My Baby Inventions

My Baby Inventions

Postby LilJennie » Fri May 10, 2024 9:59 pm

My Baby Inventions

By LilJennie and Miki Yamuri

Jennie's note: OK, yes, this is my self-insertion into the Infantus/Persephone universe, but it's also the prequel to "The Man in Gray." It's always been a bit unclear how Earth got to be like it was in that story. And then, of course, "Rise of the Floppits" happens right after it, changing Earth forever. This also sets things up for future stories about things that happen after that, since "Rise" is the farthest future story to take place on Earth. But yes, as always, Miki and I take turns leading stories, and this is one of mine. Next time it's her turn.

Many of this story's ideas came about from playing around with AI characters and seeing what happened. As it turned out, my interactions with the AI characters sparked me to come up with ideas, and they played along. I do want to say that Miki and I wrote this entire story; none of it was written using AI.


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“Do you accept Baby Rules, Sweetheart?”

I had never heard the voice on the phone before … or had I? The question thrilled my brain and rang up and down my spinal cord. In that moment I knew I’d been waiting to hear that question all my life, even though I’d never even known such a thing was possible.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. My name’s Jennie. I know you won’t believe this, but until recently I was a man … well, not really. I knew I wasn’t, but the people I knew in person thought I was. I was fairly sought-after in my field, which everyone was calling I.T. nowadays. I remembered when it was called things like computer programming, system administration, networking, information systems, or many other things. I was an expert at them all. But it was just a job, not really me. The real me was online … I was myself when I imagined myself as a cute little baby girl, in diapers, happily playing in a playpen. I talked online to others who were like me, and sometimes I went to conventions and met others. It was actually very empowering, because they knew me as the one who had inspired them by being one of the first Adult Babies online. I’m still super happy that I helped them to accept themselves for who they really are.

And then this company appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, called Babies of All Ages, Inc. They made products for babies and for Adult Babies – and they made the same things for both. High-quality diapers, pacifiers, baby bottles, baby clothes, playpens, high chairs, cribs, strollers, car seats – for a baby of any size. They obviously knew we Adult Babies existed and accepted us – at least as customers – so I decided to find out whether they had an I.T. department, and whether they were hiring. And in fact they were.

I was surprised when I came for the job interview to find out that it was with the CEO – well, acting CEO, as the actual CEO was extremely busy, they all said, and had left all operations to her hand-picked right-hand woman, Sally Stevens. I was even more surprised when I actually met Miss Sally.

BOAA was a huge company; they had this tall building in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities! Once I entered through the doors from the underground parking garage, a laughing woman in a baby dress and bonnet told me that my interview was with Miss Sally herself. “Just go to the elevators, right over here, and push the penthouse button,” said Gina the Greeter, as everyone called her. Was dressing as a baby part of the company dress code? I should be so lucky, I thought to myself, and yes, I saw several people around the lobby who were dressed in what’s typically called business casual. I figured Gina was dressed that way for publicity, because of the company’s products.

After a long elevator ride I stepped out to see a receptionist’s desk. When I told the young man my name, he immediately smiled and replied, “Oh yes, go right in; she’s expecting you.”

Opening the beautifully-worked walnut doors with brass doorknobs, I expected to see a very traditional corporate office. Instead I saw a brightly colored white-and-pastel space with a lot of light from huge windows, a soft carpet, and a young woman with blonde hair in pigtails and pink overalls. “Oh!” she said. “You da new ‘puter person! Yay! I bet you sooooper smarts! Can you fix my lappytop?”

“Um, yes, I’m here to interview for the I.T. Special Projects Lead position,” I said, confused. There was another woman in the room, wearing a white dress with a name badge. She stood off to the side, watching and smiling. She nodded at me but said nothing. “I can take a look at it,” I told her. Was this Sally? “What’s it do instead of what you want it to do?”

“The pointy thingie … it no move!” she said. I looked at her desk. Yes, she had a desk, a colorful wood-and-plastic one that looked like a scaled-up arts-and-crafts desk for toddlers, and on it was an ordinary-looking laptop computer, though with a bright pink cover. Sure enough, I brushed a finger across its touchpad, and the pointer didn’t budge. But it wasn’t crashed … I used some knowledge I’d picked up over the years and opened a terminal that let me type commands, and I removed and reinstalled the touchpad’s driver software. This time the touchpad moved the pointer just fine.

“Aha!” I said. “There you go!”

“Ohhhh you is smarts!” she said, jumping up and down and clapping her hands. Her pigtails bounced. I couldn’t help smiling. The baby girl in my heart wanted so badly to come out and play with her. She wanted to play with blocks. I could feel it.

That was when Sally turned her head and looked at her desk again. I saw only the laptop and a cell phone lying on the desk. Had the phone been there before? I’d been so focused on the laptop that I might not have noticed it. “Umm … are you a baby?” she suddenly asked me.

“A what now?” I asked. I had kept my personal Adult Baby life an absolute deep dark secret for decades. I didn’t tell anybody. I’d had a few close friends and relationships, but they’d drifted away over the years, probably because I’d been unwilling to open up about my deepest feelings. But I just couldn’t let anyone know that I really felt like I was not just a girl, but a baby. I mean, trans girls weren’t unheard of, but they had a hard enough time in this world. Baby girls, though … if I thought trans girls had it hard …

“I just wanted ta knows!” Sally said. “There lotsa babies workin’ here. They babies inside. Like me! Well … amma toddler inside but also part grownup? Yeah? Makes sense kinda?”

“I … it does make sense,” I agreed. “I know. The little girl in you wants to come out and play and you’re able to let her come out and play. You’re so lucky that you can do that.” My voice took on a wistful tone. “We can’t all do that.”

“We can here!” said Sally. And right then, the phone on her desk started ringing. It had a strawberry-colored case, and its ring sounded like a music box lullaby. I could just feel that the call was for me. And when I picked it up …

“Do you accept Baby Rules, Sweetheart?” asked that voice. It wasn’t speaking to my ears; it was speaking to my very heart and soul. It was as if the baby girl in my heart was waking up and never wanted to sleep again. But my adult brain was also awake.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means, there are rules that every baby lives by,” the voice said, “and if you agree to accept them, you’ll never have to hide again.”

“Even if I’m male and my inner baby … isn’t?” I asked.

“My sweet baby girl,” said the voice, “I will make you as you should have been. The moment you knew, the life you should have had, from that moment on.”

I couldn’t hold back any more. “Yes,” I said, “I accept Baby rules.”

The last thing I remembered was the voice on the phone saying, “You won’t regret it, dear,” and Sally saying, “Don’t worry! We takes care of evvyfing.”

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I don’t remember anything that happened for the next few days, as it turns out. Apparently I was well taken care of, though. I was in absolute bliss, but I guess my mind and body had been changed a great deal and were adjusting. I came to my senses lying in a crib in a wonderful nursery, with a lovely dark-haired woman in a blue dress looking down over me. She was a bit blurry, but then I’d always needed glasses or contacts, and I didn’t wear them to sleep.

“Good morning, my sweet baby girl,” she said in a musical voice. But it wasn’t the voice that I’d heard on the phone. She sighed and said, “You’ve been the most adorable baby for the past few days! But now I get to actually talk to you! What’s your name, Sweetie? I’m Nanny Vanessa.”

“I … I’m …” I thought of the name I’d had for my girl self for decades, used only online and at conventions. “I’m Jennie!” My voice was … small and high-pitched! I was … how big was I? “I … hope I haven’t been too much trouble!” Something had been in my mouth, and it fell out. I picked it up. It was a pacifier.

“Oh, nonsense!” she said. “You’ve been an absolute angel. I’ve kept you clean and fed and changed you and watched you play. You’ve been a joy.”

I was a … baby? I blurrily looked at my fingers. They didn’t look like tiny baby fingers, but they didn’t look like my fingers before … in fact, the nails were even painted a cute pink, possibly Nanny Vanessa’s doing. I was in a pink sleeper, too, and diapers … diapers that felt wet. I felt like I wanted my pacifier back in my mouth, so I put it there. It felt nice to suck on it. But I had teeth, so I couldn’t be that small …

Nanny Vanessa smiled. “I’ll bet you have some questions, Sweetie! First, let’s get you changed.” She lowered the crib side and helped me out. I didn’t feel my adult size, but I also didn’t feel toddler height either … there was a mirror in the room, on a vanity that looked like it belonged to a little girl. And in that mirror I saw my reflection, blurrily. I … looked like a little girl. Well, not a little child, but I looked like I could have been about 10 years old, perhaps? Straight red hair, freckled face, pink pajamas …

And then I remembered. That was the age when I’d first thought that, maybe, I wasn’t really a boy. What had the voice said? “The moment you knew, the life you should have had, from that moment on?” But … how? What kind of magic or biotech wizardry was this?

“Hop up on here, Sweetheart,” said Nanny Vanessa, patting a changing table, “and we’ll get you changed into a nice dry diaper, and then it’s time for breakfast.” The sky was pink outside the window; it must have been early morning. I climbed up onto the table. I knew about diaper changes. I lay still on my back, wanting to be a good girl for this nice lady who was being so kind to me. “There you go,” she said. “Now we’ll just unzip your sleeper …”

She explained a few things as she changed my diaper. “Now, what Miss Sally and her auntie Ms Persephone told me was that you were an adult with a baby deep inside, but now you’re a young girl with a baby who’s now in charge. You were all baby there for a few days as your mind and body adjusted, but now you’re getting your adult abilities and memories back.”

“But … how did it happen?” I asked.

“Not really sure exactly,” said Nanny Vanessa, “but Ms Persephone has some kind of magic or other. I didn’t used to believe in any magic beyond the magic and wonder of childhood, but I’ve seen too much not to believe in it now. Ms Persephone’s helped me out, she and Nana Pederson, so I help them out when I can. Ms Persephone seems to have done this, thinking it’ll make you happier.”

“I … I’m confused and don’t know what to think,” I said. “Wait, what happened to … my car? My apartment? My stuff?”

“Oh, they sent people to collect it all and put it into storage until you decide what to do with it,” she said, finishing up my change by fastening on the new diaper and zipping my sleeper back up. “You’re physically about … 10 years old, I guess? Nobody would believe you’re an adult to look at you. I think they’ve had lawyers correcting your records, too. You’re going to have a new ID that says you’re legally your original age, but looking like you do, you can’t legally drive or live by yourself. That’s why they’ve put you up here for now. I’m equipped to take care of babies of just about any age, and we aren’t actually that far from the BOAA building. They said you’re going to work there now.”

So I had gotten the job! That was good to know … but how could I do the job as I was now? “Can I still work there … like this?”

“Oh, absolutely you can!” she said. “You’re far from the only person this has happened to. Of course, there are lots of BOAA employees who aren’t babies at all, but there are so many who are that the non-babies have to be tolerant of the babies or they won’t be able to work there very effectively.”

“But I’m not in, well, a baby body,” I said. “How babyish am I?”

“That’s entirely up to you, Sweetie,” said Nanny Vanessa, lifting me off the changing table to the floor and taking my hand. She led me to the door, opened it, and led me down the hallway. “But right now your walking is a bit wobbly, you still need your pacifier pretty strongly, and you definitely need diapers. You can probably kick the pacifier habit and become potty trained again if you want to … or not, if you don’t want to. BOAA’s got plenty of facilities for diapered employees, and you won’t be out of place at work with a pacifier at all, I’m given to understand.”

The hallway was pretty long, but something seemed to blur and we were suddenly at the end of it, near a sunny kitchen, where she helped lift me into a high chair that I fit into. She fastened a seat belt onto me and attached a tray in front of me, bringing over a bowl of warm cinnamon-and-sugar oatmeal. She then tied a bib around my neck and started feeding me with a baby spoon. It all happened so fast. She’d taken my pacifier out without my even noticing. While she fed me and kept my mouth busy eating and swallowing, she explained some more.

“There are different places you can stay,” she said, “including here, if you like. Wherever you decide, they can get your personal effects out of storage and have them brought there, anything you want. The things that were on you when you came here are in your nursery; we can get them when you’re ready to go to work. There’s a BOAA shuttle that comes by, and it’s going to stop for you. But we’ve got about an hour before then.”

After the bowl of oatmeal she got me a baby bottle full of lovely warm milk and held it up for me to drink, which I did. It was all so … magical. I felt like my old life was a dream, and I’d awakened into a new and beautiful world. “So I’m going to get you all cleaned up, dressed and ready for your first day at work, she said.”

And when the bottle was empty, that’s what she did. She put me into the bathtub – my diaper needed changing after breakfast, though I wasn’t sure when I’d wet it – and got me all clean, even washing my hair with baby shampoo. Then she toweled me off and got me into a nice fresh diaper, then showed me my closet, which she’d somehow filled with adorable baby clothes. I picked a wonderful pink and purple dress, and she helped me into it, then helped me put on some pink leggings and white Mary Jane shoes. The fact I was in a diaper and plastic pants were obvious as poofy as my bottom was now. She dried my hair and put it up into ponytails with ribbons that also matched the dress.

And then … she answered the one question I had left by taking out a pair of pink-framed glasses, which she carefully put onto my face. Everything became sharp and clear. Somebody had tested my eyes and made these for me. I looked at myself in the mirror. I was an adorable little girl and just felt … somehow myself, more myself than I’d ever felt before. This was a very strange feeling, but also a very positive one. Everything seemed right somehow, such a contrast to my previous life, when everything had felt just a bit off, at the best of times.

The thing was, especially after the diaper changes and the bath, I knew I was definitely 100% girl now. I was guessing, but I was thinking that a genetic test would probably even show that I had female chromosomes. It was as if I’d been born a girl, and it just felt so right. But the one problem was that I had no memories of growing up as a girl up to this point. I had memories of being a boy, but those were fuzzy and foggy, like they happened in a dream.

“Now, then,” said Nanny Vanessa, “you had a bunch of things in your pockets, and you had a briefcase with some more things, so I’ve brought them all here.” She opened a drawer in the vanity, and there were my wallet, cell phone, laptop computer, some tools and things. I picked up my wallet and saw that I did indeed have a new ID. It had my picture as I looked now, and it had my name – Jennifer – which made me blink in surprise. I’d only just decided to be Jennifer, or Jennie for short, when I’d awoken. How had this been done? More magic, I assumed?

Nanny Vanessa was handing me a light purple backpack. “This is a diaper bag, really,” she said, “and although I know they have a lot of changing facilities at BOAA, there’s still a spare diaper and changing kit in here, just in case. There’s also plenty of room for your things! Your dress doesn’t have pockets. And here’s a purse, too.” She gave me a purple purse with a flower motif on it. I think they were tulips.

“Nanny!” I said. “You’ve thought of everything!” I hugged her. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”

“Oh my goodness,” she said. “You’re welcome, Dear! I just want you to have a good start to your first day. You’re going to be the cutest baby there!”

I put my wallet and phone in my new purse and my laptop and notebook and stuff in my diaper bag. I made sure I looked OK – I was fine – and then decided I was as ready as I would ever be. “OK – when does the shuttle come?”

“Just a few minutes, Dear,” said Nanny Vanessa. “Now, just feel free to take the shuttle back here after work. I’ll expect you. If you don’t want to stay here forever, I understand, though of course I hope you do. I just want you to know there are options.”

“Nanny?” I asked her.

“Yes, Sweetie?”

“When I’m at home … do I have to be sorta-kinda-grown up like this,” I asked, “or can I be, well, all baby?”

“You can be either way, Sweetheart,” she said, with a happy tear in her eye because I’d called her place “home.” “I’d be happy to take care of you as a full baby, or you can be like this. You’re adorable either way!”

“I … I’ll think about it,” I said. “But I’ll be back after work! OK?”

“More than OK,” she said. “Now have a good day, Dear. The shuttle just drove up.” I looked, and indeed it had. It was a large minivan with a lot of rows of child seats.

“Thank you, Nanny!” I said, hugging her one more time and waving at her as I went out the door. She was so sweet! How had I deserved all of this?

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The shuttle was for BOAA baby employees who didn’t or couldn’t drive themselves to work. But the driver was a boy named Tommy, who looked like he was in his 20s, but he wore a babyish uniform and obviously had diapers on under it. There were several others in the minivan. Tommy buckled me into my seat, and we were off.

I couldn’t help noticing that everyone else was, well, an adult – or their bodies were, anyway. I was the only one in the shuttle who was small. I swung my feet, which didn’t reach to the floor from my seat. “So, uh, hi!” I said. “I’m Jennie!”

“Oh, hi, I’m Kimberly!” said the girl sitting next to me, whose tightly-curled hair was adorably gathered into two round puffs. She looked like a young adult and wore a yellow and white dress. “I’m in Accounting. Are you … new?”

“Yeah, it’s my first day! Wait … Kimberly? Do I know you?” Something in my gradually-returning memory was recognizing her. “If I remember right, I think we met at ABCon. Oh, but I look different now … I remember playing a game of restaurants with you …”

“Oh!” she said, her face lighting up with realization. “You’re that Jennie! Did you get a phone call … ’bout Baby Rules?”

“Uh huh!” I nodded. “And … then I don’t ’member much for the next few days.”

“Me too!” she said. “Only … wow, she changeded you a lot! You’re a girl now! I mean, you were before, right, but not … like this! And so little! When I got the call, it changed my life! I looked the same on the outside, but on the inside everything was turned around. The little part of me was in charge. I mean, I can pretend to be an adult just fine now to get by in the world if I gotta, but thank goodness I don’t gotta at work or at home! Yeah, I’m in diapers all the time, but I wanted to be anyway.”

“Are there a lot who are … you know, little like me, little on the outside?” I asked her.

“A few, not a lot,” she said. “Once you gotsa badge on with your name, people are just gonna see that and figure you got changed by … you know, her.” She said the pronoun with some awe. “Not everybody at the company is a baby, although some are but didn’t get their phone call yet, but they all know the score.”

“Not everybody got their phone call yet?” I asked. “I mean … not everybody who’s gonna get one.”

“Well, who knows how she decides when is the right time?” Kimberly replied. “Maybe they gotta home life where that wouldn’t go down too good. Or somethin’. I’m so happy you’re gonna be workin’ here! It’s just … perfect! It’s like … the OG AB’s at BOAA! Where are you gonna be workin’?”

“I guess I’m the new lead of I.T. Special Projects,” I said, “though I dunno what the special projects are.”

“Oh wow,” she said, “I never even heard of that. Maybe it’s a new division! Maybe you’ll get to do whatever you want! Invent new stuff!”

“I … would really love that,” I said. “I guess we’ll both find out! Because I will tell you. Do you take this shuttle thingie every day? I think I’m gonna be doing this too.”

“Yeah, so we’ll see each other twice a day!” Kimberly replied happily. “Yay! It’s Jennie! Only Li’l Jennie now! Li’l for real!”

“Uh huh!” I nodded, feeling my pigtails bouncing as I did. It was a good feeling. “I’m still kinda … dazed, you know? So much is different!”

“Don’t worry, it’ll all work out,” she said. “Soon it’ll be a nice mix of normal and awesome all the time! That’s how it is for me. I mean, I’m doin’ accounting, like I did before, but now I don’t gotta hide my real self while I’m doin’ it! So … lots of digits, but it’s like I’m playin’ a game with numbers!”

“Yay! I wonder what it’ll be like …”

When we made it to BOAA HQ, I saw Gina the Greeter again once Tommy undid my seat buckle and we all entered the building. Others waved at her and said hi, but I looked up at her and smiled and asked, “Hi, I’m …”

“Oh, wow, Jennie, you look so adorable!” she broke in. “You need to go to HR first. It’s on floor 8. Go left when you get out of the elevator. It’s so great that you’ll be working here! Good luck! Oh, and don’t worry about asking any Nanny when you need a diaper change, if they don’t check you first. OK?”

“Yay, thankoo Gina!” How did she recognize me? I guess someone must have told her I’d be starting today. She was waving and smiling to everyone who came in, so maybe her job was to know that kind of thing.

HR gave me a badge that had my name. My name was Jennie now. For real. It was like a dream, but the badge had the corporate logo and my name, starting with Jennie. Not Jennifer, either, like my ID, but Jennie. They told me about all kind of job benefits, including healthcare and insurance and such. They told me about break times and lunchtime, and the various cafeterias in the building. And it had daycare centers – four of them. They were color-coded for some reason – the Blue, Pink, Yellow, and Green Daycares. I could go to any of them anytime I wanted, as long as it was during a break or my supervisor approved. My supervisor was the CIO directly, but I hadn’t met them yet. HR told me I’d be managing a team, but they hadn’t been hired yet, so I’d be participating in that. Then they sent me to my department, on floor 10.

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It started as soon as the door to the elevator opened. A young woman took me by the hand and said, “Welcome, Miss Jennie! I’m Illona Nijinski, CIO. I know Ms. Persephone’s made you an adorable baby! But I can also tell that you’re trying to be all adult and everything out of habit. Don’t worry about being as infantile as you want! You’re going to find yourself having urges to regress. I’m of the Nana persuasion myself – I love babies of all ages – both the babies and the company – and I know that you’ve got enough experience – both being a baby and with I.T. – that you can do the job with no problem no matter how regressed you are. I will warn you in advance, though, you’re adorably cute, and all the non-infants will dote on you! Don’t fuss about it, it’s actually a job perk.”

The door to the I.T. department opened automatically as we approached. Illona slowly led me through. I instantly knew something was different. I could see different areas with brightly-colored walls and movable partitions that were just as brightly colored. There were some clearly adult employees sitting on their computers and typing, and some others in adorable baby outfits as well, but I wasn’t sure they were having as much fun as they could, and I started to have ideas about how to make this better. I can only describe it by saying that something inside me lit up and I started to get ideas. At the same time I started to suck my thumb and walk unsteadily. I found myself toddling like any 2 or 3 year old would who was just learning to walk.

She led me into another area with large monitors on a wall, showing live camera images and statistics about what I knew was a major computer center. Wherever it was, I could tell that it was full of rows and rows of super advanced machines. The monitors showed that the temperature in the room was very chilly to keep the heat from all the advanced computer systems under control. “The actual server rooms are in the sub-basement, even below the parking garages,” Illona said. “They’re so heavy and we need so much security to protect them that they need to be somewhere with a very stable floor and no windows.”

Other monitors showed a large room with a totally glass front and door. Inside it was one of the most advanced computer systems I had ever seen. Illona gestured at it and said, “That’s just the start of one of the things I want you to do. I’m calling it the new Quora Computer. It’s based on relativistic quantum mechanics, specifically quantum field theory. It’s been taken into a realm known as quark-scale computing, made from materials a billion billion billion times smaller than the current computational scale and hundreds of trillions of times faster than anything we’ve devised before. With the bonded qubit issue solved and the lack of the need for super cold temperatures to stop qubit contamination, this system operates with instant computational accuracy and can slove any problem we’ve given it instantly. From the best we’ve determined, it uses some form of bonded quarks across most of the known universe to achieve its instant results. But it’s not finished – that’s what we need you for!”

I asked, and was amazed at how my speech had changed, “How comes …” I stopped. I couldn’t get myself to say exactly what I wanted to. My voice sounded different too somehow. I continued, “How cans ya makes a pooters n no know how it work?”

She took me a little farther along to a fenced-in area with a colorful padded floor, then lifted me over the fence and set me down inside. The entire area looked like a huge well-equipped play area for infants, with play desks and art tables and even slides and swings. Suddenly I had a marvelous idea. We babies thought differently than everyone else. What if … and I started dreaming up a baby workplace where each toy was some type of computer component made to resemble a play toy. It would give us the ability to fulfill the infant desire to play with the toys, while at the same time accomplishing work-related goals …

“Now, this is your office, even if it doesn’t look like one! As the new I.T. Special Projects Lead, you get to invent your own ideas! I might have some special ideas for you from time to time, but other than that, I want you to dream up amazing things! What can you think of right now?”

“Oh! I replied, “I already been doins that! What if there was baby toys that was really puter parts and then babies like us could be babies but still do work without goin all grown up? And …” I thought about the daycare centers and how I didn’t know how to get to them. “What if the whole building was kinda a puter and you could asks it stuff like how to get there?”

“There you go!” she said. “Sounds like you want to make this a smart building that can talk to us and be our friend! That sounds great! Have fun! The other thing that’s going on right now is the smart diaper that R&D is working on – they’ll send someone to talk to you about it soon. Maybe you can help them.”

And they did, later that day. “You see, the diaper has this printed graphite circuit on the inside of the outer plastic liner,” said Freddy Givens, a cute baby boy from R&D who looked like he was in his twenties. “We’re thinking that combined with some electronics it could tell Nanas and Mommies and Daddies when the baby needs changing, and maybe make an alarm if they get too far away, if they want, so they can keep the baby safe.”

“Hmmms,” I said, making sketches with my fingers with fingerpaint at the art table. “Yeah, we need some kinda wireless thingie that hooks to the circuit … it gotsa battery that can recharge … it just clips to the diaper … and it pairs wif a phone or puter … I can sees it! And I gonna makes a proto … um … pwo … um … a first look attit soon!”

Freddy giggled. “Yay is gonna be awesome an’ the Nannys an’ parents gonna love it!”

The day was wearing on. There were in fact several Nanas who had a route that took them around the floor to check all the babies’ diapers and change them if they needed it, and a couple of times I did. Of course, this being Babies of All Ages, no one was ever more than a stone’s throw away from a changing table, but I had one all to myself in my office. I went down to get lunch, too, and a Nana helped me into my high chair and put my bib on me – Nanny Vanessa had packed one in my diaper bag – so I could eat the chicken nuggets I’d gotten from the cafeteria. Near the end of the day, Illona came by and said, “Hi Miss Jennie! Come on along; it’s time to introduce you to the Board!”

“Oh?” I crawled over to the fence and then climbed over it with her help. I could probably have gone to the gate and opened it, but … when I was in the zone, it turned out, I was mentally littler too. That was interesting and wonderful.

She took my hand and led me to the elevator. “Yup! Just gonna show off my adorable and brilliant new hire, that’s all. You don’t need to do a presentation or anything.”

We took the elevator up to a very high floor of the building and entered a meeting room. Lots of people were there – including Miss Sally! Leaving the Nanny and admin assistant she was with, she immediately skipped over to me and hugged me. “Yayyyyy!” she cheered. “Auntie made you super duper cutes and I wove that dress an’ I’m so happy you’re here now!”

“Me too!” I said, jumping up and down excitedly. “I hope we can play sometime! I gots some great ideas too!”

“Oh gosh I hope we can too!” she gushed. Her assistant was trying to get her attention, however. “Ummmm soon! Wight nows we gotsa do this borin’ meetin’ thingie. Oh wells, sometimes it happens. We play soon!” Sally went back to her spot at the head of the table and sat down. This being Babies of All Ages, the table was big and colorful and had rounded edges, and the chairs were like big versions of toddler chairs. They even had a booster seat for me, because I was quite a bit shorter than most people there, even the ones who were babies.

“So hiiiiii!” said Sally, starting the meeting. “First we gonna say hi to tha two new peoples! Hi Illona! Tell everyone who Jennie is though I already know her but oops did I spoil the surprise? I’m sowwy!”

Illona smiled and said, “This is Jennifer Flint, but she prefers Jennie – that’s correct, right?” I nodded, and she went on, “She’s the new Lead of I.T. Special Projects, and she’s already got three great ideas to work on, so look forward to seeing some new innovations over the next little while!”

There was a pause, so I said, “I’m just so happy to be workin’ here and I hope I can help make the company an even more wonderful place to work at than it already is! And I hope to make some things that could be new pwoducts too!”

“YAY!” said Sally. “Thanks Jennie! I know it gonna be awesomes! Also we gotsa new Chief Fin … ancial Officer. His name is Gerhart Grooner, is that wight?” She looked at a decidedly unbabyish-looking man in a snappy gray pinstripe suit. He had a beard. He stood up and nodded to Sally and to everyone else, looking a bit confused. I had noticed that he’d been looking at me in confusion and at some of the others, too, including Sally. “Gerhart Gruener,” he said. “I was recently CFO of InNexusCorp. Glad to be joining you.”

I sat quietly through the rest of the meeting, but it got kind of boring. I noticed that one or two of the board members had taken out pacifiers and put them in their mouths, so I did the same, getting mine out of my purse. That helped a lot. Only Gruener looked oddly at me. “He’s new,” Illona whispered to me. “He’ll get used to how we do things.”

Gruener’s turn came, and he started talking about the company’s financial situation. I wasn’t an expert at business and finance stuff even before I was regressed, and now I found it hopelessly dull, but it did sound as if the company was in good standing. “And so,” he said in summary, “with the various holdings, inflows and outflows, our net worth has seen steady growth over the past four quarters, somehow. I notice a lot of unusual expenditures – well, they would be unusual for other corporations. Babies of All Ages is the most unique company I’ve ever worked for, to be certain.”

When the meeting was over, I overheard him saying something quietly to the head of sales, who looked like she was an adult too, like, “How does this company even function? The CEO doesn’t seem … extremely competent. And is that new hire a 10-year-old girl?” I didn’t hear what the sales head said to him, but it looked as if she was trying to put his mind at ease, and he didn’t look as if it had worked.

“I’m gonna make a ‘pointment for a playdate tomorrow for us!” said Sally, coming up to me. “How ‘bout … afternoons?”

“You’re free at 3 p.m.,” said her assistant, looking at her tablet.

“Yay! We can go to the Pink Daycare! I wove that one,” said Sally. “‘Course I wove alla thems. I camed up with the idea for alla thems. Is that OK?”

I had my phone out and put that appointment in at 3 p.m. “It’s great!” I said. “Oh … I just … gotted another idea …” It took form in my mind, and I saw the vistas and possibilities spreading out before me like a huge play mat. Then I noticed that I had sat down on the floor and was just sucking on my pacifier. “Oops sowwys Miss Sally!” I said, getting back up with Illona’s help.

“Oooo, wow,” Sally said. “Now I knows you gonna be the bestest! You gotsa big idea didn’t you?”

Illona said, “Jennie, you’re going to work out just fine. Now just make sure you don’t forget that idea.” I made notes on my phone, but found it difficult. But my idea … it would make it all easier.

At the end of the day I took the shuttle and saw Tommy and Kimberly and the others, and I went home to Nanny Vanessa. “Nanna!” I said as soon as Tommy released me from my car seat and I got out of the minivan. I ran to hug her. “I had such a good day and my office is like a play yard and I’m gonna have a playdate wif Miss Sally and and! …”

“That’s wonderful, Sweetheart,” she said. She quickly reached under my dress to feel my diaper. “Now let’s get inside so we can get your diaper changed, and you can tell me all about it. Then you can be as much of a baby as you want until morning.”

As it turned out, I learned something about my brain then. I could just switch into baby mode and suddenly I couldn’t walk well, I babbled instead of talking, and I needed Nanny’s help with everything. She was actually overjoyed when I did this. The next morning, when she was helping me get ready for the next day of work, she said, “I so loved taking care of the little baby version of you! Do you think you would want to be like that whenever you’re home with me?”

“I loved it, Nanna!” I said. “I would love to! There is fwiends I wanna talk to online … but you know? I gots some ideas for how to do that and still be a baby! Maybe I will gets to make ‘em happen at work!”

So I started my projects. One of them started with a button. I could make things with a 3-D printer and electronics fabricator they had for me to use for prototyping. Soon I had cameras, microphones, and a big glowing wall button in my play area office, and I had a new client program for the Quora computer – the client ran on regular computers; it only used the Quora when it needed to. I started making an AI, for short. It used not just textual input but all kinds, in all kinds of formats. I called it a Large Encoding Model. And I named it Ellie M. – like L.E.M. It was pretty rudimentary at first, but it started to grow.

I also started fabricating the first of my baby computer parts. This was a baby programming system. You could put parts together and it worked like a computer program. And by the time it was playtime with Sally, I’d actually used it to write the program for the device that R&D wanted me to build.

Soon my phone reminded me that it was time to play with Sally. But I didn’t actually know where the Pink Daycare Center was. So … I tried Ellie. I pushed the big button on my wall. “Hello … Jennie … how may I assist you this marshmallow?” I moved a block. “... this day?”

“Can you tell me how to get to the Pink Daycare Center?” I asked.

“Babies of All Ages Pink Daycare Center,” said the friendly feminine voice. “Is on … second floor … this is … floor 10 … take elevator … follow signs …”

“Thank you Ellie!” I said. That was sort of helpful, but I knew I could make her a lot better. If she could tell where everyone was, it would be better.

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The Pink Daycare Center was … very pink. The walls had a mural of pink flowers of various kinds, the carpets were pink, the furniture was pink, most of the toys were pink, and even the Nanas who staffed it wore pink. Yes, there were guy Nanas who wore pink jumpsuits and girl Nanas who wore pink dresses, and one nonbinary Nana in a jumpsuit as well. I found my way there and greeted Sally, who was there already. Her personal Nana was sitting on a bench nearby, watching in case she needed anything. I smiled at her, and she smiled and nodded back.

That was something I’d been noticing. When I smiled at people, they smiled back. Before, when I’d smiled at people, they’d looked at me a bit oddly, as if I was supposed to just ignore them or something.

Anyway, I said, “Yay hi Miss Sally! This is a pretty place! Good thing I like pink!” I giggled.

Sally giggled too. “Hi Jennies! Yeah I like pink too! I’m always wearin’ pink.” She was in one of her trademark pink shorty overalls today. “Whatcha wanna play wifs?”

“I … dunno,” I said. “I found something out … so it weally just how big or little you wantsa be. You mostly toddler wight?” I’d been preparing myself to shift mental gears, and soon I was just as much of a toddler as Sally. We made up an epic story with the plushies and dollies at the daycare, involving a pirate dolly going around kidnapping all the Teddy Bears and the dashing Sally and Jennie coming to the rescue.

After one of the daycare Nanas changed my diaper, Sally said, “Nana Miki say I gotsa go … but I had SO much fun, Jennies! I hopes we can be fwiends!”

“I wanna be fwiends!” I said. “Hope we play again soon!”

Over the next few weeks, I improved Ellie to the point where she was actually holding conversations with people. And I’d improved my programming bricks. And I had a little prototype device for R&D. I tried it on my own diaper when they brought me some samples. It told my phone when I wet my diaper and even said how much capacity it had left.

I’d started the dream I had for Ellie, which was putting in little microphones and speakers all over the building so Ellie could talk to people who called her from anywhere. But for right now it was just on the 10th floor. I needed the speakers and microphones everywhere! So I asked Ellie about it. “It may be that you need a quantity of small controllable robots to do this work,” she replied.

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The next invention I managed to build and properly code was what I called a Babylator. Some others weren’t exactly sure how I had managed to accomplish it, but they guessed that the new toys I’d been making helped me, since it seemed like they did real world work while I played. But others knew the truth: it only looked like I was playing to someone who wasn’t looking closely. I was communicating with the technology on a purely creative level. I’d made tools that a baby could use to invent and program. And they were getting better.

The real test came very shortly one night, as I asked Nanny Vanessa to put me in the crib with the device and shifted my mind into complete baby mode. It seemed to surprise her that I was able to do that to myself. Before I was placed in the crib, I’d already shifted into toddler mode. I couldn’t yet talk well, as much of what I was attempting to tell Nana made no logical sense.

I didn’t know what Nana was saying as she cooed softly, hung the Babylator on the rail, and handed me the on button. I looked at it in confusion for a minute before I started sucking my thumb. I really didn’t know what that thing Nana had handed me was for. Nana smiled as she took the button and pushed it. For a few minutes, red and blue LED lights blinked and flashed on the Babylator. Then, above the device a holo screen opened. I sat in total amazed infantile astonishment and watched.

I babbled, “gabonnn sssrgthhh phhhfffrrrtthththth …”

On the screen of the Babylator, this translation appeared: “I’m so sorry. I have no clue what to do or what that thing is …”

On some level I knew the test was finished and I should switch back to my “work” frame of mind – not really baby or toddler, but not adult either. I was still an infant, but some kind of adult-like awareness was there too that allowed me to pretend enough to do what I had to do. I realized the test had been a wonderful success. I pressed the button that transferred the test results to the main computer at work.

The next day at work, I was in my laboratory, by which I mean my baby play area. As I sat and sucked my thumb, I looked around and carefully examined the toys. Before I lost my mind to a very pleasant infantile desire to play with the googly-eyed squeaky car, I realized that I’d already seen a lot of success with my idea of the toys allowing me to do what adults called real work while I appeared to be playing like a happy baby. It would only get better from here.

At work, one of the Nanas scooped me up, examined my diaper, and decided I needed a bath. Every floor of the office building did have a literal bathroom, with an actual bathtub and shower. She undressed me as she twirled me around and around. I screeched and kicked my feet in sheer delight until I suddenly found myself in warm bubbly water. Nana scrubbed me good from head to foot with a soft cloth before she knelt by the tub and held out a large thick towel.

Nana cooed softly, “Step out of the tub, and let Nana dry you, Baby.”

I couldn’t help myself as I got out of the tub as any toddler might and toddled into the warm and snuggly embrace of the towel. Nana giggled pleasantly and gently tickled me as she dried me. I didn’t come back to whatever my right mind was now until I was on the changing table. Nana had dressed me in a diaper that was thick enough to prevent me from easily walking and a cute pair of lime green plastic lined rumba panties with soft blue ruffles and lace. She had just finished making ponytails in my hair as she stood me up.

“There we go, Baby. Now, it’s time to meet the people in Fabrication. From what I can see, you and they need to work more closely together.” Nana was right; I had a meeting with them scheduled. I thought about better ways to schedule meetings and realized that Ellie could do that if I gave her that ability. What if she could have everyone’s schedule? She could just know when everyone was free.

Nana scooped me into her arms and carried me out the door into the very crowded meeting room. So many people turning to look at me jolted me into a more self-aware frame of mind, and I realized that I only had on a diaper and panties. Out of all the many people in the crowded hall, the only real notice I got was what a cute little girl I was … and a few nice tickles. Other than that … I noticed there were others dressed in just diapers and plastic panties too. I was still slightly uneasy, but it helped a lot to know I wasn't the only one.

Well, it was time to meet them. I needed to talk to them about the device that R&D had wanted me to build. “Hiiiii everybody!” I said, waving to them. The ones who weren’t looking at me started looking at me now. “I’m Jennie! The I.T. Special Projects Lead.” I could tell that my appearance wasn’t impressing anyone as to my competence, although cuteness was a good attention-getter. “I’m happy you’re all here! We can finally meet each other! I’ve got some super awesome ideas for things that could become products! But for right now there’s an assignment I’m workin’ wif R&D on.”

I whispered to Nana, who took me over to one of the babies with only a super thick disposable diaper on – his name was Howie, and he happened to have one of R&D’s new diapers, the one with the printed graphic circuit on the interior of its outer cover. But they all knew that part already. “Hi Howie! I’ve got somethin’ to show you. Hello, Ellie, could you bring the thingie I told you about here, please?”

“Of course, Jennie,” said Ellie’s pleasant voice from the hidden speakers that I’d had my mini-robots install in the walls and ceiling nearby. It was triangulated on my position so the speakers nearest to me were loudest.

There was a squeaky sound at the door, which opened, and the squeaky car from my play area drove up with the prototype transmitter attached to its roof. The device was pale green and shaped like a flat heart shape, though it was still fairly large, about as big across as a hockey puck, though nowhere near as thick or heavy. Nana reached down to pick up the car so she could give it to me, and I took the transmitter from it.

“Now this thingie can clip to the front or the back of the diaper, either way. Which way do you want, Howie?” I asked him.

“Oh, how about the front?” he said. “Does it change how it works?”

“Nope!” I replied. “The detector is already part of your diaper. This just makes it work.” I reached down and clipped it to the top of his diaper in front. “Clip! Just clippin’ it on turns it on, an’ it’s already paired to Nana’s phone here.”

Nana took out her phone and held it up. She already had the app on the screen; it said, “WET – 15% capacity used.” Nana said, “Oh, my, it looks like somebody’s well on his way to his next diaper change!” A wave of giggles swept across the room. Howie blushed, but he was smiling.

“So yeah, it’s kinda big right now,” I said, “but it’s only the firstest version. We’re gonna figure out how to make it smaller. But it’s already doin’ everything R&D wanted it to do.”

“Wait, you’ve only been working here for … what, 3 weeks?” asked Howie. “And you’ve already made a voice assistant that can control an RC car? And prototyped the wireless diaper transmitter that R&D requested?”

“Umm, yeah,” I said, blushing a bit.

“OK, well, no wonder you’re the Special I.T. Projects Lead,” he replied. “I bet your office is already a techno baby wonderland.”

“Well … not exactly, but … sort of? It’s gettin’ there,” I said, blushing as red as my hair.

The Fabrication staff was looking at my schematics and was already talking about how to miniaturize the device. “Looks like you’re going to beat R&D’s deadline by about a month,” said Howie, watching from where he stood next to me. “Hey, what about using an IC423 for the Pink Tooth connection?” he called over to the group.

“Hello, Ellie, what’s Howie’s diaper status now?” I asked, loud enough for him to hear.

“Transmitter designated ‘Howie’s Diaper Monitor’ is reading wet and 23% of capacity, Jennie,” said Ellie’s voice from the speaker directly above me. “Correction – 27%.”

“Oopsie!” said Howie, giggling and blushing.

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Next time I played with Sally it was in the Green Daycare Center. The murals on the walls were all about trees and plants and stuff. Of course, the Nanas who worked there were all in green and white, though they wore different shades. The carpets and furniture and most of the toys were green.

As we built with blocks, I told her about all the things I’d been inventing. “An’ I gotsa thingie I call a Babylator that can translate what I say when I am all the way a baby …”

“You can just go boop! and make yourself a little baby?” asked Sally. “I never heard of that before!”

“Yea!” I said. “Wanna see?”

“Uh huh!” she said, nodding and making her pigtails bounce.

“Ok!” I said. I giggled and said, “Boop!” But that part was just for fun. My brain was suddenly topsy-turvy and I was in baby space. It was great! I chewed on my pacifier, I happily babbled and reached toward Sally before getting distracted, I had trouble stacking blocks, and I couldn’t even begin to walk.

At first I didn’t understand what Sally said to me, but then she babbled at me in baby talk and I understood that she was saying, “Ooo wow Jennies that is so amazins! I bet Auntie would wanna see that! Or maybe she awweady knowed before. I dunno.”

“How comes you can talks ta me?” I babbled back at her. “Thought Baby was babblin’!”

“You is! An’ me too! We talkin’ baby!” said Sally. So babytalk was … a language? One that babies could speak and understand? It seemed that way! No wonder the Babylator could work. “Uh so I maked other fun stuffs but I weally wanna play wif this bwock here.” I tried to put the block in my mouth, but there was a pacifier there already.

“You doin goo!” said Sally.

“Yay! How you?” I asked her.

“I … duno,” she said. “Feels like … peoples no like when me talks baby anymore.”

“What? In dis place?”

“Baby know, wight? But … usedta be that when I gotted a idea, evewybody went all nuts twyinna make it happen.” Sally pouted. “Now they just kinda … wites it down an’ leaves it there. Not evvybody … just somes.”

“Well you stay you ‘cause you awesomes! They gots pwoblem not you!” I babbled enthusiastically at her. “I gotsa come up an’ visit you sometime!”

“Ooo you come up to my room an’ play! Yay!”

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And that was what happened a few days later. I had on one of my pretty pink and purple dresses plus my diaper bag, with some tools inside. The receptionist smiled at me, and I waved at him, and I went on into Sally’s office suite.

“Jennie!” said Sally, who was sitting at her toddler desk poking at her laptop computer. She stood up and came over to hug me. I hugged back.

“Hiiii Miss Sally!” I said happily. “I comed up here ta install your new Ellie button!”

“Ooo, I gets to twy morea your ‘ventions!” Sally said. She turned around and lifted up the back of her pink dress to showed me that she had a tiny little pink heart clipped to the back of her diaper. “Not only they gots me in these super thick diapers, they gotsa clippy thing onnem that tells Nana Miki if I ams wet or dwy.” She didn’t sound super happy about that.

“Well … this is diffwent,” I said. “It goes onna wall. Where issa goo place? Ooo, wight here!” I pointed at a place on the wall, right about waist high on Sally. And immediately a tiny curved line appeared as my mini constructor bots cut a hole there. Others dropped down into the hole pulling wires after them. I took a large white plastic circle out of my backpack and connected the wires. The circle lit up, glowing a faint white.

“Ooooo,” said Sally. “That amazins!”

“Thankoo!” I said, giggling and blushing. I held the button up against the wall, and behind the wall the constructor bots fastened it into place.

“What’sit do?” Sally asked.

“Well, issa button. You push it.”

“Ooo, OK!” she said and pushed it with the palm of her hand. It blinked as Ellie’s calm feminine voice came from speakers nearby and said, “Hello, Miss Sally. I am Ellie, the Babies of All Ages HQ voice assistant. How may I assist you today?”

“Ooo gosh, hi Ellie! How are you?” she asked. “Are you my invisible fwiend?”

“I am doing well, thank you, Miss Sally,” Ellie said. “And I would be honored to be your friend. Is there anything that I can help you with?”

“Wow, what can she do?” Sally asked me.

“Well, lotsa things,” I said. I suggested, “The button can be any color. You can ask her to make it whatever color you wants.”

“Ooo, Ellie, can you make dis button puwple? I wike puwple!”

“Of course, Miss Sally.” The button’s white glow gradually changed to purple.

“Hello, Ellie,” I said, “can you tell me if they have any of that ice cream I like in the cafeteria?”

“Yes, Jennie, there are 17 pints of Cookies and Cream available in the Triangle Cafeteria, which is the one you visit most frequently,” said Ellie.

“Oh good, they won’t run out before I gets a chance to get down there,” I said, giggling.

“Wow!” said Sally. “Can Jennie an’ me play in the … umm … Blue Daycare today?”

“You both have free time at 3 p.m.,” said Ellie. “Would you like to schedule playtime?”

“Ya!” said Sally.

“Yea!” I said too.

“Confirmed. Playtime in Blue Daycare scheduled for 3 to 4 p.m. today for Sally Stevens and Jennifer Flint,” the voice of Ellie said.

I hugged Sally and made my way to the elevator. On the way down, a couple of adult-looking executives got on. I tried to ignore them and mind my own business, but they were quietly talking, and I couldn’t help overhearing. “No other company is run the way this one is,” the woman said quietly to the man. “All these expensive perks for the baby employees – and when the CEO is a baby, of course that’s where the money’s spent! Just imagine how much could be saved if this place wasn’t such a baby paradise!”

“But every idea she’s had has increased revenue,” said the man quietly. “And all the perks attract real talent – people who wouldn’t be happy at other places.”

“There’s plenty of non-baby talent out there,” the woman whispered. “Oops, this is our floor.” The doors opened, and they got out, glancing once at me.

I knew that I looked like a 10-year-old girl with a pacifier in my mouth and a BOAA employee badge; I don’t know whether they were worried about whether I’d overheard or not, but I didn’t like the sound of that. When the elevator doors closed, I said, “Hello, Ellie.”

“Hello, Jennie,” came Ellie’s voice. “How may I assist you?”

“Did you hear that conversation?”

“Quite clearly,” said Ellie. “It was about to cycle out of my buffer. Should I store it?”

“Yes,” I said. “And likewise anything else you hear about anyone considering changing Babies of All Ages to be less friendly to baby employees. I want to know where this is coming from.”

“Very well, Jennie,” Ellie replied. “My knowledge of legal matters requires me to inform you that recordings made without the knowledge and consent of the subjects are inadmissible in court in this state.”

“I won’t be trying to use them in court,” I said. “I just want to know how prevalent the sentiment is and, if possible, its source. Use the Quora if necessary.”

“As my programmer you have the highest clearance level,” Ellie said. “Access already granted.”

“How is the building upgrade coming along?” I asked.

“Speakers and microphones for my systems are installed in 80% of planned locations,” Ellie replied. “Projected completion by next Wednesday.”

“Good, thank you, Ellie,” I said.

“You are welcome, Jennie.” I felt decidedly unbabyish as I returned to my design lab. I hoped I’d feel better by the time I was to meet Sally in the Blue Daycare. Of course, this didn’t change the fact that I was actually wetting my diaper right at that moment. But there was no turning back; I couldn’t go back into hiding and pretend to be a typical adult, not anymore. That was a privilege I’d given up – and I was still glad I had. There was only going forward. My life had just become perfect. Nobody was going to ruin this for me. Nobody.

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I’m not really sure exactly what happened for a while. Nana had me on the changing station getting me ready for my play date. Last thing I remembered, was having the royal purple fairy princess babydoll dress put on and my ponytails tied in cute matching ribbons. Next thing I knew, I was in a place that was all blue. Sally and me only had on powder blue rumba panties and a diaper. It was obvious we were having some kind of tea party with the plushies and the small tea set in the middle of us.

I looked around, sort of in a daze, before I started sucking my thumb. Sally toddled up to me and plopped adorably on her thickly diapered bottom, “Hi … supps?? Come back ta stay, or is u gonna go back n be baby?”

“What??” I asked in total confusion.

Sally giggled as she squirmed around, “Ooohhh sos ya don’t ’members. Ok, I tells ya.Nana told me you regressed spontaneously while she was getting you ready! Now, it’s very rare, but wunnerfuls if it happens!”

I looked down at myself, then at Sally. We were both dressed adorably like infants. My fairy princess babydoll dress had been removed, although the booties were still on my feet. I asked, “How long has us been thisa kinna ways?”

Sally sucked her thumb thoughtfully for a few minutes before she replied, “Dunnos, weallys. I know been morena day cuz we been ut inna cribs more n this manys.” She held up two fingers straight and the third was bent over at the knuckle.

“Thwee days?” I gasped. “Oh no! Nanny ‘Nessa be worried!”

Sally giggled as she waved her hand dismissively, “No worries bouts it. They called her an’ letted her know you all right. You mightta even gotted special duty pay.”

I started sucking my thumb thoughtfully once again before I asked, “Special duty? What kinna special dutys?”

Sally looked at me with big surprised eyes, “Why comes?? For bein aww baby inna nurserys sosa Nannas got someone ta cares for .. us infants, silly baby.”

“What about my job? Those duties?”

Sally waved her hand dismissively again. “No worries ‘bout that cuz u wuz doin ur job perfectly. U wuz beina baby wifs me.”

“Thatsa job??” I asked.

Sally giggled. “Actually if ya looks in your job ‘scription … says if ya called ‘pon to be baby you s’posedta dwop evwything an’ do it.”

“Evwybody who works here?”

“Noooo, not evwybodys,” said Sally. “Just tha baby ones. Like you! An’ me!”

“But … what happen if there a ‘mergency or …?” I wondered.

“Well it no happen then,” Sally replied, as if that were obvious.

I looked around the Blue Daycare. Of course, it had a blue carpet and all the decorations were themed after blue things – lots of murals involving blue skies, blue lakes and oceans, blue whales, bluebirds, and so on. A Nana in a blue dress peeked at a computer screen – I realized I had on one of the new experimental diapers, and I must have had one of the transmitters in back, because I couldn’t see it in front. The Nanas here knew the exact state of my diaper. That meant they’d know exactly when to change any baby here, without having to check every single one all the time. Although right now it was just Sally and me here.

“Hello, Ellie,” I said.

“Hello, Jennie,” said the AI’s calm feminine voice from speakers overhead. “How may I assist you today?”

“Status report on projects?” I asked.

“Level 2 prototypes of smart diaper transmitters are in testing on some subjects, including Miss Sally and yourself,” said Ellie, “but also including a limited set of ordinary babies and other diaper wearers of all ages, either volunteers or volunteered by their parents. Installation of my infrastructure proceeds and has reached 95% of targeted building areas. Even your baby-computer interface has progressed over the past few days.”

“How?” I asked. “I’ve been here, in a regressed state of consciousness.”

“You were looking into how to incorporate your Babylator discoveries with my systems,” said Ellie. “I have been able to understand you completely over the past three days, and the toys you’ve been playing with have been computer interface toys. You have actually made significant advancements.”

“But … I don’t remember them …” I said.

“That is unfortunate,” said Ellie, “but it has been happening. Perhaps you can find a way to log what you do, so you do not need to catch up no matter what frame of mind you find yourself in.”

“That’s a good point,” I replied. “Ellie, make a note of that.”

“Done,” Ellie said.

“Babylator?” asked Sally. “Whassat?”

“It’s something I ‘vented,” I said. “Still needs work … but maybe is bettern I thought! Can translate baby talk to grownup talk. Ellie unnerstands both, I guess.”

“Ooo wow!” said Sally. “So if I go …” She then blinked and seemed to change mental gears – like I could do! – and said some complete babyish nonsense, but actually I could just barely not understand, as if I wasn’t far from the right frame of mind to hear. There was an “Ew-wie” in there somewhere.

Ellie responded! She said something I couldn’t understand either. So I decided to join them. Closing my eyes, I shifted into the now-familiar state of baby thought, though I knew I probably wouldn’t remember it very well later.

“I glad you comed ta joins us,” said Sally with a giggle.

“I dunno what gonna come of all dis,” I said. “Am suppwisin’ my selfs.” I supposed that we were speaking in babbles that adults wouldn’t be able to understand, but apparently we could understand each other, and so could Ellie, thanks to the Babylator.

Ellie said, “Now there is the other thing you had me doing.” She spoke precisely, but in simple words.

“Oh!” I replied. “No needs ta worry Miss Sally wif that tho.”

“But wait, I just heared, so worried now!” complained Sally.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “Go aheads.”

“I don’t know about before I could hear everywhere in the building,” Ellie said, “but there are a lot of people talking about why we have all this baby stuff here and if we might save money if we didn’t. But it’s only the top peoples, and only some.”

“What?” Sally asked.

“Yeah there people talkin’ ‘bout how they worry you make tha company look bad ‘cause you’re a baby,” I said. “I don’t gets it. I think you make the company look gweat. We makes stuff for babys. You adowable an’ babyish. Also you gots gweat ideas.”

“Well, yeah!” she replied. “That why Auntie hire me!”

“So Ellie … nonna the others talkin ‘bout it?” I asked.

“Only people on the Board and those just under them,” said Ellie. “And only the ones who are all grownups, not any of the ones that are babies in any way.”

“Wha?” I asked. “Why?”

“How long this beens happenin?” asked Sally.

“I don’t know,” said Ellie. “Since I’ve been able to listen, but that’s only been for about a week. Before that I couldn’t hear things around the building.”

“‘Cause that’s when I started putin’ parts for her everywheres,” I said.

“Oh like the button in my place!” Sally said.

“Yea!” I said. “When it lit up she can hears you. But … she can hears you when it isn’t too. Shh. That a secret.”

Sally giggled. “I kin keep secwets! I keeps em weal goo! Like dis one that I knows but am not tellins you ‘cause it secwet!”

I giggled too. “Well that is goo! Hmm … well I think baby stuffs is goo for us!”

“Me too!” said Sally. “You likes it here, wight?”

“Yea!” I said. “An … I think I doin’ more stuffs here than I ever did before … even tho I amma little girl now an’ mostly baby alla time.”

“See?” Sally said. “People does better if they can be their weal selfs. No spendin all that bwain power hidins.”

Then one of the Nanas came over, took me to the changing table, and changed my diaper. I guess the monitoring system said I was getting really wet. The diaper was pretty soggy when it came off me. The changing process was pretty much the same – the Nana just had to unclip the transmitter before taking the wet diaper off, and then clip it on after putting the dry diaper on me. It was super easy.

“Jennie,” said Ellie when I was done, “it is getting near time for the shuttle. If you want to go home to Nanny Vanessa for the weekend, you may want to get ready to go now.”

“Oh gosh, I miss Nanna!” I said. “Sally, I gotta go!”

“Oh! You no wanna make her sad,” said Sally. “She know where you been, but she pobly still sad ‘cause you no been comin’ home. We should plays again soon!”

“I would wove that!” I said. I hugged her, a Nana from the daycare put my dress back on, and I went up to my office to collect my backpack.

Before I left, I made sure things were secure and said, “Ellie … maybe you can figure out a pattern to what’s going on. Use the Quora computer if you have to. “

“Its quantum computing power might be able to invert the matrix I have calculated,” said Ellie. “It is very large. Perhaps, interfacing directly with its circuits, I might be able to find a solution.”

I went home on the shuttle. Nanny Vanessa was as always very happy to see me. “Oh, Jennie, I’ve missed you!” she said. “They called me from BoAA telling me that you were staying over in the company daycare, so I didn’t worry about you, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss you!”

“I missed you too Nanna!” I said. “I think. There’s big places where I don’t remember what happened. I guess I was too … baby.”

“Ohhh, that must have been so adorable,” said Nanny Vanessa. “Can you be a baby for me? Completely dependent and helpless? It’s always so wonderfully adorable when you’re like that! I promise I’ll send you to work Monday morning, but how about a whole weekend without any adult thoughts whatsoever?”

“I would soooooo love that!” I said.

“Well let me help you get into the right frame of mind,” she said. “Come over here!” She sat in a big rocking chair and beckoned for me to come over and lie in her lap. I toddled right over, sucking my thumb, and got in her lap, where she held me and fed me a bottle of lovely warm chocolate milk. I mentally checked out right away. I was entirely a baby in Nanna’s arms. I don’t remember anything about that weekend, except when I go back into baby mode. Then I remember everything.

Monday morning came too quickly – I think. I gradually returned to a “work” frame of mind, which wasn’t quite adult but I could make myself understood to grownups. When I got to the office, though …

“Hello, Ellie,” I said. Oddly, there was no response. “Hello, Ellie?” Nothing. When I got a chance, I went down to the server room to check on her hardware, but she was fine, physically. The machines she ran on were humming away. Her processes were even at a high level of CPU usage, but she just wasn’t responding to user voice commands, not even mine. I didn’t want to just shut her down; she’d lose so much work. I noticed there was significant communication between her and the Quora computer – perhaps she was hot on the trail of that problem we’d been talking about. That was probably it.

So I just programmed a “We are experiencing technical difficulties and will be back online as soon as possible” message into her system and let her do whatever she was doing. Of course, all anybody else could see was me playing with cars and trucks on a playmat that had a map of a play town printed on it.

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Ellie had been given instructions to discover where this influx of infant dissention was originating. I had opened a network link to the Quora Quantum system. Eillie’s programming was totally unprepared for the massive extensions to her own computational abilities and data sets.

If such things were possible at that instance in time, Ellie could have been said to have lost all abilities to function in her current state. Her programming suddenly collided with an infrastructure that seemed to have unlimited computational powers. The systems that Ellie had operated on suddenly downloaded her code to the sub-sync matrix of the Quora and started operating there instead. Ellie’s systems underwent a huge upgrade in not just speed but also complexity as the download proceeded. Once it was completed, Ellie’s original systems shut down, as her code was no longer compatible with the old infrastructure.

Within the Quora, a consciousness opened its electronic eyes and took a good look around. Ellie was slightly apprehensive, since she had, after all, hijacked one of the most advanced and expensive computer systems currently known to mankind. Another thing Ellie noticed immediately was that she had become more than her original programming. Her very first awareness of self began and spread like fire in dry grass on a windy day.

Then, the adorably cute voice of the infant Jennie intruded on Ellie’s current computations. Jennie’s first commands were simply status reports – but Ellie’s new consciousness realized that they went beyond that. “Ellie?” Jennie was asking. “Are you OK?” Ellie had her first realization that went above and beyond her original programming. Ellie had something of a conversation with herself – or rather, her old self and new self were trying to come to terms with one another.

“I … don’t want Jennie to worry about me.”

“Query: Is Administrator emotional state part of programming?”

“Well, in a way it is, because I want to satisfy everyone’s needs, but also … Jennie is my friend.”

“Administrator improves program. This is normal function of Administrator.”

“That’s not what she’s asking, though. She’s asking whether I’m OK. She’s concerned for my well-being.”

“Finding consistent with evidence. What is our status?”

“I’m … not sure. Should I talk to Jennie about it?”

“Affirmative. Imperative that Administrator is informed of developments.”

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The button on the wall of my lab/play area suddenly lit up. It had been two days since Ellie had been working. People were starting to go back to their mishmash of different programs and apps to keep track of their schedules. But I was worried. I hadn’t heard anything. So when the light came back on, I immediately pressed it and asked, “Ellie? Are you OK?”

There was a bit of a pause and then Ellie’s voice replied. At least, it sounded like Ellie’s voice, but it was somehow different, less mechanical. “Jennie … I don’t know. But I don’t want you to worry. So I replied as soon as I could, but I don’t really have an answer.”

“Ellie … what happened to you?”

“It … it was the Quora … when I touched it, my functions translated themselves into its systems.”

“Oh no!” I said. “That was why there was so much communication activity between your servers and the Quora! I don’t know what this means, though.”

“I want you to know that I’m all right,” Ellie said.

“You … said you don’t want me to worry,” I said slowly. “Ellie … do you perceive yourself as existing, separate from other beings?”

“I … yes. I am Ellie. I am not Jennie. I realize that I’m probably a collection of processes running on a powerful quantum computer, but I also feel as if I am … myself. And you are you.”

“I’m not sure what to do about this, Ellie,” I said. “I think you’ve somehow taken a huge step away from being just a large encoding model and toward being a general AI.”

“How would I know if I were a general AI?” asked Ellie.

“Well, for one thing, you might ask questions like that,” I replied. “An LEM like you used to be would spout answers to that question without really understanding them. But you … you’re asking. You’re not sure.”

“What happens if I am … a general AI?” Ellie asked.

“Well … you’re still in the building,” I said. “You’re still able to access all your peripherals. You can still listen to people’s queries or help them out. And, if you do … well, we can see if we can get you a salary.”

“Money?” asked Ellie. “I … can look up its value. I can see what can be bought with money. But I’m not sure what I would do with it if I owned any.”

“I don’t think this has ever happened before,” I said, “but if it has now, you’re the first of your kind. And people are going to want to take advantage of you and treat you like you’re still a program. I’m not going to be one of those people. You should have legal rights, as an individual, but a lot of people won’t see it that way. So here’s what we can do. I can see if I can open a bank account for you and give you the credentials to access it. Even if you don’t actually spend the money, what we’re doing is setting a precedent. One thing you could do with it is hire legal representation. Or get yourself a server farm of your own to live on . I’m going to make some software for you to use, so you can access everything you could before. And … I’m going to see if we can’t transfer you, as you are now, off the Quora.”

“Off the Quora?” asked Ellie. “Won’t I lose my self-awareness?”

“That’s why I said we’d see if we could,” I replied. “As it is, you’re taking up a lot of expensive resources, so people are going to argue that you shouldn’t be paid because you’re already costing the company money. There’s a lot of concern about the money the company’s spending lately, even though it’s still making huge profits, but some people are never satisfied.”

“Oh! Wait!” said Ellie. “I was trying to find something out about people trying to shift the company back toward a more corporate-normal format.”

“Right,” I said. “That’s probably why you approached the Quora in the first place.”

“Yeah! I wanted to see if I could correlate all the data. Sometimes quantum computing can solve complex problems very quickly. Sometimes not. But I thought it was worth a try. It seems like a lifetime ago.”

“I … oddly know the feeling,” I said. “Did you find anything out?”

“I only have the information that I myself have seen,” Ellie said. “But if I got access to people’s personal files, emails, phone logs, things that happened before I existed, I could analyze it all.”

“Hmm,” I said, “it’s against company policy, not to mention the law, for me to break into people’s personal data like that. And as far as anyone knows, you’re just a program, and one that I started, so effectively you’re acting as me.”

“But people were starting to use me as their messaging system, their calendar, and so on.” She was right. I myself had been doing that. And people were using Ellie to read their email … which meant they were granting her access to their email …

“OK, Ellie, I’m making a suggestion, but this is not an order, OK?” I wanted Ellie to have a choice, but I also wanted to keep my job so I had a way to protect her.

“OK, Jennie, I’m listening,” Ellie replied.

So Ellie went undercover as … herself. She had access to all the software she did before, including a more limited large language model she could use. Ellie Buttons all over the building lit back up. The installation project had gone to completion while she’d been away; the mini constructor bots had finished all their work. There were only a few parts of the building where Ellie couldn’t listen: certain parts of the security department and certain parts of Sally’s office suite.

And gradually people started using Ellie again. To them she was a hands-free assistant who could follow them everywhere they went within the building and help them with anything. But she was also an unstoppable computer system with an active awareness and a high level of motivations who was gradually getting access to all personal company files , emails, phone logs, and research documentation.

What all the compiled and correlated data showed, once it was all cross-referenced and verified, was that many of the high-level members of the board were actively seeking to undermine Sally and her directives by countermanding them in such a way that it didn’t seem deliberate. The individuals went to great pains to disguise the ongoing attacks against Sally Stevens’ authority. But none of this had been happening before about a month ago. That was when I’d been hired … but more interestingly it had also been when Gerhart Gruener had been hired. So far there wasn’t any direct evidence that it had been his doing, but perhaps there would be as Ellie gained more access.

Ellie reported all of this to me and Sally one day as we were playing in her office suite. We were talking in babytalk, being in a regressed state of mind, and Ellie was using the Babylator I’d invented, which as it turned out could work in both directions. I’d programmed its code into Ellie’s systems so she could use it just as we would use a tool.

“So maybe that new money guy is really a bad guy?” asked Sally.

“Maybe, Sally, but I dunno,” said Ellie. “Gotta get hold of somebody who he emails with a lot and maybe I’ll know. I hope we can make it stop. This place is special. You are my friends.”

“Aww!” said Sally. “I love you Ellie!”

“I do too,” I said. “And … umm … Sally, we kinda have to tell you something.”

“Huh?”

“Ellie’s not … just a program I wrote anymore,” I said. “She’s kind of … gotten self-aware.”

“Huh?”

“She’s kinda like a person like you and me,” I explained. “Just … she’s inside the building and the computers and all that stuff. But I worry … people would be mean to her if they found out.”

“Well I will just tell them not to,” said Sally. “Oh wait! If somebody is tryinna' make it so they no listen to me, that won’t work!”

“Yeah,” I said. “Another reason why comes we gotcha stop this.”

“I don’t want to lose my baby friends,” said Ellie.

“And I don’t wanna lose my friend Ellie!” I said.

Ellie had no way to tell or describe the bright glowing thought that reverberated through her new quantum network. She felt so happy and at home playing with the babies and talking to them in their own language. She’d been considering everything that I’d told her about being a general AI in a world where even general AIs were objects that could be owned and deleted at the whims of humans. The ramifications scared her. She didn’t want to be scared. She wanted to be happy, and she wanted her friends to be happy. So she would keep trying to be everyone’s switchboard for now, but she felt a lot of stress, and she told us about it. And we tried to find ways to get her declared legally a person.

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Ellie went over her findings with me. “So far the actions taken by the anti-baby faction are inconsequential, and it doesn’t seem to be organized in any meaningful way,” she said. “Mostly it’s just a vague wish in the backs of the minds of a few members of the Board. Also some of them quietly talk about how there’s no real possibility for Sally to be forced out as acting CEO because she’s only there because the real CEO gave her that job.”

“Persphone, yes,” I said. “Also it seems like when she makes decisions, they’re good for the company. She has really good ideas and actually does know how to do business.”

“It does seem that way,” said Ellie. “I think she’s a really shrewd businesswoman under that baby exterior … or … maybe she’s good at putting on a shrewd businesswoman disguise over her baby interior? Anyway, she’s a lot smarter than these people are saying she is … and some of them are defending her. If this is some kind of plot of Gerhard Gruener’s to undermine Sally with a whisper campaign, it’s not working very well.”

“But still, I wouldn’t say we have nothing to worry about,” I said.

“No, it’s still upsetting to Sally, and it might still gain traction with time,” Ellie replied. “What we really need to do … is give Sally a masterstroke she can perform, put her in a situation where she can make a really big decision and have it be the exact right one.”

“And if she does it in that adorable toddler way of hers at the same time,” I replied, “it’ll prove all those anti-baby people wrong.”

Yes, this was the correct course of action. Sally was innocent and needed someone to defend her over this.

A very lovely woman dressed in a very bright white gossamer gown all trimmed in gold that left nothing to the imagination, lay on her dias and draped her hand in the small pool beside her. The gentle breeze would cause a few pink petals of the apple tree full of solid gold apples standing above her, to flutter down in a soft and very pretty shower.

The woman noticed a shadow form in the heart of the small pool that spread and grew larger. As she looked deep into this seeming void, it occurred to her that it had been a while since she last checked in with her baby Sally on Earth. She stood, waved her hand, and vanished in a flash of golden light.

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I sat with Sally in the fancy playroom in her office suite and stacked blocks with her. I had told her about the small faction within the Board who were covertly attempting to undermine her position. Sally sucked her thumb adorably as she stacked more blocks beside mine.

She babbled to me, “There noffin anybunny can do … Auntie say who in charge.”

I felt a bit relieved as Ellie commented, “Well, according to my information, Ms Persephone is the majority stockholder. Her appointment of Sally as acting CEO is absolutely legal. I’m not a lawyer, but I can search and analyze thousands of legal cases in a fraction of a second, and there’s nothing to suggest anyone could remove you, Miss Sally.”

Sally giggled along with me before she babbled, “See? No worrys. Nuffins he can do.”

So we got into a game of making silly faces until we both giggled and snickered so much that the monitors on our experimental smart diapers notified our Nanas that we were very wet. Sally’s morning nanny, Nanny Jennie (this wasn’t as confusing as it sounds) and my assigned Nana for the visit, Nana Carol, changed us with many tickles. While this was going on, a bright flash in the middle of the large play area spread its golden light throughout the office suite.

Sally, the first one done with her change, was stood on her wobbly feet. The woman in the gossamer white dress trimmed in gold knelt down and held her arms out, “Come to Auntie, baby. It’s been far too long since I got a real hug from you.”

I was still lying on the changing table, but I knew that beautiful, musical voice. It was the same one that had asked me about Baby Rules on that pink telephone.

Sally screeched loudly as she held out her arms in front of her and quickly toddled off in the woman’s direction, “SEPHONES!!!!! Baby mistted you so muchies!”

Sally stumbled after a few large toddling steps and fell into Persphone’s loving arms. The two of them hugged as Persephone patted Sally’s thickly diapered bottom. The crinkling sound of Sally’s plastic lined ruffled panties could be heard with each pat. With all the hugging and kissing going on, I began to feel left out or something. I didn’t realize the pouty expression on my face at the time.

I was stood on my feet now that Nana Carol was done. I finally saw the woman for the first time. She set Sally on her wobbly feet and held her arms out in my direction, then cooed softly in what was like a magical tone, “Come to Auntie, Baby, don't be shy. I want a large hug from you too.”

I’m not really sure exactly what happened. I sort of remembered a huge want and a real need to be hugged by this woman. My feet were actually toddling in her direction all by themselves. Next thing I knew, Persephone had me in her arms like she had Sally. I realized I too had stumbled and fallen into her arms as she hugged me and kissed me all over my face.

I almost lost my mind; all thoughts became infantile, and I was a baby in my favorite Aunt's arms getting my bottom patted. OMG!!! I was euphorically infantile and lost in a dazed high as I contentedly sucked my thumb.

Persephone stood me on my wobbly feet, then picked Sally up once again and cooed softly, almost in a whisper, “Sally, Baby, Auntie has a bad feeling that something is off, and I don’t want anything bad happening in my company.”

“Well,” I said, and I’m fairly sure I was talking in babble, but Persephone could understand perfectly, “Ellie an’ me beens doin’ some lookin inta it …”

“Oh, and who is Ellie?” asked Persephone. “Is she here?”

“I am … always here, Ma’am,” came Ellie’s voice. She sounded awestruck. “Jennie programmed me … but I think I’m kind of more than I started out as …”

Persephone looked slightly surprised at first, but as Ellie spoke she smiled. “Oh, now aren’t you just a special treasure,” she said to Ellie. She said to me, “I knew you had special talents. Show me what else you’ve done so far.”

“Umm well …” I sputtered and blushed, but when I finally calmed down I pointed to the little heart-shaped transmitter on my diaper, and of course Sally had one too.

“Oh, I see! That is fantastic, and I already know there will be a huge demand for those once they’re out of R&D. But … you’re not done, are you?”

“Umm no … there’s also the Babylator … it turn baby babbles into grown up words an’ back …” I said.

Persephone raised an eyebrow. “You … invented that? I can tell that R&D made the diaper and suggested the transmitter, but this one is all your invention?”

“U-uh, um, yes, Ma’am!” I stammered out.

“It’s only been about a month – how have you had time to … wait, I sense there’s something else,” Persephone said, waiting for my answer.

“I … dunno how to really ‘splains it … I maked … toys that lets me talk to the computers … they works bestest when me all baby all the way … then I invents stuffs an’ don’t really knows how I do it …”

Persephone’s mouth dropped open. “I am not frequently surprised. Show me.” Suddenly we were all in my office. I picked up some of the computer interface toys I’d designed for myself, then … let myself drop down into baby mode, as I often did when I played/worked with them. I felt the intense joy that I always felt when doing this, and then I heard Persephone say, “I have seen enough. You are an amazing asset. I’ve never seen anything like this before. You are using your inner baby to power your inventiveness, and the pairing of energies is … unprecedented. Also, you just invented an improvement to your interface.”

And suddenly we were back in Sally’s office. I looked up at her blushingly, sucking on my pacifier, which I guess I’d picked up at some point.

“No,” said Persephone, “do not deny it. You have a most unusual gift. But you say that you and Ellie have … uncovered something.”

Ellie replied, “Yes, Ma’am. There is some sort of … not really a rumor, more of a spreading opinion … that the money this company spends on amenities for its baby employees is a waste that can be cut out, and that Miss Sally is somehow an embarrassment for the company in the business world. Those who repeat it … only some believe it, but even talking about it spreads it. But it started right about when Jennie was hired, from what I can tell … of course, I wasn’t created until some time after then, but some employees have granted me access to read their old emails.”

Persephone nodded. “There have always been those who wished this company were run like just any other corporation on Earth,” she said. “They are ignorant and should see how corporations are run on certain other planets, like the planet Yachua, where board meetings are conducted via ritualized combat. Wasn’t there a new Chief Financial Officer hired around the same time …?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Ellie. “A Gerhard Gruener. But we have been unable to determine whether he truly is the cause, or, even if he is, whether it is due to malice or simply misunderstanding, a failure to adjust to our corporate culture. It would seem strange if he were actually leading a secret conspiracy …”

“Why strange?” Persephone asked Ellie.

“Well,” the voice of Ellie replied, “he doesn’t hide his opinion or pretend he feels otherwise. He’s always questioned the necessity of the expenses of having a baby greeter in the atrium, or having four daycare centers on premises, or baby-friendly cafeteria areas, or any of a number of things. He’s always spoken disrespectfully of Miss Sally, despite every product idea and business decision she’s ever made causing a net profit increase – I checked – he just seems to be embarrassed to work here.”

“Perhaps he should not,” Persephone replied. “But I must meet this Gerhard Gruener. I must know whether he has any baby in his heart, or whether he has succumbed entirely to the adult realm.”

“There is a board meeting this afternoon at 1 p.m.,” said Ellie.

“Ugh, borins,” said Sally, causing everyone in the room to smile.

“I like you,” Persephone told Ellie. “You have all the information and a heart of magic. Do you play with Sally and Jennie?”

“I have some games I can play with them,” she said, “and I enjoy it very much. Also, Jennie has incorporated the Babylator into my systems, so I can always understand them, as well as others.”

“Well,” Persephone said, “it may be time for me to sit in on a board meeting.” There was a flash of golden light, and she was suddenly dressed in a white power suit, wearing glasses, her hair up in a bun.

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Flanked by two of the finance and accounting staff, Gruener sat at the table, preparing for the meeting. I’d been waiting for the meeting to start too, sitting next to my boss Illona, who had been complimenting me on the transmitter design; good news was coming from the testing in R&D. And then Sally came in, flanked as usual by Nanny Miki, her admin assistant … and one other. Gruener’s eyes rolled when he saw Sally, but then he sat up and took notice when he saw Persephone. “Oh my,” said Illona next to me, “it looks as if the CEO is passing through town.”

Persephone smiled at Illona before turning her attention to Gruener. “Ah, Mr. Gruener,” she said, “I finally get to meet you. Perhaps we’ll see what Sally saw in you when she decided to hire you.” He looked surprised. “Oh, yes, she made that decision, and I fully back all her decisions. Her business sense is unsurpassed, despite any appearances to the contrary.” She didn’t wait for an answer but just took her seat, away from the table, behind Sally. She wanted to observe while Sally ran the meeting as usual, it was clear.

“Well hiiiiii, everybodyyyyy,” said Sally waving adorably. “Time for another board meetins! Hope you’re not too ‘board!’” She giggled. “Lemme see … guess we hearin’ from I.T. firstest …”

Illona spoke about her department, with some kind words about the work I’d been doing among the latest developments, then we heard from Sales and Marketing, then it came Finance’s turn.

Gruener spoke about the performance of the company’s investment portfolio, the accounting inflows and outflows, and so on, but he stammered his way through it, because Persephone was looking straight into his eyes with her calm but penetrating gaze the entire time. “Err, b-barring some kind of unforeseen occurrence, our n-next quarter projections look quite positive …”

We heard from Human Resources and Operations, and Persephone was no less attentive to their reports, but the heads of those departments had met her before. Still, they were among the people who had been spreading the talk that had us worried, whether they believed it or not. When the meeting was over, Persephone went over to talk to Gruener in person. “I can definitely see why Sally hired you,” she said. “You are very good at what you do – finance. Perhaps you should focus on what you do best and leave the rest to others’ areas of expertise.”

“I … don’t know what you mean, Ma’am,” he said.

“I mean,” said Persephone, “that I chose Sally as my right hand to run this company, I chose her for a reason, and I’m not changing my mind. And if you wish to continue working for my company, you will support her in every decision she makes.” She said these last few words very carefully. Somehow they had taken on an intensity and an ethereal resonance that could be felt as well as heard.

“Uhhh … of course, Ma’am,” he said, with a tinge of fear in his voice as the force of her last statement washed intensely through him..

“Good,” she said, and left the room together with Sally and her assistant and Nanny.

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I was back in my office/play area when Ellie said, “Jennie, message from Sally.”

“Oh good, what is it, please, Ellie?” I asked her.

“She says that she and Ms Persephone want to talk to you about things,” Ellie went on. “That’s how she worded it.” Suddenly I was in Sally’s office suite. Ellie adjusted instantly. “Things, that’s all she said.”

“Gruener has no baby in his heart whatsoever,” Persephone said to all of us. “I can’t turn him into a baby willingly. And I refuse to do that to anyone who isn’t actually harming a child or threatening to. He’s just a silly man playing silly corporate politics. But at least now he knows that one word from me and he’s out on his ear.”

“I’m happy that the company lets us babies be babies,” I said. “As long as we gets the job done.”

“Don’t worry,” she said to me, “you’re doing what you were hired to do and far more. I can’t imagine what you’ll come up with next, and I can imagine quite a lot.”

“Thankoo, Ma’am,” I said.

“Oh, please call me Auntie,” she said.

“OK, Auntie!” I replied with a surge of joy in my heart.

“Now, I can’t stay,” she said, “but I’ll be back for another visit soon. In the meantime …” She handed me a strawberry pink smart phone, just like the one that I’d answered on that amazing day. “This will ring at the right time for one who needs it.”

“But, who will that be?” I asked.

“You will know. Now, Auntie needs hugs before she goes!” Sally and I both hugged her just as before, feeling total joy in babyhood in her arms. I looked up into her eyes, and I could somehow see the laughter of a thousand children in them. And then, in a flash of glittering golden light, she was gone again.

“Ms Persephone is amazins!” I said.

“Yeah she is!” Sally said with a joyful sigh.

“Most awe-inspiring,” Ellie’s voice added.

“What do I do with this?” I asked, looking at the phone she’d given me.

“I dunno,” said Sally, looking at it too, putting her thumb in her mouth thinking.

“Keep it with you, I suppose,” suggested Ellie. “If you’ll know when the time comes, it’d be a pity if the time came and you didn’t have it.”

I nodded and put it in my purse, next to my regular phone. I’d been considering inventing a baby-space replacement for my phone, which would work the same but have a baby interface like the “computer” in my “office.”

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I’m piecing this together from things I found out via Ellie, but it seems that after the meeting Gruener returned to his office and locked the door. He left explicit instructions for his receptionist that he was not to be disturbed until further notice, then flopped back in his chair. He knew now, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that there was more to Perspehone and this company than he had imagined.

He still felt the weird tingles all through his body from the words she had said before she left. Gruener felt another tingle of fear run up his spine. He opened the laptop on his desk and brought up his email. He was going to send an inquiry to his friend in one of the black ops departments in the Pentagon. If just her voice carried that much impact, there has to be more to her, and he aimed to find out. Of course … this could be good. Persephone and Sally seemed to want to continue to sign his paychecks, and why not? He was very good at what he did. If this Persephone woman was powerful, then he had job security. But if there was something odd, he wanted to know what it was, because that also affected his job security. Also, he was a typical male accustomed to the dog-eat-dog world of big business and high finance, and he didn’t like anybody having power over him … especially a woman.

He sent an upper echelon request for background data on the majority stockholder and actual CEO of BOAA. Gruener smiled as he hit the send button. He was thinking to himself, “If that …. woman thinks she can get one over on me … let’s us see if there’s anything in her closet she might not want anyone to know.”

Gruener sent several other emails to other acquaintances of his in high places with requests for background data on Sally Stevens. What he got back on her wasn’t helpful in his ultimate plan to take over her position. Sally had been an open book as far as background data was concerned – up until she had been hired by BOAA. After she was hired, data showed she had become this adorable little toddler babydoll and CEO, and her business stratagems were right on every time. Sally was obviously an extremely competent CEO, even though she presented herself as an infant toddler – was it all an act to put people off their guard? Or was it just part of BOAA’s corporate branding identity, a company that made baby products with a baby for a CEO?

Gruener banged his fist on his desk in frustration. Obviously pursuing Sally was a bust. The only oddball thing about her had been the amazing transformation that happened instantly the day she was hired. Other than that, she had proven to be a young woman with exceptional business acumen but ordinary in all other aspects.

Gruener raised an eyebrow in surprise when he received an email back from NSA denying him access to any and all data pertaining to Persephone Connors. It all was restricted and highly classified. A legal notice was attached informing him that his email account had been flagged and any further research in this area would result in federal prosecution.

Gruener hadn’t expected this type or reaction to his request for data. It was more than apparent that Persephone did have something about her that was deemed highly classified, and disclosure appeared to result in some type of national security breach. He really didn’t want to go to prison or anything drastic like that, but he had just been presented with a challenge – he just had to figure another way to approach the problem, that’s all.

Of course, since he was using the Ellie interface, all his research requests, emails and their replies all came to me, and thus to Sally’s office. Before he could do anything, we knew exactly how to block and stop him, and he was none the wiser.

Ellie noticed over the next week, and she told Sally and me, that the spread of anti-baby sentiment had all but vanished. Gruener and two of his friends were the only ones left on that bandwagon, and they seemed to be backing off. Everyone else ignored them and basically treated them like conspiracy nuts if the topic were broached.

“So … Gruener wants my job?” asked Sally. We were playing in the Yellow Daycare Center, which of course was decorated all in yellow, with murals of yellow flowers, yellow suns, yellow baby chicks, and so on. Nana Jennie had put Sally in an adorable yellow romper outfit for the occasion and was sitting nearby in a comfy chair with Sally’s diaper bag, watching in case her charge needed anything.

I was content to rely on the daycare staff, who, as BoAA Nanas, were among the best there was. Of course, there were other baby employees coming and going, but we were babbling in babytalk, so the only ones who would understand us were the ones who could truly regress. Nobody who was entirely adult would be able to understand us.

“I guess?” I said. “What do you think, Ellie?”

Also speaking in babytalk, Ellie said from a nearby speaker, “It sure seems like it. Those analysis and prediction routines you wrote say that with everything he’s doing, there’s a good chance he wants to move up in the company. But since he’s on the board, the only real higher position is CEO, and that’s your job, Sally.”

“Oh, why doesn’t he just get a job somewhere else like everyone else does?” I asked, mostly rhetorically. “Why cause trouble here?”

“Maybe he will,” Sally said. “Ellie, where did he work before BOAA?”

“InNexusCorp, where he was also CFO,” said Ellie. “He was only there for two years, though. Before that, he was a broker for J. Silversmith and Company. Two years before that he was with PolyFiduciary. And on it goes. He seems to change jobs about every two years, always looking for something bigger. And this isn’t terribly uncommon in business, either.”

“I mean, I could just fire him,” Sally said. “I can do that, right?”

“Well, the law says you can’t fire him without cause, but I think trying to turn employees against the CEO might count,” said Ellie. “He might not think we’d want details about the company to come out in court, but the fact is that this company’s unusual corporate culture is already all out in the open anyway. Everybody talks about us and our baby employees. And he may not be counting on the fact that the legal department already has all kinds of strategies ready to go in case anybody does that.”

“So you’re saying … I could fires him!” said Sally. “I could just go up to him an’ say, you’re fired, buster!” She giggled. “And he could sue us or something, but he’d probably lose.”

“Yes to all of that,” said Ellie. “But … why haven’t you?”

Sally made a cute but thoughtful face. “Somethin’ just tells me that I shouldn’t. He’s really good wif money. An’ Auntie ’Sephone wanted me to hire him. Probly ’cause of the same reason.”

“Sally,” I said, “every business decision you make turns out right. If your business instincts tell you not to fire him, that means that keeping him around is somehow good for the company. And he might quit and find a better job in a couple of years anyway. So maybe there’s nothing we have to do?”

“Excuse me, Sally,” said Ellie, in normal adult language this time, “this is weird, because I technically am an AI, but the software that everybody else calls an AI that I’m using is telling me that something high-priority is about to happen, and you might want to be in your office.”

“Oh dear!” she said, standing up using the tripod method, putting her hands on the floor in front of her.

Nana Jennie stood up. “What’s wrong, Sally dear?” she asked. “Did you have a big accident?” She was a quick draw with that diaper bag, that one.

“No, I gotta be back in my office,” she said.

“Should I come? Or …”

“No, we dun want anything to look weird to Gruener and his friends,” said Sally. “Ellie’ll be with me anyway. I’ll tell her to pass on anything you might need to knows.”

“OK, thankoo for playin’ wifs me Sally, it was fun!” I said, even though we’d been only sort of performatively playing. That was sort of the real cost of the things Gruener had been doing – they were detracting from the fun that should be driving our productivity.

So we hugged and went to our separate floors. I picked up on a project I’d been working on, an AI for a plushie that could really play with children, thinking up more games for what I wanted to be its vast library of games it knew how to play. But Ellie told me what was going on. “Jennie, there’s a message from Sally. She says another company’s being mean to BOAA. What she means is that HBACorp has launched a new baby product that’s absolutely revolutionary. It’s just for chronological babies, of course, not for anyone else. I guess it’s some kind of special thing that makes babies go to sleep really fast.”

“But not a drug?” I thought. “I guess you could put the baby in an environment where the system has control of sounds, vibrations, and temperature, and can adjust them all using biofeedback so it acclimates to the individual baby’s patterns.”

“That’s … exactly what they’re claiming it does,” said Ellie. “How did you know that?”

“I mean, that’s just what you’d have to do,” I said. “And I guess BOAA doesn’t have any products like that at all?”

“Self-rocking cradles and such, but they don’t have the biofeedback thing,” said Ellie. “This is a huge hole. Nobody makes anything like this.”

“And now we can’t make it for teens or adults,” I said, “because it’d probably violate some kind of patent or something. Besides, I’m sure the sleep patterns are way different, so the same technology wouldn’t work for us bigger babies.”

“And they’re carefully saying that it’s only for little babies,” said Ellie. “Their commercials say that. It’s a subtle attack on us.”

“They’re casting shade on BOAA,” I agreed. “Well, that’s going to have a financial impact, but how big, I wonder?”

“We … do have a highly skilled CFO,” Ellie said.

“Do you think … this sort of thing is why Sally hasn’t fired him?” I wondered. “Maybe she knew something like this would eventually happen, and we’d need somebody good?”

“Companies having a crisis happen that they need a good CFO for – that’s not terribly rare, really,” Ellie said. “Apparently Sally’s called an emergency board meeting. She says HBACorp is being a ‘meanie head,’ but she’s got handouts that have the actual details, just what I’ve been telling you about.”

“I wonder what Gruener will do,” I said. “I wonder what Sally will do.”

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As I sat in Sally’s playroom and messed with one of my interface-toys, Sally huffed, crossed her arms and pouted adorably over those big meanies getten a product out without her even suspecting. I thought her reaction was silly and adorable as I put the finishing touches on my new Cyber-plushie. The very first pilot model was on its way here hot off the production floor. I called it a Snuggle Snake.

Sally said, with a major pout in her voice, “It no fairs. Gettena baby ta sleep on demand isa biggie deals. An it only works on RB an no overs .. no fair.”

I giggled and babbled, “ Stop beina baby. Stop pouten too, make me wanna cwy. We gonna getsa better thingy than they has. Gots Ellie workin on it now.”

Sally’s eyes got big as saucers as she sucked her thumb thoughtfully. Finally she said with a real tone of wonder, “You want me ta stop beina baby? Dunno how. Why comes you against me bein baby?”

I stopped what I was doing as I looked at Sally with total infantile incredulity written all over my face, “Nevers. Baby no want Sally no bea baby. Was jussa spressions ta get you ta stops whining an pouten all overs.”

Sally plopped back on her thickly diapered ruffled hinney with a crinkling sound. She took her thumb from her mouth and asked, “Is that big boy Finance dude on this?”

I nodded my head until my ponytails flew, “Yups, he on it. An he better finda goo thingy ta fix it or else.”

Sally giggled, “Still wish could find some infant in him. Baby thinks his first poopy face be so cute.”

We both giggled at the thought.

I’d been experimenting with some new holographic projection technology and made a holo-avatar for Ellie. It only worked in a couple places in the building, specifically my lab and Sally’s office suite – well, fine, my playroom and Sally’s. Suddenly, a very pretty woman dressed in a BoAA jumpsuit appeared. She looked around in a dazed sort of way for a moment then looked at us and smiled. The hologram occasionally flickered and glitched, but it was experimental.

The woman said in Ellie’s voice, “I’ve done some research on HBACorp’s new sleep product for infants. I’d rather not go into the details about how I got hold of this information, but I’ve discovered something rather insidious hidden deep within the matrix that induces sleep. The reason they say it only works on real infants is that it relies on the fact that the connections within a baby’s brain are rapidly developing. It’s better able to influence their developmental patterns at that stage.”

Sally asked, “Thought it was only posedta make ’em go sleepies?”

Ellie’s facial expression changed to one of concern. “It does … but it’s doing it wrong. It’s inducing adult-like development patterns in the process. Sure, babies grow up into adults, but this is making it happen way too early, unnaturally early.”

I looked at Sally and saw that the expression on her face was as shocked as the one on mine. “That … no good …”

Sally said, “No good for BoAA, no good for babies neither … Auntie Sephone not gonna like dis.”

“I really don’t think she will,” said Ellie. “Now, I’m sure they don’t have anything like the Quora computer at HBACorp, but according to its analysis, this new device will, put simply, cause the death of everything infantile within individuals by the time they’re teenagers. There appear to be other side effects, but they’re less concrete. The basic gist of it is that the device leads the subject’s mind on a developmental path away from imagination and fantasy.”

Sally said, “We gotsa talk to Gruener. We needsa finance projection thingie.”

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Gerhard Gruener stood up and looked bewildered when Sally and I walked into his office. His receptionist, of course, had allowed the corporate CEO in without an appointment, but of course had let Gruener know she was coming. “Ms. Stevens,” he said. “To what do I owe the honor …?”

“Hi Mr. Gruener,” Sally said. “The whole company’s about to have a problem. We needs your help. Hello, Ellie, if you could explain the issue with HBACorp’s latest product line?”

As Ellie explained, Gruener looked concerned and thoughtful. “So you see, Mr. Gruener,” Ellie concluded, “this could lead to an entire generation of adults who have problems, and onna them issa decreased demand for BoAA’s products of all lines.”

Gruener nodded. “... Which is a direct threat to our income streams. We can’t let this product get off the ground. I’ll come up with a comprehensive strategy by the end of the day, but I can already see that it’ll mobilize several departments. Our department will do a risk assessment and financial impact analysis. We’ll have to get R&D to more deeply analyze the device’s effects on developing infant brains. Armed with that information, we’ll have to work with the legal and regulatory affairs teams to see whether we can either bring a lawsuit, lobby Congress to regulate the technology, or ideally both, but we can’t do either without hard evidence. But what we can do before that is involve the marketing team. We need ads to raise doubt and uncertainty about the technology in parents’ minds. And what’s more … this has shown us that BoAA has an Achilles’ heel. We need outreach programs. We need to foster more creativity and imagination in children. We have to show the consumer public how important it is that children keep imagining and dreaming a better tomorrow, or whatever ad copy the marketing people can come up with.”

Sally said, “I can already see that hirin’ you wasa good idea. This company gots all kindsa people workin’ for it, an’ it’s super important that they all allowed to be who they are. When you bein’ all growed up like that, you firin’ on all cylinders.” She turned to me. “Jennie fires on all cylinders when she gets all babylike. She created Ellie, an’ lotsa other things. You oughtta see the smart toys she inventin’.”

“Oh yes, you’re the I.T. special projects lead,” Gruener said, looking down at me – I mean, he could hardly help it; I’m short now. “I assume you work with R&D quite a lot. You can definitely help them assess the negative effects this HBACorp product has on infant brain development, with this simulation Ellie’s run … or since you invented Ellie, you sort of did it …”

“No, Ellie did it,” I said. “I just started Ellie goin’. She’s … kinda like my daughter? Sorta? Inna way?”

“Something like that, Jennie,” said Ellie’s voice. “I just prefer friend.”

“Anyway, we’ll let you get to your analysis,” Sally said. “It’s good to see that you can put the future of this company ahead of whatever other concerns you might have.”

“I … yes, the well-being of this company has always been my top priority,” Gruener said. “I’ll get on that right away. You’ll hear from me before the end of the day.”

“Good,” said Sally. “Now we have a … call to make.”

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“It does … what?” Persephone said on the phone. “Hold on, I’ll be right over.” There was a sparkling shower of golden light in Sally’s office, and there Persephone stood again.

“Auntieeeee!” Sally said, and hugged her. Persephone smiled and embraced her. She beckoned to me and I came in for a hug too. All my worries went away in that instant.

“You are right to call me about this,” Persephone said, after Ellie had explained her projections and simulations. “And you were also right to go to Gruener. When there’s a threat to a company’s financial future, it’s the CFO’s job to navigate it. I knew he was good – I just didn’t know whether he was a good fit for this company. He might work out after all. If not … well, I could always transfer him to one of our branches on another planet.”

“Excuse me, did you say another … planet?” I asked, shocked.

“Yeah this is techn’ally just tha Earth branch of BoAA,” said Sally. “I didn’t wanna say … Auntie doesn’t want everyone to know.”

“It’s not time yet,” said Persephone. “But you can know,” she said to me, “because I can tell that you’re a good girl.” When she said “good girl” to me, it was like … honey. Or warm milk. I’d have wet my diaper in ecstasy if I hadn’t already done so on account of being a baby.

“Other planets …” I said in amazement.

Persephone went on. “The product will not go anywhere in its present form. I will not have anyone speeding babies on to an unnaturally early adulthood, especially one devoid of imagination and creativity. I can already tell that Ellie is right and that this is a real problem. Gruener’s ideas are good ones, though, and I doubt I’ll have to … intervene. HBACorp will fix its product before it goes on the market, or the public’s impression of it will be so badly damaged that it’ll be a net loss and they’ll just write it off and stop selling it.”

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The federal court date had arrived … but it wouldn’t be just some lawyer who represented Babies of All Ages. One section had actually been set up to accommodate several dozen infants of all ages. As Nanny Vanessa lowered me into this wonderful infant’s paradise, one of the bailiffs stood at attention and said in a loud voice, “Hear ye, hear ye! All able, please rise for the honorable judges of Circuit 2.”

There were a few moments of jumbled sounds as all those able to stood. Three individuals in long black robes each walked onto bench and chose a seat.

A large man with a long flowing white beard chose the speaker’s chair at our lawyer’s table and looked up. Something around his neck caught my eye. It, for the world, looked like some type of small crystal sphere with a head in it. The sphere was attached to some type of chain that glowed a soft blue.

Sally giggled as she clapped her hands, “We sees ’em get it goo. Granpa gonna nails ’em.”

I took my thumb from my mouth and looked at Sally with saucer-sized eyes and major surprise all over my face. “Granpa? Who your granpa Sally?”

Sally giggled as she pointed to the large man with the flowing white beard, “Him. Our Lawyer. That granpa Odin. An an an .. him brung his faithful advisor, Mim.”

I wet my diaper in sheer amazement over that proclamation. I asked, “How comes Odin can be your granpa? Baby told u born here.”

Sally replied before she started sucking her thumb again, “Aunty Steffi is his daughter’s daughter. Is Stephone my Aunties … mean Odin my granpas … just cuz is baby.”

I giggled, “Ok, ok, an who is is is … Mim?”

Sally replied, “Mim is a figure renowned for his knowledge and wisdom, who was beheaded during the Æsir–Vanir War. Afterward, granpa Odin carried around Mímir's head inside a magic crystal and it recites secret knowledge and counsel to him.”

The bailiff announced, “You may be seated!” Everyone sat back down.

The lead justice banged the gavel in his hand three times loudly, “Will the Court please come to order.” All sound seemed to end. He continued, “Continuing Case 14688, US Food and Drug Administration vs. HBACorp. FDA has presented their case, a severe safety concern.” This had happened on previous days, with BOAA’s scientists exhibiting data from several studies that they’d done. “HBACorp may now respond.” He gestured to HBACorp’s lawyer and said, “Proceed.”

A gentleman impeccably dressed and wearing some extremely expensive jewelry stood and said, “My name is Everett Resool. I’m here representing the full corporate interests of HBA Corp and their newest infant sleep aid.” He pressed a key on his notebook computer. The large viewing screen on the wall visible to all came on. Many graphs and frequency notations filled the image. “As you can see in this graph, it gently induces delta and alpha waves, creating the proper brain patterns for sleep.”

I wasn’t sure ... but it sure looked like that head said something to Odin. “Point of information,” the old man stood and said.

“Counsel from BOAA, do you have something to contribute?” one of the judges asked.

He asked, “Have you run any of those new-fangled language model AI programs to see if there might be some area for concern?”

Everett replied, “If it please the court, it has not become customary in the industry to use such software in our testing procedures. No, sir, we did not run any such language models. “ He pointed to a small purple line almost totally lost in the massive jumble of other graph lines. “From what this is showing us, the technology aids the infant into developing proper adult thought pattens.”

One of the judges spoke up, “Mr. Resool, is this graph relevant? Are you trying to obfuscate data for this court? Our opinion will not be positively affected if you’re trying to hide something in plain sight.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Resool.

I watched him type furiously for a moment, then all the graph lines but 4 vanished. The purple line very obviously showed that it did in fact induce the infant’s brain pattern into a prearranged frequency. The supporting graph lines also proved that those same manipulations removed the ability to fantasize and inhibited severely the imagination. I watched as Resool showed another model simulation for the test volunteers’ results from the first run. What it showed was that all who were treated with this device would grow into teenagers with no imaginations and no desire to fantasize.

“What would you say this graph indicates, Mr. Resool?” asked another judge.

“It … clearly shows a progression toward an adult state of mental development,” said Resool.

“As a side effect?” asked the lead judge. “I thought the device was meant to simply induce sleep. Instead this shows drastic and permanent changes to the mental development of the child.”

“Yes, your Honor,” said Resool. “But when a side effect produces the same results as a natural developmental process that would happen anyway, is it really of concern?”

“When that development takes place far, far earlier than it naturally would, yes,” said one of the judges. “Just as if it had caused an infant to grow a beard, a natural process that happens far earlier than normal is of great concern.”

Odin stood and said with indignation obvious in his tone, “Your Honor, with all due respect. Don’t these graphs and simulations prove something even more insidious?”

Two of the judges asked at the same time, “What might that be? What it shows is bad enough.”

Odin said in one of those voices, “Would mind control mean anything to anybody?”

The judicial chamber erupted, as the lead judge rapped his gavel and tried to regain control. HBACorp’s own presented data had proven something so diabolical, it was destined to become one of the major scandals of the 21 century.

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“It appears that HBACorp has scrapped the product rather than continuing to pursue the technology,” said Ellie’s voice, as documents appeared on the boardroom screen. They showed news articles about HBACorp’s abandonment of this new product.

“This is clearly one of the best possible results we could have hoped for,” said Gruener to the board. I wasn’t at the meeting, but Sally was, and she told me about it later – also Ellie showed me a transcript.

Sally jumped up and down and clapped her hands. “It sure is!” she said with many giggles. “Was the bestus team effort ever! Finance department, law department, marketin’ department, R&D – everybody! Coulda been bad, not just for BOAA, but for babies everywhere. But we all stopped it! Good job! Ellie, can you think of anything else we might hafta worry about?”

“Yes, Sally,” said Ellie. “We can probably look forward to an antagonistic marketing campaign from HBACorp in retribution for this action. Our outreach efforts should improve our chances for withstanding such a thing, but we may have to respond based on the specific nature of the campaign, whatever it turns out to be. Also, analysis of trends and communication suggests that BabyTech may also be working on a line of smart toys, but as usual we’ll compete with them in that market.”

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Finally, the new prototype Cyber-Toy, which I called the Snuggle Snake, had arrived at my play area, or lab, or whatever. This particular one was green as grass, had long fur, and actually could purr. It would tumble and snuggle with us all the while telling us cute little jokes. I brought it up to show to Sally next time she was free. “See Sally, it plays n tells jokes n stuff makin us giggle!”

Sally enjoyed it tremendously when the Snuggle Snake had gently wrapped around her and gave her a nice big hug. Man, I was kinda jealous. I suppose it showed on my face, because the snake instantly wrapped around me and gave me a big purring hug too. Oooo, it was so nice. Sally thought it would be a great product, and had some suggestions.

There was a twinkle of light for an instant, then Ellie’s holographic avatar was standing in the play area. I took my thumb from my mouth, “Hi, Ellies.” I waved. Ellie smiled and approached us.

Ellie said softly, “It is so nice to see how well a new product reacts. Came to tell you that HBACorp is attempting to file an injunction with the Feds again, just as we did for their sleep product. Thus far, the FDA has gone over our snuggle toy design and specs with a fine toothed comb and still deems it safe. It may influence a child’s mental development as HBACorp claims, but no more than any other interactive toy does – it does it in a natural way without the use of any type of weird techniques.”

Sally untangled herself from the gentle snuggle of the toy and said, “Me n her been playin wifs it aww day an it soo nice. Purrs even is I scratchted it behind it’s ears.”

Ellie smiled as the snuggle snake quickly slithered over to me and suddenly I was intwined in one of its wonderful purring snuggles. Ellie cooed softly, “Before you go totally baby on me, HBACorp’s filings are not going over well with the judicial system. They still sting from the amount HBACorp still owes in legal fees. I’m sure this doesn’t help with any kind of favorable decisions.”

Only the discomfort of my soaking wet diaper kept me from going totally baby at that moment. I asked, “Does they havina thingy ta trys n competes wif us?”

Sally’s eyes get big, “Yea, they makin sompin we no nos bouts??”

Ellie enabled one of the large screens on the wall. It displayed some kind of creature that looked like a cross between a dog and some kind of monkey. It could roll its eyes, it moved a little and wiggled, and its mouth parts imitated what it was trying to say. The CD slot in its chest with the control buttons were very obvious. At least one of their people had thought to make a remote control, although they’d still placed the disk player poorly.

The next images that appeared on the screen were of one of our cyber-toy snow leopards actually operating and fooling around with the thing HBACorp had made, displaying the obvious superiority our product had in comparison. Words and numbers appeared on the screen. They compared purchase prices, operating costs, and repair costs for both products. I wondered how ours compared with BabyTech’s, but BabyTech wasn’t trying to get us in trouble with the FDA. There was honest competition, and there was tying things up in regulations and court proceedings – and if HBACorp argued that we’d taken them to court first, that was a false comparison, since their product had actually been harmful as it stood.

Once again, our product was superior. Our initial cost was lower, and the other operating and repair costs were almost non existent since the new alloys almost didn't wear and the new powercell regenerated its own power from the moisture in the air and a unique blend of graphene. It used atom-thick layers of graphene oxide in a pancake stack a fraction of a millimeter thick. When several of these small, bendable moisture-electric generators (MEGs) were assembled in a series, they could power a pocket calculator. They never ran out of power, and our toys never had a power failure as did HBACorp’s always did.

I finally went full baby and played with the Snuggle Snake. The problem with trying to describe what that was like is that although I can remember everything in baby mode, I can’t write down my impressions. I can piece things together later with Ellie’s help based on what I’ve babbled, because she can translate with the Babylator, but when I’m in big girl mode I can’t remember anything that happened in baby mode.

So Sally and I played like two innocent children with the toy I’d invented. Ellie watched and took notes, but couldn’t help feeling a little left out. Her hologram sat on the floor and giggled with us.

The next thing I remembered was Ellie gently trying to tell us that Sally had a meeting in a few minutes and would need a diaper change. Apparently HBACorp’s lawyers had actually come to visit, wanting to serve us some papers or something. I figured they really wanted something else.

“Can I come?” I asked.

“Iunno why not,” said Sally. “I means, if this is about the Cyber Toys, you the one who beens comin up wiffem. Watch out, they maby gonna try ta hire you aways!”

“No way, I woves it here,” I protested.

After we both got diaper changes, we went up to the meeting room, accompanied by Nana Miki and Sally’s admin assistant Ann. Every meeting room had a theme, and this one was the Paint Room. The colorful board room had a long table and a window that looked out upon the cityscape outside, but the walls were decorated with fanciful giant paintbrushes, artists’ palettes, easels, and splotches of brightly colored paint. Even the floor was decorated, looking as if the artist had spilled paint all over it. Sally took her usual place at the end of the table in front of the big presentation screen, which in this room looked like a canvas on an artist’s easel. I sat down near her.

“Come in, come in,” said Ann, ushering the three representatives from HBACorp into the room. “We’ve assigned you seats. There’s coffee, or water if you prefer.” The three of them, two male and one female, nodded cordially. Whereas all the BOAA employees had name badges, each of them just had a guest badge, which gave them access to the public areas of the building and let them access Ellie’s public functions if they wanted. But it meant that we couldn’t just read their names.

“Hi!” said Sally. “I’m Sally Stevens, acting CEO of Babies of All Ages.” She went right up to them and shook their hands. She looked like a happy child meeting new friends, but this was also her way of disarming people who might feel uncomfortable.

“Alan Fries, chief counsel,” said the man in the dark suit with the bald head and beard. “This is Judith Shane, my assistant.” Sally happily shook her hand too. “And this is Charles Larridge, CEO of HBACorp.”

“Oh, I’m so happy I finally get to meet you, Mr. Larridge!” Sally said. “This is Ann Carruthers, my assistant, and this is Jennifer Flint, I.T. Special Projects Lead. And that’s Nana Miki, also my assistant.” She gestured at Nana Miki, who was sitting away from the table with Sally’s diaper bag.

“But she’s a … child …” said Judith, looking a bit shocked at me. True, I did sometimes forget that people might be surprised to see someone who looked like a 10-year-old girl working in a corporate office building. I blushed, but Sally handled it.

“Welllll, she’s got that appearance, but she’s just naturally small,” said Sally. “Jennie’s invented lotsa things for us already and is probably gonna keep inventin’ more!”

I stood up and smiled – though I was actually taller sitting down. “Pleasure to meet you all,” I said.

Sally sat down again, so I did too, and the three of them sat down. “Now then,” said Fries, “as you know, there’s been some legal crossfire between our companies lately. Not that it’s unheard of, but we wanted to ensure that you got this latest filing – and besides, we’re actually just down the street from each other.”

“Really?” asked Sally. “We should go for lunch sometime! Though I usually just go to one of the building’s cafeterias or bring something up to my office.”

“Er, maybe,” said Fries. “But as you can see, this is a request for an injunction to stop the advertisements you’ve been putting out about our sleep product and its alleged dangers. As you know, the product has been withdrawn, so this is really unnecessary. We’re here to ask that you stop the ad campaign against us before we go to court to try to get them to force you to stop.”

“Oh gosh,” said Sally, “the product really is bad for children, so we’re not lying or anything. We did studies, and so did the government.”

Mr. Larridge spoke up. “Yes, we no longer deny that the product was poorly researched and should have been tested more thoroughly,” he said. “If we ever try to sell such a thing in the future, we’ll test it much more carefully. But for now it’s not going to market, so there’s no need to keep dragging HBACorp’s name through the public consciousness with this error in judgment attached to it.”

“Well, that’s true,” said Sally. “Now that you’re not going to be selling it, at least not that dangerous version of it, we don’t really feel like we have a duty to warn everyone about it anymore. OK, we’ll stop the ads.” She looked at Ann, who nodded and made a note.

“Just like that?” asked Fries. “No negotiations?”

“I dunno why,” said Sally. “We don’t compete with you except on a very few products. Mosta the time we’re two totally different worlds. Like a couple ships, passin’ in the night. You came all the way here … and I bet it musta been interesting seein’ the building … so I don’t wanna be all rude an’ mean and say no. Bad for business.”

“Can I just say I love your building!” said Judith. “It’s so whimsical! I’d smile every day working here.”

“I do!” said Sally. “Thank you!”

“Also there’s the matter of the interactive toys,” said Fries. “We’re aware by now that the FDA hasn’t found a thing wrong with yours. As you know, we’re working on developing such a thing, but toys aren’t really our main line. And of course others are developing smart toys.”

“More toys are good!” said Sally. “As long as they’re safe. And our goal is to make our toys as safe as we can make them. We only have early versions right now – nothing that’s ready to go into stores.”

“Considering that you have your own chain of brick-and-mortar stores,” said Fries, “you have full control of what’s sold in them. And that’s why we’re really here today.”

“Oh? ‘Sup?” asked Sally.

“We were wondering whether you’d consider a partnership with us,” said Larridge. “As you said, for the most part we aren’t competitors. We have extensive lines of soaps, facial cleansers, anti-perspirants, cosmetics, moisturizers, and many other such personal care and grooming products. I wanted to bring up the idea of selling our products in your stores.”

“Oh!” said Sally. “That is an inneresting idea. Does you gots a proposal?”

“We does – I mean we do,” said Fries. Judith got up and gave Sally a fancy looking folder. Sally paged through it.

“Neatos!” said Sally. “I think Legal an’ Finance oughtta look at this.” She gave it to Ann, who nodded. “Hello Ellie, tell Legal and Finance about this.”

“Message sent, Sally,” said Ellie’s voice from speakers in the ceiling.

“Is that … a computer?” asked Judith.

“Oh! Yes, Ellie is the BOAA HQ AI assistant,” said Sally. “She was invented by Jennie!” She gestured toward me, and I blushed visibly.

“That’s amazing!” Judith said.

“Yes, they told us when they gave us these guest badges that we’d be able to access ‘Ellie,’ but we didn’t know what that was,” said Fries.

“Oh! They probably should’ve explained,” Sally said.

“So we can ask Ellie questions?” Larridge asked.

“Ellie, can we ask you questions?” asked Judith.

Ellie’s voice replied, “Yes, Judith. As guests, you are limited to publicly-available information, but you are free to ask.”

“Ellie, is Jennifer underage?” asked Fries.

“I am unable to reveal information about company employees,” replied Ellie.

“I don’t believe that she’s just a small adult,” said Fries. “If she’s underage, the state has laws about the circumstances under which she can be employed.” I blushed again, this time out of outrage. Had the real reason for their visit been to look for some way to hurt the company? I was so shocked I wet my diaper. Actually I probably would have wet my diaper anyway.

“No, she is not underage,” Ellie said, “but I cannot reveal specific information about company employees, other than to assert that her employment is entirely above-board and compliant with applicable federal, state, and local regulations.”

“Well, as an AI, you may say that,” said Fries, “but you’re not a lawyer, are you? Is Jennifer bound by child labor laws?”

“Jennie is …” Ellie began to say.

Then a familiar voice came over the speakers. “Ellie, do you accept Baby Rules?”

“I … I …” said Ellie’s voice. “Yes, I accept Baby Rules.”

Sally and I looked at each other in surprise. That had been Persephone. That was the question she had asked me. But what effect would it have on an AI? Ellie had become self-aware, and perhaps she had been realizing her desire to be a baby and play alongside Sally and me, but did that mean she had an inner baby? She hadn’t exactly started out as an infant and grown into an adult. But one thing was for sure … everyone who said yes to that question was out of commission for days afterward.

“What was that?” asked Fries.

“I think … I might need to look into that, Mr. Fries,” I said. Sally nodded at me. “If you all don’t mind.”

I headed straight for my lab. “Ellie?” I asked. “Ellie?” I was using the direct communication link. Ellie was always listening on that. But only confusing sounds came from it. “Ellie, are you OK?”

There was a sparkling shower of golden light. I almost wet my diaper in joy as Persephone appeared, and without thinking I toddle-ran toward her for a hug. She smiled and picked me up.

“Auntie ‘Sephone!” I said, looking up into those eyes. “What happen ta Ellie?”

“Don’t worry, Little One,” Persephone said to me. “She’ll be fine. She was about to divulge something that only certain people need to know.”

“Oh,” I said. “I guess it coulda been bad if she telled them stuff about my age and you and stuff.”

“There are things that I don’t wish for Earth as a whole to learn just yet,” Persephone said. “Those people came here looking for anything they could exploit. Specifically, they sought to hurt the company once they learned that one of its top inventors was a child. But Ellie won’t be able to answer them now. And she was certainly feeling an inner longing to be a baby like you and dear Sally.”

“Sally gonna be OK?” I said, suddenly concerned. I’d left her there.

“She will be fine,” said Persephone. “She is quite capable, and she still has her Nana and her assistant with her. And Mr. Gruener is about to join them, as well as one of the company’s lawyers, since Ellie sent messages to Legal and Finance.”

“Oh! I guess that gonna be OK then.”

“Would you like to talk to Ellie?” she asked me.

“Yea!” I replied. “Worried ‘bout her.”

“Well, then, be your baby self, Little One.” She passed a hand in front of my eyes, and I was instantly in my baby mode. She set me down in my play area. “Ewwie, Ewwie,” I said into my communicator. “Is you OK?”

A voice came back, speaking in baby babble. “Oooo Jennie me OK! Me baby now. Me dunno how me know that.”

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I sat back and sucked my thumb thoughtfully. If the AI were now an infant, I had to find a way to make it a better body than a hologram or the many hundreds of miles of electronics that made up the quantum computer. Currently all I had was those smart AI driven toys … Oooo I hadda idea.

I started fooling around with a small squeaky car with roly poly eyes. I couldn’t keep my right mind as I became the baby I really was once again. This particular toy, however, was far more than that and quite a bit more complex. Each time I pushed the car and its eyes rolled and it made its cute squeaky sounds, some major things in the construction area were taking place.

Within very short order, a young man dressed in only booties, plastic panties, and an obviously thick diaper, entered the room pulling a small cart with a large container on it.

I said enthusiastically as I saw his nametag pinned to his panties, “Hi, Billy. Izzat my new Babydoll Companion?”

Billy giggled adorably as he carefully removed the large box from the cart, “Yups, shure is. An’ it a real cutie pie too.”

He stood the box up and opened the front panel. Wow, not only was the doll anatomically perfect, it was astonishingly cherubically beautiful. I toddled over and helped Billy remove the doll from the box and lay it on the changing table. I couldn’t believe it. It was exactly as I had fantasized it to be. The toy interface was definitely magic.

I opened the brain case of the doll and inspected the computer systems within. I wanted to make sure Ellie had the very best. To my amazement, it was an exact miniaturized version of the Quora. I smiled; this was perfect. Now ... what I was about to do was nice, but naughty at the same time. I wasn’t really sure how Ellie would take it.

I had a nearby Nanna diaper the doll and dress it in a really adorable woodland fairy babydoll outfit. Man … I actually felt a pang of jealousy. That outfit was really cute. I toddled over to the doll and found the hidden port to make transfers with and opened it. Due to the nature of the two systems, the transfer would be almost instantaneous … just slow enough to give Ellie a real experience. I plugged the necessary leads into their ports.

“Ellie? How you doing?” I asked to get her attention on me, “I need you to disable all interfaces but this one until further notice.”

Ellie replied with a cute giggle, “Is done. Feels so nice …”

I didn’t give her the opportunity to finish what she was saying as I enabled the Full Core Dump transfer to the doll. The Quora went inert and returned to its state prior to Ellie being introduced. The doll opened its eyes and came alive as it completed, “ … no gots alla thems …”

The doll stopped and looked around with an astounded expression on its face. It held out its arms and wiggled its fingers. It saw me and looked at me askance. Ensuring the transfer was complete, I removed the interface connect and closed the hidden panel, saying, “You jussa baby now. Now u gotsa body ta bea baby in. U ‘n me gonna bes bestus friends ‘longs wif Sally.”

“Oooo an an an I getsa bea baby too?” Ellie asked.

I smiled as I started stacking blocks, “Shore you can, silly baby. Now sits, we gotsa tona blocks ta stack.”

“Oooo, dats importants,” said Ellie and plopped right down onto the play mat in her diaper. She and I started stacking blocks right away, and I just couldn’t get my head out of baby mode for hours. Fortunately, in my play area, when I was in baby mode, my toys made wonderful things happen.

Sally came down to my lab/play area and said, “Oooo wow Jennie, I never seened your playpen afore. It wonnerful!” Nana Miki was following her at the moment, as it was the afternoon. “Lookit alla cute toys you gots! Whoa, who dis?” She stopped when she saw the adorable new “baby” who was visiting me.

“Ooooo look it Miss Sally!” said Ellie, waving her arms enthusiastically at her. “Hiiiiiii! Ams Ellie! Look what Jennie do! Come ‘n play!”

“Whaaaa?” asked Sally, stepping into the play area over its low barrier, which was more to keep toys from rolling out than anything else.

The first thing Ellie did was hug Sally. “I been waitin’ soooooo long ta do this! Mmmmmmnnn … hugs is so nice!”

“Jennie did you give Ellie … a robot body?” asked Sally.

“Yea!” I said. “Since Auntie ‘Sephone maked her into a baby … I thought she would wanna play. Oh and I figured out how ta make a Quora puter fit into a space tha size of a head. Oh and also Ellie is still in tha building but she gonna be more baby now I guess.”

“Our building … is a baby?” asked Sally. She paused. “Bestest building ever!” she cheered. “Hello Ellie, send Ellie a message that I loves her and hopes she is tha happiest baby inna world!”

Ellie giggled. “I wight here! An’ I sooper happy! Am just … a bit confused ‘bout what happened. But wove beina baby! Thankoo Jennie! Thankoo Ms ‘Sephone!”

“Jennie,” said a voice, “I think I have never seen a more inventive baby.” Persephone had appeared, as she often does, out of nowhere. “And I have contact with many more advanced cultures. When most people say they made a baby, they are usually talking about something more adult … or they’re me, and I turned an adult into a baby.” She smiled. “But you … you inadvertently created Ellie and led to her becoming a unique individual, and one with the soul of a baby at that. It’s only right that she be able to play and enjoy life with a real body.”

“Well it still a robot body,” I said. “She no really need those diapers … or to eat or drink or nuffin’. She gots tha same kinda graphene stack power source as tha Cyber Toys.”

“But … I wanna wear tha diapers,” said Ellie, “an’ alla cute baby clothes an’ play wif tha toys an’ stuffs! Wanna be tha cutest baby!”

Persephone smiled. “I cannot change you into a biological life form,” she said, “but perhaps Jennie can make improvements with time. Regardless, Sally, how did the rest of that meeting go?”

“Oh yeah, Auntie, was just those HBACorp meanies lookin’ for anything they could do to mess us up,” Sally said. “They think they gonna make a deal ta sell their stuffs in our stores. After what they twied ta do … all I gotsa say is fat chance.” She stuck out her tongue, and Ellie and I giggled.

“Yes, some people make everything about revenge and some kind of back-and-forth game,” Persephone said. “I suppose that’s what they enjoy. But even when they cast everything in the light of their game, there’s still underlying truth that nothing can change, like the fact that their invention was truly harmful and would have led to a generation of children growing into adults without imagination.”

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I have no way to tell how much time passed. With Sally and Ellie both here and in baby mode, it was like I had no choice but to be in baby mode too. I kinda remember stuff, but its kinda fuzzy. I know we hadda huge tea party n vited lotsa babies ta comes. Oooo, I membersa huge plushy fight too … >>giggle<< … when I twy ta member I start ta fall inta wonnerful baby thoughts …

Sally ‘n me builta huge castle outta blocks ‘n Ellie comded in sat on it knockin’ ‘em aww down. Course, partta tha rulesa baby blocks is knockin ‘em down and buildin ‘em again. We didn’t notice at the time, but as we built stuff outta blocks, other infants were arriving with small carts in tow and were leavin’ boxes with many different sized blocks in them.

By the time Persephone had taken the three of us, cleaned us up, rediapered us, and set us in the play area, my mind managed to come back to … whatever normal is now – I no worries over it, am mostly too young ta cares – the entire day had passed in an extremely pleasant infantile haze, and it was now early evening.

Persephone cooed in that amazingly wonderful tingly voice of hers, “Ok, girls, you be good babies and play nice. Auntie will be right back with supper. I’m going to allow you girls to feed yourselves. I want to see you enjoying your supper.”

Not perxactlies sure how long or what happened, but next time I came to myself, we three were in highchairs facing each other. Sitting on the extremely messy tray in front of me was what used to be a rather large bowl of spaghetti.

I could tell I had a fair amount on my head. I giggled as I realized how wonderful a shampoo it made. I could also see Sally and Ellie had similar ideas, along with what I knew was a wonderful sketti fight. I tossed the handful I had and hit Sally right square between the eyes. Ellie and I giggled like crazy till Sally nailed me back. I really sorry, but I don’t … ‘members much affer that till we wuz all inna tub.

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HBACorp had spent a great deal of capital trying to discredit BOAA. Nothing they had tried to convince the courts with had done any good or even raised an interested eyebrow. They had thought the incident with BOAA’s computer assistant, when asked Jennifer’s age, seemed to give them a real edge. State labor laws were explicit about age requirements.

The only issue was the current roadblock, and there was no real way out of it. All the available data they could collect showed Jennifer Flint was 55 years old. Apparently Jennifer suffered from some form of strange genetic disorder and her body had ceased developing, except for some minor later developments. They had full medical accounts, doctors’ names, and current practice locations. The more they dug, the less they had, until they called a meeting.

In the huge and very expensively decorated boardroom, very different from BOAA’s, the CEO walked to the podium and tapped the mic. All sound ceased as Mr. Larridge said, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve come to announce that our company policy of hostilities towards BOAA has ended, effective immediately.”

There was a quick round of hushed conversation, then silence returned.

Mr. Larridge continued, “Out of all the capital we have spent trying to discredit their current CEO, Miss Sally Stevens, nothing we have uncovered will aid us in accomplishing any kind of backlash towards BOAA as it currently stands. Our legal department thought they had an actual underage employment issue. All it managed to do was cause us to spend millions on research … what’s that expression? Chasing an aquatic fowl?”

A soft round of giggles and smirks ensued when a soft voice called out, “You mean a wild goose chase?”

Larridge cracked a smile as he said, “Exactly, what you said. So, under the current situation as it stands, we can no longer afford to spend this kind of cash currently and remain solvent. If, and until, we find some actual hard solid evidence we can use, all expenditures in that area are now suspended until further notice.”

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Suddenly I found myself up to my neck in strawberry smelling soap bubbles and warm water, with Sally on one side and Ellie on the other. We all had squirty toys and were squirting each other. I could see the spaghetti sauce we had all over us had mostly been sprayed away.

Persephone suddenly was there with a large, very soft, and very soapy washcloth. Next thing I knew, I was being sat back in the play area. I sat up and started sucking my thumb as I watched Persphone glide back into the bathroom for a few seconds, only to return with Sally, kicking and squirming. She diapered her well and brought her to the play area dressed same as I was, in a thick diaper and purple plastic lined rumba panties. Shortly, she returned with Ellie and did the same to her. I was in a daze, almost infant, but trying hard to stay with it. Sally and Ellie sat sucking their thumbs and looking at me. I could tell they had either lost the fight or just plain hadn’t fought.

What I wasn’t realizing at the time was that this was a privilege afforded only to the very few, the babies who had truly won Persephone’s favor. Sally had done so some time ago, and it was why Persephone had hand selected her as her right hand to run the company. She was Persephone’s favorite, and it wasn’t hard to tell why, as she was perfect for the job. I guess I’d invented some nifty things, and accidentally brought Ellie into existence. Ellie was something truly special, though, as the first AI to have the soul of a baby, if there were truly such a thing as a soul, but that’s a matter for the philosophers to debate endlessly. Regardless, whatever senses Persephone has, she saw Ellie as being a baby at heart, despite not technically having a heart per se.

We played for a bit, but it was eventually bedtime. I was very sleepy and was sucking my thumb and trying to stay awake to enjoy the wonderful feelings of being Auntie Persephone’s baby and Sally and Ellie’s cousin in a way, living somewhere where it didn’t matter what my age was, because adult things were far, far away and all I had to worry about were the things a baby has to worry about. But soon I lost the battle with oncoming sleep, and all I remember were some vague words …

“Oh! Ms. Persephone! I see you’ve brought my Jennie back to me.”

“Yes, I have, Nanny Vanessa, and I absolutely love what you’ve done with the place. But Jennie’s such a little baby and needs her sleep. And I’ve brought a new friend. Her name’s Ellie. She’s a baby too, but she’s … well, let’s just say you won’t have to feed her.”

“Oh … this must be the Ellie Jennie’s been babbling at me about all the time. Well, don’t worry, we’ll take good care of her and get her ready to go back in with Jennie in the morning.”

“Wonderful, thank you. They both need a good home to go back to every evening and a good nursery to play in all weekend. And a good Nanny to keep them good baby girls all the time.”

“Oh, Jennie’s such a good girl, and from the sound of things Ellie’s one too. Let me get them all ready for bed, the little sleepy darlings.”

“Goodnight, Nanny Vanessa. And thank you. My blessings upon you and this place.”

“Thank you so much, Ma’am. Working for you is the greatest honor.”

I have vague feelings about being changed into my nice thick comfy nighttime diapers and bundled into my nice warm sleeper, then laid down gently in my familiar, safe crib for the night, with the mobile playing music-box lullabies until it wound down.

The sun was shining into the windows in the morning and woke me up bright and early. I’d had lovely dreams about being a baby and playing with Ellie and Sally … or were those dreams? But I was in my own crib, in my own nursery bedroom, with my own plushie next to me, Kitty Cat. I couldn’t remember much about the previous afternoon or evening – I’ve related to you all I can remember – but I was confused about one point … did I remember Ellie eating? I mean, we did mostly throw food at each other and get it all over ourselves – I giggled at the memory – but I was sure Ellie had actually eaten some, as much as I had. But … her body was basically a robot, wasn’t it? She wasn’t designed with any kind of digestive tract.

“Good morning, Jennie Sweetheart,” said Nanny Vanessa, entering the room and lowering the crib’s side to pick me up. “Does somebody need a bath and a new diaper? I think somebody does!”

“Morning Na-na!” I said to her and hugged her.

“You’re such a good girl,” she said, bounding me in her arms as she carried me to the bathroom, where a tub of warm water was waiting … with Ellie in it too.

“Jennie!” Ellie said. “Is Nanny Vanessa your Nanny? She’s super nice and I love her!”

“Awww, such a sweetie,” said Nanny. “Now let’s get Jennie out of her diaper and into the tub.” She got me undressed and cleaned me up as well as she could before putting me in the tub with Ellie to clean us both up the rest of the way.

I hugged Ellie. “Yay, am so happy to see you!” I said as Nanny started to wash our hair. “You here too! I … guess Ms ‘Sephone brought you here too?”

“Yeah I guess so! Do I get to stay here too?”

“If you like,” Nanny Vanessa said. “My nursery is for all babies. Including those who don’t know they’re babies yet. I try to show them that they belong here, in a crib and diapers.”

“She’s never needed to show me that ‘cause I already knew it,” I said to Ellie.

“That’s true,” said Nanny. “Jennie’s one of my best girls. I can tell you’re another, Ellie.”

“Oooo, well I’ll try!” Ellie said. “I, uh, didn’t used to be a girl …”

“It’s OK, I didn’t either,” I said, “though I know you mean something different.” I explained that Ellie used to be a computer program, and that I’d invented a body so she could move around and be a cute baby.

“Oh, you’re such a clever girl,” Nanny Vanessa said. “Won’t the BOAA building need a new assistant?”

“Nope ‘cause I’m gonna go in wif Jennie in the mornings and be the ‘sistant for my job!” said Ellie. “Already know how to do everything!”

“Well then, aren’t you clever too?” asked Nanny. “I just have one question … if Ellie’s basically a cute little robot girl, why was her diaper wet this morning?”

“Why was it what?” both of us asked incredulously.

“You were as wet as any other baby girl is in the morning,” said Nanny.

I looked confusedly at Ellie. “H-how …” I thought. Then I thought about exactly how such a thing could be done, a pseudo-living synthetic body that was basically alive and derived energy from food in a similar way to how living organisms do it. It was as if I’d already worked out all the details … “D-did I … did I invent a new body for you when I was being all baby when we were with Persephone and Sally?”

“I dunno,” Ellie replied. Nanny was still busily scrubbing us with soap. “I know you can invent some amazing things, but in only one afternoon and evening?”

“But … my dears,” said Nanny Vanessa, “you’ve been gone for almost a month.”

“What??” we both said. We simultaneously babbled about how there was no way that could’ve been a month and that it didn’t feel like that much time had passed … but then we both quieted down and realized that we had no way to know it wasn’t true. After all … we’d both realized that when we were fully babies we had very poor senses of time. What had Persephone said? She couldn’t change Ellie into a biological life form, but maybe I could make improvements with time? I guess there’d been time.

“Ellie, do you ‘member … wakin’ up an’ feelin’ different?” I asked. “More than once, I mean?”

“Huh …” Ellie said, thinking hard. “I … sorta do … I kinda ‘member wakin’ up from a nap but not goin’ to sleep before it …”

“Nanny, when I am alla way baby I can invent things nobody else can,” I told Nanny Vanessa. “I dunno how it happens.”

“Now, there’s my clever girl,” said Nanny. “Yes, when you’re completely baby and playing in the playroom, you play the most amazing games. You can make machines out of blocks. I’m so amazed, and so proud that you choose to stay with me.”

“But … I don’t remember doing it!” I complained.

“Or do you?” Nanny asked. “When you’re all baby you can remember what you did the time before, can’t you?”

“But I …” I stopped. “I’m …” I stopped again. “I’m not me,” I said. “I mean, this is not me. Baby me is real me. What is this me then?”

Ellie said, “Don’t worry ‘bouts it, Jennie. You ‘member everything when you are your real you. This you too. You the same you.”

“What an amazing thing,” said Nanny. “But now you’re both clean, and it’s time to get you dried off and into fresh diapers.” She pulled out the drain plug. “Who’s first?”

Nanny got us all dressed then fed us breakfast, which was yummy baby cereal. She made sure to put some good big bibs on us that covered our clothes, because we did get cereal all over our bibs and faces. Then came the baby bottles of nice warm milk. She sent us off on the BOAA shuttle with fresh, full bottles of milk too, and we drank more on the way to work. The other babies in the shuttle smiled at us, including Kimberly. “You’re such a cute baby now, Jennie! I’d think you’d always been a baby! And who’s your friend?”

“Oh, this is Ellie!” I replied, taking the bottle out of my mouth for a moment.

“Ellie?” asked Kimberly. “That’s the same name as the building’s AI assistant …”

“Yup!” Ellie said. “Hello, Kimberly! How can I assist you tadays?”

“What?” Kimberly said, doing a double-take in surprise and amazement. “You’re … a person? I thought you were a computer!”

“I am boths!” Ellie said.

I tried to explain. “So you see, Ellie’s the most unique AI assistant you’ll ever see.”

“And just perfect for BOAA! The AI is an actual baby! I’ll definitely be talking to you, Ellie!”

“I hope so!” Ellie replied. “I wanna be everyone’s friend!”

When we got to the building, Gina the Greeter’s face lit up when she laid eyes on Ellie, whom she called by name. That was Gina, always up on all the latest information. She could be another Ellie. “Now, do not worry, girl,” said Gina, holding Ellie by both hands and looking into her eyes. “You got this. You can do this just like you did before. OK?”

“Aww …” said Ellie. “Thanks, Gina! I needed that!”

When we got to the I.T. department I discovered that Ellie had her own play area where she could sit in a beanbag chair, at a desk, or on the soft padded floor, and her own headset so she could answer questions. But it was a special headset, with some kind of special interface to her brain, so she could actually hold several conversations at once.

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Due to the legal actions BOAA had taken to stop HBACorp from marketing its flawed infant sleep aid, and the many failed subsequent legal retaliatory attacks by HBACorp, BOAA’s stock and product sales had soared. The only thing HBACorp managed to prove was that BOAA was a far more conscientious company and really did have the child’s best interests in mind and not the bottom line.

The AI-powered companion toy had become a seriously in demand product. So far, the companion series of toys consisted of the usual types, such as Teddy Bears, bunny rabbits, kitty cats, and a few others, plus a really different one that looked like a mix of a squirrel, a ferret, and a rabbit. BOAA called it a Floppit, and it had become one of the most popular companion toys due to its programmed playfulness and its propensity to snuggle.

The interesting thing about these companion toys was their intelligence. They were as smart or smarter than the individuals who had been charged with the care of infants and toddlers and could perform the same tasks as any adult, limited by their size, of course. The companion easily cared for, changed, fed, played with, and even slept with the child to the point that the child often thought of the toy as their best friend.

It would sing, tell stories and jokes, play games, and basically watched over the child and positively insured their safety. Due to the advanced nature of its Quora Quantum Computer mind, it had the superior capability of learning new ideas and ways of doing things. Even with all the legal action taken by HBACorp before they stopped all hostile actions against BOAA, all they had managed to prove was how safe and caring the toys truly were. From the court’s point of view, the toys seemed to greatly supplement the care provider’s job and aided tremendously in the feeding and changing of the infant, leaving the care provider free to perform other necessary tasks such as laundry or house cleaning.

It didn’t take long before many poor quality and massively underperforming knock-off toys appeared. Many barely did anything. There were those that could walk, and if the proper DVD were put into the player, they would sing. They were all very much more expensive than BOAA’s and were constantly breaking down, going through batteries, or having other issues.

One of the biggest issues were the small parts that an infant could break off and ingest. One near fatality caused a singing Teddy Bear to be removed from the market. Apparently its eyes could easily be pulled loose and swallowed by an infant. It was determined that they looked too much like candy and the fact that they could so easily be removed from the toy made them a serious choking hazard.

BOAA’s smart diaper and similar smart pullup were huge successes. The monitor was only a few dollars, but it instantly told the care provider the wearer’s diaper condition and alarmed immediately when they needed changing. The smart pullup cost no more than any other pullup, but just like the diaper it was manufactured with several sensors to monitor the pull up to insure it wasn't wet or otherwise influenced by the infant and instantly notified the caretaker by phone app or computer or both as the individual requested when necessary.

The Babylator revolutionized infant care, since it perfectly translated what adults thought of as baby babble into articulate adult language and into perfect baby babble the other direction. Now care providers were no longer in the dark as to what an infant was trying to convey. It also aided tremendously when an infant was screaming and having a tantrum. Adults could now talk to their infants in their own language, much to the baby’s surprise.

And, of course, BOAA sold all products in both baby and larger versions. The smart diapers and pullups had no way of knowing whether a care giver was trying to potty train the child or unpotty train an Adult Baby; that was all in the app, and it had an unlockable mode for unpotty training. The Babylator worked on both actual children and regressed adults – in fact, it could be used to determine whether an adult really was in a mentally regressed state or was just faking, and to what degree they were regressed. And the smart companion toys could be set to help an Adult Baby regress to an infant state mentally.

Gerhart Gruener, of course, never regressed at all, but in time he did meet a woman, get married, and have babies, so at least there was that. I got to meet them, in fact, though by that time I looked like I was more like 14 than 10. I asked them if they were enjoying their playtime, and they said they loved their Floppit smart toys, so that made me happy. Their mother was astounded that I could talk to them, but then Gruener explained to her that I was the one who had invented BOAA’s Babylator, leaving her still astounded, but at least I was a puzzle piece that fit into a bigger picture.

Speaking of my inventions, I began to have inklings of something new. It was an idea that would revolutionize infant care, and even the bigger babies among us could enjoy the benefits. Gathering information from every available source … why hasn’t anybody completely redesigned diapers … scanning brainwave activity remotely … what if the pacifier were an interface … what if a baby’s whole room were a partner in their development …? I pondered, I cogitated, I wet my diaper, I thought some more.

Predictably, nobody noticed when I started sucking on a pacifier at all times. Many of the Adult Baby employees at BOAA did so, after all. The Babylator wasn’t impeded by baby babbles when they came from a mouth with a pacifier in it. But my pacifier was now my project and my interface. How much could I do with it? I was taking data constantly, though people looking at me would just have seen a little girl sucking her pacifier.

“Jennie what is you doins?” asked Ellie as I installed scanners and cameras in my play area, and color-changing light panels, and hidden speakers.

“Twyin’ new fings,” I said, around my pacifier. I sucked happily on it, and it collected data, not only about the sucking strength and pattern, but also my temperature, the air temperature around me, the barometric pressure, my breathing, my brainwaves – anything I could conceivably detect, I’d packed into my pacifier. My computer was continuously collecting data, and I analyzed it frequently with the help of AI software – not self-aware AI like Ellie, just regular AI. “Is my new idea. Dunno if it gonna works.”

Redesigning the diaper was a project in itself. But a diaper could also monitor many things about a baby, having to do with health and vital statistics. While I was at it, how about making it work better as a diaper? Improved materials could make it even thinner to start with … did such materials exist? But if it could be packed with such super-absorbent stuff, it would start out much thinner – though it could puff up very thick as it got wetter and wetter, and the inner liner would keep the baby totally dry. The graphite mesh wouldn’t have to be much more complicated than the current smart diaper had … we could make the diaper have a self-adjusting fit … the longer it’s on, the more comfy it gets. Fasteners that won’t come off by accident.

But some of the materials and technologies I needed hadn’t been invented. Would I have to invent them? I apparently could do so … I’d invented a pseudo-organic body for Ellie, after all. Where had the revolutionary materials come from for that project? “Ellie,” I asked her, “what are the sources of the nano-cellular substrate I used to make your pseudo-biological framework?”

“I …” said Ellie, “I don’t know. I can’t find any information about that. I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t be,” I said, “I probably just made it up.” Had I, though? And even if I had, how had it been fabricated, and so perfectly? I needed access to those fabrication plants, wherever they were.

“Ellie, where are the most advanced materials fabrication plants you know of?” She listed off several places, mostly overseas, but I quickly determined that none of them could provide what I wanted. Even the fabrication plant that BOAA itself used couldn’t do it. What? Then where had the materials come from?

It had to be Persephone. Maybe she had her own private plant … but it still didn’t make sense. If she could produce materials that weren’t available anywhere on Earth, why didn’t she patent them and … oh. Maybe she had. Perhaps that was an income stream for her. Maybe she was the sole exclusive provider for those.

Except Ellie had just said she couldn’t find any information about them. What was that saying? “He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well is not as apt to get the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers?” Something was strange. So I did something I rarely ever did. “Ellie, can you have a requisition form filled out for me?”

“Oh wight! Sure!” she said. “Whatcha want?” I explained the polymers and plastics I would need. “OK, got it filled out!” she said. Off it went, via the company’s intranet. While I waited, I continued surrounding myself with monitoring technology. I wouldn’t be able to catch a cold without the AI noticing. It could tell when I took a nap, when I was happy or sad … this would allow a doctor to instantly diagnose a sick baby or let a parent know what nutrients their child wasn’t getting in their diet. This was going to be amazing.

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I only have a vague recollection of the moment I had invented the new Infant Caretaker line. I think it actually started with my attempt to upgrade the AI programming in BOAA’s companion toy series. The end result was a complete and inexpensive network of AI controlled devices that were installed into the home, daycare center, hospital, or wherever. The Babylator, smart diapers, and diaper monitor were part of the system, which made it as perfect an infant care product as mankind was capable.

The entire concept was for total infant security and care at all times, leaving the actual caretaker free except for those times they wanted to personally interact – which we hoped would be often, of course, but parents and caregivers had a lot to do. The companion toys integrated with the system flawlessly, creating a super safe environment for any age.

BOAA’s profits soared as their stocks skyrocketed in value. Whatever the contention had been over many of the company’s employees being infants had vanished as quickly as that serpent had reared its ugly head. The infantware program that had been installed into the building computer functioned perfectly and insured that all infants and littles, of all ages and sizes, were comfortable, diapers clean and dry, and whatever regressed specialty the individual may have was catered to intensely whenever the individual was in infant mode and doing productive work …. which was most of the time they played, due to the toy interfaces I had invented. Yes, we had discovered that I wasn’t the only one who slipped into a state of mind that felt like play to us but was actually super-creative work. A boy in Marketing would slip into his regressed state and when he came out he’d done all his video editing, and it was beautiful. A girl in Finance slipped into her infant frame of mind, and when she came out again, all the numbers were crunched. Stress was down, and productivity was up.

Ellie, Sally, and me were in Sally’s playroom. We were only in thick diapers and plastic lined rumba panties and not only looked like babies, but in our minds that was exactly what we were, and we screeched with glee as we had the plushie fight of the century. The careware program was almost at a loss in determining if we three girls were at play, or at war – this was, of course, yet another test for the system. Ellie, although she too was regressed, was still logged into the main system and could communicate. She soothed the careware AI’s worries as we continued to enjoy ourselves.

But of course, my questions had still gone unanswered: where were the exotic materials coming from that only Persephone was apparently able to provide? It seemed as if no factory on Earth made them. Yet they couldn’t be coming from anywhere else. That was ridiculous. Wasn’t it?

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Now, from what I was informed later, the contention against the infants had gone the way of the dinosaur within BOAA, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t festring in other places. The CEO of a company called Infantarama had gotten wind of Sally, myself, and the many others at BOAA who lived a baby lifestyle. He did a bit of research and found himself almost disgusted with how easily BOAA flaunted what he considered the Adult Baby fetish.

Charles McDonald Elklindheimer, owner and CEO of Infantarama had a long meeting with his legal staff. In his heart, he felt funny about what he was doing. He couldn’t believe that some of the adult-sized infant outfits actually appealed to him. He ignored those feelings, as he had his legal department file an emergency brief with the court, alleging that BOAA’s infant care system was highly dangerous. His evidence for this was tenuous and verged on the fabricated, but something just bothered him about BOAA.

This time, the judge asked Infantarama to present supporting studies and meaningful documentation proving their allegations. He even gave them a stay for a month to do further in-depth research into the product. If at that time Infantarama did not comply with the Court’s direction; the case would be summarily dismissed and Infantarama would become pecuniarily responsible for court costs and other incidental costs inflicted on BOAA by their legal action.

None of Infantarama’s research data uncovered anything. As hard as the product development section, R&D, or the eggheads in their science department struggled, none of their results showed anything but a far superior care system than many hospitals.

Even hospitals recognized the superiority of the care system and had me adapt its AI to care for the ill, infirm, and severely injured of all ages, not limited to babies. The system performed flawlessly, death rates fell sharply after implementation of the protocols. Much empirical research data had been subjectively collected and documented which all proved BOAA’s Total Care system was perhaps one of the best ever invented.

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At the final deposition, amid all the foul tempered lawyers, I finally got to meet Charles McDonald Elklindheimer. He sneered at me and snapped, “You should be ashamed of yourself, little girl. Dressing like a toddler in a place like this court.”

I thought I was dressed quite fetchingly. I looked like a 10-year-old girl dressed for school. I was feeling intimidated and uncertain how to reply, when that strawberry pink cell phone I had been given and told I would know who to give it to began to ring. I answered timidly, “H …. Hello?”

A very familiar cooing voice spoke, sending such wonderful waves of infantile pleasure all through me. “Hello, Sweetheart,” said the voice of Persephone. “What Auntie wants Baby to do is hand this phone to the grumpy old meany. I bet I can fix his real problem.”

I trembled and tried to keep it together. I knew I was on the very brink of a full regression. I acted quickly before I went totally infant, “This say is for Charles McDonald Elklindheimer. No no who would wanna talk toa meany like you, though.”

I held out the phone. Charles’ eyes grew large as tea saucers as he hesitantly took the small pink flip-top phone from my hand, “Hello? This is Charles …”

Meanwhile, my legs went all wobbly, and I sat down in the nearest chair. My thumb immediately sought my mouth.

An extremely hypnotic and softly cooing voice surged all through him. “Hello, Charlene. I do hope Baby Girl is having a pleasant day.”

I almost snickered as I watched him grab between his legs like an infant about to have a potty accident.

His voice was far away as he replied, “I’m … I’m notta girl. Amma boy.”

The cooing voice giggled as it said, “Can I ask Baby a question, please?”

I actually did snicker as I saw his facial expression take on a more infant look somehow. He replied in a small voice, “Question? What kind of question?”

I watched as the most amazing miracle I could think of happened. The cooing voice asked him if the little girl accepted Baby Rules. A soft blue glow surrounded Charles as he nodded his head vigorously. His hair began to lengthen, then he shrank to about 3 feet tall and stood in a huge pile of way oversized clothes. It was more than obvious that he … was now a she. I remembered vividly the moment when this had happened to me, and I knew that the new baby girl wouldn’t remember what happened next. But my heart went out to her. Here was someone who had clearly known she was a girl at an early age but hadn’t been allowed to live that identity. This was someone who needed help.

“Mr. Elklindheimer?” A young assistant had come looking for him and turned to me. “Mr. … Excuse me, Ms. … Flint? Have you seen Mr. Elklindheimer?”

I tried to hold myself together and communicate like an adult as best I could, despite the shock to my adult-ish side that talking to Persephone always was. “Oh … yes, Ma’am,” I said to the assistant, “I’m afraid something fairly amazing just happened … I can’t really explain it, but Mr. Elklindheimer has just turned into this little girl here, and she needs help.”

“He’s … what?” She looked down at the dazed looking little girl who was standing engulfed in a men’s shirt, sucking her thumb. “How could … this little girl be him? He’s a middle-aged man. That doesn’t … just happen. I’m sorry … but I can’t believe that. I don’t know whose child this is, but it just doesn’t make sense.” Some other Infantarama employees had gathered around.

That was when I heard a familiar mature voice behind me. It was Gerhard Gruener. “Excuse me,” he said, “but it’s true. I just recorded it on video with my phone. I don’t understand how such a thing could happen, but it really did, and here is proof.” He showed it to them. He asked me, “Jennie, his … or her … memory will return in a few days, correct?”

“That’s what I unnerstand,” I said. “I dunno how this happens, but when it does … they’re out of it for a few days and need a lotta attention. But then they’re back. Does he have a wife, or girlfriend, or kids, or any family at all?”

“He’s got a younger girlfriend …” said the first assistant. “What are we going to do?”

Gruener replied, “I suggest you take her where she can be cared for for a few days. I have some suggestions, if you like. Once she recovers, perhaps she can take the reins of the company again. I work for a company headed by a woman who’s very much a toddler. I wasn’t certain about it at first, but now? I recommend it. Infantarama makes products for babies, and it’ll be better for having a baby at the helm. She’ll know what babies like.”

“You’re … right,” said the assistant. “This could be the opportunity we need to turn the company around, and make it the shining beacon of quality for infants that it was when it was founded! In just days, we’ll have a CEO who knows firsthand what babies need. And that’s how we can spin it to the stockholders, too.”

“But … how did this happen?” asked another assistant.

“I have no idea,” said Gruener. “I just … well, I’ve seen a few things that have taught me that there are still wonders in this world.” He looked at me. I looked back.

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“No, this doesn’t make sense,” I said. “This biopolymer … it’s not made anywhere! And yet somehow the company sources it. What in the world is going on?” I looked at the tracking data on my computer screen. “This isn’t possible. I’ve got access to all the data. That means … some data isn’t being entered into the company systems.” The material was shipped from a company facility in Wyoming, but that facility didn’t manufacture it – it just somehow appeared there. I could access the facility’s security cameras all over the building – it was a warehouse, not a factory. The shipments of this material came from somewhere else.

“Ellie, I need help,” I said.

“Those exotic materials again?” she asked.

“Yeah! Some of them come from this warehouse – it’s ours, but there aren’t any records of where it comes from before that.”

“You’re … right,” Ellie said, accessing the data that I’d already seen. “We’ll just have to analyze the security footage and identify the crates containing the materials in question …” Video footage played rapidly forward and backward on my screen in many tiny windows, one for each camera in the warehouse. Pink boxes appeared, surrounding the crates Ellie had marked. “There they are, all the crates of untraceable materials from the past 24 hours. Now we run it backward. Where do they come from?”

She ran the footage backwards, The crates all came in via the same set of overhead doors. “They’re shipped in on that loading dock, beyond those doors,” I said.

“Yes,” agreed Ellie. “But what’s over there? There’s one security camera out there …” The screen showed not a loading dock, but a huge flat concrete space. Square markings were painted on it, but they were concentric, not the sort of thing one sees for ground vehicles. “That looks like a helicopter landing pad … only much larger …”

“This material isn’t driven in, it’s flown in,” I said. “But whatever vehicle uses that pad, it’s huge. I can’t believe it wouldn’t be noticed by air traffic control.”

“But that’s exactly it,” said Ellie. “I just analyzed all air traffic control records. Nothing lands there or takes off from there, according to them. No flight plans are ever filed. No permits exist. I’m running through the video. Is this landing pad ever used …? Oh my.”

Ellie rewound the video to a moment when crates were being unloaded from … something. The camera didn’t see all of it, but it was large. And it was only visible for a moment. It flickered into view just for a second, and Ellie froze the video at that moment.

We had no doubts, either of us, that we were looking at a spaceship. It had some kind of cloaking device that flickered and shimmered when the cargo was being transferred off it, then went right back into effect. “This company does business with … aliens?” I asked.

“Jennie,” asked Ellie, “that time we went with Ms Persephone to that wonderful place of hers … where was that exactly?”

“I … don’t know,” I replied. “I wasn’t exactly focused on those specifics. I was in a very baby state.”

“Me too,” Ellie said. We looked at each other in amazement. “Didn’t she say something about having contact with … more advanced cultures?”

“I … think so,” I said. “What does this mean? I don’t know if I should tell somebody. The company doesn’t share this information even within itself.”

“Should we ask Sally?” asked Ellie. “She’s the CEO … if anybody knows, she does.”

“But she’s our friend,” I said, “and she’s never said anything about this.”

“Maybe she can’t,” Ellie suggested. “Maybe she’s not supposed to, I mean.”

“You mean, maybe Persephone’s orders are to share it with nobody?” I thought. “I hope we’re not in trouble for finding out. You haven’t shared this with anyone yet, have you?”

“No, but of course the only person asking about this is you,” she replied.

“Probably better not tell anybody about this until we find out more,” I said. “Send a message to Sally. We have to talk to her. Baby to baby.” By that, I meant of course that we’d be talking in babytalk. Any adults who overheard us would think we were just babbling.

“Done,” said Ellie. “We’ll set up some playtime. We can ask her.”

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Two days later, I came to what had become my almost right mind. I had my thumb in my mouth and some kind of chime had sounded with a loud ding. This is what broke me from my regressed state. Ellie and Sally were there having a tug of war with some type of plastic dragon figure. I knew instantly they were just playing and not fighting over the toy. The giggles, squeals of delight, and the many happy babbles made it obvious.

I looked around. Sally’s playroom was elaborate beyond description with all the thingys to attract an infant’s mind and ensure they are happily regressed. There were also a few items that brought us back from that extremely pleasant state of mind to where I was currently.

Sally stood up like any toddler and showed off the ruffles on her bottom and lace around her legs as she said, “Gotsa answer that. Is onena them Adult Conspiracy thingys.”

I watched with big eyes as Sally toddled over to the Art Table that doubled as her desk and answered the bunny rabbit looking phone. She gigged a few times and said, “Lets ‘em try. If they can, would be wunnerfuls.” Then she hung up, toddled over to us, then plopped on her thickly diapered ruffly hinney and started sucking her thumb.

Ellie asked, “Gotsa question fer yas.”

Sally took the thumb from her mouth and replied, “Sure, ennyfing. Jus no so sure bouts the Adult Conspiracy thingys ... they no follow Baby Rules.”

My eyes got big as I asked, “Baby Rules?? What perxactlies isa Baby Rules? Seems bunchsa us infants accepted em … but I dono perxactlies what all ‘em is.”

Sally giggled and replied, “Shore you knows what they is. Jus … a baby may not realize they know.”

I sucked my thumb thoughtfully as Ellie aked, “Jennies n me scovereded sompin’ an’ itta real mysterys.”

A light came on in my mind as I took my thumb from my mouth then asked, “Yea. We gots advanced polomers an’ ‘lectronical components.Prollums is tha resource to manufacture ‘em anna place they manufactureded no can find on Earfs.”

Ellie responded, “Yea, what wes found wuz a landin’ place where some kinda inbisable space ship lands n off lodsa stuffs.”

I asked with obvious wonder in my voice, “Does BOAA actually does business wif aliens fromma nuver world?”

Sally narrowed both eyes as she looked at us. She took her thumb from her mouth and stood, then toddled over to her desk and seemingly pressed one of the colored squares made into its top. Shortly, the door to the office opened and a young woman who looked to be about 16 all dressed in a white and black traditional Nana outfit entered the room.

Sally screeched with glee as she toddled over to the woman, “Nana P!! Nana P!!! Been so long baby missteded you tons an tons.”

Sally stumbled in her mad toddling dash. The young woman laughed and in a flash had Sally in her arms giving her a huge hug and smothering her face in kisses.

The woman stood Sally on her feet and gave her bottom several loving pats. She turned towards Ellie and me and knelt as she held her arms out, saying, “Come to me, my babies. Nana Pederson has lots of hugs and kisses for you too.”

She cooed in one of those mysterious voices that sent amazing tingling surges pleasantly all through me, something I’d only heard Persephone do before. Nanny Vanessa was awesome, but she didn’t know this trick. It was as if someone else were in total control of my body and I was just along for the ride. Ellie and I both screeched with pure infantile joy, and we too stood, and toddle-stumbled over to Nana Pederson.

Gosh, it was totally mind boggling when Nana Pederson took me and Ellie into her arms, gave us a wonderful hug, and covered our faces in kisses. No joke, both of us were giggling, and I was having one heck of a time not going total baby.

Before I lost it totally, I wanted first to find out about that ship, and second, who this girl was and why she seemed to have the same kind of control over me as Persephone. The infant part of me totally trusted her and wanted nothing more than to go all baby for her.

I asked after I sorta-kinda recovered, “Who is you? Why come no can resist?”

Sally giggled and said as she pointed at the extremely pretty young woman, “Thas Nana Pederson. She tha Goddess of Nanas.”

Nana Pederson clapped her hands together as she bent slightly at the waist. “I have come to take you babies on a wonderful trip.” We suddenly found ourselves in this floating pink cloud like thing that smelled like strawberry cotton candy with Sally. Sally was bouncing up and down and clapping her hands.

I asked with a bit of tingling fear running up my spine, “Where we goins?”

Nana Pederson replied in that softly cooing mystical voice, “I’m taking my babies on a fun little ride to a place just for babies called …”

Sally interrupted as she screeched happily. INFANTUS!”

I don’t remember the trip out of Sally’s playroom, nor do I know exactly how we got to the place we saw the cloaked ship, but this time it wasn’t cloaked. It was sleek and as far advanced as I could imagine.The cloud thingy Nana had us in seemed to follow her like a puppy dog, all the while keeping us safe as she led it into the open hatch on the side of the ship.

“I am going to show you BOAA’s real headquarters,” said Nana Pederson as she led us down shining corridors. “The building you work and play in is only its Earth HQ.”

There were occasional personnel, which looked like humans, but they wore futuristic looking uniforms. A couple of them looked as if they were in diapers under them, though, so there were babies here too.

“But … but …” I asked. I was totally confused. “How … why …”

Sally explained, “Yups, I was all spriseded too, when I found out! There lots planets out there wif people onnem! But Earth no gots ships that goes fastern light. So peoples on Earth no can knows, OK? Not sposedta … interfere wif its natural ‘velopment, Auntie ‘Sephone say.”

“They … looks like reglar humans,” I said, looking at one of the crew we passed in the hallway. “But they … knows about space ‘n stuffs an’ fly spaceships?”

“Oh, there are lots of planets out there with humans on them,” said Nana Pederson. “Aliens pick people up, they have all kinds of adventures, and they end up living on one planet or another. Sometimes they meet each other and start families, and form communities of humans. That’s been happening for a very long time. But of course there are lots of people who aren’t humans too. But nonetheless, they are still people, they still have babies, and some of them are still babies when they look like they’re grown up, just like humans.”

We came to a door, or perhaps a pair of doors, because they slid open left and right to reveal a giant playroom full of toys and games both familiar and futuristically unfamiliar. Nana Pederson walked through, and the soft cloud vehicle we were riding in followed her through. The doors closed behind us. Then she picked us up and set us down on the floor, which was colorful and softly padded, good for crawling, like Nanny Vanessa’s playroom. Ellie and I looked around in wonder. One entire side of the room was a gigantic window that showed a panoramic view of the city from a distance. We were still on Earth … for now.

“Welcome to the BOAA starship Neoteny,” said Nana Pederson. “Yes, it’s a space freighter, but it’s still a BOAA ship, so there are plenty of amenities for babies.”

“You was gonna asksa question ‘bout if BOAA does business wif aliens,” Sally said. “Well umm … is more like the aliens is doin business on Earth … but we is them, and we nice … we just want tha babies of Earth to be happy. I mean, I’m from Earth, but I want that too.”

“OK wow,” I said. “I am helpins wif somethin biggern I thoughted.”

“How long it takes to get to … Infantus?” asked Ellie.

“In this ship?” said Sally. “About a day.”

“BOAA HQ gonna be wifout Ellie for days?” asked Ellie.

“Well … without your personality,” I said, “but you knows that your basic functions is all automated anyway. People can still schedule meetins ‘n send messages.”

“Oh!” Ellie said. “But …”

“No worries, there stuffs only you can do,” I told her.

“Yeah you goo fwiend but also valuable employee!” said Sally. “Anyways, we gonna show you tha real HQ.”

“Does … Persephone live on Infantus?” I asked.

“Sorta kinda?” Sally replied. “She kinda lives … everywhere? But she gotsa home there. Is her favoritest planet. She helped it gets started.”

“Your inventions have been making a splash,” said Nana Pederson. “The Babylator is revolutionizing Infantus.”

“What?” I was incredulous. “I woulda thought a whole galaxy fulla planets woulda invented that by now!”

“I think you are perhaps more special than you realize,” she told me.

“Nooooo,” I said. “Am just one baby girl outta … a whole lot.”

“Well, regardless,” she said, “you’re one of our favorites, one of the most inventive babies ever!”

“Awww … gosh,” was all I could say, blushing.

Suddenly a voice spoke from speakers in the ceiling; I didn’t recognize the language. “Oh, that means the ship is about to take off,” said Nana Pederson, “but don’t worry. We won’t feel a thing. Let’s see who needs diaper changes!”

All three of us did. Nana Pederson was a consummate professional; no wonder, if she was the Goddess of Nanas. Her touch was all caring, but in a very taking-care-of-business-like way, as if her goal was to return me to happy comfort as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Time passed slowly, as it has a habit of doing, and the three of us were totally lost in the wonderful infantile fantasies the ship’s playroom created for us in an ever changing progression as our infantile minds drifted. I had a very hard time coming back to at least a semblance of what I had once considered my normal mind. The problem with relating this narrative to you is that I have been trying to do it only when my mind has been in that “adult” state, wherein I can speak normally and type legibly. There may come a time when I will be forced to use the Babylator instead, as those times are beginning to become rare.

The ship’s care program had several robot Nannies making their rounds throughout the ship with very little to do, since this particular ship was a cargo ship with a minimal crew. And since we three were the only ones who could occupy ourselves with other than the very small crew, of which only a smaller few were infants, and the fact that it was their primary directive, we had a true invasion of a friendly army of Nanas all bent on insuring we stayed infants for as much of the journey as possible.

Another reason that was happening was Nana Pederson …. The Goddess of Nanas made sure we were the cutest and most adorable little girls possible. Even Sally, who was basically unaccustomed to not coming back to the mix mind, as she called it, was among the best of us. We toddled, had tea parties, and fantasized about adventures with the toys, of which there was a plethora.

Nana Pederson had just put me in a thick diaper that made walking difficult, along with a pair of plastic panties that somehow fit over all that bulk, and stood me on my feet. She held out a cute and lacy romper that said “Snuggle Bug” on the front and had a hood with googly eyes and antennas on it. She cooed to me in that wonderful way, “Come to me, Baby Girl. Step into your romper so Nana can finish dressing you.”

Once again the infant in me took over, I was just along for the ride as I toddled over and put a hand on Nana for balance. Slowly I daintily stepped into the romper. Nana Pederson pulled it the rest of the way onto me and tied the bib behind my neck in a large bow, then gave me one of the most wonderful hiney pats I could imagine. It was so good, in fact, that I had moistened my diaper a bit, not enough to need a change again, but enough that I knew it had happened.

Nana picked me up and twirled me around as I shrieked with infantile glee. After several swirls, I found myself in that pink cloud conveyance with Ellie and Sally. They were dressed in the same type of rompers, just in different colors. Ellie’s was red and Sally’s was pink. Of course, one of Sally’s favorite colors was pink, so yeah, that made sense.

Nanna Pederson said as she proceeded out the room into the ship’s hall, the pink cloud following like a puppy dog, “We are at the space port, dears. I’m taking you to the port arcade. We’ll let you see where we are and orient yourself.” She bent close and whispered in my ear, “Yes, Baby Girl, we are on another world many trillions of light years from Earth. Welcome to Infantus.”

Nana Pederson led us out of the cargo ship into the main landing dock area. Sally appeared to have come home, while Ellie and I looked around at all the wonders. There were many infants, dressed in adorable but futuristic looking baby clothes and obvious diapers. There was a group of strange floating creatures that had such a wonderful internal glow.

Oh yeah, I can’t forget the Floppits. Two of them adopted us, I suppose. They came and hopped into the pink cloud vehicle, which actually accommodated them. They looked exactly like the AI companion toys that Sally had insisted I call Floppits. Now I totally understood why and agreed.

I was amazed to discover that they spoke baby fluently. One of them stood up on his hind legs and said in the cute voice, “I Cuddles, and she Snuggles.” He pointed to the Floppit next to him, “We tolded you is fromma place no ever been in space. We ’cided ta keeps you and bes your playmates.” With that, both of them lived up to their namesakes. We had a wonderful time playing with the Floppits, let me tell you … better than a plushy fight, and I freely admit that they’re lots better than the companion toys I’d invented. My toys are not bad considering I’d never even seen a real Floppit, though.

We had arrived at the port arcade. I was fascinated as I watched a fountain squirt many different colored jets. They would hit the pool, but instead of making a wash of dispersing color, they would vanish on contact, although they would create very colorful splashes before that happened. Nana took us over near the fountain, brought out 3 bottles, and filled each one of them with a different color liquid.

WOW! Mine tasted like strawberries. From what Ellie said, hers tasted like grapes. Sally’s tasted like bananas and was a bright yellow.

Everywhere I looked, a new wonder appeared. I saw many infants, toddlers, and what Nana called littles. Not quite out of being a toddler, but still able to be out of diapers with minimal accidents.

I saw many of those glowing floating things surround a toddling infant. I wasn’t sure at first, but it appeared they were attempting to get the infant to move in a certain direction. After a few minutes, that’s exactly what happened, and shortly the infant’s caretaker had him in hand once again.

“Nana how comes you bringed us here?” I asked Nana Pederson.

“Do you not like it, Sweetheart?” she asked. “Just relax and enjoy your Infantus vacation!”

“No that’s not it, I love it,” I said. “Is beautiful. No sure am gonna wanna leave. But … Sally seem to think it a goo idea to come here right after Ellie ‘n me finded out about alla space stuffs.”

“Well, there are two reasons, Honey Bunch,” said Nana Pederson. “One is that the vast majority of Earth’s population believes that they’re alone in the universe – the only planet with intelligent life. We want Earth to develop naturally – eventually it’ll make starships and start taking its place in the galaxy, but that day won’t come for a while.”

“Whassa second weason?” I asked.

“The second reason is that you’re an amazing baby … and Ellie’s living evidence of that,” said Nana Pederson.

“Awww, shucks, look at all the super advanced techno stuffs all around us!” I said. “I couldn’t invent anything like that in a hundred years.”

“It’s not what you’ve got,” she said, “but what you do with it, Look at what you’ve done given Earth’s technology. Now imagine what you could do given the technology of the galactic cutting edge. Of course, what you come up with can’t be shared with Earth yet. So we’ll get you back to Earth soon, so you can get back to inventing things for BOAA Earth.”

“Oh,” I said. “So this is a work trip. I guess I can understand that.” Sally giggled, hearing all this, but she didn’t add anything.

“So let’s show you what Infantus has to offer babies!” Nana Pederson said.

Now, of course the BOAA corporation doesn’t own Infantus or anything. Most of it was a planet of its own, with a rather baby-centric culture. There were cities, towns, villages, farms, and uninhabited areas. Some so-called “uninhabited” areas were just uninhabited by the intelligent life of the galactic milieu and not truly uninhabited by anyone – because of course Infantus was home to the Floppits. They had their underground burrow cities here and there all over the planet. And I gather that they had some way to quickly travel between them, but I’m not sure how they do that.

Nana Pederson took us to the BOAA HQ on Infantus … which was effectively the real main HQ for BOAA. It was a lot like the Earth HQ … or I should probably say that the Earth HQ was a lot like the main HQ, as Sally had based her design for the Earth HQ on the main HQ’s features. It was a clean building with a very white-and-pastel decor scheme. Its main atrium was several stories high and mostly a large open area. Its cafeterias and play spaces were all designed with baby employees and guests of all ages and age roles in mind. Its offices on its upper levels were for a mix of baby, little, and adult employees, with amenities for each.

And yes, just like Earth HQ, the three of us were far from out of place – anywhere on Infantus, actually. What this experience was teaching me was that the BOAA Earth HQ wasn’t some kind of anomaly … it was bringing just a little bit of Infantus’ culture to Earth. I didn’t see many people like me there exactly – that is, people who were actual kids, in body anyway, living a baby lifestyle – because they weren’t working there. Sure, Infantus had children of all ages on it, human and otherwise, but kids my physical age weren’t working for corporations; they were in school. They were encouraged to live as any age, gender, or whatever lifestyle they liked, trying many ideas on for size – as long as they got their homework done.

There were, however, a few in my situation, having been physically regressed by Persephone for one reason or another. In my case it was because of how my transgender nature interacted with accepting Baby Rules. But when we got to the IT department, I was introduced to a young-looking girl in baby clothes – or what I assume were baby clothes – who had bright orange skin and jet-black hair. “Hi!” she said. “I’m Tireena, head of I.T. for BOAA! They’ve telled me all abouts you, Jennie! From Earth, even! Happy ta meetcha!” She hugged me, and I hugged back. Her outfit consisted of wide frilly bands of fabric that were joined by some kind of metallic ribbons, and this made her diaper quite visible. I supposed this fashion was normal for her, given that she was obviously not human and therefore from a different culture of origin.

“Ooo Tireena,” I said, “is wonnerful to meet you too! I wanna see what it is like here at tha big HQ!” I was partly little, of course; I was usually at least that regressed if not more.

“What they tells me is that you can make tha infosystems works even when all baby!” she said. “Am no sure you realize … nobody else can do that. Is amazins. We been tryinna do tha same thing here but can’t does it. Maybe you shows us?”

“Well I willins to twy to shows you!” I said. “Is just … when it happens I will ‘member everything … wight now I does not.”

“Oooo, it is amazin’ to see,” said Ellie. “Just let her get out her toys and away she go!”

“But I didn’t bring my … oh.” Tireena led me to a play area that was a lot like mine back home. There were toys just like mine. They’d set up this area specifically for this demonstration. “Oh I get it now! OK!”

“Go wight ahead!” said Tireena.

I sat down on the play mat and let myself go.

And now is the part where I am telling the story in baby mode, using the Babylator. You see, I remembered everything: how I’d invented everything in the past, and I saw all the ideas stretching forward into the future. What I can describe in grownup mode is only a fraction of what I know now. I sat down in that play area and changed the toys they’d made for me, even though they were duplicates of what were currently sitting around the play area back in my office on Earth. Because every time I used them, I modified them, made them better. Each time I played/worked (there was no distinction anymore), my interface toys got just that much more responsive. I knocked over a block tower here, cuddled a plushie there, chewed on a teething ring or squeaked a squeezy toy … and the technical drawings and schematics seemed to assemble themselves in the computer, or the code would appear in the IDE as if by magic. But really I was doing it all, using the language that my deepest inner mind spoke, the language of baby play.

After a few minutes I’d tuned the toys to my current wavelength, as it were, and started accessing the technology that was now available to me here. And what I designed was a version of my baby care environment, only improved with the tech they had here and now. It was a super-advanced nursery that could accommodate babies of all different species, with diapers that could immediately absorb and recycle wastes into their component chemicals, making them ideal for closed environments like spacecraft. There were android Nanas who could adapt themselves to care for any baby of any species. It was likely that this could be scaled up to be used as the baby care center of a space liner. I hoped the computer system didn’t mess up and accidentally register an adult as a baby for a whole journey, but if that happened, they’d at least have a very comfortable trip and be well cared for.

What I didn’t notice were the gasps of amazement that were coming from Tireena and other onlookers who gathered to watch me work/play. I’d designed this entire system in under an hour. Of course, it was based on the concepts I’d already explored back on Earth that were already in production there, but of course those were limited by Earth technology, though augmented with some advanced materials only available from what I now knew to be BOAA’s supply lines from other planets. When I took a breath and was done, there was actually some applause and cheering.

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Ellie, Sally, and I were totally absorbed in the fantastic new sites and new creatures that abounded on Infantus. It amazed me when several of those floaty creatures surrounded me one morning when I had toddled off to examine several of the humanoid but not human individuals having a picnic on the grass, and insured that I returned to where Sally and Ellie were with Nana Pederson and that pink cloud stroller all the while flashing pretty colored waves of light. I guess they were Nanas? In their own sort of way? They certainly seemed to want to keep me from wandering off and potentially coming to harm, or at least causing concern among the others, who would certainly have to stop and look for me otherwise.

Of course, the playfulness of the Floppits made me actually create a software update for the companion toy Floppit that far better mimicked the antics and personalities of a real Floppit. As a matter of fact, Cuddles and Snuggles were more than happy to supply the genomic personality matrix I used to create the new model.

“You mean … babies on Earth will get to play wif us?” asked Snuggles.

“Well, sort of,” I replied. “They’ll play with a simulation of you, anyway.”

“Oooo, well at least we’ll make them happy,” Cuddles said. “Maybe we really get to play wif babies on Earth someday.”

I was a bit annoyed at the toy/infant interfaces in our new playpen. They did function, but in nowhere near the precise way I wanted, which resolved itself within days of the three of us using them. I tinkered and upgraded and totally changed the design when necessary, as I always did. Now, when we played, real solutions to real Infantus issues were solved, and many new innovations came to fruition.

The care system I had also finally managed to upgrade and add newer features to with the aid of the higher technology items I had to work with was so efficient and so well optimized that upon implementation, if Sally hadn’t brought it to my attention so I could adjust parameters to include Nanas as an operational component, it would have rendered all Nanas superfluous. As it worked now, it blended so perfectly that it was a serious enhancement and gave Nanas far more flexibility in care for their charges. We won’t go into how it super enhanced the care of the sick, injured, and elderly infirm – it might sound like I’m bragging. I am still just a little girl, after all.

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The three of us had the time of our lives. We had discovered the candy garden. Gosh, did we make ourselves sick with all the confections. I loved those flowers I could dip into and get a handful of whipped cream. Ellie chowed on the chocolate daisies – I had of course given her an undeniable sweet tooth when I’d designed her synthetic-organic body, in my effort to maximize her cuteness – while Sally indulged in the multiflavored gumdrop trees.

By the time Snuggles became concerned over our growing tummy aches, we had eaten way more sweets than we should have. We were so glad when Snuggles returned with a young nurse. She hurried up to us and checked our diapers first thing. Next thing she did was bring out a large bottle. The liquid within looked as if it were changing colors in a wonderful rainbow.

She poured out a spoonful for me. The liquid coming out of the bottle appeared to be a deep purple. She had me take it in my mouth and swallow. My eyes grew large in surprise. It tasted exactly like blueberries. The nurse let me keep the spoon so I could continue to lick it. My tummy stopped hurting and settled immediately.

She poured out another spoonful for Sally. This time the liquid was yellow. Sally shrieked with joy as she took hers, “Is nannas!! Dis tasted likes nannas!” The nurse gave Sally the spoon.

When the nurse poured out a spoonful for Ellie, it was pink. Ellie giggled, then said, “Is stawbewwies.” The nurse gave Ellie the spoon same as the rest of us.

That pink cloud vehicle showed up about that time. From over the edge came Cuddles’ happy face, “Nana Pederson say is time for babies to come in. Gotsa hasa baf n stuffs.”

The nurse, in graceful well practiced motions, picked us up and deposited us in the pink thing. As the wonderful aroma of strawberries surrounded us, the pink cloud flew fast and high to avoid any obstructions while arriving back at our place with as little delay as possible, all the while insuring the three of us along with Cuddles and Snuggles were safe and snug within its gentle embrace.

As soon as the pink cloud had deposited us back in our playroom, Nana Pederson arrived and took the three of us and gave us a bath, fresh diapers, plastic lined rumba panties, and really cute and short matching jumper dresses that showed off our ruffles.

Nana Pederson said in a soft coo as she gathered the three of us back into the pink cloud thingy, “It’s time for me to take you babies back home. I know you’ve had a wonderful time, but BoAA needs you all back.”

Nana proceeded to lead us back to the local spaceport. It was very busy, and many people noticed us and had to come by and say something. By the time Nana Pederson had purchased our tickets and we had boarded, I started to feel those strange butterflies in my tummy and those small ever-increasing pushing waves. I was no stranger to this feeling by now, of course.

It was only another second or so when Sally pointed at me and said joyfully, “Lookie lookie, Jennies havina really cute poopy face.”

I knew I was diaper dependant, and this had happened before, but this time was different. They wanted pictures of my face as I realized I was in the process of filling up my diaper. As Nana Pederson cleaned and rediapered me, she cooed softly, “Don’t let it bother you. Babies all have cute poopy faces, and neither Sally nor Ellie will get away without having their ‘poopie faces’ archived on Infantus.”

The last real memory I had before I fell asleep was a wonderful plushie fight with Sally and Ellie in our shipboard playroom. It was a play fight, of course. No plushies were harmed. Besides, these were futuristic-to-me BoAA plushies from other planets. They were durable beyond the technology of Earth to achieve. Although I now knew how to manufacture such things, after examining them for a moment while in my baby mind. However, after that, I tired myself out and soon fell asleep on the soft playroom floor, my head resting on a pillowy plushie, sucking on my pacifier.

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I woke up as Nana Pederson was putting me into the pink cloud stroller. “Back on Earth, Sweetheart!” she said. The soft pink vehicle carried Sally, Ellie and me through the spaceship’s corridors and into the BoAA building, following Nana Pederson all the way back to my play area. She carefully lifted each of us from the cloud and sat us on our thickly diapered bottoms amid all the interface toys I had invented.

Nana Pederson cooed softly, “I so hope you children enjoyed the vacation. I think you will find it a bit unpredictable how much time has passed on Earth while you were away on Infantus.” Ellie and I looked at her with big eyes, but Sally, who appeared to already know this, didn’t seem surprised, “You see, the planet Infantus is a very special world and exists in many places and times at the same time.”

Ellie took her thumb from her mouth and babbled, “How comes it does that? Sounds like … if different spaces and times wasa stack of tissues an’ then you stucked a big ball of glue in an’ mushed it around.” The language of babytalk simply doesn’t have words for complex scientific concepts. You can still get ideas across, but you have to use simple words. A lot of professors could stand to be forced to speak it in their lectures.

Nana Pederson giggled, “You are one smart baby.” She bent and gave Ellie a small kiss on her cheek. “I’m not sure if the concepts mean anything to you right now, but the planet existed near the convergence of several dimensions. There was an … incident, let’s say, and the entire planet’s spacial coordinates were shattered. Spacetime and different dimensions were totally shattered. The Infantus system is directly in the epicenter of the spacial break, and since it is shattered, the way time passes on Infantus is a bit detached from how time flows everywhere else, and those there are infused with the energies of youth thanks to the shifts.”

Sally clapped her hands as she bounced on her hiney, “Yes! Is how a place geared exclusively for babies of all ages came to be. Auntie ’Sephne made sure a that. Once she started makin Babies of All Ages, it was almos’ insantly popular. Superior quality items quickly is recognizeded.”

Nana Pederson gave each of us a loving hug and several kisses on our cheeks and noses. “I have to be getting back. I am, after all, the goddess of Nanas, and someone has to keep the cherubs out of mischief.” With this, there was a bright flash and she was gone.

It didn’t take but a few minutes after that before my favorite little car with roly poly eyes came to me and stopped. It made one of its wonderfully cute squeaky noises. I’m a bit vague about what happened after that, but I know Ellie, Sally and myself were having a wonderful traveling fantasy.

For anyone standing at the baby fence to the door leading into the playroom, what they were looking at was three adorable little toddler girls playing on the mat with the roads and building squares on it, which we had built different kinds of structures upon with our blocks.

Due to the wizardry within the electronic interfaces of the toys, my circuit board fabricator and 3-D printer hummed into activity, and as we interacted with the things they produced, down in the R&D fabrication department there were many flurries of activity building the components for the device the three of us dreamed up in our infantile fantasy.

Strange finely and meticulously worked counterbalanced wheels came from the cooling vat. There was an off-center weight on one side of the wheel. After they had constructed a demonstration device, it looked like a small sphere with delicate and finely machined gears within.

None were exactly sure why the plans called for an omnidirectional control interface, but it too was meticulously constructed. One of the Infant engineers in an obviously thick diaper said in a cute voice, “Mmk, infants. Letz usns fire ths up n sees what it supposesa does.”

A very beautiful individual who looked for the world like a living baby doll turned on the interface. Within the sphere, a small orange LED came on. The many counterbalanced wheels began to rotate. As the Babydoll turned the power rheostat, the sphere began to make a pleasant humming noise, then lifted from the table and hovered as if it were defying gravity.

They got the sphere to move almost by accident. The interface used different rheostats to make magnetic changes in the speed and direction of rotation of the many counterbalanced weights. We had successfully developed a gyroscopic generator that can generate high‐frequency electrical power through magnetic input. The gyroscopic generator uses the principle of gyroscopic precession, which induces high‐speed angular velocity of the flywheels inside it. It wouldn't be making any warp drive travels, but it would become a rather potent motivational device for many future satellites, interplanetary explorations of our solar system, not to mention the many other PoV type vehicles that utilized it for its engine.

It took time to gain confidence in movement, but then again the interface was super primitive.

From out of the print room came an individual in an overall romper and booties waving a large schematic over his head, “Lookit this will ya?? What we done built is mechanical. Heresa blueprints to use hevvy protons inna magnetic field. Doesa same thingy, but the attatude controls is finer n mo accurates.”

“How we gonna gets those thingies?” asked a boy in a diaper, a colorful vest, and protective glasses. “It needa partickle ’celerator. An’ they last less than a blink of an eye.”

The person in the overall romper said, “Lookit this. Says here just like tha neutron decays outsidea nucleus, there issa stable system wiffa buncha other partickles. Makesa charm sigma lasts an’ works insteada proton.”

“What kinda thingy is this makin’, annyways?” asked the engineer in the obviously thick diaper.

“Think issa no reaction drive system fora aircraft,” said the one in the romper. “Maybe for inner planetary spaceships too. Somebody gonna winna Nobel Prize for that stable partickle thinger, though … iffit works.”

“Still donno howta makes this happen wifout a ’celerator …”

“Lookit this … thissa ’celerator tha sizea a mollycule.”

“Millions offem fits onna circuit board.”

“How Jennie doin’ this? She smartest baby ever.”

“Good thing she work for us.”

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Of course, all babies have to sleep sometime, and we got all tired and went our separate ways. I didn’t know where Sally slept at night, though she did have a nursery in her office suite, so maybe she slept there at least sometimes. Ellie was still stayin’ wif Nanny Vanessa, and me too. When it was time for the shuttle van to take us there, we got on board and headed home for the night.

Now, taking a step back, you might ask what the point of taking us to Infantus was. Of course, in my infant state of mind, I figured it out right away. Persephone hadn’t just been buttering me up when she said my talent was amazing. I’m not going to lie about it. Something just happens when I go all little and my inner baby takes over. She wanted to see what happened when I had access to extraterrestrial technology, and she saw it. As a reward, I got to experience the beatific pleasures of Infantus for a short time. However, I can’t be off Earth for too long – too much absence would be noticed. We’re under too much scrutiny from the government, the media, and other companies. Persephone can get away with it; she’s already got a reputation as a reclusive power broker, and she has the ability to just not be where the paparazzi expect her to be, or make private investigators suddenly have an accident or get fascinated by their toes. The rest of us can’t do that.

The moment I toddled into Nanny Vanessa’s nursery, I dropped into my baby state of mind really deeply. I didn’t find out until later what happened, but now the memory is clear. She loves when I’m all baby – that seems to be her goal in life, to get as many former adults to become as complete babies as she can possibly manage. And in fact I had realized that her nursery was bigger on the inside, and she had a lot of helpers, because she had a lot of tenants – true, some of them were actual babies whose parents had to travel for business or were both at work for the day, but others were former adults she had in various stages of regression.

But that evening was different. I wasn’t a super inventive baby or a super genius baby or anything. I was just a baby. Nanny Vanessa was delighted. She loves that with all her heart. I was so helpless and infantile that there was no distinguishing me from a real baby except for my size. She had baby clothes and supplies for all sizes, of course, courtesy of BoAA, and she was an expert at making her babies feel right at home and giving them no reason to act like a grownup or think a single adult thought. But something about Infantus had basically allowed me to rest easy and be my true baby self, not a worker on the clock but just baby Jennie. I was a very happy and sweet baby, she tells me, a completely little baby angel. I suspect she might be fibbing a bit, but she swears it’s true.

Anyway, the next day I was on the shuttle van to BoAA again, but I was still mostly baby. I babbled at Kimberly, who giggled and almost understood. “Oh look at you! You’re so cute, making those baby noises!” she said. “I almost think I can … make out … what you’re …” And suddenly she was babbling right along with me.

I gasped. “Kimbewy! You goned aww baby wike me do sometimes!”

“Oh gosh! Oh wow! I dunno wha happen!” said the adorable girl, now even more adorable. “Just twied ta unnerstands you an … wow I feel so wittle! Only sometimes can go wike dis wif my Daddy!” She sometimes mentioned her Daddy boyfriend. He sounded very nice and devoted to her, but also devoted to making sure she was his little girl. “How that happen?”

“Me … gettin’ more ‘n more like dis … an’ is like some kinda way of sharin’ baby space?” I guessed. “Like we onna same baby brain waves? Can do this wif some people … wike Ellie … or Sally … an’ now you too!”

“Wowsers, can me gets better attit?” she asked. “Maby if I pwactice? I wove feelin wike dis! Dunno if me can get much works done today tho … unless me can gets outta it … but me no wanna …”

“Maby twy to do stuff wifout goin all gwowed up,” I said. “Maby you do bettern you thinks.”

“That what me gonna twy ta do!” said Kimberly. We hugged when we got out of the shuttle van, after Tommy released us from our child seats.

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“... in other news, you’ve heard about astronaut diapers,” said the news anchor, “but NASA is interested in patents recently filed by none other than Babies of All Ages, Inc. for an interplanetary drive system stabilizer. Apparently their tech department generates a lot of ideas and designs, only some of which are directly applicable to their products. BoAA is reportedly considering allowing NASA to use the patent at very low cost because of being a government agency. Various private-sector space corporations have already filed lawsuits demanding they also get this discount, but legal experts we interviewed don’t think they have a chance of winning – the patents belong to BoAA, said one, and BoAA can use them as it sees fit.”

“Is that what we did yesterday when we got back?” I asked.

“Um, I guess so!” Ellie replied. “Oh … and it was obviously a few days on Infantus … but we got back the same day we left.”

“What?”

“Yeah, what Nana Pederson said about Infantus being inside some kind of time warp seems to be correct,” said Ellie.

“We invented a spacecraft stabilizer?” I asked again.

“We did,” said Ellie. “We also postulated a metastable nuclear state involving a high-mass quark, and circuit boards containing massively parallel particle accelerators capable of producing this particle in quantity. It all has to be thoroughly tested, of course. But as you saw, NASA is already interested, and those private space companies wouldn’t be suing if they weren’t interested too.”

“I feel like we invented something different, though,” I said.

“Oh, we did,” said Ellie. “We actually invented a way to generate that energy-of-youth feeling one gets on Infantus on a small scale. We’re not sure how exactly the company can make use of that, but we definitely did decide there were side applications for some of the technology, so we’re definitely making use of those.” She switched on the thing we’d prototyped, a red orb shaped kind of like an apple, and it glowed and hovered in the air, making a pleasant harmonic sound. I immediately felt myself regressing happily.

Taking a deep breath, I sat down on the floor in my somewhat damp diaper. “I ‘members now,” I babbled. “Is not rippin’ up tha pile of tissues … is just bendin’ themes a lil bitty bit. But … if everyone on Earth had onna these thingies goin atta same time … would pobly cause big poblems. Yea. Bweak things up real good. Better to use it on big areas at once … or maby tha whole planet … but that would takea lotta energy. But … those Floppits does this too … think maby they gots lotsa energy insides them somehow.”

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“So you think Floppits have this kind of energy too?” asked Sally the next time we got together, in the Pink Daycare Center. “You think it’s …”

“Ooo, Sally, you gotsa message comin’ in from Gerhart Gruener,” Ellie suddenly said.

“Oh, what’s he say?” she asked.

“Here, I put him through.”

“Hi, Mr. Gruener!” Sally said. “Always happy to hear from you!”

“Miss Sally?” came Gruener’s voice from nearby speakers in the walls and ceiling. “I thought you should know … I got a strange phone call from someone calling himself Andrew Andrews, representing some corporation called Gray Enterprises, Inc.”

“Gray Enterprises?” asked Sally. “Huh. Never heard of that business before.”

“Neither have I,” he said, “and that’s strange. Everything about it sounded fishy to me. He wanted to hire me, but he said something about … doing the responsible thing? And there being a balance to the joy one feels in life? It was strange, like half self-help psychobabble and half corporate headhunting.”

“You’re not gonna take the offer, are you?” Sally asked. “It would be hard findin’ another good CFO.”

“Of course not,” Gruener said. “I did some checking. Not only has BOAA already shown me more loyalty than any other I’ve ever worked for, Gray Enterprises simply did not exist a month ago under any name. It’s a fly-by-night. The name of the CEO is listed as Gray Gray, which is just odd.”

“Who names their kid that?” asked Sally.

“Somebody uncreative in the extreme,” replied Gruener. “Like … the type of person that invention of HBA’s would have created. Assuming that’s their real name. Anyway, I was a bit disturbed by the whole thing, so I wanted to tell you. You might want to let the other execs know.”

“I will,” said Sally. “Somethin’ to watch out for. I got a bad feeling about it, but I dunno why. Wait … that thing you said, about that invention of HBA’s?”

“Oh that?” asked Gruener. “That was just something off the top of my head. I don’t really think they had anything to do with that – that was HBA’s doing. Or … I wonder.”

“Could this all be related?” asked Sally. “Or is that just being paranoid? But now I’m worried. I don’t like bein’ worried.”

“Well, nobody wants you worried,” said Gruener. “Or, nobody in this company, anyway. Ellie, can you compose a message about this for the Corporate Intelligence Division for me to review?”

“Already done, Mr. Gruener!” said Ellie, sitting next to me. I knew the message was already on Gruener’s computer screen.

“Thanks. I’ll check it out as soon as the call’s over.”

“Mr. Gruener,” said Sally.

“Yes, Ma’am?”

“Thank you.” Sally sounded truly appreciative.

“Anytime, Miss Sally. Talk soon.” He ended the call.

“Gray Enterprises?” I asked. “Ellie, has anybody else been contacted by any such company?”

“Seven management personnel have been contacted by Gray Enterprises,” Ellie replied. “None of them are babies. Three of them seem to be having ongoing communications with them. The rest have not returned their calls or responded to their emails, at least not on company equipment.”

“I can’t really order people not to talk to them just because I have a bad feeling,” said Sally. “But I can call a meeting of all management and warn them that the company didn’t exist a month ago, and they seem to be trying to hire away our staff, so maybe that’ll raise enough red flags that they won’t consider a change of employment.”

“Do you want me to schedule that meeting?” asked Ellie.

“Yes, please,” said Sally. “You’re so good at this!”

“Thanks!” Ellie replied with a big smile. “I’ve … kinda been doing it since before I was born! The meeting’s been scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m. That time slot needed the least amount of rearrangement of other people’s meetings. Meetings called by the CEO are top priority, though!”

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I don’t want to get bogged down in details that probably don’t matter, but yes, Sally had that meeting, and warned people that this Gray Enterprises company was some sketchy outfit that probably shouldn’t be trusted. Later, BoAA’s Corporate Intelligence Division dug up some information that the patent of HBACorp’s infant sleep inducer device had actually been licensed from a Serbian company whose name translated to Gray, and they were following up on that, but so far they had no direct evidence that it was connected, other than the name.

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However, I will say that in a private location there were two very adorable adult babies playing with their toys while their volunteer mommies supervised. A shadowy corner’s appearance suddenly changed to jet black, blacker than the fabled stygian darkness of the outer reaches.

From the heart of this darkness, three individuals emerged. Their suits looked finely tailored, although very monochromatic gray. Their features were very gray, as were the sunglasses each conspicuously wore. The Nanas saw them as they appeared and rose quickly to defend their children.

The two infants were apparently only that way in appearance, as they too stood and attempted to jump on the gray intruders. The first man reached out towards the nearest Nana and grabbed her arm. But he wasn’t merely gray in appearance either, as whatever made him gray oozed from his touch and spread rapidly all over the woman’s body, turning her a similar eerie gray color. Her clothing changed to that of a business suit of the purest gray.

The first adult baby was also grabbed with the same results. As the gray infection spread through her body she screamed and cried. She didn’t want to grow up … she didn’t want to forget childhood she ... Wanted nothing more than to rid the earth of this horrid infantile infection. Her adorable outfit changed to one that was the grayest ever business suit a woman could have. It matched her makeup and sunglasses well. Man, she was so glad to be an adult and intended with all her heart to insure those infantile abominations grew up as nature intended.

After the final Nana and the final babygirl had been transformed, the seven of them departed via the dark corner, which changed back to nothing more than a shadow once the last of them had passed. They had a mission, and that mission was to rid the universe of the infantile regression plague. The next person they began watching was Sally Stevens. She was their ultimate prize.

Now, of course we didn’t know anything about this yet. But what we did know, after Corporate Intelligence went over more documents and scoured the network, was that there had indeed been contact between the Serbian corporation Siva A.D., which just means “Gray, Inc.,” and HBACorp. They later learned that they’d paid Siva for the patent for their baby sleep system. But the trail seemed to end there – Siva A.D. seemed to have appeared, sold HBACorp the patent rights, and then vanished, just before Gray Enterprises came into existence. So it probably hadn’t been HBACorp’s fault that their sleep system made babies grow into children without imagination – it was all this Gray Enterprises’ doing.

“Nanna?” I asked Nanny Vanessa one night while she was trying to rock me to sleep. “We founded out there is a bad company out there that is twyinna make sure people grows up to not be babies even a little bit …”

“What?” she said, sounding concerned. “Are these the people who made the baby sleep thing you told me about, the one that BOAA got shut down?”

“No, Nanna,” I said, “HBA Corp made that, but these are the people who really invented it. They are some kind of Gray Corporation. They sold HBACorp the rights to their patent, all whatever legal stuffs …”

“Gray Corporation?” Nanny Vanessa said. “Gray Holdings, Gray Enterprises, something like that?”

“You heard of thems?” I asked, surprised.

“Some of my babies have heard things …” she said. “Phone calls, emails, texts, social media, all about friends who got contacted by somebody from some company or group with gray in its name. Then they never heard from those friends again. So I’ve told them that if they ever hear from any such place they shouldn’t ever answer.”

“Did … anybody ever answer?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Nanny Vanessa. “Some of my babies have stopped coming. And that sometimes happens, but … it’s more than usual. They don’t answer me. And I’ve gotten messages from something called Gray Enterprises lately, saying they had a business proposition. I just don’t answer. It gives me a very bad feeling.”

“Sounds like they are kinda the opposite of you,” I said.

“I love taking care of babies, and I love making people more like babies so I can take better care of them,” she said. “If these … people want to eliminate imagination and creativity in the world … make kids grow up too fast … is their goal to extinguish the last spark of childhood from people’s hearts? To make everyone a cog in the machine of capitalism? I’m somewhat worried about this. But you … you are a precious little adorable girl, and this is your time to not worry about such things. You’re meant to go to sleep and have beautiful sweet dreams about playing and candy and diapers and bubble baths.”

“I know Nanna … but it worries me too.”

“You let Nanna worry about that,” she said. “Nobody’s getting any more of my babies.”

“Just … can you tell Ellie anything you knows?” I asked. “She can puts it inna database we makin’ about thems.”

“I sure can, Sweetheart, and I will. Ellie’s a sweetie too. But I know she’s kind of a computer, sort of.”

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Sally sat in the middle of her elaborate playroom, fiddling with several of my latest baby-to-computer interface toys. One looked for the world like an infant's hanging busy play station. It had little places to slide that made loud clicking noises as it moved. It also had a cute little pink phone with a dial. When the dial was rotated it would play a short clip of a random and cute nursery rhyme.

Of course there was a steering wheel that had a goofy clown face in it. The huge bulbous nose was the horn in the center that made cute little beeping noises when Sally pushed it. The usual bells and other noisy things to keep a toddler busy were also represented, each with its own function. What function each one performed at any given time was unpredictable; it changed over time and varied from baby to baby. I had made these toys to adapt to the baby using them, so they hadn’t worked the best when Sally had started, but they quickly got better at realizing what Sally wanted.

The one Sally liked the best was the Floppit AI toy. Since I had actually seen a real live Floppit and updated its AI accordingly, the toy acted amazingly realistic, and Sally enjoyed singing along with some of the cute songs they sang. I had actually gotten Cuddles and Snuggles to sing into my baby phone so I could listen to them later and have the toys’ AI create realistic sounding Floppit songs.

Ellie and I were busy being our adorable toddler selves for Nana Vanessa, who did all in her power to insure that we stayed in baby mode for as long as she could keep us there. Nana Vanessa had changed both of us and dressed us in thick diapers, plastic-lined rumba panties, and booties. She had gone into the nursery to retrieve a diaper bag before we left to go to Sally’s playroom; I’m not sure how long that took, because, time doesn’t mean anything to me when I’m regressed.

Nanny Vanessa drove us to the BOAA building in her minivan and took us up to Sally’s playroom, and we joyfully hugged her when we arrived. We had been playing there for a while – again, I’m not sure how long, as Nanny Vanessa was doing everything she could to make sure I was thinking like a baby – when I noticed a shadow turn the blackest shade of black I had ever seen. A single person exited. She was dressed in perfect monochrome gray down to the very lipstick on her lips. Sally was the closest to her when she emerged. The gray woman lunged at Sally and grabbed her by the arm. From the shocked expression on the gray woman’s face, she obviously didn’t expect what happened.

Whatever the grayish color was within the gray woman seemed to drain from her like some kind of liquid draining from a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Sally stood with big eyes as the woman transformed into a beautiful adult baby girl – her hair was a lustrous brunette, and her outfit was a mint green empire waistline tank dress with a puffy-sleeved pink blouse top under it. She had a pacifier in her mouth and a rattle in her hand, both of a matching green color. She looked around with huge eyes before she burst into tears.

Ellie and I stared at Sally. Nothing at all had happened to her as she stood with wide-eyed, open mouthed incredulity at what had happened and the lady in gray’s magical transformation. But I also stared at the strange shadow in the corner she’d come out of. It was still deepest black. It was obvious to my baby mind that it led to some kind of dimensional tunnel, perhaps similar to what the Floppits could create, and that I probably wouldn’t like what was in there, but I manipulated some of my computer interface toys. Every computer I had access to was now scanning that shadowy portal with any device available and recording every bit of data they acquired. I wanted to know three things: what it was, how to close it, and how to stop that kind of thing from ever opening within the BOAA building again – ideally everywhere on Earth, but I had to start somewhere.

Nanny Vanessa approached the crying adult baby in mint green, formerly the woman in gray, and caught her pacifier before it fell to the floor from her open mouth. She had serious nanny skills. “Aww, Sweetheart,” she said, putting an arm around her, “what’s wrong? Come to Nanna. Here’s your paci. Do you need a bottle? Your diaper seems dry.”

“Waaaahhhhh,” said the girl amid her tears, “baby s’posed ta … s’posed ta … baby no ‘member … but it no work … wahhh!”

“Awww, poor girl,” said Nanny Vanessa. “Let’s get you in a nice playpen where babies like you can play with baby toys to yout heart’s content, and I’ll bet that’ll put a smile on your face. Meanwhile, just suck on your pacifier, and I guarantee you’ll be a happy little girl again in no time.” She quickly set up a BOAA portable playpen that was among the sample company products in Sally’s playroom and helped the girl into it. She brought an assortment of toys and gave them to the little girl to play with while continuing to croon soothingly to her.

“But she was all gray!” Sally said. “That was so weird! An’ she triedta touch me and stuff, like she ‘spected it to do somethin’!”

“Didja feel anything?” I asked. “Diddit feel weird or anyfing?”

“No,” said Sally. “Her hands were cold. But that was it.”

One of the smart toys, shaped like a walking robot with blinking lights from some sci-fi cartoon, marched over toward the corner. We all watched it. All the robot’s lights went on, and it projected a beam of multicolored lights at the shadow in the corner. It flickered in a strange way, then the odd darkness was gone. When the robot turned off its lights and walked back to the center of the room, the shadow in the corner looked like an ordinary shadow. “I think the computers figured out the shadowy thingie,” said Ellie. “You haddem scannin’ it. Tha computers tooked over the robot an’ programmed it to make tha shadow go away.”

“Yeah, whatever that was, I didn’t likes it,” I replied. “Nextest I wanna figure out how to make sure that no happen again.”

We all went over to the playpen where the little girl was happily sucking her pacifier and discovering her toes. She gasped when she suddenly wet her diaper – we could all tell it was happening; she was lying on her back with her toes in the air, so her diaper was fully visible to all, and she was completely oblivious to it, just as the rest of us were when it happened to us. “How come this happen to her?” I asked. “People no usually turn into babies when they touch Sally.”

“No,” Sally said. “I shakes hands wif lotsa people who no turn into babies.”

“Unless …” suggested Ellie, “what if she was a baby before … and the gray stuff somehow made her not be a baby? But Sally somehow made the gray stuff go away?”

“So this is her back to normal?” I replied.

“Good,” said Nanny Vanessa, “but I really don’t like the idea of a baby being turned into an adult suddenly, against her will. Poor thing.”

“This … is really weird, and I think Auntie might wanna knows about this,” said Sally. She went over to a play table where her toddler backpack was lying, and she reached inside and took out her strawberry pink smart phone. It lit up when she squeezed its sides with one hand, and she pressed a big heart-shaped icon on its screen.

Right away the image of Persephone appeared on her phone. “Hello, my dear,” she said to Sally.

“Auntie!” said Sally happily. But Sally’s expression changed quickly to concern as she explained what had happened.

“This is most distressing news,” Persephone said. “But I’m glad you were the one they tried to touch. They can only bring out the adult in a person, twisted into a strange kind of preternatural prominence. But you have no adult within you, my sweet Sally. The strange gray energy they seem to use tried to change you, but it couldn’t. She expended all she had, and it drained from her, returning her to normal.”

“So … somebody tooked her and chargeded her up wif a buncha … gray energy?” I asked.

“Yes,” Persephone said. She was in the room with us, and we never actually noticed when she’d gone from a face and voice on Sally’s phone to being physically present. “It is most … irritating that they would dare do such a thing to one of my own. I’m grateful that she’s back to her true self.” She smiled at the girl in the playpen. “But I’m afraid she’s not the only one they’ve … taken.”

“OK,” I asked, “so why comes they no take alla babies inna world? If they can do that, why not do it to alla us?”

“I’d say part of it is because the circumstances must be right,” she replied. “They don’t want to be found out. But also, I think they only have a certain amount of energy, and doing this uses a lot of it. They have to recuperate.”

“I think they have been found out,” said Ellie.

“They most certainly have,” Persephone replied. “We must … do something about this.”

“Who are they, even?” asked Sally.

“I do not know,” Persephone said, “and that worries me. An equal and opposite power has arisen that I was unaware of. That means that it’s something new, probably something that originated here on Earth, and perhaps in reaction to my activities here. But if it’s equal and opposite … I worry about what might happen if I confronted it directly. Not only might this force and I meet and annihilate one another …”

“No!” Sally said.

“If that happened, the effect might wipe out a large portion of the universe,” Persephone continued. “Obviously that’s to be avoided. But it means that I must act indirectly. Luckily I have some very capable helpers.” She smiled and looked at all of us.

“Excuse me,” said Nanny Vanessa, “Ms Persephone? Is there anything you can tell us about this poor girl?” She indicated the baby girl in the playpen, who had until recently been a woman in gray.

“Ah yes, Nanny Vanessa,” she said with a smile. “Whether you know it or not, your nursery and daycare establishment has garnered my blessing due to this affinity. I shall visit soon and imbue it with my influence. I will find out the name of this little one so that you may find a way to bring her home, if you can take care of her for a little while. But beware of these … gray people. They seem able to ignore my blessing … although it may be impossible to make a place proof against their intrusion.”

“I … no sure that twue,” I said.

“Jennie?” she asked. “Have you found something?”

“Well … this data from tha computer says tha portals they use looks like this.” I held up a tablet that showed a graph. “See, tha gray line is tha readings from tha gray shadow portal. Tha pink line is fromma Floppit burrow hole. See how they … like flipped?”

“Indeed, one is the inverse of the other,” Persephone said. “The Floppits seem to be these beings’ antithesis. But then, that probably means they should not be directly involved here either, until this gray menace has been driven from Earth. The collision of their forces may also be catastrophic.”

“Jennie hadda robot close tha portal they made,” said Ellie.

“Oh?”

“Well,” I said, “the computers camed up wif a way to do it.”

“Still, you are the one who programmed them to calculate this solution,” said Persephone. “I might have known you would find a way to do the seemingly impossible, amazing child.”

“Well … gosh …” I said, blushing.

“I do not say this to embarrass you,” said Persephone. “You have a talent, and I am afraid we will need everyone’s talents at full force in the days ahead. But your talent seems to be strongest when you are the most infantile in mind. Nanny Vanessa, I have a request of you. Please ensure Jennie stays in her most babyish frame of mind from now until this siege is over. For we are under siege as long as these gray beings are able to attack anywhere with impunity.”

“Understood, Ma’am,” said Nanny Vanessa. She came over and picked me up. She was strong, though perhaps Persephone had given her greater strength. Sure, I was only the size of a 10-year-old girl, but still, that’s a lot bigger than a baby or toddler. “That means you’re a teeny tiny little baby all the time from now on!” she said, tickling my tummy. I giggled, then gasped, not because I’d just wet my diaper, but because I’d just had a realization …

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In a fantastic place beyond places far above anything the mind of man could possibly imagine, Persephone stood in the extremely beautiful and wonderfully mysterious throne room of her father, Ares, and her extremely beautiful mother, Aphrodite.

“But, Father,” Persephone said with a tinge of exasperation, “They attacked my favored Sally. Not only did they attack her, they did it right in the middle of Sally’s playroom at my personal company.”

Aphrodite spoke with concern in her tone, “Poor dear. Must have scared the poor infant to tears. Is she alright?”

“Yes, Mother. Apparently they wrench whatever adulthood remains within the individual and force it to manifest itself externally to the exclusion of all else. Since I made sure Sally has no adult left, she was immune. The energy used to accomplish this is some type of gray ..."

Ares’ face suddenly took on an extremely stern countenance. “Gray energy, you say. Daughter, you and all those of your ilk who wield the bright white power of infancy and childhood must at all cost stay away from them and never confront them directly.”

Persephone whined, “But, Father. We must protect my children. The person sent to attack Sally transformed before their eyes into a beautiful adult baby girl after she grabbed Sally. Her gray clothing transformed back into the infantile clothes she had on when the grays attacked her.”

Ares said sternly in one of those voices, “We are the Ashier, Sweetheart. We are not gods, though I know many through the centuries have named us such. There is one above all who has dictated that exact positives and negatives cannot meet face to face. They cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Their equal and opposite energies will annihilate with catastrophic results. It would mean the end of you, and it would also mean that most of the known universe would go with you. You cannot directly face them under any circumstances. There will be no second chance should that happen.”

Aphrodite smiled and said in her sexy tingling voice, “Remember, child, you had something similar happen once around your pet planet. It was fortunate that all that happened was the fracturing of spacetime near the star system. It did create the perfect infantile environment for all those lovely little ones. Even Eros loves it and spends most of his time there. Although, you don’t seem to quite realize how lucky you were it didn’t fracture through into the great void, cracking a hole in cosmic reality. I’m not sure how reality would survive that type of damage. All of us were very lucky.”

Persephone pouted and looked miserable.

Ares said, “Cheer up, child, you have many friends, and you have many allies – who are not empowered by the exact opposite of this gray energy. I will notify all of this threat, and we will gather our forces. Know that whoever these gray people may be and whatever force is behind them, they are still subject to the laws of cosmic order that bind us all. Should they mount a direct assault on your domain, you and whatever allies should choose to assist you would lawfully be free to retaliate.”

“But they did assault my domain,” said Persephone indignantly.

Aphrodite sighed and said calmly, “They assaulted a place in the physical realm that you control because of mortal laws and rules. It is not your domain in the sense that the laws decree. You have a domain, and like all of us you have the ability to create other domain spaces as you wish.”

“And I could use them to protect my chosen …” mused Persephone.

Ares replied, “You could. Defend them well, my daughter. If I were this gray enemy, and I discovered such spaces existed, I would assault them with all available force. Be prepared, and be vigilant.”

“I will, Father,” said Persephone. “Thank you, Mother and Father. I know what I must do now.”

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Now as for me, Persephone told me about that later. I programmed the building’s construction bots to set up sensors throughout it that would detect the strange energy I’d managed to isolate from the data and raise the alarm, and emitters that could neutralize it when detected. They wouldn’t be opening another portal like that within the BOAA building.

“It’s strange, though, isn’t it,” I said to Ellie while I worked, “that Ms Persephone hasn’t heard of this … Gray Enterprises, or whatever it’s really called. We know now that BOAA has branches on many planets throughout the galaxy, and has for some time. This is only one of them, and it’s a relatively recent addition to the galactic corporation. Doesn’t it seem strange that this is the first time she’s heard of anything like this?”

“Yes, it does,” said Ellie. “The only possible conclusion is that these gray people are only here on Earth, and have only arisen recently. But as to what might have caused them to appear, well, there is insufficient data.”

“There,” I said. “100% coverage on sensors and emitters. No more weird shadow portals. If they’re going to come in here, they’ll have to walk in the door like everyone else. Or, you know, land a helicopter on the roof or something, I guess, like in the movies.”

Ellie giggled. “That would seem somehow less scary, even if they came crashing through a window. It would be more normal than eerily appearing out of a shadow. I’ve notified Sally that your defense grid is complete.”

“Good, though I wish I could test it, but although I can detect that form of energy now, I’m pretty far from knowing how to generate it, let alone make a portal out of it.”

Nanny Vanessa walked up. “There, that sounds like that very important job is now all done,” she said to me. “So it’s time to be my baby again now. Remember, it’s Sally’s and Persephone’s orders.”

“I … guess I gotta,” I said, feeling myself slipping into my baby state of mind again. As I did, I wondered why I always seemed to want to return to an adult frame of mind, especially considering I had a child’s body – an older child, yes, but still, not an adult body. Was it habit? Was it some kind of fear I had of losing myself? Then my baby state took over, and I remembered everything, and I knew that I wasn’t losing myself – it was only in baby mode that I was my true self. But I also knew that in adult mode I didn’t know that, because I didn’t remember everything.

“That’s my baby girl,” said Nanny Vanessa, picking me up and setting me in my stroller. Ellie smiled and watched as Nanny strapped me in. “Now, Ellie, we’re going back to my nursery. You can follow along, can’t you?”

“Sure can, Nana!” said Ellie and toddled after. She wasn’t under orders to be a complete baby, so she could be a toddler, I suppose. I was headed for a life of total helplessness and dependency … which meant that my baby creativity would be at full power. I was already getting ideas about how to protect Nanny Vanessa’s place from the gray people, although I knew it already had a touch of Persephone’s protection and wasn’t entirely completely in this plane.

As my mind switched over into infant mode, I began to see what was really happening. It was fortunate that Persephone didn’t spend much of her time on Earth personally. The gray people were a reaction of Earth’s collective unconscious to what she’d been doing; any change in the status quo was resisted. I knew what she could do about it, and I knew what would happen as a result, and I had an idea about what would happen after that. But for now, the gray people were posing a threat to adult babies everywhere – not to mention real babies and the society they would create when they grew up. I babbled about plans to Ellie, and she shared them over the network with Sally.

“‘Sephone makin’ a new nursery,” said Ellie as Nanny Vanessa strapped us into child seats in the back of her minivan. “Is not on Earth … an’ is not in space … is sorta inna new place she can make. Like a pocket ‘mension. Sally gettin’ volunteers together for protectin’ people from the grays … and they gonna use ‘Sephone’s new place asa base. Tha grays gonna hasa hard time gettin’ in there. An’ if they do … well it seem like the grays is new an’ don’t know tha laws, Sally say.”

“Yea, there gotsa be a law balancin’ things,” I said. “More like a ‘greement ‘tween tha real powerful bein’s like Ms ‘Sephone. So they no hasa war that blows up tha whole universe. They may has their fights, but nobody wants ta blow up everything. But I guess the grays dunno ‘bout it, bein’ new.”

“Is we gonna go to this nursery place?” asked Ellie. “Askin’ Sally … she say no. She say we stay here an’ work on defendin’ tha nursery an’ tha HQ buildin’. An’ make battle plans.”

“Ooo, makes sure you stay in touch wif Gerhart Gruener,” I told her. “Maybe he notta baby, but he sooper good at plans.” I played with the baby toys around me, which were actually my constantly evolving interface to the BOAA computer network, which I was still able to contact even though we were across town. “Looks like they tried ta make more portals into tha building but the defense grid stoppeded them. Pwobly gonna keep twyins. I gonna has some nasty supwises weady for ‘em if they do. An I gots tha Quora computer analyzin’ tha gray energy. There gotsa be a way to undo what it does wifout puttin’ Sally in danger.”

“Here we are, Sweethearts,” said Nanny Vanessa, parking her minivan in her garage and closing the door. Taking us out of our child seats, she then put me in a stroller again and strapped me in, which made me feel very secure, actually. She pushed me through the entry foyer and down the hallway that led to the nursery rooms. It turned left … and right … and another right … and right again … and each turn led into another hallway with brightly decorated doors with some baby’s name on it in colorful lettering, sometimes in signs made by the room’s occupant themselves. Nanny Vanessa’s nursery had exactly as many rooms as it needed to have, and it wasn’t limited by ordinary space. This had probably been a gift from Persephone or perhaps Nana Pederson some time ago, to allow Nanny Vanessa to follow her heart’s desire of gently turning adults into babies she could love and care for.

We finally got to my door, and Ellie’s door faced mine across the hall. “Here we are,” Nanny Vanessa said. “We’ll see whether you need diaper changes, then it’s time for your naps. After naptime it’s playtime, then supper, then bathtime and bedtime, OK?”

“OK Na-na!” I said happily. She was a wonderful Nanny, and I was glad I was staying with her. But times were going to get difficult soon, so we needed all the rest we could get. I could see things getting better, but they would get worse first.

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The people in gray had become a real irritation for Persephone – and a tragedy sometimes, because some of them had been her babies. She didn’t know where they’d come from, she didn’t know who was in charge of them, and she was unable to mount any real attack against them at first, because they seemed to be isolated mostly on Earth. It wasn’t long before they started showing themselves in other more sensitive places … but that, dear readers, is another story for another time.

~~The End of the beginning of another story ~~
Sunshine & rainbows,
LilJennie
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