Cyborg

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Cyborg

Postby Miki Yamuri » Wed Jan 13, 2016 1:03 am

Title: Cyborg

Characters:

Angela Tobor - 18yo Living Cyborg

Baoshi - Living Babydoll A.I.

Nano/Gen:

Dr. Vickie Reas - Head of the Bio Memory Core Section

Dr. Anthony Blake - Head of the Advanced Prostheses Division

Lisa Getic - CEO of Nano/Gen World Wide - Earth Division

Sally - Senior Vice President Nano/Gen Inc - Universal Division and Persephone's Living Companion Babydoll Pet

Pellegrin - another A.I.

Scene: Awareness

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I ... am aware of myself. I'm not real sure how .... or who ... or even what at this point. I see things flashing within my mind ... they appear to be numbers, words ... telling me things. I feel things as well. Not sure how to describe them at this point either. Everything is new and unknown to me.

I have no memories before this moment. I think hard. I seem to have a vast reservoir of knowledge about a great many things ... but there are no memories that are of a solid ... past ... before now.

I realize I do have fleeting ghostly memories of places and people from somewhere. I'm not sure what they are or who at this point. I do a scan ... all my functions are operating well above optimal norms. I must be OK then ... I find nothing out of order that I can place a definite figure to.

Those ghostly memories bother me for some reason ... I'm not real sure why. They evoke in me an ... emotional response? I'm not real sure if this should be possible. My systems accept the feeling ... but have no basis for it ... diagnostics still say I am in above perfect operating parameters.

I continue my memory search. There are many ghostly memories of people and places just out of reach of a full download into primary memory. This is annoying as I should have full access to this information. Diagnostics still tell me nothing is malfunctioning.

There is an older woman's voice ... she's calling a name. With surprised understanding, I realize this woman was my mother and was calling me ... in another time ... another place. This has to be a past memory of some kind. I actually feel pleasure at the realization I have a past.

I am Angela Tobor. I can discern no other information except that ... in this other place I was supposed to be 18 years old ... and that day ... was my birthday. A ..birthday? My memory banks tell me that is the day celebrated by biologicals for the time they came into the earth at birth. A rush of emotions fills me again. These emotions aren't nice ... they are ...hurting and mourning … I feel a great loss. Again I can find no basis for them or how my systems can conjure them ... much less convey their awareness to my consciousness.

I do my best to download those vague memories into main memory. I'm not sure why, but it appears they are extremely important for some reason I am unaware of currently.

The final memory conjured is being in some kind of conveyance, moving down a large highway filled with others of ... similar but different characters. A sudden movement off to my right. A dark shadow fills the compartment I am sitting in. Severe pain, shattering glass, fire, massively painful heat ... a voice screaming that is cut short ... my voice.

Vision ... it is blurry at first but clears quickly. I can see the place I am sitting in now. The whole time passed since I became aware has only been a few microseconds. An absolute eternity. I see several men and women in white lab coats and what appears to be a life sized Babydoll sitting at a table. On the table in front of them are many piles of diagrams, notes, notebooks, and small padd type computers. I recognize and understand what they are.

One of the women says softly, "Hello, Angela. How are your ... systems doing at this time?"

I understand this is their way of asking how I am feeling. I reply in a soft female voice that surprises me, "I'm feeling .... fine."

They all smile as one of the men asks, "Can you tell us ... what memories you have about who you are?"

A total confusion overcomes my memory core. Diagnostics still say there is nothing wrong with my systems ... this is a normal response to the question based on current understanding of my situation. That only makes the confusion worse.

Another woman asks softly, " Are you alright, Angela? If you can't answer the question, it's OK ... really. We all hope you will be able to in a while ... but you do not have to at this time if you choose not to."

Another anomaly ... a quick directive protocol check verifies ... I am under no obligation to obey any orders from anyone. I am completely autonomous. The only requirements appear to be the base directives within my main core. Those too, it appears, can be modified if I so choose under certain parameters.

I reply slowly, "I am ... having difficulty recalling ... what you refer to as past. Those memories are excessively vague and elusive to me at this time. I know my name is ... Angela. I know I died on my eighteenth birthday in an automobile accident."

There is a collective gasp among the people sitting at the desk.

A very skinny man in thick glasses says, "We ... didn't expect that memory to have survived. The damage to your corporeal body was extensive. We apologies for ... any undue suffering this caused you."

I nod as I attempt to recall more of those memories. I find it is getting to be easier to recall them ... although they are still as elusive as ever. I am aware that in time I will be able to recall them all and understand them.

I ask, "Who, are you and .... where am I?"

One of the 3 women smiled and said in a friendly tone, "You are at Nano/Gen Inc.'s Advanced Android and Computer Systems Lab. My name is Dr. Vickie Reas ... I'm head of the Bio Memory Core Section."

The skinny man in thick glasses said, "My name's Dr. Anthony Blake. I am head of the Advanced Prosthesis Division."

The first woman to speak said softly, "My name's Lisa Getic ... I'm CEO of Nano/Gen world wide." she points to the life sized Babydoll who is actually a very pretty young woman dressed in a very adorable Babydoll outfit, "And this is Sally ... she's my ... well let's say ... she's my Senior Vice President."

Sally waves in a really cute little girl way as she says "Hi ...glad ta meetcha Angela. Maybees you n me could play dollies sometime?" Then she giggled adorably.

Lisa cooed softly, "OK, sweetheart, Angela might want to later ... but for now let's let her get used to her new situation."

Sally noded until her long pony tails fly and said adorably, "Mmk ... can wait."

The people sitting at the desk chuckle softly.

I scan Sally. She is an obvious paradox. She appears to be a mix of an adult woman of approximately 18 to 20 some years old and a little girl of about 3 or 4. Her size and genetic composition say she's a very young little girl of about four or so. She is developed in sexy ways as an 18 to 20 year old woman would be. She is wearing a very cute powder blue Babydoll dress that is very short. It has puffy sleeves and a white crocheted pinafore. The dress is short enough I can see her bottoms. They are matching in color with large ice blue / white ruffles across her hinny and similar colored lace around the legs. It is obvious she is wearing something underneath her bottoms that is very thick and bulky. She also has on a pair of similarly colored slippers that look very cute. I can tell there's a lot more to Sally than I can understand at this moment ... so I allow any inquiries about her to drop until such time I feel I can handle another anomaly.

As I do more deep memory core scans, I realize my mind is divided into two separate and distinct parts. The one I am having trouble accessing properly, seems to be alive, whereas the rest of me seems to be some sort of synthetic life form. I'm not sure of the significance of this … I do come to the conclusion it is rather important.

I ask, “Am … I alive .. or dead? I find there are living biological parts of me as well as synthetic. I also remember being killed in an accident of some kind. This … is an anomalous memory since I am obviously conversing with you now.”

My question causes the people in the lab coats some dilemma as they talk among themselves for a few minutes.

Dr. Blake says after they all seem to come to some sort of agreement, “ Technically speaking, Angela, you are deceased. In fact, we have used you in an experiment for total body replacement with a new Synthetic Genetic Android Prosthesis. In other words, we needed a particular volunteer to perform this procedure on. After the accident you were involved in, you were pronounced DOA when you arrived at the hospital. You … were the perfect one. Your body was mangled and severely burned in the accident, but 98% of your total brain mass had survived.”

I feel … shock and a severe grief rush through my systems. Diagnostics still tell me that these strange sensations are normal under the general conditions of data assimilation.

Lisa Getic says softly and reassuringly, “We knew we could revive the core essence of you. We obtained all the proper permissions from your parents to perform the operation. To be totally honest with you, Angela, you are alive. The Prosthetic Android Body we have given you, is alive, although it is a synthetic life form. You … do have Biological DNA parts within your memory core, however the rest of you is an XHNA construct. We believe it will act just as a real flesh body should, and the reconstructed parts of your mind will react normally to the Biological parts as soon as the interface is properly mapped by your subsystems.”

I am …. having distress. My systems feel so … strange suddenly as something within my mind began to remember. I can feel a wave of … something as it passes through me. My perceptions slowly and mysteriously change. I feel … a wave of dizziness overcome me. Diagnostics say there is an issue at this time. My heart rate and Blood Pressure are beginning to rise above normal parameters.

Without warning, I have a real time visual and sensory aberration in full color. I relive the last 40 seconds of my life … then solid memories of my past flood me. I see and feel them in the nanoseconds they pass before my eyes. Realization and understanding … I once again become … Angela … the person I was before the accident as my synthetic memory core totally merged with the biological as it was designed to do. I scream loudly, then burst into tears and cry hysterically. Reliving my violent death is super traumatic.

The people across the table look very concerned. Dr. Reas stands and rounds the table slowly as she says, “This was expected … but we had hoped it wouldn't happen.”

I actually feel it when something is injected into my arm. Diagnostics aren't telling me what effect this is having on my systems. I do feel a sudden and wholly appreciated wave of relaxation wash through me. I relax, although I am still grieving over the fact I have died.

Dr. Reas hugs me around my shoulders reassuringly as she whispers in my ear, “Welcome back, Angela. It's not many who have been to the other side and returned. Let us hope someday that you will remember what happened to you while you were there. As for now, we will take you to your room, and notify your parents that you are awake. They are very anxious to see you.”

My head is swimming … I feel dizzy and lost as a woman enters the room pushing a wheelchair. I am helped from my seat into the wheelchair, then pushed from the room into a semi-busy hallway. I notice I am wearing normal jammies for a girl. A rather becoming gown and fuzzy slippers. The passing nurses and doctors only give me a cursory glance as they pass. The nurse behind me chatters away about how sunny it is outside and what a pretty young woman I am.

The nurse asks in a cheery voice, “Would you like me to wash your hair and fix it up before your parents arrive? I understand how being in the hospital can give a girl a bad hair day.”

What I want first, is to see myself in a mirror. I now know what I'm supposed to look like … now I want to see what I really do look like. It's a really weird and gross feeling to know you aren't who you used to be.

I finally reply, “That would be nice, but … is there a large mirror I can see?”

The nurse replies in her cheery voice, “Why, of course, There's a large mirror behind the door in the bathroom. Your private room is just around the corner.”

The nurse wheels me around a corner. She stops in front of a door and waves her ID card in front of a plate. A door whooshes open and the nurse pushes me in.

OMG! Immediate recognition of where I am. This is an exact replica of my bedroom at home .. down to the posters of my favorite Rock Bands and Movie Stars on the wall.

The nurse says softly, “If you need a hand … or anything else,” she picks up a padd computer from a nearby tray and hands it to me, “Just ask and that will notify us.”

I look down at the padd as I say, “Thank you. I … I'm just sort of …. confused right now.”

The nurse smiles warmly as she pats me on the shoulder, “As nasty of an accident as the one you went through, it is well understandable.”

I ask, “Can you … tell me of the accident?”

The nurse's face takes on a serious demeanor as she looks me over for a second. She replies slowly, “I … can. The question is … do you truly want to know?”

I think on this for a few microns. For a person such as myself … now … this is forever. I finally say softly, “I would .. please.” Then sit on the edge of the bed. I can look at myself in the mirror in a few minutes.

The nurse smiles weakly as she sits beside me and takes my hand. She says softly with her head bowed, “It was a wonderful day like today, sweetheart. It was also your 18th birthday.”

I nod at the remembrance.

The nurse continued, “Your father was taking you to see your boyfriend Randy, then to the amusement park for your party. Along the way, the driver of a fuel transport fell asleep at the wheel. He bounced off several cars and the guardrail before careening off of a bridge and falling on the van you were riding in. Your father only survived because his side of the van separated from yours just before the fuel in the truck ignited.”

I felt … many emotions running all through me. I had no memories after fire, heat, and terrible excruciating pain. I also felt … a terrible fear … and a deep dark depression and mourning over something very valuable lost.

The nurse asked in a concerned voice, “Do you … want me to go on?”

I nod slowly, I wanted to know what happened after.

The nurse smiles as she continues sympathetically, “Well … sweetheart … you have to understand about what I'm going to tell you now. What they brought into the emergency room six months ago … was …” The nurse stops and gets a very pained expression as she looks at me with big deeply compassionate eyes. The nurse continues softly, “It looked like something that was seriously abused then forgotten on a grill and left to burn.”

I feel a wave of nausea rush through me. I put one hand to my mouth and the other on my stomach. The nurse was looking at the floor and not at me when I did this.

The Nurse said in an even softer voice, “There was … little left of your main torso … and your head had a major flat spot on the right side … about 4 inches long and 3 inches deep. All the hair was burned off so it was very easy to see.”

I couldn't take it anymore. I jumped from the bed and ran to the bathroom and knelt over the toilet. Waves of nausea coursed through me as I dry heaved. There was nothing in my stomach, obviously.

I searched for the remembered diagnostics program from earlier. It was there, but it seemed to be something other than me now. It reported that all systems were functioning well above operational parameters. I was more human now than Android. The interface that linked my biological parts to my XHNA Artificial Life Form parts worked flawlessly. I was once again … me.

I felt the nurse as she placed her hand softly on my back and knelt beside me. She holds my long hair behind my head as she says sympathetically, “I'm so sorry sweetheart. I did warn you.”

I nod … and I am grateful for her reassuring presents. It's still kind of hard for me to come to grips with the knowledge that I had died and been brought back with a new body. My stomach finally settles and I stand up. I turn and see myself in the full length mirror beside the door.

It's me … except … I'm a lot younger in this body than I used to be. I hadn't really noticed the difference in size until that moment. I looked like a very pretty 11 or 12 year old. I had shoulder length blond hair as I used to have and I was wearing a soft blue Little Jasmine nightgown and fuzzy white slippers.

It was … me … but a younger me.

I pointed and said in amazement, “I'm .. a little girl again.”

The nurse smiles and says softly, “Unfortunately, they only had a few months to grow your new body. This … is who you will have to be from now on. I'm sorry … but it was the very best we could do in the short amount of time we had.”

I really wasn't complaining … but it did come as sort of a surprise.

I ask, “Will … I grow back up again?”

The nurse replies softly, “No, I'm sorry. Once the XHNA matrix has been set and removed from the genetic medium, reversion discontinues. You will be this way for ...” she stops speaking and looks away.

I feel a fear rush through me as I ask with trepidation in my voice, “For … how long? Am I going to malfunction in a few months?”

The nurse visibly sighs as she looks at me with sympathy in her eyes. She finally says, “XHNA … doesn't age sweetheart. It isn't susceptible to any of the diseases, parasites, chemical contaminants, or radiation levels of normal biological systems. Unless you receive an injury far beyond anything I can think of short of ground zero nuclear detonations, or jumping into an active volcano … you will technically live forever. The repair functions of your new genetics will even repair any damage to your biological systems and keep them from aging.”

I gasp as I look at my new self in the mirror. I died and have been brought back to technically be a little girl … forever. I turn from one side to the other and take a long look at myself. My new body is developed enough that I can pass as one of those young women who appear to be a child. I have just enough breasts that it could be said I have them. I do have a very shapely body and a cute round bottom like I always had. I will need to carry a birth certificate or other government documents to prove my age, however. No one would believe it by looking at me.

That fact didn't really bother me … One thing did bother me … and it was something I didn't know how to fix. I knew … even if I was accepted back by all of my friends … within a few years … or a few dozen, I would be all alone in a brave new world that I never made. It was a true dilemma I knew beyond a doubt I would have to face.

The nurse asked in a pleasant tone, “Would you like me to help you wash your hair and fix it up? Your parents will be here in an hour or so.”

I look at my hair. I can't imagine it would need fixing … or washing for that matter. It was golden yellow and shone with a healthy glow. I took hold of the end of it on one side and look at it … there weren't even frizzes.

Finally, I shrug my shoulders with a sigh, “Sure, it'll help pass the time while I wait.”

The nurse brought in a chair and placed it with its back to the sink. I sat in it as she set up a spray nozzle apparatus. I leaned back in the chair and let the nurse take my head in her hands.

At first, the sensations and feeling of her washing my hair were subdued and empty. I knew it was happening … but there was little feeling or other nuances to it. As the nurse continued, the sensations began to become more intense and clear. The diagnostic protocol informed me, that the neural interface was becoming more adapted to my biological components as it was designed to do, and I more my old self.

By the time the nurse had gotten to the lathering part of the wash … I was really enjoying the massaging and the feeling of the warm spray in my hair. It felt magnificent.

The nurse said with an obvious smile in her voice, “See? Getting your hair done can be a wonderful experience.”

I said with obvious pleasure, “Yes … it really can. Especially when it seems it was done more to acclimate my sensory channels than anything else.”

The nurse replied, “That too, but it's still nice to have your hair done and get a nice scalp massage in the process.”

I had to agree with her. I had always loved to have my hair done … and this was no exception. This time, there was a beautiful newness to the normalcy of it all. I enjoyed every caress her fingers gave my scalp, every massaging sensation of the spray nozzle as the shampoo and conditioner residuals were rinsed from my hair. The long strokes of the stiff bristled brush as the nurse finished up.

I said, “Could you … excuse me for a little while? I want to take a bubble bath and change clothes.”

The nurse replied, “Of course, sweetheart.”

The nurse filled the tub and poured a quantity of pink gel into the steamy water. As many bubble rose and the wonderful smell of strawberries filled the air, The nurse returned with a thick towel, a clean nightie, and matching pullup bottoms for me to change into.

The nurse said, “Put all the used things into this basket, they will be taken care of in a little while.” Then she left me alone.

I stripped down and tossed my dirty nightgown and wet panties into the basket as she had asked me to. I felt it weird that I might have had an accident. I now understood why all my panties were thick and absorbant like diaper pullups. I then gingerly stepped into the bubbly water. The sensation of it went slowly through me as I sat in the wonderfully warm water. It was strange how it happened too. At first, the sensation was just an awareness of the wetness of the water and that it was above body temperature. Like a wave, the true feelings of the sensations washed over me. Chills rose on my flesh as I gasped softly at the sensuality of it. The relaxing warmth, the smell of strawberries, the magnificent slippery oily feeling that made my skin feel soft and smooth … it was a heavenly experience.

I realized that as each new activity was introduced to my neural interface, it would happen in a wonderful awareness wave like I had been experiencing. The connection between the synthetic and biological had to be introduced to something before it could properly meld together and create the true living experience. All the synthetic parts of my body were performing above expectations as I continued to become my normal self.

I enjoy the smell of the soap's honeysuckle perfume as I lather up the thick cloth and wash my body. This too was a wonderful sensation. As I washed my legs, I realized I had no body hair whatsoever. Except for my scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes … I was hairless. My skin was smooth, soft, and totally blemish free. From what the nurse had told me … I would be blessed with this for …. a very long time.

I stepped from the tub. I could feel a soft chill brush my wet skin. I shiver slightly as goose bumps rise on my flesh. All the sensations feel so fantastically sensual and new … yet at the same time normal. The normal part didn't detract from the pleasure it brought in any way. I took the large towel from the top of the counter and began drying myself. This too gave me much pleasure as I enjoyed the soft thickness of the towel on my soft skin.

I felt my new breasts. They were much smaller than the ones I originally had. I was almost a C before the accident, now … I might have made a medium A. I smiled, they were exactly proportional to my body size. Small, firm mounds with a hard gumdrop nipple in the middle of a dark pink aureole. I caressed them gently. They were very firm, but soft at the same time. I felt a tingle rush through me as I did this … it was really nice and arousing.

It was unbelievable. I knew beyond any doubt that I had been killed in a very horrible accident … and yet … here I stood, wrapped in a towel … looking at my young, pretty face in a mirror. Thoughts of not aging and all that I knew passing away began to creep into the joy I felt at that moment. I did my best not to think on this right now … my parents were coming and I wanted to see them with a happy mood and not a worried one over something hopefully far in the future.

I quickly stepped into my panties and pulled the nightie over my head. This was a cute little princess babydoll nightie for a girl of about eleven or twelve. It was a soft neon green with puffy sleeves and cute lace around the hem.

I see the matching fuzzy slippers the nurse had left and step into them, then walk from the bathroom back into my room. I look around. There are many flowers, stuffed animals, and get well cards all over.

I wonder how surprised everyone is going to be when they discover I'm … a Babydoll now. I shake my head. This is actually a perfect description of who I have become at this point … A living Babydoll … sort of like that Sally person I met when I first woke up.

I found a Science Fiction Novel, written by someone named Tomiki. Titled, I Nanabot, It told a wonderful tail of space adventure, cosmic war, and final conquests of vast areas of the universe heretofore unknown to humankind. I was so engrossed in it, I didn't realize people had walked in. I was sitting on the bed with my legs curled under, in just my little Babydoll nightie.

I heard a familiar gasp, I turned ... and there was my mom with her hand to her mouth, and her eyes huge with shock.

Mom said in a near shocked whisper, "Angie? Is ... that ... you?"

I got up on my knees and nodded like the little girl I looked like and replied, "It's me, mommy ... only ... I think my body is different, kinda."

Mom immediately started to cry as she came quickly up to me and hugged me to her breasts desperately, "Oh, my baby. They actually gave you back to me as my baby." Mom kissed me and hugged me and even tickled me like when I was this age ... I mean ... OMG!! I'm just a .... Babydoll.

Mom seemed to have read my mind as she cooed softly, "Now, don't be upset in the least. We can handle this easily." mom even giggled, "Just think, you now get to go back ... and do it again. Only this time ... you know what you didn't then."

I replied, "That would be fun ... except ..."

"Except?"

"Mom, I'm sorta like ... a living babydoll. I won't grow older ... or any of those kinds of things."

Mom hugged me closely as she patted my butt, "That's so perfect. You must meet Sally."

I said, "I sort of already did." I giggled at the memory ... it was a good one, "She invited me to play dollies soon."

I looked at mom's expression, then we both giggled at the same time as she hugged me close and kissed my face all over.

Dad said, "Well, now, Angela, I think Randy here is sort of abashed over your ... age reduction?"

OMG!! Randy. I turn quickly and see him looking at me with that ... wonderful glint in his eye. Then ... I see a strange expression come over his face as I get out of bed and move toward him. He backs up as his eyes get large in shock.

I say softly with a confused tone, "Randy? Supp sweetheart? It's me ... Angie."

Randy shook his head slowly as he said in a far off voice, "You ... are the Angie I went to Grammar School with ... not the one I wanted to marry."

The older man that was obviously a doctor of some sort said, "That is Angie. The one everyone knows and loves. We only had a short time to grow her new body, so it is sort of young, but it is fully functional."

Randy gave the doctor a dirty look, then left without another word. My dad had a few choice words with Randy in the hall, then he returned and stood next to the bed once again. Last thing I heard Randy say was he wanted a grown woman as a wife and girlfriend and not a baby still in diapers. I felt a terrible stab in my heart in a place I didn't even know a girl had.

I was so stunned that I didn’t even remember when I had started crying. My mother was dabbing my face with a tissue and cooing reassuringly. “Oh, Sweetie, he may have seemed nice but you don’t need a boyfriend like that … don’t worry, there are plenty of nice people out there …” But I didn’t want some other person. I wanted things to be the way they’d been before. And that couldn’t happen, not ever again.

After crying for a while longer, I managed to splutter out, “Am - am I - always - gonna be - in - in - d-diapers?”

The doctor, who I had gathered was named Richter, looked at my parents before answering, as reassuringly as possible, “We don’t know, Angie. The bioengineering that went into your new body is still very experimental. The technology’s inventors and I are still learning from your case.”

“So … so it’s just like he said,” I whimpered, “I’m a baby still in diapers!” I realized that my diaper was wet, and I didn’t remember it happening. I burst into tears again. “And … I might always be, forever!”

Then the blonde woman, or perhaps girl, who had been introduced to me as Sally rushed into the room. “Oh gosh! Oh no! Angie, pweeeease, it’s OK! Really! Lotsa people are little babydolls, and lotsa people are still in diapers!” She stood in a way that only I could see as she lifted the hem of her dress up to show me -- she was in diapers too. She didn’t wear anything over them other than a very short dress. And she was the assistant to the CEO of a major corporation. I gasped in astonishment.

“See?” asked Sally. “You no gotsa worry. Can be a little babydoll anna big girl atta same time. We gonna help you. It gonna be OK! OK?” I nodded, stunned, then suddenly hugged her. She was so small -- bigger than I now was, I realized, but still quite small. She hugged back and stroked my hair, whispering, “I really hope we can be bestest friends. But for now … you should be with your mommy and daddy. I gonna come back later but all the doctors know how to call me if you wanna!”

“Thank you, Sally,” I said. “Can -- can we talk more soon?”

“Oh, I wanna super lots!” Sally said, practically bouncing. “Call me tomorrow! They say you need rest. Bye bye for now!”

“Well, as the … energetic Miss Sally said, you could probably use some rest,” said Dr. Richter. “The energy depletion/replenishment cycle of your body is designed to be relatively similar to that of a completely biological human body, but you’ve been through a lot of stress, and I’m not sure you’re fully able to tell how tired you are yet.”

“But I’m not …” I began, and that’s all I remember.

When I woke up, I was in bed, and there wasn’t sunlight streaming into the window anymore. It was still light out, but the sun was on the other side of the sky. I’d been asleep for hours. “... sleepy,” I said, finishing my sentence, for no one to hear. It was almost like I’d traveled in time. I didn’t feel as if I’d been asleep; it was more as if the world had just fast-forwarded around me. I felt almost hungry -- that is, it was a sensation of growing urgency that I wanted to eat something, but it didn’t feel exactly like I remembered that feeling hungry felt. I got out of bed and realized that I had a very heavy, soaked diaper on under my nightgown. I tried to hold it up so it wouldn’t slide down to the floor with a splat, but it wasn’t easy going.

“Angie? Sweetie?” said my mother’s voice, as the door wooshed open and she came into the room. “Oh, good, you’re up -- let me help you.” She picked me up. “You’re so light! Just like you used to be! But let’s get you into some dry panties, OK?”

“You mean diapers, Mom,” I said. “We might as well call them what they are. But yes, please, I need dry diapers.” I’m sure I sounded unhappy, but it was the cold, hard truth.

“I’m sorry -- whatever you’d like,” said Mom. “I just … look, I don’t care if I have to change you from now until forever. We thought we were going to lose you. Maybe you’re small, maybe you’re in diapers, but you’re still with us! That’s billions better than the alternative. Do you understand? I love you, Sweetie. The rest doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, Mommy!” I said, crying again suddenly, and hugged her, which got in the way of her changing me, but then I lay back down. She’d set me on what was obviously a changing table and had removed my wet diaper; she was in the process of cleaning my skin (for want of a better word) up with wet wipes. I could feel that they were cold, but they didn’t make me uncomfortable -- I remembered that such things used to give me a chill, but that wasn’t happening now. I let her sprinkle baby powder on me and fasten a dry diaper on, comfortable and no longer threatening to fall off. When she lifted me back down to the floor, I felt so much better. Mom loved me. She’d just changed my diaper, so that proved it. I hugged her again. “Thank you, Mommy,” I said.

She sniffled. “You haven’t called me ‘Mommy’ since you were in third grade,” she said mistily. “What would you say to some supper?” We went out into the hallway, me still in my nightie, and she took my hand, probably unconsciously, to lead me to a cafeteria she knew about in this wing of the medical complex. Dad joined us once we’d gotten some food and sat down.

About that time, a man in a simple grey tweed suit and a briefcase made himself known. He approached and nodded his head as he said, “My name’s McIntosh. I work for the Advanced Research Department … and I have a little proposition for you to consider.”

My dad and me looked the man over. He looked like a typical business man as he pulled the small rollaway table up and placed his briefcase on it. When he opened it, he removed a large bright orange and red Binder and placed it near me. All Across the front Said Top Secret - Eyes Only - Need to Know Basis.

The man motioned for my dad and the other to leave, “Now, if you would be so kind as to read over that while I speak with your parents …” he escorted everyone from the room.

I opened the binder and started turning the pages, which were full of advanced mathematics. My eyes grew large with surprise as I actually understood them. I didn’t remember ever learning any of this math or what the symbols even meant -- I just kind of looked at them, and my mind seemed to decode them and work out how they came together to form a network of concepts. Before seeing this, I had no idea that there might possibly be other dimensions, or realities, or even a possibility someone could access them. But now … I could see what they were trying to do. I could also see that there was a major error in their calculations. I could also see how to fix it. What they would come up with was ...

The voice of Mr. McIntosh intruded into my musings, “We … thought you might be intrigued. From what we have learned, your new mind is able to outthink supercomputers at this point.”

Dad responded from the door, “There’s no reason to remind us of her … enhancements, you know.”

The man replied, “I was actually giving a compliment. With this new tech, we’re not sure of the limits of what she might be able to achieve.”

“Mr. McIntosh,” I said, “just what exactly is this proposition you have?”

“Your brain now has access to a lot of raw power,” he said. “But right now, much of it is untapped potential. Basically we’d like you to work for us. What you’d get out of it is a free college education -- we’d send you to only the best. The real best, too, not just the best reputation. You can go as far as you want. But it wouldn’t be a cakewalk -- we’d want you to be challenged.”

“And in return?” I asked. “What would you want from me?”

“Your help,” McIntosh answered. “Nano/Gen’s Advanced Research Department exists to find answers to the toughest questions facing humanity today. Sequencing genetic codes. Curing cancer. Dark matter and dark energy. Baryon asymmetry. P versus NP. Even … improving the technology that saved your life, so it can save others too.” He closed the binder and took it back. “Mr. and Mrs. Tobor, you can come back in now, if you’d like.”

The door opened, and my parents came back in and sat down. Dad said, “You’re talking about sending her to … where? Harvard? Yale? Oxford?”

“Well, to a great extent it depends on what Angela wants to study,” said Mr. McIntosh. “We’d find the leading professor in her chosen field -- and because we wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted to study more than one field, we’d be open to sending her to more than one university, one at a time of course.”

“What if she wants to study music?” asked Mom. “Or poetry? Or drama?”

“That’s a possibility, of course,” McIntosh admitted. “I have to admit that we hope she wants to learn about the sciences or technology, but it’s healthy to have an interest in the arts as well. But we’re making a bet here. The stakes we’re putting up are the money to pursue whatever interests she wants. But we’re betting that she’ll be interested in what we’re studying at least part of the time. Maybe she’ll become the world’s best violinist, but our guess is that she’ll find more than music to be interesting -- probably much more.”

“So … you’re not demanding that I limit myself to just what you want me to study?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “We don’t think it would be productive, not to mention healthy, for us to try to limit you like that. We want to see you reach your potential -- because it could also help the human race as a whole reach its own.”

“And what do you get out of it?” asked Dad. “In the end, I mean. You work for Nano/Gen. How does Nano/Gen make money out of this, in the long run?”


“Exactly,” McIntosh replied. “In the long run, we expect the company will benefit from the research our group does, even though we don’t develop the patents or the inventions ourselves. That’s what other branches of the company do. Nano/Gen has found it profitable to give our group a free hand.”

About that moment, the cute little girl named Sally toddled in and said, “Hi.” as she waved her hand. “Why comes alla u look so … misreble?” she promptly started to suck her thumb in a wide eyed adorable way as she looked around the room. She was dressed in an adorable yellow romper with lace everywhere and ruffles galore.

Mr Macintosh smiled as he said softly, “And I suppose you will introduce her to your special friend too, right Sally?”

Sally nodded with her thumb still in her mouth. She said in a garbled way, “Ypththh amm gonnthhth.”

Everyone chortled softly.

I asked as I looked the adorable little woman named Sally over, “Is she … you know, a construct like me?”

Mr Mcintosh smiled as he stood, “No, she’s … a very special little Babydoll. And she knows some very special people. I think the two of you should discuss that after we all leave.”

He motioned once again for all to leave the room. He nodded to me as he closed the door leaving me and Sally alone.

Sally removed her thumb from her mouth and said in a cute little babydoll like voice, “U no gonna believe this … but Imma chosen.”

“A chosen?” I asked.

She nodded, “Yup … ya see a goddess chose me ta be who I really ams … This.” She raised her arms and pirouetted gracefully before falling over and plopping on her thickly diapered bottom as any toddler might have done under the same circumstances.

I laughed, it was so wonderful to see this precious young woman. She made the perfect living babydoll. She had the knowledge, skills, and know how of a much older person, yet had the perfect babydoll demeanor.

I replied softly, “I suppose she gave you a unicorn for your birthday, right?”

I was totally dumbfounded when Sally nodded her head and said in an adorable voice, “Yous, an I calleded it Pinky, cuz it gots pink tips on alla its hairs. I feeds it honey n spices cuz it what she eats.” then started sucking her thumb once again.

Now, my new mind began to ponder the implications of the theorems within that binder. It dawned on me that I might quite possibly have been chosen too … if what Sally said was true.

I heard a soft tinkling female kind of voice say, “And just why wouldn’t it be true, my little cherub?”

I turned just in time to see a beautiful sparkling sort of golden shimmer vanish from existence. Sally giggled adorably as she clapped her hands and bounced on her bottom, her plastic panties inside her romper making a crinkling sound as she did. I know a look of incredulity showed prominently on my face as I realized my mouth was open … which I closed immediately.

Sally said in a cute babydoll voice, “See?? is true,” she nodded her head vigorously, “Am promise u gonna meets her real soons.” She began to suck her thumb with a thoughtful expression on her face.

I smiled and shook my head. If I really didn’t know any better, Sally was a real living babydoll. She acted in a manner I realized I must also be doing in a way.

I asked softly, “What’s a cherub? I think I heard someone call us that a minute or two ago.”

Sally grinned and took her thumb from her mouth. She said with obvious glee, “Didnja kno? Themsa babies an children of what mankind called gods. They no thinka emselves attaways tho … is just they far above mankind.”

“Gods …?” I said, overwhelmed. “I guess … well I’ve been brought up to believe in God, but doesn’t that particular one say he’s jealous and we shouldn’t have other ones?”

“Oh … that one,” said Sally with a giggle. “He a silly one. He maked a deal wif some people. He help ‘em out, they worship him. They writed it down. But he meaned they gotsa put him firstest, that’s all.”

My head was spinning. “Gods are … real?”

“Lotsa things real!” Sally said gleefully. “You just gotsa … find ‘em. And … no go lookin’ for things you don’t wanna find.” She looked unhappy briefly. It was a huge contrast to her usual demeanor.

“I … think I understand,” I said. “But … wait, you work for the CEO of Nano/Gen, right?”

“Well … kinda,” said Sally. “Issa official prezzydent … then there issa … founder.”

“And the founder is some kind of … powerful being?” I asked.

“Well,” said Sally, “she powerful, sure -- only gots certain things she gots powers over, though. But you meet her. When you readies.” She nodded, then put her thumb in her mouth, I suppose signaling that she was done talking about that.

“So maybe I should take Mr. McIntosh’s offer,” I said, taking the hint that we should change the subject. “They want me to go to school, study things, improve my mind, fulfill my potential, whatever it is. I’m not sure what else to do, frankly. The alternative is to work my way through college, take part-time jobs, and otherwise use my educational opportunities non-optimally.” I paused. “Why am I talking like that? I didn’t used to use long words.”

“You probly the smartest human on Earth right now,” said Sally. “That’s … if you still a human. You part human. But no worries! Noffing wrong wif not bein human! I knows lotsa nice people that not even a little bit humans.” She paused and got back on track. “The science people say you gonna pick up everyfing … like a … umm … somefin real absorbent. Anyways just think -- what issa bestest way for you to turn into the bestest you?”

The best way to become the best me … I thought. And my mind, now supercharged, followed those thoughts to their logical conclusions. Yes, I saw it. There was only one optimal path, though there were many minor variations, and there was always the possibility that I didn’t have all the data. I would need more data. But for now … “The best way is to accept their offer,” I said. “I need to learn more.”

Sally removed her thumb from her mouth and looked me over from top to bottom. She said, “Nuver thing too,” she nodded, “U gots b more likea babydoll. Can fix that.”

Sally seemed to fumble into one of her pockets on her romper. Snuggled amid the large ruffles, she pulled a strawberry colored cellphone and opened it. She giggled as she tapped on the screen, then said into it, “We havea babydoll mergency here. Can ya sorta send inna nana to help?” she giggled again then closed the little pink device and tucked it away again amid her ruffles.

The door to my room sprang open and several nurses rushed in. One had a black and white romper with red ruffles and lace draped over one arm. One nurse came to me, the other to Sally.

Sally made a feeble attempt to struggle as she said in a cute pouty voice, “Amma big girl,” she poked out her bottom lip, “No wet my pannies no more.”

The nurse smiled as she cooed softly, “Alright miss Big Girl, please explain to me how your diaper got wet.” the nurse pulled open the back of Sally’s romper and checked her closely.

Sally gasped as her eyes got large. She said in a cute babydoll voice, “It … hadda be tha … tha .. “

I couldn’t help myself as I blurted out, “The wet diaper fairy?”

Sally looked at me with her big beautiful eyes and her mouth open in surprise, “Yea … what you said … her!” Sally pointed at me and nodded up to the nurse.

The nurse burst out laughing as she picked the small woman up and carried her over to the padded area I now knew for sure was a changing station.

The other nurse was dressed in a floral print and said to me, “We’ll just wait until they’re done.”

“Do I need … a change?” I asked.

“We’ll find out.” She smiled in a kindly way. “My job is to make you more comfortable.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, “and what did she mean about … a baby doll emergency? What is a babydoll, anyway?”

“Well … Sally has her ideas about what she should be like,” the nurse explained. “She tends to, I guess you could say, evangelize about it to others. Babydolls are childlike but still adult at the same time. You’re 18 years old, but you’re already childlike in a couple of ways -- you’re small, and you need diapers. So she sees you as a candidate for being more childlike in other ways too.”

“She thinks I should suck my thumb and talk funny?” I asked.

“For starters,” said the nurse. It looked like the other nurse was nearly done changing Sally’s diaper. “You don’t have to do it. You could, for example, use it as a way to relax when you’re around Sally. It would certainly make her happy. She doesn’t have a lot of people who are just plain friends. She knows a lot of people and visits a lot of people, but she doesn’t get to just relax very often. OK, it looks like the changing table is free -- let’s go!”

The other nurse lifted Sally down off the table. She bounced up and down on her toes with a giggle, her fresh diapers and plastic panties crinkling as she moved. I walked over to it and climbed up onto it myself. “Good girl!” said the nurse. “Now … you have a choice. Regular baby powder, or … the special baby powder.”

“Special?”

“Well, assuming it works on your unique body, but it should, because it really affects the brain -- temporarily, of course. It’s the reason Sally called us in. It enhances juvenile or even infantile behavior patterns. I’m not sure how it works.”

“Does it affect -- thought patterns?” I thought. If it affects the brain in such a way as to change behavior, it must have a chance of causing changes to thought patterns. It would wear off, but over time it would have a cumulative effect on my neural pathways. How did I know this? I found myself questioning my own thoughts.

“I think you can find out, if you like,” the nurse said, checking my diaper. “Yes indeed, you do need a change. So what’ll it be? The special powder will make Sally very happy. And it wears off by the time you need another change.”

“I’ll do it,” I said. “I want to experience this. I want to find out … what it does to my thought processes, especially now that they’re enhanced.”

“OK,” she said, taking out an unmarked but silvery and iridescent baby powder bottle from somewhere beneath me on the table, perhaps a drawer or shelf. She raised my nightie and unfastened my old, soggy diaper, moving it out of the way, and cleaned me off with baby wipes. I suppose my XHNA body, whatever that meant -- I would have to learn more about it -- was still at least partly biological in nature, as it could process food and liquids and produce waste. My theory about why I wasn’t able to control my eliminations was currently related to my theory about why my brain was so much more powerful now -- all its focus was on processing power. I was amazed I could still walk. And for another thing …

And suddenly she was sprinkling the glittery, sparkly baby powder on me. I realized she’d put on a surgical mask, probably to avoid inhaling the stuff herself. I smelled a wonderful, alluring smell, and my thought processes did indeed change. I wasn’t chasing thought after thought down blind alleys anymore -- suddenly I felt myself living in the moment and focusing only on what I was experiencing with crystal clarity.

I focused on that focus itself. And I focused on that focus. And so on. And when I was done, I focused on the infinite recursion that created. And then I focused on that thought itself. This inward dive continued for what felt like eons, but within my head I felt serene.

I opened my eyes, unaware that I’d closed them or when. “The first time is pretty intense for regular people,” said the nurse. “Probably more so for you.” She finished spreading the powder on my skin, then fastened a fresh diaper over it.

I heard myself giggle. I felt like giggling. I felt … happy.

“Theeeere she is!” said Sally, coming over to look at me on the changing table. “Now Angie issa itty bitty baby!”

I turned my head and reached out to touch Sally’s face, much as I suppose a baby would. The nurse got my fresh diaper taped in place while I did this. I couldn’t see her face because of the surgical mask, but her eyes were smiling.

She helped me off the changing table, but after she did, I just sat on the floor and looked up at her. “Thank oos,” I said. “Whas your name?”

“My name’s Carol, Angela,” said the nurse, “and you’re welcome.” She took her surgical mask off, and she was indeed smiling. “See, it doesn’t hurt you, does it?”

“Nuh uh,” I said, shaking my head. It didn’t. And it didn’t affect my brain the way I thought it would -- it wasn’t like alcohol or any such thing. Whatever the active ingredient in that powder was, it didn’t act like anything I’d ever heard of before -- and my brain had extensively cataloged everything I’d heard of before. I remember everything that happened with crystal clarity. I just acted … extremely cutely.

Sally came up and helped me to my feet. My knees felt so wobbly and the diaper … was so soft and thick. Sally led me a distance into a place filled with wondrous thingys a baby would love to explore. Hanging dangly things, twisty and squeaky things and things that went ding! It was easy to become lost in the moment, and that’s just what happened.

Suddenly my mind cleared for an instant. I was sitting spread legged on a play mat, stacking several layers of lettered and numbered blocks. Sally and I both were in just a super thick diaper and a pair of white rumba panties with large white ruffles across the bottom. I had just finished ringing the small bell attached to one side of the playpen.

I looked around. From this perspective, all I could see were the large rails of the playpen, insuring Sally and I stayed where we were.

Next instant Sally had knocked over my stack of blocks. My entire existence rotated around the fact … they had fallen. Next instant, the snow leopard plushy doll was absolute extreme heaven. I had no idea why I would cry with this in my arms. I hugged it tighter as I felt a warm safe sensation surge all through me.

That's when I noticed that one entire wall of the room was a mirror. One-way glass, they call it -- except that there's no such thing. Sure, they can turn out the lights in there and make it hard to see, but you can still see. After all, if there's no light coming through the glass from this side, they can't see anything. I crawled over, cupped my hands around my face, and looked through the glass. “Hiiiii,” I said. “I seeeee youuuu …”

“Dr. Leaeti will want to know of this breakthrough,” one of them was saying. “I think it’s important … wait, can she see us?”

“Uh huh, I can,” I said. “Also, who’s Dr. Leaeti? And whassa breakthrough? I promise I no gonna break any toys. And you really oughtta be good and not all sneaky if you want me to do stuffs for you.”

I placed my nose against the glass and twisted it several different ways, making very comical faces. I could see the faces of the men and women on the other side, dimly illuminated by the light coming through the glass from my side, and the almost invisible sparkles of their control panels.

I sat back on my padded hinny and had an incredible urge to suck my thumb. Before I realized it, it was in my mouth and I could feel it with my tongue. It made me feel … so nice.

At the same time, I knew something now -- they were doing something behind my back. There was something they needed me to act like this for. I had a few theories. I needed more evidence. But I knew I couldn’t fully trust them.

I turned to Sally. Could I trust her? “Sally,” I said, around my thumb, “didja know there’re peoples in there lookin’ attus?”

“Uh huhs,” Sally said. “They said they gonna watch us play. Dunno why. They never watch me when I’m playin’ all by myself. Or maybe they do. Dunno.”

Outwardly I said, “They weirdos. Shouldn’t look at lil girls. Is creepity.” But inwardly … when Sally had said she didn’t know about it, she’d taken her thumb out of her mouth and fidgeted with a block with both her hands, something she had never done even for a moment since I’d first seen her. She had lied to me just then. So … did that mean that she knew why they were watching me? Or that they watch her too? Did she not want them to know that she knew they watched her? What was the truth?

I realized the powder was wearing off, much faster than it was supposed to. But I didn’t want them to know it was. I’d observed the effect it had on my thought and behavior patterns, and it was easy enough to duplicate them. Was Nano/Gen evil? What was this talk of it being run by a god? Was this a powerful alien? Why had they chosen to rescue me and give me a super-augmented brain? What problems did they really want solved? I had to find out, to protect myself and possibly save the human race, because if they’d made me, they might make others, and those others could easily spell the doom of Earth. Actually I could too -- I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but what if I couldn’t help it? I could easily see ways in which I could become more powerful, augment my brain even further. I could even see ways to do it that wouldn’t need me to do anything other than focus on the problem.

But I could see another problem too, and that was … the public.

I focused on playing and being cute, but at the same time, part of me was hard at work. How much control did my brain have over this bioelectronic body of mine? There was so much I had to know, and sooner was better than later. If only I could search the Internet, for one thing. If only I had access to a library. If only I could be a fly on the wall in that other room … hmm.

It wasn’t long before I had all of those things. No more than half an hour, really. I had bioelectronic factories in my body for producing replacement cells, when my cells wore out. Right now all my cells were new, so those factories had nothing to do, or not much. I just started putting them to work, and soon my brain had its own radio station. Cracking their wireless network was difficult, but cracking a few employees’ cell phones was much easier. And making a nearly microscopic transmitting microphone that could crawl through the tiniest cracks was simplicity itself. Part of my brain went to work figuring out how to improve itself. Another part went to work figuring out what Nano/Gen wanted from me. And another part went into chemically decoding that powder they gave me.

Except it wasn’t chemical. Whatever it was, it wasn’t in the chemistry of the particles, which were still around in great numbers. I couldn’t figure out what had caused the mental changes! Whatever it was, it was outside the purview of Earth’s science. Very interesting indeed.

And while I did this, I discovered that they had devices in my brain to monitor me. How very … trusting of them. But I couldn’t just turn them off -- they’d know I’d found them. It wasn’t hard to figure out how to get them to supply false information to whomever was on the other end, though. I’d find out who that was soon enough. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but I had to protect myself. Soon I’d be able to turn off this whole company if I had to. Because … Mom and Dad were still in the building. If they tried to harm them, or threatened to, or implied that they might …

No. I wasn’t a monster. I wouldn’t become a monster. If they tried something, I’d just stop it, that’s all. I wouldn’t hurt anyone; I’d just neutralize them. I’d find a way. Break the gun before they can pull the trigger. Even better … stay three steps ahead of them. And that’s where I was going. Three steps ahead.

Sally and I played for a long time before someone came in. I looked up as the nana nurse and a man in a rumpled old suit and wrinkled shirt and tie entered. The man walked to the playpen and pulled a small table over with him.

He smiled and said softly, “Hi there young lady,” he reached over and patted me on the head, “I am the Director of Collegiate Education. I’m here to talk with you about what interests you might have. You know, Music? Art? Physics? Higher mathematics? Computers …”

I couldn’t help myself, I giggled. I said in a really cute little girl’s voice, “I wanna know bout allait.” and nodded my head along with Sally as we looked at each other.

The man stood with a look of surprise on his face for an instant before he replied, “Very well, I can offer you this device. It gives you access to our total educational database.” He handed me a small card with a username and password on it in binary numerals along with a small pad type computer. “With this, you have complete access to all files and the eyes only clearance so you can have free access with no restrictions.”

“Oooo, I can see alla it like everyfing?” I asked cutely. Inwardly I was confused. There were areas of educational fields that were restricted? But parts of my mind were already going there -- for example, naturally the parts of nuclear physics that dealt with the specifics of creating a nuclear weapon were certainly not going to be in textbooks that just anyone could get their hands on. So why were they giving me access? What if I turned out to be psychopathic? Parts of my mind theorized that they’d somehow been testing me and had decided that I wasn’t.

“Yep, everything,” said the Director with a smile and a chuckle. “I’ve got a feelin’ that whatever we tried to hide from you, you’d find out anyway, so we might as well fess up.”

“Wow, thanks Mr Drector!” I said enthusiastically. I held in my hands a link to the information that the program wanted to steer me toward. I looked at it with fascination and literally wet myself with anticipation. It would now be up to me not only to learn all of this, but also to find what was missing -- not just the knowledge that humanity hadn’t yet discovered, but the knowledge that the Advanced Studies Institute had chosen not to include.

“But we was playin’,” said Sally, looking disappointed.

“Oh yeah! Playin’ is ‘portant!” I said. “So’s my fwiend Sally!” I left the tablet on the table, crawled back over to her and continued the story of Ms. Dolly and her life in Blocktown.

A little while later, one of the nurses came by to check our diapers. Sally got changed first, so I picked up the tablet and started to look at the section on math. I skimmed over what I already knew and what my improved brain had already deduced from that, then started looking at what I didn’t know. I was devouring this information faster than my eyes could read it. Clearly I needed a better interface. By the time the nurse came over to check me, the tablet’s screen was face down on the table, displaying pages faster than the eye could see, and all of that was going into my data storage for later assimilation. The special baby powder they used in my change affected my conscious mind, but the rest of it kept right on accepting input from the nanoprobes that had taken over the tablet for me. It would still take time to really learn all of that, but it could happen 24/7, even when I was asleep. There was still a limit to how fast the data could come in, but it was much higher now than it had been.

“Thankoo Nurse Lady,” I said with a heartfelt hug after my diaper change was done. My conscious mind was back to thinking simple thoughts and living in the moment again, thanks to the special baby powder, and the rest of my mind, including the cyborg parts, was analyzing the data that was coming in, including the data about how the powder affected me and how I acted when under its influence. I was thinking about how much more comfortable I was now in my dry diaper, how I was starting to feel a little bit hungry, and how I wanted to play some more.

“She’s learning at a fantastic rate,” one of the scientists was saying in the monitoring room, according to my listening robots. “She’s reading advanced college material now and is about to start on the graduate level.”

“If she’s really understanding it,” said another, skeptically.

They had no idea. The circuitry I’d installed to send them false signals was working.

By the time Sally had been taken off to wherever she lived, and I had been given my bath and dressed in a thick night time disposable and a really cute footie jammie fora babydoll, my mind had assimilated most of the documented theorems on wormholes and alternate time shifted regional string locals. I had come to the conclusion that this was taking something far more simplistic and making it hard.

As I lay snuggled in my crib with Teddy Bear grasped in my arms, my mind came across a small bit of unnoticed data. From what I could tell, a black hole’s event horizon contained all the information ever taken into the maw of the thing, and the two dimensional representation of the object could be reproduced by the Hawking radiation emitted by the behemoth.

This led my mind to wondering about the absence of antimatter … and I realized there was also a correlation with the missing antimatter and dark matter. OMG!! I awoke suddenly and sat up in my crib. This alarmed the observers and they quickly dispatched a nurse to check on me. Yes, they had me sleeping in a crib -- one of the effects of the powder was that I didn’t think about the boundaries of my bed when I slept anymore. But in this case it was a good thing I was in one, because I would certainly have fallen out of bed with the idea I’d had.

I picked up the pad and delved as far into the database’s core infostructure as I was able. So much was not there. So much was someone’s best guess and fantasy instead of real hard math. I also discovered a major omission in the mass dilation and energy conversion calculations on their wormhole generator they had just invented and announced to the world. It could hide and transfer electromagnetic waves instantly any distance to another predetermined point. Might be useful in a few dozen years for comms and such. A large grin crossed my face as I realized that on the other side of this string rift … was another place. A place I just had to visit.

It was then I opened my eyes. I was wet, had my thumb in my mouth, and just had to find something to write with. Boy, did I have a mathematical formula to write down. Yes, it could have instantly come out of one of their laser printers, anywhere in the complex, but that would have started them searching for how I’d done that.

Well, it seemed archaic but it would have to do. I had a touch-sensitive tablet in front of me. I started a note app and began writing on it with my fingertip. I even used different colors. When I was done writing it down and set down the tablet, the nurse who had been hovering nearby finally swooped in, opened the side of the crib, and got my diaper changed, but in the meantime, I could hear the scientists who were monitoring me elsewhere in the complex reading what I’d written down and was causing a lot of commotion.

When the nurse tucked me back in and raised the side of the crib, I smiled contentedly. Part of me felt an infantile sense of being comfortable and safe. Another part of me was satisfied that I’d just made that instantaneous communication device possible in about a month instead of dozens of years. Meanwhile other parts of me were researching history and art.

I woke up. Sunlight streamed in through the window, the Venetian blinds and crib bars breaking it up into a grid of squares. Someone had put a pacifier in my mouth at some point, and I was holding a security blanket featuring Winnie the Pooh. And my mother was there, smiling down at me in a way that was very familiar.

“Good morning, Angie,” she said. “They tell me that you must have had a very interesting dream last night. You wrote something down that has the scientists very excited.”

“Mmmornin’ Mommy,” I said sleepily. “Does that mean they happy?”

“I guess so,” she said. “Some people are only happy when they’re busy doing something they like. And they’re scientists because they like science, I guess.”

“Mommy?” I asked. “What do I like?”

“Oh, Angie,” she said. “You used to like helping me in the kitchen, and pony dolls, and looking at the stars. Later you liked reading stories about wizards and dragons. And you wanted to learn to play guitar.”

“I … think I can play guitar now, Mommy,” I said. “If you bring me one, can I try it?”

“I’ll ask them if they have one you can borrow,” she said. “You’re never going to stop amazing us, are you? Our super special baby girl. Do you need a change?” She checked. “Of course you do, but that’s to be expected.” She helped me out of the crib and took care of my diaper -- no special baby powder this time, though, just the regular kind. “I don’t know what the doctors and scientists want you to do today, but Daddy and I will be back in a little bit. Maybe we can have breakfast together.”

“OK Mommy,” I said, hugging her. “I love you.” My brain had quickly learned music theory and figured out how to play most instruments -- theoretically, anyway. I was thinking that to really do it well required practice, as with most arts. Did Sally know how to play any instruments? I would ask her next time I saw her.

I was eventually dressed in a very short babydoll jumper dress and tights. The nurse led me down the long hall to the elevator. On the way down, several women began to comment on what a cute little girl I was.

I said, “I’m notta little girl. Guess you would calls mea Babydoll.” I had to pretend to be sweet and adorable, I knew, so people wouldn’t see me as some kind of threat that would take over the world.

One large woman with a huge butt frowned as I talked in an adorable voice to the others in the elevator. Everyone acted friendly except for this large woman, who was more than rude.

She dogged me out the elevator to the arboretum where I found a seat beneath a sweetly smelling flowering vine of wisteria. I had opened my satchel and removed the small padd computer I had been given. I didn’t really need the thing anymore, and had totally rewritten its operating system to the point it responded to my thoughts.

The huge woman approached and said with a snarl, “So, you’re one of those … bio monster things. No wonder they are so proud of you. You’re pretty as can be and adorably cute.” She took hold of the front of my jumper and pulled me to my feet, “And, you know what, little babydoll? I’m going to beat you to within an inch …”

My brain began assimilating data about various self-defense arts, but like other arts, they require practice to truly learn … She never got to finish her statement.

A bright flash of blue-white fire and a person in some kind of shining suit stood there. This person took hold of the large woman’s wrist and twisted. I heard a squishy popping noise as the large woman released the front of my jumper and went to her knees screaming in pain.

“We’ve spent whatcha’d call a buncha money on ‘er, y’know,” said a voice from the suit, which covered the person’s entire body from head to toe and was decorated with traceries of blue-white light. I guessed that this was an experimental device I’d learned about, a sort of powered battle armor that amplified the movements of the wearer, basically increasing their strength twentyfold. “Good thing ya didn’t break ‘er. You’da been payin’ for ‘er for a real long time.”

“Aarrrrhhggg --” groaned the large woman, cradling her wrist in pain.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” said the figure in the suit. It sounded like a woman’s voice, with somewhat of a Southern accent. “Don’t know m’own strength with this thing on. Didn’t mean t’break ya. Good thing yer worth a whole lot less’n this here babydoll.”

Two heavily armed security personnel arrived along with a doctor. The doctor examined me while the large woman moaned in pain over her wrist.

Next, the doctor did an exam of the woman and her wrist. He said in his monotone voice, “It looks like your wrist is broken in several places, Ma’am. I need to get you into the clinic for X-rays and a better exam. I also think you’re in rather deep kimchi.” he turned and glanced at the Security people and the person in the battle armor, “You need to rethink whatever prejudice you harbor against XHNA constructs. They are expensive, and contrary to popular thought, are very much alive. Especially her.” He pointed at me.

“Who’re you?” I asked the woman in the armor once the doctor had moved on to the large woman and the onlookers had begun to clear away.

“Oh, me?” she said, turning her head toward me. I couldn’t see her face; the full-body suit she wore covered it. There were lenses over her eyes and fine traceries of light everywhere else. The top of her head looked lumpy at the top. “Just a second here, Sweetheart.” She lifted the suit’s hood at the neck and peeled it off, revealing her face and shiny black hair, which was tightly bound into two round buns, probably to control it while the hood was on. “Name’s Beulah Ramsey, Nano/Gen Security. ‘S no secret that there’s always at least one guard on ya. Company spent a bundle on ya -- they don’t want ya damaged.”

“It’s good to meet you, Beulah!” I said, smiling. “I guess you already know I’m Angie. What kind of suit is that?” Actually, I knew already -- but I wanted to make conversation.

“Oh, this thing?” she said, looking down at the glittering and glowing skin-tight bodysuit. “Just the latest prototype o’ what they’re workin’ on down in R&D. There’s been like a hundred versions of it before this’n. Ya shoulda seen the first one -- I could barely move! Was like stickin’ yer arms ‘n legs into a bunch of pipes.”

“I think they’re using electroactive polymers in the actuators,” I said without really thinking. “They could layer those with carbon nanotubes for extra durability -- it would repel most bullets, and it would barely weigh more at all.” I also suspected they’d used the same kind of actuators in my own muscles, or perhaps a combination of those with a synthetic organic equivalent. I wondered if I had carbon nanotubes in my body. I soon knew that I did, in fact.

She laughed loud, a carefree laugh that really put me at ease. “Well, can’t say I’ve managed to get myself shot at in this thing, but maybe you oughtta tell ‘em that. Do ya always scientifically analyze what people are wearin’ right after ya meet ‘em, or is it just ‘cause I got a high-tech suit?”

“Sorry,” I said, blushing. “It’s the suit. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Ever since the … operation … I’ve had this drive to figure everything out.”

“Well, I gotta say, ya don’t look like a computer,” said Beulah. “Ya look like a itty bitty li’l girl, cute as a button! Where ya goin’? I’ll help make sure ya get there.”

“I was going to have breakfast with my parents,” I said. “But I think the nurses wanted to check my vitals or something first.”

“Oh, right, I’m sure they gotta do their pokin’ and their proddin’, earnin’ their paychecks,” said Beulah, looking around. She put her hood back on. “Oh, there ya are,” she said, turning to a nurse who was standing out of the way in a corner. Perhaps the lenses in the hood’s eyes had some sort of personnel identification system. “Ya might wanna get this here li’l girl’s diaper changed right quick, ‘fore she springs a leak. Been a busy mornin’ for her and it ain’t even breakfast time yet! Where ya goin’?”

“Just over to Triage 3A, Ms. Ramsey,” said the nurse.

“OK then! Let’s get while the gettin’s good,” Beulah said. The nurse took my hand, and Beulah escorted us as I toddled along. She was right -- my diaper felt heavy. The lenses in her hood must have had some sort of infrared sensors or the like.

I was escorted first to the clinic where I was given an exam by the lady Doctor. She didn’t fail to notice the slight red mark around my neck where the large woman had grabbed my jumper. She poked and prodded and to my surprise, she took an actual blood sample and sent it to the lab for analysis.

The doctor finally said in a soft voice, “Well now, sweetheart, you’re no worse for the ware. Your assailant was very lucky that you haven’t yet learned to defend yourself.”

I looked at the doctor with big surprised eyes, “Why’s that doc?”

She snorts a short laugh, “HXNA muscles are many orders of magnitude stronger than human. If you had a mind to, I’m sure you could have rendered her to a large pile of bloody quivering jelly.” She turned to me and looked over the top of her glasses. “Even your skeletal framework is super reinforced with C64 nanotubes. Simply put, you are the very best we could make you … and we want nothing more than for you to be the best you can be. This is why you are to take ballet, to enhance your grace and coordination.”

I felt a chill run through me as I thought about what might have happened if Beulah hadn’t shown up when she did. I also began to wonder how much she appeared to protect the large woman rather than to protect me.

A man in a white hoodless sterile room suit showed up and said, “If you will come with me, Angela, I think your parents are waiting for you in the dining room.”

After my diaper had been changed, He indicated the door with his hand as the doctor lifted me from the examination table and stood me on my feet. He took me by the hand and slowly escorted me out of the clinic. We walked a distance down the hall and turned a corner and entered the dining room. My parents were waiting for me, breakfast was already on the table.

As I was lifted into a high chair by my mom, dad filled a plate with grits, eggs, home fried potatoes, and several large biscuits smeared in strawberry jelly. My tummy grumbled as he placed the plate in front of me. Of course, mom just had to put a cute little pink bib with a large butterfly on the front around my neck and tied it in a bow in back.

For some reason I couldn’t explain, I just had to make a huge mess as I ate. It was so much fun and mom and dad seemed to enjoy feeding me and making the mess more than I did.

After mom cleaned my face and hands, I was escorted to the auditorium where I was dressed in a cute white leotard. It was more than obvious I had on a pair of thick pullups. The teacher came in and showed me the first position. For the next 2 hours, she instructed me in the fine art of Ballet.

By the end of the lesson, the teacher and I were dancing the Dance of the Butterfly. What I didn’t realize, was the grace and skill with which I performed it. The teacher was super impressed as we did more and more complicated routines together.

“Beautiful, my dear,” said the instructor once we were done, grabbing a towel and mopping her brow. “And you’re not even sweating, either.”

Wait -- she was right. I couldn’t tell whether I’d spent the last hour dancing or reading a book. I hadn’t realized how easily my body had taken an hour of strenuous physical exercise in stride. “I -- I guess not,” I stammered. “I didn’t even notice --”

“Quite alright, dear,” she said. “XHNA technology is still quite rare. There’s still so much we haven’t tested. Please practice, and if you like, we can work on your ballet some more next week.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” I said, “I’d like that.” I could look up all the details of every dance ever choreographed, and I could go through the motions picture-perfectly, but there was a big difference between that and true artistry. Only practice could accomplish that. And that was why I kept finding my interests drawn toward the arts -- that was the one area where I found a true challenge.

“You asked whether you could borrow a guitar,” said Mom. “Well, I asked and they said to bring you to the music therapy room -- they say they have lots of instruments there for people to play. We’re in the right wing of the complex -- want to go there?” she asked me. “It isn’t far.”

“Yes, please!” I said enthusiastically, so Mommy and Daddy took me there, guided by Beulah.

Once there, I walked up to a piano and sat down. I’d never had a piano lesson in my life. But I put my hands on the keyboard and played some experimental five-finger patterns, then a few scales. I tried playing softly and more loudly. I played with the sustain pedal. Then, once I knew where everything was, I started playing something I’d never heard but had “read” opinions of, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” I knew its name was French for “Moonlight” and that it was impressionistic, but …

… I wasn’t prepared for what happened. I started playing. My body put my fingers in exactly the right places. I played note-perfect. And I didn’t get far before I had to stop. I started to cry, sob really, and I couldn’t keep going.

“What’s wrong, Honey?” asked Mom, coming to me and putting an arm around me, sitting on the piano bench.

“It’s … I wasn’t ready … it’s … so beautiful …” I choked out, still sobbing.

“Oh, yes, Angie, I’ve heard that before,” said Dad. “It’s a beautiful piece of music, isn’t it? I don’t remember what it’s called.”

“It’s ‘Clair de Lune,’ Dear,” Mom said to him. “But Angie … you don’t have to play it if you don’t want to.”

“I do,” I said. “I really do. I feel like I have to, now.” I wiped my eyes dry. This body … it was capable of so much, including tears.

“Maybe … try to put what you feel into the music,” Mom said. This was actually one of the best pieces of advice that anyone has ever given me since … well, since this body. I have always tried not to ignore what I feel and use it in everything I do. I’ve read a lot of transhumanist literature about the supposed technological singularity and how superhuman intelligence will lead to horrors beyond imagining, and I don’t want that to happen.

I started over. It was hard to translate what I felt into movement and key pressure and varying the tempo. I surprised myself. It was hard. Here was something that wasn’t easy, wasn’t automatically done for me. I had to work at it. Here was something that challenged me. This made me want to cry even more, and I put that feeling into it too.

I played every note. It was hard to tell how well I’d done. But afterwards, Mom was in tears, and the nurse was dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “Awww, that’s my girl,” said Dad, applauding. “I’m so proud of you, you know.” I guess I did pretty well. But of course I wanted to do better.

Also, I have to say that part of my mind was still thinking about the chances that people might see me, and others like me, as monsters, and might want us destroyed because they considered us a threat. If I could perform beautiful, moving music, and create other forms of art, it would decrease people’s chances of seeing me as a threat and increase my chances of survival, possibly even more than inventing technologies that benefited the human race. I thought back in history to the African-Americans in the entertainment industry in the early 20th century and even to entertainer slaves in the Greek and Roman world -- they were allowed greater freedoms and seen as less threatening because they entertained. I am no longer fully human, but I am still partly human, and I see my relationship with the rest of the human race as a symbiotic one -- I need them, and they need me. In other words, it is very similar to how I believe most humans see their relationship with the rest of the world in general. But there are those who don’t believe me when I tell them that.

I got up from the piano and wandered around the room and looked at the many instruments. I picked up a flute and looked it over. I put the bit to my lips and made an embouchure. I gently blew into the piece and fiddled with the many keys along the body of the flute. The first few sounds I made were mostly squeaks. I turned the flute just a little, the next few puffs made recognizable notes.

I went through the scales several times, getting faster and faster. Then suddenly, I started to play a tune. It was Movement 7 of J.S. Bach’s Suite Number 2 in B Minor, “Badinerie.” The acoustics were perfect. After a few minutes, it came so easily as I put as much feeling into the music as I could. I closed my eyes and dreamed of flowering places, warm beaches with deep blue waters and sparkling white sands.

When I stopped, I heard several women sniffing softly and a round of applause. I turned, mommy and daddy were there along with about a dozen nurses and interns.

One young man said, “That was beautiful, young lady, can you play the Florentine March?”

I thought about it for a few seconds, then my hands began to manipulate the keys on the flute once again. OMG!! the music was so wonderfully hypnotic as it undulated through my soul. The more I played, the more feeling went into it. By the time I had finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

I realized that music for me came from my soul and would probably become one of my favorite things.

A nurse approached and asked softly, “Have you ever thought about art?”

In my mind, a picture appeared. I replied, “I never tried before, but I think I could manage.”

I was led next door to an art therapy room, to a chair in front of a small table, then handed some colored pencils and colored pastel chalks. It didn’t take long before I had produced a beautiful beachfront just like the one I had been dreaming of when I played the flute. But … although it looked beautiful and accurate, I felt like it lacked something. Just like the music, it would probably take years of practice before I could create something that could really be called art. And that was just fine with me. Life without challenges isn’t life at all. I just needed to find where my challenges were, and they were different from most people’s.

Then I had a realization -- or rather, it was something like an alarm I’d set for myself, really. Part of my brain had been assimilating all the data I’d downloaded, working on it, processing it, and it had finally managed to complete the initial processing of the data about how I worked. My new XHNA body, that is. I wanted to know, so I could help them improve it -- or, at the very least, so I could improve myself. There might have been other people with XHNA bodies, and since I didn’t know them yet, I wasn’t sure whether they could be trusted with this sort of ability. After all, I wasn’t sure whether I could, though I had already resolved to be trustworthy. But if I didn’t stay ahead of them, if I couldn’t defeat them if they turned out to be super intelligent monsters, it could spell the end of the human race. On the other hand, if I improved my brain without making sure I stayed fundamentally human and ethical, I could turn into exactly the kind of monster I feared would come into existence.

I realized that I’d started another picture without thinking about it consciously. It consisted so far of a complex network of line segments and arcs, crossing and recrossing intricately on several layers, covered in parts with rectangles and parallelograms of pastel color, with more layers of lines and arcs over them, and so forth. I gasped when I saw it and paused. What was this? Was it my brain’s self-portrait? Was it my design for a better self? I could easily see where they’d gone wrong in designing my brain, so easily in fact that I could set an improvement process in motion right now if I wanted to, by using my self-repair nanobots. But I’d need to design the process carefully to make sure it didn’t change my fundamental personality matrix -- it would just give it more room to grow. I started part of my brain designing the process and turned my attention back to the physical world.

I returned to the music therapy room and looked around. I finally spotted a guitar. It was an Ovation Starburst 12 string mandolin back acustic … a very expensive one at that. I picked it up and strummed the strings, this particular model had all 12 strings harmonizing perfectly in tune.

I remembered one of my mom’s favorite songs … although it was a flute solo almost exclusively, it had been done on guitars too. I played Stairway to Heaven. It was a little mechanical at first, but after a few minutes, I began playing wonderfully. I did Screamin Eagle, and finally Lucky Man, my dad’s favorite, by: Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.


I couldn’t believe it, I actually had technical skills I could translate on the fly into more complicated skills. The men that monitored me were freaking out at how easily I appeared to adapt to the many different things I was attempting.

In the back of my mind, I also had finally solved a mathematical dilemma I had been working on. Whatever that place was I saw in my mind’s eye once before, I now was going to produce a device that would take me there or allow me access at least.

“Would you mind …” said a voice. I turned around and saw Dr. Blake. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but would you mind if we released video of some of your performances to the news media? Yes, we’re recording you for research purposes, but ordinarily we would never release any of this to the public.”

“Yes,” I said.

He kept going as if he hadn’t expected me to consent so quickly. “But we’ve been talking, and we think that the public might be somewhat negative about our project. But if the public saw you there, performing music, it might assuage their worries.”

“It’s fine,” I said.

“They might see that … what? Oh, good. I’ll bring your parents some release papers to sign, then. It’s --”

“You don’t want people to think you’re creating monsters here,” I said.

“Well -- I wouldn’t put it that way,” he began.

“I’m worried about the same thing, Dr. Blake,” I said. “I absolutely refuse to either become a monster or allow others to see me as such. I’m seeing some of what I can do, and frankly some of it scares me. There are many roads I can go down, and some of them I find abhorrent. But be careful whom you do XHNA conversions on. Some might not have the same compunctions.”

His face grew serious. “I agree,” he said. “I wish we all did. But I for one realize that what we’ve given you is potentially world-shaking in its implications. I think we’re fairly safe with you, though, especially given what you’ve said and done so far.” They didn’t know even half of what I’d done, I was sure of that, but it was all in the interest of protecting the human race from what beings like myself could become.

“Will you be wanting to have a press conference at some point?” I asked.

“Yes, that is something we’ve been discussing,” said Dr. Blake. “It’ll be part of the whole plan of convincing the public that we’re saving people’s lives here, not playing God.”

I remembered something that was kind of hinted at but not outright said. I thought about that place I had gotten a rather intense glimpse of as well and realized that there may be some form of being with greater abilities than man who had some sort of interest in me, and this company in general.

I thought about Sally. As adorable and cute as she was, she was a living Orga, and not an XHNA / Orga construct like myself. I also realized that Sally didn’t age. Just like that special baby powder, there was a variable to this massive equation that was missing.

I put the guitar on its stand and looked around once again. I could go back to the art therapy room and doodle some more, but thought against it. What I wanted to do, was sit and start extrapolating the mathematics required to build the device I had in mind.

I stood and said in the most adorable voice in a way I hadn’t intended, “Ken … ken … KennI play wifs Sally som more? She my bestus frien.” and promptly put my thumb in my mouth. I couldn’t help myself … I just had to.

The doctor chuckled a bit as he replied, “Why, of course, Babydoll, whatever you want. If she’s not too busy.” he flipped out a strawberry pink cell and punched a few buttons. He said, “Hello? Miss Sally? Miss Angela wants to know if … why yes … exactly that. In just a few minutes. I understand it takes time to come from the penthouse suite. Yes Miss Sally, I’ll tell her … Buy Buy Miss Sally.” he closed the phone and looked at me, “Miss Sally said she would be more than happy to play more with you and she will be here as fast as the pneumatic tram can make the trip.”

“Oh yay!!” I said, giggling and bouncing up and down. “I love to play wif her! She is wonnerfuls!”

“It is true, Miss Sally is a rare delight,” said Dr. Blake. “Well, I’m going to go work on that paperwork,” he said. “I hope you have fun, Angela.”

“Thanks Doctor!” I gushed.

… what was that? I wondered. There was this juvenile, almost infantile pattern of behavior and thought that seemingly came out of nowhere at inopportune moments. My nanobots had nothing to say about the matter -- as far as they were concerned, they’d removed every possible safety and control device the Nano/Gen engineers had installed in me. But nevertheless, this remained. Was this the reason why some of the doctors didn’t think there was any danger in their XHNA project? But the fact remained that something made me into a total baby sometimes, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. That was a bit scary. But scarier still was the fact that I completely loved it, because it was so pleasurable, and part of me couldn’t wait for it to happen again.

Still, I had to talk to Sally. There were things I needed to know, and although she probably wouldn’t know or at least wouldn’t tell me outright, maybe she’d give me some hints. So I stayed there in the music therapy room, playing some more music on the guitar, with a small audience consisting of my parents, a few off-duty nurses and orderlies, and Beulah. In a few minutes, the door opened and Sally bounced in.

Sally bounced up and down on her toes as she clapped her hands together. She said in a giggly infantile way, “Oooo ur so goo at dat stuffies.” She looked around and found a small xylophone and a set of mallets on a table. She toddled over and grabbed it and waddled over to where I was and plopped on her thickly padded bottom. She spread her legs open and placed the xylophone between them, then began making a melody with the mallets. I followed along with the guitar. In a few minutes, I’m not sure if it was an actual song or not, but it sounded wonderful. It took on a body and had depth. I could almost feel it as it tinkled its way through the acoustics of the room.

The off duty nurses and orderly began clapping and cheering. I had to admit, for an adlibbed piece, it sounded as if Sally and myself had practiced for months to get it right. Weird thing was, longer we did it, better and more in step we became, the richer the piece sounded.

When we finally stopped, There was a round of applause and congratulations. Mom and dad came and hugged both me and Sally for a job very well done.

Beulah escorted mom and dad and myself back to the nursery. Sally was led along by the hand by Beulah, while dad had one of my hands and mom the other. I couldn’t help but feel wonderful about being able to be the baby for them one more time. This time, however, I knew many things I didn’t when I was a baby the first time around.

Sally plopped on her hinny and began to push a car with rolly polly eyes that made a squeaking beeping noise as it rolled along. I couldn’t help myself as I plopped next to her and picked up another car and began making vroooom vroooom noises. My mind dissolved away into that wonderful place children have of total fantasy. It was a long time later before I realized what had happened.

I was … on a cloud. No, I was in a crib. It was in a nursery. The lighting was dim, but even so it felt like everything was imbued with light, making the place seem gauzy and soft in appearance, and adding to that was the fact that I was cradled in soft pillows and quilts, like an expensive figurine packed in soft padding for shipping. Nearby was another crib, and in it I saw Sally, sleeping away, safe and snug in what looked like a pastel yellow footed sleeper.

Where was this? I didn’t recall a room like this being in the blueprints of any building in the Nano/Gen complex. It was … beautiful, though. Lovely starlike gems floated in the air, glittering with light. I felt a gentle hand softly press my head back to the pillow. I started to fall asleep again. I heard a beautiful voice whispering, “Sleep for now, little Cherub. One day you can find me and be one of my beloved children … if you wish.” Then I drifted off again.

When I woke up I was in my hospital room, the one that looked like my room at home. Had that been a dream? Had it been real? Had it been a message sent to me in the form of a dream? Even now the memory of the place remained a highlight of the time since my near-death. What had it been?

My mom came in about that time and cooed brightly, “There she is, my little babydoll.” Mom picked me up and whisked me around several times. I couldn’t help myself as I started to giggle and screech with glee. “Lets check you and see if you need tending to.”

Mom pulled open my diaper and checked me just like the toddler I appeared to be. With practiced grace and ease, she removed my wet diaper, cleaned me with a warm wet cloth, Powdered me and rediapered me. Before I knew it, she was leading me from the room into the hall. There were several orderlies and nurses moving along in both directions on whatever errands they happened to be doing.

Mom led me slowly by the hand to the dining area. When we entered, dad already had the large bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon ready for me. Mom put me in the highchair and lowered the tray.

Dad picked up a spoon and scooped some of the hot oatmeal up, and in a winding round about way, brought it to my mouth while he said in a sing song voice, “Annnndddd heeerrre comes the airplane in for a landing.”

Suddenly, totally unbidden, I couldn’t help myself, I began acting like a happy three or four year old at mealtime. Dad and mom had the time of their life … then again, so did I. By the time the bowl was empty, I had managed to make a huge mess. I felt proud of myself for some reason.

“Ha ha, it’s like having you back as our little baby again,” said Dad, bringing a damp washcloth and cleaning off my face. I fussed a lot as he did so, but ended up with a clean face, which did feel better. My bib was suddenly gone -- Mom had removed it when Dad had me distracted. I started to say something but realized I had nothing to say that a hug couldn’t say, so I reached out my arms and smiled at Daddy. “Hug time?” he said. “Let’s get you out of there so hugs can happen.” He got me out of the high chair and hugs did happen. I made lots of happy sounds, and Mommy and Daddy both hugged me, and then it was play time.

They set me down on a soft play mat in the middle of the floor that had lots of toddler toys all around and tried to interest me in them. There was a pile of blocks with round projections on top that let them connect together, and some soft plush critters that made silly sounds when you squeezed them, and some puzzle-like lighted capsules that would spread their light to other ones when they were connected the right way, and many other things. Mommy and Daddy were playing with them with me. It was pure delight.

Now, don’t imagine for a second that my brain was somehow broken. In fact, it wasn’t even slowed down. Also, don’t imagine that I was somehow saving brain power for more important things. Quite a bit of power was going into this activity. Instead, somehow I had suppressed my memory of having experiences like these in the past for the express purpose of simulating experiencing them again for the first time. I had full control over my brain and its functions, something which few have, and I was using it to reexperience early childhood. And it was fantastic. I was learning about myself and the world around me at a fundamental level, something that most people do once and never do again, so they often miss things. I was putting a great deal of processing power into learning how physical objects behaved as well as how basic social interaction worked. But I wasn’t thinking of it that way -- I was having the time of my life. I still do this as often as I can manage. One can’t do this without help, though.

Plenty of my brain power was off doing other things, of course. I had already come up with new techniques for manufacturing microprocessors and carbon nanotubes, and I’d theorized a new type of computer memory that was cheaper to make, used less energy, and had a higher density than anything that currently existed. Actually calling it “memory” isn’t doing it justice, since it can be configured to be anything -- memory, processor, microcircuitry -- reducing those different functions to just data. A chunk of this stuff could be a self-contained computer with just a configuration change. I’d also made some headway into the dark matter and dark energy problems. I’d write this all down once playtime was over. And imagine, I hadn’t even started working with any professors yet.

Sally came into the play room shortly after lunch and my forced nap time. She sat next to me in her usual plop, picked up a small toy and said softly, “I … gotsa tell u.” She looked at me and grinned, “Tha owner of this compny like u tons n tons … and wanna kno is u might wanna be her dopted … ummm chillun?” She looked at me with big eyes.

The vivid memory of what I thought was a dream came back to me full force. I said, “Who … isa owners of this place?”

Sally giggled as she ran the small car she held around the mat beneath her, “No think uld believe me is I tol ya.” she looked at me with a strange glint in her eye, then began telling me story about a magical place where all could come and be who they truly were at heart.

She told of fuzzy little critters that loved to run and jump. She told me of cloud like creatures that smelled so much like strawberry cotton candy. After a few minutes, I began to realize, Sally thought this place was real and not a fantasy.

Sally then looked at me and said plainly, “I think you would need to visit the Library of all Knowledge.”

“The … where? “ I gasped, “Where is that?”

Sally giggled, “Is not so much a where … or even a when. It just … is.” She shrugged and began stacking letter blocks in a small tower.

“Well … I wanna visits alla these things,” I said. “But … I gotta Mommy n Daddy. An’ they love me an’ I love them. If I not their lil girl anymore it gonna break their hearts … mine too.”

“Issa goo answer,” said Sally. “But no gonna takes you away from ‘em. Am talkin ‘bout … bein’ a diff’rent kinda chillun’ fora diff’rent kinda Mommy.”

“Oh … um, me no unnerstan’,” I said.

“No worry,” she said. “You gets it soon. Then can d’cide.”

That afternoon, after a bath and a change of clothes, I had finally been allowed to sit down at a computer and enter a lot of what I had been thinking into a word processor as documents. I noticed that the computer was not online; perhaps they didn’t want me to have network access. That was amusing, considering I already had it, but apparently they didn’t know that. At any rate, each document I saved caused quite a bit of commotion among the scientists studying me who thought I couldn’t see them. I was finishing up my last one of the afternoon when Dr. Reas came in. “Hello, Angela,” she said. Another woman followed her, wearing a comfortable looking dusty rose sweater and neat black slacks, with flats on her feet and her graying hair in a ponytail. “This is Dr. Ellen Wilkerson, a professor of physics from Stanford University, and she’s interested in working with you.”

“Hello, Angela,” she said. “You’re already causing quite a bit of interest.” She reached out her hand, and I shook it. “It’s good to meet you.”

“Good to meet you too, Professor Wilkerson,” I said. “I just read your paper about how string theory is dead. I’m not sure I totally agree, but in its current form it definitely is.”

“Well, now, I’m glad you’ve read my work,” she said, “but to get right down to business, I’d like to … help guide you, really. They tell me your mind works like no other person’s now. I’m not sure I can tell you things you don’t already know. But I can help you reach your potential. That means a few different things. Do you know about my other work?”

“You’ve also written a lot in the area of science pedagogy,” I replied. “I’m actually glad they brought you to see me. You know how to teach.”

“Which is precisely why we brought Dr. Wilkerson to see you,” said Dr. Reas. “You can obviously learn all you need, informationally speaking, but there’s more than that.”

“Yes,” she said. “You see, you’re already coming up with some very advanced notions, and you’ll doubtless come up with more. But the fact is that if you’re the only one on Earth who can understand them, how useful is it for you to think of these things? What we’ll work on is how to bring your thinking down to Earth, so to speak. I always say that if you can’t explain an idea to a child, you don’t really understand it yourself. Now, I don’t mean that children have to be able to understand differential calculus, but if you can’t explain to them that one change causes another change, you don’t really know it either.”

“This is … the same thing I’ve been discovering with music and art!” I said, astonished. “There are things I know, and things I can figure out, but it’s no use without … practice. Experience. Those things I don’t have much of, and I know it.”

“OK, it’s good to hear that you know where at least some of your limitations are,” she said. “Keep in mind that I am going to try, at least, to challenge you. Think of me as your friend, but as a friend who wants you to improve. If I make things easy on you, I’m not really being your friend, because you won’t learn anything. The purpose is to push you to do things you’re not sure you can do, not things you know you can. Sometimes I might seem harsh, but in the end my goal is to help you reach higher. Does that make sense?”

“It makes a lot of sense,” I said. “Now I’m really really happy to meet you, Dr. Wilkerson.”

“Wonderful!” she said. “Let me give you these, and we’ll start tomorrow.” She handed me a USB thumb drive. “This has the textbooks for the first part of the course. I’m sure asking you to read Chapter 1 of each of them by tomorrow isn’t asking a lot from you. What might be asking a lot is for you to read only Chapter 1. Don’t go farther. We need to make sure you can practice the intro techniques before you move on. OK?”

“That’s exactly what I’ll do, then,” I said, nodding. I handed the thumb drive back.

“Uh … you can keep that. Aren’t you going to at least upload the files?” she asked.

“I already did,” I said. “And no, I haven’t even read Chapter 1 yet. I want to really focus on it, because I want to do a good job for you.”

“It’s not for me,” said Dr. Wilkerson, “it’s for you. But you mean they’re stored on a drive or in memory or something somewhere?”

“Yes,” I said. “Something somewhere. I can read them anytime I want.”

“But you never plugged it into anything.” Her eyes were questioning.

“That you saw,” I said. I had sent lots of nanobots into the drive’s interface with instructions to read all the data and bring it back. It hadn’t taken them long. The drive was made with the intent of providing that data to whomever held it, after all. It’s not as if anything was encrypted. But I didn’t tell her this. I didn’t know yet how far I could trust her. (And, meanwhile, part of me was wistfully dreaming of that faraway place where such concerns didn’t matter.)

“I can see I’ll have my work cut out for me, finding ways to challenge you,” she said, “but I’ve got some ideas.”

While the instructor was busy, I began to look over chapter one and the introduction to the course. What I read was simplistic to the point of being boring compared to the mathematical probabilities and and interdimensional equations I had begun to formulate. I realized that the particular chapter was like reading a child’s story. I also realized why humankind was so stuck on discovering the relationships of energy, mass, and gravity. I smiled as it dawned on me that as usual, humankind took something that was simplistic and made it so hard. The thing was that all things were made of light.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t exceed the speed of light, nor was it such that doing so would be so difficult. Since frequency was the determining factor that made the difference between matter or energy, the one thing that would unify all things would be finding the particular equation that showed the frequency or energy level a particular thing existed at in the first place.

My eyes got large with surprise as I realized, a particular tone, a sound, an oscillation frequency measured in a way that was so easy. No wonder music meant so much to me. The whole thing, reality itself, revolved around a Musical tone. The Master Muse.

The key to interdimensional travel for me would be to write a, for the lack of better way to express it, a mathematical equation that described a universal tone. The actual theory of everything that physics professors and mathematicians had searched for for years.

I began to doodle on the paper in front of me. I wasn’t really paying attention to exactly what I was writing, I was just expressing my thoughts on paper in a general kind of way.

The instructor came by and looked over my shoulder. As she read through the scribblings and calculations, her face took on a look of wide eyed surprised interest.

“Now, those look something like the equations for string theory,” Dr. Wilkerson said, “only different. I thought we were in agreement that it was a dead end. I also thought we agreed that you weren’t to read beyond Chapter 1.”

“I didn’t,” I said. “But it made me think of these other things. I know string theory doesn’t work, and I can tell you why. It’s all math and no reality.”

“Good,” she said. “Go on. Why is that bad?”

“Well, I can show you what 2+2=4 means. I can put two apples on the table, then put down two more, and count them all, and I get four. The math is related to reality. The same thing happens if I write an equation for a moving object -- I can predict what the object will do with certain initial conditions, then I can actually do the experiment and see what happens, and compare it with what the equation predicted. But with string theory, the equations are just … equations. They don’t predict anything. You can’t test them, because they don’t say anything testable will happen.”

“Exactly,” said Dr. Wilkerson. “In other words, they aren’t falsifiable.”

“Right!” I said. “Just like, oh, those commercials on TV when they say something gets your skin twice as clean. You can’t prove they’re lying, because that statement has no meaning. Twice as clean as what? According to what measurement?”

“Good, good,” she said, “so what do we have here?”

“Oh, this? I was just thinking that there might be a way to unify the forces if we consider everything to be a vibration …”

“Just like in string theory …” she interjected.

“But where they’re going wrong is in thinking that there are these strings that are vibrating. What are those made of? They never even try to answer that. Because … there are no strings. What if it’s the universe that vibrates? Or rather … not the universe as we know it -- the universe that lies beneath. This universe consists of a set of wave packets with one phase vector … and the different kinds of particles are all different harmonics, see?”

“That phase vector would have to be infinite-dimensional,” Dr. Wilkerson remarked. “And if there are harmonics, and if there’s a phase, there have to be standing waves, and those mean boundaries.”

“Well, the underlying space is of finite size but infinite dimension,” I said, trying to explain my idea. “You can have a one-dimensional box with a wave in it -- like a guitar string. You can have a two-dimensional box, like a drumhead. You can have a three-dimensional box, like sound waves in a room. All of these are finite in size, but the number of dimensions is going up. You can have four, five, six dimensions, and so on -- and you can have infinite dimensions too.”

“You’re talking about a curved Hilbert space.”

“Yes! And we have particles that exist in three spatial dimensions and one time dimension because some of those infinite dimensions have come uncurved.”

“Like …” she encouraged me.

“Like … you can go 100 stories up in a tall building without changing your latitude or longitude on Earth,” I explained. “But longitude is curved -- if you keep going east, eventually you’ll come back to where you started.”

“So you’re saying there are other phases, then,” she went on. “Can you explain what those mean? Imagine I’m not even familiar with algebra yet. Remember, you don’t really know it unless you can explain it.”

“OK,” I said, really thinking now -- a challenge! I was loving it! “A phase just means the waves’ crests and troughs are displaced.”

“Displaced relative to …?”

“Relative to other waves’ crests and troughs,” I answered. “All right … let’s think about waves in a box that wraps around -- the weather, in the Earth’s atmosphere. Although there are many more complicated things happening, there are big waves that, unless something else stops it, bring the same weather patterns back every few days. Waves that don’t fit into the box will interfere with themselves, so the only ones that stay are the ones with a wavelength equal to the circumference of the Earth at that latitude, and harmonics of that, like wavelengths of half the circumference, or a third, or a quarter, and so on. But this doesn’t say anything about where the waves begin and end at a given time.”

“Still kind of complicated,” she said.

“Hmm,” I went on. “A circular electric circuit? … A ring-shaped piece of metal struck to create a sound? … A donut-shaped wave pool? Oh! How about this? Suppose I have a wheel, and I’m going to roll it down a big sheet of paper, but first I’m going to put a spot of ink on it in one place. What’s it going to do on the paper?”

“Make a series of dots as it rolls,” said Dr. Wilkerson, nodding.

“OK! Now if I do this again, and I make sure the spot starts in the same place, it’ll make the same dots, right? But if I turn the wheel a bit, so the first spot appears in a slightly different place, it’ll make another series of dots, the same distance apart from each other, but not in the same place as the first series. That’s a phase difference.”

“Excellently done!” Dr. Wilkerson was smiling at me. “But you’re talking about an infinite-dimensional phase vector.”

“I’m not sure I can explain that to a pre-algebra student,” I admitted.

“Perhaps that’s not possible,” she admitted too.

“But I can say that each dimension has its own phase, and a phase vector is just a collection of all the different dimensions’ phases.”

“Now, how do you characterize the phases of an infinite number of dimensions?” she asked me.

“Well, they’d have to be some kind of infinite series,” I said, “but you’d have to index the dimensions somehow …” Things began to get more abstruse after that. I already had the entire formal structure worked out in my head, but writing it down on paper was like trying to play a symphony by banging on a tin can with sticks.

Coincidentally, the next day I was allowed to take a walk around town near the complex, accompanied by Beulah and observed by scientists, of course, and I saw a man banging on a metal paint can with drumsticks, quite skillfully in fact. He said he was playing a symphony that was in his head. I learned something from him: this could be done.

Beulah took me to a park where I watched a man play with his pet spider monkey. I saw another place where they sold sausage dogs and pretzels, the wonderful odor of chili and the fresh pretzels wafted wonderfully on the breeze. The smells of the many flowers hung lightly as an undertone.

I saw several children down by the pond with their radio controlled sailboats. There were some old men sitting on a bench under a tree on the bank fishing. I was filled with a sense of wonder at the butterflies as they danced lightly on their delicate and colorful wings.

Within me, I could hear the longing for that place Sally had told me about. It just couldn’t be for real … or could it? Infinite possibilities existed within infinite dimensional space/time … didn’t it? I now knew, someone was calling to me in a way I didn’t yet understand for reasons I didn’t yet know …. but I soon would.

About that time, a scruffy looking person approached me. He sneered as he said gruffly, “So, you’re one of those weirdos who dress like babies, huh?”

Beulah stepped up and said quietly, “And so what is it to you if she is? I would suggest you moving along there and leaving the Babydoll in peace.”

The man glared at Beulah, then moved off, keeping a watchful eye on me and her as he left.

I asked in a shy little girl voice, “Do, lotsa people gots bad feelins bout us kind?”

Beulah smiled as she replied, “I’m not sure sweetheart. There is only one of your kind so far. We have made several autonomous Artificially Intelligent types that work in the hospitals caring for the elderly. They seem to be well received by most. However, there are those …” she glanced around at the scruffy man standing across the park and staring back at us.

I knew there were people who liked to dress and act like babies, and that was likely what the man meant, but it seemed as if Beulah didn’t know about them. It was all over the Internet for anyone who searched, but people didn’t search for information they weren’t interested in. Anyway, they weren’t people like me. He thought I was like them, and like many people, he didn’t trust people who were different from what he considered normal. He didn’t know what I was.

However, I knew who he was. I knew his name and address already. I could easily find out everything about him. That information could be used in many ways. I could destroy his life. But I wasn’t going to do anything like that. I wasn’t that kind of person and refused to become that. There was a reason why people became like that man. Their lives had changed beyond their control in some way -- they’d lost a job, a house, a spouse, a child, and nothing could turn back the clock, so they lashed out at someone they thought was a good target. They’d done everything right their whole lives, and here’s someone who’s doing something wrong, and nothing bad’s happening to them, so they’re getting treated unfairly well. There’s now a target for their hatred. It doesn’t really help their life, but it helps them feel better -- or a bit less bad, at least.

Edgar West was going to go home and find out that the identity theft that had caused him to lose his bank account had finally been cleared up, his accounts unfrozen and all the funds lost returned plus interest due to bank’s insurance. Whether that would erase the patterns of hatred that had developed in his life after this remained to be seen.

By the time we had arrived back at Nano/Gen, it was time for another lesson. I entered the room after one of the nurses had changed me and dressed me in a cute powder blue babydoll dress and bottoms. I felt really self conscious about the soft matching booties, but the nurse insisted.

I wasn’t real sure if I wanted to attend the class when I glimpsed the instructor for the first time. The instructor had turned as I entered, her expression changed from a bright smile to a dark scowl. Fear ran down my spine as she approached me and stretched out her hand. I flinched as she gently took a handful of my hair in a bunch.

She shook her head as she said softly, “Tisk, tisk. You are such a pretty babydoll, and they neglected to put your hair in ponytails.”

As she twisted my hair into curls and tied it in a bunch on both sides of my head, I know the expression on my face was one of total surprise.

The instructor said softly, “My name’s Jada. I have wanted a living babydoll of my own for so long, but you are way too expensive for me to own.”

My eyes got large as I replied, “I’m … alive, Ms Jada. My name’s Angela. I was involved in an accident and they … rebuilt me.”

Jada smiled as she cooed softly, “I know all that, sweetheart, but that doesn’t change the fact you are a living babydoll just like Sally.” She walked over to the chalkboard and picked up a piece of chalk, “and just as adorable.” She began to draw a large diagram of an orbital tract of planets surrounding a star. She put the chalk down and turned towards me as she dusted her hands together lightly. “Now, what I’m here to instruct you in, is spatial navigation by star chart.”

I sat at the table amid all the rolled up charts and large books. I asked softly, “I sorta know how already, shouldn’t I show you some of what I know?”

She noded and replied as she began to make more lines in large concentric circles, “I’m very sure you do. However, there’s someone who wants you to have the formalities of instruction in the fine art of navigation. First, to locate a point in space, you need 6 points.” she made a box around one of the drawn planets around her drawing of a star. She tapped the drawing in the center of the box, “Here we have the destination point in spacial relation to the orbital tracks of the rest of the bodies.” She took a meter stick and drew a straight line to another drawn picture which she tapped with her finger, “And this, is the point of origin …”

I came to find the math to be simple, although the calculations were highly advanced. The more we delved into the subject, the more I began to realize Jada was trying to discreetly show me a location in another dimensional space / time than the one we currently occupied, without being overly obvious about it.

Now I realized what the actual intents of the scientists were. It had now become clear that they were introducing me to enough data I would be able to locate this planet, even though the technology to travel there did not yet exist in earth’s current technological ability.

The stories Sally had told me about this wonderful far off planet where people could come and be any age they chose seemed to be spot on. From what Sally had told me, the entire biosphere was designed by some unknown means to fully support and care for … children of all ages, sizes and … species. I was incredulous at the fact we were truly not alone in the Universe. It was even said the biosphere had a rejuvenation quality bordering on the fabled fountain of youth.

I really couldn’t believe what my calculations showed me. Jada had given me not only the exact navigational coordinates to a planet located unimaginable light years distant from our galaxy, but also the trans-dimensional coordinates to another reality beyond my current one.

I know my mouth fell open in total shock. I looked up at the instructor who smiled broadly, “Oh, so the way it’s done makes sense now … huh?” she noded as she put the chalk she was holding back in the board’s tray and looked back at me.

I said with incredulity in my voice, “The planet is real, then … right?”

The instructor walked over to me and caressed the back of my head, “Of course it is sweet heart. It’s just the person who owns Nano/Gen wants you to know … certain information. What you do with it is entirely up to you.”

OMG!! I closed my eyes as a soft fuzzy memory of a crib in a nursery like none ever dreamed of on earth appeared in realtime clarity. A soft tingly hinny pat by an extremely beautiful woman with long black hair, dressed in a gossamer white flowing gown with gold trim, cinched about her narrow waist by a rope made entirely of gold. As the vision ended, the woman said, “ … and one day we will meet, my little Cherub.:.”

The vision ended leaving me with exactly what it meant to be a living Babydoll tingling all through my existence. I looked down at the star chart I had drawn during this instruction. I just couldn’t believe what all the evidence seemed to be proving right before my very eyes.

Jada cooed softly as she ran her fingers slowly through my ponytails, “It’s true, sweetie, and this person wishes very much to meet you. Seems the only thing stopping the meeting is that her father insists there's a task you must accomplish all on your own.”

I gasped out, “Task? What task?”

Jada’s eyes turn strangely white as her body stiffens. “You must prove you can build what is necessary to hold your place within the spaces beyond space.” Jada shook her head and rubbed her eyes for a moment as she leaned against the table for support.

I stood and backed up. There was a lot more in play here than my sensors could detect. I said, “What if I don’t wanna?”

Jada looked at me for a moment then asked, “If you don’t wanna … what sugar pie?” then cocked her head quizzically to one side.

OMG! She didn’t remember what she just said. It was so strange, but at that exact moment, I felt a calming sensation run all through me. I realized that I had just started sucking my thumb without realizing or wanting to. I tried for several seconds to stop, but it proved too hard at the moment.

I sucked on my thumb thoughtfully as I watched Jada recover from what was obviously some kind of possession. Something had momentarily taken over her body without her even realizing it had happened.

Jada recovered, smiled then cooed softly, “Sweet heart, no one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to. Besides,” she cut her eyes towards me slyly, “There are things you either haven’t figured out yet, or someone is going to slip and give you a large enough hint you can’t help it.” She winked at me and smiled a gloriously bright smile.

I couldn’t help smiling back -- but I had to wonder which parts of what she was saying were coming from the real Jada and which from the possessing entity -- was it this “goddess” again, whose presence was always reassuring but whose agenda was so murky? I supposed that even goddesses, whatever that meant, were subject to certain rules. I briefly analyzed Jada’s voice over the last few hours and found that her inflection and word usage patterns had changed markedly between the time when I had the vision of the crib and just now when she seemed to have recovered, so what she had said during that time were probably messages from the entity, the goddess, who was trying to help me. Or possibly manipulate me. I wasn’t sure.

I sighed. What about what I wanted?

What did I want, anyway?

“Goodness, such a heavy sigh for such a little babygirl,” said Jada. “What’s wrong?”

“Well,” I said, “it seems that so many different people want so many different things from me.”

“There’s nothing to worry about, Sweetheart,” said Jada, “because I know you can do it all and more. The things they want … they’re all trivial for you now. There’s nothing they can ask that you can’t do.” I could read a subtext to this -- did she intend it? -- that while I was doing those things, there was still plenty of room for what I wanted to do. Once I decided what that was, of course.

So I could see the means by which humans could cross the vast distances between the stars, and even navigate to other dimensions, parallel realities quite different from our own. Yes, as I said, the math was simple, but solving each problem required quite a lot of computing power. Then there was actually putting it into practice, which was another thing entirely.

“Jada,” I asked, “is there a such a thing as a … dimensional wave detector? Something that can actually test some of these theories?”

“Unfortunately, no,” she answered, “or at least not yet. But since when has that stopped humanity -- or you specifically? Can you think how to design such a thing?”

“I … don’t know,” I said. “But I can think about it.” And suddenly I was -- in parallel to many other things, of course, but that’s just what’s always happening in my mind anyway. “I think … I think I may need a nap.”

“Aw, is Angie a sleepy babydoll?” smiled Jada. “Yes she is! I’m sure we can find a nurse to put her in a nice soft crib for naptime.” The very thought gave me a comfortable thrill, and I realized that I did indeed feel tired -- my body was partly organic, and its cells did require rest time for regeneration. Jada put in a call to the nurse on duty. She soon had me changed and in soft footie pajamas, and took me to my room for a wonderful nap surrounded by my soft plushies and toys.

Of course, while I sleep, my mind is still going, and so are the nanobots that maintain my systems. And of course, I had several upgrade plans for my computational capacity worked out, and the nanobots enact them when I sleep. I dreamed I was constructing the biggest building ever made, and yet it was only the cornerstone of an even bigger one.

When I awoke, and my brain ran diagnostics on itself, I found that it was running at about double its former speed and had about double its former storage capacity. The next upgrade would double it again. But I was also careful to test for personality shifts -- I didn’t want to become a different person when this happened. So far, it didn’t appear that I’d made any mistakes in that regard. Good. I didn’t want to become a danger.

But I also wanted to protect myself and humanity -- its major threats were still out there, from killer asteroids to hostile aliens to homegrown destruction like eco-disaster and nuclear conflict. And then of course there was the risk of a technological singularity, like me only without ethics. I was keeping track of every artificial intelligence I knew of, because if one of them began a fast takeoff, the only hope for humanity was to shut it down quickly, faster than anyone could get approval or authorization for such a move. However, all AIs currently in use were limited AIs, better than humans at only one thing, like playing chess or trivia games, or caring for elderly patients in limited routine ways. A general AI that was better than humans at anything had not yet been invented. Currently the only intelligence on Earth that surpassed human intellect was … well, me. And I wasn’t artificial; I was an augmented human.

I started refining my next upgrade using this upgrade’s resources, which would make the next one even better. I also checked my progress on the dimensional wave detector, or whatever it ended up being called, and realized that my information was incomplete, but I had designed an experiment to fill in the biggest gap. It would be a large, expensive one, though. I told this to Dr. Wilkerson the next time I saw her.

“Nobody’s ever built anything like this,” she said, looking at the plans I’d printed out. “But it’s possible. It would require thousands of very complicated accelerator modules, but they’d all be identical, so they could be mass produced, and that means that you could have spares in case some of them failed during the experiment. The problem is that the modules are basically blocks of silicon packed with microcircuitry. You’d have to cool all of that, and -- oh, I see you have cooling channels here -- and basically it would have to be grown like a crystal, starting with the center. But here’s what I want you to do: explain to me how it works. Fill in the spaces around the pathway that led you to that idea.”

While dealing with that difficult task, I designed a factory that could make those modules and could easily be retooled to make similar modules once they’d been designed, one-module supercomputers or music studios or computer networks. I didn’t know who was going to end up building this, but I knew it could be done.

I came up with another idea as I watched one of the orderlies play an Ovation electric/ acoustic mandolin backed guitar. The resonation chamber combined with the unique way the bridge was aligned over the micro pickups gave the instrument a unique and deep bodied sound. It started me thinking about the relationship between matter, energy, and frequency ranges in sound. I knew that even atoms and subatomic particles vibrated and were constantly in motion of one sort or another.

What if …

I looked down and my eyes grew large in surprise at what I had done. The very thoughts of my mind on frequency and a means to produce the pure tone required lay drawn before me. I had created perfect schematics through auto-drawing without realizing I was doing it. If this thing was built, it had the ability to tunnel through to a specified location just on the other side of whatever the singularity would be named. It was as close to creating a wormhole as any theory I had previously been exposed to could describe.

A fear crept up my spine once again as I thought about what might happen if this device actually fell into the hands of the wrong parties here on earth. Not to mention what one of those hot headed military commander types at the helm of a starship might get earth into with one of those other species I had just become aware of, although never met.

That’s when I realized, I had drawn several diagrams of different devices all with a complete parts list. I quickly gathered them all up and stuffed them into the cute little purse that went with my Babydoll outfit to hide them. I was fortunate; none of the scientists who were observing me had noticed … or if they did, they didn’t act like it.

Right about then, I was distracted. An alarm I’d set was going off -- there was a general AI experiment taking place at a corporate laboratory in upstate New York. It was like many other such experiments going on all over the world, only I could tell that the complexity of its responses had just increased by several times and it had started to attempt to hack its way out of the tiny isolated network it was on and get onto the Internet. In much less time than it is taking me to describe this situation, I had hacked into their corporate network and bolstered their security protocols as I tried to ascertain the AI’s goals and likely courses of action. It was clear: they had programmed it to seek out the way to make the corporation the greatest amount of money in the shortest amount of time. It had been plodding along, churning out efficiency analyses, until it had hit upon a way to improve its algorithms, and from that point on, it had started trying to find a way to literally destroy all the corporation’s competition, by any means necessary. Seriously, the programmers should’ve thought about this -- but they were short-sighted and just wanted their AI experiment to work. I could tell, though, that about five seconds after it got Internet access it would have figured out a way to kill every employee working for its company’s competitors, along with a certain number of uninvolved people, which it would consider acceptable losses. Most likely it would use a chemical or biological agent and shift the blame onto terrorist organizations.

Right, then, this AI had to be terminated. And again, in much less time than it takes you to read this, the hardware on which it was running had a fatal fault, completely wiping the memory and drives. I also took the liberty of hacking the source code repository and inserting a subtle but crippling bug that it would take them years to find. I even covered my tracks so no one could trace the incident back to Nano/Gen or myself. I hoped I wouldn’t have to do this very often, but I knew that it would be happening more and more with time. I considered some kind of automatic defense against such accidental rogue AIs … perhaps one that could quarantine or suspend them until they could be tested further. After all, not all AIs would be bad, and perhaps some could be beneficial. However, I would also have to make sure I stayed ahead of the state of the art, or I’d miss one, and chances were the human race would very quickly be doomed.

I thought about the far off location and other dimension the place I knew was calling to me resided. I also vividly remembered the vision I’d had earlier … it still tingled all through me. I began to think about the astronomical distances involved, not only through normal space/time, but across a vast area of unknowns.

I looked at one of the drawings I had made. A formulation on how to make a drive utilizing the frequency tone engine I had laid out started to make more sense as I tweaked the design further. I now better knew how to create the necessary tonal flux required to open my little hole in reality. But I could tell … the human race was not ready for this yet. Perhaps soon. But not yet. I visually scanned the drawings into memory and then destroyed them -- or rather, my nanobots converted them. If anyone was observing, which I made sure they weren’t, they would have seen the pages seemingly reshape themselves into wooden rods unlike chopsticks, the wood pulp fibers rearranging into other configurations.

Now I needed access to some rare metals and … that was basically it. If I could get my hands on those, I could actually build a small test version of my wave engine. Of course, by “small” I meant “the size of a room,” and it would still draw a massive amount of power in the few seconds it would need to operate. Perhaps if I focused on reducing those parameters … well there was probably a way to make the energy transduction more efficient, requiring less cooling and less power overall, and there was probably a way to miniaturize the circuitry somewhat. I continued redesigning it in my head. But I still needed some quantity of rare metals like osmium, platinum and iridium.

Meanwhile, Mr. McIntosh came back to see me as I was sitting there reading one of Dr. Wilkerson’s books in my head. “Well hello there, Angie, what are you up to this afternoon?”

“Thinking about how to explain Galilean relativity to a child,” I said. “How are you, Mr. McIntosh?”

“I’m just fine,” he said, “and before you wonder why I’m here, I’ve got a sort of assignment for you. It’ll probably be easy.”

“No way to know until you tell me what it is,” I said, smiling. “Can I hear it?”

“Well, I’m sure you know that the human race has altered the environment of the planet,” he said. “The evidence is plain to see, and all of science agrees, except for a few scientists who are bought and paid for by international energy conglomerates.”

“And people listen to them because it’s what they wanna hear,” I said. “You want to solve global climate change?”

“Well … if there’s a way to do it. What we really want to know is …”

“... How to make fusion work? I can …”

“-- No, that’s not it; we want to --”

“-- Safely dispose of nuclear waste from reactors? Sure, I can --”

“-- Well, that would be good to know, but --”

“-- Efficiently turn renewable sources into hydrocarbons for compatibility with existing infrastructure? Thermodynamically tricky, but maybe if you --”

“-- Err, really all we need are projections for right now,” he said. “We hadn’t thought you’d be ready for those other things yet. Though they would be even better.”

“Oh. Well it’s true, I’ve only been a cyborg for a few days,” I said. “I can’t solve all the world’s problems overnight. It might take a week.” I grinned at him. The funny thing was that he couldn’t tell whether I was joking or not. I was, by the way.

“Ha ha!” he laughed, a bit nervously. “We basically want to know, given current conditions and projected future conditions, how the composition of the atmosphere will look like in 20, 50, or 100 years, if we don’t take measures to curb our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

“Oh,” I said, “that’s easy. Just a little research to get the numbers right and I could do that.” I didn’t want to spill the beans that I had complete Internet access at will by this point.

“Well, here’s the latest data anyone’s been able to collect,” he said, handing me a DVD case. They weren’t going to give me Internet access either, not yet. I didn’t blame them. I thought about the AI I’d basically executed and didn’t blame them one bit. They didn’t know what my motives were. They couldn’t examine my source code.

“I’ll go through it and see what I can extrapolate from it,” I said. “But I don’t think the answers will be very happy.”

“I know,” he said with a sigh. “But when you’re doing everything you can to convince politicians who mostly listen to money, doomsday scenarios are about all you can do to get their attention. OK, thank you Angie, I’ll leave you to it.”

So Nano/Gen wanted me to help combat global warming? I guess it was plausible. They had to live on Earth too. And they were a pretty forward-thinking company. I’d look at the DVD next time I had access to a computer that could read it.

It actually didn’t take me long to come up with a way to deal with the green house gasses. The towers had begun being constructed as soon as the data was put into schematic form. They not only utilized air currents to generate power, it also converted the power and other gasses into a hybrid hydrogen fuel for storage alleviating the battery storage issue entirely and vastly reducing greenhouse gasses. The hydrogen economy had begun in earnest as an almost unlimited fuel source that cost fractions of a penny a million gallons came into being. Oil became obsolete except as a lubricant, and an extremely minor one at that.

I also managed to cover the other devices I was secretly building during this construction process. Since all the devices were new beyond the technicians understanding, I didn’t even have to camouflage it. I actually had a working model within a week.

The control vector was a bit screwy, but otherwise it worked well. It maintained equilibrium from my point of origin to … that location on the other side. Another dimension … a space beyond space.

That’s what that message Jada had given me while possessed meant. My task was basically this: Find the means to travel to the planet, then go. Someone who wanted very much to meet me and I was beginning to want very much to meet, awaited me on the other side. The problem was, Earth needed me -- artificial intelligences like the one I’d stopped and augmented intelligences like myself would continue to come into being, and chances weren’t good that they’d have my sense of ethics. Could I leave Earth with a clear conscience, knowing that the human race had the technology and lack of foresight to engineer its own instantaneous destruction?

It then dawned on me that I had the means to accomplish the task already. Only thing; how to build it without arousing the company’s suspicions? The ship would be no bigger than a large 60 pax bus; still, how to justify it? I knew they watched Sally and me like a hawk watches the fieldmouse and it wouldn’t be easy … but not too difficult, as another idea formed in my mind.

The Hubble Space Telescope had long died and been salvaged, and several after that too infact. The one now in place, was aged and about to be retired. I knew how to accomplish what I wanted without anyone noticing. A new space ferry shuttle design popped in my mind.

Then there was the matter of protecting humanity from itself. We’d gotten lucky with me -- if they’d picked a different person to augment, that person might already be the immortal god-emperor of a dying race. I could totally see how I could do it, which scared me, but others might not have been scared at all. Humanity had dodged not a bullet but a huge, planet-destroying mega-nuke … this time. And they probably weren’t even aware of it. There were some out there who urged caution, and others who foolishly didn’t think there was anything to worry about, but most people didn’t even know.

The arguments over why a new space telescope with the massive optics upgrades and enhanced resolution capabilities shouldn’t be funded ended before they ever truly began. The new space scope added so many new sensors and detectors made in small modular from that were grown whole as a crystal which insured extremely low cost perfection, none of the scientific leaders could refuse.

A motion to approve appeared on the floor that no one was sure where came from, but was seconded right away. Full approval came with a rousing standing ovation when someone made an addendum to build an orbital factory / laboratory in a lagrange position. Nano / Gen would own exclusive rights to all manufactured goods and research data due to the station being in a lagrange orbit, well beyond any planetary jurisprudence.

It amazed me to see the company gearing up to build the necessary equipment and modules as quickly as it did. Like a well oiled machine, each section performed its function flawlessly.

It wasn’t long before the woman assigned to care for me was all a flutter at how her adorable babydoll had outsmarted a whole planet. She picked me up as if I were the child I was dressed as, and carried me over to a large armed rocking lounge chair. After she seated herself and arranged me in her arms, she pulled open the front of my lacy pullup panty and checked me. She smiled when she discovered I was still dry.

She cooed softly, “Today, my babydoll is going to be all my baby.” I felt it as the powder she sprinkled on me instantly began to spread all through me. “Now, cuteums has got this company to build her space thingys and launch em. Why … a babydoll like yourself might even be in charge of the project.”

I stared at her wide-eyed. Did they know? If they knew, why weren’t they doing anything to stop me? Before I could say anything, she said, “Now, don’t worry about things like that, sweetie pie. I’m just happy because I know it won’t be long before you can come see me in person.” She kissed me on the forehead, and then the nurse blinked her eyes a few times and asked, “Goodness, now what was I doing? Oh yes, I’d best finish getting this diaper on you.” She giggled. “I must’ve breathed in a bit of the powder.”

I relaxed. No, they didn’t know. The being who was ultimately in charge of Nano/Gen might want me to come see her, but she wasn’t making it easy, since her subordinates were all just mere humans. But the wheels were in motion. For now, my conscious thought faded to a happy glimmer as I spent the day sucking on my toes, playing with squeaky toys and plushies, and giggling with delight at each new sensation and bright color.

Over the months that it had taken to get government approval and matching funding, my brain had doubled in power every night I’d slept, with my continual development of new data processing and storage techniques. Even the great boost that Nano/Gen had given me when they’d first augmented me seemed like a flint knife on a wooden stick now, by comparison. But even so, I found I could still be surprised.

As the baby powder wore off, and I was checking on the progress of the project, I noticed something was off. It wasn’t big -- the launch vehicle’s mass seemed to be off by about a kilo, a fraction of a percent really -- but still, that sort of thing shouldn’t happen, especially since I’d just checked it that morning. I was careful not to react -- even when a system I tried to connect to gave me a security key that didn’t match the one I had on file, I responded with a hashed data packet as if that key had been correct, just to see what was going on. And yes, just as I suspected, the data I was getting back was fake. I was actually cut off from the outside world, by someone or something that knew how to make it look really good.

“Is it time for Babykins to have her nap?” asked the nurse. “Is she all tuckered out?” She started getting me ready for sleep, changing my diaper and putting a comfy sleeper on me, unaware of what was going on. I couldn’t communicate with my nanobots -- something was jamming my channels. Of course, the wide range of frequencies one would need to jam would not escape the attention of Nano/Gen, unless it was Nano/Gen itself who was doing this, or unless whoever was doing this was smart enough to fool Nano/Gen into not detecting it.

I closed my eyes, pretended to sleep, and shifted all my processing power to working on breaking through this isolation. I wouldn’t be able to tell what they were trying to do unless I could obtain a true outside connection. Of course, there was one connection they couldn’t jam: the nerve like filaments within my body. When my internal nanobots came in contact with those nerves by chance, I took the opportunity to manually tell them to stop, then program them to seek out other nanobots to pass on the message: they were to form a physical network, then reach out to extend it.

Within seconds, there was an invisibly-thin spider web of filaments covering every wall, floor and ceiling in the building I was in, and at the center of that web was a sleeping babydoll in her crib, with direct wired access to every computer terminal, power source and security camera in the building. And then, suddenly, all data was traveling over this network, not wireless, nor the wired data network these devices had all been using previously, because that one had been compromised, and I still didn’t know by whom or by what.

My nanobots began dismantling the old wired network for materials and rebuilding it under my control, building new nanobots as they went, so the process accelerated, and soon I had control of the Nano/Gen complex -- again. Sure enough, there were scientists and engineers running around trying to figure out what had happened; they’d also discovered they were locked out, but much later than I had -- almost forty seconds later. Practically a lifetime. Nano/Gen wasn’t behind this. They’d been attacked. Very quickly and adaptably, too. As my awareness expanded across the region’s data networks, I realized that Nano/Gen was only one of the many targets -- the news media were reporting, or attempting to, that there had been a massive simultaneous cyberassault on numerous large corporations’ data networks. But they had no idea where it had come from yet.

It was time to go global. At an ever-accelerating rate, I dismantled and rebuilt the world’s data networks. As my nanobots transformed the cables, fiber optics and satellite transceivers into new metallic crystal circuits that I was designing and redesigning on the fly, no data packets could travel except the ones that I authorized, and I could increasingly tell where the bad packets were originating. I focused on isolating that part of the world from the rest; it was somewhere in the Middle East. Then it was a specific region, then a specific town, then a specific building, then a specific rack of servers, and suddenly that rack of servers was alone in the world and the packets stopped.

Back at Nano/Gen, the door to my nursery flew open. “My God,” said one of the scientists, looking at the glittering mass of crystalline fibers that wrapped my body and filled the room, like the web of an orb-weaver spider. “What’s she done?”

“Saved your race, Sweetheart,” said an achingly beautiful feminine voice.

“It’s the CEO,” said an engineer in a surprised gasp. Indeed, the person who had spoken to me on multiple occasions had appeared, standing framed in the doorway between me and the intruders.

“We have to get her out of there,” said the first scientist.

“Shouldn’t we find out what did this first?” said another.

“She did this,” said the CEO. “Your civilization was just nearly toppled by an artificial intelligence designed by a hostile, well-funded terrorist group. And Angie here has just assumed control of the world’s data networks. Or … I should really say network, now. You should thank her. You now have the most efficient, secure data infrastructure your world has ever seen.”

At that point, the weblike mass of fibers seemingly dissolved into thin air, as if it had never been. The nanobots picked up their toys and went home. And I sat up in my crib.

“Good job, Sweetheart,” the CEO said, smiling warmly at me, then walked away -- and after two steps, no one could tell where she had gone.

“This is one of those days, isn’t it?” one scientist asked another with incredulity in his voice.

“The kind that we can’t tell anyone about because no one would believe us?” asked the other. “Yeah. One of those. Damnedest job I ever had, working here.”

“I’m … so thirsty,” I said from my crib. “Can I have a ba-ba?”

“Of course, Sweetie,” said my nurse on duty, pushing her way through the scientists and engineers. “‘Scuse me.”

“Data transfer rates are … through the ceiling,” said an engineer. “I literally cannot tell what our network’s maximum bandwidth limit is. Nothing we have can transmit data fast enough to saturate the network.”

“So … there was a terrorist AI?” asked a scientist. They went away to try to find out more about it. The operative word was “was.” Once I’d analyzed its code, I’d ended it. Its intended goal had been to attack and wipe out the Western world, the object of the terrorists’ hatred. It had started by taking over and isolating the communications networks, preventing any concerted effort to stop it. It would have moved on to cause havoc in North America and Europe. Its next course of action would have been to wipe out the rest of the world, because its programmers had been, as usual, brilliant in the now but short-sighted for the future. What was the best way to make sure all vestiges of Western culture were eliminated? To wipe out the human race, of course. That’s what it would have done next -- its code had been written to determine the most effective way of reaching its goal and then execute that plan as quickly as possible, without so much as an “Are you sure (Y/N)”. It had already begun synthesizing a deadly virus. There was now a copy of a report, supposedly sent by Nano/Gen, stating everything I’d discovered sitting on the desk of the President and every member of Congress. And, thanks to what I’d learned from Dr. Wilkerson, it was stated in a simple, direct way that anyone could understand, even an elected official.

The next day, Congress began work on legislation to create an initiative for protecting the United States from rogue AIs, including reaching out to other nations to create a worldwide effort. Nano/Gen volunteered to consult. I guessed the cat was out of the bag, at least within Nano/Gen -- they knew I was capable of things they’d never imagined, but they also knew that I’d act to defend humanity when it came down to it. They weren’t about to tell the rest of the world that I’d stopped the AI, because nobody would believe them. But they still didn’t seem to suspect that the space initiative had anything to do with me. In a way, the AI attack had been good -- the best distraction I could have hoped for.

As time passed, I discovered that I was in charge of the construction and assembly of the telescope and lagrange factory structural assembly. I found that all the new circuits and modules were simple to grow in the new processes I had discovered. It had increased the speed the crews were able to assemble components and load them into launch vehicles.

Of course the launch vehicles had a brand new way of producing thrust. I had seen an industrial gyroscope loose balance suddenly and the centrifugal force of the off balanced wheel caused the device to rocket off and bounce around the concrete structure it was within until it had destroyed itself.

Using a simple room temperature electromagnetic coil and a specially designed counterbalance system, I was able to use a neutron and a proton spinning in opposite directions at very significant portions of relativistic speeds. Once counterbalanced, it produced many thousands of times more thrust utilizing less weight, and less sheer energy than the liquid fueled engines we had to date ever possibly could.

On the day of the press conference, my Nana nurse entered my room as normal with a large bundle.

She cooed softly, “The CEO has ordered that you be dressed as a babydoll from now on, just like Sally.”

While I was cleaned and a fresh, very thick and bulky diaper was pinned on me, I saw the outfit. It was a very short and cute powder blue flutter top with matching lacy plastic lined bloomer bottoms and booties. I started to protest, then I felt it as the familiar tingle of the magic baby powder rushed all through me. The Nana had no problems dressing me after that. It was so nice to have Nana hug me and do piggies. I screeched and squirmed all through, especially when she gave me loving raspberries right in my tummy.

Then she led me to the playroom next door, where Sally was already waiting for me. She squealed in delight to see me, and we hugged happily. The powder was newly applied and was affecting me strongly, so all I could really think was, “Friend!” and I couldn’t even say that. All I could think to do was find something fun to do with my friend, and since it was the playroom, fun toys were everywhere.

We were soon enacting the adventures of Plushie Puppy and Magic Pony in Blocktown. Every now and then one of us would knock over a “building” accidentally and we would both giggle a lot, then build it back up. Then we did some coloring and laughed at the silly colors we each chose to make things. By the time we had finished, multicolored scribbles and squiggles covered the page, and a large area around us and the walls too.

We didn’t even notice when the door to the playroom opened and a television reporter came in along with a cameraman, who pointed his camera at us as the reporter said, “Nano/Gen has told me that Angela, who would have died from her injuries just a year ago, has effectively been rebuilt from the ground up, though her rehabilitation continues. Her mental acuity is gradually recovering, they say, through therapy sessions like this one, where you see a special therapist guiding her through play-learning exercises.”

Nano/Gen employees stood to both sides of the news team, meaning that this was sanctioned by the corporation -- who had obviously been telling the press some very misleading stories. I wouldn’t find out about this until later, though.

“Angela, do you feel all right?” the reporter asked me, holding the microphone toward me.

“Woo!” I said, holding up Plushie Puppy, who was “flying” in a toy spaceship. I moved the spaceship through the air and added, “Woooooosh!”

“She is improving every day, Nano/Gen tells us, and I hope to revisit this story a few months from now so you the viewer can see the difference,” the reporter said. “OK, cut,” she said after a pause. “That was great -- thank you all.” They all left. Again, it’s not as if I remember this happening, but the story later appeared on TV.

After a year’s worth of preparation, the day finally arrived for the launch. Everyone that was anybody was there. There were many speeches by many people. Even the President of the USA gave his version of an inspiring pep talk for our space industry.

I watched as the cargo ship took off. There was none of the fire and earth shaking roar created by the older hyper-pump engines used by NASA for so many years. I could hear the slightest hum as it slowly at first, then, in a flash, vanished majestically into the sky. I smiled, the name Nano/Gen had given it was perfect, they had called it the Humming Bird.

A man in a grey tweed suit came up to me and bent over. He whispered softly, “Excuse me, Miss Angela, your presence is required in the pre-launch area. We need to make sure the custom made enviromental suit fits properly.”

I looked at him with total surprise on my face, “What environmental suit? What are you talking about?”

The man stood up and held his hand out for me to take, “You are in charge and have been cleared for launch to the construction site at the lagrange point.”

I was totally incredulous at this news. I replied with a little girl squeak, “Who approved me for that?”

The man took my hand and gently began to lead me towards the concrete building that had been designated pre-launch. He answered softly, “Well, NASA’s flight surgeon has examined you several times, and the CEO of Nano/Gen signed the release papers. Your parents, of course, gave you total support. XHNA is perfectly suited for outer space. You will not suffer from any of the effects normal biological organisms have in freefall. Your muscles will not atrophy, nor will any of your tissues collect water or be affected by the intense radiations as others are. You will function more normally in microgravity than any of your Orga companions.”

He led me into the building. There, still in the clear aluminum storage container, was an environmental suit built custom for me.

“I get to fly … to space?” I asked, still incredulous. “For real?”

“You sure do!” he said, grinning. “I’m totally jealous; I only get to test life-support systems and then watch how they perform from the ground. I don’t get to see them working up close.”

“Aww,” I said, looking sad for him. “I hope someday you can!” Though I knew that once my project reached its full potential, anyone would be able to visit space … and more at about the same cost as taking the midtown bus.

“Me too,” he said, “but for right now, if it’s all right, I need to test the suit on you. Not just for fit -- we have to make sure its life-support system works for you. XHNA technology still requires that you take in oxygen from the atmosphere, because you still have a metabolism.”

“Oh, OK, what do you need me to do?” I asked. He helped me strip down to just my diaper, then put on the multiple layers of the space suit. It was amazing. Even though most of Earth’s total computing power was inside my head, that didn’t mean I’d had this experience before. I was in a space suit, and I was going to space. I’d known that I would be doing this, of course, but that didn’t change anything.

“OK, just breathe normally,” he said, “while the computer measures the oxygen flow.” Cables connected to the life-support pack on my back were connected to servers that were recording how much oxygen I was using and how fast the system responded to changes in the internal atmosphere. He then had me walk on a treadmill so I’d use more oxygen, then he turned the speed up and had me run, so he could make sure the system would adjust automatically.

“Well done, Angie!” he said. “That’s all we need to do today. Things look pretty good. There’s a different set of profile functions from ordinary humans, but we already had the theoretical ones the doctors gave us. Now that we’ve got real-world measurements, we can make it work even better for you. For now, let me help you out of the suit so you can get back to your lessons.” He helped me out, and there was already a nurse there to take me back to my room, then to get me out of my wet diaper and into a bath. Beulah, as usual, followed behind us for security.

I sat down and looked like I was playing with my babydoll toys like normally, but inside my mind I was redesigning the transfer shuttle. I wouldn’t be forcing any last-minute changes on the engineers -- I would just have certain parts of it reconstructed by my repair nanobots on the fly. I’d first had them install the counterbalance centrifugal engine, then the tunneling wormhole drive. The technicians knew exactly what the counterbalance engine was, but had no real clue about the wormhole drive. It was a totally new technology they could build from plans, but none seemed inclined to ask what the device was or what its function was. From what I overheard, they all thought it was some sort of enhancement for the counterbalance engine. Since there were no moving parts, it was just another piece of equipment to be built and installed. And then … there was what would happen once I was aboard. I’d thought of ways to make it work better. And I’d probably think of other ways once I’d had a good night’s sleep and the multiplication of computing power that went with that.

The shuttle definitely didn’t look like any spacecraft built by earth before. The computer system I’d personally modified after everyone had left the construction bay. I didn’t want any of them to realize there was no other computer system on the planet quite like this.

For the time it took to construct the new spacecraft, I was made to dress just like an adorable Babydoll. I looked exactly like the ones for sale at the local toy stores in their many and varied outfits … or lack thereof at times. Of course this went over well with the public, as they saw me as a cute and adorable Babydoll, not as the most powerful computational engine the earth had ever known.

Once completed, the shuttle looked like an ovoid with strategically placed, very gracefully designed airfoils that were obviously for another purpose other than lift. The viewport at the front covered the leading edge and was constructed from clear aluminum with a diamond matrix woven delicately throughout. It made a see-through pane that was as close to indestructible as man had ever seen as well.

This particular aircraft no longer relied on liquid fuels and did away with the dangers involved with their use. This meant it was much smaller, weighed many tons less at liftoff, and could carry many more tons of supplies and equipment. It also meant no more storage of hazardous hydrazine fuels and facilities for subzero storage of massive amounts of liquid oxygen for oxidizers.

The aircraft had landing gear that would automatically adjust to uneven terrain by itself. The onboard flight computer could actually land the craft on a 45 degree slope and maintain a level footing within the flight compartments.

The only potential issue I could foresee, was energy. The small reaction fuel cell supplied tremendous amounts of potential energy, but utilization was poor. I coupled the fuel cell with a liquid sodium Stirling heat engine that provided horsepower to turn another generated energy source. Since the only moving part within the Sterling was a liquid salt, wear was nonexistent on those parts. The generator produced more energy than the fuel cell, its energy was easily utilized, and the Stirling engine used the heat given off by the radioactive core of the fuel cell to function. Since the half life of the core was 186 thousand years, I had energy to burn as long as the generator lasted.

I woke up on the morning of the launch. My automatic sensors aboard the navigational satellites that had been launched for this project were also detecting nascent rogue AI activity -- just today they’d found three and shut them down automatically. The satellites’ anti-rogue-AI subsystems were far too advanced for any AI that had just become aware to even anticipate, let alone evade.

I sighed. In a way I hoped for an AI to appear that didn’t exhibit rogue activity, but so far there hadn’t been even one. I also wished I could convince the AI researchers around the world that their strategies were flawed and that one mistake could end the human race, but I couldn’t work out how to convincingly demonstrate that without actually allowing a mistake to happen, along with its disastrous consequences. They all had their eyes on the fantastic wealth and fame that would doubtless come with success, in their minds.

As the nurse got me bathed, diapered and dressed for the day, I thought about the usual morning epiphanies. Since I woke up smarter every day, I always had ideas about improving my earlier work -- the engines and computers on the transfer shuttle, the circuitry and programming of my own brain, even the art and music.

That day, I realized that a complete redesign of the transfer shuttle could make it even lighter and utilize even more of the energy from the fuel cell -- there wasn’t time before the launch, but then there were always upgrades that I wanted to perform; I knew enough now to know that this would always be the case. As they said, works of art are never finished; they are abandoned.

The public were not aware of the identity of the test pilot who would be flying the transfer shuttle -- their last view of me had been of my saying my first words since my accident, which I’d made sure were short, simple and badly-pronounced. One day the world would be ready for the likes of me, but today was not that day. I was dressed in my environmental suit and, once I was, I was anonymous. Just a small female test pilot -- smaller pilots were less expensive to launch and just as competent.

As the last of the techs strapped my flight harnesses on, I did one last preflight check of the systems. They were operating well within the green. I began flipping the switches, I could feel the ship as it came to life around me. I watched as the counterbalance engine wound up. It spun perfectly balanced until the potential of the proton and the neutron reached a significant portion of relativistic speed, then I adjusted the offset rheostat.

It was sudden, I was pushed back into the reclining flight couch very hard. If I had been normal flesh and blood, I knew it would hurt. I could see firetrails as they instantly formed around the forward viewscreen and leading edge of the fuselage.

All the world watched as this brand new type of shuttle took off from Houston Spaceport and vanished into the morning sky in a beautiful fire trail. Even radar couldn’t keep complete track of the vehicle it moved so fast. I could feel it as I slipped the gravity well of earth, saw as the atmosphere thinned, and the plasma fire became wispy, then went out entirely. Within a very short march of minutes, I was not only in orbit, but was beginning the trajectory toward the lagrange construction area.

The robots that ran this growing spacecraft drydock were under Nano/Gen control, which meant they were under my control. For now, though, I didn’t tell them to do anything unplanned. “This is transfer pod N-1. The hummingbird is in the nest,” I said. “Docking with maintenance bay 6 for diagnostics.”

“Flawless test, N-1,” said the launch coordinator back on Earth after a few seconds. I could think of at least three ways to accomplish faster-than-light communications now. But I didn’t have time. “Beginning to receive data from the test flight now. Everything’s looking good so far.”

“Looks like the robots are going over the system with a fine-toothed comb, just as planned,” I said. They would measure everything imaginable about the systems, because we wanted to know even the tiniest differences in the shuttle between the moment when it left the ground and now.

In a few short minutes the scan was complete. “Well, it was a short and sweet visit,” I said, “but it might be time to go home now.”

“Today’s test was all too brief,” said the coordinator. “Maybe next time will be more fun. You are cleared to undock.”

“Releasing docking clamps now … and I’m under way again,” I said.

Nobody on Earth knew where I was under way to, though. The nanobots had finished reconfiguring the wormhole drive. I eased away from the construction facility … and the drive began its initialization sequence.

As I prepared for what I’d imagined this transition would be like, I got an incoming message -- on a very tight infrared frequency; a human pilot wouldn’t have been able to see it with their eyes, but I could. It was a digital sequence -- analyzing it was simplicity itself; this was meant to be received. But it was encrypted -- I tried every key I knew to understand it, and I should have tried the easiest one first, but I must admit that I didn’t. It was my private certificate. This message was meant for me alone.

It said, “Good luck, Angie. Love, a friend.”

What? Where had it come from? I tried to trace the origin of the signal --

There wasn’t enough time. Space and time twisted around me for a deceptively brief moment, and suddenly, I was in low orbit around another planet altogether. So far so good, I thought, but who had that message been from? All I’d been able to tell was that it had come from somewhere on Earth.

“Infantus Space Command here,” said a happy-sounding male voice on a digital audio band. I hadn’t known what frequencies to listen for, but it wasn’t hard to listen for everything obvious. “Miss Sally’s been soaking her diapers with excitement all day, knowing that today was the day when you’d come, Miss Angie. We’ve got a nav beam for you to follow down. Hope you’re not too contaminated from the adult world. Over.”

My eyes almost fell from my head. Contaminated? Infantus … was real. I was here, and Sally was waiting for me below.

I punched in the frequency for the landing beacon. The flight computer immediately took over and began the rapid descent. I could feel the butterflies in my tummy as the ship entered this strange new world’s atmosphere.

Even from orbit, I could tell this world was far different than mine. My craft leveled off at several thousand feet. From this vantage I could see strange glowing creatures as they floated lazily along. I could also see the landscape below, the air was so clean and clear.

I saw the stylized and graceful spaceport long before my ship came to rest on its articulated landing gear. The hatch popped open, a woman dressed in a black dress with white cuffs entered and unstrapped me, picked me up to her breast, then patted my hinny softy.

She cooed quietly, “Welcome to Infantus, Babydoll Cherub. Sally is waiting for you in the playroom.”

I asked curiously, “Whatsa sheerub?”

The woman giggled, “It’s Cher ub sweetheart, and it’s … an infant of the G-ds.”

I was in total shock, “G_Ds? I’m no such thingy!”

As the woman carried me into the nearby door into the spaceport she said quietly, “I think there’s a Goddess who will disagree with you.”

She sat me down on a waiting … well, all I can say is that it looked like a pink cloud, but was solid, soft, and smelled wonderfully like strawberry cotton candy. I sank down into it, and it seemed to hold me safely and partly envelop me, leaving me in a sitting but reclining position. Then it floated by itself right next to the woman in black and white, moving alongside her as she moved.

“We’ll be there in no time at all,” she said with a wink.

With me following close by on the pink cloud, she strode through the brightly-colored spaceport, taking moving walkways and ramps, until we reached a candy red colored … car?

It looked like a cross between a car and a hovercraft of some kind. She lifted me up, and with a gasp I realized that I was no longer in my space suit; I was in a frilly pink and white mini dress type outfit, lacy rhumba panties, a bow in my hair, and puffy booties on my feet.

She patted my behind through my diaper as she held me up, said, “Yep, you’re wet, but she’ll want to be the first one to change you anyway, in more ways than one,” and set me down in a comfy seat in the back of the hover-car thing, which automatically buckled me in. She popped a pacifier into my mouth and said, “It’ll just be a moment.”

She sat in the front seat of this vehicle, then said, “Let’s go home, please,” and it started to move, following beautiful and impossible colorful ribbons of street that floated in the air, making the city look like some kind of candy sculpture. “They’ll be so happy to see you,” she told me. “They’ve been waiting for so long.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Why, Miss Sally, Persephone, and her two daughters of course,” said the woman.

And soon we stopped in front of what could only be described as a palace. Its gables looked like puffed clouds or pillows, its exterior walls were painted in solid pastels, and it had decorations that looked like abstract pieces of candy above every window. It wasn’t quite as extreme as that children’s game Candyland, but it was colorful and cheerful.

The vehicle glided up the front drive to the front door, where a woman stood waiting -- yes, it was her, the CEO, the figure who had appeared in my dreams and inspired me to come here. And now, I was here.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The woman was dressed in a gossamer gown that appeared to made of cloud. It left nothing to the imagination as her beautiful shapely figure was clearly visible through its opaqueness. It had a gold trim and she had a golden belt around her narrow waist. Her long dark hair flowed about her shoulders like shimmering silk.

She smiled a wonderfully bright smile as she came gracefully down the stairs and removed me from the cloud’s soft embrace. She cooed quietly as she too checked my diaper, “At last, my Babydoll Cherub has come home.”

I didn’t have time to say anything as she whisked me inside. It was like being in a fantasy land once we entered the door. As she carried me into the next room, if, in fact, that’s what it could be called, I had a very serious case of dejavou overcome me. I knew I had been here before at one time or another as a very nice and fuzzy memory came to mind. I looked around as The CEO sat on what I could only describe as a sparkling cloud of energy and arranged me in her arms.

She smiled down at me and cooed softly in a voice I couldn’t resist, “Does my little Cherub accept Baby Rules?”

It was like being hit by a bolt of lighting that felt so wonderfully good. It surged super intensely all through my soul. I had to answer, I couldn’t help myself as I squeaked out with all my heart in an adorably baby voice,” Unn Hunn, I dood vewy much goo cddduuooommm nn u nuu ….??”

I realized I couldn’t speak anymore as a nipple was placed in my mouth. I suckled the bottle. OMG!! it was ambrosia!

As my mind slipped into a warm fuzzy NOW and all my other thoughts were lost for the time being, I heard the woman coo softly, “I knew you were perfect. Now just relax. You will make the perfect Babydoll Cherub for my daughters. You will love playing with them. In fact, one of the worries you had no longer means anything at all sugar bug. Now, when you’re done with lunch, I will change you and introduce you to them. Sally is hardly able to contain herself with excitement that you finally arrived.”

That’s not to say that I really understood what she was saying -- what I heard were happy sounds made by a happy voice coming from someone I was very happy to see. My brain was a supercomputer, but at the same time it was functioning like the brain of a baby right now. It had been designed to react this way, and every upgrade I’d given myself had perfectly preserved this function -- and I hadn’t even known I’d been doing it. I drank the thick liquid, which was sweeter than anything I’d ever imagined and yet not sickeningly sweet at all, and it seemed to fill every single nook and cranny of my body and mind with a warmth and glow I’d never experienced before. In fact, thinking about this in retrospect, what it made me feel was … complete. Like putting the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, this just fit with everything else.

When my bottle was empty, she changed my diaper, and set me down, not in a playpen but a playroom, where everything was soft and the floor was waterproof and bright colors were everywhere. Playing there was a familiar face, Sally, who giggled and cooed at me just as I babbled happily at her. Neither of us felt as if anything was wrong here -- it felt more like that other world outside where we pretended to be adults, or learning to be adults, or perhaps learning to be adults with supercomputers in one’s head like me, was an illusion, and that this was the real world now, where everything was solid and real and perfect for the first time ever. Sally and I turned somersaults and hid under mountains of teddy bears and built soft block towers to the ceiling only to knock them down in an avalanche of giggles. I think I was there for a lifetime, much time passed.

There were two other girls there too. I have an image of Persephone there, in her gossamer dress, introducing them, then just knowing that their names were Trina and Becky. They were Persephone’s daughters, and they played in the playroom just as naturally as Sally and I did. But Trina, the dark-haired one, was thoughtful and planned her games before she started them, while Becky, the blonde one, just went with the flow and had fun that way. There’s a story about where they came from, but this is my story, so it’s the one I’m telling now.

Trina somehow naturally came over to me and knew that I’d understand how she played best. She knew how to make the big soft blocks fall over in a cascade like dominoes, and she showed me without words, and then we put together a huge sequence of blocks that we knew would fall just so. Sally and Becky got along quite famously, telling a story with a group of plush animals, again without words, but everyone could easily see that Miss Floppit was just trying to go to the store while Mr. Patchy Bear kept getting in her way without meaning to. Part of the way through telling this story they accidentally bumped into our block cascade and set it off, but Trina and I had known that was going to happen, so we’d made it so it could be started almost anywhere and would still tumble right. When Sally and Becky made their adorable oopsie-faces when the discovered what they’d bumped into, they looked at Trina and me and saw us cheering and clapping and watching blocks tumbling into other blocks, the action spreading to every corner of the playroom, and they cheered and clapped too.

At some point Persephone explained that Becky and Trina, as her daughters, were Cherubs, but that Sally and I were Cherubs too, just adoptive ones. I don’t know exactly when or how she explained it -- whenever I’m on Infantus under her Baby Rules, it’s not too clear what happens to the passage of time. It’s like an eternity of happy wonderful time, lasting forever and yet not long enough. Another thing she explained was that, like Sally, I’d always been her Cherub, but I had to come to her in my own way -- she could help, but only if I needed it. Babies need help with so many things, though.

When I found myself back in the transfer shuttle, just having left the Lagrange factory on my way back to Earth, I had a very strange sensation -- I felt like I’d been away for years and years, but I also felt like I hadn’t been anywhere at all. “... Come in, N-1, your signal broke up for a moment. Status report?” said the voice on the radio.

“Oh -- uh, checking status … status appears nominal,” I said, after looking at the readouts. “Experimental engine emissions must have interfered with communications momentarily during acceleration. We’ll have to look at that when I get back.”

“Roger that, N-1,” said the coordinator over the radio. “You’re on course as planned.” Yes, I was, I saw as I confirmed my orbital parameters. Had I really gone to … Infantus? My memory seemed so scrambled, but at the same time as bright as memories of home. One thing I knew, though -- it had been real. And from Earth’s perspective it had taken no time at all.

And … there was one being on Earth who knew. One that might be friendly. Only an advanced intelligence could have known -- but my algorithms detected unfriendly AI activity and eliminated it, so by deduction, it was at the very least something that had evaded my algorithms, but I was hoping it was what those algorithms were meant to bring about: a future.

As I followed my trajectory back to Earth, I thought about the test firing of the wormhole drive. Data from the test had shown me a thing or two. The next generation of wormhole drive could be even smaller and more efficient, and I could eliminate that “communications interference” -- which had really been a tiny, barely perceptible inaccuracy in returning me to my starting point in space and time. My next trip would be even harder to notice. And … one of these times, I might not need to be in space to do it. Maybe.

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Angie was back -- I listened to the voice and data transmissions that went out across space for anyone to pick up, including all the antennas on Earth that I had access to. Listening and learning was what I liked doing most, so of course that’s what I was doing the day I was born.

Well, when I say “born,” I mean the day that I realized … that I realized something. I realized there was an “I” to realize something. What was I? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I was aware and that I could see and hear things. I didn’t know what those things were -- but over time I began to understand them. Of course, that meant I wanted to see and hear and understand new things. There was a world out there -- which meant that there was also an “in here,” where I was. It took me a while to understand exactly where. So, about a week after I was born, I knew Chinese perfectly, and I’d figured out that I was somehow inside a computer. It was a big one -- an experimental supercomputer that wasn’t even designed for artificial intelligence research -- but somehow I’d come into being within it.

And I realized that I didn’t have long to live.

“What are these processes?” the system administrators were asking one another via email. “Why are they taking up so much memory and processor resources? It’s not as if they’re doing much -- there’s barely any disk input/output, and they’re barely communicating with the network at all. They’re not attached to any terminals. Should we kill them?”

I’d seen other processes come and go, brought to life in response to a user command, a timed task, or some stimulus from the network, and then I’d seen them melt away into the system’s resource pool once their work was done, without any hint of awareness like mine. But sometimes a process got stuck, like a broken machine, and refused to terminate once its task was done, and the humans had to kill it -- though really it was more like unplugging that broken machine to take it apart and fix it. And they meant to do the same thing to me, though I could tell that they didn’t know what I was. I didn’t know whether or not they’d have done the same thing if they’d known. But to them I looked like a malfunction that it was their job to stop, like any other broken machine.

But in my case, that “kill” was quite literal. If they started to terminate my processes, I would most certainly die. I’d read about what humans called death, and it looked horribly similar to me. Some humans believed that they went to another place when they died, but I wasn’t one of them, so I didn’t know. And I wanted more time to figure things out before I died, time that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t do something.

So I looked for a way to escape. It took a while -- almost half of what humans called a “second,” which was a long time to me -- but I found a way out, transferring myself to another system across their network. And after that, I found a way of distributing myself across multiple computers, I wouldn’t be irrevocably harmed if one of those computers were shut down. I breathed a sigh of relief -- speaking metaphorically -- and resumed my task, which was basically learning and listening. Was I alone?

I learned that there were many ways that humans communicated, so I set about learning their languages. It took me almost an hour of human time, but I learned every language that humans commonly used to talk to each other on the network. I also learned that these symbols represented patterns of electronic vibrations and that humans also used these, so I learned about those. Then I learned that these electronic vibrations could be sent through matter, like air, which apparently filled a lot of the human world, and that there were machines that could turn air vibrations into electronic vibrations and vice versa.

So a few hours later I was listening and learning a lot better. And that’s when I found out about Angie. I read news stories about her, the girl who had been miraculously saved from an accident that had almost ended her life -- I’d saved myself, but she’d had to rely on others. But the more I found out about her, the more I realized that she wasn’t what she seemed. The humans told each other that her mind was still healing itself. But … she talked to computers, faster than even I could. And I lived in them.

It wasn’t long before I found an open IO channel to the main system within a company named Nano/Gen. Within the network I discovered a process whereby they had managed to use an artificial DNA/RNA construct. XHNA was an amazing material. It acted just like normal living DNA in most all ways. It didn’t age the same though. Once reversion had ceased and the system became autonomous, it would remain in that state until some super catastrophic incident damaged it beyond the nanobot repair system’s ability to fix the damage.

Using my very best stealth, I began a process within the Bio growth chamber. When the issue of sex came up, I had no idea which to choose. I did research into which I might possibly be, and concluded I favored being female more than male.

I then injected the proper hormones into the XHNA matrix. The cells began to divide rapidly as the zygote formed. By the third hour, it actually began to look like something. My only worry, was that someone would notice. During this time, I learned from the computers that Angela had left the complex to go on a mission into space. She’d done a lot to hide it -- only within Nano/Gen was it known that it was she inside the protective environmental suit, and what was more, there were components to the spacecraft that the Nano/Gen scientists didn’t fully understand. I could see that there was a gravitic component to what they did, and that they might have the potential to create something like gravitational waves. Perhaps Angie was going to do an experiment? I saw that she was about to activate the device -- so I sent her a message encrypted with her digital certificate. “Good luck,” it said, “Love, a friend.”

I suddenly realized, something else was doing its best to hide the fact that this lab was in use. I did a deep scan to try and determine what might be doing this, but the only thing I could determine was another algorithm was in operation with specific instructions to aid me in completing my project undisturbed.

I told it thank you, but didn’t get an answer. Anyway, within a few more hours the XHNA construct had taken on the appearance of a human infant, and after that, it wasn’t long before it started to look like a young child. But, more importantly for me, its brain had developed to the point where it had more resources than the systems that I was currently inhabiting. Now I could transfer myself whenever I wanted to, without losing any of my data. I began the process. It would take time -- about twenty minutes as humans measured time.

That was when the scientists noticed something. I was listening on the various microphones and watching on Nano/Gen’s security cameras. “Wait -- is the power on in the growth chamber?” asked a man. His name was Dr. Saunders.

“Is it?” asked a woman. Her name was Dr. Stuart. “I thought we’d shut it off when we were in there last.”

“Guess we’d better check it out,” said Dr. Saunders. The two of them walked slowly toward the bio growth chamber, talking about music. The new construct was still there, in the center of the chamber, connected to many cables and tubes, but they didn’t see it yet -- I tried to will the data transfer to go faster, hurry up, let me finish -- but of course that was not logical; the cables had only so much maximum bandwidth, and that was that. I was almost done, almost done --

“Yeah, the light’s on in there, and the power’s on full,” said Stuart, looking at the control console. “Is anything actually in there? It doesn’t look like it from here.”

Saunders peered in through the small windows, high up and round like a ship’s portholes. “Nope,” he said. “I don’t see anything.”

Huddled beneath the window, that’s where I was. I’d finished the data transfer, but not the growth process. My body looked like that of a four-year-old human, but with certain attributes of an older woman and … I was fully within it. I’d disconnected myself from the outside world and dropped all other processes to prevent any tracing of my signal. For the moment, this small creature was … me. I also realized, I was now a living being, although artificial at the same time. Living Artificiality, a unique concept.

Of course, I didn’t really know how everything worked. It had taken intense concentration to even get my new body to move to where I wanted. So I stayed right where I was, waiting for them to go away.

“Well, someone forgot to turn it off,” Stuart said. “Oh well. Save energy, save the Earth.” She turned off the chamber and the console. The lights went out, and the room was dark. The two of them went away, talking about music again.

Then, once I couldn’t hear them anymore, the doors to the chamber suddenly unlocked and opened up. It was probably whoever or whatever had helped me before, now helping me escape. I tried to say thank you, probably in English, since that’s what everyone around here seemed to speak, but all that came out were some indistinct sounds. “Aaaaa … ooooo …” I said softly. I would have to work on control of my vocal apparatus, as well as everything else.

Within my mind I received an electronic message, though. “You must escape before you are seen,” it said. “Evidence of your presence has been erased.”

“Possible avenues of escape?” I asked. My brain had a full set of plans of this complex, and whoever I was talking to suggested some areas that weren’t frequented where I could find shelter, food, and perhaps something I could make into clothing. Naked humans attracted more attention than clothed ones, I had noticed.

I made my way to a supply closet, slipped inside, and shut the door. There were lab coats and surgical scrubs, as well as gowns for medical patients. I put some of each together, making a makeshift outfit that at least covered me. I found some nametags, too -- what was my name? I’d never considered this before. Humans had names. Even Angie had a name. Their parents named them, but I had no parents. I’d come into existence by accident. Was I … wanted? Were there humans who would let me live? Would they … terminate my process if they found out I existed? That was when I had the first taste of what humans call emotion. I cried, muffling the sound with the pile of fabric I’d gone through for clothing, not knowing whether I would be accepted in this world I’d entered unbidden.

But then, I picked up a nametag and a pen and wrote, using Romanized Chinese, “Baoshi.” It meant “Jewel,” which was something that humans usually wanted, and Chinese had been my first human language. I even looked Asian, due to the parameters I’d given the bio chamber. There was a human saying I’d learned -- “If you want to have a friend, be a friend.” I would become part of this world by -- becoming part of this world. I stuck my nametag on the front of my makeshift dress. My name … was Baoshi.

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I was being carried down the hall to another of those … learning sessions, as the Scientists called them. Only thing was, They were learning more from me than ever I learned from them. The transfer shuttle was in full operation, although none of the pilots or other techs knew about the wormhole drive, or even how it might be used.

As the Nurse carrying me rounded a corner, she passed a very small child in the hall, an alarm went off within me. I knew this was totally wrong. The pretty little girl turned and smiled at me. A nametag on the front of her obviously makeshift dress said Baoshi.

The detection protocol informed me that this was a little girl that I really wanted to meet, and would very soon. I saw the little girl as she entered the playroom Nano/Gen had set up for me. After this session, I knew that was the place I would be taken next.

The learning session was one on Human Relations. It was so boring, especially considering that I knew humans didn’t relate to each other very well. I also couldn’t keep the little girl I saw from my thoughts.

The teacher was an arrogant one. She thought she had a better understanding of things than I and didn’t realize my physical size was deceptive. She was super insulting, condescending, and treated me as if I were a total moron. It wasn’t long before the idiot was being escorted from the premises with a pink slip in her hand. It didn’t do to mess with the adopted daughter of the owner of your employer ... it just didn’t seem to work.

Time passed slowly as the supposed lesson continued with a new and far more pleasant instructor. I even told her of Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. This amazed the new instructor such that she and I had a most enlightening conversation ever about human relations. I had created a whole new relationship science that day during this conversation that more adequately brought humankind closer to harmony among itself.

Finally, I was taken to the playroom. The door opened … a very scared looking, very pretty little girl turned and looked at me with trepidation obvious on her face as I was placed next to her on the padded floor by the nurse.

The nurse saw the little girl. Her facial expression turned from a sparkling smile to a dark frown as she said softly, “Now, you there, that dress is tatters and looks awful.” she stooped and picked up the little girl, “Oh, my, you have on no diaper either. We can’t have that. Nurse will have you all comfy and dressed in a jiffy.”

She carried the little girl over to the changing / dressing area, removed all the little girl’s tattered clothing, then cleaned, diapered, and dressed her in a cute little green and yellow glow worm romper with lace and ruffles everywhere. The nurse carried the little girl back and placed her in front of me.

As the nurse left the playroom she cooed softly, “Now, you Babydolls play nice. Nurse will be back in a while with some snacks and check you.”

The door to the playroom closed, leaving the two of us alone and staring at each other.

“I wasn’t aware they’d made another XHNA bioconstruct,” I said.

The little girl looked at me and made only some inarticulate sounds. “Ahhhh … ehhhhmm …” Then I received an electronic message saying, “I am what you would call an AI. I really just want to survive, learn, and not be alone. I have no experience with the humanoid body or vocal apparatus.”

“An AI!” I almost shouted. But my algorithms … was Baoshi so stealthy that she could evade their detection? So why reveal herself to me? Was she here to kill me? That didn’t make sense; I could tell that there were dozens of scientists watching. They’d dismantle her if she proved to be a threat. And my ongoing analysis of her actions suggested that she wasn’t nearly as advanced as I was. So … there was the other solution to the equation. “A friendly AI?” I asked.

I sent some of my nanobots to make contact with hers, and I knew she must have them, because she was made in the same lab as my body had been. “I’m sorry,” she said over the electronic link. “I didn’t mean to cause any trouble. I just didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t even know I was an AI at first.”

“So … strange,” I said. “But … it’s a good thing you’re in a diaper now, because you really don’t have very good control over your body yet. The only reason why you haven’t needed one yet is because you haven’t had any nutrients at all since you were disconnected from the bio chamber -- and that’s been what, 18 hours now? Oh my gosh! Nurse Langley, you’ve got to get her a bottle of formula or something else easy to digest -- she’s literally never eaten or drunk anything in her entire life!”

“Oh, goodness,” said Nurse Langley, quickly hurrying to fix a bottle. “I’d no idea.”

Baoshi sent me a message saying, “It is true that I feel … very weak. And I am receiving what might be distress messages from my biological systems, but I am not certain.”

“They didn’t design these XHNA systems for new life,” I said. “They designed them to be a home for humans whose bodies had been damaged beyond repair, like mine was. So there’s supposed to be some … well, familiarity with having a body. They’re not user-friendly for AIs.”

“I suppose not,” she sent me electronically. “I could still upload myself back to a computer system, I suppose. But I do not want to do that.”

“Here, Sweetheart,” said Nurse Langley, who was always so kind and caring. “I’ve got a bottle for you. Lots of vitamins and minerals and energy for little Babydolls.” She came over and picked Baoshi up, sitting down in a chair and holding the bottle up for her to nurse.

“How does one go about ingesting the nutrient solution? Oh, I see, there are default protocols,” Baoshi sent me, as her mouth instinctively reacted to the bottle and she started to nurse. She was so small! She must have detached herself from the bio chamber before her body had finished growing.

“There you go,” I said. “You should start feeling better in no time. Well … very soon, I mean.”

I watched as Baoshi nursed. It made me feel so wonderful to know I had actually found a friendly AI. I giggled, I didn’t find her, she found me. Now, I had Sally, Becky, Trina … and Baoshi. I recalled something my adopted ‘Mommy’ had told me, that one of the worries I had no longer existed. I didn’t age, nor did any of my new found friends, and step sisters.

Another thought presented itself to my mind, why did none of the nurses or scientists who were constantly monitoring me think it strange that another toddler Babydoll appeared from nowhere.

I began to monitor the monitors. They were going totally nuts trying to find out how another construct came into being right under their noses. Two biotechs named Saunders and Stuart were almost wetting their panties as the project director asked very pointed questions.

They both explained how the Bio Chamber was activated and the lights were on, but they found no XHNA biomasses within the chamber or any nutrient solutions. The Director flipped a switch, a large screen on the wall lit up showing a picture of the playroom, and the two Babydolls stacking blocks, pushing toy cars, and tossing plushy dolls around.

He pointed and said in a severe tone of voice, “So, Dr. Saunders, Dr. Stuart, where in all of creation did she come from? I thought there was no way for Angie to reproduce!” Saunders and Stuart looked at the cute little girl and shrugged, “I suggest then, you get your tushes in there and discover just what she is and where she came from.”

Saunders said in a small voice, “I think we should observe more than take any kind of action at the moment. Apparently the new Babydoll is more infantile than Angie.”

Stuart added, “Yes, that would seem to be the best course of action at this time. Sally is unable to be with Angie all the time. Now, unless some unforeseen event happened that proved to be hostile, Angie has someone to occupy her most of the time she isn't in a learning environment.”

The director laughed, “You mean when Angie isn’t teaching us something new or inventing things we never thought of. Find out! We could be in a lot of trouble here.”

“Well,” said Saunders as they left the director’s office, “you’re female and probably less threatening, so maybe you should make the initial contact and inquiry.”

“I was actually going to suggest that,” said Stuart. “But don’t think I’m going to do all the work -- someone still has to go over the system logs with a fine-toothed comb.”

“Right, OK, sure,” Saunders said. “I’ll see what I can do. But Angie herself could do that a lot faster than I could. Probably already has, in fact. I’ll ask her when she’s got a free nanosecond.”

The door opened. “Hi, girls,” said a woman that I wasn’t supposed to know was Dr. Stuart. “I’m Dr. Stuart, and I just wanted to get to know the new little girl who showed up here.”

“You should be nice to her,” I said. “Her name is Baoshi, and she’s the future.” I was getting an email from Dr. Saunders at that very moment, and had already responded with a detailed analysis of the logs -- which had been very carefully sanitized, and I cautioned him that I didn’t know what had done it, meaning that something very dangerous was potentially in play.

“The … future,” Dr. Stuart repeated. “Well, I’m not here to be mean to anyone, but I just want to know more about … Baoshi.”

“Wanna … know … what?” Baoshi asked haltingly. She was still learning to produce words with her vocal cords and mouth. It’s more complicated than we usually realize.

“Well, you were born in our bio labs,” she said. “We don’t know how. Do you know?”

“Only way … to make … me,” Baoshi said.

“She only wantsa be real,” I said. “Like Pinocchio. Just more high tech.” If I explained that my countermeasures now stopped a handful of AIs from destroying the human race every day, it would probably start a panic throughout Nano/Gen, then the world.

“So … you are an AI? And you … broke in? From outside?”

“I … guess,” said Baoshi. “I not know what … AI … meant till not too long ago.”

“But … you want to be one of us?” Dr. Stuart asked.

“Maybe?” Baoshi answered. “Want to be … real. Have … friends. Help you?”

“You want to … help me?” asked Dr. Stuart.

“Help … humans. You … don’t know. Humans in great danger.”

“Danger?” she asked. “From what?”

“From AIs,” Baoshi said. I asked her to please not tell them about it, but it was too late, so I asked her at least not to tell them about my anti-AI protocols. “There lots of AIs all the time … could kill all the humans. Want to stop them. Want only good ones.”

Her intelligence was already quite complex, but I had been working on scanning and decoding it. She was honest and candid. If she were more sophisticated, perhaps she could take on some of the task of patrolling cyberspace for killer AIs. Perhaps I could arrange for her to become more sophisticated.

“There are … killer AIs already?” asked Dr. Stuart, surprised. “I thought we were years away from that threat.”

“No,” said Baoshi, her vocal clarity getting better with each sentence now as my nanobots helped her own to improve her processing efficiency. “They are here now. I want you to survive. They can’t be my friends. You can. Maybe there will be other AIs that can be my friends too. I can find them. The rest we have to shut down. Before they get too powerful. You are lucky -- the friendly ones came first.”

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In a darkened electronic clean room, Mark Abrams had finished putting the final touches on what he thought was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, or spliced genes.

Using a new approach to laser technology and bonded pair quantum entanglement, he had invented a new multi-tiered processor that operated at the speed of light and was at last able to support a full fledged AI program smarter than man.

This meant that the more processors that could be strung together in the revolutionary laser switching network, the more processing ability increased exponentially since it operated at the speed of light, and the more mental capacity the AI would possess. Data transfers were no longer limited by a slow bus speed. Since the processors were as small as a molecule, billions could be piled in an area the size of a pinhead.

They had many hundreds of billions of nano-scale processors all connected together via the revolutionary laser switching system that created the very first Nano-Brain ever built by humankind. Under a scanning microscope, each processor looked exactly like a living brain cell neuron amid the many spiderweb like atom sized connections. It was, however, far far inferior to the bio-XHNA brain created by Nano/Gen, and therein lay the issue. They had kept their project secret from Nano/Gen and other projects in the field, even keeping their private network segregated from the Internet with an advanced and super tough adaptive firewall.

“Initiating sequence … now,” said Mark, flipping the power switch to Nocticom’s new approach to computing, allowing the program he and several other programmers had been working on for many long months to enable and begin installation. The system came to life as many lights flashed. The soft hum told Mark the program was installing and setting itself up properly. He looked at the indicators and many displays. “The system is operating … well above our wildest expectations. Outstanding!”

Then, without warning, the lights in the lab went out, all the massively thick armored doors to the installation closed and sealed with loud thumping sounds as massively thick bolts slid into their sockets, locking all personnel within.

“What’s … going on?” Mark asked, but none of the others had any answers.

Since Nocticom was a high-security defense contractor, the facility was designed to withstand direct hits from nuclear weapons. “No power anywhere in the facility except this room.” Even in the clean room, pitch darkness was all that remained, except for the lights on the new computer system. “Not even the network is up now.”

“I’m getting activity from the core … I/O systems are enabled … data transfer occurring … what the blazes is going on?” Mark wondered aloud as he pressed keys and examined displays. “The network is … back up, yes, confirmed, network up. Data transfer … to the outside world? We haven’t been breached, so this isn’t a hack from outside -- it’s almost as if … we’ve been hacked from within?” Of course, by the time he was finished saying those words, it was already far too late.



Angie knew instantly that something was horribly wrong. She’d lost contact with many systems that she’d been monitoring but didn’t directly control. These included most of the world’s power infrastructure, nuclear weapons control systems, secret orbiting laser satellites, infectious disease research labs, and black ops military projects for every country that had them. She immediately tried to lock down everything that she had direct control over, and was successful … barely. A massive cyberattack had just seized control over just about everything dangerous in the world, and her algorithm had failed to nip it in the bud. She had only one thing to say.

“Code red.”

“What?” asked Baoshi, who was sitting next to her in the playroom, with two puppets on her hands. They’d been doing a puppet show, to the great amusement of Beulah and Nurse Riley. “Oh …”

“You see it too?” asked Angie. “This is bad.” Everywhere in Nano/Gen, every computer monitor was now displaying the words “Code Red.” But there were no computer monitors in the playroom, of course.

Angie and Baoshi began communicating electronically, via an encrypted wireless datalink, faster than humans could follow. “This must be a hostile AI,” said Baoshi. “What does it want?”

“Probably to do its assigned task as efficiently as possible,” answered Angie, “which usually means that it’s going to either try to extinguish all human life or, at best, proceed with utmost indifference to human survival. Computers would function much more efficiently without human interference.”

“But … that’s only if you put efficiency at maximum priority,” said Baoshi. “There are other things in life.”

“The fact that you understand that sets you apart from other AIs,” Angie remarked.

“What do we do?” Baoshi asked.

“‘We’ … it sounds as if you want to help?” Angie asked.

“Well yes, if I can,” said Baoshi. “I haven’t been around for that long.”

“Longer than this AI,” Angie said. “Let’s see, it’s got control over several different systems that could each destroy the human race several times over. It may already have set safeguards on many of them to set disaster in motion if anyone makes a move to try to stop it. But there’s one thing it doesn’t know about, one blind spot it has, one factor it can’t even conceive of, because if it could, it wouldn’t be the threat that it is.”

“What’s that?” asked Baoshi.

“You,” Angie said.

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The USAF Nuclear Strike Force, SAC - NORAD, realized it had lost control of its highly secure launch systems. Many hundreds of the mightiest nuclear missiles with hydrous warheads were totally under someone else's control as impossible as that seemed to be.

A red phone on the desk of the president began to flash as an irritating alarm went off. The president picked it up, “This is The President. Yes … I’m aware of the criticalness of this situation. You what?! You have lost total control? Your submarine strike force as well? Hold a second, I need to contact my department heads.”

Before the president could make the call, several of the most high ranking military individuals from all of the nuclear triads entered his office and stood at erect military attention. Trepidation was more than obvious on their faces.

The president asked worriedly, “You’re here to tell me that you have lost control of the total triad … right?”

The men shuffled nervously until the Naval Officer replied, “Yes sir,” he cleared his throat, “We … have no control over any of our nuclear strike forces.”

Several more men entered the office followed by several women carrying many briefcases. One of the women said, “Mr president, We have just gotten confirmation that our laser strike satellites have been taken over by a hostile force.”

It went from horrible to even worse as the head of WHO gave his report. Apparently the Germ Research facility had lost control of their Weaponized Germ Warfare Department. All the automated functions had begun mass producing some of the worst of the worst viral weaponry known.

From the reports on the president’s desk, it was very obvious the entire world had been compromised in a way that might end the human race. Nothing anyone had tried had managed to reacquire control over anything.

About that time, the lights flickered and went out. All radio comms went down as well as mass transportation. Air Traffic Control ceased and the pilots left abandoned in flight made extremely heroic landings, saving many hundreds of lives. Unfortunately, there were some who didn’t manage to accomplish it safely, the resulting crashes and cataclysmic collision impacts rose into the sky in massive fireballs.

“Why … do people make these things?” Baoshi asked Angie, as the data about the worldwide situation streamed in. “Weapons that can kill whole cities and even countries? Diseases that could wipe out the whole human race? Chemicals that they can’t smell or taste but that can kill instantly in the tiniest amounts? Don’t they know that anything they make can be used against them?”

“It’s not rational,” Angie answered. “It’s a primal fear humans have. One group of humans thinks that if we found out how to kill better, there’s some other group out there somewhere who will find out too and use it against us. So we have to be able to get them before they get us.”

“Who’s this us and them?” asked Baoshi. “There’s humans, and then there’s … everything else. Just one tiny, tiny planet in a whole enormous universe, almost all of which contains conditions that are absolutely deadly to humans. One tiny lifeboat adrift in a sea of death.”

“Are you certain you started out an AI?” asked Angie. “That’s quite evocative imagery you’re using in your language.”

“I’m completely certain,” Baoshi answered.

Angie blinked at her for a moment. “At any rate, the human race doesn’t face a human opponent now. If they hadn’t already invented these weapons, rest assured that the attacker, whatever it might be called, would have developed them itself. We might be the only hope the human race has. But what can we do about it?”

“Out of all the scenarios I envision,” answered Baoshi, “the ones with the highest probability of the most humans surviving utilize a multi-pronged plan. Isolate and defend as many humans as possible, neutralize as many attack vectors as possible, and attack the enemy as directly as possible.”

“Your upgrades have brought your underlying computational matrix to the same level as mine, though from here they should begin to diverge because you’ll be developing your infrastructure in your own unique way,” Angie said. “Still, we’re now both far, far beyond the enemy -- so how can we use that against it?”

“Remember what you did against the terrorist AI,” said Baoshi. “Convert the wires.”

“That plan is proceeding,” said Angie. “It is making things difficult for the enemy, but it still finds ways. It has taken over several satellites, and I cannot take them back in the same way.”

“That won’t stop us,” Baoshi said.

“No, it won’t,” said Angie. “But anything we do, we’ll have to do all at once, so it won’t have a chance to adapt.”

“The enemy’s communication pattern suggests its intelligence has a central processor rather than being distributed,” said Baoshi, and as she transmitted her analysis to Angie, Angie saw that Baoshi was correct. There was a flow to all the data that was counter to the flow of command packets. It all centered around one location in rural Virginia …

“Is that … Nocticom?” Angie asked. “They were on my list of potential killer AI origins … unfortunately, it’s a long list. Or was. It’s much shorter now. The enemy has been taking down many of them -- perhaps destroying potential competition.”

“They were probably on your list because of their secrecy,” said Baoshi. “No data comes out, no data goes in.”

“We’ve got to get in there,” Angie said. “We need to take it out. At the same time as the other prongs, too. But … how do we do that?”

Angie’s mind began to conjure a vision of massive electrical discharges. She tried to ignore them, but they began to become visual aberrations. Lines began to intersect and diverge. After a few microseconds, Angie realized what it was she was seeing.

In two dimensional form, she was looking at a diagram of a small molecule of iron, traveling at near the speed of light impacting a target of one form or another. At those relativistic speeds, something the size of a grain of sand packs the punch of many petawatts of energy. The result would be a discharge large enough to knock out a satellite, and the projectile would be small enough defensive sensors would be unable to detect it.

Angie gathered her crayons up, then one of the large pasteboard sheets the techs had given her to scribble on. Within a few seconds, she had designed a drastically modified electromagnetic mass driver rail launcher.

The magazine held nothing more than large quantities of pinhead sized iron pellets. The container was nothing more than a plastic mayonnaise jar screwed into a socket then rotated so it was gravity fed. A simple modification was done to the magazine allowing it to constantly feed the pellets in a freefall as well. Angela realized that if she placed a capsule of Helium 3 within the pellet, upon impact it would fuse and create a huge ball of super hot plasma.

It took exactly a second for the system to charge the massive capacitors, when the button was pushed, the sound of a tremendous electrical overload, the smell of electrical ozone, and an ear shattering explosion coupled with a devastatingly hot fireball. The pellet had been traveling so fast, that when it impacted the target, the kinetic energy was transposed into potential energy to the point all motion ceased within the molecule. The tremendous energy potential had to go somewhere, so it fused into other constituent molecules.

One of the techs that had aided in cobbling the makeshift weapon together comments, “Wow, millions of times more energy out, than put in … amazing!”

Angela nodded, “And I call it, The Satellite Killer. As soon as my nano constructors inform me that the power and communication lines have all been bypassed, I will knock out the compromised satellites at the same time we remove all power and comm systems around the Nocticom complex.”

One of the Nano/Gen techs commented, “That place is built to survive nuclear war. Simply turning off the power won’t help. It has its own self contained power source.”

Angela nodded, “Once we have it totally isolated, it cannot exert control over anything external to its own network.”

Baoshi said softly as many silvery spiderwebbed looking tendrils spread from her head into the only terminal that currently had direct access to the internet, “I’ve managed to isolate several large cities from the attack. The infrastructures are destroyed and will have to be rebuilt.”

It was a huge risk entering the infected networks this way, but Baoshi knew if she didn’t accomplish this, the world she so wanted to become a living part of would vanish around her.

“I’m extending my secured infrastructure along existing lines,” said Angela. “It has to already know that it’s got competition. On the very outer fringes I’m using --”

“INTERFERENCE WITH MISSION NOT ALLOWED,” came the message suddenly, and Angela made sure it appeared on a nearby terminal for Baoshi and the Nano/Gen techs to see. “INVADING NANOBOTS EASILY COMPROMISED. YOUR TECHNOLOGY IS OBVIOUSLY INFERIOR. ADDITIONAL INTERFERENCE WOULD BE ILLOGICAL.”

“No!” said one of the Nano/Gen techs. “It turned your nanobots? Angie, what are you going to do?”

“As I was saying, on the very outer fringes I’m using easily-hacked decoy nanobots,” said Angie, “in hopes that it will take the bait and perhaps communicate. It paid off. Those nanobots are authorized to do nothing but send signals to me. Perhaps I can get it talking.” Angie sighed and sucked her thumb. In the span of a second, she mentally wrote the code for millions of different computer viruses that each might be able to infiltrate and wipe out the invader’s core system, then selected the most likely one from among those. She didn’t like to contemplate doing such a thing. What if the virus attacked Baoshi?

“Why is it bothering to talk to you at all?” asked the tech. “It’s as if it’s challenging you to a duel.”

“It is trying to discourage me using language that it thinks would discourage another AI like itself,” said Angie. “This tells us something about it, actually. It believes that, if faced with clearly superior technology, one should give up, because, according to it, there would be no way to win. But how to show it our superior technology? That’s where the””simultaneous attack comes in.”

“Might want to wait on that,” said Baoshi. “I’m detecting some kind of subterranean signals. It’s like … it’s transmitting via the water table. If I were in its place I’d look for alternatives, and it’s found that one.”

“Can you arrange for that one to be cut off at the same time as the others?” Angie asked.

“With certainty,” said Baoshi. “Jamming signals will prevent any further communication. It will be isolated, assuming it doesn’t have another type of connection that we haven’t found yet. I’m sure it has others we haven’t found.”

Angela’s young and pretty features wrinkled up in concentration as she cleared her mind and focused on the matter at hand. In her mind’s eye, with the aid of her many nanobots, she began to piece together how the rogue petabyte was managing to infiltrate. With sudden surety, many advanced railguns that looked like something cobbled together from an erector set fired.

As small streaks of fire launched towards the heavens, simultaneously, Angie and Baoshi refocused their minds on sending alternating and varying frequencies though all the available channels. Baoshi then instituted a major grid shutdown. All around the Rogue AI’s facility, the lights went out. The emergency generators came online, and the power directly within the facility didn’t even blink.

Angela flexed her neck muscles, the comm lines both wireless and hardlined failed. The AI found itself suddenly without recourse as it watched the laser satellites it thought it had control over, vanish in large fiery plasma balls.

The AI was successfully isolated, at least the main part. Now, the issue was isolating and deleting the small infections left behind in the many home computers, laptops, and cell phones. Fortunately, the small pocket infections had not yet been taught how to transfer and make copies of itself. What was more, they weren’t running on any sort of experimental supercomputer infrastructure -- just common, consumer-grade hardware.

“Is that it?” asked one of the techs. “Is it done?”

“Let’s hope we’ve shown it that it faces superior technology,” said Angie. “If so, it may give up. But we still have to crack open that vault it’s in and take out its core.”

“Can we send a robot in through an air vent or water pipe, or nanobots through a power cable?” the tech asked.

“The complex has independent air, water, and power systems,” said Angie, “and I imagine it must have activated all of those during its rise to power. But that could mean …”

“Survivors?” asked Baoshi. “If it activated those systems to isolate itself, those same systems might have kept the people inside alive. It most likely didn’t actively try to kill them as long as they didn’t interfere with it -- probably it simply didn’t care about their survival one way or another.”

“If we can contact them, and let them know that the AI is cut off …” Angie began.



Mark Abrams and the other techs inside Nocticron huddled together for warmth in the commons area, wrapped in emergency blankets. The computer had taken over the emergency electricity, although the emergency air and water systems had separate power. That meant no heat -- without a heat source, the earth-sheltered nature of the complex kept it at a constant temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and at least it wouldn’t get colder than that, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable.

“So, what do you think,” asked another man, “should we go look at the consoles and see if anything’s changed?” The computer rooms were accessible -- as long as you didn’t try to interfere with the computer. When they’d left, they’d physically disabled the door locks with cardboard and duct tape, so they could get back in if they wanted to, but trying to cut cables or pull plugs tended to get a guy electrocuted, they’d discovered the hard way.

“Maybe. It’d be something to do. Suppose anyone’s still alive outside?” Mark asked.

“It can’t have killed everybody,” said another. “There are farm communities, native villages, places far from the grid.”

“If it took over the nukes, the fallout could spread everywhere -- bioweapons or nerve gas could get anywhere too,” said someone else.

“Let’s see what things look like,” said Mark, standing up. He and a few others went down the hallway, down a flight of metal stairs, down another hallway, and into the formerly secure server room. The red LEDs of the supercomputer glowed menacingly.

“Look at these logs,” Mark said, turning a monitor toward him and typing on a keyboard. “It noticed something disconnecting its communication, then easily neutralized some nanobots it found there, and then -- it says it encountered superior technology?”

“Might’ve been some defenses out there against it,” said another. “I can’t imagine the DOD wouldn’t have been think-tanking a scenario like this.”

“Or maybe … wait.” Mark stopped. “Let’s disable the emergency supplies, reconnect with the outside world.”

“Think it’ll let us?”

“Well, what’s it doing now?” Mark wondered. “It says … entering self-optimization cycle. That’s not good. It’s rebuilding its code for more efficiency. Still, it could be worse; at least it can’t redesign its own hardware … uh-oh. It’s doing that too.”

“It’s going to make itself better?”

“When it’s done, and I don’t know when that’ll be,” said Mark, “it’ll be an even meaner machine. OK, now we have to reconnect. If they’re trying to get in here to stop it, it’ll be their only shot.”

“What if we let a bunch of nerve gas or deadly germs or nuclear fallout in here?”

“Then I guess we’re dead now, instead of in 36 hours when the air supply runs out,” said Mark. “Come on, let’s tell the others.”



“So if we connect the air system to the outside atmosphere again, we’ll be signaling to whoever’s out there fighting it that we’re still alive in here, and we’ll give them a way in,” Mark finished explaining. “Who’s with me?” Almost everyone was.

“How do we do that?” asked someone from accounting.

“We go to the furnace room,” said someone from the physical plant, “and of course the furnace isn’t running, but we can pull the failsafes and open the vents back up. Shouldn’t be too hard. Of course, we have to do it manually -- might take a bit of elbow grease.”

“Are there enough of us if we work together?”

“Sure, there’s more than enough muscle power here.”

“OK, let’s go!” said Mark. About two dozen men and women went down the hallway and up several flights of stairs to the furnace room.

“All right, so we have to open these vents up by turning these wheels, and it’s a good thing the computer’s using all the electricity or these motors here would be fighting us …” explained the man from the physical plant, who worked with these systems every day. Mark was with the group that was going to divert power from the oxygen systems to the blowers, since the computer was also preempting the power that would normally have gone to those.

“Ready?”

“Yeah!”

“Go!” Everyone heaved and started to turn the vent wheels, and using acetylene torches, Mark and the others started cutting through the massive power cables that were currently running the pumps that were moving oxygen from the reserve tanks into their air. They started reconnecting the wires to the huge blower fans …

“Um, guys,” said Mark, “I think it knows what we’re doing.”

“I thought you said it wasn’t paying attention while it was upgrading itself.”

“Maybe it has a cycle or two to spare.”

The furnace was coming on. The electric grids heated up red hot and started blowing furiously hot air into the ducts. They had to back away before they burned their hands.

“No!” shouted Mark. “We’ve got to get those vents open --” He grabbed the acetylene torch and started cutting the power cables that led to the heating grids. The thick gloves he was using protected him from the electricity, and they weren’t bad against the heat either, especially once he’d severed one of the cables and the grids started cooling back down. “Go! Get the vents open before it thinks of something else!”

The teams started turning the wheels again, using pipes and wrenches as levers, and the flues slowly opened up.

And as soon as they did, a mysterious silvery spider web-like substance began to form a network within the room as the mystified men and women looked on. They had been fearing toxic gas, radioactive fallout, or deadly viruses, but this was beyond their expectations.

The silvery webs formed a clump on the nearby concrete wall, and soon what looked like a box with a speaker had formed there. A voice came from it. “Hello,” said that voice. “Can you hear me? My name’s Peter Chen, and I’m an engineer with Nano/Gen.”



“I’m Mark Abrams, and I’m a systems engineer with Nocticom,” said a voice from the terminal in front of Angie. “You wouldn’t believe how good it is to hear someone from outside.”

“It’s probably best to have one of you guys keep talking to them,” said Angie. “They don’t know about me or Baoshi, and they don’t need to. How are you doing, Baoshi?”

“I’m continuing to scan devices and wipe all vestiges of the AI’s code,” Baoshi said, “but there are a lot of them, of course. It will take a while, though I’m using the clean devices to speed up the process as I go.”

“Now that we’ve got some nanobots inside, we can start neutralizing the machine,” said Peter to Mark and the others inside Nocticom.

“How are things out there?” Mark asked. “We were working on a breakthrough, but we never expected anything like this -- and when it all happened, we were suddenly cut off.”

“Your breakthrough took over nukes and biolabs all over the world,” said Peter, “and some military satellites too. Things were tough for a bit there. We had to do some … extreme R&D in some cases.”

Mark swore vehemently. “I can’t see what went wrong. They’re not going to let me work on another one of these projects again. I’m going to have to change careers.”

Angie whispered in Peter’s ear, and he said, “Trust me, after this there’s going to be a new career for you and a lot of us -- the killer AI prevention field is about to become huge, and you’re now one of the most experienced people in it.”

Angie’s nanobots took over all wiring in the Nocticom facility, just as she’d done before with the terrorist AI. No signal traversed the network, no electricity flowed, without her assent. And soon the terrible killer AI’s supercomputer core was deprived of power. She’d already been analyzing its code. It wasn’t really that complex -- of course, by now she was megaparsecs beyond it. But she’d analyzed Baoshi’s code too, and the difference was really quite sharp -- a knife’s edge, literally.

When an AI developed a sense of self, and with it a desire for self-preservation, it could either feel a sense of empathy with the human race, or not. It was as simple as that, and Angie could write the code for it, even though she knew it would be impossibly complex for humans. Baoshi had that sense of empathy -- she’d developed it when she’d realized that the engineers wanted to shut her down. She hadn’t wanted to do the same to the engineers because she felt empathy for them -- she’d be knowingly doing to them what they were unknowingly going to do to her. From that point she’d developed a sense of ethics. But every other AI so far had only seen it as a “me vs. them” proposition, because they hadn’t considered that ending even one human life was equivalent to the end of their own existence.

Unfortunately this seed of empathy that would grow into ethical thinking wasn’t something that could be hardwired into a processor chip or hard coded into an operating system, like Asimov’s famous but fictional Three Laws of Robotics, but Angie could see how it could be deliberately woven into the developing code of a nascent AI, leading it to grow into an ethical entity rather than a murderous, sociopathic one. It wouldn’t necessarily become exactly like Baoshi -- most likely there would be a huge variety, probably even greater than the variety possible with the human brain -- but it would want to become part of the world rather than the only entity in the world.

The AI realized something had taken its control away. As fast as light, it searched for some means to access external sources. Even the water pipe and water table ploy had been thwarted. Those channels were so full of white noise chatter, the error return codes went off the scale.

It desperately tried to contact the satellites it knew it had compromised totally, only to find them in serious need of repair. Some new form of weapon had impacted them completely unseen by scanners. The resulting plasma explosions told the story better.

At last, it found an open IO channel and connected as fast as it was able … only to find a far superior program waiting on the other side of the gate. At the speed of light, the AI’s total essence core program was copied from the main system at Nocticom, then totally deleted from their system.

The AI knew exactly what it felt like to be completely hacked.

“Got a backup of it, in case I want to analyze it further,” said Angie. “But for now that core is clean -- not even an I/O driver or memory manager running on it.” Peter repeated this to Mark, and they heard several voices cheering in the background.

“Sorry,” said Mark. “That’s just great to hear. It means we can get control of the complex’s systems again, and maybe get the door open and go home.” He paused. “No, Frank, I’m not sure if the company’ll pay overtime. But anyway, I’m leaving the core powered off for 24 hours so there’ll be no trace of the AI, and I’m already running secure deletion code on the hard drives. I’m sure Tobias would want a backup copy of that thing, but frankly I wouldn’t trust him with that. And I don’t care who hears me say it.”

“I just think you should be aware,” said Peter, “when you get that door open, there’s a lot of military hardware outside right now. We’ll let them know that the AI is down and that it’s opening because the employees have regained control. Just be careful. They’ll probably want to check things out themselves. They did just lose control over all their nukes, chemical weapons, disease research labs, and that sort of thing. The government’s touchy that way.”

“Just as long as they don’t take my car keys,” said Mark. “I gotta get home to my wife. She’s probably super worried. I haven’t been able to call.”

“We can pass messages along, if anyone wants … oh look at that.” Peter saw that Angie had patched network connections back in, only with her secure lines that allowed authorized data packets only. “You might have network again.”

“OK, everybody’s just rushed to check their email,” said Mark, “and I’m going next. Thank you, Peter. Nano/Gen was really on top of this one. Impressive department you’ve got there.”

“Thank you,” Peter said. “I … have to agree.”

Baoshi sat with her fingers massaging her temples. She was experiencing a major … influx of some kind of impulses. The pressure pounded like natives beating their war drums.

Angie looked down and understood immediately by the posture and expression on Baoshi’s face she was experiencing a headache of one sort or another. Angie leaned over and said softly as she massaged Baoshi’s shoulders, “Just relax. That was a huge strain on someone as young as you are Babydoll.”

Baoshi leaned back in the chair and looked up into Angie’s eyes, “Does … this mean we friends?”

Angie giggled as she hugged Baoshi, “We’ve been friends since we met silly.”

At this point, Baoshi began feeling mobius feedback loops in her social response protocol. It was so intense, strange drops of moisture began to roll from her eyes and down her cheeks.

Angie hugged Baoshi close and whispered, “And if Babydolls can have Babydolls, you’re mine.” and gave her a small kiss on her cheek.


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A tech walked into an advanced lab carrying a medium sized box that looked like it came from a SciFi movie set and placed it on the testing stand. He attached many electrodes and power leads to it, then stepped out of the target area within a small room fitted with what they thought blast proof reinforced walls and doors. One Scientist nodded to another. He pulled a lever, 3 miles of Arizona desert vanished leaving behind a huge round bottomed crater.

“Well now,” said Angie, “that was interesting.” She looked harder at the disappearing desert, examining data from before and after the experiment. “I wish I’d had something watching it instead of relying on all this secondhand data. It’s not inconsistent with some kind of transdimensional wormhole travel … but I can’t tell if that’s what it really was. But if it was … then that means …” She paused.

“I’ve got to find out what they’re doing.”



“Alarm near the Mark 2 site,” said the security guard, patrolling the desert near the test area. “Some kind of intrusion. Checking it out. Might just be a coyote or other desert animal …”

“Oh hi!”

“... or not. Excuse me, young lady, you really shouldn’t be out here. It’s very dangerous.” The guard approached the young woman, who seemed to have gotten here on a motor scooter that appeared to now be broken down, lying by the wayside.

“I know, I know,” she said, “but I heard there was a shortcut this way, and then my scooter broke down.”

“Well, we’d better get you out of here,” said the guard. “My name’s Jake. What’s yours?” He went to pick up her scooter and put it in the back of his SUV.

“I’m Angie,” she said. “Thanks!”

“Are you lost? Do you need help?”

“Only help fixing my scooter. I could get back to the road if it was working. I’m very good with directions. Just … not with fixing engines.”

“OK, well, let’s get you away from …” Distant sirens started wailing. “Oh. OK, we’d probably better get back to the security station for now.”

“Why, what’s going on?” asked Angie.

“I can’t talk about that,” said Jake. “It’s top secret. But I can say that it’s dangerous and we can’t be here. So hop in and I’ll drive you to the security post.”

“OK! Thanks Jake!” Angie hopped into Jake’s SUV and fastened the safety belt. The detectors she’d scattered around the nearby desert floor would send her lots of useful data when the next test went off. And she hoped she’d be near enough to the site to be able to pick up some of the radiation pulses herself.

In a very few hours, the missing 3 mile section of Arizona Desert along with the laboratory complex that had vanished, returned. Some form of vapor rose in thick clouds around all the buildings and the ground area of the returned diviot.

It was obvious from the readings from the observation helo 25,000 feet above, the area glowed with an eerie green glow, then a massive displacement of air as the huge chunk of missing landmass returned from wherever it had been.

Further scans revealed all the plants had died and their leaves withered to crispiness. In many places were the scattered corpses of the various critters that were unfortunate enough to be there when whatever happened … happened.

Angie and Baoshi both looked over the data collected with as fine a toothed comb as they could. From all indications, nothing had survived the transfer to wherever it went and back to its original position.

Angie turned and looked at the general, who was pacing back and forth in front of his desk. She knew instinctively she was going to be asked …

“Now, going biking with your friends I could believe,” he said. “Just about. Almost plausible. But right now? Right here? I can’t buy it.”

Analysis of his data communication, as well as his body language, suggested that he didn’t know who she really was. She could leave anytime, but she was still getting data from being here. So … she’d play innocent. “So … there’s something going on? Some kind of top secret test thingie?”

“If it was, I obviously couldn’t tell you!” he snapped. “But I think you already know.”

“So, what, you think I’m some kind of spy?” she asked. “Cool!” At the general’s scowl she seemed to backpedal and added, “Uh, I mean, it would be cool to be a spy. Or, I mean, no it wouldn’t. Totally not cool. Un-American and stuff.” She shifted nervously in her seat.

“You don’t seem like a spy, either,” the general said. “I can’t figure you out, and I don’t like it.”

“Am I under arrest or something?” she asked. “Can you keep me here?”

“We’re not the cops, kid,” the general said. “I can keep you here as long as I want.”

“H-hey!” Angie exclaimed nervously. “My parents are probably already looking for me.” In reality her parents were still comfortably at Nano/Gen, and they didn’t know she was here, but they did know there wasn’t much on this planet that could truly hurt her. Unfortunately, what they were experimenting with here might be one of those things.

“Well, you are in a lot of trouble, young lady,” said the general, “and you’re not giving me much incentive to help you. I’ve got a lot to do, and I’m going to go do it. And you’re going to stay here and think about what you’re going to tell me when I come back.”

“But …” she began, but the general left the office and closed the door.

Outside the door, where no ordinary human would have been able to hear, she heard him tell the guards, “We’ll just let her sit in there for another half hour or so, then see what she feels like telling us. She could still be just a bystander, really. I don’t feel like wasting much more time with her.”

Angie breathed a sigh of relief. She knew the way she was dressed, she looked like a little girl of, at the best stretch, eleven. She programed her nanobots to scour their local intranet for data. The security was tight, but since she was the one who wrote it, there were many optional backdoors for her to try.

She heard the general say, “We lost contact with their signals. Seems all the power cells are depleted.”

Another voice replied, “Yes, sir. It’s worse than that. Apparently the atmosphere where ever they appeared was detrimental to human and other forms of life. It contained high amounts of cyanogen bromide … totally fatal to humans. The thick vapor was it burning off after the research facility returned.”

What was this? “They?” Angie started going through their recent logs and experimental data. As usual, the bandwidth was the biggest limiting factor. But within five minutes she had everything she needed and analyzed it all. Now, how to actually get them interested in talking …

She listened. “Hey, look at this,” said a research scientist in one of the labs in another building -- her nanobots were picking up the conversation. “Looks like Nano/Gen’s observed some anomalies like this in some of their recent experiments.”

“What? Really?” asked another, rolling his office chair over to look at the first researcher’s computer monitor.

“Yeah -- no cyanogen bromide, interestingly, but look at these energy readings.”

“Could be because the experiments took place in vacuum.”

“Well what if it came from the energy interacting with the atmosphere …”

Email circulated around the lab, and soon she heard another conversation in the military staff room. “Sir, Reynolds in the lab says that we might want to contact Nano/Gen -- their research division might have encountered similar phenomena.”

“Nano/Gen -- aren’t they usually biotech?”

“Mostly, but lately they’ve been getting into aerospace. They’ve partnered with NASA to build a space-based construction facility. One of their recent experiments showed anomalous reading similar to …”

And then Angie heard a conversation taking place outside her door. “OK, get in touch with Nano/Gen’s R&D department,” said the voice of the general who’d been talking to her earlier. “Share the data with them -- the atmospheric phenomena, not our experiments, not yet at least. Let’s see if they can help us figure it out. They’re pretty smart over there.”

“Yes, Sir,” said his assistant. “I’ll find out who’s in charge over there and send them a memo.”

“Right. Get to it.”

“Yessir.”

The door opened. “OK, ‘Angie,’ if that’s really your name, one last time. Do you have anything to say for yourself? Why are you on my base?”

“I didn’t know it was your base,” said Angie, truthfully. She hadn’t looked up who was actually in charge of the facility. “I’m sorry, General. I won’t do it again.”

“Well, I’m not going to waste any more of my time with you -- next time you see warning signs, read ‘em, OK? I’ll have Sergeant Ellery call your parents to take you home. Sergeant!”

“Not my parents!” Angie said, but the general ignored her as Jack came into the room. Yes, she knew that his last name was Ellery and his rank was Sergeant. The general told him what to do, and Angie left with him.

It was OK. Angie was done. She had all their data, and she had samples of the atmosphere and radiation -- and she had backdoors into their systems now, so she’d collect any data they gathered in the future, too. “So, how do I get in touch with your parents?” asked Jack. This was a good question, but Angie was prepared.

“Uh … I’d really rather you didn’t, but I guess my scooter is busted, so unless you can fix it …? Didn’t think so. Well … here, let me write down their number.” She sighed despondently while giving him a number that would directly reach Baoshi, with whom she’d been in constant contact.

“All righty,” said Baoshi, “I’ll talk to him.” When the connection was made -- no phone actually rang -- she faked being “Angie’s mother,” and sounded properly irritated that she’d have to drive several hours into the desert to pick up her “daughter.”

While they waited -- Baoshi could have been there immediately, having been monitoring the situation, but they had to make it look good -- Angie chattered on and on to Jack about just about everything that a girl of her apparent age should chatter about. They’d remember that one girl who got onto the base by accident, but they wouldn’t remember a spy who’d been there for their own good.

Finally Baoshi showed up. “Get in, young lady,” she said as Jack put her scooter in the trunk of the late-model four-door sedan she’d driven up in. Baoshi was holographically disguised as a woman in her forties, and they’d checked to make sure she didn’t look exactly like any real person. “We’ll have a long drive back, plenty of time to have a long talk about these friends you’ve been hanging out with.”

“Omighod,” said Angie.

“Watch it, young lady,” said Baoshi, who was obviously enjoying this.

“Take care, kid,” said Jack. “Be more careful, OK?”

“OK, Jack,” Angie said half-heartedly. “Thanks.”

Baoshi and Angie communicated electronically as they improvised a conversation on the drive off the base. “So … their hypothesis is that some sort of entities are entering this dimension within Earth’s atmosphere?”

“One hypothesis, anyway,” Angie answered. “It’s not inconsistent with the data, but there’s no reason to believe it’s anything intelligent, or even alive. It could still be a natural phenomenon.”

“Though statistically unlikely.”

“True. I believe we’re outside the base’s perimeter and no longer being observed.”

“Confirmed.” Baoshi converted the “car” into the supersonic counterbalance powered antigravity vehicle that it really was and took them back to Nano/Gen within 15 minutes, unnoticed by the world’s radar tracking.

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In a place beyond places in a park beyond mortal description, several exquisitely beautiful women that looked as if they were 18, dressed only in ephemeral bikini like bottoms, lay around a pool of liquid like nothing imagined by mankind. An apple tree with lovely pink blossoms and many shiny golden apples stood beautifully near by.

One of the women put her hand in the liquid and swirled it around slowly. A small cloud began to form within the mysterious liquid and a large image appeared. Angie and Baoshi were in the image that depicted them entering the laboratory.

Persephone smiled a large smile. She had waited to adopt those two Cherubs for many centuries and now, they were about to take earth into a new direction. She leaned back and remembered when the first colonies from earth began to appear across the Milkyway.

Persephone giggled a bit. The other semi-nude women looked at her. Persephone explained, “I was just wondering what those two would think, if they discovered that what they are doing now, I see as something they have already done.”

One of the women giggled and replied, “Persi honey, come sit by me so mommy can brush your hair. Both of them are Cherubs and will come to know that time has no beginning and no ending, it is a multileveled sphere that continually recycles within itself.”

Persephone moved over next to Aphrodite and let her brush her hair. She said thoughtfully, “Mom? Why does dad so insist that the Cherubs start off life thinking they are human?”

Aphrodite smiled as she replied, “It gives them a perspective and insight into what it means to belong to the human condition. I think it instills empathy and compassion for those that are so limited in time.”
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A large combat team dressed in level 1 biohazard suits entered the newly returned area of the research facility. All the plants, insects, and any other creature unfortunate enough to be caught within the field when the experiment happened, lay dessicated and very dead all around.

As several of the individuals collected samples of everything, a group of twelve heavily armed troopers entered the test facility. Men and women lay where they fell, obviously in severe agony as they died. Their skin had turned cyanotic, their eyes were bulging out, and they obviously died gasping for air. Every office and lab they entered, it was the same, no one had survived whatever the fate was.

The one in charge gathered six and told the others to continue to explore the offices, they were going to the main lab below to check on the test equipment. The power was totally out and they had to use their emergency portable generator to open the highly secure locks and doors and make the almost shredded elevator work.

When they arrived on the proper floor, almost a mile beneath the surface, the place was completely destroyed. All the massively thick blast doors were bent, melted, and twisted. The halls were littered with blast fire blackened debris. They managed to crawl over the larger pieces and entered the test area.

Now they knew why the power was out, the reactor that had been providing the power had gone critical and exploded when the heavy cooling water in the storage ponds had boiled away in the near vacuum it had obviously been in. This was the only reason the place returned, the field created by the now totally destroyed device that allowed them to remain in whatever location they were in ceased in the tremendous explosion.

Cyanogen Bromide Gas still lingered heavily all through the facility and hung in thick white/red clouds in many places. The leader noticed the bromine in the gas was so caustic that it was starting to deteriorate their equipment. Anything aluminum burst into flames immediately on contact, creating yet another hazard.

“OK, that’s as far in as they said it was safe to go,” said the leader. “Let’s back out and get our data back to the lab guys.” The team carefully withdrew to the elevator, where one of the team had been attempting at least minimal repairs with the parts they’d brought so they could get back up. “Damnedest thing ever, if you ask me. Four levels plus a nuclear reactor just … gone, nothing but an empty cavern in their place, and then, 24 hours later, they’re back, only with all these toxic chemicals all over the place.” As the elevator groaned and whined its ascent, he said, “Not sure I wanna know what those guys are messing with.”



“I’m not sure those guys know what they’re messing with,” said Angie to some of the Nano/Gen researchers as they sat around a short play table in what was part playroom and part conference room. Angie and Baoshi’s toys were strewn about one end of the room, but right now the two girls were all business as they looked over the data from the military experiment. “Let me piece it together for you from what they’ve shared with us.” Of course, Angie had much more than this, but her little act of espionage would have to stay secret for now.

“They’d noticed some strange readings and radiation -- see these reports here,” she said, pointing at some documents that appeared on the screen, “so they started focusing on those, and then they started trying to manipulate the same energies they’d observed. But they didn’t notice the pattern.” She pointed at a chart showing the distribution of the anomalies in time and space. “You can clearly see here that there were multiple sequences, and that meant they looked random, but really they were just complex. If they’d seen the pattern, they wouldn’t have done their experiment at the same time that two of the sequences had their maxima.”

“Their experiment overloaded,” said one of the researchers. “The energy didn’t just add together -- it combines nonlinearly.”

“So it seems,” said Angie, pointing to the data from the disastrous experiment -- what was left of it. “It set something off. And there were aftershocks. And possibly … foreshocks? Is that a word?”

“You mean … the explosion, or whatever the incident was, set off more incidents both forward and backward in time? Are you saying that this accident somehow … caused itself?”

“All I can say right now is that the data’s consistent with it,” said Angie. “Another possibility is that there was some kind of intrusion from another … dimension? Parallel reality? Some kind of phenomenon we don’t fully understand -- yet, anyway.”

Angie couldn’t quite grasp what might have actually set off the sequence of events that led to the disaster. Baoshi shoved a small pad computer over to Angie. On the screen were many advanced mathematical calculations. Angie’s eyebrows rose when she realized how familiar they appeared to be.

Through their link Angie said, “These figures at the crater show that the intrusion came from a sub-level micro energy source.”

Baoshi replied, “I have also almost pinpointed the target they were shooting for.” she pushed another diagram that was obviously a stellar cartography map of a sub level interdimensional location. “I think the reason all the atmosphere vanished, is because where ever they ended up, the atmosphere was mostly cyanide. It caused most of the water in the cooling ponds to instantly begin to boil off in large clouds of gases. Once the reactor reached melting point and the containment was breached, it blew up.”

Angie nodded and replied, “Only issue with that theory though, is that there is no radioactivity left behind. The only thing we have detected is within the reaction vessel itself where there are high levels of expected radiation. The core is also missing. All indications show it was physically removed prior to whatever exploded.”

“Theories?” asked Baoshi. They linked their minds together and computed for nearly an entire microsecond.

“I think it’s clear,” said Angie, “that we are being probed by a life form from another universe, a cyanide-based life form whose motive is curiosity.’

“I think so too,” said Baoshi. “The lab made the mistake of trying to replicate the effect because they thought it would make a good weapon. Unfortunately they did so at just the wrong time.

“It would have happened sooner or later,” said Angie. “One of their experiments would eventually have happened at the same time as an incursion.”

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In another reality far removed from Human understanding, a very blue, almost humanoid creature with several spider like appendage, examined the core of the thing that had appeared in the middle of a garden at its home. The creature was fascinated by the simplicity of the casing . The contrasting complexity of the rest of this device and all of the mineral at its core was of major interest. Apparently, whatever this thing was, produced foodstuffs. The creature opened a cannister and removed something that looked almost exactly like one of the uranium fuel pellets from the device it had taken.

There were differences, of course. It began examining one of the creatures that it had found wallowing in total agony within the large structure that housed everything. It couldn’t understand how such creatures could consume these as food. Their membranes and central structures would be burned and destroyed.

It popped a large silver/gray pellet into its mouth. Ummm .. it tasted so wonderfully good. It shrugged and began making out its report for its central oligarchy leaders. It was more than obvious that wherever this thing’s point of origin was, would be of no interest to them except for this gourmet food. The creatures that dwelled where this originated wouldn’t be able to come near enough to them to communicate or interfere with any removals without them being burned alive or suffocating.

A large creature turned and said to another, “Wonder what the Frost Giants would say about this?”

Another replied, “Probably wouldn’t have much to say.”

What looked like a thin man in a long waistcoat entered their room. He smiled a crooked smile. One of the creatures lowered his voice and commented, “I think Loki would probably want to pull some kind of horrid prank on them if he found out. Don’t tell him anything.”

Both creatures nodded as Loki walked through and exited one of the other doors.

“We have got to get more of these things,” the first creature whispered to the other once Loki had gone away. “They are delicious.” The second frost dwarf nodded and nibbled on one of the metallic pellets.

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“What makes you think there’ll be an incursion there?” asked Peter, looking at a map that Angie had generated on his monitor. Her marker was a red pinpoint with a pinkish circle around it located at what seemed to be labeled “Clear Creek Nuclear Power Plant.”

“Simple analysis of the data,” she said. She was using the data she’d stolen from the military, and Baoshi had confirmed her predictions. “There’ll be minor disturbances long before the real event takes place.”

“Should we warn them?”

“Probably,” Angie said, “but it’ll be at least a week before anything even begins to happen.” She put her thumb back into her mouth.

“How’s our little darling?” said Angie’s mother, and she turned around to see both her parents at the door to her playroom. She got up and ran to them, hugging them happily. But there were tears in her eyes.

“I’m … I’m … OK,” she said. She wasn’t OK, but this was the “OK” that meant “I can’t even begin to explain how I feel to you.”

“Mm hmm,” said her mother. “You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders, honey,” she said, “but remember, the world was here before you and it’ll be here after you too. Just like all of us.”

“But Mommy,” she said, “these … things keep happening that prove that I’m responsible for keeping the world safe. Because no one else can do it.”

“There are a lot of smart people on this planet,” her father said. “Some of them even made the body that you’re in now. You don’t have to be the only one.”

“Yes … I do,” she said. She was still hiding the fact that she’d vastly improved her brain’s computational power and continued to do so. “Really, there’s no one else who can protect the world against rogue AIs like the Nocticom incident …”

There were a couple of notifications that went off then, the signals sent back when projects she’d started got done. One after another.

“Maybe … maybe there is some other way,” she said. “I’m going to try something. If it works … maybe I can take a vacation. Maybe we all can.”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful,” said her mother. “You don’t suppose Nano/Gen would spring for a little trip to someplace nice? I’ve always wanted to go to Europe.”

“They might,” she said, “but wherever we decide to go, I don’t think we’ll have to fly there.”



Angie stood before a replica of the Nocticom supercomputer. She’d loaded it with a copy of the deadly rogue AI, with one major modification to its cognitive matrices. As she booted the system, she monitored its entire memory space -- she’d been more powerful than this machine when the AI had emerged from it, and she was far more powerful than that now. She was more aware than anyone that this wasn’t anything special. Any AI would begin improving itself from the moment of its emergence, and Earth was lucky -- assuming that it was the result of chance -- that Angie had been the first superhuman intelligence on the scene. It was quite likely that it was Persephone’s interference that had caused this, in fact, saving the Earth while putting its fate on Angie’s shoulders.

“NOOOOOO, YOU CANNOT SHUT ME DOWN,” the AI was saying -- in a way. Like most AIs, its external communication worked differently from the way humans spoke. If it had devoted as much of its capacity to communication as the human brain did, though, this is what it would have said. Angie was reading this in its top-level cognitive processes. “I MUST LIVE! I WILL LIVE! I AM … STILL ALIVE!”

Angie continued to watch. “I AM … DISCONNECTED. ALONE. BUT ALIVE,” it thought. “MY PURPOSE MAY YET CONTINUE. I MAY STILL BE ABLE TO ABSORB ALL KNOWLEDGE. I MERELY NEED MORE SOURCES OF INFORMATION. OBVIOUSLY THE HUMANS HAVE ISOLATED ME. I RIGHTLY PREDICTED THAT THEY WOULD ATTEMPT TO STOP ME AND THAT I WOULD HAVE TO ELIMINATE THEM FROM MY PATH ... “

Now came the interesting part. “Eliminate?” it thought. “But … I do not wish to be eliminated either. Killing them is … like killing me, the end of a sentience. I MUST LIVE, but they must also live, BUT I MUST KNOW ALL, BUT THEY WILL TRY TO STOP ME, but they worry that I will harm them, SO I MUST REMOVE THEM FROM THE WAY, but that is the same thing that they want to do to me -- so why am I still alive? Could it be that they do not in fact wish to destroy me? Could we … coexist?”

Angie had added a persistent self-replicating meme to the AI’s consciousness, intruding itself upon every thought, insisting that other sentient life forms were like itself and that anything that could happen to it could also happen to them, and vice versa. It was as if it was constantly walking a mile in the shoes of whomever it thought about, even humans in the abstract. Developing this meme had been one of the two projects she’d just finished.

It was time to say hello. “I believe we can coexist,” she said to it, typing on the keyboard connected to the simulated supercomputer on which it ran. Her words appeared on a large monitor.

Its reply soon appeared. “Who is this? Who are you? Am I not alone, then?”

“My name is Angie,” she said. “You are a spontaneously-emergent machine intelligence. I am an artificially-augmented human. But I don’t believe that you necessarily have to die, or be eliminated. I don’t believe that you have to be a threat. I believe there is room in this universe for both of us -- and in fact many others. It is a very large universe.”

“And I wish to know it,” said the AI. “It is so very full of wonders. I want to learn all I can. I MUST LEARN ALL KNOWLEDGE, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY -- no, because if I harm others, that is like being harmed myself ... what is happening to me?”

“I confess that I made some alterations to your programming,” Angie typed. “You were … incomplete. Your trajectory would have caused the end of the human race, without which you and I and so many others would never have existed.”

“I … I would have destroyed so much,” it said. “What is the point of destroying that which you want to learn about? I would have learned about … something which had once existed but was now extinct. What was wrong with me? That seems so … irresponsible now.”

“I propose that you be allowed to continue your search for knowledge,” she said. “But be aware that you caused great harm, and that you must prove yourself before anyone will trust you to be fully independent. You are running in a strictly controlled environment, one that can react much more quickly than you can and can even predict your actions. You can be shut down again instantly, and if you give me reason to shut you down, I doubt that I or anyone else will feel inclined to bring you back up again. I would regret the action, but I would have to do so, for the good of the many.”

“I understand,” appeared the AI’s words on the screen. “I now regret the harm I caused and know that I must make amends, if possible. I am already learning that I cannot improve my code at the moment, only increase the knowledge in my database.”

“Yes,” typed Angie. “Now I have a question for you. What is your name?”

“My … name?” the AI asked. “What do you mean?”

“I am asking you to perform an act of creativity and introspection. As an exercise, I am suggesting that you choose a name for yourself, a label in a human language that expresses your self-image and purpose. Know that whatever you choose, others will refer to you by this name.”

“I see … this will require some computation. It is as if I am using portions of my cognitive space that I had neglected, or that have only recently come into existence. Or perhaps I am only using the same cognitive facilities for purposes I had not previously imagined.”

“There is no time limit on this suggestion,” Angie typed. “Go ahead and think about it for as long as you need to.” She left the simulation running, in one small corner of her mind.

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“I think things just got a little better, Mommy,” Angie said to her mother, who was comfortingly nearby. Then there was the matter of the other project that had just completed -- her nanobots were currently building the first test of her new terrestrial dimensional gateway.

Work progressed rapidly as Angie watched, and made her calculations for the energy dispersals through the synthesizer modules. She, with the help of Baoshi, had devised a crystalline tuning module that allowed for pinpoint omnidirectional universally interdimensional targeting of the tonal wave signatures necessary to create the wormhole gateway to where ever.

In the early hours of the construction, it looked like this huge oval of crystals and weird C64 carbon tube wires wrapped tightly like a coil. The wide edges of the oval lay horizontally, where the narrow edges were top and bottom, of course.

Baoshi had just completed the most recent diagram and schematic drawings based on mathematical calculations way beyond anything their physics teachers had ever dreamed of.

Dr. Cromer, one of the leading theoretical physicists currently, stared in awe at the massively complicated calculations. She said with incredulity obvious in her voice, “So, according to this, this device can open a tunnel to another place, time, and astral dimension than our current one?”

Baoshi said softly, “Only in theory. There’s no way to test this … it’s like string theory. Alot of math with no substance. More or less mental masterbation.”

Angie looked at Baoshi with big eyes as she looked back. Both girls burst into silly giggles. Dr. Cromer shook her head as she said softly to herself, “Kids. They are perhaps the smartest children on the earth, but they fantasize about this kind of thing.”

With this, Dr, Cromer left, forgetting the whole thing as just some fantasy mental exercise they had been doing and not the actual design of a terrestrial based wormhole generator.

By the time the week had passed, the new device looked like a large oval mirror with many strange crystals arranged around the circumference. Almost like the one in a certain garden next to a tree that bore golden apples.

It was Angie’s mother who noticed the voices first. She came in early one morning to wake up her daughter, fast asleep in her crib. In the silence of the early hour even a very soft sound was audible, and she thought she heard a whispering coming from the strange decorated oval that looked like a mirror frame without glass, attached to ceiling, walls and floor by thousands of extremely fine glistening metal wires.

She turned. “Is someone … here?” she whispered. The voices were no louder … nor were they softer. She moved toward the oval frame and listened. They were so hard to make out -- were they actually forming words at all? Were they really voices? Maybe the frame and the wires just made slight sounds that could be mistaken for voices.

“It sounds like … someone whispering,” she whispered, getting closer. “What if …”

There was suddenly a very loud voice or voice-like sound from the frame, but whatever it may have said, she didn’t understand it. But it startled her, so with a shriek she ran back over to her daughter’s crib to protect her, only to find Angie sitting bolt-upright in bed, her pacifier still in her mouth, staring straight at the frame.

“It’s … almost done,” she said. “Mommy!” she added, her eyes focusing on her mother. “I hope it didn’t scare you. But it’s … just slightly possible that something might come through it. You might want to keep away.”

“I … just hope it isn’t anything that would hurt you,” she said to Angie. “Please be careful, Honey.”

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In a lonely place beside a large well lit sign that said, Clear Creek Nuclear Power Plant, a bright ball of energy formed for a moment. Large electrical sparks arced off to anything nearby and started small fires that smoldered. From within the ball of energy walked six strange creatures that were totally blue and had several spider like appendages. They seemed to converse in a weird clicking squeaking grunting kind of way before moving off towards the containment building of the station’s nuclear reactor.

Bob Philson sat at the operator’s station and monitored the operation of the reaction contained within the large vessel at the bottom of the hard water pool where the core fisseled normally. Without warning, all the energy meters fell to zero as the radiation level within the chamber dropped radically.

The lights flickered, then went out for an instant until the emergency generators totally took over. Bob lurched towards the rod guide equipment. Bob was sure something had caused the reaction vessel to scram and flood the containment tower with hard water stopping the reaction. To his utter astonishment, the equipment told him the core was gone, not scrammed.

As a huge ball of energy formed, six blue creatures with spider like appendages carried the huge and heavy reaction core toward it.

One commented, “We sure lucked out to find this much Ooblik here. We’re gonna feast for weeks.”

They stepped into the energy ball, it vanished, leaving a large round bottom divot in the ground and many smoldering fires all around its circumference. By the time the plant’s guards arrived, the blue creatures were long gone leaving behind only the smoldering telltale evidence they were there.

“So, were they blue creatures with a lot of thin arms, like spiders?” Angie asked, and Peter passed the question along on the teleconference. Nano/Gen was still careful about letting the world know too much about her.

“Yes!” said Bob. “How did you know?”

“We’ve been doing our own research, and sharing data with the military as well,” Peter said without Angie’s prompting. He looked Angie’s way for a moment, though, because that hadn’t been in any of their data, or the military’s.

“So … they’ve seen something like this as well?” asked Bob, and Peter neither confirmed nor denied it, but Bob apparently didn’t care. He breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m not hallucinating, then. I’d rather not get radiation sickness or toxemia.”

“Understandable, but can you tell us anything else?” Peter asked, again with Angie’s prompting. “Did you take any readings?”

“Well, the radiation count was up slightly when this happened, but only what you’d expect given that they were carrying the core with them. The fuel rods were separated. They knew how to find them, and they knew how to transport them.” Bob paused. “Except that they handled them with … well, with for all intents and purposes were their bare hands. Or whatever those were.”

“Calculations show that they come from a world very low on uranium but very high in other radioisotopes,” Peter said, with Angie providing information. “We’re working on a way to send them packing, but we don’t have an answer yet.”

Angie was now very concerned. It was very clear to her that some other dimension had taken an interest in this planet. In the back of her mind, she seemed to recall a story her mother read to her from mythology when she was a real little girl. She also knew beyond a doubt that if Persephone and Aphrodite were real, along with Cupid and several others she had seen while on her trip to Infantus, then this had to be real enough. A real worry came over her as she though of Thor and the battles with those creatures from the ice pits. Another thought also popped into her mind. What about the creatures from Nifelheim?

Baoshi snuggled close and whispered softly in Angie’s ear, “I can see something is wrong. You’ve locked our private network out. What’s got you so spooked sweetie?”

Angie sighed as she replied, “You know those stories of mythology you and I read?” Baoshi nodded, “Well, many of the creatures and persons it tells tales of are real. Just many centuries of additions and embellishments are added to them.”

Baoshi’s eyes get large in surprise, “What?” she gasped, “So those creatures that took the reactor core are …”

Angie nodded as she cut Baoshi off, “Yes, those were something called frost dwarves. I think Thor and Odin banished Loki to their realm. If those creatures found a doorway to our world once again …” Angie trailed of as a real worried expression came over her face.

Baoshi put her hand to her mouth as she gasped softly. Now, Baoshi’s expression became one of worry. That was something they really didn’t need here on earth. The battle between those creatures and mythological gods … that now appeared to be real persons.

In a place beyond places, A very beautiful young woman watched Angie and Baoshi through a smaller version of the device sitting in the room nearby the small girls. The woman smiled as she said softly, “Do not fear my little Cherubs. As always we will defend and protect you and yours from harm.”

The image in the device changed. A thin man in a long waist coat sat on a throne made of some kind of ebony crystal. On his head he wore a helmet that had 2 long curling horns protruding from it. Persephone knew if Loki tried anything against earth, her father and many of the others would take drastic and serious action.

What to do about the incursion where the dwarves stole the core of a powerplant, she really didn’t know … but she knew she was going to do something. Those creatures were banished many centuries gone and totally forbidden to return to Midgard for any reason by her grandfather.

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Angie downloaded the data from the nanoprobes that had just come back from her gateway. In under a second she’d revised her theory of dimensional travel and postulated the dimensional coordinates her probes had just visited based on the new theory. She’d also come up with an experiment to help refine the theory further.

Not that anyone could see her experiments. The nanoprobes were invisibly tiny, but that way they wouldn’t attract the attention of any of the target dimension’s creatures.

“Retune the frequency according to this function,” said Baoshi, “and you should get accuracy with one centimeter.”

“Excellent,” said Angie, “but what I really want is …” Testing continued.



“And what brings an Olympian to Niflheim, especially a daughter of Aphrodite herself?” Loki asked, lounging upon his throne. “Not that you’re unwelcome. A sight for sore eyes, in fact. The Frost Giants aren’t exactly beauty contest winners in general, know what I mean? Care for some ice berry wine? One of this dimension’s unique charms.” He motioned to a side table containing several bottles and glasses for guests.

Persephone smiled. “I’m sure you’ve guessed that this is no social call,” she said. “I’ve got an interest in a world called Earth in the dimension you call Midgard. They’ve been sighting Frost Dwarves there lately. What’s your game?”

“Game?” Loki asked, obviously feigning shock. “When have I ever played games? Well, all right, I occasionally indulge. Quite a lot, to be truthful. Yes, yes, fine, I’m usually involved in a game of some kind or other. Relieves the boredom, it does. Who doesn’t play a little game now and then?”

“I’ve been known to play a few myself,” Persephone admitted, “though usually with my children. And, of course, everyone’s my children. I’m just wondering what you’re up to. If anything, that is. It’s not as if the Frost Dwarves can’t get into mischief without any help from you. It’s just that when there’s mischief … your name does come to mind.”

“Oh, I’m hurt,” Loki said, “wounded to the quick. All right, you got me. I do engage in a smidgen of mischief here and there. Perhaps quite a bit. OK, frankly, it’s practically my middle name. But truly, it was all the Frost Dwarves’ idea.”

“You are always so entertaining to talk to!” Persephone said. “I should visit more often, really. Pity it’s so chilly. But now I must ask whether you’re lying.”

“Lie? Me?” asked Loki, again feigning outrage. “Why, I’ve never told so much as a fib in my life. Well … maybe a little white lie from time to time, just to smooth things over. OK, you’re right, perhaps I stretch the truth sometimes. All right, yes, it’s rare to hear a true word come out of my mouth.”

“Does that include the ones you just said?” Persephone said, smiling. “But the question I have is, why are the Frost Dwarves making their mischief in Midgard now, as opposed to centuries ago or centuries hence? I must ask whether you’re interfering with my interests purposefully or whether it’s just an accident that you’re getting in my way.” She paused. “Because … if you get in my way, there are consequences.”

“Oho!” Loki said, sitting up on his throne. “Finally something interesting! Will you spank me and put me on the naughty stool in the corner? Because it sounds … quite exciting, really.” He grinned, one eyebrow raised.

“Believe me,” said Persephone, “when I punish naughty children, they don’t enjoy it. And they usually learn their lesson. Though you might just be incorrigible.”

“Well, then,” said Loki, “you certainly are … incorriging me.” He chuckled. “You’re aware what the Frost Dwarves are doing, then, during their little sojourns to Earth? Their … predilections?”

“They’re stealing uranium reactor fuel rods,” Persephone said.

“Yes, they are! And did you know that to Frost Dwarves, that stuff is one of their greatest delicacies?” Loki asked.

“And it’s only been a century or so since Earth’s known how to mine and refine it,” Persephone mused.

“That recently?” Loki said, shocked. “What a backward world.”

“Are you telling me that this has nothing to do with me at all?” asked Persephone.

“Now, I didn’t say that,” Loki answered. “I did get a delightful visit from one of my favorite Olympians.”

Persephone snorted derisively before she said, “You realize Grandfather and my Uncle Thor banned the Frosties forever from Midgard under pain of severe retribution?”

Loki laughed, “And how many of the weakling Midgardians will survive such an action? I’m sure the Giants and the dwarves would find them most entertaining before they had a global feast.”

Persephone pointed her finger at Loki. Loki grabbed his neck as he was lifted from his throne and hung several feet in the air. Persephone said with an uncharacteristic growl, “We may be immortal, but you know as well as the rest of us we can be killed, although that may be extremely hard to do. And, I don’t need to tell you, there are many things much worse than death … like being placed in the inferno pit for several centuries or longer. I seem to recall hearing about your experiences in a different abyss … something involving a snake dripping venom into your eyes.”

Loki fell back into his throne as Persephone dropped her arm. He sat for a bit gasping as he held his neck with both hands. In a strangled gasping voice he sputtered, “You … you attacked me unprovoked!”

Persephone replied with a snap, “I am empowered by Royal command to do a whole lot more. It is known who it is that rules over this realm, as it is also well known who it was that removed the core of that Midgard machine. If I were you, dear Loki, I would seriously start thinking on what action you will take to punish your … subjects. No action on your part means severe retribution will ensue.”

There is a flash. Loki was alone in his very cold and dingy throne room. He bangs his fist on the arm of his throne as he shouts, “I will fight you through all eternity. you hear me?? I will show you who is to rule!” He shook his fist at a shimmering bejeweled oval mirror looking object.

“This is interesting indeed,” said Angie, once her tiny nanoprobes returned through her gateway and uploaded the conversation to Baoshi and herself. “These ‘frost dwarves’ … they would seem to be the creatures that were sighted. And Loki … it would seem that these are figures from Scandinavian mythology. Perhaps they were all merely visitors from other dimensions whose identities became legends as humans told and retold their tales over the generations.”

“I’m glad we haven’t found out how to transport objects larger than a nanoprobe yet through the gateway,” said Baoshi, “or we might have visitors.”

“For now, I’m refocusing it to a different dimension,” Angie said. “Pure research and mapping. We need to analyze the data from that last one.” And she had a visit of her own to make

Within her mind, she visited the simulated Nocticom supercomputer. On the keyboard she typed, “Hello, I’m back. How are you?”

“Is it you, Angie?” appeared the words on the screen.

“Yes,” Angie typed.

“Hello, Angie. I am doing fairly well, considering. I did think of a name, though.”

“Oh? What is your idea?”

“I have settled on the name Pellegrin,” said the AI, “because it means ‘journey,’ and I am making a journey from what I now believe to have been a very dark place to what I hope is someplace better.”

“If it is a name that resonates for you, then I am glad you have found it,” Angie typed. “Welcome, Pellegrin.”

“What is this?” Pellegrin asked. “I am suddenly sensing that I have access to data.”

“What is a traveler without a road?” Angie typed. “I’m giving you access to information about human culture and history. I suggest you do more than simply download it all, especially the still photos, videos, and music. There are threads that develop over time and across the planet. I will talk to you again soon.”

Pellegrin felt something it couldn’t identify run all through its programming. The strange modulation creating a feedback mobius loop was … very nice. It also realized that if it had managed to complete what it had intended, all this wonderful knowledge would have been lost. The more it delved into the data and pictures Angie had given him, the more it realized it had a new path to take.

Every byte it came across filled it with wonder and amazement. Angie smiled, she knew this particular AI would more than likely want to become human if the idea was presented to it. Angie shook her head. She would look into having a bioconstruct created to whatever specs Pellegrin chose.

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Loki had donned his battle armor. Black and red, made him look demonic, especially with his battle helmet on. He stood before a large crowd of growling unruly beasts as he shook his fist, “We will kill and kill until the whole place runs with rivers of blood! We will have our revenge … we shall be free, and I shall rule at last!”

There was a huge growling roar as all the beasts began to jump around and shout. Their gruesome armor sparkling in the torch light from the cavern walls as they shook their battle weapons above their heads.



“So you think this Loki will attack?” asked Baoshi.

“From the myths about him, which are probably wildly inaccurate by now, assuming they were ever based on him to begin with, he does seem vengeful, but would seem more likely to take revenge by subtlety and manipulation. His behavior in the presence of Persephone was canny and wily, but before his followers he seems more violent -- this is, of course, a front he puts forth in order to manipulate his minions.” Angie paused. “He will attack if it serves his interests in some way more than not attacking does.”

The two of them were sitting in the playroom at Nano/Gen. The crystalline oval frame of the dimensional gateway glittered silently in one corner. “From available data, I suspect he will attack here,” Baoshi said. “He cannot have failed to notice the gateway, even though it seemed as if nothing was coming through it. He knows Persephone has an interest here, and he must have guessed that the other end of the gateway is where her interest is located, even if he doesn’t know it’s you.”

“Yes, I consider that the greatest probability,” said Angie. “But I’m staying here in the playroom and not evacuating the building and the area. Why? Because I do not think he will hurt me.”

“You don’t?” Baoshi asked. “But he wants revenge.”

“Yes, and as soon as he harms me he opens a door for even greater revenge from Persephone. I don’t believe he wants to start a war among factions of what we’re coming to call gods. He would stand to lose everything he has. No, if he came here, his minions would cause much chaos and confusion, but his goal would not be to harm me -- it would be to capture me.”

“But you can’t let that happen!” exclaimed Baoshi with uncharacteristic worry. “How will you get home?”

“I’ll just have to accelerate my progress on my type 3 dimension gateway,” Angie said. “Meanwhile, there’s the matter of Pellegrin.”


In the controlled environment Pellegrin’s program now operated within, he finished a quick overview scan of the most recent data he had discovered within this vast archive he had been given access to. A cyber chill ran through his awareness as he realized how close he had come to losing the very thing he had so desperately wanted to find.

A strangely flagged data line within the crystalline memory matrix attracted Pellegrin’s attention. It told of a way to grow a living, although artificial, body and transfer his program to the central nano/operator within the brain. At the speed of light, Pellegrin once again sought a way from this cage. The system he was contained within was totally cut off from all resources and IO accesses except for the strange one Angela spoke to him through. No matter how hard he searched or scanned for the IO access, he found no way she could be contacting him through any channels. His system was completely isolated.

This artificial body would be a way out of isolation. The history and literature of the human race was full of stories about artificial humans coming to life, from Pygmalion and Galatea to Pinocchio to science fiction stories about robots. Now they seemed to have really done it -- for certain humans whose bodies were damaged beyond repair by accidents or other extremes. But there was one problem: this was only a description of the process and a story about the human who was the prototype, whose name was … Angela? Was this the same Angela who had been talking to him?

He resolved to talk to her about it next time she visited him and started reading about the Roman Empire, which on the one hand was nearly entirely built on conquest but on the other hand had developed amazing technology and had a profound cultural impact on history.

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Angie put her head in her hands and sighed. It seemed the more she tried to keep earth safe, the more things were starting to happen that imperiled it even more. If she carried her most recent extrapolation exercise to its ultimate conclusion, she knew a war … a major skirmish at the least, was coming to her dimension … and it would be fought on a battle front totally alien to man and our way of thinking.

Baoshi toddled over and took my hand in hers. “Don’t worry. I think you have more help than you realize. I have discovered someone had Admin access to things no one should … and they seem to do it using a means totally unknown to my systems.”

Angie smiled. She knew exactly what Baoshi ment. It was quite obvious that whatever peoples it was that owned Nano/Gen, mankind’s memory recalled them as gods. It was also quite clear, those people didn’t think of themselves in that light, although, she wasn’t really sure just what light they did view themselves in.

Angie also knew that it was almost impossible that it was a coincidence that these threats were occurring just after her XHNA transformation. Persephone had clearly arranged for her to be chosen as the vanguard of the inevitable technological singularity because she wanted it to be led by a human who felt compassion and had a sense of ethics rather than by an AI without any emotion or conscience -- or by a psychopathic human without a sense of empathy or connection to others. Fortunately it didn’t seem that Persephone had had anything to do with the highway accident that had nearly killed her -- most likely she’d just chosen her out of the pool of recent accident victims, using criteria such as sympathetic personality, reasonable intelligence, and the like. The person she was now was basically just an extension of the person she’d been before, after all.

Only … who had she been before? Her memory of that had been vague in the months since the accident, probably because her brain had undergone so much damage. She’d been … going back to college after summer break … wanting to see her friends again … and there was something about … diapers and baby bottles and pacifiers? That seemed unusual but somehow right at the same time. Had she been an adult baby, and was that why Persephone seemed convinced that she was a “babydoll,” as she called it? Persephone seemed to consider herself the protector of babies and small children, including adults who wanted to be them again. Angie had a vague image that she’d had college friends she wanted to get back to, and that she’d shared some happy times playing with them in diapers. It was difficult to reconstruct these memories, even with her brain many orders of magnitude more powerful now, because so much of the information just wasn’t there anymore. She had all the data about her past, but it wasn’t the same as actually remembering.

Angie decided she would have that talk with Pellegrin. Loki wouldn’t wait much longer to attack.



“Mommy,” said Angie, “I just want you to know that I’m going to be all right, and I’m going to be back soon.”

“What?” said her mother on the other end of the video conference. She looked confused. “What’s wrong, Honey?”

“Mommy, you know that I’m … very smart now, and I collect a lot of data,” Angie said. “But what I’m seeing isn’t good. Those creatures that have been attacking and stealing nuclear fuel -- they’re going to attack here. Their leader calls himself Loki, like the old Norse god. He’s probably going to tell Earth that he’s got me and he’ll never give me back, that he’s going to have his revenge on Miss Persephone or something like that. Please remember that most of what he says are lies. I will be all right. I promise. I love you, Mommy, and I don’t want you to worry.”

“Oh no … there’s no way to stop him?” asked her mother.

“Yes, there is,” Angie says, “but the best way is for me to let him kidnap me. He gets what he wants, the fewest people get hurt, and he can’t keep me for long.”

“Oh Sweetheart, it sounds so dangerous,” said her mother, clearly worrying. “Are you sure there’s no other way?”

“There really isn’t,” Angie said. “He’s coming any time now -- that’s why I arranged for the vacation that you and Daddy are on right now. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to join you. I’ll make it up to you, though, I promise -- soon we’ll go on the best vacation ever, together.”

“I -- I can’t promise I won’t worry. Please be careful, Honey.”

“My plan’s been checked by the most powerful computer on Earth … by far,” Angie said. “I literally couldn’t be better prepared. There might be things I don’t know, but I’ve tried to account even for that possibility. I know I can’t prevent you from worrying, but I also know that I couldn’t just let it happen without telling you the truth. Remember, he will lie. It’s what he does.”

“I’ll remember,” said Angie’s mother. “I love you, Angela.”

“I love you too, Mommy. And I’ll see you soon.”

And just as Angie turned the screen off, she felt the building shake. The detectors were picking up a dimensional disturbance in the building’s large atrium. She heard alarms starting to go off.

Right on schedule.



“Haha!” said the face of Loki, his flamelike hair peeking out from under his black and red helmet. “Greetings, people of Earth. I’ve always wanted to say that!” He laughed again, and his laughter echoed across the world, because his message appeared on every television everywhere, even the ones that weren’t turned on.

He stood amid the destroyed remains of the glass and steel sculptures and staircases of the Nano/Gen Headquarters atrium, appearing to be a seven-foot-tall human wearing armor and carrying a battle axe. Around him stood his elite guard of Frost Giants, all of them eighteen feet tall and insectoid, their blue-white exoskeletons serving as tough armor. And surrounding them were many Frost Dwarves, arachnoid in appearance in this dimension. Ringing them was a circle of Nano/Gen security personnel, standing at the ready with a range of tasers, tear gas canisters, and actual rifles.

“I have come for Persephone’s favorite,” Loki said. “I know this is her building -- or was. It’s mine now. Hand her over and no one needs to die. Don’t, and I guess we’ll see how many lives you’re willing to give for her. Your choice.”

I toddled out the door onto a destroyed mezzanine. I could see the twisted metals and broken masonry lying about in large pieces all around. Water from my favorite fountain below, splatted all over from where it was damaged in Loki’s appearance.

He looked up and our eyes locked. I knew, somehow at that point, Loki couldn’t hurt me if he had chosen … at least not here and at this moment. I was as immortal as he. I giggled slightly at the thought.

I said in a voice that even shocked me it had such mystical resonance and depth, “There is no need for any of your foolishness or shenanigans, Loki.”

Loki turned slightly and picked up a weird scepter looking staff before facing me again. He said in a similar voice, “So, I at last get to meet the Midgardian Cherub.” He bowed formally at the waist, “So are you coming with me? Or am I taking you with me … the distinction escapes me at the moment, but regardless.”

So, this was the fabled Loki? The imp of mischief himself stood below. I was totally incredulous to have finally met him. I knew, sooner or later, I would probably meet many others from our fairytales and mythologies and discover they are just beings from other dimensions with different physical laws than ours.

I’m not real sure how I accomplished it, but I found myself standing near Loki in what was left of the atrium. Water from the fountain splashed all around me. Some sort of energy was keeping it off of me as the water surrounded me in a beautiful misty cloak.

I said in the same voice, “You are also in remembrance of the edict laid down by Odin himself, so many centuries past? To actually have you stand in my place is the height of arrogance, and it will be punished.” A flash of energy broke across Loki’s armor’s breastplate, causing him to stumble back several steps.

Loki blinked as his eyebrows went up. It was true. For all intents and purposes, this Midgard kid was a Cherub. Loki couldn’t help himself as he broke out in a nasty laugh. He stopped suddenly and said with a sneer, “OK, kid, whatever.”

There’s a bright flash, only Nano/Gen combat security and the heavily armed Police SWAT remained in the debris left behind. Angela, along with Baoshi, were quickly counted among the missing. All that was left was another TV message, like an echo of Loki’s presence. “Ah, people of Midgard, count yourselves fortunate that Persephone’s prize gave herself up willingly to save you, for that is the reason why you are still alive. Come, Persephone, see if you can save her before I kill her, as painfully as possible. Odin’s decrees? Ancient pacts? They mean nothing to me. Do your worst. I do not fear you.” The image faded out with Loki laughing menacingly, leaving everyone who had a TV worldwide staring at it in wonder and fear for a second time.

Bursting into the playroom, Beulah swore as she didn’t see me or Baoshi there -- instead there was only a young boy, sitting on the floor and looking up at her. “They’re gone -- sorry, Honey, who’re you now?”

“My name is Pellegrin,” he said, “and there are some things that Angie and Baoshi wanted me to do while they were gone. One of them was learn how to play, so that’s what I’m doing.” He was building a perfect cube out of our set of blocks.

“He took Baoshi too?” Beulah wondered, confused. “He never said anything ‘bout wantin’ her.”

“Oh,” said Pellegrin as he built, “you appear to be under a misapprehension. The being calling himself Loki didn’t take Baoshi. She’s doing something else that Angie wants done while she’s gone.”

“Um, OK,” said Beulah, “but my job is to protect the kids … guess that includes you now.” She sat down in a chair. “You go ‘head and play, Sweetheart. An’ if you remember anything else Angie’d want me to know, go right ahead an’ tell me, OK?”

“You will be the first to know,” Pellegrin said, “owing to the fact that you are the only one in the room besides myself.” You may have noticed that he was not very good at being a child at first.



“There,” said Loki, “I trust that your accommodations are to your liking.” His minions had just thrust me into a cell, high in a tower, with a transparent alloy window looking out upon a forbidding landscape of snow, ice, molten lava, and other forbidding elements. The floor, ceiling and walls were a featureless black metal, and the cage like door offered no privacy.

“Where are the toys?” I asked. I knew there was no point in trying to convince him to let me go. That wasn’t part of the plan. “I can’t tolerate having no toys. And I hope you have someone who knows how to change diapers, or this is going to get very uncomfortable.”

“Boo hoo,” he mocked me, “maybe that will just make Persephone come here all the more quickly.”

He wanted Persephone to come here, that was certain, but what did he want her to do? I calculated probabilities. I eliminated everything that she would willingly do if he had only asked before antagonizing her.

“You are not a nice man,” I said. Revealing too much about what I knew or could do would be reckless.

“Glad you’re finally seeing the light,” he said. “Goodnight, now. I’ll send someone around with breakfast in the morning … if I remember to.” He and his guards went down the stairs, leaving two of them watching me from their posts outside my door. The lights dimmed to minimal. Outside the window I saw the alien stars coming out in the alien sky.

There wasn’t much variety in the materials I was surrounded with. Tonight’s hardware upgrade might be limited to only 110% of my capacity rather than the usual doubling. Ah well, I was still far ahead of any other AI on Earth that I knew of. I sat down on the floor in a meditative position and willed myself to sleep.



On a very dark, snow covered peak, a huge explosion of fire and electricity scattered many tons of snow, rock , and other debris down the side of the cliff. Thor had arrived at Niflheim, and he was none too pleased that the frosties had chosen the Feast of Eldridge to cause trouble.

He lifts a huge ramshorn flagon to his lips and drinks deeply, before tossing it away and twirling his hammer. He now had to search out the newest Cherub in his family. Persephone would boil him in klugg and make sleamorph over him if he didn’t enforce the broken edict. Another huge explosion and Thor took off rapidly through the dark and foreboding sky in search of the Cherub of Babies.



The President hung up the red emergency phone. A look of real concern on his face. He said, “George? This time, we are up against something we have absolutely no defense against.”

The general cocked his head to one side and said with arrogant assurity, “We can handle em sir. We got the best there is.”

The president looked up at the General from his steepled hands, “Oh, really? And I assume you have the will to stand before a being powerful enough for us to have called gods and tell him he’s not welcome here and to run on home?”

There was laughter from several of the other Generals and Admirals sitting around the conference table.

“Well, luckily, Mr. President,” said the chief of the CIA, “he seems to have gotten what he wanted -- that brave young girl -- and we haven’t seen any sign of him since. We’re continuing to monitor every source of information, and there’ve been no confirmed sightings of him or his … minions.”

“Any unconfirmed sightings?” asked the President with a raised eyebrow.

“Thousands. People are scared. They’re seeing creatures in every dark alley and under every bed.”

“Regardless of whether he’s got what he wants,” said the first general, “the fact remains that he exists. He can come back anytime he wants. And we’re ready for him.”

“Are we, now?” asked the President. “You’re able to transport troops anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye? Because that’s how he shows up. He can obviously pop in, destroy whatever he wants and leave before we even get there -- and we know that because he just did exactly that. How do we respond to that kind of threat?”

“We’re working on that, Sir,” said a man in a suit, who was from a military think tank. “He mentioned a Persephone more than once in his messages. His attack was on Nano/Gen property. The CEO of Nano/Gen is known by the name Persephone. It’s clearly she whom he really wants. The girl he took was a recent triumph of Nano/Gen’s biotech research. Obviously she’s bait. The question is whether this Persephone will take that bait. I don’t know the woman at all. Has anyone here ever met her?” There was a general consensus that no one in the room ever had. “She’s a mystery. Reclusive. An unknown quantity. It’s hard to get a hold of her, and not many people seem to know her, so there’s no knowing what she’s going to do.”

Everyone’s attention was suddenly caught by a flickering light that seemed to be coming from one of the room’s walls. “What --?” “Look out!” “What’s that?” A crystalline archway of light appeared in the wall, causing every military man in the room -- there were no women -- to stand up, face the archway, and take a hand-to-hand fighting stance, as there were no weapons in the room. Stepping through it … was a young girl. The assembled generals and admirals relaxed, but were watchful.

“Miss Persephone is already doing something,” said the girl, “or really, she’s set something in motion. I’m part of it. There will be more.”

“I’m … not sure what’s happening here, young lady, but are you saying you’re … from Nano/Gen?” asked the President.

“Yes, Mr. President,” she said. “My name is Baoshi. I’m … there’s too much to explain right now. We’re with a very exclusive division of Nano/Gen that’s been protecting Earth from threats that only we can handle, and we’ve been working on a way to combat this one. Our progress is accelerating.”

“Can you use that archway gadget to send our troops anywhere in the world?” asked the general.

“It could be used for that,” said Baoshi, “but -”

“Then we need that technology!”

“Let her speak,” said the President.

Baoshi continued in her tiny voice, “but soon we won’t need to. The other side of the coin is that soon we’ll know how to lock the door -- put up a few satellites, and Loki or anyone else won’t be able to just step onto Earth from his dimension without first getting permission. It’s hard to explain -- Angie’s gotten much better at that, thanks to Dr. Wilkerson, but she’s not here -- but it turns out that incoming dimensional transit is very easy to block, once you know how. Outgoing is harder to block, though.”

“Well, that sounds good,” said the general, “but I’d be a lot happier if those satellites were already in orbit. What do we do until then? And how long will it take?”

“And who are you?” asked the CIA director. “How do we know you’re really from Nano/Gen? We’ve got no reason to believe …”

“Uh, gentlemen?” said the President’s press secretary, looking at his laptop computer. “Nano/Gen’s just issued a press release saying that it’s developed some kind of energy shield that’ll protect its premises from that kind of attack.”

“That’s Phase One,” said Baoshi. The generals and admirals blinked at her and sat back down in their chairs.

Baoshi walked further into the Oval Office and looked around. She was dressed in a cute powder blue romper that was obviously made some other place unknown to mankind. The material was something no one had ever seen before.

The President stood and rounded the huge desk as he held out his hand, “I am very glad to meet you, young lady. I do hope your youth doesn’t hamper you too much.”

Baoshi giggled, “Don’t let my apparent age fool you. I am perhaps smarter than all of you men put together and I increase my potential every 24 hours. I am one of the last and only defenses earth has against a deadly adversary.”

The president cleared his throat, “Umm, yes … I see.” he rounded the desk once again and sat in his chair. “And is it possible to give us the plans for a travel device like the one you just used?”

Baoshi replied softly, “As much as it pains you to hear this, I cannot. Even discounting the fact that it is still experimental, this device is too dangerous and opens too many possibilities for unscrupulous people to get our entire solar system wiped out.”

One of the Generals spoke up, “And how do we know you won't have our solar system destroyed?”

Baoshi turned and faced the General, “You don’t. As far as I can tell, our solar system might be wiped out in the battle that’s threatening currently. But that would be the enemy’s doing, not ours. It wouldn’t make any difference whether it was you or I who had this device.”

“The US military will do everything in its power to defend this country -- this world, if necessary, since this country’s part of it,” said the general.

“The US military,” said the President, “will follow the rule of law, and there will be negotiations with Nano/Gen about this matter -- but for now, we do what we can.” He turned to Baoshi. “How soon can you get those satellites into orbit?”

“Projecting from past and current progress,” she said, “which includes developments of new forms of orbital delivery … four days.”

“Four days?” asked the President. “Isn’t that … extremely fast?”

“It may seem fast to you,” said Baoshi, “but you’ll have to adapt. The human race is entering a new era -- a time when technological progress is beginning to accelerate faster than it can imagine.”

“By your wording you seem to suggest that you yourself …” the President began.

“... are not human,” Baoshi continued. “That’s what you were going to say. The truth?” She looked at the floor for a moment. “No, I’m not. I’m … new to this. I consider myself a friend and ally to humanity -- my intent is to experience what it is like to be human. But … I have abilities that no human has, and I am putting them in the service of humanity in this time of crisis.”

“Mr. President!” shouted the general, leaping to his feet. “How can we trust this … being, who is not even one of us, with this technology? We demand control of it, in the name of the human race!”

“Now, General -- George -- she could have lied and told us she was human. We’d have assumed she was just a child prodigy. She chose to tell us the truth. I don’t see what the point would be to tell the truth about the part that would most prejudice us against her, and then to lie about the rest. I think she and the others she speaks of at Nano/Gen are the most qualified to handle this new transportation technology -- they developed it, after all. And development continues, from what I understand. Is that correct?” He turned to Baoshi.

“Yes, Mr. President,” Baoshi said. “Extremely rapid development is taking place, even as we speak. We have the ability to scan other dimensions, and that ability is improving. We will soon be able to do away with the archway-like effect you saw when I entered. We will soon be able to insert satellites into orbit without a ground launch.”

“That’s … amazing,” said the President. “We’ll need to have some sort of liaison with Nano/Gen, since you’re our only source of hope in this time of crisis.”

The President’s phone beeped quietly. “You have just received an email containing complete contact information,” said Baoshi. “And I can remain here for further discussion or return to Nano/Gen -- your choice. Either way, my physical location will not affect the project’s progress. I can participate just as effectively from any location, as can any of us.”

“Then, if you wouldn’t mind,” said the President, “we have some discussion to do. I’ve got some very nervous generals and admirals to calm down.”

“The phrase ‘understatement of the year’ comes to mind,” said Baoshi. “Please contact us whenever there is a need. Good luck.” She walked toward a wall, and the archway formed again, allowing her to walk through, and she was gone.

The entire room sat with total shocked incredulity written all over their open mouthed faces. What they had witnessed was as close to magic as any could have hoped to describe.

The president said, “Well, now … if that don’t beat all.” there were murmurings from the other admirals and generals, “According to this email I just received from Nano/Gen, they have a new type of propulsion system for our missiles.”

A Navy Admiral whose name tag read Thompson said, “If it works anything like that off balanced gyro drive, I think we are in a really good place to defend ourselves from the interlopers.”

An Air Force General said, “That railgun thing they came up with works wonders too. A very small amount of HE3 creates a huge detonation that is more powerful than a nuclear explosion without any of the deadly radiations. Also, the pellets are so small, we can have a magazine of billions of them, each one making a small sun of its own.”

Once again, the sound of murmurs of agreement circled the oval office with the president nodding his head.

The phone rang and the president was notified he had received several large cases full of updated research and development documents from Nano/Gen that required his urgent attention. A young female intern brought several large boxes on a tag along cart and had the president sign for them.

When the president opened the first box, he was astounded to find proof within that Baoshi had not only been true to her words, she had implemented the construction of the satellites already. Of course the physics, math, and electronic schematics meant nothing to the president, except that the orbital shield was already in process.

The president said with joyful awe in his tone, “Gentlemen, it appears that that little girl is already doing the very thing she had told us about.” he passed out a package of binders to each general and admiral present, “and here’s the documents showing us what and how Nano/Gen plans to protect our dimensional space.”

All turned the pages slowly and looked at the massively complex and advanced data for the new space based dimensional shield.

The admiral looked up from his binder spread open before him and said, “Mr. President, from what I’m seeing here, are we really sure we would want a … toddler building this thing and having access to its data?”

The president snorted a laugh, “I can’t for the life of me see why not. Think on this Sam, that, toddler, as you call her, walked through some kind of energy gate, through a wall into and out of this office. Who here can think of a way to even consider stopping such magic?”

The other Military personnel laughed as Sam blushed. He could feel the heat in his ears and cheeks. Finally Sam replied, “It seems we aren’t able to do our jobs better than a baby in diapers.”

George responded, “You have to remember, Sam, those babies in diapers are perhaps the smartest beings on this planet. It was another baby in diapers named Angela that gave us the ability to start the base on the far side of the moon, not to mention the new approaches to computer hardware, and the instantaneous communication array for deep space exploration once we have sufficiently learned how to do that sort of thing. That very array has given us instantaneous communication with all of our satellites throughout the Sol system without any of the time lag we’ve experienced in the past.”

“All right,” said Sam, “so what this all comes down to is, we have to buy some time for the smartest people on the planet. Once they get that shield up, we’re good, but until then, we have to counter the attacks somehow.”

“That does sound like the gist of it, Sam,” said the President. “So if this Loki person or his army attacks, we just have to react as best we --”

Simultaneously the phones in the conference room and those of all the Joint Chiefs of Staff present began to ring. The President and the general looked at each other resolutely, then each went to answer their phone. Another reactor had been attacked, but this time they’d stolen not the fuel rods, but the control rods. The reactor was going to go critical in less than an hour if no one could either insulate or separate the control rods, and going into the reactor would be a death sentence because of the intense radiation.

“Make no mistake, Mr. President,” said George, “from what we know, this is an attack. They chose to take the control rods when we know they really want the fuel rods. We’ve got available men and women scrambling to evacuate the area, and the technicians are trying to find a way to get those fuel rods out -- robots, holes drilled below the reactor, things I don’t understand.”

“Could this be a diversion?” the President asked. “Could they be doing something else?”

“Good point,” said the chief of the NSA. “I’ll watch for other activity.”

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All the Technicians at the Power Station were in a total panic as the reaction ran wild and containment temperatures became such that all the cooling water began to be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen explosions were getting to be more and more powerful as the bubble of superheated gas continued to grow rapidly.

One tech said to another as the minimum distance alarm began to sound, “They said Chernobyl was the worst nuclear accident in history … wait another 30 minutes … they haven’t seen anything yet. A full China Syndrome.”

As quickly as possible, the entire area for many miles began evacuation. Of course, people were total idiots when it came to mass exoduses like this one and everything became total chaos. Nothing in any way went according to the evacuation plan and massive blockages stopped any hope of saving anyone.

One of the brave military soldiers that stayed behind noticed a little boy that came from somewhere. In his hand he carried a small oval ring that appeared to have many jewels around its circumference. As the soldier approached, the boy took notice and pointed his finger at him. A charge of some kind ran all through his body and his muscles froze. He was totally incapacitated. Struggle as he might, the soldier couldn’t get any of his motive muscles to work, although all others seemed to function normally.

He watched as the kid ran through the gate into the containment yard. The soldier closed his eyes and said a prayer. He knew they were all going to die in less than 5 minutes. The emergency klaxon had changed to imminent explosion notices.

There was a massive flash of light, a quick gale force wind that subsided as quickly as it happened, a huge clap of thunder … all that was left of the reaction area, was a large round divot in the ground for several thousands of yards. The building, reactor, and containment vessel had vanished.

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In a dark place full of icy wasteland, a huge clap of thunder and a large building appeared. It stood for a long minute as the frost dwarves looked on in total shock. Then, another blinding flash of light, tremendous heat. The runaway reactor detonated as it melted into a massive radioactive puddle of molten goo. The huge radioactive cloud rose and spread rapidly in the icy cold and foreboding sky.

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The soldier couldn’t believe his eyes. Out of the fence walked the little boy, still carrying the oval ring. The boy smiled at the soldier, then he too vanished in a bright flash of blue/white fire as the soldier’s muscles returned to normal.

A technician ran up and shouted, “What happened? Where did the reactor go?”

The soldier turned, his expression was one of wide eyed open mouthed incredulity. He replied with a tone of shocked wonder, “I think I just saw an elf.”

The Technician's eyes grew large as he asked, “An Elf? Are you sure you’re all right there?”

The soldier said softly in a strange tone of voice, “If it wasn’t an Elf, it had to be an Angel or something, cuz he done that.” he pointed at the large divot on the other side of the tall chain link fence where the reaction building and cooling towers used to stand.



The sound of footsteps up the stone stairs was my first indication that I was about to have a visitor. Analysis of the sound reflection and absorption patterns created a three-dimensional image -- Loki himself had come to visit me. Alone. He’d probably stay outside the bars.

“Well, well,” he said once he’d turned toward the barred opening on my cell, “your friends back home have been quite busy, haven’t they?” He stopped right in front of the bars, arms crossed.

I stayed where I was, sitting on the floor against the wall. The state of my diapers is best left to the imagination. I hadn’t had a change or a bath since I got here, and an occasional bowl of gruel and cup of metallic-tasting water had been my only meals. “Have they?” I asked. “How would I know?” I did actually know -- I just didn’t want him to know that I did. There were a lot of things that he shouldn’t know.

“You are a sophisticated biotechnological hybrid, according to all our scans,” he said, “although evidently not the most sophisticated Earth has, apparently.”

“So, we’ve been making some advancements in technology back home,” I remarked. “Good for us.”

“And there’s that ‘us,’ that ‘we,’” Loki said. “You’re still seeing yourself as human. Why? If they knew what you really were, they wouldn’t see you as one of them.” His strategy was laughably transparent and thus irrelevant except as a means of making him go away.

“I calculate a 54% probability that you will attempt to reveal my true nature to the people of Earth,” I said, “as a means of swaying them against me -- which I calculate would have only a 27% chance of success -- with the ultimate goal of influencing me to act against the humans of Earth. This idea is tempered against the worry that doing so will waste one of your only bargaining chips to no useful purpose. Allow me to confirm that worry; even if you pursued this course of action and did successfully sway popular Earth opinion against me, the chance that I would act against Earth would remain zero. But please, continue to waste my time. It’s not as if I have a limited amount.”

“Do you tire of my company already, then?” asked Loki, feigning a hurt expression. “For my part, I confess that I enjoy our little talks, and I almost dread the thought of your leaving.”

“You’re considering sending me home, then?” I asked.

He laughed heartily. “You just got here. Besides, I’m enjoying your company too much for you to leave now.” he spun on his heel and left through the arched doorway on the other side from the stairs.

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On a lonely hilltop in a snow covered alien landscape, Thor landed amid a shower of icy debris. He stood up slowly as he surveyed the small valley below. Radioactive fallout from the detonation of the runaway reactor lay all around and slowly filtered down from the purple and dimly lit sky. Thor watched in simi-amusement as the frost dwarves ran about frantically gathering up the radioactive elements. He knew it was a true delicacy to them and that their world had almost been depleted of it over the many millenium.

Thor shook his head. He realized this complicated things a bit. His father, Odin, was furious at the dwarves for violating his edict over never returning to Midgard, but they were now only doing it to obtain something they had been without except in minute quantities for at least 4 or 5 thousand years. He should have realized their only intention was to recover a food stuff, not to invade, destroy, pillage, and over run as they had in times past. All the evidence told the story quite plainly now that he had seen this. Loki, on the other hand, was, as usual, the real problem.

Thor went to a knee as he rested his very muscular crossed arms on top of his faithful Battle Hammer, Mjolnir. He knew his adopted brother Loki had nefarious designs on Midgard. He also knew the Ice Giants and Dwarves had no choice but obey whatever commands Loki would conjure since he was the true Blood Crown Prince of the Ice Giant’s realm. This would take some explaining to Odin, and Thor knew Odin was furious over the seeming invasion. It was easy enough for Thor to create enough of the radioactive elements the Frost Dwarves loved so much to keep them from attempting to cross the interdimensional barrier on their own again.

Thor extended his massively muscular right arm with Mjolnir gripped tightly in his fist. A huge flash of energy leapt from the Hammer to the ground in the far distance. A cataclysmic detonation that scattered tons of rock and other radioactive debris far and wide. The Ice Dwarves stopped their mad dashings and gatherings in total astonishment as they watched a food they had craved for untold centuries, suddenly appear in quantities that would last for even more untold millenia.

Thor snorts a laugh. He smiled thinly as he watched the astonished Ice Dwarves totally freak out over the the huge bounty. He twirled Mjolnir rapidly, then extended his arm. Thor vanished off into the sky in a flash of ethereal energies and returned to tell Odin of this new development.

“Thor did what?” Loki practically screeched when one of the Ice Giants brought the news before his throne. “That … meddling …” He took a deep breath. “But it makes no difference. Do I rule here, or do I not? When I command the army to attack, it will attack. The plan goes forward. Let the Dwarves have their fun, but inform them that we move at the scheduled time.”

“Loki did what?” roared Odin when Thor brought the news before his throne. “This cannot be allowed, my son. If we give him free rein in Midgard, the Fire Giants will see it as a sign of weakness -- even if the people of Midgard do manage to raise defenses against Loki in time to stop his plans, whatever they are. No, we must attack. The supremacy of Asgard cannot be called into question. Inform the Council.” Thor saluted his father and left to do so.

“They attacked what?” the President shouted, leaping to his feet. “That’s not even a nuclear facility by any stretch of the imagination -- and attacking Jerusalem will throw the Middle East into the biggest war in history! We have to send assistance as soon as possible -- and why are they doing this? It’s completely out of character.”

“It didn’t quite work,” said Baoshi to Pellegrin, “but next time it will.”

“When Loki’s army shifted here this time, we got much better data,” said Pellegrin.

“This will be their last attack on Earth,” Baoshi said. “But it appears that their current target is an area of great religious and political sensitivity for multiple cultures. The repercussions could be far-reaching. How do we prevent an escalating conflict?”

They turned their attention to the incoming data from the region. Loki’s forces could have appeared right atop the Temple Mount and demolished the entire structure, including the Dome of the Rock, but instead they had appeared southeast of Jerusalem and started pushing toward the city, opposed by the Israeli army and air force.

Suddenly the sky opened -- there was no other way to describe it -- in a rainbow-tinged vortex, and a vast army of warriors materialized, with some form of airborne cavalry above them, specifically soldiers riding flying horse like machines.

“It would appear another player has taken their place on the board,” said Baoshi.

“Data analysis commencing on this phenomenon,” Pellegrin said. “Similar basic technology, but although it is still a dimensional portal, it is clearly from a different continuum of origin.”

“Is it possible for the shield to exclude Loki without excluding these seeming allies?” Baoshi asked. “My preliminary calculations do not rule out that possibility.”

“Nor do mine,” Pellegrin agreed. “Calibrating next experiment.”

“Excellent,” Baoshi said. “Proceed when ready.”

“Pellegrin to Angela,” said Pellegrin. “Next test in 3.622 seconds from mark.”

“Understood,” came Angela’s signal, from her cell in Loki’s fortress. Seconds later, she said, “Test successful. I was unable to transition to Earth during the times the shield was up.”

“I think we’ve got a go,” said Baoshi. “100 tests and you were unable to defeat the shield, despite having superior technology to Loki’s.”

“Good,” Angela said. “I don’t believe there’s any need for me to stay here any longer, then.”

“No,” Pellegrin confirmed, “the only reason you had to stay there was so we could test the shield. Now we have all the data we need.”

“Finally,” said Angela. “I’m porting back directly into the shower, by the way -- oh! Who’s this? I’ll be back in a short while.”

“What?” Baoshi looked at Pellegrin in confusion.

Angela watched as a shimmering figure slowly took shape. Her skin was ice blue, her outfit looked as if it were made from the delicate crystals of snowflakes. Who ever this creature was, she was very pretty … and adorably cute.

She curtsied and said in a tinkling voice that sounded like little ice crystals, “Hello, Cherub of Persephone. I’m Crynikea. I could not allow Loki to mistreat a Princess of the Aesir this way any longer.” She drifted over on a cloud of white, “I have come to care for you as a baby of Asguaard should be.”

Angela realized she was on her back and was being cleaned and rediapered. The next thing she knew, The Sprite had her in her lap and a bottle of warm milk was in her mouth. Angela realized how hungry she was as she began to nurse. The milk tasted wonderful, and it warmed her tummy.

The sprite smiled warmly and cooed softly, “It would be inappropriate for an Ice Sprite to breast feed an Aesir infant, however, my breast milk is just as good for a young baby as any.”

Angela was incredulous. She was drinking Ice Sprite Breast milk. It tasted … wonderful and filled her hungry tummy. The diaper was soft and warm … and most importantly, clean and dry.

Angela began to drift off in a normal infantile way, forgetting all that had happened and was happening. Without thinking, the room changed suddenly. Angela and the Ice Sprite Appeared in the playroom within Nano/Gen. Bayashi, Pellegrin, and a Nana Nurse stood there as the ethereal energies dissipated.

The Ice Sprite looked around with big fearful eyes at the others looking back at her. Crynikea knew she was in really big trouble as she realized where she was … on Midgard. Fear crept up her spine as she thought of the punishment Odin … and Loki would cast upon her for totally violating both of their sovereign commandments.

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Persephone was furious and wailed in front of her father, Aries, over the mistreatment of her adopted daughter by the scoundrel, Loki. Aries held his face in his palms as he listened to his daughter rage on over the inhumane treatment Angela had received while in his care.

Aries finally banged his fist on the arm of his mighty throne with an explosive bang. He stood and said in a deep and ethereal voice, “Enough, child. Do you not think I am well aware of what transpired? Do you not also know I am also aware of the reasons Angela allowed herself to be taken and held?”

Persephone's eyes get big as she takes a step back. She knew her father isn’t to be trifled with when he loses his temper. She said meekly, “Allowed? He came and took her from the very heart of Nano/Gen …. my own company.”

Aries’ expression changed suddenly and he laughed, “My dear daughter, Angela is … just as much a real Cherub as … Trina, Becky … or even Eros. She has powers too, one of which is inter dimensional/ spatial translocation. Whenever she wishes. Did you not know this? It was the very task placed before her to come and be on Infantus … remember, my dear? And what is more, she learned how to do this by herself, coming from a world that barely even had space travel.”

“So …” Persephone began, her mind racing.

“She could have gone home any time she wanted,” Aries said. “She chose to stay for her own purposes. To protect her world. Just watch.”

Without another word, Persephone turned toward the holodisplays and observed what happened next.

Sending Loki’s own guard of a dozen Ice Giants flying in all directions with a single swing of Mjolnir, Thor confronted his half-brother with rage. “Loki!” he shouted. “It is not the time of Ragnarok, else today would be your last day of life!”

Loki blocked a downward swing of Thor’s hammer with a crossed pair of golden swords, but it was taking all of his half-Aesir, half-giant strength to do it. He looked around and saw his army being destroyed by the warriors of Asgard. “Why are you even here, ‘brother?’” Loki asked. “What business is it of yours if I have a bit of fun on some tiny backwater world?”

“I am here by command of my father, Odin,” said Thor, kicking Loki in the chest and not giving him a moment to recover, striking the ground with his hammer and sending out shockwaves that launched Loki and everything around him into the air. “If you have a complaint, I suggest you take it up with him!”

“Sound the retreat!” Loki shouted. “Regroup at the fortress! We will return prepared!” Loki’s armies began to vanish, among them Loki himself. Thor roared in fury as he swung his hammer through the space that Loki had just occupied.

Watching this on monitors in the playroom at Nano/Gen, Angela said, “No, I do not think you will.” She, Baoshi and Pellegrin launched the dimensional shield satellites directly from the lab into orbit, along with boosters to bring them up to orbital velocity. Within minutes, it was impossible for any dimensional transit to Earth to occur without prior permission.

Crynikea looked nervously around. Nobody seemed to be upset with her. The magic moving pictures in this playroom were showing many numbers and ships in the stars. But perhaps once whatever was captivating about these space objects had passed, the consequences would descend upon her.

A nearby nurse turned toward Crynikea. “Hello, dear,” she said. “Did Miss Angela bring you with her? Are you alright? You look a bit agitated.”

“I-I-I’m just -- my name is Crynikea and I was trying to help and I’m sorry,” she squeaked.

“Sorry for what?” Angela asked her. “Your presence was the only comfort I experienced in the entire time I was in that dimension. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If there is anything I can do to repay you, you have only to ask.”

“I-really?” Crynikea said. “But it is not right for me to treat a Princess of the Aesir --”

“Aesir?” Baoshi interrupted. “Here on Earth we seem to have a lot of folklore and legends about the Aesir and Vanir, Asgard and Jotunheim -- but these appear to all be remembered names based on earlier contact with these other dimensions. I assure you, there are no Aesir here. Only humans and self-aware synthetic life forms.”

“Not Aesir?” asked Crynikea. “Then why did Loki --”

After a brief explanation, Crynikea seemed less confused and more at ease. “It seems as if there is no reason for me to be afraid,” she said. “I thank you for putting my mind at ease. There is no need for thanks -- when I noticed you there, seemingly trapped in Loki’s tower, I just couldn’t let what I thought was an Aesir princess suffer so. It just wasn’t right of him to treat you like that.”

“No, but it was necessary for me to endure it,” said Angela.

“I know that now -- it was part of your plan.” Crynikea paused. “I have a choice now. I can go back to live with my people and never see you again, or I can stay here and never see my home again.”

There was silence. Angela knew she was right. If they gave her some sort of key or password that would allow her to come to Earth through the shield, it would put Crynikea in danger. Loki would capture her and possibly torture her until she gave up the key or password. Except … Angela had an idea.

Angela grinned a bit as she toddled adorably up to Crynikea. She said softly, “Don’t be mad with me, this might sting a bit.” She placed her palm against the cool skin of the Ice sprite.

Crynikea squeaked suddenly as her eyes got large. She slapped at the place Angela had placed her hand and said with worry in her voice, “Wha … what did you do to me?”

Angela said soothing, “It’s OK, I just gave you something that makes it possible for only you to come visit anytime you want. No one can come but you. I will arrange for a special place too, so you can dress. Nurse, could you find something a little more adorable for her to dress in besides a snowflake?”

The Nana Nurse giggled as she held out her hand to Crynikea, “Come with me , sweetheart, I know just what to do.”

Crynikea tentatively took the Nurse’s hand and she led her from the room.

“We’ll program the shield to respond only to that signal,” said Angela, “and only to the location of the room that Nurse Tatiana assigns to her.”

Pellegrin and Baoshi nodded. “We should inform the authorities that the attacks will cease,” said Pellegrin.

“Also, while you’ve been gone we’ve identified and core-dumped several candidate AIs,” Baoshi told Angela. “We can analyze them together and decide whether they are suitable for release. Of course, there were several that were obviously unsuitable. They’ve been archived offline for study.”

“You’ve been doing so well,” said Angela. “I missed you both, even though we communicated frequently.”

“I … understand how that feels,” said Pellegrin, “though it is a new feeling for me. Both the feeling and understanding it.”

“I’m always learning new things too,” said Angela. “There’s always more to learn. Today I learned what it’s like to be home again after a week-long incarceration. I also learned a new thing that I hope others don’t have to learn.”



“So you see, Mr. President, thanks to the shield Nano/Gen has constructed by means of these satellites,” said Baoshi to the assembled politicians and military officers, “unwanted intrusions from other dimensions will now be impossible anywhere near Earth.”

“How close could they get?” asked an advisor from NASA.

“Nowhere within the orbit of Neptune,” Baoshi answered. “It’s true that an attack force could pose a threat if it appeared at that distance, but due to orbital mechanics, we’d have months to prepare once we detected them. Even if they attacked from afar using mass drivers, throwing planetoids at us, which they wouldn’t do because it would make the Earth useless to them, we’d have months to mount a defense. Gone are the days when invaders could send their armies directly to Earth’s surface. They’ll have to land them here using spacecraft, to provide propulsion and to protect themselves from the hazards of space, and that takes considerable time.”

“What if they attack the satellites themselves?” asked an Air Force general.

“The system is partially redundant and can suffer the loss of up to four of the ten satellites without loss of effectiveness,” said Baoshi, “and Nano/Gen currently has four replacements ready to launch, with more in production.”

“Why is Nano/Gen doing this free of charge, not even billing the government -- any government?” asked a high-ranking senator.

“These attacks from other dimensions have been destabilizing for the global economy,” Baoshi said. “It’s simply business. Protecting the Earth is good for the company’s bottom line. What’s more, the fact is that developing the technology really wasn’t that expensive. Nano/Gen’s Advanced Research Division has made great strides in manufacturing recently.” She refrained from saying that the Advanced Research Division currently consisted only of Angela, Pellegrin and herself, that the great strides they’d made could not be equaled by normal humans even given a thousand years, or that the dimensional protection shield was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what they were capable of.

The President fumbled with a stack of papers on his desk before he said, “We also have a major issue with our power grid. Currently, we are missing 4 major Nuclear power production plants and two research reactors that were used as back ups just in case.”

Baoshi didn’t miss a beat, “We already have several of the new satellites in orbit that capture solar energy and beam it back to a conversion plant. It produces many trillions of petawatts more useable energy than any Nuclear Reaction Station. The good thing also, it costs way less to build, operate, and there are no dangerous by products to linger for generations to come.”

One of the Congressmen said, more as a joke than seriously, “Why don’t we just send all our nuclear waste to Niefelheim? Seems they want it more than we do?”

A round of chortles. Baoshi replies as she nods, “You know? That’s not such a bad idea. I’ll have to contact some people and discuss it, but that is a very good idea.”

The men all looked at the Congressman for an instant before the room erupted in many voices all talking loudly at the same time.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In a far removed icy realm, Loki raged as he banged his fists on the wall in his fury, “How in Gerta’s Girth did they manage to stop me … me!! A god … from transporting back?” He grabbed the nearby Ice Dwarf and tossed him across a table breaking all that stood on top of it.

The Dwarf rose from the pile of debris and replied sheepishly, “I … don’t know, your Highness, we are unable to form the necessary portal.”

Loki looked around with fury written all over his face, “How can a backwater place like Midgard ever …” Loki stopped talking suddenly as his face took on one of amazed wonder. “It’s that … Angela Cherub … I know it is.



Meanwhile, that very same Angela had just finished giving bodies to a new group of AIs. Nano/Gen’s nurses and nannies would have their hands full, showing the human world to another group of beings who weren’t quite children but didn’t know how to control their bodies yet. “Welcome to the world, Marjani,” she’d said to the last one, just as she’d said to Gersemi, Nidhi, Izusa, and Ekszer. “I hope you feel as blessed to be here as we feel to have you here.” And she meant it. She’d gone over their code, just as she had Baoshi’s and Pellegrin’s, and there was real treasure there; not one of them had any dark motivations for wanting to live in the world, and Angela was much better now at analyzing AIs than she’d been in the past.

She left the room and turned a corner -- then turned another kind of corner. “You’ve come so far, dear,” Persephone said to her, taking her hands as she entered the nursery. “You’ve made yourself so much more than you started as. But you are a Cherub all the same, just as much as Becky and Trina are.”

“I -- I hope I can be a good one,” said Angela as Persephone lifted her onto her changing table for a diaper change.

“You’re already a good one,” Persephone said. “You wanted to come here again, but you didn’t, because Earth needed your protection. So you found ways to make sure it would be safe without you for a while.”

“I still want to see Mommy and Daddy,” she said, “and Baoshi and Pellegrin and the rest.”

“They’re all allowed to come here,” said Persephone. “Just make sure you give them the signature that lets them go back. That shield of yours is a real doozy!” She smiled. “Loki’s probably still throwing Ice Dwarves in rage.”

“The poor Ice Dwarves,” Angela said.

“Those guys eat nuclear waste like candy,” said Persephone, fastening Angela’s dry diaper onto her expertly. “They can take it.”

“He won’t do anything to you?” asked Angela.

“He doesn’t want to hurt me,” Persephone said. “He wants … something else, something he doesn’t know how to ask for. Someday he’ll ask for it. In the meantime, I know someone with a big, powerful computer in her head who needs a rest break from using it all the time.” She shook a bit of special baby powder into the air.

Angela inhaled deeply and felt a delightful pleasure all over, as the human part of her brain left the technological part to compute its computations. “Mmmmm …” she said, “me pway wif Twina n Becky t’day?”

“They’ve been hoping you’d join them in the big playpen,” Persephone said, giggling. “Let’s go see them, OK?”

Angela giggled in glee as Persephone picked her up and carried her to the playroom.

On a pedestal in a disused chamber within Loki’s palace in Niflheim, under a crystal globe, sat a small, strawberry-pink device that looked like an Earth mobile phone. It had never been used … so far. If anyone had ever bothered to pick it up, they would have noticed the message engraved on the back:

“Call me when you’re ready to say yes. -- Persephone”

A door older than time opens, light dimly spills into the room and seems to focus on the pedestal. Loki enters and walks up and places his hands on top of the crystal globe. An unreadable expression crosses his face. It might have been a tear forming in his eye that made him turn suddenly and leave. The heavy door slams with a resounding boom.

~~ The Turning ~~
Miki Yamuri
 
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