More than a Dream

A place where users can post their wonderful stories.

More than a Dream

Postby LilJennie » Mon Jan 08, 2024 9:41 pm

More Than a Dream
BY: Miki Yamuri and Jennie Flint

It was a warm spring day, and the sun was out brightly as all the critters gathered together and sang their joy to its arrival. John Gooding … me … had finally gotten a vacation from that stupid computer firm and could relax for the next 90 days. At 35, I needed to get away for a bit and recharge my batteries … just enjoy life before I grew old and boring.

I had decided to take my 3 wheel ATV out for a jaunt in the woods, and this was a perfect day for it. The ATV ran perfectly as I slid around the narrow path through the woods, throwing large rooster tails of dirt and other loose debris high in the air.

I came to the overlook of the large meadow below. It was a stunning view as the land dropped off sharply in front of me and fell towards the creek on the other side. I stood up on the footpegs slightly as I took the long jump to the creek bed below.

I felt, more than heard, a large, fast moving object coming right for me. I turned to see as I grabbed the throttle, and my machine began to dig large ditches with the back tires as it hit the creek in my futile attempt to get away.

There was a blinding flash of light, and a sensation of tremendous heat prickled my face and back. The helpless feeling of flying rapidly through the air … and the brief but utter agony of hitting a solid object seriously and painfully hard, then falling into darkness.

Is This a Dream?

I sat up suddenly with a screech. The voice I just heard didn’t sound like mine. I felt really funny all over as I looked around the room. In some way I couldn't explain, the room seemed familiar … in a very new kind of way. Like I was seeing something I had known about, but had never experienced before … or really intense déjà vu.

I shook my head and put my face in my hands. That's when the cascade of soft blond hair fell over my hands and face. I brushed it back behind my head. I tugged on it a few times … yes … it was mine, all right.

There was a soft light from a night lamp glowing from some hidden place. It provided even but soft dim light throughout the room. In this light, I could see several large Teddy Bears sitting in small high chairs on one side of the room.

I could see a small vanity with a mirror that any female would love to own. There were some kind of posters on the wall, but the light was too soft for me to make out any details, except they were of some young men … in various stages of dress.

I threw the covers back and stood from bed. I was wearing a cute little white flutter top with matching lacy rhumba panties. I could see my small breasts and nipples through the sheer fabric my top was made of. Gingerly, I felt between my legs. I got a nice tingle of pleasure from touching there when my fingers crossed where my maleness … wasn’t anymore.

“OMG!” I said out loud as I looked around the room. “This is … impossible.” I was very surprised at the way my voice sounded.

I could see the outline of a door across the room from me. There was a small light on, and the way was illuminated softly. I quickly rushed over to the door and opened it slowly. It was a bathroom, although one that was super duper swank.

The whirlpool hot tub bathtub was real blue marble with black and white veined markings all through. This was a top of the line model, I could tell; all the fixtures were made of gold.

I entered the bathroom. It was cavernous in size and dimension. There, in the large vanity mirror … I finally saw my reflection. What I saw looking back was a very beautiful young woman in the cutest jammies I thought I had ever seen, with an exquisite choke collar necklace that had a very large stone in a gold setting. The stone looked like a very large diamond.

I had long, shoulder length blonde hair, I was small breasted … about a B cup, the sexiest body I could have imagined … not to mention my adorably round bottom, and the eyes … they were bright gold in color.

I stood for a minute, just staring at my reflection in total astonishment. I had … memories of … being a man … being on a vacation or something. I closed my eyes and thought really hard. The very last memory I had before waking up just now … was a painful flash of light.

I heard a door open and a female voice call softly, “Mandy?” it called, “Are you all right? I thought I heard someone scream.”

I walked from the bathroom and saw a young woman, who looked older than I did at this point, in just string bikini panties and a baby T standing in the door. She was totally beautiful. Long brunette hair, wonderful breasts poking through, cute round behind, and very dangerous curves.

I stood in shock as she walked over to me, caressed my face lovingly, and cooed softly, “The doctors said you would have bad dreams for a bit. No boogeyman's come to visit, have they?"

I felt a warm sensation run all through me. My nipples began to tingle, and I felt very warm between my legs.

I asked in my new young female's voice, "Who are you? What happened to me? How did I get here, and ... and ...?"

The woman smiled as she gently took me in her arms and French kissed me. I felt her wiggly tongue as it pried open my teeth, then sought out my tongue and entwined with it. I couldn't help myself as I slipped into the kiss and snuggled into this woman's wonderful, soft embrace.

Wonderfully intense surges and nice urges rushed all through me. I'm not sure how long we kissed. The next thing I knew, I felt her hand gently caress me between my legs.

She smiled warmly as she said, "I hope that kinda reminds you. I'm glad to know I can still make my Love Pet's panties wet with a kiss." She turned and took a step before looking around, holding out her hand, then wiggling her fingers slightly, “Take my hand, Babydoll. Come snuggle with me in my bed. I’ll keep the ol’ boogeymans away.”

I didn’t even realize I had taken her hand until I felt her gently pulling me after her. I followed, and with each step, this felt so … exciting, new, and somehow really nicely familiar, although I knew I had never before experienced this in any way … not even a dream.

The older woman led me down a hall, then into another bedroom. This one was as luxurious as any could possibly be. Long, thick curtains hung from floor to ceiling over the many apparent windows. A shag carpet so thick my toes could get lost forever in it. Furniture that seemed to be made of a very exotic wood was scattered strategically all around with several large ornately carved wooden chests of drawers against a wall on either side of a very large door.

I could see where the bathroom was in this room. The door was open, and a soft blue light showed the way clearly without being bright.

The woman led me to a huge round bed covered in what appeared to be silk sheets and spreads. She sat on the bed with one leg curled under, then pulled her top off. Her wonderfully firm breasts wiggled in the action, enough to arouse me even more.

Before I could react, the woman lifted my flutter top off over my head. I could feel the coolness of the room as my nipples tingled pleasantly and grew firm. She pulled me gently to her and kissed each one in turn, giving it a wonderful soft suck at the end. It was electric and went right to my … OMG! I had a vagina! I could feel myself becoming really aroused as my panties started to feel really damp.

The woman laid back, pulling me into bed with her. I found myself wrapped up in her arms and beautiful long and shapely legs as she French kissed me once again. It took my breath away.

A voice in my head kept saying over and over, This is impossible … it has to be a dream! I couldn’t believe not only that I was now a very beautiful and sexy young woman, but that I was in bed with another extremely beautiful sexy woman who was about to make lesbian love to me.

I felt totally helpless as she gently rolled me to my back and softly started caressing me between my legs. OMG!! It was so intense. I had never had a sensation so wonderfully nice.

As her finger slowly wiggled its way into the leg opening of my panties, she cooed softly, “I will tell you this now so you understand what happened to you.” I squeaked adorably as her finger started to play with my special places and started penetrating me. She softly continued as she lovingly pecked me on my lips, “There was an accident that you were caught in the middle of. I had a genetic construct love pet that had need of … a spirit.”

I gasped out in a cute squeak as she penetrated me deeper, “A … s … spirit? What kind of spirit?”

She giggled and kissed me on my lips once again. “Your spirit, silly girl. You were harvested from that mangled lump of flesh. Now, from this instant on, no one will acknowledge or even understand that you used to be a man from another planet. You are my love pet. My name is Lisa, and I promise to take the very best care of you I can. I will also tell you that there might come a time when I want my babydoll to look and act like a babydoll.”

Before I could ask any more questions, Lisa began to passionately kiss me. Those kisses … they were like a drug. The more she kissed me, the more I kissed back. Next thing I knew. Lisa was taking off my panties and starting to French kiss me in my new private place. OMG!! It was so intense as her wiggly tongue knew exactly where to be to send super intense waves of pleasure all through my body. My nipples began to tingle as I lost my mind and began to squeak and moan helplessly.

There was nothing I could do to stop it, even if I’d wanted to. My universe exploded in a conflagration of ecstasy. I thought I’d had no idea who or where I was before, but now I was entirely lost in a blaze of pleasure. It felt like forever before I came back to myself … my self that wasn’t myself. I still don’t know how much time passed.

“That’s what you have to look forward to, my Love Pet,” purred Lisa’s voice. “But maybe you just want to sleep now. That must have worn you out.”

I dropped into a blissful sleep. I dreamed of being male again, of a night out at the bar with my buds, of a football night at my apartment … and then, in the dream, each time I realized my body wasn’t male anymore. It might not have been human anymore, either – hadn’t Lisa said I was from “another planet?”

When I woke up, I was in … the room I’d been in when I’d awakened in darkness earlier. A window was open, and outside I heard … something. It was high pitched and hooting, something like birdsong, but I’d never heard any birds like these. Trees with blue leaves and an orange sun in the sky told me that I was quite obviously not from around here, wherever here was.

“Well, hello,” said Lisa, entering the room and coming to the bedside. “I thought a bit of fresh air would do you good. Don’t worry; the screen will keep the yakomunji out.” I didn’t know what those were. She came in for another kiss, just a peck this time. “You’re in for a treat. There’s fresh dough-cakes and juice for breakfast.”

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

Lisa went to the chest of drawers and pulled open the top left drawer. She took out a really cute, lacy pair of panties and a really cute romper with lace around the legs and bib. Lisa held out the panties and cooed softly, “OK, babydoll, step into your panties so mommy can dress you.”

I really didn’t know what happened as my body walked over to Lisa and allowed her to remove my nighty. I took hold of her shoulder as she held out the panties and daintily stepped in. She pulled them up and patted my hinney in that wonderful way she did.

Next, came the romper. Lisa tied the bib in a nice bow behind my head. I looked at myself in the large mirror by the bathroom door. The girl who looked back was adorably cute. The fact that I had no top on other than the bib made me look very sexy too.

Lisa came up and began to brush my hair briskly with a brush. What few knots were there were minor, and my hair was soft and had a healthy glow. Lisa gathered it into two ponytails and tied it off with ribbons the same soft powder blue as the romper before taking my hand and leading me to the dining room.

She led me to a chair and had me sit as she scooted the chair closer to the table. Next thing I knew, Lisa was tying a baby’s sunflower bib on me. I was still slightly in a daze over how my body was so obedient to Lisa’s will while my consciousness appeared to be along for the ride.

As Lisa placed a plate of dough cakes all smothered in something that resembled syrup, she seemed to read my mind as she said softly, “Because you belong to me, Sweetheart, That necklace you wear insures you obey me without question. The essence that is you, is not necessarily under that type of control, but your body is. Now, what mommy wants babydoll to do is eat and enjoy yourself.” Lisa handed me a fork.

I’m not exactly sure what happened, but my mind went totally bonkers as I dug in and made the biggest mess I could imagine, as if I were a small child and didn’t know how to feed myself.

I discovered what ever this syrupy stuff that tasted so good was, it made a fantastic facial. I librally smeared it on. Next thing I knew, Lisa was cleaning my hands and face and taking the bib off, “There we go, babydoll, all clean.”

She took me by the hand once again as she lead me to another room. OMG!! It was so ... I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it was so newly familiar. It was definitely the playroom for what looked like a small child. Suddenly I was in some sort of dazed haze as I rushed in and grabbed up a plushy doll that squeaked in a cute way as I hugged it.

As I sat and giggled over whatever fantasy was in my mind, the haze cleared. I saw Lisa standing by the door with her hands folded in front of her and a huge pleased smile on her face. I realized that I was the small child. I’m the babydoll, although, I wasn’t a child, nor did I appear to be much above 18 or 19.

I didn’t have that much time to think about it as the wonderfully contented haze of a well loved babydoll filled my senses and I continued doing whatever the fantasy happened to be I was playing.

The Brat

When I came to my senses once again, Lisa had me by the hand and was slowly walking with me through a very crowded arcade-like place full of shops and kiosks. Among the many people all milling about whatever their chore happened to be was a middle aged woman who took notice and came over to us.

She knelt and cooed softly, “Oh, my. You must be one of those new Babydolls I have heard so much about.”

She rummaged in her large pocketbook across her shoulder and brought out a huge lollipop and handed it to me. I’m not really sure what happened or what I was thinking, but I reached out and took it. I couldn’t help what I did next as I hid behind Lisa and peeked out timidly.

The woman smiled broadly as she stood back up. “You have her very well trained. I have heard they have Pets for sale, but I’ve never met a Babydoll and her companion Little girl before.”

Lisa smiled as she replied, “This little Babydoll is even more special.”

The woman raised and eyebrow. “How so? Just the mere fact she’s a Babydoll is special.”

Lisa answered, “She’s also a harvest. There was a mishap that she managed to survive long enough for them to save her. I can’t answer much else. Who and what Mandy used to be is either not known or is a secret for some reason.”

Inwardly, I was confused. She didn’t know where I was from – or at least not the spark of consciousness, the spirit or soul if you will, that made me aware. It was common enough to “harvest,” but Lisa didn’t know where, and she didn’t know why that information was withheld.

But outwardly I hid shyly behind Lisa and licked my lollipop as cutely as possible. Doing things cutely was seemingly built into me now. It just came naturally.

“Well, a harvest, is that right?” asked the older woman. “Looks like they picked a good one for you. Such a lucky little girl! And such a lucky little Babydoll! Enjoy your lollipop, Sweetheart!” She had to get back to her business, so Lisa curtsied adorably at her and led me away by the hand.

Come to think of it, there were a lot of people at this arcade with companions of one kind or another. Some were like birds, but with crests and colors like nothing on Earth. Some were like dogs or cats, following on all fours, but with strange color patterns, antennas, fins, decorated tails, or whatnot. Some were more like monkeys, walking on two legs but with a tail.

I was the only one I could see that looked humanoid. I licked my lollipop and marveled at the variety. The people had on their finest outfits, too – whether male or female, they clearly came to this place to see and be seen.

“Oh! What a pretty Babydoll!” said a voice. Whoever it was sounded nasal and annoying, like their voice was just like this no matter how sophisticated and smooth they tried to make it.

Lisa gritted her teeth and pulled me along faster, quietly whispering, “Oh no, not her – let’s pretend we didn’t see her.”

“And who is that she’s with – no! It can’t be – Lee-saaaaa?” the voice went on.

“Too late for that plan,” whispered Lisa before turning around and saying, “Why, Marguerite! Imagine bumping into you here!” with fake cordiality.

I turned too and saw another woman dressed as a little girl, with blonde hair in tight sausage curls and a dress that was frilly almost beyond belief. Marguerite was carrying a small baby doll in one arm; she appeared to have hair and a dress just like her own. But this doll wasn’t plastic and wasn’t a toy – she was alive and looked at me with wide, blinking eyes.

“Nooooo!” said Marguerite. “You can’t have a Babydoll that cute when I don’t! You simply can’t! It isn’t fair! Here, I’ll trade you. This one’s yours now, and that one’s mine.” She held out her doll toward Lisa, who recoiled, more from Marguerite than from the doll, it seemed to me.

“I’m not interested in trading, Marguerite!” said Lisa. “I just got this one, and she’s mine. Yours is perfectly fine.”

“But … but it’s not fair!” Marguerite said, sounding as if she were about to cry. “Why does Lee-saa get a Babydoll that’s so perfect when I’m stuck with this awful one?” The doll she held looked upset at this, then a bit scared as Marguerite looked as if she were about to throw her to the floor.

“Now, now, young ladies, what seems to be the problem?” asked a tall woman in what looked like some sort of official uniform; it was white with blue piping and had a golden badge of some kind. She wore a blue sash with various pieces of equipment attached to it. I was guessing that this brunette was a security guard or police of some sort.

“She … she …” Marguerite went on, not skipping a beat in her performance, “... she won’t give me my Babydoll when she’s mine and she’s always got the best ones and it’s not fairrrrr …”

The guard or police officer rolled her eyes and asked Lisa, “She’s at it again, is she? Cute Babydoll, by the way.”

“Thanks, Officer Shiela!” said Lisa. “But Mandy’s all mine, and I’m not interested in trading. We weren’t causing any trouble.”

“Oh no, I have no reports or complains about you,” Officer Shiela said to Lisa. But she turned to Marguerite. “However, I am getting complaints about your making a scene, young lady. Don’t you think it’s time you moved along?”

“No! I don’t have to move along,” said Marguerite, hands on her hips, stomping one dainty foot. “I want …” Lisa took the opportunity to lead me away.

“Wh-who was that?” I asked Lisa softly.

“Marguerite thinks she has to have the best of everything,” Lisa said. “She thinks she deserves it. She’s always been …”

“A spoiled brat?” I supplied.

“Oh my, don’t let her hear you call her that,” said Lisa with almost a giggle. “You’d get a tirade like you wouldn’t believe.” But we had moved out of hearing range some time ago – thankfully. Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard. I didn’t know if they had chalkboards on this planet.

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

Other than Marguerite, the outing had been wonderful. Mommy … I mean Lisa … took me to a wonderful boutique named: Baby Dolls -R- Us. There were so many wonderful things any Babydoll would love. It was extremely hard to keep my right mind as another wonderful thingy would capture my attention.

Next thing I knew, I was comfortably strapped into some kind of special infant seat made just for a woman my size. I had on a really cute and lacy babydoll romper. Also, I knew beyond a doubt that the soft thickness I felt between my legs, and the crinkling noises I heard when I wiggled in the seat, were a diaper and plastic panties.

I said in that really cute voice, “Moooommyy, why comes am inna diapers? Amm supposesa bea big girl.” and poked out my bottom lip adorably.

Lisa giggled as she patted my leg, “Why, Sweetheart, you are a big girl. A big girl Babydoll whose mommy thinks she’s way too young for just panties. Don’t worry, it won’t be long.”

We arrived home, and Lisa took me out of the car seat and actually carried me into the house. She quickly removed my romper, so now I was in just ruffled panties, a thick diaper, and booties. She carried me over to my bed and tucked me in. She brought out a strange looking tool kit wrapped in a leather pouch, removed a small screwdriver and a device the size of a flip phone, and plugged it into the stone on the collar around my neck.

Oooo … whatever Lisa did caused wonderful tingly feelings all through me that were really intense around my bottom and crotch. I found a nipple in my mouth and the wonderful taste of strawberry as my eyes grew very heavy and I fell asleep.

Just as I drifted off I heard Mommy coo softly, “I’m going to enjoy seeing your first poopy face. Oh, it will be soo cute.” The last thing I remembered was a soft kiss.

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

I am dreaming, and I somehow know it. I seem to be standing off to the side while images move in this lighted place in front of me. I hear the sound of a well-tuned three-wheeler, then I see a helmeted figure slide out of the woods at the top of a ridge that drops off to a creek. He stands and makes the long jump to the creek below.

Sudden realization … the person on the three-wheeler is me, in that other time and reality. The images suddenly become sharp and clear, as if I’m standing there really observing. All the sights and sounds become real time.

There is a huge flash of light high up and off to the left. Suddenly, a medium sized exotic-looking aircraft with a large gaping smoldering hole in its side flashes over to where my dream self grabs the throttle, and the three-wheeler begins throwing huge rooster tails as I attempt to get out of the way.

In less time than it will take me to tell you, the craft crashes almost on top of me and partially explodes. In my dream, my mangled body flies through the air and impacts on a large tree. The remains of the three-wheeler are nowhere to be seen.

Some sort of pod softly lands nearby, and a dozen individuals in some type of space suits emerge. They wander around for a few minutes as if they’re in a daze, then one of them seems to take command. I can’t understand what they’re saying, but it’s obvious the individual that appears to be the leader isn’t pleased.

Several of the individuals are carrying some type of device, about the size of a tablet computer. They wave it around several times, then one of them points to the mangled heap that was once my dream body. They come over and kneel by it. My perspective of the goings-on changes to what they’re looking at, and what I see certainly isn’t going to live long. What’s left of ... well me, isn’t very much, and it’s bloody, shredded, and severely burned.

One of the individuals calls to another, who enters the pod, then comes over quickly carrying something that looks like a mechanical six-legged spider. They give it to the individual who is kneeling over me. He takes it and gives it a sharp flick. The device’s 6 legs open with a mechanical noise accompianied by a sharp click as they lock in place and reveal they have very sharp pointed needle like tips.

He then takes my body, lays it more or less on its back, and places the device over my face. The six legs clamp down hard, and their needle-sharp tips burrow deeply into my skull.

I’ve actually begun feeling the things I see going on as some sort of finger-sized tube extends from the bottom of the device. I can not only hear the whine of it as it burrows into my skull, but I can smell the faint odor of freshly burning flesh accompanied by the smell of burning bone and feel the pressure as it drills deeply into my brain.

Without warning, this incredible and insistent pulling grabs hold of me in a way I can’t describe. It feels like I’m dying as my body and the pain it’s in recede farther and farther away, faster and faster ...

Next thing I knew, I was sitting up in bed with a squeaky screech. All I had on were a pair of lacy rumba panties, a very thick and slightly damp diaper, and booties. I realized as I looked around the room that I had my thumb in my mouth. It slightly amazed me how comforting it was, too.

How had I changed so much? What was Mommy … Lisa doing to me? Everything felt really good, and if that dream was really what had happened, the people of this planet had saved my life in some way I didn’t understand, but what was going on? Why was I a girl? Why was I turning into some kind of baby or pet or something, whatever Mommy called a Babydoll? I realized that I hadn’t taken my thumb out of my mouth as I thought about these things – and I didn’t take it out after realizing it either.

Mommy entered the room. “Oh, shh shh, you woke up too soon – what’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?” When I nodded, she made a concerned face and said, “Aww, Sweetheart, it’s OK, it was just a dream. You’re safe now, safe with me, and nobody’s going to hurt you. Just go back to sleep, and it’ll all be OK.” She picked up my fallen bottle from the bed, still partly full, and laid my head on her lap as she held the bottle for me to nurse. It was still so cold, and it still tasted like sweet strawberries. Again I drifted off to sleep.

This time there were no dreams that I remembered. I slept peacefully, completely relaxed, and when I woke up the sun was shining in the window, those strange birds were chirping again, and there was drool all over my thumb, which was in my mouth again. Oh, and my diaper was soaking wet, so much so that I was afraid to move or it might leak. I didn’t know at that time how likely that might be. So I just lay there listening to the pretty birds and sucking my thumb. It was actually quite peaceful.

I felt my diaper getting warm again – wait, I didn’t even get any warning that I had to go! It just happened. I was sucking my thumb and wetting my diaper like a baby – what was going on? This was clearly something Mommy wanted, but I didn’t know why. Was she an adult or a little girl? Was I now some kind of baby doll for her to play with, wetting my diaper for her like some baby doll toy? She was even calling me a Babydoll, but something told me that wasn’t the same thing.

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

Mommy had gotten me up and given me a bath and diapered me. It was more than apparent she wanted me in just diapers and plastic panties while we were around the house. She also kept me in booties to keep my toes warm … giggles.

I felt really strange on several accounts – one, I was obviously dressed like a baby, and two, since I now was a young woman, my breasts, which mommy called mosquito bites with gum drop nipples, were uncovered. When we were out, I was dressed like a Babydoll, and I found it strange that no one seemed to notice and accepted me as a Babydoll; it seemed that such outfits were totally expected.

Shortly after Mommy had gotten me up and diapered me, let me play at eating breakfast – >>giggles<< – and set me in the middle of the playroom floor, my tummy began to feel strange. I hadn’t really remembered those tingly butterfly feelings before.

That was when the small pushing waves began. They grew stronger as I attempted to stop them. Nothing I did appeared to do anything but aid in what I knew was coming. I stood up, to my amazement, just like any toddler would have.

That’s when it hit me. I couldn’t help it as I stood there and felt the waves become so strong and the warm gooshyness oozing into my diaper around my bottom. That’s when I noticed Mommy standing there taking many pictures.

She came to me, pulled open the back of my diaper, and cooed softly, “You have such an adorably cute poopy face that I had to take pictures. I also see you’ve been a very good Babydoll. Mommy will have you changed and cleaned up in a jiffy.”

I was lifted into Mommy’s loving arms and carried off for my first diaper change after my first Babydoll poopie.

The Inquiry

Several million light years away from the Milky Way Galaxy floated a huge city in space. To any observer it was obvious that it was a rather popular destination by all the many elegant and super advanced spacecraft that were either docked or in a nearby parking orbit.

Within the planetoid sized city in space, was the main Council Chamber, which was extremely large and held several million delegates from the known inhabited planets that were members of the Universal Galactic Assemblage.

The main topic of discussion was a recent severe accident and crash of one of the Defense Force’s top secret fighters. Fortunately all the crew but one had survived, and an unfortunate bystander had been severely injured in the resulting explosion after the crash who had been an unexpected casualty; he’d had to be harvested to save him, since his body had been mostly destroyed.

A gentleman immaculately dressed in the uniform of the Galactic Defense Force with many high level medals walked to the podium in front of the High Council’s bench. He adjusted the mic on the podium and said, “With respect, honored High Council,” bowing with respect. “I am the commanding officer of the craft that crashed on the backwater world, named by its inhabitants Dirt … or Earth … or some such thing.” A twitter of quiet laughter rounded the council chamber for an instant. “The ship’s name was Drrriituooum. We had only one casualty; his name was Heanault, and he was supposed to be the engineer overseeing the NR drive intermix chamber.”

Head Councilor Chromion asked, “Commander Hloorius, It is my understanding that some sort of overload occurred within the intermix chamber, causing the resultant explosion. Why didn’t the safety interlock stop the energy overload?”

The commander replied, “There is no known way it shouldn’t have, except by manual manipulation. We have no real idea as to why it happened, but it is speculated that Heanault purposely sabotaged the unit. It isn’t known if he killed himself purposely, or if he miscalculated the time he had. The resulting explosion destroyed that entire section of the engine room, and whatever happened, he was returned to his constituent atoms.”

The Council member sitting to the left of the Head Councilor spoke up and said, “The fact that the craft crashed on a primitive populated world, and you took it upon yourself to harvest a life force without any license, permit, or orders. It is technically a violation of our science law to intervene in such a way.”

For just a minute or so, a loud roar of voices rose in disagreement with the law until Head Councilor Chromion banged some sort of device that created a loud booming noise. “Order! Councilor Korello, you will follow the rules of order!” The loud voices died down instantly.

Commander Hloorius said, with obvious anger tinting his tone, “If I had done nothing, the individual would have died. As it is …”

“Yes!” said Councilor Korello. “As it is, you have left a body that has a definite hole in its forehead, and a rather large divot in the ground. I’m more than sure the individual has people who will want to know how a vehicle as small as the one he was riding managed to create such a large explosion. The Intelligence Division is covertly on the planet as we speak, trying to cover it up, and I can’t say they don’t do quality work, but it doesn’t come cheaply.”

“Well, I accept the judgment of the Council, whatever it may be,” said the commander, “but in my opinion I did everything by the book. I had no way to know that Heanault would commit either a fatal error or an act of suicide. Investigate his personal effects if you must; all I did was play the hand I was dealt and made one crucial decision to save a life.”

“Or a syncording, at any rate.” Councilor Korello interjected. “Do we know where the syncording ended up?” He looked around toward the aides and functionaries who stood behind the Council members.

“It isn’t in the archives,” an aide replied. “Ordinarily it would be there in case it needed to be questioned about the incident.”

“But only for 180 diurnal rotations,” added another aide. “After that it is released to the public.”

“So why isn’t it in the archives?” Korello demanded.

“Er … Councilor Rouzelle invoked Section 114, Paragraph D, Clause 8,” the first aide replied.

“Rouzelle, I hope the Earth inhabitant’s syncording is accessible, if we want to interrogate them about the events,” Councilor Korello said, steadily but firmly.

“Naturally, Korello,” replied Councilor Rouzelle. “They’re in the custody of my little sister, who is making sure they recover psychologically from the trauma – Section 114, Paragraph D is very clear, and I followed it to the letter. And my sister is very happy.”

“I’m sure we’re all grateful to hear that …” grated Councilor Korello.

“We should be,” Councilor Rouzelle interrupted. “She is one of the leading syncordologists in the known universe. She has made great advances in the production of syncord vessels and the care of traumatized syncords.”

“I … well … that is to be commended,” Councilor Korello grudgingly admitted. “But be sure the remnant of the Earth inhabitant is available for questioning should it be necessary. I believe it is in everyone’s interest to know what really happened that day. If they have any pertinent information …”

“... then my sister will ensure that they won’t have buried and suppressed the memory due to their traumatic experience.”

“Very well,” said the Head Councilor. “Meanwhile the Intelligence Division continues their investigation and coverup operation, and we will table this until such a time as they decide their expedition is complete. Are we in agreement?”

“... Yes,” said Councilor Korello reluctantly.

“Good. Commander, thank you for your testimony today,” said the Head Councilor. “This meeting is adjourned.” he slammed the device in his hand on the podium producing a reverberating base toned BOOM!

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

I knew nothing about what I was and what exactly had happened to me. All I knew was that I was experiencing strange new feelings and experiences, and that I felt surprisingly safe and happy, considering how far from what I had once considered ordinary they were.

Mommy apparently couldn’t directly control my thoughts or emotions, but she had full control over this body I found myself in and its behaviors, and I often found myself thinking and feeling in accord with my new body. I continued feeling both good and confused.

“M-mommy,” I said, “Baby no walk good in dese …” I was trying to walk, but the diapers she had me in were so thick that it was very difficult. Never mind walking straight – I couldn’t even get my knees anywhere near each other with so much padding in between them.

“Oh my,” said Mommy with a giggle. “Baby might fall down go boom.”

It wasn’t long before I lost my balance and that was exactly what happened. I prepared to feel the shock in my bottom and spine when I hit the ground hard – except that wasn’t what happened. My behind was so well padded that it was like sitting down in a beanbag chair, or on a huge pillow – only a bit wetter. I didn’t feel anything, except the pleasurably comfortable sensation of safety from knowing how well padded I was. “Baby … faww down go boom,” I said in amazement.

“See, now there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Mommy, “and it doesn’t hurt. But maybe you’re too young for walking today, Mandy. Maybe crawling is the thing to do when you’re in diapers this thick. Maybe when I put you in these, they’re your ‘crawly diapers,’ and crawling is what you should do.”

“Cwawly diapoos?” I said, with my thumb in my mouth.

I tried crawling. It was much easier, though I still couldn’t get my knees anywhere near each other – it mattered less now, though. But it frustrated me that I had to take my thumb out of my mouth to crawl, and I was finding that lately I tended to cry when I got frustrated.

Mommy came to my rescue with a pacifier, though, and then everything was fine. I sucked on my pacifier and crawled awkwardly to the play mat. Mommy made adoring noises about how cute I was and took a lot of photos.

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

One morning after Mommy had gotten me up and in a thick crawly diaper and cute plastic lined rumba panties and had me sitting in the middle of the play area, four individuals in rather elaborate regal robes came to visit Lisa and myself.

I stood up – of course, I did my very best to show off my ruffles, although it wasn't hard, since I was basically in just a diaper and panties.

One of the women in regal robes bent down and cooed softly as she held out her arms, “You are so precious. Come to me and get a hug.”

I hesitated and couldn’t help but start sucking my thumb.

Mommy said, “Honored Councilors, I have her on fully babydoll mode. What that means is that her body will be unable to do anything but basically what a 3-yerlon-old can do. As time passes, however, her spirit and body will become more accustomed to each other, and she will be a cute little babydoll who can perform on an adult level. She technically is able to do that now and does it rather well when necessary, but I’m finding that she likes to be in an infantile frame of mind a lot. I can understand that; there are very few stresses affecting her in that state, so I’m making use of it for her healing process.”

One of the men asked, “Can she answer questions intelligibly?”

Mommy replied, “Sure, if she wants to. My question is, why all the secrecy over her harvest? It’s something our civilization has done for over 100 yerlons.”

The man with the elaborate white robe with the starburst pattern on its chest said, “I can’t discuss the location of the planet or the nature of the top-secret mission, but a craft that had apparently been sabotaged crash-landed on a primitive but inhabited world. The vessel’s commander saved all of his crew but one, who we now strongly suspect was the saboteur.”

The woman, who was now hugging me lovingly, spoke up, “In that crash, one of the primitive inhabitants of this planet was caught in the splash damage caused by the explosion. The ship’s commander had to harvest the inhabitant’s spirit before the individual perished. Now, you’d been asking me for a harvest syncord for your research, and this one came in with significant trauma, so I invoked the Syncord Protection Act and released her to you – before I knew the full background. Sorry about this, but we just have to ask some questions, and maybe scan her brain just a bit.”

Mommy replied, “I’m very grateful for my new Babydoll, Rouzelle, and in my professional opinion I think you did the right thing. Councilors, I will point out that her life force still has nightmares about the accident and the harvest. Just a few days ago, from what Mandy has told me, she had one of those vivid syncord memory recollections of the accident and the harvest. Her memories of the incident end when she was harvested, as is normal.”

One of the other men brought out a small tablet and began typing on its tiny keyboard, “She has no other memories of any kind?”

I spoke up at that time, “Ino gots no kinna memories ceptin sompin crashin on me and somun putten this hurty thingy on my face. Nextus thingy baby knows, amma girl an am here.” I knew what the adults were saying, but there was just no way for me to talk like they did. I was a babydoll, and I talked like one. It was a struggle to talk at all.

“Hurty thing?” asked one of the robed people.

“I believe she means the syncord harvesting headgear,” Mommy replied. “It normally doesn’t cause pain, but in his haste the commander may have applied it rather forcibly. Sweetheart, do you remember anything else? If you don’t, it’s OK.”

I answered haltingly, “Thingie fallin’ outta the sky hadda big hole innit … lotsa smoke … baby try to gets outta the way … thingie too fasts … hurts a lot … then the space peoples comed out … an’ putted the hurty thingie on baby’s face.”

“Space peoples?” asked the nice woman who was hugging me. “The inhabitants of this primitive planet are aware of interstellar travel?”

The man with the fancy starburst robe said, “That is a matter for further investigation, but we need not trouble your sister or her Babydoll with those details. Perhaps the planet is not quite as primitive as we believed.”

“Well, Dear,” the woman in the robe said to me, “we might come back another day to ask if you remember anything else, OK?”

“Baby get more huggins from nice lady?” I asked.

“You absolutely will, Honey,” she said with a big smile and another wonderful hug. She stood up, letting go of me, and rejoined her robed companions. “Thank you, Lisa,” she said. “If she remembers anything else, please let us know.”

“I will,” said Mommy. “It’s my goal to make sure that she heals completely from the trauma. And it’s good to know more about it, since it helps me guide her healing process.” I had sat back down and resumed playing with my toys. “We’ll see how she feels, and what she remembers, once her spirit and body acclimate.”

They left. Mommy checked my diaper and took me for a change. It was a normal day after that.

Danger

In an out-of-the-way corner of the galaxy, a group of individuals wearing military-style fatigues was gathered in a small cramped bunker-like area. There was a large oval table and many screens all over with different data and star charts.

The one at the head of the table, with the long, curly blue hair, banged his fist on the table loudly and demanded, “What in the world happened to our plant? The one who was assigned the name Heanault and placed on the engineering team of that special craft of theirs, what happened to him?”

One of the men on the far end of the table replied, “We don’t know exactly, Sir. From the last comm he sent, the sabotage went according to plan, and no one was the wiser. Right after that comm, though, all the monitoring nanites in his body went completely dead. It’s our judgment he was killed in the resulting explosion.”

The first man asked, “OK, well, we all knew the risks, but did we manage to destroy the craft?”

The other man replied, “Not completely, but he damaged it enough that it crashed on one of those backwater dirtball planets in one of the outer arms of the galaxy.”

A young woman to the left of the first man to speak said, “From the best we’ve been able to tell from long-range scans and monitoring of the emergency bands, the crew got off safely, although Heanault is still unaccounted for and assumed EOM. The craft was badly damaged and crashed.”

About that time an emissary courier rapidly approached the first man to speak and handed him a small device. The man opened it and looked over the data it showed on its screen before he looked up and said, “We may have another problem. Apparently one of the natives was severely injured in the crash, and they harvested his syncord to save his life. He’s still alive. If he knows something, we might want to silence him before he can be debriefed and give away something.”

“What?” said the second man. “No witnesses!”

“Find him,” the first man said. “We can’t allow one person to jeopardize the cause. Find him, and make sure he doesn’t remember.”

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

“A hole in one side,” said Councilor Rouzelle.

“What’s that?” asked Head Councilor Chromion as the four delegates returned to the Consulate in their air limousine.

“A hole in one side,” she repeated. “She said the craft had a hole in one side. From the testimonies of the Commander and the others, the survivor was on the starboard side of the craft as it was going down. That’s the only side she’d have seen. There was a hole in the starboard side of the craft, and smoke was pouring out.”

“Wait, neither the propulsion, guidance, nor main computer is on the starboard side,” replied the Head Councilor. “Nothing that could malfunction and blow a hole in the hull, nor anything that would be a target for explosives, as far as we know. So what caused this hole or the smoke? This definitely warrants further investigation.”

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

Several investigators crowded around a syncord imaging array. What the device managed to do was display particular syncordic energy waves through a recorded synapse cycle. They were fascinated as they watched just such a recreation of a recurring dream that one of the newly harvested syncords continued to manifest. Some technicians had come over to Mommy’s house and had put a funny hat on my head, and after it made a few beeping noises they took it off again and went away. And now they were back at the lab, viewing the data the device had recorded.

Dreams such as these were understood to be residual memories from when the syncords were initially harvested. The observers awed in sympathy as they watched a very sleek but obviously damaged craft rapidly approaching then crashing near the individual who had been harvested – me, although that person seems like a faraway dream now.

“That hole … it must have been caused by an explosion in the starboard anterior bulkhead,” said one of the technicians, echoing what Councilor Rouzelle had said earlier, “but I don’t understand. That explosion wouldn’t have disabled the ship, and wouldn’t have been caused by the failure of any ship systems … it’s as if it served no purpose. Who sets off an explosive for no reason?”

“Someone who’s trying to distract from another explosion,” said a second technician. “One that’s smaller but in a much more vital place. Look at this.” She pointed at some data from the ship’s flight recorder.

From the very best they could determine, all safety protocols had been mysteriously disabled just prior to two simultaneous explosions: a tiny explosive device had gone off in one of the plasma storage units, and a much larger one had blown the hole in the hull as a distraction to investigators. The small explosion had clearly been intended to disable the intermix regulators in the NR drive, which ordinarily wouldn’t have brought the craft down, except that it had also obliterated the intermix conduits, causing the control systems to lose control of the plasma flow. This discovery matched exactly the type of damage they had observed when the wreckage had been reassembled.

Now they understood why Heanault had died. He had utilized an advanced explosive device to puncture the hull, most likely because it was made of new materials that would require additional energy to damage, but he’d used the same explosive for the other act of sabotage as well. Both resulting explosions would have been 40% more powerful than intended, so the smaller one had destroyed the intermix conduits, and the larger one had extended across the interior and disabled most of the NR drive’s controls as well. It was a very lucky thing it hadn’t also ruptured the nearby plasma conduits entirely, or the rest of the crew would have been consumed in a huge fusion fireball.

“But when these explosions occurred,” said the first technician, “the ship would have automatically switched to safety mode, employing ion thrusters to hold position – but the safety protocols had been disabled just prior to the explosions. Who has access to do that?”

“Unless the systems were hacked … only the mission commander,” replied the second.

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

One of the spec ops soldiers whispered over his com unit, “Are you sure our mission is to retire a harvest Babydoll? I’m not so sure about that. I mean, look.” He held up a small device. On its screen was the image of an extremely cute and adorable Babydoll.

The other soldier looked at the screen before he sat back and raised the visor on his suit’s helmet, “You mean to tell me, that adorable little thing is the target? I really can’t believe that.”

The first one nodded as he put the device back in a pouch at his middle, “It’s true. I can’t believe it. I think our leaders have lost their minds. The shame and stigma for doing something as heinous as that are horrible, but the backlash … it may well be worse than war.”

The second soldier pulled the ion power pack from his weapon powering it down. He replied, “I fully agree. I think we need to contact headquarters and find out if they really understand what the mission they sent us on entails. I believe retaliation over it would kill more people and quite possibly eradicate several worlds in the process.”

They were just minutes away from Mommy’s house when they aborted their mission and their aircraft melted back into the mass of aircraft that mill about the planet every day. That was the day I narrowly escaped death – or the second one, anyway.

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

Mommy had me watching an entertainment hologram for small children on this planet. It featured the adventures of a cute little girl and her companion, a silly little yellow Pet that always said funny things. In between adventures, the little yellow creature would sing songs, and viewers were encouraged to sing along, so I was singing in my cute tiny voice and clapping my hands. Mommy was probably watching and taking photos, but I was caught up in the moment and didn’t notice.

Mommy got up and headed for the door – she probably got one of those beeps that only she could hear when somebody rang the doorbell. “Really?” I vaguely heard her say to whoever it was. “Right now?” I didn’t hear what else they said, but soon Mommy was in the room with me, checking my diaper.

“Oh dear, Sweetheart,” Mommy said to me, “you need a change right away. This show always seems to do that to you, somehow. But then we’re going on a little trip, OK?”

“Nooooooo,” I fussed when Mommy turned the hologram off. Now I’d never find out if Eena found her way out of the Maze of Doom or hear this episode’s special song. But after changing my messy diaper, Mommy quickly packed up my diaper bag and bundled me into the child seat in the back of the cruiser. We were soon out and away.

“OK, just checking – thanks, Rouzelle,” said Mommy to her sister on the vehicle’s screen before it went back to its systems status display. I sucked on my pacifier and wondered about Eena. “Computer, set destination to Emergency Destination Zeta.” The man at the door had been a government agent who had heard a rumor of an imminent terrorist attempt on my life, but I was blissfully unaware. As the sister of a Councilor, Mommy had been advised by the Security Office long ago to set up emergency plans, but again, I only knew that we were going for a ride.

The cruiser was an air vehicle with no space capability; it flew us quickly to an average-looking apartment building elsewhere in the city that was actually run by the Security Office, one of several guarded safe houses they maintained for the protection of government officials and their relatives when credible threats appeared.

They had generic facilities for Pets, but since there were so many kinds of Pets, there was no way for them to anticipate every need, especially on government funding. The apartment Lisa brought me into had no toys, no play area, no changing table, and no baby supplies.

But it did have a hologram player, so I was soon raptly watching the adventures of Eena again while Mommy called the agents down at the front office.

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

“You aborted the mission – which could compromise everything we’ve worked for – because your target was adorable?” ranted the leader. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this! Are you committed to the cause or not? I’ve half a mind to just shoot you all right now and be done with you!”

“But, Sir …” began one of my would-be assassins.

“Shut up! There’s nothing to excuse –” His assistant, however, interrupted him, whispering something in his ear. “What? Already?” She whispered something else. “All right … it seems it’s possible that it might have already been too late anyway. There’s a report that the target’s memories were downloaded before you even started the operation. We’ll try to interfere with the analysis effort, but the witness no longer matters – that ship has sailed. I … grudgingly admit that you did the right thing. We were risking retaliation on a huge scale, but it was necessary according to the information we had. But we have different information now.”

Back on Earth

A major investigation had found no evidence as to what could possibly have caused such a huge explosion and create that large of an impact area. All the agencies that had converged at the crash site had discovered nothing that could even remotely account for that type of detonation.

The military and civilian air traffic control had been tracking a strange craft ever since it had mysteriously appeared in US air space. They knew there had been some sort of explosion on the craft, because they had actual satellite images once the craft had materialized. The military was instantly notified; it was mandatory to find the aircraft at all costs. But in the end, they found nothing.

They had discovered the twisted and destroyed remains of a three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle. The only data they could glean from the wreckage was that it had been subjected to tremendous heat and force. Nothing they discovered could account for the explosion that had created the divot at the creek. It was large enough that it had begun filling with water and slowly became a small fish pond.

The thing that really gave the forensic people nightmares was the mangled and burned body they found. Everyone in the military knew that the object that had crashed here had to be of extraterrestrial origin and whoever the body was had obviously been killed in the resulting explosion.

The autopsy of the body indicated that it had suffered a tremendous blunt force impact that had broken almost every bone. From the best they could tell, the individual would have died of the injuries almost instantly.

They discovered a finger-sized hole that had been drilled directly into the frontal cortex either just before or just after death – it was deemed impossible for anyone to have performed such precise work while the crash had been taking place. There were six other wounds around the face indicating that some very sharp needle-like objects had been forced into the bone and into the braincase. The brain tissue itself was surprisingly intact, considering such a violent explosion. This left Earth with a really hard question they knew the answer to, but had no way to tell the population without creating a global panic.

The investigation into the individual that got killed resulted in identifying him as John Gooding, who had been employed at Dippysoft Computer Works. He was one of their head software developers. All other lines of investigation led nowhere.

As far as the military was concerned, they had a verified UAP, although as hard as they looked, they could find no supporting evidence except for the strange injuries to the body along with the clear satellite images and radar tracks. After the explosion, all remnants of the craft had just … vanished. The Intelligence Division had done their work well.

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

In a super-advanced laboratory type environment, several technicians sat around a small device and watched the images that danced ghost-like in the holo in front of them. What they saw shocked them. It was Commander Hloorius, the commander of the very craft they were watching him sabotage.

One young tech turned to the other and asked, “This is an actual waveform recreation of events that already happened?”

The older tech replied, “Sorta kinda. A new theory we’ve been working on is that all things are made of light oscillating at a certain frequency. Everybody knows light exists as a wave and a particle at the same time. The fluctuations of the energy levels caused by additional energy being added or absorbed is permanently recorded in the energy field. What this electrician’s nightmare does is records those energy variations, and then we have one of our latest quantum computers analyze the data. What you’re seeing on the screen is a recreation of those energy pattern disruptions caused by another's Kirlian energy field.”

“Head Councilor Chromion himself ordered this … though I don’t know whether he’ll be able to use it,” the younger one said.

“Well, let him deal with the legalities of whether it’s admissible evidence,” said the older technician. “We’ll just transmit the result to him, and our job is done.” He pressed a sequence of controls on his tablet.

The explosion that suddenly destroyed that wing of the laboratory ensured that the Head Councilor would never see the results.

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

“Mommy?” I asked as she attempted to feed me.

“Shh, Sweetheart, just eat your dinner,” she said. “Here’s another spoonful.” I was fixated on her face and how beautiful she was, but letting the spoon into my mouth and getting the food off it without getting it all over my face was still quite difficult. Whatever it was, it was delicious. The government agents running this safe house had covertly obtained a stockpile of Babydoll-appropriate furnishings and supplies, shipped to the building in a plain white transport vehicle in the middle of the night.

“Mmmmm,” I said. “But Mommy, how long ‘til we goes home?”

“I’m not sure, Sweetheart,” Mommy replied. “Until they think It’s safe, I guess.”

“Why comes enny body wanna hurt Baby?” I asked. It didn’t sound it, but I was talking better than I had when the Councilors had come over.

“Again, I don’t know,” she said. “My sister’s got a very important job. Maybe it’s because of that. Open up!”

I swallowed and considered, as Mommy washed my face off with a warm cloth. It all had to do with that crash. But I couldn’t think of what was so interesting about what I’d seen that would make someone want to kill me.

The Escape

Commander Hloorius was very concerned. He had just been informed by his underground contact that the light wave recording device had indeed worked. He was also informed that the data and at least one of the specialty devices had been totally obliterated. No data would be getting back the the Council from that laboratory.

Now, he knew in his deepest soul, the investigation into the sabotage and crash of the newest fighter would intensify. He dearly wished they would have told him such data was being produced and where. He knew he could have very quietly rid the unit of its data and machine without attracting this much attention.

Commander Hloorius watched the holo-news as they showed the massive devastation to the local research and development lab. It was a very fortunate thing the explosion hadn’t ruptured one of the main feed lines running through an access tube near the lab. This being a large city station in space, such a tremendous amount of damage would place the entire station in serious danger in and of itself.

As it was, the Universal Galactic Assemblage in its entirety had gone on Condition 1 war alert. Many war vehicles converged on the Council Space City as fast as their engines allowed. It also meant something else; it meant the investigation would now begin to look more closely at the evidence, and quite possibly at him, since he did seem to have been in the right places at the right times, enough that he circumstantially looked very guilty.

Commander Hloorius immediately contacted his private craft in orbit and requested a pickup. He made it quite clear that no one was to file a flight plan, nor were they to give any data to anyone for any reason as to their final destinations.

The crew’s families, in their entireties, were brought on board as major preparations were made for immediate departure from space dock.

Commander Hloorius came to the bridge and sat in the command chair. Dock Overseer Louvixx was already on screen as he sat.

“Greetings. Am glad you finally arrived. Perhaps we can clear up this misunderstanding.” said the Overseer.

Commander Hloorius smiled and shook his head as he flipped the departure switches on the arm of his gravity couch. “I’m afraid not. I believe I am about to create one huge problem for you.”

Louvixx’s face took on a look of total surprise as he gasped back, ”Wha … whatever do you mean, Commander?”

Commander Hloorius smiled as he pressed the enable button. “I really do so hope you enjoy explaining what’s about to happen.”

Louxixx almost had a cardiac arrest as he saw a large fiery crackling aura surround Commander Hloorius’ ship and most of the docking center at that end of the station, then vanish in a bright sparkling twinkle as if nothing had ever been there.

The only immediate thing anyone understood was that Commander Hloorius’ vessel, and a very large portion of the starboard docking facility, had simply vanished. It looked like some kind of giant creature had bitten off that part of the docking area.

The section had instantly activated its retention fields and auto repair functions, fortunately, so the area was sealed within minutes with no loss of life. But those who were near the destroyed section had narrowly escaped and now stared out into space through the shimmering emergency retention fields.

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

Meanwhile, we were back at Mommy’s house. The security agents had told Mommy that they’d picked up chatter about an attempt, but it seemed not to have happened. Maybe they’d changed their focus to the lab incident, which I didn’t know about yet. So they’d sent us home, although as usual there was always somebody watching the house. No less for the sister of a Council member.

“Home again, home again, jiggety jig,” said Mommy as the cruiser pulled into its rooftop garage. She got me out of my safety seat and took me downstairs, where I immediately toddled toward my play area. The other place had been OK, but they hadn’t really had my toys there.

And just as we got inside, Mommy got a call from her sister. The big screen in the living room lit up. I was playing in the corner, but the face of the nice lady who hugged me before popped up on the screen, so I watched. “Rouzelle!” Mommy said. “Something’s happened, hasn’t it?”

“A doozy of a something,” Rouzelle said. “That Commander Hloorius vanished from the space dock, taking the dock with him! The techs think it was some kind of either drive system or weapon that nobody’s ever heard of. None of their scanner data makes any sense, they say.”

“Oh no!” said Mommy. “Does that mean …?”

“It means he was in league with the terrorists,” said Councilor Rouzelle. “If not, why would he run? He gathered several others onto his ship, along with their whole families, and a number of those others were known or suspected members of the insurgency.”

“And now they’re in the wind,” Mommy said. “But … why are you calling me? I mean, I’m sure it’s the first thing I’d have seen when I looked at the latest news.”

“It’s … Mandy,” Rouzelle replied. “You know that she may have recovered more of her memory by now.”

“It’s pretty likely,” said Mommy. “I’ve been trying my best to keep things calm and restful for her, even though we had to leave the house for a few days. Her syncord-matrix fusion may well have healed more.”

“It’s imperative that we know if she can remember more details,” Rouzelle said. “Are you OK with it?”

“I’m fine with it,” said Mommy. “As long as I can supervise as before. The questions have to be calm – no pressuring her – and the memory recorder has to be carefully applied.”

“Absolutely,” Rouzelle said. “There’s no reason to interfere with her further healing and future recall.”

So, in a little while, there was another team of people in white coats asking me questions and putting that funny hat on my head again. Mommy was watching them like a hawk. “We just want you to tell us about the ship that crashed again,” said one of them, a man with a gentle, deep voice. “Starting from when you first saw it,”

“Well …” I said, my memory of it feeling a lot clearer than it had, “first I saw something inna sky outta the corner of my eye, I guess. But it no mattered that much ‘cause there are planes n stuffs. Only then I heared the sound. Was kinda a crashin’ boomy sound like thunder.”

“That would have been the ship coming out of NR drive,” said the man.

“OK, so I lookeded at it then … and then there was a kinda flash of red light an’ another boom and there was a hole in it wif smoke comins out.”

“Wait, you didn’t mention the flash of red light before.”

“No, guess baby just membereded it,” I said. “But anyway it gotted closer an’ closer an’ I could see into tha space ship an’ the smoke was comin’ from a big broken machine in it that was on fire.”

“There’s no machine on that side of this kind of ship,” the man said.

“There was on dis one!”

“Can you think of what it looked like?”

“Um … it was …”

“You don’t have to describe it perfectly, just think of what it looked like, and the recorder will pick up the details. Can you just think of what it looked like?”

“Kay … m tryin’ …” I thought hard about it.

“The flash of red … and this device …” said a technician, who was looking at the recording, which I couldn’t see. “It looks just like it.”

“That’s what I thought,” the man said. “It’s probably how they got the bomb on board. Then they were going to disable the ship, and probably escape with it, but the bomb was too powerful and damaged it. Hloorius probably made sure there weren’t any remnants to find.”

“If he did,” asked Mommy, “then how did he have time to save the syncord of Mandy here? And why?”

“To throw suspicion off himself,” said the man. “He did what the officer in charge should have done – he saved the life that he’d accidentally endangered. Or … saved the essence, at least. There was no suspicion on him as a result, not until the holographic reconstruction experiment, and he must have known what it would reveal.”

“Or someone in the organization did,” said the technician. “We got a much clearer picture than last time – you’re really doing a good job there, Ms. Lisa!”

“Why thank you,” said Mommy. “But when did he have time to hide the remnants of the … whatever the device was?”

“That’s a good question,” the man said. “The Intelligence Division’s cleanup crew didn’t find anything. Could Heanault have destroyed it as his last act in life? Or maybe it vaporized itself, and perhaps Heanault as well, when the explosion hit it?”

“Can you tell what kind of device it is?” Mommy asked.

“Not from just this,” said the technician, “but there are some theoretical drive systems it could be – this narrows it down. We’ll all have to look carefully at this recording back at the lab. It must be small enough and accurate enough to transport itself and a payload onto a moving spacecraft in atmosphere.”

They thanked Mommy and me and took their silly hat and recordings with them to show their friends.

“Mommy … is you a sci-in-tist?” I asked once we were alone and she was changing my diaper.

“Yes, Sweetheart, I am,” she replied with a smile. “I make experimental syncord vessels, like the Babydoll Mark M one that you’re in right now. Nobody else has one like yours. It’s the only one. I’m working on Babydoll Mark N right now, and if you want, you can try it out, but not until it’s ready.”

“Like … bodies for Babydolls?”

“Well, bodies for harvested syncords,” she replied.

“Is that what happened to … me?”

“Yes, though it was done in a hurry because you were about to die, Sweetheart. And you were put in an archive in case your memories were needed.”

“I don’t wanna be in a arc-hive,” I said.

“No, nobody would want that,” she said. “But Rouzelle pulled some strings and gave you to me, because I’m her sister and she knows I study syncords. She though your memories would be important. But I think you’re super wonderful and just want you to be the happiest Babydoll ever!”

“What they gonna does now?”

“I’m not sure,” replied Mommy. “That depends on what they find out from looking at your memories at their lab.”

The Nightmare

I was having another one of those real kind of dreams … and once again I knew it. I actually heard things and felt things. The perspectives I saw the replay of the crash from were radically different. I was somehow standing slightly off in the distance, observing what transpired instead of being part of it.

I knew that the red flash in the sky was an object that had seemingly appeared in a flash of energy. It appeared embedded in the side of the craft and immediately exploded, blowing a huge hole in the fuselage and setting almost everything on fire. I could plainly see that the red machine was smashed in its front and burning energetically.

The scene within my dream changed suddenly as I saw that the craft had crashed and a pod soft landed nearby. I saw a man who appeared to be the commander wandering around, then suddenly a sparkling energy field appeared, and another man stepped out of it. It looked like the two men had a fast conversation, then the new arrival vanished once again in a sparkle of energy.

Suddenly the perspective changed once again. I could feel the six sharp objects embedded in my face and this weird and intense pulling that had grabbed me. The next thing I knew, I sat up with a small squeaking shriek and held my Teddy Bear close. For an instant or two, I looked around, then realized that I was in my bed in my room.

The door tinkled open, and Lisa came in. She had on her babydoll nightie. She asked in a soft cooing tone, “Did those ugly monsters come visit Babydoll?”

I nodded my head and started to suck my thumb. It still amazed me how it relaxed and soothed me. Lisa held out one of her hands and wiggled her fingers after she let the safety rail down. “Come with Mommy, Babydoll. Mommy will keep those meanie monsters away.”

Before I realized I had done it, I had squirmed my way out of the bed and taken Lisa’s hand. I realized I only had on a pair of cute white and yellow plastic lined rumba panties and a thick slightly damp diaper. I also had a pair of slippers on that looked almost like booties.

Lisa flopped on her bed and pulled me in with her. She covered us both with thick, warm blankets. She snuggled close and kissed me lovingly. “I promise, Miss Mandy, Mommy will take as good care of you as I possibly can. Now go back to sleep, and don’t lets those meanies bother you.”

I found myself tucked comfortably in and cuddled lovingly. Lisa softly caressed one of my boobies as I drifted off to an uneventful and pleasant sleep.

What I didn’t know was that this particular memory was the very one they sought, and it was this one that would become recurring and take on aspects of a nightmare. Of course, I would react as any three-year-old would to such a nightmare. Sorry; I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

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

For the next few days I noticed that Mommy wasn’t far from me. When she wasn’t actually cuddling me, she was never more than a room away. Even if she had to go to her lab in the basement, she took me with her to the basement play area. It wasn’t my favorite play area, because my favorite toys were up in the living room one, but there were still fun things to do, and of course I got to be near her.

I was starting to wonder whether I had somehow been made to like or even love her, but at the same time I was starting to wonder whether it mattered, because it was clear that she cared about me – to some extent. I was her experiment, her pet project, but she certainly seemed to want the best for me.

What was she doing in the basement? I didn’t ask her, because when she was around I was usually suffused with feelings of wonderful comfort, adoration, and pleasure, but she had told me once that she was working on her next model of Babydoll – and that I could try it out when it was ready. I assumed that meant I wouldn’t be replaced; I’d just find myself with a new body. I’d still be a Babydoll, but I’d also still be Lisa’s Babydoll.

I’d seen a few other types of Pets and Dolls and whatnot when we’d gone out. Were they inhabited by … people like me? So some of them found themselves living the lives of animal-like Pets or baby-size Dolls? I felt very lucky, because I got to have hands and walk on my own, and my body was at least large enough to do some things for myself. I realized that we hadn’t gone out for some time, though. Lisa had been working at home and getting her groceries delivered. Had she been advised to stay home? Maybe the … Security Office, was it? … had told her that there was some danger.

And then, one day when Lisa was working in her basement lab and I was in the basement playroom next door, there was a bright sparkly shimmery light, a man walked out of it, and he grabbed me.

I screamed, of course, a high-pitched piercing keen that surprised even me. I caught a glimpse of Lisa running around the corner with a device of some sort in her hand before I was dragged into the sparkly light and everything disappeared.

I kept right on screaming in the new place I found myself in. The man who had grabbed me tried to let me go, but I hung onto him and screamed something about taking me back to Mommy right now. He tried to pry me off and finally succeeded; he was much stronger than I was.

He quickly moved away from me and out of the … I realized that I was in a clear plastic chamber of some kind, inside what looked like some kind of lab. Machines made of a green metal lined the walls, covered with panels of shimmering light displaying some kind of numbers or messages. Another man stood at what looked like a control panel that was facing away from me. The man who had grabbed me joined him, and they talked, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying from inside the plastic chamber.

There was a second plastic chamber nearby, much smaller. In it was what looked like a doll’s head – no body, just a head. The man looked at me and did something on the control panel in front of him. And then I felt very bad. I couldn’t stand up anymore. I felt so weak … I collapsed to the floor. Then a thing like a big spider came down from above and attached itself to my face. It felt like my dream or memory. I screamed again, but then everything went dark.

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

The Babydoll body burned away under the molecular disperser. No skin, then no synthetic muscles, then no skeleton, then no internal organs, then nothing.

But Moslix was intently studying the control panel. “I don’t understand this, Sir,” said the technician. “All I can figure is that something went wrong with the syncord transfer.”

“Well, fix it, Moslix,” said the leader, the man with the curly blue hair and the green military-style fatigues. “You know this technology. You work with it all the time.”

“Not this technology,” Moslix said. “That was something custom. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was more sophisticated than any other syncord frame I’ve seen.”

“Her owner’s the leading syncord researcher this side of the galaxy,” the leader said. “She probably designed it herself.”

“Her owner’s …”

“Yes, Councilor Rouzelle’s sister, which is why we took so long to decide what to do,” the leader said. “We’re taking a huge risk, but locked inside that syncord’s memories is an image of me, and I’ve never been hologrammed. The entire movement could be brought down if that memory gets unlocked.”

“But Sir … we can’t just delete her. That would mean … they’d never stop coming for us.”

“That’s why you’re just going to erase that syncord’s memory,” the leader said. “Just wipe it clean. No memories, no threat. We can just return her all in one piece, with her shiny new memory, and it’ll all be fine. She’ll have her back, they’ll stop looking for her, and nobody will ever see that memory.”

“Except …” Moslix turned to the doll head in its chamber.

“My name is Baby Eena, and I love you,” said the doll.

“Why is she acting like a … toy?” asked the leader.

“That’s what I’m saying,” said Moslix. “Something went wrong. It must have. That’s all she says. I hope I actually got the syncord out before we destroyed the old frame.”

“We had to, in case it had tracking devices,” the leader said. “Now ... fix it!” the leader shouted brusquely and strode out of the laboratory.

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

I was groggy. I had vague sensations of giants talking, and a voice talking that seemed to come from me but didn’t sound like me, and I didn’t seem to be able to move …

Then I was awake. The man behind the control panel was doing something; he was also much bigger than he’d been before. I felt something like an electric shock; it was painful but also energizing. I felt sick to my … stomach? Except I couldn’t feel anything below my head. I couldn’t feel my arms or legs. I couldn’t feel my heart. I couldn’t breathe. I was panicking. But I couldn’t control my face either. My eyes didn’t blink, even when I wanted them to. I couldn’t look left or right. But I could see, and apparently hear as well.

“The readings are all wrong!” said the man, feverishly adjusting whatever controls I couldn’t see on his side of the panel. “It’s not like it isn’t there, but it’s not like it is either!”

I felt myself say, “My name is Baby Eena, and I love you.” But I didn’t need to breathe to say this, and I didn’t know why I was saying it, and I couldn’t stop myself from saying it. If I’d had a heart, it would have been pounding. I was in the doll head I’d seen earlier! If I could turn my head or even move my eyes, I was sure that I’d see my previous body, lying limp in the plastic chamber to my left, but I couldn’t even do that. The terror of being unable to do anything at all was overwhelming, but I couldn’t speak or scream or move.

The man paused. “Wait. He’s right. All we need to do, really, is wipe its memory. I’ll just do what I’d do if it was in there. Wipe its memory. That’ll work, right?” My panic spiked again, but as before I couldn’t do anything about it. He manipulated the controls. Everything was pain for a moment, then everything was just … numb, crushingly numb. I felt nothing at all. Was my memory being wiped?

Wait … he wanted to wipe my memory, right? I remembered that.

I remembered, I realized.

I thought about Lisa. I remembered her. I wanted to be back with her.

I thought about my dreams. I still remembered them, even the most recent ones.

I thought about my life back on Earth. I still remembered that, though lately it had felt like a faraway dream that had happened to someone else.

The memory wipe wasn’t working.

“My name is Baby Eena,” I said involuntarily, in a voice that wasn’t mine, “and I love you.”

The man looked at his control panel closely. “That … means it worked, right?” he asked himself. “It’s wiped?”

A voice came from the panel. “Is it done?” asked the voice. “Memory wiped? We’ve got to get it back, before the search kicks into high gear.”

“I … I ran the memory wipe, Sir,” said the man. “It’s done. Mind you, the doll just keeps saying the same thing as before, but that’s hard-coded behavior. Factory standard for a Baby Eena.”

“So that’s to be expected, then,” the voice said. “Good. I’ll send Helgen to take it back.”

“Uh, yes, Sir.”

“So, this is what’s left of it now?” said another voice. The plastic container was lifted from me and I was lifted into the air. I saw the face of the man who had grabbed me!

“Yes, and it has to go back,” said the technician man. “The transportal’s all primed. Just use your control.”

“Lots easier,” he said. “I don’t even have to go through myself.” There was a shimmer of light. “Just drop it in.” Everything was that sparkly shimmery light … and I was back in Mommy’s basement playroom.

But … I couldn’t move.

I was just a doll head. I could look at the toys and the play mat and the brightly colored play area walls. But I couldn’t do anything.

“My name is Baby Eena, and I love you,” I said. Inside I was screaming for Mommy, but no one could hear me. I was in the safest place I knew, but I was still terrified. Would Mommy find me, think I was a discarded doll head, and throw me away? I didn’t know.

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

“Yes, they just disappeared in that flash of light,” said Agent Koralis of the Security Division, looking at the security recording yet again.

“I … I don’t know what to do,” Lisa fretted. She had been seriously distraught since I had so mysteriously vanished.

“We’ve had our very best scientific minds analyze this recording,” the agent said. “None of them can understand what they saw here. Clearly the terrorists have some kind of transport technology that nobody else has developed. Believe me, it’s caused a furor. Everyone thinks they’ll be the next target. The entire city’s on edge.”

Lisa had given them my security ID and the proper frequency pattern for my syncord. This enabled the proper settings for the device she had become very familiar with over the last two days: the syncord scanner. The Security Division had standard ones, and she had been taking one apart and rebuilding it with increased sensitivity, hoping to detect any sign of where I was. She opened up her scanner again and tweaked a contact. “Maybe if I used a rubidium coating on this coil …”

“Look, I really hope we find her, for what it’s worth,” said Agent Koralis. “Meanwhile, I’ll stay here with you, and help in any way I can. There’s not a lot any of us can do right now. Not unless some of the boffins can make a breakthrough.”

“Rouzelle says the High Council’s really afraid of that transport device, or however they did it,” said Lisa.

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

A state of real but limited war existed between the two major civilizations in the galaxy, the Universal Galactic Assemblage and the Arm of the Arbiter. The terrorists made things even worse. The city in space where Lisa lived had been built to house the High Council, the deliberative body that tried, with more success at some times than others, to keep the galaxy from exploding into total war. At that very moment, the Council was debating their response to the terrorists.

The most recent video of the crash, taken from my memory, was playing for the Council. When it ended, they played the security videos from my kidnapping, and the video from Commander Hloorius’ escape. The Council watched, not in surprise, but fascination – they’d seen all of these before, but there was still great fear. Nobody knew who was behind this terrorist organization, how they managed to have superior technology, or even whether they had even more secret devotees hidden among the ranks of the Council or one of the civilizations’ governments.

“How are they doing it?” demanded Councilor Korello. “The Galactic Assemblage has no such technology. The Arm of the Arbiter must have developed it in secret. They must be behind these incidents.”

“How dare you?” hissed Councilor Yiminato. “We do not support terrorism! Your accusations are an obvious and feeble attempt to distract attention from your own guilt!”

“Order!” shouted Head Councilor Chromion, banging his gavel-like device. “Look, I think we can all agree that neither the Assemblage or the Arm has any official knowledge of how this unknown third party is doing what it does. Clearly they have star-drive and matter-transmission technology beyond anything most of us have seen. We must decide how to respond. I’m entertaining any motions to that effect.”

“With respect, Head Councilor,” said Councilor Rouzelle, and Chromion yielded her the floor. “There can be no doubt that they are watching these proceedings. The message we must send them is simple: Your technological superiority is temporary. Now that they know such things are possible, the top scientists and inventors of both civilizations are focused on duplicating them. It won’t be long before both are your superiors again. What have you gained?”

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

Found

While Lisa took apart her scanner yet again and watched the Council proceedings, I lay helpless in the basement. I couldn’t do anything but watch and listen to my immediate surroundings. I couldn’t even sleep. My panic had given way to a sort of constant dread. Would I be like this forever? Would Lisa despair and throw out all the toys, including me, unaware that I was right under her nose?

Lisa finished her latest update and snapped her scanner back together. “There we are. And … scan.”

The handheld device started beeping, and Lisa gasped and looked at its screen. To her greatest joy, it indicated that my syncord was very nearby – in the basement playroom. She immediately grabbed the scanner and hurried into the basement lab. As soon as she came down the stairs, she looked at the playroom. Innocuous looking toys lay everywhere – she hadn’t had the heart to even tidy up since I’d been taken. She looked at the scanner. It still said I was right there.

Finally she noticed the doll head. “You weren’t here before,” Lisa said. She picked it up and scanned it.

The screen said, “Mandy syncord ID: MATCH.” Lisa gasped.

The head said in a really cute voice, “My name is Baby Eena, and I love you.”

Tears started running down Lisa’s lovely face as she said happily, “Oh, Babydoll, I’ve been so worried! You must be so afraid. Don’t worry, the Mark N is ready, and I’ll have you sorted shortly!”

Lisa carried me to the lab area and put me under the syncord harvester. She lowered the spider-like device over the doll’s head. Instantly, it clamped on and did its thing. Everything went black for me again.

I awoke with a shriek of terror – but I had a voice now. All I had on was a very thick diaper and a cute pair of green plastic-lined rumba panties. I wasn’t just a doll’s head any longer. I found myself in Lisa’s loving embrace as many kisses were softly arranged all around my face.

Lisa brushed a long strand of of hair from my face as she cooed softly, “I’m so sorry, Babydoll, Mommy had no idea such a thing existed like what they used to kidnap you. I apologize now, Sweetie, but the science team is going to want to do many tests on you – and probably on this thing.” She held up the doll’s head, turned it in her hand, and put it back down.

I replied in a really cute voice that didn’t sound like what I remembered, “Is OK, Mommy. Babydoll no thinks losteded nuffins.”

Lisa smiled and hugged me close as she cooed, “I’m so glad, Sweetheart. Mommy doesn’t want anything bad to ever happen to my Babydoll.”

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

“There’s a residual energy signature in the head frame,” said Dr. Renata, one of the Security Division’s research consultants, also a professor at the City’s largest university. “We’re not sure what it means, but if we can keep the frame, we’ll keep scanning it.”

“Neither Mandy nor I want to ever see that thing again,” said Lisa.

“Sounds like we’ve got a deal,” Dr. Renata said. “But more importantly, Mandy’s latest memory scan shows new information that’s already gone to the Council. It shows … some unprecedented revelations.”

“Can we see?” asked Lisa.

“Mandy, you have this memory already, or we couldn’t have recorded it, and as your guardian Lisa is entitled to see it as well,” she said, keying the video up on her holo projector. “Now, the first thing I notice is probably the most important: this isn’t from Mandy’s point of view anymore. This indicates that Mandy’s not a typical syncord. I don’t know whether syncord hyperenergetic resonances are common on that planet … Earth, I think? … but it might be a good idea to test her for that.”

“What?” asked Lisa. “But those are extremely rare. I never even thought to test for resonances.”

“Still, you should probably do that,” said Dr. Renata. “It’s the only thing that can explain this change in point of view. It means that Mandy here was experiencing the events not just from her own body but from the entire area around. She could probably remember every detail – even inside the ship, maybe even before she noticed it in the sky. Do the people of Earth commonly have the ability to sense faraway events?”

“Uh … not weally …” I said. “Nobody believes in stuffs like that … mostus people thinks it just people tellin made-up stowies.”

“Well, Honey, it’s not made up,” said Dr. Renata, “but it’s very rare. Not more than a handful of people with verifiable abilities like that exist in either the Assemblage or the Arm.” She turned to Lisa. “Obviously you’ll want to be very careful whom you tell about this. The Head Councilor has viewed this recording in private already and has classified it Council eyes only. I’m going to have to delete this copy – right as soon as we watch the rest of it. The system won’t let me delete an open file.” She played more of it.

“As you see, there’s the object impinging on the ship, and the explosion breaching the hull,” she continued, “and then the ship impacts the ground. But then look at this. There’s Commander Hloorius … and then there’s this.”

Lisa gasped when she saw the sparkling, shimmering light – the same effect as when I’d been kidnapped. “And now we come to probably why this is classified.” A figure stepped out of it. I recognized the figure from my memory, but Lisa gasped again. Dr. Renata froze the recording as it showed his face.

“That’s …” Lisa said with a surprised gasp.

“Yes,” said Dr. Renata. “He shows up, says something we can’t quite make out to the Commander, and off he goes again, using … whatever that flash is.”

“He could easily have invented that himself,” said Lisa.

“From what I know of him, he could have. Now, a couple of things. First, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure this can’t be used as evidence in Council. It needs to be corroborated with evidence acquired via more … conventional means. Second, that’s probably why they kidnapped her. They must have brought her back to you, which means they must have tried to erase her memory to keep anyone from seeing that face – and thought they had.”

“But they didn’t, because she’s not your average syncord,” said Lisa, smiling proudly at me.

“And third, Mandy, if you try, you might eventually be able to remember the words that he said to the Commander,” said Dr. Renata. “But I know memory recovery can’t be rushed. And so does Lisa.”

“That’s true,” Lisa said. “She’ll remember in her own time.”

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

The Vision

I sat with my thumb in my mouth and thought about everything that had happened to me over the last week. I had begun having many more realistic kinds of dreams that it seemed everyone was interested in. They had made many recordings of my dreams and asked many questions.

The new body Mommy had made for me was extremely beautiful and shapely. I looked down at myself where I sat in the middle of the play area. Mommy had dressed me in a really adorable Lolita romper. It was purple with red lace and ruffles.

I reached up and touched the large stone on the collar around my neck. I knew beyond any doubt that Lisa intended for me to be her babydoll, and she kept making minor adjustments to whatever neural thingy the collar was that my body responded to so well.

I also knew this body had accepted my syncord completely. I looked at my free hand for an instant before I reached over and pushed one of the goofy cars that squeaked when it moved. It made me giggle like the toddler I appeared to be as the googly eyes rolled around randomly and it made cute squeaky noises.

Obviously the person I had been on Earth would not have responded like this … but I did now, and it filled me with feelings of delight that I did. The experience was obviously changing me, but I still felt like the same person.

From all the questions people kept asking, it was clear to me that the conversation between the Commander and the person who had walked through the sparkly thing was extremely important, and my dream about it kept recurring, becoming more and more clear each time.

I began to focus on what exactly it was that the man with the blue hair had said. The very best I had come up with so far was very general. The man with blue hair had told the commander that he had an escape route and a place to hide. All he wanted was the drydock area surrounding his ship.

I already knew that this was what had happened when the commander had escaped, taking a large portion of the drydock with him. But why did he want part of the drydock? And who was the man with the curly blue hair? Mommy had seemed to recognize him when she saw the image of him. Was he somebody famous in the galaxy?

Mommy came by and attached her device to the stone on my collar. “Now, don’t worry, Little One,” she said, “I’m just taking some readings. Mark O is already in progress. You know I’m always trying to make improvements! I can’t believe those so-and-sos destroyed my Mark M. So rude! All that work! But Mark O is going to be so far beyond Mark N – much farther than this one was over Mark M. And there we go! Look at all this data, Baby!”

The screen of her device was full of what looked like stars, like a little galaxy. She disconnected it – and she was right, I hadn’t felt a thing.

I was acting like the toddler I sort of looked like, and I knew it, but I could still think. I understood that I’d been through more than one traumatic experience, and Mommy had designed this experience to help me recover – well, to help my syncord recover, whatever a syncord was. I guessed it was something like what they called a spirit or soul on Earth, but something that this advanced galactic civilization was able to manipulate in some ways with technology.

I also understood that eventually I would be able to behave more like an adult … if I wanted to. At this point, though, acting like a toddler was just … what I felt like doing. Now, I had no choice, because Mommy had adjusted the body, or “syncord frame,” that I was in to only allow me to act like a toddler, including having basically no potty training. But it felt so wonderful – that also might be a result of Mommy’s adjustments. But she wasn’t causing me any pain or suffering.

This body … it wasn’t a robot, because I had to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, and wet and mess my diapers. But it was also synthetic. I guessed that it was some sort of biotech construct. I wasn’t sure how Mommy created them – did she grow them from cells after modifying their DNA? Did I even have DNA? Or were they created by machines, like some kind of super-advanced 3-D printers?

These days were a bit of a respite from all the excitement I’d been having – yes, sometimes people came to look at my dream recordings and ask me questions, but they hadn’t done that for a while, since nothing new had come out of my dreams for a while. But I was feeling so much calmer and better. It seemed that Mommy’s treatment was working properly.

“Mommy,” I asked, “who is the man with the blue curly hair?”

“Oh, Sweetie,” she replied, “everybody in the galaxy knows him. He’s a super-famous and super-rich businessman. His name is Spekton Klisp. But he’s so powerful that without absolute proof that he’s the leader of the terrorists, any attempt to link him to them is going to cause a huge backlash – boycotts, lawsuits, election losses, that kind of thing. But the only evidence is in your memory – and that’s not enough, I’m afraid. They’d have to catch him.” Mommy turned on the screen and called up a video showing Klisp saying something about some new product one of his companies was releasing. It was definitely the same man.

I wondered why someone like Spekton Klisp would want to start a terrorist organization. Didn’t he already have everything he needed? What wasn’t occurring to me was that people didn’t get to be super rich like he was by stopping once they already had whatever they needed. I also wondered whether or not I really had what Dr. Renata had called “syncord hyperenergetic resonance” and how to activate it …

That night after Mommy changed my diaper, put me in my jammies, and put me in bed amid lots of kisses, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to imagine what it would feel like to see everything around me from all angles. It would sort of be like seeing without seeing, I guessed. I imagined what the bed looked like, and what I looked like lying there. I was under the covers, but surely I should be able to see what I looked like anyway, right? I imagined my body. I … wait, did I really have a little beauty mark under my right ear? I’d never noticed it before. Did Mommy put that there? Or was I just imagining it?

I turned my attention to the room. Could I see things that I could check out later? There was a number printed on the back of the storage unit that served as what we’d call a vanity on Earth. Could I see outside the room? I didn’t want to spy on Mommy; that seemed rude to me.

What about outside the house? I saw the transport shelter on the roof – it was closed and locked. I saw the neighboring houses – there wasn’t a lot of open space, because we were in an orbital space station, after all, no matter how big it was.

I didn’t want to spy on the neighbors either, but maybe there was something I could verify. There was somebody in a tall building nearby who was looking out a window, watching the house – wait, it was Agent Koralis, who worked for the Security Office. I knew he was supposed to be there, because I’d heard him tell Mommy he’d be keeping watch.

I didn’t think he could really protect me from another kidnapping attempt, because they had some kind of sparkly teleporter device, but he could probably notice if there were bad guys spying on us. Agent Koralis scratched his nose and drank some of his hot narrar, which was sort of like coffee. I’d never had any, but lots of people liked it, including Mommy.

I decided to look and see whether I could detect any bad guys spying on us. There was nobody, though. But … there was a critter. Space stations didn’t usually have them, but this one must have stowed away aboard a spaceship and escaped from one of the space ports. I didn’t know what it was called, but it was about the size of a rat on Earth, though it was scaly and not furry, and didn’t have a tail. It was living in our neighbor’s basement. Mommy should tell them they had a critter.

As I fell asleep, I wondered what would happen if I told Mommy about what I’d seen …

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

In a dimension that only he had access to currently, Spekton Klisp walked smugly through what was now one of the most advanced spacecraft drydock facilities. He needed the equipment badly to build this particular facility.

Spekton walked over to one of the ships and pressed his hand onto a plate in the side of the hull. There was a loud clunking noise, then a small motor whine heralded the opening of the hatch and lowering of a set of steps to enter.

This particular craft was one of the experimental top secret fighters the Galactic Assemblage had been building and experimenting with. Now that he had managed to obtain one of these rumored ships, he was more than happy that he had managed to destroy the testbed craft.

It was true, the interdimensional drive the particular shuttle that had caused the actual destruction of the fighter due to a misadjustment in a crucial component had caused many more issues, including losing his top resource operative; however, now that he had one of his own, he now had the ability to strike at those idiots at will.

The fix for the targeting system that had the issue had already been identified, and they had added a major selenium rectifier system prior to a diode system that ensured all energies flowed in one direction only to smooth out the sinusoidal irregularities within the energy flow, making it far more stable and tunable.

A diode is an electronic component that allows the energy to flow in only one direction. It is a two-terminal semiconductor device. The rectifier is a device that is used to convert an Alternating Current sinusoidal energy pattern to a Direct Flatline energy pattern. In other words, it ensures that energy travels in one direction without the rise and fall of energy frequencies above and below the necessary baseline frequency. A diode is used as a switch, and a rectifier is used to do the conversion. No overloads due to inverse time fluctuations above or below baseline.

Spekton sat in the pilot’s gravity couch and powered up the flight deck. He smiled as he ran through the ship’s system diagnostics and saw everything operating well above predicted specs. With the new weapons package, coupled with missiles that had interdimensional capabilities, he was sure to be able to overthrow those weak-willed so-and-sos who refused to pay national tribute to his organization.

How dare they label his group a terrorist organization. Spekton looked out the forward screen at the many such fighters that sat in neat lines throughout this huge complex. Spekton nodded to himself as he shut the power down and left the spacecraft. When next he and they tangled, they would see who was a terrorist …

… and who was emperor.

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

“They have … a critter?” Mommy asked. I nodded and tried to describe the thing living in the neighbor’s basement while Mommy changed my diaper.

“That sounds like a Broftian crilm,” Mommy said. “We sometimes get those. Broft is the planet the City is in orbit around, and there’s a lot of traffic to and from the surface. The little guys love to stow away. Usually they catch them, but not always. Computer, let the Sventels next door know that they might want to contact Services about the crilm in their basement.”

“Message sent,” said the computer’s androgynous voice.

“So … you had a dream about this?” asked Mommy as she pulled a clean pair of plastic-lined panties up over my fresh diaper.

“No, Mommy,” I said, “was afore baby wanted to sleeps.” I described some of the other things I had seen.

“Well … yes, you do have a beauty mark there, because I put it there,” she said. “And … do you remember the number behind your vanity unit?”

“Uh huh, it was like this,” I said, pointing my finger in the air and pretending to write.

“How about like this?” asked Mommy. “Computer, activate holo drawing for Mandy.”

“Starting app …” said the computer. Suddenly my index finger left pink trails in the air whenever I had it fully extended. I wiggled the palm of my hand to erase the stray trails, then stuck out my index finger again and drew the number in the air.

“Hmm,” Mommy said, looking at the numbers. “Computer, what is the model number of the vanity unit in Mandy’s room?”

“Six eight four dek two six,” the computer replied.

“Not a match,” said Mommy. “Computer, what is its serial number?”

“Nine three eight two seven two A six el four zero.”

Mommy’s eyes widened. “That’s exactly what you just scribbled,” she said to me quietly. “Asking Agent Koralis whether he had any narrar last night would be pointless, because he always does, but this number …”

“Message from next-door neighbor Mora Sventel,” said the computer.

“Computer, play message,” said Mommy.

“‘How did you know we had a crilm? We have been hearing something in the basement at night. We have contacted Services. Thank you!’ End of message,” said the computer.

“I think they’re going to want to ask you more questions, Sweetie,” said Mommy.

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

“... and so, if you could try to see anything about Spekton Klisp, anything at all, the Council would be grateful beyond words,” said the man with the big impressive robe. It was Head Councilor Chromion, one of the only people in the galaxy who had seen the recording of my latest dream.

“Dunno if it gonna work,” I said.

Mommy added, “This is all very speculative.”

Rouzelle smiled at me and said, “Honey, if you don’t see anything, that’s OK. We’ll know just as much as we know now. But if you do see something … anything … it could mean everything.”

“OK …” I said. “Will twy …”

I closed my eyes. The funny hat they had on my head wasn’t too uncomfortable. I imagined the man with the curly blue hair. I didn’t see anything for a long time, just my imaginary picture of him, and a lot of blackness. Then a brief flash. And another.

I didn’t know, because my eyes were closed and they were being careful to keep quiet, but the Councilors were staring at the screen in wide-eyed amazement and not a little bit of shock. I saw him in some kind of space dock with lots and lots of little familiar-looking spaceships on the floor behind him. There was a big orange star shining through the transparent ceiling above. It made his hair look black. He was saying something, but I couldn’t hear it. Another man came into view and listened to him talk, then nodded and went away.

I realized I was sweating and had soaked my diaper. I opened my eyes. I noticed the hat wasn’t on my head anymore.

Only Rouzelle was still there, whispering softly to Mommy, who whispered back.

“Baby, you might have just saved billions of lives,” Mommy said, coming over to pick me up and hug me. “Oh dear, you are one soaking wet baby!” she said.

“Sweetie, those ships, that base he’s got, that star, and that flunky of his,” said Councilor Rouzelle, “all of that told us so much.” She turned the holo screen back on so I could see it. The image was just as I remembered. “Klisp must be planning some kind of attack with all those ships. And they’re exact copies of the top secret Assemblage fighter. But more than that … the star. We can cross-reference stars of that color. The Council’s computers are searching known star systems of that color. I’m not an astrophysicist, but I’m told that only about 13% of the galaxy’s stars are anywhere near that color. It really narrows down where his base could be, especially since almost all known stars that color have planets, and either the Assemblage or the Arm has bases in those systems, unless there’s a planet with a civilization.”

“We try to stay away from planets with civilizations,” Mommy said. “I’m not sure why that ship was in the Earth system when it, you know.” I had a brief flashback to being terrified and dying. It was … like watching a scary holo video.

“Yeah, I can’t talk about that a lot,” said Rouzelle. “But the point is, the computer will sift through the data.” Her comm beeped, and she said, “Go ahead.” She looked like she was listening to something we couldn’t hear. “OK, gotcha. Be right there.” She paused. “I have to go. There are only 36 systems that could be, and there are covert recon missions on the way to all of them right now. We’ll find him and ruin his plans.”

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

Intelligence

The mission to the 14th system on the list was headed by Commander Trebizond of the Arm of the Arbiter’s Secret Intelligence Service. His wing of five tiny stealth scouts made its way into the H816686 system under strict radio silence, operating on minimal power even through they had shielding that should prevent scans from detecting their presence. The Commander sat in his control couch and brooded.

“Yes,” he said when his first officer entered his field of view.

“Passive scans reveal a possible target at heading 1472 slash 8763, Commander.” The red indicator triangle appeared on the tactical display.

“Report possible contact via tight-beam relay transmission immediately,” said Trebizond. “We will not come in second to those incompetents in the Assemblage’s Intelligence Division.”

“Aye, Sir,” said the information officer behind him quietly. “Transmitting.”

“Any indication we’ve been detected, Thulne?” the commander asked the first officer.

“Negative, Sir. Detecting active sensor pulses from the unknown target. They are not being reflected. No change in their behavior.”

“Close by 18 percent along vector 1350 slash 6610, keeping velocity under point zero three,” ordered Trebizond. “Continue tumble.” It was cautious, perhaps overly so, but even if they were visually spotted, they’d be hard to distinguish from the system’s many small planetoids at that speed, and with the tumbling behavior they were engaged in, rotating seemingly randomly. They were not flying in formation and communicated only via tight-beam infrared lasers, and then only when necessary.

“Aye, Commander,” said the navigator.

“Continuing passive scans,” said Thulne. “There is … Commander, there is activity.”

“Are we detected?” Trebizond asked quickly.

“Indications are … negative, Commander,” replied Thulne. “Detecting launch of many small craft. No attempt at stealth, so no indication they know of our presence. They are not approaching. They appear to be entering a formation.” The images appeared on the tactical display. A three-dimensional array of small craft was forming, issuing from the original target.

“They’re preparing to launch an attack,” said Trebizond. “Inform the Council immediately. Tight-beam relay.”

“Already sent, Sir,” the information officer confirmed.

“There are … thousands of ships, Sir,” said Thulne. “But no change in active sensor pulses. They are reflecting off nearby objects, but stealth circuits are functional; their scans are passing through us.”

“They’ll be launching soon, I’ll bet,” said the commander.

“Not taking that bet, Sir,” said Thulne.

“Message from Council, Sir,” said the information officer. “Inform immediately upon fleet launch.”

“Exactly what I would do,” said the commander. “They’re going to attack the base with everything they’ve got the moment the fleet leaves, while they’re in NR space and can’t receive transmissions. They were planning a joint Arm-Assemblage strike force for just this purpose. Demoralize the enemy. Make them think we’ve always known where they were and what they were doing. Maybe they can even destroy the base so the enemy has no command center. That’s assuming this is their only base, however. But Klisp is here. The intel indicated a base in a 7260 chromaclass system.”

There was a pause as they watched the assembling fleet grow larger and larger. But then there was the telltale flickering of NR drives about to engage. “They are launching,” said Thulne. “Approximate vector 0820 slash 1380.”

“Transmitting, Sir,” the intelligence officer said. “Message away.”

“We’ve seen all we needed to see,” ordered Trebizond. “Continue passive flyby under minimal power. Report any changes.”

“Aye, Sir,” said Thulne.

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

“Well, it’s happening,” said Mommy, holding and rocking me. “Rouzelle says they found them in the H816686 system. There’s an inhabited planet there, with a pre-flight civilization, so nobody’s got a base there – well, nobody but Klisp.”

“Did they go blow up the bad man?” I asked.

“The strike force has launched to attack the base, but they launched their fleet first,” Mommy replied. “They vanished into NR space, and the scouts could only guess at their heading. They could be headed for Grisham Prime, Olirin Alpha, Valandris Major – all of them heavily populated systems.”

“I dunno any of those places,” I said. I couldn’t even imagine how to see places I’d never been to, unless somebody I’d seen before was there, and I didn’t know anybody who was in any of those systems.

“I know, Sweetheart,” Mommy cooed at me. “It’s gonna be OK. They’re sending defense fleets to all of those. And they all have their own defense fleets anyway. And thanks to you and the scouts, they’re warned. Everybody in the galaxy knows the attack is coming. Klisp thought he’d take everyone by surprise. He’s gonna be very disappointed. Poor, poor Klisp.”

“Poor Klisp,” I giggled.

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

Alarms rang out all over Klisp’s base. “What’s going on?” Klisp demanded, wiping his mouth with a napkin. He’d just been dining on fine Serilnean steak.

“Mr. Klisp, multiple signatures emerging from NR space,” said his assistant Releta. “Closing fast. Contact in 10 minutes or less. Defenses activated.”

“Good,” said Klisp. “And prepare some of the surprises we had in store. But … how did they know where we were? You can’t backtrack a ship through NR space … and the fighters wouldn’t even have reached their destination yet … do we have a leak? Did they wait until the fleet was gone for the perfect opportunity? Well, no matter. When the dust settles, we’ll still be here, and they won’t.”

He sighed, then continued eating his steak.

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

The Assault

In space, an extremely large attack force appeared from the NR space portal. 44 super dreadnoughts brought their shields online, creating a protective barrier for the 200 pulse ships and the 22 super carriers.

I should probably explain what all of these were. Without going into just how big they were or how much power they could bring to bear, the supercarriers of both the Arm and the Assemblage were the space equivalent of an Earth aircraft carrier, times several hundred. They held about a thousand fighter craft each and could launch about a hundred simultaneously. The pulse ships were straightforward attack ships that were basically support systems for one big gun. The super dreadnoughts were huge general-purpose warships with a full complement of energy weapons and torpedos, and the most powerful energy shields of any ship in the fleet of either side. And the two sides were now working together against their common threat. It was important for the dreadnoughts to protect the pulse ships, because pulse ships were almost all offense, and the carriers, because until the fighters were away, the best tactic against them was to attack before they could launch.

The carriers maneuvered to their pre-decided locations and began deploying their complement of many hundreds of their newest advanced fighter. Scans showed the fighters boiling from the carriers in huge clouds, like insects.

Without prior warning, three sparkling rings of energy appeared, uncomfortably close to the fleet. From the heart of these rings emerged several dozen missiles of a kind never before seen that flashed off faster than any recorded in any prior encounter. Klisp’s base was clearly not left defenseless, even though his fleet was away, and he was using that transit technology of his to transport weapons now.

They seemingly just appeared between two carriers before detonating. One entire carrier simply vanished, along with its entire complement of fighters, in some form of never before seen singularity. Due to the close proximity of the overlapping patrols of the other carrier, it also destroyed 2/3rds of that second carrier’s complement of fighters and did some form of splash reaction not ever encountered before, causing critical hull damage to the surviving carrier.

The fleet commander yelled at his comms officer, “Emergency, fleet orders to separate to 75 mega clicks. If one of those missile attacks happens again, it should only take out one ship instead of dozens.”

The comms officers hands flew across his panel as he quickly replied, “Aye, Sir, message sent.”

Fleet Commander Tolbin sat back in his flight couch in frustration. He knew Klisp had come up with some sort of teleporting technology, but neither he nor those idiots in the think tank had ever considered the possibility of making missiles with that form of engine.

The type of detonation was entirely new as well. From all indications Klisp had also discovered some form of singularity warhead. Detonation didn’t leave any debris, only the strange singularity, which lingered momentarily before it somehow dissipated.

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

I’m telling this story even though I wasn’t there and didn’t see it happen. Most of what I’m saying is based on what I found out later, especially about Klisp and how things went in his base.

Klisp smiled as he watched the holoscreen display of the attack by his new weapons. But just as he was about to take another mouthful of the delicious steak, a tremendous explosion rocked the base and tossed him bodily to the floor while massive debris fell all around him.

The world stopped shaking violently and heavy debris stopped raining down. Klisp took his arm from over his head and looked around. He felt very lucky the heavy beam that had fallen above him had fallen in such a way as to protect him from the rest of the roof as it fell in. This was not how he’d envisioned things going. He had just narrowly escaped death, when he’d never expected anything remotely like this to happen.

He managed to sit up as he threw a good quantity of small debris off himself. After looking around, he knew this had to be some kind of new weapon. He could smell fire, but not the kind or quantity there’d have been if this had been nuclear.

Klisp stood and waded through the heavy debris towards the only exit from this madhouse. After struggling hard with the heavy debris and a long perilous climb up the shaft, he managed to exit more or less into the open in another part of the base. He stood with his mouth open and eyes wide in total incredulity.

Almost all of his launch facility was either gone or severely damaged. How in all there is did they even manage to get a volley off? Klisp was in total confusion; the transplacent drive should have handled all incoming ordinance instantly.

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

Now, Fleet Commander Tolbin was one of the Galactic Assemblage’s most decorated veterans. He’d led fleets through decades of constant warfare, in addition to constant updating and upgrading of weapons and defenses. Some new tricks with missiles weren’t about to make him give up.

Klisp wasn’t the only technological innovator in the galaxy. Both the Assemblage and the Arm had military research projects that did nothing all day long but develop new weapons and ways to defend against whatever the enemy came up with next. And he’d just made use of something Klisp had probably never seen before.

The pulse ships’ hard light cannons might not have been able to teleport to their destination, but they were awfully hard to block or dodge, as their beams traveled at lightspeed but packed the punch of, well, being rammed by a super dreadnought. They had to engage their drive systems when firing to prevent themselves from being fired backwards. But this technology had never been seen before outside of the Assemblage’s labs. It was that new, newer than the Drrriituooum fighter that Klisp had copied.

“Remind me, Barrows, were our orders to ask Klisp for surrender?” Tolbin asked.

Tolbin’s first officer replied, “No, Sir, though they did say we should confirm the kill … if possible.”

“Let’s confirm the kill by extreme force,” said Tolbin. “Tell the pulse ships to continue firing as long as there’s a target. And I still see a space station there. Carriers, continue launching fighters, and fall back once launched. Fighters, spread out stand ready in case there are any further attacks or escape attempts. Dreadnoughts, orders are unchanged; defend the pulse ships and carriers in your battle groups.”

The pulse ships were firing in a staggered pattern; while the third of them that had just fired were recharging, a second group now fired, while a third group were held in reserve for the next volley. This second volley came from a different group of ships – and therefore hit Klisp’s base in new and different places.

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

Commander Trebizond and his covert scouting group, meanwhile, were still in the system. “Direct hit from multiple directions with some kind of huge laser cannons,” said First Officer Thulne, observing the action taken by the combined fleet of Assemblage and Arm ships. “I’m assuming those are the Assemblage’s version of our Project Halogen.” The Arm, of course, had their own hard light cannons in development, but as with the Assemblage’s, they had never been seen outside the laboratory.

“That had to hurt,” Trebizond said. “I can see from here that Klisp’s base took massive damage, and I’m not even using the scanners. Is he scanning in our direction?”

“Negative, Commander. No scans coming this way. I imagine all the base’s attention is focused on the fleet.”

“Are they powering up a second volley?”

“It seems so, Commander,” said Thulne. “Maximum damage seems to be the Fleet Commander’s strategy.”

“I’m told it’s Tolbin in charge,” Trebizond said. “That’s consistent for him. Orders were no mercy.” He paused as the second volley of hard light cannon beams struck the station in multiple places. Amid massive pyrotechnics, debris, and oxygen outgassing fires a large section of the station’s outer ring was now separating from the main body and drifting away. ”OK, passive scan one more time; do they have the capability to detect us at this point?”

“Computer is analyzing … that’s a negative, Commander. Their scan detection capability is disabled.”

“Good. Switch to active scan. I want to know what’s still functioning on that station … if anything.”

“Rudimentary power only,” said Thulne as the scanner readings came in. “Life support only in the levels nearest the remaining power generator. That’s also where the only internal communications are still online.

“That’s all?” asked Trebizond. “Weapons? Communications with their fleet?”

“Fleet would have come out of NR space just about now, wherever they were dispatched to,” said Thulne. “If they choose to come back, it won’t be because they were ordered to. It’ll be because they haven’t heard anything from base. No sign of any remaining weapons capability … although granted, Klisp may have weapons tech we don’t understand and thus can’t scan for.”

“Rumors are that Klisp didn’t invent any of it himself, not one single bit,” said the commander. “Paid others to develop it all for him, paid more to keep them quiet, paid the best assassins in the galaxy to permanently retire them if they wouldn’t stay quiet. Keep scanning for any changes.”

“Aye, Sir … there is an escape pod of some sort coming more or less our way. It isn’t Klisp.”

“Move to intercept.”

“Aye, Sir,” said the navigator.

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

Klisp staggered out of a maintenance hatch and emerged into a debris-filled hallway, its overhead lights flickering but still on. He made his way to a computer panel, but it was dead. He limped down the hallway toward Reactor 6, which as far as he could tell, was the only one still working at all.

He finally found a working computer panel and used it to get as much information as he could about what was still working. It wasn’t much. He saw that one of the emergency life pods had launched. He wondered who it was. But yes, Reactor 6 was the only one still online, so he continued heading toward it.

“Didn’t think they’d ask me to surrender,” he said to himself. And they weren’t. Even if his comms hadn’t been down, he didn’t figure there’d be any messages coming in.

The doors to Reactor 6 opened readily to his DNA scan, and he went inside. He was sure that he wasn’t going to survive this. But maybe he could take some of them with him and send a message.

“Warning,” the computer said as he started reconfiguring the reactor controls. “This operational state will lead to supercriticality in 10 minutes. 5 minutes. 3 minutes.” It revised its estimates as he continued pushing the reactor to its limits. This was no ordinary reactor and employed some of his latest innovations. As a result, when it exploded it would take most of the solar system with him.

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

“Reading an escape pod of some kind, Sir … no, wait, it just vanished. Right as it was entering a planetoid field.” The intelligence officer looked confused.

Fleet Commander Tolbin said, “Some kind of stealth tech?”

But before any conclusions could be drawn, the intelligence officer cut in. “Sir, reading massive energy buildup in the single surviving reactor!”

“Due to damage?” Tolbin asked. “No – the others didn’t do that when they were hit, and that one’s fine. It’s Klisp. He’s driving it to supercritical. Estimate of blast radius?”

“Reactor is of unknown type. Best estimate, systemwide.”

“There’s an inhabited planet with a pre-flight civilization in this system,” said Tolbin. “He’s going to kill them off just so he can what, get revenge? Send a ‘message?’ What an utter … uh, waste of potential.” He knew that everything he said was on the record, as a Fleet Commander, so he didn’t voice any of the many explicatives that came to mind. “We’ve got to prevent that, to save the planet. Engineering, recommendations?”

“Focus third pulse ship volley on that reactor. Knock it out of the station and out of the system,” said the fleet’s chief engineer.

“Do it,” said Tolbin. “All pulse ships, coordinated strike on indicated station segment.”

The remaining third of the pulse ships that hadn’t yet fired started to glow. Rotating slightly to aim, they fired simultaneously. A massive pyrotechnical explosion that would put any fireworks display to shame.

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

“Welcome aboard,” said Commander Trebizond to his “guest.” Two of his most highly trained assassins were holding this man, the only occupant of the escape pod they’d intercepted. “All I know is that you aren’t Spekton Klisp. Who are you?”

“Look, my name is Moslix,” the man said. “I worked for Klisp. And I invented half his technology. You want to know how it works? I’m absolutely fine with telling you everything. As long as I get to live.”

“Very good,” said Trebizond. “You’ve just placed yourself outside my authority to order your immediate execution. But I’m not technically trained; my training lies in … other areas. Tell me what was going on just before you ejected the life pod.”

“OK … Klisp sent his whole fleet to Valandris Major. And just as soon as they went to NR, the fleet out there jumped in. He had no idea how they knew it was happening or how they found him. But he wasn’t worried. I was … we had lots of defenses, but against an entire fleet? Or even more than one? I knew both the Assemblage and the Arm would be out to get us. I still don’t know how they found the base.”

Trebizond smiled. “They have their sources,” he said. “But go on.”

“What’s that?” Moslix exclaimed. Several pulse ships fired simultaneous beams at the remains of the station, all focused on one point. Amid a tremendous explosion, massive outgassing, and oxygen burnoffs, a section of the station broke free and was ejected at a high speed away from the system’s star, toward deep space, and meanwhile it was clearly crumbling to pieces, pulverized by the blast as evidenced by the large and rapidly expanding debris field it left behind.

Shortly after that section of the station had exited the system by about 12 astronomical units, it exploded. The explosion was massive enough any scanning sensors that had been monitoring it, actually classified it as a nova type explosion. The science departments had to manually relabel it to what actually caused the detonation.

“I believe that is called dealing with a problem,” replied Trebizond. “You were saying?”

“Well, we launched the transplacent missiles, and took out a carrier, and most of another one,” said Moslix. “But then they fired something we’d never seen before. We had defenses against torpedoes. We had defenses against energy weapons. But not against energy weapons that hit like torpedoes! There was massive damage all over the station! Nobody could raise Klisp on comms. It was all over. I didn’t see things getting better.”

“So you abandoned ship,” said Trebizond.

“Look, I’m not a fanatic,” said Moslix. “I was there because he paid me, and because he probably would’ve sent out a hit squad after me if I left.” He looked back at the remains of the station. “I don’t think that’s going to happen now.”

“No,” said Trebizond. “Things have changed. A fleet was ready at Valandris Major, equipped with countermeasures for Drrriituooum fighters’ weapons and stealth.”

“But how did they know it was coming?”

Trebizond smiled again. “They have … ways,” he said.

“Wait, this is a scout wing, isn’t it? You’re … what, Arm intelligence? Oh, man! You’re how they knew! But … how did you find the base?”

“Even we do not know that,” said Trebizond. “But now … we will be taking you to meet our superiors. They will be very interested in talking to you.”

“But I’ll live, right?”

“Oh yes. They will make sure you do.”

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

The Ambushers Are Ambushed

Valandris Major was also a huge battle. But, even more than that, it also revealed the truth of a serious mystery that had been hidden.

An entire formation of terrorist fighters with their carrier ships dropped out of NR space … even though there was a fleet in the system waiting for them. The awaiting fleet didn’t know exactly where in the system the terrorists would appear, though it couldn’t be too close to the star due to the curvature of space.

The huge terrorist fleet, consisting of many squadrons of the brand-new Drrriituooum fighters, formed up into their assigned attack formations. Each one enabled the displacement equipment on all weapons. The pilots were smug in their knowledge of how complete this surprise was going to be when they ambushed …

Without warning or fanfare, some remarkably sleek and fantastically advanced ships magically appeared. The terrorist command carrier’s scans revealed impossible information. The only real data on this particular fighter-bomber type vessel was that it was more a figment of some technician’s wet dream than reality. As a matter of fact, the only descriptions of such a craft came strictly from science fiction.

There was no way the commander could deny it, though. As he made an emergency scatter order for immediate fleet dispersal, the images and technical scans he was able to get before some really weird form of stealth technology came online showed beyond any doubt that the myth was actually what was known as a scientific trickle truth. Somewhere, someone tied with a top secret project had said something in speculation that stuck to the popular imagination and became a science fiction meme.

The terrorist squadron knew it was in serious trouble. As nimble as the Drrriituooum fighters were, whatever these were far exceeded them as they danced through the weapons fire far more swiftly and gracefully than anything the terrorists had ever scanned before.

There was no escaping the grim truth; the terrorist squadrons were being given no choice but to fight. All avenues of possible escape seemed to magically be covered by one of the sleek vessels. Employing their transplacer technology just seemed to result in appearing right in the crosshairs of a waiting defender.

Several terrorist pilots joined together and launched a simultaneous attack with their displacement / singularity missiles. A large flash at the exact instant and location of where the transition portal would have appeared. Nothing remained when the momentary flash vanished. Whatever the countermeasure was, it was not merely effective; none of the massive energies did any damage at all.

The terrorist pilots in their grouping of six didn’t fare so well. A huge portal opened right in the middle of their formation. No one was exactly sure what the device was. No one admitted to owning it; no one admitted so much as having any knowledge of the device. It detonated, and the fighters were engulfed in fire. When the small sun that burned there for a good 20 mintons collapsed within itself and vanished, there were no debris or any sign that any of the fighters had ever been there.

After the rapid loss of most of their fighting force, the terrorist pilots realized that they were dead men, so they went nuts. Fiercely and with no regard for their lives or safety, they attacked the sleek new ships. Massive explosions coupled with the formation of many strange singularities filled the emptiness, while those on the system’s planets looked on, via the satellite networks, in trepidation tinted with fear.

The terrorists took out several of the sleek new spacecraft, but they lost many more trying. Space filled with debris as the battle quickly came to its conclusion. After the last attacking terrorist vessel had either been destroyed or massively disabled, these mysterious ships vanished like wisps of smoke, just as mysteriously as they had appeared.

In their wake, for the short time they were here, they left tremendously huge fields of debris, while many large spherical locations that dotted the large debris filled battle zone were now empty voids with nothing detectable within them where what ever that mystery device was, had been effectively used.

Neither the Arm nor the Galactic Assemblage had any data on who the mysterious craft might have been. For the first few minutes, accusations flew hot and heavy, until both sides realized they were saying the same things and knew nothing.

Whoever they had been weren’t shy at first arrival. According to all of both sides’ scanner logs, the ships had seemingly just materialized from thin space. The scanner readings they got made no sense to anyone. Their method of transport was as far beyond Klisp’s transplacers as those had been beyond a paper airplane.

The best guesses were that their hulls were made from some type of unique material that was neither matter or energy, but managed to be both and neither at the same time, like a photon, but macroscopic in scale. Speculations of some sort of non-particulate matter ran rampant. Particulate matter is made of solid particles and some form of liquid droplets. Best scans showed readings that oscillated between many states all at the same time. The molecular composition was a total mystery.

What type of propulsion they utilized was beyond either side’s best science. Instead of producing thrust, It seemed to produce a form of inverse energy that reacted with the ship’s local space, causing a peculiar slippage of space / time around the vehicle. The very brightest minds were completely flummoxed to come up with any kind of reasonable explanation …

Except for One

Whoever these people were, they were unknown and technologically farther advanced than either of the known civilizations. Very plainly, they didn’t want the terrorists to have the weapons they had, nor would they tolerate the terrorists using them as they were. But they made no attempt to contact either side; they simply vanished back into the inky void of space.

The Council sat stunned. The nine members of the Inner Council – four from the Assemblage, four from the Arm, and one from the City, had been joined by the over 200 members of the General Council, representatives from the Arm and Assemblage’s various provinces across the galaxy.

After viewing the battle report, there was no sound in the Council Chamber aside from the quiet breath of the air circulation system. They had just learned that there was a player in the game that none of them had suspected, apparently not even the terrorist organization or its leader, who they had just learned was the famous Spekton Klisp. They had thought they’d just gotten ahead of the game, but it turned out that they were in truth far behind.

Head Councilor Chromion stood up. “Fellow Councilors,” he said, “for the moment we can take a breath and pause. The terrorist threat is over. Spekton Klisp was the leader, and he is no more. The technology that he either created or had created for him has died with him. And in the effort to defeat him, we have united in an unprecedented alliance that has caused the Arm and Assemblage to stop fighting one another for the first time in centuries. Perhaps we can use this time to forge a more lasting ceasefire that the people of the galaxy can all benefit from …”

He was then cut off. The face of Spekton Klisp appeared in the huge holographic display in the center of the chamber. “Greetings, people of the galaxy,” came his boomingly amplified voice.

Head Councilor Chromion’s cursing was, perhaps fortunately, not amplified. Whatever was happening had disabled his microphone.

“If you are seeing this recording,” Klisp’s voice said, “it means that I am dead or detained and unable to prevent this automated message from going out.”

“Who’s seeing this?” Councilor Rouzelle asked her aides, who confirmed that they were getting reports that it was on practically every holo viewer in the galaxy, with the few exceptions of the ones that were powered by really old technology … or were broken.

“My brave effort to reclaim the galaxy for the people has failed,” Klisp went on. “The Arm of the Arbiter and the Galactic Assemblage have been lying to you. For centuries, they have secretly collaborated to prolong a war that the people stopped supporting long ago. Appearing to disagree, they conspired behind the scenes to make sure that peace would never come and that they would continue to reap vast profits. No doubt they pooled their efforts to stop me – only a massive collaborative effort could have done that – and that just goes to show that they could have laid aside their differences long ago and worked together to bring peace to the wonderful people of this galaxy, only they chose not to.”

“Lies,” Councilor Korello whispered. “None of this is true.” Then he shouted, using the powerful voice that he was famous for, needing no amplification. “He knew nothing! He didn’t know about the unknown ships that destroyed his fleet! He has no evidence for any of this, and he knew nothing!” There started to be a murmur and then a raucous argument in the Council Chamber, drowning out Klisp almost completely.

Head Councilor Chromion did not bang his gavel to quiet it, as he had no desire to listen to any more of Klisp’s mad baseless accusations without evidence. Chromion sighed and closed his eyes, his fingers to his forehead. When Klisp stopped talking and his face finally disappeared, nobody in the Chamber noticed.

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

“Mommy, whassa crazy man talkins about?” I asked. Klisp’s face had appeared on our holo projector too, right in the middle of the living room, and Mommy couldn’t turn it off. The guy had had his people hack into every holo projector in the galaxy. It must have taken years, and copies of the message must have sat dormant in every one of those devices undetected from that moment to this. Somebody who worked for him was very smart. I’d seen him. He just didn’t feel smart; that’s the best way I can describe it. He felt like a rich guy who hired smart people and paid them to be smart for him, not like a smart guy.

He had, of course, not been drowned out by the Council shouting at him and each other anywhere but in the Council chamber itself. He’d gone on. “And that is why I did what I did, people of the galaxy, for you. Maybe my methods didn’t seem constructive, but I assure you, I had your best interests at heart.”

Mommy sighed and came over to cuddle me. “He’s telling lies so people won’t think bad things about him now that he’s gone,” she said, “or that’s what he hoped, anyway. What he really wanted was to replace the Arm, the Assemblage, the Council, all of it, with a new dictatorship with himself at the top of it all. I know what he said. But what he said doesn’t matter. He would’ve said anything to make it happen.”

“He big liar,” I said, frowning cutely.

Mommy giggled. “The biggest liar ever,” she said.

“He gots people wif smarts,” I said. “They gotted into alla holos.”

“That’s true,” said Mommy, looking worried suddenly. “I have to wonder … how many of his people are still around?” Klisp’s voice continued yammering on in the background, but we ignored it. “Did you see any of them when you were … with them?” Mommy asked.

“Um there was the guy that grabbed me,” I said, thinking. I didn’t like to think about that. “And there was the guy at the controls … the rest is … all blurry n stuff …” I tried to think through the blurs. I thought so hard that I made a mess in my diaper.

“I didn’t mean for you to think quite that hard, Sugar Plum,” said Mommy with a giggle.

“Sowwy, Mommy,” I said.

“Oh, it’s just what happens to Babydolls.” Mommy said, picking me up. “But let’s get that diaper changed, OK?”

I thought about the other two while Mommy changed my diaper. My eyes closed. The guy who grabbed me and left me in the big plastic tube … I couldn’t feel him at all. But the other guy, the one at the control panel … I remembered being in that doll’s head. Not being able to move, talk, or even scream. That guy looking at me all the time. I could feel him. He was out there. Somewhere. Of course, it might have been easier to find him if Mommy hadn’t started blowing raspberries on my tummy after getting me all cleaned up and changing my diaper.

The news of the mysterious advanced fleet that had so crushingly defeated Klisp’s armada at Valandris Major hadn’t quite made it out yet. But it did. All the talk was about Klisp’s last message and about that fleet – of course the combined Arm and Assemblage fleet had seen it happen but had no idea what to do.

The fleet commander had had no prior orders about what to do if an interloper came along to do his job for him a thousand times better than he ever could have. There was nothing he could have done to make the downfall of Klisp’s armada any quicker or more ignominious. And there was nothing he could have done to stop the mystery fleet, even if he’d wanted to.

All he could do was watch, scan them with every ship’s sensor array he had available, and report it back to the Council, which hadn’t even begun to consider how to break this news to the people when Klisp had interrupted.

But the Council had finally released statements to the news media about both the mystery fleet and Klisp’s message once the chaos had settled down and Chromion had taken a pill for his migraine, or whatever they did for migraines here.

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

Delicate Research

Moslix sat in the extremely plush quarters that had been assigned him after the initial interview. Every possible luxury was provided. All told, he had been treated like royalty more than anything else. There was one thing, though: even as plush and swank as everything was, it was still a well-guarded prison.

Moslix sat at one of the super advanced computer terminals and logged in. For all intents and purposes, it appeared he was on the network. To test his theory, however, he typed in a link known only to him and those who worked on Klisp’s advanced weapons project. As soon as he hit the access key, the message appeared: “Error : Unauthorized access. System not authorized for free system access.”

Moslix typed in another of his favorite URLs. He knew it updated every 8 hours and posted new data. He hit access, and the web page appeared to open, although he knew this was yesterday’s page. OK, he had his proof. He was being well cared for because of his advanced knowhow, but he was still a prisoner.

He found he had access to the current system wide news feeds. His fears were answered when the news appeared about the mysterious super-powered fleet that had magically appeared and so crushingly defeated Klisp’s armada at Valandris Major, then disappeared just as mysteriously and untraceably into the icy cold of deep space.

He was positive that no one was ready for where the foundational theories and design mods had actually come from. And now he was positive that the Malkans did not approve of the use of their technology, nor would they condone its theft. If he gave that technology to the Arm, or to anyone, and they used it, the Malkans would retaliate.

As of now the Malkans probably assumed that everyone connected with Klisp was dead. If they got wind that it was otherwise, they would seek him out. But if he gave the Arm nothing, what would they do to him? He was in a real mess.

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

Out in the debris field left after the confrontation, the Assemblage managed to arrive first with their salvage teams. As rapidly as they could, the salvage teams captured and recovered the wrecked craft from the unknowns – there weren’t many, but there were some and as much of what was left of Klisp’s ships as they could find. Every bit of the mysterious debris floating around that they could collect for study they snagged as well. They had enough of the wreckage to construct a whole vehicle … if they could figure out how this technology worked.

It was as far beyond their science as theirs would be to a Neanderthal. The Assemblage weapons development labs went totally insane over the influx of new devices, materials, and a brand new type of math to cover a form of physics never dreamed of before. They still marveled at the hyper advanced items. They did not realize that the unknowns guarded their technology jealously.

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

I was having one of those kinds of dreams … and once again I knew it. I saw a man sitting at a computer station. Somehow I knew this person … oh yeah, he’s the one who threw me into that plastic cube and put me in a doll head. Yeah! I heard a voice call a name … “Moslix.” That's him – thatsa one who stole my other body.

What was Moslix doing now? He typed something on a computer … and then he just sat there. He was staring at his screen, chewing his lip, and fidgeting with his fingers. I couldn’t see what he was thinking. I guess whatever special talent I had didn’t extend to reading minds. You can’t have everything. But he was clearly worried about … what was on his screen? Looked like a news report about those weird unknown alien ships that nobody knew where they’d come from, the ones that annihilated Klisp’s big fleet of super fighters. Why was Moslix worried about that? Maybe he thought they would come for him next, since he was one of the few survivors of Klisp’s people?

Poor, poor Moslix. I almost felt sorry for him, except that I didn’t, because he’d put me in a doll head. Except shouldn’t I be better than that? So yeah, I did feel a bit bad for him. And … wait. Why would he be worried that these unknown people would come for him? What did they have against Klisp’s terrorists? Maybe he’d attacked them in the past? Yeah right, in the past, when Klisp’s tech wasn’t as good as it was when they totally kicked his butt from here to Procyon. No, there was no way he could’ve done them any real harm in the past. So what had Klisp done to them?

Moslix opened up some kind of engineering design software and started to sketch something out. He was making blueprints or plans for something. I didn’t know what it was. But he was working very slowly. And … vaguely. I couldn’t tell one super advanced gadget from another because I only knew Earth technology, but I did know that if all you’re designing is the outer shell and nothing that goes inside it, you aren’t going to end up with anything that works. Well, maybe he was only starting with the outside. Where was he? I looked at the room he was in, but I didn’t see any easy identifying marks that might indicate a planet or even whether he was in the Arm or the Assemblage.

I couldn’t even see whether it was daytime or nighttime where he was … he was in a room with no windows? Was he picked up by the Assemblage or Arm and held prisoner so he would give them all the tech he knew about? OK, so why was he drawing the outer casing of whatever it was? Why not go right to the guts of it, whatever that looked like? I didn’t know what it would look like, but I knew he wasn’t drawing it. Something didn’t add up. Was he afraid to draw it? Why would he be afraid? He was just afraid earlier when he was looking at the report about those mystery ships … wait.

I was gonna ask Mommy what she thought.

In the morning I told Mommy about the dream, or vision, or whatever these things were. “So … he afraid to draw plans. And he fraida those ships. Baby think …”

“Yes, Sweetie?”

“Maybe he fraida both causa tha same reason?”

“You’re a very smart Babydoll,” said Mommy, which made me blush. “I can think of one reason why he might be afraid to draw plans, which is that as soon as he tells them what he knows, he’s not useful to whoever’s got him, so they might even kill him. But he’s also worried about those ships that destroyed Klisp’s fleet. As you wondered, what did Klisp do to them? What if Klisp or his people stole their technology? And if he gives that knowledge to whoever’s got him, they’ll come after them too, and they might find him. So he’s in a nasty double-bind. I wish we knew more about where he was.”

“Maby Miz Rouzelle’s fwiends come, put tha hat on baby’s head, see tha dweams, then they knows?” I wondered.

“Maybe.”

So that’s what happened. They recorded my memories of the dream, then I tried to have another vision like that, but all I got was Moslix walking around in the same room. He wasn’t let out of it. It looked like a beautiful super swanky hotel room, but one that he was never allowed out of. Every desire was catered to, except that he was extremely alone. I guess they talked to him over the computer, but only by sound. And I wasn’t very good at picking up sound.

“Still, the architecture and decor suggests Arm culture,” said Councilor Rouzelle. “There are an awful lot of places where they could have him, but that doesn’t really matter. Diplomacy takes time, but it can work. We can insinuate and suggest that we know they’ve got him without actually saying those words, and we can also imply that those ships might come for anyone who develops that technology. They might still pressure him for it. But they might not. And meanwhile, we have to consider that they’re probably dying to know where we’re getting our intel, so we have to take steps. A bit of misdirection should work. Don’t worry about it. We’ll deal with it.”

The diplomats and the outright spies of the Assemblage and the Arm, as well as those of the Council, who had their own separate ones, were always receiving messages from all over the known galaxy. Considering that everything was encrypted with ever-improving encryption technology, it was always difficult to tell just what information came from where.

So we weren’t too concerned if they figure out that the Council was getting secret information from me – it obviously wasn’t considered unusual that the Councilor for the City was visiting her own sister. And the memory-reading device had been invented by Mommy, so it wasn’t as if anybody had seen anybody delivering it to our house recently.

The fact that other Councilors visited the house might be considered a bit unusual, but not for intelligence reasons. No, we actually never got any indication that anyone deduced that I was the source of the mysterious information the Council always seemed to have.

But my dreams continued, and the people Moslix was working for did seem to back off on the pressure a bit, so he started designing things – I couldn’t tell what they were, of course, but when Councilor Rouzelle took the images to experts, they said that they just seemed to be incremental improvements on known technology, probably Moslix’s own designs. He was plenty smart; he just wasn’t putting the mystery ships’ technology into the computer. Just his own inventions.

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

One morning, Mommy had me in a cute snuggle bug romper, plastic panties, and a super thick crawly diaper. I was sitting in the middle of the playroom pushing one of those silly cars with the goofy eyes that made those funny sounds when I pushed them, when Mommy walked in with one of those thingys that looked like a soft cage.

She placed it on the floor in front of me and undid the door. A really cute little kitty like creature slowly came out and looked around.

Mommy said softly, “I brought you a pet to play with. It’s called a Zoomie. Now, Sweetheart, take really good care of your Zoomie – he’s not all animal; there’s a humanoid syncord animating it.”

My eyes got big, “But Mommy! That so cruel. I no would wanna bea critters.”

The Zoomie rapidly and gracefully slunk up to me and snuggled before it said in a really cute voice, “Is no cruel. I was severely injured in an accident. Was giveded a new lifes. Am gonna be your new snuggle critter.” Then it made an adorable squeaky noise that totally took my mind for an instant. Next thing I knew, I had the Zoomie in my arms and was cuddling and hugging it.

While I was playing with my new snuggle critter, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Mommy was standing in the doorway with her arms crossed, and a huge satisfied smile on her face. This was more therapy for me, I figured, but I didn’t care. The Zoomie was adorable.

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

In a very well-provisioned and modern laboratory, Moslix sat in one of the chairs while Master Overseer Unglaor basically had a cow with him. “And just what the endulints have you been doing? We gave you basically a palatial suite, and one of the most updated construction facilities we have,” he said, waving a hand angrily, “not to mention the finest laboratory we have. What, pray tell, have you been doing? From what I see, all you’ve done is drag your feet.”

Moslix fired back with obvious attitude in his voice, “Now, wait a minute!” He banged his fist loudly on the table. “I have improved your shield capacities well over a thousandfold, not to mention the upgraded sensor packages.”

Unglaor leaned over, resting his hands in front of himself on the desk and getting into Moslix’s face. “Maybe so. But what you haven’t done is show us how the transplacent engine works. Dammit, man, you haven’t even shown us enough of the new physics for us to start trying to work it out ourselves.”

Moslix laughed. “And just what makes you think you can figure it out any better than my last employer did? I’m the one who cracked the code and got the necessary data.”

Unglaor put his finger in Moslix’s face. “Listen to this, Mr. Smarter-than-everyone-else, you have three days to show us something that makes keeping you alive worth it. I really don’t care if you believe it or not. Sit on your backside like you’ve been doing for the next three days. I will love nothing more than putting a hole in your head.” He then turned and left before Moslix could say anything else.

Moslix started to fret as he tried to come up with some way to do this … without causing the Malkans from attacking and totally eradicating everything. He rubbed his face in frustration. He had a huge cache of data, although it was totally over his head. He knew that the math for the new physics was beyond the computer in the lab here, which Unglaor had just said was the best the Arm could give him, but he tried coding some of the Malkan math into it anyway, knowing exactly what would happen … and sure enough, it crashed trying to compute it.

As he rebooted the machine, he sighed. At least he wouldn’t have to erase any traces of the program he’d just attempted to run – the crash had just wiped it out for him. Of course, the spies may have had the monitors and input devices recorded, but if they repeated what he’d just done, they’d just crash another computer. But … this gave him an idea for improving their computers, so he started working on that. It wasn’t directly based on Malkan technology, so it should be safe, he reasoned.

Unglaor returned the next day. “Two more days, terrorist,” he said.

“What?” asked Moslix. “I’m no terrorist.”

“You’re the only known living representative of Klisp’s organization, which was branded a terrorist group by both the Arm and the Assemblage,” Unglaor notified him. “You could be put on trial for all its crimes … and most likely executed. We’re the only hope you have to avoid that fate.” He was no doubt referring to the intelligence service he worked for. Moslix wasn’t a lawyer and didn’t know whether Arm law actually worked that way, but maybe it did.

Moslix didn’t even look at him. “I’m working on improving your computers,” he said. “You can’t expect me to work with these primitive systems. I’m going to start by speeding up your processors by a few orders of magnitude. Then we’ll work on faster memory clock speeds. After that, storage.”

“You still have two days.” Unglaor walked out.

Moslix had more or less resigned himself to whatever fate this Unglaor person had in store for him – either he’d have Moslix killed or he wouldn’t. Moslix almost didn’t care at this point, but part of him suspected they wouldn’t, because he was the only hope the Arm had for getting hold of the transplacer drive and many other secrets. He had designed a new type of chip and was trying to convince the factory robots to produce a prototype when Unglaor returned.

“I hope you have a drive to show us tomorrow,” Unglaor told him.

“Hope springs eternal, I suppose,” Moslix said, entering code into the manufacturing robot’s interface.

“I’m looking forward to this,” said Unglaor with a smile. “I won’t have to look at your smug, defiant face anymore … what?” Another person had entered, a dark-haired woman. She handed Unglaor a note and stood there watching him, hands behind her back, as he opened and read it.

“I … hadn’t considered that possibility,” Unglaor said. “We’ll … err … see what you come up with next.” He and the woman left the laboratory.

“Hmm,” said Moslix, and continued trying to coerce the robot into even finer manipulation of its quantum tunneling stylus in order to produce chips on a finer scale. Had somebody above Unglaor in the organization seen reason? Did someone finally figure out that the Malkans had attacked to safeguard their technology and would do so again if they had to?

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

I was still having dreams, though only some of them were about Moslix. Other ones were about really weird aliens of some kind that looked like they were made of some kind of many colored transparent goo. I couldn’t figure out whether they were real or just dreams.

From what Mommy said when she looked at my dream recordings, they might live on planets that orbit red dwarf stars, which burn for trillions of years and so could have been among the oldest stars still around today. These aliens could be the oldest intelligent species in the galaxy. And finding their stars would be really hard, because red dwarf stars are also the most numerous kind of star in the galaxy.

And then a fuzzy nose poked me in the ear, waking me up. I giggled. “Silly!” It was the Zoomie, who had told me that its name was Mirrva.

“Is time ta gets up n play wif me,” said Mirrva. “No silly.”

“OK,” I said. It didn’t have to ask me twice. I loved playing with it.

“Not until Mandy gets her breakfast and bath, and a new diaper,” said Mommy, coming into my bedroom. “And we should really look at any new dreams she’s had.” She had come up with a dream recorder that didn’t require that big funny hat – it was somehow built into the frame of my bed.

“Awwwww,” said Mirrva, sounding disappointed. “No wanna wait.”

“It won’t be long, unless you want to get in the tub with baby.” said Mommy with a smile.

I winked at Mirrva, to whom I would be dropping bits of food that I pretended I was too clumsy to handle. “Ooo,” Mirrva said.

After my breakfast and bath, where both Mirrva and I made the hugest mess, I was finally dressed and allowed to play with Mirrva on the mat in the living room. Mommy got a message from her sister that said they might have figured out from my dreams where the Arm was holding Moslix, not that they were sure what to do with that knowledge yet. “If we let on that we know, they’ll just move him,” said Councilor Rouzelle. “Meanwhile, the fact that she can still find him means that he’s still alive. From the glimpses we’ve been getting, it was getting a bit risky for him for a while there. Looks like the hints our diplomats dropped did the trick.”

“I still think the other dreams are about whoever was flying those mystery ships,” said Mommy.

“Hard to say for sure – and how would she be dreaming about them?” asked her sister. “She’s seen Moslix, but when has she ever seen these beings?”

“I suppose they might be just a random dream,” Mommy said, “but what if we go through the recordings just to be sure?”

“I’ll leave you to that,” said Rouzelle. “I’ve got a meeting with the City Foreign Affairs Minister. Talk to you soon, Lisa!”

“Take care, Rouzelle.”

I thought the City was jointly managed by the Arm and the Assemblage, so this made me wonder whose affairs the Foreign Affairs Minister was in charge of, since nobody was really foreign, but there was a lot I didn’t know about the galaxy.

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

A New Perspective

In a brand-new super-advanced Assemblage laboratory, many scientists and technicians hovered around another electronic technician's nightmare they had managed to cobble together. All were amazed when they turned on the hastily rebuilt Synchord/Kirlian assembler, as they had finally named it. The boot up diagnostics appeared on the screen; it then ran through an entire boot sequence, came to its UI, and asked for data input.

This time, the Security Division and several other top-level intelligence organizations had inspected the lab and insured no explosive devices were near. The data they were after was highly important, and if this worked, it would basically mean that neither the Arm nor anyone else under its scrutiny would be able to do anything without someone being able to call it up, after some hoop-jumping, and view it in real time.

All hovered around the holo-screen breathlessly as one of them entered the proper scan location and waveform patterns they were attempting to capture into the UI, then hit the activate key.

Many orbiting devices began a multilayered scan of the large area in question. An image appeared on the screen. At first, it wasn't much more than a multicolored swath of flashing light with streaks moving all through it.

The technician in charge of the quantum computer doing the energy comparisons and reassemblies played his control panel like an organ. Each new instruction the man entered clarified the view a bit more. Now the extremely foggy and unstable image obviously showed several people in close proximity to each other, while a group of others moved about.

One of the scientists turned towards the computer tech off in the other room and shouted, “Hey, Tony. Change the Quadthorium scan frequency to 0.334. I think we’re overlooking the baseline scan somehow. Use a lower frequency and see what happens.”

Tony replied as he made the minor adjustment, “Let me know, I’ll slowly change the setting and let’s see what it does.”

As Tony slowly adjusted the low-band scan ranges, the image on the screen began to coalesce. There were still small waves of strange colors and snow from time to time, but this energy scan they were making was highly theoretical at best, so what they were getting was thought to be miraculous.

One more small adjustment was all it took. The image became crisp. What it showed was Commander Hloorius standing next to Spekton Klisp. It was obvious they were discussing something that had Klisp rather agitated.

One of the scientists recording what was transpiring said with frustration obvious in his tone, “Darn, I would love to know what it was they were talking about.”

Tony yelled back, “I heard that. Lets see ... humm.” He began to enter frequency data locations for the particular waveforms he was searching for.

As Tony approached the proper frequency ranges for the conversation Klisp and the Commander were having, sound began coming from the speakers. At first, it was muted, garbled, and had the underlays of many other conversations. But Tony was a master, and quickly, they now heard what it was Klisp and the Commander were saying.

Klisp said, “But he can’t be a spy. We’ve been friends for years. I know his whole family.”

The commander held up a small device in front of Klisp and turned it on, saying, “Here’s the solid proof. How about him actually signing up and swearing to undermine your organization at all costs?”

They couldn’t hear the device, but Klisp’s eyes turned cold, then he said, “I know just when and how to do it. I can add an additional directional charge. It’ll solve this problem and the fighter problem at the same time. But I want the shipyard too. Your personal ship has already been fitted with the new drive. It’ll be easy.”

“But who are they talking about?” asked one of the scientists. “Who’s a spy?”

“Tony, can we focus on that recorder? Hear what it played?”

“That’ll take some more tweaking,” Tony replied, “but give me a minute.” The image ran back and forward several times, the audio chattering both ways, until the image focused on the tiny audio player in the commander’s hand and the audio played.

From the speakers came a voice. “Look, I’m his friend … but I’m telling you, he’s lost it. He’s gone off the deep end. He’s going to get a lot of people hurt or killed. Somebody’s got to stop him before he does.”

“Who is that?” asked a scientist.

The recording continued. Someone else, presumably an Assemblage intelligence agent, said, “We hope that with your help, we can. You’ve done the right thing in coming here. But you’re sure you aren’t under surveillance?”

“I’ve done everything I can think of to keep from being followed,” said the voice. “I’ve swept for bugs. But Spekton’s gotten so paranoid these last few years. Another reason why I’m sure he’s off his rocker. All that money and power, it’s finally gone to his head.”

“You’re going to have to pretend that you don’t think anything’s wrong. Everything’s fine. Keep your eyes open, then pass information to us. Let us know what he’s planning so we can evacuate or defend against his attacks.”

“Y-yeah, sure, I can do that,” the voice said. “It’ll be hard, but I want to save lives.”

“Good, because so do we,” said the agent. “Now, is there anything you can tell us right now?”

“Well … Klisp is getting his technology from somewhere,” the voice said. “I mean, he hires inventors, hundreds of them, all working at full tilt, but some of the latest breakthroughs he’s been talking about … he says they’re like nothing anyone’s ever seen.”

“What does that mean? What are they?”

“That’s just it, I don’t know. He’s playing his cards close to the chest. He won’t even tell me. All he’s said is that they’re coming from somewhere nobody will expect. That wherever it’s from has been right under our noses all the time.”

“Hmm,” said the agent, “well you just keep your ears open, and if you find out anything more …” The recording stopped.

One of the security agents in the room stepped forward and said, “That was me. I’m the agent he was talking to. Call me Agent Seven.”

“Who were you talking to?” a scientist asked. “That sounded like … a friend of mine who’s no longer with us.”

“It was,” said Agent Seven. “As you may know, Ezvan Moslix died in the explosion when Commander Hloorius’s ship vanished, taking part of the City Spaceport with it. But it sounds now as if that wasn’t an accident.”

So now the Assemblage knew that Moslix’s death hadn’t been an accident, something I didn’t find out until later … and the City and I knew that Moslix hadn’t died at all but had gone on working for Klisp, something the Assemblage wouldn’t find out until later. The City didn’t always share everything with the Assemblage and Arm. For instance, they hadn’t shared the recordings of the more recent dreams I’d been having.

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

“We found it,” said Mommy, tapping on her tablet and making pictures appear on the living room holo projector. “Baby, do you remember this dream?” I watched.

It was the one where I saw Klisp talking to Commander Hloorius, only Mommy was focusing on another part of the dream. It was the part where the device had materialized on the ship and then blown a hole in its hull. Right when that was happening there was a flicker in the sky way up past the ship. It kept flickering. Then it went away.

“Did you see that?” said Mommy, reversing it and pausing the display with the flickering light still in the sky. It looked like the same flicker as when Klisp used his transplacer to move things around, but I couldn’t really see what was being moved in or out there.

“And then … there’s this.” She played the first dream I’d had about Moslix since the Arm had captured him. Near the beginning of it there was a similar flicker in Moslix’s room, in an upper corner of a wall. “They know where he is,” she said. “They’re watching him.” She found several other similar flickers in various of the dreams I’d had about Moslix and his time in that swanky hotel room and that advanced lab they had him working in. “But that means … you’ve seen them. And part of your mind is now tuned into them.”

She played another dream, more recent, where the wobbly colorful aliens were shifting hue and shape to refract light differently. “I wonder if light is how they talk,” Mommy said. “It’s awfully difficult to tell what they’re doing or talking about. But it’s pretty clear that they’re comfortable on planets in red dwarf star systems. Every sun you’ve seen in your dreams about these folks is a red dwarf. More than half the stars in the galaxy are like that, and several different ones have appeared in your dreams about these people. They could be on an awful lot of planets, and we wouldn’t even know. I’m not sure how we could even go about making contact with them.”

“Am no sure they knows ‘bout me,” I said. “Don’t seem ta act any different when baby lookins.”

“No, there’s no reason to assume they know about you,” said Mommy. “In all the recorded occurrences of syncord hyperenergetic resonance, there’s been no way discovered for the phenomenon to be detected by the remote viewee. In other words, nobody thinks there’s a way for them to see you. Of course, how exactly it works isn’t fully understood. You’re just an amazing Babydoll, that’s all!”

Mommy and her sister hadn’t told anybody yet about the aliens that Moslix might’ve stolen technology from for Klisp. The City had been cofounded by the Arm and Assemblage, but it was an independent political entity, much smaller than the two vast empires but not under their control. It had to be independent, because the City housed the Council, which was supposed to be an impartial organization for the settlement of disputes and the quest for peace. And of course the City got one permanent seat on the High Council – currently held by Rouzelle.

Meanwhile, though, I thought Klisp was up to something. He’d been making little gadgets that didn’t seem to do anything and hiding them in places, one inside one of his bed frame’s hollow posts, one in his hollow bathroom door, one in his air duct. He was a clever and tricky guy, Klisp was. And he didn’t like being tricked. I didn’t know what the gadgets did. Maybe they didn’t do anything until he put them all together? Maybe they were parts of one big invention. Or maybe they were parts of more than one device. I couldn’t tell. Back on Earth I had thought myself pretty clever, programming computers and all, but the technology I was now surrounded with was beyond me, and Moslix was working on a level that most of the galaxy’s smartest scientists had never even imagined.

The thing was, Mommy, Rouzelle and I still thought that Moslix had helped Klisp steal technology to use for terrorist attacks. Only the Assemblage knew that he’d actually been working against Klisp, funneling information to Assemblage Intelligence, but they didn’t know he and Klisp had been getting technology from unknown aliens who might well kill anyone who used it to keep it secret – which was most likely why he hadn’t passed the tech info to Assemblage Intelligence. Meanwhile, the Arm had him, but they didn’t know any of this.

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

I sat and sucked my thumb as I marveled at the speed and dexterity Mirrva had as she dashed at full speed through what should have been an extremely daunting obstacle course. I fully understood why they called this particular pet a Zoomie. Mirrva obviously had a bad case of the zoomies most of the time.

Another thing I was wondering about was how easily it appeared that Mirrva had adjusted to being harvested and made into a child’s living toy. After the many talks I had had with Mirrva over it, it was as if she either didn’t care it had happened, or, in some strange way, had asked for it for some reason she either refused to tell me, or just plain didn’t know.

Mirrva stood on her hind legs with the glowball in her paws. She tossed it in my direction. As soon as I saw it coming, I attempted to catch it. Of course, the toddler babydoll protocol Lisa was spending so much time programming my body with took over. I toddled a few steps before I fell on my thickly diapered bottom. The ball bounced into my lap and made a cute little tinkling nursery rhyme as it glittered and sparkled.

Mirrva jumped up and down happily as she exclaimed in her cute voice, “Good catch, Babydoll. Tha’s one for the records. Calls it tha faww down goes boom catch.” Then she giggled.

I sat for a few moments in total confusion. I had dual competing urges. One was to cry because baby fell down, the other was to clap my hands and bounce up and down on my bottom … which is what actually won because of the way Mirrva was acting.

I tossed the ball off into what I thought was the worst of the worst tangled mess of the obstacle course. The ball hit several of the large tricycles and bounced somewhere hidden. Mirrva didn’t waste an instant as she dashed off at full speed into what looked like a solid impenetrable barrier, only to instantly return with the glittering tinkling ball in her mouth and then drop it into my lap.

I wasn’t sure exactly what happened then; all I could tell is that at that instant a super intense infantile glee came over me at what the Zoomie had done. I snatched Mirrva up into a warm loving hug as I giggled and wiggled in sheer infant joy … before I sort of came back to my right mind and put Mirrva down.

She stood on her hind legs, crossed her forelegs like arms and actually had something that looked remarkably like a pout on her face, “Aww, pooies. Wuz lovina huggies. Why come ya stoppeded?”

Once again that really intense tingle of infantile joy surged through me. I giggled joyously as I bent forward and took Mirrva in my arms once again, and gave her another huge loving hug. When I let her go from the hug, I saw Mommy standing in the doorway with a huge satisfied smile on her face. I could tell Mommy thought highly of Mirrva and the way we interacted.

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

New Babydoll

Moslix sat at the construction bench and spot-welded the last of many junctions on the upgraded FTL comm tuner. With this upgrade, the Arm’s light year comms would become semi-instantaneous, instead of the current 4 to 5 minute lag they currently had. It was a far cry better than the Arm had now, but it still wasn’t up to the same standards as the Assemblage. But hey … he was a spy for the Assemblage and not the Arm, and he didn’t want to give the Arm anything that would make them superior. And he certainly didn’t want to give the Arm any Malkan tech – they would probably find out and come for him if he did.

He installed the circuit into the antiquated comm unit and turned it on. To his joy, the system powered on and ran through its start up diagnostics perfectly, then came online. He could comm the remote stations almost instantly, but their return comms took about 5 minutes. It wouldn’t take long to resolve that once he told the captain about the upgrade.

About that time, the door to the lab whooshed open, and 4 extremely large men entered. Two of them grabbed hold of Moslix under his arms. He knew he was helpless as they began to physically carry him off. Moslix tried to struggle, but the men restraining him were way stronger than he ever was.

Moslix screamed, “Release me, fools! I’m under the Commander’s protection. The data I have is far too important for anything to happen to me.”

The large man in the lead turned slightly as he opened the syncord reassignment chamber and said in a snide tone, “Yeah, right. And as weak a wuss as you are, the commander has given orders to fortify you. Why, shoot, he even went to the Base Exchange and purchased a brand new Baby Doll just for you.”

“Baby D – you’re gonna syncord me? That’s against the Accords! You can’t do that! That’s only for extreme cases where someone’s life is in danger!”

But the men ignored him, dragging Moslix into the transfer room. Sitting in one of the plastic cubicles was an extremely adorably pretty baby doll. “My name is Baby Eena, and I love you,” said the doll in a really cute voice.

Moslix was manhandled onto a padded surface, and the syncord transfer spider was placed over his face while he was immobilized. Moslix felt it for an instant as the six needle-sharp probes penetrated his face and skull beneath his skin.

Moslix felt the pressure and smelled the burning bone and skin as the finger-sized elements drilled into his forehead and the frontal lobe of his brain. He screamed, “You can’t do this you must sto …”

Moslix felt a powerful electric surge throughout his body as well as a serious sensation of something grabbing hold of him and ripping him hard from his flesh. He felt it as all the connections he had with his body were severed. He felt as if he were dying as his screaming voice abruptly became silent, and his body shriveled up into a desiccated lifeless hunk of meat.

Moslix’s eyes focused. His whole body felt strange. One of the men came over, opened the box, and removed him. Moslix heard the cute voice coming from what seemed like his body say, “My name is Baby Eena, and I love you.” He felt very tingly and warm throughout his new body as he said it, too. “No, no, no, that isn’t me,” he said. “I’m not a Baby Doll. No no no …”

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

My next dream was very strange. It was a very different but still very swanky hotel room that seemed much larger than the one Moslix had been in. Everything was huge, as if made for giants. There was somebody on the bed … no, it was a Baby Eena doll. I remembered Eena from the holo vids – and from the head that I had been in briefly. But this one had an entire body.

The doll sat up in bed. She said something, looking in what seemed like shock at her hands, arms, legs, feet. She wiggled her toes as if she didn’t know whether that would work. She wiggled around backwards and managed to slip out of the huge bed, took her nightgown off, and looked at herself naked in the mirror. Yep, she looked like a Baby Doll, all right. That was very familiar to me, of course, only I didn’t look like Baby Eena, with her light bluish skin and silvery platinum blonde hair.

She stared at her reflection for some time. Then a door opened, and a robot brought a tray of food in and put it on a table, far above where she could even reach or see. She put her nightgown back on and looked up, as if she was wondering how she was going to get up there and eat. The robot left.

I still couldn’t hear anything in my visions, but it looked as if Baby Eena was listening to something, maybe a voice over a speaker? She said something. The robot came back with a tall chair, lifted her up into it, fastened a tray onto the front of it, and moved the food onto the tray. She stared at the food blankly for a short while, then started to eat.

When she was done, the robot lifted her down, cleaned the doll’s face and hands and opened a door. My vision followed her through into … Moslix’s lab! Only it was much larger than it had been. What was going on? … Wait. That room was Moslix’s room; it had just been hard to recognize from the lower angle and different scale. Had … had they taken Moslix’s syncord and put him into a Babydoll? I was partly shocked, but I also partly felt as if it served him right for putting me in a Baby Eena head.

What was this Babydoll doing? She’d climbed with great effort up onto an office chair and was standing on it, typing on a computer. It was difficult, I could tell, but what was she typing? She drew something with the strange kinetic input devices they had around here. I didn’t know what the schematic was for, but I got a good look at it, because I knew this dream would be recorded, so people like Mommy who knew more about technology could tell what it was.

And then I suddenly noticed a flickering light in the corner of the room behind the Babydoll. Suddenly I was among the strange, gelatine-like beings, who were shifting color and flowing around some sort of room. They flashed urgently at one another. I couldn’t tell what it meant. Then I woke up, because I was feeling upset.

My eyes opened. “Mommy, Mommy, come quick, I … I think …”

But Mommy was right there by my bed. “Oh, Babydoll, I know; I was watching. I’m pretty sure they took Moslix’s syncord and put him in a Babydoll … far from state of the art, but still a standard working model. But he wasn’t on the brink of death; they murdered him with the actual syncord technology, which makes me feel kind of ill, actually.”

“I don’t know what happened then, Mommy,” I said. “He went right into the lab and did something on the computer.”

“Yeah, he started giving them some kind of schematic that I don’t even know what it was,” said Mommy. “That was completely foreign to me. It was nothing like any Arm or Assemblage technology. And the fact that the dream went right to the unknown beings means, I think, that they saw. And they seemed … upset? It’s hard to tell with them.”

“Mommy, I think they are gonna come kill Moslix,” I said.

“That’s a distinct possibility,” Mommy said. “I already sent the recording of your dream to Rouzelle. I’m not sure what she can do, but we’ll see.”

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

“Trebizond,” said the commander, who was in his office today. A holo image of a person with a concealed face appeared above his desk. This was not unusual, in his line of work. He spoke to many people who wished to conceal their identities. But which was this one?

“Commander. You don’t know me, and I haven’t wanted to tip my hand, but this is an urgent matter for you and the Arm. I’m from the City Foreign Ministry.” The voice was masked too, concealed so Trebizond didn’t know whether it was a man, woman, or somewhere in between, as was the case for some species in the galaxy.

“The City? Go on.”

“We are aware that the Arm has custody of one Ezvan Moslix, sole survivor of Spekton Klisp’s terrorist organization,” the City contact said. “He has revealed the first bit of Klisp’s advanced technology to his captors. Before you say that this is good, I must inform you that this is not Klisp’s technology. Klisp and Moslix worked together to steal it from a hitherto unknown sentient species. This is the same species that attacked Klisp’s fleet at Valandris Major, utterly wiping it out, to stop Klisp from using their technology. And we have reason to believe that they are aware of what Moslix has just done.”

“How have you come by this information?” asked Trebizond. His automatic systems reported that they were unable to trace this call back to its origin by any of various means they had attempted, which didn’t surprise him at all. He’d have questioned this agent’s competence otherwise.

“Would you reveal your sources if our positions were reversed?” the person from the City asked pointedly. “Let me show you something, so you’ll be more likely to believe me.” The image shifted, revealing Moslix as the Baby Eena doll, creating the schematic on the lab computer, and the unnoticed flickering light in the far upper corner of the room.

Trebizond was one of the only people who knew that Moslix had been syncorded and put into the doll, so it was impossible for the recording to have been a fabrication. He had protested that the decision was unethical and against the Accords, but although his protest had been noted, the decision had been made anyway.

So the City somehow had surveillance inside that lab – and so did this unknown race. That was interesting, and revealing. But it also meant that he had to take this warning seriously. “Why have you come to me with this information?”

“Because we don’t know how far the unknown species will carry their retribution,” said the City agent. “You are frankly the highest-ranking Arm Intelligence officer we know how to contact. We haven’t informed or even involved Assemblage Intelligence yet. We’re hoping they don’t have to be informed. We hope that if the schematic can be destroyed before the technology is used or tested, the unknown elements won’t strike – but that’s just a hope. In the worst-case scenario …”

“... they destroy the entire Arm, the City, and the Assemblage too,” Trebizond finished. “How do I contact you if I need you to inform the Assemblage?”

“Here is a one-time code you can use.” The holo image showed a three-dimensional data code, which Trebizond snapshotted. “Good luck.” The call ended.

Trebizond rushed out of his office. He had to get to the building where they were keeping Moslix, and it was several minutes away. He might not be able to get there in time to stop them from rapid-prototyping the schematic.

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

Moslix sat at the computer console in the new seat that had been built for his new stature. He looked at both his hands and opened then closed them. He was still mind-blown about how this doll body felt so much like his own even though he was the size of an actual babydoll.

It really bothered him that he was only about two feet tall, exactly a babydoll’s size, and looked exactly like an adorable and pretty one too … he was not happy.

The thing he really didn’t appreciate was the obedience collar around his neck. It looked like a very high quality necklace, but within the stone and neck band resided some very sophisticated electronics. He knew his body would be completely obedient to whatever the collar was adjusted to, and he had to ride along helplessly. What he didn’t know yet was how much of an influence the body would have on how he felt and acted.

He turned around backwards and wiggled out of the chair, showing off his panties’ ruffles. He was determined to get his body back. He did not like being a babydoll or the idea of wearing and using diapers. That was total humiliation. The possibility that the Malkans would find out that he’d shared the technology he and Klisp had stolen from them was no longer holding him back. If he couldn’t get his body back, he didn’t care if the Malkans killed him and everyone he’d shared the knowledge with – they’d done this to him and deserved payback.

He had transmitted the specs for the new drive unit to fabrication, so now he was going to attempt to get his body back. Little did he realize that without his living syncord, his flesh had died instantly. The syncord was the life. He also didn’t realize that the Malkans already knew what he had done.

As Moslix toddled adorably down the hallway (now very long) to the fabrication department, he stopped suddenly as he felt something like small wiggly butterflies in his tummy. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this before.

Then, at first, he felt the twinges of needing to go potty. Moslix discovered he had no ability to stop what was happening as the pushing waves started and rapidly grew in intensity. He leaned against a wall and tried very hard not to do what he knew was coming … but all he managed to do was help it happen. He felt the tingly intense feeling of the warm, moist gooshiness ooze around his bottom and create a lump in the back of his diaper.

He felt so embarrassed, and then he turned to see a small crowd of researchers standing there with their imaging devices. Now his embarrassment knew no bounds as he heard the giggly women commenting on how adorable his first poopy face was and how glad they were that they’d managed to record it live.

But it really upset him when he heard they were going to post the pictures and clips on some kind of public network site called Baby Tails for all to see. It was very obvious now that Mosilx had something in his rumba panties, as they were very droopy in the back and an obvious lump showed. He consoled himself with the knowledge that he was either going to get his body back or get all of them killed, or possibly both. He just had to get back into his body and get out of there before the Malkans acted. Surely they couldn’t already know he’d shared the information; there wasn’t even a working prototype yet, let alone a drive installed in a ship.

Before anyone could get in his way, though, he managed to make it to the fabrication department and walked into the construction department. The department head was having a fit with the fabricators, because they were unable to create the base equipment to even begin to construct the simplest components. Moslix was going to make his proposition to get his body back.

Moslix had a large smile on his face as he said to the foreman, “I can help you solve that problem, but you’re going to have to do something for me …”

He explained his proposition to the foreman, who smiled as he removed a small leather-covered device and a tool kit. Moslix didn’t have a chance to move as the foreman attached the leads to the stone on the front of Moslix’s collar. Moslix felt very weird as the foreman made some kind of adjustment.

The foreman said, “There, that should solve Babydoll’s problems. Shortly you will find that all you can be is a babydoll. You have no other body; it died the instant your syncord was removed. You see, the synchord is the bio-electrical energy force that is you, or rather the life you live. Without it, the body is nothing more than a dead slab of meat.”

Moslix felt the warmth as it spread around his bottom and trickled down his leg. He didn’t have on plastic panties, just a cloth diaper and regular rumba panties.

Moslix was indignant. “Weww den you no gets poblem fixted!” he shouted in a tiny, cute voice, hands on his hips, stomping ineffectually on the floor. Then he realized that he sounded adorable. “Huh? Why comes me no can talks wight?”

“That’s just how a Babydoll should speak, shouldn’t she?” asked the foreman through his laughter. “Don’t worry about the manufacturing difficulties – we’ll solve them. Meanwhile, maybe you should see about getting a diaper change! You’re stinking the place up!”

Face red, upset beyond all reason, Moslix screamed, threw himself on the floor, and had a good old-fashioned babydoll temper tantrum. He cried, he screeched, he pounded and kicked the floor, and he got his clothes wet in the puddle he’d made, but he didn’t care. He knew he was reacting extremely childishly, he knew it was a result of whatever adjustment the foreman had made to his control collar, and he hated it, but he couldn’t control himself. He was very angry, and this was how this body reacted to being very angry.

Eventually the foreman made a call, and the robot from his room came to pick Moslix up and carry him away. He got cleaned up and put in a proper diaper that would prevent him from making messes or puddles … outside the diaper, at least. And he was put in an even more ridiculously frilly outfit; he was sure that it was made of nothing but ruffles.

He looked in the mirror that was placed at just the right angle and height so he could see himself from just about everywhere in his room. He didn’t think there was any way to possibly cram any more ruffles onto this dress. His tiny white shoes did nothing to protect his delicate feet.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “Me just cans not take no morea dis!” His diaper was already slightly damp, and he could feel that, probably because they wanted him to, but he didn’t know when it had happened, also probably because they wanted things that way.

So he went back to the lab. Nobody stopped him. He started working on the computer again. He started entering everything he knew. He was basically daring the Malkans to come destroy this place. There was no way to know whether they could see what he was doing, but sooner or later there would be evidence that he was here and he had unleashed the knowledge he had. The Malkans would find this place and destroy it, and he wanted them to. He wanted his misery to end, and he wanted to take as many of these people with him as he could.

“I’d delete that if I were you,” said a voice. He turned to see the commander of the ship that had picked up his escape capsule.

“No wanna be wike dis no mo,” Moslix said. “You bringed me hewe so dey could do dis ta me!”

“And you’re going to make us all pay by revealing all your knowledge, right,” said Trebizond. “You fool. I’m getting you out of here, and I’m canceling everything they’re building.”

“Huh?” Moslix looked adorably confused. “Why comes?”

Trebizond didn’t reply. He just went to the computer, entered an override code, and its entire storage system was wiped in a moment. Then he bodily picked up Moslix and carried him to the factory.

The foreman looked up from his computer and suddenly stood up. “S-sir!” he said, saluting. “W-what are you doing here? I mean, t-to what do I owe the honor of –”

“Shut it,” Trebizond said. “You will cease all production of the drive system immediately. All efforts toward production. Do you understand?”

“Y-yes Sir,” the foreman said. He typed some commands into his computer. “The order has just gone out. But … if I may ask, why?”

“I don’t normally have to explain myself,” Trebizond said, “but I will do so just this once, to drive home how important it is that you delete all records of the technology. All records. We are dealing with knowledge stolen from an unknown alien race that hoards its science very jealously. Klisp’s super-advanced fleet was wiped out by these beings as if it had never existed. We have evidence that they already know that Moslix here has revealed some of what he knows. What do you think they will do to this facility? They may already be on their way. It may already be too late. But they may not stop there. They may destroy every vestige of the Arm of the Arbiter that they can find. And they can do it, too. They may not even stop there, in fact. Our only hope of survival – not yours and mine, but our entire nation’s – is to wipe out any evidence that we ever learned anything from Moslix. And we must get him away from here – far, far away.”

“Great Mother of Ingenuity,” said the foreman, his face pale, his knees shaking. He swallowed. Typing on his computer, he said, “OK, every file created in the entire system since Moslix arrived here has now been purged – multiple-deleted, zero chance of file recovery. The workers and robots in the plant are destroying all preliminary prototypes and all jigs and fixtures that have been worked up. They’ll report to me when it’s done.”

“Good,” said Trebizond. “Then evacuate the facility. I’ve already commenced an evacuation of the area around. Now I’m going to get back in my craft, and I’m going to take this one far from this planet.” He looked at Moslix, who was looking very frightened. “You had to put him in a Babydoll. Does he have a … diaper bag or whatever?”

“Err … the robot in his suite is programmed to take care of him,” the foreman said.

“Fine, I’ll just pick up the robot too. Evacuate.”

“Yes, Sir!” the foreman said. His computer made a sound. “All prototyping destroyed. Sending the evacuation order.” He was typing, and the lights turned red. An alarm started to sound.

“Good,” said Trebizond. He turned and left with Moslix. He briefly stopped at Moslix’s room to order the robot to follow, then went to his small spacecraft, which was waiting on the building’s roof. He didn’t say a word to Moslix himself, just strapped the robot in, strapped Moslix into a child seat, and then strapped himself in at the controls. In minutes the craft was airborne and on its way to leaving the atmosphere.

Moslix was stunned. As the ship entered space and the greenish blue of the sky faded to a starry black, multiple objects were visible in orbit. Did the planet have a lot of satellites? He didn’t know; he didn’t even know what planet he’d been held on. But then one of the tiny silvery objects emitted a bright blue-white beam toward the planet, and he couldn’t see what happened; it was off screen.

“What did –” he began.

“Just as I thought, that ship just destroyed the entire building we just left,” said Trebizond. “I’m not proposing sticking around and watching what happens next.” The stars blurred, and the screen went gray as the small ship entered NR space.

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

I woke up from a dream where some very agitated gelatin molds surrounded a planet and blew up a building. That wasn’t good. I wasn’t sure if Moslix had survived. Mommy was there, though. “Oh, poor Babydoll,” she said, hugging me and kissing me on the top of my head. “That was a scary one, wasn’t it?”

“Yuh huh Mommy,” I said. “Baby no feel too bad if Moslix gotted hurted, but … didn’t see.”

“Yes, although my sister tells me that she had people contact Arm Intelligence, so there’s a chance,” said Mommy. “I thought I saw … here, let me run the recording back. Yes, there’s a ship taking off from that building and entering orbit just before the unknowns destroyed the building. So that could have been them. They might have gotten him out.”

“How come they Babydolled him?” I asked. “That been botherins me. I woves beina Babydoll. Feels so wonnerfuls. Mommy woves me, an baby woves Mommy.”

“Awww, I do love my adorable Babydoll,” said Mommy. “But it’s different. You were on the brink of death; rescuing your syncord was the only way to save you. He was perfectly healthy; taking his syncord was an act of torture, not mercy. And I placed you in a Babydoll body of my own design, lovingly custom-made, with all my latest research – which Klisp had his goon destroy, I might add – before moving you into an even better one. He’s in a late-model standard body, no bells or whistles, bought off the shelf, with the intent of humiliating and tormenting him into revealing his secrets. You were rescued; he was murdered, then tortured post mortem. See how it’s different, Sweetie?”

“Yeah, Mommy,” I said. “Kinda wanna help him see that beina Babydoll is nice.”

“Well, that ship has probably sailed,” said Mommy, “but if he were here, I could certainly make something better to put him in. I mean, I could make a body for him that would be indistinguishable from the one he was torn from. Oh look, Rouzelle’s calling.”

She answered the comm, and a hologram of Rouzelle appeared in the living room, looking almost as if she were here, only I could see through her just a little bit. “Lisa,” she said. “The mystery entities attacked the location where the Arm was holding Moslix. I’ve just heard. Arm Intelligence got him out. They’re currently heading for a safehouse.”

Mommy arched an eyebrow. “Whether it’s really safe or not remains to be seen.”

“True,” said Rouzelle. “But reports are saying that the mystery ships destroyed just that building, then disappeared again without doing more damage. So maybe that was a warning. There’s nothing left of that building – not even a smoking crater in the ground. It’s an empty lot, just dirt, like it had never existed. The surrounding buildings are untouched. Incredibly precise. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it.”

“That’s … astonishing,” said Mommy. “But then, we knew they had technology far beyond anything we know.”

“They put Moslix in a Babydoll,” said Rouzelle.

“I’d heard.”

“Yeah, you’ve been watching the recordings of Mandy’s dreams as they happen, but what I meant was, we might need to ask for your help. We want to find out what Moslix knows – not the technology part, but about who these beings are, how he and Klisp contacted them. We don’t even know what they’re called. If we can figure out how to talk to them, maybe we can make some kind of truce, get some kind of assurance that they won’t just kill us all.”

“That would be the best possible outcome, I think,” said Mommy. “Can you bring him here to my lab? That’s where I could do the most for him.”

“If you’re OK with that,” Rouzelle said, “then we’ll use that as a bargaining chip.” Then Rouzelle looked at me. “Mandy, would you be OK with that?” asked the High Councilor. “You’re the one he ripped out of her body and put in a doll head.”

“Did a terrible job of it, too,” Mommy said. “Didn’t even know how to connect up her motor functions.”

“I’d be … OK,” I said. “I know Mommy will keep me safe.”

“OK,” said Rouzelle. “That’s good to hear. I’ll give you both plenty of warning if we manage to get him to come to an agreement. Bye for now!”

“Bye, Rou,” said Mommy.

“Mommy?” I asked quietly.

“Yes, Honey?”

“Am no feeling very safe about him coming here,” I said.

“I understand,” Mommy said. “You’re in a small body, not very strong, and you talk like a baby and need diapers. Of course, right now, Moslix is the same.”

“But you gonna make him … like he was befores,” I said.

“Well …” said Mommy, “if he’s a good boy. But remember … his body will be one I make. And it will be programmed as I want it. He won’t be able to even think about hurting you or me.”

“Or Mirrva?”

“Or Mirrva,” said Mommy, smiling. The Zoomie was sleeping – it was the middle of the night, after all. Mirrva had her own room.

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

At the divot that used to be the Arm’s research and development facility, there now was just dirt. Well, to be honest, there was a huge hole in the ground, since all the many underground levels went too. To anyone who didn’t know a building used to be there, it looked like the hole for a building’s sublevels had been dug, but the building had never been built. The very best forensic team in the Arm’s law enforcement organization scoured the area with their very best equipment.

They found nothing, although, since the Assemblage had developed a device that could read energy frequencies that actually record past events and happenings, they were negotiating to get one, or to steal the schematics for it. The serious hurdles and roadblocks to achieving this goal were severe to the point that they seemed insurmountable.

In a very fast, extremely well armed, and advanced fighter spacecraft, Trebizond checked and double checked his cloaking device and other stealth equipment as he moved rapidly through NR space heading for a rather dangerous although prearranged rendezvous.

It wasn’t as if the Arm and the Assemblage were currently in an active state of war, although the atmosphere between the two highly advanced civilizations had been strained for a good many years; one could easily call it a state of cold war. In any regard, it wouldn’t be met very well if his ship were to be discovered this deep into the Assemblage’s territory and well beyond the treaty’s specified neutral zone.

Trebizond watched his scanner suite like a hawk on the hunt. He did his level best not to be detected. Finally, his nav computer informed him that he was nearly at the specified rendezvous point. Luck had been good thus far. As he brought his craft back into normal space time, he glanced over at Moslix.

As much fussing and as many temper tantrums as Moslix had acted out, it tickled Trebizond to see Moslix dressed in just a diaper and rumba panties playing quietly with his toys. Trebizond didn’t like the idea of babydolling Moslix, effectively killing him. In his opinion it was a total violation of all the accords ever written about syncord technology. He smiled, though, as he watched the very troubled but now seemingly contented babydoll playing quietly in her playpen.

Trebizond’s attention snapped back around as his scanners made a major contact. He scanned it thoroughly. From the best he could tell, that was his contact’s ship. It was exactly the place and exactly the type of craft Trebizond had been told about.

Trebizond opened a comm channel, “Attention Warship Delintas, this is Starstreak One, Captain Trebizond speaking, do you copy?”

The reply came instantly back. “This is Captain Neomuona of the Assemblage warship Delintas. You are a bit late, it would seem. The timepiece says you should be here now, and our scans don’t show any type of ship within several light years.”

Trebizond smiled as he disabled his cloaking device. His ship materialized out of thin space so close to the Delintas that the heads of the tactical and weapons sections of the ship nearly had heart attacks. They did their level best to figure out how a ship that size had managed to get this close without any of their scanner tech detecting them.

He commed back, “I have some rather delicate and extremely important cargo for you. Please standby to receive.”

“Affirmative, Starstreak One; we are prepared to intercept and receive.”

“Very good, Delintas. We are standing by.”

Trebizond turned and stood up from his gravity couch. “Well, Babydoll. Seems you have a new home. Dr. Lisa Rochand is the most renowned Syncordologist in known space. We’re giving you to her. If anyone can help you, it’s her.”

With this, amid much fussing on Moslix’s part, Trebizond had the robot clean, diaper, and dress the babydoll in the cutest tan-colored fairy princess babydoll dress and matching plastic lined rumba panties. He made sure the robot did the babydoll’s hair in adorable sausage curls before tying them into ponytails with matching ribbons.

Trebizond carried the now fussing and squawling babydoll to a small escape pod. Before putting Moslix into the gravity couch and fastening the harnesses, he said to the babydoll as he paddled her behind good, “Ok, Moslix, now you have something to cry about.”

Moslix had no choice – he had been smacked on the bare skin of his thigh several times, and the infant in him just had to express its displeasure by squalling and fussing more, but this time it was in a different way and different tones.

Trebizond fastened the squawling toddler babydoll into the gravity couch and closed the hatch with a hissing thump, cutting off the Babydoll’s wails. The robot stowed Moslix’s supplies and then itself, folding up into a box shape and inserting itself into a cargo compartment. Trebizond returned to the pilot’s gravity couch and set up the launch, then pressed the enable button.

As soon as the pod had cleared the launch tube, to the total amazement of the crew of the other ship, Starstreak One vanished into thin space like a wisp of fog on a July morning. I mean, they don’t really have July here; it’s just an Earth expression.

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

Moslix couldn’t see what was going on outside the escape pod. At first there was just the quiet calm of zero gravity, then there was a feeling of acceleration that lasted for a while, then a few gentle bumps and a whirring noise as the docking mechanism locked on, a faint hissing sound as air filled the airlock beyond the door, artificial gravity pulled him downward, and then the door opened. Two Assemblage crew members stood there. Moslix realized he was sucking his thumb and didn’t know how long he’d been doing that. One of the crew unbuckled the harness and lifted Moslix out. Moslix realized then that he hadn’t removed his thumb from his mouth after realizing it was there. He didn’t remove it this time either.

“Well, Mr. Moslix,” said the male crew member, whose nametag said “AMREN,” “it looks as if you’ve been through a lot. Part of me wants to laugh at your misfortune, but I know that what’s happened to you was a flagrant violation of Arm law, and it’s equally illegal in the Assemblage. And it’s illegal for a reason, because it’s horrific.” The robot had unfolded itself and retrieved Moslix’s supply carrier and was following behind as Amren carried Moslix through the inner airlock door and down the starship’s hallways. “I will say that your new size means we don’t need to give you a very large berth.”

The female crew member was walking alongside Amren; her nametag said “MEARA.” She said, “We’re officially on a long-range patrol, which means we can’t get you to the City right away. It’s a lucky thing that you’re being taken to see Dr. Rochand. Some delicate negotiations took place. Most of the ship has no idea you’re here.” She paused. “Can you not stop sucking your thumb, or …?”

Moslix tried to talk around his thumb. “Is tha babydoll body,” he tried to say. “Gots stuffs it just … does. Hard to stoppit.”

“You … can’t help yourself from sucking your thumb, or … talking like that?” Meara blushed slightly. “That sounds … difficult. You must be desperate to get back to normal.”

“You gots no idea,” said Moslix. “Anna diapoos … is so … hyoo millie eating.” It was hard to say polysyllabic words. “Am sowwy. Can’t help that neither.”

To be honest, there were bursts of pleasure whenever he used his diaper; he knew that was something they’d programmed into this body, but knowing it didn’t stop it from feeling transcendentally amazing. As a matter of fact, every time Moslix did something infantile, the most wonderful and amazing sensations rushed all through him. It was almost enough to make him stop hating the people who had done this to him – almost. He hoped that foreman had died when the building was destroyed.

Meara blushed more, then focused. “Uhmm, that sounds awful … but anyway, you’ll be with us for a few standard days, then we’ll dock at the City, and you’ll be on your way.”

They took a lift to another deck, then down another hallway, and then they stopped at a door, which opened. Moslix thought briefly that it was odd that they hadn’t seen any other crew during this walk – perhaps someone didn’t want anyone knowing the nature of the “package” that had been delivered. “This will be your quarters for the duration,” said Amren, carrying him inside. There was a crib that had been assembled, or perhaps generated out of programmable matter, a changing table, a playpen, and a high chair, and not much else. Amren set Moslix down in the playpen.

“I see you’ve got a robot,” said Meara. “It’s been scanned and approved, so it can stay here with you. I guess it probably knows how to take care of you? But if you need anything, press one of these call buttons.” She pointed to a large green button low on the wall by the door. There was a similar one inside the crib, and another inside the playpen. “It’s programmed to contact only those of us who know you’re here. We’ll respond when we can.”

“Gotta get back to duty,” said Amren. “Good luck, Moslix.”

“Take care, Sweetie,” said Meara. The door closed.

It was a small room. But it wasn’t going to be his home for very long, and it seemed they wanted him out of the way for some reason. Probably he wasn’t supposed to be here and only Assemblage Intelligence knew he was here. Amren and Meara were probably intelligence agents embedded in the fleet. But anyway, this playpen didn’t have any toys in it. Not that he cared about toys. No, he didn’t like toys at all. Where were the toys, though?

He knew it was this body that wanted to play with toys. It did babyish things like that whenever he wasn’t concentrating. These behaviors were annoying. But whenever they happened, there was a burst of pleasure, and that part was good. And also bad, because he knew they’d done that to try to establish a desire to comply with the behaviors. Was it working? He hoped that Dr. Rochand could undo it.

The robot was a silent but helpful presence over the next few days, changing his diaper whenever it was needed. It appeared that the ship had a supply of diapers or could manufacture them. There wasn’t much of a sense that the ship was going anywhere, but that was probably just because it was such a large vessel.

He couldn’t even feel when it entered and left NR space. He spent a lot of his time being bored, which meant that he was either in the playpen playing with the toys that had been provided or sleeping in the crib, or being fed by the robot.

Meara came to visit him every few hours, seemingly fascinated by his state. She wanted to play childish games with him. He tried to explain that he didn’t want to.

“No?” she asked. “Then why are you always playing in your playpen?”

“No can helps it,” he said. “Tha body juss does it.”

“But you don’t like it?” she asked. “It’s annoying?”

“Well … no, no weally.”

“It’s not annoying?” she asked. “Is it nice?”

“It … well it kinda feel nice.”

“It feels good? They … programmed the body to feel good when you do babyish things?” She blushed.

“Uh … yeah.” He blushed brightly himself. “More like baby … more good.”

“What if … I give you this adorable little Zoomie plushie,” said Meara, producing a toy creature from behind her back, “and what if you hug it and suck this pacifier?” She also gave him a bright pink pacifier with adorable toy designs printed on it. She put the pacifier in his mouth and gave him the soft toy.

“Mmmph,” said Moslix, able to use both hands for a rare moment, but now both hands were involved in hugging the toy, which was so soft, he didn’t want to ever let it go. Every time he suckled on the pacifier, it sent waves of soothing pleasure though his body, and hugging the plushie was also both soothing and pleasurable. He felt his diaper getting warm, which meant he was wetting it without any control, and just as always, this also gave him a powerful surge of pleasure.

Meara said, “Oh … wow … I guess that must feel really good, huh?” Moslix was unable to respond, so she said, “Well, I’ll … leave you to it. I’d … better go.” She left.

Moslix was in seventh heaven, and the robot picked him up and put him in his crib instead of the playpen. He fell asleep and had wonderful babyish dreams, harkening back to happy memories of childhood.

Meara, on the other hand knew what had happened to Moslix was extremely illegal to do to an individual, but she went to her quarters anyway to make a private call on her secure channel. She was sure Dr. Rochand could find a way, with a bit of her help from behind the scenes, to do what it was she really wanted done.

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

New Patients

When Moslix finally awoke he had been changed into a new outfit, and his diaper felt fresh too. He was being carried by Meara. “Oh, you’re awake!” she said. “Well, it’s been … amazing to meet you. Ship’s docked at the City, and I’m taking you to an auto-cab that will take you to the next rendezvous point. I hope Dr. Rochand can help you!”

“Ta … tank oo,” Moslix mumbled around the pacifier.

She bundled him into the child safety seat in the back of a vehicle, and the robot packed itself into the cargo compartment as before. There was a transfer point, and more traveling, and soon he was coming to a residence.

Three pairs of eyes were looking at him as the robot picked him up and removed him from the safety seat. One was an adult, one was what appeared to be a Babydoll like himself … no, that wasn’t right, he wasn’t a Babydoll; he was just in a Babydoll body … and one was a creature that looked a lot like the plushie that he was still holding onto, the gift from Meara.

“Oh, dear, you’re pretty far gone, aren’t you?” said the woman. “I’m Dr. Lisa Rochand, but please just call me Lisa. This is my Babydoll, Mandy, and this is our Zoomie, Mirrva.” Mirrva made a giggling chirp. “Can you … bring her inside?” Lisa asked the robot, and it silently complied.

“OK,” said Lisa, once they were inside. “We’re going down to the lab, so follow me …” They went down some stairs, which didn’t impede the robot, and soon they were in a large room that was outfitted with an astounding array of experimental equipment. Moslix recognized some of it, like the computers and the control devices, but many other things he didn’t recognize at all, probably because he wasn’t a syncord expert by any stretch of the imagination – it just wasn’t his field, and this was the personal lab of Dr. Rochand, the acknowledged foremost syncordologist in the known galaxy.

I followed them down the stairs. I was a bit slower at stairs than grownups, Zoomies, and robots, thanks to my short legs. Moslix, in the robot’s arms, was looking around at Mommy’s array of equipment, which had always amazed me, but he seemed amazed too, even though I knew he was an inventor. But he didn’t do stuff with syncords, so that’s probably why. And suddenly his attention was fixated on the transparent plastic tube in the corner – probably because it contained Mommy’s latest syncord body, which was almost as exact a duplicate of Moslix’s old body as possible.

Moslix’s mouth fell open, and he almost dropped his pacifier. Almost. “M-my body,” he said. “You … save it? How?”

Lisa smiled. “No,” she said, “from all reports I’ve heard, you were forcibly ripped from your living body. That’s extremely illegal, but they did it anyway. That means your body died the moment it happened. This is a syncord vessel, but I’ve grown it myself, basing its appearance on all known recent holograms of you. With your permission, I’d like to transfer your syncord into it. That vessel can’t be pleasant to be in.”

“Uhh, well …” he said.

“Let’s do a bit of a diagnostic first,” she said. She clipped a small device to the stone on his control collar; it was a wireless link to her computer cluster, which instantly analyzed his body’s programming. Statistics and lines of code appeared in the air near him. “Yes, just as I thought; they used the standard pleasure brainwashing methods that I’ve seen before in criminal syncord cases. Lucky for you they didn’t use the pain techniques.” Moslix visibly shivered.

“B-bain washing?” Moslix cutely asked.

“That’s right; we’ll just deactivate that.” She made some gestures in the air. Suddenly Moslix’s mouth dropped open again, and this time his pacifier did hit the floor. The robot stooped to pick it up and put it in a pocket in his diaper bag. Well, I thought it looked like a diaper bag, anyway. He dropped the Zoomie plushie too, and Mirrva ran over and sniffed at it.

“I-it goned,” he said. “Was all … good feelins bfore.”

“Yes, that was to reinforce the baby-like behavior they’d programmed in, so it’d actually change you, alter who you were, make you more pliable,” said Mommy. “We can undo that, but it’ll take some time.”

“Why comes me still talkin’ wike dis?” he asked.

“Well, that’s precisely what it does,” said Mommy. “That behavior has started to become part of your syncord. You’ll have to break those habits over time.”

“B-but dis body … no can helps …”

“Oh, yes it can,” said Mommy. “Even that body can be programmed to act like anything from a tiny infant to an adult – a small one, but nevertheless. They set it on very infantile behavior patterns, and then they custom-programmed it to give you pleasure whenever it followed them – and even more when you followed them willingly. A very powerful mixture. That’s why your new body over there is already diapered. We’re going to have to get you potty trained again.”

“P-potty twained?” Moslix added. “Those … those awful bad meanies!”

I was personally quite amused, because he had put me into a doll head, but luckily for him that had been a while ago, and I had been rescued. It could have been much worse. What if they’d ejected me into space? I could have been floating for millennia, aware but unable to act. But they hadn’t done that.

“So, I need your consent to transfer you into this new vessel,” said Mommy.

“Y-yes pwease,” Moslix said in his tiny cute voice, which also sounded a bit tinny and plastic, probably because that vessel wasn’t the best one ever. I might have been spoiled a bit by Mommy’s innovations.

“All right, then,” she said. “Let’s come over here and put you in this tube.” She opened the door to another transparent plastic tube next to the one with the new body in it, and the robot set him in that one. Moslix stood up as best he could in that thick diaper. The tube’s door closed again, and the syncord headset came down. I’d been through procedures like this multiple times as Mommy kept making upgraded Babydoll bodies for me, so I knew exactly what it was like.

The tiny Babydoll body looked like it had fallen asleep, and the new body opened his eyes. “Whoa,” said Moslix in an adult male voice. “Me sound so weirds!” All right, so it was only sort of like an adult male voice. He still talked like a Babydoll.

“Well, you’ll have to get used to a lot of things again,” said Mommy. “Let’s get you out of the tube.” She pressed a button to open the door. “Forgive me for how you’re dressed, but … certain allowances had to be made.” He was wearing a simple dark red T-shirt and a diaper, and that was all. Also, Mommy had told me, but she hadn’t mentioned to Moslix that his body was scaled down a bit. He was slightly shorter than Mommy. I wasn’t sure exactly how tall he’d been before, but he’d been about as tall as Commander Trebizond, not that I’d seen him standing next to Mommy either, so I couldn’t be certain. But Mommy had said that he probably wouldn’t notice for a while, because this new body was still way taller than the Babydoll one he’d been in. It was all part of Mommy’s plan to protect her household and family, she’d said. We didn’t trust him, so she’d taken steps.

“I’ve had some clothes made up for you, all of them accommodating to diapers and diaper changing, but hopefully discreet,” Mommy said to Moslix, who followed her. “If it’s OK, you can have this room upstairs.” He followed her up the stairs, a bit clumsily, but then he’d been toddling in that Babydoll body and being rewarded for it, so it had done a real number on his habits of all kinds. I noticed him try to suck his thumb at one point and made himself not do it. Silly grownups. I sucked my thumb and enjoyed it.

“C-can me … go outside?” he asked. A natural question, considering he’d been held captive.

“Sure,” Mommy replied, “but I suggest you put some clothes on first.”

“Well, yeah,” he said. “Guess me better get ta talkins better though.”

“Yes, that’s certainly something we’ll work on,” Mommy said. “But first things first.” Moslix went into his new room. The robot followed.

I looked up at Mommy. “Is he bad man? Or good?”

“I’ve heard some things,” said Mommy. “He might not be all that bad. But if he is, he can’t hurt us.”

“Dis Zoomie … no sure is tha bestest kind,” said Mirrva, dragging the plush Zoomie toy behind her.

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

Far off in a region of space only populated by asteroids of many sizes and the accompanying rubble in a large clump, a rather large and very sleek research vessel did even deeper and more detailed scans of the rubble pile.

The scanner tech said, “Dunno, Captain. From what these readins say, some sort of weird craft is lodged in one of the larger asteroids.”

The captain turned his gravity couch with a laugh. “Lodged? You mean like someone stabbed it in?”

A twitter of laughter rounded the bridge.

The scanner tech replied with laughter in his voice, “No, Sir, from what I ken see, it somehow crashed there. Judging from the debris field, someone has scavenged somma the components too.”

The captain turned his gravity couch to the forward position and the click sounded as it locked into place, “Navigation, I want a roundabout course laid in to intercept whatever that metalic object is partially inside the crevice on asteroid 11-D-9699.”

The navigator typed furiously on her keypad for an instant, then turned a huge translucent wheel that looked like a compass rose. “Course plotted – roundabout, to avoid those large rocks.”

The captain sat back in his gravity couch. “Enable it. Ahead, sublight 3456. Keep doing the deep field scan – don’t want any surprises we can avoid.”

“Aye, Captain.”

The huge research vessel smoothly and gracefully moved off towards the asteroid field, making changes to avoid collisions. Their shields were sufficient to handle any of the smaller rubble that couldn’t be avoided.

Tactical spoke up. “Captain, I have the vessel on scope.”

“Put it on visuals, please.”

The forward viewscreen suddenly magnified. Amid all the scattered, floating rubble could plainly be seen a crashed craft. It was wonderfully sleek in appearance. “Scanning now,” said the science officer. “But … almost none of these readings quite make sense.”

“What? Why?” asked the captain.

“As best as I can tell, Sir … the hull’s composition is of an unknown material. It seems to show as being matter and energy at the same time, but … also not at the same time. And whatever it is in between … is completely unknown to the Assemblage.”

The helmsman was a top notch one and wiggled and squirmed the large vessel through the debris of rock, managing to achieve a proper parking orbit around the asteroid with the crash site in position directly below.

Tactical said, “From what the scans show, the craft slammed into the asteroid at a significant speed but a high angle – a glancing blow. I do see indications that someone has been doing a bit of scavenging, as Science stated.”

“Well, we’d better get a closer look,” said the captain. “Assemble some research teams,” he told the science officer.

“Aye, Captain,” the officer replied, pressing a comm button on the control panel. “Research Department, this is McMinnon. I need 2 fully equipped research teams suited up and ready to deploy to the planetoid’s surface in 45 minutes. We may have a major discovery on our hands. Sample collection gear. Contact Engineering for salvage equipment …” A conversation began about what gear was needed.

A sensor made in a way none had ever dreamed of recorded the arrival of the research team. It transmitted its signal off into the inky darkness of space, until … “What’s this?” asked a member of one of the research teams.

“Doesn’t seem to be connected to anything else,” said another. “Oh well, bag it and tag it.”

“Gotcha.”

They didn’t know it yet, but this device was the one item they would really rather have found first. “I’ll bet this is its power pack … yep. I’ll just pack those separately.” Now it was disabled, but no one knew what it was yet or how lucky they’d been.

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

“So … so you weally likes beina Babydoll?” asked Moslix. He was lots bigger than me, and his voice was lots deeper, but it was funny hearing him talk in babytalk.

“Uh huh!” I said, nodding my head. “Is so wonnerfuls!” I was playing in my play area, and Moslix was just … sitting around. He’d been watching the holo screen, but he’d turned it off. They kept playing the news report about the mysterious ships that had destroyed a building on the Arm planet Frobenius 3.

“Even … yanno … tha diapers?”

“Yea!” I said. “They feels nice, even if baby is wet or messy, an’ Mommy always changes me.”

“Me hate it,” he said. “No can wait till me outta diapers again.”

“Well … it diffwents,” I said. “Was gonna die. They saveded me. Mommy gived me a new life. An tha bestus new Babydoll body ta be in.”

“Ohh …” Moslix replied. “Me guess that betters. Tha one they putted me in was … pwetty bad.”

“Yea,” I remarked. “Mommy says it cute enuff but super cheapo.” I paused. “That doll head you putted me in was fwom onna those.”

“Uh … er … yea …” Moslix said uncomfortably. I’d finally addressed the elephant in the room. “Look … me was sendin info ta the Semblage ‘bout what Klisp was doins. Couldn’t tell him no … he mighta tossed me outs or had me killeded. Or hurted my family. Was a bad time.”

“You was … spyin’ fora Semblage?” I asked.

“Yea … no helped a lot me guess … but was tryna lettem know. When Klisp telled me somefin’. He no always telled me. But they found tha base pwetty fast.”

“Um, yea …” I said, not willing to let my secret role in that slip. “Guess they did.”

“And … Klisp no cared what happened to you,” said Moslix. “Me … I coulda had tha doll head burned ups, he wouldn’a cared. Sent you back insteads. Couldn’t be too nice or Klisp woulda askeded questions.”

“Oh.”

“I guess … what I weally wanna say is … I’m sowwy I putted you inna doll head. I wouldn’a doned it if no for Klisp.”

I didn’t say anything for a little while. Then I said, “Baby forgives you.” I paused. “Does you still wanna do … baby things sometimes?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I wanna cuddle that Zoomie toy thingie. But Mirrva gotsa new fwiend.” Mirrva was sleeping on her rug across the room, curled up around the plush Zoomie. We both giggled.

“I still suckin my thumb at night,” Moslix admitted.

“Oh baby does that evwy night an a lotta the time inna day too,” I said.

“Well. that OK for you, I guess,” he said.

Moslix sat back against the playpen rails and thought heavily about what I had told him about being a babydoll. In a large way, it concerned him how strong the urge was to become a babydoll once again. Even without the preset acclimation programming, he still felt a wonderful suge of pleasure just thinking about it. But he didn’t want to admit it even to himself because of the very mean way they had treated him.

He looked over and smiled as he first felt a wonderful rush all through him over the plushy doll. He had never met a real live Zoomie before; he had only seen them in doll form. It amazed him how human they acted, and how silly and playful they were too. He wanted to go over and cuddle Mirrva. He considered trying it, once Mirrva was awake. Mommy and I had both told him how much Mirrva loved cuddling.

The thoughts he tried hard not to think about, but basically had his face rubbed in, was his knowledge of the Malkans. He turned the holo screen back on and watched it show what had happened within mere seconds of their departure. He sat and placed his thumb in his mouth and suckled hard as he watched a strange beam engulf the entire building. It wavered as if he were looking at it through some heavy mist, then totally vanished leaving a large and very deep hole in the ground where the building used to stand.

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

I was dreaming again. This time I wasn’t searching for Moslix – we obviously knew where he was – but I flashed on the unknown aliens. They were looking at some kind of display, probably a holo screen, but the colors were very weird. I was thinking that it was possible that they were seeing in different wavelengths of light from what we did when a spaceship appeared on the screen – it was recognizable to me by now as an Assemblage vessel, the way they were all kind of blocky and irregular shaped. The transparent colorful beings were clearly agitated, their colors flashing and flickering quickly. But then the screen suddenly turned off; its image disappeared. Some of the beings fiddled with the controls, but there was no effect.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. Clearly they were looking at an Assemblage ship somewhere, but where? There were a lot of them, all over the galaxy. Were they targeting it? Were they going to destroy it? Or were they just looking for something, and had they found it? I wished I could understand their language, whatever it was. I still thought it might have to do with the patterns of flickering color they could produce.

Then they turned some controls and saw … Moslix? They didn’t seem thrown by the fact that he was in a different body now. He was sleeping, so there wasn’t much for them to see, but … wait. Moslix was in our house. The aliens were looking into Mommy’s house. Where was their sensor thingie? Suddenly I was seeing into Moslix’s room, where he was sleeping in his adult-sized crib thingie with the waterproof mattress. I looked around the upper corners of the room, and sure enough, there it was, that flickering light up in the corner.

Then I had a thought. That was another room in this same house. Mommy sometimes watched my dreams on her screen. What if they looked in on me and saw me peeking at them? Would they come after me? I looked at my own room. Mommy was there, but as I watched she turned the screen off. I looked near the ceiling, in the corners of the room, and … there was a flicker. I looked for a while, and it briefly came back one other time, but after that I didn’t see it again. They were watching the house. I didn’t like that.

I saw Mommy come over and kiss my forehead while I was sleeping, making me stir and smile in my sleep. Then she straightened up and looked around at the ceiling. She’d seen it too, then. And we didn’t know how to keep them out. But then, they didn’t know how to keep me out either … except maybe by attacking the City.

Could I figure out where the entities were? I had an idea. I focused as hard as I could without waking myself up and found myself in the alien control room again. It was all indoors somewhere, but I watched until one of the beings left the room and followed that one as they went here and there through what I assumed was their base. Could I get a glimpse of the exterior? I followed another one that had some kind of protective cover surrounding it. That one was going out an airlock. So they used some kind of air.

This being joined two others, similarly protected, and entered some sort of ground vehicle that hovered with a type of flat plate on the bottom. They somehow operated it and skimmed along the airless surface of whatever planet this base was on. I could see the base receding in the distance, but more importantly, I looked up at the stars. If I could memorize their arrangement, maybe a computer could analyze the image and triangulate to figure out where this base was.

But not now. Mommy had turned off the screen. The dream was still being recorded, but watching them live – and probably watching them anywhere in this house – was no longer a good idea. I would find out in the morning that Mommy had electronically sent my dream recordings to the City Foreign Ministry.

I didn’t sleep well the rest of that night, though. They were watching us now. I could feel it. I didn’t like it.

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

I awoke with a start. I sat up and tugged the huge Teddy Bear next to me around in front like a shield. I knew in my mind how silly that was, but I couldn’t help it. Right there stood one of those multicolored … creatures. It was standing off in a clear corner of my room.

I trembled in fear for a few memtons, but the creature didn’t make any threatening moves. It did, however, softly flash a very ordered sequence of color changes before hesitating for a memton, then slowly removing a device from within its body.

The creature flashed another series of beautiful rainbow colors. From the device came a voice, “Don't be … afraid. I come on mission of discovery. No harm.”

I immediately wiggled over to the safety rails on my bed. I didn’t sleep in a crib, but my bed did have safety rails to insure that a toddler like me didn’t fall out of bed. I lowered them and wiggled out of bed. I realized as I stood on the floor on my wobbly legs that all I had on was a pair of really cute teal color rumba panties and a thick crawly diaper.

I held my arms out and looked at myself, then at the creature, “Am jussa babydoll. No harm nuffins.”

Mommy appeared at the door by that time with some kind of strange device in her hands. “Who are you?” she demanded to know. “Why are you here?”

The device in the creature’s hand flashed several series of rainbow colors, then the creature flashed several back. A soft voice said, “I come ta see who. Need to discovery why.”

Mommy said slowly, “What do you mean? I’m not sure I understand.”

The creature replied, “Didn’t realize there were more than one. Need to learn why you stole. That tech can eradicate all of space if not careful.”

I spoke up in my adorable babydoll voice, “We no stolded nuffins.”

The creature seemed to look at me, “Interesting, you have the sight and see us. Is so very rare.”

Mommy looked at me for a minute and said, “She’s a very special babydoll.”

The creature asked, “Babydoll? What is Babydoll?”

Mommy actually smiled, “This one here is a rescue and my most precious possession.”

The creature slowly produced another type of device and slowly waved it around. It pointed through the wall toward Moslix’s bedroom, where he was in his oversized crib, and said, “That one, and one other who we neutralized already, took what we want back.”

Mommy said, “I can erase his memory and make a purge. But the individual would no longer be who they are now.”

The being replied, “Far better that fate than neutralization.”

“Perhaps,” said Mommy, “but I can also simply make it so that he can’t talk, or communicate in any way other than gestures and sounds, like a baby. Then he can’t reveal your secret either. Which do you prefer?”

“Is not a question of what I prefer,” said the being via its translation device. “We do not protect this tech out of wanting power. It is dangerous to everyone if not used carefully. We do not want someone to erase the galaxy.”

“E-ewase the galaxy?” I asked nervously, because that did not sound good.

“He hasn’t done it yet,” said Mommy. “But you haven’t answered my question. Which would be better? More … ethical, if you have that concept?”

“Death of personality, or permanent exile behind a communication block?” asked the being. “Disabling communication would seem to be slightly less unethical. His mind would be intact – at first, at least. It would be reversible. There would be a possibility of future development.”

“Good answer,” said Mommy. “And of course there’s the third option – actual exile to a primitive planet where he couldn’t hope to build any technology more complicated than the wheel.”

“Still unethical, but better than the other options,” said the entity via its box. “Am I correct in assuming that he has not shared this knowledge with you?”

“You are,” said Mommy. “I had assumed that your people were targeting anyone with the knowledge, so knowing it was dangerous. Star drives aren’t my specialty anyway; I’m a syncordologist.”

The alien flashed a pattern of colors at the box, which flashed back. “Syn … cord … ologist?” came its voice from the box. “The meaning is unclear.”

“The electro/biological personality matrix of a sentient being can be placed in other bodies, natural or synthetic,” said Mommy. “Syncordology encompasses the extraction and care of a syncord and the construction of synthetic bodies for them. It is unethical, not to mention highly illegal, to extract the syncord of an unwilling being, unless it is a matter of life and death and there is no other way to save their syncord.”

“Ah, you said this one was a rescue,” said the entity. A pattern of flashing light briefly illuminated me.

“Yes, there was an accident, and she was on the brink of death, but her rescuers managed to extract her syncord before her massively damaged body perished,” said Mommy.

“We … have never heard of this technology,” said the being. “And yet you manage it responsibly?”

“For the most part, yes,” said Mommy, “although there are rare exceptions. That one,” she went on, pointing toward Moslix’s room, “was extracted unethically … by people who were attempting to gain access to the technology he stole from you.”

“Now I understand what was happening,” the entity said via its device. “They did a terrible thing. He did not share willingly. He shared out of despair, hoping we would destroy those who had so violated him.”

“I … don’t know,” said Mommy, but I nodded. “But I think that is probably the case,” she added.

“I must … take this finding back to my comrades,” said the being. “Clearly, there are things we did not know. A … Babydoll with the sight. Syncords. I have learned much in a little time. Please take this and study it freely. It contains the means by which your people may communicate with us.” It set the box on the bedside table – and then with a flash it was gone.

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

“It translates what we say into flashes of colored light,” said Dr. Alnatha, “and we can repeat those flashes to have it translate them back into audible speech. It is a means of understanding a language we heretofore never knew existed. We never even suspected this type of language could exist outside of pure speculation. They must not have a sense of hearing as we know it.”

“Can it communicate with them long-distance?” asked Mommy.

“I’m not sure yet,” she replied. “I haven’t detected any long-range signals coming from it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.”

“Well, keep looking at it,” said Mommy. “They said it was the key to communicating with them. I have to think that means more than just a translator. I’ve got a feeling that they want to open diplomatic relations, and that’s what the City is here for.”

“Can’t see why else they left this with you,” said Dr. Alnatha. She grinned. “If I can sequence their language, I might get a Khryssus Prize.”

Mommy turned off the comm line. “She just might,” Mommy said. “She’s one of the galaxy’s leading linguists, and certainly the best one in the City.”

I sucked my thumb and nodded. I wasn’t trying to figure out an alien color language. I was trying to solve an intriguing block puzzle that Mommy had given me.

“What’s also interesting is that they didn’t tell me to do anything with Moslix,” Mommy said. “I told them there were three things we could do, and they didn’t demand that I do any of them. I think they learned that we’re perhaps more ethical than they thought. I guess they were judging us all based on Klisp.”

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

It came as a complete surprise to the Council when they learned of the meeting between Mommy and the strange new beings known as the Malkans. They marveled over the device the Malkan had left. It translated any sound into a beautiful cascade of intermixed color with deep nuances.

The computer correlated the colors with the specific words they represented. It wasn’t long before the Science Department had given the Linguistics Department an entire encyclopedia of the recordings of the machine’s Malkan translations.

The Science Department managed to disassemble and reassemble the translator, and it still worked amazingly. In all their study of the device, they learned how to create quantum-entangled communications that instantly transmitted across unlimited distances.

This remarkable breakthrough allowed the Arm and the Assemblage to finally begin to make actual diplomatic progress and agree to a long-overdue cessation of hostilities, with great promise for an actual preliminary alliance. This was the very first such agreement the two civilizations had come to in hundreds of years.

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

Mommy sat on the playmat with me and played Pick-Up Stix with me. I giggled a lot as we both gathered our required color of sticks from the large haphazard pile. It was about that time that I noticed several shadows falling across the place we were playing. There were enough rainbow colors flashing that I knew several Malkans had come to pay us a visit.

Mommy picked up the translator device once she had stood up and said, “Welcome back. I do hope this is a friendly visit.”

One of the beings began to softly flash coordinated rainbow colors. A very natural-sounding voice came from the translator and said, “Do not be apprehensive, please. We do not mean you any harm. We need to discover the disposition of the individual in the next room. Our ruling body has determined that removal should only be considered as a very last resort.”

Mommy replied, “Currently, I have done nothing one way or the other. I do have the ability to insure he never reveals any of the knowledge he stole from you.”

The being replied through the translator, “Steal isn’t exactly the proper term. It was more like one of our craft suffered a malfunction in its control circuits and hit a rather large asteroid. That group, and specifically the individual whom we did not want to have any of our tech, came and salvaged several of the lesser weapons pods and just enough of the engine, coupled with the last bit of data on the construction of one of our dimensional slip drives.”

A tingle of fear ran down Mommy’s spine. She knew the Assemblage had discovered a crashed Malkan ship and had collected enough debris to completely build one of the Malkan fighters, but not with a working engine. They were unable to quite figure out how the darn thing worked. Could that have been the same crashed ship?

So far, none of the best Assemblage minds had figured it out. Mommy and I knew, however, that something had to be done before one of the eggheads figured it out, or Moslix made another bad judgment call.

The being said, “I, perhaps, have a solution to this dilemma. Instead of retiring or permanently regressing him, I think we will take him back with us. That way, he can research things we give him that his mind hasn’t even thought of nor can possibly comprehend. I think he would be much happier in that kind of environment.”

“I believe the City would agree to this,” said Mommy, “and probably the Arm as well, as they had custody of him and were shown the consequences of pushing him too far. But the Assemblage … it’s a problem.”

“Yes, the individual in question is a citizen of the Assemblage, is he not?” There was a pause as the Malkan considered what to say next. During the pause I whispered in Mommy’s ear, and her face went pale.

What I said was, “Mommy, I knows how ta fix tha Assemblage’s broked ship. Is they gonna has ta take me away too?” Mommy had been watching the dream monitor at night, so she probably knew that I’d had dreams about the derelict ship they’d found and their efforts to make its drive systems work. And of course I’d had dreams about working ships with that type of drive earlier, though they were before Mommy had started recording them. I knew what parts were missing and what they looked like. And I’d seen Moslix’s schematics for them. I really could be a threat to the galaxy now – it was just that nobody knew about it.

Mommy recovered quickly and whispered, “Not if I can help it, Sweetheart.” The translator didn’t flicker or even change color, so we must have been whispering too quietly for it to pick up.

“Yes, if they knew he had survived, the Assemblage would certainly dispute any decision that would take him away,” said Mommy. “The diplomatic situation would be an absolute nightmare – I’m not even a diplomat, and I know that much. Of course, I know they’re trying to replicate the drive systems that Spekton Klisp used. Why wouldn’t they? They would want Moslix in their custody so he could help them.”

“The derelict ship,” said the Malkan. “Did they find it? If they did …” There was a quick conversation among the Malkans, which the translator was only able to grab snatches of. “Find the ship … prevent them from … catastrophic … all costs … but we have been searching … redouble our efforts …”

“Do you think the Assemblage found the remains of that ship, then?” asked Mommy, having guided them to that conclusion without outright telling them.

“I am not certain,” said the Malkan, “but I believe it to be likely. In that case, we must take custody of the individual. Only we can prevent him from falling into the Assemblage’s hands. You must understand. It is not that we believe the Assemblage to have ill intent. It is that their research is likely to have catastrophic consequences for the entire galaxy – the Arm, the Assemblage, and us as well.”

“Why can you use that drive technology without endangering the galaxy?” asked Mommy.

“It is based on Malkan science,” said the Malkan, “and as a result its entire control framework is designed for use by Malkans, from the control and guidance systems to the energy transport systems to even repair procedures. Our very biochemistry figures into the design. It is simply not designed for use by non-Malkans.”

“Could it be reengineered for use by Threllians, or Picolids, or Geodites?” asked Mommy, naming three of the more populous humanoid species of the galaxy; I’d learned that there were several others, all of which were scattered throughout the Arm and the Assemblage.

“Undoubtedly it could,” the Malkan replied, “but it would take a great deal of work, during which any accident could be calamitous. Our histories state that when this drive was invented, it was tested in an intergalactic space-based laboratory that took years to reach under normal NR travel. If there had been a disaster, the reasoning was, it would be so far away that at least some of our civilization would survive.”

“I see,” said Mommy. “In that case, perhaps –”

Another Malkan materialized in the room. “There has been an emergency,” they said urgently through rapid flashes of color. “We assaulted the Assemblage’s laboratory, where we detected unmistakable energy signatures – they were developing the drive system there. But they were ready for us. One of our assault vessels was destroyed, and its pilot is near death, beyond the capability for our medical science to save.”

The first Malkan said, “You described your technology for rescuing the … syncord? … of a dying being. Will you save this one? Can you?”

Mommy stood up. “If it is to save a life,” she said, “I’ll try. I’ll need your help.”

The Malkans communicated with one another. Another Malkan materialized, on a gently levitating board of some type, with what I guessed was Malkan medical equipment attached to its body, which was losing color and appeared very pale, almost transparent.

“Bring them in here,” Mommy said, leading them to her lab; I followed but stayed out of Mommy’s way. “Right here.” The other Malkans moved the hovering Malkan stretcher to a spot right under Mommy’s syncord device. “Where in your body is your neural center, the seat of your consciousness?” she asked.

“It is entirely distributed throughout,” one of the Malkans replied.

“Hmm, I’ll have to make some adjustments. Please tell them to hang on if they can,” Mommy said, pulling the syncord device down and actually physically cracking its frame to separate its “arms” more widely so they would fit around the dying Malkan’s entire body. She manually placed the probes, piercing the Malkan’s body in six places equidistant from its center. “Let’s hope this works,” she said, powering up the system. “I’ve obviously never tried this on a Malkan before.”

A familiar deep humming noise filled the laboratory, and the conduits leading from the probes glowed with energy. A syncord storage crystal in its chamber lit up and glowed with coruscating multicolored light. Mommy held her breath. The Malkans … did something equivalent; I didn’t know whether they even breathed.

The Malkan on the hovering stretcher was still and completely colorless. But the crystal, about the size of a large Earth apple, was effulgent with brightness. “It’s … stable,” said Mommy. “We’ve rescued them.”

“We are … relieved,” said the first Malkan who had spoken. “This is some sort of … storage device?” they asked.

“Yes, a syncord can be stored indefinitely in laboratory conditions until a suitable vessel can be found or constructed,” said Mommy. “I don’t have a vessel that resembles a Malkan body – there’s been no opportunity to even consider such a thing. I suppose I could work on one, but it would take time, because I’d basically be starting from scratch. I have several stock vessels on hand, as well as my experimental ones, but ...”

“Can the … syncord … be transferred from one vessel to another without doing harm?” asked the Malkan.

“Yes, if the operator knows what they’re doing,” said Mommy, “and I’m one of the experts. So please don’t worry. My only concern is that it would be very traumatizing to place their syncord in a vessel with a completely unfamiliar set of senses. I’m imagining waking up in a body that didn’t have the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell, but instead had completely different sensory input. I would panic. I don’t want that for your compatriot here.”

“Nor do we,” the Malkan said. “Is there any way in which we can assist you in constructing a suitable vessel?”

“If that’s the way you’d like me to go,” replied Mommy, “there’s absolutely no way I can do it without your assistance. But I’m willing. I’m just imagining how much I’ll be able to learn. The possibilities are so intriguing! But first of all, can you describe your neurophysiology?”

“I … am not a medical expert,” said the Malkan. “We will find someone who can work with you, however. You seem to wish to save this Malkan’s life. We, obviously, also wish to do so. Therefore I believe we are in accord.”

“Agreed,” said Mommy. “Please, confer among yourselves, and return when you have a medical team assembled. Nothing will happen to this syncord in the meantime.”

“Very well,” the Malkan said. “The matter of the individual with dangerous knowledge is postponed … for now.”

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

Later on that day, the same Malkan came back, with several more who were some of their people’s leading doctors, or whatever the equivalent was for Malkans. They talked to Mommy and made all kinds of diagrams and equations and lots of stuff I didn’t understand, and they had a lot of trouble understanding each other too, at first, until they managed to get a feel for each other’s bio sciences. Mommy worked hard. She left me to play, and Moslix was more or less on his own too.

“Why comes all dese Malkans is here?” asked Moslix, his voice still sounding very cute and babyish.

“Onna dems was hurted real bad an almost died,” I said. “They no gots syncord tech stuffs. They bringed him to Mommy. They helpin her make a Malkan syncord body thingie for tha one Malkan that gotted hurt.”

“Oh …” Moslix said. “But … how comes they knowed bout her?”

“Uh … they comed here for you firstest,” I said. He looked scared. “But they gotsa idea. Whatif you wented wif them to onna their planets? You could learn bout their science stuffs an then they no gotsa worry bout you tellin it to other peoples.”

“Oh. Huh. That innerestins.” Moslix thought. “But … but … hmm. Gotsa think.” I suspected that he was wondering if he could be a Babydoll on a Malkan planet. I wondered whether the Malkans had baby supplies for a humanoid Babydoll.

I had an idea too. One night when Mommy was putting me to bed I asked her, “Mommy, if you maked a Malkan body thingie, could people use em to run Malkan space ships wifout blowin up tha galaxy?”

“I … don’t know,” said Mommy. “Honey, sometimes I forget how brilliant you are. It would be traumatic for someone used to a body like ours to be put into a Malkan vessel, but maybe if they had the right training first … or maybe the vessel could be modified to be less traumatic … hmm …”

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

Red / Red / Amber / Indigo awoke with a sudden fearful start. His semi-transparent body flashed a bright alarming red for an instant before he saw that he wasn’t in any danger. His body was radiating a soft wary yellow as he looked around the area he was in.

The very last memory he had was of a horribly painful fiery explosion. It seemed as if he were falling somewhere, and when the fall ended, he was here … wherever here was. He removed the cover, swung his legs off of the very comfortable pad he was lying on, and stood up.

He was currently wearing some sort of shorts with a pair of some kind of thick socks on his feet. He looked around the area he was in. It looked like a crew quarters on one of the larger ships. Soft carpets, he saw the door to the bathroom, yes he knew what that was. He also saw another door across the room the other direction; he went there and slowly opened it.

Even for the Malkan, what Red / Red / Amber / Indigo saw was opulent beyond his belief. The entire apartment was finely decorated in all the special ways any of their rulers might live, not a fighter pilot, he was sure.

He found a wall that was mostly mirrors. He looked at himself. As best as Red / Red / Amber / Indigo could tell, he was in perfect health. He knew he had to be wrong, but he felt he was somehow shorter than before.

The photoreceptors in his back told him that someone was talking to him. He turned and found a young alien woman standing with a translator device that only his people could have made.

The woman said softly, “Greetings, and welcome back. Some things have drastically changed for you. Please do not be alarmed or afraid. Working with several doctors of your people, I have saved you from death. We will need to talk about your new life.” The device translated it from her verbal sonic vibrations to his familiar photonics, in a beautiful rainbow of colored light.

“The last thing I remember,” he said, “was a fiery explosion. I was sure I was about to die.”

“Well, that’s the thing,” said this alien woman, “you did die – or at least, your body did. Your people were already here talking with me about a … diplomatic matter, but I am really a scientist. They brought your body here, and in its last moments, I was able to save your …” There was a symbol he didn’t recognize, but the translator had a sequence for it. He reasoned that it must be a scientific term that he, a pilot, was unfamiliar with. “It means your … essence, your personality encoding. Your people and I have worked together to create a new vessel for it, a new … body. I have made an effort to ensure that it is as similar to your own as possible, but there may be issues. I have never made a Malkan vessel before, and the experts I have been working with have no way to know how to grow a … vessel.” There was that term again.

“This … is not my body?” he asked.

“No … your original body was extremely badly damaged and perished shortly after we rescued your …” What was the term she was using? Syncord? What was that? She said it was a way of saying his essence or spirit.

“You and the others have my deepest gratitude, then,” he said. “My name is Red / Red / Amber / Indigo.” He did not actually say this in words as it’s written down here, but he emitted these colors, and in a specific rhythmic pattern. The translator device did the best it could.

“I am Dr. Lisa Rochand,” she said, and what he received was not this sequence of sounds but rather a sequence of color patterns; the translator had an algorithm to transduce sonic names into predictable light and color patterns, and back. “Doctor Cerulean / Yellow / Umber / Rose was the lead on the team that worked with me – they aren’t here right now; they left to rest. You are in my home laboratory.”

“I am not a prisoner, right?” he asked. “I am free to leave?”

“You are,” she said, “although I caution that there may be complications from the procedure that I can’t help you with if you’re not here. I realize that you have only my word, though, since you’ve only just awakened.”

“How long … was I unconscious?”

“About a week. It took us some time to create the body you now inhabit.”

“This body … is artificial? It feels … unusual, but if you hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known.”

“That is high praise, as that is exactly what your compatriots and I were trying to achieve. As with everyone I see, of course, I will remind you that now you’re an unbound syncord, you can have your choice of body. Anything you can imagine. Although … well, it’s different in your case. I’ve never worked with a Malkan before, so there’s a lot I don’t know. But I know a lot more than I did before I met you!”

“Anything I can imagine?” He paused. “One step at a time, I think. Right now my goal is to see my family again – and report to my commanding officer. You say I was near death.”

There was a flash nearby, indicating the arrival of one of his people. “You were not near death, Red / Red / Amber / Indigo,” said this person. “You were at death’s very doorstep. The Dark Claimer itself had its claws upon you. And yet here you stand. I am Dr. Cerulean / Yellow / Umber / Rose. Our team labored long and hard, but in the end we seem to have been successful, thankfully. And we have learned some of the art of making syncord vessels from Dr. Rochand here.”

The pilot visibly relaxed. Here was one of his own people confirming that Dr. Rochand was telling the truth. “I am … overwhelmed,” he said. “Is there a way I can send messages to my commanding officer, or my family?”

“We have informed them of your status during your recovery,” the Malkan doctor said. “You are currently on medical leave from your post in the Space Service while you recover from your injury. You may wish to speak to your loved ones. Allow me to arrange for communications. You are in the diplomatic enclave called the City, which lies between the alien governments known as the Arm and Assemblage, but of course they do not have a link with the Malkan comms system.” He took out a communication plaque, and his face flashed colors into it.

“Thank you, Doctor,” said Red / Red / Amber / Indigo.

“If we could, we would like to perform some tests,” said the Malkan doctor. “They are non-invasive and are designed to tell us how well the body and your syncord are bonding.”

“Oh – of course.” The alien doctor was readying some equipment.

“I am very glad that you are experiencing none of the sensory distress that I was worried about,” said Dr. Rochand, via the translator. “You have quite a different set of senses than I am used to working with.” She moved a viewscreen into position and some kind of scanning arm. “I’m just going to place this here …” She attached some sort of device to something that was on his neck that he hadn’t noticed. A mirror showed that it was a transparent multifaceted gemstone on a transparent band of some kind. It hadn’t been interfering with his color sense or emission.

Data started to appear on the screen. “If you will just stand here,” said Dr. Cerulean / Yellow / Umber / Rose, indicating a light-colored rectangle on the floor in front of the scanning arm. He stood there. Soon the arm aligned itself with the top of his head, then moved slowly downward, shining a narrow beam of multispectral light at and through his body. “No such laboratory exists in any Malkan system, which is why you are here and not in Malkan space.” More data started collecting on the screen, which both doctors were examining intently.

“Here are potential problem areas that we should keep under observation,” Dr. Rochand said, indicating some of the data. The pilot couldn’t even tell what part of his body they were talking about, but evidently both doctors did. “This node may also require our attention eventually, but we’ll see.”

“Yes, I can see the slight frequency mismatches,” said the Malkan doctor. “They may cause him communication difficulties. Can the nodes be adjusted?”

“Only if necessary,” said Dr. Rochand. “Too many changes can cause more dissonance in adjacent nodes. A very slight touch may be all that is needed.”

“I see.” He turned to the pilot. “Please do not be overly concerned. You are recovering well, with only a few areas we may wish to observe for a time. If they do become problems, perhaps we can fix them, but they will likely resolve themselves. In the absolute worst case scenario, we can make an improved vessel and transfer your syncord to it, but as of now there are no indications that such a drastic action will be necessary.”

“All right,” he said. “Thank you again, Doctors. What should I do now?”

“Try to rest,” said Dr. Cerulean. “A communication device will arrive shortly, so you can contact your loved ones. We have arranged for sustenance for you as well. Most of the food they have here is poisonous to us; the rest would merely make us ill. Your new body has been designed to be compatible with Malkan biochemistry, of course, so you will be much more at ease once we are able to get you home. Ah, here is the device.” There was a flash, and a flat rectangular device appeared on a nearby table, a typical holographic communication plaque. The doctor picked it up and gave it to the pilot.

“Thank you yet again,” he said.

“It is my honor,” the doctor said. “I will return tomorrow, but you can both contact me in case there is need. For now, try to rest and recover.” He vanished in a flash of light.

“I’ll just leave you to talk to your loved ones,” said Dr. Rochand, deactivating the equipment, which retracted into the ceiling, and going upstairs. Red / Red / Amber / Indigo waved his arms over the plaque and established instantaneous links with his fiancee and parents. They were overjoyed to see him well. His sister was on assignment; he would have to talk to her later.

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

In a rather large conference room, many of the Arm’s very top echelon were present, and from the sounds they were making, none were very pleased.

The Tribune banged his fist on the table in front of him and said with a snarl, “Trebizond, you have committed serious breaches of galactic law. Let’s see if have this in correct order.” He picked up a thick binder and opened it to the first page, then said after pointing at Trebizond, “You have been seen consorting with the enemy, theft of a highly secret item that contained highly advanced data, and giving some of the most highly advanced technological information over to the Assemblage.” He put the binder down in front of him and looked squarely at Trebizond. “It was also reported that you had an actual high-level secret conversation with the Assemblage secret service. How do you respond to these charges and the reasons we should not execute you? We know you are the highest ranking SS officer we have. Your record was spotlessly exemplary until now. Some of those may be observations taken out of context due to your position and job.”

Trebizond actually laughed, “You must be out of your collective minds.”

He placed a small tablet device on the table in front of him and turned it on. A holo screen appeared. The image was visible from a full 360 degrees due to the light technology. The images displayed, in full explosive color, the complete and total eradication of the huge Klisp rebel fleet.

The assembled Tribunes sat with great shock on their faces; this was the first time some of them had ever seen the 10-minute exchange between the alien ships and Klisp’s rebel fleet. They watched the six mysterious super-advanced fighter craft dance and weave among a far numerically superior force, then vanish as they had arrived like wisps of smoke on a windy day after they had totally eradicated Klisp’s fleet. Only one of the alien ships was even hit, and then only by sheer luck.

One of the women on the Tribunal stood and spoke. “From what we just observed, and to the best of tactical’s ability to count …” There was a bemused twitter for an instant, “six of those alien ships took on over 1,000 advanced fighters, armed with a type of weapon we don’t even have a physics to explain, and you were brazen enough to even let people see you do it when you took the only data we had about how this technology works.”

Once again Trebizond laughed. “You just observed six craft take on over 1,000 with the loss of only one. I suppose you consider that to be a freak stroke of luck. And I suppose you’re forgetting the direct edict from the Malkans to you, oh high and mighty Mooeeesa, telling you they would eradicate our entire civilization if we did not return their stolen data.”

Tribune Mooeeesa was stunned. The rest of the gathering were now looking at her. She had no idea anyone had the slightest inkling of that contact. She responded angrily, “Is that lie an attempt to distract attention from what you did?”

Trebizond smiled as he removed the current crystal chip in the device in front of him and replaced it with one that glowed a pretty purple. This time, the display showed Tribune Mooeeesa as she not only received the communication, along with its translation into verbal sentences, but also another video from the salvage operations. Now the entire council knew the Arm had a rebuilt, and completely intact, Malkan fighter. “So there is no mistake, the Malkans have told her they will simultaneously destroy all our star systems if we do not return the data to them.”

Very loud, angry, and tumultuous voices began raging at Tribune Mooeeesa. It was quickly noted that several armed and battle-suited law enforcers had arrived and placed themselves in such a way that the Tribune would have nowhere to flee should she decide to run.

“And besides that – your information is in error,” said Trebizond. “I did not exfiltrate the individual in question to the Assemblage. To my knowledge, the Assemblage still does not know that individual’s location, nor the fact that they survived.”

The first Tribune ordered, “Return Captain Trebizond to his quarters.” As two guards flanked him and escorted him out of the room, Trebizond heard that Tribune continue, “It seems we must now turn our investigation to another matter.” He smiled as they took him away. That had been effective. Perhaps he would live. But more importantly, it seemed likely that he had saved the Arm of the Arbiter … at least for now.

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

In the remains of the Assemblage research facility, the surviving scientists tried to salvage at least some of their data and experiments, but that entire lab had been practically vaporized. The defense platforms had hit one of the attacking ships, but not before the rest had done what they had certainly come to do.

“The place is completely trashed,” said Tony. “We don’t even have recordings of the ships that did it – but I saw. They weren’t Arm. They came in using the very same tech we’re trying to get working. They were … what are they called? Malkan?”

“Yes, Malkan,” said Nelisa. “They aren’t fooling around. They don’t want anyone working on that drive tech.” She tried to access some of the data on one of the few working computer terminals in that wing. “Let’s see if anything is left … nope, nothing but this, and it’s obviously mostly corrupted.” The screen didn’t show any data – in fact, it just lit up in a bright color of orange, and flickered to red and yellow in stripe patterns.

“Yeah, that’s … wait,” said Tony. “Didn’t they say the Malkan language was all colors and light?”

“What?” Nelisa had turned away from the screen but looked at it again. “We need one of those translator devices I’ve been hearing about. This must be a message from them.”

A messenger robot quickly brought one of the replica translators from the Council. Nelisa pointed it at the screen. The message was short and repeated over and over. She and Tony looked at each other in shock as the translator said, “Please stop forcing us to attack you. We are trying to save the galaxy from your research. If you continue to pursue this technology, you will destroy yourselves and us all. We are desperate. Please listen to us. We do not want to harm you, but we must protect ourselves, and you as well. Please stop forcing us to attack you …”

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

Agent Meara hurried to her quarters as soon as she got the notification. She opened the message on her personal tablet. “Lisa Rochand, ScD,” it said. She opened it.

Mommy’s face appeared on her tablet. I mean, Agent Meara didn’t know her as Mommy, but I’m still telling the story. “Brandi, it’s me,” she said. “I understand what you want, I really do, but I can’t put your syncord into a vessel without taking it from your body, and I can’t do that unless you’re on the brink of death. Fortunately, you’re very much alive, and I pray you stay that way for a very long time. To do anything else would be not only illegal but highly unethical. Now, there are virtual experiences you can have, and of course there are the questionably legal consort brokers who can find you just about any kind of roleplaying experience you might want, but I’m sure you know about all that. But there’s just not much that I can do for you, unless you suffer a tragedy that I’d rather not contemplate.”

Agent Meara sighed, disappointed.

“But there is something I just thought of,” Mommy went on. “I have a colleague who’s working on a type of parallel syncord experience. Let me put you in touch with her. She’s on the planet Jyrduun, in the Fosdorn system.”

There was a name and a message address. Agent Meara composed her thoughts and started a message.

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

“Thank you,” said Red / Red / Amber / Indigo to the assembled doctors and nurses. “I have no other words for all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my pindifrax. Without you I would be dead. Without you I would not have seen my family or my fiancee again. But now I have a chance at a life.”

“It would have been immoral for us not to do everything we could to save you,” said one of the doctors.

“Yes, we all swore an oath to render all aid necessary to save life,” said another. “It’s our calling.”

“It would have been unethical for me to refuse to help,” said Mommy. There were lots of Malkans in our house again. I hid behind a wall and peeked around the corner. “My way of saving lives is a matter of last resort, but when it sadly happens, I’m glad to be there.”

Moslix was taller than me, but he was also hiding behind the wall. He wasn’t peeking, though. “I just hope they decide not to kidnap or vaporize me,” he whispered. His voice had gotten considerably less baby-talkish over time. Mine was still pretty babyish. Mommy was gradually adjusting it, but the pleasure response for talking like a baby wasn’t there. I’d just gotten used to it.

“Well, now that all your tests are coming back good,” said Dr. Cerulean / Yellow / Umber / Rose, “Dr. Rochand has agreed that you’re free to go home. Now, you do still have that appointment for a checkup in one mezzon.”

“I won’t forget,” the pilot said.

“But we wanted to take you home ourselves, so you could be officially released from Yinderlon Memorial Hospital – we’ve set this up as a partnership so it works legally. Lawyers, you know.” Everybody knew. Apparently lawyers are some kind of universal constant, like hydrogen and stupidity. “Ready to go?”

“I’m ready,” the pilot said.

The Malkans vanished in a flash of light. For the first time in weeks there was no one in the house but Mommy, Mirrva, Moslix, and me.

“Well, who wants a snack?” asked Mommy. “I’m starving.”

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

Trebizond watched the holo news and noticed an article about a terrible fire that had destroyed some promising but top-secret research at a government lab on the planet Umoros. Yes, that was the place where the Arm had been conducting their research into the salvaged vessel parts and its drive system. But this looked like an ordinary fire – which meant that the Tribunal had actually listened to his advice and destroyed the research before the Malkans destroyed the Arm.

He stood up and went to look out the simulated window. Perhaps that meant they’d let him go. The room was like a nice hotel room – not nearly as nice as the one they’d had Moslix in, but not bad – but it was still a cell as long as he couldn’t leave.

There was a knock on the door. When he answered, the guards said, “Tribunal wants to see you again. Ready?”

“I suspected they would; I’m ready,” he said.

“Captain Trebizond,” said the head Tribune. “We have reviewed the evidence against you and dismissed most of it as fabricated. You did deliver the individual to someone, however. Who were they?”

“Agents of the City,” Trebizond freely admitted. “They have an interest in maintaining the balance between the Arm and the Assemblage, and in preventing tragedy of galactic proportions.”

“I see,” the Tribune said. “And where is this individual now?”

“Recuperating from the torture techniques we used on him,” Trebizond said. “I understand he hasn’t been doing any research at all, just focusing on recovery. And trying to hide from the Malkans, who doubtless want him silenced. I obviously haven’t been able to follow up on any intel recently.”

“Well, obviously not,” said the Tribune. “But you are hereby ordered to do so, on authority directly from the Tribunal. You are acting as a Tribunal agent now, and your orders are to keep close watch on the individual. He is not to fall into the Assemblage’s hands. Other than that, you have discretion. You have saved the Arm by your actions.” Trebizond had already noticed that Tribune Mooeeesa was not present at the meeting today. “Continue to do so by following up on this situation, on which you are already the most knowledgeable agent.”

“I have discretion?” asked Trebizond.

“Do I stutter?” the Tribune replied.

“I would like to request a type 473 scout ship and the following equipment,” said Trebizond, reciting a list that he had already mentally prepared.

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

In what was left of the Assemblage’s most advanced research laboratory, many men and women had gathered around the Malkan translator. All had heard the message – several times, in fact.

One of the fighter pilots said with a bit of temper in his voice, “We destroyed one of those damn ships. Don’t tell me we aren’t effective.”

One of the administrators replied, “Yes, you did manage to hit one, after it had pulled out of a sharp dive and on the upsweep had to avoid a large flock of birds that suddenly took off from the pond. If the pilot had ignored the birds, you wouldn’t have hit anything.”

One of the others standing behind him, who also had on one of the fighter pilots’ space suits, said in a mocking jeering voice as the others laughed, “Yeah, from what the recorded footage shows, you couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at point blank.”

Another of the pilots said, “From what I saw live before they took out Blimpie, our shots were being blocked by some type of energy barrier. None of us are even sure if it was you that brought the ship down. We all discussed it for a long time, and from what we’ve seen firsthand, none of your shots would have done anything. That flock of birds wouldn’t have hurt the fighter in any way. That, too, is another thing we don’t know. Why did the pilot try to avoid that flock of birds?”

The administrator waved his hand at the massive rubble pile that used to be one of the most advanced research stations known to the Assemblage. “And from several hundred of your attack vessels, none of you could stop seven Malkan craft, and out of eight, the Malkans lost one that looks like some kind of weird accident more than anything else.” Before the man could utter a rebuttal, the admin held up his index finger and continued, “And your base lost, what, 90 fighters out of 200 in the very first 45 seconds of the encounter? They still destroyed this laboratory and the only intact Malkan fighter we had. We can also show that you and those 20 behind you are the only survivors of the encounter with the Malkans. In under 5 minutes they appeared like magic, wrought havoc, and destroyed a highly fortified and advanced research facility after taking out every fighter that got in their way without even blinking, left us a message even, then vanished like ghosts. The Malkans are serious, and they are writing checks we can’t cash.”

The large group was obviously upset as they discussed what they had been shown and what had happened in the very short skirmish.

“Well their technology is far beyond ours, and they obviously want to keep it that way,” said one of the pilots.

“Excuse me,” said Tony, the engineer. “I just want to point something out. Their message is all about not wanting us to destroy ourselves or them. They pulled up to avoid a flock of birds for no reason. Why isn’t it obvious that they just didn’t want to kill the birds? What if their message is the truth? What if they really are trying to protect themselves and us? What if when this tech goes wrong, it goes really wrong and takes out a chunk of the galaxy?”

“That would mean that they have bombs that can do that deliberately, for one thing,” said the admin.

“Unless they don’t, because they see that as wrong,” Tony replied.

The pilots were divided, and there was a lot of arguing. But finally things died down and one of them asked, “Do you have any evidence, Mr. Science? What’s the evidence that the tech you were working on was that dangerous?”

“Well, that wasn’t what we were looking for,” said Tony, “so we didn’t discover any such thing. And even if we had … we wouldn’t have any evidence now. We’ve got what we remember in our heads, and that’s it.”

Nelisa spoke up. “I’m on the theoretical team, and I can tell you that we didn’t come anywhere near figuring out the theory of how such a thing would work. They’re so far beyond us. But the idea that it could do such damage is quite suggestive. We know that space-time itself has a resonance; that’s just gravitational waves. Those aren’t easy to detect, even when they come from some of the most powerful sources in the universe, like black holes and neutron stars. Those waves aren’t that powerful. But we know about accelerational energy that drives the expansion of the universe and how it can press against the speed of light itself – it stresses something more fundamental than space-time; the very membrane of the reality we know. Pressing on that membrane is how we discovered NR drive. But … what if that has resonances too? Making a splash in that membrane would theoretically have enough energy and range to disrupt all mass in a galaxy. This could be how the tech works … and why they don’t want us messing with it. But then why do they use it? Why doesn’t it blow up for them? So either there’s something we don’t know, or this line of thinking is wrong. Or both. Most likely both.” She took out a tablet and started scribbling equations on it with her finger.

“Did anybody understand any of that?” asked the admin. Tony raised his hand. None of the pilots did.

One of the theoretical physicists had been scribbling on a thick pad of legal paper. Nelisa happened to look over and see some of his massive equations. As she looked over the perfect balance of resonances and frequencies, she saw what it was the Malkans feared. She picked up the pad and looked it over more closely. As best she could tell from what she saw, there was an entire control feature missing in everything they had attempted to do.

She asked as she pointed to a particular section of the equations and made a few entries of her own, “Timmy, Is this the thing you are trying so hard to figure in?”

Timmy sat back as an extremely worried expression came over his young face. Pointing at the added equations, he said softly, “Nelisa, if we had been allowed to run a power-on test of that engine, most of the Milky Way would have vanished in the resonance mismatch.” He made a few more calculations. “As best I can tell from this, if we had added a bit more thrust indication to it, most of reality as we know it would have been swallowed in a tear in the fabric of space-time.”

Tony was looking over their shoulder. “So I have two questions,” he asked. “One, what’s missing that allows the Malkans to use it without obliterating literally everything, and two, why didn’t Spekton Klisp’s rebel fleet obliterate literally everything?” He paused. “And before you try to answer, I bet I know the answer to the second one. He was lucky. We were lucky. Arrogant bastard. I’m betting he never even tried this calculation right here.” He pointed to the pad of paper.

The administrator who had spoken before was listening with a pale face, a vast contrast to his usual greenish coloration, being a Geodite. “N-no wonder the Malkans came,” he said. “And no wonder they destroyed the Arm’s lab … and a second one that I’ve just heard about … and no wonder they destroyed Klisp’s fleet.” He paused. “And come to think of it, no wonder they’re making themselves known now, when we’ve never heard of them before, not even once. They had no reason to interact with us, until we came to the brink of destroying them – along with ourselves.”

“The Milky Way,” said Nelisa, “almost became a curiosity for distant astronomers a million years from now, wondering what happened to what used to be a galaxy.” The pilots were silent, stunned.

“So what stabilizes this?” asked Tony. “It almost looks like you need some kind of opposite resonance. Like a noise-canceling system. But that would be as unstable and potentially destructive as this is.”

“No, you’re right,” Nelisa said. “It’s something more basic. Something about … what it’s made of. The metals … the particle flow … something keeps the resonance firmly in check at the source. There’s a need for an interaction with some specific kind of wave function at the source level. Something that emits something like …” She scribbled down another set of equations. “An eigenfunction like that can only be a solution to … this kind of operator …” she muttered to herself as she wrote, Timmy scribbling on the edges.

“We’d have to test this … somewhere far, far away from here,” said Timmy. “Out in intergalactic space.”

“Or get help from a Malkan,” said Tony.

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

So I only know about this part because Mirrva told me later, but while Mommy and I were out shopping for toys for Mirrva, leaving Moslix alone in the house with the Zoomie, there was a call on the holo system. Before he could answer it, it answered itself, and Trebizond’s face appeared. “You!” said Moslix.

“Looking a bit more mature than you did last time I saw you,” said the agent. “Good. I steered you here because I knew she’d help you. I wish more people had a sense of ethics. I just wanted to let you know that I’m around. I’m not making threats. I’m here to make sure you don’t fall into the Assemblage’s hands. Or the Arm’s, for that matter.”

“What about the Malkans?” asked Trebizond.

“What about them?”

“They know I’m here,” said Moslix. “I’m worried they’re going to kidnap me. They want what I know contained. They suggested making it so I couldn’t talk anymore, which apparently Dr. Rochand can do, but she doesn’t want to. But another thing they can do is take me to one of their planets, wherever they are, and let me work on science – but I could never leave again, or talk to anyone who wasn’t a Malkan.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad, considering the alternatives,” said Trebizond. “I assume the other option was to kill you.”

“Obviously.”

“So … why are you still here?” Trebizond asked.

“I think they were distracted by the critically injured pilot that Dr. Rochand helped.”

“Interesting. I didn’t know she was also a medical doctor.”

“She isn’t,” said Moslix. “He was on the very brink of death. She transferred his syncord into one of those crystal things and worked with some Malkans to grow a compatible syncord body for him.”

“Dr. Rochand,” said Trebizond, “is clearly even better at her specialization than I had been led to believe. So … she now knows more about Malkan biochemistry than anyone else outside of Malkan space.”

“I would imagine so,” said Moslix. “I didn’t understand much of it. I’m not a medical doctor.”

“No, you’re a specialist in trans continuum engineering and NR control systems. I read your dossier several times. And yet Klisp had you doing … syncord transfers, energy systems, environmental systems …”

Moslix sighed. “You never worked for him. Whatever he needed done, you did, or you were out. Everybody had to be a bit of everything.”

“I imagine it made it easier for Klisp, never having to remember who was good at what,” Trebizond said. “Look, I’m going silent again. But I’ll be watching.”

Moslix sat and stared at the blank screen after Trebizond had signed off. He was very afraid the Malkans were going to show up suddenly and kidnap him. He picked up Mirrva and leaned back in the comfy chair and began to caress her soft fluffy coat.

Of course, Mirrva began to make her wonderfully comforting purring sound. Moslix smiled, he was grateful to have actually had an opportunity to not only see, but interact with a Zoomie. Now, Moslix wanted one of his own. Sitting like this with it purring in his lap was so comforting and made most of his problems seem insignificant and far away.

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

It didn’t take the Arm or the Assemblage long to figure out the inherent danger they were in doing the experiments they were doing with counter-resonant energy waves – with the new yield equations and the very large hole in them that would allow for the control necessary to keep from tearing a very large hole in what they thought of as reality.

They contacted the Council for aid in making the proper decisions for the disposition of the current data and experimental equipment. The Council put the Galactic Accord for Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge to work, since that was what that treaty had been created for, centuries earlier, and the data was put into a database that anyone from either side with proper clearance could obtain.

“So … we shouldn’t be experimenting on this stuff,” said Tony, “but that Accord database now has this dangerous data out there for all to see?”

“I mean, some of that data shows our simulations of how truly badly things could go wrong if anyone tries,” replied Nelisa. “I mean, at the very least you could destroy a quarter of the Milky Way. At the worst you could rip a hole in reality and wipe out everything that exists.”

“Well I’ve got a simulator worked up on the computer that can at least do imaginary experiments,” said Tony, “but it’s only based on what we can calculate from the theories. It’s only as good as the equations.”

“Yes, to test the equations we’d have to do experiments, but that’s too dangerous,” said Nelisa. “What we’d need to do is set up a laboratory environment about a million light years away. That would be about halfway to the Andromeda Galaxy and take about 27 standard years at average NR speeds.”

“Less than that at maximum NR speed,” said Tony, “and there are still those experiments going on to improve NR travel. Maximum NR drive today might be a lazy walk in the park next year.”

“I’d like to know how they’re going to solve the continuum oscillation overdamping problem,” Nelisa replied. “Until they do, a million light years in anything less than 15 years or so is just a pipe dream.”

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll come up with something,” said Tony.

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

What they didn’t know about was me. It wasn’t that I was some kind of secret to going faster than light, or whatever NR stuff was. But when I saw something in my dreams, I saw it faster than the fastest NR ship could go. I didn’t know how it worked, but there it was.

We brought back some wonderful toys that Mirrva loved. And that night, I had another dream. It was a nice one this time. The pilot was out on a date with his fiancee, I guess at some kind of Malkan fancy restaurant or something. The stars above were clearly visible. I wondered whether anyone would record this dream and calculate the location of that particular Malkan star system.

Then the dream shifted. It was a meeting. I recognized one of the doctors who had been here in the house – yes, it was Dr. Cerulean / Yellow / Umber / Rose, but they were only one among a large number of Malkans. I didn’t know what they were saying. I supposed that since their language was visual, I might be able to see what they were saying, if I only understood it. And that gave me an idea. I’d have to ask Mommy later if she could use the translator thingie on the recording to see what the Malkans were talking about.

The Malkans were all meeting around a big round table, like the one the Council met at. I’d seen Council meetings on the holo screen. My favorite parts were when Auntie Rouzelle talked. But here I couldn’t understand what was being said, so I didn’t know why this was important – but I had a strong feeling that it was. Maybe I didn’t understand their language, but from watching them I’d gotten to be able to read the Malkan’s moods from their body language, and they were very intense and serious. This was no light-hearted party or game session; it was business.

Then I woke up to find Mommy watching the recording and listening to the translator, just like the idea I’d had. “Mommy?” I asked. “What were they sayins?”

“Come on, let’s get you changed and dressed,” said Mommy. “I’m going to show you and Rouzelle at the same time.”

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

“He must be compelled to live among us,” said one of the Malkans. I’m going to call him Violet / Sienna. There were probably a few more colors in there, but I couldn’t make them out.

“He’s showing no sign of wanting to leave Dr. Rochand’s home,” said Dr. Cerulean / Yellow / Umber / Rose, “let alone wanting to spread his secrets. The fact is, he is still recovering from torture at the hands of one of the intelligence services.”

“And what’s more,” said another one, who I’m going to call Tangerine / Navy, “both the major governments are disseminating the knowledge that experimentation with the technology is deadly dangerous to all in this galaxy. There is some talk of an effort to set up a laboratory in intergalactic space, just as the legends say our scientists once did. They may be well on their way to limiting experimentation on their own.”

“But they do not know the most important elements of the secret, and that one named Moslix does,” said Violet / Sienna. “He knows how the one named Klisp was able to use the transplacent drive without catastrophe. He knows what was done.”

“Again, he does not wish to leave Dr. Rochand’s home,” the doctor said. “He is still recovering. He is still in diapers and behaving in many ways as infants do, thanks to his treatment in the hands of the Arm. I’m certain that Dr. Rochand is trying to help him, but it is a long road.”

“And why did this not happen to our pilot?” asked Violet / Sienna.

“Our pilot was not tortured,” replied the doctor, “he was merely in the very claws of death. Dr. Rochand explained Moslix’s case to me. Our pilot did not suffer systematic degradation of his faculties at the hands of tormentors who sought to obtain his knowledge. Moslix … did.” There was murmuring.

“But don’t you see,” said Violet / Sienna, “there are clearly those among the outsiders who would torture their own, committing unspeakable acts, to obtain our secrets. Would they not risk destroying large portions of the galaxy, endangering us? Sooner or later they will find him, and they will force his secrets from him, unless he is in our custody.”

Tangerine / Navy said, “I do not think so. The element in the Arm’s government that took such risks has been forced out, my intelligence reports tell me. The diplomatic hub known as the City is ruled by wiser heads and has not revealed all that they know, including Moslix’s location. And the Assemblage’s scientific wing has just realized the magnitude of the cataclysm we just protected them from. We are making progress.”

“Well, I will listen to you for now,” Violet / Sienna said to Tangerine / Navy. “You have always provided good intelligence analysis. But please, inform us the moment signs point to trouble, as you have in the past.” The recording faded out, as that had been when I woke up.

Mommy and Rouzelle looked at each other. Then they both looked at me. “Yeah, we better keep quiet about where we get this information,” said Rouzelle, “though some of the scientists know some of what she can do.”

“If the Assemblage starts an intergalactic lab,” Mommy said, “Mandy could get data from its experiments years before any other means.”

“But we couldn’t tell anybody about it without revealing how we got the data,” added Rouzelle.

“What am I going to do about Moslix?” asked Mommy.

“He has to go somewhere,” Rouzelle said. “I mean, we could find him an apartment in the City and give him a job with the City science team. Their work is separate from the Assemblage and Arm. He does what, drive systems? There’s an ongoing project to improve the NR drive. He could contribute meaningfully, and the Malkans wouldn’t care about that. But would he be happy there?”

“We could always ask him,” said Mommy. “But he’d have to be protected in case the Arm or Assemblage tried to grab him.”

“As far as I know, the Assemblage still thinks he’s dead,” said Rouzelle. “I’m told the Arm helped him escape and wants him far away from them, because the Malkans tend to vaporize labs where he works. So we get him a job in the City Science Department under an alias. You could even make him look different, if he’s OK with that.”

“Easily,” said Mommy. “But again, only if he’s OK with it. I wonder what he’ll think of this idea.”

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

Moslix sat and pondered his options. Dr. Rochand had gone into great detail to ensure that he understood. He knew he couldn’t stay as he was, because this particular face had some major crosshairs on it.

Moslix didn’t really want to admit it, but he was having some serious thoughts about becoming a really cute little girl babydoll again, or he could choose to be one of the many wonderful pets. He also knew of the control collar he would be wearing when he made a choice.

He hoped Dr. Rochand would make certain allowances over the selection he was about to make. After scrolling through the many photos on the tablet, he chose the really cute Misty Princess female syncord frame, with her sparkly snow-white hair and silvery-gray eyes. He shivered when he thought about being truly diaper dependant, but it also held a certain amount of thrill.

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

Lisa’s eyebrow went up when her comm began to chime – it was the head admiral of the Assemblage Space Fleet, making a tightly secured comm to her. Lisa answered quickly. “Dr. Rochand, how may I be of service?”

The picture of a very distinguished gentleman decorated with many medals appeared, and he replied in his deep rumbly voice, “Good evening, Dr. Rochand; I’m Admiral McGivens, and I’m glad to finally get to meet you. It appears I have a rather … delicate request to make of you.”

Lisa smiled and sat back in her comfortable chair. “As long as it isn’t treasonous or something like that, I’ll see what I can do.”

The admiral smiled as he held up a syncord storage crystal. It was more than obvious that a syncord was in it, by the bright glow emanating from its core.

He said softly, “There was an accident. A battleship lost directional control while transitioning from NR space to normal space-time and slammed into a small planetoid. One of our lieutenants, named Meara, made a special request before she died. Not even I have access to the specifics, but since her request was to send them to you, I imagine they’re about a syncord body.”

Several dozen holographic pages began appearing in the air, detailing the type of babydoll Meara desired to become, and they even made suggestions for enhancing the initial control collar programming. Although initially shocked, Lisa smiled as she read over the spec sheet, flipping with a finger from one page to the next.

Meara had taken everything into account. Lisa could tell that Meara had thought this over in depth and even left a death request for it, which guaranteed it under law. From the circumstances, it seemed unlikely that her death had been anything but an accident; Meara had recently been having dream syncord experiences while simultaneously helping her colleague Dr. Frangelico with her research, and that was exactly like being in a syncord frame without having to leave one’s body behind.

Lisa looked over at the regen tank; a very pretty and adorably cute syncord frame was growing rapidly. She knew Mosilix would be happy being incognito there. Plus, she intended to make him a bit more toddler than he expected, and she would make sure he didn’t really realize it.

“Well, Admiral, I can imagine why she chose me to honor her last request, since we’d met in the past,” said Lisa. “I will begin growing the syncord frame to her specifications once I get them all entered, and then it will take a few days to complete, as you may know. I’m not a mass-production factory.”

“No, no, of course not, Dr. Rochand,” said the admiral. “This is a sad duty that I’m all too often called upon to carry out, but I’m glad that we were able to save her syncord, so this isn’t the end for her, although her life will change dramatically. I’m unable to see the exact parameters. I wonder what she’ll choose to do with her future.”

“As do I,” said Lisa, “but I suppose she’ll decide for herself.”

“Indeed,” said Admiral McGivens. “Well, I will have the crystal delivered by special courier, and it should arrive in plenty of time. Thank you for your attention to this solemn matter.”

“Thank you for performing this final duty for your lieutenant, Admiral,” said Lisa.

“It’s the least I can do, Dr. Rochand. McGivens out.” The call ended.

Lisa looked over the floating holographic pages again, then transferred them to data storage. Once Moslix’s frame was done, this would be the next one to grow. Meara certainly had some interesting details. Lisa hoped Meara wouldn’t regret some of them, although none of them were unethical; all could be changed if they ended up being more than Meara had bargained for. She just hoped Meara’s death hadn’t been terribly traumatic.

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

So there I was, waiting for Moslix to wake up in his … well, her new body. Considering that the adorable button-nosed snow princess in the tube before me was going to be Moslix for the foreseeable future, there was no point in using any other pronoun. Before the transfer began, the growth fluid had been drained out, and she’d been dressed in her first diaper; Mommy and I were just waiting for the transfer to complete. There was no hurry in this case; Moslix wasn’t in danger or dying, so that let Mommy take her time, making sure the process wouldn’t be traumatic.

Her big silver-gray eyes fluttered open. “Oh!” she said in an adorably tiny voice. “Everything is all big again!” The tube opened up, the top rising into the air while the bottom lowered beneath the floor, allowing her to step out, or perhaps toddle out might have been a better description. Her thick diaper crinkled with every move, but that was just how the custom-printed diapers were. The store-delivered ones like mine weren’t as noisy.

“Hewwo Moslix – umm, Misty,” I said. “You look bewy cute! I hope it is a nice body.” She was already sucking her thumb, marveling at how large everything looked now.

“Now, Misty, we should get some clothes on you for now, and perhaps something to eat,” said Mommy. “Then the City wants some holo photos for their records so they can get everything set up for working at the Science Division.”

“Ooo, thass wight,” said Moslix, thumb still firmly in her mouth. “Kay, I go upstairs to my room an’ change … oh wait! My clothes not gonna fit!” She giggled. “Oh and tha stairs gonna be a bit harder yea?”

“Don’t worry, I help!” I said. “I pwogwam tha clothes pwinter thingie.” I’d had it measure her before she woke up, and now I could dress her in whatever I wanted. It was like playing with a dolly my own size – of course, that was the size I was too.

Mommy smiled and programmed her system to start growing the next frame, which would be Meara’s. The fact that Meara had actually been a City agent working within the Assemblage fleet had apparently been unnoticed by the Admiral to the last. And now she would get what she wanted, or at least what she thought she wanted. I didn’t know exactly what she’d asked for.

But Moslix – err, Misty – was getting a bit more than he’d asked for. She giggled all the way up the stairs as she struggled along, her thumb firmly in her mouth the whole time. When we got to the living room, she said, around her thumb, “Dis wots better than befores. Am glad your Mommy not twyinna turn me into a wittle baby.” I didn’t say anything. I could tell her diaper was already damp, but she apparently didn’t notice.

I had the clothing printer make a pretty pink jumpsuit for her with her name, Misty, on it. This was the uniform for the Science Division, though their jumpsuits were mostly a bluish-gray. I thought pink would be cuter, and Mommy didn’t think they would mind.

“Ooo, pink,” said Misty. “It not real cute, though, is it?” She had to take her thumb out of her mouth to put her arm through her sleeve, but as soon as it was through, it went right back in.

“Umm, maybe stand up straight and put your hands down by your sides,” I said, “so the puter can take your holo photos. Then you can put it back in.”

“Put what back in where?” asked Misty, thumb still in mouth.

“Uh, just put your hands down and stand up straight,” I said. Misty actually did so for a moment, long enough for the holo photo then back in it went. Mommy must have done something, and I didn’t want to ruin it.

So I tried another outfit that I’d programmed in. It was a cute yellow baby dress. I helped her into it, and she looked at herself in the mirror. “Ooooh,” she said, “that is cute! But is there any more girly ones?”

“Umm, sure!” I said and helped her into the frilliest pinkest laciest dress ever. I didn’t think Moslix would be able to stand it. But there she stood, mesmerized by the mirror.

“Oooooh gosh,” she said, looking at herself. Surely she could see herself sucking her thumb right there in the mirror. But apparently it somehow didn’t register. “Wow I weally wove this one!” she said, apparently unable to look away.

“Yay, I happy you do!” I said. She was way too adorable. The Science Division was going to have the cutest Babydoll ever on staff. And she might even be able to get some science done, if she could do it with one hand. Maybe Mommy could get her a pacifier so she could use both hands.

“Looks like you found her a dress she likes,” said Mommy, coming up the stairs.

“I finally gotted a Babydoll playmate but she gotsa leave,” I said to her as Misty’s robot came out of her room, saw her, and went over to check her diaper. Finding it wet, the robot silently picked her up and carried her to the changing table.

“I wouldn’t worry about that too much,” Mommy said. “You’ve got another one coming soon.”

“Anovver one?” I asked.

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

We finally said goodbye to Moslix, or Misty, as she was picked up by a transport and taken to her new home elsewhere in the City. The Assemblage still thought Moslix had died during the attack on Klisp’s base, and we figured the Arm wouldn’t expect him to willingly transfer into another Babydoll body after what had happened with the previous one.

There were several breakthroughs in NR drive research at the City Science Division in the following months, and the research was shared equally with the Assemblage and Arm, so I wasn’t terribly surprised when I learned about the research expedition that was leaving for intergalactic space soon. It would only take about half a year to get there instead of 27 years. But I’m getting ahead of my story.

I was curious about the Babydoll body growing in Mommy’s lab. Who was it for? I hadn’t met Lt. Meara and didn’t know anything about her. Mommy only told me that there would be another Babydoll soon and that she would be very special.

I pestered her for more details, but she just patted me on the head or tried to distract me with tickles and told me to be patient. But soon the body was formed. She was a bit smaller than I was in my current frame, with shiny black hair.

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

Moslix was liking being a female toddler babydoll who could also do important scientific designs and constructions. Every time he managed to do something babydoll or cute and adorable, of course, Mommy had also programmed a much better pleasure protocol than the one he had been forced into originally. The difference was that this wasn’t meant to drive him or change him into becoming more infantile but rather to respond to what Moslix himself wanted.

It never seemed to dawn on him that he was totally unable to talk about any of the super advanced data he still had in his mind. He was, however, able to extrapolate and come up with a super advanced upgrade to the NR drive that allowed it to utilize a singularity more similar to an NR wormhole than the usual energy channels. Mosilix wasn’t exactly sure where he came up with the new math to model the new physics.

Moslix discovered that he truly loved how many of the female scientists in the propulsion lab he worked in would dote on him, bringing him lollipops and ice cream. He wasn’t real crazy about them checking his diaper and making huge scenes over it at first, but Mommy had made sure that all the babydoll aspects would be natural for him and not cause any more undue stress.

He was slightly shy about all the really adorable and cute clothes they dressed him in now. The super thick diapers were soft and very comfy … they also provided wonderfully soft padding for his bottom when he would stumble and fall from time to time as toddlers were known to do.

The production department of the advanced propulsion lab were not only amazed but overwhelmed when a toddler girl created a whole new field of mathematics and added a new understanding of NR technology.

The engine they produced created a Time Displacement Vortex, more closely related to an unknown type of NR wormhole than any other thing they could describe with the new mathematics. This meant that they could now travel incredible distances that were unheard of before. This also meant that the Assemblage’s drive project could now travel many millions of light years in about 6 months. A vessel was prepared to carry the equipment and materials to build a propulsion lab on a planetoid orbiting a rogue star they had located in deep intergalactic space, far removed from the Milky Way.

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

Lt. Meara saw the directional system frying when the cosmic gamma ray burst hit her ship. Massive pyrotechnics spread throughout the bridge as the entire nav system failed. Meara had just enough time for her mind to register the huge rock directly in the path of the ship once it had left the NR portal. The ship was still traveling at an extremely high relativistic speed on impact. The impact and resulting explosion coupled with the debris field was impressive.

Meara felt the horrid pain as the bridge collapsed around her, and her body was crushed in many places. When she opened her eyes once again, massive fire was everywhere. Someone in an emergency forcefield fire suit was suddenly there with another. They picked up Meara’s mangled body and placed it on its back.

Meara heard one of the men say, “This is the one, right?”

The other one replied as he knelt down and removed a spider-like device from a pouch on his belt and gave it a flick. “Yeah, but we gonna try and save as many syncords as we can, just make sure this one is well labeled.”

Meara saw it as the man lowered the spider-like thing over her face. Its six arms with razor-sharp spikes clamped down and pierced her skull. It only hurt for an instant then became numb. The next thing she realized, a small panel had slid back on the bottom of the spider device, and some type of tube thing about the size of a large index finger descended and touched her forehead. She heard a high pitched whine and could smell the faint odor of burning flesh and bone as the finger sized thing actually painlessly drilled into her forehead.

She could feel the thing as the device drilled deeply into her forehead, although there was no pain. The next thing she felt was something electrical as it grabbed her in a way she had never before experienced and basically ripped her from her dying flesh. Meara’s last thoughts were, “So this is what dying feels …” She never finished that thought as her body became a dead desiccated husk, then the syncord storage capsule began to softly glow, indicating they had successfully taken her syncord.

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

The next thing that Meara knew, she was waking up inside Mommy’s growth/transfer tube. And of course I was looking curiously at her. She was a bit smaller than me, as I said, and her hair was shiny and black, straight and long, but tied up in ponytails. Her eyes slowly opened, and she saw me and gasped.

Mommy was reading some text that was floating in the air due to the holo projector. “Hi … Shelly,” she said. “I’m Dr. Lisa Rochand, but you can just call me Lisa if you like. This is my Babydoll, Mandy. You’re still Shelly Meara. But now you’re a babydoll too!”

“Wha … I … hewwo,” she said in her tiny voice. “I Shewwy. Oh gosh I soun so cutes! Oh gosh am talkin wike a baby! Oh wows!”

“Yes, because that’s how your syncord frame is programmed, by your request, and that’s just the start of it. Everything is exactly as you specified in your final wishes – though as a researcher I couldn’t help experimenting a little. It’s all within your chosen parameters, of course. Now, I just want to test a few things …”

“Otay Wisa,” she said.

“First, take a step forward, carefully,” said Mommy. I stepped back to give her room and fell on my padded behind. “Oopsie!” said Mommy. “Are you OK, Sweetie?”

“Uh huh Mommy,” I said, nodding and staying where I was, sitting on the floor.

“Otay … uh …” Shelly raised her arms and carefully took a step, but then it seemed like her legs buckled underneath her weight, and she collapsed to the floor in her crinkly diaper. “Oopsies!” She giggled. Then she giggled at the fact that she was giggling.

“OK, that’s actually a good thing,” said Mommy. “You specified that your body would not be able to walk with any skill whatsoever. Now we’ll have to see whether you get better at it – though you also specified that it wouldn’t be possible to do so. You’re going to be crawling a lot, or being carried. That’s why we’ve gotten a Nanabot for you.”

“Hello, Sweetie,” said an android who had been standing quietly across the room. Her black and white dress and white apron went well with her white hair. She looked like everyone’s favorite grandma. “I’ll be your Nana.”

“Oooo, Mos - Misty hadda bot too,” I said, “but it never said nuffing.”

“Yes, it was voiceless,” said Mommy. “Now, I would like you to suck your thumb.”

“Ooo, OK,” said Shelly, and popped her left thumb into her mouth.

“Left-handed thumbsucker,” Mommy said. “Interesting. How do you feel?”

“Feel sooooo good,” said Shelly. “No wanna be big no mores. Now me no big neber agains. Is bestus ever!”

“I understand,” Mommy said. “Now, you have a brand new digestive system that’s never been used, so let’s get you a bottle of special formula to get it jump started.” She took a bottle out of the specimen refrigerator and handed it to the Nanabot.

“I’ll get this warmed up and feed it to her right away,” said the android. She held it in front of her with both hands and heated it with … I don’t know how that works, some kind of microwaves or magnetic interference waves … something. “Come on, Sweetheart, Nana’s got a nice warm ba-ba for you,” she said to Shelley in a musical sing-song voice, picking the little babydoll up and cradling her in her arm.

“Mmmmm,” cooed Shelly, still sucking her thumb, but Nana gently popped her thumb out and replaced it with the bottle. Shelly sighed in bliss and nursed on her bottle.

“Sucking and swallowing reflexes operating nominally,” said Mommy. I could see that she was ticking off boxes on the holographic document that floated in the air next to her. “Pleasure responses to infantile behavior also functioning, it seems, and I didn’t program those. Shelly, Shelly, Shelly,” she tsked playfully.

“She weal little, Mommy,” I said as Shelly nursed her bottle.

“That’s what she said she wanted,” Mommy replied with a shrug. “She’s even more of a baby than you, Sweetie. Very helpless. And she wants to stay that way. I have to wonder what in life made her want that, but it must have been something.”

“Does I gets ta play wif her?” I asked.

“If she wants to,” Mommy answered. “But she’s on a bit of a different schedule from you. She won’t be able to play for as long before she gets tired. After all she is now just a baby who is learning how to walk.”

“There you go,” said Nana, setting the empty bottle aside. “All done!” She took Meara to her shoulder and patted Meara on her back until she burped loudly and spit up a little on the cloth Nana had across her shoulder. After cleaning Meara’s face gently with a soft damp cloth, she popped a pacifier into the tiny girl’s mouth, and Shelly sucked avidly on it.

“Hold this, could you?” asked Mommy, handing a tablet to Nana. “Hold it up so she can see it.” Nana held the tablet up in front of Shelly’s face.

“Hmmm?” Shelly sounded quizzical. “Wha dis?” she asked through her pacifier.

“How much of this can you read, Shelly?” Mommy asked.

“Ummmm … dat says Go. Umm … dat say no. Dat say … in?” She giggled. She couldn’t read and seemed very happy about it.

“Seems like two-letter words are all you can handle,” said Mommy. “That was very difficult to program.” Nana handed the tablet back.

“Maybe you want to go upstairs and play with this other little one,” said Nana.

“Pway!” said Shelly. We all went upstairs to the play area. Mommy turned on the invisible playpen walls so Shelly wouldn’t go too far. But she needn’t have worried. Shelly wasn’t much of an escape artist. She crawled around the soft mat and played with the plushies and blocks, and Mirrva came over to look at her. Mommy lifted the Zoomie inside the playpen.

“Awwww!” said Shelly with a giggle as Mirrva cuddled with her. I smiled, and Mirrva made sure I wasn’t neglected by coming over so I could cuddle her too. She made crooning noises.

But I could tell when I was playing with Shelly that as infantile as she was, she was still quite mentally sharp. She was able to stack blocks quite high considering how poor her body’s coordination was, by stacking them in multiple staggered columns. I didn’t know why she wanted her obviously strong intellect to be hampered by this tiny body with poor motor control and such difficulties reading and speaking, but it was apparently her favorite thing.

It wasn’t long before she sat up and gasped, “Shewwy OK?” I asked.

She said, “Me … wetted! Just a lil. But … no could stoppit! An … was wet awweady! Dunno when it happen before!” She was blushing and surprised, but obviously happy about it.

I knew about this. My body was wired exactly the same way. “Uh huh!” I said. “Jus’ happens! Is why we gots diapers.”

“Evwyfing is tha bestus fing,” she said, around her pacifier. She sighed happily. “Buh … uhh …” Her eyelids drooped, and she fell over to one side and collapsed.

“Mommy!” I said. “She falled over!”

Nana got there first. “Oh, she’s just asleep, Dear,” said the android. “I’ll just take her to her crib and tuck her in for a nap.” Mommy turned off the playpen walls, and Mirrva and I were no longer confined – and Nana was able to easily scoop up the sleeping Shelly into her arms.

“It’s part of how her frame works – it’s what she wanted,” said Mommy. “She sleeps a lot. She can’t control it. Just like neither of you can control your potties.”

I don’t know why I had never thought of it before, but it occurred to me then that I’d never once used whatever they used for a toilet here. I didn’t even know how their space toilets worked. And it didn’t matter.

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

I had a dream the next time I slept about a starship that was flying out of the galaxy. It must have been the Assemblage science vessel. It was entirely automated, because the experiment was known to be extremely dangerous. Every step the research was to take was all preprogrammed. I was not seeing much except the stars zooming past, growing more and more sparse as the ship headed out into intergalactic space. Control panel lights blinked. It was a pretty boring flight. And it would take half a standard year to get where it was going.

I had another flash of a strange man watching Misty – well, you know, Moslix – from a stealthed spaceship near the City. No, wait – I’d seen him before. He was the man who had rescued Moslix from Klisp’s base. He was spying on Misty now? Did he know Misty was Moslix? If he did, what was he spying on her for?

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

Over the next few months, Shelly adjusted to her new life, and I enjoyed having her as a playmate. Part of me liked being the “older” Babydoll, and part of me was a bit envious of her helplessness and restrictions. But she continued to live with us as Mommy ensured that her syncord was healthy and recovering from the traumatic incidents leading up to her death – or the death of her body, at least.

Half a year passed, and the automated probe sent by the Assemblage arrived at its designated intergalactic planetoid and set up the construction area to begin manufacture and testing of this radical new engine technology. The fabrication systems built a working copy of Klisp’s transplacer drive. Everyone knew what the possibilities were should something malfunction during power-on testing, which was why there were no living scientists on board the probe or the planetoid.

Back in the Milky Way, an entire team of Assemblage scientists had gone over all the data they had managed to glean from the remnants of Klisp’s computer system. The very best Assemblage physicists still couldn’t figure out much of the math, even though they had a working copy of the drive. What they didn’t know was that Klisp had been more than lucky he hadn’t wiped out much of reality in his blunderings.

One of the young techs looked up from his screen and said, “From the best I can see, we’re ready for the power-on test. I’ve set the thrust vector to its lowest possible setting.” Communications between the Assemblage lab, in the Milky Way, and the remote lab, a million light-years away in intergalactic space, were somewhat delayed. There was NR communication, which was considerably faster than NR travel, but it still wasn’t instantaneous. It still took minutes for signals to travel to the lab, each way. But they had the latest data from the most recent experiments, and they’d sent commands to the machinery to set up the test. Millions of light-years away, computers and servos were poised to carry out this next experiment.

Dr. Ottowanna looked up from his master console and said, “Very good. Enable the Interon igniters.”

The young tech flipped the switch. Immediately, all the advanced space-based monitoring devices recorded the birth of a form of singularity never before seen. There was no delay of minutes; it somehow happened even before the signal could have reached the lab. Many millions of cubic light-years of space simply didn’t register on any of the many sensors observing the area.

None of the many sensors they had seeded throughout the region of space many light-years around the lab relayed any data. From all indications, all of what they thought of as reality no loner seemed to be there. None of them had the slightest idea what was left, nor could any science they currently had explain any of it.

One thing all agreed on was that the edges of this void were as defined as night and day. Now they knew something of what could happen. If that detonation had happed within the Milky Way, a huge chunk of it just wouldn’t be there anymore.

And I had been watching it all in my dreams. More than dreams.

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

“Mommy … that no feel goo,” I said, waking up. I had just had a vision of a robotic arm connecting a number of sensor wires to a complicated piece of spaceship equipment or something, then a computer waiting for a signal, and then the signal came, and the readings I saw were confusing. The stars were gone. The galaxies were too. Nothing was in the sky outside the tiny rocky world the place was on, except for its lonely star and some of the other large rocks circling it. But everything felt terribly wrong. I felt upset.

“Oh, Sweetheart, you’re fine, you’re here,” said Mommy, picking me up and cuddling me. “It was the experiment; I should have known you’d be drawn to it. Let’s see what got recorded.” Mommy turned on the holo screen that had recorded my dream.

There was the apparatus that I’d dreamed about, all right. And then there was that strange flash of black that made everything blacker than night outside. The computers went on blinking and displaying numbers.

“This is … strange,” said Mommy.

“It feels bad,” I said.

“Well, this is what I mean,” Mommy said. She took me up to the roof, to look out at the sky through the City’s dome. There, off in the direction where Mommy was pointing, a big circle of the sky looked darker than everything around it. “See there, Mandy? There are galaxies behind that big circle of black – or at least, we think there still are – but everything you see there is in this galaxy. All those stars are in the Milky Way. If you look over there, there are lots of stars, but also distant galaxies. But there … the experiment went wrong. We don’t know how long it’ll be before we see the Andromeda Galaxy again – if we ever do.”

“Ooo, that bad Mommy,” I said.

“But here’s the thing,” she said. “I heard from Rouzelle. It was a little while ago that the big black circle appeared. They sent the signal – and the circle appeared right away. It should’ve taken minutes. I think the blast went back in time to the moment they flipped the switch. I don’t know how that all works – I’m a syncordologist, not an astrophysicist – but you were dreaming just now. You saw what was going on inside there. Nobody can see that except you.”

“Wha?” I asked, wondering how I was so special, and wondering if they would want me to look in there again. I didn’t relish the thought.

“Well, there are two or three others in the galaxy who might be able to,” Mommy said, “but I don’t know who they are or where. And I said might. I’m not sure.”

I thought about it. “Somebody gonna wanna see tha pictures,” I said.

“I’ve already sent the recording to Rouzelle,” said Mommy. “She’ll get it to where it needs to go.”

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

Misty had been living as the cutest Babydoll ever for about half a year now. She thought of herself as Misty and not Moslix anymore. Everyone called her Misty, everyone treated her as the little Babydoll she was, and her robot only had to change her diapers when she was at home in her specially-equipped apartment, because everyone at work practically fought over the chance to change her. But when this video came to the lab, everyone’s eyes were for once not on Misty.

“Look at the timestamp on this!” said one of the techs. Comments overlapped. Misty tried to make sense of what she was seeing. The Assemblage had shared their data with the City labs, and this was after they’d lost contact. How had this recording gotten out? Oh right, she thought, it must have been Mandy. So what did those numbers tell her …?

“Look how dark the sky is!” someone was saying.

But Misty said, “Wooka da inner-field innerface gwadient.” When the others looked at that computer screen in the recording, they gasped. “Is gots huge gap innit. Is tween tha contwol thingies anna igniter thingies. Gotsa pattern.”

“Ohhhh, Misty, you’re so adorable and right!” said Ivy, a research technician. “Let’s run what we can see through a spectro analysis … just a moment … looks like a tangle of biochemistry to me.”

“It is,” said Nilisha, a biophysicist. “It’s like the spectrum of a complex nucleotide … I wonder what that means … hmm …”

Misty suddenly had an epiphany and was so shocked she soaked her diaper. Of course, she was probably about to do that anyway, as her adoring coworkers loved giving her baby bottles to drink almost as much as she liked drinking them. “Oh! Issa bio field! Gotsa has resonance fom tha opewator!”

“What?” asked Nilisha. “Oh, my, Misty, you are soaking wet! But you might be on to something! I get to change her!”

“Hey, no fair!” “You changed her last time!” “I was next!” “No, I was!” came a chorus of voices.

But Nilisha was fastest and got Misty to the changing table. As she changed the Babydoll’s soaked diaper and everyone else looked on, which Misty was used to by now, Nilisha said, “So the energy of the reaction resonates with the molecules nearby, including the organic molecules of the operator’s body, only there’s no operator, and this gap we’re seeing might just be the missing piece the reaction chain needs.”

“It might even be what caused … that big you-know-what,” said Darcy, the astrophysicist.

“It’s a field imbalance at the source!” said Ivy. “Ooo, tickle her tummy, it always makes her giggle so cutely! Better bring in some molecular biologists or geneticists – who’d have thought there’d be a biological component to this?”

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

Mommy sat at her pooters place doin lotsa typin. I toddled up, started sucking my thumb, and watched the holo-screen as all the advanced math and calculations appeared. I asked in my adorable voice, “Whacha doins, Mommy?” Baby no no what thems thingys means.”

Mommy sat back and took a drink of her hot tea. “I’m not an engineer or a biologist, but from all the times I’ve created a syncord frame, I have gotten to know something about genetics. From what I’ve seen from your dream recording, there’s a biological fix. I just have to isolate the particular pseudo-Kirlian frequency the system requires to control the max wave oscillation.”

About that time, Mommy’s comm chimed. The face of a very handsome middle aged man appeared, “Hello, Dr. Rochand, I’m glad to finally get to chat with you. My name is Dr. Squarebush.”

“Oh, you’re the City’s foremost genetic research scientist,” Mommy replied.

“You’re too kind,” he said. “I’ll give you time to check out my credentials while I travel from Vecor to the City. I should be arriving in about a half hour.”

Mommy asked, “OK, but why would someone from the genetic research division want to see me personally?”

Dr. Squarebush replied, “I have seen … a certain top secret video. I’m not exactly sure the means by which the City’s Science Department came by it, But I do see the missing counter-resonance bio-wave frequency. I’m bringing with me another professor; his name is Ekkland …”

Mommy sat up in her chair, put her cup of tea in its saucer, and gasped out, “Dr. Edward Ekkland?”

Dr. Squarebush nodded. “Yes, the same one who helped you build your syncord extractor and the bioreactor frame assembler. He feels, as I do, that the three of us can come up with a mechanical means to reproduce the required bio-control system to stabilize the instability in the expanding Omicron wave.”

Mommy nodded. “And if we could stop the over push, it would mean the system would function properly.”

Dr. Squarebush smiled as he said, “Save whatever your calculations currently are. We’re brining one of those new tablet quantum computer systems to aid us in the massive calculations. See you shortly.” The screen went blank.

Mommy turned to me and said, “I never thought I’d be involved in working out the transplacer drive. My only fear is what the Malkans are going to do. If they will work with us, we could solve this issue and not destroy everything.” Mommy pressed some buttons on the comm unit, and the face of Auntie Rouzelle appeared and smiled. “How can I help you, little sister?”

Mommy replied, “I have some rather interesting guests arriving shortly who seem to want to help me solve … shall we say a dangerous issue.”

Rouzelle said, “I know, and there will be some major upgrades to the computers in your lab. What we’re about to do, we’re not sharing with the Assemblage or the Arm. We in the Council feel they’d attempt to use the knowledge very improperly.”

“I know they would,” said Mommy. “If I’m reading the data correctly, the genetic makeup of the life forms aboard the ship creates an inherent part of the drive system … and with the Malkans, that’s not a problem, as they’ve engineered their systems with only Malkans in mind. But the City, Arm, and Assemblage all contain representatives of over a dozen intelligent species – I’m betting that Klisp’s little fighters had only one life-form aboard. The intergalactic test lab was automated and had nobody aboard, but it was designed based on a Malkan template, so of course the wave feedback was undamped; there were no Malkans or life forms of any kind on board.”

“I’m not a scientist,” replied Rouzelle, “but I think you’re saying that our ships would have to have a totally new stabilizer built to take Geodite, Piccolid, Threllian, and all the other galactic species’ biology into account.”

“That’s just it,” said Mommy, “I’m thinking that the more divergent biologies present, the easier it will be …”

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

So Dr. Ekkland and Dr. Squarebush came, and brought a lot of new computer equipment with them, and Mirrva, Shelly, and I hid in the play area while they worked with Mommy to set everything up in the lab downstairs. Shelly’s Nana helped out by changing my diapers in addition to Shelly’s own. But finally Mommy came upstairs to feed me lunch – Nana had formula to feed Shelly, because her body could only be bottle-fed, but I needed solid food in addition to liquids, though my motor control was such that I couldn’t easily feed myself or drink from anything that wasn’t a baby bottle or sippy cup without making a huge and really fun mess.

“Well, we’re done setting up the new computer,” said Mommy, “and we’ve started running some initial calculations. I guess we’ll see what we get!”

“Wha gonna happen, Mommy?” I asked between mouthfuls of food.

“We’ll have to wait and see, Sweetheart,” she said. “We’ve duplicated the control structure for the transplacer drive, but not the drive system; that would be too dangerous. But from the data we’ve got, all we have to do is make the wave we detected from the drive and turn it upside down.”

“How you make a upside down wave, Mommy?” I asked.

She smiled. “Very carefully, and right now, with the help of a big computer. But I’m hoping that in the end all it’ll take is the right combination of genetic data.”

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

But everything depended on the Malkans not finding out what was going on, and the fact that Mommy was one of their only contacts within the galaxy outside their worlds made it inevitable that they’d find out sooner or later.

Mommy got a call on the Malkan communicator. “Hello, Dr. Rochand,” she said, and the translucent, color-shifting face of Dr. Cerulean / Yellow / Umber / Rose appeared in the holo screen.

“Greetings, Dr. Rochand,” came the translator’s voice. “I had a few questions about Red / Red / Amber / Indigo’s case. Are you free?”

“Yes,” said Mommy. “I’m working on another project at the moment, but I’m always willing to consult. Are there any problems?”

“So far, nothing serious, but they’re reporting some issues with color nuance in certain frequency ranges … what is that behind you? Is it a transplacer control intermatrix?”

Mommy’s eyes went wide. She hadn’t considered this. She paused. “... Yes, it is,” she said truthfully.

The Malkan doctor was very quiet for a moment. “They have you working on this,” he said. “That is a sign that you are understanding it properly. But you know that others are already hearing this conversation. There will be questions.”

“Then let me say, for the others who are listening,” said Mommy, “that we have only the control system here and no drive system. You cannot have failed to notice the cataclysmic disaster the Assemblage caused in intergalactic space. We of the City have obtained data from within the singularity and are retrofitting the control system to compensate. We believe the Malkan version of the drive is actually the most difficult version due to your single biology.”

“I am a doctor and not an expert in transplacer drives,” said the Malkan doctor, “but I know the general principles – and to be truthful I believe you are correct. But you will probably be visited soon. What our representatives will say, I cannot predict.”

“Very well,” Mommy said, looking across the room at Dr. Ekkland and Dr. Squarebush. “In the meantime, I might be able to suggest some tests for Red / Red / Amber / Indigo that could better define their frequency response parameters …”

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

Auntie Rouzelle had gotten to our house as fast as she could, and just in the nick of time, because in a sudden flash there were three Malkans in the lab.

“Greetings,” said Rouzelle, “I am Councilor Rouzelle …”

“We know of you,” said the first Malkan, via the translator device. “I am Green / Chartreuse / Mauve / Teal, appointed as External Diplomatic Liaison for the Malkan Commonwealth. It is with great urgency that we must ask you to discontinue experimentation while talks are in progress, and simultaneously urge that talks commence immediately.”

“We understand,” Rouzelle said. “I must first clarify that we of the City are not acting on behalf of the Arm or the Assemblage and will not be sharing our research with them until it is unanimously deemed safe to do so by all Council members.”

“And are these Council members representatives of the Arm and Assemblage?” asked the second Malkan, whom I recognized as the grumpy one from my dream.

“Not all of them,” said Rouzelle. “One third of them are from the City itself, this enclave in neutral territory designed as a buffer between the two sides.”

“Suppose there were another side,” said Green / Chartreuse / Mauve / Teal, “who wanted to join the Council and be a part of this diplomatic buffer?”

Pressing a button on her tablet, Rouzelle replied, “Procedures were laid down for that in the Council’s charter, though they haven’t been used for over a thousand standard years. One would first apply by making a request to a Council member. Debate would then take place, followed by a vote. The vote must be unanimous.”

“Then let me make such a request,” said the Malkan liaison. “You are recording this conversation?”

“Yes, as of a moment ago,” said Rouzelle. “It is of historic significance.”

“Very well. As duly appointed External Diplomatic Liaison representing the Malkan Commonwealth, I hereby request the Commonwealth’s admission to the Galactic Council, for the purpose of negotiations with the other political entities of the galaxy.”

“Your request has been received,” said Rouzelle. “Thank you. I will personally take it to the Council for debate. Do you have a means by which Council members may contact you or your aides with further questions?”

“I do,” said the diplomat, and the third Malkan gave Rouzelle three small communicator devices. “One for the Arm delegates, one for the Assemblage delegates, and one for the City delegates, as we understand things.”

“Very good,” said Rouzelle. “The paperwork, as it is said, is already under way, though it hasn’t been done using actual paper for centuries. We will all be contacting your offices using these communicators.”

“And experimentation will cease?” asked the grumpy Malkan.

Rouzelle looked at Mommy and the two other scientists. “While negotiations are in progress.”

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

In a huge council chamber buried miles beneath the outer hull of the planetesimal sized City station, a meeting was ongoing the likes of which the High Council had not had the distinction of presiding over for more than a thousand years: the formal admission of a new member civilization.

This request was unique in the fact that it was asking for admittance to the City Council Coalition, but not to any of the Arm or the Assemblage councils. It also stipulated that there would be a High Council member who was Malkan and that their words would carry the same weight as the rest of the High Council.

As expected, and as always, the Arm raised many idiotic and foolish objections to try to divert the essence of the vote. The thing that shut them up was the video of the test the Assemblage had performed and the many millions of light years of reality that had vanished, leaving behind a huge … hole, for the lack of a better description.

None of the data as yet returned by any of the scientific expeditions to the boundary could explain any of it. It was simply reality to a well-defined border, then nothingness. The meaning of nothing was shocking – there was absolutely … nothing. No time, no gravity, no dust, no errant energy waves, no detectable anything … reality simply ended at the border.

After the Arm had its face rubbed in its own stupidity, the vote proceeded and returned unanimous. Immediately, the declaration of admittance for the Malkan civilization was approved with all stipulations intact.

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

I was in my playpen wifs Shelly playins wiffa plushys n habina goo time when suddenly there was a huge flash and seven Malkans appeared. Around their necks were some type of devices. I was amazed to discover that they were translators, made to give each of the Malkans a voice that other life forms could understand without having to carry a separate machine all the time.

It was much more convenient, and the room wasn’t always flashing brightly, awash with many alternating colors, as it somehow translated our speech into the photochromatic variations the Malkan language consisted of, without all the external flashing and blinking that sometimes the handheld translators confused and made huge errors. Although this only happened when everyone was trying to talk at the same time.

The Malkan dressed all in red said in his translator's rendition of his voice, “My name is Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. I am the head of the Malkan Transplacer Drive Oversight Committee. It has come to my attention that you may have resolved the issue with this drive. We made a similar mistake many of your centuries ago. The Great Black Void, as you call it in your astronomy, was the result.” He waved his hand indicating the others with him before continuing, “And these are the heads of the Advanced Transplacer Section of our R&D department. We are not only willing to aid you in resolving this issue, we request an opportunity to view your genius.”

I stood up and said, “Hi! You pobly wanna talk to Mommy. She downstairs.”

It was difficult to tell whether the committee chairperson was smiling, but he did look at me, and his translator said, “But of course, my dear. Your Mommy is home, is she not?”

Mommy quickly entered the room, having heard this and come up the stairs. I told her, “Ooo Mommy, this issa Malkan an wanna looks at alla space drive stuffs.”

“Thank you, Sweetheart,” she said, smiling at me. Looking at the Malkans, she said, “I can, of course, show you our research. My two collaborators, Dr. Squarebush and Dr. Ekkland, aren’t present at the moment, but they will come if you give me a chance to let them know you’re here.”

“Yes, please do that,” said Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. Mommy nodded and made a few calls. “In the meantime, I understand that this one is quite remarkable.” He knelt to look at me. I looked into his jewel-like color-changing eyes.

“Hi,” I said. “Your eyes are pwetty.”

“I have learned about your amazing gift,” he said. “Is it true that you can see into the rift?”

“Tha big dark place?” I asked. “Somma the time … when I has dreams. Can see tha place wif tha star anna planet anna space lab.”

“Amazing,” he said. “So it has not been destroyed but somehow … displaced. Perhaps into a neighboring space-time continuum in some way. And yet you can still catch glimpses of it … I wonder.” He was clearly thinking of something. I was too. I wondered whether he was thinking about the Malkan experiment of so many centuries ago and whether I could look into that rift. That was what I was thinking about.

Mommy was done. “Dr. Ekkland and Dr. Squarebush will be here shortly,” she said. “Fortunately they’re still in the City.”

“Very well,” said the Malkan committee chairperson, straightening up. Mommy took them downstairs and started showing them the lab. I did not understand much of what they talked about. Dr. Squarebush and Dr. Ekkland came a little while later and they all talked about science and stuff.

But it was Mommy they found the most impressive. “Dr. Rochand,” said the Malkan chairperson, “from what I am understanding, you have done something that we have never managed to do. You may be able to entirely eliminate the drive system’s reliance on a biological match between the control design and the life forms aboard the vessel. As it is, we must carefully sterilize our ships to ensure that only we, and not any creatures or even microorganisms native to our worlds, are on board. If your theories are correct, you may be able to construct one of your … syncord frames with an adaptable bio-signature that would automatically synchronize its molecular structure to compensate for any life forms in range.”

“I thought it would be best to try to eliminate all possible sources of … well, that,” said Mommy, gesturing vaguely at an image of the great dark rift on one of the holo screens. “If at all possible.”

“That’s just it,” said one of the Malkan scientists. “Until now, we hadn’t even considered such a thing possible. But your mastery of these synthetic organisms you create may well be the key.”

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

The Malkans watched the necessary components as they self-assembled in the regen tank. They were impressed that the object rapidly growing in the tank looked more like some kind of device made of organic materials than the expected somewhat humanoid frame they had been expecting.

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black watched as Mommy did more calculations and made minor adjustments to the collagen/genetic mix going into the construction. He pointed at a section of the complex equation and said, “This is the place we never could resolve. All our calculations either ended in zero or exploded – infinity.”

Mommy smiled as she continued typing, “At first, they did for me too. How I solved the issue was the addition of these bio-form variables.” She pointed to a specific set of what appeared to Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black as a totally new conceptual way of looking at matter/energy transference. Mommy continued, “As far as I have been able to tell, and I had to learn a lot of new math and physics from you guys, the modulation of the waveform flux is controlled and stabilized so it doesn't release all of its potential in one large burst.”

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black stood up straight. His voice module even perfectly transmitted the tones and inflections Mommy would have expected as he asked in a hopeful tone, “Is there any way to reverse what happened? And another question, is there any possible hope we might be able to retrieve the team we lost …?”

Mommy turned and replied softly, “I knew this would be a priority, so therefore I had started working on this …” She turned to another ephemeral keypad and started typing. Another set of complicated equations appeared on another holo-screen along with several incomplete schematics. “As best as I’ve been able to tell from what Mandy deduced through her ability, a huge section of space/time has been displaced to an energy vortex within its own frequency. Location is the same, but it is out of phase resonance with the rest of the universe. I do not know how time passes within that particular bubble, but I am sure we can return it to normal phase with this device. I think I’m going to call it a Synchrochron, because it resyncs time and space to the desired frequencies.”

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black stood in total amazement for an instant before he bent over the keypad. “May I? I think I just might have the solution to your issue here.” He began adding to the displayed schematic.

I saw Mommy’s eyes sparkle as her mouth fell open in shock. “You do realize what that device is capable of doing, don’t you?”

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black repled, “I am. It can be made into something universally devastating. I only pray that no one uses it for such a purpose.”

Mommy smiled as she typed some and added another bio circuit to the already complex diagram. “They can’t, if we add this kind of bio-harmonizer here. This insures it cannot be used for any other purpose, and, if we make a slight modification to the pre-intermix here, the device will not work without it.”

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black asked, “But couldn’t some smart individual figure out how to remove it from the device?”

Mommy replied, “No matter how we try to safeguard data, somehow it always gets out. All we can do is what you were already doing – watchdog the technology and render any we find inert. We can also keep this particular device among us and not share it. We of the City are very capable of that.”

This seemed to satisfy Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black as he glanced to the regen tank for a moment, “As soon as we can, I would like to start construction on the Synchrochron. As soon as possible, if there is a way to return the science team to this frequency, I am all for it. Not sure if any survived this many time passages, but there is now at least hope.”

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

That’s when Mommy came to me. “Sweetheart,” she said, “a long time ago the Malkans lost a group of scientists. They went out into space like the Assemblage’s robot lab did … and they got lost the same way. But instead of machines, they were people, and they never came back. Do you think you can see if they’re still alive in there?”

I wasn’t sure. “I dunno, Mommy … everyfing I see is somefin I gots a … connection to? I seened tha robot ship go out into space … so I could find it again.”

There was a Malkan behind her. It was Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. He said, through his translator, “Would it help if you could hold a part of the spaceship that launched the missing scientists on their journey? It was centuries ago, but those spacecraft are still in the historical museums. I could bring you a component of one that’s small enough for you to hold.”

I nodded. “Maybe it could work, Mr. Malkan Sir. I can twy it. If it no work … then I just see noffing, I guess.”

Mommy said to him, “It seems she thinks it’s worth a try.”

“Very well,” said the scientist. “I will see if I can borrow a small enough component of the launch vehicle that she can hold it in her hands. I will send word to my friends in our government. They will see what they can do.”

The story is already long, so I’ll just say that several days later, he visited again, holding a plastic and metal object about the size of an Earth baseball. “A space suit worn by the expedition leader, Seafoam / Lime / Orange / Azure, is in one of our museums. They wore it for many years on many missions. But they wore a new one for the mission they led on that fateful day. This is an atmospheric rebreather unit from that space suit. All the air that they breathed went through this.”

I looked up at him and took the object. It was a bit heavy for its size. “I look for them, then,” I said. “See if I can finds them.”

“Very well, then,” said the scientist. “I hope you can find them.”

So I lay down on my bed, holding the device in my hands. I closed my eyes. I tried to reach out. It was a long way. So, so far. Farther than the robot lab, and that was a million light years away, plus wherever it was beyond this continuum. This rift was formed centuries ago. But the fact that I knew it was a long way meant that I was making a connection. It was drawing me along, into the void, past veils and membranes and continua that had no names.

Mommy and the Malkan scientist were watching the holo screen that was monitoring my vision, and all they saw were stars streaking by, then a passage through a ragged, torn veil of light, then blackness. There were occasional flickers of energy that rushed by, indicating that my consciousness was still moving through the void. “Extraordinary,” said the Malkan.

Then … I saw a face. It was a Malkan face. It wasn’t moving. I could see their surroundings. They were at a control panel. There were other Malkans around. They each had their post in front of a bank of scientific equipment of some kind. None of them were moving.

I knew that Mommy and the Malkan scientist would want to look at the readings on the panels, so I looked at each of them for a long time, even though I didn’t understand what they said. Maybe it would help them. I moved around the lab to see more of it. I found out that it wasn’t a lab on a planet at all, but a big spaceship. It was like I was flying around the ship, through the halls, around corners, and then I found what was probably the drive system.

It looked a lot like the Assemblage lab’s drive system – which was based on Malkan systems, after all. So I looked at that too for a while. There were some things that looked like information readouts, so I looked at those too. Maybe Mommy could give the Malkan scientist the recordings and they could make sense out of them.

I was starting to get tired, so I tried to wake up. The scene started to pull back … and I found myself where I’d started, in the room with the leader of the team. They still haven’t moved. They were somehow frozen in time. I pulled away from them … and I couldn’t. I pulled away and just found myself there again. I started to panic. This had never happened before, but I had never gone this far out before. I tried to leave them behind, to return to my body, and I just found myself stuck there.

I felt a pull from the team leader. I had a funny feeling that they were holding me there. They somehow had an inkling that I was the way out, that there was someone there who was the key to their escape – even though, for them, no time had passed since their experiment had removed them from their very universe. I tried to call to Mommy for help, but I couldn’t speak.

Beside my bed, Mommy was saying, “Something’s wrong. She should be coming back. She’s tried, and she just keeps going back there.”

“Could she be somehow … stuck?” asked Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. “Could she be so far out that she’s more connected to Seafoam / Lime / Orange / Azure than to her own body now?”

“Oh, no,” said Mommy. “Oh no … oh no …” She manipulated the controls. “We saw those readouts and control panels … we have to analyze them. Getting the scientists back is now also the key to getting Mandy back. I’m making a copy of this recording. Take it back with you … analyze those readouts …”

“I understand,” said the Malkan as Mommy handed him a data chip containing the recording. “If we can bring them back, we can bring back your Babydoll. My theory is that you will know when we succeed. I will get started immediately.”

“Please … please do,” said Mommy, looking worriedly at me. The Malkan left the room, and there was a flash of light in the living room as he returned home with the data chip.

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

Around an inconspicuous red dwarf star in the Milky Way galaxy, a planet orbited within its goldilocks zone. Around this planet, in several geo-synchronous orbits, were very large gracefully constructed space cities, and many spacecraft docked at the stations or in orderly stationary parking orbits.

Inside the largest of the stations, buried deep within its core, was the Malkan Scientific Council’s laboratories and council chambers. All of the heads of the Council were present, including many of the R&D department heads. It was more than obvious that a major discussion raged, as many rainbow colors flashed all through the room.

( all Malkan speech is translated for our reader’s benefit )

In a very bright flash, Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black appeared and said, “My fellow Council members, I have just returned from what the new civilization calls “The City.” He held out a small data chip to Violet / Green / Teal / Peach. “This data chip contains a discovery that the human doctor researching our data has made. It is as startling as it is amazing.”

Violet / Green / Teal / Peach took the chip and inserted it into a read port on one of their computer systems. The data loaded and displayed immediately. “I still feel their research should be curtailed. Experimenting with this technology is dangerous beyond belief. We were fortunate not to have destroyed reality, from what our equations tell us.”

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black responded as he pointed to a new addition to already well-known equations.”She has discovered a means to limit the uncontrolled frequency bursts created by biological imbalances to strictly controllable frequencies.”

The data came up on the screen. Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black pointed to the new equations none of the other scientists had ever seen. “Dr. Rochand has discovered the missing frequency modulator. I have also observed that the City is a far more civilized and secure location than the other two governments of humanoids in this galaxy, and I feel they should be trusted. Dr. Rochand has actually saved the life of one of our fighter pilots who was fatally injured in combat.”

All the Malkans present began talking at the same time. The room lit up like a Christmas light display with all the numerous and varying shades of color dancing around the large laboratory.

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black replied to all the many questions, “Dr. Rochand is one of the foremost experts in a technology we know nothing of called, Syncordology. The City has discovered a means to remove an individual’s living spirit and place it into a specially genetically constructed vessel. The name of the pilot is, Red / Red / Amber / Indigo.”

One of the other R&D specialists said, “He … died? I just saw him in the medical wing.”

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black replied, “You didn’t actually see him there.” A very bright wash of rainbow colors flooded the room for an instant as all present were intensely discussing what seemed to be impossible. “I’m telling you, Red / Red / Amber / Indigo’s body is in cryostorage at the Cryo facility for any who wish to inspect it. The individual you saw in the med wing was a bio construct with Red / Red / Amber / Indigo’s syncord residing within. Using her expert knowledge, she devised this device as I watched, I might add, and built in limits so it will not function in any other configuration.”

“She is aware, then, of the weaponization potential.”

“Indeed she is. But now that I have disclosed this to you, there is another matter that we must resolve. Dr. Rochand has a … friend … who took a risk to help us and now needs our help.” He produced another data chip, which Violet / Green / Teal / Peach inserted and translated into their computer system. The holo images of my voyage into the Malkans’ old rift began to play for the entire Council to see.

There were gasps – well, the Malkan versions of them, with their flickery flamelike wavering. “That is – the Institute Expedition! How do they have a recording of it?” The room lit with a cacophony – that isn’t the right word, really – of excited and wondering chatter.

“This is not a recording from the past,” said Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. “It was just made. Dr. Rochand’s friend is also a rescued syncord who has a very rare talent, the ability to cast her psyche far from her body, which some among us call telepsychism. The City has developed a means to record her mental impressions as this happens. This is such a recording.”

As the other scientists watched in wonder, Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black went on. “She has found that the Expedition scientists are still alive, because time has scarcely passed since the famous disaster that taught us to respect transplacer technology. We can see the control panels and data readouts. See the date. For them it is still Solid Red Circular Maroon, in the Mauve Dynasty. In all that time in the outside world, scarcely a day has passed for them.”

“We must analyze those readouts!” said one scientist. “We may be able to rescue them!”

“Indeed, we must,” said Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. “For Mandy, Dr. Rochand’s friend, who cast her psyche out into the rift, is unable to return. She ran this risk for us, and her only hope at returning to her body is for us to somehow learn how to undo the rift.”

There was stunned silence. There had been a concerted effort to heal the rift as soon as it had occurred, so many centuries ago, without the least glimmer of success. The best minds of the Malkan Commonwealth had labored for decades and failed. Everyone in the room knew that. Now they were being asked to succeed where their predecessors had not.

“We must save them all!” said the enthusiastic scientist who had just spoken. “We have data they didn’t have. And what’s more – unless I’m wrong – the Expedition team has left a message for us!” They rewound the recording to where I had focused on one screen – I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but I tried to focus on every display that had anything on it, in case it was helpful. “Look here!”

Now, of course, I couldn’t read Malkan language, and I still can’t. That’s what the translator computers are for. But the Malkans could. “That’s a detailed analysis of the spatial geometry of the bubble they’re in,” said an expert on space-time curvature. “Our predecessors never had that data – it could only come from within the rift!”

“Get that data entered into the computer, now!” said Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. “We can do this!”

The scientists quickly divided up the task of encoding the data from the various readouts and control panels in the holo video into numerical formats, and the most advanced AI the Malkans had were put to work analyzing this new data. In short order they had a working theory about the dimensional location of the lost research team and the nature of the interface boundary. Not long after that they’d designed a probe that could attempt to cross the boundary when launched from a ship just on this side of it. They just needed a pilot. Fortunately, they knew a good one.

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

Mommy worriedly changed my diaper – even if my body had been potty trained, it wouldn’t have mattered, because right now I wasn’t in it. I still haven’t quite figured out exactly what happened, but either my syncord was trapped inside the rift, or it was experiencing time like the people inside the rift did – where hundreds of years in the outside world were like a day to them. If I was somehow saved from this fate, it would seem to me as if only an instant had passed – but if I weren’t, Mommy would be doing a lot of diaper changes …

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

Red / Red / Amber / Indigo was extremely grateful to have been rescued by Dr. Rochand. His entire race had been more than impressed. Red / Red / Amber / Indigo had had a few minor issues with his new body, but as time passed his syncord had made whatever adjustments Dr. Rochand hadn’t, and everything had normalized. He was more than glad they had given his flight status back; he really didn’t know what he would have done with himself if they had grounded him.

His comm unit began to send out the myriad of rainbow colors that was his ringtone as a call came in.

( all Malkan words have been translated for the reader’s benefit )

“This is Red / Red / Amber / Indigo, how may I help you?”

“This is Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black, the head of Transplacer Oversight. We have a small proposition we would like to ask you.”

Red / Red / Amber / Indigo asked, “And just what would that be? I’m not real sure I’ve been released medically yet.”

Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black replied, “I have had you placed back on flight status and would like to know if you would like to be the test pilot for our new series of ships?

“Where do I sign up?”

Once they had briefed Red / Red / Amber / Indigo on the mission, he spent some time in the training cockpit simulator but found it almost the same as many other models he’d flown before. They had based the new ship on an existing scientific scout craft, after all. The only difference was in its mission, to navigate to the edge of the rift and then launch the probe into it. Dozens of simulated runs later, the pilot was deemed ready, and the mission was launched.

The Malkan transplacer drive had him at the border of the rift almost instantaneously, but to avoid overshooting it had been programmed to stop some distance short. The rift was like a huge black non reflective wall, dead ahead. It was impossible to tell how far away the rift was without using instruments, and he had to rely completely on sensor readings as he expertly maneuvered ever closer.

“Mission Control, I am in position,” reported Red / Red / Amber / Indigo. “Ready to launch Probe 1 on your order.” He put his hand on the probe control panel and ensured the pre-programmed coordinates matched up with the sensor readings.

“The order is given,” replied Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. “Launch Probe 1.”

The pilot pressed the button – that’s all it took. Everything was programmed, and he’d verified the coordinates. He saw the probe launch forward into the void, then … disappear. “Probe is away. Holding position.”

Everyone held their breath as they awaited the moment of truth – would they receive the first ever telemetry from beyond the rift, or would they get only static? Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black stood behind Violet / Green / Teal / Peach’s console, watching the display in anticipation.

Suddenly data started streaming in, filling the screen, which then cleared and was replaced by graphs and charts as the computers analyzed it in real time. Cheers went up around Mission Control in the form of jubilantly shimmering colors. “We have data!” Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black joyfully told Red / Red / Amber / Indigo. “Success!”

The pilot breathed a sigh of relief. “Congratulations, Mission Control,” he sent. “Awaiting further instructions, of course.”

“Prepare to launch Probe 7,” the scientist sent back. Probe 1 had five backups in case of failure, but Probe 7 was the first probe for the next phase of the operation.

“Roger that.” The pilot rotated to the next bank of launch controls and began verifying the coordinates for the next launch, matching them with sensor readings. The extensive knowledge of ordinary orbital dynamics that he had from his training and experience was of only limited help here, because as soon as the probe hit that interface, the normal laws of physics within a continuous space-time no longer applied. Even Malkan science was being pushed to its very limit here.

“Pause launch for a moment,” said the scientist. “We’ve got new data from Probe 1. We’re going to slightly alter Probe 7’s trajectory based on it.”

“Roger that. Suspending pre-launch procedures,” confirmed Red / Red / Amber / Indigo. This made sense. There was so much they didn’t know; almost everything Probe 1 had sent back was new information.

“Give us a moment here, Red / Red / Amber / Indigo … there’s a lot for the computer to process. It’s looking like … like … all right, we have a new plan. Immediately after launch, put as much distance between you and the rift as the transplacer drive can manage.”

“Roger that, though may I ask why?” asked the pilot.

“High probability that the rift interface will expand to engulf you,” said Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black. The pilot knew that Probe 7’s intent was to collapse the rift like a huge bubble, but the math said there would be instability while it was going on.

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

Red / Red / Amber / Indigo received new telemetry and frequency adjustment data which he rapidly entered into Probe 7’s guidance systems and targeting systems. Just as a precaution, he also entered a delayed fuse to delay the detonation to give him more of an opportunity to escape whatever instability happened.

As soon as Probe 7 had exited the launch tube, Red / Red / Amber / Indigo engaged his transplacer drive to full and set course for his home galaxy. The probe crossed the threshold of the huge void, traveled almost to where the very large science vessel was trapped, then came to more or less station keeping in relation to the research vessel off several light-minutes.

Red / Red / Amber / Indigo arrived back at the outer perimeter of his home solar system just as the timer in Probe 7’s programming expired. A massive surge of frequency disruption happened instantly, sending enormous gravitational waves throughout space-time.

In Earth’s solar system, the astronomers went totally bonkers as their gravitational wave detectors and laboratories recorded the passage of the most intense series of gravity waves ever recorded.

Several million light years of void suddenly filled with a section of space/time as it resynched with the normal resonance frequency of the rest of known reality. A very large science vessel no one had seen or heard from for centuries appeared along with everything else that had been in the missing section of space; this created the massive gravitational wave, like throwing a large rock into a pond. The borders of the rift sealed up immediately, as if the universe was happily welcoming its lost child home.

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

I opened my eyes and found myself in Mommy’s loving embrace. She hugged and kissed me all over my face as she tearfully said, “Welcome back, baby. Mommy’s so glad to have you back.”

I was extremely tired, but hugged Mommy back and said in my cute voice, “Baby so gladsa be back. Thunkted was stuck an’ no coulds gets back.”

Mommy replied, “You were stuck, but a plan was devised based on what you saw there, and we and the Malkans managed to fix the damage done so many years ago,” She hugged me once again. “And rescued my most precious baby and brought her home to me.”

“Wow, Mommy … tha Malkan science peoples fromma long time ago is back now? That … amazins …” I fell asleep, exhausted. Mommy sighed happily and let me sleep. There would be plenty of time to explain what had happened to me later, after I’d had some rest.

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

On the bridge of the Malkan science vessel, the commander opened a comm channel. “Commander Mauve / Chartreuse / Lavender to Displacement Research Facility. Please respond.” There was no answer. “Transplacer research vessel TR-1 to home facility, please respond,” he transmitted. He set the message to repeat.

“Well, anywhere from one day to 25,000 years has passed outside, according to what we know, which is damn little,” said one of the scientists. “Hopefully there are Malkans to answer us, but even if there are, they might not use the same frequencies to communicate, or even the same technology.”

“And yet we’re able to sense the universe outside the affected radius,” said another scientist. “Whatever happened, the effect seems to have just dissipated.”

“Picking up a vessel in our vicinity that wasn’t there seconds ago,” said the sensor tech. “It’s … automated. No life forms. It’s a probe. I can’t tell if it’s one of ours. And … there’s another one, farther away, similar in size and shape, but different energy readings.”

The comm channel suddenly opened. “This is Malkan Transplacer Control. Welcome back to the universe, TR-1! Apologies for not answering sooner, but nobody uses this channel anymore. We had to find and repair some old equipment.”

“Transplacer Control?” asked the commander. “We’ve got questions. Lots of them. As you do too, I’m sure. How long has it been?”

“658 years, 72 days,” came the reply. “We have a scientific vessel on the way to help guide you home. Recommend not using your transplacer drive as it stands.”

“Understood, Transplacer Control,” replied the commander.

“Vessel has just arrived instantaneously off the port-side docking port,” reported the sensor tech. “Design resembles our ships, but I’m getting lots of advanced tech.”

“Comm message coming in, in an unknown band,” said the communication tech. “It’s a hail. Putting it through.”

“This is test pilot Red / Red / Amber / Indigo, aboard scientific scout vessel SV-362, to transplacer research vessel TR-1. Permission to dock and come aboard. I have some equipment that you just have to see.”

“Permission granted, SV-362,” said Commander Mauve / Chartreuse / Lavender.

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

“So … we actually did accomplish something,” said Commander Mauve / Chartreuse / Lavender. He and his crew were talking to the Transplacer Oversight Committee, led by Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black, seated around a large conference table.

“Indeed you did,” replied the committee chair. “Your experiment itself was disastrous but fortunately reversible. At first we had thought that you had destroyed a large swath of the universe, but once we had extensively studied the rift, we realized how to make the transplacer work safely, and we have been using it for centuries – with careful control, of course.”

“Of course,” said the commander. “I’m still not exactly sure what happened when we enabled the test transplacer, but from what we could tell the ship had sustained no damage – except that we couldn’t detect a universe beyond about a million light years. Some of the team suggested taking readings of every kind we could and displaying those readings on a holo screen – they had a theory that we’d been separated from the universe into some kind of pocket dimension and that time may have been flowing differently … guess it turned out they were right.”

“Again, indeed they were,” Orange / Teal / Chartreuse / Black replied. “We have made contact with a select few outsiders, one among whom has a telepsychic ability with which she was able to penetrate the rift and sense your data display …” The committee chair explained what had been done to rescue them.

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

So that’s how I woke up to find myself a heroine to the Malkan people. And because this caused the Malkans to be more enthusiastic about their alliance with the City, I was also a heroine to the City. The Malkans granted the City access to their transplacer research and the sole license to use transplacer drives. If the Assemblage and the Arm of the Arbiter wanted to transport anything via transplacer, they had to use the City’s transplacer ships, which it provided for a nominal fee – it didn’t need to charge very much, because it did business in such great volume. The City wasn’t out to halt galactic trade, after all; it wanted there to be more of it.

The City’s Foreign Affairs Department, of course, realized my potential for espionage, but Mommy and I agreed that we didn’t want that for me. I didn’t want to send my psyche out into deep space ever again. The Malkans were able to collapse the rift that the Assemblage’s blundering experimentation had caused, and I didn’t have to be involved. I did say that if I chanced to run across something that Foreign Affairs needed to know, I would tell them.

Predictably, the Assemblage was unable to determine why their experiment had failed on their own. When the Malkans had tried their failed transplacer experiment, their scientific infrastructure had been prepared to move forward from it.

The Assemblage didn’t have the background – after all, it hadn’t developed the technology themselves; they were trying to ride the Malkans’ coattails and get a leg up, and the entire universe had almost paid the price. With two huge holes in it near our galaxy, our part of the universe was starting to look like Swiss cheese. Let’s hope things are better now that the rifts are healed again. And let’s hope that the Arm and Assemblage have learned their lessons.

Misty, or Moslix, is still happily working for the City’s research division and has helped to cement the corrections Mommy and the others placed on the transplacer drive. Unsafe transplacer drives may still happen, but the Malkans are still working on it, and they think they’ll have a way for those trapped in a rift to break out of it, assuming it isn’t collapsed from outside first.

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

Shelly awoke and found herself on her back. She could tell her diaper was soaked, but she also felt it as wonderful; surges ran all through her body and mind as her new mommy made some kind of adjustments to her control collar.

Her mommy cooed softly as she put away the jeweler's screwdriver. “There we go, baby girl. Now, I made some adjustment to your protocols. You will now be more of a toddler just learning to walk. I think it will be so cute to watch you fall down go boom. Mommy promises to play fingers with you alot. I also took the liberty of instilling in you the fear of the potty monster, so you won’t secretly learn to go potty as some syncord constructs manage to. I’ve also insured that every infantile thing you do you will cause you to receive the most amazingly pleasant training sensations imaginable. So you know, I’ve also disabled the ability to outgrow your programming. You’ll be this adorable little toddler girl for a very very long time.” Shelly understood all of this … and loved it. This was everything she had secretly desired.

Shelly found herself being picked up by her mommy and her diaper checked. She was taken to the changing table and stripped. Her mommy gently cleaned her before setting her hinney in a thick warm crawly diaper, then powdering her well before pinning the diaper on snugly but comfortably, with locking diaper pins. It wasn’t necessary, because Shelly had no desire to take her diaper off … or maybe it was, because Shelly might succumb to the very toddlerish and mischievous desire to undress herself. Mommy then threaded Shelly’s legs through the leg openings of a really cute pair of plastic lined lavender rumba panties and pulled them on over her thick diaper.

Shelley found herself in her mommy’s arms, and the nipple of a rather large bottle of red liquid was placed in her mouth. The wonderful flavor of red berry juice flowed into her mouth. Each suckle made this super wonderful infantile feeling of contentment rush all through her.

Shelly realized it was all for real. She was no longer who she used to be but was now a toddler baby who was being fed by her mommy. As soon as the thought of her mommy crossed her mind, that intensely amazing infantile contentment rushed all through her. She knew beyond any shadow of a doubt there was no way to resist what was coming and that very shortly she would lose who she used to be. The training protocol was far more intense and pleasant than she thought it would be. This made another type of pleasant feeling rush all through her. This time … it was her joy at being the infant that she had wanted to be again for a good many years.

And City Foreign Affairs would never come after her, because in a little while she wouldn’t even remember any of the secrets she used to know. This was actually one of the accepted and more pleasant forms of retirement for an agent, I understand. There was mind wiping, but it was an inexact science and could always result in erasing memories the former agent might wish to keep. Older agents might be promoted to management jobs, where they were still within the organization. There was always relegating an agent who wished to leave to an office job until the secrets they knew were all obsolete, but that wasn’t always possible depending on the nature of the secrets. And then … well … probably best not to dwell on the other alternatives.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t an agent of anything. I loved Mommy, and Mommy loved me. “What do you think of the Mark P frame, Sweetheart? I think you’re beautiful in it.” I looked in the holo mirror at my chubby cheeked, curly blonde haired self. I looked positively cherubic. Mommy checked my diaper and patted my bottom; I couldn’t tell whether I was wet or dry, because that was Mommy’s business, not mine, and I didn’t pay attention to that kind of stuff.

“Gosh Mommy, I look soooo cute! Thank you Mommy!” My job was being adorable and helping Mommy with her research – she said I inspired her and that the Mark Q would be ready in a few weeks. My frame was generations ahead of anything commercially available in terms of realism, features, programmability, and customizability. Marguerite turned bright pink with jealousy whenever she saw me in public, because she knew she couldn’t have me and couldn’t get anything better. And meanwhile, the new joint City-Malkan transplacer ships were coming and going regularly now, taking their cargo to all parts of the galaxy at ridiculously fast speeds. It was good to know that I’d had a part in that. And Mommy had lots of clients for her syncord frames – including Malkans. It’s always interesting whenever they visit.

Mommy answered a holo call. It was Auntie Rouzelle. “Hi, Lisa,” she said. “I’m just wondering whether you and Mandy feel like looking into something …”

— — — — — — — THE END (for now) — — — — — — —
Sunshine & rainbows,
LilJennie
User avatar
LilJennie
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:38 pm
Location: Boominton, Inidana
Mastodon: @liljennie@meow.social

Return to The Story Circle

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron