Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story
When she got up in the morning, Angel realized that she hadn't told her parents about the meeting. In fact, she hadn't figured out what to tell them about the meeting.
In fact, there were a lot of things she needed to tell them. And despite Lena's reasoning, it could still come back to haunt her. Still... it was time.
Putting the conversation off, she showered and dressed before going downstairs. When she thought about doing her makeup and hair, she faced the fact that she was just delaying the inevitable.
Her parents were down in the living room, relaxing and reading the paper, when she went down. Before she could get past a "good morning," her mother told her that her breakfast was in the kitchen, staying warm for her.
It was tempting. So tempting to delay things that much more.
Not this time. "Could we talk, all of us, while I eat?"
They both looked up at her tone, and agreed. They got coffee, while she got out her pancakes and sausages. Her mother poured her a glass of milk, then they all gathered around the table. Stalling one last time, Angel took a bite of pancake and sausage together, chewed slowly, and washed it down with a swallow of milk. But she was too aware of two sets of eyes watching her, two people who were very important to her, waiting for her to speak.
"I, uh, have a meeting this afternoon, over at the State Park, with some of my friends." She saw that her parents were still waiting. "And Dr. Miller."
That got a reaction. Not a big one, but their attitude shifted from patience to concern.
"What is it about?" her mother asked.
"That's just it - we're not sure. But the fact that she is meeting us where we've been doing some things," seeing their reaction, she hurried to add "good things for people, it... well, it makes us think she knows some things about us."
Her father looked puzzled. "Can't Lena find out?"
"No, Dr. Miller is too well shielded. We don't think she means us harm or trouble. She has enough pull to do something like that without even talking to us. But she might know some things, and some of it is stuff you don't know yet."
Angle was a little surprised to see her father nod reflexively, as though he knew what she was talking about. Her mother just seemed concerned.
"Some of us have powers you don't know about. Including me. It's not my place to tell you about theirs, but you need to know the rest about mine." She took a drink of milk, then continued.
"You know that I can perceive and kinda control microbes and stuff, and that I can tell what MORFS will do or has done to people. But it goes beyond that. I can trigger MORFS in people, and make it do what I want it to." Her mother's eyebrows shot up, but her father seemed unsurprised.
"You knew?" she accused him.
"Let's just say I strongly suspected, from the things you were and weren't saying. Especially about AMORFS."
Her mother jumped in at that. "You started AMORFS?"
"I think so. I did something, at the rally, and we had been talking about how fitting it would be if something like that happened to all those bigots, so I think I might have started it."
"But you're not sure?" her mother prompted.
"I didn't even know I could do something like that, back then. And I didn't actually intend to do it then. It just seemed to happen."
"Who was this 'we'?" her father asked.
"The cousins and me. Janey and David. And none of us were serious. It was just one of those 'wouldn't it be great' things."
"That explains a lot." her mother nodded. "Especially your reactions to some things." Then her eyes widened as she thought it through. "David and Robin! Those powers of theirs didn't just happen, did they?"
"That was me." Angel squeaked, her voice small.
"And that whole thing you were trying to feed Dr. Miller about Pope Hill?"
"We think she found out, somehow. That was really all of us. Some of the stories were already there, so we just sort of used them as a pattern. Lena reads their minds, finding out what they want and how they intend to use it. Penny checks to see if doing it would cause a disaster, David makes an illusion of the spirit thing, and I make the virus and give it to them. And Robin makes me invisible while I deliver the virus. They don't know us, or that we're involved."
"After David and Robin, there have been two. Both from Smokey Hills."
Her father remembered another reaction, and changed the subject. "Was the AMORFS thing your only accident?"
"Uh... maybe not. I think, maybe, I kinda accidentally zapped the Dean when he grabbed my arm to throw me out of his office."
"What do you mean, you think?" Her mother asked, sharply. It was a reflex, when faced with a partial admission by her child.
Angel flinched. "I didn't mean to do it! And I was not sure I even did anything. I was so upset that he was yelling at me for things he already knew I didn't do, that I barely noticed the feeling I get when releasing something like that. I wasn't even sure I did it."
"But when you saw the news report...?" her father prompted.
"The guy with the second adolescence. They said it was an AMORFS variant, and he was the right age, and just lost his job, and I might have been wishing he could be on the other end of what he was doing, and..."
"And you think it all came together." her father finished for her.
Head lowered, she squeaked out. "Yes."
"What will happen to him?"
"Um... if it's what I think, he'll probably be kinda like the twins. A furry young girl. And no powers."
"How young?" her mother asked, gently.
"Like, maybe, 12 or 13. Middle school age. Early middle school."
"Why that age?"
"I thought about him facing an unfair Dean, as a young and helpless girl. No Deans in elementary school."
"I guess that makes sense." she conceded. "You think Dr. Miller knows all that?"
"Maybe not about the Dean. But the Pope Hill thing, we think so. She must have found out something when we did it yesterday."
"Yesterday?" her mother asked, in her patented Disappointed voice. "When you knew she was still around?"
"We checked. She was still busy with the police, after she caught the guy who tried to shoot me."
"WHAT?!" Her mother's reaction reminded her that she had forgotten to mention the incident at the theater.
Angel tried making light of it. "Oh, didn't I mention that?" She immediately saw that had been a big mistake.
"No, you most certainly did not mention that."
"It's ok. She caught him. She's some kind of super powerful elemental herself. Something I've never seen."
"And how many times have you been shot at, that you haven't told us about?" her mother demanded.
"The other time doesn't count. It was just a tranq dart and..." she trailed off as she saw her parents' faces. Where was a mad bomber when you needed one?
"Um... that group they captured yesterday, the ones on the news? They were the same ones that tried to grab me a couple of days ago. The people we were talking about being a kidnapping threat, remember? Our team and the ASA guys..."
"Wait a minute. ASA guys?" her father interrupted.
"Lena says they're some sort of secret international agency or something. Kind of like Interpol I guess. Anyhow, the ASA guys saw me go down after I was hit..."
"You were HIT?!" her mother practically shouted.
"Let her finish, dear."
"I don't know how much more I can take."
"She's here, safe and sound. Keep that in mind while we listen. Go ahead, Angel."
"Um, when the tranq dart hit me, I did the bee sting thing and kept anything from affecting me. but I went down, like it had. The ASA guy was a few steps away, in smart camo. When he saw me go down, he grabbed me..." her mother took a breath, as though to interrupt again, but her father held up his hand, then gestured for Angel to continue.
After she finished describing the events, the table was silent. She suddenly remembered the food in front of her, and tried to fill the awkward silence with bites of her now cold food and drinks of somewhat warm milk.
Her father got up, refilled his coffee cup and his wife's, then took them into the living room. A moment later, he walked back in and handed one to Angel's stricken mother. A sip of the coffee seemed to bring her back to life.
"And..." she began, "And that thing at the Streights' house?"
"Totally unrelated." Angel assured them. "Just some guy mad at Mr. Streight for a legal thing."
They nodded at that. Then her father asked "Anything else you haven't told us?"
"Yes. But nothing dangerous or anything. At least, I don't think so. The rest is stuff that is secret because of other people. It's not my stuff to tell. Anyone."
"So..." Her father switched gears. "Who else knows about this power of yours?"
"Our team, obviously. Maybe Dr. Miller. Mrs. Tabor found out accidentally."
"I can't say. One of those Other Peoples' Secrets things. Let's see... um... you two, and I think that's it. Oh, Janey and David might have guessed."
After another moment of near silence, filled with Angel eating cold breakfast and her parents drinking flammable coffee, her mother said "I think we should go to that meeting with you."
"I don't think that's a good idea. When we talked about it, David had the same idea about his father. We decided it would be easier without. And if you are needed, Robin can flit you there in an instant."
Her mother concentrated for a moment. "Lena says the same thing. And that she can fill us in, if necessary."
After another interminable pause, her mother asked "Why didn't you tell us all this before?"
"You were already so worried, and there was so much going on, and there were the things I can't talk about... it just seemed like the right thing to do. I'm sorry." she ended, miserably.
She found herself engulfed in hugs from both sides.
"We just worry, Angel. As I said before, it's in the job description. I understand there are things you can't tell us, about the spa and the theater, and maybe some other things. But I don't want you to hesitate to tell us the other things." She gave a little laugh. "Ok, there will always be things you don't want to share with your poor old parents, but I mean the important things. I would really rather find out about something dangerous from you than see it on the tube. Or hear about it around the office."
They put the dishes in the sink, and moved into the living room. Angel's father wordlessly handed her the comics and the sports section, her traditional Sunday favorites. She asked for the news section, and got it as well.
The paper didn't say much more than the news had about the busted ring. Or the death of Officer John. After going through the section, she settled in with the comics.
David gave them the all clear. Dr. Miller was alone, and there weren't any traps he could see. Lena agreed, saying that the Doctor was the only one in the area she couldn't read, and nobody else was paying attention to the picnic area.
Robin decided to conserve her energy, in case of some necessary action, so the four of them walked up to the tables from their nearby hiding place, while Penny remained behind. The doctor's greeting was friendly, if a little smug. She offered them some pizza and soft drinks, which Angel pronounced safe.
Then they got down to business. Dr. Miller had her equipment project a complex, three dimensional graph. "Do any of you know what this is?"
Fighting down urges toward wise ass remarks, they silently shook their heads.
"Each of you, when you use your powers, has a unique signature. An energy fingerprint." She picked up a familiar box, and casually pointed it toward Lena as she spoke. "When I spoke with each of you, this recorded that energy fingerprint for each of you." She glanced at the box. Then at Lena. "Everyone but you. This graph shows matches for all four of you, including the pattern I just got from you." she indicated Lena. "According to this, you were all using your powers yesterday, focused on an area near here. In fact, right by the Pope Hill marker."
"But you were..." David caught himself. "How far does that thing reach?"
"Not this one. I planted some sensors, suitably hidden, around the area a couple of days ago. This graph is from their data, recorded at a time when I was busy with the police." She looked pleased with herself, her ears erect and looking perky, somehow.
"You didn't really think I would fall for that ghost story you all told, did you? You told it well, if maybe a little too consistently. And that other person was close, but different enough to make your stories stand out."
The whole team looked embarrassed about that. And they were.
"I assume that yesterday's person would tell us much the same thing."
"Er... maybe not." Angel started. She had pretty much memorized the top down view of her own torso that day.
Lena interrupted the shame fest. "Speaking of yesterday's guest, we have a problem. She's on her way back here with some friends."
"Why is that a problem?" Dr. Miller asked.
"They have explosives."
They quickly outlined the previous day's event, and the nature of their target and her group. David took a look at them, then projected an illusion of them for the Doctor. He showed her where the explosives were, and where their car was. With that information, she called the rangers and reported seeing teens with explosives on the road to Pope Hill. She described the car, the teens, and the explosives. Then she described their location.
David warned them that the girls were about to come into view. He put up an illusion at the front of the picnic shelter, making it look empty but allowing them to see out. At a question from the doctor, he commented that as long as he wasn't hit or anything, shooting or throwing something through the illusion wouldn't disrupt it.
The teens, two boys and two girls, pulled their car off of the road at the place it was closest to the hill, then headed off on foot. David moved his point of view over to them, and then inside the explosive bundles. They were agricultural grade explosives with a common electronic detonator.
The detonator was a standard design, widely used for safety. It had a timer, which would arm the detonator when it counted down, and a radio controlled switch. The switch, which required a specific, digitally encoded signal, would cause detonation. The idea was that the timer would give the handler time to get away before the charge was armed, so an accidental signal wouldn't have unfortunate consequences.
David knew he could disarm the charges easily enough, but he would have to drop the illusion to do so. He was still somewhat limited as to the things he could do at the same time. Just in case it was needed, he got ready.
It turned out that it wasn't. The ranger vehicle pulled in behind the teens' car, and two rangers got out. As they started toward the teens, one of the boys spotted them and gave the alarm. They turned to run, but found themselves having problems.
The girl from the previous day found herself frozen with conflicting reactions, literally unable to move. The boy who gave the alarm tried to run, but his sandals fell apart, tripping him. The other boy got a running start, but found himself knocked over by a small black sphere. Which promptly vanished. The second girl got just two steps away before she tripped over an unseen obstacle.
The rangers had no trouble rounding them up. They found the detonator in the teens' car, and carefully disarmed and bagged the bundles. While they were doing so, two State Police cars pulled up behind the rangers' vehicle. The rangers turned the prisoners over to the others for transport, took a last look around the area, then left.
David dropped the illusion.
Dr Miller was mildly impressed. "You kids work well together. And you can think on your feet. That's useful."
"Uh... thank you." Angel said, speaking for the group.
"Now the question is, what to do with you." The doctor gave them a stern look. She seemed to think the issue over. After letting them sweat for a moment, she continued.
"I would like to know why you are going through this elaborate charade, before I make my decision."
"I want to be able to help some people with my ability to induce custom MORFS. But if word got out about my ability, I wouldn't last ten minutes. If I wasn't killed by hysterical morf haters, I would end up strapped down in some government lab or something, right next to my friends."
Dr. Miller shuddered, her ears drooping to the sides, and Lena got brief flashes of scenes in some sort of horrific medical lab and a sinister pale man. Then the doctor recovered, and looked around at the four.
"I understand your concern. But why all this?"
"It was a bunch of things coming together. The old stories were already around. We had been having a good time doing things together, even before David and Robin got their powers. And, uh... we probably watched a few too many of those movies where a group of specialists get together and do something incredible. It just seemed like a good idea." Angel fell silent, watching the doctor.
Lena was uncomfortable for another reason. Without apparently thinking about it, the doctor had shielded herself so thoroughly that even her emotions were not leaking out. If she didn't see her there, she wouldn't know she even existed.
Finally, Dr. Miller looked around at them. "I should probably stop you, before you do something we all regret." Then she smiled. "But as it is, you are a useful resource. I will keep an eye on you. So will the ASA. And maybe, just maybe, I may tell someone about this strange place called Pope Hill, and the things that sometimes happen there. Someone with a real need." She winked.
She turned to David. "I know some people who can help train you to use your abilities more effectively. When you're ready, call me and I'll put you in touch with them." She handed him a card.
Then she turned to Robin. "You have abilities you haven't told me about, and that's fine. But I would also encourage you to think about talking with those people." She handed her card to her, as well.
Then she turned to Angel. "We need to talk some more, I think. And we should probably include your parents." Angel couldn't quite read her tone of voice. It seemed serious, but not trouble-serious. More like "this could affect your whole life, for better or worse" serious.
Lena spoke up. "That sounds like an exit cue to me. Let's take the leftovers to my place."
They policed the area, throwing out the trash and gathering the leftovers. David gathered Lena into his arms, and they flew away. Robin picked up the leftovers, and vanished.
"I'll take you home." She stepped up to Angel, and a translucent black sphere formed around them. They lifted into the air, and quickly flew to the house. For form's sake, Angel invited her inside.
After exchanging greetings with Angel's parents, Dr. Miller took an instrument out of her briefcase and briefly waved it around the room.
"All right... the rest of you OUT! Angel and her parents can tell you about it later!"
At a questioning look from Angel's mother, she explained. "Three of Angel's friends, Miss Brown, Miss Morgan, and Mr. Streight, are spying on us. Miss Brown," she gestured, and a somewhat larger than Robin sized, opaque black ovoid appeared across the room. "It's rude to come into someone else's house unannounced and uninvited, to eavesdrop on a private conversation. I suggest you leave, before you embarrass yourself and your friends any more."
Robin found herself literally in the dark. And after that last comment from Dr. Miller, she found she couldn't hear anything, either. With a pout, she gave up and flitted back to Lena's house.
After removing the now-empty ovoid, Dr. Miller addressed an empty space in front of her. "And now you, Mr. Streight. I do not think your parents would approve of this abuse of your abilities. Particularly your father. Shall I call and find out?" She indicated her eCom. A moment later, she nodded and put it down.
She seemed to concentrate for a moment, and then she smiled. "Now that we have a little privacy, we need to talk. Usually, when someone tells a girl and her parents that the girl has a lot of potential, it is either followed by a recruiting speech or an expression of disappointment about the girl's achievements. This is neither."
"Your daughter is an incredible resource. And an incredible danger. If some of her abilities become known, the world will become a very dangerous place for her. Some people and groups would want to kill her outright. Others would want to control her, use her for their own ends. Some would go after her directly, others by going after her family and friends."
"On the other hand, she has made some very powerful friends. Some in terms of political and economic power, some in terms of more direct forms of power, and some both. That presents its own sets of dangers and benefits."
"For most girls her age... your age," she turned to Angel. "It is important to start thinking about the future. Especially about careers and other life choices. With the better known parts of your abilities, you can build careers that make your theater and spa activities look like typical summer jobs. You can also make a significant difference in the world."
"You might even be able to do both." She grinned. "But there are some options I would like you to consider. In the short term, there are some people I know who can help you learn to control your abilities and, perhaps more importantly, can teach you how to better defend yourself and those you care about. There is a price for that help, but you will know it going in."
"In the longer term, I would ask that you consider a career in MORFS research and treatment. Your special skills would be invaluable in that field, and could lead to significant breakthroughs."
"My grades..." Angel began.
"Your grades are not spectacular, but they're not all that bad. If you keep them up, or improve on them, you should find a number of schools interested in having you attend. Particularly in those programs. In addition to some of your own acquaintances, I know some people who might be able to help you with any problems with admissions or scholarships. In particular, I know a couple of researchers, a husband and wife team, who would pull pianos worth of strings to get you into one of the top schools in the country."
With the mention of a husband and wife team, Angel had a strong suspicion. "They wouldn't happen to be almost as feline as you, would they?" she asked, with a cheeky grin.
"Why," Dr. Miller replied, humor heavy in her voice, "now that you mention it, I do seem to recall a certain attractiveness in their family."
Angel's parents looked lost, so she explained. "The two Dr. Martins - and I don't mean the shoes - are probably the most prominent MORFS researchers in the country. If not the world. They are also suspected, in some quarters, of having something to do with AMORFS. They have published tons of scientific papers, most of which are way over my head. They pretty much wrote the book on MORFS - literally."
The conversation went on for some time. Angel was thrilled when Dr. Miller said she would try to arrange a meeting with a Dr. Martin or both of them. She promised to give serious thought to what Dr. Miller had advised, and to keep in touch.
When the doctor left, Angel had a talk with her parents about the whole thing. They assured her that they would support virtually any choice she made. They also reminded her that they put a high value on education, no matter what path she chose.
After that, Angel went next door and filled her friends in. They talked for a while, and generally hung out, but they had school in the morning and dinner waiting at their respective homes.
When Angel went to bed that night, her thoughts were full of the possibilities. Even after she fell asleep, she dreamed about the lives she might lead, and the choices she might make.
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/