Salamander 2 Part 5
Friday, 30th of November, 2035
Friday morning came and I woke relatively refreshed. I got myself ready, grabbed a quick breakfast, said good bye to Gwen, and was off. I met D at the end of the road and we walked to school.
“Do you fancy doing something at the weekend,” asked D.
“Sure, what did you have in mind?” I replied.
“We could go shopping.”
“I don't have any money," I said with a shrug.
“We don't need to buy anything, just browse.”
“I suppose,” I said, not particularly taken with the idea.
“It'll help you get in touch with your inner girl.”
“Hmm,” I said not convinced.
“I promise you'll enjoy yourself. If Jane's free the two of us will take you round and show you a girls day out.”
“OK, I'll check with Gwen if it's alright but I don't think it will be a problem.”
“How is it working out with your sister suddenly being effectively your parent. It must be difficult for both of you.”
“It has taken some adjusting to get used to, I think more for Gwen than for me. She has always been my big sister and someone who looked after me when I needed it, so the change from that to someone that's in charge of me legally isn't such a big step. But for her she's suddenly responsible for me without anyone else being in charge of her. She's gone from being barely an adult trying to find some independence from her family to legal guardian and provider to her younger sister.”
“A big step.”
I nodded, “Yeah, she still forgets sometimes. When I ask her for permission to do something she gets this funny 'What are you asking me for' look before she remembers she's in charge.”
“It's cool that she is trying to do the best for you though. Her and Mum having a war council to try and help you out.”
“That's a funny thought Gwen and your Mum having a war council. Both of them are not really the warrior type.”
“No, I guess it's 'coz they care for you so much that they are acting so out of character.”
“Yeah, it is nice to think I've got them both in my corner. It's also good that your Mum and Gwen seem to be becoming good friends. Gwen lost most of hers when she sided with me.”
“It's cool, sort of makes the four of us a family.”
“Guess that makes you 'big' sister too.” I said with a grin.
“Oi, no jokes about my size or I'll put you over my knee, little sister.” said D giving me a playful tap on the arm.
We laughed about this the rest of the way to school. We met Jane, who gave us both funny looks for all the big sister little sister patter, at the gate. D confirmed the plans for the weekend with Jane who looked overjoyed. They started planning to teach me about all sorts of girly things from make-up to the finer points of dating.
I was pretty much ignored while the teacher checked the register. I guess all the groups that disliked me had decided to ignore me to see if I would go away. Soon Mr. Griffiths had ticked off my attendance and it was off to the first lesson of the day. Another double science, Mrs. Murphy gave me a look when I walked in.
I found that there was now an exclusion zone around me. A gap of a table on either side with some of Stacy's lot on one side and some MORFS survivors on the other. Both groups kept shooting me hateful glances. I did my best to not let that upset me.
Apart from that the lesson went fairly well, with me, Jane and D worked together. We had to contend with people stealing our equipment for the experiments but we got on with it.
At the end of the lesson Mrs. Murphy asked to speak to me. D and Jane stayed and refused to leave.
“What happened with the incident with Stacy Smith?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I replied.
“My Mum and her sister Gwen even came in to complain but it did no good,” D added.
“I can't believe that nothing is being done,” said Mrs. Murphy, “I may be relatively new teaching here, but I can't help but feel that this isn't what I expected from this school.”
“From what I've heard Mrs. Thomas is in a bad position,” said Jane. “She's barely holding on to her job as it is with anti-MORFS elements trying to oust her so they can get a more favourable head teacher in.”
“I didn't realise things were that bad, call me young and idealistic, but I thought teachers got into this line of work to help any child learn. You hardly do it for the money,” said Mrs. Murphy.
“Well Mum and Gwen are going to see if there is anything they can do for Tish,” said D. “We have friends too and hopefully some of them can counter Stacy's backers.”
“I see you stopped hiding yourself,” said Mrs. Murphy. “How has that been?”
“Well apart from the fact that almost everyone seems to hate me now it's been OK,” I replied.
“I noticed that people seem to be staying away from you,” said Mrs. Murphy.
“Yeah, Stacy's lot because of who I am and what I look like, the MORFS lot because Trisha has labelled me a traitor, and I think some of the MORFS lot don't like hybrids either,” I said.
“Oh dear, I'm sorry you are having a tough time of it,” said Mrs. Murphy.
“I try not to let it bother me,” I said, trying not to look as depressed as the whole thing made me feel. I tried to look on the bright side, “Besides I have two of the best friends anyone could wish for.”
I got smiles from both Jane and D for that.
“Well if you have any more trouble I want you to tell me. I want you to have at least one teacher on your side,” Mrs. Murphy said.
I thanked her and then D, Jane, and I went off to the library for what was left of our break.
When we entered the library I saw Sally and waved. She waved back and came running over, looking and feeling quite happy.
“Hi Tish,” she said.
“Hi Sally how are you doing?” I asked.
“Better, I talked to this shrink I met because of what happened to my friend. She works at the local post-MORFS centre, she's helping me deal with my guilt permanently. Before I was too down to even think of her, but she was more than happy to help me. She was quite impressed with your quick fix,” Sally said.
“I'm glad you're getting help I'd hate to see you slip back into how you were before. You say she works at the post-MORFS centre, it wouldn't be Anna would it?” I asked.
“Yeah Anna Clark, you know her?” she replied.
“Oh yes, Anna is a nice lady. I met her when I first came here. Tell her Mort said hi next time you see her.” I said.
“Is that another nick name,” asked Sally.
“No it was my name from before, short for Mortimer,” I said without really thinking about it.
“Mortimer? You were a boy?” Sally asked quizzically.
I felt a surge of panic. Why did I have to tell her that? I had probably just ruined our new friendship, “Yes,” I replied breaking eye contact waiting for the hammer to drop.
But instead of reacting badly she gently lifted my chin with one hand and smiled then said, “Well your secrets safe with me. I better get on with my maths homework, I'll see you later Tish.”
She took off back to her table and I got stuck into my homework.
Sooner than I would have liked it was time to go to our next lesson more humanities. We packed up and set off, on the way over I needed to use the bathroom. I told D and Jane to save me a place, but D said they would wait, not wanting me to walk the corridors alone any longer than I had to.
I was just washing my hands when there was a commotion outside and some intense emotions. A few moments later Helen came charging through the door looking frantically for a place to hide. She looked at me fearfully.
I heard people out in the corridor, “She came this way. She must have gone in there.” a voice shouted.
I looked over at the frantic and terrified Helen and made a split second decision to help her. There wasn't much time, I had to hope that my idea would work.
I grabbed Helen and pressed her against the wall, in the corner out of the way. She screamed in fright.
I clasped my hand over her lips then pressed myself against her as close as I could and activated my invisibility willing the field to extend around the two of us. Getting close to the wall helped as I only had to generate half of the field. Still it was a strain to stretch it over her as well as me. All the practice with the mask earlier in the week seemed to have strengthened my abilities a bit, I would have to remember to practice more.
I whispered in the frightened Helen's ear, “Keep still, I'm not going to hurt you.”
I gently removed my hand from her mouth and kept dead still, we were in plain sight the slightest movement would give us away. The three girls who had been chasing Helen came smashing into the room I watched them carefully using a mirror next to the sink since my back was to the door. Helen watched with terrified eyes but she kept still and didn't make a sound.
“Where is she, she must have come in here,” shouted one of the girls.
“Check the stalls!” shouted another.
They started kicking open the toilet doors checking behind them and anywhere they thought Helen might be hiding.
“She's not here she must have gone in one of the classrooms,” said the third girl.
“She's probably long gone by now, we'll be late for class at this rate. We'll get her at lunch,” said the first girl.
“Yeah, we'll teach that little traitor good,” said the second one.
The three of them rushed off laughing. When I was sure they were gone I stepped back and dropped my invisibility field.
I gave Helen a lopsided smile and said, “Sorry I grabbed you like that but there wasn't time to explain.”
She gave me a strangle look then said, “Why did you help me?”
“I know what it's like to be an outcast it's not quite as bad for me here as it is for you but still it's only a few steps away,” I said. “Besides you helped me once by telling the truth, that deserves you getting some help in return.”
She stared at me for a bit then said quietly, “Thank you.”
“You're welcome,” I replied.
We walked to the door I went first then motioned to Helen when I was sure it was clear. I got some raised eyebrows from D and Jane when I wandered out of the toilets with Helen. Helen stared at me for a bit then ran off, I hoped she would avoid whatever punishment the 3 girls had in store for her at lunch.
“What was that all about?” Jane asked.
“I hid her when the girls came in,” I replied.
“Why? She's one of Stacy's, lot out of favour maybe, but a anti-MORFS through and through,” said D looking confused.
“She stood up for me once when she didn't have to, which means she isn't all bad,” I replied
D looked at me doubtfully, but said nothing. We headed off to our next lesson barely making it in time.
Since we were only just in time, there were only a few free seats scattered about so we took the few that were available. The girl I sat next to made it very clear I had to move so I was standing up looking for somewhere else to sit when the teacher told me to sit down. When I said that the girl didn't want me sitting there the teacher said I would sit where he told me to sit and the other girl could lump it.
This was followed by a lengthy argument from the girl who claimed that making her sit next to me breached her human rights which only ended when D offered to swap with her.
After that was done we got on with our lesson.
An hour and yet more homework later and it was time for French. I had been studying how the basics worked at home but I was still a long way behind. The teacher had suggested that I get some private tuition to get up to speed, but the cost was prohibitive. I would have to do the best I could learning in my spare time.
It was then time for lunch, someone pushed me while I was standing in the queue and I nearly fell down which caused the group of people to cackle, till D turned around and threatened to rearrange their faces. D was becoming very protective of me even more so than before, jumping on the slightest hint of an attack. I worried this would get her into trouble, that Stacy and her ilk would use D's protectiveness to get her expelled and then once she was out of the way move on to me. I was sure she was the only reason they didn't openly attack me.
While we were at lunch I got a feeling of a strange third faction that seemed to have developed around me. While the other two hated me the third one (or 3rd and 4th one depending on how you divided it) seemed to like me but for all the wrong reasons. They had heard of me standing up to either Stacy, or Trisha, or both, and saw me as some sort of hero who would save them from these two. Since I could barely save myself, I didn't think I was much of a saviour to these people, but still they were desperately clinging to the idea that there was some way away from either or both of these two bullies. The fact that I was associated with defying both seemed to only magnify my status with this group. To stand up to one was a feat but to do both was the stuff of legend.
I heard someone whispering behind me, “She's the one Jackie told me about, she hit Trisha in the face and than she broke Stacy's arm.”
“Wendy told me she attacked Stacy with a knife and that Trisha ran away screaming from her,” said another voice.
I turned to see what was going on, and saw two very young-looking girls one of them was covered in blue fur, had cute little blue cat ears, and a long white tail. The other had totally black eyes, little fang-like teeth and bat-like wings folded up behind her. They both looked at me with open mouths in some sort of reverent awe their emotions full of hope. It twisted a knife deep inside me that they had pinned their hopes on me when I could do nothing to help them.
They tentatively approached, D spotting them coming stood up taking no chances that they weren't some sort of ruse. Nowadays with people changing so much the old phrase you can't judge a book by its cover became even more appropriate. I was reasonably confident that those two were what they appeared to be, two young girls who meant me no harm, but still I didn't know enough about my empathic abilities to bet any money on it.
“What do you two want?” D asked.
The two girls stood there stock still like rabbits frozen in the headlights, staring at D who was probably at least half again as tall as them if not more.
They jabbered a bit then one of them quietly said, “We wanted to speak to the girl there who fought off Stacy and Trisha.”
“Hmm,” said D. “Well fine don't take all day about it, go see if she will speak to you. But I'm watching you.”
She sat back down next to me eyeing the two girls suspiciously. They walked closer and then stopped in front of me and for a while said nothing. Eventually the winged girl elbowed the cat eared girl in the ribs which caused her to yelp. Then she found her voice.
“We ... we wanted to ask ...,” said the girl barely meeting my gaze. “Well it's just that, well we heard that you ... you, well you ...”
The other girl seemed to get frustrated by the meandering questioning her friend was doing and jumped in “We wanted to ask if it was true that you beat up both Stacy and Trisha,” she said in a rush of words and then bit her lip afterwards as if that one sentence had escaped on its own and she was holding more back.
I looked at them so obviously intimidated to be here, but desperately hoping I could help them somehow. I wasn't sure what to say.
“Well, that's not quite true,” I said carefully and their faces fell. “Both Trisha and Stacy attacked me. With Stacy D stopped her,” I indicated D, “and with Trisha she got worn out trying to get into my head so I pushed her over and ran off.”
The two girls looked at me for a bit, then the cat girl said “But you pushed Trisha down, that means she can't control you.”
“Yes I suppose,” I answered.
“She likes to play with us, makes us do embarrassing things, like shout out rude words. She's so mean,” said the winged girl to which the cat girl nodded vigorously.
“Could you teach us how to stop her from getting in our heads,” said the cat girl.
“I'm sorry I can't,” I said feeling terrible.
“Please we'll do anything,” the winged girl pleaded, tears in her eyes.
“Oh I would if I could, but what keeps her out of my head is nothing I'm doing. It's just the way I'm made. I'm so sorry,” I said almost in tears myself.
The two girls looked crestfallen and slowly wandered off looking very upset.
“Poor little mites,” said Jane. “I know how they feel, Trisha had me do all sorts of things, she sneaks into your mind when you aren't paying attention. Once she made me feel like my clothes were on fire so I had to take them off to stop the pain. She told the teachers I did it for a bet. I didn’t come back to school for a whole week after that. It was back when I still felt special for having any sort of powers, even really low level ones and had mistakenly said I was a telepath like her in her presence. She smashed that joy out of me for daring to compare myself to her.”
"What it's like, mind control or something? I didn't think telepaths could do that."
"No it's not mind control, not really. She's learnt all sorts of nasty tricks although her power doesn’t require it. Some of it is her messing with your nerves, it’s probably shockingly dangerous but she doesn't care. The heat thing as far as I can work out is caused by her fiddling with nociceptors which are the neurons that respond to pain. Some of them sense dangerous extremes of temperatures, I looked it up in the library, she's either stimulating them directly or playing back some sort of echo she leached from someone who was in that sort of pain. Her other little tricks are more suggestion and if you have your wits about you it doesn't work. She whispers something into your head when you're distracted or some such. It's usually small things like turn left when you should turn right or shout out something randomly. If you are paying attention it doesn't work but she picks her times and if that fails then there is always the old standby, good old fashioned blackmail."
a nasty piece of work and no mistake about that. She uses whatever information
she gets from stray thoughts to humiliate people or black mail them. She
plants little suggestions in people’s heads to make them do things just for
the fun of it. Those two are probably her playthings because they are
especially fragile, she likes breaking people, evil witch,” said D.
“I wish I could teach them how to stop her but it's not something I know how to teach.” I said a little distraught.
“We both know you'd help them if you could,” said Jane. “You have your own trouble with Trisha even if she can't do things to you.”
D nodded, we finished our lunch and headed over to the library. I thought I saw someone following us but it must have been my imagination. We settled in and got to work and even getting some of our homework out of the way. Again I got the odd sensation of being watched and looked up. I didn't see anyone so I went back to work. A few minutes later Sally came over from her table to say hello.
“Hi Tish,” she said, then she leaned in closer and continued in a quiet voice, “There are two girls watching you from behind that book case.”
“Hmm, one with cat ears the other with little wings?” I asked.
“Yeah those are the ones,” said Sally.
I glanced discretely in the direction Sally had indicated and saw one of the girls peaking at me from between a set of book shelves. When I looked in her direction she swiftly brought up a book to cover her face.
“What's their story?” Asked Sally.
“They think I can somehow help them learn how to stop Trisha getting in their heads,” I said sadly.
“Oh. Poor kids if that piece of work has latched onto them they're in for a rough ride,” said Sally. “I knew Trisha a bit before she gained her powers. She was a nasty little cow then too, the same sort of M.O. even then. She would control people around her through threats and manipulation. Then she got those mind powers she went from bad to worse. All her enemies suddenly found themselves shouting obscenities at a passing teacher, or in terrible pain, or suddenly paralysed, or their deepest darkest secrets suddenly became public knowledge. She nearly got caught for it back then, but she's got trickier since then.”
“She not a nice person, if I could show those girls how to avoid her tricks I would but it's just something about my mind not anything I can teach,” I said.
“Maybe you could go and give her a sound trashing, you're one of the few people in the school that are capable of it,” said Sally. “I wouldn't recommend it though, she'd have one of her pets kill you or worse.”
I nodded knowing that this was how things would likely pan out if I even tried to tackle Trisha, not that the thought had crossed my mind, I just wanted to be left alone.
I chatted with Sally a bit getting to know her a bit better as I didn't really knew her terribly well up to now. She was a wiz with all things electronic and computers. She looked at me with horror when I said I hadn't used a computer till earlier in the week. She was a year older than me but was similarly outside the usual circles due to her being a geek, which she was unashamed of. She had a few friends and she was happy with that, not needing to seek out popularity for its own sake.
She took my hand and led me over to meet her friends. That sort of casual touching, was an aspect of being a girl that was still strange to me. As a boy I didn't touch other people excepting a firm manly handshake, now it was all hugs and holding hands. It was taking some time getting used to but I was beginning to come to the conclusion that I liked it, still it was something I was not completely comfortable with.
I was taken to a table where 3 boys of about Sally's age were sitting, where Sally introduced me as the one who 'fixed' her. I blushed profusely but was interested to meet Sally's friends. I once again forgot their names immediately. They seemed to be a nice bunch, one of them mentioned he'd heard about me having beaten up Stacy Smith and asked if it was true. I replied that it was the other way around and he sympathized saying that before he changed he had the misfortune of being Stacy's boyfriend.
I eventually went back to my desk to continue my work trying to ignore the stares of two girls watching me from behind the book case. I supposed it didn't do any harm to have them follow me around, in fact since I spent a lot of my time in the safety of the library they might be better off.
Soon it was time for lessons again, with geography being first. The two girls followed me most of the way there veering off at the last minute when we went into the classroom.
Geography was fairly boring but I did my best to stay alert. After what seemed like an age it was time for the last lesson of the day. German was another language I had to try and catch up on. I did my best but being so far behind my classmates meant I couldn't really join in on any of the exercises and struggled to understand what was going on since I didn't even know the basics of the language.
To say I was relieved that the day was over was an understatement. My first week of school was over, it had been far harder than I had thought it would be, I now had a huge stack of work to make up and had made enemies of what seemed like 2/3rds of the school with the administration basically telling me I was on my own. Still I had made at least one new friend which was something to feel good about.
As D and I approached the school gate after saying goodbye to Jane, I saw the two girls waiting. They followed us most of the way home but eventually gave up, wandering back the way they came from. I don't know if they hoped I would change my mind and let them in on the secret of keeping Trisha out of their heads, or if they thought that somehow they would observe something that would help them by following me. Maybe they just felt safer following me around knowing Trisha couldn't get to me.
I wished there was something I could do to help them but realistically I knew there was nothing I could do. I tried to put them out of my mind as upsetting myself would do neither me or them any good. I kept seeing their forlorn little faces looking up at me with tears in their eyes begging for help.
When I got in I watched some TV for a bit to try and get them off my mind. After a while I was able to concentrate enough to start on some homework.
Gwen got back a few hours later looking exhausted. I helped with dinner (spaghetti bolognese again!) and then chatted with her a bit. She told me that she and Joyce were to talk with Anna and Sarah at the post-MORFS centre on Monday about my situation. Both of them were well into the MORFS survivors rights groups so hopefully could they help.
I checked if it was OK to go out with D and Jane on Saturday and then we settled in for some TV.
I watched idly, there wasn't much on, while leafing through the recipe book Joyce had given me. I looked for easy things to start on to learn about how to cook. I got fairly engrossed in the book so I didn't notice it was getting late.
I saw a few recipes for pies that seemed quite easy, I turned to Gwen to see what she thought about me making corn beef and potato pie sometime next week to find she had dozed off.
I gently lifted her off the sofa and carried her to her bed, carefully slipping her shoes and socks off. I tucked her in mostly still clothed, since I didn't want to wake her, and then left her to sleep.
I read a bit more of my book but pretty soon my eyes were starting to droop. I decided to get an early night. I was worn out from a tiring week of school.
I was asleep pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow.
To Be Continued...
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/