The Oracle - Complete

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The Oracle - Complete

Postby Miki Yamuri » Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:58 pm

Title: The Oracle

Characters:

Dr Patricia Santi - 34yo Professor of Archeology: Played by - verylittlejenny

Vickie Williams - 19yo College student - research Assistant: Played by Miki Yamuri


Scene: Deep in a lost temple in the middle of an unexplored jungle

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Dr. Patricia Santi sat at the work bench, among the many tombs and tablets that had been gathered from the Temple. She had searched this G_D forsaken jungle for several years to find it. She was at last so near to finding the fabled Oracle Orb. Vickie Williams was very excited. She had jumped at the chance to do her post doctorial work in the field ... especially under Dr. Santi. She couldn't believe they had actually found ... the Temple of the Oracle itself.

She walked over to Dr. Santi and says, "I want you to know how honored I am that you chose me to come with you. I know that John was a more brilliant student ... although not as creative.

Dr. Santi smiled and put her hand on Vickie's shoulder. "I'm glad you still feel that way, Vickie," she said, waving at some irritating jungle insects, "especially after all the mosquito bites."She stopped glaring ineffectually at nigh-invisible bugs and continued, "John is a brilliant scholar, it's true -- without his translation work we would never have gotten this far -- but translating the language and understanding the meaning are two different things. It seemed to me that your ability to creatively interpret the literary symbols would serve the project better in the field ... and we only had enough grant money to bring one of you. For example, your intuition told you that three rabbits might mean three days, and when we looked at various examples in the inscriptions, many of them became much more clear. 'We traveled west for two rabbits' doesn't make sense without knowing that metaphor."

Vickie hugs the Dr. around the neck and gives her a sweet kiss on her cheek. She backs off suddenly and blushes. She says in a very shy voice, "I'm sorry Professor. It's just that I'm so happy you chose me. I can't believe we found this temple ... much less the actual Tombs and Oracle materials. The Thesis alone ... I mean ... I ... we could be in the history books if we actually find the real Oracle Orb."

Vickie walks to the work bench and sees a small box that at one time ... had been ornately decorated. It was nearly covered by a scroll and had gone unnoticed until then. She takes the box in her hands and dusts it off gently with the camel hair brush in her hand. She gets wide eyed as she stairs at the box.

"My goodness," said Dr. Santi with a smile, "you're certainly enthusiastic! Now if we could only find a way into this structure, which I believe is the temple of ... what is it, Vickie? Did you find something?"

Dr. Santi moved behind Vickie to look over her shoulder at what her brilliant student was examining.

Vickie looks up at the doctor with a totally amazed look. She gasps out, "I ... isn't this the symbol?? I mean .. this ... isn't this the key to the Oracle room Dr? I'm not sure, but I think that's the symbol .. isn't it?" She hands the heavy wooden box to Patricia.

"What?" said Patricia, suddenly finding herself holding the box, which they had only found that morning and had not yet begun to examine. "You see something here?" She took out a magnifying glass and took a closer look at the symbols carved on it. "Well now ... this is odd," Patricia said after a moment. "These symbols spell out the word for a bird's nest, which has nothing to do with a key ... or so it seems ... but what I think you're getting at is ..."

Vickie says quickly in an excited gasp, "Yes, yes ... it means .. the place babies are kept!! A birds nest ... get it?? Those are the keys to the Oracle room!"

Patricia stopped. "You think the Oracle room is symbolized by a crèche, and that is what the nest refers to? That seems strange, except ..." Patricia moved toward an ivy-covered stone wall, rich with carvings. "The inscriptions on this wall reference the 'nest' sequence frequently, so I'm inclined to agree."

Patricia She pointed at one, two, three places on the wall where the same symbols appeared.

Vickie said excitedly, "Professor ... open the box! I know how to open that door. See those 3 indentations in that nest?" On the adjacent wall beneath many years of vines and other lichen growth, was a beautiful mural of a very old tree. Within its knarly trunk and many leafy branches ... were depicted many animals and birds ... even men and women.

In the middle of the mural ... was a huge nest ... within that were 3 indentations where it appeared 3 eggs should be. Patricia cleared away the ivy vines from the next segment of wall and aimed her flashlight at the mural. Now the image of the nest was unmistakably clear.

"Well, I'll be!" she said as she set the wooden box down on the workbench and started looking for a way to open it without damaging the priceless artifact and its carvings any further. "Let's see ... if it's anything like this culture's more mundane containers, it's just very exactingly matched ... yes!" She found a tiny crack with a plastic tool, chosen because of its dullness and softness so as not to scratch the ancient wood. She worked the crack slowly open, and the lid of the box lifted easily off at that point.

Light entered the box for the first time in centuries, revealing glints of something reflective. They both aimed their flashlights down inside and saw what appeared to be an ornate wood carving of a bird's nest, containing three golden spheres.

"A carved nest, with three stylized eggs," said Patricia. "Not actually egg-shaped. Interesting. But the three depressions in the mural ... what shape are they?"

Vickie walks over excitedly and sits beside the professor and watches for a minute as Patricia carefully examines the box. Vickie asks, "Professor?? That's the key ... isn't it?" Vickie shines her light on the wall as she exclaims excitedly, "They are round Professor just like those. That's what we've been looking for ... that’s the key!"

"You might well be right, Vickie ... only one way to find out, though. We should be careful, because they're unique, but let's see if we can lift them out of the box and place them into the mural without harming anything."

Patricia and Vickie put on latex gloves so as not to leave fingerprints on the spheres or add undue oils. She reached into the box and carefully lifted one of the golden "eggs" out. There was no resistance, so they didn't seem to have been fastened in. She briefly examined its perfectly round, reflective, featureless surface with her magnifier and took a few pictures with the digital camera as Vickie removed another one.

"These don't weigh enough to be quite solid gold," said Patricia, weighing the third sphere on a scale. "I don't know what else they're made of, but I'm betting they're something else on the inside with a layer of solid gold on the outside. What's inside, I have no idea."

She paused. They both looked at the mural with its three indentations, shaped exactly like the three spheres they had. Patricia says softly, "Shall we?"

Vickie moves to the large mural. She carefully cleans the wall of all the vine roots and other dirt or debris. When she was done with the camel hair brush, the mural stood completely revealed in all it's glory. It appeared to be a perfect representation ... of the Tree of life.

Vickie says softly in an awed voice, "You put the first one in Professor. It's your baby. Just let me put one in too."

"This is going to do wonders for both our careers, Vickie; don't worry," said Patricia. "I wonder if the order is important. Bottom to top, as a tree grows, east to west, as the sun moves ..."

Vickie agrees, "It's what that scroll we found in the antechamber meant. Told us how to order them."

She carefully put the first orb in the easternmost and lowest of the three indentations. There was a faint click, and when she released the orb, it stayed in place.

"So far, so good," Patricia said, nodding to Vickie, indicating for her to insert the next sphere.

Vickie walks slowly up to the mural. She looks at the smiling professor as she made a picture. Vickie reaches up and places the next sphere in the other bottom location. It locks in place like the first with a click.

Vickie says softly, "Ok, professor. the last one. Lets see if this .. Oracle Sphere .. is real."

"Last one," Patricia echoed, picking up the third sphere. She placed it in the topmost recession and heard the click again, stepping away.

At first nothing seemed to be happening, but then ... a low scraping, rumbling sound began, and the mural began to move, splitting into three angular sections, with one of the spheres at the innermost tip of each section. Slowly, the opening behind the mural came into view ... a dusty stairway descending into cobwebbed inky black darkness.

The stygian darkness on the other side of the door seemed to dare the torch light to enter. Vickie slowly enters the door and descends the stairs. The professor close behind. The sound of falling debris could be heard until they reached the end of the tunnel.

It opened out into a huge cavern ... their light could not see the top ... or bottom. The bright cone of light disappeared into nothing. There was a narrow stone arch leading from the door they stood in ... out to the center of the cavern. The darkness prevented them from seeing where the end lay.

Vickie's voice is almost whisked away in the vast cavern as she asks, "It seems that's the only way Professor. What do you think?" Her voice echoes off into the distance.

"I think ... we didn't bring climbing gear," said Patricia. "We should get some rope, at least, so this doesn't turn into a one-way trip for either of us."

She turned around and went back up the stairs. "This is really unprecedented," she said. "There are no geological signs of any cavern this size under this area ... uh-oh."

As she neared the top of the stairs she discovered that the entrance had closed itself again. There were no latches, catches, panels, loose stones ... just a featureless wall.

"It's closed. Senza chiave ... keyless. The only keyhole is on the other side." She began to feel afraid. That stone doorway had looked pretty solid when it was open. But she tried to put on a brave face so Vickie wouldn't panic.

"Well ... I guess the only way to go ... is forward," she said, going back down the stairs and facing the narrow stone bridge over the vast abyss. "Perhaps there's a way out that way."

By the time the Professor had reached the end of the tunnel, Vickie had already begun venturing out on the narrow stone arch. She had gotten close enough to the center of the cavern that her light glinted brightly off of some shiny object in the direct center of every thing. A slight rumbling could be felt. Suddenly ... a very bright shaft of light shown down on top of an object. It began to glow brightly, lighting up the whole cavern ... but not so bright they could not look upon it. The bottom of the cavern was still lost in darkness far below.

Vickie says with a tinge of fear in her voice, "Professor ... what just happened?? It's bright as day in here."

"Extraordinary!" said Patricia. "What could the light source be? Did this civilization have a higher technological level than we suspected?" She edged her way slowly out onto the bridge like arch. "You must have found the light switch, anyway!"

Patricia was trying to get to Vickie. She didn't want her promising young student to get hurt. Vickie had earned her PhD at a very young age, but she was still 19, and Patricia still felt rather protective toward her, over and above the fact that Patricia was supposed to be the authority figure responsible for this expedition.

Vickie asks with mounting fear in her voice, "Did any of the scrolls say anything about all this?"

As she carefully picked her way up the narrow arch, Patricia thought. She had studied those scrolls carefully. There were many references that she couldn’t translate and didn’t understand.

"There was a part that didn't make sense," Patricia said, "in one of the scrolls. I didn't understand. It said, 'You will see the light at the roof of the abyss,' but that's rough ... 'roof' could be 'ceiling' or 'top' or 'peak' ... Now what was the next line?"

Vickie shines her light towards the distant platform. They could see, sitting upon 3 large gold spheres ... The Oracle Orb.

Vickie says in Awe, "It says something like so shall the knowledge of the Ancients shine forth."

Thinking and stepping carefully, Patricia had almost caught up with Vickie. Whatever they discovered at the Oracle Sphere, they would discover together. The two of them stepped carefully onward up the narrow pathway. It was becoming more level and less steep, at least, though no wider.

Vickie had become very quite as they approached the Oracle Orb. She began looking all around nervously. She knew someone .. or something was watching them ... her skin crawled as she was sure their eyes burned into her flesh.

Vickie whispers softly, "Professor, I think we're being ... watched. It .. It's hidden in those shadows ... I think." Vickie points off into an ebony black area off to their right.

After fearfully watching and moving, They finally reach the central platform on which the Oracle rested. The women approached it slowly ... warily watching for some thing ... maybe unknown ... maybe very dangerous.

The Oracle Orb looked like a huge polished sphere of black marble, with veins of white and gold within it ... except they got the impression that the swirling veins gradually writhed and twisted within their dark cage as if they were a living thing.

The archway widened around it, making room for the pedestal on which the Orb and its three supporting golden spheres stood.

"Well ..." said Patricia, "here we are. If that's not an Oracle Sphere, I don't know what is." She took a few pictures of it with the digital camera. "Do you think this was all built by an earlier civilization, Vickie? Architecturally it doesn't match anything else they built."

Vickie had knelt down before the Sphere’s pedestal. She saw an engraving on the front. The marking were in a language neither had ever seen. She reached out and touched them ... they began to glow eerily. Vickie's eyes get big as she says, "Professor, I think I activated something over here. I think this technology had to have been built by a civilization far superior to our own." She stands as the symbols glow softly and seem to come alive as they move and wiggle.

The Oracle orb's markings begin a rhythmic dance across the surface. From deep within the stone's dark core ... a white light begins to shine ... the sphere seems to become clear and fill with mist ... a feeling of time standing still tickled their souls and made their skin crawl. 4 sets of red eyes become visible within the stygian darkness far off in the shadows.

"I agree, you ... you seem to have activated something, Vickie," said Patricia, glancing at the symbols on the pedestal, unable to keep herself from staring out into the darkness at the four red lights that were looking more and more like eyes to her with each passing moment.
Patricia took some closer pictures of the pedestal's strange markings with trembling hands, determined to have some record of this adventure; assuming they were able to escape with their lives.

Patricia reluctantly turned her attention to the strange change in the sphere's material, peering into the mist with its eerie light glowing in the center ... she wanted to raise the camera and take a picture of this, but ... something drew her gaze. She wanted to keep an eye on the red eyes in the darkness too, but ... somehow ... she couldn't look away ...

Suddenly, a wall of liquid light descended all around the women and seemed to solidify. Nothing from the other side of the wall could be seen. A soft alien voice highlighted with a tinkling sound spoke, "From before the dawn of time, I have awaited. You have finally returned to the nest."

A beam of blue silver light fully covered both women from head to foot. Vickie felt intense waves of pleasant sensations run through her. Her head becomes dizzy it is so intense. Patricia suddenly felt herself ... seeing. She could feel nothing, hear nothing ... it seemed like everything she was experiencing was through her sense of sight. Even the alien voice she somehow seemed to experience through her sense of vision rather than hearing. And now ... starting slowly but building in intensity ... she was seeing waves of energy, feeling through sight as they grew and flowed through her. It was not an unpleasant sensation, but it was an entirely unfamiliar one.

Vickie is totally drawn to ... an image within the Orb ... it grows and ... is just out of reach of her understanding. She struggles hard to see ... to feel, to touch ... She has to know ...

Suddenly ... The women are standing in front of the Mural. The professor has the box now with 4 keys nestled in inside. The women look around stunned.

Vickie says in a small voice, "I ... I think ... I think I am hallucinating." Vickie looks around stunned that they seem to not have opened the passage yet.

"Are ..." Patricia was confused. "Are we hallucinating now ... or were we hallucinating before?" She went over her memory of past events. "We opened the box ..." She put on gloves and reached inside. "Took out the keys ..."

She looked at the key sphere in her hand, astonished. It wasn't gold. It was jet black, black as ebony, with veins of gold writhing like captive lightning across its surface.

"That's different ..." she said ... "And there are four of them, not three ... what about the mural?" She pointed her flashlight at the nest mural. It had four receptacles. She looked at Vickie. "Maybe we'll get our names in the Journal of Hallucinatory History for this one."

Vickie took each golden sphere and placed it in the same spot as before ... she placed the ebony orb in the new location .. to the left of the nest. There were tremors deep beneath their feet ... They could feel waves and waves of deep sound below their ability to hear. They could feel energy growing as it danced all around them and sparkled off their skin.

A glow appeared before them. It grew and became liquid ... and took the form of a person. It seemed to be a liquid light image of a very beautiful woman ... her tinkling voice resonated from their souls sweetly as she spoke, "You have returned to the nest. No greater gift can be given, than forgiveness of the present ... and to start again anew from the nest."

The light show ended ... the women were sitting at the work bench ... with all scattered in its normal places on the table.

Vickie grabs the edge of the table suddenly as she gasps loudly. Her eyes a large as she looks at the professor and says in a voice tinged with fear, "I think I'm loosing my mind ... weren’t we just in ... in another ... I mean ... another place?" She lays her head on the table causing a small unnoticed scroll to fall between them.

"Returned to the nest? What does that ..." Patricia was asking, but now she found herself asking nobody. Only Vickie was speaking, no strange alien voice. She stopped, blinked, looked around, and said, "Did you see some kind of liquid light that turned into a woman, who talked to us about returning to the nest? If you did, then you're not losing your mind ... or we both are."

She thought for a moment. "I wonder how much of the experience was real. Well, the mural is there ... but the spheres aren't in it. Four indentations, like the last time. Are you OK, Vickie?"

Vickie replies with fear in her voice, "I think, besides loosing my sanity, I'm other wise ok. Then you saw that liquid light thingy? I have never seen or ... dreamed anything like that before."

Vickie sits up and looks at the mural. There were 4 indentations. She looks down at the box. Within were the 3 golden spheres and the ebony black one with the mysterious moving gold veins.

She sees the small scroll on the table that had fallen and asks, "Professor, have you seen this scroll before? It has a ... baby on its seal."

"Scroll? One of the antechamber scrolls?" Patricia looked at the scroll on the table. "No ... this is something new. Are we still hallucinating? Or ... have we been transported? Perhaps we're not where we started."

The Professor picked up a GPS device from the table. Its readout was going crazy. "Lots of interference of some kind."

Patricia looked at the scroll more carefully. "It looks new. What would the emblem of a baby mean? It seems related to the idea of a nest ... birth, nascence, something new ... I have to assume we're interacting with the Oracle Sphere. Perhaps this is its way of communicating. Clearly we're not dealing with an ancient religious artifact. This is something unprecedented. And if so ..." She opened the seal on the scroll and continued, "I think this is what it has to say to us next."

Vickie stands and walks over beside the Professor and looks at the scroll. She puts her finger on several of the symbols and says, "This nest here, shows eggs hatching ... " She moves her finger to the next symbol, "This is a picture of ... a grown man?? or woman??" She moves he finger to the next and stops. This picture represented the adult, standing in an egg in a nest.

Vickie asks, "I'm not real sure what this one means. The scrip underneath appears to be ... Babylonian?? Or something very close."

Vickie sees a movement off from a shadow behind a pillar. A jet black ... mist seemed to flit from shadow to shadow ... she got a good look at, at least one ... they had glowing red eyes.

Vickie pats the professor on her shoulder and points as she says in even more fear, "I think .. we have company ... and their eyes .. glow red."

Patricia had been looking at the script, but then she heard Vickie's warning and put down her magnifying glass, staring at the trees and columns.

"Red eyes? We saw those even before you activated the Oracle Sphere," Patricia whispered to Vickie. "That means ... either we were hallucinating already, before you even turned it on, or they exist both in reality and in this hallucination ... or we're not hallucinating at all."

She continued watching, occasionally getting a glimpse of a shadow moving behind a column, just enough of a hint to tell her that Vickie was right.

Vickie stands up suddenly. There is still fear in her voice, but also resolve. She says loudly, "This is like one of my favorite Sci-Fi programs on TV." She puts her hands to her head and says, "What ever you are, we have no weapons ... if you're going to get me .. here I am!"

She walks towards one of the corners of shadow that both women could see red eyes.

"Vickie! Don't! This isn't a TV show!" whispered Patricia hoarsely with fear. Vickie had already stepped forward. Vickie walks as close as she could get herself to walk. She was so afraid ... she had wet her panties. A wet spot appeared on her bottom.
A mist seemed to ooze from the shadows. IT never really formed into anything ... but wafted in a dark ebony black ... with glowing penetrating red eyes.

In a really creepy, vaporous and soul chilling voice said, "We had come to warn you ... not harm you."

Vickie looks to the professor with obvious fear, her eyes huge. Patricia had gotten up to follow Vickie ... she didn't know how, but she wanted to make sure no harm came to her student.

"W-what are you?" Patricia asked. "And what are you here to warn us about?"

The creature said in the same voice, the temperature in the room seemingly dropping, "We are ... watcher's. We guard the stream of that which was and shall be ... or might be. We tried to stop you from ... returning to the nest."

Vickie says in a wavering voice, "What do you mean ... returning to the nest?"

There is a moment of ... horrid laughter coming from many places. Apparently there were many creatures and they were laughing.

The one visible said in it's eerie voice, "You will return to your nest instead. The Oracle gives life ... but it takes it away as well. Now all I can do ... is tell you what will be." IT vanishes into a shadow and is gone.

"Return to the nest?" Patricia asked, but the creature was no longer there. "More about nests and eggs and spheres ... what does it mean? Are they gone?" She looked at Vickie. "I think they're gone. Warnings and mysteries ... this stuff just doesn't happen in archeology! Only in the movies." Patricia looked at the scroll again. "Vague warnings don't get us many answers -- maybe this will."

The Professor held the scroll up so Vickie could see it too as they both studied its markings, which seemed to be in many languages.

Vickie says in a more normal voice, "It seems to be telling of a discovery ... made by ... some god like people millions of years ago. I'm not real sure of the direct translation ... but it seems to indicate it offered ... longevity." She opens the scroll a bit more, "And here is that weird baby symbol again and a bird's nest with the adults in the egg."

Vickie still looks fearfully over her shoulder for any thing else that might happen.

"A longevity discovery," Patricia said. "Adult inside eggs ... well, a longevity device or process might well involve some kind of rebirth or resetting of the biological clock. I can't believe I'm even taking this seriously, but on the other hand ... this has been a very strange day."

Patricia took a deep breath. "I suppose the question is: what we do now." She looked around at the surrounding ruins and the outside jungle beyond the opening arch of the Temple. "Unless something strange happens to stop us, we could probably just leave. We have pictures of the Oracle Sphere." She turned toward the mural, showing its intricate carving of a nest. "Or we could open this door ... again. See what's inside this time. Apparently it's a door that doesn't always lead to the same place. Just learning how they managed that could make us famous. What do you think, Vickie?" turning to her student.

Vickie stands up and begins to walk to the mural to examine it once again. She more by habit than realization, pulls her pants up by the back. She had to do this several times before she reached the mural.

Vickie complains, "These pants seem to have gotten too big for me as I wore them .. never gonna buy another pair of crews."

The professor takes another of the many hundreds of pictures she had already taken. The images appear on her laptop in order of progression. There are noticeable differences in both of them according to the pictures ... since they had taken the first pictures at the first Oracle Orb.

Vickie discovers ... she can't reach the lowest of the indentation now.

"We do seem to have our pictures of the Oracle Sphere," said Patricia, "so we really did find it ... probably ..." She paused. "Wait a minute. This is odd. Here we are opening the door for the first time ... then at the Sphere ... then opening the door a second time ... and here's one I just took." She held the laptop up for Vickie to see. "Do you think we look any ... younger?"

She looked up to see Vickie struggling to reach the indentations. She also saw something else. "Vickie, do you feel like you've gotten ... shorter? And ... I don't mean to embarrass you, but ... are your pants wet?"

Vickie stops trying to reach the indentation and turns suddenly. She puts her hands between her legs and says in a shy and embarrassed voice, "I ... I couldn't help it Professor. I was ... so ... so scared I had an accident. I can't reach those indentations anymore ... my clothes seem to be too big for me too. I can't keep these pants up and the belt is tight as it goes."

"Looking younger, getting smaller, and having ... accidents -- this is a lot like what the scroll said," said Patricia. "Longevity ... via rejuvenation! But what are we supposed to do? ... The only thing I can think of to do is ... open the door again!"

She grabbed the key spheres from the box, not bothering with the latex gloves this time, and started placing them in the same order in the indentations, hoping that the process either was not affecting her or hadn't shortened her too much yet, since she was older than Vickie.

Vickie watched the stones slide apart ... again, there was stygian blackness on the other side. Vickie took her pants by the back belt loop to keep them up with one hand, and a large flashlight with the other.

She says in a voice starting to sound different, "I don't know if I can stand going through another ... episode."

She walks up to the open door and shines the light in. As far as the light penetrated the inky blackness ... nothing shows but passageway as far as the cone of light reached.

Vickie continues, "What do you think is going to happen this time Professor? A wizard or something?" she giggles.

"I don't know, Vickie," said Patricia. "What happens seems to be different every time. The first time, we came back and there wasn't a way to open the door from the inside ..." Patricia thought. "I'm going to see if I can find a way to block the door open."

Looking around on the floor, she saw nothing ... although she did notice that her hair had lost the occasional strand of gray that had developed through teaching undergraduates.

The only item she saw that might work ... is the bench ... she dragged the seat from the workbench over and placed it staunchly in the way of the opening.

"There. If the door closes, it will have to crush that. Best we can do."

Patricia took a length of rope this time, along with the flashlight, camera and her backpack. She looked down at Vickie, who was looking quite a bit younger now, and wondered how far this process of rejuvenation would go, before taking Vickie's hand and starting carefully down the dark stair.

The passage seems to go on forever. The only reality was caught within the bubble of light cast by the 2 flashlights. Vickie kept having trouble with her pants. They had now become too big for her to keep up without difficulty.

She stops and wines a bit as she says, "This is awful. I can't keep my pants on!"

She lets them go and they fall to the ground along with the many sizes too big panties. She is standing in the over sized T she had on. She continues, "If this gets any worse, I won't be able to keep up."

Vickie and the Professor look at each other for a bit. Vickie felt the professor knew something ... she just wasn't telling her yet. She was already afraid, and that look told her volumes that confirmed it. She could tell that the Professor appeared to be many years younger than she should be ... this too added fuel to her trepidation.

"I understand, Vickie," said Patricia. "It's OK. Just don't panic. Something's going on. We have to find out what. And how to stop it."

Vickie whines in a cute little girl voice, "What happens if ... we can't stop it Professor?"

She turns and sees the Professor. She had become a very young woman. Vickie begins to stare. The Professor now appeared to be ... younger than ... *GASP!!*

"I guess ..." Patricia swallowed nervously. "I guess we have to face that possibility. Let's keep going ... no answers here, but there might be some ahead."

Patricia held Vickie's hand and pointed the flashlight down the stairs. They continued down the passageway until they reached an opening that was similar to the one that had been at the bottom of the stairs the first time they had entered, but not quite the same. There was an archway over this opening, with markings carved into it.

Patricia read the carvings; they were in the language that was on the box and the nest mural outside. "'Welcome to the Nest,' it says. I guess we'll find out what all this nest stuff is soon."

Vickie hides behind the professor like the little girl she was becoming and watched her open the door. Looking back up the stair briefly, and then down at Vickie, who looked like an 8-year-old girl by this time, Patricia faced forward and saw the chamber ahead ... which did not contain a bridge over a yawning abyss, but a huge circular room with a domed ceiling and many stylized murals on the walls and floor.

"Vickie, I think we're getting younger," said Patricia, "but I don't think we're losing our memory ... not exactly, at least. I still remember writing the grant proposal for this expedition, and I remember opening the door for the first time ... but I don't remember this room looking like this before."

Vickie came out from hiding behind the Professor. She shines her flashlight around the room. The murals all over the walls appeared to represent ... a birds nest. Ahead of them, sitting on 4 smaller spheres ... was another Oracle Stone. A white glow could be seen in the heart of it's dark crystal. The veins in the stone moved with a mysterious life of their own. The base was made of 3 golden spheres, and one ebony black one with many gold veins. There was again a panel ... It had different inscriptions on it ... apparently written if pure gold.

Vickie says softly, "Professor, this one is different. The inscription says something about ... babies?"

"I'm not sure I like where this is going, Vickie," said Patricia. "But the only thing that seems to be able to do anything in here is ... that."

She walked toward the Oracle Sphere as Vickie follow timidly behind. Patricia looked into the white glow inside the orb. Again she seemed to make some kind of connection with something.

She tried speaking to it. "Is there any way to stop what is happening to us?"

A bright light illuminated the area, similar to what had happened before. The light seemed to condense out of the air, flowing like liquid, again forming a human-like figure ... the figure of a woman, as before.

"To return to the nest is to begin anew," she said, in a voice seemingly accompanied by the tinkling of crystalline chimes. "You have chosen to return to the nest." The entity seems to notice Vickie. It bows it's head slightly and says softly in the same voice, "To return to the nest ... by one so young ... is indeed an honor.” IT turns to the professor and continues, "A life is taken ... but a life is given as well and there in lies eternity."

Vicky asks, "What do you mean .. given and taken? What's going to happen to us?"

IT turns to Vickie and a smile creases it's face. It says in a very soft sweet voice as before, "Which came first child ... the Nazrak .. or the egg?" It bows slightly and continues, "And which was first to return to the nest?"

Patricia asked, "How much younger will we get?"

The figure of light angled its head toward Patricia and answered cryptically, "There is no growing younger, for time's arrow points only forward. You are returning to the nest. Your genetic structures return to the turning point."

Patricia looked down at Vickie, who already seemed smaller than the last time she had looked at her. "Is she near the turning point?"

"Much nearer than you," said the entity, "for she leads the way. There is always one who leads. Thus proceeds the path to the nest."

"Does anybody ever leave the nest?" asked Patricia. "Once they have reached the turning point?"

"Some choose to remain," said the entity. "Some choose to leave. Those who choose to leave ... have always returned."

Vickie looks at the image of light. She looks down at herself and the huge T she was wearing. She says in a very cute voice, "I small nuff now ta be a 5 year old. How much smaller do we get?" Vickie's face changes suddenly as she remembers the Glyph of the adults in an egg ... in the nest. With big eyes she looks at the professor and says with fear in her voice, "Professor, I know what's happening! Remember the glyph ... of the adults in the eggs? I .. I'm .. I'm gonna be a baby .. aren't I?" She looks fearfully at Patricia.

Suddenly, a small bit of moisture runs down Vickie's leg ... to make a small wet spot on the ground. Vickie looks down, she grabs between her legs and looks at the Entity of light with definite fear on her face.

"Oh, Vickie," said Patricia, "poor child, I'm afraid you're right ..." And I'm afraid I'm next, she thought to herself, but she felt so badly for little Vickie and tried to help her, taking a towel out of her backpack and drying off Vickie as best she could, holding the towel between Vickie's legs like a diaper and picking the now-little girl up.

She turned to the entity of light, holding Vickie protectively in her arms. "If we're going to be babies," she asked, "is there anybody here to take care of us? Protect us? Feed us?"

"Those who return to the nest are always well cared for," said the being. "If they were not, the return would be without purpose."

"Well, Vickie," she said to the child in her arms, "at least they say they'll take care of us ... and I think it said that some people leave after it happens, so maybe there's a way out ... sooner or later ..."

Vickie’s face wrinkles up .. she begins to cry. She sounds just like the toddler she is beginning to resemble. Patricia had started out 15 years older than Vickie, but Vickie looked now as if she was around 4 years old. Patricia estimated that she was probably in her mid-teens, so she had probably been rejuvenating a bit more quickly ... perhaps because she was older. And perhaps Vickie was slowing down as she approached the turning point, whatever age that was.

"I know, Vickie," said Patricia, rocking Vickie in her arms while she was able to, "it's upsetting to me too ... You see what you're doing?" Patricia said to the entity. "She's crying. She didn't want this. We didn't know. We didn't want to become babies!"

"The return to the nest is sometimes not as smooth for some," said the entity. "But soon all attention will be paid to the comfort of both of you."

The entity bows slightly with a nod of the head she says in her tinkley voice, "We welcome she who returns to the nest ... she brings new seed. A nest is but a wheel, eternity ... wheels within wheels."

A door opens on the other side of the room. A soft white light filter in. The soft sounds of ... children at play can be heard. The entity seems to take Patricia by the hand and leads her to the door.

It says softly before it vanishes, leaving only the light of the Oracle Stone in the chamber, "Welcome back fair Quester, the nest is at hand."

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~~ End Pt1~~
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~~ Pt2 – The Nest ~~
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"Quester ..." Patricia asked, confused. Her voice trembled and was starting to sound a bit higher than she was used to.

As the being of light led her by the hand, Patricia held Vickie tightly with the other arm, feeling frightened for both of them and hoping she could find some way to protect the child she held, for as long as she could. The being vanished, leaving them at the threshold of this new door. She could hear the sounds of ... children at play?

"Children?" Patricia asked aloud. "So ... we reach the turning point, and start to grow up again ... and some choose to leave? Vickie? Sweetie? Are you OK?" She hugged the now very small child and rocked her, trying to help as much as she could.

Vickie begins to screech and kick and fight against Patricia. She sequels in an infantile voice, "you!! you brought me here .. to .. to be a baby again." She beats helplessly against Patricia’s chest as she cries. She continues in a whiney voice, "You did this on purpose. IT called you a Quester .. what's that?? Who are you? Are you an Alien??"

"Vickie, no! I don't know what a Quester is! I didn't know any of this was gonna happen! I don't remember ever being here before!" Patricia tried to hold onto the struggling girl.

Patricia's clothes were beginning to feel loose on her, but she couldn't hold her pants up while trying to keep Vickie from hurting her, falling to the floor or running away and getting hurt. Patricia was near panic.

"I'm not a alien, I'm just a professor! I grew up in New Mexico! I went to Princeton! Please, Vickie, don't hurt me!"

Vickie settles into the Professor’s arms. She lays her head against her shoulder and begins to cry.

She whimpers, "I was just starting to grow up, Professor. I actually was going on a date with John when we got back ... he's my first serious boyfriend."

The sounds of many children happily at play fills the air. A soft and comfortable music seemed to be intermixed with the sound. Patricia kisses Vickie softly on her cheek ... and steps through the door. It was like walking through ... a ... curtain of light .. a tinkley sound was every where as she passed thorough the frame.

On the other side .. was a beautiful nursery .. filled with children of all ages. Every thing seemed to be made of liquid light.

An entity of liquid light approaches the Professor and Vickie. It says in a cooing tinkley voice, "Welcome back Quester. We are so glad you brought a friend." It takes Patricia by the hand .. and leads her into the nursery.

Patricia pulled her hand away from the entity as soon as she could, turning to shield Vickie protectively from it. "For as long as I can, I'm not going to let you hurt her. I don't know what all this Quester stuff is, but I'm ... uh ..."

Patricia had been unable to tighten her belt or hold her pants up while holding Vickie, and her pants and over large panties fell down around her knees, as Vickie's had just a short time ago ... this put a bit of a dent in Patricia’s bravery.

"I do not understand," the entity said, in its crystalline voice. "We would not dream of harming either of you. Our function is your protection and care."

"Well turning us into babies is sure a weird way to protect or care for us," Patricia said, looking distrustfully over her shoulder at the entity.

The towel on her arm, which had been growing progressively damper, continued to remind her that Vickie's condition was her imminent future.

Another Liquid light entity approached and cooed to Vickie, "Aww is sweet heart need to be dressed?"

Without realizing she did it, Patricia gave Vickie into the image of light's arms. It cooed and tickled Vickie lovingly as it carried her off to another part of the nursery.

The one standing before Patricia coos softly in it's tinkley voice, "You have returned, and brought new seed. You're a Quester. You always return ... and bring another adorable one.

It turns as it takes Patricia by the hand and leads her slowly across the nursery. Patricia sees many children of all ages ... and adults. She sees Vickie on a table being diapered and played with by the other entity.

It stops and continues, "Is it time .. for you too sweetie?" She waves her arm gracefully towards an empty spot next to Vickie.

Patricia felt confused. She had no idea why she had just allowed the second entity to take Vickie away without a fight. She had been prepared for a struggle, perhaps even to fight until she was incapacitated, before she would let them take Vickie from her ... and yet ... when it had come, Patricia had just passively stood there and let it take her. She did not understand why. Just as she did not understand why she was allowing this other entity to lead her by the hand.

Seeing what looked like an adult human nearby, Patricia shouted, "Help! Please! I don't know what is going on here, but I want to save my student!"

The adult looked at Patricia with an expression of concern and said, "Oh, Dear, don't worry, it will be all right. You just don't understand right now. They haven't given you your memories back yet, have they?"

‘Memories?’ That made no sense. Irrelevant for now, she decided ... making sure Vickie was all right was the first priority. Vickie looked as if she were younger than four years old, and on the nearby table. The entity that had taken her was quite carefully fastening something that looked very much like a diaper onto Vickie, having already painstakingly cleaned her with some sort of handheld device made of silvery metal and glowing crystal.

The entity put a shirt like garment of strange design on Vickie, gently guiding her arms through.

Vickie is giggling happily. Patricia heard her ask in her cute voice, "You mean that there is a whole civilization here? Why did they come to be here?"

The Entity carefully lifted Vickie in her arms and tickles her in her tummy. Amid Vickie's gleeful laughter, The entity coos, "We saw a great space rock coming ... long, long ago. We could hide between dimensions, but could not leave the planet. They built the nest ... to keep them, nurture them, and to preserve all the flora and fauna possible."

Patricia was suddenly lifted onto the table. Her top and over large bra was removed and she was cleaned with the devise. Vickie watched with big eyes as her favorite professor was cleaned like a little girl.

Patricia blushed as she sat on the tabletop naked, as this strange being held her hand, a strange tingling sensation from the device washed over every part of her, removing dirt and excess oil from her skin and hair as it went. Her clothes had not exactly been hard to remove ... she had already stepped out of her pants, panties, and shoes as they'd been designed for someone much bigger.

"But ..." asked Patricia, "I didn't know any of this was here, so how come you keep saying I brought Vickie here like it was on purpose?"

Vickie says, "Professor, they sayin you part of this world. They sayin you were brought here long ago."

"You have frequently had this difficulty on previous returns," said the entity. "This may ease your distress and that of your companion." It produced, or possibly created, a ring of glowing light, placing it on Patricia's head before she could react. "Keeping you in a state of distress is not our goal."

Patricia felt a slight warmth around her temples ... and then ...

She remembered.

She remembered ... Aquilegia, a city-state now forgotten by history, bringing back one of its most promising sculpture apprentices ... returning to the nest.

She remembered ... Nimore, a kingdom ruled by a tyrant nobody now remembered, sneaking out with a brilliant astronomer's apprentice the night before both were to be executed for predicting a comet ... that impacted the earth ... returning to the nest.

She remembered ... Medena, a jungle land now turned to desert, where she had gone hunting with a young man with extremely quick judgment and reflexes, discovered a strange doorway ... returning to the nest.

Each time, she remembered not remembering. She had gone out into the world as a child, with no memory of this place, had found foster parents and made her way in the world, and then, responding to some inner imperative, returned here, always bringing a promising young person to become part of the community.

And this time ... she had brought Vickie.

"I remember ..." she said, turning to Vickie, who was being held by the entity of light who had just dressed and played with her. "Vickie ... I'm sorry ... I took you away from your whole life and brought you here ..."

Vickie says with a bit of fear in her voice, "Professor, every time you returned to the nest with a new seed ... was just before a global disaster. Nana here says so." The Light entity nods its head in agreement.

IT says in a soft voice, "A means to protect the best of this planet had been devised. To nurture and protect for all time. To rebuild from the ashes ... to return to the nest."

Vickie asks, "Are you ... human too? What are you? You look like liquid ... light."

The two beings seem to giggle softly in their tinkling way and replies, "We are made of a form of light. There is a main memory complex ... known through out the ages as ... the Oracle Orb. Would you 2 children like to see it? We have to do it now, Vickie will need to have her syncord taken ... to record her life memories for the future."

Vickie looks to Patricia and says softly, "That's the thing we wanted to see ... the real Oracle Orb. Pleeeaassee!"

Both entites again seem to giggle pleasantly.

Patricia had been preemptively diapered and dressed with a light fabric top and booties, white in color, similar to what Vickie was wearing, and now she knew why. "Yes, I now remember it, but Vickie has been longing to see it for some time now. It would help her achieve ... closure."

"Vickie ..." Patricia began. "I hope ... I hope you can forgive me. You have to believe me ... I didn't remember anything about this. You're turning back into a baby, but you won't stay a baby forever, and once your brain has grown enough to handle it, they'll put your memories back and you'll know what happened. But you can pretty much live forever, if you want to. Vickie? Are you OK?"

The two of them had been picked up by the beings of light that had been caring for them, and they were being carried through a curtain of energy out of the nursery into a corridor.

Vickie's eyes began to water a bit. She really didn't want to be a baby ... and it had finally hit her ... she was going to be one again for a while ... at least until she grew up again.

The entities carried the girls gently and lovingly down a long corridor with many doors. The sounds of the nursery had long faded, an eerie silence was all that was heard.

Vickie says, "How far ... is the Orb from the nursery?"

The only reply before the end of the hall was reached, "Forever and today."

The door slides silently open ... sitting on a pedestal made of black orbs with gold and white veins wiggling all through it as if they were alive, sat a huge Crystal that appeared to be a perfect representation of a human brain. IT radiated energy that made the girl's skin tingle and their hair stand on end.

The entity holding Patricia said, "Welcome ... to the Oracle. The wisdom of the G_ds shall be illuminated." The girls were set down in front of it. A panel with strange moving and glowing hieroglyphs was before them.

Patricia felt as if she were about five years old, in terms of the usual human timescale. Her regression was starting to slow down, but it wouldn't be long before she was a baby too. And she still felt guilty about bringing Vickie here, effectively against her will, even though Patricia had not known she was doing it.

Vickie crawls to Patricia and hugs her around the waist. She begins sucking her thumb as she watches.

"This is the real-life Oracle, Vickie," Patricia said. "The other ones we saw were like ... like when you go to a web site on the net." She concentrated, because her thoughts were starting to get fuzzy. "Remote terminals."

Patricia put an arm around Vickie, then reached out, and touched a particular sequence of moving symbols on the panel. Light started to play about the inside of the crystalline brain.

"Vickie ... now you can ask any questions you want ... no more cryptic answers."

Vickie takes her thumb from her mouth and asks, "How far is we from the nest?"

There was a scintillating female voice that replies softly, "In space, about 100 yards ... in time ... you stand beyond time. Forever can pass with a blink of an eye between here, and the nursery."

Vickie asks again, "What made the people create this place?" The computer replied, "There was a great world nation that grew. They learned that an asteroid would impact on the earth. Most of all the life would be destroyed. It created what you know as the KT barrier. All the land split as the crust of the planet cracked. Only something beyond that plane ... would survive. You ... are on that plane."

"I remember ..." said Patricia, her voice sounding smaller and higher than before, "lotsa times I've gone out to find new seeds, just fore something really bad happened out there." She closed her eyes. "Worldwide disaster. Others too. To bring in new people before they're lost."

Vickie gasps and puts her hands to her mouth. She whimpers, "It's happining again ... isn't it Professor?" Her cute face bleeds white as her eyes get big as saucers.

She looked at Vickie, still worried that Vickie hated her or blamed her. "I know somethin's gonna happen, somethin' bad, or the Oracle wouldn'ta sent out Questers ... what kinda disaster is gonna happen?" She unconsciously put her thumb in her mouth and listened to the Oracle.

Vickie turns her eyes to the glowing Crystal and echoed, "Yea, just what kinda zaster is coming?"

The tinkley voice of the Computer answered accompanied by images in their minds, "There is a very large volcano located in a park known as Yellowstone. It has been calculated that it will erupt within the next year. This will create a chain of catastrophes that will devastate the earth. Tectonic pressure has been building up in crucial fault lines, as it always has. The massive shockwave caused by this eruption will circle the earth, releasing the energy of many faults at once, causing worldwide earthquake activity and leading to more volcanic eruptions. This cascade will level the majority of human structures and release vast amounts of ash into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and blanketing crops."

Vickie is totally flabbergasted over this revelation. She stands for a second with her mouth open before she asks in a weak voice, "Will the whole world be destroyed?"

The Computer responded, "90% of all land based life will vanish. 75% of all life in the sea. There will be massive tidal waves that will inundate many miles into the major land masses. The Tectonic slippage will cause old mountains to fall and new ones to rise. Life as you knew it on a global scale will end."

There is a silence in the chamber. Both girls look at each other .. not knowing what to say. Vickie hugs Patricia tightly and says in a teary voice, "I .. I want you to know ... you're more than my favorite Professor ... I love you too." Vickie kisses Patricia on her cheek as she hugs her tightly.

Patricia realized that she had had her thumb in her mouth ... she remembered always having had this habit whenever she was at or below the physical age equivalent of 4 years ... and hugged Vickie too.

"Vickie ... you were always like ... the daughter I never had." Tears rolled down her cheeks as she realized Vickie was not angry at her and didn't hate her at all. "We're ... we're gonna grow up together ... we gonna be like sisters 'cause we're gonna hit the turnin' point at the same time."

The 2 Nanas could be heard cooing and giggling over how adorable it will be for the 2 of them to grow up as sisters. Patricia remembered ... through all the thousands of years she had been alive, she had never had a child. Doctors in the outside world had never been able to explain it. The Oracle apparently didn't want Questers to reproduce while outside the nest so that the seed would not be lost to the world and diminish the nest. What she had said was true ... Vickie had filled an emotional gap in Patricia's life, and she was glad that Vickie would always be near her now.

"This age of humans has reduced the diversity of the earth's species through pollution and habitat destruction, so although the biosphere will recover, it will take longer than usual, so it will not be able to support large populations of humans for quite some time," the Oracle's crystalline voice continued. "But the nest will persist, and we will make sure civilization will rise again. We will reseed the planet with flora and fauna and it shall have huge diversity again. For now, it is near time to take both of your syncordings, so your memories can be restored later."

One of the Entities suddenly had a multicolored ring of liquid light in her hand. She approached Vickie and cooed softly, "It is time baby. We need to make a recoding of you ... for all time."

Before Vickie can move or protest, the Nana slipped the ring over her head. She gasps softly as her body stiffens momentarily. There is a bright light that glows within the Oracle while Vickie's synchording was made. When Nana removed the ring from Vickie's head, she looked around with big eyes and gurgled and cooed adorably. Patricia's Nana turns with a similar ring in her hands and coos softly, "It's your turn now sweet heart."

"I knows," said Patricia.

It meant that the time was coming soon when her brain would regress to an infant state, undergoing continuous rapid change and interfering with memory retention and formation. She bowed her head toward the Nana, who placed the ring upon it, and the Oracle's light brightened once more. The syncording process caused her to catch her breath and her body to tremble, but she had been through it before.

The Nana removed the circlet from her head, and she crawled over to Vickie, whose Nana had already removed hers. Patricia could feel the regression process start to affect her brain. Actually she enjoyed the time she spent as a baby, two or so years out of every 50 to 60, what she could remember of it. It was a time of renewal for both body and mind.

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~~ Epilogue ~~
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While the syncordings were going on ... unknown to the girls, a massive volcanic eruption had begun. It spewed massive amounts of lava out into the air, Trillions of tons of ash and rock. Massive tidal waves hundreds of feet tall moving at hundreds of miles an hour crossed the oceans. This started a chain of events ...

Patricia hugged Vickie, who giggled, which made Patricia feel like giggling too, so she did. "Maybe it time," she said to the Nanas, "for babies to weturn to da nest."

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~~ End - Pt1 ~~
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~~ Pt2 - Watchers ~~
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Title: Watchers

Characters:

Dr Patricia Santi - 1.5yo regressed - Quester for the Nest – Played by: Veryliljenny

Vickie Williams - 1.5yo regressed - New seed - Quester for the Nest – Played by: Miki Yamuri

Scene: In the Nursery ... In the Nest

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John brushed the dust, snow, and ash off the workbench he had discovered. His search had finally led him here, after three years of grueling survival with the world falling to pieces around him. There had been massive eruptions on a global scale, titanic tidal waves, earth quakes, raging wildfires that had consumed hundreds and thousands of miles. The massive amounts of ash in the atmosphere had created something akin to nuclear winter and snow had been falling for several years as a new ice age descended on the destroyed planet.

Millions upon millions had died. Life as he had known it ... no longer existed. 90% of all life on the surface of the planet had gone extinct. The oceans fared no better at 75%. This was a true ELE ... Extinction Level Event.

This temple was the place that Dr. Santi and his beloved Vickie had last been seen. It had managed to survive due only to it's chance location, although it still received massive damage. Many feet of volcanic ash and snow had buried the entrances to the ruined temple, but there were only inches of it inside. On the workbench he found a notebook … and a digital camera.

The camera’s batteries were dead, but he had some fresh ones he’d scavenged, and he got the camera working. There were pictures of artifacts, glyph-covered ruins, a wooden box, a nest-shaped mural, the box open, Dr. Santi’s hand holding up a golden sphere of some kind … something that may be the Oracle Sphere … with something dark in the background, pierced by points of glowing red ...

After reading the notes, which were in the handwriting of both Dr. Santi and Vickie, he started digging in the ash on the floor and found a wooden box, carved with glyphs and pictographs. He worked the lid off and found the golden orbs of the picture. He placed them in the nearby nest mural … and after a rumbling sound, the mural opened wide to reveal a dark passageway.

Then he heard a voice behind him. A deep, breathy, almost vaporous voice. “Thank you, human,” it said. “Your mind has been … most helpful. But now … we only need your body.”

He turned. He saw several clouds of dark mist, each with a pair of glowing red lights within it. The nearest one reached out, extruding inky black pseudopods, reaching toward his face, filling his nose, mouth, eyes …He screamed silently as the creature consumed his soul.
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She didn't really remember the day before, but today was much like it. She woke up, and in the shining white crib next to her, so did her sister, only today her sister was silent and she was the one crying. A glowing white figure of light came over, smiling, and lifted her from the crib, taking her to a table where it lovingly removed her pajamas and diaper, cleaned her with rays from a gleaming metallic device, and put a new diaper on her, followed by a comfortable top made of a lightweight fabric.

"There, Sweetheart," said the figure of light. "Good morning! All comfy now?" Pattie had stopped crying.

Vickie had just woke up and looked up at the smiling face of the figure of light. It reached in and checked Vicki's diaper and coos softly, "Baby aww wet n uncomfy. Nana make it aww better really fast.”

It bends and whisks Vickie out of the bright white crib and over to a changing table. There she lovingly cleans and changes Vickie, just as her sister had been changed just moments before.

The Nana's of light coos and lovingly tickles their charges as they carry them back to the play area. One of the Nana's coos softly, "Now baby's play nice and I be right back with your breakfast.

Both babies watch with big innocent eyes as the Nana gracefully glides off for a moment, only to quickly return with 2 huge bottles of tasty formula for her charges. She gives both babies their morning bottle and they nurse eagerly.

The first baby, whose name was Pattie, though she didn't really know that yet, nursed hungrily from her bottle until it was all gone. She smiled and made a happy sounds, and her Nana reached down and took the empty bottle. Pattie looked over at her sister Vickie and smiled an even bigger smile.

"It always makes you happy to see your sister, doesn't it, Pattie dear?" asked the Nana, smiling down at the babies.

Vickie finishes her bottle and the Nana takes it away. Vickie crawls over to her sister and plops. She hugs her lovingly. She knows somewhere deep inside ... she loves her sister with all her heart. She picks up one of the plushys on the play mat and hands it over to Pattie as she puts her thumb in her mouth.

The Nanas of light giggle to themselves. One of them comments, "I think they make adorable sisters." The other agrees. There is a wail off in the distance, the other Nana vanishes across the room to find and comfort the crying baby.

Pattie gasped in delight when Vickie gave her the soft plushy. Her eyes moistened with tears of joy and she hugged the plushy and her sister at the same time. It didn't matter that she had seen this plushy every day for the last year. What mattered was that it was wonderful, and her sister had just given it to her.

There was more crying from across the nursery. "Just a moment, cutie pies," said the Nana who had remained. "We'll just see what the matter is." Moving swiftly, this Nana crossed the room in moments.

Meanwhile, Pattie and Vickie had started a game of patty cake and were clapping their hands together and giggling gleefully.

Very suddenly, a change came over the nursery. The lights seemed to change color and blink several times. A sound not heard in the depth of the nest before can be heard above the soft relaxing tones. A klaxon sound. The Nana's cease what they are doing and all stand erect. They immediately proceed to all the entrances and exits of the Nest. A red light appears in the middle of the purity of white that made up the Nana's. Fearsome particle beam weapons suddenly appear where soft gentle hands had been.

Vickie puts her hands over her ears to block out the irritating and unfamiliar noise. She is confused as to just what that sound is ... she has never heard it before. Pattie, meanwhile, started to cry. There was something on the very edge of memory that told her that this was not a good sound, that it meant something bad, very bad, that it had not happened for a long, long, long, long time. The adults that are present begin a fearful chatter ... something definitely is horribly wrong.

Several Light Nanas radiating blue and red light appear and gather all the children into one area of the nursery. They stand guard with even more fearsome plasma neutron weapons at their disposal. Defend the children and the Nest at all costs is their only program.

Pattie hugged her sister protectively, still whimpering and sniffling with fear. Together they crawled to one side of the defensive perimeter, one corner, acting out of instinct.

The main lights of the nursery wink out. for a split second ... the only light came from the Nanas themselves. Then the emergency lights came on. Many of the consoles went totally dark. Much of the nursery was now inert, the advanced electronics dead.

Suddenly there was a loud boom from one of the doors, which cracked. And then ... there was no sound. The klaxon halted suddenly. It was as if something had swallowed all sound. Slowly, a dark mist was entering the room through the broken door.

A wall just as suddenly slides back to reveal ... the huge brain shaped crystal that is ... The Oracle. A time dilation equalized, raising goose flesh on Pattie and Vickie's skin. They were separated from all the rest by a force field of time. The air in the nursery becomes very cold ... all the remaining adults and babies breath could be seen as mist as they fearfully panted.

An energy that this earth had not seen in many millenniums begins to radiate from the Oracle. The walls and floor of the room began to shake, causing a table to fall over, right in front of Vickie and Pattie, who had picked the side of the room that the Oracle had chosen to emerge from. They now couldn't see the door and the scary things that had come through it. The whine of firing particle beams could be heard ... ozone filled the frigid air. There are horrible screams ... as ebony black mist is blasted to atoms.

Vickie and Pattie heard a voice in their minds, one they could understand because it spoke not in words, but in thought patterns. "There is grave danger. You are the only ones who have not been infected. I must return to you what memories I can, while I can, even though your brains cannot assimilate it all ..."

A blue red Nana appears before them .. with multi colored rings in one hand ... the other a massively powerful plasma neutron beam weapon ... pointed directly at them. Rainbow-colored halos of light suddenly appeared above Pattie and Vickie and quickly lowered themselves down on to their heads. The two baby girls convulsed as the Oracle restored their memories ... to the extent that it could. Their brains were not well developed enough yet to hold memories very well. But they were the Oracle's only hope.

Pattie shook her head. "Wha' goin' on?" she said, the first words she'd spoken in a year. She looked around and saw Vickie, who was also looking disoriented, and moved to hug her ... Just then, two bolts of blue-white energy lanced out from the Oracle's brain-shaped crystal at the red and blue robots, which were Nest defense units. Pattie was startled and began to cry before she thought about it, which surprised her, causing her to stop crying again. "Why ...?"

The Oracle's voice boomed in their heads again. "The Watchers infected them, as they have every entity in the Nest, even me. Except for you two children. I will shut myself down to prevent further damage. Escape through the corridor behind me. Find the emergency program ... protect the Nest ..." Its voice had been growing fainter. And now it was quiet. The lights that normally glowed around the Oracle dimmed to darkness.

Vickie's mind partially restored, she knew what the black things with the red eyes were. She grabs Pattie by her arm and pulls her rapidly toward the closing passage. Just as the 2 girls crawl past the threshold, the massive door slams shut. A huge explosion from the other side, tells them how near a miss their escape had been. The only light, the glow worm smart toy Vickie clutched in her hand.

"Watchers ... inna Nest ... but how?" Pattie wondered aloud as she crawled next to Vickie through the passageway. The floor of the passage, rough on their infant skin. Pattie was so confused. She felt like just sitting down and crying until a Nana found her and comforted her, but at the same time she knew that wasn't going to happen. That made her more scared, which made her want to cry more. Somehow she had to keep going.

As the 2 babies round the bend in the corridor ... a familiar adult face greets them. Vickie can't believe who she sees ... his eyes glow an evil bright red. She gasps out in a cute baby voice, "J .. John?? Is that you?? .. How??"

His eyes focus on the 2 helpless babies and an evil grin crosses his face. A distant explosion reminds Patty that the situation is most dire. The glow worm smart toy that Vickie clutched to her for comfort and light begins to glow very brightly and pulse in strange patterns the girls had never seen before.

John's eyes get very large as he shouts out, "Nakk!! Lok Nour!!" Seemingly, the shadow behind him moves ... A strange set of blue glowing orbs peers from the darkness as something that looks like ... an ant approaches.

Patricia gasped as she recognized her former student ... but also knew what his red eyes meant. "Vickie ... that's not John ... not anymore ..." She noticed the glow worm toy, the segments of its body glowing in patterns of color at different times, and she had an idea ...
She quickly reached out and touched the toy, saying, "Nest under attack! Watchers present! Basic directive!"

The toy's light patterns suddenly grew more frenetic, brightening and flashing a very rapid pattern of colors. A calm voice emanated from it, saying, "Basic directive: Defend the Nest. Protect inhabitants. Especially children."

"Gyaaaaaaaaaaaa ..." said the thing that wasn't John, covering its eyes with an arm and falling to its knees, as if the light suddenly caused it pain.

"I don't know how, but I think the Watchers have put a virus into all the machines," said Patricia. "Only the ones that aren't linked into the network are still clean. Like your toy. But they all have the same basic program ... and in it is an anti-Watcher defense protocol."

Vickie watched John writhe in pain as he screamed. She had no idea what was going on. Suddenly, another smart toy designed as an ATV for the bigger children walked up silently on its 6 legs. IT took hold of the infected John with it's mandibles and held him tightly.

Vickie points and gasps softly, "P .. Patty??? Wha .. what's that thing?"

Standing before them was a large Smart Toy with brightly glowing blue eyes. IT looked exactly like a large black and red carpenter ant. IT squeaked softly as it stood with the now silent and limp John in it grip.

"It's ... it's another toy, Vickie, one that bigger kids can ride on. It's ... it's protecting us."

Patricia looked at the antlike toy, at John, and at the glow worm in Vickie's arms. She swallowed nervously. "I think ... we should bring that closer." Holding Vickie's hand, she helped hold the glow worm up, and together they crawled a few steps closer to John.

There was a fearsome echoing scream that did not come from John's throat as a heavy black mist poured from his eyes, nose, ears and mouth, pooling on the floor. It writhed there, a mass of wriggling tentacles one moment and a rippling pool of oil the next, then grew still in the intensely flickering light from the glow worm. Finally, it began to dissipate into nothingness. Patricia cautiously began to breathe again, only now noticing that she had been holding her breath in fear.

She looked up at the ant. "Basic directive: Defense of children highest priority," it said, in a calm, soft voice like the glow worm's.

"I don't think it's infected either," said Patricia. "Let's ride it! Maybe we can find the emergency program faster."

Vickie takes a last look at the limp and lifeless body of her former boyfriend before crawling to the ant. It lowered an antenna and lifted her onto a place in its back where there were 4 seats. It repeated the operation with Patty. When both babies were safe in the compartment, the seats automatically strapped them in. The Ant turned suddenly, and began to quickly travel down the ebony black corridor. The only light came from the glow worm, and the now brightly glowing blue eyes of the ant.

Vickie looks at Patty with tears in her eyes as she says softly, "Is .. is john ... dead?? Where are we going? How can we ever stop these .. these ... viruses? And another thingy, what is it that glow worm doing?"

The glow worm was still frantically flashing many different colors of light.

Patricia hugged Vickie. "Vickie ... the Watchers used John ... that's probably how they got in here. Maybe he came looking for you. But when the Watchers take over somebody's brain ... there's nothing left." She cried too. "I'm sorry ..."

Both babies cry in each other arms as the Antbot carries them deeper into the dark tunnel.

As they traveled, Patricia explained, "The Watchers look black because they eat energy. Light, sound, anything. But long ago the Oracle and the people of the Nest figured out a sequence of frequencies that's deadly to them. It's kind of like poison to them. They're such awful enemies that it's built into the basic programming of every device in the Nest, just in case." The glow worm kept flickering its pattern. "If there are any Watchers near, this will hurt them badly or kill them. As for where we're going ..." Patricia leaned toward the ant's control panel. "Where ARE we going?" she asked.

"Desired destination: Emergency Program. Last known location of Emergency Program: Backup Chamber 106-A," said the antlike vehicle's neutral voice.

Vickie is surprised. She looks to Pattie and asks in her cute baby voice, "How in the world did this thing know we wanted the emergency Program? And another thing, how did it know we would need it to find the program in the first place?"

Patricia thought for a moment. Then she asked it, "Hey, how did you know where we needed to go?"

"Final directive from the Oracle before it shut down: take any uninfected passengers to Emergency Program," said the vehicle's calm voice, "Then disconnect from network to avoid infection."

"Uninfected passengers?" asked Patricia. "Wait ... the virus affects people and devices both?"

"Unknown," said the ant-vehicle as it continued scurrying down the darkened corridor, its eyes shining like headlights into the darkness ahead.

"Maybe ... nanoprobes that can hide in people's bodies, then infect machines they touch?" Patricia put her thumb in her mouth for a second as she thought. "Well I hope the Emergency Program will be able to stop the virus, whatever it is."

The glow worm suddenly spoke in it's soft voice, "Emergency Program upgrade necessary for complete weapons integration."

Vickie's eyes widen in surprise. She says to patty, "What do you think this weapons upgrade thing might be?"

The ant suddenly come to what appears to be a solid wall. The puts it's head down and pushes against it. There is a loud crack as the wall crumbles and the ant enters a very large chamber. IT scurries rapidly across the room to a glowing pillar. The inscriptions clearly show 106-a Emergency protocol.

All motion ceases. The babies look at each other as the glow worm stops its frantic flashes and returns to the soft gentle glow it originally had.

Patricia forgot about Vickie's question, which was good, because she had been having difficulty thinking of an answer. She was a bit worried. The girls' brains weren't really developed enough to handle syncording restoration. She expected their memories would probably fade sooner or later. She hoped they would have enough time.

"Umm I dunno how to activate it," said Patricia, "because this has never happened before that I know of, but ... umm ..." Then she said, in a loud but tiny voice, "Activate Emergency Program! Watcher intrusion! Biological and info encoding infections suspected."

As Patricia turned to Vickie and said, "There, I hope that works," the glowing pillar lit up with a much brighter column of light, which moved away from the pillar and started slowly drifting around the room on its own. The brighter light showed that this huge room was full of shelves, going back hundreds of yards and stocked full of glittering crystals, the backed-up data of millions of years.

The ant suddenly trembles as a bright beam strikes it directly in the center of its forehead. There is much electronic garble. The very skin of the ant appears to become thicker. Several panels suddenly open and pods emerge. It now had Neutron Plasma cannons. Glow worm had sprouted many little glowing bumps all along it's length, each one capable of producing an intense particle beam of meticulously focused light.

Without warning, the ant turns and faces the hole it had made in the wall. There were many dancing ebony black shadows with glowing red eyes. Glow worm began again to flash frantically, only this time ... the frequencies were so intense the babies could feel the heat given off as they flashed out at the shadowed Watchers.

The ant fires it weapons into the midst of them. There are many horrible vaporous screams that chilled the girls to their very souls. The explosions wreak havoc with the stone as the shadowed creatures are blasted to their constituent atomic particles. When the dust had finally settled ... the babies and their Smart toys were the only creatures left in the cavern.

Vickie looks to Patty and says ,"Wow! We need to see is we can get the .. the .. ummm ... the thingy .. "

She is suddenly confused as the knowledge of what the name of the computer was they were to try and repair dissolved from her mind. The loss of syncord had begun to accelerate ... Vickie knew she was regressing faster and would son be an adorable year and a half old ... very soon. She hoped she could get the ... thingy back before her ... umm?? Another big girl memory begins to dissolve away. Vickie knows time is short.

Patricia was stunned by what had just happened -- the Emergency Program had just reconfigured their toys into weapons, and she had no idea how it had done this. There was, in the back of her mind, an odd feeling that she should know, but it seemed very difficult for her to remember. A chill ran down her spine.

"Vickie," she said, "we gots to hurry and get the Emergency Program back to the Oracle before the ... the syn ... the memories fade out all the way."

"Affirmative," interrupted a deep voice, as calm and emotionless as that of the toys, emanating from the column of light that was the Emergency Program. "What is the current location of the Oracle?"

"Umm, pretty near where we found this ant toy," Patricia answered.

A beam of light shot forth from the column toward the ant vehicle's head, then faded. "I have read the position data from the vehicle's logs," boomed the Emergency Program. "It seems a virus generated by the Watcher invaders has compromised many of the Nest's devices. I will disinfect them as we encounter them."

"No! Wait!" interrupted Patricia. "The virus ... it is ... it might try to ... um ..." It was getting harder for her to think. "Make a copy ... in case it infects the copy ..."

"Sound reasoning," said the booming voice. "The Watchers may have designed the virus carefully, so as to be able to infect even myself. Observing how it attacks a copy would allow me to adapt my defenses. Additionally, if it is unaware of my presence, it may be easier to deceive it."

The column of light moved until it illuminated the glow worm in Vickie's arms, then seemed to disappear into it. A beam of light shot forth toward the ant vehicle's head again, then faded once more. "Proceed," said the voice, more softly, and coming from the glow worm this time, but still unmistakably the same deep voice.

Vickie stared at the Toy in her arms with big eyes. She knew she should understand what had just happened ... but for the life of her she couldn't bring it to mind.

She looked to patty and gurgled softly in a baby voice, "Wha wes gonna do? Gotta go back ta the nest nursery. See is more survived the attack." Vickie looks back at the glow worm as it says in the Emergency Programs deep voice, "I have written several copies of myself to this toy and upgraded all the functions of the smart toys so they can fulfill the prime protocol ... Defend the Nest and especially the children at all costs."

The Ant suddenly turns and leaves the chamber. It seals the hole it had created when it entered using some sort of beam as it pushed the rubble back into place with its front legs. When it was done, there was no evidence there had ever been a breach in the wall.

It turns and quickly scurries down the ebony black corridor, the only light, the bright blue glow from its eyes.

"Vickie," said Patricia as the ant vehicle carried them down the darkened corridor, "Hold onto the glow worm ... just don't lose the glow worm ..." She needed to tell Vickie this because ... because ... she wasn't fully sure but she knew it was important.

"Detecting movement ahead," said the voice from the glow worm. "Not human ... infected devices. I will have a copy attempt disinfection."

The ant vehicle slowed to a halt. In the distance and approaching rapidly were figures of light. They were the defense units, similar to the Nanas of the nursery but with red and blue colors in their auras. Bolts of energy shot toward the ant vehicle but were blocked a few feet away by some sort of invisible shield. The two girls screamed anyway.

"The disinfection process will occupy one of them," said the Emergency Program's voice as a beam of light shot forth toward one of the defense units. The beam did not fade but remained, linking the defense robot to the glow worm while more energy bolts were blocked by the vehicle's shields.

Patricia was in a state of panic. They were being shot at by the devices that were programmed to protect them! She could hear Vickie similarly upset next to her.

"Interesting," said the Emergency Program's voice, as the beam of light turned red and momentarily illuminated the glow worm. "Counterattack analyzed. Adapting."

Patricia looked at the red light ... she knew it was bad. She didn't know how she knew. She was getting more upset at not being able to think as well. Patty started to cry. "I dunno what goin on no mores ..." she wailed.

Vickie is so terrified she wets her diaper. In the state she is in, caught between being her adult self and reverting back to her infantile state. She is very upset about doing it. She screams loudly in fear as more plasma bolts explode against the Antbots shields.

A comforting 'voice??' speaks within her mind ... she recognizes it ... it’s Nana's voice from the nursery!! It tells Vickie not to cry and that everything will be all right. It tells Vickie she will get changed as soon as they reach the nursery and to be brave for Nana. This makes Vickie feel much better. Next, Patty hears the comforting voice of Nana. Both girls cease to cry and are comforted.

Vickie looks at the glow worm in her arms. It was becoming warm to the touch. The red glow suddenly vanishes and once again becomes the familiar soft blue. Another beam flashes from glow worm. This time it is more intensely blue than before. the virus infected the copy ... the Emergency Program just froze, analyzed and deleted the infected copy ... it now was even more capable of erasing the Watcher infection.

The beam hit the closest defense unit. There was a very loud and horrible vaporous squeal mixed with electronic garble sounds. The Unit’s Glow changed suddenly. It was the normal blue with a red glow inside. It turns suddenly and points its particle beam weapons at the other attacking units.

The Ant speaks in it's calm neutral voice, "Do not fire, even if fired upon until further notice."

The cleaned unit froze. More beams of bright blue light shot forth from the glow worm at the other defense units simultaneously. This time the process was even faster. The defense units froze, then came back online, purged of the infection.

The Emergency Program's voice said, "Your mission is now to disinfect the virus wherever you find it."

The defense units turned toward the ant vehicle and its passengers and said simultaneously, "Affirmative."

Pattie saw the red beam of light turn blue. This was good, she thought for some reason. She stopped crying, and felt even better when the plasma bolts stopped flying. "They no mean no more?" she asked.

"Everything will be all right now," said a voice inside Pattie's head. "They will go out and fix the other broken robots. Then the fixed robots will help too. And every time, they will get better at fixing broken things. You should go back to the nursery where the Nanas can look after you. Then you will be safe."

Pattie smiled. "Yayy! Back to nursery!" The ant vehicle started moving again, down the darkened tunnel, as the defense units left, going in separate directions down different corridors.

The Antbot's illumination showed many blast marks and much destruction. It was obvious that not all of the defense units had been infected. The babies were getting to where they wouldn't understand the whys of it, but when the Oracle shut itself down, the network was broken. The virus was unable to spread further.

The closer the Antbot came to the nursery's location, the more pronounced the signs of battle became. In the distance, something sparkled brightly in the blue light of the Antbot.
Off in the distance, the inert form of the Oracle could be seen sparkling brightly in the blue light. As the distance lessened, destruction was massive all around. It was obvious, a great battle had happened. When the Antbot had almost reached the Oracle, the shadows around it came to life.

Many vaporous forms with fiery red eyes seems to flow into the blue light. The last of the surviving watchers were making their last desperate stand to defeat the Nest and it's vast cash of century spanning knowledge.

The Antbot suddenly tops its foreword motion. Panels on its side swing open as massive neutron weapons extend. A horrible vaporous voice fills the cavern, "It is hopeless. You cannot win. Your so revered Oracle is inert and destroyed as you can see. We have finally won and all of you blights are destroyed."

From the dark, bright red plasma balls suddenly fly. They detonate on the Antbots shields. Bright blinding light fills the dark tunnel. The antbot's shields absorbs the entire attack, then it fires its own weapons. There are many, many, many horrible unearthly screams as the remaining watchers were converted to their constituent atomic particles and vanished as they returned to a lower state of entropy. When the dust settled, the only thing left besides rubble, was the Oracle ... and the opening to the nursery. The sounds of crying babies and scared children could be heard.

"Detecting many survivors," said the Emergency Program's voice from the glow worm. "Most satisfactory."

The ant moved into the nursery. The two girls had been frightened and crying during the battle, then they had calmed down to the point of just whimpering, but now ... Pattie, for one, had been scared by the loud noises and scary red-eyed things, but then they had gone away ... now, though, there were many other crying babies, and that contagious sound made her want to cry too, so she did. Something in the back of her mind told her something important had to be done, but right now crying seemed more important.

The glow worm began firing beams of light at the air near the children and babies, making the air glow, an odd effect that the children hadn't seen before, so some of them stopped crying and watched. The glowing patches of air seemed to spread gradually around the room, waves of light consuming the darkness like fire spreading across paper.

"Disinfection of airborne nanoprobes commencing," said the Emergency Program. "The Watcher infectious agents are being converted into the means of their own destruction." It almost sounded happy with itself.

The ant vehicle lowered the girls' seats to the floor and released their safety harnesses, then waited until they crawled off the seats before folding the seats back up onto the top of its body. Pattie and Vickie looked around. There were a few Nanas watching the children and babies, who were calming down and watching the light show.

Suddenly, the column of light that was the Emergency Program emerged from the glow worm again, coruscating with energy between Pattie and Vickie. "One thing remains to be done," said its deep, calm voice. "The Oracle must be reactivated. The instant that it is, I must disinfect its systems as quickly as I can to prevent any further damage or data loss."

A beam of light lances from the column an strikes one of the Nanas that had been guarding the children. It becomes its normal beautiful white liquid form and smiles brilliantly. Gracefully it comes to Vickie and Patty and scoops them into her arms and kisses them both lovingly.

Vickie and Patty recognize their Nana immediately and hug and kiss her back.

Pattie happily said, "Nana!" as she hugged and kissed the kind light entity. "Pattie n Bickie goed play n comed backs!"

Nana coos softly, "Such brave warrior babies. Now, there's one thing left for babies to do." She carries them gracefully back to the Oracle and sets them in front of the panel. Only one symbol was illuminated. Nana continues, "One of you babies has to ... restart the Oracle." She bends and coos in Vickie's ear, "It's a fun game with pretty lights sweet heart. Play for Nana and see if baby like it."

The column of light that was the emergency program came to rest mere inches from the Oracle as Vickie crawled over to the panel. She plops on her now wet bottom and sucks her thumb as she looks at the pretty gold symbol as it wiggles and squirmed on the panel.

Pattie's eyes grew wide. "Oooooo," she said, "Bickie bewy goo at game wike dis ... cause ... cause ... um." She giggled because she didn't remember what she was saying anymore, and her head felt funny.

Vickie reaches out and touches it with her other hand ... there is a loud noise and the rest of the panel lights up. Now, there are many brightly lit symbols dancing and squirming across the panel. Vickie giggles gleefully as she begins to play with the squiggly and pretty lights. She has no real rhyme or reason to the order she touches the symbols ... it was just how she felt at that particular moment.

Finally, Vickie touched a symbol that resembled a nest with a very large egg in it. A bright red fire begins in the heart of the Oracle stone and quickly spreads like red blood veins all through the stone.

The Emergency Program fires a very intense blue beam into the heart of the Oracle. There is a blinding flash ... all the red is consumed by a wave of blue, then the Oracle begins to glow with it's pure white light once again.

In the passage behind the Oracle and out in the hallway outside the nursery, the lights were beginning to flicker back on. The girls felt currents in the air; the ventilation systems were coming back online. And in Vickie's mind there was a voice, the voice of the Oracle, saying, "Well done, Little One."

Pattie giggled as the Oracle also spoke to her, saying, "Such a brave one, even when little."

Aloud, the Oracle's voice echoed throughout the nursery. "Repairs are commencing. The complex's systems and devices are 95% virus-free and rising. Emergency Program, you functioned efficiently in this crisis situation, as you were created to do. Please continue to oversee the disinfection process."

The column of light said, "Affirmative," and then the Emergency Program exited, leaving the nursery through the broken door.

Vickie sat sucking her thumb. She was wet and messy and really wanted to be changed. Nana seemed to be over joyed that her babies had returned, however she hadn't seemed noticed she needed changing. Vickie did what any self respecting year and a half old would do under these conditions ... she begins to cry ... Waaahhh!!!

The waiting Nana had known that Vickie's diaper had needed changing for some time ... as had Pattie's, though Pattie was not messy at the moment. The Nana picked up both babies, and took them to the nearby changing tables, cooing to them while carrying them.

"Such delightful, smart, wonderful babies you are," said the Nana. "Pattie was smart to choose Vickie. Vickie is so good with the symbols!" The Nana set Vickie down and started to change her diaper, holding Pattie as she did so, forming extra arms as needed.

The Oracle began to withdraw into its passageway. "I will continue performing system tests," it said. "Doorways to the outside have been temporarily deactivated until repairs are complete. There have unfortunately been 17 human fatalities and several injuries, but treatment for the injured is under way. I will continue to post status reports."

Suddenly, all the lights come on in the nursery. The damage quickly melts away as all the items were repaired and recreated in the liquid light. The soft and calming sounds of the nursery begin to once again play. Many Nana's are busy taking care of the babies and tending to the injured.

"Affirmative," said the Nana in a happy voice, as it made sure Vickie was nice and clean before fastening a freshly refabricated diaper around her. "Baby Vickie might even become a symbol programmer when she grows up again! We haven't had one of those for a long, long time!" It picked up Vickie and hugged her, tickling her tummy a little bit. "What a smart girl! Yes, you are!"

The Nana then turned its attention to Pattie, making sure she was all clean and freshly diapered, then put both girls in their newly-repaired playpen.

"Bickieeeee!" Pattie said, hugging Vickie joyfully. Vickie's glow worm brightened happily in her hands. Pattie looked for a toy to play with as another Nana came up.

"Here you go, little Johnnie," said the Nana, gently setting a very little baby down in Vickie and Pattie's playpen. "I'm sad that we weren't able to record any of your memories, but we were able to make a clone from your DNA. Don't worry about losing all your memories again, darlings. As soon as you're old enough, we'll restore them again, and then ... there will be a lot of work for us all to do."

Vickie crawls over to Johnny and plops on her hinny. She starts sucking her thumb as she offers glow worm to him. She doesn't really understand why, but she knows he is very special.

Vickie takes Patty's hand and tugs her towards then. She gurgals, "Tatty, we gots new playmate. He new."

"Uh?" said Pattie. "He Dohnnie?" She thought she remembered ... no, it was gone. She watched the infant Johnnie stretching out his arms and making inarticulate sounds at the glowing toy.

She giggled. "Dohnnie jus lil babee," she said. "We make shoore he gwow up big n stwongs."

Vickie begins to make big scribble marks all over the bottom of the playpen. Johnny sees, and Vickie hands him a black marker. Patty joins in the fun and quickly the whole bottom of the playpen was one big scribble with 3 babies shrieking with joy.

2 pillars of liquid light appear and resolve into Nanas. They watch adoringly as their special charges make one of the largest messes in Nest history.

"I think I'll take a holo of this before I refabricate the floor," said one Nana to the other, smiling. "They're all just so adorable and talented."

When the Nana had finished the holo and was in process of archiving it, they suddenly realized what the scribbles were ... It was a beautiful rendition of the Tree of Life, complete with glow worm, Antbot, 3 babies, and 2 Nanas. The Oracle's AI was very impressed.

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~~~ The End - Pt2 ~~~
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~~~ Pt3 - Reemergence ~~~
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Title: Reemergence

Characters:

Patty Santi 16yo : Played by: veryliljennie

John Smythe 14.5yo : Played by: Wannabbaby

Vickie Williams 16yo: Played by: Miki Yamuri

Scene: The doorway from the nest

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It had been 17 years since the great ELE disaster and 14 years since the Watcher attack on the Nest. [ ELE = Extinction Level Event ] The Oracle had determined it was time to venture from the safety and comfort of the nest to see what was left of the planet. The Oracle selected it's very best Quester ... Patricia Santi ... to lead the Quest mission of Diaspora.

Patricia chose her Team well, Vickie Williams, Languages and systems Engineer and programming analysis. John Smythe, Systems engineer and programming analysis.

The Oracle assigned them the Nest's very best Battle ANT all terrain vehicle. It was armed with the most formidable Neutron Plasma weapons and Chrono-shields the Nest had. It was capable of extreme speeds over impossible terrains as well as excavations and removal of debris. It had a very impressive array of virtual sensors and analysis systems as well. It could be completely Autonomous ... It's AI being extremely advanced.

Patty and her hand picked team sat comfortably in the Ant's bucket seats as it quickly dug the tons of debris from what used to be the entrance to the nest.

Vickie says worriedly, "This is awful. How much of the world as we know it do you think survived? I wouldn't have believed the Temple structure would have been buried this badly."

"I guess that's what we're here to find out," Patricia said, "but it sure seems pretty deep here, doesn't it? Doesn't mean it's like this everywhere in the world, though. John, you had to dig through a lot to get to the door, didn't you?

"It wasn't as bad at the other entrance," said John, "I managed to clear it out pretty quickly."

Vickie blushes softly as John touches her shoulder. She still has strong feeling for him. She puts her face into the deep scan hood and attempts to see how much farther they had to dig before reaching the surface. Scans were showing that the temperature outside was minus 85 degrees. It was obvious the earth was in the throws of another major Ice Age. This entrance was located in what used to be Mexico. It should have been at least +100 this time of year.

Vickie adjusts the gain on the deep penetrating scan. She sees they have about 100 more meters of rubble to go. She knows the main temple has to be in ruins. She is also picking up many readings to indicate the local volcano had erupted within the last year. Sulfur Dioxide readings and sulfur emissions were very high.

Vickie sighs and sits back into the nearly reclining seat. She rubs her eyes and says, "I think most of this valley has been totally destroyed. Temperature is well below freezing, and I would think it a miracle if the town ... Chexulb?? were even intact. The Atmosphere is laced heavily with sulfur components. It's breathable ... but barely. What do you guys think?"

At that moment, A ray of very pale light pokes through as the Battle Any breaks the surface.

"Looks like we're through," said John, squinting as the first torrent of dust and snow pored through the crack, "but you're right, Vickie; with that much sulfur in the atmosphere, I think we'll be lucky to find any survivors who aren't in bad shape. In any case, I don't think we can hope for them to be healthy enough to call out for rescue."

Patricia had been looking at maps and data graphs on the holo-display. "Yes, the atmosphere in this valley is probably unbreathable, unfortunately," she said. "But the last 17 years have been pretty bad for everybody, I'm sure. We can survey the area around what's left of the temple, I guess, then move on to some of the nearby terrain."

The Battle Ant climbs from the tunnel it had excavated and stood on it's 6 articulated legs. It says in it's neutral voice, "Scans indicate large amounts of hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur Dioxide. Recommend level B breathing apparatus.

Vickie says in a giggle, "Well, I can truly say this valley has a messy diaper and needs a change." She breaks out in a cute loud laugh.

From the vantage point the Nest Explorers had, they could clearly see the surface of the planet, at least this entire valley, was severely changed. Snow continued to fall semi-heavily all around. Off in the distance, the still smoldering volcano could be seen clearly.

Patricia was concentrating on the controls and readouts. "The first direct atmospheric readings are coming in, and they confirm the scans. We should probably use breathers." She opened a compartment in the vehicle's side and took out a translucent, triangular piece of material, which she placed over her mouth and nose, where it adhered comfortably and provided breathable air.

Vickie takes one and places it over her nose and mouth. Instantly the air is breathable once again and the horrid smell of the sulfur compounds vanished. The Battle Ant continued digging, widening the hole, and soon it stood in what was now barely recognizable as the former site of the ruined temple where all three of them had entered the Nest at one time or another.

Vickie says, "I seem to be picking up a repeating signal. It's coming from a small town ... about 100 miles north of here. That puts it on the other side of this valley." She looks up and continues, "You think we should investigate? I'm also gettin some rather ... weird readings too. I can't quite get a lock on what it is."

"Yeah, we should take a look," said John, "any idea what the readings might be? They look pretty erratic." John pointed at some of the spikes on the readings. "Look, there," he continues, "ever seen anything like that?"

Vickie says with her voice slightly muffled by the scanner hood, "I don't really know what it is John. What ever it is, there are 2 separate readings. One of them is a massive energy reading. We would have to get at least 50 miles closer to even begin to hazard a guess. What do you think Patty?"

"We're not getting a very good idea of what direction the readings are in yet," Patricia said. "Let's move towards the town ... there unfortunately aren't going to be any survivors in this valley, but we can see whether there are any there, and on the way we can monitor those readings. Does that sound good?"

A very ominous rumbling followed by an explosion brought the explorer's attention back to the volcano. A wonderful display of pyroclastic fury was emanating from what was left of the top of the cone. A huge cloud was rising rapidly into the air as a very dangerous lava flow roared into the valley and many red hot burning shards fell all around.

Vickie tugs on Patty's sleeve and says softly, "Umm, sister?? I think we need to be leaving .. like NOW!!"

The Battle Ant turns to the North, and begins to move off in that direction at a high rate of speed. The passengers could actually feel the heat from the flow as they departed the area.

"V-Vickie, look," said John, pointing at the readings again, "the volcano did something to the readings. Look at the energy reading! It seems clearer now. Maybe the volcano shook the valley enough to uncover whatever was causing it."

Vickie looks over the back of the Battle Ant as the huge glowing hot blanket of molten rock rapidly covered the valley floor. Lightning flashes and thunder rolled across the stricken land. Ash and flaming debris feel all around as the had crossed the valley and Battle Ant began to climb the wall on the far side.

Vickie studied the reading closely. The largest of the energy readings were unfamiliar to her. The other, was vaguely familiar ... but not in this large a concentration.

Vickie says with worry in her voice, "The other energy reading ... looks so much like ... Watcher energy. Coming from that town. I have not seen that kind of concentration before. It may not be Watcher, but something else ... I'm not sure until we get closer."
The Battle Ant finally reaches a tall hill. On the other side, they knew what was left of a small city lay.

The Battle Ant scurries quickly over the top of the hill carrying its 3 passengers. Off in the distance, a totally destroyed city. It is covered in many layers of volcanic ash, lava, and snow. As the Battle Ant approaches, there seems to be a faint radio transmission ... repeating over and over .. Da da da, dit dit dit, da da da.

"Well there it is," said Patricia. "That used to be Oaxaca, Mexico. Keep your eyes open, folks. We don't know if there are any survivors, but if there are, we don't know they'll be friendly."

"Aw, come on Patti- er, Patricia," said John, "there's no way anybody could survive under there."

"Well, you never know -- Wait, what's that?" Patricia said, hearing the signal. "Vickie, can you tune in on that?"

Battle Ant scans the city with its powerful array of sensors. In its neutral and soft voice says, "Detecting life signs. They are indeterminate though. Hard to localize. It's as if it is phasing from one moment to the next."

Vickie adjusts the radio receivers tuner. The signal comes in loud and clear. Vickie says softly, "It's old Morse code ... an automated S.O.S.

"Phasing?" Patricia asked the Battle Ant. "Like a dimensional edge effect? Is it consistent with Nest technology? Or ... maybe even Watcher signals?"

"Any idea where it's coming from," asked John, "can you track the signal, Vickie?"

Vickie bends over the sensor panel and activates deep scan. The whole place is crawling with ... watcher signals. Vickie gasps and says worriedly, "It's a watcher stronghold

"Already?" gasped Patricia. "They've invaded right after disasters several times before, but ... so soon ... they were ready for this!" Her mind reeled with the implications. Had the Watchers anticipated the worldwide disaster? Had they ... caused it somehow? Ridiculous, but still ... the timing ...

John looks nervous. "Watchers," he said, "what . . . what do we do? Can our Battle Ant help? The Nest has the technology to defeat them, doesn't it?"

Battle Ant says flatly, "Readings indicate they are far more superior than my ability to ward off an attack. I am detecting some anomalous energy readings however, not consistent with Nest or Watcher technology."

Vickie says with trepidation, "It seems there is a type of technology down there the Nest has never seen before. Either it's an atomic fusion reactor ... 50 miles across, or it's ... a working Dark Matter reactor."

"I would've thought that was impossible," said John, surprised, "how could anything survive after the catastrophe? Especially a working Dark Matter reactor."

Vickie replies, "We survived didn't we?"

John smiles at Vickie but says nothing.

"I hadn't thought this civilization had reached the point of developing a Dark Matter reactor," said Patricia, looking at the readings.

Battle Ant says in its neutral voice, "Tactical suggestion is to withdraw immediately before detection. Return with reinforcements. If the Watchers have dark matter technology, this could bode ill for the Nest."

"Absolutely correct," said Patricia. "Let's withdraw. First send a tight-beam transmission back to the Nest with this information."

"That's . . . a good point," said John, "guys, we can't do anything about the reactor right now. If it IS a Dark Matter reactor."

Battle Ant's chrono-shields snap on. A wave of hair raising tingles swept the passengers. Battle Ant says with a bit of urgency, "Suggest immediate withdrawal from the area. Detect Watcher signatures approaching in mass."

John instinctively put his hand on Vickie's shoulder, feeling anxious. "We should go, guys," he said, "I'm worried."

"Retreating," said Patricia, activating control zones on the vehicle's 3D panel.

Far down in the valley, among the ruins of the once glorious city, a dark mist begins to rise. T first, It slowly drifts toward the Battle Ant's location, then with ever increasing speed. Many red and evil spots can bee seen, even at over a mile.

"Can we outrun them," asked John, "is the ant fast enough?"

"I hope that message got out ..." Patricia said, gesturing quickly as the Battle Ant accelerated to its full speed away from the amassed Watchers. The Battle Ant spins suddenly, it scurries off at an extreme rate of speed. The Chrono-shields go to full power in an effort to hide from the approaching Watcher battle group by phase shifting in time.

Just as the Battle Ant drops to the other side of the mountain, a salvo of plasma bolts impacts the shields. A huge fiery conflagration spreads across the Battle Ant's rear shields, then vanishes as it drops below the ridge. The Passengers can see the massive amounts of debris blown into the air by the remainder of the attack as it impacts on soil and rock.

"How many are there," asked John, "fifty? A hundred? I couldn't tell. Honestly, one would be too many."

Patricia seemed absorbed by piloting the Battle Ant. "I'm trying an evasive pattern," she said. "Assuming they can't detect our presence through the shields very well, we should be able to confuse them about where we're headed if we slightly vary our direction."

The Battle Ant descends extremely rapidly into the valley far below and vanishes into a large crevasse in the side of the next mountain, having to avoid the deep and excessively hot lava. They are now effectively concealed with the help of the Chrono-Shields.

The Battle Ant says in its soft neutral voice, "Concealment attained at present. Suggest further tactical withdrawal before Watcher battle group descends into the valley."

"I'm all for that," said Patricia. "Let's look for a way to get home through this valley ... wait a minute." She brought up a map on the holo-display. "Those strange energy readings ... I'm not sure they were all from the Watchers."

ON the ridge they had just descended, what looks like a massive ebony black storm cloud builds. IT is shot through with many, many red orbs.

"What do you mean," asked John, "what else could they have been from?"

The map showed glowing marks in the valley ahead of them.

Battle Ant reports, "Sensors indicate a massive Blast door 50 meters to the north of current position."

Vickie says with fear in her voice, "We have to move on or something ... look" She points to the far ridge. A massive black mist has descended part way down the mountain.

"I think we need to head for the blast door," said John, "look ... one of the glowing marks seems to be inside where ever it leads. We can investigate once we're safe."

Looking over her shoulder quickly at the amassed Watchers, Patricia urged the Battle Ant forward toward the position on the map. Stepping quickly through the ash and snow, among the blasted tree trunks, they soon passed through the crevice and reached what looked like a treeless hill.

Battle Ant turns to the north and proceeds rapidly into the deep crevice. The Watcher battle group vanishes from the scanners.

"It looks like we're in the clear," said John, "for now, at least. Let's hope it stays that way.
Um ... we are in the clear, aren't we," not sounding quite as confident.

"For now," said Patricia. "I think the blast door is under the snow and ash here ... scanning ..." She gestured at the virtual controls, and images started appearing on the holo-display.

John looked down from the top of the Battle Ant, looking at the surface of the ash and snow. "Well," he started, "maybe we should do some investigating then." He smiled at Patricia and Vickie.

Vickie leans over and places her face into the hood of the deep penetrating sensor. She scans deep for the exact location of the blast doors. She manipulates several controls with a wave of her hand and Battle Ant begins to dig. Within a few minutes, Battle Ant had excavated 56 meters of ash, snow and rocks from in front of the top of the blast doors.

"Looks intact," said John, "what do you think? Sturdy enough for the Battle Ant to enter?"

"Well," said Patricia, "The Watchers will probably look for us here sooner or later, but if we can find a way to get those doors open, we can probably hide from them. Also, we could find out what was down there."

Vickie replies, "According to the deep scans, this should be able to withstand a very large ground zero nuclear explosion."

She waves her hand over the squiggly runes on her virtual control panel. Battle Ant rapidly excavates the rest of the huge double doors from beneath the many tons of rock and debris.

John looks around the area, at the rocks and the debris, looking for some control panel or keypad. "Battle Ant," he said, "can you scan the area and check for any electronic systems that could've been used to open these doors?"

Battle Ant replies in its soft neutral voice, "Scanning ... Readings indicate a huge power source operating 900 meters down from this location. It is well shielded. There appear to be no external controls other than the metal post to the left of our current position."

Everyone's eyes turned to the short metal post, which the recent excavations had also uncovered. John hesitantly slid off the back off the Battle Ant, his feet making a slight crunching noise as it landed on the ash and snow. He stepped over to the metal post and looked closely at it.

"Huh," he said thoughtfully, "Patricia, what do you make of this?" John pointed at a symbol of a door in the middle of the post.

"I'm betting that's a cover for a control panel or keypad inside," said Patricia. "See if it opens up. If it does, there's probably a code to open the door."

John ran his fingers along the door, looking for a gap in the post. He couldn't find anything to help them open the door. Something caught his eye while he was examining it though; he noticed a horizontal line running the circumference of the post. "Maybe if I ..." John started.

He rotated the post and eventually the top detached from the bottom, revealing a small circular keypad left in the bottom half. "Found you," said John quietly, grinning. We need a code," turning back to Patricia and Vickie, "any ideas where to look?"

Vickie says, "Well ... in the temple when Patty n me discovered it, was a symbol of a nest with 3 eggs in it. Perhaps this one has the same symbol?"

Patricia was monitoring the scanners carefully for any sign of Watcher activity, but she smiled and said, "Excellent, John! I can only think of three possibilities, really ... one, we hook up the Battle Ant's computers to the keypad, to try to break its security. Two, we start pushing buttons and maybe a survivor or automatic system will notice, and we can communicate. Or three, maybe there are clues around here somewhere."

In the far distance, a whine and a large explosion reminds the 3 that time is dangerously short and they must find a proper hiding place quickly. John turned to look at the keypad but shook his head.

"That was a Watcher weapon," said Patricia, looking at the readouts. "I think they thought they'd found us, but the explosion was some distance away. They're not here yet ... but it's only a matter of time."

"It doesn't look like the same symbols, Vickie," said John, startled by the explosion, “I'll just ... the symbol! The symbol of the door on the metal post! Maybe it's an amalgam of the other symbols here on the keypad ... Maybe ... maybe if I slot together the symbols that will make up the emblem of the door, it'll open!"

Vickie takes a small devise from under her seat and with the help of Battle Ant, descends to the ground and stands beside John.

She walks to the post and says softly, "Try attaching this to the pad. It will do many combinations to try and open the door."

"Good idea," said John, "there'd be far too many to try in the time we have." John took the device from Vickie, his hand brushing against hers for a brief moment. Vickie blushes softly at John's touch. She can't help the feelings welling up inside her. John looks away, not wanting Vickie to see how red his cheeks turn. No time to lose, John attached the device to the keypad and started the process.

Vickie examines the many symbols on the pad. She says with fear in her voice, "We have to figure this out fast ... or move on ... it's not safe here.

While the devise is ticking away at many thousands of combinations, a small panel above the blast doors open. There is a garble of electronic sounds and a very irritatingly loud squealing screech. A voice says flatly, "Identify yourselves or be destroyed, thus says the Imerium."

"The ... Imerium," asked John, astounded.

"Anything in the data banks about the Imerium?" Patricia asked, doing a computer query.

Battle Ant ran a deep inquiry of the Centuries spanning data base of the Oracle. A small notation in the data suggested that a space faring peoples had landed on earth just prior to a major asteroid strike several million years prior. Peace negotiations had begun between the Emerium and the Nest. After the impact, all communications with the Emeirum had been lost .. until now.

The Oracle sent what seemed to be an undecipherable mess of symbols. They danced across Patty's viewer in rapid succession.

"Can you put those on the holo-display?" Patricia requested, and the symbols appeared in the air above the Battle Ant for all of them to see. "What do you two make of these?"

Another massive explosion, very much closer, sends chills down all of their spines.

"That one was a lot closer," said Patricia, looking at the scanners.

"It ... it seems to be a language," said John, "but not one that I've ever seen before. I can see patterns and similarities in the symbols but the rest of it is like scribble. It's almost ... it's almost like they've turned cave paintings into a language. Like they've combined art with letters to make words."

All three felt a greater sense of urgency than before. "S-so what about the Imerium," asked John, "do we identify ourselves or keep using the hacking device to open the doors?"


"Ask it about the Oracle," said John, "the Imerium knows about the Nest."

"Repeat," said the voice from the panel above the doors, "Last warning, Identify yourselves or be destroyed."

Vickie removes the devise from the keypad. She has Patty download the message into it and retrieves it. She reattaches it to the keypad and activates the devise. There is a massive clinking grinding noise accompanied by large tremors in the ground. small debris falls from the surrounding cliffs. The massively thick doors .. begin to open

All three watch in stunned silence as the doors tremble and quake, moving apart to create an ever increasing gap. There is a whoosh from inside to out as a water vapor mist forms when the warm air from inside hits the frigid air without.

"Vickie," John whispers, stunned, "you did it." John takes the device from Vickie and gives her a kindly smile. Vickie blushes pink in a shy and cute way. Unfortunately, John was far too engrossed in the symbols on the device to notice how cute she was.

"The Oracle knew this would happen," he said eagerly, "the Nest being cut off from the Imerium all this time ... the Imerium must've given instructions to the Oracle on how to enter and, lo and behold, we turned up to do just that."

The doors retreat into the mountain revealing a huge cavern. There appears to be many kinds of strange vehicles parked in orderly rows. In the far distance, as the lights are coming on, they can all see what appears to be another control panel, this one for the elevator to take them down into the depths of the Imerium stronghold.

"I guess so," said Patricia. "I hope the Imerium's relations with the Oracle were ... friendly." She looked at the scanner. "We had probably better get inside before it's too late."

Battle Ant scoops John and Vickie up with its antenna and swiftly enters the cavern ... the door closes behind them with a loud earth shaking rumble.

"Hey," said John quietly, "do you ... do you think the Watchers can get in here?"

Vickie says fearfully, "I certainly hope not."

"Even if they can," said Patricia, "it would take them time, and ... Assuming they knew it existed, they've had a very long time to try."

"Sounds like the Imerium's gone quiet," said John thoughtfully, "think it's waiting for us to show our faces?"
Miki says:

The Battle Ant proceeded down a long ramp made of some sort of metal mesh, the clicks of its footsteps echoing in the darkness that surrounded the ramp in all directions.

"We're in a very big chamber," Patricia said, "but it's so dark that we can't see most of it." The vehicle's "eyes" lit up their path in front of them, and the light leaking from between its carapace segments illuminated the area immediately around it.

Vickie unbuckles her seat restraints and has the Battle Ant lower her to the floor. She walks over to what looks like a control panel and waves her hand across it. The door to the elevator opens with a soft whoosh.

Vickie walks back over to the Battle Ant and is lifted back into the crew compartment. It proceeded onto the lift and the door closed. The lift began to swiftly descend. Just at that moment, a tremendous explosion above them shakes every thing ... debris falls in on them and dust fills the air. The ground and the elevator tremble beneath them as the light in the car goes out leaving them in stygian darkness except for the piercing blue light coming from Battle Ant. The car swiftly descends into darkness with its passengers, leaving what ever destruction occurred far above.

Patricia sharply sucked in her breath. "I heard that ... You never hear them. The Watchers are endergonic ... they eat all energy, including sound. The only time we could hear them would be ... oh no! If they're getting fed lots of energy! I bet the Imerium's defense systems are attacking them, and they're just feasting on the energy!"

The Battle Ant's console chimed. "Incoming message from .. the Oracle?" said Patricia, opening the channel.

The Oracle's calm voice came from the console. "Scans indicate that your theory is probably correct, Patricia," it said. "Watcher activity detected above you, and its intensity levels are increasing. It is doubtful that the Imerium's systems are aware of the energy patterns that can defeat the Watchers. You must reach the central computer and communicate with it."

"Unfortunately the increasing interference means that our communications will soon be cut off," it went on.

"What should we do?" asked Patricia.

"You each were chosen because you have unique talents," said the Oracle's voice, followed by a burst of static. "Use them ..." More static, then, "... defeat the Watchers ..."

"The channel just got cut off," Patricia said with rising fear in her voice.

"What should we do," asked John, feeling slightly panicky, "if the Watchers are fighting their way in - and becoming stronger - then we don't have much time to reach the Imerium's central computer. We don't even know where it is. They could break through at any moment."

Vickie had hear head buried in the Computer Visor. She played the console like she was a violinist. She probed deep inside the Base and found the power source and many weapons arrays. Their massive ion discharges were hard not to see.

She managed to find a location within the central complex, that seemed to fit as the master computer station.

Vickie looks up just as the lift door opened into the main Corridor of the Imeirum Base. She says, I think that the Core would be in Section C - Central corridor. The proper emission signatures seem to emanate from there."

Patricia looked at Vickie, with an impressed expression on her face, an expression containing sudden hope. "How did you do that, Vickie? Never mind, you can tell me later. Right now ..." She brought up a map of what Vickie had found so they could all see it.

"Go elevator go," Patricia said. "It looks like it will stop here," she explained, pointing at the map, "which means that we'll have to get to here." Not hard ... unless the Imerium doesn't want us to get there.

The elevator vibrated to a halt, then the doors opened onto a darkened area, the only light coming from occasional displays and twinkling control panels. They showed an open room with metal support girders and a hard floor made of some sort of shiny dark metal or ceramic.

Patricia, Vickie and John stepped out into the darkness, never leaving the Battle Ant's side. The piercing blue light coming from the Battle Ant shone over odd-looking terminals and equipment that Patricia, Vickie and John had never seen anything like before..

The three walked on ahead in silence, listening out for the slightest noise that would indicate the Watchers having breached the lower levels of the Imerium's facility. They occasionally jumped when they heard a loud noise but, more often than not, it was just one of them accidentally hitting their foot against one of the legs of the Battle Ant.

The three occasionally looked at the map to check the directions they needed to travel in while navigating the dark tunnels and, thankfully, they soon reached the Central corridor of Section C. If Vickie and the map were correct, the entrance to the core was just along this corridor.
Miki says:

Patricia, Vickie and John hurried further down the corridor, feeling more urgent as time went on. They each felt as if a pair of red eyes could just appear in the darkness at any second. However, that luckily wasn't the case and the three soon arrived at a large set of blast doors with mysterious writing on the front.

"This is it," said John, "look, the writing, the language . . . it's . . . it's hard to decipher but some of the patterns in the vocabulary are similar to other languages and I think these symbols indicate a . . . a nervous system. But electronic. This must be the computer core."

Vickie was lowered from the Battle Ant. She walks over to the door and puts her hand on top of a large round area. The door opens with soft whoosh. Small ice crystals form as the frigid air from within hit the warmer air in the corridor.

The lights come on ... inside was one of the most amazing displays of technology the youths had ever seen. The leather looking reclining chair was obviously the central access station.

Vickie gasps and says in awe, "Did you ever see anything like that before?" she points at the vast array of indescribable technology.

"Not ... not exactly like that," said Patricia. "It's odd ... it's more advanced than the people of this time could do -- way more advanced -- but the Nest is way beyond this."

Looking at the consoles, Patricia said, "This must be in the Imerium language -- I've never seen it before, though."

Vickie walk over beside Pattie and looks at the strange symbols

"Well," started John, "the writing on that computer-" John pointed to odd lettering on the side of one of the consoles, "-seems to be similar to some of the writing on the walls and entrance to the bunker. I think it means something like "toughness" or "shielding", so it might have something to do with defense."

"That makes sense!" Patricia said excitedly.

Vickie waves her hand over a panel. Lights come on and several screens light up at once. The central display gave information on the Dark Energy reactor core that powered the Imerium's massive weapons. There were many of the strange words obviously describing actions and energy levels of the Core.

"Looks like this is the central control panel, all right," said Patricia. "But John ... can you figure out how we can tell the computer the sequence of frequencies that kills the Watchers, so it doesn't just keep making them stronger with its defense system?"

Vickie leaves the computer room for a minute. When she returns, She has the devise she used to decode the entrance pad with. She hands it to John. She kisses him on his cheek and says, "Here, use this to help interface. It's linked to the Battle Ant's computer archive."

"Thanks Vickie," said John, blushing at being kissed on the cheek, "but ... maybe you should use the computer. We need to hurry and I'm a total klutz with them. I can guide you through the system so we can reconfigure the Imerium weapons."

"That makes sense!" said Patricia. "Vickie, why don't you find a way to connect that to the Imerium computer, and John, why don't you tell Vickie whenever you figure out more of the language so she can program it? I can keep an eye on the displays as we go, so we can see the Imerium computer's status reports, or I hope we can."

There is a tremendous earth shaking WHUMP! The trio can hear things rattling and the sound of small falling objects round about. The lights flicker slightly, but do not go out. One whole section of the displays go red. One of the energy readings from the reactor core obviously shows a massive rise in energy production.

Several of the readings on the screen appear to show a build up of some kind surrounding the exterior of the base.

"That can't be good," said Patricia, looking at the ceiling.

Vickie takes the Padd and begins to open a panel with the small tool kit she carried in her fanny pack. As the panel comes off, fortune smiles as they can see a place to just simply plug the Padd in. Vickie does this ... the strange symbols begin to dance across the Padd's display.

Vickie says, "It appears there has been a shield of some kind turned on." She points to one of the sections in red and continues, "John, can you decipher this? Apparently it pertains to the weapons."

"Uh ... this is very bad news, if I'm reading it right," said John, "this part that keeps scrolling across the screen? It says the energy output to the weapons has been increased tenfold because of the tremor we just felt. Since the Imerium's defenses were already increasing the power of the Watchers, we have to work fast."

John took a deep breath and tried to stay calm but the way he held Vickie's hand nervously showed how worried he was. Vickie felt her heart tingle but was able to keep her mind on the job in hand.

"We need to access the weapons systems," said John, "Vickie, I think you'll be able to work your way into them along one of these commands on the console. I get the feeling these main ones are to do with the core, so try one of the sub-commands." John pointed at the console and Vickie took her position in front of it, looking at the commands studiously.

Meanwhile, Patricia gestured across the Battle Ant's controls, causing duplicates of the Imerium's displays to appear on the Ant's holographic display, but the words that John had already translated were now readable, although the remaining symbols were not yet.

Vickie moves hear hands over the interface as she access the weapon's subroutines. The going was slow as the translation progressed. Another huge explosion tells them that time is rapidly running out as more debris rattle down.

Vickie bangs her fist on one of the consoles in frustration. Suddenly, the dead monitor comes to life. All the weapons and their energy outputs and targeting data came up. There were many places the words had not yet been translated, but enough to know that the Imerium's weapons had laid waste to the entire valley floor. All the damage the volcano had caused was nothing in comparison to what the Imerium had done.

Vickie says in awe, "I think we need to hurry, the energy output of these weapons has tripled in the last several minutes."

She engages the Padd's interface with Battle Ant. The readings on the monitors begin to change rapidly as the new frequency code is uploaded.
Miki says:
Vickie says with a slight fear in her voice, "Lets hope this works."

"There's a chance," said Patricia. "Thanks to both of you, we can now understand about 80% of the symbols on the displays. That probably means the Imerium computer could probably understand most of what we told it, too. Maybe it can figure out the rest by itself."

Vickie closes her eyes and crosses her fingers. She unconsciously holds her breath.

"Transmitting," said the Battle Ant's neutral voice. There was a pause. Then the Imerium's display showed the weapon power level dropping -- all the way to zero.

"It's ... turned off its weapons," said Patricia. "I hope that's good ... I mean, at least it isn't feeding the Watchers any more energy."

"But that means there's nothing to stop them getting in either," said John, sounding worried.

Then the displays started flashing another message, which translated to "602 error -Transmission unclear; please repeat."

"Send it again!" said Patricia.

"Retransmitting," said the Battle Ant.

After another pause, the flashing message disappeared, replaced by a flashing "Processing" message, which remained for almost a minute. Then the weapon power levels started to rise again.

A massive far off explosion reverberates through the underground base. A squeal more felt than heard penetrates their souls as millions of watchers are torn to their constituent energy waves and disperse.

Vickie opens her eyes and lets out her breath in a gasp, "Did we do it?"

John looked around, the uneasy silence making him nervous. "I ... I think so," he said hesitantly.

All the monitors turned green. The energy levels fell to nominal as the weapons went off line and returned to their dormant state.

Patricia looked at the display that seemed to show some sort of security scan. "It says, 'Invading entities remaining: 3.' Hey! We're not invaders!"

"Does that mean we'll be attacked by the same weapons we just reprogrammed," asked John, stepping towards the Battle Ant instinctively.

Vickie gasps, "I most certainly hope not. The valley outside is nothing more than hot plasma at this point."

A small whirring noise is heard as many little panels open all around the room.

One of the displays suddenly went blank, replaced with the text "Invaders non-hostile; implementing temporary non-lethal detention solution."

Suddenly, large blue sparks leap from the recesses of the open panels. It bathes the trio in the tingling blue fire. They feel it run through their bodies, producing a feeling as if they are too big for their bodies on the ... inside. The fire stops abruptly. The trio stand in the heap of their much oversized clothing.

Vickie looks down at herself and says, "I think ... we're in trouble."

All the equipment had become enormous around them. The whirring sound of many closing panels

"Hmm," said Patricia, whose voice sounded very high and small suddenly, "I guess this counts as non-lethal. But it said temporary too ... I guess until we convince it that we're friends?"

"Maybe," said John, in a squeaky voice, "but what if it's not? What if it was only temporary when the Imerium was still around to change us back and we're stuck like this? I don't wanna be a baby!"

Vickie looks down at herself and the now huge pile of clothe surrounding her. She was barely 3 feet tall. She gasps out, "I no wanna be a baby neither ... how we gonna .. takes care of ourselves?"

A door across the room opens ... what appears to be a very young and pretty woman walks in and claps her hands together and coos softly, "Ohh my! It's been so long since Nana had any babies to care for." The woman beams. Vickie looks at John and Patty with big eyes and her mouth open in surprise.

The woman's voice and movements looked almost human, but there were little differences -- a slight jerkiness in how she moved, a slight lack of expression on her face ...

"I think she's an android," said Patricia. "But the Imerium's technology can do better than this -- just look around us. Why isn't this one perfect?" Something's different. This isn't like Nest regeneration. I don't think it's affecting my mind, for one thing."

Meanwhile, the woman had walked over and was reaching down to pick up one of the three "children" at random, and it turned out to be Vickie.

Vickie gasps loudly as she begins to kick and squirm, "Noo!! no ... let me go .. please!! Don't hurt me!"

The Nana giggles and takes hold of Vickie gently under her bottom and behind her head. Vickie's cries end abruptly as Nana coos softly, "Hush sweet heart. Nana has no intention of hurting you. All I'm going to do is dress all my babies and put them in their playpen." Nana removes the remaining oversized clothes from Vickie's body leaving her nude and shivering in the cold of the Computer room. She was unable to fuss anymore. Vickie could feel something in the back of her head where Nana was holding her ... it was making her very docile.

John looked from Vickie to Patricia, a little confused. "What's that?" John whispered, hoping that Vickie was okay.

"I think it's got some kind of device that's ... calming her down or something," whispered Patricia, "maybe sonic or electromagnetic."

The Nana robot took Vickie into an adjacent room, and as she entered, its lights came on brightly, contrasting with the darkness of the rest of the level. The walls were brightly painted with solid areas of bright primary colors, and the robot's footsteps were suddenly silent on a floor made of a padded material, rather than the metal mesh outside.

John and Patricia could see this too, through the room's large windows, and the robot laid Vickie down on a table constructed of metallic piping with a pad on top. "Oh my," it said, "you're a ... a girl, aren't you? Well, we'll just make sure we diaper you appropriately. Extra padding in the middle!" It picked up a white fabric square and started folding it precisely.

"It's like it doesn't really know humans that well," said Patricia. "What if the Imerium started collecting information about humans but didn't finish before they left?"

"That could be why the technology for the android isn't as sophisticated as the other Imerium devices," said John, "maybe the Nana robot is just a prototype."

John looked through the windows, concerned as Vickie was helpless to stop the robot going about its duties. Vickie is mind blown as she is laid on the pad. It is very soft and slightly warm on her back. Nana kisses her softly on her nose, her movement becoming more fluid and graceful. Vickie finds herself lifted by her ankles and a very thick cloth diaper was placed under her bottom and she was set in it.

Nana produces a bottle of powder and begins haphazardly sprinkling it all over. The wonderful smell of baby powder and jasmine fills the air around Vickie. Nana coos softly, "Nana going to make baby all clean and fresh."

She bends suddenly and blows a huge tickly raspberry in Vickie's tummy. Vickie looses her mind as one of her most ticklish spots had just been tickled.

Vickie kicks, squeals, squirms, and giggles. It is obvious to John and Patty, Vickie is really enjoying being diapered by Nana. Nana pulls the diaper between Vickie's legs and fastens it snugly but comfortably in place.

Nana produces a closed end onesie. Where Vickie's feet are .. there is no opening. Nana fits Vickie's feet into the bottom part first, then slips her bottom in next. She fits her hands into the sleeves and pulls it the rest of the way on before snapping the snaps closed.

She picks Vickie up and carries her to a large playpen and puts her in. Nana lays Vickie on her back and produces a bottle of some kind of white fluid. Before Vickie could protest, the nipple of the bottle was in her mouth and it was propped on a pillow. Nana returned to the computer room to retrieve another of her 'babies'.

Patricia and John shivered in the cold air outside, trying to wrap themselves in their now-huge clothing as they talked quietly and watched to make sure Vickie was all right. But then Patricia froze. "Wait," she said. "Something doesn't add up."

As John looked at her quizzically, she continued, "Why would there be a nursery right next to a freezing cold computer room? A nursery for aliens, at that? To them, we're aliens. And ... where's the Battle Ant? Have you seen it lately?"

Looking around, all Patricia could see was a baby toy, the sort they used in the Nest, looking like a silly bug with googley eyes. She started to reach for it ... but then she found herself suddenly being picked up. "Now it's your turn, sweetie!" said the android. "I think you're the other girl! Let's take you in where it's warm and get you all dressed and comfy."

Nana walks over to Patty and picks her up next. Nana's hand is under her bottom and behind her head too. Patty feels the tingling numbing sensation all through her body coming from where Nana is holding her head. She is helpless to resist.

"Ack! Wait! John! I don't think the Watchers are really dealt with yet! I think we're in a ... uhhh ... ngggg ..." The Nana droid had put a hand on the back of Patricia's head as it held her, and there was a sensation of extreme relaxation pulsing through her entire body.

"'Member ... toy has ... anti Watcher signal ..." Patricia managed to slur out as the robot carried her.

John found himself left all alone in the cold and darkness, which seemed to get deeper now that he was alone. Vickie managed to spit the bottle out and pull herself to her knees by the playpen's rails. She watched with big eyes a the Nanabot brought Patricia in and laid her on the pad.

John looks to the toy. It looks like a silly googley eyed version of Battle Ant. He reaches over and turns on the toy. It being to squeak, wiggle and flash adorably as it emitted the special anti watcher signals through out the nursery. John picks up the toy and walks to the door to the nursery. He sees Patricia being diapered and tickled ... just like Vickie was. He knows that shortly, he too will be in diapers and in the playpen.

Patricia found herself suddenly unable to remember what she had been so concerned about, but there was a nagging feeling that there was something urgent she had to remember. Still, it felt nice to be gently carried into a brightly-lit room with warmer air and laid down on a soft, warm surface.

"Theeeere we go, darling," said the robot's soft but slightly electronic-sounding voice. "Soon we'll have both baby girls all dressed and comfy." It sprinkled powder on her and lightly spread it around -- its touch was soft, but still gave the impression that this robot had a lot of strength behind its soft but occasionally jerking motions.

John quickly looks to the door they had entered ... it had closed and appeared to be locked. The only way he could go at this point .. was into the nursery.

He thought he heard a slight dimming of the constant low mechanical humming sound from the machines around him. He thought he caught a glimpse of moving red light out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned, he just saw blinking red computer lights in the darkness.

The android had snugly fastened the diaper around Patricia and fastened a bright fuchsia diaper cover over it and was busily working her feet into a pink sack like garment like Vickie's when Patricia thought she remembered what she was trying to say. "One Watcher left! John, there's one left!"

John turns suddenly and stairs out into the simi-darkness of the computer room. There are many shadows along with the many softly blinking lights of the computers. He is sure he saw some of the red lights in places it shouldn't be ... but there are too many of them.

Suddenly, John is lifted by a warm and soft hand under his bottom. A hand is behind his neck. He can feel the tingling sensation of contented calmness running electrically throughout his body.

He feels Nana remove the last vestiges of the over sized clothes and the cold of the computer room around him. Nana kisses him on his nose as she carries him into the nursery. As she crosses the boundary between the nursery and the computer room, the temperature gores from extremely cold ... to very comfortably warm.

"No!" said Patricia, trying to stand up in the playpen she'd been placed in with Vickie. The sack like garment and thick diapers wouldn't let her stand, though, and she just fell back to the padded floor in frustration. "It's out there!" On top of that, she felt herself wetting her diaper. "No ..." It was too much, and Patricia started to cry, sounding like a lost toddler.

John is totally mind blown as he is placed on his back and tickled. He can't help himself anymore than the girls could. He too kicks and screeches and sounds like any other happy baby in the same situation. He was diapered, dressed and in the playpen in the closed onesie before he knew it. Nana brought the googley eyed toy and placed it into the playpen with them.

Vickie cant help herself. She fights the almost over powering urge to suck her thumb and says around it," Mgghpphh, whatsshh we gonna doo? Seems every thing's being done for us."

The Nana shows back up at the side of the Playpen. Suddenly, all 3 babies are again on their backs, but this time, a bottle had been propped in their mouths and the sweet tasting formula was on their tongue enticing them to nurse.

Nana coos to her charges, "Now sweeties, this formula will make you grow big and strong like good children. Now go to sleep and Nana will watch over you."

She kisses all 3 on their nose before walking to a chair and sitting, keeping vigilance over her charges. The 3 saw a vaporous shadow seem to ooze from the top of a darkened console. Its red eyes glowing evilly as it slowly and seemingly unnoticed by the Nana .. approached the nursery.

"Mmp!" said John, before spitting out the nipple of his bottle. "Look! It's there!" He pointed with a mittened hand, but Vickie seemed to be falling asleep, and Patricia was still upset, sniffling as she suckled on her bottle for consolation. He looked around for the bug toy. Meanwhile, all the ambient sounds they hadn't noticed, like the hush of the air system and the whirr of the computer equipment, gradually went quiet as the dark form filled the doorway.

John saw the toy and tried to reach for it with one hand, but his hand was covered with thick fabric and he couldn't grasp it, so he stretched to grab it with both hands.

"Wha?" said Patricia, snapping out of it and looking up to see two fiery red eyes staring at them menacingly out of the ebony blackness of its form.

"Now, see here," said the android, approaching the Watcher, "you don't belong h-" Its voice was cut off as a black pseudo pod extended from the creature, wrapped around its chest, and drained the android’s power in an instant.

John was holding up the toy, squeezing and shaking it to try to get it to activate its anti-Watcher program. But the dark creature, letting the still form of the android fall to the floor, turned toward the three helpless children trapped in the playpen, and John froze. The toy started to play a happy tune, sounding inane and incongruous amid the silence.

The googley eyes of the cute insect toy begins to blink and flash in a multicolored pattern. The music became louder and had an underlying tone that was barely audible to the children. The watcher, completely in the nursery and hovering mere inches from the edge of the playpen suddenly seems to change consistency. There is a horrid screeching noise as the very fabric of the Watcher seemed to be torn apart one molecule at a time.

All 3 of the children huddled together in fear and began to cry. The Watcher died most horribly as the toy played the anti-watcher frequencies. The watcher let out one last agonizing scream, then dissipated into the air and was gone.

Vickie gasps out, "Wow! That was close." She hugs and kisses John lovingly and continues, "That was the bravest thing I have ever seen ... you're our hero."

She sits and bats her eyes and blushes slightly as John looks at the spot the watcher was floating in. John's mouth was slightly open in fear and amazement, but then he blinked and said, "It worked!" He looked at Vickie and smiled when he saw how she was looking at him and realized what she had said. "Aw, Vickie ... it was all I could think of! And Patricia said to get the toy."

After taking a deep breath, Patricia said, "Whew. Don't sell yourself short, John. You did it. We might all have died if you hadn't thought fast."

John didn't argue, because he was busy being clumsily hugged by Vickie, who had managed to crawl over to him despite her thick diapers and restrictive baby clothes. "Awwww, Vickie!" He hugged her happily too.

Patricia smiled and hugged both of them. But a moment later she frowned and said, "I still wonder where the Battle Ant is, and why this nursery exists at all."

The collapsed android Nana began to stir, and as it started to get back to its feet, it said, "Iiiiitttt iiittt iit it doesn't really. I apologize for your treatment. This is a security protocol. You are in a virtual environment."

"What?" John exclaimed. "Then I didn't just save all our lives from a Watcher?"

"You did," said the android, "within the virtual scenario. Believing that it was real, you acted with bravery and ingenuity. And furthermore, you have demonstrated to the Imerium's satisfaction that your intentions were solely to defeat the extra dimensional intruders designated 'Watchers' and not to infiltrate this installation."

John seemed no longer annoyed, a thoughtful expression on his face. Vickie was quite satisfied with his bravery, though. Patricia asked, "So in a way, this was a miniature version of what really happened, only in an environment where you controlled all the variables? You made us as helpless as possible, and our only defense was the one piece of data we entered into your system -- the anti-Watcher code. Was that because you wanted to know whether that was all it did?"

"Affirmative," said the android. "It was scanned and found not to be viral or dangerous to our systems, as far as we could tell, but your technology is superior to ours, so there was the possibility that it was something we were unequipped to scan for. Clearly, though, you told the truth: it is a weapon against these hostile Watcher entities."

Suddenly, the air around them began to shimmer. Light and perspective dissolved into another reality suddenly. All around, the control room came into reality. The 3 were now standing completely clothed in their other outfits, Battle Ant standing just out the door.

Vickie shakes her head. She says softly, "Well, one thing that’s very similar, how suddenly where we think we are suddenly isn't anymore.

Vickie turns and looks at Patty as she asks, "What now? Should we take a backup copy of Imerium data with us?"

"I ... I think that depends on what their system will let us have," said Patricia, still feeling disoriented.

"You are welcome to any data that is not restricted in order to preserve the security of this installation," came a voice from the computer console. The voice was deeper than that of the Nana android in the simulation they had just come out of, but it had a similar inflection and electronic quality.

"You are also welcome to a change of clothing," the voice continued. "Apologies, but due to the nature of the virtual simulation, it was necessary. We have machines that can fabricate replacement garments, and others that can rapidly clean your existing ones."

"Uh, thanks," said John, looking down at the large wet spot on his pants that had probably appeared while he had been a baby in virtual reality. Patricia's pants did not show a wet spot, but she was blushing slightly.

John and Vicky kissed lovingly one more time. Vicky turns and sees Patty standing with a very pink face. Vicky Giggles and asks, "What's wrong Patty? You look like you wet your .... " Vickie's eyes get large as she realizes what might be wrong. She walks over to Patty and pulls open her pants and panties and checks. Vickie smiles proudly and coos softly, "Ohhhh ... Pattykens is aww wet is she? Seeem you and John may need a ... change." She giggles again.

John walks to the Battle Ant and requests a new set of Nest clothing. Vickie walks up to him and whispers softly in his ear. She looks at Patty with a grin and a sparkle in her eye. He nods and programs Battle Ant again. A column of liquid light suddenly forms ... it solidifies into a nest Nana. It turns immediately to Patty and coos, "Aww, is baby need Nana?"

"I see that our fabrication facility is not currently needed," said the Imerium computer. "Very well."

Patricia blushed more brightly and said, "Vickieeeee!" giving the other girl an exasperated look, but then looked at the Nana program and said, with a moment of hesitation, "... yes, Nana ..."

John and Vickie giggle like 2 school girls as the Nana takes Patty in hand. As the Nana cleaned Patricia quickly and perfectly, putting a dry, wonderfully comfortable Nest diaper on her, John asked the Imerium computer, "So ... how bad was the damage? Can we get back up to the surface?"

"Not by the same lift you used to come here," said the computer's voice. "Automated repair system active, but estimate time to completion at 12 Earth days. There are, however, several other lifts; I would suggest shaft 39B. I can direct you to it when you are ready."

Vickie walks to the computer console and begins to play with the input keys. She searches for the archive files so she can make a backup copy. The Computer system itself actually translated the Imerium words into Nest without Vickie's intervention.

"There you are, dear," the Nana was saying to Patricia, who now had a pacifier in her mouth, "I bet that's sooooo much better, isn't it?" Blushing, Patricia nodded and started to get up from the changing table that the Nana had materialized. "Who's next, now? Oh dear, I think you've had a bit of an accident, Sweetie," it said, turning to John.

John gasps as he quickly turns around. His eyes big with surprise. He waves his arms as he exclaims loudly, "No! nnooo! This isn't ... what it looks like Nana .. I promise! Yes, well, I, uh ..." John stammered, "there was this virtual reality simulation, and I was a baby in it, and there was a Watcher, and it was very intense, and, uh ... help!"

The Nana lifted John up onto the changing table, removed his wet pants and started cleaning and diapering him. Patricia removed her pacifier and giggled quietly.

Vickie turns and says, "Well ... it looks like I'm the only big girl here." She giggles "All the rest of you babies are back in diapers." Nana looks up and coos softly, "Now don’t gets upset sweetheart, Nana will get to you as soon as she can." Vickie quits giggling as a surprised expression takes over her pretty features.

Nana finishes with John. She places him on his feet on the floor. She turns and folds her hands together and coos softly and lovingly, "All right sweetipoo ... Nana commin for youuu!"

Vickie tries to turn and run. Nana glides smoothly and gracefully over and scoops Vickie up in her arms. Before Vickie could even protest, she was nude and being cleaned expertly with several sweet smelling baby wipes.

Vickie gasps out, "Nana, I'm I ... I'm not wet or messy." The Nana giggles and replies softly, "No you're not, you're just not properly dressed and it's my job to make sure all of my babies are dressed properly and happy."

By the time Nana had said that, Vickie was diapered and in a cute pair of pink rumba panties with white ruffles. Nana smoothed a wrinkle out of Vickie's jumper, then stood her on the floor. All 3 of them now were the most adorably dressed babies ever.

"Well, there's no sign of any Watcher activity anymore," said Patricia, "even after covering the area where we first encountered them with a fine-toothed comb."

She was wearing a pink snowsuit with white trim that the Nana had provided before departing and gesturing at the holographic map with white-mittened hands. "Suppose it's time to head home?"

Vickie removed the backup crystal from the computer console. Her panties plastic lining was very noisy as she waddled over to Battle Ant and it lifted her into the cockpit with John and Patty. She put her face into the scanner hood and played the console like a concert violinist. Vicki says, "Shaft 39b is north of here. Out the door we entered and left." The Battle Ant turned suddenly and was in the hall moving at a fast rate. They arrived at a door that had strange squiggly markings on it. Battle Ant announced in its flat voice, "Shaft 39b."

With one of it's articulated mandibles, it opened the door to the shaft and began the ascent. The shaft was ebony black except for where the door was open at the bottom, and a very far off pinprick of light at the top.

The only other light, the soft blue glow from the Battle Ant.

"Brrr ... it's getting colder as we go," John said.

"I think Nana left us some presents," said Patricia, opening a compartment and finding something pink inside. "She took our pants, but I think this is snow gear. We can put it on when we get to the top."

John rolled his eyes. "Stay cold ... wear brightly colored juvenile snow gear. Choices, choices."

The Battle Ant continued climbing and soon reached the top of the shaft, which suddenly emitted a whirring sound and started to slide open, revealing a night sky filled with brilliant stars. Strapped in, the three had no choice but to look ahead, and as the circle of night sky grew larger, it was like slowly inhaling a breath of fresh air. Clear weather was rare in the pseudo-nuclear winter conditions that had followed the disaster, and what they were seeing was ... a sign of hope.
[08:23 PM] amyyamuri:

The Battle Ant emerged from the shaft a few clicks from the destroyed town. The glow of the volcano could be seen off in the distance with lightning dancing around the summit. The valley beyond glowed brightly with hot plasma. The stars over head shimmered like bright jewels above them. They all looked on in awe at the rare site. The only visible clouds ... were the ones being emitted from the volcano .. and those were small and directly above the cone.

John deftly turned Battle Ant to the South. Vickie scanned for the entrance beacon to the door they all knew was supposed to be there. There was no electromagnetic signals of Imerium or Nest anywhere to be found.

Vickie said softly, "Umm, guys? I can't find a beacon. There's no transmissions at all. All I'm getting .. is background static in all my scans." She looks at Patty for a second before returning her gaze to the hood.

John says, "We can go back to the original door, but it's buried under several hundred feet of lava by now."

Vickie says exasperatedly, "It's closer to try the one to the south. We should be there in a few hours if we start now."

"OK," said Patricia, "let's do that."

"Affirmative," said the Battle Ant. "Course set. Altering trajectory."

"Well, I'm cold. I'm putting these on." Patricia pulled out a pair of pink snow pants and a pink parka with white trim from the storage compartment and began putting them on.

She dug further into the container. "Look at the choice you two have!" She held up a brightly colored red, yellow, green and blue outfit and a fuzzy white outfit with a bunny tail and a hood with bunny ears.

"Ummm," said John, "given that choice ... well, I've never been a bunny kinda guy." He paused. "I don't think so, anyway."

Vickie dresses in the snowbunny outfit while John dons the other. Vickie is adorable in the outfit ... John squirms uncomfortably .. he feels embarrassed.

Vickie says with trepidation in her voice, "Patty, I can't find any of the tracking satellites either ... wait ... there’s some kind of odd .... energy blanketing the entire area for hundreds of miles. I've never seen this before. What do you think?"

Patty takes a look and shakes her head. John asks, "Should I alter course?" Vickie says, "No, whether or not the entrance is destroyed, Battle Ant can excavate it out in a few minutes. What's bothering me ... is what is this ionizing energy all over everything?"

Battle Ant says in its neutral voice, "I am receiving a communication from Oracle on a low laser bandwidth. It says that we are approaching a crash site and to proceed with caution."

The trio look at each other. This must have been a huge ship to cause this much interference.

"Does the Oracle think we should investigate the crash site?" Patricia asked.

Vickie shakes her head no.

"The Oracle says ... negative," said the Battle Ant. "Investigation of the crash site will be a task for another time."

"OK. Well let's proceed with caution -- if the radiation becomes dangerous, let's keep a minimum safe distance, but otherwise, keep heading for the Nest entrance to the south."

She gestured at the holographic map that appeared with a white-mittened hand.

Vickie gets a hazy lock on the crashed ship. It is as large as a city. She says to Patty, "That thing's as large as Rode Island, no wonder it threw up this much interference."

"Now I want to look at it," said Patricia. "Something that big ... when did it crash? Who made it? Where's it from? And ... how did it crash without splitting the world in half -- again?"

Tiny white flecks began to be visible in the light from the Battle Ant's "eyes" as it had again clouded up and snow began slowly falling.

"But I guess the Oracle's got a point," John said. "We're not equipped for something like that. Not right now. And hey, look, it's starting to snow."

The vehicle strode quickly across the barren terrain, soon approaching the coordinates of its goal: the nearest operational Nest entrance.

Battle Ant says in it's flat nondescript voice, "Warning ... power cell low. We cannot sustain the Chrono-shields at current levels. The battle with the Watcher task force has damaged the secondary power cell. Recommend haste to home base."

Vickie waves her hand across the vurtual control panel. A 3-d display of the Battle Ant's power system appeared. Where the secondary power cell should have been, there was a giant splotch of red. Vickie looks over the side, she sees a large gaping tear in Battle Ant's Armorplast shielding.

She turns and says nervously, "Umm ... Patty?? I think Battle Ant has been hurt. With the radiation at the levels currently, I am unable to shut down the shields. How much farter to the working Nest gate?"

"Well we have to be less than 5 minutes from the point above it on the surface," Patricia answered, pointing at the map. "I just hope it isn't far below."

Without warning or preamble, the virtual weapons console went dark along with satellite tracking. Vickie's HUD display suddenly had many empty screens.

"Let's see ... we've moved a bit away from the crash site, so the radiation's a bit weaker, and I expect the terrain will shield us a bit once we're no longer on the surface ... but I'm still not sure we have the power to dig to the entrance."

Vickie says softly with agitation in her voice, "I just lost most of the tracking equipment and the weapons. According to the cell diagnostics, we are pretty close to minimum operating power levels."

"Well, we're just about over the entrance ..." Patricia began. "What? What's this?" The snowfall had been increasing in intensity, and the radiation had been confusing the sensors as they had moved onward through the night. "Look at this." They had entered an area of huge fragments of broken metal and concrete, like a devastated city.

"What is this? There wasn't anything this devastating here when the eruptions occurred. This wasn't an area that was hit that hard by that ..." Patricia said. "This is consistent with something the size of that ship crashing nearby, but ... we would have noticed. The Imerium base would have been wiped out, and us with it. But we didn't feel anything."

Shaking her head, she continued, "But anyway ... the Nest entrance is approximately 50 meters below us, and we may not have to dig. Sensing numerous subterranean cavities ... most likely, levels of these broken buildings. So as long as we can pick our way down there without falling ..."

The Battle Ant carefully worked its way downward into a crevice, shuddering and wobbling every so often.

"Reading decreased radiation levels because of the shielding provided by the ground and the building materials," Patricia said. "I think we can decrease shields by 80% to save power and remain safe. What do you think?"

Vickie scratched her head. Most of her equipment had been steadily going off line due to over consumption of the remaining resources. She reached over and dialed the Chrono-Shields back to 20% ... the cockpit area suddenly began to get cold as the atmosphere leaked slightly on each shield recycle.

Vickie says, "I hope we're almost home. If not, we are going to be walking very soon. The cell's down to 2% and falling rapidly. I think cutting the shields back helped a little."

She waves her hand over several places on the virtual controls, The readings indicated a huge cavern at a 50 degree angle from their current location. Vickie could see the faint outline ... of an Oracle Orb Gate through the rock and debris.

She turns and continues, "We need to alter course slightly to 23.6 X by minus 50 Y. That should bring us out in the Gate Cavern."

She turns and beams a happy smile at Patty. John groans loudly, "Just what I need, frost bite mixed with radiation poisoning and skinned knees because we broke Battle Ant."

The 3 looked at each other for a second, then burst into laughter ... releasing the stress that had been building.

The Battle Ant got closer to the gate, and as it did, the gateway began to glow, and the closer they got, the brighter it glowed. Soon they were approaching a ring of light at the end of what was once an underground parking garage.

"I think the Oracle's welcoming us home," said Patricia.

Vickie turned off all non essential systems. Battle Ant perked up immediately and began to track gracefully into the Gate Cavern. The huge Oracle Orb stood on it pedestal and glowed very brightly.

It's voice permeated the trio's mind, "Welcome home Questers. You have done your jobs very well. You have reunited us with the Imerium and defeated the largest Watcher invasion in Nest's recorded history. As you know, it spans many hundreds of thousands of centuries."

There is a very bright explosion of light. A seeming liquid curtain of light descends over the Battle Ant and it's passengers. When their minds return to normal ... each is in the arms of a Nest Nana. They have been regressed and diapered. The trio are carried to a soft sitting place. A liquid light figure appears.

It speaks with the voice of the Oracle, "Well done Questers. The data you have returned with is the most valued we have ever acquired. IT tells the entire history and all of the technological advancements of a Civilization that vanished in the vastness of the Cosmos, centuries before Egypt was even a loose band of Nomadic Herdsmen."

"No more Imeriums?" asked Patricia in a tiny voice.

The figure replies, "we do not know, they vanished and we had not heard of them again ... until now. There may be other isolated outposts of Imerium technology, and perhaps some of their people survive here and there," the Oracle replied, "but their star-spanning empire is no more."

"But this crashed ship ... something terrible has just happened, something very strange. Readings are consistent with some sort of massive chronal wave drive, pushing the ship through space on the crest of waves of time and space, but there was some sort of horrible malfunction, and just at that moment it encountered interference from the Nest's dimensional shielding. I hope most of the energy was harmlessly dissipated into space, or into the space of other dimensions, but I fear that some of the crash's devastation struck the earth near the Gate you entered."

"We go find out?" asked John.

"When you are ready," the Oracle's calm voice answered. “And, after Battle Ant has been repaired and recharged. We have to upgrade its power systems too so that we do not have a repeat of today.

Vickie discovers she is suddenly in the arms of her personal Nana. There is a bottle of warm, very pleasantly tasting formula in her mouth. She is carried into the Nest and placed in a very comfortable crib of liquid light. She quickly drifts off ... with visions of sugar plumbs dancing in her head.

Patricia found herself drinking from a bottle of warm, nutritious formula as well, her Nana carrying her to the nursery and placing her in a cradle next to Vickie's, a cradle that conformed to her shape and surrounded her in warmth. It wasn't long before she drifted off to sleep, dreaming dreams of ancient times long forgotten by most of Earth.

John found himself whisked off to a crib on the other side of Vickie. He too had a warm bottle of nutritious and pleasant tasting formula in his mouth. As the cradle conformed to his body and rocked him to sleep, he suddenly realized something about the crashed ship. The marking of the rear stabilizer were from .... He drifts off into a world full of woods and beaches, unicorns, mermaids and really cute fairies and never completes the thought.

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~~ End - Pt3 ~~
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~~ Pt4 - Derelict ~~
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Title: Derelict

Characters:

Patty Santi 18yo : Played by: veryliljennie

Vickie Williams 18yo: Played by: Miki Yamuri


Scene: The Great Oracle Computer room

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Pattie and Vickie had been called to the great Oracle to tell of the new discoveries on their last outing. It was unusual for a fully armored Battle Ant to return to the nest with damage of that kind. All wanted to know of the Watcher invasion and the outcome. The Oracle wanted more data on the Imerium ... which had vanished without a trace for millennium.

Pattie and Vickie stood before the Great Oracle holding hands as Vickie whined to Patty worriedly. It was Highly unusual for a Quester to give a personal debriefing to the Oracle.

"Bick-ee!" said Patty happily. The red-haired toddler girl was playing with a little blonde doll, changing its diapers and dressing it in a new outfit. She had adorably named it after her best friend, who was right next to her. The two girls were in what could only be described as a high-tech baby carriage, being pushed by a Nana, an artificially-intelligent being of liquid light that had been programmed to care for the children of the Nest. But today the Nana was taking them somewhere special.

Vickie giggled as the tingling sensation went through them that meant they were being brought through the dimensional shield that surrounded the Oracle's chamber. A door slid open, and the Nana pushed the carriage into a vast room full of glowing panels and conduits that all connected to what was shaped like a large crystalline brain under a dome, glowing gently with shifting patterns of light.

The two girls looked up at the imposing sight, but something seemed familiar about this to both of them, so they didn't cry. A deep but soothing voice came forth, seemingly from all directions, saying, "Welcome, girls. I know you don't understand yet, but I will now restore your synchording, and then you will."

The Nana produced two golden circlets and gently put them on the girls' heads, where they glowed for a moment as the lights in the room dimmed slightly. The two girls' eyes fluttered closed for a moment.

Vickie opens her eyes and looks around. She knows she is standing before the Oracle. She says in a cute 3yo voice, "Nana, why we here?" The Nana looks down and says in a soothing voice as she patted her on her hinny, "I'm sure I don't know sweet heart, but the Oracle will tell you.

Vickie and Patty look at each other for a second before the Voice of the Oracle is heard deep in their minds.

"I have brought you Questers before me to assign you a very important task. It is challenging beyond anything you have encountered before. Apparently, the ship you had encountered, is from ... Earth. It's engines are still operating, but are running wild. They are creating a chronal anomaly that is beginning to expand and interfere with our own Time Line."

Vickie shies closer to Patty as she instinctually hugs her. Vickie asks, "How we supposa fix it?"

The Oracle Replies softly, "You will need to be regrown. The closer you get to the Engine room of the ship, the more intense the chronal anomalies become. They are arriving in our continuum as bubbles that are huge and expanding. As they collide with our Time Line, it is creating a ... Time Quake of immense proportions. If this is allowed to continue unchecked, it will destroy the earth as we know it, and quite possibly all the universe.

"Um wait," said Patty, shaking her head in disorientation. "The ship is from ... Earth? But ... nothing from this most recent era could have built anything like what we saw."

"Please relax, Patricia," said the Oracle's voice. "I will explain. The ship is from the Earth of an alternate timeline, an alternate reality where Earth's history developed differently. Its engines seem to have malfunctioned, causing it to collide with this timeline and with this Earth. Fortunately most of the energy of impact seems to have dissipated into space or into other dimensions, or it is possible that our Earth may not have survived."

Patty took a deep breath, then, not concentrating quite so much as she spoke, she asked, "Whassa Time Quake? How come the ship makes 'em?"

"There are chaotic disruptions of space-time emanating from the remains of the ship's engines," said the Oracle's voice in the girls' minds. "They cause destruction as they spread outward. And they appear to be growing stronger and spreading farther. If the core of the engine is not shut down, it may explode and take Earth with it."

Vickie waves her hand in the air wildly for a few seconds before the Oracle had finished speaking. In a rather jovial tone, the Oracle responds, "Yes little one, there's no need to raise your hand, although a good little girl does that in class. Just say what you're going to say."

Vickie lowers her hand and asks, "How we sposedta shut it off? Can we? Is it likea ... light switch?? Jus waves hand over it??"

The Oracle's tone changes somber as it replies, "You and Patty will have to take out Battle Ant once again and travel to the crash site. You will have to determine how extensive the Chronal Displacement is and how large the anomaly has grown. Upon this determination. you and she will be required to shut off the Engine or destroy it totally at all costs."

Vickie's eyes get very large as she starts to suck her thumb. The Oracle continues, "It is currently unknown how the Engine operates or what condition the engine room is in at this time. You and Patty will have to decide the best course of action on site. Scanning is very difficult due to the disruptive waves, but the disruption is consistent with a damaged and unregulated chronal wave generator, which is the core of a space-time wave drive. Such waves are usually carefully controlled by a modulation device, but it must have been destroyed in the collision. You must reach the core and shut it down or destroy it. It is most likely located near the rear of the ship."

Patty realized her thumb was in her mouth, took it out, and asked, "Where are the doors to get in?"

"You've always been the direct one," said the Oracle. A holographic image of the ship appeared, lying within the rubble of a city. "From the data that you two and John brought back, it appears that the ship's stern is deeply buried and the prow is exposed, so your best chance would be to enter there, but the only data we have are visual, and no entrances are apparent. Scans remain inconclusive due to the disruptive chronal waves."

"Okay," said Patty, "we go there an' look for a fwont door." She nodded and put her thumb right back into her mouth.

Vickie looks at Patty and says with her thumb still in her mouth, Whassa funt dour gunna looth lith??"

The Oracle says with a real smile in it's voice, "You will have to figure that one out for yourself. Nana, you are tasked with regrowth to 18 years old. They are to be battle equipped and assigned Battle Ant 1. It is our most formidable mobile platform and has the most advanced AI, weaponry, and shields."

Nana bows gracefully and responds, "It will be as you request Oracle." She then picks the 2 girls up and places them back in the baby stroller. She quickly turns and pushes her charges off to the regeneration station.

The regeneration experience was one that Patricia could only remember ever having gone through once, because it was done only when the Oracle deemed it was truly necessary. Normally it was best to just let time take its course. But occasionally it was urgent that a Quester or sometimes another position in the Nest should be grown up quickly.

The Nana dressed both girls in loose-fitting robe like garments and placed them in seats in two of the many translucent-walled cylindrical chambers. As the Nana stood back and watched, the chamber doors rotated closed and a white mist like energy filled the cylinders. Patricia and Vickie experienced a dreamlike hazy mental state, and when the mist cleared, they found themselves in their 18-year-old bodies once again.

The cylinders rotated open and the two girls, now young women again, blinked their eyes and reoriented themselves. Vickie slips from the cylinder and stands on the cold floor. As a shiver runs through her, a beam of liquid coherent light appears and resolves into a Nana. She is holding a tight fitting excursion suit with boots. She helps Vickie out of the too small gown and into a pair of panties and the suit. She then turns and helps Pattie from her cylinder and helps her to dress.

Nana said in her cherry voice, "Now girls, follow Nana to the armory for further outfitting."

She turns gracefully and proceeds to the door. It opens with a soft swoosh. She escorts the girls to the Armory. At the Armory, A very solid looking wall dematerializes and their old friend, Battle Ant, walks into the center of the bay on its 6 articulated legs. It runs through a quick systems check. The girls stand and watch as it cycles through its arrays of formidable neutron and plasma weapons. They also notice a new set of weapons ... all based on the dark matter theorems they brought back from the Imerium outpost.

Vickie says to Pattie, "Whatcha think sis?? Where do we look for tha front door?"

Patricia adjusted her tool belt so it fit comfortably over her excursion uniform. "I'm just hoping that we'll be able to scan once we get the Battle Ant closer to the vessel, or that we'll be able to see an entrance visually." She paused. "I know all these weapons are necessary in case we run into Watchers or other hostiles, but we should be careful -- there may be survivors in the ship, and if there are, we should try to rescue them if possible. Of course, shutting down that engine core is still the highest priority -- rescuing them won't do any good if the core blows right after."

Battle Ant says in its neutral voice, "Systems check complete. All Systems operating at optimal."

Vickie says softly, "Do you think ... well run into any of those 'Time Quakes?"

Patty smiles and replies, "Let us hope we don't. A time quake operates outside the normal laws of physics and space-time. Things will change violently around us ... maybe even we no longer existing. Time itself is deformed and the things existing within it are no longer viable constructs, and are replaced by whatever the distorted wave carries."

Vickie slings her sensor over her shoulder and walks to Battle Ant, her utility belt jingling as she walked. Battle Ant lowered an antenna and lifted Vickie into its passenger compartment. Vickie strapped herself into the body conforming gravity couch.

Patricia took a step toward the Battle Ant vehicle, which anticipated her movements and deftly lifted her into place in the forward compartment where she fastened her safety restraints as well.

"Well, I guess the gate we came in by is probably the closest one to the crash site," said Patricia. "Let's get going, Battle Ant. The Circadian Gate."

"Destination: Circadian Gate," said the Battle Ant, moving quickly but smoothly with its six agile legs. It navigated the pathways of the Nest and soon brought them to a doorway that opened in the familiar three-segmented fashion to reveal the remains of a destroyed underground parking garage.

"Let's move upward slowly until we find a spot where we can observe the crashed ship," said Patricia. "How are the scans, Vickie?"

Vickie buries her head in the scanner hood as she plays the holo controls like a Maestro violinist. Her scans seemed to be displaying several different readings all at the same time. Try as she might, Vickie couldn't filter out the distortion.

Vickie replies in a confused voice, "Well ... it seems I am reading ... several different realities all at the same time. The closer we get to the craft, the more time seems to be ... running backward. I know that sounds silly ... but I don't have any other explanation."

She sits back from the hood and looks over the front of Battle Ant. All she can see with her naked eyes beside the massive destruction from the Apocalypse, was the damage caused by the crash.

"So the closer we get," said Patricia, "the worse the distortion gets. That means all we have to go by are our eyes."

She maneuvered the Battle Ant up a few stories, avoiding places where the floor had crumbled, until they were above ground and could see outside through a cracked concrete wall. There, looming above the remains of the city that had not been there before the crash, was the huge blue-white metal hull of a ship the likes of which neither of them had seen before ... Its markings were vaguely familiar to Pattie ... she couldn’t remember why. In very large black letters it read: "UNITED STATES AEROSPACE FORCE - 01ZZ0009 - WAYFARER"

"That's gotta be from an alternate timeline," Patricia said. "No way did the USA make anything like that where we came from."

Vickie had begun to scan the time bubble for there chronometric oscillation frequencies. She thought if she knew the energy signature, she could filter out most of it. What she discovered was a mess of discordant waves lashing out in all directions with unimaginable power.

Vickie says, "Patty sweetie ... I'm reading tremendously powerful interchronalphasic waves emanating from the ship with unimaginable power. I think ... I think it's going to explode soon." She transfers the sensor hood to Pattie's location, "Take a look and tell me what you think."

Pattie places her face into the hood and begins another intense scan. What she sees is massive time distortions tearing the fabric of their reality apart.

"What I think is, this is bad," said Patricia. "From what the Oracle taught us about these waves, if that engine core explodes, it's going to take a large chunk of the planet with it. But also ..." She paused and looked at Vickie. "The time distortion is so strong that there's no way to know when 'soon' is going to be. It might be in two years, or two seconds."

Battle Ant comes to a sudden stop. From the speed it was traveling when it stopped, cause the inertial dampers to complain. Pattie and Vickie could feel the wave of forward momentum pass through them. Battle Ant said in its neutral voice, "Detecting massive radiation distortions. Based on preliminary analysis, this type of distortion will rapidly degrade the photonic memory patterns imprinted in my processor."

"That's right," said Patricia to the Battle Ant. "It's warping space-time too much for your optical systems to compensate for. The light you're using to transfer and store information is going to shift out of the frequency range you can tolerate if we get much closer."

She looked at Vickie. She looked at the derelict, the Wayfarer, which was towering above them. "Maybe we'll have to walk from here."

Patricia and Vickie started gathering equipment into their backpacks and making sure their cold-weather gear was secure. Battle Ant lowered the two to the ground one by one with its antennae. Then, they made sure the vehicle's camouflage and defense systems were activated. Battle Ant's coloration shifted to match the gray and white patterns of snow-covered broken concrete. Unless you moved within 5 meters, the vehicle would be difficult to see, especially with the blowing snow.

Vickie unslung the Neutron cannon across her back and begins to check the contents of her utility belt and backpack. As an after thought, she also had packed enough rations for 7 days ... just in case. She lowers the visor on her helmet and turns on the scanner. All she can see is many high energy waves dancing colorfully in all directions and expanding rapidly. She could see the Wayfarer. It appeared distorted, like in the summer when a person looks at an object in the distance. She did notice a very dark gash in the fore section that was exposed. Try as she could, she couldn't clear up the distortion enough to clearly see the massive craft.

Vickie says, "We need to hurry. According to the sensors, reality has .. changed since we left Battle Ant." Vickie looks down at herself and raises her arms. Her suit that used to be body contour tight ... was now hanging loosely on her petit body.

Patricia tightened her tool belt by a notch and started moving toward the immense structure that was the Wayfarer, taking Vickie's hand. She had chosen simple lumaplastic goggles, just to keep out the wind and snow, because there was no guarantee that anything more intricate would continue to function as they got closer. She, too, could see a dark area in the vessel's prow that might indicate damage and thus a way in. "Let's head toward what looks like a breach in the hull, that way," she said, almost having to shout in the howling wind.

Vickie and Patricia made their way toward the dark irregularity in the vessel's otherwise smooth outer surface. As they drew nearer it became more apparent that there was in fact a large crack or tear in the metallic hull. Patricia half-shouted, "Judging from the ruins of that three-story building that's resting against the vessel, the breach occurred during impact! Look, the breach's shape matches the building's! Its shields must have failed by that point!"

By the time the girls had climbed the broken structure to the point they could enter the rent in the side of the vessel, Vickie had shrunk to the size of a 6 year old. All her equipment and clothes hung loosely on her frame, even though she had tightened everything to the last notch.

Vickie whines, "Pattie!!! I can't go on like this. All my equipment is so heavy. I'm having lots of trouble keeping my boots on my feet. Funny thing is ... everything seems to be coming apart too ... like ... it's disintegrating or something."

Vickie held out a sealed plastic container of Fruit salad. Pattie watched as it began to leak and sublimate away like a mist in the air. Vickie continues, "How are we gonna fix that engine an turn it off? We seem to be almost a half mile from it ... and I'm already almost too small to continue."

Patricia rolled up the cuffs of her pants again; her legs just kept getting shorter. "If we can find a way inside," she said, "the vessel's internal shielding might mitigate the effect somewhat, but I'm afraid it won't shield us completely. After all, if it was working perfectly, the ship wouldn't have crashed. And if there are any survivors, I'm sure they're affected by it too."

Sure enough, as they entered the sheltered area nestled between the two sides of the massive break in the ship's hull, Patricia found herself loosening her tool belt to the second-to-last notch and noticed that Vickie looked closer to 10 years old.

"I think things are a bit better for now," she said to Vickie. "Let's try to find a way inside, though."

Vickie breaths a sigh of relief as she bring a scanner padd from her tool belt. She walks to a panel set into the wall. She uses a screwdriver from her utility belt to remove the front plate of the panel from the wall. Inside, were many multi colored crystals amid strange sparkling circuits.

Vickie scans it for a few minutes and says, "I think if we swap the red crystal with the blue one ... " Vickie pulls the red crystal from its slot. There is a sound like a large electric motor coming to a rapid stop. The emergency lights over head blink several times. Vickie looks over her shoulder with apprehension as she pulls the blue one and places it in the red slot.

Nothing appeared to have happened. Vickie places the red crystal in the blue slot ... at that moment, a huge cracking sound and many sparks fly from the panel as the door opens amid a loud ear numbing squeal. Vickie falls over on her bottom hard. She sits with big eyes for a bit before clouding up and .. Waaahhhhh!!!

"Nnnh!" Patricia exclaimed, then removed her thumb from her mouth. She had actually partly removed her glove from her left hand and started sucking her thumb without realizing it. This seemed to be a habit she always re-developed whenever she was made physically younger ... and apparently it didn't have to be via the Nest's rejuvenation technology, either. "Oh! Vickie! You've got it open! But don't cry, let me help you up!" She helped Vickie to get up and brushed the snow and dust off her posterior.

"Let's get inside now and see if we can make it close," Patricia said to Vickie, who was still sniffling a bit. "Then let's see if you're hurt." She helped Vickie through the door, then reached around and quickly switched the crystals back to their original slots. With a grinding and scraping, the door slowly and jerkily closed.

When Pattie turned around, she saw Vickie sitting in the heap that all her way oversize apparel created. She was sniffing pitifully as she sucked her thumb, the last few tears trickled slowly down her cheek.

Vickie finally stood up and said in a cute voice, "Hummph ... baby faww down go boom .. no had any padding an it hurts." She pokes out her bottom lip as she rubs her bruised hinny.

She picks her padd up and walks to the next bulkhead. With difficulty, because of her diminutive size, she undoes the screws and removes the plate on it. The crystals in this panel were different than the other. All the crystals were exactly the same size and color ... crystal clear. From within each crystal was a soft electric blue glow. The circuits in this one sparkled in many different colors and patterns.

Vickie says softly, "I've never seen crystalline circuitry before. This panel is a lot different than the first. You think if I move the same 2 crystals we'll get the same reaction?"

"I think I trust your judgment before I'd trust my own in this case," said Patricia. "You figured out the last one."

Vickie pulls the 2 clear crystals that occupied the slots the other crystals occupied. The lights in the room went totally out as well as several panels along the far wall. A crack of light appeared between the 2 panels of the door. It had obviously unlocked, but nothing else happened. Vickie then plugs the 2 crystal into the other slot. A huge cracking noise and the panel went completely dark as well as the rest of the items in the room. The only light at this point, was the slit down the middle of the door.

Vickie says softly, "I think I ...broke it."

"I think," said Patricia, "that technically it was broken already. But ... I think you unlocked it. So ..." She took a metal tool from her belt, pushed it through the slit in the center of the door, and slid it upward and downward, forcing the door slightly more open.

"I think I can get my fingers into it now," she said. Putting her fingers through the crack, she pulled one side of the door further open, and Vickie, following her lead, pulled on the other side, until the door was almost fully open, light streaming in from the hallway outside.

"And who might YOU be?" said an unfamiliar voice, one that clearly belonged to a young man in some sort of dark blue uniform who stepped into the light, pointing a rifle-shaped weapon at the two girls. Another similarly-dressed teenager stood behind him with another weapon at the ready.

Vickie gasps loudly as her eyes gets big and her hand goes to her mouth in surprise. She screams loudly.

Patricia wanted to scream too but she just dropped the tools she had in her hands and raised them to show she had nothing -- if they got shot, the world could be doomed. She had been in far worse situations, but she was still shaking with surprise. "Uh I-I'm Patricia a-and this is Vickie -- w-who are you?"

"I'm the guy asking you questions," said the first uniformed young man. "I want to know where you came from -- scans have been showing no life outside for a long time -- and how you got in. But there's time for all these questions later. First, let's get you to someplace more comfortable. More comfortable for us, I mean." He motioned with his head for the two girls to come with him.

Vickie was having real trouble following. Her clothes were way too large and she had slung the utility belt over her shoulder. By now, it was getting to be real heavy. The 2 Young men escorted Vickie and Patricia up a long winding stair and forward to what appeared to be the command deck of the ship. When they entered, many people were running about doing odd assortment of tasks.

Every one had grown back to almost their normal age by the time all had been taken to the Captain’s chair. The young man looks at the girls with narrowed eyes and says softly, "And how, pray tell, did 2 cute girls like yourselves manage to get into my aircraft?"

Patricia had been paying close attention. The man in the captain's chair looked as if he was probably about 40. The older of the two who had captured them, appeared to be around 30 now and had the name tag "Wainwright" on his uniform, in recognizable English. The other, who had looked like a teenager earlier, now seemed to be in his early 20s. The captain, who had the name "Porter" on his uniform, looked suspicious and agitated. Still, coming up with some kind of plausible lie would probably not work, considering that they didn't know what kind of experiences these people had had since the crash. Best to get straight to the point, probably.

"As I told ... Commander? Wainwright, my name is Patricia, and this is Vickie. We have reason to believe that your drive system may soon overload, destroying this ship and a large chunk of the Earth. We'd like to help shut it down and repair it so that doesn't happen."

Captain Porter looks at the 2 girls and smirks, "Well, now, How can 2 pretty airheads like you ever hope to get near enough to shut it down? The main control circuits have been severed between here and Engineering. By the time our engineer got to the main bulkhead ... he had regressed past fecundation. Oh yes, and he was 60 years old."

The Captain looks hard at the girls. He says, "Wainwright, Take our little ... thieves to the buddic line 62 and throw them in. Lets see how well they survive rapid regression."

The girls are grabbed by the 2 other men and bodily taken from the Command deck rearward.

He wasn't even going to listen? "Wait!" Patricia shouted. "You don't even want to let us try?"

As Wainwright and the younger man shoved the two girls off the command deck, they heard Captain Porter respond, "It's been five years and we haven't figured out how to save ourselves -- what makes you think you could save us?" He laughed a sad laugh. "Anyway ... that's the only way to get to the aft section where the engine is -- you can try to fix it if you survive!"

The rest of the bridge crew laughed as they were shoved too far away to hear any more. It was the sort of laugh that you laugh when the only other thing to do is cry.

Patricia turned to Vickie. "I guess we're being taken to where we had to go anyway."

After a long walk, they came to a Hatch that had been painted with a dark red color. The word in black were simple: Danger, all who pass here become a pile of genetic material. There was a large cross bone and skull painted on the hatch.

The older man undoged the hatch as the other threw the girls in and closed the door behind them. As they felt their legs begin to wobble and every thing grow hugely around them, Vickie gurgles out, Tattie, I thinks .. we gonna be too young ta do enny thin." The over powering urge to suck her thumb got the better of her as she sat on her bare hinny on the floor and looked at the rapidly shrinking Patty.

Vickie looks wildly around for anything that might help under these conditions. Vickie knew very well .. that in a few short moments, the both of them would be too young to do anything ... even care for themselves.

Suddenly, Vickie realizes their personal Cloaking devise ... was a time cloak. They could probably get some protection from it. Vickie reaches over and activates Patties before she activates her own. It was a very near thing ... another nanosecond .. and they both would have been too young to understand how to activate them,

Patricia had been trying to regain her balance after being thrown through the portal, but the rapid shrinking of her body and the awkwardness of her clothing and equipment had kept her off-balance until Vickie had reached over and switched on her personal temporal cloak.

Suddenly Vickie found herself able to move again ... she looked as if she was probably about 12, but it was better than vanishing. Immediately she found Vickie's personal cloak and switched it on as well, and Vickie quickly returned from infancy to about age 12 as well.

"Wow, Vickie, that was close!" Patricia said. "I don't know how long the power cells in these things will last, though. Let's try to find our way to the engine."

After the girls quickly dress in their oversized suits, Vickie removes her Padd scanner from her fanny pouch and activates it. there is lots of temporal interference. She sees the large temporal splat on the scan.
“This has to be the engine.” Vickie says as she points, "This way Pattie. Hurry .. there seems to be a time flux building to a temporal explosion. We can't allow that to happen."

She takes Pattie by the hand and almost drags her deeper into the bowels of the ship.

The lights in the hallway were flickering as they stumbled down it. Patricia could see that the passage was completely dark far ahead. "The temporal distortion is worse up there ... maybe the lights are so old that they've worn out, or the frequencies are so dilated that they can't produce light or ..."

"Oh my doodness! Why for you way down here, you witto darlings?" said a happily modulated voice suddenly. A humanoid shape emerged from a doorway ahead of them, obviously a robot, as the iris of one of its eyes glowed with a bright green light. "We gotta get you back to the nursery where it's safe!"

Before the girls could react, it reached out and grabbed their wrists with a grip of steel, though its synthetic skin was soft.

"But -- but we --" Patricia began.

"Little ones should stay in the nursery," said the android in a singsong voice. "They might get hurt out here in the scary places. Much, much better for them to stay where it's safe." It continued talking like this and pulling the two protesting girls along until it reached what was obviously the main medical bay, which was about as far forward as the hallway where they had been deposited by Wainwright.

"We need to get back to the engines to fix --" Patricia began, then she saw the "nursery."

The door slid open. Inside, were many cribs and playpens. They were all decorated in many babyish colors and styles and looked for the world like converted egg crates on castor wheels.

Along a far wall, there were small tanks with many wires, tubes, and electronics wired to it. Inside the slowly bubbling tanks, were many fetus' in various stages of development.

Vickie gasps and says to Pattie, "Do you see those? they must be some unfortunates who are before birth."

Patricia's face was pale. "If something goes wrong ... that could be us."

They didn't have long to contemplate their possible fate, because three more medical androids came over to greet them. Speaking to the one that had brought them there, they spoke in turn.

"Oh my!"

"Where ever did you find them?"

"How are they so big?"

"We will need to synthesize larger diapers and clothing."

"Do we have large enough cribs?"

The one that had brought them explained, "I found them wandering the corridor to Engineering during my scavenging mission. I have no idea where they may have come from. Their scans do not match any known ship personnel."

"Uhhhh, we're from outside," said Patricia. "We've come to assist you. The engine core is going to fail catastrophically, and we have to get to it and shut it down ..."

"Here, I've reprogrammed the synthesizer and generated diapers and clothing for babies their size," said one of the androids. It was male in shape but, like the others, had one glowing green eye. It carried an armload of white cloth.

"Are you listening to a thing I'm saying?" Patricia asked, raising her voice. A number of childlike voices around the room began crying as the androids advanced on the two girls. Vickie manages to snatch her arm away from the android that was holding her. Because their clothes were so big on them, Vickie managed to grab Pattie and pull her loose from the grip.

She turns and says, "Run Pattie ... this way!"

The girls take off towards the port they had entered. From the side room cam a very cute little toddler girl waddling out, sucking her thumb. Without warning, the girl seemingly vanished and the diaper fell into a small puddle of wiggling goo. One of the Androids lets out a loud emergency squeal and hurries over to the diaper. she collects it up and hurries to one of the empty tanks along the wall. The girls watch as the android saves the genetic mass of the girl and keeps it viable and growing.

Patricia gasped and stopped running involuntarily. "Oh no ... the fluctuations are getting that bad ... poor girl ..."

Vickie turns and says with fear in her voice, "How are we to ever defeat ... that?"

Patricia turned to face the pursuing androids, only to find that they were right behind her. They were obviously fast, so fast that two 12-year-old girls could obviously not outrun them. But they were still medical androids ... Two of them quickly removed Patricia's clothes and made quick work of diapering her, pausing in confusion when they removed the tool belt holding the personal cloak and she began to shrink. Two others were similarly undressing Vickie at the same time, who tried futilely to grab the cloak device before it was taken. Their clothes were put in a bin, though it was nearby, not far from the floor, and not locked, babies their size could not retrieve them.

Her voice getting higher in pitch as she protested, Patricia cried, "Noooo you can't, we have to stop ... we hafta stoppit from blowin' up! Evwy buddy gonna get hurt! I no wanna die! ... Waaaaaahhhh!" She sobbed helplessly before putting her thumb in her mouth and continuing to sob quietly.

"I suppose their unusual size is no longer a problem," said a female android. "Their size decrease is not following the usual profile given their original apparent ages, however."

As Vickie's personal shield was taken from her, you could hear her voice change as she threw a huge fit, "Nooo .. u can't. We gosa fix tha ship thingy. We notta bee bee."

The Android turned Vickie onto her tummy and gave her some kind of injection. Vickie's eyes got huge as she settled down and began to suck her thumb happily.

The Android said, "Now, we won't be having any more problems with that one for a while. Put them both in the number 7 crib. We will feed the whole nursery in a few minutes."

The Android picked the girls up and quickly carried them to a crib and tucked them in. The android said to Pattie, "Now, if you're not a good little girl, Nusie will give you a mind regeneration shot and take all your memories form you like we did your friend" She pats Pattie and Vickie softly on their bottoms and lifts the rail .. locking them in.

Pattie is now alone with the gurgling Vickie who has become fascinated with her toes.

"Vickie?" Patricia said, gently prodding her. "Vickie?" she said, shaking Vickie a bit harder. "Oh no ...."

"You fwiend dunno what you sayin' no more," whispered a voice from the next crib.

"Huh?" Patricia whispered back. Vickie seemed to be trying to see how many toes she could put in her mouth.

"I ... me ... uh my name hard to member," whispered the toddler in the next crib. "Been in here long, long time. Dunno how long. They wanna take cara us, not hurt us, but somefin' wong wif the ship. Made time go all wacky."

"Tempwal wave dwive core is unwegulated," said Patricia quietly. "Sendin out time waves. Gots to turn it off."

"Donny," the other baby whispered.

“Stooze me?" Patricia asked.

"I membered my name. It Donny."

"Oh. I Patwish ... Patwi ... I Patty."

"You is new, Patty," Donny whispered. "Where come fwom?"

"Dis is Vickie," said Patricia, pointing to Vickie, who was sticking her legs up in the air and kicking her feet. "We beens sent to fix the ship before it goes boom n blows all up."

"You fwom outside?" Donny's whisper sounded amazed. "No buddy outside."

"We no can scan inside ship neither ... I fink the time waves makes scans no work good. We gots to get outta here," Patricia said, trying to get to the point.

Vickie rolls over onto her tummy and scoots up on her knees with her hinny high in the air. She begins to suck her thumb contentedly as she watched Patty.

"You no can go to engines," whispered Donny. "You get littler till you disappear. Turn to goo. They puts you inna freezer to potect you. Gets worser the closer you gets."

Patricia sighed and poked at her huge diaper. They had made this to fit 12-year-old Patricia, and now she looked like she was 2, so the diaper was enormous. "We gots to twy. Or we gonna all ... die. Boom."

Donny paused too. "You gots to wait till play time," he said. "They puts the ones of us that can play down onna play mat. You gets your stuff outta the bin they putted it in. I makes distwac ... um ... I gets the med bots attention. You wun away fast."

"Um, OK," whispered Patricia. "When is that?"

"Oughtta be after feedin' time," said Donny.

"Oh. That gonna be soon," whispered Patricia. Then she asked, "How they gets like dis?"

"Most bots gotted bwoked when ship falled down," Donny explained quietly. "Some fwom the cwash, but some just cause the funny time stuff messed em up inside."

Patricia nodded. "Time waves mess up 'lectwonic signals."

"Yeah ... that," said Donny. "But a lotta the med bots figured out how to ... fix them selfs. They use lotsa their bwains to deal wif the time waves. Only saved the med stuff they needed. But only med stuff they needed to knows was how to take cara babies."

"Babies was all there was," whispered Patricia.

"Yeah," Donny answered. "So now ... babies is all they knows. Babies an' ... littler." He looked at the bubbling tanks holding fetuses on life support.

Vickie suddenly giggles and says in a gurgling baby voice, "Patti?? U is Patti??" She wiggles around and sits on her hinny. She continues, "I ..fweel funny patti. No can thinks right. Gotsa gets outta tha crib n getsa sheild back .. an soon."

The Androids suddenly make the emergency squeal again as several toddlers suddenly became nothing more than a puddle of goo inside the clothes they were wearing. The androids rapidly gather all they could and placed them into cryostorage and froze it. This insured the genetic material remained viable and could be regrown as soon as a womb crib became available.

Vickie watched all of this with huge fearful eyes. Her returning mind was incredulous at what she had just witnessed. She says softly, "Patti? Tha last baby was ... righ here." She point to within 1 foot of the side of the crib the 2 girls were in. It had been a very near miss.

Donnie says, "That happens lots to us babies ... I been thatta way coupla times cordin to tha androids."

Patricia had crawled over to hug Vickie. "I thot I had losted you Vickie ... we gotsta get outta here!"

Suddenly android arms were lifting Patricia, Vickie, Donny and other toddlers up out of their cribs and carrying them to another area, where there were high chairs, which looked basic but functional. The androids securely fastened the babies into the chairs with seat belts, then attached the trays in front of them, making it unlikely for the babies to escape. Then, putting bibs around each baby's neck, they started feeding them.

Whether the food would taste good wasn't Patricia's main concern, so she accepted it without protest. It was bland but not awful. She didn't doubt that it was very nutritious. The androids were programmed to keep their charges as healthy as possible.

Vickie and Patricia were both keeping one eye on the storage bin containing their clothes ... and their temporal cloaking devices.

As the android was poking a spoon into Vickie's mouth, she spit it out onto the tray and made an awful face. She says in a cute baby voice, "That green stuffies is awwful. Taste likes ... yukkies."

All the rest of the babies began to giggle and spit the green stuff all over. The androids appeared to be at a loss as to the proper way to handle this new occurrence.

Vickie said softly, "Pattie, thinks I gotsa way ta scapes. Is we cause sompin baby they no see befor ... it confoosems."

"Uh huhs," whispered Patricia, "but not wight now ... we still stuck inna chairs. Gots to wait till we put on floor to play. Donny gonna help."

The androids finally stopped the food fight by eliminating the ammunition -- either by feeding it to the babies or by getting it on the babies and their bibs and cleaning it off. Then, as Donny had said, it was playtime. The babies were put in a penned-in area with a padded waterproof floor.

"These toys is not much fun," Patricia said, as she played with some stacking plastic blocks that had probably been used for storage at one time. Vickie seemed to agree -- her mind had been coming back, but she was still not fully herself yet.

Donny crawled by, and they could see him clearly now. He was a blond boy and was wearing a pale blue jumpsuit. "Is you weady?" he asked in a whisper.

Patricia nodded. The bin containing their clothes and tools was within reach of the play area.

"OK," said Donny. "I heared what Vickie said bfore. Do somefin they no see bfore. I been loosenin alla brakes on alla cribs n everyfing that gots wheels."

Vickie manages to pull herself to an upright standing position. Her legs felt so strange beneath her. She looks down at her wobbling legs as she held onto Pattie.

Vickie says softly, "I think I can climb tha baby fence Patty. My legs are stilla bit wobbly, but they improves." Vickie looks at Pattie with fear in her eyes then continues, "If one of those stray time anomalies hits us, I would shudder to think what might be the result." Vickie glances at the many womb cribs all along the far wall.

Donny looked around at all the toddlers and babies in the play area. Some of them looked back at him. He nodded his head, and they all crawled or toddled over to the opposite side of the play area, toward the cribs they had recently been confined in, which were arranged in a neat row. They helped each other over the side and went over to the cribs -- and they all started pushing.

"Now's our chance, Vickie," said Patricia, getting ready to help Vickie climb over their side of the play area. "Only one of us has to get the cloak thingies. You can turns yours on an' give me the other one."

Just as Vickie and Patty toddled over to the baby fence separating them from the bins with their prize in it, all the cribs began to roll in all directions at the same time. Many of the babies begin to scream loudly as others throw things and act like they are having a temper tantrum. The Nurses are suddenly confronted with several urgent care agendas ... but no data on which to handle first, or in what manner to handle it.

They Suddenly come to a momentary stop as the AI's confer on the strategy. Pandemonium rules as Vickie drops onto the other side of the fence on her bottom. Pattie Climbs over and plops beside her.

Vickie says softly, "I almost gots one ... bea second."

Vickie slowly creeps up the front of the bin until her small hand manages to grab the drawer ... Vickie and the drawer tumble to the floor ... adding to the massive confusion in the nursery.

Patricia scrabbled through the clothes and equipment that had fallen out of the drawer, coming across Vickie's scanner pad. It was flashing a warning. "Huh?" She focused on the screen. "Oh no ... Vickie! Anomaly! Wight here --"

Both girls suddenly felt as if they and the world around them had frozen in time. Even if they could have moved, they would have been petrified with fear. They had seen toddlers reduced to a few drops of genetic material by this. The two of them felt the world around them getting larger and saw each other turning into smaller and smaller babies ...

Suddenly, Patricia was over five feet tall with slightly graying hair, and Vickie looked like her 20-year-old grad student self, the age at which she had found the Nest. Neither one had any clothes other than a diaper, of course, but the important thing was ... "We survived!" they said to each other.

"It sent us back along our personal timeline!" said Patricia. "To before we were rejuvenated."

Vickie straps her personal Chrono-Shield to her arm and frantically punches the keys on her padd. To her horror, she could see many large and growing time anomalies scattered randomly around in every direction.

Vickie says with fear obvious in her voice, "Patty, we need to go ... and do it now!" She takes Patty by her arm and begins to basically drag her towards the far bulkhead. Behind the girls, a large time anomaly came to rest. Every thing behind them changed with rapid violence as the time wave took everything a thousand years into the future for a few seconds, before its energies dissipated. What was left behind, looked like something from a long forgotten Tomb.

Vickie and Patty arrived at the portal and managed to get through it, before a Nurse managed to hit the lockdown button. Patty had just cleared the door when it slammed shut with a loud metallic noise. Locks could be heard engaging.

Vickie said with relief in her voice, "That was close. We need to hurry, according to these readings, the time anomaly is about to reach critical mass and collide with the current one. We don’t want to be in this reality when that happens."

Patricia nodded and activated her chronal shield. She suddenly went back through the changes she'd recently undergone -- rapidly becoming a baby, a child, and then looking as if she were about 12 again. Vickie did the same. The two of them quickly grabbed as many of their clothes they could find that wouldn't be too large and slow them down, and as much of their equipment as they could carry. Then they headed down an emergency stairway back to the Engineering corridor.

"I wanna find out what that med bot was down here scavenging," Patricia said as they reached the spot where they had been discovered earlier. She opened the door to the room that it had come out of and looked inside. "Well, look at that! All kinds of stuff."

Inside were bins of electronic components, rolls of cable, stacks of circuit boards, and all sorts of parts that robots would need to repair themselves. "We could use some of this."

Vickie walks into the room with her mouth open. Under any other circumstances, this would be a play ground for her. She quickly looks over the components available to her. She discovered several Chrono disrupter wands lying on the table. In her mind, she formulates a devise that might allow them to reach the engine room, with out becoming genetic samples.

She says, "Patty, several of these wands, coupled with these emitter nodes, might create a boost to our shields that would allow us to reach the engine room. What you think?" She turns and shows Patty the devises and how she would attach them to their personal shields.

"I think that's brilliant!" Patricia said. "Let's do it. We have to get there." She pinched her lower lip with her fingers. What they would do when they got there was another matter.

The two of them quickly tied the bronze-colored disrupter wands into bundles and attached translucent emitter nodes to the end of each bundle, then coupled the makeshift devices to their chrono-shields' power inputs. Patricia took some extra power packs, too -- they might not last long, but every minute counted.

The chrono-shields hummed with life as the two made their way down the corridor, Vickie keeping her eyes on her scanner pad. Patricia said, "I think you've boosted the shields' energy so much that they're actually performing their original function for now. I don't think scans will pick us up. I doubt we'll be stopped by any more robots, either. That was a good idea, Vickie! Once you explained what you had in mind, I saw what you meant, but I would never have thought of doing that."

They moved onward into areas where the lighting had failed, so they turned on handheld lights. Just a few feet outside the chrono-shields, the light from them was blue-shifted into darkness. They came to the main engine room, whose door was broken off its hinges, probably by the crash, and entered.

Inside was a disaster of epic proportions. The vast curved waveguides swept around the tall crystalline wave generator and were supposed to lead the energy toward the control surfaces further aft. The beautiful golden waveguides were crushed and twisted, exposing the crystal cylinder that was the wave generator, which glowed with an eerie greenish white, interrupted frequently by different-sized flashes of other colors that rushed off in random directions.

Chunks of golden metal, debris from the waveguides, sometimes caught the surges of energy, which played around their edges like flames and split into smaller flame like blue motes, dancing as wild things throughout every nook and cranny of the massive engine compartment.

Vickie's padd suddenly begins to smoke. She throws it to the floor just as it explodes in a shower of multi-colored sparks. Vickie had suddenly shrunk to the size of a 3 year old as a wildly deflected Chronobubble passed on its way to the forward compartments. As Vickie returned to normal, She saw Patty become a 2 year old for a minute before the bubble passed and she returned to normal.

Vickie went to the first panel she came to. There had been massive damage to the control circuits. The Panel showed in reds all the damaged components. Vickie says, "Patty, if these reading can be trusted under these circumstances, it appears the Chronal Governors have been destroyed allowing a runaway feed back loop within the reaction vessels. When the wave guides were damaged, it left no where for the energies to go. The Engine is on wide open and pumping more energy into the reaction vessels each minute."

"We have to cut power to the wave generator!" said Patricia, her voice difficult to hear due to the noise and distorted by the space-time waves that were coursing through the room. "Without a source of power it can't keep running!"

She looked at the generator, or what remained of it. "There!" She tried to run toward what looked like large power conduits feeding into the generator, but had to dodge and change direction several times in order to avoid floating motes of ... she wasn't sure what, but she didn't want to find out what happened if she let one touch her. They were glowing bright blue motes of energy. They might even be ... she couldn't think what they reminded her of.

Vickie started to follow Pattie towards the conduit until her eye was caught by a large sparkling port in the side of a large cylinder that was connected to the damaged wave guides. She walk to the port and looks in. What she sees and a manmade singularity creating an open door way to the Omniverse. From all directions, powerful choronal tornaidic time waves spiraled rapidly into the doorway sending massive amounts of matter which was instantly converted into energy at the event horizon. The accretion disk was expanding exponentially and shedding the time bubbles. If this reaction was allowed to continue much longer, Space-Time as they knew it would cease to exist in its current form.

Vickie says with fear in her voice, "Pattie, the problem's getting much worse every second. You should ... see this. It's horrid."

Vickie adds another power pack to the chrono wands. The displacement field normalizes, but is still highly unstable due to all the massive amounts of free chronal energy bouncing off of every nook and cranny.

Patricia was having a hard time getting closer to the power conduits while avoiding the possibly damaging energy motes, which still seemed disturbingly familiar to her. She came to look at what Vickie was watching. She could see the fear on Vickie's face. Then ... she looked at the singularity and blanched with horror.

"Vickie, that's ... no. They can't. Can't do that. That's not. No. It's bad. Bad!" She didn't know what made her so afraid of what she was seeing, but it was something she had seen before, even though she couldn't remember when. If she had been thinking rationally, she would have thought that the Oracle always restored perfect copies of memory to its people after the rejuvenation treatments, so how could she have a vague memory? But she was instead focusing on getting away from the Bad Thing as quickly as possible.

Accidentally ... Pattie backed into one of the floating blue energy motes, which struck the power pack on her displacement field. There was a crackling of unstable energy around her as the field weakened, and Patricia started to shrink, growing younger, faster and faster, until she was a baby, an infant, a newborn, and then ... she was older again, her body's personal timeline had unraveled past her most recent rejuvenation treatment at the Nest. But the process repeated itself: she grew younger, down through infancy, and back to older again. Seven times this repeated before it slowed down. Patricia was sobbing, confused and unable to think what to do.

Finally, her body seeming to have stopped at a pre-teen physical age. The ageing cycle stopped, but the force field around her, normally invisible, was crackling with static and fading in intensity.

Vickie stands horror struck. Her eyes huge as she watches Pattie go through 7 physical age regressions and restorations. Only thing on Vickie's mind ... is how much it must hurt. She rushes over to Pattie, enveloping her in the time displacement bubble surrounding her. There is a massive sparking shower of energies as the 2 bubbles meet. Half the power in the wand's pack vanished suddenly. Vickie takes a fresh pack out of her utility belt and hands it to Pattie.

Vickie says worriedly, "Quick, use this before the other pack is completely empty."

There is an ominous rumbling as every thing trembles around them. The girls can see the very fabric of time starting to come apart as all the matter around them begins to become transparent. The Accretion disk can be seen plainly in the port now as it gains energy and annular motion.

Patricia looked at the power pack in her hand through the tears in her eyes and realized its importance. She ejected the damaged power pack from her displacement cloak and snapped the new one into place. Immediately the static vanished and her field went transparent again, back to full strength for now.

"Vickie, you saved me!" she said, catching her breath. At least the displacement fields kept the air breathable inside them. "But look -- look at the blue flecks of energy. Then look at the edges of that singularity." Both of them looked. There was a tinge of the same bluish radiation emanating from the circular border around the vortex. "I think that each one of these things is ready to burst open into another singularity just like that one. We don't have much time ..."

Patricia looked into the singularity again and saw ... nothing, a color that was not a color, a portal into the space between spaces. The Doorway to ... the Omniverse ... And ... it was familiar and terrifying.

"No," Patricia started again. "I remember, but I don't. I don't want. Don't want to. Because I. I was the one. I was the one who opened it. So long ago. Caused it all. It's why I quit. Why? Why am I still alive? This ship ... I know now why." Patricia was making no sense anymore.

Vickie stared at her friend. She hoped upon hope that the many Chronal regressions/restorations didn't damage her mind. Vickie had never seen Pattie loose it this badly before. She took Pattie by her arms and moved her from the path of another large blue energy mote.

Vickie says in a very fearful voice, "Pattie?? Are you ok? Can you understand me?" She takes Pattie's chin in her hands and looks into the fearful depths of her eyes. Vickie knew .... Pattie was scared to death about something ... something that seemed to be happening right here.

Vickie looks down at her utility belt ... she has a chronal displacement meter and particle wave analyzer. She looks at the huge power conduit leading into the Chronal Conversion Chamber. Vickie says out loud more to herself than anyone else, "I wonder what would happen if I channeled one of those blue thingys into the power conduit? Hummm ... the reaction should at least demodulate the atomic make up of the channel."

Meanwhile, Patricia continued to mutter, "It was how they found us. I was so sure that I knew how to save us, how to escape. I opened the vortex, and it was like a beacon for their explorers. They came, they attacked, we fought them off and closed the portal, but they just made their own and found us again. It was my fault. It's why I became a Quester instead of a Developer. High-risk job. Didn't think I'd survive. Didn't want to live with it. Why didn't I remember? The Oracle. Must have blocked the memories. For my own good. But now they're doing the same thing. That's not the right way. They'll find it. The Watchers will find them. Can't allow that."

Suddenly a few of the blue energy motes in the air around them began to crackle and flicker, startling Patricia out of her reverie. "No! More will open! And outside the containment field!"

Patricia finally saw what Vickie was doing and her eyes widened again, this time with hope. "Vickie! You're brilliant! Using the energy against itself! It's perfect!"

Taking one of the spools of superconducting cable they'd brought from the supply room, she said, "Here! Hook this up to the inputs of your analyzer and try to draw some energy from one of the proto-singularities. I'll try to synchronize the energy to interfere negatively with the feed to the wave generator."

Vickie immediately begins to disassemble her Particle Analyzer. She quickly attaches the super conducting cable to the cathode and anode circuits. She picks up the large coil and hands the other ends to Pattie along with the Time displacement rod she had. Vickie says softly, "Pattie, I want you to know I love you a whole lot ... just in case." She blushes really pink and she softly touches Pattie’s hands.

Vickie then squats down and turns the devise on. Vickie continues in a professional voice, "Let me know when to reverse the field. It may be kinda violent ... so duck."

All around the analyzer, the motes began to gather ... and some were even converging and becoming more volatile as their energy increased catastrophically. Patricia attached the cables to the ones in the conduits and was carefully adjusting the input parameters, watching the results with her analyzer. "Carefully ... carefully ..."

Suddenly the energy level flat lined. "Yes! It's bypassing the wave generator!" Pattie looked up at the broken generator. "No more energy for you!" And indeed, the temporal waves cascading through the air began to subside.

“Look, it's still powering the containment field on that ... thing," Pattie said, looking at the cylinder with the singularity in it.”

As Patricia climbed up a ladder to completely switch off the wave generator, she heard Vickie gasp. Vickie frantically adjusted the energy signatures to keep a major surge from hitting the Chamber with the vortex. The only frequency she could find ... was the one emanating for the very heart of the vortex itself. Many small red orbs could be seen moving through the vortex, closer to the current Temporal Norm.

Frantically, Vickie types in her commands and made adjustments. Suddenly ... the devise locked on to the signal as it had become strong and steady. She pushed the discharge button ...

It seems like all time and space stopped for an instant. Massive amounts of Universally potent energies discharged into the very heart of the vortex. The girls felt more than heard the soul wrenching screams ... as the Watcher dimension received all the energy at once.

A massively large explosion occurs within the containment cylinder ... massive sparks and debris begin to fly in all directions riding an infinitely large Time Quake ... to suddenly stop, suspended in time. Then instantly sucked back into the vortex, sealing the rift and effectively closing the door to the Omniverse once again.

Patricia had been shielding her face with her arm, but lowered it now. "Were those ..." she asked Vickie, who nodded up at her. "Already coming to check out this latest beacon in the dark, huh?"

Pattie made sure the wave generator was truly deactivated, then climbed down the ladder. Her body looked as if it had returned to the age it had been when they had left the Nest.

"Did they all die, do you think?" asked Vickie.

"I don't think they all died," Patricia said, thinking, "but all the ones who were heading here to check things out certainly did. I'm betting that any Watcher Portal devices that were tuned to this dimension are now a bunch of scattered particles."

Vickie giggles as she says, "Good, serves em right."

Patricia looked at Vickie, then reached out and held her hands. "Vickie ... after what I remembered today ... I would have been ready to blow myself up with this ship if it would have saved our world ... except that you were here too. And ... that wouldn't have fixed anything, not really. The Watchers still would have come back."

Vickie looks at the destroyed containment cylinder and asks, "Do you think we will see them again?"

Patricia replies, "I don't know. They certainly don't have any devices locked onto this dimension, because anything that was locked on is now, well, quarks and leptons. They will have to rediscover us from scratch. As infinitely large as the Omniverse is, random searches will take almost forever ... that doesn't mean they're not out there plundering other dimensions for their energy. Someday, they'll find us again. Maybe we'll have to take the fight to them before that happens."

Vickie hugs Pattie tight as she says softly, "As long as I'm with you ... I'll go on a vacation to their dimension ... just to get rid of them."

Hugging Vickie, Patricia began to think about what might be her new lease on life. "Well, that's for the Oracle to cogitate on. Maybe we should check and see how the ship's crew is doing."

They made their way back to the sickbay-turned-nursery, which now had medbots taking care of adults -- except the medbots had still deleted all programming except for how to take care of babies, so the crew in the nursery was still being diapered and fed bottles and dressed in amusingly adorable baby clothing. But they were used to it and took it rather well, until they managed to shut down the medbots for reprogramming.

Emerging from the hatch into the forward part of the ship, Patricia and Vickie once again found themselves staring down the barrels of weapons. "Stop right there," said a familiar voice, though it sounded a bit older than they remembered.

"We just fixed your ship. It won't blow up now. You're welcome," said Patricia.

"I'm supposed to just believe you?" Wainwright said, arching an eyebrow. "To the bridge. The captain's going to want a word with you two, I think."

A covert glimpse at the data pads on their belts reassured both Vickie and Patricia that communications had been restored. Once they reached the bridge, they saw Captain Porter again, looking much more distinguished and experienced, probably in his fifties, with touches of gray at his temples.

"You're not gonna believe this, Sir," said Wainwright, "but they actually made it back."

"So," said the captain, "you managed to make it to the engine room and shut down the wave generator."

"Yes, we did," said Vickie, "We also closed that singularity for you before it attracted some hostile aliens from another dimension."

"You _closed_ our singularity?" the captain shouted, standing up. "How do we get home now? I have to consider that an act of hostility!"

"How about a few hundred million negative energy beings sucking the life out of everyone on this ship because your vortex drew them here like a beacon?" asked Patricia. "Would you call _that_ an act of hostility? Come on, Vickie, we're leaving." As she flipped the emergency beacon to Battle Ant.

"Wait a minute!" Captain Porter shouted. "You can't just --"

The two women turned to leave. Wainwright and the other security guard fired their weapons ... the beams were absorbed by a force field that had suddenly appeared surrounding Vickie and Patricia. Then a circular patch of a nearby bulkhead started to glow, then collapsed to dust. Through the hole, and through several similar holes in a straight line ahead and downward, they saw the Battle Ant, which had apparently just provided them with a pathway out, although in a rather destructive way.

"Threat detected," said the Battle Ant's calm voice. "Threat neutralization and personnel extraction protocols initiated."

Vickie yells, "NO! Don't hurt anyone Battle Ant. Just provide a safe corridor for the 2 of use to leave this ... derelict piece of junk."

Battle Ant's neutral voice replies, "Affirmative. Chronal Forcefeild at full strength."

Vickie turns and wrinkles her nose in a cute manner as she sticks her tongue out at the Captain. Pattie giggles as the 2 women follow the corridor made by Battle Ant. There is a large amount of ray fire dissipating on the shields as they leave.

Vickie opens her padd. She tunes it carefully until she finds the Oracles frequency, "This is Quester Vicky Williams reporting mission accomplished. I think we also sealed the Watcher Dimension for a while in the process. This ship used a chronal drive that opened the doorway to the Omniverse."

The Calm Voice of the Oracle filled the ship as it responded to Vickie, "Well done Quester. The Time Quakes have ceased. Transdimensional singularity technology? I am surprised that their ship and their entire dimension was not already overrun with Watchers. In fact, if such devices are in operation in their home dimension already, I would be surprised if they have a home dimension to return to. Return to the Nest. Perhaps in time we can establish diplomatic relations with our new neighbors. But the fact remains that you have prevented the ship's malfunctioning engine from destroying this world."

Vickie and Pattie kiss as the crew stops shooting at them. The sound of the Oracle still reverberates in their minds as the girls climb into their gravity couches inside Battle Ant's Crew Compartment.

Vickie whispers softly, "I'm so proud of you Pattie. I'm glad we're now together as Questers. Do you think those survivors will be the ones to repopulate our world now that they are stranded here indefinitely?"

Battle Ant pivots rapidly ... and quickly begins the return trip to the gate .... and home.

"I'm sure they'll help," Patricia said. "I still hope there are survivors out there ... after all, John made it. I bet others did."

Vickie and Pattie snuggle close, kiss, and hold hands as Battle Ant rapidly carries them towards home. The girls are tired and can't wait for the loving embraces of Nana.

------------------------------
~~ The End? ~~
------------------------------
Miki Yamuri
 
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