Salamander 2 part 4


Thursday, 29th of November, 2035



I saw Mandy off in the morning. She almost didn't want to go back to school, and to be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted her back in that place myself. I was extremely worried by what she had told me about what was happening at her school. She had been there for only two days and it sounded like she had been attacked twice. She had also a good deal of animosity from various camps because of her disguising herself.


I could understand her concern about her appearance, though personally I thought she was beautiful, others would see a monster and fear her. I didn't blame her for trying to hide herself, but from the reaction she got upon revealing her true appearance, I couldn't help but think she would have been better facing the brunt of the bad feeling straight away.


Still that wasn't her way, she was not a confrontational person. I wondered what I could do to help her. This whole parenting thing was so new to me. Before, I had just been responsible for me and even then only just Now, I was in charge of Mandy till she turned 18. It was all a bit bewildering.


I decided to see if Mandy's friend Joyce had any advice. Although Joyce's daughter Dorothy was much more independent and head strong, shad been doing this a lot longer than I had. Also, it would be nice to talk the problem through with someone else, even if they couldn't help it would help me get my head straight.


I didn't have to work till the evening, so I decided to give Joyce a ring to if she was in.


I dialled her number and a short while later heard her answer, “Hello?”


“Hello Joyce, this is Gwen Wilson, Mandy's sister,” I answered.


“Oh hello dear, what can I do for you,” Joyce replied.


“Well, I wanted to talk to someone about Mandy and I don't really know anyone else with children. I was wondering if I could ask your advice?”


“Certainly dear, why don't you come over. I'll make us a nice cup of tea and you can tell me what's on your mind.”


“That sounds lovely, I'll be over in a few minutes.”


“I'll see you soon then, Gwen. Goodbye.”


“Bye,” I replied, and hung up the phone. I slipped on my coat and headed out the door.


It was getting so cold with December approaching. I really needed to get a thicker winter coat, but we couldn't really afford such luxuries, the only possibility was finding something suitable in a charity shop. We were just about holding on now money wise. What I made, with the government assistance, just about paid for our rent and food with a little left over for everything else. I really would have liked to move to a bigger place so that Mandy could have her own room, but it just wasn't possible on what I could make on the jobs I could currently get. At the very least getting her a proper bed would be a start, I didn't like to think of what sleeping on that sofa was doing to her back.


Being relatively poor was a very new experience for Mandy and myself. We had been quite well off when living with our parents. Now we were existing on minimum wage. Growing up, I had never imagined I would ever work as a shop girl. If my parents had their way I would probably have never worked, being married off to an appropriate family as soon as I got to the right age, like some sort of bargaining chip in some political game. I knew well all the things that came with that affluence.


Every time I thought about how much easier things had been back before I had to scrimp and save to afford to eat, I reminded myself of that. This life might be harder, but at least the two of us were now free, and we had each other.


I walked briskly to Joyce's house, in order to counter the cold, and was soon there. I knocked on the door and Joyce answered. She was a nice woman. Her appearance was incredibly formidable, even more so that her larger daughter, due to her more lioness looks. She offset this a little with her very feminine style of dress, going for long flowing flowery dresses, bows and ribbons in her hair. But she was so nice and gentle, it was a cruel twist of fate that landed such a gentle person in a body that scared away people and made her a bit of a hermit, not wanting to offend people, or suffer rejection. She reminded me a bit of Mandy.


“Hello dear, do come in out of the cold,” she said.


“Hello Joyce, hope I haven't interrupted you doing anything,” I said.


“Not at all dear, you are welcome over any time.”


We walked into the kitchen and I took a seat at the table. Joyce poured the tea. “There you are dear,” she said, handing me a mug of tea. “Help yourself to milk and sugar.”


I took a little milk and then sipped my tea.


“Now then, what is it you wanted to ask me about?” Joyce asked.


“Well, Mandy has been having some trouble at school,” I replied, “It sounds like she first tried to disguise herself as a normal girl.”


“Yes I saw her do that when she came over Monday. It was quite convincing. I didn't have the heart to tell her, but I did worry she would get found out. I was sure she would then be in even worse trouble than if she'd just gone as she was.”


“Yes well that appears to be one of the things that has happened. She was found out and, as a result, has been shunned by the anti-MORFS children, but also some of the MORFS survivors, for being a traitor, or some such rot.”


“Oh dear that is bad news, the poor dear.”


“She was attacked twice yesterday, one was anti-MORFS girl, who apparently she has encountered before. The girl wanted to cut her face or some other horror.”


“My goodness that's awful!”


“Luckily, your Dorothy managed to save her again. But afterwards there was another event. Apparently they tried to get help from the teachers, but a male teacher basically accused them of lying, and threatened them with expulsion if they didn't keep quiet. Dorothy, bless her, stuck to her guns and demanded to see the head teacher, who eventually told them that she could do nothing, that it was their word against this girl and her friends, and since this girl had friends on the governors, she was not likely to get punished.”


Joyce stared open eyed at me, seemingly in shock, “That is an outrage!”


“Yes, after this Mandy was attacked again by a young telepath who took offence to her being able to block her abilities or something. I don't think she told anyone about that, probably thought it wasn't worth the trouble after the first incident.”


I paused, Joyce seemed to be thinking, taking in what I had told her.


“I guess basically, I’m not sure what to do,” I said. “I worry that these girls will make Mandy's school life hell. If this anti-MORFS girl at least believes she is untouchable, she may do allsorts of horrible things before she goes too far and gets into trouble. The other girl worries me just as much. She doesn't sound like someone who is very stable.”


“Did Mandy mention this telepath’s name?”


“I think she said Trish or something.”


“Hmm it's probably Trisha, Dorothy has mentioned her before. She is not a very nice person, a bully who has got her way pretty much all the time. She's also someone that even Dorothy worries about, as she has some method of paralysing people, so physical strength is useless against her.”


“Seems she can't with Mandy.”


“Indeed, I’m sure that will just make someone like that even more determined to control her.”


Joyce took a drink of her tea and then sat thinking.


“Well perhaps we should go and see Mrs Thomas together. Even if it does no good, it will at least let her know that we are aware of what is happening and not willing to just let this bullying of Mandy slide, no matter how well connected the bully is. I may also be able to help there. I have some friends who may be able to exert influence. It might also be worth talking to my friend about this telepath. She is far more knowledgeable about such things than me.”


We finished our tea and, deciding there was no time like the present, the two of us walked to the school. We were greeted at the office by the rather unpleasant secretary, Mrs Donnal.


"We're here to see Mrs Thomas," I said trying to be polite, but make it clear this was not a request.


Mrs Donnal sneered at us for a while then grudgingly hit the intercom, "Mrs Thomas, two 'ladies' to see you."


She put an emphasis on the word ‘ladies’, while staring daggers at Joyce. A few moments later Mrs Thomas emerged from her office.


"Miss Wilson and Mrs Newman. What can I do for you?" she asked.


"Well, we have been hearing some disturbing things about what is going on at this school," Joyce said.


"Why don't you come in," Mrs Thomas suggested.


We went into her office and sat down, she rounded the desk, sat down, then said, "Now what can I help you with?"


"Well we are both very concerned about what is happening to Amanda. She has been through a lot, and being attacked by bullies twice in one day is the last thing she needs," Joyce said.


"Twice?" said Mrs Thomas.


"Yes, once with that Stacy character and then again with some telepath girl, who didn't like not being able to get in Mandy's head," I said. "I guess she didn't want to report the second incident after the lack of effect the last time."


"I wish Amanda hadn't said anything." Mrs Thomas said, looking pained.


"What she should have done, just taken her beating and kept quiet?" said Joyce in an uncharacteristic show of anger.


"No, that's not what I meant ,Mrs Newman," said Mrs Thomas flinching, "If I might ask, what is your interest in this incident?"


"Amanda is a good friend of my daughter Dorothy, who also witnessed this first incident. She is a sweet girl who we took in when she was in need of help, and stayed with us for a while. Later, Gwen also came to stay with us while she was sorting out her and Amanda's new status, as well looking for a place of their own. I came to know both Amanda and Gwen quite well, and regard them as not just close friends, but members of the family. So I have a strong interest in their welfare, aside from the direct connection with Dorothy in this case," Joyce said.


Her treating us as members of the family made me smile.


"I see," said Mrs Thomas. "As I told Amanda and Dorothy, there is little I can do in this case, as they lack sufficient witnesses for me to punish anyone."


"This isn't about punishing someone! It's about ensuring Amanda's safety. If this Stacy truly is above the law, then what's to stop her going through with her attempts to disfigure Amanda? She might not be so lucky and have Dorothy come and save her next time," I said.


"I'm sure that was exaggeration on Amanda's part," said Mrs Thomas.


"She wouldn't exaggerate something like this!" I shouted. "You know her history and what she's been through. All she wants is a quiet life. She has no need to make things up."


"Try and see things from my perspective," she said. "I have two groups of students saying opposite things, and apparently there is a previous incident where Amanda has attacked Stacy."


That is a bald faced lie! No doubt from this beastly Stacy. Truth of the matter is, Stacy and two other girls tried to beat her up in a bathroom at the local shopping centre. Amanda fought back and they called the police, who cleared Amanda of all charges, threatening Stacy with prosecution. If I had known it would come to this I might have pressed to have that monster of a girl put behind bars.” Joyce was outraged.


“I wasn't aware of that fact,” said Mrs Thomas. “It doesn't change things, I’m afraid there is nothing I can do about Stacy unless she gets caught red handed, preferably by a teacher or several teachers.”


“So what you are saying is your school is now unsafe for my sister. She will be beaten up, by this beastly Stacy and her hoodlums in addition to this Trisha, and unless someone witnesses the assault, she could turn up dead with 'Stacy woz ere' carved into her chest and you would do nothing to help her or punish her assailant,” I said quite angry. “You mentioned to me that you didn't want another incident of a MORFS survivor running off the rails, but you are creating the situation where that could happen. My sister is not a confrontational person, but eventually she will fight back, and she might very well burn this place to the ground. You know what she has been through. she may look like she is strong and together, but she is really quite fragile, and still healing, both physically and mentally.”


“This incident you mentioned is one of the reasons my hands are tied. The anti-MORFS elements used that as an excuse to stamp on anything they see as favouritism to MORFS survivors. I'm in a difficult position, I can keep my job and try and help those students affected by MORFS, or react to events like this and lose it and be replaced by someone who is anti-MORFS. Then things will get a lot worse,” Mrs Thomas said.


“I can see we are getting nowhere! Whatever your reasoning behind not helping Amanda is irrelevant, she needs help and you are not capable or prepared to give it. Therefore we must take matters into our own hands and seek resolution in higher authorities. Since this girl has people protecting her, we will leverage our own friends in high places to see that things change.” Joyce stood up. “I hadn't realised this school had gone so far down hill. If my husband were alive today, he would never have stood for it. In his stead, we will make sure something is done, and if that means involving the police or other investigative bodies, then we shall not hesitate. Good day to you, ma'am.”


Joyce stormed out of the office in a quite uncharacteristic flurry of temper, leaving Mrs Thomas looking like she was a fish out of water. I could see now where Dorothy got some of her temperament. As we left the office, we nearly knocked down a shocked looking Mrs Donnal, who had clearly been listening at the door.


“Eavesdropping on private meetings is an offence punishable by 5 years in prison. If you so much as offend me, my daughter or her friend Amanda, I will see to it you are fired, put away in irons, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!” roared Joyce.


The transformation from meek quiet friendly woman, to powerful juggernaut was quite astounding, and Mrs Donnal tripped over her chair as she tried to scramble out of our way.


When we were out of earshot, I turned to Joyce and said, “Is that true about it being illegal to listen in on private conversations?”


“No of course not dear, I just have always found that woman to be a poisonous little toad and wanted to give her a scare,” Joyce replied. Now we were away from the office Joyce seemed to lose some of the manic purpose from before. “I'll tell you dear, I haven't been that worked up about something in years.”


“It was quite something, you really told that head teacher. It was a side of you I've never seen before.”


“Not many have. I don't often get so worked up. The last time was long before my change, but I was a different person then. It's not only their treatment of dear Amanda that's got me so angry, also the way this school has changed. You see, years ago, my husband was head teacher here. It was a very different place with him in charge. He wouldn't let anyone tell him that a MORFS child, or a normal child for that matter, was fair game for bullies. He was a man who knew what was right and wasn't afraid to fight for it. I see so much of him in Dorothy.” She was crying a little, but she swiftly wiped away the tears and then said, “Oh would you look at me, blubbering like a school girl. That's not going to do dear sweet Amanda any good. We must seek some allies and see if we can influence policy.”


I smiled at her and said, “Every day I'm thankful that Dorothy found and rescued Mandy, more so because it meant we met you. You are such a good friend to the both of us. Thank you for being our friend. I don't know where we'd be without you.”


“You're most welcome dear,” beamed Joyce.


We set off back to Joyce's house to plan our next move and see who amongst her various contacts could assist us in out cause.





I wasn't very keen to go into school on Thursday. I didn't feel very safe and it had kept me up a lot of the night worrying about it. In the time I did sleep, I had several nightmares. I woke up a few times in a cold sweat terrified, with images of Stacy coming at me with various weapons burned into my brain. In the end, I went at Gwen’s insistence that this was exactly what these bullies wanted, for me to give up.


I met with D and we walked in to school, I was quite apprehensive, almost expecting an angry mob to be waiting for me at the gate. When we got there, Jane was waiting, she didn't look or feel too angry, and it was hard to describe her as a mob.


We walked through the school and into our classroom with almost no incident, a few name calls and the odd angry stare, but nothing too bad. Once we were in our classroom we were met by a stony silence.


One girl said, “So she's the traitor!”


Another said, “She's the monster that beat up Stacy!”


Then, “Not only that, but she stood up to that nasty bully Trisha, that makes her a hero in my book,”


There was general dissent on what I was, it seemed opinion could be divided into roughly 4 groups of thought. 1) I was an animal who would attack students on sight, 2) I was a traitor to all MORFS kind, who thought I was better than the rest of my fellow survivors because I could pass as normal, 3) I was some sort of hero for beating up Stacy the most anti-MORFS girl in the school, and 4) I was some sort of hero for beating up the nastiest MORFS bully in the school, Trisha.


I'm not sure I was happy with any of those options, hated or idolised for all the wrong reasons. But there was nothing I could do about it.


One or two wanted to get the real story and asked me directly what I was about. I tried my best to answer them honestly.


One girl a small vaguely elfin looking girl with blue hair asked me earnestly, “Are you really a traitor, and think you're better than the rest of us because you can pass for one of them?”


“No,” I said.


“Then why did you do it?” she asked.


I paused and tried to consider my response, “If you looked like me, and could hide it, wouldn't you?”


She looked at me for a second, then nodded. I could feel she was more happy with me now she understood why I had done it. I doubted it would make a lot of difference in the long run, but at least I would have some people in my class besides D and Jane, who knew what the real deal was.


Mr Griffiths rushed in after that, stopping the Mandy Q&A session. He quickly took the register. When he got to my name, he glanced up at me when I replied, he did a double take, but continued without saying anything. He had some announcements about some assembly that we were going to go to next week, then it was time for lessons to kick off with German. I got the cold shoulder from most people.


I sat quietly with D and Jane got on with my work. Learning a new language was interesting. Our school in Little Greenvale didn't do languages, it was part of it's imperial throw back ethos, assuming English was the only language you would ever need. I had a lot of catching up to do, so I was at the moment very behind. It was fascinating none the less.


Next was English Literature, more reading this time, war poems and other bits of literature. It was fairly easy, just read the stuff and learn about what the people were talking about. They were covering WW1 poets like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, some powerful stuff in there, and despite myself, I was quite wrapped up in reading.


Then it was time for break. We spent some time in the library then headed over to our next lesson,  I was dreading this most of all, P.E.. There was the odd excitement about being allowed into the girls changing rooms, an echo of my previous life as Mort. But it was overshadowed by my fear and embarrassment of having to get changed in front of all these girls. As we wandered into the changing rooms I stuck close to D and Jane. Though part of me would have liked to look around, I kept my eyes averted and tried to act as normal as possible, not wanting to alienate myself any more than I already had.


As I slipped out of my clothes and put on my gym kit I heard a few comments from some of the anti-MORFS group when they saw my scales ran all the way down my back, but I had changed quickly enough that no one had really got a good look at me.


We were soon taken down to the gym to do various sports. We did a warm up followed by some netball. I was not really enjoying myself, as I didn't know the rules and I had never been much of a fan of sports. My more physically capable body made the activity easy, but I had no idea how the game worked. The Gym teacher, a hyped up woman called Miss Adams, who always wore a tracksuit no matter what she was doing, came over and prodded me in the shoulder with her whistle. She seemed to be of the "sport is about competition, you must do your best no matter what, if you're not first place you're nothing," school of thought rather than the "sport is supposed to be enjoyable, it doesn't mater what sport is played, and who wins, so long as every one has a good time," group.


“You, Wilson! Why aren't you moving to receive the pass? You've just been standing there. You should be running around. Move, you lazy girl!”


She blew a whistle and we continued the game. I did my best to move around more, but I still didn't know what to do. I found I could outrun most of the other girls and didn't tire very easily, which meant I could run rings round most people. This didn't really help, as I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing, so I was in all the wrong positions and was hardly ever useful to my team. I got the ball once, and had no idea what to do with it, so lost it pretty quick. Lots of pointless running around later, Miss Adams declared the other team the winner and I assumed we were moving on.


“Wilson! Come and stand here!” shouted Miss Adams with a scowl on her face. She wasn't that old, maybe a few years older than Gwen, but she seemed to be quite an angry, bossy, person and this seemed to age her.


She then picked out a load of girls who all seemed very sporty types and set them up each on a line on the gym floor with me at the far end of the room facing them. She took the ball and placed it on the far side of the gym to me.


“Right, since you refuse to play the games properly, I'm going to give you a choice. Either you play, or it's detention every day for 3 weeks. You have to get past these girls, they can't leave their lines, if they touch you, then you have to go back to the start. You have 10 minutes to get to the other side and get the ball without using any powers, starting now,” said Miss Adams blowing a whistle.


I assessed my chances, it didn't look good, but then I didn't want to get a detention. I made a run for it, the first girl tackled me, knocking me painfully to the hard wooden floor of the gym.


Miss Adams actually laughed at that. I tried a few more times, getting past the first girl only to be stopped by the second. I tried again and again, but it didn't make any difference, I just kept getting caught. I might be quite quick on my feet, but they could easily see me coming, and only had to touch me to win, so I was far too slow to get past all of them.


“Ha, ha, ha, you are pitiful Wilson. You have 4 minutes left, I'm going to enjoy seeing you in detention for the next 3 weeks,” Miss Adams taunted.


I looked at her with anger, she had set this up just to get me in detention, I was sure of it. I considered my options. she had said no powers. so I couldn't use my invisibility, but maybe I could use my grip. It wasn't a power as such, but a physical aspect of my body. Besides, I doubted I would get out of this without some sort of detention, better to wipe that smile off her face and feel better about my punishment.


I examined the room, then slipped off my shoes and socks. I ran at the wall and leapt up it scrabbling my way to the top, to a chorus of shocked gasps. I made my way across the ceiling, having my mostly reformed hand helped me a lot. I could do a fairly normal crawl moving one limb in turn.


“How does she do that?” I heard one girl say.


I swiftly traversed the ceiling, moving through the metal braces that held it up. Once I got to the far wall I scurried down it head first. I picked up the ball and, as the final insult, took it and threw it through the netball net.


Miss Adams had turned bright red, “I SAID NO POWERS!!!!!” she screamed.


“I didn't use any, I have very good grip. That is nothing to do with powers. If I'd wanted to use powers, I would have done this,” I replied, promptly vanishing, then ran back across the hall, past all the girls to the start point, where I reappeared, putting my shoes and socks back on.


“You dirty little cheat! I'll see to it that you spend every day till this time next year in detention for that sort of cheek!” She was now shaking she was so angry.


“Now just a minute,” I said, tired of playing her game. “You said, cross the gym without getting touched and without using any powers, to get the ball in under ten minutes. I did that fair and square. If you want to go changing the rules of the game after it's been played, that's hardly sportswoman-like.”  The sportswoman line was probably a low blow, as she looked like she was about to burst a blood vessel. Her whole face had turned bright red.


“NOW LOOK HERE ...,” she started when a man dressed in rugby kit stepped into the gym.


“Miss Adams,” he said.


“Yes, Mr Roberts?” she replied, suddenly more calm and pleasant.


“I'd like a word with that girl there,” he said, pointing to me. “You go on about your lesson and I'll deal with her.”


“Yes, Mr Roberts.” she said contritely.


The man motioned for me to follow him out of the room. I guessed I was in more trouble now, although as I was walking out of the room, D gave me a smile and a wink. The teacher took me into the sports office and sat me down. There was another woman doing some paperwork in the corner, also dressed in a tracksuit.


“Now I was watching from up here,” he motioned to the window. “What did you get the punishment for?”


“I wasn't playing her game properly, or enthusiastically enough,” I replied


“I see, and why was that?” he asked.


“I don't really like sports, and I don't really know that game. I've never played it before, so I didn't know what to do.”


“You've never played netball before?” he replied incredulously, at which the woman in the corner looked up with a surprised look on her face.


Rather than use the, 'I was a boy before, I played rugby,' I went with a slight lie, “I just transferred here. I was from a small village, they didn't really do sports at our school.”


“Hmm I see, now when she punished you, what were you supposed to do.”


“Lose,” I said. “She said cross the hall and get the ball, without getting touched and without using any powers, in under ten minutes. She set the thing up so that I couldn't win, and then laughed at me. She's very mean. I thought sport was supposed to be fun, not some sort of torture and amusement for the teacher. ”


I was probably pushing it with that, but I was annoyed, and getting tired of constantly getting shafted no matter what I did. The woman in the corner was now watching us more closely. Her eyebrows went up at my comment.


“Yet you managed to complete her task. You thought outside the box, and used your innate skills to accomplish her purposefully impossible task.”


“I suppose.” I was wondering where this was leading.


“What made you think to go over the ceiling?”


“Well, it was the only way I could get past them without using my powers.”


“And what if you could use your powers?”


“Well I would have just gone straight past them. So long as I moved slowly, they wouldn't see me.”


“Show me.”


I sighed, and vanished. The woman in the corner gave a shout of delight, a big smile split her face.


“What do you think, Nancy?” Mr Roberts said.


“Well I'd say she'd be perfect. She can walk on walls and make herself invisible, plus that jump was pretty good,” the woman replied.


“Yep, that's what I was thinking. Now then Miss Wilson, ... hmm, can you reappear? It's hard to talk to thin air.”


I made myself visible again. “Good. Now, I'm going to commute that detention Miss Adams handed out, if you will come along to one tryout session for a little sports club after school that myself and Miss Barton run. You will have to come to one practice and give your all for that one session. After that, if you have what it takes, you may chose whether you come along any more.”


“What sort of club is this?” I asked.


“I don't want to spoil the surprise.” He grinned, It’s better to have you turn up without any preconceptions.”


I thought it over, then said, “OK, when is it?” It might be a pain, but it was one after school session, then I could drop it, or be dropped when they found me not good enough for whatever it was. That struck me as far better than a years worth of detentions.


“Monday after school. Do you know Dorothy Newman?


“Yes,” I replied a little surprised. D didn't seem to be the sporty type.


“She can tell you where and when. She is the club secretary. Now then, you'd better get back to your lesson.”


“See you Monday,” called the other teacher as we left the room.


We got back to the entrance to the gym and Mr Roberts turned to me and gave me an amused look, “Try to look sufficiently punished. It will make Miss Adams feel she's got her way and make things easier for both of us.”


He put on a stern face and marched me into the hall. “I've given this little reprobate a very stern talking to, and a very severe punishment. She won't be taking liberties again. In future though, it might be wise to teach your students more theory. This girl has absolutely no idea how to play netball! We ran her through the test, her score was appalling,” he said turning his stern gaze on Miss Adams.


“She doesn't know netball? But ...” Miss Adams started.


“She is a transfer student, and it is unwise to assume that other institutions have the same high standards of sport education that we have here. See that this doesn't happen in future. Now the girl has been properly punished for her indiscretions, I will be watching her closely, so there should be no more trouble.”


He turned to me, “I hope you learnt a valuable lesson today.”


“Yes sir, I'll try harder in future sir, and try to be more sportswoman like,” I replied.


Miss Adams was behind him, so completely missed the big grin and wink he gave me.


“Good, see that you do, and you, Miss Adams, I'm disappointed. I expected more from you. Miss Wilson, rejoin your classmates. Miss Adams, you may continue with your lesson,” he said as he strode out of the room.


Mr Roberts seemed to do a good line in wind-ups. I walked back over to where D was, she was grinning ear to ear.


"He signed you up, didn't he?" D said excitedly.


"He said something about a club on Monday, but wouldn't tell me what it was about," I said.


"Sounds like Mr Roberts, he likes his little jokes. I won't spoil his fun by telling you, but I think you will enjoy yourself. I should have thought to suggest you to him. Really, you are perfect, with all the stuff that's been going on, it sort of slipped my mind. Still, better he see you in action first hand," D said.


After that we did some running about and soon it was the end of the lesson. We hit the showers. That was uncomfortable, partly down to being stark naked and soaking wet in a steamy room with a large group of girls. But also because of the exclusion zone that seemed to form around me.


When I got out, I found some nice person had taken all my clothes and my towel and dumped them in the water. That really annoyed D, who demanded to know who did it so she could beat them to death with their own shoes. Surprisingly, no one came forward.


I stood there soaking wet trying to work out what to do, when a thought occurred to me. I didn't need a towel, I could use my own inbuilt drying system. I wouldn't have to worry about setting my clothes on fire, since I wasn't wearing them and the floor was ceramic tile which should stand at least some heat.


D turned to me and held out her towel, "Here, you can use my towel."


I just gave her a big smile and shook my head. "That's alright, I've got a better way."


I took a few steps back so I was away from everyone, then carefully called the fire inside me. I tried not to actually burst into flames, as I figured this would be bad. I just focused on increasing my body heat. Pretty soon steam was rolling off me in waves as the water evaporated. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It was a very strange image. I was a steaming hot naked girl, I laughed a little at that, thinking about the normal implications of that mental image, I giggled even more at the thought that I could probably add smoking hot to my repertoire, if I was wearing clothing.


Once I was not only dry, but nice and warm, I took a look at my clothes. They were soaked through, I backed off the heat then picked them up and hung them on the wall. The pegs were metal and the wall tile, so I could heat that area if I was careful.


Now came the tricky bit, drying my clothes without incinerating them. I carefully focused the heat into my hand causing my palm to heat up and radiate heat. My scales took on a slight glow and heat waves rippled across their surface.


I slowly moved my heated hand over my clothes, drying them out. The moisture evaporating quickly under the blast of heat from my palm. I got a little carried away and caused my hand to burst into flames. I fought the fire down, only managing to only slightly singe the bottom of my shirt. I found calling the fire was almost addictive, it gave me a wonderful buzz and I had to be careful not to let it get out of control. There was a real danger I could turn into a complete pyromaniac, if I wasn't careful.


Soon all my clothes were dry and toasty warm like they were just out of the airing cupboard. I had also dried my towel out so I could put it away. I considered not bringing it in future, since it only took up room and it seemed I could do quite well without it. I should probably thank who ever got my stuff wet, as I would never have thought to use my powers like that without that prompting. I finished dressing and turned round to see most of the changing room stood in various states of undress with their mouths open.


I turned to D & Jane, who had huge smiles on their faces. I returned their smiles and sat down to wait for them to finish dressing. We soon were out the door and off to lunch, leaving a room full of confused girls whose nasty prank had made me feel much better about the day so far. I walked to lunch with a spring in my step.


I tucked in to a big lunch, quite hungry due to the exercise and the energy I’d used to dry my clothes off.


"That was awesome!" said Jane. "They were thinking they would upset you and make you walk around in wet clothes all day, but you totally turned it round on them."


"And after taking that cow Miss Adams down a peg or two," chipped in D.


"Oh yeah! I had almost forgotten that with all the fire excitement. What was the punishment Mr Roberts mentioned?" Jane asked.


“He wanted me to try out for a club of some kind. Apparently D is the secretary of it, but neither she, or he will tell me what it's about,” I replied.


“Oh, of course!” said Jane with a bright smile.


“She is perfect for it isn't she,” D said grinning.


“Yes, no question,” said Jane.


I gave them an annoyed look and they both burst out laughing, I stuck my tongue out at them both, concisely summing up my feelings on the matter.


When we finished our lunch we went for a walk about the school, taking a trip around the playing fields. It was a nice day and it was good to get some fresh air. As we were walking about, we saw a scuffle with Helen. She was being tossed about by a group of anti-MORFS girls. Some of them were the ones who had held me while Stacy tried to cut me, so I kept my distance. They were giving her a right beating, I felt sorry for her she looked pretty upset. She was hated by both sides of this strange conflict. Her old friends hated her for being a traitor, and the MORFS kids hated her for who she was and what she had done. It reminded me of my situation, only reversed. At least I had my two good friends who didn't care what the others thought, Helen seemed to have no one. She managed to escape from the ring of girls and went running off crying. I could feel her anguish, it was horrible. The girls chased after her, hounding her with insults.


We continued our walk and swung back to the library to get some of our homework done.


As we were walking through the halls we passed two of the girls from our PE class who had been taunting me. One of them sneered, saying, “Look who it is little Miss Hair-dryer, some power you got there, do you do curlers as well?”


Her friend laughed. Far from upsetting me, this frankly very silly name calling just made me laugh which, made the girls frown. “That's pretty funny, did you think that up yourself?” I asked.


They grumbled angrily, upset that their cutting wit hadn't reduced me to tears.


“You should get a badge done, like in that old kids book, the Mr Men, a Little Miss Hair-dryer,” squealed Jane.


“Yeah,” said D. “Maybe a Gym kit bag, a small one, no need to put a towel in there.”


I grinned at that, and the two girls stormed off, furious at my reaction. If the best insult they could come up with was Little Miss Hair-dryer, I was fine with that.


We sat down in the library and got stuck into our homework, I still had loads to do, what with being the new girl. I had a load of assignments to catch up on and various books to read. So getting a head start on the day's new tasks was always good. While we were getting stuck in to the books, Miss Gordon came over to see us.


“Hello, Girls,” she said.


“Hello, Miss Gordon,” we chorused in almost perfect sync which made us giggle.


“I saw your mother today, Dorothy, she went in to see the head teacher with a young woman I didn't recognise,” she said.


“Hmm, that's strange,” said D. “I don't remember her mentioning coming in today. What did this woman look like?”


“Oh, 5'9” maybe, it's always hard to tell around your mother, long brown hair, probably early twenties,” Miss Gordon said.


“The only person we know that matches that description is your sister, Tish,” D said looking more confused.


“Hmm, that's odd. Gwen didn't mention anything either,” I said. I thought for a bit then continued, “Though I did tell her about the attacks on me yesterday. Maybe she came in to talk to Mrs Thomas about it.”


“You were attacked?” said Miss Gordon.


“Twice,” said D.


“Once by Stacy who tried to cut up her face with a compass,” filled in Jane. “Then again by Trisha, for being telepath proof.”


“It was not one of my best days,” I said.


“It was made all the worse by Mrs Thomas doing nothing about that piece of work, Stacy,” said D, making fists of her hands.


I could feel her anger building again, so I put my hand gently on top of hers to try and stop her getting too worked up. She took my hand and smiled at me a little weakly, but I felt her anger recede.


“Hmm, I'm sure that Mrs Thomas will do all she can to help you if you were attacked,” said Miss Gordon.


“She's not going to do a damn thing,” said D, angry again.


“What?” Miss Gordon said taken aback.


“She said 'her hands are tied', Stacy Smith is untouchable, and she can do what ever the hell she wants, no matter what, the school can do nothing,” D’s rage was intensifying, I could feel it burning at me, and it was getting hard to block out.


“Calm down, D!” I patted her hand, trying to comfort her.


“Bah, you shouldn't be trying to comfort me! It's you who's getting shafted by the school, not me.”


“I know, but I feel your anger, and it hurts me. So keeping you calm and happy is good for me, too.”


“I'm sorry, Tish, I forget you feel what other people around you feel,” D said eyes downcast.


“That's okay, I know you're angry because you're my friend, and you care for me.”


“I knew that Mrs Thomas was having trouble with some of the governors after that incident in the summer with that poor girl who lost control, but I had no idea it was this bad,” said Miss Gordon.


“What do you mean? Surely she must help a student who has been threatened like that?” asked Jane.


“Well she may want to, but unless there is definitive unquestionable proof she may not feel she can do anything without losing her job,” Miss Gordon said.


I noticed the blond tomboyish girl was nearby, paying attention to what was being said.


“But I was there. I saw Stacy Smith with a compass, moving towards Tish with a group of girls holding her. Surely that's more than enough,” D said, clearly exasperated.


“It's that group of girls that tips the balance, I'm afraid. Two girls, both obviously MORFS survivors, claiming Stacy attacked one of them, versus a large group of, if you'll excuse the phrase, ‘normal’ girls claiming the opposite. The governor friends of Stacy will bring up the event with that poor girl in the summer, or anything else, and use it to suggest the MORFS girls are lying,” Miss Gordon said. “Look, I've no doubt that Stacy did attack you. I wouldn't trust that girl as far as I could throw her, which unlike yourself Dorothy, is not very far.”


“They're using my friend against you,” said the blond girl. Suddenly she looked almost in tears.


“Oh, Sally, I'm sorry I wouldn't have brought her up if I had known you were there. I didn't mean to upset you.” Miss Gordon looked stricken that she had upset the girl.


“It's okay, Miss.” Sally was genuinely crying now. “Jen wouldn't have wanted this to happen. It's terrible that these horrible bigots are using her as a tool to hurt others like her.”


I felt the girl’s pain. She was terribly upset about the fact that her friend was being used this way, but also, there was a deep twisting guilt. She blamed herself for her friend’s situation and now I suppose by implication, mine. She was deeply depressed, and obviously getting worse, the guilt like a big anchor dragging her down.


I stood up and walked over to her, “You miss your friend very much, don't you?” I asked. She nodded and started bawling. I took her in my arms and gave her a hug, I whispered in her ear, “I'm sure what ever happened wasn't your fault. I can feel the guilt inside you, but also the love for your friend. I'm sure she wouldn't want you tearing yourself up like this. Maybe you should remember the good times more, not forget what made you like them in the first place with all this grief.”


“I don't know how. I try to forget the pain and focus on the good times we had together, but the guilt always seems to pull me down.” 


I could feel the good memories that stirred briefly as she thought of her friend, but the guilt just seemed to get in their way, tainting the emotion, taking a source of strength and happiness, making it fuel her depression.


I began to feel very strange like I was floating, the world seemed to fade out of focus. I felt the girls emotions flowing around me, the huge grey cloud of her guilt blanketing everything.


I heard Jane's voice faintly calling me. “Tish ... Tish!” She sounded so far away.


I looked back at the girls emotions, and somehow reached beyond the guilt over her friend’s disappearance, and gently tugged the happier feelings behind it to the foreground. It was like the sun breaking through thick storm cloud, happy memories blazed through her mind. The guilt shrunk to a small cloud hovering in the background. It was all I could do, my power wasn't great enough to do more than slightly rearrange her emotional state, give it a shove in the right direction. The girl would have to banish the guilt herself, but she was less dominated by it now. Suddenly the world snapped back into focus around me. I saw the girl staring at me with eyes wide with surprise, and heard Jane and D shouting my name and shaking me. I felt woozy and fell to the ground, passing out.


When I came round I was on a sofa somewhere with D, Jane, Miss Gordon, and the girl Sally standing over me, “She's coming round,” said D.


“What happened,” I asked.


“Well, you were comforting Sally, then suddenly the two of you just went rigid,” said D.


“I felt something odd happening between the two of you,” said Jane “When I tried to ask you what was happening, you didn't respond.”


“You stood there with Sally for a good few minutes, both of you completely unresponsive, then suddenly you snapped out of it and fell to the floor,”  D said.


“It was so strange,” said Sally, “I think she helped me, she reached into my mind and moved the guilt aside and let me think again. How did you do that?”


“I don't know,” I replied trying to work it out myself, “I was feeling your emotions, then suddenly I sort of faded out and I could see them like they were floating around me in a big cloud. I saw the guilt, and on instinct, I sort of moved it aside. It's still there but it's not in the way any more.”


“Wow, I've heard of empaths being able to do that, they can look into a person's mind and fix their emotional state. That is really cool. You have to be pretty powerful to do that,” said Jane.


“I'm not sure I'm that powerful,” I said. “I didn't so much fix her, as help her fix herself. I just helped give her a little push in the right direction. I doubt I could do that with someone who really had emotional problems.”


“Well either way, I'm glad you helped. The guilt was really getting to me I couldn't seem to break through it on my own,” said Sally.


“It's still there,” I said. “You'll need to find a way to deal with it yourself, or it might come back again.”


They helped me up off the sofa, I was a little unsteady on my feet. This new use of my powers had taken a lot out of me. We walked back to our desk from the office


“I feel so much better,” said Sally as we walked back. Then she stopped and stared at me. “ I don't even know your name.”


“Amanda or Mandy, but my close friends call me Tish,” I said.


“Tish?” asked Sally.


“It's a long story. I blame her,” I said. I pointed at D, which caused her to grin. “It's still miles better than the other nickname I got today, Little Miss Hair-Dryer. That was the best those silly anti-MORFS girls could come up with.”


Sally raised an eyebrow at that, then said, “Well they do seem somewhat deficient in the brains department, Mandy.”


“Please, call me Tish. I've messed around in your head, it seems only fair that we be friends.” I grinned at her.


Sally smiled, “Well thank you Tish for fixing or helping me fix myself, and I'd love to be your friend. I'll see you later.” She pulled me into a hug, then bounded off.


Her group of friends had come over to see what the fuss was about, and one of them, a hunched back boy asked, “What happened?”


“She fixed me!” said a beaming Sally.


“She fixed you?” asked a large ginger haired boy. “I didn't know you were broken!”


“You are such an idiot, Jonesy,” Sally said.


We settled back into our seats. “Well, you are just full of surprises, Amanda. Never a dull moment with you around,” said Miss Gordon. “I'm glad you were able to help Sally. She was worrying me greatly.”


“She's not totally out of it yet. She should get some professional help. What I did might just be a quick fix. Since I've never done something like that before, I don't know if it will last.”


We got back to our homework. The excitement had eaten up most of the lunch break, I was finding it difficult to get back into the swing of things, so I eventually gave up and read a book instead. It whiled away the rest of the break and I was more myself when it was time for the next lesson. Sally waved to me as she left the library and I waved back. I was very happy that I had made another friend. Having gone from none to several in a few months, I was finding the old saying that one can never have too many friends to be very true.


Our next lesson was computer studies, and conveniently enough, it was in the library. As a result we were some of the first people in the computer room and got the choice seats with the best computers. The lesson was really good, because Gwen and I were now technically poor. I doubted I would ever get a computer of my own, so the school ones were my only chance of using one. After my experience with the test unit, I was keen to discover what else I had been missing out on. I followed the lesson with rapt interest, and though I was slow to start ,not having the slightest idea how to drive the machine, after a few pointers from the teacher, D, and Jane, I was starting to get the hang of it.


I completely lost track of time, throwing myself into learning how to use the computer, while I was still miles behind the rest of the class. The teacher said she was very impressed with how keen I was to learn. I left the computer room at the end of the day happy, and looking forward to my next lesson. I was even tempted to try and get in the room on a lunch break to see if I could get some practice in between lessons.


D and I walked home from school saying goodbye to Jane at the gate. I felt very good about myself. There was still this club thing I had to deal with, but since neither of my friends seemed worried about it, I guessed it was nothing too bad.


I said goodbye to D at my road and walked the rest of the way home. When I got there I found a note to say that we were having dinner at Joyce and D's house, and that I could go straight over if I wanted. I quickly changed my clothes for something more comfy, then raced out the door to see if I could catch up with D.






I got home fairly quickly it had been an interesting day. Tish'd had some trouble, but she had gratifyingly bounced back from it in both cases. She had also been set to try out for the club, which would be great. I hoped that she decided to join, as the team spirit would probably help her confidence no end, plus, she would be a great addition to the team.


I was just going to find Mum, when the door bell rang. "I'll get it," I called out.


 I opened the door to find Tish standing there. She was dressed in a mish-mash of assorted colours and styles, with nothing at all matching or even going together. She had a habit of just grabbing whatever was on top of the pile of clean clothes and throwing it on regardless. She seemed to have got used to dressing in girl clothes. but she still had trouble dressing like a girl. Maybe she needed some more helpful hints.


"Hiya, Gwen left me a note saying me and her were joining you for dinner so I came over early."


"Cool," I waved her in, and we walked to the kitchen, where I put the kettle on.

“I'm going to go get changed back in a moment,” I told her. I rushed upstairs and got changed into some non-school clothes, taking a little care of my appearance to act as a subtle example for my friend
. I hurried back down stairs to see mum sitting at the table talking to Tish.


When I walked in she turned to me and said, “Hello, dear. How was school?”


“Not too bad, I heard you were there today,” I replied.


“ Yes. I was seeing the head teacher with Amanda's sister about this bullying business. Gwen wasn't sure what to do, so I offered to accompany her to talk to Mrs Thomas. It didn't do much good, so we are going to see if there is anyone who can help.”


“It seems like a lot of fuss just for me,” Tish said.


“Well, we want you to have a safe learning environment. Besides, it's not just you who will benefit. If we can get the school to start taking bullying of MORFS survivors seriously, many more will be helped,” Mum said.


“So Mrs Thomas gave you the run around like she did me and Tish then? What's the next step?” I asked.


“Well, Gwen and myself will be discussing that after dinner, which reminds me, I must make a start on the food. Will you two girls give me a hand?”


“Sure,” I looked at Tish, who nodded.


 We went into the kitchen area and mum began getting ingredients out. “Dorothy would you chop those carrots? And Amanda, will you wash and peel the potatoes.”


I got started on the carrots. Tish stood there examining the potatoes, looking a little confused.


“What do I do?” she asked. “I've never done potatoes before.”

“Didn't your mother show you how to cook?”


“No mother never cooked, she had someone to do that for her. She saw it as demeaning, servants work. The closest I've come to cooking before my change was microwaving things. I would like to learn though. It would mean I could do the dinner so Gwen doesn't have to. Besides, Gwen is as clueless about these things as I am. She can only make spaghetti bolognese. We've had it every day, 3 weeks in a row and it would be nice to have something else for a change.”


“I can't believe how snobbish your parents were,” I said at which Tish nodded.


“OK I'll show you the first one, then you can do the rest,” Mum said.


She showed Tish how to wash and peel the first potato, then handed her the peeler. Tish started hesitantly at first, then got stuck in peeling away. Soon she had a pot full of potatoes ready for boiling.


“Right then, let’s put those on to cook. Would you hand me the matches dear?” Mum asked.


“That igniter isn't broken again, is it?” I asked.


“I'm afraid so, dear.”


Our cooker was in need of replacement, it was a reasonably old gas cooker, the dials were beginning to wear out, and the little igniter sparks were constantly on the blink. I rummaged around in the drawer looking for the box of matches, only to discover it empty.


“Oh dear, we'll have to go to the corner shop to get some matches to light the oven, that is a bother,” Mum said.


“I can do it,” said Tish brightly.


She walked over to the oven and then rolled up one of her sleeves, “You might want to take a few steps back, just in case,” she said with a sheepish smile.


We stepped back and watched as she extended one hand and pointed her index finger then got a look of intense concentration on her face. Suddenly the tip of her finger burst into flames. She put her finger to the hob, then reached down and turned the gas on. The ring burst into flame and she moved the pot of potatoes over it. She then smiled and lifted her still flaming finger to her lips and blew it out, which caused me to burst into fit of giggles.


“Well, you are handy to have around the kitchen, Amanda dear. You're are starting to get the hang of those elemental abilities,” said Mum.


“The practice I got today helped me a lot in getting the balance right of generating enough heat where it's needed, but not burning all my clothes up,” said Tish.


“So, Little Miss Oven-Lighter now as well as Little Miss Hair-Dryer,” I said with a smile, which caused Tish to laugh.


“Little Miss Hair-Dryer?” Mum asked eyebrows raised.


“Well the girls in our PE class decided it would fun to throw all my clothes and my towel in the water,” Tish said with a big grin.


“Oh dear,” said Mum looking sad.


“Ah but they hadn't banked on Tish's fiery personality,” I said.


“I was standing there soaking wet from my shower, with no towel, when it occurred to me the whole changing room is ceramic tile, that can handle a bit of heat and I was already naked, so didn't have to worry about burning up my clothes. So I very carefully heated myself up. Pretty soon I was nice and dry. My clothes were still wet, so I hung them out and tried drying them the same way. It worked a treat. Later on two of the girls tried to insult me by calling me Little Miss Hair-Dryer. They were a bit disappointed when I laughed at them,” Tish said grinning.


“Oh my, that is quite a handy trick, dear. Be careful walking round radiating a lot of heat though, you don't want to bump into someone or you might burn them,” Mum said.


“Yes, I think I probably went too hot that time. Next time I'll either go stand in the shower room to dry off, away from everyone else, or try for a lower temperature. Hot enough to dry me, but not so I hot I would burn someone,” Tish said.


We cracked on with the rest of dinner, Mum teaching Tish how to do each bit of preparing the meal. Tish was very attentive, studying each bit mum showed her, then quickly mastering how to do it herself. She seemed keen to learn so she could help her sister. It was nice that she was so intent on pitching in. Soon we were all done and we just had to leave things to simmer. Mum disappeared into her study for a bit and returned with a small book.


“Here you are dear, I want you to have this,” she  handed the book to Tish, “This will get you started with cooking. It's a basic book for people starting out, it covers a lot of simple dishes, and how to prepare them, showing you all the steps. It was my first cooking book, so it is quite old, but it's still relevant. I haven't looked at it in years, so it will be far more useful to you than it is collecting dust on my shelves.”


“Thank you very much,” said Tish with a radiant smile, clutching the book like it was some precious artifact.


“You are most welcome, dear. Once you have got the hang of things you'll have to cook a meal for us. Just be careful you don't cut yourself or burn yourself.” .


She grinned,“I'll be very careful, though I don't think there's much danger of me burning myself.”

“Oh yes, of course, dear,” Mum smiled back.


We went and watched the TV for a bit and waited for Gwen to arrive so we could have dinner. Mum and I talked about the day's events, while Tish sat flicking through the recipe book, occasionally chipping to the conversation.


A short while later Gwen turned up at the door.


“Come in dear, Amanda is already here.” said Mum.


“I thought she might be,” said Gwen. “So I took a chance and came here straight from work to save time.”


“How was your day,” asked Tish, clutching the recipe book like someone was going to take it away from her.


“Oh, you know, same old, same old. What have you got there?” Gwen asked.


“It's a recipe book Joyce gave me,” said Tish, bounding over to show Gwen. “It's for beginners, so it will show me how to get started with cooking. I thought I could try and learn how to do it so I can cook the dinner before you get home in the evenings.”


“My goodness,” said Gwen. “Cooking for me? Next you'll be tidying up and vacuuming the living room.”


Tish frowned, “I did that yesterday,” she said.


“Oh yes, so you did,” laughed Gwen. “I completely forgot. No one has a better sister.”


Tish smiled and gave Gwen a hug.


“Hopefully I can work out how to make us a nice variety of meals, and not before time. I think I was coming down with spaghetti bolognese poisoning,” said Tish grinning. Gwen replied by sticking her tongue out at her.


“Well then, dinner is almost ready. Go and wash your hands, girls, then come and help me serve up,” Mum said.


Tish, Gwen, and I bounded up to the bathroom and gave our hands a good scrub. We went back down to the kitchen and helped set the table, then served up the food.


We had pork chops with runner beans and mashed potatoes. Mum had made some of her wonderful homemade apple sauce to go with it. We were soon sitting down enjoying our dinner. There was very little talk mostly of the order of 'pass the salt' we were too busy eating to carry out polite conversation. Pudding* was real vanilla ice cream with a slice of heated chocolate cake, incredibly wicked, and very good. We all helped clean up afterwards, loading the dishwasher and then had coffee in the living room. After that Mum and Gwen went off to discuss what to do about the school.


Tish and I were not invited, so we amused ourselves by watching TV and talking about school. Tish kept trying to extract information about the club from me, but I stood firm. Besides, it was far more fun to tease her a little. Soon it was getting late, so Tish and her sister set off home.



*In UK English Pudding is another word for dessert.



To Be Continued... 




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