* * * Epilogue * * *

Given human nature, it was bound to happen. High-powered morfs were banding together to form ever more powerful and dangerous organizations. Those with sufficient power were recruited and in some cases forced to join, and once an organization gained enough of a reputation, it quickly grew. New members were pulled in like moths to a flame.

Ambitious criminal masterminds with elemental powers made the difference. They used their powers to dominate the dark forces that normally worked independently, and they offered rich rewards. Their promises were a siren call to the immoral and unethical masses. Luckily, those masses didn't represent a majority of the population.

As with most things in the world, opposing forces naturally appeared whenever something got out of balance. Such was the case in a little home office late at night. A small, feminine cat hybrid sat in front of her computer, giving it voice commands. She aimed to do a little recruiting herself to combat the growing plague of evil morfs. She had a Ph.D. and was an extremely powerful elemental but she couldn't save the world by herself. She needed help.

Software ran 24 hours a day on that little computer, looking for powerful, unnatural events in the world. Any such event would most likely be caused by an elemental -- a potential recruit. Tonight, the computer had tagged a British news report about a series of extreme weather anomalies along the southwest coast of Ireland. The events spanned several months, starting with a huge water spout and culminating with a fierce storm that had quickly developed and then, in even less time, had completely dissipated. The storm's sudden disappearance caught the computer's attention because it happened on such a grand scale. It could easily be seen on the weather satellite photos.

There were no names given in the news but that couldn't stop a sufficiently motivated and determined individual from finding out more information. After running some additional software that she developed herself, it wasn't long before the good doctor tracked down an air elemental who was deemed responsible for stopping the freak storm. The elemental's name was given as Dana McKenna, and she was registered.

The European MORFS database entry for Ms. McKenna listed a power level of only 6 but that was obviously too low for what she allegedly accomplished. That explained why she hadn't yet been discovered, and exposed a nagging flaw in the system. Higher power levels weren't easy to measure accurately and objectively. It took time to develop the use of the power and more time before it could be stretched to its full potential. Powerful MORFS survivors could slip through the cracks. They could move or hide away and might never be identified.

Though the inaccurate power level was irksome, it could be forgiven and addressed later. Finding Dana should've been cause for a celebration after all. She appeared to be a perfect recruit. Or at least she did until further reading brought up something that caused even more irritation.

"Damn it! She's only sixteen?!"

"I'm sorry," responded the computer. "I don't understand that command. Please try again."

"Command ... verbal mode ... off."

"Please confirm command," the computer said. "Verbal mode off. Is this what you want? Please respond with 'yes' or 'no'."

"Yes!" hissed the doctor, her long, furry tail twitching with agitation. It was late and she was anxious to get to bed. She didn't have patience for chatty computers at the moment.

The computer confirmed the response and then went silent, giving the doctor the peace she needed to think.

Dana McKenna was an extremely powerful air elemental but she was only sixteen years old. That didn't bode well. She'd very likely be too immature and would need months of training in spite of her already impressive achievements. It might be too late by then. Criminal elements already ran out of control and current MORFS police forces were stretched thin. More high-powered police were desperately needed.

Though it was quite late, the powerful young hybrid had wound herself up and yet again felt the urge to check on her preparations. It was becoming a habit but it was important to her that nothing was left to chance. It also helped to keep her focused on her vision. She hoped to build the most powerful elemental team on the planet.

Her plan was fairly simple but that didn't mean she was just randomly looking for recruits. She was much more organized. She had facilities and specialized equipment ready to be used, and hoped to begin training right away. The bad guys wouldn't wait.

After moving to a suitable position, far from the computer so it wouldn't be damaged, she used her elemental power to form a portal and stepped into it. Her destination was far from home but distance didn't mean much to someone who could manipulate the strange dark elemental force the way she could. She could channel a tremendous amount of power to create the portal without having to generate all the power herself. It was an impressive ability and one that was very useful in so many ways.

Besides saving on travel time, her little display of power was enough of a workout that it helped relieve some of the stresses of the day. Hopefully, she'd be able to relax enough to sleep after her little inspection, as she liked to call it. The walk would do her good too.

The portal led to a secret underground facility where she'd be training her precious recruits, and the inspection started with a leisurely two mile walk around the huge complex. Before MORFS, it would've been a lot more difficult to create but with the help of the dragons with elemental powers, it'd been created in only a few weeks. The only reason it took that long was because of all the special requirements.

Several dozen isolated areas had to be created. Some elementals needed a place to cut loose in private so they wouldn't hurt anyone, and having it underground kept the training secret. The bad guys would have a lot more trouble spying that way.

Of the seven training areas farthest from the central command area, six were no more than square caves with dirt floors. They were for the earth and magma elementals. The one room farthest from the main complex had special requirements. It contained multiple layers of thick shielding for radiation elementals. There were another dozen areas lining the outer perimeter. They had walls of various natural and artificial materials like stone, metal and textured nano tube fibers. They also had access to a network of underground water reservoirs and could be well supplied with heat and electricity. The remaining rooms were close to the central command area and had much more complicated environments that allowed for specialized training.

Connecting all of the training rooms was a long, looping corridor 100 feet high and 200 feet wide with a flat floor and slightly curved roof. A small tram ran along tracks along the outer wall and the rest was open for running and racing. It would make a nice race course for fliers. There were long straight sections and lots of curves.

The heart of the complex was the central area, where the staff lived and worked. Computer rooms offered simulated battles and advanced study courses. There were also dorm rooms for trainees, along with several lounges, kitchens, exercise rooms and spas. The most impressive room by far though was the round team training room. It was nearly 100 feet high and several hundred yards in diameter. A room that size should prove to be very useful for training the elementals to work together as a team. All in all, it was a nice arrangement.

After her little walk around the huge complex, the somewhat stressed young hybrid felt much better, and she gave a sigh of relief when she wandered into the equipment room. In spite of the grand scale of most of the complex, this was her favorite place. It was where the team uniforms were stored.

Each uniform was simple in design, with an extremely durable fabric made of nano tube fibers that was self-healing and could stretch to accommodate a wide range of sizes. Each one was all black now but it'd have a colored Chinese character added to represent whatever elemental power the wearer possessed. The adjectives sleek and beautiful came to mind whenever she thought about the finished product.

The most complicated part of the uniform was the helmet. It was 10 times stronger than the fabric and was fitted with a limited supply of oxygen and sophisticated electronics, including state of the art communications so team members could keep in constant contact with each other -- something that was extremely important for teamwork.

Inspired by the helmet, she toyed with an idea for a motto: Keep your head. No doubt her motto needed work but she'd keep at it.

So that was it. Her little inspection was complete. She closed her eyes and imagined people wearing the uniforms, walking or flying here and there, rushing off to train, coming back from a workout. In her mind, the whole place came alive, brimming with purpose. She couldn't wait to start.

The mostly relaxed young hybrid stretched and yawned, then smiled. Seeing the training facility renewed her hope again. She was still a little tense but she felt much better than before this latest visit. It was time to go home and try to sleep.

When she got back, she closed her portal and navigated the dark hallway, and looked in on her little girl asleep in bed. She gently closed the door and moved quietly to the nursery. There, looking down on her sleeping baby boy, she made a silent promise to do whatever it took to make the world a safer place for her children. Then she made her way to her own bed.

Though she tried to be gentle, she was preoccupied with her thoughts and accidentally brushed against her life mate.

"Nura? Izzat you?" said a sleepy, feminine voice.

"Yes, my Love. It's me."

"What time izzit?"

"It's very late. Sorry, but I think I found an elemental."

"That's nice," said the sleepy voice, followed shortly by the sound of light snoring.

Sanura snuggled in close and easily managed to drop off to sleep soon after. The magic of snuggling could relax even the most troubled and tense human being.

The End




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