Scene: On a lonely hillside just after a huge and violent rain that causes a mud slide
On a lonely hillside far from civilization, a huge torrential rainstorm raged. Thunder rumbled its base tones all across the land as mighty bolts of lightning leap across the sky. As the massive rain fell on top of one large hill, a very soft spot that held back a giant, pond sized mud puddle gave way. A massive mud slide rushed down the side of the steep slope, uncovering an large egg shaped capsule that had lain buried for untold eons.
The shiny metallic capsule, the size of a travel trailer, glinted dimly in the predawn light, reflecting the rays of the rising sun. A few curious insects scuttled by, touched the metal shell with their antennae, and staggered away, falling onto their backs and wiggling their legs, unable to crawl.
Later in the day the sound of voices came to this strange scene. "... think we can probably go for another mile and then head back -- wait, what's that thing?" said Ray.
He and his friend Vickie were hiking and backpacking in the Adirondacks and had never seen this object before. Vickie looks in the direction Ray had pointed. She sees a large thing that was partially buried in a recent slide. The sun glinted off the golden surface of the exposed portion. She walks over to the object and looks closer.
She says, "I think it might be one of those ... time capsule thingys someone buried and forgot."
She removes her back pack from her back and opens the side zipper. She removes a knife and begins to scrape some of the muck off further back into the hill. There were absolutely no markings of any kind on the smooth, golden surface of the object. Vickie stands and puts her hands on her hips.
She says, "I think this thing is a whole lot larger than what we can see exposed. I dug back into the hill about a foot and there is a lot more of it."
"I think it's hollow," Ray said, tapping on it with the handle of his hiking stick.
The tapping did have a resonant sound. What was more, neither his stick nor Vickie's knife could make a scratch in the smooth metallic surface.
"What is it? An Airstream trailer? I know they don't make 'em like they used to, but ... well, those had windows."
Ray begins to dig beneath the object.
"The problem is, I'm not finding any wheels," said Ray a moment later, as he brushed away the dirt around the base of the object with his gloved hands.
Vickie stands up and shades her eyes against the nearly over head sun. She can see there was a large mud slide recently, the earth still being damp and muddy in many places from the rain the night before.
She points up the large hill and says, "I think that thing came from up there. You think there might be more of this thing somewhere along this new slide?"
Ray looks up the hill as he too shades his eyes against the sun.
He replies, "I'm not really into trying to climb up that muddy slope."
Vickie walks over to the loose dirt pile and looks up. She says, "I think I see a way up the hill without getting too terribly dirty.
She begins to scrabble up the muddy slope, moving from clump of grass to clump of grass. She made it almost half way to the spot the slide originated, before one of the clumps gave way, and Vickie had the tremendously exciting experience of sliding down the hill on her bottom very fast. She came to rest at the bottom with a soft squishy thump.
"Ow!" she squeals, "That hurt!"
She pokes out her bottom lip in a cute pout as she slowly stands up and rubs her sore muddy bottom. She looks up the hill and still thinks there may be more of this capsule up the hill, but she can't figure a way up, with out a repeat of what had just happened.
Ray helped Vickie up and they looked at the object some more as the May sun rose higher and baked the mud.
"What do you suppose we ..." Ray began when the object made a sound.
It was low and ringing, like a very large bell or gong. Both Ray and Vickie stared at the object expectantly but didn't immediately see any change. Then, slowly, a crack appeared in the section that was exposed. Air hissed either into or out of the capsule; it was difficult to tell which way. At any rate, it didn't open very far, just a crack. Then it lay still again.
Vickie says softly, "Ray? I think ... some thing's live in there. I can hear ... something moving I think."
Both of them stared at the object as they listened intently. They could just barely hear a soft ... scratching sound coming from the inside of the capsule. They couldn't see any thing else. They walked over to their pack several feet away. Vickie bent a retried her entrenching tool. As she turned, A small blue colored bird came to rest on one end of the exposed part of the capsule. It shivered suddenly and fell over. It lay on the ground squirming like a newly hatched chick as the 2 watched.
Vickie says softly, "I think ... we should stay away from that thing ... maybe call someone ... like the army or something. It appears to have some kind of contaminant." She points to the helpless bird beside the capsule.
Ray looked carefully at the bird, which fluttered its wings in the mud, looking for all the world like it was trying to swim or crawl through it rather than fly away. The mud still felt soft under his hands and knees, so he didn't think the bird had been injured, but then why had it fallen, and why wasn't it flying off?
"I don't think it's hurt," said Ray, "but maybe you're right."
He looked over at Vickie where she sat on the ground by her pack, looking through it. Vickie retrieved a flashlight from her pack. She scrambled a bit as if she were trying to stand up, then crawled on her hands and knees toward the helpless bird. Ray's eyes get large as he watches.
Vickie saw Ray staring at her and asked, "What? What's wrong?"
Ray blinked and crawled toward her. "I ... I'm not sure," he said. "I just ... for a second I thought that ... no, that doesn't make sense. Something you did reminded me of that bird."
He crawled out of the way and shifted to a sitting position so Vickie could use her flashlight. Vickie looks around and didn't notice anything different. She continued to crawl carefully over to the helpless bird. She shines the bright light into the small crack in the edge of the capsule .... she can see nothing but a bright reflection of her light on a highly polished surface.
She rescues the bird from the mud and water with one hand, and crawls awkwardly over to her pack with it using her knees and one hand. Ray watches as he feels am urge to giggle. Vickie looks silly trying to crawl with one hand. He didn't want Vickie to feel bad, though, so he distracted himself by turning and looking at the crack.
"What is in there?" he wondered. He got up on both knees with both muddy gloved hands against the capsule and tried to push the two sides of it apart. To his surprise it actually opened easily, the top half of it gliding upward as if on a spring. Inside was something that looked complex and technological. Raised conduits on the interior surfaces seemed to be carrying multicolored fluid, or was it energy or some kind, in a complex pattern, and the conduits seemed to shift gradually with time. There was what looked like a passageway leading farther back into the capsule, and more multicolored light flowed both back into the opening and out from it along the myriad circuits or tubes.
"Uhhh ... Vickie?" Ray said. "If this thing has been buried in the ground ... I don't think it's ... from around here."
The tiny hairs on the back of his neck were tingling. There was something powerfully not right about this. Vickie places the helpless bird high and dry on a large clump of grass in the shade from the scorching sun. She turns at Ray's voice ... her eyes get huge.
She screeches, "Ray! What happens if there is some kind of ... contagion? Remember this bird?"
Vickie crawls over to Ray and sees inside the capsule. Her eyes focuses on the myriad of colors generated by what ever it was flowing through the many tubes. She can also see flashing lights and hear sounds ... like scrabbling sounds with each flash of the many lights in the forward end of the capsule.
Vickie realizes something as she says, "This looks like a ... storage bay of some kind. Something was .... or is .... kept in here. At least until the seal broke a few minutes ago."
Vickie looses her fear. She feels it drain from her like water ... then forgets she was ever afraid and puts her hand inside the capsule. The door at the far end slide open with a whooshing noise. The both of them know this capsule is much bigger than the short exposed area they are messing with.
Vickie says, "I think ... this might be an escape pod ... or a space ship of some kind. What do you think Ray?"
"Well," Ray thought aloud, "if it is some kind of a vehicle, it's meant for something to be in it -- the only question is whether it's still inside, or whether it already left."
He looked back through the open doorway but couldn't see much from where he was. Momentarily he thought he remembered Vickie saying they should be careful or something like that ... but then he forgot his fear in the same manner she had and started climbing up into the entrance. "Coming Vickie?"
Vickie had a bit of trouble climbing over the edge of the capsule's exposed surface. She was smaller than Ray. Once inside, there was plenty of room for the 2 of them to crawl through. She follows Ray into the next part of the capsule.
This must have been a navigation area. There were clouds that hung vaporously in the air that displayed pictures, and strange symbols that kept changing.
Vickie says softly in a whisper, "This has to be the place that controls this thing."
She crawls over to something that looks like a panel with a softly glowing cloud of symbols and pictures. The pictures appeared to be a simple diagram of a power production system of some sort ... at least ... Vickie realizes she can't remember just what it was she was thinking.
There was a chittery, whispery sound in the air that kept changing, and now it began to grow louder and make tones. "What is that?" Ray said. "It doesn't sound like an alarm."
"Oooolooo aaaaahhhh mmmmm metalinguistic matrix in place," said a voice. "Translation commencing. Life support systems online. Diagnostic shows nominal operational condition.
"I think it's the computer," said Ray.
"Affirmative," said the voice. "Internal scan showing three life forms, two stable and one undergoing rapid metamorphosis. Now providing life support for all three life forms."
"Three?" asked Ray. "Whatever was in here must still be here."
The door to their back slides open suddenly. A Creature enters. It is almost humanoid, with several articulated limbs and a sort of worm posterior. It smiles with it almost humanoid face as Ray and Vickie feel very strange. They feel something is happening to them, but they have no memory of what it might be as their Ages Energy is quickly drained away.
"Hello!" said Ray without any fear. From where he was, on his hands and knees, looking at the creature didn't require him to look up, so it wasn't very tall. "I don't know ... do you speak our language?"
"I am able to translate," said the computer voice, "but placing this life form's metalinguistic markers has proven difficult. It is possible that it is a juvenile life form that survived the attack."
"It seems friendly," Ray said to the alien creature, whose limbs writhed slowly as it stood still. "Are you a little one? Do you need help?"
Suddenly the creature darted away and back into the room where it had come from, quickly and with agility.
"I guess maybe it only looked like it was smiling," Ray said. "I think maybe it was scared of us. I wonder why? We're not scary."
He tried to climb up onto what looked like it might be a chair, but it was very difficult, and he just ended up sliding back down onto the metallic floor.
Vickie crawls slowly toward the door the creature had departed through. She momentarily notices a warm wetness between her legs, but ignores it as she crawls through the two panels as they open. On the other side, the area looked like the most advance and wonderful amusement park imaginable for a very young child. There were many types of toys, games, and videos the keep a tyke occupied for many, many years.
Vickie sits on her wet hinny and looks down. There is a large wet place in her crotch and spreading to her bottom. Without thinking about it, she begins to suck hr thumb as she tries to remember why ... this isn't normal. For the life of her, she can't recall why she should be wet at this moment ... or why she is in this particular place. She looks around at all the wonders with big eyes as she sucks her thumb. The door she entered, closes both panels with a soft whooshing noise, separating her and Ray.
"It would appear that your garments have become damp," said the computer voice. "If you allow it, my servo bots can replace them with dry protective garments and have those cleaned."
A panel opened, and a metallic humanoid robot emerged, its face a mostly blank schematic of a humanoid face. It walked to stand near Vickie, then stopped. "With your permission only, of course."
Vickie was totally confused. She nods approval slowly as she looks at the strange mechanoid. The robot reached down and lifted Vickie up. Although its shell was metallic, it was oddly resilient, and although it was cool to the touch, it wasn't outright cold, as one might expect. The robot set her gently down on a table or platform and began mechanically removing Vickie's clothes, placing them in a nearby bin. It moved its hands over her skin where she had been wet, and they glowed, but Vickie only felt a slight tingling sensation, even when they moved over her more sensitive parts. Afterward, she noticed that she was dry and felt clean.
"Synthesizing protective garments for your species and size," said the computer's voice.
The robot opened a compartment in the wall to reveal what looked like a large diaper. Its outer cover was shiny and almost metallic, much like the robot's outer shell, although it did not seem very thick. Vickie allowed the robot to lift her up -- it was somehow very strong but gentle at the same time -- and fasten the diaper around her firmly, its corners simply holding together where they were put. When Vickie moved, the diaper didn't feel thick, but it made a loud crinkling sound.
"This synthesized outerwear is generalized in nature. If you wish a change in appearance, it is possible to customize your garment designs and save them in your personal preferences, should you require replacements in the future."
The computer voice continued to describe its features, like some kind of help file, as the robot dressed her in a pantsuit of sorts, mostly a dark gray with a design or logo of some sort on the right shoulder, a number of multicolored squares that together formed a triangle.
Vickie looked down at the nondescript gray jumpsuit the computer dressed her in. She feels dry and comfy in the undergarment and the jumpsuit. She crawls into the next room where Ray waited for her.
She says , "In the other room, is a nice computer place, and a play room for the creature. It has almost every thing a child would want."
Ray said, "Wow, maybe that is where the creature has been living. I wonder where it is now?"
At no point did he feel any fear or wonder what was happening to them. As far as he could remember, he had always crawled on all fours and had difficulty with manual dexterity. Also, his pants seemed to be wet, which was just something that happened. No big deal.
"Maybe we should both go in there and see if there's any sign of the creature. I've never met an alien before!" Ray started crawling toward the room Vickie had been in. "Besides, I think I might need dry clothes, and you got a change of clothes in there."
Ray got a change very similar to Vickie's, along with a rather dull gray jumpsuit like hers and a noisy pseudo-metallic diaper like protective garment underneath it.
Vickie sat next to something that looked like a huge plushy toy of some kind. She suddenly had an over powering urge to suck her thumb. With out really realizing it, she had the thumb of her left hand in her mouth. She sucked on it thoughtfully as she pondered what kind of creature the plushy toy represented.
Vickie says around her thumb, "Whash kinna phhhhthingy u pphhthinks ppphhhthis iisthhpphh?" She realizes her thumb is in her mouth. She removes it and asks again, "What kinda thingy you think this is?" She holds up the toy. Its fur felt so tingly and soft against her skin. Vickie looks at Ray as he giggles.
She says with a bit of temper, "It's hard to talk when your thumb's in your mouth."
She makes a really cute pouty face. She crawls over to one of the panels and climbs up to it using her arms to steady her wobbly legs. None of the winky blinky devises made any sense to her.
She asks, "Ray? Can you make any kind of ... whatever of these blinky thingys?"
From around a corner of a rather dark place, 2 eyes poked out and peered at the 2 of them as they messed around in the control / playroom. It paid close attention to each movement and listened very closely to what they were talking about. It began to wonder ....
"I bet we could ask the computer what they were, if we wanted to know," said Ray. "Hello computer, what is this?" He pointed at a cluster of glowing lights on a panel that he was gripping with his left hand while up on his knees.
"That is an indicator of the life-support reserve power, which is at 93% of maximum," the computer voice intoned. "At present rate of consumption, this planet will revolve several million more times around its star before there there will be a need for refueling."
"Oh," said Ray. "And what about --"
"Your garments have been cleaned and will now be returned to you," said the computer.
The robot, or maybe another just like it, entered the room with their clothes, neatly folded, setting them on the table.
"Oh -- thank you! That was nice of you," said Ray. "Wasn't it nice, Vickie?"
"Thanks are not required," said the computer. "This unit is merely fulfilling its program. Caution -- detecting an erosion of linguistic morkerrrrzzzzzz oooom aaaaaah sssssssstttttttkkkkkk"
At this point it becomes difficult to narrate what Ray and Vickie were experiencing, for they no longer spoke or even thought in words. They didn't realize that anything had changed.
Ray looked at another cluster of lights and wondered what it was. He pointed at it and looked around. Not to be daunted, the computer broadcast an image into his mind of a door closing and a key turning in the lock. Ray pressed it, and clicking sounds came from all the room's doors. The computer broadcast another image showing Ray pressing the pad again and a door opening.
Vickie plopped on her hinny and says, "gagsgj ';ka'j vcpo lksgl tshlk"
Ray looked at her strangely as he replied, "Ljkh 'lkjaer'i wtl;jikqzz?"
Both of them realized neither could understand the other. Hard as they tried, nothing they said seemed to make any sense. Vickie crawls over to the door at the far end of the room, opposite the one they entered. Ray thought about that door being unlocked. There was a clicking noise from the door. The door slides open with a soft whoosh. On that side of the door, appeared to be a rather nice little dining area, complete with a food creation dispenser. All a hungry creature had to do, was think of some food substance it would like to consume, and the dispenser would rearrange the molecular structure of the formless mass it held in it huge cargo hold.
It didn't matter what the mass was ... the devise could rearrange its structure into anything else within its constantly updating database. If the hold became empty, it would gather more from the surrounding area and produce a never ending supply of food stuffs.
Ray had followed Vickie into the galley, or mess hall, or whatever one would call it. He got a mental image of what the place was ... probably the computer keeping him informed. He was pretty hungry, so he thought of some pizza. No sooner had he thought about it than a sizzling hot pepperoni pizza slid out of a slot onto the table, already cut into slices. Ray attempted to sit in one of the chairs at the table but was unable to climb up without falling out.
Giving up, he just reached up and grabbed a slice with his hands and sank back down onto the floor to eat it. He was getting it all over his face and hands, though, when the computer suggested an image of sitting in a chair he was buckled into while one of the robots gave him smaller pieces of it to eat.
Ray thought positively of this idea, and soon this was happening -- two chairs had been brought in, and two robots were feeding Ray and Vickie bite-size pieces of pizza.
Vickie was having the time of her life. Every time she was fed one of the bite sized pieces, she would insure at least some of it got on her face, down her front, and on her hands. She smeared the tomato sauce and cheese on every inch of the tray to her high Chair she could reach. The only other thing as loud as her giggles ... were Ray's.
A creature watched silently as this transpires, wrapped in a fog of shadow.
One of the robots brought a large , warm cloth over ... and began to clean both of their faces and hands. Ray and Vickie screech with joy as the robot tickles them softly before releasing them from the chairs.
Vickie crawls over to a side door. It slides open with the customary whoosh. On the inside, was a very simple sleeping quarter. There were very soft pads on the floor, and many large pillows scattered randomly about. Ray sees Vickie vanishes into this side room and the door whooshes closed behind her.
Ray suddenly felt very sleepy too and crawled toward the same door, which slid open to let him in too, to reveal that a robot was in the process of changing Vickie's wet diaper. As soon as it was done, it changed her into a bright pink footed sleeper with a bit of lace trim -- apparently she had been telling the computer about her clothing preferences by thinking pictures at it.
The robot turned toward Ray and started taking his drab gray jumpsuit off, changing his diaper as well. It had somehow gotten wet, but Ray didn't see anything unusual about that. Besides, now the robot had him in a nice dry diaper and a pink sleeper just like Vickie's ... apparently the computer assumed that he would want the same design, as he and Vickie were the same species.
Ray didn't feel like arguing the point -- he was too tired, as if he had been through a lot today, but he wasn't sure what. He crawled across the soft floor pad and lay his head down on a pillow near Vickie.
The robot leaves the room through a panel that opened nearby. About the same time the door slid open. It was very strange, but the being that entered seemed to be cloaked in shadow in some manner. The shadow seemed to be alive as it wrapped all around the being and mostly hid it from being clearly seen. IT walks over closer to the sleeping forms. Dimly through the shadowy mist, a smile crosses its face darkly. The 2 shiver in their sleep as it takes the last vestiges of adulthood from them, leaving nothing but infantile contentedness.
The computer, being a Neuronet, still realized something was wrong when its vocalizer program had disappeared. The redundant repair circuit was having difficulty reloading the back up program ... it would take some time ... but would soon be repaired. The computer reasoned that this being wasn't compatible with the environment it was egressing into and would cause tremendous harm to those who were. The only ones it could rely on for help ... were now no more than babies ... but fortunately ... those babies had neuro scans done on them as they entered the ship. Some of their issue ... could also be repaired. It would just take .... time. The computer hoped its calculations on spread were correct ... other wise ... the disaster would be most horrid.
Ray awoke to what was a normal and beautiful feeling for a baby like he was -- suckling on a nipple and feeling a sweet warm liquid filling his tummy. His eyes fluttered slowly open and he saw a room around him full of bright colors -- white walls and ceiling and a padded white floor of some kind with brightly-colored pillows. Sitting on the floor was one of the familiar metallic robots, holding a baby bottle full of a white liquid up so he could drink it. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Vickie, her head and shoulders also in the lap of one of these robots.
This was a lovely feeling and felt perfectly normal ... but somewhere, in the back of his mind, he had begun to wonder whether there wasn't perhaps something not completely right about it.
Vickie nursed her bottle contentedly ... at least until something began to really bother her. She tried to ignore it for a few minutes, but the nagging doubt of it all over powered her. She spit the nipple of the wonderfully tasting bottle from her mouth.
She attempted to say something, "Shhugggg bbmmtthhhh rrtthhhssddd."
Vickie was sure ... she should be able to at least say something. She struggled hard until finally the words, "Dahhh dahhh ... MMmmmm MMmaaaa MMmmmaaa." Rolled adorably from her mouth.
Ray's eyes get huge as he looks over to Vickie. He could see her struggling to sit up. The robot took her gently in her arms and helped her to stand on her wobbly legs. Vickie was sure something was terribly wrong at this point. She looked down at her pink footed feet as she attempted to take a step. She had absolutely no fine motor control and was unable to make her leg do as she wanted it to do. This began to bother her. She was so ... sure .. she should be able to ... shouldn't she?
Ray saw Vickie moving her mouth and making noises. He had no idea that was even possible ... or did he? Well, he could try it too.
"Bbbbbba bbbaaaa," he said. "Mmmmmma ma."
It seemed to get easier. He tried to move his arms and legs and managed to smack the robot in the nearly featureless face, but it didn't react. He did manage to put his fingers in his mouth and ended up sucking his thumb, which felt great, so he kept doing it.
The computer was trying to restore these humans' minds to the state they had been in when it had first encountered them, but their brains were complex, and it wasn't an expert on what was to it a new and alien species. It didn't want to damage their brains -- too much stimulation could desensitize their synapses beyond the ability to react to neurotransmitters, defeating the entire purpose of attempting to restore their neural pathways. So it took it slowly and carefully.
Meanwhile, the computer was calculating the adverse consequences that could occur when the entity it had harbored for so long reached a densely populated area. This would have a deleterious effect on wide swaths of this planet's native population. Unfortunately the computer was immobile, and its only chance to prevent great damage was to restore the two humans to a fully-functioning state.
As Vickie thought about the thing that was troubling her, she seemed to have a ghostly image of herself and Ray walking ... around just outside this place ... and were ... talking? Is that the word ... talking? She shakes her head as she tries to remember.
She attempts to say something again to Ray, "Wayysss ... goosia taaggoossa n walkkkaaags."
Ray giggles as he replies, "Yuuggghhaasss dddijjgghhtthhhh."
Both babies giggle as they start making lots of adorable gurgling and other kind of sounds. Before long, Vickie had managed to push up from the floor and stand. her knees wobbled and she had very little balance. She had a hard time keeping her toes from curling under which made it even harder. Her knees buckled suddenly and she went PLOP!! on her thickly diapered hinny. Vickie gasps loudly as her eyes get huge. Her face wrinkles up and she begins to cry. A robot picks her to her chest and pats Vickie's hinny softly as it coos reassuringly.
Ray crawled over and patted Vickie gently on the head, trying to comfort her too, and slowly she stopped crying. Trying to make her laugh, Ray tried to push himself up off the floor too, babbling silly noises, and ended up doing a somersault, going head over heels. He rolled over and giggled. Vickie giggled to at how silly Ray was being.
Ray closed his eyes and tried saying, "Bbbbayyy beeee. Wwwweeee bayyyy beeeez. We babies. Wwwwwwhyyy we babies?"
Vickie sits with big eyes and sucks her thumb thoughtfully. She sort of understands what Ray is trying to say. For the life of her, she can't think of a really good reason ... except that this is how they are supposed to be ... the only problem with that, in the deepest part of her spirit ... she knew this was wrong.
She takes her thumb from her mouth and struggles to say, "Wwwwww .... wweeee nuuuuu spoddddssa bbb bbbs."
She looks imploringly at Ray. Vickie struggles hard to stand up. She manages to stand on her wobbly legs, this time much better than the first attempt.
Vickie tries again, "Wwwwww ... Wwwweeee nuuu baby. Weee nuu beeee baby fuuuuurrrr ... loooonnn .. ummm ... timmmmms?" She looks at Ray again with pleading eyes.
Ray could tell that Vickie understood what he was trying to say, and he could almost understand her too. Something was very wrong. They were not babies. Nothing had, in fact, told them that they were. But Vickie was acting like a baby, and Ray knew he was acting just like Vickie -- because he couldn't help it. So he knew that something had changed the way he was acting -- or rather, the way he was able to act.
The computer had discovered that since there were two specimens, it was able to utilize their perceptions of each other's behavior to provide a bit more leverage in its effort to spur them to recover. It seemed that the entity it had been harboring had an ability to destructively copy the neural patterns of other sufficiently complex life forms near it. This was how it grew.
As a life-support system, the computer was programmed to support its life, but the creature could not steal the computer's abilities, so it had been unable to grow while the lifeboat had been buried beneath the planet's surface. Now, though, the entity had absorbed enough abilities from the surrounding creatures, and now these two natives, that it had been able to escape. The natives must be warned.
Vickie takes a tentative step towards Ray. She holds her arms out wide for balance as she wobbles slowly forward. Each step seemed to be more sure and steady than the one previous. Vickie stops and uses the wall for support.
She looks at Ray and says, "We nuuu ... ummm ... babys. We ... dulks." She looks at Ray for a few seconds before she begins to attempt to waddle closer.
The computer actually felt a sense of accomplishment within its neural processor unit. For a few nanoseconds, it pondered what to do next to aid these creatures in their recoveries. It finally decided to make a holo projection and show them what went on prior to their entry into the capsule. In the air, a very clear 3 dimensional image began to recount the 2 of them as they climbed to the top of the hill and discovered the half exposed capsule. Both Ray and Vickie stared at the images as they slowly recounted the events of yesterday.
Ray did in fact remember that happening. Nothing had been done to erase his memory of events. But his memory had sort of healed around them, to conceal the fact that anything unusual had happened. What was it? What had done this?
He looked around suspiciously. There was a voice in this life pod thing, some kind of thing that talked, a machine that made it go -- a computer, yes, that's what it was called. Was it to blame? Then he remembered -- no, the computer had suddenly stopped talking to them -- while it was telling them it was detecting something strange. It probably wasn't the computer's doing. Then what?
The only other possibility was -- the alien. There had been an alien life form of some kind. He had seen it. What was it? What did it want? Maybe it was responsible.
"Vick-ee," he said. "Good walk. Walking. Think may-bee it 'cause the ay-lee-en thing. You see it? Alien thing maybe make us babies."
Vickie stops struggling to walk as she thinks about the images she had just seen. She remembers that strange ... creature as well, all shrouded in some kind of ... shadow fog stuff. Vickie's eyes get big.
She looks at Ray and says, "I ... do members it."
Ray's eyes get big with the clarity of Vickie's speech. Vickie takes several slow steps closer. This time, they were sure and steady.
Vickie continues, "The computer says it's that creature. It takes what it needs to grow and mature from what ever is around it."
The computer responds, "That is correct. The only problem, the creature was not engineered to be within this Biosphere. The damage it can inflict in just a very few hours ... is more horrid than I would like to calculate."
Vickie finally walks normally over to Ray. She says, "We have to stop that thing before it can cause more damage."
The computer warns, "Be very careful .... you have been repaired this time ... I'm not sure if I can repair your neural pathways if it drains them again."
"It gots to ... it has to be close to steal things from your mind," said Ray, still struggling to use one-syllable words correctly.
"That is correct," said the computer. "In your measurements, a distance of approximately ten yards or meters prevents the ability from functioning."
Vickie starts to giggle softly. Ray notices her with her hand over her mouth as she looks at him.
Ray blinked in surprise at Vickie. "What is it?" he asked.
Vickie points as she says is a sweet and cute voice, "You are sooo adorable like that." She giggles again, "I think I like you that way."
Ray blushed but said, "Aww Vickie ... you know, you are super cute dressed like that too."
She was -- there was something about her in that pink footed sleeper with its frilly trim, and her diaper-padded posterior ...
"Something must be done about the entity," the computer interrupted.
Vickie says, "We can't go out looking like this ... where's our other clothes?"
"Your garments were cleaned and are in a receptacle in this room." A door opened, leading to a room they had been in earlier. "The androids will assist you in dressing if necessary."
"That's good," said Ray. "I, uh, my diaper, it's, um ..."
He had both wet and messed it during the night. He could tell. And these diapers were really super-absorbent, so he had probably completely soaked it.
"Of course," said the computer. "You may require protective undergarments for a time as your neural pathways recover."
Ray and Vickie were shown where the shower units were and were aided in bathing as necessity required. Vickie was blushing very pink when the Robot held out a cute pair of lacy ruffled pull ups for her instead of her panties.
Vickie whines, "Aww ... do I have to? Is that ... really necessary?"
The robot says in its neutral voice, "Unless the young lady wishes to have accidents in her pants ... yes."
Vickie stomps her foot and pouts for a few more seconds. She realizes there is no help for it ... she will have to wear a little girl's pull up panties just in case. She steps in them and the robot pulls them up for her and pats her hinny reassuringly.
It says in a soft neutral voice, "It's ok. You look cute in them."
Vickie looked in the shiny mirror like surface of the bulkhead. It was true, she had a most adorably poofy hinny. She pulls on her outfit from before, then leaves the room to find Ray.
Ray got himself cleaned up -- the shower equipment was strange at first but adapted to be more like what he was used to as the computer adjusted it. When he got out, the waiting robot had his clothes ready for him, but just as with Vickie (though he didn't know this yet), it had a pull up-style training pant for him in place of his underpants.
"Err, yes," Ray said. "I suppose that's necessary?"
"Affirmative," said the robot. "Some lingering incontinence seems likely."
"Uh, all right then," said Ray, blushing. "How do I dry off -- oh!" Suddenly jets of warm super-dried air were directed at him from vents in the walls, drying him quickly.
Ray put on the metallic-looking pull-ups, which were thin but still thicker than regular underwear, followed by the rest of his original clothes. He then followed the robot back out into the control room. Ray and Vickie met in the corridor.
Vickie giggles as she says, "I ... I have to be in a little girl's pull ups." She pokes out her bottom lip adorably. Ray smiles as his cheeks become pink. Vickie giggles and asks, "You too ... huh?"
Ray nods. The both of them giggle as they blush.
Vickie says softly as she takes Ray's hand, "I think you look adorable dressed like that." She pulls him towards the way out as she smiles at him.
When they emerge from the front of the capsule, it was dusky dark, muggy, had just finished raining, and the air hummed with many biting insects. The path the creature took was obvious. There were many suffering creatures lying all around helplessly as they slowly died from neglect.
Vickie says with trepidation in her voice, "Ray, this could get to be a whole lot worse than I thought."
Vickie points over the cliff in the direction the trail the creature took lead. Off in the distance were the lights of a rather large city.
"I didn't want to tell the computer," said Ray as they followed its trail, "but we might have to kill it. I mean, somebody could shoot it with a gun from much more than 10 yards away. They'd never have to get close enough to be in danger from it." He paused. "The problem is, we don't have a gun."
They carefully followed, moving as quietly as possible, cresting a hill and heading down into a valley that had a stream running through it at the bottom.
"What do you suppose it did when it got to that stream down there?" Ray whispered. "Did it cross? Or did it head upstream or downstream?"
Vickie looks down the hill towards the winking on lights of the town and says, "We may not have a gun with us maybe ... but down there has to be a sporting goods store or a hunting shop." She examines the water and the far side of the stream very carefully before continuing, "It's headed for town Ray." She points at the trail of helpless critters. The 2 of them cross the stream and as quickly as they could, ran towards the town.
They were climbing up the hill on the other side of the stream when Ray realized something. "Vickie, look there," he said. "We're high enough now. I can see the edge of town. That's the end of Rosemont. That means we're on Rosemont Ridge and ... the lodge is that way ..." He pointed off to the left.
"There's that hunting shop near the lodge!" said Vickie.
"Yeah," Ray answered as they climbed, "but it's probably closed this time of night."
"It's a matter of life and death," Vickie said. "We might have to break in."
"We'll see," Ray said. "Should we make a detour?"
They decided they could pick up the trail later and set out for the hunting shop. About 20 minutes later they were about to emerge onto the lodge road when they saw flashing red and blue lights.
"Looks like a sheriff's deputy," said Ray. "I hope that thing hasn't gotten anybody yet."
As they approached, the began to hear the conversation ...
"... was like he'd lost all sense o' caution," said a voice. "Broke right through the window with his bare fist."
"That sounds like Mr. Ainsley," Ray whispered to Vickie. They both knew him; he ran the hunting supply store.
"Well, Sir, he was a tough one to apprehend," said another voice from the direction of the flashing lights. "Bill's gonna feel that left hook to the jaw for a while. But this guy's cuffed and locked in the car now, so he won't be givin' you any more trouble. He's headin' to county lockup 'til morning at least."
"Think we should tell the deputies about ..." Vickie began, hesitating.
"... an alien from space?" Ray finished. "Yeah, like they'd believe that one. No, but we might be able to get ol' Ainsley to sell us some supplies since he's up." They waited until the county patrol car drove off.
Vickie says softly, "Ray ... we need some kind of fire power." she points, "Mr. Ainsley is here and the door to the store is open ... not to mention the bashed in window."
She takes Ray by his hand and begins to pull him towards the bright lights shining from the open door to the sports shop. The red and blue lights of the squad car had long since vanished when the 2 of them arrived in the parking lot.
Mr. Ainsley sees them as the walked briskly up to the door. He notices the poofyness of their pants and comments, "It seems the 2 of you have been on some kind of ... adventure?"
He points as he laughs. Vickie frowns and says with a snap in her voice, "We discovered something ... that requires you to pay attention and not make jokes."
Mr. Ainsley backs up and puts his hands up palms out. He says, "Now, wait a minute young lady ... I was just noticing it looks like the 2 of you have on ... diapers."
Ray interjects, "Appearances can be deceiving." Vickie looks at Ray quickly before turning her attention back to Mr. Ainsley. Ray continues, “We have discovered a very dangerous creature. We need to ... get several large rifles and ammo for them from you to go on sort of a hunt.”
Mr. Ainsley's eyes get large as he says with a gasp, "I ... found several of my cattle. They acted like they were calves again. Could barely walk, their legs were wobbly and they acted like they had lost their minds."
Vickie and Ray look at each other for a second. Vickie says, "Where did this happen and how long ago?"
Mr. Ainsley Replies, "About half mile from here in my front cow pasture. When I came to see what the alarm was going off for."
Vickie says with urgency in her tone, " Mr. Ainsley, we don't currently have any cash on us ... but I promise we're good for it. It is imperative we get some weapons and lots of ammo. The thing already has a half hour head start on us."
"Angels preserve us," said Mr. Ainsley. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were after some kinda ... nahhhh. Look, I know you two. I can set you up with accounts an' bill you later. This here's not your normal huntin' trip though, is it?"
"Not really," Ray said. "Look, what did you say about that guy who tried to break in here? He'd lost all sense of caution?"
"Yeah, he couldn't even say why he was here," said Mr. Ainsley. "He didn't sound drunk, but he wasn't even trying to rob the place. I think he just wanted to come inside."
"That means it's stolen somebody's caution," said Ray, and Vickie nodded. "It's moving up the food chain, I think. But that means ... if we use a gun, we get one shot before it knows where we are."
"All righty, then," said Ainsley, "that means ya better make it count. Here's a rifle for each of ya, my best sellin' model, and here's some extra ammo. But ... you might also want these," he said, getting out a compound bow. "Good range, and less chance it'll hear where it came from."
"Vickie, aren't you some kind of medalist with a bow or something?" Ray asked her as Mr. Ainsley got out a box of arrows.
Vickie's cheeks grow slightly pink. She says, "I shoot a longbow. I like that one hanging behind the counter."
Ainsley turns and sees the beautifully hand crafted Spanish Yew Longbow. The fistmel was wrapped in soft black leather with 2 tassels hanging from the face where the laces were. Each end was tipped with a finely crafted deer horn nock. The bow was very well crafted and was slightly reflexed, making it more powerful than a straight bow would have been.
Vickie says, "I've won a few trophys at the Archery Competition at White Tail's ... can at least hit the target if I have to."
Ainsley reaches up and takes the bow from the rack and turns towards Vickie.
He says softly, "This was hand made for me by Saxton Pope when I was just a boy. If it can help you to capture ... what ever it is you're after." He hands it to Vickie, “it's yours. May it serve you in your years as well as it has served me in mine.”
He collects a hip quiver and hands her 3 dozen cloth yard shafts with razor heads. The feathers were black with the cock vein red.
Ray says, "I never knew Robin Hood ... was a girl."
Both men laugh as Vickie blushes more. Mr. Ainsley filled a satchel with ammo for the weapons and hands it to Ray. Ray's eyes get large at the weight of it.
Mr. Ainsley says, "You never know how much you might need."
Vickie gives Ainsley a hug and says softly as she kisses his cheek, "Thank you so much ... I promise to make this up to you."
He hugs her back and says softly, "Just being me the hide so I can display it there where the bow used to hang."
"Mr. Ainsley," said Ray as they left. "I can't thank you enough ... but listen ... if you see it, get away. As fast as you can. You don't want to be near it. It can do things to you ... take things from your mind ... and you don't even know what it's taken. We don't know where it comes from -- but it's dangerous, and it's getting stronger all the time."
"Not likin' the sound o' that, kids," said Mr. Ainsley. "But you're on its trail ... I hope you get that thing. Good luck."
Ray nodded, and he and Vickie headed out into the night, armed for combat.
Vickie stops for a few seconds as she hooks the hip quiver to the belt around her narrow waist. Ray watches as she rolls each shaft slowly in the palm of her hand while she looks down its length. Of all the arrows, she only selects 6 that went into her quiver, the others she returned to the boxes. Ray watched as she gracefully stepped through the bow and braced it. She held it in her hand for a few minutes before a large smile crossed her lips.
Ray said, "Now, that looks like love at first site."
Vickie giggles softly, "Well, this is a very well made bow, Ray."She draws the string to her cheek and holds for just a second before letting off slowly. "It draws sweet without stacking. I'm gonna let that critter know how it's done in the jungle."
Ray stumbles a step before he bursts into a laugh. He replies, "I'm sure you will."
The 2 of them hurried off in the direction Mr. Ainsley had said the last evidence of the critter was.
Running down the road and then off into the woods, it wasn't long before their flashlights picked up evidence of the creature's passage -- aimlessly-wandering deer and bats floundering around on the ground indicated that it had found more to steal -- instincts, knowledge of the wilderness, anything it could take. And its path was taking it straight toward the city.
"It's probably got a good half-hour lead on us," said Ray as they jogged, "but that's 30 minutes as it travels, not as we travel."
"But it's picking up info on the lay of the land as it goes," said Vickie.
"That's true," Ray said. "But still, it's probably slowing down whenever it ... steals something, and we're not doing that, so we'll catch up -- the question is, will we catch up before it hits the edge of town?"
Vickie says with concern very evident in her voice, "I hope we meet up with it ... in a place where there's some kind of light. As I remember ... it is wrapped in some kind of misty thing. It can hide in the shadows very well with whatever that is."
Ray sighs as he replies, "I only hope ... we can stop it before it gets into some really populated parts of town."
Vickie looks at Ray and says, "I hope we can catch it before it get to town."
From the top of the hill they stood on looking down on the town, Ray points to several of the towns folk as they lay on their back and kicked their feet helplessly.
Ray replies, "I really don't think we have that option anymore Vickie ... I really don't."
Vickie gasps as she sees the couple. She quickens her pace as she pulls a shaft from the quiver.
She says with determination, "I think you had better load your gun ... we are going to need it really soon."
Ray did his best to get one of the rifles loaded without stopping. It was somewhat easier now that they were moving downhill, but still, he had to get into the satchel and open one of the boxes.
"Looks like we've got a 10-round magazine on this thing," he said. "If I can't hit it in 10 tries, I'm not gonna hit it. But ..." He thought, "Vickie, when we find it, I think we should try to outflank it," Ray said. "Shoot from different directions. It'll hear me shooting, but with all that noise it's not likely to hear you."
Ray looked at one of the human victims as they quickly went by. The poor guy's eyes clearly showed he was aware, but the way his body twitched reminded Ray of how it had been for him. He could see and hear, but he didn't recognize anything. And there was nothing Ray could do for him -- he just hoped they could take the alien creature down before it did this to too many other people.
The 2 of them quickly ran down the side street , following the intermittent victims of the creature. They finally came to a well lit square. As luck would have it, dead center of the square, almost 75 yard from the shadows they were hidden in, they saw the creature. It vaguely looked humanoid, with a strange ... living shadow mist swirling all around it making it hard to distinguish features. Vickie threw out one hand and held Ray in his tummy as she pointed with the other.
Vickie whispered very softly, "There it is ... I think if you go that way," she points off in a shadowy flanking direction, we can get it in sort of a cross fire. As soon as you reach that place, " she points again, "Shoot one shot ... I'll nail it."
Ray looks at Vickie with surprise as he asks, "You can hit it from here with that bow?"
She nods and replies, "Easy ... just make it think you're the only one. I'll cream 'em."
Ray looks at Vickie with surprise on his face for a split second before moving silently off . Ray went behind a panel truck and ducked low behind a line of parked cars. The creature's shadow aura was not something it had picked up from any creature of this world ... but perhaps it had stolen it from something it had met in space. Still, although it was difficult to pinpoint its exact location, the alien's approximate position was obvious. This tactic would not save it from an explosive weapon, for example -- if they had one.
As Ray went quickly off, Vickie removed 3 shafts from her quiver and held 2 of them in the hand she held the bow in. She nocked one of the shafts and pointed it in the general direction of the creature and closed her eyes. From within her spirit, she reached out .... until she knew .... where it's heart was. She knew ... she couldn't miss. In her mind's eye ... it was bright and powerful ... and all hers for the taking.
Meanwhile, Ray stopped wishing for weapons he didn't have and looked for a good spot to set up his ambush. He found a low concrete wall to hide behind and to steady his gun on. He crept into position as quietly as he could. He would not have to risk the noise that clambering around would have made -- he had done so while coming down the hill toward town, since they hadn't known where or when they would encounter the creature.
He was in position. Ready to strike. Ray had never been in the military, but his father and uncle had taken him hunting since he'd been a boy. This was no ordinary game, with this shadow aura it had, its ability absorption power and its raw intelligence, but Ray had surprise on his side and Vickie as his ace in the hole. He didn't know why it had stopped in the square, but there was no point in wondering. He knew where the fountain in the center was, and he figured the center of the shadow cloud was about ... there. He took his first shot.
He wasn't sure whether he'd hit it or not, but it definitely knew where he was now. It rushed toward him, emerging from the cloud of shadow that trailed behind it. Ray saw that unnatural reptilian smile on its face. He also saw a gun in its scaly hand -- a police service revolver, and now Ray could see the twitching police officer on the pavement where the creature had been. It now had a gun and knew how to use it.--
Ray had but a moment and nine more bullets. He managed to chamber another round and fire this one point-blank into the creature's chest. This didn't seem to stop it, but it was wounded, or so Ray assumed from the yellow fluid that leaked from it and the horrid unearthly screech that came from it.
Ray wasn't able to get off another shot, though, before it was upon him, pointing its gun at him, inclining its head, perhaps deciding whether to shoot him or to drain his brain again.
Vickie heard the shot ... she knelt and canted the bow to one side. She drew the string to her cheek with her middle finger of her right hand in the corner of her mouth. She closed her eyes. The heart was in motion ... this wouldn't save the creature ... she relaxed the fingers of her right hand. The bowstring sang its melodious sound as the arrow leaps from the bow.
Ray's eyes get huge as the creature rears back and lets loose with another loud unearthly howl. He sees the sharp razor head of an arrow sticking out of the creature's chest. Suddenly there was another ... then another as all 3 shafts found their mark. The creature stumbles as it drops its weapon.
Ray manages to chamber another round and fire. This one found its target in the center of the creatures forehead. Suddenly, from the other direction, another arrow finds its mark in the same place. The creature screams a bone chilling eerie howl, before it trembles and jerks as it falls forward on top of Ray.
Ray feels the life of the critter fading as all of the things it had absorbed from others ... quickly drained into him. The sensation was astounding as knowledge of things no human could know ... became known to Ray.
Vickie stands from her kneeling position as the creature falls on top of Ray. She rushes as fast as she could across the square as she shouts, "Ray!? Ray?? ... Are you all right?"
"I ... I ..." Ray began, but he couldn't continue, because right now he had no idea who "I" was.
There was too much. He felt what it was to be a bat, a hawk, a deer, a swallow, a trout. He had the memories of two dozen people. He couldn't sort out what his eyes were seeing and what his ears were hearing from what was flooding into his mind and memory.
Doors started to open as people emerged from the locked buildings around them.
"What ... was that thing?" said an old man.
"Ain't never seen anything like it before," said a younger man from the next door over. "But I'm glad it's dead. It got my brother."
Ray was still groaning and making unintelligible noises.
"Is he all right, young lady? Are you all right? Is that thing ... dead?" said the old man.
Vickie cautiously approaches the creature. It lay face down on top of Ray, yellow goo leaking form its wounds. Vickie pushes hard ... the creature rolls off of Ray onto its back. It was humanoid ... although it didn't have anything near human features. Vickie knelt beside Ray and caressed his face.
She says softly, "It's all right, sweet heart. That thing is dead." Vickie looks into Ray's eyes and realizes something it terribly wrong. She continues, "Ray? Can you .... tell me what's wrong? Is there ... something broken ... or hurt? Did it ... damage you somehow?"
Ray made a very pained grimace. He was able to speak ... but didn't know who it was that was supposed to speak ... or what they were to say ... or if he were to chirp ... or croak .. or ... ?
Vickie hugs him close as she whispers in his ear, "Say something ... please ... don't be hurt."
Ray finally says in a voice that didn't sound anything like his, "I ... We ... are alright Vickie. There are ... too many in here ... it's ... very confusing. We're not hurt ... just ... over whelmed."
Vickie's eyes get huge as Ray's voice changes several times. He even sounds like a woman with some kind of animal mixed in.
She says softly as she helps him to his wobbly feet, "I'll take you back to the capsule ... the computer can undo this."
About that time, a shadowy fog seems to swirl all around Ray and Vickie, totally obscuring them from the bystander's view.
"What?" said Ray. "Oh. We're doing that. We weren't sure at first. Yes. We should go back to the lifeboat. The computer may be able to help."
Vickie and Ray took a shortcut that Ray now knew about and were soon back at the alien life support pod. The computer was not completely certain that the drained people could all be fully returned to normal, but it suggested some ideas to Ray that might help. If he visited each of the victims, over the next few days, The process may reverse itself.
That was exactly what he and Vickie did, and the victims began to recover their identities and abilities.
"It's like ... I'm doing the opposite of what the alien did," said Ray. "I can't explain how I'm doing it." But at least he was saying "I" and not "we."
Finally, Ray and Vickie returned to the alien life support capsule to pick up the supplies they'd left there.
"You know, we never fully explored the lifeboat," Ray said to Vickie.
Vickie blushes softly pink for a second as she turns and presses a button. the exterior hatch closes with a soft whine.
She snuggles up to Ray and says in a cute voice, "I think ... this little girl needs her diaper changed." She pokes out her bottom lip adorably as she pulls open the front of Ray's pants and looks in. Vickie continues in a cute voice, "Think ... maybe you might too?"
Ray blushes super red as he feels the heat in his face. Vickie takes him by the hand and says softly, "I guess ... we can explore this place in diapers as easily as anything else ... wouldn't you say sweetie?"
She looks at Ray with a bright sparkle in her eye, "Besides, " She pats his hinny softly, "I thought you were so adorable in that pink footie." She puts her thumb in her mouth and bats her eyelashes.
~~ Baby Love Ensues ~~