Synergy

(A MORFS Universe Story)

by

Shrike
Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Isabel, sister of Brent

Synergy

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

A hidden base somewhere in Idaho

Synergy

A hidden base somewhere in Idaho

Chapter 6

Isabel, sister of Synergy

Synergy

Unknown adversary

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

FBI agents (or posing as them) with Isabel

Synergy

Elsewhere in the world

Chapter 9

ASA agents, Idaho

Synergy

ASA agents, Idaho

Synergy

ASA agents, Idaho

Synergy

ASA agents, Idaho

Synergy

ASA agents, Idaho

Synergy

ASA agent Slick, Idaho

ASA regional Headquarters

Synergy

ASA agents, Idaho

Synergy

ASA agent Hound, Idaho

Synergy

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

MORFS Center Savannah

Synergy

Jet & Quartz

Synergy

Jet & Quartz

Synergy

Jet & Quartz

Synergy

Chapter 15

Somewhere in the town of Whistler

Synergy

Near Maggie’s cabin, the attackers

Synergy

Epilogue


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Prologue

The disease known as MORFS was originally launched on the world's population by means of a genetically engineered virus. It started as an attempt at a chemical weapon by a group of terrorists back in late 2008. The virus they engineered was a common bug that caused nausea, vomiting, and sometimes diarrhea. It wasn't serious, everyone recovered in a few days, and so no one had tried to make a vaccine to prevent it right away.

At the time of the original release of the MORFS infection, there seemed to be no immediate effect from the agent, other than the usual nausea symptoms, so again no anti-virus was made. Over the next six months, the virus passed over the whole globe unnoticed. The virus spread everywhere. All vertebrate animals that experienced some form of puberty contracted the virus, including all mammals and even reptiles and birds.

Several months after that, some researchers who noted some strange changes in adolescent lab mice discovered that the virus was altering one section of their DNA. The DNA strand in particular was one that happened to be activated during the process of puberty. In some way it caused a varying degree of scrambling of genes across all chromosomes as cells reproduced. Since the scrambling varied from individual to individual, each adolescent mouse experienced different changes. It didn't take long after that for them to discover that all vertebrate species, including humans, had been similarly affected, even though the effects had not started showing up yet in all species.

More recent research revealed that the particular portion of DNA that was affected by the virus is one that is supposed to protect and regulate the integrity of an individual's genome. The mutated portion essentially disables all or part of that activity, thus allowing many other mutations and gene swaps to appear and survive.

At first, the scientists had been puzzled as to why only some individuals of any species were affected. It took them a couple years to discover that, although the changes only happened during puberty, they were only brought about when an individual became infected with any of the viruses in the family of the original engineered virus. Some individuals of some species apparently were naturally resistant to such infections, so they never experienced any changes.

Of course, there was a crash research effort to try to find a vaccine for that whole family of viruses, but it was soon discovered that the family of viruses mutated rapidly and always seemed to outpace the development of an effective vaccine. It’s like they say, there's no cure for the common cold.

Meanwhile, the first effects in adolescent humans began to appear. It seemed as though only about fifty percent of kids had any detectable changes due to the altered strand. About fifteen percent of that fifty percent developed extraordinary abilities and/or body changes. About one percent of that fifteen percent developed what would be called supernatural abilities. Another fair percentage seemed to show signs of hybridization with other species, with highly variable results.

With everyone carrying this altered DNA strand, it was passed down to all the children of that and subsequent generations. Sometimes changed forms and/or abilities from parents were passed down as well.

The scientists had named this phenomenon "Massive Ontogenetic Regulation Failure Syndrome," commonly known as MORFS.

The older generations had nothing to worry about, but kids at adolescent age were suddenly faced with the possibility of dramatic life changes as they entered puberty. Ever since then, every kid has had to anticipate the likelihood of morfing, as well as all the other adolescent changes.

The disease itself is divided into three distinct separate stages. Stage One is the infection that starts the process. It is known for the most common symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, though not all the symptoms have to appear.

Stage Two is the change into a possible new body, with more or less hybrid traits of some animal or changing something like hair color or even changing gender. Again these are possibilities, nothing has to happen.

Stage Three is where the body heals itself by inducing a strong and effective healing system and immune system. During this stage more or less serious illnesses can be cured.

Beside the physical changes a social change and divergence started to appear. Some people that were immune to the infection, started to ascribe their immunity to divine intervention and called themselves Pure or Purist. The social changes, mostly bigotry, tore up whole communities and even tore families apart.

At the beginning of this story the year is 2041, a boy with a serious disease, who has a purist for a father, goes through his MORFS. Watch as his whole world shatters and changes.


Chapter 1

“Hey Brent”

I automatically looked up on hearing my name. As I did, I scowled at the one calling me. I already recognized the voice, as it had a distinctive hissing sound. I didn’t want to talk to him, not because I didn’t like him, but because he was a hybrid MORF. Last year I would have talked to Marsha Iverson as a normal person, if I could get a girl talking to me that is.

Though after she got MORFS, she changed into a boy who called himself Martin and I would not talk to him anymore. Not because I was repulsed at the hybrid he had become, which in this case, was a person with traits from a snake. By that, I mean his head was elongated, with poisonous fangs and a forked tongue and his skin was like that of a snake.

I did not want to talk to him anymore because if I did, my little sister would tell my dad, and I was afraid of him. Dad is a confirmed Purist and is always ranting about the evil of morfed people. He had pulled my sister Isabel into those beliefs and now she hates them with the same conviction that he does.

Me? I’m more like my mother. We don’t care much what people look like. We care more about how they are inside and treat others. Martin still is a kind person, despite all the negative shit he got dumped all over him after his change.

“Brent, can I borrow your notes on your science project.”

Man, why can’t he just see the sign clearly if someone doesn’t want to talk to him?

He still kept asking me, “I’m doing a project this summer to get my grades up and it is related to your past project.”

“No Snake, I can’t help you.” There I’d said it. Maybe I shouldn’t have called him Snake, but Martin. Everyone else already calls him Snake, so I just did the same. I sneaked a look at him. Though it was hard to tell with his snakelike eyes, I thought I saw disappointment in his eyes.

I said, “Leave me alone,” as I turned away from him.

I could almost feel that he wanted to ask me why I was such a jerk and not help him, but he didn’t say it out loud. Hell, even I felt like a shithead. I did vow to myself to make it up to him and give him the help he wanted. Though not right now. I would wait till I got to my secure computer tablet and sent it to him anonymously.

As I walked out of the school building towards the freedom of summer vacation, my little sister stepped up to me. “What did that reptile want from you?”

“I don’t really know, Sis. You know I don’t talk to that kind.”

She snorted and answered, “I thought I heard you say something back.”

“Well, I didn’t, and if you tell Dad that I did, I’ll tell him that I saw you talking to the monkey sisters,”

I said that referring to two girls that had morfed not too long ago and now looked like orangutan’s. They do look kinda cute with their orange hair all over, and people always make the mistake of either seeing them as cuddly playthings or taunting them. However, I knew they are much stronger now, and could break a person into two if they really wanted to. Fortunately the sisters had always been kind, and most people were friendly towards them. Not my sister though.

Isabel heeded my warning fortunately, because I would never blab anything to Dad. I’m not like my little sister, who is my father’s pet, because she is healthy where I am not. Mom did give me a little preference to counter Dad, but still Isabel could always get away with more than me.

The walk home left me wheezing and gasping for air as usual. The asthma is a symptom of my disease. Other symptoms are my short stature, special diet and other more disgusting things. The doctors and government manage to cure more and more diseases every time, but still hadn’t come up with something to cure what ailed me. My disease is called Cystic Fibrosis. Sure they had come up with medicines to prolong our lives, but still it was only relieving the symptoms, and not curing the disease itself.

“Hi, Mom. I’m home. Can I have my dinner in my room please?”

Mom stuck her head out of the kitchen, “Don’t feel like eating with us again?”

“I only eat the bar, and have to look at you eating all that delicious looking stuff? I really don’t want to, Mom.”

Mom sighed, “All right then, but do come down a little later, we don’t want you to close yourself off totally.”

I grabbed my diet bar, in essence it was just like the energy bar that people got for dealing with MORFS, but it was smaller, and inside it, there were concentrated vitamins and such to make sure I got all the healthy things my body needed. This was a great advantage over past medicine. Then, people like me had to eat a lot to get the nutrients, and left a big pile after going to the toilet. The downside was that the bar tasted just as bad as the energy bar for MORFS, and I had to eat them forever, instead of just a few days while morfing. I just started munching on the thing, I didn’t notice the bad taste that much anymore, especially when I was busy.

I logged in to the internet with the “Tanpa” login that I used to be anonymous. Noticing that Snake was already online, I began a conversation with him. I told him that I was witness to his question to Brent, and maybe could help him. Snake was suspicious that he hadn’t seen or noticed me there, but I managed to tell him that I wasn’t noticeable. I collected all my data that he needed and sent it to him. Snake asked me when he could meet me and thank me in person. I told him that I didn’t want that just yet, that I was too shy to meet with anyone in person.

We chatted a little longer before I logged off and went down to be with my family. It wasn’t a pleasant evening again, as all my dad did, was get riled at morfed persons and ranting about how they should all be locked away. Isabel wasn’t much fun either, she always tried to badger me and get what she wanted. I just kept quiet and to my self, watching a little TV.

It was vacation time now, so I could sleep late, which I promptly did, starting to tinker with my projects in the shed once I finally did get up. I was trying to make a hover board of some kind, but the power needed was still out of my reach. In the meantime, I just finished repairing my reclining bicycle. It was my favorite way to go out and keep my ailing body in some kind of shape.

I had a great time, no one to bother me, my sister was off playing with her friends, and Mom only interrupted me sometimes with something to drink. That night I went to bed early again, feeling just good.

The next morning, I wasn’t feeling so good anymore. I wanted to lie there and just die. Man, did I feel sick!

Then suddenly I had to get up. I needed to throw up in a hurry. I went to the toilet and made it just in time to avoid making a big mess.

Mom was the first to notice I was puking my guts out, and soon came to me, asking what was wrong.

“I don’t know Mom, I just feel so sick this morning.”

Isabel joined us in the bathroom, saying, “Eew, gross. I don’t want to use the toilet here anymore.”

Soon she went out to her girlfriend’s leaving me alone with Mom, as Dad already had left for work. Mom helped me clean the toilet before taking me to see our doctor.

I felt even sicker going into the doctor’s office. Doc Kopan greeted us, and started to poke and prod me. Then she sent some samples to the lab and had us waiting for a while. I had to go to the toilet a few times to throw up some more before we were invited in again to hear the outcome.

Doc Kopan put on a serious face, “The results came back positive for MORFS.” I was mortified! How could I have MORFS. My dad always prided himself on having such pure blood. My mom never had it either.

Mom didn’t believe it either, “Are you sure? Both my husband and I are not prone to MORFS.”

“Everyone is prone to it Ma’am. We all have the possibility of Morfing in our DNA. Some are blessed with a good enough immune system that they don’t catch any bugs that would trigger it. There is no doubt though. Brent got a virus to trigger it, where I’m not sure, but he has it alright.”

In a daze, we accepted the prescriptions, and at the pharmacy, the energy packs and the pills.

Quietly Mom drove us home, when in my befuddled mind, a terrifying thought emerged. “Mom, what will Dad say? You know how he thinks about MORFS.”

“I know Honey. I have been thinking about it a lot already. I really don’t know what will happen.”

Soon we reached home and she put me to bed with all the medications. I fell asleep within moments and did not wake up till the next morning. I woke up feeling dirty and smelly. Some kind of grime clung to my skin. I heard voices, and they became louder.

“No way, that boy is mine! If he was, then he wouldn’t turn into a freak.”

Great, Dad is on a rampage again.

“Lars, there are lots of people that get MORFS because they catch the flu that makes it active these days. No one can say for sure that anyone is immune, because almost everyone has the latent DNA.”

They moved away I think, as the voices got softer. I couldn’t hear them well enough anymore to hear what they were saying. Besides, I had other things to do. I had to get to the toilet in a hurry. After relieving myself, I went back to my room and found Mom waiting for me.

“Dad’s on his warpath again, right?.”

“Yes. He is threatening to report you to a government agency or the purist movement. Isabel went with him. Now please gather some of the things you want to keep.”

“Are we going somewhere, Mom?”

“I’m afraid of what your father will do, so we are leaving here. We already signed our divorce papers. Yesterday I transferred all my money to a new account, so we will leave now.”

“I’m still changing, Mom. What if something goes wrong with my changes?”

“We will see. If that happens, I can find a hospital on our way. Please, hurry. I want us to go as soon as possible.”

I still felt like shit, but I had to get my stuff together. Mom went out to rent a car while I searched my belongings so I could sort it down to what I wanted to keep. Soon I had two boxes with clothes, my tablet and some other things I didn’t want to leave behind. As I finished that, I felt so very tired. Shit I forgot to take my energy bar. I munched one of my regular ones and the extra one from the prescription and felt a little better. When Mom returned, we struggled for a while getting all our things into the compact car. I settled into the rear with a sleeping pill, while my Mom started driving. I didn’t see much of the trip, as I was mostly sleeping or going to some toilet in a motel or gas station. I was mostly out of it, and Mom helped me go to the toilet and cleaned up after me.

Finally I woke up feeling really good. I opened my eyes slowly and saw an unfamiliar room. I guessed we were in a motel or hotel room. I could make out two beds and a door to another room. I needed to go to the toilet again and hurried towards the door, barely noticing a weight pulling my head backwards or a jiggling on my chest. I opened the door and as I started to turn and sit down, I noticed that I had brushed against a side wall.

I knew it wasn’t my back, and wondered how this could happen. Then it hit me, there was something wrong in front as well. It felt empty down below, and crowded on my chest. In near panic, I looked down, my view obstructed by something tenting my shirt. I pulled my shirt to the front, suddenly noticing that a lot of long hair fell in front of my head.

First things first, I looked down under my shirt collar and saw a nice set of breasts. Well, they’d be nice if they were on some girl, not on me. As I looked up again, I brushed my long hair to the back. Where did all this hair come from? I noticed a mirror on the wall and with dread looked at my image. I saw a scared looking girl mimicking my every move. She had quite a beautiful face, with strange looking eyes and very long deep black hair hanging down her back and front. The shirt tented with substantial breasts, and downwards I could make out the outline and hairs of a female vagina.

Then I noticed something odd swishing behind her back. Is that a tail? I didn’t believe what my eyes told me and turned my upper body to look behind me. Sure enough, there was a nice tail covered with fine black hair attached to my behind. That was it. My head started spinning and I fell down into a black abyss.

“Brent! Wake up, please.”

Huh, what happened? Mom was shaking me, asking me to wake up. Then I remembered … Shit, I fainted.

“Brent, are you alright? What happened to you?”

“Mom?” I managed to squeak out.

Shit, was that my voice? It sounded just like a girl.

“Honey, what happened? Did you hit your head on something?”

“I woke up, had to go to the toilet and felt something behind me, I looked up in the mirror and saw that I look like a girl now, with a tail, no less.”

“I know honey, I already saw the changes. I went out to buy something to wear for you and to look for a place to live.”

“What do you mean something to wear Mom?”

“You need a whole new wardrobe, Honey. You’re a girl now, and I seriously doubt any of your old clothes will fit. So I already bought some necessities for you. Tomorrow we will go out shopping.”

Great, going shopping with Mom. That means lots of trying on, walking in and out of shops, matching colors and more. Not something to look forward to.

“Here, Honey, let me help you up. Did you already go to the toilet?”

Now that she mentioned it, I hadn’t, and it’s becoming a pressing matter. “I haven’t, Mom. Will you excuse me?”

“Sure, Honey, but don’t forget to wipe all afterwards. Remember, you’re a girl now.”

Man. I didn’t need that, pointing out the obvious to me. Still, I know she means well. I sat down, and as I relieved myself, thought about myself now. I cleaned myself quite well and took a shower to remove the last dirt on my body. Wow, does it feel like that to girls in a shower? My skin is so much more sensitive.

I tried rubbing myself dry first, but the skin was too sensitive. So I patted it. My very long hair still contained lots of water, so I wrung it and put a towel around it as I had sometimes seen my mom do.

Then I stood in front of the mirror again. My eyes locked on the mirror image of them. I had now small slits. They looked very similar like cat eyes.

“Can I come in already, Honey?”

I opened the door and Mom came in carrying some clothes. As I stood next to her, I noticed for the first time that I had grown a bit. I wasn’t as short as before, I could look straight into her eyes, as before I always had to look up.

“Honey, let me help you dry the fur on your tail and your long hair.”

I just stood there as she blow-dried my hair while combing it out, and then dried the hairs on my tail. That was so weird; I now had a tail and didn’t even flinch as Mom regarded it as something completely normal.

When I was dry, Mom helped me get dressed. Jeez, I’ve already dressed myself for years, and now she has to help me again? I did need some help in figuring out how to put on the bra that she got me. It was a nice tight fit and the support was nice, but still wearing a bra? Fortunately Mom didn’t buy me any dresses or skirts. I already balked at the clearly feminine pants and blouse. The pants didn’t fit well, my tail got in the way. Mom had me take it off and asked me if I wanted a hole in the back or that I wanted to wear my tail tugged between my legs towards the front. I tried that, but though it wasn’t really uncomfortable, it didn’t feel right also. I could do that sometimes though.

Mom had brought her sewing machine and kit with her and started teaching me to use it. When I started to object, she responded, “You are a girl now. You need to at least know the basics of sewing. Besides, with your tail I think you need to know it, so you can later fix your own clothes to fit you better.”

I couldn’t think of any objections to that, so I shut up and followed her instructions.

Afterwards she had a takeout dinner while I had another of my usual diet bars and watched some TV before going to bed. As we watched the movie, Mom became annoyed with my tail swishing in front of her. I hadn’t even noticed I was doing that. She grabbed my tail and put it on her lap, absently stroking it.

Suddenly, she noticed a weird sound. At first she thought it came from the TV, but then she realized that it was coming from me. “Brent, why are you purring?”

I was startled out of watching the movie. “What do you mean? I don’t purr!”

“Yes, you do.” Mom stroked my tail some more on purpose, and without wanting to, I started to make a low rumbling sound again.

I felt so embarrassed. With a quick yank, I forcefully pulled my tail back towards me, hitting myself with it.

Mom thought it was funny, and started laughing. I felt even worse. Why was she laughing at me? My eyes began to fill with tears as I started crying.

Mom noticed and gave me a hug. “It’s okay, Honey. I’m sorry I laughed at you. I thought it was so cute.”

I quickly wiped my tears away, saying angrily, “I’m not cute!”

Mom chuckled, “Honey, you are cute, and beautiful too. That reminds me, you need a new name. You’re a girl now and Brent isn’t a girl’s name.”

Startled, I thought about her words, for I hadn’t even thought of that. Then I sighed, “I’ll think about it.”

Later that night I had another strange experience. As I reached over to flip the switch to turn off the light, the lamp flashed brightly and then died.

Mom asked, “What did you do, Honey?”

“I only reached for the switch, I didn’t even flip it yet.”

Mom noticed that I sounded distraught, and tried to calm me, “It’s all right, Honey, probably an old lamp.”

The next morning, bright and early, Mom took me to a nearby MORF center to be checked out and cleared for school. I thought there would be a waiting list for that kind of thing. Mom explained that she already made the appointment days ago.

First I got a complete physical examination from a doctor. I do mean complete. I learned that some things about being a girl just suck. We told the doctor that I had Cystic Fibrosis and asked what it did with me now. The doctor tested me with the salt test and had my blood checked. When the results came back, he said that I no longer had the disease. He expected that either the change or the stage three cured me of it, and that I now was a normal female teenager. Well, normal if you don’t count the tail and cat eyes.

Next was a session with a telepath. As we talked, I felt a pressure inside my head, and pushed back to get rid of it. The telepath was very surprised. He told me to relax and not resist that much. So I can block him out? He poked around in my head for a while, giving me a headache. Then he retreated from my head. He told me that I had an extra power, but he wasn’t sure what.

I told him what happened the night before and he thought I might be an elemental, or a converter. He gave me some fliers to read about that, and dismissed me.

We were told to wait in a waiting room and after they called my name, a secretary handed me a folder. Mom took it over from me and started reading. After reading a little, she said, “It says here that you are not cleared yet for school. They want to do some more tests later, before clearing you. What did they find out, Honey?”

I was a little embarrassed, “I think the lamp dying was no accident, Mom. They said I might be an elemental or a converter.”

Mom looked a bit shocked, “So you have a superpower now?”

I nodded.

“Well, that’s okay, Honey.” Then she looked at her watch. “We have to hurry. I have an interview for a job.”

It turned out that Mom had an interview at a school. She told me to get something to eat in a nearby food court. I really looked forward to it. Now, with my disease gone, I suddenly realized I could eat everything. No more Diet bar for me. I ordered some salad and a burger together with a soda. They tasted delicious to me. I’d never been able to eat something like this before. Now I could have it all.

Meanwhile, Mom was being grilled by the school administration to see if she could fill a vacancy as a gym teacher.

“Miss Naomi Landers, I see that you do have experience in the field, just not recently, can you elaborate?”

Mom didn’t flinch. “Sure, Mr. Biehner. I stopped working for a while to take care of my children. I did, however, have another profession that I kept up at the same time. Now the situation has changed somewhat. I divorced my husband, and have come to live here with my teenage daughter.”

“I understand, do you think you can still do the job?”

“I did keep up taking some courses. I kept my first aid training current, as well.”

After filling in some more details, Mr. Biehner finally said, “Very well, Miss Landers. You’ve got the job. How old is your daughter? Will she be attending school here also?”

“If that is possible, then I would very much like to enroll her here in school.”

Mr. Biehner nodded, “For teachers here, there is a special rate and acceptance, so that will not be a problem. However, you must know that this year we began to apply a strict dress code. We have issued a list to all parents, describing the new dress code. We have been asked by the government to do this as a test to see if this helps behavior, scores and other things. We were chosen for the test because we are almost a private school”

Then he gave Mom the dress code list which I would have to abide by.

I looked up to see Mom entering the food court, looking for me. When she spotted me, and the empty plate before me, she asked with a mocking stern voice, “How much did you have to eat, young lady?”

“Hi Mom, sorry to disappoint you. I only had a salad, burger and soda. I didn’t have fries or anything else. I really want to try them though. Finally, I can eat the tasty good stuff.”

“Well, watch what you eat, okay? I don’t want you to spoil your nice figure and see you turn into a blimp.”

With a mock expression of innocence, I replied, “Yes, Mom. I will keep my figure.”

Mom went to the counter to order, and ordered a burger to go. When she had it, she herded me back to the car, when we got in, she told me, “we still have a lot to do today. I want to look at some houses, and then we still have some shopping to do.”

I groaned at the word shopping. I know that I would have to go shopping more often now. Girls do like shopping. Though, I wasn’t that kind of a girl yet. Mom ate while driving us around and we looked at some apartments before we came to a cozy little apartment that was big enough for us two, while not being too crowded. It was on the fifth and top floor of the building. We liked it and haggled the price down to what was acceptable.

We picked up our belongings from the motel and put everything in our new home before setting out again to the shops.


Chapter 2

Mom dragged me from store to store in the mall. The first one we visited was a lingerie shop. She had the assistant measure me, which was a bit embarrassing to me. I know that I’m a girl now but still, showing myself almost naked to another girl? Then, after she bought me some bras and panties, she picked out some very revealing nightgowns and such. I asked her, “Why can’t I just wear some PJs?”

She did come up with a valid reason. I would have to have a hole made for my tail in the pants, and that wouldn’t be a problem with the gowns. Fortunately the panties we bought came with a hole. Apparently they had a stock now for people with tails.

Why don’t they have that yet for other clothes? Maybe we hadn’t shopped in the right shops, I don’t know.

After some more stores with endless trying on ensembles, Mom picked out several outfits for me. Then she asked the saleswoman something that I didn’t hear as I was looking for some pants.

The sales woman came back with some boxes and Mom came over with them for me to try on. “Mom, can we stop? I already have lots of clothes now.”

Actually I really wanted some more pants, so that I didn’t have to wear the dresses and skirts. Mom had other ideas about that though. “You have to try these clothes on honey. The school requires you to wear these on Monday through Thursday. On Friday you can wear your own clothes, as long as they are tasteful and feminine.”

“What? What do I have to wear?” I looked into the box and my heart sank. The box contained a girl’s uniform, a white blouse and light blue gray skirt. The other box held some stockings that reminded me of some pictures I saw on the internet on some schoolgirl pin up. Am I supposed to wear that?

Mom nudged me into the dressing room to put it on. I stepped out a little later, disgusted. Ugh, what kind of school is this? This getup makes me look so hot and sexy. I don’t want to be caught dead in this.

Mom made me twirl around to show the uniform to her and the saleswoman. They approved apparently and Mom ordered four more sets like it, to have a spare, “Just in case,” she said.

Before we went out she made me wear one of the new outfits, consisting of a pale blue blouse and a white skirt.

By then, I was quite fed up with shopping. Mom wasn’t, however. She took me to a shoe store and had me try on high heels, flats, boots, and lots of all of them. We bought too many for my taste again, but Mom said I needed them.

Finally we were finished shopping. Mom said, “I’m sorry we didn’t have any more time, but next time we will also visit the beauty shop, and we’ll get your nails and hair done.”

I thought to myself, I don’t think I needed to hear that. During the drive home I counted in my mind the costs of all the things we had bought. The amount was staggering. How could we afford all that? I mean, Dad wasn’t around any more to bring home the money and I didn’t think Mom had that kind of money stashed also.

“Mom, I roughly calculated our expenses …”

“I know, it is quite a lot of money.” Mom interrupted my question. “You needed the clothes and I did get quite a bit of money from Lars.”

“Still, Mom, why do I need so many clothes?” Jeez, I’ve never whined like a little girl before.

“A girl needs clothes, Honey. Better get used to it. Later you’ll see why.” Mom said as a closing argument.

I kept quiet after that. When we got home I took all the clothes to my room and placed them on the bed before putting them away. I wasn’t in a good mood, because wearing the skirt made me feel so exposed. I still hadn’t mastered keeping my tail out of the way. I tried to keep it wrapped around a leg or my waist. Though, neither option seemed to work out. So lots of times it tented my skirt in the back or worse, flipped my skirt up.

I looked at all the new clothes, all dresses, skirts and other feminine clothing. Not a single pair of pants between them or was there? Then I spotted something between two skirts, and YES, Mom did buy me some pants. Actually they were slacks, but I was already glad it was some kind of pants.

Then my mood dropped again, only two pair of pants with this whole heap of girl things. That reminded me about something else, I needed a new name. I was a girl now and would likely be that for the rest of my life. As if things weren’t bad enough already, my tail seemed to get its own mind again and swished my skirt up and I caught a brief view of my pantied bottom in the mirror. Oh no, what if this happens in the street, or worse, at school?’

Full of fear, I ran up the stairs to the roof and clambered up on the ledge. As I looked out over the new sights of this city, I could feel tears forming in my eyes. I looked down from the ledge into the street below. The people rushed by, not seeing anyone up here. If I jumped, I would have to be careful not to hit anyone.

What am I thinking, why should I jump. I trembled and felt weak in my knees.

“Brent? Why are you up there on that ledge?”

What is Mom doing here? I turned towards her and almost fell down the wrong side. I just managed to grab a hold with one arm and my tail. So the thing is useful for something. Wait a minute, how do I know how to use it like that?

Mom rushed over and guided me back all the way onto the roof. “Honey, why did you climb up on that ledge, you could have fallen off.”

“Maybe I wanted to fall, Mom. I don’t know if I deserve to live.”

Mom replied angrily, “DON’T YOU EVER SAY THAT AGAIN!! Of course you deserve to live.”

“Look at me Mom! I’m a freak like Dad always said. I caused the break up between you two.”

I started crying and sagged down at the wall surrounding the roof edge feeling miserable.

“To top it off, I make you spend lots of money on me.”

Mom sat down next to me, “I was happy shopping and spending money for you today.” She put her arm around me, “Now about the rest, your father always went too far with his purist shit.”

Mom pulled me closer and turned my head to make me look at her. “Our relationship wasn’t that good anymore already, Honey. I didn’t conform well enough to his ideas, and we began to grow apart several years ago. Your morfing just expedited matters.”

I looked down as she continued, “As for you, you don’t look like a freak. Just a nice girl with a few extra’s.”

I sniffed, “But I have a tail, Mom! And look at my eyes!”

“You have nice eyes and a very nice tail as well. I wish I had a tail like that.”

I leaned into her and cried, “I didn’t want to be a girl Mom. Now I’m one with all the extras.”

“Honey, I know that you didn’t want to become a girl, but it happened. Nothing can change that. I want you to be happy as yourself. Girl or Boy doesn’t matter for me. Look on the bright side. You’ve been cured from the Cystic Fibrosis.”

I looked up a bit more brightly, “You’re right, that is a plus, Mom. I guess I have to start being a girl now.”

“That’s my girl. Now, have you been thinking about a new name for yourself already?”

Meekly I said, “Maybe I should call myself Mara, like in those old Star Wars books. It means bitter.”

“Is that how you feel, Honey?”

I nodded.

“Maybe later you won’t feel so bitter anymore, so how about Maren?”

I tried the name in my mind. It did have a nice ring to it. I liked it. As I would be stuck with it for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t be such a bad name.

“I like the name Mom. So are we going to register me with that name tomorrow?”

“Yes Honey, from tomorrow you’ll be Maren. Or maybe you would like two names. Before you were born I wanted my children to have two names, but your father never wanted that. If you like, you could wear the name of one of my grandmothers as well. Her name was Zoë.”

I debated in my mind about that name. I didn’t like or dislike it.

“And there is another thing. I changed my name back to my maiden name, partly so your father can’t find me so easily. You can either choose to take my name, Landers, or keep Johns as your last name.”

“Which do you suggest Mom.”

Mom kissed my forehead, “Don’t ask me. That is totally up to you. Do keep in mind that your father will be looking for a single mom and her child with the same name.”

I thought over it for a little while. “Mom, my new name will be Maren Zoë Johns.” Then I added, “It will also make things a little easier at school if I don’t have your name. So the others won’t easily connect me being your son … eh, I mean, daughter.”

Mom laughed, and together we started back down to our apartment for the evening. She had another surprise for me later. She had ordered Pizza. Due to my disease, I had never tasted pizza, so this was another treat for me. With a few cups of Mom’s favorite herb tea, I managed to eat almost half the pizza before I felt so full that I thought I might explode. Now I knew what Mom meant with being careful about keeping my figure. A few more evenings like this, and I would become a fat girl.

Later I got ready for bed, brushed my teeth and put on a silky nightgown. As I turned off the light, I thought I saw a flash from the room’s electrical socket. It didn't hurt me, and I didn’t smell smoke, so I didn't think anything of it. However, as I walked towards my bed I noticed that it was still light in the room. At first I thought that it was my new sensitive cat eyes. However, when I looked at my arms they seemed to be glowing a little. Wow, now this was weird. I was tempted to call Mom, but I didn’t want to disturb her. I lay down on my bed and looked at my hands more closely. They emitted a faint glow all over my skin. When I thought about the intensity of it, the light seemed to grow brighter. Trying harder it became more and more bright. Then I started to feel a bit weak and sleepy as if my energy was being drained from me. Oh oh, so this is my power. I can make light, maybe other energies as well? Can I synthesize energy? Here, a word I’d read somewhere, ‘Synergy’, came to mind. Wouldn’t that make a great codename for myself?

I doused the glow from my hands till it was dark again, not that it mattered a great deal. I could still see quite well with my light sensitive cat eyes. I was so sleepy from expending the energy that I soon fell into a deep sleep.

Early in the morning my battery-operated alarm clock started beeping. I woke up startled, still feeling weak and tired. As I touched the clock to turn it off, it completely shut down. I mean, not only the beep went dead, but the display and everything. I did feel a bit more energetic, but didn’t connect the facts yet. I went over to my desk, took out the batteries and checked them with my multimeter. I found that they were completely drained, but they were brand new!

Then my mind caught up. My power! I was so weak from emitting the light, that I ate all the power from the batteries. Shoot, I really need to learn to control this!. If not, I will always be going around emitting some kind of energy or absorbing it.

Feeling a bit dirty, I took a shower and wrestled for sometime getting my tail dry. Then the new task of blow drying my hair and brushing it at the same time kept me busy for quite a while. Finally, I finished it and put on clean underwear. I put a bathrobe over it and sort of tied it with my tail. That worked out quite well. I had to guide it through the loops, but once it was wrapped around my waist, I could hold it in place without difficulty. This also kept my tail from developing a mind of its own. I kind of kept that idea in the back of my thoughts.

As I came out of the bathroom, I smelled breakfast.

Mom came from the small kitchen, “Finally you’re done.” She was smiling, so I knew she was kidding.

I quipped back, “Better get used to having to wait long time for the bathroom now, Mom.”

“I know Honey. Say why are you wearing a black belt around your robe?”

I looked down, “Um, this isn’t exactly a belt, Mom. It’s my tail.”

“Well, it looks very fashionable. Can I borrow it?”

Huh, what is she talking about.

“Uh, Mom, You do know that it is kind of attached to me?”

Mom kissed me on my cheek. “Sure Honey, just teasing. It does look good on you though.” With those words she disappeared into bathroom, leaving me to myself.

I helped myself to the food and dug in, clearing the plate in less time than it took my Mom in the bathroom, and she was out quite fast. I thought, I need to practice that. Why does it take me twice that long? Then it hit me, You just said it, dummy. She’s been a girl all her life, so she has had years of practice. It helps that she doesn’t have to dry out a tail, either.

After her breakfast Mom helped me pick out the clothes to wear that day, a sundress no less. I wanted to complain, but one look at Mom’s face convinced me otherwise. She told me that I had the morning to myself, as she would be busy looking for a place to set up shop as a dancing school. Mom had worked in the past as a part time dancing instructor and wanted to continue it here, to complement her work at my new school. In the afternoon, I would have another appointment at the MORF center and Mom would take me there.

After Mom went out, I debated what to do. I could of course stay inside and surf on the Internet or experiment with my power. The first option would be the safest way for me. I could not embarrass myself in public and feel humiliated if something happened like my tail doing embarrassing things. Experimenting with my powers though, without having someone around, might be very dangerous. Then again having someone around might be dangerous for that person as well.

Sometimes you have to risk taking a chance, so I went out to see the sights in this new city. The weather was good, and with the sun shining, it was pleasant walking outside. As I walked through the streets towards a small park I soaked up the sunshine and felt so energetic. Than I dawned on me, I’m an energy converter! I am collecting the energy of the sunshine. Now don’t panic, this is an opportunity to practice my self-control without any danger.

I needed to shed the extra energy without attracting attention and try to block the absorption of more sunrays. First the blocking. There would no need to get rid of the extra energy if I couldn’t keep it from being replenished. So I focused my attention on blocking absorption of the sunrays, and though it took some experimenting and practice, I got it to work.

Now how to shed all that extra energy I already have. I couldn’t very well emit light out here into the open. I did radiate some extra heat, and experimented with other forms of radiation. Not the harmful ones though. I didn’t know yet the extent of my abilities, but I could imagine giving off alpha, beta or gamma radiation. If I were to do that and someone found out, I would get locked up as a danger to society and never see daylight again.

Finally I was satisfied with the amount of energy I had left and enjoyed the morning in the park again. One thing I didn’t like was all the attention I got from the boys in the park. Haven’t they ever seen a girl before? What am I thinking. Of course they have. They are just looking at a good looking girl, namely me. I would look at such a girl myself still if I was still a boy, but I’m not a boy anymore. Great, now I am making myself depressed again.

I quickly went back home, and out of frustration started to unpack the last of my moving boxes. These contained my science experiments, including the failing attempts at making a hover board. The problem had always been the power. I could never get enough electrical power from a battery to make it work.

Hey, maybe now it could work, Maybe, I can give enough power myself to make the repulsors work. I borrowed the name from the Star Wars books.

I started tinkering with the devices until I heard Mom get home.

I went to greet her and she said, “You didn’t even prepare us lunch? What did you do all morning?”

My face fell, Am I suppose to prepare the food now all the time too?

Then Mom couldn’t hold her poker face anymore and started snickering. “You should have seen your face Honey. I was just kidding.”

“Ha ha, very funny, Mom. As a matter of fact, I went out for a walk this morning.”

“Good for you Honey, how was it?”

“I didn’t entirely like it, especially when the boys started paying way too much attention to me.”

“Well, get used to it, Honey. Soon you will have to beat them away with a stick.”

Great, as if I didn’t have enough on my plate already.

“Now seriously, I’ll make us some sandwiches and then we have to go to your meeting at the MORF center. I hope they clear you for school and other activities.”

Clear me? If I’m not cleared, could they hold me prisoner? “Mom, what if I’m not cleared for school? What will they do?”

“I don’t know Honey. I’ve never heard about anyone that wasn’t cleared.”

After a quick snack we went for the short drive to the MORF center. A short wait later I was called in to see the same telepath again. This time he didn’t start poking around inside my head, but was very nice and introduced himself first.

“Hi, I’m Gavin, I see that you have decided on your new name, Maren. So how are you doing?”

I was a bit surprised, and told him what I did today.

He told me, “Though gender changes are not the rule with MORFS, it is quite common.” Then he asked, “How are you handling switching over to the other side of the human race?”

I was unsure what to answer. Why did he ask me that?

“Maybe he was scanning my thoughts again, because he added, “Besides being a telepath, I’m also a psychologist.”

“I’m not thrilled about some things, but decided yesterday that I prefer my female body over my former male body with the sickness that I had. Other than that, I think it is too soon to tell.” I hoped that would be a correct answer.

Gavin smiled, “You don’t have to hold back, everything we talk about here is confidential, just between us, unless I think it is necessary for security reasons to talk to someone else. Even then, I will discuss things with you first. Also I haven’t started trying to read your mind yet, because I want to talk to you first. Of course your mind is not that easy to read. You seem to be able to block most telepathic probes.”

My technical mind started to think about that, “Could it be like that because a mind works with electrical impulses? My power can manipulate energy, so maybe also bio-electrical energy?”

“That is a very interesting thought. Have you always been so technical minded?”

Now we were getting on my turf. I really started to cut loose on all the things that I liked. “Yes, I am always tinkering with electric devices and such. In the past it drove my parents crazy. Nowadays I’m not taking apart the household appliances anymore, but only work in my room.”

Without noticing it, I’d lost his attention and he grew bored with my explanations. Of course he hid his expression well. “Thank you for giving me your background. Now, how much have you learned about your power. You said that you manipulate energy?”

“Well, I think I am an energy converter. I read the flier about that. I should be able to draw heat, electrical power or light into me. I can also emit the power as light or heat. At first I emitted light accidentally when I was charged after getting a jolt of electricity from a power socket. This morning I felt weak, and sort of drank all the energy from a battery.”

I looked down for a moment, then looked up at him, not sure how to proceed.

He looked back, so I continued. “I knew then that I will have to learn to control my abilities, or else I will have too many accidents happening. So this morning when I was walking in the sunshine, I felt myself getting charged with light. I practiced blocking it and succeeded in a short while. I also emitted the excess energy as heat and electromagnetic radiation.”

Gavin was about to say something, but I added fast, “I know that I have to be careful not to emit anything harmful to the public. I will restrain myself with the sorts of energy that I emit.”

He smiled, “I’m grateful that you already thought of that. During our earlier session I noticed that you are quite an ethical person. I do want to scan you again, if I may?”

I gave my consent, although a bit reluctantly. Gavin closed his eyes and I felt the pressure inside my head again. This time he was gentler than the last time and was out of my head quite quickly.

He didn’t tell me what he found directly, but asked, “Do you know what the extents of your powers are?”

I was a bit confused, I hadn’t thought of that. “Do you mean the power, or what kind? I don’t know what kind of energy I can convert, or how good the conversion is. Also I have no clue to what the limits are on the raw power I can handle.”

“I think you should be careful, and not experiment too much yet. My guess is the only limit on the kinds of energy you can convert is your imagination. Don’t try to figure out the maximum of raw power you can handle just yet. First, don’t try it yet, because you are still new to all this. Second, because you are still a growing young girl. We can help you later to determine things like that at a special facility, where we can measure it and contain it if things go wrong.”

Go wrong? What could go wrong? Now I got into thinking all the horrid scenarios that would have me blast away at everyone and all. I started crying.

“Don’t go off thinking bad things yet. It will be a formality. From what I can see in your head, you are a level headed girl that thinks things through and will do her best not to hurt others.”

I calmed down a bit again and accepted his hanky to clear my sinuses.

“Now I will clear you for school and such, but under the provision that you come see me again in three months. You have a large potential and I do want to keep an eye on you.”

I looked up at him a bit scared, “Are you doing that so I can be drafted into the government as a lab rat or something?”

He laughed, “Of course not. If you do want to work in a government job later, you might find it useful that we can give you a recommendation. What I mean though, is that I want to make sure that you are going to be all right. I am here not only for the government. I’m here also for the people themselves.”

Shortly after that he dismissed me. I found Mom waiting for me in the waiting room reading a magazine.

I think Mom could see that I had been crying, because she didn’t ask anything, she just accepted the folder from the assistant and took me out to the car. Even there we didn’t say much and kept the conversation to a minimum. Back home she shooed me into my room so she could prepare dinner. I hadn’t even realized it was that late already.

I still felt a little depressed and lonely, so I went online with my “Tanpa” login, as usual, and did some other things. One of the things was starting a new email address for me.

At the free email service I started synergy@cutey.com.

Someone asked for attention in the chat site, it was Snake, I mean Martin Iverson. He said that he still wanted to thank me in person for my help with his project. I told him that I couldn’t anymore. After my parents divorce, I’d moved to Savannah with my Mom.

Snake got back, even more enthusiastic. He’d moved to the same city with his family. “Now we definitely have to meet. It is destined to be so. Why don’t you come to Everyone’s Place.”

I wrote back, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know where that is. I haven’t been here that long yet.”

Right away Snake sent me a detailed map, with directions how to get to the place and invited me to have an ice cream with him.

I tried to excuse myself, but he insisted, and finally I gave in. “Okay, I’ll be there tomorrow at say 2 pm.”

Great, now I’ve got a date with Snake and he isn’t aware that Brent and I are the same person, or that I’m a girl now. I wasn’t that happy looking forward to the date, but I’d made a commitment, so I had to go. If only I wouldn’t slip up and reveal who I used to be.

When Mom called for dinner, it came as a welcome relief so I wouldn’t dwell to long on the subject anymore. Later that night I started worrying about it again, but sleep soon overtook me.


Chapter 3

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Isabel, sister of Brent

“Shit!. Damn it to Hell and back.” Isabel was swearing and cursing like crazy. Her favorite mini DVD was stuck in her player. Usually her obnoxious brother was around to help out and fix the thing, but he’d had to get MORFS and left with Mom.

“What am I going to do now? I wish you were here, Brent.” Isabel sat down on her bed and sighed.

“Why did you have to get MORFS? Now you’re never around for me to tease and bother.”

Isabel didn’t want to admit it, but secretly she really missed her brother. She did like to tease him or use his abilities to fix things. However, he also made her feel at home more then she had realized.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

‘Honk’ a claxon blared, I swerve away from the car just enough so as not to get hit.

I’m riding a skateboard, no make that a hover board on a highway. I’m constantly banking, turning and swerving to avoid getting hit by cars and other vehicles on the road. Just as traffic gets lighter, an 18-wheel truck in front of me jack knives and I’m heading straight for it. I try to stop, turn or bank, but nothing works. I even try to fall down, thought that might not be a good idea at these speeds and the rough asphalt. But even that is not possible. Just as I’m about to crash into the truck, I woke up. My heart was pounding very loudly in my chest and ears.

Am I having a heart attack or something?

There was a knock on my door and mom asked, “Are you all right, Maren?”

“I’m fine, mom, I had a bad dream.” I must have made some noise during my nightmare.

Through the closed door, Mom said, “Time to get up, anyway, Honey.”

Huh? What is she talking about.? I don’t have replacement batteries for my alarm clock yet, but I’m pretty sure that it can’t be that late yet.

“Mom, it’s vacation! I don’t have to be anywhere.”

Opening the door, Mom replied, “I know you don’t have to get up that early yet. However, I’ve got something to show you, and I need you to come with me soon.”

Uh oh, what is she up to now, more shopping or something like it?

“Mom, how long is that going to take? I kinda made an appointment to meet someone.”

Now Mom showed surprise on her face, “You already made a friend here?”

Oh no, why did I tell her about that. “Not exactly, Mom. I was chatting online with a boy from my old school. He said that he moved to this same city.”

“I see, so he was a friend of yours?” Mom had a bit of concern in her voice.

“Well, not actually a friend. At school I mostly ignored him,” I sighed, deciding to tell her the truth.

“Does he know who you were, and how you look now?”

“Probably not, I was always anonymous online with him. Why do you want to know so much about him?”

“I’m concerned about you, Honey. You have to remember that you are a vulnerable girl, now. Besides that, some people still think bad about morfed people, and you cannot hide your tail or eyes all the time.”

I gave a slight smile, “You don’t have to worry too much, Mom. He is a serpent hybrid himself. He has more problems fitting in than me. By the way, I don’t see me romantically involved with any boy. I’m still male inside here.”

“Okay then, Honey. Now hurry up, put these clothes on after you shower.”

I groaned slightly, she did it again. She picked out some outfit that I wouldn’t have decided to wear if I it was my choice. Why does she keep pushing me wearing skirts and feminine looking tops? I really need to learn sewing, then I can change the pants myself and not depend on her so much.

It was a short drive to our destination. Mom guided me to a building which housed a beauty salon. As soon as I noticed, I stopped and tried to turn around, however, Mom had a tight grip on my arm.

“Mom, tell me that you didn’t drag me out here for a makeover.”

“I didn’t drag you out here for a makeover,” Mom said seriously.

“Ha, ha, very funny, Mom.”

“Really, Maren. My new dance school is located just above that shop.”

That settled my apprehension, at least a little bit, but still suspicious I followed Mom inside the building. She stealthily motioned something to the people inside the beauty parlor, but I pretended that I didn’t notice.

The stairs we had to use to go up were quite solid. They didn’t creak, in fact from the sound of our footsteps, I think they were solid stone. We came to a landing with an utility room and double doors that led to a large open space. The floor had a professional wooden floor, which made it perfect for dancing. One wall was covered with mirrors and near the entrance was a small sectioned off office, and what I suspected were changing rooms. Mom showed me around and indeed the other doors had quite spacious changing rooms behind them. They were separated for women and men, and both had not only multiple toilets, but also showers. As I went back to the dance floor, I heard music. Mom put on a CD with dance music.

“Care to dance with your old instructor, Honey?”

I gave her a wry smile. She had been teaching Isabel and me dancing since we were able to stand, even before we could walk.

“Okay, Mom, but not too long.”

Mom cocked her head and gave me inquisitive look, “You don’t get winded that easily anymore, Maren. Your stamina will be much better, and you should be able to dance for hours now.”

“I know that Mom, but I don’t want to get too sweaty.”

We started a slow fox. At first I wanted to lead, but Mom quickly made sure that she led the dance. Then I remembered, I was the girl now. My partner would mostly lead the dance. A waltz followed after the slow fox.

I had always admired girls dancing to the music in their nice dresses, but I had never been able to dance long enough to enjoy dancing with them in the past. Now I could, but instead of dancing with a girl, I was the girl. The way my skirt twirled around me was quite nice though. Now I understood why girls like to dance in dresses and skirts. It’s much nicer than doing it in pants.

As the second dance came to an end, Mom twirled me around a final time and turned off the music.

“You still have it down well enough, Honey. How did you like it?”

“It was nice enough, Mom. Do you need some help with the school later?”

Mom smiled, “I might need you some time, but only if it doesn’t interfere with your schoolwork. You won’t have to do it for free, either.” She looked at her watch, “It is still early. You said your date was at 2 pm?”

I knew it, she did plan for me to have a make over.

“Okay, Mom, admit it. You made an appointment downstairs for a make over right?” Then I added a bit sourly, “Oh and it is not a date, I’m just meeting someone from school.”

“All right, Honey, yes, I confess. I talked about you with them and they offered a reduced price to fix your hair and do your nails.”

She looked hopefully at me, and I made a grimace at her, “Okay then, let’s get this over with before I change my mind.”

We went downstairs to the salon, where I was introduced to Lea, the owner. She welcomed me and took a look at my hair, saying that it really needed treatment. She obviously knew that I was new to the whole girl hair thing, as she started rambling about what I should do to make it beautiful and to keep it that way. I wish I could tell you what she all said, but I didn’t understand most of it for several weeks.

Finally, as she introduced her nail specialist Shauni to us, she stopped talking about my hair. As soon as I saw Shauni, I wanted to jump back and run. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it was because she is a dog or wolf hybrid. Maybe I do have more cat inside me than I realized. I fought the urge to flee, with all the power I could muster, but I think it showed that I was very nervous all of a sudden.

Shauni noticed, for sure. She stayed at a distance from me, saying in a coarse voice, “You’re a cat hybrid right? I can tell by your reaction. I have a sort of similar urge to chase you.”

Chase me? Oh no. So this really is a cat and dog reaction.

Shauni smiled, baring her canines at me, “I’m already used to it, and after a few minutes it will pass. We can always overcome this. Why don’t you have a seat, so we can get started?”

Still a little apprehensive I sat down to let Shauni work on my nails while my long hair was treated to a wash and rinse, and whatever else was done. As I sat in my usual manner, Mom scraped her throat. “Maren, do I have to drill you like I did your sister? You did pay some attention to her lessons right?”

What is she talking about? Oh darn, I can’t sit like a boy anymore with my feet apart. I have to close them or cross my legs. I did know it as my Mom’d had to almost beat it into my sister for doing it right. I quickly crossed my legs and it felt kinda natural.

I got a little sleepy sitting there and leaning back with the nice smells and pampering. Before I knew it, the women were done and told me to get up and pose for Mom.

Mom said I looked lovely and then told me to get going. I looked at my watch and was shocked at the time that had passed. It was already a quarter past one. Fortunately the meeting place wasn’t far from Mom’s dance school, so I could walk there without hurrying.

Walking in the nice weather and sunshine, I paid more attention to my surroundings than the traffic. So much of this city was still new to me. So, when I crossed a street, a car stopped with screeching tires, but still hit me with a painful bump. I almost fell down and steadied myself on the hood of the sports car.

The engine revved up and the driver yelled from behind the wheel, “Get out of the way, you dumb broad.”

Now I was pissed. He has been speeding and bumped into me and was calling me names? Suddenly I felt like behaving badly, and had an idea. I could feel the power of the engine and the electrical impulses from the wiring. So I absorbed the engine heat and fed it back into the car as electrical energy. The effect was immediate and quite noticeable. As the engine stalled, sparks flew from the dashboard. Then the lights flashed almost impossibly bright before shattering into tiny pieces. The look on the guy’s face was priceless, but then my mind caught up with what I had done, and I decided I needed to get out of here. If someone determined that I had done it, I would be in big trouble.

Fortunately nobody called out after me as I walked from the scene in a brisk pace, so I got away scot-free.

As I got closer to the diner/restaurant/Ice cream parlor Everybody’s Place, I thought less about what I had done a few moments before. It was because I started worrying about what would happen when I met Snake.

I spotted him right away as I entered the place. Even now, he is still the only serpent hybrid that I’ve ever seen. His head looked like it was on a swivel as he looked around for someone. I guess he really wanted to know the person that had helped him with his project.

I almost turned around there and then, but I had come this far already. I didn’t know how this would turn out. I was still afraid that he would find out whom I used to be and that he would reject me. It was possible that he would still be a friend, and I knew I would like to have a friend here that knew where I came from. Like me, he is a hybrid who changed gender. He might be able to help me cope with this.

Uh oh, is he looking this way?

Is he staring at me? Why is he looking at me like that?

Idiot, you’re a good looking girl, of course! He is checking you out.

I walked over to Snake. All of a sudden I realized he felt embarrassed. I’ll bet he’s wondering if this girl has taken offense at being looked at.

“Hi, Martin. I’m the one you have the appointment with.”

Now Snake clearly felt embarrassed. He never expected this beautiful girl would be his secret helper. He stumbled along and tried to be chivalrous, but was clumsy with making me feel at ease.

“Um, hi. Say, can I offer you something? I’m told that they make the best ice cream in town here.”

I smiled at his clumsy attempts and accepted the offer gracefully. I asked him for a strawberry flavor.

Moments later he came back with a large ice cream and a drink for himself. “Here you go, eh. I don’t know your real name yet.”

As I accepted the ice cream, I replied, “I’m Maren. Please, sit down.”

Snake sat down opposite me and explained, “I love ice cream, but with my tongue as it is now, I cannot enjoy it that much.”

I nodded and we sat there quiet for a moment, enjoying our treats.

Wow, I have had ice cream before, but not like this. Maybe it is my new improved body, or that I haven’t had any for a long time.

Snake looked at me closely. “Maren, you are the one that helped me with the school project, right?”

When I nodded, he continued, “I never saw you before, and believe me I would have noticed a girl like you.”

Now I was a bit embarrassed, “I just had MORFS, so I didn’t look like this in the past.”

Snake was still confused, but understood that he might not have noticed me in the past. “So what did you look like then? Did I talk to you? Did you talk to me?”

I cringed a little. I knew it was a mistake to come here. “Please, don’t ask me. That part of my life is past. Why does it matter what I looked like?”

“I’ll tell you why. You know so much about me, and I know almost nothing about you. I only know that you obviously went to school with me, and that you know enough about Brent’s work, to help me with my project.”

He paused and I kept quiet, licking on my ice cream. “How did you know so much about Brent’s work? Can you at least explain that to me?”

I thought hard for a moment, trying to think of a reasonable explanation that wouldn’t give me away. I came up with, “I helped Brent with his project, so I knew enough about it to help you. I knew he couldn’t help you, because of his father. So I asked Brent for some data that I could relay to you.”

Ugh, him flicking the snake tongue in and out is creepy. Does he even know that he is doing that?

Snake looked coldly at me with his unblinking serpent eyes. “You’re lying to me Maren. Why are you lying to me? I haven’t told anyone about this, but after my MORFS, I got some new abilities. I have infrared sensors along my jaw that tell me you’re probably lying, because your heat signature changes. Also with my tongue, I can sniff certain trace elements, like for instance, pheromones. The Jacobson organ tells me if people are sweating or showing stress, and you are sticking out like a sore thumb, Maren.”

He paused and I didn’t know what to say. Has he already guessed who I really am?

“I know you didn’t work with that little diseased boy Brent. He did his project all on his own. I checked the records at school on his work and his grade. So how do you know Brent, and why did he give you all the data on his project, but not give any to me straight away?”

I was quite scared about talking to Snake now. He was so close to the truth, and he still hated the old me.

“I was a friend of Brent. He couldn’t be seen talking to you because of your being a hybrid. His sister would rat on him to his father, and believe me, you don’t want to know what would have happened if his father had ever found out Brent had helped you with anything. You would have felt responsible for what happened to him, and you would not like that.”

Snake was still staring at me with those cold unblinking eyes. “You have to do better than that, Maren. You still are not telling me everything.”

Now I got really upset. “What do you want, Martin? You asked me here to thank me, and all you do is attack me.” I was on the verge of crying. “All I ever wanted to do was help. After getting MORFS, Mom and I got away from Dad so he couldn’t persecute me.” As I ran out of steam, I suddenly realized what I had just said.

Apparently Snake picked it up even faster. He fell down on his seat with an astonished look. “Brent? Is that you?”

Oh hell, why did I blow up and say that? I wanted to sink through the floor if I could. He knew now, and it was my own fault, too. I wanted to run away, or hit him, or anything macho, but instead I did the same as any girl did. I started crying.

I expected Snake to make some snide remark or insult me, and then walk out. Instead he came over to my side. “Hey Maren, please don’t cry. I didn’t expect this, and I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“Well, you did, Snake,” I managed to utter while sniffing and crying.

“Can you please stop crying?” Snake gave me his hanky so I could dry my tears and blow my nose.

When I offered to give it back to him, he said, “I don’t have much use for them anymore. Still, my mom keeps giving me one everyday.”

I had just given a wry smile to Snake when a voice behind him said gruffly, “Hey Snake! What did you do to make this fine looking girl cry?”

Snake quickly turned around and I rose out of my seat to see who that was. A tall lanky boy with big ears and sunglasses was looking angrily at Snake. My first impression was that he was another purist, or Hybrid hater.

Snake replied, “Stay out of my private conversations Lance!”

“Make me!” was the snide reply.

“This girl is an old friend of mine, so butt out,” Snake sneered at the boy.

“Not until I hear a good reason for your making her cry.”

Both boys took on an offensive posture, and I could almost feel the tempers rising. Then Lance did something I didn’t expect. He opened his mouth as to launch some kind of attack, and I put my hand in front of Snake. I sensed sound waves that would have been quite uncomfortable coming from him. Using my power, I absorbed the sound energy and send it back to Lance as a bright flash of light.

Breaking off his attack, he screamed, “My eyes! Cut it out with the lightshow, all right?”

Snake was staring at me, astonished by what had just happened. He started, “Maren what …”

Lance interrupted, “Hey girl. I see that you can take care of yourself quite well.”

He came up to me with his hand extended, “Hi. I’m Lance Thorsson or as they call me, Batman. If it wasn’t already obvious, I’m a partial, and concealed, bat hybrid.”

I shook his hand, “I’m Maren Johns, partial cat hybrid and energy converter.”

“Nice to meet you Maren. Shit, is that the time? I’ve got to be going. See you, and if Snake here gives you any grief, just call me.”

With that, he ran out of the place, leaving Snake and me at a loss for words. As both of us sat down again, Snake gave me a wry smile, “So you’ve got powers, Maren. What else do you have?”

“Well, you did notice my eyes, right? And I’ve got a tail. That’s it.”

“I think you’ve got more than that.”

I looked at Snake with a question mark in my eyes.

He continued, “You’ve got feminine beauty to boot.”

Now I felt my cheeks flush. Why did he have to say that?

I guess Snake sensed my embarrassment. “Hey, I mean it as a compliment, Maren. … Yuck, what a mess!” Snake exclaimed suddenly as his hand touched the melting remains of my Ice cream. Now I also noticed it and was a bit disappointed. I never got to finish my fabulous ice cream. “

I think the disappointment showed on my face, as Snake asked, “Do you want a new one, Maren?”

I smiled brightly, “Yes, please. You’re right though, they do make the best ice cream here.”

“Strawberry again, or something else this time?”

“Can I have a strawberry and lemon this time?”

Snake nodded and soon returned with a new ice cream and another drink. Again we enjoyed our refreshments in silence, till Snake started, “Maren, I know that you’ve not been a girl for long, and it shows. You still wear a big boy’s watch.”

I looked at my wrist, and indeed, my old watch wasn’t right for my now more slender wrist. “Guess I have to buy a new one someday, then.”

Snake smiled at me, “No need for that Maren. I still have my old watch, and I have no use for it anymore. So I want you to have it, as my appreciation for helping me with my project.”

Now he was embarrassing me again. “Thank you, Martin. I really appreciate that.”

I looked at him and saw him looking back at me. I mulled over it in my mind. Then I asked, “Friends?” while lifting my hand to him.

His face relaxed, “Friends!” and he shook my hand.

He continued, “I think we should stick together. Both of us are new in this city, both hybrids, and both gender changed. So what do you say?”

I agreed about that with him.

Then Snake had more questions for me. “What school are you going to Maren?”

I told him the name and he looked up with surprise.

“That’s an expensive school! How can your Mom afford it?”

I cringed a little, “She can’t, but she got a job there, so I can attend at a reduced price. Though because it isn’t a full time job, Mom started a dance school as well. I hope it starts going well soon, because the move here and my new wardrobe tapped out our resources pretty much.”

Snake nodded in agreement, “I know what you mean. I had to replace all my clothes for new ones, too. At least as a girl, you can still wear boy clothes, but I cannot be seen in girls clothes.”

I snickered, “It would make a sight to see, Snake.”

He laughed with me. “I guess it would. That reminds me, have you visited the swap shop already?”

I made a face, showing him that I didn’t understand.

He explained, “There are shops all over the country, and that includes this city, where you can take your old pre-transformation clothes, and they give you credits for them, which you can use to buy new or used clothes at that shop or other shops.”

My insides were warming. This friendship was going to pan out. Already he was helping me with lots of things. I hoped that I could return the favor for him sometime. A tear began sneaking its way down my cheek.

Maren, why are you crying again?”

I smiled brightly at him, “Because I am happy to have a friend like you already. Besides, I don’t know why I cry all the time. In the past, I almost never cried.”

Snake smiled back, “I think I know why, Maren. It’s your female hormones. It’s why girls cry more easily than boys. At least that is what my Dad told me and he is a medic on an ambulance.”

I wiped my tear away and decided to change the subject. “What’s up with this Lance character? Is he your enemy, nemesis or what?”

Snake laughed, “Actually believe it or not, he is a friend. We always joke around threatening to fight, but we never really do it. He showed me around town when I first arrived. He knows a lot of things around here.”

Now I was confused. I hadn’t been on the road that long, and Snake implied that his friendship with Lance was already a long time.

As I asked Snake about it, he said, “Last winter I stayed here for a few weeks. I met Lance then. We were already planning to move here at that time. We flew here straight away on the Redeye. You and your Mom drove here, right?”

I confirmed, “Yes, can’t tell you much about the trip though. I was out of it, changing into this,” I pointed at myself.

“And how nice ‘this’ turned out, a beautiful butterfly from the caterpillar.”

I got angry, “Snake! Cut it out! I’m not interested in boys. Nor do I think I ever will be.”

Snake laughed, “Don’t be so sure, Maren. I thought the same when I first changed. I think you’ll find yourself attracted to boys sooner than you think.”

I snorted at Snake, but thought, What if he is right, and I’ll be into the whole boyfriend thing? Ugh, I don’t even want to think about it.

I changed the subject to some light conversation about the city. We agreed for him to show his place before taking me home. A short hop on the public transportation later, I met his Mom and got the tour of their house. We didn’t stay long, so after I said goodbye to Mrs. Iverson, we took another transport to where I lived..

At the door Snake hesitated a little, “Eh, Maren, so tomorrow we go to exchange your clothes at the swap shop, right?”

I nodded in agreement.

“Okay. Then I’ll be here at, say 9 am? Is that ok?”

Again I nodded my head.

“Okay, then. Oh, before I forget. This is for you.” He gave me a small box, turned around and left in a hurry.

I was too stunned for moment to react. “Thank you, Martin,” I yelled after him.

I went inside the house before looking into the box. There was quite a beautiful small ladies watch inside, which fit perfectly around my wrist. I didn’t even have to wind it, or take care of the battery, as it was one of those automatic movement-winding watches.

Feeling very happy, I went to my room to shower and change my clothes. I didn’t even notice myself that I was humming some tune till Mom came home and said, “Well, somebody had a good day today!”

Even that couldn’t evaporate my good mood. “Yes, Mom. I had a nice day. How about you?”

“Oh, it was all right. So I guess your date with, what’s his name again, went well?”

I grimaced, “It was not a date, Mom. But yes, it went well. I think I have one, maybe two friends here already. Tomorrow, Snake is taking me to a shop where I can turn in my old clothes for credits to buy new or used clothes.”

“Whoa, wait a minute. His name is Snake? Honey, what kind of boy are you hanging out with?”

“Mom! I told you already. He is a serpent hybrid. Everybody calls him Snake. If you must know, his name is Martin Iverson.”

Mom looked relieved. “Okay, so you have another date tomorrow.”

I sighed in frustration. When is she ever going to let up? I turned away in despair.

“All right, honey, not a date then. Now come here and help me fix dinner, will you.”

I turned back with a little smile, “Of course, Mom. Can we start fixing my other clothes after dinner, please?”

“Of course we can, Honey, but I want you to do the work. So you will learn it for yourself.”

A useful evening concluded my very eventful day. Later that night I recapped the day as I stepped into bed. I made some friends, learned how to sew and cook and what else? Suddenly I got scared, the car incident. What if someone reported me? No! No one noticed me doing that right? What if … no, don’t even think that. I must have gotten away cleanly. I bit my lower lip fretting over what could have happened for at least ten minutes before I fell asleep.

Mom woke me early again. She reminded me of some things I should and shouldn’t do as a girl. Then she made sure I already had showered, prepared my hair, put on some makeup, (Mom insisted), dressed nicely in a new dress, (Yuck), and had breakfast. So by the time Snake arrived I was quite ready.

We even had the boxes with all my old clothes searched and readied for loading. Snake promptly arrived at 8:50, and was surprised that I was already ready to go. Of course he knew from past experience that girls are notoriously late going somewhere. Snake surprised me too. He’d borrowed a car to take me and my boxes to the shop.

He was very gallant. First he properly introduced himself in style to Mom. Then he told me to go sit in the car while he carried all the boxes out to the car.

After waving goodbye to Mom, we set off and I asked, “What’s gotten into you Snake? I hope you’re not starting to think we are going to be an item.”

He startled, “I didn’t mean it like that. I wanted to make a good impression on your Mom. I hope we are going to be friends for a long time, but just that, friends.”

I felt a bit relieved, “Okay then, let’s go to the swap shop.”

“Not just yet, Maren. I don’t exactly now how to get to the shop. So I asked Batman to come with us. You don’t mind, do you?”

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it, but I realized I should give Lance the benefit of the doubt. Soon we reached the point were he was waiting.

He got in with, “Hi Snake, Hi Maren.”

Snake replied curtly, “Hi yourself, Batman.”

I put in my contribution, “Hi Batman. Say, if we are going to use only nicknames, then call me Synergy.”

In unison the boys echoed, “Synergy?”

“Yes Synergy! I read it somewhere, and I think it suits me.”

Snake agreed readily, but Batman mulled over it.

Then he changed the subject abruptly. “I don’t know if our friendship will work out that well. It isn’t the same anymore. I mean, with a girl among us.”

I looked around, “A girl? Where?”

Snake laughed out loud, while Batman looked stupefied.

I asked him, “Why do you think we are going to the swap shop?”

“Uh, well, to turn in some clothes that don’t fit you anymore?”

I smiled, “Well, that too. My size isn’t the only change during MORFS. I used to be as much a male as you two.”

Now Lance was quite a sight to look at. He looked at me as if he was seeing water burning.

“I had no idea, Synergy. You act and appear so much like a girl.”

Now it was my turn to wince and feel awkward. I acted like a girl?

“So, taking you out dancing is out of the question Synergy?” Lance interrupted my thoughts.

Snake punched him on the shoulder. “Don’t try to make a date on your second meeting with a friend, Pal.”

Batman apologized, “Sorry, Maren, … I mean, Synergy. I am quite a good classic dancer you know.” Suddenly, looking around, Batman directed Snake to a side street and shortly after the turn, we arrived at the swap shop. The boys carried the three heavy boxes inside to be appraised. I got quite a few credits for my stuff and started searching for some new clothes in my size. After picking out some pants and shirts that I liked, I went to the dressing room to try them on.

Batman was hovering near the dressing room when I came out, “Try this one on too, please?” He held up an evening dress like for a prom night.

Furious, I looked at him. “What do you think you are doing, Batman?”

“Sorry, Synergy, but please do try it on. I’m not asking you to buy it.”

Still mad as hell, I went into the dressing room, but found I had a problem. I couldn’t unzip my dress without help. I went back out where Batman was still waiting.

“Excuse me Batman. Can you unzip me, please?”

“Sure, Synergy. Don’t forget to try on the dress okay?”

Oh! He knew just to get on my nerves. I tried on the three pants, but only one fit me well enough. The shirts all fit me quite well, but only a few were good quality. Then my eye fell on the dress. I really shouldn’t, but it does look nice. Against my better judgment, I tried it on. It fit me surprisingly well. I even liked wearing it, though I would never ever tell Batman.

I changed back to my own dress and stepped out to a waiting and inquiring Batman. “How did the dress fit you, Synergy?”

He jumped me with the question I just couldn’t lie. “It was a good fit. However, I’m still not taking it, you hear?”

“Yes, of course whatever you say, Synergy.”

I paid for my newly acquired clothes and still had some credits left. The owner said that they were valid for quite some time, so I could come back later when they had other items in stock.

As we went out, Batman said, “Oops! Forgot something.” He went back in and came back out with a secretive smile moments later. I was a bit suspicious, but he wasn’t carrying anything, so I didn’t go into it.

After returning the car, the boys showed me around town. I got to know where to eat, see a movie and where to shop. They were quite surprised when I asked for a hardware shop. So I explained that I was still working on something.

I came home early and tried fixing something for dinner by myself. It didn’t pan out as I intended and dinner would not be so great today. Mom didn’t complain however, but told me what I should do the next time. She did complement my enthusiasm.

The next few days I continued to explore the city on my own or with Snake and Batman, except for the day when I woke in the morning with cramps in my abdomen and started bleeding. Suffice it to say that Mom quickly taught me the finer points of dealing with the monthly nuisance of being a girl. I could do without that.

Some days I tinkered on my hover board. It still wouldn’t work yet. The repulsor didn’t work right. I thought up several things, but still, the solution to the problem eluded me. One day it was such fine weather that I went out for a walk on my own in a forested park. Hearing a rustling sound in the underbrush, I went over to check it out. I found a squirrel lying on the ground, practically dead. I checked its vitals with my senses, and found it barely had a pulse. I checked the critter more closely, and sensed that it was very low on energy. Maybe it was going through MORFS? Carefully, I absorbed some sunlight and heat, and slowly fed it into the animal. It soaked it up as if it was nectar, and its pulse seemed to get a bit stronger. I think the critter slept because of the transformation. I took the poor creature home and when it did wake up, fed it some leftovers from the old diet energy bars that I’d had for my disease. It slept again afterwards, and started growing bigger and bigger. After a full day and night it was a little bigger than a cat, but still smaller than a dog. It clearly had still squirrel traits, but also had some traits from a dog. More and more, it became a blend of both squirrel and dog. As it woke up, the squog, That’s what I call it anyway, was ravenous. So I fed it another diet bar and some fruits. The critter was quite thankful and became quite affectionate. After asking Mom for permission, I decided to keep the squog as a pet and named him Sammi.

Strangely I didn’t have any adverse reaction to its dog part. Maybe dogs and cats can live together without being bothered by the whole chasing and being scared reactions.

Sammi turned out to quite a handful. He was housebroken soon enough and quite clean, almost like a cat. Though he was very agile, inquisitive and naughty.

One day I was out walking with Sammi on a leash, when we encountered a big cat. Sammi froze, torn between fleeing, as his squirrel instinct told him to do, or chase it, as his dog instinct dictated. The dog side won for now and Sammi yanked the leash out of my hands chasing the cat. The cat quickly ran up a tree, thinking it would be safe as usual, but this time it wasn’t safe. Sammi could still climb like a squirrel and chased right up the tree after the cat. I tried calling him, but Sammi wouldn’t listen. Climbing higher and higher, the cat suddenly saw no way out and turned around to fight. Sammi then started to listen to his squirrel instincts and ran back down the tree. It jumped the last 6 feet into my arms, with the cat hot on his tail. When the cat came after us both, I shot a spark of electricity at it. It worked just like a cattle prod, with only enough power to scare it away. After this incident, Sammi wasn’t eager to chase cats anymore though.

Snake came by the house, asking if I was sick. I guess he’d felt abandoned while I was busy taking care of Sammi. I showed the critter to Snake and he began to play with it immediately. Snake loved the little critter and Sammi liked to play with Snake. However, I was still its master and Sammi did come to me when I asked.


Chapter 4

Eventually, the dreaded time came, the first school day in that awful, cute looking uniform. Well, at least the other girls would be wearing the same outfit, except for the belt. I wasn’t actually wearing a belt, but managed to put my tail around it, and through the loops of my skirt. It kept my tail out of the way and made me look like a normal girl. I hesitated in the courtyard a bit, feeling nervous about going in. I felt like my skirt was too short and felt almost nauseous at having to show my body like this.

From behind came a familiar voice, “Hi there Maren, don’t you look beautiful today.”

I turned around to face him. “What are you doing here, Lance?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I go to this school, too. Pop is a police commander, so he can afford it. How about you? I didn’t think your parents had the money for a school like this.”

“Parent, as in single. They are divorced, “ I said gruffly. “And it is none of your business what they can or cannot afford. So back off, Batman.”

Ssh,” shushed Lance. “Nobody here knows about me having morfed. So keep it down, will you?”

“Okay Lance, but you’d better stop hitting on me then.”

“All right, girl, you got it. Don’t get your panties in a twist.” As he set off towards the entrance, he turned around for a moment. “Before I forget, no shades allowed inside the school.”

Great, that didn’t help my mood. I wore my sunglasses to hide my cat eyes. How did Lance do it? He is sensitive to bright lights, right? As I neared the entrance, I took off my shades and kept my eyes downcast. The teacher or whatever at the door halted me.

“You’re new here right? I’m sorry, but we don’t allow belts here.”

I looked up with my cat eyes in tiny slits. “It isn’t a belt Ma’am. It’s my tail.”

The woman couldn’t resist a tiny smile but kept her voice haughty, “Well, I’ll allow you to wear it then. Do keep it as inconspicuous as you can, Miss … eh?”

Maren Johns. Yes Ma’am, I will.”

I hurried inside and thought I heard some people starting to gossip behind me. The teacher quickly ended it, but I knew the damage had already been done. My first trip was to Admin to pick up my schedule and to report in. The old lady was quite nice, even after seeing my Morfs form.

“So you’re a cat hybrid. How nice. I always liked cats. I see your change isn’t much physical in nature, so I’ll just put you in the regular gym class.”

Then she gave me my class schedule and locker assignment. I had just enough time to put my stuff in my locker, see where my first lesson was, and arrive there in time for the first lesson. The teacher, a Mister Halton, wasn’t very interested in keeping tabs on attendance. Of course at this school, he didn’t need to be.

He announced, “I see some new faces, and old ones. No matter, just try to keep up, and if you have questions, come to me later.”

I paid my usual attention to the lesson and found it was on the same level as my old school. It did take my mind off my clothing, and soon it felt like normal school. The next hour was completely different. An old hag of a woman kept rigorous attendance, and when she didn’t find my name on her roster, she called out to me, “What is your name, young lady? And do stand up, please.”

Slowly I rose from my seat, already feeling my cheeks burning in embarrassment. “I’m Maren Zoë Johns, Mrs. Pinklets.” I answered her curtly.

However, she didn’t let me off that easy. “Why don’t you tell us where you are from, Miss Johns.”

Now I was in even more trouble. I could feel the attention of the boys looking anxiously at me. Why did she pick me out? “I’m sorry Mrs. Pinklets, but I don’t want to talk about it, as my parents had a rather nasty divorce.”

Fortunately, she let up at that, and choose another student to talk about himself. At lunch break I explored the cafeteria. It was the usual sight at this school. Purists on one side, Supers and Morf supremacists on the other. On a third side, the cheerleaders, though they were extremely close to the purists, and the fourth side contained the Nerds, morphed or not. Of course in the middle was the biggest group, people who didn’t mind if people were morphed or not.

I had picked out my lunch and was looking for a place to sit down, when Lance stood up. “Hey Maren, I’ve kept a seat for you.”

I groaned inside, does he ever let up on his attention for me? I didn’t know if I should like him for being friendly, or dislike him for always coming on to me, and being too friendly. Well, it was rather crowded, so I took his offer and sat down next to him. He introduced me around and soon we all talked about school and things. I almost didn’t believe it. Lance was nice, no hints or come on. Just like a true good friend.

I made it through the afternoon without any problems or things worth mentioning. When I got home it was another matter. Mom was very upset. Apparently Sammi had broken out of his very large and luxurious cage and opened almost every case and box it could find, making a big mess of the house. Did I mention that the critter has a knack for opening locks? Well, it has. I took him out for a walk and after putting him back into his roomy cage, I made a new lock that needed energy to open. I made very sure that there were no power outlets or any other devices in range, and locked it with my own power. Then I started to clean up all the mess Sammi had made. I only interrupted it for dinner, and it took me all evening just to get the house back into shape. I didn’t even have time to do the shed on the roof where Sammi had made my experiments into a big mess as well. A quick shower afterwards and the ritual for getting ready for bed followed. Gee, in the past I just hopped into bed. Now I have to do my long hair, make sure everything is ready for the next day, and put on some creams. It takes me so much longer nowadays.

I rushed to get to school on time. Mom did wake me early enough, but left while I slumbered for a bit. A bit too long, as it turned out. I had to rush getting ready and ran most of the way to school. Tardiness wasn’t a thing they took lightly. I did manage too keep my sweating down, fortunately, by shedding the excess heat into other kinds of energy. I made it just in time for the first class. The classes were just that, classes. Some were boring, some very interesting and the rest in between. Lunch break was a welcome interruption. I was chatting with Mandy, a girl I’d met, who seemed to be in all my classes, discussing all the choices we had today to pick from, when suddenly I felt something pierce the skin of my tail. The automatic reaction of pulling it back tore the loops off my skirt, while I yelled out loud, “Ouch.”

I twirled around extremely fast and bitch slapped the person responsible, hard. She reeled back and almost fell down. The girl recovered quickly enough and came at me looking for a fight. Now I recognized her, Cynthia, the leader of the purist group, and a cheerleader. She had at least four of her cronies backing her up, while I don’t think I could count on Mandy to help me in a fight.

Then Lance came up beside me, “I’ll back you, Maren.”

It never came to a fight, though. The dean stepped in and took most of us girls into his office. He made us stand at attention and demanded explanations. Cynthia was very quick to give her distorted view on the situation.

She pointed at me, “This sorry excuse for a girl just turned around and slapped me hard without any reason.”

The dean considered her words, and then turned to me. “What is your version, Miss Johns?”

“Someone behind me stuck something sharp into my tail, hurting it like he … um well a lot.”

I swished my tail to the front. “Here, there is even some blood.” I showed the spot to the dean. “So I reacted on instinct, and turned to hit the person responsible.”

He turned to Cynthia again, “Well, Miss Hosier. What do you have to say?”

Cynthia snarled chesty, “How was I to know it was a tail? I thought she was just wearing an illegal belt.”

Now Mandy spoke up, “That’s a lie, Cynthia. Yesterday you heard Maren tell Miss Banks that it was her tail.”

The dean interrupted, “Quiet, Miss Simms. You were not asked to speak.”

Mandy cast her eyes down, “Sorry, Mr. Hagleton.”

“Apology accepted, Miss Simms. Now, all of you except Miss Johns are dismissed. Miss Hosier, you will wait with my secretary till I send for you.”

The girls all went out in a hurry, leaving me all alone with the dean. I was a bit concerned, but not overly so. I hadn’t done anything wrong right? Well, I did slap Cynthia, but she was asking for it.

The dean sat down on the edge of his desk and said in a pleasant tone, “Miss Johns, I do believe that you are the victim in this altercation. However, please try to restrain from fighting. If you do not, I will have to have a talk with your mother. Do be careful in the future. Cynthia Hosier has very influential parents. Unfortunately, that lets her get away with a lot of the trouble she makes.”

He dismissed me with a gesture while turning to his intercom to have Cynthia sent in.

Later as school went out, I encountered Cynthia again. “This isn’t over, you freak. I was warned not to do anything to you physically. But I will find something. Just count on it.”

Furiously, I watched her go. I had met my enemy, but I didn’t know why she had singled me out. As I got home, I confessed the whole chain of events to Mom, partly because I needed her help to fix the loops on my skirt. Mom got quite upset about it, and she knew all about Cynthia. She even knew about her parents. Mom made me promise to watch out for her, and not to take any chances which might get me into trouble with her.

Before going to school the next day I had a talk with Mom. My schedule said I had gym today. So I agreed with Mom that we weren’t supposed to know each other, and that she would treat me as any other student. No favoritism or extra harsh treatment. After feeding Sammi, I set out for school for my first hour, Physics. It is my favorite subject. I paid more than my usual attention as the teacher talked about all the kinds of energy, what it is, how strong and such.

The next class was gym. I almost made the mistake of going to the boy’s locker room, but caught myself just in time. Remember Girl. You’re a girl and have to use the girl’s locker room.

I could have hit myself. I’d almost made myself the laughing stock in the school. As I stepped into the room that before I had never been allowed to peek into, though every boy really wanted to, I felt a little disappointed. It looked just like the boy’s locker room. Well, except it was full of girls in various states of dress. I think I expected to need to watch my eyes, seeing all the girls undressing to put on their tight gym clothes. Instead, I felt just like before, when I was a boy, changing with all the other boys. Sure, I saw some girls with bare breasts, but so what, they could see my bare breasts as well. I quickly changed into the school’s leotard, which Mom had adjusted to fit my tail. Thanks Mom. I put some leggings on before heading out to join the other girls. The boys had lined up on the other side of the room with their coach, while Mom was waiting for us girls to form a line.

“Hello, girls. I’m Miss Naomi Landers, your new gym teacher, cheerleader advisor, coach, and if you sign up for it, your dance instructor.”

Right, I forgot. Mom told me that this school encouraged their students to be able to dance classical dances. They some times held dance events, and also employed Mom as an instructor.

Mom pointed into the gym room, “Now, I’ve set up an obstacle course for all of you so I can see what I have to work with. This is not a race, just run the course, so I can see your individual potential.”

I set off on my run through the course and felt quite light on my feet. Because of my disease before MORFS I had never done any sports. Well, except a little dancing, but even that had only been for a short time before I got too tired. In the past I had always been excused from gym classes, so I had a lot to catch up now.

Now I enjoyed running, throwing balls and just had fun. I was able to keep up with the best of them even. My tail provided some extra balance and I was so much more limber than in the past. Even Mom was surprised at what I could do. I saw her looking at me with raised eyebrows. She was writing down lots of stuff on a board all the time, and sometimes conferred with the boy’s coach. Mandy had told me that he was soccer, basketball, baseball and football coach, all at once. Mom, on the other hand would be the coach for girl’s soccer and softball.

Next, Mom divided us into teams and had us play volleyball, basketball, soccer and such in 2 on 2 games. At the end, we were quite exhausted, and she made us form a line again.

“Girls, you’ve done very well today. However, I am expecting some improvement during this year. Now I have something else. Our cheerleaders can still use some new members. Please, volunteer to try out for it.” I swear she was looking at me specifically.

Mom dismissed us and another childish past tense dream came true. All boys want to take a peek at the girls showering. Now I was there and it didn’t do anything for me. I showered naked, with naked girls all around me and I was chatting with them. I was definitely a girl now. I look like one, think like one (mostly) and am not attracted to girls anymore. Maybe Snake is right, and soon I’ll be looking for a boyfriend. I know Lance will be first in line to try that. I still can’t figure him out. Sometimes he’s just like a friend, at other times he such a jerk, obnoxiously trying to make me his girlfriend.

At lunch break I barely had time to grab something before Mandy took me outside to eat. We sat down at a small out of the way table next to a demure shy black girl. Mandy introduced her as Denise, and introduced me to her. She nudged Denise to tell me.

“Tell me what? Mandy, what are you pushing Denise for?”

Shyly Denise spoke up, “Maren, I know you are a hybrid. So I guess my secret will be safe with you. I also had MORFS this summer. My appearance didn’t change, but I’m a fire elemental now.”

I frowned at her, “Why are you afraid of that, Denise? You can tell people.”

Denise cast her eyes down. “I know how bad Cynthia and her clique thinks about us. I don’t want any trouble. I’m always afraid that I’ll start a fire accidentally and burn someone.”

I hugged her, “Don’t be silly. I’m sure you have your power under control. You practice, right?”

Denise nodded.

“Can you show me what you can do?”

The girls looked around to see if anyone was near us, but we were quite alone. Denise flicked her fingers and a small fire started burning in the middle of and above the table.

“Wow, very good Denise. So how good is your control?”

She made it bigger, smaller and changed its shape.

“You can put it out, right?” asked Mandy concerned.

“Of course I can. Here I’ll show you.”

“Wait Denise,” I interrupted. “I want to try something.”

I concentrated and drew in the heat of the flame, extinguishing it effectively.

“Wow, Maren! How did you do that?” Denise asked.

“I’m also an energy converter, Denise.”

Both girls looked at me with even more admiration.

I decided to change the subject. “Hey, Denise, you’re not the only one who is hiding a power. Can you guess who else morphed, but doesn’t tell people?”

Both girls shook their head and shot a questioningly look at me.

I leaned over and whispered, “Lance calls himself Batman for a reason, outside school, and it isn’t because he wears a cape.”

Mandy giggled, “Wow, him? I would never have guessed.”

I warned, “Keep it a secret okay?”

Both girls said that they would keep the secret between us three girls.

Finally it was Saturday again. I could wear pants and tinker around with my hover board in the storage shed on the roof. Well, that is, if I could find all the parts. Sammi had made a real mess up there. I guess he felt guilty. I’d let him come up for exercise, and he seemed to try his best to help me find all pieces he’d strewn around. I never knew there were so many small items. Luckily for me, Sammi was very good at finding them and gave them to me. Some time later it was almost complete, and I was ready to try another run with the repulsor. As I fired some of my electrical energy into it, I suddenly notice that Sammi had stuck a piece of wire into the side. I shut down the power as fast as I could, but too late. I averted my eyes, thinking the thing would explode, but in fact it rose with a screeching whine to about 7 or 8 feet high. Than it shorted out and crashed down to the floor, scaring poor Sammi way back into a corner. Wow I never had a result like that before

I examined the wreckage and saw that it shouldn’t have been able to work. However, it had, and quite well, too. I started work on a new prototype with experimental shorts that I could put in. I got so caught up in the work that I forgot about lunch and time.

Mom came home from the dance school and called me to dinner. I wanted to work on my project again directly after dinner, but Mom insisted that I clear the table and do my homework first. By the time I finished my homework, it was already time for my ‘girl getting ready for bed’ rituals. I had to postpone my work.

The next morning early I went back at it, barely taking time to eat breakfast and take care of Sammi.

I wore a shirt and some tight jeans that Mom fixed, thanks Mom, over my underwear. Through some experiments with the new prototype I figured out how to let the machine hover with quite a load on it at one foot or 2 feet off the surface, depending on a setting. It didn’t seem to matter how much the load was, but of course it did matter as far as the amount of power I had to put in it. It would hover after a certain threshold, and didn’t change if you put in more energy. Now I could make a more permanent, ready to use repulsor for my board.

I was picking out the parts that I would need when there was an interruption. Someone was at the door. Oh, well. Mom can handle it.

Mom did open the door, “Hello Snake, Lance, and you are …?”

The girl introduced herself, “I’m Leo.”

Lance was flustered, “Miss Landers, what are you doing here?”

Mom smiled, “You can figure that out on your own, Lance. Now please go on up to the roof. Maren is in the storage shed there, tinkering with her project.”

“Hey, Maren, what are you doing?”

“Oh, hi Snake.” I looked up at him, and then I saw the hybrid girl behind him. “Hi, who are you?”

The girl smiled, “Hi, I’m Leo.”

I stepped out of the shed to greet her, “I can see that.” Indeed she had a full golden mane of long hair and fur on the rest of her body, just like a lion.

“No, no. It’s short for Leona.”

“Oh I’m sorry Leo,” I apologized.

“That’s okay, Maren is it? You’re right though, Leo also is my nickname for being a lion hybrid.”

Then Lance jumped into view, “Synergy, why didn’t you tell me that Teach Landers is your Mom.”

“Because I told you that it is none of your business, Batman.” I looked quite intensely at him. “If you tell anyone about this, I will tell on you at school.”

“Well, you already did so to the Match, Synergy.”

Now I was thinking, The Match? Who is he talking about?. Then it clicked, “You mean Denise? How did you …?”

“Easy Maren, she lives next door to me. I saw her practice and had a talk with her. She asked me why I called myself Batman, so I told her about my sound power. I knew she could only have gotten my name from you.”

I looked a bit guilty and disappointed.

“Hey, Synergy, It’s okay. We will keep the secret safe with us.”

I looked up a bit brighter, “okay, thanks. What are you all doing here?”

Snake laughed, “We came here to take you out to a movie. Leo is a classmate of mine, and I didn’t want you to be the only girl with us.”

I squinted suspiciously at him, “You’re not trying to set me up for a date with Batman, are you?”

Leo answered for him, “They are not Maren. I’m Batman’s date, and you’re with Snake, if that is okay with you?”

I smiled back at her, “Of course, Snake is just a good friend. That reminds me, I want to have a talk with you later, Snake.”

Leo interrupted, “Maren, why do they call you Synergy?”

“Leo, you’re not the only hybrid here. I’m both a hybrid and an energy converter. How about you, any powers?”

“Nope, just a hybrid with fangs, claws, fur and a tail.”

She swished an impressive lioness tail around to the front. I swished mine around and hooked it on hers.

Leo beamed, “Nice tail, Synergy.”

That broke the remaining ice between us and we kinda swirled around each other, till Batman got impatient.

“Girls, excuse us, but we were taking you to a movie?”

I had a great time that day. We saw a good movie, a sci-fi detective thriller, and had drinks and snacks afterwards. Batman tried to put a move on Leo, but backed off a little after she growled at him. She winked at me. I think Snake must have warned her about Batman.

Lance had the car with him, so he dropped Snake and me at my place before driving Leo home.

Snake escorted me to the roof, “What did you want to talk about in private, Maren?”

I sat down and sighed, “I feel more and more like a girl everyday. How long did it take you to adjust?”

Snake sat down next to me. “Don’t worry, there is still some boy left in you. I did tell you so, remember?”

I nodded.

“Just don’t think or worry too much about it. You make a great girl.”

“You know Snake? This doesn’t set my mind at ease. Maybe I don’t want to be a girl. I mean, I act and think like one more and more all the time.” I was depressing myself here.

Snake hugged me. “You don’t have a choice, Maren. You are and you will always have to be a girl. Sure, you can cut off all that beautiful hair, bind your breasts and dress like a boy. You will always stay a girl though. Well, there is surgery, but I don’t think it that would make you happy. All I’m saying is, just let it happen. Be the girl that you can be and enjoy it. Tell me, honestly, is there anything that you like as a girl?”

I thought hard, “Well, I did enjoy dancing as one, and this body is much more enjoyable than my old diseased one. Still, I’m afraid of my future.”

Snake continued to hug me.

“I guess you are right Martin, I don’t have a choice. I’m a girl now, and I just have to be the best girl I can be.”

“That’s my girl, Maren.”

I winced, “Snake?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, just an expression. I’ll always be there for you to help you and talk to you about these things, okay?”

I nodded.

“I’ll call you; I’ve got to go home. My parents are waiting.”

I walked down with him as far as my front door and waved goodbye to him.

Mom was waiting, “Had a good time, Honey?”

I mumbled a confirmation.

“Don’t forget that tomorrow afternoon are the cheerleader tryouts.”

I blew my cool. “I knew it! You want me to be a cheerleader, right?”

Mom tried to calm me down, “Honey, it’s up to you. But I would like you to try. You know I was one in the past.”

“Mom you know that Cynthia and her cronies are among the cheerleaders. They will never allow me to join. Even if they do, they will only make my life hell.”

Mom calmly stood before me, “Honey, I have already told the cheerleaders that I will not tolerate any discrimination towards any hybrid or MORFS afflicted person. Besides, Cynthia and her bunch think that only Football matters. The rest of the sports are beneath them. Since I’m the supervisor, I can make sure that you only have to cheer at Soccer and Basketball matches.”

I looked up, “okay, Mom. You win. I’ll go to the stupid tryouts.”

Maren!” There was a warning tone in mom’s voice.

“Sorry, Mom. I promise to do my best at the tryouts. Can you give me the cheers, please.”

She gave me all the new cheers and indeed I cheered my heart out that afternoon. Mandy did the same and though Cynthia objected, we both got chosen to cheer the guys on at the basketball and soccer matches.

The days started to fall into a new routine. Going to school, doing the sports, and sometimes I helped Mom with the dancing at the dance school. The first thing she taught me now was how to dance on high heels. At first I hated it, as I stumbled and looked awkward. Then it got better and I liked the extra height it gave me. Strangely enough, it had a positive influence on my dancing and soon I even liked dancing in high heels.

There were also some bad things with the dance school. First, Lance joined the school and of course he picked me to dance with. I have to admit he is a good dancer. Sometimes he makes me forget everything while dancing.

Then I found another new student on the roster, and made sure I would not be at the dance school at those times. Cynthia Hosier signed up for an advanced class at Mom’s school. She talked to me about it, she didn’t like it that much either, but the parents were paying a small fortune to make sure that their daughter would be good enough in dancing the classical dances.


Chapter 5

One Friday after school I was walking home alone, wearing the casual day outfit that I had chosen, a denim pleated skirt and a pink sweater. Pink, how girly have I become? I turned a corner and ran into some commotion. A building was on fire. Already lots of policemen and firemen were working and a crowd was watching. On my side I was all alone, with only a police ribbon separating me from the fire across the street.

I watched the fire for a while, noticing that the fire brigade didn’t seem to be making much progress in putting it out. I prepared to go on home, when I thought I saw a person in the flames. Intently I stared at the flames, and saw it again. I didn’t think it was an adult, it looked more like a child. I looked at the police and firemen, trying to get their attention, but no one noticed me.

Then I did something that I probably shouldn’t have. I ducked under the tape and ran into the burning building. Of course now people noticed me. As I ran through the flames, I drew in the heat, changing it into light that I emitted as powerful flashlights from my hands. For a while I searched and looked, but couldn’t find anyone. Had I make a mistake and saw something that just wasn’t there?

Just as I wanted to give up and get the hell out, a beam snapped, clearing a space where I saw something dark moving. I went over and found two small girls trying to hide from the flames. I reached them unscathed, but the flames closed in on us from all around us. The heat became unbearable, even with my converting it to light. I feared that this inferno might be more than I could handle with my power. I think the temperature around us reached flashpoint, as things started to burst into flames all by themselves. I panicked, as the girls screamed in fear.

My panic lasted only a moment before it changed to resolve as I toughened myself up. I would try my very best to get all of us out of here alive.

Over the roar of the fire I yelled to the children, “Get down and hold on to me.”

As they hunkered down on my legs and looked away, I stood tall and concentrated. I drew in all the heat that I could and held it for a few seconds, converting it to potential energy. The energy roared inside me and seemed to want more and more power, yet it also begged to be released.

So release it I did, converting it all to kinetic energy. I really hope this works. I passed on the energy to every molecule of air and dust that was in my range and infused it with the kinetic energy. Even I was surprised at the effect. The air and particles blew away from us at great speed, blowing the flames that hadn’t already been snuffed as I drew the heat from the burning material. It even toppled some unstable walls and blew away some burning debris.

Then, as air rushed back in, covering all three of us with soot and ash, it dawned on me what I had done. I became scared that people would want to praise me or worse, they would want to hold me for questioning. Either way, my face and name would get plastered all over the news and would give my father a lead on our whereabouts.

I told the children, “Go out that way,” pointing to a big hole in a wall where I could see some firemen coming into the building. As the girls ran off, I absorbed as much light as I could, making myself somewhat invisible in the dark building. I found an exit without people around and disappeared from the scene unnoticed.

I made it back home safely and unnoticed by people. As I fumbled with my keys, the door opened. Mom was already home. She took one look at the soot and grime covered girl in front of her and asked in a low voice, “What have you been up to?”

Guiltily, I looked up to her. “I’m sorry Mom. Something happened on the way home.”

Mom pulled me inside. “I don’t even know if I can get this clean. Maybe I’ll throw it.”

“Mom please try, it’s my favorite outfit.” Since when did I start having a girly outfit like this as my favorite?

“All right Maren I’ll try. No promises though. Oh, and you’re grounded for the whole weekend.”

I groaned. “I was going out with Snake, Batman and Leo.”

“Cancel it Maren. Now get out of those clothes and go wash yourself.”

I took a shower and another and still didn’t feel clean. I could still smell smoke. A third and even a fourth shower later I emerged very well scrubbed in my sleeping gown. Mom had already pre washed the clothes and put them into the washer.

“Now make yourself useful and prepare dinner, daughter of mine.”

I made a face, but went to do my chores anyway. Later after the clean up, that I did also, we watched some TV. Mom flicked through the channels, till she hit a news channel. We saw a burning building and then, there I was running into the building. I hadn’t even known there was a camera crew there. I was too far away from the camera to be recognizable, but instantly Mom knew who it was. Astonished, Mom watched on as the fire raged. Nothing happened at first, but then a big piece of fire just seemed to vanish. A moment later a big cloud spewed out of all the openings, extinguishing the rest of the fire.

Mom looked at me, “So that is what you’ve been doing.”

The news program went on, showing a fireman coming out of the building with two young girls. Mom cranked up the sound.

“And here you see little seven year old Melissa and five year old Carrie being escorted out of the building. Rescuers have combed the building, but didn’t find any trace of the girl that saved them.” The picture changed to the news reader. “I’m told that we’re going to go live to the hospital where Steve is waiting to talk to the parents and the children themselves.”

The scene switched again. “Hi, Steve here with Melissa and Carrie. Melissa do you know anything about the girl that saved you and your sister?”

Melissa beamed, “It was an angel. She had shiny hands, and when she was with us it wasn’t so warm anymore. She said we shouldn’t look and then put out the fire.”

The interviewer Steve took the mike back to him, “Did this angel tell you her name?”

Melissa gave him an indignant look, “Don’t you know that angels never give their name?”

“No, I didn’t know that.” Steve gave her a wry smile as he turned to the parents. “Ron and Penny, how about you, you have any idea?”

Penny took the mike with a few tears in her eyes. “Who ever you are, Miss, if you’re watching, thank you so much. If ever we can do something for you, just let us know.”

Mom turned of the TV. “Why did you run from the scene and not take credit for the rescue?”

“I thought it was better not to attract Dad’s attention by getting my face and name in the news, Mom.”

Mom smiled, “You are right about that. Good thinking. I’m proud of you Maren, but next time, think before running inside a burning building.”

“So can I still go out tomorrow?”

Mom smiled smugly at me, “Sorry Hon, you’re still grounded for the weekend.”

As I grumbled and reached for the phone, Mom lifted her eyebrow questioningly.

“Calling Snake to cancel.” I explained to her.

Snake asked why I cancelled. I made up some reason. He said that the gang could just hang out at my place.

“You know it isn’t that big here, Snake. Just do it later. Rain cheque okay?”

Grudgingly, he agreed and after a goodbye, I hung up. This wasn’t going to be one of my better weekends. If only I knew that the next weekend was going to be worse.

It started that Friday, right after school. I was talking to Mandy & Denise about our homework as Lance walked up to us with a big box behind his back.

“Hi girls, Maren, can I talk to you in private, please?”

It ruffled my feathers so to speak, was he coming on to me again? “What do you want Lance?”

Lance dragged me with him to a bit more privacy. “I want to ask you to be my partner.”

“What?” I almost yelled it out of frustration. Now I heard everything. Was he completely out of his mind?

Lance hurriedly continued, “No wait, I mean as a dance partner. I’ve been invited to this big fancy dance, but I have to bring my own dance partner. Would you, please?” He looked pleadingly at me with big puppy eyes.

 Now I was at a loss for words. This wasn’t such an unreasonable request, was it? I thought for a minute before starting, “But I don’t have …”

Lance interrupted and finished for me, “… anything to wear?” He pulled the box to the front. “You will if you accept this.”

I opened the box. Inside was the nice dress from the swap shop. The one that Lance insisted I should try on. I really liked the dress and it would be perfect for dancing.

“You bought it?”

Lance shrugged, “The moment I saw it, I knew it was perfect for you.”

I still mulled over it all. Then I made up my mind, “okay, Lance. I accept. We will dance together, but no funny stuff, only dancing, remember!”

Lance hurried, “Yes, sure. Just dancing.”

This meant I would have a busy Saturday. Not only would I have to prepare myself and go to the beauty salon to fix my hair for the dance, I also had an appointment at the MORFS center. I groaned inwardly, wondering, why did I get myself into this?

Gavin was waiting for me in his chamber at the center. He started off with some small talk about school and sports and we were happily chatting When he suddenly asked, “So, Maren, have you used your powers anytime lately?”

I got a little nervous, but denied doing it.

“So that girl I saw running into the building rescuing those little girls wasn’t you then? I could have sworn that it looked exactly like you.” He stared at me intensely, like he was trying to burn the truth out of me.

Maybe he could, he is a telepath after all. I swallowed noticeably. “Okay, okay it was me. I couldn’t get anyone’s attention, so I went in and had to protect myself.” There I’d said it.

Gavin smiled brightly, “Hey, it is okay. I’m not mad. I applaud you for using your power like that. Just tell me the truth Maren. I’m not here to judge you.”

Guiltily I looked down at the floor.

“I also heard a rumor about a reckless driver who had his car killed on the street after bumping into a young girl.”

Oh no! The driver filed a complaint about me? Now I felt even more ashamed, and sagged down into my chair. Please, restrain yourself, okay?”

I nodded, almost on the verge of tears. Gavin noticed it and cheered me up. We talked a little more about powers and using it. Soon I felt a little better and my mood had lifted.

Before I went to the beauty salon, Mom insisted that I shave my legs and prepare myself. Lea fixed my hair later that afternoon in a beautiful do, and all too soon it was time.

Lance picked me up with his parents. So we were chaperoned. Arriving at the dance hall, it turned out to be a sort of exclusive dance contest called Autumn Night. I even recognized some of the other people as professional dancers. I argued for a moment with Lance that he should have told me, but then resigned myself to having to do my best, and hoped I didn’t make a fool of myself.

I noticed that the organization misspelled my last name as Jones, but was too nervous to correct them.

Lance was even better during the dances than usual, and I just floated along on the music. A few times Lance’s lead didn’t feel right and I tried to guide him to the right path. He was headstrong though, and fought me all the way, so I gave up after a few tries. Four dances later, our time was up and the jury retreated to deliberate on the contestants.

Lance took me outside for a breather. “You were great in there, Maren.” Then he leaned over and kissed me on my mouth. When he tried to push his tongue inside my mouth, I froze for a moment, torn between feeling giddy and disgusted.

Then I recoiled and slapped him. “Lance! You promised.”

I turned around and ran off into the street. Lance was stunned, and hesitated for a moment before starting to chase after me. He hesitated a little too long, as the jury came back and Lance got pulled back in by his father for the result.

The jury president announced, “Thank you everyone for a great dance evening. It’s a pity that not everyone can win, as you are all fine dancers. Now the winners in this contest, the couple in third place are a rookie couple. Though sometimes it seemed like they were fighting each other, they did dance magnificently. Give applause for Lance Thorsson and Maren Jones.”

People clapped enthusiastically, while Lance stepped up alone to collect the prize.

“Mister Thorsson, where is your lovely companion?”

Lance hesitated, clearly embarrassed. “I’m sorry, but she didn’t feel well,” Lance managed to stammer out. He quickly accepted the trophy and went back to his parents.

Meanwhile, I was well on my way home, feeling distraught and angry. I also felt regret and hurt. The high-heeled shoes were meant for dancing, not running. I arrived home in a record time though, and rang the bell, as I’d forgotten to take my purse from the dance hall.

When Mom opened the door and saw me standing there on the verge of breaking down into a puddle of misery, she asked, “Honey, what is wrong?”

I tried to say something, but nothing more than “I … He …” would come out. Then I leaned into Mom and started crying.

Mom led me to my bedroom and sat down with me. “There, there honey. It’s okay to cry.”

We sat there for a little while till I managed to bring out between sniffs, “He kissed me. A French kiss, no less.”

Mom held me, and let me cry a while longer. Then the bell rang. Mom went to answer it. Lance was at the door.

“Hello, Miss Landers, I’m really sorry for what happened. Is Maren okay?”

I was peeking and saw Mom nod an agreement, but at the same time, giving him a stern look of disparagement.

Lance’s shoulders sagged, seeing that he hadn’t scored any points yet. “Well, anyway, I brought Maren’s jacket and purse. She forgot them, and please, tell her that we won third place in the contest.”

Dejected Lance retreated to his parents waiting in the car. Mom came back to me with my jacket and purse.

“I already heard, Mom. Why did he have to kiss me on my mouth?”

Mom shrugged, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t think. He was just happy and acted on his hormones. I really think that Lance is broken up about it.”

I leaned into Mom again and cried a little more. Later she helped me clean off my ruined make up and prepare for bed. As she tucked me in, she said, “Give Lance a chance to make it up, all right? Despite his faults, I think he is a nice boy and a good friend.”

I bit my lower lip, “I guess so Mom, I might give him a chance. Thanks for being here with me, Mom. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight Honey, sweet dreams.”

I was dancing with a good-looking girl in a ballroom. It was heavenly, the music was not too loud and we danced like pros. Then I leaned over to the girl and kissed her. It was nice, but then the smooth feeling against my skin changed, it became a bit raspy, I looked up, I was kissing Lance and I was the girl. I wanted to scream, yell or break away and start hitting someone. But I couldn’t do anything, I kept kissing him and it didn’t feel so bad anymore. No, what am I doing. I don’t want that. With a shock I woke up from my sleep. Sheesh, it was only a nightmare. After my heart rate slowed down a bit I lay down again trying to get back to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

A hidden base somewhere in Idaho

With a high pitched shrill sound the woman yelled, “Why didn’t I get this report earlier? A person with this kind of power should have been reported much earlier already. Where is the rest of it?”

The people working for her cringed at her voice. They were very afraid of her outbursts and temper.

One guy went in to try to explain. “I’m sorry doctor, but we didn’t get the information from a MORFS center. This particular center near the event hasn’t been infiltrated yet. We gathered the information from news footage and public records. We don’t even know for sure that this girl is really the one with the power, though we are fairly certain. The computer predicted a 92 % probability that it is her.”

The woman looked at him with contempt, “I want a scout team on her immediately. They have to find out everything about her, and I want it yesterday.” With that, the man was dismissed and hurried to carry out her orders. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d had an employee executed for being too lax.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I woke up at the ringing of the phone, wondering, who is calling us so early?

Mom came into my bedroom with the phone, “It’s Snake, Honey. Want to talk to him?”

“Sure,” I grumbled. I accepted the phone and with a yawn answered, “Hi Snake, what’s up this early?”

“What do you mean, early, Synergy, it’s already 10 o’clock.”

I looked at my alarm clock and indeed it was already 10.02. I’d overslept.

“Sorry, Snake. I guess I was so tired yesterday.”

“No problem Synergy. So how was the dance contest yesterday? I asked Batman, but he said fine and didn’t want to elaborate.”

“Well, I don’t want to talk about it either, Snake. Sorry. I hope you don’t have anything planned today, because I still feel a little worn out. I just want to have a quiet day at home.”

Maren, you are making me more curious. But if you don’t want to talk, then okay. Just don’t shut me out. I’m supposed to help you, remember.”

“Fine, Snake. I just want to be alone and have a quiet Sunday. I’ll tell you all about it later, promise.”

Snake accepted it at last and cut the connection.

When I dropped the phone and tried to get back to my blissful sleep, Mom roused me. I got up, showered at a slow pace and leisurely picked out my clothes and dressed. Fortunately we are not a church going family. I would hate to get up early on my free day, wear a pretty dress and sit for hours listening to a sermon and singing old songs. It doesn’t mean I’m not a believer, but I just don’t believe in going to church. I still pray sometimes, but I do it quietly in my own room.

Wearing my all time favorite jeans and shirt, I sat down at the breakfast with Mom.

“Morning, Honey. How are you feeling this morning?”

“Morning, Mom. I feel fine just a little sore around the ankles from running too long on high heels. So if you don’t mind, I’ll stay at home and do nothing all day.”

“After you take Sammi for a walk you mean?”

“Yes Mom, after I take Sammi for a walk.”

After our walk I took Sammi with me up to my work place in the shed on the roof and started working on my hover board again. I made great progress. It was almost finished at dinnertime. I skipped lunch. I put four repulsors on the sides aiming it outward for stability and a fifth repulsor aiming aft for propulsion. By the time Mom called for dinner, I was almost ready to try it out. Not today though, I still felt a little sore, so trying out the board would have to wait till I felt better. I expected to fall down a lot during my first tries, so better do it in top shape.

Monday morning I tried my best to avoid Lance, though he made it very difficult. He tried his best to run into me. I really didn’t want to talk to him yet, so I took detours and flashed a bright light at him once, so he couldn’t follow me. Other than that, the day went by without anything worthwhile mentioning. Lance seemed to have gotten the message, as he just looked at me from a distance the next day.

Even Mandy noticed, she asked me about it. “What’s up with Lance? He isn’t bothering you, and he just looks like a lost puppy looking at its master.”

I giggled at the analogy, “It’s nothing. We had a little altercation. He’ll get over it.”

Mandy was even more intrigued now. “What happened? Did it have something to do with his private talk with you?”

 “Mandy, I don’t want to talk about it just now.”

She tried to coax me into talking about it a few more times, but I didn’t budge, so she eventually gave up and we chatted about school.

That evening Snake came by pretending to need my help with his homework. As soon as we were alone in my room, Snake asked, “Okay, Maren. Talk to me. What happened at the dance?”

When I bit my lower lip he added, “No lying, Maren. You know that I can detect that.”

I sighed, “okay, maybe it really is just me being silly. We danced a good contest and went outside for a breather. At that point Lance got a little overzealous and kissed me. I was grossed out, slapped him and ran off home. That’s it.”

Snake didn’t comment right away, he absently stroked his jaw line.

“What are you thinking Snake?”

He shook out of his reverie, “Whether I should give Batman a good pounding for hitting on you again.”

I flared, “No Snake, don’t you dare do anything. I can handle it. I will give him a piece of my mind!”

Snake was amused by my outburst. “I didn’t think you would react like a girl like that. But I do think that you were not being silly. You had never been kissed like that before, so it was natural for you to be upset.”

He paused for a moment, “I remember the first time I got kissed as a girl. I was so scared and distraught that I almost threw up on the guy.”

I giggled as Snake continued, “So, do you really want to act like a giddy high school girl?”

Astonished I fell back on my seat. Snake was right, I did act like a normal girl now. I’ve been making it seem like part of what happened was my fault. In the past I always wondered why girls let themselves think like that.

“I’m sorry, Snake. I guess I have to face it now. I’m totally a hetero girl. I still don’t want to make out with Batman or some other boy. The prospect doesn’t seem to freak me out as much anymore though. Maybe when I meet an interesting boy I may start dating, making out and …” I let the sentence trail out unspoken.

Snake looked at me, “Yes? What else?”

“Don’t play with my confused feelings, Martin. I’m already afraid enough of what I will soon be doing with a guy.”

Snake smiled at me, “Maren, you are going to be okay. I had and still have the same fears. Even as a boy, I still feel uncomfortable. It’s natural to feel like that. When it happens, you’ll feel fine and laugh at the fears you feel now.”

I grimaced, “I hope you’re right Snake. Thanks for being here as my friend.”

“Don’t mention it.” Then he hesitated. “Though I would like your help in setting me up with this girl I know. I just can’t seem to find the nerve to ask her out.”

I smiled at him, “You should know how to approach her. You were a girl yourself, right?”

Snake sighed, “I know, but still. Will you help me?”

“Of course I will,” Together we worked out some strategies on how to approach his girl.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

A hidden base somewhere in Idaho

Report from observer S905Y010.

Suspected target is confirmed.

Target has been witnessed to emit incoherent light from her hands aimed at a male individual.

Another anomaly was that the ambient temperature dropped by several degrees in the target’s vicinity.

Target is suspected to be converter instead of elemental.

This will have to be verified at the MORFS center.

Observation of Target continues for further study of ability, range and power output.

Meanwhile infiltration of MORFS center is in progress.

End report.

~~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 6

I had been looking forward to a quiet weekend trying out my new hover board, but again I had to postpone due to an unscheduled event after the dean put up a notice on the board at school. Denise and Mandy went right over to read it. Mandy motioned me over and I was a bit curious to what it said. The notice stated that the freshman sophomore and junior classes were going on a field trip to the zoo in Atlanta.

The school’s rules state that for every five students in those grades, there had to be an older person to watch them. The notice added that there were not enough parents and teachers available, so they were asking some of the senior students to volunteer for chaperone duty.

Mandy nudged me, “Let’s volunteer for it Maren.”

“Why would I want to do that?” I wasn’t kidding. Between looking out for kids, and playing with my hover board, the choice was easy.

“Denise has something to do and I don’t want to go alone. See here, they give extra credits for volunteering. I really need those extra credits.”

I knew Mandy was serious, as she did have a problem with her grades. “And you could use some credits too, after that botched exam you had in homewreck.”

She had to remind me. I’m still lousy at cooking, and I had made a fool of myself in Home-ec.

“Ok, I’ll volunteer to go with you then. But I’m only doing it as a favor to you Mandy.”

We went to the Administration office to register as volunteers. The dean was there himself. “Nice of you two girls to volunteer. You do know that you are expected to wear your school uniforms right?”

I groaned. Why didn’t he mention that on the notice? Now I have to wear my uniform on a Saturday. Mandy just was her chipper self as she agreed that we would do as he asked.

Later that evening I talked about it with Mom. “I’m happy that you’re willing to do it. Besides, wearing your uniform isn’t that bad, don’t you think?”

I had been getting quite used to it already, so it wasn’t that much a big deal anymore but still.…

That Saturday I was in for another surprise. Not that Lance decided to join us fortunately. The trip had been organized with another school, and when we met their seniors playing chaperone at the station, I discovered it was Snake and Leo.

We were glad that they gave the four of us the responsibility for only the junior class, with the parents and teachers responsible for the two lower, less mature grades.

At first Mandy was a bit afraid of talking to Snake, but after a little while they started a conversation while I chatted with Leo. We still watched the juniors, but they were behaving quite well on the train ride. Of course it helped that with the new high speed train the journey took only about half the time as it did by car.

It was more of the same at the zoo as we watched the juniors doing their assignments. Yes, they had to write a paper on the things they saw. As they behaved quite well, we didn’t have many problems. Only once did I have to help a girl, Cheryl, who had cut her finger and asked me for a band-aid.

While I was busy with Cheryl, the rest went on with their tour and I told Mandy we would catch up. As we were doing that I heard a commotion. Some voices were yelling things and one of the voices sounded familiar. I couldn’t place it immediately though.

As I hurried closer to the scene, I heard some voices yelling, “Why don’t you just leave us alone, you pure bigot.”

While another voice, the familiar one, said, “I would love to stay away from here. You belong with these animals.”

Then we rounded a corner and were close enough to see the altercation between the two groups. On one side were a few freshmen from our schools, all MORFS survivors, with Snake and Mandy holding them in check. On the other side was a lone girl from a different school. I got quite a shock seeing it was my sister Isabel.

Quickly I stepped between the group and Isabel. I made eye contact with Snake, but he pointed at Isabel, motioning to me to go tell her what she could do with her ideas or else.

In a low voice I said to Snake and the group, “Get out of here now. Don’t bother this girl, please continue with the assignments.”

Now Snake and some of the juniors were surprised. They were asking themselves why I was defending that purist girl. Even Isabel was surprised at a morfed girl defending her.

Maren, she made her first move, insulting us. Why are you taking it out on us? Help us here!”

Snake almost growled it at me. He clearly hadn’t recognized Isabel, and didn’t understand me.

“I’ll explain it later, just take everyone away from here. I’m not asking again.” With that I absorbed some heat and flashed lights towards the group. Snake saw that I was very serious and herded everyone away from me and Isabel.

When I turned to Isabel she snarled, “What do you want freak? Don’t think I don’t know what you are with your tail.”

I hadn’t put my tail in the loops of my skirt today, but had out through the hole in the back and it was swishing behind me freely.

I sighed, “Watch your tongue, girl. You are outmanned and outclassed, big time.”

Isabel still was quite angry, “I have a right to say what I want in this country. Who are you to judge me? Why do you even bother with me anyway? I can take care of myself quite well, thank you.”

I snorted, “Yeah, I can see that. You are brave, I give you that. You stood up to all of them alone.”

Isabel gave me a superior look, “Yeah, so? I am better than every single one of them.”

I laughed, “So you think you are better than me? If I hadn’t interfered they would have taught you a well deserved lesson.”

She gave me her haughty look, “So why did you interfere if I deserve a lesson as you say? Do you do this all the time or am I special?”

I gave her my special warm smile, “You are special to me, Isabel. Whatever has happened and changed, you are still my little sister.”

My remark left her with her mouth wide open. She just stood there nailed to the ground, looking at me with wide open eyes.

When I turned to leave her alone, she took a step and grabbed my arm. “Brent, is that really you?”

I turned back to look at her, “I used to be, I look a bit different now don’t you think.” I bared my teeth in a snarling grin, “Besides, I’m now a freak as you called it.”

Isabel looked down, “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“How did you mean it then, Sis?” I asked in a sarcastic tone.

She looked up to me, “Look, I’m sorry Brent.”

I interrupted her, “Do you see a diseased boy here? Brent is gone. He will never trouble you again.”

“Sorry, what did that Snakehead call you? Karen, Erin?”

“My name is Maren now, Isabel. But don’t you ever tell Dad that. I will kill you if you do. I have the power to do that now.”

“Okay, Maren. Look can we have a talk? I really miss y … Mom.”

I softened up inside. I really had missed my little sister. Sure she was a pain in my behind, but still … “Okay Isabel, let’s go over there. I’ll buy you a drink.”

I bought sodas for both of us and we sat down quietly for a moment. Isabel was looking me over as if she wanted to remember me for a long time. It made me feel anxious. Does she intend to report my looks to Dad?

She started, “So how is Mom? Is she okay?”

“Yes, she picked up her life quite well again, as did I. Though my life changed a lot these days.”

Isabel nodded. “Okay, Well, I’m glad for her, and … I think you look nice Maren.”

“Thanks, Sis. So how about you? How have you been?”

“Just the same old me,” Isabel said with a shrug. Then she continued, “Actually, not that well. I feel lonely. I never could talk much with Dad anyway, and now with you and Mom gone …”

I didn’t know what to do, I wanted to hug her. However, I knew she still felt an aversion to MORFS survivors. I felt a bit torn between comforting her and keeping my distance. An awkward silence fell between us. Neither one of us knew what to say or do.

I broke the silence, “So is Dad still on his crusade against my kind?”

Isabel looked down feeling guilty, “Yes, he tries to have me accompany him to the meetings. After we moved to Birmingham Alabama he started drinking and got more zealous with the meetings. So lately I don’t like them that much anymore”

“Well, you could have fooled me with that little scene a few moments ago.”

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help myself. They were just so obnoxious happy with themselves.”

“And you had to darken their mood? What kind of girl are you?”

Isabel started to cry, “A very cruel and unhappy girl.”

Again I was torn between hugging her to make her feel better and keeping my distance. Fortunately Isabel solved the dilemma for me. She wiped away her tears. “Look at me, I’m making myself miserable. I have to deal with this myself.”

I interrupted, “Isabel, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. We’re still family.” I was going out on a limb here. If she still felt purist thoughts and told Dad, then I would be in deep brown smelly stuff. On the other hand, if I reached out and she accepted my help, maybe I could restore our family connection.

Isabel smiled at me, “Thanks, Maren. I’ll try to sort things out by myself first. If I want to contact you, how can I reach you? I really would like to talk to you and Mom again someday.”

I bit my lower lip. This was the thing I was worried about. Better play it a bit safe. “You can write an email to me at synergy@cutey.com. I will relay it to Mom if you have a message for her.”

Isabel wrote it down in her PDA and after finishing her drink, waved goodbye to me. I waved back and watched her walk towards a group of students. She turned around once to look at me, and smiled. I didn’t move till she was out of sight. Then I set out to find my own friends.

Snake was dying to know what I had been up to, but was patient enough to wait till we were in the train back home.

“Okay Maren, spill it! What was that all about with that girl?”

“Didn’t you recognize her? It has only been a few months.”

Snake cocked his head. “I don’t understand. Are you implying that I should know her?”

“Don’t tell me that you already forgot my sister Isabel.”

If he could have I’m sure that Snake would have turned deep red in embarrassment. He didn’t know what to say at first. “Sorry. Now that you mention it, she did look a bit familiar. But I didn’t know her that well. So I’m sorry for not recognizing her.”

“Hey, Snake, it’s okay, No harm done, right? Let’s just drop it for now.”

The rest of the trip went by relatively quietly and only Mandy asked me about it as well. I explained to her that the girl was from my past. I made it very clear to her that I didn’t want to elaborate too much. She knows how stubborn I can be when I don’t want to talk, so she gave up.

Later at home I had a long talk with Mom. Mom was worried about my encounter with Isabel. She did want to know all about my conversation with her though. She asked how she was, and I told Mom that she looked well. Mom did voice her concern about Isabel feeling lonely. I made her feel a little at ease.

“Mom, I did give Isabel my anonymous email. She’ll send me a message if she wants to have contact again.”

“We do have to be careful, Honey. I don’t want your father to find out where we are.”

“I know Mom. Don’t worry. I will take all precautions before meeting with Isabel again. I really think that she misses us, and that Dad’s hold on her is weakening.”

“I hope you’re right, Maren. I really would like to see Isabel again.”

We talked a little more before going to bed. That night I couldn’t drop off to sleep easily. Did I do the right thing in giving Isabel means to contact me? It was nice to see my sister again. However, now she could identify me for Dad. Well, what is done is done. No use crying about it. Still, it kept me awake for a long time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Isabel, sister of Synergy

When Isabel got home in Birmingham late from the school field trip to the zoo, she had a lot on her mind. It was good to see her brother, …no, sister now. She longed to see Mom again too. If only her parents hadn’t divorced.

Dad was waiting for her. He had been drinking again, she could smell it. There was a slur in his voice as he asked, “So daughter, had a good time?”

Isabel smiled a little, “Yes I did. I even talked to someone that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Lars Johns screwed his eyes up. “Did you see your fucked up brother, or that sorry excuse for a mother? Tell me girl, who did you talk to?”

Isabel felt a cold shiver run along her back. Dad had gotten even worse since the divorce and the move. Now he was just ranting instead of lecturing.

She stammered, “I only talked to a girl that moved away from my old school.” Well, she did sort of tell the truth.

Her father wasn’t satisfied though. “So you haven’t seen that miserable brother you hate so much.”

Isabel stared back at him, “No Dad, I haven’t seen my brother. I don’t think I ever will, either.” Well, again she said the truth. I don’t have a brother anymore, only a sister.

Finally satisfied Lars Johns turned around and went back to his bedroom, not caring if Isabel had already eaten or not. She was quite hungry and made herself a sandwich before retiring to her bedroom. Now more than ever she longed to be with her brother, now sister, and her Mom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I was up quite early Sunday morning. After washing I put on my sweat pants and old sweater, which gave me the most freedom of movement, while they still covered my body from too much exposed skin. I also wasn’t too worried if they got dirty. Mom gave me a raised eyebrow at breakfast.

“I want to try out my latest invention. I expect to fall down a lot, Mom”

She smiled, “Okay, Hon. Have a nice time, break a leg.”

I took Sammi and my hover board out to the secluded park and found a clearing without anyone around.

Sammi started sniffing around for whatever he could find interesting as I set up the board. I attached leads around my ankles with jacks that would fit into the board. They were there to feed the power into the four corner repulsors. If I fell off, the power would cut immediately, keeping the board from floating away from me. I had another pair of leads running to my hands. These were for the propulsion. I wanted it separate from the levitating repulsors.

I inserted the jacks and stood up on the board, barely able to keep my balance. Then I fed the power to the repulsors. When the board bucked up, I immediately fell off. I tried it again several times and eventually got the hang of it. As I stood on the board while it was hovering, I let out a small cheer.

Then I heard the sound of hands clapping sounded from the trees. Looking up, I lost my balance again and fell down hard. Fortunately I was able to absorb a little of the impact energy and release it as heat.

Snake, the handclapper, rushed to my side. “Are you hurt?”

“Nope, just wounded my pride again. What are you doing here?”

“I came by to see you. Your Mom said that you went someplace to try out your invention. So this is a hover board? How does it work, can I try it?”

“No you can’t try it.”

Aaw, come on. Please, Synergy? I won’t break it.”

“Snake, I would let you try it if you could. But you can’t. The thing doesn’t have its own power source. I’m the one powering it. Now can you see why you can’t try it out?”

When Snake understood, he started to snicker and then laughed out loud. “Sorry, I thought you were afraid of me getting hurt or breaking it.”

“So what did you want from me, or did you just stop by for some idle chatter.”

Snake stopped laughing. “Actually, there is a little something I want to discuss with you. Didn’t you say to me that your sister was a mean evil bitch that wanted to squeal on you every chance she gets?”

“I might have said something along those lines, yes.”

“Then why were you talking to her for such a long time and defending her against us?”

“Sorry Snake, but she is still my sister. Besides, I think she is mellowing out. She isn’t that mean anymore.”

“I’d be careful if I were you. Before you know it, your father will be standing on your doorstep to make your and your Mom’s life miserable.”

“I can take care of myself, thank you very much. Besides, I didn’t tell Isabel where I lived.”

“I hope you’re right Maren. Now let me see your tricks on the hover board.”

I punched Snake on his shoulder. “No way am I going to practice with you here. I already feel embarrassed enough with falling down every time.”

Snake smiled, “I can help. I do have some experience with skateboards and surfboards. Just let me watch, please?”

I frowned, but conceded. I set the board up again and together with Snake’s instructions I managed to stay on it. I even managed to circle the clearing before losing my balance again. Snake applauded and gave me some more pointers. Then he looked at his watch and told me he had to go. I had so much fun that I even forgot about lunch. I felt a bit hungry and called Sammi over. He had been playing a little with Snake during my attempts. I put him on his leash again and headed back home.

A quick lunch later I was back in the clearing with Sammi and my board. I practiced more and more managing to stay on longer every time. I even dared to make some turns and stops. I had so much fun that I forgot about time again. Before I knew it, it was getting dark. I was so confident in handling the board that I didn’t walk back, but floated on the board with Sammi towing me.

Suddenly Sammi made a strange sound, a mix of hissing and barking. With my full attention on Sammi, I didn’t notice the shape rising behind me. At the last moment my feminine intuition must have alerted me, because I felt uneasy and fed some power to the propulsion, giving me a jolt forwards. The man trying to attack me missed by centimeters and fell down. He quickly got up and started running towards me. In panic I forgot to feed power to the floating repulsors and fell down on the ground.

The man soon reached me and fell on top of me, pinning me to the ground, not uttering a word or a sound while doing it. Fear gripped my insides. Did Isabel already betray me? Is this a friend of my Dad kidnapping me to bring me back to him? The man pulled something that seemed like tie-wraps from his pocket. He is going to tie me up and kidnap me.

While I was pinned beneath the man, Sammi was feeling furious. He charged and bit his teeth into the ass of the man, who yelped from the pain. Meanwhile I managed to pull one hand free and seized the opportunity.

I drew in all the heat and sound that I could, and it became icy cold and very quiet around us. Then I channeled the power through my free hand and shot a high voltage electrical charge at the man. Instantly he fell backwards writhing in pain from the spasming muscles that my charge gave him.

I grabbed Sammi and fled the scene towards home. I only got a few hundred meters when I saw a cop. I yelled out to him. He went over to me and stuttering I told him that I almost got kidnapped in the park. The police officer called for back up and asked me to show him where it happened. I showed him the way and though the man that attacked me tried to get away, his muscles still hadn’t had time to recuperate enough to allow him to get away.

Moments later the man was handcuffed. Soon another officer arrived and we were escorted to the precinct. There, at first the man tried to claim I had attacked him with my powers. Though I didn’t have any witnesses he still wasn’t believed, especially when the officers found the tie-wraps in his pocket.

Then he switched his story to say he was a failing inventor. He had seen me with my board and wanted to steal it. This was more believable, but still didn’t explain the tie-wraps.

I told the officers that my parents were divorced and that my father was a purist that hated MORFS survivors like me. I told them also that I was afraid he might have been hired by my father to kidnap me for something bad.

They had called my Mom in the meantime and she rushed over to the precinct. As soon as she saw me, we hugged and she started to ask all kinds of questions. She was brought up to speed and then shared my worries that Dad might have hired the thug. The man however, denied knowing my father and kept to his story that he was acting alone and that he wanted to steal my board.

Several hours later we finally left the police precinct, and as we got into Mom’s car, the attacker was escorted out to be transported to county lock up. He wasn’t even halfway to the transport van, when there was a loud crack and the man fell down with a big hole through his head. Everyone, including us, dove for cover though no more gunshots were heard. After the police searched the rooftops nearby they gave the all clear and at long last we could go home.

That night we stayed up even later. Mom and I talked about what happened for a long time.

“I don’t think that it was someone working for or with Dad. I mean, he was assassinated because his employer didn’t want him to talk. Dad doesn’t have that kind of power.”

“I agree with you on that, Honey. Still, it is too much a coincidence that you talked to Isabel and the next day someone tried to kidnap you.”

We still couldn’t find a good explanation, so we kept on fretting about who or what organization was after me. Mom warned me to be careful. I vowed to keep a sharp look out for anything suspicious and told her I was going to ask my friends to help me with that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Unknown adversary

Report from observer S905Y012.

Observer S905Y010.saw an opportunity to capture the target.

He tried to capture the target by himself, but the target defended herself with success.

Observer S905Y010 was captured himself by the police and interrogated.

His explosive device was either found or incapacitated, so he had to be taken out by sniper.

Target is likely to be more aware of assault, so the next capture attempt has to be executed with more precision and manpower.

Meanwhile, the MORFS center has been successfully infiltrated.

Target is indeed an Energy converter, and not an Elemental.

Her power output is as yet undetermined, but estimated as very high.

Please, advise on how to proceed.

End report.

The woman in charge of the operation was furious on seeing this report. How can they mix up a simple operation like that? The employee that brought the report quickly and quietly made herself scarce. This woman was dangerous in her normal behavior. Now in her rage, she was even more likely to hurt someone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 7

The next morning when I took Sammi for a walk, I looked out for anything suspicious. Indeed right down the street a dark blue van with tinted windows was parked. I walked over to see if there was someone inside, but when I got to about fifteen feet distance, the car suddenly started up and pulled away. I’d already scribbled down the license and decided to give it to the police later.

At school I stayed on guard, watching for anything out of the ordinary. Mandy and Denise noticed and asked why I was so edgy. I told them about the attack on me, and they sympathized. Together we took in our surroundings with care and watched out for anything. However, we did miss the conversation between some of the cheerleaders. We didn’t know that Cynthia was showing off her new gadget. Her parents had bought her the latest eCom. She was bragging about all the things it could do and her cronies wanted a demonstration.

Cynthia asked them, “What do you want me to do?”

“How about a really embarrassing holographic recording? Something we can use to our advantage.”

Cynthia thought for a moment before replying, “I know just the thing. But it will take me some time.”

The other girls asked what she had in mind, but Cynthia said that she wanted it to be a surprise. The cronies squealed in expectation. Cynthia smiled an evil grin over what she wanted to do.

As I didn’t see anymore suspicious cars or people, my vigilance lowered a few notches over the next couple of days. Mandy & Denise didn’t seem to think about it anymore. I resumed my normal routine and though it still nagged in the back of my mind, I wasn’t that observant anymore. That was a big mistake of course, as I would soon find out.

Later that week I was late getting into the lockers after cheerleader practice. All the other girls had already showered and put their clothes on. Even Mandy hadn’t waited for me. The reason I was late? Cynthia had decided it was my turn to clean up the practice field. She told me, “You have to do it all by yourself.”

Well, fine. I’d show her that I’m not a showgirl afraid to dirty her hands. It meant I was alone in the showers. I reveled in the warm water, and took my time. Once I thought I heard something, but when I looked, I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t think about it anymore and finished my shower.

The next day some of the cheerleaders that hung out with Cynthia snickered as I walked past. I looked back at them and they turned away from me. That was weird, usually they looked at me with disdain. I was suspicious, but since I couldn’t very well beat it out of them, I decided to wait. The classes were just as always and I forgot about the strange behavior of the girls.

During lunch I was talking to Mandy and Denise when Joss, a loser who hung out with the cheerleaders in the hope to improve his standing, looked at us. He gave a wolf whistle, and gave us a lustful look. Now we got a bit worried: what was that all about?

As we walked to class, we encountered Cynthia and she gave an evil grin and snickered as the other cheerleaders did. Now I had it.

“What is going on Cynthia? What did you do?”

Cynthia grinned nastily. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

I was about to start hitting her, but Mandy held me back, “Careful, you don’t want to be called in to the dean’s office.”

Cynthia went to the classroom and we followed, looking out for anything that might be in store for us. Nothing happened, but my fury didn’t subside, it just changed into a cold determination to find out what Cynthia did. Well, the next class was a bit delayed as the teacher was late getting in.

Cynthia was showing something to her cronies. Curious, I went a little closer to see. Then I saw that she had one of those new eComs with holographic recording capabilities. She was showing a holo to her audience. I strained to see what the holo was and then my heart felt like it was caught in a cold vise, while my head felt like it was on fire. The holo was some girl naked in the shower. Not just someone, the holo was grainy due to the distance and bad lighting but I could clearly see long black hair and a black tail. There is only one such girl in this school, probably even in the whole town. I knew she had spied on me in the showers.

Angrily I yelled, “Cynthia, erase that recording now!”

She snickered, “Sorry, but I won’t. In fact I will send it to all my friends. I’m sure they would like to see a freak in the showers.”

My anger was boiling out of control. I fumed, “If you don’t erase it now, I’ll…”

Cynthia interrupted, “You’ll do what? Hit me? Try to grab my eCom? I don’t think so. You’re done for now, you freak. Don’t even think of calling the school or cops on me. The recording is protected and only I can safely access it.”

Now I was starting to power up and the temperature around me lowered a little. Mandy was coming to my side, but only heard part of the conversation. She noticed that I was about to use my powers, and grabbed my arm.

Maren, don’t do that. You’ll get into trouble.” Mandy whispered softly to me.

Cynthia taunted me, “I’ll make sure that you’ll have no life to speak of anymore.”

The teacher came in at that moment and surveyed the class room. He noticed the commotion and came closer.

“Sit down every one. I’ll take that Miss Hosier.” With that he took the eCom from Cynthia.

She yelled, “Hey that is my property. Give it back to me.”

The teacher calmly said, “And you can have it back after class. Now sit down, shut up and get to work.”

He put the eCom into his desk drawer and started class. Cynthia kept giving me evil grins and clearly intended to make my life hell. What could I do? She had me between a rock and a hard place. I can’t stun her with an electric blast. Besides even if I manage to take the eCom from her, I don’t know how to operate it. How can I erase that recording fast and without a trace? I racked my brain and came up empty.

With only 20 minutes left in this class, I was getting more and more nervous. I think Cynthia noticed it and she snickered again a few times. Then I thought of something. I’m an energy converter. I can produce all kinds of energy. I did read about the problem of a nuclear explosion. They produce something called an EMP. It stands for Electro Magnetic Pulse. This disrupts and sometimes destroys electronics. Can I make something like that? Well, only one way to find out. I did have a enough grasp of the science to know how it should be. I focused my attention and powered up. Then I focused it all in an electro magnetic pulse that I emitted into a tight beam aimed at the desk drawer.

It wasn’t as tight as I hoped. There wasn’t anything visible thankfully. However, the teacher Mr. Brands jumped as his watch sparked.

He exclaimed, “Wow, what is this. What the hell is happening here?”

Uh oh, I fried the teacher’s watch as well? Well, if that is any indication, then her eCom must be totally out of commission. As soon as the class ended I ran out of the room with Mandy hot on my heels.

Maren, aren’t you going to challenge Cynthia anymore?”

“What for Mandy, there is nothing I can do, right? She has all the power and will block all my efforts.”

“You can go to the authorities and sue her for video recording a minor. They’ll charge her with child porn charges.”

“Mandy I can’t. She said the recording is protected. If it isn’t opened right it will erase itself. She will make certain that it will backfire on me as false accusation or something.”

Then we heard a wail coming from the class room. “It is ruined. My eCom is dead. I’ll sue you Mr. Brands.”

Cynthia stormed out of the room. She saw me standing with Mandy. “You did this somehow. I’ll get you for this, freak.”

She stormed away with her cronies hot on her heels. She couldn’t make trouble for me could she? I watched her go with worry. Mandy took my mind of it, by saying that she deserved it. Well, she did, but they might find out I did it. Well, maybe not. I had never used an EMP before and I didn’t even come close to the desk, so how could they know I did it?

During the Cheerleaders practice I got called into the Dean’s office. Now I’m in trouble for sure. With lead in my shoes I went to his office. Sure enough Cynthia was there waiting with Dean Hagleton and Mr. Brands. Dean Hagleton asked me to sit down.

“Miss Johns, I asked you here because Miss Hosier made an allegation that you destroyed her eCom. So what do you have to say?”

I cleared my throat that had gotten a little dry, “I don’t know what she is talking about Mr. Hagleton. Mr. Brands here confiscated the eCom from Cynthia. He locked it in his desk. I never even touched it.”

Mr. Brands spoke up, “That is true, dean. Miss Johns never came near the eCom.”

Dean Hagleton had a mysterious smile on his face. “Didn’t you say that your watch was also damaged?”

Mr. Brands squinted his eyes, “Yes, I did. But it was already an old watch. Besides only a nuclear blast is capable of frying electronics. I didn’t hear of one going off and no other electronics was damaged.”

Dean Hagleton sighed, “I guess you’re right.”

Cynthia wasn’t satisfied, “I don’t care what the cause is. Maren Johns destroyed my eCom and I want her to pay for it. She did threaten to do something to it.”

Dean Hagleton looked at me, “Is this true Miss Johns?”

I looked back at him, “I did want her to erase a holovid. She made a recording of me standing naked in the showers.”

Now Dean Hagleton put his attention back to Cynthia. “Well, Miss Hosier, that is a serious allegation. What do you have to say?”

Cynthia shrugged, “I don’t know what she is talking about. I never did such a thing.”

Dean Hagleton sighed and looked thoughtful. “Well, it is a moot point now anyway. The eCom is not functional anymore and any recording is destroyed as well. As neither of these allegations can be confirmed, I’m dismissing both of you young ladies.”

I sighed from relief.

Then he continued, “However, if I ever hear from any person that you did or will make a recording of any student in this school, you will be charged and severe actions will be taken against you. Do you understand, Miss Hosier?”

Cynthia nodded, but looked furious at me and the dean.

“Good, now take your thing and get out of my office. Mr. Brands, you’re excused as well.”

Both of them got up and went out of the office. I started to rise as well, but the dean motioned to me to remain seated.

 “Miss Johns, I’m protecting you from getting into trouble by Miss Hosier. I suspect you were right about Miss Hosier making a recording of you. I’m not going to punish you or talk to your Mother. However, I did consult with a cousin of mine. He is here, and wants to have a private talk with you.”

Dean Hagleton stood up and left the office. I remained seated and waited for the unknown person. The door behind me opened and before I could turn around a familiar voice said, “Hello Maren, or should I say Synergy?”

It was Gavin Benson of the MORFS center. He is Dean Hagleton’s cousin? He called me Synergy, but I never told him that.

“I thought there are rules about reading people’s minds?”

“There are, and I haven’t read your mind.”

“But I never told you that I chose the codename Synergy for myself.”

Gavin sat down and smiled. “You are not the only MORFS survivor that I regularly talk to. There is Lance, ‘Batman’ Thorsson for instance.”

Now I understood. Lance must have given him the name. “So what do you want from me Gavin?”

“Remember our long talk on using your powers?”

I nodded in agreement.

“I didn’t think you could generate such a specialized thing as an EMP. I guess your powers are developing quite well. But if you are found out you will be in a world of trouble, young lady.”

I fumed. I got hassled while all I did was defend my honor? “I would never have thought of something like that if Cynthia hadn’t made a recording of me naked in the shower. She showed it to her cronies and threatened to send it to more people.”

Gavin raised his hand. “I know that. You should have gone to the authorities. You could have sued her for everything she has.”

“I don’t think so. Cynthia knew how to protect it in her eCom. She fixed it so that any unauthorized opening would erase it, and lose any trace of doing that to me.”

Gavin reassured me that there were people that could get around that as well. I told him that I didn’t want to take that kind of chance.

“I can see your point Maren. But I cannot condone or justify your actions. As of now you’re on probation.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that the next time I hear of you using your powers inappropriately, you will be prosecuted.”

Darn, I got attacked, and after defending myself I’m in trouble, while Cynthia got away scot-free.

“Okay, Gavin. I will think twice before doing anything like that again.”

“That’s a good girl. Now lighten up, you’re not being punished yet.”

I cast my eyes down while he herded me out of the dean’s office. I thought that it was unfair. Gavin just made some light conversation, but I think he knew how I felt. He is a telepath after all.

Well, my day of bad things hadn’t reached rock bottom yet. That happened when I came home. Mom was a bit miffed that I came home so late. I couldn’t understand why, it wasn’t the first time I’d come home this late. Then I saw it, she was wearing make up. It was very subtle, but still, I could see that she was wearing it.

“Mom, where are you going?”

“I’m going out. I have a business dinner to go to. You just have to fix something for yourself.”

Great, I’m very good at burning everything and making a lousy meal. “All right, Mom. When you get home we need to have a talk about today, okay?”

Mom mumbled something and hurried out the door. I made a few sandwiches and did my homework, watched some TV and still Mom wasn’t home. I fell asleep on the sofa in front of the TV, only to wake up when Mom finally came home.

“You’re still up? Honey, it’s a school night.”

“Mom, can we talk for a moment?”

Mom nodded slowly and sat down, knowing that if I asked this formally, then something was up.

“Can we both be totally dishonest to each other?”

Mom nodded in agreement before she caught on, “Dishonest?”

I laughed, “Just seeing if you were paying attention. Look, I’m going to confess today’s events, and I want you to do the same.”

Mom scowled at me, but I continued. “Today I did a bad thing and almost got into trouble. The MORFS center put me on probation already.”

Mom interrupted, “Probation? What did you do?”

I swallowed my hesitation, “Yesterday I was the last one in the shower. Apparently Cynthia arranged this on purpose. She made a video with her eCom of me standing naked in the shower. Then today she showed it to some people and taunted me that she would send it to lots of people.”

“But you can sue her for that, Honey. She is breaking the law with that.”

“I know that, but my face isn’t visible. Everyone will know that it is me, because I’m the only person in this region with long black hair and a black tail. But she also protected the recording with passwords and erase codes.”

“Still, I think you should go to the police with this.”

“That is where my bad thing comes in, I was afraid of my picture showing up everywhere. So I …” I paused for a moment, “used my powers to generate an Electro Magnetic Pulse.”

Mom looked inquisitive at me, “What is that, an Electric Magnifying Pulse?”

“No Mom, an EMP. Like the electronics destroying wave that comes from a nuclear explosion.”

Now she got it, “So you destroyed her eCom?”

“Along with a watch belonging to the teacher, but that was accidental.”

“You’ll have to pay for that. So they found out? You got punished? Who knows about this?”

“I’m fairly certain that the dean knows it. He didn’t say anything about it to me, but he called his cousin Gavin Benson from the MORFS center. Gavin talked openly to me and put me on probation. He said that if I used my power irresponsibly again, I would be prosecuted. I didn’t get any punishment yet. Dean Hagleton said that the case is closed, due to insufficient evidence.”

Mom looked at me, “I see, you really have to be careful doing things daughter.”

“I know that. Now it’s your turn, Mom. When do I get to meet him?”

“Meet whom, Honey? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Mom, don’t play me like a fool. You’ve got make up on, you’re out very late and your lipstick is smudged like you kissed someone. So who is he?”

Mom looked guiltily at being found out. However, when she saw that I was adamant about knowing. “All right then, his name is Shane. I met him a few weeks ago when he took some dancing lessons for his brother’s wedding. We have been dating a few times already. I was going to introduce you next week at your birthday.”

Wow I even forgot I had my birthday coming soon. Maybe I shouldn’t consider it my birthday anymore because Maren was sort of born a few months ago. “Do you think that is a good idea? I think I should invite some friends, and I’m not comfortable with the new man in your life meeting them already. I don’t know if you are comfortable with it.”

“You are very perceptive, dear. How about you invite your friends on the Sunday before, and at Monday night Shane can come by?”

I agreed with that and got ready for bed in a hurry. I already lost too much sleep this night. I called Snake the next day to invite him and Leo for my birthday. I was debating with myself if I should invite Batman. He was part of our club after all.

So at school I approached him, “Hi Lance, are you doing anything Sunday the 10th?”

Lance didn’t show his usual smile, but he looked sort of relieved. “Does this mean that we are talking again?”

“Yes we are. I’m still a bit upset, but I got over it already. You are part of our little club, so I want to invite you to my birthday party on Sunday November 10th.”

Lance smiled now, “Thank you, Maren. I’ll behave this time. I promise.”

I still wasn’t sure that I had done the right thing inviting him. I didn’t want to invite Mandy and Denise though. They didn’t know that their teacher and coach was my Mom. I wanted to keep it that way for now. Not that I didn’t trust them. I had gotten to know how a girl thinks though, and especially those two. Besides, I only saw them at school.

After classes I went to see Mr. Brands and asked to speak to him in private. We went into a class room and he asked what he could do for me. I hesitated, I needed to apologize and offer to pay for his watch, but I felt afraid that he might tell on me.

“Mr. Brands, I haven’t been totally honest. I have to pay for your broken watch.”

Mr. Brands looked intensely at me, “You were cleared of all the charges, Maren. Why are you offering to pay for my watch? Are you responsible?”

I looked down at the floor. I just couldn’t face him. “Yes, Mr. Brands. I caused the destruction of both your watch and the eCom.”

 “Now that would be a neat trick, because as far as I know only a nuclear blast can generate enough EM disturbance to destroy electronics like that.”

 “Mr. Brands I’m an Energy Converter due to MORFS. I can convert one kind of energy into another. Like into EMP. That is what I did because of the damaging recording Cynthia had in her eCom.”

“I see, Maren, you are an interesting student. Tell you what, write me a paper on energy conversions and I’ll call us even. No need to buy me a watch. I have lots of those at home.”

I looked with surprise to him, “Thanks Mr. Brands. I really am sorry for what I did.”

“I understand, Maren, just be careful when you using your powers in the future.”

My birthday party was great for the first time in my life. In the past I didn’t like my birthdays. They only reminded me that I had lengthened my existence on this earth by another year. I hadn’t had a long life expectancy, so I’d never looked forward to my birthdays. Now I had an expectancy of lots of years and some friends to celebrate it with. I enjoyed it a lot. In fact I never had a better day. I got some nice gifts and had a fun day.

From Snake & Batman I got some earrings that I didn’t need yet. I don’t even have pierced ears. Then Leo gave me an envelope with a note saying ‘Good for getting ears pierced’. Well, I am totally a girl now, so why not. Leo promised that she would take me to a shop soon.

On Monday I took some pieces of cake with me to school as a peace offering to Mandy and Denise. I did feel a little guilty for not inviting them to my party. They were happy for me having celebrated my birthday and wanted me to go shopping with them. But they also felt a little left out, for not being invited to the party. I apologized to them and said that next time they would be invited.

Coming home the living room was still a little decorated, on the table was my favorite meal and Mom gave me a small package.

“Happy birthday, Honey. May there be many more to come.”

I was about to open the package when the doorbell rang. Mom went over to open it and there was a good looking man standing in the opening. He was average height, but very well muscled. He was also very trim with almost no fat on his body. Wow, now I start judging men on how they look? Feeling awkward I shuffled over to them feeling a bit shy.

With a pleasant low rumbling voice he said, “Hi, I’m Shane Gannen.”

“Hi Shane, I’m Maren, the daughter.” Idiot, he already knows that. Why did I say that?

Shane smiled, I guess he knew how I felt and then said, “Happy birthday, Maren.”

He gave me a small package. I was surprised and even more elated. I unpacked his present first. He gave me an expensive looking necklace with my name in silver on it. I thanked him profusely, but he waved it away. Mom’s gift was some money for driving lessons. In the past I’d never had any use for learning to drive. I didn’t expect to live long enough to enjoy it. Now things were different though. I might need to use a car someday, so I needed to learn how to drive.

We had a nice evening talking and such, but Shane kept looking at me in a strange way. Did I have something on my face? With an excuse I went to the bathroom where I checked my face, but there was nothing there. Back in the living room I sat down again and he still looked at me like I reminded him of someone. He sometimes was about to say something but he didn’t. Mom didn’t notice it I think. She was looking at Shane through pink eyeglasses. The evening ended with me having no idea why he looked at me strangely.

The days got busier as a dance evening for the students at the school was coming up. We would get grade points at the event. There would be points for the clothes we were wearing, and for the effort in dancing. I had decided to alter one of my Mom’s old dance dresses. It would take a lot of my time and effort, but I wanted to make a good impression. Mom did help me of course, but I did most of it on my own. I also practiced more at the dance school, but made sure I wasn’t there when Cynthia had her lessons.

The night of the dance I went there with Eric. Lance declined to be my dance partner initially. It turned out only two girls had taken the time to don a real professional dance dress. Of course Cynthia had bought one or had a dress made, and I was the other one. Mom was at the dance of course. She was the dance instructor after all. I danced with several boys, including Lance, who was by far the best of them.

At the end of the evening Dean Hagleton called for attention. “I’m very pleased with the efforts you students put into this event. Some put in some more than others, but this is not a contest. All of you can look forward to getting good points on your record. But I want to give special praise to two girls. Both of them danced very well and wore a really beautiful dancing dress. The first one is Cynthia Hosier, give her applause, please.”

There was some clapping, but not all that much.

“The other superb dancer tonight is Maren Johns.”

The Dean didn’t even have to say to give applause. The people started clapping and cheering by themselves. Well, except for the Cynthia’s cheerleader gang of course. The event was now officially over, and we prepared to go home.

Cynthia was waiting for me near the exit. “Nice dress you bought freak!”

I squinted my eyes, “You mean yourself. I altered this one myself. But I do want to compliment you on your dancing. It was nice, for an amateur.”

Now Cynthia was fuming, “What do you mean amateur? I can dance as well as any professional. In fact, since you think you’re such a good dancer, why don’t we compete in a contest? Winner has to make a public apology to the other.”

I tried very hard to keep my poker face, this would be a great opportunity for me to humiliate her and get her off my back. “You’re on, Cynthia. What do you propose? I’m in for any dance contest you can come up with.”

“In three weeks there is a dance contest in the Erie dance hall. It’s a regional contest for couples. There is a catch; you have to get your own entry. You can not just go there and dance. They have high standards of entering as a couple.”

Ha I’ve got that covered, provided I can get Lance to dance with me. “You’re on, Cynthia. I know you will buy your way in. But it doesn’t matter, I’ll be there.”

Cynthia grinned, “Don’t be so sure that you’ll win. I’ve got the best dance teacher in town.”

Lance came up behind us and started to snicker. Cynthia gave him a stare full of malice, but kept quiet. I gave Lance a look telling him not to say anything, and he understood. Cynthia in the meantime left and I stayed behind a bit. Lance wanted to leave as well, but I stopped him.

“Lance, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Maren. Go ahead.”

“Oh come on, you know what I want to ask from you. Do you have to make me ask it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I haven’t got a clue.”

“Fine Lance, will you dance with me at the contest?”

“Well, I think Cynthia is going to ask me as well, so I don’t know yet.”

I gave Lance a mean stare, to which he quickly surrendered, “Yes sure, it’ll be my pleasure to dance with you.”

I sighed, “You’re enjoying this aren’t you?”

Lance smiled widely. “Yes I am. But I’ll promise to behave, no repeat of last time.”

“Good, then I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon for extra practice at the studio.” With that I turned and went to Eric who was waiting to take me home. Mom had to stay behind for some work, so I got there much earlier than she did. I even went to bed and fell asleep before she came home.

I didn’t even see Mom the next morning, as she slept late.

That evening she was very busy preparing a dinner for Shane, and us. I opened the door for him when he rang and accepted the bottle of wine he brought with him. I had already set the table, and since there was still time before dinner and Mom was busy in the kitchen, I chatted with Shane. He didn’t talk openly with me about what bothered him, so I just went ahead and asked.

“Shane, why do you stare at me sometimes? You look like you want to ask me something embarrassing.”

He hesitated before softly speaking up. “Maren, I know you’re a MORFS survivor. I’ve seen your tail, and your eyes are hard to miss. Do you have any powers?”

Uh oh, here it was. He recognized me? “What if I did? Does that make any difference?”

“It does if you are the girl that saved those two little girls from that burning building.”

I knew it. He was probably there. Maybe I can bluff my way out. “Do I look like someone who runs into burning buildings?”

Shane smiled, “Actually you do, and I would know. I’m the fire chief in town.”

I couldn’t look at him anymore. Of all the people, Mom had to date the fire chief?

“Hey, Maren. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. If you hadn’t run into the building, those girls wouldn’t be alive today. I only wanted to know that it was really you and why you didn’t take the credit for it.”

I explained to Shane about my father and my change. About the problem that we were still afraid that he would come after us, especially after me. Mom came with the food at that time and joined into the conversation. I was happy that Shane didn’t criticize me, and that he understood. Soon the conversation went over to loftier things.

Mom said, “I had an unusual request today. Cynthia Hosier wanted to book more practice time and classes. She said something about a dance contest against another girl. Do you know something about this, Maren?”

“I was drinking my wine at the time and choked hearing it. After some coughing and help from Shane I was ready to answer Mom’s question. “Actually I do Mom. I’m the other girl she wants to beat dancing in the contest.” Now it was Mom’s turn to almost choke on the food that she was chewing.

Shane helped her and tried to be funny, “If I knew this family would be so fond of choking, I would have second thoughts on being here tonight.”

Mom and I ganged up on him and he soon surrendered to apologize to us. We had a good time laughing and joking. It was nice to have an evening like that again. It had been too long since I had experienced something like that.

I had to get into the contest, so I went to the selection committee to ask to be admitted into the contest. They asked me for references.

“I did win third place with my partner in the autumn night dance contest several weeks ago.”

“Let me check that, please. That would be Lance Thorsson and Maren Jones.”

“Actually it is Maren Johns. They misspelled my name.”

The committee accepted my entry, so I was in. Well, that was easy enough, now the hard part, getting ready. The next few weeks I was very busy, practicing my dancing with Lance on top of all the other sports. I still had to keep up my grades. So I studied and practiced. Snake asked me about being too busy to go out, but after hearing why I didn’t have time, he supported me. He wanted to see me win as well. Mom put in her bit as she helped me to alter another one of her old dresses for me to dance in.

All too soon the dance evening arrived. Lea did my hair again in one of her fabulous coupes. As I was going to wear open toed high heeled sandals, it prompted Shauni to make a real artwork of my nails, both toe and fingers. At home Mom helped me to get into the dress, put on the make up and such. Lance would pick me up again, so I waited for him to show up. Mom got ready herself. She would go there to watch the contest.

I jumped from the shock as the bell suddenly rang. I hadn’t watched outside for several minutes. Quickly I went to the door to open it. Lance was standing there in a very good-looking dance costume. Mom came at the door as well and complimented Lance on his clothes.

He bowed and said, “Thank you, may I escort the ladies to the car, please?”

I chuckled, “What do you mean ladies.”

“I mean that the car is big enough to take you both there, Miss Johns.”

Wow he really put on the gallantry. I don’t mind, so I’ll play along. “Ok Mr. Thorsson, if you say so. Then we all go with you.”

We went out the door to the street where we had a big surprise waiting. Apparently Lance’s parents had gone all out on this. Lance was picking us up in a real limo. The uniformed driver was waiting for us at the door and held it open for us as we got in. There we had another surprise. Lance’s parents were there, too.

They introduced themselves to my Mom and after hearing Mom’s name they asked, “Aren’t you the dance instructor of the school where Lance and all the others practice?”

Mom confirmed that she was.

“So, Maren has an advantage with you then.”

“If you mean that she learned dancing quite early yes. But I’m not involved in the contest in any way. She prepared and has to dance the contest all on her own with Lance. I specifically asked to be excluded from the jury and other regulatory duties.”

Mrs. Thorsson chuckled and told Mom that they were kidding. They continued to talk amongst themselves while I looked out the window, lost in thought about the contest. I really needed to beat Cynthia. If I didn’t she would gain even more power and would be insufferable. I got a shock again when Lance put his hand on my arm.

 “Don’t worry Maren, you’ll do great. You’re the best dancer I’ve ever had the pleasure of dancing with. Don’t worry about the contest. I’m sure that we’ll do well, and we don’t have to win, just beat Cynthia. You can do that with your hands tied behind your back anyway.”

I smiled to Lance, “Thanks Lance, still I’m a bit worried. I think it won’t go away till I’m on the dance floor.”

As we arrived in the limo, everyone’s eyes were on us. We got out of the car and walked towards the entrance like we were the stars of the evening. Lance’s parents were right on our heels, with Mom a bit invisible in the rear. I was amazed at the crowd. I recognized lots of students from the school, I guess the news about the contest between me and Cynthia had spread like wildfire. Even Dean Hagleton and his cousin Gavin were there. I didn’t want to pay too much attention to them. I had to focus on dancing. I already was enough nervous and jittery. I didn’t need anymore nervous making thoughts.

The contest consisted of five dances that the committee would select from both American Style Smooth dances and American Style Rhythm dances. So they could choose from nine different dances out of both styles. The first dance was one of my favorites, a waltz. In the past weeks I had drilled Lance about the mistakes he’d made during our last contest and he remembered his lessons very well. We danced heavenly. I floated along and it all felt right. Too soon the dance ended and I could get something to drink. The next dance got announced, a rumba. I frowned, as this wasn’t one of my best dances. I would have to be careful. Lance did well in leading me on this dance. I just followed his lead and while taking care of making all the right steps correctly, paid some attention to having fun in dancing. The third dance they chose was a Viennese waltz. Another favorite of mine, we just danced our heart out on this one.

Between the third and the last two dances we got a little breather. I sat down for a moment and finally had a chance to see my opposition. Before the dances started I’d been too nervous to notice, and during dancing my attention was with the paces and the performance. Cynthia was dancing with a young upcoming dancer that hadn’t entered the professional dance circuit yet. From the other couples I recognized some professionals among them. My heart sank, I don’t think I will have a chance to win here. Even the runner up couple of the Pan-American dance contest was here. Mom was talking to some of the other couples. She knew them from the days that she had danced in the contests herself.

Lance asked, “How are you doing? Not too tired?”

“Nope, still going strong on adrenaline, and feeling good.”

He helped me up as the next dance, the Mambo got announced. I shuddered. I didn’t like this one. Well, I’d practiced it enough, so just do the thing. We started of well enough and I soon got into the rhythm. Before I knew it the dance had ended. Then they announced the last dance of the evening, the Foxtrot. Now this dance I liked well enough, a good thing too, as I was getting tired. Purely on grit and determination I completed this last dance. My movements were not that fluent anymore, but it still went well. I hoped it had gone well enough. We finished our dances in style before retreating to our waiting chairs. The jury went to deliberate on the outcome, while we got something to eat and drink. I saw Mom talking to Cynthia, and then she came to me.

“You did a very good job tonight, Honey. I’m proud of you.”

“What did you say to Cynthia, Mom?”

“I only said that she danced well and had nothing to be ashamed of if she doesn’t win.”

I made a face. Yeah right, like she would care about nice words like that.

“Now, Maren. Don’t make a face like that. She’s a student of mine as well. Give me a smile as a professional.”

I grimaced to her.

“Very funny dear, please lighten up. You did very well. I talked to some others and they said that you were very good.”

I smiled normally at Mom and thanked her for her kind words. I still didn’t think I would end up high. There were couples dancing that toured the professional circuit the whole year around.

The jury came back and the chairman took the microphone. “May I have your attention, please? Thank you. Now we had a very difficult task tonight, as all the couples were very good. We finally came to a ranking, though the differences between the couples are minimal.”

There was a little bustle in the hall, so the man paused a moment. It quieted down soon enough and he continued.

“First I would like to say that you were all phenomenal and all deserve to win. Before I come to the best three couples, I would like to give praise to the couple Adam Harding & Cynthia Hosier as the best rookie couple tonight.”

I groaned. I had lost to Cynthia. I could already see her gloating in her chair. I would never live this down. Then the chairman continued.

“They only reached fifth place, but showed good promise for the future. Now let’s move on to the winners of tonight. In third place we have George & Agnes Bosworth.”

They had been the runner up winners in the Pan-American contest. The couple stepped forward and accepted the trophy from the chairman.

“In second place, Paul Romanski & Nora Bennington.”

The applause was much bigger now. They stepped with a few dance paces and a swirl to the chairman to accept their trophy.

I whispered to Lance, “Let’s get out of here. I don’t need to see who wins first place. I don’t want to face Cynthia tonight.”

Lance held me down. “Just wait a little longer, Maren.”

Then the chairman said, “And now the very surprising winning couple of tonight. They were magnificent in their dancing and looked superb. They are the youngest winners ever in this contest. Give a big applause for Lance Thorsson and Maren Johns.”

Now my blood froze in my veins. I won? We won this? But he said that Cynthia and Adam were the best rookie couple. I kept sitting down frozen in my state of surprise, while Lance got up gracefully. He held out his arm, “Come Maren, we have to get our trophy.”

In a daze I accepted his help in getting up and twirled around as Lance launched me into the arcs. Instinctively I made the right dance steps and ended up at Lance’s side before the chairman of the Jury.

“Congratulations to both of you. I enjoyed watching you dance. You were an excellent dance couple.” With that he handed us the big trophy and an envelope to each of us, while he shook Lance’s hands and gave me a kiss on my cheek. Still in a daze we glided back to our place as the chairman gave his final comments and closed the evening.

Cynthia walked over to me with a haughty gait. “I don’t know how you did it. But you stole my teacher, and cheated on this contest.”

I was about to give my snide reply as Mom intervened. “Cynthia, you are one of my best students. But you are not my only student. You danced very well, and I’m proud that you did so well. But Maren was simply better.”

I turned to Mom, “Thank you for all the lessons and guidance Mom.”

I would have killed for a photograph of the astonished look on Cynthia’s face,. “Miss Landers is your Mother?”

I made her even more upset, “I’ll accept your apology Monday morning before class after the holidays, thank you, Cynthia.”

She was about to say or do something, when a very well dressed couple appeared behind her.

“Cynthia, did you already congratulate Miss Johns and Mr. Thorsson on their victory?”

She cringed, “No Mom. Congratulations, Maren, Lance.” Then she quickly stepped aside. Her parents stepped up to us. The man looked a bit strange. Is he a hybrid?

With a deep tone the man said, “Congratulations Miss Johns, Mr. Thorsson. I enjoyed watching your performance. I know that you were really competing only against my daughter, but I’m glad that you did. I don’t think a better couple danced here tonight.”

We accepted the congratulations, not only from Cynthia’s parents, but from the rest of the crowd who wanted to congratulate us as well. Dean Hagleton, Gavin, Snake, Leo and even Mandy and Denise passed by. Some of the professional dancers praised us as future champions. I didn’t want to think about that yet. The handshaking and congratulations didn’t seem to stop, but finally we were on our way back to the limo. Still on the victory adrenaline rush I made it there before collapsing in the cushions. As we arrived back home, my rush had subsided and I had a hard time getting up from the comfortable seat. I wobbled on my high heels and held on to Mom and Lance for support. They noticed my instability and asked what was wrong.

“I’m so very tired. Can someone help me get inside, please?”

They helped me into the house and I barely stayed up long enough to brush my teeth and change for bed. I expected to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, but despite my exhaustion I couldn’t sleep yet. I kept thinking about the evening. I was elated that I’d won, no not I, but that we’d won the dance contest. It was a joined effort of both Lance and me. I kept thinking the happy thoughts for some time and didn’t even notice when I fell asleep.


Chapter 8

I woke up with the birds singing, I groaned, “Keep it down, I want to sleep.”

But the sleep was gone now. I might as well get up. I intended to swing my legs outside like normal and stand up, but already the swinging part made me realize that I would have to pay dearly for my victory yesterday. I had muscle aches big time. I made my way moaning and groaning to the sink to splash some water on my face.

The door opened softly, Mom stuck her face inside, “Oh you’re up already?”

With a sigh I answered, “Yeah Mom, what’s up?”

“I just want to show you something. Look, you made the papers.”

She handed me the morning paper, where I saw a picture of me dancing with Lance. The headline said, “Young dance couple takes prize in contest.” I read the whole article, which even mentioned our names and Mom’s name as our dance instructor.

Now I really was worried. “Mom, don’t you think we have a problem now? I mean, Dad reads newspapers. He can find us easily now.” I might have all this power available, but still, facing my angry Dad? Besides, I was on probation, as Gavin had told me.

Mom sat down on the bed, “I realized it already, honey. But we can’t be afraid of him forever. This is good publicity for my dance school and I’m really happy that you won yesterday. So we’ll just have to see what comes from this, okay?”

I nodded in agreement, as I sat down next to her.

“So, any muscle aches?”

“You have to ask, Mom? Of course I do. I feel like I can lie down for a week.”

“Well, how about going to a spa? You can get a massage, a rubdown and in general, a pampering.”

“Mom, isn’t that expensive? Can we afford that?”

“Well, you can, there is a voucher for it in the envelope you got yesterday.”

Oh, the envelope, I forgot. Wait, Mom opened it? “Mom, did you open the envelope?”

“It wasn’t sealed, so I peeked. Sorry.”

“It’s okay, Mom, so what’s inside?”

Mom gave me the envelope and I shook out the contents. There was a voucher for a Spa all right, and a check with quite an amount of money. My eyes glimmered in anticipation when I saw it.

“Now Maren, that money is for your college fund, not for other things.”

Inwardly I cursed, I should have kept more of a poker face, so she wouldn’t guess. Oh well, she is right of course. The money will give my college fund a boost. Though there were some things that I would have liked to buy.

There was another paper in the envelope. I opened it. It was an invitation for me and my dance partner to enter a very prestigious dance contest in the first part of the New Year. I looked forward to us going there, and matching ourselves against the best dancers of the country.

“Mom, there is one thing I don’t understand. They said the best rookie couple was Cynthia & Adam. I thought we were a rookie couple as well.”

“You two were not considered a rookie couple anymore, Honey. Because you took third place in the previous contest, you were already registered.”

Now I understood, stupid me that I didn’t consider that. I’d worried for nothing. I asked her, “So what now? Are we going to the spa today?”

Mom got to her feet, “I’ll check where it is and what time. Why don’t you shower and get dressed.”

With that she left my room. I sighed before going to the bathroom. My muscles still ached a lot, but the movement seemed to lessen the pains. I took my time in the shower, especially washing my hair. There was some residue from the stuff Lea put in it, so I washed and rinsed it a few times. I blow dried it in my room and put on a skirt with a sweater.

As I went to the kitchen for some breakfast, Mom was just putting down the telephone. “Bad news Honey, all the Spa’s around here are either booked or closed for the holidays.”

As I pouted in disappointment, Mom put her arm around me, “Hey cheer up. We’ll do it another time.”

“I know, Mom, but I was looking forward to some pampering.”

She was about to say something when the doorbell rang. It was Shane at the door. He stepped in and came directly to me. “Congratulations on your first place, Maren. I’m sorry to have missed it. I was on duty last night.”

I hugged him, “Thanks Shane, aren’t you tired after a long shift? I thought you would go home and sleep.”

Shane laughed out loud. “We don’t just sit around. We can nap a little there. Besides, I’m here to invite you two to the Christmas celebration at the Fire brigade.”

Mom responded, “Sure we’ll come. Don’t you think it will be fun Maren?”

I nodded, but inside thought, a bunch of adults talking and drinking? What is the fun in that?

I let the two of them alone, taking Sammi for a walk. This time I didn’t go to our usual park, but went a little further away and Sammi was enthusiastic, sniffing all kinds of new scents. In quite a large park, I let him go off by himself for a while, but kept my eye on him.

Suddenly someone put hands in front of my eyes scaring the hell out of me. I was about to power up and give a big electrical shock to who ever it was when a familiar voice said, “Guess who?”

I recognized Mandy’s voice and stopped gathering energy.

I turned to her, “Don’t ever do that again Mandy. I almost zapped you with my power.”

Mandy and Denise sat down with me, “Why would you do something like that? I was just playing a harmless prank on you?”

Sometimes Mandy can be such an airhead. “Don’t you remember the attempt to kidnap me?”

Now Mandy paled. “Oh, I’m sorry, Maren I didn’t think. How stupid I am. Please, hit me over the head now.”

I tapped the back of her head. “Airhead, don’t do stuff like that to me. Now what are you two doing here?”

Denise spoke up, “We saw you going here with that thing.” She pointed at Sammi. “So we decided to follow and talk to you.”

“Denise, it is not a thing. That is my pet, a squog. He is part dog and part squirrel.” Then I yelled, “Sammi come here.”

Sammi quickly bounced over towards us and jumped into my arms. The girls came closer and started petting and admiring Sammi. Mandy said, “He is adorable, Maren. Why didn’t you show him to us sooner?”

I shrugged, “It never came up. I just forgot to show him to you.”

Denise looked up from petting Sammi, “So how is our first prize winner. Why didn’t you tell us that Miss Landers is your Mom?”

I looked down, “Sorry girls. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I don’t want everyone to know. I thought that you might slip up, so I kept quiet.”

Mandy hugged me, “Hey, we forgive you. Just invite us to your home once, ok? Now, how do you feel?”

“What do you think? My muscles hurt all over, and I’m still tired. It’s a good thing that we have the holidays coming.”

As the girls laughed, I laughed with them. Sammi felt the mood and jumped happily around us. We made some plans for later that week and said our goodbyes before heading to our respective homes.

Back home Shane was still there. Mom disappeared into the kitchen to fix some food, which I found suspicious. Shane asked me to sit with him, which made me feel even more on edge.

“What is going on, Shane? Why are you two being so secretive?”

Shane hesitated before saying, “I want to ask your Mom to marry me. How do you feel about that, Maren?”

I turned away because I just didn’t know what to say. I should have seen this coming. Should I object? Would they take that in consideration? I want Mom to be happy, and if she is happy with Shane, should I stand in her way?

Mom came back with some cookies, “Maren?”

I hugged her tightly, “I want you to be happy, Mom. But I don’t know what to think of it yet.”

Shane spoke up, “We’re not in any hurry, Maren. Would you think about it, please? We don’t want to force anything on you.”

I hugged Shane next, “Thanks Shane, I will think about it, but don’t expect me to call you Daddy.”

“Hey, I never said that you have to do that.” We all laughed, and made it a nice evening.

Days later we did have a wonderful time at the Christmas celebration with the fire brigade. Of course some were on duty and got called away to a fire. I did enjoy myself with some of the other children of the firemen. The day was over before I knew it.

We got home in a good mood and I could tell Mom was tempted to ask Shane in for a nightcap. I noticed her hesitation and knew what she wanted. I leaned over to Mom and whispered, “Just ask him in, I’ll be in my room.”

The next day I was put to work: Mom opened the dance school between Christmas and New Years. Some people wanted a few extra lessons before the dancing at a New Years Eve ball. I was busy showing an elderly couple the right steps, while Mom was supposed to be doing the books. Well, I saw Shane sneaking in there earlier. Since the office shades were closed I suspected that they were doing something else entirely.

Suddenly the entrance door opened. I didn’t pay attention, since it was Mom’s job to handle new potential customers. I had to look up though, when two little girls ran up to me yelling, “There she is. She is our angel,” interrupting my teaching. Mom came out of her office with Shane in tow to see what the ruckus was all about. The sight of Melissa and Carrie stunned me. Their parents were in the doorway and Mom went over to them. I apologized to the couple but they said that they understood and bent down to hug both girls.

We all went over to the parents and heard their Mom, Penny say, “Hi I’m Penny Berkhof. This is my husband Ron and those are our two girls Melissa and Carrie. But you already know that, of course.”

She saw us coming towards them and told me, “The girls recognized your picture in the papers. We want to thank you in person for saving our daughters.”

I was elated, but uncomfortable as well. Now I really knew it was a mistake to win the contest. Now everyone, including Dad, could find out where we lived. Besides, though I was proud to have saved the kids, it was just something that I’d had to do. There was nothing heroic about that. Shane noticed my apprehension and asked us all to come into the office. As we all found a seat, the girls still clinging to me, Ron looked at Shane.

“Don’t I know you? Aren’t you the fire chief? Did you know about Miss Johns’ feat?”

Shane appeased Ron, “Yes I did find out a little later. But at the insistence of Maren and her Mom, I kept quiet.”

Penny turned to me, “Why would you not take credit for rescuing our girls.”

I smiled wryly, “My Mom had a bad divorce, and my Dad is still after us, so I wanted to keep us out of the papers.”

Ron put in, “Well, you didn’t do a very good job then, what with winning the dance contest and all.”

“I didn’t expect to win, especially after I saw the competition. Some of them were professionals.”

Mom put in her two cents, “I knew that Maren had a chance of winning, and that she would end up in the papers. But it would be good publicity for my dance school. I really do need that, and I think that we have been afraid long enough now.”

Penny sighed, “I do understand now, but I really want to thank you for saving Melissa & Carrie. So how did you do that?”

Melissa said, “She’s an angel, Mommy.”

I was a bit hesitant to speak up, how would they react to me being a MORFS survivor and hybrid? I guess there is nothing to do but find out “Um, I don’t know how to say it, so I’ll just say it. I’m a hybrid, and have a power after I Morfed. I can change energy into other energy. That is how I can blow out a fire. Sorry, Melissa I’m not an Angel, just a girl who can help people.”

Melissa showed a little disappointment on her face. Then she smiled brightly, “You’re still my angel.”

Ron spoke up, “So you are her mother, Miss Landers?”

Mom answered him, “Yes, I went back to my maiden name, but Maren still uses her Father’s name. It is more convenient for us at Maren’s school. I teach PE there.”

Both Ron and Penny had lots of other questions, but got interrupted by the elder couple. I’d forgotten all about them. They said that they would stop by later and that they understood the circumstances. Mom offered them an extra free lesson, but they declined. Ron and Penny apologized both to the couple and us.

Later when the couple already had left, Ron and Penny invited us to a dinner with all of them. We couldn’t find a reasonable excuse to decline, so we all went out to dinner. We talked for a long time during dinner and afterward. The Berkhofs still wanted to express their gratitude to me, but we came to an agreement that I could think about it. They did invite us over for New Years, and they didn’t want to hear a ‘no’ for an answer.

We came home late that night and I felt a little tipsy because of the wine that I’d drunk. I wanted to go straight to bed, but couldn’t sleep yet, so I booted up my computer instead. I checked my email and there was a video-message from someone new. The sender’s address said Happygirl@sister.com. Now who was this email from? I opened the message and the video window opened.

At first there was only a newspaper visible. I was startled, for it was a report of me winning the dance-contest.

Then the paper was lowered and Isabel’s smiling face appeared.

“Hi Sis,” she said, still smiling.

“Don’t worry about the message, I’m recording this at the library so Dad won’t see any of it.”

She pointed to the paper, “congrats on your first place at the dance contest. I knew you could do it.”

She put the paper down, “I managed to keep that page of the paper from Dad, so he won’t see the article here.”

Then she leaned into the camera, “You should be more careful, though, Dad might see the article somewhere else.”

Isabel sat upright again and her face showed a sad expression, “I miss Mom a lot and just wish you hadn’t caught MORFS. Then we could all be together.” Her expression cleared again and she smiled, “Anyway, I’m still doing okay, and please give my regards to Mom, and to both of you, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New-year.”

She sent me a handkiss, “Love from Isa.”

I saved the message for Mom and after a little more surfing went to bed again. I slept quite a while and when I finally woke up, it was because Sammi was making a ruckus. He wanted to get out of his cage. Yawning I got up, and after putting on some sweats, took Sammi for a walk. He was enjoying himself immensely, while I still wanted to go back to sleep. Finally he allowed me to go back home; Sammi can be such a bother sometimes, but I love him. Back home I didn’t find Mom. Did she go out?

Then I saw a note on the table, ‘Maren. I already went to the dance school. You can just laze around today. Have fun, Mom’.

Okay, then I’ll do just that. I took my time showering and picking out an outfit for the day. I was a bit doubtful if I should go for comfortable or look good. Then I realized: Look good? I’m getting more girly every time.

I went over to Snake’s house. I arrived there just as he came out the door. “Hi Maren, what’s up?”

“Nothing much, just wanted to see if you wanted to do something?”

Snake looked a bit uncomfortable, “We can ask Leo and Batman to go shopping later and maybe a movie? But not right now. I’ve got to go to the hospital first.”

I gave him a worried look, “There is nothing wrong with you, is there?”

He smiled back, “Nope, I have to donate something. Why don’t you come with me? It won’t take long.”

I accepted, so we went to the hospital. There he gave his name and was directed to a special ward for research. Now I was really curious. It turned out that Snake regularly got milked for his snake venom. He had to bite with his usually retracted fangs into a latex covered cup. His venom was vital for research into cancer cures and in some cases, to produce anti-venin for people that got bitten by a snake. This was the first time I’d seen Snake show and use his fangs. It didn’t take too long, but it reminded me again that he was quite the exotic hybrid. Later we went shopping with Leo and Batman. I wanted a new dress to wear for the New Years dinner. I couldn’t find one that I liked though. Having the boys there didn’t help either.

The next day I called Mandy. She and Denise came right over and we set out for some shopping. We looked at several choices before I found the perfect little black dress to wear on such an occasion. I knew Mom would raise an eyebrow, but I didn’t care. I wanted to look good at that dinner, and with this dress I would look sensational. Well, I did get the result I wanted. The day of the dinner, I put on my makeup myself, and though Mom didn’t quite agree, I thought it was very sexy. I think Shane even admired the young woman I had become that evening.

School was a bit boring after the holidays, but the first day in the New Year was still good. That was of course because Cynthia had to apologize to me in front of everyone. I was at the school quite early, but not early enough. Cynthia was already waiting. She scowled at me and pulled me to a secluded spot.

“I’ll apologize as we agreed, but just that, and no more,” Cynthia spat it in a low voice to me.

“Fine, why are you so hostile? What did I ever do to you?”

“I just don’t like your kind.” Cynthia screwed her eyes at me.

“Why, Cynthia? Isn’t your father a hybrid? I thought he looked like a hidden hybrid.”

Cynthia brought her face close to mine and whispered, “If you ever say anything like that to anyone, I’ll kill you.”

I wasn’t afraid and kept calm. With a cool tone I said, “Fine, if that is how you want it. But if you so much as breathe a word about who my Mom is, I’ll shout your secret to the whole world. Don’t think I’m afraid of you. I can take care of myself very well.”

That ended our little meeting and we both went separately to the courtyard, where Cynthia publicly apologized to me in front of a whole lot of fellow students. Some snickered, while the cheerleader gang scowled at it. All in all, it was pretty gratifying for me, but I wasn’t happy with about it. Though I liked having put Cynthia in her place, I should have made a friend out of her. But I guess it just was not to be so.

Later that week Mom had us playing soccer on a drenched field, getting us dirty but also making our wet uniforms very revealing. The boys were busy with baseball practice, but I think most of them had more eyes for us than for their own game.

Suddenly a baseball landed near me. Mandy was close and started to come closer to pick it up. I beat her to it and picked it up before she could. The boys were yelling to throw it back if I could. One of them already started walking towards us. I got a little peeved that they always thought that girls can’t throw. Well, mostly we can’t, so why should I blame them. Well, I’ll show them anyway.

I started to throw the ball in the awkward way that girls do, I think it’s because else I would hit my breast with the throw. Then I drew in some heat and other ambient energy and released it as kinetic energy to the ball as I threw it. It flew in a slightly curved line with quite some speed to the waiting pitcher. He didn’t expect it and just barely caught it, and even then was surprised at the impact of ball. The whole playing field of baseball players just stood there with open mouths, looking alternately at the pitcher and then at me. I didn’t think anything more about it and just wanted to get back to playing soccer, but coach Mosely came over to Mom and asked her some questions. They looked towards me repeatedly and though I tried not to pay special discussion, I did notice it.

Mom pulled me aside, “Coach Mosely wants to know how you can throw that hard, and if you can do it again?”

A little apprehensively I looked back at them, “I can do it again, but I cheat. I’m using my energy power to throw it that hard. So I could never use it in a game.”

Coach Mosely interrupted, “That is okay, Maren. I just want to ask you to train with us sometimes for batting practice. I think you can be a valuable addition in that regard.”

Now I was speechless. They want me to pitch batting practice? I stammered, “Sure, Coach. If you really think I can throw well enough.”

That’s how I got recruited for even more sports in my already crowded agenda. The other girls looked up to me, a girl that threw hard enough against boys? Mandy immediately asked me later in the showers to put in a good word for her with the players. She hoped to get some good dates out of it. I told her that I might give it some thought. What’s with her and dates? Though I’m well on my way to becoming an all out girl, ready for dating some boy, I still don’t really want to date someone of my previous gender.

The rest of the week was quiet and uneventful. The week after that I had house chores to do, I was all alone at home. Well, not totally alone, Sammi was still there. But Mom was on a trip for school to get some replacement equipment. I was elated that Mom finally found me mature enough to stay home by myself without supervision. Well, I think she asked Shane to come over a few times, but I hadn’t seen him yet, so maybe he would be discrete and not check too closely on me.

On Friday evening I opened my mail and saw a priority message waiting. It was already a several days old. It was from Happygirl@sister.com so I opened it in a hesitant mood. What does my sister want now?

It was another Video message, but I recognized her room this time. Why does she send it from home? Is Dad standing there just out of sight? Is this a trap to get me? The picture showed only Isabel, but I got a fright seeing her. She looked pale, and just awful.

Hurriedly she began to talk, “Please, help me. I think I just caught MORFS. Dad is freaking out and says things like making an example of me.” She looked away for a moment, “Oh no, he’s back. I’ve got to go, Help me, please!”

Stunned, I sat before the computer screen, afraid for both Isabel and myself. What should I do? Rush over to get her away from my screwed up Dad? Or is this an elaborate hoax and an attempt to catch me and maybe Mom? I really was hesitant. Why did Mom pick such a bad time to not be home? I decided to call Snake. His Mom answered and transferred me to him.

“Hi Snake, can you come over for a moment? I need your advice urgently.”

Snake acknowledged, and since I had never before asked him like this, he knew that it was something really serious. He got to my place in record time and I showed him the video message. Snake shared my concerns that it might be a plot to get to me. However, he also saw that this could be real, as well. Isabel really looked sick in the video. He suggested calling Batman for a second opinion. Lance was elated to be called to my place, and soon all three of us were there. We talked it over and came to the conclusion that it should be checked out.

“Snake, Batman, I know I don’t have any right to ask this of you, but would you go with me to Birmingham Alabama? We can do it on the weekend, and be back before Mom gets home.”

Both boys said that they would have to clear it with their parents.

Batman huffed a little. “How are we going to pull that off? We can’t just say that we are going to rescue your sister. My Dad will say that it is a matter for the police.”

“How about saying that we are going to a science fair for school purposes?”

They left for home in a hurry and soon, first Snake and then Batman called to tell me that their cover story had been accepted and that both would accompany me to see if my sister really needed rescuing, and help me if necessary. Very early the next morning we gathered at my place to make plans. We would go in quietly and watch out for any signs of a trap. I would go into the house first, with Snake and Batman as reserve and backup. However, you know how it goes with the best laid plans though, something always comes along that completely screws it up.

After a long trip on the high speed train and other transportation we were close to where my Dad and sister now lived. I had looked up their residence on the internet phone directory. We also had another little problem. I didn’t know how long we would be gone, so I brought Sammi along for the trip. Fortunately Sammi was behaving very well. I think he understood that we were on serious business. As we exited the bus near the street, Batman suddenly exclaimed, “Hey, look at this. I think we don’t need to go to the house.”

I quickly turned to him and saw him looking at a flyer he had picked up. I went to him and started reading the flyer. It said, “Come see the freak on her first and final performance. She will be an example of what should be done with her kind.” Beneath it was written in fine print, that the spectacle would be held at 1:00 pm in Lane Park. We didn’t have much time anymore, as it was already 11.45 am.

I wanted to go straight there, but the boys held me back. Snake told me, “I know how much you want to get your sister away from your father, but we need a plan for her rescue.”

That did make sense, so while we started walking towards the park, we tried to come up with a new plan. We had lots of ideas, but basically, I would mingle with the crowd, hiding my tail as a belt under my coat and wearing my sunglasses. I would try to get as close to Isabel as I could, while Snake would stay out of sight with Sammi. He would be acting as our backup since he couldn’t hide his features as a hybrid very well. Batman would be on the other side of the crowd, keeping an eye on me.

I asked him, “Batman, you said you had some sonic powers. Can you make a sound that will make the people unconscious?”

Lance thought hard, “I’m not sure that I can do that. But I can make a sound that will make them disoriented, and a bit dizzy. What’s on your mind, Synergy?”

“When I go into action, I will give you a signal to start that sound. It will give me an edge reaching Isabel and getting her out without people trying to stop me. I can convert the sound waves around me into some other energy to protect me and Isabel.”

Snake made a few objections to the plan, because he didn’t like his low-key participation. He didn’t like it that I would put myself into danger. Batman shared some of his objections, especially where I was involved. However, I was adamant in taking the primary role in this rescue. Isabel was my sister, after all.

As we continued to the park my mind kept thinking what if things went horribly wrong. I really hope nothing goes wrong. I haven’t told Mom about any of this, and I will be in enough trouble already as is. I was having doubts about this whole operation as we got closer to the park. Already a crowd was forming ahead of us where the spectacle would take place.

I think my nervousness showed. Snake put his arm around me. “Synergy, it will be okay. Everything will work out as planned. Just have faith in your abilities.”

I leaned into him. “Thanks Snake, for trying to make me feel better. But there are so many things that can go wrong. I don’t know. I’ve just got this creepy feeling inside.”

I disguised myself and proceeded alone further into the crowd, while Batman walked on towards the front and to my left side. I couldn’t see Snake anymore, but I knew he was there, giving me moral support and ready to jump in if I needed help. As I came closer to a stage that had been set up in the park, I saw my Dad standing there waiting to start the spectacle. There was something like a pile of brown and white, with red and blue clothes or fabric, with lots of golden threads on top of it lying next to him. As I came closer, the pile moved and suddenly I realized that it wasn’t fabric or something, but a living being. In fact, the golden threads were lots of blond hair, and I was now fairly certain that it was my sister Isabel lying in a heap on the floor of the stage.

I almost screamed out, “Isabel” right there and then, but I kept my mouth shut and just kept on picking my way closer to the stage. My hover board, which I also carried with me, was now a bit of a hindrance. It was bulky and kept getting in the way. I might have a need for it later though, to let me rise above the crowd and make a quick getaway if I needed it. Just as I came close enough to see clearly that it really was Isabel up on the stage, our Dad grabbed her long blond hair and pulled her up to her feet. Isabel yelped from the pain in her scalp and quickly stood up in her full height. I was stunned for a moment to see what MORFS had changed her into. She was now an equine hybrid. Her head was that of a pony, or horse except the muzzle was shorter. Her ears were still on the side, but long, and pointed upwards. She had a big long mane of golden blond hair extending as a mane on her back. As for her body, she had a white and brown coat of short fur, which would keep her warm. Maybe that is why she wore only a short top and even shorter red skirt. She was barefoot, and had a sort of hoof instead of toes. On her hands, she had only three fingers and a thumb now. The most striking feature was her bushy long golden blonde horse tail.

As I stood there gaping at Isabel, she looked around to the crowd with a very frightened look on her facial features. Then her gaze locked on me and she gave a recognizing little smile. I quickly brought my finger to my mouth cautioning her to keep quiet.

Fortunately, Dad was far too busy to see it, as he grabbed a bullhorn to shout to the gathered crowd. “Thank you for coming here today. I know you all despise those freaks that show up everywhere nowadays. I’m especially cursed, as both my children went down with this affliction.”

 Dad paused for a moment to let his words sink into the crowd before he continued, “Unfortunately my firstborn was abducted by my deluded and estranged ex-wife, so I can’t get to him anymore. I do however, have my daughter here, and she will make a good example of what should be done with her kind.” He pushed Isabel to the front and let everyone take a good look at her. I looked around me at that time and saw several of my Dad’s acquaintances, some other pures that I recognized, and even some police officers. Why didn’t they interfere or stop this horrid exhibition? I looked at one of them and saw the hatred on his face towards my sister. He is a Pure. Are all of his colleagues here pures?

That put a kink into my plans. Maybe I could legally be arrested for disturbing this show from hell. Well, I wouldn’t have to worry about going to court. They would never let me go that far.

Dad continued his tirade in the mean time. “As you can see, my daughter turned into a real abomination. It would be my duty to put an end to her misery and slay her. But we can do better than that. No one has to lay a hand on her to kill her. She is sensitive to our thoughts. We can just think her to death.” I was shocked to hear my Dad rant like that, and even more shocked to hear that Isabel had a power. She’s an empath?

Dad continued, “I want you to think how much and how you want to kill her. That should do it.”

Now I had to hurry and send some nice thoughts to Isabel. She was already straining under the combined evil thoughts that she picked up from the crowd. I hoped that Snake and Batman had heard my Dad’s words. If they could send some nice thoughts to Isabel as well, it would help. I concentrated, and thought back to when she was a nice little girl. I’d loved her back then, and remembered how well we got along.

It was quiet for a while till my Dad spoke up again. “Sorry people, this just isn’t working well enough. Either our thoughts are not strong enough, or she isn’t as perceptive as I initially thought. We’ll try this the old fashioned way then.”

I looked up from my concentration and saw Isabel on all fours, shaking off the effects of the emotional bombardment. However, she wasn’t fast enough,, as I saw that our Dad had picked up a big axe and held it above his head ready to swing it down to cut off her head. I wasn’t about to let that happen, and as he swung it down, I reached out for the axe with my hand and gathered enough energy into me to pull the axe towards me with an electromagnetic force. This worked quite well, and the axe got pulled to the front so much that it missed Isabel, sinking onto the stage at least 2 feet in front of her. Even more, it caused Dad to lose his balance and he almost fell from the stage. The axe was buried so deep into the wood of the stage it would take some time to get it out again.

Some of the people around me suspected that I had something to do with what happened on stage and turned towards me with hostile stares. I pointed one hand straight up and shot a flash of light up, signaling Batman to start his Sonics. He was paying attention, thank God. Soon, everyone near me was squinting or closing their eyes in an attempt not to hear or be affected by that sound. I felt it too, but soaked the sound waves up to power myself up again. I stepped onto my hover board and rose from the ground towards the stage. Even there, they were too busy trying to block the sound to notice my approach. With a short hop, I jumped from my board onto the stage and knelt next to Isabel. Being close to her, I absorbed the sonic sound waves around her and she looked up to me.

Maren? You came for me?” Isabel could only speak softly with a coarse voice. The emotional bombardment and the sound attack must have taken its toll on her.

“Sure, Isabel, I would never leave you alone.” Then I couldn’t feel the sound waves from Batman anymore. I looked up and saw that he was discovered. A few men from the crowd were holding him and keeping his mouth shut. As I had feared, the people were not hindered by the sound attack anymore and went back to noticing their surroundings.

An angry voice behind me growled, “And who in damnation are you, freak girl? What do you want from my daughter? This is family business, and you’re not invited.”

I turned to face my Dad, “So this is a family thing?”

He nodded and made a motion that I should get away. Well, I wouldn’t like anything more than to get away, but not without my sister. I took my coat and sunglasses off and showed my true hybrid self to him.

He took one look and said, “I was right, you truly are a freak. If this wasn’t a family thing I would gladly finish you off as well.”

I flashed an evil smile, “So what is stopping you? Since this is a family gathering, I’m right where I belong. Do you really think I would abandon my sister, Dad?”

Now he really was totally flabbergasted. He tried to speak but stammered, “You… but… how?”

“Gee, is that all you can say, Daddy?” I sneered with as much contempt as I could.

“So you were Brent?” He finally managed to utter.

I posed for him, “Yeah, your little sick boy changed into a healthy beautiful girl. Aren’t I a nice sight?”

“NO! You can’t be my child. Neither of you can be my child,” exclaimed my Dad. “My blood runs pure. Not diseased like you freaks.”

“Pure?” I asked incredulously, “You mean pure like the Cystic Fibrosis that you passed on to me?”

He sputtered, “That was your mother…”

I interrupted, “It takes two, Dad! I got that genetic flaw from both of you. But you know what? I’m glad that I caught MORFS., because it cleaned the disease out of my body. My children will be healthy and can look forward to a future. As I do now! I never had something to look forward to when I was still your little boy.”

 Dad really was speechless now. Someone in the crowd however, wasn’t. “I’ll show you, you freak. You may have magnetized that axe to fly towards you, but bullets are not made from a magnetic metal.”

I turned around and saw a policeman pointing his gun at me. I felt a cold sliver run across my back. Is he really going to shoot me? Far behind the crowd I heard a voice cry out, “Noo, don’t hurt her. Watch out, Synergy.”

That would be Snake, trying to rescue me. Well, I knew he wouldn’t get here in time.

Before anyone could say or do anything more, the policeman fired four rounds in quick succession at me. I did the only thing I could do. I put my hand in front of me, like that would shield me and tried my best to absorb the kinetic energy from the bullets.

To my surprise, it worked like a charm. The bullets lost momentum within a few centimeters in front of me and came to a dead stop just as they touched my arm. I felt energized again and needed to release it soon. From the corner of my eye, I saw a motion and turned my head slightly. My dad came up to me with a murderous glare in his eyes. He was going to hit me with his bare fist. I could have absorbed it, but I still had to release the energy from the bullets, so I just gave him a jolt of electricity and he went down like he’d been hit with a taser.

Now I really had the attention of the whole crowd. They must have been thinking This girl manages to stop bullets and incapacitate someone? I saw fear in their some people’s eyes. I didn’t like that very much, but maybe now they would treat MORF victims better. Then again, maybe they would only hate them more.

As I pondered what to do now, a few men I had not seen before came to the front of the stage, and several police men approached the crowd from all sides. The men in front flashed some badges and said, “This is the FBI! This meeting is unlawful, and you will disperse now. As for any law enforcement officer present, you will stay put and surrender your sidearms.”

I was a bit flustered. The FBI is here to save us? How did they find out, and why do they care about this?  Well, I wasn’t going to protest. I hoped they would throw my Dad and the cop who’d shot at me in a jail and throw away the key. I knelt down at Isabel. “How are you feeling, little sister?”

She looked up at me, “Better now. You’re a sight for sore eyes, Sis. I hoped you would be here in time, but I was beginning to doubt that you would make it. Thank you so much.” She started to cry, and I let her lean into me.

The aftermath was a bit anti-climactic. The policemen there that sympathized with the pures were arrested and some of the others as well, including my Dad, who stared at Isabel and me with unfettered hatred. He was still twitching and limping from the jolt that I had given him.

One of the FBI men came to us and said, “Hi there. You must be Maren Zoë Johns and Isabel Johns.”

Isabel looked at me, “You have a middle name now?”

I smiled, “Yeah, Mom always wanted us to have two names. She gave me one of her grandmother’s names as well.”

The man cleared his throat, “Ahem, as I was saying.”

I interrupted, “Yes, Mr. We are the sisters Johns.”

“Ok Miss Johns. Now I would like for you to be debriefed later. You can have that done at your MORFS center with your case officer.” He looked at an eCom, “A certain Gavin Benson?”

I just nodded. He continued, “All right then, you and your friends will be debriefed in Savannah. But I would like to take your sister Isabel with us for a post-MORFS examination and debriefing. Don’t worry, she’ll be back with you and your Mom tomorrow afternoon, or we will contact you if there is a delay.”

I just nodded again. Then I turned to Isabel, “Are you okay with this Sis?” She nodded an agreement.

The man added, “Also, I will be in contact with your case officer for a more private conversation with you, Miss Maren Johns. I cannot go into details now, but you will understand later.”

After that they put Isabel in a car and went on their way. I watched after her till they moved out of sight past a curve. Then I got on my hover board and went over to Snake and Batman. Batman had been released unharmed by the pure sympathizers when the police came close to them.

Snake and Batman were waiting at a hill top and started coming towards me as they saw me coming. Sammi was even pulling on the leash to get to me faster. We were almost alone in the park now as the police, the crowd and the FBI men had left. Suddenly Sammi stopped and began hissing. Immediately I was on my guard. I recognized that sound, he had made it before. It was the same as when I’d been attacked at the park at home.

As I looked around me, several men armed with strange guns came forward from between the trees. Snake and Batman were very surprised and froze, not knowing what to do. I had a little warning, so I shot into action. It was a good thing I did, too, because the man closest to me fired his weird looking weapon at me. I managed to dodge the glob of goop coming at me, though it caused me to fall from my hover board. I did fire a jolt of electricity into the driving thruster of my board causing it to jump ahead and crash into the stomach of that attacker. I managed a roll and stood up again, ready to defend myself against these attackers.

Snake and Batman prepared themselves as well. Batman opened his mouth and screamed, sending a sonic wave toward the group of the men. They put their hands on their ears, and cowered in pain. Another man, who was outside the sonic wave influence, pointed a gun at Batman and squeezed the trigger. A particle beam shot towards Batman, followed by an arc of electricity. Batman screamed and went down lying still after twitching for a few seconds.

Snake saw it all to his dismay and suddenly spat a stream of fluid at that man. I didn’t know Snake could do that. Is that poison? The man was protected, as all the attackers were wearing goggles and a high-tech black battle suit. I guess some skin was exposed, as he started screaming and then began rolling on the ground in agony.

Meanwhile, I gathered light and sound inside me to power myself. I shot an arc of lightning towards a man, but it veered off course into a tree. Silently I cursed inside myself. Why did it work in a straight line for them?

Another man shot a beam at Snake, but Sammi was furious with all the fighting going on and pulled on his leash. This saved Snake from getting shot as Sammi pulled him out of the way of the shot. The shot promptly hit me though. I felt the maser and the electricity. Now I got it, they used a maser beam on a specific frequency to make a conduit for the electricity. Now I had that frequency as well. It was time to try it myself. With one finger I shot a maser at the man, and a fraction later, shot the electricity from the other fingers. He went down like a log.

Woohoo, that went well. However, I had lost sight of the rest of the men. Another man took aim and shot Snake with a maser-taser.

Snake went down to his knees, but still held on to Sammi’s leash of and got back up to move on towards the man that had shot him. Snake must be very resilient. The man saw Snake still coming and took a normal gun out of a holster on his hip. Snake was furious but didn’t back down, so the man shot him in the gut. Snake fell down from the pain while I ran towards him. Snake was still moving, but Sammi got loose. He was raging mad that his master and friends had been attacked and shot. He jumped towards the man that had shot Snake. The man saw the animal with fierce blickering teeth coming and panicked. He fired three rounds in quick succession at Sammi, and they literally shredded my poor Sammi.

I was mortified, and screamed out in anguish, “Sammi, Nooooo.” I wanted to go to him, but the men were still charging at me. I charged at the man that killed my poor Squog, and though he fired his gun at me in panic, I just absorbed the kinetic energy of the bullets, making them harmless. I reached him in a heartbeat and put my hand on his chest, drawing out all his bio-energy and releasing it back into him in the form of microwaves. His body quickly lost color and within seconds he lay dead at my feet, because I had cooked his heart with the microwaves. Snarling in my rage I turned to the other men, but it was too late. Another glob of goop landed on me encasing me in a sort of sticky netting. Before I could do anything to free myself, something hard hit the back of my head and I was out like a light.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

FBI agents (or posing as them) with Isabel

The Federal law officers, who actually weren’t really FBI, but operated under that name for the moment, drove Isabel to their destination and had their radio tuned into the local police channel. They were already five minutes underway, when dispatch called, “All cars, we have several reports of shots fired in Lane Park.”

The driver said, “Didn’t we just come from there?”

Isabel heard it all and spoke frantically, “Is my sister all right? Is she being attacked again?”

The men said that they didn’t know but were going to find out. They made a quick U-turn and sped back towards the Park. On the way, several other police cars joined them. The cars sped across the grass to the area of the stage. As nothing was seen there, they continued across the grass towards the other side and just below a hill saw several bodies lying on the ground. A few were moving, but most were not, lying there in an eerie quiet post-battlefield situation. Isabel was shocked into silence by the gruesome sight. She looked frantically for her sister, but couldn’t find her. The FBI men got out of the car and told Isabel to stay inside the car. Isabel wanted to look for her sister, but stayed in the car anyway. It wasn’t like she had a choice, the child’s lock on the back doors had been engaged.

The ‘FBI’ men and some police officers fanned out to search the field. Meanwhile the others made sure the place was sealed off to spectators and called for rescue services. First they went over to the civilian casualties. They were easy to spot, as the attackers were clothed in black battle suits. Snake was still moving slightly as an ‘FBI’ man and a regular police man approached.

He looked up at them in pain, “I think I need an ambulance. My friend Lance there needs one too. My other friend Maren Johns is the one they were after. They took her away.” He paused for a moment, wincing from the pain in his abdomen. “Can we put the remains of my friend’s pet into a body-bag as well? I want to give him a decent burial, else there will be hell to pay when Maren gets back.”

Lance Thorsson got checked out by a few other men. He was still unconscious and would have to be put under surveillance in the hospital for nerve damage. Next the attackers were checked. One of them was twitching and apparently alive. The police men approached him cautiously, as they feared that he would try to attack them. However, as they got closer, the man managed to control his muscles enough to press a button on his wrist communicator. With a muffled explosion, his chest erupted in a geyser of blood and small pieces of organs. Apparently the attackers had an explosive device buried in their bodies. Another attacker lay quiet in a distorted pose. He had claw marks all over his exposed skin from his own fingernails. It looked as if he had died from poison. The third attacker had met with an even more gruesome fate. His skin was ash gray and the look on his face showed that he had died a sudden and very ghastly death.

Soon the boys were taken to a hospital and put into an ICU ward while the battle scene was processed by forensic scientists to ascertain what precisely had occurred. The attackers didn’t have any identifying marks and didn’t show up on their fingerprint database, so they were just put into body-bags and shipped to the morgue as John Doe’s. Though they were handled carefully, with of the potential of explosives inside them. The ‘FBI’ men told Isabel that her sister Maren had been kidnapped, and that there was no trace of her anywhere. Isabel was distraught by the news and didn’t even notice that she was taken to a MORFS center for her post-MORFS examination.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I woke up with a splitting headache, groaned, and tried to touch my head. But I couldn’t move my hands. I’m tied to a bed or something. Better make that something. This is too hard to be a bed. I tried to open my eyes, but something was holding them shut. Why did someone tape my eyes shut? What is going on here? Then I remembered, I was attacked by some people in battle suits. They must have kidnapped me. Then I remembered something else. One of them killed my Sammi. I felt a lot of sorrow and was more than a little stricken with grief.

A high pitched shrill voice, that made me sick just hearing it said, “Welcome back to the world of the living. Don’t try to get up or do something we don’t like you to do. You’ve been secured to the testing bench. You should be comfortable enough for the time being. Now I know you’ve got lots of questions and I’m only going to indulge you this once by answering a few of them.”

“Why am I here and what are you going to do to me?” I tried to make my voice sound authoritative, as if I was in charge, or should be. My voice however, sounded more like a frightened girl.

“You are going to be our new emergency generator and light source. As to what we plan to do to you? Well, we already made sure that you can do nothing more than be compliant with what we want.”

Now my mind was working overtime. They intend me to be their slave? What did they do to me? What are they going to do to me? I noticed something, I didn’t feel any clothes or fabric. Am I naked now? I tried to feel my body with my tail, but it too was tied down. I couldn’t even wiggle it a little.

The unpleasant woman’s voice, yes I already recognized it as a woman’s, chuckled and said, “Yes, your tail is secured as well. Maybe I should cut it off, you won’t need it here, and we took off all your clothes for a better absorption of sunlight.”

Then apparently to another she said, “Open the conduits.” I felt concentrated sunlight hit my body and wanted to deny my body from absorbing it. However, there was some pressure in the back of my head and I needed, even wanted desperately, to absorb the light and warmth. Then I proceeded to convert it into electric energy and fed it through my hands and feet, which were connected via leads to a power station and power grid. I didn’t want to do that, but I didn’t have a choice. I was compelled to do it. The woman even applauded, saying that I was very efficient converting the energy at 95% efficiency.

I tried to convert some light into heat, but failed miserably again. Something in my head applied some pressure and I just couldn’t convert any energy to heat, only to electric power. I think someone noticed my attempts, because suddenly a manly voice whispered next to me, “Just forget to try making something other than electric energy. The controller we inserted into your head will not let you do it.”

I winced at the sudden voice that I heard, and instinctively tried to shoot more power out of me to stun him. Again I failed to do that. The controller apparently didn’t allow me to overload the system too. How about letting it drain me. I would rather be dead then continue like this. I slowly fed more and more power into the system. It let me do it, till I got rather low on internal power and fed more power than I absorbed from the sunlight. I was already rooting for it to let me die, when the controller just shut me down a lot. I couldn’t feed more power into the system than a trickle compared to what I had been giving.

The voice was there again, “No use trying to overload or drain your self. You’re going to be a nice little drone, and our living backup generator.” I was becoming very upset. I didn’t want to end up as a mindless Borg-drone. Next, I tried to suck up all the heat in the room to make it so cold that I would get sick, but again the controller made it impossible for me to do it. How long have I been here already? How long have I been busy trying to do things?.

They had put an intravenous feeding tube into my arm and another tube leaked some water into my mouth for me to drink. I didn’t get enough water to drown in though. As this went on I lost all sense of time. I might have been here only a few hours, but I could also have been here for weeks, maybe even months. Several times I just let go of my waste, and it got automatically taken away somehow. I didn’t even know how many times I had done that.

After some time I got another idea. I tried to store my energy like a battery. I had done it before for a short time, maybe I could do it for a longer period. I built it up very slowly and it worked at first. I felt that I had more energy available that I could use. But as soon as I had quite a measurable quantity, the controller intervened and drained the stored energy out of me. Dejected, I tried to cry, nothing seemed to work. Now my taped eyes intervened. I couldn’t even cry well enough. I got more and more depressed. They, who ever they were, were well on their way to breaking me, and make me their compliant little slave drone.

I continued to function as they expected and wanted. Well, I didn’t have any choice, did I? The controller literally controlled all my output, and what type of power I put out. They even programmed it and me with it to produce a little heat when they felt chilly. I was happy to comply with the commands of the controller. I was on my way to be a good little slave drone.

At first I got a reprieve from producing power at nights, but then they told me that I needed to produce even at nights. They told me to tap into the gravitational energy. I can tap into gravity? I tried to feel it, much encouraged to do so by the controller. I could feel it, and soon found that I could absorb the energy. It made my body much lighter as the gravity lessened where I absorbed it. Soon I could produce energy at all times. It confused my sense of time even more. Sometimes I thought it should already be daylight, but no sunlight was admitted to my body. I felt less and less like a human being. I felt dirty as well, laying there all naked. My nose told me that I in fact really was dirty, as well. I think someone noticed that as well and issued an order to have me cleaned. The first time someone gave me a sponge bath, but the second time the one doing the washing was lazy. He or she just opened a hydrant and viciously hosed me clean.

My mind felt numb now. I feared that I was losing my mind totally. I kept on hoping someone would come for me and rescue me. Though I didn’t have a clue about whom that someone might turn out to be. One thing still kept me going. I had a loving Mom, sister, and good friends. They wouldn’t give up, so neither should I. So I kept hanging on, defying them to break my will, still trying to defeat that blasted controller.

One day, I know it was daytime, as I just had been fed sunlight before, I was dirty enough again to receive a washing. This person was the gentle one, he gave me a sponge bath. Yes, I was certain that it was a male person. This time when I was clean and he had dried me somewhat, he didn’t stop rubbing me. In fact he continued rubbing me in certain places. I got scared now. I was still a virgin, and didn’t even know how to react to sexual stimuli. He was good, and an expert at it. Soon I found myself panting with pleasure, and between my legs I felt warm and moist. He was lying on top of me already, and I think he frantically tore at his clothes to get them out of the way.

As he was doing this, he didn’t make any sound. Then I heard a muffled explosion and I was covered with a sticky warm and wet liquid. His body lay heavily and motionless on top of me and I started screaming. I could only guess what had happened, but I think he got found out and someone killed him.

As I screamed the horror and anguish out of me, I received a few slaps on my cheeks. The shrill woman’s voice said to me, “Shut up, slave. He’s already dead. I don’t think anybody will try to rape you anymore. But just to be on the safe side, I think I’ll operate on you. I’ll remove your ovaries and womb. That way you’ll never have to worry about a period or getting pregnant, ever again. While I’m at it, I’ll remove that useless tail of yours as well.”

She gave some orders to a person outside the chamber I was held in and then came back into my chamber. “Oh, by the way, if you feel lonely, then rest assured that soon we will provide you with some company. My operatives are tracking someone very useful in Eastern Canada. He is an electrical Elemental, so much better for being a generator. You’ll just have to be a backup and a portable source for light, heat and electrical power.”

With that, she probably went away, as it became quiet again. Well, not for long. Some people came in and pulled the dead body from me and it fell to the floor with a sickening thud. Then I was rudely hosed down again and left to dry on my own. I couldn’t even speed the drying up by producing some heat. As I lay there on my own again, I became more and more upset. She is going to operate soon on me? And they will do the same to another person? I shuddered at the prospect. I knew I definitely had to find a way to get out of there. I couldn’t wait any longer for a rescuer that might or might not come. I had already tried so many things to defeat the controller. Nothing seemed to work before the controller noticed it and clamped down on my brain to control my converter power. I could feel the wires that they’d put inside my head. There wasn’t really a control chip or something inside my head. The wires were just embedded in the areas that were instrumental for me to control my power.

I was desperately searching my brain for a solution and felt more desperate each minute that went by. Nothing that I could think of would work, as I had already tried it. Then suddenly I had an epiphany. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?

I remembered something from a lesson from my physics teacher Mr. Brands. We had a lecture on the different kinds of energy that were involved in the world. He talked about electromagnetic fields, the weak force and the strong force. He told us about the distance the forces could work. The weak force only worked for a very short distance, something in the order of 10 to the power of minus 15, if I remember correctly. But that wasn’t important. The fact that this power was in the order of 10 to the power of 28 bigger than the electromagnetic force might be important. If I could tap into this force, then I might be able to change or destroy matter, and have so much power that I might overload the controller before it shut me off.

I searched out one of the wires inside my head and concentrated on it to see if I could find the forces between the molecules and the atoms of the wire. Soon I got something, and absorbed the power. My internal power spiked, and though I shed a lot of it in electricity, the controller went nuts. It tried to clamp down on me, but I had already destroyed the connection in that wire and the controller couldn’t get the correct signal trough to my brain. It wasn’t getting all the right signals back, as well. I did have a hard time concentrating because of the attempts of the controller to keep me under control, but I kept trying my best to destroy the other wires as well.

Seconds later I had a nasty headache and more power available than I had ever had before. I managed to annihilate all the wires they had put inside my head. Now I was ready for the next part of my revenge. I spiked the energy net and overloaded every electrical system in the base. As all the doors were electrically operated, they were locked shut. Only with a lot of difficulty could they be opened by hand, so in effect, everyone inside was now a prisoner.

Now that I finally was free of the controller, I kept on drawing energy. I drew in gravitational energy, sound, heat, light from the emergency lamps that hadn’t burned out after my overload, and everything else that I could think of. However, those were not my main sources of power anymore. I drew in the most power by destroying matter, turning it into energy and absorbing that. I think I literally became a black hole.

It seemed to last for hours on end, me drawing in all that energy, but my guess of time was already screwed up, so maybe it was just seconds. Though I had more power at my disposal than ever before, I still drew in more and more. It was so invigorating and pleasurable. A voice inside me said, More, more power. There is never enough.

Another voice inside me said, No. It is too much. Release your energy slowly.

Yet a third voice said, Release it all, now! I reveled in this wealth of energy and power, I was intoxicated with it. I wanted more of it. Then I thought, If I go too far, I really will become a black hole. I can swallow the state, the country maybe the whole Earth? What about Mom, Isabel, Snake, Batman and everyone else? What have I done? I can’t continue with this. I need to release it. As I floated in my holding and torture chamber, I still absorbed the gravitational energy fully. I felt the kinetic energy of bullets coming my way and absorbed it. The bullets just lost momentum and floated near my body, completely inert.

They are still here? They are still trying to keep me as their slave? I felt my burning hot rage rise again. I felt like a goddess, and a vengeful one at that. They had no idea of the power levels I had inside me now. Well, they and everyone else would find out. In one big blast I released all the energy I had inside me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elsewhere in the world

At a test site for the new space ship launch, a gravitational disruptor by the name of Jaron David prepared for a test launch. The objective was to start a new ship up with a linear motor, and then Jaron would use his power to counter the gravitational force. The ship would reach almost orbit before Jaron would stop his disruption of gravity and the ship would later make a scheduled landing at Edwards airbase. As the ship was exiting from the linear motor, Jaron disrupted the gravity to almost zero, but suddenly screamed in agony. He lost consciousness and the spaceship had to make an emergency landing at the airfield near the launch facility. Later Jaron said, as did several other gravitational disruptors, “I felt a big disturbance in the earth’s gravity field. It was like a big gravitational pulse had been fired.”

All over the world the seismic measuring equipment recorded a very large pulse that couldn’t be connected to any natural or unnatural earthquake effect. The scientists near the Yellowstone National Park were especially concerned. Their seismometers went crazy because of the pulse. Strangely enough after the pulse subsided the suspected reaction of the volcanic activity beneath the park didn’t happen. In fact the area seemed even more stable than before. They did notice that the origin of the pulse was close by. With the help of all the other measurements they traced the source to the rugged terrain somewhere along the border of Idaho and Montana, in the outskirts of the Bitterroot National park.

The Kerguelen isle volcano had been inactive for many years. The island is located in the middle of the Indian Ocean and almost opposite on the globe relative to the explosion in Idaho. It is somewhere between Madagascar and Antarctica. Suddenly and inexplicably, the volcano came back to life because of the gravitational pulse and erupted violently. There was practically no warning beforehand. The scientists living on the island, were housed not too near the erupting mountain, so they managed to escape the brunt of the eruption. However, two men were killed, and some others injured. The wildlife was off much worse. The wild cat population would take years to recover. Other animals made a quick getaway, but they also suffered losses. The years before installed Tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean gave out a warning, and with the help of several water elementals the effects were sufficiently countered so there wouldn’t be casualties on the shores. Several other volcanoes around that area also showed much increased activity, and some even had small eruptions. Strangely the volcanoes near the explosion and the origin of the gravitational pulse didn’t show any increased activity.

The inhabitants of the cities Darby, Salmon and several other small towns in Montana and Idaho witnessed a big explosion. It seemed like a small atom bomb had gone off, complete with mushroom cloud and all. Only the heat wave wasn’t very visible. There was a lot more dust though, as if it had been an underground explosion, or inside a mountain. Fortunately the explosion was far enough from any populated areas to cause little harm. A few campers in the mountains got hit with small rocks and dust. Fortunately nobody got hit by big rocks and no one got seriously hurt. Some animals in the mountains were not so lucky. The vultures wouldn’t go hungry for a long time.

Several planes and other vehicles in the vicinity shut down completely or had problems with their electronics. Luck was with them as nobody got killed or seriously wounded. Two planes managed with difficulty to make an emergency landing while others still made it to their destination, but had lots of problems getting there. One plane taking off from the Lemhi airfield in Salmon crashed right after take off. Luckily the pilot only suffered a fractured leg, although the plane blocked the runway. All the satellites above the US in the vicinity of the position where the explosion took place were knocked out of commission and had to be rebooted or considered a loss.

Every agency and military force in the US was put on high alert. Lots of people feared that there had been a terrorist attempt with a nuclear bomb. However, the explosion occurred in the middle of nowhere, and there seemed to be no radioactive radiation as of yet. No nuclear explosion could also explain the gravitational pulse, or the lack of radiation. Still, the pressure was on to go out there and inspect the blast site. But people were instructed to wait for 24 hours for the area to cool off and to let the dust in the atmosphere settle.


Chapter 9

I woke up with a headache feeling dirty, grimy and a bit queasy. There was a lot of dust in the air, and I was lying amid lots of rubble on bare bedrock. I coughed violently from all the dust in the air, but that only made it worse. I was still naked, but my eyes were free now. Cautiously I looked around me. I don’t know what time it was, but it was quite dark. So it was probably the middle of the night. I still could see rather well with my cat eyes and the light from the stars and the moon. However, the light was obscured by all the dust.

As I took in my surroundings, I was frightened by all the devastation around me. I caused all this destruction? I became very afraid now. What happened to all the people and animals in this neighborhood? As I saw more of the surroundings, I saw even more destruction. I must have been inside a mountain or something. There was a lot of rock, stone slabs and rubble all around me. I slowly realized I was standing in the middle of a big crater dug into the mountainous terrain.

I am this powerful? Maybe I should be restrained with this kind of power available? I became even more scared of what I could do. I was capable of destroying a lot of things if I wanted to. There was no one around here, and it was all so quiet. No birds or other animals were making any noise. It was eerily quiet, with only the sound of a light breeze and the sound of my voice to let me know I wasn’t deaf. Then I got another thought. What if I didn’t get them all? What if more of those bad people come here and find me?

As I scrambled out of the crater I saw more destruction. All around the blast site the trees were either blown down or had been hit by rocks. It took me at least ten minutes to get to a still standing tree line, and I was still naked. I guess it was still spring, because the temperature wasn’t that high and there was lots of snow covered with dust around. I drew in some gravitational energy to warm myself up. I didn’t need to produce any light, as my cat eyes let me see enough to make my way.

I made my way through the trees carefully, but with haste. I didn’t want to be caught here by more accomplices of that awful woman. I didn’t even know if she had been caught in the blast. I really hoped that she had. Well, I wasn’t going to wait and see. I walked for several hours, making my way towards the south. At least I hoped it was to the south. Well, any direction away from the mountain was good. I guessed by the kind of trees, the snow and the temperature, that I was somewhere up north in the US. Though in what State or even if I was still in the US, I didn’t know for sure.

Thank God for my power. I could warm myself up so I wouldn’t feel cold. Though now I was getting hungry and tired. I didn’t get food anymore from the feeding tube and I had been walking for a long time. My muscles weren’t used to it as well. I had been lying there for God knows how long. I needed a rest. From a small stream I drank a little cold water and nearby I found a soft spot of leaves, free of snow, were I could rest a little.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agents, Idaho

Two agents from the ASA were doing a routine check up in the city of Boise Idaho, when they got a call from their superior. Of course they had seen and felt the large explosion a little further upstate. Now they got the order to investigate officially. They immediately rented a helicopter for the trip just as they continued getting the latest data from the head office. One agent went by the nick name Hound Trace. Not because he was a dog hybrid or something, but because he was so relentless in tracking people. The other agent was called Slick Smooth by his colleagues, because he could talk money out of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Agent Hound Trace had a brother inside the service and he had heard from his brother about the fighting and kidnap of a high school girl in Alabama. The story was that she was a powerful converter who had been attacked by unknowns before. Hound’s brother had been one of the agents that ended the gathering in that park and debriefed the girl’s sister. All agents had been asked to look out for the missing girl, who could be anywhere in the world now.

Soon the agents were ready to go out to the blast site, but air traffic had been suspended for at least 24 hours. The authorities wanted to make sure that there was no radiation from the explosion and to let the dust settle.

Hound & Slick were given a special clearance to take off within the 24 hours, but they had to set down at Lemhi field in Salmon Idaho to refuel and wait out the rest of the suspension period. In the meantime some military planes were sent in to do a high altitude flyover and take pictures. The pictures didn’t show much detail on the ground though, due to the high concentration of dust particles in the air. The pictures that had been taken, were distributed among the agencies involved and Hound & Slick studied them as well as soon as they received them from their head office.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I woke up startled. What was that? Darn, I fell asleep. I listened intensely to the sounds around me. The birds were singing again and some other animals were bustling through the forest as well. I couldn’t hear anything out of the ordinary. Maybe it was nothing. Then I saw a rabbit hopping just a few feet away from me. Normally I would just watch such a nice animal and smile. Now though I was so very hungry. Sorry bunny, but I need you to survive. With tears forming in my eyes I aimed my right hand and shot a maser, closely followed by the taser like lightning at the bunny. It fell down immediately twitching for a few seconds.

Now I had some food. But I can’t eat it like that. I needed something to cut the skin away. I remembered another lesson, from our history teacher this time. He explained to us how ancient people first made rudimentary tools from stone. I looked around and found some hard rocks lying on the ground. I picked up one that already had a bit of a knife shape. The teacher said that in the past they hit one stone with another to make a sharp edge. Well, I can do better.

I powered up again and shot an infrared energetic laser beam through the stone. Soon I had my edge on the stone right where I wanted it. I was about to start skinning the rabbit, when I heard something again. This time I knew that it wasn’t imagination. This wasn’t a normal outdoor sound, it was mechanical. There it was again. I grabbed my stone knife and the rabbit and started to walk again. I just arrived at a clearing and wanted to cross when I stopped dead in my tracks as the sound became much clearer. It was a helicopter. Becoming scared again, I thought, There they are again! Why can’t they just leave me alone and let me go back to my family?

The helicopter flew over the clearing without anyone seeing me, I hoped. I was still hidden quite well between the trees. I waited for a few minutes, just in case they would circle back. Then the sound got weaker and finally disappeared. I crossed the clearing, keeping to the tree line as much as I possibly could. I walked on again for several hours till I found my first sign of civilization in the late afternoon. It was a campsite. It was already starting to get dark. It was a bit disappointing that there was nobody there, but also a bit comforting. I would be quite a sight running around naked in the woods.

Wait what was that there? I saw something flapping in the slight breeze through the trees. I came closer and saw that it was a blanket of some kind. Some camper must have left it here or forgot to take it after drying it. Good, I can use that. After a few tries I managed to free it from the tree, wrapping it around my body, where I held it tight with my tail. Thank God I still had my tail. I shuddered, thinking that that evil woman wanted to cut it off. Now only if I could find some shoes. My feet were hurting from walking barefoot on the rough terrain, though the snow made the surface softer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agents, Idaho

Hound & Slick were on their way to the blast site, while it was still light out. They reached the mountain, or rather former mountain as the top was missing, late in the afternoon. They landed their helicopter and saw massive destruction. The whole mountain top had disappeared. They inspected the remainder of the bedrock, and discovered what appeared to be the remains of corridors and rooms. Apparently the Mountain had housed a base of some kind. There wasn’t any radiation to detect, but the destruction was awfully similar to a nuclear explosion. They were quite baffled by what could have happened there.

They took plenty of still pictures and holofilmed the entire scene before fanning out into the surroundings. It was there that Hound found some foot tracks of bare feet. It wasn’t much, but he could determine that it was probably a young female going in a southerly direction. Calling in their preliminary report, they asked for a forensics team to get to the site. They wanted to follow another lead in the meantime. Before long, Hound & Slick got permission to leave the site and follow their lead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

At the campsite there was a place to start a fire, so I gathered some wood for a campfire. Soon I decided I had more than enough to last the night. I used my knife to create a makeshift spear to hold the rabbit above it. Skinning my rabbit, I stuck the meat on the stick. I piled some of the wood in a classic way to start a fire. Yes I did watch some movies on how to do that. Heating a piece of wood, I gave it a spark of lightning to ignite it. Soon I had a nice fire going and the meat began to heat up.

Then I had another thought, I’m so stupid! I can heat the meat up much faster using my own power. So I drew in some energy and emitted heat and microwaves at the meat. It didn’t take long to be cooked well enough. With the stone knife I cut off some pieces of the meat. It was hot, but I could handle it by absorbing the heat and shedding it as light. Soon I was happily munching on the meat and leaning back against a rock.

Finally I had the time to relax a little. Sure, I still wasn’t out of the woods yet, figuratively and literally speaking. But I wasn’t so hungry anymore, and there was a little stream to drink from and even a small pond to bathe in, though the water would be very cold, even freezing. That didn’t matter though, I could heat myself up quite well enough. So I could be clean and fed. Now I only had to find a place to get some help and get back to my family and friends. After my meal, I took a bath in the pond and dried myself by emitting some heat. Then I lay down for some well deserved rest and sleep by the fire.

It was still dark when I awakened with a shock from my sleep. I thought I heard something. There it was again, that helicopter. I couldn’t see it yet, but I heard it coming. In these quiet woods even the low noise helicopters like this one can be heard quite well. Moments later I could see them, the helicopter was flying without any running lights in a kind of circular pattern. It was just like they were looking for something or someone. I was certain that they were looking for me! They were probably using Infrared detection to locate me. I can’t escape that, I can draw in all the heat, but that would light me up even more. I couldn’t shed my energy either. I was already so cold in the cold night. There was only one solution left for me. I needed to take them out.

I needed a lot of power, more than I could draw normally. It was cold, dark and quiet around. So I couldn’t draw in heat, light or sound. Only gravity and molecular energy were at my disposal. I didn’t like using the molecular energy again. I was so afraid that I would want that kind of power inside me again, and too much this time. But I didn’t have a choice. The gravitational energy just doesn’t have enough power to let me give a powerful enough EMP blast. I destroyed some molecules around me, being careful not to free too much energy. Within moments I had enough power inside me and after careful aiming, released a very strong EMP burst towards the helicopter. The effect was immediate. The helicopter fell from the sky in a most rapid decent and soon disappeared from my view. I thought I heard a muffled thud, but I couldn’t be sure, it might just have been my imagination.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agents, Idaho

Slick was flying the helicopter in a circular search pattern, while Hound was on the lookout with the electronic Infrared cameras they’d brought with them. They still hadn’t found a trace of the mysterious barefoot girl that had walked away from that massive destruction. Maybe she was a Native American who just happened to pass through, but why would she be barefoot? So they wanted to make sure and try to find whoever it was. Hound had called on Slick to slow down a few times so he could zoom in, but every time it was a false alarm. It turned out to be a big animal like a wolf, puma or one time they went in closer to see a large infra-red signature, and it turned out to be a bear.

Just as Hound was about to call out to Slick to make his turn towards the new search grid, several sparks flew across the electronics and then everything went dead. No screaming alarms, no warnings, only dead screens and no lights. Slick yelled, “Hold on to something, we’re going down fast and hard.”

Wrestling with the heavy stick and collective, Slick tried his best to make an emergency landing using autorotation. He did manage to keep the crash light enough for both him and Hound to survive, but the helicopter was a total loss. Hound crawled out of the wreckage, “Not one of your smoothest landings, Mate. Ever considered changing your name?”

Slick crawled out of the twisted frame, “Well, I’d like to see you do better. What the hell happened to us? Do you have any idea?”

Hound tried to stand up, but with a yelp, hunched down again. His face showed his pain for a moment, “I’ve seem to have twisted my ankle. How about you? Any injuries?”

Slick checked himself, but as he found no injuries, he stood up looking at his partner, “I’m fine, only your ankle?”

Hound nodded, he already checked himself. “It’s only bruised, not broken. No running for the next few hours, but I can walk with a little help. Now for what happened, I have an idea, but want to be sure. Can you check out our equipment, please? Check our radios, eComs, Tablets, night vision goggles and lamps.”

Slick came back very quickly, “None of them are working, and everything is totally dead. That shouldn’t be possible!”

Hound laughed curtly, “Can you tell me how late it is? My watch seems to be broken.”

Slick looked at his digital watch, but the light didn’t work. “What is going on? Even my watch, which is shock resistant, is broken.” Then he pulled an old antique from his pocket. “This old watch that I got from my grandfather says it is 2.15 am. Why is this old thing still working?”

Hound laughed again, “We have been hit by an EM pulse.”

Slick thought and said, “But our radios are EMP shielded. So how come they don’t even work?”

Hound had an answer already, “My best guess is that the EMP burst was too powerful for our shielding. Now I have a suspicion of the identity of the girl we are tracking, and this crash might be our own fault.”

Slick looked back at Hound with disbelieve, “How do you figure that.”

“We were flying dark, without any running lights. So I’m guessing that our quarry got scared of us and saw us as a threat.”

Slick screwed his eyes, “So you know who we are chasing then.”

Hound nodded, “I’m pretty sure that the missing high school girl from Alabama, who is supposed to be a converter, is the one that caused or was in the explosion, and that she is the one who shot us out of the sky. I don’t know for certain that it is her, and I don’t even know if she can fire an EMP burst that powerful. It all adds up though.”

Slick looked incredulous at Hound, “I can’t believe all that. Besides I’m just worried what the boss will say about us losing a helicopter and all the gear. We might end up getting no salary for a few years.”

Hound smiled, “I’m confident that you can talk our way out of this one, just like you did before. Now I can’t track the girl without light, so we’ll just have to wait till it gets lighter.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I was quite scared that someone might live through the crash, or that someone else might show up soon. So I set off again towards the south. I proceeded carefully and tried my best not to make any tracks that might show where I was going. That was a challenge as there still was lots of snow. It made my journey longer as well. Sometimes I had to melt my way through a snow wall. I walked a long time before stopping at another small stream to rest and drink. My feet were hurting again and I was now walking on pure adrenaline and fear. A brief time later I continued walking and walked on all day, though in the afternoon it was more like staggering and stumbling. Late in the afternoon I saw a welcome sight, a cabin with lights on inside. Finally, I’d made it back to civilization.

I powered up a little to get my energy up to a level that would let me fight or run if necessary. For all I knew, that evil woman lived here. I also wanted a head start if I had to stun the person inside. Then I knocked on the door. An older woman opened the door after a few minutes and she looked at me with suspicion and a question.

Before she could say anything I asked, “Can you help me, please? I just want to make a phone call so I can go home.”

She softened up a bit as she saw my pleading look and the way I was dressed. She still was on her guard though, “what happened to you child?”

I stumbled inside the cabin and almost fell down. She caught me just in time. “Tell me what is going on, please. Where do you come from?”

My lip trembled, and I felt tears forming, but I wasn’t going to cry. “I was kidnapped. I just escaped those horrible people. I just want to go home.” Just saying that increased my emotions and I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing anymore. I started crying like I hadn’t done in months. All my anguish and sorrow just poured out with it. The woman just held me and tried to comfort me while I cried my heart out.

Some time later I was calming down some. I stopped crying and looked at the woman. She looked back, “I guess you’ve been through a lot then. Now I’m Maggie, who are you?”

Hesitantly I said, “My name is Maren.”

“Nice name, can you tell me more about you, please? What happened to you?”

“I was attacked while being with my friends in Birmingham Alabama. I don’t know where they took me, but I managed to get away and walked through the forest and the snow for a long time. Where am I now?”

Maggie smiled, “You’re in the Salmon River Mountains in Idaho. I guess the nearest village is Cobalt, and the nearest town is Salmon.”

I thought, Idaho? This is a long way from Georgia. How do I get home? “What date is it today, I got kidnapped in January.”

Maggie held me at a distance, “January? Now is the 8th of March.”

My face fell, They held me there for one and a half month? Everyone must think that I’m dead. I felt like more crying again, but Maggie stopped me.

“Now don’t cry anymore. You’re safe now. Is this blanket the only thing you’re wearing? Take it off, please, while I draw you up a nice warm bath.”

Several minutes later I was floating inside a king-size bathtub full of warm soapy water and could really relax. Maggie left me alone there to find me some clothes to wear and I relaxed so well that I fell asleep in the tub.

I thought I heard something. Is there someone talking? I climbed out of the cold water in the bathtub. I must have slept longer than I intended. I walked naked to the door separating the living room from the bathroom. I opened it slowly but then the door was ripped open violently. A badly scarred woman stood before me, screeching with that awful shrill voice, “You’ve run as far as you’re gonna go, slave.”

Maggie stood next to her grinning evilly, and added. “Ain’t this a bitch, you just can’t get a break, can you?” I didn’t try to defend myself or even try to run. I just screamed my lungs out.

I woke up screaming in the warm water of the bathtub. Maggie came running, frightened to death by my scream. I pointed my fingers at her ready to defend myself before I came to the conclusion that she wasn’t really evil. It was just a nightmare. I was dreaming. It’s all in my head.

Maggie held me, “What is wrong Maren? Why did you scream out?”

I felt like crying again, but held the tears back this time. “I’m sorry, Maggie. I was dreaming and had a nightmare. It was just so awful.”

Maggie understood, she just held me a little longer and calmed me down just holding me close. Then she got up and picked up a jar. “Give me your feet, Maren, I noticed that you’ve been walking barefoot for a long time. Your feet are going hurt tremendously if you don’t put this on.” She held open the jar and the smell was horrible.

 “I know it doesn’t smell nice, but it does wonders for your skin.” She rubbed my soles with the stuff from the jar and it felt great. I let myself slip back into the water with only my feet on the rim.

“Now Maren, don’t stay in the water too long. Get up in half an hour, please. You can wash off the stuff on your feet then as well. Now I don’t have much in the sense of clothing for you. I do have some sweatpants that don’t fit me, and you’re welcome to try them. Here are some slippers for you to wear. As for your top, my bra’s won’t fit you I’m afraid, so you’ll just have to wear this T-shirt without any underwear.”

I mumbled softly, “Thank you for everything, Maggie, I hope I don’t cause you too much trouble.”

Maggie waved it away. “It is the least someone can do for another person in need. Now just relax and wash yourself. Especially shampoo that dirty hair of yours, and that nice tail.”

I jumped up a little, She saw my tail and thought it was nice? How could she miss the tail, it is rather prominent. Now I saw my hair in a mirror. It looked awful. Dirty with lots of tangles and it was a bit shorter. I guessed the explosion must have sheared some off it. I used a lot of shampoo to get my hair in some decent state, and did the same for my tail. Lea will have a scare, seeing my hair like this.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agents, Idaho

Hound & Slick made good time picking up the trail early in the morning. Hound was still limping from the injury, but he could take the pain. He’d done it lots of times already in the military. By noon he found the camping site from where Maren had shot down the helicopter. Slick looked around, but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary except that some sloppy campers had been there. Hound inspected the fireplace and the bones that had been left on the ground. There were also lots of footprints left in the snow. “Our girl made camp here. She took a bath, ate a rabbit and slept here.”

Slick came closer, “How can you tell? Those bones could have been here for months already.”

Hound just smiled, “Nope, the fire is recent, as recent as 12 hours. It died out because the wood was gone, not because someone put it out. These bones still have some grease on them. Meaning it’s fresh, so the girl was here alright.”

“Well, great and mighty hunter, were did she go then?”

Hound looked around, “She got smart and covered her tracks very well.” For the next hour he made a sweep for the most probable routes and called Slick over, “She’s good, but not good enough. See this branch? She broke it while walking here. She went this way.” He looked at a paper map and said to Slick, “Aren’t you glad that I took an old map with me? Those electronic maps are great and all, but a little EMP, and they’re useless.” Slick grunted. He never could work with an old paper map. He liked the electronic GPS incorporated maps much better. Hound led them further on Maren’s trail.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I dressed in the sweat pants, that were way too big for me, but they had a cord so I could tie it around me. Only my tail got bunched up in it. The T-shirt was even bigger, and it looked more like a short dress on me.

I walked out into the living room of the cabin and found Maggie sitting there.

“Well, you look better already. How are you feeling?”

“Fine, but still tired. I have a problem with the pants Maggie, My tail is caught inside.”

Maggie got up, “Oh I forgot about that. Here, let me make a hole in them for you.”

As I took off the pants and gave them to Maggie to fix, I saw a phone and asked, “Can I use your phone, please? I want to call my Mom.”

Maggie waved while getting her sewing kit out. “Go ahead, child.”

I punched in our number, but a computer voice said, “I’m sorry but this number has been disconnected.”

Now I got scared again. Did those people attack and kidnap Mom as well? Were they inside the mountain that I blew up? Oh My God! Could I have killed my entire family? For a moment I got lost in that horrible scenario. Then my thoughts ran rampant again, or maybe they really think I’m dead and they moved out. I don’t exist for them any longer!

I was so lost in thoughts that I didn’t even hear Maggie come up behind me. I was startled as she put her hand on my shoulder. “Here you are child, a nice hole for your pretty tail. Hey, what’s wrong now?” she asked as I jumped at her touch.

“Oh nothing, the number is disconnected, and I was just wandering why, and what could have happened.”

Maggie tried to cheer me up, “I’m sure that there is a perfectly good explanation for it. Now, how about some dinner, are you hungry?”

As soon as she said it, it seemed that my stomach must have heard her, as it growled loudly.

“No need to answer me child, I can hear it loudly already.”

She went into the kitchen and asked me to skin some carrots and potatoes. I told her honestly that I suck at cooking and she said, “That’s alright, I can cook well enough.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agents, Idaho

Hound lead them to a lonely cabin. “She’s probably in there Slick.”

Slick looked at his partner, “Now how can you know that?”

“Well, that is where I would go, if I was barefoot walking in snow, lonely and tired. Besides, I just found her stone knife here on the ground.” He showed Slick the knife-like stone that Maren had dropped when she had seen the house.

Both men checked their remaining gear. Their automatic weapons were useless now. They relied on handgrip sensors to identify the owner’s print before they could fire. The EMP had fried those circuits and they couldn’t be used till they got them repaired. Slick still had an old backup weapon, a Smith & Wesson .38, while Hound relied on his hunting knife. He was a pretty good knife fighter, and even better knife thrower. Together they walked quickly but cautiously towards the door. Slick was the better negotiator, and would do the talking.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

We were just putting the food on the table when there was a knock on the door. Frightened, I looked at the door. They are here. I’ll have to run again. I don’t want to go back. Maggie saw my frightened look and motioned me to stay out of sight. She looked through a peephole and picked up a loaded shotgun standing next to the door before opening the door slightly.

“How may I help you gentlemen?” Maggie said it very controlled and seemingly polite way, but with a suspicious undertone.

“Hello Madam, I’m Ben Weathers, and that is my partner, Carl Bings. We are with the FBI. We would like to speak with Maren Johns. Ever since she was kidnapped, we have been looking for her.”

Maggie held her poker face and said with a neutral tone, “I don’t know a Maren Johns, and could you please show me some identification?”

Both Hound and Slick showed her their FBI ID’s. They’d already had them in hand before Slick knocked on the door. Then Slick said, “We have indications that Maren just arrived here. By pure chance, we picked up her trail and followed her here. We only want to help her and find out who is responsible for her kidnapping.”

Maggie shrugged, “I still don’t know who you’re talking about. I’m all alone here.”

The situation was fretting my nerves and my tired muscles twitched, causing me to knock down a plate. It clanked to the floor, making it obvious to everyone I was there and what my position was.

Hound put his hand on his knife and Slick reached for his gun. They didn’t mean to, but years of conditioning made them react like that to an unexpected sound. Maggie was similarly prepared and opened the door a little further so she could swing her gun up to point at the two FBI men.

Slick reacted very quickly and as he was closest, he grabbed the barrel of the gun and yanked it out of Maggie’s grip. She had her finger on the trigger and with a loud concussion the gun went off into nowhere. Slick threw down the gun and drew his own, pointing it at Maggie.

As the door opened even more I became visible to Slick. He turned his attention and gun towards me.

I saw him pointing his gun towards me and started to power up. I was now quite hysterical and yelled loudly, “No, you’re not taking me back. I will never be a slave again.”

Slick moved inside the cabin slowly and cautiously, with Hound backing him up, though of course, I didn’t even know their nicknames yet.

Hound also got a good look at me. Slick didn’t take his eyes off me, “Maren, I know you don’t believe me now, but we aren’t the ones that kidnapped you. We really have been looking for you a long time. Some don’t even believe that you’re still alive. Please, don’t do anything rash now. We just want to talk.”

He is quite eloquent, I’ll give him that. But I still don’t trust him. Still quite hysterical, I continued to gather energy, and even got ready to destroy some molecules to get even more power. “Leave me alone. I don’t believe any of you anymore. You only want my powers. You don’t give a damn about me. Now leave me alone or I will blow everything up… again!”

Hearing me rant, Slick and Hound both understood that by my own admission I was the cause of the big explosion at the mountain. They briefly looked at each other and Slick pointed his gun into the air. He raised both his hands in a surrendering motion. “Please, Maren there is no need for this. We really are from the FBI. Remember that you were saved by our colleagues at the park?”

I remembered, but I also remembered that my attackers could know that. They were also there, and kidnapped me there. I still didn’t believe anything that smooth talker said. I continued to draw in more power.

Then Hound said softly, “Synergy, we don’t mean you any harm.”

Slick continued, “We have seen your file at the MORFS center, talked to Gavin Benson and your friends, Martin Iverson and Lance Thorsson. Now would we know about them if we were the kidnappers?”

I halted my powering up, he did have a point. Well, they might know my friends, but would they know my nickname? Not knowing what to do, I just stood there, searching my feelings. Can they be really FBI? Am I being saved now? What should I do? Trust them? They look nice enough, but they might be faking that.

Still unsure, I released a good portion of my power as bright light, blinding everyone in the area. I had my eyes closed doing that, so I was the only one that could see anything for the next few minutes.

I quickly went over to the first FBI man, the one with the gun and yanked it out of his hand. Moments, later everyone got their eyesight back and saw me holding the gun now. Maggie was stunned by what I just had done. She said, “That’s quite a power you have there, Maren.”

Slick relaxed a bit, “Maren if you want to hold on to the gun, that’s okay. Please, don’t point it at us though. Now will you believe that we are law officers and that we only want to help you?”

I relaxed also visibly, “Okay, say that I believe you, what now?”

Slick sighed, “We are going to have a talk with you first and then report in to our superiors. As soon as we can arrange for transportation, we will take you back to your family.”

Maggie interrupted us, “Well, I will not stand for that. The first thing we all are going to do is eat. I didn’t make dinner for nothing, and it is getting cold now.”

We all looked at her, and laughed. It was the perfect tension breaker. I really was hungry, and wanted to eat some good food. Hound and Slick agreed as well, and we all sat down at the table. I was still holding the gun in my hand and looked at both the men. Either they are very good actors, or they are really speaking the truth. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and reached over with the gun to the first man that did most of the talking. I smiled a wry smile, “Here you are, you can have it back. I don’t much care for guns.”

Maggie gave me a plate with food and said, “No talking now. Eat first talk later.”

I didn’t need to be told that twice, and dug into the mash on my plate. After such a long time without any real food except my slightly overcooked rabbit, this meal looked and smelled heavenly. Slick put his gun in his holster and then both he and Hound received a plate as well and started eating.

I finally shoved my plate away and leaned back. I had only felt so stuffed once before. That was when I had pizza for the first time, right after I changed into Maren. I’d vowed never to eat so much again after that. Today I made an exception though. I just couldn’t turn Maggie down, and her food was so good. But now I just couldn’t eat another bite. Both Hound and Slick, now they said that those were their nicknames, though they had introduced themselves as Carl and Ben to us, had their share of the food and looked similarly full. Maggie stood up, “Dessert anyone?”

Both Slick and I puffed, indicating that we didn’t have any room left. But Hound looked up, “Yes, please.”

Maggie came back with some pie, and gave Hound a piece and herself some also. It looked real nice and if I hadn’t had so much to eat I would have liked to have some. But I really couldn’t take another bite.

Slick shoved his seat backwards, “Madam that was just great, can I use your phone, please? I need to call my superiors.”

Maggie looked at him, “I’m not a Madam. I’m Maggie. Don’t you federal types have radios and cell-phones?”

Hound looked up from his dessert, “Yes Mad… Maggie. But they don’t work at the moment.”

Slick continued, “That is correct, and we also could’ve gotten to Maren a lot sooner and be on our way to her family right now. But someone shot our helicopter out of the sky.” Then both he and Hound looked at me intently.

I paled a little, “Oops”

They all looked at me. Maggie said, “What do you mean with ‘oops’, young lady?”

Slick interrupted, “She means that she thought we were her kidnappers and fired an EMP at us. All our electronics got fried. But we were to blame as well. We were flying without running lights.”

Hound confirmed Slick’s story while Slick went over to the satellite telephone. He took the phone to another room. I was suspicious again and looked broodingly at Hound. He apparently noticed, and said, “Sorry, but some things are need to know. Just believe me that we have your best interests in mind.”

Slick in the meantime, told control that he was calling from an unsecured line. He explained that all their gear was destroyed or useless and that they had found the kidnapped girl from the Alabama event. He asked for a speedy pickup at the Lemhi County airport near Salmon. He brought back the phone a little later and said, “Well, I hate to bother you Maggie, but is it possible to spend the night here? I arranged for a plane to pick us up tomorrow at Lemhi County airport. Also we would like to rent your car to go there?”

Maggie looked at him, “I’ll drive you there myself. I need some supplies anyway.”

Hound replied, “Thank you, Maggie. Please, let us compensate you for your trouble.”

Maggie didn’t want to hear about any payment, but Slick insisted, and as he was such a smooth talker he talked Maggie into accepting some compensation. I felt I should have a talk with Ben and Carl about what had happened. But I felt so tired, and the copious meal made me feel sleepy, so I went to the bedroom to lie down for a while.

I woke up later and went out to talk to the FBI men. They were still in the living room talking to Maggie, but as I approached them, they looked at me and started to become transparent. They just seemed to vanish into thin air. Instead, a chamber appeared and I was still strapped down to the bench. My eyes weren’t taped shut anymore, and I saw a woman before me with evil written all over her face. She said to me with that shrill awful voice, “Had a nice nap girly? It’s time to get back to producing power for us.”

I was horrified. The whole escape, Maggie and the rescue by the FBI men was it all a dream? Now I was really defeated, there was nothing left to do but become a good little drone and do whatever they wanted. Not after I first screamed out my anguish though.

That’s when I woke up from my sleep. I was screaming bloody murder and realized that I was in Maggie’s bedroom. The door slammed open and two men came in running, the first one with a gun drawn. I panicked and shot him with a maser-taser stun beam. He twitched a bit when he got hit and pulled the trigger, discharging his gun once before falling down unconscious. The second man looked at me with his hand on resting on a knife. He stood there motionless, but then slowly raised his hands in surrender. I looked at him and realized his name was Carl, nicknamed Hound. Then I looked at the other man, the one called Slick. I swallowed and then started to sob. Soon it progressed into fully crying. I had just shot one of the men that were here to rescue me.

Hound checked out his partner first. He was still breathing, just unconscious. He carried him to the living room and explained the situation to Maggie, who woke up from the screaming and the gunshot. She agreed to look after Slick. Hound went back to me and sat down on the bed next to me. I was still crying and leaned into him. He just hugged me and let me cry out all my emotions.

As my crying went down to a bit of sobbing he said, “You can talk to me Maren. Tell me what is troubling you.”

Muffled by talking in his shoulder I said, “I should be treated as a dangerous animal. I’m a menace to society.” Then I sobbed some more.

Hound pulled my face up so he could look into my eyes, “Don’t say that. Sure, you shot Slick, but that was just a defensive reaction. Even we have that reaction sometimes. Don’t feel bad about it.”

I looked at him, “But …”

“No buts. Tell me about your nightmare, because that is what started this.”

I looked down and started talking, “I thought all of this: the escape, you two and Maggie, were all just a dream. It was like I was still inside the mountain heading straight for life as a slave or a drone for those people. So I screamed, and that’s when I woke up here.”

Hound held me tight, “I think you need to see a shrink, soon. You’ve been through a lot, and the dreams are just a means to vent your frustrations.”

I interrupted, “There is more. I’m a mass murderer. I managed to gather a lot more power than I have ever been able to before. Then I released it all at once. I blew that mountain up like an atom bomb. I’m afraid of that kind of power. So I should be locked up as dangerous. I’m not safe to be around.”

Hound interrupted my tirade, “Nonsense, the fact that you feel uncomfortable with that kind of power, and that you are even afraid of it means that you are a good person and have a strong sense of good and right. If you didn’t, you would wield your power as a despot and we would be forced to kill you or die trying.”

I looked at Hound. He looked back, “Really Maren, you’re a good girl. You just had a very bad experience, and you are still suffering from it. It will get better, but I can’t promise how soon that will be. But trust me, it will get better. I know, because I’ve had to kill some people in the past as well. I still feel sorrow and anguish about what I did. But I have found my peace with it and so will you.”

I snuggled into his arms. “I hope you’re right. I’m still so afraid of what I can do, and that I don’t have the control to stop myself.”

Hound laughed softly, “You have the control. From what I have seen, you are one of the most in control Elemental that I’ve encountered.”

With a sleepy voice I said, “I’m not an elemental, I’m a converter.”

Hound grabbed my tail and started stroking it, “Sorry, my bad. But you have more control than most people I know.”

The stroking of my tail felt so good, that I started purring. That made me feel even sleepier. Soon I fell into a deep restful sleep while Hound held me in his arms.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agent Slick, Idaho

Slick came around to his senses. What happened? Then his memory returned. I got shot by a stun gun or something. The girl, we were rescuing, shot me. Where did she get the gun? Slick tried to get up, but his muscles weren’t cooperating fully yet. Maggie came up to him with some water. “Here, have something to drink.”

Slick accepted the water and drank thirstily. He composed himself and asked, “Where is my partner?”

Maggie pointed to the bedroom, “He’s talking to and consoling Maren. Please, keep your voice down.”

Slick sighed, he had to see for himself and talk to Hound. He got up a bit clumsily. His muscles still had some problems with coordination. He opened the door to the bedroom slowly and quietly. Hound sat on the bed holding the girl in his arms, stroking her tail. What was that sound? Then he recognized it. It was like a cat was purring. Very softly he asked, “Is that her doing that?”

Hound nodded slowly, “She’s finally asleep again. She’s having nightmares about what happened and what she did.”

Hound slowly got up and laid Maren down on the bed. She moved a little to get more comfortable and kept on sleeping. Hound led Slick out to the living room, so they could talk more. Maggie disappeared to another bedroom so they had the room for themselves.

Maren admitted that she blew up the mountain all by herself.”

Slick frowned hearing that, “How did she do that, and how did she shoot me?”

Hound smiled, “She’s an energy converter. She shot an electric charge at you. As to how she blew up the whole mountain, I’m not certain. She’ll have to be debriefed about that. I think she’s a lot more powerful than we can imagine. But she isn’t reveling in her power. In fact she’s a bit scared of it and about using it. She still has to be counseled by a professional, but she isn’t a security threat that has to be eliminated.”

Slick sighed. “Glad to hear that. I wouldn’t like to have to eliminate such a nice girl. We need to make a report ASAP to the commander about her.”

Hound agreed, “I will start on it right away. But I do want to take Maren home first. She’s been through a lot, and she needs a familiar and stable environment right now.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA regional Headquarters

The regional Commander of the ASA growled, “Where are the reports on that near nuclear explosion in Idaho.”

A young woman came up to him, “We just got reports in from the second team that was called in by the first team to do a forensic investigation on the blast site. The first team has been out of contact since. The second team reported that there apparently was a base of some kind in that mountain. They found some charred remains, unidentifiable though. They also found two people, one male and one female still alive in a remote chamber that withstood the destruction. Before they could be interrogated though, they activated an internal explosive device.” The young woman shuddered thinking about that. Then she continued, “The method was similar to the unknowns involved in the kidnapping of that girl in Alabama.”

The commander accepted the tablet with the report. Then a man walked up to him. Calmly he said, “Commander we just heard from first team. They request a pick up from Lemhi County Airport in Salmon Idaho. The call came from an unsecured line, and they reported that all their gear was destroyed or is useless. They also reported they have found the kidnapped girl from the Alabama incident.”

The commander perched up hearing the secondary report. So the base belonged to that unknown group that kidnapped that converter girl in Alabama? He turned his attention to the woman, “Have the forensic team search for any clues to whoever that group was. If there are still members of that group alive, we need to identify and neutralize them. Also, they need to find out what caused that massive explosion.”

The woman nodded, “I heard that they are speculating that an experimental generator generated too much energy and blew apart.”

The commander shook his head. “No speculation. We need facts. Get on it.” Then he turned to the man, “Sent one of our LBSC Swifts to Lemhi and pick up the team with their kidnap victim. Our Teleporters don’t want to go there yet, because of all the electromagnetic and gravimetric disturbances in that area. I’ll leave it to the team leader what he thinks is best. To bring the girl in for debriefing first, or take her to her parents first. By the way, have the girls parents been notified yet?”

The man shook his head, “No sir, the phone number we have is disconnected. Since it is a weekend, we cannot contact the girl’s sister or mother by means of work or school. Neither can we get into contact with her friends. They are probably away with Spring Break. The database still lists only her old number that has been disconnected. We did leave a message on the answering machine at the dance school, but there has been no reply as of yet. I guess we’ll have to wait till after the weekend.”

The commander nodded and sent the man back to his duties.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I woke up very refreshed. At first I didn’t know where I was, and then it came to me, Maggie, Hound, Slick, the cabin, and the nightmares. I felt uncomfortable, I hadn’t had another nightmare, but the dreams I’d had were still bad. They almost made me not want to go to sleep anymore. As I neared the door I smelled something wonderful. Waffles? I almost stormed out the bedroom to the kitchen. Maggie was baking waffles, alright. She turned to me. “Easy girl, wash yourself first. Then you can have some breakfast.”

I hurried washing myself. I felt hungry. Soon I sat down at the table looking forward to the breakfast and I wasn’t disappointed. Maggie put the plate on the table, just as Slick and Hound came into the cabin. My suspicion rose again, what have they been up to?

Hound smilingly greeted me, “Good morning Maren, Maggie. It’s a beautiful morning after that big electrical storm that had its focal point in Montana, and it promises to stay this good today. We checked the car. After breakfast we’re all set to go.”

My suspicion did subside somewhat, but still it continued to linger in the back of my head. I did trust Hound, but I also got the feeling he was hiding something from me. I dismissed the thought, because as a government agent he must have secrets that I was not privy to. Instead I dug into the waffles. They tasted even better than they smelled. I loved Maggie she was such a wonderful cook. I wish I could borrow some of that from her.

A copious breakfast later, I realized, I really need to restrain myself or I’ll become a fat girl. After cleaning up the dishes, we all piled into the hybrid Electric-Bio diesel 4x4 that Maggie drove and set out for the Lemhi County Airport.

We drove through rugged but beautiful terrain and I looked out of the window most of the time. Still, I kept glancing at the two FBI men from time to time. They were hiding something. It just kept on nagging in the back of my head. I reminded myself to be prepared for anything. I wouldn’t be safe till I got home.

Nothing happened during our drive, and soon we arrived at the airport. Slick showed his badge at the gate and we were allowed to drive straight to the tarmac. As we pulled up to an office, a private jet was coming in for a landing. I recognized the type, it was a Swift. The new conglomeration of Lockheed, Boeing and Scaled Composites had started producing this type only five years before. I didn’t know the FBI had these kinds of planes available. If indeed this was the FBI plane, that is.

Apparently it was. After saying goodbye to Maggie, Hound escorted me to the plane, while Slick talked to Maggie and gave her something. They were arguing a little about it, but I couldn’t hear it anymore. The doors of the plane opened and two men with sunglasses got out. Immediately my suspicion spiked, Are they here to take me somewhere? Who are they?

Hound was surprised to see them, but said, “Maren would you go inside already? I need to talk to my colleagues here.”

Slick was approaching and showed a similar surprise, but Hound motioned to him and he took me into the plane. I found it suspicious and kept my guard up just in case there would be more surprises.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agents, Idaho

Hound was surprised to see his colleagues from the ASA. Why are they here? Slick approached them after settling with Maggie and Hound motioned to him to take Maren into the plane. To his colleague Ratch Blue he said, “What’s going on? Why are you two here?”

Ratch smiled reassuringly, “Don’t worry, Hound. It has nothing to do with your case. We got send here because a local cop in Montana reported a breakout by two dangerous MORFS survivors. We are here to investigate and take appropriate actions. Since the plane was already going here, we hitched a ride and we’ll rent a car here.”

Hound squinted his eyes. Why are there so many MORFS events happening here? Is it a coincidence? “Right Ratch, I’ll see you later then. I just find it a strange coincidence that all the things happen so close together.”

Ratch nodded. “The commander said exactly the same thing. Well, you’d better get going. He is waiting for your report on a secure channel.”

Hound nodded, “Right, well, good luck with your mission.” They shook hands and Hound quickly got on the plane, which took off for the flight to Georgia immediately after the door closed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

Strangely, I found it reassuring seeing Hound get into the plane without the other agents. I noticed that Slick raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question to Hound. He smiled and said, “They just came here on the plane to catch a ride. Apparently there is something that needed investigating in Montana. It was merely a coincidence.”

He looked at Slick while saying it, but why did I get the impression that he said it to reassure me? Well, it worked, I relaxed a bit more and leaned back in the quality seats in this luxuriously equipped plane. I was going home as a princess. I was hardly dressed like one though. Hound excused himself as he told me that he had to report to his superiors. I was still on my guard, but not that suspicious anymore. So I didn’t worry when I saw him disappear into a closed off section and was left alone with Slick. He tried to get me to play a game with him, but my heart wasn’t in it. I thought about home and why I couldn’t get them on the phone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ASA agent Hound, Idaho

Hound went into the closed off section with the secure video communication. He activated the equipment and accessed a secure channel to his superior. The commander himself appeared on the screen and asked, “Give me a general report and recommendation, please. The detailed report can wait till you get here.”

Hound nodded, “After following the tracks we discovered at the site, we got blown out of the sky by way of an EMP. My partner managed to make an emergency landing, from which we came out relatively unharmed, though the helicopter was a total loss. We proceeded to track the girl on foot and caught up with her. She turned out to be Maren Zoë Johns, the kidnap victim from Alabama. As you may know, she’s an energy converter. She not only by her own admission was the source of the explosion inside the mountain, but she also fired the EMP pulse that killed our gear. Apparently she has a lot more potential and power available then we thought. But I recommend treating her with care. She isn’t an immediate threat, she’s afraid of using her power like that and only tried to defend herself. As for now I would like to take her to a familiar environment, meaning her family. I will recommend her debriefing to be done a little later by someone she knows and trusts. Also, I recommend having her treated by a psychologist. She’s having violent nightmares and feels guilty about what she had to do to escape. I will give more details later in my final report.”

The commander squinted his eyes. “You’re saying she blew up that mountain? It had the power of a nuclear explosion.”

Hound sighed, “Yes I know that. I’ve seen the destruction. I think she has a capacity that we didn’t expect. I can ask her now, but my fear is that she’ll clam up and see us as hostile. It is better to ask her later. Again, I emphasize that she doesn’t like what she did and prefers not to use her power like that.”

The commander harrumphed, “Okay, I’ll go by your recommendation. Thank you for your report. I’ll see the details later. Take the girl home. By the way, we haven’t been able to contact the family. Their number is disconnected and as it is Sunday and just after Spring Break in Savannah, we can’t contact them by way of work, school or friends. Maybe the girl knows more leads to contact them. HQ out.” The screen went blank and Hound switched off the equipment before going back to the main cabin to join Slick and Maren.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synergy

I was looking out the window, watching the country fly by beneath us. It all looked so small but beautiful from up here. From the corner in my eyesight I saw a movement and quickly turned my head. It was Hound coming back from the closed off section. He smiled to me and went to the cockpit. Faintly I heard him say, “Our destination is Savannah Georgia.” I cheered inside, I was going home. I felt a large burden slide away from my shoulders. Though now another anxiety presented itself. I hadn’t been able to reach my Mom. What am I going to do?

Hound sat down next to me. “Maren, I talked to my boss and he said that the phone at your home was disconnected. Do you have any ideas?”

I looked at him with anxiety showing on my face. “I don’t know. Did they try the school, the dance school and such?”

Hound nodded, “Yes and yes. It’s Sunday, they are all closed.”

I was racking my brain. There was something else, but I couldn’t think straight enough to get to it. I was becoming frantic now. I think it showed on my face, because Hound put his arm around me. “Don’t worry too much Maren. We’ll stay with you till we have found your family.”

I relaxed a little, but still stayed very tense and worried.

We landed not too long after that and got into a cab towards home. It was eerily quiet around our apartment. I rang the bell, but there was no answer. I remembered that I had hidden a spare key in my tool shed on the roof. Franticly I ran up to the roof and opened the shed. It was bare! All my things had been taken out! What happened? Where are my things? Were they stolen? I reached for the spare key in the hidden spot and it was still there. Hound had followed me up to the roof and saw the empty shed as I dashed out past him back to the apartment. With my heart beating in my throat I opened the door and saw an empty apartment. All the furniture and things were gone. Defeated, I went in and saw the door to my room standing wide open. My room was just as empty. Mom must have really thought I died. She moved away with Isabel. Dejected, I leaned against the wall and sagged down while bursting into tears.


Chapter 10

 I'm sorry, but the rest is in the book.
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Epilogue

The bad guys who were still alive were taken away by other agents, while Agents Carl ‘Hound’ Bings and Ben ‘Slick’ Weathers escorted us to Maggie’s Cabin. There we had a nice reunion followed by a cooking contest between Gabe and Maggie. I couldn’t really make a decision as to who was the better cook, but I gave the honor to Gabe, especially since he presented his cooking with a kiss. We enjoyed Maggie’s hospitality for another day. Maggie was very taken with my gifts. Not too long afterwards we parted, and having had more than enough adventures, went home quickly.

The End

For more information about the characters and the universe please go to morfs.wikidot.com