Baby by Night

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Baby by Night

Postby LilJennie » Mon Dec 05, 2022 9:27 pm

Baby by Night

By LilJennie and Miki Yamuri

“Mayday! We have a shield failure and a hull breach after what we assume must have been an ion storm! Inertial guidance systems offline! Oxygen leak in starboard compartment! Requesting emergency landing!” Irene kept trying to raise the planet’s space traffic control network, but no luck – perhaps comms were down too.

Darla had no idea whether they were going to survive this flight. Rick was doing the best he could at the controls, and Nathan had strapped himself in down in engineering as he madly tried to patch up damaged conduits. As for Darla, she was just a passenger like all the others, looking for work on this planet. She now hoped just to survive the landing.

“Nathan, how’s the antigrav system looking?” Rick asked worriedly. The small craft fortunately didn’t have many passengers today; they had all packed into the cockpit because of the hull breach. There were enough emergency seats for all seven passengers.

“Might be able to get it working in about … 5 minutes?” came Nathan’s voice over ship comms.

“Come on, Nathan, you can do it,” said Janice. Darla didn’t know whether she was Nathan’s wife, girlfriend, sister, cousin, or what, but they knew each other personally. “I know I’m always telling you how much of a dork you are, but what I mean is you live and breathe engineering. You know this stuff. You can do it.” That made Darla think Janice might be his sister.

“We’re starting to hit atmosphere, folks, so expect turbulence,” said Rick. Everyone was strapped in, which was good, because the ship was now shaking. “I’m going to fire maneuvering thrusters – without antigrav we’ll have to match planetary rotation somehow, and we’re not an ancient spacecraft with a heat-shield layer, so using the atmosphere isn’t an option.” The ship was shaking even more now.

“Whiskey Bravo Four Niner Three One to space traffic control, do you read,” Irene continued. “If you are responding, we do not read and have lost comms. Making emergency landing approximately 41.3 by minus 63.7, universal coordinates.” She continued valiantly, even though it was obvious that comms were in fact down – if they heard, and if they were responding, the ship couldn’t hear their answer.

But then the shaking stopped. “That’s it,” said Rick. “Planetary rotation matched. It’s free-fall from here until we get down to about 10 klicks, then it’s time to try landing with the thrusters.”

“Nice work, Rick,” said Stuart, the co-pilot. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anybody do that outside a training simulator.”

“That’s why they make us keep up on those training hours,” Rick said, keeping his eyes on the gauges. To the passengers he said, “Folks, things seem quiet now, but in reality we’re dropping like a stone. We’re going to reach terminal velocity and then wait. We practice this over and over just in case something like this happens. Like Stuart said, it doesn’t happen much, but when it does, it pays to be ready.”

Darla wasn’t too worried – who was she kidding; she was terrified. Part of her was sure the pilot would get them down in one piece, but most of her was gripping the arms of her tiny emergency seat for dear life, knuckles white. She was a professional Nana, not a test pilot.

“14 … 13 … 12 …” said Stuart, reading the gauge.

“And 10,” said Rick, pressing the control he’d been hovering his hand over. Everyone could feel the additional force of deceleration, pushing them down into their seats. “Fuel gauge shows we should have enough to land safely …”

The control panel suddenly went red. “No, no no no!” said Stuart. “Fuel line break! Nathan! What’s going on?”

Nathan’s voice came over the comms. “Must have been weakened by the hit,” he said. “Didn’t break until we stressed it. Hang on. Almost got it.”

“Got what? Nathan?” Rick asked.

The ground was starting to get visibly closer through the windows. Darla held her breath, trying to tell herself that they were much higher up than it seemed, that Nathan had more time than it seemed to work some kind of miracle.

And then suddenly the ship was still. All vibration ceased. The smooth feeling of artificial gravity returned. “OK, antigrav systems back online,” said Nathan. “Decelerate gently. I’ll try to patch the fuel line.”

“OK, let me just …” said Rick, fingers flickering at blinding speed over the controls.

“What are you …” asked Stuart, the co-pilot looking mystified at the gauges and at Rick’s actions. “Oh, that’s just … I’ve never even heard of that before! Letting our inertia carry us downward and gradually ramping up the antigrav so we reach zero velocity just as we get to ground level! A no-thruster landing! We don’t even practice that! Do you do all the optional challenge scenarios or something?”

“I’ve maxed every one of those,” said Rick. Stuart was stunned. “2000 … 1900 …”

And soon they were down. Darla now thought that Rick was the best pilot in the galaxy and briefly wanted to marry him. Rick took a deep breath, unbuckled his flight harness, and just sat there, leaning on the inactive console, eyes closed and fingertips to his forehead.

Stuart stood up and said, “OK, folks, you can unfasten your seat belts, so to speak – the next thing we’ll do is raise the emergency antenna and start sending the standard distress signal. Luckily we didn’t lose power, so planetary space traffic control should find us soon. Welcome to Infantus! Though I don’t know what part of it we just landed in.”

“Looks pretty remote,” said Irene, looking out the windows. Cloudy skies hid the stars, though one of Infantus’ moons was peeking through now and then. They looked to be surrounded by mountains, though the area they were in was some sort of grassy meadow, dotted with trees.

“Can I go out and stand on the ground?” asked Darla. “I … just want to reassure myself that I’m on a planet.”

“You know, I understand that,” said Stuart. “Let me open the hatches. This planet’s got an oxygen atmosphere and carbon-based life. Its classifications put it among the most pleasant places for anybody who bought a ticket on a ship with environment settings like this one.” He hit some controls. The cockpit door opened, as did the passenger hatches. “Hey, Rick, want to step outside? Breath of fresh air?” Darla heard him say to the pilot as she left the cockpit.

Every surface in the passenger compartment started to frost over, as it had all been exposed to the cold of space and had only partially warmed up. But the night air coming in from outside was only a little chilly – quite nice, really. She stepped out the hatch and down the ramp to look around, as did some of the other passengers.

But right away Darla saw something not too far away – a light. Was there a house nearby? She shouldn’t leave the ship – but maybe she could get help. She decided to walk in that direction; it felt good to use her legs anyway.

As she got closer, she saw that there was a small village. There were no more than eight houses and some common buildings. Most of the houses were dark – perhaps everyone was asleep there. She went to the house with the light, which was the nearest. Maybe someone was awake inside. She tapped gently on the door.

She heard something from inside, maybe a shout – perhaps she’d awakened a child. She felt sorry for doing that. But maybe someone would –

The door slid open. It hadn’t been locked. Well, perhaps no one locked their doors around here, somewhere this remote. She definitely heard a child’s crying coming from somewhere inside.

Now Darla was a professional Nana. Caring for children was what she was trained to do. She loved kids and typically got along well with them. Her first instinct was to go to the poor child and help them with whatever was wrong – perhaps they were hurt, or needed a diaper change, or just wanted a gentle voice and some soothing rocking. But surely the child’s parents would come.

The cries stopped, for a few minutes, then resumed. No parents came. There was no movement. Darla stood outside the open door, not wanting to trespass. But the child kept crying.

Finally she couldn’t stand it anymore. She entered, and the door immediately closed behind her. Testing, she found that it was locked from the outside – how odd, as if someone was trying to prevent anyone inside the house from getting out. Darla decided that it must be a malfunction and followed the sound of the child’s cries.

She found the child’s nursery in the back of the house. It was a little girl’s room, from the look of things, and there the little one was, in a crib, all dressed in a lovely pink footed pajama. She looked to be about two years old. “Awww, what’s wrong, Honey? My name’s Darla, and I’m a Nana – I know I’m not your Nana, but I’m here to find a job looking after little ones just like you!” Darla tried to speak in a soothing voice, hoping it would help calm the child.

The toddler looked at her but didn’t stop crying. She looked out the window and saw the spaceship in the distance. Maybe the child had seen the landing and was scared? “Don’t worry, little one, the spaceship got hurt in space but came down over there, and everyone on it is just fine. I’m one of the people who was on it! We’re all safe. Don’t worry! Nothing scary happened.” Actually it had been pretty scary at the time, but fortunately everyone had lived, and there hadn’t been more injuries than a few bruises. As space accidents went, it had fortunately been quite mild. But the child didn’t need to know any of that.

“Let me see if I can help you,” Darla said, reaching down into the crib. She partially unfastened the child’s pajamas and checked their diaper. Yes, they were indeed a girl, and she was quite wet. “Oh, poor thing! Let’s get that diaper changed.” Darla picked her up and expertly changed her, getting her all cleaned up using the family’s well-stocked changing table. “There you go, little one.” She picked the little girl up again and held her, rocking her gently, but the child was still whimpering and uneasy. “What’s the matter, Sweetheart?” Darla asked her, cradling her in front of herself. “Are you teething? Maybe that’s it. Let me see …” She reached out a finger to gently push aside the girl’s lower lip and look at her teeth.

But the child made a sudden move, and the sharp corner of one of the child’s baby teeth snagged Darla’s finger. “Oopsie!” said Darla. “I guess you are teething. I wonder what we can do to help you with that … let me see …” Darla carried her to the kitchen she’d seen, where she ran her finger under some cold water and then checked the refrigeration unit to see if it made ice. It did, but Darla noticed that it also contained a few frozen teethers, so she gave one to the child, holding it in her mouth for her to bite on. Apparently discovering that it soothed her gums, the child was soon much calmer. “There you go,” Darla said gently. “Much better. Let’s get you back to bed.”

Darla put the little girl back in her crib, where she quickly went to sleep. She quietly left the room, turning the light out. “Odd,” she wondered, “the light was on when I got here.” And then there was the matter of the door. She apparently couldn’t leave. She tried pressing the activation button, but it didn’t respond. She was truly locked in.

Then the door opened. It was Irene, from the ship. “Oh, here you are!” she said. “I followed your comm transponder. You might want to come back. We’ve gotten a signal! Rescue is on the way!”

“That’s great news!” said Darla. “I found a baby inside, but no parents, and something’s wrong with the door. It only opens from the outside.”

“That’s strange, but not unheard of,” said Irene as they walked back toward the ship. “The child may be raised by the village. This may be the house the village’s babies sleep in. The villagers all have keys, or know the codes, and they can get out, but they don’t want the children wandering out.”

“Oh, that makes sense,” Darla said, being polite, because she had heard of that before – perhaps it should have occurred to her earlier, but she hadn’t read of any such custom being observed on this planet. “That’s a custom observed by the Kloort people of Kloorion 5, among others …”

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The hastily-repaired comm system crackled, but the voice on the other end assured them that Infantus space traffic control had a lock on their coordinates and was sending a rescue shuttle. And, sure enough, it wasn’t long before a long white capsule-shaped ship appeared in the night sky, extended landing gear, and lowered quietly to the ground next to them, lights flashing. It didn’t take long for the rescuers to get all the passengers into the shuttle and their luggage transferred. A service module detached from the shuttle that contained repair equipment, and two technicians stayed behind to help Nathan get the ship into a state where it could at least limp to the nearest repair station, but for now Darla and the other passengers were on their way to Infantus Customs.

Darla knew, of course, that there were two kinds of babies on Infantus – the recently-born kind like she’d seen in the house in the village, and the kind who chose to continue living like babies into adulthood. Not everyone on the planet made this choice – some were Nanas who took care of the planet’s statistically larger number of babies, of course, but some simply chose to give up living like infants because that was what they felt like doing. Other planets had adult babies, of course, but nowhere else in the galaxy were they such a large percentage of the population. Consequently there was a high demand for Nanas, and Darla was here to find work. She’d been taught that the babies of Infantus were truly babies, big or small, and they needed the same type of care. She was sure that, as a graduate of the Pederson School for Nanas, she would find a job quickly. She didn’t think there was a single Nana situation that she hadn’t been trained to handle, as the Pederson School was the finest school for Nanas in the galaxy.

Infantus Customs had the standard medical scans for known illnesses and security scans for weapons that every other planet in the galaxy had – and they had forms to fill out too. It was nothing Darla hadn’t seen before, except Infantus had a whole section on whether she was a baby, whether she was potty trained, whether she was verbal, what her baby age was, whether she needed a Nana, and so forth. Darla was charmed by this and wasn’t surprised, but she answered that she wasn’t a baby. She filled out the section stating that her purpose in coming here was to look for work in the Nana field. And she found a hotel to stay in for the night.

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Darla awoke the next morning and sat up. The sun was shining into the oval window in the room making the whole place light and cheery. She felt wonderful. It had been a while since she had felt this way and sprang from bed and bounced over to the closet in a skipping way. The door slid open.

Darla stood for a bit and looked over the clothing selection hung neatly in rows within their sealed plastic protectors. Most of the clothing was adorably cute little girl outfits or baby clothes. Darla smiled to herself as she slowly shook her head. Infantus was exactly as all the literature had said it would be, the perfect place for infants and children of all ages. She knew she could dress in any of the clothes and accessories there and none would think the less of her for it. Everything was provided by local clothing boutiques and was available for purchase, and her measurements had been taken automatically by computers when she had checked in, so everything would fit.

She chose the precious Powder Blue Fairy Princess Babydoll dress with the puffy sleeves and empire waist. She opened one of the chest of drawers and chose a matching pair of lacy rumba panties to go with the dress.

Once she had dressed and was standing in front of the full length mirror, she was amazed at how really cute she looked. She turned from side to side and looked her image over carefully. The hem of the dress was just short enough it showed off the white lace around the legs of her matching panties and the bottom row of white ruffles.

A small tingle of embarrassment wiggled up her spine as one of the help maids had entered and said, “Good moring, Ma’am. My, aren’t we adorable! You make a fine little girl, you know. Have you thought about perhaps becoming one? The only thing missing is your hair.” She walked over to Darla after picking up a brush from the vanity. “Here, Sweetheart, let me help you. I’m sure this is all strange and new to you; that’s why I’m here.”

Without further ado, the woman began to brush Darla’s hair and made it into sausage curls, then tied it up in matching powder blue ribbons. The end result looking back from the mirror, was a very cute little girl with an amazed expression on her face. The soft reassuring hinney pats the help maid gave Darla were incredibly nice.

“My name is Winnie. I have been assigned to you as your help maid, but I can also be your Nana if you want.”

Darla replied, “Oh, I’m sorry, I came here looking for work as a Nana, not to be cared for as an infant.”

Winnie took Darla by the hand like the little girl she now so much looked like and began leading her from the room, “That’s no problem, Sweetheart, this is Infantus. Until you hear back from the Infantus Board of Employment, why not just relax and be one of the children. You look so adorable as one, and besides, it’s time for breakfast.”

Without warning, after being led to the dining room, Darla found Nana Winnie had picked her up and sat her in a highchair, fastened the belt around her middle to keep her from squirming out of the chair, and lowered the tray in front of her. She started to protest, but found a spoon of wonderfully tasting food in her mouth.

Nana Winnie giggled, “Don’t worry about it, I’m here to take care of you,” as she put another spoonful of wonderfully tasting food in Darla’s mouth. She continued, “After breakfast and I get my little girl all cleaned up, I will take you over to the Employment Office and see where they have placed you. Fear not, it’s a foregone conclusion that you will be assigned someone to care for, same as I have been assigned to you.”

Between the expertly placed spoonful of food, Darla protested, “But ... I can’t go dressed like this. I’ll be the …”

Nana Winnie interrupted as she took a soft warm cloth and cleaned Darla’s messy face and hands, “Yes, you will be an adorable Adult Little. One of the cutest ones to come along since Sally Stevens.”

Darla looked at Winnie with a curious expression as she was lifted from the highchair and stood on her feet, “Sally Stevens? Who’s that?”

Nana Winnie smiled as she tugged gently on Darla’s short hem to get the wrinkles out, “You haven’t heard of Sally? Not real sure if she’s the CEO or not, but she seems to have the same authority. She was specifically hand-selected by none other than Persephone herself to be the face and spokesperson for Babies of all Ages and Infantus. She’s also the most perfect little girl babydoll who’s too old for diapers, but still way too young for just panties. Not sure how, but her personality has been mixed in a way that gives a three or four year old Adult Baby the ability to do what ever adult thing is necessary to run this organization … and she’s perfect at both.”

Winnie led Darla by the hand from the dining room to the elevator. It had many people in it, the adult ones all making cooing sweet comments on how adorable Darla was. “My goodness, aren’t you a sweetie pie?” said a smiling gray-haired lady in a colorful dress. Darla blushed but smiled at her. The crowded elevator took them down to the bottom floor. Out in the foyer of the hotel, which also was very crowded, Darla felt a whole lot better about how she was dressed when she saw many people dressed similarly, and some in even more infantile clothing.

There were especially an adult-sized boy and girl in a tandem hover-stroller nearby, who were in just diapers and booties. No one paid any special attention, except for the few passers-by who stopped long enough to coo at the infants and make a small scene over how adorable they were.

Darla found herself strapped safely in a hover-stroller as Winnie pushed her from the hotel to the nearby employment office. As Winnie pushed her along through the many beautiful areas, Darla became less embarrassed and anxious over the way she was dressed. As far as she could tell, Infantus was exactly as it had been billed: the place the young and young at heart could come and be whatever age they happened to relate to. Everywhere she looked, it was the perfect environment for children of all ages.

When they arrived at the Employment Office, Darla asked Winnie, “I really would like to go in there under my own power. I’m not wanting them to think I’m attempting to be a babydoll. I want to get the job as a Nana, same as you.”

“Of course, Sweetheart,” Winnie said and smiled as she picked Darla up from the hover stroller like the toddler she was dressed as and placed her on her feet. After making a huge fuss over insuring that her dress had no wrinkles and showed off the cute ruffled panties beneath, and checked to make sure she hadn’t had an accident and wet them, she replied, “You have nothing to worry about, Sweetheart – this is Infantus, and there are Nanas of all ages here too. Besides, I am very confident you already have the position.” She whispered conspiratorially, “I’ve seen how you’ve been watching everyone, like you’re taking notes – it’s like you’re in Nana class all over again!”

Darla felt the wonderful hiney pat as Winnie took her by the hand and walked into the huge government building. Just as Winnie had said, there were many nanas, nurses, and young women who looked exactly like girls or women of all ages, from preschoolers to schoolgirls to very proper adults, all attending others who were dressed as adorably as possible and looked for the world like babydolls of all ages.

Darla let go of Winnie’s hand and walked up to the counter. The man sitting there was dressed in a really cute overall type outfit with a large googly eyed puppy dog embroidered on the front. He smiled and said in a friendly voice, “Hi! How can I help you?”

Darla replied, “I applied for a Nana position yesterday, and I am here to see what the status might be.” She held out her ID chip, and he scanned it.

The man turned and typed on his keyboard for a bit and brought up the data on his screen. “You will be glad to know your application has been approved … and you have a Babydoll infant assigned for you to care for. Her name’s Arianna, and she is an unpotty trained babydoll of about three.“ The man had several pages printed out and handed them to Darla. “Here’s the information you will need.”

Darla looked the data over. The picture included with the data showed an extremely adorable little girl indistinguishable from a babydoll Darla had played with when she was younger. Darla thanked the man and walked up to Winnie, “I need to go shopping and get some proper Nana clothing before I meet my new charge.”

Winnie picked Darla up once again and put her into the hover stroller and fastened the belt. Of course , Darla started complaining that she wasn’t an infant. Winnie replied, Relax. You’re not an infant; you are my assigned Babydoll until you begin your new position. Relax, enjoy it for now.”

Darla sat back in the comfy stroller, crossed her arms, and basically pouted until Winnie released her from the stroller at the place Called Nana Universal, where all the Nana, nurse, and babysitter items were sold. Darla was amazed at how large and complete the stock available here proved to be.

Of course, it wasn't long before Darla had changed. Of course, she still had on the cute rumba panties beneath her Nana uniform; no one would be the wiser. Now, it was time to meet her new ward, Arianna.

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The meeting time suggested was supposedly right after Arianna’s mid-morning nap, but Darla was an early riser, so she had no trouble at all getting up the next morning, getting all showered, and getting all dressed – with Winnie’s help, of course. Winnie was paid by the hotel, but guests were assigned the same Nana for their entire stay. The wide array of clothes provided were all available for purchase, and Darla couldn’t help but buy the outfit Winnie had put her in the day before, as it had been so comfortable and gotten her so many compliments. Never mind that she was a Nana; she could always wear it on her days off.

“Now, I think these outfits you got at Nana Universal are very sharp and mature looking, Honey,” said Winnie. “I’m sure little Arianna will think you’re very pretty and like you as her Nana. How do you want your hair? Maybe a bun? Or French braids? Or – I know! Your hair’s so pretty and long, I bet a Dutch crown braid would work and be both grown-up and adorable!”

“Dutch crown?” asked Darla.

“Here, let me show you, Sweetheart,” said Winnie, and set to work. When she was done, Darla’s hair was braided into a ring around the top of her head that looked like a crown. She looked like a princess and gasped in joy when she saw it.

“Winnie! You’re an artist!” said Darla, turning her head to see it from different angles in the mirror.

“Well, thank you, Sweetheart,” said Winnie. “Glad you like it – I think you’ll do just fine. And I won’t tell anyone about the pretty rumba panties you picked out for underneath. Not unless you want me to, that is.” She giggled a bit.

Winnie still walked her by the hand to the shuttle station. “I’ll see you this afternoon, Honey,” she said as she bundled Darla and her day pack into the hover taxi. “I’m sure Arianna will love you and want you to be her Nana!”

“I hope … I hope I do even half as well as you’ve done looking after me,” said Darla. “See you this afternoon!” Winnie smiled and waved as the taxi took off. It was robot driven and had been programmed with her destination, so all she had to do was look out at the people and scenery as the hover taxi skimmed along. It traveled along the ground, but the ride was absolutely smooth, because it never came into contact with anything. She saw the shiny and multicolored city buildings of Infantus City go past and give way to the suburbs. There were, of course, babies of all ages visible everywhere, walking, skipping, running, riding in strollers, riding tricycles, or even riding bicycles with baskets on the front and flags in the back. Babies and children of actual infant and child ages were treated just the same as the larger variety; the only difference was that they had obvious parents as opposed to Nanas, Nurses, or babysitters.

Finally the taxi pulled up in front of a pretty home that was painted yellow and white with touches of pink; it looked like something from a children’s video, except it was real. The taxi’s doors opened, Darla stepped out, and then they closed and the taxi quietly went on its way. Darla checked the time, went to the white front door. and pressed the doorbell. She was right on time, so she shouldn’t be waking little Arianna up from her nap.

The door opened, and the little girl who answered looked like a little girl who had just gotten up from a nap – her hair was a mess, her pacifier was still in her mouth, and she was holding a pink checkered blanket that dragged on the floor behind her. Her pale green and white romper didn’t conceal the fact that she was thickly diapered underneath, but the paperwork had stated, clearly truthfully, that the girl was unpotty trained. However, her face positively lit up when she saw Darla, and she jumped up and down. “Oh! You’re Darla tha Nana!” she said happily. “Yay! Come in come in!”

“Good morning, Arianna,” said Darla, smiling widely at the charming girl. “It’s possible that someone just woke up from her nap, I think!”

“Uh huh!” said Darla, nodding, and her hair was flying everywhere. “Umm I’m sowwy, I gots robots that clean the house and take care of stuff but I just got up!”

“Aww, Arianna, not to worry,” said Darla. “I’d be happy to help you freshen up. Shall we?”

“Oh! Yes pwease!” Arianna said around her pacifier.

It didn’t take Darla long to get Arianna’s hair back under control and into two adorable ponytails, and soon her face was washed and Darla had picked out a really cute outfit for the rest of the morning, white and yellow just like the house, with ruffles but with a short enough skirt that her diaper would be easy to check. But speaking of her diaper … “Now, Arianna, would you like me to change your diaper? I can tell it needs it, but we haven’t officially become Nana and Babydoll yet. Should I call the robots, or are you comfortable?”

“If you could, pwease,” replied Arianna around her pacifier, “I gotsta know if you can do diapee changes. It’s vewy portant. I don’t mind.”

“Of course! Very sensible,” said Darla. “Now, if you’ll come with me to the changing table, my dear,” she said, taking Arianna by the hand. The house had more than one changing area, but this one was convenient to the living room, kitchen, and downstairs playroom. She lifted Arianna easily up onto the changing table – Darla was taller than average but not super tall, but she exercised like all Nanas to maintain her upper-body strength. Then she changed Arianna’s diaper expertly, and soon the girl was clean as a whistle and all powdered up in a fresh diaper from beneath the changing table. Darla noticed that the Infantus diapers were very thick and looked extremely comfortable. She thought about trying one sometime so she’d know what it was like for Arianna – nobody on Infantus would think twice about it, after all, she had to remind herself. She pulled a pair of plastic-lined and very frilly rhumba panties with all sorts of yellow and white lace over the Babydoll’s diaper, which matched the outfit she was wearing perfectly.

“And there we go!” said Darla. “Down we hop!” She helped Arianna down off the changing table.

“Wow, that was just perfect!” said the girl. “Did you weally go to Nana school?”

“I really did,” Darla said. “I was going to become a Nana for little babies, but then I found out there was a planet full of big ones, so I took the extra courses for that, because it sounded so wonderful!”

“Well, I can tell!” said Arianna, looking impressed. “Um there’s no way you could know what my daily woutine is, so how about we go to the living woom and we can talk about stuff?”

Darla agreed and led Arianna toddling by the hand out to the living room, where she lifted the Babydoll into her playpen and sat on the sofa, and they talked. Darla found out that Arianna was actually an architect, working for a company called Dollhouses Ltd., designing a lot of the lovely and childlike homes on the planet and occasionally some larger buildings as well. She’d designed the home she was living in. “And I’ve even designed a few buildings for Babies of All Ages! I met Puhsephone once and she smiled at me!”

“My goodness!” said Darla. Persephone, she had heard, was an important figure on Infantus, the head of state or the like. It made sense that she would also be involved in Babies of All Ages, the biggest corporation on Infantus, with branches on many other worlds. Of course, it wasn’t the only corporation, but it was vastly influential. Darla told Arianna about herself, her hobbies of cooking and sculpture, and her strange encounter just after her emergency landing.

“Wow, you cwash landed?” said Arianna. “And the first thing you did after cwash landing was bweak into a house and change a baby’s diaper?”

“Well, she needed it,” said Darla, “and I had the ability to do what was needed, so I did. And I didn’t exactly break in – the door opened right up. As I said, it wasn’t locked, not from the outside anyway.”

“Well, that’s a bit stwange, but then, those mountain towns are pwetty isolated,” Arianna said. “They’ve got diffewent ways up there – there are some pwetty stwange stowies from up there, but nothing about cwime or that kinda thing. Pwobably no weason to lock the doors.”

“That was what the others thought,” said Darla. “Anyway, I checked into a hotel, and they assigned me a Nana!”

“A Nana for you? Are you a little girl too?” Arianna clapped her hands. “Maybe we can play!”

“Well, I will admit that I let her talk me into relaxing and being a little girl for a little while,” said Darla, “and I really liked it. So, who knows? But what I really want to do is be your Nana. You are adorable and a delight. I’d be proud to be the Nana for such a smart and talented Babydoll!”

“Awww, gosh,” said Arianna, blushing. “I think I can appwove you wight now! You can start tomowwow as far as I’m concerned but I guess it all depends on the wed tape and stuff.”

“Yes, there’s no escaping paperwork,” said Darla. “I guess that’s the same on every planet.”

“Do you wanna see the west of the house?” asked Arianna. “I better show you where you can stay and where evewything is.” Darla agreed, and Arianna showed her the kitchen, the robot room, the downstairs playroom, the Nana’s suite, the upstairs playroom, the nursery, the bathrooms, and so on – the house even had some extra rooms that Arianna was using for a home office and a hobby room. Only the Nana’s suite’s bathroom had a potty, of course. Arianna had designed this home for herself.

“It’s so wunnerfuls ta meet you!” said Arianna as Darla stepped out the door. “I know this will be lovely! I will twy my hardest to be a good Babydoll for you!”

“Aww, Honey,” said Darla. “You’re such an adorable and sweet Babydoll. I so look forward to being your Nana and will try to be the best Nana I can be! Why didn’t you already have one?”

“Well, I was living in an apartment before, and there was a Nana for me and my woommates, but she’s paid by the apartment building, so even though I miss her, she had to stay there,” said Arianna. “By the way, she’s a little girl Nana and she’s gweat, so you can be both! Anyway, this house just got finished building, and I just moved in.”

“It’s such a beautiful home,” said Darla. “Well, Arianna, I have to get going now, but I’ll be seeing you soon! Have a beautiful day!”

The robot taxi she’d scheduled had arrived, so Darla got in and headed back to the hotel. The neighborhood had local Nana organizations for mutual support and education, and there were online classes for furthering her hobbies, so it looked like she would enjoy her life on Infantus.

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Darla had arrived at Arianna’s house exactly on time. She pushed the doorbell button, only to find the door slide open. Carefully, Darla peered in and slowly looked around. She saw that the screen of the computer system that controlled the house and its robotic crew had the words, “WELCOME Nana Darla Sahree … your profile and genetic map confirmed.

About that time, a housemaid droid walked into the den area and greeted Darla, “Hello, Nana. I’m Dinney-1, one of the housemaid droids. Can I be of some help for your first day? The baby is still asleep in her crib, although she will need the usual morning attentions.”

Darla smiled as she replied, “Well, I’ve already had the nickel tour of the house overview. Might you show me the kitchen and dining area one more time so I can prepare breakfast for the baby?”

Dinney-1 held out a hand towards an open arch and said, “This way,” as she walked through it.

Darla looked the android over. She was impressed. Apparently Infantus had some of the most advanced specialty androids anywhere, as all the literature had suggested. The Dinney series looked almost human, except for the mercury silver hair, the slightly glowing green eyes, and several other features that showed they weren’t really human, or humanoid.

After the droid showed Darla around the highly mechanized kitchen and how to use the ephemeral cloud menu console, it asked, “Will there be anything else, Nana Darla?”

A tingle of joy ran through her at actually being called Nana, “Not right now, but if I have any questions, I’ll be sure to call on you.”

The droid bowed and said, “As you wish, Nana,” then turned and left.

Darla monkeyed with the ephemeral request console and brought up a bowl of oatmeal, topped with butter, nutmeg, and several spoons of honey. Nana took this over to the large table next to the highchair and placed it there along with a spoon whose handle was a cute kitty with little green gems for eyes.

From the dining room, Darla went to the nursery to check on her new ward. She found Arianna sleeping in her crib. All she had on was a thick diaper and a cute pair of plastic-lined rumba panties. She sucked her thumb adorably as she snuggled with her fuzzy Teddy Bear.

Darla cooed softly as she picked Arianna gently from the crib, “There’s my baby. Time to wakey wakey and get all cleaned up and get some breakfast.” Darla was amazed at how light Arianna was in her arms as she patted Arianna’s messy hinney.

She carried Arianna to the potty area and cleaned and dressed her in a really thick diaper and a ladybug romper. By the time Darla had finished with Arianna’s hair, she was one of the most adorable babydolls Darla could remember.

Darla once again picked Arianna up, held her to her shoulder, and carried her to the dining room. She put Arianna into the highchair and lowered the tray and locked it in place. Feeding Arianna was the most fun Darla had had in a long time, even though her baby had made a huge mess.

After cleaning baby up and checking her diaper once again, it was time to take her to the infant playground for a while. Darla put Arianna into the sandbox, then sat on one of the comfortable benches nearby to watch. Darla couldn’t help but laugh at the really cute antics Arianna went through. Darla knew Arianna was exactly who she was and was not ashamed to be a toddler in anyway.

Darla also noticed the many littles all dressed as precious as they could be, their caregivers watching them from other benches. This made her start to actually think of being a little herself. She could still be a Nana on Infantus ... a Little Nana. She giggled to herself.

“Oh, you must be Arianna’s new Nana,” said a very adult-looking and red-haired Nurse nearby. “I’m Nurse Molly Moynihan, and my little one is Freddy over there, in the red and yellow overalls.” Darla looked and saw a rambunctious blond boy climbing up a slide and sliding down onto the padded synthetic playground floor material. “We live across the street and over one house from you. Arianna’s been telling Freddy about her new Nana and how much she’s been looking forward to you starting!”

“Has she really?” asked Darla. “Well, I really took to Arianna when I met her. She’s a darling!” They talked about their little charges, although Darla had a question. “So, to be a Nurse, do you need to have medical training, then?”

“Oh, yes,” said Molly. “That’s the main difference. I am actually a trained and registered nurse, so if you have medical questions, I’d be happy to help. Freddy here needs a Nurse and not just a Nana because of a medical condition that I can’t discuss without his consent because of privacy regulations.”

“Of course,” said Darla. “I know there is a variety of Nanas, Nurses, Governesses, Babysitters, and so forth here on Infantus. I’m new to the planet, you see.”

“Yes, Arianna said,” Molly replied. “I’m sure you know that Babysitters are either freelance or work for agencies and take temporary caring jobs.” Darla nodded. “And Governesses are basically like Nanas but with more of a strict disciplinary regimen. Some littles need that kind of discipline and structure; others don’t.”

“I see,” said Darla. “At school there were optional classes for Governesses, but I didn’t get that certification. I focused on Infantus Nana.”

“That’s right, Arianna mentioned you were a Nana Pederson’s graduate,” Molly said. “That’s considered a big plus around here. They train you well, by all accounts.”

“I tried my best,” said Darla modestly.

“Graduated with top honors, Arianna told Freddy.” Molly smiled. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”

They talked for a while longer until Darla’s timer told her it was time for Arianna to be back home, so she excused herself, put a slightly pouting Arianna into her stroller and brought her back home.

“So the schedule says you’re to be at work now,” said Darla, “right after your diaper change. How do you do your work, Honey?”

As Darla carried her to the changing table and changed her diaper, Arianna said, “Well, I work from here, with my computer. You saw my office, so all you have to do it put me up in my chair and away I go! I’m working on a new store design for Babies of All Ages now. It’ll be so adorable! I hope they love it! If they do, they’ll start opening stores with my new design on planets all over the galaxy!”

“Oh, that’s wonderful, Sweetheart!” said Darla. “There you go, all fresh and clean.” She picked Arianna up again, patting her thickly padded bottom soothingly as she carried her up to her work room. The girl had a sophisticated office chair that was somewhat like a baby’s high chair crossed with a dental chair in a way. It leaned back and had foot rests, with monitors high on the walls and angled to face her. There were two half keyboards, one on each arm rest, and a track pad she operated with her right hand just below the half keyboard on that side.

“Thanks Nana!” said Arianna. “Time to get stuff done!”

“All right, Dear, just let me know if you need anything. I’ll be nearby, and I’ll come by to check on you.” Darla smiled and marveled at how Arianna was already typing away and manipulating 3-D objects on her screens but hardly moved her hands at all.

Darla checked out the local care giver’s social groups on the computer. There was one for Nana Pederson’s graduates, so she would have to check that one out – the school had campuses on many planets, so there would certainly be many she hadn’t met, but they were all graduates of the same curriculum, so they’d have that in common, at least. There was a general neighborhood carers group. And, she noticed, there was a group for little carers, who got together once a week. Perhaps she could join some of these.

Of course, she couldn’t leave Arianna alone unless she made special arrangements. Arianna was far from a helpless little, but Darla wanted to make sure Arianna felt just right with the level of care Darla gave her. Some littles wanted to be complete helpless babies, needing constant supervision – that made more work for a Nana, but this was Infantus, so Darla was certain there were Babysitting services available.

She checked the directory, and there were many of them. But Arianna was more of a toddler, and she had been getting along quite well with just her household robots looking after her. Some littles were troublemakers and needed attention to keep them from getting into things they shouldn’t, but Arianna showed no signs of that kind of bratty behavior. She was a total sweetie pie so far.

Darla was following the Nana Pederson’s guidelines for adjusting into a new Nana role, playing it middle of the road at first and adjusting as necessary. She’d give Arianna all the care she could until Arianna signaled her to tone it down. It was hard for littles to ask for more care and to be treated as if they were more helpless, but it was easier for them to say they could do something themselves.

Darla went by Arianna’s work room and refilled the baby bottle in its holder on her chair with water. She noted that Arianna had been drinking from it, so she was doing well at staying hydrated. She wouldn’t have to stop her and make her take hydration breaks, feeding her a bottle until it was gone. That was good. She quickly checked Arianna’s diaper, and Arianna smiled gratefully at her. The diaper didn’t need changing yet. Darla smiled back and went to get lunch ready.

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After a few weeks, the two had settled well into a routine. Five days a week Arianna did her morning and afternoon work schedule, and two days a week she was free all day to play. Darla read her stories, played games with her, dressed her up in beautiful clothes, watched Infantus’ wonderful cartoon shows with her, cooked her delicious meals, and otherwise had a wonderful time caring for the adorable Babydoll.

Darla had found time to go to the group meetings, including the one for little Nanas, who dressed adorably but were still very much Nanas. Some brought their charges with them to the meetings; others, like Darla, left them at home, watched by the household droids or by Babysitters. And yes, some of the little Nanas were in diapers – some of them had even undone their potty training, and some were even Infantus natives who had never been potty trained and had been diapered their whole lives. They’d gone into Nana training as a career and learned to care for other littles but otherwise were just like Arianna. And on Infantus, nothing was seen as odd about any of this.

Darla found herself shopping for more little clothes for herself and had tried some of the Infantus diapers, finding them wonderfully comfortable and comforting, though she had a hard time bringing herself to actually use one of them. One morning she woke Arianna up dressed in a floofy pink babydoll dress that could have been one of Arianna’s, but it was Darla’s own, with crinkly Infantus diapers showing prominently underneath, and Arianna had gasped excitedly, babbling about wanting to play baby games with her. Once they had gotten through breakfast and Darla had the excited little girl cleaned up, they both went into the playroom and played with blocks, giggling up a storm, and Darla had loved every moment.

Arianna was in her playroom, and Darla was putting away the dinner dishes in the cabinets, where they would automatically be washed overnight right where they were. Her diaper crinkled as she moved, which still made her smile. She could hear Arianna making cute sounds as she played in the playroom.

Outside, the pink moon of Infantus rose into the sky, nearly full.

Darla suddenly felt odd. Her dress felt big on her. Looking around, the house seemed much bigger too. Her legs felt wobbly. “I … I don’t feel … wight …” she said, collapsing to sit on the floor, which wasn’t as far of a fall as she was used to. She had a feeling that she was sitting on her diaper rather than wearing it. And then … she wasn’t thinking anymore. Not like an adult, anyway. She felt warmth beneath her but didn’t think anything of it. She was buried in floofy pink stuff. She giggled because it was soft and pretty but then tried to get out of it. It was difficult. Then she heard strange sounds.

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“Warning – unexplained disappearance or transformation,” the household computer stated. “Unexplained presence of infant life form. Dispatching droids to intercept unexplained life form. Unexplained absence of Nana Darla. Scanning.”

“Huh?” said Arianna from the playroom. She crawled toward the doorway that led to the kitchen, which was blocked by a baby gate, but she could still look through it. She saw a pile of clothes that looked like what Darla had been wearing.

Dinney-1 had arrived and had picked up a tiny baby girl. “It appears we have a little visitor, Babydoll Arianna,” she said, bringing the baby into the playroom, stepping over the baby gate. “Where did you come from, little one? Question is rhetorical as I do not expect an answer from such a small infant.”

“Scan complete,” said the household computer system. “DNA sequence of unexplained infant is identical to that of Nana Darla. Must conclude unexplained transformation.”

“Are … are you saying that Nana Darla just turned into a baby?” asked Arianna. “I mean, a tiny little baby, not the big kind?”

“No other explanation available,” said the computer’s voice.

“That doesn’t compute,” said Dinney-1, “but we’ve got a baby here, and she needs some baby things. I’m afraid your diapers and Nana Darla’s diapers are far too large for her.”

Fortunately for Darla, and for Arianna’s carpets, they did live on Infantus, a planet where diapers of all sizes weren’t exactly difficult to find. A robot delivery drone had a package of baby-sized diapers and a few baby girl outfits at the door in minutes. The diapers, of course, looked exactly like the bigger baby diapers; they were just cut smaller. Dinney-1 had the baby girl diapered snugly and dressed in a ruffly pink onesie in no time and left her in the playroom to clean up the wet big-baby diaper and put away Nana Darla’s dress.

Arianna looked at the tiny baby girl. “... Nana Darla?” she asked in puzzlement.

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Darla had been picked up by a big girl with funny sparkly hair and pretty shiny green eyes who made soothing sounds at her. Sometimes she heard the word “Darla,” which she thought probably meant something important. She was fascinated by everything and wiggled a lot but couldn’t get free to poke at the brightly-colored things she saw, which she was sure were toys. But the sparkly hair girl was holding her securely. Soon she found herself being wrapped with things, but she didn’t care. They were comfy and she’d been getting a bit cold anyway. Then she was set down on the soft floor and the other girl was talking to her.

There it was again, the word “Darla.” Darla was sure that meant something important. She made some sounds in response. The girl said something like “Arianna,” and Darla was also sure that was an important sound, so she made some more sounds. But then the girl started playing with blocks! Darla was amazed and loved how she could put a block on top of another block to make something bigger. And more blocks could go on those and it got even bigger! And then … she could knock them all down and they went everywhere, which was absolutely brilliant and hilarious. Darla laughed and laughed. So did the other girl. In fact, that other girl was obviously just another baby like her – maybe bigger, but otherwise no different. So she started thinking of the other girl as just another baby.

They played many games together, but eventually she started to get sleepy. The sparkly haired girl came back and unwrapped her and put other things on her. And she didn’t know what happened after that because she fell asleep.

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Darla awoke suddenly. She felt constricted. The clothes she had been wearing were tight, and then they were tearing. Her diaper had popped off her. And the crib she was in – crib? – was rapidly getting too small. She stood up. “W-what?” she said, confused.

“Unexplained transformation of infant into Nana Darla detected,” said the household computer’s voice. Dinney-1’s glowing green eyes appeared in the doorway.

“Dinney-1,” said Darla. “What’s going on? Where’s Arianna?”

“Asleep in her crib,” said the droid. “It seems you transformed into a tiny infant, then back again several hours later. It is still before sunrise. We obtained a portable travel crib and placed you in your bedroom. Would you like assistance?”

“Err, yes, please,” said Darla. With the droid’s help, she got her teeth brushed and her big-sized diapers and nightie on. “I don’t understand. Am I dreaming?”

“Insufficient data to answer,” said Dinney-1. “I do not consider myself to be a dream, but that could also be the case if I were a dream.”

“Oh, that’s a good point,” Darla said. “I’m going to try to sleep some more. Maybe this will make sense in the morning.”

But it didn’t. Arianna had seen her, though. She said she’d played with Darla as a baby. Darla didn’t remember that at all. Or … did she? There were fuzzy images, like a dream that she could almost remember.

“Correlation computed,” said the household computer, as Darla fed Arianna her breakfast. “Onset of transformation coincided precisely with pink moonrise. Reversal of transformation coincided precisely with pink moonset.”

“Moonrise?” asked Darla. “I know Infantus has a pink moon, but it has three others too.”

“Pink moon and blue, yellow and green too,” said Arianna, apparently reciting an Infantus nursery rhyme. “Wait, computer, what are you saying? Darla turns into a baby when the pink moon is in the sky? It was in the sky the night before, and this didn’t happen.”

“Correlation computed,” the computer replied. “Causation not implied.”

“OK,” said Darla. “That’s true. It might not be the moon … it might be something caused by the moon that’s causing it. There might be a whole chain of things. We’ve got to talk to a doctor … or a nurse!”

“Let’s ask Nurse Molly!” said Arianna. “Once she’s had time to get Freddy all ready for his day.”

“Right,” said Darla, sending Molly a quick text message. “In the meantime, let’s get a certain little girl ready for hers!”

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It didn’t take Darla long to get Arianna cleaned, thickly diapered, and dressed in a cute romper. While Arianna played in her playpen, Darla brought up the security footage of the last evening and early morning. To her total shock, she found the sequence that showed her most remarkable transformation … and the rest of the time she was a real baby up to the point where she transformed back, which did, in fact, exactly coincide with the rising and setting of Infantus’ pink moon.

Darla already knew this planet was exactly the place where mysterious things happened all the time. She even knew of the tale of the lost 6th Fleet, which had very convincing proof that some strange entity had destroyed it before it could destroy the planet. There was that amazing picture of all the energy converging upon what might be a humanoid figure in the exact center with their arms spread. It was truly an awesome and amazing picture, said to have been taken directly from an eyewitness’ comm device. Infantus was already a planet steeped in unexplained phenomena. Could this be one more?

Darla’s personal comm chimed. “Oh! It’s Nurse Molly,” said Darla, walking out into the front room, where Arianna was in her playpen. “Is it ok if she comes over and brings Freddy?”

“Welllllll … I guess so,” said Arianna, sounding appropriately childish. “Even if he is a stinky boy.” She giggled, and so did Darla, because Arianna sounded just like an adorably silly little girl. Darla got Arianna’s diaper changed and put her in her playroom, which was larger than the playpen and could easily accommodate two playful little ones.

“Nurse Molly and Freddy are at the door,” said the household computer shortly. Darla went to answer it and welcome them in. Freddy looked around the interior of the house curiously, but Nurse Molly led him by the hand to the playroom where Arianna awaited him, deftly opening and shutting the baby gate to let him inside.

“Now, you two play nice, OK?” Darla said to them.

“Yes, Nana!”

“Yes, Nana Sahree!”

“Now, what’s this you wanted to ask me?” asked Nurse Molly.

“Well, Arianna and I had a very strange experience last night,” said Darla. “It felt like some kind of strange dream, but let me show you the household camera footage, because it wasn’t a dream at all.” They sat down in the computer room, and Darla replayed the video.

“What – how – oh my!” exclaimed Molly as she saw Darla disappear into her clothing and then emerge as a tiny baby. “Is that – you?”

Darla shrugged and said, “Unless I was matter-transmitted somewhere else and a baby was transmitted back in my place! But I don’t remember being anywhere else, and I feel like I have some vague memory of this. What’s more, let me show you the footage from when I changed back!” She did so. The infant was sleeping in the portable crib she’d been put in, and then she expanded into Darla.

“Oh, my stars!” said Molly.

“What’s more, according to the computer, the times when this happened coincided perfectly with the rise and set of the pink moon!” Darla explained. “Have you ever heard of anything like this?”

Molly looked at her with wide eyes and shook her head. “Never,” she said. “I’m an Infantus native, and I went to medical school here, and never did I learn about any such thing happening in all the medical literature. I suppose this could be some sort of medical condition that simply hasn’t been discovered yet. Stranger things have happened – especially on Infantus.”

“Well, thank you, Nurse Molly,” said Darla with a slight sigh. “I guess I was hoping you’d have some sort of answer.”

“Please just call me Molly,” she replied. “I’d say be ready for when the pink moon rises tonight. Even without an explanation, there may be a pattern.”

They spoke about some of Infantus’ other mysteries until it was time for them to go to Freddy’s neuroelectronic therapy appointment. Darla thanked Molly, and once again Darla was alone with Arianna. She checked her ward’s diaper, but she was only slightly damp. She brought Arianna a bottle of Aldebaran Starfruit juice, because it had lots of electrolytes as well as vitamins, and she knew Arianna liked it. Arianna’s diaper wouldn’t be only slightly damp for very long. Then Darla went back to looking at the files about Infantus’ unexplained happenings.

While Darla was lost in serious contemplation about the data she was reading, her personal comm chimed. The Caller’s ID code checked as a legit call and not a scammer or an ad or something, but Darla had never heard of the caller, whose name was Heather Shelby, according to the screen.

“Hello? Can I be of some help? This is Nana Sahree.”

“Hello, “ came a softly-spoken female voice, “I believe you cared for an infant almost immediately after you came to Infantus, is that right?”

Darla nodded to herself as she replied, “I am. The poor dear needed attention, and I’m a licensed professional Nana, so I provided expert infant care as required.”

“So you know nothing of the pink moon quarantine on the villages of the Moro Mountains, I take it.”

“Quarantine? I’ve seen nothing anywhere about any kind of quarantine on the planet.”

The voice asked with a bit of concern, “Did you happen … to get bitten? Or maybe had the skin broken by the infant while you were there?”

Darla raised an eyebrow, “Actually, I did get a bit of a cut on my finger while I checked to see if the infant was teething. It was minor, and the skin has already healed. Why? Is there something I should know?”

The voice replied, “Yes, on nights when the pink moon is nearly full, you should be in a place where someone can care for you. I’m sure that by this time, you already know why. Oh, yes, and try not to bite anybody or break their skin.” The connection broke. The only location info available was that the call had originated from the Moro Mountains of infantus. Which wasn’t very helpful, considering that the mountain range was huge.The one interesting thing about the topographical map of the range was a huge shaded area with the words, “We no call you, you no come,” written across it in bold block letters.

Darla sat back and was totally mind blown by the call. Now she began to think fearful thoughts. Her contemplations of doom and gloom were interrupted by the security system’s announcement, “Excuse this interruption, but a visitor is at the door, Nana.”

She turned and brought up an image of the individual on the porch. She was a very pretty young woman of about maybe 18 or 19 with long blonde hair, dressed in a long flowing cape. Darla was intrigued as she said, “Have Dinney-1 escort her in. I would like to meet her.”

“As you wish.” came the reply.

Dinney-1 arrived with the young woman. The droid held out her hand and introduced her. “This is Nana Shelby from the village of Kendrick in the Moro Mountains. She says that she has something rather important to discuss with you.”

A tingle ran down Darla’s spine at the mention of the Moro Mountains. She held out her hand and said, “Welcome to my new home. My name’s Darla. What might we have to discuss?”

The young woman removed the cape and handed it to Dinney-1, who carried it off to deal with it properly. She was dressed in a typical black and white Nana uniform. She said softly, “I want to thank you for ... taking care of that baby when you found her. Although I think you set something in motion in your life that you weren’t expecting.”

Darla replied, “How so? I was just doing my duty as a Nana.”

The woman giggled softly, “I’m sure. What I have to tell you you might not believe.”

Now it was Darla’s turn to giggle, “Almost everything on this planet is kind of hard to believe.”

The young woman smiled a strange smile then said, “I’m that baby. That house was set up to keep me inside, but to allow others to come take care of me. But any contact with an open wound when the pink moon is full and in the sky spreads the virus.”

Darla looked at her finger. “Virus?” She was, of course, thinking of how she’d cut her finger on the baby’s sharp tooth.

About that time, Arianna toddled in in her infantile way and whimpered, “Nana, baby gots biteded somehow. Gotsa hurty on my finger.” She held it up. It was a small puncture wound, but now, Darla was afraid for her infant.

Both Darla and Nana Shelby looked at each other, startled, because of what they’d just been talking about. “Arianna, Sweetheart, what happened?” asked Darla. “Let’s get that disinfected and get a bandage on you so it’s less ouchy, OK?”

“OK, Nana,” she said. Nana Shelby followed them to the downstairs washroom, where there was a first-aid cabinet. “Was just playing in the playroom,” she said. “Onna my blocks bited me.” Darla wondered about the blocks, as they were all made of painted and varnished wood from a native Infantus tree, very commonly used for making furniture, toys, and other wooden items.

“Mind if I check the blocks?” asked Nana Shelby, who had seen which playroom Arianna had come out of.

“Be my guest – Arianna, this is Nana Shelby, who might know something about what happened to me last night.” Arianna waved shyly with her uninjured hand while Darla first cleaned and then shone an antiseptic ray on the girl’s cut finger. She was so gentle that Arianna didn’t even cry.

“Ohhhhh,” said Arianna. “B’cause you turneded into a lil baby.”

“Yep,” said Darla. “I don’t understand, but I guess she might have been the baby I took care of after the ship I was on crash landed?” She quickly applied a bandage so the cut wouldn’t bleed on anything and wouldn’t get infected.

“Oh so you gotted it from her!” said Arianna. “What we gonna do?”

“This block has a splinter,” said Nana Shelby, returning and holding up a blue wooden block that did in fact have a damaged corner.

“It was Fweddy!” said Arianna around her pacifier. “He was hittin’ blocks on other blocks. He naughty. Then that block bited me.”

“Well, he shouldn’t do that,” said Darla. “But your finger is all bandaged up for now.”

“Now, your adorable Babydoll – I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name, Honey –” began Nana Shelby.

“Awianna! An’ Nana says you’re Nana Shelby and you are fwom the mountains and …”

“Arianna has an open wound now,” Nana Shelby continued. “You will have to be very careful with it when the pink moon is up and full – tell your home computer system, and have it tell your droids. Don’t let any of your bodily fluids come in contact with it – no blood, no spit, no tears, maybe not even sweat. Not until it heals up. It’s how the virus spreads. If she gets the virus, the same could happen to her.”

“You mean I could turn into a itty bitty baby?” asked Arianna.

“Just when the full pink moon rises,” said Nana Shelby. “So watch out! Because there’s no cure for it.”

“Whatif the blue moon is full?” asked Arianna. “Or the green or yellow ones?”

“That is a good question,” said Nana Shelby to Darla. “But we’ve only seen an effect with the pink moon.”

“Does the pink moon turn boys into baby girls?” giggled Arianna.

“Actually, it does,” said Nana Shelby. “There are stories about a different virus that can turn girls into baby boys …”

“Yucky!” said Arianna, making a face and sticking out her tongue.

“But it can only be caught by girls who stick out their tongues …” Nana Shelby went on. Arianna’s eyes went wide, and she hastily pulled her tongue back in while Nana Shelby chuckled. “But those seem to be only stories, because we’ve never actually seen anything like that in our village. As for the green and yellow moons, they don’t seem to have any stories about them – not in our village or any of the ones nearby, at least.”

“Any other strange stories you’d like to share?” asked Darla.

“Well, there’s one about Dark Moon Girls,” said Nana Shelby. “Nobody knows how this happens, but sometimes somebody gets the opposite. They turn into a baby girl when the new pink moon is in the sky – in the daytime. But nobody I know has ever seen that happen, so it’s probably just a story.”

“Well, I’ll just try to keep away from her until her finger heals,” said Darla.

“Beware, because at the times when it’s important … you won’t know to keep away from her,” warned Nana Shelby.

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As the day went on, Darla had a growing urge to try on the new babydoll romper and really cute panties she had bought. Arianna was totally cute in hers. Of course, Dinney-1’s encouragement to do just that made it even stronger, especially since Arianna was basically dressed in the same type of romper and looked just precious. It wasn’t long before Dinney-1 was tying the romper’s bib behind Darla’s neck after doing her hair up in really cute ponytails.

Darla turned slowly side to side as she looked at herself in the mirror. She really loved the 3 rows of lace across her cute round bottom. It wasn’t unusual for a Nana or Babysitter to dress the same as the ward they were caring for. From what Darla had seen so far on Infantus, it was even expected. Although, of course, a Governess was expected to dress and act in certain more adult ways.

Dinney-1 commented, “My, you really make a cute little girl. Have you ever thought of registering as a Little, Nana?”

Darla had serious thoughts about it, then she remembered she was going to be an infant every time the pink moon was full. She replied instead, “I don’t think so at this time. I’m still worrying over becoming a baby every pink full moon.”

Intensely pleasant chills ran through Darla as Dinney-1 patted her bottom. The droid replied, “That’s quite understandable. I do have to say, though, you are not only an adorable baby, but also an extremely cute little.”

The hiney pats felt so good that, Darla had a very hard time stopping herself from wetting her panties. Her eyes got huge as she said, “Excuse me, I have to go potty,” then dashed off to the restroom as fast as she could before she had a really embarrassing accident.

As she relieved herself, Darla was positive she was actually expected to have accidents, as most of the population of Infantus thought of themselves as either unpotty trained, or not quite old enough to be completely out of diapers. There were exceptions, of course, and Darla hadn’t been born here, but she realized that if she’d had an accident, it certainly wouldn’t be considered outside social norms.

As strange as it seemed to her, Darla found herself fantasizing over it. I mean, let’s face it … being a little girl Babydoll too old for diapers, but still way too young for just panties, did have an attraction.

Darla hadn’t realized how long she had been in the bathroom. She heard a soft knock on the door and the soft cooing voice of Dinney-1 in childcare mode, “Hello? Is everything alright in there? Does the little girl need some help or dry panties ... or even a pullup?”

Darla jumped up, cleaned herself, then wiggled into her panties and the romper. She said, “None of those, but I could use a bit of help tying the romper, if you don’t mind.” Darla could certainly see herself being a little, but she was still paid to be a Nana.

The door slid open with an airy whoosh as Dinney-1 came bouncing in, saying, “Surely. Now turn around and be a good little girl while I tie it.” Darla couldn’t help it; she giggled.

When Dinney-1 had finished tying the bib of the romper, she took Darla’s hand, and with no fanfare, led her back out into the play area of the den just like the little girl she so much looked like. Just as they got there, Arianna came toddling out of the nursery. All she had on was a diaper and panties. She was sucking her thumb as she dragged her favorite woobie blankie along with her.

Arianna noticed the two of them. Her eyes grew large, and she dropped her thumb from her mouth, “Den Den … zat means baby gotsa playmate?”

Dinney-1 chuckled as she replied, “I’m not sure, baby. This little girl hasn’t yet decided.”

Arianna started whimpering adorably and poking out her bottom lip, “She gotsa be baby’s new playmates .. she jus gotsa.”

Darla smiled as a nice pleasant tingle ran through her. She said in a soft coo, “Relax, Baby, Nana’s here to take care of you.” She let Dinney-1’s hand go and walked over to Arianna and held her in her arms, “I’m your playmate for sure, Sweetie.” She gave Arianna a kiss on her nose, which made her start jumping up and down and clapping her hands in glee.

The day passed very quickly for Darla as she had the most fun she ever had. She was in the middle of the best plushy fight ever when she noticed Dinney-1 had brought out an infant’s onesie, a thick diaper, and all the other things necessary to diaper and dress a small baby. That was also when she noticed that the light outside the window had dimmed. Sunset was approaching, which meant the pink full moon would be rising. Darla felt nervous. Arianna didn’t seem to mind having a playmate who could take over as Nana if the need arose, but now there were a few nights every month when Darla wouldn’t be in that position. She hoped Arianna would understand, as this wasn’t a condition that Darla could really do anything about. Fortunately Arianna seemed to really like her as a Nana, so maybe everything would be OK.

Then it happened again. Realizing that the pink moon must have risen, Darla had the feeling again that everything was getting bigger, and her clothes were getting too big for her, and then … she was a much smaller girl in a much bigger and simpler world. All she knew to do was to explore. But then the big girl with the sparkly hair picked her up and put things on her again, and the other big girl who was a baby made happy squeaking sounds and played games with her.

Dinney-1 was programmed for such duties, although her personality was a bit predictable. She took good care of both Darla and Arianna, feeding them side by side in two different sized high chairs at supper time, and then putting Arianna in the bathtub with lots of toys and bubbles to splash around for a while when Darla needed a diaper change.

Unbeknownst to any of them, however, over the course of that evening the full pink moon of Infantus was doing some very rare celestial gymnastics. It was slowly slipping into the planet Infantus’ shadow, visible from Arianna’s town as a total lunar eclipse. By the time Darla’s diaper change was done and Arianna’s bath was in full swing, the full pink moon had temporarily vanished from Infantus’ night sky.

What happened next happened fast, Arianna was busy clapping her hands and screeching with glee on the changing table, because Dinney-1 had taken the opportunity to tickle her tummy and feet. At that very moment, she suddenly changed back to her adult self in body, but her mind was still that of a baby. Dinney-1 was taken by surprise, and Darla tumbled off the table, managing to nick her finger on a sharp edge on the way down. Darla started to cry, but it sounded like the voice of a very distraught grown woman, rather than a tiny baby. “Oh my goodness,” said Dinney-1. “My algorithms did not predict this. Are you all right, little one? There there …”

Arianna heard the noise and got out of the bathtub, dripping water all over everything as she crawled down the stairs in her favorite way, hands and knees, one step at a time and backwards. Dinney-1 saw Arianna, picked up Darla, and went to her other charge, Darla’s feet dragging behind. “No, Sweetie, it’s your bathtime – you have to stay in the bath,” said the droid, but Arianna wanted to know what was going on and make sure Darla was all right.

“But how comes she big again?” asked Arianna. “And oh no look! She cutted her finger!” Arianna grabbed at Darla’s bleeding finger, and of course she touched the blood with the finger she herself had cut earlier, and naturally there was no bandage on it because Dinney-1 had removed it for Arianna’s bath. The droid noticed, but it was too late. Arianna’s cut had been contaminated.

“Oh my!” said Dinney-1. “Arianna! You can’t touch her with that finger!” She picked up Arianna and took her to the nearby washroom to clean the cut again. Darla continued to cry on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. Dinney-1 had Arianna back upstairs and into the bathtub in a jiffy, but she still didn’t know what to do with Darla. She fell back on her algorithms for taking care of an adult-sized little and diapered her in one of her big-sized diapers for now, as her baby-sized one had split open. She got Darla’s finger disinfected and bandaged and put her in the playroom while she got Arianna out of the tub and ready for bed.

“So … Nana Darla’s a big baby now?” asked Arianna as Dinney-1 tucked her into her crib.

“For right now,” said the droid. “I have communicated with the household computer. There is an eclipse of the pink moon tonight, and her transformation coincided perfectly with the eclipse’s totality phase. This development was unexpected, because there is so little data about her condition. However, I believe we may have a problem, Honey. Your cut was contaminated by Nana Darla’s blood, and you may have been infected.”

“Huh? So I might become a little tiny baby too?” asked Arianna.

“We don’t know yet, Sweetie,” said Dinney-1. “Maybe I got your finger cleaned up in time. Or maybe not. But we can take you to the doctor in the morning. Maybe they will be able to tell.”

The computer had predicted the end of the eclipse’s totality phase, which lasted about 45 minutes from start to finish, so when Darla changed back into a little baby, Dinney-1 was prepared to change her wardrobe yet again. She got Darla ready for bed too and placed her in the portable crib she’d been in the night before.

When the pink moon set just before sunrise, Dinney-1 was ready to change Darla back into nighttime diapers and jammies that fit a very little girl of her age. But the droid didn’t tell her what had happened; she just tucked Darla into bed for another hour or so of sleep before her normal wake-up time.

As Darla got up and prepared herself for her day, Dinney-1 and the household computer finally explained what had happened. Darla was amazed, and dismayed as well. “But … but I might have spread the disease to Arianna? Oh no! I don’t want her to have this too!”

“We don’t know she has it,” said Dinney-1. “However, we may want to take her, and you, to the hospital and see if they can discover anything.”

“All right,” said Darla. “After I get her all ready for the day, we’ll go there. You can look after the house, as you do best.”

“Of course, Nana Darla,” said the droid. “A request for an appointment has already been made and accepted.” Infantus had an amazing healthcare system, as all the most civilized planets did.

And so, after Arianna’s bath and breakfast, Darla got her changed and dressed, packed a diaper bag for her, and got into the car that had come to take them to the hospital.

“This is quite unusual,” said Dr. Neala, a kindly white-haired woman with tortoise-shell glasses and a white doctor’s coat. “I’ve looked at all the video from your household computer and the story told by Nana Shelby. The story’s already the talk of the medical community all over the world. There are hundreds of doctors who want to know more, including me. So first of all, if we could just scan both of you, we’ll see what that shows us. And then, if you wouldn’t mind, we’d like to have you overnight for observation, so we can record data about your transformation. If the pattern holds, this should be the last night you transform until the next full pink moon, 25 days from now.”

“D-does it hurt?” asked Arianna.

“Shh, shh, it’s OK, Honey, all you have to do is lie still on a table,” said Darla.

“No shots?”

“Not today, Sweetheart,” said Dr. Neala with a warm smile. “Just follow me, and we’ll get you scanned. Your Nana can be right there with you. She can go first and show you it’s all right.” Darla nodded, and they followed her through the hallways to a room with a table that was a lot like a changing table, with a soft pad on top.

The technicians showed Darla to the table and arranged her arms and legs so she was lying on her back in just the right position, looking up at a big glowing rectangle in the ceiling. They went over to some computer screens and typed on the keyboards, the machinery in the ceiling made some musical humming sounds, and it was done. They helped Darla off the table, and Arianna was next. “Didn’t feel a thing, Sweetie,” she told Arianna.

Darla held the worried girl’s hand for as long as they let her, then stood nearby and watched her as the same process was repeated. Dr. Neala said, “And you’re all done! Thanks, Danny and Julie.” She nodded to the technicians and led them out of that room and back through the hallways. “Now, as I said, we’d like to keep you overnight for observation – and we’re going to be analyzing your scans, too. So I have a question for you. We can put you in a suite for a little and her Nana, or we can put you in one for two littles, with a droid Nana. What would you prefer?”

Arianna and Darla looked at each other. “You can be a little overnight, Nana! Please? Please? We can play!”

“Remember, I’m going to turn into a baby at pink moonrise,” Darla said.

“Oh, that’s right,” said Arianna, pouting. “But then you’ll be little and cute and we can play!” she added, her expression brightening again.

“All right, two littles it is, then,” said Darla to Dr. Neala.

The doctor said, “Very well,” with a smile. Speaking to Darla, she went on, “We’ll arrange for a droid Nana so there’s no chance of contamination. Just let the system know what your little ages are. We’ll program the system to be ready for your change, and for a possible change for Arianna as well, just in case. It took a whole pink moon for you to transform, though, so it shouldn’t happen yet, even if Arianna is infected, which isn’t certain. Still, just in case.”

Darla nodded. “Just in case.”

Then went up in an elevator, then through more hallways, then to a room with a colorful soft padded floor, many toys, and a big mirror on one wall, probably for observation. There were probably cameras too, hidden from view, so patients could be observed unobtrusively. There were two large cribs and one small one, as well as two large high chairs and one small one. “Here we are,” said Dr. Neala. “Nana Clea-7 will take care of you. I’ll come by and see you in the morning to tell you what we’ve found out so far.” A droid similar to Dinney-1 walked up; she had shiny golden hair and glowing pale pink eyes.

“Oooo, you’re pwetty,” said Arianna.

“Thank you, Honey,” said the droid with a friendly smile. “And you are very adorable.”

“OK, you can get to know each other, and I’ll see you later,” said Dr. Neala. “Have a good day and night!”

As the doctor walked off down the hallway, the Clea-7 asked them, “Now, if you two can let me know your little ages so I can care for you appropriately?”

“Arianna’s an unpotty-trained toddler Babydoll, and she should be in the system already …” said Darla, unsure how this worked.

“So she is,” said Clea-7. “If you’d like to be a different age for your stay, that would be fine, Honey.”

“No, that’s fine, thank you Nana Clea,” said Arianna.

“How about you, Nana Darla?” the droid asked, turning to her. “You do not seem to be registered as a little, so what little age would you prefer for your stay?”

“I, um …” said Darla. Should she request to be treated as a potty-trained little? But then she wouldn’t get to wear those comfortable diapers. But if she was to be treated as unpotty-trained, she’d have to use them.

“Ooo, be a baby!” said Arianna.

“I don’t know …”

“Ba-BY! Ba-BY! Ba-BY!” chanted Arianna enthusiastically.

“The decision is ultimately up to you,” said Clea-7, “but I assure you that I am programmed for a multi-dimensional spectrum of little care. Any choice is fine.”

“You’re gonna turn into a little baby tonight anyway,” said Arianna.

“I have also been programmed with that information,” Clea-7 confirmed, “and will be ready for this transformation when it occurs. It is unusual, but well within my ability to accommodate.”

“OK,” said Darla. “Unpotty-trained baby, age …” She thought about how old she looked in the videos when she changed. “... 18 months?”

“Oooo, little baby,” Arianna said.

“Very well,” said Clea-7. “Let us get you dressed, Darla honey, and then we’ll check on little Arianna too.” She closed the door to the suite and took me by the hand to the changing table.

“Yes, Nana Clea,” said Darla, feeling a happy anticipatory tingling in her tummy.

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Clea-7 produced a small device and pressed it against Darla’s pelvis for an instant after she was nude and lying on her back on the padded changing table. The device felt cold against her skin and created a strange sensation all through her tummy. Clea-7 then took Darla by her ankles and lifted her in the air like the infant she was soon to be and pressed the device against her coccyx with the same results, before setting her hinney in the very thick and soft embrace of a thick diaper.

Darla asked, “What was that for?” in a voice that had actually changed slightly and sounded more like a child’s as Clea-7 powdered her.

Clea responded, “If you are to be 18 months old, until further notice, you are completely diaper dependant, and it also allows you to experience what it is like to learn how to walk properly again. I’m not exactly sure if you will be a completely crawly baby, or a beginner toddler. Whichever, it will be so cute. Anyway, it’s part of Baby Rules. A baby will wear a diaper and use them as expected.”

Darla felt two things rush through her at the same time. First was the thrill of being able to be her chosen age and wear the things and even play with the things she had secretly wanted to, and everyone would even encourage it. The other was the realization that she was now fully diaper dependent and would act like the eighteen month old she was currently dressed as and looked so much like.

Clea picked her up from the changing table and held her to her breast as she patted Darla’s bottom. Darla had a real problem now, of trying to keep her mind from falling into that soft fuzzy place that so beckoned.

Darla was dressed in a thick, very soft cloth Infantus diaper. Over that Clea put a pair of soft powder blue plastic panties. Then, on went an adorable pair of matching bloomer panties with lace everywhere and a matching puffy sleeved top with a cute little kitty embroidered on the front.

By the time Clea had put Darla in the large playpen with Arianna, Darla had started sucking her thumb. Arianna shrieked with joy as she crawled over to Darla and babbled, “Oo is so dowable. Looks jus likesa baby suppososas.” then giggled.

Darla took her thumb from her mouth and tried her best to reply. “Is so stwange. Ammnt big no mo, but still ams.”

Arianna hugged Darla and said, “No worries. Cordina baby rules, we is dwessed n doins jus as we supposesa. An an an baby rules cover alla Infantus.”

Clea-7 said in a soft cooing voice, “Now, you babies just do whatever babies want. We will be recording and taking any type of scans we can think of as the transformation occurs. The pink moon won’t rise until after sunset.” With this, Clea turned and left the play area, the door softly closing with an airy whooshing tinkle.

Darla didn’t know what to think as she felt the first small warmth in her diaper when she leaked a bit as babies do. She gasped and put her hands between her legs.

Arianna snickered, “Oo gotsa cute spressions. Baby wanna sees your poopy face. Tha fisrtus one so cute.”

Darla replied, “Am … gonna does that too?”

Arianna nodded until her ponytails flew, “Yups, jus likes me. We ‘spected to ennyways ... is what happens ta babies ya kno.” Then she picked up a squeaky toy and gave it a large squeeze.

Darla’s mind blitzed at that moment. The most important thing in her life at that point was that toy. The research team watched the videos of the two adorably dressed young women as they played with the many toys and dolls provided. They did note the two of them had taken an interest in stacking the letter blocks into towers and knocking them over. It caused many giggles as the girls shrieked with delight and rebuilt their little towers.

One of the adorably dressed technicians commented, “I don’t see anything out of the ordinary. All I see is two infants at play.”

The other tech, who had a tablet recorder and was looking over the data they had been gathering, replied, “Wait until after sunset. The moon will be out, and we will see what happens.”

The two girls played until it was lunchtime, when Clea-7 put them into their high chairs and fed them. Darla didn’t know what to do, but Arianna certainly did, and soon Darla picked up the trick of not understanding that it was time to eat while she was eating. After lunch, Clea changed their diapers and put them down for a nap, then got them up for more playing, and later it was supper time, more changes, and even more playtime.

“Clea,” said the tech in the next room into her microphone, “get the infant items ready. I do believe we are going to need them. The pink moon will be rising in five minutes.”

Clea-7 nodded, went to the storage cabinets, and retrieved two sets of diapers, baby rompers, and all the other items necessary, then took them into the play area. Of course, neither infant noticed.

About that time in the Infantian night sky, which was filled with many glowing and beautiful floating creatures, the pink moon peeked over the horizon, still just one day past full. Instantly, Darla reverted to her infant state, the clothes she had on swallowing her.

Arianna looked on in wide-eyed amazement and a bit of real hope that she too would have that happen. She watched as Clea picked up the now 18-month-old Darla and the wad of oversized clothing, took her to the changing table, and dressed her in a new thick diaper and snuggle bug romper, now appropriately sized.

When Clea sat Darla back in the playpen, Arianna crawled over and giggled, “No gotsa worries. Baby jus hopes happna mes too.”

From that point on, both of them babbled back and forth and played with the squeaky toys. Arianna showed Darla how to stack blocks. Darla, of course being 18 months old now, did manage to do it, but it was so cute to watch.

In the observation room, many highly skilled technicians went over the mounds of recorded data. At the time of the transformation, the only thing they had recorded was a slight increase in the Kirlian energy discharge from Darla’s body. According to readings, it had brightened to a bright blue for an instant as she transformed, then returned to normal. None of the other readings showed anything unusual.

About that time, the comm unit on the desk chimed. The tech sitting next to it answered, “This is Charley … the transformation has happened, but nothing unusual was recorded except for an increase in the bio-Kirlian discharges for an instant.”

The voice from the comm unit replied, “This is Kara from virology. We had a very interesting event with the blood samples from the subject Darla. At exactly pink moonrise, a strange nano-sized virus flashed into the serum under the scope for an instant. The blood sample instantly reverted to a sample that had to have been taken from an infant. Then, the particle vanished. We are analyzing the sample now, trying to find out what it might have been.”

“Is there any indication that subject Arianna is infected?” asked Charley? “There’s no sign of any kind of transformation here. Then again, subject Darla reported no transformation until an entire lunar cycle of the pink moon had passed, so perhaps there’s an incubation period.”

“There’s been no sighting of this strange nano-virus in Arianna’s blood at all,” replied Kara. “We’ll continue our analysis.”

“OK, we’ll continue our observation,” said Charley. “The doctors’ main concern is how to stop this from spreading.”

“Yes, if we can analyze the data from the nano-virus we saw, we might be able to create a vaccine, Kara said.”

In the playroom, Darla and Arianna played until Darla started to get sleepy, which happened earlier for her because her body was that of an 18-month-old now. Clea-7 finally put her down in her baby-size crib for the night, and Arianna looked in at her and said, “Ni ni baby Darla, no worrys! Awianna here, will play wif you inna mornin!”

After that, Clea allowed Arianna to play quietly for a while before getting her ready for bed too and putting her in her own big-sized crib.

The technicians changed shifts but continued to watch, and of course the cameras and other sensors recorded everything. Several hours later, the sun rose, and shortly after that the pink moon set. Darla suddenly awoke when her clothes became uncomfortably small for her. Clea-7 had been warned, however, and was standing ready to get them off her and change her into big-sized versions of the same diaper, onesie, and jammies. “There, there, baby,” said the droid, “everything’s OK. You can go right back to sleep.” She put Darla in the other large-sized crib, where Darla drifted back off to sleep.

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“How peculiar,” said Dr. Neala, sipping her coffee and examining all the data. “I see you got a gene sequence from the nano-virus, which seems to have made a reappearance in the morning as Darla changed back.”

“Yes,” said Kara, “and the night crew confirmed the sequence. We may be able to make a vaccine from this. I don’t know what effect it will have on Darla, but we can try it.”

“We can do initial trials on a tissue synthesis to test for safety,” said Dr. Neala. “The Kirlian energy surges were interesting … they resemble some of the other transformative phenomena in the literature, though those have usually been caused by some entity, such as Persephone, or some sort of device. They signify a cross-dimensional transference of mass-energy.”

“Are you saying that there’s a device or entity involved here?” asked Charley.

“Not necessarily,” replied Dr. Neala. “There’s no reason why other means couldn’t cause such a thing, such as a virus.”

“Well, I’ll start sequencing the vaccine,” said Kara.

“And I’ll start generating the synthesized tissue,” said Charley. “Let me know when the vaccine’s ready.”

“Will do,” Kara said.

“I’ll explain to the patients,” said Dr. Neala.

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“So we haven’t found anything yet, but we’d like to continue observing you,” said Dr. Neala. “We might have a vaccine soon, but of course we’ll have to test it for safety before we can actually try it on you.”

The researches were going nuts as they tried to analyze this strange virus. It was like trying to examine the complex structure of an atom. Every time they thought they had an exact observation, they would discover the virus also existed in several other states and actual locations at the same time.

Dr. Lanie Myers, one of the top Viral experts on Infantus, sighed in frustration as she sipped her not so fresh cup of coffee, “Apparently this virus doesn’t exist within this chronal location, but exists across several and maybe even an interdimensional inclusion or two.”

The adorably dressed physicist sitting next to her replied excitedly, “Yes, amazing, isn't it? We have an actual example of a form of interphasic transitional life.” He typed on his tablet’s keyboard for a bit, then the large screen lit up with the best genetic mapping they could make under the circumstances of this new viral form. “Only issue is we can’t get an exact reading on its structure. As you can see, even the very best quantum level N scattering scans don’t show the complete viral build.” He pointed using the laser pointer. “As you can plainly see in this scattering photomograph, many parts of it are located in a different transdimensional location that apparently keeps shifting as we try to scan it.”

Lanie replied, “That’s very interesting, Dr. Phillips, but what we really need to know is, what is the transmission vector, how contagious is it, and can we make a vaccine that has the proper efficacy to stop and contain it, or at least, make it non-transmissible?”

Phillips sat back in his chair and crossed his arms, thinking. “I’m not real sure there’s much we can do. Apparently this viral vector is caught in some transitional bonded inter-dimensional location currently unknown to our science that one or more of the photonic frequencies of the full pink moon generates. In some unknown way, it makes it possible for the virus to transition to this coronal plane, but then only at certain locations of previous infection.”

Lanie added, “The biggest issue is, we have no real samples of the vector. It appears only when the Pink moon is full. Which lends credence to the hypothesis that some frequency or molecule is pair-bonded with the pink moon’s energy. The blood samples we currently have are clean at all other times. The viral vector simply isn’t here, and we have no way of testing to see if one or more molecules of the sample are paired, tripled, or however it does it. We have nothing to work with but the scans we made when it appeared and disappeared during pink rise and pink set. As complete as we thought those scans were, they only captured pieces of the virus, since it apparently existed in several locations at the same time.”

Phillips rubbed his chin in thought, then his expression brightened, “Perhaps we can create a fake pinky.”

Lanie looked at Phillips with a strange expression. “I think you’ve been moonstruck.”

Phillips replied quickly as he leaned forward and typed on his tablet’s keyboard, “No, really. Experiment lab 21-P is vacant and has been for months. It would be easy to quickly build a photonic chamber that recreates the light of a full pink moon. We’ve been studying it for centuries, and its spectrum is well known. I’m more than confident we can create the exact energy frequencies to simulate a full pink moon.”

Lanie’s face took on an excited look as her eyes sparkled. “That just might work!” She reached over and patted the young man on his head, “For a little, you are absolutely the very best at thinking out of the box I have ever seen.”

Phillips giggled for a minute, then replied, “It’s because at my age, there are no boxes.”

Both laughed as they stood and exited the conference room. Lanie took her comm unit from the pocket of her cute lacy jumper. “Hello? Admin? Yes, this is Dr. Lanie Myers, the head of the research team investigating the new virus. Yes … yes, that’s correct, authorization number 32-Bravo Charlie 99-720. As you can see I have priority. I need chamber 21-P reserved and red-flagged for a contagious virus. Sorry, I can’t give you that information; it’s what we are trying to recreate if we had the lab … Thanks. How long? Oh, under contagion protocol, we have it for duration. Thanks.” She put the comm back in her jumper’s pocket.

Phillips said, “Soon as we get there, I’m having the technobots and constructorbots start assembly of our little light show.”

Lanie raised her index finger and said, “I almost forgot, we need to call programming and the archives. We need the archived research data on the pink moon, and we need some programs written for the computer control center.”

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By the time the two littles had arrived at the door of research area 21-P and the door whooshed open in its airy tinkling way, they stopped and looked in in stunned amazement. The room was obviously undergoing major construction. Many wires dangled from open places where control panels and monitors would soon be. The control center was a major confusion of builderdroids and regular construction techs.

Lanie said with amazement in her voice, “I thought you weren’t going to start construction until after we got to look the place over.”

Phillips replied, “I haven’t made the request yet. Maybe when you called and reserved the area, that priority thingy did it.”

Lanie asked one of the technobots, “Excuse me, but what’s the authorization level for this build project?”

The technobot replied in its mechanical voice, “Authorization level Alpha Prime, top priority. Thank you, Dr. Myers, and have a nice day.” It then continued with its work.

“Alpha Prime?” Philips said, and whistled in an impressed way. “That’s big stuff. Guess somebody high up got wind of this experiment and really wants it to happen.”

“Well, good,” said Lanie. “This could get us to where we could stop the virus spreading, at the very least. No more quarantines for people who have it. That would improve their quality of life. If we can’t find a cure, there’s at least that.”

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Darla was in the middle of another wonderful day of play. She and Arianna were enjoying being babies together. It had been a real adjustment to her way of thinking – she didn’t have to think about what to do for meals anymore, because when it was mealtime Clea-7 just picked her up and put her in a high chair next to Arianna and fed them both. When it was time for a nap or sleep Clea-7 just changed her into her pajamas and tucked her into her crib, again next to Arianna. When her diaper got too wet or when she filled it up, Clea-7 seemed to know right away, probably because of her purpose-built sensor array, and came to pick her up for a change. There was nothing for her to think about other than what game to play with Arianna next.

That first time she had filled the seat of her diaper had been astonishing. There were just waves of pressure rippling through her, and nothing whatsoever she could do to stop them. Arianna watched her with amusement, and afterward she said with a giggle, “That was a totally awesome poopy face! Was like you just figured out tha Secret of tha Undernursery … or finded tha Lost Treasure of tha Floppits.”

“I … I … couldn’t do anything about it … and it felt … so strange …” Darla muttered, half in shock. She could see that Clea-7 was coming over to pick her up for a change.

“But you know, you can cry if your diaper is poopy,” said Arianna. “It’s allowed. We are babies, after all. Can be … whatsit … cathartic?”

“Do you … want me to cry?” asked Darla.

“I mean … if you wanna,” replied Arianna. “Just sayins is ok if you wanna. Nobody is gonna blame a messy baby for cryins.”

Clea-7 took her to the changing table and cleaned her all up, but she thought about what Arianna said, and the next time she suddenly found herself helplessly filling her diaper, which was a few naptimes later, Darla decided to let it out, rolled onto her back, and cried loudly. She felt very much like a baby, and that felt very right to her. She did the same thing every time she messed her diaper from then on. It started to become her new routine.

The amount of time that was passing became difficult for Darla to discern. After all, it was difficult to tell the difference between a nap and a full sleep, especially because the room they were in had no windows to the outside, and of course Clea-7 never slept, being a droid. But one day, Dr. Neala came into the nursery with some news.

“Hi, Arianna and Darla,” she said.

“Hi Doctor!” said Arianna and crawled over toward her, excited. Darla smiled and did the same. Dr. Neala smiled back at the girls.

“Well I’m glad to see that you’re happy, and healthy too, by all measurements,” said the doctor. “I’ve got some news for you. We’ve been talking to some of the smartest doctors and other scientists on Infantus, and there’s an experiment they want to try. They’ve set up a special room where they can make the light of the pink moon. You see, the virus that causes the change is very hard to find – it hides away when the pink moon isn’t full, and they think it hides away in other dimensions where we can’t see it. But if they can get it to think it’s the full pink moon, maybe they can get it to show itself so they can get a really good look at it.”

“Ooooo, tricky fake moon,” said Arianna.

“Wow, they can do that?” asked Darla.

“Well, they’re going to do their best,” said the doctor. “What do you think, girls? Are you OK with this experiment?”

“Yes,” said Darla, saying the most grown-up words she’d said in … how long had it been? “I think it’s important that science learn more about this. And I don’t want to be the one responsible for infecting anyone else. I might have already infected Arianna, and I feel bad about that.”

“Aww, Nana Darla, no feel bad about it,” said Arianna, hugging her. “I kinda … wanted to know what it’s like. And … this would tell us if I got it, right?” She looked up at Dr. Neala.

“Yes, Arianna, assuming you have the virus and it’s been in your system long enough, this should tell us whether you’re infected too,” the doctor said. “The chamber is ready for you now. Clea-7 is ready to give both of you a diaper change before we go, and there’s a stroller ready for you.”

“Oooo, neatos experiment wif fake moonlight!” said Arianna.

“It sounds sooper innerestin’,” said Darla, trying out her babytalk. Clea-7 picked her up first for her diaper change, then brought her back and picked up Arianna. When her change was done, the droid lifted both of them into a floating cloud stroller, picked up a diaper bag full of supplies, and off they went. Dr. Neala led the way, and Clea-7 steered the stroller through the hospital hallways.

Darla saw that the sign read “Experimental Laboratory 21-P,” but Arianna didn’t seem to be looking at the sign, as if she weren’t thinking about what it said. Darla supposed that when someone had been a little all her life, she probably found it easy to slip into a frame of mind where she wasn’t bothering to read words – she wondered if she could learn to do that. Not that she’d become unable to read or anything, but when she was in that frame of mind, she would just ignore any words she saw unless she decided to read them.

But when the doors opened, she saw a fantastic amount of technology all packed into one room. Banks of emitters of all wavelengths of light lined the walls and most of the ceiling as well, and the floor was bare except for two scanner beds. Above the beds were the usual white rectangles, containing the scanning equipment, Darla supposed. The beds were precisely where Clea-7 carefully placed Arianna and Darla as she lifted them out of the cloud stroller. The beds had a soft foam surface that embraced them and made it difficult for them to accidentally roll over and off the beds.

“There you are, such good babies,” said Clea-7. “Now don’t worry, all that’s going to happen is some light, nothing brighter than the light of the full pink moon, they tell me. I’ll be right outside.”

“You means we are gonna be … alone?” asked Arianna.

“No worry,” said Darla, turning her head to look over at Arianna. “I here too.” Arianna looked gratefully back.

Dr. Neala said, “As Clea-7 said, we’re just going to shine light on you. It won’t even be as bright as the sun, just as bright as the pink moon when it’s full. We’re going to try to make it exactly like the real thing. But if we get it right, Darla, you might change. And Arianna might too, if she really was infected and we’re past the incubation period. But we have to leave the room now, so our presence doesn’t interfere with the experiment or the scans. Clea-7 will be right outside, and I’ll be right in the next room, OK?”

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In the room next door, Dr. Phillips and Dr. Myers were soon joined by Dr. Neala. A number of technicians were at the control panels, running final tests. “Now, we know that the moonlight was able to affect Darla even though she was inside a room with no windows, but that’s why we’re including the full spectrum, including infrared, ultraviolet, microwaves, everything the full pink moon reflects onto Infantus, and we’re accounting for absorption by Infantus’ atmosphere,” said Dr. Phillips. “We’ve got the entire cycle programmed in, so we should be able to simulate any phase, just in case it’s not just the full moon that’s important, but every phase leading up to it. And we’ve got sequences programmed in too, in case we need to run through a whole cycle or even just part of it. Are we ready?”

“Ready here,” said one technician. “Green lights across the board.” “All systems goo.” “No errors detected.”

“All right, Arianna and Darla,” said Dr. Neala into the microphone so the girls could hear her in the lab. “We’re going to start now. We’ll start with a first-quarter moon, not very bright, so you can get used to the light, and then we’ll gradually bring it up to full. Ready?”

“Ya!” said Arianna, and they heard her voice through speakers in the control room.

“I’m ready,” said Darla reservedly.

The lights in the lab went dim and pink, and the scanners activated with a quiet hum. The two girls were a bit apprehensive, but nothing was happening, and it wasn’t like it was totally dark. Then the pink light got brighter, and brighter, and then, suddenly, Darla transformed into a little baby when the light reached what Arianna knew was about as bright as the pink moon ever got. Darla made babbling noises and shrank out of her clothes.

“There it is!” said Dr. Phillips. “The Kirlian surge! And let’s stop the sequence right there and get a full scan.” They were using the best medical scanners on Infantus, so this only took a few seconds. “Do we have full readings on the virus?”

“Not really,” said Lanie. “It’s doing the same thing it did before. Let’s try the coherent resonance plan.”

“Activating …” said a technician, typing a command sequence.

Baby Darla felt weird and tingly, but it kind of tickled, so she giggled and squirmed a bit. But in the control room, there was great commotion.

“That’s it! It’s working!” said Dr. Phillips. “The multi-spectrum coherence is bringing the virus into full transition into this coronal plane! Can we get a full sequence?”

“The scanners are running,” said Lanie. “But I worry that this might have a side effect … it’s not usually fully present like this. What could this do to Darla?” But by the time she finished saying this, the scanner completed its run. “Scan complete! We have the full sequence!”

“Amazing!” said Dr. Phillips. “It really worked! Can we return to the normal simulation mode?”

“Yes, returning to simulation mode,” said the technician, entering another command sequence.

“OK, cycle past full,” said Dr. Phillips. “Pause at third quarter brightness.”

The light in the lab started to dim, and eventually it was about as bright as when the experiment had started. But there was a problem.

“Darla isn’t transforming back!” said Dr. Neala. “Is she stuck as a baby permanently?”

“I never intended for any such thing to happen!” said Dr. Philips. “But I doubt it. It will probably only last a little longer than normal. We can try continuing through the phase – perhaps if we can convince the virus that the truly isn’t full. Cycle gradually to the new phase.”

The lights continued to dim. Soon the lab was very dark, almost but not quite entirely so, but there was still just a little bit of light, and the girls’ eyes gradually adjusted.

Suddenly Darla grew back into her diaper and clothes. “Darla’s back,” said Dr. Neala, relieved.

Darla’s clothes felt a bit askew on her, but she was back to normal. But then she heard a tiny, infantile giggle from the other scanner bed. She looked over. Where was Arianna? It was hard to see in the dim light.

But in the control room, the cameras and scanners had gotten everything, and there was again an astonished murmur. “What? Arianna just emitted a Kirlian surge!” said Dr. Phillips, reading the data displays. “This is unexpected.”

“She must have been infected,” said Lanie. “But she’s responding differently from anything in the data. Look – she’s changing.” Sure enough, the infrared night vision cameras showed that Arianna had become a tiny baby. “Could she be responding to the new moon?”

“But Darla’s changed back,” said Dr. Neala. “That’s positive.”

“Let’s go around one full cycle and return to new,” said Dr. Philips. The light started to grow, and as it did so, Arianna changed back. The light gradually cycled to the relatively bright pinkish light of the full moon, and then Darla changed again. Then it started to fade, and Darla changed back to normal, and when it grew dim and became almost dark, Arianna changed again.

“Astonishing,” said Dr. Phillips. “Try coherence mode now.”

“Coherence mode activated,” said the technician.

“Scanning,” said Lanie. A few seconds later, she said, “And scan complete.”

“Back to normal mode,” Dr. Phillips said. “Two full sequence readings!”

“Shall we try slow cycle mode?” asked Lanie.

Dr. Phillips replied, “Yes, let’s do that. It’ll confirm the results and give them a chance to renormalize. Stop the sequence at first quarter.” As the sequence gradually cycled, it took Arianna a while to return to normal, but once the artificial moonlight was completely full, she grew back into her clothes and realized that Darla was now an infant. The cycle continued, and Darla returned to normal, then Arianna became an infant again, and then returned to normal once more.

As this was happening, Dr. Neala mused, “They told me that there had been a total eclipse of the pink moon at the moment when Arianna must have been infected. And they said that Darla was affected mentally, but not physically, at that moment. The virus must have been out of phase. Could Arianna be infected with an inverted version of the virus somehow?”

Looking at his tablet, Dr. Phillips replied, “The equations do have two solutions, one positive and one negative. I had thought that only the positive one was physically possible. But it seems that the negative one is too.”

Lanie remarked, “This means they’ll never both be babies at the same time, but that does mean that if Darla continues to be Arianna’s Nana, she’ll always be able to take care of Arianna when she changes.”

“And, well, vice versa,” said Dr. Neala. “Except Arianna’s not a Nana.”

In the lab, both girls felt a bit tired, but they were both back to normal, and the light finally gradually came back up to white indoor lighting. The doors opened, and Clea-7 and Dr. Neala came in. “The doctors tell me that you were both very good girls,” said the droid. “They have to do some more work to see if they can do anything with what they found out, but they’ll get right to it! Do you want to go back to the nursery now?”

“Baby sleepy Nana,” said Arianna with a yawn.

“Tired,” said Darla, nodding. Clea-7 picked them up one by one and put them into the cloud stroller for the trip back.

Dr. Neala said, “I think you probably know already, Arianna, but it turns out that you were infected. But you’re different from anything we’ve ever heard of. You change when the pink moon is new, not full. We think that’s because you were infected during that eclipse. So we’ll have to make a note of that and send that information to your household computer. But for now I think it’s best that you go back to your nursery for a nap, OK?”

“OK, Doctor,” said both girls at once.

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While the Communicable Disease Containment Unit pulled its hair out over this new and seemingly impossible virus, the two girls had become lost in their wonderful infantile contented little world.

In the back of Darla’s mind, she knew she was supposed to be Arianna’s Nana, but on the other hand, Clea-7 was just as attentive as any Nana and did its very best to insure that Darla was the best infant possible. Darla had real problems trying to keep just a grain of adulthood in her mind, especially when Clea-7 was tending to her children as she called them.

Clea-7 insured Arianna and Darla were dressed as adorably as possible, and were safe and comfy in thick soft diapers. It took a little time for Darla to get accustomed to being checked all the time, but it too eventually melded into one ongoing haze of contentedness. Almost as much as she did when the pink moon was out and full, Darla only knew she was happy, safe, and having the most fun she could remember playing with Arianna.

After 11 days had passed, when the pink moon was full again, another of Infantus’ celestial bodies, the large yellow moon, eclipsed the pink moon. Immediately, there were two eighteen month old infants in the playpen, another effect that nobody had predicted. One was dressed in a snuggle bug romper, the other wallowing in a pile of greatly oversized clothing. The techs were astounded, but the only data showing any change had once again been the kirlian energy discharge from Arianna and Darla's bodies. Nothing else of any type had been seen or recorded to explain what had transpired.

Another thing that now happened was that Darla would be an adult when Arianna was a real tiny infant during the new pink moon, and Arianna grew up into an adult in size but kept her baby mind when the green moon eclipsed the pink moon. The more they investigated, the stranger this malady seemed to become. It was more than obvious that the virus was bonded to some property of each of the moons in as yet unknown ways and produced very strange results.

It was during one of the deep searches of the Infantus historical archives they discovered the original pink moon quarantine order for a large section of the villages of the Moro Mountains. Apparently, many many years past, someone named Loki had introduced some sort of prank. The quarantine was so effective that the rest of the planet had forgotten about the ailment long ago.

Every day Dr. Neala would come visit the girls in their nursery and tell them about the latest developments, and there were more experiments, trying to replicate the light produced by a particular configuration of Infantus’ sun and moons. But one day, she told them, “Girls, I think we have good news and … other news.”

“Other news?” asked Darla.

“I wanna hear tha good!” said Arianna.

“Well, we think we have a vaccine that can prevent other people from getting the virus from either of you,” said the doctor. “That means you can go home and don’t have to stay in here.”

“Oooo I can see my fwiends an’ neighbors,” Arianna said. “An’ get back to drawin’ picture of houses an’ stuffs! That’s fun!”

“But the other news is … we can’t figure out how to cure you. So at least you won’t give it to anybody else, but you’ll still be affected.”

“Oh,” said Darla. “Well … guess it not soooooo bad. Just … amma baby by night now n then.”

“Yeah,” said Arianna. “An’ amma baby by day sometimes.”

“We’ve tried the vaccine on lab-grown tissue cultures with no side effects,” said Dr. Neala. “So we believe it’s safe. We’ll have to test to make sure it really does prevent transmission, but it’s a big step forward. If it works … we could inoculate those people in the Moro Mountains, so they wouldn’t have to be quarantined anymore either.”

“Oooo, that would be good,” said Darla. “So people like Nana Shelby could go around and see the world.”

“Nana who?” asked Dr. Neala.

“Um, the Nana from the mountain town, the one who bit me when the pink moon was full,” said Darla. “She talked to us after I started bein’ Arianna’s Nana.”

“Oh, of course,” said Dr. Neala. “She … talked to you via video call, of course, right?”

“Um, no, she came to visit,” said Darla.

“The … pink moon wasn’t full then, was it?” asked the doctor.

“Well, it was while the pink moon was full, but it wasn’t in the sky …”

“Oh dear,” said Dr. Neala. “I certainly hope she returned to her town by nightfall, or otherwise took precautions. They really are supposed to stay in their villages … especially when the full pink moon is a danger. Or they could spread it to others.”

“Um I dunno what she did,” said Darla.

“I’m going to have to find out, if I can,” said the doctor.

Soon the girls were given the vaccine – it was done by a non-piercing hypodermic injector, so no needles – and Dr. Neala told them that she had been unable to uncover any record of Nana Shelby’s trip to see Arianna and Darla. “That could mean she just took her own hovercar, or maybe public transit, although there isn’t any public transportation between the Moro Mountains and anywhere else.”

“Or … something weird,” said Arianna.

Again the girls spent a few more days in the hospital, to ensure the vaccine was effective. The doctor had them bite into lab-cultured tissue samples while under full- and new-moon simulations and then subjected those samples to testing. Seven days after vaccination, there was no longer any sign of infection.

“Well, girls, it’s been lovely seeing you every day,” said Dr. Neala, “but I think it may be time for you to go home.”

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Infantian CDC began an investigation, now that they had rediscovered the quarantine of the mountain villages. Also, once they discovered that one of the prime infected had actually come to a major city to visit during the contagious phase, they needed to know if she had infected anyone else.

They gathered together their best iso-units along with all the new vaccine they could store safely, then proceeded to the Moro Mountains. There weren't very decent roads, but the flyers were unobstructed and the airways were clear.

They landed in the middle of a very quaint village with many very beautiful homes built in well-kept areas. The lawns were well manicured and the gardens tended. The territory was remote, but the people were diligent about their gardening. Villagers were going about their business, but some of them were curious about the incoming hovercars and came over to see what was going on.

Immediately, the agents exited the cars dressed in the highest quarantine units. One of the doctors came to the first person to arrive and asked, “Is there a young woman by the name of Nana Heather Shelby here?”

The young woman laughed, “Why certainly, I’m Nana Shelby. How might I help you?”

The Dr. replied, “My name is Dr. Melborn. I’m part of the ICDC Emergency Response team. We are here to deliver a brand new vaccine to insure your virus doesn't spread any further than it already has.”

The young woman cocked her head to one side and said, “A vaccine, you say? Now, that would be something. OK, tell me more.”

Dr. Melborn said, “With the utmost pleasure. Is there some place we could sit and talk? This may take a while. I also need a location for my team to set up inoculation stations and get this under way.”

The woman flipped her thumb over her shoulder towards a large building, “There would be perfect. It has a large assembly area, a kitchen, and even adequate support droids to do the trick.”

Heather led Dr. Melborn over to the area in front of the large building. The hover vehicle followed and parked in front. The back and side doors slid open and locked with a thump as many people in quarantine outfits exited the vehicle and began carrying equipment into the front following Heather and Melborn.

Heather stood and watched as the team quickly set up their vaccination stations and hung the notification banners outside in prominent places so they would be easy to see.

Heather commented, “You people know your jobs and perform them well.”

Dr. Melborn replied as he assembled one of the vaccination stations, “Thanks. We have practiced this a lot, just in case. Although this is the first time in my career that we’ve had an actual infectious virus to deal with. It’s been centuries since there’s been one – that we knew of, that is.”

Heather held out her hand and said as she shook Melborn’s, “My name is Heather Shelby. I have been … plagued by this stupid virus since I can remember. I don’t recall how I contracted it, but I do have some fuzzy memories of getting nicked by something when I was still a real infant.”

Dr. Melborn shook her hand and asked, “Well, young lady, I can’t promise you won’t transform at Full Pink Rise, but I can guarantee you wont be infectious any longer. Would you like to be the first?”

Heather sat in one of the soft chairs at the vaccination station and placed her arm on the tray, “More than you would know. It means I can actually go places in the open and not have to sneak around or worry about infecting someone during the full phases of the Pink Moon.”

As Dr. Melborn prepped and administered the shot, he said, “I can relate to that.”

That was when he noticed many people had begun to enter the building and register to get vaccinated. Dr. Melborn had thought there would be issues in getting people to take the shot, but apparently this town was more than willing. In just a few short minutes, the area was crowded with people who had come to be vaccinated, and the many nurses who were there to administer them.

Servo-droids were in the mix too, delivering snacks and drinks to all who requested them, and also did the gofer tasks of getting more of the vaccination antiviral, delivery pens, and other tasks that were so tedious. The quiet buzz of the many people softly filled the air as the production line like vaccinations continued at an ever increasing pace. Dr. Melborn knew they would be done here and able to move on to the next town within the hour. He hoped they were as eager to get the vaccination as this town had been.

The time passed quickly and the team moved on to the next village. What they found when they arrived there was like a war zone. Major divots were all over, made by some type of explosive. The homes, what was left of them, had all been burned to the ground.

From the evidence they could find, this had happened long ago. They did find the city archives intact. The only mention was some type of virus had stricken many in the population and the leaders were in process of taking drastic action to avoid it spreading and more becoming infected. As hard as the team looked, and as well equipped as they were to do a thorough search, nothing was found that could tell a clearer story of what happened. The team continued on to the next town in hope a similar scene hadn’t played out there.

It was several miles to the next town. The people pointed them toward the mayor’s house, and the mayor, a rather rotund older man, told them that the town’s name was Kleiderburg, and that if the vaccine could lift the centuries-long quarantine of the town, they were very interested.

“We passed by the ruins of a destroyed town on the way here,” said Dr. Melborn. “No one was there for us to ask. Do you know what happened to it?”

“Oh, that’s Totenburg,” the major said. “They say that everyone was infected with the bite of the werebaby there. When the pink moon rose full, there wasn’t an adult to be found. Everyone knew to stay away from there. That was before we just made nursery houses for the infected. They can’t get out unless someone lets them out, and nobody goes in during the pink full moon except for droids and people in protective clothing to keep from being bitten. But back then, they were superstitious and thought it was a curse. They burned the house of everyone known to be infected – the problem was that everyone was. Soon everyone was either dead or homeless, and they just ended up spreading it to more villages and towns.”

Dr. Melborn sighed. “A less enlightened time.”

“Well, now things will change! A bright future awaits! A worldwide market for our exports!” said the mayor. “Jim! Mayoral announcement!”

A droid with dark iron hair and a mustache strode up. “Ready, Sir,” he said.

“Attention, all townsfolk! Infantus CDC has developed a vaccine that will lift the quarantine …” He explained the situation, and said that the town hall would be set up as a vaccination station.

“Delivering the announcement, Sir,” said the droid calmly, going off to distribute the news around the town.

“What … are your exports, if I may ask?” asked Dr. Melborn. The medical staff and their droids were heading to the town hall to get things set up.

“Fashion!” said the mayor. “Our colorful outfits will brighten the world of Infantus, and bring a healthy income to our local economy. I’ll be reelected for sure now!” And although the mayor wore a rather conservative black suit with a white shirt and tie, the townsfolk wore brightly colored and cute outfits of all kinds. It was as if they took a page from the rest of Infantus, with its baby and childlike fashions, and added an ornate old-fashioned twist to them. “I’ll be the first vaccinated, to set an example! Let’s go over to the town hall right away!”

“Yes, of course,” said Dr. Melborn.

So the vaccination team worked its way gradually through the towns and villages of the Moro Mountains, and everyone who was vaccinated got a stamp on their ID saying the date on which the quarantine would no longer apply to them.

But the contact tracing team would be asking Nana Shelby some questions.

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Meanwhile, Darla and Arianna were allowed to return home, now that they were no longer a danger to anyone. Arianna’s droids had kept the house clean, and she had taken a health-related leave of absence from her job that could now end, which was great, because she loved designing cute and useful buildings. Her work was like play to her. And as much as Darla loved being a baby, she also loved being a Nana, and now she would get to continue being the Nana to the adorable Arianna.

The neighbors were all glad to see them and came over to talk or play, or both. “So this new virus I’d heard about – that was you two?” asked Molly. “Well now! I’m glad we don’t have to worry about it spreading to us.”

“You shouldn’t have to worry,” said Darla. “We’re told there’s no cure, but the vaccine does prevent the spread.”

“Imagine suddenly becoming a baby at moonrise!” said Molly.

“I don’t have to imagine; it happens to me,” said Darla. “Arianna too, but at a different time.”

“And you’re sure Freddy can’t get it from Arianna?”

“The doctors have run all kinds of tests,” Darla replied. “No sign of contagion. And they’re still studying it.”

“Well, I’d be happy to step in if you need taking care of a few nights a month,” said Molly.

Darla’s Little Nanas support group was very happy to see her back and remarked on how much littler she acted and seemed now. She was in diapers full-time now, and it didn’t affect her ability to be a Nana to Arianna at all. Even with a pacifier in her mouth she was still a graduate of Nana Pederson’s. She was happy to sit down in the playroom and play with the other little Nanas and share stories and advice about being a Nana and a little at the same time.

But there were still unpredictable occurrences. One afternoon, it was Arianna’s naptime and Darla had gone to put her down in her crib. “Come on, Sweetheart, it’s time for your nap! Let’s get you goo gaa booloo nga pwah mama bwoo bah?” Darla was confused. She couldn’t make an intelligible sound to save her life. Anything she tried to say came out as meaningless but cute babble.

The household computer said that the blue moon had eclipsed the pink moon just then, so that must be causing this issue – except Darla couldn’t understand a word it said. She tried writing a note on a tablet – but all she could produce were meaningless squiggles that not even she could read. Arianna hugged the increasingly upset Darla and made soothing sounds to her until the effect went away, about 20 minutes later.

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Back at the Infantus Communicable Disease research facility, one of the overworked techs who had been investigating this new virus they were calling the Werebaby Virus accidently hit one of the controls on the focal lensing of the scatter proton micrograph, knocking it slightly out of frequency, when he stretched and lay his head on the console for an instant.

The image of the viral vector they had tried so diligently to capture came into sharp focus for the very first time. The entire makeup of this vector existed within many places, many dimensions, and even many chronal instances at the same time, with each particle a great distance from the others. The tech looked tiredly up at his screen, then his eyes became wide as his mouth fell open in incredulity.

He shouted, “Get Viv .. I have something she will want to study. An actual image of the complete virus.”

A young woman dressed in a Fairy Princess Babydoll dress and matching panties plainly visible toddled over and said, “Whatcha gots, Tony?”

He pointed at the screen, “There she is, Viv. Reason we couldn’t get a good image is the scanner’s frequency didn’t resonate well enough with the quantum particle bonds.” He blushed slightly, “I’ve been at this for 19 hours and was tired. I lay across the console for a bit and must have changed a frequency. That was the result.”

Viv rushed to the station next to Tony’s and typed for a few minutes. The large monitor came alive with the ever-moving viral image. It became apparent that this was actually some type of construct made individually out of elementary particles chosen to perform a specific task. Someone had carefully bonded each particle to the many combinations of photonic frequency it had been specifically tuned to resonate to.

Many of the research personnel began to gather. This was a really big deal. They had discovered an interphasic nano-construct that had been specifically programmed to cause cellular regression. The single virus was spread out over an immeasurable distance, each subatomic or atomic particle bonded and acting as a whole instantly, with distance being meaningless.

Whoever built this device was a super genius, and diabolical at the same time. Further research showed that several light color combinations within the virus had more or less been left in a state of randomness. What this meant, as far as they could tell, was that there were combinations of mixed photonic moonlight that would have the effect of whatever randomization the construct used.

Viv watched as the highly advanced scan presented its data to her screen. She couldn’t believe this was a construct, and it was completely tuneable to whatever action based on light frequency, which was totally amazing. Now, a question formed in Viv’s mind … can we find how to tune it?

The researchers couldn’t believe their eyes, so they checked it again and again. “So wait, what you’re saying is that they’re not viruses but nanomachines?”

“No, it’s one machine.”

“One type of nanomachine?”

“No, just one machine.”

“But it looks like any virus – all these copies of a little infectious critter that gets into people’s cells and makes changes.”

“They’re not copies. They’re all parts of one thing.”

“Wait, so that means …”

“If we affect it, we’re going to be affecting everyone infected with it, yes. We’ll have to be careful.”

Viv considered. “We have data about everyone we’ve found so far who is currently infected,” she said. “If we do anything … we’ll have to monitor very carefully.”

“But this could also allow us to discover new people who are infected,” said Tony. “We could make sure they’re all vaccinated.”

“That’s true, and that would be useful,” said Viv. “We don’t want this spreading to everyone on Infantus.”

“What kind of change could we make?” asked Tony.

“Well …” said Viv, thinking. “It would have to be something that would tell them apart from everyone else on Infantus … but we don’t wanna hurt anybody …”

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Darla had just gotten back from her Little Nanas group meeting, and it was time to start cooking dinner for Arianna and herself. She walked up to the house, and the door automatically detected her and slid open. Switching her shoes to her indoor slippers, she went upstairs and found Arianna still at her workstation; it was just about time for her to stop. Smiling at her charge, Darla went downstairs to start supper.

“There is a message for you from the Communicable Disease Research Center, Nana Darla,” said the voice of the household computer.

“What is it?” she asked as she added a bit of spice to the casserole.

“The Center is performing an experiment to see whether their knowledge of the virus will allow them to discover more people who are infected with it,” the computer said. “Please do not be alarmed if there is a harmless change in your appearance.”

“Change in my appearance?” asked Darla, walking into the changing room and looking at the mirror. “What are they talking ab- WHAT?”

Her hair was pink. Pastel pink, like the color of the pink moon. Her eyebrows and eyelashes were the exact same color. The fine hairs on her arms were the same color too – they were hard to see unless she looked closely, as always, but since she was looking for it, the pink color was there. “H-how did they … Arianna!” She hurried upstairs, where Arianna was just shutting her computer down for the day. The girl’s pigtails were now the same baby pink color. True, it was adorable, but it was very sudden.

“Nana!” said Arianna. “You made your hair pink! Is cute!”

“Umm, I didn’t do it, Sweetie, and come take a look.” She took her to the changing room to look in the mirror.

Arianna squeaked. “But but how? When? Why? Pink?”

“There is a message for you from the Communicable Disease Research Center, Miss Arianna,” said the computer, and her message was exactly the same as Darla’s.

“I’m all pink now?” Arianna asked. There wasn’t quite as much contrast between Arianna’s hair and skin as there was for Darla, but it was still a huge change. And when Darla changed Arianna’s diaper, she learned that it had indeed affected all of her hair everywhere.

“Yep, all pink,” said Darla, “and I do mean all pink,” as she fastened Arianna’s new diaper on.

“So … uh … I guess it doesn’t hurt nothins but … we gonna has pink hair forever n evers?”

“I don’t know, Sweetie,” said Darla. “Maybe until they find everyone whose hair just turned pink and make sure they get the vaccine?”

“Hope so …” said Arianna. “I don’t wanna be a pink head forever n evers.”

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Back at the viral research lab at the Infantus Communicable Disease Center, the scientists were all gathered around a satellite tracking terminal.

“Joe, from what this data indicates, every single person infected with the werevirus now has bright pink hair.”

Another of the group nodded their head, “That’s neat too. All the infants will have adorable pink hair.”

The others in the group looked at him with … less than favorable expressions. He shrugged.

Dr Vivian Boun, who was dressed adorably in a cute snuggle bug romper with lots of lace and ruffles, said in a cute voice as she made adjustments on another relay panel, “Let’s just see where those infected are, right now. Maybe there has been no spread.”

The monitor screen snowed for a second or two, then, a crystal clear sky view of Infantus, with the mountains highlighted, came into view. There were many glowing flashing red dots within the quarantine zone. The only anomaly to the data was two points, located rather close together, well outside the zone. It took only an entered query of who they were and their exact location to discover that they were only the well-known patients Darla and Arianna.

Tony said, “It appears that all of the infected have been inoculated and are accounted for. Now the only thing we have to worry about is the random settings to some of the photonic energy frequencies.”

One of the other researchers spoke up and said, “I thought we could program the device to do mostly what we want. Why not just truncate those programs?”

Tony replied, “We can only program certain aspects of the device. We are still researching how we can unlock the rest. We managed to find a key to accomplish what we did with the hair. That was a lucky thing. Not sure how long it’ll take to discover the rest.”

“What happens if someone already had pink hair before we did this?” asked one of the researchers. Others nodded, because of course it was possible for someone to have pink hair, either as a result of a genetic mod or simple hair dye.

“We’ve cross-checked for that,” said Viv, “but we could always change it again and see whose hair changes just at that point.”

“I have another idea,” said Tony. “There’s another thing we can do. They won’t even notice, either. See, this is the spectrographic analysis of that exact color, from the infected. All we have to do is insert a new spectral line in the infrared where it’s not even visible.” He brought up a virtual monitor and keyboard and typed a change. “I’m going to make sure it’s not a line that appears in the spectrum of any other common substance, especially not hair dyes.”

“Now we’ll just wait until the population has come in range of a scanner, and we’ll know for certain.” The statistics screen started to count up rapidly as many Infantians were out in public, working at their jobs, shopping at stores, dining in restaurants, taking public transportation, and so forth. None of them showed up with the new special infrared spectral line.

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“Sweetie, would you like to go out this evening after supper?” asked Darla. “It’s not the full or new pink moon, and we could go to one of the shows.”

“Oooo, OK!” said Arianna. “There’s a new musical about the Dawn of Infantus that just came out. It’s over in Polka Dot City.”

Bringing it up on the computer, Darla looked at the event schedule. “We can get to the later showing … but we’ll get back past your bedtime. Oh well, you can always sleep in your cloud stroller on the way home, it’s fine!”

“Oooo yay a show!” Arianna cheered. “Not seen one fora while!” Darla booked them two tickets for the show.

So, after supper, Darla set the kitchen to auto-clean and got both of them ready to go out, styling their pink hair into cute pigtails for Arianna and that lovely Dutch crown braid that Winnie had shown her how to do for herself.

“What do you think?” asked Darla. “Should I go with adult Nana or baby Nana?”

“Baby Nana! Baby Nana!” Arianna enthused. “Sooooo cute!”

So Darla dressed herself up with a poofy ruffly obvious diaper cover under a frilly but short baby-style dress. She made sure to pack plenty of extra diapers for both of them, but of course, since they were on Infantus, it wasn’t as if it would be hard to find more diapers if they needed them.

Darla had seen little point in re-potty-training herself after their hospital stay, so she wasn’t sure how long she could get by if she tried to go without diapers now – so she just didn’t bother and stayed in diapers all the time. Arianna seemed to prefer her that way, and she liked it a lot too. And Infantus didn’t exactly discourage diapered lifestyles.

Darla packed Arianna into her cloud stroller, and they boarded a hovertaxi to Polka Dot City, where there were lots of bright colors and Omicron lights. And there were lots of people there, from absolute adults to cute babies, but even the adults’ outfits were brightly colored and sparkly. Arianna and Darla were far from the only ones with pink hair; there were people with blue hair, green hair, purple hair, orange hair, every color possible. “Oh you’re so cute together!” said an adult-looking Nana in a shimmering electric green evening gown, pushing her baby boy in his cloud stroller as he sucked on his bright green pacifier and pointed and giggled at all the pretty lights and people.

“Thank you so much!” said Darla. “Your dress is so beautiful – and your hair!” This Nana’s hair was a dark red with silver sparkles shining in it – that effect was from a special spray that could be bought at most stores; it lasted a few hours before fading and was completely biodegradable. Arianna was making ooooh noises and pointing at the Nana too. “And this little guy matches you!” She smiled at the boy’s bright green overalls.

They made it to their show, which told the story of the settlement of Infantus and how the evil Mining Consortium had almost destroyed the planet to strip it of its valuable Omicron Crystals, and the brave artist Lin Chase who was determined to be the planet’s first artist, and the Consortium project leader Penny Kneece, who had discovered that the Consortium had been plotting without her knowledge and was going to pin the plan on her, until she released her discoveries to the press, whereupon they captured her.

The music was very dramatic when the Consortium manipulated the Authority into sending the Sixth Fleet to quell the supposed rebellion that was happening, even though it was really just an unarmed protest against the Consortium’s plans.

Then came the mysterious reaction of the Omicron Crystals to the Sixth Fleet’s weapons, destroying the ships utterly in an unimaginable tragedy, which could have been avoided if the Consortium hadn’t been overcome by greed. But the planet had been left safe, the Consortium was officially dissolved, and in the end Lin married her old friend Jarris Delon, who had stayed on the planet with her to die if necessary. And now, thousands of years later, Infantus was a vibrant world with its own unique culture.

“Wow …” said Darla as they left the theater. “I never knew that story.”

“Yea!” said Arianna. “Jarris Delon is my favorite ‘cause he’s an architect like me! They tell it in alla schools, but not wif all that music and singing and stuff. That makes it better! Also there’s no test after.”

Darla laughed. “That helps make it more fun, I’m sure.” She lightly pushed Arianna’s cloud stroller toward the street, where they would have a hovertaxi waiting to take them home.

Then suddenly all the lights went out, or so it seemed. Darla and Arianna were in a huge black expanse, and suspended above them was a huge dragon like creature with pink, blue, green, and yellow scales, reaching down with one of its forepaws to touch the two of them with its claws, one pink, one black. It was so huge that its other legs were miles away. “How Dare You?” it rumbled in a deep voice that shook the ground beneath them – though where exactly they were was still hard to say.

“Wh-what?” asked Darla. Arianna screeched in fear.

“How Dare You Stand in My Way?” rumbled the huge creature. “I Must Touch All!”

“Are you … the virus?” asked Darla. “Why are we having this hallucination?”

“Infantus Rides Between the Dimensions, Fractured in Time,” the creature said. “In That Fragmented Expanse Was I Born, And There Do I Live. But If I Do Not Touch More of You, I Die When You Die. You Take My Life from Me With Your Medicine.”

Arianna managed to stop gaping in awe and said, “Is twue … Infantus is in a kinda broken space n time … was broken ‘fore it was ‘scovered, but it broked even more when tha crystals shot tha Sixth Fleet. Is what they say. Alla energy was too much for tha broke space n time to handle. Is why time goes faster some places than others.”

“I Was Born That Day,” said the creature. “I Cause No Harm. I Only Wish to Live. I Play Among the Moons.”

“Are you real?” asked Darla. “And not some kind of hallucination?” She looked at Arianna and said, “We have to tell the doctors.” She looked back up at the creature. “Are you why the starship I was on crashed?”

“I Am Sorry, But I Made Sure No One Was Harmed,” the creature replied in its thunderous voice. “You Have Spoken to Me, and I Have Responded, but I Fear You Do Not Understand.”

“I don’t understand, that’s right,” said Darla. “What do you mean? I didn’t speak to you before just now.”

“You Asked Me to Alter All, and I Have Done So,” the creature answered. “I Have Shown That I Am Real. Now Please Do Not Let Me Die. There Is Time Yet. Tell the Doctors.”

“I … um, OK,” said Arianna. “We tell them. You notta virus. You a big dragon thingie. But you don’t sound mean. And there’s only one of you. And you talk. How do we talk to you again?”

“Slip Between the Cracks of Space and Time,” said the creature. “You Are Here and Now.” And suddenly they were in Arianna’s house. The lights automatically came on.

“Alert: Intrusion detected,” said the household computer’s voice. “Cancel alert. Identities confirmed: Arianna and Nana Darla. Method of entry: unknown.”

“OK …” said Darla, confused. “That was weird. Computer, record a message for the virology team.”

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The Infantus Communicable Disease Center received the strangest comm from one of its patients, Nana Darla Sahree. What it stated seemed more like an infantile imaginary fantasy than reality. Although, when some of the details were looked into, certain aspects that had been unrecordable became more recordable.

Now they began to understand the mobility of the vector … it wasn’t a vector, it was a complete life form heretofore unknown to science. The fact that Infantus existed right in the middle of a space time and interdimensional fracture was well known, and the legend of how it became this way was well known by all. So, it would stand to reason a type of interphasic life would form within its confines. Life seems to always find a way.

Viv asked, “According to Darla, we should be able to communicate with it. She says it told her it wasn't trying to infect anyone, only survive. The only way it could was by being what seemed to us like an infectious agent when the proper photonic frequencies allowed it access. You think perhaps we could talk with it somehow?”

Tony sucked his thumb thoughtfully for a minute then replied, “I dunno. Darla seemed to be able to. Ya thinks if we access its matrix the way we did before and instead of sending instructions, we ask questions?”

Viv shrugged as she bent over, showing off her adorable ruffles, and typed an inquiry on the system using the same frequency and protocol they had used when they attempted to make the hair color changes. “Can you understand me?” she typed.

About a dozen of the babydoll littles, male and female, gathered around the monitor to see if they would in fact get a response. To their total surprise, they did.

Words appeared on the monitor, “Help me. Please don’t kill me. I must be able to survive, and the only way I have found so far is now closed to me.”

Tony said with incredulity obvious in his tone, “Well, don’t that just beat all? I dunno what ta does about the problem now. If we undoes the vaccination, we got many who would be this way n no wanna be.”

Viv nodded and replied, “But just think, if we could manage to get it so the creature only infected those who wanted it … now that would be a solution worth trying.”

Viv typed furiously for a minute or so. The reply came back instantly, “Why, yes, that would be perfect. That way I can live, and the ones I live within will have something they truly want instead of something that causes them heartache.”

Viv requested, “Please remain calm. We will put out the request for volunteers immediately.”

Tony said, “I’ll get on it soon as Nana changes me.” He blushed a cute pink. “I’m just a bit messy.”

Vivian giggled and said as Tony was led off by his Nana, “You have such an adorable poopy face.”

All the babydolls, both male and female giggled pleasantly.

Viv posted the request for volunteers who would like to become real babies under certain phases of the pink moon. The response was immediate.

“We have good news for you,” typed Viv. “There have already been many volunteers. There are more than you are currently in contact with. We must ask those already affected whether they want to trade places with a volunteer, but there is no chance that you will die now.”

“I am greatly relieved,” the entity responded on the screen. “If we could work on improving communication, I will no longer need to spread my influence to the unwilling.”

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Darla awoke to Dinney-1 diapering her. It had been the first night of another full pink moon. “There we go,” the droid said. “You’re all safely padded.”

“Thank you,” Darla said, refusing to become someone who didn’t thank droids for doing good work. “I’ll just put on these pajamas here and sleep the rest of the night.” She zipped herself into some nice warm footed pajamas that were green with soft dinosaur plates up the back.

“There was a message from the Virology Team,” the computer said quietly. “They have been able to communicate with the entity and have found several volunteers to take the place of those who do not wish to be infected. They wish to know whether you desire to return to normal. They ask the same question of Arianna.”

“Well, it’s too early for this – we’ll have to talk about it when Arianna’s awake,” said Darla.

“Understood,” said the computer. “No reply at this time, then.”

“They probably didn’t expect one anyway, not this early,” said Darla, climbing into bed and wrapping the covers around herself snugly. So they had managed to communicate with the creature. She wasn’t surprised; she knew the scientists of Infantus were outstanding.

As she fell asleep, she knew she didn’t want to be “cured.” She’d found a place on Infantus as a very happy little Nana, and she loved Arianna. And they’d made first contact with a previous unknown form of life. It was up to Arianna, but Darla didn’t think the Babydoll would want to be cured either.

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“We both want you to stay with us,” said Darla. The scientists had sent them an improved communicator that allowed them to speak to the entity. “You are amazing and unique, and it is an honor that you chose us.”

“I am … most gratified,” the entity replied; its voice was far less thunderous when it came through a small circular device that sat on a table. “You were among those at the forefront of fighting me, but you have chosen to remain in contact.”

“That’s ‘cause we didn’t understand,” said Arianna. “We wanna do tha right thing. Also is kinna nice beinna little baby now ‘n then. Hey, what we gonna call you?”

“Call me?”

“Yeah, if you don’t gotsa name, we gotsa gives you one,” said Arianna.

“Names have never been necessary for me,” the entity said. “I was unique and alone. But now there are others to talk to. What should my name be?”

“Well, you’re related to the four moons,” said Darla. “How about an ancient word for four? We could call you Quartus.”

“I approve,” said Quartus. “I will tell others that they should call me this.”

“So will we,” said Arianna. “That’s a good name.”

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“So, I am told that you wish to be called Quartus,” said Persephone. “It is an honor to meet you, Quartus.”

“Thank you, but who are you?” asked the immense dragon like entity to the strange humanoid who had entered its fragmented space.

“I am Persephone, discoverer and defender of Infantus,” she said. “But now that I know you exist, I know that Infantus doesn’t need to be defended from you. You aren’t a threat to my children. I think we can be friends.”

“I would like that,” said Quartus. “I have some human friends now. But it would be nice to have … other friends as well.”

“This space you live in is quite interesting, Quartus,” said Persephone. “I can see bits and pieces of things, fragments from other dimensions and from the past. In fact – what is that in the distance?”

“It appears to be some sort of vessel,” Quartus replied, looking at the faraway object. “It is similar to what I have seen in human minds when they speak of the starships they use to travel in space.”

“It is,” Persephone said. “And its markings … I believe they identify it as part of the Sixth Fleet. How can it have survived? Would you mind if I reduced the clutter of your home by one starship?”

“I do not consider the object to belong to me,” said Quartus. “Be my guest.”

“I’ll examine it, but I’ll be back soon to talk to you if you’re amenable,” said Persephone. “You’re very interesting.”

“I have found your visit enjoyable and would welcome a repeat,” said Quartus. “Please feel free to call at any time.”

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“So it appears that the Gumdrop Orbital Starport is now home to an antique battle cruiser of the Sixth Fleet – an intact relic of the First Battle of Infantus,” said the news reporter on the holo screen, dressed adorably in a ruffly green and white dress with two matching green bows in her hair. “Techno-historians are on their way from all over the galaxy to examine this find, which a BoAA transport reportedly discovered floating in space.” The screen showed images of the ship, with captions saying that the Commonwealth hadn’t used this class of ship for over 1800 years. “Scientists guess that it has been stuck in the fractured space around Infantus since the battle and only recently emerged from a rift, but they will need to gather more evidence before they can say whether this is correct or not. Infantus Space Command reminds pilots that the space around the planet is considered Level 8 Temporally Unstable and urges them to heed all warnings about the locations of rifts and fractures if they wish to avoid being thrown drastically off course – but Space Command constantly monitors the state of space and time in the planet’s vicinity so it can keep everyone up to date.”

“Well isn’t that interesting, Arianna?” asked Darla, holding the little baby girl in her arms and feeding her a bottle, because the pink moon was currently new and in the sky. “An ancient starship! Maybe they’ll let us see it someday. I wonder if anyone’s still alive in any emergency stasis pods.”

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Gumdrop Orbital Starport set up a research facility around the derelict hull as quickly as current technology allowed. An actual dreadnought from the fabled Sixth Fleet. Expectations were high that if the battle bridge was intact, due to the weird propensity of Omicron Crystals to seemingly generate huge amounts of energy, it was hoped that perhaps some computer archive had survived the damage, the passage of time had been kind, or some stasis pods were still active.

The main hull showed massive damage. From the best they could determine, just as whatever energy wave had hit the ship, time/space had fractured, along with several dimensional planes. In effect, the ship had escaped being eradicated to its constituent molecules by being tossed through a rift to wherever it had been these long years at the exact moment of impact.

While the investigation of the hull and massive debris surrounding the hull at the time it was found continued, others were madly searching historical archives for the security override codes for this particular ship. It took several hours of hard research over thousands of years’ worth of data, but they managed to find the master bridge override code.

While the master Infantian Archivist recorded and made mountains of notes, a master shipwright tech repaired the open panel. The tech was amazed that the circuits were still compatible as the buttons on the control pad lit up green. He slowly entered the code.

A loud clunk was heard as the door seal unlocked. There was a hissing noise and a small cloud of mist around the hatch as it slowly slid open. All the lights within the airlock came on, and all the control panels lit up. Only a red warning light indicated that the exterior hatch was open.

Once they entered the main corridor from the airlock, things didn’t look so good. It was more than obvious that this part of the ship had also sustained significant damage from the battle. The master shipwright tech led the way to the auxiliary battle bridge after looking at the layout plans. The signs of battle damage were everywhere as they avoided the debris and dangling wires and panels along the way.

When the door to the battle bridge opened, there were several skeletons, still dressed in their uniforms, sitting at the various control stations. The skeleton occupying the captain’s chair looked as if it were pointing to a particular control on the arm of his gravity couch.

After examining the panel, the tech looked up and said loudly, “It seems there are about 50 stasis pods still active. Possibility is good we might actually have some survivors.”

A soft round of incredulity filled the area from the exploration team.

One of the team flipped out his comm unit, “Larry? This is Sammy. Yea, yea, Listen. It appears we might actually have 50 living in stasis. Yea ... get Doc down to the stasis chambers and at least see how many made it.”

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Midshipman Henrietta Kendrick felt the ship rock. In all the battles that she’d been in while serving in the Sixth Fleet, she had never felt anything like it. She had been in many ships that took major battle damage, nothing anywhere near this bad.

“What the …?” she heard Lieutenant Kaolan say. After looking at the viewframe, his face went pale in disbelief. “That was the Dauntless,” he said. “It just … exploded. The shock wave destroyed three other ships, and we took damage just from that. And whatever caused it … is heading this way. What even is that?”

Then there was the piercing sound of a ship-wide announcement, orders from the bridge. “This is the captain speaking,” said the familiar voice of Captain Newton. “We’re facing a phenomenon of such unprecedented force that I’m not sure it can even be called a weapon. It is the captain’s responsibility to safeguard her crew, as it is any officer’s responsibility to protect those under their command. The orders are to get to the stasis pods. Follow standard procedure. Do it now! There’s no time. Bridge out.”

Kendrick was shocked, not least because she knew there wasn’t room in the stasis pods for every crew member, and she knew the captain knew it too. Captain Newton had just issued her last order. But Lieutenant Kaolan drew in a sharp breath and said in a loud voice, “You all heard the captain! Our stasis pods are to starboard, numbers 12A-H. Move!” They all dropped what they were doing, whether that was repairing battle damage, monitoring shield or weapon output, or standing by to back up their comrades should they sustain injury. They hurried down the corridor to the pods as the ship shook more.

There were eight of them, Lieutenant Kaolan and seven crew members who looked to him for guidance. When they reached the pods, there was a massive explosion down the hallway, and they all dropped to the floor and covered their heads. A fireball heated the air above them before subsiding. When they stood up, there were only seven pods. The lieutenant looked at them and turned white as a sheet for a moment – but only for a moment. “Get in! Now!” he said, physically pushing Kendrick and the others into their assigned pods.

“But Lieutenant –” said Kendrick.

“No time, Midshipman!” said the lieutenant. “This is your post. Take it! That’s an order!”

“Aye, Sir!” Kendrick said, saluting the lieutenant, who saluted back.

“Live to fight another day,” was the last thing she remembered Lieutenant Kaolan saying.

There was the telltale vibration and hum of the stasis pod activating, and everything went black for an instant. Then the pod was opening, and there was a woman in a white lab coat standing before her. She was in some kind of laboratory. There were windows nearby. Sunlight streamed in through the windows. She could see blue sky and clouds. She wasn’t on the Dauntless. She was on a planet. “Good morning,” said the woman in a kindly voice. “I’m Dr. Sands. Can I help you onto this exam table? I need to make sure you’re healthy.”

“Uh, I … think I can make it, Doc,” said Kendrick. “Where … what happened?” It looked like a medical laboratory, with a number of similar highly sophisticated exam tables for patients, each with a stasis pod near it, and all the other pods looked as if they still had people in them. They must have been removed from the ship, she thought, and brought to what must be a hospital, but the equipment was far more sophisticated than anything she’d seen – she was an engineer, but her specialty wasn’t medical tech.

“Long story short,” said Dr. Sands, activating a scanner of some sort that hummed but didn’t feel like anything, “your ship was damaged but fell through some sort of rift in space. They found it just recently, when it came back out. It’s been something like … get ready for it … 1800 years.” Kendrick sucked in her breath. “You and your comrades in the other stasis pods are the only survivors. You’re the first to be revived. Luck of the draw.”

“1800 … years …” That was an unimaginable amount of time, just on a human scale. Kendrick knew that it was just a drop in the bucket compared to the age of the universe, but everyone she’d ever known was gone … the universe had probably changed so much … but then she realized that not everyone she’d known was gone. There were 49 other stasis pods. Some of the crew had made it. She still had some comrades-in-arms. And this doctor seemed friendly, and there was no obvious security, so it didn’t look as if they were in enemy territory.

“This is Lin Chase Memorial Research Hospital,” said Dr. Sands as she examined the scanner readings. “Best hospital on Infantus, if I do say so myself. I do my best to help it be just that! We only get the strangest cases – you wouldn’t believe what we just discovered about a month ago – but anyway, you’re showing a few signs of stasis transphasic syndrome, but even if you do have it, you don’t have it badly, and your disorientation should subside in a day or two.”

“I – do I have a commanding officer to report to?” asked Kendrick. “I’m Midshipman Kendrick, Henrietta, Dreadnought Dauntless, Sixth Fleet, serial number 2-18720 ...”

“There’s plenty of time for that later,” said the doctor. “You need rest, and we’re happy to provide it, so don’t worry. The Commonwealth is still the Commonwealth, and this is the planet Infantus, a Commonwealth member world. Chances are that if you want to reenlist in the Navy, they’d be glad to have you – though the technology’s changed, I’m sure, so you’d need some retraining.”

“I’d be surprised if it hadn’t,” said Kendrick. “There was … a battle. What happened? Do you know?”

“It’s still famous in the history books,” said Dr. Sands. There was some kind of hubbub in the hallway outside the lab’s door. She opened it and saw Arianna looking at her tablet, with Darla and several other patients and hospital staff looking on. “Oh, hello, Arianna. Pardon me, but can you please keep it down? We’ve got a patient recovering in here.”

“Oooo, sowwy Doctor,” said Arianna, although she hadn’t been the one making the noise. The hospital staff mumbled apologies and began to disperse first, then most of the patients wandered off, still talking about what they’d seen.

Darla explained, “They’ve gotten some data from the dreadnought’s systems about the phenomenon that destroyed the Sixth Fleet! It could help solve the mystery of what happened!”

“One of history’s greatest mysteries, solved?” said Dr. Sands. “That’s … fascinating. And possibly helpful. Please come in. Let’s all see it.” She beckoned the two of them into the lab. “This is Midshipman Kendrick, the first of the dreadnought’s crew I’ve awakened from stasis. Ms. Kendrick, these are Darla Sahree and Arianna, two outpatients whose cases are behind a recent amazing discovery we’ve made, but that’s too complicated to go into right now. They’re only here for some tests today, so we can gather more data – but anyway, let’s see this video.”

Arianna held up her tablet and touched the screen. Kendrick looked on with interest, but steeled herself, because she knew it would be showing the destruction of many ships in her squadron. And sure enough, it did. A huge eruption of energy came from all over the planet’s surface, traversing the atmosphere and detonating all around the ships of the Fleet like a confluence of titanic lightning bolts. But in the center of all that energy was something dark. “What is that, in the middle there?” Kendrick asked. “This was captured by the starship’s scanners, so the resolution should be excellent.”

“Yes,” said Darla, “probably a lot better than the images everyone here on Infantus has seen, which were taken from the planet’s surface by a handheld consumer grade multi-comm from 1800 years ago.”

“Here, let me put it on the holo screen,” said Dr. Sands, holding up her own tablet next to Arianna’s, touching corners. Arianna slid her finger from her screen to the doctor’s, and Dr. Sands slid her finger from Arianna’s screen onto her own, causing the video to be copied to her tablet. The doctor did some more tapping, and the room’s projectors displayed a large holo screen in midair, big enough for them all to see in great detail.

The doctor tried to zoom in on the dark shape in the center. It probably wasn’t something dark, Kendrick knew, but anything less bright would look dark surrounded by all that energy. It looked like … a humanoid figure holding a sword. Like something out of some kind of myth, or epic fantasy holo. “That’s … probably just pareidolia.” Kendrick didn’t sound very certain.

“Maybe,” said Dr. Sands.

“Our whole fleet … wiped out,” said Kendrick. “And for what? They told us there was a violent insurrection.”

“Now, I don’t want you getting upset, because you’re supposed to rest,” said the doctor.

“I’m going to be upset until I find out what history knows about what happened,” Kendrick said firmly. Darla and Arianna looked from the doctor to her patient.

“OK, OK,” said Dr. Sands. “Here.” She took out a tablet and activated a holoscreen that appeared in the air well within Kendrick’s field of vision as she sat up in the diagnostic bed. A historical documentary began to play. “This is my favorite series of documentaries,” she said. “They get most things right and don’t sensationalize things.”

As the video played, Darla and Arianna followed Dr. Sands as she went about reviving some other patients. Kendrick, watching the documentary, learned things she wasn’t very happy with, and with every revelation she grew more enraged. There had never even been an insurrection? The Mining Consortium had used the Sixth Fleet as its own personal goon squad, sending them to kill innocent colonists so the already rich fat cats could make a few more credits? The Consortium had known that the Iota 95 uprising had just been a peaceful protest, and that most of the colonists had evacuated before the Fleet had arrived, and they just hadn’t told anyone? The Commonwealth had come to its senses and ordered a withdrawal, but the orders had arrived too late? Kendrick’s blood boiled. The Consortium’s management should have been arrested, thrown in jail, maybe even executed. Apparently the Consortium’s charter had been rescinded, but the people in charge had probably just moved on to other shady business dealings under different names, and by now they were all long dead anyway. Meanwhile, so many good men and women had died, killed by … either a unique cosmic phenomenon or a very powerful defender. And, in the end, nobody even used Omicron Crystals for energy anymore.

Some of her comrades had been revived and been checked out by Dr. Sands by the time the video finished, and the doctor hadn’t been able to prevent them from hugging each other and crying some tears. She played the documentary for more of them, providing earphones for those who wanted to watch it while others took naps. Kendrick was suddenly exhausted – probably that stasis syndrome thing the doctor had mentioned – so she fell asleep, the bed still monitoring her vital signs. She vaguely remembered Arianna and Darla holding her hand and saying goodbye to her before they left.

When she woke up later, she asked to see more about the Commonwealth she now lived in, whereupon she learned that she was on the planet her fleet had almost destroyed, Iota-95 Chamaeleontis, now known as Infantus, widely known for being the “planet of babies.” It was a bit odd, and Kendrick had noticed Arianna and Darla’s babyish outfits, but she had seen far stranger things during the Fleet’s journeys across the galaxy.

It was a happy world full of odd but happy people, and she was all for joy and peace – the whole point of the Galactic Navy, in her opinion, was because some people out there prioritized other things ahead of universal peace, freedom, and happiness. Kendrick also learned that the galactic news media had found out about the discovery of the Dauntless and would probably be sending reporters to interview her and her shipmates.

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

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is Phil Ander on GNN, Galactic News Network, coming to you with the story of the century.” Phil looked as if he were reading from a teleprompter just to one side of the camera, which he certainly was. “According to an announcement by the Infantian Historical Institute, about a month ago the derelict hulk of a dreadnought from the fabled Sixth Fleet reappeared in normal space-time after being lost for over 1000 years. From what the scientists have said, 50 individuals actually survived the ordeal within the emergency stasis pods. From reports by the psychologists, except for minor disorientation caused by the seriously extended stasis hibernation, the individuals have come through this unprecedented happening intact and uninjured.” The anchor paused, and the display changed. “Here you see a picture, famous on Infantus, taken from Lin Chase’s own comm unit at the time it happened.“ The famous picture of the massive energy conjunction with what looked almost like some humanoid in the middle appeared. A split appeared in the screen. Next to it appeared a very much better image of the same happening. However, in the center of this picture was what was unmistakably a dark humanoid figure with a large sword in their hands. The news anchor appeared in the picture again. “This new image taken from the ship’s scan archives even more clearly proves some super-powered being did in fact protect the planet. As they go through the ship’s files and archives, along with the interviews of the survivors, we will keep you updated on any new developments. In other news, the Arcturian Raiders defeated the Solarian Frigs 56 to 48 in a stunning victory …”

Dr. Anthony Griggs reached forward and turned off the comm unit. The room went silent as six adorably dressed babydoll scientists sat contemplating what they had just heard on the news broadcast. Dr. Griggs said, “I’m not real sure letting the discovery out this fast was a wise idea.”

Several of the men and women sitting in the viewing area agreed.

One of the young women, dressed in a really cute fairy princess babydoll dress and matching bootie slippers, said in a cute way, “Something we really need to think about is the welfare of those 50 survivors.” She stopped for a bit as she struggled with the urge to suck her thumb. A gentle twitter of friendly laughter rounded the room, then the woman continued as she fought the urge to suck her thumb, “From what the recovered data archives said, that ship has been drifting in unknown space for centuries. We have an ongoing search of old space naval records to determine if the survivors have family still living, and who they might be.”

Dr. Griggs said, “That’s why I allowed the news to be released. It has to aid us in locating someone. As famous as the Sixth Fleet was and still is, somebody will come forward and say something – we’ll just have to make sure they’re for real, and not fakes looking for media attention. DNA comparisons should separate the wheat from the chaff.” He stood up straight. “Are there any questions?” He paused … no one had any; they all knew what they had to do. “Ok, then, infants and littles, get to it, playtime is wasting.”

There followed a mad dash as all of the attending and adorably dressed young men and women rushed from the conference room amid much happy screeching and babble like little children at recess. But as soon as they got to their workstations, they found that one historical and DNA match had already come back.

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

The next morning:

“Incoming call for you from the hospital, Nana Darla,” said the neutral voice of Arianna’s home computer system.

Darla sat at the comm console. The plastic lining of her panties crinkled loudly as she snuggled into the comfy chair. “Hello? This is Nana Darla, how can I be of service?”

“Good morning,” said a soft voice, “I’m Dr. Anthony Griggs, head of the Infantian Historical Genetic research division. We were wondering if I could arrange for us to come to your place and speak with you? We have some … rather interesting news we need to discuss.”

Darla sat back and sucked her thumb thoughtfully for a minute, “Is ok, but I care for a babydoll and you would need to arrive when it isn’t her nap time or feeding time.”

Dr. Griggs replied, “ How about in about an hour? It gives you time to tend to the babydoll, and perhaps time for you to do other chores as necessary. It also gives me time to gather the the data together into a reasonable package. There’s a lot of it covering a great many worlds and a large span of time.”

Darla replied, “Sound goo ta me. I look forward to meeting all of you.”

Dr. Griggs replied, “Excellent. We will be there within an hour.” The comm went dead.

Darla quit fighting the urge to suck her thumb, sat back, and enjoyed the pleasantness and comfort. As she thought about everything, she wondered what the Historical Genetic research division might want with her. She didn’t have but a few minutes to suckle her thumb in thought before Dinney-1 came in and helped her to her feet and checked her diaper. Darla felt so strange and wonderful as the droid checked her like any other toddler.

Dinney-1 said in a cheerful voice, “So, the little girl wet her panties, did she?”

Dinney-1 took Darla by the hand and led her to the changing table. This time, instead of letting Darla get on the table by herself as normal, Dinney-1 picked her up like the toddler she appeared to be, placed her on her back, then gave Darla one of the most wonderful diaper changes ever including piggies, tummy raspberries, accompanied with a seasoning of tickles. When Darla came back to her semi-adult mind, she was sitting in the play area with Arianna having a wonderful plushy fight.

Dinney-1 said in its cooing voice, “Time for Darla to stop being baby and be Miss Little Nana Darla. The people from the Genetic Facility are here. They have some … rather interesting things to talk with you about. They also brought someone with them who wants to meet you.”

Darla shook her head to clear the wonderful infantile contentedness enough to allow herself to function as a little. While Darla did that, Dinney-1 made a huge production out of checking Darla’s diaper one more time as Dinney-1 dressed her in the adorable Little Nana outfit.

Dinney-1 held out a cute pair of black, plastic lined rumba panties and cooed softly, “Now step in, sweetheart.”

Darla couldn’t help it as she stomped her foot, crossed her arms in a huff, and said in a really cute little girl way, “Amma big girl. No needsa diapers.” Then an expression of total shock came to her face as she covered her open mouth with her hands.

Dinney-1 did its equivalent of a really amused giggle, “Of course. You’re way too old for diapers, but the real problem is you’re still way too young for just panties. Now stop fussing and step in, because we have a rather large crowd waiting in the reception room.”

Darla felt a really strange sensation tingle all through her as she let go and started stepping into the panties. The one adult trepidation she had was now resolved. Darla knew she was now a real little; the one bit that was holding her back had just been removed. The soft and exceedingly wonderful hiney pat when Dinney-1 had pulled the panties up had almost made her wet her diaper once again, which sealed the deal.

Dinney-1 walked Darla by the hand out into the corridor that led to the large formal reception area that had been constructed over the last few months to accommodate the many professional visitors; Arianna had designed it. By the time Darla was led into the room, she had once again lost the struggle to not suck her thumb. There were many coos and gentle “So cute”s.

Dinney-1 led Darla to the very front of the crowd at the podium before she made a huge deal of checking her baby’s panties. Darla felt highly embarrassed while it happened, then realized it was what happened to littles in her category. It wasn’t so bad. When Darla stood back up to the podium, she noticed no one had even really paid attention to it. Littles her age had accidents at random times … some of them major.

Darla said into the mic, “Please, everyone be seated. Tell the droid if you need anything. Due to a unique happening, there have been a few major additions … least of which is the connection to your labs. Now, what is this information you have that is so in depth?”

Several of the individuals opened some type of small floating cart that was also a large briefcase. They removed several stacks of papers, and several dozen tablet computers.

One of the individuals stood up. She was dressed in a powder-blue Water Sprite babydoll dress with matching rumba panties that could be seen beneath the dress’s short hem. She said in an adorable voice, “My name is Dr. Vickie Abby. I’m a historical geneticist. My job usually has been to track down people’s travels throughout history and space. As you know, there were 50 survivors on the recovered craft.”

Darla asked, “OK, I know all that. So, what’s so important that apparently a whole department came to see me? I’m jussa Little Nana.”

Vickie smiled as she opened a thick binder titled “Historical Familial Genetic Lineage” and opened it to the first page.

“Let me explain what we’re looking at.” She pointed to a colored bar of some kind labeled “Kendrick, Henrietta.” Leading from it were many branches with names attached to the genetic markers. It covered many many years, showing each group and subgroup, whether it continued or dead-ended. “This is the complete genetic record, as far as our archives can tell.”

As Vickie thumbed through many pages, Darla asked, “So how does this pertain to me?”

Vickie turned the large file so she could see it and pointed, “This is your mother and father ... right?” She moved her finger to the next set of names, “And these are your grandparents and many of your aunts, uncles and cousins ... right?”

Darla nodded slowly with her eyes large as saucers and her mouth open in incredulity.

Vickie continued, “Well, we have reason to believe you may be one of Midshipman Kendrick’s living family. The hospital has your DNA on file, so all we need is your consent to verify your genetic profile.” Darla nodded silently and touched her palm to the tablet’s screen to signify consent. It turned green and chimed as her fingerprints registered. “I think we have a positive hit. After this length of time, I’m surprised at the accuracy.”

Darla was totally dumfounded. She had no idea that one of her very distant relations were not only a member of the crew of the legendary Sixth Fleet, but one of them who had survived. “I – I don’t know what to say,” she said.

“You’re a direct descendant of Ms. Kendrick’s brother,” said Vickie. “So not only was Ms. Kendrick the first survivor revived from the stasis pods, but you were also the first living relative identified for any of the survivors, and that’s because not only were you local, you’ve been at the hospital frequently lately, so your data was currently active in the hospital’s system.”

“I remember Ms. Kendrick,” said Darla. “Arianna showed her the video. The doctor played that documentary for her. She got so mad … at those Consortium people from way back long ago.”

“Yes, she’s been speaking with one of the therapists about her feelings,” said Vickie, “and she’s not the only one by far. What happened back then was terrible. And complicated.”

“What happens now?” Darla asked.

“She’s right here,” said Vickie. Henrietta stood up, and Darla gasped, because she hadn’t seen her there among all the people who had come. “But now that you both know, what you do is up to you.”

“I … well, I want to give you my comm code, first of all,” said Henrietta, stepping forward.

“I do too,” said Darla. Her current outfit didn’t have any pockets, so Dinney-1 brought Darla’s hand comm to her. They tapped their comms together to share codes so they could send messages to each other from anywhere in the galaxy, as long as there was an inhabited planet or at least a relay waystation nearby.

“We can give you time to get better acquainted,” said Vickie, and she and the other doctors backed away to discuss other cases.

“Thank you,” said Henrietta. To Darla she said, “So, you’re … here?”

“Yes,” said Darla. She explained how she had gone to school to become a Nana and had chosen to come to Infantus, and how she’d crash-landed in the mountains and caught what she’d thought had been a virus. Then she tried to explain how she hadn’t really caught a virus but instead made contact with a new type of life form that had developed in the peculiarly shattered space-time around Infantus.

“And I guess you’ve, well, taken to the Infantus life,” said Henrietta. “I’m not sure it’s my style, but I’m not gonna knock it – the people of Vogel VI wear wings on their arms and fly everywhere they go. Or at least they used to. I don’t know what it’s like there now.”

“We could look it up,” said Darla. “But yeah, I didn’t know I was gonna like it, but now I do. I guess I have accidents now.” She giggled.

So did Henrietta. “Well, you know, when in Rome.” As had been true back in her own time, nobody knew what Rome had been except ancient Earth historians, but the expression remained.

“Do you need anything?” asked Darla. “A place to stay? Until you get on your feet?”

“Well, they’re putting us all up in the best hotel on the planet, until all this research gets done,” replied Henrietta. “I’ve got this personal assistant named Winnie who keeps wanting me to try on some clothes that would make me look like a toddler, but I keep shooing her away.” She giggled.

“Oh, Winnie’s great!” said Darla. “You should let her do your hair! If you let it get longer.” Henrietta’s hair was still in a very short military style.

“They said that the Navy’s trust fund for MIA veterans is going to pay us all our back pay, because we were technically on duty for 1800 years plus,” Henrietta said. “So I don’t think I’ve got anything to worry about in terms of money. But if I could, you know, visit, that would be great. So far you’re the only living relative they’ve found of a similar age – though your parents are alive, they said, and you have a sister?”

“Yeah, they’re all back on Sharima Prime, where I grew up,” said Darla. “Only I guess I came here and grew down again.” She giggled.

“Seems that’s just what people do on this planet,” Henrietta said with a laugh. “But not everybody! I’ve seen some who just don’t go for the little thing.”

“Totally!” said Darla. “There are a few men and women who just don’t do that, and it’s fine. They’re the reason why public buildings still have bathrooms and restaurants have a few regular chairs that aren’t high chairs. Anyway, yeah, Mom and Dad are your relatives too, and so is Dana. They’re going to be so excited! Let’s tell them together!”

“Let’s!” Henrietta said. “And that adorable little … she’s called a Babydoll, right? … who you take care of. Has she heard?”

“Let’s tell her now,” said Darla.

“I sawed it on tha video,” said Arianna, who was toddling up to them. “Wowwww Darla, so you gotsa great great lotsa greats auntie? That must make you suuuuper little!” Arianna grinned.

“Hey, you,” said Darla, giggling and trying to tickle Arianna as the Babydoll tried to block her hands and squirm away.

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

In a place beyond places, in a garden out of a dream, the magical flowers of a well-manicured tree filled with golden apples were blooming, filling the air with an aroma beyond human description. A young woman in a dress made of a wispy white that left nothing to the imagination lay comfortably across her golden jewel-encrusted chaise longue beneath the boughs of the magnificent tree as she watched the images of Darla and Henrietta happen in real time within a small glowing scrying cloud.

Another woman suddenly walked out of nowhere, appearing beside the chaise. “Oh, Steffie, dear. Your brother thinks he needs some new friends. Might you know of some?”

The other woman rolled over with a flourish, “And … umm … just what happened to his old friends?”

The other woman, who was dressed in an outfit of a similar type, said in a whiny voice as she made a silly face, “They … grew up?”

Both women looked at each other before they laughed.

The woman lying down said, “Well, Mom … I can always make the old ones more like my brother Eros instead of making fresh ones.”

The other one shrugged and made an offhand gesture, “Stephie, honey, I think it has to do with that universal edict that they have free will.”

The other woman stood up from her chaise and made a playful snorting sound, “Well, Mom, you’re Aphroditie. Seems we can operate within that edict with no trouble, since our powers revolve around something irresistible.”

The other woman giggled, “Well, I haven’t had a sexcapade in a long time. A bit of a new one can’t hurt.” Then she walked into nothing and was gone.

Persephone smiled as she shook her head. Now her mom was off doing something only the goddess of love could accomplish. She hoped not too many … things get crowded fast.

“Now, about that cute little cherub brother of mine, Eros,” Persephone thought to herself. “It is a dilemma when all your friends grow up and you don’t.” She turned and looked at the image in the magical scrying cloud, and a slow impish kind of expression came over her young and pretty features. “I do know of 50 candidates who would do just perfectly.” She thought as she began making preparations to visit her beloved Infantus.

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

Back on Infantus:

Henrietta Kendrick sat on one of the plush sofas in the penthouse suite the Commonwealth had given to the survivors. There were many knickknacks and other items on the low coffee table in front of her. Henrietta was amazed at what the military had given her. After it was all figured and sorted – 1800 years of benefits, including hazard duty pay, survivor’s benefits, and all the per diem allotments – she had many millions to play with.

As she fumbled with several stacks of the legal papers, she could have sworn there was a flash of light on the table in front of her, and a small strawberry pink cell phone appeared. She rubbed her eyes and took another look … it was still there.

It began to chime its nursery rhyme sounding ring tone. Each time it sounded, huge surges of intense and wonderful feelings tingled all through her. Each one made it harder not to answer, until she quit fighting it and answered, “H .. hello?”

A soft cooing voice answered, “Hello, Sweetheart. You and I have never met, but I know we are going to be very good friends, along with the other 49 of you.”

Henrietta asked, “Who are you, and where did this phone come from?”

The voice giggled a bit, then replied, “Why, Sugar, I’m Persephone, and I have a very important question to ask you.”

Henrietta was flabberghasted. She was actually speaking with the actual owner of this planet, from what she had been told. “Ok, I’m game … what’s the question?”

The reply hit her like lightning, “Why, Baby, do you accept Baby Rules?”

She gasped. It was like the awakening of something that had been asleep within her. It was so intense that she had to answer; she had no will to resist. “Yes! I powmis baby acc elja frlk dflk dfrg lkn fdkl nadf.” Hernrietta discovered that she could no longer speak properly, and all her clothes were so large all around her that they swallowed and buried her.

The cooing voice said, “Now relax and just be a baby girl again while I visit the other 49 of you. A Nana will be arriving in your room shortly to take care of you. Welcome to Infantus.” The connection went dead.

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

Henrietta played with Arianna in the playroom while Nana Darla looked on. Apparently there was a strange phenomenon that happened to some residents of Infantus where they suddenly became much more babyish and really embraced the planet’s little culture, and that had happened to Henrietta. Darla had had a much more gradual transition, helped along by her first hospital stay, but then again, not very many Infantians actually changed physically into little babies and back like clockwork on a regular basis. In fact, just before sunset tonight Darla was slated to begin another of her baby cycles.

Henrietta had been a big little for four months now. She hadn’t so much as confessed a desire to try out the baby side to Darla, and then suddenly she’d been a full-on little, with the diaper, the feeding, the babbling, the crawling – the whole nine yards. But after a while, she backed off a little bit and was walking and talking again – with the money from the military, she wouldn’t have to work or anything and had apparently hired a Nana for herself, so Darla wasn’t worried. Henrietta kept in touch and visited sometimes, though she giggled and babbled a lot more now than she had. But she seemed very happy.

But after a little while Henrietta had decided to take up a job just to keep herself busy. She’d trained under Rick and Stuart to pilot a commercial shuttle, doing the Infantus to Kerlan Beta run. She’d gotten quite good at holding her course while flying through the fractured space-time around the planet. They told her she giggled a lot while doing it, and always needed a diaper change afterward. “I’m sure I’d need a diaper change after doing that too,” Darla had replied, and everyone had giggled. Darla had been serious, though.

Then, while Darla had been reading to the two girls from the “Baby Miki and Baby Jennie’s Baby Mysteries” storybook, she got the warning from the household computer. “Nana Darla, this is your requested warning. The pink full moon will rise in 5 minutes.”

“Ooo, Nana Darla’s gonna turn inta Baby Darla!” said Arianna, clapping her hands. Dinney-1 got out the baby-sized diapers and baby clothes and stood ready.

“I’ll be playing with you soon, Babydoll,” said Darla, kissing Arianna on top of her head and putting away the storybook and other adult things she soon wouldn’t be able to use for a while and sat down to wait on the absorbent pad, in case her diaper leaked when she shrank out of it. Henrietta looked confused.

Then it happened. Darla seemed to hear the voice of Quartus telling her, “Thank you,” as she quickly shrank to the size of an infant and her adult thoughts went away for now.

“Technically she’s one of Nana Pederson’s, not one of mine,” said Persephone, watching all of this in her scrying cloud from her chaise, “but Quartus managed to make her kind of mine too. Sort of.” One day she’d visit them. There was time.

The End
Sunshine & rainbows,
LilJennie
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