Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story
As they took a well worn shortcut through a corner of the State Park, Angel stopped so suddenly that Robin ran into her, and they nearly fell down. When Robin started to ask what was up, Angel just held up her hand.
*Angel! Don't go home yet!* Lena sent her.
*The police are on their way to talk with you. They think you are involved with something very bad. A kidnapping, I think.*
*How do you know?*
*Cassie warned me, so I took a quick mental peek and called you. They're close.*
*Contact my mother and let her know. I won't go until you get back to me.*
She filled Robin in, assuring her that she was not involved in anything like that. Then they waited.
*Your mother is on her way home. So is a lawyer she contacted through me. I'll let you know when they get there.*
Robin walked with her to the edge of the park, then Angel told her that she probably didn't want to get mixed up in all that. She agreed, and headed home alone.
A few minutes later, Lena told her that her mother had arrived. Angel started walking home. Lena told her that the police had arrived and were asking her mother about her. As she approached the house, a familiar car pulled up. David's father got out and spoke briefly with her mother. Then he turned to the police.
When she got within earshot, Angel heard "...the young lady's lawyer. And I hereby notify you that these proceedings are being monitored by Helena Morgan, a registered telepath."
"What does Radar have to do with this?" Asked the female officer.
"You have not specified the nature of your business here, so I cannot properly answer that. However, she does have a personal interest, as a friend and neighbor of the young lady."
Angel noted the difference in the way he talked. This was not the informal, pleasant father of a friend who had made her the pendant. He was every inch the lawyer. She found that reassuring.
"Angel O'Connor?" the male officer asked her.
"That's me. What's up?" her attempt at a casual response was tinged with genuine curiosity and a little apprehension.
"We would like to ask you a few questions. What can you tell us about Elizabeth Wilson?"
"Who?" Angel glanced at her lawyer, who was wearing a neutral expression.
"A bio elemental, and officer of an organization of bio elementals."
"Oh. Betty Wilson." another glance, still a neutral expression. "Not much. She came to see me last Thursday. We talked, and then she left. Why?"
*Lena, ask David's father whether I should volunteer the fact that I recorded the visit.*
*He says not yet.*
"Please let us ask the questions here, Miss O'Connor."
"It was a reasonable question, officer." her lawyer interjected. "What is your interest in the woman?"
"She has been reported missing." the officer was looking directly at Angel as he said that.
*He thinks you had something to do with that.*
Angel reacted with unfeigned surprise. "When?"
The officer ignored her question. "When did you last see her?"
Angel looked at her lawyer, who nodded. "She left about 9:30, 9:45 in the morning. I didn't really look at the time."
"Can you tell us what you talked about?"
Another nod. "She told me about her organization, and the agreement they have with the AMA. then she told me I didn't qualify for membership, but I still fall under the terms of the agreement."
"And then I assured her that I would abide by the agreement, and she left." Angel shrugged.
"What was her emotional state?"
"I'm not Radar. I really couldn't say for sure. Do you want me to guess?"
"Just give us your best recollection." He was getting annoyed.
"She seemed a little annoyed. Like the whole thing was a waste of time."
"And how did you feel about it?"
She looked at her lawyer, who nodded. "Curious. I wanted to know more about the stuff she talked about. And relieved."
"She wasn't happy about being here, and it showed. After she delivered her lecture and left, I was relieved that we were both done with that shi... scene." She caught the sharp look her mother gave her, and a brief mental laugh from Lena.
"Can you account for your movements the rest of the day?"
She looked again. Her lawyer held up his hand.
"That question sounds like you suspect my client of some crime. Is that the case?"
"We don't know that a crime has been committed. We are just covering the bases."
He frowned, then nodded for Angel to answer.
"I went to visit a friend in the MORFS clinic for a while, then I went swimming. After that, I was home the rest of the day."
"Did anyone see you at those places?"
"I can vouch for the clinic visit. She was visiting my son."
"The pool records can verify when I was there, and Radar and the girls saw me there."
Her mother spoke up. "And I can verify that she spent the rest of the day at home.
"And the rest of the week?"
"We have already allowed you some latitude in these questions. I must remind you that this conversation is being monitored by a registered telepath. You consider my client some sort of suspect, and are trying to avoid the legal requirements while treating her as such. You already have her movements for the rest of that day, and you have the report that Ms. Wilson missed several appointments the rest of that day and has not been seen since. You are fishing, based on some misplaced hunch. I will not permit such treatment of my client."
"If you have any more questions for her, I suggest you submit them, in writing, through my office."
"John!" his partner barked. "You are out of line. Drop it. Now!" She turned to face Angel, and handed her a card. "If you think of anything else, please call me." She turned again. "Counselor, Ma'am" She nodded to Angel's lawyer and mother, in turn.
As they pulled away, Lena told Angel that the cops were arguing. The woman was reminding her partner that he could not afford another complaint about his disregard for procedure. The man was thinking Angel kidnapped or killed Ms. Wilson, and was thinking some very uncomplimentary things about Lena. The woman had worked with Lena a couple of times, and had a better opinion of her than of her partner.
Angel, her mother, and David's father went into the house. As her lawyer, he wanted to see the recording of the meeting. As a friend, he wanted to make sure she was all right. After sharing a cup of coffee and a snack with them, her mother went back to work.
After watching the recording, and being told what Angel later found, he offered to research the real legalities for her. He also asked to take a copy of the recording with him for safekeeping. She agreed, and he made the copy.
After he left, she made herself a sandwich and flopped down in front of the screen to watch a little mind rot. At one point, she stumbled over a news report about the chip problems.
The report prominently mentioned her theater chain's lack of problems. They went on to say that the chain had reported the problem to the vendor on Friday, but that communications problems kept some other sellers from responding to the recall action until now.
They had a clip of a spokesperson from the chain crediting their discovery to their "exceptional and dedicated quality control staff", and the quick action to "one of their theater managers" and other staff. She ended with a statement about their focus on the well-being and enjoyment of their customers.
Out of curiosity, Angel used her tablet to check her email. There was a note about the press release and statement, and an explanation of the wording. Two potentially awkward issues came up, and they chose to avoid them. The first was her age, and the second was her status as a morf. Rather than subject her to the possible consequences of raising the issues, they were deliberately vague about who did what.
They assured her that the company recognized her actions, and her value to the chain. She was to get a commendation at the next managers' meeting. So would Mr. Moore.
She decided she had a couple of hours before she needed to start dinner, so it was a good time to go out for a swim. After changing, she walked over and thumbed in. As she walked up to her friends (were they ever anywhere else?), Sherry was laughing at something Robin said.
She saw Angel, and repeated the information. "Robin found an appropriate place for the party. An empty house, with a pool. But in keeping with the theme, the house and pool need work, which we will be exploited to provide."
Angel grinned. "Sounds appropriate, all right. Who benefits?"
"Robin's uncle, who owns the house and uses it as a rental property."
They all had a good laugh about that. Angel went to work on her diving for a while. After the practice she had been putting in, she was getting better at adjusting to her new form. But mostly, it was fun.
When they were resting in the shade for a little bit, Angel talked with Star Dawn. She was curious about her elemental perceptions. It turned out that Star had not spent much time on that aspect of her new nature. She had been concentrating on power and control.
Angel asked whether she could radiate in the ranges beyond human perception. Like the infrared and the ultraviolet. Star conceded that she wasn't really sure. She thought she probably could, but she had no real feedback that she could use to tell.
Sherry wandered up during the last part of the discussion, and had an idea. "I have some old black light posters you could use. Put them up in a dark room, and if you radiate in UV, parts of them will glow."
They thought that was a good idea, and Star accepted the offer. That whole discussion brought Angel back to her earlier thought. She asked whether Star could see into the IR and UV. Star thought for a moment, then said that she probably could. But she hadn't worked on that.
From her own experiences, Angel suspected that Star could learn to recognize a range of interesting things. She suggested that Star try some exercises, to learn to recognize and use different frequencies (and combinations) of light. Unlike Angel, Star was not a particularly weak elemental. But, she conceded, she could always use an edge.
When Angel got back home and started getting dinner ready, she started thinking about school. She had a flash of annoyance that the school Penny and Jerry went to, Smokey Hills, started a week later than hers. They were in the same district, but there was some sort of bureaucratic thing that made the difference.
That got her thinking about her mother. Her jobs with the schools had already been useful, and she seemed to like the people and the work. It just struck Angel that her mother was capable of so much more. She was strong, well educated, and generally as competent as anyone she'd met. It was obvious to Angel that there was something she just wasn't seeing.
That made her think about David. She wondered how long it would take him to get over the novelty of easily seeing inside the girls' locker room and shower. For that matter, easily seeing through anyone's clothes wherever he looked.
Then she started wondering about herself. While she had been in store and pool changing rooms, there was still an element of the unknown about the locker room at the school. If she wasn't over that yet, maybe it would take David a while, at that.
Angel shook her head. Grasshopper thoughts like that were not her usual style, but she had been doing that more and more often. She wondered whether it had something to do with being a girl. Maybe the hair color change - was she blonde through and through?
Then she wondered whether she had forgotten to set the oven timer.
After dinner, Angel spent some time on her eCom, talking with Lena. She found out that Lena would be spending the next couple of days with David, helping accelerate his training. For some reason, she seemed to really want him finished in time to start school with them.
For some reason, Angel had the impression that there was something more to it than that. She wasn't sure what, and Lena wasn't saying anything about it. Strange.
As usual, the next morning came much too soon.
She had to leave early enough to get to the light rail, and get to the theater on time. And she had to do so looking like a manager. What a way to start one of the few, precious, remaining days of summer vacation.
Her mother dropped her off at the station, then headed off to work. Angel was a little nervous, traveling alone like that. Before the change, she had thought nothing about traveling alone on a bus. But now that she was a girl, it was different, somehow. She didn't like that feeling.
She was still strong. She still knew how to fight. But the posturing and bluff that had helped a situation keep from becoming a fight wouldn't work in her new body. Her only remaining bluffs were making herself look like she knew martial arts, or perhaps like she would scream her head off.
Or maybe, just maybe, she could use her abilities as a bluff. Maybe making her hand go as dark as her melanin could manage, in front of their eyes, and warning them that she was a morf would work as a threat.
In the end, the whole thing was pointless. Nobody bothered her, and certainly nobody threatened her. In fact, other than her own musings, the trip was comfortable and pleasant.
The theater inspection itself was unremarkable. She found a few things that needed routine cleaning, and a lot of indications that her earlier reports had been heeded. In fact, the only part of the whole thing that was at all memorable was when she stumbled across a stack of movie posters.
"What's the policy about those posters?" she asked the manager.
"They're available to all the employees, on a first come, first served basis. Of course," he allowed himself a small smile, "I get first choice. RHIP and all that."
Angel returned the smile.
He continued. "Just check the backs. If there are initials in the corner, it has already been chosen by someone on-shift. It cut way down on arguments."
She acknowledged the information, then went back and sorted through them. They were all for movies that were no longer at the theater, but she found some that would make good decorations for the party. She was about ready to leave anyway, so she went up to the office for a rubber band and sticky note. After banding and labeling the posters, she wrote up her report.
When it was done, she sent the usual copies to the office and the manager. She went looking and found him, to ask whether there was anywhere else he wanted her to look. There wasn't, so she thanked him for the posters, thumbed out, picked up a snack, and left.
When she got back to the station, she realized the one hole in her plan. She didn't have a ride from there. It was only a couple of miles to home, and the uphill bits were not at all steep, so it wouldn't be that bad. But it was still summer, and she was dressed for work rather than for exercise.
She shrugged, and started off. She quickly realized that the distance was a lot longer on foot than it seemed in the car. What took less than ten minutes driving ended up taking an hour and a half on foot. After the first few blocks, she remembered something that had come up in her girl training. The notion that it was common practice for women to bring a pair of walking shoes with them when they would be wearing more formal shoes to work or an event. That way, they could change shoes before going on long walks or driving.
At least she wasn't wearing heels.
By the time she got home, she was as hot, tired, and sweaty as she could ever remember being. She dragged herself up to her room, kicked off her shoes, and peeled off the damp, sticky layers of clothes that were clinging to her. When she was done with that, she threw herself down on her bed, spread her arms and legs, and just reveled in the feeling of the relatively cool air all over her body.
The next thing she knew, it was two hours later and she was a little groggy from her extended nap. She wasn't sweaty any more, but was conscious of the uncomfortable residue that the sweat had left behind on her skin when it evaporated. A cool shower sounded like just the thing.
The shower revived her, but she decided her little hike had given her enough sun and exercise for the day. Besides, she needed to finish her summer reading. After all she had been through, it was strange to think that in a matter of days she would be in school again. In a way, it seemed appropriate that she would be starting at a new school - it went together with the new sex, new powers, new home, new job, and all the rest.
After drying off and dressing comfortably, she used her eCom to call her next theater. She verified that she could get a ride from the assistant manager again, but she would either have to stay to the end of the shift or make other arrangements for a ride home.
She called the office, to see if they could help her make any arrangements. She ended up speaking to the woman she met the day of the attack.
It turned out that she had been just about to call Angel. There were some specific spot checks they wanted her to make that week, and Wednesday would be a good day for them. The good news was that the woman, Amanda "call me Mandy" Harrison, would provide transportation in a company vehicle. The bad news was that she would be working most of the day.
When she was done with that, she called Sherry. It came as no surprise that she was at the pool when she answered. Angel let her know about the posters, and asked how preparations were coming. Sherry told her that preparations were in place, and replies were coming in to the invitations. She had even spoken with David's parents about using both their elemental and professional abilities, and acting as chaperones. They had agreed, on the condition that David was home from the clinic and up to partying. Apparently, they had strong views about exploitation of various sorts.
Later, her mother came home to the smell of dinner cooking. Angel was sitting in the kitchen, reading. She looked up from her book to greet her, and let her know that she would be working late the next day. Other arrangements would have to be made for dinner.
And while they were at it, new arrangements would need to be made anyhow. Between school, work, homework (for both) and the like, she wasn't likely to have the time and energy to make dinner very often.
"Sounds reasonable." Her father's voice made them both jump. Neither of them had heard him arrive or noticed him standing there until he spoke. He greeted them properly, then suggested that his wife accompany him upstairs to change. She raised her eyebrows at that, but followed.
Angel was shaking her head at their antics, when she got a call on her eCom.
"Hey, working girl," an all too cheery Lena said. "I thought they'd never leave. Got plans for tonight?"
"Not really. Just dinner, and maybe some more reading."
"Good. How about taking me to a movie after dinner?"
"You have your own passes now, you know." Angel was amused.
"Yeah, but I wanna save them for later. Besides, you can get better stuff from the concessions than I can."
"Let me check with my folks."
"Uh... you don't want to disturb them just now. Trust me."
Angel was startled. "O...k... Uh, that's an awkward thought. Hmmm. What movie do you want to see?"
They discussed movies, times, and theaters. Lena's mother was willing to drive them, if Angel's folks would pick them up. Angel was embarrassed to realize that Lena knew more about what was playing when than she did - and she worked for the chain.
By the time they settled on a choice, her father had wandered into the kitchen and started setting the table. Her mother followed shortly. When she asked about the movie, a look, and brief smiles, passed between them. They agreed, and agreed to pick the two girls up after the movie.
Once they were in the car, Angel noticed the excited look on Lena's face. She doubted it was about the movie. She was right.
*Aren't you going to ask why I'm saving my passes?*
*Ok. Why are you saving your passes?*
*For my date with David!*
"Really?" Angel blurted, out loud. Then *Oops. Sorry. When? How? What?*
*We got really close while I was helping him at the clinic. And he'd been wanting to get together with me even before, but thought he wouldn't have a chance, Silly boy!*
*All that wasted time?* Angel grinned.
*Yeah. Oh, Angel, you have no idea how much this means to me.*
*Do your folks know? Do his?*
*Mine know a little. I don't know how much his folks know. Oh, God! How will they feel about it?*
*They like you. His father does, for sure. I think they'll be happy for you two.*
After Angel got their tickets, they headed for the concessions area. The college girl who had first noticed Angel's promotion grinned and commented to her coworkers "Watch out! The brass is here!"
"Shhh! You'll blow my cover. We're here undercover, disguised as high school girls." Angel grinned back.
"Anything you say, boss." She dropped a small mock curtsey. "What can I get you?"
Opting for the classics, they got some popcorn and drinks. The girl processed Angel's card, and wished them well.
Once they were in their seats, they alternated between silently conversing about Lena's love life and paying attention to the screen. Even without her powers, Lena's excitement would have been infectious.
When she got home, Angel realized that she would have to do something about her outfit. Her next theater was managed by a woman, and while she was a good sort, she would readily notice anything wrong with such things. Angel had long since learned that was a woman thing.
She took her things down to the laundry room, and put them through the special clean cycle. While she was waiting, she mused about another thing the manager would notice: that it was the same outfit. Unfortunately, she didn't really have anything else that was appropriate.
When she was a boy, she had been amused by all the attention girls seemed to pay to clothes. For the second time since she went to "bump into" Jerry, she found that the clothes issue didn't seem so trivial - or so funny - from her new perspective. She was going to have to spend some of her hard earned salary on clothes. And not cheap clothes.
Thinking about clothes, she noticed the boxes stacked in the corner. She had never gotten around to visiting the swap shop. She had hesitated, not wanting anyone she knew to see her there and figure out how she had changed. Enough people had done that all ready.
On the other hand, she would be going to Boulder on Saturday. They were sure to have a shop there. And it was far enough away to limit the exposure.
But not eliminate it. There was one person who would know. Mandy. And with her coming from the office, a bad reaction could be really bad. She would have a chance to sound her out while they did the spot checks.
She called Lena. As usual, just the thoughts were enough to produce the answers.
"I like you calling him my boyfriend." Lena giggled. "And yes, I can spare some time. He will be doing some flying practice around that time, and they don't need me for that. But I might be a little distracted. You haven't seen his new muscles ripple when he uses those wings."
Angel swore she could hear the sigh without using the eCom. No question, Lena had it bad.
"Yep. No question about it. And there is nothing in the world like a hug when you're being wrapped in his arms and those wonderful wings."
Angel found the image striking, but remembered the other part of her question. "How far can you do your thing?"
"With loud thoughts and someone I know, I've done 35 miles with no real problem. I've done 10 miles with unfamiliar and faint. I haven't tried anything beyond that."
"So as long as we stay within the Denver area, we should be good?"
"Easily. I've met her, and can focus on you, so I might even be able to reach Boulder."
"Thank you so much."
"I understand how much it means to you. She doesn't seem to have any problem with you being a morf, or an elemental."
"But the other part..." Angel began.
"Yeah, it's hard to guess how she'll take it. Give me a shout when you're ready."
They said their goodbyes, and hung up. Angel realized that she had one more person to tell.
Her mother wasn't entirely happy that she would be going so far away for the shopping, but agreed with the reasoning. She also wasn't happy that Angel would be doing it all without her. Angel promised that she would save most of the credits for a time when the two of them could go.
Her parents were ambivalent on the whole issue of the swap shops. They were too much like thrift shops. They had nothing against thrift shops. Far from it - they regarded them as an unmitigated blessing for poor families. And that was the problem. They were not poor, and tended to think of shopping at a thrift shop in terms of depriving some poor person of whatever they were buying. It just seemed not proper to them. They made an exception when they were looking for something hard to find, especially if it wasn't something likely to benefit a poorer buyer.
Angel pointed out that the swap shops did not operate quite the same. They were private companies, rather than fund raisers for some charity, and they sold the secondhand clothes (and the new clothes) at a higher price than thrift shops would. The used clothes were still substantially less expensive than they were when they were new, and the new clothes were at about the price you'd see at a discount retailer. The big draw was the credits. Not using the credits would be wasteful.
That proved to be the telling argument. They viewed waste as a terrible thing.
Wednesday morning came much too early. Next time she saved the chain's bacon, she vowed, she'd negotiate better hours. Of course, school was going to start soon, so her work hours wouldn't be the problem. Her school hours would take their place. And those were not negotiable.
After showering, she went downstairs to have breakfast with her parents. She reminded her mother that she would be working late, doing the spot checks. After breakfast, she went back up to change.
Lena carefully got ready, taking the time to make sure she got her makeup right as well as everything else. She would be meeting - and making an impression on - more managers after her reinspection of the fifth theater. And sounding out her coworker about her attitude toward gender morfs.
When her ride arrived, she made sure he wouldn't have to wait. She was sitting in the living room, listening to the radio, before he was due to arrive. She heard his car pull up, so she turned off the news and was out the door before he was even out of his car.
When they got to the theater, she thumbed in and got right to work. She hadn't found a lot the first time she was there, so there wasn't much to recheck. When she went through the unchecked places, she found some problems in a supply closet. Ironically, there was an active spot on the wall behind the shelf holding the bottles of disinfectant. For the rest, there were just the usual low level things that would be handled by routine cleanings.
She found the manager, told her about the one spot in the storage room, then went and wrote her report. She called the office to let them know she was done, then settled in to wait for her ride. It would be a while, since she had finished earlier than expected.
She had loaded her summer reading into her tablet, so she used her time productively. After checking her company email, and finding nothing interesting, she picked up where she had left off in her reading. She smiled at the thought that it made her look like she was dealing with official business.
When Mandy showed up, Angel blanked her tablet and followed her to the car. As they were driving to their first theater, Mandy explained that she would be checking some of the theater's paperwork while Angel went through and looked. Angel should plan on not having more than about an hour in each theater, so she was really just shooting for a quick overall impression and any really obvious, major problems.
They were soon there, and Angel got to work. She found a couple of overlooked hot spots, and quickly documented them. She had the manager's email, so she sent him a brief report. She followed up when Mandy was done with him, using her tablet to display the images and pointing to the problem areas.
On the way to the next theater, she got a mental contact from Lena. She was ready.
Angel casually brought up the issue of morfs and people's attitudes toward them.
"I can't say I'm entirely sorry that I was skipped, unless I get hit by that new thing, but my husband is a morf, and a lot of my family went through it."
Angel hadn't even realized she was married. "What did he get?"
"My husband? Pointed ears, a new hair color, and his acne and vision problems cleared up. Our daughters didn't get the hair or ears, so we don't think they inherited anything."
"Chris is 7, and Mel is 5. Remind me to show you their pictures." she beamed.
*Focus!* Lena reminded her.
"How do you feel about the idea that one or both of them might go through it?"
"Concerned. I don't like it when they get sick in any way. It's a mom thing." She grinned, then went on. "If they got some major changes, like fur and fangs or something, they would go through some problems socially. That's another thing parents don't like."
"What if they changed sexes?"
"We thought about that. Their nicknames are ambiguous, so they could keep them if it did happen. But they're such sweet little girls, I hate the thought of it happening. And the social fallout from that is sometimes worse than becoming a full hybrid."
"How do you feel about other gender changed morfs?"
"Honestly, I'm happy that I didn't go through it. I wouldn't have missed carrying my girls for anything in the world. I've seen a number of people who did go through it, and they seem to go through a private hell. In addition to the hell their peers can put them through."
She thought a moment, then went on. "They're almost always easy to spot. They just don't fit in their bodies, and exaggerate things to try and fit in. For the first year, at least, I can spot one a mile away."
*She's not hostile, but is uncomfortable. She's seen some unfortunate things.*
"How do you feel about working with morfs, like me?"
"I don't much think about it. I just think of you as a normal, but talented, girl for the most part. Same with the others who don't show it. We have some others in the office who are more obvious. They can be as good, or as rotten, as anyone else."
*Office politics. Don't ask.*
They arrived at the theater. Angel found and reported some things, but nothing that presented any serious danger to the public or the employees. After writing and presenting her report, Angel and Mandy headed out toward the next theater.
"Hungry?" Mandy asked.
"Now that you mention it, it is past my usual lunch time." Angel grinned.
Mandy knew a small place nearby, with food her family swore by. They each got a sandwich, chips, and a drink, and then they settled at one of the shaded outdoor tables to enjoy their food.
Mandy showed Angel her pictures of her husband and children. Angel made the appropriate appreciative noises, and returned them with a smile. They talked and ate, enjoying the break. When the only people within earshot left, Angel guided the conversation back to morfs.
"How do you feel about closet morfs?"
"People hiding their change? I understand it. There are some crazies out there, who would use it as an excuse to make their lives hell. Why? You're not exactly hiding your status, even though it's not obvious to look at you. Radar's eyes and cane get some of the attention, but she's not exactly hiding, either."
*Go for it. She's curious and receptive.*
"There's a part you don't know. Something that's not in most of the records. I need your help with something, but I need you to keep my secret."
"As long as it's something I can ethically do, sure. But I do have an obligation to the company in certain areas. If it's something dangerous, or illegal, I don't want to know."
"Nothing like that. It's just that last Spring, before I morfed, I was a boy."
"I was a boy. With distinctly latino features."
"Ok, pull the other one."
"It's true. I changed during the move out here."
"Sure. And you just happened to pick up years' worth of mannerisms?"
"No, my relatives put me through a sort of boot camp to get me past most of the obvious giveaways."
"They did a good job, then. I'm still not sure I believe it, though. You're not like any of the sex change morfs I've seen. So what do you need?"
"When we go to Boulder, I need to bring some boxes of clothes with me. There's a swap store near the theater, and I want to trade my old male clothes for some more appropriate stuff. From what you said, your audit is likely to take longer than my inspection, so I thought I'd take care of the clothes while I'm waiting. I figure it's far enough away that nobody is likely to recognize me and start asking awkward questions."
"Completely. Will you keep my secret?"
"No reason for me not to. But I still find it hard to believe that you got so good at blending in so quickly."
They bussed their table, then headed off to the next theater.
*She's less comfortable with you than she was, but that seems to be from the surprise. Give it time. And speaking of time, it's time for me to work with my boyfriend!* Angel could not help noticing the emphasis on the last part.
While she was working the next theater, her mind kept wandering back to that last exchange. She found herself conflicted. She was happy that her friend Lena was so happy. She was happy that her friend David was so happy - or that he seemed so happy. But thinking about it gave her a sort of sick/sad/angry feeling that she didn't recognize. It wasn't very strong, but it was there.
It felt a little like envy. She'd experienced envy. She knew what it felt like as a boy and as a girl. This was like it, but not entirely. It was... puzzling. And disturbing.
On the drive to the next theater, she was startled out of her introspection when they barely avoided an accident. Angel had a brief glimpse of large, dark bat wings on a figure which slammed into a car two cars ahead of them. The other cars on the road slammed on breaks, and moved to keep from slamming into the cars in front of them. There was a brief, bright light and a sizzle from the direction the figure had come from, and the top of a street light went crashing to the ground.
She was surprised at the colorful nature of Mandy's vocabulary.
Angel was calling 911 almost immediately. She noticed that Mandy had her eCom out as well. When she got through, Angel described what she saw, and where. The cars were already moving, and other than the pieces of street light, there was no sign of what had happened. Having done her duty, and reported what little she saw, she asked Mandy whether she was ok.
"Pretty much. Just shaken a little, I guess. Sorry about the language."
"What language?" Angel grinned. "I was too busy watching the entertainment."
Ten minutes later, they were at the theater. This one was older, and had some long term problems. Angel reported what she saw in the brief run through, especially the structural problems, then suggested they arrange for a more thorough examination.
She sighed, realizing she was making more work for herself. Since she was on salary, the hours she put in didn't buy her anything. But she would not do things half way. That was simply not her nature.
Their final theater was in Golden, a town famous for its long lived brewery and the venerable School of Mines. The college actually taught more engineering than mining, and was a top school in some fields. And it was a major reason for the nearby theater. Angel noticed that the mix of movies playing there were aimed more at young adults than at families, and the ambience reflected that as well. There were still the kiddy matinees and some family movies, but less than at the other theaters in the chain.
Her spot check turned up a few problems, but nothing earth shattering. She was somewhat startled, and revolted, by some residue she found in the back row of one theater, where the latest teensploitation offering was playing. She briefly wondered whether she could reconstruct the DNA to see who it was, but when she felt the special part of her mind start to process it, she firmly told herself she did not want to know who he was.
At least he was not likely to be anyone she knew. She was a long way away from home.
They talked about their families on the way home. Without Lena monitoring, Angel could not be sure, but Mandy seemed to be handling things better. Or else the near accident and later work just knocked it clear out of her head. Either way, Angel just relaxed and enjoyed both the ride and the talk.
The ride was longer than she expected, due to the rush hour traffic. They took the circle, instead of going through Denver proper, and that apparently helped cut down the drive time. Angel hated to think what it would have been like going through town, since parts of the circle were pretty crowded.
When Mandy dropped her off at home, Angel was tired. She could see that her mother was already home, but couldn't tell about her dad. She dragged herself inside, greeted by the cheerful voice of her mother and the mouth watering smell of cooking food. Her mother took one look at her and invited her to go upstairs and change into something more comfortable.
As she gratefully slipped out of what she had come to think of as her manager uniform, she got a cheerful interruption.
*So, how'd it go?*
*Ok, I guess. She stayed uncomfortable for a while, until the near accident. After that, she seemed more concerned that she'd sworn in front of me than anything.*
Angel filled her in, throwing in remembered images.
*Wow. Interesting afternoon.*
*One way of putting it. How was your date with David?* She meant it as a joke, but the unfamiliar feeling grew again.
*You're jealous!* Lena seemed startled. *About us, David and me. Why?*
*I wish I knew. It doesn't make any rational sense, but there it is.* Angel was sad and frustrated then.
*We'll talk after dinner. Your family is waiting.*
When Angel walked into the kitchen, her mother turned to greet her. Her smile faded to a look of concern when she saw Angel's face. "What's the matter, Angel?"
"Nothing, really. I'm just tired and confused. And jealous, apparently."
Her father looked like he was debating between hugging her and retreating. In the end, he remained. But he let his wife do the talking.
"Jealous?" her mother asked. "Of whom?"
"I don't know. Lena. David. Mandy. The world."
"Mandy?" her dad asked.
"Her coworker, dear. The one who drove her around today."
"Oh." He looked like he was out of his depth.
The more they talked, the more it seemed to be a combination of envy and jealousy. In a sense, the envy was rational. The jealousy was not.
Angel envied the people who retained their birth sex. And people who understood and were confident in their sexuality. More recently and intensely, she envied people in loving relationships. Not like the relationship she had with her parents and some relatives, but the relationship her parents had with each other, and the one growing between Lena and David.
Her parents comforted her, and assured her that such envy was normal - especially under her circumstances. She would continue to come to terms with her change, and would learn about her sexuality in time. And she would find her someone. Wanting those things was just human, and so was feeling a bit of envy toward those who apparently had what she wanted.
The trick to it was acknowledging the desires and working toward them, rather than wasting time and effort focused on others who have them.
Angel hardly remembered eating dinner, or how the table got cleared or the dishes done. All she really had attention for was the discussion - the sharing, confession, understanding, and sympathy. And the tears, her's and her mother's.
The jealousy was more complicated. She wasn't even sure who she was jealous of, or why. Part of it had to do with Lena, somehow. Was she jealous of the time and attention David was getting from her only close friend there? A childlike part of her seemed to be reacting that way. A remnant of her former, male self seemed jealous that David was getting the girlfriend "he" had been getting close to. At the same time, some of her new female self seemed jealous of Lena, for getting David's attentions. It was complicated, and messed up.
*But human.* came the familiar mental voice. *I'm on my way over, so we can talk.*
Angel was embarrassed that Lena had apparently "heard" some or all of that, but told her parents about her impending visitor. They agreed that it was probably a good thing that the two of them talk for a while.
They hadn't really said anything Angel didn't already know, intellectually. But Lena had reassured her that she was in no danger of losing her friendship. But she also made it quite clear that Angel was now a girl, and she didn't swing that way. She would love her as a close friend and sister morf, but there had never been any chance of a sexual relationship.
And despite some habitual responses, she made it clear that Angel was more directly responsive to boys than to other girls. She reminded her of her responses to people she had seen and encountered, and flashed some images in her mind faster than she could consciously respond to. Denial flared, but Angel really knew she was right. Lena hugged her and comforted her as she mourned her lost self, her lost sex, and her lost sexuality. In the end, Angel had cried herself to sleep.
Angel was glad that she did not have work the next day, since she had been an emotional wreck by the time she finally got to sleep. And it was not exactly the most peaceful or restful sleep she had ever experienced.
Angel's parents let her sleep in, eating and going to work without waking her. They knew that she could call them if she really needed to talk, and the note they left reminded her of that.
She was kind of listless as she went through her morning rituals. Since she had no plans that called for it, she skipped the makeup. She could always apply some later, if necessary.
Thinking about makeup, she tried playing with her appearance. She had no problem adjusting the color of her skin in general, giving herself an all over tan. Then she played with tan lines, simulating various states of dress or undress while "tanning". She easily gave her cheeks and lips some color, simulating subtle blusher and lipstick. She couldn't create much in the way of colors, so the best she could do for her eyelids was shades of tan.
After the fun with the tan lines, she experimented with melanin "tattoos". The effect was similar to a henna tat, but "all natural." That could be fun to do at the party.
She played with varying her skin tones, and some of her features. She darkened her skin as far as she could, and decided she looked like an anglo girl in Australian Abo body makeup. She lightened her skin, thickened her lips and nose a little, and looked a little more Afam. Other than her hair. She knew she could grow it out any natural color she wanted, but it would take more energy and resources than she wanted to waste. She kept the facial changes, but lightened her skin somewhat. That created a more reasonable appearance. She decided she would have to remember that appearance, and felt the sort of shift that came when she "learned" an organism.
She returned to her normal nose and lips, then faded her skin as far as she could. Except for her eyes and hair, she could have been an albino. Allowing a little more color, she went through Nordic Beauty, baby pale, winter fade, and then her normal skin color. She gave herself a good all over summer tan, then decided to reduce the color on her breasts. She liked their "creamy" look against her otherwise tan body. She debated various tan lines below the waist, but ended up leaving the tan.
Angel dressed casually in a blouse and skirt, then picked up her eCom to call Sherry. She wanted to tell her about the posters for the party, and her new trick with the body art. When she answered, Sherry told her that she and Robin were just on their way out to do some shopping. She invited Angel along. Since Lena would be busy helping David with his last day of special training, and she had finished her summer reading, Angel accepted.
Robin's mother was available to drive them, and the four of them talked about the plans for the party while they drove to the mall. Sherry hinted about valuable party favors, and talked about the specialists they would exploit and the work that needed doing.
Angel was surprised to learn that two of the chaperones/exploitees would be David's parents. The party would double as a coming out celebration for him. David would be there, exploited to the hilt. A couple of other elementals, who Angel didn't know, would also be there.
There was a heavy workload for the other elementals. David's mother would be upgrading the house wiring, using her abilities to check things and her experience as an electrician to do the work. With occasional assistance from her husband. The water elemental would check out the plumbing, and clear any clogs and the like. She would have David's father deal with any cracked pipes and such. She would also clean out the pool, the filter, and the associated pipes.
The stone elemental would deal with problems with drywall within the house, and cement and stone outside.
David's father would deal with any necessary metal work. He would also give a talk about exploitation, from a legal viewpoint.
Angel would inspect the house like she had inspected the theaters, especially the kitchen and bathrooms. While others would clean what she found, she would be expected to sterilize as necessary. Beyond that, she would do first aid and the body art.
The owner would provide certain supplies, like paint, painting equipment, wire, and fixtures and such as needed.
When they got to the mall, Robin's mother dropped them off and reminded Robin to call before she was ready to go, to give enough time to get there. Then she was off to get her hair and nails done.
One priority was welcome back gifts for David. Another was bits and pieces for the start of the school year.
Angel found him an action figure of a winged man, the hero of an old cartoon. Robin found him a nicer than average wing brush at a morf specialty shop. Otter wouldn't tell them what she found, keeping it hidden in a colorful bag. She did admit to finding a morf rated nail and claw care kit for herself, though.
The rest of the time was more free form. They found things they thought would be good for their lockers, their totes, and, of course, their appearance. When they took a break at the food court, they got in some serious boy watching. Angel even joined in a little, much to her surprise. She told herself it was just to fit in with the others, but it really wasn't.
The only real downside to the expedition was when they encountered a small group of militant Pures, trying - with some success - to humiliate a couple of young, obvious morfs. The two looked to be about nine years old, with fine, golden brown fur, large ears, and somewhat prehensile tails. Their tormentors, three girls and one boy, ranged from about 17 to 19 years old, with athletic builds and a distinct lack of visible morf characteristics.
The two kids were cowering on the bench, while the others stood over them talking angrily and laughing derisively.
"Anyone know them?" Angel asked the others, as they walked toward the confrontation.
"Unfortunately. The tall brunette is the daughter of one of the local anti-morfs preachers. He's bad news, and she's worse. He left about a month ago, and nobody but his family has heard from him since. She was bad before, but since then she has been an unholy bitch. Its almost like she got MORFS, and it just changed her personality."
"Or he did." Angel muttered.
"Oh, sorry. The timing is suspicious, though".
"Did you hear about the big rally? And AMORFS?"
"Think about it. All those bigots in one place, and suddenly there is a new form of MORFS attacking them and they turn furry, with horns. Are they all going to just come back and try preaching the evils of people like us, looking like that?"
"Makes sense," Robin added. "All their power and money came from preaching hatred of morfs, and suddenly it's all gone. Her power in her nasty little clique came from him. Now, she has to try and hold it all herself."
Sherry nodded. "And she's probably afraid that she'll get it herself. She always claimed she couldn't get it because she was his daughter. Now..."
Angel flinched. That was one secret of hers that they didn't know. And wouldn't, if she could help it.
One of the other girls raised her hand like she was going to slap one of the kids. With a snarl, Sherry jumped in and grabbed her wrist. She almost lifted her off the floor. Two mall cops were closing in from the far side, and moved in to break up the confrontation just as the boy was getting ready to intervene. Angel felt herself preparing to deliver some sort of infection, and fought it. She desperately wanted to be in control of when and how - and especially whether - she did anything like that.
The girl tried to blame Sherry for everything, but there were too many witnesses, including the mall cops. And the security cameras had caught the whole thing.
The preacher's daughter tried to take control of the situation, citing who her father was. But his "leave of absence" was too well known. And the reason was too well guessed.
While all that confrontation was going on, Angel and Robin moved to the kids. They comforted them, and asked what happened. While they were telling their story, Angel figured what was bothering her about them. They weren't MORFS survivors.
End Part 10
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/