It was supposed to be the best summer ever. Mom had promised me that we were going to do all the fun stuff that normal families did, like camping and traveling. She said it would be just like we used to do, before Dad left...
But that's not what happened.
My name is Allison Von Carstien, and this is how my life ended...
I rolled to my feet and regained my footing, but the damage was done.
"Hai! Yamete!" The center judge stepped between us, and I cursed under my heavy breathing. As he stepped back to call for the judgment from the corners, I already knew the outcome. The whistles blew, and I saw red flags fly up. "Hai. Red side winner."
The spectators burst into applause, and I forced a smile as my opponent stepped forward to shake my hand. The second year in a row she'd stolen the nationals from me aside, I still had some honor to uphold.
Being short always held me back in competition. I was the shortest girl in our dojo, just over five four. It was a huge factor in sparring, and it always irked me. Still, I guess there's always...
"In second place, from Regina, Saskatchewan. Allison Von Carstien!"
A step forward. Bow. Step back into line.
I love it.
I could hear Mom and Jakey cheering, even over the noise. My two biggest 'fans'... And I was glomped almost as soon as I left the mats.
"Oh, sweetie, that was great!" Mom practically gushed. Though you always hear it, but my Mom was always one of the most beautiful women in my life. She was a little taller than me, and had a very nice figure that I hoped was hereditary. Together with my little brother, Jacob, we made quite the sight, a trio of dark-haired, red-eyed short people.
But now that I had finished my events, and the adrenaline had faded from my system, I had to admit that I really wasn't feeling well at all. I had complained about the smog air in Toronto as soon as we had landed there, but it had mostly been a joke. Now, I was thinking maybe it was the air. The noise of the crowd was like a dull roar, making my head pound. We wandered slowly back to the bleachers that we had annexed for our dojo, and I sat down heavily on the bench, trying to make the room stop spinning.
"Ali? Are you okay?" Davis, one of our senior members knelt down beside me. "You don't look so well-"
That's about when I puked. Thankfully, I'd had the forethought to sit beside the garbage can.
Unluckily, however, this meant I would have to spend the rest of the night in our hotel room, with my mom fretting over me like a disturbed ant colony.
Oh well... Some things are unavoidable, I suppose...
I missed the final ceremonies, which should have made me mad, but I was too sick to really care at the time. Mom gave me every home remedy she could think of for everything she knew caused nausea, but it the end, I just threw it all back up. I really don't remember much of what happened that day... I had a huge headache, and I kept slipping in and out of consciousness...
Looking down at her feverish daughter was possibly the scariest thing Angela Von Carstien had ever seen. Ali never got sick, even as a small child. Everything she tried could not help, and her fever was just getting worse by the hour. It was getting late, and now that the ceremonies were done, and most of the parties had wound down, people from the dojo were slowly filtering back into the hotel.
Davis answered his door after the first knock. "Angela...?" He groaned, looking at his watch. It's after midni-"
"I need your help..." She said quietly, fighting to keep the tears out of her voice. "I have to take Ali to the hospital, and there's nobody to watch over Jacob..."
One look in the distraught woman's eyes was all it took. "Yeah, no problem... Let me get Charlie up..."
Charlie was Davis' fiancee, and both were good friends of the family, having known Ali since she first joined the Dojo at age eight. The sleepy redhead smiled as she was ushered out the door. "Sure... 'll watch 'im..."
It took five minutes to carry the shivering fifteen-year old down to the car, and another fifteen to get her to the emergency room. The triage nurse took one look at her and called the EMS team in. They had her on a stretcher and into a room in no time at all, leaving a crying mother in the waiting room to wonder what was wrong with her baby girl...
Everything was blurry when I woke up. White lights shined in the haze, and I could dimly hear muted voices talking next to me. I couldn't make out the words, though. One sound I did recognise was the steady beeping of a heart rate monitor. Which meant I was in a hospital...
Great... I hate hospitals...
It took me a minute to work up the energy to open my mouth. "Mum..."
It was a whisper, really. Little better than a croak. But an instant later, there she was. Red eyes descending out of the fog like flares in the dead of night. "Ali? Oh, sweetie! You're awake!" Ever get one of those hugs that makes you sure your bones were breaking? Yeah. "How do you feel?"
"M'okay... Hungry... An' a little tired..." The haze was slowly lifting, and I could feel the energy slowly drifting back into my body. "What happened?"
Her smile wavered, but only for an instant. "You've been very sick, dear. But you're all better now."
"Ugh, then why is my head pounding?" I brought my hand up to rub my temples, and that's when I realized it.
It was the feeling of cold steel that first bothered me. The skin on my forehead registered cold metal instead of warm flesh, and I had to pause for a second to think about what that implied. "Sick...?" It took another minute of looking at my hand to comprehend what I was seeing.
There, smoothly matching the contours of my palm, were three triangles of some silvery metal.
Attached to my skin.
The heart rate monitor sped up, and my chest clenched. "What...?"
"Ali...! Ali..!" My mom was calling my name... I was dimly aware of the sound of tearing fabric, and felt a sudden chill across my back as the hospital gown fell away.
"What's going on?!" Blind panic shot through my skull. The three little metal things in my hands twitched, and long, clawlike spikes slipped out of them in an instant. "What am I?!"
"Ali! Calm down!" Something exploded in the room, and I felt my mother's arms close around me. "It's okay! You're alright! Please, clam down!"
Something warm dripped onto my shoulder, and I looked at it.
It was red.
That's when I fainted.
I woke up again slowly, but without the haze this time. My mind was clear when sleep fell away,but I kept my eyes shut tight. "M-mom?"
She was there. "Good morning, dear. Feeling better?"
I couldn't answer that. Not yet. "A-am... Am I a f... Freak?"
I felt her hand on my cheek, and forced my eyes open. She was sitting on the bed next to me, smiling like she always did when she was worried. "No, sweetie. You're not a freak."
Then I noticed the bandages on her shoulders. "What happen-" The image of claws flashed in my mind, and my blood went cold. "D-did I-?"
"It was an accident, Ali. I'm okay."
"No buts." She chided gently. "You're okay and so am I. End of story."
We sat there for a minute while I tried to get my breathing under control. When I finally got my pulse down, Mom hugged me tightly. "Good girl..."
"I... I wanna see."
She smiled. "I know, dear. The doctors have done all of their tests, so we can leave whenever you're ready." She helped me out of the bed, and the first thing I noticed was my balance had changed. Well, that and...
"Did I get taller?"
Mom laughed, looking up at me. "By almost a foot. You're five eleven now."
"I'm not short anymore?"
"No, dear. You're not short anymore. There's a mirror behind the door, when you're ready."
Door. Right. I had my own private room, which was fine with me. Meant I didn't have to hide my reaction when I stepped in front of the mirror. The gasp was natural. What I saw, well... It was plain to see that I was a hybrid, and even plainer who the donor had been, Davis' pet Bearded Dragon, Spike.
I had indeed gotten taller, which was great. But the other changes... My hair had gone completely black, and grown from it's customary shoulder length to almost past my knees. My eyes were still the same shade of red I'd inherited from Mom, but my pupils were slightly pointed at the top and bottom, like a seed or a grain or something like that. But most noticeable of all was the metal. Dozens of tiny metal scales had appeared on my face, running along the line of my jaw in clean lines. There were a few above each of my eyebrows and one about the size of an arrowhead on the point of my chin. They were a bright silver, the metal blending seamlessly into my skin. They were cold to the touch as I ran my fingertips over them, and I couldn't feel the contact on their side.
Thinking of my fingertips made me look back at my palms. The three little scales were still there, blending smoothly into the contours of my palm. Each one had a point that ran up one of my fingers, I noticed, ending just above the first joint. My gaze travelled further up my arms, which had also gotten longer to match the rest of my body. I found two more metal patches on each wrist, as well as one more on each elbow and two large ones on each shoulder.
As my eyes fixed on my torso, I had to stop and look twice. I had always been slim, my tendency towards athletics had given me a fairly toned body. But, as is the case with many athletic women, I never really had enough body fat to develop much of a figure. Not anymore, it would seem. It looked like I had blossomed overnight. My barely-there bust had shot up to what looked like a C-cup, and my hips had grown out several inches. My abs hadn't lost their definition, however. In fact, taking a second look, I appeared to have gained an extra set of muscles there, which rippled when I tensed them experimentally. Lower still I spotted two more large metal scales on my knees, and, with a quick look, I found three more on the soles of both my feet. But as I was looking at those, something flickered into view that made me freeze.
I had a tail. It was long and sinewy, and barely two and a half inches thick where it attached to my spine, but it was a tail. Fully extended, it reached just above my ankles, and it twitched every that I moved. It ended in what appeared to be a solid metal spike, three inches long and tapering down to a needle-fine point. The entire length was coated in thousands of tiny metal scales, with larger ones on the top. Turning around, I twisted my neck to check my back, and was stunned when my head turned nearly backwards. I could see the line of larger scales travelling up my spine, getting larger and larger as they climbed, then smaller as thy went up my neck, disappearing into my hair.
All in all, despite my nerves and the tail, I figured I didn't come out of this too badly. Mom seemed to think so, too.
"Everyone's been through to say hi." She said quietly as she pulled out a bag of clothes. "Most of them went back home, but they all sent their best wishes. Davis and Charlie stayed, though. They're watching Jacob for me. Charlie even went shopping for some clothes for you, when you stopped growing." She handed me the bag with an embarrassed smile. "That was before your tail grew in, though..."
I actually managed to smile at that. "S'okay, Mom..."
A moment of calm silence fell on the room before Mom sighed in relief. "Alright, then. I'm glad you're feeling better, dear. I'll let you have some privacy while you get dressed... The waiting room is just down the hall there." She gestured vaguely, then stood on her tiptoes and kissed me on the forehead. "I love you, sweetie."
I blushed. "I know... I love you too, Mom."
I was left alone to my thoughts without much further ado. I was a little weird, dressing in clothes that looked, to me, like they were way too big. I had some plain white underwear, which only presented a small problem when I tried to get my tail out of the way. After a moment of contemplation, I managed to use my hands and guide it into a light coil around my left leg, staying just enough out of the way that I could slip my panties over it with little trouble. Then came the skirt, which, typical of Charlie's taste, only just came down to just above knee-length. A simple pastel-blue blouse, with a bit of a racy V-neckline, and some socks and sneakers later, and I had emptied the bag.
I paused to look into the mirror one more time, and what I saw shocked me again. I looked older. The clothes definitely had something to do with it, but I looked like I was at least twenty. It kind of scared me a little, to tell the truth. I looked five years older than I was... There could be some harsh repercussions from that...
"Ali!" The quiet hallway was suddenly rather noisy as I stepped out of my room. Jacob thundered down the hall and leaped into my arms, and I couldn't help but laugh. That is, until I looked in his eyes and saw the tears.
"Shhh... It's okay Jakey..." I whispered, rubbing his back and rocking him in my arms. "I'm okay..."
"You were sick, and then you were gone, and I was scared..." He stared up at me with those adorably wide five-year old eyes, and I hugged him tighter.
"I'm sorry, Jakey... I didn't mean to scare you..." I wiped the tears off his cheeks, and he blushed. It was too cute to resist. I planted a kiss on his forehead, and he made a face. "Ick!"
"Ick? What do you mean, 'Ick'?" I huffed indignantly. "You mean 'Ick' like this?" And with that, I started to tickle him mercilessly.
It only lasted a minute, and when I put him down, he stared up at me with an awed look on his face. "What? Is there something on my face?" I didn't realize the irony of the statement till a few minutes later.
Huh. Irony. The word itself is somewhat ironic in my case...
"You're really pretty, Ali..." He said, blushing and looking away.
"Aww... Thank you, Jakey." Now it was my turn to blush. He grabbed me by the leg and hugged me, giggling when he discovered my tail, which twitched when he poked it. "Alright, you can play with my tail later. Where's Mom gone off to?"
"Oh! I know!" He exclaimed, letting go and zipping off down the hallway. I laughed all the way down to the waiting room.
Davis and Charlie let out a strained gasp when Jacob led me around the corner. Mom took one look at my outfit and frowned at Charlie, who at least had the good graces to blush. "You look wonderful, dear." She said with a small hug.
"I'll say..." Charlie muttered, and everything was okay again.
Exhausted though I was. I couldn't help but smile at my Aunt when she greeted us at the arrival gate. Aunt Helen was my favorite relative, always cheering people up. And right now, that's exactly what I needed. The last few hours had been very trying on my nerves...
It had started with leaving the hospital. We'd checked out and headed for a nearby mall, to get a few new outfits that would fit my new body, as the ones I'd packed for the trip would not fit anymore. Mom had insisted on going to a specialty shop, some little chain that had expanded out of the UK in the early forties. I was lusky that I only needed to shop for a tail, and a rather thin one at that. Some of the other patrons in the store had far... More extreme, let's say... physical changes than I did.
I still got my fair share of looks when we moved on to some more 'mainstream' shops. Some of the patron were less than helpful, one lady even going so far as to throw away a dress she was looking at after I accidentally bumped into her and touched it. A number of people stared as we made our way through the mall, some angrily and some amazed. But the weirdest ones were the lusting eyes of almost every guy I passed. Wolf whistles would sound every now and again, and I watched many a head turn to follow me as I walked by. It was extremely uncomfortable, and I was glad when Mom decided it was time to go.
I walked out with a few pairs each of pants, jeans, swimsuits and matching underwear sets, all with holes for my tail, plus a number of new tanks, tees and skirts, and a pair of casual dresses to last until we could get home. I figured I could just wear regular skirts and coil my tail around my leg, as I was quite liking both how it looked and felt, solid silver looping around my new, longer legs. It caused a few problems when I was trying the stuff on, as it seemed to twitch and move about on its own when I uncoiled it with my hand, but it seemed to have no problem re-coiling once I had finished, which was nice. Gave me a place to keep it until I could control it, at least...
With the clothing crisis handled, I repacked my suitcase, putting all of my clothes that wouldn't fit anymore into a bag, which we dumped into a charity bin outside the airport. Which, as you can probably guess, is where my headache really started. See, some airports in the world still use those old metal detectors, as well as the newest security scanners, as an added measure of deterrence.
See where this is going?
"Miss, please remove any metal objects you may be wearing and place them in this bin." The clerk at the scanner said in a bored tone, not even bothering to look at me.
"Uh... Metal... Right..." The tip of my tail twitched against my leg. "Uh, Mom? We may have a pro-"
But of course, she had already taken Jacob through.
I dropped my backpack in the bin, along with my watch and my favorite necklace. For what little good it'll do me... I thought with a grimace.
"Please step through the arch, miss."
BREE! BREE! BREE!
I sighed as the guard stepped over with his little wand. "Don't bother." I said, noting his frown as he finally looked me in the face. "I can't exactly detach these..."
He stared at me for a moment longer, his frown turning into a sneer of contempt. "Well, then. You'll have to come with me, miss."
"We can't be sure of anything nowadays, what with-"
"Give it a rest, Frank." A younger man in uniform had come up behind Frank, rolling his eyes. "She's clean, I checked her. You really don't need another reprimand, what with the baby on the way and all."
Frank spluttered for a minute before stalking off back to his post. The second guard sighed and handed me my things. "Sorry about that, Ma'am. He lost someone to MORFS, and he hasn't been the same since."
Ma'am? "Sure... I can understand that. What did you mean by you 'checked' me, though?"
He smiled, tapping the side of his head. "Psionics. I'm a specially trained telepath. I can pick out negative or dangerous thoughts from a ways away. Catch what the scanners miss." He cocked his head to one side, his smile getting a little more flirtatious than I was comfortable with. "If I might be so bold as to ask, what kind of elemental are you? I saw something when I was in your head, but I couldn't figure it out..."
This was getting more than a little creepy. I picked up my things and shrugged. "I don't know, I just MORFed. I'm only fifteen." Obviously, he didn't look too hard in my head, if the shock on his face was anything to go off of.
"Ali? What was the hold up?" Mom had asked when I'd caught up to her and Jacob.
"Metal detector..." I had grumbled, and that had ended the conversation. I guess I got one good thing out of that little exchange, though. It gave me something to think about for the next four hours. What element am I?
Four hours on a plane with your little brother playing with your tail really wears you out, apparently. Mom had also taken the opportunity to tie my overlong hair into a tight french braid, which I was thankful for. But I was about ready to collapse when we walked out of the arrival lounge and into the baggage carousels.
"Angie, darling! You're getting far too thin!" Aunt Helen proclaimed loudly. "Well, we'll see if we can't fix that in a week. Oh and look at you!" She picked up Jacob, who started giggling madly. "Look how big you've gotten! Why it seems like just yesterday you were a little baby in your momma's arms..."
She put him down after a minute of fussing and turned towards me. "And- Oh my..." The shock was evident not only in her voice but in her expression. "Surely this isn't little Allison..." She took a moment to look me over, and I couldn't help myself.
"Not so little anymore, Auntie."
"Most certainly not, I should quite agree." She laughed and pulled me into a huge hug. "Did you ever grow up fast. Though I suppose MORFS can do that to a person..." She let me go and held me out at arms length, taking a good look at my face. "I must say, though, those scale make you look very exotic, dear. You must be ready to beat the boys away when you go back to school."
"Oh, that won't be a problem." I said, cheekily flexing one arm, and she laughed. Our bags had just came out of the chute by then, and I moved to pick them up.
"Now don't you dare pick those up, Ali. You've been on a plane for four hours, and I'm sure you're tired. Tyler can-" She turned and gestured to empty air. She gave a heavy sigh. "Tyler, what did I say about vanishing on me?"
"Did you say it was funny?" A familiar voice spoke right behind me, and I jumped.
"Ack!" RIIIIP! Imagine my surprise when my scales shot up and tore through my shirt, ripping clean holes through the fabric. I stared at them on shock as they stuck out, looking like spikes more than scales as they stood. Tyler faded into view, a slightly shocked look on his face as the scales retreated again.
"Wow... Some trick, Ali..." He said with a small laugh. Tyler had always been one of my favorite relatives. Since he was only a year older than me, we got along a lot better than most of my other relatives. He had always been a head taller than me, but now we were almost eye level. He must've gotten MORFS, too, evident not only by his vanishing act, but by his outlandish neon-green hair and eyebrows, which was matched by bright emerald eyes, shining with suppressed laughter.
"Some trick, yourself..." I replied, hugging him. "Although I guess it's not helping my wardrobe any..." Mom sighed, pulling her jacket out of her backpack and handing it to me. "Wow... Guess I won't be getting any surprises any time soon..."
"Not until you learn to control that particular reaction, dear."
We all piled into Aunt Helen's old minivan a little while later, and I guess the stress and activity of the day finally got to me. The sun had set hours before, and I guess I was lulled into sleep by the flickering street lights as we drove through the heart of the city. All I really had to worry about was tomorrow...
To Be Continued .
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/