Altruists: A MORFS Universe Story
MORFS was nothing new to the Collins family. William Collins was a norm who ran a small rural clinic for MORFed individuals, and his wife, Rachel, was a telepath who helped him calm patients and discern what powers they may develop. Their two children, Larry and Sarah, both grew up accustomed to MORFS as simply a part of life, and frequently discussed as children what powers they'd like to have.
Growing up, Larry was a huge vampire fan. Something about their dark mystery and ability to become immortal fascinated him. When confronted with their generally evil nature, he would always answer with the same reply: "They don't all have to be evil!"
When Larry was 10, while on vacation to Germany, Rachel took her kids to an antique shoppe while her husband visited the local tavern. It had been a lifelong ambition, he had protested. In the end Rachel smiled and threw up her hands, as was all she could do when it came to William and German beer.
While browsing, he had found a purported vampire cloak, and insisted on having it. Rachel shook her head, wondering at how four years could pass in the blink of an eye. She gently moved the tattered old thing out of the way, and resumed her cleaning of the living section of their house.
A few minutes later, the house phones rang. Just as she was about to pick it up, William yelled, "I got it!" from the clinic half of the house. Sighing, Rachel resumed her cleaning, only to again be interrupted, this time by her husband.
"That was the school...about Larry," he said gravely.
"Don't tell me he's got into another fight! That boy, I swear," Rachel began, but William cut her off.
"It's not a fight. He's developed MORFS. They're bringing him over now. Hopefully it won't be that bad of a case...but..."
"You're worried about the clinic, aren't you? The effect that being exposed to so many survivors might have on him, I mean."
"Yeah," William replied quietly.
Before more could be said, a door was heard outside, and Larry entered the house, carrying his backpack one-handed.
William and Rachel exchanged a look, which Larry caught.
"What?" came the irritable question.
"Feeling well?" Rachel said, raising an eyebrow.
"Like shit," Larry answered tersely.
"Well, how about you head over to the clinic side and find yourself a nice spot, eh son?" William said brightly.
"You've got to be kidding me. Why can't I stay in my room?"
"Because should something happen, God forbid, I want you to be over there where we have all the equipment to help you through. I really don't want to have to carry you over as you lay sedated and sweating like a pig on a spit, having who knows what kind of a reactionary problem. Now go." A touch of steel had slipped into William's normally jovial tone.
"Fine, fine. Don't throw a hissy. Jeez," Larry said as he skulked off.
"I'll go make the 'patient' comfortable," William grunted sourly.
"You turn into just as much of a smartass when you don't feel well, you know," Rachel said pointedly. "It's just a father-son thing."
"Bah!" was the only response she got.
Several hours later, Rachel was reading a magazine while waiting for the bus to bring Sarah home. Larry was sleeping off his MORFS, almost ready to enter stage two, while William watched over him, imported German beer in hand. Reflecting on Larry's mild outburst earlier, Rachel worried about his temper, but knew that otherwise he was a good kid. He was always sticking up for his sister, and even when she did something wrong, he would pretend that he did it to protect her. Hopefully, Larry's MORFing wouldn't damage their relationship.
In short order, Sarah arrived home, and asked where her brother was. Rachel tried to break the news gently, but as soon as the word MORFS was out of her mouth, Sarah was running to the clinic.
She found her father watching her sedate brother's progress on a monitor.
"How's he doing?" she asked quietly.
William laughed. "You're not going to wake him up. I've been in here singing drinking songs the last hour or so. Your brother's fine. He just entered stage two a little bit ago. Nothing major yet, obviously, although I would've been surprised if there would've been. Just go about your life. He's not going anywhere for a good few days, and there's nothing you can do. Worrying won't do anything. Besides," he grinned, "Don't forget that he's in the hands of the best MORFS doctor in the county!"
"You mean the only MORFS doctor in the county?" she said tartly.
"Hey! You should be nice to me, in a year or two it might be you lying there!"
Sarah turned to leave, but whispered, "I hope," as she did.
Time marched endlessly on, an eternal legion of moments. Minutes became hours, and hours, days. After nearly five days, Larry at last began to emerge from MORFS's grasp. The entire family was there to greet him as he woke up.
His first action was to take a long, lazy stretch. Then he proceeded to examine himself, and noticed that nothing was different.
"Uhhh...what happened?" he mumbled loudly.
"You had MORFS, son, don't you remember?" William replied.
"Yeah, but, I mean, nothing's different. I'm me. What did it do besides put me out for...?" Larry looked up questioningly.
"Almost five days," Rachel supplied.
"Yeah, almost five days?" Larry finished, although his eyes were a bit wide.
"We don't know yet. We had to wait until you were awake and alert for your mother to have a look. You know as well as I do that many survivors don't undergo radical physical changes. Look at your mother; nothing unusual about her looks. Well, other than her outstanding beauty, of course," William grinned irascibly at his wife.
"Meh. Maybe I'll get a cool power at least. I'd hate to go through all that and come away exactly the same as I went in," Larry said sourly.
"Alright, go get cleaned up, dear, and we'll have a look. And no dirty teenager thoughts this time, okay?" Rachel told her son. Larry just grinned.
"You go in my head, it's your own risk, Mom."
Several hours and hundreds of dirty thoughts later, everyone had been surprised at Larry's powers. Although he couldn't consciously control it yet, he could apparently cell-shift himself into mist. Neither Rachel nor William had even heard of such a power, but both were excited for their son. Sarah couldn't wait to see it happen, and she made no secret of that. Despite parental objections, Larry was soon trying to unlock his new ability, and partially succeeded about a half hour before supper, dissolving his entire left arm into mist.
Wondering, he held it aloft and watched it slowly disperse, although more mist seemed to form in the middle of the cloud to replace that which wafted away. However, when Tasha, the family's cat, came over to see him, something unexpected happened. He reached down with his left hand to pet her, forgetting momentarily that it was currently mist as he yelled to his mother what he'd like for supper. When he looked down to see why he wasn't feeling any fur, he was stunned to see that Tasha was lying unconscious under his left hand. Furthermore, he was no longer hungry at all. When Tasha came to, she wouldn't have anything to do with Larry, and always ran away whenever he approached her.
Over the next months, tests were conducted and it was discovered that Larry's mist was somehow vampiric, siphoning off just enough lifeforce from a victim to as to make it drop unconscious. It was speculated that he was unable to kill with it as a failsafe - you don't want to kill off your food source, but keep it alive for future feeding. Additionally, human food somehow was unable to sustain him. The larger the creature he fed off of, the longer it took to feed, and the more satisfied he was afterwards. Experimentation discovered that a large dog could keep him satiated for several days, while a hamster was only good for about a half day.
The biggest mystery, however, was what happened to Larry's body when he shifted to mist. Some theorized that Larry's brain, or a chunk of it, stored a template of his body, and wouldn't shift to mist so that it could restore the rest. This, however, was disproven when Larry finally shifted fully to a cloud of mist, after almost four months. That, in turn, brought a new surprise: Larry could somehow control his shape and resist forces while floating in the air, such as winds and other pushing and pulling forces. His newly discovered abilities were termed as those of an air elemental, although no sufficient explanation surfaced as to how he was able to shift at all. Eventually, the question was dropped. He just could.
As soon as the truth about his powers began to unfold, Larry made a vow that he would never feed off a human. Having somehow become at least a deviated type of vampire, he was determined to prove his beliefs correct and be "the good one." He also kept his powers a secret from all of his classmates, except for four of his best friends. They just didn't need to know. Of course his friends insisted that he take some kind of codename, three of them being MORFed themselves. It was the cool thing to do, they said, and over time Larry gradually gave in. After reading old fantasy tales about life-draining clouds from the 1980s, he eventually settled on Wraith.
And for the Collins family, life returned to normalcy, or at least as normal as it would ever be, running a MORFS clinic. That peace and relative quiet wouldn't last long, however, for when Sarah MORFed it would usher in a new time for them all.
A little more than a year later, 15-year-old Larry and 13-year-old Sarah had just gotten out of school for summer vacation. It was a beautiful day, a sunny 73 F with a light breeze, and Larry had a surprise for his sister. He had managed to procure two tickets to a concert that one of her favorite bands was having nearby.
Grinning, he walked up the stairs to knock on her bedroom door and tell her the news.
“Hey sis, I got a surprise for you. Can I come in?” No reply.
“Hey, Sarah, you okay in there?” He knew she was in there, but it was unusual for her not to respond to the possibility of a surprise. Still no answer.
Concerned, Larry tried to open the door, only to discover that it was locked. Knocking louder, Larry yelled, “Sarah, you okay?”
Only silence responded.
Larry quickly surveyed his options. Neither of his parents were home at the moment, Dad being at an out-of-town day-long seminar and Mom was getting groceries. Larry decided that if his sister was hurt, time was of the essence and he couldn't afford to wait.
Taking a deep breath, Larry focused on a sense of release, of fading away. The familiar sensation of dissolving away into a cloud of mist was never far behind, he had realized. Seeping in around the edges of the door, Larry quickly regained his solid form, and glanced all around the room.
His sister was lying on the bed, seemingly unharmed. A closer examination, however (as well as a few good shakes) revealed that she was quite out of it, and not showing any intention of waking up soon. Feeling her forehead, Larry was surprise that she was burning up. As he called his mother, he wondered if perhaps Sarah's time had finally come.
Rachel had rushed home as soon as she got her son's call. With the knowledge of years, she was able to quickly determine that it was indeed MORFS. Instructing Larry to carry his sister into the clinic and hook her up on energy packs, she called her husband and let him know that his daughter's turn had begun. Over the next hours, into days, all the Collins family could really do was watch, and wait. Sarah's MORF seemed to be an odd type of hybrid, because every now and then she would have the attributes of some animal or other, but they never seemed to stick around.
While Larry grabbed a bite to eat, on the fifth day, Rachel and William conferred quietly about their suspicions. Not quietly enough, however, that Larry couldn't hear them as he returned. Curious, he hung back and listened to what they were saying about his sister.
“I still say she has to be some kind of a cell-shifter. Nothing else makes any sense – what's with all the different animals. I mean, she could be a chimera type, but then why would the changes have disappeared?” said William.
“And I still say I don't think so. My idea still makes more sense,” Rachel replied.
“We still don't know if that's how it works for sure. Or at least not in every case. Look at Larry's powers. Where would he have gotten them from?”
“I don't know. Maybe that old cloak I bought him in Germany really was a vampire cloak. Regardless, the different animal types correspond to some of the patients we have had. That's where she's getting it, from the exposure to different hybrids. Her body simply doesn't know what to do with all the templates that are being shoved on it.”
“That only makes sense up to a point. Why were the animals chosen that were chosen? Why the bison hooves and not cow hooves? Why the frog tongue and not that of a skink? I'm telling you, she's a cell-shifter,” William countered.
“And I'm telling you she's a hybrid of hybrids,” Rachel counter-countered. Then Larry dropped his glass, and sheepishly entered the room.
“Uh, I need some paper towels,” he grinned bashfully.
Some time later, after clean-up was complete, Sarah woke up briefly. As her concerned family gathered around her, she looked up and mumbled briefly, “So many colors...” Mere seconds later she was out once more.
Instead, the Collins family would have to wait three more days for Sarah to emerge from her fitful sleep. Several more partial changes occurred, but were quickly reabsorbed. As such, when Sarah finally awoke, she looked exactly the same as she did when she entered her change, the same as her brother.
Overjoyed, Sarah's family gathered around her, providing the typical congratulations and other trivial chat. However, Sarah would have nothing of it. Her mind was on one subject and one subject only: her powers. She immediately wanted to know everything about them, and to start using them. It took Rachel a while to calm her down enough to explain that it would take a little time to figure out what they were.
“Scan me,” Sarah demanded then. “You did it for Larry, didn't you?”
“Yes, dear,” Rachel replied, “but you know it doesn't work that way. You need to regain some strength first, and even then you don't know if the impression I get will be all of it. Look at your brother...we only found out what he could really do months later.”
Looking her mom in the eye, Sarah said levelly, “I have to know, Mom.”
Consenting, Rachel ruffled her daughter's hair, saying, “Fine, but not for a little bit. Give it a half-hour, alright? Then I'll scan you, I swear. Deal?”
“Oh alright,” Sarah pouted.
Thirty minutes later, on the minute, Sarah summoned her mother back for her scanning. Surprised that only Rachel showed up, she asked where her brother and father were at.
“Well, believe it or not, they've heard tell of a group of MORFed individuals that have moved into our area. They've gone to check it out and see if we may have a problem,” Rachel answered.
“Why would a group of MORFs move into a nowhere like this? I mean, we're talking the middle of Kansas here. All we've got is farms and tornadoes.”
“That's what your brother and father are looking into. Meanwhile, let's have a look and see if we can't find out what you've got going on in there.” Stretching out her hand towards her daughter's forehead, she cautioned, “Just don't move.”
Some time later, Rachel finally gave up.
“The only thing I can see is a myriad blend of six different colors. I can't figure out anything more than that. I'm sorry, but you've got to figure out the rest for yourself.”
Disappointed, both mother and daughter's stomachs growled. Rachel smiled, and said, “I guess that means that we should cheer up on some good food. What do you want?”
Meanwhile, a full county away, William and Larry were nearing their destination.
“So, remind me again why we care?” Larry said, annoyed. He'd wanted to be present for his sister's scanning, but his father had pulled him away for this trip.
“I told you already, son. From what I've heard, the Forsaken are a MORFs-only gang which furthers MORFs-supremacist views. They recently left Seattle, only to resurface here, purportedly. Now, this is rural Kansas we're talking. There's nothing that a group like that would want around here that I can think of. We're going to pay them a little visit and find out what they want.”
“And why would they even bother to see you, let alone if they do, how is your safety guaranteed?”
“Are you dense?” William asked tartly. “I'm sure I told you all this earlier.”
“Well, I forgot,” Larry said defensively. “It's a long, boring ride. Sheesh. Tell me again.”
“The Forsaken aren't just another MORFs gang. They are all greatly altered from their original state. All trace of their former lives have been stolen from them, and as such they adopted the moniker “Forsaken,” as that is how they view themselves. They believe that they have been cast off from humanity as a whole because they are supposed to create a new order. They see MORFs as the next evolution of mankind.”
“Well, it is, isn't it?” Larry interrupted.
“That's a philosophical question that would take more time than we really have right now. Basically, I'm a MORFs doctor, the best one around these parts...”
“Not saying much,” Larry interrupted again.
“Do you want me to talk or not?” William said crossly.
“Go ahead, by all means,” Larry grinned.
“Mmmm,” William grunted. “The Forsaken have been greatly changed and have gone through tremendous stress and emotional pain. Some of them may not have full control over their powers, according to my sources. My point is, I can help them. They aren't going to turn me away or injure me.”
“And if you're wrong?”
“That's why I insisted you come along. You're my contingency plan. I'm just a norm; I can't do much in terms of fighting. But if things do go sour, you can at least give us a chance to escape.”
“I see. How many are there?”
A minutes later, they arrived at their location: an old, dilapidated storage shed in the middle of nowhere.
“Looks like this place used to be an old farm, decades ago,” Larry said, looking around at the overgrown fields and ruined buildings surrounding them. “I'm surprised the old shed's still standing, I mean, look at this place.”
“It's still standing because we made it stand again,” came a deep, gravelly voice from their right.
Turning, William and Larry found themselves looking at a massive individual, seven feet tall if he was in inch. He had white hair, translucent skin, and two curving rams' horns that stretched from his forehead back over the top of his head.
“Name's Dave Potter, but you can call me Icedemon. Welcome to New Cardesia,” he said, stretching his arms out. Doing so, he snapped his fingers.
Immediately, the fields around them began shimmering, like heat rising off a road. Almost fifty people were revealed to be standing in a circle around William and Larry, all obviously MORFed.
“Greetings to William and Larry Collins, from the Forsaken!” Dave shouted, and began laughing – a horrible, grating sound which carried across the forgotten fields.
“This might not have been such a good idea,” William said softly.
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/