Loving My Bunny Girl
By Allan Joyal

Tuesday, October 10, 2045

“Everyone! Listen!” Darryl ranted once again.  His blond hair was slicked back as always, but his normally impeccable look was ruined by the fact that his right arm was strapped tightly to his chest and encased in a cast.  He stood in the middle of the room that we used for our meetings.  I glanced up at him and smiled as I watched him wince when his right arm tugged against the bandages holding it against his torso.  Darryl had been rushed to the hospital yesterday after a failed attempt to jump a changed sophomore, and it was clear that he was uncomfortable with his injured arm. 

            As he continued to scream at the gathered students, I took a moment to scan the room.  It was immediately clear that only his girlfriend, Gina, was paying him any attention.  I had to smile about that.  He might consider himself the leader of the “pure” faction at Independence High School, but few of the others followed his lead.  He did have a nasty reputation, and often bullied newly changed kids, or weaker ones when he could catch them, but the larger student body cared nothing for his quest to “make Independence High a beacon of purity in the valley.”

            I’d just about given up on Darryl finishing when I heard him call my name.  “Hector! Hector, you big oaf!” he cried.  “Why don’t you join in and lead this great crusade?”

            I turned back to Darryl and wondered again how he had ever mastered the team's offense well enough to be a quarterback.  Actually I wondered how he remembered to tie his shoes in the morning.  Coach Davis was a fair man, but he was going to be livid that Darryl was missing a week of practice because of that broken arm.  Stories and rumors were still circulating, but the most often told was that Darryl had stalked and cornered Irene Connors, a bird hybrid, and threw her against some lockers.  He was following that up with a punch when Eddie Gershom jumped in the way and took the punch on his back.  Eddie is a turtle hybrid and the effect was the same as if Darryl had attempted to punch a brick wall, shattering one of the bones in his forearm.  As Darryl collapsed in pain, Eddie and Irene ran away before any of Darryl’s shocked followers could intervene.  Now Darryl wanted someone to punish Eddie.

            “Why don’t you give it a rest?” I replied as Darryl and Gina glared at me.  “It’s not like anything short of a heavy sledgehammer is going to hurt Eddie.  Besides, this incident didn’t happen because Irene strayed into any of the pure hangouts.  You ambushed her outside the library, which has always been neutral territory.  You might like living dangerously with beating on the ‘brids, but I’m due to graduate this year and I’m not going to get suspended or expelled for tilting at windmills.”

            I heard a snort of laughter from one of the tables behind me.  Probably Angela, I thought.  The freshman was a lover of classical literature, and only attended these meetings to support her best friend Tina. 

            Of course my lack of support only made Darryl madder and his face turned red while his left hand clenched into a fist.  Gina watched him and then turned to glare at me.

            “I can’t believe you!” she screamed.  “A human.  A pure human has his arm broken by one of those filthy animals and all you can say is that you don’t want to be suspended?  What about the purity of the race?  These hybrids aren’t human.  They don’t belong at school with us.  They should be locked up in cages!”  She turned to the rest of the students in the room.  There were about thirty today, which was a decent turnout considering that Darryl was the one who’d announced the meeting.  “How about the rest of you?  Are any of you brave enough to stand up for purity?”

            My instincts were to shake my head and laugh, but I squashed that thought and concentrated on keeping a neutral face.  Gina and her militancy always amused me though.  She was a junior like Darryl, and had been dating him for more than a year.  However, where Darryl was against hybrids mostly to impress Gina and the other students, Gina honestly believed that she was untouched by the syndrome because of her spiritual purity.  She hated anyone different and feared that being around hybrids would contaminate her.  Her parents had petitioned to have all hybrids thrown off campus when she first arrived.  Principal Smith refused, but I had noticed that during her three years at Independence with nearly half the student body being MORFS survivors, Gina had never sat in a class that had any hybrid students.

            I decided to spend a moment looking over Gina before responding.  She liked to act like some kind of incredible beauty, but I always found her looks to be somewhat lacking.  She had hair as golden blond as Darryl, although she let hers fall down to her waist, and her blue eyes could be striking.  I knew a few guys who were in awe of her large breasts and slender waist especially when she was dressed for cheerleading, and I must admit that she did stay in excellent shape.  However, she always seemed to be scowling at someone or something and it gave her a pinched and bitter look.  She was someone I could tolerate at a distance, but I never had any interest in getting to know her better.

            “Gina,” I called out, after no one responded.  “We all are sorry that Darryl got hurt.  It’s not going to help the football team, and it’s an embarrassment to the pures.  But what can we do?  Darryl did a great job proving just how hard Eddie’s turtle shell is, and somehow I doubt that any teachers are going to ignore one of us bringing a weapon that might actually hurt Eddie onto campus.  Now, we have spent most of our lunch here listening to Darryl talk about his injuries.  But, I think its time to end this meeting and start heading to our lockers.  We still have more classes to attend today.”

            Gina scowled and Darryl frowned, but everyone else was nodding and gathering up books and notes.  Darryl stalked up to me, but I rose from my chair and although he could look me in the eye, I outweighed him by a good twenty pounds of muscle and didn’t have a broken arm, so he backed down quickly.

            I watched Darryl walk over to Gina for a quick kiss before he grabbed his bag and headed to his math class.  I was putting the homework I’d been working on into a folder when Tristan Pendergast walked over.  Tristan is a good friend and starts at right linebacker to my left linebacker spot on the football team.  As I was finishing gathering my stuff a small piece of paper fell from the folder.  Tristan moved to pick it up, but I recognized it and quickly reached down to grab it before he could look at it.

            “Love letter?” Tristan said with a smile.  He knew about my reputation for not dating and saw the opening.

            “Just something personal,” I replied.  “Sorry, but the rumor mill at this place is just a bit too efficient.”

            “Well, since we share biology class, shouldn’t we start walking?”  Tristan said, as I slid the paper into my shirt pocket.  With a smile he headed to the door, just as the warning bell for the end of lunch rang.  I grabbed my bags to follow him.

 

I’m sorry.  I just realized that you probably are wondering who is writing this tale, and what is happening.

 

My name is Hector Lynwood.  I’m a high school senior trying to make his way in what my father calls the crazy post-MORFS world.  Right now I’m attending Independence High School in southwest Bakersfield.  It’s actually part of a cluster of schools now.  Independence High was opened in 2008, shortly before the outbreak of MORFS.  Once the effects of MORFS were better understood, the county decided to expand the campus and establish Liberty Elementary and Freedom Junior High Schools next to the first campus, so that “local students could have a stable educational environment”.  Included in this expansion was the establishment of a school uniform code.  For boys this meant clean slacks, a white button-down shirt and black tie.  Girls could wear a similar outfit or they could replace the slacks with a knee length or longer skirt.  A number of studies claimed that having a school uniform improved learning and reduced stress on the students, all I can say is that it did make deciding what to wear in the morning much simpler.

I’m currently in the top ten of my class academically.  I do start at linebacker for the school football team, and a few smaller colleges have visited and watched me play. But while at six foot two and two hundred thirty pounds, I am perfectly sized for my position; so many players at the college level are MORFS survivors that a pure human struggles to be competitive.  A few scouts have told me that they are impressed by my tenacity and drive, but that I would not succeed at their school.  I should be disappointed, but while I enjoy football, I know it will never be a career for me.  My father and I have often talked about my future and he knows I plan on attending Bakersfield Polytechnical University to study psychology.  He has always supported me and during several evening discussions has helped me map out a plan for the future.

As my introduction indicated, I am a member of one of the high school’s “pure human” organizations.  In fact, I’ve often found myself the spokesman and leader for the group in the last year.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  My mother signed me up for the Pure Human Patrol when I was ten, and as the years passed, I have not made any effort to leave the group or the friends I made there.   As my friends joined other anti-MORFS groups I have quietly followed, although I find it increasingly hard to accept the hatred and fear that permeates them.  If my mother was still part of my life, I might care more, but she left my father five years ago and took my younger sister and brother with her.  She said that the only way to protect children from MORFS was to maintain a high spiritual purity and that Bakersfield was not sacred enough.  My father did not want to move, and I choose to stay with him.  From the letters Heather and Howard send me, mother had taken them to Kansas and is now married to some minister of a rather nasty anti-MORFS group.  Both of my siblings are attending meetings of anti-MORFS youth groups, and mother has ordered them to cut off all contact with father and me.  They send letters regularly and I try to reply through friends, even talking a couple of the scouts who visited me into mailing letters for me once they returned to their home campuses.  I miss my siblings.

As for the paper I hid.  It was a simple note from my father: “Come home right after school. I’d like to talk to you.”  I know you might think that it was innocent, but it might have inspired Tristan to ask questions I was not ready to answer.  I had a suspicion as to why my father wanted to talk, and if I was right I would be very happy for him, even though it was going to cause trouble with the more militant pures like Darryl and Gina.

 

Well, now back to where I was, just after the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch.

 

Naturally, I hurried off to my next class.  I had Biology immediately after lunch.  It was a subject I found interesting, especially since we had a good teacher, who was willing to talk about MORFS and its effects on the biosphere.  Yvonne Masters reportedly had been a professor somewhere north, but her interest in the new species created by MORFS and the changes the biosphere underwent to accommodate them had resulted in the university she worked at refusing to grant her tenure.  She soon discovered that the university and its professors poisoned her reputation and no other university was interested in hiring her.  She might have remained unemployed had not one of Independence High’s science teachers quit just days before the start of the school year.  Yvonne heard about the opening and managed to talk Principal Smith into hiring her.  Once hired, she decided that her senior year classes would concentrate on developing an understanding of MORFS and she was putting a great effort into making the class interesting and informative.  I heard a few freshmen complain that her classes were boring, but I was learning more about MORFS than I ever thought possible without a full university science lab.  Early on she had made it clear that the transformations were not prevented by prayer, or caused by evil.  She did explain that conventional science said that the syndrome, which was actually caused by a failure of the body to prevent massive mutation of the DNA, should be killing its victims rather than simply modifying them and changing them, but obviously the current science was inadequate for the reality it faced.  It was equally obvious that she had done some extensive research into this.

The period ended, and everyone rushed to his or her next class.   My school day finishes with home economics.  My father had often bragged that a man who knew how to cook could always impress the ladies, and I had decided to challenge this.  After one month of classes, I must admit that I was enjoying the experience, and realized that my father was highly skilled at cooking.  When I signed up for the class I got my father to agree that I would cook one meal a week, and I was determined to impress my father with a well cooked meal before the semester ended.  The challenge this represents keeps me working hard and concentrated in class, so I’m always surprised and a little disappointed to hear the teacher call for everyone to clean up before the bell rings indicating the end of class. 

Once the class let out I started to walk home.  Normally I would stay at school to attend practice, but Coach Davis had given everyone the day off as we didn’t have a game on Friday, and he wanted everyone to have some extra rest.

 

My father and I live in a house just on the edge of one of the town’ s commercial districts.  We have moved here after my mother decided to leave and my father had the house modified to serve as a combination home and office for his insurance sales.  The front part of the house is now an office for people to come and confer with him or his employees on their insurance options, while the back of the ground floor and the second floor are our private living space.

 His insurance business is one of the most successful in the Central Valley.    Normally this might be a difficult job to do well in, but once mother moved he started to offer hybrids insurance policies at fair rates.  Most other agents in town do not treat hybrids well, and my father’s agency and reputation have grown rapidly.  He now has a thriving business with a second office in the town centre. 

I hurried home because of his note, and entered through the office door rather than the side door, which opens directly into our living area.  I smiled to see the brightly colored sign on the door.  “Horace Lynwood, Insurance Agent.  We Work to Protect your Future.”  The sign was a design of Janice Gordon, a young lady who lives two doors down the street from us.  Her parents had been killed four years ago during a riot sparked by some anti-MORFS fanatics.  To help make ends meet she used some of the insurance money to establish a sign making business in the house she inherited, and my father had been so impressed with her courage and dignity that he’d ordered the sign.  Janice still comes by regularly to visit and to eat with us.  Soon my thoughts, however, turned to the note as I looked around the front office.

This room looked like an office so much, that it was hard to imagine that just behind a well-camouflaged door was the rest of the house.  It would not be out of place in any other office complex downtown.  Usually it was a bustle of activity with my father’s two assistants working hard at updating data or scheduling appointments.  However, I was surprised to see neither Evelyn nor Frank in the office, instead my father was alone and he was talking on the phone.

“Oh, just one moment,” he said to whoever was on the other end of the line.  He hit the mute button and then called out to me.  “Turn the sign over to closed, lock the door and then go wait in the living room.  I’ll be right there, Hector.”

I was more than a bit surprised, but followed his instructions as he returned to his phone call.  From what little I overheard, he was handling a claim involving an auto accident over the weekend.

Once in the living room, I took a moment to set my backpack down and then sat down on the couch.  I looked around and noticed that my father had set up a couple of items on the coffee table, and I quickly had a good idea of what the talk would be about.  One was a picture of him, Laura and me during our visit to Disneyland just before school started. However, it was the jewelry box resting next to it that provided the ironclad evidence of what the conversation would be about.  I could understand his nervousness, but there was no way I was not going to support him in this.

A moment later my father walked into the room, and I could see that his face was lined with concern.  I shouldn’t have done anything, but my sense of humor took hold of me and I quickly said.  “So you finally decided to make an honest woman of fluffy tail?  Does this mean I should set up the tree house for the honeymoon?  Or should I just roast up a ton of chestnuts?  Perhaps you’d prefer if I planted an acorn tree in celebration?”

My father looked at me in horror for a moment, but then saw the smile I was unsuccessfully trying to hide and started chuckling.  I joined in and our chuckles became full laughter as my father sank into his recliner in relief.  “Okay, you got me,” he said.  “I was sure you would cause trouble over this.  I know you have not been able to date much since you didn’t want your dates to find out, but I’d worried that it was because you were ashamed of the relationship.”

“Ashamed?  Of the fact that my father has found a woman he loves?  Laura loves you as deeply and truly as any woman could love a man.  Her life away from work revolves around making you happy,” I replied.  “I could never be ashamed of you or Laura.  I just couldn’t leave the bloody pure patrol without a good reason, and if they found out about Laura, the fights they would start with me in school might interrupt my studies.”

I picked up the picture from the coffee table. I still remember that day and the wonderful feeling of being a part of a family, even if most of my friends would have cursed me for being in the picture.  My father is a big man, six feet tall, and most of it muscle.  He is a bit lighter than me because his workouts concentrate on fitness and endurance while I’m still trying to maintain the strength necessary for football, but it was the woman standing between us who seemed to dominate the picture, even if she was only five foot three or so. 

I once told Laura that she was one of the most beautiful women I ever had the pleasure to meet.  I am sure she did not believe me then, and probably still questions my feelings towards her.  After all, how many members of a militant anti-MORFS organization would admire a squirrel hybrid, let alone accept her as a potential stepmother.

“Father, she makes you happy.  Heck, she makes me happy.  There is something about her.  I know you have been lonely since mother ran away from reality, but she offers you a chance to build a new family.  I only ask that I get to stand as the best man at the wedding.”  I smiled at him and turned the picture to remind him of that day. 

“Hector, if she says ‘yes’ there is no one else I would or could ask to stand as my best man,” my father said. He stood up and picked up the jewelry box.  “Here, see the ring I got for her.”

The box opened to reveal a spectacular diamond ring, surrounded by a set of deep red rubies.  “Wow, this is going to be a special birthday for Laura.  Do you want me to make myself scarce tonight?” I asked.

Father laughed.  “No, I want her to see your smile when I propose.  She’s been even more worried than me about how you would react.  She’s convinced that you are just biding your time until you can completely embarrass her.”

I paused for a moment.  “I guess this means I shall cook dinner while you entertain her before the meal,” I mused.  “As a way to show her that I welcome her into the family.”

My father paled for a moment.  “Um… I want her feeling good and happy tonight at dinner, not sick to her stomach,” he said, although he smiled at me.  “It’s not a bad thought, but I think we should save that for when your skills are a bit more developed.”

I laughed and reached over to pick up my books.  “Well, I’ll go to my room to finish my homework.  Call me down once dinner is ready.”

I stood up and headed up the stairs to my room as I heard my father go into the kitchen and start moving items around.  He was whistling happily and I had to smile.  Laura’s entry into his life had definitely turned to around, and our home was a much nicer place since she first entered his office looking to buy insurance.

My homework wasn’t overly difficult, but there was quite a lot of it.  I was trying to maintain at least a perfect four point average for the semester, so I took my time and was just completing my English assignment for the week when I heard the sound of the garage doors opening.  I quickly organized my books for later use and grabbed the package I had hidden under my desk for the last week.  I had remembered Laura saying that it was difficult to find any clothing, which could accommodate her tail, and after a discussion with my father, had tracked down a company that designed clothing for women like her.  The special order I placed had arrived last Saturday, and I was hoping she would enjoy having and wearing something elegant. With that I hurried down the stairs just as my father shouted.  “Hector!  Laura’s here.”

I ran down the steps and surprised Laura by sweeping her up into a hug.  “Happy Birthday!” I shouted as my arms wrapped around her.  She giggled and then pushed me away. 

“Back off, boy!” she said with a laugh.  “What would your father think?”

My father was standing behind her holding a pan and wearing a chef’s hat.  “His father is right here.  And as long as it’s only a hug, I’ll only feel a little jealous.  After all, you did say you would save your kisses for me?”

Laura broke away from me and turned to my father, sweeping him up in a passionate embrace and kiss that lasted quite a while.  “I just better not find you giving your kisses to anyone else,” she said as she broke the embrace and stepped back to remove her glasses.

I guess now would be the perfect time to describe the woman my father loves.  As I hinted before, she’s a petite squirrel hybrid who entered our lives about a year ago when she was hired to teach second grade at Liberty Elementary.  She is the first hybrid to teach at the school.  She stands about five foot three with long black hair that she always ties up in a bun while at school.  Her face doesn’t show much sign of the changes, but her arms, body and legs are covered by light brown fur, and she has an impressive fur covered tail, which reaches the top of her head when she is excited.

I found that I had to duck said tail as she excitedly started smelling the aroma coming from the kitchen.  “Wow!  Something smells wonderful.”  Her tail swept up and down as she took a deep breath and then smiled at my father.  “You must have pulled out all the stops.  I smell sesame, peanut and even some walnut?  I know you love to tease me about being crazy for nuts, but this is too much.”

“Not for a birthday,” my father said.  “Now if you will excuse me, dinner will be ready in just a minute.  Hector why don’t you go and finish setting the table while Laura takes a moment to freshen up.”

I recognized the dismissal and headed to the dining area, trying to hide the package I was holding.  I found that my father had already set out the plates and silverware, so it only took a few moments to set the glasses on the table.  While I was busy doing that I almost stumbled over a wine bucket my father put up between the chairs where he and Laura usually sat.  I made sure to fill it with ice and found the white wine my father had cooling in the refrigerator.  At least I think it was a white wine, it's not a subject I know much about. It was obvious he wanted this to be a perfect dinner.

“Dad!” I shouted.  “The table is ready.  I’m going to go and make myself a bit more presentable.”

“Be quick, you know that Laura isn’t going to take too long to get ready,” was the muffled reply from my father as he checked on the dish he had cooking in the oven.

I made a mad dash upstairs and changed into the outfit I had used the previous year when I had participated in several debate contests.   It wasn’t quite a professional business suit, but it was formal and Laura said that it looked good on me.  I returned to the dining room to find my father lighting a candle in the middle of the table.  Now also dressed formally himself, he called up the stairs.  “Laura!  Dinner is ready.  You should come down while it’s still hot!”

There was a cry of joy from upstairs and Laura came down the stairs in a quick leap.  She was dressed in a fetching green mini-skirt and blouse set which set off her brown fur.  The smile on her face was completely unfeigned and she seemed to flow into my father’s arms.  He and I both laughed.  He gave her a quick kiss and then released her to pull out her chair.

Laura giggled as she took her seat, carefully pushing her tail so that the back of the chair did not crush it.  As she settled in, my father turned and pulled a sizzling pan from the oven.  “Tonight’s entrée will be a sesame and peanut chicken with a walnut potato au gratin,” he said as he turned back to the table.  “Laura, it’s your birthday, you have the honor of being served first.”

He carefully set the pan down and taking Laura’s plate began cutting the meat.   The smell was heavenly and Laura was almost bouncing in her chair as my father finished serving me and then filling his own plate.  He returned the pan to the stove and then opened the wine and poured glasses for Laura and himself.  “Sorry, Hector.  But you’ll have to suffer through cider.”

Laura giggled and I smiled and showed him that I’d filled my glass earlier.  “In that case, I claim the right to the first toast.  To Laura on her birthday, may others find her smile and joy as wonderful as I.”

Laura looked closely at me as we gently brought our glasses together.  I could almost see the wheels in her mind turning about what I had said.  My father smiled and waited until we all had taken a sip of our drinks.

“Well, let’s save the remaining toasts for after the meal.  Laura I cooked this specially for you as I know how much you love your nuts.”

Laura just laughed.  “Must be the squirrel in me I guess.”  She started to dig into the dish before her and in moments the only sound in the room was the three of us cutting and eating the wonderful meal my father had created.  Dinner passed quickly as we emptied our plates and took in the familial moment.  My father smiled as Laura finally finished, seemingly disappointed that there were no more nuts to nibble on.

The candle had burned down about half its length when my father coughed quietly and looked towards me.  I nodded and reached underneath my chair to pull out the package I had brought down earlier.  As I did my father removed the plates from the table.

“Laura, today is your birthday and it’s only right that you receive a few gifts,” I said as I brought the present above the table.  “This here is for you.”

The package brought a smile to Laura and she took it gingerly.  With careful motions she carefully unwrapped what I handed her, revealing a two elaborate clothing boxes.  There was a nervous giggle and then she them on the table.  She struggled for a moment to open the first one, found the tape holding it closed and parted it with her fingernails.  Pulling the cover away revealed an elegant black dress.  Laura at first looked puzzled, but then held up the dress to see the specially cut slit in the back designed to wrap around a tail and still flow below it.

“Is this?” she said as she looked at me.

“I had noticed that all your outfits were skirts or slacks,” I replied.  “I did some research over the internet and found that most hybrids who had tails complained that dresses rarely fit properly, unless they were nearly backless and had a snap just above the tail.  It took some searching, but I found a designer in of Seattle who developed some tail friendly dresses and nightgowns.  Dad helped by providing your measurements so I could get everything made.”

She turned to look at my father.  “Is that true?” she asked him.  “You do realize that giving such information to a teenage boy is not wise.  You just offered him prime blackmail material.”  Laura then spoiled the moment by giggling. 

My father and I smiled as she carefully returned the black dress to its box and then opened the next box.  She gasped as she revealed a lacy red nightgown.  “Why Hector?  What ever do you think of me?” she said with a giggle.

“Well, you are sexy, intelligent, and have brought so much happiness to my father that it’s an honor to know you,” I replied.

Laura’s laughter was so much like birdsong.  “Ooh, so this is really a gift for your father.  Now I get it.”

My father coughed again.  Laura turned to look at him and I noticed that she missed the fact that my father was holding his right hand below the table.  He waited for a moment and then spoke.  “I think Hector has given me a perfect lead in.  Laura, just over a year ago you walked into my office looking for some insurance and you walked into my life.  Since then you have been a warm and loving lady who has reminded me just how wonderful life is.  Tonight, we are celebrating your birthday, but I’m hoping that we can celebrate something even more special.”  He brought his hand up from below the table to reveal the engagement ring he had shown me earlier.  “Laura, you mean everything to me, and I would be greatly honored if you would grant me the greatest gift by becoming my wife.”

The box dropped from Laura’s hands and she lowered her head to the table.  Suddenly she gave a small sob and then looked up at my father with tears in her eyes.  “Yes,” she whispered.  “Yes, I will marry you.”   With surprising speed she flew out of her chair to envelop my father and give him a deep and passionate kiss.  The kiss continued and I noticed her hands going to the buttons on his shirt and start to undress him.  I smothered a laugh and with a quick wave retreated from the dining room to give them some privacy.

 

 

Wednesday, October 11, 2045

 

            I woke up long before my alarm would normally goes off, and found that falling back to sleep was impossible.  I lay there for several minutes, before I finally gave up on sleep and headed to the bathroom for my morning shower.  Once done, I descended the stairs to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.  I found that sometime in the evening Laura and my father had cleaned up the dining room.  Normally in the morning I would make something simple, but a look at the clock revealed that my early awakening had left me ready for school with more than an hour to spare before I would have to leave if I wanted to arrive on time.  Instead of the usual cereal and toast, I pulled out a mixing bowl and started work on an omelet.  The pan had just about reached the perfect temperature when a thought came to me, and I rushed to the pantry to get some additional ingredients.  Five minutes later I had two hot omelets each on its own plate sitting on a tray along with toast and juice.  I carefully climbed the steps and knocked on the door to my father’s bedroom.

            I heard some movement in the room and pushed the door open.  Laura and my father were lying in bed spooned together underneath a blanket.  “It’s time to rise and shine. It’s a workday and breakfast is served.”

            Laura unwound herself from my father and slowly sat up.  I discovered that she was wearing the nightgown that had been part of my gift to her.  I had chosen the gown after a conversation with my father, but had underestimated just how much it enhanced her beauty.  I felt blood rush to my face as I held the tray out to her and my father.

            Laura smiled and my father laughed.  “He likes the nightgown, nutgirl,” he said.  “Look at him blush.”

            Laura elbowed him in the ribs, but laughed as well.  “I didn’t hear any complaints from you last night, husband to be.”  She then reached out to take the tray.  “Are you really that accepting for all of this Hector?  Everyone at the schools tells me that you are a leader in the pure human faction.”

            I shook my head.  “Mother forced me to join back when I was ten.  Since then two close friends have undergone MORFS and I have done a bit of research about it.  There is no question in my mind that the transformations are not some kind of divine punishment nor do they turn humans into animals.  I do not wish to change, but I don’t condemn anyone just because they have.  My staying with the pure faction has been mostly to protect those who would otherwise be attacked by people like Darryl and Gina.”

            As I finished Laura was looking at me with a surprising amount of respect.  “I think I understand.  That’s a dangerous path to walk though.  What will happen if Darryl and the others realize that you aren’t as faithful to their dogma as they are?”

            I shrugged.  “I only have to last one more year, and other than Tristan none of the current militant pures are close to my size.  Darryl is mostly talk, and the others that hang with him are not the types to fight someone who can fight back.  I should be fine.”

            With that I nodded once more to my father and then retreated to the dining room to eat my own breakfast.  I had finished and was cleaning the kitchen when Laura, now dressed in one of her professional outfits, jumped down the stairs and called out to me.  “Need a ride to the school?”

            “Perhaps another time,” I replied.  “I made a promise to meet with a friend and walk to school with him, and I should run or I’ll be late.”  I finished rinsing the last glass and grabbed my backpack as I rushed out the door.

 

            Two blocks from home, I found Allan waiting for me.  He waved as I walked up.  “If it isn’t the terror of the gridiron,” he called.  “Have you decided on the subject for your term paper?” he asked.  Allan Stone is a fellow senior, but one of the few “pures” who openly stood against any prosecution of students.  He was not a big man, standing only five foot six and of slender build, but everyone knew he was absolutely fearless.  His academic marks had him ranked never worse than second, and after school he often tutored freshmen.  I shared advanced English with him and we had promised to discuss our term papers, which were due by the end of the semester.  I am writing about the last century in entertainment and how a combination of advancing technology and MORFS had changed entertainment over time.  Allan is doing the same with sports.  We try to meet in the morning before school one or two times a week to discuss our research and suggest new resources, which might benefit each of us.  Both of us understand that once on campus we must avoid each other in order avoid angering the militants

            This morning neither of us had any huge new revelations.  Allan was currently researching how most sports leagues had accepted the use of flying abilities for a short time, and their rather sudden ban in most leagues due to the danger involved.  I had found some parallels between the treatment of hybrids in entertainment over the last decade with how TV executives often treated actors and concepts that fell outside the unofficial inner circle in earlier decades.

            We separated about one block before reaching the campus.  I did not like the subterfuge, but back in middle school Allan and I learned that many of the militants would out anyone who was not sufficiently devoted to the cause.  I maintained my position mostly to learn of attacks ahead of time and try to disrupt them by causing ringleaders to be detained or otherwise distracted.  Usually it worked, unless some like Darryl decided to go out without warning as he had on Monday when he broke his arm on Eddie’s back.  If others learned of my friendship with Allan, it would have made me much less effective, as I would have ended up out of the loop for many of the planning sessions.

I was surprised when Tristan approached me as I climbed the steps of the school building.  “Darryl is demanding that the council vote you out,” he said.

I shrugged.  “I always told them that I wasn’t going to be very active.  I have too many activities and responsibilities to my father.   They all knew that when the elections were held.”

“Yes, but Darryl is now using the fact that your father sells insurance to animals as additional evidence. He is going to win, Hector,” Tristan said as we walked towards our first period math class.

I could see Darryl standing in a doorway and glaring at me as we passed.  His cast had several inked signatures on it, and I noticed that almost all of those signatures included symbols often associated with the United Trinity of Perfect Purity, a radical church which preached that any hybrid was tainted permanently by the devil and did not offer any more sympathy to those who came through MORFS with only human characteristics, saying that they must have opened their heart to evil to allow the changes to occur, and even if their purity prevented the devil from tainting them, their penance would be long and arduous.  I gave Darryl a happy wave just to irritate him and then reminded Tristan that we need to concentrate on practice later before we entered the classroom for first period.

The teachers repeated their announcement from yesterday.  Reminding the students that while there was security, they could not be everywhere and traveling between classes with a friend was recommended.  Personally, I was more than a little disappointed, but there were bullies in both the pure and hybrid populations at school and neither was known for showing mercy.  Everyone expected that the hybrids might try something, but a note left in my locker by Irene revealed that most were laughing at Darryl’s predicament and choosing to remain within their haunts in the east quad and hallways.  The fountain and library would remain neutral ground and all hybrids were still warned to avoid the area around the basketball courts and science building as the more militant pures claimed that for their personal place.

Football practice was almost funny.  The many hybrids on the team took the time to personally commiserate with Darryl that he was not participating in drills, and then to twist the dagger further by talking glowingly about Michael Kirk, the sophomore dog hybrid who was Darryl’s backup at quarterback.  He did not take the teasing well, and I saw him swing at one of the boar hybrids that played on the offensive line.  His wild left arm swing missed, and the laughter from the rest of the linemen only angered Darryl further.  He ended up storming out of practice early much to the vocal displeasure of Coach Davis.

 

Friday, October 13, 2045

 

            The bell rang to end second period.  I closed up my civics book and looked over the rest of the class.  The last two days had been as close to war on campus as I could remember.  Darryl had not given up on revenge and spent most of his time trying to incite his cronies to attack any hybrid that dared to wander away from the more traveled corridors or the regions of campus where the more powerful MORFS survivors congregated.  I was working to keep most of the pures neutral for now, and it helped that Darryl was not respected.  Unfortunately, Gina had decided to take a much more personal interest in the proceeding and keeping the violence from erupting was proving to be a difficult task.  Gina was quite willing to resort to blackmail and intimidation to assist Darryl in his crusade, and her intelligence network was very good.  She had many of the underclassmen afraid to directly refuse to help them, and other than a few members like Angela who absolutely refused to be aggressive, she had managed to get just about everyone involved. Tristan had become a surprise ally in my efforts to redirect the anger of the pure crowd away from the hybrids, and kept the majority of them involved in local clean up projects, but there were a number of tense moments near the fountain when Darryl and his friends confronted some of the weaker hybrids.  The appearance of Michael Ingals, a powerful telepath, and probably the leader of the militant MORFS, was the only reason that there was not a riot during lunch on Thursday.  Darryl might be hateful, but he was not stupid, and while the pures had numbers, Michael was well known for his nasty habit of probing people’s minds and making them experience their worst fears.  The trick does not work on crowds, but Darryl had a hard time convincing anyone to put themselves in harm's way to let others take Michael down, and the incipient riot died unborn.

I actually breathed a sigh of relief this morning during first period when I heard that Darryl was going to be absent for the whole day while his injured arm received treatment.  My only worry was that a bio-elemental would almost certainly be called in to mend the broken bones, and Darryl would be even more poisonous and upset Monday after having one of the “unclean” help to cure him.

            I was about to leave the room when I heard a groan and looked back.  I immediately noticed the girl slumped in her chair and moved to check on her.  “What’s the problem?” I asked as I tried to remember her name.  She had brown hair that was long enough to fall across her face and obscure her features, but something about her was hauntingly familiar.  I had a thought that she might have been sitting in the back of a couple of the better attended pure meetings, but could not remember her name.

            “I just don’t feel well,” she said.  She raised her head for a moment, and I was shocked to see that a face could be completely pale and yet green at the same time.  I put a hand on her forehead and pulled it away quickly as I felt heat radiating from her. 

            “You need to see a doctor,” I said.  “And I get a feeling he will have to call your parents and direct you to a clinic.  This looks like MORFS.”

            “MORFS!  How can any mere student diagnose MORFS,” I heard someone cry from behind me.  “She’s probably just malingering in order to avoid the rest of her classes this week.”  A hand covered in fine hairs reached around her and touched her forehead.  There was a pause and then the hand moved away.  “Well, so she has a fever,” the voice now sniffed.  “That does not prove anything.  Drag her to the school nurse if you must, but it’s probably only some trick to get out of class.”  With a series of loud steps the body walked away.  I was so tempted to say something, but I’d recognized the voice and arm as belonging to Belinda Barlow, a bitter teacher who had never shown any empathy to her students. 

            “Well, she’s not diplomatic about it,” I said to the sick girl.  “But we do need to get you to the nurse.  Can you stand, or should I carry you?”

            The girl appeared to choke down a wave of nausea, and then whispered.  “I don’t think I can stand.”

            This wasn’t a surprise to me, as some other students who had come down with MORFS while at school had needed to be carried to the infirmary.  I reached down to sling her backpack over my shoulder and then gently gathered her in my arms.  She was not a large girl and thanks to my fitness regimen I was easily able to pick her up.  Her face bore silent witness to the waves of nausea she was suffering from, but she held her stomach in check as I lifted her up and began striding to the door.

            I had hoped to get to the office without incident, but as I turned the final corner I nearly ran over Gina as she stalked the hallways with two of her friends.  Gina’s friends gave screams of alarm and dashed away, but Gina stood there as I twisted my body to an awkward halt.

            “Well, if it isn’t everyone’s friend,” Gina said snidely.  “I see you are once again acting Captain Hero.  Of course we all know it’s just an act and you are merely a coward who refuses to fight for the righteous.”  I stood there stoically hoping she would go away, when she took a closer look at the young lady I was carrying.

            “Why, Wendy!  To think that someone from your family could look so sick at your age.  You don’t suppose you have MORFS do you.  Will your father be ever so disappointed.  And I can just imagine the service at church this Sunday.  Won’t Reverend Jim be asking how you allowed the evil into your body.  Or perhaps it was your mother who allowed a unclean touch years ago and you are finally being exposed for her foul treachery.”

            The girl in my arms squirmed and burrowed her face into my shoulder as if to hide.  I was worrying that her movements and obvious distress would finally overwhelm her self control and let the nausea I’d seen earlier take over, but before that could happen Allan appeared out of one of the rooms and spoke.  “Gina, you really are a right piece of work.  I’ve met snails with more compassion than you do, and I cannot imagine just how you can pretend that anything the UTPP teaches is righteous.  Now why don’t you run along and terrorize your younger brother about how he’s going to turn into a teddy bear if he doesn’t carry your books after school again.”

            Gina turned and with a scream full of humiliation ran off down the hallway.  I gave Allan a brief nod and started off for the nurse office again as he hurried along beside me.  As he did he took a moment to glance at the girl.

            “Do you know who she is?” I asked.

            “I think so, especially after Gina’s shouting,” Allan replied.  “And if I’m right, we have a problem.  I think this is Wendy Gerrish.  She’s not a bad person, but her parents are part of that cult, United Trinity of Perfect Purity.  If Wendy is very lucky, they might take her home and make her live on bread and water for the duration of her change before throwing her out.  Rumors say that some families are worse and will ship off kids who enter MORFS stage one to slave camps where they are forced to work until they die.  No matter what, Wendy will be blamed for somehow causing the transformation.”

            “Joy” I replied as we reached our destination and Allan opened the door for me to enter.  As I did, Miss Jordan, the school nurse noticed, and stood up from her desk, opening a drawer and removing a home MORFS blood test as she did so.

            “Lay her on the couch and then grab a bowl from the cabinet, please.” She said as she walked over to us.  “Where did she first become sick and who has seen her?”

            Allan was over at the cabinet so I took a moment to answer Miss Jordan.  “I heard her moan after our second period civics class ended.  Miss Barlow saw her, but refused to get involved.  On the way here I ran into Gina and two of her cronies, but I believe only Gina got a good look at her.”

            “That might be a blessing,” Miss Jordan said as she selected one of the girl’s fingers and placed it in the testing device.  “Gina is a problem, but she rarely talks much about anyone who gets MORFS once they do.  So if we are lucky this won’t end up all over the school by lunch.  That usually starts a panic with the freshman who haven’t caught MORFS all fearing that they will be in here before the end of the day.”

            Miss Jordan was waiting for the test to register and I was trying to make the girl a bit more comfortable just as Principal Smith entered the office from the hallway.  He looked over at the gathering and immediately asked.  “MORFS?”

            “It looks that way,” said Miss Jordan as Wendy finally lost her battle with the nausea and began vomiting into the bowl Allan had just brought over.  “We will know for sure in a moment.”

            “Do we know who this young lady is?” Principal Smith said just as the lady turned to lie back down. As she did, her hair fell back to reveal her face to him.  “Oh god, I’m sorry,” he said sadly.

            At that moment the test kit dinged and turned green.  “It’s MORFS,” Miss Jordan said as she removed the test pack and began resetting the device.  “This girl needs to go to the clinic right away.”

            Allan looked over at him.  “Its Wendy Gerrish isn’t it?”

            Principal Smith nodded.  “Yes, it is.  And I know her parents.  If I call they will be livid and refuse to take her to the clinic.”  He looked concerned.

            “I can take her to the clinic.  She could even stay with my father and me until she can find her own place,” I said. 

 

            I noticed that three sets of eyes were looking at me in shock.  I think Wendy’s would have been as well, but she was lying down with her hands over her eyes.  There was a long moment of silence and then Principal Smith spoke.  “Interesting.  Not an idea I would have thought of though.  But should I let a teenage girl move into a house where only a teenage male and his father live.  She’d have no woman around to help care for her.”

            “That’s not entirely true,” I said with a quick glance at Allan, who turned to inspect the drywall.  “It might have been, but that changed earlier this week.”

            Principal Smith looked interested.  “Humm… so I guess the rumors are true.  I must admit I’ve noticed a new ring adorning a certain finger during lunch in the faculty lounge the last two days.  But isn’t it a bit quick?”

            “My father and I were expecting to do some heavy moving this weekend,” I replied.  I looked over and noticed that Miss Jordan seemed completely confused by the conversation and smiled.

            “Well, but are you sure you can do it.  Its not like students have cars they can just carry a girl out to and drive off in,” Principal Smith said.

            “I think we can arrange that with a couple of phone calls,” I replied.  “If we can adjourn to your office for some privacy, that is.”

            “Indeed.  Allan, please return to your class and keep silent about this for now.  Miss Jordan, Hector and I are going to make some arrangements to get Wendy here to the clinic and then to a comfortable home so she can rest and endure stage two.  Please make sure we are not disturbed.”  Principal Smith then walked over to the door to his office and opened it, indicating that I should enter before him.

            He pointed towards the phone on his desk.  “I’m sure you know the number better than I.  Please make the calls, but use the speaker phone so I can join in if necessary/”

            I found the phone and dialed the number for my father’s office by memory.  As I had hoped Evelyn answered.  “Lynwood Insurance, how may I help you?”

            I quickly answered.  “Eve, this is Hector.  I need to have a quick private chat with my father.  Can you send him into the kitchen and route the call there?”

            I heard a muffled reply and then hold music came on.  It seemed an eternity before I heard my father pick up the phone.  “Hector, this is a surprise.  Eve tells me you are calling from what sounds like a speaker phone.”

            “I am, dad.  I’m in Principal Smith’s office.  There is a girl here in stage one of MORFS, but it turns out that her family goes to Trinity.  You know how the rules are and officially Principal Smith can only call them.  But if she is no longer here when he calls, she might be able to receive proper care.”

            “I think I understand,” my father said.  “And I can imagine you are thinking of a room of heather to let her rest in comfort.  However, the doctors usually want to see proof of parentage before they will issue prescriptions.”

            Principal Smith spoke up next to me.  “I’ve found that the clinic over by the plaza has this annoying habit of losing files and misdirecting patients.  You really should be careful where you take her.”

            My father laughed.  “Ouch, I can imagine that some officials do not care for that.  My only other question would be how you expect to travel there.  I doubt the school can loan you a car.”

            “I had this nutty idea to see how much goodwill I have with the faculty over at the elementary school,” I replied.  “If all goes well, I can be on my way in a few minutes.”

            “Ah, I do imagine you have some credit there.  I can even call ahead to speed you on your way,” my father said.  “When you get to the pharmacy tell them to contact me for the payment.”

            I hung up and Principal Smith smiled.  “I’ll have to call this in before the next period ends.  Hurry back with your conveyance and I’ll have Miss Jordan bring the girl down to you.  Don’t worry about your classes, I can run interference with your teachers today.”

            I nodded and dashed out of the office, giving Miss Jordan a quick wave as I entered the corridors.  The three campuses are separated slightly each with their own cafeteria and principal, but it was not uncommon for high school students to be sent to the other campuses as messengers so my travels did not draw any comments.  I worried a bit about entering Laura’s classroom, but she met me at the door with her key.  As I took it she gave me a loving smile.  “If only I had a brother like you years ago,” she said as I starting walking to the faculty lot.

            Finding Laura’s nut-brown sedan in the faculty parking lot proved to be easy.  Sadly, getting in and starting it required a bit of effort, as I had to push the seat away from the steering wheel just to fit my body in.  I had a bit of an experience driving her car, and after killing the engine once trying to get out of the faculty lot; I was able to motor over to the entrance to the high school.

            I had been worried about how Wendy would be brought out to the car, however, Principal Smith had thought ahead.  The front door of the school opened as I brought the car to a halt and Coach Davis came out carrying her limp form.  I opened the passenger door and he set her inside.  “I’ll make an excuse for you to miss practice today, but remember to put in some time this weekend, we have a big game next Friday,” he told me as I started to buckle her in.  Once Wendy was secure in the car, he closed the door and returned to the school. 

            The drive to the clinic was silent, and a bit long.   I avoided the clinic closest to the school and took a long drive over to the old plaza where the first county clinic still operated.  I found it in a decaying mass of warehouses and mostly closed factories and quickly parked right out front.  Wendy was now almost unconscious and made no protest as I walked around the car and lifted her up to carry her inside.

            The crumbling exterior of the building concealed a pristine interior that was without patients at this time of the day.  Once inside, I found an old nurse manning the reception deck.  She was wearing a garishly colored top over the traditional hospital whites.   With barely a glance at me, she spotted Wendy and then stood up, speaking.  “Oh dear.  Let’s get her into a room and then we can worry about the paperwork.”

            I followed the nurse into a spotless examination room and gently placed Wendy on the examination table in the room.  The nurse was setting up for the exam when she looked over at me before returning her gaze to Wendy.

            “You aren’t going to try to tell me that she’s your sister are you?” she said.  “Let me guess, you go to Bakersfield Polytech and just happened upon this young Independence High student collapsed on the sidewalk.  You brought her here because the clinic near the school was just too crowded, am I right?”

            I was about to deny her statement when I noticed the slight smile.  “Well, she had crawled into a front lawn before collapsing, but the crowd at the clinic in southwest Bakersfield was packed when I got there,” I replied tentatively.

            The nurse smiled.  “Come with me to the front so we can deal with a bit of paperwork.  The doctor will check on her in a moment.”

            We returned to the front where the nurse pulled out some paperwork.  She made no inquiry into the identity of Wendy, but concentrated on having me fill out each form with information she supplied from a set of cue cards.  I nearly laughed when she told me to fill in the patient’s name as Elmyra Fudd and the parent’s name as Elmer Fudd.  The laughter did burst forth when she asked.  “And how will master Fudd be compensating the good doctor for his diagnosis?”

            A few moments later I had control over my laughter and handed her one of my father’s business cards.  She smiled and called the office, asking whoever answered to speak with my father.  The conversation with him was short and ended with her providing the ID for an online payment location.  I didn’t hear the amount asked for, but it was clear that my father’s response satisfied her because she hung up and then stood up, beckoning me to return to the examination room.

            We arrived to find the doctor just putting away his instruments.  I had thought the nurse was old, but he looked positively ancient, with deep lines in his weathered skin.    The nurse handed him a newly made file that he looked over briefly before looking up at me.  “Well son, your friend here should be fine.  Stage one appears to be progressing normally and just about over.  Once you get this prescription filled, she should smoothly transition to stage two.  Just get her into a comfortable bed and make sure she rests peacefully.  Having militants around is no way to keep the mind calm and relaxed, which is important to a successful recovery.  Once she’s done with stage two, you can take her to the clinic near the school for the post-MORFS exam.”

            “But, won’t her parents need to be there when she visits?” I asked.

            The nurse was the one to reply.  “They are used to this, dearie.  As long as she identifies herself as Elmyra the doctors there won’t ask any questions.  Now you better get going, we’ll call ahead to the Walgreen’s at Treeoak and Main so that you can get the prescription filled without leaving the car.”

            With a few more gentle hints and smiles, the old doctor and nurse had me pick up Wendy and carry her down to my car.  I had started it and was already halfway home and a block from the pharmacy when I realized I had never told them which route I was going to take.

            With the drive too and from the clinic, plus a short wait at the pharmacy for the MORFS IV kit, it was almost time for lunch when I pulled into the driveway and activated the garage door.  As I pulled into the garage I noticed that my father had pulled his car out and parked it on the street, giving me plenty of space to walk around and lift Wendy from the passenger seat.  She was limp with exhaustion and fever, so I hurried to the side door, to find my father opening it just as I arrived.  Evelyn was standing behind him.   She gasped for a moment and then nodded.  “Sorry, she just looks so pitiful and tiny in your arms.”

            My father led me up the steps and then opened the door to what would have been my sister’s room if she ever visited.  He pulled the blankets down as I placed Wendy onto the mattress.

            “Now boys, go and get the kit and bring it back,” Evelyn said.  “Someone should get this poor girl out of her clothes and it wouldn’t be right for a man to take liberties.”  She pushed us out the door with her always surprising strength and my father laughed as we descended the stairs back to the car.

            We didn’t hurry on the return and Evelyn was as efficient at settling Wendy in as she was at dealing with customers in my father’s office.  We returned to find Wendy’s clothes neatly folded in top of the dresser and a sleeping Wendy covered by the blankets with only her left arm out awaiting the IV.

            My father smiled and quickly went about connecting the IV and making sure the first energy pack/sleeping solution mix was feeding properly.  We had heard in history class that several scientists had developed the IV packs to both speed up the transition as well as reduce the stress on the patient.  The body would receive an increased level of nutrients from the energy portion, while the sleeping solution kept the subject in a state of painless calm while the body completed its adjustments.  Transformations that used to take months now routinely took no more than a week, as long as the energy packs were kept replenished throughout stage two.  He made a final check to see that Wendy was sleeping peacefully and then we both left the room, closing the door softly behind us.

            “If the packaging was accurate, she’ll be sleeping for several hours at least,” my father said.  “And you probably shouldn’t return to school.  Can you stay busy until then?”

            I held up my backpack.  “I might have a bit of homework I can complete,” was my reply. 

            “Good.  Now why not tell me a bit more about the young lady we are now hosting,” my father continued.

            “I’m afraid I do not know that much.  I actually barely recognized her, and then only as someone who had attended a few of the “pure” meetings.  Her name is Wendy Gerrish, and from things that were said while I was taking her to the school office, her family belongs to Trinity of Perfect Purity.  Gina was almost beside herself with glee over the prospect of seeing Wendy thrown out because of MORFS.”

            My father raised his hand at this point and spoke.  “Wait, Gina, the militant terror against MORFS knows this girl was ill?”

            I sighed.  “Yes dad, while I was carrying her to the office I ran into Gina in the halls.  She spoke some words and then Allan Stone came out of a classroom and ran her off.  He came to the nurse's office with me and Miss Jordan confirmed that it was MORFS.  That’s when I called you from Principal Smith’s office.”

            My father nodded.  “Well, if Gina knows, you can expect that your apostasy towards the pure movement is going to be revealed.  Everything you have said makes it clear that she wants to have more influence over the others who are anti-MORFS and if she can tell others that you are only playing at it, she will.”

            I shrugged.  “I always knew that it would eventually be impossible to hide.  And I really didn’t want to anymore.  Laura is a wonderful woman, and I want her to understand that I truly want her as my step-mother and friend.”

            My father smiled and waved and then strode down the stairs.  I could hear the door to the insurance agency office open and close.  I looked once more at the door to the room where Wendy was resting and then with a sigh headed to my room to put some work into my English term paper.

 

            It turned out that my research let me to a discussion on the costs of producing what one of the participants called broadcast entertainment, and how an interrelation between advertising, unions and an expanding entertainment delivery system pushed companies to find new systems of casting and filming their shows.  A section detailing the concept of unscripted shows starring people who were competing for a monetary prize led me into a whole new direction and before I knew it, Laura was knocking on my door to tell me that I had a call.  “Some guy asked for you after calling your father’s office,” she told me.

            I called back that I’d be down in a moment and closed out the paragraph I was working on.  I was surprised to find that I had added fifteen pages to my term paper in the four hours I had been studying.  I made a mental note to review my work and find a way to tie all my research together with a conclusion.  A couple of quick clicks saved my work, and I then ran down the stairs to get the phone.

            I tried to think of who might be calling as I headed down the stairs.  Laura pointed to the phone on the wall in the living room, where a hold light was blinking.  I picked up the phone and pressed the hold button.  “This is Hector,” I said into the mouthpiece.

            “Hector!  Oh good, I finally located you,” a male voice I vaguely recognized said.  “Look, I just got a call from home, and it was full of rumors.  I’m trying to clear up the information and I’m hoping you can help.”

            The voice seemed ready to continue on, so I interrupted.  “I’m sorry, but who am I speaking with?”

            There was a moment of silence.  “Oh I’m sorry.  I thought you’d recognize my voice.  I forget you haven’t spoken to me in nearly two years,” the voice said.  “I’m Bart, Bart Blevins.  Remember you started your sophomore year at linebacker while I started at defensive end.  I’m at Alabama now, playing for the Crimson Tide.”

            I nearly dropped the phone.  I remembered Bart, and most of it wasn’t exactly pleasant.  He was a mean and bitter young man.  Angry at a world he didn’t understand.  He had struggled in his classes, and felt that any MORFS survivor was fair game for a beating if they made the mistake of coming within reach.  If he hadn’t been simply incredible on the football field, I expect he would have been expelled after his sophomore year, but he had graduated and even managed to impress the scouts enough to receive an offer to play at the University of Alabama.  Last we heard, he had cracked the starting lineup and was playing on Saturdays.

            “Hector! Hector, are you listening?” I heard come from the phone’s speaker and I returned it to my ear.  “Look, I know you have little reason to help, but this is important to me, and you are one of the few people I know who might help.”

            “I’m listening,” I replied.  “But how can I help you, I don’t live anywhere near you.”

            “The help isn’t for me,” Bart said.  “As I said, I just heard from the family.  They weren’t too clear in the details, but someone reported that my cousin went into MORFS at school, today.  You know that my whole family goes to Trinity, and there is no way they will take care of her properly.  I need to know if she is going to be all right.”

            I paused.  “Bart, did I hear you right?  You have a cousin with MORFS you want protected?”

            “Yes.  I know it’s strange, but she always was a sweet girl, always being nice to everyone.  I remember my father complaining to his sister that she must be some kind of changeling because she did not like attending church or participating in rallies.” Bart continued.

            I found myself looking over at my father, who seemed puzzled, only hearing my half of the conversation.  “Well, I can imagine that you might want to know more, but how can I help?  I don’t even know the name of your cousin.  It obviously wouldn’t be Blevins if her mother was your father’s sister.”

            Bart groaned.  “God, I’m sorry.  I’m just so worried about her.  You know spending a year playing college football has opened my eyes quite a bit.  Some of my teammates are more human than the pastor at Trinity.  Worse, some of them tell stories of the pain they feel because their family and friends rejected them.  I’ve even joined a new church here, and it is like I’m reading a different Bible.  So much is different now.  Oh, but about her name.  My aunt married a Wally Gerrish.  My cousin is Wendy, Wendy Gerrish, she should be in your senior class.”

            “Wendy?  Yes, she and I share a civics class.  Small girl with short brown hair?” I asked.

            “That sounds like her, although she used to keep her hair longer,” Bart said relieved.  “Look, I know I’m asking a lot and probably putting you at risk, but I’ve always known you didn’t really support the glorious cause as it were.  Wendy can’t stay with her family; they will kill her for being unclean.   You have a lot of influence with the other students, can you find someone to take her in and take care of her?”

            “It sounds like this girl means a lot to you,” I returned.  “I must admit that I’m a bit surprised to hear you asking me to protect anyone.  You were never all that compassionate while at school.”

            I heard a sob come from the phone.  “Please.  She was my only friend growing up.  You know how my father is.  If a family wasn’t sufficiently pure, he would cut them off and order me to avoid them, no matter how close of friends they had become.  I was always terrified that he’d demand I quit football because 'animals' were allowed to participate.  After every game, he would banish me to my room and not allow me out until Sunday to attend church.  I was expected to spend the time praying for salvation.  He even threatened to disown me for going off to college.  Wendy is my only family member to love me just because I’m family.  She’d sneak into my room on Saturdays and play cards with me to keep me company.  I just want her to have a chance to find happiness in the future, and she won’t if she stays with them.”

            I pulled the phone away and looked at it for a moment, surprised by the venom in Bart’s voice.  Of all the people who might have been open to helping someone through MORFS, Bart was one of the last I would have expected.  But something in me said he was sincere, so with a deep breath I brought the phone back up to my face.

            “Bart.  I can confirm part of what you heard.  Wendy did enter stage one of MORFS this morning at school.  She was taken to the school office.  However, after that I am not sure what Principal Smith did, when it comes to contacting her family.  I do know that concern was expressed when it was revealed that her family was anti-MORFS.  As I understand it, she was sent to a clinic under an assumed name, and is now resting comfortably in an undisclosed location.”

            My father gave me a smile and thumbs up as I said this.  He then waved as if I should cut the call short.

            “Look Bart, my father is signaling that we have to go.  We had some family plans tonight, and I’m delaying the start of the festivities.  I can promise you that if you call back another day, I’ll try to provide you with more information,” I said.

            “One question,” Bart interjected.  “Is my cousin staying at a building where for the last three years, a girl who has hair that changes with the seasons, has been working?”

            “Bart, you seem like a much different and mature man than I remember two years ago when your favorite activity was seeing if you could stuff freshmen into lockers,” was my response.  “But your family might not be so nice.  If they find out where your cousin is, she could be in a bit of danger, so I will only say that she is resting comfortably and receiving the recommended treatments.”

            I could almost hear Bart smile over the phone.  “Thank you for your care,” he whispered and then hung up.

            I returned the phone to the charging station as my father watched.  “Who was that?” he asked.

            “Bart Blevins.  I guess he is Wendy’s cousin, and he wanted to make sure that she was receiving treatment.  Hopefully, he won’t now be calling his father to make a report.”

            My father nodded.  “It sounded like he might be honestly concerned about Wendy.  You should plan on updating him in the future.”

            Just then Laura appeared from the kitchen and wrapped my father in a hug.  “That’s enough moping,” she giggled.  “Now shall we start the evening with an early dinner?  I want to enjoy a movie before you two get to play pack mule tomorrow.”

            I laughed, gave a horrible impression of a donkey’s bray and headed to the kitchen as my father silenced Laura with a kiss.

            As I entered the kitchen, I found Evelyn setting the table.  I quickly apologized as I moved to my seat, but looked over at my father.

            “Don’t worry, this isn’t a business dinner,” my father said when he noticed my gaze.  “I thought that Laura and Evelyn could tell us a bit more about what it's like to go through MORFS and what kind of support that poor girl is going to need.  I understand that the changes are often traumatic, and the fact that this young lady is going to be disowned by her family will only make it worse for her.”

            I looked over at Evelyn as Laura giggled.  Evelyn just sat there quietly, and waited for me to say something.  She was another MORFS survivor and had become a good friend of my father since he hired her as an office assistant three years before.   Her changes were not as obvious as Laura’s, but I knew that she rarely dated because many men were uncomfortable being with her.

            Evelyn’s changes all seemed to be plant based, but in an unusual way.  Her long hair now changed colors with the seasons, like the leaves on a tree.  Right now in mid-October, her hair was a lustrous combination of yellows and reds, but one could see the start of the winter brown coming through.  By November her hair would be a completely unremarkable brown and stay that way until spring when it would turn a vivid green.  She almost always wore long sleeved outfits to hide the backs of her arms, which were covered in plates of skin that had the texture of tree bark.  Those changes would have been enough, but she also discovered that she could manipulate soil and produce light.  The ability was extremely limited, and had little use beyond encouraging plants to grow where they normally would not.  Evelyn took that in stride and the agency office almost always had several flowers in bloom thanks to her abilities.  None of this changed who she was though, and she worked with my father with intelligence and diligence.  It was impossible not to respect her.

            “I just wish there was something I could do for her,” I said.  “She seemed so helpless in my arms.”

            Laura paused from her eating and looked at me.  “You have already started doing what she needs most.  You have shown her that no matter what; someone is still going to care for her.  For now, just be there for her.  Don’t have expectations.  Don’t ask her for anything.  Just be there.”

            I must have looked confused, but Evelyn nodded.  “The biggest fear I had when I went through MORFS was that people would stop being my friends, or leave me because of the change.  And my change was very hard on my father.  He withdrew from me at first, and my mother could not totally fill the void in my life.  My schoolwork suffered while I tried to accept the changes, and I pulled away from others.  My high school years ended up being miserable because I couldn’t accept myself.”

            “I always thought you were so happy, Evelyn,” I said, puzzled.  “My father’s office is bright and cheerful because of your efforts, and whenever I stop by, anyone waiting is always chatting with you and smiling.   But, part of the problem is that I don’t know Wendy very well.  She was a classmate, but I can't remember ever talking to her.”

            Laura giggled.  “You might not have talked to her, but I’m willing to bet that she will be thrilled to have you show you care.”

            I stared at Laura who looked at me and giggled again before leaning over to kiss my father on the cheek.  She moved her chair so that she could lean against him and smiled at me.  I turned to my father.

            “Don’t worry son, I didn’t recognize her either,” he said.  “Laura noticed it though.  Wendy has been helping the team during football games.  You know, bringing out water bottles during time-outs, and helping tape ankles and such.  Laura tells me that if the defense is on the field when there is a timeout, Wendy always runs to you first.”

            I thought back to the four games we had played, and tried to remember the faces on the students who acted as assistants to the trainers.  It was a few moments before I remembered the small girl with the brown hair who always gave me a huge smile when I took a water bottle.

            “That’s who we have upstairs?” I asked.

            Laura smiled as she cuddled my father.  “Yes, and its pretty clear she has quite a crush on you.  But you better not try to take advantage of that.  She’s going to be very vulnerable when she enters stage three.  The changes are frightening and she is going to feel very alone.  Become her friend.  That is the best thing you can do.”

            Evelyn added.  “And we don’t know how she will change.  Right now she still looks the same.  What she looks like, and what other changes she may suffer are going to have a huge effect on her.  So now, we make sure her IV is always working, and wait.”

            There was a silence around the table after that, broken only by the sound of Laura giving my father another kiss.  I glanced at the clock and realized it was almost seven.  “Dad, should I go and check the IV?” I asked.   “She’s been left alone for a while.”

            My father nodded, and as I stood up, Evelyn joined me.  She followed me up the stairs and then hurried ahead to open the door before I reached it and peek in.  She kept me from entering for a moment and then nodded and opened the door fully.

            Wendy was still lying peacefully under the covers.  Now that I was able to get a closer look, I recognized the girl with the wonderful smile.  I also realized why I hadn’t noticed her before.  Her hair was shoulder length, but rather plain, and I had always preferred long hair when I was looking at the girls at school.  I felt a moment of shock once again by how helpless she looked and how much I wanted to protect her and bring that wonderful smile I remembered from the football games back.  However, I didn’t want to linger and looked over at the IV, which was nearly empty.

            “Should we wake her?” I asked Evelyn, who was pulling a fresh bottle from the box that came with the kit. 

            “No,” she said as she turned to me and handed me the bottle.  “Stage two is rather rough, but your body understands how to work with it.  She will probably wake a couple times, either because the IV runs completely out, or when her bladder needs to be emptied, but when that isn’t the case its best to sleep through it.  Waking just reminds you that you are changing, and it’s awful to wake up and understand that you are never going to look like you did just a day before.”  She shivered from the memory and then pulled the spent bag from the receptacle.  I followed up by attaching the new bottle and, other than a momentary sigh, Wendy slept on, unaware of the conversation that had just taken place. 

 

Monday, October 16, 2045

 

I was still quite a bit sore as I walked to campus.  My father and I had moved all of Laura’s possessions either into our house, or into a storage shed until she had time to sort through it and decide what items could be sold.  At least Coach Davis would not be able to complain that I had not worked out hard after missing practice on Friday.  About a block from campus I found Allan waiting for me.  He touched me on the shoulder and said, “You better be careful today.  Gina definitely managed to get in touch with Darryl over the weekend.  I’ve heard that he plans on ambushing you in the hallway today.”

“That was expected,” I replied.  “At least this means that after Friday’s game I can give my step-mother to be a hug.  I also will get to see her sitting by my father at games.”

Allan just smiled at this.  “That will be a very unpleasant surprise for Gina.  You know that she still believes that someday you’d see the light and ask her out on a date”

I tripped and stumbled for a moment upon hearing this.  “Gaaah.  I’d rather go live with my mother than spend any unnecessary time in Gina’s company.”

Seeing we were still about half a block from campus, Allan whispered.  “Is she going to be okay?”

I replied equally quietly.  “She woke Sunday morning, confused and upset, but Laura managed to calm her down.  The visible changes are limited, but she’s definitely going to have non-human ears and a tail of some kind.  She probably has 3 more days to go though.”

“How about we throw a party for her next Saturday?” Allan mused.  “Something to show her that no matter what she looks like, she still has friends.”

I merely nodded as we were entering the campus and I could see Darryl and Gina standing in front of the main hall, glaring in our direction.

“Where is she?” Gina screeched.  “You have to know where the animal is hiding.”

Darryl moved to block my path and a rather reluctant looking Tristan stood next to him.  “You won’t pass until you answer the lady,” Darryl threatened.

“Calling Gina a lady is a stretch.  She has none of the poise, charm and dignity a lady displays,” I replied sharply.  “As for your threat to keep me from passing, I have classes today, and I intend to go to them.  Now, you just got your arm unbroken, shall we see if I can break it again? ” I flexed my arms and handed my backpack to Allan.

Darryl stood in front of me for a moment longer and then stepped to the side, silently staring at me.  Gina gave a hiss of protest, but Allan slipped through the opening and I followed, entering the campus.  Darryl gave me a rough shove as I passed, but Tristan stood motionless.  I was able to pass by and Darryl stood there with his back to me as the door swung closed.  Just before it shut with a click, I heard him murmur.  “This isn’t over yet, freaklover.”

First period was not too bad, but two of Darryl’s friends were in the class, and I found myself the target of juvenile pranks like spitballs whenever the teacher’s attention wandered away from the students.

I was surprised to find that Mrs. Barlow approached me before second period started and actually thanked me for showing that I cared.  “I know that I don’t show much compassion to the students,” she said.  “What most of you don’t know is that ten years ago I had a son enter MORFS while attending school and one of the other students decided to take the opportunity to beat him to a pulp.  It happened during a class break and none of the other students lifted a finger to help him.  He barely survived and the damage was actually made worse during stage two.  He took his own life once he graduated from high school.  Since then, I just cannot seem to open up to my students.”  There were tears in her eyes, but I could not reply and she then went to the front of the class and ignored me for the rest of the period.

My remaining classes were uneventful.  Most of the students had heard rumors, but my silence about what had happened left them confused.  Gina had a reputation for being overzealous and vindictive and most of the students had heard that I refused to support Darryl’s big plea for retaliation the previous week.  I did find that Gina had arranged to claim my usual bench for breaks, and I wandered into the neutral area around the fountain looking for a new place to relax during lunch.  It proved to be a blessing as Fred Williams, a former member of the pure patrol and now raccoon hybrid came over and we spent the lunch talking about old times.  Before lunch was over a new group of students had gathered around me, telling bad jokes and singing songs together.  It was a breath of fresh air from the bitter and frightened conversations usually to be found in the pure courtyard.  I was especially surprised when Tina and Angela came by and listened. 

I did hear that I was no longer welcome at meetings.  Gina and Darryl had clearly been busy throughout the weekend in drumming up the pure faction, and many of the members took the time to hunt me down in the halls.  The message was uniformly the same, that at least for the moment, they were going to have to avoid me.  I remembered my father’s stories of just how corrosive and insidious peer pressure could be, but this was my first time to be a victim of it, and having long time friends tell me they were cutting me off was disheartening.  Interestingly, many MORFS who I had helped dropped notes in my backpack whenever I wasn’t looking, and every note expressed a quiet sympathy with me, as well as admiration for standing up for them.  The most touching was a beautifully colored page written by Irene, where she revealed that many of the MORFS knew about my attempts to protect them.  They did not fully understand why I refused to be more open, but they were touched that I finally stood up for one of their number.  I found myself wondering just how much I had missed over the years by refusing to break with the militant pures.

Football Practice was another eye-opener.  Like most high school teams in the post MORFS era more than half the team was made up of MORFS survivors who had gained physical abilities in their transformations.  Most of them had always been respectful, but distant.  There was never much camaraderie with them.  Now most were approaching me to shake my hand and offer to work through drills with me.  The change was more pronounced in the drills as instead of trying to destroy me, they pushed me to excel in the drills and offered pointers when they saw something I missed.  I found myself hoping that Tristan might notice and speak up.  He had an older brother who had MORFed and I know his parents were rather unhappy with him joining the pure meetings.  It was clear that he worried about the transformation, as his brother had ended up with a severely bent back and blue hair from his bout with MORFS, but nothing else.  The poor man was going to spend his life in a wheelchair because of the damage MORFS did to him.  But Tristan just watched the new approach from the other players without speaking and left immediately after practice, giving me no opportunity to talk to him.

 

Wednesday, October 18, 2045

 

            Laura checked on Wendy while I prepared breakfast and reported that it looked like stage two would run its course before the day ended.  School proved to be more than a bit of a distraction.  Darryl and his cohorts continued to wage a rather open war against me.  I had spent much of my last class on Tuesday in the office after a fight, and on Wednesday, one of Darryl’s favorites kept trying to start a fight with me during lunch.  Allan and I were finally forced to throw him in the fountain and hold hum under the water until he surrendered.  Worse, my mind was mostly back at the house, as I was worrying about how to make sure Wendy found a happy future once she woke up. Despite this I managed to avoid any major embarrassments during classes.

Practice didn’t go as well.  We had a big game coming up against Central on Friday, and Coach Davis was really putting pressure on the team to practice at a high level.  My worries about Wendy, caused me to lose concentration enough times that he finally pulled me out of a drill to talk to me.

I told him about Wendy and the fact that she was expected to wake up today and he nodded.  He told me that he understood and that he respected my taking a stand.  He then warned me to get my head back into the game or he’d line up the offense and give them each a free shot at me, which definitely got my attention.  The rest of practice went smoothly, although I knew I could have been performing much better.

I felt like the team had been practicing for hours when Coach Davis finally called an end to practice.  Normally I would hang around and chat, especially as I was finding more and more of the MORFS survivors on the team willing to approach me and start conversations, but for once, I rushed through my post practice shower and took off for home at a run.

It seemed that the lights for every street I had to cross were against me, and when I finally arrived at the house the sun was just finishing dropping below the horizon.  Since it was late and the lights to the insurance office were out I entered through the side door, to find Laura, Evelyn and my father waiting there.

I stopped as I set my backpack down.  “Is something wrong?” I asked.

Laura smiled.  “No.  We just expected Wendy to wake soon, and the thought was that having some people around to talk to might help her.  We were hoping that you’d be here though.  She doesn’t know the rest of us, and as you said her family is anti-MORFS, waking up to Evelyn or myself might be too much of a shock.”

I was thinking on this when we all heard a scream from the room above.  Without a thought I dashed up the stairs and opened the door to the room where Wendy had been sleeping.

I looked up as the door opened and then immediately turned my head as I found myself looking at the naked back of a distressed girl.  She was covering her face with her hands and crying.  I looked over at the chair sitting next to the bed and seeing a robe hanging over the back, picked it up and used it to cover Wendy.

I was going to put my arms around her when I suddenly had a desperate urge, to rip the robe off of Wendy and show her something other than tenderness.  A huge part of me was completely appalled by the thought and I summoned my willpower to tame my rising libido.  The feeling subsided a little, but persisted even as I tried to get Wendy to calm.  I was putting my arm around her while a titanic struggle between my honor and my lust warred within me.  I could not understand the feeling, or its intensity, but I finally beat it down enough to take a breath and speak.

“Wendy.  Wendy!  Look up.  Look at me,” I said as she continued to sob into her hands.  The crying had slowed, and then stopped with a gasp.  Her right hand grabbed the robe and pulled it tightly around her body as she reached out with her left hand and squeezed my arm.  I held still and then Wendy raised her head and looked directly at me.

To say I got lost in her eyes for a moment would be an understatement.  Her face was largely unchanged from that of the shy and frightened girl I remembered bringing drinks on the football field, except for her eyes.  Her eyes were now a scintillating dark green that spoke of deep forests and gentle breezes.  I looked up and found that her ears had become rabbit ears.  The ears had migrated to the top of her head, much like where they would rest on a rabbit’s head.  The fur over her ears and her hair itself was now a strange combination of brown, grey, white and black.    The hair seemed fuller and longer, but was trapped under the robe, so I could not determine its length.  The color reminded me of the wild rabbits that raced around the fields at school around dawn or dusk.

The near overwhelming urge to push the robe off her shoulders increased and I was starting to worry when she suddenly spoke.  “Hector?  Where am I?  What happened to me?”

I choked back a cry and then sighed.  “Wendy, you collapsed in civics class on Friday.  The nurse identified it as MORFS.  The talk I heard suggested that it would be extremely dangerous for you to return home, so this room was made available until you finished stage two, and could decide on your own what you wanted to do.  You are welcome to stay here as long as you need.”

Wendy’s hand gripped my arm even more tightly.  I found my fingers going numb, as she whispered back, “Thank you.”  She then let go of my arm and used her left hand to pull her hair out from underneath the robe.  As it came out I was surprised to see that the mottled pattern continued throughout each strand and that the hair fell in a wave to her waist.  It was an incredible sight.  Wendy didn’t seem to notice her longer hair, or its new color.  “I’m an animal now,” she whispered.

“What do you mean?” I looked over her, and then sat down on the bed.  “You are one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.  And I can assure you that you are no animal.  MORFS cannot change a person’s soul, merely their appearance.  If you were human before MORFS, you remain human in your heart.”

Wendy smiled sadly.  “That’s not what I was taught.  But what I was taught never did feel quite right to me.  When Veronica went through changes in seventh grade, she didn’t suddenly start attacking people.  She ended up looking like some monstrous half-lizard.  I never talked to her much after that though, my parents ordered me to stay far away from her.”

I remembered Veronica.  She had undergone a rather shocking transformation, but come through with her pride intact.  Once she discovered that her new lizard form could swim much better than a human, she had turned her attention to swimming and lifeguarding.  The local pool had received quite a few howls when they hired her three years ago to be a swim instructor, but most people stopped protesting once they saw her work.  I made a mental note to see if I could bring Wendy and Veronica back together in the future.

Wendy threw her arms around me and gave another strangled sob.  I found my arms going around her instinctively.  The waves of lust continued to flow through me, and I started to get some idea that Wendy was causing them somehow.  I pushed another wave of lust into the background and spoke.   “Wendy, you have friends.  Your true friends will care for you, no matter what.  I’m just one of your many friends.  And I assure you, that none of your true friends will worry about what you look like.”

“But I’ve got a tail!” wailed Wendy into my shoulder.  “Only animals have tails.”

I looked down, but the robe hid Wendy’s body from her shoulders down.  It was clear that she had a tail, but I could not see it without removing the robe, and with the strange attacks of lust still surging through me, I felt it unwise to head down that path.  Instead, I pushed Wendy away so I could look her in the eye.  “Who says that?  People like your parents?  Have they ever met and talked to one of the many humans who have survived MORFS and acquired tails?”  Wendy seemed uncertain and I continued.  “Perhaps you should talk to one.  Dad!  Laura!  Can you come up here?”  I shouted towards the open door.

Wendy seemed to cringe at the noise and then her ears twitched.  “Three people are coming, but you only called two,” she said.

I looked up at her ears, which twitched back and forth as if trying to isolate individual sounds.  “Well, Evelyn was downstairs earlier.  She must be coming up the stairs with Laura and my father.  She’s survived MORFS as well and might be able to offer you some advice.”

Wendy seemed a bit nervous, but before she could protest, Laura entered the room, followed by my father and Evelyn.  I noticed a strange fire in my father’s eyes, and he began to step closer to the bed.  He had only taken a step when he shook his head gathered Laura in a tight hug, giving her a hard kiss.   The kiss made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but strangely Wendy relaxed a little in my arms.

“Father,” I warned.  “We are here to help Wendy adjust, not to engage in foreplay with my stepmother, the lovely and passionate Laura.”

Wendy choked in my arms.  Immediately she pushed me away to stare at my face as I smiled at Laura.  Laura giggled, and then looked at my father.  “He’s right.  Not that I minded the kiss, but what brought that on?”

My father started blushing.  He looked at Laura and then over at Wendy.  “I’m sorry.  When I entered the room, I suddenly had this nearly overwhelming urge to....” he paused and blushed.  “I cannot understand.  I have in my arms the most beautiful and loving woman I can imagine. One who will do anything for me.  But I suddenly wanted to take you, Wendy.”

Wendy blushed and her arms tightened around my body.  “Why?  I’m not special.  And I’m some kind of animal now.”

Evelyn had been standing in the back, but whispered.  “Pheromones.  Wendy now puts out pheromones.”

There was silence in the room and Wendy’s grip on me tightened.  Everyone looked over at Evelyn, and I noticed that her hands were gripping the door so tightly that her knuckles stood out white against her tan skin.  She looked unusually agitated.  The silence continued and then Laura spoke.  “You're saying that…”

Evelyn whispered again.  “That’s what it appears.  Horace says he felt a strong pull to go to Wendy, and it’s all I can do to stand here and not rush towards her myself, although I’ve never been interested in women before.  I’m not sure how Hector can just sit on the bed and hold her like that.”

I could feel Wendy shift to look up at me.  She had been resting her head against my chest and holding me tight, but loosened her grip.  My father also looked at me and raised an eyebrow in question.

I sighed.  I wanted to claim that I did not feel the waves of lust, but I was sure everyone could see it in my face.  I looked Wendy directly in the eyes  “How I feel about her doesn’t matter.  To do something like that now, when she needs a friend she can trust would be inexcusable.  I won’t say I don’t feel it as well.  I do, and it is very strong.  But if anything is going to happen, it will be because Wendy loves me and is wearing my engagement ring.  Until that day occurs, I will not overstep my bounds.  No honorable man could do any less.  That is what my father taught me.  Although I must admit the thought of this beautiful woman in love with me excites me.”

Laura giggled.  “He didn’t need me wearing his ring.  Of course, I would have accepted it then, but I think he needed to heal some more first.”

My father smiled, and I noticed that Evelyn’s eyes expressed the pain of a missed opportunity.  However, Wendy shifted and my thoughts went back to her.

“You probably want to shower and freshen up,” I said to her.  “Then we need to plan on getting you to the clinic tomorrow for your post-MORFS exam.  I guess it will be Friday or Monday when you return to school.”

My father spoke.  “Laura can help her through the shower and dealing with a tail.”  Laura’s tail whipped around to smack him in the face, which caused him to stop and glare at her.  She smiled and winked so he continued.  “Hector, if you can miss school, you should take Wendy to the clinic and the mall tomorrow.  She’s going to need new clothing.”

Wendy seemed puzzled.  “Why would I need new clothing?”

Laura laughed.  “Well for one, you are going to be living here now, aren’t you?  And somehow I doubt your family is going to welcome you going home to collect your old clothing.”  Laura looked over Wendy.  “And MORFS tends to change your body.  How tall are you and what bra cup size are you?” 

Wendy shifted in my arms, looking a bit more confused.  “I’m five three.  And I won’t tell you my bra size in front of Hector and his father.  That’s indecent.”

Evelyn just shook her head.  She had relaxed a little and released the door, but she still stood in the doorway, as far away from Wendy as possible and still remain in the room.  “I know where Laura is going girl, but I think we’ll show you all three additional reasons at once.  Hector, I know you are enjoying holding Wendy close, but stand up for a moment.” 

I followed her instructions and stood up from the bed.  Wendy was reluctant to let me go, but released her hug, only to grasp my left arm tightly once I had finished standing.  I looked down to see her gazing up at me with a look no girl had ever given me before.  There was a strange mix of hope and trust in her eyes that filled me with a sense of pride.  I realized that while I had not noticed Wendy at school, I had admired her and definitely wanted to know more about her.  My mind reminded me that other than a couple moments when I first arrived, Wendy had been quietly holding on to me and despite the uncertainty she had to be feeling her crying had ceased. My heart suddenly filled with a strange feeling and I realized that I wanted Wendy to wear my ring someday soon.

Evelyn didn’t seem to notice the look because she then instructed Wendy to pull the robe tight around her body and stand up next to me.

The gasp that Wendy gave was echoed by the gasp my father gave as everyone in the room realized that Wendy could nearly look me in the eye.  In fact if you measure her from her toes to the tips of her ears, Wendy now stands a good six inches taller than I do.  She looked down and gasped again as she noticed her breasts pushing against the robe.  There was a moment I thought she’d start crying, but instead she put her right arm around me and pulled me into another crushing hug.

I could hear Laura start to speak though.  “About five foot ten, I’d say.  And I’m sure you’ll agree that you are not going to be wearing the same bra size anymore.  When you add in the tail, you will need a completely new wardrobe.”

Wendy nodded as she continued to hold onto me.  “But, my family would never pay for that.”  She wailed.

“Nonsense,” my father said, for the first time in a while.  “If you haven’t figured it out, today only I’m having a special offer.  Any young ladies who go through a MORFS transformation in my house get a new family.  I can be your father.  Laura here gets to play mother to you.  I’m sure Evelyn will happily be your older sister.  And Hector…” he paused for a moment and looked at me.  “Hector can be the strange foreign exchange student renting a room for the semester.  I should warn you about his Roman hands and Russian fingers.”

“Dad!” I growled at him.  Seeing that Wendy was about to start laughing, I reached behind her for the pillow and threw it at my father.  For some reason he didn’t duck, but merely laughed as it hit him in the face.  Laura and Evelyn soon joined in, and I could feel a lot of the tension leave Wendy.

My father tossed the pillow back onto the bed.  He then continued.  “Hector, I’ll let you use some of my credit tomorrow.  Wendy is going to need everything.  Meanwhile, I’m sure your young lady wants a shower, and a chance to primp a little.  Why don’t you leave her to Laura’s tender mercies while you get some homework done.”

Wendy seemed a bit upset, as I separated myself from her arms and took a step back.  “But, you all said that I make people want me,” she cried.

Laura snorted.  “Don’t worry.  I can feel a bit of the effects, but this squirrel is life-mated to one man.  I can behave myself long enough to help you tonight.  I just hope my man takes his vitamins while I’m helping you cause he’s in for a sweaty night.”  Laura turned and gave my father a kiss before walking over to Wendy.  “Now, you need to get into the shower, and I need to find some clothing you can wear tomorrow when you first go out.  I think I have a skirt which you can wear.”  She sighed long and slow as Wendy walked towards the bathroom.  “If only I had hips which were that nice.”

Wendy still looked unsure, but Evelyn and my father left the room to head downstairs and I followed.  I was at the door when Laura called out.  “Hey, Hector!  Wendy is going to need something to sleep in tonight, as well as a shirt she can wear in the morning tomorrow, until you get to the mall.  Can I borrow a couple of your larger t-shirts?”

“Sure,” I replied.  “Oh, what do we do about Wendy’s tail when we go shopping for clothing?  I can’t remember Macys or Kohls carrying many tail friendly outfits.”

From the bottom of the stairs I could hear as Laura giggled.  “You go to The Clothing Tail, at the mall, silly.  It’s all they sell.  Underwear, pants, shorts and skirts all made by and for hybrids with tails at reasonable prices.  Or at least that’s what they claim.  I think their prices could really go a bit lower.”

With that I left, barely hearing Laura start asking questions about Wendy’s tail and hair.  I figured I’d head downstairs to check on my father and then work on homework.

My father looked at me as I reached the bottom of the stairs.  “I don’t know how you did it,” he said approvingly.  “If I hadn’t had Laura there, to grab and kiss, I’d have been throwing myself at Wendy.  You stood next to her, with her attempting to remove the air from your lungs with those hugs, and just kept smiling.”

I noticed Evelyn was sitting on the couch and looking at me as well, and found myself blushing just a little.  “Well, father, I remember someone once telling me that no man would ever force his emotions and feelings on another.  I cannot deny that being around Wendy just now was incredibly difficult.  The need she seems to project into me is almost primal.  But, I’m no ape.  Someday, she’ll tell me if she wants me to let go.  On that day, I’ll become the happiest man in this house.  But until then, I’ll be her friend and protector.  I can barely understand it though.  I don’t know her well, but something tells me that I would be a fool if I didn’t one day ask for her hand.”

Evelyn had gasped and I could see tears falling from her eyes.  I wondered what might be the problem when she whispered.  “To think that there could be two such honorable men in my life, and now both are taken.”  My father and I were now both silently looking at her, when she seemed to notice the silence and looked back. 

“I told you, when you first interviewed me that I was desperate for a job because I was trying to redirect my life,” she began while looking at my father.  “I won’t go into too much detail, but I was running away from a disastrous college romance.  I thought I’d never find anyone, man or woman, to share my life with after that.  But with you, I discovered a man who stood by his principles and truly cared for the well-being of others.  I know that you have set up a special company to provide insurance for hybrids and others who cannot get regular insurance, and I’ve seen that you are willing to accept people for who they are.  That opened up my heart, and I wanted to approach you.  However, once Laura arrived, you only had eyes for her.  Your son is the same as you.  Compassionate, considerate and loyal are the words to describe him, but that would barely scratch the surface.  I’ve always known that he was special, but I wanted to wait until he was graduated, so as not to disrupt his school life.  Now, I have seen how he held Wendy, and the look in her eyes when she stood next to him.  She doesn’t know it yet, but she loves him, and he will be good to her.”  She started sobbing again, and my father and I looked at each other.  Each of us was clearly uncertain how to handle her.  Finally, we both took a few steps to the couch and gave her a caring hug, holding her until she stopped crying.

Evelyn had put one arm around each of us, and was gripping tightly when we all heard an amused voice call from the bottom of the stairs.  “Well, I leave for five minutes and the flower child is trying to steal my husband and son.”

We all turned and found Laura standing at the bottom of the stairs, wearing the very short nightgown I had given her for her birthday.  She smiled and put a hand out towards my father.  “Wendy is showering, and I’ve shown her where the special shampoos and fur dryer are.  I even found her the one skirt I own that will fit her.  Hector, I did steal a couple of your t-shirts, since she needs them until you can get to the store.  Plan on going early,” she said as my father walked over to her.  She pulled him into a kiss and then began walking back up the stairs holding his hand.  The last thing Evelyn and I heard before the pair of them disappeared into their bedroom was a call from Laura.  “Hector, make sure you lock up after Evelyn leaves.” 

Evelyn smiled, found her purse and then left after giving me one last hug.  I wanted to say something, but what she had said left me deep in thought, and part of me realized that she was right about how I felt about Wendy.  It was a bit frightening to me, but somehow in just a few moments she had found a way into my heart, and I could not offer Evelyn any real comfort.  I watched her walk out the door, then got up, checked the doors and windows to make sure everything was secure before climbing the stairs to my room.  It was time to complete my homework and sleep.

 

Thursday, October 19, 2045

 

            I had forgotten to set my alarm and the sun was shining in through my window when I finally woke up.  I had been having a disturbing dream where Wendy’s face slowly changed until she looked just like a rabbit from the neck up and the sun hitting my face was a relief.   As I stretched and sat up in bed, I looked over at the clock and realized that it was nearly eight in the morning. 

            I jumped from my bed with a curse and hurried into the bathroom.  I rushed through my morning ablutions and dashed down the stairs.  I had actually reached the bottom of the stairs when I remembered that today I had been asked to take Wendy to the mall and her post-MORFS clinic visit.  I slowed down and looked into the kitchen.

            My father was sitting at the table, looking over some paperwork, but he smiled as he saw me.  He waved at my chair and said.  “I was wondering when you would wake up.  Laura was going to give you some advice, but she couldn’t wait.  Grab breakfast for now.  Wendy has already finished breakfast, and is ready.  She decided to borrow your civics book so that she can try to catch up on the week’s worth of classes that she missed.”

            “Is she doing all right?” I asked as I poured some orange juice.  “And do you think she’ll be happy here?”

            My father laughed.  “She will be a lot happier if she gets clothes that fit.  But she did think of one issue, which needs to be addressed and that is her name.”

            “Her name?”

            “Yes, think about it.  If she returns to school as Wendy Gerrish, her parents can still force her to return home.  They might be hateful and cruel, but legally they have the right to demand that she live with them until she is eighteen.  There might be problems.  Laura suggested that you see if you can change her name while at the clinic.  They do that for survivors who change sex, so they might be willing to do that for her,” he continued, as he put the papers I had received the previous Friday down on the table.

            “I think that’s more for first names, but I guess we can check.  I don’t want her to be a Lynwood yet though.  It might feel awkward if we start dating.”  My father started laughing as I said this, but I continued.  “Do you think Evelyn would mind if I tried to use her last name?  Wendy Wilder sounds nice, and we could explain that Wendy’s parents, who are Evelyn’s cousins, were uncomfortable with her change and the pheromones so they asked Evelyn to watch over her.  Evelyn lives in that little apartment, so we took her in, as Laura will be a good influence.”

            My father had started nodding as I explained my thinking, and by the end was smiling.  He offered a nod and then passed over a credit card.  It had my name on it, and I had used it before when placing orders with some stores, but this was the first time I had been handed the actual card.  “Try to keep it to clothing and don’t go overboard.  Wendy will need probably five outfits for school, another three or four for weekends and play and a couple of formal outfits.  You don’t need to fill her closet with much more than that.  Save space for later gifts.”  He looked at me knowingly and I winked as I picked up the card.

            “One garage full of sports gear and beer!  No problem dad, I can purchase that,” I replied.

            My father roared with laughter, and I was chuckling when we both heard a small sigh from the stairway.  We turned and I found myself looking right at Wendy.  The feeling that I wanted to jump from my chair, rush up to her and rip her clothing off returned again.  Even knowing that the attraction was going to occur, I had to use all my willpower for that first couple of minutes before I could take a deep breath and look over at her.

            She had dressed in a t-shirt that Laura had purchased for me during the visit to Disneyland, over the summer.  It was the largest size they had, and fit well on me, but I could never make it look as nice as Wendy did.  Her breasts pushed the top out perfectly.  She had not tucked it in, and it fell to the middle of her thighs, looking a bit like a dress.  Under the shirt, I could see a black skirt, which came down to just above her knees.  I noticed for the first time that her legs were hairless, from where the skirt ended to her bare feet.  Wendy was blushing furiously as I looked at her, but otherwise seemed calm.  “I feel very underdressed,” she whispered.

            My father just smiled.  “The cavalry can fix that for you.  Let him tuck into his breakfast, and you’ll be at the mall just as the doors open.”  He slapped me on the back.  “Come on cavalry, time's passing while you loiter around here.”

            Wendy smiled again and walked up to the table to sit next to me.  I found it hard to breathe, as every step she took was alluring and sexy.  It was a growl from my stomach that reminded me of my need to eat breakfast.

            Finishing breakfast occurred in silence.  Wendy sat and watched my father and I.  She seemed to be paying attention to some inner sense as she always seemed to be able to hand something to us just before we needed it.  It was fascinating to watch as I finished off a bowl of cereal.

            My father pushed a stack of paperwork over to me.  I recognized much of it as copies of the forms the original clinic had filled out and then forwarded to the house after I left.  I had not provided my address to them, and guessed they had found it after my father paid the bill.  I was browsing the forms when my father grabbed another file in preparation for heading to the office. Finally, I put the tableware I had used into the dishwasher and looked over at the clock to see that it was just a few minutes to nine, the time when the mall would open.  With a final nod to my father I grabbed the paperwork and walked over to the door to the garage.  “Time to go Wendy,” I called out as I opened the door.

            Wendy walked past me and looked around the garage.  I immediately went over to the old sedan my father had bought for me, and opened the passenger door. Wendy’s face was a mixture of surprise and gratitude as she slid into the seat, only to reach across and unlock the driver’s door while I was walking around the car. 

            I tried to smile as I activated the garage door opener and seated myself in the car, while buckling my seat belt.  I noticed that Wendy seemed to be a bit uncomfortable and was squirming around, as if her back was bothering her.  “I’m discovering that tails are most inconvenient, and not just because of the clothing issues,” she muttered.  “If the seat has a back, the tail gets in the way!”

After several minutes of shifting her body, she finally seemed to find a position, which was a bit less uncomfortable, and once her seat belt was secured, I started the car and began the journey to the mall.

            I quickly discovered two things on the drive to the mall.  First, Wendy had an insatiable need to talk to me and tell me her life story.  Second, whatever pheromones she put out were amplified in the confined space of the car.  The second proved to be a huge distraction, until I finally resorted to opening the window and taking a deep breath of the outside air.  As for the first, I found it fascinating to listen to Wendy.  It was clear that her family had little time for her, and she needed someone to talk to.  What surprised and pleased me was that many of her interests matched mine, and we found the short drive passed amazingly quickly as we discussed ideas for future weekend projects and pranks. Wendy had clearly spent some time in the morning talking to Laura, as she was looking forward to joining in some of the weekly family activities that father had always insisted on.  When she promised to learn to play bridge so that she and I could take on father and Laura I had to laugh.  Bridge is my father’s favorite way to pass an evening, and Laura knew well that the lack of a regular fourth player frustrated him.

            We arrived at the mall, and quickly found a parking spot close to the entrance.  Early on a Thursday there were few shoppers.  I hoped that we would not encounter too many people overall.  Wendy’s pheromones did not appear to discriminate, and the idea that we might encounter someone who lacked self-control worried me quite a bit.  I kept this worry hidden, and Wendy seemed very cheerful when she got out of the car.  I waited for her to walk around the car, and was turning to walk to the entrance, when she grabbed me and gave me a light kiss on the cheek.  I stopped completely to look at her, and she only smiled and put her hand in mine, before pulling me towards the entrance.

            We had to stop briefly at the information booth to check a map of the mall.  Some of the other shoppers looked her way, and I did see one man take a step her way before his female companion started beating on him with her purse, but the lack of a crowd meant that I was able to guide Wendy such that we rarely came close to other shoppers.  The effect of her pheromones definitely decreased rapidly once you were more than fifteen or so feet from her.

Wendy insisted that she desperately needed some underwear, although she blushed while she said it.   Since Laura had recommended it, we decided to try the Clothing Tail first.  It proved to be near the information booth and we found it without too much trouble.

            The store was well lit and obviously well organized.  The front mostly contained skirts and pants for ladies.  I noticed a section of men’s style slacks, and the back areas had his and her underwear.  I did notice that there were no dresses, but Wendy seemed fascinated by all the outfits.  I wanted to see how the skirts were constructed to accommodate a tail and bent to look at one when a hairless tail whipped out and slapped my arm.

            “These outfits aren’t for normals,” a frosty female voice said.  “You don’t need to be here.”

            Wendy and I turned to look at the speaker.  She proved to be an older lady who obviously had received a generous helping of rat or shrew DNA when she survived MORFS.  Her face had an elongated nose and jaws, with whiskers and white fur.  She retained human like hair, which might have once been brown, but was now turning grey, and had been tied up in a severe bun.  Her blouse and skirt were very professional and proper.  The lady’s hairless tail was sweeping back and forth behind her as she looked on me disdainfully.  Her name badge read Diane.  I found myself wondering what she looked as a youth as the combination, although a bit unusual was actually rather attractive. 

            I looked over at Wendy for a moment, and then back at the saleslady.  “I’m sorry Diane.  I didn’t mean to intrude into a private setting,” I said with a bow.  I turned to face Wendy.  “Wendy, I can wait right outside until you have decided on what you need and then pay for your choices.”

            Diane seemed a bit surprised, but Wendy looked frightened for a moment before grabbing my arm and screaming. “No!” she looked right at Diane, who I noticed seemed as unaffected by Wendy’s powers as Laura seemed to be.  “He’s here to protect me.  I don’t care how badly I need clothing, if he can’t be here, I won’t stay either.”

            Diane’s tail stopped moving and she looked Wendy up and down, obviously taking in the clothing she was wearing.  “Just woke up yesterday or this morning like that, didn’t you.  You’ll learn though, girlie.  Guys like him,  they don’t stay with a girl like you.  As soon as they have their turn in your arms and bed, they're running back to their normal girlfriends and bragging about how they bagged a freak.”  I noticed that her eyes misted over a little, but she refused to say more and took a closer look at Wendy.  “Very well, do you know what size clothing you wear now, or has the physical change been sizable?”

            Wendy’s arm squeezed mine for a moment.  “I have nothing.  These items were loaned to me so I could come and buy clothing today.  I’m not even sure what sizes I am now.  I was maybe five foot three when I got sick.”

            Diane looked over her, and I could see that she was considering what she had heard.  I was going to say something when she nodded.  “Let’s start in the back then.”  Her tail snaked out to wrap around Wendy’s wrist and without a look back Diane headed towards the section for women’s underwear, dragging Wendy behind her.  I hesitated for a moment and then followed, blushing furiously.

            Upon arriving in the back, Diane produced a battered tailor’s measuring tape and looked at Wendy.  “You need to pull up the shirt so I can see your tail, dearie,” she commented.  “Tails aren’t all the same size, and I want to be sure you don’t purchase anything which will bind or pull on your tail.”

            Wendy started blushing, but pulled up the shirt.  For the first time I saw what appeared to be a rabbit’s tail emerging from her lower back.  The top had the same chestnut brown pattern as her hair, while the underside was white.  The tail twitched a couple times before settling down and Diane was able to start making measurements.  Her motions were practiced and methodical, with quick measurements around Wendy’s hips, waist and tail.  She then looked at Wendy and continued by measuring above and around Wendy’s breasts and along Wendy’s legs.  I did see that Diane’s hand seemed to linger just a moment on Wendy’s thigh before she gathered herself and stepped away.

            “Well missy, if you wanted sexual attention, MORFS did you a huge favor.  I can see why you feel you need protection, although I’m surprised he’s still standing,” Diane said with a smile.  She then pulled Wendy’s head down to whisper something in her ear.  Wendy blushed for a moment and then giggled.  With that Diane moved over to a rack full of panties of various sizes and styles.  “Any preferences?” she said over her shoulder to Wendy.

            Wendy blushed deeper, and then followed Diane over to the rack.  The two conducted an extended whispered conversation while I tried to keep my attention on the front of the store.  The conversation seemed to be over the style and color of items Wendy wanted.  Diane seemed to extremely helpful and through the corner of my eye I could see that Wendy had over a dozen items selected, when Diane pointed towards the front of the store.

            “Um.  Can I, well…?” Wendy blushed as she tried to ask her question.  Diane looked at her for a moment, and then I could see the blood rush to her face despite the fine covering of fur. 

            “Oh missy.  I should have realized,” Diane huffed.  “And to think that you had that animal with you.  I’m surprised he could act like a gentleman.”

            Wendy suddenly snapped.  “It’s not an act!  Hector is a true gentleman!”  She then dropped the panties she had been holding as her hands covered her mouth.  Her face turned redder than the worst sunburn I had ever received before she turned away and started sobbing.

            Instinctively, I walked over to her and put an arm around her.  She stiffened and for a moment I thought she might pull away, but she turned and started sobbing into my chest.  Diane watched us both for a moment before surprising me by giving me a genuine smile.  “You better be worth the love and trust that girl is giving you,” she commented as her tail started picking up the panties from the floor.   I found I could only nod. 

            Diane had picked up all the items, and then snaked her tail over to me.  “You need to hold these,” she said. 

            As I took the items Diane walked over to Wendy and handed her a plain set of panties, from which she removed the tag.  “Sorry for all this.  I’m not used to normals behaving like humans,” she told us gruffly.  “Now girl, I’m sure you’ve noticed the design, but I’ll explain it one last time.  All of the items here are manufactured to accommodate a tail.  If you check the snap at the back, it closes around a special hole designed for a tail.  You’ll have to unsnap it before putting on any item, and then close it around your tail.  It will feel a bit strange at first and it isn’t easy, but trust me, it’s better than trying to feed you tail through a hole cut into a pair of pants.  And the butcher’s jobs some chains do to clothing that they will then try to sell as tail friendly I won’t mention.  It is enough to make a skilled seamstress cry.  Now, I’m guessing you are in school, probably Independence since that’s closest.  I can grab some skirts and slacks, which meet the uniform code, while you get into those.”

            Wendy nodded and slowly stepped away from me while taking the panties.  She gave me another smile and then walked over to the door to the dressing rooms.  As she went inside, Diane was heading to the front of the store, stopping at an occasional rack to pick out a skirt or two before continuing.  I was still trying to decide what to do next when Diane turned back and then stopped in front of me.  “Hold these.” She said as she thrust a pile of skirts and slacks into my hands.  She then continued over to the dressing room door and knocked on it, passing a skirt to Wendy when the door opened.

            Shortly after Diane had passed the skirt to Wendy, the door to the dressing room opened.  Wendy emerged with a huge smile on her face, while carefully folding the skirt she had borrowed from Laura.  My breath caught for a moment as I saw the outfit she now wore. 

            Wendy was still wearing the t-shirt from before, but she had tied a knot into it so that it came down to just above her waist.  She was now wearing a light green skirt, which came to just below her knees.  The biggest surprise though was her tail, which was bouncing up and down as if to call attention to Wendy.  Wendy came over to me and looked me in the eye.

            “I’d say you like it,” she flirted.  She looked over the large number of items I was holding.  After taking a moment to look at the various skirts and slacks she called out to Diane.  “What about a few casual skirts, gym shorts, a formal skirt and perhaps a leotard?”

            Diane sniffed.  “A practical girl, will wonders never cease.  We can do all of those.  You do realize that any leotard is going to be backless right?  You have fur on your back, and although your hair will conceal it some, it will be noticeable.”

            Wendy just smiled and nodded, while holding onto my arm.  She then pulled me to the cashier’s counter before walking over to the rack Diane was organizing and talking with her, while examining some of the casual outfits available in the store.   It appeared to be a rather involved conversation, but I didn’t want to intrude and spent my time looking at some of the tags on the skirts.  I noticed that most had 2 different size ratings, and after looking over a chart posted behind the counter, realized that the store included a tail hole size for every outfit.  After a moment of thought, I realized it made sense as some of the reptilian MORFS I had seen had tails which were rather massive at the base, while a cat hybrid's tail usually was thin throughout its length.  I also examined the snap feature, which I thought was a rather ingenious solution to the problem of having a tail and wearing clothing.  I had just about run out of things to puzzle over when Wendy came over to the counter and dropped a few more items onto the pile.

            Diane had walked around to the cash register and began to ring up the purchase.  I was a bit surprised at the final total, but considering the number of items purchased, I shouldn’t have been.  Even with Diane working to get the maximum number of items in each bag, we still left the store with five full bags.  Wendy was hanging from my arm as we left, happily telling me about how much she loved the new outfits.  She made it clear that she had never had so many new outfits at once, and I found myself smiling at her cheerful demeanor. 

            I had expected the shopping trip to take some time, but not too long.  However, I had never shopped for a teenaged woman, and quickly discovered that Wendy was quite happy to examine every top in a store, before returning to the first rack she had searched through to grab a blouse she originally rejected. There were a couple times I had to quietly tell a man salesperson to back off, but other than a lot of lustful gazes, no one acted truly inappropriately.  I have to admit that once I relaxed a little, the shopping proved to be fun, as Wendy asked my thoughts on several casual tops and shoes, and even found a two piece swimsuit altered to fit a tail.  Strangely enough the swimsuit was in a store that had a very nasty lady working the counter.  Wendy whispered to me that the lady was a close friend of her mother’s and regularly spent her Saturdays at the Gerrish household playing canasta.  The lady barely looked at Wendy, and it soon became clear that she had no idea that the daughter of her best friend was standing in her store.  She also had absolutely no reaction to Wendy’s pheromones, which made me wonder if she was really human.  This observation resulted in a tsunami of delighted giggles from Wendy once we returned to the car and put her new outfits in the car before driving to the clinic.

            Wendy had taken the time to change out of my old t-shirt and wear some of her new clothes after our last stop in the mall.  You could tell that her confidence was rising rapidly, as she had emerged from her changing wearing a purple halter top which somehow both clashed and complimented the stripe of chestnut fur which ran from her neck down to her tail.  She finished out the outfit with a short green skirt, which would never be allowed into a classroom, and some green heels.  She had struggled to walk in the heels at first, but soon attracted whistles and catcalls from the few men in the mall at that hour.  I warned her that with her pheromones she should be careful how much attention she sought, but her only reply with to cling tighter to me and kiss me on the cheek.  “I trust you to protect me,” was her whispered reply.

            It was a different Wendy riding in the car with me to the clinic.  Her confidence was much higher and she flirted with me throughout the short drive.  I was starting to worry that her power might get her in trouble, but once I had parked the car and opened the door she calmed down and her face took on a relaxed, but wary look.

            Wendy stopped for a moment just inside the clinic’s doors.  She looked a bit shocked.  Before I could ask what the problem was she shook her head and stepped towards the counter, refusing to say what had happened.  We approached the receptionist’s desk, and the bored looking receptionist looked up at us.

            “Do you have an appointment?” she asked.

            “I know my father tried to call, but I’m not sure what name he used.  This young lady was examined at another clinic when she entered stage two last Friday.  They told me to come here when she entered stage three and tell you her patient name is Elmyra Fudd.”  I passed over the paperwork my father had left with me in the morning.

            The receptionist immediately seemed a lot less bored.  “Ah, I see.”  We both heard a bit of movement behind me and I turned.  A pair of teenage boys who apparently were at the clinic for their post stage two check were both approaching Wendy with looks of lust on their face.  One was even fumbling with his belt as he approached.  Immediately I jumped between them and her.

            My presence was barely noticed by the boys as they continued to move towards Wendy.  Their eyes were a mix of lust and fear, with no intelligence showing.  Looking around the room I realized that most of the people in the waiting room were not looking at Wendy in a casual and friendly way.  Worse, Wendy was now whimpering into my back, muttering, “back off, back off.”  I grabbed the closer boy and threw him back towards the chairs, and the other jumped towards Wendy.  He might have reached her had not my football instincts kicked in and I tackled him, driving him hard against the wall by the receptionist’s desk.

            “What?” the receptionist cried.  “Sir, this is a clinic, not a playground.”

            “Sorry,” I said as I picked myself up from the floor.  The boy I had tackled was out cold, but the other was getting back to his feet.  I glanced at him and realized that he would likely be ready to approach Wendy in a moment, so I said to the receptionist.  “It seems that part of her change is that she now releases some kind of pheromone.   Everyone who has been exposed up to now has been able to maintain their composure, but it appears that these two boys don’t have the discipline.”

            The receptionist looked over at the boy who was still staggering to his feet and looked a bit frightened.  “We need to get you into a private room,” she said.  She jumped up from her desk and opened the door to between her and the waiting room.  “Follow me.”

            Wendy and I were hurriedly led to a rather standard examination room.  The receptionist took a moment to leave a clipboard containing the paperwork in hanging on a hook just outside the door and then closed the door behind her, leaving the two of us alone.  Wendy was sitting on the examination table sobbing.  “Oh Hector!  It was horrible in the waiting room.  I could feel them approaching me, and what they were feeling.  It was frightening, there was nothing gentle or tender about them.”

            I was still trying to figure out what to say when Wendy reached out and pulled me towards her, hugging me so tight as to drive the air from my lungs.  “Protect me,” she sobbed.  “I need to know you’ll never let anyone hurt me.”

            “Never,” I replied.  “I promise.”

            Wendy relaxed and I was starting to extract myself from her embrace when the door opened and I heard a female voice say.  “Hello, so you just finished stage two corre…”

            The voice stopped abruptly and I turned to look.  A slender and young lady wearing a doctor’s coat was standing just inside the doorway holding Wendy’s chart and shaking her head.

            “Excuse me, can you turn that off?” she said, looking over at Wendy.  “Right now you are a bit overwhelming.  I cannot figure out how your man there is still on his feet.”

            “What?” Wendy said, tightening her grip again.  “I don’t understand.”

            The lady took a moment to look at the chart.  “Do your parents really go to Trinity?  And can you turn off the pheromones?”

            “Yes,” Wendy whispered in reply.  “But I don’t live with them anymore.  As for the pheromones, I don’t know how to stop them.”

            The doctor sighed.  “Well, usually we do the physical examination first and then follow up with a check on what new powers have developed, but for you, I’m going to call a colleague to check your powers first.  I can’t perform a physical examination on you while those pheromones are active.  So we need to know if you have any control over them and hopefully that you can turn them off.”

            The doctor looked out into the hallway and shouted something I couldn’t quite understand.  A few moments later, an aged man walked up and entered the room.  “Hello, hello.   What is the problem?” he said as he looked at his fellow doctor.

            “Our little bunny girl seems to be a pheromone generator,” the lady doctor replied.  “And she’s a rather strong one.  I’m a bit surprised her friend there can stand it.”

            “Well, well, well.” The old man said, looking more closely at Wendy.  There was a long pause and Wendy shifted as if tickled.  “Yes, I do get a sense of what you are saying.  She definitely now generates pheromones.  They are frightfully strong too.  I cannot really quantify them.  Some combination of smell, and empathy, which increases the lust of anyone who is within about fifteen feet, is what it appears to be.  As for the man, he’s strongly affected, but his honor and pride are keeping him on his feet.  He’s got a lot of willpower and more than a little love for our young lady.”  He looked over Wendy another time.  “Well, it looks like MORFS did a bit more than just modify your looks.  And it’s a complex combination.  First, you probably realize are the pheromones.  The way you generate them is complex.  They are part smell, and part a form of projective empathy.  From what I can tell there’s no way to completely turn them off.  A strong bio-elemental can temporarily block their effect, but unless someone has almost no interest in sex, they’ll be affected if they are in range.  They can be resisted, and I expect that the young man you are clinging to already has a bit of tolerance to them. It appears that if you are frightened or distressed you will generate even more.  I don’t recommend being in a place with crowds unless you have a few friends you are very confident in around you.  Unless you are very upset most people can resist, but if someone doesn’t and attacks you, the increase caused by your distress will overwhelm all but the strongest wills.  I’m guessing that you were the cause of the excitement in reception, my dear.”

            Wendy gasped and looked over at the man, but then calmed down.  The man smiled and then looked at me.  “You’re going to have to be very strong for her.  Her power is going to make it hard for people to become close to her.  Just about anyone is going to want to have sex with her, but becoming a friend is going to require patience and honor, something that is in short supply,” he suddenly told me kindly. 

He then turned back to Wendy.  “You have a second power, although it’s related to the first.  You have gained a rather nice level of empathy.  It will never been at a conscious level.  You can’t scan people, but it will be impossible to lie to you.  It will also give you a general sense of the feelings of people around you.  That could prove dangerous though, since an angry or upset person near you can generate an adverse response from your empathy, if you don’t realize it, your pheromone production could spike.” 

The older doctor turned to look at me.  “You appear to be a calm and caring young man, with a strong sense of honor. If you can avoid letting her power overwhelm that, you will be the perfect protector for her.  I’ve done as deep a bioscan as I can, and it looks like she’ll never obtain any level of control of her pheromone generation.  I recommend that you always keep someone who has the ability to resist her pheromones near her.”

I was a bit shocked at all this.  “You’re sure?” I asked.

The lady doctor snorted.  “Doctor Krueger might not look like much, but he has a strange combination of telepathy and bio-elemental powers.  They are very weak, but he can scan someone and quickly determine powers and such unless they shield themselves.”

            Wendy had been listening and nodding, but with this final comment she sighed.  “I can just picture taking tests.  All those scared students around me.”

            The lady doctor laughed as the old doctor nodded.  “If you go to Independence High, Principal Smith can work with you on that.  One thing that is clear is that your pheromones do require that the person be able to see you directly.  You might have to take your tests in a private room if you find your distress levels rising though,” he said.

            With that the old doctor turned back and left the room.  There was a long moment of silence and then the lady doctor spoke up.  “Wow, and I thought I’d heard of every power possible, but I guess there are still a few new ones.  Now we still need to do a physical examination.  Normally, I’d ask you to undress and put on one of those hideous hospital robes, but I don’t think that is wise today.  I’m also going to refrain from conducting some of the tests today.  However, there are several tests we can conduct to verify that you are safely in stage three.  Please, let go of your protector, so that I can see all of you and we'll begin.”

            Wendy reluctantly let go and I moved to sit in a chair I had noticed sitting in a corner of the room. The lady doctor proved to be very efficient now that she understood about the pheromones, and I suspected that Doctor Krueger had used a little bio-elemental power to give her greater resistance.   Fortunately since Wendy was calm, the pheromones seemed to be less intoxicating.  Still even with the doctor working quickly, it was nearly an hour before the last test was completed and the doctor smiled and relaxed.

            “You seem to be in perfect health and stage three should progress fine,” the doctor said.  “It’s too bad that you don’t have any control over the pheromones.  Other than those you came through MORFS fairly well off.  Physically you are fine, and your hearing is about the best I’ve ever seen.  I would see if you can find some calming exercises as the pheromone output dropped once you calmed down, but your protector makes that less of a priority.  I just hope he takes all your classes with you.”  She looked over at me.

            “Not all,” I said.  “But I expect Principal Smith to change that.  If he can’t, I know a couple of other students who are strong enough to protect her, and should have the willpower to help.”

            The doctor smiled and put a few final marks on her chart.  She was telling Wendy she could leave when I remembered the conversation my father and I had at breakfast.

            “Excuse me,” I said before the doctor left.  “I hate to ask this, but can we impose on you for an ID change?  I know you can reissue ID for survivors who change sex, which doesn’t apply here.  However, since her family attends Trinity, it might be helpful to grant her a change, as a bit of protection.”

            The doctor looked a bit dubious and then looked at the chart again.  “Elmyra Fudd?  Even I can tell that the name is an alias.  Well, I could change this to a different name, and note that because of the physical changes new ID needs to be issued.  It won’t change her birth certificate though, so if someone puts effort into figuring out where she came from they may discover her real name.  What name do you want to use?”

            “Wendy Wilder,” I replied.  When I noticed Wendy’s puzzled look I continued.  “Its Evelyn’s last name.  We thought we’d describe you as a cousin of hers with parents who didn’t accept your change.  It’s close to the truth, and avoids any raised eyebrows when I take you to the holiday dance.”  I finished with a wink.

            Wendy started laughing and the doctor joined in.  She noted the change on the chart and then asked us to follow her to the administration area where Wendy was photographed for her new ID.  We left thirty minutes later.  Wendy looked a bit exhausted, but the new ID had brought out a new bounce in her step. 

            We arrived home.  Wendy looked rather uncomfortable when I carried all of her new clothing up to her room.  She tried to protest that she would find a new place, and not bother my father and me.  This continued as I brought each bag in until my father told her that despite her protests she was now going stay with us, and would stay with us as our honored and treasured guest.  Evelyn took some time away from the office to help Wendy put her new clothing away while I talked to my father and explained the situation. 

My father revealed that Principal Smith would be stopping by for dinner and to discuss the situation, as Laura had spoken with him earlier in the day.

 

            Dinner proved to be an enjoyable experience.  Wendy was relaxed and smiling and her infectious playfulness soon had everyone at the table laughing and joking.  Principal Smith had felt the pheromones and successfully fought off any urges they brought out.   His gentle smile helped calm Wendy more, and the feeling around the table was rather festive.  The talk did get serious when Principal Smith was informed of Wendy’s new abilities and the dangers involved.  He quickly told everyone that he would see that Wendy’s schedule was matched to mine and that her teachers were informed to change the seating so that I sat between Wendy and the rest of the class.  Wendy was thrilled by the idea and rewarded the principal with a kiss on the cheek that left him blushing.  I was a bit worried that some of the students might cause problems, but he seemed supremely confident that his preparations would be more than adequate.

 

Friday, October 20, 2045

 

            Principal Smith was better than his word.  Wendy Wilder had a complete transcript showing her previous three years, and the teachers all were accommodating and helpful.  Sadly, first period proved that despite the efforts of the teacher, Principal Smith and me, some more transfers would be occurring.  Jack Lawson proved to have absolutely no interest in fighting the pheromones and after I pushed him back into his chair three times I had to bear hug him into unconsciousness to stop the disruption to the class.  Principal Smith shook his head when he stopped by halfway though the period and had one of the security guards carry Jack back to the office to recover.  But he kept smiling and promised that it would get easier.  Unfortunately we soon discovered that it could get worse.  During Mrs. Barlow’s civics class Tameka Evans keep shaking her head and looking over at Wendy and I, finally she raised her hand and all but begged to be given a new seat on the far side of the classroom.

“I don’t know how Hector can sit there and pay attention,” she said.  “It’s taking all my concentration just to stay in my seat, and he’s participating while sitting right next to her.”

Of course, after this a couple more students complained and Mrs. Barlow ended up completely rearranging the seating.  Later classes had the same patterns, and by the time our last period rolled around, the seating for Wendy and I was in a back corner with a space of at least ten feet to the next row of seats.   I tried to keep a cheerful façade through all of this, but spending a whole day keeping just about everyone at arms length was wearing.  The only good was that Coach Davis had come down hard on Darryl during practice on Thursday, so he and his minions left us alone.  I doubted that they would choose to exercise any self-control if they came into contact with Wendy and avoiding that fight for as long as possible was one of my major goals at the moment.

 

Evening

 

            After the last class let out, I walked Wendy over to the faculty parking lot so that she might ride home with Laura.  This was the night of the big game against Central High School, and the team was expected to get ready early after a catered meal.  Laura smiled and promised that she and father would come to the game, and that they had plans to bring Wendy.  “Principal Smith has arranged an escort for Wendy for game days.  She’ll be able to watch in the stands with us,” she told me as Wendy was buckling up her seat belt.

            For some reason the thought that Wendy was going to be at the game energized me.  I know people laugh at the idea of love at first sight, but part of me was beginning to admit that while lust was always there when I was around her, her quiet dignity and gentle nature was opening my heart up.  The early faint smiles had grown to wondrous expressions of pure joy and I wanted to see them more often.

            I watched Laura drive away and then headed over to the locker room, where I had the displeasure of seeing Darryl standing outside, bragging to his friends.  “Yeah, Central is supposed to be this rough team, but I can take them all by myself,” he was telling the crowd at the door.  “They won’t keep me out of the end zone tonight.  Expect at least four touchdowns for Independence, and I will score all of them.”

            I shook my head and prepared to walk by when Darryl noticed me.  “Well, if it isn’t the animal lover who hid his perversions by pretending to be a pure,” he spat at me.  “You know freak fucker, I’ve heard about how that little rabbit girl can get a man hard just by standing near him.  My friends and I plan on showing her was some real men can do, and give it too her all night long.  She’ll never want to be with you after that.”

            I looked and the eyes of Darryl and his friends were almost glazed over with lust.  His taunt was not exactly unexpected, and my only regret was that I had been unable to approach some of my friends about helping me in warding the perverts away from Wendy.  I kept walking and was about to enter the locker room when I heard a soft feminine voice to my right calling my name.

            I looked over towards the voice and saw Irene dressed in a cheerleading top and shorts waving to me.  Irene is a bird hybrid, and the only “angel” at the school.  Most winged hybrids in the area either do not get wings, or wind up with their arms becoming wings.  Irene had been lucky and her wings came out of her back.  She did complain that purchasing clothing was difficult because the shape of the wings made sliding cloth over them almost impossible.  She did have a couple outfits that could snap around the wings, but mostly she wore halter-tops or backless outfits. 

            Irene has long black hair and a seemingly permanent smile, and that smile became even bigger as I approached her.  She actually jumped over to hug me before speaking.  “I should have known a stud like you would end up with the most perfect woman in school,” she said.  “I guess I lost the opportunity to grow up and then sweep you completely off your feet.”

            I had to laugh.  Irene had been a fairly shy brunette attending middle school when her bout with MORFS added wings, and a limited level of wind manipulation.  Her control was limited, but it did grant her the ability to fly, something she used as part of her cheerleading routines.  “And here I never thought you cared,” I said.

            Irene blushed.  “That’s never been true, Hector.  Just about all the underclassmen have heard tales about how to faced down Bart Blevins in the hall after he tried to cut Veronica’s tail off.  You said it was about him not getting expelled, but I’ve seen pictures that some of the witnesses took of your face when you started yelling at Bart.  You were far too upset for it just to be about him not getting expelled.  However, this isn’t about that tonight, and you should get ready for the game soon.  I just wanted to tell you that I want to help you protect the bunny girl.  I’ve heard about her powers and while I can’t break heads like you, I do have some ability with my wind powers to drive people back.”

            I looked over at Irene for a moment, and was surprised to see that she looked me in the eye without flinching.  In a momentary decision I gave the slightest of nods before entering the locker room to get ready for the game.

            Inside the locker room, most of the players were having quiet meetings with the coaches.  Central High has been the dominant football school in the county for the last six years, and everyone wanted to finally defeat them.  Unfortunately their reputation meant that young men with hopes of playing college football often changed homes just so they could attend Central and play for the vaunted Central Cougars. 

            I was participating in the run defense discussions.  Central did not have much of a passing game this season, but everyone feared their main running back, a huge bruising MORF survivor named Louis Nmabude.  Rumor had it that he was visiting some relatives in Africa when he contracted MORFS and had more than a little rhino DNA spliced in.  The coaches did not speculate much on that, but for two years he led the state in rushing, running with a bruising straight ahead style.  The plan was to have the defensive line tie up blockers while Tristan and I filled gaps and made tackles.  I had a feeling that it was going to be a long and painful night.

            Tristan refused to talk to me before the game, and I found myself worrying about how good our communication and teamwork was going to be on the field. 

            From the opening kickoff it was clear that I had underestimated just how brutal the game was going to be.  Louis was in top form, and even when the defensive line held their ground, I found myself meeting him at the hole in bone jarring collisions.  Central never wavered from their simple plan of keeping the ball on the ground and letting Louis pound against the defense.  In the end the defense stiffened around the twenty as the safeties came up to crowd the line, holding Central to only a field goal.  The defense left the field with a moral victory but I was already tiring and sore after just one series.

            Darryl obviously had not listened to the coaches and was trying to make good on his earlier brag.  We have a great running back in Nathan Sinclair.  He is a dog hybrid with a lot of greyhound mixed in.  Watching him run is always a thrill because he seems to hit holes before they appear.  Unfortunately, Darryl had decided that he was going to take most of the running plays and the drive quickly stalled when three QB options in a row had Darryl keeping the ball and gaining no yardage.

            As the punt team ran onto the field coach Davis was screaming at Darryl.  I think I heard him threaten to bench him for the remainder of the season, but then it was time for the defense to make a stand.

            Central kept to the same basic plays, with the Louis taking the ball straight ahead five plays in a row and moving the ball to midfield.  Then they showed that the offense had an additional weapon, and as I once again ran into the fullback just past the line of scrimmage I realized that the handoff had been a fake.  Before I or any other player on the defensive line could shout, I could see the QB throw a long ball towards the right sideline.  The pass was terrible and the receiver had to stop and wait for it to reach him, but Vincent had been just as fooled by the play-fake as I had and despite a valiant effort was unable to race back and make a play.  The Central receiver easily gathered in the ball and ran the last few yards to the end zone, making the catch for a touchdown.  After the extra point we found ourselves down ten to nothing, with the first quarter almost over.

            The rest of the first quarter and the second quarter proved to be a true battle.  Tristan had yet to speak to me, or even stand near me, but he was finally reading the blocking better, and with both of us hitting the holes Nmabude was taking, we held Central without a first down for the rest of the half.  Unfortunately Darryl was proving rather recalcitrant about running our normal offense, and the offense never managed to get the ball past midfield.  We ended the half at the same ten-zero score we started the second quarter with.

            As we walked off the field to the locker room for half time, Tristan came over to me, obviously ready to speak about something.  However, I was watching Coach Davis with Darryl.  Coach had been shouting most of the half, but now he had grabbed Darryl and was hissing a series of short and pointed sentences.  I could not clearly hear what was being said, but the hurt and bitter look in Darryl’s eyes made it clear that Coach Davis was not showering him with praise.

            Back in the locker room the coaches started reviewing what was working and not working on the field.  The halftime break was not too bad for the defense.  We had done our job, and Coach Davis singled out Tristan and others for praise, saying they had picked up their game in the second quarter.  He warned us to watch for more play fakes, but the emphasis had to be stopping Nmabude. 

After the group meeting, the coaches wanted to talk to the defensive line and work on changing their assignments, so Tristan had a moment to come over and talk to me.

“I guess I have not dealt with everything very well,” he said.

I found myself looking at him as one of the trainers completed retaping my right

ankle.  “We're high school students.  Who expects us to deal with issues well?” I asked.

Tristan laughed for a moment.  “Yes, but I have the same biology class you do.  I’ve heard the same facts.  I can’t pretend that I still believe the lies Darryl and Gina spout during meetings.  But I was just afraid.  My cousin went through MORFS and now spends most of his life either in tanks or in the ocean.  His body has to be kept hydrated to survive, and his legs can no longer hold him upright.  It’s been a horrible experience having to watch him lose the energy he once had.  I’ve always feared that such would happen to me, and it became easy to keep those who had suffered MORFS far away.  You don’t though.”

I shrugged. “I still go to the meetings though.  So it’s not like I’ve been better than you,” I replied. 

Tristan shook his head.  “No one except maybe Gina believes that you have any real interest in the meetings.  In the last two years you have done more to protect the students here, than any of the powered survivors; most of the students know that!  And I’ve seen you escorting that beautiful bunny girl around.  Whatever power she had is strong enough to bring most boys to their knees just in passing I hear, and you stand next to her, hour after hour, without flinching.  I see even the teachers look at you, and there is a respect there that I would like to get someday.  Now, I’ve been an idiot, but I think I want to start over.  Let’s go lasso the rhino boy and win the football game.”

I had to laugh at the smile on his face when he finished his sentence.  “Rhino hunting season for the next two hours.  Sounds good, but you get to do the skinning,” I chuckled.

Tristan soon joined in and we were still laughing when Coach Davis called out that it was time to return to the field.

As we headed back to the field, it was clear that the offense’s halftime had not been nearly as pleasant.  Coach Davis entered the locker room fuming about Darryl’s continued refusal to hand the ball off.  His first action had been to announce that Michael Kirk would be taking over at QB for the second half.  Darryl had protested, attempted to disrupt the meeting and finally been physically thrown into the showers.  He would have returned if Coach Davis had not followed that up by announcing that Darryl was off the team effective immediately.  Darryl lost it at this point and started shouting about how hybrids were animals and could never play football as well as a pure human.  The rest of the team was filing out while he threw towels around, and I heard Eddie Gershom finally shout at him.  “Get over yourself.  We play this game as a team, not a bunch of glory seeking jackasses”

             We received the kickoff for the second half, and Vincent redeemed himself for his first half defensive mistake by finding a hole and bringing the ball back to the forty.  Coach Davis had been in conference with Michael since we left the locker room, but that broke up and the offense went out to take the field.  The Independence fans received a huge boost to their morale when on his first play, Michael made a perfect pitch to Nathan, who immediately found a seam in the defense and outraced the whole Central defense for fifty yards to reach the end zone and bring the score to ten-seven after the extra point.

            Central had also made a few adjustments though, and once again their fullback was grinding out yardage on short runs.  Tristan and I continued to fly to the hole, but now Central was leading their fullback through the hole with players who had been in motion across the formation at the snap.  These smaller wide receivers couldn’t knock us back, but they did prevent us from reaching the hole in time to prevent a gain.  The whole defense was getting frustrated when Coach Davis pulled one of our safeties and added Eddie to the defensive line.  With Eddie added, the line began trying to push blockers to the side to crash the holes back down.  John Joyce and Eddie proved that they could tie up the middle of the Central offensive line, and Central’s drive ground to a halt just inside our own twenty.  .

            Of course, that meant that Central was in field goal range, and they converted to make it a thirteen-seven game.  We still needed to catch up.  Worse, their drives kept the clock running, and most of the third quarter was gone when they finally kicked off to us.

            The offense was rejuvenated under Michael and moved the ball down the field easily until they got inside the Central ten-yard line.  At that point Central finally figured out how to read the play and stopped our offense cold, forcing a field goal try that went wide right.

            Each team held the ball two more times and the time remaining was inside of three minutes when a Central linebacker caught Nathan’s elbow with his helmet and jarred the ball loose.  The ensuing scramble resulted in Central recovering the ball on their thirty-eight.  We were running onto the field knowing that any Central first down would win the game for them.  The defense was as fired up as I’ve ever seen.  Several players were jumping around before the snap when I heard Tristan calling out “Red Reaver.”

This was a signal given to the seniors on the defense when they saw an opportunity to freelance and cause a big play.  I watched as Tristan crept forward until he was standing right at Eddie’s right shoulder, and started to shift behind him as the ball was snapped. 

The Central offensive line must have been tired, because the blockers split and left an opening for Tristan to charge through.  He burst into the backfield and caught the Central QB just as he reached out to give the ball to Louis. 

            The collision shoved the QB’s arm into Louis’ body.  I could see his wrist snap back and the ball dropped out and then took a wild bounce towards me, popping up off of the ground just before it reached me. 

I would like to claim that I had images of glory as I reached down, but it was pure instinct that led me to grab and start running for the end zone.  I could feel the Central QB attempt to grab me as I went by, but he was still off balance from the collision and other than knocking me to my left a couple feet, failed to impede my progress.  It had to be the longest forty yard dash I have ever run, wondering if any Central player would catch me, but I reached the end zone and raised my arms as the officials signaled touchdown.  A few moments later and the extra point put us in the lead fourteen to thirteen; we had our first lead against Central all game.

The fans in the stands were ecstatic and loud, but Coach Davis reminded us that it was only a one-point lead, and Central still had time, as there were still more than two minutes to go.  The kick off went deep and as the defense returned to the field I noticed that Louis was on the bench.  In fact, Central had no running backs in the game, but instead was playing some of their defensive backs as wide receivers.  It was clear that Central planned to throw the ball, but the three sideline passes their QB threw fell wide or short.

            I had expected Central to try on forth down, but they punted, apparently hoping their defense could hold, and planning on using their full three timeouts to get the ball back with a few seconds remaining.  Their defense proved to be up to the task, but Vincent put up a perfect punt, which sailed out of bounds on Central’s five-yard line.  They had only twenty seconds left to drive the ball ninety-five yards for a touchdown.

            Central’s QB managed to throw up a beautiful spiral on first down, but Vincent, not willing to allow another pass over his head after that terrible first half mistake, batted the ball down at midfield.  There was now only seven seconds, and everyone knew that the last play was coming up. 

            The stadium was completely quiet as the Central QB called out his signals.  Tristan had already dropped back with all the defensive backs to defend the pass, but my job was to watch for any surprise running plays.  Central snapped the ball and their QB dropped back to pass.  As his offensive line started to drop into their pass blocking positions, the guard in front of me moved to double-team John Joyce, and left me a clear lane to the QB.  I immediately charged through the hole.  The QB must have been looking downfield, because he didn’t see me until I was almost on top of him, and although he turned to run, I tackled him before he could make any plays just as time ran out.  I looked up to see the officials signaling both safety and game over.  The final play had added to our lead and Independence had defeated the hated Central sixteen to thirteen.  The stands erupted in celebration as I was surrounded by teammates congratulating me, and woofing to the defeated Central players.

            The thunderous cheers from the Independence High side of the field seemed to only get louder, as I walked around trying to shake hands with the few Central players still around.  Most had already retreated to the locker rooms, but I was surprised when Louis Nmabude emerged from a cluster of fans and coaches to hold his hand out to me.

            “You definitely made the difference in this game,” he said.  “It’s been a while since any linebacker played me straight up like that for a whole game.”

            “Well, somehow I get a feeling that I’ll be seeing you play on Saturdays next year,” I said as I returned the handshake.

            “What about you?” he asked as the crowd milled around us.

            “A few coaches like my drive, but I haven’t been through MORFS and I’m not willing to become a gym warrior to build up my body to compete at the college level, so I’m probably going to attend Bakersfield Poly and head out into the business world,” I replied.

            Louis nodded.  “I can understand that.  I’ve heard a few scouts talking about that when they come to Central to watch practices.  Well, I want to congratulate you again on a great game out there.  It’s been a while since I was kept out of the end zone, and you made me work for every yard.”

            Louis turned and disappeared into the milling throng.  Finding any other Central players looked unlikely, so I started working my way towards the locker room.  I was constantly getting stopped to pose for a picture or accept a handshake from an alumnus.  I was finally nearing the sideline when I heard someone shout my name.

            “Hector!  Hector Lynwood!  Wait a moment,” the voice cried out.  I faintly recognized the voice, but with so many people around, I could not make it out clearly enough to be sure.  I had turned to look around when Jasper Martin, a scout who had visited Independence for fall camp fought his way out of the crowd to stand in front of me.

            Jasper was loud and boisterous in his greetings.  “Great game!  Amazing!  I’ve seen few linebackers play that hard for four quarters.  You made the difference today,” he exclaimed as he tried to organize some papers.

            I nodded but looked over his shoulder to the stands, looking for Wendy and my family.  “Thank you for the accolades, but it was a team effort.  If the line had not tied up the blockers I would never had the opportunities I had.  Besides, weren’t you telling me that I wasn’t good enough just two weeks ago?”

            Jasper seemed shocked.  “I said no such thing.  I merely observed that as you don’t have any strength or speed boosts thanks to MORFs, you will have to work hard to make the starting lineup, but after today, I’m sure that Washington State can use your talents.  Jimmy loves players who have fire.”

            I shrugged.  “Living in the frozen tundra for the next few years, is not high on my list of goals.  I have some plans which will keep me in Bakersfield, and I’m afraid I’m just not interested in your offer.”

            Jasper looked shocked.  “Not interested?  There was no player on the field who wanted that win more than you.  You led that defense on every play, and stopped Nmabude, the best running back in California, perhaps the country.  And you say you aren’t interested in playing in college?”

            I had just noticed my family start to descend the stands, leaving the upper corner where they had been sitting.  Absently I shook Jasper’s hand.  “I can’t explain it, but something far more important than football has entered my life.  Your offer is appreciated, but for now, I have to decline.”  Without waiting for his answer, I pushed through the crowd to approach the stands.

            I was just about clear of the grass when a tall bunny-eared figure stepped out from behind a huge black man and shouted, “Hero!” before running at me.  She threw herself at me, and after a night of stopping a huge charging fullback, my little bunny girl knocked me flat on my back with a flying hug.

            I was still trying to get her to release my neck and let me up when a burst of feminine laughter caused me to look up.  In front of me was the black man, holding out his hand.

            “If you are as sore as I expect, some help getting up is going to be needed,” he said in an extremely feminine voice.  “And since I don’t see Wendy offering to let go, I guess I can help.”

            I could feel that this strange man was right and after a momentary struggle to free my right arm, stretched it up to him, while bending my knees to set my feet on the ground.  The hand that grasped mine was surprisingly soft, but lifted me effortlessly to my feet.  Wendy merely shifted so that her legs were wrapped around my waist and snuggled against my left shoulder.  The man saw this and laughed.

            “Some day, you’ll have to tell this story to your kids,” he said, again in that feminine voice.  “How you spent the evening stopping the best fullback in the nation, but then were tackled by such a slight lady.”

            Wendy giggled.  “But my power overwhelmed him I’m sure,” she whispered into my ear.

            I found myself snorting.  “Sorry, but right now, I’m afraid the body is a bit too sore to care.  Although the showers in the locker room might be able to change that.  Meanwhile, it’s obvious that this mountain of a man has joined the protection force, care to introduce me Wendy?”

            Wendy just hugged me tighter for a moment.  The man shrugged and looked at me.  “Yes, Principal Smith called and suggested that I might want to help.  I’m Leslie Don Daniels.  He knew that her pheromones wouldn’t cause too much trouble with me.”  This was again said in a very feminine voice, and the name sparked a thought.

            “Um, based on your name, I’m guessing that?” I started.

            Leslie laughed.  “Such a polite way of saying it.  Let me make it simple, I was a twelve-year-old girl who had just started to become completely boy crazy when I was sent home from class because I felt sick.  A week later I returned to school, as the biggest boy in the class, but my personality intact.  I’ll admit that as a connoisseur of the female form, Wendy has one of the best I’ve ever seen, but I’m afraid that I don’t swing her way.”

            “Ouch,” I said.  “I can imagine how tough that might be.  Especially since it appears your voice didn’t change.”

            Leslie shrugged, but smiled.  “It helps some, since the guys at the gym who might be interested in me usually pick up on the voice.  But today, I can be a great bodyguard, since I’m not being distracted by your friend's little power.  Although….” Leslie finished by blushing.

            Wendy relaxed on my arms and looked over at Leslie as my father and Laura finally caught up to us.  I smiled.  “Well, if you can wait just ten minutes more for me to shower, I’m sure you can rush to the gym and find out of any of the hunks you fancy are ready to party.”

            Laura and Wendy both started laughing as Leslie smiled and struck a couple of ballet poses.  Wendy seemed reluctant to let me go, but after one last kiss on my cheek, let go and retreated to stand next to Leslie.  I gave my family a wave and continued to head to the showers.  The adrenaline of the game and winning were finally starting to fade, and I found that a slow trot was the fastest I could move.

            The locker room was bedlam, but Coach Davis was clearly trying to keep it under control.  Everyone seemed to understand the pain I was in, because others went out of their way to help me struggle out of my pads and stagger over to the showers to clean up.  I was just about finished with the showers when Coach Davis shouted that he had a couple announcements.

            “Quiet, I want to make this quick,” he began.  “We all know that Central was picked to be the best in the valley again this year.  You just went out and put on a game for the ages.  I’m proud of all of you.  Go home and celebrate, you have earned it.  You have made all your classmates proud.”  The team cheered at this and many high fives were issued.

            “I do have one more announcement,” Coach Davis continued.  He held up a football.  “Most of you know that each team brings their own footballs to the game. It’s part of a tradition older than me.  Normally, each team goes back with the footballs they brought, but tonight I have here, a rather special football.”  He looked over the players and spotted me as I was toweling down after the shower.  “Hector, you picked up a fumble and took it back for the touchdown that put us ahead.  We returned the ball to Central, and their coach sent it back saying it belonged to you now.”  He tossed the football to me, but my tired arms failed to catch it, and it bounced around the showers to the amusement of my teammates.  Finally Nathan picked it up and handed it to me with a smile.  He turned it so that I could see “Central High” burned into the ball where Independence High footballs usually had the word “Eagles” branded.

            I smiled and held the ball up for a moment, but did not speak, before retreating to my locker to get my street clothes on and go meet my family.

 

Monday, October 23, 2045

 

            The alarm sounded, but a strange weight on my chest kept me from rolling over to turn it off.  I looked down to find Wendy curled up against me, sleeping quietly.  I was just beginning to feel her pheromones when she twitched and opened her eyes.

            “I was having a wonderful dream,” she said sleepily as she sat up and stretched.  The effect of her breasts pushing against the t-shirt she had worn to be only amplified her pheromones and I coughed.

            “Unless you want it turned into a nightmare, it might be wise to get out of this bed,” I said.  “And what are you doing in here?  You have your own bedroom here.”

            Wendy laughed as she bounced out of the bed.  “Maybe my dream was just that,” she said with an evil wink. “As for being in your bed, perhaps that’s where I belong.”  I wanted to say more, but she dashed out of the room before I could finish sitting up myself, and I realized that further questions would have to wait for later.

            Actually, I was not all that surprised that Wendy had snuck into my room.  Over the weekend, Laura, father and I all spent some time talking to her, learning about the woman inside.  Wendy had not had a happy childhood.  She was blossoming with a caring family, but both Laura and my father warned me that her attachment to me was deep and likely to be permanent.

            “I don’t see her ever doing anything to hurt you, son,” my father said while we prepared Sunday’s brunch.  “But at the same time, you are going to need to be very careful about how you treat her.  You are her anchor, and without you, she probably would feel so lost as to attempt suicide.  Expect her to try to keep you close.  Now, I wouldn’t fight her on it, I can already see that you care for her, and I’ve already listened to both of you spend three hours talking about your hopes for founding a MORFS familial adjustment and counseling service.  In so many ways, you are the perfect partners.  However, take it slow.  Don’t let her rush the relationship.  Right now, she can’t tell who likes her for herself, and who is just overwhelmed by lust around her.  She might not even be sure of you, which would make it worse if you gave in too soon.  Let her see that others can like her for her, and get some confidence in herself.”

            My father rarely gives long speeches, but this was one that matched my own feelings.  I loved Wendy, not just as a beautiful young lady, but she was the partner I had been seeking in so many ways.  Yet, I could feel that she gave ground to me too often, and was even more timid with anyone else.  I wanted her to be confident in herself, and was struggling to figure out how to make that happen.

            Unfortunately, the period between waking and breakfast is far too short to find answers to such complex questions.  Wendy and I dashed out the door about ten minutes before my usual time.  We had just finished crossing the first street on our route to the school when there was a brief gust of wind and Irene came to a landing in the driveway we were crossing.

            Wendy looked surprised, and then froze as Irene gave her a friendly hug before releasing her and hugging me.  Her hug to me included a quick kiss on the cheek and the whisper.  “The hugs are from the cheerleading squad, the kiss is from me.”  I could see Wendy’s ears twitch and a funny expression cross her face, but before she could say anything Irene turned back to her.

            “Sorry to surprise you like that,” Irene said adjusting the shoulder bag that substituted for a backpack.  “I just remembered that you and I have never really met.  I’m Irene Conners, sophomore, cheerleader and former number one fan of Hector here.  I guess I now drop to number two.”  Irene smiled and pulled a folder out of her bag and held it out towards Wendy.  She seemed to mutter something that I could not hear, but Wendy laughed and took the folder.

            “Blackmail material is always useful,” Wendy said with a wink at me.  “Thank you, Irene.”

            There was an awkward silence and then I remembered Irene’s comments from Friday.   “Wendy, Irene offered to help us out.  She has a bit of wind power, and is offering to use that to protect you if I have to run an errand.  Why don’t we let her walk with us and you can get to know her.”

            Wendy looked a bit surprised as Irene blushed.  At first I thought Wendy would refuse, but instead she looked at Irene.  “Why?” she asked.

            Irene shuffled her feet.  “Because I remember how it was when I changed and I had no friends.  Hector used to come over to my house just to visit and play games with me when all my other 'friends' called me freak, or just wanted me to perform tricks for them.  Later, I learned that he was behind trying to defuse the fights between the supers and pures, mostly by redirecting the pures into less aggressive arenas.  Many of the less powerful MORF kids have benefited from his protection.  Now I can return that by helping someone he cares about.”  

            Wendy gave me a strange look and then put her hand out to Irene again.  “You’ll have to tell me all you know about Hector then.  As his former number one fan, I’m sure you know all his secrets,”

            Irene giggled in reply and the duo started off towards the school.  I was about to follow behind when Eddie spoke behind me. “Need more for the protection force?”

            I turned and found Eddie walked up in his usual slow appearing manner.  His turtle adaptations had shortened his legs and restricted their motion, but I learned long ago that he could be fast when necessary.  Today he kept up with me as we followed a few feet behind Irene and Wendy who were gossiping about me if the laughter and sideways looks at me were any indication.

            “Her pheromones pack a bit of a punch, Eddie.  I know you are a great guy, but are you willing to accept fighting with them all the time?” I asked him as we followed the girls.

            Eddie gave a strange variant on a shrug.  “I do not think it will be too much of a problem.  The changes I underwent included changes to a certain attachment men have.  If you could find a female turtle of the right size I guess I could make her happy, but that’s unlikely.”

            I was silent for a moment, and I noticed Wendy giving Eddie a rather sympathetic look.  “I’m sorry about that.  I can understand why you keep that a secret.  Others might not be nice about keeping that quiet.”

            Eddie nodded.  “Most girls just think I’m playing hard to get, and I try to keep it that way.  Friends are welcome though, and you’ve been a friend to just about everyone on campus.”

            I was trying to decide when Wendy waved to get my attention and gave me a quick thumbs up.  I was trying to figure that out when I remembered the lady doctor talking about her hearing and realized that Wendy had caught the conversation.  I smiled and turned to Eddie.  “Well, a few more friends gathered at the fountain would be nice.  Show up at lunch and we’ll see what happens.”

            The rest of the walk to the campus passed peacefully, if noisily.  Wendy and Irene were apparently completely enthralled with tales of clothing and cooking.  I heard Wendy providing details of the weekend meals my father had churned out, and then surprising Irene by telling her that I had helped in the preparation.  Irene clearly was of the opinion that men cannot cook.  Eddie and I spoke a bit about our victory against Central, but that quickly turned into a conversation about the future and what direction I hoped my life would go.  Eddie was a bit surprised to hear that I was not going to pursue football.  He seemed to want to argue that I should go when he noticed my eyes on Wendy and shook his head.

            We had just arrived at the school when there was a ruckus at the entrance.  Darryl was standing with most of his cronies and blocking the entryway for all arriving students.  Our quartet slowed down to a stop when he spotted me.  “Hector!” he shouted.  “You have shown me up for the last time.  Today, I’m going to make you pay.”

            Darryl appeared ready to jump at me, but some of his cronies held him back.  I was reviewing options when Allan came up to stand next to me.  “Seems like Darryl wants blood,” he observed.

            I shrugged.  “If it’s all the same, I’d rather not donate any today,” I quipped.  “And fighting Darryl is not exactly my idea of a good time.”

            Allan seemed a bit surprised by my response, but looked over at Darryl.  He had gotten free of his minions and was rapidly approaching us as Wendy retreated to hide behind me.  I was wondering just how far Darryl would go in front of the crowd when Eddie forced him to a stop.

            “You have the freaks as friends now, Hector?” Darryl commented as Eddie pushed a hand into his chest.  “This has to be a laugh.  First you show up with the walking sex machine, and now you have freaks pretending to be friends.  Does that mean you let them take turns at the slut?  Perhaps she likes being part of an animal gangbang?  Of course, she would have been with a real man yet.  Not with only little Hector to stand up for purity.  I say you give her to me.  I can show her what real men are all about.  And who knows, you just might thank me after I’ve beat any fight out of her.”

            I was ready to jump over Eddie and attack Darryl when a gust of wind blew him and his closest cronies down.  I glanced over to see Irene follow up the blast of wind by taking off and bursting through the opening, scattering any students still standing.  “Not now, Hector!  Let’s get to class,” she shouted as she rose up over the school building.  It was clear she was making for her locker, so I put an arm around Wendy and with Eddie leading made for the school entrance.

            Most of the students were hurrying to class, so there was a bit of a fight getting to the door, but Eddie did a great job opening a path, and Wendy kept close to me.  We were passing through the door when Allan appeared behind Wendy and took her hand for a moment, whispering something I couldn’t hear over the crowd.  Wendy shook her head and tried to follow me, when Allan pulled her back to against speak softly.  I was about to intervene when Allan abruptly let go and Wendy fell against me.

            I wanted to ask more, but the first warning bell for classes rang through the halls, and everyone started to dash to their classes.  I noticed that Wendy seemed a bit distressed, so after peeking to alert Mrs. Thomson, that we were in attendance for our first period English class, requested that we have a couple moments for Wendy to compose herself before entering the room.  The second bell found me holding Wendy close as she cried into my chest.

            “I’m such a bother to you,” she sobbed.  “You never had any trouble, and now you are in fights all the time.”

            I found my fingers playing with her hair.  “That’s not true, little bunnygirl.  I’ve had to fight every day in a way, but I kept the fights hidden.  I’ve always been against guys like Darryl, but I was too afraid to stand out and be a target.  Instead I tried to use sweet words and flattery to protect the other students, leaving too many to be hurt.  And you shouldn’t let it get to you.  You already have made some new friends.  Irene seemed honestly happy to chat with you.”

            Wendy sniffled, but the crying seemed to calm down.  I was reaching for a handkerchief when she spoke again.  “But what about Allan?  He tired to pull me away.  He told me that, you’d fail to protect me, but he could.”

            I paused for a moment.  “Really,” I finally replied as I handed Wendy the handkerchief and watched her dry her eyes.  “I wonder where he got that idea.  But I promised to protect you, and I shall, Wendy.  You mean a lot to me.”

            Wendy finished drying her eyes, and looked at me for a moment.  “What about Irene?”

            The question surprised me and I paused for a moment.  “What do you mean?” I replied.

            Wendy laughed.  “She really is your number two fan.  Well, maybe one and a half.  There is no question that she has a huge crush on you.  What will you do about her?”

            I suddenly found the hallway a bit uncomfortable as I considered what answers might be safe in this situation.  I had no idea how Wendy felt and finally gave up on coming up with the perfect answer.  “How about we worry about getting into class and studying?  You and I still have a lot of work on our relationship before you ask me to consider anyone else.”

            Wendy had the grace to look embarrassed, but retaliated by pushing me into the classroom and walking me all the way to my seat as the class laughed at our antics.

 

Lunch

 

            The morning classes had been hectic, but actually enjoyable.  Most of the students had heard about the football game, and a few took the time to come up and greet both Wendy and I.  Most were clearly affected by Wendy’s omnipresent pheromones, but the students who approached us were respectful and controlled.  By the time the bell to start lunch rang out over the school, Wendy was animated and happy again.

            Wendy and I found a clear spot on the wide brim of the fountain to sit at.  She was still pulling our lunches out of her bag when Tristan walked up to us.  “Sorry I haven’t been around earlier.  We don’t share any morning classes and Darryl made sure I wasn’t aware of his plans for the school entrance.”

            I shrugged as Wendy looked at Tristan.  He gave a momentary jerk as the pheromones hit, but managed a smile shortly after that.  “Ouch,” he said and looked at me again.  “Package that power and every woman I know will want a bottle.  Even though I knew about it, that packs one heck of a wallop.”

            Wendy looked a bit embarrassed as Tristan sat down on a nearby bench.  “Its not like I want it to happen,” she mumbled.

            Tristan laughed for a moment.  “Don’t feel bad.  I’m just teasing you a little to cover my own discomfort.  I grew up in Kansas and the people there keep hybrids hidden.  I was constantly warned about MORFS and then when I was twelve a cousin underwent a transformation, and has had to remain in water ever since.  So I fear what MORFs is.  Its not something I can fight and that frightens me.”

            Tina and Angela had approached during Tristan’s talk and Wendy smiled at them. “I can understand that.  The teachings at Trinity include much about allowing faith to protect you from that fear.  Of course, they debase those teachings by trying to dehumanize survivors of MORFs.  All I ask is that you get to know me and try to be my friend.”

            Tina quietly spoke up.  “How can I be your friend?  I don’t know how to approach you.  Part of me wants to wrap my arms around and kiss you, but another screams that it would be wrong to do that.”

            Wendy laughed and enveloped me in one of her tight hugs.  “Well, I’m just looking for people to chat with, perhaps play games or watch TV and movies with, and enjoy being a girl with.  Hector here is great at some, but I get a feeling that talking nail polish colors with him will send him screaming into the night.”

            “Screaming into the day as well,” I muttered as Tina and Angela burst out laughing.  They were still giggling as Irene and Eddie approached and joined the group.  I noticed more than a few students doing double takes in passing at the unusual cluster of we represented.  Two seniors who had been leaders of the pure movement, two freshman girls who had also belonged to the pures, and three clear hybrids all sitting together and laughing.  We were sharing tales of Friday night, since the girls wondered about the action on the field and especially what had happened to Darryl at halftime.

            “I’m not sorry to see him get kicked off the team,” Angela affirmed.  “Even in the meetings, I could tell that he was just a hateful man filled with false pride.  I just worry about him deciding for revenge.  He is the kind to be unnecessarily cruel.”

            Eddie laughed.  “Fortunately his tactics tend to be poorer than most.  His attempt to start a fight in front of the school this morning impressed no one.  I even noticed that Gina didn’t bother to come.”

            Everyone started to talk about Darryl and his antics when Wendy suddenly stiffened beside me and started to rise.  I looked and immediately noticed that her eyes were glazed over.

            “Michael Ingals!” Irene shouted as she saw Wendy’s eyes.  “Is that little pervert trying something?”

            Everyone looked around, and finally Tristan pointed towards the passage that led to the hangout of the powered MORFs.   “Isn’t that the little mindwipe?”

            I glanced over and sure enough the rather infamous sophomore and leading bully in the super-powered crowd was standing there and concentrating on Wendy.  I did not see any of his regular bodyguards around, and after Eddie stepped up to hold Wendy back, stalked forward to approach Michael.

            The young man was so intent on his prey that he did not realize that I was approaching.  I was within tackling distance when he broke his gaze away from Wendy and turned his now terrified eyes to me.  Immediately, I dashed forward to finish closing the gap and lifted Michael from the ground.  I could feel his mind attempt to invade and overwhelm mine, so with a mighty thrust, launched him into the air to land in the fountain.

            The mental invasion ceased, and I started to follow up on the body and walked over to the fountain.  Tristan had already reached Michael and was holding him down in the water as I approached.

            “Michael, how many times do you have to get your head beat in until you stop trying to dominate others?” I asked.  “I won’t warn you again on this though.  If you ever use your powers to try to dominate Wendy, I’ll make sure you lose them permanently.”

            Michael was still sputtering out water, but replied furiously.  “Why should you care?  To you she’s a freak.  An animal you’ll just throw away once you’re done.  Why can’t I have fun?  What harm would I do?”

            I sighed and looked over at Tristan who appeared disgusted.  “This guy definitely has issues,” Tristan said.  “But I have to agree with you.  He needs to be kept far, far away from Wendy.”  He looked directly at Michael.  “I’m going to back up my friend here.  If you ever come near Wendy again, I’ll personally find some way to mail you to Alaska, even if it means carving you up.”

            Michael looked very green for a moment, and then Nathan walked up to grab his collar.  “Sorry, we knew he was thinking of going for Wendy, but we all thought we’d talked him out of it,” our fellow football player said.  “Don’t worry about it happening again.  The MORF players had a meeting at brunch and unanimously decided to honor the fountain as an area of peace for the rest of the school year.  We’ll keep Michael in his burrow from now on.”

            Nathan dragged the now cowed Michael away and Tristan and I returned to sit with the others.  Wendy had been quietly crying in Irene’s arms, but turned to hug me once I was comfortable.  I merely held her in silence until the bell rang out, signaling a return to classes.

 

Monday, October 30, 2045

 

Classes were becoming more enjoyable for Wendy and me.  Most of the students had discovered that a little self-discipline and concentration would make Wendy’s pheromones nothing more than an annoyance, and the fact that most teachers gave a nod and wink to public displays of affection between students known to be in classes with her actually brought a laugh to most students.

The school also was cheerfully talking about our football victory the previous week.  We had finished first in our division and could look forward to our first playoff game in three years.  Coach Davis had even broken a smile in the locker room as the team celebrated its best regular season finish in a decade.

In the last week I had established the east side of the fountain as my regular hangout during lunch and breaks.  Wendy was always with me on campus, but what surprised everyone were the others who now formed one of the more popular social groups on campus.  I found myself proud of my friends.  Several teachers had stated that never before had a group of mixed students been so prominent in campus life.

Wendy was also finally catching up to the schoolwork.  The transfer of classes had resulted in her stepping up in difficultly on a couple of subjects and several of us had been spending time at lunch in assisting her in catching up.  She had been extremely impressed with Yvonne Masters, the biology teacher.  Not only had Yvonne’s teachings been the final piece in convincing Wendy that she was not an animal, but she had provided some ideas for calming exercises and activities, which Wendy greatly appreciated.

I was sitting and looking over the courtyard, when I noticed that everyone was quiet and looking off in the direction of the pure courtyard.  I turned to gaze at the passage and my heart sank.

Standing at the entrance to the fountain courtyard were Darryl and several of his more aggressive and militant friends.  I could see Allan whispering to Darryl, but Darryl merely brushed him away and shouted out.  “I told you that I’d get my hands on the bunnygirl, Hector!”

I sighed and looked over the courtyard.  Tristan, Irene, and Eddie were all standing and moving near me, as Wendy, Tina and Angela retreated to the fountain border.  Most of the rest of the students were rapidly discovering that they had errands which required that they leave the courtyard, I could only hope that some of the errands would take them to Principal Smith.

“Darryl,” I called back.  “Why don’t you return to your own area?  No one here is interested in your petty dreams of grandeur.  Besides, what would Gina say if she saw her boyfriend get in a fight?”

“Gina dumped me!” Darryl shouted.  “She looked me in the eye and said that I’d embarrassed her and all pures when I got kicked off the team.  It’s all because of you, and that freak bunnygirl.  So, I’ll get my revenge now.  You can get beaten down, proving that I’m stronger, and then I’ll ravish the bunnygirl.   After all, she wants it, isn’t that what she’s constantly showing?”

Tristan surprised me by speaking up.  “Darryl, it’s not like that, and if you thought about it, even you would agree.”

Darryl was almost foaming at the mouth as he shouted back.  “What do you know about it you hick?   Ah, hell with talk.”  He waved at his friends, who stepped forward, several now holding up baseball bats.  “It’s time to end this!” Darryl shouted and then led his thugs in a charge.

Irene must have anticipated the charge because two of Darryl’s friends ran into a blast of air and sprawled down, but a third thug got past her wind wall, and she was forced into the air to avoid being hit by his wild swings. 

Two more of Darryl’s friends pressed Tristan back, and forced him to the benches, leaving only Eddie and I left guarding the fountain and Wendy against Darryl and four others. 

The distress this was causing Wendy had caused the air to seem almost thick with her pheromones.  Eddie seemed completely unaffected, and my earlier experiences with their effects meant that I was able to keep my wits around me.  This was fortunate, because Darryl and his friends struggled to keep their focus, and many of their attacks would arrive with little power as lust overcame anger and they turned towards Wendy.  That was only a small comfort though, because Darryl had picked up a bat, and when he kept focus was sending full power swings towards me.  I was able to dodge most of his swings, but was still taking punches on my arms and torso when I ducked one of Darryl’s attempts to hit a home run and ran my chin right into a rising uppercut from one of his friends.

The blow staggered me, and Darryl used my disorientation to smash my ribs with the bat, sending me into the water surrounding the fountain pool.  I tried to raise my head and see, but my body finally realized that I had taken too much punishment, and I barely managed to roll onto my back without passing out.

The fight at this point was about over.  Irene was kneeling on the roof of one of the classrooms, clearly exhausted.  Tristan had one eye swollen closed and one of Darryl’s thugs had him pinned against one of the benches in the courtyard.  Eddie was not hurt, but three of the thugs where using their bats to force him into a defensive mode.  He was in no danger, but he was unable to attack.

It had not been a one-sided fight.  There were several other students I did not recognize sprawled unconscious around the courtyard.  I attempted to do a quick count, but the action of Darryl stalking towards me caused me to stop.  At that moment I remembered Wendy, Tina and Angela and glanced around looking for them.

Tina and Angela were standing a short distance from the bench where Tristan remained pinned down.  Tina obviously wanted to rush to him, but the presence of a bat-wielding thug caused her to stay away.  I was unable to figure out where Wendy was until tears falling against my forehead caused me look up into her eyes.

Wendy was kneeling in the water and looking down at me.  She looked almost heartbroken, and I started to reach my right arm up to touch her face when Darryl spoke again.  “So the great Hector has finally fallen.  The mighty isn’t so mighty anymore.”

“And now like Achilles you’ll drag my body around the courtyard for the next twelve days,” I managed to quip as I tried to get back on my feet.  Angela gave a gasp and smiled at the reference as Darryl paused just short of the fountain.

“Damn you!” he shouted.  “You’ve lost!  Give it up and just lie down.  After all, what I’m going to do to that little bunnygirl isn’t something she hasn’t felt before.  What’s so special.”

Wendy gasped and replied.  “I’ve never.”  She then realized that the courtyard was now surrounded by what seemed like half the student body and looked down while blushing furiously.

Darryl gave a nasty laugh.  “Well, in a few minutes you won’t get to say that, and then my friends get you.  You can’t even blame them, your body causes it.”

“That’s right, blame everyone but yourself Darryl,” I said, as I managed to lever my arms behind me and raise my head.  “Nothing you do could ever be caused by your own decisions.  I’d feel pity for you, if you weren’t such a twisted, evil asshole.”

Darryl looked at me for a moment, and then walked up to the edge of the fountain.  “What do you know about it, freak lover?  You think I don’t know about you?  You

attended the meetings for the pure human patrol like any other devout believer, but what do we see today.  Some new girl with bunny ears shows up and you abandon the movement.  And you pretend that you have done nothing with that freak.  Every girl in the movement wanted you.  Think the others didn’t see that.  Gina would have stripped naked and crawled across the courtyard for your attention, so what does this bunnygirl do that they don’t?  Perhaps she sweetens her nectar with sugar, is that it?  Or is it that she likes to do it like a rabbit all night long?  You and her both claim that she’s so innocent, but we know that’s not true.”

            I could see him getting ready to step over the fountain’s rim and approach and was struggling to my feet when a large body flew past me to tackle him.  I remained where I was in stock as Vincent and Nathan burst out of the crowd to disarm and then drive off Darryl’s friends.  They did not run far, because Principal Smith arrived with several teachers and a couple of police officers.  They quickly restored quiet in the courtyard while rounding up all of the participants in the battle. 

At first I was too sore to move, but once freed from the thug, Tristan came over and managed to help me struggle to my feet.  Wendy helped him and then acted as a support, as I staggered out of the water and over to the rest of our band.

Principal Smith looked extremely upset as he surveyed the students and took stock of the injuries; Eddie and Tristan both looked a bit bruised, but neither appeared to be in any trouble.  I was leaning on Wendy, but Irene, Tina, Angela and Wendy had all come through without injury.  Darryl and his crowd were not as lucky.  Several had to be helped to their feet, and more than one held an arm or wrist awkwardly as the police and teachers lined them up.  Darryl was found underneath John Joyce who stood and glared at him as a police officer dragged him over to stand by his friends.

Principal Smith waited for the police to finish rounding up everyone before speaking.  “I don’t have to wonder too much who ignored the campus rules against fighting.  I know some of you have this belief that you are untouchable,” he continued as he looked over at Darryl.  “However, there are clear rules about fights like this, and while some principals would try to sweep all this under a rug, I’m inclined to make this experience a lesson for every student here.”

Principal Smith was walking around the courtyard and looking over the students who stood silently, awaiting his next words.  He waited and watched as additional students approached the group and inserted themselves into the back of the crowd.  “It’s been a long time since we had a fight like this as Independence,” he proclaimed.  “The teachers and I try to allow students an opportunity to make their own decisions on who their friends are.  But I cannot allow such a fight to go unpunished.”

Principal Smith was glaring at some of Darryl’s friends before he looked up and continued.  “However, punishing those who only sought to defend themselves and their friends is equally wrong.  So I’ll make this simple and quick.  Darryl, you and your friends were the instigators of this fight.  As per district policy, you are officially expelled from Independence.  After the police finish processing you at the station, transfer papers will be drawn up and after a week suspension you will attend Central High.”

Darryl squawked indignantly, but Principal Smith ignored him and came over to look at my friends and I.  “Yvonne, how about you talk to everyone here real quickly while I deal with the police?  You can report to me after the next period.”

Yvonne appeared out of the throng of teachers and walked over to Tristan.  “We have about ten minutes until the next class, come, we’ll use my classroom,” she said and then turned towards the science wing.  A path opened in front of her as she briskly walked away, without looking back.

I think all seven of us were surprised, but we followed quietly, Wendy and Irene helping me walk through the pain.  We arrived at the room and Yvonne quickly invited us inside, closing the door behind us.

“That courtyard has video on it, so Principal Smith already knows what happened,” she said, once the door closed.  “I’m sorry, but none of the faculty thought Darryl would try something like that, so we weren’t prepared.”

I groaned.  “I don’t think any of us blame you.  Besides, after today Wendy knows who her true friends are,” I finished flashing Wendy a tired smile.

Everyone followed me in giving Wendy a smile.  Tina then spoke.  “My only regret was that I couldn’t help fight for my friends.  I had to watch as those beasts bashed Tristan and you down.”

Wendy tried to give me a gentle hug at this point, but the pain caused me to hiss furiously.  Yvonne immediately walked over and put her hands on my back.  “Ouch, sounds like you got ribs cracked,” she said as her fingers probed briefly.  There was a momentary shock of increased pain and then it dramatically lessoned and I sighed in relief.

Yvonne stepped away only to notice that everyone was looking right at her.  She blushed for a moment and then whispered. “Oops, forgot I had an audience.”

“What do you mean?” Angela asked.

Yvonne shrugged.  “It’s my one secret.  I’m a bio-elemental, although a very weak one.  I can’t repair any injury more severe than a cracked rib, but I can do that, and I haven’t been sick since I woke from stage two.”

Tristan seemed surprised.  “You mean you’ve had MORFS?” he asked, looking over Yvonne.

Yvonne laughed.  “So has nearly half the adult population now.  Not everyone gets changed dramatically though.  For me, I lost my red hair, gained a couple inches, and won’t get sick ever again, that’s all.  Please don’t spread it around though.”

Everyone nodded as she looked over the group.  She seemed to be gauging our sincerity before continuing.  “Good.  Now, expect some flack in the coming days, because the parents of Darryl and his friends are going to put pressure on the district to suspend you.  They’ll claim that you provoked him or something, but stand firm, you did nothing wrong.  Other than that, please accept congratulations from me for showing every student here what true friendship is about.  Your group has a wonderful bond.”

The first bell signaling the end of lunch rang out, and Yvonne showed the younger members of our band out.  When she returned she whispered to me.  “You’ll be sore with bruises, but other than that you’ll recover fine, but if you want to visit the nurse, I’ll understand.”

I looked at Wendy and placed my hand over hers.  “Let the others see the bruises and know that I will fight for my lady’s honor.” I said, watching tears appear in Wendy’s eyes.  Yvonne merely gave a snort of amusement and then headed to the front of the room for the start of class.

 

That night I got a lecture on my father about fighting, followed by a promise to sign both Wendy and me up for some martial arts and tai chi classes in the coming weeks.  My father played the concerned and angry father to perfection.  Wendy was firmly convinced that he was going to unleash some terrible punishment and squeaked in relief when he merely made her promise to wash dishes for the rest of the week.  She left to study and my father looked at me for a moment before giving me a wink.  I was about to leave when he whispered “tomorrow” and placed a box in my hand. 

 

Tuesday, October 31, 2045

 

            Halloween at high school was always an interesting experience.  Some students wanted to pretend that they were still children, but most were worrying about upcoming midterms and tests.  Most of the student body had seen or heard about the fight at lunch, and I found that many students came up to me to offer thanks that one of the campus bullies had been brought down

            I was mostly ignoring this.  Instead my thoughts were on lunch and my plans to surprise Wendy for her birthday.  I had managed to send messages to the rest of the gang, but was unsure if they had time to get anything for her.

            I learned at lunch that our friends could be miracle workers when they wanted.  Wendy and I arrived to find that one of the picnic tables had been moved next to the fountain and covered in a tablecloth.  The table had a number of packages on it, and a strange shape hidden under a towel.  Wendy gasped as everyone shouted “Happy Birthday” upon her arrival.

            Tina and Angela came forward to take Wendy’s hands and lead her to the table.  Once she was seated each placed a kiss on her cheeks as Tristan pulled the covering from the cake it covered.  The cake was in the shape of a bunny’s head and Wendy laughed at it as Eddie pulled out a camera to snap a few quick pictures.  Moments later eighteen candles merrily burned for a moment as we serenaded Wendy with the traditional song and cheered as she extinguished the fire with one long breath.

            The cake was quickly cut up, with our group of seven having the first pieces, but later ones were offered to any student who passed the table.  Wendy was as happy as I have ever seen her.  It was strange, but I realized that for once I did not feel the usual lust around here, but instead a feeling of happiness and well-being was spread throughout the area.  A glance at the others appeared to confirm that they felt the same, although none commented on it.

            Gift giving commenced before I could follow up on that thought.  Eddie went first and provided Wendy with an elaborate set of colored pencils, remarking that she had mentioned wanting to draw more.  Angela provided a package that contained several canisters of Mace. 

            “It might not be legal, but can you think of anything she needs more?” she asked us when we all looked at her as the package was opened.  Wendy who already had been struggling to control giggles burst out laughing and soon everyone had joined in.

            Tina supplied a package of colored hair ties.  And Wendy immediately told everyone that I had neglected to let her purchase makeup and feminine articles the one time she got to go shopping.  The girls all looked at me and then Wendy spoiled the moment for them by laughing and admitting that she did not really know how to apply makeup.  “Mother never let me have any,” was her final comment on the matter.

            Tristan seemed a bit nervous about his gift, which proved to be a one-month membership at the pool where Veronica worked.  Wendy was excited about the prospect of seeing her old friend and renewing the relationship, and gave Tristan a loving hug.  He definitely got a full burst of her pheromones because he collapsed to the ground and moaned when she released him.

            Irene was next and if anything seemed more nervous.  She finally demanded that Wendy close her eyes, and as we watched put a purple bow over the end of each of Wendy’s ears.  She then stepped back and held up a mirror asking Wendy to open her eyes and look.

            Wendy gasped and started crying for a moment.  Irene looked even more worried when Wendy reached out to drag her into what had to be a bone-crushing hug.  “They are perfect,” Wendy said.

            I have to admit that the little bows seem perfect for Wendy.  The package proved to have additional bows in white, black, green, red and blue.  I am still not sure how they fit, but each one slides over the ears and can be attached at just about any point.  Irene explained how they worked to Wendy who tested several positions with the purple ones before setting on a location about a third of the way from the tips.

            Wendy was looking around for the package from me and I realized that it was my cue to move.  I reached into my pocket and palmed the item my father gave me the night before as I moved to stand directly behind Wendy.

            The sight of the box caused a slight gasp from Tina as she realized what I was doing.  Tristan and Angela echoed the gasp as I carefully thumbed the box open and sank to my knees.  Inside was an exquisite ring of diamond and gold.  The weekend before my father had shown me the ring and said, “My grandmother was given this ring by my grandfather when they married at eighteen and right out of school.  It stayed on her finger for sixty years, seven children, and more than twenty grandchildren.   Shortly before she passed away, she called me into her room and told me that someday one of my children would be asking a pearl of inestimable value to marry, and that when that happened, I should pass this ring on.  I have no hesitation.  This ring and all the love is represents belong to you and Wendy.  Give it to her with love and affection and watch her wear it with pride.”

            Wendy had not noticed the activity behind her, but the rest of the courtyard had gone completely silent.  Irene had her hands over her mouth as I coughed lightly to get Wendy’s attention.

            Wendy turned and looked at me in confusion for a moment.  I could see her mind working out what was going on and then she gasped as I brought the ring up to show it to her.  The silence seemed to go on forever as I stumbled over the words I had spent hours memorizing the previous weekend.

            “Wendy, I know we are both young, but in the few short weeks since you entered my life, you have brought a happiness and fellowship into my existence.  Every time we talk, I lose myself in your eyes.  I know you feel your burst into my life just a few weeks ago, but I don’t want you to leave it.  I cannot offer you mansions or fame, but if you will have me, I promise you that I’ll love you forever, protecting you and our children.  Would you make me the happiest man in all Bakersfield by agreeing to become my wife once we graduate high school.”

            There was a long silence, broken only by a choked off sob from Wendy who had covered her face with her hands shortly after seeing the ring.  I was puzzled by this and then was hit by a wave of what I can only describe as love and affection emanating from Wendy.  Before I could comprehend what this meant, Wendy exploded from the bench with a cry and kissed me desperately.  I was trying to recover and kiss back when I heard an amused Irene say, “I’ll take that as an affirmative.”  

            Everyone in the courtyard burst out in laughter and Wendy finally stopped kissing me to look up at everyone.  The expressions of caring, and happiness were uniform from the gang of seven, and I believe Irene had tears in her eyes.  She and I had had a long quiet talk over the weekend, and it was her support that had convinced me to go forward and propose.  “Look, I do love you, and I think you might even love me,” she said.  “But you and Wendy complete each other in a way I’ve only read about in books.  Don’t be afraid to go forward because of me,” had been her final words, and the ones that convinced me that I had to propose. 

Irene giggled as Wendy and I slowly separated.  “Someone is going to need to package that, Wendy,” Irene said.   At the confused looks from both Wendy and I she continued.  “I’m sure you felt it, Hector.  When she realized you were proposing just about everyone in the courtyard got a blast of pure happiness.  I think we found that Wendy’s little projection of lust can change, under the right circumstances.”

            Everyone laughed again as Wendy blushed furiously.  I pulled the ring from the box and lifted her right hand, to slide the ring on.  It slid down to fit perfectly and I looked at Wendy again, seeing the love in her eyes.  She gave me another hug, and I heard her whisper, “I have met the only man I’ll ever want or need.  I love you Hector.”

 

 

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

 


Views: