Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story

By Joreymay

 

Part 4

 

"Ok, Angel." Lena was saying. "Now think of going to the pool tomorrow. Good. Now think of eating breakfast next Monday. Good. Now think of starting school. Good. Now, think of waking up next Christmas morning. Good."

 

"What the heck are we doing, anyway?"

 

"One of the ways you sort out the 'meaning' of mental images is how and where you represent them. We're finding out where you put the past and the future. With that, we can put things there. We won't really change your memories or reality, but you will think about some things differently. And that's what we are trying to accomplish - making it easier for you to accept your new life, on your own terms."

 

It had been a weird morning for Angel. Lena was doing her thing, trying to help Angel realign his self image to reflect his new reality. Trying to make his life easier. The setup worked well enough, "mapping" his "timeline", "Calibrating" this and that, visualizing one thing or another.

 

But when she pulled it all together for him, it didn't work. He could - briefly - think of himself as a girl or a woman, but not this girl or woman. And without addressing the mystery element, the whole thing fell apart. Some part of him wouldn't let it work.

 

They both started to get frustrated, which didn't help. Before they gave up for the moment, Lena looked at Angel and, with complete conviction and sincerity, said "You want to do this. I'm not sure whether those parts of your mind that have your best interests as a focus will find a way to let us know what the issues are and how to successfully address them this morning, or tomorrow morning."

 

Angel sort of mentally crossed his eyes at that, but the two of them moved on to other things. He went to his computer and checked his mail. One of the people on his watch list was out of bed. Angel's cousins sent him a picture and description, and he was a little confused.

 

He had the general kind of changes Angel had seen, but not to the degree he had seen. He had the strength, and certain suggestions of canine features. But he mostly appeared human. From their description, he was larger, much stronger, had a stronger (but not apparently distorted) jaw, and the same general kind of thick nails as Otter. While not visible in any way, he also had an enhanced sense of smell. On the down side, his color vision was less acute.

 

After thinking about it for a while, it made a certain amount of sense to Angel. He saw the form, but could not yet recognize the degree. He was confident that, with practice, he would be able to recognize and integrate some indication of degree. But he needed a lot of samples.

 

This was a job for an expert. *You busy?*

 

*Not really. What's up?* Lena sent back.

 

After a brief exchange of images and thoughts, Angel asked *Where would a wide range of Morfs hang out, on a day like this?*

 

*The pool or the Mall. You've already seen a lot of the talent at the pool.*

 

Angel flashed on earlier problems with the mall, but Lena reminded him that was a different mall in a different State. And that he was confident about his ability to be female in public.

 

Conceding the point, he cleared it with his mother. She had her own shopping to do, and decided it would be a good idea for him to start looking for some more school clothes. Lena could advise him, and he could use the exercise as cover for his real mission. And if he found something appropriate, Lena could "call" her to come and either veto it or pay for it.

 

*Don't get your hopes up too high,* Lena warned his mother. *He still hasn't really learned the fun of shopping for shopping's sake. One step at a time.*

 

His mother sighed briefly, then got them into the car. Once at the mall, they split up. They had cells and Lena for keeping in touch, so she went her own way and let Angel and Lena go theirs.

 

The expedition was a success. In addition to learning about the feeling that seemed to indicate the degree of the transformation, he learned some practical aspects of the school dress code.

 

Over the last ten years, the strict and oppressive dress codes of earlier times had all but vanished. Their earlier successes had faded, and been shown to owe more to the famous effect of making any significant change in an institution than to any inherent merit of the strict dress codes themselves. That wouldn't have been enough to force a change by itself, given the usual inertia of school districts and the like. The real killer had been the lawsuits on behalf of intersexed and other sexually nonstandard students. Some failed, but many succeeded. And the costs to the schools was enormous, win or lose.

 

Like most districts, theirs had mostly reverted to the earlier dress codes. Those were based on health, safety and disruption, and were largely immune from such lawsuits. Some of the skirts his aunt and cousin had foisted off on him would not meet the new standards, being too short. And much the same was true of some of the blouses. But he was left with a very wide range of choices.

 

In the end, after pressure from both Lena and his mother, he got a few things.

 

On the way home, he was forced to admit that he had a good time doing the shopping and just hanging around with Lena. Nor was it wasted in any sense. In addition to his purchases, he had spotted a number of impending Morfs, and had notes about them. He noted their names, the image he got, and the impression of the degree of change. He didn't have an objective scale for the degree of change, but he could tell the shades of gray apart. He would watch them over the next couple of weeks.

 

Dinner that night was a nice confirmation of his earlier feeling: he was home with his family. After helping with the dishes, he went upstairs to (as he put it) "do my homework."

 

He explored the websites he had bookmarked. He learned more about the MORF viruses, and what had been learned about his own personal variant. The first thing he learned was that his version wasn't a virus. It was three different ones, which interacted. The best guess among the researchers was that sooner or later the three would uncouple, and spread separately. The medical community was working on prevention and cure, but were not particularly optimistic.

 

In the process, he also learned a lot more about microscopic life and pseudo life than he ever knew there was to learn. And the biggest thing he learned was that he had more to learn. A lot more to learn.

 

His head was swimming as he got ready for bed. Too many facts, but too little understanding. In one of his early computer classes, the instructor made a big deal of the difference between data and information. That came prominently to mind while he was trying to get to sleep.

 

He spent a restless night, filled with strange dreams and nightmares. Most of them came and went, leaving little more than an unpleasant emotional texture behind. But two stuck in his mind. The first was an old nursery rhyme he knew, about a centipede trying to become conscious of how he walked, and becoming hopelessly confused. First, he saw the poor critter as a cartoon style beast. Then, he was the centipede.

 

He woke up, with a feeling of urgency. He grabbed some paper and a pen, and wrote what he could remember. He just hoped that the next morning, when he woke up, it wouldn't say something like "Life is a peach pit."

 

The other was even stranger. He was trying to sculpt a toasted marshmallow. But every time he shaped it, the brown, outer part cracked and leaked, and the effort just ended up a shapeless glob. Then he got an idea. He turned it inside out, and shaped the brown part on the inside. The white outside kept its shape, and formed a new skin. He woke up knowing this was the answer to something important. But he had no idea what.

 

He wrote it down as well.

 

It was a little early, but he couldn't really get back to sleep. He went to take care of his morning business - including the unpleasant new bits - and take a shower. This time, the extra time he spent cleaning between his legs really was for cleaning.

 

That done, he dried himself and took the necessary precautions. Then he went back to his bedroom to get ready for the day. While he was combing and brushing his hair, he looked at his notes. While not quite down to the peach pit standard, they were puzzling. After each, he had written and underlined "IMPORTANT" in large letters. He just wasn't sure what was so important about a bug laying distracted in a ditch, or a gooey sculpture.

 

He got to the kitchen first, for a change, so he decided to make breakfast. Especially because that gave him the choice of what to make. He put on the "helper" apron, out of self defense, and got started. He knew better than to use his mother's apron. Even his dad wasn't safe trying that.

 

He put on the coffee, then decided to take a long term approach to breakfast. He had learned a way to make pancakes which reheated very nicely. They weren't as good as his mother's best, but they were better than most. He could make up a batch, serve some for breakfast, and put the rest away for a quick meal.

 

With the griddle heating, he was just finishing the batter when his mother appeared. First, she made a bee line for the coffee. He knew better than to say anything before the first half cup or two. She turned a bleary eye at what he was doing, and nodded. After the elixir of life had done its work, she joined him at the counter.

 

"Your quick snack specials, hmm? Want me to do bacon and eggs to go with it?"

 

"Sure. Got enough room?"

 

"I'll manage. What got you up so early?"

 

"Some weird dreams. After the second Earthshakingly Important Missive from Dreamland, I couldn't get back to sleep."

 

"Journal?"

 

"Got 'em."

 

"Peach pits?"

 

"Too damned close."

 

"Language! Want to talk?"

 

"I don't think it would help. I just need them to rattle around until they decide to make sense."

 

They worked side by side, talking about trivia, while they cooked. With a practiced timing, honed by years of experience, his dad showed up just when the food was almost ready to serve. He got out plates, forks, and glasses, and poured himself some coffee.

 

They talked about work and plans. His dad would be working late again. His mother expected a call from the school district, about the job. He was going to hang out with his new friends, and get to know the area a little better.

 

*You're up early!*

 

*Bad dreams. Want some breakfast?*

 

*Sounds better than my usual bowl of cereal. I'll be over in a minute.*

 

"Lena's coming over. I just invited her to breakfast."

 

"How did... oh! Ask her if she wants some bacon and eggs with the pancakes."

 

His father looked at the two of them like they were crazy. While Angel asked Lena about the food, his mother explained.

 

"She's the telepath from next door. Seems to have taken Angel under her wing, since we arrived."

 

He nodded his understanding, then craned his neck as though he was trying to look at Angel's back. Another old family joke.

 

While Angel and Lena cleaned up, his dad left for work. His mother went out to "pick up a few things," and told him to refer any calls to her cell. When they were done, they went up to his room to talk.

 

Lena asked about the dreams, and then helped him interpret them. She didn't suggest interpretations so much as ask leading questions to help him understand them himself. She said it was more of the stuff she learned in self defense.

 

The centipede dream was the simplest. She asked what he was doing just before he went to sleep. He told her about the research. She asked what the bug in the poem was trying to do. After some prompting, he decided that it was trying to do something consciously that he had been doing perfectly well without conscious thought. In the poem, walk.

 

He decided that his subconscious mind was trying to tell him to stop trying to consciously manage his powers at the detail level. Looking back, it seemed obvious.

 

The other dream was more difficult. It brought up things he didn't like to talk about. When Lena asked him about the image of a toasted marshmallow, she caught an image of a large crowd of giant, angry, taunting latino youths yelling insults and threats.

 

When he saw her reaction, he knew what she had seen. It was actually a conglomeration of several incidents, reduced to their essential commonality. It was horrible and painful. He was upset that she saw it, and upset at reliving it.

 

After helping him to calm down a bit, she asked "Why were they so angry?"

 

"They thought I was a traitor to my race."

 

"I don't understand. Was this after you changed?"

 

"No, before. They said I was like a toasted marshmallow: a thin layer of brown - latino - on the outside and a whole lot of white - anglo - on the inside. They said that under any pressure, the latino part of me would go away entirely. They said I was only pretending to be what I looked like. And they were angry about it."

 

Lena recognized something else, but had to make him come up with it. "Why didn't you just blow that off? If it was so obviously false, why did you let them get to you?" she asked, gently.

 

"Because it wasn't," he wailed. "Wasn't obviously false. My pride, my heritage, my family... we really were more anglo than latino. We were and are middle class Americans first, and everything else a distant second. It was true, but I didn't want it to be true. Who I was and what I was were closely tied to many things, but my ethnic history was a big one."

 

She let him cry it out, and comforted him when he was done. When she had him calm again, she asked him what that information said about the dream, and what the dream said about changing him.

 

"If I try to stay who I was, a thin layer of a proud, ancient culture over a core of middle class white bread American, trying to change who I am won't work. It will only destroy what helps define me."

 

Just then, the phone rang. He was about to go answer it, when it stopped after one and a half rings.

 

"Your mother's home. She got the phone."

 

They had been so involved in what they were doing that they had not noticed her return.

 

"She needs to talk to you." Lena smiled.

 

Angel got himself together and went downstairs in search of his mother. She was just hanging up the phone.

 

"Oh, hi Angel. I was just about to go looking for you. That was the school district. I got the job! I have to go down to fill out some more paperwork and talk to some people. Could you finish putting the food away while I get ready?"

 

"Sure." he assured her.

 

"I'll be there all afternoon. Will you be ok?"

 

Angel rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mommy. I'ze a big... girl now."

 

His mother caught the pause, even in the middle of the sarcasm. She just shook her head, then dashed upstairs to get ready.

 

Angel and Lena put the stuff away, then Angel fixed them a snack. They were sitting in the living room, munching away, when his mother rushed out the door. Somehow, they both found her hasty exit funny.

 

They were just coming down from their bout of laughter, when Lena stiffened. She nodded a couple of times, then turned to Angel.

 

"Mind a little more company?"

 

"No, why?"

 

"Someone's on her way over, and I suspect it has something to do with you."

 

"That sounds ominous."

 

"In a way. How's your mythology?"

 

"Huh?"

 

"What does the name Cassandra mean to you?"

 

"I assume you don't mean the singer or the actress?"

 

"Right"

 

"Wasn't she some kind of prophet? Under a curse from some goddess, so she only saw bad stuff?"

 

"Close enough. We have our own version here. We call her Cassandra, or Cassie, but her name is really Penny. She's a little bit of a precog, but her main ability is a weird one."

 

"What else is new, these days?" Angel observed, wryly.

 

"I mean weird by our standards."

 

"Ok, that's impressive. What is it?"

 

"She seems to be subconsciously hooked into everyone in the region who has a perceptive power. Like you and me."

 

"She knows everything we see?"

 

"Not consciously. I heard that she tried to make it conscious, and nearly ended up catatonic."

 

Angel whistled.

 

"What it does now is feed into her subconscious. For some reason, she becomes aware of impending disasters and the like and, unlike the original, possible ways to avoid them. If any exist."

 

"Useful, in a backhanded way. What a way to spend your life." Angel shook his head.

 

"Yeah. She was kind of a genius before MORFS, and seems to have gotten smarter with all this. And she was already dealing with the darker side of things, which seems to have helped her. She helped me get through my introduction to the nasty side of the human psyche."

 

"And she's here now."

 

Angel went to the door, and watched the approaching girl. She was tall for a girl, about 5' 10", he estimated. She looked a little older than them, probably about to be a senior. She had black hair, which made her skin look paler than it was. And she had a look of urgency.

 

"Hey, Cassie. What's the problem?"

 

Angel looked at the two of them, and rolled his eyes. "Would you like to come in and get a little more comfortable?"

 

They looked at each other, then at him, as though the idea had never occurred to them. Then they shrugged and moved inside.

 

"Want something to drink?" he offered. "Iced tea, soda, water...?"

 

"Tea would be great. Thanks."

 

As Angel went for the tea, Lena gave Cassie the public version of his life and powers. He got back in time to catch the end, including the description of the tan and the healing of the scar. When Lena was finished, Cassie drank a moment, and thought.

 

"She must be the one then."

 

"What one?" Angel asked. "Am I some kind of walking disaster or something?"

 

"I see Radar gave you the condensed version. Probably about as complete as what she said about you." She arched an eyebrow. Angel always wished he could do that, but never got the hang of it. "You're not the problem, but you may be the answer."

 

"Ok," Lena prompted, "All you've said is that someone's in danger, and someone I know can help. Spill."

 

"Ok. One of the boys from my school..."

 

"Your school?" Angel asked.

 

"I go to Smokey Hills. Anyway, Jerry Anderson, a sophomore there, is about to go through MORFS. But he won't survive it."

 

From his research, Angel knew that some transformations were fatal. And so far, there was nothing Medicine could do about it. Apparently, Jerry would be one of those cases.

 

"Unless...?" Lena prompted.

 

"That's where you come in, Radar. It's a little confusing, but from what I can make out, someone you know can complete his... her... that's one of the confusing parts... can complete hir transformation with your help, then can transform Jerry's transformation. I wish I could say it more clearly, but it's all jumbled. I could guess at some things, but my guess would be no better than yours, and might just confuse things more." She stopped and took a breath.

 

"Jerry's a nice guy. Nobody deserves to die like that, but especially not someone like him."

 

Angel was beginning to feel hedged in. "How close is he?"

 

"To starting the transformation? Two, maybe three days is the impression I get. Are you the one... his chance at life?"

 

"Maybe. I don't know. I'm not very strong, and it may be too late for me to do anything. I can change things a little, but I've never tried something like that. I might kill him myself. "He stopped, taking hold of his fears. " I do fit one part. I have my own issues to resolve, and Lena's been helping me try to resolve them. Are you sure he'll die without help?"

 

"Cassie's never been wrong about such things before. She may not see all the possible sources of help, but those she misses tend to be marginal at best."

 

"Do I really have to get my crap together before I can help?"

 

"I get that impression. It's kinda like, if you do you can do a lot more a lot quicker and better than if you don't. If it's you at all."

 

"Gotta be." Lena jumped in. "She's the only one I know that even remotely fits the bill."

 

"Well, I'll do anything I can. I just don't know if I can help all that much."

 

"It wouldn't have to be much. Just enough to keep him from dying. Ugly and alive beats dead any day of the week. Thank you, Angel." she paused in thought. "What's your real name, if it's not a secret or something?"

 

"It really is Angel. Something my folks have had reason to call overly optimistic, at times," he grinned, wryly.

 

"Sorry."

 

"No prob'. It does sound like something that would fit in with Cassandra, Radar, Otter, and the like, now that you mention it."

 

"There's always Star Dawn," Lena reminded them. "She grew up with what sounded like a code name, too."

 

"All right." Angel summed up. "We have two major tasks to accomplish, and we need to do them in order."

 

*Bossy, ain't she?* Lena was grinning. Penny just nodded and smiled.

 

"Cassie," he continued, "you can't help with the first part. Not really. But it would be good if you can find out what Jerry will be doing later in the day. If necessary, we can get him on radar, or vice versa," he grinned impishly, "when we need to find him. But your help could make it easier. Have you told him?"

 

"Hell no. No point in it. If you can't fix it, he'd spend his last couple of days upset. If you do fix it, that worry would have been for nothing. As far as I know, he doesn't even suspect that he's about to come down with it."

 

"Good. Easier that way. We'll contact you when the time comes."

 

"I guess she means I'll give you a shout," she tapped her forehead, "then. Good hunting."

 

Penny looked like she was going to say something, then changed her mind. They said their goodbyes, and she left.

 

"Is that all on the level?" he asked Lena.

 

"She never jokes about that shit, or fakes it. It's gold."

 

"I guess we'd better get started. Again. Suddenly, that innocent life looks a lot more important than my little identity crisis."

 

"Don't sell it short. It will only work if we both keep in mind the importance of what we are doing. Not the stuff about his life. The stuff about yours. While we do this, our entire focus has to be on you."

 

"But..."

 

"No buts. This is about you, and only you. We can worry about other people later." Her no nonsense look convinced him.

 

The next two hours were intense. They explored the essence of his ethnic identity and ethnic pride, then made sure they were firmly anchored at his core. They would be equally valid and equally strong if he had fur or feathers. And every bit as much a part of him.

 

She had him take a few minutes and grieve for what he had lost. She assured him it was ok, and valid, for him to feel and mourn that loss.

 

The rest of the time was taking apart ways he thought and fitting them back together in new ways. It made no sense to Angel, but it was clear that Lena knew what she was doing.

 

In the end, Angel had a new sense of who she was. And who, and what, she would become.

 

She offered Lena something to drink, and then fetched the refreshments.

 

They talked about nothing in particular, just relaxing. After about a half hour of that, they decided it was time to do something about Jerry.

 

Lena, after checking to make sure that Angel had integrated her new identity, contacted Penny. *Hey, Cassie,* she sent. *What's the word on Jerry?*

 

*He's at the movies - the old Chinese - for the next half hour or so. After that, his plans are kind of open.*

 

*We'll meet you there.*

 

After a few minutes of "calling" around, Lena arranged a ride. Penny was already there.

 

When they got there, he was still inside. They walked around the lobby, looking at the posters and displays, and basically killing time. Lena introduced him to a few of the people working there, as classmates from the high school or other friends. While almost all of them looked fully untransformed, more than a third of them showed signs of having gone through MORFS or coming up on it.

 

As Lena was introducing her to Andy, an assistant manager, she noticed something at the snack bar. She pointed to a corner near the Banuba machine, and quietly told him about the buildup of potentially harmful bacteria there.

 

"Another member of the club, Radar?"

 

"Yep." and then *Believe her. She's a bio elemental, and can see such things.*

 

*How powerful is she?*

 

She gave him the public version.

 

"If you want, I could sterilize it for the moment. But you'll need to find a way of keeping it from building up again." She was oblivious to the mental conversation.

 

*Won't it drain you?*

 

*Not really. It's a very small area*

 

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble, then sure. Be careful you don't burn yourself, though."

 

She reached over with three fingers and sterilized the area. It took less that two seconds.

 

"Done. You might want to clean the area with disinfectant, or just some diluted bleach, at closing time every couple of days."

 

"That could be a useful gift. Can you imagine a health inspector or the like with that ability?"

 

She was saved the need to answer by a sudden rush of people flowing into the lobby. The movie had let out.

 

Lena pointed Jerry out. He was thin, about average height, with blonde hair. Angel recognized him from the mall. He was going to morph into the semblance of some kind of large lizard. She showed Lena the mental image, and Lena told her that it was a Gila Monster, as poisonous as some snakes.

 

Cassie joined them. Very quietly, she explained the information she now had. He would develop oversized poison glands, and they would release their corrosive neurotoxin into his system before they were fully developed. His body would shut down and die.

 

He headed into the menís' room, so they decided to "run into him" on his way out. They went into the ladies' room, and adjusted their minimal makeup in the mirror, while Lena monitored his progress. They stepped out at the perfect time to literally run into him.

 

"Oof. Sorry. Oh, hey, Jerry!"

 

"Hey Radar. How's your summer going?"

 

"Pretty good. I got a new neighbor, and I'm showing her the places to avoid." she said with an ironic smirk. "Angel, this is Jerry. Jerry, Angel."

 

"Another of your crowd, eh?" he smiled.

 

"What makes you say that? She is, but how did you know?" Lena had the answer before she was finished talking, but let him say it.

 

"With a code name like that?"

 

"Actually," Angel replied, "it's not a code name. My parents gave it to me at birth." While she talked, she was building a more detailed mental image of him. She could see what Cassie was talking about, almost like a very short animation.

 

"Oh, sorry. Well, now that the cat's out of the bag, whatcha got?"

 

Lena had been reading him as well. "Well, for one thing, she can cure that nasty sunburn on your back. And even give that pasty face of yours some color." Lena showed off her tanned arms and legs, and indicated her face.

 

"I've never heard of a power like that before."

 

"Actually, I'm a bio elemental. Barely. I can only affect things up to a tiny distance from my body. So, I can do stuff with skin, and sort of see microbes. But that's about it."

 

"Well, that could still be kinda cool. I mean, you could make a fortune just dealing with zits." He was trying hard not to laugh. "Everyone in school would want to be your friend!"

 

"Not to mention the whole tanning thing." Lena agreed.

 

"And wrinkles." Penny added. "Do you have any idea how much women - and businessmen - pay to get rid of wrinkles these days?"

 

Angel had a second of hurt, feeling like they were laughing at her. But then she realized that they weren't. Yes, they were making a joke of it. But they were doing it in a way that showed they accepted her. She was one of their own.

 

She liked that feeling.

 

"Cassie," Lena said, "You got a car here?"

 

Penny nodded. "What's the plan, Radar?"

 

"Well, Jerry could use some help with his skin problems, and Angel could use some help moving those boxes of clothes. Why don't we go over to her place, and hang out a little?"

 

*Can you clear it with my mom?* Angel thought.

 

*Already did. Everyone's covered except Jerry's mom, and she's out for the day.*

 

*What about his dad?*

 

*Dead. Don't bring it up.*

 

*Thanks for the warning.*

 

"Ok," Jerry cut in, "What are you two thinking at each other?"

 

"What?" Angel was startled. Was he telepathic?

 

"I've seen that look before. When someone new starts talking with Radar or one of the others, they get those looks. After a while, they just learn to relax and let it happen."

 

"Ok," Angel confessed. "You caught me. I was asking her to clear it with my mom. She already did."

 

"Wow. Your mom is ok with all that telepathy stuff?"

 

"Yeah. Back where we used to live, she worked for the School District. Had to deal with them all the time."

 

"Cool. They kinda creep my mom out. No offense, Radar."

 

"None taken." she smiled. "Used to creep me out, too."

 

They got into Cassie's (mother's) car, and headed toward the house.

 

Angel was letting her subconscious mind process the problem, and had the feeling it wasn't finished yet. She decided to gather more information.

 

"So, Jerry. What would you want MORFS to do for you?"

 

"Oh, I wouldn't mind getting a little bigger, and a lot stronger. I'd want to stay pretty much human looking. Ooh, and I want some kind of a cool zap. And maybe some special senses, like you all."

 

Something clicked. It would be possible to change the template from a poison gland to some sort of energy projection, and reduce the overall appearance to what he requested. His special sense would be a sort of infrared sense, maybe operating as night vision. His eyes, teeth, and tongue would almost certainly change, but she could hold off the scales and tail. He could even have a form of regeneration.

 

But it wouldn't be easy, and if she waited too much longer, it wouldn't be possible. She could do it under the cover of curing the sunburn, but it would leave them both weak and tired. In his case, that would be a good thing. It would make him more vulnerable to the changes she would introduce. In her case, it would just mean she had to eat and rest. A lot.

 

She filled Lena in, mentally, while Penny carried on the conversation with Jerry.

 

The plan was simple. They'd get Jerry to carry Angel's old clothes boxes downstairs, then repay him with the sunburn healing. They would find a reason to explain the difficulty. After a snack and some rest, Penny would take Jerry home, none the wiser. Safer, but none the wiser.

 

When she started in on his back, she found the reason easily enough. "You've sunburned your back a lot, haven't you?"

 

"Yeah, ever since we moved here from California. It's funny, I never used to burn there."

 

"It's the altitude," Penny jumped in, "The whole Mile High City thing. The air is thinner, so more bad stuff gets through. You have to use the sun block all the time."

 

"You've done a lot of damage," Angel continued. "Luckily, I should be able to get most of it."

 

*Is all that on the level?*

 

*Most of it. I can fix it as easily as I did yours, and if I didn't, the MORFS would probably take care of the rest.*

 

"Hmmm. We have a problem." Lena said. "He didn't just burn his back."

 

"Oh, yeah?" Angel said, amused. "Been mooning the sun?"

 

"Not quite," he admitted, "but my suit is a little, um, brief."

 

Penny giggled. "Some of the girls talked him into it."

 

"Yeah, but it was worth it." he sighed. "You shoulda seen what they wore, as part of the deal."

 

"I tried. But I didn't have a magnifying glass with me." she laughed.

 

While the laughter died down, Angel fetched a towel. "Ok, fry boy. Strip to your underwear, and lay face down on the sofa. Lena will know when you're ready."

 

With that, they went into the kitchen. He could still hear their giggles as he changed. When he was on the sofa, with the towel draped over his butt, Angel and Lena came back in. Penny remained in the kitchen.

 

"Where's Cassie?"

 

"Making us a snack. We're gonna need it."

 

Letting her subconscious mind guide her, Angel started at his feet and worked upward. When she got to the towel, she worked under it but over his briefs. When she finished with that area, she pulled her hands out and adjusted the towel. She had just worked her way up his lower back, struggling to make the necessary changes to his morf pattern as she went along, when the front door opened.

 

"Ok, what's a naked boy doing on my sofa?" her mother demanded.

 

*Don't worry. I filled her in.*

 

A startled Jerry was trying to get up, and somehow hold the towel around him. Angel held him down.

 

"We lured him here to have our wicked ways with him." Angel grinned. "Now that we wore him out, I'm fixing his sunburn."

 

"Ok. Just make sure you clean up after him. They're worse than puppies."

 

Angel gasped, then rolled her eyes. Was that really what her own mother used to think about her? Then she saw the twinkle in her eyes, and knew that was intended as an in joke. Lena's grin told her that she was in on the joke.

 

While her mother went into the kitchen, she settled down and went back to work. The brief rest had done her some good, and his body had started processing the little gifts she had left. But she still had a long way to go.

 

She lost track of everything but what she was doing. After a while, it was like crawling up a steep hill on her hands and knees. As tired as she was getting, she sensed that he was getting even more so. Finally, she found herself at his shoulders. He was asleep, and she was fighting to keep from joining him. Finally, she got as far as she was going to be able to, and finished up the last little bit of sunburn. She didn't even notice herself slipping to the floor, asleep.

 

She woke up to find her mother pushing a mug of soup into her hands. "We've got some solid food too, when youíre up to it. How're you feeling?"

 

"Wiped out. Lena?"

 

*Here. Whatcha need?*

 

*How is Jerry doing?*

 

*Asleep, but good.*

 

*I need to talk with everyone, without him hearing. Could you relay?*

 

*What am I? A human hub?*

 

*Yep. Just like the human tanning booth.* She grinned, tiredly. *How long?*

 

*We let you sleep a half hour, until your breathing shifted.*

 

*Cassie, is he out of danger?*

 

*She says yes. You did it.*

 

*Good. I want to tell him that he's about to come down with MORFS.*

 

*Are you sure that's a good idea?*

 

*No. That's why I'm asking first.*

 

Penny didn't see any disasters either way. Lena opined that he was stable and mature enough to take the news well. Her mother was concerned about revealing the ability, but Penny assured her that he was trustworthy.

 

In the end, they left it up to her.

 

She woke him up and offered him some food. He was a teenaged boy - of course he accepted. For a while, he almost forgot he was sitting there in his underwear, with a towel around his waist, in a room full of females.

 

Until he realized that he had to go to the bathroom. He stood up, and started to lose his towel. He grabbed for the towel, barely snagging it in time. Lena giggled, scooped up his clothes, and offered to show him the way. He couldn't help blushing as he quickly followed.

 

He staggered a little on his way there, and on his way back. Angel sympathized. She was still a little wobbly herself. They sat there, eating and talking, for a while.

 

When she was feeling more herself, she got to the point. "It usually doesn't take so much effort to do that. There are a few things you should know. First, you have let yourself get sunburned too often and too badly. Tour skin was badly damaged, and it was only a matter of time before you developed skin cancer. I fixed the damage, but it took a whole lot more time and energy than a simple sunburn. But it might have been pointless. While I was doing all that, I found out one more thing. In a day or two, three at the most, you will come down with MORFS."

 

"Is it because of all this?"

 

"No, it's been building for days. I can perceive that, and sometimes I can tell a little bit about what it will turn out like. This time, I put so much into the healing that I'm too wiped out to tell much. The ironic part is that the MORFS would have healed your skin. If you want, I can give you a tan tomorrow, and see what I can tell about your transformation."

 

"Sure, I'd like that. Let me get your number, and I'll call you tomorrow. If I don't, I'm already sick." He thought a moment, then, shyly, "Is it as bad as they say?"

 

 "MORFS? Well, it kind of depends. It's pretty miserable, but my changes were pretty limited. You spend most of the time asleep, and you feel a desperate need for the bathroom and a shower in between the times you're asleep."

 

Lena jumped in. "You feel like you have the flu when you are awake, until the last time you wake up. Then you feel better than that. Depending on the changes, you might feel strange when you do wake up that last time."

 

Penny joined in. "And then you get to know yourself all over again. It can take a while to get used to the changes, and to learn to use your new capabilities. The big thing to remember is that you are still you, and your life moves on from there."

 

Magdalena added "It may sound corny, but remember that your family will love you, no matter what. And your true friends will also. But they are only human, and if the change is too much, it may take them some time to adjust."

 

"Spoken like the mother of a morf, Mom." Angel smiled.

 

"I have to admit, I'm scared." Jerry said. "But this could be so cool, too. After the change is over, I might have fantastic powers or something."

 

"Or you might just get green hair." Angel shrugged. "It's luck of the draw."

 

"Ok, c'mon Sunburn Kid. I'll give you a lift home. You can warn your mom, and get your chrysalis ready." Penny kidded him.

 

 End Part 4

 

 

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/Encyclopedia.html

 


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