Insurgent By: Miki Yamuri and Jennie Flint

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Insurgent By: Miki Yamuri and Jennie Flint

Postby Miki Yamuri » Sat Sep 11, 2021 8:38 pm


Insurgent


By: Miki Yamuri and Jennie Flint


In a dimension not very far from our own, a powerful being discovered a place she could build a garden paradise. The land was called Infantia, as all the inhabitants were granted a gift: they were to never grow up, but remain young for their full lives.

Many were Infants: their growth was stopped at the age of babies who couldn’t walk and could only crawl. There were also Toddlers, who could walk but still had the most adorable fall-down-go-boom moments.

There were also some older Toddlers in Potty Training, who were way too old for diapers, but way too young for panties. Also, of course, there were many special ones designated as Little Girls and Boys. They only had occasional accidents, and then only when it was extremely cute.

It was these Little Boys and Girls who cared for the younger ones. It was the greatest of honors to become a Little, and they were very revered. They carried on the basic commerce and usual routine things necessary for food production, housing, and other such things. The others were much too young for that sort of thing.

Of course, as with most Utopian societies, there were those Littles who sought something else. Completely by accident, they discovered the dreaded Adultgrunge Virus. Once infected, they began to grow and mature until they became part of what Infantia called the Adult Conspirators.

These individuals called their land Adultus, and themselves Adults. They constantly tried to spread their virus into Infantia, to force the Littles, Toddlers, and Infants to grow up. Littles always caught them, but constantly worried that the Adults would someday succeed, so they worked on a cure for the virus and a plan to stop the attacks once and for all.

This is where our report begins, on the night of the Infantian incursion into Adultus.

“That’s the border over there,” said Bobby, pointing out into the darkness. Somewhere down in that tree-filled valley was the imaginary line that separated the two nations. Infantian Littles patrolled their side, and Adultus patrols were known to pass by regularly on the other side. It was easy to tell which was which -- the Adults were quite a bit taller and had deeper voices, especially the boy ones, who called themselves “men.”
The girl ones were just a bit shorter and called themselves “women.”

But Bobby and Lyla would have to become a man and a woman in order to successfully infiltrate Adultia.

“These syringes contain the virus,” said Missy, the Little research scientist who had been assigned to the team. She would only be going as far as the border, though. “One for each of you. This is an altered version -- you’ll be infected, but you won’t be contagious. You can’t catch the real virus. And … we hope … this version is reversible.”

She held open a case containing the two syringes, cushioned in black foam. Each of the agents took one syringe. They both knew what to do.

The other two members of the team were dressed as an Infantian border patrol team. Once the virus took effect, they had to make it look good.

Lyla injected herself with the Virus. Immediately, her perceptions of the world and what was happening between the two nations changed. She knew now, why the Adults wanted the Infantian’s to grow up, although she also knew this was a horrible thing to force onto her people.

She removed the rapidly growing smaller onesie and diaper she had on, or was she actually getting bigger, and dressed in the border patrol uniforms of the Adultians. She looked around, Bobby had … changed. Lyla realized just how handsome and cute Bobby had seemed to become. She shook her head to clear it, but even the way she thought seemed to be changing somehow.

Lyla said softly, “Grab those stunners. We won’t use any lethal force on them. Lets see if we can get some of this re-organizer serum into their water supply at the base.”

Bobby picked up the nasty looking weapon, “I sure hope this can be reversed … if I stay this way too long, I might forget why I wanted to stop the virus in the first place.”

Both of them nodded, then started slowly walking towards the lights from the encampment off in the distance. Of course, now that they could see the lights, there was a possibility that others could see them, so it was time.

“Showtime,” said Candy, one of the Infantian border patrollers.

Bobby and Lyla nodded at the others, nodded at each other, and started to run noisily through the trees toward the border. After a few seconds, stunner shots started zinging through the air after them. Candy and Pip weren’t supposed to be really trying to hit them, but it was dark, and the trees blocked the view, so they might accidentally succeed -- it was a risk. Although, if it happened, it would only make them seem more authentic.

Bobby tripped over a branch, but his training had been extensive. He rolled, sprang to his feet again, and kept running, staying close to Lyla. Suddenly he felt a stinging burst of pins and needles in his right calf, as if he’d been sitting on his leg for half an hour. He couldn’t feel his foot. One of the stunner shots had gotten him. He’d be fine in a while, but now he could only limp along.

Without warning, about a dozen heavily armed men seemingly appeared from nowhere. They all had on very decent camouflage and looked more like wandering shrubs than people, adult or not.

One of them said in a gruff voice, “Stand down. They’re ours. It’s obvious.”

A female voice said softly as one of them approached Bobby, “Seems one of em got winged too.” As she bent down, she removed a first aid kit from her side pouch and gave Bobby an injection.

Feeling returned to his leg almost immediately, although it still ached. He was helped to his feet and both of them were escorted toward the lights. When they entered the glade, Lyla realized this had been a trap. All that was there was a string of glow globes in the trees. The glade was surrounded by heavily armed men and women in camo.

Lyla whispered to Bobby, I do so hope we can pull this off.”

Bobby replied back in a whisper, “If I can find a water storage facility or a distribution plant, we’ll see if this reversion formula was worth the risk.”

They were both escorted to a large treaded conveyance. The back panels slid open, and they were helped into the back along with a dozen of the Adults in camo.

A large man began removing the hood to his gillie suit as he said, “The OverCommander will want to hear your report immediately. We must know where to introduce the Virus with the most effect.”

The vehicle began to move rapidly. Bobby and Lyla looked at each other with trepidation. Neither had thought about giving them false info and capturing one of the Adults … to accomplish that, complete the current mission, and bring back a live subject would require finesse.
They didn’t dare speak to each other during the trip, so they sat in uneasy silence until Bobby decided that it would look unusual if he didn’t say anything.

He asked the man sitting next to him, “So … have you been stationed here long?”

“Nah,” he said. “I’m pretty new. I just completed training a month ago.” A month! That was like forever to Littles like Bobby and Lyla, and even longer to the younger ones.

“What about you? I guess there are a lot of border patrollers, but most of them spend most of their time out there.”

“Yeah,” said Bobby, “I’ve been patrolling this part of the border for … quite a while.”

This wasn’t a lie at all, although he’d been patrolling for the other side. In actuality it was kind of unclear to Bobby exactly how long he had been patrolling, and Bobby realized with surprise that he wasn’t sure quite how old he was. How long had he been alive?

He remembered times before Adultia had come into existence. How long ago had that happened?

He continued, “Lyla and I know it like the back of our hands.”

“Those damn babies don’t try to come across much, do they?” asked another man. “Never heard of any trying to invade.”

“Nah, we hardly ever see them try to cross,” said Lyla. “When they do, it’s usually an accident, nothing organized. A few warning shots and they scurry back to their side, probably with wet pants. And it’s not like they’re quiet.”

“So they’re like … regular kids, then,” said the first man. “They make lots of noise when they play.”

“Pretty much,” said Bobby. “They haven’t lost any of that youthful energy or enthusiasm, even though they stay young basically forever.”

“That’s so unnatural,” said a woman, with a shudder. Then the vehicle stopped.

“Must be there,” said Bobby.

There was a pause, and then the rear door opened. “OK, Unit 12, to the barracks,” said an officer. “You two, follow me to the OverCommander’s office,” he added, pointing to Lyla and Bobby.

“Thanks,” Bobby said, noting that the building they’d stopped by looked quite new. “We haven’t been here since they built this place.”

“Yeah, it only opened last month,” the officer said as they walked along. “It’s pretty nice. There’s suddenly lots of money behind the Initiative.”

The Initiative, eh? The Infantians had figured there was some kind of new plan or program. This was why they’d sent in Bobby and Lyla as border patrol -- that had always existed, as long as there’d been an Adultia.

The man escorted Lyla and Bobby down a long maze of hallways until they came to a large reinforced metal door. The Officer walked to a panel in the wall and placed his palm over it, then leaned over another device which appeared to scan his eyes. Loud, sliding, clanking, unlocking sounds were heard and felt all through them as the super thick door ponderously opened.

The officer showed the guard at the checkpoint his ID, then turned expectantly to Bobby and Lyla. After a moment of uneasy silence, the man said, “Oh, that’s right. You Borders don’t carry ID so it can’t be captured and copied.” He turned to the man at the desk and said, “I’ll take responsibility for them. They were just taken from border patrol directly here. The OverCommander ordered them to be brought to his office immediately for debriefing.”

The soldier nodded as he turned a book around and pointed to several lines, “Sign in, then you may pass.”

Bobby and Lyla felt immediate relief as they signed the log entry book with their prearranged full names and were escorted through many more labyrinths of halls to an elevator.

The Officer turned and said, “Hold onto the rails in there. That elevator sort of drops a mile or so into the ground before it begins to slow. It’s kind of scary the first few times.”

Bobby replied, “Thanks, we will.” as he and Lyla entered the car and the door slid shut.

True to the Officer’s words, the bottom just sort of fell out from under them and they hung mostly weightless. The only thing that kept them more or less on their feet was the guard rail around the interior, which they held onto for dear life.

They fell rapidly down for what seemed like forever before gravity slowly came back and the car came to a stop. The door slid open. Lyla and Bobbie’s eyes almost fell from their heads as they looked upon one of the largest underground bases they had ever dreamed about.

They looked at each other. Both of them knew that what Adultia was doing was much, much bigger than any of the Infantians had imagined.

A guard saw them step out, and before he could ask, Lyla said, “Border patrol, here to see the OverCommander.”

“Of course,” said the guard. “Right this way.” Leaving his partner at the elevator, he led the way between painted lines on the concrete floor. They walked among large machinery, connected overhead via cables, conduits, and pipes. Soon they came to a set of hallways containing offices, and the guard tapped at a door labeled, “H. Palmer -- OverCommander.”

“Come in,” said a voice. It was a woman’s voice. The guard opened the door.

Bobby and Lyla saw an immaculately organized office with an ultra modern desk, made of aluminum and transparent plastic. There was an advanced computer to one side of the desk, and gray ergonomic chairs both behind and facing the desk. There were closed cabinets along one side of the room. The other had various certificates and plaques. Behind the desk were a flag that they recognized as the flag of Adultia and a portrait of Adultia’s leader on the wall.

Sitting behind the desk was the OverCommander, a gray-haired woman in uniform, with lots of decorations and rank insignia. She stood and said, “Ah yes, the border patrol. Thank you, Jenkins.”

“Ma’am,” said the guard, closing the door and leaving them, returning to his post.

“Please, have a seat,” said OverCommander Palmer. When they did, she said, “Thank you for coming all the way down here. We’re just getting set up, and I couldn’t leave. But I have to know what you know about the border. I understand you tried to cross into Infantia.”

“Well, as you know, Ma’am, it’s our policy to test their awareness, to look for weak points,” Lyla said.

“Exactly, and that is what I need to know about,” said Palmer. “Nobody knows better than the Border Patrol how best to penetrate the border. But until now the Border Patrol has been a very loosely-organized, autonomous force. Things are changing, though. Now, I understand also that you were spotted. How far did you penetrate before this happened, and where exactly was it? Can you show me?” She tapped on her computer screen, and a large map of the area appeared on the surface of her transparent desk.

They looked at the map. “Yes,” said Bobby, pointing at a spot on the map, “we had made it to this point when they apparently noticed us, because they began firing stunners.”

“Before that, we had been traveling mostly due west approximately like this,” said Lyla, tracing a path with her finger. “We heard them in the distance but couldn’t be sure of their position. Sound echoes in the valley.”

“So you actually made it about 250 yards beyond the border,” said Palmer. “Well done. And when you escaped, did you reverse your path?”

“Almost,” Bobby said. “We jumped over this gully here, which we’d gone around on the way in to be stealthy. But there was no point in stealth anymore. We headed directly for the border. They pursued and kept firing, and I was hit, as I’m sure was in the report.”

“Yes,” Palmer said. “Interesting. Could you do it again? Perhaps leading a group of camouflaged troops?”

“I think so, Ma’am,” said Lyla. “I wouldn’t advise crossing in precisely the same spot.”

“Naturally,” said Palmer. “The goal, you see, is to capture some Infants for study.”

“Infants, Ma’am?” Bobby said carefully. “The smallest ones aren’t usually near the border.”

“Meaning, people of Infantia,” Palmer clarified. “Their age -- class -- caste -- whatever they call it, doesn’t matter. We need to find out what makes them … not age. Our doctors and scientists need to examine some of them to determine this.”

“I see,” said Lyla. “That’s not something we’ve tried to do before. But I can imagine ways to do it.”

“There’s the north canyon,” said Bobby.

“Also that ravine to the south,” Lyla said.

“Let me take notes,” said Palmer, and they talked about potential ambush spots. When they were done, she said, “Thank you both. It’s very good to talk to people with detailed knowledge of the terrain. Your orders are now to bunk here at the base until we’ve got the mission planned. I’ll send for you once we’re ready. I’ve just sent orders to assign you quarters. Dismissed.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” said Lyla.

“Good day, Ma’am,” Bobby said. They left the office, finding themselves standing in the hallway near the room with all the large equipment.

Bobby said, “I’m not exactly sure where we’re supposed to go as far as quarters are concerned.” he unzipped a slot in his uniform and removed a rolled up item. “If we look at this map,” he whispered, “this facility isn’t even shown. If we are lucky, the floor plan of this place is the same as their main headquarters.”

Lyla looked around, “I think this might be their main headquarters, just we didn’t know it before.”

Bobby nodded as they proceeded back to the elevator that brought them here. When they had entered and the door closed, they felt their weight begin to increase as the car raced ever faster upward. Seemingly forever, then there was a momentary feeling of weightlessness, and gravity returned to normal. The door opened with an airy whoosh.

There in front of them were glass sliding doors leading to the outside. Lyla and Bobby looked at each other for an instant as smiles crossed their faces. They exited the building and walked a short distance to benches beneath several large trees. They made sure no one was watching, then removed several vials from their boot tops and broke them open. After they poured the contents of the vials into the drinking fountain, they began to walk around and look for their quarters.

Lyla said softly, “We should start to hear results in a few hours.”

Bobby looked at Lyla for a minute, “Hear the results? I want to see some.”

She took Bobby by the hand and led him towards the sliding doors once again, “You will, I promise.”

Palmer leaned forward and pushed a button on her desk. She said authoritatively, “Activate the Aerosol Virus Dispersal Unit. Please inform all that it has been extensively tested and proven to be unable to affect any Adult in any way; it’s engineered to affect only Infants. That is all.”

Many machines with large wires, pipes, and other types of indescribable advanced items were turned on. The science team ran around like a cat in a dog show insuring the dispersal went according to plan.

In the wild, when two viruses infect the same cell, this is called coinfection, and if these two viruses are related, it can lead to reassortment, where the viruses exchange genetic information and produce a variety of new strains. It doesn’t always happen, and even when it does, most of these progeny aren’t viable, but occasionally one will survive and replicate, producing something new.

The Adults had introduced a virus into the environment based on the Adultgrunge Virus that had originally changed them into Adults, and Bobby and Lyla had introduced another variety also based on the same original virus.

Over the next few hours some people came to be infected by both, even though some of them didn’t notice one infection or the other, and that meant that millions of each person’s cells were coinfected. The two strains were related, so reassortment could occur. And it did. Most of the progeny didn’t survive, but the one that did was extremely virulent, among other interesting properties. It would change the world as both Adults and Infants alike knew it.

After asking around, Bobby and Lyla found the quarters that had been assigned to them. They had separate rooms, which they found odd, but then they remembered that “men” and “women” reportedly acted strangely around each other in ways that the boys and girls of Infantia never did. Lyla and Bobby didn’t intend to do any weird Adult things, but perhaps the Adults separated the men and women as a matter of course.

Bobby was in a barracks with a number of male Adult soldiers, although all of them were on a mission at the moment, so he had the bunk room to himself. He had picked up an Adult book that no one was reading and was looking at it, unable to understand the writing but finding the pictures very interesting. But then the door opened. Bobby put down the book and stood up. It might be an officer.

“Remember, complete bed rest,” said a voice. It turned out to be a medic, directing one of the soldiers to go to his bunk. “There’s no room in sickbay right now, so you can’t stay there, but we’ll come by and check on you every couple of hours. And if you’re not in your bunk, there’ll be hell to pay. Do you understand, soldier?”

“Yes, Doc,” the man said and tiredly shuffled to his bunk.

The medic looked at Bobby. “You’re on the other end of the room. I don’t want you going anywhere near him. We don’t need more troops coming down with the flu. If you must talk, do so from a distance. But he should be sleeping, not talking.”

“I understand,” said Bobby. He had no desire to catch the flu. It made for terribly messy diapers. But then he currently wasn’t wearing them. How did the flu work for Adults?

“OK Doc,” said the stricken soldier, taking off his shoes and uniform to lie down in his bunk across the room.

“And drink plenty of water,” the medic said before leaving.

“What happened?” asked Bobby once the medic had closed the door.

“Was about to go out on patrol with the squad,” said the soldier. “But suddenly I felt dizzy and couldn’t walk a straight line. Captain Bryce said to go to sickbay. Guess you know the rest. I’m Jonathan.”

“I’m Bobby. Look, you rest. Don’t let me keep you up.”

“Yeah …” Jonathan said with a yawn. “I’m just … gonna …” His voice trailed off as he fell quickly asleep.

Lyla sat on the bunk she had been assigned and looked around the barracks. She noted that a medic had brought several women in and basically ordered them to bed.

The doctor said sternly, “This seems like a flu virus, but from initial investigations we’re not quite sure what it is you caught. You say you took a drink from the cistern in the park?”

The young woman’s face was starting to change form somehow. Lyla smiled, the virus she and Bobby had placed in the drinking fountain seemed to be starting to work. Without warning, Lyla felt her skin begin to crawl as her clothes felt real loose on her body.

The doctor looked up from taking one of the bedridden women’s blood pressure and looked at Lyla with a big eyed expression of awe and surprise.

He said, “You … you’re … changing?”

He looked down at what he thought had been a young woman. He had Just taken her vitals. What appeared to be a young boy of about nine years old lay there instead. Right before the doctor’s eyes, several of the others began to grow rapidly older instead of younger as Lyla was doing.

“What’s going on here?” the doctor asked. One of the others didn’t seem to be changing at all. The doctor didn’t seem to be. Some others appeared to be getting gray hair.

“I dunno, Doctor, I think I’m gettin’ … younger …” Lyla said, her voice getting higher. At least she would be in familiar territory again. She didn’t seem to have those weird breast things on her chest anymore. It was a relief, really.

“I feel funny,” said the one who looked like a boy -- at least, he or she seemed to suddenly have shorter hair and thicker eyelashes. “I … what’s going on?”

“Ugh, I ache all over,” said one woman whose hair had gone gray. Her skin had gotten spots and her face had acquired a lot of wrinkles. “I think I’ll just lie down here, if that’s OK.”

“Yes, everybody just stay still,” said the doctor. “I have to get some data so I can run tests. Let me get your temperature and blood pressure.” He went to work taking measurements.

“Guess me Little again,” said Lyla. “Oops!” She hadn’t meant to say that. But nobody noticed. Then again, hadn’t all of the Adults been little at one time themselves? Maybe it didn’t sound unusual. She’d meant, though, that she looked as if she were about the size and age of one of the Littles of Infantia, just as she’d been before she and Bobby had been sent out on this mission. She wondered how Bobby was doing.

“Oops?” said one of the women who appeared not to have changed. “Are you all right, Sweetie? Did you have an accident?”

“Um no, my d- uh, panties is dwy,” said Lyla, “but me dunno how long …”

“Wahhhhh!” cried one of the others, who had also been growing smaller, and was now smaller than Lyla; her hair was very short and wispy, as if it had just grown in. She was basically swimming in her uniform and had made a large wet patch on it.

“Uhhh … uhh … me still gettin’ littler …” Lyla said. Wait, this was smaller than she used to be … her thoughts were getting a bit jumbled but she’d been a Little and now she thought she might be a Toddler. “Me na posedta be dis … witto … me scawed … wana see Bobby …”

Bobby was looking at the book again; it had a lot of pictures of different people, both men and women, most of them naked for some reason. They were doing strange things that Bobby didn’t understand. But then he heard a noise and looked up.

“Aaa!” said Jonathan, the other soldier in his barracks, across the room. But his voice was oddly high-pitched.

Jonathan threw his bedsheets aside and looked down at himself. Bobby looked over and saw that he seemed much smaller than he had been -- instead of over six feet tall he was now just under four and much skinnier. His hair seemed longer, but Bobby suspected that it was actually the same length and only looked longer because the rest of him was smaller.

“What’s happening?” Bobby asked. “You’re … younger, I think!”

“Yeah, I think so too!” said Jonathan, sounding panicked. “And … I think I’m a girl!”

He reached for his crotch, where he was wearing only a pair of now over-sized men’s briefs. His tank top was hanging loose down to his mid thighs. “What’s going on?”

“It’s … I don’t know!” said Bobby. He knew of viruses that could change one’s age, but he’d never heard of boys becoming girls or vice versa. And the viruses that he and Lyla had brought weren’t supposed to do anything like that. What’s more, whatever the airborne ones that the Adults had released into the air weren’t supposed to affect the Adults at all.

Bobby hoped he and Lyla wouldn’t be affected, but he hadn’t been changed so far. Had he? He looked at himself. He couldn’t see his face, but his body looked about the same. His arms, legs and chest still had black hair on them. He’d always thought that was weird and ugly; he wanted to go back to being a Little as soon as he could.

Suddenly everything got very big around him and his clothes started to drop off. “Hey!” he shouted. His voice was very high-pitched … although to Bobby that sounded normal. “What happened?”

“Oh no, now you’re turning into a baby!” said Jonathan. “They told us the virus wasn’t supposed to affect us! Were they wrong?” He didn’t seem to be getting any younger, at least; perhaps a pre-teen girl was where Jonathan was going to stop.

“I dunno,” Bobby said. “Where did the medic go? He said he would come by to check, but what time is it?”

Looking at the clock, Jonathan said, “She should have come by already -- something must have happened. If this is going on all over the base, she’s probably very busy. We better get help! But ... we don’t have clothes that’ll stay on us.”

“Yeah! That’s a problem,” said Bobby, trying to hold his underwear up, but it was not even close to small enough. “Also I gotta find Lyla! I hope she’s OK.”

“Maybe there’s clothes for women in some of these cabinets,” said Jonathan. “They’d at least have different sizes …” He opened some of the cabinets in the bunk room and rummaged through them. While he did that, Bobby’s gaze fell on the book. If he were the size of that woman there, he’d be much likely to find a uniform to fit him …

Suddenly the room changed size around him again. Bobby was the size of an Adult again, but this time things were different. He didn’t feel anything between his legs, and his center of mass felt weird, lower. His hair brushed his shoulders. He was … about the same size as the woman in the picture he’d just been looking at.

“Look, I think there are --” said Jonathan, having found some women’s uniforms and turned around to look at Bobby. “What? You changed … again?”

“I … guess?” Bobby said. “I don’t understand!” His voice was different again.

“Well at least you will fit in one of these!” said Jonathan. “Look, here are some different sized women’s uniforms. I’m gonna try to see if I can fit into the smallest size. You try some of these to figure out what will fit you.”

The smallest size was still a bit too big for Jonathan, but it was at least better than his men’s uniform was. After several attempts Bobby was able to find something to fit him. But … they both seemed to be women, or girls, now. Lyla wouldn’t recognize him now. And what if Lyla had changed too? Would Bobby recognize her?

OverCommander Palmer sat at her desk and smiled. She read the reports over. The viral dispersal operation had gone remarkably well. She thought those babies are going to give up the final thing to their immortality.

As Palmer contemplated where replacements for the infants came from, the periphery of her computer in her desk top began to flash the Code Red Cataclysm signal. In her entire life she didn’t ever remember that warning going off.

Palmer stood just as a young woman in a very over large and baggy uniform dashed in the office without knocking. The young woman gasped out breathlessly, “Ma’am, the virus has … mutated or something. People are changing all over the base. Some are growing older, some younger …” the young woman held out her arms and looked down, “and I … am a girl now.”

Palmer watched in wide eyed amazement as the young woman became even younger. When it finally appeared she wasn’t shrinking any longer, it seemed she was about 10 or 11 years of age.

Palmer said in totally astonished tones, “I … I’m … I was assured this virus wouldn’t affect anyone over puberty. Those hormones stopped the viral inclusion in our bodies from infecting us.”

It was then that Palmer noticed her skin began to feel funny as her uniform became several sizes too large.

Thinking quickly, she climbed onto her desk before it got too high up for her to reach. She pressed the emergency intercom button, and her voice went out to every speaker in the compound. “All officers who are able … report to the Strategy Room immediately! Repeat!” Her voice was getting smaller and smaller. “All officers who able … go to Stragety Room imm … uh … wight away!”

She looked down over the edge of the desk. It looked like a cliff. The floor was far below. “Um … Ma’am?” asked the guard, who was now much taller than Palmer, even though she was nowhere near as tall as she had been before. “Do you want me to … carry you to the Strategy Room?”

Palmer nodded. “Yes pwease,” she said.

Lyla heard a knock on the door followed by an unfamiliar woman’s voice asking, “Lyla? Are you there?”

She sat up but was unable to do much else. Her legs wouldn’t let her stand up, and besides, she was on a bed. The floor was far enough below that she didn’t think she could get back up if she fell off.

One of the others opened the door and admitted a dark-haired woman and a young girl of about age 9, both dressed in uniforms, although the younger girl’s was too big.

“Who are you?” asked the one who had answered the door.

“I’m Corporal Jonathan Harper,” said Jonathan, “though I know I don’t look it. And this is Bobby … um ... “

“Bobby Sawyer,” said Bobby. “There have been a few changes, though.”

“Oh. Here too. I’m Private Susan Cooper.” The woman who had answered the door now had gray hair and looked like she was over 60 years old.

“Bobby! Bobby!” said Lyla, bouncing up and down on the bed and waving her arms. “Me Wywa! Ova heah!”

“Lyla! Oh no! What happened?” Bobby rushed over to her. “I knew we should’ve gone right back to the woods.”

“Me go … aww baby,” Lyla said. “Gotsa be inna diapoh an’ stuff.”

“C’mon, Lyla, let’s get out of here,” said Bobby. He picked her up. “It’s not like we have to be in separate barracks anyway -- I guess we’re both girls now.”

Then the announcement came over the loudspeakers. “All officers who are able … report to the Strategy Room immediately …”

Some of the people in the room got up to leave. “Let’s go too,” said Bobby, and Lyla nodded.

He carried her out the door and outside, looking for a building that was empty. He tried the barracks where he and Jonathan had been, and it was still empty.

Entering and closing the door, Bobby said, “OK, so something went wrong with the virus … either ours, or theirs. Or both. I don’t know. But theirs traveled through the air, so that was probably it, I guess. It’s probably going to go through the air and might even affect Infantia! I don’t know what will happen. But they have to be warned if they haven’t already been affected.”

“Yeah, but … me baby! How me gets there? You cawwy me alla way? Is long way! An’ we gotted drived here inna bus thing! Does you know the way?”

Bobby sighed. “No. I guess we’d have to look at some maps. And I don’t know where they keep them. Not that they’d let us look at them anyway. And if we asked, it’d look suspicious. Unless we were like super high up, like that Palmer lady.” Suddenly Bobby’s uniform felt slightly different.

“Bobby! What happen? You look wike … her!” said Lyla with wide eyes.

“Huh?” Bobby asked. “I … what?” Bobby looked around and found a shaving mirror in a drawer. “What in the world?” He looked exactly like OverCommander Palmer.

Lyla giggled as she said in her baby voice, “You a Grup now.” As she said it, her voice changed suddenly as it deepened and became more masculine.

Bobby gasped as he said, “You …. You changed and look like the First Sergeant at the front desk.”

Bobby showed Lyla the mirror and she gazed at her new face. Her mouth fell open. She was a dead ringer for the First Sergeant.

Lyla said, “We have to sort what this is later, right now we have some form of cammo we can use to get ourselves where we want. We need to warn Nanaville that a new viral mutation is loose and its strange effects.”

Lyla led Bobby out the door and down the hall to the front desk. A young infant barely able to crawl lay in the pile of overly large uniform that used to be the First Sergeant.

Lyla looked at Bobby and smiled. They now had a means to warn Infantia … Lyla began to dress in the pile of clothing as she gave the now squalling infant to a passing individual with gray hair who claimed to be the base Medical Officer.

“The Motor Pool would have both maps and vehicles, I think,” said Bobby, so they headed there. The place was chaos too, with people of all ages wandering around in confusion or sitting still looking at themselves in mirrors.

Those who saw Bobby and Lyla noticed, though, and snapped to attention. “Carry on, we’re trying to get everything under control,” said Bobby, still looking like Palmer.

Entering the building, it didn’t take long before they found an office with maps and keys and other useful documents. Soon they were in a small four-wheeled vehicle that one might call a jeep.

“I guess the keys go … here?” said Lyla. “I think you turn it …” The engine came to life. “Then … uh …”

“You put it … in gear? What does that mean?” said Bobby, reading a manual he’d found in the office.

It took them awhile, but eventually they were moving forward. In the mirror, though, Lyla could see some people running towards them and pointing.

“Um … we should change to look like someone else, probably,” said Lyla. So she thought of the medic who had come to the women’s barracks, and Bobby thought about the guard he’d seen at the elevator, not the one who had escorted them to Palmer’s office but the other one.

“Wait! Ma’am!” they heard a voice coming from behind them. “We need to … oh. We thought OverCommander Palmer had gone this way.” There were three people in makeshift uniforms, all of them too young to be in the military at the present moment.

“Oh,” said Lyla. “I saw her going toward the command building a few minutes ago.”

“Oh, OK, thanks!” They went running off in the direction of that building.

Soon the jeep was moving again, and there was no one at the front gatehouse, so they were easily able to get moving down the road. But Bobby was trying to make head or tail of the map, while Lyla was trying to figure out how to make the jeep go faster than they could walk.

Neither of them were paying actual attention to the path they were on. The vehicle had gained enough momentum that it was traveling about 15 mph and crossed the border between Adultia and Infantia.

Without warning, two very large logs extended across the trail. It was a good thing they learned early on which of those funny pedals stopped the vehicle or they might have gotten seriously hurt on impact.

As soon as the vehicle had stopped, an armed squad of Little Border patrol came from the the bushes in very decent camo. They also carried nasty looking weapons.

The Squad Leader stepped forward and said in his cute voice, “Halt! You are hereby under arrest for trespassing on Infantia soil. Any resistance will be met with force.”

Bobby and Lyla quickly put their hands up. “Please! Stay away! We might be contagious! We’re here to warn you about a virus!”

“Virus?” said the squad leader. “Stay back! Everyone stay back!” he ordered the patrol squad. They ceased approaching but kept their weapons trained on Lyla and Bobby. “Now, explain,” the squad leader ordered. “But no sudden moves.”

Bobby and Lyla did their best to explain what had happened. “That’s quite a story,” the squad leader said when they were done, “but I’m not sure I believe you’re really them, and I’m not sure I can believe the rest of it. But still, you might be telling the truth, and we can’t risk everyone’s lives. You say you can change form. Show us your original forms. The Adults never saw those.”

Looking at each other, Lyla and Bobby shifted back into their original Little forms, although of course their clothes didn’t. Several of the patrol squad members gasped in surprise. Bobby and Lyla had to stand up on their seats so they could see out of the jeep, holding their uniform shirts around their necks.

“Get word to Missy,” said the squad leader. “Lyla and Bobby are back. They say the Adults are trying to spread an airborne virus, and it’s gone badly wrong.”

Bobby and Lyla were quarantined in a room in one of the patrol stations, and the other Littles had rigged a closed-circuit TV system to allow them to communicate without anyone having to breathe the same air. On their screen they saw Missy, the research scientist who had developed the virus that had allowed the two of them to masquerade as Adults.

“Well, I’m glad you’re back, and I’m glad you’re OK,” said Missy. “But this virus the Adults made -- you say it caused random changes in age and body shape?”

“It made people older, younger, or sometimes didn’t change age,” said Lyla. “Some men got turned into women. Some women got turned to men. Some people got fatter or skinnier, or shorter or taller.”

“Did you manage to get our virus into their water supply?” Missy asked.

“Yes,” Bobby said, “just before they released their airborne virus.”

Missy thought for a moment. “That’s interesting,” she said. “Is it possible that the random changes began with people who had both inhaled the airborne virus and drunk from the water supply? That would indicate possible viral reassortment through coinfection … creating a new airborne strain that is overpowering both existing strains.”

“I do remember hearing that one of them had drunk from the cistern,” Lyla said.

“But you two … you can decide what you look like,” said Missy. “The only explanation is our virus. That’s the only difference between you and everyone else there.”

“I guess,” said Bobby. “Do you think the new virus is coming here?”

“If any of the Adults come, the virus will come with them,” said Missy.

“Weport,” said OverCommander Palmer.

“Well, Ma’am,” said Colonel Chambers, who was a little boy of the age when they just started school in Adultia, “we’re currently shipping in clothing for a much wider variety of sizes -- uniforms will have to come later, as they have to be manufactured. Shipments of diapers, baby food and formula are on their way for personnel who now need them. The role call continues, trying to match personnel’s names with their new appearances, although some have become too young to properly respond, making this difficult. The virus, unfortunately, continues to spread throughout Adultia, the aerosol blowing in the wind. Infantia is a mystery; we have no intelligence to indicate whether the virus has reached there or not.”

“Can we fix it?” Palmer asked. “I no like bein’ a baby.”

“All the research people we have are working on it,” said Chambers, “but it’s too early to tell, they say.”

“Oh well,” Palmer said. “Guess we gotsa wait.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Chambers. “Now it’s time for your diaper change and nap. Nurse Wilson is here to take you back to the nursery with the other baby-aged staff.”

“Otay,” Palmer said and yawned. “Me seepy.”

In one of the small perimeter townships along the border of Adultia, an emergency radio broadcast began to be transmitted. No specifics as to what the disaster might have been, nor would anyone ever really know. The last signal received by both Adultian and Infantian radio operators stated plainly to stay away from the area before nothing but static was heard.

Without warning, a massive explosion that shook the whole of the planet was felt as windows shattered and less stable structures collapsed. Those Infantians closest to the border immediately reported that the main power production facility of the Adultians had just destroyed itself. A massive cloud of ash and debris blossomed many thousands of feet into the air, insuring the spread of the new virus even further and faster as it had now reached the high altitude Jet stream.

Panic ensued downwind of the disaster as all the population of a major Adultian city, Maturetown, transformed rapidly into … almost any age, gender, size, or shape imaginable. The impact of the detonation would soon be felt around the globe as strong high altitude winds carried the contamination far and wide.

Missy couldn’t believe what she found as she brought the recombinant samples to the Neutron Microscope and saw the genetic map of the viral contamination. None of the alkalization techniques had any effect since this virus had somehow managed to remove the failsafe gene and render it dormant. Nothing she tried revitalized it so she could create an antiviral vaccine to combat it.

Missy felt her skin begin to tingle as other parts of her body began to cramp. As she stumbled to the bathroom, she saw her reflection in the mirror as she entered. A quick check in her panties proved … she had contracted the viral infection, and had become a young boy of about 8.

Fortunately she had started a program of inoculating everyone with the virus they had given Bobby and Lyla, starting with herself. She imagined herself before the change -- about 4 years old, dark skin, braided black hair gathered into a ponytail … and she felt her skin tingle. She was back to her regular age, size, and sex. She even checked to confirm; she was a scientist, after all. Interesting. She would have to research the role of self-image on the neural pathways and how that influenced the multiply-reassorted virus’ behavior. But that would have to come later. For now, she had to work on the vaccine for the Alter Virus, as it had become known.

“Why are there all these Adults around again?” asked Bobby.

“They’re not really Adults,” said Lyla, driving their Infantian electric car through the colorful streets of Playton, made incongruous by the presence of many tall people walking around instead of Babies and Toddlers crawling. “They’re Babies, Toddlers, and Littles, but they’ve been given the same virus we got when we first went to Adultia, so we could pretend to be Adults.”

“Oh, because the airborne virus is coming,” Bobby said.

“Yeah,” said Lyla. “It means that when the Alter Virus comes, they’ll become like us -- able to pick their shape. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than getting turned into something random and getting stuck with it.”

“But … we’re out of the stuff,” said Bobby.

“Yeah, that’s the problem,” said Lyla. “We only had so much of that virus that you and I got. The lab’s making more, but it takes time. Playton has been protected, but we can only hope they can make enough to protect Infantown and Cribsville before the Alter Virus spreads to them, and then there are the outlying areas and their small towns and villages.”

“Unless Missy and her team can create a vaccine,” said Bobby.

“If they can,” said Lyla, “we can just vaccinate everyone, and the Alter Virus won’t affect anyone else.”

They exited the town and drove down the highway toward Infantown. “How far to the drop-off point?” Lyla asked.

“Should be about another 20 minutes,” said Bobby. “Then we pick up the package of supplies and bring it back.”

The biggest city in Infantia, Infantown, had the most resources but nobody wanted to risk contaminating it, so they were shipping parcels of supplies for the labs in Playton to drop-off points where Littles like Bobby and Lyla were picking them up. There were very few other cars on the highway -- the quarantine had everyone staying in their homes, nurseries, and daycare centers.

By the time Bobby and Lyla had arrived at the last drop off point, reports from Adultia weren’t looking good. It was a slight bit better in Infantia, but only in those places fortunate enough to have been infected by the Infant virus given to Bobby and Lyla first.

Lyla said worriedly to Bobby, “Are we going to be able to stop this before it infects our entire planet?”

Bobby sighed as he entered the vehicle and readied to return to base, “Only thing I’m certain of, is neither of us should have ever tampered with viruses.”

Lyla nodded, “This was unforeseen though. How could we have known they were going to use the same technique?”

Bobby replied, “How could we have not?”

Silence filled the vehicle all the way back.

Missy was totally dumbfounded when she discovered that nothing she had ever learned about genetic manipulation could alter the replication of the Alter Virus. The introduction of a new retrocombanant strain, only created another mutation that caused death gene activation and cancer. This line of reasoning ended here and all samples destroyed immediately.

One of her team came up and said excitedly, “I discovered something. We’re having a hard time discovering this vaccine because we’re all already infected with a virus. One we didn’t know about before. It may be what stops our growth at different ages -- why some of us are Babies, some are Toddlers, and some are Littles. What if our natural state was … to grow up and become Adults? But somehow, sometime in the past, this virus changed all that?”

“What?” Missy asked. “But that’s … earthshaking. How could we not have discovered this before?”

“I suppose we weren’t looking for it,” said the team member, whose name was Patty. “We had no reason to suspect it existed. I only found it by accident.”

“Well … what does that mean right now?” Missy asked.

“We can create a vaccine,” Patty said, “but it will interact with the existing virus, resulting in our becoming permanent morphs -- like what Bobby and Lyla can do.”

Missy smiled weakly, “In other words, a shortcut for what happened to the two of them. We just won’t have to wait for the Alter Virus to come infect us. So … what you’re telling me, in a really nice way, is there's no way this side of the Potty Monster that you’re able to manipulate this bug?”

The young woman shuffled her feet, “Yes, Ma'am. We in the department knew you needed at least a smile. There’s no way to beat this. Our world as we know it is ending, and a new world is now beginning.”

Missy took a deep breath. “If it’s the way to save all our people, so be it. Order the factories to start making this vaccine. I’m going to make sure the rest of the Council is OK with it, but they have to be -- it’s the only way.”

“K, we gotsa better report dis time,” said OverCommander Palmer, sitting on her tall booster seat in the Strategy Room. “Tell ‘em, Chambers.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said the young boy. “We’ve got a complete list of everyone in the facility and what they ended up turning into -- with the exception of those two Border Patrollers. One report said that the female, Lyla, turned into a baby, and the male, Bobby, turned into either a young boy or a woman -- the report is confused. But they haven’t been seen since. At any rate, this is the list. We now have supplies for caring for babies and toddlers, which this facility wasn’t originally intended for.”

“That’ll make it much easier,” said one of the captains, who was a teenage boy.

“Turning to the rest of the country,” said Chambers, “I’m sorry to say that the virus has been sweeping across the nation like wildfire. Research is ongoing, but they’ve given up trying to stop it and started looking for a way to miti -- mit -- deal with its effects. It’s looking like the aging process has stopped -- without further intervention, the ages we’re all at and the forms we’re in are going to be how our bodies are for good.”

The irony of this sank in. Part of the objective of normalizing Infantia had been to discover their secret of longevity. Now they had it -- but for some, the price they’d paid was too high. For others, it wasn’t a problem, but it seemed to be luck of the draw.

“Wait …” said Palmer, “so we who is babies is gonna be babies … fowever?”

“Unless they discover something else … but for now, yes,” Chambers said. “Then there’s Infantia. It’s unclear how this has affected them, but chances are very slim that the virus hasn’t made it there. What they’re doing about it, we don’t know. Which is why this order has come down from High Command.”

“Huh?” asked Palmer. “What order?”

“We just got it, Ma’am. Those who have been transformed into children of the appropriate ages are to form teams and infiltrate Infantia to gather more intelligence. We need to know how the virus has affected them and what they’re doing about it. We’ll have to make appropriate Infantian outfits and brief you on Infantian protocols.”

Within a day, the appropriate clothing and other new necessary items had been assembled. OverCommander Palmer sat uneasily in her wet diaper as she looked over the new team. She wished she was large enough to go with them, but she was now just shy of being a toddler.

The Lieutenant that had been assigned the stroller pushing detail moved Palmer closer so she could inspect the new Little Squad Adultia had created. The wonderful scent of baby powder filled the room as Palmer inspected each trooper to insure nothing was out of place.

Finally, Palmer was pushed to the front of the large room and handed a microphone that looked a lot like a baby rattle.

“Toopers, is now upta you ta finded out whatsa Infantia doin bousa viral infection. Is mostus portain that alla you getsa re … umms … re … ums ..”

The Lieutenant said softly, “Required.”

Palmer nodded enthusiastically as the microphone began to squeak. Palmer couldn’t resist putting it in her mouth. Palmer managed to get over the incredible urge to chew on it and said, “Gets alla information we needsa stop this n changeded us back ta who were were.”

The Troopers saluted sharply as they all said at once, “For the glory of Adultia.”

Palmer watched as they filed out double file to begin their arduous task. Deep within her soul, Palmer knew that this was way beyond them. All her very best genetics teams had reported that none of the available techniques had any effect of the virus … except to make it fatal.

Infantians were changing from temporary adults to morphers as the Alter Virus swept across the land, except for those who had been inoculated with the newly-developed Morph Virus. Unfortunately, there were some who hadn’t been able to be inoculated in time, so they were affected by the Alter Virus and suffered random effects that not even the Morph Virus could undo. But Lyla and Bobby had been running themselves ragged, as had many other Little couriers, traveling from town to town carrying shipments of Morph Virus to protect the people.

“I could sleep for a week,” said Lyla, collapsing onto her bunk in one of the barracks near Playton.

“Me too,” said Bobby. “I guess now you could turn yourself into a Baby and drop yourself off at a daycare -- you really could sleep for a week, with someone to change your diapers. Though you’d probably get very hungry.”

Lyla giggled momentarily at the thought. “Well maybe I’m not really that tired. But a good night’s rest would really help.”

“I hear you.” There was a commotion outside. “I also hear that. What’s going on?”

“Unghhh, not our problem,” said Lyla, “but we better check.”

They went outside. There were Little troops rushing toward the staging ground.

“What’s happening?” Bobby asked one of them.

“We’re finding groups of refugees from Littlesburg and other tiny settlements in the border reaches,” said a patroller. “They haven’t been vaccinated. We’re being sent out to pick them up and see if there are others out there.”

“Refugees?” Lyla asked, looking at Bobby as the patroller rushed back to his duty.

“Yeah.” Bobby paused. “That doesn’t add up.”

“No, it doesn’t,” said Lyla. “The virus already swept through that area and hit Toddlerton and Nanaville. There’s no way they weren’t affected. There might’ve been a few who were in freezers or labs at the time, or deep in caves, but that’d be rare.

“And they’d have been infected as soon as they came out,” said Bobby, “unless they knew the virus was happening -- and that’s near the border. Those towns probably got infected before we even got here to warn people.”

“Let’s see if we can get a look at these refugees,” said Lyla. “Darn. I was gonna take a nice hot bath. With bubbles.”

In the heavily wooded rural area between Nanaville and the border to Adultia, a large contingent of what the Little Border Patrol were calling refugees had been gathered up, and were being processed for relocation to a specialized medical camp to deal with each ones unique condition.

Without warning, about a dozen of the refugees produced Adult stunners and made quick work of the Infantian Littles there. Didn’t take them long to swap uniforms and exchange a few other … more intimate items to seem more like the Infantians they were portraying.

Just as the insurgents were gathering up the last of the equipment they could find in the hastily-built makeshift area, several well-armed electric personnel carriers arrived. The auto-turrets swiveled around and pointed to the uniformed infiltrators and the others in the large group. Many dozens of well armed Infantian Littles in a very rapid but orderly way filed from the machines and surrounded the large group.

The Little in charge switched on a bullhorn and said, “All right, we know that some of you might be legit, we also know that this area had already been infected and we dealt with it then. There maybe a few refugees … but we’re gonna make sure which of you is real.”

Several of the female Littles approached the contained group with their medical equipment. Blood samples and a quick chemical test would ID any who had not yet been infected with the viral serum produced as a vaccine. Any true refugees would be taken to Plushieville and cared for there. The rest would be quarantined here until they could be sorted out.

Patty was one of the team members. “We’ll just take a quick blood sample here …” she said, quickly jabbing one of the refugees with a test needle after finding a productive vein in his arm. The tube began to fill up. He whimpered with the pain. “Aww it’s OK, I know it’s no fun!” said Patty, “But you’re being a good boy!”

Some of the refugees were quieter about it, but that didn’t prove anything. The proof would be in the test. Lyla was one of the team members too, but she wasn’t trained to take blood tests -- she was standing guard with a stunner. Bobby was in reserve on board one of the transports along with some others, in case of trouble.

Patty whispered to Lyla, “I’m not just gonna give ‘em black dots for bad guys and white dots for good guys … they all get numbers. The ones whose numbers start with an even digit are OK, and the ones who tested positive for the Adultgrunge Virus’ markers will get a number that starts with an odd digit. The Alter Virus may change their form, but it doesn’t erase the Adultgrunge Virus from their systems.”

“OK,” whispered Lyla, “but why so careful?”

“They’re almost all odd,” Patty whispered, and started distributing number labels to the other testers, to put on the refugees. “We’re outnumbered and outgunned.”

“These will help us decide whom to settle where,” said one of the testers, sticking a number label to a refugee’s uniform. Other testers were doing the same, looking at the results on their tablets. The results had already been transmitted across Infantia. All of Infantia now knew: there were transformed Adultians trying to infiltrate the land.

One of the infiltrators leaned over and whispered softly, “Tell the others we are going to do Impact Operation in 3 minutes.”

A soft murmuring buzz crossed through the large group of individuals as they readied themselves. Patty and some of the testers left in one of the transports with the blood samples and their proof that Infantia was being invaded.

As soon as that vehicle had vanished from site, the large group of infiltrators attacked the rest of the transports. It started with a large explosion that disabled the nearest armored carrier that could cause serious damage.

Several more explosions followed, then many loud sounds of stunner fire. In just a few minutes, many Infantian Littles lay scattered haphazardly around where the stunners had felled them.

As the leader slapped another power pack into his stunner he said angrily, “Confine them, we have to try to catch up with the vehicle that left just before we attacked.”

The others saluted and ran off to inform everyone else as the leader entered the command deck of an intact Infantian armored vehicle and began to examine how it operated. Within moments, he had the vehicle energized, and the other insurgents began boarding.

And that was when Bobby and the other defenders struck from their hiding places in the command deck. Bobby hit the leader squarely in the back of the head with a stun bolt; he would be down for hours. The other defenders took down the other Adultian insurgents in the control room while Bobby bolted the door and remotely set off the stun bomb on the main deck.

The doors closed and locked, and Bobby and the other defenders secured the transport, slapping gelcuffs on the wrists and ankles of the insurgents, but that didn’t change the fact that there were many Infantian Littles stunned and helpless in the fields around and many other Adultians boarding the other transports. But there was one transport that the Adultians were ignoring: the one that was damaged.

And that was the one that Lyla had taken up a defensive position in, under cover of the smoke from the explosion. She had picked off a few straggling Adultians before they could get onto the other transports, but now there was no one moving outside.

She heard movement behind her and spun around to stun an Adultian who had come aboard to stop her. She quickly gelcuffed him, the transparent plastic fibers whipping multiple times around his wrists and ankles and then solidifying into a strong compound that would last for days before softening again. She then went back to her vigilant sniper position.

She saw one transport’s doors close. But then she saw Bobby’s face in the window signaling to her that it was secure. Another transport seemed to be secure as well. But one of them powered up and started moving in the direction of the one that had already left -- the one with the evidence on board.

“We can’t let that one get away!” Bobby said to the other Infantian Littles in the control room of their transport.

“We can go after them,” said one of the others, whose name was Lizzy, sitting down at the steering wheel. “But we don’t really have a way to stop it.”

“Yes we do,” said Bobby, seeing Lyla sprinting toward them. “Open the forward front hatch! Let her in!”

Lyla was soon in the control room with them. “Go! Drive!” said Bobby, and Lizzy quickly had the transport in motion.

“I’m going on top,” Lyla said. “Get close and I’ll jump to their transport. Anyone else?” Bobby quickly joined her, the two of them climbing up a ladder and opening a hatch to the transport’s roof.

“We have to catch them, though” said Bobby, still on the ladder. “Can we do that? They probably don’t know much about how to drive these.”

“They don’t, I can tell,” Lizzy said. “And they certainly don’t know all the tricks.”

As they closed some of the distance to the fleeing commandeered transport, Lyla got onto the roof, followed shortly after by Bobby who had an idea and opened the hatch to the auto-turret.

From Bobby’s vantage point in the Auto-turret’s blister, he could see that Lizzy was catching up to the rapidly fleeing vehicle. As he looked around for some means to slow them down, Bobby saw the manual aiming and fire controls for the turret.

Bobby smiled. He knew they were slightly out of range for an auto shot, but no one would ever expect a Little to fire the turret manually. Carefully, Bobby went through the procedure to enable manual control.

Lyla watched in fascination. She realized that being one of the adults had actually seemed to change the way they perceived things and applied the random bits of data. Lyla was super impressed with Bobby when she saw him actually enable the manual controls to the turret.

Bobby said, more to himself than anyone, “Now, let us see you get away from this ...”

The turret fired. A massive explosion directly in front of the passenger side front wheel went off. The vehicle leaned over onto the 5 wheels on the drivers side. It was more than obvious the front wheel on the passenger side was mangled. The vehicle came back down right side up, before the passenger side dipped violently down and the vehicle began to flip end over end. It finally came to rest against the trunk of a large tree. Smoke began to trickle from it in many places as the emergency escape hatches blew.

As their transport slowed to a stop, Lyla rolled to a prone position where she had a good line of sight to this side of the damaged vehicle. Bobby climbed off the rear side of the transport and began circling around to the other side, using shrubs for cover. As soon as one of the Adultian Littles made their appearance, coughing and eyes watering from the smoke, Lyla hit them with a well-aimed stunner shot. Soon there were three of them unconscious outside the near side of the captured transport, but they had stopped emerging from that exit.

The more canny of the Adultians came out the far side of their transport, and some of them had already done so by the time Bobby was in position. The noise from Lyla’s stunner fire was distracting, but it was still hard for them not to notice Bobby’s. They tried to fire back, but they didn’t hit him; Bobby was shooting from cover, and although he missed some of his shots, he didn’t miss all of them. Bobby could see five Adultians, three of which he’d winged and one of which he’d dropped so far, but the four who were still up were fanning out to flank him, and he didn’t know whether there were more he couldn’t see.

Bobby did the best he could; he managed to shoot one of the remaining insurgents in the chest and another in the head -- this meant temporary paralysis for the first and temporary unconsciousness in the second. But there were still two … until one suddenly collapsed. Bobby hit the other one and looked to see Lyla, who had shot from behind their transport. He grinned at her and then panicked, because one of them was moving into position behind her. He tried to gesture.

Lyla whirled around and saw the insurgent at the last moment, but his stunner shot hit her arm, which went limp, her stunner falling to the ground. She grunted with the pain but charged at the Adultian, growing taller as she did so. With teenage strength she grabbed the Adultian Little’s stunner out of his hand and threw it out of reach, then discovered that her stunned arm was less affected than it had been before she’d shifted to an older form.

She picked up the struggling Adultian and held him over her head. A stunner shot from Bobby caused him to go limp, so she set him down on the ground.

After gelcuffing all the Adultians they’d seen, Lyla and Bobby went into the damaged transport looking for any others. There were some stunned Infantian Littles inside, whom they picked up and transferred to their own transport, but no other Adultians.

Lizzy told them, “I’ve been keeping the base informed about what’s going on. They’re sending backup.”

In a remote sensing station far removed from Infantia and adultia, a computer system discovered an encroaching biohazard. It immediatly enabled Protocol Delta and sealed all external ports and doors, locking in the remaining unaffected adults on the planet.

The reports they had received from Grupberg hadn’t looked very good. Apparently the viral infection this very lab had created had gone very wrong.

The team of geneticists worked feverishly to discover what went wrong, to no avail. Nothing they had investigated showed how or why the virus had acted as it did.
In an office, a handsome older gentleman with grey around the edges of his close cropped hair was reading the latest dire report. Information had become more than spotty as the infection spread rapidly across the planet on the high level winds.
He looked up as a knock at his door, “Enter.” he said and went back to reading the thick binder in front of him.

A pretty young woman entered and walked to his desk with a sharp heel click and an even sharper salute. “Sir, she said, “our contact with the main base has failed. Last reports say that everyone infected currently has … changed form.”

The commander looked up and asked, “Changed form? What does that mean?”

She replied, “Apparently, men change to women, women change to men … some grow old … some become newborn and all the stages in between. There are even those that the virus has had no effect on.”

The commander bangs his fist on his desk, “Don’t worry, Sergeant, We will find an answer and lick this thing.”

Missy took another blood sample from one of the captured Adultian Littles, who was sedated. “So the Alter Virus seems to have the same effect on Adultians as it does on unprotected Infantians,” she said. “This despite the Adultgrunge Virus that’s still in their systems after generations. It doesn’t seem to spread, but it does seem to be passed on from mother to child.”

“Does this tell us anything?” asked Lyla.

“I think so,” Missy said. “The Alter Virus is a result of reassortment between the Adultian and Infantian viral weapons, both of which we thought were developed based on the Adultgrunge Virus -- otherwise reassortment wouldn’t have happened, just coinfection. We were trying to counteract the Adultgrunge Virus, and they were trying to infect us with an airborne version of it. What they got was a stronger virus that was airborne but interacted with the other viruses with unpredictable results -- including the Baby Virus, which we hadn’t even known existed until all this happened. The Alter Virus sometimes interferes with the Adultgrunge Virus, sometimes strengthens it, and sometimes, though rarely, has no effect at all. But look at this.” She pointed at a readout that was appearing on a computer screen.

Bobby and Lyla looked at the chart, but Bobby said, “I - I’m sorry, I don’t understand this.”

“Yeah, me either, I’m not a scientist,” said Lyla.

“There’s something in all our cells,” Missy said. “Theirs and ours. Some kind of virus that’s still there even when I eliminate the known factors. It’s been there so long that our cells can’t live without it. But the Baby Virus … it counteracts it.”

“Wait, so you’re saying …” Lyla began.

“Aging didn’t used to be natural,” said Missy. “It’s hard to say what age we’d be without all of these factors. But the Baby Virus seems to have restored our natural condition, in a way. Then the Adultgrunge Virus reasserted this ancient factor. I think the Adultgrunge Virus was probably based on that ancient virus. Someone must have engineered the Adultgrunge Virus. Then more recently they created the Adultian viral weapon based on that same ancient one.”

“Hokey smokes,” said Bobby. “We based our viral weapon on the A.G. Virus too, didn’t we?”

“Yes,” Missy confirmed. “But they’re all related -- they must be, or the reassortment wouldn’t have created the Alter Virus. The only one that isn’t part of all of this is the Baby Virus. It isn’t related to any of the others. Wherever it came from, it was different from all the rest.”

“What … can we do?” asked Bobby.

“The Baby Virus looks like it was made to counter that ancient virus,” Missy replied. “I think I might be able to specialize it to fight the Alter Virus. I’m not sure what it would do to the subject, but we can test it on infected tissue samples first. My best guess, though, is that it’s going to make them young. Very young. Luckily we know how to take care of babies here in Infantia.”

“This is good news for the Infantians who were infected by the Alter Virus before we were able to prevent it,” said Lyla.

“Yes,” Missy said, “once I’ve got something that works, we’ll have to make lots of it.”

Missy did her very best to decipher the original Baby Virus. From the best she could determine, it created a suppressor gene within itself that turned off the active properties within the ancient Aging Virus. Most of the tissue samples produced strange and unpredictable results, even on the same genetically similar cells.

Whatever the original aging virus was, it appeared to have been a serious retro viral infection that caused major inflammation within each cell which, in turn, caused the cell to waste resources and age as replication errors encroached.

Missy’s eyes grew wide as she realized that aging was an infection caused long ago by something being introduced, same as the Baby Virus that counteracted it. It actually appeared as if some other race of peoples had influenced Infantia’s development, or possibly more than one … Missy’s musings were interrupted by a bright blue/white flash behind her, and the wonderfully clean smell of baby powder.

Missy turned rapidly and looked upon a very beautiful young woman. She had long, shoulder length dark hair, a beautiful smile, and was dressed in a white wraparound almost see through gossamer gold trimmed gown cinched around the middle by a golden belt.

The young woman giggled like tinkling bells then said softly, “You are very perceptive, child. Seems all my children have been playing in Mommy’s chest and made a real mess.” she giggled again, “but that’s what babies do … isn’t it, Sweetheart?”

“Who … who are you?” asked Missy fearfully, backing away. The mysterious woman was a young Adult but still an Adult, so Missy assumed at first she was an Adultian, and they typically hadn’t meant well. “Stay away!”

“What?” the woman said in confusion, then realized the problem. “Oh … no, no, Sweetheart, I’m not from Adultia. I’m from a time before they existed. You know about the viruses now -- what if I told you that what you’re calling the Baby Virus was my doing?”

Missy relaxed a bit. “If that was you … then you rescued, well, everyone in the world from aging and death -- a death that was seemingly caused by someone earlier than you.”

The mystery woman frowned and said, “Yes, that was a nasty business. I detest wars. And that is why I’m here. Some of you have counteracted my virus. I don’t want it counteracted, now that I’ve noticed it’s happened. So I want you to listen carefully. You will need to deactivate the gene you’re calling the ndn gene. In its place you need to reactivate one that you haven’t yet named that is on the 8th RNA molecule, at these coordinates …”

Missy furiously took notes as this strange woman casually rattled off a list of changes that would have taken her months and even years to discover, even with a lab full of talented assistants like Patty.

“Got all that?” the woman asked.

“I’ve written down everything you just said,” said Missy. “If this works … thank you. But if I may ask, why are you helping us?”

“Because, my dear, in a way you are all my children,” said the stranger, then vanished before Missy’s eyes in a blue/white flash.

Missy was totally mind blown at this point. She looked at the pile of hastily written notes, then began to have them entered into the contabulating machine. The machine whirred and made cute little twiddle noises for about an hour, then began to put out large amounts of genetically accurate recombinations and the exact alkylating proteins and data on which base pair to apply it.

Missy began to make tests on the new skin samples using the data the strange woman had given her. Within a few short hours, she had an actual live virus serum to test on some human subject … preferably an aged adult with perhaps that gray hair they seemed to get.

Missy picked up the phone and dialed. It rang 3 times before Bobby answered, “Hello?”

“I have a working sample of the serum.” Missy said, “I overheard you say something about one of the guards you captured during your last patrol having gray hair?”

Bobby replied, “Yeah. He used to be a young man, but the Alter Virus changed him.”

Missy said, “Have him escorted here, and tell him we are going to cure his … aging problem.” She then hung up. She looked at the vial of serum. She smiled.

“Who was that?” asked Lyla, taking her pacifier out of her mouth. She was lying sprawled out on a brightly-colored toddler bed at the Playton Defense Base, holding a white plushie unicorn as she tried to sleep.

“Missy,” Bobby replied. He was in a baby blue and white footed sleeper and had a large Teddy Bear next to him in his bed. “The prisoners we took during that attempted incursion … she wants us to bring her one. The old one with the gray hair.”

There had been yet another incursion since the attempted infiltration by Adultian Littles -- a miscellaneous band of Adultians of all shapes and sizes had tried to push across the border into a wooded area, but the Border Patrol was on high alert lately and noticed them right away. Bobby and Lyla had once again refused to rest until this attack had been defeated, and they were dead tired.

“Oh man,” said Lyla. “It never ends. I guess we’d better get him there.” She started getting up and getting dressed in her Little Border Patrol uniform. Bobby was doing the same. The Adultians had been captured and interned in a hastily-arranged holding facility, so they quickly drove their minicar there.

Bobby gelcuffed the man’s hands before releasing him from his cell. “Me?” the man asked. “What do you want me for? I don’t know anything I haven’t already told you.”

“We want to help you,” said Lyla as Bobby marched him down the hall toward a transport vehicle that was larger than their minicar -- which would have been too small for him anyway. “We think we can fix your aging problem.”

“Well, that’s -- wait,” the man said, hesitating.

“Keep moving,” said Bobby, “or I’ll stun you and you’ll get there anyway.”

“You’re not gonna make me a baby, are you?” he asked.

Lyla answered, “That’s not up to us.”

“Oh great,” he said. “Outta the frying pan, into the fire.”

“Kinda the opposite, I’d say,” said Bobby. “Out of the frying pan, back into the nest.”

They securely drove him to Missy’s lab, whereupon they put him into a quarantine cell until Missy was ready for him.

“Thanks, you two,” Missy told Bobby and Lyla. “You’re practically the heroes of Infantia. Is there a battle in this war you two haven’t played a pivotal role in?”

“Is this what a war is?” asked Bobby. “I’m not really familiar with that idea.”

“We on the Council are,” said Missy, “and this isn’t how they usually go, but yes. Most wars aren’t fought in labs, but a lot of this one is.” She turned toward the prisoner, whose cell was sealed; he couldn’t hear them. “Now for the moment of truth. This strain was arrived at under what you might call very unusual circumstances. It’s had amazing effects on tissue samples. Now … the final test.”

Missy saw that the prisoner watched her intently through the vacuum sealed quad-pained isolation windows. Missy smiled. She just knew this was the solution to this virus nonsense once and for all as she mixed measured portions into a vapor producing solution.

The prisoner visibly shivered as Missy finished mixing the serum and poured it into the vaporizer. Missy attached the vaporizer’s QD connector to the port below the viewing window.

Missy said softly over the iso-room PA as she turned on the vaporizer, “Just relax and breath deeply. Or you can be stupid and try to hold your breath or any other million things people do when they think they are being gassed.”

The expression on the man’s face turned to horror as a white mist began to hiss out from a port just under the window he was looking out of. The man screamed and banged his fists against the nearly unbreakable material the window had been constructed of. No one on the outside could hear anything as the visibility through the window dropped to zero. For long tense minutes, all they could see was white swirling mist.

A chime sounded, the mist cleared as the iso-chamber’s ventilator replaced the air within. On the other side where the man used to be, was a very cute and adorable toddler girl. She was quite obviously way too old for diapers, then again way too young for panties as she wet the very over sized clothing hanging on her youthful body.

“Interesting,” said Missy. “I’ll have to take some samples and observe … her over time, but so far results are consistent with testing. But it looks like we have a cure for the Alter Virus.”

“So many of our people have suffered from it,” said Lyla.

“We can … almost have our world back,” said Bobby.

“Almost,” said Lyla, nodding.

“Almost?” Missy asked.

“There are still a lot of us who are morphers now,” Bobby said. “As far as I know no Adultians are, but the world is still left changed by this. Unless this can cure the morphing.”

“I don’t know,” said Missy. “Unless you two feel like undergoing testing as well.”

“Not until the crisis is over for good,” said Lyla. “We might need the ability to blend in.”

“I’ll ask for volunteers, then,” said Missy. “In the meantime, we can work on curing our people. The Council will have to decide whether to try to cure the Adultians. I suspect the vote will be in favor.”

“I’ve had a lot of shots lately,” said a gray-haired old woman wearing a plain surgical green coverall. “Not sure I want more. But if it can fix me, maybe it’s worth it.”

“This is Betsy,” said a Little who was helping with the testing. “She’s a Toddler.”

Patty held a syringe full of the new virus, which they had been calling the Baby Virus Mark 2, and said, “Let’s find out whether this returns her to her proper age.”

“My goodness, done already?” asked Betsy. “I must say I barely felt that -- oh my!”

Her eyes went wide as she suddenly found herself shrinking, her hair going from gray to black. She was soon engulfed by the green coverall that was now vastly too big for her.

“Now Betsy, let’s just wait until the effects come to a halt, and then we’ll get you into a fresh diaper and some clothes that fit, OK?” said Patty.

“Um, OK!” said a tiny toddler’s voice from somewhere in the pile of clothing as the assistant tried to help her out. “I can’t see nuffings.”

“There you are!” said the assistant with a smile as she helped Betsy out of the pile of clothing.

“I hope you don’t mind if we weigh and measure you and get a blood sample,” said Patty. “We have to be sure it worked.”

“I feel … wonnerfuls,” said Betsy as the assistant lifted her onto a scale. “Feels like me again.”

Patty replied, “That’s terrific, Betsy! I’m glad you volunteered to let us test this on you.”

“Lotses better’n bein’ huge ‘n creaky,” Betsy replied as the assistant got a diaper on her. “Thank ya lots!”

Betsy barely squirmed at all as Patty took a blood sample and labeled it for the lab. “We’ll send you back to your home in Cribsville, OK? You’ll be playing with your friends in no time.”

“Yay! Thank ya again Miss Patty!” said Betsy. The assistant carried her out and put her in a stroller for other assisting Littles to get to the right trains.

“Whew, we’ve got a lot of volunteers,” Patty said, looking at the lines. “This’ll be a lot of work … but it’ll get a lot of data.”

Two days later, Missy called Bobby and Lyla to her lab again. “The Council’s voted, and we’re going to try to cure Adultia,” she said. “And the results from the data are quite positive: so far, in every case, the Baby Virus Mark 2 has returned Infantians to their original age -- including both types of morphers.”

“Really?” asked Lyla. “That means … I can … really go back to being normal!”

“That’s so wonderful!” said Bobby. “But … I’ll bet we’re not included yet.”

“Exactly,” Missy said. “We can’t be sure that Adultia will all be in favor of this cure -- they might not see it as one at all, in fact. What we need to do is plant aerosol dispersal devices deep within Adultia’s borders, and we’ll need good people who are morphers to do it. This virus is not designed to be communicable -- it can be aerosolized, but it won’t spread naturally from person to person.”

“If that were true, we wouldn’t be morphers anymore,” said Lyla.

“Again, exactly,” said Missy.

About five days had passed since the first testing of the new serum. Bobby and Lyla found themselves as young adults, driving an Adultian look alike heavy transport vehicle. Their cargo was precious: self contained remote aerosol dispensing units, filled with enough Baby Virus Mark 2 to completely cover most of the world once they were in place and producing.

Lyla said as she pointed, “There … by that tree. See that dip next to its base?”
Bobby leaned forward and had the beam of the roof mounted spotlight swivel around to the spot.

“I see it.” He stopped the vehicle and got out, “Help me set this thing up.”

Lyla exited the large transport and walked to the rear. Bobby had opened the back and climbed in by then and was wrestling one of the dispensers to the tail lift. Bobby and Lyla struggled with the ungainly thing until it was sitting on its articulated legs in the indentation of the tree.

Bobby said as he flipped the first switch and placed the device on the remote activation circuit, “We need to move on, or we’ll be cured.”

Lyla laughed and got back in her seat as Bobby drove off to the next place that had been marked on their map for the next device. The sun had already risen above the far horizon by the time Bobby and Lyla had returned to the prearranged checkpoint. The last of the dozen carriers were arriving as Bobby helped Lyla from the cabin and they walked to the command tent. It was almost time to cure this awful virus and cleanse the land once again.

The checkpoint was a secluded natural amphitheater in Adultia, possibly formed by glacial activity sometime millions of years in the past. There were only two ways in or out, and those were heavily covered by squads of Infantians with stunners. Lyla and Bobby entered the command tent and met the other morpher agents.

“We’re all here,” said the leader, a morpher who was on the Council.

“Is it time, Timmy?” asked Lyla.

Timmy took a deep breath. “It is … what’s that?” From outside the tent they heard the clanking sounds of metal objects striking the ground or the transport vehicles, followed by a high-pitched hissing. “Attack! Get your masks!”

Lyla and Bobby put on breathing masks and ran outside to see, on the rim of the amphitheater above them, dozens of figures of Adultian size, wearing bio suits and using launchers to fire gas canisters down at them, one after another.

“Finally found you,” said one of the figures. “With your tricky shapeshifting. Well, now you’ll be in that fake adult form you’ve stolen … forever.”

Lyla and Bobby looked at each other through their masks. Had they put them on in time? The air around them was full of an unknown virus -- was that virus at work in their bodies right now? Lyla scrambled back into the tent, followed shortly after by Bobby, to see that most of the other agents had already collapsed into unconsciousness or worse.

But the device to remotely release all the spreaders was right there -- Lyla quickly got to it, entered the code, and hit the activation button. No matter what else happened today … they would complete their mission and cure Adultia.

“Once and for all,” Lyla said, as she felt herself losing consciousness.

“At least … we did it … Lyla …” said Bobby as he too blacked out.

Bobby woke up. He didn’t know where he was. It looked like some kind of medical ward. All around him were unconscious Littles … in hospital cribs sized for Littles. “What -- where --?” he began to ask, although he didn’t see anyone to ask.

A moment later, Lyla walked into his field of view. The real Lyla -- the Little Lyla. She was dressed in the cutest little powder blue Snuggle Bug romper with ruffles and lace galore.

“Welcome back, Bobby!” she said. “I’m glad you’re awake. You’re going to be OK now.”

Bobby sat up. His onesie felt so nice as did the thick diaper he was in. Bobby asked as he looked around dazed, “What happened? Where am I?”

Lyla took her thumb from her mouth and said, “You in a recovery room of the Nanasburg Hospital. The Adultian’s used a strong sleeping agent laced heavily with some kind of souped-up Adultgrunge Virus. The sleeping part worked … but it looks like the Baby Virus Mark 2 was ready for their attack.”

“How I gets here??” Bobby asked.

Lyla blushed adorably pink then replied, “I manageded ta getsa code entereded inna dispensers. Tha cure virus spreaded out rapidly. Was so weird cuza strong Coriolis wind comded up and spread it aww overs. Tha Adultians … returneded to their true places awmost immediately. We gots tonsa new Littles, infants n Toddlers ta care for now.”

Bobby and Lyla giggled as Bobby did what Littles do and climbed out of his crib. Lyla and he hugged as a bright blue/white flash spread its glow all through the nursery.
Both of them stared with big eyes as a very beautiful young woman in a sheer white gossamer gown trimmed in gold smiled at them both.

She walked over and in a wonderful voice that sent chills all through them cooed, “Well done, my children. You have done exceptionally well.” She patted them both on their thickly diapered hinneys, “Now … Auntie has a question to ask the two of you. Since you played such an exceptional role, I feel it’s fitting.”

“Auntie?” asked Bobby.

“Question?” Lyla asked. “What question?”

“Good little ones like you always have a place with me,” she said. “Would you like to come to my world to help safeguard it?”

“Your … world?” asked Lyla.

“Tell you what,” said the stranger. “I’ll take you on a tour of the place first. Ready?”

“I … guess …” said Bobby.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Lyla replied.

“Then come … with ... me!” said the woman, clapping her hands. There were three flashes of golden light.

They say that Lyla and Bobby, two of Infantia’s greatest heroes, were never seen again after that. But some say that they live on and will return at Infantia’s hour of greatest need.

That, however, is another report for another time.

~~ End Transmission ~~
Miki Yamuri
 
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Joined: Mon Jun 23, 2014 3:06 pm

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