Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story
The ringing phone woke her up. At first, Angel didn't remember where she was. Wherever it was, it was fancy and comfortable.
She answered the phone. "H'lo?"
"This is your wake up call, Miss O'Connor. I am to remind you that you have school this morning. Would you like anything specific for breakfast?"
"Shall we just prepare something from your usual preferences?"
"Your transportation will be waiting when you get downstairs. Feel free to call if you need anything."
"Ok. Uh, bye."
"Have a good morning, Miss O'Connor." Angel nodded, and hung up.
Now that she was awake, she became aware of certain needs. Increasingly urgent needs. She got out of the warm, comfortable bed and padded across the thick, soft carpet to the bathroom.
It was as impressive as the room. Even the toilet seat was padded and gently warmed. The large, deep bathtub looked inviting, but her time was limited. She contented herself with a hot, relaxing shower.
After drying off with the thickest, softest towels she had ever used, she put on the fluffy bathrobe and went back out to the room. She immediately noticed two things. There was a tray of food and drink on the table. And her clothes were not where she had dropped them the previous night.
She found both sets of skirts, blouses, and shoes in the closet, all freshly cleaned. A dresser drawer held her underwear, looking a little silly in the middle of all that empty space.
She decided to dress, then eat. After quickly climbing into her clothes, she settled in at the table. Lifting the cover, she saw that she had a ham, mushroom, and cheese omelet and toast. She also had milk and orange juice. And a pot of tea, with two cups. After the first delicious bite, there was a knock at the door.
It was Mrs. Tabor. "May I come in?"
"Of course." Angel opened the door wider, then stepped aside.
"Thank you. Please, go ahead and eat. I just wanted to tell you a few things before you left."
Angel returned to the table, and sat. She offered her guest some tea, which she accepted. After carefully pouring the tea, angel passed it to her benefactor.
"Thank you. I just wanted to thank you again, for what you did last night. Our client is very pleased with the results, and sends her thanks and those of her future husband."
"I'm glad. I hope things go well for her."
"I believe they will. And I believe they will go well for you, as well. You are an intelligent, well mannered young lady, no matter who you were a year ago."
"You and your parents thought about it within these walls. I caught bits and pieces, without trying to pry. Especially when I was asking you about handling genitals. But a lot of what I caught from them is that they're proud of you. You were a good boy when you were a boy, and you're a good girl now. That's a strong recommendation in my mind."
"But not everyone's."
"I suppose not. Nobody else here suspects, and few would care if they did know. Everyone here who has met you has been impressed. You will make a fine addition to our little family, for as long as you choose to stay."
"And speaking of that, I would like you to start here a week from this coming Monday. Any unpleasantness should be well past by then. You will receive a substantial signing bonus, to cover the delay and your exemplary service of last night."
"And on the subject of that service, there has always been a call for such regrowth. If you do not object, it would help the situation - and make us both a lot of money - if we were to offer such a service as a very expensive, very exclusive option. You would not need to cover your work in that way for most such cases. In fact, it would be useful to have your signature on such work in certain cases. Sooner or later, the opposition will want to check your known work. A strong energy residue will make it that much more convincing that you had nothing to do with what they think happened last night."
Angel smiled and nodded her understanding as she savored the last of her omelet.
"Well, I had best let you get ready for school. Thank you again." With that, she left.
When she went to gather her clothes, she noticed her sports bag on the closet shelf. She assumed that her mother had used it to bring her clothes the night before. She carefully packed the rest of her clothes, and gave a brief, covetous glance at the robe. Shaking her head, she checked her school materials. She had all the forms, and the homework she had done. She would have to do some work during lunch to finish the rest.
After confirming that she had everything, she took a quick look around the room, and left. It felt wrong to be leaving the dirty dishes and the like, but intellectually she knew it was the only practical choice.
On her way downstairs, she met Cindy.
"Ready to go?" Cindy asked.
"You're my transportation?"
"Well, my car is. Unless you'd rather show up at school in a limo?" Cindy quirked a small smile. "Not this early in the year. It looks too desperate." Angel laughed.
On the way there, they talked. When Angel mentioned the robe, Cindy agreed. "We can get them for ourselves, at cost." She told Angel. "The boss likes to keep us happy, but there is the bottom line to consider."
Soon, Angel was being dropped off at one of the less used doors, which happened to be very close to her locker. After saying goodbye to Cindy and thanking her for the ride, she went in.
By lunch time, she was more than ready for it. It was clear that this school was not known for easing gently into the new semester. Out of four classes, she had three significant assignments and one set of "be prepared to discuss" questions. And she still had to finish her calculus worksheet before the end of lunch.
At least the worksheet was mostly review.
When Robin came to the table, she asked Angel to take another look at her. Between bites of lunch, she obliged. It was clear that she would start showing symptoms Friday afternoon, and that she would have the desired powers and a somewhat better physical appearance. Unlike David, there did not seem to be anything beyond the originally intended changes.
Angel couldn't resist. "I didn't realize you chose the green haired boy option. Pity." She paused, letting Robin react for a moment before going on. "You won't get that. Your looks will change a little, for the better, I think. And it looks like you'll have the powers you wanted."
Robin hit her on the arm for worrying her like that, but looked pleased. She told them that she had made a doctors appointment for after school on Friday, based on what Angel had said. The testing center would be closed for the holiday, but her folks were trying to get her an appointment for Tuesday. Apparently, the center took the request more seriously when they were told that Angel had predicted the onset.
Angel shrugged. Powerful friends and a good reputation in high places were all well and good, but she still had math to do. Somehow, she doubted it would help with any of her other classes, either.
Somehow, school seemed more "real world" to her than all the rest. She knew it was backwards, that school was the artificial world and her jobs and contacts were the stuff of reality, but it didn't feel that way.
Part of it was her peers. The jobs and friends in high places were part of the adult world. School was the world of people her age, give or take a year or two. Major parts of their years and lives revolved around it, for better or worse. They did more work related to school than most did for jobs and hobbies combined. They largely built their social lives around it, between the clubs, dances, and other activities, and the interactions with an artificially bounded group of peers. In large part, they even defined themselves in terms of their school and grade level.
It was an odd realization. Unlike her sudden girlhood, she had no trouble thinking of herself as a student - an integral part - of that school. Like she had in past moves and other schools, she would have to find her places in the school and its social order, have to define her niche. And however much her newly minted status as a girl and a morf might complicate defining that niche, her place as a part of the school ecology was assured.
Her friends were staring at her, quietly. Lena had a small smile, while the others looked concerned.
"What, am I drooling or something?" Angel wiped her (thankfully) dry chin.
"You stopped talking, and your eyes sort of glazed over. They were afraid you were going to repeat what happened out by the hill."
"What happened by the hill?" Robin asked.
"We got together to talk about some morf stuff," Lena explained. "The Captain had the bright idea that Angel should try to bootstrap her abilities. She went inside to see what she could find, and had problems. I had to go in and guide her back out."
"Keeping the 'pillars out?" Robin asked, a little hurt.
"Nothing like that," David assured her. "Sherry wasn't there, either. You both had things you were busy with, and it wasn't a big deal. You'll definitely be a part of the next one."
"Of course, by then I'll have shed the silk."
"I'm gonna have to remember that one." Angel commented. "And speaking of the hill, what did you think about all that?"
"That's gotta be the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me. As soon as we started feeling that stuff, I was off balance. And then it was all done. I think I would have freaked if you guys weren't there."
*Definitely not the time to tell her. We can ease into it later.* Lena warned Angel.
David didn't seem to take the hint. Or Lena hadn't warned him. "You think that's the reason more people haven't stumbled onto it? They get the feeling and leave right away?"
"Could be." She seemed to consider it seriously. "In the beginning, the feeling was just kind of weird. I bet a lot of people would just turn and go a different direction without even being aware they were doing it."
"Another piece of the puzzle." he nodded, looking at Lena.
"Aargh!" Angel complained, looking at the worksheet. "I can't get this one."
Robin looked at the sheet. "Well, move it around and you have a quadratic equation."
"Oh! Duh. I should have seen that. Thanks." After that, lunch conversation went along more conventional lines.
Angel was getting impatient through her next two classes. Calculus was more review. Whatever else had happened in the transformation, she hadn't lost any of his ability with math. Anything he already understood, she still understood. The real test would be when she started learning new things. She already had noticed that she learned a little differently than before.
Biology just fueled her impatience. She was disappointed about how long it would be before they got into studying microbes and the like. And they wouldn't be going anywhere near as deep as she would have liked.
Then it was time. She was a little nervous when she went in to change, but she was also running a little late, so she had to hurry through her changing. She wasn't really surprised that she didn't notice all that much.
The class itself would spend the next few days setting individual baselines. The teacher warned that she could tell when anyone was slacking, and would adjust things accordingly. A large part of how they did in the class would be based on how much improvement they showed over the course of the semester.
Angel wondered whether it was a bluff. Or maybe the teacher was another bio elemental? When she tried looking, she could tell she was some sort of morf, but not an elemental. She didn't have a chance to check more - the class really moved along.
The class itself was a mix of non morfs and morfs without significant physical enhancements. While the students would be competing against themselves rather than their classmates, it was decided (or discovered?) that mixing in people with morf enhanced speed, strength, and/or agility was too disruptive to the dynamics of the class. And there were other classes designed to challenge them.
Angel was drying off from her shower when she suddenly realized that she hadn't noticed anything. A whole room full of teenaged girls had stripped and showered with her, and were now dressing with her, and it was altogether normal. She noticed a few details, like what kinds of bras and panties some of them put on, and whether or how they were shaved, but it was in the same abstract way that she noticed that the locker next to hers was dented.
It was unfair! She was in the middle of years' worth of adolescent fantasies - of her former male self - and it wasn't even interesting. It was... routine. All that anticipation, and then nothing.
As she finished dressing, she wondered whether David was going through the same thing, yet. Probably not. At least he still had the right hormones and stuff. It would take a while for him to settle in with his ability to see anyone naked at any time, and to get bored with it.
And the most annoying part was that he never would completely lose that enjoyment. There would always be someone new or exotic for him to turn his voyeuristic attention toward. She had lost both sides. She really had no interest in seeing naked boys or men - it had been too routine for too many years. And now naked girls and women were equally routine.
Angel went to the place they had agreed to meet, and walked toward the shortcut with her friends. Sherry had to stay after school for diving practice, so there were only the four of them. Once they were well into the State Park, and she could see that there was nobody within earshot, Robin asked her casual question.
"So Angel, how long have you been able to make people morf?"
Angel and Lena stood there, shocked into immobility. David just shook his head and smiled.
"What? How? I didn't,,,?" Angel had never seen Lena so flustered. Robin just smiled.
"You've never noticed that you couldn't always read me? Good... I'm doing it right. Telepaths were always a potential problem for my family, with all the business secrets and stuff. So I was taught how to shield some things. And how to do so in a way that was not especially noticeable. A particularly good or strong one, like you, could blow right through it if you knew it was there or knew what you were looking for. But the whole point is to make it so that you don't notice it." Robin shrugged.
"And," Angel coaxed, "you asked that about me because...?"
"I didn't put it together until after lunch. After David's question," Lena slapped David on the back of his head. "I started wondering how to recreate the experience. Then it all fell into place. Lena would do the emotions and, maybe, read the person's mind to get the desired changes. That only left one person, and one function. It didn't occur to me at first, but you could have been telling me a lie about the morf. It would have been pointless and out of character. In a few days, I would have known it was a lie. And it would have been too big of a coincidence for the change to be just what I wanted. You had to be creating the change."
"For what it's worth," David cut in, "they did the same to me, without the visual special effects."
"What I want to know is why?" Robin demanded. "Why trick me? Why all the elaborate charade?"
"First," Angel replied, "I want you to know that we would have told you soon, anyway."
"That's right." David added, trying to redeem himself. "They told me after a little bit."
"That's my fault," Angel admitted. "At first, I just wanted to see if we could put together a team and do something, like in the movies. Then it shifted. I can help so many people with this ability, but if most people learned about it, they would fear me, try to control me, or both. Hell, look at what has happened with just my limited healing power and what I can see. People want to own me, to use me for their own purposes. Just think what governments, terrorists, or even major corporations would do to be able to create custom made morfs! Kidnap my family? Threaten you guys? Hold the whole school hostage?"
"Ok, I get that you want to hide that power. But why all this?" Robin insisted.
"I still want to help. I want to be able to give my friends what they really want. To help people who are really hurting. I want to use my abilities without people knowing I was doing so. This seemed like a way to do so. Most people won't know the five of us are involved..."
"Cassandra, Penny, is a part of it, too. She checks for potential disasters before we do the change. She was the one who brought up the necessity of the camouflage. But as I was saying, Lena and David can do their parts from a distance, without the person knowing they are involved. I need to make contact, shortly before or after, but I can change my appearance somewhat, and David can wrap me in an illusion. I suspect you will be able to make me invisible with you, after you master your change, so that's another option. The central part will be the Hill, and there have been funny rumors about that place for years."
"That might work." Robin conceded. "Especially with people who don't know you guys that well. But how will you get them there?"
"The ones we want to send there will hear the renewed rumors about the hill. Then Lena or David, or someone we otherwise convince, will give them a gentle nudge in the right direction. Some others will hear the rumors and try the hill, and we will take them on a case by case basis. Some won't feel anything, and will go away disappointed. That is why the rumors talk about it not always working. Others will either get accepted and gain some or all of what they wanted, or will find out they are rejected. The rejects will either get nothing, or in extreme cases will get an unwanted change. That will also go into the rumors."
"How is all that decided?"
"Sort of a fast and loose consensus. We don't have anything formal. If Cassandra sees a bad outcome one way or another, we will try and avoid it. Our criteria so far are kind of broad. If someone wants powers for something malicious, they will be rejected or worse. If they want something that is socially unacceptable, but ultimately harmless, we will probably accept it. Like Captain Peeper here." She indicated David.
Lena stepped in. "And we are limited by what Angel can and can't do. Some changes are beyond her power, and some she just doesn't have enough information about."
"So what's my part in all this?"
"We weren't sure until you chose your changes. We wanted you to be a part of it, because you are our friend, one of our inner circle if you will." Angel added, earnestly. "I'm still not sure what role you will want to play. One thing you can do, like David, is learn to think about the events at the hill as real whenever you casually think about all this. That way, any wandering telepaths get the Party Line."
David stepped in again. "We can also act as points of contact. We went through the thing at the hill, and ended up with the changes we wanted. We can truthfully say that. We can honestly describe our experiences, even though a lot of people won't believe us. We won't stand on the street corner and shout about it, but we can bring it up when we think it is appropriate."
"You have already played an important role." Lena added. "We needed someone to help us test and refine the process. Someone we could trust, absolutely. Especially if something went wrong. David was the first. You are the second. Penny has nominated someone we don't know as the third test subject, and effectively the first active run. Unlike you, that person won't be told about all this. They'll spread the word to Smokey Hill, and start the operational phase, if you will, of this whole thing."
Robin nodded, and they started walking down the path again. She suggested that the glowing figure be less detailed, more of a hint than a picture. Then she asked the key question.
"Where are you going with all this? What is the goal, the payoff, the endgame?"
"We." Angel corrected. "You are completely one of us, now. Even without your upcoming change. And we don't know. I have a feeling that something is coming, something that will need our ability to act as a practiced group. No idea in the world what it is, though. You have any ideas?"
"About that mysterious event, or about the payoff?"
"Either. Both. Whatever."
"Ah..." Robin looked like she was going to say something profound and authoritative. "Nope. Not a clue." She grinned.
"We obviously need to watch more movies." David grinned. "Now, who do we know that can help us do that?"
"See what I mean?" Angel said to Robin. "Even my friends want to take advantage of me."
"Us." Lena corrected. "He wants to use my passes, too. Good thing he's so good looking."
Angel and Robin rolled their eyes.
David had one more bit of advice for Robin. "Start thinking of a good nickname now. You never know what they might stick you with, otherwise."
"Thus speaks Captain Peeper." Lena quipped.
"Why, thank you, Radar." he returned.
"Point taken." Robin laughed.
At the edge of the park, they separated and went their own ways. Angel and Lena headed toward their houses, talking about what had just happened. When they noticed that they were coming within range of other people, they switched to mental mode.
*That could have been a problem.* Angel thought, showcasing her talent for understatement.
*Luckily, she came to us before coming to her final conclusions. She gets a little delicate sometimes, and if she took it the wrong way...*
*Yeah. What's up with that? She's smart, attractive, accomplished, and her family has money. Even her personality seems strong. So what gives?* Angel asked.
*Critical family with high expectations. She comes from a long line of overachievers, and they had no patience with anything less. Wait a minute.* Lena held her hand up and listened.
"Shit!" Lena exclaimed. "Cassandragram. Can we meet at your house?"
"Sure. You calling in the troops?"
"Yep. Now hush, I'm talking to David."
"Don't forget Robin."
They picked up their pace, and got to Angel's house just in time to see David flying Robin into a landing on Angel's front lawn. By the time she got her door open, Penny was pulling up in her car.
After a quick glance at Robin, and a nod, Penny followed them inside. After the usual offers of food and drink, they got down to it.
"We need to move the schedule up." Penny proclaimed, making it clear that Cassandra was speaking. "Pat is getting suicidal. She can't face starting another school year as a girl. I hinted about the hill rumor, and she latched onto it like a lifeline." She turned to Robin.
"You're up to speed?"
"Yeah. Pat is supposed to be the first real subject and the last of the test subjects. Lena and David set the stage and handle the special effects. Lena gets the mental request. You all confer..."
"We all confer." Angel corrected.
"We all confer on what to do. David does a special effect to show what will happen, and Lena gives the appropriate feeling. Angel creates and delivers the genetic bomb, while looking like someone else. I just help spread rumors, for now."
"Sounds right. Are you guys ready to run it?"
"Tonight would be good. Tomorrow would work, too. We need her to be changing, if not changed, by the start of school on Tuesday."
"Ok. I have the energy." Angel jumped in, playing leader. "David, you up to another one this soon?"
"No problem. My part is no big strain to begin with."
Lena saluted. "Primed and ready, ma'am."
Angel returned the salute with a half smile. "All right. What do we need to tweak? Pat won't see David or Lena, and won't know me when she sees me. What else? Robin?"
"Don't overplay the visuals. If you keep the light thing, make it vague and suggestive. And don't fish for feedback. Otherwise... go for it."
"Monitor her closely. She's fragile. Her folks are fighting over her sexual identity, and it's gotten nasty. And watch for her getting too deep."
"It all seems good to me. How do we get her there?"
"I'll take care of that." Penny said. Her tone made it clear that she didn't want to volunteer any more details. "I'll let Lena know when."
"Good enough. David?"
"I'd like to try some images here, see what people think."
"Ok," Angel said. "That's a good idea. Penny, you want to do this, or would you rather get back to work on Pat?"
"I'll go. Thanks, guys. This would have been a bad one." With that, Penny left.
David tried a variety of images, until they found a look they all liked.
Angel pulled Robin aside, while David and Lena cuddled a bit on the sofa.
"My parents don't know about this ability. Outside of the five of us, two cousins of mine might suspect. The fewer people who know, the less chance of accidental exposure." Angel explained. "I appreciate your help."
"Believe me, I understand about secrets." Robin smiled, meaningfully.
The front door opened. "Another boy on my couch, I see."
"This one's a rerun. You remember David."
"Hello, David. I don't think I've seen you since you got your wings. Impressive."
"Thank you, Ma'am"
"We'd better get going," Lena said. Then she turned to Angel. "I'll let you know when."
"When what?" Angel's mother asked, as the others left.
"I have to do something later, something confidential. It won't take long."
"Angel, look at me." her mother demanded. When she complied, she continued.
"Is this something dangerous?"
"No. Not at all."
"Is it something I would prohibit, if I knew?"
"No." Angel sounded hurt.
"Don't play the sensitive little girl with me. What do you expect me to think with that announcement? You do secret things at the spa. The police come looking for you. That Wilson woman came after you. That horrible theater man hurt you so badly. You and your friends have all these little plans. I'm your mother. How am I supposed to deal with all that?"
"By trusting me?" Before she was even finished saying it, Angel knew it was the wrong thing. "I know it's been hard. It is hard. But I've been trusted with secrets that are not mine to tell. I can tell you that I'll be helping someone heal, but who and how is not mine to tell. Last night, I healed someone too. But bad things could happen to them if anyone found out. Even I don't really know who it was. Most of our plans are just for things like going to the movies or visiting someone. The theater thing was worse than I expected - worse than anyone expected - but I did have backup. I am careful. I'm more careful than the old Angel ever was. And I have powerful friends. Lena can get help to me with a thought. David is insanely powerful. His mom and dad are no slouches, themselves. Penny can see trouble coming. And that's not even counting the political and economic power of friends, parents of friends, and my employers."
She took a breath, and continued. "I know you worry. It's in the job description. But I'm really not doing things for you to worry about. And I'm not a little boy anymore."
"But you're still my child. My little girl. It's hard to see you so deeply involved in things I don't know enough about; to know there's nothing I can do to help if you have a problem." She opened her arms, and they hugged. "You're right. It's my job to worry, and your job to make your place in the world."
"Anything I should know about?" Angel's father asked, coming unexpectedly on that tableau.
"Mom doesn't like feeling like a mushroom." Angel answered, with a small smile. "And now, I've got to start working on my homework. I'll be going out briefly tonight, for a top secret mission. Ask Mom." She turned, grabbed her school stuff, and headed upstairs.
In an attempt to lighten the mood, Magdalena made a family tradition - breakfast for dinner. Waffles, eggs, bacon and sausage, just ordinary breakfast foods. Angel liked those meals, and so did her parents. About halfway through her second batch of waffles, Angel got the call.
Muttering about the timing, she excused herself and headed for the door. After a brief conference with the others, she kept her normal appearance for her initial contact. While Lena fed her bits and pieces of the desired change, she went a little way into the park and waited for her first cue.
She got the word from Lena, and started walking out of the park as though she had been jogging there. Penny was parked across the street, a little way down the cross street. Angel saw the two of them get out of the car, and started absorbing what baseline information she could about Pat. She extended her observation time a little by bending down to re-tie her shoe while they crossed the street toward her. By the time they passed her and headed down the trail, she had all she needed. She trotted home for a quick change, getting more details from Lena as she went.
She was soon her Afam identity, with a different shirt.
Pat was about 5' 3", with a slight build, dishwater blonde hair, hazel eyes, and average sized breasts. Her overall appearance was nondescript. She wanted to be over 6' tall, muscular, with a sculpted, athletic build, light blonde hair, blue eyes, and an impressive but not excessive package. As far as powers, she wanted a defensive zap of some sort, and the ability to make girls almost slavishly attracted to him - even beyond the effect of his appearance.
Angel had her work cut out for her. She quickly found out that the physical aspects were relatively easy. She had a choice of zaps, without going elemental. They included Jerry's neural zap, a regular bioelectric discharge, a sort of telekinetic blast, and some sort of packet discharge she had read from one of the morfs she had read at the mall near her cousins' home.
After a brief mental consultation with the others, she went with the neural zap. Pat went to the same school as Jerry, and the two of them getting the same power would not seem as odd.
The last part was relatively easy. An ability to subconsciously control his pheromone output and tailor it to a given person. With practice, the effect would be significant. But it wouldn't come up to the level of mind control.
The discussion of motivations was pretty clearcut. There was, perhaps, a tinge of malice in the pheromone part - possible payback for past humiliations. Nothing really bad, though. The zap was defensive, after some bad things that happened to her. The rest was her ideal of the man she wanted to be. With the information from Angel that Pat would have to learn to control the pheromone thing before he could use it effectively, they all agreed it was a go.
Angel got the feeling the "packet" was ready for her to deliver, she started walking toward the hill. About a third of the way in, she met Penny and Pat. She stumbled, steadying herself on Pat and delivering the packet. She apologized, then walked on.
Lena told her she was in the clear, and that nobody was watching her. Angel reverted to her usual self, then turned and walked home.
After the brief exercise and energy use, she was hungry again. Her mother had kept her half eaten seconds warm, and added a cold glass of milk. Angel thanked her, then went to work on them.
Angel got a brief bulletin from Lena, saying everything seemed to be going as planned. It came just as Angel's mother asked how the secret mission went. Without details, Angel replied that it went well. Their talk moved to homework (not finished yet, but close) and school in general.
When Angel was finished eating, she went up to finish her homework. She made it a point to double check her English homework, after Lena's warning the day before.
That done, she went down and watched the tube for a bit with her parents. It was things like that, ordinary family activities, that helped keep her centered. The day ended like that, with her going to bed at what, a few weeks earlier, would have seemed an unreasonably early hour.
She woke with the thought that all she had scheduled was an ordinary day. Then she laughed. An ordinary day of being a girl who goes to a new high school. An ordinary day of being an elemental, seeing things few others could see. An ordinary day of hanging around with a telepath, whose boyfriend is a flying, transmuting, illusion generating voyeur. An ordinary day of being an at large executive of a theater chain.
An ordinary day.
And she seemed to be largely right. Nothing at all unusual seemed to happen in her first few classes. But English was a little unusual. Not totally unexpected, due to Lena's earlier warning, but unusual.
The class started out as most people expected. She had them pass their homework forward, then started them on an in class assignment. While they were working on that, she quickly went through the homework papers, sorting them into a fairly small stack and a much larger one. Then she called for the class's attention.
And read them the riot act. With two exceptions, both of whom had missed the first two days of class (and school in general), She all but threatened to throw the people who did not turn in the assignment out of the class. She indicated the larger pile, and said that most of them were probably F's. Then she went on to say that certain arbitrarily chosen assignments would count as much as ten times their usual value in determining their semester grade. The students would never know, when they were working on an assignment, whether it was one of the ordinary ones or one of the chosen ones. She proclaimed that she considered sloppy, half hearted work an insult to her, to the class, and to the whole school.
She invited anyone who was not willing to work hard and long to transfer to another, less rigorous class.
By the end of the class, four girls were openly crying, and several students were looking pale and shocky. Nobody left the class with the bored, confident look that many had sported the day before.
Angel and her friends went off campus for lunch, having called ahead to place their orders. Between bites of her gyros, Angel asked Lena how the teacher got away with that. Lena explained that it was one of a group of experiental lessons about college.
At Angel's blank look, she went on to explain that AP classes were supposed to be an approximation of college level classes. But the level of the material and expectations were not the only difference between high school and college classes. And there was a significant philosophical difference between the two levels of school. High school was required in most cases. The schools worked hard to make sure every student possible actually graduated.
Many colleges actually expected - even needed - a large part of the freshman class to leave the school before graduation. And the philosophy carried through to some of the classes, as well. They would put some extreme and often unexpected pressure on the students in the first few days, to weed out the slackers and the unprepared.
Some would ambush them, as Mrs. Veng had. Others would give an unexpectedly difficult test, or a complex, burdensome assignment the first week of class. Or some other stress inducing approach. Lena commented that they thought of it as a sort of academic Darwinism.
Angel supposed she understood that on an intellectual level, but she really didn't like it.
The rest of Angel's ordinary day at school was pretty much as expected. Including, unfortunately, Athletic Challenge. She still felt somehow cheated by her own lack of response to the long anticipated locker room activities. All those years of fantasies, right down the tubes.
When Angel got home, there was a message from her mother, saying that their lawyer would be over before dinner to go over the contracts and his research about the AMA agreement. That reminded her that she needed to visit a theater or two, to earn her salary and other goodies from the chain.
She called her mother, who agreed to take her to the Chinese after dinner. And to allow her to stay for a movie, as long as she finished her homework and got to bed at a reasonable hour.
Remembering a recent promise, Angel called Flo. The invitation would work out well, since the theater was relatively close to Flo's house. They set a time to meet, and chose a movie.
Angel was so involved with her homework that she didn't hear her mother arrive. She was startled by a knock at her bedroom door.
"Mr. Streight will be here soon. How are you coming with all that?" her mother indicated the homework.
"Most of it's done. If necessary, I can finish the Calc and Bio at lunch tomorrow."
"I'm just afraid of you falling behind. With everything else, you don't have the time to make up missed work."
"Yes, mother. I know." Angel didn't really mean the prickly tone. It just sort of came out that way. "Now, I'd like to finish this. Let me know when he gets here."
Her mother stiffened at the high handed dismissal, but then she nodded and left.
Eight problems later, Angel's father called her downstairs.
The meeting was relatively short, but useful. Regarding the agreement, he told her that as long as she did not portray herself as a "medical" bio elemental, and left medical decisions in the appropriate hands, she was not covered. Mrs. Wilson's recorded statement that Angel doesn't qualify as a medical bio elemental would work in their favor, as well.
She could continue to help friends and family, and to work at the spa, without running afoul of the agreement. He left her a more detailed report, for her to refer to as needed.
On the contract, he started out by saying that Mrs. Tabor was an honest businesswoman, but was a businesswoman, nonetheless. There were no hidden tricks in the contract, but there were things Angel needed to be aware of. Angel could quit at any time, and she could be dismissed at any time. Neither side would need to show cause. The spa would not be liable for anything she did outside of her on-duty time there. And so on. The big one was that Angel was agreeing that if she left the spa, voluntarily or not, she would not operate or work for a competing business for at least two years.
He went through the contract, paragraph by paragraph, summarizing each part and answering her questions. Except the last one.
"Do you think I should do it?"
"That is not for me to say. There are no tricks or hidden traps. The decision is between you and your parents. Is what you will be getting out of the agreement worth what you are agreeing to? Answer that, and you answer your own question."
He indicated that he would be billing them as agreed, and wished them a good evening. He caught sight of the necklace Angel was wearing, and smiled as he left.
Angel's mother announced that dinner was ready, and they adjourned to the kitchen to serve themselves. Angel suspected that her father had set the table while her mother had finished preparing dinner.
Over dinner, she asked them whether they thought she should sign the contract. They both dropped it back on her. They reminded her that it would have a negative impact on her recreation time and choices. They also reminded her that it could go a long way toward paying her college expenses. Then they proclaimed their willingness to support whatever decision she came to.
After dinner, she cleared the table before grabbing her eCom and tablet for her trip to the theater. The atmosphere in the car was relaxed, but there wasn't much conversation. Her mother asked her to call when she needed to be picked up.
After thumbing in at the theater and greeting the manager, she went to work. The first things she checked were the food supplies. She didn't find any problems, but was puzzled for a moment by one impression. Among the refrigerated supplies, she found a box of a biologically active mixture. When she looked more closely at the labeling, she learned it was an "active culture" yogurt mix for one of the new frozen offerings. Her impressions were consistent with that.
A quick check of other potential problem spots turned up a similar lack of problems. She gave a quick summary to the manager, wrote a brief report, and was done. She thumbed out and went up front to meet her guest.
Flo introduced the woman standing next to her as her mother. They exchanged greetings, and her mother verified arrangements with Angel. They offered to drive Angel home after the movie, which she accepted. Angel called her mother and told her about the arrangements, then went to pick up the tickets.
Flo could hardly believe the invitation to choose whatever she wanted from concessions, and got a good laugh from the way they were greeted.
"She's Baaaack. More undercover work?" With an exaggerated wink and waggle of the eyebrows.
Angel laughed, and nodded. She introduced the two girls, and then ordered the yogurt concoction and a drink. Flo went for some popcorn, light on the "butter", and a diet drink.
The movie, a teen themed comedy, was funny but not particularly memorable. Still, they had a good time. On the ride to Angel's house, they kept repeating partial quotes and laughing. Their biggest laugh came when Flo's mother asked what the movie was about, and they realized they couldn't give an easy answer. They settled on "teens getting in and out of trouble."
When they arrived at her house, Angel invited them inside. They politely declined, and exchanged goodbyes. They waited until she stepped inside her door before they drove away.
After a brief exchange with her parents about the movie and inspection, she went up to get ready for bed. Once she was washed and dressed for bed, she took a little time to finish the last few problems on her calc worksheet, then climbed into bed.
She had no trouble getting to sleep.
She was glad for the good night's sleep the next day. Her other three AP classes all had surprise quizzes. Hard ones. She knew for a fact that she didn't ace the history test, and she wasn't sure how she did in bio and calc. After what she was told, Angel was not completely surprised. And she refused to be discouraged.
It was still a hell of a way to end the first week of school. Even Athletic Challenge was more intense than usual. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the shower afterward. Angel wondered how long she would feel disappointed about that.
She learned that Robin went home a little early, feeling feverish and nauseous. She had an afternoon appointment to be checked for MORFS, anyway, so it was hardly surprising.
Angel had no idea what effect her part in getting that appointment would play in later events. Even Cassandra had no inkling.
While she was waiting for her parents to get home, and trying to get a jump on the weekend's homework, her eCom rang. It was Robin's mother, confirming the diagnosis of MORFS and thanking Angel for the advance notice. She asked what Angel could tell her about the outcome, and Angel repeated what she had told Robin: she would get teleportation and limited time travel powers, along with controllable invisibility and intangibility. Her physical changes would be minimal, mostly enhancing her existing features. And she should be done by sometime Monday, although Angel was not as good at predicting that part.
After repeating her thanks, Robin's mother ended the call.
When Angel's father got home, he had a surprise for her. After their earlier discussions, he had taken the doctor's advice and bought the home testing unit. Her parents had decided that this would be a good time for the test. It was the Friday of a long weekend, so she would have plenty of time to recover. She didn't have work until the next afternoon, and even that would be a routine visit.
They didn't have to sell her. She had been wanting to try it since the idea first came up.
The first test seemed simple enough. They set the monitor on her, she would take a moment to prepare, then she would drink a shot of whiskey. She would try to use her powers to keep the alcohol from entering her bloodstream.
And for a change, it all went as planned. The monitor gave a baseline reading, which they used for calibration. After going inside, she knew she could and would do it. She hated the taste of the whiskey, but her body did not absorb it. They took another reading, waited five minutes, then took yet another. No change.
She had an urgent need to go to the bathroom. She hadn't thought about how her body would dispose of the toxin, so it made sense. The experience was unpleasantly like diarrhea, and after she was done, the room smelled of alcohol. She finished up, then went back to the living room. A half hour after the first test reading, they took another. Still no sign.
She seemed to know that she had another option for disposing of the alcohol, but having it come back up again struck her as more than a little gross,
They had some dinner, then waited a bit for the next part. She would allow some of the alcohol to enter her system, then eliminate it. Otherwise, it was the same setup as before.
This time, she got a little sick as, unprotected by her powers, she started absorbing the alcohol. When the meter started registering a detectable level, she tried getting rid of the alcohol and anything it broke down to. While she was not really drunk, she couldn't focus quite as well as she usually did. Luckily, it didn't matter.
After a moment of purging the toxin, she suddenly had to sneeze. Deciding not to fight it, she let loose. The air smelled of alcohol after that. The sneeze also seemed to trigger another urge to go to the bathroom. When she was done, the alcohol smell was not as strong as before.
The scanner registered that she was back at baseline.
Her parents found the test reassuring. While Angel was a powerful elemental (by non elemental standards), and a good girl, they worried about someone slipping her a drink or three, and then taking advantage of her.
It's a parent thing.
Now, her system could recognize and isolate the alcohol, and presumably other dangerous substances, and keep them from affecting her. That was a relief to them. So was the fact that she could let legitimate medicines or the like bypass that protection.
Not that she was going to need medicines any more. They hoped.
Angel noticed that the second test took more energy than the first, and that she was hungry again. Not ravenous, but hungry.
Together with her parents, she decided to try one more test. They had an over the counter, fast acting, inhaled sleep aid. It was not as strong as most of the knockout preparations she might be attacked with, but it would be a good test. And if she failed, she could just sleep it off.
Just in case, she got ready for bed before trying the tests. They tried both ways again. First, with her forewarned and forearmed, she resisted any entering her system. After blowing out a mist, and waiting about fifteen minutes for any effects, they declared the first test a success.
The second test was going to be a little more extreme. She made it a point to drop her defenses, then asked her parents what to do next. They talked about a variety of things then, just as she was drawing a breath, her father sprayed the drug in her mouth.
Startled, she gasped. That drew even more of the drug into her lungs. In a near panic, she practically screamed the thought that her body needed to isolate and remove the contamination. She was starting to feel a little drowsy, then suddenly she was wide awake again. And huffing out a refined mist.
*Angel! What the hell was that?* Came the urgent question.
*Sorry, Lena. We were testing my ability to rid my body of drugs, and one of the tests nearly got away from me.*
*Geez. Warn a girl when you're going to do something like that! I take it you succeeded?*
*Yep.* Angel replied, proudly. *Hey, I've got an inspection tomorrow. Wanna catch a movie?*
*Might as well. David's visiting some relatives tomorrow, to show off his wings and stuff. I'm not invited.* Angel could almost hear the theatrical sniff after that last bit.
*If it makes any difference, we're going to Andy's theater. In part, to check his progress*.
*So I'm working for my show?*
*I hadn't thought of that. You don't need to actively do anything. But let me know if you notice anything we should know about, and I'll pass it along.*
They discussed arrangements for a little bit, exchanged some gossip, then turned their attentions to things in their own vicinities.
"And how is Lena doing, dear?" Angel's mother asked, with a smile. Angel realized that her entire conversation had taken place with her parents standing there, watching her.
"Um, fine. Bummed. David's going somewhere tomorrow without her, so I invited her to join me at the theater. My inspection shouldn't take too long, and we can catch a movie after I'm done."
"Which theater are you going to?" her father asked.
"The bad one. I need to check Andy's progress with the rehab." Her father looked a little puzzled, but her mother shuddered.
"The theater where she was attacked, dear." her mother prompted, in a slightly unsteady voice. "I assume Andy is the temporary manager they sent in?"
"That's right," Angel replied. "He was an assistant manager at the Chinese, but they thought he was up to the challenge. A real trial by fire, I'd say. He wants to get it finished before he goes back to college."
They shifted gears, and decided that enough time had passed to declare the second test a success. Even taken by surprise, she could quickly expel a drug and undo its effects.
Everyone was happy with that.
Knowing that she was unlikely to have any adverse effects, she contacted Lena again. Her inspection the next day was not strictly scheduled. In fact, it was supposed to be a semi surprise inspection. So she could schedule their movie for an early matinee and they would have the rest of the day free. And since the matinees weren't all that early in the morning, they could still sleep in.
Lena suggested they spend part of the afternoon at the pool, since it would be closed after the long weekend. Angel agreed.
Angel woke up mildly confused. She looked at the clock, and she was late - not enough time to get ready for school. Then she realized what day it was. With a self indulgent smile, she settled back into her pillow and savored the soft warmth of her bed.
An hour later she came awake more gently, to the smell of frying bacon. She got up and took care of her morning business. Wrapping herself in her bathrobe, she drifted down to the kitchen.
Over breakfast, her father volunteered to drive them to the theater and back. Something about the way he did so struck a chord with her. He was concerned. She wasn't quite sure why, but he was. It seemed easier to let him do so, so she accepted.
Besides, it was better than some of the alternatives.
After breakfast, she showered and dressed in one of her power suits. With her gold badge in place, her chain ID and drivers permit neatly tucked in a small jacket pocket, her eCom clipped in place, and her tablet in hand, she was ready to go.
Lena appeared at the door, smiling and munching the last of a piece of toast. They got into the car, and enjoyed most of the ride to the theater.
Most of the ride.
As they approached the theater, Lena had let her mind listen in on what was happening there. The first thing she noticed was the "noise" of the moviegoers. That was easy to ignore, and she focused on finding and reading the employees. Most were concerned with the routine of the job, interspersed with observations about the customers, coworkers, and management. And memories of recent recreational activities.
Two had a different focus.
*Angel!* Lena thought, not wanting to upset their driver or lose the threads of the thoughts. *You're being set up.*
End Part 14
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/