before answering. Was it anything that should concern me enough to make it official?

I don’t think so. Traci’s parents are Pures. She’s having a hard time coming to grips that she’s morphed.

Poor kid, morphed and Pures, no wonder she jumps at shadows. I’m glad she trusts you. Let me know if there are any difficulties, okay? Kierra said, touching her fingertips to Katie’s furred arm.

Okay.

After breakfast Kierra announced that Traci and another lightening bug would be going to the quarry pit this morning to start their training. Mark, Rusty and Katie had shower and restroom cleanup. Everyone was sent off to their assigned duties. Katie and the others trooped off to the showers. Mark showed them both where the cleaning supplies were kept, and went with Rusty into the shower area while Katie was assigned the small bathroom area.

Katie was mostly through with her tasks when Mark came to check up on her. “Oy! I see you’ve done this before, Katie,” Mark said standing at the door.

“Yeah, I had my own bathroom in the house and Mom made me scrub it every Saturday before I could go out with my friends. I got to where I could do it quickly and the way she liked it.” Katie put the brushes and the towels in the little wagon and filled the mop bucket with water. When she opened the bottle of cleaner, she started sneezing and put the bottle on the floor. Stepping past Mark she caught her breath and reached into her pocket for the little tube of desensitizer she’d gotten at the beauty shop. After swiping it over her nose, she went back in to finish the job.

“How long has it been since you changed, Katie?” Mark asked as he watched her do her work.

“A few months; why?” Katie asked; her back to the man.

“Curious, is all. Most of our campers wait six months to a year before coming out here to get their abilities under control. Why did you apply so soon?”

Katie wondered what he was getting at, but unfortunately, her nose couldn’t give her any insight, it was numb.

“When two ‘paths, and a judge tell you to get your abilities under control, you listen.” Katie said, working the mop back and forth over the tile floor.

“A judge?” Marks asked. “What happened that you needed to see a judge, Katie?”

“It’s a long story, Mark.” Katie told him, trying to remain calm as she mopped the floor.

“I have time,” Mark said, eyeing the wolf girl.

“So do I, I guess.” Katie said, rinsing the mop in the bucket. She put her cleaning gear away and waved her hand at the bathroom.

“Ready for inspection!” she told him, smiling.

Mark took a quick look around the bathroom and nodded.

“This looks good, Katie. I might assign you to cleaning here permanently.”

Katie growled loudly at the man.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” Mark said, a worried look coming over his face.

Katie walked away from the building, down the hill a ways until she was out of earshot of anyone in the bathroom or shower. She waited for Mark to catch up and sit next to her.

She let her eyes unfocus for a moment before taking a deep breath and turning to face Mark.

“I needed to see a judge, Mark, because I killed two people.” Katie said quietly.

She waited for his response and it was a while before he prompted her.

“By accident?”

“Yes … No …  I ripped their throats out.” Katie said; her voice flat.

“I see.” Mark said. Katie could hear the nervous tremor in his voice, and his scent had changed, the desensitizer was wearing off.

“No, you don’t.” Katie said an edge coming to her voice. “It was kill or be killed, Mark. I was jumped by four thugs that wanted me dead. I killed two of them, rather, the wolf killed two of them. The rest of me was rather out of it.”

“That’s something else; you keep referring to that part of yourself as if it’s something separate. You know that you’re both one and the same.”

“I know. But it’s the only way that I can describe it. There’s me, Katie, the human, the person talking to you. Then there’s my wolf nature. It’s the part of me that would rather be out in the woods, wild and uncontained. It doesn’t care about humans or human law. For it, it’s kill or be killed, survival by fang and claw. But it’s not all of one or the other; it’s more like a balance where the center point keeps moving.

“What about your other abilities? Your telepathy and empathy?”

“What about them?” Katie said, turning to look at the senior leader.

“What training have you had with them?” Mark asked, looking in her eyes.

“I know where the on, off and volume controls are.” Kate said, smiling, remembering the session with Doctor Baker at the MORFS center. “I can shield pretty well.”

“And the ethics?” Mark asked her.

“You mean the ‘no peeking’ rule?” She asked. “Elf; ahh Doctor Baker; was very emphatic about teaching me about that. So, no, I do not go snooping around in other people’s heads. Not even a little bit. But, people are always sending out thoughts, Mark. They’re like loudspeakers. Sometimes it's hard not to hear them.”

Rusty came up to them and let them know he was done with the showers. Katie watched the pair go back up the hill. There was something not right about that boy, but she couldn't put a paw on it.

Katie was in the cabin putting away her few things in the metal wall locker when Traci came in. The smaller girl made a straight line for her bunk and fell backwards on it with an overly dramatic sigh.

“You okay, Traci?”

“I’ll never learn it all.” Traci wailed, then giggled. “It took me all morning to do this!” The girl held up her index finger and Katie watched as the tip blinked red, green then white.

“Cute. Do that with all your fingers and we can use you for Christmas lights!” Katie said, relieved that her friend seemed back to normal.

Any answer was cut off by the lunch bell ringing.

~* * * *~

That afternoon it was Katie’s turn to go out to the quarry pit. Kierra led the way along the trail. This one was in much better shape and even without the markings, would have been easy to follow. It was an easy twenty minute walk through stands of scrub brush and trees to an accessible area of the stone quarry.

The Pit as it was called, was a V shaped area running a hundred meters or so along each side, before it dropped off into a much deeper part of the quarry. Shear walls rose twenty meters or so each way, showing drill and other marks of work accomplished years ago to remove massive blocks of the native stone.

Katie looked around. There was rubble strewn about from what looked like blasting and scorch marks in places along the nearest wall. One area of the twenty meter or so high wall looked like a lava flow. The stone had flowed like water down the wall to puddle at the base then hardened again. An unused block had been hollowed out on the side away from the wall.

Shelter from an out of control power? Katie thought to herself.

Kierra boosted herself to the top of the six foot granite block and sat with her legs dangling over the side. The girl was dressed in shorts that looked more like paint than fabric and a halter top tied up under her moderately sized bra free breasts.

“Feel free to get as comfortable as you want, Katie.” Kierra said. “Do you mind if I get comfortable?”

“I don’t mind, Kierra.” Katie took another look all around the quarry pit. “So what are we going to do out here?” Katie asked turning back to the camp leader who was now topless, leaning back on her arms. “Besides sunbathe?”

Going without clothes sounded good to Katie, but she held off, not sure if Kierra’s invitation was supposed to shock her or be an invitation. She decided that she wasn’t going to worry about it and doffed her tank top, bra and shorts.

Katie looked up at Kierra and wondered if it was the cool breeze or for some other reason the dark woman’s nipples were crinkled to hard points.

“We are going to see how far you can extend your telepathy and empathy.” Kierra said, then 'pathed, How far away have you been able to reach before?

I don’t know; I never tried long distances. Katie replied.

Try now. See if you can sense someone in camp, other than Traci.

Sure. Katie concentrated on the rabbit morph. Feelings swirled inside her, fear, mistrust, nervousness. She told Kierra.

“That sounds like Bobby. Now, I want to you to attempt someone further away. Did you talk to anyone at the lodge?”

“Yes.”

“Concentrate on them. See if you can reach them from here.”

Katie couldn’t remember her name, but called up the mental image of a girl that worked there. She was about her own age, scents of jasmine and sandalwood floating around her. Again Katie reached out, letting her instinct guide her searching. She finally discovered the girl, contented, excited, and tingly, it felt almost like …

Katie broke off the connection and looked back at Kierra who was sitting on the block, sunning herself and watching.

“Who?” Kierra asked.

“I don’t know. A girl at the lodge, about my age.”

“Tara?”

“I guess. I didn’t get a name.”

“And her emotions?”

“I’m not sure I should tell you.” Katie said, not sure if Kierra was really trying to teach her or just using her as a proxy to snoop.

“Was she in bed with someone?” Kierra asked casually. “It’s okay Katie. It’s an open secret at the lodge that she’s jumps into bed with almost anyone. If you have doubts, you can look in my head, she offered.

Katie did. She probed Kierra, looking for conversations that Kierra had with Tara. She found a jumble of other things, whispery visions that had to be fantasies, since Katie had never done any of those things with Kierra. Katie found a specific memory, Kierra and Tara in the shower together, pressed breast to back, Kierra soaping the smaller woman. The sensations of fingers rubbing over soap slick skin caused a similar reaction in the wolf hybrid.

She pulled herself out of Kierra’s head and took a moment to let the sensations fade.

Yes she was, with another girl.

“It’s twenty plus miles back to the lodge, Katie. Just how powerful are you?”

“The MORFS center rated me a potential nine when I tested. But,” Katie shrugged, “I really don’t know what that means.”

A nine? A nine rating means you can touch just about anyone, anywhere.

Anyone?

Kierra nodded. Anyone but a head blind; no one can read someone who’s head blind, or even feel them.

Katie gave the woman a blank stare.

Everyone gives off noise of some sort of mental noise. HB’s are a void, no thoughts no noise. Sometimes it’s natural, that’s really rare. Usually it’s from some sort of brain damage. Sometimes though, the void is caused by a mundane using a commercial shield.

“Let’s try your shielding. Keep me out Katie,” Kierra said.

After a moment, Katie nodded.

Nope, Kierra ‘pathed, sending a mental image of a collar around Katie’s neck.

Try again, the woman sent, this time giving Katie the picture of a leash attached to the collar.

Katie poured more energy into her shielding and still received a picture of her wearing a leather muzzle.

Try again!

Katie stopped, relaxed a moment then remembered a mental exercise Dr. Baker taught her.

Water, Ice, Brick, Steel, DIAMOND!

With each word she visualized her shield being made out of each material, it growing harder, tougher, more impenetrable. With the last word, diamond, she closed down completely, imagining the shield of her mind closing tightly, no openings, made from the hardest material she could imagine.

Wow! You’re going to have to teach me that trick. One second you’re there, and the next you’re a void!

The rest of the afternoon was spent practicing. By the time Kierra called a halt and they both dress, Katie can’t think of anything but passing out on her bunk.

~* * * *~

The next day it was Katie and Traci’s turn to help in the lodge. They started after breakfast, cleaning up and washing the dishes and tables, and doing drudge work in the kitchen.

She was outside taking a break before lunch, when the rabbit morph she’d seen the first day came outside as well.

“Hi Bobby.” Katie said from where she was about ten feet away. She was sitting on a plastic patio chair that someone had brought up.

Bobby jumped and turned to face the unfamiliar voice.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said disgustedly. “You think it’s funny to make me jump like that?”

“I didn’t know.” Katie told him looking far enough away from him to not make direct eye contact but enough to still see him, hoping that he wouldn’t bolt. So far he had stood his ground, but it seemed that any movement from her would send him flying away. “I wanted to apologize.”

“For what?” Bobby asked, looking askance at her.

“The first day I was here. We were coming to lunch and it looked like you bolted when we looked at each other. I didn’t know until yesterday how on edge you were all the time.”

“Well, it’s not something I can control,” the boy said defiantly.

“I know. It’s the nature of your rabbit. That’s something I do understand.” Katie said quietly.

“Like you would know anything about it,” his voice was almost a sneer.

“Well, look at me Bobby. Fur, fangs and a wolf’s nature to bundle it all up. So, yeah, I understand about being influenced by the animal side of a morphed body.”

“So we should be friends ‘cause we’re both hybrids?” Bobby snorted at her.

“Bobby, I doubt that we could ever be friends,” Katie told him, trying hard to keep her voice neutral. “Even so, I can share what I’ve learned about controlling the animal nature, and you could tell me what’ve you’ve learned.”

She raised her eyes so that she was looking directly at the man, “or, maybe not. Somehow I don’t think you’d be willing to step out of that comfortable little zone of misery you’ve built for yourself.” She got out of the chair, snapped her tail and walked past him into the lodge.

That evening Katie didn’t participate in the activities at the fire ring. She found her way up the trail to the pit. Moving away from the entrance she stashed her clothing at the base of a tree and followed her senses to a small path that led out of the pit to the top of the old quarry.

From that vantage point she could see into the next valley and the scattering of lights to the West. How far could she sense? The previous day’s exercises had stirred her curiosity. Dr. Baker, Elf, had never said that reading someone’s emotions was breaking the ‘no peeking’ rule, just that she couldn’t actively poke into someone’s thoughts.

Looking towards the lights she focused her awareness on one of the lights. It felt like she was zooming in to see one face out of a crowd of people. But this wasn’t a face she was seeing; it was like a point of light. Each light had its own color and feel, for the lack of a better way to describe it. She slowly moved her awareness from one side of the valley to the other. Unconsciously she knew what each light was, young, old, happy, sad, whatever.

At random she sharpened her focus onto just one point of light. The influx of emotions was incredible. She was a young mother with a new baby. Lying on her side, in bed as the baby boy nursed, an arm wrapped protectively around him, supporting his tiny head. She sighed, feeling her milk let down, listened as baby suckled. Contentment flowed through her, love for her baby, the life she’d carried for so long. The bed jostled slightly as her husband slid behind her, pressed against her bare back. A strong arm slid over her, holding her to him. Longing for him tinged her emotions, the doctor has told them they had to wait for her to heal, but she didn’t want to wait, she needed his touch, needed the feel of him in her. His touch fired her emotions, awakened an ache deep inside. Turning her head, her lips met his in a kiss that communicated his love for her and her need of him.

Katie sighed as she felt the baby latch on her other breast.

Katie crooned at the child, brushing hair out of the eyes of her baby. She wrapped her free arm around her baby and pulled him close making sure he wouldn’t get cold. His suckling was getting strong, working her nipple, a hand coming up to hold her breast.

The connection with the woman thinned as she got up to burb and changed the baby. Katie was able to draw away, bring herself back to her own place, her own body. The feelings of contentment remained as did the sensation of a baby nursing.

Fully aware of her surroundings again, she felt someone pressed against her.

“Time to come back Traci,” Katie whispered, brushing the girl’s hair out of her face.

“Do I have to?” Traci asked dreamily.

“’Fraid so, baby.”

The girl snuggled closer, smiling.

“Come on Traci, time to get up,” Katie said gently prodding the other girl.

After a few minutes of lying together, Katie sat up.

“Sorry about that,” Katie said. “I didn’t mean to leak all over you.”

“I’m not,” Traci said.

With a ‘pathed suggestion, Traci sat between Katie’s legs and laid back against her chest.

They sat for a while in the darkness; neither saying anything to the other, just enjoying their silent company.

As the silence between them grew Traci reached over and petted the fur on Katie’s leg.

That feels nice. Katie ‘pathed.

“I like it too, Katie,” Traci told her. Then after a few minutes, “Katie, do you like girls or boys?

“Eh?” Katie questioned.

“Before you changed, you were a boy, so do you still like girls, or do you like boys now?”

The question took Katie off-guard.

“I don’t know. I mean I liked girls before, but I haven’t really thought about it since I morphed.” Katie paused. “I have friends who are girls and friends who are guys. But they’re only friends. Why?”

Traci didn’t say anything, instead, unfolded herself and changed position so that she was lying on her side her head propped on her arm. She urged Katie to join her.

“I like this Katie, lying against you. It makes me feel safe.” Tray reached up and slid her hand down her friend’s furry side.

They lay like that for a time until Katie slid her arms around the younger girl, drawing Traci against her. Katie propped her muzzle on top of Traci’s head, letting the girl snuggle into her fur. Traci snuggled closer and sighed once.

The pair stayed that way, arms entwined about each other, content, until Kierra’s mental touch intruded.

It’s light out. You need to come back to camp.

Katie reached back lazily and let the camp leader know they’d be back soon. She felt Kierra’s pang of jealousy as the other girl withdrew her mental contact.

Katie looked at Traci, snuggled into her fur. She slipped a finger under the young girl’s chin and lifted it up so she could look Traci in the eyes. “Time to go back to the cabin.”

Traci mumbled something that sounded like okay.

Carefully Katie led the small girl back towards the camp, retrieving her clothes along the way. She stopped at the edge of the camp when she saw Rusty headed up the hill from the shelters to the shower room. ‘A bit late for a shower’, she thought to herself. She watched Rusty until he was out of sight and then guided the almost asleep Traci to the shelter. When Traci got into bed, she immediately snuggled back against Katie, taking the wolf girl’s arm and drawing it over her like a blanket.

Chapter 8

Wilderness Tales - III

Three nights later Katie spotted Rusty again running up to the shower just after lights out. She had spent the evening on top of the quarry again seeing how far she could push her abilities. She had to remind herself that the smell of salt spray and cool water against bare skin weren’t from her, but from the people along the beach on the west coast where the sun was just beginning to set. It had been very difficult to draw her mind back as she had been enjoying the feel of strong male hands on her body, even if it was only by proxy.

Katie was in the shadow of the trail just before it entered the camp when she noticed Rusty making his way up to the shower, then a few seconds later, he was out again. He eased the door closed and looked around before making the walk back to his cabin. Between the mostly full moon and her lupine vision it was easy to identify the obnoxious boy and to see that he was carrying something in his hand that he hadn’t had when he went into the shower.

Kierra, are you awake?

Yeah, sis, what’s up?

She quickly passed on what she’d seen to Kierra.

That little bitch. I’ll be up in a minute. Meet me at Mark’s cabin.

Katie waited at the edge of the camp until she saw Kierra come out of her shelter walking towards the boys' cabin. As they approached, Katie hung back slightly. Kierra got Mark outside and talked to him and then Mark disappeared inside the shelter.

Katie looked over at Kierra as Mark’s voice could be heard by the pair outside the shelter.

“Pack up your gear, Rusty. You are leaving, tonight.”

“What about my eCom?” Rusty asked his voice angry, indignant. “Give it back!”

“Your parents can claim it after we tell, and show them, what you’ve been doing with it.”

“My parents will have you fired!” Rusty yelled petulantly.

“I doubt that. I’m not the one that violated the privacy of everyone here,” Mark told him. “Did you post any of these pictures?”

“No! I can’t get a good signal out here.” Rusty said loudly.

“If you have, I will make sure that your parents and the police know. Child pornography is still a crime.” Mark told him, his voice shaking. “Kierra!”

“Here, Mark!”

“Call Mercury. Tell him we have a pickup.”

“Right boss.” Kierra told him and pulled Katie away from the shelter.

A half hour later, Rusty was gone, and quiet again descended on the camp.

“Mark?” Katie said, approaching the camp leader where he sat at the fire ring. Wood had been thrown on the embers and it was blazing again.

“What, Katie?” The senior leader replied sharply. He stared at the flames, his rage from earlier having cooled but not near enough.

“Is Traci in any of those photos?” Katie asked, her voice low.

“I don’t know, I haven’t looked at many of them. Why?”

“I can’t tell you, not until I talk with her.” Katie replied.

“It can wait until morning. I’m too mad at the moment.” Mark continued to stare at the flames, his hands clenched into fists.

“Good night.” Katie said quietly. She raised a paw to put on his shoulder, then stopped and turned away.

“Katie,” Mark called after her quietly, “when you come outside, please put something on. I know it’s your wolf nature and I don’t have a problem with it. However, we need at least look somewhat civilized. Okay?” Mark looked over at the girl, his eyes gleaming yellow with the reflected firelight.

“Sure, Mark.” Katie said, turning away from the man.

Morning came too soon for Katie. Traci was curled against her and Katie resisted the urge to lick the girl’s face. Getting up she dressed quickly and went back to where Traci was still asleep.

“Up and at ‘em, Traci. It’s time to get up.” Katie told her roomie. “Hurry up to the bath. We need to talk before breakfast.”

The younger girl roused slowly from her bed, pushing back the covers. Traci was wearing a long nightshirt her parents had sent along because of the cool nights. Katie turned away, giving the girl at least the illusion of privacy in the cabin as she changed into her clothes for the day.

“Rusty is gone. He was sent home last night.” Katie told her young friend. “Mark will explain it today, sometime. I just wanted you to know ahead of time.”

“Why was he thrown out?” the girl’s face was a mask of worry that her secret was out.

“He put a camera in the shower room.”

“Does he have pictures of me?” Traci’s fears grew further. Katie’s nose wrinkled at the fear stink emanating from her friend.

“I don’t know. Mark didn’t say last night.” Katie told her friend. “Does Mark know about you?”

“No.” Traci’s voice trembled. Katie put an arm around her. “Did you tell him?”

“No, Traci. I thought that should be up to you, if it comes up at all.”

Traci could barely walk the path from the cabin to the lodge for breakfast. Her fear that the other campers knew about her differences had all but paralyzed her. Katie stayed with her and they joined Kierra and Zoe at their table. Katie could feel the nervousness in the room. It was all anyone could do to sit and eat their meal. Once the meal wound down, Mark stood up and rapped on the table to get everyone’s attention.

He started by explaining that Rusty was absent, and would not be returning. Mark let that sink in a moment before continuing. He told the campers that Rusty had been expelled for having placed a spy camera in the shower room, and inappropriate pictures of some of the campers had been found on his tablet and eCom. His parents had been notified and arrangements would be made so that those who wished to could withdraw. He concluded that he should know more by lunch.

Zoe raised her hand and asked if any of the pictures had been posted on the public hyper-web.

“I don’t know, Zoe.” Mark said loud enough for the whole room to hear. “We're letting the police handle that.”

“Do we have to go home, Mark?” Traci asked.

“That’s up to your parents, Traci. We have to abide by what they want.”

No one had any other questions, so the campers took their dishes and stacked them at the window to the scullery, then filed slowly outside. Everyone was disturbed by the announcement. Kierra and Mark tried to keep the normal routine going, but it just didn’t work. The campers were too upset.

Traci spotted Kierra in the camp and asked if anyone was going to the quarry.

“No. Everyone’s too bummed out about what happened last night.”

Traci looked sheepishly at the junior camp leader, “Can we go practice?”

“Okay. Sure, Traci.” Kierra said, smiling, glad of at least a little bit of normalcy as she led the way.

Katie watched the pair head down the trail to the quarry. Looking around, she decided to go up the hill past the showers and into the scrub wood on the opposite side of the pit, the side furthest away from the camp. Crouching down in the leaves and underbrush, she lowered her mental screens. She knew that she could reach the far end of the valley at night, but she was curious to see how far she could reach during the daytime.

She quickly built up the image of Dr. Baker, the small woman from the MORFS center, and the only telepath that she’d had close contact with back home. Katie wondered if she could reach her from two time zones away. The wolf girl took a deep breath and pushed her mind outward. The world faded to grey and the little points of light were back. It was like flying over a map covered with dots of light, but one dot pulsed, yellow and white. Katie turned her attention to that light. When she focused her attention on it, the point rushed towards her, expanding, filling her mental vision.

Hun? What! Who! Who are you? the voice was very familiar.

Hi Doctor Baker. It’s Katie. Katie said feeling the woman’s confusion.

Katie, honey, where are you? You sound distant. Are you alright?

I’m okay. I’m learning how far I can ‘path with people. You’re the furthest that I’ve reached so far.

Where are you, Katie?

Katie giggled and then told her Wyoming, near Yellowstone Park.

Wyoming? Honey, that’s … over a thousand miles from here! What are you doing out there?

What you told me to do, practicing and getting my wolf under control.

That’s wonderful Katie. Sorry, but I have to cut you off. I have a patient I need to see. I want to see you when you get back.

Okay, Doctor Baker. Bye!

Katie withdrew and let her vision return. She trembled with giddiness. So far! How far could she really reach? Getting up and stretching, Katie walked out of the underbrush and down the hill towards the rest of the camp.

Katie saw two new faces in the camp. One was a very tall man talking to Mark, and the other was a figure in biker shorts, covered with white and gold feathers everywhere else. He must be one of the teleporters Mark told them about.

Zoe came out of the shelter, backpack in hand, not looking happy. She scowled at the tall man.

Take care, Zoe. Katie sent as Zoe crossed the open space to the teleporter ring.

You too, Wolf. Keep your top on, okay? Zoe replied, a bit of a smile coming through the girl’s mental voice.

Katie giggled, feeling the girl’s jealousy of her lupine body mixed in with her other emotions.

Be careful what you wish for, Zoe. Katie told her, sending her the feeling of a hug.

Katie could see the girl’s smile grow a bit before the tall man came between them. The ‘porter walked into the ring and opened a portal and everyone stepped through the opening in wrinkled space before it closed.

It wasn’t much later when Traci and Kierra came back from the quarry. Traci was exuding happiness as she walked up.

“I did it, Katie” she said trying not to shout.

“Did what?”

“I got it under control. Watch.”

Traci pointed her finger at one of the fire ring logs and a bright beam of light shot from her finger like a flashlight. The beam of white light narrowed and shifted colors towards red. As Katie watched, the beam tightened and suddenly smoke started rising up from the log. Traci wiggled her finger a bit and the scorch marks followed the beam up and down. Traci turned off the beam and looked up at Katie smiling.

“See. I learned how to do a laser beam!”

“That’s great! See? You can do it.” Katie told her.

“Oh, and watch this!” Traci turned towards the open field and held her palm up. She squinted a bit before there was a POP and a blinding flash of light from her hand.

“WOW!” Katie exclaimed and then grabbed for her friend as she started to sag. “You really are getting the hang of it.”

Katie guided her to a log to sit on while she recovered.

“She needs to practice her control, and learn how not to overextend herself.” Kierra said coming up to the pair. She handed Traci a sports drink.

“Even before his change, Terrance had a hard time knowing when enough was enough.” A strangely familiar woman’s voice said from behind the group.

All three turned and looked at the newcomer. Katie instantly recognized the woman dressed in fashionable cargo pants and safari jacket; she was the wife of one of the on-air evangelists of the Church of Genetic Purity. Katie dropped to all fours and leapt between them snarling and growling loudly.

Katie!” Kierra yelled.

“Come to take your abomination back to be killed, Reverend Whitmore?” Katie accused loudly, stepping forward, feeling her hackles go up. The wolf knew what the woman was and wanted blood!

“I don’t know what Terrence told you …” the woman stammered, fear in her eyes, backing away a step.

“Traci didn’t have to tell me, I saw what happened in her memories. He tried to rape her … he wanted her dead!” Katie continued her slow advance on the woman. “Isn’t that what you Pures,” she spat the word out like a curse, “want to do? Kill all of us?” Katie continued closing the distance, the woman bravely stood her ground. “You want to burn the wolf, don’t you, Mrs. Reverend Whitmore!”

“And what do you want, wolf? Kill the human?” the woman asked loudly, contempt and arrogance tingeing her voice.

“You wanted to kill your own! She’s not yours!” The wolf snarled.

“That’s my son, wolf!”

“She’s Pack! She’s not yours— not anymore!” the snarl that followed was both challenge and warning. Her muscled bunched, preparing to leap and take down the threat to her pack.

“Her name is Katie, Mom!” Traci said, rushing up to Katie, putting her arm around Katie’s neck. “She’s my friend! She knows what I am and it doesn’t matter. She didn’t try to fix me like you wanted that doctor at church to do. She makes me feel safe, Mom!”

The woman looked at them, her face softening a little. “I can see that, Terr … Traci.” Moving to one of the logs on the far side of the fire ring, she sat down, opening the gap between the three of them. Katie’s wolf nature backed down further, letting Katie regain more control. “We need to talk. Things have happened since your change, Terrence.”

“It’s Traci, Mom.” Traci said.

“I… I know. But I’ve been calling you Terrence for eighteen years now. It’s hard to overcome the habit.” A nervous smile floated briefly across her face. “We need to talk about family matters, Traci. Privately, please.”

Katie looked at Traci. Traci nodded and smiled, giving her friend a hug around her neck.

“I’ll be close by. If she tries to take you…” Katie turned her head to look directly at the woman, “I’ll kill her,” she growled loudly.

Turning, Katie walked away, up the hill so that she was between the fire ring and the landing area. She sat on her haunches and lowered herself to the ground. Katie worked to calm herself while the pair talked.

Kierra dropped to the ground next to the girl and laid a hand on her back.

“Making sure she doesn’t spirit away your girlfriend?” Kierra asked, idly stroking Katie’s fur.

“Something like that,” Katie grumbled, “and restraining myself from ripping her throat out; among other things.”

“Deep breaths, Katie. In through the nose, and out through the mouth.” Kierra said calmly. “That’s what my yoga and meditation teacher always told us.”

“I don’t think she has ever had to deal with someone like me,” Katie told her. “It’s hard, Kierra. It would be too easy for me to just let go and let the wolf take over. I’d be gone into the woods and…”

“And what, hon?” Kierra asked, draping herself over Katie’s shoulders, effectively pinning her to the ground.

Katie took a deep breath and blew it out, then shrugged. “I don’t know.”

The pair watched as the mother and daughter continued their discussion in the fire ring.

“I was able to ‘path all the way to my home this morning.” Katie said quietly, trying to distract herself.

“Where’s home?”

“Near Atlanta, Georgia.”

“That’s what, sixteen hundred miles?” Kierra said, incredulous that anyone could reach that far.

“Once all this noise settles down, I’m going to try something even further away, Kierra.”

“You know someone in China?” Kierra quipped, giggling a little.

“No, some place even further away.” Katie told her; “Tenkei. There are a lot of MORFS there. There should be at least one or two ‘paths there that I can reach.”

“The orbital city? Can you reach that far?” Kierra asked.

“Don’t know. But I have to try, Kierra. I have to know what my limits are …” She looked over her shoulder at her friend, “… or if I have any.”

“That scares you? Not having limits?” Kierra asked still holding Katie to the ground.

“Yeah, it scares me, a lot.” Katie was very aware of the camp leader across her back. “If I don’t have limits, Kierra, what’s to stop me from becoming my evil twin?”

“Huh?”

“You know, the evil twin, the bad seed; the mad scientist that wants to take over the world.” Katie said, trying to ignore the feel of Kierra’s breasts against her back.

Any answer Kierra was going to make was cut off as Traci and her mother got up from their seats at the fire ring.

Katie was up just as fast as Kierra would let her, and down the hill a moment later. She approached the pair on two legs this time, not four as she had before. Traci slipped an arm around Katie’s waist as she approached.

“I’m staying for the rest of the camp,” Traci said proudly.

“Will you be here, Katie?” Mrs. Whitmore asked.

“I don’t know, yet. My parents haven’t said anything.” Katie told her civilly. Inside the wolf reared up, trying to force control, seeing its enemy so close. “I hope so.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Something the matter?” Mrs. Whitmore asked.

“Yes. The wolf sees you as the enemy, Mrs. Whitmore. It wants to protect Traci, any way it can.”

“Including killing me;” the woman said, looking at Katie’s eyes.

“Whatever it takes, Mrs. Whitmore, it will do. Traci is part of its pack, and wolves protect their own.”

“And I’m the enemy because I’m a Pure.”

“No, not because you’re a Purist. It’s because of what happened to Traci.” Katie told her. “I don’t care about what you believe, Mrs. Whitmore, it’s what you do with Traci, or what you did, that matters.”

Mrs. Whitmore eyes lit up with recognition. “I remember you now. You’re the one from Georgia; the one that killed the two church members there.”

Katie nodded slowly, sadness filling her eyes. “Yes. I did.” Traci’s grip around her waist tightened.

“They were trying to kill me and the court ruled it self-defense.” Katie told the woman, looking her in the eyes. “I’m also the one that helped stop an attack on that same church by MORFS supremacists a month later.”

“Why?” Traci asked, looking up at her friend.

“No one has a right to tell someone else how or what to believe. I don’t like what your Mom’s church believes, and I hate what they preach. But; they have a right to believe what they want. Actions are different. Someone takes actions against me, I’ll defend myself. Someone attacks another person; I’ll do what I can to defend them. “

“The world is more than black and white, Katie.” Mrs. Whitmore said.

“The world is a very simple place for my wolf. Kill or be killed; defend the pack or die trying.” Katie shrugged. “That’s why I’m here, to get that part of me under better control.”

Mark came up then, holding his eCom. “Katie, I need to talk to you. Your mom is on the phone.”

Katie moved away with Mark and took the offered phone from him.

“Katie, honey, are you okay? We got a message that there was some sort of problem out there.”

I’m fine Mom. There was a problem with one of the other campers. But it’s all taken care of.

Katie? How are you doing this? Her mother sounded shocked.

I’m a telepath, remember? It’s not hard for me to reach you from here. I was able to reach Dr. Baker earlier.

Tell me what happened with this other camper, Katie. Her Mom said, her concern coming through her mental voice.

One of the boys had put a spy camera in the shower. He had pictures of us on his eCom and tablet. Mark has the eCom and the guy’s tablet, and he’s been sent home.

What else is going on out there Katie?

Nothing Mom. We’re doing okay. I need to be out here, Mom. Please let me stay.

Okay, Katie. I’ll tell the camp director.

Thanks Mom. I love you.

I love you too, honey. Be careful.

Katie handed the phone back to Mark so he could talk to Katie’s mom.

“It’s okay, Katie, everything is taken care of,” Mark told her a moment later.

Katie smiled at the senior camp leader and went back to where Traci and her mom were standing. “I’ll be staying here too,” she told them.

Traci wrapped her arms around the wolf girl and gave her a happy hug. “Goodie!” she cheered and giggled.

“Katie,” Mrs. Whitmore started, almost reluctantly, “I would like to ask you something, and I know that I have no right to impose upon you about this.”

She paused a moment to gauge Katie’s reaction, then continued. “My husband and I are getting a divorce. He hasn’t taken the news very well, and that’s one of the reasons Traci is out here in the middle of nowhere. I’m trying to keep her safe. I don’t think Bart would come after my child, but he knows how much I love her and he can be ruthless. Would you help keep Traci safe while she’s out here?”

“Sure. I’d be doing that without you asking, Mrs. Whitmore.” Katie told her, smiling at Traci.

“Thank you.” The woman said, looking at her daughter then at Katie. “It doesn’t feel like enough, Katie. It feels like I should be doing more than just asking you for help. Is there anything you want, anything you need?”

“Not for me Mrs. Whitmore.” Katie told her, getting up so that she was almost at eye level with the older woman. “But people will listen to you. Speak out against discrimination and bigotry, in any form. MORFS survivors aren’t any different than anyone else. Peel away the changes and the people underneath are just the same as everyone else.”

The woman facing Katie smiled. “That won’t go over too well with the congregation. But I doubt that I’ll ever be speaking in front of them again anyway. I’ll do what I can.”

“Thank you Mrs. Whitmore.” Katie said.

The woman held out her hand for her daughter and they walked up the hill to the TP ring. There they said their final good-byes and Traci waited with her mom until the TP opened a portal and whisked Mrs. Whitmore and another adult away.


Chapter 9 – Wilderness Tales IV

When everything settled from the morning, only five campers had dropped out.

Thomas from the boy’s shelter was still there. He sat quietly at a table by himself eating his lunch. He was being ostracized by the other boys as he and Rusty had been friends. None of the others wanted to be associated with the chubby young man.

Looking towards him, Traci caught Katie’s eye and motioned her over to his table. Together they got up and moved to his table.

“Hi, I’m Traci,” she told him. It looked like a light went on in his face as Traci smiled at him. “This is Katie.”

“Hi.” Katie told him, smiling. The smile on his face turned fearful.

“You … you’re not going to bite me, are you?”

“Why? Should I?” Katie asked, leaning towards him, letting her long tongue slide around the outside of her muzzle.

“Katie, stop!” Traci scolded, “You’re scaring him.”

“Sorry.” Katie said, sitting up. “No, I don’t bite. Why?”

“Rusty … Rusty said that if I didn’t do what he told me …” Thomas’s face clouded up, the fear plain on his face.

“Thomas,” Katie slid her paw across the table, palm up. “I won’t hurt you, no matter what Rusty said.”

Thomas nodded.

“I really would like to know what Rusty told you. If you don’t want to tell me, you can take my hand and think it to me.” Katie kept her voice calm as she looked at the boy.

Thomas paused a moment, looking any place but at Katie.

“Rusty showed me what you did, at that school; showed me the stories on the web and the school video. He told me if I didn’t do what he wanted that he’d make sure that you did the same thing to me.”

“And what was it that he wanted you to do, Thomas?” Katie was trying hard to mask her emotions as she listened to the boy.

“I saw the pictures; the ones from the showers. I saw you, Katie, and Zoe, and,” he looked over at Traci, “and you, Traci. I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about, Thomas.” Traci told him. “What did you do for Rusty?”

“He made me boost his eCom, so he could email the pictures.” Thomas’s eyes showed his anxiety, Katie could feel the other emotions, the guilt the boy felt, knowing he’d done wrong and the uncertainty of what the killer sitting across the table would do.

Katie took her own deep breath and let it out slowly.

“You’re a cyberpath?” Traci asked.

Thomas nodded. “I help my dad at his shop. He calls me his test node.” He laughed nervously. “He fixes computers and other stuff.”

“Thomas; did you say anything about this to Mark or Kierra?” Katie asked.

“No, Katie.” The boy looked down at his plate.

“Thomas, look at me.” Katie said, using the same soft tone she had used with Millicent when she babysat her as Kevin. “You’ve done nothing wrong, but you need to tell Kierra or Mark what you’ve told us. Okay?”

“Now?” Thomas asked sheepishly.

“It can wait until you finish lunch,” Traci told him smiling.

~* * * *~

Katie sat up on top of the quarry pit looking down along the valley. This was supposed to be a vacation! She was supposed to be dealing with her own problems, not everyone else’s!

“AHHHGH!” she screamed out in frustration.

“Primal scream therapy, Katie?” said a male voice from behind her.

Instantly she was on all fours, turning to face the intruder, hackles rising. She calmed a bit when she saw who it was coming up the path to her little hiding place. “Maybe; a little,” she replied, sitting down on her haunches.

“I wanted to let you know, all the pictures that Rusty sent out have been found and scrubbed. They shouldn’t show up anywhere.” Mark sat cross-legged on the ground next to Katie. Together they watched the sun setting behind the mountain range to the west.

“Traci’s too?”

“Hers too.”

“Good. She doesn’t need any more grief.”

They sat there for a while longer before Mark spoke up again. “Thank you for not getting upset with Thomas.”

“Thomas didn’t do anything wrong. Well, he did, but not because he wanted to. He got bullied by Rusty and caved. I know what that’s like, and I can’t blame Thomas at all. If anything I’m pissed even more at Rusty. He had no right to use me like that against Thomas. All of this stuff is hard enough without being used as a boogyman.”

“You were bullied in school?”

Katie snorted.  “Yeah, in the time before I changed into Katie the all-powerful wolf bitch, killer, nemesis of Purists and defender of the weak, I was Kevin the nerd; lowest of the low. I survived by caving to every bully in school. Caving or running away.”

“And you resented it?” Mark asked quietly.

“Heck yes I resented it!” Katie tried hard to keep her building anger bottled and failed. “Wouldn’t you? I got beat up before I got MORFS by a bully who made me write his research papers for him. Him and his brother and his thug boyfriend! They beat the crap out of me and then shoved and kicked me into a locker!” The tears started leaking from her eyes. “They broke my ribs, they stomped on my hand and … and they turned me into … THIS! …” The wail that came out was part human, part wolf and all anguish.

Katie fell to her side on the ground. Emotions, bottled for so long welled up like a geyser. The catharsis was hard, long and loud. She didn’t resist the arms that surrounded her … she barely noticed. She didn’t hear the quiet words spoken into her ear or feel the girlish kisses on her face. Neither did she notice the yellow eyes staring out from the surrounding brush.

The sky was fully dark when Katie became aware of her surroundings again. She felt the little arms surrounding her and the body pressed against her back. She listened to learn who else was around, but heard no one. Looking around, Mark was nowhere to be seen.

Mark?

What? Oh, Katie. Feeling better?

Yes. I’m not sure if I need to be mad with you or not though. Katie said weakly.

Katie, the only one who couldn’t see that you were about to come unglued about something was you. Mark’s mental voice was so much different than his spoken voice. The quarry has seen its share of emotional meltdowns, as well as out of control powers. Katie could feel the sympathetic smile in his mental voice. Is Traci with you?

Yes.

She heard your howl and came running to see what was wrong. She told me she would stay with you while you recovered. Come back when you’re ready. I have plates of dinner in the oven for the two of you.

Thank you, Mark. I’m sorry for being a pest.

Katie, you are anything but a pest. Mark replied.

~* * * *~

It was nearly lights out when Katie and Traci made it back to their shelter. Both had been quiet all evening since waking up on top of the quarry. Katie started to say things all through dinner, but they died in her throat. Her embarrassment at having Traci seeing her that way, crying like a baby in a total emotional meltdown, was more than just a little.

Traci waited for Katie to undress and slide into the sleeping bag. Katie started to turn away and Traci stopped her.

“Please look at me, Katie,” the younger looking girl said, almost whispering.

Katie rolled back over to face her friend as she undressed. Before, Traci would undress in the dark with her back turned, shielding herself as much as possible. Tonight, the girl wasn’t hiding anything, letting Katie see all of her slim, almost boyish body. Katie looked into the girl’s eyes, felt the mix of emotions whirling inside, embarrassment, shame, and confusion that she was attracted to another girl.

Get in bed before you catch cold, Katie ‘pathed to her roommate.

Traci did just that, pulling the covers up to her chin. Katie pulled her friend close, letting Traci bury into her fur.

Thanks for staying with me. Now, who’s being the girl? Katie giggled mentally. I guess I got over a lot of junk that I never knew I had. Katie pushed the hair, Traci’s and her own, out of Traci’s face. The power of the emotions roiling inside of both Traci and herself scared the wolf girl.

“I love you, Katie.” Traci said quietly, looking into her eyes.

Katie had seen that look before, from Millicent. Trust; complete and total. It was one thing to get that look from a sleepy little girl you’re carrying to bed, but from Traci … the implication of that look scared Katie to the core. Could she let someone get that close to her? Should she let someone get that close to her, given what she’d done since MORFS completely upended her life?

“I love you too,” Katie said, gently nuzzling her ear.

Katie reached over with a paw and turned off the lamp.

~* * * *~

Sunlight was just creeping into the camp when Katie woke. It took her a moment to realize what was poking her in the stomach, and then smiled when she remembered who it belonged to.

Katie tried to disentangle herself from her smaller companion without waking her up, but it wasn’t to be.

“Katie?”

“Here, love.” Love? Katie thought to herself. Where did that come from?

“What time is it?” came the sleepy question from a still mostly asleep Traci.

“Time for you to get up,” Katie told her, bending down to give Traci a lick on her cheek.

Traci slid out of the joined sleeping bags and hissed as her feet hit the cold floor. Katie tried not to smile as the smaller girl’s body reacted to the cold, while Traci rushed to get enough clothing on to run to the bathroom up the hill.

Katie was dressed as much as she needed to be by the time Traci was back. Katie brushed out her hair and tail while Traci finished dressing and got her boots on. Together they headed out to face the coming day.

Kierra was coming out of her small cabin as the pair approached.

“You two have no right to be this chipper this early in the morning,” the woman said, giving them a once over.

And good morning to you, too, grumpy, Katie ‘pathed to the woman.

The trio headed to the lodge, to be joined a few minutes later by the other campers.

Breakfast was slightly less noisy because of fewer campers, but otherwise normal. Even Thomas was back in the good graces of the other boys.

Katie was surprised when her name was not called for chores or for a stint in the quarry. When breakfast ended and everyone made their way to their various assignments, Katie ‘pathed Kierra.

Kierra, I’m going to go out and play wolf in the woods.

Okay. Yell if you get into trouble. I’m sure you’ll be able to reach me from where ever you are.

Katie went to the shelter and undressed. She poked her head outside. No one was in sight and it was a quick walk to the wood’s edge. The wolf pushed forward, overpowering Katie’s self, it had been contained too long, and it was not going to be denied further.

Like a passenger in a runaway car, Katie was along for the ride. The wolf escaped, bounding through the woods reveling in the scents and feeling of freedom. Panic rose unbidden in the girl, but she soon realized that the bloodlust that she’d felt before wasn’t there. This wasn’t a wolf protecting its pack or itself, it was a wolf just living.

She caught a scent, put her nose to the ground and sniffed. This way! She followed the scent until; an explosion of leaves to her left and the chase was on. And just as quickly, it was over, the rabbit in her jaws twitching as it died. She gave the animal another hard shake before dropping it on the ground. With one paw on the carcass, she tore into the fur and the meat underneath.

Once the rabbit was gone, she was back up, nose to the ground and in the air, cataloging the scents. Wildlife was abundant in the area, as were other wolves. A potent male was about, the strength of the scent markers indicating that this was a powerful alpha wolf. Other scents were mingled through the strong alpha’s scent, probably the other members of the pack. Katie continued her trek around the perimeter of the camp.

She found a rock ledge and climbed to the top. It jutted out over the valley opposite the Bear Lake Lodge, the same direction as the scattering of lights she could see at night from the top of the quarry. A river flowed towards her, filled with fish. Hunting should be good there, fish were good eating. Carefully she picked her way from the ledge down to the valley floor and set out towards the riverbank.

The wolf was still very much in control as they got close to the water. Katie could hear the water rushing downstream. The scents here were different. Human scents abounded. Drawn by her curiosity, Katie loped her way to the line of trees bordering the river. There were a few people there. One family, near where Katie laid in the grass, was busy fishing, throwing lines into the water. A father was there along with three girls. One, no more than five or six years old wandered away while their dad was doing something with the older girls.

Like most children, the girl saw something that caught her interest and she made a beeline for it. This time, her interest was Katie. The girl walked up to her and sat next to her, petting her on the head and hugging her around the neck. The wolf turned and licked the side of the child’s face, getting a squeal of laughter for her efforts. That attracted the attention of the father and siblings. It was almost comical watching the way they approached to retrieve the wayward girl. In the end, the wolf got up from where she was laying, and nosed the little girl one more time before turning and disappearing through the light brush.

Katie’s wolf nature became less demanding, less controlling as the day continued. Even when Katie knew that she could push forward and regain control, she didn’t. For now, she was content to let that part of her nature lead, to just be a wolf.

It was after supper when Katie got back to camp. The sun was low, just above the ridges to the west. Darkness would descend on the camp soon. She stopped at the edge of the camp and stretched. The wolf was sated, it had its time in the sun and knew that it needed to let go.

Katie stretched again as she stood on two feet. She strolled leisurely across the grassy area between the woods and the cabin she share with Traci and two other girls. No one was inside and she grabbed her shower things intending a run to the bath before the nightly fire.

Traci stood just outside the door. She was smiling and then spotted the blood still staining Katie’s muzzle and chest. The smile turned into a look of shock and then horror.

“Katie?” Traci asked, the girl’s voice giving away her feelings.

“I’m okay Traci. It’s rabbit, not mine.” Katie told her, in an ‘it’s no big deal’ tone of voice.

“You…killed rabbits?” Traci asked, her face losing color.

“I was hungry.”

“Katie! How could you!” Traci almost shouted, the revulsion plain in her voice.

“I’m a wolf, and wolves hunt their food, kill it, and eat it,” Katie told her calmly.

In her saying that, in her admitting that she was a wolf, something changed inside Katie. She accepted her nature, the otherworldliness of her changes. The emotions, constantly in conflict inside herself, quieted for the first time since she woke up in the hospital.

“I’m going to the shower, Traci. We can talk there, or we can talk when I get back.” Katie reached out a paw to the girl, but Traci shrank back, looking away.

Moving past the teen, Katie headed up the hill to the showers.

The warm water felt good. It took a while to get the blood out of her fur around her muzzle and her chest and paws. She thought about what she had told Traci, and about what Mrs. Baker had told her, and Shell. All along it had been about accepting what she had become. She had finally accepted that she and the wolf were one, not two separate entities inhabiting the same body. It was a facet of her makeup, like her nano-nails or her telepathy.

“I am what I am,” she said out loud to no one but herself, “for better or worse.”

Turning the water off, she stood for a minute to let the excess run off and then stepped out of the shower stall. Going into the dressing area, she put her hands on the bench and shook, flinging excess water off her like, well, like a wolf.

ACK!” a voice squeaked in the corner of the dressing area, right where most of the water sprayed.

“Traci?” Katie said quietly, looking at the corner. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were there.”

Using a shedding blade and a slicker brush, she worked the remaining water out of her fur. Katie didn’t so much ignore the girl, but let her watch as she groomed. She couldn’t reach her back to get to the still soggy fur there. As she tried, a small hand touched hers and took the slicker brush from her.

“Let me,” Traci said in her ear.

Katie sat quietly, letting the smaller girl brush out the fur along her back from shoulders to tail.

“Pheww. You smell like a wet dog.” Traci said innocently.

“What, that’s supposed to make me feel bad?” Katie responded, smiling at her friend.

“Oh! I’m sorry!” Traci squeaked.

“Sorry for what?” Katie turned on the bench to look at her friend. “I can’t help being what I am.” Katie lifted her chin so that their eyes met. “I won’t hide what I am, Traci. It’s not like I could, even if I wanted to. I came face to face with it today and finally accepted it. I hope that you can as well. I wouldn’t want to lose you as a friend.”

At the fire ring that night, the blaze was higher, combating the cooler nights they were having. Katie was enjoying the warmth, letting it soak into her. Everyone else was there as well.

“We missed you at dinner, Katie; everything okay?” Mark asked.

“Everything’s fine, Mark. I had already eaten, so I wasn’t hungry.” Katie said.

“Where did you eat?” Thomas asked, “The closest restaurant is back at the lodge.”

“Down in the valley to the west of here. A couple of rabbits and some field mice.” Katie told them like it was nothing out of the ordinary. The wolf acted like a puppy chasing the little rodents across the open field.

“How were the mice?” Mark asked, his face a deadpan.

“Boney.” Katie said, picking between her teeth with a claw and flicking away an imaginary piece of something.

She tried to hide her smile as Thomas and Kierra both blanched but failed. Traci looked away stifling a giggle.

The fire didn’t go very late. Everyone was tired. It had been as long a day for everyone in camp as much as it had been for Katie. Mark reminded everyone that morning would come early as Kierra gathered the girls together to walk them to their cabins.

Mark was right, morning came early. Katie awoke as it grew light enough to see out through the cabin’s window. She wasn’t surprised when she discovered Traci burrowed into her fur. Katie gently brushed the hair out of the smaller girl’s eyes.

Katie let her go when she wiggled away again and slid out of the bag. Katie could feel Traci’s bodily urgings. Traci quickly threw on some bottoms and ran for the bathroom up the hill. The wolf girl slipped out of the sleeping bags, shook and got out her brush and comb. It didn’t take long to comb out her fur and get ready for breakfast.

Over their food, Katie chatted with Thomas, trying to put him at ease around her. Even with their talking the day before, the young cyberpath was still overtly nervous around Katie. She decided not to try too hard to win his acceptance and left him alone. During breakfast, Mark reminded Katie that it was her turn to clean the showers and toilets.

Katie saw the state of the toilets and wondered who had left the place in such a mess. Granted, it would get messy just by people using it; that was unavoidable. But the mess that greeted her was well beyond that. Looking around, it was clear that it was going to take a while to accomplish. Katie was wearing the last of her clean clothes until her turn at the laundry which was the next day and she really didn’t relish walking around all day smelling of sweat stink. Carefully she removed her shorts and top and hung them out of the way on the towel hooks.

She started in on the toilets, sweeping the floor to get the loose paper and other trash up. From there she scrubbed the toilets and stalls and then moved on to the sinks. Everything wasn’t as clean as she would have it at home, but at least it was presentable. Going around to the other side, she surveyed the showers and got to work on them. By the time she was done cleaning and pouring disinfectant in the showers and on the floor to keep the fungus to a minimum, she was sweating heavily. She jumped into one of the showers to rinse and cool off a bit. She drip dried as she put away the cleaning supplies.

She heard the sound of Mark’s boots on the wood porch outside and a few seconds later the door swung open. Katie was just sliding the mop pail into the closet and hanging up the mop. She closed the closet door and turned to face the senior camp leader.

"All done, Mark." Katie said cheerfully, but the teen knew that the man wasn't looking at her work. Her rinsing off in the shower had matted her fur, outlining her form more than usual.

She didn't need her abilities to know what effect she was having on the man. Turning slightly she gave the man a three quarter view.

There was a husky growl from the man as he looked at her. Katie whiffed a scent coming from the man, one she had smelled before near Mark. Canine.

"You're a hybrid." Katie said, stating the obvious.

He nodded, stepping into the shower room, closer to Katie. The scent of canine and arousal was stronger now. Katie's vision washed out, the wolf pushing forward.

It looked at Mark. This one wasn't worthy, he wasn't strong enough to take her. His pups would be weak, not strong enough to lead.

Mark advanced another pace; Katie growled a warning, her hackles rising.

"No." she commanded, pushing her will at the man. It was the same feelings she had when dealing with the dog hybrid at the Burger Shack. She was Alpha Bitch and this lesser… creature would learn its place.

Mark tried meeting her eyes, but couldn’t, a whine escaped from him. As Katie stepped forward, the man backed away. He missed the door and was forced sideways into a corner of the changing area. Katie continued her slow advance. The whimpers from Mark grew louder, more strident until she was face to face with him. Marks eyes were wide, a ring of white visible, showing his near panic.

In a final act of submission, Mark tipped his head up, showing his throat. Without hesitation, Katie lunged forward, snarling and with bared teeth, clamped her mouth on his neck. She held him that way, growling, pinning him in place. After a moment, she released him, turned and bolted through the open door.

Dropping to all fours she ran. She needed to get away from camp, from that… that, weak creature that dared think it could mount her.

The run felt good, disgust giving way to elation as her lupine nature pushed more to the fore in her consciousness. Katie let her instincts guide her through the woods. Following game trails she made her way up to the sharp ridgeline of the hills surrounding the camp.

It wasn’t hard to find a protected area large enough for her to lie down and stretch out. From this vantage point she knew the camp was to the south, and the quarry to the north. She faced east.

Since she had been practicing reaching long distances, it wasn’t difficult for her to reach out with her ability and connect with her mother.

Hi Mom, Katie ‘pathed.

Katie? Honey, what’s wrong? her Mom replied, the surprise clear in her voice.

Nothing’s wrong, Mom. I’m practicing again. Did Dad go on his trip to Tenkei yet?

Yes, honey. He left two days ago. He should be up to the station and probably eating dinner now. Why?

I’m going to see if I can reach him.

Honey, be careful. I don’t want you hurting yourself trying to reach all that way. Her mom‘s voice carried the concern she felt.

I won’t get hurt Mom. It either works or it doesn’t. I love you.

I love you too, honey.

Katie dropped the link.

She opened her awareness and felt nothing that wanted to harm her. Again she pushed out with her telepathy. Again her awareness was filled with lights and she searched for the one particular one that held her Father. There! In the large cluster away from all the others!

She closed in on it and made contact. Hi Daddy She said quietly.

Katie! the voice had an edge of panic to it What are you doing here?

I’m a telepath, remember Daddy? I’m seeing how far I can reach.

Through the link she felt a groan and the sensations of small hands pressing down her spine and across her hips.

Daddy? What’s wrong, where are you? It was Katie’s turn to sound concerned.

It’s okay Katie, honey. My host has taken me to one of the public baths here. One of the attendants is scrubbing me.

Is she pretty? Katie giggled at her Father’s mental sputter. Don’t let Mom know.

I won’t honey. Are you doing okay there at camp? he asked, another groan coming through the link between them. The hands went from hips up her spine to her shoulders. This time both Katie and her father moaned as the hands feel so good. Katie giggled.

I’m okay Dad. I’m doing great. Katie told him. Have fun in your bath, Daddy. I love you.

I love you too. Night, sweetie.

Katie let this link fade too. She swiftly became aware of the world around her again.

HA-ZAI! She shouted ecstatically.

KATIE! WHAT’S WRONG? Kierra yelled in her head.

I did it! I made it all the way to Tenkei! Katie ‘pathed, unable to contain her exuberance.

That’s great, but do you have to let everyone in the free world know? Kierra said, only half serious.

Sorry Katie continued, reducing the intensity. I did it, I really did it!

That’s great. Remember, you need to practice stretching all your abilities. Use your empathy as well.

Okay, will do that too. Katie said, letting the link drop.

Katie wondered what she could really do that was new. She knew she could reach out to the space station telepathically, and it seemed that her empathy reached just as far. Those were all human contacts. She was a wolf. Could she feel wildlife as easily as she felt humans?

There was only one way to find out.

She changed from trying to reach one specific person to expanding her awareness of things around her. She opened her empathy to feel the life around her. Images flooded her mind, sensations, Katie wasn’t there. She was the doe that walked cautiously along the edge of a field, grazing through the tender new growth grass while her fawn suckled. She was the squirrel in the tree limbs nearby, chasing a rival, keeping them from stealing food, the need to store away for the coming winter strong in her.

Katie moved her attention in another direction, feeling the rabbit doe and buck nearby, kits safe in their nest in the underbrush.

In another direction, she felt the alpha wolf of the local pack, felt his strength, his bond with his mate who was nearby. Further away was a solo wolf. His emotions were different, not primitive like the alpha with its mate. There was more than the animal intelligence she felt with the male and female wolves.

She focused on the solo wolf. Katie could see him in her mind’s eye, just as she could see her mother when she focused on her. His yellow eyes turned to look at her.

His attention was intense, almost overpowering.

Good came the single thought from the wolf. You are better now.

At Katie’s questioning thought, a memory came back, Katie laying on the ground, her wails loud and shrill in her ears, Mark holding her, then Traci running up, changing places with Mark. The smaller girl wrapping her arms around the distraught wolf girl, kissing her face then as Katie quieted, the smaller girl curling with her, holding her before they both fell asleep on the ground.

You are wolf. You know this now. It is good, came the powerful, almost overwhelming thoughts from the wolf.

The shock of the contact with the wolf knocked Katie back into her own mind. Cautiously she reached out again, this time, just to that intelligence.

Who are you? Katie asked, feeling the powerful mind as if it was next to her.

I am, the wolf responded. Come with me!

Katie hesitated, not sure what to think of this; creature, presence, whatever it was.

Come with me, it repeated. Please.

She could feel no guile coming from the voice in her mind, no threat. Dropping to all fours, the wolf girl ran towards him. She worked her way to the ridge where she had first looked to the west of the camp.

You are close. Keep moving towards the evening sun, to the grass beyond. I will meet you.

The wolf in Katie pushed forward, her vision graying, but not so much that she felt like she was no longer in control. It was easy to find the owner of the voice in her head. He was a massive black wolf, larger than any natural wolf she knew about. His fur was jet black; his eyes were an intense gold, and held intelligence. She could swear that he smiled at her approach.

Katie’s instincts were to tuck her tail, bow and roll her shoulder to the ground, exposing her throat to this massive creature. She was certain he was like her, a Primal, but that didn’t stop her from showing her submissiveness.

The other came and sniffed her, rubbing his body against hers. Katie dropped to the ground entirely. Katie knew this was the way that wolves talked to each other, but felt she needed to be equal with this creature, not showing her belly to him. She fought her instincts, but they were too powerful.

The other creature moved away, and Katie sprang to her feet and ran after him.

What are you? Katie asked. They crossed the grassland heading back into the woods.

I am, Katie, the voice said inside her head. You are like me.

A Primal?

If that is what you call this, yes, the silent voice rumbled, reverberating in her mind.

He didn’t say anything more until they crossed into the woods further west that she’d been before. There, the massive wolf stopped and lifted his head, scenting the air.

This way. He turned to run deeper into the woods.

Katie had no choice but to follow along. They ran together for a time before he stopped again. Katie could scent what they were trailing, a doe.

They split up, Katie’s instincts coming to the fore, pushing her intellect down. There was hunger in her belly; the animal in front of her was food. Katie moved around ahead of the doe, to the start of the game trail that led from the little clearing. As the other wolf drove the doe forward, Katie ran at it, cutting off its escape, and between them, they brought the animal down.

Katie felt no sorrow for the animal as it died, no revulsion as the pair tore open the carcass, feeding on the meat and organs. It was food, she was hungry, they fed.

Once their hunger was assuaged, they moved off further into the woods. As they ran together, Katie’s wolf nature pushed further forward, her intellect receding into the background, but never completely. He led her to his den, a snug, warm space under a fallen tree out of the weather. Katie yawned and curled in the slight depression in the middle of the den and quickly fell asleep.

Dreams filled her sleep, nightmares. Visions of places she’d never been, people she’d never known were dying and she knew that she was responsible.

When she woke, she felt the other, his name was Adam, against her. He, Adam, was curled against her like she would curl against Traci. She looked over her shoulder at him, and information about him filtered into her consciousness. A recluse, he had been attacked by a wolf, one like he’d never seen before. He killed it, but the wolf had wounded him gravely. Out in the middle of the woods, he’d thought he was going to die and had made his peace with the world and with the evil he had done in his life. He was almost glad, his death would allow many to live, unlike when he was alive and had killed so many.

When he woke, Adam was as he was now. Katie couldn’t tell how many years he had spent in the wild, other than it had been many turns of the seasons. She saw his memories of loping back to the cabin he had called home for so long and saying good bye to his humanity, felt him turn away and race off into the woods. Adam submerged further and further into his wolf nature, until now, there was little left but wolf.

I care not for the world of men, Katie. His thoughts came into her mind. It is a world of deceit, of lies. I am not of that world any more.

Katie didn’t argue, knowing that there wasn’t anything she could say. She followed him out of the den. Together they started a patrol of Adam’s territory.

She trailed Adam along the edge of his territory. Many things filtered into her consciousness as they made their way through the woods. She learned both from Adam and her own lupine instincts which scents were for things dangerous and which were delicious.

That evening found them in a different place, miles away from where they had started their day. A different den; one less comfortable than the previous. They curled together again, sleeping as the full moon rose over the mountains.

The following day was a repeat of the one before. The pair trotted along the edge of the wolf’s territory, renewing scent marks as they went. Katie tried to get Adam to speak of his past, before his change. Adam refused to talk about it. There was the feeling that his change was a kind of purgatory, penance for what he believed were the evils he had done while still a man.

When she pressed him about it, Adam growled and warned her off. That is my past, youngling. I do not wish to recall it.

One morning dawned clear and crisp and Katie was in a playful mood. As they continued their circuit of Adam’s territory, Katie would run at Adam and sideswipe him, then run off ahead of him. Adam mostly ignored her attempts to get him to play, but eventually Katie egged him into chasing after her. She gave him a merry chase leaping over logs and ducking through brush. He caught her, bowling her over with his powerful body. They tumbled through the leaves and ended with Adam on top of Katie.

You tempt me, pup, his thoughts rumbled through her mind as he covered her, pinning her to the grassy earth. He moved up, brushing against her sex with his. She could feel the whirling emotions in him. It’d been so long for him, so long since he’d had a mate. She had died so long ago.

He growled, and Katie felt him press hard at her entrance. Adam’s forelegs gripped her shoulders. Katie’s body reacted automatically, raising her rump and shifting her tail to one side.

No! Adam growled, and lunged away from her. You are barely more than a youngling and not ready.

Katie felt the frustration in his thoughts, as he moved away into the brush. She left him alone for a while, then slowly trailed him, his emotions eventually calming somewhat.

I’m sorry, Adam Katie said, finding him lying on his side, panting. She lay down behind his large body and draped her head over his shoulder.

~* * * *~

They were on the far side of Adam’s territory when they came across a new scent. Human.

Katie trailed the scent for a bit, wondering where it would lead. She stopped when she realized where the trail led, to the camp where Traci and the others were.

We go this way Katie told the black wolf.

What concern of mine is a human?

He’s my concern. He may be here to harm my pack, Katie replied. She didn’t look to see if Adam was following, just bounded up the scent trail towards the camp.

The trail crossed the majority of Adam’s territory and the scent grew stronger as the day wore on. By late afternoon, the trail was fresh, but confused. It twisted and turned back upon itself. Looking around Katie recognized her surroundings as being close to the camp. She carefully worked her way to the edge of the camp, looking at the fire ring. There was no wood stacked up. Listening carefully, she couldn’t hear anyone moving around.

The wolf girl reached out with her abilities and felt nothing.

Kierra? She asked, reaching for the dark skinned woman. Nothing.

Traci? Again, there was no feeling or response.

The scent trail moved through the camp up towards the lodge. Katie backed out of the camp and went around the edge to the lodge building. As she got close to the building she felt a heaviness settle over her mind. She tried to reach Adam, but something was interfering with her abilities. Looking in through one of the windows she could see Thomas and Mark stretched out on the floor, their hands tied behind their backs and each with tape over their mouths.

She backed away, feeling the heaviness lift.

Adam, Katie called silently. She felt the large wolf near the border of the camp.

Here the wolf replied.

My pack mate is in trouble. I need your help. Katie sent.

Why should I bother with humans? Adam asked slowly.

Because one is my pack mate. To help one is to help all, Katie replied. Please.

Adam’s form was a shadow just beyond the edge of the clearing. He was becoming harder to see in the dimming light.

Katie tracked Adam mentally as he moved around the edge of the camp.

Katie pulled back from the lodge and circled around to the far side of the camp, hiding behind the shower stalls. There she spotted movement near the sleeping shelters.

A man was carrying a bundle over his shoulder towards the teleport ring. He carefully set it down and then went back to the shelter. The bundle moved on its own, struggling, a hand free came free. It ripped the mask off its face and one word was screamed out.

“KATIE!”

Traci, I’m here Katie sent, but didn’t feel the connection with her friend. Something was blocking her.

Adam, near the shelters, there’s a man moving around. I see him, but I cannot feel him with my mind.

Suppressor came the thought from Adam.

Katie had heard about the devices that could set up a field that interfered with mental abilities like telepathy. This was her first encounter with them.

Katie felt Adam’s thoughts change, honing themselves into a razor, focused on one thing, the man in the shelter.

Katie dashed forward while the man was inside the shelter, hoping to get to Traci before the man re-emerged from their cabin. She reached the girl on the ground and had barely started pulling the tangleweb off when the man appeared.

“No you don’t!” the man yelled behind her.

Katie faced the man, guarding Traci, snarling at the dark haired intruder. She went to all fours and stalked towards the man.

“This will take care of you, wolf!” he said drawing a pistol from the holster at his belt.

Katie! MOVE! Adam shouted in her mind.

Katie leapt sideways as the man fired the pistol, the bullet passing where she had been just an instant before. Katie dodged as the man fired again and again, bullets passing near her ear or spitting up dirt next to her.

It took only seconds for her to cross the ground between them. Snarling, she crashed into the man, knocking him to the ground. The bloodlust was on her, defending her pack, attacking the danger with all her will and power. Her snarls drowned out the man’s screams as Katie’s rage drove her, biting, clawing, tearing the kidnapper’s flesh.

The kill was not quick, it was not painless. Katie’s attack stopped only when the man stopped gurgling from his torn throat, when his blood seeped no more from the bites and rended flesh and he lay still on the ground.

Adam charged towards Katie, coming to a stop near where she stood over the body.

Katie, enough! Adam sent, feeling the bloodlust continuing to rush through her. Enough! Youngling, he's dead.

Slowly Katie came out of the red haze, the wolf withdrawing, her intellect coming to the fore.

“Adam?” she asked, her voice quavering.

The large male looked into her eyes and she felt him in her mind. You did well. Your pack mate is waiting.

Katie turned and saw where Traci was laying on the ground, the tangleweb still around her body. She ran over to Traci, making sure she was okay, then gently pulled at the sticky wrapping until her friend was free.

“Katie!” Traci cried out as she wrapped her arms around the wolf girl’s neck, burying her head in Katie’s bloody fur.

“It was my father, Katie!” Traci said through her tears. “The man bragged that Father wanted me dead!”

“Go free the others. They’re all in the lodge.” Katie said quietly, pulling back to look the smaller girl in the eyes.

“Katie?” Traci asked quietly, the concern for her friend etched clearly on her features.

“I’ll be fine little one,” Katie said gently. “Go get the others.”

Traci got up slowly and walked around the end of the row of shelters, then ran up the hill to the lodge.

Standing up on two legs, Katie walked back to the body. She looked down at it and felt sick to her stomach. The head was almost separated from the torso, the face bloody, dead eyes staring up at the sky. She had done that. She remembered every bite, claw, the acrid taste of his flesh and blood in her mouth.

No, youngling. You are not the evil here Adam projected. That was the evil he continued, pointing his muzzle at the body. You are a wolf. You defended your pack.

“Then why do I feel so badly?” she asked out loud.

Because you are also human Adam replied. The large wolf walked slowly up to Katie and pushed into her side. Absentmindedly, Katie ran her fingers through the wolf’s deep fur. Cry if you must, mourn if you need to, Katie, but do not destroy yourself because of … that.

Katie could feel the loathing Adam had for the thing on the ground as she dug her fingers into Adam’s fur, clinging to him.

Mark, Traci and the others ran up. All stopped short when they saw Adam, and the body laying beyond.

“Call whoever, Mark,” Katie said quietly.

It didn’t take long for that whoever to arrive. Katie heard the approach of the aircraft long before it became visible. An old Swift model aircar circled the camp before touching down in the flat area below the fire ring. It took a few minutes before a large man dressed in a khaki Park Ranger uniform got out and made his way towards the camp.

Katie, Traci and Adam were curled together near the edge of the woods. The puppy pile broke up as the Ranger approached. The man was large, over six feet tall with silver hair and piercing grey eyes. Adam sat down as the Ranger stopped in front of them.

“Adam,” the ranger acknowledged the large wolf, then turned his attention to Katie. “You must be the one involved with the body up yonder?”

Katie looked at him and nodded.

The Ranger turned to Traci. “And you are?”

“I’m Traci Whitmore. He tried to kidnap me. He was working for my father.”

“He doesn’t look like he’s working for anyone anymore,” The Ranger said casually. The Ranger took out a battered eCom unit and led Traci away a few feet while he interviewed her. Katie listened and grew angry at the kidnapper all over again as Traci told her story. The kidnapper had come during lunch, taking Traci when she went back to the shelter before going to the quarry for the afternoon. After wrapping her up in tangleweb, the man left. Traci told about hearing some screaming and other noises before everything went quiet. The kidnapper returned and began packing his gear, bragging, telling her what her father was going to do to her when he delivered her that evening. The kidnapper carried Traci out to the teleport ring and put her there as he was going back for his equipment, when Katie showed up.

After Traci was finished the Ranger interviewed Katie. She started where she ran across the human scent trail in the woods and followed it back to camp. As she talked, her emotions ran the gambit from sadness to anger. Adam sat next to her, leaning against her when her emotions threatened to overwhelm her.

“I was trying to get Traci free when he yelled and started shooting at me. I guess he wasn’t a very good shot. He fired five or six times before I crashed into him. We both went down and that’s when … that was when …” tears filled her eyes and she couldn’t go on. Traci held her and Katie buried her head in Adam’s fur as she cried out her misery.

After she recovered a bit, Katie looked around and spotted the Ranger back in camp, talking with Mike and Kierra. Behind the group, in the teleport ring, a portal opened and a team of six walked out. All were wearing coveralls with the initials CSI or Coroner stenciled on them.

The afternoon wore on until early evening approached. Adam and Traci both stayed with Katie, even after Mrs. Whitmore came to get her daughter. Traci spotted the Ranger as he walked towards the trio.

Katie, do not do anything. Adam said in her mind. He is coming to arrest you, but you must remain calm. Understand?

She didn’t have a chance to tell him anything. The Ranger stopped in front of them and motioned for Katie to stand up. He took a step back when he realized that Katie was half a head taller than he was.

“Katie Milner, I am placing you under arrest for the crime of murder.” The Ranger reached for her arm and placed a handcuff around her wrist. “You have the right to remain silent, if you give up that right, anything you say can be taken down and used as evidence against you in a court of law …”

No! Leave her alone!” Traci screamed. Holding her hands out in front of her, there was a brilliant double flash of light that left the Ranger staggering. “Katie, run!” the girl screamed.

Katie grabbed Traci instead, turning her away from the Ranger and holding her tight.

“No, Traci!” Katie said. “He has to do this.” The wolf girl held her friend until Traci quit struggling. “He has to do this, Traci. I’ll be okay.”

Holding Traci at arm’s length she looked her in the eyes. I’ll be okay, Traci. You need to take care of your Mom. Keep her safe, Katie ‘pathed to the girl. Your father is still out there.

The Ranger waited until she let go of her friends, then took her wrist and secured the cuff on it. Taking Katie by the arm, he led her to where Mark was standing. Mrs. Whitmore had a shocked expression on her face when she saw Katie in handcuffs.

“Where are you taking her?” she asked the Ranger.

“She’s to be arraigned at the Federal Magistrate’s Court in Casper,” the Ranger said.

“Don’t say anything, Katie. I’ll have a lawyer meet you at the court. Don’t say anything,” Traci’s mother yelled.

The Ranger took her by the arm again and led her past the body and down to the Swift. Once inside, he directed her to a seat and strapped her in. Minutes later they were in the air.

“I’m not going to be able to take you directly to Casper.” The Ranger said, “I don’t have enough flight hours left before I’m grounded for the day. We can make Billings, and I know a place where we can get something to eat and I can crash out long enough for my hours to reset.” He looked over his shoulder at her in the rear seat.

Katie just nodded and looked out the windows on either side of the aircraft.

“How do you know Adam?” Katie asked.

“Who said I did?” The Ranger replied.

“You did. When you walked up you recognized him and talked to him,” Katie said, looking at the back of the man’s head.

“I guess I did.” The man said. He punched some buttons on the console and then turned around to face the wolf girl. “I’ll tell you what I can, but don’t ask me for specifics. Either I don’t know, or can’t tell you.”

“Adam and I are old friends. We went into the military together a long time ago. We went through boot camp and advanced training together. He got tapped for special program that would get him out of the infantry. He agonized over it for days as it meant that we would have to split up. He took the job they offered and pretty much disappeared. Fast forward fifteen years, and he showed up on my doorstep, a shadow of what he used to be.”

“The military types called it extreme PTSD, and medically discharged him. But I didn’t buy it. Adam looked haunted, like someone who had done some very nasty things to people. By that time I had left the military and had become a ranger up here. I knew a place where Adam could go to be by himself and work on getting his head on straight. I’d checked on him every couple of months to make sure he wasn’t dead, and to bring him supplies. He was up there for four years when he got attacked.”

“As best as anyone could tell, it was a Dire Wolf that got him. There’s a pack of them that run through the Tetons. It was far out of their normal range, but it wouldn’t be that unusual if it had been a solo male looking for a new territory. Adam almost didn’t survive it. But Adam being Adam, he did. I found him at the end of his change. The last I saw of him was him he was disappearing through the brush. That was over a decade ago. I spot him now and again, or I hear some backpacker talking about a run in with a huge black wolf.”

“So, how do you know Adam?” the Ranger asked, turning to check the instruments, then looking back at her.

“I was up here for a camp; trying to get my abilities under control and my wolf self. I had a meltdown at the quarry and Adam either heard or saw me. I left camp to play wolf in the woods, and Adam asked me to follow him. So I did. We spent about a week together.” Katie turned to look out the windows and the Ranger turned back to face the controls.

They landed outside Billings, Montana at a place the Ranger knew.

“I’m sorry for the handcuffs and all, but it’s procedure,” the Ranger said, coming back and unstrapping her seatbelt. “If you give me your word that you won’t try to run, or do some other foolishness, I’ll take the cuffs off.”

“Adam told me to remain calm, and I got a sense from him that he trusts you. I promise not to do anything foolish.”

The Ranger unlocked the cuffs and put them away, then helped Katie disembark from the Swift. They had landed in a field behind a house and barn. Katie could see horses running through the pasture beyond the barn.

“This is my sister’s place. She and her husband breed, train and board horses here. Chester is probably in town and won’t be back until tomorrow,” The Ranger informed her as they got close to the house.

The door opened and a woman stepped out on the porch. She came down the steps and stood at the bottom waiting for their approach.

“Zack? What are you doing here?” the woman asked as they got close enough.

“Hi Annie. A rest stop. I’m out of flight hours and couldn’t make Casper.” He accepted a hug from the smaller woman. “Annie, this is Katie.”

“She’s the reason you’re going to Casper?” Annie asked, looking askance at Katie.

“Yes,” was all Zack would say.

“She can’t go inside like that. You wait here and I’ll get some things and she can wash in the barn.” Annie said.

The pair went to the barn and waited until Annie returned with towels and a bottle of Mane and Tail. Annie led Katie to a small bunkroom that had a shower.

“Let the water run for a while. This isn’t used much anymore and it may take a bit for the water to heat.”

Katie was about to say something when she caught her reflection in the bunkroom mirror. Her fur was matted from her muzzle all down her front with blood and offal from the kidnapper. ‘No wonder Annie wouldn’t let me in her house.

Once showered and mostly dry, Katie walked with Annie to the house. As they entered the kitchen door, they were greeted by a trio of children who suddenly became very quiet when they saw Katie.

“Woof!” Katie barked, sending the kids scattering, squealing with delight.

Annie chuckled then noticed Katie.

“Katie, do you need to lay down? You look like you’re out on your feet.”

“Yes, that would be wonderful. It has been a very… stressful day.” Katie stifled a yawn.

~* * * *~

It was dark outside when Zack woke Katie. Moving slowly, she disentangled herself from three little ones that had snuck in during the night to cuddle with her. She found Zack waiting for her in the kitchen. She opened her mouth to say good morning, but her stomach beat her to it, growling loudly.

“I can fix you some sausage and eggs if you’d like,” Zack suggested.

“Thank you for the offer, but I’m afraid that I’d eat your sister out of house and home right now. A large protein shake would be better.”

“I think we have something that will do,” a new voice answered. Katie turned to see Annie, wrapped in a robe coming into the kitchen.

An hour later Zack and Katie were airborne once more, headed to Casper. There was little conversation until they landed at the government complex.

Zack came back and sat with Katie before he opened the door to the Swift.

“Once we leave, you will go straight to booking. They will take your photo, finger, well, paw prints and have you speak with your lawyer. With any luck, we should have you out of here after lunch break.”

They were both surprised when Zack tried to put handcuffs on Katie and they wouldn’t fit. Katie chuckled at the consternation on the Ranger’s face.

“Do I really need them?” Katie asked.

“Just hold your hands in front of you like you had them on. You’ve come this far without making a fuss. I’ll trust that you won’t start now.” When she complied, the Ranger led Katie out of the aircraft.

True to his word, the jail matron that took charge of Katie at the door had her moving from one station to the next quickly. There was only one hiccup in the process.

Katie was waiting for the cameraman to clear a group of people ahead of her, when a prisoner ahead of her looked up at her. “Yo, bitch, what’cha’ in for?” he asked.

Katie looked down at him, growled and replied, “Killing a hu-mon.” She let her tongue slide around the outside of her muzzle, then said, “Ummm, tasty.”

The man blanched and moved away from her as much as he could. Neither of them saw the matron behind Katie trying to suppress a laugh.

The process ended soon and Katie was led to an interview room. She was alone for only a few minutes before the door opened and a woman in a business suit walked in.

“Good morning.” She dropped her briefcase on the metal table. “I’m Ms. Temple, your attorney. I will be representing you at court today.”

“Did Mrs. Whitmore send you?” Katie asked.

“Who?” the lawyer asked, “No, my office is in the rotation to handle cases referred by the Park Service. We have a bit of time so I want to go over some basics, then you need to tell me everything that happened from the time you got up yesterday until they left you in here. Okay?”

“Sure,” replied Katie.

“Name, Katie Milner?” the lawyer asked.

“Yes.”

“Home, Athens, Georgia?”

“Near there, but yes.”

“They don’t have your age listed.” The woman commented.

Katie told her.

“You’re a juvie?” the lawyer asked, her voice betraying her surprise.

“Yes.”

“Where did you stay last night?”

“Billings … well, just outside Billings. Ranger Zack took me to his sister’s home last night and we flew here this morning.”

“I see.” The woman was making notes on her legal pad. “Tell me what happened.”

Katie repeated everything that the day before from the time she woke up in the den with Adam until Annie put her to bed the night before.”

“When did the Ranger give you the Miranda warning?”

“The what?”

“Miranda, you know, you have the right to remain silent” the lawyer asked, her face showing a growing exasperation.

“Oh … when he came down to arrest me.”

“Not when he talked to you after he talked with Miss Whitmore?”

“No. Is that important?”

“It could be.”

There was a knock on the door and a court officer stuck his head in.

“The magistrate is here Ma’am. Court in fifteen.”

“Thanks, Ken.” Ms. Temple said, putting her notes away. “I need to leave now. The bailiff outside will escort you to the courtroom after I leave. This isn’t a trial, but from what you’ve told me, I think things will end right here, but we will see.”

The walk from the interview room to the courtroom was uneventful if you discounted the looks some of the visitors gave her.

Katie experienced a sense of déjà vu as she entered the courtroom and sat next to her lawyer at the defense table. A side door open and the bailiff and clerk came in, as did another man who walked to the other lawyer’s table and sat down.

The door behind the judge’s chair opened and the bailiff looked towards the lawyers and recited, “All rise. Oyez, oyez, oyez. All persons having business before the honorable, United States Magistrate’s Court, are admonished to draw nigh and give their attention, for the court is now sitting. God save the United States of America and this honorable court.”

The judge, a slender man with gray hair and a weathered face sat in his high backed chair and said quietly “Y’all may be seated.”

It took a minute for everyone to settle.

“You may proceed, Mr. Dillon,” The judge said.

“Thank you, Your Honor.” The man got up from his table and handed several documents to Katie’s lawyer.

“This is a preliminary hearing on the case of United States Park Service versus Katie Milner on the charge of Murder on Federal Park Service land. We have statements from the defendant herself, juvenile and adult witnesses, along with physical forensic evidence that shows that Miss Milner is the perpetrator of this heinous act and is guilty as sin.”

“Mr. Dillon,” the judge started, “I will sustain my own objection to your conduct. Please limit your comments to the facts of the case, not to the characterization of the accused.”

“Yes, Your Honor.” Mr. Dillon said and sat down.

“Ms. Temple?”

“Thank you, Your Honor.” The lawyer stood up and faced the judge. “While the Prosecution is correct when they state that they have witness statements and other evidence, I wish to point out that these statements were taken without properly warning my client of her Miranda rights and without the presence of a parent or a person serving in locos parentis. When the Park Ranger took the statement of Traci Whitmore, his detention of Katie Milner went from investigational to custodial, and he should have warned Miss Milner of her Miranda rights before taking any statement.”

“Furthermore, it seems that the Ranger in question also transported this CHILD across state lines prior to bringing her to court this morning. He transported her across state lines and forced her into the house of a relative. What the Ranger did boarders on a violation of the Mann Act, Your Honor. Also, this CHILD has been paraded around the ADULT detention facilities NAKED since she arrived earlier this morning, and even now stands before this Court without even a fig leaf to protect her modesty.”

“Is this true?” the judge looked at Katie. “Do your normally wear clothing?”

Katie stood up, her hands clasped in front of her. “Yes, Your Honor. When I’m not in the woods, I wear normal clothing.”

“Your recommendation, Ms. Temple?” The judge asked.

“In lieu of these facts and irregularities, I suggest that this case be dismissed as irrevocably tainted.”

“So ordered.” The judge banged his gavel. “Miss Milner, you are released from custody, with the profound apologies of this Court.”

Everyone stood up as the judge left the bench.

In less than a minute the courtroom was empty again, other than for Katie and her lawyer.

“What just happened?” Katie asked.

“The officer didn’t follow proper procedure with his investigation, and as a result, all charges have been dropped.” The lawyer said.

“But I killed a man.” Katie protested.

“Katie, you killed a professional assassin.” The woman handed Katie a folder of papers. “This is his record as far as we can determine. Twelve kills, six kidnappings and that’s just what we’re sure of.”

Katie looked through the folder of papers and looked up at the woman again.

“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘he needed killing’?” The woman asked, looking Katie in the eye.

Katie nodded her head slightly.

“Well, in this case it applies. We just made sure that legally you’re untouchable in case someone wants to come after you about it.” The woman took the folder and closed her briefcase.

At Katie’s somewhat surprised expression, the woman continued. “Katie, out here we have a sense of justice, not blind obedience to rules put in place by a bunch of people that usually have no clue about the real world. If that had been Joe Citizen that you killed yesterday, instead of Mr. Bad Guy, things might have turned out much differently.”

“As far as we’re concerned, Katie, his karma caught up with him.” Ms. Temple got up from the table and led Katie from the courtroom to the main entrance, and out into the noontime sun.

“So what now?”

“Lunch?” Ms. Temple suggested.

Katie’s stomach took that moment to give off a loud growl. Both women chuckled. The dark haired lawyer pointed across the road to a series of small food shops. She led Katie to one and picked one that didn’t look very crowded and they were led to a table near the front window. Katie looked through the menu and found something that sounded interesting.

“Ms. Temple …”

“Please call me Shirley. And pick what you want. My office can bill the state for what you have for lunch.”

The waitress came back and Katie pointed out the large bison burger.

“Two, please.” Katie said. “As rare as you can make them, fries and a large protein shake.”

“Hon, how rare would you like? Bloody or would you like it to moo when you stick it with a fork?” the waitress asked, smiling.

Katie told her, “If it goes ‘moo’ when I bite it; that would be perfect.”

Shirley just nodded to the waitress and ordered a salad and lemon water.

“I didn’t think hybrids had such large appetites,” the woman said once the waitress left.

“I’m not your normal hybrid, Ms. Temple.” Katie said. “I can be very … primitive when I need to be.”

“What do you mean, Katie?” the woman asked.

“Well, for the week before the attack on my friend, I was out in the woods, running with a dire wolf, sleeping in his dens, and eating raw game that we hunted together and brought down.”

“That sounds rather savage,” Shirley said quietly.

“Savage …” Katie turned her head to look out the plate glass window at the people walking on the street outside the restaurant. “Look at what was done to the man I killed, Ms. Temple, if you want to see how savage I can be,” she said in an almost whisper. Katie wiped her eyes and scrubbed her hands on the paper napkins on the table.

Cry if you must, morn if you need to. Adam’s words came unbidden to her mind.

The waitress came back with their order and Katie was glad for the interruption. She resisted the urge to drop face first into the plate to eat, and instead picked up her fork.

As Katie ate, she cast out with her telepathy to locate her mother. She was in the air, and still hours away.

Hi Mom. Katie said quietly so as not to startle her Mother.

Katie! Oh! came the flustered reply. I’ll never get used to you popping into my head this way. How are you doing? Are you alright? Her mother’s worries were plain to Katie.

I’m fine Mom. I’m eating lunch with the lawyer assigned to my case. The court’s already released me, and I don’t have to worry about going back.

Oh, thank God, honey. I’ve been so worried about you. The camp people said that you had been taken away by the Rangers.

I was. It was a lot like what happened at school, Mom. I’ll tell you all about it when you get here. Is Dad coming with you?

No, his trip to Tenkei was extended. He’s going to be there two more weeks.

When you land, call Ms. Temple. She’s the lawyer assigned to me. Katie peeked into Shirley’s head and got her eCom number and sent it to her Mother. I’ll see you when you get here, Mom.

Okay, I love you, honey.

Katie broke the connection and her awareness returned to the restaurant.

Neither of them said much as they finished their meal, paid and left. Shirley was leading Katie towards her office when they passed a park along the way.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay here instead of your office.” Katie suggested.

“Can your Mom get in touch with you?”

“I gave her your eCom call code. She’ll call you when she gets to the airport.”

“I won’t ask how you did that, but okay. I’ll come looking for you when your Mom arrives.” Shirley continued up the street.

Katie turned and walked into the green space. It was more open that the park near the Burger Shack, though there was not nearly the same number of trees, but nice anyway. She found a quiet area near the middle of the park. Stretching out on her side, she reached out for Traci and Adam, letting them know that she was okay and that she should be back at the camp by nightfall.

I’m not at the camp, Katie. Mom and I are at the lodge. We’re leaving for home soon. I’m sorry. Traci’s disappointment at not being able to see her friend again was plain to Katie.

I’m sorry too, Traci. But it’s okay, I can always be with you like this, Katie ‘pathed to her friend.

I have to go Katie, Traci said.

Katie let the connection fade and was aware of the park again. Getting up, she wandered about. It wasn’t crowded, mostly adults out enjoying the warm sun during their lunch hour. Of the families and others scattered about and none took more than a passing interest in her.

At the center of the park was a man-made lake. A number of picnic blankets and lunches were scattered along the edge. There was also a roving band of ducks that didn’t hesitate to raid an unguarded lunch, gobbling up chips, bread, or anything else they could get their beaks around.

Katie found another spot to sit near the water. Settling, she breathed a sigh of relief and closed her eyes. Like Kierra had suggested, she breathed slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth, while soaking in the feelings of normalcy. Her mind drifted to the day before; to the man she’d killed. The assassin I killed, she corrected. Her guilt flooded through her and she cringed inwardly. Guilt at what, that she had killed? She had killed before, the very night before. But that was for food, she had been hungry. Killing the rabbits served a purpose, to assuage her hunger so she could survive. The assassin wasn’t food.

What purpose did his killing serve?

Katie held that thought for a moment. Behind her eyelids she could see the courtroom in Athens; But they were trying to kill me! I have a right to my life, and I am NOT going to lie down and die just because you want me to!

Another scene repeated itself, at the fire ring of the camp… It’s very simple for my wolf. Kill or be killed; defend the pack or die trying.

Defend the pack … Defend Traci … Survive … Kill … Could I have done it differently?

Ms. Temple’s face came unbidden to her mind’s eye. He needed killing. Twelve kills and those are the ones that we know about and As far as we’re concerned, Katie, his karma caught up with him.

The instrument of grand retribution, of balancing karma. I guess I can live with that. Katie thought to herself.

Katie took a shaky breath and let it out, opening her eyes to a flock of ducks heading for the water to swim. A toddler running along the edge of the lake ran squealing through the flock, scattering them in all directions with a parent in hot pursuit. Life went on.

Chapter 10

Aftermath

Mom almost wouldn’t let me out of her sight once she met me in Casper. I was still sitting by the lake in the park when I felt Mom and Ms. Temple walk up. I got up and Mom enveloped me in the hardest hug that she could give me.

“I’ve been so scared Katie, ever since the camp called.” She backed away, having to look up to look me in the eye now. “It looks like they’ve been feeding you well anyway.”

There wasn’t much to do now that Mom had made it to town. Ms. Temple arranged for a porter to get us back to the camp so that I could collect what gear I could salvage. I’d grown so much that pretty much nothing that I had was wearable. Personally I would have been happy to go in just fur, but Mom would have nothing of it. She didn’t like that we’d have to wait until we got to the lodge, but there really wasn’t much that could be done at the camp.

Kierra was there; Mark had already gone back to the lodge with the last of the campers. She was comfortable as she closed up the shelters. I could feel Mom’s shock at the black woman’s semi-nudity, but she said nothing as I packed my things.  I found a memory stick sitting with my things with a large ‘K’ marked on one side. I slipped it into my pack along with the other things that I wanted to keep and shouldered my pack. When I got out of the shelter, the ‘porter was already at the touchdown point. I said my goodbyes to Kierra with a long hug then joined Mom and Mercury. Seconds later we were outside the main lodge building.

Mom went to the check in desk and asked for a room.

“Mrs. Katie Milner?” the man behind the desk asked.

“Katie is my daughter, is there a problem?” Mom asked.

“No, no problem, Ma’am.” The man punched keys on the computer. “I have deluxe accommodations for you overlooking the park and woods. Also, there is a note here that reads your money’s no good. I’ve been instructed to tell you that anything you want will be charged to the room and all charges have been prepaid.” The man bent down and when he stood back up had a large envelope in his hands. “This was left for Miss Katie Milner. I’ve been instructed to give it to her when she arrived.” He held it out to me. “I’ll assume that’s you.” He said.

The package was only moderately heavy and I was wondering what was in it. Mom finished our check in and a porter loaded my backpack and Mom’s one suitcase onto a trolley and led us to the room.

Once we got to the room and settled, Mom headed to the shower while I sat on one of the large beds and opened the envelope. A number of bundles of cash fell out, along with a letter. There were several plain paper printed photos as well. I picked up the photos and went through them. They were individual pictures and a group photo, even Thomas had put one in and was in the group photo. I picked up the letter next.

The letter was from Mrs. Whitmore thanking me for saving Traci and the others from the assassin. She explained that she and Traci would be going into seclusion until after the divorce and probably into deep hiding after it was all done, since Traci’s dad had proven that he was a very vengeful man. Mrs. Whitmore asked that I try not to contact Traci directly, but knew that she couldn’t stop me from using other ways of contacting her daughter. She mentioned that the bundles of cash were found in the belongings of the assassin and were probably from Mr. Whitmore. Since the dead man wasn’t going to need it, that I could put the money to a much better use.

Mom came out of the bathroom. It was easy to see her gaze flick back and forth between me and the bundles of cash. I showed her the letter from Mrs. Whitmore.

“Well, your college fund just got a boost.” Mom said putting the letter back on the bed. Mom changed into casual clothes and asked if I wanted to eat in the dining room or call room service. I eyed the common patio outside the room and suggested that we eat out there. I didn’t feel like being closed in with a bunch of other people and just being indoors was starting to grate on my nerves.

I looked at the room service menu and told Mom what I wanted. She gave me a strange look then after a moment, picked up the phone and dialed. I heard the knock on the door while outside on the patio and looked over my shoulder as the woman wheeled the cart out to the patio, followed by Mom.

The woman looked up at me and caught me smiling at her. I guess my wolfish smile was a bit more intimidating than I thought as she had a concerned look in her eye while she sat out the dishes and flatware. I didn’t have to see her nametag to know who she was.

“Thank you Tara.” I said when she was done. Mom tipped her and we ate our meal accompanied by the sounds of the night time wildlife from the woods not far from our patio.

I wasn’t very good company while we ate. My attention was on the woods and the sounds that came from them. I could hear the scurry of small things in the underbrush and then there was the howl of a lone wolf in the distance. I let my senses go in the direction of the sound, but it wasn’t Adam. By now Adam was curled in a den, somewhere in his territory having spent the day renewing scent marks, defending it against interlopers or hunting.

I looked down at the pair of almost raw bison patties on my plate. That wasn’t food. Food was what you hunted, what you brought down yourself. Food was hot from running, the taste of its still pumping blood fresh in your mouth. Food was still alive as you started feasting.

“Is something wrong, honey?” Mom asked, her voice giving away her concern.

“I’m okay. I’m used to getting my own dinner, not having it delivered.” I said quietly, looking out towards the woods.

“You can help cook when we get home.” Mom said.

“That’s not what I meant, Mom.” I said. “I meant, going out, and getting, my own food.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t… I don’t know how it’s going to work, Mom, me going back home.” I told her reluctantly. “You… you don’t have the same rules out in the woods like you do at home.”

“What do you mean, honey?” Mom asked.

“I’m, I’m not sure that I can explain it. The last week, I was out in the woods, just being me, being my wolf, no; being a wolf. When we were hungry, we hunted, when we were tired, we slept. It was very simple, very uncomplicated.”

“Who’s we, Katie?” Mom asked, suddenly looking concerned.

“Adam and I,” I said. “We spent the week roaming his territory.”

“Adam?” Mom asked.

“He’s someone like me, a wolf morph. He lives in the woods all the time. We spent a week; I guess it was a week, together out in the woods.” I giggled at Mom’s reaction and the unspoken thought that was so easy to read. “No, Mom. We slept together, but we didn’t do that. Adam was a perfect gentleman, even if he is a wolf. You don’t have to worry about me having puppies.” I giggled again.

Mom nodded. I guess she didn’t want to admit that I might be doing that with anyone. I was her little girl after all.

We finished dinner and went inside. I put the pictures and letter back in the envelope and finally my curiosity got the better of me and looked at the bundles of cash that came in the package. They were all bundles of one hundred dollar bills. There was a lot of cash lying on the bed. I put all the bundles back into the envelope and Mom put it into her suitcase. I grabbed my shower things and headed for the bathroom.

Mom had turned the lights out in the room and was asleep by the time I finished in the shower. I just padded across the room to the bed and curled up on top of the spread. I was asleep in minutes.

~* * * *~

The next morning I was up way before Mom. The sun was just starting to show through the trees behind our room. I went out on the patio and estimated the distance to the ground. It wasn’t THAT far. The woods were calling and that's where I was headed. The grass felt wonderful underfoot, save for the stink of the lawn chemicals but it wasn’t long before I had crossed into the woods proper. I stopped and sniffed the air, looking for a scent then trotted after it. Two rabbits later I was full and trotted back across the lawn looking for a way to get back up to the patio without having to go around to the front door.

A short set of stairs led to the pool deck. Trotting on all fours around the pool I tried not to breathe too much because of the chlorine stench. It was an easy trot from there back to the room. I was at the room door when I heard a toddler’s squealing laugh behind me. I looked back as I reached for the door and saw a naked toddler streaking out of her parent’s room. I slid open the door and stepped inside.

Mom was awake by now and blanched when she saw me.

“Katie, what is that all over you?” her voice quivering.

“Breakfast,” I said calmly and headed to the shower.

~* * * *~

While Mom was eating her breakfast, I dried off and was ready to go as she finished her coffee. Mom stayed in the room while I went down to the lobby shops. The shops were mostly touristy things but there were a few things that I might be able to wear. There were absolutely no skirts, which would have been my first choice, but there were a few hiking shorts. I found one pair that was sized to fit me, but they didn’t have a tail hole. The lady behind the counter said that they could alter them quickly and have them for me in fifteen minutes. I handed her the shorts and went in search of a top. I wasn’t looking for fashion, just something that would placate Mom. One caught my eye. It was a dark navy tank top with the words “Grand Tetons” emblazoned across the front in gold lettering. The size tag said that it would fit, and it did, barely. I’d have to live without a bra until I got home.

As I looked at myself in the mirror the remnants of Kevin rose up and whispered “Grand Tetons, fer sure”. I tried to not let the giggle out but didn’t quite succeed. I snapped the price tag off and handed it to the sales lady.

“Cash, charge or room?” She asked as she rung up the sale.

“Room.” I told her.

The saleslady totaled the register when I felt something latch onto my leg.

“DOGGIE!” the voice was familiar. Looking down it was the same little girl that I had heard earlier. She was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt now.

I giggled, bent down and picked the girl up who looked as cute as two buttons and was giggling non-stop. “What’s your name?” I asked while looking around for her parents.

“Karen.” The girl said then suddenly buried her head in my neck.

“There you are, you scamp,” a male voice said.

Turning there was a man in his late thirties standing at the door to the small shop. Karen looked at the man then buried her head into my neck harder and laughed.

“Playing peek-a-boo?” I asked Karen then “I take it she belongs to you?” I asked the man as he approached.

“Yes. I swear I’m going to enter her in the toddler Olympics as a sprinter or let the circus have her as the disappearing girl.” The man said smiling at me.

“Hobbles.” I suggest, leaning towards the man so Karen could grab his neck.

He chuckled.

“Michael, have you seen Casey? You’re supposed to be watching her.” A woman called out as she walked through the door and spotted us.

She rushed up to Michael and practically grabbed Karen from her father. “Let’s go wash that nasty animal off you, Casey. There’s no telling what she has crawling in that fur.” The woman huffed out of the store, leaving her husband standing there, an embarrassed expression on his face.

“I’m sorry. My wife has… peculiar… ideas about hybrids.” The man said. I could feel the intense shame coming from him. I put my paw on his arm in sympathy.

“I’m sorry too.” I tell him. “Let’s hope Karen takes after you and not her mother.”

He nodded once then retreated through the door and followed his wife down the hallway.

The lady came back with my shorts and I stepped into them to check the modifications. They fit and didn’t pinch or bind my tail. I thanked her, signed the receipt charging the two items to the room and left.

As I passed the room Karen was in, I felt the waves of anger coming from the wife and concern from the husband. He was concerned about his wife’s unreasonable anger at all hybrids and how it was affecting their daughter.

I kept going to our room and went in.

~* * * *~

Mom and I packed up and walked to the front desk to check out. The hotel shuttle drove us to the airport and two hours later we on a chartered flight to Salt Lake City.

The airlines in SLC could put us on the same plane, but we wouldn’t be sitting together. Mom pulled out her credit card and we headed to the gate for the three hour wait for the flight. We went through security without too much of a problem. One of the guards wanted to block me from getting into the secure area because I looked like “an obvious troublemaker”. Mom made a fuss and the supervisor was called over and the non-issue quickly resolved.

The walk to the gate wasn’t very long and we had little to carry. We found places to wait until the flight was called. I passed the time mostly watching the kids in the terminal. There seemed to be an abundance of children from barely toddling up to teens. Most of the youngest ones ended up playing in the seating area near us.

My stomach grumbled, loudly, that it hadn’t been fed in a while and I guess some of the adults noticed my hungry look. The children quickly disappeared back to where their parents were sitting and several moved even further away. I just looked at Mom and shrugged.

I was glad that I had slipped one of the bills from the cash bundles into my shorts before we had left the lodge. Getting up I made my way over to the food shops that lined the inner wall of the concourse. I was in luck; there was a place that made smoothies. It wouldn’t be as satisfying as chasing down rabbits, but it would do. There was a table of teen boys that noticed and jostled each other as I got in line. I felt something hit the back of my head as I stood there.  I thought I was imagining it when I got hit again. I turned around and stared at the tableful of boys. A boy, in a red shirt stood up.

“Yeah, bitch I did it; what’cha going to do about it?” he sneered. I could feel the waves of fear coming from him; his bravado was all show and no substance.

I just stared down at him, crossing my arms under my breasts. He was a juicy little rabbit that was going to taste wonderful.

I swear didn’t push anything at him. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and I felt his ego crumble. He finally looked away and then turned tail and slunk out of the dining area and out onto the concourse itself. The rest of the boys at the table looked at me and went after their friend.

“Cowards,” I said quietly to no one in particular, then turned and placed my order.

An hour later we were on the commercial flight back to Atlanta. When I stepped aboard the plane, the flight attendant smiled and directed me to a seat in the business class cabin while Mom continued back into economy.

“Mom?” I said as she moved back.

“It’s okay, Katie. You need to sit up here. There’s no way you’d be comfortable in the back where I’m at. I’ll come visit, I promise.” Mom smiled and squeezed my hand before leaving for the back of the plane.

“Don’t worry;” one of the attendants said smiling. “If there’s an empty seat once we close up and get off the ground, I can move her up here.” I looked over my shoulder at the woman and smiled. Her eyes had the slit irises of a feline. I thanked her and took my seat.

The flight was long and crowded. There wasn’t a seat available for Mom where I was sitting so instead she came up to visit a couple of times before being shooed out by the flight attendant.

It’s okay Mom. We can talk like this. I ‘pathed to her as she sat back in coach.

I know honey. It’s that I’m not used to being able to talk to you without seeing you, except on a phone. This is just a bit, weird. I’m afraid that you’re going to hear things that you shouldn’t. Mom said, her concern for me was clear.

It’s okay, Mom. I don’t peek into people’s heads… you want to do WHAT with Daddy when he gets home? I sent to Mom, not having heard a thing but trying not to laugh verbally at the sputtering I was getting from Mom in the back of the plane.

Katie! Mom got out finally.

I’m teasing Mom. I really didn’t hear anything like that.

You’re too young to be thinking about things like that, Katie. Mom scolded, but not too harshly.

We settled for a while as the cabin crew passed out drinks and then our meal. I looked at what passed for food and wrinkled my nose. The wolf was totally disgusted with it thinking that there had to be some morsel on board that it could chase down. I giggled at the thought of the attending coming down the aisle asking, ‘chicken, fish or hasenpfeffer tartar’. I ate what I could of the meal, but left the meat alone. I knew I wouldn’t starve before getting back to Atlanta.

Reclining the seat some, I closed my eyes and was asleep in a minute.

My dreams were filled with scenes of running down game to eat and just for fun. Not just game, but Adam too. We played chase through the woods, him chasing me, knocking me over like he had before, but this time, he didn’t stop. Growling in my ear I felt him on top of me, my lifting up as he …

I jerked awake. The flight attendant looking down at me.

“You need to put your seat up, Miss. We will be landing soon.” She moved away, continuing down the aisle.

Once things settled, the captain told the cabin crew to take their stations for landing.

Twenty minutes later, Mom and I were walking through the jetway into the terminal. We took the escalator down to the subway level and I looked at the crowded train cars. We decided silently to walk the distance to baggage claim. By the time we got to the carousels our baggage, what little there was of it, was slowly working its way around the metal belt. It didn’t take long for us to collect it and head for the terminal exit. As soon as we passed through the sliding doors we were pounced upon.

The trio rushed up, carrying a video camera with an impossibly bright light on the end, not that he needed the light as it was bright daytime outside. I growled loudly as the crew lunged forward crowding around us. I barked, snapped at and then swiped my paw at the boom microphone that they stuck in my face. My claws caught in the fabric covering and ripped the whole thing out of the soundman’s hands.

The cameraman shoved the broadcast camera in my face and got close enough to hit me in the muzzle with the lens. I dropped my pack and lunged into the man who couldn’t back up fast enough. He fell back and the camera went flying backwards towards the curb.

I dropped to all fours and looked around for Mom. She had been grabbed by the woman with the camera crew. I charged towards the woman. She was dead meat standing.

“Katie! NO!” Mom yelled as I bunched up to leap. I stopped and looked at Mom then turned and snarled at the woman with her. “Let go of me!” Mom yelled at the woman.

“Call off the dog,” the woman yelled back, her eyes showing her anger and fear. I could smell the stink of fear coming from her.

I smiled as Mom put her full weight into a bitch slap across the newswoman’s face.

“That’s my daughter, bitch!” Mom snarled as the newscaster fell to the pavement.

By now the police that patrol the parking area had arrived and separated Mom and me from the ambush crew.

“Do you need a medic?” one of the officers asked as he came up to me.

“Hun?” I asked.

“You’re bleeding,” he said, pointing to his nose.

The officer called the medics who treated me while the police continued their investigation. It took an hour for the police to take statements and gather the evidence of what exactly happened. In the end the woman Mom had hit was arrested and cuffed. I caught the words outstanding warrants from one of the officer’s radios as they closed in on her. Good grief, could she scream. She threatened everyone within earshot with lawsuits if she wasn’t released immediately. The police officers ignored her. The rest of the crew were issued citations for trespassing and to add insult to injury their van had been towed.

“This area is for loading and unloading passengers and luggage only.” The woman police officer who was patrolling with her ticket pad in hand said when the remaining news crew members protested. “Pay the fine and you can get your truck back, tomorrow.”

Mom and I were let go with nothing more than a stern lecture by the senior officer.

“I promise, no snacking on the press from now on.” I quipped.

“Personally I don’t care if you chew ‘em up and spit out bones; just don’t do it on my beat.” The officer said gruffly.

I picked up my backpack and we started our walk out to the row of shuttle busses.

We found the shuttle going to Athens and paid the driver. I climbed all the way into the back row while mom sat in the middle one.

It was going to be a long ride to Athens from the airport so I decided to check with someone that might know what was going on and could shed some light on why we were ambushed coming out of the airport.

Closing my eyes I cast about looking for Shell. She was at a police precinct working at a desk. I could feel her ankle throbbing.

Hi Katie. Trying to sneak up on me? She asked the smile in her voice plain.

Not really. Mom and I just got back from out west. I told her. I went on to explain what had happened on the way out of the airport terminal.

Why am I not surprised. There was a report on the news wire yesterday that a wolf morph had been arrested by the Park Police. It didn’t give much in the way of detail as to what, who or how, but gave a fairly good description of you, extraordinarily tall, black and brown wolf morph. It also listed you as a juvenile and that you had been released, charges dropped because of a violation of the White Slavery Act?

I couldn’t help it, I laughed. I’m sure the people in the van wondered if I was stable or not, laughing suddenly at nothing.

They weren’t even close. I told Shell. I asked her if she was busy and she said no, so I told her the whole story, about the attempted kidnapping, Mrs. Whitmore, the Ranger and our flying to Billings and going through the court.

Sounds like you had quite an adventure. Shell said. I could feel the throbbing in her ankle getting worse.

What happened to your ankle, Shell? I can feel it hurting from here. I asked trying to switch the subject.

Attacked and overrun by a mob of munchkins. Shell said, but the image that came along with that was a mob of six and seven year olds at a family outing. I tripped over one of them and ended up breaking my ankle. I’ll be on desk duty until it heals.

Katie, I’ll see what I can find on your kidnapper’s boss. And be careful. MSA has been acting up around town. They are getting bolder and at times they don’t seem to care who gets in the way, morph or not. Shell said, her concern for me coming through our link loud and clear.

I’ll be careful, Shell. I let the link fade and let my awareness come back to the outside world.

“Where were you off too?” Mom asked quietly.

“I was talking with Shell.” I replied quietly not wanting to disturb the other passengers.

The van made a couple of stops to let people out along the way and we finished the ride to the shuttle’s office with just Mom, the driver and me in the van. It was well past dark by the time Mom and I got home. I was dragging tail by the time I got into the house, worn out by the travel and the excitement at the terminal. I don’t recall saying good night before going to my room and falling nose first onto the bed.

~* * * *~

In the morning I woke up with the sun just starting to peek through the trees. I looked at the clock and it read hours before I would normally drag out of bed on a summer morning. I tried going back to sleep but that was a no go. I was up for the day, like it or not.

Being as quiet as I could, I dumped my pack on the bed and sorted out what needed to be washed, thrown out, kept and put into the bathroom. I also found the memory stick that was left in the cabin. This was as good a time as any to play it, so I plugged it into my computer and opened it up.

There were a few picture files and two movie files on the stick. The picture files were snaps of the campers, some portraits and others from activities that I had missed while out with Adam in the woods. There were a couple of group pictures too.

The videos weren’t too long, so I dragged one onto the player and let it start. I was surprised when Thomas’s face filled the monitor screen. It looked like he was holding the camera and doing the video himself.

“Hi Katie. Traci and Mike said you were headed to jail for what you did. I know he was a bad man and you were doing it cause you liked Traci. I wanted to tell you thank you. And I’m not scared of you Katie. Not now. Bye.”

Thomas looked like he was even trying to smile at the camera a bit before it went dark.

I dragged and dropped the other video on the player. It immediately opened up to Traci in the shelter. Someone was holding the camera since the picture bounced around a bit before it settled.

Traci had been crying, her eyes were puffy and red.

“Hey Katie. Don’t know if you’ll see this. The Ranger just took you away. Kierra said she’d make sure you’d get this no matter where you ended up. Mom is here, I guess you saw her. We’re leaving. Mom is afraid that Dad will try something else since you got this one.  I can’t say thank you enough, Katie. I loved all the time we spent together. Kierra is so jealous she’s green.” Traci giggled as did whoever was holding the camera, probably Kierra. “As much as I want you to, don’t try to find us. Mom said that it will be six months at least before we can come out of hiding. I wouldn’t mind you making a skull call though.” Traci looked off camera for a moment. “I have to go. Mom and the ‘porter are here. I love you, always, Katie. Bye.” Traci blew a kiss to the camera and it went dead.

Six months? I guess they really were worried about Traci’s dad coming at them again. I wanted to talk to Traci now, but looking at the time, I’d probably just wake her up. Mom would be up in a while so I still had time to sort out what I’d brought home from camp.

Most of the clothes I had outgrown. I had filled out and grown taller in the six weeks of camp. Other than what I bought at the lodge and a few oversized things I’d started camp with, all my clothing was now too small. I tossed all of it. They were pretty ratty and I doubted even the church would take them.

I took what few things could be salvaged; my clothes from the lodge and the basket of dirty stuff left in the laundry room and dumped it all into the washer.  Once that was started I headed back to my room and got on the hyper-net. I wanted to see what had been posted that brought out the news crew.

I typed in a couple of search terms; limited the time to the last five days and got a few hits back. I clicked on one link and giggled at what popped up.

By the third link I was laughing and wondering if these people were reporting news or writing fiction. And we are supposed to trust the media? I killed the browser and got into my email. By the time I had dumped, saved or answered most of my mail, the buzzer on the washer sounded and I moved the clothes into the dryer.

Mom was awake and I went to the kitchen to start Mom’s coffee.

“I’m glad that your Father is getting so much more for this job at the space station,” Mom commented as she poured her coffee. “I would hate to tell him that we had to dig into your college fund for school clothes.”

“We can take my old things down to the swap shop and trade them there. I’m sure they have nice things I can get with the credits or trade them for cash we can use at some other store.” I told Mom. “Then there’s always that other cash.” I suggested.

Mom nodded but didn’t say anything as she fixed breakfast for the both of us. I didn’t need any powers to know that she was upset.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” I asked as she poured the scrambled eggs out onto my plate and added a half dozen sausage links to it.

“It’s nothing, Katie.” She said turning back to the stove.

“Baloney.” I said, a bit more sharply than I intended.

Mom sat the fry pan on a cold burner and turned back to face me. She forced a smile and nodded.

“I’m scared, Katie,” she said quietly. “I’m afraid of what’s happening around you and what sort of effect its having on my little girl.”

“I’m okay, Mom, really.” I said. “What happened with Traci? That was her dad. He sent a killer after her because he’s a rabid Purist and his son morphed into his daughter. Mrs. Whitmore is divorcing him and they’re both preachers. Mr. Whitmore wants to get rid of what he calls his shame. Traci is my friend, what was I supposed to do?” I asked quietly.

“You did what you thought you had to, honey. I know that.” She said. “I’m your mother; I’m supposed to worry about my daughter; but it’s supposed to be about normal things, boys, drugs or school, not kidnappers, murder charges and prison. I want to see you in a prom dress, Katie, not prison stripes.” Mom’s voice quivered.

“I’ll be okay, Mom, really.” I assured her. I wrapped my arms around Mom and gave her what I hopped was a reassuring hug.

We finished breakfast and I helped clean the kitchen. Mom found boxes while I sorted through my closet and brought out everything that I thought we could trade at the swap shop near the mall. Some of the clothes had never been worn and still had the store tags on them. We loaded everything into the car and I started to get into the front seat.

“Katie, hon,” Mom said, “you need to put something on; you can’t run around town naked.”

“But MOM!” I protested, “I have fur.”

“Katie, honey, you may have fur, but that doesn’t mean that you can go running around in the altogether. You may be a wolf out in the woods, but here you’re my daughter. Now please go put something on.”

I grumbled quietly and went back inside the house. Luckily the dryer had stopped and I was able to pull my hiking shorts and ‘Grand Tetons’ top out and put them on. Going into Mom’s room I found the bundles of cash still in her suitcase and fished out a handful of bills. Five minutes later, we were on the road.

The trip to the swap shop wasn’t as productive as I had thought. The shop took in the clothes alright; they even gave us top credit for the clothes that still had the store tags on them as they could be sold as new. The problem came when we tried to find things in my size. Most of the clothing was in teen or junior miss sizes. I was well outside that size range now. We left having not used any accumulated credits and the store wouldn’t trade credits for cash. The mall wasn’t too far and we were parked at the main entrance a few minutes after leaving the swap shop.

My ear tips brushed the top of the door frame when mom and I entered the mall. It was crowded with shoppers already. Guess they were getting last minute things for school that would be starting, for me anyway, in two days. I was so glad that the high school had opted out of that silly school uniform program. We could wear what we wanted, as long as it was in good taste and not overly revealing.

This trip was so much like the first big trip after my morph. Mom and I hit almost all the same stores as we had four months ago. There were some stores that didn’t carry things in my size, since I was so tall now. One place that could still fit me was the undergarment store. When we got there I looked around for Dale.

I asked about her when I didn’t see her in the store and was told that today was her day off. Another clerk volunteered to help when I told them that I needed to be measured again. We went through the same ritual as before, arms up, arms down, waist, hips, rise and tail size. This time I asked about sports bras for my gym classes.

“We don’t carry anything larger than a C cup in those styles,” the woman said sheepishly. “I can recommend a specialty store in the mall that should be able to fit you.”

They did have other styles in my new size. I looked at the size tag on the bra the clerk handed me. Grand Tetons was right. I found one out of the selection that Andrea brought that I liked and put it on. The front hook was easy to manage with my blunted and clawed fingers and it surprised me when the translucent material didn’t snag when I dragged a nail across the cup.

“Neosilk.” Andrea commented, apparently reading my expression, or my mind. “The fabric has become very popular, especially in non-traditional types of undergarments. You can get the necessary support without it being bulky. It breathes better so you don’t get sweaty.”

I didn’t tell her that the only places where I sweated now were my nose, the pads on my hands and feet and my panting.

“I’d rather go without, but Mom’s insisting.” I semi-grumbled at the clerk who’s only response was to smile.

Having picked out a top, we started on the bottoms. Andrea had brought back a number of styles, from granny panties to things that looked like thick dental floss. I wanted the very minimum I could get away with. I went back through the different packages and found one that looked promising. Pulling it out, it was a tiny thong with a small gold chain that fastened around the top of my tail. I slipped it on and closed the chain. It was comfortable, covered the bare necessities and didn’t bind my tail when I flipped it around.

I finished dressing and picked up the things I was going to purchase. I found six more packages of the same style and size and brought them to the checkout counter. Mom paid for them and we rejoined the mass of humanity that was strolling through the mall.

The next place we found was a specialty shop for skirts and dresses. These I didn’t mind, since they didn’t mat my fur. We searched around. Mom pulled out a long skirt that would have been ankle length on her and mid-calf on me. I looked at it and couldn’t help it, I growled.

“Katie!” Mom said, shocked.

“Sorry, Mom, but I can’t wear that.” I said, holding my voice down. I held up what I was looking at, a skirt in the same denim fabric. It should have been described as a wide belt, with ruffles.

It was Mom’s turn to growl, if she could have. She just gave me that over my dead body look that she had. I couldn’t help but giggle. I put the micro skirt back and pulled out what I thought would be a compromise. This one was longer in length, which meant that it stopped a bit lower than mid-thigh on me.

“That’s still too short, honey.” Mom told me. “You don’t want the boys thinking you’re a tart.”

“I’m not a tart, Mom.”

“I know you’re not, honey. But the way you dress says a lot about the type person you are.”

“Do you really think I care what the mundanes of the world think of me, Mom?” I asked, my voice becoming louder. “Guess you don’t remember when a bunch of them were standing in our front yard chanting ‘burn the wolf’, or when four of them tried to beat me to death.” The last was followed by a growl.

I turned away from Mom and took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then did it again. The wolf pushed forward, looking for what was upsetting me; looking for its enemy. I pushed it back down, fighting that part of me for control. It took a few minutes, but eventually I got control back, enough anyway that I wasn’t afraid of biting anyone standing too close. I slowly turned back to face Mom.

Her eyes were full of concern, but her scent… her scent carried her fear. This was the first time I had really growled at her.

“I’m okay, Mom.” I said; my voice gravelly.

She put her hand on my arm and looked up at me.

“Sorry.” I said ducking my head.

In the end, we got five skirts in different colors in the length that I had picked out. But Mom had insisted on getting the longer, knee length skirts for events other than school.

“Your being a wolf doesn’t let you out of going to church, young lady.” Mom teased.

The rest of our clothes shopping went a lot smoother. I didn’t push the limits Mom had set too much and I didn’t balk too much, unless she was trying to put me into a burka.

Our last stop in the mall was the technology store.

“Mom, I need a new tablet.” I said when she balked at going through the doors.

“What’s wrong with the one you have now?”

“It’s old.” I said. “Mom, I practically have to use a hand crank to get it started.”

Mom laughed, as much with releasing tensions as anything else. I could feel her relief. This was her Kevin, the child she was comfortable with, making an argument that she was familiar with.

“I would, but we’ve already overspent…” she started when I directed her attention down to my hand in my pocket. I pulled my hand part of the way out and showed her the cash I had taken from the bundles. “Okay,” she said quietly.

We were home an hour later. I spent the rest of the afternoon putting things away and getting the new tablet set up and all my files transferred.

It was just before dinner when the front door opened and Dad walked in. Mom and I were both surprised and both attacked him with hugs.

“Was able to convince the people there that I could do part of the work from home and that I needed a break from the space station.” Dad said as he pulled his suitcase and computer case in from the front porch. “Besides, I couldn’t miss my girl’s first day at school, could I?” Dad smiled, giving me a hug.

We sat down for dinner and Dad told us about the station.

“It’s wonderful up there. The stars, when it’s nighttime on the station, they have these huge observation domes that the tourists can use to star gaze. But it’s so different. You never quite forget that you’re twenty two thousand miles out in space, and while they have parks and trees and beaches, you are never outside, you’re always inside.”

“It sounds great, Daddy, but I don’t think I’d want to visit.” I said.

Dad was still on Tenkei time which was hours ahead of us. Dinner and dishes were done so there was nothing for Mom to do. Dad moved his luggage to the bedroom and Mom went with him to help. I curled up on the couch to watch the television. I flipped through the station directory, and found something to watch.

I guess it wasn’t too interesting since I fell asleep. I dreamed of Traci, but not really Traci, it was Terrence that haunted my dream. I remembered him from Traci’s memories, from the camp, strong, handsome, juicy. He was naked as was I and then he was on me. I felt him press against me, down there, and we joined. His movements were strong, powerful and I felt myself responding, growling, yipping, woofing as I startled myself awake. My body was shaking as I lay stiff legged on my side, panting as if I had just run for miles.

From upstairs I heard the rustle of the bed sheets and mom’s loud emotion filled groan. There were other sounds of snuggling and I focused my ears on something else. I had teased Mom about what she wanted to do to Dad on the plane, that didn’t mean that I wanted to listen to my parents doing it.

It did remind me that Traci was out there; somewhere in the world and I missed her. I had become terribly used to curling up with her while at camp.


Chapter 11 – Senior year

The start of my second, and hopefully final, senior year wasn’t much different than my first. The same little cliques formed. Those small minded, immature, social groups that tried to make people feel bad because you were a ‘them’ instead of an ‘us’. I ignored them, the sports groupies, the rich bitches, the gossip biddies, as much as possible. The only groups that I couldn’t avoid were the Purists, those that went to the Church of Genetic Purity and the MSA’ers, the MORFS supremacists. Both spouted hatred and bigotry disguised as education, about each other’s morality and true intentions.

I ran into Greg and Randy Trantor. Both were in some of the same classes. Greg had been hit with MORFS just before my beating and had come out as tall Shire hybrid. Speech classes over the summer had helped him a lot. But he still had trouble pronouncing some words. He’d also really filled out since summer, turning into a total hunk. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to think so, as it seemed he always had at least one girl hovering around, trying to get his attention.

It took a minute for me to realize what I had just thought about my friend. Hunk? I put that thought away quickly. I didn’t dare think of him that way. Did I? The idea of my having a boyfriend, not just a boy…friend, sent a shudder through me. It had been months since my change and I was still confused about so many things.

One thing that hadn’t changed with the addition of another year of school was gym. This year though, I was using the girl’s locker room and in the advanced class. There were a few muttered comments of ‘pervert’ and ‘the locker room is for real girls, not freaks’, but I ignored them. There was no use trying to argue with religious fanatics that believed wholeheartedly that The Almighty was on their side. You can’t fix stupid.

I changed into gym shorts and a workout top and crossed the hall to the gym.

The mindset about public schools had changed over the last half century. It seemed that they actually had real people thinking real thoughts about what schools should be, rather than being a place to park kids while the parent or parents were at work. It might have been when the country fell out of the top twenty for math and science, or when high tech companies were moving to India and China, where the workers actually comprehended the theories behind the products. Personally, I think it was when the President revealed that he’d been home-schooled, rather than publicly educated, and went on to win a full ride scholarship to Oxford University in England, that it finally sank in that our schools were in abysmal condition.

Our school building reflected the renewed attention schools were getting. It was practically brand new, opened just three years back. It had all the shiny bells and whistles, upgraded classroom, computers, media center and library. It also had a huge gym.

Sports had never lost its standing in school. But the scope was much wider now, no longer was the gym the exclusive domain of sports teams and cheerleaders. All students had at least one period of physical education each day.

Mr. Haskell was standing on a thick rubber mat that covered a quarter of the gym floor, in front of what looked like every morphed hybrid in the school. He held up his hand to quiet everyone.

“Welcome to advanced gym. The school has changed its policy from last year, advanced gym is co-educational. So, for the ladies in the class, instead of Miss Gayle, you’re stuck looking at my ugly mug for the year.” He looked from one side of the class to the other and continued, “That was a joke.”

There were a few nervous laughs.

“Oh, I can see this is going to be a long year,” the man shook his head looking at the floor. “Anyway, today will just be an overview and some warm-ups. Instruction will start in earnest tomorrow.”

I could see he was getting into coach mode as he walked back and forth in front of the students.

“As you can see behind me, we have some equipment set up that may be familiar to some of you. Starting tomorrow, everyone will go through the standard MORFS physical evaluation. Your strength, speed, agility and balance will all be tested. This will be done at the start of each marking period and your improvement over the year will be used as part of your final grade. Until we receive the PE uniforms, all of you will need to wear loose clothing for class.”

Once Mr. Haskell got through the lecture, we ran through a lot of warm up exercises. All of us were glad that it was the last period of the day.

It wasn’t long before I was rather rudely re-introduced to the local group of Purists.

I was taking my permissions slips and other forms for gym to Mr. Haskell’s office during lunch when the door to the girl’s locker room banged open and a small girl came running out. She turned towards me and before I could move she was leaping and climbing my back, burying herself against me. She was in full panic mode about something and seconds later two girls followed the hybrid out. I recognized the girls immediately, they were Charity and Purity Roberts, daughters of Pastor Roberts, the leader of the local Genetic Purity church, the one that threatened to ‘purge’ Mrs. Anderson. I could smell cigarette smoke on them as they came into the hallway. They spotted me and then turned the other way, walking towards the door that led to the parking lot. The emotions rolling off the girl clinging to my back were horrendous. She was scared witless and from what I had seen, had been stripped to her underwear. The closest private space that was empty was the weight room. I pushed the door open and took her in there.

I sat down on one of the benches and started projecting feelings of calm at the girl. I was talking to her as well. It took a few minutes before Amy was calm enough to take my offered hand and let go of my blouse. She climbed down and then right back into my lap, this time clinging to my front with her sharp, needle like fingernails.

She didn’t want to look anywhere but where her nose was buried and at the moment it was buried in my fur in the opening of my blouse. It took some doing but, bit by bit the story came out.

Amy had been late finishing her shower after gym class and had been changing in the back, away from the wash sinks. The Roberts sisters had come in to hide and smoke their cigarettes. Smoking wasn’t allowed on school grounds and especially not by students. Neither knew the others were there until Amy closed her locker and walked toward the door.

As a squirrel hybrid, Amy didn’t have the size or muscle to fend off the two larger girls. They pounced on her and once they discovered Amy was a hybrid, that really set the sisters off. They stripped the clothes off Amy, leaving her in just panties and bra. One sister brought out a mini-torch style lighter and while the other sister held Amy, the first set fire to Amy’s clothes, dropping them into the metal trash can.

“Now it’s time to burn the squirrel,” the girl had threatened.

Amy was able to slap the lighter away and able to get away. Amy dashed up the hallway and on instinct alone, grabbed on to me and used me like a tree to hide behind.

I took off my top and wrapped it around Amy. Her smaller body was swallowed by my blouse. The girl’s shakes had finally subsided and I suggested she needed to see Dean Richards about what had happened.

It was that moment that the building fire alarm started sounding. The strobe lights, buzzer and the annunciator voice all combined to paralyze Amy with fear again. I carried her as we made our way to a little used side exit door.  The rest of the kids streamed out of the main doors and walked to the center of the parking lot. Amy’s biggest fear at that moment was that she would be found out by the general school population. We stayed close to the school building; that is until Mr. Haskell came out and spotted us and told us we would have to move.

“Mr. Bear,” I started, then when I had his attention, showed him Amy’s condition. “She’s frightened enough, making her go out with the rest of the kids would… it wouldn’t be good for her.”

The large gym teacher just nodded and walked across the lot to help move the students back further away from the building.

The fire department made a big show of arriving, six big trucks and two dozen men. Most of them stood around next to the trucks while only a few went inside. Minutes later the alarm went silent and a pair of firemen came out with a smoking trash can from the locker room.

“I swear Tommy, it smells like a bong party in there,” one of the firefighters commented as they put down the trash can then got a large blower off the truck and took it inside.

I felt Amy giggling against me and I looked down at her.

“Hemp,” she said. “It’s hemp, not pot.”

Amy? I ‘pathed at her, and was surprised when Amy’s eyes got very large.

It’s okay Amy; I’m not going to hurt you. We can talk this way, so that no one can overhear us.

Can you hear me? Amy asked sheepishly.

I smiled and nodded my head.

I can hear you just fine. What did you mean, it’s not pot?

My clothes. My skirt, it’s made out of hemp. That’s why it smells that way. Mom and Dad are big on organic and non-toxic. Hemp doesn’t require all the chemicals and processing that other fabrics do, so most of my clothing is made from hemp, or organic cotton. Amy said.

Talking about anything other than what was going on around us was helping keep Amy’s panic at bay.

Eventually the all clear was sounded and Mr. Haskell led us to his office until the hallway was clear. The large gym teacher asked if Amy had a top she could change into so I could have my blouse back.

Amy started to go into the locker room and froze. She couldn’t get past the door. I went with her and made sure that no one was lying in wait.

As Amy changed, I got a good look at her. Her bra was heavily padded to give her a more normal shape and she hid her bushy tail inside the knee length shorts she wore for PE.

“Why do you hide, Amy?” I asked her.

“I’ve never been comfortable with my changes,” she paused, her shame almost palpable. “Mom and Dad never really accepted that I’d turned into a tree rat on them. They still love me, at least they say they do, but they’ve made it a point to let me know that I’ve disappointed them. Between my crash in height and my being a coward, I guess I have.”

“Amy, there were two of them. No one expects you to stand up to monsters like them.”

“It’s not just what happened today, Kate,” Amy began. “Any loud or unexpected noise, I jump. If a strange dog comes at me, I literally run up the nearest tree. I never was much of a brave girl, but now I’m a total wimp.”

“Have you ever watched squirrels in your yard?” I asked and Amy nodded. “They don’t stand and fight against something bigger than them, they run for safety. It’s instinctual. So don’t blame yourself. If you need to blame something, blame the tree rat that donated the DNA.” I smiled at her, but I think seeing a muzzle full of teeth scared her more.

The girl handed me my blouse and I took a minute to slip it on and button it up. I tucked my blouse tail into my skirt waistband and got myself put back together again. As we walked to the door, I put my paw on her arm.

“You realize that you’re out now, like it or not. Chastity and Purity are going to make sure everyone knows that you’ve been a secret squirrel all this time.”

“I know.” Amy said looking at the floor.

“Amy,” I slid my finger under her chin to lift her eyes to meet mine, “when people find out, you will learn who your true friends are. They will be the ones that stand with you. The ones that walk away, they never were.”

We found Coach Haskell in his office. He wanted to know what happened. Amy gave him a short summary of what the Roberts girls had done.

“You need to tell Dean Rivers about this, Amy.” Mr. Haskell said quietly.

“I know. But it’s going to be my word against them.” Amy complained, dropping her eyes.

“I’ll be there to back up your story, Amy.” I told her.

“But you weren’t there in the locker room.”

“Amy,” I said, squatting down next to her chair, “you’re right, I didn’t see what went on inside the locker room. But I’m a telepath, and I can tell the Dean that you’re not lying.”

Mr. Haskell escorted us to the office where we were led into Dean River’s office. The man was seated at his desk eating his lunch.

“Sorry to barge in on you, Dan, but this young lady has something to tell you about what happened this morning.”

The Dean looked at Amy and listened as she told him about the incident in the locker room. Once Amy was finished, he looked at me.

“And your part in all of this, Miss Milner?” he asked.

“Witness and moral support, sir.” I told him.

“What part did you witness?” He asked.

“I saw the two Roberts girls chase Amy out of the locker room dressed in just her underwear. I can also tell you that she’s not lying about the first part.”

“And you know that how?” he asked.

“I’m a telepath, sir. I would know if she were telling me fibs.” I told him.

~* * * *~

The rumor mill at Athens Senior High was very efficient. It wasn’t very accurate, but it was fast. By the end of second lunch, I had already heard four different versions of what had happened, all the way from Amy was a secret fire elemental and lost control of her powers in the locker room to Amy had spurned my romantic advances and I had gone crazy and tried to shred her with my claws.

All I knew for certain was that my nose was telling me that something very nasty was going happen.

Last period had just started when Mr. Haskell received a call on the in school phone system.

“Katie, you’re wanted in the office,” he said, looking at me.

I nodded and padded out of the gym. I didn’t bother to change before going to the office. As I expected, Pastor Roberts, his two girls, Dad, Amy and a woman that I assumed was Amy’s mom were waiting in the office. I noticed that Amy’s bushy tail was plainly visible. Pastor Roberts blanched when he saw me approaching. I wondered mentally if he would be able to control himself today. Dean Rivers directed us to the large staff conference room.

“You let that murderous beast in the same school as good God fearing students, Dean? That animal is a menace and should be put down.” the Pastor started as soon as we were in the conference room.

“We are not here to discuss your personal characterization of Miss Milner, Mr. Roberts. We are here to discuss the actions of your daughters with regards to Miss Barrow in the girl’s locker room earlier today; specifically the assault on Miss Barrow’s person  and arson.”

“We didn’t do anything to that rodent. We were defending ourselves.” Chastity blurted out as the Dean looked over at them.

“Does defending yourself include stripping Miss Barrow to her underwear and then starting a fire in the trash cash with her clothing?” the Dean questioned.

“We did no such thing!” Purity almost screamed at the Dean.

“I have the testimony of the victim, a witness and a telepath’s verification of the original statement,” the Dean continued calmly. “I also have the report of the fire department that responded today. They found the remains of Miss Barrow’s clothing in the trash can that was burning in the girl’s locker room. If you have another side of the story, girls, I would like to hear it.”

The girls said nothing, just sat, sulking and staring at the Dean, the hatred clear in their eyes.

“Why do you persist in calling my children liars, Dean Rivers,” the pastor asked his voice barely under control. “It’s rather obvious that my children are the victims here, they merely defended themselves from the attack of a heathen animal. I don’t care what sort of reports and statements you have; my children could not have done these things. That thing,” his arm shot out to point directly at me, “has already killed two people…”

“Three.” I said, cutting his tirade off.

“What was that Katie?” Dean Rivers asked, turning to look at me.

Amy and her mother gasped at this news.

“I’ve killed three people,” I repeated evenly looking at the Dean. “He was a professional, sent to kidnap one of mine. I and mine survived, he didn’t.” I turned to look at the Pastor, who had gone three shades paler than before. “Not too long ago Mr. Roberts, I defended your congregation from an attack by MORF supremacists. Even though you want to ‘burn the wolf’ and your children tried to ‘burn the squirrel’, I bear you no ill will. But I will protect me and mine. As I have told the Dean, I won’t start anything, but I will finish it, permanently, if I have to.”

I think my talking quietly scared Pastor Roberts more than if I had stood up screaming and shouting.

“Your daughters, Chastity and Purity are under a ten day suspension, Mr. Roberts.” Dean Rivers said. “Any repeat of this, or any other serious infraction will see them expelled and transferred to the Pheonix School.”

“You can’t do that, not on the word of a beast!”

“I can, and I have, Pastor. You can appeal the suspension to the district supervisor. He should get back to you in about two weeks. In the meantime, your children stay off school grounds.” Dean Rivers said, looking at the man. He passed two sheets of paper, notices of suspension. “Appropriate entries will be made in their permanent records.”

With that, the meeting was concluded. Amy resisted her mother’s tug on her arm, trying to get her away from me.

“I never really said thank you for what you did for me, Katie.” Amy said, jerking her arm free of her mother. I was still sitting in the chair and she could look me in the eye, finally, with her standing up.

“You’re welcome, Amy.” I told her, pulling her in for a hug that she didn’t resist. “Are you going to stay a secret squirrel?” I asked, brushing my fingers over her tail. It twitched and fluttered in response.

“That tickles!” Amy said, giggling. “I don’t know.”

“Don’t try to hide what you are, Amy. You have to find the balance inside yourself between you and your animal nature and it will always be changing and a challenge.”

Amy’s mom came up behind her and pulled Amy away.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Amy said as they left the conference room.

“We need to talk, Katie.” Dad said as we left the room.

The end of class bell rang and we were caught in a flood of students rushing for the front doors. I was still in PE clothes, and my regular things were in the girl’s locker room. Dad walked with me against the thinning tide of kids as we made our way through the lunch room to the hallway with the locker rooms.

Dad waited in the hallway while I went in and changed out of my PE things. The girls’ basketball team tryouts were underway and the locker room was crowded with girls that were trying to get on the team. I’d declined when the coach asked me to try out for the team two days before during the regular class.

“I can’t wear my gloves, Coach.” I told her.

She kept at me until I showed her. She had one of the other students pass me the ball so I could do a jump shot from the free throw line. The pass was easy and as soon as I caught it, there was a loud pop and the ball deflated. I held up my finger with the ball dangling from a claw tip. The coach then handed me a ball and I did a set shot. The ball hit the backboard with a dull splat, rolled off the rim and hit the floor, deflated. One of the other players picked up the ball and there were three neat slices in the covering.

I suggested that if the school got a volleyball team together, I’d be happy to try out for that since the rules allowed players to use finger protection. The coach nodded and told me that she would hold me to my promise.

Once changed into my regular clothes, I packed the dirty ones into the gym bag and met Dad outside the door. We made our way back to the main hallway and I got my books and other things for homework that night. Rose and Tim were sitting outside, waiting for someone and I waived as we walked past.

Dad drove to the Burger Shack where we sat at one of the tables away from the small number of customers. He motioned for me to sit at the table while he went to the window. He came back with a bowl of ice cream for himself and a milkshake for me and sat down.

We sat in silence for a while both of us just enjoying our treats. I knew what Dad wanted to know about, but I held off as long as I though his patience would take before starting. I told him everything about Traci, well, almost everything about Traci. I did hold some secrets back that he didn’t need to know. When I mentioned Mrs. Whitmore, I could see Dad’s surprise and explained about Mrs. Whitmore’s warning about her getting a divorce from her husband. I even told Dad about Adam. That got more than a raised eyebrow out of him.

“Spent a week with him, Katie?” Dad asked.

“Yeah, Dad. He’s a morph, like me.” I explained. “I got to be a wolf in the woods and learned a lot about my animal side.”

“And how much did you learn about that part of yourself, Katie?” Dad asked, looking at me. I could hear the real question that he wanted me to answer, but didn’t know how to ask without sounding like a snoop.

“A lot, but not everything. It wasn’t the right time for some things, Dad.” I said, trying to answer his question the same way he asked it.

“What about this other person you talked about, Katie?” Dad asked.

“He was hired by Traci’s dad. Traci is a morph, her dad’s a Pure. Her dad tried to rape her not long after her change and her power manifested. She’s a light elemental. Mrs. Whitmore sent Traci to camp to keep her safe until their divorce. It didn’t work. Her husband sent a professional hit man.” I stopped, looking away, the memories coming back unbidden, the eyes staring up at me, the dead eyes, hearing the death rattle as he breathed the final time. I shuddered. Dad put his hand on my arm. “I stopped him,” I said, still not looking at Dad. “I stopped him the only way a wolf could.”

“Part of me goes so what, he was attacking my pack and I defended them,” I said quietly to Dad. “I know I should be horrified by what I did, Dad, but I’m not, not really. I guess I’m not making much sense.”

“It’s okay. I’m glad that you’re okay,” Dad said. “Mrs. Baker called today. I set up an appointment for you tomorrow morning at the MORFS center.”

He slid his arm around me and I leaned into my Dad. We stayed that way for a long time before we parted. On the way home we stopped for my favorite; Chinese food.

~* * * *~

Dad woke me up way too early for my appointment with the MORFS center. He told me to get ready that he and I were going out for breakfast.

“Why?” I asked uncurling, sitting up on the edge of the bed.

“Do I need a reason to spend time with my favorite daughter?”

“I’m your only daughter.” I told him, getting up.

“True, true,” he said, chuckling quietly. He left and closed the door as I bent over and stretched. It felt good. It took a while to comb out my fur and tail, and then dressed in loose shorts and a casual tee top; I made my way downstairs to where Dad was waiting.

We talked all the way to the restaurant and then through breakfast. I think Dad was trying to make up for the time that he’d been gone and while I was away at camp. I could have peeked into his head, but I wasn’t comfortable doing that.

We left the restaurant and it was still two hours before my MORFS appointment. I gave Dad a look when we pulled into one of the small green space parks near the hospital. Dad grabbed a football from the back seat of the car and we headed to the park.

He tossed the ball to me and I tossed it back. We played catch, each of us going long several times. It had been years since Dad had done anything like that with me. I mean we had in the past, but my lack of interest in almost everything jock and Dad’s long hours didn’t let it be a normal activity for us. It was nice, spending the time with Dad, I was actually starting to enjoy it when he motioned to me and I jogged up to him.

He turned and pointed out a group of trees on the far side of the small park.

“You think you can hit them from here, Kevin?” He asked. I heard the name he used and saw the upset look in his eyes and nodded. “Sure Dad.” I felt the waves of emotions coming from him; feeling the sorrow in him. Dad backed up a couple of steps and nodded. I faced the trees and took a step back, planted and heaved the football into a high arch. Dad and I watched it sailed wide right, into a denser patch of trees.

“Good throw, Kevin,” Dad said then hugged me fiercely. It lasted a while before his arms loosened and he finally stepped back.

“We need to go, Katie.” Dad said, holding out his hand to me and leading us to the car, where he opened the passenger side door and held it for me as I got in.

Our next stop was a small shopping center where the stores catered to fem hybrids. The shops were ultra-girly and we walked into one that showed off frilly dresses and skirts in the window. We were met by an older woman who greeted Dad warmly. They talked for a few minutes and Dad nodded and put me in her hands. The woman talked gently to me while I was led into a back room and disrobed. She started with strapless bra and panties and worked outward. We finished an hour and a half later and when I stood in front of the three pane mirror what I saw screamed GIRL so loudly that a deaf person would have heard it. The dress was slightly daring, feminine and gorgeous.

“Good Lord Abby;” Dad said quietly, “I’m going to have to beat them off with…”

“With what?” Abby, the shop owner, said smiling at us.

“Something bigger than a stick.” Dad said. “Honey, you look… beautiful is too weak a word.”

Dad took care of the financials while I went back and changed. Dad carried the boxed dress out to the car and we made the short drive to the MORFS center.

This time when I was called back, I didn’t go into an exam room, but into Dr. Baker’s private office. When we sat down her gaze flicked up to my ears, and she got a look on her face that said that something was amiss.

I reached up and took off the diamond ear clips.

“Forgot I had those on,” I told her. “Dad took me to a dress shop this morning before we came here.”

“A formal? It sounds like you’re settling in well with all your changes,” Dr. Baker commented in her usually cheerful manner.

“I guess, Doctor Baker.”

I told her about how Dad and I played catch in the park. “Ever since Mom told him about the incident in the food court he’s called me Katie. But today, out in the park, he called me Kevin. Dad's never slipped up before. Then the dress, Dad has never taken me shopping for clothes and especially not girly things.”

“Well, this is just a guess, but it sounds like your father was saying good-by to his son and welcoming his daughter.” I stared at her trying to figure out what she had just said.

“Going through a gender change can be hard on the person it happens to but it also it affects everyone around them. I’m sure your friends treat you differently from when you were Kevin and your relationship with your Mother has probably changed as well.”

“Yeah, it has,” I said, remembering Mom’s teaching me about how to sit properly, apply what little makeup I could use and other girly things.

“Your father had to change his relationship with you as well.” Dr. Baker said. “Taking you to the dress shop cemented for him the idea that you’re now a teenage girl.”

“Oh.”

“Tell me about your camping trip.” Dr. Baker said taking our conversation in a completely different direction.

We talked for a long time about what happened out at camp, about Traci and my feelings for her, Adam and finally the assassin and how I felt.

“I discovered Traci’s secret while we were on the trail to the main campsite. She needed someone who didn’t care about what she was, that accepted her just as she was. I guess I made her feel safe too.”

“About the assassin,” I shrugged. “I don’t feel bad that he’s dead, Dr. Baker. After it was all over, I cried about it and I get flashbacks sometimes, but I don’t feel any remorse. He was trying to kill us; he didn’t succeed. We survived, he didn’t,” My tone was flat.

“How are you getting along at school?” Mrs. Baker asked.

I giggled.

“Other than run ins with bullies, everything is okay.” I tell her.

“What’s funny about that?”

“It just is.” I told her. “Before, when I got bullied at school, I was the one that caved. Now, it’s the bullies that run away. And the new principal, Mr. Rivers, he doesn’t let the bullies get away with it. Not like before with Mr. Moss.” I told her about the Roberts girls and Sister J and Mike Jenkins.

“You need to be careful Katie so you don’t become like they are, a bully in your own right.” Elf said. I felt her pushing her concerns towards me.

“I already told Dean Rivers that I wouldn’t start anything.”

“But?”

“But I would finish it.” I said, looking at the doctor across her desk. “I’m not going to be like they are, Elf. I’ll protect the people I care about, but I won’t be the bully. I know what it’s like, being on the receiving end.”

“What about friends?”

“Some took off after my change, most stayed and I’ve made some new ones. I’m sure that there will be more once word gets around about Amy and the Roberts sisters.”

“I think you’re going to do okay, Katie.” Elf said, getting up from behind her desk. “But I have to warn you that you’re gathering a lot of negative entries in your MORFS record and three people dead since your change doesn’t help. There’s a caution flag on your record, so you and I are going to have more of these little talks for a while.”

Don’t worry, hon. I know that you were defending yourself and others and that you’re not a bully, but we do have to play the games the bureaucrats want. Elf ‘pathed to me as we walked towards the front desk. Dad was there to greet us, a worried expression on his face.

“Everything is fine Mr. Milner. I’ll see you again in two weeks Katie. Call me before then if you need to.”

“Okay, Dr. Baker.” I tell her.


Chapter 12 – The Wolf is a real bitch

When Monday came, Katie went to school like she normally would. That was the only thing normal about the day. Her senses, normal and paranormal told her that the majority of the student body was on edge. Apparently the students that attended the Church of the Holy Trinity had been busy over the weekend churning the rumor mill.

She tried to ignore the looks cast her way as she went from class to class but it was hard not to react to the fear. More than once she heard a student’s unconscious thought of ‘killer’ as she moved through the hallways. By lunch it was almost too much. Katie spotted Greg Trantor sitting alone at an empty long table and sat down next to him. He was glad of the company and she was glad of the friendly face.

Katie had just pulled out her protein drink when Amy approached as asked if she could sit with them. Greg waved his hand at a seat and nodded. Katie noticed that the squirrel hybrid was wearing a skirt that was tail friendly.  As soon as Amy sat down they were joined by another person, even smaller than Amy. The newest person sat opposite of Katie. She wasn’t an obvious MORF and looked around nervously as if she was uncertain of her welcome. Katie gave her nod and the girl visibly relaxed.

Sandy, the newest member of the lunch group kept looking around the room as if searching for something.

“What’s the matter, Sandy?” Amy asked quietly.

Before the small girl could answer, Katie felt the girl’s fear spike and heard the approach of people behind her. New scents hit her nose, ones she was familiar with.

“What are you doing here?” the voice was rough.

Katie saw the cowed reaction of the girl and stood up to face the newcomers. She felt Greg step up and stand beside her.

“Oh, you two.” Katie said when she got a look at the pair. Katie growled as she recognized ‘Bat Boy’ and ‘Dog Breath’ from their run-in at the park and the Burger Shack earlier that summer. “Can’t find any pregnant church ladies to terrorize?”

“She doesn’t belong here. This is the MORFS table,” the bat hybrid complained ignoring Katie’s comment.

Katie looked behind her at Sandy, then turned back to the bat.

“What’s your point?”

 “She’s not one of us.” Dog Breath said.

Katie locked eyes with the dog hybrid and ordered, “Sit!” Immediately he squatted down on the floor. Seconds later he realized what he’d done and stood back up again, but not before giggles could be heard from the surrounding tables.

“Stop that,” he complained bitterly.

Katie turned her attention back to the bat boy.

“You don’t get it, do you? I don’t care if a person has been morphed or not. If you don’t like Sandy sitting here, then go find another table.” Katie growled softly looking down at the bat hybrid.

Their staring contest ended with the bat hybrid turning and moving off to another table where they sat with others in the MSA.

Katie and Greg sat back down and resumed their lunches.

“Thank you.” Sandy said quietly. Katie knew she meant it too.

By the end of the week Greg and Amy were the only two MORFS sharing the table with Katie. The two Chamberlins, Rose and Tim were in the opposite lunch period as was Greg’s brother, Randy. Sandy stayed with them and they were joined by an ever changing group of non-Morfs, some curious and some needing protection from the bullies that were always present in the school.

Things settled into a rhythm that except for a few bumps along the way remained steady all the way through to the holidays.

When tryouts for volleyball were announced, Katie tried for the team but was edged out by another hybrid that was able to jump higher and didn't tend to puncture the balls when going for a spike. She almost felt sorry for Candice, the girl that got the slot. Three of the girls that did make the team were from Church of the Holy Trinity and had already started in with Candy the kangaroo snarking. It never occurred to them that Candice was a partial rabbit hybrid not a 'roo. She guessed that Candy the bunny just didn't have the same ring to it.

Candice and Katie were joking after tryouts that it was probably for the best that they weren't on the team together. Katie commented that rabbits she had eaten were rather tasty. Candice fired right back that she thought getting eaten by a wolf could be interesting.

Candice smiled and Katie blushed and told her that she didn't think they were talking about the same thing. It was rather obvious that Candice had interests in other girls and while the thought didn't disgust Katie, it didn't give her warm fuzzy feelings either.

One of the bumps came when Katie got into a discussion of wolves with the science teacher.

Mrs. Kleck stood up in front of the class and put a photograph of a gray wolf on the e-board at the front of the room.

"Canius Lupus," the woman said looking at the class, "the common grey wolf."

Mrs. Kleck launched into a lecture about wolves, packs, pack society and other elements that were in the school’s textbook. 

"Wolves, once introduced into an area will breed relentlessly and hunt the local food supply to exhaustion before moving to decimate a new area while the previous area recovers."

Katie snorted at that statement.

"You have something to say, Miss Milner?" Mrs. Kleck said looking down her nose at Katie.

"Wolves don’t hunt indiscriminately, nor do they breed indiscriminately." Katie said, standing up next to her chair. "If they did either of those things, the pack as a whole wouldn't survive. Their territories are based on what the pack can hold against other packs in the region and the wildlife available to support it."

"A pack usually hunts the weak, wounded or sick. And most of the time, the prey escapes."

"And you know this how, young lady?" The woman's tone goes from slightly annoyed to being condescending.

"I am a wolf, Mrs. Kleck, I spent time this past summer out in the woods—"

"Oh, so you went out in the woods and pretended you were a wolf, how nice." Mrs. Kleck interrupted.

The woman’s tone was past condescending.

"I don't have to pretend, Mrs. Kleck,” Katie said coldly, “if you had bothered to notice." Katie stared at the teacher who stood at the front of the room.

The teacher’s face reflected the shock she felt that a student would actually talk back to her, before launched into a scathing tirade against the girl.

Katie moved away from her desk at the rear of the room. Locking her eyes on Mrs. Kleck, she slowly stalked up the aisle, going from upright to all fours. The Wolf just knew the woman would make a juicy treat.

The rest of the students saw Katie's transformation, gone was the student; it was a powerful primal animal that moved past them headed to the front of the room. The teacher felt the fear rising in her, the panic as she realized that she was unable to run away trapped as she was by the room. The animal progressed up the aisle of seats slowly, stalking towards the teacher. Mrs. Kleck backed up until she hit the e-board then slid sideways trying to get away from the advancing animal. She could see the eyes of the wolf, there was no intelligence there, Katie was gone, supplanted by the eyes of something that had no need of Man. Mrs. Kleck knew the mistake she made, she had backed away from the door. The animal was between her and escape. Her mind, focused by her fear, knew this was fatal.

A snarl brought her attention back on the wolf, on Katie. The girl was in a headlong leap over her desk. The teacher turned her head, unconsciously baring her throat, waiting for the bite.

"I am a wolf, Mrs. Kleck. I don't have to pretend," the student’s voice growled in her ear.

The teacher squeaked in fear as Katie swiped her tongue across the side of the teacher’s neck where her teeth would have torn flesh if the wolf had been serious.

“Coup, Mrs. Kleck.”

Out in the hall, the bell rang to end the class.

Katie pushed off the wall, letting the woman out of the corner where she had retreated. Turning, Katie retrieved her computer and her carry-all and headed out of the room on her way to her next class.

It was during the next class that a runner from the office knocked on the classroom door and relayed the message that Katie was wanted by Dean Rivers in the office. There were giggles and whispers from a few of the other students as Katie packed her tablet and shouldered her carry-all for the trip up to the office.

Instead of waiting in the outer office, Katie was shown directly into the Dean’s office. Mrs. Kleck was there already.

“Katie, Mrs. Kleck was explaining the incident in her classroom last period,” the Dean said looking between them. “I would like to hear your side of the story.”

“Not much to say, sir. Mrs. Kleck was talking about wolves and the information she was using was wrong. When I tried to explain that I was in a better position to know what went on in a wolf pack than the reference she was using, she became nasty and condescending and started yelling at me. If you ask someone in the class, they will tell you what happened.”

“So you stalked and pounced on her.” Dean Rivers sat back in his chair.

"When I told her that I spent time out in the woods, she said 'you pretended to be a wolf, how nice'. I was showing her that I wasn't pretending. I am a wolf." Katie looked between the two adults in the room.

“So you stalked and pounced on her," the Dean repeated his statement.

"Yeah, sort of. But I really didn't pounce on her." Katie said, looking down.

“Yes you did!” Mrs. Kleck yelled. “You backed me into the corner and would have killed me!”

“You backed yourself into the corner," Katie retorted. "You wouldn't listen, all you did was yell. And I wouldn't have killed. Humans taste nasty." Katie stuck her tongue out and made a face.

The Dean looked between the two waiting to see if either of them was going to say anything else. When neither of them continued he took a deep breath and looked at the wolf morph.

“Miss Milner, I can’t in good conscious excuse this. Attacking a teacher, even a mock attack like this, is serious and grounds for expulsion.” The Dean of the school paused and let the implications of that set for a moment. “However, given your nature, I will mitigate it to a three day suspension, out of school. Go get the things you need from your locker and come back to the office. One of the staff will call your parents to come pick you up.”

Katie growled as the Dean pronounced her punishment.

"I can make that a ten day suspension if you prefer, Miss Milner," the Dean said sharply, locking eyes with the girl.

"No, sir." Katie said sullenly looking away.

"Go get what you need from your locker," the Dean instructed evenly.

Katie left and made the short walk from the office to her locker. She was repacking her carryall with the things she would need when the Dean approached.

"Miss Milner," the Dean started, "Katie," he said softly, "I understand how difficult things have been for you since your change."

"Oh?" Katie turned her head to face the man anger flashing in her yellow eyes. "And what does a mundane like you understand about my wolf?" Katie growled.

"A lot more than you might think," the Dean replied calmly. "You're seeing Doctor Baker at the MORFS center for counseling currently, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"I will need to see proof that you have talked to her or to someone in that office during your suspension before you will be let back into classes."

Katie nodded.

I know you are a good person, Katie and I know how hard it is for you to control the wolf inside you. You must find a way or the conflict will destroy you.

Katie's eyes went wide as the Dean's thoughts touched hers. She never suspected that the man was a telepath.

I'll talk to Mrs. Kleck. She could have handled things better. Even so, you had no reason to scare her like that.

Katie could feel the man's sincerity, he really was concerned for her.

She closed her locker door and slung her carryall over her shoulder. Together the pair made their way back to the office.

Chapter 13

"You were what?" Katie's father shouted out of surprise more than anger, the letter from the school still in his hands.

"Suspended for three days," Katie repeated.

"For attacking a teacher," the man repeated, waving the letter in the air.

"I didn't really attack her, Dad. She was being a bitch—"

Suddenly Katie found herself on the floor pinned down by a hand wrapped in the ruff of her neck. She struggled to get up but she couldn't dislodge the weight from her back and instinctively she turned her head to try and bite. That caused the hand on her neck to tighten its hold until Katie yelped. When she realized that she couldn't get away, she whimpered once then went limp.

"Your mother was right, Katie, I've indulged you too much," her father said angrily. "I thought sending you to camp would have help, but it looks like I was wrong. You've forgotten that you're human Katie, you – are – not a wild animal," the man emphasized his words by tightening the hold on his daughter's neck ruff.

"When I let you up, you are to go directly to your room and stay there. You can use the bathroom in the hallway if you need to, but you stay in your room. Understand?"

When Katie nodded, he released her fur and stood back.

"Go on to your room. We’ll call you for dinner,” he said, his anger a cold fury on his face.

Katie went to her room and closed the door. Getting on her bed she lay face down unable to hold back the tears. Her father had never been that way with her, had never hit her or even yelled at her before. Not even when she had washed the car and forgot to put up the driver's window.

Out in the living room she could hear her parents talking but didn't focus on what they were saying. Instead she concentrated on Traci and reached out for her friend. Her instinct didn't pick up anything, no light to focus on. Traci could be anywhere on the planet or on Tenkei, but Katie didn't search very hard for her. Changing her mind she reached out for Officer Shell and found her involved. Katie pulled her awareness away quickly, leaving the woman to her romantic encounter.

She thought about calling Dr. Baker, but she was probably busy with a patient and wouldn't appreciate being disturbed. Besides she would be seeing her within the next few days anyway.

She must have drifted off as she was startled into wakefulness by a knock on her door. Her mom opened the door and stepped inside.

"Your Father wants you to come out to the living room, Katie," she said before turning and walking away leaving the door open.

Katie followed her mother into the living room where her father stood. Katie hung her head and tucked her tail.

"Before anything else, Katie, open the boxes. Don't do anything with them, just open them and put them down." The man stared at his daughter.

She did what she was told. In one box was a long skirt and long sleeved blouse. In the other was a collar, a bright pink dog collar. She looked at her Father as she put the box down.

"You need to make a choice, Katie," her father said. Katie could tell that he was still mad at her. "You can choose to be a young lady and comport yourself as a young lady should, or, you can choose to be an animal. If you choose that, then we will treat you as an animal, you will wear that collar, and we will put you on a leash when we take you out, you will eat from a bowl on the floor and your bathroom will be the back yard."

"I will warn you, if you choose to be a young lady and you start acting like a wolf, the whole thing is off and you will wear the collar. Backslide just once and I'll put that collar on you myself. Do you understand what I'm saying, Katie?"

"Yes, sir," Katie said quietly.

"Take them to your room and make your choice. Then come down for dinner." Her father turned his back and walked out to the kitchen to help finish supper.

It didn't take long for Katie to choose and change.

When she came into the dining room her parents were already seated. Her father got up and pulled the seat out for his daughter and helped slide it into position. Leaning down behind her, he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and whispered a thank you into her ear.

After dinner Katie helped her Mom clean the table and do the dishes. Afterwards she sat in the living room for a while watching one of her Dad's favorite shows on the vid screen before she asked if she could go to bed.

"Be sure to set your alarm early. I'll be taking you to see Dr. Baker in the morning." Dad said looking over at his daughter.

Everyone said their good-nights and Katie went upstairs to her room.

~* * * *~

In the morning Dad wasn't much different. The anger had dissipated some, but there was enough there that it was— uncomfortable to be around. Dad told me to dress in the things I had on for dinner for our visit to Dr. Baker's.

I was the first appointment for Doctor Baker that morning. Once we were signed in, Dad and I were ushered to her office. Doctor Baker greeted both of us and Dad took his seat between me and the door. It made the wolf in me uncomfortable that I didn't have a clear path to the only exit, but I suppressed the feeling.

"I assume that you are here because of the altercation at school, Katie." Doctor Baker said in a matter of fact way. Her demeanor didn't allow me to call her 'Elf' today.

"Yes, Doctor Baker." I said, lowering my head.

"What possessed you to think you could attack a teacher like that?" The woman's even voice stung more than the words.

"I didn't attack her. I was trying to prove a point!" I said defiantly. "She's the one that started it, she's the one that started yelling at me, told me I was a pretend wolf!"

"Is that what you're mad about, Katie? That Mrs. Kleck made fun of you?" Doctor Baker asked.

"I'm not a pretend wolf, Doctor Baker. I am a wolf, like it or not." I said trying hard not to let that part of me loose. "Why can't people see that and accept it!"

"Like you have?" Dad asked, I could feel some of his anger turn to disappointment.

"Yes, Daddy, like I have," I said sharply, turning to look at him. "When I was at camp, I finally admitted to what I am; a wolf. For the first time since I changed, I accepted what I was on the inside and… stopped fighting with my animal. I'm trying hard to be human Daddy; I want to be the good girl you want me to be; but… sometimes I can't help being a wolf." I looked at both of the adults and then down at my paws in my lap.

"What about Mrs. Kleck, Katie?" Doctor Baker asked. "Did she deserve getting bullied by you the way she did?"

"I didn't..." I started to reply then stopped to think about it. "No, probably not deserve it. But you should look at the whole thing. It's not like I deliberately started it."

"You want me to look, Katie?"

"Yes, I want you to see the whole thing. I didn't start it." I told the woman.

Doctor Baker's touch was so much different than Doctor Fisher's. I had to consciously not block her. I was so agitated I didn't want anyone touching me.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to relax and let Doctor Baker sort through my memories of the event. I saw myself stalking the teacher and making the final leap over her desk. I could feel the cold resolution in me, smell Mrs. Kleck's fear, how easy it would be for me to kill and be done with it rather than just 'count coup' by licking her throat.

You need to be very careful Katie. Doctor Baker, Elf, told me quietly. You are coming close to being declared a danger. I don't know what the government would do if that should happen.

It was easy to feel her genuine concern and compassion for my situation.

"I know Doctor Baker," I said, switching back to verbal. "It's not like I go out looking to be a bad girl."

"I almost wish you would," Dad said quietly. "I know how to deal with over eager boyfriends and other normal daughter things. But this," Dad spread his hands, "I'm not sure if I should send you to your room or swat you with a newspaper." The frustration in Dad's voice was plain.

"Don't swat me Daddy." I said. "I'm a wolf, not a dog. Treat me like a wolf."

"You're my daughter! Not some wild animal," Dad retorted sharply.

"She both Randy," Dr. Baker interjected. "You need to be both her Dad and the pack Alpha. Katie's animal side needs that domination; that means you are going to have to get physical with her. I know that goes against everything you've learned about parenting, but in your daughter’s case, it's necessary."

“I already have,” Daddy said guiltily.

“Have what?” Doctor Baker inquired.

“Got physical,” he replied. “Yesterday, I was just so… frustrated… I didn’t know what else to do.” He looked down at his lap.

“Looks like your instincts were spot on, Randy,” she said, trying to relieve Dad of some of his guilt.

We talked a lot more until a quiet double beep from Elf's desk signaled that our time was up.

"We will change your appointments from every other week to weekly for a while, and I'll email the school that you saw me today Katie." Doctor Baker said as we got up. Mentally I got a smile and a warm hug from the short woman as we went out the door.

It will be okay, Katie.

I hope so Doctor Baker.

~* * * *~

The rest of my suspension passed slowly, too slowly. I helped Mom as much as I could in the kitchen and around the house. When I couldn't do that anymore, I lost myself on the net. I got emails from friends commiserating with me about my suspension and homework assignments from my teachers. The last day of my suspension I received an e-mail from the school office with a change to my schedule. While it was a surprise, I wasn't shocked by my transfer out of Mrs. Kleck's class. I wasn't sure that the new teacher was any better. Mr. Myers was new at the school, so I'd have to wait until Monday to see if the change was for the better or not.

Saturday I worked outside with Dad. We did the yard work that always needs to be done, weeding the flower beds, spreading mulch, general cleanup that sort of thing. Only half of my attention was on what I was doing. It been too long since I had run in the woods and the wolf in me was pushing to be let loose. By late afternoon Dad and I were hot, tired and sweaty.

Dad must have seen my longing looks at the woods behind our house. When we put the last of the tools away he stopped me as we headed for the back door.

"Dinner will be ready in a couple of hours," Dad said quietly. "Let me get inside and then go have fun, you've earned some playtime for your wolf. Leave your things on the picnic table and no snacking on the wildlife. You don't want to spoil your dinner." Dad smiled and tapped me on the nose.

I all but pounced Dad and gave him a big hug and a lick up one side of his face. I didn’t wait for him to retreat to the house before stripping out of what little I was wearing. I didn’t care if he saw me in only fur or not. I cleared the fence easily and was off like a shot for the woods. I was free! Free to run, to hunt, to be a wolf! I ran until I thought my lungs would burst, but I didn't care, I was free! Scents that would normally grab my attention went unheeded as I raced through the woods, reveling in the smells, the sensations, the sheer ecstasy of being a wolf. I splashed through the cold water of a creek that ran through the middle of the woods. Turning upstream I splashed through the shallow water scaring a pair of boys playing along the bank.

By the time I had made my way to the gate through the back fence of the house, I was tired. Tired but still excited by my run through the woods.

I went to bed early that night. Mom insisted that we were all going to church in the morning.

~* * * *~

We arrived early for church. Most everyone was still in Bible classes the church held between the early and late services. The few people that were around were taking covered dishes into the kitchen. It seemed that there was going to be a fellowship lunch after the service. Leaving Mom and Dad in the foyer, I asked the pastor's wife if there was anything I could help with. She had me checking that there were enough tables and chairs set up in the fellowship hall.

It didn't take long to do that and by the time it was done, Bible classes had let out. I spotted the Trantors and said hello to Greg and Randy, both had heard about my suspension and agreed that I had gotten off way lucky with Dean Rivers.

Mrs. Anderson was there with David and a child in her arms. The same time I saw Mrs. Anderson I felt a grab at my leg.

"Hi Millie," I said looking down at the little girl. She had a pink dress on that made her look even cuter than normal.

"Kevin!" she squealed as she held up her arms for me to pick her up.

I picked Millie up and looked around for Mrs. Anderson and spotted her with a man near the parking lot. Mrs. Anderson did not look happy. I looked around for David and spotted him with another group of children close to the front door of the church.

"Millie, this is Greg," I told the little girl. "You need to stay with him, okay?"

"Okay, Kevin."

I walked across the lawn to where Mrs. Anderson was standing. The man glared as I got close. The feelings coming from him were painful to experience. It was a mixture of hatred and cold fury at MORFS survivors in general and me in particular.

"What do you want, animal? This conversation is private, go away!" the man glared at me. I wrinkled my nose at the stench coming from him. He needed a bath in the worst way.

"Mrs. Anderson, the pastor would like to speak to you." I said looking at her and wiggling my fingers at the baby in her arms.

"Have you no shame woman, using that infidel name?" the man almost screeched. "You must leave with me, leave with me now and everything will be forgiven."

"Barack, I am not coming back. I am not giving up my children," the woman said, her voice shaking with fear and outrage. "There is a restraining order and you cannot be here. Please leave."

Mrs. Anderson turned away from the man and started towards the church. When the man looked like he was going to follow her, I stepped between them and growled.

"You would not dare touch me, animal," the man said loudly. "You would be a rug for my house."

I didn’t want to touch him. My wolf wanted to do something massively devastating to this, this, wretched thing.

Anything I had to say to the man was cut off by the arrival of the pastor. Mr. Hussein retreated got into his car and drove off. Together the Pastor and I walked back to the church while I tried to calm the beast inside me.

The rest of church wasn't nearly as eventful. The sermon was rather timely for me. Wrath. Pastor Adams made a lot of good points about how we should turn aside not only our wrath towards others, but also the wrath of others turned towards us. It didn't set well with my wolf. To it turning aside your wrath was tantamount to showing weakness, something to be avoided at all costs. Alpha or Omega. To it, there was nothing in-between.

The pot luck lunch was wonderful. I was able to snack and sample to the point that I was finally full and not look like I was trying to hog the whole lunch. We sat with the Trantors. Greg, Randy and I talked about school and what was going on there since my suspension while our parents talked about parent stuff. Mrs. Anderson sought me out to thank me for earlier. I reminded her to let me know if she needed anything. She smiled and walked off with David and Millie in tow.

We left after making the rounds to say our good-byes. I told Greg and Randy that I'd see them in school on Monday and surprised myself by giving both brothers long hugs before we left.

On Monday, Dad dropped me off in front of the school. I went into the office to get the official notice of my change in schedule and classes. The schedule had been juggled a lot to accommodate a change for one class. Two classes in the morning and two in the afternoon had been swapped around to move me into a different science class.

There was confusion at the start of all my changed classes when I walked into the room. For all four classes I had to show the changed schedule and explain that I was being moved to this class at this period. Most instructors took the change in stride and after a bit of shuffling of seating, went back to teaching the lessons.

Things quickly settled back to what passed for normal in the school. There were the normal run-ins with the MSA bigots and the Purists bullies, but things didn't get out of hand. The Roberts girls, Chastity and Purity, were over the top with smugness around me. I actually had to shield more around them, their thoughts were loud. It seemed that the more obnoxious a person was the more their thoughts intruded and the more I had to increase my mental shield against them.

The week after my suspension, I spotted Mrs. Kleck in the library. Part of me wanted to walk over and apologize to her for what happened in her classroom. My wolf rebelled. ‘No!’ I remained rooted to the spot in the middle of the library as my two halves warred. The wolf in me equated apologizing with submitting and it wouldn’t allow me to do that, not to Mrs. Kleck, not to a junior female.

I let it go and felt my wolf settled somewhat. Ignoring the strange looks from the other students in the library, I went to the main desk and checked out the book in my paw. Friday couldn’t come too soon.


Chapter 14

It was Friday and I was shown into Doctor Baker's office for our weekly chat.

"Hi Doctor Baker," I said somewhat cheerfully as I sat in the chair. This was the one place that I knew of that had tail friendly chairs.

"Hi Katie," the small woman said as she walked around to the front of the desk and sat in the chair next to mine. "How are you doing?"

Somewhat okay, Elf, I ‘pathed to her. Most of the time I'm okay, but I feel like I'm in a cage too.

I looked away from the woman, my gaze going out the window to the thicket of trees behind the office park.

Katie, talk to me, hon.

I reached out to her with my emotions and let her feel the turmoil inside me, the conflict. I fought my wolf to a standstill about it. It tells me not to, that to do so would be showing weakness, a weakness that could be exploited.

I lock down on my powers when I see how they are affecting the small woman, breaking the mental connections between us. The doctor blinks then draws and releases a shaky breath.

“It’s a wonder that you’ve held out this long, Katie,” she says quietly, sitting back in her chair. “What do you think you need to do to ease the conflict?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “The only thing that comes to mind is that I need to just let go and …” my voice trails off.

“Be an animal?” the woman supplies.

I drop my head. “Yeah.”

“Katie, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. You are what you are.”

“I know Doctor Baker, but… it seems like there’s less and less of me and more and more wolf.” I drew a shaky breath and let it out. “When I go out in the woods, it’s becoming harder and harder to go back to being me.” In my head the Wolf surged forward and I look the doctor straight in her eyes, “When I’m out in the woods, I’m free Alice. I’m not trapped by human rules, I live by natural law, by nature’s one rule, survive.”

The Doctor looked at me in surprise and slowly got out of the chair next to me and moved behind her large desk.

“I think you’re right Katie, on how to reduce the stress your animal nature is putting on you.”

We talked about other things, things that didn’t rile my wolf until the signal that said that our time was up.

I felt less wound up than before as Alice; Doctor Baker; walked me to the reception desk. Out in the waiting area, Dad got up and together we went out into the parking lot and found our car.

The drive home with Dad was quiet. I was sure that I was projecting at least some of my internal turmoil. When we pulled into the garage, Mom’s car was missing.

“Where’s Mom?” I asked getting my school things out of the car.

“At her sister’s,” Dad replied, letting us into the kitchen. “You cousin Jeff is in the hospital with MORFS. Your mom went to help.”

“Oh,” I said. Dad must have seen the confused look on my face since I couldn’t remember an aunt or a cousin from Mom’s side of the family.

“Don’t worry if you can’t remember your Aunt Diane, Katie. The last time we got together was while you were still in diapers. They live on the other side of the country so we haven’t visited much.”

I gave Dad a silent oh and started for the stairs to change out of my school things.

“Katie, wait,” Dad said from the kitchen. “Don’t go upstairs just yet.” He motioned for me to take a seat at the kitchen table. I didn’t need any powers to tell me that he was worried about something. “I want to know what’s going on with you,” he asked quietly. His voice and emotions weren’t angry but full of concern, for me. “It’s been months since your suspension and you’re still seeing Doctor Baker every week. Is it something you can talk to me about?”

“We have talked about it, Daddy,” I said. “Doctor Baker and I talk about my being a wolf.” I tell him in a nutshell what Elf and I talked about at her office.

“So you think letting your wolf out totally will help?”

“It can’t be any worst that what I’m going through now, Daddy.”

“When you go out, as a wolf, are you still there, Katie? You don’t black out do you?”

“I’m always there, Daddy. I see and feel everything. I can show you if you want.” I tell him.

Dad chuckled.

“No, honey, I don't need to know about the things you do out in the woods.” He paused for a moment then continued, “Can you telepath when your wolf is free?”

Sure. That part doesn’t go away when the wolf is in control.

Dad’s eyes got wide.

“While your mother is gone… she would gut me like a fish if she knew what I’m about to tell you. Your mother is going to be gone for the weekend at least. While she is gone, you go be a wolf in the woods. Go get it out of your system if you can. Stay out all night if you need to, all weekend if that’s what it takes, but you have to be home by sundown on Sunday. Okay?”

“Dad?”

“Go be a wolf, honey. Go be what you are.”

He gripped my arm and held me in place.

“But no boys. No boy wolves, no human boys. I’m going to be in enough trouble when your mom hears about this. She’d peel me like a spud if she came home to you nursing puppies.” Dad said. “Also, telepath me so I know you’re okay.”

I reached for my blouse to unbutton it and Dad put his hand on my arm again, stopping me.

“I love you Katie,” he said quietly.

“I love you too, Daddy,” I told him as we hugged.

It took mere seconds to strip off my blouse, skirt and every other bit of human clothing I wore. I bolted through the kitchen door to the backyard and didn’t look back. I leaped the backyard fence and when I landed I was WOLF, my lupine nature was in total control. Instinct was driving my body, the fear of humans setting my course through the woods. I ran, for how long I don’t know, an hour, two, I don’t know. Eventually I slowed, the scent of humans had become weaker and the overwhelming need to run receded.

I slowed to a trot, then after a bit stopped moving altogether. I sat in the leaves letting my senses tell me if anyone or anything was around. There was nothing of interest around me on the ground. Above me, squirrels chased each other branch to branch and tree to tree.

Lupine instincts weren't driving me so much now, but hunger was. It was well past my usual dinner time at home. It wouldn’t be hard to find dinner out here in the woods either. A quail that was slow to take wing when I accidently flushed the covey was my first meal. It reminded me of one of those Cornish hens Mom fixed for dinner now and again. It was an awful lot of work to get through the feathers and down to the meat. Way too much work for too little dinner. A large rabbit buck was next on the catch as catch can menu. Much better.

Between the two I had enough to keep my stomach from growling at me for a while.

It was getting dark and I started searching for a place to den for the night. I found a place under a brush covered log that had just enough space under it for me to snug in. I yawned once and searched for Dad.

Hi Daddy. I sent when I felt the connection.

Katie! Hi voice sounded surprised.

I could feel his emotions and they were a mixture of guilt, surprise and excitement. I had caught him in the middle of something.

I'm okay Daddy. I didn't want you to worry about me.

Oh, okay Katie. Are you alright?

I'm fine Daddy. I'll talk to you soon.

I let our connection fade and I fell asleep easily.

When I woke, what sky could be seen was barely pink. It was still hours from sunrise, but I couldn't go back to sleep.

Crawling out of my den, I let the wolf run things. I retreated into the backside of my head trying to find a way that I could balance things. The wild in me was too close to the surface. I couldn't bury it like people wanted me to; doing that would only cripple me. But on the other paw, I couldn't let little provocations put me into full 'wolf mode' either. The wolf growled that it was Alpha and that challenges had to be put down, hard. Disputes couldn't be tolerated. Allowing disputes showed weakness and weakness was fatal.

In a pack yes, but not with humans I countered.

It is the same, Alpha or Omega, you are the strongest or you are nothing!' the wolf shouted in my head.

With humans the strong do not dominate the weak, they protect.

They are mad, the weak should be killed, to improve the pack. Weakness breeds weakness!

Humans are not wolves! I retorted.

Suddenly the battle inside my head was joined. Each half of my nature tried to overwhelm the other for dominance. The outside world faded as I warred with myself.

Logic and reasoning wouldn’t end this, the wolf would only submit to an Alpha and the human had to be that Alpha!

As my Dad had done with me, I grabbed the wolf by the scruff of the neck and pinned it down. I looked into its eyes and shouted, This is the way it will be! You will submit to my will! It struggled to get free, but it couldn't and like me with Dad, it whimpered and went limp.

You and I are one, Wolf. We must live and survive in the human world, not the world of nature.

Then I will die the wolf whimpered. I cannot live in the cage you put me in.

No, you and I can co-exist, we must. If you die, I die. I told my wolf. You and I are one, I repeated.

You are weak, you do not kill the weak, you let them survive.

The strong lead the weak, the strong protect the weak, we do not kill them. The world of Man is different than the world of nature. A different world with different rules, but you and I can survive in it, we must. An Alpha fights for its pack, protects them.

You have no pack.

Yes, we do, my family, my friends, Traci, Millie and the others. They are our pack. Sandy and the others at school, they are our pack and we, you and I together, defend them.

I felt the wolf snort at the image of a wolf protecting a squirrel like Amy.

A different world, with different rules, I repeated sternly. We do not eat members of the pack. They are not prey.

The wolf struggled to free itself from my hold. When it couldn’t it finally lowered its head and submitted. It acknowledged the human half of our nature as Alpha.

When the outside world came back into focus it was nearing dusk. I got up from where I had collapsed from my fight with myself and shook. Dinner was next on the agenda. Lifting my head I scented deer, not too far from where I was standing. Turning I trotted off after a meal on the hoof.

~* * * *~

Mom stayed in Washington State with her sister for the remainder of the week. We learned from her that Cousin Jeff was now Cousin Jenny and had changed into a filly hybrid. Mom would have stayed with Aunt Diane longer, but the project on Tenkei wouldn’t wait any longer and Dad had to return to the orbiting city.

Things were boringly normal at school on Monday. The wolf raised its head only a few times, once when Amy hugged me in exuberance telling me of her date the previous Saturday. It wondered with a tree rat so close if we were hunting.

“Rae is sooo CUTE!” Amy squealed. We were sitting outside on the quad even though it was blustery and a bit cooler than most mundanes liked. “We went to Stone Mountain Park. They had a big festival going there. They had exhibits of tree shaping and there were groups with these large drums. It was great!”

“Tree bending?” I asked, “You mean bonsai?”

“Yeah, that’s what Rae called it.”

“JapanFest!” I said, remembering it from the one time I went before my change. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah, we had lots of fun, until this group of Pures started giving us grief.” Amy said, her face falling. “But that didn’t last long. A group of karate guys saw them and rescued us. One of the Pures tried to punch the karate guy and wound up on the ground. Then all the Pures ran away.”

“I bet. They’re a bunch of cowards at heart, Amy. They cave like cards when someone stands up to them.”

“Someone like you?” Amy asked, looking up at me.

“Now,” I tell her, “before my change, I was the one that caved. One thing that I learned about bullies is that even if you give them what they want, they won’t leave you alone. They leave me alone since they know that I won’t back down and they aren’t willing to die for their cause.”

“Die for their cause?” Amy’s eyes got big.

“That’s the wolf in me,” I told her quietly. “If it gets to a physical confrontation, they know that I won’t stop until one of us can’t fight anymore. Bullies aren’t willing to go all in like that.”

“Who’s this Rae? I haven’t seen you hanging out with any boys here in school.” I asked changing the subject.

“Rae isn’t a guy,” Amy said. “I met her at a picnic the fire department held a month back. Her dad works at the same station that my dad’s ambulance runs out of. She goes to a private school, Stoddard Academy. She says it’s great over there. It’s only for MORFS, no mundanes.”

The bell rang cutting us off. Amy and I walked back into the school for our next class.

Last period for the day was gym. Mr. Bear had us doing agility exercises. We had a group of the largest morphed kids in a line with a huge cage full of red dodge balls. The rest of us were told to line up and that we would be targets for the throwers.

“Those in the middle will do what they can to avoid getting hit. No zapping. For those of you with claws, no shredding allowed.” There were mock boo’s from some of the students and laugher from the rest. “You’re in the middle for five shots or until you get hit, whichever is first.”

Mr. Haskell picked out two to retrieve the balls and the rest of us formed a line. It was fun watching and cheering on both the throwers and the targets.

A small lion morph was up, it was Tim. I had met him and his sister the first week at school. He looked scared as he walked to the middle.

“Come on ‘fradie cat, you can do it!” his sister shouted just in front of me.

I could see Tim wince at the name, but he stood still. Mr. Haskell tweeted his whistle and the throwers took aim. Tim leaped and dodged the first two throws easily. The third one almost got him. The fourth one was aimed for his legs and Tim was able to jump over it, but landed in a heap having lost his footing.

“Way to go clumsy!” Sue yelled.

Tim glared hard at his sister, making me wince at the utter hatred that radiated from the small boy. The last ball was thrown and instead of trying to get out of the way he shredded it, leaving bits of rubber scattered over the floor.

“JUST SHUT UP YOU DAMM PUSSY!” he screamed before bolting from the gym.

“Way to go, bully.” I told Rose as the class stared at her and her brother.

“I am not!” Rose said turning to glare at me.

“Lunkhead, clueless,” I ticked the words off on my gloved claws, “clumsy. And I’m sure that his yelling was an act of love and kindness.” I added sarcastically. “How long have you been beating up on Tim? Since his morph? Before?”

“Just shut up Katie!” Rose yelled, “It’s none of your business!”

“But it is mine,” Mr. Haskell said quietly. “I’ll need to see you and your brother after class today.”

The rest of the period was subdued with less than hearty cheering for the targets.

I was headed out to the bus parking lot when Greg Trantor walked up. It was easy to tell he wanted to ask something but wasn’t sure how to ask it.

He looked embarrassed and I put my hand on his arm.

“Greg, just say it,” I said gently.

“Would you go to the dance with me?” he asked nervously.

“The fall dance?” I asked.

Greg nodded. I hadn’t even considered going.

I smiled and not sure if that was what he wanted to see. His nervousness got worse.

“I would love to go to the dance with you,” I said. “But if you don’t mind my asking; why me? You have all sorts of girls hanging around you.”

“Yeah, human girls,” Greg said, the emotions coming from him were almost bitter.

“Is that a problem?” I asked then gave him a look. “You’re not going all MSA on me are you?”

Greg laughed.

“No, I’m not one of those jerks,” he said, then hesitated. “The girls don’t want to go out with me ‘cause they like me, they want to go out ‘cause I’m a horse.”

It took a minute for the light bulb to come on.

“Oh,” I said, probably sounding very blonde to the big guy at the moment.

“It’s not like I’m not interested in girls, I am,” Greg continued, “I just… I just want her to be with me ‘cause she wants to be with me, not just she thinks I got a big…”

“If it makes you feel better, I’m going with you because I like YOU, Greg,” I told him, stroking his arm a bit. “We were best friends before I changed. I hope we’re still friends.” Then I added, “Are we?”

“You have to ask?” Greg was smiling.

Greg followed me onto the bus and sat next to me. Since Dad had to return to Tenkei for his work, I was riding the bus home. Most days it sucked since the seats weren’t built for someone my size. Today it was nice. Greg kept my mind off the ride.

Where’s Randy? I ‘pathed to Greg as we pulled out of the bus lot.

“He’s in detention,” Greg said.

What happened? I asked silently.

“He got caught changing grades in the computer system. Dean Rivers gave him a week in school detention and made him write an essay on the ethics of cyberpaths.”

We talked about other stuff until the bus got to my stop. I was surprised when Greg got off when I did.

“We live just up the street now,” Greg said. “Dad said we needed to move since the house was too small for me and…”

“You were getting grief from the neighbors?” I finished for him.

“You peeked,” he accused.

“You’re loud,” I retorted. Greg grinned and we both laughed.

“I don’t mind you looking, Katie.”

Together we walked around to the back yard. We sat on the picnic table and Greg slowly unloaded about the crap he’d been getting at school and elsewhere since his change.

I didn’t stop him, knowing he needed to dump, not on someone, but with someone he trusted. It took a while before he ran down.

“Sorry for motor-mouthing, Katie,” Greg said once he ran out of things to say.

Don’t be. I know you weren’t ticked off at me, I ‘pathed back to him. I shifted back to verbal, “Getting MORF’d sucks.”

“Yeah. But look at you, a total hottie that doesn’t look down her muzzle at everyone and not afraid of the bullies, bigots or the Pures.”

“Don’t forget total bitch as well. Remember what happened with Mrs. Kleck.” I gave a slight chuckle.

“She deserved it; ripping on you like that,” he turned and smiled at me.

“Maybe, but I got three days for it,” I replied. “And don’t get too down on yourself. You came out pretty good. Tell me about the dance.”

We talked for a long time about the dance and other things until Mom came to the back door.

“Greg your Mom called. She’d like for you to come home now.”

“Telesense?” I asked looking at Greg.

“Yeah. I can’t get away with nothing.”

I laughed and Greg smiled. He hugged me and I let him out through the back gate so he could get home.

Chapter 15

The two weeks before the dance flew past. I already had the dress, the gown that Dad got for me. It complimented my fur perfectly. I wouldn’t be wearing heels since I didn’t want to tower over Greg and you just couldn’t find high heels for a clawed wolf’s foot. They just weren’t made.

I practiced slow dancing with Mom. It was going to be interesting to see how Greg and I were going to mix on the dance floor.

The whole week leading up to the dance it was something different after school, mall crawl for new slippers and some jewelry. The next night it was getting clipped, trimmed and having my nails done. By the time Saturday night came, I was mostly a nervous wreck, but my nerves settled quickly enough once Greg and his father got there.

There were the obligatory pictures that both Mom and Mr. Trantor wanted, besides the photo package the school offered. Greg’s dad would be driving us to the school. Mom handed me my clutch purse and it was heavier than it should have been. When I opened it up, I found that she had slipped in an eCom, extra cash and a few condoms.

Mom! I ‘pathed to her, Greg’s my friend, we’re not going to do anything like that.

Just in case, honey.

Mom hugged me, careful not to muss things and we were off to the school. Mr. Trantor let us know that he would be back for us at midnight, when the dance was scheduled to end, or we could call him, if we needed a ride earlier.

We pulled up to the front steps of the school where a couple of doormen were opening car doors. Randy was one of them.

“Hey!” I called out to Randy when I recognized him in the suit. “Aren’t you going to the dance?”

“I couldn’t find a date so I volunteered,” Randy explained.

“It’s good to see you.” I waived as Randy turned back to open the door for the next car in line.

Greg led us up the stairs and in the front door of the school. Just inside the lobby was the professional hired for the night to take couples pictures. An archway was set up decorated with fall foliage and there were some pumpkins and baskets of crops on each side of the gate. We paused, arranged ourselves and let the man do a couple of snaps of us. He handed us a card and said that he would be back at school in two weeks with the proofs so we could purchase packages if we wanted.

As we walked towards the sound of the dance, I couldn’t believe how nervous I felt. Greg must have noticed as he patted my arm and whispered that it would be okay. The lunch room had been set up with a number of tables with refreshments. Just beyond the tables were the doors leading to the gym.

Greg crooked his arm and we entered the gym arm in arm.

The first couple we met was Amy and Rae. Amy’s dress and heels clearly emphasized that she was a hybrid. Her tail fluttered nervously as she introduced her date. Rae, short for Rachel wasn’t a hybrid, but clearly had gone through MORFS. Her magenta hair had been cut just above the shoulders and the pale yellow dress showed off her very fit physique.

We talked for a few moments about the dance and Greg complemented both of them on their dresses and hair. I could tell how much he enjoyed playing the gallant gentleman for the two girls.

“Where did you two meet?” I asked Rae after Greg left to get punch for the two girls.

“Originally, at a picnic, our dads work at the same fire station.” she said. “The next time was at Stoddard. I was her guide for visitor’s night.”

“You plan on transferring?” I asked Amy, who blushed.

“I hope to. Dad’s trying to get me in there, but it’s so expensive,” Amy said, embarrassed.

“It’s for MORFS only. There we don’t have to put up with the trash the Pures spout or mundanes,” Rae said proudly. “We can be what we are and don’t need to be concerned with hurting the ‘pillars poor widdle feelings.”

The way she sneered the last made me think of the MSA bigots I ran into on a daily basis in school. I wondered if Amy was going with Rae because she truly wanted to or if she was being overpowered by Rae’s very strong personality.

Greg came back with the punch and we all sipped and talked further.

The music changed from fast music down to a slow dance. I nudged Greg and nodded my head to the dance floor. We excused ourselves from Amy and Rae and joined the growing crowd on the dance floor.

Greg was a dream to dance with; he danced smoothly and didn’t step on my toes once. With each song we moved closer and by the end of the third song he was holding me tight. I was feeling very girly by the time we moved off the floor. I couldn’t resist any longer and peeked into Greg’s head. He was enjoying himself as well and was torn between being a gentleman and wanting to press things into more intimate territory. He knew I used to be Kevin and wasn’t sure if I would freak if he tried to kiss me.

We circulated around some more, talking with other friends from school. Greg introduced me to several of his friends from the computer club and they were surprised that a girl could actually carry on a conversation in geekeese. The music moved back to a slow number and Greg led me back onto the dance floor.

This time we started out touching and it felt soooo nice. I lost myself in the growing emotions between us. I could feel what he wanted and it felt so nice to be wanted just for me. He led us over to a dark corner of the gym and as the music ended bent close and kissed me.

He pushed close and I could feel him, feel him pressing against my stomach. His hand came up, stopping just short of the swell of the bodice on the dress.

Greg, I reached out to him silently, outside.

We slipped outside into the cool night air. Walking around to the far side of the school, away from the entrances, we found a dark, quiet place. The break also allowed our overheated hormones to cool a bit.

We stepped into the darkness between the main building and the horticulture club’s greenhouse. Greg leaned down and kissed me again and when his hand came up to cover my breast I let him. I knew what he wanted and knew that I could stop him from going further than I wanted.

He tried to slide his hand inside my dress, but I gripped his hand, stopping him.

No Greg, I ‘pathed to him looking up into his eyes. It’s too big and I don’t want to rip my dress.

I opened up to his emotions and was overwhelmed by their intensity. He was a guy, with a girl, and he wanted what guys want from girls. Greg’s feelings shouldn’t have been that surprising; it hadn’t been that long ago that I had been tormented by those same emotions.

Greg pressed me backwards into the side of the building, heating us both with kisses and his palming my breasts through the fabric of the dress. What little resistance I had was melting away, I didn’t care that anyone who walked by would be able to see us. I wanted my friend, wanted him, felt his emotional need, felt his hardness pushing against my navel. Goddess he really was a horse.

We were so open to each other, I felt what he was going to do. His hand left my breast and both hands made their way to the top of the gown.

No Greg My weak protest had no effect on his overheated emotions. With my last bit of resistance, I forced the feeling of getting doused with buckets of icy water through my very large boyfriend.

He gasped as if he had really been soaked and backed off quickly. We stood, facing each other as the shock wore off, replaced by a look of embarrassment on Greg’s face, as he realized what he had been about to do.

I grabbed his hand as he turned to rush off.

Wait I ‘pathed to him, not wanting to be overheard. Greg opened his mouth to say something but I interrupted him.

Don’t apologize Greg. I want to just as much as you. He nodded. I’m not saying no, Greg, just not right now. I gave Greg a peck on the cheek and smiled up at him. I doubt Dean Rivers wants that sort of dog and pony show on school grounds.

Greg looked shocked and then started laughing. It started as a chuckled then built quickly into a full on belly laugh. It went on long enough that I was getting concerned for my boyfriend. Finally Greg was able to get control of himself again.

“I’m sorry Katie, dog and pony; that just stomped the funny button,” he wiped the laughter tears out of his eyes.

He looked down at me with those dark brown eyes and something girly tightened inside me. He leaned towards me, and… I didn’t stop him kissing me. It wasn’t a lust filled kiss, but it sizzled, singed my fur and curled my tail.

“Oh,” was all that came out when we parted. He put his arms around me and I laid my head on his chest. His heart was beating like a trip hammer, like mine. When we parted a second time, I took his hand in mine.

Let’s go inside before too many rumors get started.

The rest of the dance was wonderful. Greg and I danced all the slow dances together and a few of the not quite so slow ones. Randy joined us towards the end of the whole thing and he and I went out on the floor a couple of times. There were more than a few sniggers because of our height difference but we ignored them.

Last dance was called and almost everyone walked to the center of the floor. Greg and I slow danced to the music and by the end of the song my head was on his chest. I was open to his emotions and I could feel the love and pride coming from him. There was more than a touch of smugness that he had snagged a hottie. I felt the same, I had snagged a high end, heavy duty hunk.

The lights came up as the last song ended. Mr. Trantor was waiting for us in front of the school. Randy had the good grace to sit up front with his dad leaving Greg and I alone in the back seat.

At home, Greg helped me out of the car and walked me to the front door. He gave me a gentlemanly kiss and said that he had enjoyed the evening.

I know they are looking, Greg. I liked tonight too. Maybe we can go out some more?

I would love that, Katie. See you at church tomorrow?

Mom will be shocked when I ask her to go. I sent to him, smiling.

He gave me a long, low key, lingering kiss that made my toes curl and had me thinking about dragging him inside. When he pulled back we were both breathless. I had to force myself to step inside and close the door between us. I stood at the window and watched as he went back to the car and got in the back.

Mom had been nice and wasn’t waiting for me in the living room. I went upstairs and saw the light on in her bedroom.

I had finished unzipping the back of the dress when Mom came into the bedroom in her nightgown to help.

“Have fun, honey?” she asked holding onto the bodice of the dress while I backed out from under it.

“Lots of fun,” I said fumbling with the hooks on the strapless bra I had to wear with the dress. I threw the damn thing across the room when the hooks caught and pulled tuffs of fur out. I surprised Mom when she reached for my purse lying on the bed behind me. “We didn’t use them.”

“Katie, I wasn’t…” she sputtered.

“Yes you were,” I teased, turning to face her. Even though we were the only people in the house, I stepped close to her so I could whisper in her ear. “They wouldn’t have fit anyway.”

Mom blushed.

~* * * *~

By the end of the week, Greg and I were an official couple at school. The rumor mill was going full tilt with each new story more exaggerated than the one before. Not all the rumors were about Greg and me. There was more than one floating around concerning Amy and Rachel. I chuckled over it until I spotted Amy in the locker room for gym.

Hi Amy, I ‘pathed, since I didn’t want anyone overhearing us.

Katie? came the response from the small squirrel morph.

Tell me you aren’t, I teased from the far side of the locker room. I stripped off my school clothes and hung them on the hooks in the locker.

I’m not what? Amy asked; the mental image I got was her head cocked to one side.

You’re not going to have Rachel’s illegitimate lesbian love child? I chuckled in her head, hopefully letting her know that I didn’t believe a word of the rumor.

There was a squeak from the far side of the locker room then chitering laugher.

Katie! Where did you hear that?

Gossip Central, where else, I ‘pathed back to her as I pulled on my shorts and tee shirt for gym class. You like her a lot, don’t you.

Rae, yes. She’s showing me how to be proud of being a MORF and a hybrid. Amy thought back to me. She can be a bit… strong… with her opinions.

I noticed. I sent back to her. I walked back to where Amy was still changing for class. I sat on the bench and watched as she pulled her gym shirt on and tucked it. I don’t want to sound meddlesome, Amy, but…

But?

I’m trying to put this in a way that won’t sound bitchy, I ‘pathed back. Make your own decisions about things. Don’t let someone or group, pressure you into doing or believing things that you don’t agree with.

“Let’s go ladies!” the coach yelled from the door of the locker room, interrupting what Amy was going to say.

Together we hustled out to the gym.

~* * * *~

On the ride home, Greg sat one seat behind me. I let my arm dangle over the back of the bench and kept touching his arm and hand. Greg would look at me and I would smile. We got off the bus together at my house. Mom wasn’t home and we went around back to sit in the backyard instead of going inside. The weather was still warm and it was nice in the private area. I put my things on the picnic table then turned and gave Greg a long hard kiss. I felt his surprise but that lasted about a millisecond before he was responding. When we came up for air, I pushed against him and whispered that we should go running in the woods.

Greg looked at me quizzically.

“I go running out in the woods, Greg. I let my wolf out to play.”

“Your wolf?”

I nodded. “I let my animal side out and let loose or it gets cranky.” I pushed against his side, smiling. “Come with me, you’ll love it.” I backed away and started opening my blouse.”

“Katie!” Greg exclaimed.

“Oh poo, Greg, I’m covered in fur.” I quickly strip off my clothes and piled them on the table.

“Someone will see,” Greg’s shock was all over his face.

“Greg, I’ve done this lots of time. Its wooded all the way back to the power lines, then there’s a large tract of woods on the other side. If there’s anyone at the lines, we just go around them far enough that they can’t see. Come on, you’ll love it.”

“Do I have to get undressed?”

“You don’t have to, but it’s nicer;” I told him. “It’s fun to let your animal out and go wild.”

Greg set his school things on the table and got undressed. Everything came off, shirt, hoof covers, pants and underwear. Like me he was covered in hair, but his was a dark chestnut colored coat that started at his neck going all the way to his black hooves and down his arms. He was gorgeous, a total hottie hunk.

I pressed up against him and gave him a hard, hot kiss that lasted maybe ten seconds, before I pushed him back, turned and jumped up on the picnic table. From there it was easy to leap over the fence. I landed on all fours and sprinted for the deep woods.

I led Greg on a merry chase through the woods, stopping at times to let him catch up then taking off again when he was in sight. We were headed towards a favorite clearing of mine when I circled back and let him pass in front of me. I trailed him for a few minutes then pounced, bringing him down. We hit the ground hard. The impact knocked me off and I rolled through the leaves before getting back to my paws.

Greg whinnied, turned and bolted out of the clearing. He was in a full, head down, panic induced run. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I trailed him. Pushing out with my abilities, I touched the man’s emotions. My pounce had triggered his animal’s it eats horses flight response and it was running away with him.

I fell farther behind, giving Greg the space his animal would need to feel safe. Luckily as we approached the power line right of way, the wind shifted so that I was downwind. The sour scent of fear was fading, hopefully that meant Greg’s fear was fading as well. I sprinted through the clear cut of the right of way and hid inside the woods on the far side.

We were close to my home now, lifting my nose, Greg’s scent was strong, but the overlay of fear had faded. Still, I didn’t want to send him off on another blind run through the subdivision that was on the other side of the road from my house, so, I approached slowly, stopping where our backyard started. Crouching down, I could see Greg, leaning against the privacy fence, one hand gripping the top of a slat.

Greg? I sent mentally, not wanting to yell and startle him or give away my position.

The panic was still there, but Greg was slowly mastering the beast inside himself. There was nothing I could do to help other than stay out of the way. I knew exactly what was going on in his head, having had to fight my own animal for dominance.

We stayed there for I don’t know how long. The mental struggle in Greg’s head crescendoed, then dropped off, and Greg with it. He collapsed in a heap, against the fence.

I crawled out of my hiding place, slowly walking across the open yard on all fours.

“Greg?” I called out quietly, eyeing the man’s unresponsive body. Mentally he was a blank, unconscious. I crept closer, nosing his cheek as I reached him.

“Greg?” I said again quietly, as I put my paw on his shoulder, being careful not to drag my claws across his skin.

He nodded, then an eye opened. There was a big sigh from the man before he levered himself up to lean back against the fence.

“Better?”

He nodded and snorted, like a horse.

When I tried to look him in the eyes, he turned away, focusing on something else. I sat back and started to back away when he gripped my paw in his hand. He wanted me there, just couldn’t look at me, his animal wasn’t completely under control yet.

After a few minutes, I slid around to sit next to him, and when there was no reaction, pressed against his side. Eventually Greg slid his arm over my shoulder, cuddling me to him.

“No more pouncing, I promise.” I stared at his face and could see intelligence in his eyes again, not panic.

“That…would…be…best,” he said slowly, speaking each word with an effort.

We stayed like that for a while, then Greg pulled himself to his hooves and offered me a hand.

The house was empty. Mom normally would have been home by now, so I did a mental search and found her at the grocery.

Hi Mom.

Hi honey. Why don’t you use the phone I gave you? She was surprised at suddenly having me in her head.

This is easier.

She would be home in an hour or so from her shop. Long enough for me to take Greg upstairs to the bathroom and get us both cleaned. We dropped our clothes in my room and walked across the hall into the bathroom. I didn’t need the link between us to know that something was bothering the big man.

You okay?

He nodded, trying hard not to make me worry. I put my arms around him and nipped his chest.

“Hey!”

“Be honest with me Greg,” I told him. Greg hesitated a little so I continued for him. “Weirded out by what happened?”

Greg nodded. “A little. I can’t explain it really, one moment I’m chasing you, the next, running like the four horsemen themselves are after me.”

“I think it has to do with my pouncing. Your animal took over while it ran for its life.”

“It was a lot like that. Being a passenger in your own head sucks.”

I nod and tell him about my bout with my animal.

The water was hot so we climbed into the shower. Having fur could be such a pain at times.

I washed Greg first, getting him soapy, running my hands all over his hard body. Emotions built in me, desires, like the ones that griped us during the dance. It kindled a need in me as my hands slipped below my boyfriend’s waist.

The need was mirrored in Greg. He whickered as I brought my hand up to cup the sack between his legs, and used the other to tease his cock from its sheath.

Oh Goddess!

He was hard in moments. I knelt and brought the flared head to my mouth, kissed it, then laved it with my tongue. I could feel what Greg wanted and let my instincts take over. The pleasurable noises coming from the man drowned out the sound of the water.

Greg stroked the fur on my head, curling his hips, forcing his cock into my mouth. The pleasure and pressure built. Movements became harsher, rougher, more demanding. He approached the point of no return. I pulled back and looked up.

His eyes were wild, I had inflamed his lusts and had stopped short. He thrust his hips forward, trying to get me to take him again. I moved my head so he missed his mark. Lust turned to frustration and built toward anger. I stroked him, and took him once again in my mouth, only to stop again moments later as he got too close to the edge.

“Katie,” Greg growled warningly.

What? I ‘pathed, sending him a girlish giggle.

He wanted me to finish what I started. I could feel exactly what he wanted to do and it made my wolf leap with glee. I whispered to him that it was okay, I trusted him.

I was yanked up from the floor and roughly spun around to face the tile wall. An arm wrapped around my waist and a hand between my shoulders forced me to bend over. I braced against the wall as Greg positioned himself.

Goddess! He was huge! With a forceful lunge in was in me. Another hump had us locked together. A third, and I felt the bruising impact against my ass.

He didn’t give me any time to adjust.

I was being taken, hard. I loved every brutally passionate moment. Our cries rang off the walls as Greg buried himself to the hilt, over and over again. I don’t know how long we were together, I didn’t care. We were locked inside each other’s mind as well as in body. Where one ended and the other began, we didn’t know, we didn’t care.

His hard thrusts drove our emotions higher, our passion hotter. When we could go no further, we exploded, Greg bugling his release, me howling mine.

Our recovery was slow, only aided somewhat by the cold water raining from the shower head. I pawed the controls to shut off the water. It took me three tries to start the blowers.

Greg went downstairs for snacks and water while I brushed out my fur. I all but jumped into his arms as he walked back into the room, and kissed him, hard. I wanted him, again.

I urged him backwards onto the bed, with my claws. Once there I nipped and teased him, until he was ready. This time I was the one doing the taking, mounting and riding Greg like the horse he was. No wonder the girls were attracted to him like flies to honey.

This time, neither of us lasted as long, but it was still intense. I collapsed onto his chest, feeling his seed leaking from between my thighs. I sighed contentedly.

“Katie?” Greg’s voice barely penetrated the blissful haze in my head.

“Hum?” I so didn’t want to move, I wanted to drift where I was.

“I need to get up.”

I didn’t even try to move until Greg prodded me sharply with a finger. Even then all I could do was slide off, landing like a flour sack next to him.

Greg had only been gone a moment when I felt the urge rising up again. I rolled face down on the bed and wanted my mate again. Now. Right Now. What was taking so long?

What the hell was going on with me?

Grabbing a towel, I dropped it in the seat of my desk chair, sat down and cranked the computer. It took only a couple of searches to tell me why my sex drive had gone from zero to warp in a single day.

Hitting the lock on the computer screen, I got out of the chair. Greg had the bright pink dog collar dad had bought me in his hands. He gave me a questioning look.

I pulled on a pair of barely there shorts and a tank top that stopped an inch below my breasts. It was the minimum I could get away with in the house. It was still too much for my tastes, but Mom had insisted.

I heard the garage door open just before Greg’s eCom rang. Greg looked at the message and tapped out a reply. He hit send just before the kitchen door open and Mom call for me.

 “Mom’s home,” I announced.

“Duh,” Greg said looking askance at me.

Mom called out that she could use some help. I ushered Greg out and down the stairs and together we carried sacks of groceries into the kitchen. Mom gave me the evil eye but said nothing as we helped put things away.

Greg had the good graces to remain until the food was put away before saying goodbye. I led him to the front door and in full view of Mom, laid a full on, heavy duty, straighten your hair and curl your toes kiss on him before sending him out the door.

“Katie Lynn Milner,” Mother started, “you had best start explaining yourself.” She did not look happy.

~* * * *~

“Well, what am I supposed to do, Mom?” I said exasperatedly, “Cross my legs and wait for the urges to go away?” We had been going round and round for twenty minutes neither of us willing to give an inch. Mom didn’t want to admit that my urges were caused by my physiology. She insisted that I was being a willful child and had led Greg on, got caught and was trying to get out of punishment.

“Don’t talk back to me like that, Katie Lynn!” Mom was just as exasperated and frustrated as I was. “You’re too young to be having sex! Especially with that Trantor boy!”

“And just what do you mean by that?” I asked; my voice dropping to a threatening growl. I looked my mother directly in her eyes.

Mom must have reconsidered her words because she dropped her eyes and sat heavily in one of the chairs around the dining room table.

“I mean honey,” her voice was calmer now, “that you need to stop and think about what you are doing. If you get pregnant now, everything changes. You’ll need to drop out of school as will Greg–“

“Do you think I want to get pregnant, Mom?” I said, the frustration creeping back into my voice. “I’m in heat! I looked it up. It’s the only thing that explains this.”

“Mom,” I continued lowering the volume slightly, “have I even looked at a boy up until last week? No. I haven’t even kissed a boy before Greg took me to the dance. So what makes you think I’ve suddenly turned into a slut that’s out to fuck every male standing?”

“KATIE!” Mom shouted. “I will not have you talking like that!”

“I wouldn’t have to if you would just listen!” I yelled back at her. I was muzzle to nose with her and I stepped back. It took a bit before I could face her again.

“Mom,” I held up a finger when she started to interrupt, “let me finish. I am a wolf, Canius Lupus Sapient or some such. Wolves have one breeding season per year and it lasts from one to two weeks. It’s the middle of the breeding season for wolves in these latitudes. It’s the only thing that makes sense about what’s happening to me now.”

I sat down at the table as well. I was out of fight. I didn’t want to argue with Mom any more.

Mom got up from the table and went into the other room. I heard her make a phone call, but didn’t focus on it. Instead, I busied myself with things around the kitchen until she came back.

“The center will see you tomorrow morning,” Mom said evenly.

Chapter 16

Mom and I left way too early for my MORFS center appointment. As we pulled out of the driveway, I pointed out all the different dogs that had suddenly decided to call our front yard home, including a little tiny teacup poodle sprawled on the front porch steps.

Half of me was amused by the sight of a dozen or more dogs that wanted my attention, while my wolf was disgusted that those hideous creatures would even entertain the idea of mating with me.

We turned off the main road through town early and pulled into a familiar looking shopping center. It wasn’t a very big center, only five shops in the building.

We walked past the dress shop were Dad got my formal to a smaller shop on the end. I spotted the type clothing they sold in here immediately.

Mom, I don’t need maternity clothing. I ‘pathed to her.

“Not yet you don’t,” she said simply.

The store owner made her way to us. She and Mom got into an animated discussion of maternity wear and what styles were in fashion this year.

I tuned them out and looked around the store. The majority of clothing seemed to be either pink or blue, I guess announcing to the world if the baby was a girl or boy. There didn’t seem to be much of a size selection either. Everything was small.

“You’re the mother to be?” the woman asked.

“We’re not sure yet,” Mom said.

“I can tell you having children is a lot of hard work, but in the end it’s very rewarding,” the woman said smiling. She brushed her hand along my arm.

The woman turned and started showing us samples of the various styles of clothing, pull over tops, button up tops, skirts and stretch pants.

Some of the tops had openings that went down the left and right side. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked her about them.

“Oh, those are for breastfeeding,” she replied simply.

“They go almost to the hem,” I pointed out.

“Those are for mothers that have more than the normal two breasts. The design uses a long opening that can be opened as far down as needed. That way we don’t have to match openings with nipples,” she explained. “How many do you have?”

“Eh?” I asked cocking my head to one side.

“How many breasts?”

I was totally caught off-guard by the question.

“Two,” Mom answered for me.

Mom and the woman talked while I listened and looked around at the clothing. They all the same basic styling, loose, and had that country farm house look to it, daises, lace fringe and the like. Can you say shut my mouth and country bumpkin? I would rather go naked.

Which wasn’t saying much, I’d have rather gone naked anyway.

We left a few minutes later and made our way to the MORFS center.

After signing in and finding a seat in the waiting room, I noticed a number of canine hybrids giving me what could only be called drooling looks. It wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on in their little heads.

Only one older teen had the courage to get up and start towards me. I glared and growled at him and he quickly retreated.

Not too long past our scheduled appointment time the nurse called me in.

“I can do this by myself,” I said quietly getting up from the chair.

Mom stood up with me. I opened my mouth to say something more, but decided it wasn’t big enough to fight over.

We were shown into a treatment room where the nurse took all the normal vital information. I was given a hospital gown to put on. I took my clothes off and hung them up on the coat pole that was in the corner and draped the gown over my lap as I sat on the end of the table.

I had just sat down when a new person came into the room with a data pad in her hands.

“Hi, I’m Lynn Stevens,” she said; her manner professionally friendly. “You are Katie Milner?” she asked looking at me.

I nodded.

“So what can we do for you today?”

I explained my situation to her as quickly as I could. I told her about my feelings and my urges for sex.

“Sounds like a normal lupine estrus cycle,” the doctor said.

“Is there any way you can stop it?” Mom asked quickly.

“Stop it?” the doctor repeated, “no, it’s not something you can turn on or off. It’s going to have to run its normal course. Have you had intercourse?”

I couldn’t help myself, I smiled. “Oh yeah.”

“Katie!” Mom cried a shocked look on her face.

“What, I’m not supposed to enjoy it?” I gave her a look, “you certainly enjoy it when Dad comes home.”

Mom didn’t say anything, but I heard her thought loud and clear I wouldn’t go that far.

She must have read the shocked expression on my face.

“This isn’t the time or the place, Katie Lynn,” Mom said sharply. It wasn’t open for discussion.

I turned back to the doctor, “Is there something you can give me to… tone down the urgings?”

“We could, but it’s so late in the cycle now, anything we gave you wouldn’t be effective until almost the end of your heat.”

“So it’s just live with it.”

“For this cycle, pretty much.”

“What about birth control?” Mom asked.

“Barrier methods would be the only effective method, diaphragms, condoms–“

“Abstinence,” Mom suggested rather forcibly.

“That’s not going to happen,” I muttered.

“Now see here young lady,” Mom started, “You will-“

I snapped my head around and growled at her, baring my teeth. Whatever else she was going to say died unspoken. She dropped her eyes.

“Katie…” Mom said after a moment.

“Like you said, Mom, not the time and not the place.” I told her.

The doctor looked between the two of us and wondered if she should be saying something.

I stood up and put my blouse and skirt back on.

“I think we are pretty much done here. Thank you, Doctor,” I told the woman as I opened the door and walked out. I didn’t stop walking until I reached the car and waited for Mom to catch up.

“Mom,” I said when she came towards the car, “we need to talk.”

“We can talk when we get home.”

“No. Not at home,” I said, “any place but home.”

Mom looked across the roof of the car at me, then nodded.

It didn’t take long for Mom to find a place where we could get drinks and sit outside in the sun.

The waitress brought Mom a coffee and I got a glass of iced tea. I focused my attention on her and read her emotions. She might look calm on the outside but she was a wreck on the inside.

“Mom,” I said quietly, “what’s with you and Dad? I thought you loved him.”

“I do, honey,” Mom said automatically, part of her really did love him.

“But?” I prompted.

“Katie,” Mom started, “do you really want to know?”

“Yes,” I said. “If you don’t want to tell me, Mom, I can look for myself.” I let her chew on that for a moment then continued. “What did you mean by I wouldn’t go that far?

“You heard that?” Mom asked.

I nodded and sipped my tea.

“You may not like what I have to say, Katie.”

“I’m a big wolf, Mom.”

She gave a weak chuckle.

“Yes you are,” she said then continued, “I met your father back when we were in college. I had done all the normal college things, parties, sororities, even spring break in Cancun. But I was what college women called a LUG, lesbian until graduation. While I didn’t shun the men or go out of my way to humiliate them the way some of the sorority sisters did, I didn’t encourage any of them either.”

“I had boyfriends before college as well. I even had sex with them. It wasn’t often and they weren’t very good. Most times I’d end up having to finish what we started after I got dropped off at home.”

“Anyway, I met your father at college. It was one of the first parties of our senior year and he was a member of one of the nicer frat houses on campus. We hooked up for the evening; we danced, talked outside in the gazebo. I expected him to be like most frat boys, a total horse’s ass. But he surprised me, he was a nice guy. I slept with him on our third date and our fifth.”

“One of his little wigglers caught… and you were the result.” Mom said looking at me.

“You and dad got married because you had to, not because you wanted to?”

“Randy insisted. Like I said, your father is a good man. When I told him I was pregnant he didn’t try to get out of it; he didn’t even demand that I prove it was his.”

“I’m still not getting it, Mom, where’s the problem?”

And as soon as I said it, a light came on.

“You’d rather he wore a bra instead of a jockstrap.” I said quietly.

Mom nodded slowly. I could feel that she was glad that she was finally telling someone her secret.

“You haven’t said anything to Dad about it?”

“No and he does not need to hear it from you,” Mom gave me that look of hers that made it clear that she had just laid down the law.

“Why not, Mom? It’s unfair to keep that from Dad.” I wanted to say more, but I didn’t. Mom was hurting too much from her own guilt.

“I don’t feel the same way, Mom.” I said quietly, moving the topic in a different direction. “I like sex with Greg. He’s a good guy too. He knows I used to be Kevin and was worried that I’d freak if he tried to kiss me at the dance, so I kissed him first. Several times.” I smiled remembering the warm feelings it engendered down below.

“And upstairs at the house?”

“We did a lot more than just kiss, Mom,” I said. “But it’s not like I could help it. I’m in heat and he bred me.” I smiled remembering how good it felt with Greg’s arms around me and… everything else. I squirmed in my chair.

“That’s such a low expression Katie, I wish you wouldn’t use it. It makes it sound like you’re nothing more than an animal” Mom said her discomfort about it plain.

“I am an animal, Mom,” I said quietly. “Humans don’t have a breeding season, I do. My body is telling me that I need to be bred so I can have pups in the spring. And letting everyone else know it as well.”

Mom gave me a look and I reminded her about the neighborhood dogs that had taken over the yard.

“Like I said, I don’t want to get pregnant, but I’m not going to abstain either. I can’t, unless you want me turning into a real bitch.” Mom locked eyes with me and I giggled. She lightened up.

“Mom, Greg is like Dad. He’s kind and polite and sweet.” I looked in Mom’s eyes and slid my paw into hers. “He’s a good lover too. I’m sorry that yours were so lousy.”

We finished our drinks and made our way back to the car. On our way home we stopped at the same drug store where she bought the first bottle of Mane and Tail for me just after I changed.

“You’re going to have to come in this time, honey.”

I followed her in and we made our way to the far side of the store. Mom led us to the sexual health display.

“You said what I put in your purse wouldn’t have fit,” Mom said then motioned to the display. There were outlines of the various sizes of one brand of condom. I stared at them and remembered the feel of Greg in my hand. Putting my paw over each of the outlines I found the size I hoped was right. I matched the picture with a large box and looked at Mom. Her eyes were wide.

“I told you, Greg’s a horse.” I said quietly.

I also picked up a bottle of personal lubricant. We did a little more shopping before taking our selections to the counter. There was an older woman running the register.

When she got to the condoms she stopped and gave me a strange look then handed the box back to me.

“You need the next larger size,” she said calmly.

“Excuse me?” I asked, surprised.

“Katie, right?” she asked.

I nodded. Automatically I pinged her mind.

“Mrs. Trantor?” I asked.

She nodded, I blushed.

“It’s okay. Greg told me about the other day and no, I haven’t been peeking,” the woman said. “Be good to him. He’s been catching hell ever since his change.”

“I know, he told me. Greg’s been my best friend since forever.”

“Glad to hear it, hon. Go exchange these.”

I rushed over to change the box for the next larger size and hurried back to the counter. They were talking when I got back.

“… I’m sure that won’t be a problem,” Mom was saying. “We’ll be there.”

“We’ll be where?”

“Linda has invited us over for a cookout next weekend,” Mom said.

“Great.”

~* * * *~

Monday started a routine for Greg and I. We would ride the bus home and get off at my house. We’d leave our things on the back yard picnic table and romp out in the woods. Greg would make sure that we had two or three condoms with us. We’d come back to the house and clean up and do our homework together. Mom would be home to fix dinner and Greg would stay and we would disappear upstairs afterwards.

Mom ignored the noises we made and somewhere between eight and nine, Greg would leave and jog the mile or so to his house.

By Friday my need for Greg had tapered off. When we got home from school, we didn’t go romping in the woods, instead went up to my room and cuddled. It still felt nice with his large, powerful arms around me but the urgency for sex had tapered off.

“You okay Katie?” Greg asked in my ear.

“Un-hun. I’m fine. I think my heat has passed,” I said into his chest.

“Oh. I thought you might have been sick or something,” Greg said laying his chin on top of my head.

We laid on my bed for a while, talking about nothing much, school and the get together at his mom’s invitation the next day. My eCom rang and I couldn’t reach it from where I was on the bed. I had a pretty good idea who it was so I reached out to Mom.

You called? I asked.

Oh! Katie! I heard Mom’s mental giggle. It might have been easier just to answer the mobile.

I’m encumbered. I ‘pathed back to her and let her feel Greg’s arms around me which earned me a sputtering response from her.

We’re being good, I promise.

I know Katie. Will the two of you be okay by yourselves in the house? Linda has invited me over since Mr. Trantor is out of town.

Gee, two teenagers, alone, all night? I think we can find something to occupy us.

Keep it to a dull roar. I don’t want any calls from the police. Mom’s mental giggle was very audible.

Sure thing.

Mom didn’t have much more to say so we said our good byes and I let the connection fade.

Greg was looking at me funny when I zoned back in.

“That was Mom. She’s headed to your place. We’ve got all night, alone, and no adults to spoil things. Can you think of anything to do?”

“I can think of one or two interesting things,” Greg said, smiling.

One of the things that I didn’t throw out after my change was my game system. Greg led me downstairs and I connected it to our large flat screen while Greg sorted through the games. He selected one that we played often together and I jacked in the cartridge. I hadn’t kept in practice and Greg trounced me badly, but neither of us cared. We were having fun the way we used to. I peeked into his head and he really missed Kevin. Not that he had complaints about the new me, but he wanted his friend back as well.

In the game I ran to the end of the row of buildings and scanned the area for enemy troops. Taking off at a dead run I almost reached the blue team’s HQ when my screen suddenly went red. Greg let out a whoop and I watched my last man topple over having caught a plasma blast full on.

“Yes! The Winner and Champion!” Greg cried out triumphantly jumping up from where we sat together on the couch.

He looked down at me.

“Hey, Kev, don’t look so glum man, you caught me with that more times than I can remember.” He caught himself and sat down again. “Sorry, Katie, I…”

“It’s okay, Greg,” I said turning to smile at him. “I’m glad that you can think of me as Kevin sometimes too.”

“I rather think of you as Katie,” he said, quietly. “I don’t think the school would let Kevin go to the school dance in a dress, much less dance with another guy.”

I giggled.

“Thanks.” I said, leaning into him. My stomach took that moment to growl loudly, complaining that it hadn’t been fed recently.

“Hungry?” Greg asked.

I roughly pushed him over onto his back and leaned over him.

“I hear horse is very tasty,” I teased, licking my muzzle. I looked at Greg then nipped his neck just under the jawline.

“Katie!” Greg yelled struggling to get out from under me.

I rolled off him and got up, smiling. I smacked my lips like I enjoyed the taste.

“Please sir, can I have some more?” I asked in a pitiful little voice, I gave him my best little innocence look.

Greg stared at me as if I had lost my mind, then laughed. He left and went into the bathroom and I took the time to go to my room and get out of my school clothes. I contemplated staying in fur but decided against it. I wouldn’t want to run and hide when the food was delivered.

I went downstairs and brought up the menus from a couple of good pizza places that would deliver specialty pizzas. I wasn’t sure with Greg if he’d be able to eat cheese and sausage. I reached out to Mom to see if ordering would be okay and dropped the connection just as quickly.

Greg came out and we looked over the menus, haggled with each other and I placed the orders. We goofed and cuddled until the pizzas showed up. The girl looked past me to Greg standing near the door in just his pants and made appreciative noises.

“Drool all you want, he’s mine.” I said quietly with a growl behind it.

“Is he?” she asked, her eyes flipping between me and him.

“Very,” I said and closed the door before she could ask anything else.

Dinner was, well, pizza. What red-blooded teenager wouldn’t want pizza?

There wasn’t a whole lot to clean up. I had bent over the dishwasher to put plates and such in it and felt Greg’s hands encircle my waist. It wasn’t hard to feel his growing lust in my head or against my bottom as he drew me to him.

I groaned as he moved against me and I shifted my hands from the dishwasher rack to the counter. It was a better place to brace myself.

If you’re going to start that, I warned him, you best finish it.

He was and we did; several times. The last time was in my room. I felt more than heard Mom come in downstairs and was too distracted with Greg on top of me to do more than notice her stop in the doorway of my room for a moment before disappearing again.

Mom confronted us in the hallway. We were both in only fur and still damp from the shower when she stepped out of her bedroom. She didn’t seem too upset, either at our activities, or our state of undress. Greg slid his large arm around my shoulders protectively. I don’t think the implication was lost on her.

“Greg,” she began, “you need to get home. It’s after your curfew.”

He only paused a moment before answering, “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Katie, in my bedroom.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Greg?” I asked.

“Try to keep me away.”

I went into Mom’s room with her following and closing the door.

“No lecture from me, Katie. I just hope you two were smart.” Mom was tired.

“We were,” I said. I debated for a moment then asked, “Where you and Linda smart?”

Mom’s head snapped up.

“Katie–“

”Don’t, Mom. I know you and Greg’s mom were… occupied,” I said quietly. “I’m glad you found someone you can play with.”

“How did you find out?”

“When I ‘pathed to you about our ordering pizza.” Mom just nodded. “No, I don’t intend to tell anyone, including Dad. It’s not my secret to tell.”

“I do love him, honey,” Mom said, putting her hand on my paw.

My nose and my power told me she was telling the truth. She and Linda had each worked out a lot of built up frustration at their respective husbands.

“I know,” I tell her, getting up from the bed. “I’m going to say goodbye to Greg.”

I found him in my room only partially dressed. I waited until he had his pants on again before I approached.

“Thank you, Greg,” I told him quietly, looking into his eyes. “I hope you know that what we did was because I wanted to, not had to.”

He nodded and wrapped his large arms around me. The massive hug he gave me was, comforting.

I kissed him hard and then led him down to the front door and sent him off into the night. I kept my link with him up to make sure he made it home. Once I felt that, I went back upstairs and curled on my bed, dropping off to sleep almost immediately.

~* * * *~

Saturday wasn’t too awkward. Mom and Linda kept trading looks with each other when they thought none of us were paying attention. Eventually even Randy asked what was going on. I stalled, not knowing what I could tell him without spilling Mom’s, and by proxy Linda’s, secret.

We made it through the day without too many awkward moments and when Mom and I were packing up to going, I gave Greg another full, on the mouth, he’s my boyfriend kiss, much to the surprise of Randy and their mother. When I pulled back I glared at Linda, daring her to say anything. She dropped her gaze and said nothing. Greg was mine, wrested away from his mother just that easily.

Sunday morning, it was church. We were late enough to miss the early service and arrived in time for Sunday school and adult classes. Instead of going to either, I volunteered for the nursery.

The woman in the room was grateful for the help. There were more children in the room than she could comfortably keep an eye on.

I had made one round of diaper checks and changes when organ music floated through a speaker mounted high on the wall near the nursery door. A couple of minutes later there was a bustle of activity as parents came to claim their children and more parents arrived to drop their children off so they could attend late service.

Mrs. Anderson stopped in with Millicent in tow and a babe in arms. I hurried over as quickly as I could and greeted her.

“Who is this?” I asked as Mrs. Anderson carefully placed an infant in an empty crib. I hadn’t asked Mrs. Anderson about her baby the last time I had seen her at church.

“That’s Luma, Kevin,” Millicent replied quietly. “She’s my sister.”

“And a beautiful sister too,” I said as we got her unwrapped and comfortable in the crib. She was dressed in a fine, all white baby dress. I looked at Mrs. Anderson and cocked an eye at her. She didn’t say a word, but a light went on. Luma was going to be baptized!

The girl was chubby like all infants. She had big dark eyes and a head full of dark chocolate brown hair. She looked up at us and made happy noises. Turning back I spotted someone looking more like a pack mule than a teenager. I took the baby bag and set it next to the crib and left him holding a purse which I assumed belonged to Mrs. Anderson.

“David?” I asked the boy after we got Luma settled.

He nodded and I smiled and gave him a hug. He looked as if he could use one.

“MORFS?” I asked him simply and he nodded.

“Yeah.” He didn’t sound too disappointed.

When I had seen David with his mother in the park, he was ten years old and under five foot tall. The man in front of me stood almost six foot tall with yellow eyes and neon blue hair. He had a very muscular build and an air about him that had my wolf dancing around like a happy puppy.

“What else did you get?” I asked, suddenly realizing who I had been with the last time I felt this way.

“I got a zap too. I’m an EE,” David said, almost embarrassed.

“Cool, when the lights go out next time, you can come over and I’ll hook you up,” I smiled and David rolled his eyes. I felt something go through the boy, something sad.

Are you okay, David? I asked silently, looking into his yellow eyes.

I felt all sorts of emotions coming from him, confusion, anger, guilt, a whole knot of emotions that had his gut tied up.

He looked away and I put my claw under his chin and gently lifted his face so he was looking at me again.

I know getting morphed sucks. Even if you got all good things out of it, some things still suck. If you want to talk about it, I’ll listen. Okay?

David nodded then surprised me by charging into my arms for another hug. We stood there arms wrapped around each other for a long time. David had always been attention hungry when I was babysitting him and Millie. I had never put him off when he wanted a hug or to just sit on my lap.

Time for the service, Sparky, I ‘path quietly to the young man. David slowly let go of me and stood just outside the nursery door.

Mrs. Anderson explained what would be happening during the service. I smiled and nodded.

The lady checked the babies leaving me to tend to the older children until I heard the Pastor talking about growing our church family. That was my cue. I gathered up Luma and picked her up carefully. The Pastor, Mrs. Anderson, Millie, David and a few adults I didn’t know were gathered at the front of the sanctuary around the baptismal font.

I carried little Luma up to the group and tried to put her in Mrs. Anderson’s arms. Luma had other ideas. She had apparently taken a liking to the feather dangle hanging from my ear. There were some chuckles from the congregation and the Pastor when they realized that the little girl had me trapped by my ear. I reached up and detached the dangle and let her keep it clutched in her tiny hand. I moved to the back of the church while the Pastor started the baptism service.

Watching the little group, I could feel the love the congregation had for the mother and family. There was the odd sarcastic thought as well, usually along the lines of ‘a single mother with three children, that slut has some nerve coming here’. I didn’t bother finding out who actually thought that, focusing more on the Pastor and the ceremony.

“Luma Marie Anderson,” the Pastor intoned, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Behind me the front door of the church banged opened and the quiet of the service was shattered by the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being racked followed immediately by a blast.

~* * * *~

Before I even opened my eyes, I knew where I was and who was around me. I pretended to be asleep so I wouldn’t be shocked.

I reached out with my power and found Shell.

Where are you?

“I’m right here, Katie,” came her reply, followed by a warm hand on my wrist.

Opening my eyes, I smiled at the albino police officer. I could also see the concern in her eyes.

The question on my mind was delayed a bit as there were another set of familiar footsteps hurrying in our direction.

“Damn,” I whispered. I knew who that was. The privacy curtain around the bed was whipped back and guard stared at me. He reached for his belt and one word came out of my muzzle. “Don’t.” I projected at him; fear, unrelenting nameless terror if he touched the box that controlled the stunbelt around my waist. His eyes went wide and he moved his hand away from the control box. A stain formed at the crotch of his pants and he hurriedly moved away. I let the connection fade when I heard the metallic clang of the ward doors.

“That wasn’t nice, Katie,” Shell said, looking at me disapprovingly.

“He’s not a nice man. He was going to shock me for no reason, just like he did the last time I was here.” I said. My arm itched and I reached to scratch it and was surprised when I could. I hadn’t been restrained this time. I looked questioningly at Shell.

“I talked them out of it. They wanted to put you into doubled up hard restraints,” she said looking down at me, “I couldn’t talk them out of the belt though.”

I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and sat up. A wave of dizziness engulfed me and I laid back down again.

“Ohh,” I moaned.

“Take it easy hon,” the nurse said coming into the little curtained off area. “You’ve had a rough day.” She checked the IV needle going into my arm and then the bag hanging over my head. “Go ahead with your chat. I’ll be back in about ten minutes to change the bag.”

I looked back at Shell.

“Is it Shell, or Officer Shell?” I asked my friend.

“Detective Shell actually, Katie,” she said almost apologetically. “I need to talk to you about what happened at the church. But I have to tell you that you have the right to remain silent, if you give up that right, anything you said can be taken down and used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and can have the attorney present before I ask any questions. Since you are a minor, you may have your parents present before I ask any questions. You may stop answering questions at any time. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?”

I noticed the eCom sitting on the roll around tray and nodded.

“I understand.” I said flatly, knowing that Shell had to treat me like any other criminal, that it wasn’t personal didn’t make it any easier.

We talked about what had happened. It would have taken less time if we had been able to converse silently, but Shell insisted that it be verbal for the record. I told her about carrying Luma up for her baptism then moving to the back of the sanctuary.

“The last thing I remember clearly is hearing someone coming through the front door and then the shotgun.” I said suppressing a shudder. “After that, nothing.”

“Do you know who it was with the shotgun?”

“No, I didn’t even feel them approaching. Normally I’d feel at least something, here I didn’t.” My mind replayed the memory and I had caught a whiff of his scent before he fired the gun.

“Hussein,” I said to the detective. “It was Mrs. Anderson’s ex-husband.”

“How do you know he was her ex-husband?”

“Just a guess. He came to the church a while back. Mrs. Anderson and he were getting into it in the parking lot. She said that she wasn’t coming back and that there was a restraining order.”

“Anything else?”

“Not too much, Mrs. Anderson walked away with the Pastor and I stayed there to keep him from causing trouble. The man left after telling me that I dare not touch him or I would end up a rug.”

“You didn’t, did you?” Shell asked.

“Not that I didn’t want to. My wolf wanted to shred him and squat on the pile. He got in his car and left. I went back into church.”

We talked for a few minutes more before the Detective reached over and turned off the recorder.

“I’m sorry, Katie. I didn’t want to be the one on this case.” Shell said her eyes mirroring the emotions I felt from her.

I shrugged.

“Better you than some Pure.” I remarked.

Mom and Dad arrived a few minutes later with papers releasing me into their custody.

~* * * *~

I was charged as an adult with murder, but that’s as far as it went. My attorney requested that I be allowed to testify at the Grand Jury hearing. It was a grueling two days. The fifteen people asked me all sorts of questions; some were downright insulting.

“You’re a telepath, right?” one woman asked, the way she was dressed reminded me of an old church busybody.

“Yes.”

“I expect that you’ve poked into all of our heads, seen all our secrets?” she sneered.

“I haven’t, I can’t really. There’s a psionic suppression field in place and I wouldn’t even if could.” I said, looking at the juror who asked the question. “Ethically and morally it’s wrong, practically, if you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all.”

“So, it’s your belief that morphed creatures such as yourself are better than natural humans,” a different juror asked.

“We’re all human, sir. Do I believe that all survivors are better than mundanes? It depends on the individual, but if you’re talking as a group, no. We’re different, not superior.”

In the end the jury returned their verdict, No Bill.

“That means what, exactly?” Dad asked the lawyer in the conference room down the hallway from the Grand Jury room.

“That means that the charges against Katie will be dropped. You have to appear once more in court for the formal announcement. But it will be over,” the lawyer looked at his watch, “in about ten minutes.”

He led us to the large court room one floor up in the courthouse. We sat in the front row of the gallery and stood up when the judge strode in. The clerk called our case and I stood up with the lawyer and we made our way to the tables in front of the judge.

“Miss Katie Milner, the State has brought charges of Murder, Mayhem and Riot against you. The sitting Grand Jury of your peers has heard the case against you and has returned a No Bill. The State’s Attorney may choose to re-file charges at a later date should further evidence be uncovered and presented. All bail money is to be returned, this case is dismissed.” The woman brought her gavel down against the sounding block.

Smiling I started to join my family who surged forward.

“Stand fast young lady. Bailiffs! Seal the courtroom!” the judge said sharply. Quickly the men stationed around the room moved to the several exits and drew their weapons.

I looked around and there were other people the courtroom, dressed in black armor with strange looking helmets. They carried odd looking rifles and all of them pointed them at me.

The wolf pushed forward growling. It was fight or flight time, since I couldn’t flee, it was time to fight.

“Go ahead wolf, fight! Do it!” a woman goaded, stepping forward, dressed in the same uniform as the people carrying the rifles. “Resist and I’ll turn you into minced meat right here and save the people a whole lot of fuss.”

“Colonel, I don’t care what your orders are, you will not turn my courtroom into an execution chamber!” the judge yelled from behind the bench.

The Colonel didn’t turn from staring at me, “Just read the order.”

I could hear muttering from the judge then she leaned forward to speak into the microphone, recording her words for the record.

“Katie Milner, by order of the Office of the President of the United States, you have been declared a danger to the public at large. You are hereby immediately remanded into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, anti-terrorist defense forces. You are to be transported to an appropriate facility, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security until such time as you are declared fit to re-enter society. The order is signed by Jerry Falwell, Esquire, Secretary; Department of Homeland Security.”

One of the guards ran up with a metal collar. I growled as them, resisting the absolute need to do something savage to them. The woman in charge motioned and the carrier reached up and snapped it around my neck.

“Resist wolf, please resist! I’d love to detonate that and turn your head into mush,” she growled into my ear. She stepped back and the group of armored soldiers formed a double column to either side.

“Move out!” the Colonel yelled.

I was marched out the front doors of the court house and into a waiting armored truck.

# # #

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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