Freeze Frame

by EMW

Part 3

Chapter 6

I woke up fairly late, barely in time for lectures. I dressed in a scrambled rush and stumbled out the door with Nat. I must have looked quite a state, arms all over the place, dressed in my hastily grabbed clothing, hair all over the shop.

“You really aren't a morning person,” Nat said cheerfully.

“BAH!” I said as I tried to workout which set of arms I could strangle her with.

“Did you remember to bring your gym kit so we can go check out the multi-gym?” asked Nat.

'Was that today?' I wondered. I was drawing a blank on if I remembered agreeing to that.

“You'll have to go without me, no time to go back now. Sorry,” I said.

“Well I figured you might forget so I stuck a set of gym clothes for you and a spare towel in with my stuff,” she said smiling.

“If you did that, why did you ask?”

“Wanted to see how you would react, to see how anti you are to the gym idea.”

“Hmm,” she was a sneaky little wench. “How did I do?”

“About as well as can be expected,” she said sweetly.

We travelled the rest of the way to the lecture theatre in silence. Nat seemed quite happy, practically skipping at one point. She definitely was a morning person.

We arrived and took our seats and then got on with the business of being students. It was some really boring subject I just couldn't connect with, logic or some such. I took copious notes and hopefully, come exam time, I would be able to piece the thing together. We exited one lecture into another. This was on programming, which was more down my alley. I managed to focus a bit better and came out of the lecture with some new concepts on typecasting and polymorphism filed away for future study.

Then it was gym time. Nat grabbed an arm and marched me over to the university gym. Much the same thing had happened when she decided to join. I had been forcibly dragged along and forced to register and take the mandatory orientation session. I had gone once then never again. I supposed at least now it meant I could go straight in and not have a group of new gym people gawping at my extra arms as we were told how to use the machines. I guess it meant I would have the whole gym doing it instead, but at least I could get on with what ever workout Nat had planned for me in the mean time.

We headed into the changing rooms after paying the small fee to enter and showing our cards. The reception woman glanced at the cards first, then us, and made a strange “wha” sound when she saw me. Luckily this was a reasonably quiet time of day and the changing rooms only had a few girls in them. I only had to contend with their stares as I got changed. The fact that I was getting changed seemed to make the stares longer than the usual glances I got, my naked form holding some fascination for the ladies present, who seemed to want to see how I fitted together. I felt like I was some car wreck and they were all rubber neckers.

Once we were changed into our workout clothes we headed out into the gym proper, where the sight of a six armed girl in reasonably tight clothing once again brought things to a standstill. As Nat and I started doing our stretches to get warmed up I reflected that this was a bit like what Nat went through. I had often noticed that when she entered a room, usually when she was dolled up to the nines, but not always, most of the attention would swing to her. Now I was getting that same effect, only more from looking weird than anything else. Nat was more or less ignored, it was an odd reversal the state of things. I wondered if she found it as weird as I did.

Once we had stretched ourselves out, we began our workout. I had to use a few creative reinterpretations of the exercises to get my full musculature stretched, and my motions on my new limbs were still a touch robotic and required a lot of concentration, but I was improving. I could pretty much manage all the big movements, with some trouble with small stuff, and almost binary control of my digits with grip or ungrip settings, and little or no individual finger control. I was just happy the random involuntary movement was down to a minimum, the odd twitch every now and again mostly in my fingers. For the most part my new arms stayed where they were put.

We did a little cardio to get into the swing of things. The last time I had partnered with Nat I had foolishly pushed myself too hard to keep up. I had swiftly got out of breath and had to sit down to keep from throwing up. This time I was deliberately taking things easy, but even then I was having no trouble keeping going. It seemed my new body was in pretty good physical condition.

After a ten minute run to get the blood pumping we moved on to testing out my body on the various weight machines.

“OK, let's try the bench press first,” Nat suggested. “For a basis of comparison, I'm not going to hold back so we know just how strong you are now.”

She went first. lifting what seemed to be a colossal amount of weight, I followed and found to my surprise I could lift it fairly easily and could push things a little higher than Nat. We continued this testing and I found that like Nat, I was probably equivalent to a very strong man. I wasn't super human exactly, and I had the advantage of 3 sets of strong arms so I could probably exert a serious amount of force if need be, but I was probably stronger than most of the people I would encounter in day to day life.

This gave me a nice boost to my ego. Then Nat executed pay back for me besting her scores by having us do a proper workout. I felt like I had been through a mangle by the end of it. I didn't think I had pulled anything, but I was unused to that sort of exercise. Even with my MORFS tuned body, it took its toll. I found it a bit annoying that it took me three times as long on the arm exercises as Nat, as I had to do each set of arms. I did suggest I cheat and use all my arms at once on the same weights, but Nat vetoed it. Our activities brought even more stares as they saw these two girls, one fairly small and curvy seemingly with no muscles to speak of, lift more than some of the large blokes were doing, seemingly without breaking a sweat.

We had a nice hot shower afterwards, the warm water doing wonders to sooth my abused muscles. After that we redressed and headed over to meet with Shaun and Caitlyn for lunch. It was weird. Though I felt totally zonked out of my mind, I felt really good. Must have been the endorphins or something.

We arrived in the cafeteria and spotted Caitlyn and Shaun waiting for us.

“Help me Caitlyn, she's trying to kill me with exercise,” I said, slumping down into the seat next to her.

Caitlyn laughed and gave me a kiss on the cheek, “Ah poor baby. Did you wear her out in the gym, Nat?”

“Bah, more like she wore me out! It was great! I hardly ever find a partner I can go toe to toe with,” she said grinning, giving Shaun a kiss and sitting down.

“You should have asked me,” said Shaun flexing a biceps, “I could've kept up.”

“Oh I doubt it. She's a lot stronger than she looks,” Nat said.

Shaun snorted a little dismissively looking at me, “I suppose she's got three times the muscles of a normal person, but she doesn't look very strong.”

“Oh, appearances can be deceptive,” she said then leant over and whispered something in his ear.

His eyes went wide. “WHAT! You're kidding.” Nat shook her head, “Bloody hell! She's stronger than most of the guys on the team, and you kept up with her?”

“Yeah, like her there's a lot more to me than meets the eye,” Nat said with a grin.

Shaun sat there looking a bit shocked, then leant over to Caitlyn and said, “We're dating super heroes.”

“Oh I already knew she was super,” smiled Caitlyn, putting her arm around me. “I just didn't know she was super strong as well as super sexy.”

“Well right now I'm super hungry, so I'm going to get some lunch. Anyone want anything?” I asked with a grin. Shaun and Caitlyn shook their heads.

"I'll come with," said Nat.

We walked up and joined the queue. I was quite hungry, not the least since I had missed breakfast. I was eyeing up the menu with interest.

The campus cafeteria had a sandwich counter that did mini baguettes, and a proper kitchen that did cooked meals. I had been tempted by the sandwich line, which was shorter, but I felt I needed something more substantial.

Nat went to join the sandwich queue, obviously after the quick fix.

As I waited in the queue, shuffling slowly forward,  a voice from behind  said, "Hey check out spider girl!"

"Man what a freak!" said another voice.

I turned and saw two guys slightly older than me staring at me. I turned back trying to ignore them.

"Wow, she's a fox, though," said idiot A.

"Yeah, imagine what she could do with all those hands. Bet she likes it as freaky as she is," said idiot B.

I gritted my teeth and tried not to let it bother me. The line slowly shuffled forwards towards the food. I was really quite hungry now the scent of freshly cooked food drifted on the air making my stomach growl. There was a commotion in the line behind me several people saying "hey" or "watch it" or "there's a line here you know" a few moments later there was a voice behind me.

"Hey spider girl!" said idiot A. I ignored him, hoping he would go away.

 "Hey, 8 limbed freak!"

I clenched my hands into fists and tried to resist turning around.

"Hey you!" said idiot B, then someone poked me hard in the back.

"Ow!" I exclaimed. "That hurt! Leave me alone!"

“Come on, sweet cheeks. How about a little massage or summit?” said a leering Idiot A.

“With a happy ending?” asked idiot B, winking at his friend, which caused them both to burst into hysterical laughter.

“Fuck off,” I said and turned back to the front arms crossed in front of me.

One of them grabbed me from behind. “Oh don't be like that, foxy freak. You'll enjoy it once we get going.”

“Let go of me!” I shouted.

“Get your stinking hands off of her,” said a very annoyed sounding Caitlyn.

I turned and saw my little redhead, hands on hips, her face a picture of rage, tail whipping about.

“Yeah? What's it to you, red?” asked idiot B.

“That's my girlfriend you are harassing. Now take a hike!” she said defiantly.

“Girl friend ...” said Idiot A eyeing me and Caitlyn up, then elbowed his friend in the ribs, “Dude, 8 limbed lesbian and her cat-girl girlfriend, that is so hot!”

Caitlyn didn't look amused. By this point Shaun had come over as well, and was standing to the side of Caitlyn looking angry. “You leave her alone or else,” said Caitlyn.

“Or else what, wildcat?” said Idiot A with a dismissive snort.

Caitlyn stalked up close to him and then in a quiet voice said, “Or else I do this,” and slammed her knee into his groin. The guy collapsed on the floor howling in agony.

His friend stared at him in shock, then shouted, “BAD KITTY!” and went to take a swipe at her.

I grabbed his arm, stopping its motion. He struggled in my grip for a while, then tried to swing his free arm at me, but I grabbed that, too. Then I hit him in the stomach with one of my spare arms, knocking the wind out of him before I pushed him away. Shaun caught him and threw him on towards the exit. I grabbed the other guy and tossed him over to Shaun who bounced him in the direction of his friend. The two of them paused for a bit, then hobbled out the door, obviously having had enough of a beating for one day. A few of the queue clapped at that, which made me blush. Caitlyn took a bow.

She then walked over to me and asked, “Are you OK sweetie? They didn't hurt you, did they?”

“No, I'm OK” I replied. “Thanks for the rescue you guys.”

“Any time,” said Caitlyn and gave me a big kiss on the lips, which caused someone in the queue to whistle, making me turn yet redder shades.

I turned back to my queue and waited patiently to get my food. After a lot more shuffling, tray pushing, and paying, I returned to our table, tray in hand. This was another time where having additional hands was useful. I could hold my tray securely and then grab stuff without having to find space to put it down. I was the envy of all the other dinners attempting to balance their trays one handed, or use a knee while they got cutlery, or drinks, or any other item where the canteen lacked a place to put the tray down.

I sat down next to Caitlyn and tucked in. “What are you eating?” asked Caitlyn.

“All day breakfast, with extra black pudding,” I replied, “Want some?”

“How can you eat that stuff?” she asked, making a face. “It's fried congealed blood?” .

“It's tasty, besides I eat meat, so it seems a little hypocritical to rule out other bits of the animals just because of what bit it is. If it wasn't tasty, then that would be another thing,” I said between bites.

“I suppose that makes sense,” said Caitlyn, looking doubtful.

“She's just trying to get you onto salads so you don't lose your figure,” teased Nat.

“After the workout you gave me, I think this little fry up is the least of my worries,” I said with a grin.

“Maybe I should fatten you up. Then no one else will want you, piggy,” Caitlyn poked me playfully in the tummy.

“Oink!” I said.

I polished off my lunch and was beginning to feel a bit more human. I sat sipping my drink while the others finished their meals. Then we decided we would take advantage of the nice weather and sit out in the quad, a grassy rectangle outside the student union. We disposed of our rubbish and headed out into. We found ourselves a nice spot and sat on the grass together enjoying the sunshine. It was the sort of day for a picnic. If we didn't have lectures later I might have suggested it.

“I love this time of year,” said Nat, who was stretched out on the grass with her head in Shaun's lap.

“Yeah it's sunny enough to be comfy, but not so hot it's unpleasant,” Caitlyn agreed. “Plus, the insects haven't yet got to the point they are bothersome.”

“Yeah the early flowers are out and the nights are long enough to be out and it’s still light,” said Shaun.

We sat watching the sky, fluffy white clouds floating by. Caitlyn was sitting to my right, laying next to me. she turned on her side to face me, “Do you have the afternoon free tomorrow?” she asked.

“Yeah, just lectures in the morning,” I replied.

“I've been thinking tomorrow we should go for picnic in the park.” Damn, she was reading my mind.

“Sounds lovely.”

“Cool, I'll make the food. Is there anything you are allergic to or just don't like?” she asked.

“No, I'll pretty much eat anything.”

“You got that right! You better bring a truckload of sandwiches. She'll go through a regular picnic basket like it's a snack,” teased Nat. I stuck my tongue out at her.

“Don't you worry I'll make sure she's fully satisfied,” said Caitlyn, with a wicked grin on her face.

As we sat there relaxing, I saw Jenny and Laura coming along, “Hi guys,” I said, waving three hands at them.

“Hi, Em,” said Jenny.

“Em, did you hear your stalker has been out with MORFS?” Laura said excitedly.

“What?” I replied.

“Yeah, he came down with it Friday. They say he finished today. That's pretty short for it, barely 3 days,” she said.

“Is he all different now?” asked Nat.

“Nah, my friend said he looks pretty much the same, few very minor changes,” said Laura.

“Bah, I was hoping it would be some sort of divine retribution, and he gets turned into a toad, or maybe a rat, or even a girl, who can then get stalked by some creepy guy, to see how he likes it,” said Nat.

“Yet another nail in the coffin proving the non-existence of any higher power,” I said with a smile.

“Says the atheist,” said Jenny who was in the Christian union. We’d had some very good arguments on religion together. Most other people in the house were undecided or just not very interested in religion. We were the only two who had picked a side. It was one of the few arena's I had been comfy talking openly about and I not been shyly reserving my opinions hiding in the shadows.

“I just calls them like I sees them,” I said grinning.

“Maybe God arranged for creepy guy to stalk you, so you found your new girlfriend, and picked up a bit of arm candy for Natalie as well, as a bonus,” said Jenny with a grin.

“Oh I don't think so,” said Caitlyn. “The sort of things I want to do to her make it unlikely any pure being put the two of us together.”

She began tickling me with her tail, which caused me to collapse in fits of giggles. It's a real problem being ticklish and having 6 armpits. Eventually I managed to grasp her naughty appendage and stroke it into submission, making her purr in satisfaction, putty in my hands.

“Well, religious deities setting up double dates aside, we need to be off to lectures,” said Nat.

“Oh,” said Caitlyn pouting. “Just as I was getting comfy.”

“I'll make it up to you tomorrow, sweetie,” I said and gave her a kiss.

"Do you want to do something tomorrow?" Nat asked  Shaun.

"Alas, I have lectures all day, but lunch is possible," he replied. "I'd offer to take you out tonight, but I'm off to rugby practice."

"Oh well, you'll just have to make it up to me later then," grinned Nat.

The group scrambled to our feet, brushing ourselves off and retrieving our bags. We were about to head off to our lesson when a thought occurred to me. I hadn't thanked Shaun properly for helping with the two idiots earlier.

I walked over to him, “Shaun I forgot to thank you for helping earlier.”

“You thanked me,” he said, looking at me a little confused.

“No I meant properly.” I gave him a big hug and kiss, “Thanks,” I said, and scampered over to Nat, waving to Caitlyn, leaving a bemused Shaun standing there. It was a simple fairly innocent gesture between friends, and I had no idea the trouble it would cause.

I heard Shaun say to her, “Caitlyn you are a lucky girl.”

I caught up with Nat, who fixed me with an indignant stare with only a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth, “What are you trying to do, steal my boyfriend you little minx?”

“Bah, I had him before you. I'm done with him now.” I studied my nails and in a haughty voice said, “you may have the remains.”

Nat burst out laughing, unable to keep a straight face any longer, “You are wicked.”

“I know,” I said with a smile.

We went to our next lecture, another boring one. It was followed by a lab where we got to do some practical stuff. My lab partner was an intense young woman called Kathy who seemed to have no time in our sessions for anything but working hard. She was bossy and very focused. As a result, I didn't know much about her, beyond her work ethic.

I sat down next to her at our assigned lab table completely forgetting my appearance had altered radically since our last lab together.

I was sorting my lab book out, adding the date and title of the experiment when she noticed me and said in an indignant voice, "Who are you?"

"It's me, Emily. I had MORFS."

She looked at me for a while, then stood up and stomped over to the lab supervisor. “You there,” she said.

“Yes can I help you?” he replied a little taken aback by her manner.

“I can't work with that. I need a new partner,” she said, arms crossed in front of her in a defiant gesture.

“What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

“Do you have eyes you simpleton? Look at it. It's one of those monsters, I can't work with one of them, have it removed and get me a real person as a partner,” she ordered stamping one of her feet.

“Look, there is a shortage of equipment, so you have to partner and there is no one else. So unless you want to fail, you will partner with her,” he said, looking a bit pissed off.

“This is discrimination, you can't make me work with one of those things. It will hold me back. They are just animals and monsters. The bible says so!” she shouted.

“Whatever. She's ready to work you're the one making a fuss. So either sit down and get on with it, or get out of here and fail. Also, give me any more trouble and I'll fail you right here and now!” he said, and walked off.

“Don't you walk away from me!” she shouted, and stood there fuming for a bit.

She stalked back to our station, the eyes of the entire lab on her, some disgusted, some annoyed. A few were shooting me hateful glances like this was somehow my fault.

She slammed down in her seat simmering with rage, "Not a word out of you, freak!" she spat.

The rest of the lab was very uncomfortable. We did the experiments in a tense silence, Kathy only talking to me when it was absolutely necessary, and then only in clipped, short, hate filled sentences. It was like she was on a knife edge, ready to explode at any moment. We finished swiftly, Kathy wrote up her work, and with a parting angry glance at me, left, practically throwing her book at the supervisor.

"This isn't over!" she said before she stalked out the door.

I slumped in my chair, feeling drained by the whole experience, I finished off my write-up of the experiments and handed in my book as well. The supervisor gave me a brief smile. “Sorry for lumbering you with that nut job. If she gives you any more trouble, let me know.”

I nodded then sat waiting for Nat to finish. A few minutes later she handed in her book and came over to me, “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I'm fine,” I sighed.

“Come on let's go get some dinner, and then we can have some drinks in the hall bar and forget all about your psycho lab partner.”

We grabbed our bags and headed off back home. After dinner I was feeling better again, Kathy and the two idiots from earlier had managed to put a damper on what  other wise had been a pretty good day. I did my best not to let them ruin my fun.

After dinner we caught up on some of our course work then headed down to the hall bar with the rest of the house for some drinks. We talked about the day we'd had and I relayed the incident with Kathy.

“Oh, that doesn't surprise me. I know her from Christian Union. She's one of those weirdo anti-MORFS zealots. They have this whole splinter group thing going on,” said Jenny.

“They like those Pure's I read about in the states?” Nat said.

“Yeah, though most of them are a little more low key than their American equivalents. No bombings or arson that I know of,” Jenny replied.

“Leopard can't change its spots though, they're hateful little buggers,” said Laura.

“They keep trying to recruit the rest of us into their mad little crusade,” Jenny said. “I didn't think anyone could be blinded by their propaganda, but then my friend Anne joined them. It really hurt to think that someone I thought I knew, could think like that.”

“I've seen people fall under the spell of these pure types as well,” said Nat a little sadly. “They do a nice line in elitist brain-washing, making out that MORFS are monsters and demons. That normal people are the chosen ones, protected from the plague by divine will or some such other cobblers. Some people fall for it. They’ve seen kids with powers or different bodies, and are afraid or envious, sometimes a little of both. Then someone comes along and gives them a cause to follow, a reason to hate. It's easy for the fantasy prone to latch on.”

“Well, let's forget those fools and have some fun! Come on Em,” said Laura grabbing my arm. “Let's have a game of table football.”

She yanked me over to the table football and stuck in a coin releasing the balls.

“Laura, I'm no good at this!”

“So? Neither am I, but it's fun. Come on, give it a go.”

“Oh alright, you just want to see me use all my arms at once,” I suggested.

“Am I that transparent?” she said with a grin. “Tell you what. You beat me and I'll buy you a drink.”

“Alright, what if I lose?”

“I get a rematch.”

“Bah, OK.”

“Cool, but you gotta use all your arms.”

“I've got too many for that, this thing only has 4 handles.

“Oh well just use your new ones then. Think of it as a chance to get in some practice with them.”

“I suppose.” I moved my lower arms into position.

“Cool, ready?”

“As I'll ever be.”

We started playing. at first I did really badly. My new arms were all uncoordinated and I was not exactly the best at this game to start with, so Laura took an early lead. As time wore on I started to get more of a feel for the game and I started to do better. I could, with concentration use all the little players at once, passing the ball forward and impeding its progress back. I got a few lucky shots off and began to claw back into the game. In the end we were tied, four to four, it all came down to the final ball. By now we had gathered quite a following of our house mates, plus a few people freak watching, I guess.

I was so intent on the game I barely noticed. Laura had picked up her game a bit too. she had obviously been a bit rusty, and maybe cutting me a little slack as well. Now it was a fight to the finish. We battled it out for what seemed like hours. She nearly scored several times, but I was able to catch the ball with my defenders or goalie. We kicked the ball back and forth up and down the table, neither one of us seemed to have the advantage, then suddenly I saw an opening. Just as she was attempting to score I intercepted the ball and sent it across the table, coordinating all my players to speed its progress. The ball slammed into the goal with a resounding thunk, and I threw my arms up in triumph.

“Nice game, Em,” Nat said. “You were really getting the hang of your arms there.”

“Yeah, you did great. I'll go get you that drink,” Laura said with a smile. “Next game I think it needs to be two against one, you are just too damn good!”

“I've got next,” said Nat.

“Me too,” said Jenny. It appeared I didn't get a choice whether to continue playing.

My two new opponents moved up to the table and we were off, with barely enough time for me to catch my breath. I had a much tougher time, now that my advantage was reduced, since my opponents didn't have to switch handles. I was still managing to hold my own though, and soon took the lead. As the girls warmed up, the playing got tougher and I really had to fight to maintain my advantage.

As we battled it out, Laura came up with the drink she had bought me. “Hey Em where do you want this?” she asked.

I distractedly stuck out one of my original hands and took it from her, taking a quick sip without breaking my concentration on the game.

“Hey, no fair! She can take refreshment while she's playing,” giggled Jenny.

“Yeah, maybe we should get one of those beer hat things so we can too,” shot back Nat.

Eventually I managed to win a with a three goal advantage. After that, any chance of me sitting back down again and revelling in my victory went out the window. First, I had to play Laura again this time with Nat as her second player, then the boys had to have a go. I managed to defeat all comers, and by this point I was getting fairly tired ,with aches in most of my joints through overuse. I called it a night retiring from the game undefeated.

“That was so cool,” said Laura.

“Yeah, you should think about trying out for the table football competition,” said Jenny.

“Surely I'd be disqualified for having an unfair advantage,” I said.

“Nah, you could enter the doubles just as yourself. Then you don't have any advantage, or just use the one set of arms. I'm sure there would be some way to get in,” said Nat.

“It did seem to be good for improving my coordination.”

“Yeah, dude. Plus, it's made you a legend. The unstoppable table football champ, she can beat you with her arms tied behind her back.” Tom grinned, “Well, one set at any rate.”

“I guess it's good to have some sort of skill I can lend to the hall for competitive sport,” I said.

We had another drink and then called it a night, not wanting to go too mad, it being a school night. I settled in and slept like a baby, having had a stressful day of ups and downs.


Chapter 7

I woke a bit more refreshed than I had the past few days. I had a load of lectures this morning, so I quickly got myself up and dressed, then headed off to breakfast. I scoffed down my food quickly and was off back to the house to get my stuff. I grabbed my books then headed out the door.

I made it a few tens of meters up the road when I heard a voice behind me, “Hey Em, wait up,” said Nat, dashing to catch me up, “Jeez, Em, what's the hurry?”

“Sorry, Nat I was just keen to get the lectures out the way,” I replied.

“You just want to get to your girlfriends picnic,” said Nat with a sly grin.

“Well, a little,” I said with a grin, “It is more interesting than control theory and measurement techniques lectures.”

Nat laughed and we carried on our way to the university. As we approached the front gate there was some sort of commotion, a large group of people with placards. I wondered what was going on. As we got closer I saw some of the signs said things like, 'MORFS out!', 'No Freaks in the classroom!' and 'Animals in the lab should be in cages, not in lab coats!". scoff

As we made our way hesitantly towards the group who seemed to be chanting various slogans, though we were too far away to make out more than the angry tone, I recognised Kathy amongst the assembled people, which made me even more nervous.

As we approached, Kathy spotted us and pointed at me, calling out, “Look, here comes one of them.”

The group moved to block our path, preventing us from getting in the gate to the university.

“Hey, move aside we have to get through,” said Nat, fairly put out.

“You can pass, but not that thing,” said an angry young man.

“What's the big idea? We have lectures to go to,” said Nat.

“We are taking a stand to prevent these freaks from ruining this place of learning for the rest of us,” said Kathy, while scowling at me.

“You lot are out of your minds!” said Nat.

“Please, just let us past. I just want to get to my lecture. I don't want any trouble,” I said, hoping to appeal to reason.

“Never, monster!” said Kathy.

“Look, what's to say any of the normal looking people haven't been through MORFS too. Hell, for all I know, most of you could have got it already, even Kathy here. Is that it Kathy? Is that why you hate other MORFS so much, because you went through it yourself? Maybe you were a guy before or something,” said Nat.

“WHAT!” screamed Kathy, “How dare you!”

“I'm just saying, how do we know you're not one of them,” said Nat.

By now the rest of the group were turning towards Kathy, looking on her with suspicion.

“Stop looking at me like that. I'm normal. I'm PURE! She's just trying to divide us!” said Kathy.

At this point the security people from the gate came over, “What's going on here? You are blocking the right of way I'm going to have to ask you to move,” the guard said.

“We have a legitimate protest. We have every right to make ourselves heard!” shouted Kathy.

“That's as may be, but you are blocking people from entering and leaving the university. If you don't move I'll have to call the police. You can protest all you want, but you need to stop obstructing the public right of way,”  the guard replied.

“We're only blocking the freaks,” said Kathy.

The guard raised an eyebrow, “Move or I'll have the police come down here and arrest you for harassing students and obstructing access.”

Most of the group glowered at the guard, but after some talking amongst themselves they moved aside and let people through. They continued to shout abuse at the obvious MORFS people that came past, but no longer stopped people. Nat and I made our way past and had to run to make up lost time, making it into the lecture hall just as the lecture was starting.

“What time do you call this ladies?” asked the lecturer with a somewhat amused good natured smile.

“Sorry Doc. Some crazed protesters were blocking the gate so we couldn't get in,” Nat replied.

“Oh yes I heard about that, some misguided religious fanatics. In that case I'll forgive you two, but take your seats,” he said.

The rest of the lecture was fairly standard. I swiftly fell into the usual lecture routine of trying to follow as much as possible, while making notes for future use in exam revision. The next lecture was similar and the ones after that. I had to admit my mind was not really on the lectures, more on the picnic I was going to be sharing with Caitlyn. It occurred to me that we'd had very little time together without others. Even our little walk in the park had been rudely interrupted by the old woman and cop. I hoped that this time would go more smoothly, and we could have some quality time to get to know each other without outside interference. I shivered in excitement at the prospect.

When the final lecture finished I was out the door like a shot, with Nat following, barely keeping up. She had an amused grin on her face.

“So you got your picnic now. Well think of me as you lounge with your girlfriend in the park, as I must sit alone in our room, in the dark, and waste away. Oh, woe is me!” she said, placing a hand to her forehead in mock anguish.

“Ha! But you have lunch with Shaun. I bet he'll make sure you don't waste away,” I said with a smile.

“Oh yes, I'd forgotten about that. Still, I doubt he will be hand feeding me sumptuous treats of his own devising.”

“Well, maybe that's a good thing. He looks like the sort that considers a can of beans and beer a four course meal.”

Nat laughed, “Maybe you're right. Still, appearances can be deceptive.”

We wandered over to the quad where I had arranged to meet Caitlyn and I saw her waiting. She was carrying a big backpack, I guessed stuffed with tasty provisions for our picnic. It was nice of her to prepare this for me, I would have to work out a way to do something equally nice for her.

She grabbed my hand and gave me a kiss on the lips. “Hello gorgeous, ready to go?”

“Yeah, I'm ready,” I replied. “See you later, Nat.”

“Bye Bye girls, have a nice time,” Nat ran off in the direction of the canteen.

Caitlyn and I headed off towards the park hand in hand.

“That looks heavy,” I said indicating the backpack, “do you want me to carry it?”

“No, I'm okay.”

“Did you see those idiots at the gate this morning?”

“Yeah, I saw then on my way in, they tried to get in the way, but some of the people I was with pushed us through them.”

“One of them is my lab partner, so things got a little heated. Nat managed to almost get them fighting each other by suggesting that  any one of them could have been through MORFS and they would never know. Then security came up and told them to move out the way.”

“Well I'm not going to let them ruin our day, even if they are still at the gates.”

We made our way up to the gates, and sure enough, the group of protesters were still there. Their angry chants increased in volume when they saw the two of us coming. Caitlyn put her arm around me and strode defiantly forward at a fast pace. They hurled abuse at us, but we just kept walking and were soon past them. Once we were past their hateful glances and nasty tongues, we were able to relax a bit and we eased our pace.

It was a lovely day, just the sort of weather for a picnic. I wished I had brought my camera along. When I mentioned this to Caitlyn, she insisted we go get it, so we swung by my room to pick it up. After that we made our way over to the park. Caitlyn took us to a quiet area where there were few people about. She picked a nice spot in the shade of a beech tree and began setting things up.

I asked if she needed any help, but was shooed away. Soon she had set out a blanket for us to sit on, as well as plates of various sandwiches, some fruits, and all sorts of tasty little morsels. She seemed to have brought enough food to feed an army. Maybe she hadn't been joking when she said she was trying to fatten me up.

She had me sit down on the blanket, then began offering me sandwiches and various dips with sliced vegetables to dip in them. I took a few snaps of Caitlyn and the picnic she had laid on while there was still some left of it, then tucked in. We ate our feast, enjoying the food in the sunshine and fresh air. Caitlyn had put on a fabulous spread. She would playfully feed me bits and bobs, then kiss me afterwards. It was heavenly.

We slowly managed to consume most of the food till there was nothing but scraps left, and I felt completely stuffed.

I laid back and relaxed enjoying the clement weather and the company. Caitlyn snuggled up against me and we lay there enjoying the sun.

"That was wonderful. Thank you for all your hard work," I said.

"You're welcome, sweetie. Actually, I have a little confession, one of my friends from my hall helped me put it together."

"Well you'll have to pass on my regards. It was a wonderful feast."

"I will. Clive is a fabulous cook."

I laughed a little at that, thinking of my discussion about Shaun with Nat earlier.

"What?" asked a bemused Caitlyn.

"Oh it's nothing, just reminded me of something I was saying to Nat earlier."

"What, that men can't cook?"

"No, that one in particular doesn't seem the cooking type."

"Ah yes, Mr Chips n’ Cheese is a balanced diet."

"Maybe we are being unkind to him, he could be a good cook."

"Could be, but somehow I doubt it."

We lay there together, I watched the clouds with Caitlyn snoozing, lying on my arms. After a while this proved to be an issue, as she was cutting off the circulation on the lower two. I didn't really want to move, as Caitlyn looked so cute curled up against me, eyes closed, gently making purring noises like a contented kitten. I began fidgeting a bit as my arms became more painful. This woke, or at least disturbed Caitlyn.

"What's the matter honey?" she asked.

"My arms are going to sleep," I said.

"Oh I'm sorry, baby."

She sat up and I extracted my lower limbs from under her, pins and needles running through them. I rubbed them to try and get the blood flowing again.

"I'm sorry Em. I didn't mean to hurt you. I was just so comfy. Here, let me help you there."

"That's OK. It was nice till my lower arms started hurting."

She started massaging my arms to get them back to working order. Soon I felt better as her gentle touch worked some life back into my arms.

"Is that better, sweetie?" she asked, kissing my hands.

"Yeah, much better."

Caitlyn stretched herself luxuriously, "Mmmm, I feel good. Do you fancy a little walk?"


We packed up the remains of the picnic, disposed of our rubbish in a nearby bin, then headed off for a walk hand in hand . As we walked ,Caitlyn turned to regard me speculatively.

"So how long have you known Nat?" asked Caitlyn.

"Not long I suppose. Only since we became roommates."

"You seem almost like sisters at times. She's very protective of you."

“I guess she kind of took me under her wing when we became roommates. She would make sure I did things, came out to the bar, and joined in some of the hall activities. She even took me out on double dates with her, though that was a bit of disaster, I was nowhere near as pretty as I am now. To an extent, all of my house mates used to treat me a bit like a little sister. Since I changed, Nat and I have become even better friends. She helped me through the initial shock of waking up like this. I don't know where I would be without her, probably hiding in a darkened room somewhere.”

“I have to ask. You like girls, and you were in the same room as Nat who is without a doubt a total babe. What was that like? It must have been frustrating.”

I thought about the question for a bit and looked at her shyly. “It's odd thinking about it now, maybe going through MORFS did something to me in that regard. I've always known that Nat is gorgeous, I'm not blind. I was often envious of her, but I don't know if I ever thought about her ... in that way. She was always obviously into boys, and I knew I was ugly, so I guess it never crossed my mind.”

“Maybe it isn't so much MORFS tweaking your preferences. Maybe it was more you feel more confident in who you are now, more able to accept that you can have whoever you want. Even then, did you not feel anything towards Nat when you met her, before you knew her that is?”

“I remember when I first saw her. I was the first in the room, so I was sitting there waiting to meet my new roommate. It was my first time away from home, I was very shy and feeling a touch lonely already. When she wandered in looking the way she does, I was terrified of her. Girls that looked like that had tortured me for years, but she seemed to know how I felt, and treated me with kid gloves. She was very friendly, with common interests. Despite her looks, she's a geek at heart. Before I knew it we were talking about our families and so forth like old friends. By the end of the first week she was like the big sister I never had. I guess after that it was hard to feel ... the way I feel about you ... about her. I love her, of that I have no doubt, but it is love like a sister. Rather than love ... with an x rating.”

“I guess I understand that.”

“So do you have a roommate?”

“No I'm all on my lonesome. It's good sometimes, though I'd love a roommate like your Natalie.”

When I looked at her with one eyebrow raised, she looked back, then tapped me on the arm, “Not like that, you have a filthy mind!”

When I continued to look at her with the same expression, she rolled her eyes and said, “Well maybe a little like that, but more as a friend.”

“It is nice to be good friends with my roommate.”

“Yeah sometimes I wish ...” she stopped mid sentence her ears perking up.

“What is it?”

“Shhh!” she said putting a finger to her lips her cat like ears were swivelling this way and that as if trying to lock in on some sound, suddenly she jumped in the air and squealed, “Ice cream van. Quickly, this way!”

She set off at breakneck speed, pausing every now and then to reorient herself. After a short while I heard the sound of a ice cream van playing the signature, “Teddy Bears Picnic.” Caitlyn pulled me along, homing in like a missile on the location of the van. Soon I could make out the brightly coloured van, with a small queue of children and their mothers buying ice cream. Despite our large meal, I reckoned I could find some room for ice cream.

“What would you like? My treat.” I said.

“Oh you're too kind, I'll have a flake please,” Caitlyn said.

“Righty ho,” I joined the queue.

One of the young children in the queue was staring openly at me, mouth agape, she pulled on her mothers arm, “Mummy, mummy!” she said.

“What is it darling?” her mother asked.

“Look at the funny lady,” the small tot said, still staring at me.

I smiled at her and waved with one of my arms, she tentatively waved back, clinging to her mother.

Her mother looked at me and smiled apologetically. “Don't stare, sweetheart. It's not polite,” she told her young daughter. The girl turned back to the front, giving me only the occasional glance, anticipation of her upcoming treat warring with the fascination I held.

It was oddly refreshing to be stared at with the sense of wonder the little child had in her eyes. Not hate, or fear, or revulsion, just simple joy and surprise at the strangeness of the world. I got the feeling that to a child of that age, many things, mundane and unusual, held such joy and wonder. It made me feel a bit more normal. I shuffled towards the front of the queue, the little girl in front of me was soon picking out her ice cream, a brightly coloured pink animal of some kind. Once she was given this I was no longer even in her awareness, her little face was a bright smile, her eyes focused on her treat.

I reached the van and after a moment's surprise, the ice cream seller asked me what I wanted. I bought two flakes and headed back to Caitlyn, whose smile was very similar to the little girls. She was like a kitten who had gotten some cream, which I guess was an apt analogy. We went and found a bench to sit on while we ate our ice cream. It was very nice to have the cold sweet ice cream on a warm day like this.

“So is your hearing better than normal then? I didn't hear anything, but you picked up on the van’s music from quite a ways away.”

“Yes, they offer better directional sound than a human ear and they are a touch more sensitive. It's one of their advantages,” she said.

“Besides looking cute.”

“Yes, besides that. Some people who are hybrids get the full package of upgraded senses. For me, the ears are the only boosted bit. My tail supposedly improves my balance, when it’s not making trouble that is."

As if to prove this point, her tail began tickling me. We polished off our treats and sat for a bit.

Just as I was about to suggest a walk, my phone rang, "Hello, Emily speaking," I answered.

"Em," it was Nat, she sounded distraught.

"Nat, what is it, is something wrong?" I asked.

"It's Shaun, there was some sort of accident last night. He's been badly hurt!"

"Oh no! What happened?"

"I don't know. They say someone attacked him."

"That's awful! Where are you?"

"I don't want to ruin your date Em, I just needed to talk to someone. Hospitals get to me a bit."

"Nonsense I'll be right over, where are you."

"The hospital, Ward B2, second floor on the right."

"Hang tight, sweet heart, I'll be there in a jiffy. See you soon."

"Thank you Em, I'll see you soon."

Nat rang off, I turned to Caitlyn who was looking concerned. "Shaun's been hurt, Nat's at the hospital. Sorry to cut our date short, but she needs me," I said.

"No that's fine, if you like I'll come with you for moral support, plus I like to think both of them are becoming friends with me, too."

"I'm sure Nat and Shaun will appreciate you coming. Let's go find a taxi."

We made our way to the local taxi rank and jumped in the first cab we saw. It wasn't far to the local hospital, but still I was quite anxious. Nat had sounded pretty rough on the phone. Caitlyn, picking up on my anxiety, held one of my hands. When we pulled up to the hospital, I hurriedly paid and we raced in. After getting a little lost, we found our way to the right ward with some help from a passing doctor. We located where Shaun was and made our way over. He was in a room surrounded by machines and drips, his body all bandaged up. His face was barely recognisable, all bloodied and bruised. Sitting by his bed side was Nat, looking very small and afraid.

I rushed in, Nat threw herself into my arms, giving me a bone crushingly fierce hug.

"Oh Em, it's awful. I was waiting for him to show for lunch, and when he didn't I rang his mobile. A police office answered, told me Shaun had been attacked. I know we only knew each other for a short while, but it really hit me. This place is making me worse, I pick up all the emotions," she said as she began sobbing gently.

I held her tight and stroked her hair saying comforting words, "There, there, it'll be alright."

"I'm so glad you're here Em. They still don't know what happened. He's been unconscious since the attack. A group of people leaving the union last night found him lying outside faculty of chemistry, beaten to a pulp. Who would do such a thing," Nat said calming a bit.

“Is he going to be alright?” asked Caitlyn.

“They say it was touch and go for a while. He took quite a few knocks to the head. They think he will be OK now they have him stabilised. His parents will be coming to see him, but they are a fair way away, so haven't got here yet. I've been keeping him company,” Nat replied.

“I thought I saw some vending machines round the corner. Why don't we get you some coffee and maybe something to eat. You must be hungry.”

“I don't want to leave him, in case he wakes up,” Nat said.

“It's OK, I'll stay so there is someone here if he wakes,” said Caitlyn.

“Thank you Caitlyn, I guess I could use something to eat.”

As I took her hand and led her out, Caitlyn took up her seat. We walked to a small waiting area I had seen that had some vending machines. I got Nat a coffee and some fairly dodgy looking sandwiches, that were the extent of the food on offer. I guess it was better than nothing. Nat ate them fairly mechanically, washing the bites down with the coffee. She looked pretty drained.

“Hospitals really take it out of me, there are a lot of powerful emotions. When I was here with you it was just as bad when I wasn't sure you were going to be OK. Once I knew you were going to be OK, I could block it out better. But right now that I'm worried about Shaun, as well it's hard to focus,” she said.

I gave her a hug, “I'm sure he'll be OK. He's in the best place to get well again. I'm sure he'll be up and about again in no time.”

We wandered back to the room where Caitlyn was waiting watching over Shaun. She stood up and let Nat take the seat at Shaun's bed side. We took some seats at the end of the bed, hand in hand. We tried to keep Nat's spirits up by talking to her and telling her jokes and so forth. We managed to get a smile out of her, which made the endeavour worthwhile.

While we were attempting to get her to laugh, unnoticed to all of us, Shaun's eyes opened, “Ah this is a nice way to wake up, with three beautiful women at my bedside. Though I could do without the bandages.”

“Shaun!” squeaked Nat and clasped his hand, “I was so worried. Are you OK?”

“I think so,” he said sounding a little woozy.

“I'll go and tell the nurses you're awake, they may want to do tests or some such,” I said.

I went and found a nurse and let them know Shaun was awake. Sure enough, they had lots of tests to run. We were shooed out of the way so they could work, so we went and sat in the waiting room while they did their thing. Some time later we saw police officers head towards his room. Obviously they had been waiting to speak to him to find out what had happened. As we continued to wait, I could see Nat was becoming more her old self, more the happy person I knew and loved. It was good to see her becoming herself again, she had been quite subdued earlier.

A while later a gentleman and woman came rushing in looking around very worried, they disappeared off down towards Shaun's room, but came back and sat still looking concerned.

I took a gamble, “Excuse me, you wouldn't happened to be Shaun's parents would you?”

“Yes we are, are you friends of his?” the man asked.

“Yes, I'm Emily, this is Caitlyn, and this is Natalie,” I answered.

“They won't let us see him. He's been taken for some sort of scan,” the woman I assumed Shaun's Mother said.

“He only woke up a few moments ago,” said Natalie, “we were sitting with him, keeping him company before that.”

“Oh that's very nice of you. You wouldn't happened to be the same Natalie as this new girlfriend he's been telling us about?” asked Shaun's father.

“Yes, unless he's seeing another Natalie as well as me,” said Nat with a twinkle in her eye.

“Ha ha, well I doubt that,” he replied.

“You say he woke up. Did he seem OK?” asked Shaun's mother.

“He seemed fine,” Caitlyn told her. “He made some comment about how nice it was to wake up with three beautiful girls at his bedside, which seemed reasonably in character.”

“Yes that sounds like him, always joking,” said Shaun's mother with a smile.

They had begun to relax a bit, now they knew he had been awake and talking and it seemed OK to us they weren't so frantic.

“Do you know what happened to him?” asked Shaun's Father.

“No, I was supposed to meet him for lunch today and when he didn't show up I called, only to be told he was in the hospital. It was very distressing. I got only scraps of information some one attacked him on campus last night. But no one seemed to know what had happened. Before we could ask him anything we were kicked out,” said Nat.

“We saw the police heading in the direction of his room, so maybe they will have some answers,” I said.

“It's very distressing not knowing,” said Shaun's mother.

At this point I shifted one of my lower arms, which up until now I had been keeping out of the way, folded round my middle. I was just absently using it to scratch an itch, something I hadn't even realised I could do with them, when Shaun's mother let out a sharp exclamation of surprise.

She startled me and it took me a moment to realise what she had been surprised about. She had obviously been too preoccupied to notice my additional arms before, and with them folded up they weren't so obvious.

“Oh ... I'm sorry, how rude of me,” she said, “it just was a little surprising.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot. I haven't quite got used to them myself. yet. I only got them a week or so ago,” I said.

"So ... Er ... How do you know Shaun? Are you a friend of Natalie's?" she asked.

"Well, I'm her roommate," I said.

"And you dear?" she said turning to Caitlyn.

"I know Shaun and Natalie through Emily. I'm her girlfriend," Caitlyn replied matter of factly.

"Oh, I see," said Shaun's mother looked a little surprised.

Shaun's Father asked Nat, "So how did you and Shaun meet?"

"Emily introduced us," said Nat grinning.

"Oh yes," he said, turning to me look at me, obviously interested by this new piece of information.

“Yeah, why don't you tell the story Em,” said Nat looking mischievous.

I tried to work out a way to phrase our initial meeting and resultant relationships without offending anyone. Not knowing Shaun's parents, I worked out a PG version of events.

"Well, a last week I was in the library getting some books when I was grabbed by this guy who had been stalking me. Shaun and Caitlyn came to my rescue and were kind enough to be witnesses for me so I could make a complaint against the guy. Afterwards we went for some drinks to relax a bit, the events having been a bit trying on my nerves. We got to be ... friendly and a while later Natalie came to collect me. We hit it off and the four of us went for coffee together the next day. One thing led to another and we sort of paired up," I said.

“Well that's the kiddies version of what happened. Truth is, I found Emily kissing both Shaun and Caitlyn in a sort of contest for her affections. She decided she liked Caitlyn better. luckily I was there to console Shaun,” Nat said with a grin.

“Natalie!” I said, a little shocked. What was she up to, telling these strangers things like that? I was so embarrassed, I could feel myself blushing. I must have turned bright red.

“You made her blush again,” smiled Caitlyn clasping herself to me, “You are very cute when you blush, baby,” she said and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Shaun's parents were chuckling along with Nat. I guess I should be grateful they found this amusing.

“Losing out to a girl in a kissing contest. That must wound his pride a little. I'm sure his brother and sister will get a laugh out of hearing that,” chuckled Shaun's father, “though given the consolation prize, I guess he wasn't too put out.”

“Shaun has always prided himself on being a ladies man, with, as he would have it, epic powers of seduction. To lose out to a girl in such a contest has probably knocked him down a peg or two, and quite time too. He could be insufferable, boasting to his younger brother or antagonising his twin sister. You've done them a great service, young Emily,” said Shaun's mother.

I thought maybe they were doing Shaun a bit of a disservice. I got the feeling he had grown up a lot while at university. However, I kept quiet. I didn't want to ruin things, since they seemed to be going so well.

“Yes you'd best watch out, Natalie. He can be a handful, the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, so he says,” Shaun's Father said.

“Well at the moment he doesn't seem to have feelings in that direction, but it's still early days so we'll see,” grinned Nat.

At this point some doctors called Shaun's parents off to talk to them. Not being immediate family we were left in the waiting room. A short while later Shaun's father came in and motioned for us to follow him.

He walked us back to Shaun's room, "The doctors say he is doing fine, a few broken bones, a few knocks, but nothing life threatening. They are going to keep him overnight as a precaution due to the head injury, but he should be out tomorrow," he said, looking relieved.

"Oh that's good news," said Nat.

We walked into Shaun's room, he was sitting up in bed talking to his Mother.

He smiled, "Hey girls, you're back! I was beginning to wonder if I'd dreamed that you three were here."

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"Better. They've given me some painkillers so I'm feeling vaguely human," Shaun said.

"You look pretty beat up. What happened to you?" asked Caitlyn.

"It was the strangest thing. I was on my way to rugby practice when this rock hit me from behind. I spun round to see who had thrown it but there was no one there. I carried on a bit more cautious, then I heard something behind me. I spun to see this large stick flying at me. I managed to dodge it, I still couldn't see who was throwing this stuff. It was dark, but even so I should have been able to see at least a figure. More debris started coming at me, bigger stuff. I tried to dodge it, but there was a lot. I took a few hits and I decided to leg it. Stuff kept hitting me, but now I was on the move it was mostly missing. I passed the bike stands outside of chemistry, I was headed for the union in hopes that my unseen attacker would leave off in a public place, or at least show themselves. I was suddenly hit from behind by something big. I tumbled to the ground, finding one of the bikes on top of me. I tossed it off only to get struck on the head by one of those metal cylindrical litter bins they have about campus. It left me pretty woozy, so I can't be sure what happened next, but I could swear it lifted off me then slammed back down without anyone touching it. I was out of it after that, till I woke up to see your lovely faces looking down on me," he answered.

No one said anything for a while. Then Nat piped up with, "That's weird!"

We nodded, "Maybe the darkness combined with the hit to the head made your memory fuzzy," suggested Caitlyn.

"That's what the police reckoned," said Shaun. "They said without any witnesses coming forward they'll have a devil of a time finding who did this."

"Well maybe someone will come forward," I said. "There are usually a fair few people coming and going round campus, even at that time of night."

"We can only hope," said Shaun's mother.

At this point the police returned. They wanted to talk to Nat. She told them she had been at the hall bar all that evening, so couldn't really help them. When asked if anyone could back that up she gave them my name. I was asked a few questions just to confirm Nat's whereabouts, then they wished us a good evening and left.

We chatted with Shaun and his parents some more. His Dad even began teasing him about loosing to Caitlyn in our kissing contest, where I was the prize. He seemed to take this reasonably well.

Pretty soon it was nearly dinner time. We said our goodbyes and headed home. We got to our house just in time for dinner, I said goodbye to Caitlyn and thanked her for the wonderful picnic. She gave me a goodbye kiss, then was off to her own hall. We dumped our stuff then headed over for dinner. I was pretty preoccupied during dinner, I was thinking about what Shaun had said about the attack. it didn't make much sense to me. He’d said that nothing had been taken from him, so that seemed to suggest this wasn't a mugging, but that would suggest some one was out to hurt him. He couldn't think of anyone that would do that, and even though I hadn't known him very long he didn't seem like the type to gather a lot of enemies. His description of the attack itself was troubling, someone pelting him with rocks and other items from a distance. then knocking him out. It was very odd he hadn't even seen his assailant. Even if they had thrown things at long range, you would think you would at least catch a glimpse. They couldn't be that far away or they wouldn't have done that sort of damage or been able to catch up to render him unconscious. All in all, it was very strange.

“Penny for them,” said Nat.

“Huh?” was my eloquent reply.

“You looked miles away.”

“Oh, I was just thinking about what Shaun said about the attack. It doesn't seem to make much sense.”

“Yeah, I thought the same, I've been trying to put it out of my mind. Shaun's OK and on the mend, that's all that matters now.”

“I guess you're right.”

“How was your picnic?”

“Lovely, it was a smashing day and Caitlyn had got some wonderful treats to eat. We sat in the park in the shade of a tree, ate our food then just lay in the shade for a bit. We had a walk and talked a bit, she asked me a load of questions about you. Then we had ice cream. Caitlyn has scarily good hearing. She could pick out an ice cream van way off in the distance. I couldn't hear a thing.”

“She asked about me?”

“Yeah, wanted to know about our friendship.”

“Ah, I see. Wanted to check you weren't harbouring some deep seated unrequited love for me.”

“Was that what she was after? I suppose that makes sense.”

“She's been worried about me a little. She hides it well, but I can feel it when she looks at the two of us talking. I figured she was worried you had feelings for me that you had been hiding and that she was just some desperate attempt to get me to notice you. Now you are all sexy.”

“She thinks that?”

“Well I'm extrapolating a little. I only get the bass line, I'm missing the rest of the tune. I would imagine, in her position I'd feel the same way. Your girlfriend is roommates with a very attractive woman, and obviously very friendly with her, it would ring some alarm bells.”

“Hmm, well I hope I set her straight, I told her we were best friends, like sisters even.”

Nat looked at me forlornly, “What? You mean you don't want me, after I killed off Shaun so we could be together! Oh Emily, how can you hurt me like this after all I've done for you.”

I was a little surprised by this to say the least and was trying to work out what to say, when Nat burst into giggles, “Got ya! Oh, your face was classic. If your eyebrows went any higher they'd be clean off your face.”

“Natalie,” I scolded, “you are evil! You shouldn't even say something like that. It could get you in loads of trouble.”

“Bah, you're no fun.”

“I still haven't got you back for dropping me in it with Shaun's parents. I was so embarrassed.”

“Relax they were cool. Shaun had told me about them and I was reading their emotions, so I knew they wouldn't freak out about it.”

“Even so, I didn't know that. I thought I was going to have to do a runner or something.”

“Well, I apologise. I didn't mean to embarrass you. Honestly, Em. I know what you feel about me. I feel the same way, we are sisters emotionally, if not biologically. If you had been in love with me, I would have found some way to break it gently to you that I wasn't interested in girls. Maybe helped you find a girlfriend or some such. Still, I think the first time I've seen you actually infatuated with someone is with Caitlyn. Even with that creep Mark, before he got all weird, I could tell you didn't feel it. You were trying it out, hoping maybe you'd feel something.”

“Yeah, but now I have Caitlyn, and though it is still early days, I'm enjoying it so far.”

“Good for you Em. I know Caitlyn is crazy about you, so I'm hopeful.”

I had an idea of how to return the favour for her tricks earlier, “I guess now I've got a girlfriend I can give you back all that dirty underwear of yours I stole. I won't need them any more I can satisfy my needs elsewhere,” I deadpanned.

Nat's jaw hit the floor and her expression became an odd hybrid of shock and disgust, “Ha ha ha, got ya!” I cried.

“Oh jeez, Emily, that is gross. I knew you were kidding, but man, it set some horrific imagery floating through my head. I think I need to go wash my brain out with industrial strength detergent to try and clean that nastiness away.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head as if trying to force the imagery out, “AH! It won't go away! God, I hope I don't dream about that tonight.”

I giggled at her antics, “I guess that makes us even now.”

“I don't know about that, I think you owe me a drink for that one. I'm going to have to start inventorying all my underwear, just to prevent my head from conjuring up filthy pictures of what you are up to with it. Next time I lose a sock I'm going to be a basket case.”

“What if it's not a sock you lose?”

She covered her ears. “LALALALA I can't hear you!” she cried.

“Tell you what, I'll get you that drink. You've had a tough day, I think you deserve it.”

She smiled, “That's nice of you, it has been a bit of a roller-coaster. Better make it a soft drink though, I've still got some stuff to do.”

We headed into the hall bar and had a quick drink. It was pretty quiet in the bar, it being the middle of the week. We had a quick game of table football and then headed back. Both of us sat down to get some work done. With all the stuff that had been happening I was a little behind with projects.

I got to the point where I was making no progress and I decided to read for a bit. I turned to find Nat was laying out all her underwear on the bed and counting it. I burst out laughing at this,  and she soon joined in.

“Do you know how long I waited all set up, for you to finish working”,” she giggled. “Comedy is a lot of effort.”

We laughed a bit more and then we began settling in for the night. it had been a strange day with some surprises that had tired us both out. I had completely forgotten to look at my pictures of the picnic, ah it could wait till tomorrow. I settled in, starting to get the hang of going to sleep with all these arms, and dreamt of hunting wild ice cream vans with Caitlyn.

Chapter 8

I woke up to the usual morning bustle, a rush to get breakfast and off to lectures. Ours didn't start till a bit later, so we were somewhat more at our leisure than some of our colleagues. We sat with our housemates for breakfast and talked. We told them about what had happened to Shaun and they were horrified.

“Right in the middle of campus!?” said Jenny.

“It's very worrying that someone could just be attacked like that and no one saw anything,” Laura said, “I mean Shaun's a big bloke. Imagine if it were one of us girls attacked like that.”

“Yeah,” said Nat. “What bothers me most is there doesn't appear to be any motive for it.”

I nodded, “It does seem odd. Usually there'd be some reason behind it.”

“Maybe it was just random,” said Tom. “I had a mate, Jake, over at Southampton uni, who was walking home from something and some nutter just bottled him for no reason. He had to get a load of stitches and got a really mean looking scar. Course in his case he was quite near the bar and it was some bloke who'd had too much to drink that did it. It doesn't sound like this is the same thing.”

“Maybe it was one of those anti-MORFS idiots,” suggested John.

“I know that those sort have attacked people in the past, but why would they attack Shaun? He's not been changed by MORFS,” said Nat.

“Maybe because he's friends with people who have undergone MORFS, like Emily,” John said.

“Seems a bit of a flimsy reason. There are loads of people who have friends who have been changed by MORFS. Why single out Shaun? Seems to me there must be more to it than that,” I said.

We sat in silence for a bit thinking, it was a fairly depressing topic, so we switched to other things.

“So are you going to see Caitlyn again today?” asked Nat.

“Might do at, maybe after lunch. I had such a wonderful time with her at the picnic she made me yesterday,” I said.

“Caitlyn made you a picnic?” asked Laura.

“Yeah, the two of them were out picnicking together in the park,” said Nat.

“Wow, sexy, and she makes picnics. You're a lucky girl, Em,” said Laura.

I smiled, I guess I was very lucky. I had good friends and a wonderful new girlfriend. Things could certainly have been worse. We finished up our breakfast, then got ready to head up to campus, I grabbed my stuff then me and Nat had a leisurely walk up.

When we got to the gates I saw the anti-MORFS protesters where still out in force, it seemed like there were a few less than yesterday. Kathy was still there shooting me angry glares. She even moved to stop me, but one of the others held her back. They had obviously been warned about stopping people and what that would mean.

Lectures were same as always, high points and low points. By the time lunch came around I was ready for a break. I checked my phone and found a message from Caitlyn saying she couldn't meet me for lunch. I was a little upset as I had been looking forward to seeing her. She ended her message by saying she might see me later, I texted back,  saying “I would love to see you tonight.”

I went to hall for lunch with Nat. As we were leaving campus, this guy stopped us. It took me a second to recognise him, but it was Mark Bishop.

MORFS had changed him a little he looked a little taller his hair and eyes were a different colour. It was a host of little alterations that made it tough at first glance to see who it was.

“Emily, it's me, Mark. I've changed and I know I look different, but it is me,” He said.

“What do you want, tosser?” said Nat. “Didn't they tell you to leave her alone after you attacked her in the library?”

He completely ignored Natalie and looked straight at me, his eyes now a piercing blue, “Please, Emily try to understand. I wasn't in my right mind that day. I was in the early stages of MORFS, you know what that's like. I was confused and I acted in a manner that I'm ashamed of. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.”

“Look Mark I don't care if that one time could be understood. I don't want to be with you. Please leave me alone. Find someone else who does want to be with you, like I have,” I said, trying to be reasonable despite every instinct telling me to run.

“No Emily! I can change. Please give me a chance. I can be who ever you want me to be,” he said pleadingly.

“Ha, for you to be what she wants would require some fairly major surgery or else another case of MORFS,” said Nat.

Mark shot her an angry look and moved closer to me. “Please. Emily, we are meant to be together!” he cried.

“No Mark, we were never meant to be together. Leave me alone, I'm with someone else now,” I said, getting angry that he wouldn't take the hint.

“We are soul mates! You are bound to me!” he cried manically, and lunged at me, grabbing my arms.

“Get your grubby little hands off her or I'll break them off!” said Nat menacingly.

He turned to look at her with a nasty sneer on his face, “You can't stop me! No one can stop me! This is destiny!”

I decided enough was enough, and kneed him in the groin. He collapsed to the floor, moaning in pain. Nat walked over and gave him a kick to the ribs. At this point some campus security people showed up. We quickly explained what was going on. They grabbed the still incapacitated Mark and marched him over to the Student Union where a lot of the offices were. I talked again to one of the staff, a pleasant woman who seemed like a good listener. She assured me that Mark would be punished and made fully aware of the fact that he was not to bother me again. She also said she would speak to the police about him, to see if there were any additional measures we could take, like a restraining order or some such. She was not a legal expert, but she assured us that all the complaints and witnesses names and addresses were on file, so they could give the police anything they needed.

We headed off to lunch a little shaken, but OK, if a little jumpy. I kept half expecting Mark to leap out from behind every bush we passed to have another go at me. I was glad Nat was there to put my mind somewhat at ease. I felt a bit better after lunch and was able to face my afternoon lectures with somewhat renewed vigour.

After the day was finished, I spent a little time in the library looking things up for a project. Some time in the computer rooms doing a little surfing and emailing. I had got a mail from my mother asking how things were going. I detailed some of my recent adventures, leaving out the more unsettling aspects. I didn't want her worrying too much about me. I got a call from Caitlyn as I was on my way back to the house. she offered to take me out later that evening to some sort of university club she thought I would be interested in. I accepted and arranged to meet her at the house after dinner.

Then I joined Nat in welcoming Shaun back from hospital. He was looking a lot better, and with a little help was up and about again. His parents were taking him out to celebrate his release and give him something other than hospital food. They invited Nat and I along. I declined due to my plans with Caitlyn but wished them well. They asked if we knew any good restaurants and I was quick to recommend the place my mum had taken me. I headed back to hall to get some dinner before Caitlyn took me to the mysterious club she had mentioned. She had been quite cagey on the details but had said I would fit right in, whatever that meant. I decided to let her have her fun, it was the least I could do to repay her for the picnic.

With dinner out of the way I did a little work while I waited for Caitlyn to come and get me. I was just about caught up again from my week off from MORFS, but couldn't afford to slack off too much. By the time I heard a knock at my door, I had got most of the stuff I needed to do done. I grabbed my big coat and then opened the door to find Caitlyn waiting.

“Cool coat, Emily. It looks really good on you. Where on earth did you get a leather coat with six arms?” she asked.

“That same place I mentioned the other day, that makes custom designed clothes for people with additional limbs or other strange body types. It's down by the ice rink, called Wings and Tails. I got a lot of my clothing there. They have an automated process. Mum had this made as a present for me, it's not real leather, but it's a pretty good imitation.”

“It is a really swish coat. I might have to check this clothes shop out. Getting things to accommodate my tail can be problematic.”

“The do a load of off the rack stuff for the more standard alterations, so you'd probably find a fair amount of stuff to fit you. Me being somewhat unusual, I had to go for the custom job.”

“Yeah, I guess getting clothing for you must be tough, I'll have to remember that for birthdays and the like.”

“Well, my top half is the problematic part, the rest of me is fairly normally shaped.”

“Right, so saucy knickers is doable but not a top. Got ya.”

I raised an eyebrow, “we are still talking about presents for me.”

Caitlyn. Grinned, “Hey, just because I can get enjoyment out of it had no bearing on the matter.”

“Hmm, I guess for you I'd have to get ones that were tail friendly. Maybe something in a thong.”

“Hey now who’s talking about buying things for their own enjoyment. Anyway, you little minx, we must be off, or we'll be late.”

She grabbed my arm and led  off. I pulled the door to and then we headed out. I had worn the coat partly to show it off to Caitlyn, but now we were out, I was glad I had it on, as it was a wet and blowy night. I pulled my coat a little tighter, Caitlyn put her arm around me hugging me tight, to avoid some of the wind and rain.

“So what is this thing you're taking me to?” I asked.

“Oh you'll see,. I want it to be a surprise,” she answered with a wink.

We walked up to campus and then she led me up to one of the languages buildings. It was one of the older large 3 story blocks with a vaguely industrial look. The place was so quiet at night, almost eerie With all the normally bustling corridors silent and the rooms empty.

Caitlyn lead us to one of the classrooms where the lights were on and I could hear people moving about. She opened the door and led me in. I was confronted by a large room with maybe thirty people. All seemed to be hybrids, or physically unusual. A sea of faces and attached wings, tails, and all sorts turned to face me. Most of the people looked interested in me, a couple looked vaguely displeased, like I was intruding somehow. The atmosphere was a little cold to me. I wasn't sure Caitlyn had been right about me fitting in, I self consciously moved back a bit, positioning myself behind Caitlyn. A tall partial lizard hybrid walked over, seemingly in charge.

"Hello, Caitlyn, who's this?" he asked.

"Hi Ross. This is my girlfriend, Emily," she answered.

He looked at me assessingly, "Not to be rude, but you know this meeting is only for hybrids and the like. Why have you brought her here?"

"She's like us," she said and turned to me. "Hold out your arms so they can see them."

I had tucked my extra arms deep in the pockets so they sort of blended in with the black of my coat. I tentatively moved them and held them out away from my body. All the eyes in the room were on me, which was a bit disquieting. Almost immediately, I saw people relax a bit and I got quite a few smiles. The place became much more welcoming all of a sudden, as if now they knew I was different, they were happy to meet me.

“Well, I can see you are indeed one of us,” said Ross. “Sorry for the somewhat frosty reception, but we have on occasion got people who come along to treat us like the circus side show. So we are fairly picky when it comes to admitting new members.”

“So this is some sort of club then?” I asked.

“Caitlyn didn't tell you?”

“No she just told me she was taking me somewhere, and that it was a surprise.”

“Well, let me welcome you properly, then. This is the weekly meeting of the Crystal society, so called after Crystal Moore the original founder. Crystal was one of the early cases of MORFS so faced hurdles we can't even imagine. Still, she was a very strong willed person and managed to come here to university in those early years when fear and prejudice were even worst than today. She found that there was a lot of discrimination, especially against hybrids and other physically altered students, of which she was one. She started a club for students with those sorts of changes, allowing them to get together and meet in a friendly understanding environment amongst people like them. It started as a few friends and became a small club, gaining more recognition as its membership increased. It gradually became more than a social club, as it grouped people together and allowed them to fight for their rights, a goal we have tried to continue to this day. She helped remove a policy that saw hybrids kept in isolated accommodation, away from all other student. She also helped overturn a ban on hybrids in the student union, and many other unjust restrictions.

“Crystal is now a lawyer and political activist fighting for MORFS rights. I believe she also hopes to be the first hybrid MP. A few years back the club changed its name to honour its founder. It had for years been informally known as the Crystal society, so we just made it official. I'm told Crystal herself is somewhat overwhelmed to be treated as the figurehead for what was many people’s work, though supposedly, almost all of the early members say that without her determination and effort, much of what they achieved would never have happened. Anyway, enough about the past. we basically continue the tradition of the original club, a fun friendly place that offers a way to meet new friends who know what you are going through, and we organise social events for our membership. We try to use our influence to help our membership and all like us. Our membership fee is fairly small, and we charge only for trips and the like. Your first meeting is free, so you can see if you belong. We generally have a bit of an informal get-together to start off, then a meeting later, sometimes a film, or presentation from one of our members. But right now, feel free to wander and meet some of our membership. I'll let Caitlyn show you around and introduce you to everyone, but if you need anything, please feel free to ask.”

I smiled and nodded, and he wandered back to the group he had been chatting to. I turned back to Caitlyn who was standing there grinning at me, “So what do you think?” she asked.

“Hmm it's ... interesting,” I said, “I wasn't sure if they were going to lynch me initially.”


“Well some of them have had it pretty tough and this is like their safe haven,” Caitlyn said, “at first glance with your arms out of sight, you don't look like you are different. They don't like the idea of someone coming here to get their jollies staring at the freaks. They get that enough the rest of the time.”

“Well I can understand that. I dislike the staring too. I guess I'm lucky in that I can hide my differences some of the time,” I said.

“Well no need to hide here. Come on, let's dump our coats and have a wander around.”

I took my coat off and placed it with Caitlyn's. Then she began taking me round the room. I was introduced to everyone and there was much shaking of hands, paws, and various other limbs. After a while, to save on time I used my three arms to shake three hands at the same time which seemed to amuse people a little. Everyone seemed really warm and friendly welcoming me to the club. I forgot most of the names straight away. I recognised a few of the people from around campus, so some probably would stick but it was a bit overwhelming. I got quite a lot of comments on my clothes by the girls I talked to. They were all really impressed with my tops and coat and wanted to know where I got them. After the amount of referrals I gave, I would think Charlie would owe me a fairly large commission.

It was nice to meet more people that had been through something like what I had. Some seemed to have got it far worse than I had, but then I guess everything is relative. The membership seemed to run the gamut from full hybrid, to partial, to concealed, as well as a few that defied easy categorisation. Pretty soon Ross called for order and everyone took a seat to listen to him. Caitlyn and I sat fairly near the front in amongst the other rows of people.

“Well good evening everyone, good to see you all here again. Just a few announcements. The run to raise money for the home for runaway MORFS kids is end of the month. So those of you who are entering should try and get the sponsor forms filled out. The boat trip looks to be a possibility, tickets around the usual 20 or so quid per person, then drink and food is extra. There will be music and possibly even dancing. We are allowing people to bring along a single non-member guest if they so desire. Amy, anything from you?” Ross said.

A small girl with a slight protruding muzzle and prominent front teeth stood up, “We are trying to get the university to get more full time people in the counseling service trained to help those going through issues with MORFS. Also, many of you will have seen the rather objectionable protest group that has been out front the last few days. We are pressuring to have them kicked off campus on the grounds their slogans are breaching the universities anti-discrimination policies. So far it's slow going. Try not to engage them, if they try to stop you entering the university, campus security should step in. If they do harass you, let us know. It gives us more ammunition to get them shut down permanently. Please try not react to them. I know it's tough, they are a nasty bunch. But by ignoring them, we hurt them more than anything else. That's all I have,” she said.

"Other than that, we have a prospective new member here today, Emily. Hopefully most of you will have had a chance to meet her earlier. Emily, why don't you come up front and introduce yourself," Ross said.

I nervously made my way to the front and then gave everyone a wave, which Caitlyn returned, "Hello, I'm Emily Owen. I'm a first year engineering student. I changed about a week or so ago, gaining these," I said waving my additional arms. "It's nice to meet you all."

“I hope you all make her feel welcome and convince her to join up permanently. If that’s all … let’s hit the bar,” Ross said.

Everyone stood up and began filing out of the room, Caitlyn came over and grabbed my arm steering me along with the group. We retrieved our coats and followed the crowd down to the student union. We went into the main bar and were soon queuing for drinks. A few people who seemed to be friendly with Caitlyn had grouped around us, so I was all set to get a round in for everyone.

When I tried, one of the girls a squirrel hybrid waved me off, “As a membership incentive, prospective members don’t pay for any drinks on their first meeting,” she said with a smile.

“That could get dangerous,” I said.

“Heavy drinker are you?” she replied with a smile.

“Well, last time I was in here drinking I ended up snogging with a guy and girl.”

“Ha ha, what did your girlfriend Caitlyn think of that?”

“Well that’s how she became my girlfriend. She was the girl in that little party.”

“Well all's well that ends well,” she grinned. “I’m Melanie by the way. We were introduced before, but if you’re anything like me you’ll have completely forgotten most of the names by now.”

“Yeah pretty much, it’s just a blur of faces and handshakes now.”

She handed me a drink, which was some bright pink sweet alcoholic concoction, “Well cheers, everyone, and welcome to Emily. I hope she decides to join,” said Melanie.

Everyone clinked glasses and began sipping our beverages. I tried not to quaff my drink too enthusiastically, not wanting to get too drunk with these new potential friends and make a fool of myself. It seemed they had other ideas though, as every time I even approached finishing my drink another one would appear. I was soon fairly tipsy and my inhibitions fairly loose. Caitlyn was also more frisky than usual, with one hand squeezing my backside. I went one better and used two hands while still having a spare hand to hold my drink. She giggled and gave me a kiss. Whatever she was drinking tasted like cherries, and so did she.

“Does anyone fancy a game of pool or table football?” one of the girls asked.

“Oh! Em, show them and me how good you are at table football. Nat told me yesterday what a wizard you are and I want to see,” chirped Caitlyn excitedly, practically jumping up and down with excitement.

“Do you want to play doubles?” asked the girl.

“She can play doubles by herself,” grinned Caitlyn.

“I have enough arms for all the handles, though I’m probably a bit handicapped by drink at the moment,” I said, sipping more of my drink.

“Cool, an easy opponent. Mel, we can take her on,” said the girl.

“Okay, Katie,” Melanie said.

We moved over to the tables and put down our money, waiting while the current game finished. The current people were really good with all sorts of fancy passing techniques. They seemed to be able to get loads of power into each shot without moving the handles much, just sort of clasping their hands to twist the grips. They also seemed to have a really high degree of control over the ball, stopping it and then passing it back and forth between their men, before striking suddenly to cut through the defences. I watched carefully, trying to work out the tricks to it, but it looked like a lot of it required a lot of practice to get right, and probably someone who was less inebriated than me. Still, it was interesting to see someone who was really good at the game. It was a very different experience from some of the previous games I had seen, which were predominantly waving arms and spinning of handles.

When the pros had finished we got our turn, with plenty of the crystal people gathering round, Caitlyn was acting as my cheerleader to a degree. Once again it took me a little while to get back into things, and compensating for my elevated blood alcohol level took a bit of time. As a result, Katie and Melanie took the early lead, but once I got back into things I began to claw back their advantage. It was a tough game, going to the last ball, much like my previous first games. Maybe if I practised, I would get better at starting off. Melanie and Katie fought tooth and nail to stop me winning, but in the end they couldn’t beat my superior reaction time and coordination. I gained a cheer and a kiss from my fan club and my opponents offered me a drink, which I politely accepted. I rather suspect they were hoping they could get me drunk enough that they could easily beat me in a rematch, but a group of other people grabbed the table, stacking up enough coins to last them into next week, so their plans were foiled.

We whiled away the rest of the evening drinking talking and laughing. By the end of the evening, Caitlyn and myself had both had a lot to drink and were quite drunk. It was getting quite late and the bar was closing, so we said farewell to the club and were on our way. Caitlyn insisted that I was too drunk to walk back to the house on my own so I should come and stay at her place. I was in no state to disagree, so that’s where we went. Much of the journey was fuzzy, but I ended up in Caitlyn’s bed with Caitlyn curled up on top of me both of us pretty much fully clothed. It wasn’t how I pictured our first time in bed together, but I guess both of us were too far gone to even figure out how buttons and zips worked, let alone be amorous.


Chapter 9

I woke up with Caitlyn still asleep on top of me, I also had a splitting headache. Much as I hated to wake her, she looked so cute curled up against me, but I needed some water and some painkillers.

I decide to wake her in the right way by gently stroking her tail which had wrapped itself around my arms, and giving her a kiss on the forehead.

She slowly came awake with a slightly purring sigh, “Mmrrrrrrmm,” she said then becoming more aware of her self, “OW my head! Ohh I feel like I’m stuck in a tumble dryer on the fast spin with a bunch of rocks. I’ll never drink again.”

“I know how you feel, sweetie, do you have any aspirin or some such?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’ll get us some and a few glasses of water.” She  reluctantly got up, and clutching her head, started rummaging through drawers for some painkillers. After she finally located some she got us some water and we sat on the bed to recover.

Caitlyn sat next to me her head resting on my shoulder. “Blerg! Well, apart from the hangover, did you enjoy the evening out with the club?”

“It was fun. They all seem like a nice bunch of people. I think I need to hold off on joining in with the drinking next time, as I don’t think I’m going to be much use in lectures this morning.” Then it hit me. “Oh, Damn! I didn’t tell Nat I was staying over here, she must be worried stiff!”

“Not to worry baby, I had the presence of mind to text her before I passed out. She offered to meet us for lunch. Shaun is still recovering, so it’ll just be the three of us.”

“Cool, though I’m not sure I want to even think about food for a bit yet.”

“Yeah, let’s go to the corner shop and get some of that orange sport drink. It really seems to help in situations like this.”

We staggered up off the bed and made ourselves more presentable. Sleeping in our clothes had not exactly left us looking our best. My hair was all over the place and it took quite a bit of effort to de-tangle it, at least to the point that it didn’t look like I had just been dragged backwards through a bush. Blinking, we eased our way out into the sunThe painkillers were gradually easing our suffering, but I still felt a bit rotten.

We walked down the road arm in arm, more for support at this stage, and went into the local corner shop. Caitlyn grabbed a load of bottles of an orange sports drink. We paid for them and then went down the street to a small grassed area with benches to drink them. The fresh breeze was doing wonders for cooling my tortured head as we drank the sweet orange flavoured concoction and gradually recovered. Once we had polished off a bottle or two each we were feeling more like ourselves again.

Caitlyn cuddled up next to me on the bench and put her arm around my waist. “So are you going to join the club permanently? The rest of the girls seemed to really like you and I know you’ll enjoy coming along each week and to the events.”

“Yeah I don’t see why not. It was nice to be in a room of people that understood what it was like to be different.”

“Cool, they’ve got the boat trip coming up, we can go dancing. I was going to ask you anyway, as my guest.”

“I’m not very good at dancing.”

She grinned, “I don’t care. I’ll wear my steel toecaps and we’ll have a great time.” .

We cuddled for awhile as the worst of our hangovers faded, then decided to make our way up to campus for a walk before meeting Nat for lunch. Caitlyn had some books to drop off at the library and I wanted to check my mail.

We leisurely walked  to the campus, taking our time and enjoying the day. The sun was out and it was nice, as the breeze kept it from getting too hot. As we approached the front gate I saw the protesters were still out, though seemingly only the hardcore. There were at most 15 people there now. Kathy was still amongst them, but it seemed most of the fanatics had got tired of standing out there all day, rather than sitting comfortably in lectures.

I got the obligatory angry stare. I felt a bit cocky, so I smiled back at her, wishing her a good morning. She turned bright red and shouted, “GET LOST FREAK!” back at me and moved as if to stop me.

Caitlyn leapt in front of me and made an angry hissing noise, which startled Kathy who stumbled backwards. Several of her remaining buddies came over and stood next to her facing off with Caitlyn. Most of them were big chaps. To see this small redhead facing them down totally fearlessly was a strange sight. It was even stranger, since I knew it was because of me.

One of the campus security people came over and told us all to move along. I took Caitlyn’s hand and led her off down towards campus. She never took her eyes off Kathy, making a low growling noise, her body tensed as if ready to pounce at any moment.

Eventually she seemed to snap out of it and put her arm around me again, “Sorry about that. It’s one of the instincts I got when I changed. I’m fiercely protective when the people I love are threatened.”

“That’s very sweet,” I replied and gave her a kiss.

On the way to the library, we passed the Student Union. There was some sort of commotion, with a crowd of people, a taped off area near the admin block, a few coppers, and an ambulance. We wandered over to see what was going on.

“What happened?” Caitlyn asked one of the spectators.

“One of the admin people committed suicide. Climbed up to the service tower and threw herself off. She landed on the concrete. Real mess, guess she couldn’t take listening to other people’s problems any more,” the girl said.

I glanced over and saw a figure laid out on a stretcher. They were just covering the body with a sheet. It was the woman I had seen yesterday. I gasped and covered my mouth in shock.

“What is it,” asked Caitlyn.

“I talked to her yesterday, she seemed fine, then. I can’t believe she’s gone and killed herself only a little while later.”

“You better tell the coppers, they might want to speak to you,” the girl said.

Caitlyn called over one of the police officers and I detailed my meeting with the woman. They noted everything down, but told me it probably wasn’t relevant. The woman had been having problems at home. Still, they recorded the information in case it was important.

That upset took a ;little of the shine off the day. I was deep in thought as we went into the library to drop off Caitlyn’s books. After she dropped them off we stood queuing for a tablet to become free so we could get our mail.

“Hey, cheer up Em. I’m sure that woman was just a very unhappy person,” Caitlyn told me, trying to get my mind back on track.

“Maybe, but I was with Nat. If she had been so tortured that she was going to off herself, surely Nat would have picked up on some of that,” I said.

“Hmm, maybe she was one of those people who is fine at work, when they are busy. But when they stop working, all the demons they suppress come out to haunt them,” Caitlyn suggested.

“I guess that’s possible,” I said, not very convinced, I kept thinking that given I had been talking to her only a few hours before, I should have spotted something. I ran over our meeting in my head loads of times, but I couldn’t spot even the slightest hint that she was a woman on the edge. I would have to speak with Nat about it later. Maybe with her additional senses she had picked something up that would shed some light on the subject. I pushed the incident to the back of my mind and tried to forget about it for now. We soon got to the front of the queue and got two terminals. When I checked my mail, after filtering out the spam, there were a few things from my family, various relatives that had heard about my change.

My grandmother on my father’s side had sent me a mail to see if I was alright. She had offered to knit me something for the winter and wanted my new dimensions. I replied with the measurements I knew and detailed my new appendages. A nice warm top would be good for the winter months and nothing beat a good woolly jumper. I hoped grandma could adapt the standard pattern to cope with six arms. I asked for a blue colour since it would be a nice contrast with my silver hair and eyes.

Once we were both done we headed over to the canteen to meet with Nat. We found her sitting, having already got her lunch. “What do you want Em?” Caitlyn asked.

“Oh I was thinking a chicken mayo sandwich and an orange crush, but I can get it.”

“No you take a seat! I’ll go get it for you,” she disappeared, off to join the queue.

Natalie had a wicked grin on her face and a gleam of mischief in her eyes, “So you spent the night in Caitlyn’s room. You little minx you. Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but we were way too wasted to do anything but sleep,” I replied.

“Oh come on!” she said incredulously. “You and little Caitlyn alone at last in a single bed? You must have done something.”

“Nothing. We were so far gone we slept in our clothes.”

Nat raised her eyebrows, “What! Damn! Now all the stories I spread about you and Caitlyn will just be way off.”

“You’ve been spreading stories?”

“Yeah. Well, more lies and innuendo by the sounds of it. There was lots of winking and nudging involved. Oh, and giggling. When you didn’t come back last night and I found out you were staying over at Caitlyn’s it seemed the logical conclusion. Plus Laura and Jenny were there so they made up their own versions of events.”

“But the whole house is going to think I’m some sort of slut!”

“What makes you think they didn’t already. Your exploits in the union bar are legendary and the fact that you are dating Caitlyn, someone whose own reputation is somewhat wild, only adds to the mythos.”


Natalie giggled, taking far too much joy in my discomfort.

“Oh … I saw something today that was a bit of a shock. That woman we went to see yesterday on the admin staff committed suicide.”

“What!?” exclaimed Natalie.

“Yeah, apparently she threw herself off the top of the building.”

“I don’t believe it! She seemed fine yesterday.”

“That’s what I thought. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I keep thinking I should have noticed something was wrong.”

“I didn’t sense anything with her that would suggest she was suicidal. I know I’m not a psychologist, so I bet I could easily be wrong, but she was happy, at least when we were with her.”

We sat in silence thinking about our encounter with the woman, Caitlyn returned a few moments later with sandwiches.

“What’s got into you two gloomy guts?” she asked.

“Sorry, just thinking about that woman,” I replied.

“Oh, don’t worry yourself too much, baby. I’m sure there was nothing you could have done.” Caitlyn put a try down. “Here, eat your sandwich. It will make you feel better.”

I gave her a smile and began munching on my sandwich. She was probably right. Maybe the woman had problems at home and it was only when she thought of them that she couldn’t take it. Maybe being distracted by my issues and those of other students had helped her last this long. Still it bothered me, something about it just didn’t seem to feel right. I guess maybe all such sudden and tragic events would feel the same way. I tried to push it to the back of my mind.

I noticed Nat lean over and whisper something to Caitlyn, who winked at her conspiratorially.

“So Caitlyn,” said Nat with a smirk, “how was she? You spent the night together. Was it all you hoped?”

“Oh it was incredible, such stamina! She went all night long,” she grinned.

“Really! Wow, and she said nothing happened,” Nat grinned.

“Don’t you believe it,” said Caitlyn, “She’s insatiable, wore me out so much I fell asleep in my clothes. The things she can do with those hands carry a quadruple x-rating.”

“Stop it, you two!” I said, blushing horribly.

“Oh we’re only teasing you, sweetie,” said Caitlyn, “You’re just so easy to embarrass, I couldn’t help myself.”

“She’s right. You get so red you look like you’re sunburnt,” giggled Nat.

I glared angrily at the two of them, “Oh come on, baby. Don’t be mad Here, let me make it up to you.” Caitlyn kissed me on the lips, which was pretty good as apologies go.

“So what did you really think? You got her into bed and nothing happened,” said Nat.

Caitlyn smiled. “Well I have to say it’s not what I hoped for, for our first night together, but I did find she is very comfy.” .

We finished our lunches and then Caitlyn had to go off to lectures. Nat suggested we nip back to the hall, get our gym kit and put in a session at the gym. It seemed a reasonable idea, I would get a shower out of it and our next lecture was last thing, so we had time to kill. We hurried backand grabbed changes of clothes and our gym kits. We made our way back up to the gym, once again passing the anti-MORFS lot, who seemed to have been on a break when we went out.

Kathy spotted me and shouted, “Not so tough now without the fuzz ball, are you freak!”

Nat and I waved to her with big smiles, which seemed to infuriate her even more. At the moment I felt pretty safe from Kathy anyway. Caitlyn might be ferocious, but she is little. Nat packed a lot more of a punch, without looking like she would, which in my mind, made her the more deadly of the two, though I’d never tell Caitlyn that. I might hurt her feelings, and she seemed to like the idea of being my protector.

We went into the gym. It was the usual side show stare-a-thon as I got changed and as we worked out. We did our best to shut out our audience and get on with things. We both pushed ourselves and encouraged each other. I was surprised to see both of us were doing better than we had before. I guess giving Nat someone to train against was good for her, as it was helping her expand on her limits. I got to see what my limits were, as well as improving my use of my new arms and hands, which, while not quite yet as flexible as my other limbs, were becoming more an instinctive part of me every day. We finished off, feeling tired, but good, and the hot shower did wonders. Sleeping in my clothes had left me feeling really grimy, which was compounded by the hard workout, so having a nice hot shower was wonderful and it felt good to get clean.

I changed into my clean clothes and then we headed off to our lecture. It was one of the more boring ones, and I had to fight to stay awake. I got to the point where I would find myself dozing off and jerk suddenly awake as my head started to fall. I wished I’d had the presence of mind to grab some coffee before coming to the lecture room. Even the nasty instant muck the machines served would have helped me through.

After the lecture was over, we put some time in on our projects. We each had to finish a project by the end of the year which would make up a fair chunk of the mark for the year. In later years, projects were worth a significant chunk of our final mark. Since the first year wasn’t worth a lot over all, maybe ten percent, it was more of an introduction so we would know what to expect. I was doing a bit of work on mobile robot localisation, basically how a robot worked out where it was in a room. It was interesting stuff. I got to do a bit of hardware, and a bit of software. Nat was working on a pure software project that involved evolving controllers for robots in a virtual environment. We tinkered away at our respective projects for an hour or so then made a move to get home for dinner.

In later years we would be working on projects in teams. I hoped that Nat and I could work together, as I had a feeling the two of us together with our complimentary skill sets would be good. Nat was a hacker. She would put things together and make them work with little time, but she didn’t have the patience to prettify things. I could spend hours doing lovely 3D interfaces, pulsing PWM lights, and fancy displays, without getting anything done on the actual desired functionality. I also knew bits of hardware, mechanics and electronics, whereas Nat was almost exclusively a software gal.

When we wandered down the hill to the hall, it seemed the anti-MORFS lot had packed up for the day. So we made our way out the front gate unmolested. Once we got back we dropped off our stuff then headed out for some dinner. We got there a bit late, so there was a pretty big queue. As we shuffled patiently towards the front with all the others, I crossed one set of arms in front of me, used another to prop myself up against the wall, then put the third set of hands in my pockets.

“You seem to be getting really comfortable with your new arms,” said Nat, “I see you using them for things, seemingly automatically.”

“Yeah, they are much more like my normal arms now. Not quite as dexterous yet, but getting there.”

“I think your table football practice and the workouts seem to be getting you comfortable with them. They don’t seem to twitch and flap about like they did initially.”

“Yeah I’m glad of that. It was a real pain when they were like that.”

“Do you want to go over and see Shaun a bit later? I was going to pop over and see how he’s doing. I’m sure he would like to see you, too.”

“Sure sounds good. Should I invite Caitlyn as well?”

“Yeah, why not? We’ll get the whole gang there.”

I pulled out my mobile from my lower pocket and with a little concentration, keyed in a message to Caitlyn. Stabbing buttons with my lower left thumb was tricky, but it seemed possible. When we reached the front of the queue I passed my phone to my middle left hand and grabbed a tray with my lower hands and finished tapping in the message, while using my normal hands to grab stuff to eat.

We found our table and I finished my message, sent it and then put my phone away. Pleased with my accomplishment, I tucked in to dinner using my lower hands with the knife and fork. Nat was grinning at my antics and began purposely handing me more things to hold throughout the meal. At one point, I was dealing with the knife and fork with my lower arms, buttering a roll with my middle arms, passing the salt with my upper left hand and holding a cup with my upper right hand. It was a small element of showing off, but I enjoyed myself for a bit. I suspected though, that it would quickly become a little like I was a circus attraction if I kept doing things like that.

After dinner we headed back to the house. Caitlyn had texted back, saying she was too busy to join us, so we headed off to see Shaun without her. We grabbed our coats and headed over to Shaun’s place. Being a second year student, he was sharing a house with some friends.
 We found the place a medium sized semi-detached house in the student district. Here, more than half the houses were student rental places. The people that had bought them up always had a ready rental market, plus students weren’t too fussy, so they didn’t need to be as exacting in their upkeep. In fact, in a lot of situations it wasn’t a bad idea to go with just the basics, as places had a habit of getting trashed.

This place looked OK from the outside as we went up and knocked on the door. A small stocky chap of maybe 5 foot answered the door.

“Ello, one of you must be Natalie, come to see ‘op along. I’m Roger. Everyone calls me Roge,” he said.

“Hi, I’m Natalie, this is my roommate, Emily.”.

“Pleased ta meet ya,” said Roge. “I’ll show ya to where the invalid is 'oled up.”

He led us into the house. Inside it looked more like I was expecting. It was as if a hurricane, and possibly a flood had swept through only moments before. We entered through the living room, and I couldn’t tell what colour the carpet was, as it was completely covered with a layer of junk, pizza boxes, and letters strewn willy-nilly across the floor. Cans and bottles were piled in the corners of the room in a state that by comparison, could be termed neat. There was a raggedy old sofa, which was either very badly stained, or was brown to start with. On the sofa, two lads were sitting watching some movie or other. We stepped carefully through the debris, following Roge, who led us up the stairs to one of the rooms.

“Oi peg leg!” he shouted, banging on the door. “Visitors.”

“Come in,” came Shaun’s voice from inside.

Roge gave us a fairly roguish smile, then hurried off down the stairs. We pushed open the door and found Shaun reading. Even from the other day, he looked loads better. Most of the bandages were gone and he was sitting up and alert. His face was still pretty bruised, but most of the swelling seemed to have diminished. He had a book clasped in one hand. His other arm and one of his ankles were in a cast.

“Hello ladies,” he said cheerfully. “How are my two favourite first years?”

“Hi,” I said.

Natalie said hello with no words by giving him a toe curling passionate kiss.

Once he had recovered from that, Shaun gave me a smile and said, “It's nice of you to come by Emily. We missed you yesterday.”

I smiled in response. It was nice to be missed.

Nat asked, “So how you feeling, baby?”

“So so. Getting around is a pain, but at least I’m out of that hospital. I swear they were trying to poison me with that food.”

“How are you coping with lectures?” I asked.

“I’ve not gone to any thus far. One of the guys has a car, and given my invalid status, we can get free on campus parking. Then I’ll just hobble about from lecture to lecture or something. Hopefully I can play the part of the brave, yet tragically wounded hero, and have hordes of beautiful women carry my things and care for me,” he said, grinning.

“Hmm, if that happens you’ll be suffering with another few broken bones. Probably a matched set,” said Nat.

“Yipes! Help me Emily. She’s threatening violence. Protect me from this evil woman!”

“I would do it, but well she pays quite well for me to look the other way. I’ve helped bury her last three boyfriends who got out of line. One more and I can afford a day trip away with Caitlyn.”

“Yeah, it’s like air miles, but with more digging,” said Nat.

“If she keeps up at this rate, I’ll soon be a gold club member.”

“You two are weird, you know that right? Very cute, though.” Shaun complimented us ... I think.

Nat gave him another kiss, I guess for the cute part of the sentence. She perched next to Shaun, who was laid out on the bed.

I grabbed a chair and took a seat nearby. “Caitlyn sends her regards. She was too busy to join us,” I told him.

“Right, busy working her tail off on essays, or some such I guess. How are you and Caitlyn getting along?” Shaun asked.

“OK,” I replied.

“Oh, just OK she says! She didn’t come home last night, slept over at Caitlyn’s,” grinned Nat.

“Nothing happened,” I said, probably a little defensively.

“But you wanted it to?” asked Shaun.

“Well … maybe … but we were so wasted we just fell asleep. Thoughts of hanky panky didn’t even cross my mind at the time,” I said.

“Ah, probably better not to rush things,” said Shaun. “You’ve got plenty of time for that sort of thing. Better to make sure you’re both comfy with the idea than rush in and maybe regret it.”

“Such wise words from someone who describes himself as a love ‘em and leave ‘em type,” said Nat.

“When did I say anything like that?” asked Shaun.

“You didn’t need to say anything. Your parents told me all about it,” Nat said smiling.

“They’ll never let me live down my somewhat raucous youth,” sighed Shaun.

“I think that’s one of the advantages of being a parent. Being able to embarrass and tease your children,” I said.

“Yeah, they keep threatening to wheel out those pictures of me as a kid for any girlfriend I take home. All sorts of desperately embarrassing things. Fair warning, Natalie they’ll grab you and it’ll be video and slide shows till your eyes start bleeding.”

“Sounds fun. I get to see you grow up from an awkward kid, to the fine figure of a man you are today, storing up blackmail material as I go.”

“Damn, she is evil. I know now why you chose Caitlyn over me, Emily. It was to sacrifice me to your wicked roommate. Are the three of you witches maybe? Do you ride brooms to campus?”

“No, do you know how hard it is to get an on campus broom parking permit? Easier to walk,” I said, giggling.

“Anyway, if you’ve quite finished annoying us,” said Nat, “how are the injuries doing? Any word on if the cops know who attacked you?”

“Well my casts are a bit itchy and restrict my movement a lot, but I can manage. As to information on who did it, not much. I called the cops just to see if there was any news, but they didn’t have anything. The person I talked to said something enigmatic about ‘other troubling incidents,’ but wouldn’t be drawn. I just hope it won’t happen to someone else,” Shaun said.

I wondered if one of the other troubling incidents was the woman’s suicide. It had seemed a touch odd. I mentioned this to Shaun and Nat, but neither one could see any connection.

“We ought to take you out to the cinema or something,” said Nat. “Get you some fresh air and an evening out. Me and Em can carry you if need be.”

“I’m not sure my ego could take that, being carried by my little girlfriend and her reasonably small roommate. You could have Caitlyn sit on me, just to really show me up,” Shaun said.

“You and your fantasies,” I said with a grin.

 “Oh we can make it look like we are only doing some of the work. Make it look like us frail little girls are just making a token effort and the big strong man is really doing all the work. We wouldn’t want to bruise that big bad macho ego of yours,” Nat said.

“Well I suppose it would be nice to get out. I have a walking stick I can use, it just takes a while to get places.” "I'm just thankful it's not a whole leg cast."

"So we'll arrange with Caitlyn to take you out, maybe tomorrow," Natalie said.

"OK cool. Just no turning me into a frog," said Shaun.

"No promises," I said.

That caused Nat to giggle. "I think you'd look cute with webbed feet." said Nat.

as we began cackling, Shaun just sat there looking scared.

When we had calmed down a bit I asked, "So do your injuries mean the end of your rugby career?"

"Well for now at any rate. Maybe when I'm healed up I'll be able to get back into the club," Shaun replied.

"It's a shame, as Shaun's father was saying being captain of the rugby club is a family tradition, going back three generations. Shaun was due to make captain soon, but with this setback he might not make it," Nat said.

"Ah, there's always next year," said Shaun not sounding too worried. "When did my Dad tell you that?"

"At dinner the other night," replied Nat.

"How did that go by the way? Was the restaurant as good as last time?" I asked.

"It was good. You should have come along," said Shaun.

Nat hit him on the shoulder, which caused him to wince dramatically, "Good he says! It was fabulous! Just as good as before. Shaun's parents are a real hoot." 

"The three of them got on like a house on fire, the food was good too. What were you and Caitlyn up to that meant you couldn't come?" Shaun asked.

"She took me to this club," I replied.

"What sort of club?" Nat asked.

"One for people like me and Caitlyn. People who are physically different," I replied.

"Oh I've heard of that, they only let in hybrids, or people with non standard body types. They sometimes get some flak for excluding those who have been altered radically but still look, for want of a better word, normal," said Shaun.

"How do you mean?" asked Nat.

"Well like gender changes, or age alterations, or physical alterations, or combinations there of. People who experience physical changes of any kind, often feel the need to talk to people with similar experiences. From what I've heard, sometimes that lot can be a bit unwelcoming to anyone not overtly changed," Shaun said.

"I got that initially. When I had my arms out of sight, they thought I was there for the show. They warmed up once they saw I was ... different," I said.

"Seems a bit off to not offer help and support to all people who have been altered," Nat says.

"Maybe they feel hybrids et cetera, get it worst of all. I guess they feel the others can blend in," I said.

"Yeah maybe. From what I understand, it was more open initially, but it caused some resentment. They had those changed, but normal, trying to explain how tough it was for them and some of the hybrids felt they were moaning about nothing. They had all the 'you're just animals' or 'you're less than human' stuff to deal with every day, and in the early days had to fight to get any rights. Gradually they started taking on less members that were not obviously different," Shaun said.

"I guess now they have very few members that are not hybrids or some such," said Nat.

"Yeah it looked that way. In some ways, I was the most normal looking person there," I said.

Shaun reached over to a cup on a table next to him and tipped it to look inside. He muttered something inaudible then said, "I'm parched, would either of you ladies fancy a cuppa?" he began getting up.

"You stay put, I'll get it," I said, figuring he and Nat could use some alone time, anyway.

"That's sweet of you Emily, my cups are over there, as are my teabags," he said indicating a small cupboard, "Kettle is downstairs in the kitchen, go right at the bottom of the stairs. Milk is in the fridge. It's communal, so don't worry about using it. I take mine milk, no sugar please."

"K, Nat?" I asked shrugging off my coat and taking his cup then moving over to get teabags.

"The usual, please," she replied.

I grabbed another two cups and three tea bags then headed down the stairs. I saw Roge had joined the other two guys. He gave me a wave as I walked past the door to the living room. Judging by the state of the rest of the house, I was mentally preparing myself for the kitchen being in a state. I underestimated how bad it would be.

The sink was piled high with dirty dishes, and all the surfaces were covered in spilled food and discarded packaging. The cooker was encrusted with a thick layer of burnt on food and covered in grease. There were a series of cabinets on the wall. Several were open, revealing half open packets and bottles stuffed in willy-nilly. Many of the cupboards that weren't open had dried-on splashes of goodness knows what on their doors. The floor was sticky and had spills all over it, as well as empty beer bottles and discarded cartons and cans. Even the ceiling had some splashes, and in one instance, a slice of half eaten toast was stuck to it, I didn't like to think how. The dining table was covered with more rubbish, as well as two overflowing bin bags filled with yet more rubbish.

I shuddered at the sight, then carefully picked my way across the floor, trying my best not to step in anything. I washed out the cups as best I could and then located the kettle, which was sitting in a small puddle of jam. I filled it and set it boiling then located the fridge, and steeling myself, opened it. I was hit by the smell of gone off food, and could see several packages containing things so mouldy I couldn't tell what they were. I located the milk and swiftly shut the fridge, lest any of the new life forms growing in it escape. The milk at least, was reasonably fresh and when the kettle boiled, I proceeded to make the tea.

I was just waiting for things to mash when I heard someone behind me, "Wow, what a freak show!" A male voice said.

 I turned and glared angrily at it's owner. A tall scruffily dressed man I recognised as one of the two from the living room stood in the doorway staring at me. I glared at him some more, but decided not to even dignify his comment with a response and turned back to the tea, ignoring him.

"Hey freaky," he shouted. I ignored him, he tried again, "Oi, I'm talking to you freak girl!"

I ignored him some more focusing on removing the teabags and shutting this tosser out of my mind.

He grabbed one of my arms and twisted me round, "Oi, I'm talking to you. You're very rude just ignoring me like that in my own home!" he said angrily.

He was gripping me hard, hurting me. At the time it didn't occur to me to knock him down, as I was still not used to being strong. I tried to back away, ending up backed into a corner.

"Let go of me!" I shouted, a little afraid.

He twisted his hand making his grip more painful, "Not until you apologise," he said with a nasty smile.

I should have called for help, or hit him, or something, but I was afraid and cornered. This big bloke blocking me in and hurting me made reason flee my mind. The fear had gone past the point where I could think rationally. I was teetering on the edge of panic and began to feel odd, like a charge was building inside me, buzzing through my veins. It got more and more intense. I could swear the lights began flickering, and I heard a low pitched whine. The tension built more and more, then all of a sudden it felt like something burst inside me.

I don't really know what happened next. I know something happened, but what ever it was it left me disorientated and drained. It took me a moment to notice that the guy who hand grabbed me was no longer holding me. He stood there his hand held out in front of him, staring at it, not moving, a glazed slightly shocked expression on his face.

I heard a hammering of someone pounding down the stairs and then Natalie burst into the room, “Emily are you OK? Something odd just happened and I felt you were really afraid of something,” she said slightly out of breath. Then she looked at the guy standing there in front of me, “Who's this joker?”

“He grabbed me, I kind of panicked a little,” I said. He still hadn't moved. Why was he still standing there? Now Nat was around I felt safer, and got on with the tea making. I heard Nat move over to the guy and angrily address him.

“You leave her alone, you dumb ape. You try to touch her again and I'll make sure you regret it! Hey ... Hey, idiot! ... look at me when I'm talking to you! ... Fine, you asked for it!” There was a thunk, and then a clattering as someone was thrown across the room. Two guesses as to whom.

I turned to see the guy had landed in one of the piles of bin bags face down. He was partially buried and covered in rubbish that had burst out when he hit them. He lay there under all that rubbish. Either the fall had knocked him out, or he was playing dead to avoid another beating. Either way I was happy to let him lie there in all that filth.

“And let that be a lesson to you,” said Nat, brushing her hands off.

I finished off the tea and offered Nat a mug, “Cuppa?”

“Cheers,” she said with a smile.

We walked together up the stairs back to Shaun's room, “What was all that about?” asked Shaun.

“One of your house mates needed a lesson in manners,” said Nat.

“Tea?” I said, offering Shaun a mug.

“Oh, thanks Emily,” Shaun said, taking the mug and a sip of tea before continuing, “Which one, and what did he do?”

“Oh some scruffy bugger. He was trying to manhandle Em, wouldn't even acknowledge me. I kicked him across the room,” said Nat with a defiant look in her eyes.

“Remind me never to get you mad,” Shaun wisely observed. “I bet that was Carl, he's an idiot. Did he hurt you Em?”

“No he just scared me a little, I got a bit panicky. I should have just done what Nat did, but I forget I can sometimes,” I said.

“Don't you worry Em. I'll train you up. Pretty soon you'll be throwing guys across rooms into piles of rubbish left and right,” grinned Nat.

“Remind me never to get either of you mad,” said Shaun, looking a little afraid.

We enjoyed our tea and chatted a bit more about various things, agreeing to try and take Shaun out the following evening for dinner and a movie. It was getting a bit late so we decided we better start heading home. We said our goodbyes to Shaun, collected our coats and then made our way down the stairs. As we did so we saw Roge and the rude guy Carl coming out of the kitchen. Carl looked a little bewildered, I guess he had been knocked out or something. He was also covered in all sorts of nasty gunk from the rubbish bags.

“What on earth were you doing lying on the floor like that fella?” Roge asked him.

“I don't know. I remember something, then it's odd ... like a nightmare,” he said, looking confused.

He caught sight of us coming down the stairs and screamed, literally like a little girl. He looked terrified, and dodged behind Roge, pushing him in front of him like a shield.

“What the bloody hell's got into you, you useless pillock?” Roge said.

“Get her away from me. She's some sort of monster!” he said in absolute terror, “You don't know what she did! It's all coming back now, I don't want to go through that again!”

As he ran off into the kitchen, Nat shouted after him, “Yeah, you better run, you bastard!”

“What on earth was that about?” asked a bemused Roge.

“Oh he grabbed my friend here earlier. I knocked him across the room as a warning,” Nat said.

“A warning eh? Well if that's a warning, I hate to think what you'd do if you were really mad,” Roge replied, “Anyway, I apologise for his behaviour. He's a complete waste of space. I wish you ladies a pleasant evening.”

He gave us a sort of mock bow, which caused us to giggle. He seemed like a nice sort of chap, and it wasn't his fault his house mate was an idiot. We wished him good night and headed off home. In all that excitement, the strange event in the kitchen was almost completely forgotten about.



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