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Part 1

My name is Dana McKenna and all I wanted was to grow up and live out my days in my
home village. I lived a clean, simple life, and had no desire to see the world. Then
I got MORFS and everything changed.

MORFS turned my world upside down, like it did so often with so many others. It
didn't change my physical appearance but it granted me fantastic power, the kind of
power that could help and save many lives. That same power also made me and my
village a target for those who wanted to use me for evil, so I didn't have a choice.
I had to leave. First though, I had a lot to learn.

* * *

I was born in Ireland, or Eire as we Irish like to call it, and grew up in Dingle.
Dingle is a beautiful coastal village in Southwest Ireland. It's a colorful little
place, literally and figuratively. A lot of the boats and shop fronts are painted
all different bright colors, making up for the somewhat bleak, rocky landscape.

There's still a sizable fishing fleet in Dingle but mostly, it's a tourist
attraction. Tourists come to charter boats for fishing or sightseeing around the
Dingle Peninsula. The villagers don't make a lot of money but they earn enough for a
decent living.

The craft shops help. That's what I did with my father when I wasn't in school. The
two of us ran a woodcraft shop. My father spent most of his time turning and carving
wood and I sold his work and did the bookkeeping on the computer. The business made
us enough money for meals, shelter and plenty of indoor activities at his favorite
pub during the frequent cold and rainy periods that we Irish call soft days.

My father, sweet talker that he is, used to say it was my beauty that brought in the
customers but he was too modest. His work was grand and always fetched a good price.
He took pride in what he did, though he'd never say it. I could tell by the lively
dance in his eyes when he watched customers admire items in the shop. Even his
sturdy, simple stools were wonderful. He graced every piece with a bit of carving
that easily caught the eye. The top of a stool might have the head of a hare staring
back at you, or ivy might appear to be growing down one of the legs. Every piece was
unique.

There was only thing he took more pride in than his work, and that was me. I know
because he told me whenever he got the chance. He always made me feel special, even
before MORFS came along and made me truly special.

I think my father gave me extra attention to help make up for my missing mother,
gone after a freak storm capsized the tour boat that she worked on. I was 12 then,
and the loss hit me hard. I tried to deny her death. None of the bodies were
recovered but there was no way anyone could've survived in the cold Atlantic that
fateful day. My father called it just another soft day - a very sad soft day. I
rarely say it out loud now, but back then, I usually referred to the accident with
an obscene word or two.

I was quite a handful after the loss of my mother. My father did his best. He was as
patient and loving as any good father should be. Ultimately though, it was up to me,
and after a good long three years, I finally accepted she wasn't coming back and
moved on. That's when I started helping at the craft shop.

My dear father always encouraged me to treat everyone well. It was good for the soul
and good for business he'd say. Who could argue with that? He also took pride in our
heritage and had me greet all our customers in Irish, also known as Gaelic. That's
what us natives usually spoke to each other when there were no tourists around.
Speaking a little Irish seemed to be good for business too. I think it made Dingle
all the more unique and special.

I'd welcome customers by saying, "Failte", when they first entered the shop. That
never failed to get either a smile or a curious look. I'd explain that it meant
"welcome" and I'd often have to repeat myself so the customer could learn it.
Eventually, I ended up writing out the pronunciation as "FALL-ta" for them to make
it easier. When they left, regardless of whether they bought anything, I'd send them
off by saying, "Go raibh maith agat", which means "thank you" in Irish. I soon added
it, along with its pronunciation, "gurra-ma-HUG-it", to a list of common Irish
phrases that I kept ready by the cash register. The businesswoman in me wanted to
sell the list but I kept it to one small page and never did charge for it.

Such was life in Dingle. As I said, it was a clean, simple way to spend my days. For
many folk, it was too simple, but no one could deny that it was also peaceful. There
was a quiet beauty that called to me, and I would've stayed if I could.

* * *

It was another windy morning in early October, a common occurrence for those of us
living along the North Atlantic coast. Sea birds soared overhead and occasionally
called out their displeasure for one reason or another. They always brought a smile
to my face in spite of their angry cries. I could never grow tired of the sounds of
nature, nor of the feel of the wind whipping through my hair. I did, however, grow
tired for another reason. I was coming down with a cold, no doubt carried by one of
the tourists.

So far, I managed to hold my own against whatever bug I might have. I took very good
care of myself, taking lots of vitamins and herbal supplements in addition to going
on long walks. I didn't get sick very often and I didn't plan on getting sick today.
There was too much school work to do and too much work at my father's shop. The
tourists were down to a trickle but people from all over Ireland still came to look
at my father's wares. The natives were just as interested in fine furniture as the
tourists.

I'd considered staying home in bed but I felt well enough for now, so I followed my
usual week day routine, trudging forward to pick up my best friend, Aine. We'd known
each other since we were wee children and always walked to school together. She had
the gift of gab, a perfect complement to my quiet and serious nature. We were the
best of friends and always would be. We knew too much about each other for it to be
any other way.

"Did you be hearin' the latest about the new boy?" my friend began before I'd even
said hello. She didn't always take time for a greeting. It cut into her gossip time.

"You mean John?" I asked with a tiny smile. I'd heard all about his fight and how it
got him suspended from school, but I let Aine tell it anyway. When she was done I
shook my head.

"He only just got here and already he's gone," I said.

"Yeah," was all Aine said to that. She had a thoughtful look on her face and I
suspected she'd hoped he was dating material. In addition to being a talker, she was
also a shameless flirt.

I'd heard classmates talk about my friend. She wasn't the best looking but they
envied her personality. She was lively and bold, and used to getting her way. There
wasn't a boy alive who could say no to her, so she always managed to date whoever
she wanted. Unfortunately, she couldn't seem to find a good match - just like me.
Being without a boyfriend was something we had in common, though with me, it was
more from a lack of trying.

"Don't worry," I said with a teasing sparkle in my eye. "I'm sure he'll be back soon
enough. You'll have your chance at him."

"Oh you!" she said with mock anger. Then she laughed. I was right and she knew it.
Then she quickly changed to a subject I was a little sensitive about. "When are you
going to date someone?"

"When I find the right lad," I said, "and not a minute before."

"What about Brian?" she teased. She knew Brian and I were good friends and nothing
more, but she still persisted, claiming he was perfect for me.

"What about him?" I countered, just before figuring out what she was up to. "He's
right behind me, isn't he." I said it as a statement because I could hear someone
catching up that could only be our only other friend.

Brian was the third one of our small group. He was a bit of a rogue, not doing well
in school or at home. He didn't much like authority and, in my opinion, spent far
too much energy rebelling against it.

Too bad, I thought, as I looked him over. I found him charming and handsome but
there was no way I could tolerate his attitude for long. We'd never make it as a
couple. Then I noticed him beside Aine and couldn't help but smile to myself. With
their brown hair, brown eyes and similar height, they looked good together. I might
even try my hand at a little matchmaking sometime soon. The least I could do was to
plant a seed or two and see what happens.

Some might say we were an unlikely group of friends. The three of us were quite
different in many ways, but there was one way that bonded us in spite of our obvious
differences. Each of us had a fiercely independent spirit. We stuck together when no
one else would have us, and because we refused to fit in with any one group. Life
can be strange and wonderful. Sometimes all that's needed is a single good reason to
keep a friendship going.

After saying our usual greetings, we walked the rest of the way to school in
companionable silence, each of us scheming about something no doubt. Aine was
probably still thinking about a way to meet John outside of school and Brian was
always thinking of ways to antagonize his poor teachers. I didn't normally scheme
but I wanted to think of a way to get my two friends together, whether they wanted
to or not.

It was a rare and special time when none of us felt like talking, though I couldn't
seem to take advantage of it. I tried to think of some matchmaking ideas and ended
up being distracted by my state of health. I contented myself with conserving energy
as best I could to help fight off whatever I was coming down with. I slowed down our
group a little by setting a slow walking pace and we barely made it to our
destination on time.

School was fairly interesting but I was concerned, growing weaker by the hour. I was
losing my battle of the bug. At lunch I sat with Aine and Brian as usual and
continued to conserve my energy. I brought extra vitamin C to eat with my meal but
it was too late. I was definitely getting sick.

If my friends noticed I wasn't feeling well, they didn't say anything. I didn't tell
them either, being my normal, stoic self, but I'm sure I looked somewhat pale and
tired. I was happy to let Aine do most of the talking and she was happy enough to
have the opportunity. Brian filled what little silence was left and distracted me
nicely.

By the end of school, I was cursing my misfortune as I walked to the woodcraft shop
to help my father. I tried to shake it off as I stood behind the counter at the
shop. Other people got colds all the time and they managed. It didn't work for me
though - not today. By closing time, I had a little trouble standing. I didn't want
to lose out on any sales so I stubbornly stayed put, not saying a word how I felt.

My father walked to the front window to turn off the neon "open" sign and gave me an
appraising look.

"You okay darlin'?" he called to me.

"I'm getting a cold is all," I told him. "I'll be fit as a fiddle soon enough."

I could still walk well enough, if a bit slowly, so I locked up and leaned on my
father for support as we walked home. He was only a couple inches taller than me and
quite thin, but he was easily strong enough to help me along.

Dinner was easy, and after nourishing myself with reheated Irish stew, I stumbled
off to my bedroom. I had homework but with the way I was feeling, I didn't think I'd
be going to school tomorrow. I figured I needed rest more than anything else at the
moment and had sense enough to get some.

As I changed clothes to get ready for bed that early evening, I gave myself a last
look in the mirror. I was a couple inches above average height, and slender with
long wavy red hair and deep green eyes. My skin was pale and flawless with a light
dusting of freckles across my nose. I've never called myself beautiful but my father
liked to tell me I was. He often compared me to my mother, and that never failed to
make me blush.

I moved over to my bed to sit on it and, as I often did before I fell asleep, I
studied the picture of my mom on my nightstand. I thought that if I could grow up to
be just half as beautiful as she was, I'd be happy. With a sigh, I turned out the
light and laid down. Then I rolled over and closed my eyes to begin what turned out
to be a very long and much needed sleep.

* * *

I awoke slowly, lying in bed for several minutes before I sat up and rubbed the
sleep from my eyes. When my vision finally cleared, I saw I was still at home, but
there was an energy pack IV by my bed. So it happened. I was another MORFS survivor.

No one was around, which was a good thing. I didn't feel like any company at the
moment. I wanted privacy while I checked myself out. With MORFS, almost anything was
possible and I was afraid I had some pretty big changes. I felt like I'd been put
through the wringer.

When I looked at my hands and arms, I didn't see anything different. So far, so
good. Then I pulled around a lock of my hair. It was still the same red color. My
legs also looked the same and I didn't feel a tail. I was confused. I was sure
something major had changed.

I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and sat up. Then, after a brief moment of
dizziness, I cautiously stood up and surveyed my room. Everything seemed the right
size and height. Everything seemed completely normal. So why did I feel so
different?

The final test was looking at myself in the mirror. It took a bit of time to
overcome my fear, but it was my face that eventually looked back at me. My
appearance hadn't changed at all.

I was relieved but I still knew something was different. There was a strange energy
coursing through my body. Perhaps it was one of those crazy powers that affected a
small percentage of MORFS survivors. If so, I wanted to know about it as soon as
possible. I wanted to get this whole MORFS business over with so I could get on with
my life.

Impatience can be a useful thing. It overwhelmed any concern about personal hygiene
or image. So it was without fanfare that I showed up in the living room dressed in
blue jeans and a fleece jumper. I simply threw on the first clothes I found - the
same clothes I'd worn to work the day I got sick. It didn't matter because it was
time for answers.

"Dana! You're awake," my father said with a broad smile. He rose up out of his
favorite plush chair and gave me a fierce hug, followed by an introduction to
someone I'd noticed out of the corner of my eye. "I'd like you to meet Doctor
Franklin. She's come all the way from Dublin just to meet you."

"Is that a fact?" I said as I turned to look down at the tiny slip of a woman. She'd
quickly stood up when I entered the room but the top of her blonde head only came up
to my chin. She was dressed casually in jeans and a buttoned shirt but she held
herself with an air of professionalism. I could tell she was here on business.

"Nice to meet you, dear," she said in a crisp London accent while holding out a
hand. Then she crinkled up her nose a little when I got close. I blushed when I
realized what was happening. My father didn't let on but this woman did. She made it
obvious to me that I was in need of a bath. It didn't matter to me though. I was
anxious for answers. The bath could wait.

"Nice to meet you, Doctor Franklin," I said as I shook her hand. Then I dove in, not
waiting for any more pleasantries.

"So what can you tell me about my condition?"

Doctor Franklin informed me that I was out for three days, and during that time, I'd
been diagnosed with MORFS and had been given an energy pack IV with a sedative. I'd
also been informally scanned by the local telepath for powers. The scanning didn't
normally work very well while the person was unconscious but since the telepath was
a good friend of the family, he tried it during one of his frequent visits.

Good old Sean discovered something very interesting about me last night. He couldn't
tell exactly what my power would be, but even in my drug induced stupor, he could
tell I'd be very powerful. Being the concerned citizen and friend that he is, he
called a colleague in Dublin and the next thing my father knew, Doctor Franklin
showed up on our doorstep. I thought she must have traveled most of the night
because she arrived only an hour ago.

The doctor's visit was very good timing I thought, and somewhat suspicious. I
couldn't help but notice that my father looked to be a little on edge. My intuition
told me there was something else going on but I let it go - for now.

"I'd like to run some tests on you if you don't mind," the doctor added at the end
of her talk. "Your father has given me permission to take you back to Dublin and I'd
like to leave as soon as possible."

It seemed to me that I wasn't really being given a choice. I wanted to protest.
There was the shop to consider, though my father could do without my help for a
couple days. I'd already missed three school days too but today was Friday, and the
doctor promised I'd be back in time for school on Monday. I had no excuses. I just
didn't want to be away from home.

With a sigh, I went back to my room to pack, and after a quick shower, I got dressed
and was soon ready to leave.

While I was my bedroom, my father prepared some food for me to take on the trip.
Three days without solid food took its toll so it was with many thanks that I
accepted the food basket. He hugged me at the front door of our house and we both
sniffed back a tear as I waved good-bye.

* * *

Everything was moving so quickly, and the journey to Dublin was just one surprise
after another. I thought it would take a lot longer to get Kerry airport for the
jump to Dublin but Doctor Franklin had one of the latest model hovercars. She kicked
it into gear and the scenery became a blur.

I didn't have the nerve to ask how fast we were going. Instead, I concentrated on
eating and tried to see some of the countryside. To my right, I briefly saw Inch
Strand, a long and narrow sandy beach that stretches more than halfway across the
east end of Dingle Bay. Not long after that, to my left, I saw the Slievemish
Mountains slip past. They were nice views but nothing more than glimpses, leaving me
wanting more.

Before I knew it, we arrived at the airport. It was small as far as most airports
went, but to me it was grand. I'd never seen one before. Unfortunately, I didn't
have much time to look around. I was only able to see a small, older plane take off
before I was hustled inside and screened by security along with the doctor.

The short trip to the airport didn't give me much time to eat, but it was just as
well. The doctor didn't think it a good idea to have a stomach full of food before
taking the jump craft to Dublin. The ride made most first-time riders sick. I wasn't
looking forward to that.

I was advised to close my eyes for the journey if I didn't mind missing the view.
I'd be much less likely to throw up that way. The nausea had something to do with
the inner ear and the body's sense of equilibrium being thrown off. I didn't really
understand it at the time but I learned to appreciate the knowledge later after my
powers activated. Like I said earlier, I had a lot to learn.

The jump craft was a small private hypersonic flier that was assisted by two MORFS
survivors with gravity disrupter powers. They helped reduce the force of gravity on
passengers as well as the craft itself. Only one disrupter was really needed but
they had a second as a backup just to be safe.

The craft flew up and over to Dublin in a high parabolic arc, and only took about 20
minutes to do it. That wasn't much longer than it took to get from Dingle to Kerry
airport. It was amazing. I took the advice and kept my eyes shut for all but the
highest point in the middle of the trip. From there, I could easily see the
curvature of the earth and virtually all of Ireland - the parts that weren't covered
by clouds anyway. Again, I didn't get to see the view as long as I liked, but I'd
certainly come away with some lovely memories.

Once in Dublin, we continued on in another hovercar, with me resuming my portable
meal. I was still very hungry. In fact, I couldn't seem to eat fast enough. Doctor
Franklin was a little concerned but she told me we'd soon be in one of the best
places a MORFS survivor could be in case of an emergency.

As promised, after another 10 minutes of city driving, we arrived at the institute
where the doctor worked. She wouldn't tell me much about the institute, only that it
was well funded with all the latest gadgets and vehicles. I got the impression that
the fewer questions I asked, the happier she'd be.

My visit began with an extensive physical examination that probably lasted well over
an hour but didn't really seem very long to me. I'd finally gotten enough to eat so
I was a little lethargic during the exam. I just wanted to lie around and digest.
The poking and prodding didn't bother me in the least. Doctor Franklin said I was
the best patient she'd ever had. I just gave her a distracted smile and shrugged.

When it was all over, I was found to be in perfect health. Even my appetite was
declared to be normal. Good. Now all that was left was to check out my power. That
was the part I was waiting for. That was the interesting part.

I was taken to another examination room with two men. One was a middle aged telepath
named Edgar and the other was a young and very attractive doctor with very short
black hair and piercing blue eyes. His name was Don. I tried to keep my mind on
business but I was quite distracted by Don. My only hope was to start up a
conversation. I couldn't bear the thought of being scanned by a telepath while I was
in the middle of a fantasy.

"What's the machine for?" I asked, after noticing it by the examination table. It
seemed an innocent enough question, except I asked Don. That kept my attention
focused on him.

"It monitors brainwaves," he answered with a killer smile. "It's called an
electroencephalograph. We've had some success using it  to activate dormant powers
through biofeedback. We've noticed that certain brainwave patterns change after
power activation, so we try to accelerate that change."

"Oh," was all I could think of to say to that. I didn't understand half of what he
said, reinforcing the fact that he was too old for me. Though his doctor lingo
pretty much killed any chance of a fantasy, at least I understood that he might be
able to activate my power. That was exciting enough.

The first step was a quick scan from Edgar. As we stood facing each other, he
confirmed that I did indeed have a lot of potential power, and though he tried to
hide it, he seemed concerned. I could see it in his eyes and it really irritated me.
I assumed he was afraid I'd use my power to cause harm but I had no intention of
doing that. My father raised me well. I was a good girl.

Edgar continued his scan in spite of the moodiness he must have saw in me. Then he
finally uttered the words I was waiting for, helping me to forget my irritation.

"You're an air elemental," he simply said. He wasn't much for words.

I wasn't expecting that. What could an air elemental do? I suppose I could make a
tornado since I had so much power, but I didn't have the imagination to think of
anything useful that I could do with my power. I was left feeling a little
disappointed. Luckily it didn't last long. I wasn't finished yet.

Now it was Don's turn. He directed me to sit on the table by the machine and placed
electrodes on my scalp. His first job was to record my brainwaves as a baseline.
Then he had me listen to tones while watching his machine. The tones were supposed
to help me change my brainwaves to match various patterns that were displayed on
transparent plastic sheets. Each sheet was placed by itself for a short time over
the monitor so it'd be easier for me to make comparisons.

I was able to match most of the patterns I saw for short periods of time but nothing
happened. My power didn't activate. To be fair, the institute had never examined a
powerful air elemental before so they didn't know what to expect. They could only
try brainwave patterns for the limited set of powers they'd dealt with in the past.
I'd have to return after my power activated so they could record my brainwaves and
compare them to my current recording. That might help them activate future air
elementals.

So far, in spite of the institute's best efforts, I was a little more informed but
still powerless. It seemed like a wasted trip and I felt a little bad about it when
I went to talk with Doctor Franklin in her office.

"It's okay," the doctor assured me. "We may learn something from you yet. We learned
a lot from your mother after all."

I was forming a response before she finished speaking, but when she got to the part
about my mother, I was suddenly speechless.

As before, she correctly read the look on my face. It had to be quite easy as I'm
sure my eyes were bulging and my mouth was wide open.

"Oh dear," she said. "I see your father hasn't told you everything."

I recovered after a minute or two and tried getting more information, but she became
rather tightlipped about the subject of my mother. All she said was that I needed to
have a talk with my father. I didn't know what to think about that. At first I was
curious, but that didn't last long. Curiosity was slowly replaced by a slowly
building anger.

I'm sure my father meant well. He might have thought I was too young to handle
whatever he was hiding from me. That didn't matter to me now. I wasn't a little girl
any more, and I'd been on my best behavior. I deserved to know the truth, and I was
going to get it.

(To be continued)

 

 

 

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

 


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