Part 3

           "He escaped, Sir."

            "Does Horatio know?"

            "Yes sir, and his punishment was swift, but he understands."


            "The search began for him, Sir, and we're sure that he still is somewhere in the city."

            "The family?"

            "Protected at the moment."

            "The question is only for how long."

            "Correct sir."

            "Continue the search, but start after the other. If we can't have both, we might as well get the other."

            "Yes, sir."


            "Let's go over this again," the man said.

            "I've already told you," Angie Cole said. She had been repeating her story for what had to be the third hour now. "We were attacked in the hotel while on vacation. I don't know who the men were, but my son came in and saved us."

            "The water elemental from the news reports?" the man spoke as if he already knew the answer. Angie resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She hadn't expected this many problems, but then again, she had been 'missing' for nearly three months. Jenny and her had been separated almost immediately, and the questioning had begun just as quickly. Right now, it was only her anger at her son, for dropping them off like that, that stopped her from breaking down. She needed them both right now, but most of all, she missed Michael, her husband. "Was it also your son who 'dropped' you off here, and attacked the hospital you were in?"

            "He did not attack them, he made sure we could escape," Angie cried.

            "Your son did a lot of damage, and the hospital is claiming that he just attack them without provocation," the man said. "There are dozen of witness who say that he tried to kill them."

            "How many of them are dead?" Angie said, standing up from the chair she was in. The interrogation room was not to her liking, but she knew that these people were just looking for answers. "None? Right? None. My son is not a murder."

            "I suggest that you don't answer any more questions, Madam." Angie turned to see Jonas standing there, looking like the lawyer he was before he joined her staff. She let out a sigh of relief, knowing that Jonas was and always would be on their side. Horatio on the other hand, had betrayed them all.

            "Who are you?"

            "Jonas McBride, Madam Cole's barrister," he said, moving to the side of the table. "As a diplomat recognized by Parliament, she still receives immunity.  Miss Jennifer Wisdone currently is seeking sanctuary within your borders. I also represent her. Would you please go get her so that we may have this discussion together?" It was not a question, rather a subtle demand. She gave Jonas a smile as he sat down beside her. The man left without another word, obviously peeved at them both.

            "We certainly live in interesting times," he said, wiping his brow with a handkerchief. She smiled at the older man, happy to have to guidance and protection.

            Jonas had been a surrogate father to her since before she could remember. While technically not family, it was Jonas that looked after her when her parents died. Her father of cancer, her mother of suicide. She had worked past their deaths long ago, with both Jonas' and Michael's help. Jonas took her in, having worked in the same law firm as her father. He was the one that helped her get the job as diplomat for England, primarily in the United States, however she had been moved around several times. Now he worked with her, and Donovan never suspected that she grew up under the man's care. It was Jonas' wish and she always respected it.

            "Donovan will be alright," Jonas said, placing an arm on her shoulder. She looked at her hands, the same ones that had wiped blood from his face as he carried them to safety. They were still red in her mind and she felt a tremble pass through them.

            "I can't lose him, Jonas, not like Michael," she whispered. She felt another arm wrap around her and she looked up from her hands to see Jenny sitting next to her.

            "I take it they weren't too nice to you," Jenny said, getting her to smile, if only it was small. Jenny kissed her lightly on the lips, making Angie relax. While she would always miss Michael, Jenny was a gift, a love that both of them shared. When she entered their lives, Angie and Michael, despite Donovan's birth, knew something was missing. Until Jenny came into their lives. Something still was missing for her, Michael was missing, but with Jenny, it would be bearable. Just like it was bearable when it was just her and Michael.

            "Thank you," Angie sniffed. Jonas handed her his handkerchief, smiling as he leaned back in his chair.

            "Your boy's a tough one," Jonas said. "If my intel is right - and when hasn't it been - they were none too gentle to him." He took a folder out of his briefcase and placed it on the table before looking at both of them. "Or you two for that matter. The fact that he did not harm anyone beyond broken bones is commendable."

            Jonas knew the underbelly of the world simply because he had worked with them before. He was the one that taught Angie that there was no black or white, only shades of grey. In turn, she tried to teach that to Donovan.

            "You think they'll act on any of this?" Jenny asked.

            "Probably not, considering that my information was obtained in an illegal manner and there is no way of corroborating it." Jonas opened the folder to show an image of several doctors standing over what was obviously her son. "They haven't found him and neither have my sources. Which is good."

            "He's alive?" Angie looked up from the photograph, holding back the tears that threatened to fall.

            "More than sure," Jonas said. "But right now, let's focus on you two, then we can work at getting Donovan back to us." Angie nodded, grabbing Jenny's hand for support. They would weather the storm, and hopeful come out of it intact. She said a small prayer for Donovan, asking for his safety, and to return him.


            A groan was the first thing I heard. And said actually. I tried to roll over, but the pain in my left side was unending.

            Don't move, please. The voice was in my head, but it was not threatening. There were no tendrils; if anything, it was like a hand just touching the surface of the water. You are quite injured.

I moaned again, but felt a soft...paw, rubbing something into my shoulder. It gave my some relief. "" I managed to get out.

            In a safe place. I opened my eyes, finding two yellow moons staring back at me. Relax. We can talk when you're feeling better. The paw continued to rub something into me. The pain was receding and the pressure was gone from my head. You pushed yourself far. I do hope that you don't have to in the near future.

            The eyes moved back and I could make out the form of a large cat. It had to be a panther, jaguar or something. I wasn't sure but how could this creature be talking to me.

            I didn't always look like this. Okay, it can read my thoughts. I thought about reaching out with my water, an instinct picked up from my captivity. I went through the process much like you did. But for me, it was much worse. I went against my instincts, intrigued by her.


            I was a normal girl, happy to be finally going through -

            "Okay, okay," I said. "You went through puberty. I get that." I managed to push myself up and look around the room. In contrast to the light of the last room I was trapped in, this was filled with darkness. Only moon eyes stood out, and a small lantern behind her. The voice was feminine, that was one of the reasons I stopped her from talking. I really didn't need to hear about the feminine side of puberty, the clinical teachings they gave us in school were enough. I know how it works.

            I was nine. I was an early bloomer. I loved my life. And then my life came tumbling down.

            "What happened? Do you mind me asking?" I couldn't help those words that came out, but they did. She surprised me though, with the relief in her tone, like there was someone finally listening.

            My father lost his job and we had to move out of the house we were in and into a small apartment. We even had to take in boarders to help cover costs. They were nice sometimes....but most of the time they weren't....

            The last man that was there....  The pain in her voice rippled through me, and I closed my eyes, fighting my tears at the thought of what happened.  I thought I had known horror, but this...

"You don't have to tell -" I started, but she interrupted me now.

            No, I need to tell you this. It feels good to be able to finally tell someone who doesn't run in fear. I couldn't help the raised eyebrow. Fear? Was I afraid? Yes, but not of her, and she seemed to sense that. Her pain shuffled through her words, letting me burden some of the emotions.

            The pain in my shoulder was fading, and my side wasn't as bad as it was before she started to work on me. I needed to sit up and see her, I couldn't lay down and listen. She must have sense it or seen it in my eyes because she did not stop me as I used my right arm to push me up as best as I could. There was a wall behind me, thankfully. My body was too tired to not use the support. I gave her a smile, surprised at the ease I felt with this woman. She reminded me a lot of my mother.

            The room was too dark for me to get anything beyond shapes and shadows. But it was comforting in a sense. She didn't need to see me to offer me aid, and I didn't need the light to offer anything beyond my comfort.

            She lay down next to me, and placed her head in my lap, much like the large cat she was. I began to scratch her head, not knowing why, or rather, feeling like she needed it. Maybe just the touch comforted her.

            He was an older man, about my father's age, and my parents thought, wrongly, that they could trust him with my care. I was young, younger than you are. He did things....

            "I'm sorry." I looked down at her, those large eyes looking back at me. How could anyone do that to someone?

            I know you are not apologizing for him. Trust me, I can read your thoughts, even the undercurrents of the words. But thank you for your comfort. I just smiled at her

            I ran away from home after that, wanting to get as far from him as possible. Last I heard, the man was behind bars. As for my parents, they couldn't accept the changes that happened in the interim. She looked so sad. This was the underbelly of MORFS. Where it turned back to bite the very people it changes. Not everyone came out of it remotely close to the person they were before. Even the people who change from male to female, or female to male, can survive in the world. Not every change lets a person live so well.

She was silent for a bit, resting against me. I could feel the relief now that she had told someone about this. Whether it was because she had gotten this off her chest, or because she had someone to talk to, it really did not matter to me. Not just MORFS. It was MORFS along with the birth that nearly killed me.

"Birth? My God," I whispered.

            Yes. Birth. I was pregnant before I began my transformation into this form you see here. But I am cursed. This body is not fit to raise a young child, let alone even a cub... I could not raise her, and had to give her up.

"I'm sorry, I wish there is something that I could do to help you," I said. I tried to hold back the pain that rippled through me as I moved my left shoulder. It echoed through my body, and for the first time, I wondered how long had I been out.

            You do not owe me anything. I did this because no one else did for me. It is a lonely road.

"Still," my voice trailed off. We sat in silence for several minutes. I needed to find out where I was, how long I had been out, how long I was held captive. And probably a list of other things. "How long have I been here?"

            Only a few days. I found you in the sewer, coming back from hunting.

            "Do you know what day it is?" She shook her head, but I probably should have guessed that.

            I don't look for that sort of thing, it only reminds me how much time I've spent like this. My heart went out to her.

            "I'll help you, if you want. Maybe we can help each other." I began to think about getting away from all this. We could find her daughter, maybe, and get them out of here. She deserved that much as least for helping me.

            Why? Why would you help me? I'm a monster.

"Monsters are things that we should be afraid," I said, remembering something my father once told me, "we should be more afraid of the darkness within the people we see everyday." She seemed to like that, and rubbed against me. My head was getting heavy, but I wanted to stay awake a little bit more.

            You remind me a lot of another man I met. He helped me. I wouldn't have made if it wasn't for him. She sat up at this, moving off my lap. Her eyes were inquisitive, like they were searching for some answer. I hardly look like anyone anymore, so she couldn't be looking for a familiar face.

            "What did he do for you?"

            He found me, after I had given up Buffy. She had this far away look, like the pain would never go away. She answered my question before I could ask it. My daughter, Buffy. I named her after this person I saw on television once. She was so strong, and I hoped my daughter could live up to the name. And maybe forgive me, like the character seemed to have done. I remember seeing a show like that once, or at least the name stuck out. I couldn't place it anywhere, but I hoped that it'd come back to me.

            The man found me after I gave her up. I was trapped in this cage. Men in masks kept poking and prodding me. I tried to fight back, but I just felt so weak, tired. I had no reason to live. I deserved it, I truly believed that I did. My empathy increased for her. She had gone through what I had, but did not have the skills or power to escape on her own. How could anyone do this to someone? Or maybe more importantly, who did this?

            "I'm sorry," I said.

            Thank you for your kindness. You really are like him. I tried to give her a smile, but the pain was returning.

            "How did you meet him?"

            He worked there, or at least pretended to, I think.  I motioned for her to keep talking, it helped to distract myself from the pain. I felt it running through me, and tried to still the waters.

            A young man, a janitor. Brought me a little extra food there when he cleaned it up. Talked to me both here - she tapped her head- and here. She tapped her chest. So the man probably had some skills as a telepath, or at least something comparable to it.  He helped me escape when he finally got a chance. I don't know what happened to him.

"You remember his name?"

            Mikey, I think. That was what his name tag said at least. I don't know, he just set me up here afterwards and then left. Sometimes I wish he'd come back to save me. But I know that wasn't going to happen. I just nodded, agreeing with her. The things we wanted to happen most, never really do. I would never get my father, despite my efforts to look. The sea had taken him, and by proxy, me as well.

            "What every happened to your daughter?"

            She went to an orphanage, but I don't know which one, or even if she is still there. I hope some nice family picked her up.

            "I'm sure she's safe," I said. My head still felt heavy, but things were getting clearer. "Where...where are we?"

            Still in the sewer. She looked over her shoulder and got up. It gave me the chance to observe her, specifically the changes she had undergone.

            Her hind legs were about the same length as her arms, her body completely covered in the black fur. There were still human bones beneath there, as the body moved without feline grace. There was grace to the body, but no where the subtly of the panther that she appeared to be. The pelvis was wider on her then it would have been on a panther, and the paws could still be considered hands, though, it looked difficult for her to use them. She even still had the form of breasts, awkward as they looked upon her changed body. Her face was feline in just about every facet.  Except the eyes. Despite the color to them, I could still see the humanity behind them.

            Low light filled the room, but it wasn't enough to blind me. Probably for my benefit, as I was just about blind before. You'll need to stay here a while, then we can get you out of here. She walked back over, carrying something in her mouth.  I reached for it with my good hand, taking it gently from her mouth. Through the feline features, I could see the smile upon her face.

            "Happy for the company?" I couldn't help but ask. She nodded, the smile still there.

            The object she gave me was a newspaper, with an article on the center about the attack upon the American Embassy. Well, rather, my attack on the embassy. It was dated well over four months since I last checked. In the hotel room.  It did not mention Mum or Jenny, rather it said that some Elemental, me, was repelled by the American troops after it escaped from the hospital. However, even the newspaper found that answer to be lacking. It implied that the source of the Elemental was not from a hospital, but from a building owned by Orus and Borns. I never heard of them, but it would be something to check out.

            They held me too. She nudged the article with her paw, clumsily pointing toward the name of the business. I didn't find out until afterwards who had me.

            "Figure we should find out more information on them, huh?" I folded the article, resting my head against the wall. "What did you rub into my earlier?"

            A salve that a local makes for me. They help me from time to time, though, they do not know where my daughter is.

            "I think I should meet them, maybe they can contact my mum," I said. We sat in silence for a moment. There was a draft from somewhere, the cool breeze refreshing against my wound and headache.  "She'll be able to help us find your daughter." I opened my eyes to look at her. She had wandered across the room, resting on a pile of tattered blankets. "She's a diplomat, got connections."

            You sure she'll help us? There was a plea to her words. Like she had lost too many times at a game that she couldn't quit.

            "Positive," I said, closing my eyes again. I couldn't hold sleep off anymore. "My name is Donovan by the way."

             Joy. I just nodded, letting sleep take me. There were still questions that I needed answered, but they could wait for another day.


            "I'm glad we could clear that up," Jonas said, shaking the hand of an American attorney. They had managed to work out the differences, letting both Jenny and Angie go, on the condition that they leave the country immediately. Angie didn't like the idea, but it was the only way to get the Americas to agree to help Donovan should they see him. They would be allowed back in less then a month's time, but she still worried about him.

            "He's going to be alright," Jenny said, holding Angie close. "You and Michael raised him well. He knows how to take care of himself."  They were being led out to the car, and then to the airport. No chance to run away, and Angie did not know if she had the strength to even try.

            "But not like this," she said. "He's never been through anything like this."

            "Michael had," Jonas said, catching up to them. "His name was spread around the circles so much that it became second nature to hear it at times."

            "You still need to tell me about that," Jenny said.

            "When we get to somewhere safe," Angie said, not waiting to bring up the topic. "Its not something I think we should advertise here."

            "We'll get to it lassie, just you wait," Jonas said. The guard 'carefully' watched them out, though Angie knew that everyone understood what was going on. For now, they were persona non grata.

            The rest of the walk was filled with silence. Fear filled her as they walked though.

            A month, that was how long, if not longer, it would be until she saw her son again. The cold stab that threatened her when Michael left was back, this time striking deeper. Donovan was a blessing to her, one that she thought she'd never have. He was still a child, how could he take of himself? Without her?

            "I've got you," she heard Jenny said. She felt her body crumple down to the ground, just outside the embassy. She felt Jonas help Jenny pick her up and get her into the limo.

            "Why?" she whispered. Her eyes began to burn, the tears falling. "Why?" Jenny just wrapped her arms around her tighter.

            "He is his father's son," Jonas said. She felt the car move around, like it was driving off toward destinations unknown. She didn't care. Wherever it was, they were going away from her son. "He'll find his way."

            "But what if he doesn't? He doesn't know what he is up against?" Angie pleaded. Jonas had told them both about the dangers that they now faced, despite being free.

            "As long as we can't find him, they can't find him," Jonas repeated. He had said that to her a dozen times already, yet it had not sunken in. "Angie, maybe you should tell Jenny about Michael now. It may take your mind off things."

            Angie just nodded, now moving from leaning to laying on Jenny as they sat in the car. Sitting up, she gave Jenny a small smile, thanking her for the comfort.

            "Michael may have made money as an author, but before he met me, he worked at the company Donovan just broke out of, Orus and Borns," Angie said. She remembered meeting him when she was issuing a motion to one of the board directors. "He was a custodian. He was sweeping floors when I ran into him. I started to apologize, and he just smiled at me. That was all it took. He didn't say a word, he just smiled." Jenny began to lean into her now, holding her tightly. She had never told her partner about meeting Michael, because it never came up, and to her, it wasn't important.  Now, all she had left of Michael was Donovan and her memories.

            "I went back after I delivered the motion, but he wasn't there. It took nearly two weeks to find out his name and another week to see him," Angie said. "He wasn't avoiding me. But the company wasn't forthcoming with his information."

            "She had me step in," Jonas added, getting Jenny to look up from her shoulder. "I knew some of the guards, as well as the other custodial staff. That allowed her to set up a date, which they did for three years or so."

            "He left though, without a word," Angie said, trying to hold back the tears. "I was pregnant at the time with Donovan." Jenny looked up at this, surprised at her. Angie held back the blush a little, but she couldn't stop it all. "When he was gone for about six months." She kept her voice stable, belaying the emotions she felt then and still felt. She felt abandoned again, or at least, until he contacted her, about a month after he left. "He eventually told me he had to leave because of something he did in there. Something they didn't care for. It was the only letter I received from him until he returned." Angie had kept the letter, needing to cling to something when he passed. She kept thinking it was like then, like when he first left her. As time rolled on, she knew it wasn't. In her heart, the broken pieces, she knew.

            "He had been fired from his job and left the country soon after," Jonas said. "I contacted several people inside the company at the time that I could trust. But they knew nothing about it."

            "You couldn't find out?" Jenny asked. Angie already knew the reason: the files had been destroyed almost immediately after he had been fired.

            "There was nothing to find, it was like he hadn't worked there at all," Jonas said. Basically the same thing without telling her what Angie had worked out of Michael. That was only after several years of marriage. He did not want to talk about what he had done, and she still didn't know.

            Angie felt herself falling into a rhythm, telling Jenny about the man she loved before Jenny knew him. That was the man they both loved, and felt connected to. Jenny needed to know about the man who had changed her life.

            He had gone through the change at the tail end of his senior year, one of a hand full to go through and survive it. That had been back in 2009, about a year after the first case.  He was a lucky one, the changes not on the outside, but rather to his mental capacity. Michael never told her the extent of his MORFS abilities, but she always figured it was more than the telepathy he displayed at times. He didn't like to talk about that part of his life, and she had never met his parents. Granted he had never met hers, but still, he met Jonas.

            Before meeting Michael, she hadn't thought her life was that wonderful, all things considered. She tried to play the strong woman, who didn't need anyone. She had lost her family, never had one. Michael brought out that need in her, the knowledge that she was not alone in the world. Often, all he had to do was give her a look, and she felt like he knew what she was thinking. He was a telepath, but she knew what that felt like, and he had taught her to how to block out small intrusions. No, it was more of his presence that calmed her. He always seemed to know when something was wrong, even if she never said it.

            Donovan was turning into Michael, in presence. She had told him the truth, about his eyes, how he was as strong as Michael was.  What scared her the most though, was that Michael had so much darkness in his eyes at times, a far away look in them. She didn't want that in Donovan's, but the fear in her gut was telling her that she could only hope otherwise.

            Angie turned and watched the grey clouds open up, and she couldn't help but wonder if her son had managed to show her that he was just as sad.


            "Any progress?"

            "We've managed to center her location, Sir. A orphanage here in Cairo."

            "She was under our noses the whole time?"

            "Yes sir."

            "And you didn't know?"

            "No, sir -"


            "Clean up this mess and get Horatio on the phone!"


            "How did you find me?" We were walking around the sewers, or rather, I was following her as best as I could in the darkness.  I sleep through the night, or day, I really couldn't tell down here, and we were now heading toward the couple that assisted Joy. I wanted to keep a low profile, at least for a while.

            You were floating down the sewer. I pulled you out, and dragged back to my home. The ground was gradually turning into an incline. I had no idea how she got above ground, if she ever did. The darkness was disconcerting. She may know the path, but I had no idea what direction was what.

            The thoughts of meeting her 'friends' were keeping the despair at bay. I did not want to think about my captivity, or what they did to Mum and Jenny. There was so much that I didn't want to think about that it took all my focus to look upon another idea. To think about what I had promised Joy.

            I hadn't meant to, but in a way I had. Joy seemed broken almost, like she did not know what to do. It was a surprise to see her survive for so long, on her lonesome. She didn't need to save me, and when she asked me to help her find her daughter, I promised my help. Even though I have no idea what I'm doing. More importantly, I have no idea what her daughter looks like, or Joy did before the transformation.

            My head still hurt and I felt drained of energy, but not like I had been the day before. I still didn't know how long I had been unconscious, but my body rested enough, at least rested enough for me to drag me feet around this dark underground. We stopped somewhere along the way by a hole in the wall. She looked into it for a moment before looking back at me.

            You'll have to wait here while I explain. I shrugged my shoulders, taking the moment to rest against the wall. My left side was now alternating between itching and shooting me full of pain. Kept me awake at least.

            I reached out with my water, searching the pipes. I could only reach out about a foot immediately before I had to concentrate upon area, forcing my mind to follow the water wherever it went.

            Donovan?  Joy's voice broke my concentration, forcing me to let the water go faster then I wanted to. Several splashes echoed through the sewer and I gave her a sheepish smile. They'll meet you, however, be careful. I nodded, pushing myself up off the wall.

            The hole didn't look any cleaner than the rest of the sewer, and to be honest, I'm back to a tattered pair of pants that is barely holding onto me. What a way to make an impression? Add in the fact that my face, and bodily features, are so recognizable that they should already know I'm wanted for 'terrorist' acts. Wonderful.

            "Stop right there." Well, if you're in a dark place, no idea who is pointing what at you, what would you do? That's right. Stop.

            Well... I didn't.

            I stood upright, pulling water to lap at my feet, resting to move at a moment's notice. Bright light filled my vision, but all I did in response was close my eyes.  At this, I drew more water, and heard pipes straining underneath the pressure of my pull.

            "Don't move." the man spoke like he knew what to expect from me. There was no fear in his voice, like he had seen someone like me before. He certainly needed to get out more then.

            "I don't need to," I responded, making my voice deeper than it really was. The light receded a bit, letting me see the outline of man holding up some type of rifle. It felt a memory surfacing, like it was fighting its way through the waves. A memory that could kill this man, and possible myself, if I let it through.

            "Who are you?"

            "I am who I am," I said. "My name is nothing and everything. The real question is why would it matter to you what my name is?" Anger was boiling inside of me, fighting the memories and the waves in my mind.

            "For someone looking for help, you sure have a funny way of asking for it." His aim did not wavier, and I somehow knew it was pointed directly at my chest.

            "Help is relative." The pipes strained a bit more. One of us would have to make the first move. "You put down yours first, I'll let the pipes stay." His head moved off looking at me and then onto the pipes around me. The pressure kept building, the water gravitating toward me slowly.

            It was a tense moment, one that I thought could go either way. It wasn't until he lowered his rifle did I realize I had been holding my breath. The pipes stopped straining and the water returned to its normal current, draining down a hole in the floor.

            Another voice called out from behind the man. It was in Arabic and lost on me, yet the man seemed to know what she had said.

            "Yes ma'am," the man said. His voice was light, a starch contrast to the one he had used earlier. "You going come up, or stand there all day?" I looked over my shoulder to see Joy standing at the entrance. She backed away, like she didn't want to  move toward the light. "She's not one for the public."

            "Like I am?" I turned back to look at the light pouring down onto us. "No doubt you've read the newspaper, they've got to have released some description of the 'terrorist' by now." 

            "To some of us, you've done a favor," The man said. By now his thick accent was puncturing his words. "We'll talk more about it later."  Joy nodded back at me. She back into the darkness, giving me really no choice but to head into the light.

            "We might have to do something about your clothes," the man said. I shrugged my shoulders. My modesty was about shot after all this. But if it kept my mind from the darkness, why not?

            "If you don't mind, something loose," I said. The world was bright because of the artificial lights filling the room above what had to be a cellar. Outside of the window, rain was pouring down on the people of the city.

            "Have a seat." the man directed me toward  a table where plates were being put down, as if for dinner. I finally got a good look at him. He was older than Mum was, possible as old as Mr. McBride was, but still, the white beard offset the darkness of his skin.  He had placed the rifle on a table next to the stairs

            "I didn't meant to interrupt anything," I said, taking a step back down the stairs.

            "Nonsense, we welcome you to our table," he grabbed my arm, pulling me up the stairs and to the table. The room was well furnished, showing both the wealth and culture family he hadn't yet fully met.

            "My name is Ibrahim  Qudamah ibn al-Abbas," the man said as he took a seat at the head of the table. His wife, elderly as well was carrying in a tray of food. I was out of my league there, and I just had to go with the flow. "You may call me Ibrahim."

            "Pleasure to meet you sir," I held out my hand, letting years of manners come to the surface.  "You may call me Donovan."

            The night slipped into quiet conversation between me and Ibrahim. His wife, Ghufra, did not know much English, though she seemed to understand me well enough. They had two sons, both off at college, one studying to become a doctor, the other a civil engineer. I told them about my life, up until this point at least. And there really hasn't been much for me to tell. I left out what happened in the building, the memory still pushed back as far as I could get away with in my mind.

            They told me of the place around us, a haven of sorts for the outcasts. It had been built to protect those who had been persecuted by the traditionalists in any culture. Most of the people spoke a few languages, though, he admitted that a lot of the children were learning English primarily. Ibrahim was an outside contact, working with people outside of the community to protect those in it. He found people, like Joy, who were being 'hunted' on the outside. It was odd considering this place was tucked away in the city, but that's how it looked like. This was a little world unto itself.

            The wars of the races, religion, 'normals,' MORFS survivors, and just animals at times, seemed to exist only outside this place. And I had yet to step outside this man's house. This seemed surreal to me, like I had stepped out of the city and into another world. In some sense I had.

            "What about Joy? Why doesn't she come up here if hybrids, well any MORFS change is accepted?" The question had been bugging me for quite some time.

            "We've tried to get her to come to the surface, but she rarely trust anyone," Ibrahim said. "It took us years for her to trust us enough to get her food. How she survived before scares me."  He looked over to his wife, who wore the same sadness upon her face. She was a nice woman, though I couldn't understand what she said, when she spoke, there was no malice in her voice. Or even fear.

            "That answers the question about her, but why accept me? You even said there were some that'd thank me," I leaned back in the chair before it started to crack under my weight. I sat up, not wanting to break something of my hosts'.

            "Orus and Borns is a conglomerate that has had been working with MORFS since it began." Ibrahim's voice grew cold, and I felt a shift in the conversation. Gone was the levity, and Ghufra left the table, as if she didn't want to hear this, or Ibrahim did not want her to hear it. It was not my place to ask, nor was it my place to question their culture. "They've taken survivors off the street, in the guise of helping them, only to destroy them in the name of science, in progress."

            "Like what happened with Joy?"

            "No, for Joy, she was taken because she was deemed a threat to the public," Ibrahim said. He stood from his chair and moved toward the common room. I stood and followed. The chair I was sitting in must have sighed. "From what I as able to get, she was taken off the street, and hidden away in that place. If she hadn't escaped, if that man hadn't helped her,  I don't know if she would have made it."

            "Mikey?" This much I had gotten from her story. The janitor that had helped her was known here as well. Ibrahim nodded, a grim smile upon his face.

            "I met him once," he said. He was looking out the window into the darkened streets, the rain pelting the road. If this continued, the streets would begin to flood. "He helped us start this, then headed off for home." 

            "He say where that was?" It would be interesting to meet this man, get some answers from him if possible.

            "America, but we haven't heard from him in years." He looked back at me for a moment before going over to the mantle. "We've made do without him, though."

            "I'd like to see this place, it sounds like you've done a lot." I needed to find a way to contact my mother, but the more information I had, the more I could use against those that were hunting me. 

            No. I pushed those thoughts away. Think about what I needed to do. The immediate future.

            "Is there an orphanage around here?" The thought came out before I could reel it in. Ibrahim gave me an odd look before nodding.

            "Yes, we help the children as much as we can," he said. We fell into a silence, one that I felt could not be broken easily. He had become more and more withdrawn as the evening went on. We stood there, staring out into the crying night as the rain fell onto the street. "We've got a place you stay for the night. We'll work on getting you somewhere for yourself tomorrow." I just nodded, not finding words. I was fighting the dark memories again, and the sooner I got to some place alone, the sooner I thought I could get over them. I hoped I could at least.

            Ibrahim lead me up to a guest room, one that looked well traveled in. "We've had many travelers before." He said as I looked around.

            There were no personal mementos, yet there was something warm about the room. Lived in, was the phrase that came to mind. "Thank you." I said, finally looking at him. "For everything." He laughed at this, clapping me on the shoulder.

            "In the morning, my friend, you may not be thanking me." I just shrugged my shoulders, the pain finally setting. The fatigue, that I had been fighting now that I was full and somewhat safe, was coming back. He left me in silence, and I felt myself collapse against the bed, not even bothering with the covers. And into my dreams I swam.


            "You're remarkable, you know that son?" I pushed myself up, the pain gone from my side. Wait.....that couldn't be...

            I took a look at my side, the scar or, what would be a scar wasn't there. Neither was the salve that had been put on it earlier.  Forget about that, how can he be here? I looked around, quickly spotting the owner to the voice that woke me up. The image caused me to freeze even faster that the pain ever would.


            "After a fashion I'm afraid." He looked like he did when he left. His presence, an inner strength that drew people to him at times was still there. "There are some things that you have to know. About me, about what you might be getting into. And  I know this doesn't really cut it, son, but its the best I do. Especially since I know I'm not there."

            "What are you talking about Dad?" I stood, now towering over him. He just smiled at me, like he knew that I was going to be this tall.

            "You know I went through MORFS, but your mother probably never told you I had any skills beyond telepathy. Well, I do, one of them was precognition. I could see into the future. Sometimes a few minutes, sometimes a few years." He walked around me, looking me up and down. "I saw you like this, knew what you'd change into. That probably was why I wasn't afraid when I died."

            "You died..." the thought hit me hard. "How are you talking to me then?"

            "I implanted this memory, or at least an impression of a memory upon you, when you were younger," he said. He was standing in front of me again, crossing his arms and leaning back onto his heels. I hadn't realized until that moment that I had taken the same stance. "My responses are limited actually. The first few questions I guessed, and if I got them wrong, then I'd continue on with the conversation. I don't know how this would play out, but really, if I've managed to get this much right so far, I'm impressed."

            "Why are you telling me all this?"

            "Because you need to know the truth," he said. He stared at me, as if he was waiting for the next question. Well, I thought there was going to be more to it then that.

            "The truth, about what?"  Again silence.  That wasn't the right question apparently. Different path then. "You saw me like this?"

            "I saw you transformed, and actually a lot older than twenty," the answer was rehearsed, and vague, like Dad wasn't sure when I would hear this. "You were happy. Despite what happened."

            "What happened?" No answer. This game sucks, let me tell you. Its like twenty questions, but he doesn't answer them all. Well, might as well try something else that has been messing up my life.

            "What is Orus and Borns?" His face scowled at that. Yes, this got me a response, though I was not sure if I was going to like the answers.

            "A hell hole, working further in the dark then even a shadow could reach," he said. "I prayed you'd never meet them, that something in your life would turn you way from them. But some things must come to be.

            "You will run into them from time to time. You can't escape them, and they'll keep coming back." He looked down at his feet. "If you have to, kill them. Don't hesitate, don't question it, kill them. Whatever they want from you, or anyone you know, or don't know, is not worth their lives."

            "What did they do to you?" I knew I wasn't going to get a response, but I still had to ask the question. "Did you know anyone on the inside?"

            "One, I helped her get out, I never got her name, but they were hurting her so badly, well, it cost me the job I had there," he said this with a shrug, barely caring over job. "She got out, and I never saw her again."

            "What did she change into?" Again, no answer, but the puzzle pieces were starting to connect. For now, I had to let those go and hope that I could hold onto enough sense to connect them together outside of this place.

            "You haven't asked me the most important question yet," Dad said, like he knew I'd miss this part. And he probable did know.

            "Okay then," I said, humoring him. "If you know what the ultimate question is, just tell me the answer."

            "42." I stared at him for a moment before  nearly falling over laughing. It had been far too long since I had read those books, which had been worn out because they were his before they were mine.

            "Life, the universe, everything," I said. It felt good to laugh, even if this was only in my mind. And in my mind where those memories should stay buried, but never would be.

            "You think I'll forget about what happened?" I asked this, not for him, but for me. I wanted him to tell me I would, that I'd get better.

            "No, you won't, and in fact, worse things may happen to you," he said. A fear began to gnaw at me, and I tried to fight it. The worst before MORFS happened was that I had a couple zits too many. I was being called a terrorist, and this was after, after, being held captive for several months. "But you're strong, stronger than you think. Trust in yourself. You are an orca." I hid the shock at his statement. Although he never told me what he had seen, the fact that he had seen this transformation of me did set me off-kilter. "The top of the food chain. You can be a killer and an entertainer. Trust your instincts. Trust yourself, and you'll get out of this alive." He looked around, like there was something to be determined by our surroundings, but really there was only darkness. "My time is coming to close, and you still haven't asked me the most important question, but I knew you wouldn't." It was silent in my mind for a moment, but I needed the quiet. There was so much that he had told me, that I had to let sink in, just so I could understand.

            "I didn't get your precog skills did I?" He just shook his head.

            "You got a little telepathy, but just enough to defend yourself, maybe a bit more," he said. The world was turning brighter as he walked away, the darkness disappearing. I felt my body waking, the aches returning. "Just remember:  some moderation in your life will help you go far."

            "Moderation? What the hell does that mean?!" I shouted into the waking dawn of my dream as it ended. My father and his damn puzzles.


            The morning woke me up. I could hear Ibrahim and Ghufra downstairs discussing something in Arabic. My side was  aching more than it had the previous day, and I felt a heavy weight resting on my chest. My breaths were heavy, difficult. As much as I could push myself up, I felt the weight pulling my back down.

            "Rest easy," Ibrahim said, coming into the room. "The salve is gone, we won't have any more for the next few days. Our Bio Elemental is currently away." I just nodded, still trying to shake my head of the dream. My father.... he implanted that in me. How? The thought scared me, that it was just floating around, waiting for me. Much like the memories. One more thing for me to push away.

            Still his last words stuck with me, like I couldn't get away from them. Moderation, of what?

            "I brought you some pants, we couldn't find you a shirt at this short of notice," Ibrahim said, pointing toward a large set of pants over a chair.

            "Thank you, it'll do fine," I said. I held my left side as I sat up, the pain spreading. I grunted softly as I sat there, looking at the tattered remains of my own pants.

            "The bathroom is out of the door to your right, so you may wash up," Ibrahim said, leaving me. I stood, now feeling the brunt of the torn muscles. Wonderful.

            I walked slowly, grabbing the pants in my free hand as I held my side with the other. The pain was the only thing that slowed me down it seemed. The fatigue was almost gone, and the night's rest had revitalized me. But only to a point. It'd be several days, or at least that was what it felt like, until I could move the water the way I used to.

            A quick shower later, I felt clean. Or at least clean enough to find out about this city inside a city. The pants were loose and light. But most importantly, comfortable. I just wished I had some boxers, but that seemed to be my smallest worry.

            "Glad that you could join us," Ibrahim said as I walked down the stairs. The railing provided me some support as I got used to walking without the lack of pain.

            "Joy still around?" I asked once I got to the bottom of the stairs.

            "She left sometime last night, but she'll be back later I suppose," Ibrahim said. "For now, don't worry about her, my friend. We have a whole new city to show you."  I hadn't even a chance to get my bearings as he lead me out the door into the bustling street.

            People ran about the street like watching a giant orca step out of a building was an everyday thing. I realized quickly that around this place, my act was nothing out of the ordinary. "Where would you like to go first?"

            "To get some food would be nice," I muttered as I watched a man with a third arm sticking out of his side juggle three bags and the hand of a woman drawn up in scarfs. Not all religious folk apparently believed in the far right's propaganda. Why only three arms though? That question was going to bug me for the rest of the day.

            "The market, excellent idea, my friend," Ibrahim said.  He began to walk to his left, and it took my grunts of pain to get him to slow down, even if only by a hair. He walked through the crowd relatively easily, and it was easier for me than when I had first arrived in Egypt. They did not part like they had for me  in those streets, yet I felt none of the resistance I felt there. Course I didn't know it was resistance until I couldn't feel it anymore.

            The people of this place were a mix of those that had, and hadn't gone through MORFS. No one over the age of forty though looked like they had gone through the change, but then again, that's not to say that some of them couldn't have had their physical looks changed to appear older. That would explain that Metal Elemental I met earlier, but then again I had no clue what I was talking about.

            "Now, you wanted something to eat?" Ibrahim said. I was so lost in my thoughts that I hadn't realized we stopped in front of several booths, well a line of them reaching down the alley. Many were selling fruits and vegetables, but there was some cured meat strung from the posts. "You'll have to pay me back when you get a chance."

            "Sure, no problem," I said, still stunned from the world around me. I shoot my head, snapping out of the funk when the question sunk in. "They got jobs for a land locked orca around here?"

            "We always find a place for someone, if they're looking for it," Ibrahim said.

            "Well, I think some time away might be a good thing, though I've still got to contact my mother," I said. I kept the thought of finding Joy's daughter to myself. It would take some time to find the info, even if I could. "What do you have in mind?"

            "They need a hand over at the orphanage, figure you can work over there?" Ibrahim said. He had just completed a transaction with a seller, haggling over the price of some type of fruit.  That would work, especially if they had contacts with other orphanages across the city.

            "It shouldn't be a problem," I said. Ibrahim just smiled at me, like he knew all along that was going to be my response.

            "We move new people along quickly, so that they don't have an expectations about what to expect from those that introduce you to this place," Ibrahim said. "Not that I don't like you, just that we could get any number of refuges coming any day."

            "Understandable," I said. We walked along the market, with Ibrahim buying me some basic food, mainly fruits and bread. I had picked out several pairs of pants, not knowing if this one would last me long.  The pair I was wearing reminded me of sweatpants, but they weren't as heavy or cumbersome. His hospitality was more than enough already, and I did not want to put him out with buying more than I needed. I spent the time watching, trying to understand the people in this environment.

            There was no fear, or at least, fear of each other. Differences in cultures and religions seemed to be disregarded. There was a Muslim working a booth, right next to what had to be a Christian. The crosses he was selling, along with the bread and fish, gave the Christian away. Yet both were laughing, talking, looking like they were having a good time in general. This....this seemed so foreign to me.

            "It takes a bit to get used to," Ibrahim said when I asked him about the cultural interactions. "As an unspoken rule, we don't pressure others with our cultures, we accept them, just like we accept the changes to the body. For if we can not accept the body, then how can we accept the soul?" I held back a smile. Despite liking his words, I had seen the other side, been subjected to the other side of the coin, where acceptance was farthest from. And I knew I was going to head back there as well.

            People didn't ignore me, but they didn't approach me right away. None were as friendly as Ibrahim was, but some stopped and watched me. There was a combination of fear and awe on some of the older people, like they knew more of the place that took me then I did. Ibrahim said something along those lines earlier, that there were some who wanted to thank me. For what? What else had happened in the building I escaped from?

            I didn't get a chance to ask Ibrahim, but I got the feeling that he didn't know anyway. Someone around here had to have the answer, and I'd find it eventually. Right now, there were more important things

            We waded through the crowd toward what had to be the orphanage. The cases of MORFS ranged from mild to extreme as we walked along, yet none were as extreme as Joy's. That would explain to some degree why she didn't come up to the surface, but I felt there was more to it then just this.

            "This the orphanage?" We stopped in front of the building that looked like it barely was standing. It was one of the taller buildings, and children were playing in the front. Ibrahim just nodded, his face set in a frown.  "We going in?" I really wanted to ask how it was standing, but that wasn't my place. 

            Ibrahim didn't get a chance to respond. A little girl shot out of the entrance, dressed in a patched up pair of pants and shirt, running toward us. My large arm easily caught her giggling form as she tried to run past us. I swung around, taking the momentum of her as I lifted her into my arms. Catching her was easy, it was trying to get her to quit squirming that was making it difficult. I held back a grunt of pain as she kicked the stitch in my side.

            "Again, again!" She said. She was a cat hybrid, possible even the one I saw earlier. She acted differently though, happier even.  Her black ears were sticking out a mop of blondish hair and her large eyes stared at me with curiosity. Her black tail moved with excitement as I held her. Or tried to. "Hi!"

            "Hi yourself," I said, giving her a smile that I hoped didn't scare her. "What are you doing out here?" I kept my voice light, not wanting to frighten her. It must have worked.

            "Hiding," she said with a giggle. She quickly switched the subject, like it was normal thing, and as a kid it probably was. "You're big."

            "I am," I said. Ibrahim just was smiling, like he had some inside joke. I'd have to try and get it from him later.

            "Why is that?" She asked. It took me a moment to think of a reasonable response. There was no rhyme or reason to some MORFS changes, but the changes usually worked along the same form. I honestly didn't have a good answer, but my bad one was better than nothing.

            "Do you know what an orca is?" She shook her head, now wrapping her arms around my neck.  Her face as really close to mine, and beside my mother, no one really has gotten that close. Well, the single girlfriend I had got that close, but for completely different reasons. "Well, an orca is a large sea mammal, that looks a lot like I do." I pointed to the white circle around my eye, which the young girl immediately touched.  "And down here," I pointed to my chest. "So, since the orca is so large, bigger than most cars, I guess I got some of their size too." She never got a chance to respond.

            "What are you doing out here?" We both turned to see a tall, well not as tall as me, brunette stopping toward us. The little girl tried to hid in my neck. "You know that you can't go running off like that." The little girl buried her face further into my neck.

            "She's okay now, no reason to raise your voice," I said. This got the brunette to glare at me. And with the intensity of her glare as well as the steel blue grey eyes, she got me to take a step back. Eventually, her glare softened, though, the intensity of her gaze remained. If I was a lighter skin tone, then the blush would be obvious. Thankfully I wasn't.

            "I'm sorry, Kathy here tends to do that sometimes," she said, taking a step forward. Kathy, the little girl, removed her head from my neck, but kept the grip.  "I'm just worried about you."

            "I'm okay," her voice wasn't as bubbly as before, but it still was there.  When I finally got my gaze away from her eyes, I had to say that this was a woman, not some kid, standing before me. She wasn't a supermodel by any means, but there was an attractive air to her. She had to be around six feet in height and looked more like a fit gymnast then anything else.

            "Thank you for catching her, my name is Temperance," she said, holding out her hand. With a quick shift, I had Kathy now in my left arm so I could shake her hand.

            "I'm Donovan," I said. She had a stronger grip than I had originally thought. "Supposedly, I'm to work here." At this Kathy's head snapped toward mine then at Temperance's looking between us quickly.

            "We really could use the help," Temperance said. "How long do you think he'll last here, Ibrahim?" I had forgotten that he was standing besides me still.

            "I think he'll surprise you a bit," Ibrahim said. "I must be off, or else my wife will worry. You can pay me back anytime, Donovan."

            "Will do, thanks again for everything," I said, shaking the man's hand. He handed me the bag of food I had bought, as well as the pants. Still needed to find boxers though.

            "I told you my friend," he said with a laugh, "You may not thank me yet."  Why did he keep telling me that? He walked off, back toward his home. 'Maybe working here would keep my mind away from the dark. God, I hope so.'

            "What did he mean by that?" I looked back at Temperance, who just had a smirk on her face.

            "Follow me, I'll show you were you'll be staying, then have you talk with Madam Livingston. That is if she doesn't find you first," Temperance said. "You better be useful, the last few people to help us really weren't." Her tone wasn't light anymore.

            "It depends really," I said. I began to follow her into the building, Kathy still in my arms. The young girl let out a yawn and rested against my shoulder as if she was going to sleep. Probably was too, but that didn't bother me.

            "She ran out on her nap," Temperance said as she gave the two of us a backward glance. I felt Kathy tighten her grip on my neck before she settled again. "She never wants to lay down when she is supposed to, even if she falls asleep soon afterwards."

            "How old is she?" I lowered my voice, not wanting to wake her. The building looked just as bad as it did on the outside, if not worse, as it did on the inside. The wallpaper was peeling and some boards looked like they hadn't been nailed properly. I could hear children playing in another room, watching television probably. Temperance began to walk up the stairs, and the creaking noise it was making did not sit well with.

            "Five years old, though she only started to live here a couple of months ago," Temperance said.

            "Does that happen a lot?" I asked once we were off that deathtrap of a staircase.

            "You'd be surprised, Mister Cole, how much it happens in cities all over the world." I turned toward the new voice to see an old white woman standing in a doorway at the end of the hall. Part of me was spooked that she knew my last name, the other part was spooked because of her presence. She stood tall, but was short compared to even Temperance. I got the feeling of one of the Deans at the bordering school who could just give you a look and make you feel guilty for breathing. Temperance seemed to enjoy my discomfort as she was smirking at me.

            "Welcome to St. Mary of the Heart Orphanage, I am Madam Livingston," the woman said. She did not hold out her hand for me to shake. Her stance was proud, her lips set to stern. Despite her white hair, there was a strength to her that could not be missed. Not like my father's strength that came from his soul, this woman's strength came from her discipline and authority. "Temperance, you may leave. Has the university overloaded you yet?"

            "No ma'am, and thank you," Temperance said. She left us, and I had to turn and watch her go up another set of staircases to the third floor. I turned back to the older woman when she coughed.  I just smiled, which caused her to shake her head.

            "Don't you be trying any of that charm on me, young man," she said. "I understand that you are looking for some work."

            "Yes ma'am temporarily though." I looked at Kathy, wondering if those were the right words. I really did have no idea how long I would be here. "Until I get the opportunity to contact my mother about what happened."

            "There is a lot going on about you in the outside world," she said. That apparently was all she had to say on the subject. "Come with me, please." She motioned for me to follow her back into her office. Taking one more look up the stairs that Temperance left from, I followed the Madam.

            "Have a seat please," she motioned to the seat in front of her office. The room was a starch contrast to the rest of the building. The walls did not look like they were falling apart, rather they were covered in pictures of the Madam with other people. Bookshelves filled to the brim, her desk was covered in files, many of them open. Again, I felt like I was in the Dean's office. Sitting down, I fell into the rigid stance I usually took when I was called in.

            "Now, what can I do for you?" She sat there, and once again, I felt like I was in trouble.

            "I want to offer my assistance where I can," I said. I moved Kathy from my side and onto my lap. I caught a hint of a smile on the Madam's face, yet it was quickly gone.

            "How old are you? That could effect your abilities to perform here," she said. She pulled out a form of some sort from the stack of files she had.

            "What month is it?" It really was the first time that I had thought about my age. Being held captive felt like it was years ago. How was I to know the time?

            "Beginning of March," she said.

            "Then I'll be seventeen by mid-March, the eleventh" I said. I wasn't gone for more than a year, but what a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday. In a place that I know nothing about, without my family. 'Might as well make the most of it.'

            "Schooling?"  She asked, making a note on the sheet.

            "Completed up until this year, and I've been home school while we traveled," he said.

            "Do you wish to continue?" She looked up at this, her Dean's stare baring down on me.

            "Depends really, on what are my options, if I can or can not speak to my mother before then."

            "Would you be interested in attending a university, if you qualified?"

            "Yes, but right now, I have other things on my mind." She didn't ask what those things were, thankfully. I didn't want to rehash what I had been through quite yet, and if I go without talking about it, then I'd consider myself lucky.

            "You think you can handle repairs?"

            "It depends on the type. Construction shouldn't be too difficult, and neither should plumbing," I said. I kept the smile inward when I thought about doing plumbing. 'Make the water flow first, then put the pipes in, yeah, that should make it easier.' "As for anything else, I'd have to read up on it, but I think I could learn."  Madam nodded at this, making another mark.

            "We have a lot of children here that can go through MORFS, or already have," Madam said. "We do our best to help them adjust and the community assists where they can. The truth is that they probably will not be adopted, so we have to help them get through this world on our own. We are a family, Mister Cole."

            "I understand that," I said, not getting at what she was going towards, but I figured she'd tell me.

            "When we bring people in, they often work here for a while but can not cope with everything that goes on here," she said. "Some of the children are very active with their abilities, and may require a stern hand. We do our best, to make sure they understand the consequences for their actions. We also can reward those that do exceptionally well, like Temperance." There definitely was a strong smile on her face at this.

            "What does that have to do with me?" I had to ask it. I felt Kathy tense a little bit in my arms, but I just tightened my grip on her. She calmed down and murmured something against my chest.

            "You'll be a role model to these children, whether you plan to become one or not," Madam said. Her gaze was stern again. "Can you accept that?" I shrugged my shoulders.

            "If it comes to that, then yes," I said, committing nothing, and everything at the same time. She stared at me for a moment before looking back at the papers on her desk.

            "I know that you escaped from a compounded owned and controlled by Orus and Borns, do you want to tell me about it?"

            "No, I'd rather not," I said. My gaze hardened at her knowledge. 'Why do some many people know these things? And why the hell don't I?' "If you're worried about security, I can show myself out, but to be honest, I can do more than my share of defense."

            "That much is obvious, Mister Cole. Very well then." She made a few quick marks on the paper, the only sound in the room. I didn't like it, but I had to deal with it. I hated awkward silences. Really, there are few things worse then a silence that you know isn't necessary, and that you could fill yourself, but you know that if you do, you'll look like an idiot no matter what you say. "Your room will be on this floor, room number 23c, while the children's are all one floor up. I suggest you first take Katherine up there. She has missed her nap after all."

            "I have the job?" This stunned me. I wasn't expecting to get the job so easily.

            "Yes, and expect the best out of you," Madam said without looking up. "Now, that is all, or are you waiting for something else?" I wasn't about to ruin a good thing, so I kept my mouth shut. Shaking my head, I stood, moving Kathy back to my side.

            "Thank you ma'am," I said. I thought about holding my hand out to be shaken, but I figured she wasn't the sort. That and I just wanted to get out there. I grabbed my bag of food, planning on making some lunch as soon as I could.  "There is one more thing." I stopped and turned around. She looked up at me, the displeasure of answering my question apparently still on her face. "Which room is Kathy in and do you have a kitchen?"

            "Yes, Katherine is in the first room on the left, the second bunk bed," Madam said. She looked started at the question, like she hadn't thought of that. "And our kitchen is on the main floor. I'll arrange for someone to give you a tour as soon as possible."

            "That won't be necessary, I'll look around myself, thank you though," I said. I left her to her work and figured it was best to leave before her gaze drilled a hole in me.

            The stairs sounded like they were going to break underneath my weight as I climbed them. Kathy didn't wake, luckily as I tried to find her room. The first room on the left was filled with a half dozen other children. They all looked about her age, yet they were living in quarters that fit this house. There was a lot of work to be done.

            All of the other children were in their beds, in combinations of tattered and clean sheets. The only one left was, like the Madam said, on the second bunk. Well, actually, there were five bunk beds in the room. Two on each wall, and one by the window. The names of the children were written above the beds, as if to let each other know where they were. Kathy's was written in childhood scrawl and I couldn't help but smile a bit.

            It didn't take much to lift her high enough so that she could lay down, it was her grasp on my neck that made it difficult.

            "Come on sunshine," I pleaded softly. "Let Donny go." She just shook her head, as if fighting off both the words and the waking world. It took a few moments, of gentle words, but she finally released my neck and lay on the bed. I felt....something inside of me move at the sight of Kathy, curled up on top of the sheets. Something warm. I pulled one of them back and brought it over her.

            "You'll be here when I wake up?" I was surprised to see her awake, even partially.

            "If not here, then I'll be on the ground floor," I said. She smiled as my hand went over her hair, touching her ear lightly. She fell back asleep quickly, and again that warm something filled me up at the small smile that played on her face.

            "You should leave them be." I turned toward the source: Temperance. She stood with her arms crossed, and even with the light blinding at me, I could tell she was glaring at me. 

            I didn't respond, just ran my hand over Kathy's ears once more before walking out the door. She moved out of the way as I walked by, pulling the door just about shut. Some light crept in through the crack in the door. It was something my mother did when I was younger, and I thought the light would help comfort them like it did me at times.

            "You're in uni already?" I couldn't help but ask. The question must have caught her off guard, which was entirely the point. Having her berate me for doing nothing wrong seemed like something I would not like to discuss.

            "What?" I kept walking down the hall and then down the stairs, knowing she was following me.

            "I asked if you were in a university already." I looked back at her, her face painted shocked, probably at the question, but her eyes still held that powerful gaze. I just smiled, once again, thanking my dark complexion.

            Shaking her head, she returned to the conversation, though still looked a little off kilter at my comment. "Yes, I entered through an accelerated program." I found my room rather quickly, and my fast pace must have confused her. She stopped in the middle of the hallway as I walked.

            "I'm still listening," I said, accompanying it with another smile. "Just need to toss these things in my room, then I'll need a tour." I lifted the bag for her to see as she stomped over to my room.

            My room wasn't much, a simple bed with a small desk/bookshelf combination. There was a dresser in the room, as well as a small wardrobe, which probably wasn't going to get much use from me. I removed my pants from the bag before tossing them onto the bed. All that was left was the food and I need to put that away.

            "What are you studying?" I turned to see her blocking the door again. "Is this going to become a habit? Me turning and finding you at my door?" Again a smile and she was flabbergasted. 'This could get fun.'

            "Don't do that." She was glaring at me again. 'Or not.'

            "Do what?"

            "Give me that...that... charm smile," she said. That didn't make any sense. There can be charming smile, or smiling with charm, but charm smile?

            "What does that mean?" I couldn't stop myself from asking. She just glared at me not willing to give a response. "Fine, I won't smile at you anymore." I returned the glare as I stepped past her. I planned on not stopping my smiles. I would just reel them in for now.

            "I'm studying anthropology, mainly forensic," she said.

            "Like you're name sake?" I asked. I wasn't a complete cultural infidel. She gifted me with a small smile and nodded.

            "I'm surprised you about her, her show is rather old," she said.

            "I'm more a Doctor Who fan myself, if we're talking reruns, but my father enjoyed the show." I said. I felt a tug at the thought of my father, and that damn premonition he left me, then about the show he enjoyed. "So, does that mean I get to call you Bones?" The glare was on full force this time, and I just nodded.

            "No, you can't," she said, gritting her teeth. I shrugged my shoulders, planning on ignoring her demands because she was pretty cute when she got riled up. I walked down the stairs, aware she was on my heels.

            I headed for the room with the television first. This actually was the only room I knew I could find without help. The walls were lined with what had to be DVDs, anywhere from children's movies to horror flicks, even seasons of older television shows were lining.  There were some children, a little older than Kathy's age, watching an old Disney movie about a magic lamp. There were several couches and chairs around the large room, yet there was a well lived in feel to the place.

            "You seem well stocked up." I motioned toward the wall of DVDs.

            "It helps to keep the younger ones entertained and we spent Sunday nights together in here." She said. "This is the only room in the house where fighting is not permitted."

            "So, its allowed elsewhere?"

            "Well, no, but in there, we can relax and not worry about things," she said. "It's an unspoken rule, I guess, that to us, fighting would mess up the peace that room brings." I got the feeling she wasn't talking about the television.

            "Sounds reasonable," I said. The room was about as run down as the rest of them in this place, but I got the feeling that this would be the place with the most resistance to change.

            "Who are you?" A boy with black hair and green eyes appeared in front of me. In fact, there was a three other boys in front of me, all with black hair.

            "I'm the repairman," I said, for lack of a better term. All of them opened up at once to start talking.

            "You going to be staying long?" -overlapped with - "What's in the bag?" - which was in sync with - "What are you going to fix first?" - and that covered up - "do you have any powers?"

            I stood there for a moment, staring at them as they stared back up at me. "Well..."

            "Harrys, leave Donovan be," Temperance said. She looked like she was enjoying this. All of them were named Harry? The leader, the tallest one, wore glasses as took a step forward. I guessed that he was the leader, because the other three fell in behind him. He held out his hand, for me to shake.

            "I'm Harry Potter." This prompted another stare for me. What were the odds that this kid was named after that fictional character and turned out to look like him?

            "Nice to meet you," I took his hand in mine before the jolt of electricity filled me. I shook my hand free, trying to get the pain to pass and feeling to return. All of them burst out laughing and took off, out of the room. Even Temperance was laughing at me. I tried to smile through the pain.

            "What the - ?" She stopped me from cursing with a glare, her laugh ending. 

            "He's an electric elemental," she said as if it explained everything. "He's been doing that since he could control it."

            "And he gets away with that?" I asked.

            "He only does it to strangers." That really did not answer the question, more like avoided it.

            "Still." I shook my hand wildly again, trying to get some feeling back into it. "And the names?"

            "When we go through MORFS, we're allowed to change our name, if we wish," Temperance said. "It's the Madam's way of letting us change our identity."

            "Why change your identity?" Again, probably a stupid question.

            "For a orphan, its the only thing we own," she looked down at this, and I felt something tear inside. Actually, it was pretty much next to that warm feeling from before, but I didn't want to think about that.

            "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," I said, putting a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off, giving me a slight glare, but she nodded nonetheless. I gave her a smile, which made the glare grow.

            "I said stop that," she turned and marched out of the room. I reined the smile in a bit, following her a leisurely pass. I took the time to look around the halls, finding the spots where I needed to do the most work.

            I was upfront about my skills. My father had me go with him several times to help with 'Habitats for Humanity.' I knew what I was doing when it came to basic construction, but nothing as extreme as what the orphanage needed. I'd definitely needed those books if the Madam could get a hold of them.

            Temperance walked past the staircase to the back, where it split off into two areas. She turned right first,  going through a door without some much as a glance backward. I debated about pulling an apple from my bag of food, finally deciding against it.

            The room Temperance entered was the kitchen, with large refrigerators along one wall and stoves and ovens along another. She stood at the center, leaning against an island. "You wanted to see the kitchen." Her arms were crossed, but she wasn't glaring anymore at me.

            I walked up behind her, setting the bag of food on the table. "Want an apple?" I removed the fruits and bread that I had bought, or Ibrahim had bought for me. She took one, though didn't take a bite of it.  "You want to ask me some questions? Or am I the one that has to start everything?" 'Another glare, I'm on a roll.' 

            "Fine, then tell me a bit about yourself," she said.

            "My mother is a diplomat, or was, I'm not quite positive right now." I shrugged my shoulders, before turning away, trying to force the darkness back. I didn't need to think about what happened now. "Like I said, my mother's a diplomat for Great Britain, my father a writer. Well, he was." She tilted her head at this, there was a question in her eyes, but she didn't look like she was going to voice it. "He died, the beginning of winter, in a plane crash. Everyone but me and Mum died. Some luck I'm having." I leaned back against the stove, thinking about the past several months. Locked up, MORFS, and plane crash. My life as I looked back upon it. Wonderful.

            "I'm sorry to hear that," she said. "Why aren't you with your mother?"

            "We got separated," I said. I took another bite of the apple, letting her mull over what had to be several questions.

            "Do you having any powers?" She asked. I just smiled, prompting another glare from her. I found the sink and turned it on, letting the water run for a moment before drawing it up, away from the faucet. I spun it around my hands for a moment before dropping it back into the sink. I knew my grin was huge as I watched her.

            "How's that?" I asked, leaning against the sink. She sputtered for a moment, before shaking her head and glaring at me. "Hey, I impressed you, I think its my right to use this grin."

            "Don't expect it to happen a lot," she said. I caught the hint of a smile on her lips before it completely disappeared. "So, you're a water elemental?"

            "Yeah," I shrugged my shoulders, offering no more. If she found out, she did, but I wanted to hide from those demons for a moment. "How about yourself?"

            "You promise not to laugh?" She looked worried at this, shifting around in her spot. I nodded, thinking that it really can't be that bad. "I'm a psychoperceptionist." Now, I didn't see why this would be funny, but I knew I'd be hit with the punchline

            "Isn't that where you can see anything?" She gave a small smile at this.

            "Except for me, I can only see specific things when I concentrate on my perception." She didn't make eye contact, rather she began to turn away.

            "I hope it's not naked people, cause that really would be awkward," I muttered. She began to blush at this, and combined it with her glare. That just got me to to smile again.

            "No," she snapped, still blushing. "I see the skeletal structure of anything." I felt the smile drop from my face. 'This is too good to be true.'

            "You see bones?" I asked, knowing she was probably going to snap at me again. She nodded, not meeting my eyes or even looking in my general direction. "That's why you decided on forensic anthropology?" Again, a nod. "Cool."

            "That's it?" She stared at me, and I shifted under her gaze. "That's all you have to say?"

            "You won't let me laugh at the irony, so what do you want me to say?" I shot back.

            "Well, I..." Her voice trailed off as she blushed again. She didn't glare at me though. 'Thank God for small favors.'

            "Look, I honestly think you're gift is interesting." I walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She stiffened under the touch but I left it there. She relaxed after a moment though, and I asked my next question: "Anything else you got from MORFS?"

            "A limited telepathy, but nothing special," she said. She looked at the hand on her shoulder before shrugging it off and taking a step back. I just nodded, taking a step back as well. She looked confused as she stared at me, like she wasn't sure what to make of me.

            "I'm heading off to check up on Kathy, we can talk later about it if you want," I took the step around her, doing my best to not smile, as the thought popped in my head. "See you later.... Bones." I was already out the door by the time the words left my lips, but she heard it.

            "Cole!" She yelled. Once I was out of throwing distance, I let out a laugh as I escaped. That nickname was now mine.


The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at