Dust

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Dust

Postby Miki Yamuri » Thu Jan 28, 2016 11:04 pm

Title: Dust

Characters:

Melissa Kopecky – 21yo lab assistant

Dr Thomas “Tommy” Joycie -- 29yo archaeologist/chemist

Dr Robert Penchant -- 53 yo nuclear physicist from Lawrence Livermore Labs

Felicia Newman, NP -- 25 yo nurse practitioner at University of Tennessee Hospital

Jim Majors -- 17 yo unwise teenager

Scene: At a fossil site in Cora Tennessee
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The June day had started off hot as Tommy and Melissa trekked up the long mountain path to the crest of the old pit mine. Tommy covered his eyes with his hand as he surveyed the large, abandoned open mine. He couldn't believe Cora Coal Inc. had taken down an entire mountain during the operation of removing the large quantity of coal.

Melissa turns from the cliff face and asks, “So, you say they uncovered a large fossil field down there?”

Tom nods as he replies, “Yes, back in the early 1800's I think. Some of the fossils from here date back 300 million years when all of this was a marsh or a swamp or something.”

She takes a large drink from her canteen as she looks across the huge pit. Melissa shakes her head slowly as she looks down. It was many hundreds of feet to the bottom of the pit.

She says, “How are we supposed to get down there? I'm not exactly into rappelling ... or climbing back up.” She puts her hands on her hips.

Tom laughs as he says, “Follow me, the trail is sort of hard to see ... and it's kind of steep. Watch your step ... it's a long way down.”

Melissa looked Tom over. She and he had been close since they had first met at a pool party when she was 18. He was a very handsome young man in his late 20s. He stood 6 foot 1 inch tall and weighed about 195 pounds. His sandy blond hair was bleached by the sun, and his skin had the tan of a person who spent lots of time outside. He had on a simple cotton pullover T shirt, blue jeans, and a pair of Serengeti boots. His back pack brimmed with all the tools he would need to dig fossils ... not to mention the food and water for at least a week.

Melissa followed Tom as he made his way towards a large tree near an outcropping of rock. She realized this was the head of the narrow winding trail that led to the floor of the pit far below. She looked over the edge, it was a very long way down. She shivers at the thought of slipping ... there was nothing to stop a person from sliding the entire way to the bottom.

Tom turned and looked at Melissa.  She was a very pretty young woman. She stood about 5 foot 2 inches, and had a very cute figure. She had an adorable turned up button nose and long blonde hair that had been tied back into a single ponytail. She had on a pair of short hiking shorts that showed off her round bottom, a button up crew blouse that showed off her cleavage, and a pair of wolverine hiking boots.

Tom held out his hand and helped her over the edge onto the narrow trail. The both of them more or less held hands all the way down the winding trail, until they passed through the split rock at the very bottom into the pit itself.

Among all the jumbled tossed rock and vegetation growing everywhere at the bottom, Melissa noticed many kinds of fossils. There were plants, insects, trilobites ... even a forest of trees showing their growth rings that must have weighed several trillion tons. Everywhere she looked, she saw another treasure trove of fossils waiting to be collected.

Melissa gasped softly, “Wow, you weren't kidding. This is a collector’s paradise.”

Tom nods as he takes her by the hand again, “Follow me, I'll show you the place I want to start looking.”

He led her along what looked like a logging road for several hundred meters before turning abruptly off. He walked through some thick underbrush for a few more meters before it opened into a small, shallow stream.

Melissa's eyes got huge as she saw a raptor-like creature's footprints embedded in the stone next to the bank. Then she noticed the most amazing thing about the prints.  There were what appeared to be humanoid footprints ... and it looked like that individual was being stalked by the raptor like creature.

She pulled on Tom's arm and pointed, saying, “That … can’t be.  No bipedal hominids existed at the same time as any dinosaur species.”

“That’s what every shred of scientific evidence tells us,” Tom said, “but there it is.”

“I mean … over the years there have been claims of human and dinosaur footprints found together,” Melissa said, walking around the stone to see it from another angle, “but many of them have been found to be hoaxes, or merely resemblances to hominid prints that don’t hold up on closer examination.”

“That’s true,” Tom replied, “and I haven’t had time to examine these very closely yet, but so far they don’t look like fakes.  I’m just going on what I see here.”

Melissa stared at the prints, supposedly showing the raptor following the human.  “Man ... it looks like that person's day was about to turn really bad.”

Tom laughs, “Well, assuming it’s real for the moment, I think they might have gotten the better of the critter.”

Melissa said with surprise, “How would you know that?”

Tom led her across the stream in the direction the prints went. They came to the edge of a small rise. Melissa could see a vertebra slightly exposed in the clay marl.

She squeaked with excitement, “Is ... is it all here?”

Tom said with satisfaction, “It appears to be. The only way we can tell ... is to dig it out.”

Melissa dropped her pack next to a small conifer. She dug through it for a few seconds and removed her entrenching tool, her brush, and her rock hammer. She moved to the edge of the rise as she opened her entrenching tool and locked the head into a 90 degree angle to its handle.

Melissa began to carefully remove as much clay and dirt as she could, as fast as she could, without damaging any of the strata they were digging in. She kept notes and drew pictures of everything. Tom kept taking pictures as he too helped Melissa remove the regolith.

The fossil remains of the creature stood approximately 7 feet tall. From the tip of its tail to its nose, it was probably 20 feet long. Melissa was ecstatic to have found a totally intact raptor. As with most fossils of this type, it was curled up in a ball with its head over its back and tail.

As Tom carefully chinked at the rock around their find, Melissa began digging further back into the cliff. Without warning, her entrenching tool struck something metal. It made a loud and unexpected clanking sound. The 2 of them looked at each other in surprise.

Tom says, “Now, that's a surprise. Native metal nugget, do you suppose?”

Melissa shakes her head as she continues to excavate, “I'm not sure .... it could possibly be contamination left by the mining company when they deserted the place.”

Tom replied, “If they were this close to a find like this ... I don't think they would have just abandoned it. “

Melissa took a strong swing with her entrenching tool, removing a large chunk of the hardened clay and sandstone.

She said, “Well, quit talking about it, and help dig it out.  Then we'll know for sure.”

~~ Mysterious Find ~~

The couple dug for 30 minutes in silence. The only sound was the insects and birds intermingled with the kerchunk of the tools in the hard clay and the ringing of their rock hammers against the stone. Tom and Melissa were drenched in perspiration by the time the metal object came fully into view.

It was a rather large amphora-shaped vase about 2 meters long with a sealed lid. It was indeed made from some kind of metal. The knocking about and impacts of the digging tools had left no marks in it surface. It still had a rather large quantity of clay and sandstone encased around it.

Tom knelt and touched the smooth surface of the metallic object.

He looked up at Melissa and said with awe in his tone, “It's quite obvious by the layer of rock this was in that it’s been here as long, if not longer, than the fossil.” He pointed to the layers where the amphora had rested and continued, “From the looks of the strata .... the amphora was already encased in the rock before the raptor died.”

After taking several pictures, Melissa took out her rock hammer and began chipping away at more of the rock surrounding the impression of the Amphora.

She said, “I want to have this part too. I think the rock that encased the object will be important. We might even find something else as we dig to help explain the object and why it's here.”

Tom nodded agreement as he began to carefully chip away the rock surrounding the area where the amphora had been entombed. As they dug, a large chunk of rock broke away from the cliff face. Sealed within, like a geode, was a quantity of many kinds of powdery minerals ... and a square metal plate of the same material the amphora was made of. Melissa easily extracted the metal plate from the powdery minerals surrounding it.

Tom took the plate and began to try to clean it with his toothbrush cleaning tool. After several minutes of scrubbing, the plate shone brightly in the afternoon sun. The plate was 6 inches long and 3 inches wide. All across one side were strange and beautiful swirls, squiggles, and geometric shapes, along with a few apparent drawings.

Tom scratched his head thoughtfully as he examined the strange glyphs. He said, “Is this … writing?  That’s impossible -- no hominids even existed this far in the past, let alone any civilizations that had writing systems.  Not even any that had pictographs.  Maybe this is some kind of overthrust?  It’s been known for later layers to sometimes be pushed downward into earlier layers by geological forces.”

Melissa examined the plate closer.  She pointed at two drawings.  “Well, I’d say that looks like an amphora like this one here, and that one looks like a humanoid figure -- from the shortness of the arms and legs, maybe even a child or baby.”

“What would that mean?” Tom wondered.

Melissa said, “I'm not sure .... but it seems to me to be saying that something about this metal object has something to do with infants.”

She pointed to the image of the amphora. Tom noticed that this image appeared to have something within it. He cleaned the area a bit more with his brush. The small dimples within the image of the amphora became very obvious.

Tom said, “I think something's stored in that thing. At least that's what's implied by this image.”

Melissa said, “I think we should take this to an expert for further ...”

Tom walked over to the Amphora. He began to tug and pry at the lid.

Melissa said in warning, “No ... don't open it ... it's ...”

Too late, the lid came free with a strange deep toned pop. From within the amphora, came a small spattering of sparkly golden dust. It covered them both in a shower of glitter. Immediately, both of them experienced what seemed to be a wonderful waking dream, filled with childish pleasures and infantile wonders.

~~ Awaking Wonders ~~

Melissa's mind cleared slowly. She had vivid recollections of very pleasant infantile contentment. She realized with a start that her pants were very wet and messy. She also felt her stomach growl softly. She was totally mind blown that she had messed and wet her pants this way.

As she stood, she also realized that much time had passed, as she saw the sun setting behind one of the tall mountains off to the west. She looked around and saw Tom standing up to her left, holding the legs of his very wet and messy pants.

Tom gasped out in incredulity, “OMG! How in the world did I do this? This is totally horrible.”

Melissa said softly as she placed her hand on his shoulder, “Don't feel too bad, sweetie; I've got the same problem. Do you remember anything of what happened?”

Tom shook his head slowly as he replied, “I have some vague ... memories. It seems I was dreaming of being .... a baby.”

Melissa replied, “I sorta remember having similar dreams. They're really vague. The most vivid memories are of contentment and happiness.” She looked down at her pants and added, “I don't have a clue how I came to do this.”

Both of their eyes fell on the amphora. It was lying on its side with a small amount of the golden dust lying just outside the open top.

Tom said with embarrassment in his voice, “First thing I'm going to do ... is go to the stream and ... clean out my pants.”

Tom began walking towards the small stream as Vickie very carefully scooped up the golden dust and put it back into the amphora. She put the lid back on it and then followed Tom to the stream.

The two of them began splashing and giggling just like children as they cleaned themselves up. The shadows were beginning to get very long, and the twinkle of fireflies started appearing before they realized it was almost dark.

Tom said, “I brought a pup tent just in case ... something came up. It's too dark to attempt to climb the trail out ... so I will set up camp over in that clearing next to where the raptor fossil is.”

Melissa followed Tom to the backpack. She said, “I'll help. I brought a sleeping bag and some blankets ... just in case.”

She giggled as she and Tom cleared a place of debris and made the ground soft by digging the soil. Vickie spread several layers of pine straw over the area making it very soft before the two of them set up the small round tent. By the time Tom had the fire place set up and burning brightly, the sun had set, and a thick mist had formed all around. Fireflies blinked brightly all through the foliage round about.

Tom and Melissa kissed and made small talk, and discussed the events of the day. Both were highly embarrassed about the accidents they had both had in their pants and couldn't explain it.

Time passed, as it has a way of doing, and the hour grew late. Both of them retired to the tent and stripped down to their underpants. Melissa shook out their clothes and folded them neatly in a pile in one cubby of the small tent. Unknown to the two of them, a small amount of the golden dust had clung to their clothes in small folds and wrinkles, and had been scattered throughout the tent.

As they snuggled together in the sleeping bag to escape the chill of the mountain night, the dust settled on them. The last thing they did before drifting off into a very vivid dream .... was kiss. They dreamed very happy dreams of infancy. They felt extremely intense contentedness and joy.

When the two of them awoke the next morning, they discovered they had wet the sleeping bag. Neither of them could account for this sudden laxity within themselves. They went to the nearby stream and washed themselves and the bed clothes ... all the while keeping an embarrassed silence.

They returned to their fossil hunting and documentation right after breakfast was over and squared away. The raptor fossil was magnificent. They carefully wrapped it in protective casting so it wouldn't get damaged in transport.

Tommy called for a friend who owned a Scorpion helicopter to come and land in the clearing nearby, so they could load the new-found fossil ... and the artifact. They had found several tablets along with the amphora. It seemed to tell a story about it ... although the language was totally unfamiliar to them.

Shortly after Tom made his call, they heard the copter setting down in the clearing. Tom and Melissa hurried to pack and carry all the heavy fossil materials as quickly as they could. They poured with sweat by the time all was loaded and they were sitting in the seats behind the operator.

The pilot said, "Seems you found what you came looking for. I think the Museum will pay top dollar for a raptor that's complete and undamaged."

Melissa giggled. "We have more fossils than just a raptor. I found a dragonfly with a wingspan of slightly over a meter."

Tom interjected quickly, "We also found something else ... that's not only seemingly older ... it's a real mystery as to how it got there and who manufactured it."

The pilot looked next to him at the large metallic amphora. He had seen similar ones before ... but the metallic ones were usually of Roman manufacture and made of bronze, or clay covered in gold leaf. This one was totally different ... and the markings of the infants all over it made him wonder.

The pilot set down at the top of the open pit and let Tom out so he could drive the pickup home. Melissa rode with the treasures back to the research lab. They were waiting on Tom to arrive when he showed up around 4:30 that afternoon.

Melissa helped the men unload the items and store them in the warehouse safely under lock and key. Tom thanked his friend and offered to pay him for his time. His friend refused, saying he had to get some air time in this month to stay current ... so he was happy to do it just to get the flight time in.

Tom and Melissa began to unwrap and remove the casting material from the raptor. As they began to examine the fossilized bones more closely, they realized that something more modern than a spear or a fall had killed the animal. They found some kind of strange pellets embedded in several of the rib bones, and several large puncture holes in the skull where the eyes used to be.

After X-raying the skull fossil, they discovered about a dozen pellets of the same type still within the cavity. The metallic pellets didn't give up their secrets either. The material they were made of had components that didn't match anything known -- though copper and iron were present, most of its mass was something completely unfamiliar to the mass spectrometer.

Tom picked up one of the metallic tablets and cleaned it carefully with his small brush and soap and water solution. The characters on it appeared to be graceful swirls and squiggles the likes of which neither Tom nor Melissa had ever seen. They looked through many books on lost languages and even did research through the Berkeley Archive looking for some reference ... only to come up frustrated.

Doing an isotope age test on the known elements in the metal, they discovered that the metal appeared to be almost ninety million years old ... give or take one hundred years or so for error. Tom and Melissa were dumbfounded. To the best of all scientific knowledge, there were no hominids on Earth at that time, homo habilis having first appeared some 2.8 million years ago.

“So … this was no overthrust,” Melissa said, looking at the results.  “Unless … what if the isotope test is, well, wrong?  It’s based on average ratios of the radioactive isotopes of the metals to the stable isotopes.  What if the radioisotope-to-stable-isotope ratios aren’t what we think they are?  Maybe it comes from part of the world where those ratios are different?”

“Maybe,” answered Tom, “but that different?  Not on Earth.  What we’re saying here is that either this is an artifact from a civilization that existed long before there were any known species with enough intelligence to build a civilization … or it’s an artifact from another planet.  Take your pick.”  Melissa shrugged, and they agreed that they needed more data.

Tom put on a level A isolation suit with supplied air. He took the amphora into the isolation room. It had negative air isolation, meaning that the pressure in the room was lower that the pressure outside. When the door was opened, air rushed in ... keeping whatever contamination was inside ... inside. It also had an advanced hydro purification system. The supplied air was forced from the room, through an alcohol/chlorinated water tank and millipore hydron filter/charcoal filter hybrid system. Whatever this dust was ... Tom wasn't taking any more chances.

He carefully pulled the top from the amphora, then carefully removed some of the glittering golden dust, placing it into a beaker before sealing the amphora once again.

Viewing it under the scanning electron microscope, he found the structure of the dust was totally new. Even the GCG showed the molecular structure to be totally unlike anything known on Earth. The spikes and valleys shown on the graph meant nothing to the computer analysis program.

Tom had to get this to a better facility for study.

He called Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. The phone rang several times before a high-pitched, irritatingly nasal voice answered, "Hello? This is Dr. Penchant, Livermore labs ... how can I be of assistance?"

Tom replied, "This is Dr. Thomas Joycie ... I’m an archeologist. On one of my recent digs, I came up with an artifact that contained a substance that's ... proving to be unidentifiable. Its crystal structure is completely unheard of, and the mass spectrometer can’t do a thing with it -- not to mention the metal its container is made of. I was wondering if I could convince someone there to do an analysis on it?"

Dr. Penchant's voice took on a more irritating tone that shows his excitement, "Have you done a GCG on it? What do the spectrals say?"

Tom replied, "None of the analysis programs on the Cosmic Cube can tell me anything."

Penchant's voice became even more excited. "Nothing? Did you look at it under the scope?"

Tom replied quickly, "Yes ... even to three thousand times."

Dr. Penchant said, "How quickly can you bring us a pure sample? We would need it in a sealed three Ml sample ampule, if you don't mind."

Tom replied, "I'm not able to do that ... but my assistant and I can bring you the original sealed amphora that contains the samples."

Dr. Penchant quickly replied before hanging up, "That's good enough. Bring it as quickly as possible. The guards at the gate will be expecting you and your assistant. All you have to do is show them your ID at the gate and mention that you spoke to me. I'll meet you at the loading dock on C side."

Tom said, "Very well, we'll be there as quickly as we can."

Tom and Melissa loaded the amphora onto a small helicopter that belonged to the research facility. They strapped it into the rack as well as they could and hopped on board. The pilot took off rapidly and gained altitude.

After several hours of flight time, they began crossing the Rockies. The air turbulence was horrid. The chopper bounced and knocked about violently with the up and down drafts. After several successive knocks, the amphora’s top came loose and fell to the floor of the chopper. A huge quantity of the golden dust became airborne, and the wind blew it out the open side of the chopper before Tom could re-stopper the amphora.

Tom and Melissa watched as a huge golden cloud of dust drifted towards the suburbs of Berkeley California. Neither of them knew what to expect ... all they remembered were the contented blank spaces in their memories, and learning that they had messed and wet themselves right after discovering the Dust.

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~~ End Pt1 ~~
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~~ Dust - Pt2 - Disaster ~~
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By the time the chopper had landed at Lawrence Livermore Labs, a major disaster had been declared in the suburbs of Berkeley, California. The Livermore Biological Response Team and the American Communicable Disease Response Unit were in process of being deployed.

No one was sure exactly what had happened.  If it had been a chemical or biological incident, it was one of the worst outbreaks in world history.  The only thing they were sure of was that everyone infected seemed to lose the ability to be an adult. It was extremely fortunate that whatever it was hadn't happened in a more populous or industrialized area. The end result would have been totally horrible. As it was, no one had been seriously injured or killed thus far, and all the response teams hoped that this wasn't fatal in the end.

Dr. Penchant, the scientist Tom had expected to see on arrival, was off on one of the first teams to be dispatched. There was no one around to help him with his delivery. The guards were more than rude over the whole thing as well. They had received no notice of any delivery by anyone.

Tom thought this might be for the best, as the whole lab went on red alert and began total lockdown. Tom suspected, though, that it was this Dust, and its accidental release, that was causing all the ruckus.

Tom checked the lid to ensure the amphora was secure, even giving it a few extra thumps with the palm of his hand to make sure.  They had the pilot fly them back to his lab in Tennessee.  

“You don’t think it’s …” Melissa said during the flight.

“Well, we experienced something strange when we were exposed to it,” Tom said, “but it only lasted for a few hours, then it seemed to wear off completely.  I wish I could remember what happened.”

“Me too,” said Melissa.  “I have a feeling that it was … somehow wonderful.”

“Not too wonderful when it was over,” Tom said, making a disgusted face.

“But … what do we do?” asked Melissa.

“We’ve got no proof,” Tom said, “nor any idea how anything like that could happen.  In a way, that’s good.  If it got out that we caused this outbreak or whatever it is, even accidentally, they could shut us down.”

“Tom!” Melissa gasped.  “You’re talking about putting the survival of the lab over the lives of those people!”

“Well … maybe?” said Tom.  “I don’t see it that way, though.  We’re the only ones who have any idea what’s going on, so we’re the best people to figure out what this stuff is and what to do about it.  If we get shut down … whoever takes over from us will have to start from square one.”

“If that happened, they’d probably take all the data we’ve gathered, though,” said Melissa.  “I’m just glad no one’s been killed.”

He was worried about two things, however -- just exactly how this Dust did what it did ... and the fact the amphora seemed to manufacture more of it whenever some was used up.

Tom felt a sort of weird crawly feeling deep inside his mind -- he wasn't exactly sure what it was, but it tingled and felt somehow familiar. Melissa even told Tom that she too felt this strange sensation. Tom hoped it wasn't something related to this Dust, but deep down in his soul he knew it was.

Melissa came into the lab where Tom sat and brooded over the many pages of worthless test results.  She said softly as she caressed Tom, "Don't be upset, Sweetheart. I know it was a real disaster, but no one got seriously hurt.  A few cars went off the road, one crashed into a house that no one was inside at the time, and there were some minor incidents at some businesses and offices.  There were a couple of cases involving people operating heavy machinery when they were affected, but not even they were hurt, or hurt anyone else.”

Tom rested his face in his hands and sighed tiredly, "Maybe not, but how do we know the end result of all of this? I'm not sure that it won't happen spontaneously again without contact."

Melissa sat on the empty stool next to Tom and thought about that. She couldn't remember what exactly had happened in the hours she and Tom had been under the influence of the Dust ... but she did remember the faintest inkling of an incredible feeling of contentment and well-being. She also remembered something else that kind of scared her ... she remembered it was fun.



Melissa always loved to dress cute and wear the most adorable clothes. This morning, for reasons she didn’t really understand, she had put on her laciest panties and an adorable little sun romper. It made her feel so good and childish. Tom couldn’t help but notice how beautifully and innocently sexy she looked as he kept watching her from the corner of his eye. Of course, distraction leads to mistakes, which can be especially dangerous when working with an unknown substance.

A very small amount of Dust, almost microscopic, had managed to become lodged beneath his fingernails. He had been very meticulous when he had removed his gloves, but, because of the distraction Melissa had brought, he neglected to properly allow the machine to scrub his nails. When he reached over and caressed her face, the effect was immediate.

Melissa shivered as she felt a wonderful wave of infantile contentedness wash all through her. Because of the minuscule amount she had been contaminated with, she started acting like a little girl of about four.

Of course, she was a very cute and adorable little girl, but Tom became very concerned. Too late he realized his mistake, as he had a nervous habit of biting his nails. Once his finger had touched his lips, the effect was sudden.

“Oh no Mewisa you ga bla dah doo,” Tom said.  He babbled and squealed and giggled.  He fell to the floor, unable to balance or stand.

“Ut-ohs,” said Melissa.  “Tommy goned all baby and cute and stuffs.”  Unlike Tom, though, she still had some presence of mind.  She took his hand and said, “C’mon Tommy, we better gets you outta here ‘cause there’s lotsa sharp ‘n pointy stuffs in here.”  She led him by the hand as he crawled on the floor alongside her, looking up adoringly at his friend.

“You be safer in here,” she said, leading him into his private office, where there was carpet and soft chairs -- there were still somewhat dangerous things like scissors in the desk drawers, but at least there weren’t hazardous chemicals, breakable glass, and dozens of sharp instruments, which there were in the lab outside.  “Ut-oh, me think the baby wet his pants!”  She giggled.  “Baby s’posed to be in diapers!  Silly baby!”  Suddenly she gasped.  “Oh!  Me gotta go potty!  Ummm … me gotta hurry.  Baby stay here OK?”  She left the office, closing the door.

Tom crawled under the desk, nearly knocking it over, as he explored the office.  He played with the legs of the office chair and tried to climb up onto it, but only succeeded in spinning it around.  So he laughed and spun it around some more.  Then he got bored with that game and crawled over to some cabinets and started thumping on them with the palms of his hands.  This eventually caused one of them to open, and once he noticed that they opened up, he looked inside and tried to crawl into them.  He was too big to fit, though, so he only managed to spill the contents, stacks of old papers, out onto the floor.  He didn’t notice that his pants were dripping wet and there was a trail of damp carpet leading into the office from when he’d crawled in.

Melissa actually found the ladies’ room -- the universal “women’s room” glyph helped with this.  She went inside and giggled right away, because someone had made a potty room for little girls, with sinks and potties all her size.  Of course, in reality they were adult-size facilities, but Melissa’s sense of her own size had changed along with her sense of age.  “Funny little potty room!” she said, but then felt a little bit of pee escape and gasped.  “Gotta get onna potty!”  She hurried over to the nearest stall and managed to get the job done -- a bit clumsily, but not bad for a four-year-old.  She even remembered to carefully wash her hands when she was done, though she splashed a lot of water around and grabbed too many paper towels.

When she came back to the office, she opened the door and saw Tom scattering the paper all over the floor.  She giggled.  “Silly baby, playin’ wif the papers!”  She looked in the desk and found some pens and pencils.  “Baby wanna color?”  Tom showed no interest in the pens, though.  He crawled over to one of the chairs and promptly knocked it over, but Melissa saw the potential in this.  “Ooo look, we can makes a chair house!”  She arranged some of the knocked-sideways chairs around them so they had a little play area inside.  “We play house.  You be … the baby!”  She giggled.

As the two ‘children’ amused themselves, Dr. Penchant had arrived from Lawrence Livermore Labs. He was feeling a bit miffed with security at his lab for turning away such an important find as the one Dr. Joycie had described on the phone. As the mousy man opened the door, he came to an abrupt stop as his eyes fell on the two of them playing in their fort. The female was dressed and looked extremely like the little girl she acted like. The man, was wallowing around like a much younger child and had even soiled and wet his pants.

Dr. Penchant said, “ Now see here …” he entered the contaminated room. He felt the strangest sensation wash all through his body as a wonderful infantile contentment filled him. It was fortuitous for Dr. Penchant that only microscopic amounts of the dust had found its way into the circulating system because of Tom’s distractedness.

He felt years younger suddenly, although nowhere near as young as the two of them appeared to be. Melissa turned and saw Dr. Penchant standing just inside the door.

She sprang to her feet and clapped her hands as she bounded over to him, “Oooo, mostus wunnerfuls. We gotskies sompina shows u is I can jus … members what it was.” She took on a very adorable thoughtful expression.

Dr Penchant asked softly, “What’s your name, young woman?”

Melissa looked at him and giggled, “I’, Melissa. You ken calls me Missy.” for no reason, she couldn’t help herself, she held up four fingers and said adorably, “I this many.” then started sucking the thumb on her other hand.

“You look as if you … may be a bit older than that,” said Dr Penchant.  “But you are clearly not pretending or play-acting.  Are you?”

“Me goo at playin pwetend,” said Melissa.  “Me pwetendin’ to be Mommy an’ Tommy is bein’ the baby.”

“‘Tommy?’” asked Dr Penchant.  “I’m here to see a Dr. Thomas Joycie … oh my.  He told me about an unknown substance with unusual crystallo … ermm, unusual … oh dear, my head is feeling funny.  Perhaps some fresh air.”  He turned and moved toward the door.  “Fresh air!  That’s it!  Where’s the ventilation control …”  He found his way to the ventilation control panel and pressed the large red button next to it after flipping up its cover.  PRESS IN CASE OF HAZARDOUS FUMES, it said, and DO NOT PRESS IN CASE OF FIRE.  The usually-imperceptible sound of the ventilation system increased to an audible whoosh, and the amount of air being blown into and out of the lab increased to about ten times the normal rate.

Dr Penchant made sure the door to the office was open, too, so the air would also circulate through there.  “Can’t be sure the mind-affecting substance and the unknown substance are one and the same, but there’s some sort of mind-affecting substance at work here,” he said.  “I hope it’s not long-lasting or permanent.”

Melissa looked confused and stood up.  “Iunno … what’s goin’ on,” she said.  “One minnit … me growed up … next minute … am feeling very … young.  Now … I’m startin’ to feel … older again.  But it felt so good …”

“Steady now, my dear,” said Dr Penchant.  “We need to get Dr Joycie out into the better air circulation.  I can’t be sure it’s fumes or toxic gas, but filtered air can’t hurt.”  He moved to take Tom’s arm.

“Wait!” said Melissa.  “Don’t touch him.  Or anything in here.  I remember … it was when he touched my face with his hand that I started feeling odd.  I think he might have gotten some of it on his hand.”

“Then you are contaminated too, I’m afraid,” said Dr Penchant.  “And I probably am as well, indirectly.  What manner of substance are we talking about -- a gas, an aerosol, a liquid?”

“It’s … a Dust,” she said.  “It’s a golden yellow in color, fine-grained like pollen, and until now we didn’t know it could have this effect in such low concentrations.”

“All right,” he said.  “I suggest we all go through the lab’s decontamination showers, and I hope you have something on the order of emergency clothing.”

“Yeah -- yes,” said Melissa, “we can come up with something.”

“What -- what happened?” came Tom’s voice from the office.  “Did I -- oh, no.  Not again.  This is so disgusting -- oh no, Dr Penchant!  You came all the way here, only to see me in … this state.  I’m terribly sorry.”

“Not your fault, but we need to decontaminate ourselves and our clothes, I’m sure you’ll agree.”

“Most definitely.”  Tom was thinking about his pants, mostly.

After about an hour of careful cleaning, showering, scrubbing, and in some cases incineration, the three of them were dressed in loose-fitting scrubs and lab coats.  They had carefully cleaned every surface in the area where Melissa’s first memory of being affected had occurred with a special filter to catch any particulates.  

Dr Penchant was looking at the metal plates and the amphora -- with a magnifier, and without touching them.

Dr. Penchant was totally floored. Just as Dr Joycie had said, the find was one of major importance since nothing like its ilk had been discovered previously.  He took many pictures and made many drawings of the beautiful swirls and squiggles each of the plates were engraved with. He came across one particular engraving that was an exact match to the engraving on Tutankhamun's sarcophagus lid. The real issue here, from what the readings of the molecular structures of the plates showed, there was a many orders of magnitude older age indication than that of the sarcophagus.

Another of the plates also seemed to depict some sort of molecule. Of course this molecule was totally alien to earth science, if that was in fact what it depicted. Nowhere had he seen a molecular structure such as this one.

The chemical composition of the dust was totally unknown as well. A thought came to Dr. Penchant’s mind. What if … this was a situation like uranium, lead, and gold. Uranium decayed away to lead after many thousands of years. Only difference between gold and lead, was one proton in the nucleus, which could be knocked from lead with the use of a nuclear accelerator and transmuted to gold. Of course this created gold that was highly radioactive, but was still gold for all intents and purposes.

Dr. Penchant modified the chemical analyzer and added a search algorithm to compare for similarities and not necessarily total matches in composition. There were chemicals within the Dust compound that were similar to others, maybe almost, but none of anything came close. He found some almost but totally not similarities to dopamine and L.S.D. with a few cannabinoid derivatives maybe with a huge stretch of imagination.

Another thing he noticed, the bonds and the way the molecules configured themselves was totally wrong. In chemistry, all bonds follow a certain mathematical energy pattern that could be predicted with precision. The way the mysterious molecules bonded within this Dust compound was totally alien. The only conclusion Dr. Penchant could come to at this point, was this stuff wasn’t of earth manufacturer past, or present. Nothing seemed to fit anything known to earth science or chemistry.

“Dr Joycie, Ms. Kopecky,” said Dr Penchant, explaining his findings, “you have discovered something truly world-shaking here, and I’ve made every effort to disprove it, because I would really, truly like to believe that this is impossible.  Why?  Because I don’t want to have to reinvent all of known physics from the ground up -- it’s going to be a huge amount of work.  On the other hand, there’s a huge opportunity here.  As the discoverers of these substances and the currently-unknown principles they imply, you, and to a lesser degree I, will forever become associated with the sweeping changes they will usher in, which will doubtless lead to a better understanding of …”

“Dr Penchant,” asked Melissa, “do you have any idea what this is all about?”

“Oh!  Yes,” said Dr Penchant, “the problem is that this Dust’s crystal structure is, by all known physics, completely impossible.  Electrons would have to follow completely different laws of physics if they were to bind a substance’s atoms together in such a way.  Yet here they are.”  He pointed to some graphs on the computer screen.  “The only possible conclusion, as inescapable as it is farfetched, is that these electrons are indeed following laws of physics different from those we know.”

“How can that even be?” asked Tom.  “I’m an archeologist, with some chemistry background -- I’ve had some physics, but that’s not where my degree is.  Still, we’re talking about something as objective as subatomic particles -- they can’t just choose what set of laws they’re going to follow today, can they?”

“Not as far as I know,” said Dr Penchant, “but, again, there we are.  My first thought was that perhaps these are not electrons -- muonic matter has been theorized, with muons taking the place of electrons, but we would see great differences in atomic mass and material density that we just don’t see here.  No, these must be electrons -- or … something like them …”

“Something … like electrons?” asked Melissa.

“Well, clearly what we have here is matter,” said Dr Penchant.  “It’s got mass, and it exhibits acceleration and inertia.  It seems to be made of atoms, and those atoms seem to have positively-charged nuclei with some sort of light negatively-charged particle in a cloud around them.  There are just … variations that I can’t account for.  Coupling constants that don’t seem to match the known values.  Basically … it’s as if it’s from another universe where the physical constants are different.”

“But … now it’s in our universe, isn’t it?” asked Tom.  “Wouldn’t it have to obey our laws now?”

“Yes, but somehow it’s holding on, at least for now, to some small piece of the environment it’s accustomed to,” Dr Penchant answered.  “I think that, somehow, the interior of that amphora-shaped vessel acts like a small piece of another universe.”

“It seems to generate an infinite amount of Dust,” said Melissa.  “Can you tell where it’s coming from?”

“Well, it’s true that it can’t really be creating something from nothing,” Dr Penchant answered.  “That’s a violation of the law of conservation of mass-energy.  In a closed system, mass and energy can be exchanged, but nothing can just come into existence from nowhere.  The question is … is this a closed system?”

“You think the amphora is just one end of something bigger,” said Tom.  “There’s a big container of Dust in another universe, and the amphora’s just a … spigot.”

“Right,” Dr Penchant said.  “Maybe our universe isn’t really a closed system -- maybe our universe plus this other one is.  Or maybe the totality of all universes, taken together, is the closed system.  Then matter could flow from one to another without any conservation violations.”

“The Dust, though,” said Melissa.  “It’s here.  What does it do?  And,” she looked at Tom as she asked this, “what happens to it after it gets loose?”

“It would seem,” said Dr Penchant, “that it has extremely potent mind-affecting properties, but I’m not a pharmacologist.  It seems to reduce mental acuity to the levels of infancy while inducing a euphoric response.  Only a small amount of it seems to be necessary.  Fortunately, it seems to decay the longer it spends away from the amphora until within a 24-hour period, it has all reconfigured into ordinary -- to us -- organic substances like sugars and esters.”

Melissa giggled, “Weeeelllll …” She looked over at the pile of drying clothing they had put through the industrial washer, “I think it might affect us on a deeper level, too, that sort of lingers.”

Dr. Penchant raised an eyebrow, “What makes you say that?”

Tom spoke up at that point. “It’s like this. Melissa loves to dress cute and pretty, although today, she went beyond her normal and went well into the little girl stage. What you saw when you came in … was how she was dressed when she came here this morning.”

Melissa blushed deep crimson as she said defensively, “I didn’t hear you complaining any.”

Tom looked at Melissa and said, “Not when a woman as pretty as you dresses that way, not on your life.”

Dr. Penchant  intervened, “Hold it … wait. Miss Kopekie, do you normally dress in rompers and rumba panties?”

Melissa looked at the floor. She felt as if her ears were on fire as she replied softly, “Sometimes … when I’m … I’m trying to impress someone special.” She looked at Tom shyly as he beamed a wonderful smile back.

Tom said, “Still, I think that this Dust could become dangerous if it got out of containment like the accident at Berkeley.”

Dr. Penchant tilted his head as he narrowed his eyes, “You didn’t happen to have anything to do with that incident by chance, did you?”

Tom replied, “Sort of. There was heavy turbulence when we crossed the ridge into the valley. All the bumping around knocked the lid from the amphora. A quantity of it got away from us before we could close the amphora and contain the rest. When we got to the Labs, the guard refused to allow us entrance, nor would they allow us to leave the amphora in your laboratory. We just returned here, so, I attempted to learn all I could until I could get back in touch with you.”

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A group of young men were out on their dirt bikes in an open scrub desert location near Berkley. One of the youths turned sharply, throwing up a huge rooster tail of dirt and loose sand. The tread of his bike’s rear tire came across a small pile of pure sparkling gold powder, and sprayed it high in the air. Instantly, all the youths fell from their bikes and were wallowing helplessly in the sand amid the many scrubs and creosote bushes. Fortunately, none were hurt in the falls from their bikes.

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“So, Dr Joycie,” said Dr Penchant after getting off the phone, “would you say you’re experiencing any after-effects of Dust exposure?”

“I … I’m not sure,” Tom answered.

“Do you usually suck your thumb when you’re working on math problems?”

“Huh?”  Tom pulled his thumb out of his mouth.  Melissa giggled, and Tom blushed brightly.

“As I thought.  It may be that there are lingering effects -- perhaps they’re only psychological, but perhaps there’s some kind of biochemical change.  It may even be permanent.  We really need more data, and more expertise.”

“Well, the University’s got a research hospital,” Tom said, trying to regain his composure.

“It might be good to get in touch with any researchers you know there,” Dr Penchant said.  “There could be far-reaching effects.  Especially if … well, it is possible that the other universe’s energy states are lower and thus more stable than those of our universe.  Meaning that the Dust may not actually decay as quickly as I thought, but may convert matter into states similar to those in the other universe.”

“What?” Tom said, alarmed.  “It might … spread?”

“Well … to some extent,” said Dr Penchant.  “The fact is that our universe is still hostile to it.  But it might be able to last longer than I suspected at first, if it can restructure the matter around it, much like negatively-charged strange matter might, for some values of its theoretical surface tension.  Anyway, the Dust might find ways to protect itself from decay for a while longer.  The samples we’ve got under observation will tell the tale.”

“What if some of the molecules in our bodies have been … converted?” Melissa asked.

“That’s why it might be good to have some medical tests run on the two of you,” Dr Penchant said.

Melissa felt strange. She wanted so much to play with her Teddy Bear right about now, but knew she had work to do. She began to use the isolation box to create samples that the main lab would use in their super high powered electron and proton microscopes.

The harder she tried to concentrate on what she was doing, the more her mind began to wander and think about her cute clothes and the ones she saw on line at one of those sites that popped up one day when she was shopping online.

Tom, was having an almost impossible battle keeping from sucking his thumb. Dr. Penchant watched both of them closely and observed their childish actions. He was impressed that many of them went unnoticed by the two of them.

Just to test something, he walked over to Melissa and said softly as he took her by the hand, “Come with me little girl, I think you have to use the potty.”

Melissa slid off the stool without a seconds hesitation and started to allow herself to be led. She suddenly stopped dead and said with a tinge of anger in her voice, “And just what do you think you’re doing? I’ll go potty when I wanna.”

Dr. Penchant replied, “It was just a test. Don’t be upset, but how did you feel up until you realized what was happening?”

Melissa's eyes got big as she thought about it, “I … ummm … “ she blushed really deeply pink, “I was thinking that I didn’t want to wet my panties and to be a good little girl and go potty.”

Dr. Penchant nodded as he walked over to Tom and said softly in his ear, “Be a good little boy and let me check your diaper and see if you need to be changed.”

Tom slid off the stool and pulled the front of his scrubs and undies open far enough Dr. Penchant could have checked Tom if he had really been so inclined. Tom suddenly got big eyed then frowned darkly, “What in the Sam Hill did you do that for?”

Dr. penchant sat on another stool and rubbed his chin, “It would seem that exposure to this Dust has made some alterations to your … psyche in a very fundamental way. I’m not sure if it’s permanent, but for Melissa it would be easier and more acceptable than it would be for a grown man. She would sort of be expected to dress and act childish, because it has been sort of a normal pattern for her. You, on the other hand ...”

Dr. Penchant looked at Tom. The air hung heavy with much unsaid.

“I want to tell you something, Dr Penchant,” Tom said, reluctantly.  “I remember nothing clearly from the times I’ve been entirely under the Dust’s effects, but … I do have a strong feeling that it was very pleasurable.  Part of me wants to experience it again.  It’s an effort of will to keep from testing it that way -- you know, on myself.”

“I see,” Dr Penchant says, “and you have my congratulations that you haven’t succumbed to this temptation.  Melissa, do you …”

“Yeah,” she said, “I feel the same way.  Actually, the second time, when I only got a very small dose of it, I remembered everything.  It was kind of like being drunk … but it felt way, way better.”

“I am somewhat worried now,” said Dr Penchant, “not for you two, but for others who may have been exposed.”



“That was … intense!” said one of the teenagers, waking up on his back in the California desert.  “You guys … what is in this stuff?”

“I … don’t know man,” said another one, shaking his head, “but … dude, you gotta put on some clothes!  You musta taken yours off when you were high.”

“Whew, you stink,” said the first one.  “Did you do what I think you did?  I’m lucky I took mine off.  But it was so intense!”

“What did that to us?” said a third one, sitting up.  “It was after G-Do did a sweet shred through that pile of yellow sand over … there!”

The entire group of them stood around the pile of golden Dust, looking at it and wondering what to do.



Dr. Penchant watched as Tom and Melissa did an adorable mix of being children of about 4 years old, and the professional adults they actually were. He feared that this was going to get a whole lot worse before it got better.

While Tom and Melissa went about making samples and doing further research, sucking their thumbs, and babbling about toys and things, Dr. Penchant made a call to the California branch of the CDC Emergency Response Team. Since he was one of the lead researchers, he had to make a report. The call didn’t go well as the director had a total melt down. Dr. Penchant managed to stop them from sending a complete emergency containment unit by reminding him their own security had turned this very object they were looking for away.

Dr Penchant also informed the director that this compound was of unknown origin not of anything earth had ever manufactured or nature had created and that it violated all the laws of known physics.  “It’s not as if we really have any protocols for handling it,” he said.  “It’s completely unprecedented.  So in reality, the less it’s moved around, and the less it’s exposed to the outside world, the better.  Yes, it’s currently housed in an airtight section of the lab.”

“Excuse me?” said a voice.  “Tom?  Melissa?  Are you in?”

“Ah, that would be the nurse practitioner they called from the university hospital,” Dr Penchant said on the phone.  “I must go.  I’ll keep you informed, Director.”

“Felicia!” Tom and Melissa both said, jumping up and nearly running toward their friend, who laughed in astonishment at this outburst of emotion.  The two of them looked at each other self-consciously and adopted a posture of a bit more decorum, slowing down and approaching her.

“Are we glad to see you!” said Melissa, hugging Felicia.

Tom smiled at her.  “Felicia, this is Dr Robert Penchant from Lawrence Livermore Labs.  Dr Penchant, this is Felicia Newman, NP, from the University of Tennessee Hospital.”

“Dr Penchant, pleased to meet you,” Felicia said.

“Nurse Newman, likewise,” said Dr Penchant.  They shook hands.  “Can you … recommend any tests that might be useful, given what we’ve told you?  Not that we know a great deal yet -- we’re hoping the tests will help with that.”

“Well, we could take some blood samples and look at hormone levels,” said Felicia, “and maybe an MRI might show something.”  She looked at Tom and Melissa.  “You two don’t look unhealthy.  You seem to be in good spirits, too.  But … Tom, I don’t recall your having a thumbsucking problem any time I’ve known you.”

“Sowwy,” said Tom, pulling his thumb out of his mouth.  “It’s so hard not to do that all of a sudden.”

“Well, clearly your exposure to this … substance has had some sort of effect,” she said, “but it’s not as if thumbsucking is harmful.  It’s not as if you’re cutting yourself or exhibiting suicidal behavior.  It’s more like your behavior is somehow regressive.  If I could get you in for an MRI scan, it might tell us something.”

“Sure, if you think it’d add to the data,” Melissa said, unaware that she was twirling her hair around one finger and rotating her body left and right while keeping her feet in one place.  “I’m kind of worried about whether we’re OK to drive, so I hope we can get a ride.”

“That’s no problem,” Felicia said, “I brought the minivan.”

“Um OK,” said Tom, “we can go whenever.  But, uh, I gotta go potty first.”

“That’s fine,” said Felicia, “why don’t you both go?  You can go by yourselves, right?”

“Yeah!” said Melissa.  “At least, I can.”

“I can too!” said Tom, looking a bit upset.  “I’m a big boy.”

“OK, then,” Felicia said, looking a bit worried.  “I’ll be right here, and when you’re back, we can go to the hospital for some tests.  If you’re good, I’m authorized to give out lollipops.”

“Oooh!” said Melissa, scurrying off, as did Tom.

“So you see,” said Dr Penchant, “this is presumably not ordinary behavior for either of them.  Clearly this Dust substance has had a lasting effect.”

“No, that’s not normal at all,” Felicia said.  “Tom’s into cars and racing.  He’s not what you’d call juvenile at all.  Melissa … well, she likes to dress super girly, but this goes far beyond that.  I frankly don’t know what we could do for them -- not yet, anyway.  Sounds like we know very little about the nature of what’s in their system.”

“I’d be very interested in the results of that MRI,” said Dr Penchant.  “I’m predicting it’ll show unprecedented changes to their systems, specifically parts of their brains.  I hope they’re temporary.”

“We’re back!” shouted Tom, jogging back from the bathroom.

“Did you wash your hands?” Felicia asked.

“Uh huh!” nodded Tom holding out his hands where the Nurse could see them.  Melissa was bouncing back now.

“Well, let’s go to the hospital!” Felicia suggested.  “First one to the minivan gets to pick the cartoon!”

“You got cartoons in there?” Melissa asked, sounding awestruck.

“Whoa!” said Tom, and took off at a run.

“On the one hand I’m worried to see this change in them,” said Felicia to Dr Penchant, “but on the other hand they obviously still know where the parking lot is.  I don’t think anything’s changed about what’s in their heads -- they’re just acting like younger versions of the same people.  Will you be OK here, Dr Penchant?”

“I’ll keep running tests -- carefully -- on the samples we have,” said Dr Penchant.  “We still have to wait for the results of some of them.  At the very least, we’re learning about a totally unknown substance or two.  The two of them are still very helpful in the lab, actually, so bring them back if you think they’re fit for work -- I’m sorry to burden you with them, but I really don’t know how to handle the medical side of this.  I’m mostly a nuclear physicist.”

“Oh, I’ll take good care of them,” said Felicia.  “They’re my friends.  If it’s at all possible, we’ll get them back to normal.  If not … well, I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Good luck, Dr Penchant.”

“And you too, Nurse Newman.”  He didn’t notice, but in the experiment area, there was momentarily a silvery glimmering aura of light around the amphora … then a few furtive flickers in the air around it … and then nothing.

“I got here first!” Tom was saying when Felicia got to the minivan.  “I wanna see Naruto!”

“I … don’t think I have that,” Felicia said.  “Let me show you what I’ve got first, then you can pick.”

“Oh, OK.”

“No fair, you got a head start!” Melissa was complaining.  “You only beat me by THAT much.”  She held up her thumb and forefinger in front of her eye.

Felicia got them buckled into the minivan’s rear seats and started showing Tom’s choice, Pixar’s Cars, on the drop-down screens.  He and Melissa were completely fixated on the cartoon all the way to the hospital.  “Well, at least that works,” she said.

By the time they had arrived at the hospital, because of the lack of adult stimulation, Tom and Melissa had reverted almost completely to children. Felicia was amused by how adorable they were, but also seriously concerned by how much they had regressed in the short time since they left Dr. Joycie’s lab.

When it came time to do the MRI, the both of them had to be restrained and have the usual precautions taken as with any child of approximately three to four years old.

The MRI team finally managed to get them in the machine and to remain still long enough for the images to be done. The results were … startling to say the least. The images showed not the minds of two developed adult individuals, but the developing minds of infants … among other large anomalies that were totally unexplainable.

The hospital did have reference images of Tom’s brain taken after a crash he had had with his racing vehicle a year ago. What the two images showed, was Tom’s mind was rapidly regressing to infancy. The real issue … there was nothing they could do to arrest it, nor did they know how young the two of them would wind up being when the regression was completed. The only hope was that it wasn’t permanent, or they could find a way to reverse it.

“So that’s it, Dr Penchant,” said Felicia once she had them back at the lab.  “I’m going to take some time off to look after them, because I know they’d do the same for me if I needed it.  I’ve brought a bunch of supplies with me.  We’ll get them through this. As you can see, I’ve dressed both of them in Adult Baby outfits and diapers. They are having problems with incontinence ... besides, they are both acting like adorably cute children now that have the same adult abilities they had previously.”

“I weally don’ wanna be a … burden,” said Tom.  “I wanna help figure this out.” and started sucking his thumb.

“Me too,” said Melissa.  “I know I can be smart.  Is jus … not real easy right now.” as she too started sucking her thumb.

“We’re just getting started,” said Dr Penchant.  “I’ve been sharing our data and hypotheses with some colleagues and there are some interesting theories emerging.  With your consent I’ll share your test results too.  Were there any anomalies other than the MRIs?”

“Nothing seems to be different about them … except for their brains,” said Felicia.  “Normal body hormone levels, so their endocrine systems are unaffected.  It looks like their bodies aren’t changing at all -- just their brains.  But without a time series of MRIs, I can’t say whether the brain changes are speeding up, slowing down, or proceeding at the same rate.”

“I’m glad they haven’t encountered any more of the Dust,” said Dr Penchant.  “It wouldn’t be likely to help.  They seem to have an almost addictive reaction to it.”



“I’m home, Mommy -- uh, I mean Mom,” said Jim Majors, one of the teenagers who had encountered the Dust while mountain biking in the desert.

“Where have you been?” asked his mother.  “It’s way past suppertime.  And your clothes!  They’re completely caked with dust!  Get in the shower and throw those in the laundry!”

“Yeah, I know, I gotted all dirty, Mommy,” he said.

“What were you and your friends doing out there, especially so late?”

“Oh, I dunno, stuff,” said Jim, going upstairs, holding tightly onto the railing.  

If his mother hadn’t known better, she would have thought he was walking like a toddler.  He held tightly onto his backpack -- which contained a thermos bottle full of a golden powder.  His friends had all taken some of it, after they’d sifted the dirt out of it using the cleanest of their clothes.  He couldn’t wait to try the Dust again. It was the very best high he had ever experienced and it made him feel so wonderfully nice. He was sure all the people at the party later that night would agree when he gave them some.



Dr. Penchant watched as Tom and Melissa played. If he didn’t know any better, he could swear they were actually children of about 4 years of age. They did still retain all their adult knowledge skills which made a rather interesting mix. They were exhibiting that they were little children still basically in diapers that could perform adult tasks.

Dr Penchant understood exactly why Dr Joycie would be distracted in his normal routines. Especially with Melissa dressed as adorably as she was currently.  Felicia had stopped by both of their homes for more clothes, meaning that they had picked out new clothes for themselves and although Tom had chosen fairly generic blue jeans and a NASCAR T-shirt, Melissa had chosen a frilly yellow minidress with matching jelly sandals and rhumba panties.  Felicia had apparently insisted that they wear protection in case they had any more direct Dust contact, but only on Melissa was it at all obvious, and then only if you were looking for it.

Dr Penchant turned his attention to more tests. The blood work clearly showed that their cellular structure was unaffected -- the Dust seemed to only affect their brains. The other tests including the micro automaton structure test proved inadequate as the Dust’s atomic structure proved once again to be beyond anything Earth knew. While doing a gas chromatograph test for the twelfth time, a sudden energy spike rendered several of the readings unusable. The graphs after the spike showed the dust had completely renewed its atomic structure and converted the area around it to its state.

This didn’t bode well for hopes that Tom and Melissa would recover anytime soon.

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Jim arrived at the party. Everyone he knew was there. All noticed he was acting really strangely.

Cherry walked up to him and put an arm around his neck and said sexily, “Supp, sugar? Why you acting so weird?”

Jim shivered. For a brief instant he feared he was going to get cooties from the extremely pretty girl, then answered, “I have a new drug for everybody to try. It’s wonderful and makes you so high.”

With this, he removed the lid to his thermos and scattered the small bit he had brought with him in the air. The results were instantaneous. Everyone in the room regressed to infants and began to giggle and play.

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“The test tubes look funny,” said Tom, looking through the glass into the pressurized test chamber where the amphora and Dust samples sat.  Indeed, the bottoms of the test tubes, which had simply been glass tubes with a quarter-inch of the golden Dust in them, now looked metallic and shone with a golden luster.

Dr Penchant agreed, “Yes, they do.  The Dust is changing their glass into … something else on contact.  It’s not more Dust, but it’s not of this Earth either.  The good news is that the process seems to be slowing.  However, I can’t tell whether it’s because the Dust is losing its efficacy or whether it’s because it’s already transformed the material it’s in direct contact with, so the reaction is complete.”

“The jar thing is always fulla Dust”, said Tom.  “Think that means the other end of it is hooked up to somethin’?”

Dr Penchant was startled by this thought.  “But -- but that would mean --” he began.  “The amphora might be a dimensional interface … it’s connected to a larger supply of it somehow ...”

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In a dimension far removed from earth, on a timeline far diverged, on a planet many sextillions of light years away added to that, a traveler noticed that his entrainment dust utilization was rising without him using it. He began to look over the travel logs to see where the excess was going.

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“Lookit,” Melissa was saying as she looked at the computer.  “We gots lotsa messages!  They say they thinks they can maybe read the squiggles on the jug.  An’ they thinks they knows how the … umm thingie equations work wif diff’rent … umm fine thingie constants?  An’ over here they say we maybe oughtta look more at the metal the jug is made outta.”

“Oh, my,” said Dr Penchant.  “Let me see.  If the Hamiltonian looks like that, then yes, the solutions of the Schroedinger equation for the electron shells would look like … hmm.  And then with those values for the strong and weak coupling constants the nuclei would behave like this … my goodness.  It would result in a narrower band of stability that would reach much farther.  There could be stable nuclei with three or even four hundred nucleons in them, but they would be much more scattered, with many more light elements with no stable isotopes.  Imagine a universe with no stable isotopes of nitrogen!  And … if this is correct, there could be an entirely different set of elements, with stable strange quarks in their nuclei.  How peculiar.  They’d need a periodic table with two layers.  But this would also mean … aha.”

Dr Penchant sent off email to some of his colleagues.  “Also, it’s interesting that they think the writing on the amphora might refer to the Dust being useful for interstellar travel.  Perhaps in its home universe it is, but here, it’s downright disruptive.”

Immediately, Dr penchant received confirmation that his request had been approved and that a special courier had been dispatched to pick up a sample for testing.

Dr Penchant stored the Dust sample within a vacuum magnetic bottle. He was positive it wouldn’t escape that. The helo arrived within a few minutes and all care was taken in the transfer. The trip to Fermilab was fast and uneventful.

Several hours later, excited physicists transferred the Dust sample into the impact target. None had ever seen a molecule such as the one being loaded. Once the chamber was completely evacuated, the scientists began to charge the massive electron coils. Once the proton beam had reached a significant portion of light speed as it traveled along the miles-long beam path, it was diverted into the target chamber. The resulting explosion was nothing like any had ever expected as it totally destroyed the target chamber and several yards of the beam tubes.  It was more of an implosion, though, as the air rushed in, to fill the vacuum that had been inside the path when the containment had been breached.

The resulting elements were a strange matter version of some type of silicon. At least the residue recovered appeared as such.  But silicon with nucleons made of lambda, sigma and xi baryons didn’t last long in this universe, and it quickly decayed into normal silicon.  They measured the decay of the particles, detecting many pi mesons, taking as much data as they could.  Once the sample had decayed past the point of being dangerous to humans, one of the physicists said, “Whoo!  I didn’t think I’d have a day this exciting when I got up this morning.  It’s not every day you blow up the target chamber!”

“Heh, OK, Ferman, you get to start fixing it,” said another scientist.  “I’ll send the data back to Dr. Penchant.”  He paused.  “Now we all get to try to figure out exactly what just happened.  And how could such a large quantity of strange matter be stable enough to be sent here?”  They all knew that lambda, sigma and xi baryons had average lifetimes measured in fractions of nanoseconds.

As the physicists pored over the mountains of new data, it became quite clear that Dr Penchant, Dr Joycie, and his assistant Melissa Kopekie had not only made a startling new discovery of an impossible element, but had thrown all that was known about any kind of physics out the window.  FTL space travel was absolutely possible with the new discoveries based on the new particles, or so the equations said. Time travel to a particular point in the past was also theoretically  possible, although time travel to the future seemed to still be impossible because the Heisenberg uncertainty increased without bound in such cases.  It’s not often that a team of archeologists revolutionizes physics, but Melissa and Tom would be in the new physics textbooks next to Newton and Einstein -- once those books were written.

“Turns out we’d made some seriously flawed assumptions,” Dr Penchant told them over a video conference a few days after their hospital visit.  “Not only has this discovery pinpointed those assumptions, it’s gone a long way toward correcting them. We’re looking at a whole new era in particle physics -- our understanding of the universe just expanded beyond our wildest dreams.  They’re calling it quantum relationalism now -- it’s looking as if quantum correlations are more fundamental than space-time, and space-time itself is somehow built up from correlations among events.”

“Big stuff is changing yupyup,” said Tom, taking his thumb out of his mouth.  “I dunno physics that good, but … you know, now that a lot of that quantum stuff got figured out, people been figuring out the writing on the jar better.”

“Oh really?” asked Dr Penchant.  “You’re saying that it states some of the discoveries we’ve been making?”

“Sorta …” Tom said.  “Is directions.  The jar is parta a bigger machine.  One enda it.  Is like the water tap in your house an’ you can’t see the pipes.  Is about how you hook it up to the pipes ‘n turn it on an’ Dust comes out an’ it makes your mind like a baby.”

“But … now I have so many more questions,” Dr Penchant objected.  “Why would one want to do that, for one thing?  Also, Dust is already coming out of it.”

“Yeah … I kinda think the directions already been done,” said Tom.  “Is already hooked up.  Don’t look like it, but is.”

“Connected to … some sort of Dust reservoir in what?  Another part of the universe?  Connected via a wormhole of some sort?  Or maybe an entirely different universe, considering that the Dust is partially made of materials that can’t exist here?”

“Think … is another ‘mension or somefin’, ‘cause there been funny stuff happenin’,” Tom said.  “I no see it but Melissa did.”

“Yeah!” said Melissa, leaning into view.  “Funny glowy lights ‘round the jar!”

“Did you get them on video?” asked Dr Penchant, excited.  “This could be more data!”

“No.”  Melissa pouted.  “But we setted up cameras.  Nextest time it happen, we get it.”

“Yeah!” said Tom.  “Is gonna be … um … sowwy me gotta go potty be right back sowwy!”  He got up and hurried off.

“Careful, Tom, don’t fall and hurt yourself,” called Felicia’s voice.  “And remember to wash your hands!”

“I see Nurse Newman is still there helping you,” Dr Penchant said.  “That’s good.  You might need her help until the effects of the Dust wear off.  And they should … though it’s going to take longer than I thought at first.”

“Yea,” said Melissa.  “I still wanna be a baby again, kinda, but I know it … too dangerous.”

“It would be a great pity to see such sharp minds forever reduced to … wait, what’s this?” Dr Penchant interrupted himself.  “I just saw a news story online mentioning that there’s a small town near Livermore where nearly all the high school’s students are hospitalized and suffering from some kind of extreme mental regression.”

“What?” Melissa asked.  “Sound like Dust!  Issit from when it got spilled?  Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh …”  She bounced up and down nervously.

“Melissa, do you have to go potty too?” asked Felicia, seeing her bouncing.  “Oh … never mind, Sweetie, I’ll take care of you in a bit.”  Melissa knew that her short skirt made it easy to see her diaper and the lines that changed color when she was wet.  It was still hard to tell when it happened, but it was getting a bit easier every day.  She made it to the potty more often, but there were still accidents, especially when she was agitated.

“Um, sowwy,” Melissa said.  “Me just worry ‘bout all those kids.  I just know they turn to babies ‘cause of our mistake!”

“Yes, that seems very likely,” said Dr Penchant.  “We should probably find a way to help them.  More than that, we should find out how it happened and make sure there isn’t more Dust so it doesn’t happen to more people.”

“Needa Dust magnet.  Or a dust sniffer,” said Melissa, looking adorably thoughtful.  “Issa good idea.  Maybe Dust pulls other dust like a magnet?”

“You … may just have something there,” Dr Penchant said.  “I’m going to make some other calls, then … I’ll get back to you.  I have to do some more experiments.”

Tom returned from the bathroom; it turned out he hadn’t quite made it, so Felicia had two diapers to change, but Tom and Melissa were back to their dry and happy selves shortly.  They continued to read about the changes their discovery was continuing to make in physics.  The idea of “spooky action at a distance,” which Einstein had denied was possible, had turned out to be a door he should have opened many years ago, as the results would have brought mankind into a totally new epoch, one that they just now were entering.

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Several Teens came slowly back to their right minds … sort of. OMG! it had felt so awesomely good. Whatever that stuff was, they had to have more. Being in diapers didn’t bother them in the least, the way this new drug made you feel was too awesome to ignore.  But … then they realized that they were in a hospital ward, and they didn’t know what had happened to the rest of the … what was that new drug called, anyway?  Dust?  They thought that’s what it was called, but they didn’t remember ...

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The Traveler scoured over his travel logs with a fine toothed comb, so to speak. The numbers clearly showed his stardrive was consuming Dust, but there was no reason for it. All the equipment passed diagnostics, but the consumption logs still indicated the Dust was going somewhere.

He sent the servoids out to inspect the many miles of intricate tubings, crystals, and strange metals that made up his stardrive. He hoped the transfer singularity hadn’t developed a leak. The meson resonance made it so difficult to match the proper frequencies and tune the quark specs back within normal ranges due to their fluxing between many states of existence and being in many places at the same time.

When the servoids returned, he was astounded to learn that there was no leak, although a pod was missing from the supply rack. According to the servoid, it had been missing and totally unnoticed … for quite a long time. It had been missing since he had gone on the hunting expedition looking for exotic creatures in other dimensions.  He told the servoids to start scanning the dimensional interface circuitry, and they scurried off to comply.  Perhaps he could retrieve the missing Dust pod.  The substance was very useful for interstellar navigation … and interdimensional navigation was impossible without it.  The Traveler was glad he hadn’t lost more Dust than he had, but the pod had to be retrieved before he lost so much that he wouldn’t be able to get home.

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Felicia held out an adorable pair of bottoms as she cooed softly, “Now be a good little girl and step in so I can finish dressing you. Unless you just want to go out in a diaper. That would be all right too.”

Melissa stood with a cute thoughtful expression for an instant. She was so tempted to wear just her diaper. It was somehow … right. Then again, so was this Glow Worm Sun Suit Felicia had bought for her. With a shrug, Melissa stepped in, one foot at a time while holding on to Felicia for balance.

When the Nurse had pulled them up and made sure there would be no leaks, she patted Melissa softly on her bottom and cooed, “There you go sweetheart. Now run along and help Tommy and Dr. Penchant with whatever big important thing they are doing.”

Melissa giggled and toddled back into the lab. Felicia smiled, Melissa was turning into such an adorable little girl. Tom was becoming a wonderful little boy too. Felicia really felt guilty for the feelings she was developing about wanting them to stay this way. She also knew, they didn’t appear to be recovering, but somehow were evolving into very very smart children.

“Look at this,” Dr Penchant was saying.  “It’s not Dust, but it’s made of glass that the Dust has modified.  I’m dangling it on a string from my fingers, that’s all -- other than the altered glass, this is very low-tech.”  He walked toward the glassed-in enclosure that contained the amphora and the Dust samples, and the golden orb moved toward the enclosure.  He turned left and moved around it, and the orb deflected to the right.  “I’ve given this sample a … well, it’s not electric charge, but it’s a type of charge that’s possible in whatever universe the Dust comes from.  It doesn’t have a name here yet.  Anyway, it causes the glass to be attracted to Dust, which has an opposite … alternate charge.”

Tom clapped.  So did Melissa.  “That super amazin’, Doctor!” said Tom.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling and bowing slightly.

“Are you gonna use it to find the Dust that got spilled?” asked Melissa.

“That’s the general idea,” said Dr Penchant.  “This orb and several others like it can not only detect Dust but also pick it up like a magnet picks up iron filings.  We’ve got a device that uses this principle to collect Dust safely in containers so it can’t escape.”

“Like a vacuum!” said Tom.

“Well, yes, like a vacuum cleaner,” Dr Penchant said.  “We’ll just use the more sensitive detector to find concentrations of Dust, then go to those locations to collect it.  Soon there won’t be any more to trouble anyone.”

“Ooo wear masks!” Melissa said.

“Yes, anyone going on this mission should wear breathing masks, so there’s no chance they can breathe it and be affected.  Especially since we’ll be conducting the initial survey from the air.”



Soon, “Operation Staubsauger” was under way, and an airplane was conducting a search pattern, to uncover regions of higher Dust concentration that they could send helicopters to examine in greater detail.

Jim Majors sat in his thick comfy diaper and sucked his thumb thoughtfully. He knew he had enough Dust to last for several years stored away in his secret place. He also knew his other friends had equal amounts stashed away. He could feel the urge to take more Dust. It made him feel so wonderfully content and giggly all over.  Part of him objected to the fact that he was in diapers that he couldn’t help wetting and pooping in, and that he couldn’t stop himself from sucking his thumb, and suspected that the Dust had something to do with that, but he would stay in diapers and suck his thumb forever as long as he could keep taking more Dust.

Jim took hold of the rail to the crib he was in and pulled himself to his feet. He looked around and smiled. All the kids at the party were there in the same hospital area, all in diapers same as him. Now, as soon as they let them go home, he was gonna give everyone another huge dose. He shivered with delightful anticipation at the thought of it.

“And how’re you doing, Sweetie?” asked the nurse on duty, making her rounds.  “Looks like you’re not getting any more control over your pee-pee and your poopies.”  The short hospital T-shirt they kept Jim in was designed to make it easy for the staff to check the state of his diaper, which was humiliating and embarrassing.  The only thing that made it tolerable was the thought that he’d be able to use more Dust once he got out.  “Well, we’ll get you changed right away.”

“When can I go home, Nurse Stevens?” he asked, or tried to.  What actually came out of his mouth was, “Me go back home soon Nursey?”

“Not as long as you’re pretty much a baby in a teenage body, Jimmy,” she said.  “The doctors don’t know what’s making you and all your classmates like this, but they want to keep you for observation until they can figure it out.  Though there are some new doctors who came in from Livermore Labs today -- they say they might have an idea.”

“No go home?” Jim said, pouting.  He didn’t really realize how babyishly he was acting.  “But … but me wanna!”  He was getting upset.  He wet his diaper again, and didn’t even know it was happening.

“Nope, sorry Jimmy, not ‘till we know how to make you all better,” Nurse Stevens said.  It was hard for her not to treat him like a baby when he acted like one for all intents and purposes.  “Now, let’s get you changed.  You need a new diapie.  Stinky boy!”

Jim blushed when he realized she was right.  He’d been so focused on getting home to his Dust stash that he hadn’t even noticed, but his diaper was quite full.  Feeling quite embarrassed with himself, he meekly let the nurse change him.

Later, that evening, after he’d been given a bottle and fallen fast asleep, a number of doctors and other scientists gathered around his crib and watched Jim as he slept.  “So, this is the one who had the largest cache of Dust hidden away.  Luckily the stuff’s such a different kind of matter that no one can really hide it -- it’s like hiding an alarm clock you can’t shut off that’s ringing at full volume.  They won’t be getting more of the stuff -- but now we have to figure out what to do with him.  We’ve got a few ideas, but we don’t know if they’ll work.”

“You’ll have to get the parents’ permission, you know.”

“Yes, and for some, we have, like this one.  For others, we’ve only gotten permission to observe, so they can serve as the control group.  It won’t be double-blind, but we’ve got to work with what we have.  So we’ll start with an MRI, then the first of the injections.”



The Traveler looked at the records.  He had been trying to capture an exotic animal on the far side of a dimensional rift.  They were apparently highly sought after by collectors.  But it had proven too much for him, so he had made a hasty retreat after having shot one of the creatures, they were very aggressive and he didn’t get a live one like he intended -- apparently he’d left behind a Dust pod without realizing.  It happened, especially when one was using Dust.  Now he had to find it and reclaim it.  But that meant using the Dust again, since he was acting as his own navigator.  Oh well.

He placed the Dust mask on his face and strapped himself into his control chair.  Pressing the controls caused this control room’s Dust pod to lower, on its mechanical arm, and connect securely to the breathing mask.  He felt the Dust’s familiar effects: his thoughts began to shift and change until they were like those of a baby of his species.  

An outside observer would have seen his skin change from the normal silver color of an adult of his people to the golden color of an infant’s skin, but he was entirely focused on what he was experiencing and sensing -- a sense that his species lost in adulthood but was very sharp in infancy.  He saw the future and the past, the world lines stretching out before and behind him, even branching into parallel realities, and he began to see the barriers between dimensions and the cracks through which he could traverse them.

It was unfortunate that babies, who could sense this world of possibilities so acutely, had no words to describe it, but as they grew and learned how to express themselves they also lost this ability.  But fortunately, adults remembered their infancy clearly, so they knew what the experience had been like -- and thus they had developed the Dust to return their minds to an infantile state, as it was the only way to traverse the far reaches of space, travel in time, and even reach alternate realities.  And because they knew it was possible, they had built travel craft able to take them there, if properly guided.

The Traveler saw the glittering point in transdimensional space that his computer had located -- it was where, and when, and in which dimension, he had lost that Dust pod that day.  His infantile mind oohed at the sparkling prize, and his ship translated the brain signals he emitted as he reached toward it, activating the transphasic pulse oscillators and temporal resonators that brought him, and his ship with him, toward his target of desire.  

Only … it wasn’t there.  Not now.  It had stayed there for a long time, but then it had moved.  He had to find where it had gone.  He threw a tantrum and cried and wet his diaper, which anyone who uses Dust should wear as an obvious precaution.  

The ship automatically cut the Dust flow and started administering the antidote, because the pod was here.  He was in the right dimension and the right time frame.  He was even on the right planet.  He’d found the pod, in all but the smallest details.  But, as they said, the ruler of the darkest dimension was in the details.



In a lonely radar shack, a board and tired 2nd lieutenant just out of Officer’s Academy, drank one more of those jet fuel tasting coffees to keep himself awake. Just as he was starting to nod off, a solid contact appeared on his scope. The trajectory was totally off. It just appeared suddenly as if it had teleported from somewhere. The signal was strong and splattered across his screen, and didn’t resemble anything the young officer had ever been taught or shown in Scope School.

What ever boredom or sleepiness was in him vanished. If some terrorist or something was trying to sneak a missile in, Jerrie Jones was on the job and was gonna make track.

He began making the required recording of the contact, when just as mysteriously as it had appeared, it vanished without a trace. No matter what setting or which satellite he brought into the track, could he make any further contact. Immediately, the young officer flipped the cover off of the red alert button, and slapped it with his palm.

Within minutes, many men were in the control room, all seated at various consoles operating many different types of tracking and locating equipment.  After several intense minutes drug into a long uneventful half hour, the status phone rang. Confirmation of the contact was received, and polar tracking explained what was observed was obviously a small comet that they had been tracking for several months finally impacting and exploding in the atmosphere. All eyes fell on Lt. Jones who, at this moment, wished he were anywhere but in that particular control room.

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A very pretty young teenaged girl opened her eyes. She felt so wonderful as she sat up and started sucking her thumb. She looked around. It suddenly dawned on her she was in a large hospital type room, in a large crib like bed, in a diaper and some kind of top.

A nurse came up to the side of the crib and cooed softly, “Well, hello sweetheart. How’s my little girl today? Does she need to be changed?”

Megan looked down. Her diaper was soaked and messy. A tingle of fear ran through her. She thought back as hard as she could, and the last clear memory she had, was that Majors boy tossing some kind of wonderful drug in the air. Oh it had made her feel so nice. She still did. As the nurse cleaned and rediapered her, all she could think about, was getting high on more of whatever it was. The thought about her being in diapers crossed her mind again. She started sucking her thumb and decided if she had to wear diapers because of that … she was more than willing.

A mousy man in a white lab coat entered right after she was cleaned and diapered. He walked up to the side of her crib and said in an irritating nasal voice, “Hello, young woman, My name’s Dr. Penchant. I’m from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. I don’t want you to be alarmed, but your parents have given me and my colleagues permission to run some tests on you to determine what it was that caused … your malady.”

Megan took her thumb from her mouth and giggled, “Silly mans … it wasa Dust stuffies Jimmy throwded inna air. It maketed me feels so wunnerfuls … I wanna get tons n tons more. Pllleeeezzzzzz!” Then she began to whimper adorably.



Melissa woke up.  She hadn’t slept normal hours since her encounter with the Dust -- just like a small child, she slept for a few hours, napped for a few hours, and so forth.  It was the middle of the night, and she wasn’t sleepy at all anymore.  She tried to climb out of bed.  It was a bit difficult though -- the hospital cribs that Felicia had set up in one of the rooms at their lab facility had high sides.  But with a bit of concentration she was able to trigger the latches on both ends at the same time and lower the gate.  It was good that the bars were there, or she’d fall out of bed in her sleep, but right now she wasn’t tired.

She left the bedroom, or “nursery,” as they called it, where she and Tom slept -- it looked as if Tom was still fast asleep for now in his own crib. He was sucking his thumb and all snuggled up to a large fuzzy Teddy Bear, so she let him be, closing the door quietly.  She padded down the hallway in her soft slippers, her soaked diaper crinkling slightly under her nightgown.  There was a library down the hall, which they’d stocked with a number of fun children’s storybooks that she liked.  Perhaps she could while away the time by looking at the pretty pictures in them until she felt like sleeping again -- what was that?

There was a strange shimmery light coming from the main lab area’s doors.  It was kind of like the weird light she’d glimpsed around the amphora.  She was curious and crept toward the doors, looking through their glass windows.

Something was going on in there.  There was a bright circle of light on the floor.  Stepping into it, she cast a shadow on the floor, but although it seemed to be coming from above, it didn’t have a source that she could see.  It was as if it was shining through the ceiling, from something above the building, but the ceiling itself was dark.

Then she saw what the light was centered on.  At the middle of the illuminated circle was the glassed-in enclosure where they had isolated the amphora and the Dust samples.  And right about then, inside the enclosure, appeared a tall figure with silvery skin and long, flowing coppery hair, wearing some kind of green and blue uniform or jumpsuit.  Melissa went into the enclosure -- this was difficult, because she had to open the outer door, then completely close it before the inner door would open, and the air had to interchange -- and the commotion caused the figure to turn toward her and stare.

The inner door opened, leaving nothing but air between her and -- what was he?  An alien?  Was he dangerous?  Melissa stood still.  She didn’t know what to do.

The alien said, “Mtismus ngistrata pflrnderio spro rgrzander yplstantus.”

Melissa blinked.  Apparently he wanted to talk.  “Is … that so?” she asked.  “Umm … welcome to Earth, Mr. Silver Guy Person!  Is you here ‘causea tha Dust?  Is very inneresting y’know.  We beens studyin’ it, us Earthlings.”

He took some sort of flat tablet-like contraption from his belt and poked at it.  A voice from the device said, “I am here to retrieve my Dust pod.  I lost it.”

“You -- you’re gonna take away the Dust?” she said.  Part of her had always hoped that she could experience the Dust again, even though she knew it was dangerous and had already caused her a lot of harm.  “No, pwease, is so wonnerful and innerestin’ an’ it mades all our scientists sooper happy!”

The contraption talked at the alien, then he spoke to it, and it said to Melissa, “If any of your people have ingested it, you will certainly require the antidote, or it may cause permanent brain damage or death. The longer exposure, the more chance of irreversible damage.”

Melissa caught her breath in sudden worry.  “That … no good …” she said.  “I pobly been a good girl ‘n not used it no mores … but did breathe lotsa it once, an’ a little bit another time.  Is why am kinda a little girl alla time now.”

The box talked to the alien again, and via the box he said, “Please come with me.  I must scan you.  I might be able to help. At least stop any further damage.”

“Ummm OK are you gonna beam me up to the mother ship?” asked Melissa.  She giggled.

“More or less,” said the alien through his translator box.  He pushed some buttons on his belt, and suddenly there was a glassy bubble around Melissa, and then after a bright flash she wasn’t in the lab anymore.  She was floating in the bubble on top of some kind of square pad on the floor of … what was probably a room in his spaceship, because there were all kinds of machines and control panels and screens and readouts, and there were some things that looked like robots wheeling around adjusting controls, and the alien stood nearby looking at a display.

After the alien spoke in his language, the voice box said to Melissa, “The Dust is safe for my people, but it was not made for you or your universe.  Our form of life is not made of what you call carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.  It is based on stellarium, trobium, technetium and silver.  Some of these materials do not and cannot exist in your universe except in small bubbles near dimensional interfaces where the physical laws coexist.  But some of the materials can convert your universe’s matter into ours -- and this process has begun within your brain.  It must be reversed or it will cause you irrevocable harm.”

“Oh!  OK,” said Melissa.  “I no like harm.  No wanna die.”

“You will likely not feel anything,” said the translator, “but the medical computer is going to scan your body.  It must collect data before it can compute the correct course of action.”  

Laser-like lines of multicolored light played over Melissa’s body, but she didn’t feel anything.  The lights flickered and flashed, and the readouts displayed information that she couldn’t read -- not that she was very good at reading English lately anyway.

“The system has computed a solution,” said the alien.  “It will create something like Dust, only made from native elements of this universe.  You must breathe it, so it can reach your brain and counteract the effects that the Dust has had there.  But first … you need a diaper change.”

“Huh?” Melissa said, confused, but the alien’s robots closed in around her and quickly removed her soaking wet diaper, cleaning her skin with some kind of sonic beam, and fastening another, very thick diaper on around her, all while she floated in what was apparently some sort of antigravity beam.  

She guessed she wouldn’t need to walk if she was going to stay floating there.  The alien reached out and put some kind of breathing mask on her face made out of a transparent plastic-like material.  She continued breathing, but the mask filled up with a fine golden powder.  She quickly felt her mind regressing again -- it was just like the Dust!  Her thoughts became more and more simple and babyish … she could think of nothing but playing and sleeping and candy and toys and … she knew she was never able to remember what she thought of after that, except how wonderful she felt and how badly she wanted to continue feeling that way.

Tom woke up.  He looked over at Melissa’s crib; she wasn’t there.  Sometimes she couldn’t sleep, and he could understand, because the same thing was happening to him right now.  He didn’t know how long it would be before he felt like sleeping again, so there was no point in staying where he was.  He unlatched the crib side, slipped some slippers onto his feet, and went out to look around -- maybe he’d find Melissa.  Spending time with her was always worthwhile.

His wet diaper crinkling quietly under his long nightshirt, he padded down the hall toward the lab.  He’d had a dream, and in that dream he’d heard noises coming down the hallway from that direction.  Maybe that was where Melissa had gone.  He opened the door.

Tom saw nothing unusual, just the rows of lab tables with equipment, sample cases, microscopes, chemical bottles, and such, and then, in the center of the room, the glass enclosure where they kept delicate and dangerous samples, most recently the amphora and the Dust.  He moved closer and looked inside …

The amphora!  “Is gone!” he said aloud.  “The jar thingie!  It gone!”  He knew his words sounded so juvenile compared to his thoughts, the residual effect of the Dust on his brain and nervous system.  He disliked it.  When Melissa sounded like that and looked like a little girl, it was completely adorable, and he only wanted to hug and cuddle her.  But Tom felt like when he sounded and acted like a little boy, he sounded like an idiot and couldn’t believe that anyone would take him seriously, let alone find him attractive.  But now … the amphora was gone!  How would someone have gotten in, taken it, and gotten out, without any alarms going off and without causing any damage?

All of a sudden there was a bright light, making Tom blink and shield his eyes, and it was only getting brighter.  It suffused the glass enclosure, and Tom had to look away.  When it started to dim again, he turned around -- someone was in there now?  But how?  “Who there?” he asked.  The light dimmed further -- “Mewissa?  That you?”

Melissa stood there, looking a bit stunned, but then she saw him through the glass doors and said, “Tom!  You are not gonna believe this!  But first … well first let me get out of here.”  She opened the doors one at a time, finally making it out through the pressure interchange.

“Tom, you have to breathe this,” she said, holding up a clear plastic breathing mask of some kind.  “Let’s get you back to your crib first, though, and maybe a diaper change.  You’ll probably need it.”

Tom went along with her.  “But … Mewissa … how come you no sound like a lil girl?” he asked.  He felt even worse about how he sounded and acted now that she was sounding and acting completely adult.  “Is … no so cute.  But how?”

“I’ll explain soon, but first let’s get you fixed up too,” she said.

“What’s goin’ on?” asked Felicia, whom they had woken up, emerging from her room across the hall, rubbing her eyes.

“Well, I think Tom needs a change,” Melissa said, “and I think I’ve got something that’ll help him.  It helped me.”

After a quick diaper change -- Tom had just been wet -- he stayed lying down in his crib, asking, “Kay Mewissa, what this mask thingie now?”

“It’s got a dose of a new kind of Dust in it -- it’s designed to reverse the changes caused by the original Dust while having a similar effect.  You’ll see.  It’s like the Dust, but safe for us.”

“OK … I guess …” said Tom.  He lay back and allowed Melissa to strap the mask around the back of his head.  He breathed the sweet-smelling substance and felt his mind regressing just as it had twice before.  He couldn’t think about chemistry or archeology.  He could only think about his favorite cartoons and toy cars and his favorite kind of ice cream and … nothing.  Or was it?

“You see,” said Melissa, and he realized that he was understanding her.  “the Dust is made by people from an alternate universe -- Dr Penchant said it came from one.  But it’s safe for them, because they made it, in their universe, out of the same materials things in their universe are made of.  And it turns out their species has total recall of their time as infants -- so they can remember completely everything they do under the Dust’s influence.”

“And so will you, under this kind of Dust -- except you’ll still have those wonderful feelings,” she went on.  “And it will wear off completely when it’s over.  No side effects.”

Tom had a million questions, but all he could do was babble in his crib.  Melissa put the side up.  “You’re just a little baby right now, Tom, so let’s make sure you can’t get out and hurt yourself.  We’ll call Dr Penchant once it’s morning -- it’s what now, 4 a.m.?  He’s had a long day, I’m sure, and he definitely needs his rest.”

“Mla,” said Tom.  He played happily with his toes.  As always, he felt an amazing euphoric pleasure, but at the same time his mind felt clear -- not that he was terribly concerned about that at the moment.  “Wheeeee heehee!” he giggled.

“You are sooooo adorable like that,” said Melissa, “and don’t let anyone tell you different.  Who’s a cute little baby?”  She smiled at him, and he smiled back, unable to understand a word, but reacting to her pleasant tone.  She hoped they could play together sometime soon, but right now she was mostly concerned about repairing the damage before it permanently harmed his brain.

Melissa felt the gentle tugging at the back of her panties and diaper as Felicia checked her as she had been doing for the last several days. Melissa took another look at Jim. He was so adorable, and she felt the longing deep within her to be like that too. But she also knew there were teens at the hospital that needed immediate attention, before they suffered the irreparable brain damage that she and Tom had narrowly avoided.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In a softly lit, very quiet nursery that had been set up especially for the several dozen teenagers who had mysteriously mentally regressed to babies, a light beam materialized brightly. Several of the babies woke up and sat up in their cribs, rubbing their eyes sleepily.

A strangely colored humanoid creature walked over to one crib, then another, and fastened a mask around each of the “infants” heads. They squirmed and screeched for an instant, until the new Dust formula took effect. Each one then lay back in their cribs, took the bottle the humanoid offered each, and fell back into a wonderful infantile dream sleep that only a contented child could know.

The humanoid smiled, then typed something on a device attached to his wrist. The very bright column of light flashed into existence once again. When the soft lighting of the Nursery returned, several nurses and orderlies accompanied by Dr Penchant and a few practitioners dashed in. Nothing remained except the masks over the faces of each of the “infants,” and a strange ampule filled with a new type of Dust. This time, the writings on the outer cover were known to Earth. However, the symbols hadn’t been used in writing for millennia -- they were a dead language known only to certain archeologists.

Dr Penchant was totally flabbergasted. He bent over the new amphora and studied the beautifully detailed pictograms etched in its gold colored surface. He was a physicist, not an archeologist or linguist, but he knew two people who were and would be wetting their diapers to help.

Dr Penchant said to one of the practitioners, “I need samples of the substance within each mask, and I also need a level A containment cart here immediately to contain that thing.” He pointed at the amphora.

The practitioner replied as he hurried from the room, “Yes, Doctor. I’ll have the cart here stat.”

Dr Miller, an MD, had been looking at one of the masks and said to one of the nurses, “Get three dozen sampling swabs -- that’s how we’ll test the substance they’ve been breathing.”

The nurse replied, “Yes, Doctor … immediately.” as she hurried from the room and dashed down the hall to med supplies for the kits.

“I don’t know what’s happened here,” Dr Penchant said, “but I think someone’s either just ruined our experiment or solved our problem for us.”  He pointed at the amphora.  “And the answer is probably written on that.  To find out what it says, we have to get it to someone who can read it … without its contents getting loose.”  The intern returned with the containment cart.  “And this is how we’ll do that.  Thank you, Phil.”

Using gloves they carefully lifted the amphora onto the cart, lifted its sides, and locked them together, forming an airtight seal.  Then they wheeled the cart to a waiting helicopter.  There would be no spill this time -- even if the amphora’s lid vibrated open, any contents that spilled would be constrained by the containment box.



“So … this visitor undid the damage the Dust did to your brains -- with a different type of Dust?”

“That’s what he said,” Melissa told Dr Penchant as Tom examined the writing on the new amphora.  “He had some kind of translation device -- he spoke through that.  He had a … spaceship, I guess.  I never saw it from the outside.  I must have been in the lab, or medical bay, or something.  He had some kind of lasers or something that scanned me, and then it somehow synthesized this new Dust that he said was made of matter that was native to our universe.”

“He just … did all this?” Dr Penchant asked.

“Well, he had robots that did a lot of the work too.”

“I … see.”

“Yeah, this is Linear B,” said Tom.  “Specifically, Greek written in Linear B.  Nobody’s used this for 3000 years.  Not that I’m saying the Greeks got it from our dimension-traveling friend -- he may have gotten it from them.  It might be the most recent written language of ours he’s got.  He could’ve beamed up a newspaper or two and printed this in English, but no, I guess that would’ve been too easy.”

“That’s all very well, but what does it say?” asked Dr Penchant.

“Well, keep in mind that ancient Greek didn’t have any words for cells or quantum physics,” Tom began, “but I think it says that we humans should have memories of when we were babies.  It’s possible that we have different cognitive abilities that we lose right about when we start to acquire language, and we’re crippled because we don’t remember.  It says that his people have some kind of special ability as babies.  It also says that it might be because of the first Dust amphora and trace amounts of Dust in the environment that we humans don’t remember our infancy.”

“But … if there were trace amounts of Dust in the environment, as he says, wouldn’t we have discovered it earlier?” asked Dr Penchant.

“Well … maybe we would have,” Tom said.  “By the way … I remember my infancy now.  You know, the … original one.”

“Hey, so do I,” said Melissa.  “Do you suppose it was the new Dust that did it?”

“Could be,” Tom replied.  “This says that the new Dust might unlock our brains’ potential.”

“What does that mean?” asked Dr Penchant.

“I don’t think he knows,” Tom answered.  “He might just be guessing, because his people have extra ability when they’re babies -- I guess they use the Dust to unlock it again as adults.  By the way, there’s some kind of formula here -- two of them, in fact.  I think they might be formulas for the new Dust and some kind of antidote.”

“To put someone into the regressive Dust state and to quickly bring them out again,” said Dr Penchant.  “Obviously a lot of experimentation will be necessary.”

“I volunteer!” said Melissa.  “If … it’s okay.”

“Well, you’ve already experienced the effects firsthand,” said Dr Penchant.  “I have one more question.  How much Dust is in that amphora?”

“I think … this time, it’s what’s in the amphora.  I don’t think this one is connected to a larger supply,” Tom said.  “But we do want to be careful with it -- it’s still highly concentrated and very potent.  A grain is all it takes for full effect, I’m sure, though this stuff will wear off completely without lasting effects.  Or so it claims.  Oh, and there’s one more thing … it says here that we should make sure to release a low level of this into the environment.  He says it’ll get rid of any of the original Dust that may still be around, and any of its lasting effects.”

“We … may want to study it a bit before we do anything like that,” said Dr Penchant.  “And learn how to make more before we go throwing it around willy-nilly.”

“Makes sense to me,” said Tom.

“And to me,” Melissa said.  “After all, this is all we’ve got right now.”

In the back of her mind, Melissa hoped she would be just as adorable under this new dust as she was under the original. She smiled as she thought of all the cute clothes she would buy to wear while under the influence …

~~ A New Beginning for an Old Earth ~~
Miki Yamuri
 
Posts: 218
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Re: Dust

Postby TiresiasRex » Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:48 pm

Nice to see this oldy but goody dusted off (yes, pun intended) and given new life....was the story finally finished for this site? I seem to remember reading an unfinished version of the work back in 2013.
TiresiasRex
 
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Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:05 pm

Re: Dust

Postby Miki Yamuri » Thu Mar 31, 2016 10:24 am

I finally completed it and brought it to an reasonable conclusion ... Don't like things to end like dust in the wind ... lol

Thx for commenting ... and you8 should comment more often. More stories are coming
Miki Yamuri
 
Posts: 218
Joined: Mon Jun 23, 2014 3:06 pm

Re: Dust

Postby TiresiasRex » Thu Mar 31, 2016 4:25 pm

Ah, fear not. I will make the long and laborious ascent back to the vantage point of Supreme Commentator soon! (and I'm sure we will all welcome more stories from you, my dear).
TiresiasRex
 
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